LeeAnn Hall: What’s at Stake in the Supreme Court Today?

Today the Supreme Court is hearing arguments in United States v. Texas, the case that will decide whether President Obama’s 2014 executive actions on immigration were constitutional.

What’s at stake? Millions of immigrants and their families could see relief and move forward with their lives free from the fear of deportation if the Supreme Court shows moral leadership and allows the President’s immigration actions to go ahead.

The Alliance for a Just Society is joining with National People’s Action today in a promise to keep fighting for immigration relief so that all families can stay together. We will keep fighting against the politics of hate.

Will you join us and pledge to fight for families?

Take the I Will Fight for Families Pledge and we’ll keep you updated on what happens in the Supreme Court and ways you can take action to help keep families together.

Thousands of people are rallying, fasting, and taking action today to tell the Supreme Court to do the right thing and allow the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to proceed.

Texas and 25 other states sued the federal government over the executive actions. The relief programs have been stalled in the courts ever since, stopping millions of undocumented parents of U.S. citizens from applying to receive work permits and gain temporary protection from deportation. We expect to hear a Supreme Court decision in June.

Join us to fight for families inside and outside the courts. Sign our pledge and we’ll keep you informed.

We will continue to defend the President’s immigration initiatives, we will fight for lasting immigration reform, a pathway to citizenship, and to keep families together.

Onward!

LeeAnn Hall
Executive Director
Alliance for a Just Society

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.

Statement from LeeAnn Hall: Supreme Court Verdict Assures Unions Can Continue to Help Workers

For Immediate Release
March 30, 2016
Contact: Kathy Mulady, communications director
kathy@allianceforajustsociety.org
(206) 992-8787

The Alliance for a Just Society released the following statement from Executive Director LeeAnn Hall in response to Tuesday’s 4-4 Supreme Court verdict in the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case. The decision lets stand a lower court ruling upholding public sector unions’ ability to collect “fair share” fees to cover the costs of collective bargaining:

“Today’s outcome is an important victory for teachers, public service workers, and the communities that benefit from the services they provide. Public service unions will be able  to continue helping workers come together in collective bargaining to win better pay, benefits, and work environments.

“This challenge to the long-standing precedent supporting fair share fees was sheer nonsense from the beginning. Brought by the rightwing legal shop Center for Individual Rights, the challenge created a bizarre scenario where people who benefit from the union’s bargaining wouldn’t have to pitch in their fair share to support it. It created a ‘free rider’ scenario that defies both basic logic and stated conservative principles.

“Public sector unions have won important gains toward gender and racial equity in the workplace and created avenues to the middle class for people who have been shut out and discriminated against, especially people of color. It’s important for this work to continue – thanks to today’s decision, it can.

“People coming together in their communities and in their unions to express their opinions is how we build a strong democracy that works for all of us.”

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

LeeAnn Hall’s Statement on CFPB Actions Against Citibank

For Immediate Release
Feb. 23, 2016
Contact: Kathy Mulady,
Communications Director
kathy@allianceorajustsociety.org

Statement from LeeAnn Hall on CFPB actions against Citibank

The Alliance for a Just Society released the following statement from executive director LeeAnn Hall following today’s announcement by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) outlining enforcement actions against Citibank for illegal debt sales and debt collection practices:

“We’re encouraged to see the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau take enforcement action to hold Citibank accountable for these illegal activities,” said LeeAnn Hall, Executive director for the Alliance for a Just Society.

“The fact that Citibank was involved in these types of activities, which included falsely inflating interest rates when it sold credit card debt to debt buyers and employing law firms that altered affidavits in debt collection lawsuits, is unfortunately not surprising. In fact, Citibank ranked fourth among all companies for the most debt collection-related complaints in a two-year sample of complaints filed with the CFPB, and received the most complaints of any major bank.

“Our analysis makes it clear that debt collectors routinely engage in unfair, deceptive and abusive practices to maximize their profits.

“Citibank’s activities underscore why we need the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to move forward with writing new, strong rules that put a stop to abusive debt collection practices. And, the fact that Citibank is an original creditor, not a third-party collector or debt buyer itself, highlights why the CFPB should not limit new rules to third-party collectors, but should also write rules that prohibit deceptive and abusive collection activities by original creditors.

“We need the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to stand up for consumers and write strong rules that end these abusive practices.”

The Alliance released a report last month, Unfair, Deceptive & Abusive: Debt Collectors Profit from Abusive Tactics, that analyzed a two-year sample of 75,000 consumer complaints filed with the CFPB about debt collection practices. Citibank was cited in 1,553 complaints, placing it fourth highest on the list of entities with the most complaints and first among original creditors.

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Jobs After Jail: Ending the Prison to Poverty Pipeline

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016
Contact: Kathy Mulady
Communications director
(206) 992-8787
kathy@allianceforajustsociety.org

Jobs After Jail: Ending the Prison to Poverty Pipeline

State regulations bar formerly incarcerated workers from good jobs and a chance at stability

Each year an average of 630,000 people are released from state and federal prisons – for many, their prison record will be a life sentence of poverty and low wages.

In addition to facing “the box” on job applications that asks about being convicted of a crime, they also face a raft of state restrictions banning them from certain occupations. Every state in the country bans formerly incarcerated people from specific jobs. Some states bar them from hundreds of jobs, often good-paying jobs.

Today, the Alliance for a Just Society is releasing Jobs After Jail: Ending the Prison to Poverty Pipeline. The report analyzes the impact of policies that limit employment opportunities for people who have served jail or prison sentences.

The findings underscore the urgency to “ban the box” in every state and at the federal level. However, the Jobs After Jail research also clearly shows the critical need to change the thousands of laws nationwide that restrict job opportunities, and keep families and communities struggling.

A wide variety of jobs are barred, but depending on the state, they can include such work as a veterinarian, mortgage broker, or optometrist

About 70 million people in the U.S have a felony or serious misdemeanor arrest or conviction that could impact their ability to find a job, locking a big part of our country out of stable, good-paying employment.

“People leave jail or prison with debt from their incarceration, then face dramatic hurdles finding work that pays,” said Jill Reese, associate director of the Alliance for a Just Society.

“A history of racism in the United States means that people of color are more likely to be poorer than their white counterparts. They are also more likely to be incarcerated and to face harsher sentences. The impact on communities of color is devastating when so many people are cut off from good jobs after their release,” said Reese.

Jobs After Jail includes first-person stories from formerly incarcerated people about the hurdles of finding a job, getting to work with restrictions on driving, checking “the box” on a college application, and juggling two or three low wage jobs to make ends meet.

According to Jobs After Jail, nationwide there are more than 6,000 mandatory employment restrictions facing people who have served their sentence.

“Our research shows that every state has jobs that formerly incarcerated people are banned from holding,” said Allyson Fredericksen, the Alliance’s policy analyst and author of the report. “Some states have more than 200 restricted jobs – and Louisiana has 389 restrictions. The result is a vast number of people who are sentenced to poverty.”

Recommendations from the report include:

  • Eliminate lifetime legislative bans to employment
  • Ban the box – the question about convictions on job applications.
  • Reform policies on court fines and fees and incarceration fees that leave people deep in debt after they are released.
  • Invest in businesses that pay high wages and employ formerly incarcerated people.

Jobs After Jail: Ending the Prison to Poverty Pipeline is part of the Job Gap Economic Prosperity series on jobs and wages produced by the Alliance since 1999.

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

More information is available at:

www.thejobgap.org

www.allianceforajustsociety.org

Restrictions by State (chart)

Quick Fact Sheet

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

“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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Statement from LeeAnn Hall: “Closing the door to refugees is about hate and fear – not safety”

PRESS STATEMENT
Nov. 20, 2015
Contact: Kathy Mulady
Communications Director
(206) 992-8787

Statement from LeeAnn Hall, Executive Director of the Alliance for a Just Society:

Of all the nations worldwide, the United States, built on welcoming those fleeing persecution at home, should be first to offer a safe harbor to refugees in a time of need.

Instead, Thursday, House Republicans, joined by 47 Democrats, hastily passed a bill that effectively ends the current U.S. refugee program for people fleeing the brutal civil war in Syria – a war our government is actively involved in.

Let’s be clear, closing the door to refugees is about hate and fear – not about safety.

In the days following the tragic terror attacks in Paris, politicians in our country flooded the airwaves and the Internet with racist and alarmist rhetoric. At a time when the United States should be embracing all victims of violence, they are stirring distrust.

Meanwhile, France is reaffirming its commitment to take 30,000 Syrian refugees. In the wake of their own suffering, the French haven’t turned against the most vulnerable in their moment of greatest need.

There’s no evidence refugees had anything to do with the Paris attacks, or that curbing refugees would make anyone safer. It won’t.  More than half of U.S. governors have said they’ll reject refugees. This is false and xenophobic posturing; blocking refugees is not within their authority.

The Alliance for a Just Society represents families in grassroots communities and organizations throughout the country. We stand together in rejecting racism, xenophobia, and religious intolerance – they have no place in our country. This is a time to pull together, not a time to create deeper divides.

The Alliance for A Just Society and its affiliates are calling on governors and legislators to welcome refugees and to reject a growing climate of intolerance and hate.

Our affiliate Virginia Organizing is taking this message to Rep. Bob Goodlatte because of his outspoken opposition to welcoming Syrian refugees and One America is supporting Gov. Jay Inslee for his support of refugees.

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Pay Up! $15 in Not A Living Wage in Most of the Country

Throughout the nation, the call for a $15 minimum wage is rightfully gaining momentum and – if enacted – would lift millions of low-wage workers from struggle to stability. While detractors suggest the wage is too high, a new report by the Alliance for a Just Society released today shows that $15 is really a modest demand.

The report, “Pay Up! Long Hours and Low Pay Leave Workers at a Loss” reveals that the minimum wage in many states is half the pay a single adult needs to cover basics like housing, food, utilities, and transportation.

Nationally, the living wage for a single adult ranges from $14.26 an hour in Arkansas to $21.44 in Hawaii.

At $7.25 an hour, the current federal minimum wage, workers would have to put in up to 110 hours a week (as is the case in Hawaii) to cover the basic costs of living for just one person.

The numbers are more disturbing when a worker is also supporting children – even with two parents working full time.

“A wage that keeps families trapped in poverty and despair, no matter how hard or how many hours they work, is a national crisis,” said Jill Reese, associate director of the Alliance for a Just Society.

“We know that it’s not unheard of in our country that someone is working full time and is still homeless – this is unacceptable,” Reese said.

The study calculates a living wage for a single adult in all 50 states, then reports the stunning number of hours a minimum wage employee must work in each state, Washington D.C., and nationally, to make a living.

“The answer to low wages is not expecting people to work a ridiculous number of hours, or to make severe cutbacks in basic necessities,” said Allyson Fredericksen, report author and policy analyst at the Alliance for a Just Society.

“Instead, the answer is to pay workers enough to ensure that full-time employment provides some measure of financial stability. Our research shows that’s twice the current minimum wage in many states,” said Fredericksen.

In Washington D.C. workers paid minimum wage have to work 83 hours a week to make ends meet for one person. In New York it’s 91 hours a week, and in Virginia it’s 103 hours.

Even in states like California, with a relatively high minimum wage at $9 an hour, workers there would still have to clock 86 hours a week to equal a living wage.

Pay Up!” is part of The Job Gap Economic Prosperity Series research by the Alliance for a Just Society. The Alliance has produced the reports since 1999.

The full report is available here: Pay Up! Report (pdf)

Additional information is available on the report website: www. thejobgap.org

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