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Saturday, October 29, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO SUPERVISORS, PRESIDENT AARON PESKIN AND SUPERVISOR CHRIS DALY, REFEREE MANAGEMENT-UNION CLASS WAR AND ACT TO BLOCK THE CORPORATIZAION OF NATIONAL HEALTH CARE


DID SEIU-UHW BLOCK CORPORATIZATION OF OUR HEALTH CARE BY SUTTER CALIFORNIA PACIFIC MEDICAL CENTER?

Read President Peskin's letter to Martin Brotman, M.D. below.


NEWS UPDATE:

Democratic National Party Chairman, Howard Dean spoke at the San Francisco California Pacific Medical Center Campus Campus (Buchanan and Webster) in support of SEIU-United Health Care Worker strikers at 5:00 p.m. Friday, October 28. Dean added his voice to other national and local political leaders, Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi, Jesse Jackson, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Board President Aaron Peskin, Supervisors Chris Daly, Tom Ammiano, and Bevan Dufty.

Howard Dean's presence underscores the real issue embedded in this strike: The corporatization of national health care.



SAN FRANCISCO BOARD OF SUPERVISORS PRESIDENT AARON PESKIN AND SUPERVISOR CHRIS DALY REFEREE UNION/ MANAGEMENT BATTLE:

CPMC'S CEO MARTIN BROTMAN, M.D. A "NO-SHOW"

There they were, the usual suspects, stereotypes from Upton Sinclair's novel, "The Jungle." Replacing Big Meatpacking in the blood-red waters were the new circling sharks --- Big predatory Healthcare. Instead of cattle entrails, human fluids, blood, and tissue were splattered on inadequately cleaned hospital walls and floors. Sunset Scavengers refused to pick up contaminated needles discarded in the trash outside, among which the pigeons pecked.

At two Monday San Francisco Board of Supervisors Government Audit and Oversight Committee meetings October 17 and 24, 2005, union and management spokespersons addressed the ongoing strike at California Pacific Medical Center before President Aaron Peskin, and Supervisors Chris Daly and Sean Elsbernd.

A queue of nurses told how displacement of low-wage employees by squadrons of even lower-wage "replacement workers" savaged patient care at CPMC's three sites, pitting underpaid against poorer.

Communications Director, Cynthia Chiarappa insisted the strike had "no impact on our ability to provide high quality health care." Strikers hissed and booed.

Vickie Bermudez, Regulatory Policy Specialist for the California Nurses' Association, testified that "the absence of assistive personnel, housekeeping, dietary, laundry, and central processing service," and an "inadequate screening, orientation, and competency validation of the replacement staff" has compromised patient care.

One R.N. refused to work with replacement nursing assistants who couldn't report abnormal vital signs. Sloppy "cleaning" is done by untrained people who don't understand the serious blood and body fluid hazards in their scab jobs.

Nurses can't get linen or scrubs. Trashcans overflow. Garbage blocks hallways. Bathrooms have empty soap dispensers and no paper towels, essential for infection control. Patients wait hours for pain meds.

Tissue and blood products from surgeries and labor and delivery areas are left in basins for the next pregnant mother to discover.

Diane Wayna, confessed through tears, " These people out there on the line are worth their weight in gold. I didn't realize how good a job they did."

CORPORATE CORRUPTION: RICH VERSUS POOR

According to SEIU pickets and organizers, this is a Corporate corruption story - Race and Class-War style.

Earnest shirt-sleeved John Borsos, SEIU Administrative Vice President, stood at the public podium in chambers battling The Evil Corporation on behalf of exploited workers, while sympathetic nurses poured out compassion toward the sick and underpaid, and inconvenienced NIMBY Pac Heights neighbors barked complaints about picketers' cacophony during evening meals.

High-level hospital managers who hired African American "replacement workers" fresh from Gilmore, Oakland, Bayview Hunters Point, and Hurricane Katrina appeared alongside striking employees, largely of color.

The muted bong of the two-minute bell punctuated each impassioned speech.

The grievants in the 46-day, "open-ended" strike by the Service Employees International Union - United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) Local 250 are 800 underpaid overworked hospital caregivers, LVNs, CNAs, food service workers, aids, technicians, housekeepers, custodians and clerks.

The grievance is not primarily about pay, but about workers having a voice.

According to Andi Bruce, Davies UHW organizer, "(Sutter) gave (the workers) generous wage offers. They've been rejected."

STRIKE HISTORY

On December 1, 2004, workers conducted a one-day strike protesting Sutter's bad-faith bargaining. The Court mandated Sutter recompense striking workers for unlawfully locking them out four additional days.

In a Board hearing, caregivers urged Sutter to settle the contract according to a set of uniform standards to which other hospitals agreed --- "a real voice" in increased staffing to lighten heavy workloads, a fast and fair election process, a Master Agreement, and funds for training and education through which, for example, certified nursing assistants could upgrade training to become registered nurses.

Negotiations deadlocked through Summer, 2005. On August 28, David Weinberg, Federal Mediator, attempting to avert a walkout, proposed a settlement. Both agreed, then CPMC reneged, precipitating the September 13 strike.

Peskin reviewed August 29 e-mails between the mediator, the union, and CPMC Director Martin Brotman.. Sutter Health apparently pressured CPMC to alter the contract title and language. Borsos testified, "We rejected that. It changed the mediator's recommendation for settlement to something less."

Cynthia Chiarappa, Communications Director, said "CPMC has requested that the union restart negotiations." Borsos stated CPMC's lawyer denied this.

"This dispute is not about wages and benefits," Chiarappa continued, "but union leaders' demands that would place a gag order on physicians, nurses, and hospital management from talking with employees about union representation... Placing a gag order on one side and not the other is not fair."

Later on the CPMC line, David Colburn, Rehab aide, explained Chiarappa's concern. Management wants to conduct one-on-one meetings about unionism with non-union workers in a room with a boss who could potentially fire them. "No words have to be said," said Colburn. "It's intimidating simply to be in the room under those circumstances. That's the kind of thing we want to eliminate."

Peskin asked if Chiarappa had a copy of the mediator's "unfair" recommendation.

"I do not have that with me today."

Supervisor Daly reminded Chiarappa that management's legions of lawyers would have such documentation if it, in fact, existed.

Peskin said he read the mediator's proposal, and "Mr. Brotman's piece in 'The Business Times' where he (too) said --- this has nothing to do with wages and benefits or patient care (but) with the union's desire to organize and expand.

"Section 247... says that the employer...may contact employees who wish to organize. I don't see this gag order."

Cheers drowned out Peskin's rebuttal.

Peskin continued the hearing to Monday, October 24, urging a higher level CPMC official like Dr. Martin Brotman, to "come down here and talk to us."

When Paula Likens, Community Relations Manager, raised her voice calling strikers noisy and unclean, Peskin gaveled her out of order, "It is precisely this kind of arrogance...that has this going on."

Managers then made a great show of filing out of the chambers.

On the Sunday, October 23 CPMC strike line, most doubted Brotman would show. Said Colburn, "I'm skeptical. I think they are that arrogant."

Martin Brotman, in fact, did not present himself at the Monday, October 24, San Francisco Board of Supervisors hearing. President Peskin announced he had been in touch with Brotman by phone. Brotman had told him there could be positive developments before the end of the week.

PROFITABLE NONPROFIT

Nonprofit Sutter Health, the largest chain in Northern California, last year made nearly half a billion dollars, far more than for-profit hospitals.

Said Andi Bruce, "CPMC is the most profitable Sutter. If this chain was paying its taxes to the San Francisco Treasury, we wouldn't have fire stations closing or the police department in a three-year hiring freeze."

Bruce explained Sutter pads its balance sheets four ways

1. TOKEN CHARITY CARE.

To qualify for nonprofit status, Sutter should provide 10% charity care, but provides 2% to 5%.

2. UNDERSTAFFING:

3. OVERPRICING:

Sutter charges some patients 50% to 60% above area hospitals.

4. PREDATORY BILLING:

Sutter's for-profit collection agencies go to court with a fistful of cases suing uninsured students and poor people for miniscule amounts. Combing through Stanislaus county public records, Bruce emerged with a foot-high stack showing Sutter sued for $50 or $100, taking homes and cars.

WORKERS DEPRIVED OF A VOICE:

Bruce said Sutter's refusal to give workers a voice is classist. He described Sutter as philosophically opposed to unionism. "Kaiser or Catholic Healthcare West would have said, 'Forget it. Let's give it to them.' Sutter's response to our demand for staffing arbitration is ' I don't want (workers, who coincidentally do the jobs every day) having a voice and telling me how I should staff this hospital.'"

Said Brenda Jensen, CNA, "I go to staff meetings, and my voice isn't heard. "You're (just) one of the health care workers.' "

I asked Bruce, Is Sutter/CPMC unrepentantly hard-core corporate, racist, and classist toward people who make far less than they do?

"Yes. Van Johnson, Sutter CEO, just retired (to) be a missionary for the Church of Latter Day Saints. Before he left, (he) gave himself a 60% raise. He ended up at almost $2 million a year."

California site organizer, Michael Bender stated that "Their spokesman saying patient care hasn't deteriorated probably hasn't been on a nursing unit for weeks or months . That (is not) coming from the people doing the care."

Of CPMC corporate racism and classism, Keith Herbert, California site Housekeeper said, "It's obvious that a corporation like Sutter and CPMC --- their feet don't touch the ground. They don't usually walk amongst the people."

UNDERSTAFFING

Organizer Bruce verified, "Staffing is definitely classist. They put the biggest burden on nursing assistants, LVNs, or housekeepers who clean 15, 20 rooms. You are not going to do a good job with that many."

An "At Will" employer unrestricted by a union has arbitrary power to replace CNAs and LVNS with "travelers," floater nurses that management shifts around with versatility. Permanent nurses are sent home early. "Travellng is the healthcare industry's answer to outsourcing."

Brenda Jensen, 7-year CNA at CPMC, told Supervisors she cares for 18 people without breaks, getting vital signs, feeding patients, changing diapers, moving post-surgical cases to and from commodes and procedures. She has no time to remove patients' dentures at night.

Romero and Rudy, California campus Housekeeping workers want "safe staffing." They are required to work two people's jobs plus overtime. They feel pressure to do more. "If the room is dirty, if the restrooms are not clean, the patient and the family suffer."

EDUCATION AND TRAINING FUND

SEIU/UHW is asking for a real training and education program up to the local $1,000 standard.

Bruce emphasized that, though housekeeping is a necessary ,job, "We are saying somebody shouldn't be stuck there. If they want to upgrade their skills, even housekeeping skills, Sutter should invest in its workers like they invest in a building."

SCABS AND REPLACEMENT WORKERS:

UNDERPAID AGAINST POOR

"Sutter's hiring practices are as racist as any profit-making business," said Bruce. "They don't hire these people for normal jobs. When the strike is over, they are fired."

Sutter used ex-con, forger and union-buster, Gary W.Fanger to hire "some Katrina victims in an opportunist manner, offering them desperately needed low-paying jobs."

Said Bruce, "They have gone into poor communities, to projects," and simply asked, "Who wants a job?"

CPMC hired poor black rival gang members from Hunter's Point who fought turf wars inside the hospital. During the October 17th hearing, President Peskin confronted Cynthia Chiarappa with reports of "replacement workers stealing drugs at one particular hospital."

Scabs make $10 to $15 an hour, though not as much as regular CPMC workers. CNAs make $19 to $28. Scabs know they will neither be turned away nor suffer background checks.

ARMED GUARDS' INTIMIDATION SIGNALS EXECUTIVE PARANOIA

At CPMC, a burly, black-suited Rent-An-Enforcer told me he was from the Steele Foundation, analogous to Blackwater, a private soldier of fortune company.

"I just got back from Katrina. I'm like a secret service agent who guards the President" Such hired soldiers protect political figures, athletes, celebrities, CEO's, business leaders, and senior management.

While a few strikers huddled for warmth around a propane heater on the dark sidewalk, the Steele mercenary said he was protecting hospital executives from violence.

According to Bruce, several guards returned to Iraq, for the $200,000 a year.. They expressed frustration at having no guns, unable to control the strikers walking past them outside and the scabs inside stealing Viagra and M.D.s laptops.

The reason for "men standing around with the secret service thing in their ear like the FBI" --- was intimidation. "They are telling us, 'This is a war.'"

Sutter Health/ CPMC's over-reaction seems based on fear of SEIU membership expansion.

"They are afraid of our union growing," Colburn explained.

In January 2005, the Northern California health care workers union, SEIU Local 250, voted to merge with Los Angeles Local 399, expanding to 130,000, the largest California union.

If the union wins at Sutter/CPMC, especially with the AFL-CIO split, other hospitals countrywide may lose power over a huge swath of the national workforce.

The power balance between organized labor and corporations could be deeply effected by the CPMC strike.

As of Thursday evening, October 27, strikers on the line outside the California and Davies campuses related rumors of a Friday settlement. Brotman's Monday promise to Peskin, however, had not yet materialized.

(This original version appeared in BeyondChron.org on Friday, October 28, 2005)

SAN FRANCISCO BOARD OF SUPERVISORS PRESIDENT AARON PESKIN'S LETTER TO MARTIN BROTMAN, M.D., CEO OF SUTTER HEALTH/ CALIFORNIA PACIFIC MEDICAL CENTER

October 27, 2005

Martin Brotman
2100 Webster St. #423
San Francisco, CA 94115

Dear Mr. Brotman:

I am writing to follow up with you regarding our conversations earlier this week prior to the scheduled hearing of the Government Audits and Oversight Committee. As you are well aware, this Committee remains interested in learning more about the issues that have precipitated the strike by some 800 workers at California Pacific Medical Center 9CPMC) for nearly 8 weeks.

During our conversation on October 24th, you told me that there was reason to be optimistic and you were hopeful that there would be some good news by the end of the week. As I understand, CPMC has been and was willing to continue a series of "off line" conversations in order to end the strike and get the 800 workers back to work.

During our first hearing on October 17th, your representatives created more questions than answers, and left my colleagues and me with no understanding as to CPMC's reluctance to accept the federal mediator's recommendations. At our last hearing on the 24th of October, we were given ample opportunity to question the Union's chief negotiator in order to fully understand the workers' proposals. I left the hearing with a more complete understanding of their perspective and the intricacies of their demands. Our committee is very interested in hearing CPMC's management's perspective at our next hearing, unless an agreement is reached prior thereto.

One alarming factor raised at our last hearing was the testimony of the Registered Nurses who complained about the quality of care now taking place inside the hospital as well as the lack of training afforded to the 600 replacement workers CPMC has hired. Our Committee saw pictures of hazardous materials, including needles and other biohazardous waste that may have been dumped into a non hazardous waste receptacle. Needless to say, this testimony and the pictures have caused serious concern.

This letter should serve as notice that the Government Audits and Oversight Committee intends to recalendar this hearing in the coming days. If your office communicates to me that an agreement has been reached, or is imminent, I would, of course, be willing to dispense with this item. I respectfully request that you or Mr. Jack Bailey, as well as any other appropriate staff or CPMC board members, attend the hearing. I will promptly notify you as soon as this item is placed on the calendar. As always, please feel free to contact me at any time.

Optimistically,

Aaron Peskin

Cc:

San Francisco Board of Supervisors
Mayor Gavin Newsom
CPMC Board of Directors
St. Luke's Hospital Board of Directors
Dr. Mitch Katz, Director - SF Department of Public Health
John Borsos, Chief Negotiation, SEIU UHW
John Williams, CEO, St. Luke's Hospital
Pat Fry, Sutter Health
WHAT IS CINDY SHEEHAN'S UNANSWERABLE QUESTION



IN OCTOBER 2005, WE SEE CINDY SHEEHAN CARTED OFF TO JAIL FOR LYING IN FRONT OF THE WHITE HOUSE IN A VIGIL FOR DEAD SOLDIERS LIKE HER SON, CASEY SHEEHAN. LET US REVISIT HOW THE SHEEHAN PHENOMENON BEGAN OUTSIDE CRAWFORD, TEXAS AT CAMP CASEY.


During a call for my bank balance, the worried teller confided that her husband had enlisted in the National Guard for an education but ended up in Iraq. He has never seen his infant son. The couple is terrified the hijacked guardsman will be killed before his release. The anguish this woman poured out to me has convulsed America.

The increasingly unpopular Iraq war has put President George W. Bush in a precarious political position. On August 1, 2005, Zogby International polls showed "two-in-five voters (42%) say they would favor impeachment proceedings if it is found the President misled the nation about his reasons for going to war with Iraq."

Bush's numbers sometimes dip lower than Lyndon Johnson's before public opinion forced him out of office, and, eventually, the U.S. out of Vietnam. Even some Republicans are upset about the series of apparent lies that suggest that Bush fabricated a war, caused 100,000 innocent Iraqi deaths and killed 1,800 American troops to line the pockets of his elite base.

Cindy Sheehan, California mother of a slain soldier, and member of Gold Star Mothers for Peace, set up camp two miles from Bush's Crawford, Texas, "ranch" during his five-week August vacation. She named the spot "Camp Casey" for her 24-year-old son, Spc. Casey Sheehan of Vacaville who was killed in Baghdad's Sadr City on April 4, 2004.

Sheehan vowed to stay until Bush leaves or meets with her to answer one unanswerable question: "For what noble cause was Casey sent to die in Iraq?"

California Rep. Maxine Waters, Minnesota State Sen. Becky Lourey, who also lost her pilot son, and Medea Benjamin of Global Exchange, joined Sheehan at the peace camp. Joan Baez performed a concert there on Sunday, August 21.

In his movie, "Fahrenheit 9/11," Michael Moore interviewed grieving mother Lila Lipscomb of Flint, Michigan, who said she hated the protesters at first for dishonoring the troops. After her son Michael's death, she came to believe he died for nothing. She realized people were not criticizing the soldiers, but the war.

During a heart-wrenching visit to Washington, Lila stood before the White House where she finally released her suffering and rage. I wondered if Lila wished to be at Camp Casey with Cindy Sheehan.

To justify his attack on Iraq, Bush first falsely claimed that Saddam Hussein threatened the U.S. with weapons of mass destruction. Further allegations of Hussein's ties to al-Qaeda were discredited.

The third justification -- that Bush wanted to give Iraqis democracy -- is laughable. A worldwide influx of "insurgents" currently finds a terrorist training ground complete with hourly practice in suicide car bomb detonations. A puppet government missed the deadline for concocting a "Constitution."

The normally unaware press are covering Sheehan's protest. However, the media avoided reporting the June 2005 release of the top secret June 2002 Downing Street memos sent by the head of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service to Prime Minister Tony Blair, detailing talks with the Bush Administration to determine its upcoming plans for invading Iraq. These "smoking gun memos" revealed that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" of Bush's prearranged NeoCon war.

In retaliation against, and to undermine the credibility of, Ambassador Joe Wilson for contradicting claims that Niger sold yellow-cake uranium to Hussein, Karl Rove use Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Dick Cheney's top advisor, to leak to reporters the name of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA agent investigating WMDs. Rove destroyed a 20-year spy operation, endangering national security and Plame's life. Many fear that countless other deep cover operatives working with Plame have been killed.

Such revelations unmasked Bush's pretext for invasion, and answered Sheehan's question. Bush needed Iraq for oil, power, and money for his very rich friends.

When asked why he would not speak to a grieving mother of a dead soldier camped a few minutes down the road, Bush agreed it is nice to be "thoughtful and sensitive," but said, "I think it's also important for me to go on with my life." Casey Sheehan can never go on with his.

Sheehan's dangerous question, considered a moment of crucial activism and speaking Truth to Power, seems as close to revolt as the dumbed-down, numbed- down American public can get. Anger about The Downing Street Memos and the Plame affair drew groups of fed-up people to Crawford demanding a response.

A New England Journal of Medicine study showed 17 percent of 955,000 U.S. troops who served in Afghanistan and Iraq "met the screening criteria for major depression, generalized anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder." Soldiers describe blood and mutilated body parts strewn in the streets.

Bush and the Neocons designed Iraq as a perpetual war machine, killing or grinding up soldiers, pouring them maimed and homeless onto American streets. Reporter Amy Goodman interviewed one traumatized veteran who lost his home because of delinquent combat pay.
American youth leave for war in the prime of their life. They drag back broken minds and discarded flesh, financing their own rehab. They will sit on sidewalks beside veterans of past conflicts, panhandling, disabled, and self-medicating their post-traumatic stress with alcohol or drugs.

Moore ended "Fahrenheit 9/11" with Neil Young's song "Keep on Rocking in the Free World." The song said it all:
"We got a thousand points of light for the homeless man.
We got a kinder gentler machine gun hand."

Said Moore, the only thing asked by the brave soldiers who enlisted after 9/11 to protect America is not to be sent into harm's way for no good reason. Cindy Sheehan is simply asking for that reason.
WILL BUSH'S BUDGET AND KATRINA COSTS GUT FOOD STAMP PROGRAM?









NATIONAL HUNGER AWARENESS DAY WAS TUESDAY, JUNE 7
NUTRITION ACTIVISTS LOBBIED THE BUSH BUDGET FOOD STAMP CUTS

IN OCTOBER 2005, AFTER HURRICANE KATRINA, BUSH REPUBLICANS VOW TO GUT SOCIAL SERVICES INCLUDING THE FOOD STAMP PROGRAM TO PAY RECONSTRUCTION COSTS

This seems like the year in which Bush will use any rationalization to cut social programs and entitlements. Causing people to starve is no way to balance a budget concocted to fight a war that causes even more people to starve, become homeless, and die.


HUNGER’S SAVAGERY

Dieters know hunger’s hollow ache can stop you cold.

During a 15-day spiritually motivated water and coffee fast, I discovered a hunger-busting phenomenon described in a Franz Kafka story. Middle Age “Hunger Artists” would lie in cages in their town squares starving for money. Passersby tossed them coins.

Initial pangs vanished completely. This enabled Kafka’s “artist” to fast 40 days.

Sure enough. Fasting was easy. I got tired, but I was never hungry.

On day 15, my auburn-red hair turned gray. I was scared back to normal eating. B Vitamins restored my hair color.

My brush with starvation was a privileged luxury. I was not a member of an impoverished family without means to feed its children an adequate nutritious diet.

The stunting affects of hunger on bodies, brains, and futures of children are well understood. If malnutrition persists, hunger will disappear, but so will one’s health, and finally one’s life.

CAUTION: DO NOT FAST PAST DAY 15! Feedback to this piece from several folks who carried the fast past the 15th day report that when the body gets the message it is being truly starved, dehydration and malnutrition causes terrible physical pain.

(In any case, losing weight by fasting is a really bad idea.)




HUNGER RISES / FUNDING FALLS

On February 7, 2005, Bread For the World Institute, a Christian citizens’ nutrition justice lobby, released an analysis of the Bush Fiscal Year 2006 Domestic Nutrition Initiatives.

http://www.bread.org/media/archives/2005/feb_7_domestic_budget.htm

It noted that, even as Bush’s Federal Budget proposes food stamp cuts, hunger and poverty is on the rise. It stated that recently released Bush administration data illustrates “for the fourth straight year there are more people in the U.S. struggling to feed their families.

“However, a careful analysis of the president’s fiscal year 2006 budget request shows that he proposes cuts to the Food Stamp Program by $500 million over the next five years.”

It points out that, “These proposed cuts come at a time when 36. 3 million people, including 13.3 million children, live in homes that struggle to put food on the table.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture data reveals that hunger and “food insecurity” jumped from 31.0 million people in 1999 to 34.9 people in 2002, an increase of 1.4 million. In 2003 it leapt to 36.3 million.

Kim McCoy Wade, the co-director of the 40-member California Association of Food Banks expressed urgency about Bush Administration and Congressional cuts to the Federal Food Stamp program.

The California Association represents small to large food banks statewide, including LA County, one of the Country’s biggest food banks.

http://www.cafoodbanks.org

According to Wade, Bush is calling for a nationwide one billion dollar cut in the food stamp program.

Additionally, Congress has directed the Agriculture Committee to slice 3 billion dollars from the Department of Agriculture’s budget. The President and Congress hash it out and come up with a total. “Where that (money) comes from,” said Wade, “is the fight that is currently being fought, and food stamps are vulnerable.”

Agricultural subsidies and food banks in the same committee, which previously represented a united front, now must compete. Though they share the goal of feeding poor and hungry people, agriculture interests are pitted against nutrition interests.

Wade observed, “We don’t want to do (that) because we partner with farmers all the time.

“And, people in farm country are hungry, too. So, we try to do an urban-rural coalition that says the food stamp program benefits all of us.

“Our job this summer is to talk to the Ag Committee saying, ‘Don’t cut this funding.’” She noted they could do anything, going after working families like the President did. “They could say, `We are going to lower everybody’s benefits by a buck. They could cut off all immigrants. I mean, they could do anything.’”

Allison Pratt, education and advocacy coordinator of a member bank, the Alameda County Community Food Bank, seconded Wade’s alarm.

NATIONAL HUNGER AWARENESS DAY, JUNE 7, 2005

Pratt and Wade anticipate June 7, 2005, when, according to the National Hunger Awareness Day website, several thousand people from the “grass roots” will visit Washington D.C. to “to raise awareness about the solvable problem of hunger in America.”

http://www.hungerday.org/content/index.php

A prayer service will be held Monday night at the National Cathedral.

On Tuesday, Wade will be one of a three-member delegation from the California Association of Food Banks that will lobby the Congressional Agriculture Committee about the cuts.

Bread For The World and Second Harvest, a certifying organization that reviews Food Banks for quality, safety, and accountability, are co-organizers of this important event.

http://www.secondharvest.org

The delegation will visit the offices of each California member of the AG Committee to communicate their concerns. Busy Senators like Feinstein and Boxer represent several million people. Lobbyists will likely talk with staff, which does research, informs, and advises the member.

Wade said, “Our message to the Ag Committee is how important this food stamp program is in bringing healthy food to hard working families.”

PROTECTING FUNDING

“Our two goals are to protect the food stamp program funding and its structure. Those are under attack this year.”

The structure dictates which families can be allowed into the food stamp program and which will be denied.

The key funding question is, “Which money will be available?”

The Temporary Aid to Needy Families Reauthorization Bill is a second threat “traveling separate from the budget debate,” stated Wade. TANF reauthorization would change food stamps from an entitlement program in which the federal government supplies the money despite the cost, to a block grant program in which states are provided a flat rate amount.

Unanswered questions arise:

What if there is more need than block granted funding?

Will the block grant amount be based on last year’s need?

What if the need changes?

RESTRUCTURING TO ELIMINATE CATEGORICAL ELIGIBILITY

Providing less money is a simple maneuver. Bush’s trickiest gambit is restructuring and shrinkage of the definition of the Poverty Group. Defining it more narrowly makes less money necessary.

Bread For The World’s site states, “The administration plans to enforce these budget cuts by reducing the number of people eligible to receive benefits, especially for low-income working families.” If the President gets his way with the Federal cuts, his proposal would eliminate the Categorical Eligibility option.

“Currently, people who are eligible for some welfare services are automatically eligible to receive food stamps. The president’s proposal will dramatically reduce the number of people who automatically qualify for food stamps.”

Said Pratt, “When the President proposed his budget cuts in February, the one cut he proposed to the food stamp program was this: Right now States have the option of automatically enrolling people who are receiving Medicaid into the food stamp program.”

“The connection to health care is just another doorway into the food stamp program for working families,” Wade confirmed. The President’s proposal eliminates that option.

Says Bread For The World, “This proposal strips individual states of flexibility provided in the bipartisan 1996 welfare law that allows states to streamline eligibility for the Food Stamp Program. The most heavily impacted families would be low-income workers because they may have modest savings or own a reliable car.”

Right now California lacks “Categorical Eligibility” for working families with slightly higher earnings, but whose child-care and medical expenses render their net incomes “super low.” Los Angeles Assemblywoman Judy Chu authored Bill 696, proposing California creates “Categorical Eligibility,” automatically enrolling them in the food stamp program.

If the President eliminates Categorical Eligibility, California cannot do that.

Said Bread for the World President, David Beckman, “To propose removing hundreds of thousands of hard-working, low-income people from the Food Stamp Program is anything but compassionate.

“Overall the president’s budget misses the mark. It does not balance our nation’s need for security with our moral commitment to help hardworking people who are struggling to feed their families to build a better life.”

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