Thanksgiving is coming up! As I reflect on what I’m thankful for, one of the many things is the healthcare that my family and I had while I was growing up. My dad, a waiter, is in a union, and unionized workers at his restaurant collectively bargained for the healthcare that kept my family secure.
But not all workers and their families can give thanks for their healthcare this Thanksgiving, because some workers don’t have healthcare.
As of January 1st, 613,000 uninsured low-income Pennsylvanians—the majority of whom are working—could gain access to healthcare if Gov. Tom Corbett embraces the opportunity to expand Medicaid in Pennsylvania.
Thus far, Gov. Corbett has been playing politics instead of taking effective action. Instead of simply welcoming federal Medicaid expansion funds, Gov. Corbett is pushing a cumbersome and cost-inefficient plan that may take an alarmingly long time to implement.
It’s easy to be distraught, frustrated, or flat-out furious about Gov. Corbett’s current approach. But the process of getting involved and holding Gov. Corbett accountable can be genuinely uplifting, as Working America member Georgeanne Koehler’s experience shows.
Georgeanne personally knows the weight of Gov. Corbett’s decisions about Medicaid expansion, as her brother passed away at the age of 57 because he couldn’t access the healthcare he needed. Georgeanne has since fought to ensure that no one has to go through what her brother or her family went through.
On October 31st, 2013, I got up and headed to downtown Pittsburgh to attend a Working America rally to Expand Medicaid. Although I was early, soon I was joined by Working America members, One Pittsburgh members and a few PHAN members.
There were handshakes and hugs, “How are you?” and “What’s been going on with you?”, and smiles all around. I knew most of the folks that came to the rally. These are folks that struggle every day to get through their day, and when the sun sets on that day, they are able to pat themselves on the back because they found a way to made it through another day. Some grieve, just like me, for a family member who was lost because of our broken healthcare system. They know that nothing they do will bring their loved one back, but everything they do will be done to keep another American from knowing that grief.
The folks at the rally have one goal: to make America the best she can be. They know that to meet that goal they have to stand up for fairness and justice, and they do it so well. When the rally ended and the last “See you soon” was said, I found myself filled with overwhelming pride. On Oct. 31, 2013, for a few hours, which seemed like a minute, I stood with true-blue red, white and blue heroes. Oct. 31, 2013 I was the luckiest girl in the world!
You’re invited to join us as we continue to stand up together for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians and their loved ones. Contact me, Catherine Balsamo, at email@example.com or 412-456-2985 to get involved.
The 4th of July is coming up! Along with the cook-outs and fireworks, it’s a time to reflect upon and celebrate our country. Undoubtedly, one of the greatest qualities of the USA that Americans celebrate is our democracy.
But considering the strain Americans are under, keeping up on current issues and participating in the political process can be a challenge. We’re juggling multiple jobs. We’re caring for children, and sometimes parents. We’re rearranging our lives to try to make ends meet as everything gets more expensive. We’re helping out family members who are looking for work. Or we’re scrambling to find work ourselves. And some politicians make participation in our democracy even more challenging with misleading rhetoric and voter suppression laws.
If we’re squeezed out of our democracy, how much will the American government be “of the people, by the people, for the people”?
This is where Working America comes in. We help folks have a say in our democracy. Our teams of neighborhood organizers talk with people at their doors, update them on issues and policies that impact their lives, and engage them in quick and meaningful actions to improve things. Becoming a member of Working America is an opportunity to make a difference.
Through our member program, folks can choose from an incredible array of opportunities to participate in our democracy:
- Get updated on policies our politicians are considering that will impact our economy, schools, jobs, health care, etc. Our Pittsburgh Community Action Team members have learned about concrete solutions we can promote that will ease the widely-felt pain caused by Gov. Corbett’s recent state budgets.
- Learn how to write letters to the editor that can educate the community. One of our Pittsburgh members – a former Head Start teacher – had his letter published in our local major paper today. Another Pittsburgh member – a local restaurant employee – got word this week that his letter will be published soon. It’s estimated that letters to the editor in our major local paper can reach hundreds of thousands of people (yes, hundreds of thousands). They’re an excellent way to educate community members about issues that our elected officials will be making decisions about.
- Sit down and talk with your elected officials about what they should do to best represent you, your family, or your community. Really. Here in Pennsylvania, Working America has about half a million members, and when we tell an elected official how many members we have in his or her district, he or she is often willing to sit down with us and hear what our members have to say. Recently, Working America members in the Pittsburgh area met with 4 state legislators (and the staffers of another) to highlight how their families and communities would benefit from better public schools, more affordable higher education, stronger social services, and greater corporate accountability.
This 4th of July, along with enjoying the fireworks, celebrate our country by taking a step to strengthen our democracy. Connect with your local Working America office , and bolster our country’s ability to be “of the people, by the people, for the people.”
As readers of the Main Street Blog probably know, the foundation of Working America’s work is the pursuit of economic justice. We encourage lawmakers to focus on funding quality public education, affordable healthcare, corporate accountability, family-sustaining jobs, and retirement security.
State budgets can impact all of those issues – some profoundly – and so Working America members have organized for an economically just state budget every spring since I’ve been a Member Coordinator. As this is the third budget campaign that Working America members in the Pittsburgh area have participated in, and engaged Working America members have developed noteworthy skills, savvy, and vision. We’re dedicating those assets to driving a campaign to provide Pennsylvanians with a much brighter vision for our state, and to help fellow Pennsylvanians speak up to our state legislature in support of that economically just vision.
“We the People” may not be interested in wining and dining politicians to win their support for our vision for the Commonwealth (nor can we afford it). But don’t worry: we don’t need to schmooze. We’ve got strength in numbers and constituent leverage, and last year’s budget battle demonstrated just how powerful our strength in numbers can be when we use it.
Because of the public outcry from innumerable Pennsylvanians against the horrendous budgetary proposals Gov. Corbett has been making, our state representatives and senators refused to pass some of the massive cuts to education and social services that Gov. Corbett wanted last year. In fact, our state representatives added over $500 million back into Pennsylvania education and social services compared to Gov. Corbett’s proposal.
We know that when many of us constituents speak up to our state representatives and senators for a better budget, we can make gains in what we want for our families and communities. And so, this year, we’re doing it again.
Our vision: Instead of balancing the budget on the backs of workers, our state legislature should have corporations pay their fair share of state taxes so we can increase funding for critical social services and education.
Our strategy: We’ll broadly share our vision with community members, and we’ll help folks speak up to their state representatives and senators in support of that vision.
Working America member Connie Cavara explains why an economically just budget matters to her:
I pay a healthy amount of state income taxes, but I’m extremely concerned to find that the educational opportunities that Pennsylvania provides in return are getting weaker and weaker.
During Gov. Corbett’s first year in office, he slashed a shocking amount of funding from our public schools, contributing to class sizes in local schools being simply too large for kids to get the education they deserve. Gov. Corbett also axed funding for higher education, which certainly isn’t helping to keep college financially within reach for families like mine.
Why are we working families doing our parts, but losing opportunities and services that are basic for accessing the American Dream?
Probably because there are very wealthy “people” who dodge paying their fair share of state income taxes, while benefiting from Pennsylvania’s infrastructure, schools, and other services. One of those people is named Wal-Mart. Unlike everyday working folks, people like Wal-Mart can and do exploit corporate tax loopholes like the Delaware Tax Loophole.
If corporations are people too, why aren’t they paying their fair share of state income taxes like working families are?
We need to close the Delaware Tax Loophole, so that corporations finally pay their fair share, helping our children to have the quality public schools and affordable college opportunities they deserve. And we need to close the Delaware Tax Loophole so that Gov. Corbett no longer utilizes the consequential funding shortage as an excuse to balance the budget on the backs of our state workers.
Use your constituent power to help us progress towards economic justice for Pennsylvania: sync up with the Working America Pittsburgh Community Action Team. Feel free to contact me, the Member Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.
Julie Parker, the creator of the sign above, is among several Working America members and staffers who came out for the economic justice street theatre organized by the Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN) this week. PHAN’s skit called on Congress to protect funding for critical programs – like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security – by eliminating the costly sweetheart deals and loopholes set up to benefit corporations and pharmaceutical companies.
Over the course of PHAN’s street theatre, Larry the Lobbyist and his costly Loophole smugly sucked up a mother’s purse, a college student’s backpack, and a senior’s medication money, revealing the costliness of corporate tax loopholes and deals to the American People.
Not only do these corporate breaks suck up our money, they strain our country’s resources. The desperate situation caused by such loopholes and deals gives rightwing politicians fuel to attack critical social insurance programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
The Working America members at PHAN’s event know that we cannot allow the slashing of such programs: programs that keep our seniors and low-income folks afloat and able to take care of their health.
Julie Parker (seen above holding her sign) explained what inspired her to create her sign:
“I remember visiting Alcatraz prison and seeing a sign stating that the prisoners were entitled to medical care along with food, clothing, and shelter….I thought that if our convicted felons were entitled to health care, shouldn’t our citizens also be entitled to the same? After all, the only ‘crime’ [of recipients of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security] is being old or poor.”
Wish our Pittsburgh Community Action Team a happy belated first birthday! In December 2011, Working America members from throughout Western Pennsylvania came together at our Pittsburgh office to meet one another and to develop community awareness-raising skills.
Being Working America members, the folks around the meeting table were united in their support for economic fairness for working families and “the 99%.” They were team players who wanted to stand up for that mission.
Since its formation, our Pittsburgh Community Action Team has accomplished a tremendous amount to help our communities, our state, and our country become more economically just.
Last year, in support of a decent state budget that adequately funds education and social services by requiring corporate accountability, the team:
Developed a strategy, set goals, and received trainings;
Met with 6 elected officials’ offices, presenting personal statements highlighting personal connections to education, social services, and corporate accountability to speak up for a decent state budget;
Gathered dozens of post cards;
Held a press conference and post card delivery outside of Gov. Corbett’s office;
Had 5 letters to the editor published in local papers;
Got some friends and family to take action; and
Even earned a few TV and print media clips.
Thanks to their work and the work of innumerable Pennsylvanians across the state, our state legislature restored over $500 million to higher education, basic education, and social services in our current state budget.
Once we had completed our fight for a decent state budget last year, we began our civil rights mission: helping our communities understand Pennsylvania’s recently-altered and very convoluted voting laws.
Again, we developed a thoughtful strategy, set goals, and thought about how we could each effectively and feasibly contribute. Through person-to-person conversations, flyering, tabling, writing letters to the editor, calling into a local talk show, and being featured as guest speakers about voter suppression on the Chris Moore Show, Working America members educated approximately 642,038 people across the state on their voting rights.
Our work was critical, especially at a time when folks didn’t know that their rights had changed, or didn’t realize what was actually behind the new law and the misleading ads that promoted it. We motivated folks to vote and kept them updated on what they had to do in order to ensure that their votes would count.
At the close of 2012, as education and social services faced the looming possibility of national gutting, and as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security were vulnerable to the ax of “Grand Bargainers,” the Pittsburgh Community Action Team got involved. We rallied and held press conferences outside of our Senator Bob Casey’s district office, calling on him to take the lead in the fight to protect education, retirement security and healthcare programs by demanding that the Bush Tax Cuts for the top 2 percent are allowed to expire.
Although that fight isn’t quite over, education, social services, health programs, and retirement security programs were spared from the so-called “Fiscal Cliff,” and the unjust Bush Tax Cuts expired on many of the nation’s top earners.
Over the course of the team’s first 14 months, new folks have joined, members have developed an array of skills, and folks have learned tremendously from one another. The team members have found kindred spirits in one another, formed friendships, and developed a sense of belonging.
Working America teams like the Pittsburgh Community Action Team are getting together and taking action for economic justice all across the country. Become a part of a refreshing, dynamic group of thoughtful, committed citizens: get involved with your local Working America Community Action Team!
Meet Scott, a tall, handsome Massachusetts resident who drives a pick-up truck. I’m not talking about Scott Brown; I’m talking about Scott Johnson. Scott Johnson is a volunteer with Working America Quincy’s campaign to help Elizabeth Warren – Scott Brown’s opponent – win the US Senate seat in Massachusetts.
In my first conversation with Scott Johnson, he explained to me that he wants someone in office who will represent us. As he stated, that means someone who shares our values. Scott Brown may resemble Scott Johnson, but Elizabeth Warren will represent Scott Johnson. That’s why Scott Johnson is dedicating time, thought, and energy to giving Elizabeth Warren the opportunity to serve as our next US Senator.
Scott Johnson is well-aware that the decisions our politicians make can affect us tremendously. It’s clear to him that we’ve got to elect the people who make decisions with working families in mind. Scott explained in submissions to the Quincy Patriot Ledger last week:
I work in construction, and I’ve been searching for steady work since 2008. Whenever a job ends, my coworkers and I always feel like it will be a struggle to find another one. One of my friends moved to Maine and wants me to move up there for a job. I am now forced to choose between my home and basic financial stability.
President Obama’s American Jobs Act would have invested in infrastructure and education, and would have provided work for workers like me. It was a missed opportunity. US Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren has another jobs plan: one we can’t afford to miss. Her Rebuild Now Plan would put people back to work fixing our infrastructure and our schools. I’m supporting her, because she fights for us, and I encourage readers to support her too.
Scott’s letter highlights what so many folks in Quincy have told me: “Elizabeth Warren fights for the middle class / the working class / the little guy / us.” Elizabeth Warren’s Rebuild Now jobs plan will create many thousands of needed family-sustaining job opportunities for residents of the Commonwealth, while equipping Massachusetts with the infrastructure it needs to compete and thrive. Scott Brown’s image-based campaign can’t hold a candle to Elizabeth Warren’s vision and track record as a dedicated fighter for working families. In fact, the more that Working America organizers and volunteers talk to folks about Brown’s and Warren’s records and plans on the issues that matter to them (like family-sustaining jobs, corporate accountability, and education), the more folks support Elizabeth Warren.
With dedicated volunteers like Scott Johnson working to bring voters the information they’re hungry for, I’m looking forward to watching Elizabeth Warren keep on rising in the polls.
When I saw this awesome post and fantastic graphic about the value of voting yesterday, I couldn’t help but remember a letter I received recently from one of our members, Steve Rechichar:
During the 1980s, I worked for the political science department of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. That city also has the headquarters of the Tennessee Valley Authority, one of the New Deal’s crown jewels. Its first board of directors developed programs in flood control, navigational improvement, power production, and rural electrification that laid the foundation for socio-economic progress in the seven state region encompassed by the Tennessee River’s Watershed.
In the spring of ’83, I attended events commemorating the agency’s 50th year. The featured speaker was former West Virginia Senator Jennings Randolph, a sponsor of the legislation that established the Tennessee Valley Authority. In a wide-ranging speech, he looked ahead to the ’84 elections and said, “Don’t ever let anyone tell you your vote doesn’t matter: it matters to you!” I, in turn, passed that along to a class I taught.
And now, here we are, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, seeing the unparalleled creation of “super PACs,” watching more money than we can imagine pouring into Republican coffers. All I know is that we cannot allow the publicly acknowledged billionaires, let alone the cowardly ones skulking in the shadows of anonymity, to buy our election. Like Jesse Jackson said, “Count every vote! Every vote counts!”
Right now, Republican politicians are grossly violating Rev. Jackson’s commonsense call. Through the restrictive voter ID law enacted last year, they’re actively trying to decrease the likelihood that citizens’ votes will be counted in November.
To make sure that Pennsylvania voters can get what they’ll need for their votes to be counted, members like Steve are updating their communities on the new rules for voting in our state. In Pittsburgh, we have been finding creative ways to update voters in their communities – especially folks who are more likely to be disenfranchised – about the photo ID they’ll need to vote and how to get it.
Something that has struck our members during their outreach is that that even well-informed and politically aware folks regularly don’t know what kinds of photo ID will be accepted. There’s actually a specific list. And folks are often also unaware of what criteria those IDs must meet, or how to acquire an approved ID.
Because this Voter ID law is known for being a part of the wave of voter suppression laws that ALEC and some Republican politicians have unleashed across the US, it’s unsurprising that the Corbett Administration and the partisan PR firm he hired to advertise the law have confused people about what ID they’ll need and how to acquire it.
Remember: for your vote to be counted – even if you have an ID on the list linked to above – your name on your ID must substantially conform to how your name appears on the voter rolls. There’s a list of registered PA voters who either lack the most common form accepted voter ID, or whose names on their PennDOT IDs may not match their names on the voter rolls closely enough. Pittsburghers: check to see if you’re on that list here.
Also, if you know someone who you think might not have one of the accepted IDs, help them keep their political power: ask them now if they’ve got one of the approved voter ID’s, and let them know how they can’t get one if they need one.
It’s up to everyday citizens who believe in civil rights and democracy (like us!) to ensure that our families, friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens obtain the ID they’ll need for their votes to be counted.
Join us in this continuation of the Civil Rights Movement: contact our Western Pennsylvania Member Coordinator, Liz, at 412-456-2985.
UPDATE OCTOBER 2, 2012: You are no longer required to show ID to vote in the 2012 election. We strongly recommend you obtain ID for future elections.
The law has changed!
Be PREPARED to vote in November.
You need to bring one of these PHOTO IDs to the polls on November 6. All photo IDs must include your name and a current expiration date:
• A PA driver’s license, currently valid or expired less than 12 months.
• An ID issued by PennDOT, currently valid or expired less than 12 months.
• A currently valid U.S. passport. Expired passports will not be accepted.
• A currently valid active duty or retired U.S. military ID, including the PA National Guard. An indefinite expiration date will be accepted.
• A currently valid military dependent’s ID with an expiration date. Expired IDs and IDs with an indefinite expiration date will not be accepted.
• A currently valid employee ID issued by federal, PA, PA county or PA municipal government. Expired IDs will not be accepted.
• A currently valid ID issued by a PA university, college, seminary, community college or two-year college to students, faculty, employees and alumni. Expired IDs will not be accepted.
• A currently valid ID issued by a PA care facility (such as a long-term care nursing facility, assisted living residence or personal care home). Expired IDs will not be accepted.
If you need a PHOTO ID:
START NOW to learn everything you need to know to make your vote count.
FREE photo IDs are available at PennDOT driver’s license centers if you sign an affidavit affirming that you don’t have a proper ID and that you need the ID in order to vote.
You must bring:
1. A Social Security card and one of the following:
• An official birth certificate (with a raised seal), certificate of U.S. citizenship, certificate of naturalization or a valid U.S. passport, and
2. TWO proofs of residency, e.g., lease agreement, mortgage documents, W-2 form, tax records or current utility bill (cell phone bills cannot be used).
You should know:
• Voters who don’t have the appropriate ID listed above who were born in PA can fill out a form asking PennDOT to contact the Department of Health, who will verify the birth records. The Department of Health will transmit this information to PennDOT and PennDOT will notify the voter that their birth record is confirmed. This process is FREE and takes ten days.
Voters can locate PennDOT driver’s license centers by calling 800-932-4600 or visiting www.dot.state.pa.us.
If you would like to get more involved in Working America’s Voter ID Education campaign, contact our Pittsburgh office at 412-456-2985 or email email@example.com.
If you’re a Pennsylvanian, there are many things I know about you, even though we may have never met. You’re a neighborhood, come-join-me-on-my-porch, kind of person. You make sure that Santa Claus never skips a house on your block. You will do anything it takes to give a dying man another day of life. You are the greatness of Pennsylvania.
I worked at St. Francis Hospital from 1964 until the hospital closed in 2002. For most of those years I worked in the Psychiatry ward as a psychiatric aide. We loved caring for the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor. I have to admit, caring for the poor was the best part of my job. It was at that hospital that I came to understand the meaning of healthcare. The meaning was healing: a healing of body, mind and spirit. A healing without a price tag attached.
In December of 2007, I was overwhelmed with despair when I found out that my brother Billy, a man with a gentle soul and a loving heart – a heart that didn’t always beat so good – was being denied life-saving cardiac care because he was first denied his right to buy a private health insurance policy. I wondered: When was it that healing was replaced with profit?
Billy applied for Medicaid, but as a pizza delivery driver he made too much money to qualify for that program. Billy died on March 7th, 2009. He was 57 years old. Folks on the street where he died did whatever they could do to give him back another day of life. A teenager folded his hoodie sweatshirt and placed it under Billy’s head in a gesture of comfort.
When it’s time for State Budget talks, I worry: Will this be the year we see deep cuts to Medicaid? This program is a lifeline for the poor and the working poor; for the mentally ill and children who suffer with Autism; for diabetics and their treatment; for a woman with MS; for a man who needs cardiac care; and for an elderly neighbor who needs nursing home care. They all need care, but without money, they may find themselves with no other option than to agree to hospice care.
I think Governor Tom Corbett and our legislators believe that if they cut the life line “for those folks” none of us will care. Maybe they expect that we, like them, will turn a blind eye to the pain and suffering and death of “those folks.”
But they will be wrong. What makes Pennsylvania the greatest state in the Union is that her citizens have a core belief that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper. We will stand up, we will have our voice heard, and make no mistake about it, we will fight if our beliefs are put in jeopardy or challenged. We will win that fight because we are neighborhood, come-join-me-on-my-porch, kind of folks.
The following is a guest post from Julie Parker, a Working America Community Action Team member from Bloomfield, Pennsylvania.
There are only a couple of things that almost everyone agrees on. One of them is we love our kids. Even if you don’t have any children, chances are that there is a child in your life somewhere that you love and want the best for.
I have one son. His name is Alex, he is 4 years old, and he loves Thomas the Tank Engine. Alex talks in what I call “train speak.” He says things like, “My boiler aches” and “I popped a piston,” which makes it hard for me to figure out where he is hurting. We don’t hold hands to cross the street, we “couple up.” And if you want him to slow down, you don’t tell him to stop running, you holler “You’re chuffing too fast.” It’s an interesting world.
Alex is enrolled in the Pittsburgh Public School Early Childhood Intervention Program/Head Start. We are slightly over the income requirements, but he qualified because he was a little behind in fine motor skills and in gross motor skills. He receives occupational therapy and physical therapy services as part of the program. Over the past school year, I have watched Alex progress in his writing skills, coloring, balance, and coordination. He has benefitted tremendously from the program and the interaction with other children. And, really, that is the point of pre-school: Get the kids in, get them used to a routine, catch them up where they may be behind, and prepare them for success for the remainder of their education. It is easy to catch the kids up when they are so young and eager to learn.
We won’t be able to return in the fall if Governor Tom Corbett’s proposed budget cuts to education are passed by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Since we are over income, we would lose our spot in the Early Childhood Intervention program first. I have been trying to find alternatives for the fall in case we are cut from the program. The pre-school in my Bloomfield neighborhood charges $180 per week. Yes, that’s right, per week. That is about the same cost as most private day-care programs.
Without the public school pre-K program, I will have to tell my son that I can’t give him the best possible start with his education because I can’t afford it.
If we value our children and want the very best for them, why doesn’t our state budget reflect that? That’s why everyone who loves a kid should be moved to action by the Pennsylvania State Budget proposed by Governor Corbett.