30 November 2010

It's the Law! Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Takes Effect

It's about time! As of November 29, 2010, nannies, housekeepers and other domestic workers in the State of New York will, at long last, be afforded the employment protections they deserve under the law. There is no doubt this is long-overdue: For more than 75 years, domestic workers have been explicitly excluded from federal laws meant to protect nearly every other worker in the country.

The result of years of hard work by Ms. Foundation grantee Domestic Workers United (DWU), the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights provides basic labor protections -- including overtime pay, one day of rest per week, paid leave and protection from discrimination and harassment -- to the more than 200,000 individuals who make up New York's domestic workforce. The legislation is the first of its kind in the nation, and was signed into law by outgoing Governor David Paterson on August 31, 2010.

Act Now: Call on Congress to Preserve Child Care for Hundreds of Thousands

Back to work after Thanksgiving, Congress is about to make a number of crucial votes that will affect the economic security and well-being of women and families: chief among them the renewal of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and Head Start. CCDBG provides federal funding for state-administered child care subsidies and initiatives that improve the quality and accessibility of child care for low-income families, while Head Start provides early education opportunities to pre-schoolers.

Congress has until Friday, December 3 to re-approve these programs. But renewing at current funding levels is simply not enough. Economic stimulus funds that bolstered support for child care and Head Start are about to run out. If Congress doesn’t carry over this additional funding, over 300,000 children would be affected, dealing a devastating blow to families already struggling to survive the ongoing economic crisis.

29 November 2010

TANF Extended -- Minus Crucial Emergency Funding

Time to share a little "good news/bad news" on the TANF front.

For the good: Just before departing for Thanksgiving recess, the Senate voted to extend TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) funding through September 30, 2011, circumventing what would have been certain disaster for our nation's neediest if the program had been allowed to expire in December, as the bill originally stipulated. According to Ms Foundation grantee the National Women's Law Center, the House will now take up -- and likely pass -- the full bill at some point in the coming days, marking a major win for families in need nationwide.

But there's significant bad news to report as well...

23 November 2010

Help Keep the Right at Bay: Double Your Dollars for Reproductive Justice by Dec. 1

Much has been said about this month's electoral shuffling and the impending doom it could mean for abortion rights struggles nationwide. So, as Thanksgiving nears, the Ms. Foundation is especially thankful for the remarkable work of our grantees who advocate for reproductive rights, health and justice across the US. From Colorado's perennial "personhood amendment" (called Amendment 62 on this year's ballot) -- which would assign personhood rights to a fetus and deal a huge blow to abortion rights -- to the ongoing fight to ensure contraception is covered in the implementation of health care reform, it is clear that the battle to protect and expand reproductive freedom remains fraught. In the face of greater conservative control over legislation come January, particularly at the state level, reproductive justice organizations are uniquely positioned to continue this fight, but will require even greater resources to keep the Right at bay.

Groundhog Day? Don't Let Congress Delay Unemployment Benefits Again

Thanksgiving Day? How about Groundhog Day? Last week, the House failed to extend emergency unemployment benefits, reviving the familiar, inherently flawed deficit vs. economic stimulus and safety-net debate. If no positive action is taken, beginning in December, millions of jobless people will be without this critical assistance, impacting individuals, families and the entire economy. Meanwhile, the possibility of reestablishing tax cuts for the rich once they expire at the end of 2010 still seems to be in play. And all of this against the backdrop of the highest corporate quarterly profit ratings in at least sixty years. Isn't it obvious who is really hurting in all of this?

The hypocrisy, to say the least, is mind-blowing. Preserving the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy has been framed as an effort to protect the common person (also known as the "small business owner"), while programs and policies that actually would protect poor, low- and middle-income people struggling to survive the ongoing economic crisis are slashed. In truth, emergency unemployment insurance prevents a significant number of people from joining the ranks of the poor while also stimulating economic growth. A wealth of research compiled by the National Women's Law Center, a Ms. Foundation grantee, backs these claims and helps call the conservatives' bluff. For example:
  • Last Wednesday, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the national 14.3 percent poverty rate in 2009 would have been 15.4 percent without unemployment insurance benefits, a poverty level not seen since the 1960s.
  • A study commissioned (ironically) by the most recent Bush Administration reported that every dollar spent on unemployment insurance results in an increase in economic activity of two dollars.
  • The Economic Policy Institute, in its "What would you do with $67 billion? Three alternatives to giving it to the rich," [pdf] concluded that extending emergency unemployment insurance would generate roughly 5.0 times as many jobs in 2011 and 2012 as would be created by an extension of the upper-income tax cuts.
The facts speak for themselves: renewing emergency unemployment insurance is just common sense. Take action today to demand that Congress extend it before millions of jobless workers -- many of them women, who make up a rapidly growing percentage of the long-term unemployed -- lose this critical benefit and face even greater economic insecurity. And those tax cuts? The Economic Policy Institute -- and plenty of our grantees -- have some better ideas.

Today, urge Congress to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, not Groundhog Day.

18 November 2010

Congress: Listen to Women on Immigration Reform

For those of us who believe comprehensive immigration reform means something other than "build a bigger fence" (oh, and electrify it, if you can), an editorial published in the New York Times this week is enough to run a chill right down your spine.

On Monday, the paper of record used a little of its editorial space to speak out on what it perceives to be a disaster-in-waiting as the Republicans assert control of the immigration agenda in the House of Representatives. Led by Congressmen Lamar Smith of Texas and Steve King of Iowa -- both of whom are ardent supporters of overturning the 14th Amendment (the one that grants citizenship to those born on American soil), and one of whom has come out strongly in favor of racial profiling (which, as the Times editorial hastens to remind us, is illegal) -- the new powers that be on immigration reform appear to be dead set on pushing for draconian and downright inhumane measures to deal with undocumented immigrants.

As the Times notes:
If [Republican] legislation looks anything like their campaign ads, there will be no way for illegal immigrants to get right with the law and no real solution to the problem of illegal immigration. Just a national doubling-down on enforcement, with still more border fencing and immigration agents, workplaces locked down, and states and localities setting police dragnets on what always was — and still ought to be — federal turf.

That hard-line approach mocks American values. It is irresponsibly expensive. It is ineffective.
More fences? More questionable methods for deporting people? More federal spending on tactics that are inhumane and known not to work? It boggles the mind -- and the House is not alone in allowing reactionary sentiments to guide its policy making here. The Times also points out that every Republican on the Senate Judiciary committee, "signed a letter last month to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, accusing Immigration and Customs Enforcement of 'a lax approach' for focusing more on dangerous criminals than on those with minor or no criminal records."

While conservatives keep themselves busy chastising other public officials and finding ways to spend money we don't have, numbers of organizations working at the grassroots level doing the hard work of producing real, viable solutions to our immigration issues.

Take the women of La Mujer Obrera, who have staged a hunger strike outside the White House to convince our government to invest in long-term economic development, not electrified fences, in border areas. They know that jobs, along with vocational and educational opportunities, provide a much more effective type of border security than increased militarization ever could; they're working to combat poverty and crime by providing women -- who now make up more than half of the US immigrant population -- with the economic security they need to ensure real security on the border.

If the new leaders on immigration in the House are looking for real solutions rather than reactionary strategies, they would do well to take a cue from La Mujer Obrera and other women's organizations that are leading the fight at the grassroots level. These organizations know what their communities need -- and they'll need our support if they're going to be able to make a difference in the face of this new, conservative leadership in the House.

Read the Times editorial. Watch the video below. And then pledge to help us lift up the voices and visions of women who are organizing for change -- on the border and everywhere.

16 November 2010

Grassroots Collaborative Improves Safety in San Francisco Nail Salons

Great news for the women who labor in nail salons in San Francisco: last week the city passed the first ordinance in the nation to protect workers from the toxic chemicals contained in the products they use daily. Passage of this ordinance owes much to the efforts of the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative -- a coalition fighting for safer working conditions statewide -- of which three Ms. Foundation grantees (Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum and Women's Voices for the Earth) are members.

Three particularly harmful chemicals -- toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and formaldehyde -- often used in nail polishes, glues and hardeners are known to cause birth defects and cancer, as well as headaches, dizziness and asthma. As a result of the new ordinance, nail salons that utilize products free of these chemicals will be promoted by the city and recognized as "healthy" salons. The ordinance will not only allow customers to make informed choices about what kind of nail salons they patronize, but also may push salon owners to change the kind of products they use -- improving working conditions for the mostly female, mostly immigrant, and largely Asian populations that provide labor for San Francisco's salons.

Tell Congress You Support Paycheck Fairness, Dream Acts

When the 111th Congress returns to Washington next week for its so called "lame-duck" session, two important legislative issues are likely to find their way to a vote: the Paycheck Fairness Act (which would "deter wage discrimination by closing loopholes in the Equal Pay Act and bar retaliation against workers who disclose their wages") and the Dream Act (which provides a path to citizenship through education and/or service for undocumented minors).

If you'd like to weigh in with your reps in Congress about the importance of both of these acts, here are two campaigns you can take part in today:
  • Paycheck Fairness Act: On Wednesday, November 17, the Senate is scheduled to vote on this essential update to the 1963 Equal Pay Act. According to Ms. Foundation grantee Wider Opportunities for Women, the bill aims to "hold employers accountable for wage discrimination and finally close the earnings gap between men and women."

    WOW is encouraging all those who support passage of this act to contact their Senators and voice their support. One easy way to do this is by signing on to an online campaign run by the National Women's Law Center (another Ms. Foundation grantee), which will email your support directly to your Senators.

  • Dream Act: This week, outgoing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi expressed her determination to bring the Dream Act to a vote before the end of this session. Take the time to thank her for her support of the act -- and encourage her and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to keep pushing for passage of this legislation, which could radically improve the lives of thousands of undocumented youth.

    America's Voice is running an online campaign to let Pelosi and Reid know just how widespread support for the act is; sign on today, and let our leaders know how much we care about the future of all our nation's children.

15 November 2010

WA Group Takes on Threat to Emergency Contraception: Act Now!

In Washington state, there's a battle brewing over access to emergency contraception -- and our grantee, NARAL Pro Choice Washington, is standing tall, right at the center of it.

Back in 2007, the Washington State Board of Pharmacy -- with the explicit support of the state's governor, Christine Gregoire -- put in place a rule that requires pharmacies to fill customer prescriptions for legal medications regardless of how individual pharmacists may feel about whether these products should or should not be legal. The issue that drove the Board to implement this rule initially was concern over access to contraception in general, but specifically to Plan B, or the "morning after pill," which a particular grocery store in the state had refused to stock and dispense, citing "moral objection."

Once the 2007 rule was put in place, that grocer -- Ralph's Thriftway in Olympia, WA -- filed suit against the pharmacy board, seeking to overturn it. That lawsuit has dragged on all these years, with no resolution -- even though both public and judicial support falls distinctly in favor of upholding the 2007 measure and protecting women's access to the contraception of their choice.

Now, however, there is a new and troubling twist to the story: just recently, instead of letting the case go to court, the state's Attorney General attempted to negotiate a settlement between the Board and the suing pharmacists -- urging the Board to put in place a new rule, which would "[allow] druggists to refer patients to a different pharmacy" for service, "including for conscientious reasons." This would effectively overturn the 2007 rule, and provide cover for business owners and pharmacists to opt-out of providing customers with medications that they find "morally objectionable."

The people of Washington State have apparently been none too pleased to learn about the AG's actions -- or that the Board has since voted 3-2 to put this new rule in place. (Of particular note: two out of the three women who serve on the pharmacy board voted against accepting the AG's suggestion; the third woman was not present when the vote was taken.) To date, thousands of people have spoken out on the issue by sending letters directly to the pharmacy board; 4 out of every 5 comments has registered support for retaining the 2007 rule.

We're proud to report that Ms. Foundation grantee NARAL Pro Choice Washington is playing an active role in opposing these new limits on women's reproductive choices. The group has launched an online campaign that allows Washington State residents to send comments directly to the pharmacy board members -- and to Governor Gregoire -- to share their concern about pharmacies being allowed to take the law into their own hands. The decision is not yet written in stone -- people have until November 30 to urge the Board to reconsider its stance.

So if you're a Washington State resident, link up with NARAL -- and act now. Don't let your rights slip away without a fight!

10 November 2010

CA Judge Extends Child Care Subsidies; Mothers, Workers and Advocates Deliver Strong Message to Gov. Elect

Great news for Ms. Foundation grantee Parent Voices, a group that is part of a critical campaign to save child care in California: On Friday, California Superior Court Judge Wynne Carvill ordered a temporary extension of child care subsidies to low-income workers in the state -- subsidies that had previously been eliminated by cuts to the budget made by outgoing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

That's excellent news for the more than 54,000 families experts now say would be affected by these cuts -- at least for the moment. The program in question, CalWORKS Stage 3, provided individuals who had completed the state's welfare-to-work program with much needed help in paying for child care so that they could remain in the workforce; the loss of those subsidies would mean that thousands of parents could no longer afford to work -- the cost of child care becoming prohibitively expensive without help from the government.

When the cuts were announced, the folks at Parent Voices took action. Their Oakland chapter joined as plaintiffs in a lawsuit to reinstate the more than $256 million of lost funds, launched a campaign to fight back against the cuts, and participated in a well-publicized protest outside of last month's Women's Conference in Long Beach (the conference is the brainchild of Maria Shriver, Governor Schwarzenegger's wife).

Then, last week, they took their fight directly to the Capitol, where, as part of the child care advocacy community, they planned to deliver more than 5,000 signatures from mothers and child care workers affected by the cuts into the Governor's hands. Locked out of the Governor's press conference due to lack of credentials, these 20 women and their children decided to wait outside on the Capitol steps on the chance that they might be able to share a few words with exiting media after the press conference was over. According to Mary Ignatius, statewide organizer for Parent Voices, here's what happened instead:
After 5 minutes of waiting, lo and behold, Governor-elect Jerry Brown [walked] past us. The mothers began clapping and cheering and I handed him an envelope of 5,000+ signatures of working mothers and child care providers who were at risk of losing their jobs. Before taking the package he asked “Don’t you want to give this to Schwarzenneger?” and I replied, “No because you are the one who can do something about this!” He took the package and we followed him chanting “Child Care keeps California Working!”

Our leaders were so thrilled. Most took the day off of work to be in the Capitol believing that sacrifice would be worth it. We didn’t know how the day was going to turn out, but because these mothers determined they just couldn’t sit back and watch their livelihoods be ripped from them, they were able to get their message out to the Governor-elect on his first day in the Capitol.
What a terrific, unexpected outcome -- and just one more example of how Parent Voices and their organizing partners are standing strong to ensure that the voices of low-income women will not be ignored.

It still remains to be seen, of course, whether the state will permanently restore the funds that support these essential child care subsidies, but there may be reason to be optimistic: At a local campaign event before the election, the now Governor-elect vowed to restore funding for the measure when pressed on the issue by a Parent Voices leader. Here's hoping that's a campaign promise he's willing to keep.

Learn more about how the Ms. Foundation supports policies and organizations that promote economic justice for diverse communities across our country.

09 November 2010

Honor Servicewomen This Veterans Day: Stand with SWAN

This coming Thursday (Nov. 11th) is Veterans Day, and if you're in New York, Ms. Foundation grantee Service Women's Action Network (SWAN) is sponsoring a number of events you may want to attend.
  • On Thursday morning, representatives from SWAN will be marching for the first time in the New York City Veterans Parade -- and they're encouraging women veterans and their supporters to march with them. They'll be marching to honor the contributions of all servicewomen, but particularly those who have experienced Military Sexual Trauma -- including PFC LaVena Johnson, who was raped, brutally beaten and murdered while deployed in Iraq.

    The group also hopes that their presence will help bring further attention to the plight of LGBT servicemembers and the discrimination they continue to experience as a result of policies like Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

    To learn more about how you can stand with SWAN in this year's Veterans Day Parade, please call 212.683-0015, ext. 324 or email kalima@servicewomen.org.

  • On Thursday evening, SWAN will serve as the co-sponsor of an important discussion about the military's treatment of LGBT servicemembers.

    “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – Where Are We, And How Did We Get Here?”
    will feature commentary from Richard Socarides, former White House Special Assistant and Senior Advisor to President Bill Clinton, who will be joined in conversation with columnist Jonathan Capehart, author Nathaniel Frank and Winnie Stachelberg, Senior Vice President at the Center for American Progress.

    The event begins at 7pm on November 11th, and will take place at the LGBT Center: 208 West 13th Street, NYC. Limited seating is available; register now if you'd like to attend.

    This event is also sponsored by The LGBT Center’s Young Leaders Council, Knights Out, and The Service Member’s Legal Defense Fund.

  • Did you know that Don't Ask, Don't Tell disproportionately impacts women and people of color in the military? "In 2009," according to SWAN, "women made up only 15% of the armed forces, but comprised 39% of total discharges under DADT. In 2008, non-white servicemembers represented 29% of the military, but accounted for 45% of DADT discharges."

    On Monday, November 15th at 6:30pm, SWAN will be providing an opportunity for military veterans of color to share their stories and opinions about DADT and how the policy has impacted their lives. The panel will be moderated by Anu Bhagwati, former US Marine Corps Captain and Executive Director of SWAN, and will take place at the LGBT Center in NYC: 208 West 13th Street, NYC.

    For more information about this unique event that seeks to uplift the voices of those too often silenced, please visit SWAN online.
And for those of you who are photography buffs, renowned photographer Jo Ann Santangelo will be exhibiting her multi-media touring show “Proud to Serve" at The Center, as well. The show -- which runs through January 30, 2011 -- features images of LGBT servicemembers who served their country in silence or were discharged under Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Don't miss it!

08 November 2010

Grantee Launches iPhone App to End Street Harassment

Kudos to Ms. Foundation grantee Hollaback on the launch of their new iPhone app -- and a fantastic story in the New York Times highlighting their work!

As we've previously written, Hollaback is a great young organization using technology to step up the fight against street harassment. Previously you could either visit their website or send a text message to report being harassed by someone on the street; now, with their newly launched iPhone app, users will have a streamlined method of reporting these incidents of harassment (which can include a picture of your harasser, if you wish). A GPS mapping feature automatically tracks where the harassment is taking place, and then adds the incident to a map on the Hollaback website.

After this basic information has been captured, Hollaback sends a follow up email to users to collect more detailed stories and information. And for those who aren't iPhone users, no need to fear: a Droid app is in the works and should be forthcoming shortly.

Rock on, Hollaback! Keep making us proud.

Univ of Cincinnati Launches Groundbreaking Law Center for Race, Gender and Social Justice

The University of Cincinnati Law Center is breaking new and proudly feminist ground in the teaching and practice of law: This fall, the University launched its new Center for Race, Gender and Social Justice, providing a formal home for the multi-pronged intersectional work that has been taking place at the law school since the mid-1990s.

This newly formed Center aims to prepare law students in an unprecedented way to "take the lead in advancing justice." Students are provided opportunities for experiential learning and research in connection with organizations working at the intersection of gender, race and class, whose constituencies and leaders are most impacted by multiple forms of injustice: low-income women, women of color, immigrant women, youth and LGBTQ people.

Co-directed by Ms. Foundation for Women board member, Verna Williams, the Center offers students a unique joint J.D./M.A. program in Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies -- a program that was the first of its kind offered in the nation when it was established in 1995. This four-year offering engages participants in a "rigorous, interdisciplinary and feminist study of law and social justice," and culminates with a semester-long externship at one of a number of national public interest non-profits (including Ms. Foundation grantee, the National Women's Law Center).

"Social justice feminism is our guiding principle," says Ms. Williams of the Center's approach to teaching law. "That means we have to focus on the multiple forms oppression can take and utilize multiple tools and disciplines to tackle them. At its core, the Center is about making change in society. Our mission is to to cultivate scholars, leaders, and activists committed to social change."

In addition to running its joint degree program, the Center also publishes the Freedom Center Journal (a joint, scholarly publication of the University of Cincinnati College of Law and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center) and oversees the Domestic Violence and Civil Protection Order Clinic. Through the latter program, students represent victims of domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault and human trafficking, gaining hands-on experience in the practice of this sector of the law. The hope is that students will also eventually apply their practical knowledge to advance policy on behalf of battered women and their families nationwide.

The Center held its formal launch event on October 22nd, with a luncheon featuring Tina Tchen, executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls and director of the White House office of Public Engagement. Congratulations to Verna and the University of Cincinnati for undertaking such an important endeavor!

Watch us Lead the Way

The Ms. Foundation for Women works with 150 grantee organizations that are igniting change nationwide. Watch us lead the way.

04 November 2010

After the Election: A Future Worth Fighting For

The midterm elections have certainly altered the landscape. Conservatives, as predicted, captured control of the House, made significant gains in the Senate, and will take up residence in a host of new Governor’s mansions nationwide. For those of us who spend our lives fighting for equality and social justice, there’s plenty of reason for deep concern: health care legislation, unemployment benefits, investments in child care, and protecting a woman’s right to choose are all up for attack given this new balance of power.

Many progressives have greeted this news with an understandable level of despair. But as we enter this new chapter in our nation’s political life -- we at the Ms. Foundation encourage you to forgo despair in favor of something much more powerful: a belief in the ability and tenacity of grassroots organizations to engage communities and build momentum -- even in the face of the political challenges currently before us.

This belief buoys us right now, and for good reason. We know the work our grantee partners do every day to push for policies at the local, state and national levels that will benefit women and families. We know that their organizing and advocacy makes a difference in communities across the country -- whether they’re fighting in New York for the passage of a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights (signed into law just this year) or demanding that California’s new governor undo drastic budget cuts that will otherwise leave 80,000 low-income families without access to child care.

We are hopeful because we know that the ongoing economic crisis presents a moment of opportunity for systemic social change -- one that our grantees will fight for no matter who holds the power in Congress. Our grantee partners are working from the ground up to build a new economy based on a new set of values and principles – an economy that puts those directly affected by the economic crisis and most marginalized from the centers of power (very often women) at the forefront of creating powerful policy solutions. They do this by pushing for green and other non-traditional jobs for women; by organizing in state-wide coalitions to fight for paid sick leave; by launching campaigns to ensure that local workers have access to living wages that keep them out of poverty; and by implementing creative organizing strategies that connect grassroots solutions to national platforms for greater impact.

Whatever the media may have told you, the grassroots progressive movement hasn’t lost its steam. The organizations we fund are steadfast and stalwart; they fight for equality in good times and in bad. They fought to advance social justice in the 111th Congress and will continue to do so during the 112th – whatever the political climate may be.

One thing is for certain: now, more than ever, progressive grassroots organizations need our help in holding the line against regressive measures, and in pushing forward local and state-based initiatives that expand opportunities for us all. They will need our support as they continue to build larger and stronger and constituencies, the only hope in paving the road to a more progressive political future.

The problems we face today are insurmountable only if we stop believing that change really is possible and the future worth fighting for. Women working at the grassroots every day are creating that future by meeting basic needs and healing families and communities. Will you join them?

Sara K. Gould, President and CEO

Susan Wefald, Executive Vice President and COO

02 November 2010

Arizona Immigration Law Spawned With Private Prison Support

If you’ve ever wondered about the origins of Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB1070 legislation, there’s no need to wonder anymore. According to a recent report from NPR’s Morning Edition, we can largely thank the private prison industry for generating this bill, which holds the potential to make industry insiders “hundreds of millions of dollars” -- all off the backs of undocumented immigrants.

The Morning Edition report -- which features research and data unearthed by Ms. Foundation grantee Grassroots Leadership -- shows that private prison corporations and leaders walked hand-in-hand with Arizona legislators throughout the campaign to get SB1070 drafted, passed and signed into law. The largest for-profit prison corporation in the nation, Corrections Corporation of America, was at the table when a group of legislators and big business representatives got together to write the bill, delivered to the legislature by Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce.

Congressional sponsors of the legislation were promptly rewarded with major donations from prison corporation lobbyists. According to NPR, "Thirty of the 36 co-sponsors received donations over the next six months from prison lobbyists or prison companies – [including] Corrections Corporation of America, Management and Training Corporation and The Geo Group" -- all companies that would greatly benefit from the passage of the bill.

SB1070 requires law enforcement to lock up people who cannot prove that they are citizens, establishing a new prison-ready population -- undocumented immigrants -- who will have to be housed somewhere. This makes the law a perfect vehicle for filling prisons and expanding business for the corporations in question, and Corrections Corporation of America and their allies are banking on this expanded inmate population to help pad their bottom lines.

Notably, this strategy is not one industry leaders are even attempting to keep secret: according to the NPR report, capitalizing on the detainment of undocumented immigrants is a business model openly discussed within the for-profit prison community. In a conference call with investors, the president of Geo Group, Wayne Calabrese, came clean about the potential SB1070 holds for growing their business: "I can only believe the opportunities at the federal level are going to continue apace as a result of what's happening,” he said. “Those people coming across the border and getting caught are going to have to be detained and… I think there's going to be enhanced opportunities for what we do."

Knowing the truth behind the origins of this bill makes it all the more crucial that we work to get it -- and other bills like it that have been proposed in 25 states -- fully overturned. It's going to be a long fight: just yesterday, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and her legal team appeared in federal appeals court to back SB1070 (a lower court has already stayed some pieces of the legislation). While the Obama administration is standing firm in its argument that "requiring police officers to question immigration status is unconstitutional," Brewer and her allies are vowing to take this battle all the way to the Supreme Court if they need to.

With forces like these striving to undermine the dignity and freedoms of the immigrant population, the work of organizations like Grassroots Leadership, which fights for transparency in our legislatures and humanity and justice on our streets, becomes ever more important. Learn more about their efforts to support the human rights of all immigrants, and do your part to push back against these discriminatory measures now proliferating across the nation.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Rappaport, Immigration March, Washington DC, May 2010

Upcoming Event: Mothers Behind Bars

On Monday, November 8th, join two Ms. Foundation grantees for an important online conversation about how federal and state correctional laws can better meet the needs of pregnant and parenting women behind bars.

The Rebecca Project for Human Rights and the National Women's Law Center have joined forces to produce an original report called Mothers Behind Bars, which explores the dangerous practice of shackling women during childbirth and other important issues affecting pregnant and parenting women behind bars — the vast majority of whom, the report points out, are non-violent, first-time offenders. The report's authors, Jill Morrison of NWLC and Malika Saada Saar, Executive Director of the Rebecca Project, conducted state-by-state analysis of policies impacting incarcerated women, including prenatal care and family-based drug treatment as an alternative to incarceration; they will discuss their findings and highlight a few much needed solutions during this important online event.

With more women behind bars today than at any other time in our nation's history, and with more than two-thirds of them identifying as mothers, this is a conversation whose time has come. Don't miss it.

WHAT: Mothers Behind Bars webinar
WHEN: Monday, November 8, 2010 at 1:00 pm Easter
HOW: For more information and to RSVP, please visit the event's registration page.

Vote Tuesday November 2, 2010 - Find Your Polling Place Here

Update: Today, Tuesday November 2 is the day.

Exercise your rights and vote this Tuesday, November 2. The gadget below -- produced by the Voting Information Project, a partnership of NOI, Google, the Pew Center on the States and local election officials -- will identify your polling place.

01 November 2010

Upcoming Event: Impact of Child Care Subsidies on Women of Color

Concerned about the state of child care assistance available to low-income and working class families in these troubled times? Then you may want to take some time tomorrow (Tuesday, November 2nd) to attend an important event hosted by Ms. Foundation grantee the Women of Color Policy Network, here in New York City.

"Carrying the Load: The Impact of Child Care Subsidy Policies on the Economic Security of Women of Color," will feature a roundtable discussion of the many challenges working and low-income families with young children face in accessing safe, quality, affordable child care. The panel will examine the impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on child care subsidy funding and availability; highlight the importance of child care subsidies for working, low-income communities; and strategize policy solutions to enhance child care subsidy experiences for women of color and their families.

Panelists include: Gina Adams, Senior Fellow, Urban Institute; J. Lee Kreader, PhD, Director of Research Connections, National Center for Children in Poverty; Benita Miller, Executive Director, Brooklyn Young Mother’s Collective; and Chanelle Pearson, Research Associate, Women of Color Policy Network, NYU Wagner. The discussion will be moderated by Hannah Matthews, Senior Policy Analyst at CLASP.

The event will take place on Tuesday, November 2, 2010, from 6:30 - 8:30 PM in the Rudin Family Room (2nd Floor) of The Puck Building: 295 Lafayette Street, New York, NY.

For more information and to RSVP, please visit: http://wagner.nyu.edu/wocpn/news/calendar.php#child.

Please also note that next Tuesday's roundtable will be followed by a
national webinar on child care subsidies in the states, to be held on Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 3:00 PM (EST).

Read how our grantee, Parent Voices, is fighting for affordable child care in California.

What Does the Minimum Wage Have to do With Economic Recovery?

For those looking for a surefire way to stimulate our national economy, Ms. Foundation grantee Let Justice Roll (LJR) has a tried and true solution to suggest: raise the minimum wage.

What do wages have to do with it? As the forces behind the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign point out, consumer spending makes up about 70% of the US economy. But with consumer confidence flagging, and many workers finding that they cannot make ends meet on minimum wage salaries, individuals and families alike feel less willing and/or able to inject into the economy the money that is needed to end this recession once and for all. Boosting minimum wage would allow millions of workers to funnel their increased raises back into the economy by purchasing necessities like food, fuel, health care and the other basics of life.

The concept is not a new one; it's the same approach President Franklin D. Roosevelt took to pulling our country out of the Great Depression nearly 80 years ago. Roosevelt understood that if there was no limit to how little businesses could pay their workers, the country simply could not recover its economic vitality; people had to be guaranteed a certain standard of pay to ensure that money could indeed flow back into the economy through consumer purchases. He considered creating a minimum wage "essential to economic recovery," noting that “the increase of national purchasing power [is] an underlying necessity of the day.” Much the same could be said of the situation we find ourselves in today.

Most Americans now seem to understand this intuitively: the 2010 American Values Survey shows that two out of three Americans (67%) agree that the minimum wage should be raised from $7.25 to $10 per hour. Our present minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is actually worth less, when adjusted for inflation, than an individual working a minimum wage job would have earned more than 50 years ago. Raising the minimum wage to $10 today would finally bring worker compensation within striking distance of earning levels in 1968, when minimum wage reached its (since unmatched) peak -- and would have a particularly profound impact on women (and their families), who make up 60 percent of the low-wage workforce.

As Ms. Foundation Executive VP and COO Susan Wefald and her co-authors Holly Sklar (one of the forces behind the LJR Living Wage Campaign) and Laryssa Mykyta noted in their 2001 book, Raise the Floor, "a job should keep you out of poverty, not keep you in it." With more and more working-class Americans finding themselves out of luck even if they aren't out of work, now is the time to push for a minimum wage that actually pays workers enough to live on.

Sign on to LJR's petition to raise the minimum wage. Believe us: the economy will thank you for it.

A Tribute to Sara K. Gould: Katie Grover

Dear Sara:

I've put this off a bit as I so quickly get choked up just thinking about writing this.

First there is the story of your professional trajectory. I remember being at an event twenty-some years ago when Marie introduced you as "the" authority on economic development. So from the very beginning, I respected what you contributed to a discussion. Your expertise in your field of study and your evident empathy and compassion for the lives of women and their families, who are impacted by unjust societal norms and structural policies, have always been impressive. As you became more and more entrenched at the Ms. Foundation, you got to know and understand every part of it.

Becoming the COO, you were a trusted manager and your leadership charted a course for the Foundation to pursue "best practices" around all of its internal operations and to project those best practices beyond our own policies and serve to inspire our grantees and colleagues to follow suit. Then as CEO, you moved to play a more external role, projecting the work of the Foundation, and taking it on the road. Your leadership has been marked by your pursuit of excellence; in your work with the Foundation staff, in our work with grantees, in our ability to collaborate and motivate partners to join our work (or us to join theirs), and in our drive to impact policy on behalf of women, especially women at the intersection of race, class, and gender.

Your great good judgment and personal style have placed the Ms. Foundation at the center of much of the work being done on social justice for women in this country. And your personal warmth, vision, and authenticity have made you a beloved figure in this field.

Now we get to the hard part. Anyone who has been in your orbit, or that of the Foundation's, could have said what I just did. But I, as the immediate past Board Chair, who served in that capacity for five years and as a board member for four years before that, have had the privilege and profound good fortune to have worked very closely with you over a significant period of time.

You've led the Ms. Foundation through many challenges and triumphs over those years. I watched you grow and push yourself to be a better leader. And I am humbled by the knowledge of how much I learned working with you. While I am proud to have been a partner in such a leadership team, I am even prouder to admit that it was not without its difficult moments; moments that we always managed to negotiate with respect, trust, an interest in understanding all sides of an issue, and a deep commitment to moving forward in the best possible way for the Foundation and the work that we feel so strongly about.

And since all of that time was also full with more than its share of laughter (think about the taxi ride at a conference in Salzburg) a lovely friendship was born. We've done what women have done for millennia: supported each other in our work, in our roles as wives, mothers, and daughters, and in our aspirations. I treasure that. And make no mistake...I'm counting on it going forward too!!! So thanks, for all you have given me and all you have made happen in your work at the Ms. Foundation.

Lots of Love and Best Wishes - Katie

Katie Grover, Immediate past Chair of the Board of Trustees

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A Tribute to Sara K. Gould: Kavita N. Ramdas

Well done!

Dearest Sara,

I cannot tell you how much your support and example and leadership have meant to me over the years. We have been friends since I first came to visit you as a Program Associate in 1988, when you were running the Economic Development Institute at the Ms. Foundation. I remember watching the terrible events of Tiananmen Square together in Atlanta at the Institute.

I remember joining the Ms. Collaborative on Women's Economic Development and Self Employment and meeting friends like Peggy Clark and Lisa Mensah. I remember you and me talking about having a baby and your funny antics (headstands, anyone!?). In 1995, you invited me to join the Ms. Foundation delegation to the Beijing Conference -- what a life changing experience and one that took me to the life work that I have pursued for 14 years at the Global Fund for Women.

I watched you lead as a partner and ally of Marie's and I watched you step into the role of CEO with such grace and confidence after Marie stepped down. You never failed to remember that the women you served were the ones we had visited together in public housing, on Lakota reservations, and poor communities in the Mississippi Delta. You built a strong and powerful foundation that was fierce in its pursuit of justice for women in the United States. You stepped in after Katrina devastated lives and made a real difference.

You created a vision and a brand for Ms. that will live on in a million ways. I hope you know how much you have done -- we do!

I have loved every minute of our friendship and as I began to think about my transition -- there you were again to help me review with wisdom and clarity what needed to be done -- what the important pieces of the process required, and how to keep myself together through it all.

You have been sister, ally and dear friend for so many years, I know it will never stop. Saying goodbye to something we love, even when we know we are ready to do so, is never easy -- so here is a poem by Palestinian American poet Naomi Shibab Nye that has helped me through it. It is my gift to you.


It is a good word, rolling off the tongue
no matter what language you were born with.
Use it. Learn where it begins,
the small alphabet of departure,
how long it takes to think of it,
then say it, then be heard.

Marry it. More than any golden ring
it shines, it shines.
Wear it on every finger
till your hands dance,
touching everything easily,
letting everything, easily, go.

Strap it to your back like wings.
Or a kite tail. The stream of air behind a jet.
If you are known for anything,
let it be the way you rise out of sight
when your work is finished.

Think of things that linger: leaves,
cartons and napkins, the damp smell of mold.

Think of things that disappear.

Think of what you love best,
what brings tears into your eyes.
Something that said adios to you
before you knew what it meant
or how long it was for.

Explain little, the word explains itself.
Later perhaps. Lessons following lessons,
like silence following sound.
– Naomi Shibab Nye

Kavita N. Ramdas, Senior Advisor (President and CEO 1996-2010), Global Fund for Women

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