Person

Jon Liss

Born:

1958

Nationality:

American

Occupation:

Professional Activist; Co-Executive Director of New Virginia Majority

Jon Liss is the co-founder of New Virginia Majority and a career labor-union and left-of-center activist. Liss works as the co-executive director and also sits on the board of New Virginia Majority. He is also an ideologist behind the State Power Caucus, a network of left-of-center mobilization groups aligned with radical-left interests. [1]

He previously ran several other left-of-center advocacy groups (mostly in the state of Virginia), including Tenants and Workers United. Liss has a 40-year career in left-of-center organizing and advocacy. [2] He was among the national co-founders of the Right to the City Alliance. [3]

Early Life

Jon Liss was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1958, and is of eastern European Jewish heritage. His father, an architect, relocated the family to Falls Church, Virginia. [4]

From 1979 to 1980, he organized the African-American Studies department while he was a student at the University of Virginia. He graduated from the university with a B.A. in History. [5]

After he graduated from the University of Virginia, he said, “I did not want a corporate job.” So, he went to work as a driver for the Falls Church Yellow Cab Company. Liss was the elected leader of a taxi drivers association from 1983 to 1984. [6]

Organizing Career

Liss has had a four-decade career in political organizing. [7]

In the mid-1980s, Liss organized renters facing displacement into a cooperative that bought hundreds of rental units. It was initially known as the Tenants and Workers Support Committee in 1986. He was the executive director of the organization until 2011. It later changed its name to the Tenants and Workers United. He left the organization to devote his full attention to New Virginia Majority in January 2011. [8]

Liss also advocated and saw the passage of the “living wage” laws in both Alexandria and Arlington—the first such laws in the state of Virginia. He successfully lobbied for a bilingual immersion program in local schools. [9]

Liss was among the founders in 2007 of the Right to the City Alliance, a national coalition of left-wing organizations opposed to urban development it derides as “gentrification.” [10]

New Virginia Majority

Jon Liss is the co-founder of the left-wing organizing group New Virginia Majority. Liss is currently the co-executive director and also serves a board member for the organization. [11]

The organization is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that advocates and organizes for left-progressive causes in Virginia, with a particular focus on voter registration in the metropolitan regions of Northern Virginia, Greater Richmond, and Hampton Roads.

Liss and the New Virginia Majority have strongly opposed the Amazon HQ2 opening in Arlington, Virginia. Liss said, “The likely impact of Amazon, maybe not in a year, but over time, is the displacement of this unique community and 3,000 working-class Latino and Latina residents.” [12]

Liss added of the Amazon project: “Within four to seven years there will be pretty significant displacement and within seven to 10 years, barring a recession or something like that, there would be basically a complete elimination of affordable housing in this working class Latino neighborhood. …  I would estimate that you probably need in the order of $150 million to $200 million of subsidies over 10 years to create long term affordable housing and preserve this unique asset.” [13]

Strategy and Ideology

Jon Liss is an influential ideologist and strategist in radical-left organizing. In 2010, he wrote an article for the radical-left strategy blog Organizing Upgrade titled “New Kids on the Historic Bloc – Workers’ Centers and Municipal Socialism” in which he focused on the rise of “new working class organizations.” Liss praised the “new working class organizations” (often called “worker centers”) for “engaging members in struggles and solidarity actions against war, occupation, and financial control of the Third World” and “experimenting in electoral work.” He outlined the work of Right to the City as being “a collective vision for our cities – for all, green, feminist.” [14]

In a 2019 piece for Organizing Upgrade, Liss endorsed three radical-left ongoing projects: The expansion of the geographic base of the Working Families Party; the Inside-Outside Project, a strategic collaboration among the “Communist Party, Democratic Socialists of America, Left Roots, the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, and Liberation Road [formerly Freedom Road Socialist Organization]”; and the State Power Caucus, of which Liss’s New Virginia Majority is a part. [15]

Awards and Honors

In 2003, the Ford Foundation, a major funder of left-wing economic activism, gave Liss and four colleagues its Leadership for a Changing World Award that included a $100,000 prize. [16]

References

  1. Liss, Jon. “Toward a Movement 40 Million Strong ” .” Organizing Upgrade, July 23, 2019. https://organizingupgrade.com/toward-a-movement-40-million-strong/. ^
  2. Staff. New Virginia Majority. Accessed January 18, 2020. https://www.newvirginiamajority.org/about_staff ^
  3. Becker, Sarah. “Jon Liss.” Living Legends of Alexandria. Accessed January 18, 2020. https://alexandrialegends.org/jon-liss/# ^
  4. Becker, Sarah. “Jon Liss.” Living Legends of Alexandria. Accessed January 18, 2020. https://alexandrialegends.org/jon-liss/# ^
  5. Staff. New Virginia Majority. Accessed January 18, 2020. https://www.newvirginiamajority.org/about_staff ^
  6. Becker, Sarah. “Jon Liss.” Living Legends of Alexandria. Accessed January 18, 2020. https://alexandrialegends.org/jon-liss/# ^
  7. Staff. New Virginia Majority. Accessed January 18, 2020. https://www.newvirginiamajority.org/about_staff ^
  8. Pope, Michael Lee. “Organizing Differently.” Alexandria Gazette. August 12, 2010. Accessed January 18, 2020. http://connectionarchives.com/PDF/2010/081110/Alexandria.pdf ^
  9. Becker, Sarah. “Jon Liss.” Living Legends of Alexandria. Accessed January 18, 2020. https://alexandrialegends.org/jon-liss/# ^
  10. “A Funder’s Guide.” Right to the City Alliance. July 2014. Accessed January 18, 2020. http://righttothecity.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/FundersGuide.pdf ^
  11. Staff. New Virginia Majority. Accessed January 18, 2020. https://www.newvirginiamajority.org/about_staff ^
  12. Uliano, Dick. “Amazon’s Move to Crystal City Raises Concern for Working Poor.” WTOP. February 23, 2019. Accessed January 18, 2020. https://wtop.com/virginia/2019/02/amazons-move-to-crystal-city-raises-concern-for-working-poor/ ^
  13. Uliano, Dick. “Amazon’s Move to Crystal City Raises Concern for Working Poor.” WTOP. February 23, 2019. Accessed January 18, 2020. https://wtop.com/virginia/2019/02/amazons-move-to-crystal-city-raises-concern-for-working-poor/ ^
  14. Editor. “JON AND RISHI: New Kids on the Bloc.” Home – Organizing Upgrade, April 7, 2010. http://archive.organizingupgrade.com/index.php/modules-menu/community-organizing/item/97-jon-and-rishi-new-kids-on-the-bloc. ^
  15. Liss, Jon. “Seize the Moment: Paving the Road for a Mass Left ” Organizing Upgrade.” Organizing Upgrade, July 23, 2019. https://organizingupgrade.com/seize-the-moment/. Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20190713014423/https://organizingupgrade.com/seize-the-moment/. ^
  16. Becker, Sarah. “Jon Liss.” Living Legends of Alexandria. Accessed January 18, 2020. https://alexandrialegends.org/jon-liss/# ^
  See an error? Let us know!