I hope this message finds you in good health and in good spirits. This is a challenging time for so many of us. While it’s important that we limit our interactions with others at this time, there’s a need for us to come together to press even harder to win justice in this year’s budget. COVID-19 adds urgency to the issues we champion, from child care to affordable housing. We cannot afford to put the profits of billionaire CEOs before the basic needs of everyday New Yorkers.
This week, New York passed emergency paid sick leave legislation to help workers directly impacted by COVID-19. However, lawmakers decided at the last minute to remove the bill that would have established a permanent paid leave policy for all workers statewide. The bill was added back into negotiations on the state budget. Read our Campaign Manager Blue Carreker’s statement here. What we have now are only emergency paid sick days, not the permanent statewide policy. We must make sure all workers are granted the basic tenets of paid sick days.
Thousands of people have been taking action remotely, and it has made a huge difference. We won a statewide freeze on evictions and mortgage payments for New Yorkers’ economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak, but we’re still fighting to suspend rent. We know that housing instability and homelessness leads to worse health outcomes. While addressing this public health crisis, Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders need to do everything possible to protect our most most vulnerable. Italy has already taken this precaution. It’s only right that tenants be granted the same protections as homeowners. Add your name here to call on Governor Cuomo to go all the way and freeze rent.
Desmond Nails, co-chair of the Education Committee in Buffalo
Desmond with Senate Education Committee Chair Shelley Mayer
“Desmond has been a member for several years. He is active in the school district and has spoken at hearings on Foundation Aid on behalf of Citizen Action.” – Jude Wicksell, Citizen Action Community Organizer.
Around the State
#MakeBillionairesPay Tele Townhall
On Tuesday, March 17, five thousand people joined us for a statewide Make Billionaires Pay Telephone Town Hall, which was moderated by Alliance for Quality Education Executive Director Jasmine Gripper. There were several speakers, including State Senators Jessica Ramos and Gustavo Rivera. Both legislators stressed the importance of raising revenue in this year’s budget by taxing the ultra-rich, and answered questions. The Senators are strong allies and it was important to have them on the call.
Aemani Barton, who attends Donovan Middle School in Utica, spoke about her school not having the funds to upgrade their bathrooms and provide basic learning materials like textbooks, and the need for culturally diverse teachers. Participants also asked questions and committed to taking further action to make demands to state leaders while on the call.
“We have a deficit? OK, let’s raise revenue! We want it from those who can afford to pay.” Senator Gustavo Rivera said.
“It’s critical for us now to make the phone calls, to write the emails, to create the pressure we need to call for the resources that not only our most vulnerable need, but that all of us need.” – Senator Jessica Ramos
Virtual Rally to #FundNYSchools
AQE also hosted a virtual rally! Participants were asked to post videos and photos to social media with the hashtag #CantStopWontStop, and a message demanding state leaders to #TaxBillionaires to fully fund public schools.
#NoBailRollbacks Virtual Forum
Our Hudson Valley chapter held a virtual forum about bail reform and the impacts of structural racism in the legal system. Participants had the opportunity to ask questions about cash bail, the new reforms and what we can do to prevent any harmful rollbacks from entering the budget. The panel included Clyanna Lightbourn, our statewide civil rights organizer, Odell Winfield from the New Jim Crow Action Network, Shannon Wong from the New York Civil Liberties Union and Brandon Holmes from JustLeadership USA.
Zooming for #BudgetJustice
On March 18, both our Rochester and Western New York chapters hosted virtual events! Buffalo held a bail reform virtual Town Hall. Rochester held a “Tax the Rich, Fund our Schools” webinar, in which student activists spoke about the devastating cuts to their schools.
Senator Robert Jackson during Rochester’s virtual Town Hall
The chapter is also circulating a petition calling Rochester Gas and Electric to commit to a full moratorium on utility shut-offs for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis, instead of the proposed 30-day suspension, and the cancellation of its proposed rent hike. Add your name to that list here.
Become a sustaining member
Our members are the reason we’re able to do effective grassroots organizing and achieve justice for our communities. There’s no required amount for membership, and contributions are directly invested in local leadership development. Click here to support.
Go the Distance with Citizen Action
Go the Distance with Citizen Action by committing to taking action from home. I encourage you to join our community of at-home action takers. Sign up here.
Social distancing can be uncomfortable and outright depressing for some of us. Although we know it’s for the best until things get under control, that doesn’t make it any easier. Some people are unable to visit loves who are far away. And some people are simply too frightened to step foot outside. It’s important to remind folks that there are ways to practice social distancing without being completely isolated. Your activism is helping keep people informed and empowering them to fight for their rights. It’s winning support for those in need, and it’s changing the trajectory of New York’s future. I encourage you to continue to take action this upcoming week and sign up to Go the Distance with us in the fight for budget justice, if you haven’t already.