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Elected Leaders Should Keep Their Word

By Sandra A. Cook Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring made a promise to constituents in October 2015 that we’d like him to keep. Back in...

Virginia Organizing Kicks Off ‘Stand with Women’ Campaign Across Commonwealth

Virginia Organizing kicked off the "Stand with Women" campaign across the Commonwealth with a series of local women's roundtables in Danville, Waynesboro, Petersburg, and Blacksburg. The roundtable discussions are designed to empower women to speak out on issues that are important to them, cross racial and cultural lines to address struggles specific to women of color, and promote women's leadership in organizing for action on these issues.

Throughout its 20-year history, Virginia Organizing has always placed emphasis on diversity and encouraged participation and leadership from women. The recent campaign is an effort to ensure that low-income women and women of color are being heard in discussions about women's issues in Virginia.

"As we know, sometimes women's issues are framed from the perspective of white women," said Virginia Organizing Chairperson Sandra A. Cook. "Virginia Organizing's goal is to do what we always do-empower people who have been oppressed to organize for change. With the 'Stand with Women' campaign, our focus is on making sure the voices of all women, especially low-income women and women of color, are heard and valued in discussions on women's issues."

Group Escorted by Police Out of Rep. Cantor’s Office After Staff Refused to Schedule...

On Thursday, October 24, a group of leaders from Virginia Organizing, Casa in Action, and ACLU of Virginia were escorted by police out of U.S. Representative and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's Richmond office after his staff refused to schedule a constituent meeting with Representative Cantor to discuss immigration reform.

The staff asked the group to leave when the office was closing for the day. The leaders refused because Representative Cantor's staff would not provide a meeting date, time, and place. Shortly after, the office staff contacted the police and the group was escorted out. No arrests were made.

"Our government, especially Representative Cantor, needs to listen to what the people want with comprehensive immigration reform," said Sandra A. Cook, Virginia Organizing Chairperson. "How can he listen if he refuses to even meet with directly affected people on this issue?"

While the group participated in the act of civil disobedience, a peaceful rally was held outside Representative Cantor's office to support comprehensive immigration reform and ask for a vote on citizenship.

"Comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship is the most important issue for Congress right now," said rally participant and Virginia Organizing State Governing Board member Jay Johnson. "Virginia Organizing's goal is to tell Representative Cantor that we want him to lead on this issue. We hope to tell him in person, but he still has not agreed to meet with us."

Virginia Organizing supports a comprehensive immigration reform plan with a path to citizenship and legal protections for immigrants and their families. For photos, please click here.

Study Shows Bipartisan Senate Immigration Bill Will Decrease Deficit, Help Va.’s Economy

For Immediate Release: June 19, 2013

Petersburg, Va.-The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report on Tuesday, June 18 showing the bipartisan Senate immigration bill will decrease the federal deficit by $197 billion over the next 10 years. In addition, it is estimated that comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship would further decrease the federal deficit by another $700 billion by 2033.

Virginia will benefit significantly from Congress fixing the broken immigration system through this bipartisan bill. Over the next 10 years, Virginia will receive a cumulative $16.3 billion increase in gross state product (GSP), an additional $670 million increase in taxes paid by undocumented immigrants, and a $9.6 billion increase in all state resident earnings.

The bill will also create approximately 2,400 jobs annually in Virginia.

"Not only does this bill makes sense from a humanitarian perspective, it is also a smart move to improve Virginia's economy," said Virginia Organizing Chairperson Sandra A. Cook.

"Virginia Organizing has been meeting with our Members of Congress to show them that comprehensive immigration reform is what Virginians want. Now, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office and the Center for American Progress have the data that show this bill will be good for the economy. We certainly hope Congress is paying attention!" said Cook.

Last week, Virginia Organizing released a poll in Virginia commissioned by the Alliance for Citizenship, Partnership for a New American Economy, and Republicans for Immigration Reform showing broad support across demographics, including political party affiliation, for the bipartisan Senate bill.

Poll: Virginians Support Comprehensive Immigration Reform

The Alliance for Citizenship, Partnership for a New American Economy and Republicans for Immigration Reform released a new poll today showing broad support for immigration reform across political parties and other demographics.

Organizations in Virginia are responding to the poll, noting that immigration reform is a moral and economic imperative, and Congress needs to act to pass the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill currently being debated in the U.S. Senate.  

Virginia Organizing Chairperson Sandra A. Cook said, "We sent Congress to Washington to get this job done. It is clear that a large majority of Virginia's electorate supports this bill. We implore Congress to pass this bill and fix our broken immigration system."

Edgar Aranda-Yanoc, Chair of Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO) also believes Congress should pay attention. Aranda-Yanoc said, "Our Congressional representatives were sent to Washington to work on important issues such as those considered in this poll and must act now to fix our broken immigration system."

Danville Chapter of Virginia Organizing Occupy Rep. Hurt’s Office

Virginia Organizing members organized a protest at U.S. Representative Robert Hurt's Danville Office on Tuesday and remained in his office for about two hours to ensure the message was received. Forty participants called on Representative Hurt to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent and to protect social safety net programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.

"I believe it's important we tell Representative Hurt that there are people living in his district that are coming to the age of retirement, and we are worried that we won't receive the benefits we've all worked so hard for," said Virginia Organizing leader Johnny Mayo. "The wealthiest two percent are not going to be harmed by losing the Bush tax cuts, but the rest of us could be hurt if they decide to cut programs that we all rely on. Do the wealthy really expect us to lose benefits to pay for their tax cuts? It's ridiculous," said Mayo.

Virginia Organizing has mobilized across the state to call on Congress to end the average $160,000 tax cut for millionaires and billionaires. Virginia Organizing is a state affiliate of Americans for Tax Fairness, a national group focusing on a fair tax system that works for all people, not just the wealthy.

Ben Wright of Virginia Organizing's Danville Chapter was most excited about getting the message to the people of Danville. "Representative Hurt won't meet with Virginia Organizing or hold public meetings to talk to the people about our needs, but he supports keeping the Bush tax cuts even for millionaires and billionaires," said Wright. "What the federal government does affects our state budget and that affects our local budgets. Three schools are closing because of budget cuts and the last thing we need here in Danville is more tax breaks for the wealthy while we try to figure out how to pay for programs that benefit everyone."  

Virginia Organizing and Virginia New Majority Rally to Support Medicaid


Norfolk, VA: Virginia Organizing and Virginia New Majority rallied at U.S. Senator Mark Warner's Norfolk office today to urge him to protect and expand Medicaid.

Rally participants handed out flyers to encourage others to contact U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb and urge them not to make cuts to Medicaid in any budget deals during the upcoming "lame duck" session of Congress after the election.

Winston Whitehurst, Virginia Organizing South Hampton Roads Chapter leader, said, "This Halloween there is a lot to be scared of. Hurricane Sandy was very scary with her severe wind and rain, but what's more scary to me is the idea that millions of people may lose Medicaid coverage through cuts or failure for states to provide the coverage to those who qualify under the law."

"This is truly an emergency as Virginia alone stands to have hundreds of thousands of uninsured people who won't benefit." Whitehurst said. "We must take a stand to protect this vital service for those who need it to decrease the burden on our hospitals and taxpayers."

Another participant, Alexis Edwards of Virginia SEIU 512, said she believes that Medicaid is something we need in this country. "We are always going to have a vulnerable population and individuals facing tough times. It is not only our duty as citizens to help protect those most vulnerable with programs like Medicaid, but it's an investment because it will be there for all of us if we need it."

The U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act in June left much of the law in place, but due to certain provisions, each state may choose or not choose to expand Medicaid to certain individuals.

Virginia Organizing and Virginia New Majority have placed a high priority on expanding Medicaid in Virginia to ensure that Virginians receive the full benefits of the Affordable Care Act.  

Virginia Organizing and Virginia Interfaith Center Host Social Justice University



Virginia Beach, VA: Virginia Organizing and the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy hosted a Social Justice University to help educate people about important issues in their community. This year's event in Virginia Beach primarily focused on the local affect of immigration, uranium mining, predatory lending, health care and the budget.  

Mike Stark, a local Virginia Organizing leader and Hampton Roads Chapter leader of the Virginia Interfaith Center, said "Social Justice University is the combined effort of Virginia Organizing and the Virginia Interfaith Center to educate people on the issues that are most important to them. The main idea is to empower people with the information so they can talk about these things with their legislators."

After the event, participants will schedule meetings with elected state officials to talk about these important local issues. Stark explained, "It's important to get these issues before the legislators before the General Assembly. Hopefully, they will take these issues into consideration during debates this year."

Virginia Organizing has long been committed to having people who are directly affected by public policies talk directly to elected officials to stress the importance of policymaking based on the real people's experiences and not on special interests. The Virginia Interfaith Center is dedicated to social justice and bringing together diverse faith groups based on the common interest of promoting a more just Virginia.  

Virginia Organizing Calls Potential Voters on Important Issues, Encourages Voter Participation


Charlottesville, VA: Calvin Maupin, pictured above, is one of dozens of phone bankers for Virginia Organizing, a non-partisan organization encouraging civic participation across the state.

Maupin and other phone bankers are part of a statewide campaign to call eligible voters to inform them about new identification requirements at the polls this year.

Most recently, Virginia Organizing hosted phone bank activities as part of the National Day of Action in conjunction with the national group USAction Education Fund and their affiliates across the country. Virginia Organizing will continue with the phone bank project through Election Day and will also host events across the state to educate voters on the new voter ID laws to make sure every vote counts.

Virginia Organizing Responds to ACA Decision

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA- Virginia Organizing is a multi-issue, statewide, community organizing group that has been working for health care reform for four years.  In response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act, Virginia Organizing State Governing Board Chairperson Sandra Cook releases the following statement:

"Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ended the debate over the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and ruled conclusively that ACA is here to stay.

Virginia Organizing has worked hard to help raise the voices of those who did not have health care coverage before the ACA and today we are thrilled with the Supreme Court decision - it's a great day when we can celebrate raising the quality of life for millions and millions of people.  

This is a strong victory for Virginia's families.  The Affordable Care Act expands coverage to 32 million Americans and eliminates the worst insurance company abuses for those already covered.  The ACA ensures that people with pre-existing conditions are not denied coverage and that insurance companies cannot continue to increase rates whenever they please.  The law has already benefited over 100 million people by continuing coverage for young adults up to age 26 on their parents' plans, providing rebates and credits to small business owners, and eliminating the "donut hole" gap in coverage for seniors.  More and more Virginians will see benefits like MLR (medical loss ratio) rebate checks and credits and the elimination of co-pays for preventive care this August, in addition to more real benefits for real people coming in the next two years.  
It's time for opponents to stop wasting time and get to work on fully implementing the law in Virginia. The court has spoken and the constitutional debate is done. The law is two years old and implementation is moving forward.

The ball is now in Virginia's court.  Governor Bob McDonnell appointed the Virginia Health Reform Initiative (VHRI) over two years ago and they have been working to begin implementing the ACA in our Commonwealth.  However, the Governor, Attorney General, and Virginia General Assembly have largely ignored the work of this Initiative.   The time for delays and playing politics with the health and lives of Virginians is over.  Virginians deserve access to the full benefits of the Affordable Care Act and Virginia Organizing calls on Governor McDonnell and the General Assembly to work to fully implement the law in Virginia.

The law stops insurance companies from denying our care and arbitrarily increasing our rates whenever they please. It also ends insurance company practices that have cut short countless lives, denied coverage and services to millions and imposed billions of dollars in excess costs on consumers and employers. It also expands coverage to millions of families and small businesses that could never afford it before while at the same time lowering costs for the millions of Americans already insured.

Today we are celebrating this abundant victory for Virginia's families. Because of the Affordable Care Act, lives have been and will be saved, costs will decrease and people are finally being put before corporate greed in our health system."  

- Blue Virginia Sponsor -


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