Monday, April 30, 2012

Protestors to March on Hershey’s Shareholder Meeting

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Over 100 community, labor, human rights leaders decry Hershey’s greed at May 1 meeting
HARRISBURG, PA—On May 1, 2012, over 100 community, labor, and human rights leaders will march on Hershey's annual shareholder meeting to condemn the company as an icon of corporate greed. The march—led by the National Guestworker Alliance, SEIU, and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation—is one of a nationwide series of nonviolent direct actions against corporate greed this spring under the banner of 99% Power.
Last summer, hundreds of student guestworkers escaped captive labor at the Hershey's chocolate packing plant. They exposed the depth of Hershey's corporate greed: how the company destroyed hundreds of permanent, living-wage jobs and subcontracted to replace them with temporary, sub-minimum wage jobs for exploitable guestworkers.
While the student guestworkers exposed Hershey's labor abuses, human rights groups exposed Hershey's use of child labor in Africa, and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation exposed illegal discrimination by the Milton Hershey School against a 13-year-old HIV-positive boy.
“Hershey's used to be iconic American brand. But the company’s violation of the most basic labor, civil, and human rights—from Central Pennsylvania to Central Africa—have turned it into an icon of corporate greed,” said NGA Lead Organizer Jacob Horwitz.
“Ordinary Pennsylvanians are joining with national leaders to demand that Hershey’s abandon the low road of greed and exploitation, and take the high road of true corporate social responsibility,” Horwitz said.
The leader’s demands are that Hershey's:
1.     create dignified, living wage jobs for local workers;
2.     sign the NGA's Worker Dignity Protocols to end exploitation of guestworkers; and
3.     pledge an immediate end to discriminatory practices and abuses that affect children at both the Hershey School and the Hershey family of companies.
The march takes place amid a wave of grassroots protests by the 99% Power coalition, which are converging on the shareholder meetings of America's greediest, most destructive corporations, including Hershey's, Walmart, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America.
WHAT: March on Hershey’s shareholder meeting
WHO: Over 100 community, labor, and civil rights leaders
WHEN: May 1, 2012, 9:30 a.m. ET
WHERE: Intersection of Park Blvd/Route 39 & Boathouse Rd in Hershey, PA, marching to Giant Center, 550 Hersheypark Dr.
CONTACTS: Stephen Boykewich, stephen@guestworkeralliance.org718-791-9162

PSEA President: block grant plan will shortchange students and schools

(HARRISBURG, April 30, 2012) – Gov. Tom Corbett’s plan to fund Pennsylvania’s public schools with “block grants” will shortchange students, let political deals drive state funding, and force local school districts and communities to solve the $1 billion crisis that state funding cuts have caused, according to the president of Pennsylvania’s largest school employee union.

Michael Crossey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, warned that block grants will end up shortchanging school districts, since block grants would erase the laws and formulas that account for schools’ real costs and students’ real needs. Instead, block grants would base state funding on arbitrary numbers and political backroom deals. 
“The governor’s plan to ‘block grant’ public school funding is just another way to pass the buck on the school funding crisis,” Crossey said.  “It’s a dramatic reversal, a 180-degree turn away from a fair and predictable system. Instead of solving the crisis in our schools, these block grants will make it worse.”
Gov. Corbett’s block grant proposal would create a single line item in the FY 2012-13 state budget by lumping together line items for employee Social Security payments, school busing, non-public school busing, and classroom instruction. Social Security payments are mandated, and busing is necessary to keep students safe and attending school regularly.
Most significantly, the governor’s proposal, if approved by the General Assembly, would set the stage for political backroom deals on how much to give public schools in future state budgets, Crossey said. State funding for classroom instruction was cut by $860 million in the FY 2011-12 budget. 
“The governor’s block grant proposal would combine four programs that work into one that doesn’t,” Crossey added. “It’s another part of the shell game he is playing with his budget. Fair and equitable funding will go out the window, and political deals will decide how much we invest in our students.”

Combining these payments makes it appear as though the Corbett administration has increased school funding, even though the governor’s budget proposal contains another $100 million in state funding cuts.
"The governor claims his plan gives schools more flexibility, but all it offers is the flexibility to make even more cuts that harm students,” Crossey said.
 Crossey pointed out that the need to restore state funding cuts to the public schools is urgent. “Sounding The Alarm,” a PSEA research report, shows that a combination of nearly $1 billion in cuts and a toxic mixture of bad state education laws is forcing dramatic cuts to student programs and pushing a growing number of school districts to the financial brink.
“The school funding crisis is real, and it’s hurting Pennsylvania’s students every day,” Crossey said. “Shell games and accounting tricks won’t solve it. We need to fund the schools, stop these cuts, and invest in Pennsylvania’s students.”
Crossey is a special education teacher in the Keystone Oaks School District. An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents approximately 187,000 future, active and retired teachers and school employees, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.
Keystone Progress is a sponsor of Netroots Nation.  NN is the inspiration for the PA Progressive Summit.  Watch for registration discounts for KP supporters.


NN Attendees
Photo credit: Marta Evry
The big picture: We amplify progressive voices by providing an online and in-person campus for exchanging ideas and learning how to be more effective in using technology to influence the public debate. Through our annual convention and other events, we strengthen the community, inspire action and serve as an incubator for ideas that challenge the status quo and ultimately affect change in the public sphere.
The big event: The seventh annual gathering of the Netroots will be held June 7–10 in Providence, RI. Netroots Nation 2012 will include 70 panels, 30 training sessions, inspiring keynotes (Keith Olbermann is our first confirmed speaker), film screenings and other engaging sessions designed to educate, stimulate and inspire the nation’s next generation of progressive leaders.
Each year, thousands of bloggers, newsmakers, social justice advocates, labor and organizational leaders, grassroots organizers and online activists come together to make new connections, hone their organizing skills, share best practices and build stronger relationships with others working on the issues they care most about. And each year, some of the brightest minds in progressive politics come to Netroots Nation to speak with—and hear from—our community.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Photo credit: Steve Stearns
Past conferences have featured a Presidential Leadership Forum that drew seven Democratic candidates including then-Senator Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton; a surprise visit from Al Gore; interactive Q&A sessions with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid; an appearance by President Bill Clinton; and a chance to hear from three Nobel laureates. As The New York Times said, Netroots Nation is “becoming as much a part of the Democratic political circuit as the Iowa State Fair.”
Think of it as a giant family reunion for the left. And while we’re this country’s largest progressive gathering, we’re also expanding overseas. We held the first Netroots UK in 2011, and Netroots Sweden is scheduled for April of 2012.
“It’s like a political rally, a think tank retreat and a non-stop party with your best friends all rolled into one. It’s a celebration of the past achievements and future goals of the ever-expanding Netroots. It’s an event where progressive leaders and candidates come to hear, in person, what you have to say. You’ll leave the convention deliriously proud of how far we’ve come … and where we’re headed.” —Bill Harnsberger aka Bill in Portland MaineDaily Kos

New Study Links Autism With the Typical American Diet

(04/30/12) HARRISBURG, Pa. - The typical American diet may be linked to the epidemic of autism in children in the U.S., according to a new study published online in the journal Clinical Epigenetics. 

David Wallinga, senior adviser in science, food and health at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, says unhealthy diets interfere with the body's ability to eliminate toxic chemicals, increasing the risk for long-term health problems like autism.

"We're not pretending that it's not complex. It is. But the important thing to realize is that these environmental and nutritional factors are critical, that they work together, and that ultimately a lot of them are preventable causes of autism."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that roughly 13 percent of eight-year-olds in Pennsylvania exhibit signs of Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Wallinga says one example of the link between nutrition and autism is that highly-processed and sweetened foods can affect a body's ability to detoxify.

"People who consume high-fructose corn syrup can develop problems with mineral deficiencies, and these mineral deficiencies in turn can make their bodies have more problems with getting rid of contaminates in their bodies."

Wallinga says that, to reduce the risk, children and pregnant women should focus on a diet that's higher in antioxidants and needed minerals.

"If you've got enough calcium in your diet, it's going to protect you from absorbing lead, and concurrently if you are calcium deficient, then you're going to absorb more lead in your gut, and therefore have more lead in your bloodstream."

The IATP study follows two others recently published, one linking autism to obesity during pregnancy and another showing that the rate of autism spectrum disorders increased by nearly 80 percent from 2002 to 2008.

You can find all the details on this latest study at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy website, or at

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pennsylvania Consumers to Get $24,232,043 in Health Insurance Rebates Thanks to Affordable Care Act

For Immediate Release                                                                        
April 26, 2012                                                                                       
Contact: Jamie Mondics

Pennsylvania Consumers to Get $24,232,043 in Health Insurance Rebates Thanks to Affordable Care Act

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania consumers will receive $24,232,043 in health insurance rebates as a result of provisions under the Affordable Care Act, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report that was released earlier today.

The Affordable Care Act requires that insurance companies spend at least 80 percent of premiums on patient care. This provision, the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR), guarantees that consumer premiums are going back to the consumers themselves—and not use for CEO bonuses or corporate retreats. Insurance companies who do not meet this 80 percent threshold must pay rebates to consumers. The amount depends on the extent to which the insurer fell below the 80 percent.

The MLR provision is just one of the ways that the Affordable Care Act increases transparency and extends new protections to American consumers.

“This year, PA consumers will actually be getting money back from their insurance companies,” said Michael Morrill, Executive Director of Keystone Progress. “This sort of rebate would have been unheard of before the Affordable Care Act, but now we can expect this sort of transparency and consumer protection.”

The rule went into effect on January 1, 2011, and the first rebates to consumers will be issued this year.

Read the full report here.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

4 PA Legislators Cut Ties to ALEC

Dozens of PA Legislators publicly rejecting controversial lobbying organization. 
Rep. Nick Kotik only remaining PA Democrat publicly allied with ALEC.

(HARRISBURG, PA) – Two weeks ago, Keystone Progress launched a campaign urging state legislators to leave the controversial corporate lobbying group, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). More than 18,000 letters, emails and faxes have been sent as part of that campaign.

As a result, 4 PA legislators have cut ties with ALEC, publicly stating they are no longer members. Those legislators are Sen. John Pippy (R, Allegheny, Westmoreland), Rep. Mark Mustio (R, Allegheny), Rep. Sandra Major (R, Susquehanna, Wayne, Wyoming) and Rep. Harry Readshaw (D, Allegheny).  

Readshaw’s withdrawal leaves only one PA Democrat, Rep. Nick Kotik (D, Allegheny), as a member of ALEC.  There are 42 Republicans still publicly allied with ALEC.

The entire list of members of ALEC and those who have rejected ties to ALEC can be viewed at

In the past few days, hundreds of legislators around the country and major corporate sponsors of ALEC have indicated they will not renew their memberships to the controversial corporate front group.

ALEC is behind the efforts to pass bills that strip away union rights, scale back child labor laws, attack the regulation power of environmental agencies, suppress voter rights with strict identification requirements, eliminate the social safety net, and privatize public services.

ALEC is not just another public policy organization, it is a front group for some of the most radical and dangerous legislation.  With such a proven negative track record of effect on our public policy, there's no excuse for legislators to continue their involvement in the organization.

 “Sen. Pippy and Reps. Major, Mustio and Readshaw have shown great courage by opposing a corporate bill factory and standing with the people of Pennsylvania,” said Michael Morrill, executive director of Keystone Progress. “We applaud every member of the General Assembly who has rejected ALEC, and we are asking our members to thank those courageous legislators.”

1.     For a list of all state legislators who have left ALEC, visit the ALEC Exposed wiki page.
2.     For an ongoing list of the corporations who have left ALEC, visit Think Progress. To date, those companies are: Yum! Brands, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Mars Inc., Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Kraft Foods, Intuit (Quicken software), Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Reed Elsevier (owner of Lexis Nexis), American Traffic Solutions, Arizona Public Service, and Procter & Gamble. Additionally, the Bill and Melinda Fates Foundation severed its ties to ALEC.
3.     Last year’s Keystone Progress report on ALEC and PA can be found here

Keystone Progress is Pennsylvania’s largest online progressive organization, with over 270,000 subscribers. KP uses the Internet and new media to organize online at the state and local level; and utilizes cutting-edge earned media strategies to promote a progressive agenda and counter right-wing misinformation. 

Discussions Begin in Philadelphia on Public Banking - an End to Wall Street's Monopoly?

The potential for public banks to rescue and revitalize American cities,
towns and states will be discussed at the first national public banking
conference getting underway in Philadelphia, PA on Friday, April 27th.
Municipal, county and state officials from around the country will discuss a
new strategy that would move public moneys currently managed by Wall Street
banks into banks that are publicly owned and operated in the public

Themed "Public Banking in America - Democratizing Money,"
( the conference is being held by the
non-profit, non-partisan Public Banking Institute.   Seventeen states are
currently in legislative discussions about adoption of various forms of the
public banking model.

Legislators, municipal officials, bankers, monetary experts, academics and
activists will review a new program called "Move OUR Money"
( in which moneys collected by municipal, county or
state operations are retained by local public banks built on the model of
the highly successful Bank of North Dakota, which has been immune to the
financial crises of recent years while featuring a significant state budget

"Wall Street banks have taken almost complete control of America's economy
and we've given them the money to do it with tax dollars that could be used
for the public interest through local public banks" says Mike Krauss,
chairman of the Pennsylvania Project (  "Over a
trillion dollars could be available for Main Street if we stop giving Wall
Street our money."

The "Move OUR Money" campaign will get underway at this week's conference
with legislative leaders discussing the options public banks provide
communities.  Public banks are owned by the people rather than private
investors and support community banks by partnering public monies for local
concerns, including lower costs for civic projects and significantly more
credit for local businesses.

The conference's Philadelphia location was inspired by the successful use of
the local "Continental" currency, embraced by the Quakers, which produced a
stable and productive local economy.  It was England's demand that this
currency be eliminated as legal tender that Ben Franklin said was a primary
motivator for the American Revolution.

The Public Banking in America conference will be held at the Friends Center
at 15th and Race Street.  Live streaming of discussions is available at:

Social Security Weathers the Storm – Continues to Grow Trust Fund Despite Slowly Recovering Economy

The recent release of the Social Security Trustees Report shows that Social Security is not experiencing the “crisis” that its conservative critics would have the public believe.

On Monday, the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds (more commonly referred to as the Social Security Trustees) issued its annual report covering 2011 and making projections into the future.  The report shows a growth in the Social Security Trust Fund during 2011 of $69 Billion, despite continued high unemployment and the retirement of early “baby boom” generation retirees.  The Trust Fund, which stood at $2.7 Trillion at the end of 2011, is projected to continue its growth throughout the current decade.

Jean Friday, President of the Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans, had this to say about the report and what it means politically, “Conservative policymakers from Alan Simpson and his deficit commission, to Pat Toomey and the “Super Committee”, to Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney this year have been advocating major Social Security cuts that would imperil the quality of life for current and future middle class retirees.  Proposals such as the “Chained-CPI” cost of living calculation would have cut this year’s COLA from 3.6% to 2.8%.  The Ryan Budget, passed by Congress on party lines this year and supported by GOP Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney, would fast-track unspecified Social Security cuts.  However, to make these unpopular proposals to cut our most successful and popular social program politically viable, these conservatives and their friends in the media have sought to convince Americans that Social Security is experiencing a solvency crisis, and therefore must be reformed.  This long-standing propaganda assault on Social Security has wrongly convinced many Americans that drastic changes are needed to preserve the program.  Worse than that, it has given many young people the impression that they should not expect benefits of their own.  House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said as much last year.  This report disproves what the conservatives have been saying about Social Security.”

The Trustees report did indicate that the trust fund will begin to dwindle during the 2020s, and run out in 2033 if no policy changes are made.  After that, Social Security would still pay benefits on the income it collects each year, which would amount to roughly 75% of promised benefits.  However, only small changes are needed to increase the solvency of the program far into the future. 

“Insolvency 20 or more years from now is no crisis," said President Friday.  “As the economy slowly recovers, that outlook should improve.  We certainly do want to make sure that Social Security is solvent forever.  Instead of harsh cuts that hurt the poor and working class, while also hurting the economy, we should look to make Social Security taxes more fair.  Most Americans will pay Social Security taxes on every dollar they earn for their entire lives.  However, many rich Americans stop paying this tax before the spring thaw, because they reach the cap on taxable wages (around $110,000 in 2012) so quickly.  The cap was initially intended to capture 90% of wages, but now only captures around 83%.  By raising that cap, or lifting it completely, we could help the Social Security Trust Fund while sparing middle class families – the real drivers of our nation’s economy – from any tax increases or benefit cuts.”

Read the Trustees Report here: 

The Alliance for Retired Americans has over 300,000 members and over 140 local affiliates across Pennsylvania.  It’s President, Jean Friday, is a retired chemist and steelworker from Westmoreland County.  For more information, visit our website at

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Animation: Obama on our future (actual audio)

Animation: Obama On Our Future (Actual Audio) from scottbateman on Vimeo.

"ID, please."

I voted about an hour ago in West Reading Borough Hall where I served for 5 years as a member of Borough Council.  The Constable greeted me, "Good morning, Mr. Morrill."  The poll workers all said, "Hi, Mike."  Then they asked for my ID.

Michael Morrill

Monday, April 23, 2012

Medicare Costs Lower Thanks to the Affordable Care Act


Through 2016, Medicare will save over $200 billion; traditional Medicare beneficiaries will see nearly $60 billion in lower costs

The Medicare Program will save over $200 billion through 2016 due to the Affordable Care Act, and beneficiaries in traditional Medicare will enjoy $59.4 billion in lower costs, according to a report released today by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). According to estimates from the CMS Office of the Actuary, the over $200 billion in short-term savings to the Medicare program come from ending excessive payments to private insurers who offer Medicare Advantage plans, implementing anti-fraud measures, and changing provider payment policies to reflect improvements in productivity. In addition, according to the HHS Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, seniors and people with disabilities in traditional Medicare will see lower cost-sharing and premiums as a result of the Affordable Care Act, totaling $59.4 billion through 2016 and $208 billion through 2021.

“The Affordable Care Act is the key to lowering health care costs in a way that improves care for beneficiaries, instead of cutting services,” said CMS Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. “In the short term, both taxpayers and beneficiaries will save billions thanks to the health care law. Over the long run, the Affordable Care Act will allow us to invest in new models of providing care that will save money and deliver higher quality care.”

The report also details the significant number of reforms to the health care delivery system that CMS is implementing under the Affordable Care Act. These reforms have the potential to transform the way in which health care is delivered – through reducing unnecessary readmissions, improving patient safety, rewarding doctors for better coordinating care, and reducing duplicative tests. These efforts will improve the quality of patients’ care and reduce costs to make Medicare more sustainable over the long run.

Among other efforts, these delivery system reforms will:

· Strengthen the role of primary care providers;

· Reward better-coordinated care through a new model called Accountable Care Organizations;

· Bundle payments for each episode-of-care that a patient receives to promote better coordination;

· Improve the quality and coordination of care for those enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid, who tend to have greater health care needs; and

· Pay for the quality of care provided to patients, not just the quantity of services or tests that are done.

To view the report, please visit:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Help us report the news on what's happening in the PA Primary

election reporter

Tuesday is Primary Election Day. Make sure you vote! But after you've voted, join us in a new way to stay informed about election results and other important election news in Pennsylvania.

Become an Election Reporter!

It's easy. When you find out local results or other election-related news that might be of interest to others, post it on Facebook or on Twitter.
If you don't want to report, you can follow the news on Twitter and Facebook
Here's how, step by step:
1) Click on the Facebook icon to go to the Keystone Progress Facebook page
2) Click on the "Like" on the upper right side of the page
3) Post your news in the "Post" section where it says "Write something"

1) Click on the Twitter icon to go to the Keystone Progress Twitter page
2) Click on "Follow" in the upper right corner
3) Send your news to all Keystone Progress followers by using @KeystoneProgres (only one s)
4) Use the hashtag #PaElect to reach everyone interested in the election.
5) A typical "Tweet" might look like this: Smith leads Jones by 67 votes in CD 29. 10% of vote in @KeystoneProgres #PaElect
6) Remember that you only have 140 characters for your Twitter post.
Thanks for all you do.
Help us build a progressive future in Pennsylvania by contributing to Keystone Progress.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Keystone Progress releases 2012 Primary Progressive Voters Guide

Keystone Progress is pleased to announce the release of the 2012 Primary Election Edition of the Pennsylvania Progressive Voters Guide.  
The Voters Guide is a compilation of the endorsements and recommendations of progressive organizations across the state.  We have included 32 groups who have made endorsements in the primary of upcoming special elections.  
A total of 202 endorsements are listed, with a breakdown of 182 Democrats and 40 Republicans.
“This year we have also created 67 separate county Voters Guides,” said Michael Morrill, executive director of Keystone Progress.
Keystone Progress does not endorse.  This Voters Guide is only a report of the endorsements of PA's leading progressive groups.  
All endorsements, and links to the 67 Progressive County Voters Guides, can be viewed at

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Award-Winning Philadelphia Mortgage Relief Program Kept Intact

Taking Back Our Courts

April 19, 2012

Consumers Support Decision by the Courts To Keep Mortgage Relief Program As Is

PHILADELPHIA, PA – Philadelphia home-owners and consumers are taking a big sigh of relief today after the First Judicial District decided not to make changes to its award-winning mortgage relief program.

"The home-owners of Philadelphia won today" said Michael Morrill, Executive Director of Keystone Progress. "Given the successes this program has had over the past 4 years it isn't surprising that the First Judicial District decided to keep the program intact."

Mayor Nutter even wrote a letter to the court asking for the court to not make changes to the program. Mayor Nutter said the courts needed to recognize the program is still heavily utilized and much needed for Philadelphia citizens.

According to the Philadelphia VIP, in 2010 the Philadelphia mortgage relief program prevented 40% of foreclosures in Philadelphia.

The mortgage relief program has been praised as a model for similar programs nationwide. What makes the mortgage relief program special is it's mandate stating that lenders must meet with residential homeowners face-to-face before foreclosures can proceed. The program affords some power to consumers who are faced with tough decisions regarding the home mortgages in midst of the economic downturn.

In a report that Taking Back Our Courts released earlier this month, Justice for Philadelphia Courts, the First Judicial District of Philadelphia was recognized for winning multiple awards for its Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion program: 1) In 2008, the First Judicial District was awarded the Mid-Atlantic Association for Court Management's John Neufield Court Achievement Award, and 2) in 2009 the First Judicial District was awarded the National Association of Court Management's Justice Achievement Award.

Overall, the report finds that Philadelphia’s civil courts are among the best in the country and the mortgage relief project started in 2008 is just one of the many examples Philadelphia's civil courts are praised every year for the work it does.

Taking Back Our Courts is a civil justice project of Keystone Progress, designed to protect Philadelphia courts and promote fair access to justice for consumers. Keystone Progress is Pennsylvania’s largest online progressive organization, with over 270,000 subscribers. KP uses the Internet and new media to organize online at the state and local level; and utilizes cutting-edge earned media strategies to promote a progressive agenda and counter right-wing misinformation.


Monday, April 16, 2012


Joseph Rendeiro, NCLR
(202) 776-1566

Dave Lemmon, Families USA
(202) 628-3030

Forum to focus on new protections for families in health reform

U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solís and a panel of seasoned health professionals and advocates will answer questions from the community on key provisions of the health reform law at a breakfast gathering on Wednesday, April 18. Solís, the highest-ranking Latina in the Obama administration, will lead the forum, which is intended to help Philadelphia’s Latino community better understand how the law will help and protect their families.

When President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, families gained a whole range of new consumer benefits and health insurance protections. The Wednesday gathering will allow community participants to ask questions about these new benefits, such as provisions that prohibit insurance companies from discriminating against children with preexisting conditions, allow adult children to stay on their parents’ plan, make prevention a priority by providing free health screenings, and increase support for seniors with high prescription drug costs.

The forum is being hosted by Congreso de Latinos Unidos, NCLR (National Council of La Raza), and Families USA. The groups believe that it’s critically important for people to understand their options for better coverage and care under the law. The forum also provides a venue to elevate the top health care priorities of Latinos in Pennsylvania, as the state begins the implementation process of the health care law. The Affordable Care Act is especially significant for the Latino community, which is less likely to be insured and more likely to suffer from conditions that make access to high-quality, affordable insurance even more important.

Breakfast will be served immediately before the program commences. Interpretation for those who prefer Spanish will also be provided.


WHO: Hilda L. Solís, United States Secretary of Labor
Cynthia F. Figueroa, CEO, Congreso de Latinos Unidos
Jennifer Ng'andu, Deputy Director of Health Policy, NCLR
Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, Chief Medical Officer, Complete Care Health Network
Sinsi Hernández-Cancio, Director, Health Equity, Families USA

WHAT: Bi-lingual Community Forum on Consumer Benefits and Protections in the ACA

WHEN: Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Breakfast to be served at 9:15 am EDT
Program to commence at 10 a.m. EDT

WHERE: Congreso de Latinos Unidos
2800 N. American Street, Philadelphia, PA 19133


Rally and Lobby Day in Harrisburg
Monday, May 7 @ 11AM

Join with others from across the state in saying…

WHEN:     Monday, May 7, 2012, 11:00AM
WHERE:    Harrisburg, PA (On the steps of the Capitol Rotunda)
The proposed State budget closes Pennsylvanian’s bridge to stability and self-sufficiency. State legislators must restore funding for critically needed programs for vulnerable citizens, including General Assistance, health care, and human services programs.

To commit to come and to receive more details, CLICK HERE
For more information visit or call (267) 765-6488

Myth of Philadelphia Courts as "Hellhole" Takes Another Hit

Civil Jury Verdict Awards Decrease 31% in Philadelphia Last Year

April 16, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA – The myth that Philadelphia civil courts are "extreme" or a "hellhole" continues to be countered by facts. A new summary by the legal news site has found Philadelphia civil courts and juries to be impartial towards plaintiffs or the defense.

"This new data reinforces the truth that Philadelphia's civil courts really are among the best in the nation" said Michael Morrill, Executive Director of Keystone Progress. "Our courts can't give into the myths and falsehoods that extreme groups like the American Tort Reform Association are known to construct."

The new summary says Philadelphia civil jury verdicts were nearly split in their decisions between plaintiffs and defense. For civil jury verdicts, plaintiffs won 51.4% of the time, while for judicial awards only 53.5% of the time did plaintiffs win.

Philadelphia civil juries decreased its plaintiff award amounts by 31% and lowered the total number of verdicts that were over $1 million from 36 to 32. Additionally, the average civil jury award amount in Philadelphia dropped from $1.49 million in 2010 to $1.2 million in 2011.

These recent findings only bolster a recent report by Taking Back Our Courts: Justice for Philadelphia Courts. The report finds that Philadelphia’s civil courts are among the best in the country. By citing independent data, the report concludes that Philadelphia’s courts have been maligned by innuendo, false information and a well-funded campaign by pro-corporate lobbying organizations.

The recent report, Justice for Philadelphia Courts: A qualitative and quantitative analysis on the quality ofjustice administered by Philadelphia Courts, is the first to combine all of the most recent data available measuring the effectiveness and fairness of Philadelphia’s courts.

The most recent official reports paint a far different picture than the portrait constructed by national special interest groups. Far from being a “judicial hellhole” overrun by frivolous cases, the data show that Philadelphia’s court system not only has an appropriate number of cases, but it handles them quickly and efficiently with no obvious bias for or against one side.
The report found the following:

● The National Center for State Courts praised Philadelphia’s Complex Litigation Center (CLC) for its high levels of success in accuracy and fairness of a large number of complex cases in its courts. Furthermore, the NCSC recognizes that the Philadelphia court's handling of civil jury cases is now better than that of any large urban trial court in the United States.

● Comparing the plaintiff median amounts awarded in tort trials to other courts in the most populous counties in the United States, Philadelphia courts are significantly below the national median. For example, the median award amount of winners in New York, NY was $227,000, in Miami (Dade), FL it was $128,000 and in Los Angeles, CA it was $106,000. Philadelphia tort trial plaintiffs won a median amount of $20,000.

● The Philadelphia courts have been awarded a number of accolades. The list in the report highlights only a sampling of the awards that the First District Court has won over the past 7 years.

● Philadelphia ranks in the bottom 30% of major metropolitan areas in terms of median final damage amounts awarded to plaintiffs in tort trials.

Recent attacks by well-funded corporate lobbying groups have been driving the narrative that Philadelphia courts are among the worst in the nation. This includes the American Tort Reform Association's (ATRA) targeting of Philadelphia courts in its most recent Judicial Hellholes report.

The new report cites independent sources who concluded that the "evidence" in the Judicial Hellhole's report is "substantively inaccurate and methodologically flawed."

Recent reforms made by Philadelphia courts, in particular those initiated by Common Pleas Court Judge W. Herron, increasingly have been seen to be the result of the courts bending to outside political pressure by extreme conservative groups like the American Tort Reform Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Taking Back Our Courts is a civil justice project of Keystone Progress, designed to protect Philadelphia courts and promote fair access to justice for consumers. Keystone Progress is Pennsylvania’s largest online progressive organization, with over 270,000 subscribers. KP uses the Internet and new media to organize online at the state and local level; and utilizes cutting-edge earned media strategies to promote a progressive agenda and counter right-wing misinformation.