We are an on-the-ground and online grassroots organization with more than a million members working to increase family economic security, decrease discrimination against women and moms, and to build a nation where businesses and families can thrive. Established in 2006,[we] are organizing and speaking out to improve public policy and to change the national dialogue on issues that are critically important to America's families.
My guest today is Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director of MomsRising.
Joan Brunwasser: Welcome to OpEdNews, Kristin. I'm willing to bet that many of our readers are not familiar with your organization. Can you tell us a bit about about it, please?
Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner: Thanks so much for including MomsRising and sharing our work with your audience. In short: MomsRising is an organization for moms and everyone who has a mom. It's for anyone who has a bellybutton, essentially! We are an on-the-ground and online grassroots organization with more than a million members working to increase family economic security, decrease discrimination against women and moms, and to build a nation where businesses and families can thrive. Established in 2006, MomsRising and its members, audience, and volunteers are organizing and speaking out to improve public policy and to change the national dialogue on issues that are critically important to America's families, including fair pay, paid family leave, health and health care, childcare, childhood nutrition, criminal justice reform, immigration policy reform, and gun safety. MomsRising also maintains a Spanish language website:Mama'sConPoder.org.
A MomsRising member speaks out for equal pay on Capitol Hill
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JB: Your agenda resonates with me. How and why did you get involved? Please share your story with our readers.
K R-F: I'm one of the founders of MomsRising. The organization grew out of a book that I co-authored with the other MomsRising founder, Joan Blades. In the book, The Motherhood Manifesto, Joan and I argued for sweeping change in America's support for mothers and families. We saw that radical shifts were needed in both the public and private sectors to make parenting and the workplace compatible and proposed concrete solutions to the obstacles facing modern moms. Those issues were the basis for the MomsRising agenda. Now, ten years later, we have more than a million members, an active on-the-ground and e-outreach program that offers our members easy and fast ways to take action on a range of issues that affect all moms, a blog and social media reach with more than three million readers, and even a radio program!
Fighting for a better world is in my blood. Before working with Joan, I was deeply involved in cutting edge politics and policy analysis for more than a decade. I worked as a consultant in the field of political strategy and policy analysis for several major environmental groups, and before that, I developed the political and field programs for the Washington Conservation Voters. While there, I created a model statewide grassroots program to elect, endorse, and support environmentally responsible candidates, which was widely replicated and I'm proud to say is still used today!
JB: Wow! So, it was no fluke that your good idea and platform have caught on like they have. You had the chops to pull this off. What is MomsRising working on right now, Kristin?
K R-F: MomsRising has several campaigns going right now, as we always do. Here are just a few"
We're encouraging city leaders to support access to high-quality early learning opportunities for kids by sharing with them a resource guide,Strong Start for Strong Cities, with proven best practices on advancing high-quality early learning at the city level.
We are working alongside several other organizations to call forcommon sense gun safety laws and calling for an end to gun violence in all its forms, including racism and violence against the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, we were a part of the #DisarmHate rally in Washington DC in August.
We are calling on Congress toreform the sentencing laws that have put roughly 600,0000 women, mostly mothers, behind bars for nonviolent drug-related crimes, so that they can get the treatment and counseling they need and be reunited with their children.
And we're urging Congress to take the next step and pass apaid family leave bill. It's been 23 years since the Family and Medical Leave Act was signed into law and it was a good first step, but it only guarantees job-protected leave to about half of the working people in our country. And it's unpaid. Too many people don't have access to that leave and too many can't afford to take unpaid leave. What working people really need is paid time off so that they're able to pay their bills and care for their families. Right now, the birth of a child is a leading cause of poverty spells in the United States. A paid leave law would help to address that terrible reality.
We are also watching this election closely because we're very concerned about the tone and tenor of the language being used in the presidential campaign. Moms and dads know that words matter and when children hear adults who are supposed to be setting an example using racial stereotypes, demeaning women, calling for violence, mocking people with disabilities and worse, it affects them deeply. We are asking everyone to call out this behavior and hold people accountable by tweeting about it and using the hashtag#NotOnOurWatch.
And, of course, we are encouraging moms to use their outside voices, speak up about the issues that matter to them and pledge toVOTE!
MomsRising members unleash 'the Power of Onesie' to call for paid family leave 2818883664_11208acfc4_z
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JB: Great! In addition, I believe you have a campaign regarding the Zika virus. What can you tell us about that?
K R-F: We do have a Zika campaign! As confirmed U.S. cases of the Zika virus grew, some leaders in Congress decided to adjourn Congress for vacation without passing emergency funding to fight the virus! Zika presents a huge threat to the health of pregnant women -- it can cause microcephaly and other serious brain birth defects. It may also cause Guillain-Barre syndrome in adults, a disease of the nervous system which can cause muscle weakness and paralysis.
MomsRising is urging people towrite to their Members of Congress and tell them to return to Washington and pass the emergency funding bill. There is currently no cure for the Zika virus and now, in some places, there are local mosquitoes carrying it, so the health threat is greater than ever. Without a vote from Congress to appropriate the needed funds, the Administration has been forced use money that was supposed to fund efforts to find treatments for cancer and diabetes, treat Ebola, support substance abuse programs, and provide heating oil subsidies for low-income families.
And it's nowhere near enough money. HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell has said that this additional money will last only through September and then, with no action from Congress, federal agencies will have to significantly scale back efforts to fight the virus when funds run out.
JB: It sounds like a clear no-brainer to me. We're all at risk; it's beyond scary that our representatives are gambling with our health. Why did Congress adjourn without taking this up? Has Zika become a political football like so much else?
K R-F: It's hard to say why some leaders in Congress made such a bad decision. Leading health officials, including experts in infectious disease and people at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agreed that we were facing a serious health threat and predicted that the disease would spread to other states. And already, there's areport of the virus in South Dakota, which is a long, long way from Florida.
Whatever the reason for refusing to fund the president's emergency request, key leaders in Congress need to set aside all politics and address this serious and deadly disease. Our nation's public health system cannot be expected to prevent and treat a disease without adequate funding and it's not prepared for an outbreak of the magnitude that's expected. If this is just political opportunism, we need to be sure to let our representatives know that it's outrageous that they would endanger the lives and health of Americans for cynical political gain.
MomsRising members at a news conference calling for emergency funding to combat the Zika virus
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JB: I recently read some quite disturbing news about EpiPen. Then, this week, I saw that MomsRising is on that issue as well. Can you bring our readers up to date, please?
K R-F: Of course! Mylan, the manufacturer of this live-saving emergency allergy drug, has been regularly increasing the price of the EpiPen, since 2009, when it acquired it. The most recent increase was 450 percent over the price just three years ago, to more than $600 for a set of two pens. That puts the cost of this crucial drug out of reach of many families that have either no insurance or insurance that requires them to pay out-of-pocket on the front end or to pay for a significant part of the drug's price.
I have a son who has severe, life-threatening food allergies and was astonished when I went to pick up two EpiPens for him and saw that the out-of-pocket cost at my local pharmacy was $730!
MomsRising immediately reached out to our members to ask them to sign on to a petition asking Mylan to reduce the price to something reasonable. We were one of many organizations calling on the company to reverse its decision and Mylan also heard an outcry from numerous public officials and faced the threat of a U.S. Senate investigation into the dramatic price increase.
In response, the firm issued a news release saying it would provide $300 coupons to some of the drug's purchasers. That's nowhere near adequate. Mylan has cynically capitalized on its monopoly on this drug to dramatically increase the price and line the pockets of its already well-paid executives. My son captured it perfectly: 'Companies who make lifesaving medicines like EpiPens deserve to make profits, but not at the expense of the lives of those they are supposed to help.'
We are calling on Mylanto act in good faith and really end its price-gouging. And we have evidence that it's possible: Canadian online pharmacies offer EpiPens for a little over a $100 per pen. That's still quite high for many Americans, but it's at least within a reasonable price range. MomsRising will continue to call on Mylan to truly lower the price of the EpiPen, and to increase access to this critical medicine, so that all people who need it can afford it.
JB: Agreed. Anything you'd like to add before we wrap this up?
K R-F: I really appreciate this opportunity to let your readers know about MomsRising and the work we're doing to put and keep the issues that affect moms and their families on the public agenda. We're proud of the many victories we've achieved in the last ten years, but we also know that we have a very long way to go before we have a nation with the range of policies that truly reflect our modern society. We also know that we can achieve that goal because mothers are a powerful and unstoppable force.
JB: So true. A pleasure speaking with you, Kristin. MomsRising has targeted a number of really critical issues affecting our families and, as you point out, anyone else with a bellybutton. I'm looking forward to getting updates on our progress. Thanks!
Massachusetts moms sent cookies to tell Senator Scott Brown, 'We NEED Fair Pay like New England Clam Chowder Needs Clams!'
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MomsRising Zika action
MomsRising EpiPen action
Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of transparency and the ability to accurately check and authenticate the vote cast, these systems can alter election results and therefore are simply antithetical to democratic principles and functioning.
Since the pivotal 2004 Presidential election, Joan has come to see the connection between a broken election system, a dysfunctional, corporate media and a total lack of campaign finance reform. This has led her to enlarge the parameters of her writing to include interviews with whistle-blowers and articulate others who give a view quite different from that presented by the mainstream media. She also turns the spotlight on activists and ordinary folks who are striving to make a difference, to clean up and improve their corner of the world. By focusing on these intrepid individuals, she gives hope and inspiration to those who might otherwise be turned off and alienated. She also interviews people in the arts in all their variations - authors, journalists, filmmakers, actors, playwrights, and artists. Why? The bottom line: without art and inspiration, we lose one of the best parts of ourselves. And we're all in this together. If Joan can keep even one of her fellow citizens going another day, she considers her job well done.
When Joan hit one million page views, OEN Managing Editor, Meryl Ann Butler interviewed her, turning interviewer briefly into interviewee. Read the interview here.
While the news is often quite depressing, Joan nevertheless strives to maintain her mantra: "Grab life now in an exuberant embrace!"
Joan has been Election Integrity Editor for OpEdNews since December, 2005. Her articles also appear at Huffington Post, RepublicMedia.TV and Scoop.co.nz.