Category Archives: Campaign for America’s Future

Workers Caught in the Middle on Covid-19

Little Rock       School teachers and their unions are being forced into Hobson’s choices all over the country about whether to return to work as politicians, parents, school officials, and every mother’s child pushes them in one direction or another.  The standard line there, and everywhere, is, “Sure, I want to work, if it’s safe.”  That’s really as much a question as a statement, and there’s no one who seems solid and steady enough to give a straight answer to such simple questions.

Teachers are just one example and probably not even the best example, since for many workers these decisions are personal and perilous.  Go back to work, potentially at risk to family, friends, and yourself, or lose your job and income, all the while knowing you really want to get out of the house, and you actually want to go back to work.

At the table with Local 100 United Labor Unions with a national company representing 250 of our workers employed in small community homes supporting mental health and disabled consumers this week, one of the organizers had noticed that our contract language had said that workers “may” not be allowed to work in the event of sickness.  We said clearly that now in the time of coronavirus we needed to get rid of the “may.”  Believe it or not, there was argument about this.  Who would determine whether conditions were safe, the company asked?  Elsewhere the standards are determined by OSHA or DOL with no argument.  We suggested Center for Disease Control standards, and the company spit back, that CDC had changed their standards 17 times over the last six months.  Was that true?  Who knows?  Our answer was, who else? And, why not change as information increases?  That’s better than OSHA which has gone into hibernation during this crisis when it comes to worker health and safety.

We’ve reached out to lawyers and the ACLU in Arkansas for our state worker members.  Unless they are literally on the equivalent of house arrest, they are being forced to return to state offices to work.  Workers have to reveal whether they ever leave to go to the drugstore or grocery, and if they do, “come to work!”  Remember, these are workers who are actually working, just remotely.  Facebook postings are being inspected to see if workers are out and about.  Doctor’s notes are not deemed adequate.  We’re in a fight defending workers with personal or family underlying conditions.

Unemployed?  The supplements are gone and up in the air.  States are whining with facts to back it up:  no money, honey!  There’s a work requirement in Louisiana and a four-job search requirement.  The governor says for workers who have lost their jobs due to Covid, just write Covid on the line four times.  Really?  Is that a plan that’s going to work?  With maximum payments hardly over $200 a wee*k, how and where can people make it now?

There’s an answer to these questions.  These are not rhetorical questions.  Here’s the answer:  people want to go back to work.  They want to go back to work now, if their old jobs still exist.  They just don’t want to die.

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Please enjoy I Want America Back by  Eric Hirshberg.

Thanks to WAMF.

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Field Testing Voter Purges and “Drops”

Columbus        As the Voter Purge Project moves forward, we are now analyzing the voter files on more than a dozen states on our way to double that number in coming weeks, many of them include the hotly contested “battleground” states like Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, and North Carolina.  The VPP is processing these lists with our database team in order to assure that any voter suppression efforts are prevented from purging legitimate voters or purging voters in a discriminating way based on race, ethnicity, income or any other reason.  Early results have been encouraging with some important results in terms of voters saved and purges forestalled, but the project continues to wrestle with huge questions and concerns.

One of the most puzzling is determining the difference between purges for death or address changes as opposed to unexplained “drops” or voter disappearances.  Another is of course whether in states like Ohio and Georgia where a piece of mail can trigger a purge if there has not been a recent voting history, the purge is legitimate.

I spent time with former ACORN organizers in person and on the phone while in Columbus trying to puzzle out a field test that would combine our database analysis and questions with on-the-ground door knocking to determine either the answers or the legitimacy of these actions by the government.  In Columbus, we decided to look at four zip codes dotted in the heart of our historic low-and-moderate income, African-American constituency in Ohio.  We analyze the Ohio voter file on a weekly basis when it is posted on the Secretary of State’s website, so we can tell who the “disappeared” are in almost real time.

The plan would be to pull the names that are deleted in these zip codes from week to week and then to deploy organizers on the ground to visit the last known address of the voter that was in our database before they were either purged or dropped.  By keeping rigorous records of whether or not the actions were valid or not, we estimate that we would be able to determine the accuracy of the government’s actions and calculate a percentage of validity in the list.  In Ohio and other states where on-line registration is possible, we might be able to re-register them on the spot or work out a verification system with the authorities so that they were put back on the list.  If this works, we would do identical field tests in Atlanta, Georgia, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The notion for this kind of field test occurred to me as I visited Barbara Clark, a former ACORN organizer in the childcare center where she was working part-time.  She and some other former ACORN members from time to time were involved in circulating petitions for various initiatives in Columbus and were often paid by the signature.  She was complaining about the problems her team would have in collecting their money when the signature verifiers would claim that signature were invalid when the people signing had sworn to them that they were registered.  In thinking with her about a way to use our voter list access to keep her team from being ripped off, it seemed like there might be a way to reverse engineer her negative experience and find a way to “clean” the list in the street and build a firewall and prevention program around these purges and voter disappearances preemptively.

Organizing is all about listening, and you have to be in the streets to really hear and understand the issues and get your arms around them. Welcome to my world!

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