Archive for January, 2015

The Real Problem with Brandon McGee/Safe Work Environment Act Report

January 22, 2015

Community Update

This column appears in the January 22 – 29 edition of the Hartford News… There will be no Hartford News column next week, due to the Hartford Arts and Heritage special edition of the paper. The February 5 – 12 edition will include an analysis of President Obama’s State of the Union address… While Rep. Brandon McGee’s decision to use a parking space reserved for disabled individuals is indicative of the arrogance demonstrated by him and other Black lawmakers at the State Capitol, I’m more ticked off about the fact that McGee’s public policy agenda does not address poverty, racial wage/wealth disparity, Black/Latino unemployment or police containment of low income communities of color.

Last month during an appearance on the WFSB Face the State program, McGee touted the smokescreen of hiring more Black/Latino officers and implementing community policing as ‘solutions’ to police violence in urban neighborhoods. McGee said nothing about the need to dismantle the rigged grand jury process or the zero prosecutions of killer cops by the Obama Justice Department. Like his colleagues Senators Gary Winfield and Eric Coleman, both members of the Judiciary Committee (Coleman is Judiciary co-chair), McGee does not support the Community Party’s Trayvon Martin Act, which has provisions that would include community residents and lawmakers in the process of holding the police accountable. Our bill would also provide whistleblower protection for officers who report corruption/misconduct. McGee is a typical corporatist, elitist Democrat. We need a third party movement that will represent the interests of the working class, the poor and low income communities of color…

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey pushed for the return of tolls to Connecticut during his appearance on Fox CT’s The Real Story last Sunday. Tolls are just another tax on the working class and the poor who already pay more in taxes than the wealthy, according to a report by the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services. http://wnpr.org/post/connecticuts-wealthiest-pay-smallest-share-their-income-taxes A publicly owned bank would generate revenue for the state, without taxing residents. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KX8pcADnsEs

REAL Protection Against Workplace Bullying: Safe Work Environment Act

CP’s Safe Work Environment Act would provide workers with more protection against abusive workplace conduct than the Healthy Workplace Bill, which is also being introduced during the 2015 legislative session. Our bill would remove legal barriers that people currently face when they file a lawsuit against their employer. SWA eliminates the HWB requirement that an employee must prove malice and intent by an employer, which is basically impossible. Our language would also remove the HWB stipulation that an employee must provide proof of damage to their physical/psychological health. The federal employment discrimination law does not include either of the HWB provisions, which provide massive loopholes for abusive employers. We will also incorporate language from the Nevada workplace bullying bill (see below), which eliminates the burden of having to prove workplace bullying based on race or gender discrimination. We also want lawmakers to create a workplace bullying advisory board, which would solicit and implement input from public employees when they recommend future legislation. One bill will not stop workplace bullying, which is a constantly evolving issue. Legislation must evolve with it! The creation of a workplace bullying advisory board will ensure that this issue remains active at the State Capitol EVERY YEAR.

In the coming months we’ll share information on the legal aspects of workplace bullying. Workers must educate themselves about the law in order to empower themselves. A study found that 15% of total adult suicides in the U.S.are related to abusive workplace conduct, which the Department of Health and Human Services says is the equivalent of domestic violence. http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/hhs-workplace-bullying-domestic-violence_764508.html
This week we’ll share a report from the Undercover Lawyer website (http://www.undercoverlawyer.com/) on how to use the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to request job accommodations from your employer.

How To Request Job Accommodations From Your Boss By Using the ADA

September 23, 2010 By Mary

Mary’s ButterfliesBy Mary, The Undercover HR Director (“OnYourSide” in the Forums)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities. For all the kicking and screaming by employers about making accommodations, you’d think accommodations cost them millions of dollars – but it’s not true! Accommodations for people with disabilities are usually extremely low or even no cost. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) conducted a study recently that showed as many as 56 percent of workplace accommodations cost NOTHING. Of those accommodations that did have a cost, the average one-time cost was $600. What other kind of investment could an employer make in their employees that would buy them so much goodwill?

What conditions are covered as disabilities?

The ADA does not contain a list of specific medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Rather, whether an employee has a disability is considered on a case by case basis, based on how the employee is affected by his or her medical condition. Thus, two employees who have Multiple Sclerosis may be affected totally differently, and one may be considered disabled because their disease is in an exacerbation phase, while the other may not. These two employees may require totally different accommodations as a result of their disabilities because they’re each affected differently by their disease, even though they have the same disease.

How does the ADA define disability?

A person has a disability if s/he “has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” The two factors considered include: 1. Whether the employee has an impairment, and 2. Whether the employee’s impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities. In addition, a person can meet the ADA’s definition of disability by having “a record of” or “being regarded as” having an impairment or disability.

What special language do I need to use to request an accommodation?

None. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, an employee need not mention the ADA or use the phrase “reasonable accommodation” in order to request an accommodation. The employee need only use “plain English”. The case that established this was Schmidt v. Safeway Inc., 864 F. Supp. 991, 997, 3 AD Cas. (BNA) 1141, 1146-47 (Or. 1994) (“statute does not require the plaintiff to speak any magic words…The employee need not mention the ADA or even the term ‘accommodation.’”) Several other cases in subsequent years mirrored the Schmidt decision, but Schmidt was the first. So – the employee need only say, for example, “The smell and the grease from the cooking bacon is making me physically ill” – and the employer has thus been notified that the employee needs an accommodation. The burden then shifts to the employer to begin the “interactive process” to find a reasonable accommodation that will work for the employee.

What is the “interactive process”?

Contrary to what many employers believe, the interactive process does not mean that they get to automatically dictate the accommodation. But neither does the employee. “Interactive” means talking to one another. The employer should begin by asking the employee what type of accommodation might work best. Frequently, the employee can articulate a fast and inexpensive accommodation. For example, for an employee who has a mobility disability, perhaps s/he requires more time to return to his or her work area from breaks before being considered tardy. The employee may offer the employer a number of possible accommodations and the employer may choose one of them. The employee may suggest that both parties go to a website together such as http://www.askjan.org to explore possible accommodations. More about http://www.askjan.org later. The point is, the employer should TALK with the employee about what accommodations might be helpful, rather than dictating TO the employee what MUST be done. If the employer just takes some action, it will be perceived as retaliation against the employee.

Once an accommodation is in place, can it be changed?

Yes. In fact, the ADA requires that accommodations be monitored for effectiveness. Once an accommodation is in place, the employer should be checking back with the employee periodically to make sure that the employee is still able to perform the essential functions of his/her job with the accommodation, whether the employee continues to require the accommodation, or whether the accommodation needs to be changed or dropped.

Want more information?

A terrific resource exists for both employees and employers, in a website called http://www.askjan.org. This website is sponsored by the Job Accommodation Network, and is an arm of the Department of Labor. The website has a searchable database of recommended accommodations for various disabilities, access to training materials, links to the law itself, the ADA’s Compliance Manual, and information on filing an EEOC complaint. It’s kind of the one-stop-shopping resource for anyone with disabilities.

Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and global headlines and updates on the status of our Trayvon Martin and Safe Work Environment Acts, including action alerts. https://twitter.com/CommunityParty1 Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for CP’s public service announcements on our racial justice initiatives. https://www.facebook.com/wqtqfm Contact us at 860-206-8879 or info.community.party@gmail.com

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REAL Protection Against Workplace Bullying: Safe Work Environment Act

January 16, 2015
The Safe Work Environment Act would provide workers with more protection than the Healthy Workplace Bill, while eliminating legal barriers that people currently face when they file a lawsuit against their employer. Our legislation eliminates the HWB requirement that an employee must prove malice and intent by an employer, which is basically impossible. Our language would also remove the HWB stipulation that an employee must provide proof of damage to their physical / psychological health. The federal employment discrimination law does not include either of the HWB provisions, which provide massive loopholes for abusive employers. We will also incorporate language from the Nevada workplace bullying bill (see below), which eliminates the burden of having to prove workplace bullying based on race or gender discrimination. We also want lawmakers to create a workplace bullying advisory board, which would solicit and implement input from public employees when they recommend future legislation. One bill will not stop workplace bullying, which is a constantly evolving issue. Legislation must evolve with it! The creation of a workplace bullying advisory board will ensure that this issue remains active at the State Capitol EVERY YEAR.
Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and global headlines and updates on the status of our Safe Work Environment Act and Trayvon Martin Act, including action alerts. https://twitter.com/CommunityParty1    Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for CP’s public service announcements on our racial justice initiatives. https://www.facebook.com/wqtqfm Contact us at 860-206-8879 or info.community.party@gmail.com.
Resources
Connecticut Valley Hospital workplace bullying survey results:
Connecticut Valley Hospital Racism (includes data obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests):

                                                                               Workplace Bullying Report

This column appears in the February 27 – March 6 edition of the Hartford News… Community Update: Earlier this week I contacted Maribel La Luz, Communications Director for Mayor Pedro Segarra, for an update on the Kennard Ray story. Ray was hired in November as Segarra’s new Deputy Chief of Staff. Ray withdrew his application after sensationalized corporate media reports about his legal history. This totally contradicted the spirit of the city’s Ban the Box ordinance, which is designed to prevent employment discrimination against individuals such as Ray. The Hartford Courant reported  that Segarra’s office issued the following statement, “Sadly, we must accept Mr. Kennard Ray’s withdrawal for the position of Deputy Chief of Staff after learning information that was not initially disclosed. Mr. Ray is a qualified individual with solid references from former supervisors and community leaders. However public servants, especially those in leadership positions, must be held to a higher standard.”
Ray had previously worked as political and legislative director for the Connecticut Working Families Party. Lindsey Farrell, director of the Connecticut Working Families Party, criticized the decision. Farrell said, “(Ray) should be judged on the quality of his work and commitment to the community. I think it’s a bad call on their part.”   I contacted La Luz, who told me that Ray’s legal history had nothing to do with him not getting the job and that Segarra had not asked him to withdraw his application. La Luz also denied media reports that Segarra planned to approach the city council about amending Ban the Box and had implemented his own hiring policy in response to the Ray controversy. Following a City Hall rally in support of Ray, I was told by a source that a city council committee led by councilman Larry Deutsch would meet to discuss Ray’s fate. Via email on Tuesday La Luz said, “The Kennard Ray hiring process is done. There is no further action as far as I know.” Deutsch did not respond to an email I sent  to him seeking comment. I’m totally baffled by what in my opinion are the contradictory statements from the Mayor’s Office and the decision not to hire Ray, who has not commented on Segarra.
This week we’ll share posts from the When the Abuser Goes to Work employment blog. http://abusergoestowork.com/  The Workplace Bullying Institute has introduced various versions of the Healthy Workplace Bill in over 20 states, including Connecticut. The Community Party agrees with workplace bullying activists who believe that HWB in its current form would be ineffective in curbing abusive workplace conduct.

                                                                                            ***

                                         Nevada’s Proposed Anti-Bully Law

 Nevada State Sen. Richard Segerblom has proposed amending a Nevada law patterned after Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., as     amended, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.
Sen. Segerblom wants to provide individuals who can prove they are the victims of a hostile work environment the right to a remedy under the law whether or not they can show illegal discrimination. In other words, he has proposed making the hostile workplace  remedy status-blind.
 Segerblom’s proposed bill defines “abusive conduct” as:
  • Repeated verbal abuse in the form of derogatory  remarks, insults and epithets;
  •  Verbal or physical conduct which is threatening, intimidating, and humiliating; and
  •  The gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work product.
Unless the abuse is particularly egregious, abusive conduct must be directed at the employee target on more than one occasion.
It is not difficult for employers to avoid liability under the proposed bill. The bill states that it is an affirmative defense to an action for abusive conduct in a work environment if the employer:
  • Exercised reasonable care to prevent the abusive conduct; and
  •  Promptly corrected the abusive conduct.
If an employer is found to be liable, the employer could be assessed damages, back pay, costs, and attorney’s fees.
Segerblom’s proposed bill provides significantly more protection  to targets of workpladce bullying  than the  Healthy Workplace Bill proposed by the Workplace Bullying Institute.

Original “Healthy Workplace Bill”

SkinnyThis is the original  proposed Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB)  that was drafted by the Professor David C. Yamada of  Suffolk University Law School in Boston, MA, and supported by the Workplace Bullying Institute for almost a decade  at a web site called, The Healthy Workplace Bill.  
A new and much better version of the bill was introduced for consideration by  the Massachusetts legislature in 2013. 
Any state that is considering workplace anti-bully legislation should look to Massachusetts or to Nevada, where Nevada State Senator Richard “Tick” Segerblom  proposed a bill that would give workplace bully targets the same protection and rights as any other victim of a hostile work environment. Nevada’s bill was patterned after Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., as amended, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin and would essentially provide a status-blind remedy for a hostile work environment.
The original HWB is anemic when compared to  legislation  and regulations adopted in other countries  to address workplace bullying.
For one thing, it  would require a victim to provide evidence of malicious intent to bully.  Malice is defined in the proposed bill as “the desire to cause pain, injury, or distress to another.”  Part of the “art” of  workplace bullying is subtlety. The target may be the victim of a thousand pin pricks that add up to a mortal wound.  Bullies are notorious for showing one face to the target and another to his/her supervisor. It would be very difficult to prove malice in these situations, and this is not a requirement for “hostile workplace” claims under federal discrimination laws unless the plaintiff is seeking the additional remedy of punitive damages. 
It also would require the target to provide proof of tangible  psychological or physical harm to the plaintiff.  This is not required for other victims of a hostile workplace environment.  In fact, the requirement was expressly rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1993 sexual harassment case.
The U. S. Supreme Court said in 1993 that the protection of federal law “comes into play before the harassing conduct leads to a nervous breakdown.”  The Court also said:  “Certainly Title VII bars conduct that would seriously affect a reasonable person’s psychological well-being, but the statute is not limited to such conduct. So long as the environment would reasonably be perceived, and is perceived, as hostile or abusive … there is no need for it also to be psychologically injurious.” (Harris v. Forklift System,  510 U.S. 17 (1993)).
Any requirement to prove psychological harm would pose a burden for targets who don’t have health care coverage,  the funds to see a therapist or the cultural disposition to seek psychiatric care. According to the Office of Minority Health, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 19.5 percent of African-Americans in comparison to 10.4 percent of non-Hispanic whites were uninsured in 2007.  
An international authority on workplace abuse, Katherine Lippel, says laws in other countries do not have the above restrictions, which would make it far more difficult for a plaintiff  in to prevail in litigation. She says the authors should rethink the bill. Dr. Lippel is the Canada Research Chair in Occupational Health and Safety Law, University of Ottawa, Canada. 
According to Dr. Lippel:  “It is understandable that the difficult context applicable in the United States with regard to rights of workers may favor a more restrictive legislative approach for purposes of political expediency, yet even some authors from the United States have expressed concern with the restrictive conditions proposed in the Healthy Workplace Bill … The actual content of the legislation on workplace bullying, if there is to be legislation, requires reflection.”
Perhaps most troubling about the HWB is the wording of Section 7(b), which limits damages for emotional distress to $25,000 (with no punitive damages)  in  cases where an employer is found to be liable but the target does not suffer an adverse employment action. This  affects targets of bullying who are not demoted or fired. But why?  There is at least one highly publicized case where an alleged target of workplace bullying committed suicide because he thought that he was  going to be demoted or fired. This cap is so low that it would  fail to adequately compensate a target of severe bullying and would not serve as a useful deterrent to employers to halt workplace bullying.
Possibly the above limiting language  reflects a concern by its drafter that employers will fight workplace anti-bullying legislation unless it is sufficiently weak. That hardly seems like a suitable foundation for a bill to address a problem as serious as workplace bullying.
WBI Director Gary Namie and Prof. Yamada declined to comment when asked to explain the reasons for the restrictive provisions of the bill.
 American workers deserve at least the same level of protection as other workers around the world.  The original HWB would leave many targets of workplace bullying with no legal recourse. Advocates should begin from a starting point that all workers have a right to be treated with dignity and respect.
– PGB
_______________

THE HEALTHY WORKPLACE BILL

Section 1 – Preamble
(a) Findings
The Legislature finds that:
(1) The social and economic well-being of the State is dependent upon healthy and productive employees;
(2) Between 37 and 59 percent of employees directly experience health-endangering workplace bullying, abuse, and harassment, and this mistreatment is approximately four times more prevalent than sexual harassment alone;
(3) Workplace bullying, mobbing, and harassment can inflict serious harm upon targeted employees, including feelings of shame and humiliation, severe anxiety, depression, suicidal tendencies, impaired immune systems, hypertension, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder.
(4) Abusive work environments can have serious consequences for employers, including reduced employee productivity and morale, higher turnover and absenteeism rates, and increases in medical and workers’ compensation claims;
(5) If mistreated employees who have been subjected to abusive treatment at work cannot establish that the behavior was motivated by race, color, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, or age, they are unlikely to be protected by the law against such mistreatment;
(6) Legal protection from abusive work environments should not be limited to behavior grounded in protected class status as that provided for under employment discrimination statutes;
and,
(7) Existing workers’ compensation plans and common-law tort actions are inadequate to discourage this behavior or to provide adequate relief to employees who have been harmed by abusive work environments.
(b) Purpose
It is the purpose of this Chapter:
(1) To provide legal relief for employees who have been harmed, psychologically, physically, or economically, by being deliberately subjected to abusive work environments;  (2) To provide legal incentive for employers to prevent and respond to abusive mistreatment of employees at work.
Section 2 – Definitions
(a) Abusive work environment. An abusive work environment exists when the defendant, acting with malice, subjects an employee to abusive conduct so severe that it causes tangible harm to the employee.
(1) Abusive conduct. Abusive conduct is conduct, including acts, omissions, or both, that a reasonable person would find hostile, based on the severity, nature, and frequency of the defendant’s conduct. Abusive conduct may include, but is not limited to: repeated infliction of verbal abuse such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets; verbal or physical conduct of a threatening, intimidating, or humiliating nature; the sabotage or undermining of an employee’s work performance; or attempts to exploit a employee’s known psychological or physical vulnerability. A single act normally will not constitute abusive conduct, but an especially severe and egregious act may meet this standard.
(2) Malice. Malice is defined as the desire to cause pain, injury, or distress to another.
(b) Tangible harm. Tangible harm is defined as psychological harm or physical harm.
(1) Psychological harm. Psychological harm is the material impairment of a person’s mental health, as established by competent evidence.
(2) Physical harm. Physical harm is the material impairment of a person’s physical health or bodily integrity, as established by competent evidence.
(c) Adverse employment action. An adverse employment action includes, but is not limited to, a termination, demotion, unfavorable reassignment, failure to promote, disciplinary action, or reduction in compensation.
(d) Constructive discharge. A constructive discharge shall be considered a termination, and, therefore, an adverse employment action within the meaning of this Chapter. A constructive discharge exists where: (1) the employee reasonably believed he or she was subjected to abusive conduct; (2) the employee resigned because of that abusive conduct; and, (3) prior to resigning, the  employee brought to the employer’s attention the existence of the abusive conduct and the employer failed to take reasonable steps to correct the situation.
Section 3 – Unlawful Employment Practices
(a) Abusive Work Environment. It shall be an unlawful employment practice under this Chapter to subject an employee to an abusive work environment as defined by this Chapter.
(b) Retaliation. It shall be an unlawful employment practice under this Chapter to retaliate inany manner against an employee who has opposed any unlawful employment practice under this Chapter, or who has made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation or proceeding under this Chapter, including, but not limited to, internal complaints and proceedings, arbitration and mediation proceedings, and legal actions.
Section 4 – Employer Liability and Defense
(a) An employer shall be vicariously liable for an unlawful employment practice, as defined by this Chapter, committed by its employee.
(b) Where the alleged unlawful employment practice does not include an adverse employment action, it shall be an affirmative defense for an employer only that:
(1) the employer exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any actionable behavior; and,
(2) the complainant employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of appropriate preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer.
Section 5 – Employee Liability and Defense
(a) An employee may be individually liable for an unlawful employment practice as defined by this Chapter.
(b) It shall be an affirmative defense for an employee only that the employee committed an unlawful employment practice as defined in this Chapter at the direction of the employer, under threat of an adverse employment action.
Section 6 – Affirmative Defenses
It shall be an affirmative defense that:
(a) The complaint is based on an adverse employment action reasonably made for poor performance, misconduct, or economic necessity;
(b) The complaint is based on a reasonable performance evaluation; or,
(c) The complaint is based on a defendant’s reasonable investigation about potentially illegal or unethical activity.
Section 7 – Relief
(a) Relief generally. Where a defendant has been found to have committed an unlawful employment practice under this Chapter, the court may enjoin the defendant from engaging in the unlawful employment practice and may order any other relief that is deemed appropriate, including, but not limited to, reinstatement, removal of the offending party from the complainant’s work environment, back pay, front pay, medical expenses, compensation for emotional distress, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees.
(b) Employer liability. Where an employer has been found to have committed an unlawful employment practice under this Chapter that did not culminate in an adverse employment action, its liability for damages for emotional distress shall not exceed $25,000, and it shall not be subject to punitive damages. This provision does not apply to individually named employee defendants.
Section 8 – Procedures
(a) Private right of action. This Chapter shall be enforced solely by a private right of action.
(b) Time limitations. An action commenced under this Chapter must be commenced no later than one year after the last act that constitutes the alleged unlawful employment practice.
Section 9 – Effect on Other Legal Relationships
The remedies provided for in this Chapter shall be in addition to any remedies provided under any other law, and nothing in this Chapter shall relieve any person from any liability, duty, penalty or punishment provided by any other law, except that if an employee receives workers’ compensation for medical costs for the same injury or illness pursuant to both this Chapter and the workers’ compensation law, or compensation under both this Chapter and that law in cash payments for the same period of time not working as a result of the compensable injury or illness or the unlawful employment practice, the payments of workers’ compensation shall be reimbursed from compensation paid under this Chapter.

2015 Legislative Session: Shook CT Democrats Continue to Move Toward Right

January 15, 2015

                                                                          

 Community Update                                                          
 This column appears in the January 15 – 22 edition of the Hartford News…. Mary Sanders was a guest on For the Greater Good with Evelyn Richardson Wednesday to talk about the Community Party’s Trayvon Martin Act. Mary wrote our bill language. The video of the interview is available on the Access TV website.  http://accesstv.org/archives/3958  Rep. Matt Ritter’s racial profiling bill, An Act Concerning The Requirements Of The Alvin W. Penn Racial Profiling Prohibition Act, includes CP’s Trayvon Martin Act traffic stop receipt amendment.  https://hendu39.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/rep-matt-ritters-essay-on-his-2015-legislative-objectives/   Trayvon Martin Act bill language: https://hendu39.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/community-party-trayvon-martin-act-bill-language/
Mayor Pedro Segarra, who announced last week that he will run for reelection in 2015, ducked a question from WFSB Face the State host Dennis House on economic conditions in North Hartford. Segarra directed people to check on the hiring totals for people of color in City Hall, which was a ridiculous response. The inconvenient fact is that the poverty rate in Hartford continues to rise, and the unemployment numbers for Blacks and Latinos are a disgrace, hovering at Depression-era levels. See the main story below and our Resources section for details.
Martin Luther King Day is Monday, January 19. Check out Resources for a feature on how the ruling class has distorted the image of Dr. King, by burying his radical critique of structural racism, classism and militarism. William F. Pepper, Dr. King’s attorney, talks about Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign and his plan to run for President as a third party candidate in 1968. The United for a Fair Economy State of the Dream report uses the Poor People’s Campaign as a blueprint for economic justice; we have provided a link to the report along with an article from The Nation on the Ferguson movement and the Freedom Budget for All Americans, a public policy plan released in 1966 that Dr. King collaborated on with other activists and scholars.
   A Conservative Tidal Wave Hits the State Capitol
Outgoing House Republican leader Larry Cafero did everything but perform a cartwheel following the 2014 state elections. Even though GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley was soundly defeated by incumbent Gov. Dannel Malloy, Cafero was ecstatic because the Republicans won a Senate seat and 10 House seats: the GOP now holds the most House seats since 1994. That was the year U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich orchestrated a sea change in national politics with his archconservative policies. Gingrich’s reign of terror included a bipartisan ‘welfare reform’ bill, supported by President Bill Clinton, that included draconian provisions which have fueled the cycle of poverty in this country. Cafero gushed to Courant reporter Chris Keating about the election results, which give the Republicans 64 House seats (the Democrats hold 87 seats) and narrowed the Democrats’ majority in the Senate to 21-15. “This was historic. We went into the 2010 election with 37 members, and we’ve picked up 27 seats in four years. Don’t tell me it’s a blue state.”
Cafero went on to tell Keating about the impact of having 12 conservative Democrats in the House. “The tally in the House will be 87 Democrats and 64 Republicans, but Cafero says that the extra seats will increase the leverage of moderate Democrats. If only 12 moderate Democrats join with 64 Republicans, they would gain the majority on a particular vote in the 151-seat chamber. In recent years, that type of close vote could have had an effect on issues such as the death penalty, raising the minimum wage, mandating paid sick days for certain service workers, the state budget and gun control, Cafero said.” All but one of the House Democrats who voted yes on the 2013 gun control bill that was passed in response to the Newtown school shootings lost their seats. The Republicans also successfully distorted a racial justice bill in order to scare suburban voters.
The drug free school zone bill, which has been debated at the State Capitol for several years, would reduce the drug free school zone in Connecticut from 1500 to 200 feet. The law in its present form results in the disproportionate incarceration of Blacks and Latinos. Sen. Gary Winfield explained the importance of the bill in a commentary that appeared in this column last year.  https://hendu39.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/political-roundup-bedford-street-fire-update-sen-gary-holder-winfield-talks-about-the-ct-drug-free-school-zone-law-r-i-p-chokwe-lumumba/ The GOP portrays the legislation as a dope dealer assistance program, ignoring the data that reveals the racist impact of the current law. The law also defies logic as it remains in effect when schools are closed, resulting in a mandatory minimum sentence for anyone caught selling narcotics within 1500 feet of an empty building.
The Republican mantra in defense of the law is ‘we must protect the children’. They obviously don’t care about the Black and Latino children living in poverty stricken communities of color, where the unemployment rate for Blacks is double the number for whites. Lacking opportunity, Black and Brown youths turn to the underground economy to make money. The Dope Man is the biggest employer in low income urban neighborhoods. While a white teen in a suburban town has a chance to get a drug related offense expunged thanks to the dearth of areas covered by the school zone law, a Black/Latino youth faces certain jail time due to simple geography.
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey’s comment to Keating underscores the endangered species status of legislation such as the drug free school zone bill, and the Community Party’s Trayvon Martin and Safe Work Environment Acts in 2015. “A smaller margin on the Democratic caucus means we’re going to need to be that much more careful about what we’re putting on the floor and whether we have the votes. So, clearly, that’s going to be a factor.” In other words, progressive lawmakers in the Democratic Party face marginalization for at least the next two years. The Democrats’ cowardly shift toward the right is reflected in moves such as the appointment of conservative party member William Tong as co-chair of the Judiciary Committee. http://ctmirror.org/sharkey-names-committee-chairs/  A strong push from progressive activists and community residents will be critical to passing racial justice legislation and bills which will benefit the working class and the poor.
Malloy’s State of the State address was more of the same. Not one word about poverty, which continues to increase statewide according to a U.S. Census report. http://www.ctvoices.org/publications/poverty-median-income-and-health-insurance-connecticutsummary-2013-american-community-s  No mention of the need to reform the state’s regressive tax code, despite a Connecticut Department of Revenue Services report which found that low income families in Connecticut are paying more in taxes than the wealthy.  http://wnpr.org/post/connecticuts-wealthiest-pay-smallest-share-their-income-taxes No talk about the aforementioned unemployment rates in low income communities of color. Not a peep about the need to address police containment of Black and Latino communities, despite the protests which are sweeping the country. http://blackagendareport.com/node/14591 Last but not least, Malloy avoided the topic of how he would close the $1.3 billion state budget deficit. Senate President Martin Looney did not rule out the possibility of tax increases during his appearance on the Fox CT The Real Story Sunday talk show.
Malloy touted the inadequate $10.10 minimum wage increase, which won’t go in effect until 2017 and doesn’t include inflation indexing. http://www.epi.org/publication/webfeatures_snapshots_20051221/   He boasted about the gun control bill which doesn’t address gun violence in urban communities. Malloy beat his chest about the Affordable Care Act, which still leaves as many as 36 million people uninsured, and took credit for education legislation that the General Assembly passed after rejecting most of the provisions in Malloy’s anti-teacher education bill. The remainder of Malloy’s address focused on transportation, his signature issue for 2015. Malloy pledged to ban lawmakers’ practice of raiding the state transportation fund in order to balance the budget, a tactic he supported during his first term. He went on and on about until the break of dawn about creating a transportation infrastructure which will connect communities. All eyes of course will be on CTfastrak, also known as the New Britain-Hartford Busway, Malloy’s pet project that has been maligned by conservatives.
People of color should be vigilant in pushing Malloy and Democrats in the General Assembly to address the plight of low income communities of color, where residents are deeply impacted by transportation issues. Maya Wiley, director of the Center for Social Inclusion, talked to Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman about the connection between transportation and economic justice.
“How are (states) going to ensure that some of the discretionary resources (states) have go to transit projects that are going to recognize where people are transit-starved? And how are (states) going to connect those people to job centers? Because our jobs are increasingly across regions. They’re not just in our local communities. So people have to have a way to travel.
“You know, in the New York metropolitan area between 1935 and 2000, I think we added 1,600 miles of highway. Well, not only is that bad for the environment, low-income people, particularly people of color, don’t have cars. So that doesn’t provide a transportation system that ensures that people can connect to the jobs where they are. I think that the two most obvious (issues) — there are many, but the two most obvious are: we must have community benefits agreements for construction jobs — we must ensure that when the government has construction contracts, it ensures that low-income people, people of color, women, are going to have their fair share of those jobs; and we must ensure that the way transit dollars — well, I should say ‘transportation’ dollars — get spent go to transit and really go to the smart projects that are going to connect people who need jobs to places where there are jobs.”
The CT Democrats’ actions since the 2014 elections highlights the one major difference between them and the Republicans. When the GOP loses an election, their reaction is to double down and become even more extreme and racist. The Democrats are running scared, pandering to conservatives while dissing their voter base, as usual. We need a third party movement.
Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and global headlines and updates on the status of our Trayvon Martin and Safe Work Environment Acts, including action alerts. https://twitter.com/CommunityParty1    Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for CP’s public service announcements on our racial justice initiatives. https://www.facebook.com/wqtqfm Contact us at 860-206-8879 or info.community.party@gmail.com
Resources
Democracy Now! report on Center of Social Inclusion study of the impact of the 2008 economic meltdown on low income communities of color. Connecticut was included in the study:
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Struggling Not to Lose Him:
Interview with William F. Pepper, Martin Luther King’s attorney:
United for a Fair Economy State of the Dream report:
Commentary on the Ferguson Movement and the Freedom Budget for All Americans:
David Samuels
Founder
Community Party

 
                                        

 

                                       

Community Party Trayvon Martin & Safe Work Environment Acts

January 8, 2015

This column appears in the January 8 – 15 edition of the Hartford News… The 2015 legislative session began Wednesday, January 7 and will adjourn Wednesday, June 3. Next week’s column will include commentary on Opening Day and an analysis of Gov. Dannel Malloy’s State of the State address. This week we’ll share information on the Community Party’s Trayvon Martin & Safe Work Environment Acts, which will both be introduced during the session. Rep. Matt Ritter’s racial profiling bill, An Act Concerning The Requirements Of The Alvin W. Penn Racial Profiling Prohibition Act, includes CP’s Trayvon Martin Act traffic stop receipt amendment. https://hendu39.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/rep-matt-ritters-essay-on-his-2015-legislative-objectives/

“Maybe the NYPD can use their newfound love of back-turning the next time they see a dark skinned man walking the street doing nothing.” ~ Chris Rock

Trayvon Martin Act

* We will add provisions to this bill requiring state, county and local police officers to wear cameras and sanctions for police departments who retaliate against whistleblower officers.

Written by Mary Sanders. We’ll introduce this bill during the 2015 legislative session.

Introduction ~ It’s time to take action to stop racial profiling and police containment in Black and Brown communities here in Connecticut. Every 28 hours a Black person is killed somewhere by police, security guards and self-appointed vigilantes like George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn, according to a Malcolm X Grassroots Movement report . http://www.operationghettostorm.org/. The veracity of the MXGM report has been disputed. Check out the Washington Post editorial on the report, including a rebuttal by Arlene Eisen. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/wp/2014/12/24/the-viral-claim-that-a-black-person-is-killed-by-police-every-28-hours/?tid=pm_politics_pop Trayvon was shot and killed after being approached on the street by Zimmerman, an armed neighborhood watch leader. Dunn shot Jordan Davis during an argument about loud music. Former Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle murdered Oscar Grant in 2009 with no provocation or reason. See: http://sfbayview.com/2009/oscar-grant-young-father-and-peacemaker-executed-by-bart-police. We’ve had many unnecessary deaths right here in CT as well. CP’s Trayvon Martin Act is aimed at addressing this public safety crisis.

The Trayvon Martin Act calls for the creation of a legislative task force on police misconduct and includes some of CP’s original racial profiling bill language. The CT legislature passed some of our provisions in 2012 and they were scheduled to go in effect July 1, 2013. Last year our traffic stop receipt language was repealed in favor of a version emphasizing electronic data collection and analysis, instead of a copy of the mandated “Traffic Stop Report” going to the motorist. We believe this copy is the only way for motorists to know how their race is being represented and is a proven factor in undetected biased policing. We sat in on testimony of dozens of motorists of color from around the state who were stopped, harassed, given tickets with race recorded as White, and heard of many other biased law enforcement actions.

Problem: Drivers do not get a copy of the Stop Report which has allowed some officers to lie about the race of the people they stop. Some victims of profiling may not complain because they don’t know officers are covering up the profiled stops. As we mentioned previously our traffic stop language was passed by lawmakers in 2012 but was repealed due to pressure by the police before it was scheduled to become law in 2013.

Add to current law: 1) “Traffic Stop Reports are to be filled out in duplicate so that each motorist receives a copy of the completed form from the officer, in addition to any ticket or summons if one is issued. 2) The copy of the report should be given to the driver as well as the information on filing complaints if motorists believe they have been profiled. 3) If the reports are entered into an electronic data collection system a copy will be immediately available to the detained driver.”

Problem: Drivers and their passengers are being asked for I.D’s. and questioned about their immigration status even when they are clearly not involved in criminal activity.

Add to current law: “ 1) The driver shall only be asked for a: Driver’s License, the Vehicle Registration and Proof of Insurance and no other identification or questions about immigration status; 2) Passengers shall not be asked for any identification or questions about their immigration status unless they are being arrested for criminal activity.”

Problem: Men of color are stopped and frisked or worse in every corner of our state; community residents have reported to us that if they dare challenge police officers in their neighborhood, they are often thrown to the ground, cuffed and arrested, then charged with resisting arrest. This happens to our teenagers in schools as well as on our streets. Many have been beaten or shot by police or others with “authority”, often fatally as the MXGM report shows.

Add to current law: “1) Create a Legislative Task Force which would serve in the following capacities: a) investigate complaints of misconduct of state or local police officials, b) provide training and oversight to public school guards, university and transportation police, c) provide training and oversight of neighborhood watch organizations and properly screen and monitor persons functioning in these roles; 2) the Task Force will reserve spots for urban lawmakers whose constituents are disproportionately affected by these issues; 3) the Task Force will conduct monthly public hearings around the state, days and evenings, which would also be broadcast by the Connecticut Network for television or online viewing; 4) the Task Force will create a process whereby people could file formal complaints about profiling and harassment by police or other law enforcement authorities through their legislators’ offices or CHRO.”

The Community Party supports the demands of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, which are listed in their racial justice plan.

https://mxgm.org/national-demands-for-racial-justice/

Safe Work Environment Act

Sen. Gary Holder-Winfield will introduce the Community Party’s Safe Work Environment Act in 2015. http://www.senatedems.ct.gov/Holder-Winfield.php Stay tuned for updates!

The Safe Work Environment Act would provide workers with more protection than the Healthy Workplace Bill, while eliminating legal barriers that people currently face when they file a lawsuit against their employer. Our legislation eliminates the HWB requirement that an employee must prove malice and intent by an employer, which is basically impossible. Our language would also remove the HWB stipulation that an employee must provide proof of damage to their physical / psychological health. The federal employment discrimination law does not include either of the HWB provisions, which provide massive loopholes for abusive employers. We will also incorporate language from the Nevada workplace bullying bill (see below), which eliminates the burden of having to prove workplace bullying based on race or gender discrimination. We also want lawmakers to create a workplace bullying advisory board, which would solicit and implement input from public employees when they recommend future legislation. One bill will not stop workplace bullying, which is a constantly evolving issue. Legislation must evolve with it! The creation of a workplace bullying advisory board will ensure that this issue remains active at the State Capitol EVERY YEAR.

Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and global headlines and updates on the status of our Trayvon Martin and Safe Work Environment Acts, including action alerts. https://twitter.com/CommunityParty1 Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for CP’s public service announcements on our racial justice initiatives. https://www.facebook.com/wqtqfm Contact us at 860-206-8879 or info.community.party@gmail.com.

Trayvon Martin Act Report

January 1, 2015

There will be no Community Party Hartford News column this week, due to a Hartford Arts & Heritage special edition of the paper. This week we’ll share the video from an October 2013 racial profiling forum in Hartford. Mary Sanders, who wrote CP’s Trayvon Martin Act, talks about the REAL history of this issue in Connecticut, specifically CP’s role in reforming the Alvin W. Penn Act, the state racial profiling law. In August I talked about how Courant reporter Daniela Altimari and Christine Stuart of CT News Junkie engaged in revisionist history with members of the so-called Racial Profiling Prohibition Project.

https://hendu39.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/political-roundup-michael-brown-crp3-propaganda-pelto-murphy-collusion-with-republicans/

Mary appears at about the 1 hour, 44 minute mark of the Connecticut Network video, followed by Adam Osmond. http://www.ctn.state.ct.us/ctnplayer.asp?odID=9511 The shooting of Michael Brown by patrol officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson has resulted in a nationwide push to pass a federal law requiring state, county and local police to wear cameras. CP will add a camera provision to the 2015 Trayvon Act. https://hendu39.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/community-party-trayvon-martin-act-bill-language/ State Representative Matt Ritter’s 2015 racial profiling legislation will include CP’s traffic stop receipt provision.  Stay tuned!

David Samuels