NCJW : The NCJW Insider

Showing Up for Racial Justice

By Michelle Erenberg, NCJW State Policy Advocacy Chair, Louisiana 

Michelle Erenberg“We who have seen the slaughter of six million of our brothers can only shudder in cognizant agony at the thought that our Negro brothers are still dying to purchase the same freedom for which we too have bled and died.”
-Rabbi Robert Marx with Dr. King at Soldier Field in 1966

Last month I attended Facing Race, a national conference organized by Race Forward to advance racial justice movement building. I learned of this conference through several social justice colleagues in New Orleans. There were so many workshops each day it was difficult to choose which to attend. But because I was there mostly to learn more about how I could better serve my New Orleans community in my capacity with NCJW, I focused on sessions that would build my understanding of the important role that faith leaders and white people could play in addressing racism in our society.

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Inequality is Unhealthy. Literally.

By Leanne Gale, NCJW Grassroots Associate

It was a chilly 8:00am when I set out to Capitol Hill for my first lobby day. Leanne Gale

As I passed by throngs of tourists and joggers, I anxiously went over the basics. The Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA, HR 5294) is a comprehensive, broadly-supported bill designed to reduce ethnic and racial disparities in healthcare access and outcomes. The Congressional Black Caucus, Asian Pacific American Caucus, and Hispanic Caucus all champion the legislation as a crucial step forward for their communities. The bill includes important provisions for women and children, including comprehensive sex education, compassionate care for survivors of sexual assault, and easier access to contraception. I knew my talking points.

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Pregnant and Penalized

Madeline Shepherd Rally Peggy Young had been a UPS driver for seven years when she successfully underwent in vitro fertilization in 2006 and became pregnant. A few months into her pregnancy, she gave her supervisor and the UPS occupational health manager a note from her midwife recommending that she not lift over 20lbs. Because her job delivering air-mail rarely entailed heavy lifting, Young explained that she was willing to stay in her regular job or switch to light duty. At that time, UPS policy offered light duty for workers with on-the-job injuries, who had disabilities, or who had lost their driver’s license. However, Peggy Young’s manager said her pregnancy did not warrant the same consideration, and that she could not continue working in her regular job. As a result, Young was forced onto extended unpaid leave during which she lost her health insurance coverage.

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Victory in Seattle: Acting to End Bans on Abortion Coverage

By Cheryl Berenson, NCJW Washington State Policy Advocate

In all of my years advocating for progressive issues, only a few instances have produced success in such a short period of time!

Last November, I flew from my home in Seattle to Washington, DC, to represent NCJW for the launch of the All Above All campaign to eliminate the Hyde Amendment (“Hyde”). This harmful policy was first anchored to the US budget in 1976 and has been reaffirmed by politicians in Congress every year since then, continuing its destructive impact on women across America. Under Hyde, women serving in our military, those enrolled in Medicaid or Medicare, federal employees, Peace Corps volunteers, women in prison, and our American Indian communities are all blocked from accessing insurance coverage of abortion — simply because they are poor or obtain their health care through a federal program. This is discrimination. And, making abortion more difficult to obtain, this policy erodes a woman’s moral and bodily autonomy; it denies her the ability to make her own faith-informed decision about whether to end a pregnancy, become a parent, or choose adoption.

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Voting Rights for the District of Columbia: It's About Time


by Brenda Batts, NCJW Washington Office Manager 

Brenda BattsI am a native Washingtonian—a rare breed.  Born and raised in Washington, DC, the nation’s capital, I have lived through and witnessed many a change in my lifetime.  More recently, population shifts have dramatically changed DC’s landscape.  Salaries have increased and average $40K for an administrative assistant, to $101K for a project manager or IT personnel (Pay Scale/Human Capital).  The number of homes with a value of less than $250,000 fell from 63,645 in 2000 to 17,640 in 2010. The median price of homes currently listed in DC is $449,900 while the median price of homes that sold is $502,796. The median rent price in Washington is $2,250 (Zillow). There is change everywhere in DC, including bike lanes, booming businesses and brisk patronage at the many new restaurants here. Also, there has been an increase in new and innovative public charter schools—DC public charter schools enrolled 160 students in 1996. Today, more than 38,000 students are enrolled at over 100 campuses. (FOCUS)

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NCJW Advocate & Breast Cancer Survivor: My ACA Story


By Christine Stone, NCJW, Inc. Assistant Treasurer

I’ll never forget October 1, 2013. That Tuesday marked the first day the health insurance marketplace (also known as the exchange) became open under the Affordable Care Act, or ACA. It was also the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Christine StoneAs an NCJW member, I worked alongside other volunteers and staff partners to achieve enactment of that 2010 health care reform law. The ACA was voted on and signed while many of us were together at NCJW’s triennial policy conference, Washington Institute. I can remember during our State Policy Advocacy (SPA) training being asked to place at call to a member of Congress to make sure she/he was going to vote ‘yes.’ We weren’t taking anything for granted.  At the time, little did I know that our hard work on this law would directly benefit me.

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Notes from New Orleans: Are You Ready for Election Day?

by Michelle Erenberg, Lousiana State Policy Advocacy Chair 

Michelle's Headshot

November 4 marks the 2014 mid-term elections, and while it may not garner the enthusiasm of a Presidential election, it is still critically important to vote. Despite the TV commercials, mailers, and endless email solicitations from politicians, groups, and parties, many people don’t realize there is an important election around the corner! The rate of voter turnout in the United States is a sad comment on civic engagement. In Presidential elections, the number of registered voters that go to the polls rarely reaches 65%. In mid-term elections, that number drops by almost 20%.

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NCJW Gets Bold on Capitol Hill with All* Above All

By Joni Cohan, NCJW Inc. Board Vice President and NCJW Greater Dallas Section member

NCJW NLIRH and Lilith Fund w Rep Sheila Jackson LeeIn mid-September, I flew half way across the country, from my home in Dallas to Washington, DC, to join a coalition effort seeking an end to a policy that has harmed women for 38 years too long, known as the Hyde Amendment. This event was coordinated by the All* Above All campaign, which unites individuals and organizations to end bans like Hyde, a federal policy which has restricted Medicaid from covering abortion since it was first passed by Congress in 1976. Since then, it has seeped into other federal programs. People who are enrolled in the Medicaid program in most states, as well as federal employees, military service members, and even contractors whose insurance is provided by the federal government, cannot receive coverage for abortion care.

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#WeMatter: Workplace Policies and Women's Economic Security

When news broke that her daughter was pregnant, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked whether she couldCAP Conference potentially run for president of the United States as a grandmother. As so many other career-driven women with families have, she faced the question: can you have it all?

Although Secretary Clinton should never have been asked if she could balance her role as grandmother and her career trajectory, for countless other women the answer is simply, “no.” The demands of providing care and an income for a family are impossible to juggle, in large part because workplace policies start with the assumption that households have one full-time worker and one full-time caregiver.

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Big Wins for NCJW Advocacy in California

by Claire Lipschultz, California State Policy Advocate 

An earlier Insider NCJW blog described 2014 California Lobby Days in which over 60 NCJW members from across the state lobbied in Sacramento on behalf of bills that impacted the lives of women, families and children. However, many NCJW lobbying efforts preceded and followed this important day of advocacy. In addition to walking the halls of the Capitol, Sections’ members and the SPAs engaged in sustained advocacy efforts at the local and statewide level throughout the legislative process. Beginning with the very first committee hearing and continuing until bills sat on the Governor’s desk, lawmakers and their staff heard from NCJW members.  Section Policy Advocacy leaders and the SPAs mobilized members to send letters and emails, make phone calls and sign petitions to make our voices heard. We met with staff and legislators in Sacramento and at in-district meetings to discuss our bills of interest, and attended committee hearings to give testimony. Locally, we educated the broader community on issues to generate support for our positions, and added our voice to partner coalitions.

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