With the emergence of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the deplorable inadequacies of our economic and governmental institutions are more starkly apparent than ever. This past March, our members have dedicated their time, money, and resources to participating in mutual aid, organizing for policy that gives people crucial relief, and creating new remote tactics to continue our campaigns so that we can build a better world for everyone in the long-term.
Rochester for Energy Democracy (R.E.D.)
R.E.D. is a campaign started by Metro Justice to halt the pending climate catastrophe and ensure environmental justice in the long-term. We are striving to build an energy system in which communities -- not corporate investors -- decide what energy we use, where we get it, what we pay, and how that money can be used to benefit our community. The first steps towards this vision is organizing our neighborhoods for community-owned solar and replacing RG&E with a public, not-for-profit utility with an elected board, a green energy mandate, and concrete commitments to a just transition for energy workers.
The R.E.D. committee convenes biweekly on Wednesdays from 5:30 - 7:30 PM. In March, we focused on COVID-19 relief policy to secure electricity and heat in all homes regardless of people's ability to pay. We also began developing digital basebuilding strategies so that we can continue engaging our community towards our long-term goal of a public utility. Due to COVID-19, millions of people are unemployed and struggling to afford the basic necessities of electricity, heat, and water in their homes. Many of these people will overcome a public health crisis only to enter a debt crisis for unpaid bills. Meanwhile, shareholders of private utilities continue to charge rates that generate millions in profit for them. Furthermore, gas and oil companies are exploiting the crisis to fly under the radar with new pipeline projects. The need for public utilities run by the people, for the people is more evident than ever and we plan to keep fighting! Here's how:
- We will be launching a podcast, webinar series, and informational video series that continues to build momentum for a better energy future. Each project will engage our community on public power in a different way. Our podcast will provide regular updates on our campaign, answer questions from our audience, and interview guests involved in movements for public utilities across the world. Our webinars will be a 3-part workshop that dives deep into how our energy system works and understanding your utility bill, public utilities and the specifics of our goals in Rochester, and community-owned solar. Each webinar will also have an interactive audience Q&A. Our video series will provide quick educational overviews of our campaign, as well as various topics of energy democracy and combating climate change. Stay tuned for the launch of these projects!
- We joined forces with Rochester Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and Citizen Action of New York - Rochester to win a moratorium on shutoffs and late fees from RG&E for the duration of the COVID-19 Emergency. We collectively sent over 300 letters to the executives of RG&E! Our victory in Rochester coincided with Governor Cuomo issuing a temporary moratorium on shutoffs by private utilities.
- We have continued developing a thorough ballot measure that reflects our principles of energy democracy, and conducting all the associated research.
- We are making progress towards confirming sites, connecting with partner organizations, and securing funding for our cooperatively-owned community solar farm.
- We are diligently participating in the Statewide Public Power Coalition to coordinate collective action for comprehensive relief from utilities payments. We demand that Governor Cuomo cancel utility bills, forgive unpaid debt, issue a moratorium on shutoffs for 2 years, and bail out utilities by taxing the ultra-wealthy their fair share of taxes. Stay tuned for more information on how you can take action!
Do you want to join us in halting the climate crisis and making energy a human right? Join our upcoming meetings via video conference! Be sure to RSVP by visiting our "Upcoming Events" page so that we can send you information to join our remote meetings.
Campaign for NY Health
Metro Justice houses the Rochester Chapter of the Campaign for NY Health (CNYH): a statewide movement for universal healthcare in NYS!
Nothing exposes the necessity of universal, comprehensive health care like a pandemic dangerously mismanaged by our privatized health system. For decades, insurance companies under-resourced and under-staffed hospitals so that their shareholders could rake in millions in profit for barely providing care. The stress, untreated illness, and death caused by these companies' greed is now further exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.
In a time when we clearly need more public health care, Governor Cuomo instead tried to cut $2.5 billion from Medicaid. Metro Justice participated in the statewide CNYH's effort to prevent Cuomo from making these unconscionable cuts. The good news is because of our efforts, Governor Cuomo postponed the cuts to occur after the COVID-19 Emergency. However, we also know that is not enough. While these cuts would have been especially egregious during COVID-19, they are still unacceptable with or without a pandemic.
We will continue our fight to stop cuts to Medicaid entirely and win Medicare for All in NYS. In addition to organizing a phone-zap and letter-campaign against Medicaid cuts, our committee:
- Planned letters-to-the-editor that emphasize the connection between the COVID-19 pandemic and the case for universal health care.
- Joined Rochester DSA in coordinating mutual aid for people facing food insecurity, financial hardship, illness, or other hardships of isolation.
- Planned a virtual story-telling training to support activists for universal healthcare in sharing their stories publicly.
If you want to join the movement to make health care a human right in NYS, join our upcoming meetings via video conference! Be sure to RSVP by visiting our "Upcoming Events" page so that we can send you information to join our remote meetings.
Elder Justice is one of our longest existing committees with some of our most dedicated members. Over the years, Elder Justice has gained statewide recognition for their work to ensure that elders live purposeful, self-directed, meaningful, and dignified lives in their homes and communities. A critical focus of this work has been transforming our nursing homes from hospital-like holding institutions into meaningful and nurturing homes where elders can continue to live truly fulfilling lives. A linchpin of this effort is winning the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act.
Over the past few months, our members:
- Participated in the Democrat and Chronicle Roundtable on Caregiver Issues.
- Met with Steve Newcomb, Acting Director of Monroe County for the Aging, to discuss safe staffing in nursing homes, elder abuse, and elder exploitation.
- Spoke at the Town Hall Meeting with Congressman Joe Morelle about the need for legislation to regulate safe staffing, the lack of adequate procedures for reporting and prosecuting elder abuse, neglect of elders, and exploitation of elders living in facilities.
- Wrote to Mark Hennessey, Director of Center for Health Care Provider Services, regarding egregious care of a resident at a local nursing home and the significant violations cited during an inspection.
- Secured a commitment from Irondequoit Recreation and Rotary to host an Elder Justice Committee Forum on April 18, which has now been postponed until further notice due to COVID-19.
- Spoke at The Health Care Workers Rising Commission on Care Giving.
- Spoke out against Medicaid cuts to nursing homes at the Medicaid Redesign Team II public hearing on Governor Cuomo's proposal to cut $2.5 billion from Medicaid.
If you want to join the movement to ensure that our elders have the dignified and safe lives they deserve, visit our Elder Justice website and email [email protected] for information on upcoming activities!
Membership & Fundraising
We are incredibly excited to introduce our new Manager of Member Giving, Deborah McKinzie!
Deb was born in Kansas, but grew up in Rochester, NY. She later moved to Southern California, where she lived for 15 years and started a Montessori School, before returning to Rochester. Deb has over 20 years of experience fundraising for colleges in the area, and is happy to be working for an organization that can bring real change to her home town.
Metro Justice is thrilled to have her expertise to grow our membership so that we can continue to build bold mass movements for a more just and prosperous world. Welcome to the team, Deb!
Rochester Rapid Response Network (RRRN)
Metro Justice remains a dedicated ally and fiscal sponsor of the Rochester Rapid Response Network. RRRN is an ally group formed to support immigrants facing detention or deportation by engaging in community-based strategic actions and public education guided by their directly-affected immigrant families.
In March, RRRN not only sustained its usual support for immigrant families, but also fought fiercely to protect immigrants from the consequences of COVID-19. This included:
- Calling for the immediate release of immigrants detained at the Buffalo Federal Detention Center in Batavia, NY. In doing so, RRRN joined nationwide demands from organizations of doctors, lawyers, and community organizers to release immigrant detainees for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Crowded, insulated detention facilities -- in which employees come and go from the outside world -- are prime ground for the virus to spread. Keeping immigrants detained during a pandemic is dangerously inhumane. Letters from those incarcerated emphasize how keeping them detained is essentially a "death sentence." That's why hundreds of incarcerated immigrants across the country are currently on hunger strike to demand their release so that they can practice necessary social distancing, as well as support their loved ones through this pandemic. For regular updates on actions to demand their release, you can follow the Rochester Rapid Response Network Facebook page.
- Fundraising to support emergency housing for a young immigrant and her daughter. Unfortunately, not everyone has a safe home to be in quarantine. To support a mother and daughter in leaving a toxic living situation and quarantine safely, RRRN organized a Go Fund Me. For those of you that can, please donate to cover the cost of housing, groceries, toiletries, transportation, and educational supplies until this family is able to be up on their feet.
In addition to supporting immigrants through this pandemic, RRRN also organized court support for Eladio Beltran's immigration hearing on March 11. Eladio is a dedicated farmworker and advocate for farmworker rights. He deserves to be able to stay here with his family. To learn more about his incredible work, you can check out:
- Speech by Eladio at RRRN's Families Belong Together rally
- New York Times article on America’s Farms Need Immigrants
- WXXI's Report on Immigrant Worker Access to NYS Driver Licenses
RRRN has several working groups that meet between general meetings; these working groups anchor critical work including immigrant family court support, communications & media, campaign planning & strategy, and membership recruitment & development. To learn more or join a working group, email RRRN at [email protected]! Currently, they urgently need a volunteer to help search, write, and submit grants for funding.
I'm Crescenzo Scipione. Though technically born into Metro Justice membership, I became active during the Housing is a Human Right campaign and organized for the Fight for $15 at Burger King. I'm currently serving as Secretary of the Metro Justice Council and on the Steering Committee of Rochester for Energy Democracy. Metro Justice is the only progressive organization in Rochester that maintains its independence from electoral politics. As a result, throughout our 55-year history, we've been able to take aim at the root causes of our society's inequities and tackle them with unapologetic community organizing.
As the climate crisis looms larger each day, Metro Justice is launching the Rochester for Energy Democracy campaign to replace RG&E with a municipally owned, cooperatively governed green power authority. Rochester's greenhouse footprint is mostly from home energy, and municipalization would allow a swifter transition to a zero emissions grid than RG&E's corporate owners are likely to deem profitable. In this fight, we are committed to working alongside labor for a just transition for all energy workers.
Build With Us!
Metro Justice is a community organization, driven by our members. Much of this work would not be possible without the contributions of both time and money by the hundreds of members who work hard everyday fighting for racial, social, and economic justice.
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Wishing you, your friends, and loved ones health, safety, and support.