Category Archives: Staff

Free, Voluntary, IRS-run Electronic Filing System May Be on the Way

Free, Voluntary IRS Electronic Filing System is Essential for Low-income Taxpayers

A Free, Voluntary, IRS Electronic Filing System is Essential for Low-income Taxpayers

JoAnn Goedert, Ignatian Volunteer Corp Member
Government Relations Special Contributor
May 24, 2023

Paying income taxes to the federal government has been obligatory since 1914. Even though we are all subject to federal tax laws for nearly 100 years, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has still not found a way to make it easy. The tax code is complex, and the process for calculating and filing pay payments each year can be daunting. Individuals with the means to afford the services of a tax professional, or electronic tax program, can minimize filing obstacles and maximize advantages in the tax code. But what about people of limited means? A free, voluntary, IRS electronic filing system would help all of us, but it is essential for low-income taxpayers.

The need for such a system has been recognized for decades, and its feasibility has been demonstrated by other countries, such as Australia, which have already implemented free direct e-filing for their taxpayers. In the U.S., as the gap between the wealthy and the middle-class grows, and working- and lower- class wages fail to keep up with the cost of living, the need for tax equity is more pressing. Lower wage workers, individuals with disabilities, and others living in the economic margins, deserve help navigating federal tax code and the IRS’s complicated tax forms and documentation policies.

But for many low wage workers and individuals with disabilities, limited help is available. Their options are to struggle with antiquated, handwritten tax forms that must be filled out and mailed to the IRS with paper documentation and any tax payment due; to contend with confusing and complicated requirements for limited, free IRS online filing; or to file no return because their income is so low that they owe no taxes. As a result, many individuals who can least afford to, miss out on tax benefits like the Earned Income Tax Credit and child tax credits, and they fail to document their eligibility for key federal supports like SNAP, Medicaid, and housing assistance – simply because of the intimidating tax filing maze.

What Does the Inflation Reduction Act Have to Do with Tax Fairness?

A new report gives us hope that a measure of tax fairness is coming soon, thanks in large part to a policy supported by NETWORK advocates, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA). The IRA set a requirement that the IRS issue a report on the feasibility of a free, direct e-file tax return system with a focus on multi-lingual, mobile-friendly features, and safeguards for taxpayer data to Congress before May 16, 2023.

Supporters of free, voluntary, IRS electronic filing emphasize that paying taxes is an obligation, not a privilege. As Nina Olsen, head of the Center for Taxpayer Rights and a former IRS official explained, “Let’s not forget that taxes are a public good. . . not a commercial product like potato chips or an airline ticket.” Accordingly, the government should provide a reasonable filing system for all taxpayers.

Opposition to free, voluntary IRS electronic filing

There is vigorous opposition to free, voluntary IRS electronic filing from big business. Commercial tax service providers and electronic tax preparation companies fear that making the process easier for some will diminish their profits. And some conspiracy theorists have conjured up “big brother” arguments against the program, casting it as an attempt by the government to collect and misuse financial information. Others with adequate means simply prefer the status quo.

NETWORK has supported free, voluntary, IRS electronic filing initiatives for years, and we are heartened by the Biden Administration plans, at last, to propose such a system later this month.  We look forward to reviewing the Administration’s plan and working with NETWORK supporters and our partners to ensure that it provides the tax filing relief that our low-income earners need and deserve.

Manufactured Crises in Politics Hurt Vulnerable People.

The Smoke of Manufactured Crises

The Smoke of Manufactured Crises 

When Fearmongering Clouds Our View, We Risk Embracing Terrible Policy  

Ronnate Asirwatham
August 8, 2023
Ronnate speaks into a microphone at an outdoor event. She wears a coat and a red hat. Behind her is a board with heart-shaped sticky notes with writing on them.

Ronnate Asirwatham is NETWORK’s Director of Government Relations

When we see smoke where it shouldn’t be, for instance in a residence or other building, our survival mechanisms kick in, and we move as quickly as we can in the opposite direction. This is a natural, even understandable response. But in Washington, the old saying “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire” could be replaced with a new formulation, which goes something like, “Where there’s smoke, there’s somebody trying to goad you into doing the wrong thing.”  

A fire is an emergency. But a fake fire, a manufactured crisis, is more like a virus that has infected our politics. This year has seen several of them playing out, all of them set intentionally, all of them engineered to try to get someone else to do the wrong thing, whether out of fear or other questionable motives. When someone buys into the toxic narrative of a manufactured crisis, they hasten the harm they sought to avoid. Anthony De Mello, a Jesuit priest, once noted that reality cannot hurt us, but our reaction to it can. That wisdom applies here. 

Most recently, we witnessed the debt ceiling debacle, in which House Republicans demanded a budget that slashed vital human needs programs such as Medicaid, SNAP, and WIC in exchange for raising the debt ceiling and keeping the U.S. from defaulting on its debt. Never mind that the same Members of Congress voted to raise the debt ceiling without any conditions three times during the Trump administration. The threat of default was a purely manufactured crisis employed by these members to get President Biden and Democrats to do something that their constituents didn’t want them to do.  

While the deal struck between the President and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy could have been far, far worse, it will still impact millions of people who rely on SNAP for their basic food security. And placing the burden on people living in poverty is a morally abhorrent way to reduce deficits in the federal budget, especially when raising revenue through taxes on the ultra-wealthy and corporations would be far more effective.  

Sadly, making life more difficult for communities of people who need support is an element all of these fake crises have in common. At the state level, we have seen this year a record number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills (over 400 as of April!) introduced in legislatures across the country. These bills stoke a narrative of hysteria that presents drag queens and transgender people as the greatest threat to children. Not gun violence or Christian nationalism. It’s especially alarming because manufactured crises at the expense of marginalized groups of people is a well-documented tactic of authoritarian regimes in their efforts to grab and consolidate power against the will of the majority.  

Finally, we have the U.S.-Mexico border and the insistent bad faith chorus decrying the very conditions that they made possible by inconsistent and inhumane policies at the border. By not wishing to be portrayed as weak on the border, the Biden administration has perpetuated enforcement-only measures, such as the asylum ban, which exact a terrible human toll on people fleeing violence and other dangerous situations in their home countries. NETWORK and our immigration coalition partners opposed these rules by the Administration, as we also oppose bad bills in Congress, such as the Secure the Border Act (H.R.2) and a bipartisan Senate bill aimed at replacing Title 42.  

What then can we do? We must stay awake and vocally oppose the efforts of those trying to goad us into doing the wrong thing. The more we change our behavior out of fear of what bad actors might say or do, the more we ensnare ourselves in those webs. We owe the vulnerable people targeted by these manufactured narratives a response of true solidarity. That is the healthy defensive response that needs to be developed in our politics. Rather than the smoke of fake crises, we should be devoting our energy to kindling the fire of justice, renewing the face of the earth. 

Ronnate Asirwatham is NETWORK’s Director of Government Relations. In 2023, Washingtonian Magazine named her among the 500 most influential people in Washington for the second year in a row. 

This column was published in the Quarter 3 2023 issue of Connection. 

NETWORK Letter to President Biden on the Debt Ceiling

NETWORK Letter to President Biden on the Debt Ceiling

Download the PDF of letter here

The Honorable Joseph Biden
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Biden:

On behalf of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice and our 100,000 justice seekers around the country, I write to commend you for your strong stance in budget discussions against cuts to programs that children, older Americans, veterans, and people struggling to afford their basic needs from harmful cuts. Your commitment to protecting policies that decrease poverty and sustain health care and food assistance for low-income Americans is greatly appreciated and urgently necessary.

Our shared Catholic faith calls us to put those struggling on the margins of society at the center of our concern. As you have noted throughout your Administration, for far too long, the wealthy and well-connected have used their power to benefit themselves, leaving our communities and families vulnerable. Your Administration has changed this trajectory by investing in building our communities anew and asking the wealthy to contribute their fair share to support the common good. This is Catholic social justice in word and in deed.

Nearly two decades of Republican leadership have added trillions of dollars to the national debt through the budget-busting Bush and Trump tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefited the rich and major corporations.  Now, those same leaders are using that debt ceiling as an excuse to hold the nation, hostage, by threatening a catastrophic default unless your Administration agrees to cuts to health care, food assistance, resources for cracking down on wealthy tax cheats, and more.

Your Administration is fighting against those who have foisted one of the biggest lies on the American people – that as rich people get richer, we all benefit. This well-funded effort is attacking a cornerstone principle of your agenda, one that calls for robust federal investment in people and community while asking the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes.

Your Administration’s policies have resulted in historic gains in employment for marginalized communities, investment in infrastructure, and stemmed economic collapse during the COVID pandemic. This cornerstone is what House Republican leaders reject and what this debate is really about.

We urge you to hold strong on your promise to protect programs like MEDICAID, SNAP and TANF from cuts or new time limits. Your Administration has fought too hard to create a better today for our children, our veterans, and our seniors to allow millions to go hungry, to lose healthcare, or to lose income support.

As Catholics, we believe that those who have the most must contribute to the common good. It is immoral for our national debt to be shouldered by children, veterans, seniors, and those struggling to put food on the table and a roof overhead.

Our prayer is for your continued commitment to justice.

Sincerely,

Mary J. Novak
Executive Director

Biden Administration Restored Pre-Trump Era Public Charge Regulations

Did Congress Strive for Economic and Social Transformation with the 2022 Omnibus Law?

As we begin a new year, NETWORK looks back to see whether Congress made inroads in economic and social transformation with the 2022 Omnibus Law. Every person in our country, whether they live on a sprawling estate, in a farmhouse along a country road, or in a public housing development, should have the resources they need to care for themselves and their families. Sadly, we know that lobbyists and dark money special interests work with some elected officials to block policies that would create just laws and equitable access to economic prosperity.

But NETWORK’s community of justice-seekers know that we can have just and equitable communities where all of us–not just the rich and powerful–can have thriving lives. When we work together and join our efforts with others who share our vision for a multi-racial democracy, we can bring about the economic and social transformation for which we strive.

One of the most important pieces of legislation for the Build Anew agenda last year was the $1.7 trillion FY2022 Omnibus. This bipartisan end-of-year spending package made significant investments in healthcare, housing, criminal legal systems reform as well as critical democracy reforms and investments in voting infrastructure to ensure free and fair elections.

For months, NETWORK advocates across the country (like you!) lobbied Congress to include policy priorities in the Omnibus package like the expanded Child Tax Credit, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented community members. Justice-seekers called, emailed, and tweeted to Congress, wrote Letters to the Editor, and attended rallies, to advocate for a federal budget that supports just and equitable communities where everyone can thrive. Thank you for your advocacy!

An Overview: Where did Congress Invest in Economic and Social Transformation with the 2022 Omnibus Law?

A Check List: Where did Congress Invest in Economic and Social Transformation with the 2022 Omnibus Law?Congress made significant progress toward eonomic and social transformational changes with the 2022 Omnibus in healthcare and housing. Medicaid recipients in Puerto Rico and U.S. territories, and Black mothers who are unable to pay for maternal healthcare receive more aid. For example, Medicaid coverage for new moms is guaranteed for 12 months and infants cannot be removed from Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, for a continuous 12 months, even if their family’s income changes.

Housing measures support people experiencing homelessness, public housing voucher recipients, people in rural communities, and homeowners.

Movement toward justice in the omnibus legislation is also noted in criminal legal system reforms where new laws bridge significant racial equity gaps in health care, access to housing, and equity in the judiciary and police forces. We hope the funding leads to improved health outcomes and treatment by the criminal legal system for Black, brown and indigenous communities.

The omnibus also includes critical democracy reforms that shore up Presidential elections (Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act of 2022) and a $75M investment in election security grants to ensure all votes are counted by continuing provisions from the Help America Vote Act of 2002.

Sometimes, Policy Not Included in a Bill is a Positive Result

NETWORK celebrates the harm avoided in the omnibus. For example, the continued misuse of Title 42 cannot be part of a fair, humane asylum process. It was not codified into law thanks to Democratic Members of Congress who rebuked attempts to incorporate outdated public health policy into permanent immigration law.

Movement Toward Justice in a Polarized Congress

We are disappointed that significant NETWORK priorities were left out of the package but appreciate that Congress took steps toward social and economic reform with some of the omnibus investments. Ultimately, the bipartisan passage of the FY2022 omnibus package was a significant accomplishment in a polarized Congress.

The leadership of Senate Appropriations Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT), now retired, and House Appropriations Chair Rep. Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) allowed Congress to reach an agreement and fund the government before the end of the year. However, it is unacceptable that more Members of Congress did not support including needed policies like a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, the expanded Child Tax Credit, and the EQUAL Act.

NETWORK will continue making these issues top legislative priorities into the future and – with your help – continue building support for these common-good policies in the 118th Congress.

Faith-based Organizations Call for End of Year Health Care Policy for Vulnerable Communities

Faith-based Organizations Call for an End-of-Year Funding Package that Prioritizes Health Care for Vulnerable Communities

Laura Peralta-Schulte
December 6, 2022

Dear Member of Congress,

The undersigned organizations from the Washington Interreligious Staff Community (WISC) Health Care Working Group write to urge you to advance an end-of-year funding package that prioritizes health care for vulnerable communities. We are grateful for significant healthcare advancements made since the beginning of the 117th Congress to expand healthcare and create greater health equity, and we believe Congress must take further action to better protect the health and economic security of vulnerable populations.

Guided by the belief that healthcare is a fundamental human right, our organizations work each day to protect existing domestic healthcare programs and increase access to quality, affordable, and equitable health care. Our diverse faith traditions compel us to protect the most vulnerable among us – including individuals in rural areas, low-income people, People of Color, Indigenous people, immigrants, people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, and seniors and children. Many populations, including those listed above, face unique barriers to obtaining comprehensive care and continue to experience significant healthcare disparities.

We urge Congress to pass an end-of-year funding package that includes the following provisions:

Promote Continuous and Expanded Medicaid and CHIP Coverage

Over the past three years, the uninsured rate in the United States has reached a record low and
Medicaid and CHIP enrollment has increased, in part due to continuous coverage requirements implemented under the COVID-19 public health emergency. Given that the public health emergency will likely expire in the coming months, however, these continuous coverage requirements will also cease. Between 5 and 14 million people are expected to lose coverage, and people with disabilities, individuals with limited English proficiency, and those who moved since the pandemic began are at the greatest risk.

Provide 12 Months of Continuous Eligibility for Adults and Children

Because each state manages Medicaid and CHIP programs within federal guidelines, there is
tremendous variation in the scope of services available across the United States. Congress must heed the lessons of recent years and guarantee 12 months of continuous eligibility for adults and children through Medicaid and CHIP to avoid large scale disruption of coverage. Continuous eligibility for children and adults in Medicaid and CHIP ensures that people will remain eligible for Medicaid coverage or for CHIP for a one-year period, regardless of changes in their family’s income. While all vulnerable populations would benefit from this action, there are long-term benefits for children as those with health coverage are more likely to show improved health, lower rates of disability, and greater financial security in adulthood. By guaranteeing continuous Medicaid or CHIP eligibility in every state, Congress can advance health equity by promoting continuity of treatment for low-income individuals who
experience disproportionate rates of health disparities.

Provide 12 Months of Postpartum Coverage

Providing continuous Medicaid coverage for one year postpartum is critical to improving maternal and child health outcomes. While Medicaid finances roughly 40 percent of births in the United States, including 59 percent of births to Hispanic mothers and 65 percent of births to Black mothers, federal law only requires states to continue covering these mothers for 60 days postpartum. One-third of pregnancy-related deaths occur postpartum, including almost 12 percent that occur in the late postpartum period (between 43 and 365 days postpartum). Even as the American Rescue Plan Act allowed states to extend coverage via a state plan amendment, only half of states have or are planning to do so. Yet the need for postpartum medical care does not end after two months; in fact, over 70 percent of postpartum spending occurs between three and twelve months after delivery, as continuous postpartum care is critical for detecting postpartum depression, birth-related complications, and other
chronic conditions. Congress must provide 12 months of postpartum coverage to ensure that mothers can continue accessing life-saving care beyond 60 days.

Increase Medicaid Funding to the U.S. Territories

Due to limitations in the funding statute, Medicaid programs in the territories operate differently than Medicaid programs in the states. First, although federal funding covers a specified share of each state’s Medicaid spending, the territories receive federal funding via temporary fixed block grants that are inadequate to meet their needs. Second, while the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) in the states is tied to per capita income, the FMAP in the territories is fixed at artificially low levels, even as per capita income is lower than the poorest states.

As a result of these unequal funding structures, the territories face a looming Medicaid cliff, and even recent improvements to the territories’ Medicaid programs are in jeopardy. While a recent Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services interpretation determined that future allotments in Puerto Rico (which is still recovering from Hurricane Fiona) should increase from $400 million to $3 billion, Congress is facing pressure to reverse that interpretation, which would cause the 2023 allotment to plummet. Similarly, although the 2022 Consolidated Appropriations Act temporarily increased the FMAP from 55 percent to 76 percent for Puerto Rico and 83 percent for Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa, the FMAPs will revert to 55 percent on December 16 absent Congressional action. Given that most residents in the territories are People of Color, this is a racial
justice issue.

Congress must act swiftly to avert the funding cliff. Most urgently, Congress should maintain the CMS interpretation on Puerto Rico, increase the block grant allotments for all territories, and maintain or increase the federal matching rates to align with the states. In the long term, Congress must reform the funding structure for the territories’ Medicaid programs to ensure they can operate at parity with state Medicaid programs.

Addressing the Black Maternal Health Crisis

Congress must also take bold action to address the maternal health crisis that disproportionately affects Communities of Color. Black mothers in the United States three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women, while Hispanic, Native American, and Asian American and Pacific Islander people experience disproportionate mortality and morbidity rates as well. To address these disparities, Congress must include the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act (S.346/H.R.959) in end of the year legislation. This package invests in social determinants of health, funds community-based organizations seeking to improve maternal health outcomes, and expands and diversifies the perinatal workforce.

Increase COVID-19 Funding

While the United States has made significant progress since the beginning of COVID-19, the virus poses an ongoing danger to the country. Each day, the United States still experiences hundreds of deaths and thousands of new hospitalizations and reported cases. Long COVID remains a significant threat, already affecting 16 million U.S. adults and has forcing up to 4 million people out of the workforce. As public health protections fade and individual protective measures prove insufficient, the sustained spread places everyone (especially people with disabilities, immunocompromised people, and the elderly) at significant risk.

Continued harm from COVID-19 is not inevitable, and Congress must act swiftly to increase COVID-19 funding. The federal government has already begun to run out of money to continue its pandemic response, resulting in a dramatic contraction in free rapid tests, personal protective equipment, and treatments. The lack of funding has also limited the federal government’s ability to raise awareness about bivalent boosters, monitor cases, and conduct research into new vaccines and treatments.

Three years into the pandemic, we cannot accept this devastation as our new normal. As the United States faces a projected winter surge, and as pediatric emergency rooms and intensive care units become overrun due to RSV and flu, Congress must act quickly to mitigate COVID-19 and ensure that hospitals remain functional. We urge Congress to provide robust funding and partner with federal, state, and local officials to confront the ongoing pandemic.

Conclusion

Health inequities in the United States are the result of a long history of systemic racism, ableism, classism, and other forms of oppression. All our faiths call us to end these stark divides and ensure that everyone has access to quality, affordable, and equitable medical care. Congress must work to promote continuous and expanded Medicaid coverage, increase Medicaid funding to the territories, address the Black maternal health crisis, and increase COVID-19 funding, we will fail to eliminate the inequities that have plagued the United States for far too long. We urge you to support a year-end funding package that advances these priorities.

Sincerely,
Alliance of Baptists
American Muslim Health Professionals
Bread for the World
Church and Society Team, Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference of the United Methodist Church
Church World Service
Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces
Friends Committee on National Legislation
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Jewish Women
National Latino Evangelical Coalition
Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Justice Team
Sojourners
The Episcopal Church
The Presbyterian Church (USA): Washington Office of Public Witness & Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations
The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society
Union for Reform Judaism
Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice
United Church of Christ

The EQUAL Act Helps Us Dismantle and Build Anew

The EQUAL Act Helps Us Dismantle and Build Anew

Joan Neal and Sr. Mara Rutten, RSM
April 13, 2021

The Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law (EQUAL) Act (H.R.1693/S.79) is bipartisan legislation that seeks to eliminate the disparity in sentencing for cocaine offenses, a major contributor to mass incarceration, and apply retroactively to those already convicted or sentenced.

The EQUAL Act was introduced in the House on March 9, 2021 by Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY-08), Bobby Scott (D-VA-03), Kelly Armstrong (R-ND-AL) and Don Bacon (R-NE-02). Across the Capitol, Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), both members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had previously introduced the bill on January 28, 2021.

Before introducing the bill, Senator Booker said, “For over three decades, unjust, baseless and unscientific sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine have contributed to the explosion of mass incarceration in the United States and disproportionately impacted poor people, Black and Brown people, and people fighting mental illness… I encourage my colleagues to support the EQUAL Act as a necessary step in repairing our broken criminal justice system.”

While there are many provisions within the justice system that produce discriminatory and racist impacts, the crack/powder sentencing laws are among the most obvious. For many years now, science and experience have shown us there is no difference between use of crack or powder cocaine. Neither one is more or less addictive nor produces more violent behavior in the user. The difference is that crack cocaine has historically been used in more urban communities of color, specifically Black communities, while powder cocaine has more often been found in whiter, more suburban communities. The racial implications couldn’t be clearer.

Furthermore, the sentencing disparity between these two drugs has contributed significantly to the growth of mass incarceration in this country. According to FAMM, in 2019 alone, 81% of those convicted of crack cocaine offenses were Black, even though historically, 66% of crack cocaine users have been white or Hispanic. It is time to end this racist policy and restore proportionality in sentencing.

Events of the past few years have illuminated the systemic inequalities in our country’s criminal legal system. At NETWORK, we cannot continue to tolerate racial profiling, police brutality, the loss of another generation to mass incarceration, or the perpetuation of poverty. As we Build Anew, we affirm the truth that every person is entitled to dignity and equal justice under law. It is time for Congress to act and take a firm stance against institutional racism embedded within the criminal legal system by passing the EQUAL Act (H.R.1693/S.79).

NETWORK and Faith-based Organizations Urge the Swift Passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (The PRO Act)

NETWORK and Faith-based Organizations Urge the Swift Passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (The PRO Act)

Laura Peralta-Schulte
October 18, 2022

Dear Senator,

We, the undersigned national, regional, and local faith-based organizations, urge the swift passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act. Last year, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 842 and it is time for the Senate to send this critical legislation to President Biden’s desk.

As an interfaith community, we believe all workers should be free to act in solidarity with one another and make their voices heard. Our belief in the intrinsic worth of both work and workers leads us to strongly support the PRO Act, which will strengthen and expand the right of workers to bargain collectively, form unions, and engage in collective action without fear of retaliation from their employers. Such assurances are also better for the employers as they contribute to better productivity, mutual collaboration, and sustainability.

Our current labor laws are no longer effective in protecting the lives and dignity of workers and fall woefully short of allowing workers to effectively advocate for their needs from a position of mutuality with employers. As union membership has fallen due to counter-productive laws and amendments, inequality has skyrocketed leaving the working class with little constructive power over their own economic security; and thus, also harming sustainable business models.

The PRO Act addresses these current inadequacies by empowering workers to effectively exercise their freedom to organize and bargain. Critically, it also ends employers’ practice of punishing striking workers, strengthens the National Labor Relations Board and allows it to hold corporations accountable for retaliating against workers, and would help us collectively do better for all our needs by repealing “right to work” laws which are a harmful legacy of the Jim Crow Era.

“Right to work” laws originated in the 1940s as a way to reinforce Jim Crow by maintaining labor segregation and further exploiting workers of color. These laws allowed states to ban unions from requiring workers who benefit from collective bargaining to help pay for bargaining costs. Today, 8 of the 10 states with the highest percentage of Black residents have “right to work” laws, which prohibit fair share fees. These restrictions strip funding and bargaining power from unions which have a devastating effect on the economic stability of people of color.

Martin Luther King Jr. spoke on “right to work” laws, preaching that “In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions for everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer, and there are no civil rights.”

The PRO Act is more than labor reform, it is civil rights legislation. A union contract is generally one of the best tools we have to close the racial and gender wage divide. A union contract also often ensures dignity and due process for workers, regardless of where they were born, who they are, or what industry they work in. Removing barriers to organizing and bargaining is critically important to workers who have been marginalized or those working in segregated fields such as the service industry. Such barriers are forms of structural violence. Finally, expanding collective bargaining will increase protections for women, people of color, immigrants, and the LGBTQ+ community in areas where our laws still fall short. Such attention to those most marginalized benefits all of us as a community.

With all of this in mind, it is not surprising why the PRO Act, and unions in general, are popular. Research shows that more than 60 million people would vote to join a union today if given the opportunity—that is nearly half of all nonunion workers. Union density increased in 2020 amid the federal government’s failure to protect workers from the COVID-19 Pandemic. Finally, polls have found that union approval stands at 65 percent which is one of the highest marks in the last 50 years.

When left without regulation and enforcement, corporations, employers, and the government have forced the working class to accept poverty wages and stymied the enactment of necessary benefits such as paid family and medical leave. They have allowed income inequality to exponentially rise, leaving essential workers and their families with little to show for their labor.

A commitment to human dignity, worker justice, and the common good of all demands support for the PRO Act. This legislation would better the lives of tens of millions of workers and their families by creating an economy that is rooted in solidarity and supports working people as well as sustainable business models. We urge you to act and vote in the best interest of workers, employers, and the economy: Pass the PRO Act today.

In Solidarity,

ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal
Alliance of Baptists
American Baptist Home Mission Societies
American Friends Service Committee
Arise Chicago
Arizona Faith Network
Association of United States Catholic Priests
Bend the Arc: Jewish Action
CAIR Arizona
Carolina Jews for Justice
Catholic Labor Network
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
Christians for Equality
Church World Service
Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice
Coalition For Economic Justice
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach
Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces
Disciples Center for Public Witness
Disciples Justice Action Network
Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries
Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids
Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, Washington D.C.
Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon
Episcopal Church of New Hampshire
Farm Worker Ministry Northwest
Franciscan Action Network
Friends Committee On National Legislation
Glenmary Home Missioners
Granite State Organizing Project (GSOP)
Greater Birmingham Ministries
ICNA Council for Social Justice
Ignatian Solidarity Network
Interfaith Worker Justice – New Mexico
Interfaith Worker Justice of East Tennessee
Interfaith Worker Justice of San Diego County
Interreligious Network for Worker Solidarity
Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action
Jewish Council on Urban Affairs
Jewish Labor Committee
Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice
Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor & the Working Poor, Georgetown University
Labor-Religion Coalition of NYS
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Maine Council of Churches
Meriden Congregational Church, UCC
Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Jewish Women
National Council of Jewish Women, South Cook Section
National Council of the Churches of Christ (USA)
National Farm Worker Ministry
National Missionary Baptist Convention of America
NCJW Chicago North Shore
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
New Hampshire Conference/United Church of Christ, Economic Justice Mission Group
New Hampshire Council of Churches
New Hampshire Faith & Labor Coalition
North Carolina Council of Churches
Pax Christi USA
Peace & Justice Committee, Congregation of Mission, Western Province, U.S.A.
Poor People’s Campaign
Presbyterian Church (USA), Office of Public Witness
Presbytery of Grand Canyon, Presbyterian Church (USA)
Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Religions for Peace USA
Repairers of the Breach
Sema Foundation
Society for Humanistic Judaism
Sojourners
Southwest Conference United Church of Christ
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
Tempe Interfaith Fellowship
The Episcopal Church
The Labor Guild
The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society
Unitarian Universalist Action New Hampshire
Unitarian Universalist Association
Unitarian Universalist Association Pacific Western Region
Unitarian Universalists for a Just Economic Community
Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
Uri L’Tzedek: Orthodox Social Justice
WHEAT (World Hunger Ecumenical Az Task Force Inc)
Wisconsin Council of Churches
Worker Justice Wisconsin

Senate Republicans Block the DISCLOSE Act, Leaving Elections Vulnerable to Influence by dark money

Dark Money Remains Unchecked in U.S. Elections

Senate Republicans Block the DISCLOSE Act, Leaving Elections Vulnerable to Influence by dark money 

Thursday, September 22nd– Senate Republicans Block the DISCLOSE Act, leaving elections vulnerable to influence by dark money. The legislation (the DISCLOSE Act of 2021, or S.4822) was reintroduced to remove the influence of anonymously donated funds in politics. It would have required major political donors (those who give more than $10,000) to disclose their identity. And it would have increased the transparency of political advertisements by requiring donors that underwrite ads supporting or attacking judicial nominees, to reveal their identities.

This legislation was designed to ensure free and fair elections and protect the right of voters to have their voices heard in a truly representative, multi-racial, and multi-faith democracy.

Unfortunately, Republican Senators filibustered to block debate on the issue. Their refusal to collaborate with their colleagues across the aisle to protect our democracy from the inappropriate influence of dark money, is an affront to the Constitution. They have shirked their legislative duty and responsibility to voters. It is another disappointing example of Republican Senators prioritizing corporate interest over the people in our country.

The optics of their action suggests a concerted effort to preserve the ability to line their coffers with large sums of money without transparency. And it leaves the fairness of election results to hang in the balance as deep-pocketed lobbyists and donors enjoy an open lane to subvert the will of the people with their dark funds.

“The gall of senators who blocked even moving forward with debate on secret money and the DISCLOSE Act is a slap in the face to our democratic ideals and should leave every American deeply concerned. Without legislation like the DISCLOSE Act shining a light on secret financial donations, corporations, billionaires, and foreign interests that are seeking to influence our elections will continue to have free rein to continue their anonymous spending.”

       Christine Wood, co-Director for the Declaration for American Democracy   NETWORK’s Democracy Reform coalition partner 

At a time when extremist legislators across the country are erecting barriers to voting and trying to sabotage future elections, Senate Republicans had the opportunity to prevent special interests, corporations, billionaires, and foreign interests from perverting elections and possibly gaining control of our government. They chose not to.

Our Constitution calls for a democratic republic where legislators are elected to craft policies and laws that serve the will of the people. These Senators prioritized greedy lobbyists, special interests, and the like who prefer to do their political maneuvering in the dark. How does giving them free reign to influence our elected officials serve the will of the electorate?    

NETWORK will continue our faithful advocacy for federal democracy reforms. And we need your advocacy too! Prepare with NETWORK staff to be a multi-issue Pope Francis Voter and transform our politics! Sign up for the next workshop here. Can you invite three (3) friends to sign up, too?  

Now that Congress has failed to weed dark money out of politics, It is up to the Biden Administration to protect and strengthen our democracy. President Biden can sign executive orders to help shine a light on secret money spending by contractors that receive federal dollars, ensuring transparency, so that American voters can identify the influencers of our federal elections. 

Resources

How would Pope Francis Vote?
We invite you to speak out too by signing this letter
NETWORK Voter Training: learn how faith, social justice, and voting help us build anew

The Moment is Now: Pass H.R.40

The Moment is Now: Pass H.R.40

Mary Novak
July 16, 2021

On July 13 2021, I joined faith leaders to call on Congress to pass H.R.40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act, before the August recess. What a Spirit-Filled gathering with the incomparable Nkechi Taifa, Founder of The Taifa Group; Laura James, Program Coordinator for Grassroots Organizing; Yolanda Savage-Narva Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Director, Union for Reform Judaism; Diane Randall, General Secretary of Friends Committee on National Legislation; Jarrett Smith, Government Relations Fellow, NETWORK Lobby; Bishop Eugene Sutton, Episcopal Church, Maryland Diocese; Victoria Strang, Policy Advocate with Faith Communities, Human Rights Watch; Reverend Timothy Tutt, Senior Minister, Westmoreland Congregational UCC; and Jim Winker President and General Secretary, National Council of Churches.

What is not named cannot be healed. It is time to name our country’s sickness. Using the frame of the  Catholic tradition — it is time to name our original sin of slavery and move towards repair, reparations. That moment is now.

For the first time, we are talking about reparations in the national conversation. States, local authorities, and religious orders are all moving on reparations. We have been waiting 32 years for this moment. We cannot wait another day or another week. We are  calling on House leadership to bring H.R.40 to the floor. The moment is now.

It is no coincidence the momentum for movement on reparations follows that terrifying day of January 6th. We not only survived that shameful day, but are seeing for what it was: evidence of our need for collective salvation. The moment is now.

We know there is resistance to move towards healing from our collective soul sickness. Resistance comes because healing can be hard and oftentimes painful. We must overcome that resistance because the freedom on the other side is calling us. The moment is now.

My friends:

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul

That balm can begin now, so let’s do this; let us get this Commission going and pass H.R.40. If not, my friends, we must call on President Biden to make it happen by any means necessary. The moment is now.

Watch the Faith for H.R.40 Press Conference to learn more. Watch on Facebook or YouTube.

Stay engaged and find more ways to take action to advance policies that build our systems and structures anew at www.networklobby.org/ActNow.

Our Commitment to Equally Sacred Issues

Our Commitment to Equally Sacred Issues

NETWORK Lobby Staff
July 1, 2021

We know that Catholics, and people of all faiths or no faith, are called to be politically active in many policy areas that promote human dignity and the common good. Our elected officials deserve our encouragement as well as our engagement in addressing today’s most pressing moral and political issues.

As Pope Francis wrote in his apostolic exhortation Gaudete et exsultate, caring for immigrants, dismantling racism, and putting an end to immoral levels of economic inequality are equally sacred to care for the unborn.

We, the people, have valuable and critically important authority. This is true in both our democracy and the Church. During the 2020 election, the members of our Spirit-filled network acted to support “Equally Sacred” issues. You told candidates and fellow voters that abortion is not the only issue that matters to Catholics.

Right now, the NETWORK community is lobbying to advance legislation like the For the People Act, the EQUAL Act, the Dream and Promise Act, H.R.40 (Creating a Reparations Commission), and more. These bills reflect a justice-oriented, multi-issue policy agenda.

We at NETWORK will keep Building Anew by promoting policies that work to dismantle systemic racism, cultivate inclusive community, root our economy in solidarity, and transform our politics. By valuing and practicing justice, our unified commitment is strong.

Download your copy of the “Equally Sacred” Scorecard now.