March 25, 2016, Rights Reading - Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

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March 25, 2016, Rights Reading

March 25, 2016

Growing movements

Our weekly roundup of what we’re reading: a few select articles from the front lines of human rights that we don’t want you to miss.

1.How can we fight Islamophobia in America?” by Erik K. Ward, Ford Foundation

“It’s clear that there has been a troubling rise in xenophobic political rhetoric, hate speech, and brazen incidents of violence against American Muslim, South Asian, and Arab communities in the United States. In the months following the peak of the Syrian refugee crisis, hate crimes against American Muslims tripled.”

This piece from the Ford Foundation’s program officer for gender, racial, and ethnic justice features highlights from “Confronting Islamophobia in America Today.” This conversation the foundation cohosted brought together leaders from the nonprofit, government, social service, and philanthropic sectors to discuss strategies to counter increased xenophobic and Islamophobic rhetoric and behavior. Participants shared their views on how to decrease such rhetoric and behavior, bolster intersectional responses, and support Muslim communities.

UUSC has a long history of fostering interfaith and intercultural understanding (at one time through the Building Bridges program) and is dedicated to continuing that, especially as some in the United States use the global refugee crisis to push forward bigoted views and policies. In April, look out for UUSC’s Refugee Support and Advocacy Tool Kit, which includes a section on ways you can counter Islamophobia. Contact Hannah Hafter, UUSC’s senior program leader for activism, at hhafter @ uusc.org if you would like to get on the distribution list for the tool kit.

2.U.S. top court rules against Tyson Foods in class action case,” by Lawrence Hurley, Reuters

“Workers at the meat-processing facility, which employs around 1,300 people, sued in 2007, claiming they were entitled to overtime pay and damages because they were not paid for time spent putting on and taking off protective equipment and walking to work stations.”

UUSC was happy to hear that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of workers yesterday in the Tyson v. Bouaphakeo case. The court ruled against Tyson, who was objecting to the use of statistics to determine liability in class action lawsuits. The case in particular involved workers from a Tyson plant in Iowa who were suing after not being paid for time they clearly worked.

Tyson has a bad track record in terms of treating its workers with respect. Arkansas poultry workers routinely face wage theft, poor safety conditions, discrimination, and harassment, according to a troubling report from UUSC partner the Northwest Arkansas Workers’ Justice Center that was released in conjunction with Tyson Foods’ shareholder meeting in Springdale, Ark. Learn more about the challenges poultry workers face, tell your friends and family.

3. “Water Affordability Is A New Civil Rights Movement in the United States,” by Brett Walton, Circle of Blue

“‘Where water infrastructure is crumbling are the places without the ability to absorb the cost increases,’ Stephen Gasteyer, a Michigan State University sociologist who studies water access, told Circle of Blue. ‘The people who were left in these cities are predominantly minorities. Where you see things falling apart are predominantly minority communities.’”

Circle of Blue is a hub for “relevant, reliable, and actionable on-the-ground information about the world’s resource crises.” Highlighting the work and voices of UUSC’s partners and our own Patricia Jones, this article outlines the growing movement for water affordability. Families across the United States —most in low-income communities of color — are being denied their human right to water because of soaring water rates. UUSC has been working with groups throughout the country — including the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization — on this issue and will be releasing a series of reports in the coming months to help move the human right to water forward.

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