NOW Acts

Columbus NOW billboardColumbus NOW activists delivered a bold message to Ohio taxpayers who oppose sex discrimination. This billboard targets the issue of gender equity in state university athletic programs. Photo courtesy of Ohio Gender Equity Coalition.

by Cindy Hanford, Chapter/State Development Staff

NOW chapters have been busy taking action in NOW's Women-Friendly Workplace Campaign. In addition, chapters organized to send delegates to the National Conference in July in Memphis and recruited new members in our Mega-Membership Drive. (See related stories on conference, Women-Friendly Workplace and membership contest.)

NOW activists from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York supported the Kensington Welfare Rights Union in its 10-day march from Philadelphia to New York City (see story), while chapters in California supported the strawberry workers in an ongoing campaign (see story). Other chapter actions included:

Washington County NOW Takes Lead Against Military Backlash

Washington County NOW (MD) picketed the Hagerstown offices of U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R) after he issued a press statement opposing co-ed military training. According to the local Herald-Mail, Bartlett said current policy is a failed attempt at political correctness and a "catastrophe" that threatens U.S. security. He further pontificated that a "powder puff" military would not be very effective.

Bartlett's press secretary, Lisa Wright, defended his position by saying, "He firmly believes that the battlefield discriminates against the weak and unorganized." A few days later, Bartlett introduced legislation to ban mixed-sex military training.

The protest by Washington County NOW activists brought to the public s attention that Bartlett was "blaming the victims" of military sexual harassment and assault. Outside Bartlett's office May 17, they carried signs that read: "Segregate rapists, not military women" and "Stop the war on women."

Chapter president Beverly Kipe was quoted in the Herald-Mail: "Just because a woman is raped does not mean that women should be separated from men. Men have to be responsible for their own actions." Chapter vice-president Linda Smith was quoted in the local Morning Herald: "The problem is males in the military don't conduct themselves appropriately. It's not the fault of females who are there."

San Fernando Valley/ NE Los Angeles NOW Organizes Against Violence

Approximately 900 people participated in the chapter's Ending Violence Against Women Conference held at California State-Northridge on April 3. The day-long event included the first statewide showing of the California Clothesline Project and was attended by both students and community residents.

Workshop topics recognized the many ways in which women are subjected to violence and offered suggested actions for change. Workshops included: Welfare, Poverty and the Economics of Violence; Institutionalized Violence Against Women; Violence Against Women with Disabilities; Female Genital Mutilation in the U.S.; Violence Against Women of Color; Sexual Assault; Same Sex Domestic Violence; Violence in the Garment and Agriculture Industries; Child Custody Issues; and Legislative and Community Action Strategies for Change. Many professors gave their students credit for attending.

The Clothesline Project included more than 20 different projects and 1,200 T-shirts from all over California. Long Beach NOW, Santa Cruz County NOW, Simi-Conejo NOW and Southwest Riverside County NOW chapters brought their Clothesline Projects in support. Clothesline Projects are a collection of T-shirts created by a survivor of violence or by someone who cares about a victim in order to educate others about the human suffering caused by violence. Attendees were very positive about the conference, and the chapter hopes to make it an annual event to educate students on the issue of violence against women.

Wisconsin NOW Rallies for Abortion Rights

Frustrated by the misinformation flooding the media about late-term abortions, Wisconsin NOW took action and organized an abortion rights rally in Milwaukee May 4. The protest was part of a national day of action to educate the public about legislation against the D&X procedure. Rosemary Dempsey, then NOW Vice President-Action, spoke at the event, two local bands provided entertainment and two local poets read their work. Working in coalition with all the NOW chapters in Wisconsin, NARAL, Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights League, the rally drew hundreds of activists.

Wisconsin NOW President Deborah Lukovich presented a dismal view of the future if Roe v. Wade continues to be weakened by anti-abortion legislation. Lukovich told the crowd: "We are at a point of crisis. Congress and the Wisconsin legislature are about to do something unprecedented outlaw a specific abortion procedure, effectively telling doctors that they are not qualified to determine the health status and needs of their own patients."

The Wisconsin legislature will probably outlaw the D&X procedure with legislation that would sentence doctors to life in prison if they are convicted of performing it. Dempsey told the crowd: "It's terribly important that the public recognize and that NOW mobilize against this D&X prohibition. It is the beginning of further restricting access to abortion for all women. The legislatures have already attacked the right to abortion access for young women and poor women. Now, they re out to stop the procedures."

Moe Biller, Diana Garcia and Kim Gandy at USPS protestMoe Biller, postal workers union president, at a U.S. Supreme Court protest by El Paso del Norte (Texas) NOW over a pregnancy discrimination suit against the post office by chapter activist Diana Garcia, middle. NOW Executive Vice President Kim Gandy, right, and interns wrote the NOW Foundation's amicus brief on her behalf.

El Paso del Norte NOW Takes on Pregnancy Discrimination

El Paso del Norte (TX) NOW took action on behalf of its member Diana Garcia in her suit against the U.S. Postal Service, seeing the case all the way to the steps of the Supreme Court for a demonstration in her support.

Garcia, an employee with the Postal Service, applied for and was awarded a new position with better hours and conditions and lighter duty than her previous job. But when Garcia arrived for her training period she was informed that she was physically incapable of taking the job because she was pregnant; the Postal Service refused to let Garcia prove that she could perform the tasks required by the position of window clerk.

Garcia filed suit under Title VII to obtain compensation for the Postal Service's actions, but the District Court denied relief. El Paso del Norte NOW brought this injustice to the attention of national NOW, and with an amicus brief from NOW Foundation and her union, Garcia appealed the decision.

After the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's decision, Garcia again appealed. NOW Foundation wrote a second amicus brief, this time to the Supreme Court, stressing the importance of strictly enforcing Title VII's protections against pregnancy discrimination in order to protect the employment rights of potentially millions of women. El Paso del Norte NOW members traveled to Washington to join D.C. activists in a demonstration to urge the Justices to review this critical case. Although the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, the elimination of pregnancy discrimination remains a key issue of NOW's Women-Friendly Workplace Campaign and the chapter continues to work on the issues of employment discrimination and sexual harassment.

South Palm Beach County NOW Goes to Bat For Catcher

South Palm Beach County NOW President Linda Bliden made the NBC nightly news after the chapter supported Melissa Raglin, the 12-year-old Boca Raton girl forced to wear an athletic cup in order to be catcher on a youth league baseball team. An umpire had banished Raglin to the outfield because she wasn't wearing an athletic cup designed for boys.

The NOW chapter's press release pointed out that the policy showed a lack of understanding, compassion and encouragement for a talented youngster, regardless of gender. As Bliden was quoted in an Associated Press story: "It's almost some kind of harassment. The cup has nothing to do with a female anatomy."

The policy was set by the Babe Ruth League's national office in Trenton, N.J., but had not been enforced on the local level, at least not until someone chose to make an example of the girl.

In a play-off game, Raglin was allowed to catch wearing a "female protective device." The appropriate equipment was found only after her story made the national news and athletic companies sent her samples; local store owners had laughed at her parents request.

Sheila Jaffe, Florida NOW Vice President, was quoted in the press: "We should do everything we can to encourage girls to get involved with sports. A young girl who maybe isn't as strong and confident as Melissa might have been embarrassed into walking away."

After the story received so much national attention, the Babe Ruth League issued a statement that the 40-year-old policy requiring athletic cups would not be mandatory for girls. Raglin thanked NOW for coming to her defense in an article she wrote for the June 4 Boca Raton News.

NOW - New Jersey: Legal Precedent Set in Rape Case

In a landmark case, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Union County jail inmate who had been blocked from suing the jail after he was raped by a guard. NOW-New Jersey joined in an amicus brief in the case, Collins v. Union County Jail.

A jury found that the guard had committed the rape and held him liable for damages. But the Appellate Court said that the New Jersey Tort Claims Act only allows an individual to sue the government where there is "permanent loss of bodily function." The plaintiff in this case had limited physical injury, but suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder caused by the rape.

In the amicus brief to the state Supreme Court, NOW-New Jersey and others argued that post-traumatic stress resulting from a rape should meet the threshold requirements to sue under the Tort Claims Act. The high court held that post-traumatic stress disorder caused by a rape may constitute a "permanent loss of bodily function" within the meaning of the Tort Claims Act.

Cal Poly/Pomona NOW Leads Campus

For the second year in a row and the second year since its inception, Cal Poly/Pomona NOW has been named the University's "Club of the Year," topping 220 other student organizations. Chapter convenor Heather Poole earned the "Outstanding Student Leader of the Year" award, for which chapter coordinator Nadine Loza and chapter treasurer Jaimie Snyder were also nominated. And chapter advisor Debbie McFall was nominated for the "Advisor of the Year" award. Chapter activists hope this recognition will bring them more influence and more members.

Thanks for information provided by Beverly Kipe and Linda Smith of Washington County NOW, Jean Morrison of San Fernando Valley/NE LA NOW, Julie Skilton of Santa Cruz County NOW, Juanita M. Velarde of Southwest Riverside County NOW, Jennifer Olenchek of Wisconsin NOW, Irma Luevano of El Paso del Norte NOW, Linda Bliden of South Palm Beach County NOW, Bear Atwood of NOW-New Jersey, and Heather Poole of Cal/Poly Pomona NOW.

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