Prominent Examples of Advocacy

3 Examples of Advocacy

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1. The National Child Labor Committee

The National Child Labor Committee was founded in 1904 after a meeting in Carnegie Hall. Its membership included social workers, reformers, businessmen, and educators. Lewis Wickes Hine, a teacher and professional photographer, was hired to travel around the country and photograph child laborers. He often disguised himself as a fire inspector, postcard vendor, or bible salesman to gain access to factories and mines. His photographs helped awaken the nation’s conscience and advance child labor reform.

The NCLC began by campaigning for state legislation limiting the employment of children. When this failed to bring about change, the organization lobbied for a federal law restricting child labor. Its effort resulted in the Keating-Owen Act, which was passed but later declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Industrialists defended child labor by arguing that it made children sturdier and less dependent on government assistance. Addams and her Hull-House associates countered by arguing that forcing children to work stunted their opportunities to become successful adults, kept family wages down, and contributed to a lack of education in the United States. In addition to campaigns at the local and state levels, the NCLC held national conferences to publicize its findings and promote uniform standards for labor laws in all states. This strategy helped mask regional differences, though the NCLC could not make headway in the South.

2. Ralph Nader

After graduating magna cum laude from Princeton with a degree in government and economics, Nader studied law at Harvard. He began his career as a lawyer but soon turned to advocacy in order to advance causes that he believed were being neglected by corporate and government interests.

His 1965 book Unsafe at Any Speed, lambasting car makers for their disregard for consumer safety, catapulted him to national fame. During the 1960s and 1970s, he led a host of organizations whose research and lobbying efforts resulted in laws such as the 1966 National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, the 1967 Safe Drinking Water and Meat Inspection Act, and the 1971 Freedom of Information Act.

Nader founded a wide variety of groups that focus on consumer, environmental, and social justice issues, including Public Citizen, the Center for Auto Safety, the Consumers Union, the Clean Water Action Project, the Pension Rights Center, and Project for Corporate Responsibility. He still writes books (his latest is Breaking Through Power), lectures, and travels extensively, as well as spending much time at his family home in Winsted, Connecticut. He also directs the American Museum of Tort Law and writes a column for The New York Times. His work has been praised by a number of high profile figures, and in 1974 he was named one of the country’s most influential people by TIME Magazine.

3. The Green Party

Greens have shaped the debate over environmental issues by pushing forward progressive policy ideas and challenging the dominant narrative. Through their activism and candidate endorsements, they raise awareness about the interconnectedness of social, economic, and environmental problems.

The Green Party is a broad international movement that advocates for environmentally sustainable practices and social justice. It is based on principles of grassroots democratization, pacifism, and nonviolence. The Greens promote a holistic vision of government that integrates ecology with social and economic justice, human rights, and human dignity.

In many countries, the Greens have elected members to local and state offices. For example, Audie Bock was the first US Green to win a seat in a state legislature, and John Eder won seats in the Maine House of Representatives in 2002 and 2004. The Greens have also won spots in the European Parliament and in dozens of local governments, including city councils and school boards.

As with all advocacy efforts, the Greens face challenges. One of the biggest is internal division over how to best pursue their goals. Some Greens embrace a more activist approach that supports direct action and civil disobedience, as exemplified by groups like the eco-saboteur group Earth First! Other Greens are more pragmatists and favor electoral strategies. The Greens have also struggled to resolve differences over energy policies.

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