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

 

Workshops:

Workshop titles and times 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:

Missouri Jobs with Justice

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")

 

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

#          #          #

 

Orlando Massacre

The Board of Directors and staff of Empower Missouri grieve the senseless loss of life in Orlando, FL, and urge our members to join in acts of charity and solidarity with the loved ones of those who have been injured or perished. Our Guiding Principles include this phrase: Our state should….build a welcoming and inclusive 21st Century social climate free of hate and prejudice….” We are committed to making that vision a reality and stand with the Latino/Latina community, Muslim neighbors, and with those who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, and Intersex (LGBTQI) and their allies.

Vehicle Stops Report

Empower Missouri Responds to Release Of 2015 Vehicle Stops Report Data
Joins Call for Passage of Fair & Impartial Policing Act

Empower Missouri has studied the Vehicle Stops Report (VSR) data annually since 2009, focusing especially on categories of actions that occur after a vehicle is stopped, for example consent searches and resisting arrest charges. “This year’s data shows that, statewide, African American drivers consented to a search only slightly more frequently than European American drivers, down significantly from 2009. But 10 departments with significant numbers of consent searches had disparity factors of 3 to 1 or higher for African American or other minority drivers,” said Don Love, chair of the Empower Missouri Human
Rights Task Force.

Love continued, “Of special concern are the 11 departments that had disparity factors of 3 to 1
or higher for resisting arrest charges, more than 11 to 1 for one department. Officers should be
trained to de-escalate tense situations. Communities with high disparities related to resisting
arrest and other post-stop interactions should seek dialogue with departmental leadership and
request an explanation for the disparities.”

According to research conducted by Empower Missouri, several departments in Missouri have
invested in training for personnel around best practices, including examination of implicit bias,
unrecognized internal attitudes that can influence human interactions. Many of those
departments show improved outcomes around reducing disparities in the VSR data that
correlate to race/ethnicity, evidence that fair and impartial policing can be achieved.

For detailed analysis of the VSR data, see: http://empowermissouri.org/press/press-packets/

Don Love
Chair, Human Rights Task Force

Human Rights Task Force to Meet

The Human Rights Task Force will host a conference call meeting at 1:30, Thursday, January 26, 2017. 

Meetings are usually 1:30 on the fourth Thursday of the month. Sometimes we gather in Jefferson City, but we usually use conference calls.

C0-Chairs Phillip Weeks and Don Love and other participants will review recent events and also discuss a variety of topics, including:

  • Universal Design
  • Bias Free Policing
  • LGBTQ equality
  • Legalization of Marijuana
  • Constitutional Rights
  • Human Trafficking

We encourage everyone to participate. If you haven’t attended before, it’s easy!

Step 1: Go to the  task force page and browse the documents posted: agendas, reports, position papers, and so on. There should a report of the last meeting. An agenda is usually posted at the start of the week we meet.

Step 2: Just call this number from anywhere, enter the passcode, and let us know you’re on the line. We welcome participation by everyone, no obligations. You can choose to add your two cents or just listen in- whatever you’re most comfortable with.

712-432-1500 Passcode: 167856#

Or email questions, comments, agenda items, reports on what you’re doing to, etc.:

HumanRights@empowermissouri.com