Community Organizing Groups Applaud FHFA Principal Reduction Policy

For Immediate Release

April 15, 2016
Kathy Mulady, kathy@allianceforajustsociety.org 206-992-8787
Jacob Swenson-Lengyel, jacob@npa-us.org  312-316-3973

Community Organizing Groups Applaud FHFA Principal Reduction Policy

Yesterday, the Fair Housing Finance Agency announced a principal reduction modification program that will help up to 33,000 borrowers. In response, Alliance for a Just Society and National People’s Action released the following statement:
“The Alliance for a Just Society and National People’s Action applaud the Fair Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) for beginning to provide relief to thousands of families trapped in underwater mortgages.
These homeowners were left owing more than their houses were worth when the housing market crashed almost ten years ago due to the reckless behavior of the country’s big banks.
Since the crash, the Alliance for a Just Society, National People’s Action, their affiliates and allies have mobilized families around the country to call on the FHFA to provide justice for homeowners left in the lurch.
Because of these efforts, FHFA is now making principal reduction available to approximately 33,000 homeowners, helping them get back on their feet and assisting communities struggling to recover from the ongoing devastation of the financial crisis.
While many more families need relief, and while the help will come too late for too many, the action represents a significant step forward in families’ fight for real solutions. We will continue to urge the FHFA Secretary Mel Watt and the Obama Administration to build on this progress.” 

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National People’s Action is a network of 29 grassroots organizations in 18 states working together to advance a racial and economic justice agenda for a new economy and true democracy.

Alliance for a Just Society is a national policy, research and organizing network that focuses on social, economic and racial justice.

New Report: Disenfranchised by Debt

For Immediate Release
March 8, 2016
Contact: Kathy Mulady
Communications Director
(206) 992-8787
kathy@allianceforajustsociety.org

Washington D.C. – Poverty isn’t supposed to be a barrier to voting in the United States, at least according to the Constitution.

Yet, more than 50 years after poll taxes were prohibited by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, people with criminal convictions in at least 30 states are still being barred from voting because they are too poor to pay their jail fines and fees.

Disenfranchised by Debt is a new report by the Alliance for a Just Society released today at the Debt Nation conference in Washington, D.C. The report analyzes how millions of people, especially people of color, are blocked from voting because they can’t afford their criminal debts. Meanwhile, former offenders with means are able to quickly regain their voting rights – creating a two-tiered system.

A history of racism in the United States and the growing criminalization of poverty means that African Americans particularly, are more likely to be arrested, convicted, to receive harsher penalties, and are then less likely to regain their right to vote.

“Ending criminal disenfranchisement would be the ideal way to prevent the loss of voting rights due to court debt,” said Libero Della Piana, national organizer and racial justice leader with the Alliance for a Just Society. “Poverty should never be a reason for withholding anyone’s right to vote.”

Some of the recommendations in the report include:

  • Limiting interest rates and fees attached to unpaid LFOs.
  • Ensuring that those with misdemeanor convictions have the right and ability to vote while incarcerated.
  • Automatically registering people with conviction records when they become eligible to vote.

LFO debts grow at every stage of the judicial process, including while in jail or prison. Costs can even include laundry expenses, or haircuts. These debts also accrue interest at rates as high as 12 percent – including while the person is incarcerated. Many prisoners leave jail thousands of dollars in debt, with few job opportunities.

“Legal Financial Obligations prevent ex-offenders from rebuilding a productive life,” said Allyson Fredericksen, senior policy analyst and author of the report. “Many of these issues can be ended by reducing fees and eliminating interest on debt while incarcerated. The ability to pay should never be a criteria for voting.”

Most formerly incarcerated people never regain their right to vote.

“Our research shows that while some states explicitly require the repayment of legal debt before voting rights are restored, many other states are more indirect, requiring the completion of probation or parole – with the payment of fees and fines a condition of completing parole,” said Linnea Lassiter, co-author of Disenfranchised by Debt.

In Maryland, voting rights have recently been restored to to 40,000 people statewide completing probation, and starting March 10 will be restored automatically upon their release from prison.

In Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe is the only person able to restore voting rights to those with felony convictions, per Virginia’s constitution. He announced last year that “outstanding court costs and fees will no longer prohibit an individual from having his or her rights restored.”

This opens up the opportunity to vote to even more returning citizens, many of them African American.

Virginia Organizing leader Eunice Haigler of Fredericksburg, Va., does workshops to help former felons regain their voting rights.

“I don’t know if a lot of people know how valuable it is to African Americans to be able to vote,” said Haigler. “Many African Americans don’t have a lot of hope, so to be able to vote and have a say in your community, to make it better, is a whole new world.”

Alliance for a Just Society is a national organization that focuses on social, economic and racial justice issues.

Disenfranchised by Debt

Washington D.C. – Poverty isn’t supposed to be a barrier to voting in the United States, at least according to the Constitution.

Yet, more than 50 years after poll taxes were prohibited by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, people with criminal convictions in at least 30 states are still being barred from voting even after serving their sentence because they are too poor to pay their jail fines and fees.

Disenfranchised by Debt is a new report by the Alliance for a Just Society released today at the Debt Nation conference in Washington, D.C. The report analyzes how millions of people, especially people of color, are blocked from voting because they can’t afford their criminal debts. Meanwhile, former offenders with means are able to quickly regain their voting rights – creating a two-tiered system.

A history of racism in the United States and the growing criminalization of poverty means that African Americans particularly, are more likely to be arrested, convicted, to receive harsher penalties, and are then less likely to regain their right to vote.

“Ending criminal disenfranchisement would be the ideal way to prevent the loss of voting rights due to court debt,” said Libero Della Piana, national organizer and racial justice leader with the Alliance for a Just Society. “Poverty should never be a reason for withholding anyone’s right to vote.”

Some of the recommendations in the report include:

  • Limiting interest rates and fees attached to unpaid LFOs.
  • Ensuring that those with misdemeanor convictions have the right and ability to vote while incarcerated.
  • Automatically registering people with conviction records when they become eligible to vote.

LFO debts grow at every stage of the judicial process, including while in jail or prison. Costs can even include laundry expenses, or haircuts. These debts also accrue interest at rates as high as 12 percent – including while the person is incarcerated. Many prisoners leave jail thousands of dollars in debt, with few job opportunities.

“Legal Financial Obligations prevent ex-offenders from rebuilding a productive life,” said Allyson Fredericksen, senior policy analyst and author of the report. “Many of these issues can be ended by reducing fees and eliminating interest on debt while incarcerated. The ability to pay should never be a criteria for voting.”

Most formerly incarcerated people never regain their right to vote.

“Our research shows that while some states explicitly require the repayment of legal debt before voting rights are restored, many other states are more indirect, requiring the completion of probation or parole – with the payment of fees and fines a condition of completing parole,” said Linnea Lassiter, co-author of Disenfranchised by Debt.

In Maryland, voting rights have recently been restored to to 40,000 people statewide completing probation, and starting March 10 will be restored automatically upon their release from prison.

In Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe is the only person able to restore voting rights to those with felony convictions, per Virginia’s constitution. He announced last year that “outstanding court costs and fees will no longer prohibit an individual from having his or her rights restored.”

This opens up the opportunity to vote to even more returning citizens, many of them African American.

Virginia Organizing leader Eunice Haigler of Fredericksburg, Va., gives workshops to help former felons regain their voting rights.

“I don’t know if a lot of people know how valuable it is to African Americans to be able to vote,” said Haigler. “Many African Americans don’t have a lot of hope, so to be able to vote and have a say in your community, to make it better, is a whole new world.”

Alliance for a Just Society is a national organization that focuses on social, economic and racial justice issues.

REPORT: Debt Collectors Profit From Aggressive Tactics

For Immediate Release
January 26, 2016
Contact: Kathy Mulady, (206) 992-8787
kathy@allianceforajustsociety.org
REPORT PROFILES COMPANIES WITH THE MOST COMPLAINTS ABOUT
ABUSIVE AND DECEPTIVE DEBT COLLECTION TACTICS

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should write strong rules to protect
consumers from abusive collection practices

SEATTLE – Companies engaging in debt collection activities use abusive and deceptive practices that include harassing people for debts not owed, threatening illegal actions, calling people at work, and contacting their employers and neighbors.

These are among the findings of a new report, Unfair, Deceptive & Abusive: Debt Collectors Profit from Aggressive Tactics, released today by the Alliance for a Just Society. Researchers analyzed 75,000 consumer complaints filed during the last two years with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The report profiles the 15 companies with the most complaints. The list includes:

  • Encore Capital Group – San Diego, CA
  • PRA Group – Norfolk, VA
  • Enhanced Recovery Company – Jacksonville, FL
  • Citigroup – New York, NY
  • Expert Global Solutions – Plano, TX
  • JPMorgan Chase – New York, NY
  • Navient (the student loan servicer) – Wilmington, DE
  • Wells Fargo – San Francisco, CA

The CFPB is considering whether new rules are warranted to protect consumers from deceptive and aggressive collection practices. Next steps in a rulemaking on debt collections are anticipated as early as February.

About 35 percent of adults in the U.S. with a credit file have a report of debt in collections, leaving a broad swath of households vulnerable to abusive collection tactics.

“This analysis makes it clear that debt collectors routinely engage in unfair, deceptive and abusive practices to maximize their profits,” said LeeAnn Hall, executive director of the Alliance for a Just Society. “We need the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to stand up for consumers and write strong rules that ends these abusive practices.”

The report includes detailed recommendations to end abusive collection practices.

Meanwhile, secretive groups with undisclosed funding sources have launched a series of dubious attacks on the Bureau since November, seeking to undermine its work to strengthen consumer protections in the financial sector.

“We need the CFPB to stand strong in the face of these deceptive attacks from dark money groups with financial industry ties,” said Hall. “It’s time to rein in abusive debt collection practices and we need strong leadership and a strong rule from the CFPB to do it.”

Findings from the report include:

  • More than 40 percent of the complaints were about continued attempts to collect debts consumers said they did not owe.
  • Nearly 20 percent of complaints were about collectors’ communication tactics; 8 percent cited false statements and 7 percent cited the collector taking or threatening an illegal action.
  • Complaints tied to credit card debt were most common, followed by medical debt, payday loans, student loans, mortgage debt, and finally auto debt.
  • The two companies with the most collection-related complaints, Encore Capital Group and PRA Group, each more than doubled their profits from 2010 to 2014.

The report’s recommendations for the CFPB’s rulemaking include:

  • Apply the new debt collection rules to original creditors – such as payday lenders, credit card companies, and banks – along with third-party collectors and debt buyers.
  • Strengthen remedies and increase penalties to stop abusive debt collection practices.
  • Require debt collectors to have complete documentation before initiating collection actions.
  • Set specific limits on phone calls from debt collectors to prevent harassment.
  • Prohibit the sale, purchase, and collection of time-barred debt (also known as “zombie debt”).

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The Alliance for a Just Society is a national organization that focuses on social, economic and racial justice issues.

The full report can be found here: http://allianceforajustsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/2016.01_Debt.Collectors_FINAL.pdf

It’s a Matter of Life and Death: Insurers Must Cover Language Services

A 14-year-old girl accompanies her Somali-speaking father to his medical appointment. Because the clinic doesn’t provide an interpreter, the girl has to inform her own father than he has been diagnosed with cancer. She remains his interpreter through eight years of treatment, sometimes hiding information to protect him from the bad news.

A group of Spanish-speaking farmworkers enters a pesticide-laden field and soon, sickened and vomiting, must rush to the hospital. No medical interpreters are provided, and one of the farmworkers must handle communications between her coworkers and health care providers – while she is suffering from her own symptoms.

A Vietnamese-speaking woman is admitted to the hospital. When doctors or nurses need to talk with her, they call in an orderly with no training as an interpreter and no familiarity with medical terminology.

Cases like these are far from isolated. Every day, children, other relatives, friends, and even untrained hospital staff are asked to step in to do a job only competent, professional medical interpreters should be performing.

These dangerous practices persist despite federal law requiring hospitals and other health care providers to offer language services.

These institutions should be meeting their obligations. But it’s also long past time to require insurance companies to make medical interpretation available just as they cover exams, prescription drugs, and other health care essentials.

So far, we’re not holding insurers to that kind of requirement.

As we continue transforming our health care system through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), we need to incorporate professional medical interpretation into those efforts. The federal government should require insurance companies to make medical interpretation available to all patients who need and want it in their course of care.

Letting insurance companies off the hook puts people’s health at risk, allowing insurers to deliver substandard care to people whose health they’re supposed to protect.

Ample research shows that medical interpretation is a necessary component of health care for people with limited English. Without proper interpretation, doctors can misunderstand patient complaints, inaccurately diagnose their conditions, and prescribe inappropriate treatments. Patients receive medications but may not know how to take them.

Often, patients with limited English don’t even make it to the doctor’s office at all. Studies show that patients with limited English are less likely than other patients to have a regular source of health care.

Thanks to the ACA, insurance companies are signing people up in record numbers. They’re marketing health plans to many new enrollees in languages other than English. They’re also enrolling new patients in languages other than English. They should also be able to make health care available in those languages – rather than just pocketing the premiums from those enrollees.

The ACA gives us new tools for holding insurers and providers to their language services responsibilities. We need to do a better job of using all of these tools.

In early September, the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed long-awaited rules to implement the ACA’s ban on discrimination in health care, including discrimination faced by patients with limited English proficiency.

The proposed rules make it clear that oral interpretation is key to combatting that discrimination. They also establish that the new anti-discrimination rules apply to health insurers offering coverage through the ACA. And they require entities covered by the rules to make sure they’re relying on qualified interpreters.

With this language, HHS is building on longstanding civil rights law recognizing people’s right to oral interpretation. But HHS is also building on a history in which that right has been violated, again and again, with violators abetted by inadequate enforcement mechanisms. Patients still are receiving substandard care because of the language they speak.

In a health system increasingly concerned about quality, insurers should make sure all their patients are receiving good health care.

There’s precedent for requiring insurers to step up. Under California’s SB 853, insurers must provide language services at all access points, including the doctor’s office. And, in many states, Medicaid pays for interpretation to help make sure providers are offering it.

If Medicaid programs can cover medical interpretation, so can private insurers. The federal government shouldn’t be letting insurers off the hook while also letting them collect premiums. Patients with limited English have a right to quality health care – and we need to make sure they’re getting it.

(This article was originally published in Huffington Post.)

“Patchwork of Paychecks” Not Enough Jobs to Go Around

For Immediate Release
Dec. 8, 2015
Contact: Kathy Mulady
Communications director
kathy@allianceforajustsociety.org
(206) 992-8787

Patchwork of Paychecks

Only half of all job openings pay $15 an hour or more

It’s easy to tell a low-wage worker to “go get a better-paying job,” but the reality is there are nowhere near enough jobs that pay a living wage to go around. The occupations with the most job openings pay the least, and are often part-time.

New research by the Alliance for a Just Society released today shows that nationally there are seven job seekers for every job that pays at least $15 an hour. Only 54 percent of all job openings in the United States pay $15 an hour or more.

(Fact sheet here.)

In no state are there enough living wage job openings to go around.

Job seekers in California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and South Carolina struggle the most, with 10 job seekers for every living wage job opening.

No state has fewer than three job seekers for every job opening that allows a single adult to make ends meet.

(State-by-state table of job seekers and job openings)

Patchwork of Paychecks gives a detailed look at the availability of living wage jobs and full-time work. Additionally, stories from workers juggling multiple jobs illustrate the struggle people face when they can’t find full time work, or work that pays enough.

“This report makes it painfully clear that the economy isn’t creating enough living wage jobs, and that lawmakers must take action to raise the wage floor for all workers and to enact other policies to support working families,” said Jill Reese, associate director of the Alliance for a Just Society.

Before the Great Recession, involuntary part-time workers made up 11 percent of all part-time workers. Since then they have consistently made up more than 20 percent of all part-time workers.

For millions of workers, living-wage work is out of reach – especially for women, Latinos and Latinas, and workers of color who are more likely to work part-time.

“The increasing shift to low-wage work doesn’t just mean less pay. For many workers, it means fewer hours at low wages, unpredictable schedules, wage theft, and no paid sick leave – making it impossible to ever get ahead,” said Allyson Fredericksen, author of “Patchwork of Paychecks.”

The Alliance for a Just Society, a national organization focusing on economic and racial justice, has produced reports on jobs and wages since 1999.

Patchwork of Paychecks is the second report in the Job Gap Economic Prosperity Series that is produced by the Alliance annually

Jill Reese, associate director of the Alliance, and Allyson Fredericksen, author of “Patchwork of Paychecks” are available for interviews.

For the full report: https://jobgap2013.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/patchwork_of_paychecks.pdf

State-by-state table of job seekers and job openings:

http://allianceforajustsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Patchwork-Table-2.pdf

Fact Sheet

“Patchwork of Paychecks”

  • Nationally, four of the top five fastest growing occupations pay less than $15 an hour. They are: retail salespersons; waiters and waitresses; cashiers; and food preparation and serving workers, including fast food.
  • Nationally, for jobs that pay at least $15 per hour, there are seven job seekers for every job opening.
  • The occupation category with the most projected job openings, retail salesperson, pays a median wage of $10.29 per hour.
  • Nationwide, there are more than 17.7 million job seekers. There are 5 million job openings total, paying any wage. Of those, 2.7 million pay at least $15 an hour.
  • In 34 states, less than half of all job openings pay enough for a single adult to make ends meet.
  • In California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and South Carolina there are 10 job seekers for every living wage job opening.

People of Color

  • The Alliance reported last year that only 52 percent of full-time workers of color earn $15 per hour or more. This includes:
  • 51 percent of black workers
  • 50 percent of Native American workers.
  • 42 percent of full-time Latino and Latina workers
  • 57 percent of female workers earn at least $15 per hour.

Part-Time Work

  • The proportion of involuntary part-time workers is double what it was before the Great Recession (11 percent of part-time workers were involuntarily working part-time in 2007 compared to 21 percent in 2014).
  • Latinas and Latinos, and workers of color are more likely to work part-time in most states and nationally, making it even more difficult for them to make ends meet.
  • Part-time work also includes a number of other obstacles to making ends meet. Unpredictable or on-call scheduling is more common for part-time workers than for workers overall, and makes it nearly impossible to work more than one part-time job.

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Healthy School Lunches Lay the Foundation for Better Learning

What’s on your child’s school lunch tray today?

Parents nationwide believe it’s important for schools to serve nutritious food and healthy meals to students.

A new national survey by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation  shows that people in the United States overwhelmingly support current efforts to keep school meals healthy.

The survey results come just as congress is considering whether to renew the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act law enacted in 2010 by President Obama that sets nutrition standards for school meals. The measure expires on Sept. 30.

The legislation requires that meals include at least a half-cup serving of fresh fruit and vegetables. First Lady Michelle Obama made healthy school meals key part of her signature “Let’s Move” campaign.

Among the key findings in the Kellogg Foundation survey:

  • 9 out of 10 people in the U.S. support the national school nutrition standards.
  • 86 percent say the school nutrition standards should stay the same or be strengthened.
  • 88 percent support increased government funding to expand farm to school programs.
  • 84 percent believe sustainable agriculture should be part of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Also, of those surveyed, 91 percent said encouraging children to drink more water is a top priority.

The Kellogg Foundation survey also found that about 90 percent of Americans support more government spending on farm-to-school programs, which bring food from local farms into school cafeterias and teach children about nutrition.

With so much public support for healthy school lunches, it seems reauthorization of the bill would be a natural. But opponents, including the School Nutrition Association, say the healthy lunches are a financial burden for schools because of the cost and preparation time for fresh fruit and vegetables.

Others say food is wasted because children toss out the fresh food.

But the U.S. Department of Agriculture found just the opposite in its research:

“Kids are eating more healthy food and throwing less food away. Plate waste is not increasing. A study released in March 2015 by the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity shows that students are eating more nutritious foods and discarding less of their lunches under the healthier standards.”

In many studies, healthy school lunches have been shown to help students do better in class and develop better eating habits.

According to Lessons from the Lunchroom, for low-income children, school lunch may be their only real meal of the day. Changes to the way healthy foods are presented and marketed in the cafeteria can have significant benefits, and can encourage children to try new foods.

The National School Lunch Program, which was created in 1946 in response to the malnourishment of U.S. children, is supported by taxpayer dollars.

 

Complete results of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation survey are available online at wkkf.org/2015SchoolFoodPoll. The poll is being discussed on social media at #KeepKidsHealthy.

Voting Rights Restored

John Mahan never worried about voting, it didn’t seem important. He was young and he figured he had many years ahead of him to vote for politicians, and laws didn’t really seem to personally affect him anyway.

Then, in 1986, the young Virginia man was arrested and convicted of a felony. Mahan was finally released from prison in his 40s. And although he had regained his freedom, he had lost his right to vote.

“I never voted before I went to prison, I never thought it was important,” said Mahan, who lives in Martinsville, on the southern edge of Virginia. “I figured whoever got elected would just do whatever they wanted.”

Virginia has historically been among a dozen or so states with impossibly steep hurdles for restoring access to voting rights. The most difficult for many is the requirement to pay off all court costs, fines, and fees before the right to vote is restored.

Now that’s changing. In June, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that formerly incarcerated people no longer have to pay off their court costs, fines, or any restitution before their rights are restored. They’re still responsible for those debts – but they will be able to vote while paying them off.

Eliminating the requirement of paying court fines and fees is a critical step in restoring those rights, said Mahan.

In Martinsville, where he lives, the economy still struggles. Textile and furniture industries with familiar names like Fieldcrest, Stanley, and Bassett, once paid workers good wages – until the work moved overseas. Now jobs are few, and they pay less.

Finding a job and saving enough to pay fees – which often come burdened with interest – can take years.

Unfortunately many states still withhold voting rights from formerly incarcerated people who have court-related debts.

Virginia is one of two states that grant the authority of restoring voting rights only to the governor. For decades, going to prison in Virginia meant being banned from voting until the governor restored those rights – a long and arduous process that took years to complete.

But since January 2014, Virginia has restored civil rights for more than 8,250 people. In his first 18 months in office, McAuliffe restored voting rights for more people than any previous governor during a full four-year term. Nearly 75 percent of those with restored rights have registered to vote.

At a time when some states are digging deep for new rules to disenfranchise voters, especially Black, Latino and Native people, McAuliffe’s actions stand out.

Last year, McAuliffe reduced the intimidating13-page application form requesting restoration of rights for serious offenders down to just one page.

Nearly six million Americans are unable to vote because of a past criminal conviction, according to the Brennan Center. Nationwide, 13 percent of all African-American men have lost their right to vote – seven times the national average.

To outsiders, the turn-about in Virginia may seem sudden. Yet organizers and activists in Virginia know it has been a 15-year effort, hard fought in every community, with many disappointments along the way.

Virginia Organizing, a leading group in the effort, plans to keep working toward a complete turnaround of the old laws. The goal: voting rights restored automatically upon completion of sentencing requirements. It will require a state constitutional amendment.

“That’s my dream,” said Mahan, “For a person to have their voting rights restored automatically, as soon as they are released from probation. It just makes sense.”

After leaving prison a few years ago, Mahan became active in his community – and he wanted to vote. The application process at the time was the oppressive 13-page version. It required reference letters from friends, and many months to process. It required him to pay off his legal fines before he could even begin applying.

“It was discouraging, it was too much for a person to go through, so I put it aside,” he said. Mahan eventually filled out the pages of forms and references and had his civil rights – including the right to vote – restored. It took nine months for the paperwork to be processed.

He voted for the first time at age 52, and next he’s looking forward to voting in a presidential election for the first time.

“I talk to everyone I meet about getting their voting rights restored, people at the grocery store, people at church. If we don’t vote, we don’t have a voice,” he said.

“When I go talk to the Martinsville City Council, or the Henry County Board of Supervisors, they know I vote. They know I encourage others to vote, and I think they have a tendency to listen a little closer to what I have to say,” he said.

These days, he wouldn’t think of missing an opportunity to vote.

“Every time there is an election, John Mahan will be there,” he said.

Fast Food Workers in New York are Getting a Raise!

Hard work by our affiliate Citizen Action of New York – along with dozens of other allied organizations and unions, and thousands of workers who took to the streets and shared their personal stories – has paid off  in a huge victory.

Yesterday, the New York State Wage Board approved gradually raising the minimum wage for New York City fast food chain employees to $15 an hour by 2018. Fast food worker wages throughout New York state will gradually raise to $15 an hour by 2021.

“This is a huge victory for fast food workers, and for everyone working for low wages in New York,” said LeeAnn Hall, executive director of the Alliance for a Just Society.  “It puts pressure on employers in other low-paying industries to start paying their workers a living wage.

“I applaud the hard work of everyone who fought for this important moment,” said Hall.

Fast food workers are paid less than any other occupation, and fast food work is projected to be the second largest growing occupation in the country, with more openings than nearly any other.

This momentous victory brings fast food workers in New York significantly closer to earning a wage that will allow them to support themselves. It will boost their own financial stability, their communities, and the economy for all of us.

In New York and many other states, $15 is still a modest wage. This increase however allows workers to come closer to making ends meet.

In the report “Families Out of Balance” by the Alliance for a Just Society, our research shows that a living wage for a single adult is $18.47 an hour in New York state and is $22.49 an hour in New York City.

A pay raise is long overdue for all our workers nationwide. Tomorrow marks six years since the federal government last raised the minimum wage – to $7.25 on July 24, 2009.

A bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate Wednesday by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and in the House by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

If the wage can be raised in Seattle and New York and Los Angeles and so many other cities, it can be raised nationally – and we can do it.

Congratulations New York!

 

Alliance For a Just Society Map of Affiliates 2015

 Map of AJS Afiliates 2015 jpeg


Washington         California     Connecticut     Florida     Idaho     Illinois     Iowa     Louisiana   Maine     Massachusetts     Michigan     Montana     New Jersey     New York    Ohio     Oregon   Pennsylvania     Texas     Vermont     Virginia       … and Washington D.C.