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

Legislative Update Week of 3.13.17

 
Three Cheers for You! SB 28, the block granting of Medicaid, has been put on the back burner. Thanks for making all those calls. The bill was briefly debated in the senate floor before being laid over to the informal calendar - so it could come back, but it was not put forward for a vote at this time. Take a deep breathe and soak in that moment.
 
 Advocates testified on two bills (HBs 712 and 713) put forward by Rep. Dan Shaul (R-Imperial) and Rep. Crystal Quade (D-Springfield), respectively, to create a pilot program to address the Cliff Effect specifically as it relates to when working parents lose ALL child care subsidies over often miniscule raises. Read more.  Reach out to the House Children and Families Committee members, tell them your experience with this, and urge them to approve this legislation.
 
 
We thank Rep. Cora Faith Walker (D-St. Louis County) for filing HB 847which would require training about trauma and trauma-informed approaches as part of preparation to become a teacher. Email or call the House Special Committee on Urban Issues in support of the bill.
 
 
Our Human Rights Task Force members testified in support of SB 287, to reduce bias in policing. Encourage Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence committee members to approve this legislation.
 
 
That was the good news.
 
 
The state legislature is trying to keep St. Louisians from the raise in the minimum wage they passed 2 years ago. HCS HBs 1193 & 1194 are moving quickly, having been introduced, heard, and passed through the House chamber all last week. They might try to push this through the Senate before Legislative Spring Break (March 17-24). Tell your senator this bill deserves time for debate and discussion, not a rubber stamp. Let your senator know you support a higher minimum wage and local control and want to defeat these bills; watch our Facebook page for announcement of a hearing or any floor debate.
 
 
 We stand up to discrimination.We're watching a number of bills that attack workers by weakening employment non-discrimination protections in the MO Human Rights Act (SB 43, HB 550, HB 552, HB 676) and by requiring arbitration (SB 45).
We ought to be passing stronger worker protections like the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act (MONA), not undermining civil rights protections that took decades of blood, sweat and tears to secure. Watch Facebook and Twitter for developments throughout the week. It was while testifying on these bills earlier in the session that MO NAACP Pres. Rod Chapel was cut-off from testifying.
 
 
 
Go back up to the top and read that good news one more time. Then call your state rep. and senator and see if they've got time for a meeting with you and your friends while they're back in town for Spring Break, or if they're doing a town hall. If so, let us know and we'll share public events with others on social media. Thank them for their service and make sure they know how you'd like to see them representing you.
 

We Stand Up to Discrimination

Today NAACP of Missouri, Empower Missouri, Missouri Faith Voices, PROMO, and other organizations joined to condemn recent assaults on civil rights and equality in Missouri and to call on the General Assembly to use floor debate to advance quality of life issues instead of a pro-discrimination agenda.

On Feb. 13, Nimrod Chapel Jr. appeared before the House Special Committee on Litigation Reform  to testify against House Bills 552, 676 and 550. However, Committee Chairman Bill Lant cut off Chapel shortly after he began to speak, soon after Chapel called the bills “Jim Crow Legislation.” The next day Speaker of the House Todd Richardson apologized to Chapel, saying the House had not been at its best, and assured Chapel that he would have the opportunity to complete his testimony. No hearing has yet been scheduled to allow that testimony.

In the meantime, the Missouri Senate has taken up Senate Bill 43 for debate, another bill making it harder to prove discrimination. The Senate debated Senate Bill 43 for several hours on February 27 and is expected to take the bill back up as early as today.  “The General Assembly has an interesting way to celebrate Black History Month,” said Chapel. “The best way to stop discrimination lawsuits is to simply stop discriminating, not by stacking the deck in favor of biased employers.”

A hearing was also held on Senate Bill 98 on Feb. 21, a bill regarding school bathrooms. Transgender witnesses and parents of transgender students condemned Senate Bill 98, saying it increased stigma and imperiled the safety of transgender students.

Recent damage to a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis further demonstrates that racism and religious oppression are still afoot in our state.

A joint statement was issued by the more than 20 organizations that joined at an 11 a.m. press conference in House Hearing Room 1. Find the text of that statement here.

Freedom and Loyalty

Loyalty and Liberty: The following column appeared, I believe in the KC Star in May 2016. It draws on a conversation Jeanette and I had about the polarization that makes it so hard to talk about practical solutions to social problems. As a society, we get ourselves into trouble if we put too much emphasis on independence, but we get ourselves into another sort of trouble if we don’t put enough emphasis on interdependence. We’re in this together so it’s important that we start with a sense of loyalty. Sometimes it might be possible to rise to the level of love, but that’s too much to expect on a daily basis. Hannah Arendt says we’re doing well to achieve respect.

Debate Over SJR 39 Reveals Much Agreement
About “What the World Needs Now”
By Don Love and Jeanette Mott Oxford

Something truly remarkable happened in Jefferson City April 27th, as the House Committee on Emerging Issues moved toward a vote on Senate Joint Resolution 39 (SJR 39). There was inspirational agreement as to “what the world needs now.”

The sponsor of SJR 39, Senator Bob Onder of St. Charles, argued that Missouri needed more religious freedom. He proposed a constitutional amendment that would have allowed legal discrimination toward same sex couples by some individuals and broadly-defined “religious institutions.” He especially sought to create a right for those who work in wedding-connected industries (bakers, photographers, florists, etc.) to refuse to sell their services to same sex couples.

But during the debate over SJR 39, we were very pleased to hear several members of the committee, some who voted yes and some who voted no, state that what we really need is more love. Rep. Jack Bondon, a yes vote, made this point eloquently and strongly, saying the General Assembly must be able to discuss difficult issues, “without demeaning and demagoguery.” He closed by stating what matters most is that you “love your neighbor.”

We strongly endorse a politics of love. We need more loyalty, the kind of love that stands by the loved one when disagreements emerge, continuing to respect and trust.

Freedom, Liberty and Independence are fine, but they are not a sufficient foundation for a nation. For every flag proclaiming Don’t Tread on Me, we need a flag that says Join, Or Die— Benjamin Franklin’s famous cartoon showing how essential it was for the American colonies to join together to survive. Loyalty is as important as freedom.

Many same-sex spouses have religious convictions as deep and sincere as those of Sen. Onder’s dissenting baker—and belong to churches that honor their marriages. That is the beauty and the challenge of living in these United States.

SJR 39 divorced liberty from love, independence from interdependence. We are glad that SJR 39 failed in the end (in a 6-6 tie) because it ignored the necessity for us to coexist amicably in spite of deep-seated differences.

We need laws that do a better job of balancing freedom and loyalty. We especially need the respectful and thorough periods of study and discussion that Rep. Bondon has recommended.

We hope to see the “politics of love” break forth in 2016 electoral campaigns and the 2017 Legislative Session of the Missouri General Assembly. What if we took that path of respectful and thoughtful discussion that Rep. Bondon has endorsed on issues like these?

Difficult Issue # 1: The current income guidelines for our health insurance programs leave 300,000 low-wage workers in Missouri without affordable coverage. These neighbors are too poor to get into the Affordable Care Act subsidized Marketplace plans, and they have too much income to qualify for Medicaid.

Difficult Issue # 2: The tax table for our state income tax system has not been updated since 1931, so our top tax bracket begins at $9,000 per year of taxable income, a lot of money in 1931, but very little income now. At the same time, state revenue is inadequate to address many of our state’s most intransigent problems like hunger, affordable housing, educational funding, and mental health.

Difficult Issue # 3: For fifteen years straight, the Vehicle Stops Report has shown patterns in traffic stops and in actions after the stop that are indicative of racial bias. Police officers feel disrespected by community members, and community members feel disrespected by police.

What if our General Assembly applied the “politics of love” and tackled each of these problems “without demeaning and without demagoguery.” To be able to do so would continue the very American process of forming “a more perfect union.”

Don Love, a retired teacher, Columbia, is chair of the Human Rights Task Force of Empower Missouri, where Jeanette Mott Oxford is executive director. Empower Missouri (www.EmpowerMissouri.org), headquartered in Jefferson City, advocates for the well-being of all Missourians through civic leadership, education, and research.

Local advocates respond to police killings

Empower Missouri has been working for some time, but especially during the past two years, in coalition with other organizations to promote dialogue between law enforcement agencies and community organizations and to secure passage of the Fair and Impartial Policing Act. On July 8, during a week that included several heart-breaking deaths – some of community members and some of police officers – we joined with several of these organizations to issue the following statement.

 

 

In the wake of last night’s killings of five police officers by a sniper during a protest in Dallas, TX, that followed this week’s shooting deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA, and Philando Castile in St. Paul, MN, local groups supporting the Movement for Black Lives, issued the following statement:

Senseless killing is senseless killing. The shooting of officers and civilians in Dallas does nothing to advance the cause of justice regarding extrajudicial killing by police, and there is no reason to believe the Dallas shooters were in any way connected to the peaceful protesters outraged by this week’s deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of police. 

When tensions are high, and the nation is at a point of extreme frustration at our inability to stop the taking of black lives by government authorities, it is deeply disappointing, but hardly surprising, that horribly misguided individuals would lash out. We are confident that our criminal justice system will hold them accountable. 

We have not seen law enforcement held to the same level of accountability in the endless killing of people of color without justification and under color of law. Until we do, the disparate treatment, and the justified anger that black lives still do not matter in this country, will unfortunately cause the situation to spin further out of control. It is well past the time that the government needs to make clear that it will not condone the taking of innocent lives by those wearing uniforms as well as by those who do not. 

Our sincere condolences go out to all victims of violence, and we will continue to work toward the day when the families of black people across this country, as well as the families of police officers, are no longer forced to mourn their loved ones gunned down in our streets. 

Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression
Don’t Shoot Coalition
Empower Missouri
Organization for Black Struggle
Metropolitan Congregations United Police Reform Task Force
Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates
Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment
Peace Economy Project

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