Empowering You – October Newsletter

Check out Empowering You- newsletter from Empower Missouri.

In this issue:

  • Preview our workshops and meet our Superhero Awardees for the 116th Annual Conference: Persisting & Organizing to Win – POW! October 5-6th! Register NOW!
  • Veto Session: were any of Gov. Greitens’ vetoes overridden?
  • How will you honor World Food Day?

Download a PDF.

Get the Facts About Senate Bill 43 FAQ

A coalition of organizations continues to meet to consider ways that we can collaborate to regain the civil rights ground that was lost when Senate Bill 43 (SB) became law on August 28. The first action taken jointly by the organizations is the release of an FAQ document explaining the harms in SB 43 You are invited to join us in distributing this FAQ below.
By attending Persisting and Organizing to Win you can learn skills that enable you to be a civic leader in campaigns that matter – like the fight to overturn SB 43.

What is SB 43?

SB 43 is a bill that was signed into law on June 30, 2017 and went into effect on August 28, 2017. This bill, introduced in the 2017 Legislative session by Senator Gary Romine, was signed into law by Governor Eric Greitens after a contentious battle in both the Senate and the House. SB 43 changes current Missouri law, specifically the Missouri Human Rights Act.

How does SB 43 change the Missouri Human Rights Act?

The Missouri Human Rights Act protects against discrimination in employment, housing, and places of public accommodations because of your race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, disability, age (in employment only), and familial status (in housing only). This means if you are fired from a job, evicted/denied housing, and/or denied access to a public space because of one of these protected categories you have legal recourse to file a complaint.

SB 43 changes the Missouri Human Rights Act in the following ways:

  • Limits the ability to file class actions under State law.
  • Limits the method of proving discrimination to require an individual’s protected characteristic be “the motivating factor” in an adverse action, meaning that complaints must show a discriminatory intent. This negates firmly established theories of discrimination such the disparate impact standard previously affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court and every other federal Court of Appeals.
  • Removes important protections related to retaliation and whistleblowing.
  • Limits the scope of liability for individuals, meaning that complaints can name only employers, employment agencies, labor organizations or places of public accommodation, not individuals.
  • Caps the awards of both actual and punitive damages. Actual damages are necessary to make a victim of discrimination whole, and punitive damages are required by the regulation governing substantial equivalence with federal fair housing law.
  • Creates special rules for businesses. SB 43 reinstates the so called “business judgment rule” that allows employers to ask for a jury instruction that tells jurors: “You may not return a verdict for plaintiff just because you might disagree with the defendant’s action or believe it to be harsh or unreasonable.”

Prior to the signing of SB 43, if a person were fired from a job, and they believed that one of the previous protected classes was a contributing factor to their termination, they could file a complaint. Now, a person would have to prove that it was the motivating factor. For example, if someone is fired because they are a racial/ethnic minority, they will now have to prove that their race was the motivating factor for their termination. That is, an African American, for example, would have to prove the motivation to fire them was solely because they are African American.

How does this law reduce protections in public accommodations?

An example of public accommodation discrimination is a restaurant manager who refuses to seat your family because of your age, ancestry, color, disability, sex, religion, race or nation of origin.

The new law substantially dilutes the public accommodation protections previously contained in the Act. This means that the State of Missouri, as well as the cities of St. Louis and Kansas City, will be hampered in their ability bring certain wrongdoers to justice and make victims of discrimination whole. The federal public accommodation protections still apply and are unchanged (e.g. Americans with Disabilities Act).

How does this law reduce protections in housing?

The new law changes Missouri’s compliance with the Federal Fair Housing Act by substantially diluting the fair housing protections previously contained in the Act. This means that the State of Missouri, as well as the cities of St. Louis and Kansas City, will be hampered in their ability bring certain wrongdoers to justice and make victims of discrimination whole. The Federal Fair Housing Act protections still apply, and offers more protections than State law under SB 43.

How does this impact Missouri residents facing housing discrimination?

Missouri agencies enforcing fair housing protections on a local level will be limited. This applies to the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, the Civil Rights Enforcement Agency of the City of St. Louis and the Kansas City Human Rights Commission. The Federal Fair Housing Act still holds fair housing protections in Missouri. Individuals can file federal fair housing complaints with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

What does this new law say about whistleblower protections?

SB 43 guts state-level whistleblower protections.  A whistleblower is a person who sees something that is illegal or against the wellbeing of the public and reports it to their employer or publicly in order to prevent the illegal or dangerous thing from happening. SB 43 specifically excludes managers, supervisors, and anyone who is paid to report on the business’ activities from whistleblowing protection, the very people who may be in the best position to know when there is something going on that could harm the community.  Federal whistleblower protections still apply and are unaffected by the change to the Act (e.g. OSHA, Sarbanes-Oxley, Dodd Frank, the False Claims Act). Additionally, many state and federal statutes provide anti-retaliation protections that may provide whistleblowers some protection from their employers (e.g. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Americans with Disabilities Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Family and Medical Leave Act).

If a person is victimized, harassed, or discriminated against on the job, what does this new law say about bringing a lawsuit against the victimizer?

This new law explicitly prohibits liability against individuals. Meaning the person being accused is no longer allowed to be named in the lawsuit. They could move from job to job and there would never be a real record of their bad behavior because SB 43 says they are not responsible for their bad behavior under State law. Under federal fair housing law protections individuals can still be named in a lawsuit.

I’ve heard people say that this new law brings the Missouri Human Rights Act up to Federal standards and is in-keeping with other state law. Is this true?

With the caveat that discrimination law is complicated and a comprehensive cross comparison is difficult at the state level, the argument that the bill brings our state laws into the line with the federal law and other states is false. No other state explicitly prohibits liability against individuals and most states allow the accused to be named in a lawsuit. It also makes us the only state in the nation to reduce protections in cases of housing or public accommodations.

Will the State of Missouri experience any loss of revenue because of this law change?

The Missouri Commission on Human Rights, the Civil Rights Enforcement Agency of the City of St. Louis and the Kansas City Human Rights Commission will lose both federal enforcement jurisdiction and federal contracts valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of the next six months as a direct result of SB 43. Whether businesses, conventions, entertainment entities, etc. choose to boycott Missouri remains to be seen, and our actions going forward may well determine how severe the economic impact becomes.

 

Organizations that are working to reverse the harms done by Senate Bill 43 invite you to add your contact information to this  form so that we may reach out to you.

For a printable PDF of FAQ, click here.

POW! 2017 Annual Conference

116th ANNUAL CONFERENCE: 
Persisting & Organizing to Win! Putting the POW in EMPOWER!

October 5-6, St Louis, MO

Online Registration is NOW OPEN!

Empower Missouri is dedicating the 2017 Annual Conference to the role of labor organizing. With continued attacks to reduce the reach and influence of the labor community, now is the time to focus on building strong alliances across the broad social justice spectrum.

Keynote Speakers:

  • Nancy Cross: Opening Keynoter, Vice President SEIU Local 1
  • Tiffany Dena Loftin: Closing Keynoter, Senior Program Specialist, NEA
  • Rev. Traci Blackmon & Rabbi Susan Talve: Dinner & Awards Speaker

>>>Preview our complete POW! Conference program booklet, with descriptions of workshops, bios of presenters and awardees, and final schedule. <<<

Schedule:

Thursday, October 05, 2017

9:00 - 10:00

10:00-11:30

Registration Opens - remains open throughout conference

Pre-Conference Session Presented by Missouri Jobs with Justice

11:30-11:45

Break

11:45- 1:15

Conference opens with Welcome 

Buffet Lunch Available

Keynote: Nancy Cross 

1:15-1:30

Break

1:30-3:00

Session 1 Breakouts.  See below for list.

3:00-3:15

3:15-4:45

Break

Session 2 Breakouts. See below for list.

4:45-5:00

Break and Awards Dinner check-in.

4:45-6:00

Networking Happy Hour with Cash Bar.

6:00-8:00 PM

Dinner and guest speakers Reverend Traci Blackmon & Rabbi Susan Talve.

Presentation of annual awards winners.

Friday, October 06, 2017

7:30-9:00

8:30-9:45

Breakfast buffet

Annual Business Meeting

9:45-10:00

Break

10:00-10:45

Keynote Presentation - Tiffany Dena Loftin 

10:45-11:45

Response Panel 

11:45 AM-Noon

Call to Action, Thank You’s & Safe Travels

   

Subject to change, more details to follow.

Breakout Session #1 1:30-3:00 PM   Breakout Session #2 3:15-4:45 PM
Housing & Food Insecurity Among Low-Wage Workers (AHHTF & HTF)   Housing & Food Insecurity Among Low-Wage Workers (Repeat) (AHHTF & HTF)
Justice in the Workplace (HRTF)   Faith/Labor Alliance
MO Budget Project (EJTF)   Ban the Box - Fair Chance Hiring Policies (CJTF)
Impact of Trauma on Low-Wage Workers (H/MHTF)   Minimum Wage and #FF$15 (EJTF)

Scholarships:

10% of the total tickets sold are available at a Scholarship Rate of 10% of the conference price. Click here to apply for a scholarship. If selected, you will receive registration instructions.

Sponsoring:

You and/or your organization can show your support for worker's rights and grassroots organizing by sponsoring our conference and contributing to our scholarship fund for low-wage workers. 

Thank you to last year's Sponsors. 2017 Sponsors include:

Bob Fox & Maxine Clark
Center for Budget & Policy
Clark-Fox Foundation
CWA Local 6355
David Bohnett Foundation
Dowd Bennett, LLP
Lutheran Children & Family Services
Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys
Missouri Faith Voices
Missouri Jobs with Justice
Missouri Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
National Council of Jewish Women
National Low Income Housing Coalition
Painters & Allied Trades, District Council 58
Places for People
Representative Deb Lavender
Schuchat, Cook & Werner
Second Chance Freedom Foundation
Service Employees International Union Local One
Senator Jill Schupp
Sts Joachim & Ann Care Service
Vision for Children at Risk
Women's Voices Raised for Social Justice
15th Ward Democratic Club

When & Where

October 5-6, 2017

Sheraton Clayton Plaza Hotel, St. Louis

7730 Bonhomme Ave.

St. Louis, MO 63105

(Special hotel rate of $109/night is available under "Empower Missouri October 2017" RATE EXPIRES 9/12)

 

Sponsors

 

Documents

What is at stake? 2016 General Election

Empower Missouri Members and Allies,

On November 8, we have the right and responsibility to vote. This is a year in which Missourians will vote on candidates who have not yet held the following positions, reshaping our political landscape:

• President
• Governor
• Lt. Governor
• Secretary of State
• Treasurer
• Attorney General

In addition, all 163 Missouri House of Representative seats are on the ballot, and half of our 34 Senate seats are up for a vote. (Some of the candidates are incumbents; some are not.) One of our U.S. Senate seats is on the ballot statewide with the incumbent facing a challenger.

Let us remember who we are as supporters of Empower Missouri. Our Guiding Principles include these phrases:

All people in Missouri should have true access to quality healthcare, decent housing, adequate nutrition and appropriate education…..Our state should emphasize restorative alternatives to our punitive corrections system, build a welcoming and inclusive 21st Century social climate free of hate and prejudice, fully support policies that empower people to overcome their economic circumstances, and require all to pay their fair share in support of the common good.

Please study the ballot carefully. Most local boards of election have a website with a sample ballot. Vote for candidates who will move us toward becoming the Missouri described in our Guiding Principles. If you will be away on November 8, please contact your board of elections immediately to learn what steps you need to take to cast an absentee ballot.

In addition to the candidates, there are also votes on whether to retain judges of various courts. Find Missouri Bar Association ratings of judges at: http://www.yourmissourijudges.org/reviews/. Click on the photo of the courthouse to access a list of judges up for a vote of retention in that jurisdiction.

There are also votes on five proposed constitutional amendments (Amendments 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 – there is no 5 on the ballot) and one statute by way of ballot measure (Proposition A). For a guide to the Empower Missouri position on these amendments and Prop A, click here.

If you have problems on Election Day – being told your name is not on the registered voters list when you know you are registered, polling places without adequate numbers of paper ballots, etc., call 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683). Non-partisan volunteers have been trained to respond when anyone is unfairly denied the right to vote.

To learn more, go to: http://866ourvote.org/. To become a trained volunteer in the Voter Protection initiative, sign up at: https://goo.gl/forms/yFvq8wqm9YdVWduv1.

Our work for justice will continue, no matter what the outcomes are on election night. Still let us do all the good we can by voting in the November 8 General Election. Empower Missouri members practice civic leadership – which includes exercising the right to vote. Please do not let the constant barrage of attack ads dampen your enthusiasm for voting. It is even more important that you vote at such a time.

Yours in the work of justice,

Jeanette Mott Oxford
Executive Director

Ballot Guide Nov 8, 2016

Being a Justice Advocate in the Voting Booth:
Ballot Measure Guide for the General Election, 2016

On November 8, 2016, Missouri voters have the opportunity to pass or defeat five proposed amendments to the Missouri Constitution and one statute change via petition initiative. The General Assembly’s long-standing failure to address Missouri’s outdated, unfair, and inadequate revenue system is at the root of several measures. View a printable PDF. Here is a summary of these six ballot measures and concerns that relate to justice:

Amendment 1 – We urge a YES vote.Vote Yes Amendment 1

This is the fourth time since 1984 that Missouri voters have been asked to authorize a one-tenth-cent statewide sales and use tax to support soil and water conservation programs and operation and maintenance of state parks and historic sites. By the wording of the 2006 vote to retain this tax, this measure will appear on our ballot every ten years, so we vote in 2016 and again in 2026, etc.

While Empower Missouri advocates that a well-structured progressive income tax system is the most just way to fund the common good, our Board of Directors does urge a yes vote on Amendment 1. Eliminating the tax would only save $20 in a year for a family with a take-home income of $20,000 – if they spent every penny of their income in Missouri. Without the $90 million that the Missouri Department of Natural Resources receives from this tax annually, lawmakers would have to cut funding to soil and water conservation and state parks or fund them out of general revenue, reducing the amount available to essentials like education, health care and public safety.

Amendment 2 – Empower Missouri is neutral.

Many Empower Missouri members took action to impose limits on the amounts individual donors can give candidates by voting yes on Proposition A in November 1994. However, in 2008, the General Assembly repealed those limits. House Bill 1038 passed on a mostly party line vote, and then-Gov. Matt Blunt signed it into law.

Amendment 2 would again cap campaign giving. Individual donors would be prohibited from giving a candidate for statewide office, state senate, state representative or judicial office more than $2,600 per election. Individual donors also would be barred from giving more than $25,000 per election to the same political party. Those limits would be adjusted for inflation, and additional campaign regulations would be established.

Empower Missouri supports campaign finance limits. Amendment 2 is weaker than we prefer and contains drafting errors that may lead to costly litigation after the vote.

Amendment 3 – Our members make strong justice arguments on both sides.

If ratified by voters, Amendment 3 would phase in an additional tax of 60 cents per pack on all cigarette brands and levy an additional wholesale fee on certain discount brands. The new tax would generate up to $374 million annually, constitutionally earmarked for early childhood education programs, early childhood health care and smoking cessation. The levy on discount brands relates to what “Big Tobacco” calls a loophole, allowing some companies to avoid escrow payments that “Big Tobacco” pays. “Little Tobacco” argues that they never signed on to the agreement that “Big Tobacco” signed (which offered “Big Tobacco” protections from litigation for past bad actions).

Empower Missouri members supporting Amendment 3 point to our Legislature’s failure to adequately fund early childhood education. Extensive research proves the value of such an investment. Our members opposing Amendment 3 highlight language about abortion, stem cell therapies, and U.S. residency in the measure that they find offensive or potentially damaging. There are also fears of how a new Early Childhood Commission would handle distribution of public funds to private or religious child care providers. Presently state subsidies to low-income families may be spent at public and private, licensed and unlicensed, religious and secular child care providers.

We urge our members to recognize that others have taken their positions out of concerns for justice. Please study this issue carefully and be an informed voter. See www.raiseyourhandsforkids.org and http://www.badformissouri.com/.

Amendment 4 – We are neutral, but note the Missouri Budget Project opposition.

Amendment 4 would constitutionally prohibit state and local governments from charging sales or use taxes for services that were not already subject to such taxes as of Jan. 1, 2015. This is a preemptive strike against repeated attempts by super-wealthy Rex Sinquefield to replace the income tax with a higher sales tax on virtually everything. We are not fans of sales taxes to fund the common good. Still Missouri Budget Project does urge a no vote for reasons that may be found at http://www.mobudget.org/tax-issues-on-the-november-ballot/. We do agree that constitutionally tying our own hands as to how our state may respond to future economic realities holds many dangers.

vote-no-on-6Amendment 6 – We strongly urge a No vote.

 

Amendment 6 would weaken current strong voting rights in our state constitution by allowing imposition of photo voter identification rules. Federal courts have increasingly acknowledged that such laws do nothing to reduce fraud while unfairly depriving low-income voters, disproportionately People of Color, of their constitutional rights.

DEFEAT OF AMENDMENT 6 IS AN EMPOWER MISSOURI PRIORITY FOR 2016.

 

 

Proposition A – We urge a No vote.

Prop A is a phased in 23-cent increase in tobacco tax, promised to transportation, put on the ballot by tobacco sellers as a strategic move to defeat a larger increase to our lowest-in-the-nation tobacco tax. It is set up in a way that any future attempt to change tobacco taxes or to strike down any part of Prop A will invalidate it. Lawmakers could clearly use these funds for programs other than transportation also. Please vote NO.

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