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USDA questioned about line speed impact on worker, food safety

Meatpacking and poultry plant workers often suffer crippling injuries because of high work speeds and repetitive motions.

Meatpacking and poultry plant workers often suffer crippling injuries because of high work speeds and repetitive motions.

As the USDA continues to push its proposal to allow increased line speeds in poultry plants – with dangerous implications for food and worker safety – a Washington Post article raises new questions: Did USDA mislead the public, Congress about risks for poultry workers?

Just the week before, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) issued an unusually strongly worded letter questioning USDA’s “misleading” characterization of the risks to worker safety.

USDA has insisted that its proposed new poultry rule allowing already dangerous line speeds to increase from 140 birds per minute up to 175 will not adversely affect workers, and has claimed a new NIOSH worker safety evaluation of one poultry plant as supporting evidence. But as NIOSH clearly reiterates in its letter, its evaluation tested a plant in which birds processed per minute per worker stayed the same, and nonetheless found “an alarming 42% prevalence of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) in exposed workers.” This means that nearly half of the plant’s workforce would have to deal with long-term, crippling injuries and pain for the rest of their lives.

NIOSH’s letter emphasized that line speed affects the number of “repetitive and forceful movements, which are key causes of musculoskeletal disorders.”

This latest round of questions follows an August GAO report questioning USDA’s data on the food safety impact of the proposed model as well. In the report, the GAO said the USDA is going forward with its proposed new poultry rule without the proper data collection and evaluation needed to prove that food safety would be improved. The GAO questioned how the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service could use its flawed evaluation of the pilot project as the basis to propose expanding the privatized inspection model across the entire poultry industry.

Despite the clarification from NIOSH and criticisms from other organizations, the USDA has thus far refused to change its characterization of the report. You can learn more about this by reading this detailed post by Celeste Monforton, a public health expert who has been following this issue closely. NIOSH has also posted its worker safety evaluation, a summary of it, and its letter to the USDA here.

Take action!

As the conversation and questions around the proposed poultry rule continue, it is important for the White House and Congress to hear from you that the speed of work in meat and poultry processing is already too fast and this rule would further risk the health and lives of meat and poultry workers, including those in Nebraska.

Take action to stop the proposed poultry rule. Call the White House at (202) 456-1111 and tell the Administration the Poultry Rule is a senseless danger to workers’ and food safety. Then, ask your U.S. senators to slow work speed in meat and poultry plants.

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Nebraska Leaders Testify at National Commission on Voting Rights Hearing

Hearing in Kansas City part of national series to examine state of voting challenges, successes and opportunities for election reform

NE_Appleseed_Icons_Voting-128Nebraska voting rights advocates were among the testifiers at a hearing Monday in Kansas City organized by the National Commission on Voting Rights (NCVR). Voters, community leaders and advocates testified at the hearing about the accessibility of elections in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri.

Three Nebraskans testified to a Commission of voting rights advocates and election experts including Guest Commissioner Dr. Marty Ramirez, (ret.) Counseling Psychologist, University of Nebraska and community advocate. They discussed a range of topics including: voter registration, election administration (e.g., provisional ballots, polling location issues, and method of elections), and access to the ballot for individuals with disabilities, language minority voters, and communities of color.

Nebraska Advocates

  • Lazaro Spindola, Executive Director, Latino American Commission
  • Vickie Young, President, NAACP Omaha Branch
  • Keely Bassett, Winnebago tribal member

“It is an honor and a privilege to be able to provide testimony during this hearing,” said Lazaro Spindola, executive director of the Latino American Commission.  There are language barriers for voters who do not have full command of the English language.  These barriers steer voters away from exercising their constitutional right and expressing their opinion on the most basic of rights in this great nation.”

The Kansas City event is part of a series of nationwide hearings held to collect evidence on the current landscape of voting and elections in the U.S. Over the past few years, numerous states have enacted restrictive voting laws, while many others continue to grapple with recurring election administration and electoral reform challenges.

“Ensuring fair and equal access to the polling place for all eligible voters is an essential part of the democratic process,” Nebraska Appleseed Executive Director Becky Gould said. “Hearings like today’s panel in Kansas City help identify possible roadblocks to democracy and create solutions that strengthen the integrity of our local, state, and federal elections.”

Guest Commissioners for Monday’s panel:

  • Wendy Noran, Clerk, Boone County Missouri
  • Mary Ratliff, President, Missouri NAACP State Conference
  • Marty Ramirez, (ret.) Counseling Psychologist, University of Nebraska
  • Bill Rich, Professor of Law, Washburn University
  • Marsha Ternus, (ret.) Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court and Attorney at Law

Supporting organizations include:  American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa • American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas • American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri • American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska • Disability Rights Center of Kansas • Disability Rights Iowa • Disability Rights Nebraska • Iowa Citizen Action Network • Latino American Commission • Latinos Unidos of Iowa • Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law •  League of Women Voters of Iowa • League of Women Voters of Kansas • LULAC of Iowa • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People • National Action Network • National Lawyers Guild of Kansas City • Nebraska Appleseed • Nebraskans for Civic Reform • University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law

The National Commission on Voting Rights, organized by the Lawyers’ Committee on behalf of the civil rights community, is holding hearings across the country to gather testimony about voting rights and election administration problems and opportunities. For more information about the National Commission on Voting Rights, please visit ncvr.lawyerscommittee.org

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A failed deportation policy: Breaking up families for minor offenses

We’ve reached an unfortunate milestone under the Obama Administration – 2 million people have been deported from the U.S. under outdated policies, taking a devastating human and economic toll.

IMG_0761smLast week, The New York Times published a study that shows two-thirds of those people deported have committed only minor infractions such as traffic violations, or had no criminal record at all.

This report indicates the U.S. is paying far too high a price by Congress continuing to delay common-sense immigration reform.  Millions of American families are being shattered with disastrous consequences to children’s physical and mental health and the economic health of our country.

Last year, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan bill to fix our outdated immigration laws and create a clear process for citizenship for the future.  This is a common-sense solution to stop so many families from being broken apart and create a strong foundation for our communities.

Now, it’s time for the House of Representatives to take action!  Please call or e-mail Nebraska’s congressmen and ask them to support a bill that provides a clear and inclusive path to citizenship for aspiring Americans. The cost of inaction is too high.

Not sure which district you live in?  Click here to find out

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Legislative Update

NE_Appleseed_Icons_StateCapital-128The 2014 Legislative session comes to a close this week when senators adjourn sine die on Thursday.  We’re pleased to let you know several of our big priority bills passed this session!

Let’s take a quick look back at the highlights at the Capitol in 2014.

Immigration reform resolution passes last week

LR 399 (Sen. Wightman) – In the closing hours of the 2014 session, the Legislature voted 20-3 on April 10 to adopt this bipartisan resolution that urges the federal government to pass updated, common-sense immigration laws.

With the vote, the Legislature sent a strong message that Nebraskans want Congress to fix our outdated immigration laws to stop the separation of Nebraska families, strengthen our economy, and create a strong foundation for our communities and future.

Legislature passes laws to help foster youth, stop wage theft, and ‘ban the box’

Several other of Appleseed’s top priorities were passed by the Legislature this session.

On April 2, Governor Heineman signed into law LB 853 (Sen. McGill) – a bill to ensure a smoother implementation of the new Bridge to Independence program for youth who age out of foster care.  Bridge to Independence will be implemented within 60 days after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services approves Nebraska’s state plan amendment, which is expected to happen soon.

LB 560 (Sen. Mello) – Also on April 2, Gov. Heineman signed into law this bill that strengthens enforcements to prevent wage theft in Nebraska and ensure that a day’s work equals a day’s pay for Nebraska employees.

LB 907 (Sen. Ashford) – This bill that contains several reforms to Nebraska’s prison system was presented to the Governor for signature on April 10 after passing 46-0 on Final Reading.

The bill passed with an amendment to “ban the box,” or prohibit public employers from requesting prior criminal history on the first round of an employment application for certain jobs without first determining if the applicant meets the basic qualifications for the job.  Employers may still ask to view an applicant’s criminal history after an interview.

The goal of “ban the box” is to ensure people have an opportunity to interview for a job and get back to work after serving their sentence.

LR 400 (Sen. Dubas) – This resolution to establish a special investigative committee for the ACCESS Nebraska system was adopted on March 7.  This committee will investigate and identify solutions for the state’s troubled system to administer public benefits.

Efforts to increase health care access, raise minimum wage fall short

The 2014 Legislature unfortunately fell short of passing several bills that would have greatly supported hardworking Nebraskans who earn low incomes.

LB 887 (Sen. Campbell) –  The “Wellness In Nebraska Act” was filibustered and fell six votes short of cloture on March 19.  This marks the second straight year a bill to help 54,000 Nebraskans get access to health insurance was blocked from receiving an up-or-down vote by a minority of senators.

Read Appleseed’s statement on LB 887 vote

LB 943 (Sen. Nordquist) – This bill to raise the minimum wage in Nebraska to $9 per hour failed to pass by a vote of 20-20 on March 31.

While these results were disappointing, Appleseed will continue working with lawmakers and partners to advance policies that remove barriers to stability and increase access to health coverage for our friends and neighbors who earn low wages.

Stay up to date on Appleseed’s issues

Even though the Legislature session is over, you can keep up with all our work year-round by following Appleseed online. Like our Facebook page and follow breaking news in real-time on Appleseed’s Twitter feed.

Plus, stop by our Appleseed Blog for opinion pieces, informative updates, and news stories, and visit our Vimeo page for videos of what we’re working on throughout 2014.

And, we’ll let you know how you can take action to get involved and make your voice heard on issues you care about throughout the year!

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First ACA enrollment a success! So, now what?

EnrollNE_LogoA big congratulations is in order for all of the organizations and individuals who worked tirelessly throughout our state to make the first Health Insurance Marketplace open enrollment period a success!

As of Monday, March 31st,  7.1 million people across the country have successfully enrolled in private coverage through the federally run Health Insurance Marketplace or their state equivalent. This surpassed both the initial national projection and the revised goal of 6 million that was set after the rocky website rollout.

As of the beginning of March, we know that more than 25,000 Nebraskans had enrolled, and the new state numbers for the remainder of March will likely reflect the national surge of enrollees that occurred in the final month of open enrollment.

So, now what?

If you did not get enrolled by March 31st, but you did start an application on HealthCare.gov, you may still be able get coverage. The Obama administration has extended the deadline for those who were “in line” on March 31st—people who started their application but did not complete it. You can see if you qualify for this exception by clicking here.

If you did not begin your application by March 31st, you will likely have to wait until the next enrollment period opens on November 15, 2014. There are, however, certain qualifying life events that could allow you get coverage before that date. These include:

  • Getting married

  • Having a baby

  • Moving to a new area

  • Losing other health insurance coverage.

Visit this link for more information on qualifying life events.

Beyond that, the Enroll Nebraska coalition and its partners will be working statewide over the coming months to conduct more outreach, expand our network to include more organizations, evaluate best practices, and work to ensure even more Nebraskans get the affordable, quality health coverage they need during the next enrollment period.

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Rally to support opportunities for Nebraska’s hardworking families

NE_Appleseed_Icons_Opportunity-128On Tuesday, the Nebraska Legislature voted down LB 943, a bill that would have raised Nebraska’s minimum wage to $9 per hour for hourly employees and increased the minimum wage for workers who earn tips to 70 percent of that standard minimum wage.  Introduced by Sen. Nordquist, with the tipped minimum wage amendment from Sen. Lathrop, the bill received 20 votes to pass, yet needed 25.

This vote was yet another blow this session to hardworking Nebraskans who are struggling to make ends meet.  But together we can continue to advocate for policies that will help rebuild the middle class and support our working families earning low wages.

Here are two ways you can help! Please thank those senators who continue to fight for these good policies today and then attend the Rally for Working Families next week.

Join us Tuesday, April 8 at the Nebraska State Capitol and “Rally for Nebraska’s Working Families.”

What: Rally for Nebraska’s Working Families
When: Tuesday, April 8, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Nebraska State Capitol, 1445 K St., west steps

RSVP for this rally on Facebook

This is a rally in support of policies like an increased minimum wage, Medicaid expansion, anti-wage theft, child care support, equal pay and other issues to help remove barriers to prosperity for hardworking Nebraska individuals and families. Stand with those friends and neighbors at this rally next Tuesday!

ALSO, please contact the senators who voted to support an increase in the minimum wage and thank them for fighting to make sure hard work pays in Nebraska.

Email Link

Phone Number

Sen. Brad Ashford

(402) 471-2622

Sen. Bill Avery

(402) 471-2633

Sen. Kate Bolz

(402) 471-2734

Sen. Kathy Campbell

(402) 471-2731

Sen. Ernie Chambers

(402) 471-2612

Sen. Danielle Conrad

(402) 471-2720

Sen. Tanya Cook

(402) 471-2727

Sen. Sue Crawford

(402) 471-2615

Sen. Annette Dubas

(402) 471-2630

Sen. Ken Haar

(402) 471-2673

Sen. John Harms

(402) 471-2802

Sen. Burke Harr

(402) 471-2722

Sen. Russ Karpisek

(402) 471-2711

Sen. Rick Kolowski

(402) 471-2327

Sen. Steve Lathrop

(402) 471-2623

Sen. Amanda McGill

(402) 471-2610

Sen. Heath Mello

(402) 471-2710

Sen. Jeremy Nordquist

(402) 471-2721

Sen. Kate Sullivan

(402) 471-2631

Sen. Norm Wallman

(402) 471-2620

Your voice will make a difference as we continue this fight!  Thank you for your support and for standing with our fellow Nebraskans.

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Legislative Update

NE_Appleseed_Icons_StateCapital-128We are just seven days away from the close of the 2014 Nebraska Legislature session and several important bills await debate, and hopefully passage.  Read on to see how your voice can influence these debates and get caught up on the Legislature action from last week.

Legislature fails to pass bill to raise minimum wage for hard-working families

LB 943 (Sen. Nordquist) – This bill to raise the minimum wage in Nebraska failed to pass by a vote of 20-20 with three senators present, but not voting on March 31.

The bill would have raised Nebraska’s minimum wage to $9 per hour over several years for non-tip earners, and would raise the minimum wage for those earning tips to 70 percent of the standard minimum wage. The minimum wage for tip earners is $2.13 and has not been raised since 1991.

We thank Sen. Nordquist and all the senators who supported this bill that was a measure proven to lift hard-working Nebraska families out of poverty.  We will continue to work alongside our lawmakers on policies that affirm the dignity in a hard day’s work, rebuild the middle class, and help families earn enough to meet their basic needs.

Support Immigration resolution that calls for Congress to keep families together

NE_Appleseed_Icons_TakeAction-128LR 399 (Sen. Wightman) – This bipartisan resolution urges the federal government to pass common-sense immigration laws for our families, economy, and future. This resolution is scheduled for debate next week so it’s important for our senators to hear your voice soon!

More than 60 percent of Americans believe the U.S. needs a path to citizenship to keep families united, grow our economy, and preserve our future.  Now is the time to update our immigration laws.

Please call or write your state senator to support LR 399 because updated immigration laws that include a path to citizenship will keep Nebraska families together.

Bridge To Independence, Wage Theft Prevention bills signed into law

LB 853 (Sen. McGill) – This bill to ensure a smoother implementation of the new Bridge To Independence program by adopting stakeholder recommendations was passed on Final Reading by a vote of 42-0 on March 27 and was signed into law by Governor Heineman on April 2.

Bridge To Independence was the program created by last year’s LB 216, which created a system of services and supports for young people who age out of Nebraska’s foster care system.  Thank you very much to Sen. McGill for her leadership issue and to all the senators who supported this bill.

LB 560 (Sen. Mello) – This bill to prevent wage theft in Nebraska and ensure that a day’s work equals a day’s pay was passed on Final Reading on March 27 and was signed into law by Gov. Heineman on April 2.

The bill supports hard-working Nebraskans by targeting those few dishonest employers who fail to pay the wages promised when the work is done. LB 560 strengthens the Department of Labor’s ability to enforce the law and provide relief when there are claims of wage theft. In addition, LB 560 includes a requirement that employers, with minor exceptions, provide pay stubs to their employees.

LB 661 – This bill would allow voters to register to vote online through the Secretary of State’s web site and use their information provided to the Department of Motor Vehicles to save time and increase accuracy. It was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Heineman on March 31.

LB 907 (Sen. Ashford) – This bill creates the Nebraska Justice Reinvestment Task Force which will help provide legislative solutions for prison overcrowding.  It also establishes several provisions to aid an individual’s successful reentry and transition back into the community and workforce.  It passed Select File on March 31.

The bill passed with an amendment to “ban the box,” or prohibit public employers from requesting prior criminal history on the first round of an employment application for certain jobs (with some exceptions) without first determining if the applicant meets the basic qualifications for the job.  The goal of “ban the box” is to ensure people have an opportunity to interview for a job and get back to work after serving their sentence.

Stay up to date on Appleseed’s issues

You can keep up with all the exciting happenings at the Legislature by following Appleseed online. Like our Facebook page and follow issues and legislative hearings in real-time on Appleseed’s Twitter feed.

Plus, stop by our Appleseed Blog for opinion pieces, informative updates, and news stories, and visit our Vimeo page for videos of what we’re working on throughout 2014.

We will keep you updated on the latest bill introductions, hearings, and floor debate.  And, we’ll let you know how you can take action to get involved and make your voice heard throughout the session!

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News and Events from Nebraska Appleseed – April 2014

In this April edition of “Appleseed in Action”:

  • Wellness In Nebraska Act filibustered in Legislature
  • Priority bills advance at the Capitol
  • Inter-American Commission hearing on workers’ human rights abuses
  • “Rock Enroll” draws Nebraskans to Get Covered
  • Karen quilting exhibit showcases immigrants’ stories

Wellness In Nebraska Act filibuster denies health coverage for 54,000 Nebraskans

NE_Appleseed_Icons_Medicaid-128On March 19, a group of state senators left 54,000 uninsured Nebraskans without a path to health care coverage when they filibustered LB 887 – the Wellness In Nebraska Act that would have helped Nebraskans with low incomes get affordable health insurance. These 54,000 fall into the coverage gap and have no other avenues for coverage. The vote to end debate was 27-21, with 33 votes necessary to end debate.

Read Appleseed’s statement on the filibuster of LB 887

This marks the second straight year a bill to help tens of thousands of our friends and neighbors get health coverage has been filibustered.

But while this is a discouraging outcome, we know the fight is not over! On March 26, several of the co-sponsors of LB 887 joined advocates at the State Capitol for a press conference where they pledged to continue fighting for uninsured Nebraskans.

We urge you to thank the senators who voted in support of LB 887 and keep adding your voice to this crucial conversation! Appleseed vows to continue fighting for policies that help every Nebraskan access quality, affordable health care because we are a stronger and better state when Nebraska is healthy.

WATCH: Health care advocates vow to keep up health care fight:

Health Care Advocates Vow to Keep Fighting from Nebraska Appleseed on Vimeo.

Legislature fails to pass bill to raise minimum wage for hard-working families

LB 943 (Sen. Nordquist) – This bill to raise the minimum wage in Nebraska failed to pass by a vote of 20-20 with three senators present, but not voting on March 31.

We thank Sen. Nordquist and all the senators who supported this bill that was a measure proven to lift hard-working Nebraska families out of poverty.  We will continue to work alongside our lawmakers on policies that affirm the dignity in a hard day’s work, rebuild the middle class, and help families earn enough to meet their basic needs.

Priority bills advance at 2014 Nebraska Legislature session

NE_Appleseed_Icons_StateCapital-128We’re pleased to be able to tell you several of Appleseed’s priority bills have advanced during the 2014 Nebraska Legislature session.

LB 853 (Sen. McGill) – This bill to ensure a smoother implementation of the new Bridge To Independence program by adopting stakeholder recommendations was passed on Final Reading by a vote of 42-0 on March 27. It now goes to Governor Heineman’s desk for signature. The Bridge To Independence was the program created by last year’s LB 216, which created a system of services and supports for young people who age out of Nebraska’s foster care system.

LB 560 (Sen. Mello) – A bill to prevent wage theft in Nebraska and ensure that a day’s work equals a day’s pay. This bill supports hard-working Nebraskans by targeting those few dishonest employers who fail to pay the wages promised when the work is done and requires employers to provide a pay stub so employees understand how much they are being paid for how many hours work. This bill was passed on Final Reading on March 27 and presented to the Governor.

Support resolution to pass updated immigration laws

LR 399 (Sen. Wightman) – This bipartisan resolution urges the federal government to pass common-sense immigration laws for our families, economy, and future. It is expected to come up for floor debate next week.

Please contact your senator and urge them to support LR 399 because updated immigration laws that include a clear process for citizenship will keep families together, provide stability for businesses, and make our communities stronger.

Appleseed, Former Nebraska meatpacking workers testify on human rights abuses

omaid_iachrOn March 25, former Nebraska meatpacking workers and Appleseed joined other civil rights groups to testify before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), describing how U.S. government policies have failed to protect meat and poultry workers by allowing dangerously fast work speeds that cause crippling injuries.

WATCH: Appleseed attorney Omaid Zabih testifies on the dangers of work conditions in meat and poultry plants:

IACHR hearing on meatpacking and poultry plant human rights violations from Nebraska Appleseed on Vimeo.

The hearing comes as the USDA prepares to finalize a new regulation, known as the Poultry Rule, that would further increase poultry slaughter line speeds from the current maximum of 140 birds per minute to 175 birds per minute. This would make an already dangerous work environment even more hazardous.

At the hearing, two Nebraskans who used to work in meatpacking plants testified on the crippling, chronic injuries they suffered as a result of working at the plants.

“I packed hams for eight hours a day, 40 to 50 hams every minute. The processing line moves tremendously fast and doesn’t stop,” said Teresa Martinez. “After just 3 years I had to have surgery. When I had pain and warning signs at the beginning and reported it, they only gave me pills and ice to stop the pain. What I wanted when I worked at the plant was to be treated like a human being and not like some replaceable machine.”

Juan Martinez testified to the IACHR on the four surgeries and crippling injuries he suffered working for years in Nebraska meatpacking plants.

Juan Martinez testified to the IACHR on the four surgeries and crippling injuries he suffered working for years in Nebraska meatpacking plants.

“Working on the line, the speed takes a toll on your body,” said Juan Martinez. “You make the cuts again and again. The line runs so fast, and it doesn’t slow down when other workers are absent. Then you have to work even faster. Each day I made thousands of cuts, motions that repeated every shift. My hands became inflamed. My fingers locked. I broke three disks in my back from lifting heavy buckets of meat and fat every day.”

See photos of the IACHR hearing

Read more: Mint Press News – “Meatpacking Workers Fight Inhumane Conditions

“Rock Enroll” draws crowd to concert raising awareness to Get Covered

“This is an issue about people’s health. This is an issue about the future of our country. Health care is the largest rising cost. This is the one thing that can devastate an economy. Health care is going to be the issue of the next 10 years.”

That’s Larry Tarkington, an Omaha man currently without health insurance. Larry was one of the concertgoers who came to a unique concert event on March 20 designed to raise awareness about new health insurance options under the Affordable Care Act before the national March 31 enrollment deadline.

Rock Enroll attracted a crowd of concertgoers to Omaha’s Slowdown music club where people could receive information about health insurance options available through the new Health Insurance Marketplace that already has helped more than 25,000 Nebraskans find affordable insurance. The crowd then was treated to a free concert featuring local artists “Conchance” and “Rock Paper Dynamite.”

See photos from Rock Enroll

Amanda Caillau, 28, told the crowd her own story about finding insurance for less than $20 per month through the Marketplace, which is allowing her to afford to go back to college to become a teacher.

State senator Jeremy Nordquist also encouraged concertgoers to explore their insurance options, which may be more affordable than they thought.

“It’s an easy system to enroll now. There’s a lot of help,” Sen. Nordquist said.

Rock Enroll was organized by Enroll Nebraska, Hear Nebraska, and the Nebraska AIDS Project.

Quilt of Dreams and Memories exhibit showcases immigrants’ stories

NE_Appleseed_Icons_Community-128Lincoln High School students told the stories of their memories and journeys to Lincoln from Myanmar and Thailand, as well as the stories of their dreams for the future through quilting when the new exhibit “Quilt of Dreams and Memories” opened Sunday at the Sheldon Museum of Art.

As the quilt was unveiled, students described their rural homes in Myanmar or the refugee camps where their families lived in Thailand. The Karen American students shared their plans to become teachers, doctors and nurses as well as the hope for peace in their countries in the colorful quilt that brought together traditional Karen weaving and American story quilting.

Lincoln Journal Star: “Final product of Karen group’s quilt project unveiled at Sheldon

In her own words, Paw Spai Moo, a Lincoln High student, described the small confinement of the refugee camp she lived in for fourteen years contrasted with the freedoms she experiences here: “When I was one year old my parents moved to the refugee camp. I lived for long time, about 14 years. We have a difficult time. We can’t go in the outside. We just have to live in the little same area.” Now, Paw Spai dreams of a future with equal rights and peace for all people.

You can view the Quilt of Dreams and Memories and along with other immigrant student art at the Nebraska Mosaic Art Show at the Lux Center for the Arts, April 1-30, 2014.

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