“South Park” Lampoons Washington Football Team Owner over Offensive Name

By Kaidia Pickels, a Fall 2014 Leadership Conference Education Fund Intern

The infamous cartoon series “South Park” caused quite a stir last Sunday when it released a trailer that satirizes Washington football team owner Dan Snyder’s continued use of the team’s offensive name. The clip, which aired during the fourth quarter of the matchup between Washington and Philadelphia on Sunday, has quickly gone viral.

The trailer was used to promote the 18th season premiere of Comedy Central’s cartoon series, which aired last night. In the clip, Cartman, one of the show’s primary characters, begins to use the team’s name and logo to promote his own company, which he claims is perfectly legal given that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled six of the team’s trademark registrations last June. A cartoon Snyder challenges Cartman and calls the move “offensive” and “derogatory.”

“When I named my company…it was out of deep appreciation for your team and your people,” Cartman responds, mocking Snyder’s refusal to change the name of the team.

While the clip seems to only have been aired on television in the Washington, DC area, it quickly drew national attention after “South Park” posted the trailer on its YouTube channel, where it currently has almost 2 million views.

The NFL and Snyder have faced increased scrutiny since 50 U.S. senators called on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to change the team’s name. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights voted last December to pass a resolution urging Snyder to change the offensive name. “Changing the name is the right thing do, regardless of how comfortable fans have become with it. And when Mr. Snyder does decide to put the slur away, I think he’ll discover a new market of consumers who recognize the dignity of all people and want to honor that with the sports teams they support,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference.

Posted in Civil and Human Rights News | Leave a comment

What the New Census Income and Poverty Data Say about Gender Equality

By Angela Pavao, a Fall 2014 Leadership Conference Education Fund Intern

On September 16, the U.S. Census Bureau released its annual report examining income and poverty data from 2013 and how the two indicators have changed, overall and across demographics, over recent years. Despite some positive changes, like the overall decline in poverty rates, the report highlighted a continued and severe gender disparity, examined more thoroughly last week by AAUW and the National Women’s Law Center.

By the Numbers: A Look at the Gender Pay Gap by the American Association of University Women (AAUW)

Achieving income equity among genders has never been so critical, yet 2013 saw a disappointing lack of movement in the gender pay gap. In 2013, 40 percent of American households considered a female their primary source of income, yet new census data reveal that working women receive, on average, just 78 cents compared to every dollar a male earns. When the data compare Black and Latina women with their White male counterparts, the wage gap widens significantly – to 64 cents and 54 cents, respectively. These figures demonstrate the pervasiveness of both gender and racial inequality in our economy and highlight the interconnectedness of several civil rights issues. It is important to note that the 0.78 ratio does not take into account factors like industry, education, and experience. That said, a 2012 study by AAUW found “an unexplainable 7 percent pay gap,” even when other factors were accounted for. This suggests two problems: gender discrimination and a system that does not encourage women to aspire to the same educational attainment and higher-paying industries as men.

These figures were released in the wake of every Senate Republican – and one Independent – voting on September 15 to block the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would have strengthened the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and prohibited employer retaliation against employees who discuss or disclose their salaries. Two weeks earlier on Labor Day, the Republican National Committee tweeted an image declaring that “All Republicans support equal pay.”

NWLC Analysis of 2013 Census Poverty Data by the National Women’s Law Center

The data also show that women continue to be disproportionately affected by poverty. In 2013, the percentage of women below the poverty line remained at a two-decade peak of 14.5 percent, compared to only 11 percent of men. More startling: that 11 percent figure is still lower than the record low poverty rate for women, which was 11.5 percent in 2000. The data also reveal higher poverty rates among women who were heads of their family, Black women, Hispanic women, and senior women living alone. Despite the fact that only 40 percent of households are headed by women, these households account for 58.8 percent of all children living in poverty.

When considered alongside AAUW’s income breakdown, the cyclical nature of the problem becomes clearer: lower wages inherently produce higher rates of poverty, which in turn make it much more difficult for women to reach their full, economic potential. It is this systemic inequality that we must counter through comprehensive legislation designed to protect workers and promote equal pay for equal work. Every individual, regardless of gender, deserves a society that rewards their hard work fairly.

Posted in Civil and Human Rights News | Leave a comment

Briefing Highlights Need to Address Discriminatory Profiling in America

By Jordyn Bussey, a 2014 Leadership Conference Education Fund Intern

The troubling reality of discriminatory profiling in the U.S. is gaining more attention following several tragic events, including the fatal shooting on August 9 of Michael Brown, an unarmed, 18-year-old African American by a White police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

First introduced in 2001, the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA) was most recently introduced last year by Sen. Ben Cardin, D. Md., and Rep. John Conyers, D. Mich. ERPA would prohibit the use of profiling based on race, ethnicity, religion and national origin by law enforcement agencies, as well as provide resources for training and gathering data on such activity. It is currently stalled in both chambers of Congress.

On September 15, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), NAACP, and South Asian Americans Leading Together teamed up with Cardin to host a briefing on profiling on Capitol Hill. Hilary Shelton, director to the NAACP’s Washington bureau and senior vice president for advocacy and policy, moderated the briefing. Speakers included Rep. Bobby Scott, D. Va., the ranking member of the House Judiciary Crime Subcommittee, Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU’s Washington legislative office, and Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president for policy at The Leadership Conference. Panelists included Benjamin Crump of Parks and Crump Attorneys at Law, who represents Brown’s family, Chief John I. Dixon III of the Petersburg, Va. police department, Phillip Atiba Goff, president of the Center for Policing Equity, and Anthony Rothert, legal director at the ACLU of Missouri.

The panel explored ways to end profiling practices, including passing ERPA and calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to revise critical Department of Justice profiling guidance that hasn’t been updated since it was released in 2003.

“We have to stop following tragedy with embarrassment,” said Dr. Goff, referring to the lack of action and future planning by the government after profiling tragedies such as Brown’s shooting. He said the public looks to the government for a plan, wanting to see action being taken, and instead is met with confusion and inaction. In fact, the U.S. government doesn’t collect data that would help it gain an understanding of profiling; the first data compiled of police stops and use of excessive force was done this past year by Goff’s Center for Policing Equity.

Crump, who also represents the family of Trayvon Martin, another unarmed African-American teenager shot to death in 2012 in Sanford, Fla., by a man who was later acquitted in the killing, said, “It is bad when these killers profile our children. It is worse when this system profiles our children.”

In closing, Zirkin reinforced the necessity of moving ERPA forward and updating the guidance, which she said should “eliminate the current national security and border integrity loopholes and ban profiling based on religion and national origin. When both of these things happen we will be just one step closer to addressing larger issues of discrimination plaguing communities of color.”

Watch the entire briefing below:

Posted in Civil and Human Rights News | Leave a comment

Why Workers Receiving Tips Shouldn’t Be Paid Less

By Jordyn Bussey, a Fall 2014 Leadership Conference Education Fund Intern

The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) released an analysis last week revealing that states with the same minimum wage for all workers – regardless of whether the workers receive tips – have lower poverty rates for workers who receive tips (“tipped workers”) and a narrower wage gap for women.

NWLC’s analysis is a good reminder that – for almost a quarter century – the minimum wage for tipped workers has remained at $2.13 an hour, though many states have set their own standards. In the eight states that have eliminated a lower minimum wage for tipped workers, women working full time, year round are paid 80 cents to the dollar of their male counterparts on average – a wage gap of 20 cents, which is 17 percent smaller than the 24-cent gap in the states maintaining the federal tipped minimum wage. The gap narrowed even further for African-American and Hispanic women.

These numbers are hard to ignore, and higher wages benefit more than just the individuals doing the work. As NWLC’s analysis says, raising the federal minimum wage for tipped workers is “a crucial step toward fair pay for women and economic security for their families.”

tippedworkerspoverty
Posted in Civil and Human Rights News | Leave a comment

What One Online Retailer and the FCC Chairman Both Want Changed in Washington

By Jennifer Tran, a Fall 2014 Leadership Conference Education Fund Intern

On September 9, online retailer Etsy took a positive step toward fairness and decency by announcing that it would no longer permit items with the name or logo of Washington’s professional football team to be sold on their website. The announcement was in line with other moves by the company to prohibit sellers from selling threatening and demeaning products, like items that promote rape and domestic violence.

In announcing the policy change, spokeswoman Bonnie Broeren wrote on Etsy’s blog that this decision was to ensure that their marketplace was “safe, welcoming, and respectful for everyone, including artists, women, and minorities.” She also emphasized that they would no longer sell products with the name because “the fact remains that Native Americans themselves find the term unacceptable.”

The day after the Etsy announcement, Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, also expressed his concern with the team name. Speaking to reporters at a wireless conference, he said that he found the term “offensive and derogatory.” He urged people to continue expressing their discontent with the name with the hopes that “if enough people express themselves, [owner] Dan Snyder can see which way things are going.”

Although Etsy is among the first retail companies to explicitly come out against the name, it joins a number of prominent organizations that have already taken a stance. Media outlets such as Slate Magazine and the Washington Post’s editorial board have banned the team name from their publications.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights also expressed this sentiment when it voted unanimously at its national board meeting in December 2013 for a resolution urging the team’s owner to change the name. Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference, articulated the importance of the ban, noting that “having an offensive slur for the Washington team name teaches young people to celebrate the denigration of people for being who they are.”

With any luck, these moves will inspire other companies, individuals, and organizations to take a stand on the issue. While many have criticized this movement as an instance of overblown political correctness, it is, at its core, a fight for the respect of a community.

Posted in Civil and Human Rights News | Leave a comment

In Wake of Ferguson, Sen. Cardin Calls for Measures to Prevent Profiling

Sen. Ben Cardin, D. Md., on September 10 spoke on the Senate floor about the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and the need for Congress to pass the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA), a bill that was endorsed by President George W. Bush but – despite being re-introduced year after year – has not been brought up for a vote.

Cardin also urged Attorney General Eric Holder to issue new profiling guidelines that have not been updated since their release in June 2003.

“This legislation provides training and monitoring for law enforcement agencies at all levels of government,” Cardin said of ERPA. “By enacting this legislation, we can begin to reduce the racial disparities that plague our nation’s criminal justice system. We need to better educate more of our law enforcement officials in the differences between specific suspect descriptions and sweeping generalizations or profiling that wastes valuable resources. Racial profiling is un-American. It has no place within the values of our country. It turns communities against the partnerships needed to keep our neighborhoods safe.”

Cardin’s speech echoes a call made by more than 100 organizations last month for federal action to prevent discriminatory profiling.

Watch his full floor statement below.

Posted in Civil and Human Rights News | Leave a comment

Service Employees Join Forces to Strike for Minimum Wage Increase

By Kaidia Pickels, a Fall 2014 Leadership Conference Education Fund Intern

On September 4, fast food workers from across the country were joined by home care workers in an unprecedented series of strikes in 150 cities. The protesters, led by the Fast Food Forward movement, were demanding the right to unionize as well as an increase in the minimum wage for service employees to $15 per hour.

The movement began in November 2012 with a similar strike in New York City. Since then, Fast Food Forward has organized several major demonstrations nationwide and created a large online presence using the hashtag #StrikeFastFood. This is the first time the movement has gained support from other workers in the service industry.

According to organizers, approximately 500 protesters were arrested. Among them was Rep. Gwen Moore, D. Wis., who wrote “Proud to support #MilwaukeeWorkers risking arrest in pursuit of a better future for their families!” on her official Twitter following her arrest.

In late July, more than 1,200 fast-food workers from around the country gathered in Addison, Ill. to plan the recent strikes. Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), delivered the keynote speech in which she said that her organization – a union with two million diverse members – stands by the fast food workers’ fight.

“When we stick together we can raise wages, raise our communities, and raise America so we have an economy that works for everyone and a democracy where everyone has a voice,” Henry said in a statement issued by SEIU on Labor Day.

Because of the disproportionately high poverty rates of people of color, women, and the LGBT and disability communities, raising the minimum wage for all service employees is crucial. As previous civil rights struggles have proven, communities can make amazing things happen when they support each other in solidarity to demand change – in this case, a fair wage. With service workers from different sectors joining the Fast Food Forward movement for the first time, could these protests mark the beginning of large-scale collaboration in the fight for an increased minimum wage?

In response to a failed Senate vote on the Minimum Wage Fairness Act in April, Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference, said in a statement that “[r]aising the wage is a popular idea with bipartisan support that would help to lift working families out of poverty and expand the economy for everyone.” To learn what you can do to take action for America’s lowest paid workers, visit The Leadership Conference’s minimum wage action center.

A vote on the Minimum Wage Fairness Act is expected in the Senate as soon as later this week.

Posted in Civil and Human Rights News | Leave a comment