Moral Mondays coalitions spread

The Moral Monday movement, a coalition of religious, civil rights, labor, and progressive activists, has spread from North Carolina the home of its origin.

People in Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi, and New York have taken action to press their state leaders to prioritize the needs of working families over those of the 1 percent.

In Georgia, 10 people were arrested in January during a Moral Monday sit-in at Gov. Nathan Deal’s office. The protestors wanted Gov. Deal and legislators to make health care available to low-wage Georgia workers by expanding Medicaid.

Under the federal Affordable Care Act, the federal government offers substantial enhanced funding to states that expand their Medicaid program.

So far, Georgia has refused to do so.

“Georgia should take advantage of new federal funding to expand Medicaid in 2014 to boost Georgia’s economy and create tens of thousands of new jobs, all while extending health coverage to 650,000 Georgians,” said the protestors in their letter to the governor.

On March 3, Moral Monday Georgia organized a march to the state capitol in Atlanta to protest recent attacks by right-wing lawmakers on “hard working Georgians.”

Specifically they were protesting proposed bills that would eliminate unemployment benefits for school employees and allow employers to misclassify workers as independent contractors.

They also urged lawmakers to raise the state’s minimum wage.

Moral Monday Georgia has also been fighting to get Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act and to stop efforts by some lawmakers who want to make it more difficult to vote by limiting early voting.

In New York, the Moral Monday coalition has been urging law makers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to adopt a budget with fewer handouts to the rich and more help for working people.

At a Moral Mondays rally on March 10 in Binghamton, Kate Murray, a NABET-CWA steward and vice-president of the local labor federation said that Moral Monday rallies like the one in Binghamton would continue throughout the state as long as the state’s budget is under consideration in Albany.

We want lawmakers to “think and vote with their conscience,” said Murray.

The Rev. Fred Brooks was more specific.

“We shall continue to call for the strengthening of programs that increase employment, serve children and the elderly, the homeless and that support our educational communities and municipalities.”

At an earlier rally in New York City, the Rev. Donna Schaper said that the state’s proposed budget would increase income inequality.

“It is morally shocking how tilted this budget is to helping the rich and hurting  the poor,” said Schaper.

The proposed budget includes a $750 estate tax reduction that would largely benefit 200 of New York State’s 1 percenters. It also eliminates the dedicated bank tax, a $350 million windfall to Wall Street.

In Tennessee the Put the People First coalition rallied in Nashville, then a delegation from the 500-strong rally delivered a letter to Gov. Bill Haslam calling on him and state lawmakers “to make the interests of Tennessee working people your top priority.”

“Our governor, this legislature, and their millionaire backers are trying to destroy 150 years of progressive reforms that the working class has won in our state,” said Tom Anderson, president of UCW-CWA Local 3865 at the rally. “But we won’t go backward! And when we stand up and fight back, it isn’t just at a single rally. Today we’re launching of a movement to Put the People First! Just like our sisters and brothers did with Moral Mondays in North Carolina. And we won’t stop until they give us what we want!”

Like the Moral Mondays coalition, Put the People First is a movement that unites a broad spectrum of groups including unions, the NAACP, Workers Interfaith Network, Jobs with Justice, student activists, and environmental justice groups.

The coalition plans more actions like the one in Nashville including May 1 rallies in  Middle, West and East Tennessee.

In Mississippi the Ethical Thursday coalition is bringing thousands of Mississippi activists to the state capitol in Jackson to stand up for economic justice and democracy.

“We believe that by uniting together, it will go a long way to building and sustaining a Mississippi movement to counter those whose agenda is to set our state on a return to economic and moral dishonesty,” said Brenda Rice-Scott, president of the Mississippi Alliance of State Employees CWA Local 3570 at a recent Ethical Thursday rally in Jackson, the state capital.

The Mississippi Legislature has attacked workers’ pensions, refused to support the expansion of Medicaid, passed anti-union laws, and is looking to do away with due process for state workers.

“We believe that by uniting together, it will go a long way to building and sustaining a Mississippi movement to counter those whose agenda is to set our state on a return to economic and moral dishonesty,” said Rice-Scott.

Rice-Scott called for a united effort of state employees and “the people we serve to advance the gains we’ve made together over the years.”

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