In Congress, Immigration On The Backburner. In North Carolina, Not So Much.

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Here’s the truth: House Speaker John Boehner could single-handedly take steps to fix our nation’s broken immigration reform.

A bill passed by a wide bipartisan majority in the Senate, S. 744, has been sitting around since the summer. It contains a clear path to citizenship for the more than 11 million undocumented men, women, and children, many of whom are exploited by employers who take advantage of their fears of coming out of the shadows.

While almost no one considers this bill “perfect,” many Republicans and Democrats in the often contentious House are supportive of the bill. If Speaker Boehner brought S. 744 to the floor for a vote, it would probably pass with bipartisan support.

But he refuses to do so.

In February, when asked about the status of the immigration bill, Boehner kicked the can down the road:

“The American people, including many of our members, don’t trust that the reform we’re talking about will be implemented as it was intended to be…”

and:

“Listen, there’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws. And it’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.”

In other words, until after the 2014 election, in which Boehner hopes his party will retain or expand control of the House and take over the Senate as well.

The Speaker is wrong about one thing: the American people want reform, and they don’t want to wait some amorphous time period just because Boehner and some of his colleagues “don’t trust” the federal government (which he works for, and is a leader of) will enforce this or any law. A gigantic majority of Americans, 79 percent say they will be “disappointed” if Congress does not tackle immigration this year.

That majority includes Working America member Theodosian Swain of Greensboro, North Carolina, who wrote this letter to the News & Record. We’ve reprinted it in full:

Congress wastes time as immigrants wait

I am writing in response to the article “Hopes low for immigration reform” (Feb. 7). The GOP stating that it will wait until the elections are over is just another political ploy for Congress to not get anything done. There have been people who have lived in this country for years who have become working members of society. Undocumented immigrants pay more than $200 million in sales tax every year and have basically become members of our community. This is just our political leaders telling us “tough luck” once again on measures that are important to the general public. We have people who want to become American citizens and are willing to work and contribute. Why wouldn’t we let them?

I’d like for people to look at this issue more practically and take in all the ramifications of passing a comprehensive reform bill. I think it’s possible for us to separate our politics from what needs to be done for our community. This is just the right thing to do.

Theodosia Swain
Greensboro

Text TIMEISNOW to 30644 and tell your member of Congress that it’s time to fix our broken immigration system.

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Food Store Worker Fired for Disagreeing with North Carolina Governor While at Work

In yet another example of the powerlessness that individual workers face, a cook has been fired for expressing his disagreement with North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s politics.

On Sunday, February 16th, 45-year-old Drew Swope, a cook at the Charlotte-N.C.-based Reid’s Fine Foods, decided to speak his mind when Gov. McCory patronized his workplace. Swope told McCrory, “thanks for nothing” and the governor allegedly became incensed. Shortly after berating Swope the governor and his security reported the incident to the store manager and owner.

The store’s owner argues that Swope wasn’t fired for insulting the Governor, instead he was fired for insulting a customer;  but let’s be honest, would Swope have been fired for his comment had McCrory not been in a position of power? It’s doubtful.

In fact, this isn’t the first time that the governor has flexed his power to push an unfair agenda. In 2013 Gov. McCrory signed a bill severely limiting voting rights of North Carolina residents.  Additionally McCrory declined a $2.3 billion Medicaid expansion, instigating several Moral Monday protests.

“Yet another North Carolinian has lost a job because of the McCrory administration – adding to its record of joblessness-creation. We wonder: Does Gov. McCrory plan to bring the full force of his political office to engage in power plays with every worker he comes across?” says Carolyn Smith, North Carolina State Director at Working America.

With that being said, let’s stop letting inadequate balances of power define how we treat our workers, and instead advocate for accountability and fairness for everyone.

Update: Charlotte Mayor, Pat Cannon has stepped in to help Swope find a new job. According to the News & Observer, Cannon says that he’s not trying to get in the middle of the controversy, instead he’s doing what he can to help one of his constituents find work.

“The mayor of Charlotte, Pat Cannon, just called me and asked me to send him my resume and he’ll see if he can help me find a position,” Swope wrote on his Facebook page.

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100,000 Reasons the Extremists Who Run North Carolina Should Be Very Afraid

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When a group equal to one-fifth the population of the state capital shows up to protest your policies, you’re in trouble. Between 80,000 and 100,000 people showed up Saturday at the Moral March on Raleigh, the state capital with some 420,000 residents. The marchers included working families and their allies from around the state and more than 30 other states. A related rally a year ago attracted 15,000 participants. It’s clear that more North Carolinians are becoming upset with the extreme agenda of Gov. Pat McCrory (R) and his allies in the legislature.

The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP and a driving force behind the state’s Moral Monday movement, which spawned the march, said: “The governor and the legislature are trying to say we’re in the middle of a Carolina comeback. We got a team of experts, economists, professors, etc., together, and they said we’re in the middle of a Carolina setback. No way you can spin what’s happening to us.”

MaryBe McMillan, the elected secretary-treasurer of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO, wrote a poem on the march. Below is an excerpt:

Why are union members and workers here, today?
We’re here because:

There’s too much corporate greed
And we have families to feed.
There are so few jobs, no decent wages.
Inequality tops the news pages.

CEOs earn more and more
While the rest of us grow poor.
The bosses want their workers cheap,
Meek and docile like sheep.

They move their companies South,
Hoping we won’t give them any mouth.
Well, imagine their surprise
As they watch the South arise.

The reaction to the right-wing policies pursued by McCrory are opposed by much of the state’s public as well. A poll last week gave him a 37% approval rating.  The General Assembly fared even worse, at 32%. Only 23% of the state’s residents think North Carolina is headed in the right direction.

Barber and the other organizers behind the march and the Moral Monday protests have focused on five goals:

  • Secure pro-labor, anti-poverty policies that ensure economic sustainability.
  • Provide well-funded, quality public education for all.
  • Stand up for the health of every North Carolinian by promoting health care access and environmental justice across all the state’s communities.
  • Address the continuing inequalities in the criminal justice system and ensure equality under the law for every person, regardless of race, class, creed, documentation or sexual preference.
  • Protect and expand voting rights for people of color, women, immigrants, the elderly and students to safeguard fair democratic representation.

Learn more about the march and the Moral Monday activities.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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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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10 Images From The New Moral Monday Movement in Georgia

The Moral Monday movement, which began last year in North Carolina, hasn’t stopped at the border.

This week, the uprising that started as a protest against the reckless, corporate-backed attacks against workers’ rights, women, health care, and education in the North Carolina legislature spread to Georgia. As rain poured down, hundreds of people gathered at the state capitol building in Atlanta to make their voices heard against the agenda of Republican Governor Nathan Deal.

Georgia is one of 24 states where governors and legislators have blocked the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Gov. Deal justified his decision by saying expansion “is not something our state can afford,” even though it would cost the state of Georgia nothing for the first three years.

More likely, Gov. Deal wants to prove his conservative credentials by acting tough toward President Obama and the new health care law. And thanks to his political move, more than 400,000 Georgians don’t have access to affordable health insurance.

Taking a cue from North Carolina, Georgians made Medicaid expansion the issue of their first Moral Monday protest. Protesters placed crosses, stars, and crescents on the steps to represent those who have needlessly died due to lack of affordable coverage. Check out these photos below:

Thanks to @Raiseupfor15, @EmmausHouseATL, @staceyhopkinsga, @blueatldem, @AtlantaJwJ@LouisPartain, @ProseAndThorn@jasonsbmoc for sharing their amazing photos.

What’s next? North Carolina kicks off a new year of advocacy with a Moral March on Raleigh on February 8. To get involved in the movement for working families, text JOBS to 30644.

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Obstruction Loses! American Homeowners Win! The End of the DeMarco Era.

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Sometimes, small changes can have big impacts.

If the debate over the Senate’s parliamentary procedure in the case of presidential nominations made you want to take a long snooze, no one would blame you. But thanks to new Senate rules, a minority of senators can no longer block a presidential appointment for no reason without standing up and saying why.

And thanks to this long-awaited rules change, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has its first new director since the Bush Administration: former North Carolina Rep. Mel Watt.

Democrats have taken advantage of their weakening of filibusters and muscled through the Senate President Barack Obama’s pick to lead a housing regulation agency.

By 57-41 Tuesday, senators confirmed Rep. Mel Watt to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Obama nominated the North Carolina Democrat in May but he’s been in limbo ever since. Republicans have said he’s not qualified, while Democrats say the 21-year House veteran has the needed experience.

Until Tuesday, Watt’s nomination was blocked because Democrats needed 60 Senate votes to end a GOP filibuster. But last month, the chamber’s majority Democrats lowered that threshold to a simple majority.

Here’s why this is a big deal for American homeowners:

Since Republicans in the Senate wouldn’t allow a fair vote on a new FHFA Director, we were stuck with Bush’s guy: Ed DeMarco. DeMarco was a longtime opponent of government efforts to help homeowners affected by Wall Street’s brazen fraud and abuse. Specifically, DeMarco opposed the practice of “principal reduction,” encouraging banks to rewrite mortgages for underwater homeowners. Time after time, he rejected proposals from the Obama Administration to lend this kind of assistance to struggling people who had lost their homes or were about to lose their homes.

“I don’t know what DeMarco’s specific legal mandate is,” wrote economist Paul Krugman, “But there is simply no way that it makes sense for an agency director to use his position to block implementation of the president’s economic policy…This guy needs to go.”

DeMarco continued his harmful policies to the very end:

DeMarco was so extreme that he even opposed allowing lenders to sell foreclosed homes back to the previous owners, even if they had been victims of predatory loans and even if they made the best offer to purchase the house. Realizing that Watt would soon be sitting in his seat, DeMarco — on the eve of the vote to confirm his replacement — put into place mortgage fees that punish homeowners in states that have enacted strong protections against foreclosure abuses.

Rarely does one person stand in the way of relief for so many. But DeMarco was that guy. And now he’s gone.

Housing and community groups have high hopes for new Director Watt, a member of Congress who supported the creation of Elizabeth Warren’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and worked to get anti-predatory lending provisions into the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill.

Photo by @CVHaction on Twitter

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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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Can You Live on $7.25?

As we reflect on the actions all over the country by Walmart associates on Black Friday and consider the fact that people are working harder than ever and are still losing economic ground, we’re reminded that the federal minimum wage is not enough.

In a joint Op-Ed for CNN, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and National Employment Law Project Executive Director Christine Owens remind us that in the past 15 years, all wage increases have gone to the wealthiest 10%.

Trumka and Owens write:

If the minimum wage had just kept pace with inflation since 1968, it would be $10.77 an hour today instead of $7.25. For tipped workers, the rate’s been stuck at a scandalous $2.13 for 20 years.

Congress is considering a proposal, called the Fair Minimum Wage Act, from Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Rep. George Miller of California, supported by President Barack Obama. The act would raise the minimum wage over two years to $10.10 an hour and let it grow with inflation.

The Senate is expected to consider the proposal the week after Thanksgiving.

If the minimum wage had kept up with the growth of workers’ productivity, it would be $18.67. And if it had matched the wage growth of the wealthiest 1%, it would be more than $28.

Read the rest of $7.25 an Hour Is Not a Living Wage.

Click here to call your senators today, asking them to vote “Yes” on a motion to proceed on the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013.

In case you missed it last week, The New York Times’ Steven Greenhouse covered the low-wage retail and service economy and the devastating effects on America’s working families.

Read: On Register’s Other Side, Little to Spend.

Watch the video above of fast-food workers in Greensboro, N.C., holding a surprise revival service at a Church’s Chicken to support the workers and the fight for a fair wage.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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ALEC Says No Sick Days (or Democracy) for You

In the last three years, nine states have added new laws that prohibit local governments from passing paid sick leave ordinances. Seven of these laws were passed in 2013 alone and 14 states introduced such legislation in the last year, Think Progress reports. In every state where local preemption bills have passed on paid sick leave, members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) were among the co-sponsors of the legislation. In most cases, corporate lobby groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business and the National Restaurant Association also have been involved heavily in passing the laws. It’s bad enough these groups oppose paid sick days for working families, but they don’t even want democratically elected officials deciding on policies—they want to prevent these policies from even coming up for a vote.

Corporate groups routinely argue that paid sick leave ordinances will harm businesses, but the evidence so far rejects those claims. Bryce Covert of Think Progress writes:

Business growth and job growth have been strong under Seattle’s law. Job growth also has been strong in San Francisco and its law enjoys strong business support. The policies in Washington, D.C., andConnecticut have come at little cost for businesses. In fact, expanding D.C.’s current law would net employers $2 million in savings even with potential costs factored in. On the other hand, the average employerloses $225 per worker each year, thanks to lost productivity when they get sick and can’t take paid leave.

Before 2010, Georgia was the only state to have such a pre-emption law, since then Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin have added them. This push comes as a direct response to local governments showing real momentum in passing paid sick leave ordinances. Six cities and the state of Connecticut have passed paid sick days laws and other cities are considering joining them in protecting workers, customers and employers from the negative effects of sick employees.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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12-Year-Old Takes On North Carolina’s Heinous New Voting Restrictions

Madison Kimrey of Burlington, North Carolina won’t be able to vote for another six years. But North Carolina’s new sweeping voter suppression laws, some of the most stringent restrictions on voting rights our country has seen since the Voting Rights Act of 1965, has drawn her ire all the same.

The new voting restrictions passed in July don’t just require specific photo identification to cast a ballot (no student ID, no public employee ID) that potentially disenfranchise 318,000 registered North Carolina voters. They also end the non-controversial practice of “pre-registering” 16- and 17-year-olds to vote at DMVs and high school civics classes. The policy officially kicked in on September 1.

The 12-year-old spoke at the first Moral Monday event held in Alamance County, about 60 miles west of where massive protests rocked the Raleigh this spring. Kimrey first spoke up in July, when Gov. McCrory dismissively gave out cookies and cake to protesters. She started an online petition asking Gov. McCrory to sit down and eat the baked goods with her so they could discuss his voter suppression bill and other policies. It attracted nearly 13,000 signatures.

Gov. McCrory called the request “ridiculous” and said Kimrey was a “prop for liberal groups.” Understandably, this surprised and insulted Ms. Kimrey.

“I am not a prop,” she told the crowd at the Alamance Country Moral Monday event, “I am part of the new generation of suffragettes and I will not stand silent while laws are passed to reduce the amount of voter turnout by young people in my home state.”

Kimrey also started NC Youth Rock to encourage young North Carolinians to vote and lobby representatives on behalf of young people.

“I’m going to do everything I can to get the opportunity for North Carolina teenagers to pre-register back by the time I turn 16 in four years,” Kimrey said, “but I can’t do this alone.”

Madison Kimrey is just one of the thousands of North Carolinians who are sick and tired of the attacks on voting rights, women’s rights, and workers’ rights in their state. If you’re in North Carolina and want to get involved with Working America, contact Catherine Medlock-Walton at cmedlock-walton@workingamerica.org or (336) 292-4179.

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