February 7, 2014

JSPAN Newsletter - February 7, 2014
Jewish Social Policy Action Network

In This Issue:
Newsletter: February 7, 2014
JSPAN Calendar: Income Inequality in America
Income Inequality in America: On March 2, at 7:30 p.m., at Germantown Jewish Centre, JSPAN will host a showing of Robert Reich's film, "Inequality For All". On March 9, also at 7:30 p.m. at Germantown Jewish Centre, there will be a panel discussion about the film and about economic inequality in the United States.

The following article is one of many addressing various effects of economic inequality. Ed.


Food Stamp Cuts So Devastating Even Walmart Is Too Expensive
By Jillian Berman
The Huffington Post

Walmart struggled at the end of last year. But according to the retailer's new estimations, it wasn't because people didn't want to buy. It was because they couldn't.

The retail giant warned Friday that the effect of last year's national food stamp cuts on its bottom line will likely be deeper than the company previously estimated. As a result its comparable same-store sales -- a retail metric that measures how stores are doing year over year -- will likely be slightly down for the fourth quarter.


[read more]

For JSPAN's position on Hunger and Food Security, go to: http://jspan.org/p/51 (Ed.)


Workers' Rights
food_worker_flyer 2

On Wednesday evening, February 26, in Northern Liberties, JSPAN will join a number of Jewish organizations in Philadelphia in a discussion about workers' rights in the restaurant industry. The other sponsors include the Feinstein Center for American Jewish History (at Temple University), the Jewish Farm School, Kol Tzedek, Rodeph Shalom, and the Restaurant Opportunities Center. Rabbi Lauren Grabelle-Herrmann will moderate, and the speakers are:


  • Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, from Uri L'Tzedek
  • Calvin Okunoye, an organizer with Philly chapter of the Restaurant Opportunities Center
  • a current member of ROC
  • Michael Solomonov, the owner of Zahav.

The restaurant worker event will be at 7:00pm at the Impact Hub Philly, 1227 N. 4th St. Tickets can be secured at by clicking here.


Proposal to Raise Tip Wages Resisted
The following article relates to the issue of the inapplicability of the minimum wage to workers, many in the restaurant industry, who receive tips. Ed.

STEVEN GREENHOUSE, The New York Times (JAN. 26, 2014)

Nearly 50 years ago, federal law created a lower minimum wage for workers who receive tips. Congress decreed that it could not be less than 50 percent of the federal minimum wage.

But when the minimum wage inched up — raised to $5.25 in 1996 under President Clinton — Congress agreed, in a concession to the restaurant industry, to let the 50 percent rule on tip wages lapse.


[read more]


JSPAN Files Supreme Court Amicus Brief in Support of Contraceptive Mandate
In coming weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear argument on two cases in which private, for-profit corporations are challenging their obligation under the Affordable Care Act to provide coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptive methods.

JSPAN has been heavily involved in this issue from the outset. Last week we filed a friend of the court brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold the mandate. This complemented the brief we filed last year urging the Court to find the Affordable Care Act constitutional. Although they chose to do business as corporations, the two corporations claim they are really exercising the religion of the shareholders. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) prohibits the federal government from enforcing any federal law that substantially burdens a "person's" exercise of religion unless the government has a compelling interest to so do and uses the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.

JSPAN argues that giving private for-profit companies right as "persons" under RFRA could imperil the ability of government to enforce a wide variety of laws that the Jewish community has advocated for decades – from civil rights to environmental regulation. It also contends that there is no basis on which to distinguish privately held for profit corporations from publicly held corporations under RFRA, and that to conclude that RFRA applies to for profit corporations, therefore, would raise a host of questions as to who speaks for the corporation. JSPAN is represented in this case by attorneys Hope Freiwald and Mayer Grashin at Dechert, LLP. Much of the intellectual labor behind JSPAN's arguments was worked out through our Church-State Policy Center.

To read the full brief, click here. (Thanks to Jeff Pasek for this write up of JSPAN's brief. Alan E. Garfield, Distinguished Professor of Law at Widener University School of Law and a member of JSPAN's Church-State Policy Center, has published "The Contraception Mandate Debate: Achieving A Sensible Balance" in the January 23 Columbia Law Review Sidebar, in which he acknowledges the "robust debate" in the Policy Center as "immensely helpful". Ed.)


[read more]



Corporations Aren't People — Especially When It Comes to Birth Control
The Forward
(January 31, 2014)

Corporations are people, Mitt Romney famously said at the Iowa State Fair in 2011, and it's easy now to dismiss the phrase as the awkward, revealing statement of a man so out of tune with the public that he lost an election he was supposed to win. But in March, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in two cases that echo Romney's sentiment and take it one dangerous step further. Do inanimate, for-profit corporations have religious rights? And can they exploit those rights to deny health care to their employees? The answer to both questions should be a resounding no.



As an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine noted, contraception has been proven to meet a compelling public health need. It prevents unintended pregnancies, reduces the need for abortions, affords women and their children a better quality of life, and saves money for the state.


[read more]


Two Rabbis Fight For Gun Control From Pulpit — and the Heart
Nathan Guttman
The Forward
(January 24, 2014)

In the year since 20 school children and six adults were murdered in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., the organized Jewish community has been frustrated by the inability of a paralyzed Congress to agree on new gun control regulation.

Two rabbis, however, not willing to take no for an answer, have been seeking creative ways of dealing with gun violence. Both have a deep personal attachment to the issue. And both are working on different ways to bypass federal legislation. Together they are seeking to create a national understanding about gun safety, one that will not require Washington's stamp of approval.



[read more]


Federal Judge Upholds State's Tough Assault Weapons Ban
The Hartford Courant
(January 30, 2014)

HARTFORD — Gun control advocates were buoyed Thursday by a federal court decision in Hartford that upholds Connecticut's toughest-in-the-nation assault weapons ban, calling it a constitutionally valid means of balancing gun rights and the government's interest in reducing gun violence.

"The court concludes that the legislation is constitutional," senior U.S. District Judge Alfred V. Covello wrote in a decision published late Thursday. "While the act burdens the plaintiffs' Second Amendment rights, it is substantially related to the important governmental interest of public safety and crime control."


[read more]


How A Ruling On Gay Jurors Could Have A Huge Effect On The Gay Rights Movement
Lila Shapiro
The Huffington Post
(February 1, 2014)

In the next few weeks, AbbVie, a pharmaceutical company that produces an important AIDS drug, will make a decision that could have a far-reaching effect on gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people, and not just those with HIV.

If the company appeals a recent court ruling and wins, it will come as a blow to those who hope to see states around the country topple the remaining barriers both to same-sex marriage and to laws that protect gay people from discrimination.

The case did not initially concern gay rights at all, but was instead a fight between two pharmaceutical giants. In 2007, a drug company called SmithKline Beecham Corp. sued a rival drug producer, Abbott Laboratories. Abbott, which later spun off its drug research activities into a new company, AbbVie, had quintupled the price of its popular AIDS drug, a move that ended up hurting SmithKline's bottom line.

Predictably, Abbott's decision to raise the price of its drug sparked anger and protest from AIDS activists. Still, the case may have never come to the attention of the broader gay rights community if not for an attempt by Abbott to tilt the jury's makeup in its favor: In 2011, a lawyer for Abbott dismissed a potential juror who had revealed he was gay and had friends with HIV. SmithKline argued that the removal was discriminatory, and last week the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.

In the unanimous ruling, a three-judge panel called the exclusion of gay jurors unconstitutional.


[read more]



Henry Waxman, the 'Tougher than a Boiled Owl' Congressman
California Representative Henry Waxman announced last week that he will not seek reelection to Congress. Ed.

Doyle McManus
Los Angeles Times
(February 2, 2014)

Most members of the House of Representatives have a "wall of fame" in their office — meant-to-impress photographs of the often obscure incumbent with presidents, senators and hometown sports heroes.

Henry Waxman's wall has bills, dozens of them — bills he helped turn into law, along with the pens that six presidents used to sign them, going back to Jimmy Carter.

There's the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984, which virtually invented the generic drug industry (Ronald Reagan signed that one). There's the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990, which put the now-familiar nutrition label on food products (George H.W. Bush). There's the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996, which reduced pesticide residue on fruits and vegetables (Bill Clinton). There's the Affordable Care Act of 2010, which launched Obamacare (Barack Obama).

And many, many more. The official summary of Waxman's legislative achievements runs for 28 pages. "Fifty percent of the social safety net was created by Henry Waxman when no one was looking," President George W. Bush's Medicare director, Tom Scully, once said.


[read more]



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