Kennedy Adds Amendment to Raise Minimum Wage, Includes Mariana Islands
Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) has offered an amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations bill that would raise the minimum wage for American workers from $5.15 to $7.25 over about two years, including workers in the US territory of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). The current minimum wage in the CNMI is only $3.15, compared to $5.15 in the United States. Kennedy’s amendment would require a 50-cent per-hour raise every six months until the Mariana Islands’ minimum wage meets the federal standard. A bill addressing similar issues was introduced in the House of Representatives earlier this month by Representatives George Miller (D-CA), Hilda Solis (D-CA), and John Spratt (D-SC).
The Marianas are subject to US laws, but are exempt from US minimum wage requirements and most provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Currently, some 30,000 temporary “guestworkers” — predominately women — from China, the Philippines, and Thailand sew clothing for top-name American brands, which are then allowed to label the clothes Made in Saipan (USA), Made in Northern Mariana Islands (USA) or Made in the USA. Reduced to little more than indentured servants due to the high recruitment fees and the low minimum wage, many of these women have been subjected to long working hours (some up to 20 hours a day or even off the clock), and poor living conditions, according to an investigative report in Ms. magazine.
Since 1995 at least 29 different bills regarding labor and immigration issues in the Northern Mariana Islands have been introduced. Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff worked on behalf of the Marianas government and its garment industry to ensure that Congress would not pass laws to improve wages and working conditions for the Marianas workers. Tom DeLay, one of Abramoff’s staunch Congressional allies, helped in keeping any bills regarding the Marianas from reaching the House floor, according to Rep. Miller, and even called the Marianas “a Petri dish of ‘capitalism’.”
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .