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Archive for May 11th, 2015

NAACP Applauds Department of Justice Decision to Investigate the Baltimore Police Force

Posted by Admin On May - 11 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

BALTIMORE, MD – United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that the U.S. Department of Justice will launch a pattern and practice investigation into the Baltimore Police Department. In light of this development, the NAACP has released the following statements.

From Cornell William Brooks, NAACP President and CEO:
“We at the NAACP applaud U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch for taking this important and necessary step of launching a pattern and practice investigation into the Baltimore Police Department. Immediately following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, the NAACP called on the Justice Department to conduct a pattern and practice investigation to ensure that the constitutional rights of Baltimore citizens were not being violated. As we continue to mourn Mr. Gray’s death, we must also begin to repair decades of mistrust between community members and law enforcement in the city.  Our hope is that this comprehensive investigation will lead to sweepingly comprehensive reform.  State and local NAACP leaders have been working closely with federal authorities and are heartened by this decision—this is good for not only Baltimore but the entire nation.”

From Gerald Stansbury, NAACP Maryland State Conference President:
“The Maryland State Conference strongly supports the decision by the U.S. Department of Justice to launch a pattern and practice investigation of the Baltimore Police Department. A comprehensive review of policing practices, particularly as it relates to racially profiling, the use of excessive force and deadly force, in the Baltimore City is sorely needed.”

From Tessa Hill-Aston, NAACP Baltimore Branch President:
“I commend the Department of Justice for launching this investigation. Members of the Baltimore City community has voiced concerns of racial profiling, excessive force and other forms of police misconduct for decades, as the NAACP has worked tirelessly with both local residents and police to change the tide. We hope that this investigation brings some resolution to the number of complaints expressed by Baltimore City residents and usher in an era of reform.”

Rep. Davis Partners With Safer Foundation in Urging Healthcare Agencies to Hire Ex-Felons

Posted by Admin On May - 11 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

By Chinta Strausberg

Using John Hopkins Hospital’s as an example, Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-7th) and Safer Foundation officials Thursday called on the healthcare industry to hire more ex-felons.

“If Johns Hopkins Hospital can do it, we can do it,” said Davis who spoke before about 30 f healthcare providers including GEO Reentry Outreach and Operations manager Emanuel Barr, during the workforce development healthcare forum at the Illinois Medical District (IMD), 2100 West Harrison.

They honored Melody Young,and her son, Bennie Walker, 20, who was given a scholarship by Rep. Davis to attend Jackson state University where he is a sophomore majoring in communicating disorder speech.

Young, a 48-year-old mother of 8, is now a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) whose goal is to become a registered nurse, but her road to success has been more than bumpy.

The daughter of a Chicago policeman whose mother worked for the Board of Education, Young once sold drugs and a “hustler”; that is until she went to prison. “I had a chance to go to a drug rehab center, but I wanted to go to the penitentiary,” she told this reporter. “It was the best thing that ever happened to me because it was there that I said, ‘this is not the place for me.”

When she got out of prison,Young reached out to the Safer Foundation, headed by Victor B. Dickson, and Rep. Davis. Together, they wrote letters of recommendation for her to get a job in the health care field. She needed a waiver because of her record. Young said of all the names she provided they only recognized one, Rep. Davis and she received her waiver needed to become a certified nursing assistant.

Introduced by attorney Sodiqa R. Williams, associate vice president of Policy & Strategy at the Safer Foundation, Pamela D. Paulk, president of the Johns Hopkins Medicine International, first spoke of the “huge tragedy” that happened in Baltimore, MD but said “people are coming together” as a catalyst for social and economic change.

“The key to that is jobs,”she said praising Johns Hopkins who set aside $7 million to build a hospital and a university. It was the largest philanthropic gift in American history.The Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876.

Paulk and Davis told of the amazing story of Mr. Johns Hopkins, one of 11 children, who donated $7 million for a university and a hospital in Baltimore. Hopkins, who died on December 24,1873 at the age of 78, was not just an entrepreneur but an abolitionist who said in a letter to the trustees dated March 10, 1873, “The indigent sick of this city and its environs, without regard to sex, age, or color, who may require surgical or medical treatment…and the poor of this city and state of all races,who are stricken down by any casualty, shall be received into the hospital,without charge.” He also said those who could pay should be admitted as well.

Paulk said given the era of his demands, that was an outstanding request, but since then, Johns Hopkins,under the leadership of Paulk, has led in the hiring of ex-felons. She gets200,000 applications a year from people wanting to work at the hospital including those with “limited opportunities” like ex-felons. Paulk is proud to hire from the community.

While Illinois demands waivers for ex-felons working in certain positions, Paulk said, “We chose not to the waivers. We do not use the (ban the) box” form. “We use guidelines” like the age and type of the offense.” She said studies have proven ex-felons stay as long and get the same kinds of evaluations.

Davis praised Paulk saying her hospital hires more ex-felons than any hospital he knows. Davis has 24hospitals in his Seventh Congressional District office.

The forum included a panel discussion entitled “Expanding Healthcare Opportunities” that was headed by Tony Lowery, who is director of Policy & Advocacy at the Safer Foundation.

The panelists were: Attorney Sodiqa R. Williams, associate Vice President Policy & Strategy, Cook County Comm. Bridget Gainer, Andrea Zopp, president/CEO of the Chicago Urban League, Charles “Chuck” Jackson, senior counsel, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP and Cynthia Cornelius, director of Client and Community Services.

At a press conference held a tthe IMD, Dickson said there were 3.9 million people in Illinois who have criminal records. Safer Foundation’s mission is to offer ex-felons programs that give them alternatives to a life of crime, prepare them to return into society with a changed attitude and link them with jobs.

Rep. Davis urged other healthcare agencies to follow the lead of the Johns Hopkins Hospital he says leads the nation in hiring ex-felons. “Safer foundation is a leader in innovative workforce solutions for returning citizens. We are glad to be here today to learn from their efforts and the great work at Johns Hopkins,” said Barr.

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.

Black Attorney Sues IHOP After Manager Calls Him A “Darky” and Denies Him Dine In/Sit Down Service

Posted by Admin On May - 11 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS
Attorney Jimmy A. Bell

Prince George’s County, MD (BlackNews.com) — Today, Monday, May 11, 2015, in the Circuit Court for Prince Georges County Maryland, the Plaintiff, Jimmy A. Bell, Esq., filed a lawsuit against Defendant International House of Pancakes, LLC or (IHOP) and Defendant Hospitality Management of Capitol Heights, Inc. (a.k.a.) IHOP franchise for color and race discrimination and Negligence (failure to train and failure to supervise) its employees/agents.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages to be determined by a jury.The lawsuit asserts that:

1. According to the lawsuit, on Thursday, March 12, 2015 at 10:08 PM, Mr. Bell visited IHOP (located at 9003 Central Ave., Capitol Heights, MD 20743) to get a big steak omelet, a stack of pancakes with extra butter, melted, with some hash browns, a large milk and an orange juice.

2. That Mr. Bell knew based on their store hours posted on the internet and their front door that this IHOP location did not close until 11pm.

3. That when Mr. Bell walked in, there were many people in one section of the restaurant. That Mr. Bell stood and waited at the podium in the front for three to five minutes.

4. That a light‑skinned man in a blue shirt (the store manager) approached Mr. Bell. That Mr. Bell was not sure and still is not sure if the store manager was African American, Cuban or Afro-­Hispanic.

5. That Mr. Bell does not know which nationality or ethnic group the store manager is a member. That the store manager finally approached Mr. Bell and said, Can I help you. That Mr. Bell then said, Yes. A table for one?

6. That the manager replied, We”re not serving dine-­‐‑in. Only carryout.

7. That Mr. Bell then said, With all these people in here, they are still ordering. I’m just one person.

8. That the manager answered, We’re not doing that; you are not dining in here. That Mr. Bell asked the manager, So, you’re denying me dine‑in sit down service? That the manager responded, Yes.

9. That Mr. Bell asked the manager, Where is it posted on the door that you are no longer servicing dine-­in sit down service? That the manager responded, It’s not there! That Mr. Bell then asked the manager, Where is your policy that states that at a certain times you dont do sit down service, but carryout only? That the manager responded, It’s not there, but I said so and I am the manager? That Mr. Bell stated to the manager, That is illegal because you have a license for a dine-­in restaurant. The manager responded, It’s not illegal. I know. Im a lawyer. That Mr. Bell asked, You’re a lawyer? I’ve never seen you before and I have been practicing law in this area for over 15 years. You’re a lawyer where? Where are you bared? That the manager answered, I’m a lawyer in Florida. That Mr. Bell asked, But you’re not licensed to practice law in Maryland? That the manager answered in then admitted that he was not licensed to practice law in the State of Maryland, replying No.

10. That Mr. Bell then said, So what you did was just commit a crime, because you held yourself out to be a lawyer. And in Maryland, in order to be a lawyer, you must be licensed to practice law in the State of Maryland. And you are not. You just admitted that you are not. So please write down on a piece of paper, your name, title and why you denied me dine-­in sit down service and a name and number to allow me to talk to a supervisor of yours, because this conversation between you and me is not going to be fruitful. That as the manager was leaving to go to the register, he grunted You darkeys always trying to get over on something.

11. That as a 46 year old man, Mr. Bell knows the customary and historical usage of the word darkey. That darkey is a disparaging term for a black person, a racial slur. That as far as Mr. Bell and many Americans of good conscience are concerned, calling someone a darkey is essentially the same as calling one a nigger.

12. That the manager in calling Mr. Bell a “darkey”, as he was denying Mr. Bell dine-­in sit down service -­ was behaving in a racially derogatory, highly offensive manner at a public accommodation.

13. That the manager of IHOP was engaging in racial discrimination at a public accommodation. That Mr. Bell outraged and offended asked the manager, What did you just say? Who are you talking to? That the manager did not respond. That the manager did not deny what he had just said to Mr. Bell. That the manager did not apologize for what he just said to Mr. Bell. That Mr. Bell then asked the manager to repeat what he had just said. That Mr. Bell asked then asked the manager to write down what he had just said to Mr. Bell.

14. That Mr. Bell, who has been an advocate for so many others who have been confronted with various forms of discrimination, knew at this point that he himself was being was being discriminated against. He realized that he had been denied sit down service because of his skin color (dark skin)/race (black).

15. That the store manager only provided Mr. Bell with a handwritten note containing his name, the store number, and a brief statement admitting that he told Mr. Bell he was a lawyer and he was bared in Florida.

16. That Mr. Bell then asked a customer who a little ways behind him, Did you just hear that? That the customer said, Yes. That Mr. Bell asked the customer if he would be willing to provide Mr. Bell with his contact information. That the bystanding customer declined, saying, I don’t want to get involved in this.

17. That the manager, a fairer light skinned individual, was denying Mr. Bell dine-­in sit down service, in this majority black community because Mr. Bell is a darker-­skinned individual.

18. That Mr. Bell called a customer service representative on the IHOP 1-­800 number as soon as he walked to his car. That Mr. Bell told the customer service representative that the IHOP manager claimed to be a lawyer when he was not and she kept cutting him off. That the customer service representative would not allow Mr. Bell to finish explaining what happened.

That the representative was not sympathetic to Mr. Bell’s complaint, and the conversation ended before Mr. Bell was able to mention that the manager had discriminated against him and denied him service because of his skin color.

19. That on the following day, Friday, March 13, 2015, Mr. Bell talked to Max Pinneda, the regional manager of IHOP and detailed to him what had occurred and asked him to watch the video tape and see for himself what happened and to investigate if the manager has been denying other blacks in this majority black area from dine-­in sit down service.

20. That Mr. Pinneda, admitted that the manager, was not hired by IHOP to serve as a lawyer. That Mr. Pinneda stated that the individual had been originally hired as a restaurant server and had subsequently been promoted to a manager position. That Mr. Pinneda admitted that the manager has no attorney-­related responsibilities for IHOP.

21. That on Saturday, March 14, 2015, Mr. Bell spoke again to Max Pinneda. That Mr. Pinneda told Mr. Bell that he had viewed the video tape and saw what had transpired. That Mr. Pinneda told Plaintiff that the manager violated company policy by denying dine-­in sit down service to Plaintiff and other black IHOP patrons. That Mr. Pinneda stated that the IHOP store the manager admitted that he was wrong and that he violated company policy by denying dine-­in sit down service to Plaintiff and other black IHOP patrons.

22. That Mr. Bell explained to Max Pinneda the historical discriminatory context of restaurants telling blacks patrons that they may order takeout but could not sit down to eat and that the above-­‐‑described discrimination was an instigating force behind sit-­‐‑ins during the civil rights movement.

23. That Mr. Bell asked Pinneda if he could name one IHOP in a majority white area where white customers are told that they can order carryout but they cannot sit down and eat in the IHOP restaurant.

24. That Pinneda, stated that he could not think of such an IHOP.

25. That according to the job description of a server as described in the very own words of IHOP, the main job responsibility is to provide customers with a hundred percent customer service excellence. That according to an IHOP public job opening ad, servers are basically in the front line since they will be the one welcoming and serving the customers. That the IHOP job ad also says, As long as you have the right attitude and you are at least sixteen years of age, you can qualify for a Server position at IHOP.

26. That according to the Operating Procedures And Standards for IHOP franchises, Franchisees shall operate their restaurants in strict compliance with local, state, and federal laws and regulations. That franchises, according to this document, are also required to operate their restaurants (an IHOP Restaurant) in strict compliance with their franchise documents and the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) of the International House of Pancakes, LLC. ( IHOP). That all IHOP, under its Operating Procedures and Standards, requires all franchises be open and operating according to specified hours each day. That the hours of operation, according to the Operating Procedures and Standards, must be posted in public view from the outside of the building.

27. That, according to the Operating Procedures and Standards, if an IHOP Restaurant is not open for business during the required hours, the Regional Vice President must be notified of the reason for closure of the Restaurant.

28. That no Franchisee, according to the Operating Procedures and Standards, is authorized to operate fewer than the minimum hours without written approval from the President of IHOP. That the Operating Procedures and Standards do not authorize franchises to close down dine-­in service before the restaurant is closed.

29. That the actions of Defendants -­ in failing to follow Maryland law anti-­discrimination law and their own company policies regarding dine-­‐‑in sit down service followed by intentionally concealing this error in the form of an unwritten policy – clearly demonstrates malicious intent, discriminatory intent, and ill will.

30. That Mr. Bell explained to Max Pinneda, the area manager, that IHOP in calling Mr. Bell a darkey and denying sit down service to him and other black patrons, especially at an IHOP franchise located in a predominantly black community amounted to gross discrimination and created a very hurtful experience to Mr. Bell, insulting his dignity and self worth. That Mr. Bell explained that if left unchecked, the actions of IHOP could lead to greater discrimination. That Mr. Bell also reminded Max Pinneda that on their website, IHOP states, We value the communities in which we do business… That Mr. Bell asked Max Pinneda how IHOP could possibly value this majority black community if it treats the customers as if they were living in the 1950s.

31. That Mr. Bell asked Max Max Pinneda what was worse: the manager calling Mr. Bell a darkey or treating him like one. That Pinneda had no response.

32. That Pinneda stated that he would talk to the manager again but that the manager was going to remain employed by IHOP as a manager at that same location. So, the Defendants ratified the managers behavior, according to the lawsuit.

33. Mr. Bell asked Mr. Pinneda for the name and telephone number for the owner of Defendant Hospitality Management of Capitol Heights, Inc. (a.k.a.) IHOP and Mr. Pinneda told Mr. Bell that he had talked to the owner (Geoffrey Trout, a white man) and kept him informed about the situation and the he, Mr. Pinneda, speaks for the owner in this matter.

34. That Mr. Pinneda then offered Mr. Bell a few coupons for free meals at IHOP. That Mr. Bell declined the coupons and informed Pinneda that he would be filing a discrimination complaint against IHOP.
For more information about the lawsuit, contact:
Jimmy A. Bell, Esq.
(301) 661-1165

Derrick G. Hamlin, Esq.
(410) 637-3001

Photo Caption: Attorney Jimmy A. Bell

Former Gov. Pat Quinn, Attorney Terrence J. Truaxto, Judge Sonia Antolec, and Jorge Roque to be Honored as One of FDLA’s “20 for 20” Honorees

Posted by Admin On May - 11 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

quinn pic framedPat Quinn is a staunch advocate for criminal justice and a more just society. As Governor of Illinois, he reviewed more clemency decisions than any other governor in Illinois history, taking action on 4,928 and granting 1,795, many of which had backed up from the previous administration.

Gov. Quinn also boldly moved to ensure fairness in employment and greater chance of successful re-entry into communities for those released from prison. In October 2013, Quinn issued an administrative order to “ban the box,” preventing state agencies from inquiring into an applicant’s criminal history on a job application. In July 2014, he followed up by signing the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act, “banning the box” for all private employers with more than 15 employees.

Gov. Quinn on being one of FDLA’s 20 for 20:
“I want to thank the First Defense Legal Aid for this honor and for standing up for a more just society for all people. A law-abiding citizen’s past mistakes should not serve as a lifetime barrier to employment. We must continue the good work to give all people a fair shot to reach their full potential.” -Gov. Pat Quin

Join FDLA THIS FRODAY May 15th, 2015, 5-8pm at Mayer Brown LLP for “Answering the Call: A Special Event Celebrating 20 Years of 1(800)LAW-REP4” to celebrate with the 20 for 20 Honorees!

Terrence J. Truax Selected as one of FDLA’s “20 for 20” Honorees

Terrence J. Truax Selected as one of FDLA’s “20 for 20” Honorees

As Managing Partner of Jenner & Block, Terrence Truax oversees the operations of a global law firm with over 450 lawyers.  An ardent supporter and active partner in the firm’s pro bono practice, Mr. Truax provides valuable advice and supervision to numerous attorneys on their pro bono criminal matters.  He has represented dozens of indigent criminal defendants in the Circuit Court of Cook County and elsewhere.

He is a past recipient of the firm’s Albert E. Jenner, Jr. Pro Bono Award and serves on the firm’s Pro Bono Executive Committee. Mr. Truax also serves as President of the Board of Directors of Breakthrough Urban Ministries, which provides a variety of community based family, adult, and youth programming in East Garfield Park, including academics, job training, and an overnight transitional housing program.  He is past member of the Board of Directors of the Chicago Bar Foundation and the Advisory Board for the Cabrini Green Legal Aid Clinic.

On being named one of FDLA’s 20 for 20:

“It is a privilege to be recognized by FDLA.  I am a staunch believer that as a member of the Bar, we have the great privilege to represent clients in all facets of our practice, and that includes making the commitment to represent clients for whom access to representation and ultimately justice is limited by economics.  As all of the “20 for 20” honorees have done, stepping up to meet that commitment is at the heart of what it means to be a lawyer.  I hope the inspiring stories and contributions of my fellow honorees will shine a bright light on FDLA and this most important mission.”  — Terrence J. Truax

Sonia Antolec honored among FDLA’s 20 for 20

Judge Antolec demonstrated the courage to stand up for the fair treatment of a group of African-American teens charged in a high-profile mugging on a CTA train that media outlets described as a “wilding.” The former Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney dropped the charges upon realizing she could not, in good faith, proceed with the high-profile prosecution due to a flawed identification process.

Ms. Antolec resigned after she was demoted and suspended for her action. In an interview at the time, Antolec says she “couldn’t work for an office that no longer encouraged her to do the right thing.”

She is now the Chief Administrative Law Judge for Illinois Healthcare and Family services and an adjunct professor of law.

On being named an FDLA 20 for 20 award winner: “I am honored to be recognized by FDLA and among such a prominent group of accomplished advocates for justice. There is no better way to serve the People, all of the People, than by doing the right thing in each and every instance of our professional and personal lives.” – Sonia Antolec

Jorge Roque to be honored with one of FDLA’s 20 for 20 awards

Jorge Roque has lead programs for youth in the Little Village community for more than 2 decades as a gang outreach worker, violence interrupter, and youth mentor.

Mr. Roque currently works with gang-involved youth at the New Life Center, providing mentoring, gang intervention counseling, substance abuse classes, art therapy, job readiness training, tutoring, GED classes, court advocacy, social activities, family support, and more to help them successfully complete juvenile probation and avoid further contact with the juvenile and criminal systems. He has also served with the YMCA’s Street Violence Intervention Program, University of Chicago’s Gang Violence Reduction Project, and the Chicago Board of Education’s Violence Intervention Program.

Roque has long called on the assistance of 1-800-LAW-REP-4, knowing that if the youth with whom he works access fair treatment, the cycle of violence can be broken.

A word from FDLA 20 for 20 Honoree Jorge Roque:

“I always say, we need to get better at listening first instead of speaking when working with youth. I have carried FDLA cards with me since the 1990’s, especially when doing outreach. It is a very important resource for youth development and violence intervention.”

Join FDLA May 15th, 2015, 5-8pm at Mayer Brown LLP for “Answering the Call: A Special Event Celebrating 20 Years of 1(800)LAW-REP4” to celebrate with the 20 for 20 Honorees!

Chris Cleveland Elected Chairman of the Chicago GOP

Posted by Admin On May - 11 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

CHICAGO, IL – 43rd Ward Republican Committeeman Chris Cleveland was elected Chairman of the Chicago Republican Party last night. The vote took place at the Parthenon in Greektown.

Under state law and the bylaws of the Chicago GOP, the Chairman is elected by the weighted vote of the Republican committeemen of the 50 wards in Chicago.

Cleveland replaces former Chairman Adam Robinson, who stepped down to focus on his business and his family. Robinson presided over a renaissance of the Republican Party in Chicago, which placed nine candidates on the ballot, raised the Republican vote in Chicago, and gathered widespread acclaim.

Rep. Golar Expands Gifted Education in Grade Schools

Posted by Admin On May - 11 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Concerned about reduced opportunities for gifted students in Illinois, state Rep. Esther Golar, D-Chicago, passed legislation through the House last week that would give advanced students more resources to achieve.

“Too often in the public debates on education policy, gifted students are taken for granted,” Golar said. “While we must work to help those who are struggling, to prosper as a state, we must also be encouraging high-level students with strong critical thinking skills to exceed their own goals, not leaving them in courses they’re too advanced for.”

House Bill 806 will allow teachers licensed to instruct grades 7-8, who are qualified to teach high school courses, to instruct advanced students in subjects taught in higher grades. Currently, even if a grade school teacher is qualified to teach an advanced course, only high school teachers are permitted to teach the material. Working with groups such as the Illinois Association for Gifted Students and Chicago Public Schools, Golar believes this legislation will help inspire a passion for academics and help raise the bar for schools across Illinois.

“Other countries and states are investing in their youth at rates much higher than Illinois,” Golar said. “This bill does not lower credentials needed to teach, it simply allows already qualified teachers at the 7th and 8th grade level to teach younger kids more advanced materials should they choose to do so.”

House Bill 806 now moves to the Senate for further consideration.

Something Hard to Understand

Posted by Admin On May - 11 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Op-ed By William E.  Spriggs

Each week, another candidate throws a hat into the ring for the 2016 presidential campaign-a constant reminder that President Barack Obama is at the end of his term. Currently, the president is engaged in a high-stakes battle, twisting the arms of the Democratic Party base and pressuring his close congressional allies, like the Congressional Black Caucus, to help salvage his attempt to hammer through a multination “trade” agreement with Pacific Ocean rim nations. That is simply very hard to understand.

The neo-liberal Washington consensus, from the International Monetary Fund to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, has concluded that the pressing challenge today is rising inequality in income and wealth. And, as all students of inequality understand, the United States-as the industrialized nation with the most extreme inequality-is at a point where inequality is retarding future growth. One reason is that inequality lowers educational attainment of too many people, and the skill of a nation’s workforce is the key to economic growth.

There appears to be additional reasons, including the capture of the political apparatus by corporate and conservative powers such as the Koch brothers and their nearly $1 billion campaign pledge, and the tilting of policies toward the haves at the top of the economic ladder to the detriment of national economic growth interests, like public investments needed for growth.

History will reflect that President Obama did steer the United States free of one of the globe’s lingering problems-stagnant economies and high unemployment in many industrialized nations. He pushed for a fiscal stimulus during his first year in office, which helped the United States rebound more successfully from this Great Recession than other nations, especially the Europeans, who stuck more closely to fiscal conservative notions that trapped them in austerity.

History also will note that a key element of America’s inequality-access to health care-as been greatly improved by the president’s Affordable Care Act. That act has helped reduce significantly the level of post-tax and transfer inequality the United States would otherwise have suffered.

Yet, inequality has continued its destructive growth in the United States, despite our more robust recovery and the shrinking of the health insurance inequality gap. So, as President Obama is closing out his term, why would he spend so much political capital on a trade deal that replicates the worst elements of the post-North American Free Trade Agreement era, which have resulted in a dangerously growing U.S. trade deficit? Unfortunately, while the neo-liberal “smart Washington thinking” has had to rethink some of its policy prescriptions in light of the high costs of inequality, it still clings to its remaining plank of failed trade policy.

The president is risking a lot. In addition to trade, he also risks the ignominy of being the only Democratic president to fail to increase the federal minimum wage since its creation; joining Ronald Reagan as the only other elected president to fail to do so. Currently, House Democrats, under Rep. Bobby Scott (Va.), and Senate Democrats, under Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), have introduced legislation to incrementally raise the minimum wage to $12 by 2020. Their legislation would restore the wage structure of the post-World War II era when wages and productivity rose together, and incomes of those at the top and bottom rose in step.

Clearly, avoiding the historical humiliation of being the one Democrat to stand in defense of one of the hallmarks of the New Deal, and a bulwark of the era of America’s shared prosperity that it launched, will take heavy political lifting against an entrenched Republican-controlled Congress rooted in undoing the New Deal and advancing policies that have only proven to exacerbate inequality.

Today, median household incomes for Americans remain below their levels in 2007, which, thanks to two terms of the Bush economy, had fallen from their peak level in 2000. Also poverty levels for America’s families, which in 2000 were at historic lows, but climbed during the Bush administration, are even higher today. And consumption by the bottom fifth of Americans remains below their 2008 abilities. With this much pain continuing in the lower half of America’s households, it is hard to understand how the president is spending so much time on something so unrelated to the issues at hand.

Finally, another component of inequality is the unresolved standing of millions of workers who lack the freedom of citizenship protections to bargain freely with their employers. The president campaigned on fixing America’s broken immigration system. And fixing it is important to raising the wages of millions of Americans by fixing the fracture this is causing in our labor markets. The Executive Orders he issued to take some measure of action on immigration will help. But, with so little left to his term, the president must weigh more carefully what his long-term legacy will be. We don’t have time for him to waste on investment deals benefiting corporations and the 1 percent.

Follow Spriggs on Twitter: @WSpriggs. Contact: Amaya Smith-Tune Acting Director, Media Outreach AFL-CIO 202-637-5142.

Baltimore Youth are Champions, Not “Thugs”…An Open Letter to President Obama

Posted by Admin On May - 11 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS
Baltimore’s youth are champions, not thugs (they just don’t know it yet!) – an open letter to President Barack Obama

By Orrin Hudson, former police officer-turned-community activist

Orrin Hudson Community Chess Event

Nationwide — Dear Mr. President, I need your help and together I know we can make a positive difference in the lives of many young people who feel their country has passed them by – kids who see no future for themselves.

I am a former state trooper, Air Force veteran, and winner of the FBI Leadership award who believes that evil prevails when good people do nothing. I started Be Someone, Inc. to teach youth that if they make just one bad move in life, they may never recover. They must think things through. I know this lesson firsthand. I was one wrong move away from a failed life until a teacher saw the potential I didnt see. I believe he saved my life and that is now my mission in life… Saving young people from the consequences of wrong moves.

Mr. President, the young people of Baltimore are not thugs. They are potential champions. I know because I used to be in a gang and called a thug. The gang called the shots for me… Do this, do that. And I complied because I let someone else do my thinking for me. It almost ruined me.

Thank God that one of my teachers knew I was much better than that and brought out the champion in me that I never knew existed. He taught me chess. He taught me there is a consequence for every action. He taught me success is mine to achieve if I make the right moves. Now, I want to go to Baltimore and teach this same vital lesson.

Mr. President, I know these young people. They are begging for a chance. They want to be happy and successful and raise families just like you and I have had the privilege to do. Please join me in Baltimore. If you like, I will meet you first in Washington. Lets break out the chess table and let these young people know they can be champions! We need each and every one of them.

I have beaten the odds as the first African American to defeat the Alabama State champion in chess, and I have coached students who have never had a chess tournament to win three straight Atlanta Public School chess championships and one statewide chess championship.

Let’s beat the odds together by focusing on what works. We will give them hope with “all hands on deck”. If we can find money to send a person to the moon, we can find money to put a person on their own two feet. Lets change the odds in Baltimore by focusing on what works.

My message is: Peace before violence; Brains before bullets; Think it out, Dont shoot it out; Push pawns, not drugs; Heads up, pants up, grades up, and Never ever give up!


Orrin C. Hudson

Orrin Checkmate Hudson is the Founder and CEO of Be Someone Inc., a non-profit organization that uses numerous tools, including the game of chess to promote self-esteem, responsibility, and analytical thinking among at-risk kids. For more details and/or to schedule him to address youth and adults in your city, call (770) 465-6445 or visit www.BeSomeone.org

Senator Raoul and County Board President Preckwinkle Respond to Supreme Court’s Pension Ruling

Posted by Admin On May - 11 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

SPRINGFIELD, IL — Illinois State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) issued the following statement on the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision, handed down today, that a 2013 measure reducing retirement benefits for teachers and state workers is unconstitutional and will not take effect:

Today, the state’s highest court affirmed that, as in all matters, we are bound by the plain language of the Illinois Constitution on the question of public employee benefits. This is not surprising news, nor is it an unwelcome reminder; constitutional limits protect us all – especially in times of fiscal crisis. The Court effectively illustrated the cyclical nature of economic fortunes, noting that Illinois faced a pension funding emergency at the time our current constitution was drafted. The rule of law remains a guiding constant.

This decision is a call to go back to the negotiating table and get serious about the range of options available to us to repair the state’s finances and meet its obligations in ways consistent with the constitution, sustainable for the future and fair to all concerned.

A number of approaches remain open to us, but the Court has made clear that the constitution’s prohibition on unilateral modifications applies to the lifetime of the contract made at the time of employment, not merely to benefits already accrued.

We return to our task aided by the insights of the Court, fully aware of our constitutional responsibilities as well as the severity of our fiscal condition, in partnership with all affected and open to new ideas.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s Statement on the Illinois Supreme Court Pension Ruling

Each local pension system is unique and there is no “one-size fits all” approach to pension reform. A number of aspects of today’s decision re-affirm our view that the legislation introduced last year to reform the pension fund for Cook County employees and retirees is constitutionally sound. First and foremost, our proposed reform legislation is not based on the “police powers” argument or the other arguments put forth in defense of Senate Bill 1. Our plan, which was the product of over two years of negotiations with a cross section of unions and stakeholders, also confers on participants significant new value in return for changes in the pension system. For example, current employees and retirees will receive dedicated healthcare funding and a secure healthcare program, both of which they don’t have today under current law.

The fact is that the current statute that governs the pensions of Cook County employees and retirees is broken, through no fault of the County or its taxpayers. The County has always budgeted the maximum statutory payment and yet the fund remains in a precarious financial state. For each month that passes, the unfunded liabilities grow by roughly $30 million and the window of time to enact the mutually agreed upon options to fix the status quo narrows. It is critical that our pension reform legislation be passed immediately.

We will continue working with the General Assembly and Governor Rauner on advancing our equitable legislation through bipartisanship.

IDHS Welcomes Newly Appointed Secretary James Dimas

Posted by Admin On May - 11 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

CHICAGO, IL – On Friday afternoon, Governor Rauner announced his appointment of James Dimas to the post of Secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS). Mr. Dimas has a long and proven record of leadership in human services. The appointment of Mr. Dimas marks a new beginning for IDHS, and the Department is optimistic about its future with Dimas at the helm.

“This is a very exciting day for the Department.  Incoming Secretary Dimas is an excellent choice to lead IDHS under this administration. His background and experience are a great fit for our Department, and I look forward to supporting him in any way I can as his General Counsel,” remarked Acting Secretary Bassi.

Dimas will assume his position as Secretary effective May 18th, at which time Bassi will resume his role as General Counsel for the Department. As the Department transitions, incoming Secretary Dimas is fully committed to his new role as leader of IDHS.

“I look forward to working hard each and every day for the people of this State.  Along with the entire IDHS team, we will take steps to improve the Department and our relationships with our customers and our providers. I’m excited about the future of IDHS as we continue to provide excellent service to members of the community,” stated Dimas.

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Welcome to CopyLine Magazine! The first issue of CopyLine Magazine was published in November, 1990, by Editor & Publisher Juanita Bratcher. CopyLine’s main focus is on the political arena – to inform our readers and analyze many of the pressing issues of the day - controversial or otherwise. Our objectives are clear – to keep you abreast of political happenings and maneuvering in the political arena, by reporting and providing provocative commentaries on various issues. For more about CopyLine Magazine, CopyLine Blog, and CopyLine Television/Video, please visit juanitabratcher.com, copylinemagazine.com, and oneononetelevision.com. Bratcher has been a News/Reporter, Author, Publisher, and Journalist for 33 years. She is the author of six books, including “Harold: The Making of a Big City Mayor” (Harold Washington), Chicago’s first African-American mayor; and “Beyond the Boardroom: Empowering a New Generation of Leaders,” about John Herman Stroger, Jr., the first African-American elected President of the Cook County Board. Bratcher is also a Poet/Songwriter, with 17 records – produced by HillTop Records of Hollywood, California. Juanita Bratcher Publisher

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