Friday, October 20, 2006

Lynne Fox of UNITE/HERE receives Philaposh Award

The following is a transcript of a presentation made by Kathy Black to Lynne Fox, Business Manager for UNITE/HERE, Philadelphia Joint Board, the largest garment workers’ and hospitality industry union. Lynne is a feminist, and one of the strongest, smartest, most accomplished women in the Pennsylvania labor movement. The occasion was the annual awards night for Philaposh, the Philadelphia Area Project on Occupational Safety and Health. Lynne received an award named for Tony Mazzocchi, the leading labor advocate for safe workplaces in the 20th century. He was the motivating force behind establishment of the Occupational Health & Safety Act and Administration. He was a prominent leader in OCAW (Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers), and worked closely with Karen Silkwood, famous whistleblower who was killed while trying to expose the nuclear industry’s unsafe workplaces.

Intro of Lynne Fox, Tony Mazzocchi Award
Philaposh Awards Night, October 20, 2006

It is my great honor and pleasure to present the Tony Mazzocchi Award to one of the most prominent and respected women labor leaders in our state, and Philaposh’s new fundraising champion - thank you very much - Lynne Fox of UNITE/HERE.

We all know Lynne, but as I looked over her resume I found a couple surprises in her background. Apparently she had other dreams as a young woman. Her Bachelors degree from Penn State is in Foreign Service and International Relations - usually considered preparation for a career that would take you very far from the Philadelphia labor movement, in more than just physical distance. Who knew she once aspired to be a member of the diplomatic corps!
She did leave Philly for a bit, but then returned to graduate from Temple Law School in 1984. She practiced law with two local firms for the next ten years, (Think they are well represented here tonight and in our ad book) but then succumbed to the call of the family business. Maybe unionism is in the genes; and certainly she was thoroughly schooled as a girl about the dignity of all workers and the righteousness of our social and economic justice movement that advances and defends workers’ rights. That schooling came from her famous father, the long time business manager of ACTWU and renowned Philadelphia labor leader, John Fox - who is here with us tonight. (Applause please for the many great contributions John made to our labor movement.)

Lynne joined UNITE as General Counsel in 1999 and worked her way up to Manager, a position she has served in since 1999. Her bio in the program tells you about some of her many other leadership positions, so I won’t repeat them. I will add though, that she is a longtime member and strong supporter of other labor constituency groups, including A. Philip Randolph Institute, the Jewish Labor Committee and CLUW (Coalition of Labor Union Women), and a former honoree of CLUW, and of organizations that work for cures for multiple sclerosis, breast and cervical cancer. She’s been a champion fundraiser for all of those causes too.
And of course, Lynne has long been a supporter of Philaposh as well. And no wonder. The workers represented by UNITE do a lot of seriously dangerous, difficult work - from the extreme heat and steam of the laundries, to the textile dust of the garment shops, to the life and limb threatening machinery industry-wide. Lynne has long recognized the importance of safety and health issues for workers, and the protections that can be provided through a union contract and a unified labor movement.

Most recently, Lynne’s been the local leader of UNITE/HERE’s new "Hotel Workers’ Rising!" campaign. If you go to the campaign’s excellent website - and you should go to it, by the way, and sign up for their action alerts , - you’ll see that health and safety issues are front and center on their home page. Many might view hotel housekeeping as little more than extra housework, but the speed-up, and the increasing demand of hotel guests for more and more amenities, bigger beds and heavier luxury linens are all leading to record injury rates and disabling conditions for these mostly minority and immigrant women. And I believe you’ll be hearing from them directly in a few minutes too.

On this campaign, and on so many others, Lynne has been a passionate, compassionate and savvy leader. She is a terrific role model, admired and beloved by her members, her staff, and her colleagues past and present. She is also a devoted wife and mother of three school age kids. Truthfully, we don’t see Lynne at a lot of evening labor events. Her days are pressure packed, and her responsibilities huge, and she gives them her all during business hours. But she makes sure she’s home most nights with her family, and in this too she is a great role model, performing admirably that precarious balancing act between work and family.

Tony Mazzocchi was smart, passionate, fearless, and totally committed to workers’ rights, and especially their right to a safe and healthy workplace. Lynne too exemplifies all those terrific qualities, and so it is entirely appropriate that she be presented with Philaposh’s annual award made in Tony’s name. Congratulations, Lynne.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

PA NOW opposes amendments to CARE bill that allow hospitals to opt out of providing emergency contraception (EC) to rape victims.

From JOANNE L. TOSTI-VASEY, Ph.D., President of Pennsylvania NOW

PA NOW opposes religious facilities exemption in SB 990
Harrisburg, PA October 18, 2006: Pennsylvania NOW opposes the current version of SB 990—also known as the Compassionate Assistance for Rape Emergencies or CARE bill. Our opposition stems from the fact that the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee gutted the original intent of the CARE bill by adding amendments that allow hospitals to opt out of providing emergency contraception (EC) to rape victims.
The original version of the bill appropriately guaranteed all rape victims information and immediate access to emergency contraception when they presented themselves at a health care facility. The current version (SB 990, PN 2109) allows health care facilities to opt out of providing EC. As amended, this bill will deny a rape victim the right to access legal, necessary and time-sensitive medications for herself should the woman need and want this medication.
Recently a woman in Lebanon County was denied emergency contraception from a hospital emergency room due to doctor’s alleged religious scruples. She was denied this medication even when her mother called the hospital back and specifically asked for the medication for her daughter.
The mother of this woman could not be here today; she sent a statement that she asked me to read to the press. (Note: The statement expressed her outrage at the lack of complete information and medication provision by both the doctor and the hospital when they refused to provide emergency contraception information and medication to her daughter because of a religiously-based policy. She then went on to say that no sexual assault victim should experience this kind of treatment.)
Incidences such as this should never happen again. If, however, the religious exemption clause remains and the bill passes in its current form, the original intent of the bill will be destroyed.
EC is an important, safe and legal medication that all women should have access to if needed and requested by the woman.
Does a hospital corporate board’s policies trump the necessary medical and healthcare needs of a rape victim? Should she be denied information and access to Emergency Contraception — which, just like penicillin — could be a life saver? The answer is NO!
The woman needs to make this decision for herself. And the only way she can make a fully informed decision is to have full information and access to emergency contraception in a timely manner.
Pennsylvania NOW therefore recommends that the PA Senate remove the amendments made in committee, revert to the original version of the bill, and then pass the CARE bill without any religious exemption clause.
Only in that way will the CARE bill protect all women across the Commonwealth from a pregnancy that resulted from a rape. Otherwise this bill should be tabled and die.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Our Disappearing Right to Vote

From Louise Francis:

The day after election day, 2004, we woke up to news that 1) George Bush won the election for president and 2) the night before exit polls had predicted a landslide for Kerry. As pointed out by Mark Crispin Miller in Fooled Again, in most countries a significant discrepancy between exit polls and election results is generally considered evidence of tampering with the vote. In contrast, on the day after the elections, the media was replete with post-hoc assessments of the flaws in the exit polling procedures (i.e., democrats were differentially interviewed or were more likely to report how they voted). Indeed, the major polling organizations decided to abandon polling in future presidential elections. After a couple of days the issue disappeared from the newspapers and we all went about our business, assured that George Bush had won the presidency, and this time, even carried the popular vote. However, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania has put together some compelling statistics indicating that the discrepancy between exit polls and actual votes could not have happened by chance: they were evidence of systematic, widespread problems on election day intended to deprive voters of their right to vote. Now, two years after the election, coverage of what probably was a seriously tainted election is starting to appear, but it is not yet on the major networks (although Lou Dobbs of CNN covers the issue of voting machine malfunctions and voter fraud regularly). For instance Robert Kennedy Jr. writes in Rolling Stone “Across the country, Republican election officials and party stalwarts employed a wide range of illegal and unethical tactics to fix the election. A review of the available data reveals that in Ohio alone, at least 357,000 voters, the overwhelming majority of them Democratic, were prevented from casting ballots or did not have their votes counted in 2004(12) -- more than enough to shift the results of an election decided by 118,601 votes.” (

Shortly after the elections, Congressman Conyers convened hearings about the electoral shenanigans that took place in Ohio, and the results were published in What Went Wrong in Ohio: The Conyers Report on the 2004 Presidential Election. If you have a constitution that can tolerate reading about all the outrages that were committed in Ohio, I recommend the book (the report is in fact available for free on the internet, but you can also buy a paperbound copy from any major book retailer). The campaign to deny voters the right to vote in Ohio began before the elections, when Secretary of State Blackwell issued arbitrary rulings intended to frustrate the effort to register voters. For instance, if a registration was not supplied on white uncoated paper of not less than 80lb. text weight it was rejected (at least if it was a democratic registrations). Republican groups running voter registration drives were reported to have been seen shredding Democratic registrations. On election day, there were not enough voting machines in Democratic wards, where people stood on line for 5 hours (if they could last that long) in order to vote. However, machines were plentiful and lines short in Republican wards. The Republican party also engaged in a practice dubbed “caging” where targeted at newly registered voters in minority areas. The sent registered letters to the voters, and if they refused to sign them, the Republican operatives challenged the legitimacy of the person’s right to vote. On and after election day, more outrages were perpetuated. There were widespread allegations that machines had been tampered with. Among them, during a post election recount in one county, hand counts failed to match machine counts by a significant margin twice. A repair technician was summoned, and a hand count compared to the machine count of the “repaired” machine. It was deemed sufficiently close, so the rest of the “recount” was conducted by machine and a vote that was likely seriously in error, was validated.

Lest you think Ohio, a decisive state in the election, was the only one with voting fraud and voter suppression problems, I can assure you that this was not the case. Moreover, minority groups such as African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans were often targeted. In South Dakota, while Bush had a significant lead in the presidential election, a close senatorial race was taking place. Among the shenanigans, Republican party operatives harassed Native American voters by following them out of the polling place and writing down their license numbers and by photographing them. Flyers were circulated in white districts that said “the dogs are lining up to vote for Daschel (the Democrat).” The reference connecting “dogs” to Native Americans was related to a dispute between farmers and Native Americans over handling an overpopulation of prairie dogs.

Numerous activities are under way to address the problems of voting fraud and suppression. Among them are initiatives in Pennsylvania to require paper verification of the vote actually cast. It should be noted that a number of studies, including a GAO study, has found the new electronic voting machines to be error prone and subject to manipulation and security breaches. In fact, the old lever machines, which due to heavy lobbying by the manufacturers of electronic voting machines are widely being replaced, are among the most effective and accurate voting equipment. With a high profile senatorial campaign in our state, a campaign that threatens to unseat an important right-wing Republican senator, the importance of a clean and problem – free election is crucial this fall. Activists are also hoping to wake the media from its slumber and get it to begin covering the issue. Check out the web site for resources on this issue and information on how you can help.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Nightmare on American Street: Right to Choose Denied

Nightmare on American Street: Right to Choose Denied
A haunted house & performance

Enter if you DARE! Nightmare on American Street will be a terrifying eye-opener, depicting the real hell of women in the US who simply wish to have a safe legal abortion.

While public attention has focused on the basic legality of abortion under Roe v. Wade, for thousands of poor women, young women and rural women, Roe is nothing more than an empty promise.

Take our frightening tour to learn about the plight of these women! Bring your join us on Friday October 27, 7-10 pm or Saturday October 28, 7-9 pm at 829-851 N. American Street in Northern Liberties .

Help us fight to make reproductive choice a reality for every woman and mark the 30th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment - the Congressional rider that made abortion a near impossibility for low-income women.

FREE and open to the public.
Friday October 27, 7-10 pm or Saturday October 28, 7-9 pm
829-851 N. American Street in Northern Liberties
PG-13 - some material not suitable for children.

Sponsored by the Women’s Medical Fund,


Join the Sister Study and help researchers find the causes of breast cancer!

The Coalition of Labor Union Women recently teamed up with the Sister Study, sponsored by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health. It is the nation's largest research effort to find the causes of breast cancer. The study's objective: to recruit 50,000 women between the ages of 35 and 74 with a sister (living or deceased) who has had breast cancer. The women who join the Sister Study must never have been diagnosed with breast cancer themselves.
As the United States marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, researchers still don't understand what causes the disease. Doctors know very little about how the environment may affect breast cancer. The Sister Study has successfully recruited more than 27,000 participants, but more volunteers are needed.

For many, participation is a way to honor their sisters. "My sister, Susan, died from breast cancer just 16 days before her 40th birthday," says CLUW Pennsylvania State Vice Pres. Barbara Barnes, a member of the plumbers and sprinkler fitters' union. "I was with her when she died, and I had accepted that the only way for her to escape her pain was to leave her painful body." The loss of her little sister devastated Barbara, who joined the study in Susan's memory and has poured time and energy into enrolling other women.

Breast cancer affects women from every walk of life, so the Sister Study is seeking women of all backgrounds, occupations, ages, and ethnic groups. CLUW is the only national organization of union women, and this collaboration opens the door to the broad diversity of unions and jobs represented in our membership. A program at our September National Executive Board meeting brought an enthusiastic response.

The 10-year study begins with participants answering questions about diet, jobs, hobbies, and things they've been exposed to throughout their lives -- to determine what may influence breast cancer risk. Later, a female health technician will collect small samples of blood, urine, toenail clippings, and house dust, to provide researchers with a better picture of the woman's environment and genes. Women who join are not asked to take any medicine, visit a medical center, or make changes to their habits, diet, or daily life. The survey is currently available in English and Spanish. There is a great need to reach women in the African American, Asian, Latina and Native American communities as well as senior women.

"With all the myths and misperceptions circulating about women's health, CLUW is pleased to lend our organizational clout to provide accurate information," says CLUW Pres. Marsha Zakowski.

For more information contact Carol Rosenblatt, CLUW's Executive Director, at 202-508-6951 or at or visit To volunteer contact the Sister Study at 1-877-4Sister or For Spanish, visit The Deaf/Hard of Hearing number is 1-866-TTY-4SIS.

We can't excuse violence against women

From JOANNE L. TOSTI-VASEY, Ph.D., President of Pennsylvania NOW

We can't excuse violence against women
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
On Sept. 27, a man in Colo rado took several girls hostage in a high school and sexually assaulted them before shooting one. Then on Oct. 2, a 32-year old man walked into an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania and shot and wounded 10 girls; at least five have died.

In one instance, young girls were sexually assaulted; in the other, the shooter spoke about wanting to molest girls. In both, girls were the targets of the shootings. And again in both instances, reports indicate that the men perpetrating the violence against these girls may have been mentally ill.

These two instances also show evidence of two major social problems. First, we live in a culture of violence. Women and girls are often the target. Second, there is a lack of comprehensive mental health care and mental health insurance coverage. This denies people with mental illness the needed care and services that might have prevented such attacks as the ones on these young girls as well as the deaths of the female victims and of the alleged mentally ill perpetrators.

Attitudes, behaviors and policies need to be changed to help prevent future tragedies such as these. Attitudes toward violence, particularly violence against women, need to be critically examined. People need to speak out, tolerance needs to be taught and people need to be trained at the local level on how to deal with potential violence. Better training and coordination of services related to both mental health and domestic violence in all communities would help reduce these types of events. And the public at large needs to have information on local services so that they can immediately call the appropriate professionals whenever they believe that there may be a potential problem.

As a community, we each need to watch out and care for our neighbors. Polices to provide health care coverage, including mental health care, for everyone needs to be reviewed and implemented. Programs that track people with a history of violence across jurisdictions would also help in determining if a person's level of violence is escalating.

We cannot excuse this violent, negative behavior. Nor can we continue to avoid addressing the challenges of those afflicted with mental illness. And we have an equally important, moral obligation to provide a safe and nurturing environment for our young boys and girls. Until we address these issues of health care coverage and attitudes toward women and girls, this will not happen. SPEAK OUT. Learn what's available to assist your community. And teach your children tolerance.

Pennsylvania NOW extends our sympathy and condolences to everyone in West Nickel Mines and Bailey, Colo.

JOANNE L. TOSTI-VASEY, Ph.D., is President of Pennsylvania NOW, Inc., Bellefonte.

©2006 The Patriot-News
© 2006 All Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 06, 2006

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

From CLUW President and Phila NOW Vice-President, Kathy Black:

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Read on for an interesting perspective about the most recent horror in the news. Consider donating to a local domestic violence agency - Women Against Abuse is the one CLUW has partnered with the most, but there are others, including Lutheran Settlement House, Women In Transition, Women Organized Against Rape.

Women Against Abuse celebrated 30 years of service to women and children victims of domestic violence last night. CLUW donated and attended. We encourage our members to donate individually, and or volunteer, as well.
In Sisterhood,
Kathy Black

There’s a label for girls’ deaths

To reach Mike Hendricks, call (816) 234-7708 or send e-mail to

The story that touched our hearts this week was about 10 little girls shot point-blank in Pennsylvania’s Amish country.

Not 10 children, as some news reports put it. But 10 girls. The shooter wanted to harm only the girls.

Does it strike you as curious — the way it did me — that more wasn’t made of that?

Had he singled out and shot 10 black men or 10 Jews or 10 gays or 10 of almost any other group, we’d be calling it a hate crime — whether it fit the legal definition or not.

And on the talk shows and in the newspapers, wouldn’t the question have been asked over and over, “What causes such intolerance, bigotry and bitter resentment against one type of people?”

But the shooter at Nickel Mines, Pa., singled out his victims based on gender. And I found only one article that used the term “hate crime,” and it said that the killings merely “followed the pattern” of a hate crime.

Gee, you mean like the crime committed a week earlier in Bailey, Colo., when a sex offender burst into another school, singled out the girls, then molested them and killed one before turning the gun on himself — that kind of hate crime?

Or any number of other killings, rapes and beatings committed by males against females purely because they were female?

We didn’t hear the Nickel Mines story framed that way. Instead, the first question was, “Did he have a grudge against the Amish?”

And when the answer turned out to be “no, the Amish were simply convenient victims,” public discussion turned to the peculiarities of the case. To the spread of school violence. To the need for gun control.

Hard saying why the broader theme of violence against women didn’t come up more.

Certainly, the National Organization for Women saw it that way. The group has been trying for years to pass legislation that would make gender-based violence part of hate-crime laws.

“Every woman saw this and said, ‘Oh, my God, ” they sent all the boys away and targeted all the girls,’ NOW President Kim Gandy told me Thursday.

Maybe it’s because we so often hear of crimes perpetrated by men against women that it tends to wash over us. We see the killer in Pennsylvania as just one more sicko taking out his anger on the opposite gender, rather than as a pattern of violence.

That’s what women’s groups and advocates for victims of domestic violence have been saying for years.

Too many of us would rather isolate crimes against women, rather than look at them the way many women do — as just more evidence that they are victims of hatred by men in general.

It’s easier than facing the fact that there’s a sickness in this society in need of a cure.

What that cure is, I don’t know.

A starting point would be to recognize misogyny for what it is. And then to give its victims names.

That’s the purpose of a report issued this week by the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence.

You can read “Beyond Statistics: Lethal Domestic and Sexual Violence Against Women” by going online at .pdf.

But be forewarned. If you’re like me, it’ll make you depressed and angry as you read the names, ages and circumstances of 21 women murdered by their husbands and boyfriends over the past two years in Kansas.

Every story is different. But like those schoolgirls in Pennsylvania, as a group it’s clear why these women were singled out for death.

They just happened to have been born female.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Phila NOW set up a PAC several years ago with the goal of electing strong feminists to local offices. Many of the candidates we’ve supported who are not tied into the local Democratic Party have had a tough time gaining support.

Phila NOW has been part of a coalition to try to open up the process. Not only do progressives not allied with party operatives have difficulty getting support, the Party will sometimes tacitly support local Republicans rather than progressive Democrats.

There has been some discussion on about local Democratic Party’s refusal to seriously challenge Republican legislators. I contributed an account of Democrats lack of support for one of our own, Tammy Gavitt:

Perzel is not the only Republican tacitly supported by the local Democratic party. Phila NOW member Tammy Gavitt planned to run against John Taylor. She was concerned about the deterioration of her neighborhood, the lack of services to people in her district, the unresponsiveness of politicians.

Tammy started doing all the right things—going door to door, raising money early in the game. Also, she had lived in the district a long time and was born in the adjacent district in Fishtown. She had deep roots in the community which counts for a lot in Philly politics. Finally, the district is majority Democratic and demographics are changing, so Tammy thought unseating Taylor was doable.

Tammy was relatively new to electoral politics, but had a long history as an activist. She had become a committeeperson and worked hard to get out the vote and provide constituent services. This is what Councilman Kenney advised today—get involved in party politics, “don't approach the politics as inherently evil.”

However, her work as a committeeperson didn’t count for much. When she declared her intention to enter the race, she was very surprised by the lack of support from the Democratic Party operatives in her district. In the course of working on her campaign, I was told by a local ward leader, that in that district, “they don’t really think about whether somebody is a Democrat or Republican. What counts is where you went to high school, who your buddies are, who your relatives are.” Tammy was clearly out of the loop.

See Oct.3 Inquirer article, “Family tradition a key to city office” at

Also, Tammy was taken aback that a local labor union she had worked with organizing demonstrations against Wal-mart also seemed happy with Taylor and not interested in supporting her. Taylor had voted their way on a few key issues but Democratic control of the house would do far more to advance the agenda of organized labor (and the interests of the people organized labor represents) than a few crumbs from Taylor.

Tammy had a lot to offer (young, progressive, committed) but she wasn’t from a political family, wasn’t part of the byzantine world of local Democratic politics. She didn’t have a lot of personal money or wealthy contributors and therefore could not quit her job to run for office. The local reform network was in its very early stages, so there wasn’t a network to substitute for the Democratic party structure.
She decided it wasn’t fair to her supporters to continue a campaign which looked hopeless, so she decided to close the campaign and returned the money to her contributors (I wonder how many candidates have done that.)

One of you young progressives out there should consider taking on John Taylor. How are the Democrats ever going to take back the house when the Democratic Party allows majority Democratic districts to be represented by Republicans?????