Members of Women's Voices have been working for access to affordable health care for all since the organization was founded in 2005. We have taken a position on this issue and it is one of the major thrusts for our advocacy efforts. We work with Missouri Health Care for All and other organizations throughout the state to coordinate our efforts to ensure that health care is truly a human right.
Work to expand Medicaid in Missouri has gone hand-in-hand with our work on access to affordable health care for all. Unfortunately, Missouri's Medicaid program leaves thousands of low-income adults, most of whom are working, without health care coverage. Missouri legislators have refused to accept Medicaid expansion as part of the Affordable Care Act, leaving millions of dollars on the table which could have been used to provide care to vulnerable and deserving residents.
In April 2006 Women's Voices, along with the St. Louis Chapter of Hadassah, the Ethical Action Commitee of the St. Louis Ethical Society and Friends of the First Unitarian Church, sponsored a public seminar on stem cell research. More than 100 people turned out to learn about stem cell research, its possibilities and limitations, and the ballot initiative that was decided by Missouri voters in November, 2006.
Members of Women's Voices believe that public transportation is an issue that touches on social justice, economic justice, and environmental concerns. In response to a ballot initiative in 2010, we took a position in favor of a sales tax increase that would expand public transportation in the St. Louis area. The ballot initiative was approved.
In the Spring of 2013 St. Louis City officials began to explore the possibility of an agreement with Veolia Environment, a multi-national French corporation, to take over some operations of the St. Louis City Water Department. Members of Women's Voices, along with the the Missouri Coalition for the Environment and other groups, took a stand against this proposal. Veolia has a dismal track record after being involved in water operations in other cities. In Oct. 2013, after facing intense opposition, Veolia took itself out of consideration for the contract. We believe that we must always be on guard against attempts to privatize a city's water supply or operations.
Women's Voices Raised for Social Justice joined with several other organizations to support a screening of the film "Farming Was My Life: The Hidden Costs of CAFOs" in June, 2009. The film was produced by Missouri Rural Crisis Center and Violet Productions.
The film and the panel discussion which followed pointed out some very troublesome and often unknown facts about Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. Here are some facts about CAFOs, which are changing the air we breathe, the water we drink, the foods we put on our tables, and the landscape of rural America.
In 2007, the Federal government proposed selling some of our country's national forests in order to meet short-term budget obligations. Members of Women's Voices were strongly opposed to this proposal; we believe that our national forests belong to all of our citizens and to future generations.
In February 2013 Women's Voices signed a resolution in support of full implementation of Missouri's Renewable Energy Standards. In 2008, voters passed the Renewable Energy Standards Act, which required utility companies to supply two per cent of energy they sell to Missouri customers from renewable energy sources starting in 2011. That percentage gradually increases to five per cent by 2014, 10 per cent by 2018 and 15 per cent by 2021.
A bill coming up for debate in the Missouri House of Representatives (HB44) would undermine the will of the people and allow utility companies to comply with the law without actually supplying the requisite amount of energy from renewable sources.
Minimum Wage and Right to Work
In 2012, members of Women's Voices joined forces with Jobs With Justice and Metropolitan Congregations United to work toward a ballot initiative that, if approved by voters, would have raised Missouri's minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 per hour. Unfortunately, this initative petition failed to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.
In 2013, our members took another look at the issue of economic dignity for workers. We believe changes in government economic policies are needed to stop the erosion of the middle class and to provide all citizens the opportunity to work and to earn a living wage that allows them to meet basic needs for food, housing, education, and health care.
Missouri has more payday lending outlets than almost any other state in the country. The average annual percentage rate on loans issued by these outlets is 445 percent. Efforts to cap these interest rates in the Missouri legislature have been futile.
Members of Women's Voices will continue to advocate for consumers' best interests and work to cap the rate of payday lending at 36 per cent, which is what the federal government approves for loans to military families.
Of all the social justice issues Women's Voices studies, the overarching issue that encompasses all of them is poverty. Our members work as individuals to contribute time, talent, money and other resources to direct service organizations in the community. As an organization, we have focused our advocacy efforts to influence political will and legislative action. We are a member of Community Against Poverty (CAP), an umbrella group which sponsors events to bring public attention to the issue of poverty.
Missouri is a low-tax state. Members of Women's Voices have worked with various organizations, including the Missouri Budget Project, to clarify what repeated budget reductions and tax decreases mean for health care, education and other state services.
Under Missouri's outdated tax structure, the state fails to collect revenue from remote sales (internet, phone, TV and catalogue sales). This penalizes our local main-street merchants, and robs the state of much-needed revenue. While the ultimate solution to this may have to come from the federal government, we will continue to work on behalf of Missouri retailers, who are now competing with online commerce at a huge disadvantage.
"Poverty is like punishment for a crime you didn't commit." ... Eli Khamarov
Human Rights and Well-Being
Members of Women's Voices are committed to supporting organizations and legislation that will further the cause of racial justice and protect the civil rights of all citizens. We acknowledge the many ways that our society discriminates, sometimes intentionally, sometimes thoughtlessly, in housing, education, employment, healthcare, and within the justice system. We believe that individually and collectively we must raise our voices to oppose discrimination in all its manifestations.
Women's Voices completely supports the rights of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered individuals to participate fully in society and enjoy the rights and benefits available to other Americans. Our first activity as an organization was to proudly march in the St. Louis Pride Parade in 2005.
Our organization has had several programs on the issue of voting rights and proposed Voter ID legislation in Missouri. We remain concerned that many efforts to change requirements to vote amount to voter suppression. There have been no cases of voter fraud prosecuted in the state of Missouri.
Our members continue to support a woman's right to make her own decisions about her reproductive health. We decry continuing violence against women and their health-care providers, and we support the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act. We are proud to be a member of the Freedom of Choice Council of Greater St. Louis.
In the Spring of 2013 members of Women's Voices launched a new advocacy effort, called "Campaign for Common-Sense Gun Solutions." We believe that gun violence has become an epidemic in the United States, and the issue must be addressed from the standpoints of both safety and health.
We believe that high-quality, affordable child care should be available to all Missouri families who need it. The physical, emotional and cognitive growth of our youngest and most vulnerable citizens is both a wise investment and a moral imperative.
Members of Women's Voices are concerned about the quality of education available to all children, but especially children in the St. Louis Public Schools. In 2006-2007 we "adopted" a fourth grade classroom in a city school where parental support was minimal and supplies were lacking. Our members brought school supplies to general meetings, and some members went to the classroom and told stories, led student discussion groups, and planned special parties.
An initiative called Book by Book was carried out for one year. We attempted to match book clubs in the St. Louis area with classrooms in our adopted school. The teachers let us know what kind of enrichment books they needed in their classrooms, and Women's Voices, with the help of area book clubs, purchased the books and delivered them to the school.
In December, 2014, Women's Voices signed a petition to County Executive Steve Stenger to "hold a summit for St. Louis County mayors, police chiefs and other law enforcement officials to: reform the debtor prison system trapping low-income people and people of color in prison for traffic violations, court fees and other minor violations; and institute or increase community policing procedures throughout their jurisdiction.