Free Barbie! Eve Ensler Imagines Liberating the Iconic Doll

N.Y. Archbishop Compares Marriage Equality to Incest

This is pretty fucking rich coming from  the biggest pedophile organization on the planet that is comprised of scam artist men who wear medieval dresses.

From The Advocate: http://advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2011/03/24/NY_Archbishop_Compares_Marriage_Equality_to_Incest/

By Advocate.com Editors

Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan appeared on 60 Minutes Overtime, where he said that same-sex couples are no more entitled to marry each other than he is entitled to marry his mother.

The former Milwaukee archbishop explained the Catholic Church’s opposition to marriage equality to Morley Safer with a baseball analogy.

“I have a strong desire to play shortstop for the Yankees,” he said. “I don’t have a right to, because I don’t have what it takes. And that would be what the Church would say about marriage. We would say marriage by nature, marriage by definition is between a man and woman for life, giving children. Don’t tamper with the definition.”

Pressed by Safer to explain how exactly marriage equality would harm heterosexual marriages, Dolan responded, “Because where then would the tampering stop?”

“I mean, I love my mom,” said Dolan. “I don’t have the right to marry her, okay? There are certain rights and attractions in life that are very beautiful and noble but don’t entitle you to marriage.”

Complete article at:  http://advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2011/03/24/NY_Archbishop_Compares_Marriage_Equality_to_Incest/

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What’s at Stake for Women in Wal-Mart v. Dukes

From Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/fatima-goss-graves/whats-at-stake-for-women-_b_840068.html

Fatima Goss Graves
Vice President for Education and Employment, National Women’s Law Center
Posted: March 24, 2011 01:31 PM

Remembering Women’s History Month and the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, New Deal 2.0 tells the surprising story of how women became citizens — and how their economic lives have evolved along with their rights. Fatima Goss Graves shines a light on how the wage gap undermines our meritocracy ideals, and why the class action suit against Wal-Mart must go forward.

No matter how available wage data is sliced and diced, a single truth remains: a wage gap exists between male and female workers. On average, full-time female workers make 23 percent less than male full-time workers. And for women of color, the gap in wages is even larger. African American women and Hispanic women working full-time make far less, on average — 62 percent and 53 percent respectively — compared to white, non-Hispanic men.

There is a gap in wages in every part of the country, with women in Wyoming and Louisiana making just 66 percent of male earnings. Even in the District of Columbia, where the wage gap is the smallest, women make 88 percent of male earnings. And although the Department of Labor has documented a gap in wages in every field, sales occupations are particularly behind the times. Women working full-time in sales occupations earned only 64 percent of their male counterparts’ earnings in 2010 — the highest of any occupation. In fact, the last time the overall wage gap was so large was 1981, when women across all occupations earned just 64.4 percent of men’s earnings.

This gap in wages is not merely the result of women’s “choices” in career or family, as study after study has demonstrated. Even when researchers have controlled for demographic differences between male and female employees, such as worker qualifications, experience, occupation type, and industry, a persistent gap in wages remains. To name results from just a few recent studies, the gap in wages between male and female physicians has only increased over the past decade, even after controlling for medical specialty, hours and practice type. And women with MBAs were paid less than men in their first post-MBA job and experienced less salary growth thereafter. These and many more studies, together with the countless pay discrimination cases filed around the country, show that pay disparities remain an entrenched problem.

Set against the backdrop of widespread disparities in pay, there is a tremendous amount at stake in the pay and promotions discrimination class action that will be argued in the Supreme Court on March 29th. In Wal-Mart v. Dukes, the Supreme Court will determine whether a nationwide class of women workers challenging alleged sex discrimination by Wal-Mart in pay and promotions can proceed. According to the plaintiffs’ evidence, women at Wal-Mart on average earned $5,000 less than men, even though women tended to have higher performance ratings and more seniority. Women also were less likely to be promoted to store manager positions and had to wait significantly longer for promotions than men. The Court’s decision will also effectively determine whether workers can continue to challenge company-wide discrimination by larger employers.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/fatima-goss-graves/whats-at-stake-for-women-_b_840068.html

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Maryland GOP Delegate Holds Up Gender Identity Bill, Says She Needs Definition of “Transgender”

I’ve said it before and I will say it again.  Lumping everyone under the sun into the category “Transgender” harms both transgender and transsexual people.  I’ve spoken about “framing an argument” .  For clarity’s sake use Transsexual people get SRS/Transgender people live full time as members of the gender not associated with their present sex.  Then use expansive language regarding “Gender identity/gender expression” and/or “perceived gender identity/gender expression”.

Trying to get laws passed is different from a coffee house discussion of philosophy or real life.

From Metro Weekly: http://www.metroweekly.com/poliglot/2011/03/maryland-gop-delegate-holds-up.html

Posted by Yusef Najafi
March 24, 2011 7:35 PM

A bill that seeks to prohibit discrimination in the areas of housing, employment, licensing and commercial leasing against transgender Marylanders was scheduled to be voted on today in the Maryland House’s Health and Government Operations Committee. The vote, however, did not happen due to a “procedural hold” brought forth by Republican Del. Susan Krebs (Carroll County).

According to a staffer from the Health and Government Operations Committee office,  Krebs said she needed a definition of “transgender,” one that was approved by Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler (D)
before voting on House Bill 235. That request, according to the staffer, was placed Wednesday, March 23.

A committee vote has been scheduled for H.B. 235 for Friday, March 25, but the office did not have information as to what will happen with the vote if Gansler has not responded by then.

Kreb’s did not immediately return a request for comment. A spokesperson in the attorney general’s office, meanwhile, was unable to provide any immediate information about the status of request when contacted by Metro Weekly this evening.

Speaking to Metro Weekly about today’s developments, Equality Maryland executive director Morgan Meneses-Sheets said she is confident that the bill will make it through committee, even without Kreb’s support, and land on the House floor before the end of this year’s legislative session, which is April 11.

Continue reading at:  http://www.metroweekly.com/poliglot/2011/03/maryland-gop-delegate-holds-up.html

DOJ’s New Scrutiny

From Metro Weekly:  http://www.metroweekly.com/news/?ak=6104

Reposted with author’s consent

Justice Department’s ”historic document” about anti-LGBT police discrimination signals new approach to investigations — and to gender identity

by Chris Geidner
Published on March 23, 2011, 10:01am

The Department of Justice Civil Rights Division’s report on its ”Investigation of the New Orleans Police Department,” which was released on March 16, detailed serious problems regarding racial profiling, excessive and even lethal force and inappropriate treatment of potential sexual assaults.

Briefly noted in initial reports about the year-long investigation’s outcome were the findings that, in addition, ”discriminatory policing” has been occurring against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in New Orleans. As Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, the head of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, said on March 17, ”We found regular harassment of LGBT individuals, and the use of the ‘crimes against nature’ statute almost solely against LGBT individuals.”

Although these findings are notable on their own, the underlying reasoning that led to the full inclusion of LGBT people in the investigation in the first place was groundbreaking.

The report represented the first time that DOJ applied its Feb. 23 conclusion that sexual orientation governmental classifications are subject to heightened scrutiny in the course of using its investigatory authority to examine potential constitutional violations by state and local law enforcement.

Additionally – and also for the first time – DOJ announced that the heightened scrutiny that it concluded applies to sexual orientation classifications also applies to classifications based on gender identity.

As Shannon Minter of the National Center for Lesbian Rights told Metro Weekly, ”It really is a historic document in that respect.”

The extensive report address a broad range of problem areas, from use of force; stops, searches and arrests; office recruitment, training and evaluation; misconduct complaint procedures; and more. But it is in the discriminatory policing section of the report that these ”historic” conclusions are noted.

When discussing the legal standards that apply to consideration of when action, inaction or some pattern or practice of police constitutes discriminatory policing, the report stated, ”[W]e note that a number of factors weigh in favor of applying heightened scrutiny in the context of discrimination by law enforcement on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, including a long history of animus and deeply-rooted stereotypes about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (”LGBT”) individuals.”

Click to download the DOJ Investigation of New Orleans Police Dept.

On Feb. 23, when DOJ concluded that it would no longer defend Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act in court challenges, it did so because of the conclusion that Section 3 – the federal definition of marriage – is unconstitutional when subject to the heightened scrutiny that it decided should be applied to sexual orientation classifications.

The ”heightened scrutiny” determination is part of the test used by courts when evaluating claims that a law or government practice violates the equal protection rights of a group or individual. Under the most basic level of scrutiny — rational basis — the government need only show that the law provides a ”reasonable” way of seeking a ”legitimate” government aim.

Contrast this with a ”suspect class,” which receives ”strict scrutiny.” In such a case — involving race or religion, for example — the law is presumed to be unconstitutional and the government must prove that the law is ”narrowly tailored” and the ”least restrictive” way to advance a ”compelling” governmental interest.

In between is heightened, or intermediate, scrutiny. Under this scrutiny, laws in question must be ”substantially related” to ”important” governmental interests.

The Feb. 23 letter, because it addressed a challenge to DOMA, involved discussion only of sexual orientation discrimination and found that heightened scrutiny applied. Now, however, as Minter said, ”I am very happy to see that, in DOJ’s view, that the same considerations that led to the conclusion that heightened scrutiny applies to sexual orientation discrimination also applies to gender identity discrimination.”

Fred Sainz, the Human Rights Campaign’s vice president for communications, noted, ”I think that they rightly called it as they see it. I think that it is incredibly encouraging that the Department of Justice is walking the walk on heightened scrutiny – especially when the language now encompasses gender identity.”

Also, in the Feb. 23 letter, the only question was how DOJ viewed the law. Attorney General Eric Holder wrote that the federal government would remain a party to the DOMA cases, and he encouraged Congress to take steps to have its views represented in court – which the House leadership is doing.

In the New Orleans report, in contrast, DOJ spokesperson Xochitl Hinojosa told Metro Weekly that DOJ’s authority for investigating allegations of LGBT discriminatory policing came from ”42 U.S.C. Sec. 14141 using the 14th Amendment.”

The Fourteenth Amendment is the provision of the Constitution that guarantees the equal protection of the laws, and the statutory provision referenced makes it illegal for any state or local government ”to engage in a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers … that deprives persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.”

With this report, therefore, DOJ has established that it will apply heightened scrutiny not only to federal laws but also to state or local government laws or practices that discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity – and that it will investigate, and could potentially prosecute, those claims when it deems warranted.

Looking at the scope and breadth of the report, as well as the underlying conclusions that allowed for the investigation, Minter said, ”I think that what we’re finally seeing is the full integration of LGBT issues into the Constitution, and DOJ is following through on their conclusion that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is subject to heightened scrutiny.”

Sainz looked ahead, adding, ”I think that this is a very, very encouraging development by the Justice Department that we will see repeat itself in very many beneficial ways, that we may not even yet know, in years to come.”

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Hoft Advances Proposal That Congress Defund American Lung Association

From Media Matters: http://mediamatters.org/research/201103240036

March 24, 2011

Advancing a proposal that Congress defund the American Lung Association (ALA), Jim Hoft is claiming that the Environmental Protection Agency is paying the ALA to attack Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI). In fact, the money given by the EPA to the ALA cannot legally be used for lobbying purposes, and that money represents a small fraction of the total revenue the organization receives.

oft Claims American Lung Association Is Being Paid By EPA To Attack Rep. Upton

Hoft: “The EPA Is Now Paying The American Lung Association To Attack Republicans.” In a March 23 post on Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government website titled, “EPA Is Now Using Taxpayer Dollars to Pay Lung Association to Attack Republicans,” Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft highlighted an American Lung Association lobbying campaign targeted at Upton:

Your tax dollars at work…

The EPA is now paying the American Lung Association to attack Republicans

ala

The ALA put up four billboards like this one near Rep. Fred Upton’s office in Michigan. Upton is the House Energy and Commerce Chairman. (PlowShareGroup)

The Environmental Protection Agency is paying the American Lung Association to run attack ads against Republican members of Congress.

JunkScience.com reported:

“The American Lung Association has targeted House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton for his efforts to stop U.S. EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions by placing billboards within sight of his district offices linking climate change with increased childhood asthma,” reports E&E News PM.

But as we reported last week in “EPA owns the American Lung Association,” the EPA has paid the American Lung Association over $20 million in the last ten years, and has paid the ALA many more millions in a symbiotic relationship going back to at least 1990.

The EPA-ALA relationship works something like this: EPA pays the ALA and, in return, the ALA agitates for more stringent EPA air quality regulation, including by lawsuit. Now it’s billboards.

In addition to defunding National Public Radio, the House GOP should look at the EPA’s funding of American Lung Association. [Big Government, 3/23/11; emphasis original]

ALA: Rep. Upton’s Bill Will “Rollback Clean Air Act” Provisions That “Protect Health And The Environment”

ALA: Rep. Upton’s Legislation Will “Rollback Clean Air Act” Provisions “Taken To Protect Health And The Environment.” In a letter to Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, Charles D. Connor and Barry Gottschalk of the American Lung Association wrote:

Complete Article at:  http://mediamatters.org/research/201103240036

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Things don’t look good for medical marijuana dispensaries fighting IRS, says NORML director

From The Washington Independent: http://washingtonindependent.com/106847/things-dont-look-good-for-medical-marijuana-dispensaries-fighting-irs-says-norml-director

‘Congress is the best chance we’ve got,’ director says

By Kyle Daly
03.23.11

In a post on Drug War Chronicle, criminal justice journalist Clarence Walker reports that the DEA and FBI are together putting pressure on banks in northern California to report any suspicious activity pertaining to the sale of marijuana. Rather than get involved in messy federal investigations, many banks have opted to simply close the accounts of medical marijuana dispensaries. The news comes at the same time as other recent stories, as reported by The Colorado Independent and The American Independent, have implicated federal efforts to cut the legs off of medical marijuana dispensaries that operate within state laws but are in murky legal territory according to federal drug statutes.

As The American Independent has reported, perhaps the most effective of these tactics is a push within the IRS to audit the books of medical marijuana dispensaries and declare all business deductions ineligible. If the move continues and isn’t overruled in court, it could mean that all but the largest dispensaries in the country could shut down within months.

Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), tells The American Independent that he believes this is phase three in a federal push to stymie medical marijuana that began in 1996, when medical marijuana first became legal in California. St. Pierre says that federal investigators first went after doctors, threatening to convict any who discussed medical uses of marijuana with patients as accomplices in the procurement and possession of marijuana. That tactic was declared unconstitutional in the case Conant v. McCaffrey.

The next tactic was to prosecute landlords. “If you’re renting property to someone breaking federal law, the property can be taken,” says St. Pierre. “Unsurprisingly, a lot of landlords stopped renting to dispensaries.” Eventually, enough landlords found liability loopholes or simply decided it was worth the risk to rent to dispensaries that the government gave up, as the thousands of dispensaries that today populate California alone attest.

Now, the federal government is using a time-honored method that could just cripple the medical marijuana industry once and for all, St. Pierre says.

Continue reading at:  http://washingtonindependent.com/106847/things-dont-look-good-for-medical-marijuana-dispensaries-fighting-irs-says-norml-director

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AFL-CIO backs same-sex marriage legislation

From The Providence Journal: http://www.projo.com/generalassembly/LABOR_MARRIAGE_03-24-11_ESN5THG_v9.1862ba5.html

PHILIP MARCELO
AND KATHERINE GREGG
Thursday, March 24, 2011

PROVIDENCE –– The Rhode Island AFL-CIO executive board has, for the first time, voted to endorse legislation that would allow same-sex couples to marry in the state.

The announcement came the same day as Marriage Equality Rhode Island, a gay-marriage advocacy group, said that the Newport Democratic City Committee had voted recently to endorse gay-marriage legislation.

The committee represents Democrats in the hometown of Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, a Democrat who is opposed to gay marriage. It is chaired by J. Clement “Bud” Cicilline, a former state senator and uncle of openly gay U.S. Rep. David N. Cicilline.

Rhode Island AFL-CIO President George Nee called the discussion of same-sex marriage a “fundamental civil-rights issue.”

He cited a 2004 General Accounting Office report that showed that there are 1,138 federal civil statutory rights and responsibilities associated with the word “marriage” to which Rhode Island same-sex couples are now denied.

Continue reading at:  http://www.projo.com/generalassembly/LABOR_MARRIAGE_03-24-11_ESN5THG_v9.1862ba5.html

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8 Unemployed for Every Job Opening: What Are They Supposed to Do Once Their Benefits Run Out?

From Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/economy/150358/8_unemployed_for_every_job_opening%3A_what_are_they_supposed_to_do_once_their_benefits_run_out/

Is there any hope of help arriving for the “99ers”?

By Joshua Holland
March 23, 2011

There are now approximately 14 million Americans who want a job and can’t find one. According to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), if they stood side by side, they’d stretch from Bangor, Maine to Los Angeles, California and back.

While plenty of ink has been dedicated to distant crises in the Middle East and Japan, and a wholly trumped up “deficit crisis” that haunts the sleep of the Beltway media, this disaster occurring right here at home has received far less attention than it should.

Those who have been out of work for an extended period of time face not only extreme economic suffering, but also unique barriers to getting back into the workforce. Yet the political establishment has all but ignored the pain being felt by this broad swath of working America. Economist Paul Krugman called them the “forgotten millions,” and warned that “we’re well on the way to creating a permanent underclass of the jobless.”

That disconnect has left a gap that some individuals and grassroots organizations have attempted to fill. Their efforts are commendable, and at times innovative, but a number of activists interviewed by AlterNet said that absent a serious effort by the federal government, they are merely tinkering around the edges of a deep and avoidable catastrophe.

36 Weeks

In February, the average length of joblessness for all unemployed workers was a record 36 weeks. Many of those people relied on their unemployment insurance to get by until it ran out and still haven’t found work — they’ve come to be known as “99ers,” as extended unemployment benefits in many states last a maximum of 99 weeks. NELP researchers estimate there were 3.9 million 99ers out of work last year, and project a similar number for 2011.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/150358/8_unemployed_for_every_job_opening%3A_what_are_they_supposed_to_do_once_their_benefits_run_out/

Christian Hate Organization castigates Obama for urging tolerance toward gays

There is a reason why these professional bigots are on the Southern Poverty Law Centers “Hate Watch List”.

From Raw Story: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/03/24/christian-group-castigates-obama-for-urging-tolerance-toward-gays/

By David Edwards
Thursday, March 24th, 2011

A right-leaning (An ultra right wing extremist)  Christian group is outraged that that an Obama administration joint statement with the United Nations opposes the criminalization of homosexuality.

The Family Research Council (FRC) has taken to calling the resolution “Operation International Tolerance.”

“While American forces bomb away at Libya, the Obama administration is launching another global offensive: Operation International Tolerance,” a FRC report said. “As he looks on from South America, the President put troops on the ground today for a meeting of the U.N.’s Human Rights Council, where his diplomats plan to strong-arm other countries into embracing homosexuality.”

“In a major U-turn from the Bush years, the Obama administration is actually initiating an ‘anti-discrimination’ resolution to force acceptance of the world’s gays and lesbians.”

“Obviously, FRC believes that homosexuals and transgenders shouldn’t be subjected to violence,” the conservative group added. “No binding document of international law has ever recognized a universal ‘human right’ to engage in sex with a person of the same gender.”

“Our global neighbors have the freedom to believe that homosexuality is wrong–just as they have the freedom to legislate against any behavior they think is harmful to society,” FRC continued.

“FRC’s condemnation of the resolution underlines the organization’s basic hypocrisy,” the blog Pam’s House Blend noted. “Nowhere in it does FRC give a clear indication of just what the resolution says. It doesn’t even provide a link to the policy and I think this is intentional.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/03/24/christian-group-castigates-obama-for-urging-tolerance-toward-gays/

Reactions to Ninth Circuit’s Refusal to Lift Stay on California Same-Sex Marriages

From Lezgetreal: http://lezgetreal.com/2011/03/reactions-to-ninth-circuits-refusal-to-lift-stay-on-california-same-sex-marriages/

Posted by Melanie Nathan
3.23.11

Today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the plaintiffs’ motion to lift the stay in the case challenging Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that stripped the freedom to marry from same-sex couples in California. That ruling means that the district’s court decision striking down Prop 8 remains on hold, and same-sex couples in California will be denied the right to marry while the litigation continues.

U.S. District Court Judge Vaughan Walker issued a decision in August 2010 holding that Prop 8 is unconstitutional. Before that ruling took effect, however, the Ninth Circuit put it on hold by issuing a “stay” while the decision is appealed. At the same time, the Ninth Circuit put the case on a fast track.

The plaintiffs who are challenging Prop 8 filed a motion last month asking the Ninth Circuit to lift the stay because the Ninth Circuit has asked the California Supreme Court to rule on an issue related to the case, thereby causing significant additional delay, and because same-sex couples in California suffer harm every day they are denied the right to marry.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights, Equality California, Lambda Legal, and ACLU Foundation of Northern California filed an amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit in support of lifting the stay. The Ninth Circuit rejected that request in a very short opinion issued this morning.

Join us at NCLRights.org, our Out for Justice blog, Facebook, and Twitter for more updates throughout the day.

http://lezgetreal.com/

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Walker Now After Senior, Low-Income Health Care

From AFL-CIO Blog: http://blog.aflcio.org/2011/03/22/walker-now-after-senior-low-income-health-care/

by Mike Hall,
Mar 22, 2011

After lining up Wisconsin’s public employees and middle class jobs in his sights, Gov. Scott Walker (R) is shifting his aim to seniors and low-income families.

His proposed budget would make huge cuts in the state’s Senior Care prescription drug program, the BadgerCare health plan, and the Family Care’s support services for the elderly, as well as tax relief for low-income workers and property owners.

Yesterday, activists with the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans condemned Walker’s recent budget proposal. At their 4th biennial convention delegates representing the group’s more than 100,000 Wisconsin retirees unanimously approved a resolution strongly opposing the proposed cuts. They then marched to the state capitol, carrying “Don’t Walker on Me” signs and delivered the resolution to the governor’s office.

Wisconsin Alliance President Leon Burzynski says “Not only does Gov. Walker malign public workers, but he also cuts programs that are aimed at those most in need in our state.”

Neither public workers nor these vital programs are to blame for our state’s fiscal challenges, but Gov. Walker is wielding his budgetary ax in their direction instead of getting rid of tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy.

Continue reading at:  http://blog.aflcio.org/2011/03/22/walker-now-after-senior-low-income-health-care/

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What the Triangle Shirtwaist fire means for workers now

From The Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/what-the-triangle-shirtwaist-fire-means-for-workers-now/2011/03/15/ABVAFIs_story.html

By Hilda L. Solis
Friday, March 18

Hilda L. Solis is the U.S. secretary of labor.

A century ago this week, in Lower Manhattan, a young social worker named Frances Perkins was having tea at the Greenwich Village townhouse of her friend, the socialite Margaret Morgan Norrie. They were interrupted by clanging fire truck bells. Then they heard the anguished screams: “Don’t jump!”

They raced out of the townhouse and ran toward the commotion: a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, just off Washington Square. Flames and black smoke shot from the top floors, and as they watched in shock, young girls and women, some alone, some clutching hands, inched up to the windows’ ledges — and jumped to their deaths.

Perkins would describe the scene in lectures later: “They couldn’t hold on any longer. There was no place to go. The fire was between them and any means of exit. It’s that awful choice people talk of — what kind of choice to make?” She added: “I shall never forget the frozen horror that came across as we stood with our hands on our throats watching that horrible sight, knowing that there was no help.”

The sewing factory employed more than 500 people, who worked long hours for low wages, in wretched and unsanitary conditions. They turned out “shirtwaists” — blouses with puffed sleeves and tight bodices popularized by the “Gibson Girl.” The factory owners had locked the fire-escape doors. The seamstresses were trapped when fire raced through the sweatshop just before closing on March 25, 1911.

In less than 20 minutes, 146 people, mostly Italian and Jewish immigrant women and girls, were dead. The last six victims were officially identified just a few weeks ago. Triangle outraged the public and offered a grisly example of how powerless workers were without collective bargaining, because unionized garment workers received better pay and had safer conditions. And it galvanized Frances Perkins.

Twenty-two years later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed her secretary of labor, the first woman to serve as a Cabinet secretary. During her 12-year tenure, she directed the formulation and implementation of the Social Security Act, one of the most important pieces of social legislation in our history. Among other extraordinary accomplishments, she helped create unemployment insurance, the minimum wage, and the legislation that guarantees the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively. She also established the department’s Labor Standards Bureau, a precursor to what is now the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Perkins clearly had the Triangle victims in mind as she weaved the nation’s social safety net.

Now I have the same job she once held, with the responsibility of repairing and strengthening that net. And although our passion for workers’ rights came from different paths (she was the daughter of privilege; I am the daughter of immigrant union members), I understand the impact that moment had on her work.

I had my own moment involving a sweatshop. Although it was not as horrifying as that afternoon was for Perkins, it fueled my beliefs. In 1995, 75 Thai immigrants were freed from a so-called factory in the city of El Monte, Calif., part of the district I represented in the state Senate. They had been forced to eat, sleep and work in a place they called home.

Their employer confiscated their passports and kept them like slaves. Threatened with violence to themselves or their families, the workers hunched over sewing machines in dimly lit garages bound by barbed wire, sewing brand-name clothing for less than $2 an hour. Most of them were women.

I met them shortly after they were freed and heard their stories. And at that moment, the unthinkable became real for me. I had assumed that sweatshops were a thing of the past. But they had just spread — from Perkins’s New York City to my Los Angeles, from the Italian and Eastern European immigrants victimized in her day to the Asian and Latino immigrants victimized in mine.

Combating garment sweatshops is, sadly, still on the labor secretary’s agenda. In the past fiscal year, the department’s Wage and Hour division conducted 374 investigations and collected $2.1 million for 2,215 workers, primarily in the major U.S. garment centers of Southern California and New York. In these cases, vulnerable immigrant workers have been deprived of minimum-wage pay, overtime pay and safe working conditions — all the haunting echoes of Triangle.

We have had many improvements in the past century. Today, we have more tools to pursue violators who deny workers their pay, including issuing subpoenas and preventing companies from shipping goods produced in violation of the law.

In 1911, more than 100 workers were estimated to have died on the job each day. In 2010, 4,340 workers were killed on the job — and more than 3.3 million were seriously injured. Last April 5, in a fiery explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, 29 miners died in one day.

I was at the mine the next day, while rescue efforts still were underway.

In times of crisis, one often becomes two people. In one sense, I was simply Hilda, the person I’ve always been, there just to be by the family members’ sides as they kept vigil. In another sense, I was Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, trying to convey to them the depth of their government’s commitment. In either case, no words can adequately express your emotion and sympathy. A grief that great can be endured only if it is shared — and then acted upon in good time.

Both Triangle and Upper Big Branch became calls to action. New York quickly implemented groundbreaking workplace safety laws and regulations, including fire exits. But nearly one year after Upper Big Branch, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, part of the Labor Department, still needs additional tools that only Congress can provide. And OSHA needs better tools, such as stricter penalties against employers who put their workers’ lives at risk, and stronger protections for whistle-blowers.

In both cases, if these workers had a voice — a union — and the ability to speak up about conditions, these events probably could have been prevented, because unions play an important role in making workplaces safer. In both cases, they had tried to organize and faced virulent opposition.

Today, workers and their allies are being met with that same kind of opposition. In states nationwide, working people are protesting the actions to strip them of collective bargaining. The Triangle fire and the Upper Big Branch explosion a century later make clear to me that workers want and need that voice — about wages and benefits, yes, but about more, too. Collective bargaining still means a seat at the table to discuss issues such as working conditions, workplace safety and workplace innovation, empowering individuals to do the best job they can. And it means dignity and a chance for Americans to earn a better life, whether they work in sewing factories or mines, build tall buildings or care for our neighbors, teach our children, or run into burning buildings when others run out of them.

I’ll be thinking about all of this as I make my way to New York on Friday for the 100th anniversary of the Triangle factory tragedy. The building is still there; it now houses offices for New York University. Thousands are expected to mark the occasion with a march, speeches, the reading of the victims’ names and the laying of flowers in their honor at the site by schoolchildren. It will be a powerful reminder of what we’ve lived through, and what we still have to do.

History is an extraordinary thing. You can choose to learn from it, or you can choose to repeat it.

For me, the choice is clear, as it was for Frances Perkins. We must always be a nation that catches workers before they fall.

talktosolis@dol.gov

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Why Governor LePage Can’t Erase History, and Why We Need a Fighter in the White House

From Robert Reich: http://robertreich.org/post/4050985028

By Robert Reich

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Maine Governor Paul LePage has ordered state workers to remove from the state labor department a 36-foot mural depicting the state’s labor history. Among other things the mural illustrates the 1937 shoe mill strike in Auburn and Lewiston. It also features the iconic “Rosie the Riveter,” who in real life worked at the Bath Iron Works. One panel shows my predecessor at the U.S. Department of Labor, Frances Perkins, who was buried in Newcastle, Maine.

The LePage Administration is also renaming conference rooms that had carried the names of historic leaders of American labor, as well as former Secretary Perkins.

The Governor’s spokesman explains that the mural and the conference-room names were “not in keeping with the department’s pro-business goals.”

Are we still in America?

Frances Perkins was the first woman cabinet member in American history. She was also one of the most accomplished cabinet members in history.

She and her boss, Franklin D. Roosevelt, came to office at a time when average working people needed help – and Perkins and Roosevelt were determined to give it to them. Together, they created Social Security, unemployment insurance, the right of workers to unionize, the minimum wage, and the forty-hour workweek.

Continue reading at:  http://robertreich.org/post/4050985028

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Young women continue to die locked in sweatshops, labor group warns

From Raw Story: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/03/23/young-women-continue-to-die-in-locked-sweatshops-labor-group-warns/

By Eric W. Dolan
Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

As the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire approaches, the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights urged the United States to pass legislation to prevent multi-national corporations from violating internationally recognized worker rights standards, such as no child or forced labor, decent working conditions, freedom of association and the right to organize a union.

The Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire resulted in the death of 146 female workers, who were locked inside the factory by their managers, on March 25, 1911. The women worked 6 days a week, often 14 hours shifts, and earned the meager wage of 14 cents an hour. (The equivalent of $3.18 an hour in 2011, adjusted for inflation.)

After the death of workers in a Bangladesh sweatshop, the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights said now was the time to hold corporations accountable to respect labor laws and pass the Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act.

The Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act was introduced by a bipartisan group of senators in 2007, but never made it out of House and Senate committees. The bill would have prohibited the import, export, and sale of goods made with sweatshop labor.

In December 2010, a incident similar to the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire occurred when a fire broke out at the Hameem factory in Savar, Bangladesh, which was sewing garments for Gap. Twenty-nine workers died and over 100 were injured. The workers at the clothing factory told the institute that security guards locked the exits during the fire to prevent garments from being stolen.

Most workers at the factory worked 80 hours per week and made only 28 cents an hour, just one tenth as much as the Triangle workers did in 1911. Additionally, workers at the Hameem factory were not allowed to form a union.

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/03/23/young-women-continue-to-die-in-locked-sweatshops-labor-group-warns/

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The Centennial Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

In 2002, when I was living out on Long Island I took some classes at New York University in Greenwich Village.  I also did a couple of walking tours of the Village and Soho.

It was then I realized that one of NYU’s buildings stood on the site of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.

This fire like much of history that isn’t about great men is forgotten by most people.

But not all and especially not left wing hippie history freaks like me who study the labor struggles that built the American middle class.

The Triangle shirtwaist factory was a sweatshop, pure and simple.  The young women(and a few men) who worked there were mostly Italian or East European immigrants and many were Jewish.  They were paid pennies and the surplus value their labor produced put many dollars into the pockets of the capitalist pigs who owned the factory.

The bosses and owners were so intent on getting every last drop of work from these women, so intent on insuring they couldn’t slip away for a second they locked the workers in.

There were no sprinklers, the highly flammable lint from the cutting and sewing filled the air.  There was no filtration system so workers died young of the textile worker’s version of miner’s lung.

On March 25th, 1911 a spark touch off a fire that quickly became a conflagration. The workers were locked in the factory which occupied the eighth, ninth and tenth floors.

When the Fire Department arrived their longest ladders were still way too short to reach the women who were being burned alive.

Just as the workers trapped in the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on 9/11 leaped to their deaths rather than be burned alive so too did the people who worked in the factory. (129 women and 17 men died in the fire.)

Events like this fire and the bloody battles of workers to unionize for the rights and protections of workers are why workers have things like the 40 hour week, OSHA and decent wages.

That year I walked a lot around Manhattan.  Up above Macy’s on Fifth Avenue in what was the Garment district there is a statue of a man working at a sewing machine, a remnant from an era not so long ago when people made clothing here in the USA and the members of the International Lady’s Garment Workers Union implored us to “Look for the Union Label”.

Now we have celebrated “Designers” and the work is done in sweatshops far away from the eyes of safety inspectors and union organizers.  And there is no need to look for the Union Label because there aren’t any.

Those workers who through unionization and regulation had been able to earn a decent living have had their jobs out sourced because the surplus value between what a union worker makes and what the rich elite want to make from that honest labor is smaller than what they can get from having the work done in a foreign sweatshop.

Here’s the real kicker the Republicans give those corporations money and tax breaks to close the factories that employ highly paid American union workers and to ship those jobs off shore.

In a reverse Robin Hood act the Republicans rob the hard working people and give the money to the rich.

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