Category: Your Voice Written by Adam Hollier
Ten years ago I went to Cornell University to study industrial and labor relations because Detroiters needed good jobs. I knew that unions saved lives, specifically the International Fire Fighters Association whose fierce advocacy for the four-man ride saved my father’s life as a Detroit firefighter. In college, I learned more about how unions secure wages, overtime, time off, medical leave, health benefits and the other things we expect from good jobs. If we don’t make good jobs available to every resident of Detroit, we will lack in safety, education and our economy.
Now is the time to get back to organizing. Decades ago the labor movement was at a crossroads. Conventional wisdom said that only highly-skilled workers could be organized. However, inclusive activists created the Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO), which did not bar African-Americans from membership, nor did it exclude low-skilled line workers. The CIO’s grassroots work resulted in big organizing victories in cutting-edge industries, forming the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America union and the United Auto Workers.
Today we look at the auto industry as the heart of the labor movement and think of manufacturing as the base of union power. In 2005, the Change to Win Coalition sought to shift that paradigm by organizing a new population. Focusing primarily on the service industry, where an increasing number of Americans work, Unite Here and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) saw marked success with hotel employees and home health care workers. The need to organize service employees has only grown.
Good Jobs Now is a grassroots effort seeking better working conditions and a $15/hour minimum wage for fast food workers. There are 50,000 fast food workers in the Detroit metro area, more than double the number of people employed in auto manufacturing. Yet many in fast food are paid the Michigan minimum wage of $7.40 an hour, compared to the $19.80 starting wage at Chrysler. The minimum wage equates to roughly $296 a week, which over a year puts a single person just $5,000 above the poverty line – and a family of two barely $1,000 above. These are the neighbors who are only one crisis from falling into poverty. According to the US Census Bureau in 2012, 15.7% or 1,551,688 of Michigan residents are already below the poverty line. Declining manufacturing and union busting have pushed workers down. It’s time to fight back, and Good Jobs Now is one of the groups leading the charge.
I’m supporting the Good Jobs Now campaign. Strong grassroots organizing has always been the best tool to advance working-class issues like public education, neighborhood safety and a fair wage for an honest day’s work.
For more information see goodjobsnow.org, and next week read the second part of this op-ed, which will focus on what we are doing and how you can get involved.
Last Updated on Thursday, 19 September 2013 03:42
Category: Your Voice Written by Kathleen Sebelius
When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at the March on Washington, he described a “fierce urgency of now.” He reminded a divided nation that we need one another, and that we are stronger when we march forward, together. “We cannot walk alone,” he said. “And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back.”
A half century later, Dr. King’s words have renewed meaning.
For every little boy or girl in America whose health lies in the balance, there is an urgency of now.
For every one of our neighbors who lives day-after-day in fear because they do not have insurance, there is an urgency of now.
For every mom or dad who has faced bankruptcy because of a mounting medical bill, there is an urgency of now.
Without the opportunity to live a healthy life, there is no opportunity to live the American dream or participate fully in our communities. Without the freedom which comes from having access to quality health care, there is no freedom to reach our full potential in the workforce or watch our kids or grandkids grow up. Without the security of health insurance, there is no economic security for middle-class families, and so many other families working their way into the middle class.
The time for division and debate has passed. Now is the time to march forward.
“Of all forms of injustice,” Dr. King told the Medical Committee for Human Rights, “injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
In 1965, the same year the Voting Rights Act became the law of the land, we came together as a nation to create Medicare and Medicaid.
My father was serving in Congress at the time. He was very involved in the Civil Rights Movement, and in fact he was good friends with Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, the co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (and one of the legends of the era.)
My dad strongly supported the Voting Rights Act, and he helped write the Medicare and Medicaid laws. He saw all these struggles as connected to the broader goal of a more perfect union.
Today, this legacy continues. The Affordable Care Act is the most powerful law for reducing health disparities since Medicare and Medicaid were created in 1965.
It provides the 85 percent of our neighbors who currently have insurance with new rights and protections under the law.
For the 15 percent of our neighbors who do not have coverage (or who buy coverage on their own and would like better options), a new Health Insurance Marketplace will open for enrollment starting October 1, with benefits starting January 2014 (for more information on your new options visit www.HealthCare.gov).
So talk to your family, friends and neighbors. Partner up with trusted resources in your communities, like community health centers and local libraries. Be a champion for coverage with other civic and business leaders who are stepping up in your communities.
Because of the Affordable Care Act, we are one step closer to fulfilling the promise, freedom and opportunity for millions of Americans to live a healthy, secure life.
Millions of Americans — our families and neighbors — can’t afford for us to turn back. They are counting on us to march ahead. And we will.
Kathleen Sebelius is the Secretary for Health and Human Services.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 August 2013 10:24
Category: Your Voice Written by Bill Johnson
Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Jack Martin is participating in the summer ritual of walking door-to-door trying to generate renewed public interest in the beleaguered district. His goal is to recruit and enroll 5,000 more students by the opening of school on September 3. What gives him an outside chance is the deployment of a new strategy: giving parents and students a greater say in the choice of schools.
Every year at this time, DPS volunteers, teachers, parents and community partners conduct a door-to-door enrollment drive aimed at both new and former students who might have left the district for better opportunities. Indeed, flight from the city explains much of the precipitous drop-off in enrollment from the 1966 peak of 298,000. Detroit has lost more than half of its population in the interim. Only about 51,000 students attended DPS this past school year. And the projections for the upcoming school year are not encouraging.
All out efforts to pump up the numbers are understandable. Fall enrollment is critical to determining how much state financial aid a district can receive. For each student it enrolls, DPS receives $7,190 from the state.
Thousands of the best, brightest and wealthiest students opt for charter, suburban public schools, private and parochial schools. The shrinking district is an indication that Detroit residents lack confidence in the school system and its leadership. Declining enrollments also mean the closing of more underutilized, ineffective schools. Since 2000, by necessity, DPS has closed 200 schools.
The Martin team is hoping to stem the exodus by convincing those on the verge of leaving to give DPS a fresh look and a second chance. But instead of the usual cash offerings, merchandise and other incentives to entice students to show up and be counted, the Martin enrollment campaign pitches local theme schools. Parents are being offered a varied and greater choice among schools their children can attend.
It’s not clear how far the EM is willing to advance this concept. But it’s widely accepted that parental choice – like charter schools — is another option to improve children’s learning. It also fosters healthy competition among schools. After all, competition and the need for the schools to appeal to parents in order to stay in business is the foundation of lasting reform. And such reforms can raise the educational level of the school system as a whole.
Equally important, choice empowers people rather than education bureaucrats. There is much scholarly research indicating that the most compelling factor in the learning process is parental involvement. Whether Martin fails or succeeds depends on the degree of public input and support he receives.
If Martin’s initiative goes as far as empowering teachers and administrators to share decision-making in a school site, it could usher in even more innovation. All schools should be allowed to break from central bureaucratic controls that stifle effective organization, achievement and competition. Accompanying the transfer of this control is the responsibility for schools to be fully accountable for results.
Martin, in breaking ranks with failed management practices of the past, appears to understand that the most desirable way to gain students and keep them in the classroom is to that offer them a sound curriculum that maintains their interests. Theme schools do that. Could this be the first step to bring sweeping improvements and accountability measures to DPS? It remains to be seen.
But let’s face it. Detroit students have phenomenal unmet education needs. Previously, parents had little choice but to accept the flawed judgment of misguided EMs about what is best for their children.
Jack Martin, it appears, is trying to move beyond past limitations, failures and excuses. His free-choice schools concept promises a greater voice and a greater sense of responsibility for everyone involved with education. And it’s as timely as it is critical.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 August 2013 05:51
Category: Your Voice Written by Tom Watkins
Governor Snyder made the morally and fiscally correct decision to ask the Michigan Legislature to expand Medicaid. It is expected the Senate will vote on the governors request this week.
There are many reasons the Michigan Legislature should follow Governor Snyder’s lead. Let me count the ways:
1) It is simply sensible, public policy to tap federal funds already set aside to expand preventive and lifesaving health care under Medicaid.
2) Medicaid expansion represents the best single opportunity to improve access to behavioral healthcare services for Michigan citizens most in need. Cuts to general fund support for mental health and substance use disorder services over the past decade have resulted in a lack of access and reduction of services. The best way to remove barriers to care and expand mental health services is to expand Medicaid.
3) Medicaid expansion would provide coverage options for small businesses and create a healthier work force that will improve the state’s economic competitiveness. Workers at many small Michigan companies do not get insurance from their employers. Medicaid expansion will cover low-wage working adults: Michigan workers with no health insurance and too little income to afford coverage.
4) Currently, Michigan hospitals end up providing more than $880 million a year in uncompensated care to patients who are unable to pay. It is estimated that up to $1,000 of the annual cost of a health insurance premium for a family of four is to cover this uncompensated care.
5) Expanding Medicaid as Governor Snyder recommended will reduce this hidden, “health care tax” paid by insured individuals, families and businesses.
6) The Governor’s recommendation would also help local community hospitals. Because the federal government wishes to expand Medicaid via health insurance exchanges, local hospitals stand to lose reimbursements for uncompensated care. If Michigan Legislators do not support Medicaid expansion, they jeopardize the financial stability of local hospitals across the state.
7) If Michigan’s Legislature fails to expand Medicaid coverage, an opportunity to provide health insurance for thousands of hard working, low income residents across the state will be lost but their needs—and costs—will remain.
8) The federal government, which is asking states to expand Medicaid coverage, has pledged to cover the full cost of expansion through 2016 before gradually reducing funding to 90 percent by 2020.
8) Governor Snyder has been extremely clear in his belief that the expansion will help protect over 300, 000 of Michigan’s most vulnerable citizens in the next year alone, decrease the rate of emergency room visits that drive up health care costs for everyone, and save the state millions a year in state spending—half of which he wants to put into a savings account to offset any future costs.
9) It is estimated that Medicaid expansion will create 18,000 new health care jobs and generate $2.1 billion in new economic activity in Michigan.
10) Expanding Medicaid is morally right and fiscal sound for Michigan taxpayers.
When Governor Rick Snyder called for expanding Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act, he said, “This makes sense for the physical and fiscal health of Michigan.” He continued, “Expansion will create more access to primary care providers, reduce the burden on hospitals and small businesses, and save precious tax dollars. It also puts Michigan rather than Washington in the driver’s seat in terms of implementation, which allows us to better address Michigan’s specific needs.”
The time is now to call on the Michigan Legislature to support Governor Snyder’s proposals to expand Medicaid coverage for Michigan families making less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
Let’s remember: Supporting Medicaid expansion is about helping real people—our families, neighbors and friends—with real needs by tapping the tax dollars we send to Washington. It is a wise investment.
Tom Watkins served the citizens of Michigan as state mental health director in the Blanchard administration. He is the president and CEO of the Detroit-Wayne County Community Mental Health Authority. He can be reached at:
Follow him on twitter @tdwatkins88
Last Updated on Monday, 26 August 2013 09:33
Category: Your Voice Written by Cheryl Pearson-McNeil
Isn’t it fascinating how a person can have a single idea or dream planted, take root and change the world as we know it? Well, that’s exactly how Nielsen came to be. This week, Nielsen will celebrate its 90th Anniversary. So, I’d like to give a sincere kudos to Nielsen on such a momentous, milestone anniversary. On August 24, 1923, in Chicago, a visionary engineer named Arthur C. Nielsen, Sr. (also known as A.C. Nielsen) first came up with the idea of selling performance surveys. He borrowed $45,000.00 to start a business to test the quality of conveyor belts and turbine generators. With those first, simple measurements, Mr. Nielsen introduced the concept of market research. Today, 90 years later, Nielsen has evolved and grown to become a global market research company with a presence in more than 100 countries – headquartered in New York and the Netherlands.
Did you know that Nielsen has many “firsts?” And we are most known for our TV ratings, but there is so much more. So, if you don’t mind, how about I share with you a short Nielsen history lesson today?
So here we go. After the engineering surveys, Nielsen began measuring drug and retail store sales in 1933, followed by food and department store sales the next year. Client service teams were assembled after in order to make sure the data being collected would be interpreted correctly and so that clients would have a liaison to work with on their day to day operations. And fueled by his passion and curiosity for consumer insights, A.C. Nielsen created the concept of “market share” in 1935.
Folks were listening to radio long before TV came along, so Mr. Nielsen acquired the rights to the first instantaneous Audiometer in 1936. This device attached to a radio to record when it was on and what station was being listened to. A few years later, in 1942, Nielsen’s radio index was launched in the U.S.
Also in the 1940s, the U.S. Chicago headquarters doubled in size and two more international offices in Canada and Australia were opened (the first opened in the United Kingdom in 1939). In addition to radio, the consumer and pharmaceutical indexes were introduced. Mr. Nielsen really stepped out on a limb in 1948 and invested in the first commercial computer, the UNIVAC 1. Now you can imagine this computer was far from today’s PC or even the new portable tablet devices. You know those giant, clunky metal and cable masses you may have seen in old sci-fi movies? Yes, that’s what it looked like. I wonder what Mr. Nielsen would say if he could see how technology has evolved today?
The infamous “Nielsen Ratings” as you know it, made its debut in 1950 when the company began measuring TV audiences. National daily TV ratings in the U.S. weren’t offered until 1973. And, who remembers when those now-ubiquitous bar codes (officially known as Universal Product Codes or UPCs) started popping up? Yes, it was Nielsen that introduced the scanning of bar codes in 1977. This revolutionized the way marketers and retailers were able to understand how and why consumers make purchasing decisions every day. Today, Nielsen measures 400 billion retail product transactions a year in more than 600,000 stores around the world.
As technology has continued to evolve, so have Nielsen’s measuring tools and methods. Today, Nielsen measures the activity more than half a million online panelists worldwide. Who remembers when there were only a few channels available for television? The famous “Black Box” made its debut in 1987 and used to capture the viewing habits of Nielsen households. Now there are hundreds of networks and channels from which to choose for our viewing pleasure – those premium channels that each have a specific interested audience and a plethora of program options as well. Talk about coming a long way? In addition to monitoring our viewing here in the U.S., today Nielsen also measures TV viewing audiences in 33 countries.
And with the changing times and how our lives have become so dependent on mobile devices, we can watch our favorite programs on our phones, tablets, computers and game consoles. So as the devices and gadgets evolved where we watch our favorite shows, so did Nielsen’s measurement services. In 2008, Nielsen began developing reports that detailed media usage across screens – television, internet, and mobile devices.
Nielsen’s history is progressive and delivers a forecast of infinite possibilities in years to come, which I hope inspires you. And, I hope you see and are empowered by your role in Nielsen’s success. Nielsen research, studies, survey results and data provide clients with this information to better engage and reach us and our communities. So here’s to another 90 years of innovation! I know you can’t wait to see what’s in store next.
Cheryl Pearson-McNeil is senior vice president of Public Affairs and Government Relations for Nielsen. For more information and studies go to www.nielsenwire.com
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 August 2013 05:50
Digital Daily Signup
Sign up now for the Michigan Chronicle Digital Daily newsletter!