Archive | September, 2010

Take Action: Ask Senator Kohl to Sponsor Paycheck Fairness Now!

27 Sep

In this economic downturn, there is nothing more urgently needed than helping families bring home fair wages. Unfortunately, a pernicious wage gap remains between women and men doing the same job, making this hard time even more difficult. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau women, on average, make only 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man. For women of color, the wage gap is even wider.

The Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 182), a much needed update to the Equal Pay Act of 1963, sits in the U.S. Senate and is poised for passage. The Equal Pay Act was intended to ensure equal pay for equal work, but over time, because of weak remedies and loopholes in the law, significant disparities in pay persist. The Paycheck Fairness Act would give employees the legal tools they need to finally close the wage gap.

With just a few days remaining to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act in this Congress, we need Senator Kohl to act now. Senator Feingold is already a sponsor and we want Wisconsin’s Senators to both support this important bill.

In Washington D.C., toll-free – 1-877-667-6650

Appleton – (920) 738-1640

Eau Claire – (715) 832-8424

La Crosse – (608) 796-0045

Madison – (608) 264-5338

Milwaukee – (414) 297-4451

The bill already passed the U.S. House of Representatives with bipartisan support and now has 40 co-sponsors in the Senate—more than it has ever had in any previous Congress. President Obama, Vice President Biden and other senior members of the administration have announced their support for this important legislation, citing the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act as an important step towards the economic security of women and our nation’s families. And when recently polled, 84% of American voters expressed support for a new law to create more avenues for women to receive fair wages.

We need our Senators to act now, which means they need to hear from you.

For the ACLU of Wisconsin members across the state who received this action alert last week and called Senator Kohl to ask him to co-sponsor this bill, thank you! Didn’t receive the action alert? Sign up today to get the civil liberties news and action alerts that impact the residents and legislators in Wisconsin.

HOWL Film a Hit In Milwaukee – Answers the Question, "What Are Angel-Headed Hipsters?"

17 Sep

Over sixty people were unable to get seats to the “HOWL” film in Milwaukee Wednesday night. The sold-out event was filled to capacity with people who enjoyed a special advanced screening of the feature film about Allen Ginsberg’s poem and obscenity trial.

“The movie was an excellent blend of a depiction of the trial, an interview with Ginsberg as a monologue by Franco, and a staging of the first public reading of the poem,” said ACLU of Wisconsin staffer Marion Ecks. “I liked how it combined animation and film in a creative and moving way. The cast did an excellent job and Franco really captured Ginsburg’s manners and voice.”

The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation co-presented the event along with the Woodland Pattern Book Center, the Milwaukee Public Library, Milwaukee LGBT Film Festival and the UW-Milwaukee Libraries. ACLU staff and volunteers were on hand to meet fellow card-carrying members (who got a discounted ticket price) and give updates about our activities in the state. We met librarians, faculty, activists and local politicians who seemed to all have a story to share about a beloved, challenged book or a civil liberties issue they cared about.

“It was a bit of a love fest for literary folks, book lovers, poets, Beat fans and libertarians,” said staffer Angie Vasquez. “I got to meet the Kenosha-area author of “Dharma Lion: A Critical Biography of Allen Ginsberg,” Michael Schumacher, who led a Q & A after the film. Raised in Milwaukee, Schumacher went to parochial school and when his teachers said ‘don’t read this book, “Howl,”’ he went out and bought it right away and became a life-long fan of the Beat Generation. What a story.”

Vasquez was a part of the program before the film started. She thanked the audience and told them that we were excited to be a part of the evening, especially since the ACLU played such an important role in defending HOWL in the trial. She read a segment of Ginsberg’s work which is also used as an example of the power of poetry in a workshop Vasquez presented at last year’s Youth Social Justice Forum in Milwaukee.

She reminded the crowd that the ACLU of Wisconsin will be recognizing Banned Books Week at an event at the Woodland Pattern Book Center on the evening of October 1st. A Banned Books Week happy hour will happen in Madison on October 1st at Mickey’s Tavern. “HOWL” will have selected release dates across the country this fall including in Madison at the Sundance Theater on October 29th.

“HOWL” is just one of the controversial works the ACLU has defended in court. Read more about the history of the ACLU’s work to defend banned books.

Happy ACLU Day! Ninety Years, Taycheedah Prison Conditions, Banned Books and More…

15 Sep

Happy ACLU day!
In NYC, Mayor Bloomberg issued a proclamation honoring the American Civil Liberties Union’s 90th anniversary. It’s a proclamation worth reading because it summarizes the long-term work for basic equality and protections for Americans by the ACLU. What a great milestone: our members and supporters all know that defending civil rights takes time, but the ACLU continues to take the long view to work for justice.

ACLU of WI Update
Here in Wisconsin, we’re getting geared up for Banned Books Week. Listen in on a 20-minute interview on WORT-FM with ACLU of Wisconsin Madison Community Advocate Stacy Harbaugh talking about Banned Books Week plans, our legal victory for equal and adequate health care at the Taycheedah women’s prison, the work to support public schools in implementing comprehensive sex ed and more. The interview was a part of WORT’s commitment to spotlighting organizations like the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation which are members of Community Shares of Wisconsin which provides fundraising and support for organizations dedicated to addressing social, economic, and environmental problems through grassroots activities, advocacy, research, and public education.
** One correction: the Madison Banned Books Week happy hour will be on Friday, October 1st. See below.

Tonight in Milwaukee, the ACLU of Wisconsin is co-presenting the feature film HOWL starring James Franco. The film will play at the UWM Union Theatre, 2nd level, 2200 E. Kenwood Blvd., 7:00 p.m. and ACLU members will get a discount on their movie tickets. The special advanced screening of HOWL depicts the life of Allen Ginsberg including Ginsberg’s arrest and prosecution for obscenity. Ginsberg was successfully defended by the ACLU in 1957 in this historic defense of a banned book. The ACLU of Wisconsin joins the Milwaukee LGBT Film Festival, the Woodland Pattern Book Center, the Milwaukee Public Library, Milwaukee Film and the UWM Libraries as co-presenters of this event in preparation for the 2010 Banned Books Week (September 25 – October 2) and the Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival (October 21 – 24). For more information about the Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival and HOWL admission cost, visit their website. You can view the trailer of the film on line or read more about the HOWL trial on the ACLU website.

Banned Books Week is coming up! Join us for these events:
October 1 , 2010 – Happy Hour: Banned Books Week kick-off
Mickey’s Tavern, 1524 Williamson St., 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., Madison
A part of the Wisconsin Book Festival’s line up, this celebration of the right to read will bring together readers, librarians and book defenders to socialize and hear some of the stories behind the most challenged books in Wisconsin and across the country this year. Join us for this free, fun event. RSVP for the event on Facebook and invite your friends.

October 1, 2010 – Banned Book Reading
Woodland Pattern Book Center, 720 E. Locust St., 6:30 p.m. reception, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. program, Milwaukee
Join the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation, Woodland Pattern Book Center, the Wisconsin Center for the Book and Art Night Books for a reading of challenged or banned works of art. Readers will be announced soon. To co-sponsor the event or to donate funds to help provide food and beverages, contact or call 414-272-4032 x 11. To see pictures of last year’s event, visit our blog.

Privacy Rights: Selling a Book to a Resale Shop in Greenfield? "Say Cheese!"

14 Sep

The City of Greenfield Common Council approved a ordinance in April that puts the civil liberties of sellers of books and CDs to resale shops in jeopardy. While it may be well-intentioned, Greenfield’s ordinance (PDF) threatens the privacy rights of anyone trying to sell a long list of used items, including books and CDs, at commercial, resale establishments.

Common Council resolution No. 2695 re-wrote the pawnbrokers’ ordinance. It requires all types of secondhand article dealers to electronically record information in a database about used items and the people who sold the items to the store. The stores would then have to report this information daily to the Greenfield Police. And most troubling from a civil liberties perspective, the merchants have to take photographs of the seller and provide them to police as well.

The ACLU of Wisconsin is concerned that the new ordinance treats all sellers as potential criminals even though there is no particular suspicion that they have done anything wrong and there apparently is little, if any, evidence that the items they are selling (like used books, exercise equipment or baby clothes) are items that are typically “fenced.” It is especially troubling that “expressive materials,” such as used books or films on DVD or video, when sold will result in a record of the sellers’ tastes and opinions.

The Greenfield Common Council is likely to take another look at this new ordinance as soon as the Tuesday, September 21, 2010 meeting at 7:00 p.m. Check the council’s online calendar for the meeting’s agenda and location. Alders have heard complaints from area businesses and need to hear from residents about why this ordinance is too broad to implement.

For residents of Greenfield, please contact Mayor Michael Neitzke and your Council member to encourage them to amend the ordinance so that it will not threaten civil liberties. The City Clerk’s Office can provide you with the name of your alderperson and their contact information. Contact the City’s Clerk’s Office at 414-329-5219. You can find a complete listing of alderpersons online.

Email us at liberty@aclu-wi.orgif you have contacted your alder and he or she is willing to fix this overboard and intrusive ordinance.

Merrill School Board Stands Up For Healthy Youth

10 Sep

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin would like to send three cheers to the Merrill school board and the Mauston’s school district’s Human Growth and Development Advisory Committee for affirming that fact-based, comprehensive sexuality education should be taught in their local classrooms. The Merrill school board and Mauston’s board committee made decisions that will help young people in their district get the information and life skills they need to make healthy choices throughout their lives.

We look forward to the final approval of comprehensive sexuality education by the Mauston School District on September 20th as well as in the Wonewoc-Center, New Lisbon and Royall schools. These Juneau County schools received a memo from our legal department on Tuesday, September 7th refuting the claims by county district attorney Scott Southworth that teachers who provide a comprehensive human growth and development curriculum at their school could face prosecution.

Everyone can agree that our schools should make sure students get a quality education. After the passage of the Healthy Youth Act this year (find a PDF of the law online), schools will be held to a higher standard for helping young people get the facts about reproduction and health. This standard of instruction is important for the public health of Wisconsin communities, large and small.

Some community members in districts that are currently considering their options in regard to sex ed have expressed concerns with parts of the law that mention non-discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender students and the law’s inclusion of the proper use of contraception. These concerns may be based on misinformation.

The law says that instruction must be non-discriminatory: teachers who use gender-neutral language or who don’t assume that all students in their classrooms are heterosexual are better able to effectively teach everyone in their class. And the proper use of contraception isn’t like a doctor’s visit: students should have basic instruction that is right for their age, that includes why and when people use contraception, and shares the facts about how contraceptive options work.

Parents and schools should remember that opt-out provisions still exist in the Healthy Youth Act. Parents who do not want their children to learn about contraception have the right to review the curriculum and work with their school to make alternate arrangements for their student. Schools should provide an adequate alternative lesson plan that ensures that the student will be treated with equality, dignity and respect for non-participation on that day.

Schools that have not yet confirmed that they will be teaching sex ed with a comprehensive, fact-based model have until September 30th to let parents know what will be taught. The Department of Public Instruction has excellent resources for administrators and parents who want to understand what the new law means for their local schools. The ACLU of Wisconsin also has resources on our youth rights issue page for parents to learn about what questions they have the right to ask about sex ed in their schools and for individuals who want to ensure that all students have access to comprehensive sex ed.

For the most current information and media coverage of the sex ed debate in Wisconsin, follow us on Twitter.