Archive for September, 2014

This Changes Everything

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

By Bobby Righi 

“There is a willingness to sacrifice large numbers of people in the way we respond to climate change – we are already showing a brutality in the face of climate change that I find really chilling.…We are with full knowledge deciding to allow cultures to die, to allow peoples to disappear…. I think the profound immorality and violence of that decision is not reflected in the language that we have. We are not speaking about this with the language of urgency or mortality that the issue deserves.” Naomi Klein in Earth Island Journal, Fall 2013. 

Naomi Klein will be in Seattle on Sunday, September 28, at Town Hall at 7:30 p.m. as part of an international book tour to promote her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, that tackles the most profound threat humanity has ever faced: the war our economic model is waging against life on earth.

In the last couple of years Klein spoke to the founding meeting of a large, newly consilidated union in Canada; she was on the Bill Moyers show and visited survivors amidst the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. She has worked in support of the Idle No More movement of First Nations Peoples fighting for their lands.

Klein attended the Heartland Institute’s convention where climate change deniers rail against science, and she reported on scientific meetings like the December 2012 meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco where Brad Werner, a geophysicist from the University of California presented research that shows that our entire economic paradigm is a threat to ecological stability. He said that challenging this– through mass-movement – is humanity’s best shot at avoiding catastrophe.

This book promises to be a provocative challenge to our current economic model as well as to mainstream environmental groups. Klein has exposed the reformist behavior of some of the “Big Green” groups and the way they partner with fossil fuel corporations to smooth out concerns over climate change.

Naomi Klein emphasizes the need for collective action and solidarity: “The book I am writing is arguing that our responses to climate change can rebuild the public sphere, can strengthen our communities, can have work with dignity. We can address the financial crisis and the ecological crisis at the same time. I believe that. But I think it’s by building coalitions with people, not with corporations, that you are going to get those wins.” Earth Island Journal, Fall 2013.

What questions might we expect in her new book?

• Do we have to make sacrifices in order to fight climate change?

• How do we build solidarity among groups to insist on curbing the fossil fuels corporations’ power and force them to use their immense profits for the public good?

• How do we fight economic inequality at the same time as climate change and achieve full employment at a living wage?

• What does the incessant violence against young Black people and the heartless treatment of thousands of children seeking refuge along our border have to do with climate change?

• What can we do to repair the damage to the land, rivers, and oceans that has been caused by extractive industries?

• How can we work so as to put power into the hands of communities to develop and control alternative energy sources for the common good?

Naomi Klein may raise these questions and offer hopeful examples but it is up to us to work together here and now to achieve justice on a healthy planet.

Bobby Righi is a PSARA member and serves on PSARA’s Environmental Committee. 

Important Data Missing from This Year’s Social Security Trustees Report

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

By Steve Kofahl 

The Board of Trustees released the Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and Federal Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Funds on July 28, 2014, to the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate. The Trustees are the Secretaries of Treasury, Labor, and Health & Human Services; the (Acting) Commissioner of Social Security; and two public trustees appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

This year’s Report projected that the OASI Fund reserves will last until 2034, and the DI Fund reserves until 2016. Together, the OASDI Trust Fund reserves are good until 2033, the same projected date as in last year’s Report. Total Trust Fund reserves continue to grow, with growth projected through 2019, and were up to $2.764 trillion at the beginning of this year.

Congress needs to move some OASI reserves to the DI Fund, the kind of adjustment that has been done in the past with little controversy. The Social Security Disability program has been under attack by some in Congress this year, but there is little doubt that the needed adjustment will be made before 2016.

Because there was no change in the projections this year, there was not much controversy about the Report until August 6, when retirement expert Alicia Munnell wrote an article for MarketWatch titled “The case of the missing Social Security data”, and Michael Hiltzik of the LA Times followed-up two days later with “The mystery of the missing Social Security data.” These stories revealed that a Table which had appeared in every Annual report since 1989 was missing.

The missing Table concerns the Social Security benefit replacement rates. Replacement rates had previously been shown for those with earnings characterized as “very low”, “low”, “medium”, “high”, and “maximum.” Social Security benefits are calculated using a progressive formula with those with lower earnings having a higher percentage replaced by Social Security benefits than those with higher earnings. For example, the 2013 information showed that a low earning worker who retires at age 65 will receive about $10, 719 in 2015, replacing 53.2% of earnings, while a high earning worker will receive about $23, 435, replacing 32.7% of earnings. The data is important for use in individual retirement planning, and in guiding public policy regarding national pension plans.

Alicia Munnell views the deletion in 2014 as “the culmination of a concerted effort by a band of critics who argue that…the reported replacement rates grossly understate Social Security’s contribution to retirement income.” Hiltzik says that one of the goals of these critics is to “undermine a growing effort in Congress to increase and expand the program’s benefits.”

On August 19 I dropped-in on SSA’s Chief Actuary, who had responsibility for preparing most of the Report. I asked him why the Table did not appear in the Report. He said that the decision was made by the Trustees, and that he could not share their reason(s).

He pointed out that the missing Table is available at www.socialsecurity.gov/ OACT/NOTES/actnote.html. He also pointed out that the replacement rates are accurate, and meet international actuarial standards. The next day I sent a message to Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin, asking why the Table was not included this year. If I get a substantive response, I’ll let you know.

Steve Kofahl is President of AFGE 3937 and a memebr of PSARA’s Executive Board.

Protect Women’s Reproductive Choices

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

By Susan Levy, PSARA Outreach Vice President 

PSARA is joining with several organizations who have been working with Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell’s office on a strategy to address disparities in access to reproductive health care for low-income women. The Hyde Amendment, first passed by Congress in 1976, bans Medicaid coverage for abortion. Federal law also prohibits insurance coverage of abortion for women and their dependents who receive federally sponsored health care from the following: Medicare, the military health system (TRICARE), the Veterans’ Administration (VA), the Indian Health Service (IHS), federal prisons, and the Peace Corps.

Councilmember Harrell will be introducing a Seattle City Council resolution calling on the federal government to repeal restrictions on public insurance coverage of abortion such as the Hyde Amendment! This resolution is part of a national effort and will make explicit the City of Seattle’s stance that all women deserve equal access to reproductive health care.

PSARA views this issue as an important economic justice issue. We believe that all women deserve equal access to quality reproductive health care.

The tentative dates for action on this resolution are: 1. Hearing in Seattle Public Safety, Civil Rights & Technology Committee on Sept. 3, 2p.m., Seattle City Council Chambers; 2. Full council hearing on September 8, 2 p.m.

These dates may shift so if you want up-to-date information, email Susan Levy at outreachvp@psara.org or call the PSARA office, (206) 448-9646.

Familias Unidas por la Justicia (United Families for Justice)

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

By Robby Stern 

There is a battle being waged in the Skagit Valley. PSARA members have the opportunity to help some very brave farmworkers and their families.

Sakuma Brothers Farms is a multistate operation that provides berries and other products under their own brand name as well as sourcing some other brands. (Hagen Dasz berry ice creams and Driscoll’s berries) Their products are sold in many stores in the Puget Sound region.

Familias Unidas por la Justicia is a farmworkers’ union with over 450 indigenous Triqui and Mixteco farmworkers. It formed after a series of strikes which began on July 11, 2013, when a worker at Sakuma Brother was fired for demanding a higher piece rate. Last year there were six strikes during the berry harvest season. Many of the leadership and membership of Familias Unidas have worked for Sakuma Brothers for over a decade, some families contributing three generations of labor to Sakuma Brothers farm.

In 2013, farmworkers issued a list of 14 grievances/demands. Included were a higher piece rate that would allow workers to earn the minimum wage; stop using electronic scanners which led to under-payment of wages owed to the workers; payment of overtime per state and federal law; an end to practices which violate the Civil Rights Act and state laws against harassment and hostile work environments; and respect for the farmworkers who allege they are routinely called by racist slurs and treated with disrespect.

During negotiations with Familias Unidas in 2013, Sakuma promised there would be no reprisals against workers who went on strike and that a new piece rate would be set collaboratively. However, after the assurances were given, Sakuma sent private security forces to the labor camps. The security forces followed the workers on their public marches until a judge ruled that they were violating Washington State labor law.

Sakuma also refused to pay the piece rate to which they had agreed with Familias Unidas. After Sakuma broke what the workers considered a solemn promise concerning piece rates and ended their negotiations with the workers, Familias Unidas called for a boycott of Sakuma products.

Sakuma prepared for 2014 by hiring high priced lawyers, labor consultants, public relations consultants, and a private security force and began working on a strategy to displace over 440

workers that Familias Unidas por la Justicia has come to represent. In March 2014, the corporation applied for 438 guest workers under the H-2A guest worker program, claiming sufficient local labor was unavailable.

The U.S. Department of Labor found the Sakuma application deficient in multiple regards and Sakuma ultimately withdrew their application. Working members of Familias Unidas delivered letters to Sakuma indicating their wish to work. There simply was no shortage of local labor.

Additionally, this year Sakuma agreed to settle a wage and hour lawsuit with Familias Unidas instead of admitting guilt for systematic wage theft. Workers received $500,000 in wages they were owed.

A Skagit County judge found, this year, that Sakuma was retaliating against organizing workers by telling them they were ineligible to be re-hired for having missed five consecutive days of work – after the workers had gone on strike for six days. The judge ordered Sakuma to inform the workers they were able to apply for work this season.

Also this year, a Skagit County judge found that changes made to Sakuma’s housing policy were discriminatory and ruled that Sakuma could not close the labor camps to the families of farmworkers. Unfortunately, the judge’s ruling did not come until well into the strawberry season denying these workers and their families vital income.

According to the Familias Unidas web site, Sakuma Brothers Farms, Inc. is a $6.4 million a year earning corporation that has multiple layers of management and is one of several enterprises owned by the Sakuma family that earns upwards of $20 million a year. “The corporation has the ability to control their product from seed to market, making the firm more profitable than its local competitors who sell their berries to Sakuma processing plants. It is no longer a family farm, it is a powerful corporate player in the global economy.”

Sakuma Brothers continues to refuse to come to the table to negotiate a fair contract with Familias Unidas.

As recently as August 11, the labor dispute flared when Sakuma workers walked out to protest the firing of an employee who had been active in workplace organizing. Cornelio Ramirez, who has worked for Sakuma for nine years, was given five warnings for allegedly breaking farm rules and then he was fired. Ramirez says that most of the warnings were false, e.g. he was cited for not washing his hands which he said he did. Ramirez believes, and the union agrees, that he was fired for speaking out on behalf of workers.

The workers want a contract with Sakuma Brothers, and we can help them. We can support the boycott and make our support known to the retailers that carry Sakuma products.

For example, I belong to the Central Coop and they carry Driscoll berries. I ask them to contact Driscoll. The co-op indiacted they had already spoken with Driscoll and were not stocking berries sourced from Sakuma Brothers. There are many stores in the Puget Sound region that carry Sakuma products.

To learn what stores in your area carry Sakuma products you can go to boycottsakumaberries.com. We can help a little justice “rain down like a mighty stream”.

Retail Workers Ask the Mariners to Play Fair

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

By Elena Perez 

On August 14th at Safeco Field, the Puget Sound Business Journal honored the 85 finalists of their 2014 Washington’s Best Workplaces contest. Over 1,000 people cheered the winners of the Gold, Silver and Bronze awards. Safeco Field, home to the Seattle Mariners, is an ironic location for this celebration given the recent revelation by Mariners retail workers of chronic wage theft and labor law violations as well as the intimidation of those who seek to have a voice on the job.

Lily Hernandez, a 5-year employee with the Seattle Mariners, is a leader in this recent effort. Lily has risen through the Mariner retail ranks quickly and currently holds two positions, one as a supervisor. This year, for the first time, she needed to use her Paid Sick and Safe Leave, an ordinance passed in Seattle through the efforts of many organizations including PSARA and UFCW 21.

When Lily was not credited her sick time following her illness, she gave her boss the benefit of the doubt that it was a mistake. After asking directly to be compensated and being given the runaround, Lily did her research and found language highlighting the employer’s obligation to track and pay the leave. She also started asking her co-workers about their experience.

It became clear that, instead of isolated mistakes, the Seattle Mariners were guilty of widespread, systematic violations, including noncompliance with Seattle’s Sick and Safe Leave ordinance; noncompliance with the annual minimum wage increase; missed meal and rest breaks and other forms of wage theft, some dating back to 1999.

From that point on, Lily faced threats of discipline and other forms of retaliation for speaking out about her rights and educating coworkers. To ensure a strong, protected voice on the job, Lily and co-workers began organizing to join UFCW 21 which represents retail workers in the Puget Sound. The response was an aggressive anti-union campaign including mandatory meetings with management and escalated retaliation.

On July 29th, a broad community delegation led by Tim Burns, a PSARA Executive Board member and Mariner’s season ticket holder, delivered a letter signed by 18 community leaders to Jim Lashell, the Senior Director of Retail Operations. The community leaders demanded an end to the wage theft and respect for workers to unionize free of intimidation. We must remain prepared to rally again in support of Lily and her co-workers if management does not comply.

As the Mariners baseball team continues its quest for a playoff spot, perhaps the one award that the Seattle Mariners can claim now is the “#1 Example of Why We Need Strong Labor Law Enforcement in Seattle”. Winning $15 an hour, Paid Sick and Safe Leave, and Wage Theft Protections are great, but these victories are meaningless unless we actually enforce these important labor standards. The city should not be letting businesses that break the law, like the Seattle Mariners, off the hook. We must be prepared to rally in support of Lily and her co-workers if Mariner management fails to respond appropriately.

Additionally, there will be a demonstration at noon on September 19th at Seattle City Hall to demand stronger enforcement of city labor standards!

Elena Perez is a community organizer with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 21, and a PSARA member. 

Community delegation, including PSARA members, 

sends Mariners’ management a strong message. 

Aging in Place: Fixing a Hole in the Safety Net

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

By Mike Andrew 

“Aging in place” has become a fashionable catch-phrase for sociologists writing about seniors.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines the term as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.”

According to a 2012 National Livable Communities study, 90% of people over 65 would prefer to stay in their current residences as they age. Of course. Who wouldn’t?

And yet, our national healthcare system prevents many people from aging in place, because it does not provide longterm care for most seniors.

“You never really know about something,” the old saying goes, “till it happens to you.” And I got a crash course in the complications of aging in place this past winter.

Just before Christmas my 86-year-old mom had a bad fall at home. The fall stunned her, and she couldn’t raise herself up to get to the phone, so she lay there for hours until my brother – worried that she hadn’t answered his calls – came by to check on her.

She soon recovered from the effects of the fall, but the incident convinced her it was no longer safe for her to live on her own.

However, apart from her mobility issues, she’s pretty healthy. She doesn’t need hospitalization or skilled nursing care, she just needs someone to help her get in and out of bed, prepare food, wash clothes, and clean.

In that respect, she’s not much different from many seniors. In fact, my grandma – my mom’s mom – also required in-home care during the last years of her life. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 70% of Americans who are 65 today can expect to need longterm care services of some kind before they die.

Aging in place was relatively easy for my grandma. She originally bought our old house in San Francisco in 1946. After my parents married in 1950, they moved into the main part of the house, and my grandma moved into the in-law apartment downstairs. There was no reason she couldn’t remain there, and she was able to live out the rest of her long life in the same home she’d known for almost 40 years.

That wasn’t possible for my mom, however, and it’s even less possible for seniors who aren’t as well situated as she is.

My dad died relatively young, at 69. My mom has been living on the survivor benefits from his pension and Social Security. It’s not a lot of money, but it was enough so that my brother and I never had to worry that she couldn’t pay her bills and buy food.

Already that puts her in a better place than many workers nearing retirement age will be, because defined benefits pensions are becoming a thing of the past. And for many gay and lesbian seniors, we’d never even get Social Security survivor benefits, because until very recently we’ve been prevented from marrying our partners.

So my mom is fortunate. But not fortunate enough.

According to an analysis by Genworth Financial, a Fortune 500 insurance company, the yearly cost for a home health aide in California is $52,624, and the cost is predicted to increase by 2% every year. Costs in Washington State, by the way, are estimated to be about the same.

This is actually more than the median household income calculated by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Medicare paid for my mom’s hospitalization, physical therapy, and home care as she recovered from the injuries she sustained in her fall. But it won’t pay for a home health aide to provide the longterm assistance my mom needs for her day-to-day living.

Medicaid might pay for longterm care, but that program is designed mainly for patients who “are typically not in the condition or capable of aging in place,” and in any case Medicaid won’t kick in until an individual has exhausted their own financial resources.

What could we do? Reluctantly, my brother and I came to the conclusion that it was time to sell my mom’s house.

While she agreed, losing the home she’d been in for 60 years – and the accumulation of things in it – was traumatic for her. Like most seniors, she wanted to remain independent and in her own home.

Some of her things were valuable, some were not, but all of them had memories attached. This was a birthday present, that was a souvenir of an especially fondly-remembered vacation. There was even a cookbook her mother-in-law gave her right after her wedding, in hopes that she wouldn’t let my dad starve (she didn’t).

My mom now lives with my brother and his family in San Francisco, and she still keeps in touch with many of her old friends.

My brother and I have kept some of her things as mementos, but we each have our own accumulations of stuff and it just wasn’t possible to keep all the things that were meaningful to her.

Real estate prices in San Francisco have gone through the roof, and our old stucco rowhouse brought in one hundred times what my grandma paid for it in 1946, but that is the subject for another story.

Building the Road to a Better Future

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

By Mark McDermott 

In May and June, PSARA’s Education Committee sponsored two labor/ community workshops that brought together leaders from 35 labor and community-based organizations. We discussed our common ground of discontent and our shared values and vision for a better future. We also began to reflect on how our many organizations and movements might work together in more long-term strategic ways and present our shared vision and values more effectively in our many diverse communities.

At the end of the second workshop, many participants expressed the desire to keep these discussions going with greater focus. Several leaders offered to participate in planning next steps in this process. We are moving ahead with internal discussions about how to organize these discussions.

We recognize that we need to develop our own approach that reflects the economic, political and social realities in our region and state. At the same time, we want to identify and understand examples from across the country of permanent coalitions/alliances that have brought together many organizations and movements representing a wide range of diverse communities. Learning valuable lessons from their successes and failures can help us be more successful.

The following article focuses on the broad-based Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) People’s Assembly Coalition in North Carolina. Their website is http://www.hkonj.com/ In coming months we will have articles about other strategic coalitions/

alliances in other states. We will gain valuable insights into how we can build more sustainable permanent power in order to create a more just, equitable and sustainable future in our state, nation and world.

Moral Week of Action

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

“Announcing the Moral Week of Action: August 22-28!” says the headline on the HKonJ flyer, followed by an invitation to “Join us for seven consecutive days of action and a “Jericho March” at the North Carolina State Capitol to expose and challenge the destructive laws coming out of Raleigh.” It looks exciting; things are happening in North Carolina.

On the left, a schedule of activities lets the reader know what issues are going to be discussed/challenged daily from 8/22 (Labor Rights, Fair and Living Wages and Economic Justice) to 8/28 (Voting Rights: Vote Your Dreams, Not Your Fears Rally).

In between those days, issues will include Education and Criminal Justice, Equal Protection Under the Law, Youth and Women’s Rights, Medicaid Expansion, Heath Care and Environmental Justice.

These are the myriad issues that HKonJ(Historic Thousands on Jones Street) People’s Assembly has taken up in North Carolina, creating a wide tent in which all can feel comfortable.

HKonJ People’s Assembly hit the big time (nationwide) with their Moral Mondays street demonstrations in 2013. People outside of NC, including me, started paying attention. I was fascinated with what they were doing, but I had reservations.

* * *

When I was growing up in Hawaii, about nine or ten years old, my brother Ned came home one day telling the family that during the summer there was a free Daily Vacation Bible School that some of his friends were going to, and he wanted to attend also. “It’s free,” he said.

My mom said, “Well, if it’s free, why not?” My older sister Toki had reservations, but she didn’t overrule Mom.

After a few days of DVBS, Toki asked him, “Did you learn anything today?”

Said Ned, “Well, I learned that there were some bad people in the world.”

“What kind of bad people?” she asked.

“They don’t wear any clothes.”

“They’re bad because they don’t wear any clothes?”

“That’s what teacher said.”

“You are not going back to that school any more.”

And that was final. Toki had spoken.

The words “good,” and “bad,” were used for the little kids, but I knew what that teacher was thinking— “moral,” “immoral” for church folks. And anyone talking about morality and immorality really made me uneasy, even after learning about Freedom Churches, the revolutionary Jesus, and radical theology stuff.

* * *

In North Carolina, the very charismatic Convener of the People’s Assembly, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, appears to be very open, his words very inviting, and his use of “moral” refers more to what I think is “ethical” than a command from God. He makes a good case for a down to earth meaning of morality:

“We’re forcing a new conversation in the public arena that’s not Republican and Democrat, that’s not liberal versus conservative, but really is talking about what’s moral and immoral, what’s extreme and what’s bad policy. We say it like this: ‘It’s constitutionally inconsistent, it’s morally indefensible, and it’s economically insane,’” Rev. Barber said in an interview on Democracy Now! 

He’s also wrested control of the word “moral” from the many conservative Christian Churches who have for years used morality as a license for racism, segregation, and disregard and contempt for the rights of any non-white community/individuals.

* * *

The first People’s Assembly, Feb 2007, drew around 3,500 participants; growing steadily to 15,000 in 2013, but then in 2014 exploded to 80,000. Why the sudden spike?

One reason is that the “constitutionally inconsistent, the morally indefensible and the economically insane” had taken control of the 2013 North Carolina legislature (elected in 2012) and passed legislation that sent North Carolina back to Jim Crow days. Important voter gains such as early voting (In the 2008 and 2012 elections, 70% of black voters used early voting) were removed and voters needed to have photo ID (318,000 registered voters don’t have photo ID). Many of the voters do not have cars, so there’s no reason to have a driver’s license, and getting a photo ID to vote was made more difficult.

In addition, gerrymandering after the 2010 election, and the influence of $2 million from one person, Art Pope, into the 2012 election campaign helped Tea Party candidates win a majority in the Governor’s race and State House and Senate races.

As the state legislature increasingly targeted women’s, LGBT, and all civil rights except those of white men, more moderate Republicans became more active in the Moral Mondays. There was no other place to go.

The real staying power of the People’s Assembly will be tested in the coming elections in 2 ½ months. They will need to fight money and voter challenges in court, and rely on turning out the vote. And if they don’t win in 2014, how they respond will also tell us how strong they are. Or we may know by the end of August after their Moral Week of Action.

This is just how Struggle works: Forward Together, Not One Step Back.

How is HKonJ related to what PSARA is doing?

PSARA’s education committee is looking at paths taken by groups in different states trying to establish a permanent coalition to take on corporate America that now controls the oligarchy running our country.

HKonJ is one of those groups, and since groups in other states have asked for advice about building similar movements, HKonJ has a 12-step recommendation “for anyone looking to use the Moral Monday frame in their own communities.”

The basic message of the 12-step plan is: develop an agenda that resonates with your own state, emphasize the moral imperative, and develop homegrown leadership. You can’t import the movement from somewhere else.

Obviously, you need to build a long-term coalition, and the last one of 12 steps is:

12. Resist the “One Moment Mentality”—We are building a movement.

Bob Shimabukuro is Associate Editor of the Retiree Advocate. Mark McDermott is PSARA Education Chair. Both serve on PSARA’s Executive Board. 

The Tax Code Is Rigged

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

By Elizabeth Warren, Reprinted from Reader Supported News 

Huge corporations hire armies of lawyers and lobbyists to create, expand, and protect every last corporate loophole.

That’s how we end up with a tax code that makes teachers and bus drivers and small business owners pay, but that allows some huge American corporations to make billions of dollars and not pay a single dime in taxes.

Simply put, the tax code is rigged.

Apparently, even this rigged game doesn’t go far enough for some corporations. Those companies are taking advantage of a new move: a loophole that allows them to maintain all their operations in America, but claim foreign citizenship so they can cut their US taxes even further.

That means American companies can hire a bunch of lawyers and Wall Street bankers, fill out some paperwork, and dodge their US taxes.

Tax lawyers call this process a “corporate inversion.” But don’t let that bland name fool you – these companies are renouncing their American citizenship, turning their backs on this country, simply to boost their profits.

If a person did that, we’d call them a freeloader and insist that they pay their fair share. And that’s exactly what our tax laws do for people who renounce their American citizenship. But when corporations do it, they don’t suffer any consequences at all.

Forget whether corporations are people – in this corner of the tax code, we’re treating corporations better than people.

That’s not right. That’s why I’ve teamed up with Senator Levin and more than a dozen of our Democratic colleagues to introduce the Stop Corporate Inversions Act. The bill is simple: it allows American corporations to renounce their citizenship only if they truly give up control of their company to a foreign corporation and truly move their operations overseas.

In Massachusetts and across the country, we invest in public education to produce millions of skilled workers. We invest in infrastructure, in our roads and bridges and ports, making it easier for our companies to move products to market. We invest in scientific and medical research, giving our companies access to the most innovative and cutting-edge technologies.

America is a great place to do business because of the investments we have made together. We invest together to make America a place where any kid will have a chance to come up with an idea and turn it into the next great American company.

The companies that are pursuing these corporate inversions know all of this. That’s why they are not actually leaving America behind. They just don’t want to pay for it.

Our achievements aren’t magic. They didn’t simply happen on their own or through dumb luck. America works – our government works – our democracy works – because we all pitch in and do our part to build the things that none of us can build alone. The things that give everyone a chance to succeed.

We’ve had enough of rich corporations taking whatever they want and expecting everyone else to pick up the pieces. The time for freeloading is over.

“These companies are renouncing their American citizenship, turning their backs on this country, 

simply to boost their profits.” 

Why I’m Up in Arms about Hobby Lobby

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

By Roberta Riley 

I’m ticked off with Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and four of his brethren. The nerve of those guys! In the recent, fiercely divided 5-4 Hobby Lobby decision, they ruled that one man’s belief is more important than a woman’s facts. Bosses now get to interfere with their female employees’ personal decisions about birth control.

Essentially, five men determined that discrimination against women isn’t discrimination at all. They’ve all but condemned our daughters to decades of legal battles over access to basic birth control.

Adding insult to injury, they failed to even acknowledge a century’s worth of medical evidence that birth control is crucial to the health of women. That is equivalent to spitting on our grandmothers’ graves.

Yes, I’m ticked off. But I’m not the least bit surprised. For me, reading the Hobby Lobby decision felt like déjà vu.

It brought back the moment, a few years ago, when I stood at the podium of a federal courtroom, representing a group of women who simply wanted their employer to cover birth control in the company health plan.

I had just begun introducing the undisputed science that, without birth control, the average woman would become pregnant about 12 to 15 times. But as soon as those words crossed my lips, one judge snorted, cut me off, and smugly proclaimed, “All the women I know just love being pregnant.”

Until that moment, I’d never, in 20 years of practicing law, heard a judge say something so prejudiced.

As one would guess, he ruled against us. Never mind the fact that my clients’ employer covered every other prescription under the sun, including Viagra. Clearly, that judge knew what was best for women. We “just love” perpetually cycling between vomit, varicose veins, weight gain and labor pain, right ladies?

That judge seared into me, once and for all, that evidence is a dull blade to take into a knife fight for reproductive freedom. For the next quarter century our nation’s highest courts will be dominated by men, like him, who are deeply biased against women’s autonomy.

And the far right is taking full advantage. The bosses of over 40 large companies, aside from Hobby Lobby, are now bringing federal lawsuits to deprive women of birth control.

Such an enormous investment in lawsuits defies all medical evidence, business judgment or common sense. If these bosses are truly acting out of faith-based opposition to abortion, why, pray tell, do they want to rob women of every method to prevent unwanted pregnancy? They’re not exercising religion. They’re exercising phobia.

The good news is we can spare our daughters the endless legal battles ahead. Congress can right the wrong the Court is inflicting on women.

We must press our leaders to pass the Not My Boss’ Business Act, which was introduced recently by Senator Patty Murray. If enacted, this measure would reverse the faith over fact Pandora’s Box that Hobby Lobby has opened, and ensure that employers cover all birth control methods, with zero co-pay.

Unlike the Justices, every member of Congress must face the voters this fall. We have the power to vote them out of office if they fail to put our health needs first.

Roberta Riley is a PSARA member. This article first appeared on Roberta Riley’s blog for Mom’s Rising