Meet a Progressive: Fighting for the Working Class with Rick Smith
The Rick Smith Show champions unions and worker rights in order to build a stronger, and more just and democratic society.
What inspired you to start working for progressive social change?
I’ve always been a labor activist. For me it’s all about making lives better. I am a union guy. Growing up a minority in a minority dominated housing project on the westside of Cleveland gave me a unique perspective on race and economics that has shaped my political views. As a kid, the only people who ever got out of the projects went to jail, joined the military, were exceptional athletes, or got a union job. Our neighbor got a UAW (United Auto Workers Union) job at Ford and immediately their lives got better. Food at the end of the month, better clothing, a secondhand car, and then they were moving out and up the socioeconomic ladder. The message of Union Job = Better Life stuck with me until I got a union job. I now live in a neighborhood with doctors and lawyers and my kids will never see the pain, suffering, inhumanity, poverty I grew up surrounded by.
What do you identify as the top issues progressives must confront in PA, nationally, and globally?
The preservation of democracy. We must secure voting rights, labor rights, women’s right, and civil rights. We’re at a pivotal moment in American history. I have always believed that working class issues (wages, conditions, healthcare, etc.) are critical, but none of that can happen if we lose democracy in America. Voting rights tops the list of absolutes. You cannot have a functional democracy if large swaths of the population are excluded, blocked, or obstructed from casting their ballot. This wonderful experiment of self-governance is based on we the people having a voice.
Secondly, and probably most predictably, worker’s rights follows for my top issues. In PA, a republican governor would surely sign the wage, benefit, and people killing Right to Work legislation that has been proposed every legislative session as far back as I can remember. If workers do not have a voice on the job, they are vulnerable. If workers feel vulnerable, they look for power in other, more dangerous places. If we give people the opportunity to live the American Dream our grandparents built, I believe the temperature calms a little and we may be able to find a way to find common ground and to talk about the public good. My other top issue is addressing our climate future by moving to a cleaner greener economy that saves our planet for my children and gives workers a more prosperous economy to raise families and retire securely. The list of fights is virtually endless and while the moneyed interests are outspending use at every turn we have out procreated them. If we can unite, we can win.
What types of organizing and/or projects are you working on right now?
We are working to maximizing our voice. Growing our radio shows, TV programs, and podcasts so we can better amplify the good work being done by groups working to preserve our freedoms, our democracy, our future. In 2021, we have added radio affiliates in NYC, LA, Chicago, Minneapolis, Atlanta, and stations in between to reach terrestrial radio listeners. Our National Free Speech TV show is expanding from twice a week to a daily show that will air Monday through Friday at 9pm ET. Our podcasts are heard on virtually every podcast host from iTunes to iHeart and Podbean, Stitchr, Google, and everyone in between.
How can folks get engaged and involved?
Watch, listen, download, share. It’s just that simple. We’re just a messenger, but it’s a good message, and everyone can help us get it out there. Call in during our live shows weeknights 9-11pm ET heard across the nation.
Which journalists, writers, podcasts, and publications do you turn to for information and inspiration?
Not to sound pandering but I think the work you do is vitally important. Local reporting is the lifeblood of democracy. Without you and people like my buddy Kevin Mahoney of Raging Chicken Press,local stories get ignored. I read everything I can find from the amazing labor reports who are finally getting noticed like Alex Press, Dave Jamieson, Hamilton Nolan, Kim Kelly, and others to old reliable journalists like Steven Greenhouse. There are a number of substacks journalists that I consume like Judd Legum and Pat Garafalo and podcasts like the Muckrake by Jared Yates-Sexton. I do spend considerable time reading right-wing garbage, but I do that so my listeners don’t have to endure the mind numbing confusion of their demented rambles.
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Thanks for reading! I look forward to your feedback and suggestions. And most importantly, keep organizing!