Women’s Labor History Cherished; Trashed

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(WOMENSENEWS)–Church bells rang Friday in New York as the city’s notorious Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, which claimed the lives of 146 garment workers, most of them female immigrants, turned 100.

News agencies, schools and organizations throughout the city have run commemorations throughout the month and on March 27 Women’s eNews is honoring the event with a screening of a new PBS documentary about the fire.

But Maine Gov. Paul LePage didn’t share New York’s reverence for women’s labor history. Last week he ordered the removal of a mural from the lobby of the state’s Department of Labor in Augusta. One scene featured Frances Perkins, a U.S. labor secretary and first female cabinet member. She helped President Franklin D. Roosevelt design many New Deal provisions for American workers, including the Social Security Act. LePage said the mural wasn’t in keeping with his pro-business attitude, according to a New York Times article published March 24.

Learn more about Frances Perkins from these WeNews articles 1, 2, 3

Cheering Affordable Care, Paid Sick Days

The current U.S. Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, on March 23 joined those saluting the first anniversary of health reform. The Affordable Care Act will cover an estimated 15 million women who could not afford insurance or were ineligible before, she wrote in a post on the U.S. Department of Labor Web site. Women’s groups hosted events in eight states and across the Web to shore up support for health reform, reported Americans United for Change March 23. Online events include a 24 hour blog-a-thon by MomsRising and the National Women’s Law Center.

Solis was also quick to celebrate a Wisconsin Court of Appeals’ reinstatement of a paid sick leave ordinance in Milwaukee. "In today’s workplace, flexibility initiatives aren’t niceties," she told Women’s eNews in an e-mail message. "They’re necessities for working families. The recent discussion over paid sick leave in Wisconsin not only highlights the challenge of assuring high quality work-life environments, but the long way we still have to go in fostering workplaces that support and acknowledge the realities of workers’ lives."

The New York-based Women’s Media Center heralded the news in a March 25 press statement as "building momentum for the passage of paid-sick-days laws that benefit working families, public health and the economy."

In a bright spot for women’s safety, a Tel Aviv district court March 22 sentenced former Israeli President Moshe Katsav to seven years behind bars for committing rape and sexual harassment, according to a report by All Headline News. A correspondent for Women’s eNews wrote our editors to say that if an official of this stature could be brought to justice it was a hopeful day for women’s safety.

Jeering S. Dakota, Egyptian Army Officers

South Dakota became the first state on March 22 to require women seeking an abortion to visit anti-abortion counseling centers, reported The Christian Science Monitor. It also mandates a 72-hour waiting period–the longest in the country–and requires two visits to a physician and a screening for risk factors, in addition to the visit to a pregnancy crisis center.

Ohio, meanwhile, delayed a vote March 23 on the most restrictive abortion law in the nation as concerns swirled about its ability to survive a legal challenge. House Bill 125 would outlaw abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be medically detected, generally about six or seven weeks into a woman’s pregnancy, according to a March 24 report by The Columbus Dispatch.

In one of the week’s most alarming revelations, 18 women detained by army officers during the Tahrir Square protests in Cairo, Egypt, told Amnesty International they were beaten, given electric shocks and forced to "virginity tests" among other torments, the organization reported March 23.

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