Did you know that it would take over a thousand years for someone picking potatoes for Tesco to earn the pay of their Chief Executive? There are three important campaigns this month that you can take part in, from the national to the local, to challenge the status quo. If you could set aside just fifteen minutes or so for all three, you would be keeping the issue in the minds of our representatives. Notes of the last meeting, covering the Fairness Commission and Workfare, are below. 
 
Avaaz tax avoidance campaign
Firstly, the lobby of Government on tax avoidance by the excellent online campaign group Avaaz (which is a great way of taking part in effective and socially conscious campaigns):
 
http://www.avaaz.org/en/goldman_sachs_pay_your_tax/
 
Lobby your MP for a more equal society
Our second campaign seeks to influence MPs, follow the link to take part:
 
https://sheffieldequality.wordpress.com/2012/01/05/lobby-your-mp/
 
Ask your Councillor to support the Fairness Commission
In Sheffield the Fairness Commission will soon start, but not all of the parties may support it; we need to ensure that all councillors support the commission and increase the likelihood any actions will be pushed forward. The national Equality Trust has a simple tool to help you contact your councillors, as well as a suggested letter. If you click on the Councillors name you will see the letter. To make it more specific to Sheffield, I suggest you replace the last line of each letter with something like:
 
“I am aware that the forthcoming Sheffield Fairness Commission is likely to look into these issues also. I trust that you will support the work of the Commission in helping the Council become a powerful force for reducing excessive inequality, both in Sheffield and as part of wider actions across the UK. By taking these actions you can play an important part.”
 
You are, of course, welcome to personalise the message as you like:
http://e-activist.com/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=118&ea.campaign.id=12070 
 
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Sheffield Equality Group Meetings
 
The next meeting of the group is Wednesday 1st February, 7pm at Quaker Meeting House, including a workshop on the fairness commission, discussion of universal benefit and fairer taxation, and a report back from the national Occupy conference in Sheffield. All welcome.
 
Meetings of Sheffield Equality Group are the first Wednesday of every month. Future topics include “Do we argue for less inequality, or income equality?”
 
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“If we cared about overcoming the effect that poverty and low incomes have on educational achievement, we shouldn’t tinker with the 15% of education but go directly to the source, the 60% of socioeconomic factors. If you want poor children to do better in school, forget about their education, just make them less poor.”
http://mondediplo.com/2012/01/14education
 
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Notes of January meeting
Apologies: June. Attending: Graham, Leela, Jack, Jason, Jean, Joe, Peter, Rachel
 
MPs Lobbying Letter
Group agreed it would be good to lobby MPs. Letter will go up on the website after checking with Graham B (Jason).
 
Fairness Commission
The group wishes to be involved in the commission and will contact Lee Adams (Jason). The next meeting will discuss what we think the priorities of the Comission should be. There was a suggestion we could focus on basics (food, shelter, water) and relate those to income inequality (e.g. poverty and benefit changes leading to homelessness, wealthy own multiple homes and pushing up house prices). To inform the discussion Joe will collate details on commssions elsewhere.
 
Workfare
There was discussion of the Government policy to force people into work if they had spent six months unemployed, or threaten loss of benefits. The feeling was that in any case compulsion was unjust, and that at least the work should be for non-profit making companies. The risk was that companies such as Tesco would use Workfare for cheap labour and not hire people on proper wages, and continue to not pay taxes that could support out of work people into proper employment. Jason suggested circulating a draft flyer that could be used for a local campaign. See www.boycottworkfare.org/ for more.