Happy Birthday, Cesar Chavez!

His memory reminds us to stay the course in the face of enduring adversity.

CesarChavez_2014image_1Today we celebrate the birthday of one of the most admired Latino civil rights champions, and a true American hero, Cesar Chavez.  His birth, recognized officially as Cesar Chavez Day, reminds us of the struggles that Latinos have endured, and gives us hope for a more inclusive nation as we look toward the future.

We remember Chavez as the father of the modern-day Hispanic civil rights movement. His leadership in organizing farmworkers, which led to the founding of the United Farmworkers Union (UFW), resulted in widespread visibility for a group of people who for too long had been subjected to unfair and exploitative labor practices. That philosophy is still the foundation for the UFW’s mission.

Of course, we can’t honor Chavez’s legacy without recognizing the many hurdles that he and farmworkers had to overcome.  Chavez’s tenacious and inspiring spirit, combined with every farmworker’s yearning for respect and decent living standards, is what drove the movement day in and day out—often in the face of crushing defeat.

Recognizing this tenacity and drive is especially poignant as we continue to fight for an immigration reform bill. It hasn’t been an easy fight, but every day we are making more and more progress. We mustn’t lose sight of the fact that, for the first time in many years, we have a president who is committed to signing his name to a good piece of legislation. Chavez’s spirit drives us and our Affiliates on as we remain actively engaged in this debate.

Time and again our community has managed to overcome obstacles, but the road to reform will continue to challenge us all as we draw closer to a deal. In trying times, we look to Chavez and his example to see how important tenacity can be when standing for what is right. When dealing with setbacks—as we did when the DREAM Act failed to pass in 2010—we might feel crushed, and even shed a few tears. But to see those DREAMers holding a press conference immediately after that devastating vote, confirming that they, and we, would not give up, was not only a testament to the strength of those inspiriting youth—it was a testament to Chavez’s legacy and example. We as a community have been here before, and no matter what setbacks we endure, we will not give up.

As we prepare ourselves for our work ahead, we leave you with Chavez’s famous rallying cry: ¡Sí, se puede!

Rising Food Costs Affect Latino Health and Well-Being

fruits and veggies

As we mark the end of National Nutrition Month, it’s important to look at the rising costs of food in the U.S. that is making it difficult for some families to purchase the basic staples of a healthy meal without breaking their budgets.

USA Today reports that prices for everything from meat to dairy are on the rise, with no signs of slowing down:

Droughts, unusually cold winter weather, rising exports and a virus outbreak in the hog population are among the causes of food inflation, which is expected to accelerate in 2014. The Agriculture Department expects grocery store prices to increase as much as 3.5 percent in 2014, up from 0.9 percent last year.

With beef and pork prices spiking, consumers are turning to poultry, which saw an almost 5 percent increase in prices last year. Fruits and vegetables are also more costly thanks to a drought in California, while milk prices could increase by about 50 cents per gallon this year.

This alarming trend will mean fewer quality food options for Latinos, who already face a myriad of problems affording and accessing healthy groceries. We know that Latinos are more likely to live in areas that have fewer supermarkets, where healthy foods are sold at reasonable prices. In fact, non-Hispanic neighborhoods have three times as many supermarkets as the typical Hispanic neighborhood.

Compounding that problem, the Latino community still has a disproportionately high rate of unemployment, hovering above 8 percent, and those who are working are more likely to work in low-wage jobs. That leaves many families without the necessary income to afford nutritious food items wherever they can find them.

An increase in grocery store prices could prove disastrous for a community that faces two seemingly contradictory health problems. On the one hand, Latinos have disproportionately high rates of obesity, with almost 40 percent of Hispanics considered obese and 80 percent considered overweight. On the other hand, nearly one in four Latino families struggles with hunger.

Simply put, they don’t have the money to afford enough food or the right food.

While we can’t control food prices, we can protect programs that ease the burden of costly meat and produce on struggling families. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, is one of the most effective tools for keeping families out of poverty and a critical buffer against hunger, but over the past year lawmakers in Washington have repeatedly taken aim at SNAP and slashed billions of dollars from the program.

It’s painfully clear that with food prices rising and communities still recovering from the economic downturn, Latino families need all the help they can get to provide for their families. This National Nutrition Month, remind your members of Congress that by investing in SNAP, they are ensuring that every child can come home to dinner on the table, night after night.

“No Mother Should Have to Choose Between Paying the Rent and Paying the Utilities”

By Alicia Criado, Field Coordinator, Economic Policy Project, NCLR

TruthTelling_minwage_finalhighresWelcome to our new minimum wage truth-telling video blog series. The purpose of the series is to shed light on the various truths regarding what happens and who benefits when we increase the minimum wage. To cap off the end of Women’s History Month, we’re kicking off the series with a focus on women of color, who represent a disproportionately large amount of minimum wage workers.

An estimated 15.3 million women would benefit from raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 by 2016, as proposed in the “Minimum Wage Fairness Act” (S. 1737). In the coming weeks, Congress will consider this bill, which would also adjust the rate as the cost of living increases and raise the wage for tipped workers, which has been stuck at $2.13 per hour for over 20 years. Read more below and let us know if you think it’s time to raise the minimum wage in advance of the upcoming vote in the Senate.

Currently, the minimum wage is not enough to keep a single parent with one child out of poverty. This shouldn’t surprise many mamis in the Hispanic community; in 2013, the median earning among full-time Latina workers was $541 per week, which was 61.2% of the median earning among White men ($884 per week).

In today’s video, we feature Ana Garcia-Ashley, Executive Director of the Gamaliel Foundation, a grassroots network of 60 nonpartisan, faith-based organizations in 17 states, South Africa, and the United Kingdom that provide leadership training, build community organizations, and lead local and national social justice campaigns. Check out Ana’s video to hear more about the tough choices many women in her organization’s congregations must make regarding their monthly expenses.

As we continue to educate our communities and elected officials about the importance of raising the minimum wage, consider why increasing the minimum wage and tipped minimum wage is especially important for women:

  • About two-thirds of minimum-wage workers are women.
  • Twenty-two percent of minimum wage workers are women of color.
  • Women account for more than half (55 percent) of all workers who would benefit from increasing the minimum wage to $10.10.
  • Women are also overrepresented in the tipped workforce, composing two-thirds of tipped restaurant workers. Raising the tipped minimum wage would significantly raise the wage standard in Latino- and female-dominant occupations.
    • About one-quarter (26 percent ) of all workers who would benefit from increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 have dependent children, and 31 percent  of female workers who would benefit have children.
    • More than 15 million women would get a raise, including more than one in five working mothers.

Weekly Washington Outlook – March 31, 2014

U.S. Capitol

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

The House:

The House convenes on Tuesday and will take up seven bills under suspension of the rules, including two Senate-passed bills that would provide aid to Ukraine and sanction Russia for its invasion of Crimea.  The remaining five measures would:

Later in the week, the House will consider the Save American Workers Act of 2014 (H.R. 2575) and the Pro-Growth Budgeting Act of 2013 (H.R. 1874).  The first would change the Affordable Care Act’s definition of a full-time employee under the law’s employer mandate from thirty hours a week to forty hours a week.  The second would require the Congressional Budget Office to produce a macroeconomic analysis for legislation passed out of committees.

The Senate:

The Senate comes back into session on Monday afternoon and will consider the House-passed Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 (H.R. 4302).  The so-called “doc fix” would extend the Medicare reimbursement rate for physicians for twelve months and add a 0.5 percent increase.  Following passage, the Senate is expected to take a procedural vote on a five-month unemployment insurance extension.  A vote on passage is expected before the end of the week.  Several judicial nominations are also scheduled for confirmation this week.

White House:

On Monday, the president will attend unspecified meetings at the White House.  On Tuesday, President Obama will welcome the Boston Red Sox to the White House to honor the team and their 2013 World Series Championship.  On Wednesday, the he will travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan for an event on his proposal to raise the national minimum wage.  Following this event, the president will travel to Chicago to attend Democratic National Committee events. On Thursday, the president and First Lady will host members of the United States teams and delegations from the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games at the White House.  On Friday, President Obama will host Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa of Tunisia at the White House.  During the meeting, the two leaders will discuss Tunisia’s democratic transition and a broad range of bilateral and regional issues of mutual interest, including U.S. economic, political, and security assistance to support the Prime Minister’s reform agenda and Tunisia’s stability.  Continue reading