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.

Please join us for this month’s membership meeting. We’ll have updates on our Living Wage and Just Health Care campaigns. Our new intern, Wallace Mazon, will offer a short presentation on Medicaid Expansion in FL, and we’ll also hear a report-back from locals who attended the Democratic National Convention and People’s Summit in Philadelphia.

The meeting will start at 6:30pm but pizza and drinks will be available starting at 6pm. The meeting will be held at the Emmanuel Mennonite Church (1236 NW 18th Ave., Gainesville). Be sure to invite a friend!

HC human right

Please join the Alachua County Labor Coalition Tuesday, July 26th at 6:30 pm to listen to and ask questions of a panel of state and federal candidates running for elected office about their views of Health Care Issues, including single payer health care and Medicaid expansion in Florida.

 

Every year in July, the Alachua County Labor Coalition (ACLC) joins organizations around the country to celebrate the birthday of Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare is the culmination of a decades-long debate about universal health coverage for all, and is the largest single program to improve national access to health coverage and services. Before its passage in 1965, 44% of those age 65 and older were uninsured.

 

The ACLC has advocated for a single-payer health care system for over 20 years, along with advocating for other working class issues such as a Living Wage for all. The ACLC has also been working with a coalition of over a hundred groups across Florida to expand Medicaid in Florida.

 

We have confirmations of attendance from Rod Smith, candidate for State Senate district 8; Marihelen Wheeler, candidate for FL House 21; Tom Wells, candidate Congressional District 3; and a representative from Alan Grayson’s campaign, U.S. Senate candidate. Other invited candidates include Ken McGurn, Keith Perry, and Congressman Ted Yoho.

 

Chad Hood, a doctor at the Gainesville VA and Health Care Liaison for the ACLC will moderate. Scott Darius, Advocacy Director of Florida Chain, a state-wide organization that promotes expanding Medicaid coverage in Florida, will also be at the forum to field questions.

 

Food and beverages will be served at 6pm at the Mennonite Church at 1236 NW 18th Ave. Panel follows at 6:30 PM, ending with a birthday cake for Medicare and Medicaid. For more information call 352-375-2832. Free and open to the public–please be sure to invite your friends! 

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.

Tom Wells is the only candidate for federal office who has replied to our Candidate Questionnaire:

1. Do you support increasing the federal minimum wage? If so,what wage do you think this should be?

I agree with Bernie Sanders that the minimum wage should be increased to $15.  I argue that it should in fact be higher (e.g. consonant with productivity increases referenced to the 1960’s), that it should be increased post haste – not over a span of years, that it should apply to all workers (domestics, tipped wait staff, farm workers), and – once escalation to a just wage is accomplished – that it be indexed to CPI.  My father taught me that honest labor, in any capacity, deserved respect.  A living wage is the minimal measure of respect.  To those now making $15, or any wage in excess of the present minimum; be not dismayed. You have earned that.  And your wage justly should be increased in proportion.  If you were making 2 times the minimum, you should continue to do so – but this will never be a matter of law.  You have 2 choices:  You can ask your boss – it might happen.  You can organize & negotiate with your boss.  That’s called a union.  We are all members of a magnificent union: the United States.  We decide collectively what min wage honors the social contract – a process that has been abrogated as moneyed interests have for 35+ years corrupted Congress.

2. Do you support bringing the United States in line with nearly all of the rest of the industrialized world by replacing the Affordable Care Act with a publicly financed national health program, also known as “Medicare for All”?  Would you support legislation that would make health care affordable and accessible to all by joining the 62 other representatives that have signed on as co-sponsors to H.R. 676?

I have long espoused universal health care – health care as a human right; as has Bernie Sanders; as did the Democratic Party prior to the Clintons & I support any rational move in that direction.  Specifically I will support H.R. 676 until/unless I am convinced that a better option has been crafted.

It is my expectation that these 2 matters will yield dramatic bottom-up expansion of the economy, dramatically reduce poverty – and the welfare budget, and bring U.S. health care outcomes into line with the results of countries where these are givens.

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.”

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.

 

The Alachua County School Board is another of our community’s largest employers, with many workers still making below a Living Wage. Here’s what our candidates for School Board had to say on this topic:

1. Do you support paying all Alachua County School Board workers a living wage? This includes part-time, full-time, instructional, ESP, temporary, and contracted workers.

*Juliun Kinsey: “Yes, anyone who is responsible for the safety and well-being of children deserves to be paid no less than a living wage. This issue is personal for me and will be a priority if I am elected. My mother is a paraprofessional currently earning $10.89 an hour. She has two other jobs to supplement the school board’s failure to offer a living wage.”

*Leanetta McNealy: “I would be in support of paying Alachua County School Board workers in a responsible way. We are currently working toward increasing our employees salaries which also includes one of the best benefit packages in the state which the Board pays an additional $3.00 per employee.”

*Eileen Roy: “Yes. The Alachua County School Board already pays all workers who work half-time or more benefits, including retirement and 100% of health care premium. For full-time employees, these benefits total $3.05/ hour and for half-time or more, they total even more—up to $5 hour.”

2. Do you support a phase-in over the next 5 years to increase the Alachua School Board’s minimum wage to 125% the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), currently at $14.60 an hour?

*Juliun Kinsey: “Yes, the total amount of the annual budget is more than $333 million. Surely the Alachua County School Board can (and should) phase-in this appropriate minimum wage increase.”

*Leanetta McNealy: “I would want to pursue our increases in a responsible way. The equity between job classifications such as ESP’s, instructional, and administrators, would create a significant impact on our budget. It would be wonderful to be able to do this, but given the significant financial impact to the District it would require a substantial increase in funding from the State.”

*Eileen Roy: “Yes, especially if one includes benefits.  The lowest paid  school board employee presently makes about $10.00/hr.  Benefits for full-time equal $3 more, so we should be able to reach this goal if benefits are counted.   It is always my goal.  Bear in mind that the School Board cannot raise our millage like the city or the county.  Our millage is set by the state, so we have limited control.”

 

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.

 

We asked candidates for County Commission where they stand on our recent Living Wage victory and there was more or less consensus:

1. Do you support the 2016 Alachua County Minimum Wage Ordinance which set a standard wage for contracted employees?

*Mike Byerly: “I support it, and voted for it.”

*Chloe Goldbach: “Loopholes that allow contract employees of the county to paid less than minimum for county employees should not have existed in the first place so I therefore definitely support the minimum wage ordinance.”

*Captain Craig Herda: “I have yet to read the Ordinance, therefore I would not be able to comment at this time.”

*Robert “Hutch” Hutchinson: “YES, I encouraged the ordinance and voted for its passage. Furthermore, I am continuing to advocate for changes to compensation formulas that will reduce the widening gap between the top and bottom earners.”

*Kevin Thorpe: “ABSOLUTELY.”

2. Do you support paying all Alachua County Commission workers a living wage? This includes part-time, full-time, temporary, and contracted workers.

*Mike Byerly: “I support it, worked to weed out undermining exemptions, then voted for it.”

*Chloe Goldbach: “Yes, I do support paying all Alachua County Commission workers a living wage providing that this does not stop here and plans are put in place to eventually expand this towards paying living wages in the private sector as well. Everyone in the county should have access to a living wage.”

*Captain Craig Herda: “Yes, I do support paying workers for work done.  Everyone in this country needs to receive a “living wage”. However, I am also a proponent of Government representatives, if they already are financially secure, to serve their government without renumeration.  It should be a honor to perform your civic duty.”

*Robert “Hutch” Hutchinson: “YES, except for the very few exemptions which were made for valid reasons by the majority of the County Commission. We have a serious obstacle in raising all non-profit contractors to the Living Wage, but we must try.”

*Kevin Thorpe: “ABSOLUTELY.”

3. Do you support a phase-in to increase the County government’s minimum wage to 125% the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) by 2020, currently at $14.60 an hour?

*Mike Byerly: “I do support that goal, and will work towards it.”

*Chloe Goldbach: “Yes, I support this.”

*Captain Craig Herda: “Yes. We need to come in line with the Federal Guidelines for wages. And expanding on that, the wages need to be enough to sustain a living. But of course, no one should get “rich” off the government.”

*Robert “Hutch” Hutchinson: “YES, and the expensive part of this is not the cost of raising the lowest workers’ wages. Rather, it is dealing with the ripple effect of “wage compression” up the ranks.  Union leaders need to be part of the solution to this.”

*Kevin Thorpe: “ABSOLUTELY.”

bernie_2

 

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

diaz

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.

Ff15

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.