Where Is Your Heart?

We rallied outside Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ headquarters in Spokane on Monday, February 13th, to demand that she stand up to her peers and protect health care. We asked her WHERE IS YOUR HEART and tried to speak with her and tell her our stories of people who NEED their health care.

We prepared special presents for her — stuffed animals, each with a name and a story attached of an actual person who needs their health care. But, she was not there to hear from her constituents.

Rep. McMorris Rodgers and other Republican leaders are pushing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would leave thousands in her district without the quality, affordable health care they deserve. #SaveTheACA

Spokane Supports Standing Rock Sioux

Watch a video of their experience at https://youtu.be/Kz9CrkDz4RE.

In November, some of our Spokane members traveled to Dakota to support the Standing Rock Dakota Access Pipeline Opposition. They left Spokane with supplies to help this protest make it through the winter months and came back with a memorable experience and some amazing photos.

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe is opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline because it threatens sacred native lands and could contaminate their water supply from the Missouri river, which is the longest river in North America.

Former President Obama did his best to put into place legal red tape to stop the project, declaring the project would contribute to climate change because it would carry tar sands crude which is especially greenhouse gas intensive because of the energy it takes to extract the thick crude.

Now, President Trump has filed an Executive Order to advance the pipeline project.

The fight to stop the pipeline continues. #NoDAPL

Below is a first person account of the experience from Spokane leader Bonnie Roberts:

I wanted to thank Washington CAN for the support to make a trip to Standing Rock, North Dakota. I had read an explanation of the treaty rights of Standing Rock online. It wasn’t until I went there that I was able to put it into context. I learned that the path of the pipeline had originally been plotted to pass through a mostly white, middle class and working class neighborhood – one with recognized political clout. So, the pipeline was rerouted through tribal lands.

I was unexpectedly overcome when we arrived. The sacredness of the place was overwhelming. The next morning, we left camp and went to a state park to shower. There, I met a young lady, probably in her twenties, who taught us about her people and the importance of numbers and colors in teaching of lessons. She shared with me about the White Buffalo Princess and her ties to Standing Rock. I was moved because the young have a lot to teach us, and it did my heart good to know our youth are so impassioned, knowing they will be there to pass the baton to.

The next day, we went on an action and were confronted by Gestapo forces on a public highway. As a person of Jewish descent, I hated that they had numbered the forearms of water protectors they had arrested. There I stood with a big Star of David on the back of my coat. I have lost several family members to the Holocaust. For many generations, Jews of Europe had been forced off their land and sent “beyond the pale” (uncharted territory) in Eastern Europe. Was it perhaps a forerunner of the reservation system? It was brought about by the forces of Imperialism and Colonialism.

I believe with all my heart that a slow-moving holocaust has been perpetrated against indigenous peoples throughout the world. I was brought up that if you see it, name it, and call it out. How could the fair-minded citizens of Germany, Poland, and elsewhere have turned a blind eye? How could they have allowed the Nazis to take over?

I felt I was prepared for anything. I was trained in the sixties by SNCC. I had been in student protests in Philadelphia where we were all fire-hosed, and in those days, we were gassed. Pepper spray wasn’t as prevalent. We were trained based on Gandhi’s teachings and we practiced going limp if arrested. Oh, by the way, no earrings, they’ll rip them out! Now, at our camp in North Dakota, we got additional training before the group action. Everyone going to the action was well-trained.

Now I have a chance to make the personal decision to stand up for what I believe. I was face-to-face with law enforcement and wondered why they chose to not enforce treaty laws. Can they pick and choose what laws to enforce? The commander stated it was a riot, but it wasn’t – it was a peaceful demonstration. The commander sought cover for his own actions, because there was a sense that they were itching for it to get out of hand. I became acutely aware that I may have to lay my body down for what I believe. Thankfully, no one got sprayed that day – at least, not where we were.

I sat by the fire that night processing everything that had happened. I was contemplating how deep the roots of the movement goes. The past is a deep history of the Native Nations, the deep roots of the Jewish People, the history of all peoples, and even the history of the treaty rights. We each bring our own personal history. I marched to “ban the bomb” as a child. I marched with Martin Luther King as a teenager and with Cesar Chavez in my twenties. My personal roots run deep with my parents being activists. I saw how all these roots of the past come together for the creation of my present. My purpose is for the future – the future of our peoples, the future of our grandchildren, the future of the Missouri River, and all who live downstream. In that moment, the past, the present, and the future became one. I knew why we were there.

Lobby Day 2017

Registration is CLOSED for Lobby Day! This year, On Monday, February 20, President’s Day, we’ll head to our state capital for a full day of advocating for the movements you care about by meeting with legislators, discussing issues with like-minded activists and rallying on the capitol grounds.

This year, Washington CAN! is joining forces with a coalition of groups for EQUITY DAY. The group’s focus will be on funding education the right way. As you know, the Supreme Court ruled our state is not meeting its constitutional obligation to fund education. We want to advocate for funding education WITHOUT cutting funding to vital services like food benefits and health care for people with disabilities.

We will lobby about that issue along with those from our legislative agenda including healthcare, criminal justice reform, housing justice and immigrant rights. Our Lobby Day will start bright and early at 8:30 a.m. at the Capital Theater on 206 5th Avenue Southeast in Olympia.

Deposit Reform Takes Effect

What you need to know:

  • Landlords will have to accept payment plans for the upfront costs to moving into a rental (security deposit, last month’s rent and non-refundable fees)
  • Payment plans are based off the length of the lease, and for leases six months or longer, the tenant payment plan can pay these fees and last month’s rent in installments in as many as six equal monthly installments. Renters can request a longer repayment plan with a landlord’s agreement.
  • The total cost of the security deposit and nonrefundable fees must not exceed one month’s rent, with the exception of a pet deposit
  • Pet deposits may not be more than 25% of your rent for one month and no other pet fees can be charged

The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection will enforce this legislation and landlords who repeatedly violate it will face civil penalties. Call their help line to report violations (206) 615-0808.

We want to hear from you! Will you benefit from this legislation? Have you had trouble finding affordable housing in Seattle in the past? Click this link to tell us more.

Good Food Bag

Photo courtesy Seattle Tilth

The Good Food Bag program is working to address some of the barriers that communities experience in accessing food, and in just 14 weeks a total of 437 bags were distributed to 180 different homes! Many families were able to pick-up a Good Food Bag during their weekly routine, increasing access to a variety of nutrient-dense organic fruits and vegetables. And all Good Food Bag recipients were able to support local farmers in east Auburn at the Seattle Tilth Farm Works.

At our distribution sites, we saw individuals try produce they had never seen before, like the knobby purple vegetable kohlrabi. We had folks express excitement at the weekly recipes which provided an inventive and simple way to cook some of the produce that was in the weekly bag. And we even saw many people pay it forward – generous individuals who admitted that although they struggled to buy quality food for themselves, they still knew someone else who had it worse and so they wanted to make sure everyone who needed a Good Food Bag had access to one.

As we prepare for the 2017 program, we want to ensure the Good Food Bag is even more accessible by opening new distribution sites in areas of Auburn that are hard to reach. We want to continue partnering with local farmers who are growing top quality, organic produce. And we want to continue growing in community in this collaborative program that helps decrease food insecurity in Auburn. Stay tuned until June 2017, when this program will start back up again, and please let us know if you are interested in volunteering or being part of this program in the future!

2016 Social Justice Awards Breakfast

Our annual Social Justice Awards Breakfast was a huge success!

A sold-out room at New Holly Gathering Hall on Tuesday, November 15 helped us surpass our goal and raise more $38,000. This funding is vital to the work we do, and we couldn’t do it without the support of our sponsors and everyone who attended.

Revisiting some of the wonderful moments of the event, we gave out awards to a few of our most dedicated, enthusiastic, and resilient members and leaders. Joelle Craft received our Commitment to Justice Award. Roi-Martin Brown received our Grassroots Leadership Award. Robby Stern was recognized for his Years of Service. Maureen Caputo was presented the Deana Knutsen Award. Our Tacoma Leadership Team was given an Emerging Leaders Award for their work on ending Mass Incarceration.

We heard an engaging keynote address from Ron Sims. He read us a quote that makes note of the challenges we face ahead, “The devil whispered in my ear, you’re not strong enough to withstand the storm. Today, I whispered in the devil’s ear, I am the storm.” He told us about his time growing up in Spokane in the 40’s and 50’s when there were no laws against race discrimination. “People made it clear that I was not entitled to any equality whatsoever and they acted on that.” He told us not to dwell on the results of the election and that, “Strong people and people of morale character never retreat from their beliefs.” His passion, leadership and experience were evident in his time on the stage and brought the room to its feet at a very important time in the movement.

Click this link to watch his speech in its entirety.

Thank you to our sponsors:
SEIU 1199NW
Seattle Education Association
NARAL Pro-Choice Washington
SEIU 775
Washington State Association for Justice
Washington Federation of State Employees
UFCW21
Washington State Labor Council
AFT Washington
PNHP Western Washington
Sprague Israel Giles Insurance
SEIU Local 925
WinPower
NoHLA
PTE 17
Fair Work Center
UAW 4121
People’s Action
Social Justice Fund NW
Uniting Generations
Teamsters 117
Councilmember Kshama Sawant

Yes on I-1433 for Paid Sick Leave

arianadavid2Back in 2011, when her son developed a rash on his skin, Jessica Cox wasn’t taking any chances. She took the 7 year-old to see a doctor, who diagnosed Roseola, or Sixth disease, a viral illness developed in childhood.

As a result, the school asked Cox to keep her son home for a week. And when she couldn’t find anyone to take care of him so she could go to her job at a grocery store in Renton, Cox inquired about using sick time.

She knew her boss was tough, but was still not prepared for the harsh response.

“She literally told me that I could not make up a disease because I didn’t want to come in to work,” said Cox, who lives in Kent.

“She said I couldn’t use my sick leave because it didn’t involve me and if I wanted to, I could take days off but not get paid for them.”

Sponsors of a measure to establish paid sick leave for workers in Washington, say such policies are far too common.

Initiative 1433, set for the November ballot, would not only increase the minimum wage over the next four years, but provide up to seven days of paid sick and safe leave for workers to care for themselves or a sick family member. (Safe leave allows victims, such as domestic violence survivors, to find a secure living situation without losing a paycheck.)

The provision would benefit more than 1 million workers in the state who currently lack sick leave.

Many are minimum-wage or other low-income workers who earn their living in the state’s burgeoning service and retail economy and can’t afford to take time off when they or a family member becomes ill.

It’s a two-fold problem, said Jack Sorenson, campaign spokesman for Raise Up Washington, the initiative sponsor.

“No one should have to choose between staying home when they are sick or losing income,” he said.

“Families shouldn’t be put in a positon of sending a child to school sick or not being able to afford groceries at the end of the week.”

Women make up the majority of low-wage earners in the state and are therefore the least likely to have paid sick and safe leave, according to the campaign.

At the same time, mothers are 10 times more likely than their male partners to stay home with a sick child.

There are no federal laws requiring employers to provide paid sick leave for workers. Five states, including neighboring Oregon, have such laws in place. In Washington, the cities of Seattle, Tacoma, Bellingham and Spokane are among some 30 nationwide with similar laws.

Back in 2011, when her son became ill, Cox said she ended up taking more than a week off from work, losing over $400 in wages.

She and her co-workers, represented by United Food and Commercial Workers union, can access paid leave only after they have been sick for three consecutive days.

Sorenson said given that most people usually take no more than one or two sick days at a time, “if you can’t access it until the third day, that’s pretty much like not having it at all.”

Ariana Davis, who works at the same store, said that because of that policy, she’s gone to work sick on many occasions and ended up staying sick longer as a result.

“That’s unhealthy not just for co-workers, but for customers and communities,” she said.

Paid sick leave “is essential to making life better for every hard working family in America.”

Wage bump will help service workers, people of color

kenya-mapIn the refugee camp in Kenya, preparing to come to the United States, Ayan Barre believed all the tall tales she heard about the land where money grows on trees.

And after eight years in Seattle, the Somali mother of four jokes that by now she should be living in a nice big house and driving a fancy car.

But Barre, who lives in low-income housing in Kent, depends on income from her part-time job at an Amazon warehouse, supplemented by the assistance she gets for her elderly mother.

Until October, the warehouse job paid $13 an hour, almost on par with the top tier of the graduated minimum-wage proposal appearing on the November ballot.

While critics of Initiative 1433 have argued that $13.50 an hour, where the minimum wage rate would settle by 2020, is too much and goes too far, Barre’s struggle to support four kids and other family members on her meager earnings, illustrates the challenges low-income earners face.

In addition to requiring employers to provide up to seven paid sick and safe days a year, Initiative 1433 would hike the state’s minimum wage each year, over the next four years, from the current $9.47.

Full-time workers, at that rate, take home less than $20,000 a year, well below the poverty line for a family of four and insufficient, on its own, to afford a one-bedroom apartment anywhere in the state.

More than 730,000 minimum-wage earners would get a $600-a-month raise if 1433 is approved, according to Raise Up Washington, the initiative sponsor.

These workers come from all backgrounds and are employed in all sectors, from service to retail. They are child-care workers and home-health care providers.

One in six are women and women earning the minimum wage, according to Raise Up Washington, are the primary bread-winners in 40 percent of households with children.

“For many, this will mean no longer choosing between rent and child care, between food and transportation,” said Michael Ramos, executive director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, a campaign partner.

“When we raise the minimum wage, we lift people out of poverty and reduce dependence on social services and government programs.” RAMOS

The increase would be particularly meaningful in communities across South King County, where people of color represent a majority of the population. According to the campaign, more than 40 percent of African Americans and Latino workers earn less than $13.50 an hour.

Additionally, said Jack Sorenson, spokesman for Raise Up Washington, 88 percent of minimum wage earners are over the age of 20, “not the Leave it to Beaver teenager saving to buy their first set of wheels. That’s not true in this modern economy,” he said.

The average age: 35.

Last year, Washington Community Action Network launched a special voting project, Operation Spectra, in parts of South King County and surveyed voters on a series of economic issues, including the minimum wage.

More than 70 percent told canvassers they support raising the minimum wage.

I-1433 which would raise the rate to $11 an hour next year, $11.50 in 2018, $12 in 2019 and $13.50 by 2020.

Whether and where to establish a wage floor has been a source of controversy since it was first established on the federal level in the 1930s.

In making the case for a 25 cents-an-hour, President Franklin Roosevelt said, “No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.”

Today’s federal rate of $7.25, is lower than the rates in 29 states.

The common refrain that raising the minimum wage kills jobs has been repeatedly debunked; rather the opposite has proven to be true, Sorenson said.

“When people are taking home $600 more a month in pay, they are going out and buying clothes for their kids, buying groceries,” he said. “They look forward to going to a restaurant. That’s business that wasn’t there before.”

Two years ago, protests and walkouts by workers at McDonald became the spark for a movement that led to the passage of $15 minimums in several cities across the country, including Seattle. Seattle’s minimum wage will reach $15 by 2021.

Sorenson said, “$13.50 makes sense for the Washington economy outside of Seattle.”

And Barre, the Kent mother said recently Amazon agreed to increase hourly wages for her and her co-workers to $15 beginning in October, an increase, she said, that will go a long way to helping her family make ends meet.

Why Doris Wilson is an Advocate for Universal Health Care

doris-wilsonOver 32 years ago I bought my condo in the Kirkland Totem Lake neighborhood. One buying consideration was the condo’s proximity to Evergreen Hospital and Medical Center (now EvergreenHealth), which is located within a mile of my home. Soon after my purchase in 1984, Pacific Medical Centers (PacMed) opened a Totem Lake clinic. I received almost all of my health care needs at one or the other of these two facilities, except for some specialties. When I retired from the University of Washington in 1993 to care for ailing parents, I continued to receive primary care at PacMed, my HMO, under the Secure Horizons option of my health plan, UnitedHealth.

As you may be aware, state retirees’ benefits are managed by the Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB), and insurance premiums are deducted from my state pension.

Everything worked fine for me until PEBB ended its contract with Secure Horizons. I had to choose another health plan, and the only one which would offer Medicare Advantage coverage was Group Health Cooperative. So I now get my health care at Group Health facilities. It’s a good organization, and I’m getting good care… but eight miles from home at the Bellevue main facility and six miles away at the Redmond clinic, instead of next-door.

However, just 2-1/2 months under the new arrangement (but before I was established with a primary care doctor), I fell at home and injured my thigh. In great pain, it was a struggle for me to reach a phone to call 9-1-1 for help and a neighbor with an extra key for my condo to let the medics in. They asked me who my insurer was, and put me on a stretcher and into the medic van. I had to go eight miles into Bellevue to Urgent Care at Group Health, rather than next-door to EvergreenHealth. The medics dropped me off, and I had to wait for X-rays. By the time the X-ray was read, indicating no bone fractures, and I could be discharged, I had been given narcotics for my pain and could not take a taxi home alone. I was unable to reach my daughter in Seattle by phone, and my 86-year-old neighbor didn’t drive after dark, so I had no way to get home. Never mind that I could not manage the entryway stairs without assistance! My condition did not make it possible for me to stay overnight in the hospital. It took some pleading with the Urgent Care staff, but finally they allowed me to sleep there until morning when my neighbor could drive me home. I was trapped at home for three weeks, while (very competent) Group Health aides helped me to manage with showering and restoring my ability to walk somewhat normally, including up and down stairs.

With universal, single-payer health care, I could simply have been taken to the nearest emergency room at EvergreenHealth. My neighbor could have driven one mile after dark to pick me up.

When insurers make our health care decisions for us–where to get care and from whom–unnecessary cost and effort can be incurred.

So much for my careful consideration of choosing a new home in the vicinity of a hospital and thriving medical community! And, yes, I continue to pay real estate taxes which support EvergreenHealth’s expansion, and I vote for its management and development, rather than for GroupHealth, since it is in my hospital district. Go figure!

Surprise Billing

marketplace-billingEvery health insurance company is required to develop a network of providers so that its customers have access to doctors, clinics, and hospitals. The Affordable Care Act has expanded insurance enrollment for many previously uninsured populations. Washington CAN has been working with partner communities, the Health Benefits Exchange, and the Insurance Commissioner to improve the rules governing how the provider networks are serving the needs of the newly insured.

We face two major challenges: First, are the providers close enough to the patients to permit them to get to the doctor or hospital when they need to? Second, are the networks sufficiently diverse to provide adequate language access and cultural sensitivity to their new insurance customers?

Frequently, access is a matter of proximity – how long does it take and what does it cost to get to the doctor? Many of the new insurance customers live in areas where doctors have not traditionally located their practices. Can low-income people find their way to a doctor or hospital located in another part of their community or does distance provide a significant barrier?

Another issue we are advocating on is, if a low-income person can find a way to the doctor or hospital, will providers be able to communicate with them in their primary language? Will providers be sensitive to cultural differences? Will there be appropriate outreach to these communities so as to improve their participation in the health care system?

Both the Insurance Commissioner and the Health Benefits Exchange are reviewing these issues. The outcome of debates are uncertain, particularly given that the insurance industry is pioneering what they call “skinny networks” – networks that include fewer, rather than more, providers.

Housing Justice Now: Deposit Reform PASSES!

We’ve been pushing for months for the Seattle City Council to address the exorbitant move-in costs landlords charge tenants. In a housing report we published, high move-in costs were listed as the top barrier to finding affordable housing.

Monday, the Seattle City Council approved the bill that will put a cap on move-in fees and allow renters to pay installments. This is a huge win for Washington CAN! and for Seattle’s low-income communities and communities of color. We are so grateful for our members who stood in front of the council and put a face to this problem as they told their stories of rental struggles.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant championed this bill and her tireless efforts to push it through were admirable. The unanimous vote by council members sent a great message to the city that they recognize the housing crisis that’s happening now and they are here to do their part.

This bill goes into effect in 2017. We will have more details on how it will be enforced and what renters should know.

What the media is saying:

Seattle Times: City Council approves limits on renters’ move-in costs, taking aim at housing crisis

The Stranger: Your Next Landlord May Be Required to Offer You a Payment Plan for Deposits and Other Move-In Fees

Crosscut: Council makes life easier for renters, caps move-in costs

KOMO: Seattle approves plan to ease rental move-in fees

Seattle Weekly: Council to Vote on Limits to Renter Move-In Fees

My Northwest: Landlords lament: Council caps move-in costs for Seattle renters

Auburn Good Food Bag Program

IMG_4379The lack of access to healthy foods makes it difficult for families who remain in low-income, urban communities to maintain a well-balanced, nutritious diet. Statistics show a lack of access to healthy food can cause severe health consequences including physical and mental health conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Children who grow up in homes without enough food are at increased risk of illness, and of experiencing academic and psycho-social problems. Nutritional deficiencies and family stress both contribute to these outcomes.

Data from Communities Count shows social and health indicators across King County:

  • In 2013, 13% of King County households ran out of food and didn’t have money to buy more, up from 8% in 2010.
  • Foradults with income less than $35,000, food hardship increased from 24% to 38%.
  • In many South King County cities, close to half of all children participate in the Basic Food program.
  • In 2014, the number of King County households participating in the Basic Food program was still almost double the number in 2008, and close to 3 times the number in 2002.

The Auburn Good Food Bag program is working to eliminate some of the barriers communities experience in accessing food by offering a bag of local, organic fruits and vegetables worth $10 on the open market, for half price. The Good Food Bag is sold at the following locations.

 

  • The WIC Clinic

            Address: 901 Auburn Way N Ste A

            Day & Time: Fridays from 8:30 am – 1:00 pm

  • The Auburn Senior Activity Center

            Address: 808 9th St SE

            Day & Time: Fridays from 7:30 am – 1:00 pm

  • St. Matthew Episcopal Church

            Address: 123 L St NE

Day & Time: Sundays after services

2016 Summer Conference: Beyond Basic Needs

We’ve just set the date for our annual Summer Conference. This year our theme is “beyond basic needs.” It’s time for our community to push past being in survival mode and build communities where we all thrive! Join us and meet other leaders and members from across the state, learn more about our leadership council, get a chance to meet some of our board, and discover more about the power of grass roots organizing!

The Summer Conference will take place at the Double K Retreat in Easton, WA on Friday, September 16 through Sunday, September 18. We will have many more details in the coming weeks including information about transportation and what sessions we will offer.

Click this link to register

Double K Retreat

The Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap

Women make up nearly half of the workforce in this country. Yet, on average, earn less than their male counterparts. Women working full time earn, on average, 79 cents to every dollar a white man makes. For women of color, the pay gap widens considerably. Black women make 64 cents, American Indian women 59 cents and Hispanic women 54 cents to the white male dollar.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 made it illegal to pay women less based solely on their gender, with other demonstrable qualifications such as seniority, experience or merit listed as the only reasons to enact differing pay scales.

More recently, the Obama administration issued an executive action that will require companies with 100 employees or more to report pay data broken down by gender. These new equal pay rules go into effect in 2017.

Meantime, at the state level, passing legislation for a higher minimum wage, paid parental leave, protecting pregnant workers and improvement of reproductive rights will bolster how women are valued in the workplace.

Washington Community Action Network for the Stand With Women Campaign

Cartoon 4

From trauma to civic engagement: Tacoma mom breaks decades long silence to protect vulnerable teens

by Roberta Riley

MykleAnn kept it bottled up all these years, the memory of the night she’d gone off to a party in Tacoma, looking for fun, and wound up getting raped.

She was just 14 years old.

Bloodied and bruised, she never uttered a word to anyone out of fear that if her father found out, he would kill the guy and end up in prison.

She became pregnant as a result of the rape. “Thank goodness Indian Health Services and Planned Parenthood were there for me when I needed help,” she reflects. “I probably wouldn’t have graduated from high school and gone to college if I’d been forced to go through with that pregnancy.”

Decades later, at midlife, MykleAnn is the mother of three. She works at the Muckleshoot Casino and lives in Tacoma, WA. Her father passed, never knowing of the trauma she bore alone all those years ago.

Recently, however, MykleAnn learned that a state senator from her area, Steve O’Ban, was sponsoring legislation to cut off Planned Parenthood funding and restrict the rights of teenagers to have abortions without involving their parents. She was outraged. Why would this senator endanger vulnerable young women with such restrictions?

She knows from her own painful experience that some teens simply cannot safely tell their parents. Fear of her father’s anger and violence literally kept her mute for decades. And so, on behalf of all the younger women who are too frightened to tell their stories, MykleAnn decided to break her silence.

She joined a group protesting outside of O’Ban’s office. “Women need access to birth control and abortion,” she chanted. She hoped for the opportunity to look this man in the eye, share her story and ask him to rethink his proposed legislation.

O’Ban did not come outside.

But MckleAnn didn’t give up. Recently, she attended a public forum for the 28th Legislative District of Washington.

Though O’Ban was invited, he didn’t show up.

But that didn’t stop MykleAnn. When the time came, she stepped up to the microphone and told her story. One could have heard a pin drop in the room as she choked back tears. Then, with the determination of a mother protecting her loved ones, she explained why it’s so important for teens to be able seek the confidential advice of trained medical professionals. As she spoke, a burden lifted and MykleAnn discovered her voice as a citizen.

Check out her video here

Candidate Forum Moderated from Behind Bars of Clallam Bay Prison

Candidate Forum 1

Lakewood, Wash. – Friday, June 10, 2016 – Thursday, Washington Communication Action Network (CAN) held a candidate forum for candidates running in the 28th Legislative District. The forum was co-moderated by Willie Nobles, a black man serving a life sentence at Clallam Bay Corrections Center and focused on criminal justice and gender equity issues. Nobles also leads college courses in the prison. Sonja Pitts, a black, formerly homeless social worker, co-moderated at the forum.

“This district is specifically challenged with economic, mass incarceration and gender equity issues that can be difficult to navigate,” said Washington CAN Co-executive Director Mary Nguyen. “We wanted to give voters in that district a more in-depth look at their candidates to help make informed choices based on these issues that are most important to the community.”

Although all candidates running in Legislative District 28 were invited, participating candidates included Paul Wagemann, Anne Giroux and Marisa Peloquin. Legislative District 28 encompasses several Pierce County cities including University Place, Lakewood, Dupont and a portion of Tacoma.

Candidates were asked questions from the moderators and also heard from storytellers about social justice issues and were able to respond.

“What would you do to protect women’s right to choose when they have families?” Nobles asked over the phone from Clallam Bay.

“As a man, this is a very difficult subject. I believe life begins at conception. So, if that’s the case, how do I protect that life?” asked Wagemann. “I can’t make that decision. I have to allow that individual, their doctor and their family make that decision.”

“Somebody tried to rob me here in Lakewood and hit me very hard. I went to a hospital close by and I got a bill for $15,000,” said storyteller Marco Ramirez through a Spanish interpreter. “They sent me to a collections agency and take money from my paycheck. I stay in a shelter and live in a lot of fear.”

“We need to do the right thing and protect our own,” said Peloquin. “It will protect and save lives and our dignity.”

This candidate forum supports the Stand With Women campaign that aims to update the rules with the basic idea that women should be equal participants in society and have reproductive freedom, equal pay and policies that support pregnant women in the workplace.

Sponsors: Washington State Labor Council, Post-Prison Education Program, Washington Environmental Council, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, Economic Opportunity Institute, Black Prisoner’s Caucus

Watch a video of the forum here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrK6oTO2Fk0

Legal Financial Obligations

LFOLegal Financial Obligations are the costs incurred by individuals convicted of crimes during the time they are incarcerated. Fees include court costs, fines and other legal assessments. They accrue at a rate of 12 percent and are issued at a critical time when individuals have served their time and are reentering society. LFOs trap families into cycles of poverty and debt, increase the risk of homelessness through ruined credit, and shift the costs of mass incarceration onto communities of color.

Some statistics about LFOs:

  • The average LFO debt in Washington is $2,500. With a 12% interest rate, consistent payments of $20 per month will NEVER pay off the debt.
  • Even when you compare people convicted of the same crime, which have the same criminal history, Latino defendants are sentenced to higher LFOs than anyone else.
  • Incarceration targets poor people. 80-90% of people charged with felonies in Washington are declared indigent by courts at the time of sentencing.
  • More than 114,000 people owe Legal Financial Obligations in the state of Washington.

Are you affected by Legal Financial Obligations or know someone who is? We want to hear from you.

Email: margaret@washingtoncan.org

Save the ACA Rally at Seattle’s Westlake Park

On Sunday, January 15, Washington CAN! members were out in force at Westlake Park rallying to not just save health care, but to expand it so everyone in Washington is covered. Our leader Roi-Martin Brown addressed the crowd along with the Main Street Alliance of Washington leader Makini Howell who told their own personal stories of how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has made a difference in their lives.

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal led the rally with strong support from the crowd. She will be a fierce ally in Washington D.C. as the fight begins to #SaveTheACA.

We are facing the repeal of the ACA and potentially huge reductions in the support for Medicaid for low-income Washingtonians. We also face an attempt to privatize Medicare. Almost all of the progress made in the last decade in health care is in jeopardy. Washington CAN! is helping to lead the fight against these challenges. A bill is being drafted to protect Washington State against the possible destruction of huge portions of our health care system.