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As many of you know, the Labor Coalition occupied our former office space on University Ave. for more than a decade.  When we vacated the property earlier this year, we had an unfortunate encounter with Nautilus Realty and were forced to seek legal aid.  Ironically, an ACLC supporter had alerted us months prior that tenant abuse is rampant in Gainesville and we had already been in discussion with staff at Three Rivers Legal Services about a presentation on tenant issues for our September membership meeting.  Gainesville is a community where close to half of all residents are renters.  The encounter with Nautilus drove home for us how many low-income renters have few legal protections against the unjust and sometimes illegal actions of their landlords and we are interested in learning more about this issue.

Our friends at Three Rivers Legal Services often work with renters and have agreed to tell us more about their work in this area.  Please join the Labor Coalition on for a presentation by Three Rivers’ LaKesha Thomas on Tuesday, Sept. 27th, 6:30pm at the Emmanuel Mennonite Church (1236 NW 18th Ave.).  The presentation will get under way at 6:30pm, but pizza, drinks, and fellowship will be available starting at 6pm.  Please RSVP for the event here on Facebook.

A short bio of LaKesha Thomas:

Ms. Thomas is a native of Gainesville, FL, born and raised right here in Alachua County.  She attended Duval Elementary School, Howard Bishop Middle School and Gainesville High School, where she was the c/o 2000 class president.
She is no stranger to the difficulties facing the working class. She grew up with her family members in public and low income housing. Her goal became to become the 1st in her family to graduate from college. She achieved this goal in 2005, graduating from the University of Central Florida (UCF), in Orlando, in the top 12% of her class. She went on to graduate from FAMU College of Law and returned to Gainesville where she graduated from the UF LLM Tax Program in 2012.

Ms. Thomas is currently a staff attorney with Three Rivers Legal Services. Her sheer joy is volunteering with children and empowering her community through legal advocacy. She believes in reaching for the stars, because this way we will never stop growing, learning, and achieving our dreams.

While the ACLC does not endorse candidates, we do poll them to learn where they stand on issues that are important to our members. In May we began sending out questions regarding the Living Wage and access to health care to candidates at the local and state level. Below are the responses that we’ve received thus far. Needless to say, this election cycle will be an extremely important one for our community, our state, and our nation. We strongly encourage Labor Coalition members to familiarize themselves with the various candidates for office and to get involved in their campaigns.

 

At the state level, we’ve heard back from two candidates on a range of issues, including the Living Wage, home rule, and statewide Medicaid expansion:

1. Do you support increasing the Florida minimum wage, currently at $8.05 an hour, to a living wage? If so, what amount do you think this should be?

*Clovis Watson: “I am strong supporter of raising of the minimum wage. I have co-sponsored legislation to increase the minimum wage and have participated in the minimum wage challenge. No one should work a full-time job and in some cases 2 jobs and qualify for public assistance. As we move forward, I will continue to fight for the increase to a living wage.”

*Marihelen Wheeler: “Yes, I do support a living wage and feel we should follow the lead of those who are raising to $15.00 an hour.”

2. Do you support or oppose local initiatives that benefit working families such as: family sick leave requirements, wage recovery ordinances, living wage ordinances, and project-labor agreements?

*Clovis Watson: “As a former city manager, I have always championed home rule authority. With that being said, I am in support of communities who have taken it upon themselves to enact local initiatives to better their communities and working families. My voting record is reflection of this position.”

*Marihelen Wheeler: “I support local initiatives that benefit working families as outlined in this question. It is ridiculous for a government that espouses “less government” to continue to interfere with local governance. Local initiatives are crafted to meet the needs of local people.”

3. Do you support the repeal of FL Statute 218.077 which preempts local governments from enacting a living wage that isn’t solely for their workers, their contractors, or entities receiving tax incentives?

*Clovis Watson: “Yes, I would support the repeal of this statute as I have strong record of voting against legislation that would preempt home rule authority.”

*Marihelen Wheeler: “I do support the repeal of FL Statute 218.077 which restricts local governments from decision making that is best for the community they serve.”

4. Do you support Medicaid expansion so that almost 600,000 Florida residents, the majority of whom are in working families, can get health care at less than 10 percent of the cost to the Florida taxpayers?

*Clovis Watson: “I have been a strong supporter of Medicaid expansion since my election to the Florida House. I have not only debated and voted in favor of Medicaid expansion but have also stood with my colleagues in procedural moves to force the conversation and put pressure on the Legislature to expand healthcare. I will continue to fight for the expansion healthcare for all Floridian who may find themselves in need.”

*Marihelen Wheeler: “I do support Medicaid expansion to the extent that universal health care becomes the ultimate goal.”

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Dear Fellow Coalition Members,

Regardless of how the Democratic primary turns out, Senator Bernie Sanders has done an amazing job bringing national healthcare back into the spotlight.  This month, instead of our usual membership meeting on May 24th, we will be sponsoring a wonderful presentation on Medicare For All by ACLC Board member Chad Hood, a doctor with the VA Health System.

Chad has been a long-standing advocate of Medicare for All, and has given several outstanding and well-attended presentations like this around our area.  He has updated his offering, taking into account the changes wrought by the Affordable Care Act and the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Indeed, for this special presentation we have invited the HUGE community of Bernie Sanders supporters in Alachua.  Chad’s presentation will enable that community and ours, to be more articulate advocates for Medicare for All, and be better able to answer doubts that our opponents raise.

It will be great to have many Labor Coalition members to attend this event to greet the Bernie supporters and make them feel welcome in our community.  Many of us are active in both causes, I know.

The meeting will be held at the Mennonite Church at 1236 NW 18th Avenue on Tuesday, May 24th. As always, there will be pizza and snacks with a chance to socialize at 6 PM, and the presentation will begin at 6:30 PM.  Please RSVP with the ACLC office at info@laborcoalition.org or call 375-2832 if you plan to join us.

I look forward to seeing many of you there.

Yours in solidarity,
Marilyn Eisenberg,
Just Health Care Committee
Co-chair of Alachua County Labor Coalition

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On Tuesday, April 26th the ACLC will host a talk by Central Florida Jobs with Justice leader Denise Diaz.  In addition to serving as Executive Director of the Central FL chapter, Ms. Diaz sits on the Board of National Jobs with Justice Education Fund and is also a trainer for the organization’s Leadership Training.

Jobs with Justice works at the national and local levels to win improvements in people’s lives and shape the public discourse on workers’ rights and the economy.  They believe that all workers should have collective bargaining rights, employment security and a decent standard of living within an economy that works for everyone.  They seek real change for workers by combining innovative communications strategies and solid research and policy advocacy with grassroots action and mobilization.  The Central Florida coalition has over 27 member organizations made up of unions, community organizations, student and faith groups committed to building power for worker rights.  Denise has served as their Executive Director for over nine years, and in that time has worked with local leaders on issues such as transit equity, paid sick days, and right to organize fights.

Originally from Puerto Rico, Denise’s parents raised her and her brother on the northwest side of Chicago. Her parents worked hard in the airline catering industry and as union members to provide a better life for their children. Denise Diaz received her BA in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her activism began in college mobilizing new voters and later community organizing on the South Side of Chicago.  She later became a tenant rights and organizer in immigrant communities outside of D.C.  In 2007, Denise moved to the Sunshine state to raise her children and continue community organizing on worker rights issues. From informational picketing in front of major employers to community meetings on racial profiling, you’ll find Denise and her family.

We look forward to hearing more about Denise’s work and our own potential collaboration with Central Florida Jobs with Justice.  The meeting will be held at the Emmanuel Mennonite Church at 1236 NW 18th Ave.  Pizza and drinks will be available starting at 6pm and the meeting will get underway at 6:30.

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It’s time to take the Fight for $15 to the streets!

Nearly 64 million hardworking Americans make less than $15 an hour. That’s just not right – and on April 14, we’re standing together in Orlando to yell ‘enough’. Are you with us? We’re rallying to show that we support $15 and union rights for all working people. Fast-food workers will go on strike in 300 cities, including Orlando.

The workers’ protests, timed to hit just before Tax Day, will zero in on McDonald’s, highlighting how the world’s second-largest employer and the industry leader in the fast food and service economies is driving a race to the bottom that is undercutting wages across the economy and resulting in nearly 64 million workers being paid less than $15.

ACLC supporters are driving down in a rented van, meeting at the new Labor Coalition office. Please message Sheila Payne (sheilapayne56@hotmail.com) if you can join us.

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Join us at the Civic Media Center (433 S. Main St.) on Weds, April 13th for this film screening.  This event is free and open to the public, however donations at the door are accepted.  You can view a trailer for the film here.

DREAM ON investigates the perilous state of the American Dream after decades of rising income inequality and declining economic mobility. In an epic road trip, political comedian John Fugelsang retraces the journey of Alexis de Tocqueville, whose study of our young country in 1831 came to define America as a place where anyone, of any background, could climb the ladder of economic opportunity. Following in the Frenchman’s footsteps, Fugelsang asks whether the optimistic spirit of the American Dream that Tocqueville popularized is alive and well in the twenty-first century, or whether George Carlin was right when he famously quipped, “It’s called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.”

Compared to people from countries where class boundaries are cemented at birth, we cling to the belief that America offers unfettered upward mobility to anyone willing to work hard and play by the rules. This conviction that anyone can get ahead in the world became known as the American Dream and has inspired countless generations of Americans to seek a better standard of living for their children. Yet, in recent years the venerable American Dream has become an empty promise for increasing numbers of Americans. Millions of middle class Americans are now unable to maintain the standard of living that they took for granted growing up, and more low-income families than ever before are unable to lift themselves out of poverty. As countless Americans struggle with diminished prospects for the future, our core beliefs about the value of work, the inevitability of progress, the fairness of the system, and America’s standing in the world are being shaken. Reviving the American Dream has now become one of the most critical challenges facing our nation.

By revisiting the places Tocqueville wrote about in 1831 and capturing the stories of a diverse group of Americans struggling to support their families, DREAM ON puts an intimate human face on the endangered American Dream. This timely documentary features stories of hard-working people trapped in poverty; senior citizens who have lost their pensions; blue collar workers whose jobs have disappeared; homeowners fighting foreclosure; once prosperous families struggling with hunger and homelessness; fast food workers fighting for a living wage; non-violent drug offenders in prison for decades; undocumented immigrants fighting deportation; low-income communities struggling with poverty-related disease; rust belt cities recovering from deindustrialization; educators trying to reform our failing public schools; and social entrepreneurs designing new models to reduce intergenerational poverty.

To add some sorely needed levity and political irony, John Fugelsang’s reflections on his Tocqueville odyssey are captured in a stand-up comedy monologue woven throughout the documentary. Fugelsang was the host of America’s Funniest Home Videos and has appeared on CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, Fox News, HBO, and NPR. Recently, Fugelsang was the host of Current TV’s daily show, Viewpoint, where he analyzed the news and facilitated conversations about current affairs. Currently, he hosts a daily political comedy program called “Tell Me Everything” on the new SiriusXM Insight Channel. As a comedian, actor, writer, talk show host, and pundit, Fugelsang’s eclectic background allows him to bring equal doses of wit and wisdom to our search for the increasingly elusive American Dream.

DREAM ON is produced and directed by Roger Weisberg, whose 31 previous documentaries have won over a hundred and fifty awards including Emmy, duPont, and Peabody awards, as well as two Academy Award nominations. DREAM ON builds on Weisberg’s extensive body of work and represents the culmination of almost four decades of documenting the struggles, aspirations, and achievements of disadvantaged Americans.

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Please join us for this month’s membership meeting, 6:30pm on Tuesday, Feb. 23rd, where we’ll be accepting nominations for our Board, ratifying some changes in our bylaws, and accepting our budget for 2016.  We’ll also discuss potential plans for a May Day celebration this year and check in with our Living Wage campaign to learn how we can help score a victory for Alachua County workers.  Please note that this month’s meeting will take place at a new location, the Mennonite Church, 1236 NW 18th Ave. in Gainesville.

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In 2014, we re-organized as the Alachua County Labor Coalition to expand our access to people and organizations committed to the rights of working people.  Since then, we have seen an inspiring boost in new members and have added 10 member organizations to our coalition.

This has led to an infusion of new people, goals, and ideas into our work and into our leadership, with great benefit to the organization and to our campaigns.  As we plan future actions, we will need more involvement in our Board and in our Just Health Care and Living Wage committees.

In February 2016, nominations will be accepted for officers and representatives to the Board.  This is a great opportunity to shape policy and strategy for the ACLC, and we encourage input and nominations from all members.

Positions include: Co-Chair (two positions), Secretary, Treasurer, & Union Liaison & Just Health Care Liaison

In addition, any organizational member of the ACLC is entitled to nominate someone to serve on our Board.  For instance, Shawna Doran is the Board representative for the Alachua County Green Party.  If you are involved in an organization that is, or would like to be a member of the ACLC and you would like to help strengthen our connection and shared work, please contact us.

If you have questions or want to make a nomination (including self-nomination), please email us.

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Alachua County Labor Coalition Screens Documentary “Fix It: Healthcare at the Tipping Point,” Making a Business Case for Single-Payer Healthcare

When: Tuesday February 9 at 7 p.m.

Where: Civic Media Center, 433 S. Main Street, Gainesville

$3-5 suggested donation

 

On Tues, Feb. 9th at 7pm, the Alachua County Labor Coalition will screen “Fix It,” a documentary advocating for a single-payer or “Medicare for All” healthcare system such as the one proposed by Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.  However this documentary is not produced by a left-leaning progressive, but by a businessman. Richard Master, CEO of MCS industries, a Pennsylvania manufacturer of picture frames and mirrors who was shocked to discover how much of the $1,500,000 his company spends on healthcare access for its employees and dependents does not go to their healthcare. About a third of the total goes to administrative expenses like insurance companies’ costs for staff, sales, advertising and shareholders.  Doctors and hospitals also need to employ additional people simply to deal with the variety of insurance plans.

 

Richard Master produced this film, which took two years to make, to explain how a single-payer system like Medicare would benefit businesses, employees and the rest of us.  Because it is simpler and less bureaucratic it would cost less.  Everyone would be fully covered with no co-pays or deductibles. It would be financed by an increase in taxation which would be more than compensated by the elimination of premiums.

 

The film contains easily understandable numbers and graphics and interviews with academics, doctors, nurses, business people, patients, Canadian conservatives, and Wendell Potter, the insurance executive turned whistleblower. The event is free and open to the public, though small donations ($3-5) to help cover the Civic Media Center’s expenses would be appreciated.

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We need you more than ever in 2016 if we’re going to be successful in our campaigns to bring a living wage and access to healthcare within reach of more people throughout our community. Please plan to join us Tues, Jan. 26th for a Strategic Planning meeting to help the Labor Coalition map out a strong 2016.  We’ll be meeting at the ACEA Hall (618 NW 13th Ave.). Pizza and refreshments will be available at 5:30pm, the meeting will start at 6.  Please invite other ACLC supporters to join you.