Success Story

Madison workers give thanks to WRC

Just in time for Thanksgiving, WNPJ member group Worker Rights Center scored a significant victory for employees of the Madison-based cleaning firm Dirt Destroyers, which had failed to pay employees for hours worked, for travel time or overtime worked. Dirt Destroyers had refused to pay, even after the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development-Wage & Hour Division had investigated the company and ruled in favor of the workers. After the workers came to Worker Rights Center for help, WRC put out an alert, and the owner was soon deluged by emails and calls. WRC reports: "After a few days of this, and after his story changed a number of times, the owner finally relented and paid workers who had been waiting in one case for four months to get paid."

Hundreds win release after reform of sentencing rules

More than 500 federal inmates won release from prison last week, due to a change in federal sentencing policy which brought sentences for crack cocaine closer to the penalties for powder cocaine. (Photo: Susan Cardwell hugs her brother Darryl Flood as he arrives at a bus station in Woodbridge, Va., after his release.) The disparity in sentences for crack versus powder had long been criticized as racially discriminatory because it disproportionately affected black defendants. The Fair Sentencing Act passed by Congress in 2010 and signed by President Obama reduced the disparity for future cases, and this summer the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which sets federal sentencing policy, decided to apply the act to inmates already serving time. The releases are the result of months of work by public defender offices around the country, which reviewed hundreds of files of potentially affected inmates.Gil Halsted of Wisconsin Public Radio reports...

Climate activists declare victory as Obama sends pipeline back for review

Just days after a ten-thousand-strong protest that completely surrounded the White House, President Obama announced that a controversial pipeline project previously approved by the State Department would be sent back for a second  review. 

The pipeline project would have transported Canadian tar sands oil to refineries in Texas, crossing environmentally sensitive areas and potentially threatening the Oglalla aquifer. The Canadian tar sands represent the largest unexploited pool of carbon remaining, causing climate scientist James Hansen to describe the Keystone XL project as the equivalent of "lighting a fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet." More than 1300 people were arrested at a civil disobedience action against the pipeline in August, an action that many Wisconsinites participated in. Read more...

Berkeley City Council says "Close Guantánamo"

On Tuesday evening, Berkeley’s City Council approved a resolution calling for the closure of Guantánamo Bay Prison and welcoming detainees who have been cleared as posing no danger to the U.S., but who cannot safely return to their home countries. Berkely joins the Massachusetts towns of Amherst and Leverett, which adopted similar resolutions in 2009 and 2010. Nancy Talanian, the executive director of No More Guantánamos, said, "Dozens of innocent men remain in Guantánamo simply because they cannot safely return to their home countries, and U.S. allies rightly question why they must welcome all of them when the U.S. refuses to take any.  Berkeley's resolution is a necessary step toward closing the prison with justice and restoring our country’s commitment to human rights."

Obama holds up arms sales to Bahrain

The Obama administration announced it would delay a planned $53 million arms sale to Bahrain, after an international outcry against human-rights abuses by the Bahraini government, which had engaged in a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy activists, including long prison terms for doctors who treated injured protesters. The arms sale, which the group Just Foreign Policy described as a " U.S. seal of approval on [Bahrain's] anti-democracy crackdown," was the subject of a recent WNPJ Action Alert. Human rights advocates won't be resting, however, because the Obama administration may resume arms sales after the completion of an "Independent Commission of Inquiry" set up by Bahrain's own government. Take Action: Representatives Jim McGovern and Senator Ron Wyden have introduced a joint resolution to block the arms sale (House resolution, Senate resolution)  Ask your Representative and Senators to add pressure on the Obama Administration to change its policy on Bahrain by signing the McGovern-Wyden resolution. Online form letter here...

Lisa Fernandez receives the 2011 'Global Citizen" award

The UNA-USA Dane County member group met this weekend in Madison to celebrate UN Day with the annual luncheon. For the 4th year, a Dane County resident was chosen to receive the Global Citizen Award for international justice work. This year's recipient is Lisa Fernandez, RN - who leads the Wisconsin-Nicaraugua Wheelchair Project (WNWP).  Lisa is a member of WNPJ - as were the past three recipients of this award; Mike Boehm, Winds of Peace in Vietnam; Jennifer Loewenstein, Madison Rafah Sister City Project; and Norma Berkowitz of FOCCUS. To learn more about this group, contact Todd Kummer at

Obama promises all troops out of Iraq by Christmas

U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of this year, as required under a 2008 agreement between the U.S. and Iraqi governments. The Obama administration made repeated efforts to win approval for keeping some U.S. forces in Iraq after the Dec. 31st 2011 deadline, but the refusal by the Iraqi government to grant legal immunity to U.S. troops eventually doomed any such agreement, and forced the U.S. to hold to the earlier withdrawal timetable.

Dayton, Ohio welcomes immigrants to grow local economy

Faced with a declining population, the City Commission of Dayton Ohio voted unanimously last week to adopt a plan to "Create an inclusive community-wide campaign around immigrant entrepreneurship that facilitates startup businesses, opens global markets and restores life to Dayton neighborhoods." The Welcome Dayton Plan (.pdf) hopes to attract immigrants as a way to grow the local economy, based on nation-wide studies that show immigrants create new businesses and complement the American workforce. Read more...

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