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Governor Hassan’s Veto Message Regarding SB 179, Voting Rights And Eligibility

CONCORD – Governor Maggie Hassan released the following message after vetoing SB 179: 

“By the authority vested in me, pursuant to part II, Article 44 of the New Hampshire Constitution, on July 10, 2015, I have vetoed Senate Bill 179, relative to eligibility to vote and relative to availability of voter information.

“The constitutional right of all citizens to vote is the most fundamental right of our democracy, and we must always be working to ensure that people who are legally domiciled in New Hampshire are not blocked from voting. Senate Bill 179 places unreasonable restrictions upon all New Hampshire citizens’ right to vote in this state with an arbitrary timeline that will prevent lawful residents from taking part in the robust citizen democracy that we are so proud of in the Granite State.

“Our present law provides for same day voter registration, whereby an individual domiciled within the state can register and vote on the date of an election.  Contrary to this voting system, Senate Bill 179 requires that an individual establish a domicile for no less than 30 consecutive days before any election in which the person offers to vote.   This durational requirement unnecessarily interferes with both the right to vote and the right to travel under the New Hampshire and United States Constitutions. Similar restrictions have been found unconstitutional in states with same day voter registration as there is no compelling state interest to support such a law. In the First In The Nation state, it is hard to imagine that we would prohibit someone who moves here for a job in the middle of August from voting in a mid-term primary at the beginning of September, or in any of the numerous similar situations that would be impacted by this law.

“We want to encourage individuals and their families to move to our state and, upon doing so, offer them all the rights and protections of being a New Hampshire citizen.  This includes the right to participate in our democratic process and vote in our elections regardless of whether an individual moves to New Hampshire 29 days before an election or 31 days before an election. In both instances, the individual, who chooses New Hampshire as his or her domicile, should be welcomed and allowed to vote.

“We must be vigilant in our efforts to prevent and aggressively prosecute voter fraud, but Senate Bill 179 does not do anything to accomplish those goals. Restricting the rights of those who are constitutionally eligible to vote with a durational requirement does nothing to prevent people from lying about where they live, it merely denies people who recently moved to New Hampshire and are lawful residents of our state their fundamental right to vote. 

This bill violates the constitutional right of people who are lawful residents of New Hampshire to vote, a fundamental right that is critical to the vibrancy of our democracy. Therefore, I have vetoed Senate Bill 179.”

50 Years After Voting Rights Act, New Book by NH Writer Exposes Gaping Holes in Voting and Representation

“Democracy in Poverty: A View from Below” Combines Empirical Analysis and Personal Encounters from Poverty-Line Research by Greyhound Bus

cover

(Harvard ebook available on Amazon)

What is the connection between poverty and politics today? Does money determine a person’s political voice? Is poverty a democracy problem? To tackle these thorny questions, political reformer Daniel Weeks of Nashua, NH traveled 10,000 miles through thirty states by Greyhound bus, speaking with hundreds of fellow citizens living in poverty and recording his experiences on a poverty-line budget of $16 a day. From benches on Capitol Hill to the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, from the desert colonias of New Mexico to Skid Row in L.A., his profiles and careful analysis put a human face on poverty and political inequality in the 21st century.

Building on the 2014 “Poor (in) Democracy” series for The Atlantic, this book explores the complex relationship between institutional poverty and political power, including how economic inequalities enter the political sphere and undermine political equality; how political arrangements deepen and entrench poverty; and what it means in real life to be poor and (seek to) participate in politics. Highlights from the research findings include:

  • 45 million Americans are currently living below the poverty line on less than $6,000 per person per year or $16 per day
  • Nearly half of all impoverished Americans subsist in deep poverty with annual incomes of less than one-half the federal poverty line – the highest point since recordkeeping began in 1975
  • Low-income people are less than half as likely to vote in most elections as their wealthy counterparts and face a wide range of practical barriers to exercising the franchise
  • Roughly 25 million adults of voting age are legally barred from voting or lack voting representation in Congress
  • The largest single campaign contributor in 2012 provided more money than 98% of Americans combined
  • Issues primarily relevant to lower income Americans account for 4% of legislation in Congress and command less than 1% of lobbying resources
  • Americans in the bottom half of the income distribution command less than 5% of political power across five core dimensions of democratic participation

The stories Weeks recounts in the words of “second-class citizens” across the United States challenge our cherished assumptions about the American dream. Consumed by the daily demands of subsistence and excluded from political participation by both formal and informal means, the people profiled are struggling to make their voices heard where it matters most: in politics. Their persistent poverty is a problem–a moral outrage, in fact–but it’s not the kind of problem we think. More than an economic or social concern, their poverty is political: it is embedded in the very structures of society and maintained by an unjust distribution of political power. To counteract systemic poverty and political inequality, Weeks proposes a slate of reforms aimed at strengthening American democracy, so that all citizens can make their voices heard.

Democracy in Poverty: A View from Below (2015) was published by the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University and is available on Amazon for the poverty-line price of $0.99Funding for the research was provided by the Center and by the Carsey School for Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire. Proceeds from sale of the book go to support Open Democracy, a nonpartisan organization working to close the influence gap in American politics.

To contact the author or schedule an interview, please write contact@poorindemocracy.me or call (202) 596-1706.

_____

About the Author

danielweeks2015bw2Raised in “poverty-lite” in the all-white town of Temple, New Hampshire, backed by generations of college degrees, Daniel Weeks did not encounter systemic poverty until leaving home to serve as an AmeriCorps volunteer with City Year Washington, DC at age 18. That experience, combined with a passion for democracy cultivated in high school by the legendary New Hampshire reformer Doris “Granny D” Haddock (1910-2010), set him on his path as an ardent proponent of democratic reform. As founding director of Students for Clean Elections in 2002, Weeks advocated successfully for comprehensive election reform, including the first legislature-approved public funding law in the country. From 2008-11, he served as president of Americans for Campaign Reform, working with a bipartisan team of former U.S. senators to advance citizen-funded elections in Congress. In 2011, he founded the Money and Politics Project for democratic reform in South Africa, before returning to continue the work in New Hampshire in 2013.

Today, Weeks serves as Executive Director of Open Democracy, a nonpartisan nonprofit working to ensure transparent and accountable governance. Open Democracy’s New Hampshire Rebellion campaign is walking the talk for democracy across the Granite State to build the reform movement — 30,000 miles and counting. Weeks has written and spoken on democracy issues for The Atlantic, New York Times, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, and on PBS, NPR, BBC, and other outlets. For his Poor (in) Democracy project, Weeks traveled 10,000 miles through 30 states by Greyhound bus, conducting interviews and participant observations with dozens of people in poverty while maintaining a poverty-line budget of $16 per day. He was privileged to study Political Science at Yale and Political Theory at Oxford on a Marshall Scholarship. He lives in Nashua, NH with his wife, Dr. Sindiso Mnisi Weeks.

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in response to Hillary Clinton’s Voting Rights Platform:

President Trumka Lauds Clinton’s Voter Rights Overhaul Plan

The labor movement strongly supports Hillary Clinton’s plan to implement sweeping changes to U.S. election and voting laws. This takes our country in the right direction towards ensuring that the vote of every eligible voter – regardless of his or her background – is protected. We applaud her for addressing these issues, which are crucial to a democratic system.

Every American should have the right to register to vote with ease and to cast a ballot in a convenient and accessible way without partisan politics getting in the way. But for far too long, extreme voices in the Republican Party have attempted to block large portions of the electorate from having a voice in the voting booth. Republicans’ refusal to restore the rights of the formerly incarcerated has also ensured that those who have paid their debt to society leave prison disenfranchised and marginalized.   Republican candidates cannot vie to lead this country while preventing Americans from exercising their right to elect government officials who reflect their values and beliefs. We call on all candidates to make clear their positions on this issue that is so crucial and basic to a democratic system.

Senate Democrats’ Comments on Senate GOP Making it Harder to Vote

CONCORD — Senator Bette Lasky, Senator David Pierce and Senator Molly Kelly condemned the passage of Senate Bill 179, which imposes an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote.

 

“This bill will only serve to further complicate the voting process for New Hampshire citizens. SB 179 proposes a new standard for what constitutes a domicile that is more confusing and less concise than the current law,” said Sen. Bette Lasky. “Voters need consistency and clarity when it comes to eligibility standards and this bill fails that test.”

 

In 1972, the Supreme Court ruled in Dunn v. Blumstein that durational residency requirements for voting in state and local elections were unconstitutional.  

 

“I am disappointed to see my Republican colleagues support such legislation even though the Supreme Court has been clear on this issue,” said Sen. David Pierce. “These unconstitutional assaults on our constituents’ right to vote in free and fair elections have got to stop. Unfortunately, the Republican majority won’t stop.”  

 

“Unlike other states, our constitution explicitly guarantees the equal right of every citizen to vote,” said Sen. Molly Kelly. “As we mark the 50thanniversary of the Selma march where some of our fellow Americans lost their very lives to secure the right to vote and as we approach the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, we should be encouraging all eligible citizens to vote instead of making the process more confusing.”

Statement of LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan on the 50th Anniversary of the Selma-Montgomery Voting Rights March

Washington, DC (March 25, 2015) – Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) General President Terry O’Sullivan today made the following statement regarding the 50th Anniversary of the conclusion of the Selma-Montgomery Voting Rights March:

Fifty years ago today, a weary but proud nonviolent army of civil rights activists took their last steps in a 54-mile march for voting rights, pushing our nation one step closer to fulfilling its promise of equal justice for all.  Led by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, these heroic Americans put their lives on the line to call attention to the ongoing denial of our most fundamental right: the right to vote.  Three laid down their lives during the campaign that culminated in the march: Jimmie Lee Jackson, the Reverend James Reeb, and Viola Liuzzo.  On behalf of the General Executive Board and 500,000 members of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), I thank all who marched, and all who supported the marchers, for their dedication, commitment, and sacrifice.  Our union, our movement, and our country owes these brave champions of justice an enormous debt of gratitude that can only be repaid by continuing to protect, and to exercise, the voting rights of all Americans.

At LIUNA, we are proud that the fight for racial justice has been a part of our organizational DNA since our very founding in 1903.  We are proud that our first General Executive Board included two African-American Laborers: Moses Payton and Elmo Chambers.  We are proud that our very first General President, Herman Lilien, a Belgian immigrant who knew the bitter taste of prejudice himself, refused to charter separate White and Black Local Unions.  We are proud that our great International Union was founded by those who were targets of bigotry: African-Americans; Catholics; and immigrants from Ireland, Italy, and many other countries.  Over the past 112 years, we have seen that as long as the rights of any one group of Americans are threatened or denied, the rights of all Americans are in danger.

Sadly, even as we mark this anniversary, we are faced with efforts to turn back the clock.  Overly restrictive voter ID laws, increased barriers to voter participation, and brazen attempts to suppress voter turnout continue to tear at the very fabric of our great democracy.  But just as the marchers of Selma would not be deterred in their righteous battle for freedom, so we will not be deterred in our defense of their accomplishments.  These courageous men and women of all races, religions, and nationalities bequeathed to us a stronger, better, more inclusive republic.  It is our sacred duty to honor, protect, and preserve that bequest.

One Person, One Vote – The 1965 Struggle Goes On

This article was first published in the Concord Monitor, January 15, 2015

By Yoichi R. Okamoto, White House Press Office (WHPO) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Yoichi R. Okamoto, White House Press Office (WHPO) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When President Lyndon Johnson reached Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by phone on January 15, 1965, it wasn’t to offer birthday greetings. The president wanted to strategize about voting rights.

The two leaders were at the peak of their popularity. King had recently returned from Oslo with the Nobel Peace Prize and was gearing up a voting rights campaign centered in Selma, Alabama. Johnson, elected by a landslide two months earlier, had boldly called for “enforcement of the civil rights law and elimination of barriers to the right to vote” for African Americans in his January 7 “State of the Union” speech.

“We take the position that every person born in this country and when they reach a certain age, that he have a right to vote, just like he has a right to fight. And that we just extend it whether it’s a Negro or whether it’s a Mexican or who it is,” the president told Dr. King. “That’s right,” King responded.

But between the two leaders and realization of voting rights stood the power of southern politicians and the often violent enforcement of white supremacy that blocked blacks from the voting rolls in southern states. In Dallas County, Alabama, where Selma was the major city, only 335 blacks were registered to vote by fall, 1964, despite repeated efforts. Outside Selma, black majority rural counties had no black voters at all. Attempts to register could provoke beatings, firings, or worse.

Before the Selma-based campaign led to passage of the Voting Rights Act, hundreds of people would be arrested for peaceful protests, dozens would be beaten, and at least three – Jimmie Lee Jackson, James Reeb, and Viola Liuzzo– would be murdered by white supremacists. In Jackson’s case, the killer was a state trooper. (Jonathan Daniels, a seminary student from Keene, would be murdered three weeks after President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.)

One Person, One Vote Principle is Under Attack

Fifty years later the principle of one person, one vote is again under attack, though the forces arrayed against democracy are less bloody.

For starters, federal election law been tilting toward the power of dollars and away from votes – just look at the U.S. Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts. In a 2013 case, Shelby vs. Holder, the Court invalidated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School calls “a critical tool to combat racial discrimination in voting.” Congress has power to rewrite the provision and restore this power to the Justice Department but has taken no action to date.

In its 2010 Citizens United decision, the Court famously affirmed the principles that corporations are people and money is speech, thus opening the gates for floods of corporate cash to pour into the election system. In 2014’s McCutcheon decision, the Court enabled donors to invest as much as $2.4 million in congressional candidates every two years. Then Congress piled on at year’s end with a last-minute amendment to the budget bill that raised the limits on contributions to political parties from $97,200 a year to $776,000.

Meanwhile the states have again become major battlegrounds for voting rights. According to the Brennan Center, 21 states, including New Hampshire, have approved measures to restrict voting since 2010. These include Voter ID requirements, laws making it harder to register, reduced voting hours, and measures making it harder for people with criminal records to regain their voting rights.

Race Still Drives Attacks on Voting Rights

“Race was also a significant factor,” the Brennan Center reports. “Of the 11 states with the highest African-American turnout in 2008, 7 have new restrictions in place. Of the 12 states with the largest Hispanic population growth between 2000 and 2010, 9 passed laws making it harder to vote. And nearly two-thirds of states — or 9 out of 15 — previously covered in whole or in part by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act because of a history of race discrimination in voting have new restrictions since the 2010 election.”

New Hampshire is likely to see further efforts to erode voting rights in 2015. Bills to restrict same-day registration and suppress student voting are on the legislature’s agenda.

It’s not like the country has a problem of too many people voting. Nationwide, only 35.9% of eligible voters cast ballots in 2014. In New Hampshire, 47.6% of eligible voters went to the polls – hardly a figure to be proud of if we really believe in government of the people by the people and for the people.

Fortunately, lawmakers and voting rights advocates are taking action. In New Hampshire, bills are being proposed to make it easier to cast absentee ballots and to allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections if they will turn 18 before the General Election.

A bi-partisan bill to put teeth back into the Voting Rights Act is likely to return to Congress. At the grassroots level, a growing nationwide movement is calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would establish clearly that the rights enumerated in the Constitution are intended for actual persons, not corporations, and that government regulation of campaign finance can be accomplished without infringing on political speech. In New Hampshire, more than 50 communities already have adopted resolutions backing such a measure.

The January 19 holiday marking Dr. King’s birthday and the fifth anniversary of the Citizens United decision on January 21 can be occasions for us to re-assert our commitment to democracy. Shall we overcome?

Organize The South To Change A Nation

Organize The South NN14Organize The South

“The only way to win economic justice in America is to organize the South,” according to MaryBe McMillian, Secretary-Treasurer of the North Carolina AFL-CIO.

During this year’s Netroots Nation, one panel discussion focused on how labor and progressive organizations are building a movement to effect real social change in America.

Those of us in the labor movement often think of “organizing” as recruiting new members to join our union ranks. While organizing workers is a crucial part of “organizing the South”, the panel’s broader message is that we need to organize people to push for progressive values.

Reverend Dr. William Barber explained what these progressive values are in a recent speech at the AFT convention. He repeated them as he spoke at Netroots Nation:

  1. Rev Dr William Barber NN14Protecting workers and their rights to organize and form unions.
  2. Protecting women’s health and reproductive rights and the rights of the LBGT community.
  3. Protecting our Constitutional right to vote, making it easier for everyone to vote.
  4. Strengthening our public education system.
  5. Ensuring everyone has access to affordable healthcare.

For example, progressive organizations in North Carolina are coming together in weekly protest marches, in what they call “Moral Mondays.” McMillian explained “We have been successful in organizing multiple groups to participate in Moral Mondays because we are all under attack.”

“The South has always been ground zero for the civil rights movement,” Planned Parenthood Federation’s Carol McDonald told the Netroots Nation audience, before describing some of the most legislative “wins” that came from the Moral Mondays movement.

To effect real economic change throughout the United States, we have to stop the exploitation of workers in the South. “Organizing workers from Texas to North Carolina, we will change the South and in turn change the nation,” said McMillian.

UAW and VW

The UAW Fight For VW

In recent years, labor unions throughout the South have been working to organize workers like Will Branch, an employee at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga TN who was part of the panel discussion.

Inside the facility, UAW’s organizing efforts were welcomed by both workers and plant managers. In Germany, all of Volkswagen’s plants are unionized. They have “works councils” where labor leaders meet with mangers to discuss plans to make the plant more efficient, to make a better product, and how they can make sure that the needs of both sides are satisfied. This is exactly the type of labor-management relations that Volkswagen was trying to build in Chattanooga.

“With a local works council, workers would have a voice they can use to make Volkswagen stronger; in safety, job security and efficiency,” said Jonathan Walden, Volkswagen paint technician. “Global representation means Chattanooga workers may have a strong voice in seeking new products and bringing more jobs to Tennessee.”

Despite Volkswagen’s encouragement of the organizing efforts of the United Auto Workers, many of the local politicians were not so happy.

  • Misleading stories ran in the local media, hinting that if the workers voted for the union, their plant could be closed. (This of course was news to Volkswagen, who tried to reassure workers and their new community that they were here to stay.)
  • U.S. Senator Bob Corker made outrageous claims that VW would only expand their plant if workers rejected the union.
  • Tennessee’s Governor Bill Haslan offered $300 million dollars of taxpayer money, in the form of an “incentive” to Volkswagen, provided that the plant was not unionized.

“It’s essentially saying, ‘If you unionize, it’s going to hurt your economy. Why? Because I’m going to make sure it does,’” said Volkswagen worker Lauren Feinauer. “I hope people see it for the underhanded threat that it is.”

“Politicians subjected Volkswagen workers to a two-week barrage of anti-UAW propaganda, outright lies, distortions, and threats about the viability of their plant.  [T]heir allies… refused to reveal their funding sources and …openly republished the illicit threats in the media and among the Volkswagen workforce,” the UAW said in a written statement.

The union representation election process resulted in a National Labor Relations Board challenge, which was dropped the UAW and Volkswagen announced that they have created “UAW Local 42”, a new union local that will represent the workers at the newly created works council.

“What is best for the worker, is what is best for the company,” VW employee Will Branch told the Netroots Nation audience. “It is not the money that keeps America going, it is us, the workers.”

(That sentiment on full display in the Market Basket protests, here in New England.)

Raise Up NC (@MoralMonday Twitter)

Raise Up NC (@MoralMonday Twitter)

Workers Unite For A Living Wage

Throughout the country, workers have begun to take collective action to highlight the fact that they are being abused and underpaid.

For instance, “Raise Up for $15” is working to organize low wage workers, mostly in fast food restaurants, to push for a living wage.

Cherri Delesline has worked at McDonalds for nearly a decade to support her family. She told the crowd at Netroots Nation, “After ten years with McDonalds, I only make a little more than I did when I started.” Delesline went on to say, “Mangers at my store only make a little more than $8.00 an hour.”

Do the math. A minimum wage worker working full time only makes $15,500 a year. The federal poverty level for a family of four is $23,850. These workers are working full time – and are still living in poverty.

These fast food workers are calling for North Carolina – and the country – to “Rise Up” by paying workers a $15 per hour minimum. Raise Up has also been working to help these fast food workers in their efforts to form unions. However, these workers are not waiting for the NLRB to say they are officially represented by a union, they are going “old school.” They are speaking out collectively, holding wildcat strikes and walkouts, until store management listens to their demands.

Their fight for a living wage is only just beginning. These workers are taking a big risk by stepping out against their employer, but they also know it is the right thing to do.

UFCW Logo

Organizing For Human Rights

In North Carolina, it is not just fast food workers who are seeing the benefits of union representation. The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) have been organizing at food processing plants throughout the state. They successfully organized the Smithfield Foods plant in 2008 after a decade-long campaign. Now they have turned their eyes to the Mountaire chicken processing plant, 20 miles down the road.

“Slaughterhouse work is particularly dangerous. A 2005 Government Accountability Office report states that poultry and slaughterhouse workers suffer on-the-job injuries and illnesses at a rate more than twice the national average,” wrote Aaron Lake Smith in an article for INDY Week.

The UFWC members from the Smithfield plant are using their free time to explain to the workers at the Mountaire plant just how much the union has changed their lives. But management at Mountaire is not taking this organizing drive sitting down. They are fighting back, using union busting firms and pushing the envelope of the legality of opposing workers’ right to organize. (Read the story of Isom, who is a present-day version of “Norma Rae”)

For more than a decade, the Farm Laborers Organizing Committee (FLCO-AFLCIO) has been locked in a heated battle with R.J. Reynolds over the slave-like treatment of workers who harvest their tobacco.

“While big tobacco corporations make billions, tobacco farm workers live in poverty, face racism, harassment, nicotine poisoning, lethal pesticides, miserable housing in labor camps and denial of basic human rights and labor protections,” the FLOC wrote on their website.

The FLOC has chalked up a few wins, with contract agreements with Campbell’s Soup, produce growers in Michigan and Ohio, and the 2004 contract agreement with the North Carolina Growers Association – but R.J. Reynolds still eludes them.

Some people say that, “once upon a time unions were needed to protect workers, but we have laws for that now.”

But listening to the workers in the fields, in the plants, and behind the counters, it is obvious that unions are needed now more than ever. These corporations are not just blatantly violating workers’ organizing rights, they are violating their rights as humans. The unions are helping show workers they do not have to stand for this type of treatment, and to notify the public and regulatory agencies when these corporations are violating the law.

The South will not change overnight, but after decades of struggle, unions in the South are slowly rising again.

Image Donkey Hotey on FLCKR

Image DonkeyHotey on FLCKR

Overcoming Obstacles

The Netroots Nation panel discussed some of the significantly high hurdles that will need to be overcome while “organizing the South.”

“There are lots of barriers to our organizing efforts here in the South, but cannot let that deter us,” said MaryBe McMillian (Sec-Tres of the NC AFL-CIO).

“The biggest barrier to the organizing efforts in The South are the right wing politicians,” said Will Branch (UAW Local 42). “These politicians would use their religious beliefs to push their agenda.”

Right-wing religious groups are another major obstacle. Groups like “Right To Life” are working against women’s health and reproductive rights, explained Carol McDonald.  Someone once told me, “if you’re gonna play ball in the South, you have to know the rules of the game” – and then he pointed to the Bible.

This is exactly why the Moral Mondays movement has gained such a strong foothold. Rev. Barber is showing people through passages in the Bible, and passages from our Constitution, that what these right-wing extremists are doing goes against our faith, and against our democracy.

Another of the major obstacles to overcome is race, with right-wing groups trying to pit one race against another, just like they try to pit the middle class family against the lower class family. “We are saying ‘NO’ to the race baiting by the right-wing politicians,” said MaryBe McMillian. “They are afraid of middle class white women standing with low income immigrant workers.”

McMillian talked about how they are using the diversity of the South to their organizing advantage. “African-American workers know the struggles of the new immigrant workers, and they are out educating others,” McMillian said.

“There is no need to fight each other, black, white, or brown, because we are all being mistreated by rich white men,” said Cherri Delesline, a McDonalds worker who was recently arrested when she marched on a McDonalds shareholders meeting demanding a living wage.

 

Bold and Progressive

To win back the South, we have to “be bold and think big,” said McMillian. “We need to unite people from all walks of life.”

McMillian was disappointed that some of the national labor unions and progressive organizations do not see the potential in organizing the South. “We will not only create a new south, but a new labor movement,” she said.

As they say at the closing of every Moral Monday event, “Forward Together, Not One Step Back!

 

 

Side note: MaryBe McMillian read an amazing poem called “Labor’s poem for a Moral March.” It is too long to include in this post, but here are the first few lines:


There’s too much corporate greed
And we have families to feed.

There are so few jobs, no decent wages.
Inequality tops the news pages.

Small Gathering Of People In Nashua Talking About May Day, Immigration, and Voting

“Your Vote is Your Voice” — Rep. Sylvia Gale (Nashua)

Sylvia Gale and many others gathered to celebrate May Day and to push for immigration reform.

Before you vote, Gale said, make sure you know where they stand on the issues that matter to you.  Watch her short speech here.  Special thanks to ProfJoseph4855 who recorded it.

Video Description

Published on May 2, 2014

A great assembly of concerned folks rallied at Nashua City Hall on Thursday, May 1, 2014 to call for immigration reform so that hard working families can stay together without fear and that worker’s rights are extended to all, including immigrant families seeking a better life for themselves and their children. State Representative Sylvia Gale and champion of immigrant rights Eva Costello Stefani address the crowd.

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
― Emma Lazarus [Statue of Liberty]

AFL-CIO To Award Scholarships To Students In Honor Of 50th Anniversary of March On Washington

Image from M.Scott Mahaskey:POLITICO

Image from M.Scott Mahaskey : POLITICO

Washington, DC — To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech, the AFL-CIO and Union Privilege are awarding 60 scholarships totaling $300,000 to well deserving high school graduates from across the country.  These 60 graduating seniors will each receive a one-time $5,000 scholarship for the academic year beginning in the fall 2013 through summer 2014.

The scholarship was initiated by AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker with the goal of creating a lasting legacy connected to the original goals of the 1963 march.  While history remembers the “I Have a Dream” speech as a highlight, the march also called for action on the following goals:

  • equal access to public accommodations
  • voting rights
  • the end of racial discrimination in employment
  • decent housing
  • adequate and integrated education
  • jobs for all
  • a minimum wage worth more than $13 an hour today.

As part of the application students were asked to describe their dream for their generation.  Students were chosen both from union households and from community groups.  Over 600 students applied and 60 awards were given out surpassing the original goal of 50.  “Dreams of Jobs and Freedom” scholarship recipients will be acknowledged at the upcoming AFL-CIO convention in Los Angeles this September.  The scholarships were entirely funded by AFL-CIO union affiliates.

“Fifty years ago people came from across the country to march for a better life for future generations,” said AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker. “Today we honor that legacy with the Dreams of Jobs and Freedom Scholarship with the goal of providing quality education and access to opportunity for all young people who want to fulfill their dreams.”

“The dream of a college education has become out of reach for too many young people,” said  AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.  “I’m proud AFL-CIO unions gave from their hearts in order to make that dream a reality for a great group of kids from a diversity of backgrounds.”

Why Are We Still Fighting Over African-American Voting Rights 50 Years Later?

“I have a dream that my four little children will me day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character I have a dream . . . I have a dream that one day in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the wards of interposition and nullification, one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
Dr. Martin Luther King — August 28, 1963

march-on-washington

On August 28th we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, where over 200,000 people gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial.   The event —  organized by labor organizations, faith leaders, and civil rights activists — became one of the most memorable moments in American history.

A commemoration held this past weekend drew tens of thousands to the Washington Mall; but there will be another celebration on Wednesday, featuring remarks by President Barack Obama.

The 1963 March on Washington was the culmination of activists pushing for equality for all, regardless of race.  The March is credited with being the catalyst for passing the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965).

“We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”  Dr. Martin Luther King — August 28, 1963

Some people, particularly jurists on the Supreme Court, are saying that discrimination does not exist anymore and there is no need for the Voting Rights Act.  I disagree.  The Voting Rights Act is needed just as much today as it was in 1965.

In states all around the country, the Republican Party has been attacking voters’ rights with ALEC-inspired laws like Voter ID.  So far 30 states have passed some type of Voter ID requirement in an effort to combat a non-existent voter fraud problem.  Anyone who does not have the type of photo ID required by these new laws is effectively losing their Constitutional right to vote.  According to the ACLU “11% of US citizens – or more than 21 million Americans — do not have government-issued photo identification.”

This directly affects the African-American community. “As many as 25% of African American citizens of voting age do not have a government-issued photo ID, compared to only 8% of their white counterparts.”

Over the last few months, North Carolina has been leading the charge to disenfranchise voters, specifically African-American voters.

More than 300,000 registered voters in North Carolina could lack either a driver’s license or a state ID, according to records from the State Board of Elections…. Most of them are poor African-Americans.”

They say these laws are somehow “needed” to stop voter fraud; but in the last 10 years there have been only two cases of voter fraud in North Carolina.  What is their real objective?  Former Secretary of State Colin Powell condemned North Carolina’s new Voter ID law by saying “that he believes the restrictions unfairly target minority voters and will ultimately hurt the Republican Party

Requiring citizens to show a valid photo ID is only one part of the GOP-led attack on voting rights.  The new Voter ID law cuts early voting from 17 days to 10.  They are also eliminating Sunday voting, when many churches encourage their congregations to vote after services.

North Carolina county election boards are now going after college voters.  Why? Because they tend to vote for Democratic candidates.

“The Watauga County Board of Elections voted Monday to eliminate an early voting site and election-day polling precinct on the campus of Appalachian State University.” (source)

Other counties in North Carolina are not being shy about their outright discrimination of African-American voters.

“The GOP chair of the Forsyth County Board of Elections is moving to shut down an early voting site at historically black Winston-Salem State University.” (source)

“The Pasquotank County Board of Elections on Tuesday barred an Elizabeth City State University senior (Montravias King) from running for city council, ruling his on-campus address couldn’t be used to establish local residency. Following the decision, the head of the county’s Republican Party said he plans to challenge the voter registrations of more students at the historically black university ahead of upcoming elections.” (source)

The election board is challenging King’s eligibility to run for city council all on the fact that he resides on campus and claims the dormitory as his domicile.  By challenging his eligibility to run for office, they are also simultaneously challenging a college students’ right to vote in the town they reside in – even though the US Supreme Court has ruled that college students have a Constitutionally-protected right to vote where they attend college.

If you think that the GOP plans to stop with Elizabeth City State University, you would be wrong.  The GOP (Pasquotank) county chairman Pete Gilbert told the Associated Press “I plan to take this show on the road.”

The GOP will not stop with North Carolina.  Texas is already moving forward on a new Voter ID that was originally rejected under the Voting Rights Act.  This prompted the Attorney General to sue the state of Texas over these changes.

“In the voter ID lawsuit, the U.S. government will contend that Texas adopted a voter identification law with the purpose of denying or restricting the right to vote on account of race, color or membership in a language minority group.” (source)

Texas is in the middle of a court battle over the GOP-led gerrymandering of legislative districts.  The claim is that the GOP redrew lines in four districts, segregating minority voters into a single district and allowing GOP to protect their majority in the other three.

After nearly fifty years of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, it is obvious that we have not yet achieved the dream that Dr. King laid out for us in 1963.  We have made great strides in equality; we have a dozen states that have enacted same-sex marriage laws.  Yet we still have yet to overcome the wage inequality between man and women, and whites and minorities.  We have come so far – yet, in recent years, it seems that we are moving backwards once again.  The good thing is that we have such great teachers like Dr. King to help remind us we can always do better.

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