GOP Pushback on Medicaid Expansion Could Lead to Government Shutdown

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Today the Virginia legislature began a special session partially aimed at solving its ongoing Medicaid expansion issue which, despite the numerous positive implications, has received in quite a bit of push-back from the GOP.

A favorable vote on Medicaid expansion could provide more than 190,000 Virginians with health care; unfortunately the GOP doesn’t seem to care as it continues to oppose the much-needed expansion.

Despite GOP push-back, Gov. McAuliffe and the Democratic-controlled Senate support the idea of expansion.

Still, the discord has slowed progress on a new budget, creating a deadlock during the 60-day regular session that ended March 8.

“We’re not going to do Medicaid expansion in the budget,” Kirk Cox, majority leader of the House of Delegates, said last week.

If the GOP doesn’t budge, a government shutdown looms ahead for the state.

The Governor has been campaigning across the state and even proposed a two year pilot expansion of the program, with the option to end it if it’s unsuccessful.

If you live in Virginia, call your representative and help us expand Medicaid for those Virginians who need it.

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey via Flickr. 

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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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Working Families See Big Wins in Tuesday’s Elections

Yesterday, working families saw major wins in the elections held in New York, Virginia, Boston, Ohio and New Jersey.

The impact of grassroots power was especially evident in the groundbreaking minimum wage increase in New Jersey.

In Boston, voters elected union member Marty Walsh (D) for mayor. In Virginia, a bellwether state, Terry McAuliffe (D) won the governorship. In Ohio, Cincinnati voters overwhelmingly–78% to 2%–defeated a city charter amendment that would have eliminated the defined benefit pension plan for newly hired city employees. And in New York City, voters elected Bill de Blasio, the first Democratic mayor in more than two decades.

Union City’s Chris Garlock spoke with Northern Virginia Area Labor Federation President Daniel Duncan who talked about the importance of working families turning out to vote, “We did our part in Northern Virginia and I’m just so proud of everyone who showed up and helped out.”

Garlock writes:

Union members, staff and leaders had crisscrossed the state yesterday in a final effort to turn out the labor vote for union-endorsed candidates. “No vote can be taken for granted,” said Roxie Mejia, director of Political Affairs for Painters and Allied Trades District Council 51. “Electing labor-friendly folks makes all the difference,” District Council 51 Business Agent Lynn Taylor said.

New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech reflects on the raise the wage campaign working families waged in New Jersey:

The New Jersey State AFL-CIO was proud to fight on the front lines of an epic battle to raise the state minimum wage, and did so as a founding partner of the statewide grassroots coalition Working Families United for New Jersey Inc., which united the efforts of 256 labor, community, religious, civil rights, student, progressive, women and retirees groups as part of the “Raise the Wage” campaign….Raising the minimum wage was an unequivocal victory for the labor movement that will give hardworking men and women a financial boost and raise the standard of living for all working families.

Read more from the New Jersey State AFL-CIO.

New York City Central Labor Council President Vincent Alvarez says:

Today, New York City’s labor movement took a stand against 12 years of austerity politics that have taken precedence over the needs of everyday New Yorkers. Together with our affiliates, we took to the streets to make our voices heard, and together, we voted against policies and deals designed to favor the wealthy, while ignoring the needs of our cities working families….Throughout the five boroughs, residents cast their votes for Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio, a man who understands the severity of our city’s income equality problem, and who is ready to tackle that problem head-on.

In Washington State, another groundbreaking minimum wage increase ballot measure affecting more than 6,000 low-wage airport workers is currently leading, but votes are still being counted. The measure would increase the minimum wage for SeaTac workers to $15.00 an hour and would provide sick days and other benefits.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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10 Ways Working Families Are ‘Kicking Ass’ for the Middle Class

Sure, working families have been under attack for years, but people across the country are rolling up their sleeves and fighting back to protect workers’ rights and raise living standards for everyone. Here are 10 ways they’re doing it:

1. Increasing the Minimum Wage

Four states (California, Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island) have increased their state minimum wage in 2013, and on Nov. 5, New Jersey voters will vote on a ballot measure to increase their minimum wage.

2. Passing “Buy America” Laws

Three states (Colorado, Maryland and Texas) passed laws in 2013 to ensure that the goods procured with public funding are made in the United States.

3. Ensuring Paid Sick Days

Portland, Ore., Jersey City, N.J., and New York City became the latest three cities to adopt standards for paid sick days in 2013.

4. Protecting Immigrant Workers

In 2013, six states (California, Colorado, Indiana, Maryland, Oregon and Vermont) have enacted protections for immigrant workers, including access to driver’s licenses and education.

5. Cracking Down on Businesses That Cheat Workers

Texas passed legislation in 2013 to crack down on businesses that cheat employees by treating them as “independent contractors” who lack worker protections (such as minimum wage and overtime protection, and eligibility for unemployment benefits and workers’ compensation).

6. Giving Workers the Right to a Voice on the Job

In 2013, some 15,000 home care workers in Minnesota won collective bargaining rights through state legislation, as did 10,000 in Illinois and 7,000 in Vermont. Thousands of other workers around the country have enjoyed organizing wins, too: 7,000 electrical workers, more than 5,000 Texas public school teachers, taxi drivers in New York and other cities, telecom workers, college and university faculty, EMS drivers, hotel and casino workers and domestic workers, to name a few.

7. Protecting Your Privacy on Social Media

Nine states (Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington) have passed legislation in 2013 to prohibit employers from requiring access to your social media passwords or information as a condition of employment.

8. Fighting for LGBTQ Equality

Five states (Colorado, Delaware, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Vermont) have passed legislation banning workplace discrimination or recognizing marriage equality.

9. Protecting the Rights of Domestic Workers

Two states (California and Hawaii) have passed legislation in 2013 to protect the rights of domestic workers. California’s Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights will benefit about 200,000 domestic workers, and Hawaii’s will benefit some 20,000 domestic workers.

10. Protecting Voting Rights

Twelve states (California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia and West Virginia) have passed legislation protecting voting rights in 2013, while voting rights legislation was vetoed by the governors of Nevada and New Jersey.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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GOP ‘Ideas’ Man Eric Cantor Offers Up Two Paths To Destroy the Economy

On Sunday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said that Republicans would be open to restoring some of the funding lost in the job-killing sequester if new cuts to social safety net lifelines were put in place.  In effect, Cantor is suggesting replacing one policy that hurts the economy and suppresses job growth with another policy that does the exact same thing.

“What we need to have happen is leadership on the part of this president and the White House to come to the table finally and say we’re going to fix the underlying problem that’s driving our deficit,” Cantor told Fox News’ Chris Wallace. “We know that is the entitlement programs and the unfunded liability that they are leaving on this generation and the next.”

Actually, Cantor is completely wrong about Social Security and Medicare causing the deficit. The current deficit is caused primarily by the Great Recession, but also by the Bush tax cuts and two wars that were never paid for. From the Economic Policy Institute:

chart

From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

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The deficit is already more or less stabilized for the next decade. In future decades, projected deficits are driven almost entirely by health care costs, but this is a problem of both the private and public sectors.  Medicare and Medicaid have lower costs than private insurance and have done a better jobs of controlling costs over the past 40 years.

Cantor offers a false choice that would do little to cut the deficit or boost the economy or job growth and would harm our most vulnerable citizens.  Republicans are still focused on the wrong “crisis.”  While the evidence is quite clear that what the U.S. needs most is more jobs and investment in infrastructure, Cantor and his fellow Republican “leaders” are focused on deficit reduction that economists have said isn’t necessary, and, in fact, is a drag on the economy and job creation.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Progress on Medicaid Means Real Coverage for Real Families—Roadblocks Remain

In Arizona, 300,000 people will get the health care coverage they need, thanks to Gov. Jan Brewer’s change of heart on a key program of the Affordable Care Act. Brewer signed a bill into law accepting federal funds to cover low-income families under Medicaid—a bill that she had to fight against members of her own party in the state legislature to get passed in a special session she called.

It was a hard fight, but one we’re glad to see turned out the right way. The Medicaid provision was one of the key components of the ACA, but it was put at risk by a Supreme Court decision that left it up to the states to accept or decline the funds. Many states have—but others, like Texas, are refusing, leaving millions without coverage.

In other states, the process is still unfolding:

  • About half a million people are waiting on the Michigan state Senate, who should vote this week on a state House-passed proposal to accept expanded Medicaid funds. Gov. Rick Snyder has promised to sign the bill into law.
  • As the state legislature in Ohio debates accepting expanded funds, a new poll shows 63 percent of Ohioans want the expansion, which would cover an estimated 275,000 people.
  • In Virginia, a commission to study accepting expanded Medicaid funds had its first meeting this week. The next meeting will take place in August.
  • In New Hampshire, the state House—which supports accepting expanded funds—is working to craft a measure that will be able to get through the Republican-controlled Senate. This may mean a commission will be created to review the issue.
  • Unfortunately, in Maine, Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a measure to accept expanded funds. The bill, which would cover 60,000 people, passed by strong but not quite veto-proof margins, so the fate of Medicaid in Maine remains unclear.

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99 Stories and More to Come: Job-Killing Sequester Cuts Hurt Families Across the United States

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Forget the silly fluff pieces mainstream media are reporting about sequestration’s effect on White House tours—there is real pain happening all over the United States.

Sam Stein and Amanda Terkel of The Huffington Post cover 99 stories of the job losses and pain felt in states across the country in Sequestration Effects: Cuts Sting Communities Nationwide.

Here are the first 10 stories:

1. Air Force base jobs lost in Tullahoma, Tenn.—The Aerospace Testing Alliance announced it is cutting 128 of 1,809 civilian jobs at Arnold Air Force Base in Tullahoma starting April 19. It also has put in place a 20% pay cut and weekly furloughs for workers at a research facility. [Link]

2. Loss of jobs in Rock Island, Ill.—The U.S. Army garrison, Rock Island Arsenal, announced it is firing 175 employees, 44 of whom are temporary workers, 131 of whom will see their jobs unrenewed when their terms expire. [Link]

3. Medical response times lengthened in central Nebraska—Medical responders have had response times lengthened because of the closing of a control tower at the Central Nebraska Regional Airport. [Link]

4. Food pantry closed in Murray, Utah—The Salt Lake Community Action Program closed its food pantry, one of five locations that serve more than 1,000 people every month. Executive Director Cathy Hoskins told The Huffington Post that in addition to the closure, the organization has stopped paying into employees’ retirement plans, won’t fill an open job and told some staffers to take a week’s unpaid leave. “I’ve had one person retire, we’re not replacing them. We’re not doing any hiring at all,” Hoskins said. “We’re trying very hard to boost our volunteers, but this is hard work working in a pantry. And if you get a volunteer, usually it’s a short-term volunteer because it’s just very, very difficult work…. No raises, no increases, none of that stuff. We’re cutting everything we possibly can.” [Link]

5. Research employees lost in Durham, N.C.—The Duke Clinical Research Institute is planning to “downsize” 50 employees. [Link]

6. Contractor jobs lost in southwest Oklahoma—Northrop Grumman Information Systems’ Lawton, Okla., site issued 26 layoff notices. The defense contractor CGI is anticipating that sequestration would affect 270 workers at its Lawton site. [Link]

7. Health care jobs cut in Hampton Roads, Va.—Officials at Hampton Roads Planning District Commission announced that 1,600 jobs in the region’s health care sector would disappear. “It won’t be job cuts,” said James A. Clary, an economist with the group. “It will be not filling the positions.” [Link]

8. Health care workers laid off in Saranac Lake, N.Y.—Adirondack Health, a medical center at Lake Placid, announced it was laying off 18 workers after firing 17 in December. [Link]

9. Rehabilitation center for Native Americans closed in Sitka, Alaska—The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium announced that on April 30, it is closing the Bill Brady Healing Center, a residential drug and alcohol treatment center for Alaska Natives. Michael Jenkins, communications director, said the approximately 20 people who work there will be transferred to other positions in the organization, furloughed or fired. “For the most part, because of our location here in Southeast, alcohol and drug abuse has a very high incidence. So taking this away is going to make it difficult,” he said. [Link]

10. Education jobs lost in Sioux City, Iowa—The Iowa Early Intervention education program is bracing for the loss of 11 teaching positions, while the Sioux City Community School Board is looking at potentially 30 staff positions being eliminated. [Link]

Read the rest of the 99 stories on The Huffington Post.

Remember, the sequester is a completely made-up, dumb idea and can be easily repealed by Congress. This year alone, 750,000 people will lose their jobs because of the sequester.

Working families are calling on Congress to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from benefit cuts (i.e., raising the retirement age and the “chained” CPI), repeal the sequester and close tax loopholes for corporations and the wealthiest 2%.

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Our 2012 Endorsements

Working America has endorsed the following candidates and ballot initiatives in the 2012 election. These endorsements do not cover all the candidates and ballot issues in which we have a stake, but they all reflect the passion of our members and the values of our organization.

On November 6, please consider the following as you go to vote:

Barack Obama for President

Elizabeth Warren for U.S. Senate, Massachusetts

Claire McCaskill for U.S. Senate, Missouri

Martin Heinrich for U.S. Senate, New Mexico

Sherrod Brown for U.S. Senate, Ohio

Tim Kaine for U.S. Senate, Virginia

Tammy Baldwin for U.S. Senate, Wisconsin

Joe Miklosi for U.S. Congress, Colorado, 6th District

Ed Perlmutter for U.S. Congress, Colorado, 7th District

Betty Sutton for U.S. Congress, Ohio, 16th District

Mark Critz for U.S. Congress, Pennsylvania, 12th District

No on Proposal 1, Michigan

Yes on Proposal 2, Michigan

Yes on Issue 2, Ohio

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Barack Obama for President

We’re proud to support President Barack Obama for re-election on Tuesday.

Four years ago, the nation was in crisis. We’d seen nearly a decade of stagnating wages, growing corporate power and steady erosion of the middle class. We were squandering time and resources we could have been using to rebuild America and create a fairer economy. In the fall, an under-regulated, irresponsible and out-of-control financial system detonated, which led to a massive recession and the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs every month. We nearly lost a major American industry as the recession crippled auto companies.

Today, we’ve seen nearly three straight years of jobs being added in the private sector. Though things are still tough, we stopped the nosedive of our economy avoided the catastrophic depression that seemed imminent in 2008. We saved nearly a million jobs or more by rescuing the auto industry. And what’s more, we passed much-needed reforms to our health care system and our financial system that will help protect working people and rein in corporate power. None of this was inevitable, none of it was easy, and none of it would have happened if our hard work hadn’t elected Barack Obama as our president.

President Obama also signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and an important credit card reform bill. He passed the Recovery Act that halted the economic collapse, cut taxes for working-class and middle class families and invested in our schools, our infrastructure and new kinds of energy. And he appointed champions for working people to the U.S. Supreme Court, the National Labor Relations Board and the new Consumer Financial Protection Board.

We haven’t agreed with the president on everything, but when it comes down to it, he’s shown that he wants to make America work better for middle class and working-class families. His values and his priorities are the same ones we hear from ordinary people at their doors thousands of times a week: building prosperity by strengthening the middle class, ensuring a great education for our kids, keeping the promise of Social Security and Medicare for today’s retirees and tomorrow’s.

Obama’s opponent, Mitt Romney, has been hard to pin down on a lot of issues, but on the basic economic issues that matter most, his views are remarkably clear: he thinks corporations and the very wealthy are the most important actors in the economy, and so in order to make the economy work we have to tilt it ever-further in favor of those rich and powerful actors. He said we should “let Detroit go bankrupt” rather than investing in the auto industry. He named Paul Ryan as his running mate—endorsing a radical plan to demolish Medicare and leave seniors at the mercy of private insurance companies. As a finance-industry CEO, he exemplified the worst trends in our economy, stripping companies of value for himself and his shareholders and leaving the people who worked for those companies stranded. In his business career, he was referred to as a “pioneer” of outsourcing, and his proposals would give companies further incentives to ship He’s maddeningly unspecific about much of his tax plan, but every serious analysis shows that he would give bigger tax breaks to millionaires (like him) than even George W. Bush did. And he has declared time and time again that his top priority is repealing the health care reform and Wall Street reform that President Obama worked so hard to pass.

This isn’t a close call. President Obama’s skill and leadership in stopping the economic collapse and putting in place health care reform and Wall Street reform would be enough to earn him a second term—but the case for a vote for Obama is even clearer when you compare it to what a Romney administration would look like.

On Tuesday, we recommend a vote for President Obama—and we hope you’ll get your friends and family to the polls, too.

Photo by Intel Photos on Flickr

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Endorsement: Tim Kaine for U.S. Senate

In the race for Virginia’s open Senate seat, two former governors are squaring off: Tim Kaine, who served as governor from 2006 to 2010, and George Allen, who served a term as governor from 1994 to 1998 and a term as Senator from 2001 to 2007. When you look at the two candidates—their records and what they say they’ll do in office—it’s clear that Tim Kaine is the right choice for Virginia voters.

As governor, Kaine had an outstanding record. He gave targeted tax cuts to homeowners and small businesses, while eliminating tax loopholes for big corporations. He invested in early childhood education and the state’s higher education system to help move Virginia forward. Under his leadership, Virginia was named the “best-managed state” by Governing magazine, the “best state for business” by Forbes and the “best state to raise a child” by Education Week, each year he was in office. He’ll bring those values and priorities to the U.S. Senate.

Allen is running for another chance at holding the seat he lost in the 2006 elections. He has a Senate record we can evaluate. And his record isn’t good enough to merit a trip back across the river to D.C. He was a close ally and enabler of the Bush administration, and voted for the Bush tax cuts that gave their biggest benefits to the richest 2%. He’s given every indication on the campaign trail that he would pick right up where he left off—and what’s more, he says he’d support the Paul Ryan budget that AARP says ends Medicare as we know it, driving up costs for seniors. Paul Ryan’s budget would also cost Virginia thousands of jobs.

You don’t just elect a Senator to take votes, however—that’s only part of the job. You elect a Senator to represent your state and its citizens at the national level. That’s a question of values and temperament, and it’s a test Tim Kaine excels at. He’s a compassionate, smart and pragmatic leader who knows how to reach out to all corners of a changing and growing state.

Allen, however, falls short. In his last race, Allen lost in part because he was caught on tape bullying a young Indian-American cameraman from a rival campaign, telling him “welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.” It was an embarrassing moment that showed Allen’s character clearly.

Tim Kaine’s impressive record, and his talent for connecting with people from all walks of life, will serve Virginia well if he’s elected as their Senator. He’ll make smart policy choices—the kind that were sadly lacking during George Allen’s term.

Kaine is the right choice. Plan your vote here.

Photo by The U.S. Army on Flickr

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