POW! 2017 Annual Conference

Persisting & Organizing to Win! Putting the POW in EMPOWER!

October 5-6, St Louis, MO

Online Registration is NOW OPEN!

Empower Missouri is dedicating the 2017 Annual Conference to the role of labor organizing. With continued attacks to reduce the reach and influence of the labor community, now is the time to focus on building strong alliances across the broad social justice spectrum.

Keynote Speakers:

  • Nancy Cross: Opening Keynoter, Vice President SEIU Local 1
  • Tiffany Dena Loftin: Closing Keynoter, Senior Program Specialist, NEA
  • Rev. Traci Blackmon & Rabbi Susan Talve: Dinner & Awards Speaker



Workshop titles and times subject to change, more details to follow.

Breakout Session #1 1:30-3:00 PM   Breakout Session #2 3:15-4:45 PM
Housing & Food Insecurity Among Low-Wage Workers (AHHTF & HTF)   Housing & Food Insecurity Among Low-Wage Workers (Repeat) (AHHTF & HTF)
Justice in the Workplace (HRTF)   Faith/Labor Alliance
MO Budget Project (EJTF)   Ban the Box - Fair Chance Hiring Policies (CJTF)
Impact of Trauma on Low-Wage Workers (H/MHTF)   Minimum Wage and #FF$15 (EJTF)


10% of the total tickets sold are available at a Scholarship Rate of 10% of the conference price. Click here to apply for a scholarship. If selected, you will receive registration instructions.


You and/or your organization can show your support for worker's rights and grassroots organizing by sponsoring our conference and contributing to our scholarship fund for low-wage workers. 

Thank you to last year's Sponsors. 2017 Sponsors include:

Missouri Jobs with Justice

When & Where

October 5-6, 2017

Sheraton Clayton Plaza Hotel, St. Louis

7730 Bonhomme Ave.

St. Louis, MO 63105

(Special hotel rate of $109/night is available under "Empower Missouri October 2017")





Train the Trainer | MO HIV Justice Coalition & SERO

August 3-4, 2017, the MO HIV Justice Coalition is hosting a Train the Trainer event in Springfield, MO. Tami Haught of the Sero Project will be leading the program along with input from other Missouri-based leaders. Tami Haught, Sero’s Organizing and Training Coordinator, was diagnosed in 1993 and lived with HIV in silence for 6 years, before embracing advocacy and HIV education. She managed the successful campaign to reform Iowa’s HIV criminalization statement.

The goal of this training is to equip people living with HIV (PLHIV) and allies to advocate for changes to Missouri’s outdated and stigmatizing HIV criminal laws. Register at this link.

Full training schedule can be found at bit.ly/MOHIVJCevents

Legislative Update Week of 3.13.17

Three Cheers for You! SB 28, the block granting of Medicaid, has been put on the back burner. Thanks for making all those calls. The bill was briefly debated in the senate floor before being laid over to the informal calendar - so it could come back, but it was not put forward for a vote at this time. Take a deep breathe and soak in that moment.
 Advocates testified on two bills (HBs 712 and 713) put forward by Rep. Dan Shaul (R-Imperial) and Rep. Crystal Quade (D-Springfield), respectively, to create a pilot program to address the Cliff Effect specifically as it relates to when working parents lose ALL child care subsidies over often miniscule raises. Read more.  Reach out to the House Children and Families Committee members, tell them your experience with this, and urge them to approve this legislation.
We thank Rep. Cora Faith Walker (D-St. Louis County) for filing HB 847which would require training about trauma and trauma-informed approaches as part of preparation to become a teacher. Email or call the House Special Committee on Urban Issues in support of the bill.
Our Human Rights Task Force members testified in support of SB 287, to reduce bias in policing. Encourage Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence committee members to approve this legislation.
That was the good news.
The state legislature is trying to keep St. Louisians from the raise in the minimum wage they passed 2 years ago. HCS HBs 1193 & 1194 are moving quickly, having been introduced, heard, and passed through the House chamber all last week. They might try to push this through the Senate before Legislative Spring Break (March 17-24). Tell your senator this bill deserves time for debate and discussion, not a rubber stamp. Let your senator know you support a higher minimum wage and local control and want to defeat these bills; watch our Facebook page for announcement of a hearing or any floor debate.
 We stand up to discrimination.We're watching a number of bills that attack workers by weakening employment non-discrimination protections in the MO Human Rights Act (SB 43, HB 550, HB 552, HB 676) and by requiring arbitration (SB 45).
We ought to be passing stronger worker protections like the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act (MONA), not undermining civil rights protections that took decades of blood, sweat and tears to secure. Watch Facebook and Twitter for developments throughout the week. It was while testifying on these bills earlier in the session that MO NAACP Pres. Rod Chapel was cut-off from testifying.
Go back up to the top and read that good news one more time. Then call your state rep. and senator and see if they've got time for a meeting with you and your friends while they're back in town for Spring Break, or if they're doing a town hall. If so, let us know and we'll share public events with others on social media. Thank them for their service and make sure they know how you'd like to see them representing you.

#ProtectOurCare Action Alert to Save Medicaid

The Guiding Principles of Empower Missouri begin with this phrase: “All people in Missouri should have true access to quality health care….” Given that this right is so foundational to us, we are gravely alarmed by proposals at the state and federal levels – to repeal the Affordable Care Act, to establish block grants or spending caps within Medicaid, or to in other ways radically constrict access to affordable care for millions of Americans.


Please contact your U.S. Senator and Congressional today (calls preferred) to say “Do not repeal the Affordable Care Act without providing an affordable high quality alternative to serve the needs of my family and my community.”

Sen. Blunt’s contact information: http://www.blunt.senate.gov/public/

Sen.McCaskill’s contact information: https://www.mccaskill.senate.gov/

To find contact information for your U.S. Congress member:

You may also use this call-in number as part of the Nation Day of Action to defend health coverage on January 24:



In Jefferson City, Sen. David Sater (R-Cassville) has proposed Senate Bill (SB) 28, the “Medicaid Global Waiver” bill. This bill was heard on January 11 in the Senate Committee on Seniors, Families and Children. A vote could come as early as the next meeting of the committee, 8 a.m. on January 25. Pick up your phone right now and call the our state senators. Ask them to vote no on SB 28, to preserve a strong Medicaid program for the sake of seniors, persons with disabilities, families, and children, and to wait until there is less uncertainty at the federal level to begin tinkering with the funding structure of Medicaid in Missouri.

Click for the Committee members’ phone numbers and emails.

For an analysis of SB 28, authored by Joel Ferber of Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, for informational purposes only, and taking no position on the passage or defeat of SB 28, click here.

For a briefing paper on SB 28 by Dr. Sidney Watson of the St. Louis University School of Law, Center for Health Law Studies, click here.


To volunteer to phone bank so that more Missourians learn about the threats posed by eliminating or slashing Medicaid, email info@empowermissouri.org. Training will be furnished.

Our Columbia area members are asked to join other advocates for affordable, high-quality health care at the following elected officials’ offices on Friday, Jan 27th:

• Congresswoman Vicki Hartzler’s office from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m., 2415 Carter Lane, Suite 4
• Senator Roy Blunt’s office noon to 1:00 pm, 1001 Cherry St, Suite 104

Congress is on the verge of cutting over 20 million people from health care. We cannot be silent. Join Empower Missouri, Jobs with Justice, Missouri Health Care for All, Planned Parenthood, SEIU and National Nurses United on Saturday, January 28, to tell your story of what the Affordable Care Act means to you! Speak Out this Saturday at 10am at the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW 655) Hall, 300 Weidman, Ballwin, MO.

Some participants will be headed to Washington DC next week, and they want to carry your voice and stories with them. Please come out to support them at the speak out and a rally to follow.

SWMO/Springfield: save the date for an action on Saturday February 4th. Details coming soon.

Watch our Facebook page for additional announcements of public events to #ProtectOurCare.

Michael Johnson Wins Appeal in HIV Case

Michael Johnson is a young man who was convicted under Missouri's HIV criminal law statutes on one count of transmitting HIV and several cases of exposing another to HIV. For updates from legal expert Mayo Schreiber, Jr., Esq., Deputy Director at The Center for HIV Law & Policy, view video of the webinar held this afternoon.

Resources from the webinar:

HIV Is Not A Crime Conference

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

Assata Shakur, Assata: An Autobiography

I’m Ashley Quinn, Empower Missouri’s newest hire as Coordinator of Organizational Outreach, from our Springfield Chapter and our MO HIV Justice Coalition.  I had the great privilege of attending the nation’s second ever HIV is Not a Crime Training Academy (#HINAC2016) in Huntsville, AL this May. Thank you to the Missouri Foundation for Health’s grant which provided funds for this adventure.

HIV is often thought of as a white gay man’s disease – but we spent a lot of time talking about how HIV and the laws that criminalize a virus affect young black men, trans women of color, heterosexual women/sex workers, our armed forces and immigrants. On a recent conference call, a sociologist has reported that there have been at least 119 people convicted under HIV specific statutes in Missouri law since 1991 – which is the highest in the nation. We also heard stories of success from states that have successfully changed their harmful laws. I saw intersecting threads running across many of the topics Empower Missouri works for justice in.

Our Springfield chapter is joining with other local organizations to do a summer book study on The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander.  We see the overarching disparate impact of our hyper-criminalized world, where situations that should be handled from a public health perspective, like HIV, drug use, and mental illness are so frequently handled with handcuffs and jail cell bars. And we see that those marginalized in our society have the slimmest resources and become targets of biased policing, prosecutions, and imprisonment.

I stood in an auditorium where I was the minority, where most attendees were PLHIV (People Living with HIV), but I wasn’t in a room of “sick” people. As we left the conference I saw a critical mass of activists who were encouraged and emboldened to go back to their home states with new connections, new networks, new resources and a renewed spirit to work for justice. As we chanted the quote from the top of this post, we were empowered.

To join our MO HIV Justice Coalition or our book study in Springfield, contact Ashley at Ashley@empowermissouri.org or 417.425.6251.

Ashley Quinn
Coordinator of Organizational Outreach


Medicaid Plan Could Help MO Budget

White House Announcement Gives New Reason for Missouri to Act Swiftly

Plus List of Actions/Dates to Save in Medicaid Expansion Campaign

Today, the White House announced that President Obama’s 2017 budget will create a new incentive to close the coverage gap for the 19 states that have not yet taken the opportunity to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act. By reimbursing each state for 100% of the cost of the newly-eligible for the first three years after it expands Medicaid eligibility, regardless of when it closes the gap, the proposal will further increase the fiscal savings Missouri would see by expanding Medicaid.

Click here for the joint press release from Missouri Budget Project, Missouri Health Advocacy Alliance, Missouri Health Care for All, and Missouri Medicaid Coalition.  (Empower Missouri is on the Steering Committee of the Missouri Medicaid Coalition.) Click here for full White House Announcement.


With the beginning of session on January 6, it is important for legislators to know that we still want them to close the coverage gap this year! Please take a few minutes to send a letter to your legislators. This will help maintain the steady drumbeat of support for Medicaid expansion. Thanks to our friends at Missouri Health Care for All for setting up a quick and easy click and send letter, but if you have time, please personalize their sample message or simply write you own. (If you do not know your state legislator, we can teach you how to find it. Write Jeanette@EmpowerMissouri.org.)


Save the dates for the following two health care lobby days (hosted by Missouri Health Care for All and co-sponsored by Empower Missouri):

Wednesday, February 17 and Tuesday, April 19.

These lobby days will focus on closing the coverage gap as well as other pertinent health care issues. More info coming soon!

Health & Mental Health Task Force Meeting

The Health/Mental Health Task Force is re-convening on December 17 at 10:30 am after a break of some months because we have some important news to share on several issues:

  • An organizing contract has been approved that will allow us to staff the effort to reconvene and mobilize a Missouri AIDS Task Force. Currently Missouri’s laws on HIV actually work against public health by discouraging persons to be tested for HIV. Learn what other states have done about it from guest speaker Sean Strub, Executive Director of SERO. The Sero Project grew out of Sean’s anti-criminalization advocacy work. Strub is a writer and long-time activist who has been living with HIV for more than 30 years.  He founded POZ Magazine, co-chaired the North American regional affiliate of the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+/NA) and co-founded and is a member of the Positive Justice Project.  He has been engaged in HIV-related stigma, discrimination, criminalization and empowerment issues since the earliest days of the epidemic.

Some basic briefing documents are available on the Health and Mental Health Task Force page of our website, and this video also provides a good introduction to this topic: http://seroproject.com/videos/. Additional briefing documents will be available after Thursday’s call.

  • 300,000 Missourians with low incomes are still in the Medicaid coverage gap. What can be done about it? Hear about our new organizing effort in southeast Missouri and Empower Missouri Health Care Organizer Tracy Morrow of Benton, MO, who will team up with Walt Wildman of Cape Girardeau and others to build grassroots strength in a region s struggling with high poverty levels.
  • The mental health system in Missouri continues to be desperately underfunded. What can be done in the 2016 budget debate?
  • Much research is showing what can be accomplished with trauma-informed care. Hear what some are doing in Missouri on this topic.

The Task Force will meet regularly in 2016, so please phone in and help to pick a meeting time that works on your schedule. To join the December 17 call at 10:30 am, dial:

Passcode: 167856#

Please RSVP to Jeanette@EmpowerMissouri.org.