Comments Due for UUA Reproductive Justice CSAI

The UUA comment period for the Reproductive Justice Congregational Study Action/Issue closes March 3rd.

A Congregational Study Action/Issue (CSAI) is an issue chosen by the delegates to the UUA General Assembly (GA) for UU congregations to study, ponder, think about, and act on. The current CSAI on Reproductive Justice was chosen at the 2012 GA. The comments that are currently being taken will inform workshops to be presented at the 2014 GA. Later, in November, a draft Statement of Conscience will be prepared for congregations to vote on in 2015 and to be presented at the 2015 GA. If approved, the Statement of Conscience will be acted on by UU congregations in 2015 and 2016. A new CSAI will be chosen for consideration at this year’s GA to be the possible Statement of Conscience for 2016.

The Reproductive Justice Issue (from the UUA website)

Reproductive rights and health services are seriously under attack nationally. Reproductive Justice represents a broader analysis of racial, economic, cultural, and structural constraints on women’s power. The right to have children, to not have children, and to parent children in safe and healthy environments is a human right.

Follow the link above to read the entire CSAI. If you have thoughts on the CSAI, leave them in the comments or contact me.

Transgender People in the Media

I ran across a very interesting article today, on a website called In These Times, about the portrayal of transgender people, and transgender women in particular, in the media.

From the article:

(B)elieve trans people when they tell you their gender.

And don’t focus on medical transition, especially when it’s not relevant. There is so much more to our lives. We also need to move away from press coverage that’s both objectifying and relentlessly negative. Tell stories about trans women that focus on their accomplishments or more mundane aspects of their lives. I know so many brilliant trans women doing incredible things, despite what they’ve faced. Tell these stories.

I genuinely believe that media that represents us on our own terms and as full human beings will go a long way to combat the dangerous dehumanization of trans women and the oppression that comes with it.

I highly recommend reading the entire article.

Immigration Reform

This country was built by immigrants (after they stole the land). But on their stolen land, the immigrants and their descendants built a great democracy, the likes of which the world had never seen before. Now, new immigrants are shut out of this country. If they do come, they are treated like pariahs. Is this the legacy we want to be remembered for? I know I don’t. Amidst the shutdown, a bill has been introduced into the House of Representatives for comprehensive immigration reform, HR 15. Sign this petition today to ask that the bill be brought to a vote.

Meeting Next Sunday

Next Sunday (Sept. 22) at 3 pm at the UU Church in IF, the UUCIF Social Justice Committee will meet. Please come! We have lots of exciting projects to work on.

  • Postcard project to send to the Idaho Board of Correction
  • Reaching out to restaurant owners — what do they need from employees? Long-term, we want to create a training program for low-skilled workers to gain the skills they need for successful employment at restaurants
  • the Social Justice Calendar of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

Come make a difference in your life and your community!

For Profit Prisons in Idaho: A Letter to the Idaho Legislature Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee

Idaho’s for-profit prison, the Idaho Correctional Institute, is a legal and moral disgrace. Earlier this year, the Idaho Board of Correction voted not to renew the contract of the Correctional Corporation of America. However, they also refused to ask the Idaho Department of Correction to submit a bid to run the prison, as did the Idaho Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC).

The Social Justice Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Idaho Falls is writing to the members of JFAC who voted against that motion. We believe that the Idaho Department of Correction is the best entity to run Idaho prisons, and should be allowed to submit a bid to run this prison.

A sample letter to JFAC members is below:

I am concerned that, in a March Joint Finance/Appropriations Committee (JFAC) vote, you voted not to ask the Idaho Department of Correction to develop and submit a bid to run the Idaho Correctional Institute.

I understand that there may have been concerns regarding the appropriateness of JFAC as a venue for this vote, but I believe that it is vital that the Department of Correction be given a chance to run this prison. Having it as a for-profit prison run by the Correctional Corporation of America (CCA) has been disastrous, and I don’t believe any other private company would be any better.

The Department of Correction should be given a chance to submit a bid for running the Idaho Correctional Institute, and I ask that you give them that chance as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

If you use this letter, please personalize it for yourself and for each legislator you send it to.

Addresses for JFAC members

When you contact these legislators, please do not send the letter to Sen. Nuxoll, Sen. Lacey, Rep. Ringo, or Rep. King. These four legislators voted to allow the Department of Corrections to submit a bid.

 

Idaho Legislature Considering Abolishing Business Personal Property Tax

Tax

The Idaho Legislature is discussing whether or not they should abolish the business personal property tax. This would severely cut the budgets of Idaho counties and cities, and other government entities that rely on the state to transfer this money to them. The Legislature says they will now permit local options sales taxes, and this will make up for the cuts. Many rural counties in Idaho do not have the businesses to provide people places to pay sales taxes, and will be unable to replenish these monies.

How you feel about this is up to you. If you would like to write to your Idaho state legislators about this, you can find their contact info here. Just so you know, the email capabilities of that site seem to be down today, January 22, 2013. I will be sending my local legislators a letter in the mail.

If you agree that the Legislature should not do this, here is a sample letter for you below:

Please do not abolish the personal property tax for Idaho businesses. This is a very bad idea, and breaks the trust between the state of Idaho and the other, smaller governments contained within it, that rely on the state to transfer the money they need to operate.

Historically, the Idaho Legislature has been unsuccessful in replacing lost taxes for the entities who received them. Property taxes were cut in 2007, and the remaining monies placed in the general fund. Schools were told that sales taxes would make up for the lost money, but the recession came, and sales taxes dropped. Now we are told that the personal property tax money can be made up to the cities and counties of Idaho, through local options sales taxes.

For counties without many businesses, such as Clark County whose largest businesses are a gas station and a cafe, this is a farce. Even for larger counties, such as Bonneville County, I do not believe that a sales tax would make up for the millions of dollars lost. Even if it did, it forces the county budget to be reliant on the economy. This is not a safe bet, as we have seen with the schools.

Besides, what the legislature has in mind is not really an abolishing of a tax, but a tax shift. This doesn’t make the taxes go away – counties still need to pay for essential services – but forces a different group of people to pay the taxes.

Until the legislature can come up with a fail-safe plan for replacing the lost tax money, one that does not include relying on a fickle economy and voters being willing and able to tax themselves more, the personal property tax should stay.

Working for Marriage Equality

English: Venn diagram depicting the relationsh...

English: Venn diagram depicting the relationships between assigned sex and sexual orientation. Androphilia and gynephilia are preferred terms for some populations, because homosexual and heterosexual assign a sex to the person being described. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is a sad fact of life in the United States that marriage is not equally available to all people. Its availability is dependent on sexual orientation and place of residence — not a good situation in the land of the free.

If you are committed to changing this sad state of affairs, and making marriage available to all adults, regardless of sexual orientation, and you’re not sure where to start, then visit the Standing on the Side of Love Take Action for Marriage Equality page. They have set up a great website to help everyone get started working for marriage equality.

Thoughts on Immigration, Part Four

This is the 4th part of a series. Read the 1st part. Read the 2nd part. Read the 3rd part.

So now that I discussed the reasons people come to this country, and why that won’t be changing any time soon, I want to talk about what the citizens of the United States can do about this influx of people suffering from injustice in their home countries, in transit, and once they have arrived here.

  1. Nothing. I don’t like this option, as I think it better to do something about injustice.
  2. Try to keep the migrating people out. An awful lot of time and money is already being spent on this option, and it doesn’t seem to be working. It is increasing the amount of injustice the migrants suffer, however.
  3. Help the migrants as they come into this country and try to address injustice they suffer in this country. I like this option better, as it is an attempt to address injustice, but I still find it inadequate. Like the old story of the babies floating down the river, we can’t just save the suffering, we must go upstream to solve the problem at its source.
  4. Solve the problems that bring people to this country, away from their homes and families, to work in miserable conditions for low pay. As I mentioned in passing in each of the preceding 3 parts, these problems are quite complicated, ranging in part from labor law enforcement to the war on drugs to immigration law. I’m sure there are additional complications I haven’t even thought of.

Number 4 is my preferred option, but very, very difficult. To solve it would mean that fewer people are torn from their families to suffer the dangerous journey north, and those who still came would find good working conditions, decent pay, and a life without fear.

Will you join me on this path? What are your ideas for dealing with the injustice of illegal immigration to the United States? Tell me in the comments.

Thoughts on Immigration, Part Three

This is the 3rd part of a series. Read the 1st part here. Read the 2nd part here.

Today I want to talk about the reasons people have for leaving their home countries in Latin America and coming to the United States. Why are they so desperate that they cannot wait for the legal methods (aside from their incredible slowness and wait times of decades)?

The violence in Latin America is shocking. Mexico is the worst, and the one we hear about most, but the other countries farther south, especially Guatemala and Honduras, are just about as bad. What is the source of the violence? Right now, it’s due to the drug traffickers using these countries as a base, as Columbia becomes more able to control its countryside and enforce its laws, and the US Coast Guard has shut down the Caribbean sea route for getting drugs into the United States.

Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras have never fully recovered from their civil wars of the 1970s and 80s. Almost all security in the countryside is from private security companies, not the police. The drug traffickers find it incredibly easy to move their products through these countries, bringing drug addiction and violence with them.

Belize, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Panama, do not find themselves in such desperate straits, but they are still struggling with this sudden influx of violence from drug traffickers.

The drugs, of course, are coming to the United States. The war on drugs is not working, it only moves the violence from our doorstep to the countries farther south. I don’t know if legalization is the answer, but I do know that our current policies are not working. We cannot expect to have limited immigration from our southern neighbors when we export the violence of our illegal drug market to them.

However, drug violence is not the entire story. Even if that problem were solved (thorny as it is) then something would still need to be done about the economies of these countries. Except for Panama and Costa Rica, most of the children do not go onto secondary education. And in Panama and Costa Rica, there aren’t enough jobs for skilled people, so the education they have is not put to work.

The opportunities, even for illegal immigrants, are so much greater in the United States that it is no surprise that people want to live here instead.

Mexico is a slightly different story. The drug violence is increasing daily in Mexico, and it is no wonder that the people would like to escape it. But when it comes to education, the educational opportunities are much better in Mexico. But the economy of the Mexican countryside is almost entirely farm-based, and not very efficient. It cannot provide a living to the entire population.

To summarize, there are several very complicated problems occurring in Mexico and Latin America, all of which will be difficult to solve and some of which cannot be solved by people from outside the affected countries, however well-meaning.

Monday, a discussion of justice and how it fits with these problems and their solutions.

Read Part Four

Thoughts on Immigration, Part Two

This is the 2nd part of a series. Read the 1st part here.

One root cause of immigration to the United States is the basic demand for cheap labor that doesn’t ask for much, if anything, and will work in almost any conditions. Most citizens will not work under those conditions, understanding their rights and the basic conditions that are legally required.

The labor laws in this country are meant to provide for basic safe conditions, a minimum wage, and safe workplaces. However, in many dangerous industries, those laws are often enforced patchily, usually only after a worker dies. The agricultural industry has also won itself many exemptions to those laws through lobbying. Those exemptions made a lot more sense when most farms were small, family-run outfits, but most agriculture is now owned by corporations who could easily afford the added expense of compliance.

Making labor laws apply to all industry, and uniformly and strictly enforced, would increase the numbers of native-born people willing to work in those jobs. They currently don’t, as they are better educated and know their rights, and are confident of finding a safer job.

The agricultural industry insists, for example, that paying minimum wage would make the price of food go up. (I know there are many farmers who do pay minimum wage, but this discussion focuses on the industry in aggregate.) I am sure the price of food would go up, but I would pay more if I knew that I was supporting minimum wages for the harvesters.

My main objection to, say, a more expensive apple versus the cheaper one at the store down the street, is that I don’t know why the expensive apple costs more. If I knew, from a sign in the store, that the expensive one is paying for better working conditions for the apple pickers, I would be much more likely to buy it. This would mean a revolution in how apples are packed and shipped, but I think it would be worth it.

There will always be dirty jobs that only those who can’t get better will do, but if we could make the pool of jobs smaller, then fewer people would come to the United States to do them, making it easier to manage the numbers and reduce the backlogs (of course also dependent on the laws being reformed, as I discussed yesterday in part one).

Tomorrow I will talk about the reasons in their home countries that cause people to want to leave for the United States.

Read Part Three; Part Four.

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