Wednesday, February 21, 2018

From the CBPP: Weekly Update

This week at CBPP, we focused on the federal budget, state budgets and taxes, Social Security, food assistance, federal taxes, housing, health, poverty and inequality, and family income support.
  • On the federal budget, we released a number of pieces on President Trump’s 2019 budget. Robert Greenstein released a statement on the stark vision of America the budget offers. On the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Dorothy Rosenbaum, Stacy Dean, Ed Bolen, Elizabeth Wolkomir, Brynne Keith-Jennings, Lexin Cai, and Catlin Nchako found that President Trump’s budget would cut food assistance for millions and radically restructure the program, and Dean summarized these findings. On health, Peggy Bailey, Matt Broaddus, Shelby Gonzales, Hannah Katch, and Paul Van de Water found that the health proposals included in the President’s budget would reduce health insurance coverage and access to care for millions. On housing, Douglas Rice pointed out that President Trump’s budget slashes aid for families already struggling to pay rent.
    Sharon Parrott, Aviva Aron-Dine, Rosenbaum, Rice, Ife Floyd, and Kathleen Romig explained how the President’s budget would make cuts to health, housing, and other assistance for low- and moderate-income families deeper than any ever enacted. LaDonna Pavetti warned that the welfare-to-work proposal in the Trump budget would unravel major federal programs. David Reich laid out how President Trump’s budget would cut non-defense programs deeply in 2019 and beyond. Michael Leachman argued that states can’t afford massive new costs that President Trump’s budget would shift to states and localities. We rounded up our continuing coverage of the president’s budget.
    Jacob Leibenluft pointed out that President Trump’s new infrastructure plan is a mirage and that his budget will actually cut federal support for infrastructure investment. Arloc Sherman explained why policymakers should boost 2018 funding for the 2020 census.
  • On state budgets and taxes, Liz McNichol warned that President Trump’s plan to cut federal infrastructure funding would put badly needed improvements at risk. Leachman submitted testimony to the Kansas legislature’s Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs on why the state should reject a call for a constitutional convention.
  • On Social Security, Kathleen Romig highlighted how the bipartisan agreement to raise the caps on discretionary spending in 2018 and 2019 gives policymakers another chance to fund technology improvements for the program and reduce Social Security’s disability backlog.
  • On food assistance, we updated our backgrounder on SNAP.
  • On federal taxes, Chuck Marr called on congressional appropriators to make adequate funding for the Internal Revenue Service a top priority.
  • On health, Jessica Schubel warned that Kentucky’s Medicaid waiver will increase uncompensated care for hospitals and safety net providers.
  • On poverty and inequality, Chad Stone, Danilo Trisi, Arloc Sherman, and Roderick Taylor updated our guide to statistics on historical trends in income inequality.
  • On family income support, Tazra Mitchell and Pavetti updated their rebuttal of a fundamentally flawed study praising Kansas’ harsh TANF work penalties.
A variety of news outlets featured CBPP’s work and experts recently. Here are some highlights:
Don’t miss any of our posts, papers, or charts — follow us on  Twitter,  Facebook, and Instagram.

From ND AFL-CIO: Weekly Update

What Changed? (Take Two)

Last month at this time, I wrote an article titled, “What Changed?” In it, I laid out how I didn’t think anything had changed when Kevin Cramer decided to seek reelection rather than challenge Heidi Heitkamp for the U.S. Senate. I said Cramer was never going to run against Heidi, that it would be too much of a gamble. It wouldn’t make sense for him to challenge a popular incumbent when reelection odds seemed sound, I wrote. My take hasn’t changed, but something else has. Cramer has flipped. Today, he’ll announce his campaign against Heitkamp. What changed?

AFL-CIO President Trumka tells unions it’s time to go on offense

WASHINGTON – AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is challenging organized labor to go on the offense, despite control of Washington and states by anti-union politicians.
The fed leader issued his demand at the United Auto Workers political conference in D.C., in early February. He headlined a parade of speakers, including Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.

Where Did Your Pay Raise Go? It May Have Become a Bonus

The recent stock market rumpus has been set off in part by fears that a tight labor market and quickening wage growth are a foretaste of higher inflation and interest rates. But sustained raises for American workers may be possible only if employers can break a habit: handing out one-time bonuses in place of salary increases.
A growing preference among employers for one-time awards instead of raises that keep building over time has been quietly transforming the employment landscape for two decades. But it was accelerated by the recession’s intensity, which made employers especially cautious about increasing labor costs.

The Brutal Life of a Sanitation Worker

On a Saturday morning in 2013 in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood, an 18-year-old recycling worker, Luis Camarillo, was loading materials into a truck when the vehicle’s compactor crushed him. He was rushed to a hospital, where he died.
Mr. Camarillo’s death, while seemingly a freak accident, was in fact not unusual.
The hazards facing people in this line of work have a long history — they inspired the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike of 1968. That walkout was set off in part by the deaths of two Memphis sanitation workers, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, who were crushed to death by the hydraulic press of the truck they were riding on one rainy winter evening.

Labor Town Hall: Unions, Politics & Power - Bismarck Edition

The North Dakota AFL-CIO will host a town hall-style meeting with the theme of "Unions, Politics and Power" for union members and their families at the Bismarck Labor Temple on Feb 27th at 6:00 pm.

Come learn and discuss how we can use our freedom to join together to build better lives for North Dakota union families and to build a better North Dakota for all workers.

Pizza, Pop, Coffee and Cookies will be served.

NOTE: This discussion will be geared specifically towards North Dakota union members, retired union members and union family members. Similar Labor Town Halls for the general public are forthcoming. Locations for Grand Forks, Minot TBA.

Stand Up for SNAP!

On any given day 54,000 North Dakotans rely on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) to put food on their table. SNAP is set to be reauthorized in the 2018 Farm Bill. Based on past Farm Bills and what we are hearing from Congress, we expect the program will be at risk of significant cuts and damaging policy changes.

Mobile Messaging for North Dakota Workers!

We are happy to introduce a new tool in the fight for workers' rights in North Dakota!
Text NDLABOR to 235246 to join our new mobile messaging service and stay up-to-date on upcoming actions and events for working people!

From Coalition on Human Needs: We Need to Fight Back!

The Trump administration has recently put forward their ideas for the budget in 2019, which outlines their priorities - priorities that will harm domestic human needs programs, priorities that will harm millions of Americans.
We need to fight back!
Congress is in recess which means it's a prime opportunity for them to hear from you!
Write to your Representative and Senators, using CHN's easy-to-use online tool,demanding that basic human needs programs are protected, fully funded, and not subject to cruel restrictions such as "work requirements" that are really just roadblocks to prevent people from qualifying for help. (Please share this action with your networks too!)
Take the fight to social media! Center for American Progress has helpfully put together a social media toolkit to help advance our message of #HANDSOFF.
You can also check out CBPP’s toolkit for responding to the President’s budget, which includes talking points, graphics, sample social media posts, and suggestions for how to continue your activities throughout the congressional recess this week.
You can also find local events through CAP's resistance near me website (town hall meetings during the recess, rallies, etc.).
If your goal is to have a meeting directly with your Member of Congress, this guide from Families USA outlines how to make meetings happen and how to make them effective. (You can also find further resources for recess actions from Families USA here.)
Thanks for taking action!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

From ND AFL-CIO: Weekly Update

Heitkamp introduces bill to require two-person freight train crews to improve rail safety

FARGO — Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D, has introduced a bill aimed at improving rail safety by requiring two-person crews on freight trains.
The oil train that derailed near Casselton, N.D., in 2013 had a two-person crew, Heitkamp said, allowing them to act quickly to prevent the fire from escalating further, but trains still can operate with one-person crews.

Proposed ballot measure seeks ND ethics commission, other anti-corruption policies in state constitution

BISMARCK—A backer of a proposed anti-corruption ballot measure said Wednesday, Jan. 31, there are "a lot of little opportunities" for unethical behavior in North Dakota that could be deterred with their pitch to amend the state constitution.
Measure supporters submitted a proposed petition to the Secretary of State's Office for review Wednesday. They hope to put it on the November ballot, meaning they'll need 26,904 signatures by the end of the day July 9.

Federal workers on edge over Trump call for firing power

Federal employee unions are on edge after President Trump called on Congress Tuesday night to give agencies the power to fire federal workers at will.
In his first State of the Union address, Trump praised the VA Accountability Act — a law he signed last year to make it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire employees accused of misconduct — and called for similar powers to be extended to all agencies.

Letter: Care at the Fargo VA Hospital exceeded expectations

I am writing to express my appreciation for the Fargo VA Hospital and for the care my father, a lifetime North Dakota resident and veteran, has been receiving.
My father is 87 years old and has several health issues. Most recently, he suffered from kidney failure after he had surgery to address a broken foot. The VA Hospital helped him to become stable and then he transferred to a local nursing home facility for physical therapy.

Labor Town Hall: Unions, Politics & Power - Fargo Edition

The North Dakota AFL-CIO will host a town hall-style meeting with the theme of "Unions, Politics and Power" for union members and their families at the Fargo-Moorhead Labor Temple on Feb 6th at 5:30 pm.

Come learn and discuss how we can use our freedom to join together to build better lives for North Dakota union families and to build a better North Dakota for all workers.

Pizza, Pop, Coffee and Cookies will be served.

NOTE: This discussion will be geared specifically towards North Dakota union members, retired union members and union family members. Similar Labor Town Halls for the general public are forthcoming. Locations for Bismarck, Grand Forks, Minot TBA.

Education Farmer Labor Candidate Training Academy

Are you planning to run for elected office? Are you ready to do what it takes to win?
Join North Dakota United, North Dakota Farmers Union, the North Dakota AFL-CIO, and supporters of public education, family farmers, and working people as we learn together how to run winning campaigns. This intensive, two-day training will include sessions on field, communications, fundraising, social media, and much more.  
We are now accepting applications to attend the 2018 Education Farmer Labor Candidate Training Academy. Space is limited to ensure we can provide the highest quality training.

Mobile Messaging for North Dakota Workers!

We are happy to introduce a new tool in the fight for workers' rights in North Dakota!
Text NDLABOR to 235246 to join our new mobile messaging service and stay up-to-date on upcoming actions and events for working people!

From KIDS Count: North Dakota State Legislative District Profiles

North Dakota State Legislative District Profiles


North Dakota KIDS COUNT has once again teamed up with North Dakota Compass to create demographic and socio-economic profiles for North Dakota State Legislative Districts. The profiles highlight 16 measures focusing on population, household, social, and economic characteristics for each of the 47 districts in North Dakota. Each profile compares district information with North Dakota and the United States.

The 2018 profiles reflect the most current data available and are found on our 
website for viewing and downloading. We hope these data are useful in your discussions and decision making processes.

North Dakota KIDS COUNT
(701) 231-1060

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Job Posting: HUD-VASH/HCHV Outreach Social Workers

Job Openings -  HUD-VASH/HCHV Outreach Social Workers

The Veterans Administration is hiring! 

The Social Worker is a part of the Fargo VA Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) team and reports to the Supervisor of Health Care for Homeless Veterans Programs.  They will function as the Williston CBOC's HUD/VASH Case Manager, operating in the Williston, Watford City and surrounding areas to include Williams county.  This position will also serve as an outreach worker and strive to develop positive relationships with community providers.  The incumbent is responsible for oversight of the region of the HUD/VASH and HCHV programs. Duties include administrative data collecting and reporting, serving as the primary contact with local Public Housing Agencies (PHAs), and providing case management-based services (directly or through referral) necessary to ensure that veteran care is coordinated with the VA medical center, community health or mental health providers, CBOC, and agencies that serve homeless populations.

View the full job description here
The incumbent in this social work position provides housing and case management services to Tribally Eligible homeless veterans. In 1992 the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) established the HUD/VA Supportive Housing (HUD/VASH) Program.  The program is a collaborative effort, supported through HUD Section 8 rental assistance vouchers and VA's provision of intensive case management services.  In 2016, the VA provided grants to select Tribal Nations implement a Tribal VASH demonstration grant.   The primary goal of both HUD/VASH and Tribal HUD/VASH is to move veterans and their families out of homelessness.  The primary component of the program is VA case management services, designed to improve veteran's health and mental health, enhancing their ability to remain stable, housed and community-integrated.
View the full job description here
Interested Applicants should contact Diana Hall via email

Monday, January 29, 2018

From Rule for Engagement: Social-Emotional Learning for Senators: This Elementary School Exercise Helped End the Shutdown

Social-Emotional Learning for Senators: This Elementary School Exercise Helped End the Shutdown

By Evie Blad on January 23, 2018 4:17 PM|No comments

A group of Senators helped negotiate the compromise that ended a three-day government shutdown using an exercise familiar to many elementary school teachers: To prevent interruptions during a spirited conversation, the elected officials were only allowed to speak when they were holding a "talking stick" that belongs to Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
In elementary and middle school classrooms that emphasize social-emotional learning and restorative practices, it's not unusual to see students sitting in a morning circle, taking turns talking as they pass a prized object around. Some students take turns bringing things from home to pass around—like toys or family photos—which helps create a sense of community during conversations with classmates.
It's kind of funny to imagine the "world's greatest deliberative body" using a colorful prop to solve a seemingly intractable dispute. But there are some good takeaways for schools about being sensitive to students' relational needs and emotional development in the classroom. (Collins, it so happens, is a member of the Senate education committee.)

1. When it comes to skills like listening, adults don't have it all figured out.

Congress voted to restore funding to the federal government Monday after a three-day standoff over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for those brought to the country illegally as minors. A group of mostly Democrats who'd pushed for congressional action for DACA recipients agreed to move forward on a pledge to debate immigration policy in the coming weeks.
But in the initial hours of the standoff, there was a lot of talking (and tweeting) and not a lot of listening.
Collins, who also helped broker a compromise after the 2013 government shutdown, called the bipartisan meetings she held with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., the "Common Sense Coalition." That's when the talking stick came into play.
"As you can see, it's beautifully beaded and it was given to me by my friend, Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota," Collins told CNN anchor Chris Cuomo. "It is originally from Africa and it is used to help control the debate in a meeting, particularly when you have a large number of loquacious people."
Collins danced around reports that one senator had broken a glass elephant after throwing the stick in frustration. The senator was just trying to toss the stick to a colleague and "the toss went slightly amiss," she said.
The experience illustrates something school leaders have told Education Week in the past: It's wrong to assume that adults have social-emotional learning all figured out. We all need help with skills like social-awareness and relationship skills, and some tools and scaffolding never hurt anybody. Many school leaders who've put social-emotional learning plans into place have later said they should have started with adults, like teachers, who are crucial for modeling respect and healthy interactions to students.

2. Tools and exercises can help make students more deliberate.

Listening is central to many of the social skills schools emphasize. It helps students build social awareness, it's key to forming healthy relationships, and it involves a great deal of self-awareness and self-control. 
But young students don't always recognize how they communicate with body language and facial expressions. So some schools use the same kinds of "scaffolding" exercises when they teach listening as they do when they teach traditional academic subjects, like writing. That might be posters with sentence starters that help children reflect what they heard back to their peers, or objects like talking sticks to make the roles of speakers and listeners more deliberate.
A few years ago, I watched a group of fifth-grade students in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, an area known for gang violence and poverty, complete a listening circle. To help listening become more deliberate, their teacher had created a routine. First a classmate led them in some mindful breathing to "inhale the positive and exhale the negative." Then they went around the circle answering questions from their teacher: What is something they've said or done that made someone happy? What's something they've done that made someone hurt? How could they "set an intention" to fix it?
All along, the students followed routines, sometimes even reminding each other to keep their eyes on the student who was speaking and to gently acknowledge peers who were more hesitant to speak.
Such conversations may seem frivolous to some, but learning the ordinary things about each others' lives makes it easier to talk about more difficult things, students told me at the time. Once, while talking about where they like to play, a girl said she doesn't like to go outside because of gangs in the alley outside her home.
And those listening skills can be leveraged for academic benefits, teachers say. One teacher in Oakland told me last year how she has her second-grade students have guided conversations, exploring each others' ideas and asking questions, before they complete writing exercises. The exercise helps promote listening skills, and it helps students identify the thinking process behind writing, rather than seeing it as merely a skill of mechanics and grammar, she said. Another teacher who completed a similar exercise said she used posters with conversational prompts to help students improve their listening process.

3. Be sensitive to the unique needs of students.

Committed to addressing a congressional dispute, Collins surely wouldn't have introduced a talking stick if she thought her fellow senators would respond poorly to the exercise.
Similarly, teachers need to think of developmentally and culturally appropriate ways to engage students in learning social skills. For example, not every conversation in that Watts classroom deals with heavy social issues. Sometimes kids talk about their favorite ice cream flavors.
Also, teachers should be careful with the concepts like talking sticks—and any object with cultural significance—if they aren't aware of their history. A Cherokee woman recently recalled how her daughter brought home a "talking stick" craft project, a twig with feathers and glitter glued to it. Her teachers had incorrectly told her it was an American Indian tradition without specifying anything about the tribe they believed to be involved. The project was deeply offensive to this mother, who wanted her daughter to learn about her cultural history in a specific and accurate way.
It sounds like those teachers should have done a little more listening themselves.
What do you think? How should schools teach listening skills? What's the best way to make exercises personal and meaningful for students?
Top image: Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, displays her talking stick in a screen capture from CNN.
Bottom photo: "Talking pieces" decorate a blanket in the middle of a discussion circle at Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary School in Los Angeles. Students bring in objects to represent themselves as they take part in discussions aimed at building trust and support. (Jamie Rector for Education Week)

Related reading about social-emotional learning and listening skills:

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