Monday, September 15, 2014

Women Deserve Equal Pay for Equal Work

Women continue to earn less than men. In 2012, the last year for which we have data, women earned 76.5 cents for each dollar earned by a man—a figure which has remained essentially unchanged since 2001. The statistics for women of color are even more staggering, with African American women earning 64 cents and Latinas only 54 cents for each dollar earned by a white man.

This practice is bad for women, bad for families, and bad for our local economies.

April 8 was recognized as Equal Pay Day because it marks the date a woman’s salary finally catches up with a man’s salary from the previous year. Additional “Equal Pay Days” throughout the year mark the even higher discrepancies for particular groups of women: June 12 for mothers, July 16 for African American women, and November 12 for Latinas. The Senate voted down the Paycheck Fairness Act earlier this year, which would have taken a critical step in the right direction to eliminate the gender wage gap.

But for the first time ever, the Senate last week agreed to move on to a full debate of the Paycheck Fairness Act, by a vote of 73-25. We’ve passed the first of many hurdles, but it's not over – this is the Senate’s chance to do the right thing.

Paycheck Fairness Act: Background

The most blatant forms of pay discrimination based on gender are illegal, but current law is too narrow to serve as an effective deterrent or tool for enforcement. The Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA) would help narrow the gender pay gap by closing some of the loopholes in current law and give employees the legal tools they need to challenge the wage gap itself. Specifically, the PFA would:

  • Require employers to demonstrate that wage differentials between men and women holding the same position and doing the same work stem from factors other than sex;
  • Prohibit retaliation against workers who inquire about their employers’ wage practices or disclose their own wages, and permit reasonable comparisons between employees within clearly defined geographical areas to determine fair wages;
  • Strengthen penalties for equal pay violations;
  • Provide guidelines to show employers how to evaluate jobs with the goal of eliminating unfair disparities;
  • Encourage proactive enforcement of equal pay laws by re-instating the collection of wage-related data and providing training for the workers who enforce our equal pay laws.
  • Modernize the Equal Pay Act to make it more in line with the class action procedures available under Title VII.

President Obama has signed an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against workers who discuss their salaries. We must extend these same basic protections to all working women!

As faithful advocates, we know we must respond to the command in Leviticus 19:13, “Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight.” Ask your Senators to continue to shed light on the issue with each passing Equal Pay Day by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act!

What does the PC(USA) say?

The 218th General Assembly (2008) approved “God’s Work in Women’s Hands: Pay Equity and Just Compensation.”  “For the ‘promotion of social righteousness, and the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world’ (Book of Order, G-1.0200)” the Assembly “recommitt[ed] itself to the support of institutional policies and legislation that would:

  • Expand women’s civil protections to include equal pay for work of comparable worth;
  • Provide prorated compensation and benefits for part-time employees;
  • Heal work/family conflict through adequate financial support for those providing childcare and elder care, more flexible work hours, paid medical and family leave, family-supporting wages for all workers, and universal access to quality health care;
  • Establish quality education as a basic human right;
  • Uncover and eliminate racial bias in hiring and employment practices;
  • Reduce the growing inequality in wages, benefits, and wealth.

“God’s Work in Women’s Hands” further directed the Washington Office and the UN Office to advocate for the ratification of the Equal Remuneration Convention and urged “synods, presbyteries, and individuals to advocate for local, state, and federal legislation that support these (above) policies.”

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Uphold Protections for Migrant Children and Families!

Since October 2013, an estimated 63,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended at the U.S./Mexico border, the majority of whom are fleeing rampant violence and poverty in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. [i] This number has more than doubled since last year. We must leverage emergency resources both to care for children and provide them access to appropriate legal services. Prior to leaving for the August Recess, the House passed H.R. 5230, which would only minimally fund the care of children and take away the protections afforded these children under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPRA).
 Daily, children like these are apprehended by Border Patrol. Photo source: AP

Now that Congress is back in session, the Senate may vote on H.R. 5230. Weakening the protections of the TVPRA in exchange for new resources is a false choice, especially when many of these resources further militarize the border. Instead, we must uphold the law that grants migrant children access to social services and legal counsel.

Tell the Senate to support funding to care for unaccompanied children, while opposing H.R. 5230 and any other legislation that would weaken the protections for unaccompanied children provided by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPRA)

Background on the TVPRA:

The TVPRA, passed in 2000, provides certain protections to unaccompanied children arriving in the U.S. from noncontiguous countries. Under the TVPRA, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), rather than Homeland Security, has custody of the child.  HHS is required to place the child according to his or her best interests, which often means a family placement. A child is then screened for his or her claim to humanitarian protection in a safe setting by persons trained to interview children.

Under H.R. 5230, a child would remain in detention and immigration officers, not trained social workers, would question him or her about trauma and possible humanitarian claims. Moreover, this bill requires a child to have a deportation hearing within fourteen days, giving him or her no time to prepare a case or get access to attorney. If this bill becomes law, children will not be afforded meaningful hearings and they will be deported back to danger, exploitation and death. One youth was shot dead hours after being deported back to San Pedro Sula, Honduras . [ii]

We must oppose changes in the law that would weaken the protections given to unaccompanied children. In addition, we must support additional funding to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to deal with the humanitarian crisis at the border. Before leaving for August Recess, the House of Representatives voted on a supplemental funding bill that beefs up border security instead of supporting the agencies most in need of additional funding—the ones that are providing for the basic needs of children who are fleeing widespread violence in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

God calls us as Christians to welcome the stranger and to love our neighbor. Central American families, our neighbors to the South, are showing up at our border, seeking refuge from great harm. We have yet to act to protect them.

The 217th General Assembly of the PC(USA), in a renewal of our call to love our neighbor, stated, “We affirm the PC(USA)’s commitment to providing sanctuary to anyone in need of safe space, food or shelter.” Keeping the Trafficking Victims Protection Act intact and funding agencies that meet the needs of these children are important ways to do this.


[i] "Children at the Border"

[ii] “In Honduras, U.S. Deportees Seek to Journey North Again, LA Times” :

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Ferguson Looks Like a War Zone; Here's Why:

By now we have seen that the tragedy of institutionalized racism and brutality in this country continues to play out in Ferguson, Missouri. Read J. Herbert Nelson’s A Call for More Than Judicial Remedies to the Killing of African-American Boys and Men.

We have repeatedly watched how police in Ferguson are treating the people they are supposed to serve and protect as the enemy. Armed with weapons and riot gear, the police officers look like they're coming from a war zone. Their equipment did.

The Ferguson Police Department received military-grade equipment -- free of charge -- from the Pentagon as part of the 1033 program. And they've been using the weapons and gear against protestors following the police shooting of Michael Brown, and unarmed 18-year-old.

Ask your representative to stop the Pentagon from sending weapons of war to local police departments.

Military equipment makes it too easy for police officers to think of their communities as the enemy. In a criminal justice system where young black men are too often presumed guilty (see: stop and frisk, the War on Drugs, mass incarceration), that's just one more step towards a tragedy like this one.

Representative Hank Johnson (GA-4) is about to introduce legislation that would stop local police departments from getting weapons designed for war from the Pentagon.

Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with Michael Brown's family and the people of Ferguson.

Many thanks to our partner Friends Committee on National Legislation for the language of this action alert.

Friday, September 5, 2014

EPA Regulation of Carbon Pollution

On June 2nd, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule under the federal Clean Air Act to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide from existing power plants, a step towards modernizing our nation’s power plants while limiting our contribution to global climate change.

We need your help to ensure these rules are implemented and Presbyterian voices are heard throughout the process! Visit our Action Center today!

Power plants are the single largest source of carbon dioxide pollution in the United States, emitting more than two billion tons of carbon dioxide and other toxic pollutants into our air each year.  Scientists tell us that carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels is linked to changes in earth’s climate.

  • Climate change is already causing extreme weather events, long term droughts and rising sea levels, all of which impacts communities and people around the world - particularly those who lack the money and technology needed to adapt.
  • Changes in climate pose a threat to global agriculture, including food supplies and prices.
  • Pollution from carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases impacts human health by increasing unhealthy air days and resulting in more respiratory ailments, heart attacks, heat-related deaths, asthma attacks, and other harm. These health problems disproportionately impact on our most vulnerable friends and neighbors, including low-income communities, children and the elderly.

There are currently no limits on the amount of greenhouse gases power plants can emit. This is why reducing carbon emissions from power plants must be a top priority for the U.S. if we hope to prevent the worst impacts of climate change and ensure a just and sustainable world for our generation and those to come.

Presbyterian leaders have been engaging this process throughout the year, but the comment period is scheduled to end on Oct. 16, 2014. Send in your comments before it’s too late!

Rev. Ashley Goff testifies at EPA Carbon Hearing
Read the Rev. Ashley Goff’s testimony before the EPA from July 30, 2014. Ashley is the Minister of Spiritual Formation at Church of the Pilgrims, which has an urban garden and bee hives.

At the beginning of this process last fall, OPW Director the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson also offered testimony in support of carbon regulation.

Now is your opportunity to weigh in on critical new protections for public health and the health of God's creation!

Visit our Action Center to tell the EPA to enact these important standards that will help to save lives and help our country transition to a cleaner energy economy.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Save the Date for Advocacy Training Weekend! April 17-20, 2015

Breaking the Chains:
Mass Incarceration & Systems of Exploitation

Come to Washington, DC, April 17-20, 2015, for the 13th Annual National Gathering of Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice titled, "Breaking the Chains:  Mass Incarceration and Systems of Exploitation."  

Join over 1,000 Christian advocates in building a movement to shake the foundations of systems of human exploitation (Acts 16:16-40), including a prison-industrial system that incarcerates millions of people in the U.S. and abroad.  A world that incarcerates so many and allows some to profit from the exploitation of slave, trafficked and forced labor remains far from the beloved community which we are all called to seek.

The U.S. makes up only five percent of the world's population yet holds nearly a quarter of the world's prisoners.  Still, “imprisonment” is a worldwide problem and takes various forms, as everywhere people around the world remain trapped in detention centers, prisons, factories and drug wars that bind and dehumanize individuals for political or economic profit. 

Lamentations asks, “When all the prisoners of the land are crushed under foot, when human rights are perverted in the presence of the Most High, when one’s case is subverted – does the Lord not see it?” (Lam. 3:34-36)  Do we?

As people of faith, we denounce the elements in our world that justify such systems of exploitation and mass incarceration.  At EAD, we will confess our personal and corporate failure to break the chains of poverty, racism, and greed institutionalized in our laws, economy, and social behaviors that collude to perpetuate such human exploitation and strip civil and human rights. 

As people of Hope, we are reminded that Jesus' radical message was one of liberation
for all and restoration of right relationships. Through prayer, worship, advocacy training,
networking and mobilization with other Christians, we will face the reality of mass incarceration and corporate exploitation, and call for national policies that bring liberation both to the prisoner and to a world in need of restoration – all culminating with EAD’s Congressional Lobby Day on Capitol Hill

Before Ecumenical Advocacy Days join us for Compassion Peace and Justice Training Day on Friday April 17th!  More Details Soon!