AFL-CIO calls for restoration of the Voting Rights Act


The AFL-CIO's executive council, which is meeting in Houston, Texas this week, unanimously passed a resolution Feb. 19 calling for the passage of strong federal legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act. The text of the resolution follows:

"The Voting Rights Act (VRA) is a centerpiece of our democracy that has played a crucially important role in helping to enforce the Constitution's guarantee that "the rights of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged ... on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."

"Last year's decision by a bare majority of Supreme Court justices in Shelby County v. Holder ripped a gaping hole in the Voting Rights Act.  The court struck down the coverage formula that required some cities, states and jurisdictions with a history of voter discrimination to obtain prior federal approval for proposed election changes.  Without this preclearance requirement, jurisdictions with a history of voter discrimination are able to pass and implement laws that suppress the vote-an affront to the basic American ideal that every citizen should have the right to be heard through his or her vote.

"Now, a bipartisan group of members of Congress have come together to introduce legislation-the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014-to provide for a new formula for the act's preclearance provision.  Four states-Texas, Mississippi, Georgia and Louisiana-would be covered immediately, and other states or localities could be added if they are found to have committed a threshold number of Voting Rights Act violations.   Voter suppression laws could be challenged successfully without having to prove discriminatory intent in passing the laws.  The legislation improves transparency about voting changes, requiring wide notice of voting changes made within 180 days of an election.  The legislation continues and strengthens the federal observer program, which is critical to combatting racial and language discrimination at the polls.

"At the same time, the legislation has shortcomings that need to be addressed as the legislative process moves forward.  The standards for what "counts" as a Voting Rights Act violation need to be broadened, and discriminatory voter ID laws should fully count as a Voting Rights Act violation.  We urge the sponsors to strengthen the legislation and address these flaws. 

"The Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 represents an important first step in restoring the promise of the Voting Rights Act-an act whose mission and purpose remain as urgent and vibrant as ever.

"The labor movement has a long history of supporting voting rights and the Voting Rights Act.  We will continue to educate union members about the importance of voting rights and to mobilize union members in support of positive voting rights reforms.  We will continue to advocate, along with our allies at the state and federal levels, for improvements to our voting laws like same day registration, expanded early voting, voter registration modernization, and restoration of voting rights, that expand opportunities for voters to participate in our democracy.  And, along with our allies, we will continue to fight voter ID legislation and other voter suppression laws that restrict the right to vote.

Photo: The labor movement seeks to end situation where minority voters have to wait in line for hours to vote. AP

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  • Basic to winning future labor, anti-racist and anti-repression struggles in electoral politics, is the protection of voting rights.
    Voting right protections and mobilization is a basic and economic rights, health and health care rights, human rights, and education rights.
    The history of our country includes the heroic U. S. Senator, Charles Sumner, who drafted some of our country's first civil rights legislation, (used as a model for 1964 and 1965 Acts)the first legislation designed to protect the civil rights of all; freed chattels, African and Asian citizenry and prospective citizenry.
    All citizens have a stake in he inclusion of their sisters and brothers having protected voting rights.
    As pointed out by the titanic historian W. E. B. Du Bois in his John Brown, the settling of North America has a long, strong, anti-racist history, including the work of John Brown, Douglass, Tubman, Stowe, Lincoln, Benezet, Sumner and more.
    We need to build on this history of struggle, today.
    The present writer would to appeal especially to all Sumner and Vashon High Schools' alumni, St. Louis, MO, which includes Dick Gregory, retired Congressman Bill Clay, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Grace Bumbry, Robert Mc Ferrin and Tina Turner- along with the thousands and thousands of workers and voters from those proud schools and traditions, scattered throughout the country and world, to support this AFL-CIO effort.
    The labor movement in all its diversity and righteousness, for righteousness and diversity, with this call for restoration of the Voting Rights Act, continues the winning tradition of the brilliant, Bostonian and Harvard anti-racist abolitionist barrister, Charles Sumner.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 02/21/2014 11:31am (2 years ago)

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