Category Archives: Front Page

Acknowledging Systemic Racism and Unpacking Whiteness

Acknowledging Systemic Racism and Unpacking Whiteness

Lindsay Hueston
February 21, 2019

In a commitment to moving towards being an anti-racist, multicultural organization, NETWORK staff is intentionally setting aside time in 2019 to read and discuss Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility. The book examines structures of race in the modern-day United States, and is an especially pertinent read during Black History Month. As a white woman, DiAngelo challenges systems of whiteness that have led to the racism that permeates our political and societal culture. Though it may manifest itself in different ways, racism is still alive and well today, and impacts countless policies and issues that NETWORK works on in order to mend the gaps in our society.

During Black History Month, NETWORK challenges you to examine the way you and the systems around you may unintentionally perpetuate racism. We are trying to be intentional about listening to the experiences of people who are directly impacted by systemic racial injustice, and we encourage you to do the same.

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

– Lilla Watson, indigenous Australian activist

Some resources that may be helpful throughout this month, please comment below with any recommendations you have to add:

Books
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
Citizen by Claudia Rankine
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
White Like Me by Tim Wise
Waking Up White by Debby Irving
Trouble I’ve Seen by Drew G.I. Hart
The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Authors
Roxane Gay
Audre Lorde
Alice Walker
Toni Morrison
James Baldwin
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Maya Angelou

Videos
We Must Talk About Race to Fix Economic Inequality (YouTube video)
Talks to help you understand racism in America (TED talk playlist, videos on racial justice)
The Myth of the Welfare Queen (PBS video)

Articles
Everyday Respectability Politics
An Examen for White Allies: from the Ignatian Solidarity Network
What Black Lives Matter Can Teach Catholics About Racial Justice: from America Magazine

Lists
Reading List for Northam: recently-published article that has some great anti-racism resources
16 Books About Race That White People Should Read: further reading resources
(White) Girl Power aka The List: a list of anti-racist resources to white women to attain a deeper understanding of Black women’s lived experiences

Websites
People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond: holds programs, workshops, and resources for anti-racist education and organizing
Rachel Cargle: an activist and writer who educates others about anti-racism and intellectual discourse
Everyday Feminism: website has an entire section dedicated to the intersections of race and feminism

Podcasts
Code Switch (NPR)
Pod Save the People
Yo, Is This Racist?
Good Ancestor
Hoodrat to Headwrap
The Racist Sandwich Podcast
Ezra Klein: Political Power and the Racial Wealth Gap
A Conversation About Conversations About Race

TV/Film
13th
Dear White People (TV, Film)
The Hate U Give
Black-ish
Moonlight
Pariah

 

Feature artwork from Ernesto Yerena, Amplifier

The Importance of In-District Lobby Visits

The Importance of In-District Lobby Visits

Alannah Boyle
February 19, 2019

Here at NETWORK as a member of the Grassroots Mobilization team, I have spent the last week excitedly working with our field and our team in preparation for February Recess meetings, which take place while Congress is out of session every February.

Before I began my Associate Year at NETWORK, I hadn’t realized the importance of in-district lobby visits, and building relationships with staff who both live and work in my community. Building relationships with in-district staff can help lead to a meeting with your Member of Congress themselves. In these meetings, you can learn about your Member of Congress’s priorities and goals, and how you can work with them in the future. We are all experts in our own lived experience, part of which involves where we live. Our Members of Congress have to split their time between living in our community and living in Washington, D.C., so our expertise and relationships in our community can be very helpful to our Member of Congress. It is important that we share our expertise, and our values, with our Member of Congress’s office.

As part of NETWORK’s February Recess preparations, members of our Grassroots Mobilization team and our Government Relations team gave a webinar. Our Grassroots Mobilization team outlined pro tips and best practices for lobbying. Our Government Relations Team then provided a policy briefing. This February Recess, NETWORK members are lobbying on Mend the Gap bills that are moving this session, including HR 1: For the People Act, Raise the Wage Act of 2019 and the Paycheck Fairness Act.

If you missed our webinar on how to conduct a lobby visit, you can watch it here. If you set up a February Recess Lobby visit, please feel free to contact the Grassroots Mobilization staff here. We’d love to help you plan your visit and hear how your visit went afterwards!

NETWORK Advocates for Legislation to Lower Drug Prices

NETWORK Advocates for Legislation to Lower Drug Prices

Siena Ruggeri
February 13, 2019

Last week NETWORK sent the following letter to all members of the House of Representatives urging them to support a bill introduced by Rep. Lloyd Doggett that would require pharmaceutical companies to negotiate prices with Medicare Part D. The bill now has over 100 cosponsors and is being evaluated in the House Ways and Means Committee Subcommittee on Health.

In the State of the Union, President Trump voiced his support for Congressional legislation to lower prescription drug prices, saying: “It is unacceptable that Americans pay vastly more than people in other countries for the exact same drugs… This is wrong, this is unfair, and together we will stop it.”  Rep. Doggett’s Medicare Negotiation and Competitive Licensing Act is just the start of the House’s legislative action on drug pricing. NETWORK will evaluate additional legislation and continue advocating for policies that mend the gaps in access to healthcare.

Read the letter below or as a PDF here.


Dear Representative,

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice urges members of Congress to become original cosponsors of the Medicare Negotiation and Competitive Licensing Act today.

It is morally reprehensible that 1 in 4 Americans have difficulty paying for their prescriptions. Congress must take specific steps to remedy this wrong.

Taking action to lower drug prices is the top domestic policy priority of Democrats and Republicans, and achieving lower prices for Medicare Part D through direct government negotiation with drug manufacturers is both popular and effective. This policy has support from more than 9-in-10 Americans across the political spectrum. The midterm election was clear—voters expect practical solutions that lower unreasonably high prescription drug prices.

The Medicare Negotiation and Competitive Licensing Act is a common-sense reform that would allow Medicare to negotiate reasonable and affordable drug prices for seniors. By including a fallback to negotiations of competitive licensing when pharmaceutical companies fail to offer an appropriate price, seniors are protected from unfair prices, and Medicare patients will have continued access to the medication they need.

Healthcare is a fundamental social good and essential human right. Inspired by Catholic Social Justice, we seek health care that is high-quality, accessible, affordable, and equitable. We know that unaffordable prescription drugs keep care out-of-reach for far too many people. Congress must take this concrete step to lower drug prices for patients to ensure no one has to go without their medication due to cost.

We urge you to cosponsor this important legislation.

Sincerely,

Sister Simone Campbell
Executive Director
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

Looking at 2018: Chaos and Cooperation in Congress

2018: Chaos and Cooperation in Congress

Laura Peralta-Schulte
February 13, 2019

2018 saw the second session of the Republican led 115th Congress, the second year of the Trump administration, and another year of persistent challenges to mending the gaps in our country. As was the case in 2017, the Trump administration continued to cut human needs programs, relentlessly attack immigrant and refugee communities, and double down on tax breaks for the wealthy. The latest Presidential tweet or scandal seemed to dominate news headlines in 2018, often to the detriment of substantive national policy issues. Some Congressional action took place within this context, but much of our legislative success was noticeably absent from news coverage.

There is some good news to report this year: in the Senate, there was true bipartisan partnership on a number of our key legislative priorities. In contrast to 2017, Republicans in both chambers decided not to use budget reconciliation to allow the Senate to pass a bill on a simple majority vote, so cooperation was essential. Some bipartisan relationships formed quickly to tackle emergencies like the opioid crisis, others had been going on for years and finally resulted in steps toward meaningful change on criminal justice reform. In instances such as the Farm Bill and many appropriations bills, the elected officials who lead key committees agreed to take the most controversial proposals off the table in order to pass needed legislation. We are grateful for this measured leadership and believe it should be the model for how Congress works.

House Republicans took a different approach to their work this year. The Republican caucus was deeply fractured between moderate Republicans and tea party conservatives. Under Speaker Paul Ryan, Republican leadership promised that any bill passed in the House must be supported by a majority of Republicans. As a result, their legislation largely reflected conservative tea party priorities. Moderate House members supported these bills, often recognizing that the worst proposals would be removed by the Senate. They believed this political posturing would satisfy their voters.

These member of Congress were wrong. They failed to understand how their votes would impact their political support at home. At the end of the day, many of these elected officials suffered defeat in the midterm elections because of their support for controversial bills on issues such as healthcare and taxes. The 2018 election showed that voters want their elected officials to protect healthcare, social security, and other federal programs and ensure that the wealthy are paying their fair share of taxes to support these programs.

Congressional action on immigration in 2018 deserves its own analysis. As you will see in our voting scorecard, there were significant votes on different immigration policies during 2018, but the reality is that Congress failed to take any meaningful steps to fix the broken immigration system or to protect immigrants who living in the United states. Much of the Congressional action stemmed from the crisis created by the Trump administration’s decision to end DACA in September 2017. Rather than passing the Dream Act to protect DACA recipients from deportation and provide them with a pathway to citizenship, Republicans aligned themselves with the Trump administration to push significant cuts to the legal immigration system and other harsh measures to harm immigrant families. The result has been bittersweet: immigration advocates were able to convince Congress to reject these harmful proposals, but the lives of DACA recipients and their families remain at risk. At the end of a difficult year, there is much that we wish would have turned out differently, but we remain hopeful for another opportunity to work for justice in 2019 with the 116th Congress.


This story originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of Connection Magazine. Read the full issue here.

Find NETWORK’s 2018 Congressional Voting Record here.

NETWORK Congressional Voting Record Released

NETWORK Congressional Voting Record Released

Today NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice announced the release of its 2018 Catholic Social Justice Voting Record. This annual scorecard reflects how Members of Congress voted in accordance with Catholic Social Justice and evaluates if they worked to mend the gaps in economic and wealth inequality.

From Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice:

The second year of the Republican-led 115th Congress was another year of chaos and struggle. The Trump administration doubled down on tax breaks for the wealthy, cuts to human needs programs, and relentless attacks on immigrants and asylum seekers. Catholic Sisters and activists struggled tirelessly against these proposals. The Republicans in Congress decided to follow the President’s lead and support this barrage on the common good, and they paid the price on Election Day.

“The voters rejected incumbents and embraced those who defend the common good. These defenders of the common good are reflected in our 2018 Catholic Social Justice Voting Record.

“2019 brings great change for Congress, and we at NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice are especially excited to work with the new Democrat-led House of Representatives. The Catholic Sisters and activists of NETWORK Lobby will work to undo the damage that the Trump presidency has inflicted on our nation, and we will support a visionary agenda that supports the 100%.

In 2018, NETWORK Lobby prioritized the most important votes from the past year that fit with its 2020 policy vision to Mend the Gaps. NETWORK Lobby scored 15 votes, eight in the Senate and seven in the House. We recommended nine ‘No’ votes on bills that attacked immigrants, cut healthcare and food assistance, and doubled down on the harmful effects of the 2017 GOP Tax Law. NETWORK Lobby recommended six ‘Yes’ votes on bills that protected Dreamers, ensured food security, and took the first steps toward broad criminal justice reform.

Last year, seven state delegations received perfect Catholic Social Justice voting scores: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Every single House and Senate member from these states voted 100% of the time with in accordance with NETWORK Lobby’s Catholic Social Justice values.

There were also four states that had their entire delegations fail on their Catholic Social Justice Scorecards, receiving scores below 70% in 2018. Every single member of the Arkansas, Kansas, Utah, and West Virginia delegations consistently voted against the recommendation of the Catholic Sisters and activists of NETWORK Lobby.

NETWORK Lobby members will be contacting their members regarding their 2018 Catholic Social Justice Scores.

The voting records and each member’s score is online at https://networklobby.org/votingrecord2018pdf

Voices from the Sunrise Movement: Local Activism Against the Mariner East Pipeline

Voices from the Sunrise Movement: Local Activism Against the Mariner East Pipeline

Olivia Freiwald
February 12, 2019

I met two-year-old Brooke and four-year-old Jack in late June of 2018 on a scorching 91 degree summer day in Exton, Pennsylvania. Their bubbly laughs brought out the big sister in me and we chased each other around the yard. Then Danielle, their mom, and neighbor Ginny walked me and my housemates over to what I was really there to see. Not even 100 feet from where my game with Jack and Brooke had taken place, rows of endlessly long, beige sections of pipe lay in a fenced off strip of land, the pipes bending slightly as they sloped down the hill.

Ginny explained this was the Mariner East Pipeline Project, which included refurbishing a petroleum pipeline from the 1930s and the addition of two more pipes running across the state of Pennsylvania. Sunoco and Energy Transfer Partners poured over $4 billion into this project that was now years behind schedule due to painful, avoidable complications.

Sinkholes formed inches from people’s homes, an underground freshwater aquifer that 15 houses relied on for clean drinking water was destroyed, and the soil, water table, and acres of natural land cleared for the job were damaged beyond repair. Ginny, a geologist by training, had been involved in the growing community of pipeline opposition since the beginning.

Danielle and Ginny met at a community meeting and became active in the Mariner East Resistance. It didn’t take long for Danielle to decide to run for Pennsylvania State Representative, to protect her children, her home, and the safety and dignity of her community being threatened by natural gas companies and corrupt politicians.

I was a native of the Philly suburbs just 40 minutes from Mariner East, hearing all of this for the first time. For years I lived and went to school 40 minutes from the pipeline intended to carry ethane, butane, and propane: three extremely volatile natural gas liquids undetectable if leaked, and terrifyingly easy to ignite. Danielle made the decision to run for office look easy; no one was standing up for her community, so she decided to do it herself.

For the next six months I lived with five other 20-somethings in subsidized housing and volunteered full-time to win Danielle’s election as a state representative. We learned together through countless conversations what Danielle’s community cared about. We listened to pipeline workers and NRA members, conservatives, liberals, independents, indignant non-voters, and everyone in between. We spent hours and hours with Danielle and Ginny combing the suburbs of southeastern PA, our shared mission coursing through my veins like fire, grounding me in purpose even when doors were slammed in my face.

One of the most humbling and rewarding moments of my time in Downingtown, PA was the night my housemates and I attended the public risk assessment presentation at one of the local high schools. The pipeline companies and the Pennsylvania Utilities Commission (PUC) had refused and ignored requests for a state environmental risk assessment, so the community members fighting for their lives decided to do it themselves. We walked in to the high school auditorium and immediately saw our friends from Food and Water Watch, gave hugs to the folks who recently were released from jail after our protest on the pipeline easement, shook hands with local state candidates, caught up with Danielle and Ginny, and beckoned the mayor of Downingtown to come sit by us. Over two hundred people filled the room and we never stopped catching the eye of someone we knew, worked with, or otherwise recognized. The community effort behind stopping Mariner East finally had a face. The cause for which many in the room had put their lives on hold or even at risk felt strong, capable, and worthwhile.

On November 6, Danielle Friel Otten won the election by 3,000 votes. My team of six 20-somethings had identified 5,000 supporters while knocking on doors – the margin of victory.

We successfully got a non-career politician, woman, activist, community leader into the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to replace an incumbent who had failed to represent his constituents’ best interests. Since then, Chester County launched a criminal investigation into the construction of Mariner East, while the PUC and Sonoco quietly opened the pipelines and began the transportation of the lethal natural gas liquids.

I don’t know what the future holds for Chester County’s safety at this point. Right now it feels a lot like trying to stop a powerful tidal wave. On the other hand, in lots of ways, we won. We met and inspired students at West Chester University, registered first-time voters, and rallied with thousands of people in DC, demanding a Green New Deal. The word “politician” has become a cringe-inducing word, but the woman I helped into that position exemplifies everything the job is meant to be. We, the people, the children, and the fighters of PA-144, are not up against our elected official anymore to build a world of justice and love. Finally, I witnessed honest representation, massive grassroots victory, and a growing hope for a future where true democracy reigns.

 

Olivia Freiwald grew up outside of Philadelphia and is now a sophomore at Tufts University studying Climate Organizing and Sustainable Development. Olivia was a fellow with the Sunrise Movement from June-November 2018, living and working full-time in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, and continues her involvement with Sunrise while in school.

Feature photo from Waging Nonviolence.

Faith Community Supports Back Pay for Federal Contractors

Faith Community Supports Back Pay for Federal Contractors

Sister Quincy Howard, OP
February 8, 2019

This week, NETWORK joined fellow faith organizations asking Members of Congress to provide back pay to federal contractors who were unable to work and receive their paychecks during the five-week partial government shutdown. Without legislation from Congress providing this back pay, federal contract workers will suffer the most as other federal workers return to work and receive back pay for the weeks they were furloughed.

Read the letter below or as a PDF here.


February 4, 2019

Dear Members of Congress:

We write as faith-based organizations and religious bodies representing Jewish, Christian, Muslim and other faith traditions to urge you to support efforts to secure back pay for employees of federal contractors who were unpaid during the recent government shutdown. All of our faith traditions uphold the critical importance of the dignity of work and the obligation of employers to compensate workers for their efforts. Just as Congress rightly provided back pay for federal employees who were furloughed or unpaid during the shutdown, Congress should also provide back pay for the contract employees who face extreme financial hardship because they went more than a month without their paychecks.

Over the past few decades, the federal government has contracted out more and more of the jobs and functions it used to perform. For every federal worker hired, there are nearly double the number of contract workers hired, reaching about 3.7 million according to 2015 estimates from the Volcker Alliance. These jobs include the women and men who clean federal buildings, staff cafeterias and concession stands, who process payments, and who provide vital tech support to federal agencies.

These federal contract workers help keep our nation running even when their paychecks aren’t cut directly by the U.S. government, and they need their paychecks just as badly as federal employees. Many of these workers are struggling right now to pay their bills for necessities like food, medicine and housing. They deserve to be paid.

As Congress negotiates a deal to secure funding for the rest of the fiscal year, we urge you to do everything within your power to provide back pay for the contract workers throughout this country who have suffered just as grave a financial injury as federal employees during this shutdown. Equity and justice demands they too receive compensation for the injuries they suffered.

Sincerely,

National Council of Jewish Women
The Episcopal Church
Interfaith Worker Justice
The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society
First Universalist Church of Auburn, Unitarian Universalist
Union for Reform Judaism
Ecumenical Poverty Initiative
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
American Baptist Home Mission Societies
Faith in Public Life
Office of Public Witness
Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, US Provinces
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
Alliance of Baptists

Presidential Failures to Mend the Gaps

Presidential Failures to Mend the Gaps

Colleen Ross
February 8, 2019

Over the course of 2018, the Trump administration set numerous policies into motion that are sure to harm vulnerable communities and exacerbate the gaps in our society. Our spirit-filled network took action to denounce the harmful actions taken by the Trump administration and prevent them from going into effect. By writing and submitting comments on proposed rules in the federal register, organizing and attending protests, and raising awareness of these issues, you acted in solidarity with the individuals and families impacted by these unjust decisions.

Healthcare

In January 2018, the Trump administration announced that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) would begin approving states’ requests to impose burdensome Medicaid Work Requirements. Since then, work requirements have been approved in five states, and are pending in ten more states. These work requirements target already vulnerable low-income adults, many of whom are already working or doing their best to secure steady work that pays sufficient wages.

Nutrition

The Agriculture Department released a proposed rule to enforce stricter SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Work Requirements right at the end 2018. This happened just after Congress had finally reached agreement after months of bipartisan negotiations, resulting in a majority of Congress voting to not include these restrictive work requirements in the Farm Bill. This unilateral action from the administration is clear rejection of Congress’s hard-won, bipartisan agreement.

Census

President Trump’s Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced they would be adding a Citizenship Question to the 2020 Census just as it nears the final stages of preparation. The addition of a citizenship question is likely to further depress Census responses from communities of color (which are already undercounted), due to fear of immigration enforcement in the current climate. Additionally, concerning information about persuasion from the White House and undisclosed communication with the Department of Justice encouraging Secretary Ross to add the citizenship question, has become public.

Immigration

In September, the Trump administration released a proposed regulation that the advocacy community refers to as the Flores Rule. This new regulation would dismantle the current “Flores” standards, now allowing the indefinite detention of immigrant children and families, including asylum seekers. In addition to being morally reprehensible, this proposal rejects proven alternatives to mass detention, which are more humane and effective. This proposed rule would allow the federal government to set their own standards for holding families and children in detention and undermine independent oversight of conditions; it also reduces vulnerable families’ access to due process and humanitarian protections.

The Trump administration’s proposed “Public Charge” Rule, published in October, would make it more difficult for immigrants to apply for and receive legal immigration status in the United States. This proposed rule seeks to drastically redefine what it means to be a “public charge” in the immigration system. This would increase the probability that legal immigration applications would be denied based on factors such as age, health, family status, financial status, education, skills, and employment history and would hurt and potentially separate families. Even the threat of this rule is already causing parents to choose between needed public assistance to keep their families housed, fed, and healthy or making their family vulnerable to separation.

Throughout the year, the Trump administration has threatened immigrants with legal status through two programs. Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a legal immigration status for nationals of a country experiencing ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster, or another extraordinary and temporary condition. Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) allows foreign nationals to be protected from deportation and have the opportunity to work. Currently, the Trump administration is in the process of ending protections for TPS or DED holders from 11 countries. Many of these TPS/DED holders have been here for more than 20 years, have families in the United States, and would continue to face conflict or other difficult conditions in their home countries.

Judicial

The Senate approved 66 of President Trump’s Judicial Appointments in 2018, including Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. This is a significant number of appointments and these confirmations will have a strong impact on the makeup of our judicial system.


This story originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of Connection Magazine. Read the full issue here.

In Order to Call Itself Family-Friendly, the U.S. Must Examine its Workplaces

In Order to Call Itself Family-Friendly, the U.S. Must Examine its Workplaces

Siena Ruggeri
February 5, 2019

February 5th is the anniversary of the Family Medical Leave Act, which was passed in 1993. This law gives employees up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was a huge step forward for working families, but it still excludes many. The Washington Center for Equitable Growth estimates that half of all working parents and 43 percent of women of childbearing age are excluded from FMLA coverage due to outdated eligibility requirements.[1] Family leave policies need to be updated for 21st century workplaces and include low-wage earners.

Even if a worker qualifies for FMLA coverage, in many cases, they can’t afford to take it. Quite simply, far too many people can’t weather the sudden loss in income, and often fear they will lose their job if they take unpaid leave. Family leave needs to be paid for workers to utilize it, but paid leave remains rare in U.S. workplaces: 93% of low-wage workers have no access to any paid family leave.[2].

In 2019, the United States remains the only industrialized nation that does not provide universal paid leave benefits. After 26 years without landmark paid leave legislation, the time has come to not only offer family leave, but ensure all working families can access it. We need a federal universal paid leave policy to accomplish this goal.

A lack of family-friendly workplaces is bad for both employers and their workers. Employers must deal with the costs associated with high turnover, and employees are forced to choose between advancing their career and caring for family members.

The growing demands of caregiving can’t be ignored by federal policymakers any longer. According to a recent Harvard Business School study, almost three quarters of U.S. workers are caregivers in some capacity. Of those, 80% said that their caregiving responsibility made it harder to do their job. As a result, 32% of all employees surveyed said they left a job to accommodate their caregiving responsibilities.[3]

With women taking on a huge majority of caregiving, they are disproportionately impacted by a lack of paid leave. Women are twice as likely to stay home to care for a sick child, and three in five women say they have their care responsibilities on their mind when they’re at work. [4] Our society can’t achieve true economic justice for all women when we offer them no support or legal protections to balance caregiving and a career.

Government inaction on paid leave also reinforces the racial wealth gap. Already paid lower for the same work as their white peers, people of color are deeply impacted by inaccessible leave policies. Black women are the primary breadwinners for 70 percent of their families.[5] They’re also more likely than white women to leave or lose their jobs after birth.[6] By refusing to support black women in their careers, we create yet another structural barrier to push women of color out from opportunities for economic advancement.

Let’s take the anniversary of the FMLA to push Congress to give working families, and especially working moms, the relief they need. It is not just the smart thing to do, it’s the right thing. We cannot call ourselves a family-friendly country until we do so.

 


[1] https://equitablegrowth.org/research-paper/paid-family-and-medical-leave-in-the-united-states/?longform=true

[2] United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Table 32. Leave benefits: Access,private industry workers,” National Compensation Survey, March 2018, https://www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/benefits/2018/employee-benefits-in-the-united-states-march2018.pdf.

[3] https://www.hbs.edu/managing-the-future-of-work/Documents/The%20Caring%20Company%20-%2001.17.19.pdf

[4] “Modern Family Index,” Bright Horizons, https://solutionsatwork.brighthorizons.com/~/media/BH/SAW/PDFs/GeneralAndWellbeing/MFI_2017_Report_v4.ashx

[5] Sarah Jane Glynn, Breadwinning Mothers. (taken from this link: https://www.clasp.org/sites/default/files/publications/2018/12/2018_pfmliscriticalfor_0.pdf)

[6] Lynda Laughlin, Maternity Leave and Employment Patterns. (taken from this link: https://www.clasp.org/sites/default/files/publications/2018/12/2018_pfmliscriticalfor_0.pdf)

New Congress, New Methods of Communication: Social Media’s Evolving Political Influence

New Congress, New Methods of Communication: Social Media’s Evolving Political Influence

Lindsay Hueston
January 31, 2019

Multiple progressive politicians have cemented a new way of campaigning and keeping constituents informed: showing their authentic selves online, as a means to engage with their constituents and a national audience more genuinely. The embrace of social media as a legitimate political tool reflects a changing dynamic in U.S. politics, one which favors real people and experiences over polished messages and canned rhetoric.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Examples abound: newly-elected Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez making mac and cheese on Instagram, with Senator Elizabeth Warren mimicking the strategy and opening a beer after announcing her exploratory committee a few weeks later. Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke even live-streamed his visit to the dentist.

These politicians are unabashedly using their platform to deliver not only glimpses into their personal lives, but to convey more authentic reactions and opinions, providing the public with a sense of participation. Bringing people into the political process—even if it is from the screen of a smartphone—is a surefire way to engage unlikely voters in politics.

No longer are today’s politicians glossed over, seemingly flawless, and untouchable. Instead they broadcast themselves to the public through the likes of Instagram and Twitter. It is the very popularity of their unscripted humanity—their willingness to cook on camera, drink, share their skincare routine, or get their teeth cleaned—that reveals the general population’s thirst for approachable politicians. In a world where high-power Washington officials have become increasingly stratified from the people they represent, this type of refreshing social media engagement narrows the gap between representative and constituent.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Politics are ultimately about human issues, and the use of social media brings these topics back down to a human level. The greater public can instantly connect with a representative from their mere fingertips; political power is becoming more democratized as people decide who their most popular elected officials are via social media. Political clout, then, lies only a few viral tweets away.

Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke

Yet social media’s glimpse into the inner workings of today’s politicians does not always produce a positive result. Notably, President Trump continues to fire off tweets in lieu of consulting with his staff and making thoughtful major policy decision. The power of social media in politics, however, is far vaster than merely his rapid-response, incendiary tweets may indicate.

The fact that these stories are now more accessible (due in no small part to the most diverse Congress we’ve ever seen) is a sign of our changing political times. As a Communications Associate at NETWORK, I witness firsthand how social media influences people’s beliefs and perceptions. In this past election cycle I saw an incredible influx of representation of women, people of color, LGBTQ folks, varying religions, and more. This new representation further illustrates the rich narrative that tells the story of the people of the United States.

Featured image from @ocasio2018