Economic Justice Posts

‘Homeowners Bill of Rights’ Helps Fight Foreclosure in Colorado

After three years of persistent and tireless work by Colorado Progressive Coalition members, the Colorado legislature this month finally passed meaningful protections for homeowners at risk of losing their homes. Among other things, the bill is designed to stop dual-tracking. It will prevent banks from proceding with foreclosure effort while the homeowner is in the home loan modification process – a common practice.


After three years of persistent and tireless work by Colorado Progressive Coalition members, the Colorado legislature this month finally passed meaningful protections for homeowners at risk of losing their homes.

For years horror stories have abounded in the press of banks that lost paperwork, homeowners never speaking to the same person twice, promises of a loan modification while simultaneously foreclosing on the borrower. Abuses by the banks added to the immense stress homeowners – and added to the growing number of foreclosures that could have been prevented.

The package of protections passed by the Colorado legislature is known as the “Homeowners Bill of Rights,” and is similar to those passed previously in California, Nevada, and Minnesota.

One of the main functions in the law is that it requires a lender to establish a single point of contact for the borrower to communicate with the lender concerning a pending foreclosure. This is designed to eliminate the run around that many homeowners report while dealing with lenders during the foreclosure process

Another key protection in the Colorado statute is elimination of the practice known as dual tracking. This is where the lender promises the homeowner a modification and the homeowner is working on this “track.”  Meanwhile the lender is simultaneously proceeding with foreclosure. The homeowner usually ends up in foreclosure even though another remedy was possible.

The Colorado bill will require the lender to inform the homeowner in writing that a completed loan modification application has been received and is under review. If the lender then continues with a foreclosure the homeowner may contact their county Public Trustee. The Trustee will then have authority to stop the foreclosure process.

“By giving the county trustees the power to stop a foreclosure when an individual is undergoing a loan modification, Colorado will put into law a system that keeps families in their homes and creates greater stability for our housing market,” said Corrine Fowler, a housing advocate formerly with the Colorado Progressive Coalition, who pressed for the bill’s passage.

It’s a sad shame it took the Colorado Legislature three years to pass these common sense protections that could have saved thousands of homes. The foreclosure crisis has largely abated in metro Denver, but the ramifications of the crisis will reverberate for generations. Untold numbers of families have had their economic futures ruined by this crisis, through lost wealth and destroyed credit.

Meanwhile rents continue to soar in one of the hottest housing markets in the nation putting many of these displaced families in harm’s way again.

Jason Collette is a national organizer for the Alliance for a Just Society.


Anti-Minimum Wage Restaurant Association Serving Up Powerful Lobbyists

revolving door picThe National Restaurant Association is a lobbying powerhouse in Washington, D.C. and a leading opponent of efforts to raise the minimum wage. A new analysis by the Alliance for a Just Society and Restaurant Opportunities Centers United uncovers the “secret sauce” behind the NRA’s success: a heaping helping of insider influence.

In The Hill this week,  LeeAnn Hall, executive director of the Alliance, and Saru Jayaraman, author of “Behind the Kitchen Door,” discuss how lobbyists are spinning an anti-minimum wage campaign.  Our research shows that the National Restaurant Association and its biggest corporate members have super-sized their investment in revolving door lobbyists – Washington’s version of insider trading.

Click here for the full analysis.
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Driver’s Licenses for Immigrants Strengthens Families and the Economy

Across the nation, families, business owners, and police officers are calling on lawmakers to bring fairness to all in need of driver’s licenses – an item that many simply take for granted as an award for learning the rules of the road.

Drivers license copyBut for millions of undocumented residents throughout the U.S., the denial of this basic driving privilege has stifled their way of life.

Regardless of citizenship status, all can agree that daily activities require driving. Basic tasks like getting to and from medical care facilities, taking or picking up children from school, participating in family curricular activities, and traveling to and from work, unduly burdens the unlicensed. It also strains states’ limited financial resources.

Denying driver’s licenses to undocumented residents is a law that creates more harm than good and it needs to be changed.
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Tipping Subminimum Wage in Favor of Workers

When you go out to dinner at a restaurant you might ask for salad dressing on the side, whether the carrots are organic, or if the chicken is free range, but do you ever ask the restaurant owner if her employees make a living wage?

Waitresses and waiters are the largest group of tipped workers in the United States; they also struggle with a significantly higher rate of poverty than the rest of the workforce. Tipped workers are also more likely to be women and people of color, contributing to the broader race and gender wage gaps.Tips

While the federal minimum wage is $7.25 cents per hour, the tipped minimum wage has been frozen at just $2.13 per hour for the last 23 years. Seven states don’t have a separate tipped minimum wage, and some have higher tipped wages than the federal figure, however, tipped workers in most states rely on tips from customers to round out the rest of their salary.

When the economy is slow or when weather keeps customers at home, tipped workers see their hours cut and tips shrink, causing many to turn to public support just to stay afloat. Food servers collect food stamps at twice the rate of the U.S. workforce as a whole, and are three times more likely to live below the poverty line. Continue reading »

Expanding Health Care Coverage With Federal Funds In Idaho Will Create Economy-Boosting Jobs

Medicaid report jobsIf Idaho accepts federal funds to expand Medicaid coverage, an estimated 88,000 state residents will gain health insurance.  In addition, accepting the federal funding will also create jobs  more than 16,000 jobs and boost the Idaho economy, according to a new report by the Alliance for a Just Society. The report was released today by Idaho Community Action Network.

According to an analysis by University of Idaho economist Steven Peterson, if Idaho adopts the health coverage expansion in 2014, the new spending on health care services and its ripple effects will create 16,337 jobs in the state and increase total compensation by $567 million (in constant 2012 dollars) in 2024. The majority of jobs will be in the health care fields, but others will be created in food and lodging, social services, business services, transportation and construction.
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Critics Overstate Job Loss in CBO Report; Living Wage Lifts Families from Poverty

Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office released a report on the estimated effects of increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 and indexing it to inflation by 2016. Opponents of the increase have jumped on the report’s (questionable) conclusion that it would cost jobs, while many in favor of increasing the minimum wage have focused on the benefits, including lifting almost one million workers out of poverty.Min Wage v Living Wage

However, even a minimum wage of $10.10 doesn’t come close to reaching a living wage that allows workers to move beyond living paycheck to paycheck. Our 15th annual Job Gap study, America’s Changing Economy, clearly shows that $15 – $16 per hour is the minimum pay needed to support a single adult working full time.

So, here are seven reasons not to let the CBO report discourage Congress from increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, and why we actually need an even higher minimum wage:
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State of the Union Has the Right Themes, Action Must Follow

sotu photo

President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 28. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union address Tuesday night: low-key compared to other addresses, determined and occasionally defiant.

He touched on many of the priorities being worked on by the Alliance for a Just Society this year, including mentioning that nine million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage. He didn’t mention that 23 states have not accepted Medicaid expansion for their most vulnerable residents.

The President called for immigration reform to be passed, a solution for college graduates trapped by student loan debt, he pushed for a federal minimum wage increase to $10.10 an hour.

“Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty,” he said.
Private businesses shouldn’t wait for a government mandate, but instead follow the lead of giant Costco and much smaller Punch Pizza and give employees a raise. Continue reading »

Families and Our Future Sinking in a Sea of Student Debt

This is the first in a three-part series by the Alliance for a Just Society, looking at the high cost of student debt for our country and for our future.students campus photo

Young college graduates are putting their futures on hold as they struggle under the burden of high student debt – and a weak economic recovery that has failed to provide good jobs for them. Young adults in their 20s and 30s are delaying buying houses, cars, furniture or starting families. The implications for every family, and our nation, are huge.

Student loan debt has passed $1.2 trillion, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Such widespread indebtedness has many causes and the ramifications are pervasive – including a decline in purchasing power.
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Butte Jury Holds Bankers Accountable With $52 Million Verdict

By Sheena Rice
Montana Organizing Project

It’s no longer shocking to read news articles about the scandalous behavior of big banks. Readers roll their eyes when they see JPMorgan’s CEO being awarded a total pay of $20 million the same year the bank made repeated headlines for being fined millions of dollars and incurring losses of billions of dollars. Stories like these are so common it’s almost boring.MOP Logo JPEG

But a jury in Butte, Mont. – population 34,000 – recently decided they weren’t going to tolerate a second set of rules just for banks. They delivered a $52 million verdict against Comerica, another national bank that was also bailed out by the government, and then refused to help a borrower.

The borrower, an office supply company, was essentially destroyed when Comerica reneged on a written forbearance agreement. The company decided to fight, and filed the lawsuit.
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King County Living Wage December 2013 report

King.County.WA_2013 wage report

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