Monday, October 26, 2009

Chapter Meeting Success and GOTV This Week

Thanks to all who came to the Chapter Member Meeting this Saturday. You're enthusiasm and ideas were inspiring! If you missed the meeting, e-mail to be filled in on updates and events.

We will be doing Get Out the Vote calling this week on Thursday and Friday evening, 10/29 & 10/30, from 5:30 to 8:30pm.

We hope you can join! Please call or e-mail to let us know you are coming: 404-222-0037 or Let's help Atlanta elect government officials who will work for working families!

Moms Lobby Isakson for Healtcare Reform

Yesterday morning Caitlin and I met up with the online organizing group at Senator Isakson's district office to join them in their effort to lobby senators across the nation for healthcare reform. While it was certainly a novel experience to sit in the plush conference room of a Congressional office and watch the national healthcare debate played out between the well-informed women of MomsRising and one of the Senator's top legislative aides, what I will remember most about the meeting is stories the mothers shared.

Each of the four women arrived on a mission to make sure the Senator heard the story of how the healthcare system had failed their family. As soon as we sat down their heartbreaking stories began pouring out. Michelle Law, whose son has cerebral palsy among a host of other medical problems, explained that even when her son is covered by both private insurance and Medicaid, their family goes into tens of thousands of dollars of debt each year to pay for the cost of simply keeping him alive. Kathie McClure, who started the non-profit, told how her daughter can never receive coverage from a private insurer because her Type 1 diabetes is considered a pre-exisiting condition. Another mother, Barbara Souter, spent two years googling her daughters symptoms to try and diagnose her disease as the family continued to pay out of pocket for every test and procedure she underwent.

These mothers not only spoke of the failing system from the perspective of personal experience, but with a formidable amount of knowledge of the ins and outs of healthcare legislation, state and federal policies, and insurance procedure. Their resounding message was ultimately one of universal coverage and care for all. Caitlin and I both left in awe of the commitment these mothers have made to being engaged in the political process (Barbara told us she had both Georgia senators on speed dial!) I am both grateful that they are making sure the voices of working families and mothers are being heard in this debate, and hopeful that their efforts will make a difference.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lobbying for the Healthy Families Act

Technology Intern Caitlin McCannon:

Caitlin in Saxby Chambliss' OfficeOn Thursday, I went with Mari, Cindia, and Asha to lobby at Senator Saxby Chambliss' office in support of the Healthy Families Act. I had never been lobbying before so this was certainly an experience- and one I was proud to be a part of. 37 million workers do not have any paid sick days. This figure includes 3 out of 4 low-wage workers, a statistic of which I am a part. I was able to share my own experience as an example of the need for paid sick days.

I work at a movie theater on nights and weekends. The schedule each week came to mean the difference between making the rent payment. . . or not. If you could not work the hours you were scheduled for any reason, those hours went to someone who could or a new hire came in to take your place on the rotation and you lost not only that night's pay but next week's as well. In this climate, being sick means more of a loss than most of the employees can afford.

The concessionist behind the counter scooping the popcorn and filling the drinks, the usher tearing tickets, even the box office cashier handing you your change, all have come in knowing they were sick but needing the shift, needing that pay. With the Healthy Families Act, working while sick would not be a necessity. Employees could earn paid time off to recuperate at home when sick. How many restaurant employees are coming into work sick because they cannot afford to call in? With swine flu spreading, measures like these protect not only employee health, but yours as well.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Parent Protection Act and CO-AGE (Coalition of Advocates for Georgia's Aging)

Yesterday the 9to5 Atlanta staff had a busy legislative agenda. While several of the staff members headed to the office of Senator Chambliss to talk about the Healthy Families Act (more on that meeting to come), Shyria and I made the two and a half hour long trek to Little Ocmulgee State Park in McRae, Georgia for the quarterly CO-AGE advocacy training meeting. CO-AGE (Coalition of Advocates for Georgia's Elderly), headed by the Georgia Council on Aging, is comprised of a number of advocacy groups that organize around policies that will protect and promote the well-being of the aging in Georgia.

After driving lengthy stretches of country highway without passing a single Kroger for hours, Shyria and I began to wonder if we hadn't driven two hours too long in the wrong direction. Luckily, we made it to the venue just in time for Shryia to lead a group discussion on the Parent Protection Act. The PPA is listed on CO-AGE's 2009 legislative priorities. While I had heard 9to5 staff speak about the importance of the legislation for working women in minimum wage jobs, the group discussion yesterday focused on its importance for working women and families taking care of elderly parents and grandparents.

Shryia spoke to the group about the evolution of thought behind the bill that led to the realization that the 24 hours a year of unpaid leave is needed not only for parents to be able to attend parent-teacher meetings or other mandatory school functions without jeopordizing their jobs, but also gives them time to take their elderly parent or grandparent to a scheduled doctor's appointment or medical procedure. Several people shared personal stories of dealing with their struggle to balance the role of parent and care-giver, and Shyria responded to questions about the bill regarding enforcement and employee accountability. By the end of the discussion, the group concluded that while 24 hours a year was not enough time to take care of these responsibilities, getting this this bill passed is a crucial step on the road to protecting a parent's right to put their family first.