Moral Mondays Expanded in North Carolina with Feb. 8 ‘Moral March on Raleigh’

On Feb. 8, the Moral Monday movement, which showed massive momentum in 2013, will return with its biggest event yet, the Moral March on Raleigh. While the state of North Carolina has been moving in a more Democratic direction in recent years in presidential elections, with Barack Obama winning the state in 2008 and coming just two percentage points of winning it again in 2012, extremist Republicans have taken control of the governor’s mansion and the state Assembly.

The Moral March on Raleigh will call out North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) and state Senate Leader Phil Berger (R) and their extreme policies, which have included attacks on voting rights, education, the environment, health care and women’s rights. Organizers expect tens of thousands of North Carolinians to stand up for their rights and fight back against these extreme policies on Feb. 8.

The Moral Monday movement was organized by the Rev. William Barber II, head of the North Carolina NAACP, which staged protests in Raleigh and throughout the state last year. The events were launched in conjunction with another organization headed by Barber, the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) People’s Assembly Coalition, and have been supported by more than 150 other organizations. The 13 Moral Monday events in Raleigh in 2013 led to nearly 1,000 arrests for civil disobedience, while events in dozens of other cities around the state helped raise awareness about the strange games afoot in the state capital.

For more details about the March, visit the HKonJ website.

The Moral Monday movement has put forth the People’s Moral Agenda, which includes the following principles and policy goals:

  • Economic sustainability, alleviating poverty and expanding labor rights.
  • Fully funded constitutional education.
  • Health care for all—protecting Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, women’s health and the Affordable Health Care Act.
  • Addressing disparities in the criminal justice system.
  • Protecting/expanding voting rights and civil rights.
  • Environmental justice.
  • Fair and just immigration reform.
  • Equal protection under the law regardless of race, income, gender or sexual orientation.

The Moral Monday movement also has a goal of raising awareness about Art Pope, the extreme financier behind much of the pro-corporate, anti-working family policies that have passed recently in North Carolina. Pope is often referred to as the state’s version of the Koch brothers.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Remember That Time You Thought Your Hospital Charged You Too Much? You Were Probably Right

Everybody knows about exorbitant hospital prices, but data compiled by National Nurses United (NNU) shows that many hospitals, especially the for-profit ones, are price gouging their patients. Many for-profit hospitals, according to NNU, actually charge patients more than 10 times what it costs to provide care.

“Such inflated practices continue to price far too many Americans out of access to needed medical care or expose them to financial ruin,” says NNU Co-President Jean Ross, RN. “It’s long past time to rein in the price gouging and recognize that a health care system based on profiteering puts all of us at risk.”

The top 14 U.S. hospitals charge more than $1,000 per every $100 of their actual costs, according to NNU. New Jersey leads the country in hospital costs with Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in Secaucus at the top, charging $1,192 for every $100 of its costs. The top 100 hospitals nationwide have a charge-to-cost ratio, on average, of 765%, while the national average is 331%.

Many of the most expensive hospitals are owned by two massive hospital corporations, Community Health Systems and Health Management Associates, NNU reports. The two companies are pursuing a merger that NNU says would raise costs even further. For-profit hospitals, in general, charge much more than the national average at 503% of costs. Meanwhile, public hospitals at all levels average 245% of actual costs, more evidence that government-run enterprises often do better than privatized services. Maryland, which NNU says is probably the most regulated state in terms of medical charges, has the lowest average charges.

“The lesson here is that the critical work of real health care reform is far from complete,” Ross says. “As long as our health continues to be held hostage by hospitals and other corporations more focused on profits than care, Americans will be at risk.”

Ross says NNU would continue to stand up for patients:

Nurses will never stop fighting for transformation of our inequitable health care system to one based on patient need and quality care for all. The numbers for bankruptcy and financial ruin from medical bills plummet at age 65, when people qualify for Medicare. The best solution is to expand and update Medicare to cover everyone and take the financing of health care out of the hands of the profiteers.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Yes, Marco Rubio, There Is Less Poverty Than There Was 50 Years Ago

Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty and worked with Congress to pass legislation designed to lower poverty levels and mitigate the effects of poverty on America’s families. Not long after the war on poverty initiatives went into effect, and startedshowing significant results, conservatives went on the attack, attempting to weaken, defund or eliminate many of the policies that were working quite well. But the program was so effective that it still helped, and helps, keep tens of millions of Americans out of poverty. Now Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) isweighing in on the war on poverty by claiming that it has failed, a smoke screen that he and others are using to continue their agenda to weaken or eliminate the war on poverty.

Two claims are central to conservative arguments that the war on poverty is a failure. The first is tortured logic that goes something like this: “We’ve been fighting the war on poverty for 50 years and poverty still exists, therefore it’s a failure.” Beyond the fact that this level of oversimplification doesn’t belong in a serious conversation about poverty (we rarely “eliminate” problems, we improve the situation as the real world goal), it completely ignores the conservative responsibility for the programs not being as effective as they could be. From budget cuts to added red tape that makes it harder for citizens to participate in lifelines they are eligible for, conservatives have fought for decades to make the war on poverty less successful. To now claim that these lifelines are inherently flawed, as opposed to being sabotaged, is laughable at best.

The second claim relies on a dumbing-down of statistics that would make George W. Bush proud. By the official government poverty measure, the poverty rate in 1964 was 19%. In the latest version of that official number, the rate is 15%. The argument goes that 50 years is a long time and a lot of money to decrease poverty such a small amount. Ignoring the fact that 4% of the population is still millions of people, the official number is flawed. It only includes cash income.  Over the years, more and more anti-poverty programs were moved away from direct cash payments to non-cash benefits and tax credits. So this official measure ignores many of the programs designed to keep Americans out of poverty. A more accurate measure is the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), which accounts for non-cash income. The SPM shows a decline in the poverty rate more than twice that of the official number, from 26% in 1967 to 16% now.

It’s clear that by any valid measurement, the war on poverty has been highly successful, particularly when you look at specific policies and what aspects of poverty they target. Here are a few key numbers that show the success of the war on poverty:

  • Antipoverty programs kept 41 million Americans out of poverty in 2012, including 9 million children.
  • Unemployment Insurance kept 2.5 million Americans out of poverty in 2012.
  • The Supplemental Nutrition assistance Program (food stamps) kept 4.9 million Americans out of poverty, including 2.2. million children.
  • The Earned Income and Child Tax Credits kept 10.1 million Americans out of poverty.
  • Social Security kept 26.6 million people out of poverty in 2012, including 17 million seniors and more than 1 million children.
  • Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and health care subsidies help 150 million Americans get health insurance.
  • The programs have long-term effects, too. Research shows that children who received food stamps in the 1960s and 1970s grew up healthier and were more likely to finish school. At age 19, they were 6% less likely to have stunted growth, 5% less likely to have heart disease, 16% less likely to be obese and 18% more likely to have completed high school.

This isn’t to say that the war on poverty is an unqualified success or that more doesn’t need to be done.  But it is to say that conservative arguments about the war on poverty are highly inaccurate and the policy proposals put for by Rubio and his allies would do the exact opposite of what they claim and would undermine the progress that has been made in the last 50 years. More appropriate solutions to the problems of poverty would roll back right-wing assaults on antipoverty programs and would stimulate job creation and higher wages for working families. But don’t hold your breath thinking that the Marco Rubios of the world will do the right thing.

Photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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She Worked in Health Care for Almost 50 Years, And She Has a Message for Gov. Corbett

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Georgeanne Koehler is one of our longtime members in Pittsburgh. We wanted to share her letter to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Healing hope for Medicaid” in its entirety because she expresses so well in a few paragraphs what a hundred health care coverage statistics cannot.

Please read the letter below and remember that our politicians’ actions–or lack of action–have consequences that affect real people, not just headlines.

Healing hope for Medicaid

This letter is in memory of my brother, who had a pre-existing condition and died after he was unable to receive care because of lack of health insurance.

I worked in health care for close to 50 years before I retired. I learned early on that when an illness attacks us it doesn’t care anything about us, not our race, religion, gender or politics.

The hope of recovering from one’s illness was easily found because, up until 12 years ago, medicine was about ethics and the healing of body, as well as mind. When St. Francis, Mercy, Braddock and many small community hospitals closed their doors or were bought out by huge health care systems, I saw with my own eyes and I knew, through my broken heart, that medicine had changed. Ethics were simply thrown away and healing was replaced with profit. When that happens, the hope of recovering from one’s illness depends on whether the person has a health insurance card in his or her pocket.

If I were a betting woman I would take the bet that the banker has one of those cards but not so much the baker, the candlestick maker or the pizza delivery driver (the working poor) — folks too rich to be enrolled in Medicaid, as we know it today, and too poor to qualify for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. This means hundreds of thousands of working poor Pennsylvanians and their children will remain uninsured, and that is not acceptable.

The time is now for Gov. Tom Corbett to open his eyes so he can see that Medicaid expansion is the morally right thing to do for the citizens of Pennsylvania, for within Medicaid expansion is hope.

GEORGEANNE KOEHLER

Bloomfield

Take action now: Tell Pennsylvania Gov. Corbett to accept federal funds for Medicaid.

Photo by ryleaxx on Instagram

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Oops, So Much for the Right-Wing Arguments Against Paid Sick Leave

In 2011, Connecticut became the first state to require employers to provide paid sick days for workers, including part-time employees. At the time, extreme pro-business interests in the state ran through the common, yet tired, arguments about paid sick leave in efforts to stop the law from passing. After 18 months of the law being in effect, researchers Eileen Appelbaum, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), and Ruth Milkman, a professor at CUNY, surveyed more than 250 employers in the state to determine the effects of the law. The results of the study pretty soundly reject the conservative arguments against paid sick leave.

CEPR’s Teresa Kroeger said of the study:

The authors found that the law had minimal effects on businesses. A large majority of employers reported that the law did not affect business operations and that they had no or only small increases in costs. Businesses most frequently covered absent workers by assigning the work to other employees, a solution which has little effect on costs. Just 10% of employers reported that the law caused their costs to increase by 3% or more.

The key findings of the study include:

  • Employee turnover was reduced 3.3%.
  • Sick employees coming to work sick was reduced 18.8%.
  • Illness was spread 14.8% less often than before the law.
  • Productivity increased 14.9%.
  • Morale, motivation and loyalty increased among employees (according to their employers).
  • Payroll costs increased by 3% or more for only 10% of employers.
  • Only 10.6% of employers reported reducing employee hours because of the law.
  • Only 15.6% of employers reported increasing prices because of the law.
  • Only 3.4% of employers reported reducing operating hours because of the law.
  • Only 1.3% of employers reported reduced quality of service because of the law.
  • Only 1.0% of employers reported reducing wages because of the law.
  • A strong majority of employers were “very supportive” (39.5%) or “somewhat supportive” (37.0%) of the law a year-and-a-half after it went into effect.
  • The law covers about 400,000 workers
  • The law had minimal impact on employers that already offered paid sick days.
  • Little abuse of the system has been reported by employers.
  • Paid sick day coverage increased from 88.5% of employers to 93.7% that offer five or more paid sick days annually.
  • The number of paid sick days offered to all employees rose from an average of 6.9 days to 7.7 days.
  • About two-thirds of eligible workers used paid sick days, with an average of four days used per year.
  • Unionized employers were half as likely to report cost increases because of the law (compared to nonunion employers).

Photo via CT Working Families Party on Facebook

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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In Newark, You Can Be Fired for Taking A Sick Day. In 2014, That Will Change.

The paid sick days movement rolls on, right into 2014.

On January 8, Newark, NJ’s City Council will vote on a paid sick days proposal. The measure is expected to pass.

The bill would allow workers to earn an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 they worked, requiring employers to provide up to five paid sick days a year for their employees, who could use the time for their own illnesses or that of their family members.

Advocates estimate that 38,000 Newark workers don’t have access to a single paid sick day. That’s a lot of potential people who are, for instance, preparing or serving food while sick, simply because they had no other option.

Newark is following the lead of Jersey City, whose mayor Steve Fulop signed a paid sick time ordinance into law in October.

In the past year, New York City and Portland, Oregon have also enacted paid sick days laws. Massachusetts is likely to send a paid sick days measure to the 2014 ballot. Legislatures in Oregon and Vermont expect to take up the issue in earnest when they return early next year.

Of course, there are so-called “pro-business” groups who oppose these laws. But they voices of workers like Derick Swaby, a cabin cleaner at Newark Airport, cut through the noise:

“For me and for all the workers, we need paid sick days,” said Swaby, 55, of Newark. “You need days to recover when you’re sick without having to worry about losing money. Right now, I’m compelled to go to work when I’m sick, because if I don’t go, I don’t get no pay.”

A Newark victory early in 2014 would lend momentum to efforts in Massachusetts, Vermont, Oregon, and nationwide.

Photo by New Jersey Working Families on Facebook

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D.C. City Council Passes Minimum Wage Increase, Paid Sick Days for Tipped Workers

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In Washington, D.C., there is great news for working families. The District of Columbia Council voted to raise the minimum wage to $11.50 and extend paid sick days to tipped workers.

The measures now go to Mayor Vincent Gray for consideration.

The minimum wage will increase in three steps to $11.50 by July 2016. Beginning in July 2017, the wage rate will be indexed to inflation, so that as the cost of living increases, so will the minimum wage rate. Prince George’s County (Md.) Executive Rushern Baker signed the Prince George’s County minimum wage bill today—the wage rate will rise to $11.50 by 2017. These wage increases in Washington, D.C., Prince George’s County and Montgomery County (Md.) are part of an innovative approach to raise wages in a region, with all three areas working together to pass these laws.

Read more on the D.C. minimum wage increase here and the victories in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Don’t Look Now, But Seems Like 5 Million Americans Are Getting Mad At The Politicians Blocking Their Health Care.

Our country is split down the middle when it comes to Medicaid. Literally.

25 states and the District of Columbia have elected to expand Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act. That includes states with both Democrats and Republicans in control.

Unfortunately, politicians in 25 states have actively refused to expand Medicaid, even though the federal government would pay for 100 percent of costs through 2016, and never less than 90 percent after that.

The stubbornness of these politicians is leaving 5 million Americans without access to affordable health insurance.

Luckily, the White House and wide variety of activist groups are pursuing the issue in 2014. In Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Maine, there are signs that next year’s legislative sessions could offer a path to expanding the program in those states.

In addition, enough voters are waking up to the needless cruelty of blocking Medicaid expansion to make it a viable campaign issue. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, was elected governor  in purple Virginia in part by promising to make expansion a priority. 200,000 Virginians would be helped by such an action.

Rep. Mike Michaud, the leading Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Maine, has made an issue out of Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s outright refusal to expand Medicaid. “It’s not just good economics; it’s the morally right thing to do,” Michaud writes on his campaign website.

However, the big win would be in Texas, which has the most uninsured of any state in the country. Nearly 2 million Texans would benefit from expansion, but Gov. Rick Perry refuses to take any action on the issue.

More than 16,000 Texans have signed our petition to Gov. Perry to expand Medicaid. Join them.

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Bigger Paychecks, Better Benefits for Women Who Carry a Union Card

Unionized women workers continue to have “a substantial boost in pay and benefits” compared to their nonunion counterparts, according to a new issue brief.

The brief by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), Women Workers and Unions, finds that:

Unionized women workers, on average, make 12.9 percent more than their nonunion counterparts, are 36.8% more likely to have employer-provided health insurance and 53.4% more likely to have participated in an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

The study also finds that:

  • Being in or represented by a union compares with completing college in terms of wages, especially when tuition costs are factored in. All else equal, being in a union raises a woman’s pay as much as a full year of college does;
  • For a women worker with a high school degree, being in or represented by a union raises her likelihood of having health insurance or a retirement plan by more than earning a four-year college degree would;
  • Women will be a majority of the union workforce in 2023 if current trends continue.

Nicole Woo, co-author of the study, says:

Considering the great boost to pay and benefits that unions bring, it’s important that anyone who cares about the well-being of women workers also care about unions.

The CEPR report comes 50 years after the release of American Women: Report of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women.”  On Tuesday, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Shuler will take part in a Labor Department symposium, 50 Years Later: Women, Work and the Work Ahead, commemorating the anniversary.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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22 Things We’re Thankful for This Thanksgiving

We have a lot to be thankful for this year, including (in no particular order):

  • Union members who have volunteered their services to strengthen their communities (read more here).
  • All the activists—including those in Congress—working for a road map to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans.
  • Connecticut and the four localities (Portland, Ore.; New York City; Jersey City, N.J.; and SeaTac, Wash.) that now require paid sick days.
  • The five states and two localities that have raised the minimum wage this year (California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Montgomery County, Md., [measure passed yesterday, county executive confirms he will sign into law], Prince George’s County, Md., [pending county executive signature] and SeaTac, Wash. [where there may be a recount]).
  • The 10 states that have expanded access to the ballot (California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia and West Virginia).
  • The domestic workershome care providerscarwasheros and taxi workers who have defied the odds to come together to win rights and a voice on the job.
  • Walmartfast food and retail workers who are standing together for living wages.
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for “going nuclear” on the filibuster.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren…for being Sen. Elizabeth Warren (and, of course, for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau she pushed to create).
  • The U.S. senators who passed ENDA and the Supreme Court justices who overturned the Defense of Marriage Act.
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats for their Economic Agenda for Women and Families (now let’s pass it!).
  • Social Security, for keeping more than 22 million people a year out of poverty.
  • The organizations and media outlets that have exposed dark money and state legislative attacks on workers flowing from ALEC and the Koch brothers.
  • Companies that have signed the Bangladesh Fire Safety Accord (missing from the list are the big U.S. retailers like Walmart).
  • Companies like Costco that buck the trends, pay a living wage and support workers’ rights.
  • Building trades unions’ apprenticeship programs for preparing workers for solid, middle-class careers (read more here).
  • Nurses and teachers, who fight every day for patient safety and great schools for all our kids.
  • Manufacturing workers, who are creating reasons to bring jobs back to America.
  • Writers and dancers, who are bringing justice on the job to their professions.
  • Young workers and students, who are demanding a break from crushing student debt and an economy that will work for their generation.
  • Collective bargaining agreements and all the benefits of being a union member.
  • All the working people, unemployed workers and their families who are the reason for and center of our movement for social and economic justice.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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