Monday, November 26, 2012

Why We Need Paid Sick Days

When we think about public policy, it sometimes appears as though the moral substance of a law is at odds with the practical realities needed to solve the problem at hand. However, in the case of paid sick days, it's really a win-win situation.

The ethical imperative for a paid sick days ordinance stands on its own. Elose Arestil, featured in "Sick and Fired," a report by Family Values @ Work, lost her job at a restaurant in Miami for taking a day off to go to the doctor after being injured at work. Throughout her subsequent job search she only received $173 as unemployment compensation. 

In the case of Felix Trinidad, from Brooklyn, the result was much more tragic. Felix was diagnosed with stomach cancer a year (of pain) too late. He could not afford to take a day off, and when he finally did, the four hours he needed to visit a doctor were deducted from his paycheck. Paid sick days would have saved his life.

Stories like these are countless. About 90 percent of restaurant workers, both nationwide and in Miami, do not have access to paid sick days. And even though stories like Felix's are not likely to represent the majority of those affected, there is a real negative impact on everyone denied this right. When working paycheck to paycheck, a day out of work could mean a week's worth of groceries for a single mother, for example. This emotional and physical stress put on those that are most vulnerable can only move society backwards.

The bigger picture

An article by Grantmakers In Health (GHI) demonstrates the health risks of not having paid sick days for whole communities. A study cited in their report suggests that seven million people may have been infected with the H1N1 virus through people that were working while sick. We all pay the costs of failing to prevent the spread of transmittable diseases--in lives, public health costs, or both.

Many backers of the recently introduced Paid Sick Days Ordinance, which would require employers in Miami-Dade to offer paid sick leave, say the initiative would help businesses as well as workers. Ellen Bravo from Family Values @ Work comments in a Huffington Post article that businesses are likely to reduce turnover costs if they offer paid sick days. This seems plausible if we look at the costs of paying for sick days: less than 8 cents an hour for someone earning minimum wage.

As the previous cost-benefit analysis suggests, paid sick days promise more for all. However, this is more than a cold calculation. It is an issue of human dignity, of finding points of resistance against the invisible force that deems low-wage workers dispensable. Above being an issue about profit generation for local business, it is an issue of putting an end to a condition that makes it difficult for families to take care of themselves and makes them vulnerable to falling into unemployment, poverty and sometimes life-threatening medical conditions.

Moving forward

The Miami-Dade ordinance was voted down 8-4 at its first reading on November 20, which means we now have the challenge of carrying this message to more people, workers and business owners alike. The ordinance can be presented at another reading if we can get the votes of seven commissioners, or if we wait six months. Given that we need to gain the support of the commissioners who did not vote for the ordinance anyway, we cannot lose time and momentum waiting for six months to pass. 

Kit Rafferty, South Florida Jobs with Justice's Executive Director, says that getting the support of businesses and adding 15,000 signed postcards to the 5,000 that have been collected so far are some next steps in the campaign. Additionally, several organizations, Catalyst Miami included, have started planning for a series of town hall meetings on the subject. If you'd like to get involved please contact Kit at

Another way to help is to urge your County Commissioner to vote yes on the ordinance at the next reading. Below is the contact information of the Commissioners that voted against the ordinance. To find out who your Commissioner is click here.

District 4 - Sally Heyman

District 5 - Bruno Barreiro

District 6 - Rebeca Sosa

District 8 - Lynda Bell

District 9 - Dennis Moss

District 10 - Javier Souto

District 11 - Juan Zapata

District 12 - Jose "Pepe" Diaz

District 13 - Esteban Bovo

Thank your commissioner if they voted for the ordinance:

District 1 - Barbara Jordan

District 2 - 
Jean Monestime

District 3 - Audrey Edmonson

District 7 - Xavier Suarez

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Will you join us for Give Miami Day?

The attitude of gratitude is among us, and we at Catalyst Miami are thankful for everyone in our community sharing their passion for service, drive for collaboration, and vision for Miami each day.

We are grateful for the diverse and collaborative community continuing to support our programs and community outreach. This year, with the support of our community, we have witnessed students at Booker T. Washington and Miami Beach High School advocate on behalf of themselves and their peers through the SoundOut youth engagement program. We have seen recent retirees in our ReServe program placed in meaningful part-time work experiences throughout Miami-Dade. We have held engaging discussions that bridge the nonprofit sector and community members through our Democracy Series. We have brought together over 40 nonprofit organizations for the latest installment of Imagine Miami. And we have placed young adults in public sector jobs to serve full-time through the AmeriCorps VISTA and Public Allies programs.
Through your generosity, we see just how much a single act of kindness – whether it be a volunteer giving their time or a donor contributing money to sustain our programs  can make an enormous impact in our local community.
So, how can you continue in the spirit of giving?
Join Catalyst Miami on December 12 for the inaugural Give Miami Day sponsored by The Miami Foundation.
On December 12, you and others will have the opportunity to make a charitbale donation through Give Miami Day, a 24-hour online giving event for area nonprofits.
Through giving, you will help Catalyst Miami's programs and outreach efforts. The Miami Foundation’s inaugural Give Miami Day will begin at midnight on December 12 and end at midnight on December 13. You can log in to the Give Miami website to donate at any point during this time. The Miami Foundation will match a percentage of all the proceeds raised to further support the programs and outreach efforts of Catalyst Miami and other participating nonprofits making a difference in the community.
Will you join us for this event? Commit now to donating to Catalyst on Give Miami Day.
Also, follow "Catalyst Miami" on Facebook and subscribe to our “Connect” newsletter for the latest news on our Give Miami Day campaign and stories on how Catalyst Miami connects for good.
Our community thrives because of you. Thank you in advance for your support!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Growing in the Garden: Pedro Gonzales's Leadership Journey

On the eve of preparing for the 72nd Ramble Festival earlier this month at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Pedro Gonzales meshed right in with other staff members and volunteers helping to add finishing touches to this beloved community event that brings art, antiques, rare books, a farmers market and the largest plant sale to the South Florida community.  

Pedro is supporting event planning and educational programming at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden through this year’s AmeriCorps Public Allies Miami program. He brings prior experience tutoring children and a passion for biology and horticulture to his job at Fairchild. Since beginning his service journey in August, Pedro has demonstrated dedication, commitment and leadership at his host organization and in the community.

On any given day, you can find Pedro applying new gardening and teaching techniques, assisting staff with educational programs, and organizing field studies for youth who visit the garden during the week.
“I like the challenge of making myself and the information about what we do at Fairchild make sense to the little ones,” Pedro said. “I’ve gotten better at teaching.”
Not only has the Public Allies experience helped Pedro develop his natural leadership abilities, but it has also given him newfound confidence in public speaking, facilitating and mentoring youth. He's looking forward to the remainder of his service year—working to enhance “green initiatives” and promote educational awareness to the youth he serves each day.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Jerry Bethel Turns His Life, the Lives of Others Around

Jerry Bethel is an AmeriCorps VISTA member completing his first year of service at Catalyst Miami. He works closely with the Prosperity Campaign—helping low-wage families and individuals connect to quality healthcare programs, establish financial security and enhance their quality of life. Jerry shares his personal reflections on connecting with Catalyst Miami at a significant point in his life.
Before I came to Catalyst Miami, I was going through a rough time. I was homeless and living on the streets with my girlfriend, who was pregnant at the time.
I connected to Catalyst Miami through a friend who introduced me to the Parent Leadership Training Institute. Being involved in this program taught me how to make changes within my community. I gained a lifetime of experiences and connections that I will forever appreciate.
Shortly after finishing the Parent Leadership Training Institute, my life turned around drastically. I'm no longer homeless. I found shelter, and I became an AmeriCorps VISTA member.
My role as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Catalyst Miami allows me to create and expand programs that ultimately bring low-income individuals and communities out of poverty. I connected with this program because I see a bit of my own story wrapped in the work I am doing for others in the community.
None of this would have possible without the knowledge and connections I made at Catalyst Miami.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Post Election Reflections on Changing Miami Electorate

Written by Daniella Levine, Catalyst Miami President/CEO

Hello from San Francisco where I am attending the Public Policy Action Institute of Independent Sector. I am proud to serve on the Public Policy Committee and have enjoyed attending these Institutes and the annual conferences for the past 3 years, with thanks to Miguel Milanes and Allegany Franciscan Ministries that have sponsored my attendance.

I was asked to give an overview at this session of the election from a South Florida bird's-eye view. Here are the thoughts I presented.

Headlines: 'Voter Suppression Failed.' 'Cubans are going "blue" in Rubio's back yard.' 'Obama won Florida two days after the rest of the country.'

Digging down, we note the following critical factors shaping the results:

  • Shortened early voting period led to increased scramble for absentee voting.
  • Courts curtailed Governor Scot's initiative to purge immigrant voter rolls and voter registration restrictions.
  • 11 legislature-driven constitutional amendments led to a 12-page ballots.
  • Lines as long as 5-7 hours (thanks to voter grit and determination) led to innovations including voters with baby lines (leading to people coming back with babies).
  • Florida Hispanics voted 61% for Democratic candidate for president (up from 58% in 2008); 83% in the I-4 corridor in Central Florida.
  • Miami-Dade County Hispanics voted 48% for President Obama; 51% in the Hispanic concentrated precincts. In other words, the support for Republican-party issues has declined in the Cuban American stronghold of Miami-Dade County and is a sign of changing trends.

 What does this mean? Much has been written about the changing demographics of this election. Since all politics is local, it behooves all of us to draw from these lessons to think how to engage our residents in the years ahead, both in electoral politics and in the underlying issues that drove the results: access to healthcare, jobs, education and fair taxation. Catalyst Miami is well positioned to grow engagement through our range of individual and organizational civic leadership programs.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Imagine an Entrepreneurial Miami

Video recap of No Margin, No Mission consultants and nonprofit attendees sharing highlights from the Earned Income Workshop held on October 30, 2012.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Meet Our Emerging Leaders: Profiles of AmeriCorps Members

Catalyst Miami is proud to host many amazing AmeriCorps members, who are giving a year of service through the VISTA and Public Allies programs. This dynamic group of young professionals are supporting key programs, from the Prosperity Campaign to ReServe and SoundOut to Connect for Good communications; everyone is working to build capacity here at Catalyst Miami. Meet our emerging leaders:

Felix Acuña won't stop believing, holding on to the feeling. He is a native of Chile, a land of poets (as he likes to think). He is a recent graduate of New College where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. His motivation to get a  Psychology degree is questionable, so he is considering graduate studies in Sociology or Education. He hopes to get involved in a long term project enabling him do his part in saving the world from its own neglect. He is the New Media Coordinator at Catalyst Miami. His social media skills are applied to his work as a moderator for the Miami Thrives Network.

Elmasie Antoine is a first year AmeriCorps VISTA at Catalyst Miami. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from the University of Central Florida and is currently pursuing a Master’s of Nonprofit Management. In her down time, she loves to read and practice creative writing. She looks forward to a productive year in the Catalyst family!
Jerry Percy Bethel is a native of St. Louis, Missouri and grew up in Miami, Florida. He joined Catalyst Miami as a VISTA in August 2012 after graduating from the Parent Leadership Training Institute at Catalyst Miami. He is looking forward to supporting the Prosperity Campaign during his term of service.  Jerry enjoys playing Fantasy Football and is currently undefeated!
Jill Gedeon is a native of Tampa, Florida. She came to Catalyst Miami as an AmeriCorps VISTA during the summer of 2012 to support the department of Civic Leadership as a Network Engagement Coordinator. She facilitates the 22-week SoundOut program for youth engagement and is helping to coordination of this year’s series of Imagine Miami conferences.  Fun facts: Jill has traveled to Haiti three times, and she met basketball player Ronnie Turiaft of the Miami Heat on her first day of work as an AmeriCorps VISTA.
Vaughan Alexander Johnson is a Chicago, Illinois native. He graduated magna cum with a degree in Aeronautical Science from Florida Memorial University in the spring of 2012. He aspires to be the sole proprietor of several renowned business ventures, including a marketing/promotions firm and a nightclub. When asked what drives him the most, he smiles and says his ambition is purely a result of his mother's legacy and the promises he made to both her and his sister. He is a Public Ally working with the Prosperity Campaign this year.
Mnar Muhareb is a native of Miami and recent graduate of Florida International University, where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. She plans to help better Miami with the help of peers and community during here service term with Public Allies Miami. She supports the SoundOut and Miami Thrives programs as a facilitator and program recruiter.
Kaplan Ocbe is a native of Ft. Lauderdale and a recent graduate of the University of Miami. He holds a Bachelors in Business and majored in economics and marketing and minored in English. He moved to Miami in his sophomore year of college and has since decided to stay indefinitely. After graduating from UM, he began working in property management and commercial real estate preceeding his journey with the Public Allies.  He has a long history of grassroots organizing for causes such as labor rights, student’s issues and the rights of low-income communities.
Born and raised in Miami, Philip Picaza had always suspected that he might someday take up a more active role in the civic life of the Magic City. While studying Journalism at Miami-Dade College, he stumbled across "A Tale of Two Cities," a study released by The Center for Citizenship and Democracy that documented the dire state of civic engagement in his hometown. Sensing opportunity for growth from what might otherwise be deemed a dismal scenario, Philip was catalyzed to action by this study and set out in search of a way to become involved. Months later, he was accepted into the Public Allies program and placed as a marketing coordinator at Catalyst Miami, where he develops communications platforms and promotes events for the many programs offered here.

Sarafina Robinson  moved to Miami from Durham, North Carolina to begin her service term as a Public Ally. She is working as the Communications Coordinator at Catalyst Miami, supporting various program initiatives through story-telling and marketing. She graduated from Furman University with a degree in Communication Studies. She enjoys traveling, exploring various cultures and engaging in the arts community. She is looking forward to her work as a Public Ally and is eager to engage with the Miami-Dade community.  

Jaheera White is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she majored in Sociology and African American Studies. She came to Catalyst Miami as Community Learning Coordinator VISTA AmeriCorps Member where she recruits local volunteers for specific program initiatives at Catalyst Miami. After her AmeriCorps service term, Jaheera hopes to attend law school.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Job Creation and Taxes? Has anything trickled down?

Prepared for Daniella Levine

With election season near its climax, it's important to closely examine an idea the two candidates have debated: “trickle-down economics.” 

Although the term does not refer to any comprehensive macroeconomic theory, it alludes to a strategy previous presidents have adopted: cutting taxes, primarily for “job creators,” under the assumption that corporations and wealthy people will then reinvest the money and generate new jobs.

Stated this way, trickle-down economics sounds good. We could even say that, regardless of tax policies, a trickle-down phenomenon should be expected because big business are the ones with the highest potential for reducing unemployment. These claims raise questions, namely how tax rates for big businesses have affected job creation in the past, and how the candidates compare in regards to their tax policies.

One way of looking at the relationship between tax rates and unemployment rates is by examining whether recent tax cuts for big corporations have led to high levels of job creation. In a 2010 post for the New York Times Economix blog, David Leonhardt showed how the Bush-era tax cuts did not have their intended effect. In fact, economic growth in the following years was the lowest since WWII (see graph to the right). More importantly, those tax cuts, although applied to all levels of income, benefit the high earners the most.

The other way is looking at the issue is seeing whether higher taxes on the wealthy have been detrimental to the economy and job creation. Taxes on high-earners (individuals making more than $200,000 a year) were at their highest rate, 39.6%, during the presidency of Bill Clinton. That administration also saw low unemployment rates, high GDP growth, and the end of a public debt that had been increasing since Reagan (leading to a budget surplus in 2000, actually).

So what are the presidential candidates offering? According to a New York Times article, Romney's and Obama's plans don't differ greatly in their impact on people with incomes lower than $200,000. Where we'd see a more significant difference would be in taxes for those with higher incomes. Obama promises to raise those taxes to the rate applied during Clinton's presidency, while Romney wants to maintain rates similar to those established during Bush's government. 

What do you think? Is tax policy going to affect the way you vote?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Advocacy is in season!

This morning, nonprofit workers representing fifteen different service providers attended the first session of Harvest Democracy, an advanced training series on services and social change at the Catalyst Miami office.
Catalyst Miami's 4-part Harvest Democracy program is designed to strengthen the understanding, commitment and skills of nonprofit staff and board members in regards to advocacy.

Thanks to the generous support of Allegany Franciscan Ministries, Harvest Democracy will help nonprofits accomplish their missions by incorporating advocacy and policy analysis into their organizational strategic planning. In addition, fundamental values for effective advocates at all levels of government will be discussed.
Participants who complete the program will:
• Understand the importance of advocacy in nonprofit leadership
• Learn to engage constituents and
• Develop leadership tools to protect their services through client engagement
Notable Results from the last Democracy series:
*100% of evaluation results show improved "aptitude as an advocate," with 75% of them rating their newfound confidence as "very good" or "excellent."
*100% felt confident in their ability to generate a strategy to engage constituents and decision-makers, while 75% had reported insecurity in this are prior to completing the program.

*88.9% reported engaging in new coalitions or alliances over the course of the program or expressed their intention to do so.