Henderson Talks Voting Rights and Race on “Melissa Harris-Perry”

On “Melissa Harris-Perry” last weekend, Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference, spoke during six segments on voting rights and race during the Obama presidency.

In a segment called ‘Obama takes a stand on voting rights,’ Henderson repeated the civil and human rights community’s desire to see the bipartisan Voting Rights Amendment Act swiftly enacted.

The truth is, Republicans at the federal level, people like Jim Sensenbrenner, the Republican congressman from Wisconsin, even Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader, are sending signals that they’d like to genuinely see a repair of the Voting Rights Act. And the bill that’s under consideration now, supported by both Republicans and Democrats, would make a significant difference – and we want it enacted between now and the midterms.


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Briefing, New Report Highlight Need to Restore Workplace Protections

By Simone Novorr, a Spring 2014 Leadership Conference Education Fund Intern

Last Thursday, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, along with the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), held a briefing on the Fair Employment Protection Act. The bill seeks to restore workplace protections – which were impaired by last June’s Vance v. Ball State University Supreme Court decision – to ensure that Americans who are harassed in the workplace by their supervisors receive the fair treatment and justice they deserve.

The event was held in conjunction with NWLC’s new report titled “REALITY CHECK: Seventeen Million Reasons Low-Wage Workers Need Strong Protections from Harassment.”

NWLC’s report highlights three important workplace realities that are imperative to understanding how important this bill is to low-wage workers.

  1. Sexual harassment is widespread, as 25 percent of women and 10 percent of men have experienced harassment.
  2. Millions of lower-level supervisors have significant power over low-wage workers. This is evident from surveys that looked into seven different low-wage industries.
  3. Low-wage workers need strong protections from workplace harassment.


Panelists at the briefing included Liz Watson, director of workplace justice for women at NWLC, Nikki Lewis, executive director at DC Jobs with Justice, and Johnathan Smith, assistant council of the economic justice practice at LDF.

The Fair Employment Protection Act, introduced on March 13, is co-sponsored by Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D. Wisc., and Tom Harkin, D. Iowa, and Reps. George Miller, D. Calif., and Rosa DeLauro, D. Conn.

Click here to learn more about the Fair Employment Protection Act and here to read NWLC’s report.

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Activists to March Saturday to Challenge Inhumane Immigration Policies

The United Workers of Washington DC, together with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) and the DC Coalition for Immigrant Rights, is leading a march in Washington, D.C. on Saturday to demand solutions to fix our broken immigration system.

The march – which begins at 11 a.m. in Mt. Pleasant Park/Lamont Park and ends in Lafayette Park near the White House – is one of over 50 events across the country that will highlight the human rights crisis created by our current immigration system.

Saturday’s march and culminating rally in front of the White House is an important opportunity for allies to show solidarity with the immigrant communities that are directly impacted by harsh immigration enforcement practices. Many of these immigrants play vital roles in our community – as workers, students, and parents – as they pursue a better life for themselves and for their families. One thing is clear: the human cost of our broken immigration system is too great.

The Leadership Conference will be among those marching and rallying on Saturday to urge our leaders to stand with the majority of Americans who believe that we should respect the dignity of undocumented people, who are simply trying to live and prosper. Follow @civilrightsorg on Twitter for updates during the event and check back here next week for a recap.

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Higher Ed Not Debt Campaign Addresses Rising Cost of College

By Gracie Cano, a Spring 2014 Leadership Conference Education Fund Intern

Higher Ed Not Debt, a new campaign that will focus on the challenges of rising college costs and student loan debt faced by 40 million Americans, launched last Thursday at an event hosted by the Center for American Progress. The launch featured a keynote speech by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D. Mass., and remarks by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. Weingarten is also a Hubert H. Humphrey Civil and Human Rights Award Dinner honoree this year.

During the event, Sen. Warren outlined strategies to address relevant issues, such as creating criteria that state schools would have to meet in order to receive federal money without having to return a portion of these funds. A second proposed solution calls for the reduction of current interest rates on student loans.

Warren’s propositions were followed by some from Weingarten, who highlighted the importance of making higher education ‘a public good.’ “We cannot be a nation any longer that tells our young people, ‘College is really…important,’ while at the same time saddling them with crushing debt and slashing the investments in the higher ed programs that we said were really, really, really important,” she said.

Afterwards, a panel answered questions about current strategies being used to address access to higher education. Panelists included Tamara Draut of Demos, Nelini Stamp of Working Families, Max Espinoza of Scholarship America, and Jennifer Wang of Young Invincibles.

Click here to learn more about the Higher Ed Not Debt campaign.

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Recognizing the Importance of Women’s Rights Treaty on International Women’s Day

It’s Women’s History Month and tomorrow, March 8, is International Women’s Day – the perfect time to highlight the importance of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

CEDAW is a comprehensive international treaty that outlines standards for ratifying countries to meet in the treatment and rights of women. It has played a critical role in promoting the empowerment of women and girls in developing countries, resulting in concrete advances for societies worldwide. Countries use CEDAW to promote the adoption of national laws, policies, and practices to ensure that women and girls live free from violence, have access to quality education, and have the right to participate fully in the economic, political, and social sectors of their society.

Ratifying countries must report to the U.N. every four years on their compliance with the treaty. It has been ratified by 187 countries. The United States is one of only six countries that have not, along with Sudan, Iran, and Somalia.

What is CEDAW?

CEDAW is a landmark international agreement that affirms principles of fundamental human rights and equality for women around the world. Adopted in 1979 by the U.N. General Assembly, it is often described as an international bill of rights for women. Consisting of a preamble and 30 articles, it defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end it.

Around the world, CEDAW has been used to reduce sex trafficking, domestic violence, and female genital mutilation; ensure primary education for girls and vocational training for women; ensure the right to vote; end forced marriage and child marriage; improve health care services and save lives during pregnancy and childbirth; allow women to own and inherit property; and ensure the right to work and own a business without discrimination.

Secretary of State John Kerry expressed his support for CEDAW during his confirmation hearing with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

How will you celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month?

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Small Businesses Support a Minimum Wage Increase, Poll Finds

By Patrick McNeil, Communications Assistant

Entrepreneurs support a federal increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, an opinion poll conducted last month by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research on behalf of Small Business Majority reveals.

The full report released yesterday shows that 57 percent of small business owners in general support a federal increase, and 61 percent of owners in the retail/restaurant industries support a federal increase. In addition, 82 percent said they already pay their employees more than the federal minimum wage, noting that full-time workers should earn more than just $15,080 per  year – which is what they make at the current minimum wage.

“It’s simple: when workers earn higher wages, they spend their extra dollars in their local stores and communities. As demonstrated by the Small Business Majority’s report today, small business owners  support an increase in the minimum wage because it means more business for their stores and restaurants,” said Sen. Tom Harkin,  D. Iowa, and Rep. George Miller, D. Calif., who are the lead sponsors of legislation to raise the federal minimum raise. “No one who works full time should have to raise their family in poverty. A raise in the minimum wage is a pro-growth policy that is good for workers, good for businesses, and good for the economy.”

To hear a recording of yesterday’s teleconference to release the polling, please click here.

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Fast for Families Immigration Reform Campaign Launches Bus Tour from California to D.C.

By Patrick McNeil, Communications Assistant

After officially kicking off last month with an event at the National Press Club, the Fast for Families Across America campaign this week launched the second phase of its national tour – including two buses traveling from California that will visit more than 75 key congressional districts en route to Washington, D.C.

“The question has never been if we’ll win immigration reform, the question is ‘when,’” said Eliseo Medina, former secretary-treasurer at Service Employees International Union and current chair of the Immigrant Justice Campaign, in a statement. “And we’re taking that question, and plenty more, to every stop in our journey into more than 75 congressional districts because the answer to that question should be and will be ‘now.’ Congress can no longer ignore the inhumanity of our immigration system and the voices of hope and faith within their own backyards.”

The buses will arrive in Washington, D.C. on April 9. Participants hope to spark commitment from members of Congress to act when they return from a two-week recess.

To see which districts the buses will be visiting, and to find out how to get involved, see the Fast for Families events page here.

For more information about the campaign, please visit the Fast for Families websiteFacebook page or Twitter and join the conversation via #Fast4Families.

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