NC NAACP President Key Note Speaker For NC State Wide Fast Food Worker Strike

2006-12-01 14.20.14

NC NAACP President, William Barber III, was a speaker at the August 24th March on Washington hosted by Reverend Al Sharpton and the National Action Network (NAN). I finally was able to catch up with Reverend Barber even though I had to go to Washington, DC to do it. Reverend Barber has been the catalyst in organizing Moral Monday protest, and since the North Carolina General Assemble is not in session, he has been taking Moral Monday Protest on the road.

Moral Monday protest have been planned for 13 cities all around the state to help organizer create awareness and unity on the multitude of issues facing North Carolinians. I had the opportunity to ask Reverend Barber about the Republican Board of Election in Elizabeth City possibly setting a precedent that will prevent college students in campus housing from voting.

Reverend Barber said, “It’s Wrong…It’s wrong! Whatever they do that violates people constitutional rights, they will be filling lawsuits to seek redress in the court.” For more information on the 13 city Moral Monday tour, you can visit the NC NAACP website at www.naacpnc.org.

However, Reverend Barber is on a different mission today as he provides the key note speech supporting a state-wide strike by fast food workers.  According to the NC NAACP Facebook Event Page:

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II will be giving the keynote speech at the Fast Food Workers Strike for Good Jobs and Freedom on August 29th. Workers from over 60 fast food restaurants across the state will go on strike on the 29th to demand a living wage. No one can survive on $7.25/hr.

Dr. Barber and the NC NAACP stand in solidarity with these courageous fast food workers and we call on the Forward Together Movement to join us. We will gather at Martin St. Baptist Church at 1001 E. Martin St. in Raleigh at 3:30 and march together through downtown Raleigh. Dr. Barber will speak following the march.

Photos by Deona Hooper, MSW

NC Teachers Run A How To Organize Clinic at Final Moral Monday Protest

We all have seen by now the organizing ability of teachers in the Chicago Public School system (CPS). When necessary, they have quickly immobilized and activated to action large numbers of teachers to protest and strike. Until yesterday, I wrongly assumed that this type of solidarity and advocacy could only be wheeled by a unionized organization.

However, the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) proved at the Final Moral Monday Protest 2013 that they have perfected a model which should be replicated by other public sector employees in states preventing unionization. NC teachers led the way by pushing the total of Moral Monday protesters to over 10,000 people in attendance. In the picture above, NC teachers and allies are identified by those wearing red or with red balloons.

While at the rally, I had the opportunity to speak with two public school teachers who explained the issues facing NC teachers. Latisha Best who has been teaching for 12 years and Carolina Schubert with 7 years, both stated they were at Moral Monday to protest against increased class size, lack of pay increases, and privatization of public education. Currently, the Republican led legislature is making efforts to remove 50 million dollars from public education to be used for private school vouchers while there is an existing court order preventing a for profit company, K12, Inc., from implementing a 6,000 student virtual charter school.

If I was the leader of a grassroots organization, I would be contacting the NCAE to find out how to replicate their model in preparation for Moral Monday 2014. Yesterday’s rally may have been the final Moral Monday for this legislative session, but this is only the beginning heading into the 2014 mid-term elections.

As a social worker, I wished that my profession was out there with equal force as teachers protesting the denial of health care for many North Carolinians as a result of our state government refusal to accept federal Medicaid Expansion funding. High unemployment rates, right to work laws, and low paying jobs are causing middle class and working poor North Carolinians to rely more on a social safety net that is quickly eroding. If we do not help each other organize, collaborate, and share resources for collective impact, the model that this Republican led legislature is creating will be implemented across the nation.

We are not just fighting for our children in North Carolina, but we are fighting for children and families in Red States all across America. Join us on Twitter for a Live Chat using the hashtag #SWunited on August 1, 2013, Thursday at 8PM EST, to discuss What We Can Learn moving forwards to Moral Monday 2014. Questions for the discussion can be tweeted in advance to the moderator @swhelpercom, and information on how to participate in a live twitter chat can be found via https://swhelper.org/chat-formatrules/.

Moral Monday Showdown is Just Getting Started

by Deona Hooper, MSW

IMG_0429During the 2012 election, I remember riding in my middle class neighborhood seeing all the Mitt Romney for President and Pat McCrory for Governor signs. It was believed that Republicans would make a sweep in the North Carolina State election, and they did. It was clear to me then that many Republicans continue to vote against their own interest. However, the con game that Republicans have played on their middle class and poor constituents has served as the catalyst and growth for Moral Monday Protests.

In last year’s Presidential election, North Carolina was the only battleground state that did not implement voter id laws, but it was not from the lack of trying. Mitt Romney won North Carolina in a slim 51 to 49 percent split over President Obama. Many North Carolinians believe these numbers were reflective of a southern state making progressive movement towards equality and fairness. However, the North Carolina Republicans who came into power has proved this is not the case.

The 51 percent of North Carolinians, who helped vote them into power under the guise of jobs and smaller government, are now regretting their decision. The super majority Republican led legislature is no longer instituting policies that only affect welfare recipients and the impoverished. They have done an outstanding job at offending everyone who fall outside the top two percent tax bracket.

Republican blogger in the Raleigh News and Observer writes:

There was a time when I would have groaned with disgust at the coverage of the tumultuous Moral Monday protests. As a conservative activist and blogger (and registered Republican), my feet remain firmly planted on the right, but I have become surprisingly sympathetic to the passionate protesters who gather every week in Raleigh.

What changed? Last October I lost my job of 19 years and officially became a deadbeat. Now, Gov. Pat McCrory has never used that word officially to my knowledge, but he did remark, while campaigning in 2012, that filing for unemployment is “too easy.” Read Full Article by David Bozeman

Mr. Bozeman’s sense of compassion for Moral Monday Protest seemed to develop after GOP policies began to affect him and his ability to collect unemployment. North Carolina is the first and only state to disqualify itself from receiving federal unemployment benefit funds. This moved cause over 71,000 people to instantly lose benefits effective June 30, 2013 while those who remained eligible for benefits experienced drastic cuts to their weekly payout. Amazingly, North Carolina government decided to make these changes while having the fifth highest unemployment rate in the country.

In their first six months of power, Republicans have rolled North Carolina’s progress back decades with repealed and  new right wing laws relating to voting, education, fracking, taxes, abortion, and civil rights to name a few. On July 22, 2013, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and regular contributor to Social Work Helper was one of the speakers at yesterday’s rally.

“The Southern Coalition for Social Justice believes that recent state redistricting laws – as well as the General Assembly’s recent proposals to restrict the right to vote — violate both the State and U.S. Constitution. We will fight these laws all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. But at the end of the day it is individuals like you, standing together for your rights, that create change.” –Anita Earls, Executive Director, Southern Coalition for Social Justice to Moral Monday protesters

From my observation at the rally, Moral Mondays are waking people up from the backroom deals traditionally made by our elected officials which have in the past remained unnoticed. I saw people from all different backgrounds both young and old coming together to fight injustice. Churches were protesting along side organizations such as Durham People’s Alliance, NARAL Pro-Choice NC, and Equality NC. It appears that everyone is beginning to understand that it is going to take a collective effort to prevent our State from being ruined and ruled by the few.

Republican cuts to education is creating awareness on the political process to a new generation of voters. What appears to be insanity from the right is actually assisting baby boomers from the Civil Rights Era in teaching activism to today’s generation. Also while at the protest, I had the opportunity to talk with a group of students from Durham, North Carolina, and this is what they had to say:

Durham NC Student U (L to R) Jalan Bowling, Tabitha Ruffin, LaTosha Ruffin, Tiffany Ruffin, Jamaire Bowling, Ben Coreas
Durham NC Student U (L to R) Jalan Bowling, Tabitha Ruffin, LaTosha Ruffin, Tiffany Ruffin, Jamaire Bowling, Ben Coreas

This was our first Moral Monday that we attended and we honestly didn’t know what to expect. From this inspirational experience, we realized that we all have different beliefs, but at the end of the day,we stand up for what’s right. We learned that everyone has their own opinion (such as protesting against racial justice, equal rights, education, voting and many others) and that they have the right to express what they feel. We saw that they will do whatever it takes to stand up or sit down for what they believe in. We really enjoyed this protest and we all found it very inspirational. We know that when we feel that something isn’t right, we know that we need to stand up and say what we believe. NO MATTER WHAT others who don’t agree say!  We ARE Student U!  ~Tosha Ruffin

When people ask me if the Republicans are winning, I simply say regression is necessary. We have benefited from an era of prosperity as a result of those who died to get the rights we take for granted. There is more concentrated wealth and resources within minority communities than when our ancestors fought for equal rights. We are by no means powerless in achieving desired outcomes. However, we must have collective collaboration in order to achieve collective impact.

At this present time, North Carolina is trying to privatize education, make it easier to buy a gun than vote, destroy our environment with deregulation and fracking, and the list goes on.  However, Moral Monday Protesters have demonstrated they are in this for the long haul and not just to the end of this legislative session. The current total of Moral Monday arrests are now over 900 with over 70 protesters arrested yesterday.

I had the opportunity to see Reverend Barber address the people, and my hope is that more leaders in our churches especial in minorities communities begin to stand with him. As Rev. Barber says: We Fight! We Fight! We Fight!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCgRx9cWt1o&list=UUeBaVCo1Abl6J-g5E1x080w[/youtube]

Photo Credit: Deona Hooper

Wealth Inequality: Is the Government Controlled By The Elite?

wealth_inequality

Public policy is simply an attempt by the government to address a public issue, and how issues become public policy issues are up for debate.  Many people feel that the political world is made up of Private Corporations buying politicians in order for them to promote corporate interest above the interest of the American people. Many believe this power imbalance towards the elite has skewed wealth inequality further than what most Americans actually believe it is. How is this possible?

According to Leighninger and Popple in Social Work, Social Welfare, and American Society, the public choice model represents the vast majority of political participants such as voters, candidates, legislators, interest groups, parties, campaigners, and bureaucracies all are seeking their own goals of interest.

They further explain that the interests of politicians and bureaucrats are to win elections. However, the interests of voters and interest groups are to know what policies affect them and their lives. This seems to create an intricate dance for the politician balancing his/her interest against the voters and other groups who put them in elected office for the protection of their respective interests.

Leighninger and Popple also explain the existence of an elitist model that influences the political process. Proponents of this view assert that public policy and social issues are being crafted at the hands of a small group of people, also known as, the one percent. This model is comprised of the wealthiest one percent of citizens, and it suggests the pyramid of power where policies are made at the top will have a trickle down effect rather than competing groups debating policy requiring mutual compromise and gains.

The attached video is about a study conducted by a Harvard Economist on what the public’s perception of wealth distribution in America looks like. The study also asked over 5,000 participants what wealth distribution in America should look like, but what Americans were not prepared for was what wealth distribution in America actually is.

References:
Popple, P. R., & Leighninger, L. (2008). The Policy Based Profession (4th ed., pp. 122-123). Boston: Person Education Inc.

North Carolina Unemployment Changes Leave Residents Without Safety Net

unemployment-applicationAfter North Carolina’s Unemployment law took effect this weekend, North Carolina is the first state to disqualify itself from a federal long term unemployment program. The North Carolina Unemployment changes, adopted and signed into law by Governor McCrory in February, were to help accelerate the repayment of debt owed to the federal government. North Carolina has the third highest federal debt in the country, $2.5 Billion, and will now be paid back three years ahead of schedule, but at what cost?

North Carolina has the fifth highest jobless rate in the nation, with unemployment above the national average in the majority of its 100 counties. With the new changes to the law, unemployment benefits will last a mere 12-15 weeks and on top of that, the maximum benefits receivable per week is dropping from $535 to $350. It is the reduction of weekly benefits that is responsible for disqualifying approximately 170,000 North Carolina residents from long term jobless funds from the federal government.

The federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program (EUC) kicks in after a state’s designated period of unemployment runs out, in North Carolina, this was previously 6 months. The EUC money is available to jobless in every state, however, a requirement for a state to qualify is that states cannot cut the average weekly benefits of recipients. The North Carolina legislature has cut weekly benefits starting July 1st by around $185.

The disqualification of the 170,000 workers from EUC funds means a loss of $700 million dollars, for those workers and their families. On top of the shortened compensation period for state unemployment, the reduced benefits, and the stricter requirements to qualify for the program, many jobless residents are going to be out of luck.

Ideally, this plan will accelerate the payment of the state’s debt to the federal Government having it entirely paid of by 2015, and not cost North Carolina companies an extra $21 per year per employee until the debt is paid. This legislation was designed and backed by the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, their top lobbyist called the situation unfortunate but said “You’ve got to pick a point in time where you solve the problem. They picked a point in time that allowed us the most time to pay the debt as quickly as we can…”

An Associated Press Article by Emery P. Dalesio on the changes included profiles of  North Carolinians who will personally be affected by the changes in the unemployment law. The section about one of those individuals is below:

“Lee Creighton, 45, of Cary, said he’s been unemployed since October, and this is the last week for which he’ll get nearly $500 in unemployment aid. He said he was laid off from a position managing statisticians and writers amid the recession’s worst days in 2009 and has landed and lost a series of government and teaching jobs since then — work that paid less half as much. His parents help him buy groceries to get by.

“I’m just not sure what I’m going to do,” said Creighton, who has a doctorate. “What are we to do? Is the state prepared to have this many people with no source of income?”

These cuts to unemployment are not only going to have devastating effects on the individual workers losing the benefits, but it will have devastating effects on their families as well. Last year a national report published by the Urban Institute and First focus estimated that 1 in 10 North Carolina children have at least one unemployed parent. NC Policy Watch discussed the report in a piece published on April 3rd, 2013.

As the report highlights, the effects of parental job loss on children can be severe. Economic stress links to parents’ responses to their children and children’s well being. And studies of unemployment and family income show that poverty increases sharply among the long-term unemployed. The adverse effects of children living in poverty can last well into adulthood. – See more here

The number of children with at least 1 unemployed parent increases by 140%.

Opponents of the unemployment changes include state labor groups, democratic representatives, and the North Carolina NAACP. They would like to have had the cuts delayed until the federal program runs out, but the Governor and republican controlled legislature refused. The federal EUC program expires in January. The delay may have given North Carolina workers and families time to prepare for the devastating cuts.  However, supporters of the enacted changes say the sooner the federal debt is re-payed the sooner the legislature can develop a long term solution for North Carolina’s unemployed. Until that solution comes, thousands of North Carolinians are going to find themselves without work and without a safety net.

150 People Arrested in North Carolina During Moral Monday Protest

On June 3, 2013, more than 150 people were arrested at the North Carolina’s State Legislature on what has been deemed “Moral Mondays”. Citizens from around the country has been flocking to the state’s capital for protest rallies on the radical legislation being passed that overwhelming affect vulnerable populations while at the same time increasing tax benefits for the state’s richest families. Moral Monday arrest total is now over 300 people being arrested from peaceful protest.

censorshipNancie Carmody once said the complaining she hears about our government gives her comfort because it’s a sign we have freedom of speech.  What does this mean when our government begins to censor our opinions?  Are dissenting opinions not important? Will North Carolina continue to arrest people who don’t agree with them who are exercising their first amendment rights of free speech and assembly?

I was reading some posts online about the ongoing political movement in North Carolina where citizens are protesting the radial legislation by the Republican led legislature.

As I came to Senator Jerry Tillman’s Facebook page, I began reading many of what I felt to be misconceptions about the consequences of the current legislation on our state which was pointed out politely so in the comments section.  I checked back later to realize that my comments had been deleted and I was unable to comment again. This reflects perfectly the current Republican Party’s attitude to our most vulnerable populations.

Senator Tillman happens to also be in my district. His dismissal of my comments gives me  perspective on his character and bleak hope for our future.  I fear for my state, and the direction it is going. I fear for my state because political leaders make decisions without looking for feedback or  assessing the wellbeing of their community.

I fear for my state because we seem to be moving toward a system of totalitarianism where a political system holds authority over society.  I believe all people have the right to food, health, safety and their pursuit of happiness.  Our current legislature is taking these necessities from our most vulnerable populations in order to benefit the most wealthy estates and families.

It is our civic obligation and responsibility to fight against unjust laws.  It is also our civic obligation to abolish governments that do not benefit us as a whole. I will not be silent in the face of this current injustice, and I will speak out.  If society can change one oppressive policies in the past, then great change is possible again. For the sake of our state, I hope for this change.

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