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

No New Jails: Consider Alternatives to Incarcerating Children

King County Council members in Washington state are charging ahead with plans to build a new juvenile detention center to be known as the Children and Family Justice Center (CFJC). The county’s existing youth facility in Seattle has 50 beds – and is not even filled to capacity. The new jail triples the number of beds to 150, and will encourage more jailing of young people, opponents argue.

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. Studies suggest the impacts could 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.

The majority of youth detainment is often unnecessary, and in King County’s juvenile punishment system, is 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 “No New Jails: Consider Alternatives to Incarcerating Children”

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 “Hate Is Not the American Way”

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

Power From the Roots Up Conference Attracts Hundreds to Seattle – “Ground Zero” of the Movement to Combat Income Inequality

For Planning Purposes:
July 10 – July 12, 2014
Contact: Kathy Mulady (Kathy@allianceforajustsociety.org, 206-922-8787)
or Joshua Welter (jwelter@mainstreetalliance.org, 206-383-1857)

Power From the Roots Up Conference Attracts Hundreds to Seattle – “Ground Zero” of the Movement to Combat Income Inequality

Author Peter Dreier joins community organizers, grassroots activists, and small business owners to discuss how grassroots activism is building a powerful force for national change

Seattle, WA—This week, hundreds of organizers, grassroots activists, and small business owners from 12 states will converge on Seattle for Power from the Roots Up – a three-day conference organized by the Alliance for a Just Society and the Main Street Alliance at the University of Washington.

Pn Friday, acclaimed author Peter Dreier, E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics at Occidental College, will speak on the history of local power, builing on both the left and the right. He’ll present a roadmap for building successful progressive movement from the ground up. He is a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, and Huffington Post. He’s recognized from TV interviews with Bill Moyers, Rachel Maddow, Tavis Smiley and Bill O’Reilly.

With gridlock in Congress, community organizations are turning to local and state power building strategies. In recent years, the progressive movement has seen remarkable policy victories as a result of these campaigns, including Seattle’s highest-in-the-nation $15 minimum wage law.

The conference features workshops, strategy sessions and discussions on recent progressive victories with experts in community organizing, including Rich Stolz, Executive Director of OneAmerica, Joe Szakos, Executive Director of Virginia Organizing, Nicole Brown, Organizing Director with the Center for Intercultural Organizing in Oregon, Makani Themba, Executive Director of The Praxis Project, OJ Semans, Executive Director of Four Directions focusing on rural voting rights for Native Peoples, Gretachew Kassa from NAACP’s Voting Rights Initiative, and Main Street Alliance of Washington State Director, Gerald Hankerson.

The public is invited to join the discussion on social media at #RootsUp2014. Expert guests, including Dr. Peter Dreier, are available for interviews.


Alliance for a Just Society is a national research, policy and organizing network based in Seattle. www.allianceforajustsociety.org

Main Street Alliance gives small businesses a voice on the most pressing public policy issues across the nation. Our advocacy promotes vibrant businesses, healthy communities, and socially responsible business leaders. www.mainstreetalliance.org


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

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

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

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

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