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Old tricks at Wal-Mart

A federal appeals court in San Francisco voted 6-to-5 to affirm certification of the largest gender discrimination lawsuit in the nation’s history, with retail behemoth Wal-Mart as defendant.

Wal-Mart had argued that “conventional rules of class action suits should not apply because each outlet operates as an independent business,” AP reports.

It’s not the first time the company has take this approach, as we noted here last year.  When President John Kennedy persuaded Congress to extend the minimum wage law to retail workers, businesses with annual sales below $250,000 were exempted.  Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton promptly divided his stores into individual companies.

A federal court eventually ruled this was “simply a scheme to avoid paying the minimum wage,” as Harold Myerson recounted in the American Prospect.

Now Wal-Mart argues there’s no company-wide policy of discrimination against women.  But given the pattern of lawsuits charging wage-and-hour violations across the country – Wal-Mart has paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements – and the centrally-directed attacks and firings anytime labor organizers show up, it’s certainly worth a good hard look.

Health groups promote new female condom

Wednesday is National Women and Girls’ HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and the Chicago Female Condom Campaign is holding trainings for service providers and for high school students on how to use the new, improved female condom, which the FDA approved last year.

About 40 HIV and family planning service providers are expected for a training session at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, 200 W. Jackson, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, March 10.

From 2 to 5 p.m., a training will be held at the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School, 2641 S. Calumet.

All trainings are open to the media (for more see the group’s press release).  A third training takes place Friday at 4:30 p.m. at Mujeres Latinas en Accion, 1823 W. 17th; it includes a condom hunt.

The trainings are part of a new public awareness campaign by a coalition of health groups, in a city with high rates of gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphillis and where 1,500 new HIV cases were reported in 2008.

The female condom is “the only barrier method available for receptive partners for prevention of HIV, sexually transmitted infections, and unintended pregnancies, and it’s an important option for both women and men,” said Jessica Terlinowski, policy manager for Chicago AIDS Foundation and coordinator of the campaign.

The original female condom, which was approved in 1993, failed to catch on, in part because users found it awkward and expensive.  The new version, tagged the “FC2,” is made of stronger, thinner material that’s quieter and feels more natural – and it’s signficantly less expensive, so that community health centers and public clinics can purchase them in the quantities they need, Terlinowski said.

The campaign is sponsoring a bulk purchasing drive  for health centers, and lists three dozen community organizations and six city clinics where the FC2 is available for free.

One goal of the campaign is to publicize the FC2 as an option for men as well as women, Trelinowski said.  “The name is misleading,” she said.

The trainings reflect the group’s finding that “it’s really important that it be presented in a positive and affirming way,” she said.  “We want to make sure service providers have the language and the familiarity so they can talk about it in an effective way.”

The campaign is also pushing local drug stores to begin stocking the FC2.

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Also marking National Women’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, the Red Pump Project (cofounded by CMW’s own Lovette Ajayi) is on its second year of mobilizing bloggers to spread awareness of the day and the issue.  The group is holding a fashion show fundraiser on March 25 (6 p.m. at the Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake), where it will honor pioneering AIDS activist Rae Lewis Thorton with the group’s first Living Legacy Award.

IWD: Immigrant women speak out

Rosie Carrasco of the Latino Organization of the Southwest, Leticia Marquez of UE, Graciela Guel from Mexicanos Unidos, Marilu Vargas of Our Lady of Guadelupe, Jatziry Garcia from Radio Arte, and Ana Guajardo from the Immigrant Workers Center of South Chicago, will be among women leaders from the Mexican community calling on President Obama to renew his commitment to immigration reform and stop raids and deportations currently breaking apart thousands of families.

The International Women’s Day event takes place Monday, March 8, at 11:30 a.m. at Casa Michoacan, 1638 S. Blue Island, and is building for the national march for immigrant rights in Washington, D.C. on March 21.  The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights plans to take 200 buses with 10,000 Chicagoans to the protest.

Earlier on Monday morning, ICIRR will release a report on the state of immigrant women in Illinois (8:30 a.m. at the Chicago Foundation for Women, 1 E. Wacker, 20th floor).   Flavia Jimenez of ICIRR, Betty Gao of the Chinese American Service League, Nadiya Arshi from Muslim Women Resource Center, and Neusa Gaytan from Mujeres Latinas en Accion, and others will provide personal testimonies of overcoming obstacles to develop as community leaders.

New approach to ending prostitution

A campaign aiming for “a 180 degree shift” in the state’s response to prostitution will be launched tomorrow morning with a conference featuring Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, the former director of the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons program, and survivors of prostitution and sex trafficking.

Instead of repeatedly jailing prostitutes, letting johns go, and overlooking pimps and traffickers, End Demand Illinois will press for services for victims of prostitution along with aggressive prosecution of their exploiters, said Samir Goswami, policy director of the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation.

CAASE is convening the End Demand coalition with a $550,000, three-year grant from the Novo Foundation.

One goal is to “create a funding stream for an infrastructure of care for people victimized by sexual trafficking and prostitution,” Goswami said.

An estimated 16,000 women and girls are regularly prostituted in Chicago, the vast majority of them recruited as minors, said Lynne Johnson, CAASE’s advocacy director, and they commonly face issues of substance abuse, homelessness, and extreme violence.

“Arresting them over and over is the exact opposite of what’s going to solve the problem,” she said.

CAASE has been advising Dart’s Trafficking Response Team, which employs former prostitutes to offer women arrested for prostitution the option of recovery programs and support services.

It’s also one of the only groups in the nation to focus on reducing demand for prostitution, Johnson said. One of its initiatives is a curriculum for young males about why they should not buy sex, she said.

Survivors of prostitution are are being trained to lead and represent the End Demand Illinois campaign, Johnson said. Among the speakers tomorrow morning will be Olivia Howard, a former prostitute who was the subject of Jody Raphael’s book, Listening to Olivia.

The End Demand Illinois launch takes place Thursday, September 17, starting at 8:50 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency, 151 E. Wacker. Catharine MacKinnon of the University of Michigan law school will give a keynote, followed by a panel discussion and a media availability from 10:30 to 11 a.m.

Burnham and Addams

Daniel Burnham probably never actually said “make no little plans,” and he certainly recognized the value of small projects (like filling potholes), Bill Savage argued a few weeks ago in the Reader’s cover package on the Burnham centennial.  Also in that issue, Lynn Becker notes “the absence of skepticism” in the centennial celebration.

A healthy dose of skepticism, Jane Addams-style – and much attention to small-scale, on-the-ground projects addressing real-life problems  — is offered by Jan Metzger’s book, “What Would Jane Say: City-Building Women and a Tale of Two Chicagos,” due out this week from Lake Claremont Press.

It looks at the Burnham plan from the perspective of the settlement movement, based on the writings of scores of progressive Chicago women.

Newstips gave an extensive preview of the book earlier this year, based mainly on several conversations with Metzger, a longtime staffer at the Center for Neighborhood Technology.

Immigrant women’s stories

Latino, African, Chinese, Arab, and Korean women will gather tomorrow to discuss a groundbreaking survey of immigrant women.  Their numbers are surging, and they are taking more active roles (including pushing for citizenship) — but they also face low-wage jobs and discrimination.

Pollster Sergio Bendixen will discuss his findings and women from local immigrant communities will share their stories on Thursday,  July 16, at 10 a.m. at the office of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, 55 E. Jackson.  New American Media and Community Media Workshop’s ethnic media project are cosponsoring the event.

The state of single mothers

Gary Orfield of UCLA and and Malcolm Bush of Chapin Hall will present a new report commissioned by the Eleanor Foundation on the state of single mothers in the nation’s ten largest metropolitan areas, with comments from Anne Ladky of Women Employed and others, tomorrow (Wednesday, May 13) at 8:30 a.m. at the Federal Reserve, 230 S. LaSalle.

Mothers Day for Peace

Kristin Lems sings and members of veterans’ families present readings at a celebration of the origins of Mothers Day (in Julia Ward Howe’s Mothers Day Proclamation) Sunday at 1 p.m. at Church and Maple in Evanston.  Sponsored by the North Shore Coalition for Peace, Justice and the EnvironmentAmerican Friends Service Committee, and Code Pink.



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