From Newtown to Flint Town: Gun Violence Not Just An Urban Black problem. We All Need To Get Serious About Gun Laws.
Category: Your Voice Written by Rev. Charles E. Williams II
Rev. Charles E. Williams II, Pastor of Historic King Solomon Baptist Church and president of the National Action Network Detroit
This year Flint Michigan was designated the most dangerous city in the United States. Every night on the local news, urban cities like Detroit and Chicago give a daily rundown that encapsulates the age old media theme "if it bleeds, it leads". This gives cities like Detroit, Cleveland, and Chicago "murder capitol" designations that would make one feel that only this type of barbarity and inhumanity rest in the places where these instances of violence occur because of drugs and poverty. Frankly, when we think of gun violence it automatically is thought of as a Black ghetto problem.
A report from the Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency and Prevention suggest
The drug market is a major contributor to the Nation's homicide rate. Indeed, the peak in homicides during the mid- 1980's was directly related to the saturation of urban areas with the crack cocaine drug trade."
Although most would agree that the urban violence problem is out of control, there is no doubt that whether violence happens in a city or suburb, it pains all the same. Bullets flying in Oakland kill just like the ones in Oak Creek. A Kill in Aurora is no different than a kill in Atlanta.
However, my fear is that when situations like what happened in Newtown, Connecticut occur, they often dismiss the access to the weapon and focus on the mental health or criminal mind of the shooter. Conservative Gun advocates begin to beat their drum about the increased need for more rights to bear arms and we hear a faint cry for bans on assault weapons and tighter gun restrictions from liberals.
I've presided over a lot of funerals and I know that death doesn't become real until you have to look into a casket of a loved one. This week the country will be shocked further and we will all look into the caskets and see how the wrath of a man and his guns can sadden all our hearts. Small caskets and uncontrollable tears will cause us to pause but when we anger we must turn that energy into a serious effort to protect human life. I know the fiscal cliff, debt ceiling, and women's rights cause us to mount up into our partisan political corners, but this week as we mourn as a nation, let this lesson serve as one that will urge us all to remember the inhumanity in the tools we have available to commit inhumane acts. The children slain will never complete their homework and teachers will never finish their lesson plans but they left in their empty seats, incomplete chalk boards, and blood stained book bags, a lesson for all of us to work on.
We must get serious about gun violence in the United States. It is not just a black problem, not just an urban problem but it is an American problem. We must tighten restrictions on guns and revive the ban on assault weapons. Prayers go out to the community of Newtown, Connecticut and everywhere else where senseless gun violence has taken place in this country.
Follow the Rev. Charles Williams II on twitter: @therevcw and facebook: facebook.com/therevcwii
Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 December 2012 11:27
Category: Your Voice Written by Stacy Swimp
According to the 2010 census Black citizens in Detroit are number one in terms of percentage of total city population, at 84%.
Sadly, Detroit has one of the worst job markets in the nation. Its unemployment rate is above 17%, which is double the national level. It is also double the rate of unemployment for the State of Michigan.
According to Professor Richard Vedder’s Economic Impact Study on Michigan, from 1977 to 2011, per-capital income in right-to-work states grew by 57.4 percent. In contrast, non-right-to-work states grew by only 50.9 percent. Unfortunately, Michigan’s growth was a paltry 23.8 percent. The implication is that States with Right to Work Laws have attracted new jobs at double of the rate of the State of Michigan.
Other factors to consider, as to the benefit of a Right to Work law are:
• Net pay, factoring in cost of living changes across this great nation, is typically about $2000 higher in right to work states.
• The share of manufacturing jobs in counties in right-to-work states is one-third higher than in adjacent counties in non–right-to-work states.
• Nine of the last 10 auto factories were built in right to work states. The national UAW contract is more than 2700 pages. Employers are voting for labor freedom in their selection of business locations.
• Michigan has lost several big employers and, subsequently, jobs, to right to work states.
• Indiana has added about 250,000 new jobs since passing right to work earlier this year. One in every five jobs created in America this year are in Indiana.
• Michigan has lost over 800,000 jobs in the past ten years, as a non-Right to Work State
Nevertheless, many Black workers are allowing themselves to be used by unions to push the false propaganda that a Right to Work Law "makes it harder for Black people". Union leaders are using misleading scare tactics, such as saying that “right to work means right to fire”, which they say will particularly harmful to Blacks.
“Detroiters do not fully understand the right-to-work law because financial illiteracy is a serious problem in the city. Most rely on Mildred Gaddis and other radio personalities, tabloids and paranoid union leaders to feed them miss-information about the need for right-to-work.”, says Akindele Akinyemi, noted Educator. He adds: ‘As far as Black Americans fighting against right-to-work let me say it's more of the old guard of leadership that are fighting against this. Not the young people. Most young Black Americans are looking to get into entrepreneurship, so right-to-work will benefit them more than what the old guard of leadership is discussing. Businesses in right-to-work states tend to be more productive — without shortchanging workers — and this gives them a competitive advantage over unionized states.”
The fact is that, contrary to the “scare tactics” of union bosses, Right to Work Laws do not give employers the ability to fire employees "at will", making Black workers especially vulnerable to losing their jobs.
A Right to Work Law empowers workers, giving them the option to choose whether or not to join unions without suffering backlash, such as employer or union retaliation. The law also means that workers may resign union membership, when they so choice, devoid of any consequence.
Mark Mix, CEO/President of the National Right to Work Committee, weighed in on the important of this bill being passed: “Nearly 80 percent of Americans support the principle that no worker should be forced to pay union dues to get or keep a job. Moreover, Right to Work laws are proven job creators that enjoy bipartisan support in 23 states across the country.”
“Voluntarism and free association are quintessential American ideals and we applaud Michigan’s efforts to embrace worker freedom and individual choice in regards to union affiliation.” concludes Mr. Mix
Right to Work Laws are truly a matter of improving quality of life and worker protection, as it prevents both employers and unions from pressuring, coercing, or forcing any worker to join a union or to keep union membership as a condition of employment.
At the end of the day, however, Right to Work really comes down to one thing: JOBS.
Jimmy Greene, CEO/President, of Associated, Builders and Contractors, Greater Michigan Chapter, sums it up profoundly: “It's about jobs. Right to Work isn't about people who live in the State or even businesses that do business in the State since they are unaffected. On the other hand, Right to Work is an advertisement to businesses that don't do business here. It's a welcome, an invitation to bring their business here and that is a benefit to all Michiganders; and in particular those dramatically under and unemployed.”
The reality is that no one in the State of Michigan or in the nation is more unemployed and underemployed than Black Americans. Hence, no one has more to gain from a Right to Work Law, than Black Americans, whose poverty rate (27%) is three times higher than white Americans (9%) and is the highest among all minorities.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 13:46
Category: Your Voice Written by Phil Power
It is what it is.
I am referring, of course, to the political firestorm that has engulfed Michigan ever since Gov. Rick Snyder announced he would sign Right To Work (or Freedom To Work -- your word choice) when legislation ending the union shop reaches his desk.
Naturally, we all wish we could live in a more perfect world, one where the lion lies down with the lamb, where one political overreach doesn’t beget a counter-overreach, where partisan discussions aren’t always hijacked by the extremists on both sides, and where management and labor collaborate to the benefit of both.
But perfect worlds don’t exist. And the anger, mistrust and ill-will spawned by the RTW debate will now poison Michigan policy-making, maybe for years to come.
It is what it is.
Meanwhile, life will go on. And there is much important work to do to get our state back on track, to lay the groundwork for our future prosperity, to sniff out the places where things can actually get done, even amidst the current political chaos and paralysis.
For example, Michigan’s entire system of investing in human capital is in urgent need of reform and improvement.
The customers of our public, private, charter and online school industry – students, parents, employers– still want and deserve far better learning performance than they’ve been getting.
We need to stimulate a sensible discussion about what to do about our worst-performing public schools; the Education Achievement Authority bill now under consideration needs to be carefully thought through.
I worry that the kids who are being badly served by our worst schools deserve a reform package morecarefully panned than one is likely to receive in a crowded legislative lame duck session.
We also need to realize the only way to move the performance needle in our schools is to support early childhood learning programs. But the state’s pre-K program aimed at poor four-olds, the Great Start Readiness Program, gets only $109 million in state support – barely a blip compared to the $14 billion Michigan spends on our K-12 school system. It’s disgraceful that 30,000 children who are eligible for it have to be left out for lack of slots.
Many, including the business-led Children’s Leadership Council of Michigan and Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Roger Kahn (R-Saginaw) are calling for sharply increased spending here.
We need the political space and sanity to address this problem. Also, we need to do something about Michigan’s disgraceful long strangling of support for our community colleges and universities. We’re pretty close to leading the nation in reducing state support for higher education in recent years, a policy choice that has led directly to big tuition increases and skyrocketing student debt.
And amid all the chaos, we need to notice that two terrible ideas have been slipped into other bills at the eleventh hour in Lansing.
One would allow health care providers to refuse to provide services for patients when they have a “moral” objection.
The other would require women seeking insurance to purchase an additional abortion rider, something aimed directly at poor women who wish to exercise their right to end an unplanned pregnancy.
The conscientious objection bill is especially damaging and redundant. Michigan law already provides for conscientious objection to providers who don’t want to provide abortion services. But make no mistake about it. The pending bill is aimed squarely at birth control … a practice used by the vast majority of sexually active women.
Both should be stopped, removed, or (governor, are you listening?) vetoed.
While we’re at it, it’s no coincidence that at exactly the same time we are fighting over RTW, it’s becoming more and more likely that Detroit will slip into bankruptcy. Maybe Right To Work is the best thing for Michigan workers; maybe it’s the worst.
But everyone should be able to agree that it is intolerable to see our largest city going broke, captured by politicians and interest groups slow-walking towards restructuring.
Michigan needs an urban agenda for all its cities from Benton Harbor to Flint to Ecorse. We don’t have one.
Nobody can deny that the passions aroused by Right To Work are very, very strong. But Michigan still has lots of problems that won’t go away, regardless of what happens to RTW. Especially now, we need the sanity and common sense to address them.
That, too, is what it is.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 12:47
Category: Your Voice Written by Jeff Bean
The middle class isn’t the enemy — it’s the engine that drives our economy, pumping money into local small businesses and creating jobs. Yet Lansing politicians and corporate special interests are eroding the middle class by passing laws that help rich CEOs and attack basic collective bargaining rights.
Michiganders already are suffering, thanks to the actions of politicians in Lansing, who over the last year have passed laws that hurt children, seniors and families while doing nothing to jump-start our economy. It was just a year ago when they cut more than $1 billion from local K-12 schools and raised taxes on senior citizens, just to pay for a $1.8 billion tax giveaway for corporate special interests like insurance companies, big banks and oil companies.
Now politicians have about 80 bills sitting in the halls of the State Capitol that take clear aim at the workplace rights of people like teachers, firefighters, and nurses. These include bills that would: impose so-called Right to Work laws for teachers, and create new restrictions on workers’ abilities to peacefully demonstrate during a labor dispute. All of these bills – and dozens more — would weaken basic protections for working men and women, and dismantle our collective bargaining rights.
Enough is enough. A coalition of middle-class families is joining together and taking a stand. Grass-roots volunteers across Michigan are gathering signatures to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that will enshrine into the Michigan Constitution the basic right of every worker to collective bargaining. More information about this initiative can be found at protectourjobs.com.
Collective bargaining gives people the ability to come together and negotiate fair contracts, and help protect jobs, wages, benefits and safety for all workers. Without these basic collective bargaining protections, CEOs can fire people for no reason, cut people’s wages, eliminate retirement and health care benefits, and outsource jobs to countries such as China and Mexico.
Undermining basic collective bargaining rights won’t do a thing to jump-start our state’s economy. Instead, attacking collective bargaining will further weaken the middle class, harm small businesses and send even more jobs overseas.
The politicians and CEOs who favor weakening or ending collective bargaining say that cutting people’s wages will somehow encourage more businesses to come to Michigan. That’s simply not true. What the special interests behind efforts to weaken collective bargaining really want is a license to outsource jobs — just to pad their own profits.
Without basic collective bargaining rights, big corporations will get even richer while small businesses suffer. Weakening middle-class families’ wages ultimately means fewer trips to local small businesses like hardware stores and movie theaters. Without a middle-class customer base, small businesses will close and more jobs will disappear.
Attacking collective bargaining also hurts our kids. When teachers like me and school employees are stripped of our basic rights at the workplace, the quality of education suffers. Qualified teachers leave their jobs for other careers or teaching jobs in other states. The best and brightest future teachers leave the state right after graduation. Michigan kids end up paying the price.
The middle class was created right here in Michigan — and now it’s being smashed.
It’s time that middle class people speak out to protect their wages, benefits and workplace safety from continued attacks by politicians in Lansing.
Jeff Bean is a high school teacher with Flint Community Schools, and a leader with the Protect Our Jobs campaign, an effort supported by We Are the People, a labor advocacy group.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 12:14
Category: Your Voice Written by Ron Busby, Sr.
Let's face it... Black America has too much experience living on the edge of the cliff, fiscal or otherwise, and Black business owners occupy the most precarious position in America's market place. Fortunately, President Obama's second term agenda is designed to create much-needed jobs and restore middle class security by investing in
small business, manufacturing, education, and clean energy. I can assure you, he looks forward to getting down to business and working with Congress -- in a bipartisan way -- to help the middle class.
You've heard by now that unless Congress acts to extend middle class tax cuts by the end of the year, most families will see their federal income tax bill rise by a little more than $2,000. At the same time, taxes will stay low on every business owner's first $250,000 of income. But if Congress fails to act, a small business owner making
$120,000, for example, could see up to a $4,600 tax increase.
It should be clear that we've got a little more work to do, even after the election. We've got to contact our U.S. Representatives and Senators and let them know we want them to work closely with the administration to hold the line on tax increases. And, we want them to focus sharply on ways to cut unnecessary spending from the federal budget.
The President has long supported the need for both new revenue and spending cuts to reduce the deficit in a balanced way. Fortunately for us (not everybody is as experienced as us at living on the edge!) there are encouraging signs that Republicansand Democrats in Washington are open to a bipartisan solution. That's significant.
The President's plan targets small businesses. Small businesses create two out of every three net new private sector jobs. You've heard us say that if all the nearly 1.8 million of America's sole-proprietor Black businesses could hire just one new employee, we'd just about wipe out unemployment in our communities. President Obama's work to
protect these business owners' earnings from tax increases is helping spur economic development in communities across our country and giving millions of families and individuals the opportunity to achieve the American dream. If Congress agrees - and acts - it will keep taxes low for 97% of small businesses and it will create j-o-b-s!
From the mom-and-pop storefront shops to the high-tech startups that keep America on the cutting edge, small businesses are the backbone of our economy. In his second term, the President plans to build on the 18 small business tax breaks he already signed into law, but first we need to find common ground and compromise to keep taxes from going up on 97% of small businesses on January 1, 2013.It's a no-brainer for us... Since the President's approach to the "fiscal cliff" reduces the deficit in a balanced way by $4 trillion by asking the wealthy to pay their fair share and preserves the investments we need to grow the economy, what's the problem? The $1 trillion in spending cuts President Obama has already signed should signal to both Democrats and Republicans how committed he is to a balanced approach to further reduce our deficit.
Here's your assignment: Call, write, email, tweet using #My2K, post on facebook or
send up smoke signals! Let Congress hear the voice of Black Business on the
President's tax plan.
In the Spirit of Success,
Ron Busby, Sr.
U.S. Black Chamber, Inc.
Last Updated on Friday, 30 November 2012 10:40
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