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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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

Instead of Building Walls, Build an Economy That Works for All

The Supreme Court announced Tuesday that it will take up a case that challenges President Barack Obama’s executive actions that deferred the deportation of 5 million undocumented immigrants.

News coverage of this development naturally was dominated by the two words that are sure to make any news story go viral: “procedural battle.”

Okay, perhaps such a phrase doesn’t rise to the level of virality as the groundbreaking revelation that Kim Kardashian washes her hair twice a week. But that’s exactly what’s wrong with this system — with so much at stake for so many families, it is a shame that people aren’t paying more attention.

While it can be easy to get lost in the alphabet soup of “SCOTUS,” “DACA” and “DAPA,” debates over the technical merits of the President’s executive actions should not detract from what’s truly at stake here — that families are being separated by outdated, arcane and draconian immigration laws.

So far during this presidential campaign, the immigration debate has been front and center. And, with the Supreme Court taking on this case, we’ll be assured that it will continue.

The anti-immigrant message focuses again on fear – fear that there aren’t enough jobs or enough money to go around, and it resonates, not because it is true, but because we know the majority of people in this country are struggling. They call it the 99% movement because, unless you’re among the filthy rich 1%, you are probably struggling.

The Job Gap Economic Prosperity Series research by the Alliance for a Just Society shows people quite simply aren’t making ends meet. And so, by cranking up the fear of scarcity, people are more likely to perceive others as a threat to their own economic security. When people are drowning in debt and can’t find a decent-paying job, they see immigrants as competition in an already-tight workforce.

The reality is that immigration strengthens our workforce.

“This case is profoundly impactful not just for the Latino community, but for the entire nation,” said Janet Murguía, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza. “The expansion of DACA and the creation of DAPA could potentially help more than 4.4 million eligible immigrants, create nearly 30,000 new jobs and grow our GDP by $230 billion by 2025.”

And so the conversation we really need to be having is not about how to keep immigrants out of the country, but how we can shape our economy so that it works for everyone. The answer to the scarcity mentality is not to build walls, but to build the economy and equitably share our resources.

We do that by increasing an embarrassingly low minimum wage, making higher education affordable and accessible, providing health care to everyone who needs it, and stop giving tax breaks to large corporations that drain local economies of good-paying jobs and replaces them with bad jobs.

But tearing apart families, living in the politics of hate, and rejecting those yearning to breathe free is not our way.

Winning the Fight for $15 in 2016

Millions of low-paid Americans rang in 2016 with a raise, as a handful of state minimum wage increases went into effect on the first day of January.

Many of those raises are a barely noticeable 15 or 20 cents an hour — little comfort to people struggling to make ends meet. But workers in the cities and states that voted for more robust wages last year saw much more significant gains.

Minimum wage workers in Alaska, California, Massachusetts, and Nebraska, for example, are finding a dollar-an-hour increase in their paychecks. Workers in Hawaii are enjoying an extra $1.25 an hour. In Seattle, some workers at bigger companies are seeing a substantial $2 hourly increase as the city’s $15 minimum wage is phased in.

The national campaign for a $15 minimum wage emerged as a leading economic justice issue last year. It’s also a critical racial justice issue: Half of all African-American workersand almost 60 percent of Latino workers make less than $15 an hour.

The momentum to raise the minimum wage will only increase in 2016 as public support grows. Yet too many states — 21 of them, concentrated mainly in the South — haven’t budged from the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, unchanged since 2009.

Many of these holdouts have deep pools of poverty. Most deny poor families health care by refusing to expand Medicaid, and nearly all have held the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers to $2.13 an hour for 25 years.

The problem with efforts to raise the wage city by city and state by state is that it leaves out workers in states without a citizen initiative process, or in communities without strong unions or leadership. Millions of low-wage workers are at risk of becoming a left-behind underclass.

That means it’s time for Congress to increase the national minimum wage — and to abolish the lower, sub-minimum wage for tipped workers. If they aren’t sure how to do it, leaders from New York to Los Angeles have provided plenty of examples.

Research from my organization, the Alliance for a Just Society, shows that a living wage for a single adult ranges from $14.26 in Arkansas to $21.44 in Hawaii. On average, a worker would have to put in 93 hours a week just to get by on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

The numbers underscore the crisis facing families in our country.

Often, low-wage workers are told that the solution is to go get a better-paying job, but the reality is there are nowhere near enough jobs that pay a living wage. The occupations with the most job openings — in retail and restaurants — pay the least, and they’re most likely to be part-time.

We’ve become a low-wage nation, with implications that reach far beyond just low pay. Low-wage jobs also mean part-time hours, unpredictable schedules, and no benefits or paid sick leave — making it impossible for workers to break even.

It’s unacceptable that anyone who works full-time in our country should go hungry, homeless, or without care for their child. This is the year to make all wages living wages. Without action, Congress is endorsing the creation of a new class of poverty among our workers.

Jill Reese is the associate director of the Alliance for a Just Society, a national organization focusing on economic and racial justice. AllianceForAJustSociety.org
Distributed by OtherWords.org

This article first appeared in OtherWords.org
http://otherwords.org/winning-the-fight-for-15-in-2016/

Today in Medicaid: Big Win in Louisiana

Today, Louisiana’s new governor, John Bel Edwards, made the most of his first full day in office.

Through an executive order, Gov. Edwards expanded Medicaid to about 300,000 uninsured Louisianans, many of whom will be eligible for health coverage for the first time. This move makes Louisiana the 31st state to extend the benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to its lowest-income residents.

Edwards’ action marks a big win for community leaders in Louisiana – and the culmination of a long fight for health care justice.

The battle began in 2012, when the Supreme Court ruled that states could opt out of the Medicaid expansion. Emboldened by this decision, former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal dug in his heels and refused federal funding rather than make health care available to his constituents.

This intransigence resulted in Louisianans going without a potential 7,600 mammograms and 28,000 cholesterol screenings each year, according to one estimate. The state was also losing out on an average $1.5 billion in federal funds annually.

There were also grave racial justice implications to Jindal’s refusal to expand Medicaid, with African Americans accounting for more than half of those shut out of health coverage as a result. (Almost two-thirds are people of color.)

A diverse coalition of organizations fought back. A Community Voice and Southern United Neighborhoods – partners of the Alliance for a Just Society – joined this fight, knocking on hundreds of doors, holding community meetings, and rallying in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and elsewhere. As the issue played out in the legislature, they showed up again and again, undeterred by setbacks.

In 2015, with Jindal’s term coming to an end – and his popularity plummeting – A Community Voice and their allies made a final push to place Medicaid front-and-center as the race for governor was taking shape. Meanwhile, they kept the heat on the legislature.

These efforts bore fruit in the spring, when lawmakers passed a resolution allowing the incoming governor to pick up the Medicaid expansion without further legislative action.

From there, it was a matter of keeping attention focused on Medicaid as the candidates vied for governor. When Bel Edwards won in November, he assured Louisianans that Medicaid would be one of his top priorities.

His executive order makes that promise a reality. Louisianans eligible for Medicaid expansion should begin receiving their coverage by July.

Community leaders have a lot to celebrate.

“Years of base-building, actions, and skirmishes have led to the day when the people have won health care for another 300,000 Louisianans,” said Lanny Roy, ACV president.

“A Community Voice is proud to have been a part of it, and we’re proud of our new governor John Bel Edwards. Now to the task of effecting it and making our people healthier.”

Meanwhile, millions of other low-income people, disproportionately people of color, remain without coverage in the 19 states that have yet to expand Medicaid. Today, Louisiana points the way.

Hate Has No Home Here / Hate Has No Business Here

msa-welcome_fb-share-welcome

The Alliance for a Just Society joins with Main Street Alliance and businesses all around the country who are standing up to racist and anti-Muslim rhetoric from political candidates and others in recent weeks. We reject collective punishment for individual acts and join other in saying “Hate has no business here” and “Hate has no home here.”

If you are a business owner, we encourage you to download the store sign letting people know All Are Welcome.

You can also Download the #HateHasNoHomeHere House Sign here to post in your home, office or dorm:

8×10 Black & White poster

8×10 Color poster

11×17 Black & White poster

11×17 Color poster

HateHasNoHome-11x17-color

 

#HateHasNoBizHere

#HateHasNoHomeHere

Next Attack on Workers – Will Conservatives Champion “Free Riding” to Justify It?

Building power through strength in numbers. It’s one way regular people can overcome opposition from corporate and wealthy special interests to win concrete improvements in our everyday lives.

We may not be able to match opponents who can write seven-figure checks dollar for dollar, but by banding together, articulating collective demands, and negotiating with powerful interests (whether corporate CEOs or elected leaders) from a place of shared strength, we can build the leverage to win changes that benefit our families and communities.

This – building strength in numbers and banding together to negotiate with power holders – is a core component of what community organizing is all about. It’s also a critical part of what unions do for the workers they represent in collective bargaining.

But now, the ability of unions – in particular, unions that represent teachers and other workers in public service – to help workers come together in collective bargaining to win better pay, benefits, and work environments is under threat in a case that will go before the U.S. Supreme Court in January.

The case is called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. It is, in a nutshell, a brazen attempt to overturn what has been a settled Supreme Court precedent since the 1977 Abood decision reaffirmed the right of public sector unions to collect “fair share” fees to cover the costs of collective bargaining.

The fact that the Center for Individual Rights (CIR), the rightwing legal shop leading the case, asked lower courts to rule against it without even presenting an argument underscores the drastic departure from the settled precedent they’re seeking.

On its website, CIR explains: “The speed with which the case moved through the lower courts reflected a deliberate litigation strategy. From the beginning, CIR argued that the lower courts do not have the authority to overturn existing Supreme Court precedent.”

We all have something at stake in this case – the teachers whose ability to band together and have a shared voice on the job is on the line; the students who benefit when their teachers negotiate for smaller class sizes; the local businesses that benefit from the middle class customer base teachers and firefighters and other public service workers represent.

But it’s also true that women and people of color have the most to lose from a bad decision in the Friedrichs case. Unions have won important gains toward gender and racial equity in the workplace; public sector unions in particular have created avenues into the middle class for people who have been systematically shut out and discriminated against, especially people of color.

It should not be too surprising, then, that CIR has counted among its benefactors not only a range of conservative funding conduits that are connected to the Koch political network, but also a group identified with white supremacist ideas.

Maybe one of the biggest ironies in this case, though, is how conservatives will have to tie their own professed values up in knots to argue their position. Because the whole case rests on creating a “free rider” problem – where people don’t pitch in their fair share to support the shared benefits they receive – for unions. The “free rider” idea stands in sharp contrast with conservative narratives about personal responsibility.

If CIR is to win, it will have to convince a majority on the Supreme Court that an organization should be forced to give the benefits of membership (like better deals through group bargaining power) to any individual without asking that individual to pitch in even a dime to support the bargaining the organization does on his or her behalf.

Here’s the thing: what if the organization in question wasn’t a union representing workers, but instead a business association – like, say, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce?

Would the U.S. Chamber stand for a legal ruling where any corporation could take advantage of the benefits of Chamber membership – like discounts on products and services, legal documents, business resources, or networking events – without pitching in even a dime to support the costs of securing those benefits?

Of course not. That’s a free rider problem the Chamber and other anti-worker business lobbies would get up in arms about in a hurry.

So here’s the bottom line – unless five justices on the Supreme Court are ready to stand up and argue the U.S. Chamber should have to give free lunch to any Fortune 500 “free rider” that wants it, they should dismiss the Friedrichs case for what it is: nonsense. Case closed.

This article was originally published by LeeAnn Hall in Huffington Post.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leeann-hall/next-attack-on-workers–w_b_8683766.html