I Got a Fever, and the Only Prescription is Some Time Off

You get sick and you’re not able to work. It’s not your fault. It’s not your intention to disrupt your employer’s business. Yet that is how many employers, as well as legislators, treat the concept of paid sick days – by blaming you for getting sick.

The paid sick days’ fights going on in states like Florida, Georgia, Colorado, and Massachusetts show that workers and their community allies have had enough.  With over three-quarters of adults supporting paid sick days, the message to employers and politicians is clear: paid sick days now!

The problem with not having paid sick days extends far beyond economics, which recent research has shown is only improved by granting paid sick days. It’s a question of whether employers and legislatures are willing to give workers respect and dignity.

The paid sick days fight is another example of the personal being political. It’s quite political when new parents can’t take time off in order to care for their new child during its most forming months. It’s quite political when a worker can’t take paid time off work in order to care for their parent, partner, or elder who’s deftly ill. And it’s quite political when workers can’t even get a paid day off to nurse their flu or cold.

It is a clear message from employers and policy makers that, “We want your labor, but we don’t respect you enough to give you time off every now and then to recover from illness.” It’s just fundamentally not right. It even goes beyond that when race and gender are factors. For example, over a third of all women won’t be able to take paid sick days when a family member is ill, and half of all Latino workers have no access to paid sick days.

It can get even messier when one examines particular professions, such as domestic workers. Since domestic workers are “contingent” contract workers , bargaining can be more difficult, and getting basic things like sick leave is an even bigger challenge.

In 2010, New York took a step in the right direction with the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, however they still are not able to get paid sick leave. A paid sick leave provision was also struck down in theCalifornia Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, which is poised to be passed this year. The one difference is that California has some sick days protection in the form of insurance funds that employees pay into for paid family leave. How effective that will be with domestic workers? That remains to be seen.

The ultimate solution of course would be a federal mandate for paid sick leave and paid time off. Currently, one of employers’ favorite ways of cutting costs is to give unpaid time off (and state and the federal governments have done this).

There needs to be an enforceable policy in place that says “Workers deserve time off when they get sick, and they deserved to get paid for that time off.” We also must not only make the logical economic argument (that healthier workers mean a better economy), but we must push that workers are human, and they deserve respect and dignity. Enacting a Paid Sick Days Law would be another step in ensuring that workers are treated with the respect and dignity that they so dearly deserve.

Originally Posted on the Jobs with Justice Blog, JWJ.org, on August 23, 2012

(Source)

On August 1st, as the U.S. Student Association’s 65th National Student Congress began to wrap up, over one hundred students from across the country assembled at the University of Wisconsin – Madison’s Bascom Hall Administrative Building to march on the Wisconsin State Capitol Building. The message, “Celebrating the Death of the UW Madison privatization legislation”, was aimed at Governor Scott Walker, who has continued his privatization efforts, despite a bi-partisan defeat of his privatization bill in the State Legislature.

The march began with students conducting a banner drop on Bascom, emblazoned with Bucky the Badger and the words, “Keep Education Public!” That kicked off a rally at the building, with UW food service worker Mike Imbrogno, and Beth Huang, vice-president of the United Council of UW Students, giving speeches on the importance to students and workers that UW remaining public. Students then began marching down Bascom Hill onto State Street with signs, chanting, and a marching band playing, giving it the feel of New Orleans-style funeral.

Despite the sun and heat, the spirits and energy of everyone was through the roof. UW tour groups watched us move past them, patrons and tourists on State St looked at us with some clapping and throwing their firsts in the air with us. We reached the steps of the Capitol Building and collected ourselves through more chants and rallying. The students then turned around and heard short remarks by the newly-elected USSA President Tiffany Loftin and Vice President Sophia Zaman.

Then came the moment many of us were waiting for: entering the now-iconic Capitol Building that had been the spark for the past year and a half of direct action and activism. We went in through the doors, our voices echoing through the marble halls. We reached the rotunda with students yelling on the first floor and draping banners and signs on the rails of the second. Chants led into a mic-check led by UW Madison student Allie Gardner. We made it clear that the students don’t want privatization, the workers don’t want privatization, only Walker and his corporate sponsors want it.

We then left the building, with some government workers even cheering us on. Outside, UW student Tina Treviño-Murphy spoke, making it clear that our sentiment was not going away, that we would be watching Walker, that we would not let education in Wisconsin or anywhere else fall into the hands of corporations that do not have the interest of the workers or students or community in their plans. Spirits were high as we marched back down State. The energy wasn’t dying down at all, despite the cloudless, hot day. Voices horse, brows sweaty, we gathered under the shade by the main quad back on campus and took photos, laughed, and cooled off. Some students then went off to their Board Meeting, and the rest to the Electoral Action Training that was about to resume.

The action was inspiring to those who were there. The unity, the energy, the students who participated will never forget it. The best part is that this won’t be the last or the biggest action these students will be a part of in the coming months and years. This is only a beginning, a spark. There is hope that like what the Capitol occupation did for the labor movement and activists over a year ago, this Congress will have facilitated the knowledge and relationships for students to begin to truly revive the student movement in the United States. We are now sandwiched between Quebec and Mexico, two massive student movements that grow each day. It is our turn now. Let this action be merely a taste of what’s to come, let it make students want to see it again only ten times, a hundred times, a thousand times bigger. Let’s make the most out of the next school year, for it will be an exciting one indeed.

(Source)

Originally posted on August 8th, 2012 on StudentLabor.org

virginiasocialist:

What prompted this was the quote by Stokley Carmichael that gets circulated around every now and then. It reads as follows:

In order for non-violence to work, your opponent must have a conscience. The United States has none.

Now what i’m arguing isn’t against Carmichael himself, he was a brilliant leader, organizer, and a needed radical voice during his time. Nor am I trying to dictate what tactics an oppressed group of people that I am not a part of uses. I am simply making a case for pacifism along its merits and ideas behind it, as well as addressing (and agreeing in some cases) with the criticism against it. I will not delve into morality, since that is too subjective. I also am forewarning that I am simply stating my own personal beliefs based on my experiences and my limited reading of theory. I am mostly basing my ideas off of the military and social upheaval history that i’ve studied.

What is Pacifism

 This is my definition, as I see it, as I interpret it. Firstly, pacifism as I see it is the rejection of violence as an effective means of obtaining power. It is the belief and conviction that violence leads to more violence, and during violent episodes, there can never not be any damage done to the innocent and those not directly involved. Pacifism itself is not so much a tactic as it is the analysis of the outcome of violence. The criticism I see most often of pacifism is that it is an idea imposed upon the oppresse by those of privilege who have not personally experienced violence. Indeed, this is a valid criticism, however it should be noted that it would be no different than an outsider dictating to a group to use violence who would prefer to use non-violent tactics. Furthermore we must separate personal retaliation, such as punching someone harassing oneself, from using non-violence as the framework for a larger overall movement or campaign.

The Analysis

The analysis of violence itself should be looked at through a historical lens. There has never been a violent conflict in history that went smoothly, without atrocity by all sides, without innocent and uninvolved life destroyed. The idea of a pacifist analysis stems from the fact that not all will be fighting violently,  that indeed, most will reject violence as the overall tactic of choice. That is perhaps why for strategies such as community organizing, a pacifist analysis is the best choice. The idea around community organizing, or organizing groups of people in general, is to win back their own autonomy and self-governance from an oppressive force, whether it be societal, capitalist, or governmental. There is no point to it if the community itself ends up being destroyed.

Now, there must be a distinction made here. In cases such as the slave uprisings of the United States South, there was no fixed community except on the plantations, and those had fluid infrastructure. Thus one must take into account the “nothing left to lose” idea when talking about non-violence versus violence. 

A final important piece to consider in any movement or campaign, and really it is Organizing 101, is where are the sources of power, and how do I get to that power. If the source of power is the World Trade Organization, then breaking a Starbucks window may be important symbolically, but serves no practical purpose in furthering the movement, campaign, or the aims of the people involved, indeed it almost always hurts the movement.

To go on with that train of thought, it is not the goal of pacifism to directly take down the oppressor, it is not the goal of pacifism to make the oppressor bend to your will. The goal of pacifism is to build your numbers, to build your organization, to make it so you may gain a critical mass of organized people (and thus organized power) to then overwhelm and take down the oppressor. So while Carmichael’s quote is correct, that is not what Dr. King was doing when he was waging non-violence. Dr. King was a movement builder, and to be cracked down on for marching, sit-ins, non-violent acts, brought many people into the movement. If he had waged direct violence against the United States, the hammer would have been bigger, harder, and the movement would have stayed small and relatively insignificant. One can point to violent protest groups around the world and throughout history who did not bring in large numbers of people into their fold. The Rotte Armee Faktion, the Weather Underground, etc. 

Ultimately building and sustaining a movement that can create a community, that can sustain community, that can be as open as possible to its members is a more effective tool than a violent means. That is my argument for waging non-violence, and that is my argument for a pacifist analysis of movement building and violence. 

————————————————————————————————————

So this is my first real post for this blog. I look at things much more from the historical and organizing perspective than from a theory perspective, and that’s how it will be the whole time. I welcome constructive feed back, criticism, and also any other avenues of analysis for the topics I choose. 

What prompted this was the quote by Stokley Carmichael that gets circulated around every now and then. It reads as follows:

In order for non-violence to work, your opponent must have a conscience. The United States has none.

Now what i’m arguing isn’t against Carmichael himself, he was a brilliant leader, organizer, and a needed radical voice during his time. Nor am I trying to dictate what tactics an oppressed group of people that I am not a part of uses. I am simply making a case for pacifism along its merits and ideas behind it, as well as addressing (and agreeing in some cases) with the criticism against it. I will not delve into morality, since that is too subjective. I also am forewarning that I am simply stating my own personal beliefs based on my experiences and my limited reading of theory. I am mostly basing my ideas off of the military and social upheaval history that i’ve studied.

What is Pacifism

 This is my definition, as I see it, as I interpret it. Firstly, pacifism as I see it is the rejection of violence as an effective means of obtaining power. It is the belief and conviction that violence leads to more violence, and during violent episodes, there can never not be any damage done to the innocent and those not directly involved. Pacifism itself is not so much a tactic as it is the analysis of the outcome of violence. The criticism I see most often of pacifism is that it is an idea imposed upon the oppresse by those of privilege who have not personally experienced violence. Indeed, this is a valid criticism, however it should be noted that it would be no different than an outsider dictating to a group to use violence who would prefer to use non-violent tactics. Furthermore we must separate personal retaliation, such as punching someone harassing oneself, from using non-violence as the framework for a larger overall movement or campaign.

The Analysis

The analysis of violence itself should be looked at through a historical lens. There has never been a violent conflict in history that went smoothly, without atrocity by all sides, without innocent and uninvolved life destroyed. The idea of a pacifist analysis stems from the fact that not all will be fighting violently,  that indeed, most will reject violence as the overall tactic of choice. That is perhaps why for strategies such as community organizing, a pacifist analysis is the best choice. The idea around community organizing, or organizing groups of people in general, is to win back their own autonomy and self-governance from an oppressive force, whether it be societal, capitalist, or governmental. There is no point to it if the community itself ends up being destroyed.

Now, there must be a distinction made here. In cases such as the slave uprisings of the United States South, there was no fixed community except on the plantations, and those had fluid infrastructure. Thus one must take into account the “nothing left to lose” idea when talking about non-violence versus violence. 

A final important piece to consider in any movement or campaign, and really it is Organizing 101, is where are the sources of power, and how do I get to that power. If the source of power is the World Trade Organization, then breaking a Starbucks window may be important symbolically, but serves no practical purpose in furthering the movement, campaign, or the aims of the people involved, indeed it almost always hurts the movement.

To go on with that train of thought, it is not the goal of pacifism to directly take down the oppressor, it is not the goal of pacifism to make the oppressor bend to your will. The goal of pacifism is to build your numbers, to build your organization, to make it so you may gain a critical mass of organized people (and thus organized power) to then overwhelm and take down the oppressor. So while Carmichael’s quote is correct, that is not what Dr. King was doing when he was waging non-violence. Dr. King was a movement builder, and to be cracked down on for marching, sit-ins, non-violent acts, brought many people into the movement. If he had waged direct violence against the United States, the hammer would have been bigger, harder, and the movement would have stayed small and relatively insignificant. One can point to violent protest groups around the world and throughout history who did not bring in large numbers of people into their fold. The Rotte Armee Faktion, the Weather Underground, etc. 

Ultimately building and sustaining a movement that can create a community, that can sustain community, that can be as open as possible to its members is a more effective tool than a violent means. That is my argument for waging non-violence, and that is my argument for a pacifist analysis of movement building and violence. 

————————————————————————————————————-

So this is my first real post for this blog. I look at things much more from the historical and organizing perspective than from a theory perspective, and that’s how it will be the whole time. I welcome constructive feed back, criticism, and also any other avenues of analysis for the topics I choose. 

virginiasocialist:

In a major victory for health care advocates, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision upheld not only the individual mandate, but every aspect of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act save for the power of the federal government being able to terminate states’ Medicaid funds. The mandate has been interpreted by the Court as a legal tax, with Chief Justice Roberts, who was appointed by George W. Bush in 2005, writing the opinion. The upholding of the entire act means insurance companies cannot raise premiums without cause, cannot deny people with preexisting conditions, and with the insurance exchange, it means reduced costs overall for millions of individuals and families across the country. The ruling is particularly good for seniors, who will benefit from more affordable prescription drugs and increased access to free preventative services.

“This is a great step in changing the way we care for our aging population, people with disabilities and each other when faced with illness,” said Caring Across Generations co-director Ai-jen Poo. “The political naysayers who said the ACA was too confusing are stuck in the status quo, and scared of the challenge to make sure we all have the supports and care we need to  be healthy and happy, as a country. Now we can move forward to address the looming challenge of our aging population.”

While the ACA is a major step forward for health care in the United States, problems still remain. The Act has not addressed the much larger workforce that will be needed both for the expanded number of people with insurance, but also the aging population. Furthermore the Act continues to leave healthcare in the hands of private insurance companies who have for years profited off the backs of their customers. While Medicare and Medicaid have only moderated risen in cost the past 50 years, private health costs have skyrocketed to almost $3 trillion.

We need a more comprehensive solution that will encompass both jobs and health care. Caring Across Generations is striving for that, to ensure that those workers in the care sector are not left behind and provide for their families and get treated with respect, to make sure that seniors and people with disabilities are not left to the fringes of society and are treated with dignity.

The Affordable Care Act is a great step forward, but it is not the final step. There are more years of hard fights ahead to change care in this country. We must stand together to see our vision of more caring society move forward. That is why we needed the Affordable Care Act, and that is why we cannot leave it at the Affordable Care Act. For workers, seniors, and people with disabilities, we most certainly cannot leave it at the Affordable Care Act. As Ai-jen Poo has said on the ruling today, “We can create more jobs in America, address the health care needs of aging baby boomers and raise the standard of living for in home care workers all at the same time. We can re-found our American commitment to ensuring we all have the freedom of choice. The choice to be able to age at home, and the choice to paid a fair wage for a hard day’s work,”

Originally posted June 28th, 2012, on JWJ.org

virginiasocialist:

This is not Just a Campaign, This is a Movement

That sentiment was reiterated throughout the Boston Care Congress this past weekend.Over a hundred domestic and care workers, senior and disability advocates, immigrant rights activists, and students met this past weekend for the Congress to discuss, listen, and feel the spirit of the Caring Across Generations movement. Renowned labor leader and head of the National Domestic Workers Alliance Ai-jen Poo opened the Congress with energy and enthusiasm, and helped introduced the first panel. It was clear from the panel members what this movement was about: Vicente de la Rosa, a personal care aide with 1199SEIU, Sergio Gonclaves, a differently-abled gentleman with the Boston Center for Independent Living, Dafne Momongan, a domestic care worker with four jobs and a member of Matahari: Eye of the Day, and finally Joanne Prince, a fiery, energetic eighty-one year-old from the Multicultural Coalition on Aging. This movement really was not only across generations, but across cultures, race, gender, and class.

The small group discussions that followed gave us an opportunity to personally connect with attendees and showed the real diversity of the campaign and exactly how many different people are invested in the movement. There was a medical student from Boston University, a domestic care worker, a youth organizer in a low income section of Brooklyn, a tenant organizer; all coming with different experiences, backgrounds, and ideas about how to move forward with the movement and secure justice for all.

The workshops after that really got into not only the issues at hand, but the imperative to bring about change. Fighting for a fair economy, mediating with bosses, organizing against attacks on senior citizens, and fighting against racist immigration policy were all topics. What was built around those topics were not only a deeper understanding of the issues at hand, but a sense of urgency-an urgency participants may not have had before the workshops, but they certainly did afterwards.

A few overarching themes emerged from the Congress, the first being that we are all in this together. Young, old, all genders, all races, disabled and not, this is an inter-sectional issue that must have involvement from all sectors of our society to succeed. Secondly, there is no randomness to attacks on the elderly, disabled, and workers. A Medicare “reform” in the House, a draconian immigration policy in Alabama, these are not isolated events. There is a concerted effort to strip workers’ rights, to destroy affordable health and home care for the elderly, poor, and disabled, and to expel immigrant workers who only wanted to better the lives of themselves and their families.

We as students are thus in a strategic position. We all have a story of needing to care for a family member. There are people who wish to go back to school, but can’t because a relative is in need of home care. With the a person turning 65 every eight seconds, we as students must join the movement, not just for seniors and the disabled, but for our own families, and our own futures. The Care Crisis effects us all, across generations. Look out for a Care Congress or Care Council near you and get involved. Together, as a united front, we can change care in this country.

Originally posted June 20th, 2012, on StudentLabor.org

virginiasocialist:

When the Supreme Court ruled on Olmstead v. L.C.in 1999, thus allowing those who have the approval of a state treatment professional to live on their own, it was a major victory for disability rights advocates. Today’s hearing, called by Senator Harkin of Iowa, shows that while the progress of implementation has been slow, it is going forward with increasing fervor, particularly now as healthcare and fiscal policy are center stage in contemporary politics.

There was a resounding sense that this issue of care needed to be addressed by the whole government, not by one particular agency or department. Henry Claypool, Director of the Department of Health and Human Service’s Office on Disability, emphasized that the new HHS Administration on Community Living work with other departments on this vital issue of the disabled living in their own homes and communities. Director Claypool and other state and federal government officials have called for a broad strategy to fully implement Olmstead using not only HHS, but the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs. Delaware Secretary of Health Rita Landgraf hoped that Delaware’s strategy of housing vouchers and shifting care from institutions to communities can be used as a prototype for the nation as a whole. Mr. Perez stressed the VA’s role in implementing Olmstead, noting that many returning veterans and those already home have disabilities requiring care.

Reiterating the importance of the states in implementing Olmstead, Alabama Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health Zelia Baugh explained how the state has been shifting resources in a cost effective manner to eliminate the institutional bias. Commissioner Baugh stated that the cost of one patient in an Alabama mental institution was upwards of $150,000 a year and paid for by the state; however, it costs the state only $60,000 a year to have a person stay in their home and community to receive care. Finally, Ricardo Thorton, a gentleman who spent many years in DC mental health institutions, testified that he was an example of the potential of people in the institutions. He said, “In the institution, the staff thought for me. I wasn’t allowed to think on my own”. Since he was able to leave the institution, he has married, had a son, and has been working at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library for 35 years.

Mr. Thorton’s story, and the testimony from the government officials, shows how a community based system of care is not only better for those who need it, but ultimately more affordable as well. There have emerged problems not considered when Olmstead was enacted. Both Secretary Landgraf and Commissioner Baugh said that housing and transportation have been serious issues. HUD requires a criminal background check for Section 8 affordable housing, and the nature of our society’s stance toward the disabled and mentally ill in particular means that many have some prior offense. Another issue brought up was that some people are afraid to get jobs because that means losing their Medicaid benefits-such as an in home assistant, which often is not covered under private insurance. Secretary Landgraf suggested a Medicaid buy-in could be an effective tool to offset this.

Olmstead, and by extension the Caring Across Generations agenda, is moving forward. Senator Harkin has introduced the Sense of the Senate Resolution, Senator Franken from Minnesota is about to introduce a Federal Home Care Bill of Rights, and Governor Markell is to be the next chair of the National Governors Association and has vowed to focus on home care. These three developments are great for us as the campaign moves forward. Because this is an expansive campaign, it is reassuring to hear that the government is trying for an expansive strategy- incorporating the local, state, and federal levels, as well as across governmental departments. It leaves CAG in a position where Care Councils can really push for the care agenda at the local and state levels and know they will have some level of influence since this issue is now a priority for legislatures.

This more local and state focus also means that students now have a huge window of opportunity to be involved with the movement. Students must take advantage of this shift in governmental strategy to have their voices heard in the forums and legislatures where home care policies are being discussed. Mr. Thorton credits his success and life in large part to education that he received at a special education school. Those of us who are privileged enough to have an education or are currently receiving one must be involved in the movement for home care so that those who have traditionally been on the fringes of society have the opportunity to receive an education and become self-sufficient. Because education is such a large part of self-sufficiency and because the shift is to self-sufficiency, students can be an invaluable part of CAG going into this new stage of Olmstead implementation.

Originally posted on June 21st, 2012 on StudentLabor.org

This is not Just a Campaign, This is a Movement

That sentiment was reiterated throughout the Boston Care Congress this past weekend.Over a hundred domestic and care workers, senior and disability advocates, immigrant rights activists, and students met this past weekend for the Congress to discuss, listen, and feel the spirit of the Caring Across Generations movement. Renowned labor leader and head of the National Domestic Workers Alliance Ai-jen Poo opened the Congress with energy and enthusiasm, and helped introduced the first panel. It was clear from the panel members what this movement was about: Vicente de la Rosa, a personal care aide with 1199SEIU, Sergio Gonclaves, a differently-abled gentleman with the Boston Center for Independent Living, Dafne Momongan, a domestic care worker with four jobs and a member of Matahari: Eye of the Day, and finally Joanne Prince, a fiery, energetic eighty-one year-old from the Multicultural Coalition on Aging. This movement really was not only across generations, but across cultures, race, gender, and class.

The small group discussions that followed gave us an opportunity to personally connect with attendees and showed the real diversity of the campaign and exactly how many different people are invested in the movement. There was a medical student from Boston University, a domestic care worker, a youth organizer in a low income section of Brooklyn, a tenant organizer; all coming with different experiences, backgrounds, and ideas about how to move forward with the movement and secure justice for all.

The workshops after that really got into not only the issues at hand, but the imperative to bring about change. Fighting for a fair economy, mediating with bosses, organizing against attacks on senior citizens, and fighting against racist immigration policy were all topics. What was built around those topics were not only a deeper understanding of the issues at hand, but a sense of urgency-an urgency participants may not have had before the workshops, but they certainly did afterwards.

A few overarching themes emerged from the Congress, the first being that we are all in this together. Young, old, all genders, all races, disabled and not, this is an inter-sectional issue that must have involvement from all sectors of our society to succeed. Secondly, there is no randomness to attacks on the elderly, disabled, and workers. A Medicare “reform” in the House, a draconian immigration policy in Alabama, these are not isolated events. There is a concerted effort to strip workers’ rights, to destroy affordable health and home care for the elderly, poor, and disabled, and to expel immigrant workers who only wanted to better the lives of themselves and their families.

We as students are thus in a strategic position. We all have a story of needing to care for a family member. There are people who wish to go back to school, but can’t because a relative is in need of home care. With the a person turning 65 every eight seconds, we as students must join the movement, not just for seniors and the disabled, but for our own families, and our own futures. The Care Crisis effects us all, across generations. Look out for a Care Congress or Care Council near you and get involved. Together, as a united front, we can change care in this country.

Originally posted June 20th, 2012, on StudentLabor.org

In a major victory for health care advocates, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision upheld not only the individual mandate, but every aspect of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act save for the power of the federal government being able to terminate states’ Medicaid funds. The mandate has been interpreted by the Court as a legal tax, with Chief Justice Roberts, who was appointed by George W. Bush in 2005, writing the opinion. The upholding of the entire act means insurance companies cannot raise premiums without cause, cannot deny people with preexisting conditions, and with the insurance exchange, it means reduced costs overall for millions of individuals and families across the country. The ruling is particularly good for seniors, who will benefit from more affordable prescription drugs and increased access to free preventative services.

"This is a great step in changing the way we care for our aging population, people with disabilities and each other when faced with illness,” said Caring Across Generations co-director Ai-jen Poo. “The political naysayers who said the ACA was too confusing are stuck in the status quo, and scared of the challenge to make sure we all have the supports and care we need to  be healthy and happy, as a country. Now we can move forward to address the looming challenge of our aging population.”

While the ACA is a major step forward for health care in the United States, problems still remain. The Act has not addressed the much larger workforce that will be needed both for the expanded number of people with insurance, but also the aging population. Furthermore the Act continues to leave healthcare in the hands of private insurance companies who have for years profited off the backs of their customers. While Medicare and Medicaid have only moderated risen in cost the past 50 years, private health costs have skyrocketed to almost $3 trillion.

We need a more comprehensive solution that will encompass both jobs and health care. Caring Across Generations is striving for that, to ensure that those workers in the care sector are not left behind and provide for their families and get treated with respect, to make sure that seniors and people with disabilities are not left to the fringes of society and are treated with dignity.

The Affordable Care Act is a great step forward, but it is not the final step. There are more years of hard fights ahead to change care in this country. We must stand together to see our vision of more caring society move forward. That is why we needed the Affordable Care Act, and that is why we cannot leave it at the Affordable Care Act. For workers, seniors, and people with disabilities, we most certainly cannot leave it at the Affordable Care Act. As Ai-jen Poo has said on the ruling today, “We can create more jobs in America, address the health care needs of aging baby boomers and raise the standard of living for in home care workers all at the same time. We can re-found our American commitment to ensuring we all have the freedom of choice. The choice to be able to age at home, and the choice to paid a fair wage for a hard day’s work,”

Originally posted June 28th, 2012, on JWJ.org

(Source: virginiasocialist)

When the Supreme Court ruled on Olmstead v. L.C.in 1999, thus allowing those who have the approval of a state treatment professional to live on their own, it was a major victory for disability rights advocates. Today’s hearing, called by Senator Harkin of Iowa, shows that while the progress of implementation has been slow, it is going forward with increasing fervor, particularly now as healthcare and fiscal policy are center stage in contemporary politics.

There was a resounding sense that this issue of care needed to be addressed by the whole government, not by one particular agency or department. Henry Claypool, Director of the Department of Health and Human Service’s Office on Disability, emphasized that the new HHS Administration on Community Living work with other departments on this vital issue of the disabled living in their own homes and communities. Director Claypool and other state and federal government officials have called for a broad strategy to fully implement Olmstead using not only HHS, but the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs. Delaware Secretary of Health Rita Landgraf hoped that Delaware’s strategy of housing vouchers and shifting care from institutions to communities can be used as a prototype for the nation as a whole. Mr. Perez stressed the VA’s role in implementing Olmstead, noting that many returning veterans and those already home have disabilities requiring care.

Reiterating the importance of the states in implementing Olmstead, Alabama Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health Zelia Baugh explained how the state has been shifting resources in a cost effective manner to eliminate the institutional bias. Commissioner Baugh stated that the cost of one patient in an Alabama mental institution was upwards of $150,000 a year and paid for by the state; however, it costs the state only $60,000 a year to have a person stay in their home and community to receive care. Finally, Ricardo Thorton, a gentleman who spent many years in DC mental health institutions, testified that he was an example of the potential of people in the institutions. He said, “In the institution, the staff thought for me. I wasn’t allowed to think on my own”. Since he was able to leave the institution, he has married, had a son, and has been working at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library for 35 years.

Mr. Thorton’s story, and the testimony from the government officials, shows how a community based system of care is not only better for those who need it, but ultimately more affordable as well. There have emerged problems not considered when Olmstead was enacted. Both Secretary Landgraf and Commissioner Baugh said that housing and transportation have been serious issues. HUD requires a criminal background check for Section 8 affordable housing, and the nature of our society’s stance toward the disabled and mentally ill in particular means that many have some prior offense. Another issue brought up was that some people are afraid to get jobs because that means losing their Medicaid benefits-such as an in home assistant, which often is not covered under private insurance. Secretary Landgraf suggested a Medicaid buy-in could be an effective tool to offset this.

Olmstead, and by extension the Caring Across Generations agenda, is moving forward. Senator Harkin has introduced the Sense of the Senate Resolution, Senator Franken from Minnesota is about to introduce a Federal Home Care Bill of Rights, and Governor Markell is to be the next chair of the National Governors Association and has vowed to focus on home care. These three developments are great for us as the campaign moves forward. Because this is an expansive campaign, it is reassuring to hear that the government is trying for an expansive strategy- incorporating the local, state, and federal levels, as well as across governmental departments. It leaves CAG in a position where Care Councils can really push for the care agenda at the local and state levels and know they will have some level of influence since this issue is now a priority for legislatures.

This more local and state focus also means that students now have a huge window of opportunity to be involved with the movement. Students must take advantage of this shift in governmental strategy to have their voices heard in the forums and legislatures where home care policies are being discussed. Mr. Thorton credits his success and life in large part to education that he received at a special education school. Those of us who are privileged enough to have an education or are currently receiving one must be involved in the movement for home care so that those who have traditionally been on the fringes of society have the opportunity to receive an education and become self-sufficient. Because education is such a large part of self-sufficiency and because the shift is to self-sufficiency, students can be an invaluable part of CAG going into this new stage of Olmstead implementation.

Originally posted on June 21st, 2012 on StudentLabor.org

(Source: virginiasocialist)