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Progressive groups join together under an agenda of interrelated issues they say are ‘overwhelmingly popular with the broader electorate’

 William McNary, co-director of Citizen Action Illinois, joins in touting the Forward Illinois agenda Tuesday outside the Dunne Building in Chicago. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

William McNary, co-director of Citizen Action Illinois, joins in touting the Forward Illinois agenda Tuesday outside the Dunne Building in Chicago. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

Several progressive Illinois agencies announced a coalition Tuesday under an agenda of interrelated issues they insist are “overwhelmingly popular with the broader electorate.”

Calling their umbrella group Forward Illinois, they said their agenda of issues — ranging from the minimum wage to health care to gun control to reproductive rights to immigration, education, and sexual equality — is supported by more than two-thirds of Illinois voters.

“By a margin of 2-to-1, Illinois voters support this bold Forward Illinois agenda,” said Jack Darin, director of the Sierra Club’s Illinois Chapter, “and they are more likely to support candidates who back it.”

The group held a news conference Tuesday morning outside the Dunne Building in Chicago, one of the state’s most popular sites for early voting, already underway for the Nov. 6 midterm election.

“We have a federal government that’s intent on turning back the clock and taking America backward,” Darin added.

“We, like our partners, believe Illinois must move forward, not backward,” said Jennifer Welch, president of Planned Parenthood Illinois Action.

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“We, like our partners, believe Illinois must move forward, not backward.”

Jennifer Welch, president of Planned Parenthood Illinois Action (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

They insisted that, while their individual causes might appear disparate, they are interrelated.

“Our struggles are all woven together,” said Mike Ziri, director of policy for Equality Illinois, which advocates for the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-queer community.

Yolanda Piper, a Thompson Center security officer who belongs to the Service Employees International Union, said the goal was to “combine all our priorities into one agenda.”

They said that, according to a recent poll of more than 1,000 likely Illinois voters, 68 percent supported the agenda, with just 24 percent opposed.

Zach Koutsky, legislative and political director for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 881, said the agenda proved “overwhelmingly popular with the broader electorate.”

“Not just Democrats,” added William McNary, co-director of Citizen Action Illinois, “but with individual swing voters and independents and the elderly and non-college-educated white men.”

According to the poll, 60 percent of independents endorsed the agenda, 60 percent of whites over age 65, and 53 percent of non-college-educated white men.

“Uniting us around the issues that we care about, we all do better when we all do better,” McNary said. “So you want a cleaner environment? Let’s vote about it. You want to protect people’s right to vote? Let’s vote about it. You want to protect health-care reform and expand it? Let’s vote about it. You want to protect a woman’s right to choose? Let’s vote about it.

“If you want equal rights and equal protection under the law,” he added, “let’s vote about it.”

To a person, they said their issues were not partisan, but common sense, with widespread support.

“Most people want to see policies that welcome immigrants and provide a path to citizenship,” said Bindu Poroori, of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. “Most people want access to health care. Most people want access to elections. Most people want everyone to be empowered.”

Mark Walsh, campaign director for the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, said even gun owners support common-sense regulations such as universal background checks for gun purchases and state licensing for gun dealers.

The 10-point agenda includes:

  • A $15 minimum wage

  • Guaranteed reproductive rights and health equity

  • Environmental justice, including clean water and a move to 100 percent renewable energy

  • Criminal-justice reform

  • Universal access to health care, moving toward so-called Medicare for all

  • Protection of transgender children

  • Ending deportations and providing a path to citizenship for immigrants

  • Certification of gun dealers with penalties for selling illegal guns

  • Fully funding education, including affordable higher education

  • A progressive income tax

Between them, the groups claimed more than 250,000 members statewide and said they were contacting a half-million additional prospective voters.

“Today is the last day to register to vote on paper,” Poroori pointed out, “but we will keep registering people online.”

“We have the people power behind us,” Welch said, “and we’re going to turn that into votes on Election Day.”

Darin said the poll suggested politicians embracing their agenda would receive a boost in support, adding, “And after November we will work together to enact it.”

See Zachary Sigelko’s One Illinois video on Forward Illinois.