Earned Sick Time – Congratulations – to JALSA and all MA workers

Take a well-deserved round of applause JALSA
Congrats on passing Earned Sick time!! 
We did it!..YES – 1,252,197 (59%); …………………….NO – 856,280 (41%);
8 years of perseverance and hard work has provided a million workers in Massachusetts the right to earned sick time!!  We made a difference for hundreds of thousands of low and middle income workers and their families!   We’ve hung in there through thick and thin. Hearings, Forums, Phonebanking, Lobbying, Signature Gathering, Canvassing. What haven’t we done to get this passed.

In the past year alone our JALSA members:

Collected over 9,000 signatures to qualify this for the ballot!

Spread awareness by encouraging rabbis to talk about earned sick time in their Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur sermons.

Participated in 50 phone banking and canvassing shifts to turn out voters!

Encouraged the cooperative efforts of members of 15 synagogues, three local Jewish organizations, and a national Jewish synagogue movement.

You kicked butt out there, and in return we can celebrate the passage of the most progressive sick day coverage in the country!  Unbelievable work.

As our tradition says, “From Strength to Strength!” Thank you Jewish Labor Committee (rally turn-out extraordinaire), JCRC of Greater Boston (social media mavins), Temple Israel of Boston (petition signature endurance winners), Temple Beth Zion (phone bank specialists), Tzedek Reflection (synagogue collaboration), the Religious Action Center (the RAC) of URJ (Thunderclap), Moishe Kavod House (mobilization trainings), MCAN (interfaith outreach), and every person and institution working in the Jewish community with our great colleagues and friends from over 100 grassroots organizations– labor, community, interfaith– across the state.
Thank you JALSA coordinator Barbara Gutman for an 8 year commitment, and the whole RaiseUp strategy/steering committee for superb skills, planning, and persistence. Honored to be working with you, The Staff of JALSA



Governor Patrick Signing of Gun Safety Bill – Aug 13, State House

 Celebrating our Work in Passing the Gun Safety Bill.  Thousands of postcards; Hundreds of phone calls; 35 organizations; 18 months resulting in 1 final STRONG bill !! HUGE VICTORY THANKS TO OUR GRASSROOTS EFFORTS! JALSA members have been concerned with gun violence issues for years. You were instrumental in the passage of our state’s statute in 1999, which was the strongest state gun law in the nation, at that time. The tragedy at Shady Hook, Newtown, CT in 2012 put the spotlight on inadequate federal laws and loopholes in our state laws, once again bringing gun safety to the forefront. This gave JALSA the opportunity to address the ever present issues involving gun deaths of young people in our urban communities, and gun deaths resulting from other crimes, domestic violence, suicide and accidents. Realizing that we were at a key moment to move ahead on gun violence prevention legislation, JALSA helped to start the MA Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, bringing together 35 groups from across a broad spectrum, both faith-based and civic. For 18 months, this Coalition met, held conference calls, traveled all over the state talking to congregations and groups, collected postcards, encouraged people to attend and testify at hearings, and spoke to the media. JALSA served on the Steering Committee for the Coalition, guiding the work on a new state bill, using all of our legislative, legal, and advocacy knowledge to shepherd it to passage.Late into the night of July 31st, in one of its last acts before adjourning for the session, the House and Senate enacted a strong piece of gun legislation, over the objections of the National Rifle Association.   This was an extremely tough fight, and there were many times when we thought that the passage of this bill was in doubt. The bill meets many of the goals that the Coalition set out to accomplish, including these key provisions:
1.     Requiring registration and background checks for all gun sales in Massachusetts;  
2.     Bringing the Commonwealth into compliance with the Federal NICS background check system while protecting mental health counseling privacy;
3.     Giving police chiefs discretion in issuing rifle and shotgun licenses (the NRA’s chief objection to the bill);
4.     Advancing suicide awareness and prevention in the Commonwealth through a multifaceted approach; and
5.     Collecting trace data so we know the origin of guns used in crimes or suicide.
 Our thanks to all JALSA members who worked these many months. A very special shout out to JALSA Board Member Janet Goldenberg, who served as coordinator of the Coalition, and brought her considerable legal acumen to the task. Thank you, also, to all of the Jewish congregations which signed on as members of the Coalition — Temple Beth Elohim Congregants to Prevent Gun Violence of Wellesley; Temple Emunah of Lexington, Temple Isaiah Social Action Committee of Lexington, and the Gun Violence Action Team of Temple Israel of Boston, which put into action Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s directive to “pray with our feet.” Special thanks to the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Boston who dedicated considerable time to this effort and to the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) who helped bring the important interfaith participation and voice. Thanks to the JALSA staff who brought all of their skills to this important work. JALSA’s office served as the hub for making phone calls all over the state to constituents in key legislative districts, the repository for postcards from nearly every city and town in Massachusetts, and the central spot for meeting and strategizing throughout this campaign. Over the past 18 months, nearly every JALSA staff member and intern played an important role in making sure this legislation got enacted. Much appreciation to Speaker DeLeo who made gun legislation a major priority for this legislative session, and we thank all the legislators who helped the successful passage of a strong bill. We look forward to working with you, our JALSA members and supporters, on many more legislative victories, in the pursuit of justice.
Regards,  Sheila Decter                                                                        

Minimum Wage Passes; Earned Sick Time to Ballot

On June 18, 2014, the House passed a bill raising the minimum wage from $8 an hour to $11 an hour over 3 years  the Senate passed this bill and the Governor signed it on Thurs. June 26.

This is a BIG BIG BIG VICTORY for justice and dignity for hard working low wage earners. Over 600,000 low wage earners will get wage increases; These wage increases will total over $1 billion dollars; At $11 an hour, our state will have the highest state minimum wage law in the country, which will enable other states to consider raising their minimum wage law levels more than they otherwise would have. This only happened because we collected over 360,000 signatures!!! Thousands of volunteers from many hundreds of congregations, community organizations, and labor unions working together in Raise UP Massachusetts collected over 360,000 signatures to qualify “Raising the Minimum Wage” as a ballot question. House Speaker DeLeo and Senate President Murray publicly stated that they had to take this up because we had the signatures to place it on the ballot. JALSA gathered about 9,000 signatures to raise up our working sisters and brothers across Massachusetts. Almost 800 of these signatures came via the Tzedek Reflections collaboration with many local synagogues and organizations working on income inequality. $11 an hour represents a raise of over $6,000 every year for minimum wage workers. This is a huge win for low wage workers, but it is not yet a living wage. We will continue working on this important economic justice issue until all workers receive a sufficient hourly raise to maintain their families and to work with dignity.

Earned Sick Time is going to the ballot!! Earned sick time is an issue that JALSA has been fighting for for 6 years, and we look forward to working with you to get it passed this Fall! NOTE: On Monday June 30 we delivered signatures to the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office.

Thank you so much for all that you have done to bring us forward in this campaign for dignity and justice. Thanks, Sheila Decter, Barbara Gutman, Cindy Rowe, Erica Rothschild and all our members and friends who collected signatures.

Who is affected by the Minimum Wage legislation? 1 in 5 workers benefit in MA; 57% are women; 140,000 are parents; 236,000 children live in households where either the sole wage earner or at least one wage earner earns low wages that would be raised $1.1 billion when fully phased in which will help these low wage earners AND help our state economy retain and create jobs since most of these wage increases will be spent right back in our economy 85% of the affected low wage earners are 20+ and most of the younger workers are either using part of the wages to support their lower wage earning family and/or saving for college

The Domestic workers bill passed too! What does that mean? Domestic workers who work over 16 hours a week will get a contract from employers outlining their terms of employment: This will ensure that workers will get paid for the hours they work and that they are not taken advantage of. Domestic workers will be able to go to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination for sexual harassment complaints and for other forms of discrimination; Domestic workers will be ensured one day off in a seven day period and one weekend off in a month; Domestic workers will have parental leave; Domestic workers will have meal and rest breaks; Domestic workers will be protected from illegal charges for food and lodging and eviction without notice; The Attorney General will enforce this bill. This is a huge victory!! Congrats to all the activists that fought for this!

U.S. Minimum Wage

 For a current article discussing the Blocked U.S. Senate Vote on Minimum Wage by Rabbi Steve Gutow, go to http://zeek.forward.com/articles/118183/
 For more information on the film “Ineqality  for All” (by Robert Reich) see Trailer at www.inequalityforall.com   For Robert Reich comments on Tax Day see: http://front.moveon.org/is-our-tax-system-fair/#.U10AuqKXw65  “We can have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, but we can’t have both.”-Louis D. Brandeis.  Film Showing was Sponsored by:  (JALSA) Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action; New England Jewish Labor Committee; Temple Israel of Boston; Temple Hillel B’nai Torah; Nehar Shalom Community Synagogue; Boston Workmen’s Circle; Temple Beth Zion; Moishe Kavod House.

Minimum Wage Bill Comparisons

Next Step in Mass. legislative efforts for a minimum wage bill:  Conference Committee on two different versions passed in MA House and MA Senate.

House Vote of April 2 – .  What happened with the House vote on the Minimum Wage bill?  They passed a bill to increase wages to $10.50 over 3 years, but did not pass “Indexing to Inflation” and raised tipped worker wages only from 33% to 36% of the minimum wage. No cuts were made to unemployment benefits or eligibility.   Since the House Speaker was opposed to “indexing” and a higher wage for tipped workers, we were not able to mobilize sufficient support for such amendments in the House and they were withdrawn.   However, the Senate bill has indexing and tipped wage at 50% read more

JALSA Climate Change Meeting

Talk by Frank Smizik (Chair, MA House Committee on Climate Change and President, JALSA) at the JALSA meeting discussing Climate Change.




Op Ed by JALSA and JCRC
on Earned Sick Time

Question Four:

Published on October 29, 2014 by JCRC

The Jewish Advocate

Sheila Decter and Jeremy Burton
October 29, 2014

A Yes vote supports Jewish values

On Election Day, Nov. 4, Massachusetts voters will be asked to vote on the issue of “earned sick time”, an issue closely tied to important Jewish values. Eighty percent of low-income workers in Massachusetts – close to 1,000,000 workers – cannot take a single day of sick leave without fear of losing their jobs or income. For many low-income workers, missing a single shift would risk their financial security and result in a low-income family falling even farther below the poverty line. A “Yes” on Question 4 would ensure that all workers have the opportunity to earn sick time in order to care for themselves and their loved ones who are ill.

Our Jewish sages teach us, “When a person becomes ill, it is a mitzvah for every person to visit, for we find that the Holy Blessed One visits the sick, as our Sages of Blessed Memory” (Talmud, Bava Metzia 86b) explained the verse (Genesis 18:1) “And G-d appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre…” teaching us that G-d came to visit Abraham when he was sick. We learn here that the obligation to help our friends and neighbors heal from sickness runs deep—so deep that our model for this commandment comes directly from G-d. In our community, there is no question that the sick among us have a right and obligation to do everything possible to heal, so the fact that members of our Massachusetts community are forced every day to choose between their jobs and their health is a failure to uphold our communal values.

Keeping sick workers and kids home keeps our Commonwealth healthy. Most of the nearly million workers in Massachusetts who do not currently earn paid sick time work in the service sector, which includes food and child care workers. These are the people who care for our elderly, serve our food, and care for our children. This means that when threatened with the loss of a job or a day’s pay, a sick person will need to go into work anyway, bringing illness with him or her. And if parents can’t take off from work to care for their sick children, then that means sending sick children to school. Consequently, the lack of “earned sick time” for all workers increases the risk to the public health as sick parents and sick children are not able to rest and get better. Here, in Massachusetts, where we have been on the forefront of universal health care with some of the most prestigious hospitals, health care institutions and researchers, this is an unacceptable and untenable situation.

Health care institutions including Baystate Health, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston Medical Center, Tufts Medical Center, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Partners Health Care, and Steward Health Care have come out in support of earned sick time because they know that this is one solution to a serious public health issue.

And those hospitals, as well as many other businesses, are able to support earned sick time because they know it is also a good business decision. Businesses which implement earned sick time find that it reduces employee turnover, reduces the spread of illnesses at work, increases productivity, lowers expenditures for health care services, and helps their bottom line. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) has demonstrated that the benefits will outweigh costs with a paid sick time policy for Massachusetts workers.

On Nov. 4 when you go to vote, remember the lesson of Abraham and our obligation to all our neighbors when they are sick. Join us in voting “Yes On 4” for earned sick leave in Massachusetts.

Read full article on The Jewish Advocate website