Archive for February, 2013

Stop the Big Rip-off and Rebuild the American Dream

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

By Mark McDermott, Chair PSARA Education Committee 

As a working class kid in the 1960’s, the rules of life seemed simple. For my parents, work hard, play by the rules, pay your taxes, share fairly in the wealth you create at work and have a secure retirement. For me, they were study hard, play by the rules, get an affordable college education, and reach for dreams beyond those of my parents.

This was the core of the American Dream although many still lacked full access to it because of racism, sexism and other barriers.

Today, these rules no longer work well. Consider the following: Between 1930 and 1975, working people earned 57% of the national income through wages and salaries. By 2010, they only earned 50%. This 7 percentage point difference is $950 billion. If the 96 million households with the lowest incomes got that $950 billion back, their incomes would rise by an average of $10,000.

Anybody opposed to a return to the good old days, when working people got closer to their fair share? Let’s organize to take back the $950 billion!

For the college kids today, they now owe over $1 trillion in student loan debt. Affordable college and reaching for their dreams has gotten awful hard.

reach for their dreams and much more. Wanting is good but making it happen is better.

Many of us have partial solutions. Repeal Citizens United. Raise taxes on the rich. Get big money out of politics. Labor law reform. Strengthen the safety net. Repeal corporate personhood. Preserve Social Security and Medicare. Fix Congress. Tax reform. End persistent race and gender discrimination. Make education more affordable. The list is long.

It isn’t hard to build a comprehensive list. What is hard is drawing strong connections between these badly needed reforms and laying out how we will achieve them.

Here is a framework to make these key connections and refine our strategies to educate and organize for a brighter future for all. These are the six levels of struggle:

  1. Ensure fair elections which express the will of the people
  2. Make and enforce laws which serve the people and promote justice for all
  3. Create and share fairly in the wealth we produce at work
  4. Raise adequate levels of taxes fairly and require everyone to pay what they owe
  5. Provide real affordable quality education for everyone
  6. Strengthen our safety net for everyone to meet their basic needs

A simple exercise is to take your list of reforms and put them in the six categories. But how are they connected and how do we win all of these reforms?

Let’s use a specific example.

I assume you agree that the $950 billion decline in working people’s share of the national income is a big problem. It is hard to imagine a working household that could not use the money.

What are some of the major impacts of this $10,000 loss per household? It is harder to pay the mortgage or rent, buy a house, send your kids to college, save for retirement and more.

Wow! Pass the Prozac or a bottle of whiskey. Reality is not good. What to do with these growing long-term systemic sources of injustice? We want our $950 billion back, our kids to be able to reach for their dreams and much more. Wanting is good but making it happen is better.

So let’s sum up. When we lose the ability to demand our fair share at work (Level 3), we have a harder time sending our kids to college (Level 5). We will need more of the safety net (Level 6) and additional tax revenues will be needed (Level 4).

Let’s change the rules to restore fairness at work and the right to organize unions so we can get our fair share (Level 2). This will reduce pressure on the bottom four levels. But wait, how do we elect leaders who will serve our interests and not those of corporate America and the wealthy? (Level 1).

We working people and our allies must overcome the power of entrenched money in elections and then elect people who will make and enforce laws barring the influence of the wealthy.

So how will we gain the economic and political power to get our $950 billion back? We support unions when they are under attack and when they are organizing new members. As a community, we organize economically and politically to ensure our elected leaders will change the laws in our interest. We can do this just as our ancestors did before us.

To be continued…

Check out my new website on reclaiming the American Dream: .

Caring Across Generations: What will 2013 bring?

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

By Susie Levy and Araceli Hernandez 

Our Caring Across Generations campaign has made huge headway in Washington and across the country this past year. Last February 11th, Seattle hosted our Care Congress, a town-hall event, with over 200 people at the Greenwood Senior Center. We began the conversations, story-sharing and movement building that has propelled our campaign forward.

At its core, Caring Across Generations is talking about respect and dignity. We all deserve respect and dignity, and we have the capacity to receive it in our homes. Caring Across Generations seeks to transform care in this country by moving federal legislation to create 2 million new, quality jobs in home care; improve access to affordable care and support services; develop career advancement models and a path to citizenship for domestic and home care workers.

Here in Washington, 2013 will be the first year that we take our campaign to Olympia! Please mark your calendars and plan to join us on March 28th for lobby day, were we will be talking to our lawmakers about how we can transform care in Washington state by:

  • implementing Medicaid expansion and the Basic Health Option
  • restoring home care services previously cut
  • updating our Family and Medical Leave Insurance program and granting paid sick days to all workers in Washington
  • protecting immigrant rights

It will be a wonderful day to connect with people from across constituencies, generations, and the state!

We know this is a long-term campaign, and see 2013 as a year of opportunity to continue to build our movement. We will continue to fight to protect and expand Medicaid, Medicare and Social

Security, and will also be demanding comprehensive immigration reform, supporting the caregivers and domestic workers whose own families and security are threatened by separation every day. Having gained the support of Senators Cantwell and Murray, we will begin to take our campaign to our congressional representatives.

By respecting our seniors enough to protect and expand the systems that allow them to remain at home, we care across generations. By ensuring the rights of people with disabilities to live in their own homes, we care across ability. By working together we care across the divisions that inhibit our nation’s progress.

Susie Levy is lead organizer for Washington State Caring Across Generations and Washington Community Action Network. Araceli Hernandez is Program Director for Casa Latina. Both are PSARA members. 

Local Progress: Towards a National Municipal Network

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

By Nick Licata, Seattle City Council and a PSARA member 

Urbanized areas of 50,000 or more people account for 71% of nation’s population. Many of the most exciting, innovative and progressive legislative initiatives emanate from these cities. And yet, I have found that while serving on the Seattle City Council for 15 years, there is no national network connecting elected public officials to exchange and promote progressive legislation.

In March of 2012, 30 people representing a handful of cities and a dozen national grassroots organizations met to discuss the need for creating a progressive national municipal network. Representatives from Progressive Majority and the national office of SEIU encouraged the elected officials there to pursue this effort. With the additional assistance from the Center for Popular Democracy, we met again in November.

At that meeting 41 elected officials from 32 towns and large cities, including three other Washington State municipal officials, Greg Taylor from Renton, Ryan Mello from Tacoma and De’Sean Quinn from Tukwila, came together and founded a new national organization, Local Progress, a national municipal policy network www.

Our goal is to create more just and equitable cities to counter the increasing disparity in income and wealth that our nation has been experiencing. We have seen huge cuts in programs designed to maintain infrastructure, provide basic health and safety services, and sustain local economies. These regressive policies do not happen by accident. They are reinforced by the growing influence of money in politics, through groups that work in a coordinated way to weaken health and safety regulations, roll back civil rights, lower taxes on moneyed interests, and demonize, privatize, and eliminate public programs and services.

In many cities there is a counterforce: progressives working in coalitions of elected officials, community groups, labor unions, and advocacy organization. Working together, we have adopted legislation at the local level to advance progressive policies. Living-wage laws make sure that public dollars don’t pay for poverty jobs. Cities, like Seattle, are leading the effort to make sure that all workers can take paid sick days, instead of choosing between their jobs and their health. Inclusionary housing policies create affordable housing in diverse neighborhoods. Responsible banking acts make sure that banks use the people’s money to meet community needs. Municipal campaign finance reforms return government to the people.

The success of Local Progress depends on three elements working together: elected officials, national progressive organizations and a useable, reliable database of municipal legislation. City Councilmembers and Mayors pass legislation, organizations mobilize citizens and a database allows both of these groups to share information and to find one another to pursue coordinated campaigns.

As the new chair of this organization I look forward to sustaining this effort and producing results.

A Break for Working Families

Monday, February 4th, 2013

By Marilyn Watkins

Washington’s legislature could provide working families a break they need this winter. The Work and Family Coalition is backing a pair of bills that will build economic security, lay strong foundations for our children, and improve health and well-being for all Washingtonians from infancy through old age.

Even before the great recession hit, a car accident, cancer diagnosis, baby who comes too early, parent’s stroke, or bout of flu could too often lead to a family economic crisis. Despite some gains over the past two decades, workplace standards just haven’t kept up with the realities of today’s families. Most workers have only a few days or weeks of paid leave available to deal with health needs – and some have none at all.

The Work and Family legislation will protect all workers and their families, while helping businesses thrive – and even save the state some money.

Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FMLI) will protect workers during the handful of times throughout their careers when they need an extended period of time off. With the insurance, workers will receive two-thirds of their usual weekly wage for up to 12 weeks for their own serious health condition, and 12 weeks to care for a new child or seriously ill family member.

Washington adopted the beginnings of FMLI in 2007, but the legislature failed to authorize funding and postponed implementation during the Great Recession. Now the Work and Family Coalition is proposing a stronger system financed by workers and their employers, each paying small payroll premiums that would start at about $1.00 a week each for someone earning $50,000 annually.

Complementing FMLI are earned sick leave standards that will assure most employers provide a few days of paid sick leave annually. With earned sick days, workers no longer risk penalties and lost pay when they act responsibly by staying home sick or with a sick child.

Seattle, San Francisco, Washington, DC, and Connecticut have already successfully implemented paid sick days standards. New Jersey, California, New York, Rhode Island, and Hawaii have had insurance systems for decades protecting every worker in those states with benefits for more extended leaves.

Studies have found that in the states with family and medical leave insurance, parents take longer leaves with their new babies, babies and moms are healthier, mothers are more likely to be employed a year after giving birth – and states save money on public assistance and food stamps.

Employers benefit from FMLI and earned sick days, too, with healthier workers, higher morale, and less turnover.

Our legislature is facing big issues this session: continuing budget deficits, unmet needs in education, escalating healthcare costs, an aging population, and an economy still on the rocks. The

Our legislature is facing big issues this session: continuing budget deficits, unmet needs in education, escalating healthcare costs, an aging population, and an economy still on the rocks. The Work and Family Agenda helps solve some of these problems by boosting family income, enabling workers to provide better care for themselves and their family members, giving every child the chance of a good start in life, and providing businesses new tools for insuring worker health and productivity.

These are proven, common sense policies, but supporters of the status quo have powerful lobbies. We will only win if your legislators hear from YOU. Sign up for regular updates at, follow Washington Work and Family Coalition on Facebook, and volunteer to share your story in Olympia by contacting

Marilyn Watkins is Research Director, Economic Opportunity Institute and a PSARA member

CASA Latina: Partners for the next generation

Monday, February 4th, 2013

By Araceli Hernandez—Program Director at Casa Latina and a PSARA member

For the past year and a half, PSARA has joined forces with CASA Latina in Seattle to build the Caring Across Generations Campaign. CASA Latina members have learned so much from our collaboration and the relationships we are building, and we wanted to share with you a bit more about CASA Latina.

CASA Latina was founded in 1996, with the mission of empowering the Latino community through education and employment opportunities. CASA Latina has many different programs, though we are most known for our Day Worker Center, which connects employers with day laborers and domestic workers. CASA Latina members come to the workers’ center each morning, and while they wait for work, they have the opportunity to take English classes and participate in vocational and safety trainings.

This February, we will be launching our first training for private-pay care givers, responding to the needs that we have found through our involvement with Caring Across Generations.

In addition to employment and educational programs, CASA Latina is building a powerful base of workers, organizing to stop wage theft, demand immigration reform, and transform care in the US.

One of the most powerful roles CASA Latina plays is preparing trained and competent workers for employers to hire. If you ever need help in your yard, or someone to clean your house, please call CASA Latina to hire a worker!

To hire a worker, call 206-956-0779. To learn more about our care giver training, call Veronique (ext 119).