WLP Testified in Opposition to HB 861, Preemption of Local Labor Protections — WLP Blog

The conservative, right-wing, anti-labor General Assembly in Pennsylvania is once again attempting to take away local control over their local labor ordinances. They want to preempt all labor protections that local municipalities have enacted since 2015.  This includes paid sick leave as well as all local anti-discrimination ordinances that go beyond protections provided in state law.  This would include protections for LGBTQIA people, marital and familial status in general (other than familial status protections in housing).  The current bill being debated is HB 861, also known as the “Preemption of Local Labor Protections.” This morning, the Women’s Law Project testified before the House Labor and Industry Committee.  Below is there blog summarizing this testimony.

The bill was not voted on today.  So you have two chances in the House to stop this bill. First, contact members of the House Labor and Industry Committee and ask them to vote no during the committee vote. Second, you can also contact your Representative to raise your voice in opposition to this bill.  You can find your legislator here.

So take a couple of minutes, read the WLP blog on this issue, and then make your calls/emails. Thank you!

 

via WLP Testified in Opposition to HB 861, Preemption of Local Labor Protections — WLP Blog

Today, WLP Staff Attorney Amal M. Bass testified in opposition to House Bill 861(preemption of local laws protecting workers) before the Pennsylvania House Labor & Industry Committee. The Women’s Law Project strongly opposes HB 861, which is sponsored by Rep. Seth Groves of York County.

You can read Amal’s testimony in full here.

What is Preemption?

Preemption bills like HB 861 prohibit local governments from passing local ordinances to meet the needs and reflect the values of their own communities.

HB861 Would be Retroactive

HB 861 is even worse than a typical state preemption bill because it includes a retroactivity clause designed to strip away local protections that have already been implemented, including protections for LGBTQ workers and paid sick days ordinances that provide protections for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

HB 861 Would Nullify a Broad Range of Workplace Protections

The way it is written, HB 861 could apply to almost any local government’s attempt to protect its own workers.

HB 861 Targets Paid Sick Days in Philadelphia & Pittsburgh   

HB 861 would retroactively strip hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania workers of their right to paid sick days.

The Women’s Law Project testified in support of Philadelphia’s paid sick days ordinance, which City Council passed and the Mayor signed on February 12, 2015 after a thorough, multi-year process that drew upon the recommendations of a Task Force representing many perspectives on the issue, including employers.  The local law that resulted from this process provides forty hours of earned paid sick time in a calendar year for workers of employers with ten or more employees, and it provides unpaid sick time to workers of smaller employers.

Philadelphia’s paid sick days ordinance also provides paid leave to employees whose absence is related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. This ordinance is vital for the health and well-being of women and their families in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties, giving paid sick leave to more than 200,000 workers.

In 2015, Pittsburgh joined Philadelphia in recognizing these benefits when it used its home rule authority and its authority to pass public health laws to pass a modest earned paid sick leave ordinance. The Women’s Law Project and attorneys from the Partnership for Working Families filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Pittsburgh’s paid sick days law on behalf of fifty-one organizations committed to women’s health and safety.

However, the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association has challenged this local law, halting its implementation, in a lawsuit currently before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

This is typical in that special-interest groups often seek to block and stall protections from workers so that they may profit from the lack of protections. That doesn’t mean lawmakers representing hard-working constituents should allow them to succeed.

HB 861 is a Direct Attack on LBGTQ Pennsylvanians

House Bill 861 also affects discrimination laws. More than forty municipalities in Pennsylvania have local ordinances prohibiting discrimination on the basis of many protected characteristics, including sexual orientation, which our employment laws at the state and federal levels, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, do not explicitly cover.

HB 861 is equipped with a retroactive provision that could strip protections for LGBTQ workers passed places such as Ambler Borough, Bridgeport Borough, Carlisle, Dickson City, Mount Lebanon, Kennett Square Borough, Narberth Borough, Phoenixville, Royersford, Stroudsburg, and Wilkes-Barre. All of these municipalities passed anti-discrimination laws after 2015, and therefore could trigger HB 861’s retroactive preemption. The bill could also prohibit every municipality in the state from altering or adding to their antidiscrimination provisions in the future.

Local Governments Pass Laws Protecting Workers Because the State Fails to Do So

Pennsylvania is a patchwork of worker protections in part due to the failure of the Pennsylvania Legislature to pass meaningful worker protections, despite overwhelming evidence of the need to do so. HB 861 would undo and prohibit progress at the local level, taking rights away from the citizens of Pennsylvania without filling the void with statewide legislation.

Absurdly, an argument sometimes made for preemption is that Pennsylvania’s patchwork of protections is confusing. If Pennsylvania’s patchwork of protections is a problem, it should be solved by ensuring all Pennsylvania workers are treated fairly with state-level protections, not state-level efforts to nullify local protections.

The Women’s Law Project is a public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.

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Religion Is No Excuse For Bigotry. | National Organization for Women

“Allowing a doctor, nurse or other healthcare workers to deny medical care that goes against their so-called moral or religious beliefs would do tremendous harm, not only to individuals suffering from a medical emergency but to the fabric of society itself.

We must not tolerate a two-tier system for health care, one for “good Christians” and one for everyone else. Women have made their personal health care decisions based on their own moral and in some cases religious convictions.”

Source: Religion Is No Excuse For Bigotry. | National Organization for Women

What does Lady Liberty stand for?

Lady Liberty. A symbol of freedom and welcoming. We so need to have a government that stands up for these welcoming ideals as expressed by Emma Lazarus in her poem “The New Colossus.”

For those that are interested, The New Colossus is a bit longer than the “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,…” part that is oft quoted. These words occur at the end of the poem. The bronze plaque titled “The New Colossus” is attached to the base of Lady Liberty states and says, in full:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

 

For a fuller history of immigration’s connection to Lady Liberty, check out my blog post from earlier this year: “The Statue of Liberty is an Egyptian Woman.

Political Vibes

Bronze Plaque of New Colossus Image Credit National Park Service

This week at a briefing, CNN’s White House correspondent Jim Acosta stated to Senior White House aide Stephen Miller that the new GOP immigration plan did not seem like it was in accordance with American tradition. Then, Acosta mentioned the poem found on the Statue of Liberty called ‘The New Colossus’.

Miller responded, “The poem you were referring to was added later … It’s not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty.”

Yes, Emma Lazarus’ ‘The New Colossus’ was added to The Statue of Liberty seventeen years after the monument arrived in New York Harbor. But, who cares?

Millions of people arrived in The United States over the past 100+ years through New York Harbor and were welcomed by The Statue of Liberty. As a result, this statue has become a symbol of freedom and the American Dream. It is an sign of…

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A Thank you Sonnet to Leadership Centre County

The web of programs and issues in Centre County

On our final LCC retreat, eight groups of members of the 2017 class of Leadership Centre County crafted a visual representation of all of the program issues/days held over the ten months of the program. The top left picture shows our view of how these different issues are connecting in our county.

Over the last ten months, 50 leaders from the for the profit, the non-profit, and the local government groups in Centre County, PA came together for a training and networking to increase our knowledge and multiply our skills to help the citizenry throughout the county.

This program has been held for the last 25 years by Leadership Centre County.The Mission of Leadership Centre County is to increase the community’s pool of servant leaders by:

  • Bringing diverse individuals together for networking, education, and exposure to community issues, opportunities, and needs;
  • Encouraging increased participation for leadership in civic service; and
  • Creating a support network for present and future leaders.

This is my thank you to Leadership Centre County for this wonderful training and experience.

Sonnet to Leadership Centre County

September to June we came together

50 people from around the county

Knowing a little, wishing for better,

We worked together for civic bounty.

 

We joined each other for play and hard work

At camps, wineries, some parks, and two prisons

In towns and museums, streets, and some kirks

We got to see new ideas and great visions

 

Each day was diverse. You could say unique

In juntos often, with programs, we’ll lead

Taking time and effort to share our technique

25 years and counting we can now accede

 

We have loved your wonderful bounty.

So Thank you, Leadership Centre County.

logo banner used by Nancy Pelosi when she sends out news in her position as the House Democratic Leader

Democratic Members Speak Out on Republicans’ Select Committee to Attack Women’s Health

I received the following transcript of a press conference led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi  from a contact of mine in Washington, DC.  I thought you might like to hear what the Democratic Members of the Republicans’ Select Committee to Attack Women’s Health have to say about the ongoing attacks on women’s reproductive health.

logo banner used by Nancy Pelosi when she sends out news in her position as the House Democratic Leader

News Reports from Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi

 May 13, 2016

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Members of the Republicans’ Select Committee to Attack Women’s Health held a press conference today.  Below is a transcript of the press conference.  

Leader Pelosi.  Good morning, everyone.  As our Members file out, I’m very proud to be here with the Members of the Committee to Attack Women’s Health, as we call this misguided initiative on the part of the Republican majority.  I’m so pleased that other Members have joined the Members of the Committee, Ranking Member Jan Schakowsky, Congressman Jerry Nadler, also on the Committee, Congresswoman Diana DeGette, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Congresswoman Suzan DelBene and Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman. G abusive investigation which is directly aimed at preventing women from accessing health services including abortions and ending scientific research that uses fetal tissue. This witch hunt is being conducted in violation of House Committee rules and practices and is putting the lives of doctors, researchers and those connected with them in grave danger. This investigation has never been – and has no promise of becoming fair or fact-based.  The apparent goal is to punish women, providers and researchers who are following the law.

This Committee is today’s version of the one driven by Senator Joe McCarthy and his companions on the House Un-American Activities Committee, using subpoena authority – the most powerful investigative tool of Congress – to force universities and clinics to “name names”, in this case of anyone involved in fetal tissue research or reproductive health care without any legitimate reason for doing so; 29 of the 35 subpoenas that have gone out have gone to individuals or entities never given the chance to comply voluntarily with the Chair’s demands.

Democrats have repeatedly objected to the Chair’s demand for the names of researchers, graduate students, lab technicians, residents, clinic personnel, and doctors over the last five years.   We see no reason why the Panel needs to amass a dangerous database of names in order to complete its work, and the Chair has refused to provide any justification.  Her unjustified demand to “name names” goes beyond the bullying and abusive behavior of Senator Joe McCarthy because she is putting people’s lives, not just their livelihoods, at risk.

Chair Blackburn’s action Wednesday went beyond all measures of decency when she issued a press release naming a health care provider – whom the panel had never reached out to before – and making inflammatory accusations with no evidence of wrongdoing. This reckless panel is acting as judge, jury and executioner.

These risks are not hypothetical. The provider named in the press release has been the target of anti-abortion extremists for decades. A fire destroyed his family farm, killing 17 horses and family pets in claimed retaliation for the care he provided for women. The Chair’s complete disregard for this doctor’s safety, particularly in light of the long history of harassment and violence that has been directed at him, is further evidence that this dangerous witch hunt must end.

The murderer at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic echoed words repeatedly spoken by the Republicans on the Committee – “no more baby body parts.” Words really matter.

In our letter to Speaker Ryan we told him that quote, “one deponent has already appealed to the Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee and to you, Speaker Ryan, in an effort to get basic protection for individual privacy and safety. Those requests have been rejected or met with deafening silence. Facing the threat of contempt, that person appeared before the Panel last week. During 8 hours of questioning, she was asked to quote “name names” by Republican staff who refused to explain how their requests bore any relation to a legitimate investigative aim,” unquote.  If you have any more questions, [Congressman] Jerry Nadler was actually at that deposition.

This and other witnesses have been berated, demeaned, and threatened with contempt of Congress.  Because I am concerned that the written transcript of these proceedings will not capture full interactions between witnesses, Members, and counsel, I sent a letter this morning asking the Clerk of the House to ensure that audio recordings of these depositions are preserved.

Doctors and clinic staff who provide reproductive health care in this country are at grave risk. Their workplaces are picketed and bombed, they and their families are targeted on web sites and receive harassing mail and phone calls and some have been murdered.  Scientists conducting life-saving research have also been the target of threats and harassment, particularly since the July 2015 release of the fraudulent videos alleging unlawful sale of fetal tissue.

The consequences of these attacks for the women of America and our ability to conduct critical medical research are perhaps the most devastating result of this so-called Investigative Panel. We were already told by one witness at a hearing that he had to disband promising fetal tissue research on Multiple Sclerosis, because his supply of fetal tissue had dried up.  Our ability to address Zika and its effects on fetuses, depends on fetal tissue research, and this research – which once had overwhelming bi-partisan support – is responsible for most of our lifesaving vaccines.

Women’s ability to access the reproductive services they need and choose is under unprecedented attack, and this panel has become the spearhead for those efforts nationally. This so-called investigation, like the three previous Republican-led House Committee investigations has uncovered no evidence of wrongdoing and Chair Blackburn’s unjustified witch hunt is putting lives and life-saving research and health care at risk. This investigation discredits and dishonors the House of Representatives. We call on Speaker Ryan to disband the Panel without further delay.

I want to thank all the rest of the my colleagues for coming here today.  This represents a strong belief of our Democratic Caucus who is joining in calling on Speaker Ryan to disband this panel.  And if you have any questions, we’re happy to answer them.

Q:  Congresswoman Schakowsky, obviously, comparisons of Joseph McCarthy are not, you know, used lightly.  Can you explain what you see the parallels between this and the McCarthy hearings?

Ranking Member Schakowsky.  As we said, this is not only about the livelihoods of people as the McCarthy hearings, which went after this fantasy about the danger of communists everywhere, asking for names to be named.  This is also ideologically driven.  This is an attack on women’s health care, their right to choose an abortion and on the use of fetal tissue research, which it appears that they would like to end – at least that’s the way the witnesses and the questioning has gone.  It is not fact-based like the McCarthy hearings and the consequences of what they are doing are dangerous.  It is dangerous for individual lives – as the McCarthy hearings were dangerous for individual livelihoods.  But beyond that, this has dramatic effects on how we conduct health care and research in this country.  So, we are not using that comparison lightly at all.  We think this is very, very dangerous and should be ended before it escalates any further.

Congressman Nadler.  Thank you.  One of the key similarities is that the purpose of the McCarthy depredations was not really to do research into American communism.  The purpose was to intimidate people from exercising their rights and to punish them for having exercised their constitutional rights in past years.  The purpose of these hearings seems to be to intimidate people, to intimidate clinics from performing abortions, to intimidate universities or clinics or anybody else from affording fetal tissue and to intimidate doctors from participating in any of this.  The kinds of questions that were asked:  “Did someone at the hospital suggest to you to work at the women’s center?  Were you encouraged?”  What business is that of Congress?

The very press release that you saw: ‘Select Panel begins investigation of late-term abortionists’ – I won’t mention his name.  The only purpose of that is to endanger that person’s life further.  That person travels with security.  He has been firebombed.  He has been threatened.  And if you look at everything they say they want to investigate, they are criminal allegations – no business of Congress.  If they have evidence of any of this, they should refer it to the U.S. Attorney.

Congress is not or should not be in the business of criminal investigation and of labeling someone a bad person or whatever – that’s not our functions.  That’s McCarthy’s function and that’s what they are doing here  and they are threatening the witnesses.  And the other thing is: ‘name names.’  When you come in under subpoena and you are told: you must name the name.  What person assisted in this?  What portion did you know here?  And you know, that if you name that name, that person will be endangered.   So you refuse to do it and you’re threatened with contempt.  That was the essence of McCarthyism, except it’s worse here because we are threatening people’s lives, not only their jobs.

Ranking Member Schakowsky.  Yes?

Q:  Today the Department of Justice and the Department of Education are issuing guidance to the public schools on allowing transgender students to use the bathroom of their gender preference.  And I wanted to ask you: should the federal government force public schools to let biological males who identify as females compete in female athletics?

Leader Pelosi.  I’d be absolutely pleased to answer your question.  We’re going to stay focused on this for now.  Questions other than that we’ll take right now.  Thanks.

Q:  Representative, The Federalist reported that you received $13,000 from Planned Parenthood, $64,000 from EMILY’s List, $9,500 from NARAL – how is that not a conflict of interest to be investigating those organizations?

Ranking Member Schakowsky.  Let me point out to you that abortion is legal in the United States of America.  That is a very important fact.  And I am, as I believe all the people are here, are pro-choice, believe that constitutional right needs to be protected, proudly work with organizations that represent that view.  What we’re seeing here is a Republican so-called ‘investigative committee’ working with people who have been connected to abortion extremists, people who have been contributing to their so-called documents that have been offered as exhibits in this and I have no apologies for working closely with these organizations.  A conflict of interest to defend the Constitution and constitutional ruling of the Supreme Court I don’t see as any conflict of interest.

Q:  So no conflict of interest in receiving that money then investigating those same organizations? 

Leader Pelosi.  The point is that the issues of women’s reproductive health is the subject of debate in the Congress.  Everyone knows that.  There are those who have a different view than we have in terms of our respect for a woman to make that judgement with her God, her doctor, her family.  And that’s a legitimate debate in the Congress of the United States.  There are people on both sides who support people who support their point of view.

So, that is not to distract what is happening today because what is happening in the Congress today goes well beyond the debate of a women’s right to choose and disagreeing or agreeing with the Supreme Court decision.  What’s going on in the Congress today is, to borrow a phrase, un-American.  And that is why it is very similar to the House un-American committee investigation.  It inspired vigilantes, it provokes a vigilante behavior.  In the letter, I’m not sure it went into full detail of the bombing of the doctor’s barn where horses and animals were killed.  It’s beyond the legitimate disagreement in a debate.  It is provocative, it is dangerous, it is not within the purview of Congress to have this kind of an investigation and I thank the Members of the Committee for the important work that they have done.

Ranking Member Schakowsky.  Let me just also say that three House panels, 12 states and a grand jury have looked into these allegations against Planned Parenthood.  In fact, the grand jury that was to look into Planned Parenthood – rather than indicting the accused indicted the accuser David Daleiden, one of the people who manufactured the tape that led to this investigation.  The fact that this whole investigation now is based on completely and totally discredited videos – this is not an investigation, a real investigation of Planned Parenthood.  Those have already been conducted by these committees and by these states and by the grand jury.  Nothing has been found.

Leader Pelosi.  And that’s all on top of them defunding Planned Parenthood.  Look, we have even within our own families, some disagreements on the issue of a woman’s right to choose.  So that’s a legitimate debate.  The fact is; in this Congress, there is an obsession to the point of saying that family planning should not be supported.  But we’re not even talking about that right now.  We’re talking about going so far beyond that and also to undermine fetal tissue research.  And so it is an abuse of power.

Congresswoman DelBene.  I just want to say given the actions of this Committee, if this were a business and Paul Ryan were the CEO, he should bring Chairwoman Blackburn into his office and tell her, ‘You’re fired.’  This isn’t just about a business bottom line.  What’s at stake here is people’s lives.  That’s an incredibly important issue that we should stay focused on.

Ranking Member Schakowsky.  What else?

Leader Pelosi.  Any other Members want to comment on that?

Congresswoman Watson Coleman.  I just want to make sure that we understand the reason that we are here today is that all of the seven months, eight months that we’ve been engaged in this this has been nothing but a witch hunt.  This is very frightening, this is very un-American and this is an abuse of power that we just should find offensive in the United States of America, in the United States Congress.  And for that reason, we strongly request that Speaker Ryan should shut this investigation, shut this façade, shut this fraud, and shut this witch hunt down.

Congresswoman Speier.  I think it’s very important to appreciate that we are not going to stand by and let this Committee crucify upstanding, law-abiding Americans who are providing important health care research.  We’re not going to stand by while they attempt to crucify law-abiding Americans who are providing reproductive health care to women that is legal.  And that’s precisely what this Committee is doing.  They are putting a target on the back of those individuals that they subpoena so that unstable people, as we have already seen, can take shots – literally take shots at them.  We cannot forget that in Colorado, three people are dead today because an unstable man went to a Planned Parenthood clinic and decided that because of ‘baby body parts’, he was going to nail Americans.

Ranking Member Schakowsky.  Thank you very much everybody.  Appreciate it.

Leader Pelosi.  Let me just say that I’m very proud of the Administration for the directive that they have given to schools across the country – the Justice Department and the Department of Education.  It is nothing new.  It is nothing new.  It is just a guidance to these schools.

Q:  Can you answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ whether schools should force biological males that identify as women to enter athletics.

Leader Pelosi.  Well, we are talking about transgender people and we are protecting their rights to participate as they identify.  Thank you.

# # #

Contact: Drew Hammill/Evangeline George — 202-226-7616

Scalia’s Affirmative Action Quote of the Week

US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s recent comment about affirmative action and access to colleges for Blacks by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is as bad, if not worse, than Donald Trump’s comment about banning all Muslims from the US.  Why? Because right now, Scalia has the power of the US Constitution while Trump has the power of the media. The first is enforceable power, the second is that of the bully’s pulpit.  Both are dangerous, but as of right now, Trump can’t enforce his hateful rhetoric; Scalia can.

Nel's New Day

Media pundits have concentrated on Donald Trump’s outrageous statement that he would keep all Muslims from entering the United States. Last month, Justice Antonin Scalia made a connection between LGBT people, pedophiles, and child abusers in a speech to first-year law students at Georgetown. Today he made outrageous—and dangerous—statements during arguments before the Supreme Court. Scalia is much worse than Trump–Scalia’s in control, Trump isn’t.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is interviewed by The Associated Press, Thursday, July 26, 2012, at the Supreme Court in Washington. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari) Antonin Scalia (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

In an affirmative action case out of Texas, the high court listened to lawyers debate the use of race in college admissions. Scalia’s statement:

“There are – there are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to ­­ to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less­-advanced school, a less – a slower-track school where they do well.

“One of – one…

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My Fortune Cookie

Graphic rendering of a fortune cookie

My Fortune Cookie

Have you ever opened a fortune cookie and read something that speaks to your soul?

I have. Twice.  The most recent one was a “fortune” I got over the weekend when my family went out to our local Chinese restaurant.  As a civil rights advocate, this struck home with me:

To love what you do and feel that it matters–how could anything be more fun?