April 27, 2012

  • FCC approves rule to reveal sources of political ads
  • Obama withdraws child labor rules for farmworkers
  • Citing racial disparity, fed agency issues new guidelines for criminal checks in employment
  • New York taxi drivers join push to improve working conditions for car washers
  • Behind May Day, a centuries-long struggle for worker rights

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Romanian government ousted in confidence vote

Today the government of Romania collapsed after failing to stave off a no-confidence vote put forth by the opposition. The Government has been unpopular because of its support of austerity measures pushed by EU economic powers. The austerity has destabilized several European countries.  In Romania, the fall of the government threatens to jeopardize loan monies from the IMF. FSRN’s Dana Lapadat is in Bucharest.

An IMF delegation is currently in Romania working through final loan negotiations. But just one hour after the government fell, the IMF delegation halted the talks. The Romanian currency fell to an all-time low against the Euro. The no-confidence vote happened partly in response to unpopular austerity measures imposed by the ex-Government. In February, protests in the capital prompted the resignation of Prime Minister Emil Boc. Today’s ousted government was only in power for three months, and any new Prime Minister may not have much more time than that in office. Local elections are scheduled for June and general elections will happen in November. Dana Lepadat, FSRN, Bucharest.

Muslims in Sri Lanka protest plan to move mosque

Thousands of Muslims in Sri Lanka today blocked roads, protesting against a notice by the government declaring land in the town of Dambulla as a Buddhist sacred site. Many residents are worried the declaration will mean a 50-year-old mosque will have to be relocated. Muslims, who are in the minority in Sri Lanka, say a gang of monks and followers attacked the mosque last week keeping people from Friday prayers.  FSRN’s Ponniah Manikavasagam reports.

The crowd was angry, shouting slogans and carrying signs. Most of them were Muslims led by opposition politicians. Protestors urged the government to ease growing religious tension and curb conduct of extremist religious groups in the country. They also demanded the arrest of those who attacked the mosque last week, including the chief priest of the Dambulla Buddhist temple. Buddhists say the mosque is situated in on a sacred site, and the government recently announced the removal of 71 buildings, including the mosque. Authorities had to summon the police to control the situation and clear the traffic jam caused by the protest. Ponniah Manikavasagam, FSRN, Sri Lanka.

Houses approves Republican student loan bill

Today the US House passed an extension on student loan rates. The Stafford loan interest rate was slated to double in July.  But while Democrats are proposing to pay for the loan subsidies by closing what they call a loophole in the payroll tax, the Republican bill passed through the House pays for it by cutting funding for the Affordable Health Care Act.

CISPA passes US House

In other House news, late yesterday, Representatives passed internet data sharing legislation knows as CISPA. The bill expands the government’s power to access user data from the internet in order to prevent cyberattacks. Civil rights advocates say it amounts to violations of privacy. The White House has vowed to veto the bill.

Senate extends Violence Against Women Act

The US Senate has approved a renewal of the Violence Against Women Act on a 68 to 31 vote.  Republicans opposed the bill in part because of language denying grant funds to organizations that discriminate against LGBT people and provisions setting aside more visas for immigrant women in abusive situations. The bill still has to clear the House.

War on Women protests planned across the US

Women’s rights activists are gearing up for a series of demonstrations across the country tomorrow. The War on Women Events, organized by Unite Women.org, are a response to a recent spate of discriminatory legislation passed by elected officials locally and nationally. FSRN’s Brad Kutner spoke to one of the state-level organizers in Richmond, Virginia.

The War on Women events started as a conversation between 2 friends in different parts of the country with a simple idea: “If we build it, they’ll come.” Within days of creating a Facebook and Twitter account for the event, they had 10s of thousands of followers, and now Unite Women hopes to see that online support manifested locally. In Virginia, where ultrasound legislation limiting abortion passed in the 2012 general assembly, women’s rights protests have hit a boiling point. Brenda Seward, the Virginia State sponsor for Unite Women, got involved after hearing about the day of protest on TV.  Organizing this event is her first venture into activism. “Enough is enough really.  We’ve reached a point where we can’t keep letting this go on – this major push for this.  It’s rolling back legislation that happened 30 or 40 years ago. And it’s not just one thing, it’s the beginning of a tide of things going in that direction.” Specifics of War on Women events vary – Virginia’s will include speakers and musical performances. But events are happening in every state. Brad Kutner, FSRN, Richmond.


FCC approves rule to reveal sources of political ads

In a decision that opens up the trail of massive political spending, the Federal Communications Commission approved a rule today requiring some broadcast television stations to post their political ad sales online. The move will make it easier for the public to analyze the spending and messaging of campaigns, Super PACs and non-profit advocacy groups. But the rule is limited. For the next two years, only ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox affiliates in the top 50 media markets have to comply. After 2014, the rule will cover all other broadcast stations, but not radio or cable TV. Lisa Rosenberg with the Sunlight Foundation says this stops short of full disclosure.

ROSENBERG: What it won’t cover is much of Virginia or Missouri, or a number of the other states that are going to be contested in the presidential election this year. And the reason this is so important is because this is going to be a year where we will see an untold number of ads being paid for by secret donors, and that’s because of the Citizens United case. And we think voters at large have a right to know who the messenger is as well as hearing the message.

Major broadcasters, who lobbied against the disclosure rule, have been required to make their political ad sales public for several decades. But that information is currently only available in paper files in the individual stations. The Sunlight Foundation said it would continue to push the FCC to make all political ad spending transparent.

Obama withdraws child labor rules for farmworkers

The Obama Administration has scrapped proposed rules regulating the work children can do on farms, citing concerns about protecting the, quote, “rural way of life.” But current and former child farmworkers say the decision leaves hundreds of thousands of children vulnerable to long hours, exposure to pesticides, and hazardous working conditions. FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more, in Washington, D.C.

Citing racial disparity, fed agency issues new guidelines for criminal checks in employment

This week the federal government issued new guidelines that direct how employers can use criminal history and arrest records in hiring potential workers.The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission voted 4-1 on Wednesday to approve the new guidelines, the first update in more than two decades to a system that civil rights groups have criticized for disproportionately affecting people of color. For more on the decision and how it could affect workers we’re joined by Ray McClain, employment discrimination project director at the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law.

View the Equal Employment Opportunity guidelines here: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/4-25-12.cfm

New York taxi drivers join push to improve working conditions for car washers

In New York City, car wash workers and their allies have started a new campaign to improve low wages and working conditions. The workers’ movement has gained support from several unions in the city, raising hopes for its success. FSRN’s Salim Rizvi reports.

Behind May Day, a centuries-long struggle for worker rights

Whether among New York City’s car washers or workers in cities across the country, the gap between labor and bosses, workers and those who own the means of production continues today.  But its origin goes back to the 18th century when workers started demanding a more reasonable ten-hour day. That fight continued into the next century, when more workers called for an eight-hour day. The momentum grew in the Midwest, culminating in massive strikes in May 1886. One of the central locations was Chicago, where the events at Haymarket Square changed the labor movement. FSRN’s Linda Perry Barr looks back on how May Day began.

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