Standing Strong Against Violence and Hate

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Words matter. It’s a fact that has been highlighted in this election and its aftermath, as the Latino community, immigrants, and other minority groups have been the target of divisive and hateful rhetoric that has not ceased after polls closed on Nov. 8.

That’s why we joined the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and other organizations this week to call for President-elect Donald Trump to protect and defend all Americans and condemn the violence and hate.

“President-elect Trump needs to reassure—or at the very least address—the fears of the communities of which he will now be president,” said NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía in a press conference that unveiled two important reports published by the SPLC. The reports document the concerning pattern of hate incidents and bullying cases that have occurred across the country in the days after the election.

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“What’s in the Chicken on Your Plate? Tears.”

By Catherine Singley, NCLR Economic Policy Project

Press conference, February 27, 2018 on Capitol Hill.  L to R:  Sherri Jones, Coalition of Poultry Workers; Salvadora Roman, poultry worker; Tom Fritzche, Southern Poverty Law Center; Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18); Hilary O. Shelton, NAACP; Rep. Bennie Thompson (MS-2); Rep. Marcia Fudge (OH-11).

Press conference, February 27, 2018 on Capitol Hill. L to R: Sherri Jones, Coalition of Poultry Workers; Salvadora Roman, poultry worker; Tom Fritzche, Southern Poverty Law Center; Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18); Hilary O. Shelton, NAACP; Rep. Bennie Thompson (MS-2); Rep. Marcia Fudge (OH-11).

The bitter cold temperatures in Washington this week didn’t deter a delegation of poultry workers from the warm states of North Carolina, Mississippi, and Arkansas from traveling to the nation’s capital.  They had a message to deliver to decision makers: stop a government proposal that would endanger the health and safety of poultry workers by speeding up production lines in American poultry processing facilities.  Yesterday, workers held a press conference on Capitol Hill with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, NCLR, the Southern Poverty Law Center, NAACP, Oxfam American, Food and Water Watch, and others, to describe the debilitating injuries they’ve suffered at work and to call on the Administration to halt a proposal that would make a bad situation worse.

The proposed rule change comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the federal agency responsible for ensuring the safety of meat and poultry products.  If the rule is finalized, poultry companies would be allowed to speed up production from 140 to 175 birds per minute—a 25% speed up—that would lead to more injuries in poultry plants.  Many injuries are linked to the repetitive nature of poultry processing; workers can make up to 20,000 cutting or pulling motions a day.  As a result, poultry workers already experience high rates of traumatic injuries to their hands, wrists, and arms.

Why the line speed increase?  It’s included in the proposed rule as an economic incentive for companies to produce more chicken in exchange for adopting new food safety inspection measures (the basis of which has been heavily criticized by consumer advocates and the Government Accountability Office).

Not surprisingly, most of the debate about this proposal has been about the food safety benefits—or lack thereof—that would result if the rule is finalized.  It’s understandable that the public wants to know that their food is safe and it’s USDA’s job to assure that it is.

For everyone who is concerned about what’s in their meat, Bacilio Castro, from the North Carolina Worker Justice Center, had an answer:

“You want to know what’s in the chicken on your plate?  Tears.  Tears of the mothers who can’t lift their children because of the pain in their wrists and shoulders from working on the line.  We are not asking you to stop eating chicken.  We are simply asking to be treated as human beings and not as animals.”

This Thanksgiving, Remember that Safe Food Begins with Safe Workplaces

(This was first posted to the National Council for Occupational Health and Safety blog.)

Guest Blog by Catherine Singley, Senior Policy Analyst, NCLR

Poultry workers

This year, President Obama will carry out the tradition of pardoning the White House Thanksgiving turkey. Indeed, for most of us, the Thanksgiving turkey is the centerpiece of this quintessentially American tradition. That’s why Americans consumers should be alarmed to learn that the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for ensuring the safety of meat and poultry products, is pursuing a regulatory change that would put consumers and food workers in harm’s way. Under the auspices of improving food safety, USDA’s proposed rule would actually pull government inspectors off of poultry processing lines and allow companies to speed up their production lines.

USDA’s proposed inspection model would allow production line speed to increase from 32 turkeys to 55 turkeys per minute (a 72 percent increase). In chicken plants, the speed would increase from 140 to 175 birds per minute (a 25 percent increase). That’s about one-third of a second to inspect each bird.  Continue reading

Alabama’s “Papers, Please” Law Gets the Boot

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Photo: KennethLipp (creative commons)

Another nail has been put in the coffin of bigotry in Alabama.  Earlier this week, the draconian anti-immigrant law HB 56, or the “papers, please” law, was essentially gutted thanks to an agreement reached in the case HICA v. Bentley.  Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (¡HICA!), an NCLR Affiliate, was the main plaintiff in the case against the state and has been working tirelessly to put an end to HB 56.

Despite numerous warnings from NCLR and other civil rights groups that the law was unconstitutional, it remained on the books.  ¡HICA! was undeterred and worked with several organizations, including NCLR, to challenge it in the courts.  The agreement reached this week, severely limits the racial profiling portion of the law, which allowed Alabama police officers to request the documentation of anyone they suspected of being unauthorized to be in the United States.

Along with Arizona, South Carolina, and Georgia, Alabama has now had its ugly law eliminated.  Continue reading

“Stop-and-Frisk”: Not Just a New York State of Mind

By Jennifer Ng’andu, Director of Health and Civil Rights Policy Projects, NCLR

Photo: Michael Fleshman

Photo: Michael Fleshman

NCLR welcomed the news of the federal court decision that found New York City’s current “stop-and-frisk” policy unconstitutional.  Though the ruling did not end the city’s practices, the judge ordered the independent monitoring of police.  A primary concern is that people of color have long been overwhelming targets of the police stops in New York, with more than four-fifths (83  percent) of those frisked being Blacks or Latinos between 2002 and 2012, despite the fact that these groups each constitute about 25 percentof the city’s population.

Stop-and-frisk has received much attention because the local government consciously pursued a policy identified in the judge’s ruling as “indirect racial profiling.”  Even with the hope that this judgment will catalyze a revamp of stop-and-frisk, it is important not to look at this case just as a legal matter.  Throughout the United States, there is a long-standing legacy of disproportionate minority contact with law enforcement, and disproportionately negative contact at that.   Continue reading