Grassroots Voices for
Economic Justice

a project of the Center for Community Change Action

Contact Center (OH)

Groups praise President Obama for Social Security expansion shift

Groups praise President Obama for Social Security expansion shift

from the Augusta Free Press

President Obama’s declaration that Social Security should be expanded, and not cut, has been applauded with great enthusiasm by groups nationwide which work to protect Social Security for everyone.

Among the groups praising Obama’s stance were the Center for Community Change (CCC), ONE Northside, Virginia Organizing, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, The Contact Center, and Grassroots Ambassadors affiliated with CCC.

“The wealthy should have been paying their fair share from the get go but I’m glad to see President Obama take a stand on this urgent issue,” said Grassroots Ambassador Edward Williams with the Contact Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. “Getting an increase in Social Security would help make it easier to pay the monthly bills. I’m a Vietnam veteran and turning 69 this August. I’m proud to be part of this movement to expand Social Security!”

“As someone who would benefit greatly from increased Social Security benefits I applaud President Obama’s shift to expand Social Security. Six years ago, I quit my job to become a full-time unpaid caregiver,” said Grassroots Ambassador Jeannie Brown of Bozeman, Montana. “Social Security will be my lifeline in 15 years when it is my time to retire and it needs to be expanded. I also know that this shift is a direct result of all the work that grassroots leaders, like myself, have done to educate elected officials to the need for this expansion because of our stories. Thank you President Obama in seeing the wisdom to make this happen.”

“When a person like me spends the day on his feet, working with his hands or back in a classroom or hospital, on a roof or knee-deep in cement, raising the age of retirement and/or cutting benefits is simply untenable,” said Grassroots Ambassador Kenn Bowen, a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement in Iowa City, Iowa. “If everyone pays their fair share, Social Security not only becomes solvent, it becomes stronger and can pay for more and better benefits for those who have given their lives in working service to their families and their country. President Obama is right when he says ‘we should strengthen Social Security by asking the wealthy to pay more.’ We should do this now, sooner not later for the benefit of all Americans. “

“President Obama’s new position to strengthen and expand Social Security will help a lot of people achieve financial stability. It’s high time the wealthy paid their fair share into Social Security. Social Security Disability Benefits were there for me when I was disabled, unable to work, and homeless. Without SSDI, I would still be homeless today,” said Carlos Cardenas, Vice President of the board of ONE Northside in Chicago.

“Virginia Organizing strongly supports ending the cap for Social Security deductions,” said Virginia Organizing leader Eunice Haigler. “As an organization, many of our members rely on Social Security to provide basic living expenses and we are encouraged by the President’s change in position. For me personally, an increase in Social Security means that I can feel my many years of work means something and will give me dignity. Virginia Organizing calls on U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine to support this proposal and move forward to protect and strengthen Social Security for all people, especially those of us who rely on this program for our survival.”

“We are encouraged that President Obama is joining with other lawmakers to expand Social Security and we will continue our efforts to protect this essential program so that everyone will benefit,” said Mary Lassen, CCC”s Managing Director.

Mothers Speak Out event in Cincinnati

Mothers Speak Out event in Cincinnati

The Grassroots Ambassadors of Contact Center and Peaslee Neighborhood Center’s Caregiver Circle Project partnered on May 6 to honor mothers at a “Speak Up & Speak Out Community Forum.” The main theme of the evening was the importance of caregiving. Women leaders spoke on the importance of policy initiatives at local, state and federal levels, sharing how their own families would be impacted.

Memory Royal, a Grassroots Ambassador, spoke on both the importance of the Social Security Caregiver Credit and increasing kinship care support. “I raised my own children and before that I raised my younger siblings when my mother passed at a young age. Mother’s Day means a lot to me, especially because I lost my own mother when I was only 20. Again, later in life, I took care of my siblings when they were seriously ill. Now, once again, I am doing care giving by taking in my very young grandchild. Care giving has been my life but I don’t regret it at all! What is more important than caring for family when they needed me? Family will always come first! Yet it has hurt my ability to obtain outside employment, make ends ever meet, and ever be eligible for Social Security. Why shouldn’t caregiving count as work?”

Pat Youngblood spoke on the caregiver credit. “Needing to leave employment to take care of my family members who needed me has certainly hurt my retirement security. I’m one of nine children! I’ve made it a priority to help my siblings when they needed me! Yet this care giving has hurt both my Social Security and Medicare eligibility. You have to have those work credits, and care giving of relatives doesn’t qualify as work! Why not? It’s time to change this system!”

Michele Young, Democratic candidate for 1st Congressional District in attendance, spoke strongly in support of the care giving policies. She was especially enthusiastic about the caregiver credit legislation and making Social Security stronger.

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune (Democrat), spoke on his support for kinship care, health care, and programs for ex-offenders to give them hope for jobs and housing. He is running for reelection as Hamilton County Commissioner.

Two other candidates running for Ohio House seats attended and spoke well of caregiver issues — Matthew Wahlert, candidate for Ohio House 32nd District, and Mary Yeager, candidate for Ohio House 31st District. Their opponents, Catherine Ingram, candidate for Ohio House 32nd District, and Brigid Kelley, candidate for Ohio House 31st District, attended a Contact Center community meeting earlier this year.

Contact Center and Peaslee’s Caregiver Circle Project plan to keep organizing together throughout the Summer months to plan a Congressional Town Hall Meeting in Cincinnati in August. We’re hitting the streets of inner city Cincinnati to fire up people to register to vote and know what their rights are to register, then GOTV!

LTE in Cincinnati Enquirer

LTE in Cincinnati Enquirer

Why did Congress refuse to help seniors, veterans?

Seniors on Social Security, SSI recipients who are disabled, and veterans deserve their cost-of-living increase in 2016.

Why did Congress refuse them this help?

At the same time Congress allows a 3.9 percent increase in performance bonuses for corporate executives to count as a tax write-off. Who does Congress care about, the elderly poor, disabled and veterans or the corporate rich?

While seniors and the disabled are trying to figure out how to pay their bills that keep going higher each year, taxpayers are funding corporate executive hand-outs!

However, there is Social Security legislation that will help remedy this situation. Senator Sherrod Brown co-sponsored The Seniors and Veterans Emergency Benefits Act (SAVE) legislation that helps us seniors instead of cushioning corporations’ coffers. Thank you, Senator Brown!

Gloria Gray, West End

Ohio Ambassadors thanks Senator Brown for supporting SAVE Benefits Act

Ohio Ambassadors thanks Senator Brown for supporting SAVE Benefits Act

On November 12, four leaders of the Contact Center delivered a large poster thank you card to Sen. Sherrod Brown thanking him for co-sponsoring the Save Benefits Act. Two Grassroots Ambassadors, Jerry Davis and Judi Mendriski, led the presentation. In addition we delivered 400 petition signatures in support of expanding Social Security to his office.

Grassroots Ambassadors organize “Selma” screening in Cincinnati

Grassroots Ambassadors organize “Selma” screening in Cincinnati

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 10.03.11 AMContact Center’s Grassroots Ambassadors organized a free movie showing of “Selma” in a major outdoor park in inner city Cincinnati on October 10. Prior to the movie, the Grassroots Ambassadors gave out outreach information about the Contact Center, early voting application forms, ballot issue information.

Approximately 150 people came out to hear presentations and  see the movie honoring the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Grassroots Ambassadors organized participation by the Over-the-Rhine Community Council and 3CDC to sponsor it. Councilmember, Yvette Simpson, spoke about the importance of the Voting Rights and Grassroots Ambassdor Cassandra Barham sang “Wake Up, Everybody” to the audience.

Cassandra stated, “I was influenced by my grandmother who always made it to the voting polls in Philadelphia. She had come up from Alabama. She knew how important it was to vote! I remember she would always ask if her son and daughters had come in to vote. If they hadn’t voted yet, she would get on the phone to remind them to vote. That left a lasting impression on me and why I am so committed now to voting.”

Contact Center Celebrates Social Security’s 80th birthday

Contact Center Celebrates Social Security’s 80th birthday


Contact Center Social Security anniversary celebration in Cincinnati

Contact Center Social Security anniversary celebration in Cincinnati

Contact Center’s Grassroots Ambassadors hosted a Birthday Party celebration at the Contact Center including an outback Cookout. Approximately 25 members attended to feast on cheeseburgers and cake while discussing what the Social Security Act of 1935 means to them in their own lives today. A reporter and photographer from the alternative news magazine “Streetvibes” interviewed several of our members on Social Security and SSDI.

After the Celebration a group, led by 4 Grassroots Ambassadors, went to Senator Rob Portman’s Office in Downtown Cincinnati to deliver approximately 500 signed postcards with stories in support of Expanding Social Security, calling on Sen. Portman to support taxing millionaires to pay the same rate of Social Security payroll taxes as we pay!

Afterwards we stopped by Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office to deliver a Birthday letter in support of expanding Social Security and thanking Sen. Brown. We also spent time flyering about the 80th Birthday to encourage people to call our Congressional legislators. Two Contact Center members went to deliver these flyers to each of our City Council members and Mayor’s Offices as well as the County Commissioners.

Kathryn Warren, a member of the Contact Center, stated, “I’m in my 70s now.  Social Security is my only means of income support.  Without it I would be homeless on the street.  I also care not only about myself but the young people growing up.  Social Security should be there for them too!”

LTE in Cincinnati Enquirer

LTE in Cincinnati Enquirer

Published in the August 9 edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer:

August 14, 2015 marks the 80th Anniversary of the Social Security Act. Although I was not around in 1935, my grandmother, when she was still living, used to talk about the importance of this event  and how much she appreciated President FDR. In a way I feel that I knew this President too because of how my grandmother spoke so well of him.  She was a hardworking farmer’s wife. She industriously raised chickens for “egg money” and grew a bountiful vegetable garden each year.  She distributed the food she raised to those who were going through very hard times.  Even though my grandmother was raised in the Appalachian hills, and women at that time lacked many rights to equality, she kept up with the newspapers and was a vociferous reader of the daily news until she passed in 1989.  Even a woman of such humble roots as she read about political events of the time.

So on this 80th Anniversary I am writing to honor both President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and my grandmother, Dora Owens (maiden name), who passed on a little bit of American history to me of what she knew of the times in the 20th Century, from World War One until the 1980s.  President FDR was her favorite President, not just because he was a Democrat, but because my grandmother said he genuinely cared about the well-being of the American people.  The human caliber of people like President FDR and my grandmother make me proud to live in America that produced people like them.  May the legacy of the Social Security Act of 1935 live on as long as there is the United States of America.

“We can never insure one hundred percent of the population against one hundred percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life, but we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age.” –President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Lynn Williams
Cincinnati, OH

Letter by the Executive Director of Contact Center

Letter by the Executive Director of Contact Center

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Billionaires should pay Social Security fair share

Currently income earners who make over $118,500 per year do not pay Social Security payroll taxes on income over that limit. As a percentage of their income, a minimum-wage earner pays a higher percentage of their earned income into the Social Security system!

Thankfully, one of our Ohio senators is paying attention to this discrepancy. Why shouldn’t all workers, including millionaires and yes, billionaires, be paying their fair share? Sen. Sherrod Brown recently co-sponsored legislation to expand funding for Social Security so it is solidly funded for decades to come for future Americans. He also co-sponsored an amendment to oppose funding cuts to the Social Security Program. Social Security is an earned benefit that lifts 22 million people out of poverty each year. For older women, age 65 and older, the poverty rate would increase from 11 percent of this population to 48 percent without Social Security benefits.

Thank you, Senator Brown, for taking a strong stand for our retirement security. Your support for seniors’ retirement security is a stand for justice, mercy and caring during this time of Easter/Passover.

Lynn Williams, Clifton

Contact Center Valentine’s Day of Training and Direct Actions

Contact Center Valentine’s Day of Training and Direct Actions

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A group of the Contact Center’s Grassroots Ambassadors led a leadership training on February 12 focused on building the skills of their thirteen new ambassadors and prepare them to stay on message, share their stories, practice roleplaying meetings with legislators, and practice public testimony.

After the training, the grassroots ambassadors delivered three gigantic Valentine’s Day cards signed by Contact Center members to the offices of the Congressional legislators in downtown Cincinnati. They also took the opportunity to deliver letters expressing how important Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is to many of the organization’s members and their families and opposing cuts. The two “broken heart” Valentine’s delivered to Senator Rob Portman and Rep. Steve Chabot read: “Stop breaking our hearts, Congress! No cuts to SSDI! Have a heart for disabled seniors!”

They delivered a huge heart to Senator Sherrod Brown that said, “Thank you for being a Social Security Champion! Thank you for being willing to Expand and Strengthen Social Security. You have a heart for seniors!”

With their Valentine Deliveries finished for the year, the Contact Center grassroots ambassadors are looking ahead to how they can send a strong message on April Fool’s Day while Congress is home for the Spring recess.