From the civil rights movement to women’s suffrage, from basic workplace protections to our landmark environmental laws like the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act, major changes that have improved the lives of millions did not happen by accident. They were hard won victories that came after years of organizing at the local, state, and national level.
One person’s voice can make a difference – and while that voice alone may not seem that powerful, when combined with the voices of neighbors, local community groups and faith congregations, small businesses and farmers, and others in the community, our voices can exert more power over our elected representatives than the largest corporations – even in our broken political system which we desperately need to repair.
That’s organizing: empowering people to speak out for what they want with a united voice, building alliances with like-minded organizations representing a diversity of interests, and put pressure on our elected officials to do the right thing. It’s how Food & Water Watch has worked with communities across the country – and activists like you – to win real changes over powerful interests. Its how we’ve stopped water privatization in dozens of communities; how the broader anti-fracking movement has passed over 475 measures nationally against fracking; how working with allies we have won GMO labeling fights at the state legislature; and how we passed over 50 local measures against the misuse of antibiotics on factory farms.
Power: What is it and who has it?
The concept of power is core to winning through organizing. No matter which issue affecting our food and water you care most about, chances are there are wealthy special interests fighting against the public good in order to maintain the status quo. These companies have undue influence over our political system and their dirty practices compromise our health and environment. We have ample facts to back up our positions, but if facts were enough, we would have won already.
So how do we win against such powerful, wealthy opposition? There are two key forms of power at work here: special interest money that represents an elite few; and the massive people power that we can harness to collectively demand change.
Big Oil and Gas (companies like Exxon and Halliburton) and Big Ag (Monsanto and friends) are making tremendous profits and lobbying to block policy changes that threaten their bottom line. We’ve seen this over and over on issues affecting the health and safety of our food and water. The “Halliburton loophole” of the Clean Water Act exempts fracking companies from having to disclose the chemicals they use that poison our water. Big Chicken companies keep the farmers who grow their chickens in serious debt, treating them as indentured servants on their own land. And companies like Monsanto have spent millions spreading lies and misinformation to keep us in the dark about what we’re eating and block efforts to label genetically engineered foods. Unfortunately, the list goes on.
Every person deserves safe food and clean water for themselves and for the families. What we lack is the political will needed to overcome the special interest money and make that vision a reality. Our best tools against wealthy opposition are our voices and our votes. By getting organized and coming together, we are able to harness the power we have as individuals to amplify our collective voices. Each individual action builds until we reach a critical mass to overcome the forces at work against us.
Food & Water Watch works to empower every person to take part in our movement. By focusing our collective power, we make it clear that our elected officials have a choice: they can side with wealthy companies, or the people whom they represent and who put them in office.
Organizing in Action: How Activists Banned Fracking in New York
Just a few years ago, if you mentioned banning fracking in New York, you would have been laughed out of rooms (like we were). But in 2014, it happened. See how we used organizing to ban fracking in New York.
“You really did a great job of making your voice heard, and that’s what democracy’s all about.”
– Governor Andrew Cuomo to New York activists, after the fracking ban announcement
Ready to organize? Here’s how to get started
If you’re ready to take action and get involved, Food & Water Watch is ready to help you. Find out what’s happening and connect directly with one of our organizers to get started.
Below, you’ll find the tools to help you get started with the most essential organizing tactics:
- Collecting petition signatures and generating phone calls to elected officials to demonstrate mass support
- Putting together rallies and other events to show our power in numbers
- Building coalitions to broaden the base of groups who are working together toward a common goal
- Getting coverage in the media to raise the profile of important issues
- Holding face-to-face meetings with elected officials to make our case, backed by the power we’ve built through organizing
Launch a Local Campaign
Use our campaign toolkit to launch your local campaign.
Start Recruiting a Group to Build Power
Work locally, make a difference.
Connect with a local campaign and get active in your community.