Posts tagged with "policy"

Emotional Support Animal Airline Laws Changing January 11th

In 2020, the Department of Transportation made a new determination that only service dogs would continue to be protected under the American’s with Disabilities Act, thus categorizing emotional support animals as pets.

So far, only Southwest Airlines have stated that they will continue to accept ESA’s at no charge. Both Alaska and American Airlines have stated that they will no longer accept emotional support animals on flights. However, several airlines accept pets for a fee. Those who have already booked flights this year with their ESA should look into each airline policy, as some will still be accepting ESA’s from existing reservations.

“Basically what it comes down to is the animal’s training. They are saying an individual with PTSD who has a trained dog can have the animal with them during air travel, but if the individual has PTSD and doesn’t have the luxury of being gifted a service dog, or can’t afford the costs of obtaining a service dog which can run upwards of $50,000, then their PTSD doesn’t qualify/isn’t valid,” said licensed mental health professional Prairie Conlon. Prairie Conlon, LPC, NPC  and Clinical Director of CertaPet was disheartened about the news.

“That’s textbook discrimination on several levels. I’m honestly astonished that they pushed this through. There are so many other options, such as tightening restrictions and requiring basic training, that could have solved the issue,” continued Conlon.

“So many news sources keep referring to the peacock incident of 2018 and of course they are saying good riddance, as am I. But what they fail to realize is that that incident did cause a lot of change and those types of animals haven’t seen ESA status for air travel since then. Stop referring to the peacock. It’s not a valid argument anymore. Nobody is fighting for the peacock to be an ESA.” 

CertaPet, an emotional support letter service, released this statement:

“We at Certapet think this is a great disservice to those facing mental health challenges that get emotional support from their animal.  We understand that there have been incidents that have discredited emotional support animals and the service they provide, but those situations could be prevented by increased regulation.  We think emotional support peacocks are ridiculous too.  Providing clear guidelines for certification and vetting companies in the industry would have been simple steps to solve this challenge for all stakeholders. Certapet is a trusted telehealth platform that has been providing real mental health services for many years. These imposter companies exploiting individuals with mental health issues should be penalized.

Eliminating emotional support animals altogether is a quick, cheap fix that disregards those who really need and use the treatment appropriately. The DOT has chosen the easy and harmful path over the correct one. We hope to have continued discussions with airlines as they make choices on their own company policies and encourage them to make the right decisions. Mental health is a serious issue and removing access to a researched and proven treatment is a disgrace.”

ABOUT PRAIRIE CONLON

Prairie is a licensed mental health professional and is considered the world’s leading expert on Emotional Support Animals. She is the Clinical Director of Therapeutic and consults for CertaPet, one of the largest telehealth companies in the nation. Prairie has a Master’s Degree in professional counseling and a Postgraduate Degree in Military Behavioral health counseling. She is certified as an equine-assisted psychotherapist. Prairie is a certified Accelerated Resolution Therapist and helps train future trauma therapist in this modality. She consults for several nonprofits for veterans and first responder trauma, including The Lone Survivor Foundation and Horses that Heal. She is the founder, developer and lead researcher of emotional support animal Assisted Therapy (ESAAT) which is a set of techniques utilized to decrease anxiety, panic attacks, depressive symptoms, and sleep difficulties with the use of an Emotional Support Animal.

ABOUT CERTAPET

We are the #1 Emotional Support Letter Service, and we make sure your letter is 100% compliant with state and federal regulations.

Rita Azar illustrates an article about the American dream for 360 MAGAZINE

What is the American Dream in 2020?

We spend our whole lives working and earning money to support ourselves and our families. The term “American Dream” was coined in 1931 by James Truslow Adams, and it represented an idea of a land where there were loads of opportunities for people in accordance with their achievements or abilities.

According to him, this was not a mere idea of high wages and motor cars, but rather it was an idea of a social order in which every man and every woman would be able to attain the full stature they are capable of. This would be provided to them regardless of class, color, creed and socio-economic status.

With the advancement in technology, everything has changed, for the better or worse. The million-dollar question is: What is the U.S. Dream in 2020? Has it changed somehow, or is it still the same after all this time?

Let’s take a look!

The New U.S. Dream

The idea of the U.S. dream is a theme around the globe and across the globe. Every U.S. citizen has her or his own idea and version of it. The U.S. Dream of today hasn’t strayed very far from the vision that was set forth by the founding fathers.

Our founding fathers wanted to inculcate basic societal values in us, such as the creation of a meaningful life, as essential parts of society and community. In the new version of the idea, spending time with friends and family is becoming dominant.

With the advancement in technology, more opportunities have been created for the people. It is no longer about feeding the family every day. It is about creating a sense of peace and stability in the whole community.

Everyone needs to contribute to ensure that we all live in the best way possible. With all the hard work that American citizens put in, the result is going to be a nation that is happy, content and at peace.

American Dream and U.S. Presidents

After the Great Recession in 2008, the income inequality among different classes became even more pronounced. It seemed as if this idea was coming to an end for many people. However, in reality, only the materialistic part of the idea was nearing an end.

Around the turn of the century, a lot of U.S. presidents were in favor of homeownership as an important part of the U.S. dream. The presidential campaign plan of Hillary Clinton included homeownership, retirements and health insurance.

Furthermore, Obama passed the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “ObamaCare,” which provided the right to healthcare for all U.S. citizens.

Important parts of the U.S. Dream

After decades of hard work, our founding fathers created a safe space for everyone, where the rights of everyone were respected, and the opportunities were abundant.

There are various factors that make this idea possible, such as:

·         Efficient Governance

·         Helpful and Friendly Neighbors

·         The abundance of Natural Resources

However, with the threat of climate change looming over our heads, the natural resources have started becoming scarce. Several papers about American Dream suggest that rising sea levels, food inflation as well as the health crises are already straining the funds of the U.S. government.

The founding fathers didn’t envision that even the right to have clean water, air and natural resources would become scarce. Therefore, there is a need for a new version of this idea that would help the citizens, even this time of economic crisis.

Every American citizen dreams of retiring in peace after working hard for years. The government, as well as the private organizations, are working hard to ensure that the idea of a Utopian lifestyle remains afloat.

How can we live the U.S. Dream today?

The entire U.S. population is united by a common political system, language, and shared values. The diversity in cultures and traditions adds to the overall strength of America. This gives various companies an opportunity to innovate so that every single person can benefit from their products.

Under this idea, everyone has an equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Happiness or lifestyle isn’t defined under the Declaration of Independence. Rather, U.S citizens are free to pursue their own vision of this idea. The new U.S. Dream promotes a free-market economy in which everything from the service to the price is controlled by the market and not the government. This gives everyone an equal opportunity for the creation of wealth and happiness.

With the advancement in economic growth, the idea of happiness and peace for the citizens of the United States has also changed. Every organization and enterprise is trying to give the best of their services to ensure that we become a satisfied population.

Education for all is also an important part of the American idea of happiness. If we send our descendants to colleges and universities, it is going to increase the standard of living, and thereby create a sense of fulfillment and contentment in the community due to economic opportunities.

Conclusion

This idea is not something that is set in stone. With changing times, the idea has also changed. Along with the collective idea about happiness, there is an individual idea of eternal peace as well, which helps us achieve our goals and targets in ways that suit us perfectly.

Here’s to the founding fathers of the U.S. who helped pave the way for freedom, happiness, and individuality for every American citizen!

politics, podium, flag, speech

COVID-19 Fed Policy

By Dennis Notchick, CFP

The United States is mired in its worst unemployment since The Great Depression of 90 years ago. Indeed, COVID-19 has stunted our once-robust economy in many ways.

But at the same time, there is this curious occurrence: Equity valuations in the S&P 500 and Nasdaq have hit an all-time high How does that happen with some of the worst economic conditions in our nation’s history?

One of the main reasons: Much of the money dispensed by the Federal Reserve during the pandemic isn’t trickling down to consumers and labor markets, but rather, it’s being reinvested in financial assets, inflating their value. This fresh injection of capital into the money supply can often lead to hyper-inflation for healthcare, housing, and other essential goods that are needed to sustain life. As an example, a recent report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) found a senior couple could need as much $325,000 to have a 90% chance of covering their out-of-pocket costs including Medicare premiums and prescription drugs.

The horrific economic effects of the pandemic have pushed the Federal Reserve to spend trillions of dollars since April in many different ways. They also used the playbook from the Great Financial Crisis and Great Recession of 2008 – low/zero interest rates in the corporate credit market – hoping that these rates would stimulate corporate spending, and in turn, spark employment.

But the forbidding economic environment in which we’re living renders that approach ineffective. Why? Ask yourself: Given the precipitous drop in consumer demand during the pandemic, why would corporations spend to produce goods and services if most customers are more likely to stay home?

So regardless of the amount of money the government prints to subsidize corporate credit markets, little if any corporate spending is on new employment. Instead, many businesses are stashing cash accumulated from government-subsidized bond offerings. This in turn paints a long road back to full employment, essential for the growth of GDP.

What does all of this mean as you are planning for your retirement in the midst of this uncertain time? It means you need to know how to minimize COVID-19’s impact on your retirement savings.

Given these factors, it’s all the more important for those near retirement or in retirement to consider these steps:

  • Update return expectations for bonds. The Federal Reserve has made it clear they will support credit markets with zero interest rate policies to 2022 and beyond.  Most investors in retirement have don’t have all of their assets in stocks, but say 50% stocks and 50% bonds.  If half of the portfolio has a lower return expectation, the total return of the portfolio may not be enough to keep up with inflation and the cost of living. Since many retirees are living well into their 80s and 90s, it’s important to revisit the stock-to-bond ratio to ensure you are giving yourself the best chance to keep up with the ever-rising costs of life over your retirement.
  • Diversify your stock portfolio. Adding new stocks to your portfolio for companies that haven’t been hurt by COVID-19 could help you adjust to market changes. The work-from-home movement was already underway, COVID 19 just accelerated it and there are many companies that are positioned well to take advantage.
  • Plan for higher taxes. With the trillions of dollars of national debt issued this year and moving forward to help stabilize the economy, most tax planners are preparing for higher tax rates in the future. It is critical to take advantage of the low tax rates now to reduce your taxes in the future.  While we can’t control the return of our investments, we can control the taxes.  Perhaps a small tax bill now will keep you from a large tax bill later.
  • Stay invested. Many portfolios got hammered in the first couple of months of the pandemic. But despite the uncertainty and volatility of these times, it’s advisable for pre-retirees to stay invested inequities. Staying invested is usually wise because history shows equity investments will recover in time, however it is more important now than ever to know what you own.
  • Review and re-evaluate. Current circumstances necessitate reviewing your entire retirement plan. Work with your financial advisor to adjust where needed. A job loss or other reasons for less income means you’ll fall behind on the savings rate you expected, and that could mean possibly delaying retirement. Spending less or working longer can help you recover some of the pandemic-related losses. As circumstances change, revisit your plan.

The pandemic may affect or push back the retirement plans you made several years ago, but take comfort in the money you’ve saved and know that you can regain some control of your plan with patience, careful thought, and wise action.

About Dennis Notchick, CFP®

Dennis Notchick, a certified financial planner for Stratos Wealth Advisors (www.dn.stratoswealthadvisors.com), has been serving high net-worth families and business owners since 2008. A certified financial planner since 2010, Notchick has worked with many well-respected firms on Wall Street and provides consulting on investment management, retirement planning, and holistic financial planning. He’s been published or mentioned in numerous online financial publications, including The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, and TheStreet.

Investment advice offered through Stratos Wealth Advisors, LLC, a Registered Investment Advisor. Financial services offered through Stratos Wealth Advisors LLC (“Stratos”), a Registered Investment Advisory Firm. The presentation of these topics is for general information only and is not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. The information also does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any product or security. Investments involve risk and unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed. Be sure to first consult with a qualified financial adviser and/or tax professional before implementing any strategy discussed here.

Stetson University Researcher Says Porn Does Not Cause Violent Sex Crimes

Stetson – Porn Study

Pornography creates a fantasy world for its fans, but does it lead to sexual aggression? That question has been the subject of numerous studies dating back to the 1970s. The effects of porn and violent sex crimes has also been debated for decades because of issues with morality.

New research findings published in the Sage Publishing journal Trauma, Violence & Abuse suggest there is no connection between pornography consumption and sexual violence.

Pornography and Sexual Aggression: Can Meta-Analysis Find a Link?” is based on research by Chris Ferguson, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Stetson University, and Richard Hartley, Ph.D., Criminology and Criminal Justice Department chair and professor at The University of Texas at San Antonio. The authors conducted meta-analytic research and examined more than 50 correlational, experimental, and population studies that explored the association between pornography and sexual aggression during the past 40 years.

Eleven years ago, Ferguson and Hartley conducted a study on pornography and sexual aggression and recently decided to collect data and re-evaluate the validity of the previous research studies they had reviewed because there was a renewed interest in the subject matter.

They found that poorly designed studies tended to be more likely to support a link between pornography and sexually assaultive behavior.

“During the past few years, many states have declared that pornography is a public health crisis,” said Ferguson. “Dr. Hartley and I were curious to see if evidence could support such claims, at least in regard to sexual aggression, or whether politicians were mistaking moral stances for science. Our evidence suggests that policymakers should examine other causes of sexual aggression and that beliefs about pornography may be driven more by methodological mistakes than sound science.”

Ferguson and Hartley noted that previous research found that hostility, callousness and delinquent behavior were determinants of sexual aggression and that the effects of those personality traits are much stronger than those of pornography consumption.

Correlational studies provided an analysis of the participants’ absorption of sexually explicit materials at various levels and their sexual attitudes and behavior.

Experimental research randomly assigned and exposed men to violent pornography, nonviolent pornography and nonpornographic media, and measured their attitudes toward women or about sexually aggressive behavior by having them complete a questionnaire afterwards. Men also participated in laboratory studies that tested their aggressive behavior towards women.

Neither correlational nor experimental studies provided evidence that supported concerns about pornography.

At the population level, studies explored the relationship between pornography consumers and sexual violence, and found that an increase in available pornography reduced sexual aggression.

The journal article also sheds some light on bias in pornography and sexual aggression research.

“I hope that Dr. Hartley and I can point out some of the widespread problems in much of the research as well as the culture of this field whereas some scholars appear to be too quick to try and find evidence for effects,” said Ferguson. “We need more preregistered, transparent research and a field that is looking to falsify hypotheses and not entirely in confirmatory mode because it feels morally right.”

Ferguson, who is well-known for his research on the effects of aggression, sexual behavior and video game violence, received his doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Central Florida. His clinical background includes working with offender and juvenile justice populations as well as conducting evaluations for child protective services.

politics, business, red, tie, blue

Politics Hindering Public Health

Partisan divisions about the pandemic are negatively affecting public health and economic recovery, according to experts at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. Christopher Kulesza, research analyst for the Child Health Policy program, and Quianta Moore, fellow in child health policy at the institute, are available to talk to the news media about the intersection of politics and public health.

“Public health should not be a political issue,” they wrote in a recent Baker Institute blog post. “The division between the public across party lines is hinderingour progress as a nation to restore the health and vitality of our country and its residents. We must set aside political ideologies and follow data, evidence and science.”

Polling between Republicans and Democrats conducted since March has documented a partisan divide in response to the pandemic, according to the authors. For instance, a recent Pew Research poll showed that most Americans are wearing masks, but rates differ by individual party identification – half of Republicans said they wear a mask most or all of the time compared to 76% of Democrats.

The authors argue there is overwhelming evidence now, as opposed to the beginning of the year, that masks can be highly effective at reducing the spread of COVID-19. Yet “there is still a wide gap between recent medical research findings on COVID-19 and public opinion.”

State and federal leaders on both sides have become more open to public mask requirements, according to the authors. However, “none of the Southern or Western governors have publicly considered instating a lockdown similar to that which brought the New York City epidemic under control.”

Kulesza and Moore argue it is more critical now than at any time during the pandemic to set aside partisanship and to direct policy using an evidence-based approach.

“State and local policy officials may need to make decisions that are unpopular with their respective voter base to ensure a safe return to work,” they wrote. “If they do not, we risk prolonging the pandemic and further delaying our economic recovery and experiencing a greater loss of life.”

Poor People's Campaign illustrated by Mina Tocalini for 360 MAGAZINE.

Poor People’s Campaign

The Poor People’s Campaign will demand a moral policy agenda to heal America in a congressional briefing Thursday as it follows up on its digital Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington that drew millions of viewers.

Legislators and other political leaders from both sides of the aisle have been invited to attend the digital briefing, where campaign leaders will lay out the specifics of the Moral Policy Agenda to Heal America: The Poor People’s Jubilee Platform

The agenda is grounded in constitutional and moral values and offers concrete solutions to end the ongoing, concurrent crises of the five interlocking injustices: systemic racism, systemic poverty, militarism, ecological devastation and the false moral narrative of extreme religious nationalism.

“It’s time that we lift from the bottom, which requires us to address all five of the interlocking injustices,” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. “We cannot put more money in systemic racism, corporate interests and the war economy than we do in living wages, health care, public education and guaranteeing equal protection under the law. Poverty is lethal; systemic racism is lethal; COVID-19 is lethal. This agenda demands what must be now and after the election to heal the nation.”

Also invited to attend are the tri-chairs from the 45 states where the Poor People’s Campaign is organizing, along with the campaign’s national partners and faith partners.

The briefing follows the campaign’s digital justice assembly on June 20th, when millions of people tuned in to the digital justice gathering to hear the reality facing 140 million people who are poor or low-income in the wealthiest country in the world and where 700 people die each day from poverty — even before COVID-19.

Also on that day, the campaign’s coordinating committees from 45 states and over 200 organizational partners, labor unions and religious denominations came together around the moral policy agenda to heal America.

“Biblically, the Year of Jubilee was a time to release people from their debts, release all slaves and ensure that all people have what they need to thrive, not just barely survive,” said Rev. Liz Theoharis, director of Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. “Our Justice Platform provides a way for this country to do the same with policies and budgets that lift people out of poverty and revive the economy with the promise of a brighter future for all.”

The sweeping platform offers a roadmap for lawmakers to take seriously the moral and constitutional principles upon which this country was founded: to establish justice, promote the general welfare, ensure domestic tranquility, secure the blessings of liberty and provide for the common defense.

In addition to Barber and Theoharis, the policy director for the Kairos Center and the Poor People’s Campaign, Shailly Gupta Barnes, will address the briefing. The briefing begins at 1 p.m. and lasts until 2:30 p.m. Thursday. It’s open only to the media and invited guests. Reporters can register here.

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral  Revival, is building a broad and deep moral fusion movement rooted in the leadership of poor people to unite our country from the bottom up. We demand that both major political parties address the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism. Our updated agenda, the Poor People’s Moral Justice Jubilee Policy Platform addresses these issues.

America can’t address the moral crisis of poverty without addressing healthcare. Some 140 million people in the U.S. – or more than 43 percent – live in poverty or are low-wealth” Rekindling a Prophetic Moral Vision for Justice, Social Change and Movement BuildingFollow Poor People’s Campaign: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

Amazon Discrimination

Amazon‘s board of directors pushed investors at today’s annual shareholder meeting to reject a Free Enterprise Project (FEP) proposal that sought to end the company’s practice of viewpoint discrimination against conservative and Christian organizations within the Amazon Smile charitable giving program.

The shareholder resolution specifically called into question Amazon’s reliance on the widely-discredited left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as the gatekeeper for AmazonSmile charitable recipients.

“Amazon consistently brags about its commitment to ‘diversity and inclusion,’ but I don’t think its board of directors knows what that means. By relying on the SPLC to decide which charities are eligible to receive donations through AmazonSmile, the company is expressing public and open hostility toward conservative and religious organizations,” said Justin Danhof, Esq., General Counsel and FEP Director at the National Center for Public Policy Research, who submitted the proposal. “That’s viewpoint discrimination and it’s abhorrent.”

In the proposal, Danhof noted: We are also concerned that the Company’s failure to respect diverse social, political, and religious viewpoints in the Smile program is symptomatic of a tendency to discriminate against such views more broadly. For example, although Amazon’s policies state “we provide our customers with access to a variety of viewpoints, including books that some customers may find objectionable,” it has recently begun removing books based on customer objections. And, while Amazon publicly affirms its commitment to different perspectives, it officially opposed a shareholder proposal to gauge progress in ideological diversity on the Board of Directors in its 2019 proxy materials.

The shareholders should be aware of the extent to which discrimination against social, political, or religious views by Amazon in its partnerships, content policies, and options for customer-selected charitable donations may jeopardize Amazon’s current market-dominance and may negatively affect important social dynamics beyond Amazon’s immediate business impact.

The full proposal and Amazon’s response to it are available on pages 41-43 of company’s proxy statement.

In presenting the proposal, Danhof stated: Amazon allows the SPLC to pick and choose which charities are eligible for the Smile program. Why? The extreme leftists at the SPLC use this power to exclude groups that it disagrees with ideologically, while it, in turn, reaps tremendous windfall from the Smile program. This is wildly hypocritical and calls into question Amazon’s poor governance controls.

Audio of Danhof’s presentation can be heard here. A written, annotated version of Danhof’s statement can be found here.

During the meeting, Danhof and other conservative shareholders repeatedly questioned Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as to why the company engages in such blatant viewpoint discrimination. Bezos refused to address their questions.

“If Bezos can defend Amazon’s outright bigotry, then we invite him to do so,” said Danhof. “It’s pathetic that one of the most powerful men in the world can’t answer a simple question. Yet it is also telling that Bezos seems to have zero defense for this deplorable behavior.”

Earlier this month, Danhof penned an article published by Breitbart in which he noted: Today the SPLC is known mostly for publishing an annual “hate map,” which it claims is a census of the hate groups operating within the United States. In reality, this cynical yearly exercise is little more than a public listing of SPLC’s political enemies.

How else can one explain SPLC categorizing groups such as the Family Research Council and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) with the Ku Klux Klan? ADF is the nation’s preeminent legal advocate for religious liberty. Litigating to advance the principles espoused by America’s founders and enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, ADF has scored 10 victories at the United States Supreme Court since 2011. What exactly have the racists at the Ku Klux Klan done in that timeframe?

Everyone knows the Klan is a hate group. What the SPLC is trying to do is convince gullible leftists that conservative and religious organizations are morally equivalent to the KKK. It’s reprehensible and it’s fake news. And Amazon’s partnership lends a corporate veneer of credibility that only perpetuates this false narrative.

Conservative investors can learn how to support proposals that align with their values and how to vote down leftist resolutions by downloading FEP’s Investor Value Voter Guide. A thorough discussion of the resolution presented today to Amazon starts on page 52 of the guide.

Today’s Amazon meeting marks the 21st time FEP has participated in a shareholder meeting in 2020.

sara sandman, 360 MAGAZINE, business, tech, illustration

SCLC FIGHTS FOR POOR

With all Americans bearing the brunt of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis, Dr. Charles Steele, Jr., president and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), today called on President Donald Trump and the U.S. Congress to make sure all Americans benefit from the nearly $1 trillion that will be spent to restore the health of citizens and the economy.
 
“I want to weigh in on behalf of regular people,” said Dr. Steele, who currently heads the civil rights organization co-founded and first led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “We have seen this socialist bailout of corporate America before. As the Trump Administration and Congress prepare to help some corporations, hand out new contracts and create new jobs to address this pandemic, we must ensure that billions ends up in the hands of the people who have been historically left behind. Poor people, black and brown people, must be recipients of these gifts of generosity that normally go to corporations.”
 
President Trump has said efforts are underway to financially assist corporations that have been hit hard by Convid-19, including the travel and cargo industries. He has announced plans to assist small businesses, but there are no specifics how those disbursements will be handled, and he has announced plans to give all families at least $2,400 to help them through the crisis.
 
“When it comes to bearing the weight, it is not fair that the corporations get the support when the rest of us starve,” Dr. Steele said.  “We saw our government bail out the banks during the housing collapse. We also bailed out the auto industry and Wall Street. Those industries recovered, but we didn’t. Most black and brown people lost their homes. We lost our wealth. Nearly 75 percent of poor people are living from check to check. Many of us have no health insurance. We can’t afford to take a day off work.”
 
Dr. Steele said the SCLC, which has focused on the plight of the poor and the voiceless since the days of Dr. King, has received calls for individuals and groups who are concerned about how individuals with no jobs and insurance will fair during this pandemic and recover after the crisis is over. 
 
“They are asking, ‘Where are our leaders,’” Dr. Steele said. “They are not seeing them standing up to make sure the real money will flow down to the people most impacted. That is why the SCLC is taking a stand. We must fight to make sure our government does not repeat what has happened in the past. We need more than $1,200 to catch up in America. We will not be left behind this time.”

ABOUT THE SCLC:

Established in 1957, the SCLC, whose first president was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is a now an international organization made up of chapters and affiliates with programs that affect the lives of all Americans: north, south, east, and west. Its sphere of influence and interests has become international in scope because the human rights movement transcends national boundaries. For additional information about the SCLC, visit www.nationalsclc.org.

Vaughn Lowery, 360 MAGAZINE

SCLC × 50-Mile March

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference Is Inviting the Presidential Candidates to Participate in the 50-mile March from Selma to Montgomery

Issues Impacting African Americans Deserve More Focus Than Appearing Briefly for Photo Opportunities, SCLC President and CEO Dr. Charles Steele, Jr. Says 

With Super Tuesday just a few days away, and capturing the black vote in the 015 jurisdictions crucial to winning the coveted seat, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)  is extending an invitation for the Democratic presidential candidates to participate in the historic 50-mile march from Selma to Montgomery. 

The reenactment of the march, which was originally led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the SCLC’s co-founders and its first president, begins at 8am on Monday at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma and concludes on Friday on the steps of the Alabama state capitol in Montgomery.

Monday’s march follows the 55th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” which occurred on March 7, 1965 when more than 500 demonstrators, participating in a right to vote march, were met with violence by state troopers and others after they crossed the bridge. The bridge crossing is commemorated every year, but every five years the SCLC organizes the long walk from the bridge to Montgomery. At the end of the march, civil rights leaders, politicians and other influencers give speeches about freedom and equality and other important public policy issues. 

“We are extending this invitation for the presidential candidates to join us on Monday morning, because this historical event is about more than a photo opportunity on Sunday,” Dr. Steele said.“ The real education begins on Monday when we discuss during  march to Montgomery the concerns about poor people, the voiceless and those who are still trying to reach the mountaintop.”

Dr. Steele, fresh off of a presidential candidates and public policy forum in Columbia, S.C., said there are several key issues that the organization wants the presidential candidates to address, including the restoration of the Voting Right Act, jobs, healthcare, education, economic development in black communities, funding for historically black colleges and universities and reparations, which will provide compensation to the descendants of slaves whose forced free labor helped to develop the United States as the world’s leading economy.

“We as African Americans have never been free in this country,” Dr. Steele said. “Everyone has had access to capital. Everybody has been accepted in society, but we as ex slaves and African Americans have never been given a hand up. It is always a hand down.”

Dr. Steele said the march is a teachable moment for those who believe the masses of African Americans are in a much better place economically following the eight-year reign of President Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president, and as they witness the successes of a few blacks such as Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan and Jay-Z. The reality, Dr. Steele said, is that some blacks are in a worse place economically than blacks were in 1965 and even during the Jim Crow era.

“During the housing collapse, we lost 60 percent of black wealth,” Dr. Steele said. “The wealth creation was in our homes. We once had dozens of black banks, but now we only have 17. In five years, some experts predict we will not have any. In the next 20 to 30 years, it is predicted that black wealth will be eradicated. There is a conspiracy of keeping capital away from black folks. They talk about the stock market. Well, our people don’t have jobs so what do they care about the stock market?”

While the SCLC does not endorse candidates, Dr. Steele said some candidates are identifying with the SCLC’s mission and goals. When candidates talk about restoring the Voting Rights Act to its original intent, and when one speaks about reparations, jobs, and funding for HCBUs, then that opens the door for all candidates to address those issues.

“When we hear them talk about these issues, they give us hope,” Dr. Steele says. “If they address those issues, they will lift up poor people, and if they lift poor people, remove racism and provide black people with access to capital, then we are getting closer to realizing the dream.”

Rideshare Rooftop Ads

Today more than 80 members of the Independent Drivers Guild descended on City Hall to call for the city to reverse its ban on rooftop advertising for for-hire vehicles. The Guild testified at a City Council Transportation Committee hearing in favor of City Council bill Intro 1738, sponsored by Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, which would allow for-hire vehicle drivers to earn much-needed extra pay through rooftop advertising. 

Exterior roof-top advertising opportunities are currently only afforded to medallion owners, but not FHV owner-operators, including drivers for app-based and livery services. Drivers can earn as much as $300 per month and $3600 per year through rooftop advertising without driving extra hours and adding to congestion.  Intro 1738 is the first of a handful of bills in the works to address the demands and concerns raised in IDG’s Drivers’ Bill of Rights, which has the support of more than nine thousand drivers so far. 

“For years, drivers have been struggling to make ends meet. Rooftop advertisements are an easy way for drivers to supplement their income without having to drive longer hours and add to congestion,” said IDG executive director Brendan Sexton. “In the life of an Uber or Lyft driver, an extra $300 per month can mean the difference between being able to afford health insurance or not. It can cover a month’s worth of fuel expenses or after school child care.”

“We are thankful to Chairman Ydanis Rodriguez and Members of the City
Council Transportation Committee for listening to drivers and we urge the Council to support this bill as an important step to provide immediate and much-needed relief to drivers,” added Sexton. “We are also pleased that the Taxi and Limousine Commission today voiced support for rooftop ads with the amendment we have urged which would require that ad revenue goes to drivers, rather than Uber or Lyft, leasing companies, or big fleet owners, as has occurred in the taxi industry.”

The IDG led a years-long campaign to win the nation’s first minimum wage for app-based drivers in New York City at a rate of $27.86 per hour, however app companies violated these rules and city regulators failed to take enforcement action. In response, more than 100 IDG members unveiled the Drivers’ Bill of Rights at City Hall this past fall, calling for the city to address concerns affecting drivers’ livelihoods. A week later, thousands of IDG members temporarily closed down the Brooklyn Bridge and the FDR in protest and in response to the city’s TLC ignoring Uber and Lyft’s violation of the City’s own minimum pay law. Now more than nine thousand drivers have signed on to the Guild’s Drivers’ Bill of Rights. Members of the Transportation Committee responded and have told the Guild they are working on a number of bills addressing the issues raised in the Drivers’ Bill of Rights. Today marks the first hearing addressing one of these issues and what the Guild hopes is the first of several bills to come before the committee to provide relief to struggling drivers.

Here is IDG’s prepared testimony for today’s hearing:

Testimony of Brendan Sexton, Executive Director
Independent Drivers Guild (IDG)
Before the City Council Committee on Transportation
January 22, 2020

Good morning Chairman Rodriguez, members of the Transportation Committee. My name is Brendan Sexton and I am the Executive Director of the Independent Drivers Guild, otherwise known as IDG. We are here to wholeheartedly support Intro 1738. 

Joining me today on this panel are some drivers who will help me tell our story — the story of how app-based drivers who, despite the reforms passed by this Council and despite what TLC claims, continue to struggle to make a fair and livable wage. (and I’d also like to acknowledge the IDG members drivers who have joined us here today in the audience) As we explained to this Committee back in September, the minimum pay rules are failing to meet their intended goal as Uber and Lyft continue to circumvent the rules and the TLC continues to ignore our pleas for assistance and enforcement. 

More than 100 IDG members came before you that day to seek your help as we rolled out our Drivers Bill of Rights to address these and other concerns affecting drivers’ livelihoods. A week later, thousands of our members temporarily closed down the Brooklyn Bridge and the FDR in protest and in response to TLC ignoring Uber and Lyft’s blatant violation of this City Council’s own minimum pay law. I am pleased to know that the City Council, and especially the Members of this Committee, have heard our pleas and a number of bills addressing the issues raised in our Drivers’ Bill of Rights are in the works. Today marks the first hearing addressing one of these bills and what we hope is the first of several bills to come before this committee to provide immediate and much-needed relief to drivers.

As many members of this Committee know through our discussions over the last few months, we believe Intro 1738 is a very important measure that would provide app-based and livery drivers with an opportunity to supplement their income from driving. This is money that will go directly into the pocket of FHV owner-operators – not base owners, not Uber, not Lyft.

This legislation would require that the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) issue permits to allow for exterior rooftop advertising on any type of for-hire vehicle, provided such advertising complies with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations. Exterior roof-top advertising opportunities are currently only afforded to medallion owners, but not FHV owner-operators.  This bill would provide for parity, equality, andNa significant step in the fight for the fair treatment of these hard-working New Yorkers. 

We were all dumbfounded when, in August of 2019, TLC took away this ability — and only from FHV drivers.  Given the continuing struggles FHV drivers continue to go through, this just added insult to injury. 

Intro 1738 corrects this injustice by affording FHV drivers the opportunity to contract with TLC approved advertising companies for digital rooftop advertising and earn $300 per month/$3600 per year in
supplemental income. As you will hear from the drivers themselves, this additional income can and will make a big difference in the lives of FHV drivers as it can cover any number of expenses, such as health insurance, which is not provided by the app-based companies, a months’ worth of healthy groceries (according to the USDA),  or 100% of a driver’s monthly fuel expenses.

It is also important to note that this opportunity to earn additional income comes without any obligation to spend additional hours on the road and, as a result, will not increase congestion.  It will also allow hardworking drivers to bring home the same income while spending less time on the road and more time with their families.

All that being said, we also want to ensure there are additional driver protections built into this legislation to ensure that it is the drivers who benefit from this opportunity, not the app companies, not leasing companies and fleet owners. ALL drivers must be afforded this opportunity without undue interference from the exploitative nature of app-based or leasing companies. While 80% of our industry’s drivers own their own cars, 20% do lease.  And as you all know, our industry’s drivers have major issues with predatory leasing companies. (and we have been talking with Council Member Moya about his leasing legislation). Therefore, while this legislation as currently drafted will definitely benefit a majority of our drivers, we are less certain, given the leasing industries tendency to take advantage of our drivers, about the rest.

We would like to see an amendment to Intro 1738 that provides TLC with the regulatory authority to ensure drivers are protected and not further exploited by preventing leasing companies as well as the app companies from either requiring or prohibiting drivers from obtaining rooftop advertising and ensure that any and all revenue derived from such advertising goes directly and fully to the driver at a fair and mutually agreeable rate.

In speaking with some of you on this Committee, another concern has been raised that I would like to address. We have spoken to a major rooftop advertising company (who we understand will be testifying here today) who currently provides exterior rooftop advertising to the taxi industry and it is very clear: the existing benefits to the taxi industry from digital rooftop advertising will not be diminished or diluted by this bill in any way. To the contrary, if advertisers and drivers are able to deploy rooftop advertising on both taxicabs and FHVs, the advertising coverage to advertisers would be expanded within the city, and rooftop advertising becomes more attractive to advertisers and ultimately becomes more sustainable for all vehicle classes.

For the past few months, our team has engaged numerous council members on this and other pressing issues, and I’d like to thank Chairman Rodriguez for spearheading the effort to introduce this bill.  I’d also like to take a moment to thank those of you who have chosen to stand with IDG, our drivers and working-class New Yorkers by sponsoring and supporting this bill – it’s clear that you all truly understand just how important this income will be for drivers and their families. Your care is also demonstrated by the other issues on the agenda today–with regard to legislation that would create a Black Car and Livery Task force, we applaud any efforts that would assist with the viability of this industry and help our brother and sister black car and livery drivers. We would only recommend that the legislation be amended to provide for driver and/or driver labor organization representation on the task force.

It’s important to note that Intro 1738, which is related to exterior advertising, is very different from the internal panel advertising legislation. The policy question regarding internal panels entails different considerations that have been the subject of litigation, and although IDG supports any effort to provide increased opportunities to supplement FHV driver income, we believe these issues should be separated. The exterior advertising legislation already has broad support within this committee and we want to ensure that the support that we have worked to secure is in no way jeopardized by an unrelated piece of legislation.

In closing, I want to thank the Committee for all the work you have done and all we have accomplished together over the last few years in providing relief to 80,000 working families – specifically the approval of landmark driver income and transparency legislation in 2018. And while this has provided some needed relief,  the TLC’s resulting regulations and their lack of enforcement has caused some real problems whereby the full intent and goal of this legislation has still yet to be realized.

More work needs to be done, but Intro 1738 is an important and significant first step and FHV drivers need to know that this committee, that the City Council is listening and doing all they can do
to help.