Thursday, May 19, 2011

"Aqui Estamos y No Nos Vamos!"

Aqui estamos y no nos vamos!” “We are here and we’re not going!” chanted a crowd of more than 100 community members in front of the Georgia Capitol today, as Governor Deal signed Georgia’s racist and discriminatory immigration bill, HB 87 into law.

“Like an Arizona enacted last year, Georgia’s House Bill 87 will empower police to question certain suspects about their immigration status," said Paulina Hernandez, of the group SomosGeorgia. "It will also allow police to stop any person they suspect of being undocumented and ask for their citizenship papers.  It will mandate that employers with more than 10 employees to use the very flawed E-Verify employment verification system, which will raise flags for anyone based on name or gender identity.  Many other insidious provisions will also impact all Georgians, including criminalizing anyone helping to transport an undocumented person, or 'suspected' of being an undocumented person.”

While Atlanta’s Latino community and their allies maintained a presence outside the Capitol, approximately 20 people marched into the capitol and asked to be present for the signing of the bill.  When they were told no, they stayed in the Capitol, outside of the Governor's office, chanting “Shame on you” and “Undocumented and unafraid” until they were ordered to leave the building.

9to5 National Association of Working Women opposes racist legislation like HB 87 and sees it as an insult to Georgia’s legacy in the civil rights movement.  As an organization committed to organizing for economic justice, 9to5 views HB 87 as an attack on all people’s ability to live, work and raise our families with dignity, respect and justice.

In response to Governor Deal signing HB 87 into law, People’s Assemblies are being planned to strategize safety plans, sanctuary zones and other community measures.  9to5 will join with other organizations, communities and individuals to fight HB 87 and create a more just world.

-Vanessa Faraj, 9to5 Fair Eats Organizer, and Jayne Mariotti, 9to5 Jesuit Volunteer

ALC Policy Day

Our Annual Leadership Conference (ALC) was a huge success! The conference, held April 29th through May 2nd in Washington D.C., was an opportunity to learn and share skills; organize working women for economic justice; and meet with the administration and elected officials about our working women’s agenda. From our Atlanta Chapter we were able to have 7 staff members and 5 chapter members attend.

On Monday May 2nd we held our ALC policy day. For the first half of the day, we held meetings with the Department of Labor (DOL) and Health and Human Services (HHS). The purpose of these meetings was to allow our voices to be heard. We were able to share with members of these organizations what was really happening with programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and food stamps. We shared real-life challenges and, with follow up, hope that these issues will not only be heard, but also acted upon.  For the second half of the day, we were able to meet with representatives from the offices of Senator Saxby Chambliss, Senator Johnny Isakson, Representative Hank Johnson, Representative John Lewis and Representative David Scott. The Healthy Families Act, Wages Act, Equal Pay Act and TANF were issues we focused on presenting to these individuals. These meetings turned out to be very successful.

ALC 2012 is just around the corner!

Photo: ALC participants at the Department of Labor

Fair Employment Practices Bill Introduced in Georgia House

Just two weeks before the end of the first half of Georgia’s 2011-2012 legislative session Rep. Karla Drenner introduced House Bill 630, the Georgia Fair Employment Practices Act.  This legislation would protect public employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation and sexual identity.  HB 630 was introduced with wide support across the political spectrum; the bill has 70 cosponsors, of which 57 are Democrats, 12 are Republicans, and one is Independent. 

Rep. Drenner said that everyone benefits from anti-discrimination bills: “Treating LGBT employees fairly is simply better for business. The Georgia Fair Employment Practices legislation would also ensure that Georgia State Colleges and Universities are competitive with major research institutions in attracting and retaining the best and brightest researchers, students and administrators to study, work and develop new products, industries and jobs in Georgia.”

The expansion of anti-discrimination measures to protect sexual orientation and gender identity is supported by 76% of Georgia voters.  If HB 630 is passed, Georgia will become the first southern state to implement protections for public employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

We encourage all members of 9to5 Atlanta to contact their representative and encourage them to work for the passage of HB 630, or to thank them for their support of the employment rights of LBGT Georgians.
For more information, please visit Georgia Equality’s website.

"I am an Ex-Offender, a Woman of Color, Living in Poverty."

On April 2, 9to5 co-sponsored a “speak out” with Jobs with Justice. Marilynn Winn, a member of 9to5, spoke at the event. Here are her words:

“My name is Marilynn Winn. I was born in 1951 at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta GA. I was born into poverty; my mother cleaned other people’s homes for minimum wage to support us. She still cleans homes for the same wages today.

"Society calls me an ex-offender. For those of us who are seeking employment to better ourselves we are not ex-offenders, we are reformed citizens of the state of Georgia. It was very hard for me to obtain any kind of employment, if I told the truth about my background. I was recommended to a temp staffing service that hires ex-offenders. To my surprise, when I arrived I had to not only be an ex-offender but also homeless in order to receive assistance. Since I didn’t meet their requirements, they didn’t want to help. I was determined to get employment. I sincerely wanted a change from a life of crime. I stressed my problem to the company over and over and finally they said they would give me a chance. Through this temp staffing service, I worked for a wealthy company that did not hire ex-offenders. I have been employed there for 3 years. I am considered a regular. I work everyday and am often called in to replace other employees who are absent. The company manager calls me, not the temp agency. I report to work like the company’s employees do. The difference is, I cannot make overtime, I have no benefits. Company employees receive both overtime and benefits and while I make $7.25/hr they earn $10-$12/hr.

"I am an ex-offender, a woman of color, living in poverty. Being any one of these titles I mentioned, I automatically face all types of discrimination; jobs, housing, etc. I have to accept what I can get. I survive by working any and every job I am asked to.

"My message to you, to the country, to the world, is society needs to stop putting us down and help us up. Give us a chance. Someone gave them a chance. For ex-offenders, we did the crime, we have served our time. We shouldn’t be given a chance to go back into society with jobs, education, housing and benefits. If you don’t give ex-offenders a chance you won't allow them to stop committing crimes and the cycle will continue."

Photo: Ms. Marilynn Winn with Georgia State Senator Nan Orrock