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May 1 – A Day for Labor to Join the Anti-Death Penalty Movement

Albert Parsons and August Spies were hung in 1887. Joe Hill was shot by a firing squad in 1915. Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were electrocuted in 1927. Their methods of execution were different, but their “crimes” were common: they were put to death because of their staunch advocacy for the rights of working people to decent wages and working conditions.

The application of the death penalty has always been political – from the Salem Witch trials to New Hampshire’s Attorney General using a death penalty prosecution in her election campaign to yesterday’s verdict by an Egyptian judge that condemned 683 people to death.  (See statement from Amnesty International.)

With International Workers Day, a day that began in honor of Albert Parsons and August Spies, four days away, this is as good a time as any to recall why the cause of labor should be tied to the movement for an end to the death penalty.

Parsons and Spies were leaders of the International WorkingHaymarketRiot-Harpers.jpg People’s Association in Chicago, which was fighting for the eight-hour day. They had already been singled out for condemnation by city leaders, Parsons even threatened with lynching by Chicago businessmen, when they led the planning of a peaceful rally at Haymarket Square on May 1, 1886.

Three days later Parson, Spies, and Sam Fielden, also a member of the Working People’s Association, spoke at another rally, peaceful as well until it was rushed by club-wielding police and then shattered by an explosion.

Eleven people, including seven police officers, died. No one knew who had brought or thrown the bomb, but Spies and Parsons – who was with his wife and two children at a nearby saloon when the bomb went off – were immediately blamed.

In the words of Richard O. Boyer and Herbert M. Morais, authors of Labor’s Untold Story, “the nation’s press was a unit in declaring that it made no difference whether Parson, Spies, or Fielden had or had not thrown the bomb. They should be hanged for their political views, for their words and general activities and if more trouble makers were given to the hangman so much the better.” The Chicago Tribune, for example, said the labor leaders should be “held, tried and hanged for murder.”

And that’s exactly what happened, despite the lack of any evidence tying them to the bombing or the deaths of the police officers. “The trial was conducted with all the sensation histrionics, all the stage properties which so often transform American legal proceedings into lurid public spectacles,” according to Boyer and Morais, who added, “the verdict was almost a formality.”

This May Day, let’s remember Albert Parsons and August Spies and pledge to end the government’s option to execute those it decides are its enemies.

[Thanks to Wikipedia.org for graphics.]

The last words of Albert Spies

Canterbury Residents Push For Medicaid Expansion In Town Meeting (InZane Times)

Twenty Canterbury residents exchanged perspectives with their three State Representatives at the town’s Meeting House Saturday morning.  Long-time Representative Priscilla Lockwood, and first-termers Howard Moffett and Lorrie Carey fielded questions on topics including unsatisfactory road conditions, tar sands, burdens on municipal government, building codes, GMOs, and the influence of corporations on elections and policy-making.

Responding to a question for Doris Hampton, who organized the session, Rep. Moffett gave a passionate call for the state to expand Medicaid.  “The House is going to support Medicaid expansion as often as it’s given the opportunity to do so,” he said, but explained that the resistance is coming from Republican Senators.

“It’s partisan,” agreed Rep. Lockwood, who made sure to say she was one of six Republican Representatives who voted for it.

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Rep. Howard Moffett

“What i have seen coming out of Republican Senators just doesn’t hold water,” Rep. Moffett said.  Medicaid expansion would bring two and half billion dollars – money we’ve already paid in federal taxes – back to the state “to create jobs and provide health insurance,” he observed.

“It feels like a war on the poor,”  Rep. Moffett said.  No one in the room seemed to disagree.  Rep. Carey threw in an anecdote about a landscaper badly injured on a job across the street from Concord Hospital who was afraid to seek medical attention for fear of getting a bill he’d be unable to pay.

“We can’t let any member of our population think they need to bleed to death because can’t afford care,” she said.

Rep. Moffett hopes pressure can be exerted on Republican Senators – only two are needed to join the unified Democrats and create a majority – in order for the Medicaid proposal to pass.

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Rep. Lorrie Carey

Rep. Carey is a member of the State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs Committee, which tends to get responsibility for non-binding resolutions that if adopted express the sense of the legislators on a wide range of topics.  Last year the House adopted a resolution calling for a Constitutional Amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision and declare that constitutional rights are intended for natural persons, not corporations.  The Senate refused to take it up, but the issue has re-surfaced this year, with two resolutions in Rep. Carey’s committee calling for a Constitutional Convention to be convened on this matter.

“Is there a lot of money being pumped in by the corporations?” she asked.  “The answer is yes,” she responded to her own question.

Despite what the Representatives indicated was strong support for something to be done, none of them felt that passing resolutions makes any difference.  “Resolutions in the end are meaningless,” Rep. Carey said.

The presence of two town Selectmen guaranteed that state-municipal relations was on the agenda.  The Selectmen, Tyson Miller and Bob Steenson, worry the legislature could adopt bills intended to increase transparency but which would have the effect of impairing the ability of volunteer town officers to manage local affairs.  They also were eager for funds for road improvement.  The three State Representatives were supportive of proposals to raise taxes on gasoline, with Rep. Carey pointing out that it hasn’t been hiked since 1991. 

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Rep. Priscilla Lockwood

The Representatives said they read all their email, but that messages which appear to be form letters crafted by advocacy groups tend to be ignored.  So write your legislators, use your own words, and make sure you let them know you’re a constituent.

Rep. Lockwood, a legislative veteran who has also served on the Select Board, said she plans to step down after the current term.

This story was cross posted with permission from InZane Times.

MLK A Devoted Labor Leader And Leader Against The Death Penalty

MLK’s First Campaign was against the Death Penalty

Bus segregation was not the first issue that grabbed the attention of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. when the young pastor moved to Montgomery, Alabama in 1954. His first campaign in his new home focused on a sentence of death for Jeremiah Reeves, a 16-year-old black boy convicted of raping a white woman, which512px-Martin_Luther_King_Jr_NYWTS_6-wikicommons became his first civil rights campaign in his new home. Reeves had confessed under duress, but later recanted, a claim widely believed in the black community. King joined the NAACP’s efforts to save Reeves’ life.

So did Claudette Colvin, like Reeves a student at Booker T. Washington High School. Colvin, who the next year would be arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus nine months before Rosa Parks did the same thing, recalled, “Jeremiah Reeves’s arrest was the turning point of my life. That was when I and a lot of other students really started thinking about prejudice and racism. I was furious when I found out what had happened.” [1]

“In the years that [Reeves] sat in jail,” Dr. King wrote in Stride Toward Freedom, his book about the Montgomery movement, “several white men in Alabama had also been charged with rape; but their accusers were Negro girls. They were seldom arrested; if arrested, they were soon released by the Grand Jury; none was ever brought to trial.” [2]

Reeves was found guilty by an all-white jury and put to death on March 28, 1958.

A week later King addressed a “Prayer Pilgrimage” rally in front of the State Capitol building. “The issue before us now is not the innocence or guilt of Jeremiah Reeves,” King told a crowd of two thousand. “Even if he were guilty, it is the severity ad inequality of the penalty that constitutes the injustice. Full grown white men committing comparable crimes against Negro girls are rare ever punished, and are never given the death penalty or even a life sentence.”[3]

Such gerrymandered justice was a well established fact of life in the South, going back to the days of slavery when blacks were commonly executed or lynched for crimes that drew less harsh punishment — or none — when committed by whites. This discriminatory pattern continued after emancipation, as Stuart Banner documents in his book, The Death Penalty: An American History. “In the first half of the [twentieth] century,” he writes, “the southern states punished many crimes by death only if they were committed by blacks, in the second half of LR&Mark11-14-12 019the century they accomplished the same result by delegating to all-white juries the discretion to choose capital or noncapital punishment.”

“The death penalty was a means of racial control,” observes Banner, a UCLA law professor.

Sadly, the role played by race in decisions about the death penalty persists. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, recent studies “add to an overwhelming body of evidence that race plays a decisive role in the question of who lives and dies by execution in this country. Race influences which cases are chosen for capital prosecution and which prosecutors are allowed to make those decisions. Likewise, race affects the makeup of the juries which determine the sentence. Racial effects have been shown not just in isolated instances, but in virtually every state for which disparities have been estimated and over an extensive period of time.”

New Hampshire is a case in point.

Michael Addison was charged with capital murder for killing Michael Briggs, a police officer, in 2006.

John Brooks was charged with capital murder for hiring three men to assist him in killing Jack Reid, a handyman, in 2005.

The trials took place in adjacent counties in 2008.

Addison, a poor black man with a prior criminal record, was found guilty and sentenced to death.

Brooks, a white millionaire businessman, was found guilty but spared the death penalty.

Monica Foster, Brooks’ attorney, said of her client after the sentence was announced, “He’s not the kind of people juries routinely kill,”

Racial disparities in the use of the death penalty have been a focus of scholarly research for decades. According to Justin Levinson, Robert Smith, and Danielle Young, authors of a 2013 study, “The most consistent and robust finding in this literature is that even after controlling for dozens and sometimes hundreds of case-related variables, Americans who murder Whites are more likely to receive a death sentence than those who murder Blacks.” They note as well that “Black defendants are sentenced to death more frequently than White defendants, especially when the universe of studied cases is narrowed to include only those cases that result in aexecutejustice11-14-12capital trial.”

What Levinson, Smith, and Young found ought to be a wake-up call for anyone interested in the fairness of our judicial system. After studying 445 jury-eligible citizens in six states where the death penalty is most actively used, they concluded that “implicit racial bias does have an impact on the administration of the death penalty in America.”

“We found that death-qualified jurors implicitly valued White lives over Black lives by more rapidly associating White subjects with the concepts of ‘worth’ or ‘value’ and Black subjects with the concepts of ‘worthless’ or ‘expendable.’ This finding could potentially help to explain why real capital juries impose death sentences more regularly for White victims: at least at an implicit level we value White lives more than Black lives, and thus, perhaps, we seek to punish those individuals who have destroyed those whom we value most.”

The implications of this finding go far beyond the death penalty.

As for Dr. King, it is worth noting that his comments on the prosecution, conviction, and execution of Jeremiah Reeves did not directly reject capital punishment, just “the unequal justice of Southern courts.” As King matured into the leader we honor today, his critique of injustice deepened and blended with a prescription for change.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that,” he famously said.

“Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence,” King told the world on the day he received the Nobel Peace Prize. “Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”

The realization of King’s vision is far off. Abolition of the death penalty would be an excellent step in the right direction.

To get involved, join the NH Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

 


 

[1] Phillip Hoose, Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, Farrar Straus Giroux, 2009, p. 23-24

[2] Martin Luther King, Jr., Stride Toward Freedom

[3] Martin Luther King, Jr., “Statement Delivered at the Prayer Pilgrimage Protesting the Electrocution of Jeremiah Reeves,” April 6, 1958

NH Labor Supports Rally At McDonalds For Higher Wages

Image from Jennifer Kenney

Image from Jennifer Kenny

Taking part in a national day of action to support fast food workers, thousands of people nation-wide protested Mcdonalds, Wendy’s, Dunkin Donuts, Burger King, Subway, and many more restaurants across the country.  They are asking for a living wage and the right to form a union.

In Manchester labor supporters including the NH AFL-CIO, American Friends Service Committee, the Alliance for Retired Americans, and the Socialist Alternative rallied together for workers at the McDonalds on South Willow Street.

The Nashua Patch posted a great video with interviews of local advocates calling for a higher minimum wage in New Hampshire.  Carol Robiboux of the Nashua Patch also captured the supporters singing a modified version of the classic Christmas carol ‘Deck the Halls,’ entitled ‘Deck the Halls With Higher Wages’.  (You can read the lyrics to the song in Arnie Alpert’s post here on the NHLN.)

Below are a couple of quotes as reported by the Nashua Patch.

The franchisees are all rich, the executives are all rich, and they don’t want to share it with the people who do the real work,” said Steve Kloppenburg, a protestor affiliated with the NH Chapter of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations(AFL-CIO), NH-Alliance for Retired Americans, and Veterans for Peace.

There’s currently legislation filed that would raise the minimum wage incrementally to $9 over two years. New Hampshire doesn’t have a minimum wage – that was taken away by the Republican legislators two years ago.  We default to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour,” (Kurt) Ehrenberg (NH AFL-CIO) said.

We also support workers’ right to form a union and go to the negotiating table and ask for a raise. Organizing means they have a seat at the table, to determine what a fair wage should be. Right now, these workers have no voice. They also have no healthcare benefits, no retirement, and no way to save and send their children to college,” Ehrenberg said.

Lisa McComb the regional McDonalds spokesperson responded to the Nashua Patch by saying:

“McDonald’s and our owner-operators are committed to providing our employees with opportunities to succeed.  We offer employees advancement opportunities, competitive pay and benefits.”

Really, competitive pay and benefits?  Since when are poverty wages competitive?

Lets not forget that McDonalds even gave their employees help in creating a household budget that included getting a second job.  McDonalds does offer a healthcare option for workers at $14 a week, however the plan has a $10,000 cap and is deemed insufficient by many.

In a brief statement to the Nashua Patch, Greg Moore, State Director of the Americans For Prosperity, stated:

“The reality is that many 16 and 17-year olds – the folks who often take minimum wage jobs – simply can’t create over $10 per hour in value for an employer, and simply won’t get hired.”

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, however the fact remains that the overwhelming majority of low-wage workers are women and are older that 20. In fact in New Hampshire only 22% of minimum wage earners are teenagers.  On top of that, “more than a third (35.8 percent) are married, and over a quarter (28.0 percent) are parents“. We are not talking about teenagers, we are talking about families trying to survive.

On average McDonalds only spend 30%-35% on labor costs.  Obviously if McDonalds raised the wages for all of their employees that would mean either a loss in profits (not going let that happen), or an increase in prices.  When you take into account the vast number of products sold by McDonalds alone, that would mean the $1.00 menu would have to become the $1.17 menu.  $.17 cents more is all that is need to double the current wages to $15.00 for all McDonalds workers.

McDonalds is by far the worst abuser of low-wage workers.  After raking in billions in profits, they still refuse to pay workers a living wage.  The wages are so low that many of the workers are forced to rely on government assistance programs.

Americans are subsidizing the billions of dollars in profits McDonalds brought in last year.  In 2012, McDonalds even spent $6 billion in stock buyback programs and dividends.

Do you want to support the hard working Americans that are working everyday and barely getting by or do you want to support the Wall Street hedge fund managers who already some of the wealthiest people in the world?

Deck The Halls With Higher Wages

Chicago Raise the Min Wage Rally-SEIU

Image from SEIU Rally in Chicago 2012

By Arnie Alpert,

You’ve probably seen some stories about protests for higher wages and better working conditions at giant retail chains like Walmart and fast food restaurants like McDonald’s.   Perhaps you’ve even participated.  With another “day of action” for fast food workers coming soon, New Hampshire Slim showed up with a new song.

To be honest, it would be more accurate to say Slim brought “new lyrics to an old song,” since he really has little musical talent.  But he’s inspired by Joe Hill, the legendary Wobbly, who figured that if he put new words to familiar tunes they’d be easier for workers to remember and sing.

This one’s to the tune of “Deck the Halls”  and corresponds to legislation that will be considered in Concord next year.  You can fill in the fa-la-las.

Deck the halls with higher wages,

Raise the minimum in stages,

Index pay hikes to inflation,

Workers need fair compensation.

Higher pay for low-wage labor

Is the way to aid our neighbors.

Mickey D will you be willin’?

Help your workers feed their children.

Wages less than nine an hour

Gives too little buying power

Put it on your year-end wish list

Win a wage hike by next Christmas

 NH Slim, December 2013

 

Concord Activists Join “Black Friday” Walmart Protests (InZane Times)

concord112913010_thumbSix hardy activists held signs outside the Concord NH Walmart store this morning in solidarity with workers calling for higher pay and more respectful working conditions.  The “Black Friday” protest was one of many across the country intended to put pressure on the nation’s largest employer and the world’s largest retailer, which has built a business model on the lousy labor standards faced by its workers and those who produce the products it sells.

According to Making Change at Walmart, most of the company’s workers earn less than $25,000 a year.  Wages are so low that 42% of the company’s Massachusetts workers are eligible for subsidized health insurance, according to figures generated by the state’s Center for Health Information and Analysis.

concord112913004The Black Friday protests were coordinated by Making Change at Walmart,  a campaign challenging Walmart to help rebuild our economy and strengthen working families. Anchored by the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW), it unites  Walmart employees, union members, small business owners, religious leaders, community organizations, women’s advocacy groups, multi-ethnic coalitions, elected officials and ordinary citizens who believe that changing Walmart is a vital priority for the economic health of our communities.  Making Change works closely with OUR Walmart, an organization of employees, many of whom have taken risky actions to  insist on a more respectful work environment.

It’s a busy season for “Days of Action.”  One focused on preserving Social Security will be held next Tuesday.  Another, focused on solidarity with fast food workers, will be held Thursday, December 5.   In addition to supporting the efforts of workers at low-wage retail chains and fast food restaurants, the actions can also boost support for legislation to raise the minimum wage at the national and state levels.

In New Hampshire, where the legislature abolished the state’s minimum wage in 2011, a bill to raise the wage for the state’s lowest workers in two steps to $9 an hour will be introduced in January.

Walmart can afford to raise wages.  Citing sources such as the annual Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans, the web site “The Walmart 1%” says the six wealthiest Waltons, the heirs to Walmart founder Sam Walton, have a net worth of $144.7 billion and that the family has as much wealth as 42% of the American population added together.

(Originally posted on InZane Times by Arnie Alpert)

Equality Is Still An Issue For African-Americans 50 Years After The March On Washington

Fifty years after the March on Washington, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. told the nation about his dream of racial justice, are we ready to sing, in the words of the old Negro spiritual he quoted, “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty we’re free at last”?

After all, Jim Crow segregation has been vanquished. The 1964 prediction – in capital letters no less – by the publisher of the Union Leader that passage of the Civil Rights Act would “PRACTICALLY MEAN THE END OF THE TOURIST BUSINESS IN THE WHITE MOUNTAINS, LAKES REGION AND BEACHES” proved to be unfounded.

Signs at New Hampshire’s grand hotels that once read “No Negroes, Jews, or Dogs” are long gone. “Whites only” signs are found only in museums. Not only that, civil rights protections in employment, housing and public accommodations have been extended to people with disabilities and, in many states, to lesbians and gays. We’ve clearly made historic progress.

But before we declare this a “post-racial” era and start singing “We Have Overcome,” let’s take a closer look. Empirical data shows that black Americans still carry an undue burden of inequities in wealth, employment and the criminal justice system.

The occasion for the 1963 march was the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, which ended slavery in the occupied South. “One hundred years later,” King said, “the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.”

On the 150th anniversary of emancipation, the statistics are still pretty stark.

For example, as unemployment rates fluctuate, the black unemployment rate is consistently twice the white rate. That’s one of the factors behind a February 2013 Brandeis University report that the wealth gap between white and black families tripled from 1984 to 2009.

“Our analysis found little evidence to support common perceptions about what underlies the ability to build wealth, including the notion that personal attributes and behavioral choices are key pieces of the equation.”

“Instead,” wrote the authors, from the Institute on Assets and Social Policy, “the evidence points to policy and the configuration of both opportunities and barriers in workplaces, schools, and communities that reinforce deeply entrenched racial dynamics in how wealth is accumulated and that continue to permeate the most important spheres of everyday life.”

For another way to look at the same numbers, take a look at the 2013 State of the Dream report from United for a Fair Economy. They say that in 2010, the most recent year for which they had statistics, “white families held on average more than six times as much net wealth as Black families and nearly six times as much as Latino families.” Moreover, families of color were harder hit in the wealth department by the recent recession than their white counterparts.

Take another issue: incarceration rates. According to an analysis by The Sentencing Project, 38 percent of people in state or federal prisons in 2011 were black, 35 percent were white, and 2 percent were Hispanic. One in every 13 black males ages 30 to 34 was in prison in 2011, as were 1 in 36 Hispanic males, compared to 1 in 90 white males in the same age group.

Black males have a 32 percent chance of serving time in prison at some point in their lives; Hispanic males have a 17 percent chance; white males have a 6 percent chance. The rate of black incarceration is so high, and the legal consequences for felons so severe, that scholars such as Michelle Alexander have labeled the phenomenon as “the new Jim Crow.”

We may in fact have risen from the “dark and desolate valley of segregation,” but we are still miles away from “the sunlit path of racial justice” described on that day in 1963.

So as we recall King’s soaring rhetoric five decades ago, let us renew our own commitment that we will never turn back until justice roars down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

***
Also posted in the Concord Monitor

May Day Is For Immigrants Too (From Arnie Alpert)

NHLN Editor Note: Below is an Op/Ed from New Hampshire AFSC Coordinator Arnie Alpert who is routinely is reposted here in on the NHLN.  Arnie and AFSC have been tirelessly working to push forward on immigration reform and the labor issues associated with immigrant workers.

From CNN Blog

Imagine that you have made it to the United States from a country where economic opportunities are absent. You’ve found work in a laundry, a restaurant kitchen, a nursing home, or on a construction site. The pay is low by U.S. standards, but you save enough to send some every month to your family back home.

Every day you put up with hazards and harassment, knowing that if you raise your voice in protest you risk, not only getting fired, but getting reported and deported. Some weeks you don’t get paid at all, but you keep your mouth shut and live with the abuse.

Hundreds of thousands of immigrant families across the country live this each day. Now, as Congress considers sweeping changes to a broken immigration system, we must press the case for a more humane approach to immigration — and protections for all workers, immigrant and native-born alike.

International Workers’ Day, or May Day, started in 1887 as a day for workers to press their demands for an eight-hour work day. It commemorated a violent suppression of a Chicago labor rally the year before. Immigrants, their advocates and allies took the holiday observed on the first of May to another level in 2006, when they connected workers’ rights to the need for repairs to a broken immigration system.

On this May 1, the American Friends Service Committeewill join them in cities from Concord, New Hampshire, to San Diego, California.

It’s not only workers without the right papers who suffer; when employers can get away with exploitation, the whole workforce suffers and deplorable conditions ripple through the entire labor market.

Immigration reform legislation offers the prospect of ending such exploitation, by providing a path to citizenship for qualifying individuals and a provisional legal status along the way. This would enable workers to stand up for their rights without fear of deportation simply for being an unauthorized worker.

That could be one of the outcomes of passing the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act,” the official name of the massive immigration bill now pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

For future immigrants, the creation of a new visa category, the W visa, would provide opportunities for low-skilled workers to move from one employer to another without losing the authorization to work. This category would ensure that pay levels are set between minimum wage and medium wage for the particular job, and also would require that labor recruiters be registered and regulated. Additionally, holders of “W” visas would be able to seek Legal Permanent Residency for themselves and their immediate family members.

The bill also would create a “blue card,” an improvement for agricultural workers. Those who qualify for these visas would be offered a faster track to permanent residency status.

The bill is not without problems, such as the provision that mandates that all employers, public and private, use the federal E-Verify system, which checks workers’ immigration status. This ties access to jobs to a massive data-management system with a long history of errors and abuses. Making participation in this flawed system obligatory as a condition for a immigration bill is misguided and wrong.

About 8 million of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S are workers. They want what workers everywhere want: safe working conditions, fair wages, and protection from abuse. The American Friends Service Committee sees that as a reasonable desire, consistent with a belief that all work should confer dignity on workers, employers, and consumers. As we say in our policy paper, “A New Path Toward Humane Immigration Policy,” all workers are entitled to humane polices that protect their labor and employment rights.

This year we must take the opportunity to set a long-sought pathway to protection for workers’ and immigrants’ rights — so that May Day 2014 can be a day to celebrate the progress we have made together.

CNN Editor’s note: Gabriel Camacho is the coordinator of Project Voice in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Arnie Alpert is the coordinator of the New Hampshire program. Both are part of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization working for peace and justice in the U.S. and around the world.

Prayer and Protest Calls for End to ICE Abuses (From InZane Times)

Editors Note: Immigration reform is a very important issue for many progressives and those in the labor community.  Over the weekend labor joined with community activists to call for real immigration reform.  After the rally Immigrations Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted raids in southern New Hampshire. ICE stated that the two events were in no way connected, however the way these raids are being conducted are now raising quite a stir.  Below is a special post from Arnie Alpert talking about the impromptu protest to the raids that were conducted.


manchester 4-9-13 008

Forty faith, labor, and community activists prayed, sang, and protested outside Manchester’s Federal Building this afternoon to express outrage about recmanchester 4-9-13 019cropent actions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in area homes and  businesses.

ICE agents entered a Nashua home in the wee hours of Sunday morning, roused residents from their beds, and took away two men in shackles.  The men had no criminal remanchester 4-9-13 040cropcords and were released by ICE on Monday, according to a Nashua Telegraph report.  

Also Sunday, a squad of ICE and local police officers entered the El Mexicano Jr. restaurant in Manchester, took away two  customers, asked other customers for ID, and threatened to return. 

The ICE actions reveal a frightening contrast to policies that manchester 4-9-13 044are supposed to place priority on people who could be considered threats to public safety and leave others alone.  The home raid also appears to violate terms of a recent federal court order which bars ICE from warrantless searches.   

Outside the Norris Cotton Federal Building, participants expressed outrage at ICE’s abusive actions.  They also said they will call on the state’s members of Congress to help rein in Imanchester 4-9-13 047CE and act speedily to approve humane immigration policies. 

Nancy Pape, chair of the NH  United Church of Christ Immigration Working Group led the group in a prayer.  Members of the Smanchester 4-9-13 024isters of Mercy  led another.  The program included a rousing rendition of “We Shall Not Be Moved” in Spanish and English, and concluded with “We Shall Overcome.”

The demonstration was organized in a day by the American manchester 4-9-13 033Friends Service Committee, NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, SEIU Locals 615 and 1984, and others involved in support for immigrants’ rights and humane immigration policy,

Activists plan to meet up again at the State House Plaza in Concord on May 1, International Workers Day.  

 

Nashua: Activists Rally For Immigration Reform (From Arnie Alpert)

nashua 4-6-13 100

“The Time is Now”nashua 4-6-13 012 crop

More than a hundred immigrants rights supporters rallied today at Nashua City Hall  and marched to the offices of Senators Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen to call for reforms centered on a clear and direct path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the USA. 

Rally speakers included Eva Castillo of the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees; the Rev. Tom Woodward of the Granite State Organizing Project; Juan Zamudio, a student at Derryfield School in Manchester; Marisol Saavedra, a Nashua student; and Carols Escobar of SEIU  nashua 4-6-13 040cropLocal 615.

In many years of working across the US, I saw time and time again bosses use the broken immigration system to mistreat, intimidate, underpay and over work undocumented workers,” said Escobar, an Ecuadoran immigrant who works as a janitor in Nashua. 

“When employers pay lower wages to some workers, all workers are affected and standards are lowered for everyone,” the Local 615 member added.

Participants included union members, faith community leaders, and otnashua 4-6-13 014cropher social justice activists adding their bodies and voices to the movement calling on Congress to act now for humane immigration policies. 

Following the brief rally, the crowd marched north into Nashua’s downtown shopping district and crossed over to the east side of the road by the office of Senator Kelly Ayotte.  There, they taped a giant letter to the window, where marchers added their signatures to a statement calling for commonsense immigration reform that fosters unity.

nashua 4-6-13 031“The time for action is long overdue and there is bipartisan agreement on moving forward,” the statement said.  “A reform package that includes a path to citizenship makes economic sense and is true to our ideals as a nation.  Taking action now makes sense politically, as well, since the American public supports immigration reform.”

Marchers continued northward to Senator Shaheen’s office where another letter was taped to the window for signatures. 

The program concluded with a statement from Germano Martins, a member of the State Employees Association (SEIU Local 1984) followed by a prayer led by the Rev. Sandra Pontoh of the Maranatha Indonesian United Church of Christ. nashua 4-6-13 109

The organizing committee included SEIU Locals 615 and 1984, the NH AFL-CIO, NH Civil Liberties Union, Lutheran Social Services, the Granite State Organizing Project, the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, the United Church of Christ Immigration Working Group, and the American Friends Service Committee.

Another rally will take place at State House Plaza in Concord at noon on Wednesday, May 1.

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All images credit to Arnie Alpert and Inzane Times.

Reposted with permission from InZane Times (Original Link)

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