When: September 6th, 2013
Where: Cass Corridor Commons
4605 Cass Avenue, Detroit, Michigan 48201
East Michigan Environmental Action Council, 5E, Heru, and the American Indian Health and Family Services invite you to the film screening of, Our Fires Still Burn: The Native American Experience, on September 6th, 2013. The showing will take place in the D. Blair Theater of The Cass Corridor Commons.
Focusing on the lives and experiences of the Native/Indigenous community in the Midwest, Our Fires Still Burn is a one hour documentary that works to dispel the myth that American Indians have disappeared from the United States. The narrative that Native and Indigenous peoples no longer exist in the US has been perpetrated in many forms since the beginning of colonization in the US, with perhaps the most famous example being the book (and movie), The Last of the Mohicans. The narrative usually argues something along the lines that because Native peoples are now dead (or are actively dying), we need non-Native peoples to "save and recover" (read; loot) Native artifacts (very often including actual bones of human beings). Another strand of the narrative argues that names like Washington Red Skins are actually compliments that honor long dead tribes rather than the offensive insults that Native/Indigenous peoples say they are.
Our Fires Still Burns argues that the narrative that Native/Indigenous peoples are dead is harmful in that it invisibilizes and makes unnecessary the voices of the very much alive Native/Indigenous community. But as Our Fire Still Burns shows, Native and Indigenous peoples continue to persist, heal from the past, confront the challenges of today, keep their culture alive, and make great contributions to society.
The film viewing of Our Fires Still Burn will appeal to native and non-Native alike, and will be followed by a question and answer session featuring many of the people appearing in the film, as well as film director Audrey Geyer. Ms. Geyer is an independent video producer and director whose programs have been broadcasted locally and nationally on PBS. She is the founder and current executive director of Visions, an independent video production company local in Metro Detroit. Visions work focuses on creating documentaries that tell the stories of communities that are underrepresented in mainstream media.
As East Michigan Environmental Action Council co-director, Diana Copeland says, the most important thing to do right now in light of various attacks on marginalized communities in Detroit is to build community responses to those attacks, "Conversations that happen where we can begin to get to know each other are essential and will only make our communities stronger."
Take a mid-summer break to enjoy a great evening among friends and colleagues in the immigrant rights movement and beyond. NNIRR is 30 years old this year, and we'll be sharing some delicious food and drinks, interesting and fun conversation, and yes -- dancing to music wit
Organizers from across the South and Southwest gather in Albuquerque to advance ‘Accountable Governance’
This post was created by the South by Southwest Experiment, representing SouthWest Organizing Project, SouthWest Workers Union, and Project South, and is based in conversations that have taken place with communities in New Mexico, Texas, and Mississippi.
Beginning Thursday, July 28th, 2016, over 130 grassroots organizers, community leaders, and elected officials from New Mexico, Mississippi, and Texas, will be gathering in Downtown Albuquerque for a deep conversation about “Accountable Governance” with the South X SouthWest Experiment (a black-brown-indigenous partnership of people of color led grassroots organizations that includes SouthWest Organizing Project, SouthWest Workers Union, and Southern Echo). The subject, grounded in the rich political moment of the summer of 2016, will advance a set of principles aimed at improving government’s responsiveness to the struggles endured by everyday people in our day to day lives.
Contrastingly, this conversation takes place in the face of a 50-year conservative movement that has built a neo-liberal agenda, including the building of social structures, the rollback of democratic practices, voter exclusion, big money in politics, militarization of police, and the use of anti-immigrant rhetoric to stoke deep resentment amongst their base. They have also worked for decades to downplay the role of government in addressing our communities’ struggles, including defaming government and characterizing it as the problem, dismantling essential public services by cutting taxes, deregulating safety and ending protections, and defanging organized labor and other groups who fight back. Using racist dog whistles, their mantra is simply that “wasteful government takes the hard-working white man’s earnings and gives it to lazy people of color who don’t deserve it.” We all are left feeling the vortex of despair.
This weekend’s accountable governance summit challenges that dominant world view and is focused on achieving a representative democracy that responds to our community’s struggles with the level of urgency that they deserve. Our efforts focus on the health of our base, not the health of the elite. We strive to reinstate the valuation of our lives, to hold on to gains made, and to win in much bigger ways that affect our families’ daily lives. We seek to build the infrastructure necessary to build a new center of gravity that transfers power to those closest to the pain, not just to challenge and tear down that which oppresses us.
Our summit also takes place in the context of the Summer of 2016, a period which has been encapsulated by deep racial tensions around the televised police shootings of black victims like Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge. Soon thereafter, several high profile shootings of police officers took place in Dallas and Baton Rouge. In addition, 49 mostly Latino LGTBQ victims were killed in mass-shooting in Orlando, Florida. Yet overall crime trends across the country are dramatically down over recent decades.
In addition, much of the country has found itself in shock and awe at the rapid rise of Donald Trump to the Republican presidential nomination, using a campaign based on fear and anxiety about the country’s well-being. Earlier in the summer England voters successfully removed themselves from the European Union and many attribute the “#brexit” to widespread fear-mongering about immigrants. As if to reveal the foundation of where much of the angst was coming from, Iowa’s U.S. Representative Steve King wondered aloud on national television about what contributions any “subgroup of people” had made to civilization in comparison to the white race, a blatant premise of white supremacy.
Has Barack Obama’s service as President of the United States over the last eight years represented a transition into post-racial America? Simply and straightforwardly, “no.” Since 2008 the Voting Rights Act has been eviscerated in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder and the imbalance is increasingly clear to our communities that the color of one’s skin and the amount of wealth that one has determines access to and the power to hold accountable the educational, economic, and political systems of this country. The right wing quickly struck back with its takeover of state politics in the 2010 elections and has diligently worked to dismantle participation of working families and communities of color in any democratic process, including making voting increasingly difficult through measures such as Voter ID and diminished voting accessibility.
The agenda is clear and the moves are strategic in the attempt to privatize public education and profit from systems that tear communities of color apart. Many states have found themselves funding prisons at higher levels than early childhood education and mass incarceration is finally beginning to receive the critique it deserves. Our brothers and sisters are missing, often locked up at disproportionately higher rates than whites for the same crimes. They are not dead, but rather locked behind bars, unraveling the threads of our families and the often privatized prison system is doing just what it was designed to do as a multi-billion dollar industry.
Our communities have never stopped experiencing systemic racism, yet our power rests in the empowerment of what promises to be a new American majority with a fresh set of values around equity and social justice. Moving from moment to movement will require taking an incredibly disciplined look at how we steer the ship in a different direction. Despite the daunting political landscape, recent acceptance of 21st century technology’s contributions to people power offers many promising possibilities for galvanizing our people.
One of our greatest thinkers, Karlos Gauna Schmieder, talks about how our social networks have the power to bring people together, and use systems like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and PokemonGo to move together in ways unseen for generations. The beauty of social networks, much like the concept “you are what you eat,” emphasizes that “you are what you’re connected to.” While this has proven semi-powerful for Donald Trump and his personal twitter account, our strength in numbers and the connectivity of movements like #blacklivesmatter promises to be even more powerful. The rapid nature of this societal transformation, far faster than the Industrial Revolution, is breath-taking, but it is one that is dramatically more accessible to our people – because our whole lives are social networks! Our networks are our power! They enable us to connect, to lift up ideas in new ways, and to hold systems accountable. It’s not easy to intimidate a network. The concept of a few people in a room determining the future of our governance is quickly losing its power. Instead, the power of mapping networks and matching them to the political map could be the X factor in empowering a true majority going forward.
That said, the 2016 New Mexico Accountable Governance Summit will strive to create a set of principles around the spirit of governance that will begin to steer the ship in a promising new direction. Early in the 1990s, environmental justice leaders came together and created the “Environmental Justice Principles” and the “Jemez Principles” – and those one-page documents have served as “gold-standards” in guiding environmental justice work ever since. Our work seeks to achieve the same level of meaning on the topic of representative democracy. We strive to achieve a radical democracy represented by elected officials committed to confronting generations of imperialism, colonization, oppression, enslavement, racism, and imposed poverty. We reject a mainstream politic that is rooted in domination and control, that privileges the whims of a free market and the privatization of public assets, that conversely denies the historical realities of long-standing struggles, and that is informed by an ineffectual politics of meager compromise and a philosophy of self-advancement. That politic has led to an upward transfer of wealth, that defends the military status quo, that subjugates women, and that is responsive to large donors and not the urgencies of The People.
Instead, we envision governance that understands long-standing struggles such as hunger, poverty, and income inequality as the outcomes of white supremacy, cultural oppression, land theft, disrupted food systems, exploitation of labor and resources, unrestrained capitalistic greed, and environmental injustices. Our people are not morally flawed or lazy; they’ve constantly overcome countless structural and systemic obstacles against all odds. We believe that our government will be emboldened and strengthened by elected and appointed public officials who represent historically excluded backgrounds, particularly poor women of color, and who place the broader community interest over their narrow ambition and self-interest. We seek to shed light on the myriad pressures that elected officials are faced with once they get into office, and then to also engage in new meaningful ways to support their impact.
As our friends at Demos often emphasize, our efforts must “lead with race,” because the opposition is already doing so with their dog whistle racism. Instead, we believe that our success depends upon raising people of color as the protagonists in our own struggle. As grassroots community organizations, 90% of what we already do is “candidate development” – and the work ahead requires us to build our pool of candidates several years out, to prepare them to run for office, to connect them with mentors, and to help develop the economic and employment conditions to make it possible for them to be able to run and serve.
Truly accountable governance affirms a long view of the generational struggle and seizes the value of engaging and empowering our young people and people of color to assume the roles of architects and decision-makers in our collective overcoming, to ensure continuity of the movement. Once fully functioning, that governance will be deeply participatory beyond simple voting, and will bring together resources at all levels of government to support the collective dreams of its people. We look forward to the rich input that participants will have into developing a set of accountable governance principles and we hope that this weekend’s convening will add significant value to our people’s promising outlook as the rapidly rising New American Majority.
WASHINGTON — The White House on Tuesday announced a substantial expansion of a program to admit Central American refugees to the United States, conceding that its efforts to protect migrants fleeing dangerous conditions had left too many people with no recourse.
July 20th & 21st, MVP Healthcare and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont testified in front of the Green Mountain Care Board about their proposed health insurance rate hikes of up to 10% (BCBS) and 13% (MVP) for next year’s Vermont Health Connect plans. But company lawyers weren’t the only ones testifying.
“People cannot afford health care as it is, and you want to increase it. What are they going to give up? Food? Clothes?” said Dottye Ricks to the Board, noting that hospital profits have tripled in the past ten years, while healthcare costs for poor and working families have continued to rise.
Over ninety people have so far submitted public comment to the board, highlighting the ways that high healthcare costs create barriers to needed care, with many calling for Vermont to get back on track towards healthcare as a public good. Read some of their stories below:
“I am switching to Green Mountain Care this fall after my benefits associated with my job end due to going to part time status after having a baby. With less income and a new dependent, I am afraid a hike in health insurance rates will make being insured unaffordable for my family. I am also afraid that in order to have an affordable plan, I'd have to select a plan that does not offer much coverage with a high deductible- catastrophic insurance- rather than a plan I'd use regularly to maintain our health with doctor visits when needed.” -Rachel Rose, Jeffersonville
“My ability to afford doctor's visits and prescription medication is invaluable. I feel imprisoned when despite having insurance, I cannot afford premiums and co-pays. I have watched my elderly parents quality of life suffer immensely and seen their significant sacrifices in their ability to work less as they age. My dad is a primary caregiver to my mom, and has continued to work at his job through his late 70s in order to pay health insurance fees.” -Eli Mutino, Cabot
“My husband and I are of retirement age, but we are NOT retired. We cannot afford to. If our health insurance premiums went up, we would probably have to sell our house and move into something smaller and less expensive to maintain. We both have chronic conditions that require regular visits to doctors. My husband has a heart condition that requires monitoring.” -Margaret Gilmore, East Thetford
“I've worked in tech for years and I still find it prohibitively expensive to get insurance as an independent contractor. This is out of control. Please do something.” -Steven Dee, Johnson
“Every time insurance rates increase, my family is forced to make decisions about whether to continue to pay for health insurance, whether to pay utility bills, and if we can afford the groceries and gas money and car insurance and gas, or to make home repairs. This is an embarrassing and unsustainable state of affairs. This is not the type of decision any family should be forced to make. Incidentally, both adults in our household hold higher education degrees and work for the greater good of our community and world. Healthcare needs to, and can be be affordable. We have had to go without needed medical attention in the past because of the lack of health insurance coverage. Many of us put our mental health at risk because of lack of access to care. This is an untenable situation in our country. Many, many hard working families are one health crisis away from financial ruin and poverty. We can do better.” - Emily Dwyer, Barre
“I was a Vermont Health Connect telephonic customer support representative for 18 months. I know that when families choose a plan with an affordable monthly premium it is often useless to them because they can't afford the deductibles and copayments. It was heartbreaking at times listening to their frustration and desperation. I can only imagine how many more will be in this position of rates are increased.” - Frances Young, Burlington
“Our family spends nearly 20% of or income on health insurance. We cannot save money or invest in long term planning or retirement. Health insurance should not put purple in debt.” -Katyln Morris, Burlington
“I'm writing to the Green Mountain Care Board about the insurance company rate increases. I'm a kitchen manager for 9 hours a week and I do home improvements on the side in order to pay my rent, electric bill, heat and provide food for myself and my daughter. Right I now I qualify for medicaid. I have aspirations to expand my business and make more money. I was recently told that I now might not qualify for medicaid anymore. I looked into what it would cost to go on Vermont Health Connect and the amount I would have to pay would be impossible for me. Now I understand Blue Cross and Blue Shield and MVP are requesting rate increases of up to 8%. How are people going to afford that? Is anything going to ensure I'm going to make more money next year to cover the cost? These insurance companies increase rates each year, but working people like me don't make more . Quality health insurance is important to me because of my work as a self-employed carpenter. Hospital bills are the biggest thing that has affected my credit. I worry that if I got hurt and had a big co-pay or deductible that it would get even worse. I shouldn't be in a situation where I'm afraid to make more money because it will actually end up being less money because of how high the health insurance costs are. I really believe universal healthcare is the ideal solution for everyone. We need to wipe these for profit insurance companies out of the system. The Green Mountain Care Board, if it has any interest in the people of Vermont will deny these rate increases and promptly advance a universal publicly financed healthcare system as soon possible.” - Robert Miller, Middlebury
“As a 17 year old who is almost 18 I have had the privilege of being on Doctor Dynosaur and having all of my needs financially covered. I have had to watch my parents stress over the rising cost of everything except their paycheck and can't help but wonder when these stresses will be passed on to me and my generation. I think it is an unfair request to ask people to continue to pay more and more into benefits that they may never see, meanwhile depleting from their savings and making life harder than it should be. Please reconsider your 8% raise. Families are already having difficulty paying.” -Tatum MacBride, Winooski
“Working as a rehab nurse, time and again I have seen people come in recovering from a CVA/TIA (stroke) and have lost vision, lost movement and sensation in half of their body. They have to relearn how to do their entire lives. When I ask them about how they controlled their hypertension or even diabetes-II before their stroke, I cannot say how often they had not been treating their hypertension or type two diabetes because they couldn't afford a doctor's visit or the prescription medication and glucometers they needed to manage their chronic condition. Had they only had an affordable primary care and prescription medication option it would have saved the state and insurance company money, instead of the thousands and thousands of dollars in hospital/rehab and home health care which will potentially send them into a medical bankruptcy. I'm hoping people see the light regarding the healthcare dollars that can be saved with affordable primary/preventative care keeping less people out of hospitals, rehab, and home health. A healthy workforce is a productive workforce, which ultimately benefits all of us.” - Caitlin Gray, Burlington
“My son, 26, with multiple sclerosis, pays 25% of his income for insurance even though he is only able to work part time (3.5 hours per day). His medications are tens of thousands of dollars annually and those are essential in order for him to work and not become more disabled. Basically he is working for insurance - with his take home pay about $125 per week. At 26 that means he is facing a life of disease and poverty. He makes about $50 per month too much to qualify for SSI or assistance. Any increase in premiums would be a severe hardship and contribute to his stress and frustration. He is not on Vermont health connect but this applies to any insurance he may have as years go on. Insurance companies are already some of the wealthiest in the world and don't need more profit on the backs of poor people with disabilities.” -Margaret Gilman, Burlington
“This is disgusting! I went from paying $75 a month for both mine and my son's insurance (with NO co-pays) to over $400 a month with co-pays and a huge deductible as a self-employed single mother! This is unaffordable!! And, yet, the greed of BCBS continues!” -Ariel Nelson, Brattleboro
“My name is Daryl and I live in Brattleboro,VT. I teach piano, work at Burger King and am hoping to start a an after school program for kids who want to learn music and art. I have lived with a self diagnosed pelvic hernia since 2008. I wear glasses for my acute astigmatism. Because of my artistic pursuits, I have found myself working in the service industry to pay rent and enjoy life in this beautiful state. I make about $300/wk . My rent is $600. I can not afford to pay more than $50-100/mo for quality healthcare. Even that amount is exorbitant considering I have , in 38 years needed to goto the hospital 2 times. I currently am walking a tight-rope of no insurance. I understand company overhead. But looking at the numbers available to the public, these companies are doing well and there are people still feeling underserved. Any increase without change in quality of care would be wrong. A plain increase seems mean and inconsiderate of the millions of complicated lives that are made more complicated because of the hoops people have to jump through just to be healthy. HEALTH CARE IS A HUMAN RIGHT! PLEASE DO NOT RAISE THE RATES. I can't afford the level they are at !!” -Daryl McElveen, Brattleboro
“I am a teacher at alternative school for students struggling in the Brattleboro school district. My employer is a private organization and does not offer health insurance, therefore I was required to purchase insurance through Vermont Health Connect. I live with my wife of ten years in rented accommodation in downtown Brattleboro and earn $40,000 each year (my wife earns a little less than that). Each month I take home $2536 (split over two pay periods). Due to our household income I am ineligible for any subsidy to help with healthcare costs. When choosing a health insurance plan I was presented with a very difficult decision. Did I want to choose a plan that I could actually use or did I want to choose a plan that I could more easily (but not much more!) afford? The 'silver' plan (which seems to be the default plan) would have cost me $484 each month, however if I chose that plan I would have to contend with a $2000 deductible and a potential total yearly cost of $11,408 (premiums plus maximum out-of-pocket). I do not have $2000 lying around looking for something to do! Therefore I could not afford to actually turn my health insurance plan into health CARE. At the other end of the spectrum (and for less than $200 more) is the 'platinum' plan. It would cost me $656 each month, but in the event of my needing to turn my insurance into care I might actually be able to do so. The deductible is a more manageable $150 and the worst case scenario costs would amount to $9,122 over the year. I chose this plan and have been able to use my healthcare this year to attend to some ongoing issues and feel secure knowing that my health needs will be taken care of. Healthcare costs each month take up the largest percentage of my income (more than rent, food or transport) and an increase of 8% would cause significant stress to our budget, quality of life and therefore also our ability to remain healthy. I would be surprised to learn of many people who buy their health insurance through Vermont Health Connect who received a pay increase this year of 8% (mine was around 2.5%). I ask that the Green Mountain Care Board work for the people of Vermont, rather than the health insurance companies, in denying the proposed rate increases. I also ask that the GMCB consider whether our current system provides access to health care, or merely health insurance. Thank you for your time.” -Daniel Quipp, Brattleboro
“My name is Phoebe. I have been a Westminster, Vermont resident and homeowner for almost 12 years. My two children were born in Vermont and have fortunately been on Dr. Dynasaur their entire lives. For myself, I was insured through VHAP some years ago and now as a single mother putting myself through graduate school I am currently insured through Medicaid. However, as I finish my last semester of grad school and prepare to go back into the workforce most likely our health insurance coverage will change. The reason I went back to school for a higher degree is to give me leverage in the work force. I want to be able to support my children and follow my passions, but even with a grad degree will I be able to do this if I am paying more than I can afford for health care? What then is the motivation for people like me to try to better themselves and get off public assistance if I am still barely making ends meet after I pay for asthma medication for my child and myself? What is the Green Mountain Care Board doing to ensure that the health insurance companies that serve Vermont are really serving public needs and not just their own corporate wealth?” -Phoebe Gooding, Putney
“We are senior citizens living on a fixed income. Our social security income does not increase enough to offset any health insurance cost increase. As a retired teacher, Vermont pension is slowly lessening as the health insurance fees rise. Meanwhile daily living expenses increase. We were so hoping Vermont would lead ou nation in recognizing a new health care single payer system that would treat heath care as a right of its citizens rather than a for profit business for health insurance employees.” -Marlene Wein, Wilmington
“Dear GMCB, I am 61 years old, I live in Brattleboro, and i earn my living as a freelance editor, which i have done for many years. i am dependent on the antidepressant Cymbalta and the anti-herpes medication Valtrex, both of which i could not afford to pay for if i did not have health insurance through the vermont exchange. i qualify for subsidies through the exchange, and every year since it started i have chosen the subsidized plan. i was better off before obamacare because the vermont health care system gave me more affordable and better coverage. Since the switch to obamacare, i have struggled to meet my deductibles. by which i mean, the deductible has forced me to give up some of my income that i could have assigned to maintaining my home or owning a car, neither of which i have been able to do since my healthcare costs were raised by obamacare. in addition, i have had to give up volunteering any of my time at all in my local community, in the governance process of my homeowners association, and in my town's civic activities. Like most low- to moderate-income earners, i operate on a tight budget. i have not taken a vacation in the 20 years i've lived in vermont, and have not felt too bad about that. my earnings have remained flat over the last 20 years. but now that i am 61, i am finding i cannot sustain the number of working hours i have before now. my concentration and energy are diminishing. every hour counts, and that deductible represents a lot of hours. Because of my worsening financial situation, i am now in the process of selling my condo and moving into a trailer park. i do not feel that is a terrible place to live, but what is hard to swallow is that i have not had the resources to maintain the condo adequately so as to sustain its value, and, because i bought it just before the housing bubble burst in 2008, i will have no equity to take away from the sale. i believe the GMCB is very well aware of, and needs to take fully into account, what most middle- and low-income earners are struggling with: flat earnings for decades, rising housing costs, rising energy costs, rising food costs, rising costs of medicine, lack of adequate resources for retirement, and no realistic expectation that any improvement in this situation is coming. in addition, as i am sure the GMCB also well knows, we literally live in fear of another 2008-style financial meltdown, while the lack of regulation of the out-of-control finance industry (not to mention big pharma) and the new upheaval of brexit are far from reassuring. these are outcomes on which our very lives actually depend, and we all know the prospects are not good. I have a chronic illness that was diagnosed in 1994 as CFIDS (chronic fatigue immune deficiency syndrome), and from which i have largely recovered, but i require expensive foods and supplements to sustain the energy i need to work. it's recommended that i eat only organic food, but i've had to give that up as i can no longer afford it. i put a lot of effort into maintaining my best possible health--with exercise, diet, stress management, and other methods. if i am willing to invest that much in my own health, i would think the society i live in would wish do its part to support my productivity and my ability to serve as a contributing member of the community where i live. I wish i could come to testify at the GMCB hearings in montpelier, but this is just one more action of citizenship that i cannot engage in because i cannot give up a day's earnings to do so. Please make sure that all working vermonters receive health care at the same level of affordability, quality, and accessibility that currently exists. it is not our fault that the arrival of obamacare forced the state to compromise on the crucial issue of providing affordable, decent, accessible health care, and it would be morally wrong, and in the long run highly impractical, if the resultant costs were to be balanced on our backs.” -Martha Ramsey, Brattleboro
“My husband and son have their health insurance with VT Health Connect. The premiums require us to dip into savings to cover them. And we find the coverage minimal. It feels more like catastrophic insurance rather health insurance. They don't feel like they can go to the doctor unless it is close to an emergency. Not really working to help get things addressed early. The current system is not working smoothly. Our premium checks don't get cashed in time for us not to be sent a double fee for the following month, even though we mailed the check on time. No price increases. Fix the system. We believe in single payer health care and want Vermont to get there. Earn back trust.” -Nancy Cressman, Norwich
“I urge you to deny the requested rates hikes by BCBS and MVP which would average 8.2% and 8.8% respectively. Such rate hikes would place additional barriers to access to care for working individuals and families. Very few people (other than wealthy executives) get raises of 8% or more per year.So this would make it more difficult for (so-called) working poor people as well as the shrinking middle class to purchase insurance. And in our country lack or insurance (or a very high deductible) definitely affects one's access to care. In my own case I already avoid dealing with certain problems that could probably be improved through physical therapy. With the "silver" plan that I have, the deductible and co-pay for such therapy are high. If costs went up further and if I had to switch to a "bronze" plan, there would be more things I would avoid caring for until they became major. As I age (close to 60 now) it's increasingly more difficult to just "live with" these health issues. I consider myself fortunate compared to many Vermonters who have lower incomes, and I am very concerned about the hardship these proposed rate hikes would cause them.” -Debra Diegoli, Weathersfield
“Every the increase rate means more money out of each paycheck. I've had to choose between health care and a vehicle. So at any point I will have to drop my health insurance just so the I can afford to live: get to work, buy food and pay bills. I work 2 jobs sometimes 3 which is why I can currently afford health insurance. But I'm not sure I will be able to afford it if it keeps going up. It's the most expensive bill I have besides a mortgage.” -Meg Maguire, South Royalton
“Please fight rate hikes for insurance for Vermonters. As a self employed person, I have insurance which is an extremely high percentage of my income. And to make it affordable I have the highest possible deductible. This means I effectively pay for insurance, but never use it unless catastrophic circumstance occur. To now pay more for an unuseable service feels unfair and unaffordable. Why are the rates so high for Vermonters, while they are lower in other states. Please do everything you can to bring affordable health plans to this state. Thank you.” -Caleb Shepherd, Norwich
“I believe that Health Care is a Human Right. It should be in the public good an not a commodity! Therefore, health care based upon an insurance model will continue to bankrupt us through constant rate hikes, high premiums, and even higher deductibles. People put off going for medical care because in order to afford health care insurance through the Vermont Health Connect we get plans with premiums that are lower and more affordable. Thus, since the deductible is so high before the insurance kicks in, people put off going to the doctor as long as they possibly can to avoid spending their money. In the current economy that we live in since the "crash" most of us do not have disposable income. People are robbing Peter to pay Paul. When we put off our health care needs, diagnosis of conditions are put off into the future and health care conditions that are known go untreated. This is why I do not believe that BC/BS or MVP should get a rate increase”. -Charlie Murphy, Bennington
“On March 30th, 2014, my Step Father died. I was on his Health insurance plan, and two days later, April 1st, I no longer had health insurance. I was going through a terrible period helping my mother and family deal with funeral arrangements, and the rest of the awful business one needs to do when someone dies, and on top of that I needed to find myself insured as soon as possible. The cost then, as is the cost now is wholly affordable, and is detestful that MVP, BCBS, and the GMCB want to continue to raise rates. Currently, I am only able to be insured because I happen to work somewhere that provides it, which is not the case for many people living in the state. That being said, if the exchange plans rates go up, so do all the employer plans, and my work insurances becomes even more unaffordable as well. These Rate hikes are not good for residents, and not good for the state as a whole, and I urge you to stop the hikes and put people first.” -Griffin Shumway, Wilder
“My husband and I are both independently employed and our family of four has had health coverage through Vermont Health Connect since it began offering services. There is some fluctuation in our income year to year but very little. Nonetheless, each year we have had coverage through Vermont Health Connect we have paid our estimated monthly premiums only to find at tax time that there is a substantial payment due. This in addition to hefty out of pocket co-pays. This makes the cost of health insurance almost impossible to budget for. I estimate that we pay in excess of 10% of our annual income in health insurance premiums and co-pays and this is for preventative care - no one has a chronic condition. This is stretching our ability to even have health coverage and very challenging to budget responsibly. Repeated calls to VHC customer service to request an accurate premium projection has been in vain. Any rate hike in premiums will constitute further hardship for us. Please deny the insurers requested rate hikes. We want to remain responsible citizens and provide health insurance for our family but the annual cost is already prohibitive.” -Meg Cottam, Shaftsbury
“My husband and I both have work doing what we love: he works full time at a distillery, I work part time at a nonprofit and have a small sewing business from home. My part time schedule allows us to stay home with our children. Our finances have always been tight, but this year they've become precarious, especially now that we're facing the "benefits cliff" of making too much for Medicaid. Our children will continue to be covered under Dr. Dynasaur, but I fear my husband and I will no longer qualify (we are coming up for renewal soon). The prospect of paying for healthcare, especially with continued rate increases, terrifies me. I have several chronic conditions that require expensive medications: health insurance is not optional for me. The ACA and expanded medicaid felt like a dream come true: I could pursue meaningful work and self employment, and stay home with my kids at a time when my son needed me at home (he also has a chronic condition). Finally I could do more than just do a job and send my entire paycheck to health insurance and childcare. Unfortunately, between my husband's success at his job, my success at my job and my business, and the "benefits cliff," we may be faced with a situation where one of us needs to find a job solely for health insurance or quit our jobs to make less money to go back on Medicaid. That's not how it's supposed to work, is it? Shouldn't the system be making it possible for families like ours to succeed, work for small businesses and nonprofits, and make a living?” -Allyson Wendt, Brattleboro
The annual USAS Summer Convention is where experienced student organizers from USAS affiliates around the country come together to talk strategy, decide campaign priorities, and build relationships with other student leaders who will support each other in another year of powerful movement building.
Each USAS local should plan to send ONLY TWO members of their group in addition to 2016-2017 national leadership. This is done to keep conversations as constructive and productive as possible given the short time frame that we’ll be together. We’ll be voting on any proposals brought by membership, and these two individuals will be expected to act as representatives for their group and submit votes on their behalf.
Food and housing for the retreat will be provided on both days through registration fees, but feel free to bring personal spending money. Plan your trip early, especially booking flights, and do as much of your own fundraising as possible! Travel scholarships to attend the USAS Summer Convention are available but also very limited and offered to individuals with the most financial need —in the registration form below, please indicate if you’d like to request a travel scholarship.
We’ll see you in August.
The members of Local 269 reached a contract settlement with their employer, Erving Paper, in record time and a day before the April 30 expiration of the old contract.
The three-year agreement includes 2 percent wage increases in each year of the contract, no changes to the health insurance, 20 cent weekly increases in their 401(k) supplement each year. Weekly accident and sickness coverage will increase by $10 each year, reaching $435 a week in the third year. Group life insurance increases by $1500 to $29,000 in the third year, and retiree life insurance increases to $3750. For prescription safety glasses, members will be eligible for an annual reimbursement up to $90 for single vision glasses and $100 for bifocals.
There are several improvements to paid bereavement leave, adding one day for the death of a spouse for a total of five days. Leave for the death of a child or parent is increased from three days to five, and for loss of a grandparent, the leave increases from one day to two.
The 18 maintenance workers and electricians service and maintain the paper machines and equipment at a paper mill. For the first time in many years, Local 269 negotiated ahead of the Steelworkers local that represents the production workers at the mill. The USW contract expires in August 2016.
The company tried to get concessions from the union on vacations and future retiree’s health insurance but the local stood firm on those issues. In the previous negotiations, the local fought hard maintain the health insurance plan; the local did agree to small premium increases.
The agreement includes a health insurance reopener in August 2016, and the local has the option to reject any company proposal. The company says it is looking for ways to reduce premium costs while maintaining benefit levels and network.
Chris Carey, president of Local 269, said "The members and the bargaining committee successfully staved off serious language changes that the company wanted, and that would have given away a lot of bargaining rights for the members. On health insurance, the company stayed with the same provider, Fallon, and there's an increase in the premium paycheck deduction of $10 a week for the family coverage and $3 for single, from Fallon's premium increase in the annual insurance renewal with Erving.”
The union negotiating committee consisted of President Chris Carey, Chief Steward Jacob Rau, Secretary-Treasurer Eric Johnson, and Dave Farnum representing the Waste Water workers. They were assisted by UE General President Peter Knowlton.
I recently attended a two day conference on food justice in Bridgeport, Connecticut, one of the most marginalized cities in the middle of one of the richest counties (Fairfield County) in America. Bridgeport seemed a fitting place to hold the conference; a place rich with racial and cultural diversity going through the all too unfortunate struggles of poverty and gentrification. Statistically, 18.4 percent of the residents live below the poverty line, and Fairfield county is the most “economically uneven region” in America. In the past UE represented workers in good-paying manufacturing jobs in Bridgeport, including GE and Westinghouse, but today the economy is based mostly on the service sector, and the per capita income is just over $16,000 a year.
Yes! I thought. Here’s a place where there must be some frontline community (a frontline community is a community at the frontlines of a certain hardship or struggle, such as gentrification) with organizing happening around food, climate, and economic justice. I bragged about the event extensively to many of my organizer and activist friends. Finally! People are getting it! I was excited to have conversations around racial equity and the food system, how climate change is affecting marginalized communities of color disproportionately more than white folks, and how we should be funding frontline community farming and food chain work more. I was practically doing little dances in my front hallway leading up to the conference.
Alas, I should have not been surprised. While the importance of convening in Bridgeport was mentioned briefly in the beginning with a nod to some key city and state government figures, much of the plenary sessions focused on organizations and initiatives that did not inherently challenge the current food system. There was a lot of talk about how to finance more farms in New England as we offset the food production in California, and productive conversations around managing food waste in a more sustainable fashion (a process some call gleaning). But, ultimately these sessions fell short of upsetting the status quo.
Participants discussed non-profits that they had started, and how amazing it was that they were working with “local community leaders” (usually in predominant communities of color) to build a more sustainable food system. Yet they themselves were transplants to Bridgeport; they were white and had multiple safety nets to fall back on. Here is the question I have: If we are truly going to build a movement to organize marginalized peoples around climate justice, then what are we doing to make sure marginalized and frontline communities are leading the fight?
I give this example of the food justice conference as only the most recent example of my participation in a “social justice” conference that drafts multiple plans and holds multiple workshops on how to handle issues such as racism, oppression, and climate change, but has a difficult time actually moving forward with said plans because they are not including frontline and marginalized communities, or they are including them only to lead them. This is incredibly problematic if we are ever going to have a true just transition away from climate change.WHAT IS JUST TRANSITION?
According to the International Journal of Labour Research, a just transition is defined as:
“...the conceptual framework in which the labor movement captures the complexities of the transition towards a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy, highlighting public policy needs and aiming to maximize benefits and minimize hardships for workers and their communities in this transformation.”
The just transition framework has been adapted within multiple movements to essentially symbolize how we are going to build a true revolution away from business as usual to a sustainable system that is just for everyone. Climate change mitigation should ultimately play a large role in this revolution building, because of its urgency. Many of you know the facts: the planet is warming rapidly, with an overall temperature increase of 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1880, with the rate increasing steadily.
There is some research that unchecked, the total global temperature increase could reach upwards of 5 degrees Celsius by 2100. This is important because warming temperatures will affect weather patterns, with some parts of the world becoming drier, some colder, some wetter, and some sunken into the ocean. If we as humans do nothing to slow this process, many parts of the world will become completely inhabitable, and life in the places that are will be extremely difficult. This is already true for some areas of the Global South. The continued use of fossil fuels is directly contributing to the rapidity of human-induced climate change.LABOR AND CLIMATE JUSTICE
Here is where the labor movement comes in. Currently the world relies on many fossil fuel-based industries to keep turning. Everything from our electricity to the way our food is grown greatly relies on fossil fuels, and as the global population grows, this increases. These industries also rely on a copious amount of human labor to function properly. These jobs are important to the growth and function of our economy, there is no doubting that. But how much longer are we going to continue supporting these unsustainable industries? We need a plan, and that plan is seemingly a just transition, but what is actually being done? How are workers actively being organized to create alternative job plans, utilizing their existing skills? Because so far, I have heard a lot of talk and not seen a lot of action.
What seems to be happening instead, is a steady stream of non-profits and academically-based organizations coming up with modified definitions of the concept and presenting it to other organizations as something to discuss. Meanwhile, the planet continues to warm, the wealth gap continues to increase, and workers are losing their jobs because companies decide to invest in “economically feasible” renewable energy without considering the impacts on their workers. This contributes to the false narrative that it is jobs versus the environment instead of workers versus the flawed capitalist-corporate system. We need workers to lead this fight, take control over their workplaces through unions and other forms of collective organizing. This especially includes further oppressed and marginalized workers, and communities of color. We cannot afford to sit back, hold more conferences, and allow for those in power to tell us how to justly transition. Their job security is likely not at stake, ours is.
Mother Nature will bounce back. We will not. In order to help mitigate climate change and transition to a more stable and sustainable economy, we need to move away from fossil fuels and make sure that workers affected have job security in a field that utilizes their skill sets but does not contribute to the warming planet.
Senowa Mize-Fox is union steward and member of Local 203 at City Market Food Co-op in Burlington, where she's worked since March 2014. She's a UE Young Activist and active in the climate justice movement, and has a master's degree in international and sustainable development.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has reaffirmed its dismissal an unfair labor practice charge brought by an Israeli law firm against a U.S. union, the United Electrical Workers, over its support of protests against Israeli policies including the union’s endorsement of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) movement.
At its national convention in Baltimore August 16-20, 2015, the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) adopted a resolution endorsing the BDS movement to pressure Israel to negotiate peace with the Palestinians and end the occupation. UE is the first national U.S. union to endorse BDS. Read the resolution here.
On October 23, the Israeli law firm Shurat Hadin filed a charge with the NLRB alleging that UE’s resolution violated the prohibition in U.S. labor law against “secondary boycotts.” The union disputed the charge, arguing that Shurat Hadin’s action was an attempt to interfere with the First Amendment rights of the union and its members to express opinions on political and international issues, and also that the Israeli firm’s allegation were factually untrue. On January 12, Region 6 of the NLRB dismissed the charge. Shurat HaDin then appealed to the Office of the General Counsel of the NLRB, and on May 26 that office denied the appeal.
UE National President Peter Knowlton says the union “welcomes the labor board’s decision” to reject, for a second time, Shurat Hadin’s charge. He said that UE in the past had “withstood attempts by the U.S. government to silence us during the McCarthy era in the 1950s,” and was “unbowed by the latest attempt of a surrogate of the Israeli government to stifle our call for justice for Palestinian and Israeli workers.” Knowlton added, “The NLRB’s decision is a victory for the growing BDS movement across the U.S., which faces increasing political attempts to silence and intimidate critics of the Israeli government. As Americans who have a constitutional right to criticize our own government, we certainly have a right to criticize and, if we choose, boycott a foreign government that is heavily subsidized by U.S. taxpayers.”
UE General President Peter Knowlton commented: “Since the 1980s, the delegates to our national conventions have voted to support equal rights and even-handed treatment of Palestinian and Israeli people as the only path to peace. At the 2015 convention UE delegates voted to support BDS because of the atrocities committed by the Israeli government in Gaza in 2014, and the increasing discrimination and repression of Palestinian people and workers by the Israeli government and military. Our U.S. tax dollars, in excess of $3 billion a year, are funding this system of apartheid, and we must do more to change it.”
UE is very concerned about attacks on the BDS movement by U.S. politicians who advocate or have adopted resolutions, executive orders, and statutes targeting the BDS movement, said Knowlton. He pointed out that the 2016 party platforms of both the Democrats and Republicans condemn BDS. “These are unconstitutional attacks on free speech,” said the union president. “Boycotts have been an essential component of non-violent struggles for workers’ rights and other struggles for justice throughout our history. The Montgomery Bus Boycott launched the modern Civil Rights Movement. The worldwide campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against South Africa in the 1980s helped end the apartheid system in that country.”
“UE opposes any legislation and legislative resolutions that outlaw or condemn legitimate criticism of Israel and support for BDS, or attempt to sanction individuals, organizations, companies or governments simply because they have legitimately criticized Israel or supported BDS. We will support legal and political challenges to overturn such attacks on fundamental civil liberties.” On July 14, peace activists defeated an anti-BDS bill in the Massachusetts legislature.
UE is an independent, member-run union, with headquarters in Pittsburgh, representing 30,000 workers across the country in the private and public sectors. At its five-day convention last August member delegates acted on 37 resolutions on collective bargaining, organizing, and political issues.
Shurat Hadin is an Israeli organization that uses legal cases to harass supporters of Palestinian rights and critics of Israel, a strategy known as lawfare. Its most infamous case was a 2011 lawsuit against former President Jimmy Carter for writing a book critical of Israel, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. The suit against Carter failed, as did a suit aimed at censoring Al Jazeera’s reporting. Its attacks on UE began Sept. 2, 2015 when Shurat Hadin wrote a letter to the CEO of the General Electric Company, UE’s largest employer, “warning” GE to “rescind its recently concluded labor agreement” with UE because Shurat Hadin didn’t like the union’s resolution on Israel and Palestine. On July 11, 2016, Shurat HaDin sued Facebook for $1 billion, charging the social media company with insufficiently censoring Palestinians.
The global BDS movement arose from a 2005 call by Palestinian trade unions and human rights groups. UE’s resolution also calls for a cutoff of U.S. aid to Israel and for U.S. support for a peace settlement on the basis of self-determination for Palestinians and the right to return. With its resolution UE joined the South African labor union confederation COSATU, Unite the Union in Britain and many other labor unions around the world in supporting BDS as a step toward justice and peace in Palestine and Israel
Stay tuned for more events in the fall, and please contact the Core Team to get involved or join our email list!
June 3rd – Moises Gomez from the University of Central America (UCA) – El Salvador
Moises toured the US with CISPES for the spring of 2016. He spoke to:
• The root causes of migration and forced displacement
• The impact of US-sponsored border militarization in the region
• How people in the US can join the fight to defend the lives and rights of Central America migrants
July 6th -Cuba Caravan of the IFCO/Pastors for Peace
- IFCO/Pastors for Peace Executive Director, Gail Walker
- Isel Calzadilla Acosta, founder and coordinator of Las Isabelas, a lesbian and bisexual women’s organization in Santiago de Cuba.
- Caravanistas on their way to Cuba for the 27th Annual Friendshipment Caravan
Our visitors shared the history of the caravans, updates on US-Cuba Foreign Policy, and gave direction for solutions to propose to our elected officials.
Thank you to everyone who visited to all who opened their hearts, minds, and homes (and also for the financial contributions to these causes)!
Residents along the U.S.-Mexico border are feeling ignored in the midst of a U.S. presidential election in which immigration, border security and a proposed wall are being hotly debated, a poll released Monday suggests.
The Border Patrol reports that the total number of apprehensions of undocumented border crossers in Arizona declined from 376,302 in fiscal year 2002 to
Recommendations and Love for Cop Watchers from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and Justice Committee
Video footage in the police killings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Delrawn Small, Freddie Gray, Ramarley Graham and others, has played an undeniable role in exposing the horrors and realities of policing in this country. In many of these cases, footage has come from witnesses who have decidedly taken a stand to document, deter, and deescalate police violence, which is disproportionately focused in Black and Latino/a and other oppressed communities across the nation.
Given this we implore all to continue to monitor, document and expose abusive policing and to fight to build safe, healthy and empowered communities. Standing up for the liberation of ourselves and our communities through Cop Watching can be scary. In spite of being a constitutionally protected right, it involves an elevated risk of unjust arrest and/or abuse by the police. With this in mind, we offer these recommendations for practicing Cop Watch as safely and effectively as possible.
When you begin to film: try to get the full bodies of the cops and the people they are targeting in your frame. Record the date, time, location and identifying information about the officers by saying them into your camera. Describe any police misconduct you see. (E.g. “They are searching her pockets. She did not give her consent.”). However, don’t fully narrate what’s going on or add commentary as you may drown out what’s being said during the incident and/or inadvertently incriminate yourself or others.
Do your best to continue filming: If the police approach you, let them know you’re not trying to interfere, you are simply exercising your right to document them while they’re doing their jobs. Use your judgment! If a community member is emotionally disturbed and/or your presence seems to be escalating the situation, you may want to move farther away from the incident. However never leave the incident. Even if you feel you have to put the camera down, try not to turn it off.
If the police tell you to get back: While taking a step back say, “I’m cooperating. I have stepped back. I’m not trying to stop you from doing your job. I’m just exercising my legal right to observe the police.” Do your best not to allow the police to make you leave the scene or push you back so far that you cannot see what’s happening. You have the right to observe as long as you are not obstructing the police. Exercise that right!
Let someone know you’re Cop Watching: Send a message to someone at another location letting them know where you are and that you’re Cop Watching. Check in with that person when you are finished filming to let them know you are okay.
Guidelines for posting footage: In cases of clear misconduct and excessive force, it’s important to get the footage out there. However, try to get permission from the person targeted and try not to post anything that seems like it might incriminate a community member. If you are unsure how to proceed, reach out to an organization with expertise in this area or a lawyer first. They can also give you advice if you are afraid of backlash by the media or the police.
Keep your love for your community in mind: Your goals should be to de-escalate and deter abusive policing if possible and if not, to document it. Cop Watching is not about agitating the police or making a statement. It’s about protecting one another and exposing police violence.
Finally, keep in mind that footage alone will not ensure police accountability, as has been made clear by the cases of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Delrawn Small, and many others. We need systemic transformation of policing policy, practice and culture, real accountability for abusive policing, an end to bad policy like Broken Windows policing, and investment in the empowerment of our communities, all of which will only be achieved through sustained organizing and movement-building.
Since last summer, we have been monitoring aspiring presidential candidates and their positions on immigration related issues, in particular.
SWOP was formed by young organizers of color in the 80’s following heavy political and police repression of social movements during the previous decade. Our organization was founded in part by former members of the Black Berets de Nuevo Mexico. The Berets legacy of exposing police violence and corruption, offering breakfast programs and neighborhood patrols in barrios across the city, and community organizing is part of our origin story – it’s who we are. This blend of methodologies – direct action, community services, and advocacy alongside community members – is our tribute to a deep history of liberation movements inside New Mexico, their leaders, and our own history and legacy of organizing.
The most well-known case is the police killings of Beret members Antonio Cordova and Rito Canales at an isolated site near Albuquerque in January 1972. More
New Mexico’s political, media and policing systems are rooted in a long history of colonialism – controlling the local population partly through an outsider, colonial media system and direct repression by a police force designed to do the same.
Albuquerque, the state’s largest city with a majority people of color population, still boasts one of the most violent, racist police departments in the country.
Even before protests in cities such as Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland, drew national attention to use of force by police departments, officers in Albuquerque came under scrutiny for the city’s rate of fatal police shootings. Between 2010 and October 2014, 23 people died in 37 shootings involving officers.
We know our history quite well. We have all lived under constant fear of what police might do to our children and families.
It’s one reason we fought for fair treatment of Gordon House. It’s one reason we continue to fight against youth criminalization. It’s one reason we fought to keep armed police out of our schools. And it’s why we continue to fight to this day.
It’s also why we stand against the scapegoating of black and brown young men for recent protests where police clashed with Albuquerque residents following Trump’s divisive rally.
The most recent two murders caught on camera in Louisiana and Minnesota this week have shocked and saddened us. While these killings have also strengthened our resolve to keep fighting to hold police systems accountable to our communities, we also understand our communities need to heal. We send our love and respect to the families and communities who have senselessly and tragically lost their loved ones. We stand in solidarity with working class Black, Native, Brown and Asian communities all across the country. We say it loud: Black Lives Matter.
We want to take the time to invite all our friends and families to shared healing space tomorrow (Friday) at 10:30 at Tiguex Park.
By HANNAH FURFARO
June 29, 2016
A new initiative to build affordable housing that is friendly for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender seniors is beginning to take shape.
Senior-housing basics, like hot meals, fitness and language classes will be available at the Ingersoll Senior Residences in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, and the Crotona Senior Residences in Crotona Park North in the Bronx.
By HANNAH FURFARO
June 29, 2016
A new initiative to build affordable housing that is friendly for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender seniors is beginning to take shape.
Senior-housing basics, like hot meals, fitness and language classes will be available at the Ingersoll Senior Residences in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, and the Crotona Senior Residences in Crotona Park North in the Bronx.