Thursday, August 10, 2006
In Today's Dispatch:
States have been taking action to make emergency contraception more available-- and Illinois has taken the additional step of requiring pharmacies to post signs informing customers of their right to receive any prescribed prescription drug.
Borrowing tactics from Wal-Mart, Target has threatened to cancel the opening of new stores in poor Chicago communities unless the City backs down from a living wage ordinance, leading advocates call for nationwide protests against the company.
This Indiana court clarified the standards for employees to bring a retaliation claim against abusive employers, but other states could promote legislation to create more clarity for employees of their rights against workplace abuse.
Federal & state policies are discouraging savings; slowing housing markets are undermining job growth; state health programs are expanding coverage for children; and states need help from the federal government to expand stem cell research
IL: Pharmacies Required to Post Signs Explaining Contraceptive Rights of Customers
The federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is discussing making emergency contraception, the so-called "morning-after" pill, available over-the-counter  after years of delay due to political pressure by anti-contraception lobbies.
However, states haven't been waiting and many of them have passed legislation  giving pharmacists the authority to directly prescribe emergency contraception and requiring pharmacists to make such emergency contraception available to women with a prescription.
Moving further to enforce access to emergency contraception, Illinois is building on an executive order by the Illinois Governor earlier this year that requires pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception upon request by customers. This week, the state legislature approved  a new rule requiring every pharmacy to post signs explaining to customers their right to receive any prescribed contraception, including a complaints hotline to encourage compliance.
The signs will also include information for people to sign up for the state drug coverage plan, I-SaveRx , which allows residents to order safe and affordable prescription refills from Canada and other countries where prices are lower than in the US due to better national regulation of drug prices.
With the federal FDA taking its cues from rightwing and pharmaceutical interests, the Illinois law is one more illustration of the states taking action to defend health care access in the face of obstruction by the federal government.
Target Corp. Blackmails Chicago to Scrap Living Wage Ordinance
As we highlighted  a few weeks ago, the Chicago City Council approved a groundbreaking ordinance to require all large retailers in that city to pay a living wage of $10 per hour plus $3 in benefits.
In retaliation, the Target Corp. is making a blackmail threat to cancel the opening of stores in three predominantly African-American Southside Chicago neighborhoods unless the mayor vetoes the ordinance-- advocates for the Chicago law are calling on allies  to call Target's CEO and end this political bullying. Adding to community anger is the fact that Target already operates seven stores in the city and opened one in a a predominately white Northside community just two weeks ago, leading to charges of discriminatory redlining by the corporation.
What makes it clear that the threat is political blackmail and not merely a calculated business decision is the fact that the company admits  that its Chicago Lincoln Park store is its most successful in the country-- and economic analysts note that big box retailers have been pushing hard to get access to urban consumers in recent years: "I think Target is making these threats to try to scare Chicago into scrapping this law," said  Annette Bernhardt, deputy director of poverty programs at Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School. "Everyone knows they'll expand into the city. That's where the untapped market is."
Target already operates stores in cities like Sante Fe and San Francisco which have comparable minimum wage rates of $9.50 per hour and $8.82 per hour respectively, so the argument that the marginally higher wage rates in Chicago will make or break the new stores in that city is just not credible.
Advocates are especially suspicious since Target is aiming to intimidate predominantly black communities and elected leaders with its threat, paralleling nasty threats  and racial manipulation  by Wal-Mart during that company's campaign to enter Chicago and fight the new ordinance. In fact, the parallel is so close that advocates challenging Target have dubbed the company "Tar-Mart " for resorting to the same kinds of heavyhanded tactics used by Wal-Mart that have angered so many community groups.
Forcing Resignation through Abusive Treatment Equivalent to Discharge, Indiana Court Rules
For many workers facing discrimination, they are never officially fired but just face abusive treatment that makes quitting the only option. In too many states, however, the legal rights of a worker to sue for discrimination under state law when facing an abusive workplace is unclear.
Last week, an Indiana Appeals Court in Randy Tony v. Elkhart County  resolved some of the ambiguity in that state by ruling that such abusive treatment gives rise to what is legally known as "constructive discharge" and the right to sue an employer for illegal retaliation. In this case, highway maintenance worker Randy Tony was injured on the job and, when he filed a worker compensation claim, faced ridicule and hostility from his supervisors and was purposefully assigned work he was unable to perform given his injuries, forcing him to resign.
The Appeals Court ruled that when an employer creates "working conditions so intolerable as to force an employee to resign" in retaliation for exercising a statutory right such as filing for unemployment compensation, that employee should have the right to treat those actions as equivalent to being fired -- and have the legal recourse to sue under the law for retaliatory discharge.
The Supreme Court recently clarified  that under the federal Civil Rights Act, any downgrading of job quality against those who complain of discrimination is illegal retaliation. So, it would serve employees better if parallel state anti-discrimination legislation was clearer that retaliatory workplace abuse was grounds for enforcing rights against discrimination.
In recent years, a number of statutes have been proposed to clarify state law on retaliation. One of the most comprehensive was a proposed 2003 California bill, HB 1582 , which would have specified that it is unlawful to create an abusive workplace in retaliation against an employee who has opposed an unlawful employment practice or has made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in an investigation or proceeding against an employer.
With the U.S. personal savings rate falling to zero in 2005, with negative savings rates for many lower-income families, the Urban Institute reports  that existing government subsidies to encourage personal and pension savings go overwhelmingly to families making $50,000 or more annually. Worse, asset tests for welfare and education subsidies actively discourage savings by low-income families.
The Economic Policy Institute finds that a Slowing housing market contributes to downshift in job growth  as employment among residential contracting establishments has fallen by 25,000 jobs this year and even more lost jobs in ancillary job sectors connected to the housing sector.
A new Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report  details the good news that 2 million fewer children are uninsured since the SCHIP children's health insurance program was created in 1997, The bad news is that public programs have had to expand fast to make up for the fact that 1.4 million children have lost private health insurance in the same period- and 8.3 million children remain uninsured.
In Too Much to Ask: The States Simply Cannot Make Up for Federal Inaction on Stem Cell Research , the Center for American Progress finds that states are supporting stem cell research to the best of their abilities, but that greater federal support is needed for stem cell research to advance as strongly as it could.
NCSL: 50 State Summary of Emergency Contraception
Target Blackmails Chicago over Living Wage Law
ACORN: Action Alert: Tell Target that Hard Work Deserves Fair
Combatting Retaliatory Workplace Abuse
CA HB 1582 (2003 session) - California bill to
define retaliatory workplace abuse as violation of employee
Eye on the Right
While the FDA may finally allow women over-the-counter access to emergency contraception, progressives have been appalled for years at the stacking of FDA advisory committees with appointees hostile to basic scientific principles . And yet even when the FDA Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee voted overwhelmingly supported offering the "Plan B" emergency contraceptive over-the-counter, the FDA ignored the vote of the whole panel in favor of the advice of one Bush appointee, Dr. W. David Hager, a darling of the religious right whose views are rejected overwhelmingly by the scientific community.
Three Steps Forward
Two Steps Back
Events at NCSL  (Starred Events are Hosted by the Progressive States Network):
Monday, August 14
National Labor Caucus Annual Meeting
Lincoln D-E Room
Progressive States/AFL-CIO/AFT Reception
Tuesday, August 15
SEIU & NEA Dessert Reception
Wednesday, August 16
Progressive States Network Briefing
Jackson A/B, Level M
Thursday, August 17
NCSL Business Meeting -- Federal Min. Wage Resolution Gaylord Opryland Resort
Jobs & Internships
Progressive States' policy department is hiring for new policy positions and is also looking for interns. For details, visit the Jobs & Internships Page .
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