Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Daniella Levine, the Catalyst

By Kyle Swenson Thursday, Nov 28 2013    

Daniella Levine has a joke for you. It's a zinger, but it also nicely packages the philosophy that powers her life's work.

Daniella Levine"How many social workers does it take to change a light bulb?"

How many?
"It doesn't matter how many," she says. "The light bulb has to really want to change."

Since throwing open the doors to Catalyst Miami (then known as the Human Services Coalition) in 1996, Levine has tried to kindle that will to change.

Today, the 30-employee nonprofit offers a smorgasbord of services in areas such as financial assistance — from how-tos on taxes and home ownership to health care. It's a one-stop shop for people looking to pull up to the middle class, or just hang in there.

But what separates Catalyst's founder, president, and CEO's effort from other members of the "helping professions" is that she aims to get her clients to a point where they don't need her anymore. Levine doesn't tiptoe around the sad truth of charitable impulses: Too often, an uncharitable power dynamic exists between the helper and the helped.

"People in the helping professions often are themselves disempowered," Levine says matter-of-factly.
"Very often, their self worth is based on their ability to take charge of someone else's life and make that person dependent."

According to her, the key is to remind her clients about their own self-sufficiency.

Part of Levine's effectiveness as a community organ­izer is anchored in her past. Born in New York City, she comes from a family that always stressed giving back and working for a more just society. "I was blessed with a happy home life. I never suffered for anything. My family believed in me. So that makes you more confident about being able to make a difference."

Levine received her bachelor's degree in psychology from Yale and a law degree and graduate degree in social work from Columbia. Before starting Catalyst, she was in the trenches with local aid organizations such as Legal Services of Greater Miami and the Department of Children and Families. But only by striking out on her own was she able to throw everything into the blender — her background, her degrees, and her mantra of self-empowerment.

"Catalyst is an emanation of my soul," she says. "And I believe in pulling people in the right direction instead of pushing them."

Friday, November 8, 2013

Ten States Have Banned Cities And Counties From Passing Paid Sick Days

By Bryce Covert on November 6, 2013

paid-sick-days-rally 3x2
Ten states — Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin — have passed preemption laws that ban all cities and counties from enacting paid sick days bills, according to an analysis from the Economic Policy Institute.

Preemption EPI
As can be seen from the chart, momentum has picked up recently, with seven of those laws passed this year alone. They have also been introduced in at least 14 state legislatures, and Pennsylvania is currently considering one that was introduced in October.

Big business has been helping to fuel this tide of legislation. As the report notes, “In each of the ten states, the bills’ sponsors included members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). And in each case, the bills were adopted following vigorous advocacy by corporate lobbies such as the Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business, and Restaurant Association.”

Yet even though these business opponents claim that paid sick days would create unbearable costs, the evidence from those places that do have paid sick leave shows that they can be beneficial. Business growth and job growth have been strong under Seattle’s law. Job growth has also been strong in San Francisco and its law enjoys strong business support. The policies in Washington, DC and Connecticut have come at little cost for businesses. In fact, expanding DC’s current law would net employers $2 million in savings even with potential costs factored in. On the other hand, the average employer loses $225 per worker each year thanks to lost productivity when they get sick and can’t take paid leave.

And as the momentum grows for preemption bills, so too does the push for paid sick days. Six cities and Connecticut have them on the books, and fights are underway in Newark, NJ; Tacoma, WA; Massachusetts; New Jersey; and Vermont.

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