Leaving Nebraska and Forward Equality

That Rally that started a lot of internal drama within the Omaha LGBT Community over my grassroots organizing.

That Rally that started a lot of internal drama within the Omaha LGBT Community over my grassroots organizing.

I decided to leave Forward Equality and most progressive grassroots organizing in Nebraska because I need to focus on my own well-being. Forward Equality has been a project of mine for about four years. Several friends and I formed Forward Equality in 2010 to work on progressive issues, at the time mostly queer issues. However, in the past couple of years moved to be focused on a variety of progressive issues.

Making the decision to leave Forward Equality and conclude all Forward Equality operations was very difficult for me. I personally invested a lot of my time and energy into Forward Equality and the progressive issues. Many of the issues were very personal for me.

tumblr_m6cqwlbVTa1qzhkvho1_500For instance, I am very passionate about healthcare being a universal human right because I personally know that continuous treatment for chronic medical conditions saves lives and so does preventive healthcare services. I am also very passionate about workers’ rights and a living wage because I have seen firsthand how poverty hurts children and families. Not to forget how discrimination, harassment, and bullying affects all humans especially youth and how it is literally killing our youth. 

 

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Having an awesome time rallying against HATE

In addition, it is difficult for me to leave Forward Equality and the progressive community in Nebraska because Nebraska is my birthplace. I grew up there. I don’t want to give up on making Nebraska a safe and welcoming place. I don’t want to let Nebraska continue to be a place that I feel shameful to be from. I want to someday be proud of coming from Nebraska. 

Me in Pre-op with Diane and family

Me in Pre-op with Diane and family

All of these progressive issues are so important to me, I cannot even use words to express how it feels to have worked on them for so long and then need to move on. However, after some discussions with my support network and healthcare team, I decided to conclude all of my progressive grassroots organizing in Nebraska. 

In these discussions, I also had to decide if I wanted to disclose why this is needed. I am still not sure the answer to that or if there is a right or wrong answer. Therefore, I will say this; Nebraska in general contains a lot of painful and hurtful events and statements. This includes many of the attitudes and lack of inclusion I faced there while organizing around many of the progressive issues I cared greatly about. Overall, some of what happened there and what was said was harmful to my health. Nevertheless, there was still a lot of empowering and awesome events and statements that helped me learn and grow. 

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Having an awesome time with Forward Equality volunteers rallying for equal marriage rights and the defeat of Nebraska’s superhate marriage amendment (416).

 

From April of this year on, I will be moving forward and working on those progressive issues that do not hurt my well-being. Thus, I will focus my progressive grassroots organizing in Iowa and I will only exert the physical and emotional energy that is within my ability. 

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It’s time for Congress to Act on Climate Change!

ClimateAction1It’s sad that in 2014, we have more than 130 members of Congress that deny the science on climate change. They even deny what 97 percent of scientists agree on, which is that climate change is real. 

Here are the facts:

  • The sea level has rose over 6 inches in the last century and in the last decade the rate has nearly doubled. 
  • Global temperatures have increased since 1880 with most of the warming occurring after 1970 and the last 10 years have been the warmest. 
  • The oceans are absorbing most of the increased heat, with the oceans warming about 0.30 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969.
  • The ice sheets are shrinking. Greenland lost 36-60 cubic miles of ice per year between 2002 & 2006 and Antarctica lost about 36 cubic miles between 2002 & 2005.
  • Arctic sea ice is melting. 
  • Glaciers are retreating everywhere including in the Alps, Himalayas, and Rockies. 
  • We are having more extreme weather and the number of record high temperatures has been increasing while the number of record low temperatures are decreasing. 

*Source: NASA Climate Change

ClimateAction

 

ClimateAction2

 

The climate change deniers in Congress refuse to open their eyes and wake up. They refuse to protect the environment for my generation and generations to come.

This is why I stand with the 31 United States Senators who led an overnight session a couple of weeks ago urging their fellow colleagues to act on climate change. I also stand with President Barack H. Obama and his plan to combat climate change.

President Obama’s Plan to Combat Climate Change:

  1. Put limits on how much carbon pollution power plants can create
  2. Double the production of clean energy by 2020
  3. Prepare the U.S. for the impacts of climate change.

I urge you to stand up and take action on the climate! Please stand up with me and hold our elected officials accountable. Go here to help out: #ClimateAction

Why Obamacare is important to me

1479020_10201819868972906_734981903_nMy name is Mika Covington and I am a first generation Iowan. I grew up in a small town in Nebraska in a middle class family with three siblings. Life was difficult for my family because I was born with a rare disease called Cystinosis. Cystinosis is a rare metabolic disease that causes early cell death and it slowly destroys my organs including my kidneys, liver, and eyes. There is no cure for Cystinosis, however there is some amazing research being done at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) with stem cells. Because of having this disease my parents always were worried about how to pay for my medical care and still pay for all the other bills. It was always a struggle for them.

I am now 22 years old and live in Council Bluffs, Iowa where I am working on getting some college classes done at Iowa Western Community College while recovering from a kidney transplant that I had last year at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC). Because of my disease and having the kidney transplant, I cannot work and so I am on disability. Luckily, because of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), my insurance cannot put a lifetime cap on my coverage and when I am able to work, again I cannot be denied coverage because of having a pre-existing condition.

Image from google

Image from google

Image from google

Image from google

This spring I volunteered to be an organizing fellow with Organizing for Action because I believe that healthcare is a human right and I want to be sure that as many people as possible can get covered through the ACA. I believe it is important to make sure Iowans are educated about what the ACA is and how it is already benefiting them. Unfortunately, many Congressional Republicans want to repeal and defund the ACA. They refuse to help kids and young adults like me to get the lifesaving healthcare services because their plan is to let insurance companies put lifetime caps on insurance and deny people like me coverage because of having a pre-existing condition.

As an organizer with OFA my goal is to make sure that doesn’t happen and make sure everyone understands what the ACA is and how they can get covered through it. I want to stand up for those who cannot speak for themselves and to stand up for the least of these.

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,400 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Unions are Vital to Economic Justice

ohiounionsUnions are important to the working class and here’s why. We do not work for ourselves or for one another; we work for our employers who organize the workplaces so that we (the worker) cannot exert control by our actions. We do not work for the fun of it. We work because we need to, to survive, to pay our bills and to support our families.

In our nation, the ability to access money is life or death matter and the employers will exploit that to their benefit. They will objectify us, so that they can make more money. All they care about is their bottom line (profits). (Michael D. Yates, Why Unions Matter, Monthly Review Press New York. 1998)

From Think Progress

From Think Progress

We need unions because of the decline of the middle class, which began, with the decline of union membership according to a 2011 study in the American Sociological Review by Bruce Western of Harvard University and Jake Rosenfeld of the University of Washington. This is seen every day, as more Americans are working in low-wage jobs and little to no benefits. (Politico)

Legally, without unions, workers are just “at-will” employees. This means that they can be fired, demoted, or transferred for any reason and sometimes without a reason. Without unions, the employers are free to treat us as they wish, which includes cutting our pay and even eliminating our benefits.

Image from Think Progress

Image from Think Progress

Currently many of our workplaces are factories of authoritarianism destroying our democracy. This authoritarianism diminishes our standing as a democracy in the world. This is why workers who spend 8 or more hours a day obeying their employers demands with no rights, or to participate in workplace decisions that affect them, do not participate in most of our civil society outside of the workplace because of being trained to just obey. Basically, the rule of most workplaces is that the management dictates and the workers obey or they are fired. Because of authoritarianism in the workplace, workers have no right to freedom of speech, which is one of our nation’s most cherished freedoms. Nevertheless, that freedom is not granted in the workplaces because the United State Constitution’s First Amendment only applies to the encroachment by the government on the citizens’ speech not private employers. Thus, the employers teach the workers every day that democracy and their civil rights stop at the factory, store, or office door. (Why Unions Matter, Elaine Bernard, Executive Director of the Harvard Trade Union Program)

Unions are our tool to secure better wages and benefits, safer working environments, right to fair hearing for complaints against the employer, and give us a voice. Unions give us the ability to take action against employers when the employer violates their rights or discriminates against us. Simply, the union gives us a voice in our workplaces and makes us more equal with the employers.

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This is why I support unions and why I believe that unions are vital to the betterment of the United States and will assist in ending economic injustice in our great nation. Not only will unions help but so will a fair minimum wage. I support HR. 1010, the Fair Minimum Wage Act. I understand that this bill will not fix our nation’s labor laws to insurance union rights but I believe is a major step that our government can take to help the working class. I believe that the our Congress should pass a bill giving every worker the right to paid sick and holiday. These are just a couple of the steps that Congress can take to help the working class. However, there is one step that each individual can take to help better their lives and their employment environments, they can join a union or begin to organize their own places of work.

The Fair Minimum Wage would:

  • Restore the minimum wage to its historic level, making up for decades of erosion.
  • Would increase the minimum wage to $10.

How a Fair Minimum Wage would Affect us:

  • 30 million workers would receive a raise.
  • 88% of those are adults over the age of twenty, 56% are women, nearly half are workers of color, and over 43% have some college education.
  • 17 million children have a parent who would get a raise.
  • 71% of tipped workers getting a raise would be women. (ForwardEquality)

The following are some of the unions that I personally support:

  • AFL-CIO: “We are the umbrella federation for U.S. unions, with 57 unions representing more than 12 million working men and women. We work to ensure that all people who work receive the rewards of their work—decent paychecks and benefits, safe jobs, respect and fair treatment. “
  • NEA (National Education Association): ” the nation’s largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA’s 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs.”
  • SEIU (Service Employees International Union): “an organization of 2.1 million members united by the belief in the dignity and worth of workers and the services they provide and dedicated to improving the lives of workers and their families and creating a more just and humane society.”
  • AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees): “AFSCME is the nation’s largest and fastest growing public services employees union with more than 1.6 million working and retired members. AFSCME’s members provide the vital services that make America happen. We are nurses, corrections officers, child care providers, EMTs, sanitation workers and more. With members in hundreds of different occupations, AFSCME advocates for fairness in the workplace, excellence in public services and prosperity and opportunity for all working families.”
  • IWW (Industrial Workers of the World): “The IWW is a member-run union for all workers, a union dedicated to organizing on the job, in our industries and in our communities. IWW members are organizing to win better conditions today and build a world with economic democracy tomorrow. We want our workplaces run for the benefit of workers and communities rather than for a handful of bosses and executives.”

Contact Congress and tell them to pass a Fair Minimum Wage: Contact Info

*Some information was from Think Progress.

Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) is working

tumblr_m6cqwlbVTa1qzhkvho1_500Obamacare is working, except the Republicans and Republican control media don’t want you to know that. Media outlets such as Fox continue to censor all positive stories about how Obamacare is working and helping millions of Americans.

#getcoverdNearly 365,000 people in the country has already bought private health insurance plans through the Marketplace and more than 800,000 people are able to finally get health insurance through the Medicaid expansion in the states. And thousands of Americans are signing up for healthcare insurance everyday. (WhiteHouse)

Because of the healthcare law, up to 105 million Americans can’t be subject to lifetime caps. And up to 17 million children with pre-existing conditions can’t be denied coverage or charged more. Specifically, in Iowa the healthcare law has allowed over 800,000 Iowans to receive at least one preventive service at no out of pocket cost. (WhiteHouse)

In addition, the healthcare law adds protections for the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual) community by prohibiting insurance companies from denying LGBTQIA people coverage. The healthcare.gov website has even been designed to help consumers find the health insurances that cover domestic partners. Obamacare also provides access to evidence-based interventions addressing tobacco control, obesity prevention, HIV-related health disparities, better nutrition and physical activity.

As I continue to report, I have Cystinosis and because of living with this terminal illness I visit lots of doctors and hospitals. Thus, I rack up tons of medical bills. I also recently, had a living donor kidney transplant at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. However, thanks to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) insurance companies cannot deny me coverage because of my pre-existing illness and they cannot deny me coverage because of a lifetime cap. In addition, because of the healthcare law my premiums and co-pays are lower and preventive services such as flu shots were free of charge.

#getcoverd2Obamacare is working and is saving lives. The Republicans and conservatives don’t want you to know this because they don’t want to admit that they are wrong and their plans will only hurt the American people but vastly benefit corporations and their CEOs.

I recommend that if you don’t have health insurance or you do but the plan is too costly, then go to the health insurance Marketplace at www.HealthCare.gov and sign up. If you qualify for subsidies or Medicaid it will help you get those.

26 Since Sandy Hook & No Action

26, the number of mass-shootings since Sandy Hook which took the lives of 20 children and 6 teachers. The FBI defines a mass-murder as the killing of four or more people without an extended period of “cooling-off” by the perpetrator. 

Yesterday, marked the 1 year anniversary of the Sandy Hook school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. With that said, Congress has yet to pass universal background checks (Senate failed to pass the bill by 3 votes), assault weapons and high-capacity magazines ban, or pass a bill making gun trafficking a federal crime. 

Many of these measures are supported by the vast majority of Americans and yet the NRA and the Republicans continue to filibuster and block all of the measures. While, in the U.S., about 40% of gun transfers happen without a licensed dealer, using the loopholes of online and gun shows. Which means about, 6.6 million guns are sold without background checks. This means that even people who are prohibited from buying a gun can do so by using these loopholes.

Locally, we have seen our own school shooting at Millard South High School (where I graduated from the year before), and yet, the local Republicans refused to allow any discussion of local measures to help stop gun violence. For this local shooting, I believe a way that could have helped prevent the shooting would be adequate help for all students instead of just expelling or suspending them. Work with the students, don’t just label them and leave them for the wolves.

I stand with President Obama and the families of Newtown in calling on Congress to pass gun violence prevention measures including universal background checks, assault weapons and high-capacity magazines ban, or pass a bill making gun trafficking a federal crime, and adequate mental healthcare funding. 

Go here to contact your U.S. House Rep and U.S. Senators (Iowa, Nebraska): Contact Info

Please take a couple minutes of silence for all the victims of gun violence locally and nationally.

*Information from the washingtonpost, demandaction, and Organizing for Action