NASW policies key to campaign

Staff and volunteers for NASW’s Political Action Committee — known as Political Action for Candidate Election, or PACE — were busy making a final push before the Nov. 6 election to promote candidates who are in line with the association’s policy agenda.

At the top of NASW’s priorities was encouraging members to back the re-election of President Barack Obama. NASW CEO Elizabeth J. Clark said it’s vital to maintain the positive changes the president made in his first term, including passage of the Affordable Care Act, appointing two women to the U.S. Supreme Court and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which ended discrimination in the armed forces based on sexual identity.

In addition, Obama has reinforced protections for vulnerable populations through such initiatives as the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan and additional protections for hate crimes. He also increased the value of Pell Grants to $5,000 to aid students who face daunting increases in the costs of higher education.

To aid members in understanding the difference in platforms between Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, NASW PACE produced the Presidential Candidate Position Chart document.

It outlines the major policies between the two candidates. For example, regarding jobs and the economy, it notes that Obama passed the American Recovery Act, which cut taxes for small businesses and 95 percent of working families. The document explains that Romney seeks to reverse the economic regulations set by the Obama administration. He also wants to reduce federal spending by 20 percent and the federal workforce by 10 percent.

On the topic of health care, the document notes that the Affordable Care Act will give 34 million more Americans medical insurance coverage, and as many as 17 million children with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied health insurance. Romney said he would issue an executive order that paves the way for the federal government to issue waivers to all 50 states and then work with Congress to repeal the ACA.

Regarding seniors and social security, Obama is against privatization of Social Security and wants to strengthen retirement by automatically enrolling in IRAs workers who do not have workplace retirement plans, the document says. It says Romney would gradually increase the retirement age, and that he believes benefits should continue to grow, but the growth rate should be lower for those with higher incomes.

The platform comparison document also weighs in on the candidates’ positions regarding children and families, civil rights, disabilities, education, immigration, poverty and women’s rights.

In addition to noting policy differences of the presidential candidates, NASW and its chapters were helping members with information about candidates in vital races for Congress.

All 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 33 seats in the U.S. Senate are up for election. The national PACE Board of Trustees has spent the past several months analyzing more than 170 congressional candidates to determine if their policy positions support NASW’s legislative and policy agendas. This includes positions in favor of the social work profession and the clients served by social workers, such as the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act (H.R. 1106/S. 584) and policies outlined in “Social Work Speaks.”

NASW has been sending emails and using a phone bank of volunteers to alert members of PACE-endorsed candidates in their jurisdictions.

After the election, check back to the NASW PACE website to see how the endorsed candidates fared.

NASW Election Phone Bank

Since September, NASW’s national office has been hosting a phone bank on Monday evenings. About 18 NASW member volunteers have been contacting members in key battleground states and districts.

One of the volunteers is Patricia O’Meally, who also joined the phone bank in the 2008 presidential election.

O’Meally, of Maryland, is semi-retired from direct practice in the public mental health sector. She teaches social work practice part time at Howard University. She said she helps the NASW PACE effort as a way to promote the profession and help the clients that social workers serve.

“Social workers are advocates and we invest in empowering our clients,” she said. “We have to

consider the issues and how it affects our clients’ wants and desires and in getting their needs met. We have a need to advocate on a larger theme on behalf of our clients.”

By having NASW endorse the re-election of Obama, “we have selected the candidate we feel is going to do the most for our clients,” O’Meally said. “It makes my job easier if someone in the White House promotes policy, bills and initiatives that are in the best interest of the families I serve.”

She added that having the opportunity to work on the political side of the social work profession is her way of helping support the Congressional Social Work Caucus and passage of the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act.