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Justice for Michael Brown! End Racial Profiling and Police Violence

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The images of protest and militarized police response in Ferguson, Missouri are shocking. But developments in that small suburban town are simply exposing the racial reality that millions of people of color face every day.

Everyday experiences with the courts, media, government authorities and police remind us, in ways large and small, that the lives of young brown and black kids have little value in society.

Police and vigilante killings of young black and brown people are commonplace in communities of color. The killings of Renisha McBride, Ramarley Graham, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant and others in recent years have cast a national spotlight on an epidemic of senseless killings of unarmed people of color. All too often our children are dying at the hands of those entrusted with public safety. All too often the killers go free. The message is clear: black and brown people just don’t count.

It has been widely reported that in Ferguson—a town whose population is nearly two-thirds Black—there is only a single Black city councilperson, and three Black police officers in a force of 53. Ferguson reported 8 times as many black arrests as white arrests for the first part of 2014. Blacks represent 86% of all traffic stops and 92% of all searches. The data show a clear practice of racial profiling. The numbers might differ a little from place to place, but these statistics are a stark image of the racial divide that exists in small towns and large across our country today. Racial disparities in crime statistics are the norm from coast to coast.

Blacks, Latinos, American Indians and other people of color are routinely excluded from the halls of power and subjected to racialized police policies like profiling and stop-and-frisk.

Continue reading »

Fair Wages Aren’t Enough, Workers Need Hours, Predictability, too

Fast-Food-EmployeesThere’s no question that working families across the country are struggling to get by; wages for most income levels have been stagnant or declining over the past decade, while the cost of living has continued to increase.

One key to helping working families is increasing wages so that there are more living wage jobs available. However, increasing the minimum wage is only part of the solution for helping families whose low-wage jobs do not always include steady work.

Living wage calculations, like those produced by the Alliance for a Just Society, must make assumptions to remain consistent year after year. One of those assumptions is that workers have jobs where they can actually work 40 hours per week, year-round (for 2,080 hours per year). For many workers, this assumption doesn’t match their reality.

For retail and restaurant workers, a steady schedule with enough hours can be hard to come by. Retail salespersons and food preparation and service workers are two of the top five occupations with the greatest projected job growth between 2012 and 2022, but are also low-wage occupations, with 2013 median annual wage of $21,140 and $18,330, respectively. These jobs are also often shift work, without set schedules. Continue reading »

Beyond Cellblocks Webinar: Ending Police-ICE Collaboration

This year, Alliance for a Just Society is hosting a series of webinars discussing techniques used in different parts of the country to combat racism and criminalization.  Our most recent webinar focused on tactics for ending police collaboration with Immigration officials.   This Friday, at 11 a.m., join us for a webinar on Native American storytelling. Click here to register for the storytelling webinar.

A little bit about our last webinar: Throughout the country, police have been partnering with immigration services, resulting in unfair targeting and treatment of racial minorities. On July 1, the Alliance for a Just Society and the Center for Intercultural Organizing convened a live webinar discussion about ending collaboration between local law enforcement agencies and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Continue reading »

Everyone Benefits When Workers Earn Living Wages

The South Korea government is taking an interesting approach to stagnating wages. The South Korean Ministry of Strategy and Finance is pushing a policy to offer tax credits to those firms that increase worker pay.

This legislation — which, if approved by the South Korean parliament, would go into effect in January — creates a policy incentive for firms to increase wages. As in America, wage growth in South Korea is “not keeping pace with corporate profits in South Korea, where household debt is rising while companies hoard cash,” according to this Bloomberg story.

Sound familiar?

Continue reading »

Legislators Who Block Medicaid Expansion Are Stiffing Veterans Out of Health Care

** This article by LeeAnn Hall  first appeared in Huffington Post **

r-VETERANS croppedThe scandal over long wait times for veterans in the Department of Veterans Affairs health system has grabbed a lot of headlines and elicited a lot of righteous anger – as it should. America’s veterans deserve so much better.

But as Ezra Klein pointed out in a piece in Vox, there’s another health care scandal that also deserves its share of righteous anger, and it also has a big impact on veterans with health care needs: the self-destructive refusal of lawmakers in 20-plus states to accept federal funds to expand their Medicaid programs.

Klein catalogued “24 health-care scandals that critics of the VA should also be furious about” (that is, the 24 states that have rejected the Medicaid expansion). Thanks to lawmakers’ kneejerk opposition to expanding health coverage in those states, there are huge numbers of uninsured veterans who should be eligible for coverage, but aren’t: 41,200 veterans in Florida, 24,900 in Georgia, 48,900 in Texas… and the list goes on.

All in all, about 250,000 uninsured veterans are getting stiffed out of eligibility for health coverage by lawmakers who have blocked Medicaid expansion, according to Pew’s Stateline. As it turns out, those lawmakers are also stiffing their own states out of economy-boosting jobs – health care jobs that are overwhelmingly good-paying jobs. Medicaid expansion would create thousands more of these jobs.

Continue reading »

One of the Sorriest Episodes in Recent Memory

Screen shot 2014-08-04 at 6.27.42 PMIt is clear that there are those among us who are having trouble adjusting to the new reality of race in America. Their old world of white majority domination in political and economic life is slipping away.

The changes started back several decades ago when it became clear through the 1980 U.S. Census that a racial and ethnic transformation was occurring in the population.

I used to have a bit of fun back then going to Rotary Club meetings and talking about this transformation. I would suggest that those who get the yips about such things needed to recognize that there was a better than 50/50 chance that their grandchildren were going to have brown eyes.

Now the transformation that began back then is playing out and it is bringing out the worst in us. Continue reading »

Who’s Really Behind the “Voice of Small Business?”

small biz calculator*This article was originally published in The Hill *

How much does it cost to rebrand a fee levied on health insurers as a “HIT on small business”?

Well, $1.593 million, according to this exposé in the New York Times a few days ago.

A little background: a provision of the Affordable Care Act levies a fee on health insurance companies.  This fee helps to fund the law’s sliding scale premium assistance for individuals, as well as tax credits for small businesses to make health insurance more affordable. It’s expected to cost the insurance industry $100 billion over the first decade.

The New York Times investigation reveals that in 2012, the insurance industry trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) funneled $1.593 million to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) – the self-proclaimed “Voice of Small Business” – doubling down on an $850,000 dark money contribution the year before. Continue reading »

No New Jails: Consider Alternatives to Incarcerating Children

No new jails protestKing County Council members in Washington state are charging ahead with plans to build a new juvenile detention center, euphemistically named the Children and Family Justice Center (CFJC). The county’s current youth facility in Seattle has 50 beds – and is not even filled to capacity. The new jail triples the amount beds to 150, and will encourage more jailing of young people.

The juvenile detention center will cost taxpayers $210 million to build and is expected to be finished in 2018. Opponents say the larger juvenile jail will have many disastrous effects on the community.

Incarcerating young people is extremely harmful to their physical and mental health, and reduces their access to education. The impacts will negatively affect the rest of their lives. Being incarcerated as a youth is correlated with lower earning potential in the future, an increase in depression and other psychological ailments, and an increased likelihood of unlawful behavior.  More than 70 percent of young people in detention centers are there for non-violent crimes.

Not only is the majority of youth detainment largely unnecessary, but King County’s juvenile punishment system is already exceptionally racially skewed. Black youth make up just 6 percent of the Seattle-area’s population,  but accounts for 21 percent of the juvenile jail population. Asian and Latino youth are also disproportionately represented in the facility. Continue reading »

Hate Is Not the American Way

2014.07.18_immigrationIf ever there was doubt about the source of America’s vitriol and hate-mongering when it comes to the American humanitarian crisis surrounding immigration, look no further:

These statements come from the House Republicans’ Principles on Immigration reform and a mailer during the primary campaign of former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Each perpetuates a frighteningly common trend in American politics: an eagerness to blame victims instead of proposing meaningful solutions to our most pressing problems as a country. Sentiments like these don’t speak to a nation of unlimited possibility and opportunity, and they certainly fail to capture the rich and complex history of American immigration.

Continue reading »

For the Children, We Must Transcend Politics and Do the Right Thing

Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 3.13.24 PMOne of the most inhumane things that a group of political players can do in this country – or any other – is to use children as a pawn in a political game.  It is especially repulsive that Republicans in the U.S. have chosen this course rather than figuring out a humane way to reunite the children at the border with their families.

There is no question that our immigration system is broken, nearly everyone agrees on that point.

Last year Congress had a real chance of passing immigration reform. The Senate passed a compromise bill, but weak-knee House leaders were afraid of taking action because of the political repercussions.

The new House Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is saying that the first priority is to secure the border. When asked about his previous support on immigration reform, he said: “I’m on record saying nothing about immigration, until we secure the borders. The borders are not secure. Look at the humanitarian crisis that is happening right now along the border states.”

And then we have Congressman Darrell Issa, also from, CA demanding that President Obama deport all DACA recipients. Continue reading »

Welcome to the Alliance’s “Power from the Roots Up” Conference

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 3.30.52 PM** Letter from the Executive Director **

Welcome to the Alliance’s annual conference, “Power from the Roots Up”!

In this moment, we are witnessing intense gridlock in D.C. The once-promising dream of comprehensive immigration reform has turned into a political nightmare. Congress refuses to allow former students to refinance one of the great scourges of family debt out there, student loans. And, despite significant momentum by state and local governments around the country — including the recent passage of a $15 minimum wage here in Seattle — Congress is still unable to increase a federal minimum wage that has remained stagnant since 2009.

However, we have much to celebrate.

Community organizations around the country are running successful campaigns at the local level, making change one policy at a time. They are racking up big wins with innovative campaigns, ensuring that, when national opportunities arise, we have built power and are poised to strike.

A few examples that provide an inspiring contrast to the morass in D.C.: Continue reading »

Civil Rights, Human Rights, Obviously Don’t Extend to Health Care in Georgia

Screen shot 2014-07-08 at 2.14.01 PMI got to thinking about the State of Georgia a few weeks ago when the Atlanta City Fathers proudly announced the opening of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. It is right there in Atlanta next to the Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola.

Martin Luther King grew up in Atlanta and his life and other achievements of the Civil Rights Movement are celebrated in this new institution.

Georgia takes pride in its attraction to outside visitors – it ranks third in the nation in tourism. Tourism is the 5th largest employer in the state with an annual economic impact of $53.6 billion, including $2.8 billion in direct and indirect tax revenues.

Surely the opening of the new Center will burnish Georgia’s reputation and add an additional attraction for tourists. Folks like me, whose lives have been so influenced by the Civil Rights Movement might just want to pay it a visit.

But I could not stop thinking that these folks, who project to the world the image of a refurbished, modern part of the “New South,” live in the Capitol of a state that refuses to expand Medicaid. Continue reading »

Grads Pay a High Price for Student Loans, Plus the Emotional Toll

sad grad croppedCollege is sold to young Americans as a ticket to a better job and life by giving them knowledge and tools to increase their earning power over their lifetime. But for millions of college graduates, graduation is followed by severe student loan debt and a low paying job.

With an average student loan debt of near $30,000 and 13 million more college graduates in America than there are jobs that require a four-year degree, nearly half of recent U.S. gradsare now accepting low-wage jobs so that they can begin to chip away at their student loan debt.

According to research by the Alliance for a Just Society, because of the $1.2 trillion collective student loan burden, young adults have less ability to purchase homes, cars and other staple purchases that serve as the backbone of the economy. Hand-in-hand with this trillion dollar mountain of debt is the severe emotional stress created by underemployment on graduates – stress and anxiety that may keep them from finding work related to their college degree. Continue reading »

Leaders, Businesses in Washington, Oregon and Idaho Calling for Immigration Reform Now

GrowingOurFuture_Logo logo_Large GOOD

For Immediate Release, July 3, 2014

Leaders and organizations representing businesses and communities throughout Washington, Oregon and Idaho are powerfully combining their voices, calling on elected officials in the U.S. Congress to take action now on immigration reform.

While recognizing that passing immigration reform this year is challenging, they also understand the dire economic consequences that failing to do so will have on our communities, our businesses, our families and our country.

As we look forward to Independence Day on July 4, celebrating our identity as a nation built through immigration, they are joining to send this clear message to our congressional delegations: “Do it now. We cannot afford to wait any longer.”

“Comprehensive immigration reform is key to continued prosperity in Washington and the Puget Sound region,” said Maud Daudon, president and CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. “We want to encourage the best and brightest workers from around the world to come help grow our economy and make sure our companies have the workforce they need to compete globally.” Continue reading »

LeeAnn Hall: Three Reasons Why Harris v. Quinn Matters to All of Us

This article was originally published in Huffington Post.

Screen shot 2014-06-30 at 5.50.01 PMThe Harris v. Quinn ruling on Monday was a huge step backward in the national effort to develop rights and protections for home care workers. It’s also a clear call to action for all of us not to become complacent or take for granted the rights and protections that were hard fought and hard earned by the labor movement.

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that home care workers who do not wish to support the union that bargains on their behalf, can no longer be required to pay their “fair share” of the costs of collective bargaining with the state — even though they benefit from that bargaining process.

The attack on these public sector workers dramatically undermines decades of state-level progress in professionalizing the home care industry and ensuring that the people taking care of our nation’s grandparents and disabled people are paid decent wages, work in humane conditions, and can afford to take care of their own families.

This ruling is troubling for the home care workers it will affect — most of whom are women and people of color. Many make less than minimum wage. It is also troubling for all of us who understand that workers are more able to provide quality care when they are treated with dignity, paid fair wages, and have a voice on the job. Continue reading »

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