#DebtFreeFuture Marches Forward, Big Wins on $15 and Paid Leave, Amazing MEJA Convening, and More!

Best of times, worst of times moment for our movement last week. But when we fight, we win!

Watch our #DebtFreeFuture campaign video! (Mickey Prout/PHENOM)

Hey PHENOMenal community!

Thanks for joining us for our seventh PHENOM weekly update! You can read last week’s update here. The Update will be taking a break for the next couple weeks, but we’ll still be building the movement so look out for the next edition on Friday, July 13th!

Building a #DebtFreeFuture Without Fair Share

The focus of last week’s update was the loss of the Fair Share Amendment. But we have charted a path forward for our #DebtFreeFuture campaign, and our fight for students and families across the state is just beginning.

Watch this amazing video about our fight for a #DebtFreeFuture. It features students holding up their amount of student debt to show the injustice against young people and says that we will fight even harder in the face of the Fair Share decision. Thanks to PHENOM secretary and Westfield State student organizer Mickey Prout for putting it together.

We have two actions for the #DebtFreeFuture campaign this week.First, join us for our first campaign call on Wednesday at 5PM. The call-in number is 515-739-1038, code 552079. Organizers from across the state will be confirming our summer organizing plan and talking about fall semester actions.We extended our #DebtFreeFuture Social Media Week of Action through the end of the week! Post a selfie with your debt with the hashtag and we’ll share it on PHENOM’s social media accounts. Click here to find out more information and for suggested actions.Amazing MEJA Statewide Convening Shows Strength of Our MovementWe had a great time at the MEJA Statewide Convening on Saturday! Sharing the room with hundreds of public education defenders working to build universal, free and equitable public education from pre-K through college was deeply empowering.

PHENOM President Amy Blanchette gave a fantastic speech during the morning program discussing her struggles with systemic poverty and how public higher ed has helped her take back her life. But it is extremely difficult to be a poor community college student, and we have a lot of work to do to build free public college that’s accessible to all. Watch and share.

Zac spoke in the afternoon program to inspire the crowd to action! He touched on many topics, but mainly he said that both PHENOM and MEJA are charting a path to fund our schools and colleges without the Fair Share Amendment. Everyone in the room was ready to fight back, take the next six months to find other progressive revenue, and demand the funding for students and families we know we deserve in January. Watch and share.

Click here for a great photo album, here to watch the Morning Speaking Program, and here to watch the Afternoon Speaking Program that inspired us all to action!

We Won $15 Minimum Wage and Paid Family and Medical Leave for All!

The corporate lobby stole the Fair Share “Millionaire’s Tax” Amendment last Monday, but on Wednesday, the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition won Paid Family and Medical Leave for five million Massachusetts residents and a $15 minimum wage for hundreds of thousands more.

While these two massive victories cannot be understated, there are serious issues with the compromise bills passed by the State House. It leaves behind retail workers by eliminating time-and-a-half on Sundays. It leaves behind tipped workers who won’t get one fair wage. It leaves behind municipal workers who are paid less than minimum wage.

Our coalition has real power, and now we have six free months. PHENOM is advocating for Raise Up Massachusetts to move forward with a plan to organize around two principles: (1) demanding the rich pay their Fair Share through alternative tax increases in January and (2) fighting to bring wage increases to all of the groups left out by the “grand bargain” compromise.

We must build a mass movement that actually empowers grassroots organizers and regular working people with control and influence, or we’re going to keep being forced into bad compromises in our future fights as well.

Further Reading and More News From Last Week

Zac was quoted in the Daily Hampshire Gazette regarding the anger of students and families facing yet another year of tuition and fee hikes at our public colleges. “I think it’s massively disappointing, and students and families are already going into so much debt and paying so much out of pocket. It’s incredibly disheartening to see not only Gov. Baker but also the state House of Representatives choose to cut funding for our public colleges and universities by not providing them with the funding increases that they need.” Read more and share.

A fantastic op-ed in the Washington Post advocates the cancellation of all student debt.
“Does forgiving $1.5 trillion in student debt over 10 years cost too much money? Republicans clearly didn’t think ‘$1.5 trillion’ sounded unreasonable when they forced through that amount in tax cuts for the rich.” Read more and share.

Frederick Kamara, a recent North Shore Community College grad, talks about struggling with hunger. We need to fund public higher ed so students aren’t forced to choose between tuition and food! Read more and share.

Worcester State University President Barry Maloney writes that we need to find the revenue to reinvest in public higher ed in the Worcester Telegram. “That’s why it pays – both for our economy as a whole, and for individuals – to earn a degree. And that’s why state officials should prioritize funding for public higher education.” Read more and share.

A story in the Boston Globe highlights the deep impact of student debt on young people in Massachusetts. The main drivers of young people moving back in with their parents are housing costs and massive student debt burdens. Read more.And that’s just some of what did last week.

  • The PHENOM Board gathered for a transitional Board Call to welcome our new board members and thank Kim and Colleen for years of dedicated service. We also discussed next steps after the Fair Share Amendment decision.
  • Zac attended the MEJA Steering Committee meeting on Tuesday to help chart a course for MEJA after the Fair Share decision.
  • Zac and Sydney attended the Raise Up Massachusetts Grassroots Meeting on Wednesday, when we voted to remove the Paid Family and Medical Leave ballot question from the ballot and move forward with the legislative bill to provide Paid Leave to all in Massachusetts!
  • Zac and Sydney attended Wednesday’s Immigrant Rights demonstration at the State House protesting Tr*mp’s obscene family separation policies, opposing detention, and pushing to abolish ICE! Read more and share.
  • Zac and Sydney also attended the anti-wage theft rally later that day. Thousands of students across the state illegally lose wages because employers refuse to pay them. The State House must act to change that. Read more and share.