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Your Guide to Meaningful Action

Tell the FCC: We Can’t Let Prison Phone Companies Exploit Inmates

Hand in prison

(Reuters/Joshua Lott)

This fall, in the first installment of our Prison Profiteers video series with the ACLU and Beyond Bars, Nation readers were introduced to Kenny, a 9-year-old boy and one of 2.7 million children across the country with a parent behind bars. In the video, Kenny’s mother explains the difficulty of keeping in touch with her son’s father; his prison is a four-hour drive away and phone calls are expensive. Global Tel* Link, the phone company the family must work with if they want to keep in touch, charges up to $1.13 cents per minute—that’s $17 for a fifteen minute phone call.

In response to the video, Nation readers joined us to demand action. The Federal Communications Commission had already capped the amount of money prison phone companies could charge for state-to-state calls in August but, since most prisoners serve time in their home state, the decision left many behind. Along with our partners on Prison Profiteers, we created a petition to demand that the FCC finish the job and end this predatory practice for all prison phone calls. Over 28,000 people have joined the campaign so far. We hope to reach at least 30,000 by this Thursday, when we deliver our petition to the FCC.

There’s a real chance we could win this fight. When the FCC capped rates for state-to-state phone calls, they asked specifically for comments on whether they should do the same for in-state calls. Plus, we’re not the only people passionate about reining in this abuse. The delivery this Thursday follows a similar petition by the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice, a coalition of groups dedicated to fighting the profitable prison phone industry.

If you haven’t already, take a minute to watch the video and join our campaign. Together we can put an end to this unjust and exploitative practice.

Tell Congress: We Must Extend Emergency Unemployment Benefits

Men wait in line to a apply for jobs

In this Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012, photo, job seekers wait in line at a construction job fair in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Thanks to Congress, it’s shaping up to be a bleak holiday season for at least one group of Americans. Because the House of Representatives failed to extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program before they left for vacation, 1.3 million long-term unemployed Americans stand to lose their unemployment benefits just three days after Christmas.

Advocates for the unemployed are calling on Congress to extend the EUC when they return from holiday break, and to make the extension retroactive. In the meantime, states have told recipients to continue to file claims after benefits are cut off on December 28, in case Congress does pass the extension.


Join The Nation and Daily Kos in calling on Congress to salvage the benefits of those who need them the most. Contact your representative now and tell them to extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program.


The House Ways and Means Committee published an interactive map that breaks down the number of unemployed Americans affected in each state.


At MSNBC, Craig Melvin spoke with LaShean Daniels-Palmer, a mother of four who relies on unemployment benefits.

Keep the Pressure on Congress to Extend Emergency Unemployment Benefits

Job fair

A line of job applicants snakes through a ropeline to attend a job fair (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

For at least one group of Americans, there’s nothing to celebrate when it comes to the budget deal announced by Representative Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray on December 10. The deal does not include an extension of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, meaning that the long-term unemployed stand to lose the benefits that could be their only bulwark against extreme poverty if Congress doesn’t act before leaving for its holiday break.


Democrats could still pass the EUC extension in a stand-alone bill or add-on to the budget. Join The Nation and Daily Kos in calling on Congress to salvage the benefits of those who need them the most. Contact your representative now and tell them to extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. To amplify your voice, call the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121.


John Nichols explains why we shouldn’t be excited by Congress’s “cruel, irresponsible and dysfunctional budget deal.”


Earlier this week, Chris Hayes talked to Heather Boushey of the Center for Equitable Growth and Representative Jerry Nadler about the importance of unemployment benefits and the likelihood of Congress doing the right thing.

Tell Congress: Don’t Leave the Unemployed Out in the Cold

A woman at a job fair

Sonja Jackson, of Detroit, holds an Employment Guide standing in line while attending a job fair in Livonia, Michigan. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

While the overall unemployment rate is falling, it has remained stubbornly high for the long-term jobless, those out of work for twenty-six weeks or longer. If Congress doesn't act to extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, 1.3 million of these Americans will lose their unemployment benefits before the end of the year. Another 850,000 will be cut off by March, 2014.


Join The Nation and Daily Kos in calling on Congress not to leave the long-term unemployed out in the cold. Contact your representative now and tell them to make sure an extension of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program is included in any budget deal.


At Think Progress, Bryce Covert details the struggles of families whose lives will be upended if Congress fails to act.


In this CNN Money Report, long-term unemployed Americans talk about the difficulties they face while they struggle to find work.

Support the Fast-Food Strikes

Fast food workers strike

Demonstrators rally for better wages outside a McDonald's restaurant in New York, as part of a national protest, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

One year after 200 workers walked off the job in New York City, the movement for justice for fast-food workers has grown significantly. Today, in their largest demonstration yet, workers in more than 100 cities across the country are expected to walk off the job. The actions are part of the movement for a $15 an hour standard rate—a significant and much-needed raise from the current median of $8.81—and the right to join a union.


Add you name to the call to the incredibly profitable fast food companies to pay their workers $15 an hour. Then, if you have some time today, find a rally near you and put your body on the line for fair wages.


The Nation’s Allison Kilkenny talked to some of the striking workers about the challenges of living off low wages.


Many people assume that fast-food workers are teenagers earning beer money. In a video promoting today’s historic strike, economist and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich debunks the many false assumptions people hold about fast-food workers and outlines the benefits we’ll all see if they’re finally given the raises they deserve.

Tell Senator Harry Reid: Before Another Decade of War, Let Congress Vote

The body of a soldier killed in Afghanistan

The war in Afghanistan has lasted twelve years, making it the longest in American history. Despite the unpopularity of the conflict, President Obama is working with the government of Afghanistan to formulate a new security deal that would leave US troops in the country for at least a decade more—without the approval of Congress.

A bipartisan group of senators, led by Senator Jeff Merkley, are planning to introduce an amendment to the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would slow down the President’s plans to turn a 12-year conflict into a twenty-three-year war. The amendment “expresses the sense of the Senate” that President Obama should seek congressional approval no later than June 1, 2014 for any extended presence in Afghanistan. As The Nation’s George Zornick points out, although the amendment isn’t binding, a debate in Congress could “mirror the debate over intervention in Syria earlier this year—where congressional support never materialized.”


The Democratic leadership may not let the Senate vote on this crucial amendment. Join us in calling on Senate majority leader Harry Reid to bring Senator Merkley’s amendment up for a vote. Our elected representatives must have a say in whether we prolong the war in Afghanistan. Then, to amplify your voice, call the Senate majority leader at 202-224-3542 and tweet at him @SenatorReid.


Earlier this week,The Nation’s George Zornick reported on Senator Merkley’s plan to introduce this crucial amendment.


On the twelfth anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, Amy Goodman at Democracy Now! spoke to Malalai Joya, an activist and former member of the Afghan Parliament who has argued forcefully against a continued United States military presence in her country.

Demand an End to Child Labor

The hands of kids working in tobacco fields

It's not allowed to happen in Russia, or in Kazakhstan—but in the United States, children as young as twelve are allowed to toil on tobacco farms, performing backbreaking work and putting their health and lives at risk. As Gabriel Thompson and Mariya Strauss document in The Nation, agricultural work is dangerous: on top of exposure to heavy pesticides and the possibility of acute nicotine poisoning, young workers are vulnerable to hazards involving farm vehicles, grain silos and manure pits.

The Children's Act for Responsible Employment (CARE Act), introduced by Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard but blocked by the GOP-controlled Education and Workforce Committee, would bring child labor standards in line with protections in other industries and increase civil penalties for abuse. The measure faces stiff opposition, but the exploitation of children, in the final telling, should be impossible to defend.


Join The Nation in calling for an end to child labor in agriculture. Contact your representatives and demand they fight to bring the CARE Act up for a vote. Then tweet at Representative John Kline (@repjohnkline), chair of the Education and Workforce Committee, and demand his committee act to fight this gross injustice.


In the latest issue of The Nation, Gabriel Thompson sheds light on the hazards faced by children working in tobacco fields, while Mariya Strauss documents the ways in which lax regulations have put kids' lives in danger.


In Fingers to the Bone: Child Farmworkers in the United States, Human Rights Watch takes a close look at the lives of the kids the CARE Act would seek to protect..

Demand Justice for Renisha McBride

Renisha McBride

In the early hours of November 2, Renisha McBride, a 19-year-old black woman from Detroit, was in a car accident in the largely white city of Dearborn Heights. When she sought help by knocking on someone’s door, she was shot in the face and killed.

As McBride’s family grapples with her death and searches for answers, the man who killed her has yet to be charged with any crime. He has said both that he felt threatened and that the gun went off accidentally, and it’s possible, in a case reminiscent of the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, that he will invoke Michigan’s version of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. The law, called the “Self-Defense Act,” could protect him from criminal prosecution if he believed that he was in danger, however wrongheaded or rooted in racial bias that belief may have been.


Sign ColorofChange.org’s petition demanding that Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and Dearborn Heights Police Chief Lee Gavin conduct a full investigation and bring the killer to justice.


As The Nation’s Mychal Denzel Smith points out, “We have been here before.”


In her powerful video, dream hampton highlights the calls for justice in the wake of Renisha McBride’s death.

Stop Congress From Handing a Windfall to the Private Prison Industry

Corrections Corporation of America

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the biggest private prison company in the country, earned $1.7 billion last year from locking people up. If immigration reform goes badly, they could make even more.

This summer, the House Judiciary Committee passed the SAFE Act (HR 2278), a toxic measure that would transform millions of undocumented immigrants into criminals overnight. No longer a civil violation, not having papers would become a felony punishable by months or years in a US prison. Companies like CCA would reap huge profits off the changes—nearly half of all people in immigration detention are locked in private jails and prisons.


There’s still time to stop this destructive legislation. Tell Speaker John Boehner not to bring the SAFE Act to the House floor.


Our latest Prison Profiteers video, produced in partnership with the ACLU and Beyond Bars, sheds light on the role CCA plays in growing our already bloated criminal justice system.


Jesse Lava from Beyond Bars and Sarah Solon from the ACLU detail some of the horrifying results of CCA’s profit-hungry policies: prisoner suicides, institutions without running water and draconian laws passed expressly to put even more people behind bars.

Legalize Marijuana

A marijuana plant

Despite growing support for legalization and the lack of any clear scientific evidence of marijuana’s health hazards, police departments in the United States make an average of almost 700,000 arrests for marijuana per year. Prohibition has a particularly devastating effect on communities of color; there are racial disparities in pot arrests in nearly all cities and states and the eleven states with the highest disparity arrest black people at six times the rate of whites.

Congress can start to change this by taking up a bill introduced by Dana Rohrabacher that would prevent the federal government from continuing to prosecute citizens who are acting in accordance with their state’s marijuana laws.


Join The Nation in calling on Congress to begin to pave the way for nationwide legalization of marijuana.


In The Nation’s special issue on marijuana, editor Katrina vanden Heuvel sums up the only sensible way forward in our country’s approach to a drug that our three most recent presidents—along with 40 percent of Americans—admit to using.


Last weekend, Nation contributors Dr. Carl Hart and Laura Flanders joined Melissa Harris-Perry to discuss the growing support for legalization and the importance of putting race at the center of the fight against prohibition.

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