“Working But Still Poor” Conference

WBSP Conference Flyer 4.14

2016 Working But Still Poor Conference

Confronting Income Inequality on Long Island:
Reclaiming Our Lives, Our Work, Our Play

Monday, May 23, 2016
8:30am – 3:30pm
Registration begins at 8:15am; program begins at 9am

Touro Law Center (225 Eastview Drive, Central Islip)

Registration: $35

Register Online Here!

Purchase Tickets HERE!


Registration and Breakfast
8:30-9:00 AM

Opening Plenary: Income Inequality on Long Island: A Moral, Human and Political Challenge
9:00-10:00 AM

Keynote Speaker: Les Leopold – Executive Director, The Labor Institute and author of Runaway Inequality: An Activist’s Guide to Economic Justice (2015) [All conference participants will receive free copy of this book.]


Breakout Session A: Reclaiming How We Live and Play by Confronting Income Inequality                                                                    10:15-11:30

[NOTE: Each breakout session will explore a specific facet of income inequality on Long Island with the goal of taking action for greater economic justice. Each panel contains people who have experienced income inequality and/or who are experts in researching and acting to close the income gap.]

Panel #1: Income Inequality and its Negatives Impacts on Health
Numerous studies have shown alarming discrepancies in the health of Long Islanders based on their incomes – not all of which are caused by a lack of access to health insurance – with people who live in less affluent communities at greater risk of many illnesses, infant  mortality, shorter life expectancy and other negative health conditions.


  • Moderator: Luis Valenzuela, Healthcare Education Project GNYHA & 1199SEIU, LIIA
  • Mary Dewar, LI Jobs with Justice & Catholic Charities Chair of Public Issues
  • Jaqueline Mondros, Dean, SUNY Stony Brook School of Social Welfare
  • Michael Stoltz, Executive Director, Suffolk Association for Mental Health and Wellness

Panel #2: Income Inequality as a Contributor to Family Instability
The United States lags behind other industrial democracies in providing basic family supports such paid family leave, universal Pre-K and subsidized child care.  This lack of supportive services negatively affects low and middle-income families.


  • Moderator: Kimberly Saget, LI Jobs with Justice
  • Nicole Marcial, Parent Leadership Initiative, Child Care Council of Suffolk
  • Diane Eppolito, Quality Assurance, Planning Analyst, Long Island Head Start
  • Dana Friedman , Suffolk County DSS Deputy Commissioner for Child Care

Panel #3: Income Inequality, Housing and Educational Disparities
Forty five percent of Long Islanders are living in unaffordable homes, that is, paying more than 30 percent of their incomes on housing costs.  Young people are leaving the Island because they cannot find affordable housing.  In addition, people of color as well as low-income families are locked into underperforming school districts due to the Island’s entrenched class and race housing segregation.


  • Moderator: Sol Marie Jones, Senior Program Officer, LI Community Foundation
  • Jennifer Cassidy, Board Member, Huntington Township Housing Coalition
  • Peter Elkowitz, President, LI Housing Partnership
  • Andrew Koldin, Staff Attorney, Erase Racism

Panel #4: Recreation: A Disappearing American Phenomenon?
Americans work more hours and have less vacation time that workers in most industrial democracies.  Now, with test pressures, some schools are even reducing recess time for children.  Meanwhile, local governments are slashing funds to critical recreation programs in communities that serve low-income teenagers.


  • Moderator: Victoria Daza, Long Island Jobs with Justice
  • Anthony Eramo, Long Beach City Councilman, CWA
  • Shirley Coverdale, President/CEO, Family Community Life Center, Riverhead
  • Kerrie O’Neill, Director of Community Engagement and Partnerships,  LGBT Network
  • Rahsmia Zatar, Executive Director, STRONG, Uniondale

Breakout Session B: 
Reclaiming Our Work by Confronting Income Inequality                                                                               11:45-1:00

Panel #5: The Human Toll of Low-Wage, Non-Unionized Work
In his April 2016 statement on family life, “The Joy of Love,” Pope Francis added to his frequent attacks on global income inequality by calling for good-paying jobs with benefits to relieve the stresses on modern families.  As union memberships decline, as wages remain frozen and American jobs are outsourced, low-wage jobs are taking a toll on America workers and their families.


  • Moderator: Roger Clayman, Executive Director, LI Federation of Labor
  • Onika Shepherd-Bernabe, Vice-President, SEIU1199
  • Erica Rechner, Executive Director, Opportunities Long Island
  • Olivia Santoro, Lead Organizer, LI Progressive Coalition
  • Brendan Sexton, Political Coordinator, UFCW 1500

Panel #6: Frozen Wages despite Rising Productivity: What’s Wrong with this Picture?
Real wages for American blue-collar workers are essentially unchanged over the past 35 years while productivity in this sector is up by more than 200 percent.  This wage/productivity disparity, along with the growing inequality between what the top 1 percent of Americans earn compared with the rest of the nation, is an alarm bell for the future health and stability of America’s economic, social and political systems.


  • Moderator: Anita Halasz, Executive Director, LI Jobs with Justice
  • Michael Gendron, Executive Vice President, CWA 1108
  • Thomas Lilly, Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations, SUNY Old Westbury
  • David Sprintzen, Board Member, LI Jobs with Justice & LI Progressive Coalition

Panel #7: The Unique Burdens Facing Workers of Color
America’s “original sin” is racism.  African Americans, and now Hispanic immigrants, face many barriers to education, decent jobs and self-sufficiency.  These barriers are deeply rooted in Long Island’s segregated housing patterns and school systems. The result is that children of color are tracked into lives of poverty, low-wage jobs, insufficient government supportive services, mass incarceration and chronic economic insecurity.


  • Moderator: Aaron Watkins Lopez, LI Bus Riders’ Union /LI Jobs with Justice
  • Claire Deroche, Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock, criminal justice reform advocate
  • John Grant, LI Bus Riders’ Union member
  • Gerardo Romo, Episcopal Diocese of Long Island/ Rural and Migrant Ministries
  • Dolores “Dee” Thompson, President Emeritus, NAACP, Huntington Chapter

Faith Track Workshop – Breakout Sessions A and B
Making Your Congregations a Voice for Equality: Preaching About and Organizing for Greater Equality on Long Island
The LI Jobs with Justice AMOS Project works to deepen and broaden the engagement of Long Island’s faith community in educating, organizing and advocating for economic justice.  This two-part workshop will present tools and resources developed to help faith leaders preach, speak, organize and act for justice.Resources will be shared from the  Center for the Study of Faith in Public Life, Fairfield University


  • Tom Goodhue, Executive Director, LI Council of Churches
  • Richard Koubek, PhD, Community Outreach Coordinator, LI Jobs with Justice



Closing Plenary: Organizing to Take Back Our Lives, Our Work and Our Play

  • Closing Speaker: Bob Keeler – Former Newsday reporter and editorial board member, Pax Christi LI
  • Jobs with Justice: An Agenda for Confronting Income Inequality on Long Island: Anita Halasz, Executive Director, LI Jobs with Justice
  • Closing prayer



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