Sunday, October 9, 2016

.@realDonaldTrump: the RNCs monster

As much as I despise Donald Trump's lies, misogyny, racism and xenophobia; as much as his vile words and actions make my skin crawl; as much as I think, if elected, he would go down as the worst president in US history, possibly lead us into a civil war (not to mention wars with other countries), I don't think the RNC should force him to drop out.

No, that would be too easy. That would let those who created him off the hook, and they need to be held accountable.

By the very nature of human imperfection, fear lives in every one of us. It's up to us—individually and collectively—to decide how much it controls our lives. If left unchecked, it can evolve into racism, homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny and other forms of hatred. But, no matter if we are persons of faith or none, mankind survives, thrives and moves forward in direct proportion to how much we uplift and include each other, not beat down and marginalize.

So, when your number one mission is to bring down the first African American President in US history; when you refuse to work with that president—who just inherited the worst economy since the great depression—simply because of the color of his skin; when you care more about what is going on inside a woman's body than whether she can keep a roof over her head and food on the table; when you waste more time trying to repeal an imperfect law that has provided millions of Americans with health care instead of trying to fix that law; when you would rather see innocent people continually gunned down because you are more loyal to the NRA than the American people; when you preach "all lives matter" when some clearly don't; when you continually take your sandbox toys and go home simply because someone from your party isn't the line leader; when you sit back and do absolutely nothing (Sen. John McCain excluded) while Donald Trump fans the flames of racism by challenging President Obama's citizenship; when you refuse to stand a moral ground and reject Donald Trump's message of fear and hatred from the get-go, you need to take a good, hard look in the mirror and own it! Donald Trump is your monster. You created him, now you have to live with him. 

Whether or not any of us on either side of the aisle likes it, he is the choice of the majority of GOP voters. He is who they want for president. What gives you the right to deny the will of the people? They elected him—not you. Removing Donald Trump from the ballot sets a dangerous precedent, and lets you off the hook. With all the havoc you've wreaked on this country in the past seven and a half years, do you want that hanging over your heads, too? 

So, cut off his funding, un-endorse him, publicly support Hillary Clinton, do whatever you have to do, but don't you dare try to force him off the ticket to save what little is left of your reputation. Because if you do, those angry pitchfork and torches mobs will be coming for you, and he will be leading the way.

Time for a "reality" check. Time for the GOP to have its Dr. Frankenstein moment. Your party is going down in flames, and you have only yourselves to blame.

RNC Headquarters

After this election, you need to take a good hard look in the mirror, admit your role in creating him and figure out how you are going to be a more inclusive party. Then get out from behind your healthy, wealthy and white gated communities and start really connecting to the American people before it's too late. 

There are many good, decent Republicans in this country, but their voices have been largely silenced by those in the GOP who just can't stand the fact that America is changing—some would say for the better.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Pensions Politics & Those Pesky Public Employees Pt.2

Back to School & The #RightToWork For Less

Note: This post is long overdue, but sometimes I just gotta take a break and re-charge my batteries.

You can read Part 1 of this series here.

On Labor Day we honored the American middle class. Once the backbone of this country, labor unions helped lift vast numbers of American workers out of poverty, gave them safe, well-paying jobs, allowed them to live their American Dream while building the American landscape, and set our economy firing on all cylinders.

But the backbone of this nation is now bent and weak. Many unions are no more, and wages are down in direct correlation. The US is now a majority 'right-to-work' nation. The American middle class is shrinking. And despite a report released last month showing we had our "best year of economic improvement" in decades, it "did not fully repair the damage inflicted by the Great Recession." Some of us will never fully recover. 

Makes me all giddy inside.


September is always rough on education professionals. Contrary to 'reformy' rhetoric, I was not sunning myself on the beaches in the South of France all summer. No, I was on unpaid furlough. Granted, I did work this summer at an amazing job (more on that in another post). But, while many people are enjoying barbecues with family and friends over Labor Day weekend, many of us are digging through sofa cushions and raiding our kids' piggy banks to make September's mortgage payment.

This is my 15th year in the teaching profession and 14th as a proud NJEA member. I have a masters degree and graduated summa cum laude from college, and I have finally reached point in my salary guide where I feel like I'm earning a respectable wage for the work I do. I'm not complaining. I knew going in that I would never be a millionaire, but when I looked at that pay stub, I must admit that I was disappointed once again. 

Despite a decent raise, I'm only taking home about $44 more a week. I guess I shouldn't complain. There are many public employees still stuck in the mire of Chapter 78 and are still seeing their paychecks decrease every year—a phenomenon we call "net negative" return. And there are education professionals in other states who fare far, far worse (more on that below). My local is one of the lucky ones. We bargained out of Chapter 78, but that doesn't mean we're rolling in dough. Soon, $44 a week won't even buy me a tank of gas.

So, where does all my money go? The biggest deductions outside of the standard state and federal taxes are—contrary to what 'reformies' would have you believe— not for union dues. No, they're for pension and health benefits—those 'Cadillac' benefits Gov. Christie loves to accuse us of lolling in while he lolls here:

Chez Christie
... or scopes out pricey real estate at the Jersey shore for life aprés politics.

Those vital health care benefits and deferred compensation that—thanks to Ch. 78—I now pay more for, work longer to receive, and get less of in retirement. But my dues deduction for that big, bad 'ole union that is sucking the life out of me and preventing me from taking home oodles of dough is less than 1/7 of what I contribute for pension and benefits combined

But, 'right-to-work' (for less) 'reformies' like the National Right to Work Committee, funded by the likes of the Koch Brothers and molded by countless hours in ALEC meetings, would have the general public believe that, if it wasn't for those damned greedy unions and the outrageous dues they fleece from their members, business would flourish! Workers would do fantastically, wonderfully well on the open market! We would suddenly command 6-figure salaries! Our careers and lives would be magically transformed for the better!

We know that the only entities right-to-work laws benefit are corporations. According to the IBEW:
"Right-to-work is part of a national anti-worker agenda that won't bring one job to the state or help a single family put food on the table," said Stephanie Bloomingdale, secretary-treasurer of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO. 
Right-to-work laws weaken workers' ability to collectively bargain by making it harder for unions to collect dues, driving down wages and benefits. The average worker in a right-to-work state makes $1,500 less a year than his counterpart in union-friendly states. 
Employees in pro-worker states are also more likely to have job-based health benefits. (emphasis mine)
How bad is it in right-to-work states? Consider Wisconsin. WEA members now face this every day:
  • No due process protections
  • No right to collectively bargain anything
  • Teachers resigning in droves
  • Schools of education enrollments plummeting
  • Gender-discriminating dress codes that force female teachers to wear longer skirts and closed-toe shoes

And in right-to-work-for-even-less, North Carolina, lawmakers have taken it a step further, eliminating salary increases for post bachelors degrees. How would you like to go to bed at night with these stats invading your dreams?

So, what do I get in return for those dues which Gov. Christie—in his $4,000 Cartier gold cufflinksand some of his GOP cronies in the New Jersey state legislature call outrageous and outlandish? Well, for less than what I pay for my cell phone bill every month I get this:

  • Due process protection. The reassurance that, if a whistle needs to be blown, a student needs to be protected, a wrong needs to be made right, or an administrator just doesn't like me, there is a legal process through which I can state my case. Contrary to 'reformy' spin, it won't provide me with a job for life.
  • Professional development. The NJEA Convention is one of the largest and most comprehensive professional development conferences in the country. And yes, I do attend, and if you're an NJEA member, you should, too.
  • Equal pay for equal work. Union salary guides guarantee that I won't make 70¢ on the dollar simply because of my gender or my age; and my credentials and experience—not my cronyism—drive my compensation.
  • Support. Like any family, my union brothers and sisters and I don't always see eye-to-eye, but when push comes to shove, we are all on the same page when it comes to providing our students with one of the best public education systems in the country. And no, that system didn't come from Christie, Cerf, Hespe and Company. It came from us—200,000 strong—doing our jobs every single day, despite sometimes overwhelming odds and under tremendous pressure to solve all the ills of the world.
  • Help. Education professionals know there are no 'failing' districts in this state. We know
    the issues some schools face go far deeper than a 'pass/fail' label. We know that the solution isn't to close schools and disrupt communities. And we know that our union provides help that is SMART—not some rhetoric-filled, pie-in-the-sky mumbo-jumbo devised by people who've never set foot in a classroom.
  • Political Power to endorse candidates and affect election outcomes. And, more than anything else, that's something 'reformy' folk desperately want to take away from us, because once they control the vote, they control everything.
There ain't no 'reformy' organization that will ever provide any of this (and more) to people who work in right-to-work-for-less states. The only things you are guaranteed are job insecurity and less take home pay.

So, when Gov. Christie and Co. make stupid comments like this:
"What we know now is, more money alone does not translate into a better education," Christie said. "Better teaching methods, more instruction time and improved educational programs make the difference."  
Allowing the status quo to continue would be "criminal," Christie said. 
... I can say true, more money alone—without an evidence-based plan—won't make a difference. And neither will less. And neither will the 'status quo' which is not what Christie accuses us of perpetrating. Quite the opposite. These days the 'status quo' is the cockamamie schemes he and his puppets at the DOE come up with to cut that money from school budgets—especially those most in need. The 'status quo' is drill and kill, punish students, punish teachers, close schools, flip 'em to charters, and hold us all accountable for their failures.

The status quo is not professional educators being given the resources and support to do great things in the classroom. No, the status quo is Gov. Christie telling the world how horrible our poorest and neediest schools and students are, how "greedy and selfish" their educators are, and us fighting him tooth and nail.

The only things standing between Gov. Christie and the complete annihilation of public education in New Jersey are the unions— NJEA and AFT—and the sensible and reasonable elected officials in Trenton who know that he is nothing more than a shill for the corporate 'reform' movement.

So, when I look at my paycheck and see that dues deduction, I know it's a small price to pay for the continued welfare of our students and our state's future.

402 more days until Gov. Christie's reign of terror comes to an end. We can do this.

Wishing you all a successful and fulfilling 2016-2017 school year.


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Pensions, Politics and Those Pesky Public Employees Part 1

Gov. Christie gets 4 Pinocchios

Yesterday dozens of NJEA members took to the streets in various communities to engage in and inform our members about the fight to save our pensions. My partner and I canvassed these Trenton neighborhoods:

To be clear, these are not our members' homes, but our members live on these streets...

Yes, these are the Trenton neighborhoods where all those "greedy" and "selfish" public employees with their "Cadillac" benefits and "jobs for life" live—just like another public employee, Gov. Christie: 

And now that he's been reduced to fetching coffee for Donald Trump, his ego bruised, he's back at what he really loves to do. No, not governing NJ. I'm talking about teacher—bashing.

Here's Christie last week stumping for his "Fairness Funding" Apartheid School Funding Formula:

I give this video 4 Pinocchios for the 4 basic lies he tells: 

1. "I love public school teachers." Call me crazy, but I have never seen nor heard any evidence to back up this statement. If you have, please by all means, post a link in the comments.  

2. "There's no way in any profession other than that one you get a job for life after 3 years, 'cause you get tenure after 3 years."
I guess all that time out of state gave Christie a severe case of amnesia because he has completely forgotten that he pushed for and signed the TeachNJ law that extended the time it takes to earn tenure to four years! And as for the "job for life" comment, anybody with half a brain knows that is simply not true. But Christie has never let the facts get in the way of a good talking point. Which leads me to #3... 

3. "And after 20 years, you get pension and health benefits for life." Well... I do pay into my pension every two weeks, just like anyone else pays into their retirement plans (which is way more than the state has done in the last 20 years), so why shouldn't I expect to receive my deferred compensation for the rest of my life when I retire? And he fails to mention that, under Chapter 78, the law he pushed for and signed, public employees now contribute more into our pensions, work more than 20 years before we can retire, and get less when we do. And as for those "health benefits for life"? Wrong again! State employees who were not grandfathered into the Ch. 78 reforms must pay a percentage of their health benefits when they retire.

4. The 4th lie he tells isn't on this video, but it has to do with his proposed $6600 per pupil school funding formula and how it will solve the problems of all high-poverty/high-needs school districts and magically reduce property taxes. Read Jersey Jazzman here and here for all the facts and figures 'cause you won't find them anywhere in Christie's messaging. And PS: before the 2% property tax cap went into effect, property taxes went up an average of 20% in NJ, so don't hold your breath waiting for any big tax breaks to materialize.

No, Christie doesn't want the average taxpayer who doesn't follow politics every waking minute to know that the state unions were forced to accept many concessions in Ch. 78 with the expectation that he would uphold his end of the bargain by making the required pension payments—but didn't. It's so much easier to make stuff up and sell it to unsuspecting taxpayers under the premise of #TellingItLikeItIs (and you know how well that hashtag worked out once we hijacked it).

On Monday, August 1st, the state senate may possibly vote on SCR-2 which, if approved, would put a question on the November ballot to engrave state pension payments into our constitution, and that is driving Christie nuts. Not only does he want to defund public education further, he wants to crush the unions—period. The only thing stopping him from becoming another right-to-work-(for less) governor like Scott Walker or Rick Snyder is the Democratically-controlled state legislature. 

So, the next time someone tries to tell you that state workers have it great, that we have cushy jobs and great benefits, show them this post. Show them the pictures of the neighborhoods in which some of our members live. Tell them that many of our members who are working full time also collect food stamps. Share the stories of your co-workers who have been living on the edge of financial disaster since Ch. 78 was signed into law, whose take home pay has decreased every year since, who have lost (or almost lost) their homes as a result, who were forced to leave the profession to find a higher-paying job in the private sector. Remind them of all the give-backs and concessions we've made and the promises that Gov. Christie has broken. Educate them on how important unions are to a thriving middle class and the New Jersey economy.

Then tell them to vote Yes on the Constitutional Amendment ballot question in November because if it fails, and the pension system goes bust, the sky really will be falling on Chicken Little Gov. Christie.

Part 2: How GOP politicians spin the tale of 'greedy unions' for their political gain.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Dear @NJEA Members, This is Urgent!

Hey you. Yea, you, NJEA member. The one working those part time jobs to make it through the summer. The one who is fortunate enough to not have to work in the summer to make ends meet. The one dipping into your retirement funds to make it through the summer. The one who has no time to advocate because you're just trying to keep your head above water. I'm talking to you

You need to stop what you're doing right now and read this.

See that counter on the right side of this screen? That's counting down to D-Day: the day the NJ pension system runs dry. That's right, I said, 'dry' as in running out of money. That's 10.45 years. For everyone. E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E. Doesn't matter if you're a first year teacher or a 20 year retiree. There is no grandfather clause, no sliding scale. Nothing. Nada. Zippo. Say buh-bye to your future and hello to working til you drop.

If you don't know by now, the pension system has been grossly underfunded by the state for the past 20 years, even though we have been making our regularly scheduled payments (and then-some, thanks to Gov. Christie and Ch.78), and are now forced to work more years and get less in return. Our retired members are feeling the hit too because their cost of living adjustments have been frozen.

This situation is dire and it's not going to get any better if we sit back and do nothing.

It's that bad.

But that's not going to happen because we are a union, and unions work together. We stick together. We fight together. And we win together... and we are going to win this battle.

Right now approximately 300 specifically-designated NJEA Pension Fellows (myself included) are working hard to engage all 200,000 of us in the fight to save our pensions. 

Notice I didn't say, "engage the state legislature". I said, "engage all 200,000 of us". That's right, 300 of your fellow members cannot fix this problem alone, but 200,000 of us sure can.

We are working 5 days a week making member outreach phone calls and knocking on members' doors to inform and engage every single one of us to take action. In the first two days alone we made over 3800 phone calls and wrote countless postcards!

Right now the Assembly has approved the November ballot question to engrave funding the pension system into our state constitution. The Senate must also do so, but Senate President Steve Sweeney has yet to post the bill for a vote. If the vote doesn't happen by August 8, or if the vote fails in the Senate, there will be no ballot question, and we go back to square one... with that clock still ticking down to zero.

So, here are six easy things you can do right now:
  1. Go do VoteNJPension and sign up to become a Pension Activist. This is different from the Pension 'Fellows'. An activist is a voluntary position. You will receive text messages with updates and actions such as contacting legislators, and engaging friends and family to vote.
  2. Contact your State Senator—preferably today—and urge him or her to push Sen. Sweeney to post SCR-2 for a vote, and tell them you want them to vote Yes on it.
  3. Contact Sen. Sweeney directly and tell him to post SCR-2. His contact info: (856) 251-9801 or (856) 339-0808; Don't worry, you won't get him on the phone. You will either get an answering machine or an aide who will take your information.
  4. Get informed. Read through What You Need To Know so that you can give factual information to those who may have questions or who think the pension system isn't worth saving.
  5. Contact one of the field offices we have set up for the summer and volunteer. Even if none of these are near you, there are many opportunities to volunteer your time in your community:

    NJEA Trenton Headquarters
    180 W. State St.

    NJEA Higher Education Office
    Golden Crest Corporate Center
    2279 State Highway 33, Suite 508
    Hamilton Square

    NJEA Region 11/12 Office
    Raritan Plaza II
    91 Fieldcrest Ave, Suite A3

    Gloucester Co. Education Association
    190 N. Evergreen Ave, Suite 108

    NJEA Stanhope Office
    23 Route 206

    NJEA Region 3 Office
    1020 Laurel Oak Rd.
  6. Make sure every member of your family who is able to do so is registered to vote. This website lets you do it online.
Friends, there really is no other way to say this. We can't sugar coat it or push it off on someone else. We need every single one of us taking action. Can you imagine Sen. Sweeney's office receiving 200,000 phone calls? He can't say No to that.

So please, make a commitment today to do your part. We all have worked too hard to simply let our pensions dissolve into thin air. And I think it's pretty safe to say that there aren't too many of us who can survive retirement without them. I know I can't.

Let's do this!

#TeamTrenton rocking the vote!

Friday, July 15, 2016

My thank you letter to @BernieSanders

Mother's Day 2016, Rutgers University Rally

Dear Senator Sanders,

I am so sorry that you will not be the Democratic candidate for President, but I wanted to personally thank you for all you did. Your efforts were not in vain. Sadly, our nation is not yet ready for a leader who doesn't just talk the talk, but also walks the walk. Your profound and honest commitment to speaking out against the grave social injustices heaped on far too many Americans got many in Washington and on Wall St. squirming—and that's a good thing. 

Someone once said that candidates campaign with poetry and lead with prose, but you did just the opposite. Your direct, no-nonsense approach left no doubt where your priorities would be as president.

Thank you for raising the consciousness of the American people and engaging millions of our youth in the political process. You spoke to them and for them. It will be interesting to see if they remain engaged enough to actually vote in November. We need them now more than ever. 

Thank you for speaking directly to me. In the almost 40 years that I have been voting, no other candidate's words resonated like yours. Every time I turned on the news you were speaking about issues that are directly affecting my quality of life every single day. You didn't give lip service. Instead you offered real, reasonable solutions.  

Thank you for forcing this nation to look at its shame of poverty and income inequality, and for airing the dirty laundry of those who want to keep it that way.

Thank you for being the voice of the poor, the working poor and the middle class—all of whom have, over the past 40 years, been forced several more rungs down the already rickety ladder of success at the hands of the super wealthy and the politicians whom they have purchased. 

Thank you for staying in the race when many talking heads said you should get out. By staying in as long as you did you forced the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton to adopt parts of your platform they shied away from. Universal healthcare, free college tuition, everyone paying their fare share in taxes, and a real living wage are not fantasies. They are a reality in many industrialized countries, and they should be so in the wealthiest nation on earth. They help give everyone a a chance to achieve their dreams.

Thank you for shining a light on the rusted, antiquated two-party system that simply does not give independent thinkers a legitimate shot at state and local races. As President Obama's achievements have shattered the glass ceiling for minority leaders, so too has your campaign for those who think outside the box.

It's deeply saddening that for millions of Americans, this race is not about voting for the best candidate, but voting for the least objectionable. But I am an eternal optimist. The revolution you champion cannot and will not be forced back into a bottle. Our next president will be forced to listen to our demands because they are our needs

America cannot continue on its collision course with inequity, but I know that, no matter who our next president is, you will continue to fight for those who have been unfairly blamed for our country's malaise. 

Like you, I will be supporting Hillary Clinton. Not to do so would be handing a vote to Donald Trump, and I simply will not do that. I am deeply disappointed at how the national Democratic Party handled this primary, but as you are doing, I have to put aside my personal feelings and work to make sure Trump is defeated. 

It was an honor and a pleasure to meet you in person at the Rutgers University rally on Mothers Day. I brought my 16 year old daughter with me because she will be voting in two years, and I wanted her to experience a piece of the political revolution that has started in this country and to hear from someone on its forefront. I want her to know that there really are elected officials who follow words with deeds; that there really are some who are fighting for us.

Even though your campaign is over, I know that you will continue to fight for the majority of Americans as you have done throughout your entire career.

I wish you good health, happiness and some much-needed rest. And I look forward to your continued efforts on behalf of all Americans.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

7 Things Wrong with Gov. Christie's School Funding Proposal

There's an old joke that goes like this: 
Q: How do you know when a politician is lying? 
A: When their lips are moving.

I guess now that Christie's poll numbers are in the tank, his ego is pushing him to appear relevant. So what does he do when his back is against the wall? Attack public education of course. 

In true Christie style, he gave a speech yesterday that even Pinocchio would cringe at, ripping into the state's school funding formula—one of the most progressive in the nation—and vowing to change it to flat funding.

There are so many things wrong with it that it's hard to know where to begin. But let's start with this: Gov. Christie used the word 'unfair' seven times in his speech. So here are seven things that are unfair not only with his proposals, but with how he has treated public education over the past 6 years:

1. Gov. Christie has cut almost $7 billion in education funding statewide, and given away just about that much in corporate tax breaks, yet he has the nerve to claim that urban education is 'failing'.

2. Under Gov. Christie, urban charter schools have bled their host public school districts of hundreds of millions of dollars, which has forced massive layoffs and cuts to programs and vital services. 

3. Under Gov. Christie, segregation has skyrocketed in urban school districts as charters habitually skim the best and brightest (and least expensive to educate) students, and toss those most in need of additional resources back to cash-starved public schools. 

4. Under Gov. Christie's new funding formula urban districts would be drastically underfunded, thus devastating the very schools and students he claims to want to help most.

5. Under Gov. Christie, aid to those most in need in this state has been slashed. Funding for women's health centers, housing assistance for low income and chronically ill citizens, food stamps, and earned income tax credits have all been red-lined. He even fought the raise in the state minimum wage. These cuts directly affect parents in our large, urban centers, many of whom were already struggling to make ends meet before he became governor. And when their children do not have a good head start in life (like the majority in our wealthier, whiter suburbs), they have greater learning hurdles to overcome.

6. He simply will not, as he claims, "make sure that we have the aid for special needs students so that they may reach their potential too." Why? Because he is going to slash funding to our poorest, neediest districts where there generally tends to be a larger population of special needs children. He has not once kept his word to public school districts. Why should we believe him now?

7. This plan simply will not reduce property taxes. The year after Gov. Christie imposed the 2% tax cap, property taxes across the state skyrocketed an average of 20%. I don't know about you, but my property taxes have only gone up since then. But if by chance property taxes do decrease, it will be a massive tax break for wealthy, white, suburban NJ, and a massive tax hike for poor, brown and black urban areas. 

So, what will work? 

  • Fair school funding, not equal funding. The two are very different.
  • Full funding of our public schools as required by the law
  • A moratorium on the expansion of segregationist charter schools
  • Access to quality, affordable prenatal health care for every expectant mother in NJ
  • Access to quality, affordable health care for every man, woman and child in this state
  • Access to fresh, quality food in our urban centers
  • Safe urban neighborhoods with true community schools as their anchors
  • A living wage—not a minimum wage—so that parents don't have to work two or three jobs to make ends meet
  • An end to unfunded mandates
This is just a start. There is much more that can and should be done, but unless and until profits are removed from the public education equation, things will never change.

Before I go...

Hat tip to my bloggy buddies, Jersey Jazzman and Dr. Bruce Baker for always having facts and figures at the ready...

... and Darcie Cimarusti (aka Mother Crusader) for reminding us what 'fair' really means:


Monday, June 20, 2016

IMMEDIATE Action Needed to Reduce Gun Violence!

"The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil but by those who watch them without doing anything." 

~ Albert Einstein. 

Since the massacre in Orlando just 8 days ago there have been 9 more mass shootings in the US, most of which have not been reported by the mainstream media. Since the beginning of this year, 6,239 people have been killed, and almost 13,000 have been injured—over 1500 of them were children and teenagers. And it's only June. But thanks to the Gun Violence Archive, this information is now readily available and regularly updated.

Next to public education, ending gun violence is a cause that is near and dear to my heart, partly because far too often, gun violence happens in schools.

The only way we as a nation can stop the bloodshed is to demand our legislators take action. On this issue we all should be shouting from the rooftops and marching in the streets.

This morning I received this email from Carol Stiller of the Mercer Co. (NJ) chapter of the Million Moms March/Brady Campaign to Reduce Gun Violence. I urge every person reading this to take action today by making calls and forwarding this to your contacts. Please do not delay. This vote is happening TODAY at 5:30 pm.

If you cannot make calls, there is a quick and easy way to contact these Senators through your cell phone. I highlighted it in yellow. 

There are also two rallies in NJ today: one with Senators Booker and Menendez at 11:30 in Newark; the other with Reps. Pallone and Watson-Coleman at 2:00 in Trenton. Details are below. I plan to be at the Trenton rally.

Please take action today. Please help stop the bloodshed. Please help reduce gun violence. Please make your voice heard.


As most of you already know, the U.S. Senate will be holding a vote today, MONDAY, JUNE 20, at 5:30 P.M. on closing the Terror Gap that allows suspected terrorists to buy guns, and on Universal Background Checks. WE ALL need to make calls to the offices of those Senators who we feel could make the difference in a win or loss.

Here are 20 targets for calls. Some are Republicans, some are Democrats. We cannot take these votes for granted, one way or the other. We REALLY NEED ALL of these to get to 60 votes and win! It will only take a couple minutes for each call. These kinds of opportunities don’t come often — WE MUST ACT NOW. Their phone numbers are listed below… 

if you have a cell phone, the EASIEST and QUICKEST way to contact every one is to text DISARM HATE to 877-877 and you will be automatically connected to one of the targets. WHEN you call again, you will be connected to a different one, and so on. PLEASE MAKE THESE CALLS. We must hold them accountable!

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) - 202-224-2854

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) - 202-224-2235

Sen. RIchard Burr (R-NC) - 202-224-3154

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) - 202-224-2043

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) - 202-224-3324

Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV)  - 202-224-6244

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) - 202-224-3353

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) - 202-224-4814

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) - 202-224-2523

Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) - 202-224-2644

Sen. Robert  Casey (D-PA) - 202-224-6324

Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-PA) - 202-224-4254

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) - 202-224-2023

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) - 202-224-3954

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) - 202-224-4521

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) - 202-224-3643

Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN) - 202-224-5623

Sen. Tim Sott (R-SC) - 202-224-6121

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) - 202-224-4944

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) 202-224-5323

Ask them to vote YES on Senator Feinstein's amendment to prevent those on the Terror Watch List from buying firearms and NO on the weak substitute amendment being introduced by NRA-supported Senator Cornyn of Texas. 

Ask them to vote YES on Senator Murphy’s universal background check amendment and NO on the weak substitute amendment being introduced by NRA-supported Senator Grassley of Iowa. 

Tell the staffer that answers:  
“Hi, my name is _____________.  Please tell Senator ______ to vote YES on Senator Feinstein’s Terror Gap Amendment and Senator Murphy’s Background Check Amendment, and NO on the Cornyn/Grassley substitute amendments. Thank you.”

Please leave a message for the Senator if you can’t reach a staffer.

We are so fortunate that both Senators Booker and Menendez will be voting the right way. If you haven’t already, please call to thank them:
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) - 202-224-3224
Sen. Robert Menende (D-NJ) - 202-224-4744

Remember that you can watch LIVE Senate floor proceedings on MONDAY5:30 p.m. (other archived proceedings are also available): 

If you know anyone in the DC area who would like to join a group who will sit in the Senate Gallery during the proceedings, have them contact their senator’s office for tickets.

THEN after you make your calls or while calling on the way, come out to attend a rally and/or press conference — one in NEWARK with Senators Booker and Menendez at 11:30 a.m. and one in TRENTON with Representatives Pallone and Watson Colman at 2:00 p.m.  See the attached media releases for details. We need to keep up the momentum on these important common sense gun violence solutions!

I know this seems like a lot, but so worth the effort.  And if you need some incentive, listen to my Oakland CA MMM friend Lorrain Taylor’s “It’s Time to Take a Stand”. Devastatingly, Lorrain lost her twin 22-year-old sons to gun violence while they were working on a car. 

“…But now its time for us to stand together as one voice…Its time to let the world know that gun violence is not our choice.” 

THANK YOU EVERYONE. Together we CAN make a difference.


    REMEMBERING JIM and SARAH BRADY!No Background Check - No Gun - No Excuses 
UNIVERSAL Background Checks!