Lawmakers want to reimburse schools forced to change American Indian mascots

BY JAKE NEHER
Michigan Public Radio Network
A fight over American Indian-themed school mascots could result in a three million dollar budget cut for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.
The money would be used to reimburse schools that may be forced to switch mascots.
The Department of Civil Rights wants the federal government to pressure school districts with Native American mascots to change them. It said the mascots harm American Indian students and their performance in school. 
State Representative Bob Genetski is sponsoring a bill that would require the Civil Rights Department to help pay for any mascot changes.
“We hope that the department will rescind that complaint and then nobody’s got to worry about any of this.” Genetski said.
The state Department of Civil Rights said it has no plans to withdraw its complaint with the U.S. Department of Education.
Copyright 2013, MPRN
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Capital region could adopt uniform gay rights ordinances

BY RICK PLUTA
Michigan Public Radio Network
A group of Lansing-area local elected officials are calling for a common anti-discrimination policy for the entire region surrounding the state Capitol. It would include protections for gay and lesbian people. 
Some cities and townships in the Capitol area already have LGBT anti-discrimination ordinances. Others would have to adopt one. 23 local governments across Michigan have similar anti-discrimination laws.
Nathan Triplett is on the city council in East Lansing, which has had an LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance since 1972. 
“If we have a common policy across the entire region, it sends a very clear message that this is an area that values diversity and inclusion and is open for business,” Triplett said.
Triplett says he and other local officials hope the growing number of communities adopting L-G-B-T protections will persuade the Legislature to amend Michigan’s civil rights law. A bill to do that could be introduced soon. There is also a measure under consideration that would preempt local civil rights laws.
Copyright 2013 MPRN

Equal pay advocate Lilly Ledbetter still pushing for paycheck fairness

BY AMY ROBINSON
It’s not a man’s job or a woman’s job. It’s a job. 
That was the message from a national civil rights advocate Wednesday night in Mt Pleasant. Lilly Ledbetter has been pushing for equal pay for equal work since 1998. That’s when she discovered, through an anonymous note left for her at work, that she was not being paid the same as her male counterparts.
Lilly Ledbetter has talked to presidents, testified before congress and had landmark legislation named after her. No surprise perhaps that she easily filled Plachta Auditorium on the campus of Central Michigan University.
Hundreds of people turned out to hear how, after working for 19-years in management at Goodyear, Ledbetter learned through an anonymous note that she was earning roughly 40% of her male counterparts.
Ledbetter’s lawsuit against Goodyear took nine years to resolve.  
“I thought about letting it go, I was two years away from retirement. I just couldn’t.  That’s just not who I am. It was not right.  The law was on my side. I had been mistreated, and I couldn’t let a major corporation do me and my family that way without standing up and saying ‘this is not right'” Ledbetter said.
Ledbetter’s suit went to the US Supreme Court, which ruled against her in a close 5-4 vote.  It turns out the ruling wasn’t the end.  Ledbetter, it seems, was just getting warmed up.  The Alabama grandmother, who turns 75 next month, has become the poster child for pay equity.  She travels the country talking to groups, like the one at CMU, about the need to fix a broken system that allows men to earn more than women doing the same work.
“Every single person is affected by the wage gap. It hurts women, it hurts men and it hurts their families. In the vast majority of families, both women and men are in the workforce, when women are paid less, whole families suffer.” Ledbetter said.
When Ledbetter began her fight, women earned, on average, 59-cents to every dollar earned by men. Today more than a decade later, women earn around 77-cents for every dollar earned by men. Still a 23-cent an hour gap. And that’s adjusting for education and career type.
“When women lost 23-cents, every hour, every day, every paycheck, every job, over their entire lives, what we lose can’t be measured in dollars. Women are a vital part of the economy, and deserve to be recognized for our contributions, just the same as men.” Ledbetter said.
Ledbetter said progress on equal pay has been slow in coming. Recent paycheck fairness legislation; which would allow workers to discuss their pay levels without fear of retribution by employers, continues to stall in the US Senate.  
Ledbetter said she’s proud that her namesake bill had bipartisan support. Pay issues today, she said are highly politicized.
She said there has been progress. The statute of limitations on lawsuits over pay equity was extended under the Lilly Ledbetter law.
“And another thing today, that I like and what I am seeing across the nation, is more women are supporting each other. In my day, even back in the early days at Goodyear, the few women that were there, they didn’t support me. In fact one of ’em threw me in. But that’s what they used to do, but now, today, women are understanding that they need to support each other.” Ledbetter said.
Ledbetter is showing no signs of slowing down. Last year she wrote a book about her legal journey; titled Grace and Grit. 
This year the book is being translated into Japanese. And she’s signed a contract for a movie based on the book She’s said she’s already spoken with Reese Witherspoon about playing her.
This gentle, fearless woman is intent now on taking her message to the next generation.  
Students in Professor Laura Orta’s Women and Politics class at CMU, they invited Ledbetter in, also put to music the fact that they hear and support her work.

Hundreds gather for pro-gun rally at state Capitol

BY JAKE NEHER
Michigan Public Radio Network

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Hundreds of people came to the state Capitol Wednesday to voice their support for pro-gun legislation. Many openly carried firearms, which is allowed in and around the Capitol building. 
Jim Gulliksen is with the Michigan Militia Corps of Wolverines. He said he’s happy that state lawmakers have taken up a number of pro-gun bills recently. 
“Lansing has shown some trends lately to reduce some of the restrictions, as far as like the pistol purchase permit and some of the controls on where you can carry weapons. We do like to see that.” Gulliksen said.
There are several gun-related bills in the Michigan Legislature. Very few have moved out of committee so far this year. 
Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said things like road funding and other budget issues are more pressing.
Copyright 2013, MPRN

State files complaint over American Indian school mascots

BY RICK PLUTA
Michigan Public Radio Network
The Michigan Department of Civil Rights has asked the federal government to order schools to stop using American Indian nicknames and mascots or risk losing education funds. 
Michigan Public Radio’s Rick Pluta reports the complaint was filed Friday with the U.S. Department of Education.
The complaint cites research that finds the use of American Indian mascots and nicknames affects student performance. Leslee Fritz is with the state Department of Civil Rights. 
“We now know that, based on a variety of new studies, that these images perpetuate stereotypes that harm students.” Fritz said.
Fritz said the mascots and nicknames create a, “unequal learning environment.” 
The complaint names 35 Michigan high schools, although a U.S. Department of Education decision could affect hundreds of schools across the country. In 2005, Marshall changed its mascot to the Redhawk.
 
The complaint does not name colleges or universities that have American Indian mascots.
Copyright 2013, MPRN

Organizations will engage volunteers to honor MLK Day

BY CONSUELO MCABOY
One of the many things Martin Luther King was known for is his dedication to service. 
That’s why some state organizations are making MLK Day a day of service by distributing more than 8 thousand dollars in mini grant funds across the state. 
Twenty one organizations will use the funds to put on service projects that address issues within the community. 
Things like disaster preparedness, education, and health. 
Paula Kaiser VanDam is the Executive Director of the Michigan Community Service Commission. 
“We as partner organizations come together to review the nominations of the applications that came forward, and then we make a selection of which entities will receive the funding. Of course we take things into consideration like geographic diversity and even organizational diversity. We want projects that are focused on engaging individuals from different target populations like college students, or seniors, or youth, or that kind of thing.” VanDam said.
Kaiser VanDam said the grants range from 200 to 500 dollars. 
She said she hopes service opportunities like this one will encourage communities to make a difference. 
Information is at mlkday.gov 

NPR’s Michele Norris reflects on MLK and race as she returns to network

BY DAVID NICHOLAS
The nation today is observing the holiday for the late Civil Rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 
In Washington D.C., the nation’s first African American president, Barak Obama, will be sworn in for a second term.
NPR’s Michele Norris came to the campus of Saginaw Valley State University last Wednesday to keynote the Great Lakes Bay Regional MLK Celebration.
David Nicholas sat down with her to talk about the state of race relations today, tied to the message of Dr. King and the man taking the oath as President today.  
The conversation began with how Norris wanted to and wants to bring the message of Dr. King to younger generations, now very distant from his time and work in the 1950s and 1960s.
Michele Norris took a sabbatical from NPR while her husband worked on the president’s re-election campaign. She returns to the network now, not to once again host All Things Considered, rather to work on long-form profile pieces and to further develop The Race Card Project, an initiative she began while on leave from the air.