People’s Forum on Health Care

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**PRESS RELEASE**

Rejecting Republican Health Care Bill, Southern Maine Workers’ Center to hold People’s Forum on Health Care

 

For Immediate Release
Southern Maine Workers’ Center
Contact: Ronald Flannery
Ronald@maineworkers.org
207-344-4485

Portland, ME: On the evening of Monday, March 27th, the Southern Maine Workers’ Center along with Maine AllCare and the Maine State Nurses Association will hold a People’s Forum on Health Care, highlighting the voices of Mainers impacted by the health care crisis. The forum will be attended by Maine State legislators, including senator Ben Chipman and representatives Rachel Talbot Ross and Ben Collings.

The Maine Health Care is a Human Right Coalition, led by the Southern Maine Workers’ Center, Maine AllCare and the Maine State Nurses Association, advocates for universal, publicly funded health care. The flawed Affordable Care Act left too many people without access to care, and prioritized insurance company profits. But efforts in Washington to dismantle the Affordable Care Act will leave millions more without access to health insurance.

Peggy Marchand is a member of the Workers’ Center, and will attend the forum. “The republican bill will be a disaster. 24 million people will lose health care coverage, particularly rural and elderly people, which will hit Maine hard. This bill amounts to a massive transfer of wealth to the richest people in the world, and it will cause unnecessary death and hardship.”

In Augusta, the Governor has proposed a state budget that will eliminate 20,000 additional people from MaineCare. These attacks on our access to health care are unacceptable. People in Maine want more health care, not less.  

The People’s Forum on Health Care will feature testimony from individuals directly impacted by the health care crisis, and highlight the solution of universal, publicly funded care. Samaa Abdurraqib, a member of the Workers’ Center explains, “when we spotlight stories of our experiences with the US healthcare system, we learn the truth about how the healthcare actually works in this state and in this country. These individual stories tell us the big story of healthcare delivery in the US, the flaws, the gaps, and the inadequacies.”

Ronald Flannery is an organizer for the Health Care is a Human Right campaign. “For the last four years, we’ve been talking to people all across the state, and 94% of the people we surveyed believe healthcare is a human right. 80% percent support the idea of a universal, publicly funded health care system. It’s time politicians fight for what the people want.”

The Southern Maine Workers’ Center will release a report later this spring detailing their survey findings, and outlining a path towards universal health care in Maine.

Our Invitation to Senator Susan Collins

On Saturday February 18th the Maine Health Care is a Human Right Coalition held a powerful rally, attended by more than 200 people, at the Monument Square with a march to Senator Collin’s office. We left her a loaf of bread with this invitation to join us at the upcoming People’s Forum on Health Care.


To: The Honorable Senator Susan Collins

From: The Health Care Is a Human Right Coalition

Date: February 18, 2017

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Members of Southern Maine Workers’ Center, Maine AllCare, and Maine State Nurses Association deliver a loaf of bread and our invitation to Senator Susan Collins’ Portland office.

Like you, Senator Collins, we have been thinking about health care for quite some time now. Over 3 years ago, we started asking fellow Mainers about their experiences with and without health care and health insurance.As we listened, we recorded their stories. We also asked them what we thought was a particularly important question: Do you think health care is a human right? Their answer to that question was a resounding YES! 94% of the hundreds of folks we talked to believe that the right to health care belongs to each and every one of us simply because we are human.

We believe that the Affordable Care Act was an important, but flawed start. As often happens, politics got in the way of providing what people really want and so badly need. For many of us, failures of the Affordable Care Act and news from Congress about its repeal and replacement continue to make us feel like we have to grovel for legislative crumbs when we are hungry for universal health care, delivered in a system that is just and extends to all.

We are emphatic: The design of any new system or replacement must recognize that health care is neither a privilege reserved for only those who can afford it, nor a commodity to be bought and sold for profit. Access to high quality affordable health care must extend to all.

Furthermore, a jOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAust system of health care must reflect the following basic human rights principles:

Equity- Everyone puts in what they can and gets what they need. People have different means and resources that impact their ability to pay. Some people will be sicker and some people will be healthier. High deductibles and health care savings accounts do not adequately address equity.

Accountability- Any health care system must answer to the people. The provision of health care must not only be responsible to the recipients of that care, but also is obligated to the rest of us.

Transparency- We should all know how our health care system is managed and run. Providers are responsible for offering clear and complete information in a manner that patients and their families and advocates can understand.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Universality- Health care must be afforded to everyone, without exception. Our health care system must include all…every single one of us. In the United States of America, we know there is enough for all.

Participation- We should all be able to participate in decisions about our personal health care to the highest degree possible. Accessing and practicing preventive care is one example of how our participation not only supports our health, but makes all of America stronger.

We are polite, Senator Collins, but we are also resolved. We left a beautiful loaf of bread for you at your Portland office. Why bread? Bread is a universal symbol of plenty and generosity, and an ancient symbol of life itself. The bread serves as a reminder: We, your constituents, are hungry for health care, not health insurance. We are concerned for our lives. Our voices and our thinking are strong. Please come listen and hear us. To do so, we invite you to our first:

People’s Forum on Health Care

Portland, Maine

March 27th at 6 PM. The location TBA

Sponsored by

The Health Care is a Human Right Coalition

Becoming Unstoppable: Addressing Classism in the World & in our Movement

The Southern Maine Workers’ Center is an organization building a grassroots movement for human rights. We approach our work with the fundamental belief that working class and poor people–employed or not–know how the American economy works, because it works on top of them.  In order to create a more just economy we know that the most effective solutions come from the collective imagining, resistance, and love of people at the bottom. We must look to leadership of those who struggle the most under our current system.

As we organize for human rights and a just economy, we encounter first-hand the ways that racism, classism, and all systems of oppression place roadblocks on our path to unity and liberation. Our membership has a diversity of class experiences, and classism shows up in our membership and in our programming, just as it does in the broader movement. Failing to address classism in our organizing weakens our relationships with each other and our ability to address the institutional forces that keep us divided in an unequal system.

This system is reinforced when politicians like Donald Trump and our own governor Paul LePage use powerful, fear-based stories to shift blame for our insecurity and hardship away from failed economic policies and onto black people, people of color, and immigrants. We need to have clear messages and strategy to counter these stories and to create organizations that can build leadership and power across our differences, including across our experiences of race and class.

In 2014, the Workers’ Center published a list of anti-racist commitments, recognizing the need to state publicly that racial justice is central to our vision of liberation. We know that we cannot address classism without simultaneously working to understand and dismantle racism on every level. We now also recognize a need to articulate our understanding of classism and what commitments we make as an organization to address it. 

WE ARE IN A CRISIS

In Maine, we see reflections of a crisis that is global in scope. Housing costs are skyrocketing and jobs are becoming more concentrated in low-paying sectors with few benefits. The same number of children go without healthcare as did before the Affordable Care Act. In the midst of an opioid epidemic, LePage has ensured that recovery centers around the state will remain underfunded and subject to closure, that beds will not be available to those in desperate need. Between 2000 and 2010, the income of Maine’s richest 20% of households grew by over 6%, while the poorest fifth of households experienced no income growth. The economy helps the rich get richer, while our communities are left behind as industries die out or move, our environment is poisoned, our infrastructure is neglected. Everyday people in Maine are struggling to have their basic human rights met.

Although most people are being negatively impacted by the current system, we’re not all impacted by the system in the same way. LePage’s rhetoric and policies criminalize, target and deny rights to black people and people of color. Racism in this country has always been a highly effective bait and switch for politicians like LePage and Trump, who tell blatantly racist lies about who is to blame for the drug crisis or the economic crisis, openly call for racial profiling, and make it more dangerous for black people and people of color to exist. That includes LePage stating that “the enemy right now… are people of color.” Statements like these are violent, and are intended to distract us from making demands that can address the root causes of racism and economic oppression.

Meanwhile, people who are most directly impacted by economic injustice are too often alienated from the movements that are working to bring about change. We see this happening in our organizing when white people with economic privilege perpetuate the idea that poor and working class white people are “more racist” or are misinformed about important issues. People with class privilege also sometimes fail to recognize the ways their experiences and perspectives dominate movement spaces. Classism alienates those who should be at the centers of our organizations and makes our movements less powerful.

The systems that we’re living under thrive by appearing inevitable but we know that they are not. It is our responsibility to organize a broad base of people for economic and racial justice because the power behind our unity is world changing and unstoppable. But in order to harness this power, we need to make room for our very real differences, and prioritize solutions that are generated by people who are most impacted by racism and classism. Together, we hold the solutions and the knowledge that can bring forth a better world.

WE ARE THE SOLUTION WE HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR

Our vision for change is rooted in human rights. We believe that there are certain things —like healthcare, housing, education, a clean environment, and the ability to work with dignity—that every human being should be guaranteed. The current economic crisis is based in depriving us of our human rights, for the profit and benefit of the few. The solution should be built on the principles of equity and universality: equity meaning everyone puts in what they can, and gets what they need; universality meaning everyone in, nobody out.

In our work to guarantee human rights, we recognize that it’s not just institutions that are the problem—our own stories about our worth and the worth of others can get in the way of our work for social change. In order to build powerful movements for human rights, we must make space in our organizing to share the ways that classism impacts our lives on all levels, from the systemic to the personal.

In order to build a powerful movement to challenge these systems, and in order to address classism in our movements and organization, we make the following commitments.

OUR COMMITMENTS:

  • We commit to prioritizing the voices and leadership of our members who identify as poor, working class, or economically oppressed.
  • We reaffirm our anti-racist commitments, recognizing that classism is not a separate issue, and that our strategy to end economic oppression must involve lifting up the leadership and priorities of black people and people of color in our organization and our communities.
  • We commit to talking openly about all of our identities, experiences and differences, in the spirit of building unity and solidarity. Our movement should provide space where we can all reflect on our own experiences and learn from each other. While doing this, we recognize that white middle class experiences are considered normal and default in the dominant culture, and we’ll therefore work to center the perspectives and analyses of poor and working class people.
  • We commit to educating ourselves and developing tools to address classism in our organization. We commit to developing tools and shared language to help us name and understand our own class experiences.
  • We commit to speaking from our own experience, and to not generalize or appropriate the experiences of others.
  • We commit to making our organization as accessible as possible—providing rides, child care, food, and other support identified by our members.
  • We will organize people from a diversity of class backgrounds into a movement for economic justice and collective liberation.

 

We’re hiring! Join our Work With Dignity Committee as a part time organizer.

JOB DESCRIPTION

This is a part time (20 hours a week) organizer position within the Southern Maine Worker Center (SMWC)’s Work With Dignity Committee. The Work With Dignity (WWD) Committee is SMWC’s worker and workplace organizing wing. We aim to help workers identify, create, and implement economic justice campaigns and programs that represent their priorities.

TO APPLY

image-3Send your resume and a cover letter to smwcemployment@gmail.com. Applications are due by November 4, 2016.  Anticipated start date is on or near November 24, 2016.

SUMMARY OF RESPONSIBILITIES

This organizer’s primary responsibility is to increase the engagement and leadership of SMWC members, with the goal of building worker-led campaigns and programs to further economic justice. This position will support the member-driven Work With Dignity Leadership Committee (WWD-LC) to carry out the committee’s four program areas: WORK manual trainings, worker support, outreach, and any other grassroots worker justice campaigns. This includes networking with partner organizations and individual contacts, coordinating outreach and campaign activities, and building relationships with prospective members. The WWD-LC will work with the organizer to further identify work priorities and goals.

Membership Development

  • Develop and activate contacts for the WWD Committee
  • Support leadership development of SMWC members
  • Have one-on-one organizing conversations
  • Manage follow up to new contacts

Event & Volunteer Coordination

  • Publicize and coordinate WWD events
  • Coordinate outreach efforts towards WWD priorities
  • Coordinate events, trainings and presentations with other organizations
  • Coordinate volunteer staffing of Worker Support Hotline & WORK manual trainings

 

WWD Leadership Committee

  • Participate in the meetings and support the work of WWD Committees
  • Create agendas for meetings, with member input

 

WORK SCHEDULE & SUPERVISION

  • Fluctuating hours with a combination of self-directed and committee-directed scheduling.
  • Must be able to work some nights and weekends (for meetings and events) as well as weekdays.  
  • Position is supervised by the Executive Director, and works in coordination with the WWD Leadership Committee members.

 

QUALIFICATIONS REQUIRED

  • Experience with transformative grassroots organizing, including one-on-one organizing conversations, facilitation, leadership development, event coordination, campaign development; and a willingness to talk to strangers
  • Self-directed; able to work independently
  • Demonstrated writing skills
  • Aligned with the SMWC’s political orientation, community agreements, and goals as outlined in the SMWC Membership Agreements
  • Comfortable working collectively (including group decision-making, collaborative writing, and meeting/event co-facilitation)
  • Women, People of Color, LBGTQ people, poor and working class people encouraged to apply.
  • Start date on or near November 28th
  • This is a salaried position paying the equivalent of $15/hour.

 

“Everywhere we go/people want to know/ who we are/ so we tell them…”

“Everywhere we go/people want to know/ who we are/ so we tell them…”

Ronald Flannery, HCHR Organizer, Southern Maine Workers’ Center 
July 23, 2016

While travelling from the RNC to the DNC on the #peoplescaravan I’ve had the chance to mingle with some of the most determined and empowered activists in the country. The directors of Grassroots Global Justice have assembled a strong coalition composed of diverse groups such as Iraq Veterans Against the War, the Vermont Worker’s Center, the west coasimaget based Communities for a Better Environment, and the Honduran resistance group COPINH. We are united under the slogan It Takes Roots to Change the System. While the activists who embody and enliven our caravan inspire me to no end, many of the most poignant conversations I’ve had have been with outsiders and onlookers. They see our bus, our T-Shirts, our signs and our actions and want to know what we mean by roots and change.

It’s meant to look like an impossible task. At a pit stop in Pittsburg, I shared a beer with a man named Josh from Jacksonville who told me about his workplace. In his world, racist ideas concerning immigrants link well with misogyny, poor bashing, Islamophobia, and xenophobia. Josh’s greatest phobia is the fear of losing his job. At the meat-cutting factory he works in, the word union is equivalent to a curse word. While he laments recent pay cuts and the never-ending attack on his benefits, he feels powerless to do anything about it. After all, he shared, he has an obligation to provide for his wife and child, an imperative which understandably outshines all other responsibilities.

Oimage_4utside our hotel, I shared a cigarette with an ex-marine whose vibrant tattoos stretched all the way up and down both arms. He warmed up to me when he learned that we were protesting the government. I asked him if he wanted me to shout anything on his behalf during our upcoming actions at the DNC. He told me that he was “tired of liberals who know nothing about guns trying to tell me what to with my rifles.” Digging a bit further, I learned that he and his family live off the land in Pennsylvania- alone and isolated in the middle of fifty acres of pine trees. The government, he said, has forbidden him from collecting rainwater, has made it difficult for him to collect solar power, controls strictly the hunting and fishing which permits him to feed his family. Little did he know that inside the hotel were the delegates from COPINH, who are fighting and dying to stop the construction of a government-backed hydroelectric dam that threatens to destroy their connection to the land and their traditional way of life. Oftentimes it’s hard to appreciate the commonalities embedded in our anger.

Grassroots Global Justice is a coalition of more than sixty organizations, each narrowly focused on the issues that affect their own communities. While our work back home varies significantly in scope and form, we come together to bear witness to the fact that all of our fights are, in fact, intimately linked. Sharing our stories has taught us that the same forces which oppress immigrants are the same forces which oppress people of color born in the United States, which oppress working class whites, which oppress indigenous groups in the global south. We are divided through hate speech, through labor market competition, and through arbitrary borders. These barriers were erected with the express goal of making the necessary seem impossible.image (2)

Earlier today, the People’s Caravan stopped in Baltimore to visit the community where Freddie Gray was murdered by the police. We visited with leaders from local groups like the Friend of a Friend Coalition, whose work includes reclaiming abandoned buildings such as the Tubman House: where young children go to receive tutoring, where teens maintain a community garden, and where formerly incarcerated adults go to receive the support required to transition back to a normal life. It is a sacred place, a site that produces hope and inspiration for everyone in the community. While all of us on the caravan were foreign to this neighborhood, we were all welcomed with great hospitality and love. With chants, hugs, and tears, we built solidarity and assured them that we would carry their struggle with us – not just to Philadelphia but back home to our own communities as well.

The lesson that was reinforced in me today is one that has been taught and retaught for millennia. That it takes roots to weather the storm of hatred and division; that it takes roots to build a just community, city, country, and world. There is no doubting that the interests of the powerful who govern our world differ greatly from the interest of common people. There is no doubting that individually we are powerless to change the systems which repress us. What we aim to show with our caravan is that there is also no doubting that together in solidarity we generate a different kind of power, a kind built on love and unity – a kind that cannot be divided. A kind of power capable of changing the system.

 

 

Who Doesn’t Love a Cheesy Metaphor?

 You may have noticed that we at the Southern Maine Workers’ Center enjoys a metaphor almost as much as we enjoy a good pun. This year at our Annual Meeting we honored some of our incredible partner organizations with “Community Pollinator Awards” for their wScreen Shot 2016-03-04 at 5.36.12 PM.pngork bringing people and communities together to create change. We also asked members to add a bee to our garden with a commitment to help our movement bloom.

Our members, including are many of you, are also donors to SMWC and many pay dues through automatic monthly contributions. Some of our non-member supporters do the same. Without a doubt, this the most important funding source for our organization. Monthly sustainers provide stable, long-term funding that allows us to stay focused on the issues most important to our members. We really couldn’t do this without them (without you!). So when we talk about blooming, it is really clear to us that sustainers are the reason for the beautiful bouquet that is SMWC—well, maybe that went too far.

For the next two weeks you will be hearing from our members, as well as supporters locally and with nationally, about why they love SMWC. We hope this will inspire you to become a sustainer as well.

We have a goal of raising a pledged total of $3,000 by June 29th. This funding will help us to maintain our presence on Washington Ave in Portland, show up hard for short term campaigns like the recent Save India Street efforts, and train our members to become organizers themselves–building truly grassroots leadership for human rights.

Please consider joining folks like Teddy by donating $5 or $10 a month to support SMWC’s organizing for social, racial, and economic justice. If you are already a monthly sustainer, can you help us meet our goal by increasing your monthly donation?

Together, we can flourish. Thank you!

We’re hiring a part time organizer for our Health Care is a Human Right campaign

We’re hiring! SMWC is looking for a part time organizer for our Health Care is a Human Right campaign.  At SMWC we believe that a health care system treated as a public good and based on the human rights principles is a fundamental step toward economic and racial justice in our communities. We’re organizing a grassroots movement in Maine to change the health care discourse and policy. Our health care organizer will help us build a strong SMWC membership and a powerful coalition to make health care a humanOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA right in Maine. Please help us spread the word about this position!

To apply  send a cover letter and resume to: smwcemployment@gmail.com. The deadline for applications is June 6, 2016.

We are aiming for a July 18th start date for the position.

JOB DESCRIPTION

This is a part time (20 hours a week) salaried position. This organizer will be primarily responsible for building the statewide presence of the Southern Maine Worker Center (SMWC)’s Health Care is a Human Right Campaign.

SUMMARY OF RESPONSIBILITIES

This organizer’s primary responsibility is to increase the engagement and leadership of SMWC members, with support from the member-led SMWC Health Care is a Human Right Leadership Committee (HCHR-LC). The goal of this position is to develop structures for member engagement that will last beyond the duration of the position. This includes networking with statewide partners and contacts, creating new HCHR organizing committees, coordinating outreach and campaign activities, and follow-up/turnout calls to prospective members–with a focus on new organizing outside of greater Portland. The HCHR-LC  will work with the organizer to identify work priorities and goals.

Membership Development

  • Develop and re-activate as many contacts for the HCHR campaign as possible.
  • Develop and support Health Care is a Human Right Organizing Committees in other areas of Southern Maine.
  • Coordinate presentations with other groups, events and organizations.

 

Event Coordination & General Outreach

  • Coordinate outreach & campaign events and engage HCHR-LC in statewide outreach work.
  • Make follow up calls to new contacts and/or coordinate volunteer support for follow-up and turnout calls.

 

HCHR Coordinating Committee

  • Participate in the meetings & support the work of HCHR-LC Committee & all Organizing Committees as necessary.

 

WORK SCHEDULE & SUPERVISION

  • Flexible hours: This organizer must be able to work some nights and weekends as well as days. There are no set hours.
  • Position is supervised by the Executive Director.

 

QUALIFICATIONS REQUIRED

  • Experience with transformative grassroots organizing, including one-on-one organizing, leadership development, event coordination, and willingness to talk to strangers
  • Self-directed: able to work independently.
  • Demonstrated writing skills.
  • Aligned with the SMWC’s political orientation, community agreements, and goals, as outlined in the SMWC  Membership Agreements
  • Comfortable working collectively (including group decision-making, collaborative writing, and meeting/event co-facilitation).
  • Must have own car or access to car to travel as necessary
  • Women, people of color, and working class and poor folks encouraged to apply.
  • This is a salaried position paying the equivalent of $15/hour

We’re hiring! SMWC is looking for a part time organizer for our Health Care is a Human Right campaign

We’re hiring! SMWC is looking for a part time organizer for our Health Care is a Human Right campaign.  At SMWC we believe that a health care system treated as a public good and based on the human rights principles is a fundamental step toward economic and racial justice in our communities. We’re organizing a grassroots movement in Maine to change the health care discourse and policy. Our health care organizer will help us build a strong SMWC membership and a powerful coalition to make health care a humanOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA right in Maine. Please help us spread the word about this position!

To apply  send a cover letter and resume to: smwcemployment@gmail.com

We are aiming for a July 18th start date for the position.

JOB DESCRIPTION

This is a part time (20 hours a week) salaried position. This organizer will be primarily responsible for building the statewide presence of the Southern Maine Worker Center (SMWC)’s Health Care is a Human Right Campaign.

 

SUMMARY OF RESPONSIBILITIES

This organizer’s primary responsibility is to increase the engagement and leadership of SMWC members, with support from the member-led SMWC Health Care is a Human Right Leadership Committee (HCHR-LC). The goal of this position is to develop structures for member engagement that will last beyond the duration of the position. This includes networking with statewide partners and contacts, creating new HCHR organizing committees, coordinating outreach and campaign activities, and follow-up/turnout calls to prospective members–with a focus on new organizing outside of greater Portland. The HCHR-LC  will work with the organizer to identify work priorities and goals.

 

Membership Development

  • Develop and re-activate as many contacts for the HCHR campaign as possible.
  • Develop and support Health Care is a Human Right Organizing Committees in other areas of Southern Maine.
  • Coordinate presentations with other groups, events and organizations.

 

Event Coordination & General Outreach

  • Coordinate outreach & campaign events and engage HCHR-LC in statewide outreach work.
  • Make follow up calls to new contacts and/or coordinate volunteer support for follow-up and turnout calls.

 

HCHR Coordinating Committee

  • Participate in the meetings & support the work of HCHR-LC Committee & all Organizing Committees as necessary.

 

WORK SCHEDULE & SUPERVISION

  • Flexible hours: This organizer must be able to work some nights and weekends as well as days. There are no set hours.
  • Position is supervised by the Executive Director.

 

QUALIFICATIONS REQUIRED

  • Experience with transformative grassroots organizing, including one-on-one organizing, leadership development, event coordination, and willingness to talk to strangers
  • Self-directed: able to work independently.
  • Demonstrated writing skills.
  • Aligned with the SMWC’s political orientation, community agreements, and goals, as outlined in the SMWC  Membership Agreements
  • Comfortable working collectively (including group decision-making, collaborative writing, and meeting/event co-facilitation).
  • Must have own car or access to car to travel as necessary
  • Women, people of color, and working class and poor folks encouraged to apply.
  • This is a salaried position paying the equivalent of $15/hour

SMWC Joins Call for Portland to #SaveIndiaStreet

 SMWC Joins Call for Portland to #SaveIndiaStreet

12970975_466369626888276_8807168673398038630_oHealth Care is a Human Right. This is an undisputable truth. Yet, we live in a nation and a state that daily denies people access to necessary and quality health care services, based primarily on income. The Southern Maine Workers’ Center (SMWC) organizes for a truly universal, publicly-funded health care system that honors our human rights. We need to create a lasting, people-powered solution to our health care crisis. This struggle can’t move forward unless we continue the fight to maintain and expand the few supports that currently exist to help poor and working class people of Maine. This is why we, like so many others, have called for the expansion of Medicaid, and it is why we speak today in solidarity with the local movement to save the India Street Public Health Center.

The city budget proposal before Portland’s city council includes a plan to defund India Street and “transition services” and patient load to the Portland Community Health Center (PCHC). The Health Care is a Human Right campaign of the SMWC has studied the proposed budget, and we have listened to members who use India Street, providers who care for patients there, and city officials advocating for this change. Our conclusion is clear: this proposal is irresponsible and anti-poor. We urge Portland’s city councilors to vote down this aspect of the proposed city budget for the following reasons:

• Lacking proper participation or support from India Street’s clients: Participation and transparency are two of the human rights principles that guide all of SMWC’s organizing. The proposed defunding of the India Street Public Health Center was undertaken without deep involvement of patients, clients, providers and community members directly impacted. While city officials have expressed a commitment to caring for residents most in need, the cries for maintaining India Street in its current form have been ignored in this proposal. Clients have spoken to the media and in public forums about the life-saving care they receive at India Street, and what a toll it will take on their community if it is defunded. We are in solidarity with those who are poor/low-income, living with addiction, and those who are HIV+ in our city. We hear their concerns and trust their certainty that closing India Street will negatively impact their lives.

• Significant doubt that the transition will not result in loss of services: City officials claim to support the elimination of “duplication of services,” but we stand unconvinced that services currently provided by the staff of India Street are, in fact, being duplicated.  There is no doubt that India Street meets the needs of community members who would otherwise go without care. Based on conversations with members of the India Street community as well as attendance at the latest meeting of the city’s Finance Committee,  we are also skeptical that services would be adequately delivered by the new configuration of care outlined in the City Manager’s budget proposal. India Street as it currently exists, provides an integrated experience, with a Needle Exchange, STD testing and harm reduction counseling, as well as comprehensive care for HIV+ patients, and primary care. This all occurs in one building with providers who have worked hard to build trust with clients. PCHC and the City Manager currently have no solid plan for the relocation of the Needle Exchange to a venue that would not present new barriers for clients. Furthermore, the splitting up of various services across different sites and providers, as well as the inevitable loss of some trusted India Street staff, is extremely likely to deter some current patients from transferring successfully to PCHC. The likelihood that members of our community will slip through the cracks of this system makes this decision a matter of life and death for some.

• Public Health not Privatization!: The transfer of services away from a public health model over to a private non-profit signal yet another step in a dangerous national trend away from funding, sustaining, and protecting public goods, and into a highly privatized future of uncertain ‘health’ for our communities. The argument has been made that a federally qualified health center like the PCHC answers to a board of patient representatives to which PCHC will be accountable. The truth is that, regardless of the quality of care PCHC may be capable of providing, if the City of Portland completes a transition of services, it would no longer be responsible for ensuring high quality care. The people who access India Street currently, and neighbors who care about one another’s quality of health, would no longer have any say. Our votes would cease to matter. Although City Manager Jon Jennings stated in last week’s Finance Committee meeting that he “can guarantee a successful transition,” there will be no public mechanism for holding him, the city council, and the mayor accountable if the transition fails India Street’s patients. Additionally, privatization eliminates good union jobs and replaces them with non-union ones, thus weakening our workforce. The shift to privatization harms the most vulnerable in our communities, including workers.

For all of the above reasons, the SMWC supports keeping the India Street Public Health Center open. We do so in solidarity with our members and neighbors whose voices are most often excluded or ignored in matters of deciding public policy and budgets. We also urge our members to join the movement to #SaveIndiaStreet and take action in the following ways:

1.Call or email city council members and Mayor Ethan Strimling.

2. Write and submit Letters to the Editor to local publications.

3. Join a rally at 12 pm in Monument Square on Sunday, May 1st to gather momentum before the city council hearing on May 2nd.

4.  Attend the public hearing on May 2nd at 5 pm at City Hall, second floor. Testify if you feel moved!

13029470_469023989956173_2167252552388649282_o

Guest Blog: Catholic Teachings and Workplace Justice

“What Catholics Believe: The Seventh Commandment, Part 2
Do Not Steal; Treat Workers Justly”

By Father Michael J Seavey

Reprinted from The Harvest: The Magazine of the Catholic Diocese of Portland
January/February 2016, p.10

If we were to see a story on “workplace theft”, we might imagine an armed robbery with masked intruders emptying the cash registers and ordering employees and customers to deliver over their valuables. However, for many low-wage or part-time employees, wage theft is a constant reality. But the culprit more often than not is their boss, not outside intruders.

An article published by journalist Seth Freed Wessler in 2013 states, “The U.S. Department of Labor found a couple years ago that 40 percent of fast food outposts in the country fail to consistently pay their employees a minimum wage or overtime. And a recent study from New York City found that 84 percent of fast food workers complained that their employers regularly force them to work off the books, work overtime without overtime pay or pony up for their own gas for deliveries.”

Father Michael J. Seavey with members of the SMWC at the annual Labor Day Breakfast in Portland, ME
Father Michael J. Seavey with members of the SMWC at the annual Labor Day Breakfast in Portland, ME

The Catholic Church envisions the workplace as an opportunity for human flourishing. A Catholic spirituality of work teaches us that our daily labors are opportunities to develop every aspect of our humanity. A “human” workplace requires the principles of justice, respect and responsibility flow in all directions: from employers to employees and vice versa. In addition, employees need to treat one another with justice and respect as well.

The Old Testament prophets raged against exploitation of the poor and vulnerable. Within their cries, defrauding workers appeared on their radar screens. Among them, the prophet Jeremiah proclaims, “Woe to him who builds his house on wrong, his terraces on injustice; who works his neighbor without pay and gives him no wages (22:13).”

In The New Testament, Jesus’ Parable of the Vineyard Workers (Matthew 20:1-16) highlights the landowner’s determination to pay all workers “the usual daily wage” regardless of how many hours they worked. While the parable is a teaching on God’s mercy essential for salvation, the workers are dependent on “the daily wage” as the minimal amount needed to care for their families basic needs.

The Letter of James makes this point dramatically, “Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of your harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts (5:4).”

Violations of justice result in “theft” of one’s material possessions or one’s sense of dignity and well-being. While this article focuses on “wage theft”, other injustices rob the workplace of an environment needed to promote human flourishing. Employers and managers have an obligation to provide a workplace that is as safe as possible and free of undignified behavior. Sexual harassment, ridicule, or discrimination rob people of their dignity. False accusations rob people of their reputations and their inner peace. Everyone in the workplace has a right to their good reputation and a right to work in a safe and respectful environment.

In addition to wage theft, some employers take advantage of the “independent contractor” phase of business. This is especially true in construction and building trades. Often legitimately, contractors will sub-contract with plumbers, electricians, finished carpenters and others for a project. These sub-contractors are paid a lump sum for their work and then pay their own workers wages and benefits from that sum of money.

However, some companies will classify many of their own employees as “independent contractors”. Each is then paid a lump sum and from that each provides for their family, but also pay all other taxes and expenses normally paid for by their employer. The result is a inadequate income robbing them of just pay for their labor. These practices violate many state and federal labor laws. Many workers, unaware these practices are illegal or pressured into silence, often leave these practices unreported.

This particular practice not only robs employees of just wages, but creates unfair competition as well. For certain, vast numbers of honorable employers provide just wages and benefits to their workers. Other contractors exploiting their workers can offer cheaper prices for their work. In the long run, the entire community suffers from these unjust practices.

Pope St. John Paul II directed that Catholic Social Teaching have its own catechism. It is the only section of moral theology to have its own catechism, expressing the centrality of these teachings in his papacy.

The Compendium of The Social Doctrine of the Church discusses these issues within its body of teachings, “Remuneration is the most important means for achieving justice in work relationships. The just wage is the legitimate fruit of work. They commit grave injustice who refuse to pay a just wage or who do not give it in due time and in proportion to the work done …Remuneration for labour is to be such that (workers) may be furnished the means to cultivate worthily (their) own material, social, cultural, and spiritual life and that of dependents… The simple agreement between employee and employer with regard to the amount of pay to be received is not sufficient for the agreed-upon salary to qualify as a ‘just wage’, because a just wage must not be below the level of subsistence of the worker.” #302

Father Michael J. Seavey is the pastor/administrator of the Portland Peninsula and Island Parishes, as well as a dear friend of the Southern Maine Workers’ Center and a founding member of Interfaith Worker Justice -Southern Maine.