Tag Archives: Discrimination

‘Enshrining Apartheid Into Law,’ Israeli Legislature Approves Bill Making Nation’s Palestinian Arabs Second-Class Citizens

“What a disaster. Literally the only good thing that can be said about this discriminatory law is that they took out the part that explicitly legalized segregation.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-19-2018

Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint List, a coalition of Israel’s four Arab-dominated political parties, said that with this new law, Israel has told Arabs “that we will always be second-class citizens.” (Photo: @AyOdeh/Twitter)

The Knesset, Israel’s legislature, provoked immediate outrage early Thursday when it passed a controversial law that critics within and beyond Israel have denounced as “an apartheid bill.” It proclaims “the state of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people” and “the actualization of the right of national self-determination in the state of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”

Following the 62-55 vote—with two abstentions—Arab lawmakers reportedly ripped up paper copies of the legislation in protest, then were forced to leave the Knesset hall. Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint List, a coalition of Israel’s four Arab-dominated political parties, said in a statement that Israel has “declared it does not want us here,” and that it “passed a law of Jewish supremacy and told us that we will always be second-class citizens.” Continue reading

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‘Kicking Off Black History Month,’ Trump Guts CFPB’s Ability to Curb Racial Discrimination by Banks

“These changes threaten effective enforcement of civil rights laws and increase the likelihood that people will continue to face discriminatory access and pricing as they navigate their economic lives.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 2-1-2018

Mick Mulvaney press conference about President Donald Trump’s budget plan. Screenshot: YouTube

In a move immediately condemned as yet another “shameful” effort by the Trump administration to roll back civil rights and reward big banks, the White House reportedly “stripped” a key Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) office of the power to take action against financial firms accused of breaking laws against racist lending practices.

Instead of enforcing anti-discrimination laws and penalizing criminal banks, the CFPB’s Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity will now be focused on “advocacy, coordination, and education,” according to an email sent to bureau employees by White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney, who was installed as the CFPB’s acting director by President Donald Trump over objections of consumer advocates.  Continue reading

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Trump’s “Blatantly Unconstitutional” Transgender Ban Blocked by Federal Judge

Ruling says that administration’s basis for ban does “not appear to be supported by any facts”

Written by Andrea Germanos, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 10-30-2017.

Demonstrators protest the Trump administration’s military transgender ban on July 26, 2017. (Photo: Ted Eytan/fickr/cc)

In a development hailed as a “HUGE step forward,” a federal judge on Monday blocked the Trump administration from enforcing its ban on transgender individuals serving in the U.S. armed forces.

“Today’s preliminary injunction is an important step in the ongoing efforts to protect transgender service members from the dangerous and discriminatory policies of Donald Trump and Mike Pence,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director at Human Rights Campaign.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly is in response to a legal challenge—Doe v. Trump—brought forth by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and GLBTQ Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) challenging the president’s directive.

Kollar-Kotelly said in her ruling that the plaintiffs’ claims “are highly suggestive of a constitutional violation,” as the presidential directive “punish[es] individuals for failing to adhere to gender stereotypes.” In addition, the ruling stated, “a number of factors—including the sheer breadth of the exclusion ordered by the directives, the unusual circumstances surrounding the president’s announcement of them [on Twitter], the fact that the reasons given for them do not appear to be supported by any facts, and the recent rejection of those reasons by the military itself” are evidence for blocking the ban.

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), which filed an amicus brief in the case, called the ruling “yet another setback for the discrimination administraion.”

“Again and again,” said NCTE executive director Mara Keisling, “our courts have been forced to step in and halt this administration’s unconstitutional and dangerous bigotry. As today’s ruling makes clear, this ban was never about military readiness—just like President Trump’s Muslim bans have never been about national security. This ban is about discrimination, plain and simple. We are grateful that the plaintiffs and thousands of other troops will be able to continue serving without the threat of discharge while this case proceeds.”

The ACLU also filed suit to challenge the directive, with oral arguments in that case set for next month.

Responding to Monday’s ruling, Joshua Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project, said, “This is the first decision striking down President Trump’s ban, but it won’t be the last.”

“The federal courts are recognizing what everyone already knows to be true: President Trump’s impulsive decision to ban on transgender people from serving in the military service was blatantly unconstitutional,” he continued. “As all of these cases move forward, we will continue to work to ensure that transgender service members are treated with the equal treatment they deserve.”

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Trump’s Mine-Safety Nominee Ran Coal Firm Cited for Illegal Employment Practices

Records show the coal mining company formerly run by David Zatezalo retaliated against a foreman who complained of harassment and unsafe conditions.

Written by  Robert Faturechi and published 10-17-2017 in Pro-Publica.

Fox in the Coal Mine: President Trump nominated David Zatezalo, the former chairman of Rhino Resources, to be an assistant secretary of Labor in charge of the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Zatezalo’s company was issued two “pattern of violations” letters from MSHA over safety issues at their mines in 2010 and 2011. Photo credit: OSMRE. Published by WhoWhatWhy.org

The coal mining company run by President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the nation’s top mining regulator has already come under criticism for weaknesses in its safety record. It turns out the company was also found by the government to have illegally retaliated against a foreman who complained about sexual and ethnic harassment from supervisors, unsafe conditions and drug use at one of its mines.

The little-noticed case involved a foreman at a mine operated by Rhino Energy WV. At the time, the president of the mine’s parent company, Rhino Resource Partners, was David Zatezalo, who is now Trump’s nominee to run the Mine Safety and Health Administration. A Senate committee is scheduled to vote on his nomination Wednesday.

In the West Virginia case, Michael Jagodzinski, a foreman at the mine located near the town of Bolt, complained in 2011 that he was the target of ethnic and gay slurs. The company illegally retaliated against him, falsely accusing him of sexual harassment, and then fired him, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found. As a result, Rhino Energy WV entered into a five-year consent decree last year, agreeing to pay $62,500 to Jagodzinski and implement reforms, including a policy against harassment and training for all managers and employees on prohibitions against discrimination and retaliation. The company also agreed to report how it handles any internal complaints of discrimination to federal regulators, and post notices about the settlement at all mine sites.

Zatezalo retired from Rhino in 2014. If confirmed to his new post, he would run an agency that is part of the Labor Department. It conducts regular inspections, trains the industry on best practices and levies penalties against mining companies for violations.

Democratic senators have questioned Zatezalo’s record in the industry, citing safety issues at mines he oversaw in West Virginia and Kentucky. One of his mines received two consecutive “pattern of violations” citations from the mining safety agency — a rare sanction used for repeat offenders.

Based on those citations, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who often throws his support behind the mining industry’s priorities, announced he would oppose Zatezalo’s confirmation, saying he is “not convinced” the former coal executive “is suited to oversee the federal agency that implements and enforces mine safety laws and standards.”

Zatezalo did not respond to a request for an interview about the harassment case. A spokeswoman for the mine safety administration declined to comment about the allegations.

The problems at the Bolt mine were brought to the attention of federal authorities by Jagodzinski. The EEOC ultimately found that the company engaged in “unlawful employment practices” starting in May 2011.

According to the government’s complaint, Jagodzinski faced a hostile work environment based on his Polish ancestry, including a barrage of insults and false allegations of workplace violations. The company allegedly allowed graffiti on the walls of the mine Jagodzinski supervised, with messages such as “Jag the fag.” Both supervisors and rank-and-file mine employees referred to Jagodzinski using that slur and “stupid Polack,” the EEOC said.

“Supervisory personnel failed to take action to stop the harassment or prevent it from recurring,” the government’s complaint reads. “Instead, supervisors participated in the harassment.”

A poster hung in the workplace likening Jagodzinski to a caveman, with the message: “JAG IS A FAG.” At one point, according to federal authorities, another employee took Jagodzinski’s phone and used it to take a photo of his own testicles.

“The harassment was open and obvious to supervisory personnel,” federal authorities found, “and supervisory personnel participated in the harassment.”

In a sworn deposition, Jagodzinski said managers used drugs on the job. In one case, he said managers tipped off the mine’s employees about an imminent drug test.

Jagodzinski said in an interview with ProPublica that the harassment started because he was trying to enforce workplace safety rules. “I was against them breaking rules and doing drugs and stealing,” Jagodzinski said. “Oxy, nerve pills, synthetic weed, smoking underground, snorting pills underground. This place was the absolute worst place I’d worked in my entire life.”

In a sworn deposition, a company executive said Zatezalo approved the termination, but denied that the company harassed Jagodzinski or fired him as retaliation. The company, he said, had strict policies against drug use.

“These people work in a confined space, underground in a confined space where large equipment moves. Any impairment to judgment is a very, very high risk, so we tolerate — we tolerated zero,” the executive said.

Court filings show Zatezalo was also scheduled to be deposed, but it appears the company agreed to settle with the government before he was interviewed under oath.

The consent decree followed other documented problems at Rhino, which at the end of 2011 operated 11 mines in four states, with a total of more than 1,000 workers. One mine, also near Bolt, was hit in 2010 with a “pattern of violations” letter from the mining agency, a sanction that according to the agency’s website is “reserved for mines that pose the greatest risk to the health and safety of miners, particularly those with chronic violation records.”

A few months later, rock from a wall in the same mine pinned and killed a miner. The mine was given a second “pattern of violations” letter, with the safety agency finding that the company had not maintained the safety improvements it made after the first letter.

In another instance, government regulators accused the company of alerting miners underground of an imminent agency inspection, which would have allowed workers to clean up any potential violations.

A review of regulatory filings by The Charleston Gazette-Mail found that during his career Zatezalo was listed as director of mining operations or as mine general manager during accidents that resulted in three mining deaths. He was a top officer at the time of a fourth death.

During a Senate confirmation hearing earlier this month, Zatezalo acknowledged that at times his local managers were “not doing what they should have been doing” and that in those cases, he replaced them. He said that if he was confirmed he wouldn’t weaken mine regulation.

“Inspections in the mines in the United States are a necessity,” he said.

Zatezalo began his mining career as a union laborer, before rising in the ranks to hold top positions at American Electric Power Coal and Rhino. He also helped lead coal advocacy associations in Ohio and Kentucky.

Zatezalo was not widely known nationally before he was nominated. In an interview with his hometown newspaper in Wheeling, West Virginia, Zatezalo said that industry contacts had urged him to come out of retirement and put his name in the running for the post. Among his backers, he said, were Robert Murray, the influential chairman of mining giant Murray Energy.

“There aren’t a lot of people in the industry I don’t know, and people said, ‘You’d be great for that position. I’m going to call Sen. (Mitch) McConnell and tell him he needs to support you for this,’” Zatezalo recalled.

Zatezalo later clarified and said he was not sure if Murray had lobbied on his behalf.

Jagodzinski, the mine foreman at the center of the government’s discrimination suit, said he has been stigmatized after being falsely fired for sexual harassment, and has had difficulty finding steady employment since.

“They ruined me, dude. I’ve lost everything,” he said in an interview. “And now I see Zatezalo’s going to run MSHA. I cannot believe it.”

This article is republished under a Creative Commons Share A-like License.

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Rights Groups Hold Emergency Protest vs. Looming ‘License to Discriminate’

‘Nothing could be more un-American’ than order protecting those with a religious objection to same-sex marriage, transgender people, and reproductive rights

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-3-2017

“By even considering this discriminatory order he has broken his promise to be a president for all Americans,” says Human Rights Campaign. (Photo: @HRC)

Rights groups protested outside the White House on Wednesday ahead of an anticipated executive order from the Trump administration—one they say is nothing more than a “license to discriminate.”

Politico reported Tuesday that President Donald Trump “has invited conservative leaders to the White House on Thursday for what they expect will be the ceremonial signing of a long-awaited—and highly controversial—executive order on religious liberty.” Continue reading

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Trump Seeks to Take Wrecking Ball to Division Between Church and State

Draft executive order ‘reads like the administration was challenged to see how many violations of the Bill of Rights can be contained in one policy change’

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 2-2-2017

A 2016 poll found two-thirds of Americans say churches and other houses of worship should not come out in favor of one candidate over another during political elections—but President Donald Trump wants to “destroy” the amendment that keeps it that way. (Photo: Peter Miller/flickr/cc)

President Donald Trump appears intent on demolishing the wall between church and state, telling an audience on Thursday that he will “totally destroy” an amendment that bars religious tax-exempt organizations from engaging in political activity—while his administration reportedly circulates a far-reaching draft executive order on “religious freedom” that effectively legalizes discrimination.

Trump told attendees at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday that he “will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution.” Continue reading

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With Call to Repeal ‘Hate Bill 2’, Thousands of Protesters Welcome Back NC Lawmakers

‘We cannot be silent in the face of this race-based, class-based, homophobic and trans-phobic attack on wage earners, civil rights, and the LGBTQ community.’

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-25-2016

A few of the plaintiffs in the federal court challenge brought by Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and the ACLU of North Carolina. (Photo: ACLU of North Carolina)

A few of the plaintiffs in the federal court challenge brought by Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and the ACLU of North Carolina. (Photo: ACLU of North Carolina)

As North Carolina’s General Assembly began its new session on Monday, it was greeted by tens of thousands of people calling for the repeal of the state’s much maligned anti-LGBTQ House Bill 2 (HB 2), passed during a one-day special session on March 23.

The legislation, which opponents say is unconstitutional, requires that transgender people use bathrooms that match the sex on their birth certificates, and forbids cities and counties from enacting their own ordinances to prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender people. Continue reading

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We Wish It Were A Small World, After All

If you have ever wondered how children see the world, wonder no more. But listen to the message and then wonder why things have to be so complicated.

The only comment we wish to make is that this remarkable child would not be possible were it not for parents that focused on his different abilities. Their way of letting Grant perceive his world truly shows what good parenting is all about. Grant speaks for himself in such a way that we need make no comment regarding him.

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Why Only a Month?

Author Unknown [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Author Unknown [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

February is known as Black History Month. We hear politicians proclaim that we live in a “post racial society” in this country, and everything is as balanced as it can be. Caucasians take comfort in knowing anti-discrimination and equality laws have given them a blind excuse to pay no attention to the people who would say otherwise.

But they are wrong. Open discrimination, racial profiling, preferences in education and employment opportunities and staggering statistics prove we are at an all-time high in our actual racial misconceptions. Here’s a few statistics to prove the point:

  • In 2012, four percent of whites ages 16 to 24 were not enrolled in school and had not completed high school, compared with nine percent of blacks and 13 percent of Hispanics. Source: Child Trends Data Bank
  • African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population. and are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites. Together, African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately one quarter of the US population.   Source: NAACP
  • According to a recent study conducted by the Institute on Assets and Social Policy (IASP) at Brandeis University, “The wealth disparity between white and black households has more than quadrupled, regardless of income bracket.” Source: Madame Noire
  • The unemployment rate among blacks is about double that among whites, as it has been for most of the past six decades. Source: Pew Research

This is just the tip of the iceberg. What is important is that while we celebrate our progress since the Civil Rights era, we need to pause and question what this current period of our history should be called in retrospect. When future generations ask if we did all we could, how can we say yes with the current status quo being what it is?

I have always thought of Rosa Parks, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall and the Little Rock Nine as being heroes, among many, many others – worthy of respect and high esteem. We now add names like Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis and George Stinney to this list. How long will the list become?

Occupy World Writes believes all Americans need to be more colorblind. We believe the future of Black History Month might include a whole bunch of white folks drinking some humble tea and seeing people as people, not as segments of the population based on skin color. We hope it comes sooner rather than later.

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