Aug 30, 2016

Recent articles

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 2

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs. Part 2/2.

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 1

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs.

CCLP testifies in support of Clean Slate updates

Bethany Pray, CCLP’s Chief Legal and Policy Officer, provided testimony in support of House Bill 24-1133, Criminal Record Sealing & Expungement Changes. CCLP is in support of HB24-1133, as it is one of our priority bills.

Meet Andy Stern: Labor power-player and lifelong advocate

by | Aug 30, 2016

Growing up in North Carolina, talk of labor unions conjured of visions of New York, Michigan and other states with a rich history of pro-labor policies, not of home. One particular family member—who always struggled to make ends meet —often spoke of the prospect of moving “up North” and finding a union job with higher  wages, more job security, better working conditions and earned benefits.

This rosy-but-nostalgic image of labor unions was reinforced through my studies in American history where I learned how prominent trade unions gained power throughout the 20th century and helped create the American middle class. But due to various factors (notably, the decline of manufacturing jobs in the U.S.), unions lost their momentum during the twilight years of the 20th century. At their peak in 1954, unions represented nearly 35 percent of all American workers. By contrast, that number stood at a paltry 11 percent by 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Because I grew up during an age of declining union membership (and increasing power for businesses), I assumed that American labor leaders were at least partially culpable for the decline of the labor movement because they were unwilling to change their tactics and alter their course. However, this broad generalization was debunked when I researched the career of Andy Stern, the keynote speaker for the Colorado Center on Law and Policy’s 3rd Annual Pathways from Poverty Breakfast on Oct. 6 at the History Colorado Center.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, Andy Stern does not fit the typical caricature of a union man or woman. But despite his Ivy League education and privileged background, Stern has always felt an urge to fight for those in need and the American working class.

Growing up in New Jersey, he used to hold impromptu carnivals in his backyard to raise money for the area’s poor children. During college he switched majors from business to urban studies. His first job after graduating from college was as a caseworker for the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare. In 1972 he attended his first union meeting after he saw a poster for free pizza at a meeting of the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) local office. The allure of free pizza worked — Stern was hooked.

By 1977, Stern was president of SEIU’s Local 668 office and by 1996 he was elected president of the entire union and its 1.4 million members. As president of SEIU, Stern quickly made a name for himself by imploring its members and other unions to look forward and adapt rather than hold onto the past.

“It’s not our fathers and grandfather’s economy,” he liked to say. After all, globalization and corporate powers had created a new environment for laborers worldwide that would not dissipate — period. Stern’s adaptive and futuristic vision for labor unions did not resonate with everyone — including leaders of the labor powerhouse AFL-CIO of which SEIU was a member until 2005 when Stern and other disaffected labor leaders defected from the coalition and formed the Change to Win Coalition.

Stern’s time at SEIU was impressive by all accounts. He oversaw growth in its ranks to a diverse group of 2.2 million workers across the U.S. and around the world and played a pivotal role in the election of President Obama.  As a close confidant of the President’s, Stern was described by Modern Healthcare as “one of the key architects” in the efforts to pass the Affordable Care Act..

But by 2010, Stern realized that his time with SEIU had come to a close: “After nearly fifteen years at the helm of SEIU, I had lost my ability to predict labor’s future. To be an effective leader, you need to be able to look 20, 30, even 40 years down the road.” Stern felt he had done all he could at the helm of SEIU and, true to his philosophy of always looking forward, left to begin his latest quest—to uncover the “future of jobs, work and the American Dream.”

To help him on his latest quest, and in recognition of his ability to “bring a thoughtful perspective and a lifetime of experience” to anything he pursues, Stern was brought on in 2011 as a Senior Fellow for the Columbia Business and Law Schools to help them “pursue solutions to important problems like health care, inequality, and worker’s rights in a globally competitive environment.”

Now, with the release of his newest book, “Raising the Floor: How a Universal Basic Income Can Renew Our Economy and Rebuild the American Dream,” it would seem that Stern has uncovered the future of the American workforce he was looking for, and it isn’t pretty.

Based on numerous economic indicators and academic studies, Stern is convinced that a sizable portion of America’s workforce and industries will become automated and that our current economic system, as it stands today, is ill-prepared to deal with the consequences.

This perceived threat to American workers (and to the American Dream itself, he says), has led Stern to advocate for a Universal Basic Income (U.B.I.) of $12,000 a year for all Americans over the age of 18. Stern concedes that details for this seemingly radical idea are preliminary at best, but he is convinced the U.B.I. could end poverty and alleviate the pain felt by American workers in an age of automation while revitalizing the American Dream in the 21st century. It is his hope that members of both sides of the political spectrum will engage this idea seriously, a wish that is beginning to gain momentum.

CCLP always welcomes new and innovative ideas that seek to alleviate poverty in Colorado. Having read Stern’s books, watched a number of his lectures, and read about his glory days at SEIU, I am thrilled that Mr. Stern will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Pathways from Poverty Breakfast.

-Kristopher Grant

Register today for CCLP’s Third Annual Pathways from Poverty Breakfast.

Recent articles

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 2

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs. Part 2/2.

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 1

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs.

CCLP testifies in support of Clean Slate updates

Bethany Pray, CCLP’s Chief Legal and Policy Officer, provided testimony in support of House Bill 24-1133, Criminal Record Sealing & Expungement Changes. CCLP is in support of HB24-1133, as it is one of our priority bills.

HEALTH:
HEALTH FIRST COLORADO (MEDICAID)

To maintain health and well-being, people of all ages need access to quality health care that improves outcomes and reduces costs for the community. Health First Colorado, the state's Medicaid program, is public health insurance for low-income Coloradans who qualify. The program is funded jointly by a federal-state partnership and is administered by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing.

Benefits of the program include behavioral health, dental services, emergency care, family planning services, hospitalization, laboratory services, maternity care, newborn care, outpatient care, prescription drugs, preventive and wellness services, primary care and rehabilitative services.

In tandem with the Affordable Care Act, Colorado expanded Medicaid eligibility in 2013 - providing hundreds of thousands of adults with incomes less than 133% FPL with health insurance for the first time increasing the health and economic well-being of these Coloradans. Most of the money for newly eligible Medicaid clients has been covered by the federal government, which will gradually decrease its contribution to 90% by 2020.

Other populations eligible for Medicaid include children, who qualify with income up to 142% FPL, pregnant women with household income under 195% FPL, and adults with dependent children with household income under 68% FPL.

Some analyses indicate that Colorado's investment in Medicaid will pay off in the long run by reducing spending on programs for the uninsured.

FOOD SECURITY:
SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (SNAP)

Hunger, though often invisible, affects everyone. It impacts people's physical, mental and emotional health and can be a culprit of obesity, depression, acute and chronic illnesses and other preventable medical conditions. Hunger also hinders education and productivity, not only stunting a child's overall well-being and academic achievement, but consuming an adult's ability to be a focused, industrious member of society. Even those who have never worried about having enough food experience the ripple effects of hunger, which seeps into our communities and erodes our state's economy.

Community resources like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, exist to ensure that families and individuals can purchase groceries, with the average benefit being about $1.40 per meal, per person.

Funding for SNAP comes from the USDA, but the administrative costs are split between local, state, and federal governments. Yet, the lack of investment in a strong, effective SNAP program impedes Colorado's progress in becoming the healthiest state in the nation and providing a better, brighter future for all. Indeed, Colorado ranks 44th in the nation for access to SNAP and lost out on more than $261 million in grocery sales due to a large access gap in SNAP enrollment.

See the Food Assistance (SNAP) Benefit Calculator to get an estimate of your eligibility for food benefits.

FOOD SECURITY:
SPECIAL SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION PROGRAM FOR WOMEN, INFANTS AND CHILDREN (WIC)

Every child deserves the nutritional resources needed to get a healthy start on life both inside and outside the mother's womb. In particular, good nutrition and health care is critical for establishing a strong foundation that could affect a child's future physical and mental health, academic achievement and economic productivity. Likewise, the inability to access good nutrition and health care endangers the very integrity of that foundation.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition information for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

Research has shown that WIC has played an important role in improving birth outcomes and containing health care costs, resulting in longer pregnancies, fewer infant deaths, a greater likelihood of receiving prenatal care, improved infant-feeding practices, and immunization rates

Financial Security:
Colorado Works

In building a foundation for self-sufficiency, some Colorado families need some extra tools to ensure they can weather challenging financial circumstances and obtain basic resources to help them and their communities reach their potential.

Colorado Works is Colorado's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and provides public assistance to families in need. The Colorado Works program is designed to assist participants in becoming self-sufficient by strengthening the economic and social stability of families. The program provides monthly cash assistance and support services to eligible Colorado families.

The program is primarily funded by a federal block grant to the state. Counties also contribute about 20% of the cost.

EARLY LEARNING:
COLORADO CHILD CARE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (CCCAP)

Child care is a must for working families. Along with ensuring that parents can work or obtain job skills training to improve their families' economic security, studies show that quality child care improves children's academic performance, career development and health outcomes.

Yet despite these proven benefits, low-income families often struggle with the cost of child care. Colorado ranks among the top 10 most expensive states in the country for center-based child care. For families with an infant, full-time enrollment at a child care center cost an average of $15,140 a year-or about three-quarters of the total income of a family of three living at the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).

The Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) provides child care assistance to parents who are working, searching for employment or participating in training, and parents who are enrolled in the Colorado Works Program and need child care services to support their efforts toward self-sufficiency. Most of the money for CCCAP comes from the federal Child Care and Development Fund. Each county can set their own income eligibility limit as long as it is at or above 165% of the federal poverty level and does not exceed 85% of area median income.

Unfortunately, while the need is growing, only an estimated one-quarter of all eligible children in the state are served by CCCAP. Low reimbursement rates have also resulted in fewer providers willing to accept CCCAP subsidies.