Voting rights in Florida took another significant step forward on Thursday, when a coalition of plaintiffs reached a settlement with the State of Florida in a groundbreaking voter protection case.

The plaintiffs include Florida New Majority, 1199SEIU UHWE, two individual union members of 1199 who were targeted in the voter purge, as well as other local South Florida groups. Legal representation was handled by the Advancement Project and other national voting rights organizations.

The settlement will protect the rights of more than 180,000 voters in Florida to cast a regular ballot in November's general election. The plaintiffs will continue litigating one claim in the lawsuit, asserting that Florida is prohibited by the National Voter Registration Act from implementing a voter purge program of purported non-citizens within 90 days of an election. Florida is currently training election staff on the use of the federal SAVE database, and plans to resume purge efforts in the next month, so the lawsuit will determine whether the State is allowed to remove voters before the general election.

The suit was filed in June following Florida’s illegal purge of suspected non-citizens from its list of eligible voters in the spring. Florida elections supervisors, at the behest of Gov. Rick Scott’s administration, issued letters to more than 2,600 residents threatening to remove them from the voter rolls unless they provided proof of citizenship within 30 days.

More than two years after the start of one of the deepest recessions in history, the State of Working Florida 2010 (released by the Research Institue on Social and Economic Policy at Florida International University) report shows that the economy still faces major problems, particularly with underemployment, and is not likely to improve any time soon. Even with recent small jobs gains, the large numbers of workers who are underemployed or have been unemployed for longer than six months point to an extremely slow recovery for one of the hardest hit states in the nation.

The annual State of Working Florida report looks at how the Florida economy is performing for its workers by providing an analysis of employment and wage data. Some findings from this years report are: 

  • From December 2007 when the recession officially started to March 2010 Florida lost an average of 28,000 jobs per month, or almost 1,000 jobs per day.
  • Through the first 6 months of 2010, employment in Florida has grown at an annualized rate of 2.3%. At this rate, it will take over 4 years for employment in Florida to return to pre-recession levels.
  • Over a third of the unemployed (37.2%) have been out of work longer than 6 months in Florida.
  • Men have higher unemployment levels than women for the first time, due to heavy losses in industries such as construction which are heavily male, and less impact on sectors where women tend to be employed such as education and health care.
  • In addition to jobs, hours have also been cut in the recession. Almost one if five workers are underemployed, either out of work or working fewer hours than they need.Wages are starting to fall for certain groups, including women, African Americans, and very low wage workers.
  • 1 in 8 people in the state live in poverty, and 1 in 3 live below twice the poverty line, meaning they do not have enough for basic needs.

Even though we are seeing some economic growth and a slight decrease in unemployment since March, that growth is not being seen in the hardest hit communities which are starting to see a drop in wages as well, specifically African American workers and very low wage workers. In addition, the huge budget gaps that states and local areas are facing are putting public sector jobs at risk. The economic stimulus package did an important job of saving jobs particularly in education, but much more needs to be done if we are really serious about a full recovery that includes everyone. That means creating jobs and supporting famlies through the hard times.

Read the full report http://www.risep-fiu.org/2010/09/state-of-working-florida-2010/.

RISEP publishes research and data on issues of concern to low and middle income workers and their families in Florida and is housed at the Center for Labor Research and Studies at Florida International University.

Category: Florida

Miami, September 7th, 2010 – The doors of the One Stop Career Center in Miami’s North Side Shopping Center are the hopeful path to relief for thousands of unemployed Floridians who show up every day to apply for unemployment compensation, today a coalition of unemployment workers, formerly unemployed, and community/labor organizations used the One Stop Center as a backdrop in asking Governor Crist for expansion of unemployment compensation.

The Miami Workers Center, Florida New Majority, South Florida Jobs with Justice, Power U Center for Social Change, and SEIU 1199 gathered outside the store-front-help-center and asked Governor Crist to continue supporting Florida’s unemployed by signing an executive order to modernize the unemployment system.

“Our Unemployment Compensation system is outdated and is currently unfairly denying deserved benefits to a large number of unemployed Floridians. It needs to be reformed”, said Badili Jones, from Florida New Majority. “We call on Governor’s to sign an Executive Order and implement the Alternative Base Period, which will allow more than 64,000 people to claim unemployment compensation.”

“We are facing one of the worst crisis in our history. Florida’s unemployment rates reached 12,3% this year, a record level. African-Americans and Latinos are the most affected groups”, said Kit Rafferty of South Florida Jobs with Justice. “We cannot let working families struggle without support through this recession. That will just deepen poverty and inequality in our state.”

Lori Danley was unemployed for over seven months and received unemployment compensation for six months. As a single-mom of two teenagers, she was able to provide the basics for her children thanks to unemployment compensation benefits. “I thought I was going to be in this situation just for one month, but it was more than what I expected. If it wasn’t for the unemployment compensation, I would have not been able to pay my rent or feed my children”, Danley explained.

“By reforming our antiquated Unemployment Compensation System, Florida is eligible to receive more than $440 million from federal stimulus funds. But the funds are held back because the State Legislature hasn’t passed these reforms measures into law”, Jones insists. “More than 30 states of the country have already modernized their unemployment insurance systems. Governor Crist can get the ball running and take the first steps to modernize or unemployment system and introduce it in the 21st century”.

Fraizer, a currently unemployed ex-felon, touched on the common debate about the role of unemployment in society, “These legislators say that unemployment makes people lazy, and then they don’t get jobs. We don’t have jobs because there are none. It’s the legislators who are lazyt, they are dragging their feet when it comes to looking out for Floridians.”

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Category: Florida

Throughout this Election cycle, it wasn't uncommon for many non-profits to rely on Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets to "get out the vote." But some groups still went about it the old-fashioned way. WLRN-Miami-Herald reporter Christine DiMattei takes a closer look.

Category: FNM in the News
Nov, 04 2010

What's Next?

Waking up Wednesday morning I was troubled. For months Florida New Majority team worked countless hours to elect leaders who are dedicated to bringing equality, justice and opportunity to all Floridians. Despite our best efforts, the results of the election were deeply disappointing.

Looking to the political reality of the next few years is difficult. The entire legislative and executive branches of our state government are controlled by politicians who do not share our values.

But I still have hope.

As a long time community organizer and believer in the power of people I know that change doesn't just come  on election day. Change comes through the expression of the collective will of people: at the ballot box, in schools, on the job, at the welfare office, and in the streets.

What happened on election day was the mobilization of people directly impacted by unemployment and foreclosure. Regretfully this feeling of disenchantment with our government's inability to protect us from hard economic times was directed by the very corporate donors who contributed to our current economic crisis. Instead of mobilizing to change our broken economic system, justifiable anger was directed at the same old scapegoats and straw men: immigrants, people of color, government welfare programs, etc.

We are facing hard times. We can expect a continued roll back of civil rights, and government support for working and poor people (at a time when it is needed most). We can expect cuts in education, and a failure to make the reforms necessary to shift our economy. We can expect stronger attacks on immigrants.

But in these coming times, there is hope.

Over the course of the next year we have the opportunity to build on the great work of Florida New Majority and our partners, and push for change in the state and at the national level. We are continuing on our path of education, engagement, and mobilization in African American, Latino, and new immigrant communities.

We touched over 600,000 voters in this election season, through mail, phones and house visits. We will continue to grow. We know that it is up to everyday Floridians, working people from across the state, from all backgrounds, to organize and fight for what we need. But beyond that to put forward a true alternative that will answer the legitimate anger of voters.

Right now we have the beginnings of a movement. The only way to keep a movement alive is to keep it moving, so that is what we will do.

Category: Civic Engagement

Reading the news these days can be so inspiring with the growing national energy around the Occupy Wall Street Movement. But then, when you turn the page, or click on a new link, it gets infuriating again (which is why the protests started in the first place). Today I am struck by the juxtaposition of these two stories (thanks to Jon Bleyer at Progress Florida for highlighting each one):

State tax collection down $1.5 billion from the Miami Herald, where we learn that all the attempts to create revenue (think income) in the state, by cutting spending (that doesn't make sense, I know), has actually not gotten us out of the hole. The craziness of the Rick Scott scheme to increase state revenue by rejecting revenue sources is perfectly highlighted in this passage:

Lawmakers also turned away billions in federal transportation and health care money, and tried to boost the economy by including $70 million in tax incentives for the new Department of Economic Opportunity and $25 million for a three-day sales-tax holiday for back-to-school supplies in August.

That's right, Scott turned away money and then gave more away and then expected to not have big old budget hole.

Now to the next article:

Scott pushes corporate income tax cutfrom the Herald Tribune, where learn the Job Killing Governor Scott is still moving ahead with a plan to completely phase out the corporate income tax, regardless of the nearly $2 billion budget hole.

Let's recap: 1. We are in the hole by almost $2 billion, after cutting $4 billion from schools, healthcare, and employee benefits and firing 4,000 public employees. 2. Rick Scott wants to completely get rid of corporate income tax as we face a continued crisis in our government structure (because we aren't collecting a fair share from the wealthy and corporations).

These facts of the story are scary. But the story we are being told is worse. The reason we dont have jobs is because corporations are scared to some here and hire us because of the taxes they pay, if government would just get of the way we would be a utopia of full employment.

Here is a different story: Rick Scott is a wealthy and greedy corporatist who wants to extract as much profit from his state for himself and his buddies. He will do anything to get the money out of our pockets and into his. While attacking government and government services, he is using government to service his friends. the other 99% see Gov. Scott for what he is, and we aren't taking it. We are fighting for what is ours, and what is fair.

Category: Florida