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Denver students, Padres & Jovenes Unidos give DPS a C+ for efforts to end school to prison pipeline

Padres & Jovenes Unidos - Tue, 04/12/2016 - 1:56pm
Apr 12, 2016Original story at The Denver Channel

 

DENVER - Students concerned about racial disparities at Denver Public Schools are giving the district an overall grade of C+ for its efforts to improve the disciplinary process, and to end what is called the school to prison pipeline.

The 5th Annual Denver Community Accountability Report Card, handed out Monday, shows DPS is making progress, but not enough.

Prior to announcing specific grades in ten areas, several students shared their experiences, explaining why they got involved with Padres & Jovenes Unidos, the educational rights group that spearheads the report card.

Read the rest here: http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/denver-students-padres-j...

Campaigns: Local Denver CampaignEnd the School to Jail Track
Categories: Grassroots Newswire

Denver Public Schools pledges to address student discipline concerns

Padres & Jovenes Unidos - Tue, 04/12/2016 - 1:56pm
Apr 11, 2016Original story at Chalkbeat Colorado

Denver school officials agreed Monday to establish a centralized system for responding to complaints about school discipline, to better inform students facing expulsion or suspension of their rights, and to investigate concerns about schools underreporting discipline data.

Standing in front of a crowd that included outspoken students and frustrated parents, acting Denver Public Schools superintendent Susana Cordova made those promises in response to a new report by advocacy organization Padres & Jovenes Unidos. Read 

http://co.chalkbeat.org/2016/04/11/denver-public-schools-pledges-to-addr...

Campaigns: Local Denver CampaignEnd the School to Jail Track
Categories: Grassroots Newswire

5th Annual Accountability Report Card

Padres & Jovenes Unidos - Mon, 04/11/2016 - 3:32pm

 

Fighting the School to Prison Pipeline Means Knowing Your Rights

Padres & Jóvenes Unidos and Denver Public Schools Roll Out New Tools So Students and Families Know Their Rights in School Discipline

 

(Denver, CO)  Receiving in school suspension(ISS) can be difficult at any age, but to get it at eleven years old for following teacher's instructions is especially devastating. That's what happened to Jennifer Valenzuela in the 7th grade. After missing a day of class, she tried to make up homework by getting the assignment from her friend. They were both accused of cheating and given ISS.

 

"The thing that bothered me the most is that during ISS they didn't give me my homework. When I asked my teachers for it afterwards, they told me to do the same thing that got me in trouble. To copy it from my friends," recalls Jennifer, now 17. "I'm not a cheater. I felt like really, my teachers just didn't care."

 

School discipline stories like Jennifer's is why Padres & Jóvenes Unidos says that students and families need to know their rights. According to district policy, Jennifer shouldn't have been suspended, and even though she was, she should have been provided her homework during her suspension. This is the main focus for the 5th Annual Accountability in Discipline meeting, where students from Denver Public Schools give it a grade on how well it is doing in Ending the School to Jail Track.

 

"Year after year, our students and families have taken real risks to testify and organize to win powerful rights and protections in school discipline," said Daniel Kim, Director of Youth Organizing. "Yet we are still seeing too many students being suspended and punished unfairly without due process.  This is one way students of color are denied an education and pushed out of school. We are calling on DPS to do more to ensure that every student and family is empowered with the knowledge to self-advocate and have their voices heard."

 

According to the report card released by Padres & Jóvenes Unidos at the meeting, racial disparities in discipline are down from last year. The report also says that discipline reform continues to benefit all students, as the rates of in school suspension, out of school suspension, expulsions and referrals to law enforcement are down thanks to measures like restorative justice.  However, the overall trend for racial disparities the past five years has shown little progress - students of color are still 3.1 times likely to be more harshly punished than their white peers, all across Denver Public Schools. When the accountability meetings first started in 2010, they were 3 times as likely.

 

As part of the solution, Denver Public Schools agreed to distribute "Know Your Rights" guides created by Padres & Jóvenes Unidos any time a student is facing a disciplinary action. The students presenting the report card to Denver Public Schools this year believe that when everyone knows their rights, the gap between students of color and white students in discipline will finally close.

 
Categories: Grassroots Newswire

Denver Public Schools pledges to address student discipline concerns

Padres & Jovenes Unidos - Mon, 04/11/2016 - 1:56pm
Apr 11, 2016Original story at Chalkbeat Colorado

Denver school officials agreed Monday to establish a centralized system for responding to complaints about school discipline, to better inform students facing expulsion or suspension of their rights, and to investigate concerns about schools underreporting discipline data.

Standing in front of a crowd that included outspoken students and frustrated parents, acting Denver Public Schools superintendent Susana Cordova made those promises in response to a new report by advocacy organization Padres & Jovenes Unidos. Read 

http://co.chalkbeat.org/2016/04/11/denver-public-schools-pledges-to-addr...

Campaigns: Local Denver CampaignEnd the School to Jail Track
Categories: Grassroots Newswire

Nike “Just Do the Right Thing” Worker Tour Media Round-Up

USAS - Fri, 04/08/2016 - 3:35am

We’ve just wrapped up our our country-wide Nike “Just Do the Right Thing” speaking tour!

Noi Supalai, former union President and Nike factory worker from Thailand, just finished a 28-day speaking tour. Noi stopped at colleges and Universities from New York to Seattle to speak with students, faculty, University administrators, and labor allies about her experience manufacturing collegiate apparel and apparel for Nike. While working at the factory, Noi and her coworkers were refused wages for months, and leaders of her union were detained in a room to prevent them from organizing their fellow coworkers. Nike representatives said they would help, but never showed up to their meetings, and eventually pulled all their orders from the factory. Noi and her coworkers were eventually released and paid the wages they were owed only after intervention from the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC).

Noi doesn’t trust Nike to monitor labor conditions in its supplier factories, and neither should our schools! It’s time our Universities hold Nike accountable and demand the brand #JustDoTheRightThing for its workers. The choice is clear: let independent monitors in or be forced off our campuses.

Read more about the tour below:

The Daily: Former Nike Garment Worker Reveals Secrets to UW Audience, 4/7/16

The Daily Texan: Noi Supalai’s Nike Worker Tour, 4/6/16

The Daily Texan: Students Host Former Nike Worker to Raise Awareness for Inhumane Sweatshops, 4/6/16

The DePaulia: United Students Against Sweatshops Stand Against Nike, Which Contracts with DePaul, 4/4/16

The Tab: Former Nike Garment Worker Speaks Out at Purdue, 4/2/16

Forbes: College Campus Protests Include United Students Against Sweatshops, 3/31/16

Lafayette Journal and Courier: Purdue Students Fight Nike Contract, 3/31/16

New Brunswick Today: Nike Factory Worker Visits Rutgers to Describe Unfair Labor Practices, 3/31/16

The Michigan Daily: Former Nike Factory Worker Urges Students to Take Action Against Company, 3/29/16

The Hoya: Nike Garment Worker Speaks out for Fair Wages, 3/22/16

The Collegian: Former Nike Factory Worker Shares Story of Abusive Working Conditions, 3/22/16

WSLS: Virgina Tech Students Call for Dismissal of Nike Contract, 3/17/16

WSLS 10: Student Group at Virginia Tech Demanding Action in Relationship to Nike, 3/16/2016

Huffington Post: Watchdog Group Kept out of Nike’s Supplier Factory After Worker Strike, 3/3/2016

New York Times: Money Given to Kenya, Since Stolen Puts Nike in Spotlight, 3/5/16

The Scarlet and Black: Students Protest Nike Labor Practices, 3/11/16

Georgetown Voice: In Foul Trouble: Unlacing Georgetown’s Relationship with Nike, 2/29/16

UW Daily: Guest Editorial: United Students Against Sweatshops Take on Corporate Giant, 2/3/16

The Daily Targum: Rutgers Students Against Sweatshops March to Old Queens, 2/2/16

UW Daily: United Students Against Sweatshops Take on Nike, 12/1/15

Collegiate Times: Letter to the Editor: Students Confront President Sands About Nike Sweatshops, 11/21/15

Georgetown Hoya: Athletes, Advocates Pen Anti-Nike Letter, 11/20/15

Cornell Sun: COLA Contests Cornell’s Business Ties, 11/20/15

Categories: Grassroots Newswire

End the tax breaks for private prisons!

NNIRR - Thu, 04/07/2016 - 6:44pm
Story Type:  Blog Story Publisher:  NNIRR

Please join NNIRR and our partners in the Private Prison Divestment Campaign to call for an end to tax breaks for private prisons.

read more

Categories: Grassroots Newswire

NOTABLE NEWS

LVEJO - Wed, 04/06/2016 - 2:38pm
NONPROFIT COLLABORATION AIMS TO TRANSFORM LITTLE VILLAGE BROWNFIELDS INTO SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES 03.17.16 | PRESS A two-year project culminates in a strategy to leverage the neighborhood’s entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to environmental justice CHICAGO, IL — Chicago-based nonprofit organizations Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) and Delta Institute announce a new comprehensive strategy to guide […]
Categories: Grassroots Newswire

VICTORY! 90 Elizabeth & 22 Spring Tenants Win Safe & Affordable Housing!

CAAAV - Tue, 04/05/2016 - 1:27pm

WE WON! We are thrilled to announce two victories in our Chinatown Tenants Union (CTU) building campaigns. This winter, our members from 90 Elizabeth and 22 Spring won settlements with their landlords to beat displacement and protect safe, affordable housing in Chinatown.

22 Spring tenants and Mahfar Tenants Coalition celebrating their victory!

What Was Going On

As housing market rates increase and affordable housing decreases, landlords use a variety of tactics to make it difficult for rent-stabilized tenants to remain in their homes. In 22 Spring and 90 Elizabeth, landlords Samy Mahfar (SMA Equities) and James Fong respectively, resorted to dangerous construction during renovations of new units (for wealthier residents) to make conditions building-wide so unlivable that tenants would be pressured to leave.

Collapsing ceilings and exposed electrical wiring were threatening tenant safety.

In 22 Spring, debris led to extremely high lead levels. In 102 Norfolk, another Mahfar building organized by our allies Cooper Square Committee, lead levels were 2,700 times the legal limit. 90 Elizabeth tenants endured piles of garbage attracting rat infestations, collapsing ceilings, and exposed electrical wiring. Water and heat was shutdown for months, forcing Tomasa D’Avila, a resident of 90 Elizabeth since immigrating from Puerto Rico 50 years ago, to declare “We live as if we were animals while paying our rents and the owner fixes the empty units…while the apartments of those like me and my neighbors — the low-income ones — are not fixed.”

Rather than helping tenants, Mahfar and Fong used their profits to hire “tenant relocation specialists,” who say they work with tenants to come up with a relocation agreement, but all we hear about are how they pressure and harass tenants to take buyouts.

What We Won

90 Elizabeth and 22 Spring channeled their anger into building power together. Tenants filed lawsuits and organized grassroots campaigns outside the courtroom to apply public pressure on their respective landlords to meet their demands.

Tenant leader Ms. Song marching for tenant safety and affordable housing.

Both buildings’ landlords must now repair all building violations, stop harassment, and follow safe building procedures. 90 Elizabeth won structural renovations to tenants’ apartments that resident David Tang says “make the apartments feel brand new.” 22 Spring won suspension of 15 months of rent playment to make up for the buildings’ dangerous conditions in the past.

90 Elizabeth residents won renovations to their dilapidated units.

Thank you to our Chinatown Tenants Union members and our organizational partners Asian Americans for Equality, Cooper Square Committee, Manhattan Legal Services, Legal Services NYC, and CDP at the Urban Justice Center whose collective power brought this win about.

Cultivating Leaders

The victory is not just the affordable housing we protected, but the leaders cultivated from the struggle. 90 Elizabeth’s David Tang got involved to fight for his mom, who raised him in 90 Elizabeth and feels a deep loyalty to their apartment. Through campaign meetings, outreach shifts, and public speaking roles at rallies, David saw people power making an impact.

Tenant leader David (center) with his mom (left) and CTU volunteer Diane (right).

During the settlement process, landlord James Fong offered to meet 90 Elizabeth tenants’ demands, but on the condition that the tenants stopped organizing public actions. David and other tenants knew that it was only because of their public actions that Fong was pressured to listen to them.They refused his offer, but still fought on.

Organizing is about cultivating leaders who see organizing’s larger potential. We are excited to now welcome leaders, like David, from 90 Elizabeth and 22 Spring into CTU’s Organizing Committee, to fight in a broader housing justice movement. The struggle continues!

Are you thrilled about our victories and emerging leaders too?

On Wednesday, May 25, CAAAV will be celebrate our 30th Anniversary Gala. Your support is a savvy and critical investment in winning social change for low-income Asian immigrants in NYC.

Buy your ticket or contribute today to celebrate with us.
Categories: Grassroots Newswire

Columbia Student Workers Win $15, Days After NYU!

USAS - Thu, 03/31/2016 - 8:38pm

On March 28, student workers at Columbia University won $15/hour, after two years of campaigning, and mere days after NYU student workers claimed the same victory. But the fight doesn’t stop here — Read their statement below, and stay tuned at www.studentworkers.org for more updates!

BREAKING: As a result of SWS protest against and negotiations with the Provost over the last two semesters, Columbia’s administration has agreed to raise student workers’ wages to $15/hr over the next three years. This victory was secured through months of protest and public pressure, from rallies in Low Library to banner drops and speak outs across campus.

While this is an important step forward, our campaign for living wages on campus is far from over.

Since we launched our campaign last fall, Student Worker Solidarity has been demanding an immediate increase in all work-study, casual, and volunteer positions to fifteen dollars an hour. While Columbia has been forced to issue a public statement because of continuous pressure from student organizers, a gradual increase in wages is not enough. Food insecurity, housing insecurity, and poverty are urgent issues, and they demand an immediate solution. Students on this campus are struggling to meet basic expenses such as healthcare and textbook costs right now, and it is unthinkable that some of them will graduate without ever being paid a living wage from their university. Student workers on this campus cannot wait three more years to receive fair compensation for their labor.

Student-Worker Solidarity is comprised of both Barnard and Columbia students, and we would like to make it clear that our campaign targets both the Columbia and Barnard administrations. In negotiations with SWS, Barnard administrators have stated that Barnard has the financial resources to raise student wages, yet Barnard’s administration has failed to take any meaningful steps towards addressing our demands and has not made concrete changes to increase student wages. We call on Barnard College to either release a public statement on why it refuses to raise student wages or implement a plan for a campus-wide policy of $15 an hour.

As we have seen today, the power of student organizers to effect change on their campuses cannot be underestimated. Because of workers and community members leading the national and state-wide Fight for $15 movements, cities and states across the country have increased their minimum wage to $15 an hour. We will continue to demand compensation for all unpaid volunteer positions, an end to payroll backlog and improved career development for students. We will also continue to organize and escalate until Barnard and Columbia commit to raising all campus wages to $15/hour.

Solidarity,
SWS

Categories: Grassroots Newswire

NYU Student Workers Win $15!

USAS - Sun, 03/27/2016 - 5:37pm

NYU Responds to Student Pressure: All Student Workers Will Earn At Least $15 / Hour

On Thursday, NYU announced that it would raise the minimum wage to $15 for all student employees. This marks a historic victory for NYU Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) which has been campaigning for a $15 minimum wage for student workers for the past year. “After countless rallies and two sit-ins, today’s victory shows what can be achieved when students and workers unite for economic justice,” says NYU sophomore SLAM member Brennan O’Rouke.

Even as NYU’s tuition has risen to over $60,000, the third highest in the country, student wages have hovered barely above the state minimum. This decision will bring a living wage to students—library workers, research assistants, and more—who are working to pay their way through college and help offset mounting debt.

As a student worker, $15 isn’t just a rhetorical number for me,” says Hannah Fullerton. “I’m set to graduate with $80,000 in student loan debt. In the past, it’s been nearly impossible to work enough hours to earn my entire work-study award. This will put a dent in my living expenses, and in the debt I’m already accruing.”

Nationwide, over 70% of college students have to work to pay their way through college — the grounds for a new national student movement. NYU SLAM is an affiliate of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), a national student labor solidarity organization with chapters at more than 150 colleges and universities. On February 26, USAS launched a national “#15OnCampus” campaign, building on a Fall victory for 15 at the University of Washington, Seattle. The victory at NYU makes it the first private school in the US to raise wages to $15 campuswide. Similar campaigns are currently underway at Columbia University and Macalester College, as well as public universities including the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Fullerton recalls a rally on December 15 in which students protested for as long as it would take for President Sexton to make $1500, “a measly two and a half hours, to make what I can make in a semester, if I’m lucky. We cheered every time he made $50, that was every five minutes. It really underscored the value that NYU puts on things like executive compensation compared to students’ financial stability.”

This victory also comes as legislators in Albany are considering a proposal to raise the statewide minimum wage to $15. Students will continue to fight in solidarity with workers demanding $15 across every region and sector of New York State.

At NYU, student-workers plan to continue organizing to improve their working conditions, including scheduling, benefits, and backpay. Kendra Prat, a sophomore says, “joining the campaign for better treatment for student workers showed me how much power we have when we rally together and speak out to our university administration.”

Categories: Grassroots Newswire

Stop #Deported2Death. Sign here!

NNIRR - Thu, 03/24/2016 - 6:40pm

Join us in calling for the immediate halt of deportation of over 100 Bangladeshi asylum seekers!

Read the article here: http://www.notonemoredeportation.com/2016/03/24/mass-deport-muslims/

Sign the petition from DRUM - South Asian Organizing Center and #Not1More:

http://www.notonemoredeportation.com/portfolio/state-dept-bangladesh/

Categories: Grassroots Newswire

DHS and State Department Prepare Mass Deportation of Hundreds of Muslims

NNIRR - Thu, 03/24/2016 - 6:29pm
Story Type:  Press Release Story Author:  Fahd Ahmed Story Publisher:  DRUM - South Asian Organizing Center

Immigration authorities have begun transporting South Asian detainees to Florence, Arizona, as a staging ground for impending mass deportation.

read more

Categories: Grassroots Newswire

Burlington community responds to smashed window, racist attack on office as part of a growing trend of racist hate growing alongside the 2016 Presidential Election

VWC - Thu, 03/24/2016 - 4:47pm

Burlington community responds to smashed window, racist attack on office as part of a growing trend of racist hate growing alongside the 2016 Presidential Election

Contact: Keith Brunner, Vermont Worker’s Center, 802-363-9615 / Will Lambek, Migrant Justice, 802-321-8393

When: March 24th, 2016, 6:30pm - 7pm

Where: 294 North Winooski Avenue -- Office of Vermont Workers’ Center, Migrant Justice, and United Electrical Workers union

What: Burlington community members are gathering tonight to denounce a racist attack on an Old North End community center that prominently displays a “Black Lives Matter” sign in their window.  Migrant Justice, the Vermont Workers’ Center, and the United Electrical (UE) workers’, all located at the community center at 294 North Winooski Ave, discovered the broken window when they arrived at work this morning.

Senowa Mize-Fox a member of the UE reflected, “As a person of color, union member, and a worker I am extremely disheartened to see a racially motivated act of violence against our communities.”

Kate Kanelstein of the Vermont Worker’s Center was one of the first to see the broken window and shared,  “This was a racially motivated response to the growing success and power of Black and immigrant-led movements for justice across the country.”  The Worker’s Center/Migrant Justice/UE office is an active hub for social and economic justice, and all three organizations have been strong and outspoken supporters of the national Black Lives Matter movement. Kanelstein continued, “We are calling on white people to stand in solidarity with people of color and immigrant communities to end oppression and violence."

In addition to denouncing this act of hatred and racism, sponsoring groups are planning a “Vermont Peoples Convention” April 30th - May 1st in collaboration with dozens of social justice organizations across Vermont.  The Convention will bring together hundreds of people to envision anti-racist solutions for systemic change.

###

Categories: Grassroots Newswire

Grand Rapids Police Intimidating, Threatening to Arrest Students, Workers

USAS - Wed, 03/23/2016 - 11:01am

The Rapid and city engaged in “Witch-Hunt” to silence students, workers

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Despite federal court rulings ordering The Rapid – the public transit system in Grand Rapids, MI – not to prohibit or interfere with the free speech rights of ATU Local 836 members working for the agency, Grand Rapids police are threatening to detain Grand Valley State students and workers for a peaceful sit-in at a January Rapid board meeting.

Last Friday, Grand Rapids police detectives went to the homes of students and workers, threatening them with charges of disturbing the peace for their participation in the January sit-in to protest the proposed fare increases, the termination of workers’ pensions, and stalled contract negotiations between ATU Local 836 and The Rapid. This all came on the heels of Mayor Rosalynn Bliss attending a march last week to honor the life and legacy of labor activist Cesar Chavez, famed for using civil disobedience tactics on behalf of farm workers abused by their employers.

“Mayor Bliss marches to honor famous labor protestor Cesar Chavez, and then days later tried to silence and intimidate student and worker activists, who used Chavez’s same tactics, by having the Grand Rapids police storm their homes,” says ATU International President Larry Hanley. “This is a witch-hunt by Rapid CEO Peter Varga and the City of Grand Rapids that knows no bounds. We will continue this fight for as long as it takes to protect the students, our riders, and the livelihoods of our Rapid workers.”

The Rapid’s aggressive effort to muzzle their workers now includes intimidating and silencing their community supporters. After the agency earned its first temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction from a federal court late last year, management threatened employees who engaged in peaceful protest on public streets with discipline and even possible criminal consequences. At the same time, management threatened to take legal action against workers for speaking during the public comment periods at The Rapid Board’s public meetings. These threats led the union to file a second motion for another preliminary injunction in October, which they also won.

Late in January,  Grand Valley State USAS Local 77  staged a fare strike, encouraging riders to refuse to pay their fares to protest threats against transit worker pensions, violations of the workers’ First Amendment rights, a recent 16% fare hike, and a generous raise for the agency’s CEO.

“I was surprised and scared that there was a Grand Rapids police detective at my door to question me,” says Grand Valley State junior Jen Knickerbocker “It’s very frightening to be told you are going to be charged with a crime for participating in a peaceful protest at a public meeting.

“It’s clear to me that the city and The Rapid will stop at nothing to silence anyone who stands in their way. The very fact that the mayor and The Rapid are using police officers as political operatives to intimidate members of the community should alarm everyone.” Knickerbocker says the detective also asked her about fellow students who also attended the sit-in.

“Local 836 stands strong with these students and entire community of Grand Rapids,” says ATU Local 836 President RiChard Jackson, “We will continue to protest this attempt to rob riders and push our workers into the ranks of the working poor.”

Categories: Grassroots Newswire

UE's 80th Birthday: Still Militant and Democratic After All These Years

UE - Mon, 03/21/2016 - 10:23am
21 March, 2016Delegates to UE's Founding Convention, March 21-22, 1936, Buffalo, NY

March 21 is UE’s birthday, and this year we turn 80. It was on that date in 1936 that 43 delegates from 17 local unions gathered in Buffalo for a two-day convention, and by the time they left they had created a brand new national union, the United Electrical and Radio Workers of America.

Of those 17 locals, about half were independent locals, unaffiliated before they joined UE. Most of those were at large GE and Westinghouse plants, and mainly producing heavy equipment such as turbines and generators. All of these locals were what we call today “pre-majority unions," still engaged in building their membership, not recognized by the company as the workers' bargaining representative. None of these locals had a contract.

The other locals were called federal locals: they were affiliated with the American Federation of Labor (AFL), but not as part of any national union. Federal locals were second-class citizens in the AFL, with no representation in the federation’s leadership bodies, and the AFL’s plan was to eventually carve up each of these locals among existing craft unions. The federal locals that came to UE’s founding convention represented workers who made radios, appliance and small motors. The locals of radio workers at Philco and King Colonial had negotiated contracts; the rest did not and were, like the independent locals, pre-majority organizations in their shops. 

Some of these locals had been in existence since 1933, and they had tried before to join together as a national industrial union. They had formed a couple of networks – the National Radio and Allied Trades Council, the Electrical and Radio Workers – and petitioned the AFL for a charter as a national union including both the federal and independent union. The AFL had repeatedly refused these requests, seeing the new group as a political threat and a challenge to the AFL’s philosophy of exclusionary unionism. Most AFL unions believed in craft unionism – the idea that unions should only represent skilled workers, and each craft should be in a separate union. They also practiced discrimination against women, people of color, and even against some groups of European immigrants.

So the two groups of local unions decided to move ahead. A planning committee of eight delegates, four from the independents and four from the federal local, met in Buffalo in February to plan the founding convention of UE and issue the call.

INCLUSIVE UNIONISM

At the founding convention delegates drafted and approved the UE’s Constitution, which has not changed very much in the 80 years since. In particular, the Preamble has stood the test of time and remains a guiding statement of UE’s philosophy.  It says “… the struggle to better our working conditions are in vain unless we are united…” It rejects “the old craft form of trade union organization” as “unable to defend effectively the interests and improve the conditions of wage earners,” and instead embraces the more inclusive model of industrial unionism.  It declares that the purpose of this union is to unite “all works on an industrial basis, and rank and file control, regardless of craft, age, sex, nationality, race, creed, or political beliefs, and pursue at all times a policy of aggressive struggle.”

That first convention also adopted a number of resolutions, made plans for organizing, decided to set up a national office in New York City, and elected the union’s first two national officers. Both were young leaders who would qualify for membership in today’s UE Young Activist Program, and appropriately, one was an electrical worker and the other was a radio worker. The first president was James Carey, age 25, from the Philco radio plant in Philadelphia, and the first secretary-treasurer was 32-year-old Julius Emspak from the GE plant in Schenctady, NY.

UE grew rapidly in its first months and years, and began winning recognition and contracts with the companies where it represented workers. On April 1, 1938 UE achieved its first national agreement with GE. The year after its founding experienced one huge influx of new members that resulted in the only name change in UE’s history. A group of 14 machinist locals, originally independent but at the time affiliated with the International Association of Machinists, decided in 1937 to leave the IAM and join UE. They had tried, and failed, to get the IAM to drop its secret “whites only” rule, and they concluded that UE was the kind of union they wanted to belong to. This was a group of more than 10,000 members.  At the UE convention in September 1937, after these machinists had affiliated, delegates voted to create a third national officer position, director of organization, and elected the main leader of the machinist group, 28-year-old James Matles, to that position. Delegates also amended the union’s name to United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America.

UE members and leaders, throughout the union's history, have creatively applied the principles of the Preamble adopted at our founding convention. UE fought wage discrimination against women in the electrical industry during World War II with legal complaints against GE and Westinghouse before the War Labor Board. The 1946 national GE strike was extended by a couple of weeks to win an equal raise for women. Starting in the early 1940s, UE women held a series of district and national conferences "on the problems of working women," to coordinate women's rights fights in the industry. A number of women represented UE members on the General Executive Board and as organizers.

UE also pioneered in struggles for African American workers. The 1946 convention called on each local to form a Fair Practices Committee (FPC) to fight employer discrimination in the hiring, training and upgrading of black workers. The union appointed Ernest Thompson, an outstanding black leader and organizer, as full-time secretary of the UE National FPC. Thompson traveled the country, meeting with leaders of UE locals and helping them develop effective plans to force employers to hire more black workers, and to give black UE members opportunities to be trained and promoted into skilled jobs.

In the late 1980s UE – which had long been organizing Latino workers, especially in Los Angeles – developed strategies and "how-to" materials to assist locals and field organizers in organizing and defending undocumented immigrant workers.

UE also took seriously the Preamble’s call for no discrimination on the basis of political beliefs. In the late 1940s and into the ‘50s, UE paid a price for that principled stance. Because UE refused to join in the Cold War domestic red scare, and refused to screen our members for their political beliefs, the union was attacked by the government, employers and other unions, and suffered heavy losses of memberships. The government tried to prosecute some UE leaders for refusing to “name names” and assist in political witch hunts, as well as for taking stances on political issues (including foreign policy) different from those dictated by the Republican and Democratic parties. UE lost many locals during that period to “raids” by other unions that were aided by the government and companies.

Another UE principle that was established at that founding convention, and included in the Preamble, is that officers and staff of the union shall be paid no more than the wages of the highest-paid working UE member. The salaries of UE’s national officers match up with those of our members in GE, and the UE staff are paid somewhat less. As a result UE pays its officers far less than other unions pay, and for a reason. Having officers whose income and standard of living is that of workers, rather than that of corporate executives, helps keep the union leadership in touch with the needs of the members.

The words “rank and file control” and “a policy of aggressive struggle”, which those founding delegates approved 80 years ago, also govern the way UE operates every day. The way UE negotiates contracts, fights for members’ grievances, engages in political action is very different from most other unions. We don’t rely primarily on lawyers, legalism, lobbyists, and throwing money at politicians. Instead, UE has always believed that an informed and involved membership, mobilized in militant action to pressure bosses and politicians, is the greatest strength of our union or any union.

UE members today continue to apply the wisdom of the workers who founded our union in March 1936, and the lessons learned and passed on to us by the UE membership of the past eight decades.  

Categories: Grassroots Newswire

Take action for work with dignity in Vermont!

VWC - Thu, 03/17/2016 - 1:41pm

While full-time employment was the standard of work for so many in our parents’ generation, today the entire economy is being restructured towards increasingly contingent and precarious work, with grave consequences for working families.

By contracting “independent” workers as temps, freelancers, or contractors instead of employing them, companies are able to sidestep their legal requirements to provide needed benefits like workers’ compensation, health insurance, unemployment insurance, retirement plans. In addition to shifting the cost of healthcare and parenthood to workers and the public, this new arrangement prevents workers from standing up against dangerous conditions, wage theft, erratic scheduling, sexual harassment, and interference in worker organizing.

Unfortunately, Vermont is no exception to this trend. Right now in Montpelier, many legislators, Republicans and Democrats alike, are advancing a bill, H.867, which would gut key tests for workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance and pave the way for employers to classify workers as independent contractors, accelerating the trend towards precarious and low-wage work in many sectors of our economy.

Employers cannot be allowed to dodge their responsibility to workers’ rights through these loose contingent arrangements. Our new economy demands a new formula, where workers are organized to ensure their rights in the workplace, and where health care and social insurance are provided as universal public goods, like our roads and fire departments.

Join us to take action for work with dignity in Vermont:

  1. Call the Sgt at Arms at 802-828-2228 and leave a message for your legislator to vote no on the misclassification bill, H.867 -- Find your legislator here.

  2. Contact your local organizing committee to join a canvassing team with our new inequality survey

  3. Join us at the Vermont People’s Convention & Just Transition Assembly on May Day weekend at Montpelier High School (Details here)

Categories: Grassroots Newswire

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