[Click here to view interactive map]
More than two dozen people have died in violent clashes with U.S. Customs and Border Protection since 2010. Despite public outrage over some of the killings, no agent or officer has faced criminal charges – or public reprimand – to date.
While unaccompanied migrant children have largely been placed with family members already in the country, those who were stopped at the border with their mothers are being treated differently.
Democracy Now! has documented how more than 650 women and children, some as young as 18 months old, have been sent to an isolated detention center in Artesia, New Mexico. Watch the video below to see Democracy Now! producer Renee Feltz report on the poor conditions and lack of due process there, and the lawyers mobilizing to assist them. This week the first detainee in Artesia was granted bond as her asylum claim is processed, but it was set at $25,000, an unusually high sum since studies show refugees almost always show up to their asylum hearings.
In August, hundreds more kids and their mothers began to be transferred to a detention center in Karnes City, Texas, which is run by the private prison company, Geo Group, and has another 600 beds which used to hold male prisoners.
All of this comes as immigration advocates had been planning to mark the fifth anniversary of the end of family detention. It was August 2009 when Obama closed down the only other large detention center that held women and children–the “T. Don Hutto facility in Texas, run by Corrections Corporation of America, where the American Civil Liberties Union had to sue to improve conditions, saying toddlers in prison uniforms spent most of the day locked in their cells. Since then, the only other place that held toddlers or babies still nursing had been the Berks Family Residential Service in Leesport, Pennsylvania, which has 85 beds.
Obama’s repatriation policy is reflected in his $3.7 billion emergency supplemental request, which includes $879 million for 6,350 more beds for detained families, at about $120/day per bed. It would also open 23,000 daily slots for alternatives to detention. Geo Group stands to profit from this as well, since its subsidiary Bi Incorporated has the main contract to provide electronic monitoring bracelets that track immigrants with cases still being processed.
Meanwhile a New York based company has proposed building a 3,500 bed warehouse for unaccompanied migrant children in Clint, Texas. It would be called the “Abraham Lincoln Transitional Lodge,” according to the company’s application. The town itself has 926 residents according to the 2010 census. The Department of Health and Human Services is reviewing the proposal.
Our Power Richmond 2014First 3 DaysBy William Copeland
Mateo Nube of Movement Generation
dedicated a song to Sis Charity
(Photo by Ife Kilimanjaro)The energy has been electric. The gathering began with Indigenous greetings and acknowledgement, a mistica that held altar space for ancestors and intentions, and a dedication to Charity Hicks, former EMEAC staff member. On Day 3, 2 different people said “The climate justice movement will affect the future of the usa over the next ten years.”
Personally my biggest impact was hosting the first Black/ African Descent Meet up. This inspired a second full day strategy session. Lessons learned: the need for strong, yet flexible facilitation; intergenerational communication is an issue everywhere; relationships & principles between Black folks and other people of color really varies across the land. EMEAC’s Siwatu-Salama Ra shifted the entire energy of the gathering by demanding room to breathe and inviting younger voices into the exchange. On Day 2, Mosiah challemged the room to connect with members of our community who have unplugged from the grid figuratively or literally.Some of the participants int the
Black Caucus (Photo by Ife Kilimanjaro)
I had a great meeting with Mithika from Kenya and the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance about connecting Kenya climate justice and entertainment justice movements with Detroit’s. I also participated in a powerful session with other Midwestern Activists: CEED (Minneapolis), LVEJO (Chicago) and others. We talked about building up our collective Great Lakes movement.
Many great discussions about our economy and its relationship to Our Power. Jose Bravo discussed the Just Transition strategy of organizing with workers in polluting facilities. Brendan Smith from the Labor Network for Sustainability discussed that we have two economies and need separate strategies for both: the union-led economy of full-time employment and benefits & the new economy of part-time and temp work struggling to make ends. In Detroit we have a third economy: the underground economy and excluded workers. EMEAC is struggling to make the Just Transition work for all in Detroit.
All in all, a lot of very solid discussions. People are extremely surprised when I take ten minutes to describe the political situation in Detroit. This includes Emergency Management, aggressive water shut offs, the racial corporatization of Detroit, the write-in fraud in our electoral politics, and the use of privileged immigrants as a wedge against our community, and much more. They are using extreme measures against our community because of the creativity and successes of our movement!
I functioned as a national media spokesperson for Our Power, and gave a few interviews. Here is one article that was written:http://commondreams.org/news/2014/08/07/front-lines-climate-crisis-gathering-calls-new-economy
“It Takes Roots to Weather the Storm!” This means to me that the leadership of our frontline communities is essential not only for the survival of our communities, but also transforming the economy of the usa. Follow #ourpowerRichmond2014 on social media for more information.
Come and join residents of Peekskill and Community Voices Heard for a Town Hall meeting to help create an anti-poverty agenda for Westchester County. The meeting will take place on Thursday, August 14th at 6:30pm in the Community Room of the City of Peekskill Neighborhood Center at 4 Nelson Avenue. Listen to CVH leader Steven Dillard on why you should attend:
Feature This: No, Do not Feature
The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement along with Community Aid and Development Corp. present the Black August Commemoration Kickoff and Chokwe Lumumba Birthday Celebration on Saturday, August 2, 2014 from 6 to 10pm at the Davis Bozeman law office, 4153 Flat Shoals Pkwy, Decatur, GA 30034. Black August has a thirty-five year history of commemorating fallen comrades and embracing the principles of unity, self-sacrifice, political education, physical training and resistance. This year, we focus on the importance of health and wellness in our struggle and celebrate the birthday of our chairman Chokwe Lumumba. Chokwe Lumumba was a revolutionary activist, attorney, mayor of Jackson MS, and co-founder of NAPO and MXGM. Lumumba passed this year, February 25, 2014.
In the coming weeks, at least 90 unaccompanied migrant youth will be transferred from the border to shelters in Portland. Hundreds more youth will be transferred to Joint Base Lewis-McCord in Washington state. Nearly 39,000 unaccompanied minors were apprehended at the US-Mexico border in 2013, and 74,000 are projected to arrive in 2014. The majority of these unaccompanied migrant youth come from Central America.
We realize that there are many complicated reasons why children leave their families and homes to brave a dangerous journey across the border. We further understand that our government’s policies and actions are central to the reasons for these children’s journey. Their struggle to have stable lives is similar to the struggle of many of us currently living in the Pacific Northwest. For these reasons, we will not treat these children as outsiders, alien, or the enemy, but as fellow humans trying to make a meaningful life.
Documented and undocumented people across the Pacific Northwest are organizing to welcome these children into our communities. Tuesday, over 100 Portlanders stood on corners in downtown Portland with signs in support of the children. On Wednesday, July 23rd more Portlanders will meet to talk about the ‘border surge’, how it relates to Portland, the root causes of displacement, and how to take action to welcome migrants to our community. The presentation and meeting, “From the Border to Portland: Standing with Migrant Youth and their Families” will be at 7 pm at the AFL-CIO hall (3645 SE 32nd Ave). These actions are, in part, a response to how both the right and the Obama Administration have dealt with the issue.
Anti-immigrant groups such as Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR), and extremists such as The American Freedom Party have held small rallies and actions to demand the United States remain a majority white nation. The American Freedom Party held banners that read “diversity = white genocide” at a protest outside of the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) in Portland. While these mobilizations have been small and isolated here in Oregon, they show how the national anti-immigrant movement and right wing extremists are using the border surge to push a xenophobic and white nationalist agenda.The Obama administration has dramatically increased deportations. They have refused to respond to the challenges faced by the over 12 million undocumented people who have made the United States their home. Many migrants across the country have become tired of waiting for an administration who appears to grow more blind and deaf each day to injustice.
For over a year, undocumented people and their allies have been taking action to address the border crises and mass deportations. One example is Bring Them Home, in which 150 undocumented mothers, fathers, children, students and LGBTQ people crossed into the United States from Mexico seeking to return home to their families and communities in the US. Additionally, people in several parts of the country blockaded buses from leaving immigration detention centers under the banner “Not One More”. One such action in Tacoma, Washington inspired the Tacoma Detention Center Hunger Strike. The unspoken context of these actions and of migration from the Americas is the long history of US intervention in the region.
For over a century, the United States has considered intervention in the affairs of Central America to be its right and its duty. The US government, using our tax dollars, has supported coups against democratically elected governments and the destruction of people’s movements for self-determination. The result has been dictatorships and politically repressive regimes that massacre indigenous people and squash political dissent. In addition, the US continues to fund and encourage military solutions to social problems such as the drug trade. These US fueled conflicts have pushed thousands of people to flee their homes as refugees.
Furthermore, Free Trade Agreements implemented in the 1990s decimated local economies throughout Central America. Many people experienced a rapid fall into poverty as hard won economic supports disappeared. The lack of economic opportunity and on going state violence continue to drive massive migration of people from this region.
We will continue to stand with the children arriving in the coming weeks. They are fighting the same fight as many of us here. Like us, they have to find work to feed their family, to keep a roof over their head, and to spend time with the people they love. They, too, constantly live in fear of violence. We all want a full life with meaning and not a life that is filled with an endless struggle just to make ends meet. We share similarities in our struggles. We also recognize the importance of not invisibilizing the differences. Identifying both the similarities and differences make our struggles stronger.
Rather than fighting against those coming across the border, we should be fighting alongside them. Fighting to stop the incarceration of all our children. Fighting for communities that welcome all people. Fighting for our right to live, love, and work where we please.
Statement endorsed by – Portland Central America Solidarity Committee, American Friends Service Committee, Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice, Hella 503 Collective, Bring Them Home NW, Center for Intercultural Organizing, Jobs with Justice, and Voz Workers’ Rights Education Project
*For background information, please visit www.asotrecol.org
GM BLAMES ASOTRECOL FOR THE IMPASSE.
ASOTRECOL BEGS TO DIFFER.
Q – WHY THE IMPASSE BETWEEN GENERAL MOTORS AND ASOTRECOL?
A – One of the reasons for the impasse over ASOTRECOL’s grievances is that GM does not want to acknowledge the underlying documentation presented by ASOTRECOL backing up their claims. Both the Bogota office of the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center, and the political officer of the U.S. Embassy in Colombia, independently confirm that their documentation of GM’s wrongdoing, especially Jorge Parra’s, is extensive and damning.[i]
GM Colmotores management stands accused of rigging a system for dismissing injured workers without compensating them, then concealing and distorting the facts of their illegal and underhanded activities – with the cooperation of corrupt Colombian government officials. At stake for the company is GM Colmotores’ status as the most profitable GM subsidiary in Latin America. GM is worried, too, that reaching a fair settlement with the eight remaining ASOTRECOL members will set the bar for claims by hundreds more injured and fired workers (if not thousands) who GM fears will also come forward demanding justice.[ii]
If it wasn’t for ASOTRECOL taking the courageous step of blowing the whistle on GM’s practices and its willingness to make great sacrifices, nothing would have changed. Published reports confirm that GM Colmotores expended millions of dollars in ergonomic upgrades only after the workers’ resistance became more public. Similarly, some injured workers have been reassigned to jobs they’re able to do, in compliance with the law. ASOTRECOL has achieved some of its goals that today benefit thousands of workers; no small achievement. What remains unattained is justice for ASOTRECOL.[iii]
WHAT THE DOCUMENTS SHOW
GM Colmotores devised methods to avoid its liability to injured workers
Articles 4-8 of Law 776 of 2002 prohibit companies in Colombia from dismissing workers with occupational injuries, requiring the company to reinstate, relocate, or pension injured workers. Pensions sums are based on the degree of disability, the number of years until the disabled worker reaches retirement age (75 years), and the worker’s base salary. Companies and their occupational insurance providers each contribute 50% of the disability pension. To avoid this liability, GM Colmotores devised methods to prevent workers from 1) acquiring an “occupational” injury status; or 2) acquiring a disability rating above 51%. This was especially important to GM when it came to workers with serious claims such as spinal column injuries, the most prevalent type suffered by ASOTRECOL members.
GM Colmotores engaged in wholesale illegalities regarding workers’ private medical records, all for the sake of fattening the company’s profits, by:
- Intimidating workers from filling out accident reports – by threatening dismissal. This practice artificially bolstered safety-related statistics and thereby significantly lowered insurance costs for GM;
- Secretly accessing workers’ private medical records to determine the severity of workers’ injuries and identify workers for dismissal;
- Failing to provide to the National and Regional Qualifications Board with accurate descriptions of jobs and their ergonomic risks for the evaluation of the severity of workers’ disability as required by Resolution 2346 of 2007;
- Rigging exit medical exams with the purpose of classifying injured workers as “fit” to make it appear that the worker was leaving in the same state of physical health as when he was first hired;
- Concealing its mishandling of workers’ medical records following an investigation carried out by two labor inspectors and a representative of the Procuraduria on 4/15/2011;
- Having its medical center staff omit and/or alter documentation in workers’ medical records;
- Delaying and/or denying workers access to their own medical records, in violation of Resolution 2346 of 2007 – thereby preventing them from gaining or maintaining an “occupational injury” status or accurate disability rating from the Qualifications Boards.
- Colluding with the ARP Colpatria to have “occupational” injuries reclassified as “common” thereby denying workers access to disability pensions.
- ASOTRECOL member Pedro Pablo Rincón received an “occupational” injury status because the plant doctor performing the diagnosis did a thorough and ethical job. She was dismissed, as were other doctors who performed their jobs ethically.
None of the workers were given a physical by the Regional or National Qualifications Board, so their disability rating was based solely on the job descriptions and medical records provided by GM Colmotores. Inevitably, the workers received low disability appraisals, which they contest. Even severely injured workers were rated well below the 51% threshold, which would have required GM to pay them disability pensions.
GM violated Colombian prohibitions against dismissing workers with occupational injuries
Colombian law prohibits companies from dismissing workers with occupational injuries. They are required to reinstate, relocate, or pension injured workers (Articles 4-8 of Law 776 of 2002). GM Colmotores, however, developed an elaborate system of ridding itself of injured workers by:
- Dismissing injured workers under a variety of ruses –
- Fabricating charges against individual injured workers,
- Laying off injured workers as part of production-related layoffs without subsequently recalling them to work,
- Intimidating injured workers into signing “voluntary” layoff agreements, and
- Harassing injured workers by frequently changing their work assignments so they would quit.
These tactics violated the Colombian Constitution, which protects individuals from defamation (Article 15), and requires authorization by the Ministry of Labor when a company is contemplating dismissing injured workers, or mass layoffs. (Article 29).
- Attempting to make these dismissals appear “legal” by procuring falsified authorizations from corrupt labor inspectors, one of whom was subsequently criminally prosecuted, found guilty, and sentenced to prison.
- Committing procedural fraud against Jorge Parra, by submitting altered paperwork to the Labor Ministry. In a feeble effort to conceal its failure to carry out the proper process, GM Colmotores continued to pay Parra his salary over many months after illegally firing him (11/24/2010), to create the appearance that it had acted lawfully.
GM Colmotores denied workers the right to freedom of association
Despite the rights to free association guaranteed by the Colombian Constitution (Article 38), ASOTRECOL members were denied union rights by GM’s imposition of a “collective pact” on new hires, a violation of the “Labor Action Plan,” agreement negotiated by the U.S. and Colombian governments to facilitate passage of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
GM Colmotores management:
- Pressured new hires to sign documents promising that they would not affiliate with the union;
- Threatened workers that their contracts would not be renewed if they joined the union;
- Hired moles who served to gather intelligence and report on the union activity of fellow workers;
- Targeted Jorge Parra for dismissal, and subsequently excluded him from the GM Colmotores installation based on his protected activities:
- Speaking out publicly and denouncing GM Colmotores’ abuses;
- Filing formal complaints and legal actions with government agencies;
- Sharing information with his coworkers about defending their rights against GM’s tactics
- Forming ASOTRECOL.
Q – WHY NOT SETTLE IT IN THE COURTS?
A – GM Colmotores evaded their legal responsibilities toward workers injured on the job by altering records, changing injury statuses, ensuring that the severity of workers’ disability ratings were artificially low, and using various subterfuges to sever their employment with the company. The company thus ensured that injured workers have very little recourse through legal channels.
Even where legal channels were pursued, they have proven fruitless. Practically all cases brought by injured workers against GM Colmotores were assigned to a single judge (Labor Judge #16), contrary to the requirement that the judges be randomly selected. In each case, Judge #16 ruled in favor of the company.
GM has since denounced ASOTRECOL because the injured workers are, in GM’s words, “operating outside of legal channels.” GM Colmotores made sure the workers had no other option.
Which brings us to the failed mediation of August, 2012. While GM implicitly acknowledged the legitimacy of ASOTRECOL’s grievances when they agreed to mediation under the auspices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS), they assumed (wrongly) that the injured workers would accept offers far below the level of compensation GM would be required to provide if it complied with Colombian law.
ASOTRECOL’S original and first demand was reinstatement to GM employment on jobs they could do. By categorically rejecting this demand, GM is in violation of the law.
Following the mediators’ suggestion that ASOTRECOL pursue a financial settlement instead, ASOTRECOL consulted with lawyers from the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center, who calculated a figure of $5,184,001.34 USD for the 12 members. Five factors were considered:
• 1) Those with over a 50% disability would receive 75% of monthly wages until reaching retirement age (75 years of age), or 24 months of pay for those who are less than 50% disabled, according to Colombian labor law;
• 2) funds to pay for 10 semesters of university studies per worker;
• 3) an education subsidy to help pay for tuition for each child until they reach 25 years of age, as was signed in the workers’ contracts;
• 4) a housing subsidy to cover 75% of a “social interest housing” lot; and
• 5) 24 months of wages.
GM’s counter- and final-offer was a cash payment approximating 18 months’ wages. The August 2012 mediation ended prematurely (after just 3.5 days) with this impasse, when FMCS mediators had to catch flights back to the U.S. Since then, ASOTRECOL has remained open to dialogue and ready to return to negotiations, as recommended by the mediators. For its part, GM feigned interest but ultimately rejected any further talks:
(1) The head of GM Colmotores Labor Relations agreed to a meeting on June 14, 2013 with U.S. embassy officials and a Solidarity Center representative. The aim of the meeting was to establish a path to resolving the dispute. The GM VP cancelled at the last minute, telling the U.S. Labor Attaché that he had to leave for South Africa on an emergency. GM didn’t reschedule the meeting.[iv]
(2) GM Headquarters later accepted an invitation by Bogota, Colombia Human Rights and Police officials to send representatives for the purpose of mediation with ASOTRECOL. They were to arrive in Bogota for an August 22, 2013 meeting, but were a no-show. A GM Colmotores representative showed up to say there would be no mediation.
ASOTRECOL has repeatedly lowered its financial proposals (Spring, 2013, Fall 2013). GM has never responded. ASOTRECOL’s most recent proposal was $3 million USD to be divided among the 8 remaining members of the association. That’s less than the amount calculated by the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center that was owed to these men in disability pensions ($3,194,221.95 USD) (Article 10, Colombian Law 776, 2002). This figure represents the disability pensions that the workers would be entitled to, 50% paid by GM, 50% paid by the occupational insurance provider.
Considering GM’s violations of the injured workers’ rights cited above, and GM’s systematic actions which precluded the workers from receiving compensation from the occupational insurance company, GM should – at minimum – be required to pay an amount equivalent to the full disability pension owed to each member of ASOTRECOL.
Prepared by Paige Shell-Spurling and Frank Hammer in consultation with Jorge Parra, President, ASOTRECOL – 7/1/2014
[i] Doumitt, Aquilla
[iii] El Tiempo, Unecol
Charity Hicks - a clearing house of knowledge and passionate warrior for justice - joined the ancestors on Tuesday July 8, 2014. She joined EMEAC's staff as a Fellow for the EAT4Health initiative of the Jesse Smith Noyes Foundation in August 2012. During her tenure, she was a force behind a number of efforts throughout the city, nationally and globally, particularly in the area of food sovereignty and more recently, around water rights. Charity shared with folks around the world the struggles children and families in Detroit faced. She challenged power structures and institutions for their complicity in conditions that led to disproportionately high health challenges. And she called on all of us to walk the talk.
Charity brought so much passion, fire and knowledge to her work; many referred to her as a walking encyclopedia. Further, she brought so much of herself into all the spaces of which she was a part. She gave of herself selflessly. Charity's work and powerful spirit remains alive in our hearts and continues to inspire us in ways far beyond words. At EMEAC, we are so grateful to have shared time and space with her during this lifetime.
Detroit Women Speak: Charity HicksIn this video, Charity gives 3 critical pieces of advice that she would want young people to take with them. It appears in the Detroit Women Speak footage captured by EMEAC Co-Director Diana Copland. The three key points include:
- Pay attention to your place and environment
- Become wealthy in relationship
- Lean into being uncomfortable and being challenged to grow
I really enjoyed filming Charity, for one, the camera loves her, and I have always enjoyed watching her whenever she’s been interviewed or speaking in front of a group of people because of her candidness and sincerity. She always says something that makes me laugh, makes me cry, shocks me a little and something that I have never thought of before but changes a little of my world view. In this interview it was what she said around female emotional intelligence that changed me a little: the power of being vulnerable, emotional and unapologetically woman-ly!
It is hard being in the Cass Corridor Commons without her, not only because I never have been in this space without her, but she was such a presence in the space. She was always there to welcome everyone that came into the space and made sure everyone was taken care of under the Commons roof. She took her stewardship of the Commons very seriously. - Diana Copeland------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Charity had an uncanny way of seeing what was important to new people and connecting with them to build a bridge to communion. She was a woman of great depth socially and spiritually. We often talked about religions, different cultural traditions and the metaphysical aspect of activism. She and I shared conversations about Mother Earth and the ecopsychological need for transformation and activisim.
She was very generous with her perspective and knowledge and offered it with a motherly touch. I admired her strong African centered stance. I chuckle as I hear provocative statement, "let's get naked " Or let's be real with each other so we can connect as community. She embodied the concept of community by being present as the quintessential Commons representative. Sometimes I didn't want to be seen, but she saw everyone and invited them to community. I am just realizing how much she me impacted me and how much I will miss her. - Sanaa Green------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------It is hard to put into words how much of a great person chatity was, always willing to help. She would always help me with building security, i loved the way she engaged the youth. I miss her presence very much.- Dee Collins------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------It is hard to believe that someone with such strength and determination - who seemed to always be at EMEAC, working, protecting, watching over, nurturing, fussing, pushing for better - will no longer grace us with her physical presence. I value and appreciate Charity in all her nuances and contradictions. Wow. There is much i could say, but words simply don't come. I am deeply saddened and will miss her. - Ife Kilimanjaro
Reflections by Friends and Allies
"Charity taught me a lot about Black Nationalism and its history in Detroit. She helped me develop my ideals, my culture, and my politics. Of course she was a constant presence in the Commons and did so much to make it a stable and safe place. She was at the same time a die-hard East Side Detroiter AND a citizen of the world. She is being honored and remembered in various cities, states, and countries." - William Copeland, Our Power Detroit Coordinator------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Charity transitioned just a short time after we met, however she had a profound impact on my work and on my life. What started as a brief conversation transformed into an exploration of politics, policy, human behavior, compassion, and power structures (among other things!) In just those few conversations I had with her, I received an education beyond what I could have gotten from anyone else, and for this I am eternally grateful. I hope to learn more from all the others that Charity has impacted and contribute to her ongoing work. - Todd Ziegler, EMEAC Intern
It is with extreme sadness and rage that our compañera has left us too damn early. I first met Charity in the us social forum process in Detroit, where she was in charge of setting up water stations for the opening march and was pivotal in introducing so many of us in the movement to no plastic water bottles at major events. We got to work with her closely in the lead up to the first CJA leadership meeting in Detroit in September 2012, and also through her participation in GGJ national and international delegations, in particular the key role she played in the climate space in the WSF-Tunisia last year. She presented powerfully on a panel on the role of faith communities/spirituality, the fight against militarism, and climate change. Charity was fierce revolutionary, a determined fighter for basic human rights, generous, opinionated, grounded, visionary, brilliant woman. We are sending our heartfelt condolences to Louis, her family, her colleagues and extended political family. - Cindy Wiesner, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance
Reflections from OP Coordinator William Copeland Submitted by Will CopelandOur Power Detroit Coordinator Directors Diana Copeland and Ife Kilimajaro joined the Young Educators Alliance to set the tone with a profound opening ceremony. Fifty-seven people representing CJA member organizations and other environmental justice allies joined with local Detroit activists, artists, and community change agents. We are happy to announce that over ⅔ of Gathering participants were 25 and younger. Khafre Sims-Bey at the YEA debrief remarked "I have a feeling that I will be seeing them over and over again" One of our objectives was to host a significant gathering of youth activists in the climate justice and environmental justice movements that would help build relationships and deepen a generational analysis of organizing. [Continue reading...]Voices of Our Power Detroit ParticipantsSubmitted by Brittany AnsteadUniversity of Michigan, Arts and Citizenship Intern
Interviewing Our Power Detroit participants and documenting their testimonies was quite uplifting and rewarding. Many, both native and non-native Detroiters, shared a fluid commonality among their testimonies, a conscious passion to change our planet's current trajectory through a just transition. One testament, by Ms. Dorian Willams of the Better Future Project, left a lasting impression on me. Ms. Williams articulated a testimony not only embellished with raw, beautiful empathy for Detroit, but an affinity with the meaning of "Our Power". [Continue reading...]Preliminary Reflections on the Venezuelan Social Pre-COPSubmitted by Ife KilimanjaroCo-Director, EMEACAs one of GGJ's three delegates to the social pre-COP on climate change sponsored by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, i am glad to be part of the process of shaping, with others, the country's official statement on climate change going into the 2015 negotiations. Venezuela invited civil society organizations and movements from around the world to engage in this process as a way of inviting the voice of the people into what has become a very closed and corporate-led UN space. Though there are some questions circulating about the underlying intentions of the Venezuelan government and caution by people who know what it is like to be tokenized or have their work/ideas appropriated by larger bodies and institutions (be spoken for by them), one thing is clear; that this is a huge (though not unprecedented) undertaking deserving of note. Why? [Continue reading...]
WHAT WE HAVE OUR EYES ON
Within EMEAC we've been having conversations about Just Transition from an economic system that exploits human labor and natural resources, while damaging both, to one that is based upon community led and implemented solutions that value health of people and the planet. In these exploratory conversations, we've been discussing what a Just Transition means, what it can look like and how to get there, particularly in a place such as Detroit, with a long history of corporate and industrial led environmental degradation and resulting community health challenges. The Our Power Detroit gathering provided a space for us to have these and other important conversations with and among youth. As we continue to sharpen what the work looks like on the ground in Detroit, we will further these conversations and deepen the work at the National Gathering in Richmond, California. Stay tuned for more in August.
In addition to this long term work, we continue to fight many struggles in Detroit around water, transportation, environmental injustices and more. EMEAC staff wages these battles while also in mourning for our dear sister, comrade and friend Charity Hicks. Continue to send prayers for her family and friends in this moment. May the struggle continue towards real, fundamental change!
Interviewing Our Power Detroit participants and documenting their testimonies was quite uplifting and rewarding. Many, both native and non-native Detroiters, shared a fluid commonality among their testimonies, a conscious passion to change our planet’s current trajectory through a just transition. One testament, by Ms. Dorian Willams of the Better Future Project, left a lasting impression on me. Ms. Williams articulated a testimony not only embellished with raw, beautiful empathy for Detroit, but an affinity with the meaning of “Our Power”. She captured the essence of grassroots empowerment, expressing her experience as such:
“I came out here because I felt called to be here… There’s such incredible work being done in Detroit…. I felt drawn here by the people who invited me….from EMEAC and I believe in the power of the work that they are doing.
…to be here today… seeing what almost one hundred hands can do to revitalize this building, that can provide something as simple as water; I mean, it’s insane to me and horrifying that a city would turn...or the emergency manager, would turn its back on hundreds of thousands of people and deny them the basic rights to life like water. And so it’s inspiring and beautiful for me to witness people taking that back and reclaiming the ability to meet our own needs from the communities and not from corporations and not from governments, but from ourselves; and I guess that’s what our power means to me as well. The ability to take power away from those that abused it and got us into this mess, and to remember that by replacing it in the hands of people, who have had to struggle under this system, are the ones that are going be able to get us out.
I think the atomization and the undermining of people and communities…is exactly what got us here; and it’s only going to be the reclaiming of community and reaching back and connecting with each other, that we are ever gonna get out of it. And so I feel really honored and grateful and inspired to be here.”
Submitted by Brittany Anstead, EMEAC Intern sho served as documentarian of the Our Power Detroit gathering
I was honored to serve as Coordinator for the Our Power Detroit Gathering, June 2014.
Directors Diana Copeland and Ife Kilimajaro joined the Young Educators Alliance to set the tone with a profound opening ceremony. Fifty-seven people representing CJA member organizations and other environmental justice allies joined with local Detroit activists, artists, and community change agents. We are happy to announce that over ⅔ of Gathering participants were 25 and younger. Khafre Sims-Bey at the YEA debrief remarked “I have a feeling that I will be seeing them over and over again” One of our objectives was to host a significant gathering of youth activists in the climate justice and environmental justice movements that would help build relationships and deepen a generational analysis of organizing.
EMEAC and Our Power Detroit collaborated with the People’s Water Board, We The People of Detroit, and others to organize the Water Is Life Community Action. This action was inspired and spirited by Charity Hicks who transitioned after the gathering (July 8, 2014). We cleaned and replenished the Dexter-Elmhurst Community Center and canvassed throughout the surrounding neighborhoods to let people know where they could get water supplies. Now, this building is not only home to the city’s first People Relief Station, but also to vital neighborhood programs such as Children’s Free Lunch, Senior Activities, a Swap/ Re-Sale store, excersice classes, and youth recreation. Queen Mother Helen Moore said “I have not ever seen that many youth and adult leaders work in conjunction with each other to get the job done. You did not know this, but I was at my wits end and was concerned that we would not get the job done.” (full letter below)
There were significant lessons we learned from the organizing and hosting experience. First, we learned the value of our organizing style and made a commitment to doing the theoretical and intellectual work to describe the theory of change that we embody. At its root, we are engage the development of skills, resources, and analysis of our people via cultural organizing. Also, we exhibit a spirit of radical hospitality that was first exhibited on an (inter-)national level in the 2010 US Social Forum process. We have been developing this practice of space-making, caring detail, emotional-political connection, local resourcing, and hospitality in the last 4 years. As Bryce Detroit summarizes, “we are creating a new culture.” One challenging lesson that we learned is that we need to put intentional attention to our relationship building in the US South and Great Lakes. We conflicted schedules with the Freedom Summer events and these regions were underrepresented in our national participation. The Our Power Detroit was an unmitigated success, pulled off under duress and stress that planted powerful seeds of culture and youthful energy.
This is a quick update from the school workers rights team at SWU. This summer we released our newsletter and will be passing this out to our members at presentation we do in the schools. In the newsletter we highlight our research on living wage, we spotlight a member, give a little insight on our connections and building with movements across the U.S. and the last part is upcoming events.
The workers rights roundtable is a connection built locally with workers rights organizations and labor movements in and around the San Antonio area. It first came we realized that we had a relationship with the National Nurses Union through a southern wide organization called Southern Workers Assembly (SWA). The SWA is comprised of social political workers rights organizations across the south and welcomes workers & organizations to join in. Here is a statement from the website written by Saladin Muhamad who is co-chair of the SWA: "The Southern Workers Assembly (SWA) invites you to affiliate with our network of local unions, labor committees, labor organizations and individual labor activists. We are committed to empowering Southern workers to build a rank and file democratic labor movement."
For more info on the Southern Workers Assembly visit: www.southernworker.org
For more info on the National Nurses Union visit:www.nationalnursesunited.org
The next workers rights roundtable will be July 17, 2014 from 6-8pm 1412 E. Commerce San Antonio, TX 78205. We welcome you to come discuss issues around right to work laws, worker oppression, slave wage laws and union membership.
This summer the workers rights team will be doing presentations and recruiting members in the San Antonio and Austin school districts as well as throughout the school year. We will be rebuilding the member board which consist of a president, vice-president and secretary in each school we work in. The member board will learn and know all that the workers rights team does and also the board will help in planning for the future. A large part of our work includes supporting members throughout grievances. We will continue to take grievaces and fight for your rights as a worker. For more information on becoming part of the member board, volunteering or questions please feel free to call Joaquin Abrego (210) 413-8978.
Below you will find an application to join as a member of the Southwest Workers Union feel free to pass this on to any school worker member you know. SWU has the lowest dues in Texas because we feel that you have the right to fair wages and just working conditions.
For more information contact us at 210.299.2666 or email us email@example.com
For more info about Southwest Workers Union www.swunion.org
Like our Facebook page www.facebook.com/swunion
Find us on twitter https://twitter.com/swujustice
Please visit our worker center and community garden at1416 E. Commerce San Antonio, TX 78205(210) 299-2666
Yesterday, after a year of inaction and obstruction by House Republicans, President Obama vowed that he will begin to fix the broken immigration system through his Constitutional authority to take executive actions. He pledged to begin doing so later this summer. With this announcement comes an opportunity for the president to use his full powers to protect workers’ rights.
It’s been a year since Senate Democrats and Republicans passed S.744, a bipartisan immigration reform bill promising an earned pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants in our communities and stronger labor protections for all workers. As that bill and other comprehensive fixes to our broken immigration system have languished in the House of Representatives, the weight of inaction has been severe. The president himself noted that there have been significant consequences for workers because House Republicans have prevented a real solution from moving forward:
“It’s meant more businesses free to game the system by hiring undocumented workers, which punishes businesses that play by the rules and drives down wages for hardworking Americans.”
President Obama is correct – our broken immigration system allows employers to undermine labor standards and evade workplace laws. That’s because low-road employers know that they can use immigration enforcement to threaten and retaliate against immigrant workers who try to exert their rights under federal labor and employment laws. Employers who misuse our immigration laws hurt all of us – they drag down wages and job standards for all workers, no matter where they were born.
A broad and growing number of advocates have been calling on the president to use his executive powers to curb the deportation crisis hurting too many immigrant workers, families and communities while House Republicans have stalled immigration reform legislation. The president’s announcement shows that he is listening, but in order to help immigrant and nonimmigrant workers alike, he must undertake bold and decisive actions that help all of those that would have qualified for relief under S. 744. And he must take this opportunity to refocus the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) enforcement policies and procedures to help end the agency’s role as a de-facto, taxpayer-funded unionbusting service for employers who not only deny workers their labor rights, but then try to evade responsibility when they are caught breaking the law. As the president considers what actions he can take, those who care about expanding the rights and opportunities for workers cannot sit on the sidelines. We must continue to raise attention to the need for real relief and stronger protections for all workers. That should come in the near term through broad executive action, but ultimately John Boehner and House Republicans have a responsibility to allow a vote on legislation providing a permanent, comprehensive solution.
“The water department announced in March it was resuming efforts to shut off water service to more than 150,000 delinquent customers in order to collect about $118 million in outstanding bills. The department said it would target customers whose bills are more than two months late and would shut off about 3,000 customers a week.”
“The 17 percent average raise, expected to be announced Thursday, is the Swedish ready-to-assemble furniture chain’s biggest in 10 years in the U.S. The pay increase will take effect Jan. 1. It will translate to an average wage of $10.76 an hour, a $1.59 increase from the previous $9.17. About half of Ikea’s 11,000 hourly store workers will get a raise.”
Veterans deserve better than this from Congress.
“By the end of June, an estimated 285,000 veterans will be going without long-term unemployment benefits because Congress allowed the program to expire, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).”
Walmart, the nation’s most profitable corporation, may also be the greatest beneficiary of the taxpayer-funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps.
But how has Walmart managed to make so much money off of taxpayers? For the short answer, take a look at the chart below where we’ve illustrated the scam. For the long answer, keep reading.
Step One: Pay your employees so little that they are forced to rely on food stamps to survive.
Even at Walmart’s definition of a full-time job, an employee earning the company’s average wage of $8.81/hour makes just $15,500 per year, placing them well below the federal poverty line for a family of four. With such low wages, even when working full-time hours, many associates are forced to depend on taxpayer-funded assistance such as food stamps and Medicaid to survive. In other words, Walmart is shifting responsibility onto the public for ensuring their associates’ basic needs are met. One study showed that a single Walmart can cost taxpayers anywhere from $904,542 to nearly $1.75 million per year, or about $5,815 per employee for these programs all because one of the world’s most profitable retailers is paying substandard wages and benefits. A more recent report by Americans for Tax Fairness revealed that Walmart’s reliance on programs like food stamps cost federal taxpayers an estimated $6.2 billion a year.
Step Two: Exploit loopholes to avoid paying billions in taxes that fund food stamps.
While taxpayers are shouldering the responsibility to ensure Walmart’s employees can make ends meet, the company zealously avoids contributing its fair share of taxes using a myriad of schemes. Another report by Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies claims the company exploits a little-known loophole to avoid an estimated $104 million in U.S. taxes by granting extravagant “performance pay” bonuses to top executives. You read that right – the more Walmart pays its executives, the less it pays in taxes.
The Waltons, the nation’s wealthiest family and owners of Walmart, contribute almost none of their personal wealth to the charitable foundation that bears their name and instead uses the charity’s tax structure to avoid an estimated $3 billion per year in estate taxes.
By fervently minimizing its tax liability, Walmart has once again dodged its responsibility in addressing its employees’ basic needs and is instead letting the rest of us foot the bill.
Step Three: Reap billions in profits when food stamps are spent in your stores.
So what happens to all those food stamp dollars? They’re spent at Walmart!
“The same company that brings in the most food stamp dollars in revenue – an estimated $13 billion last year – also likely has the most employees using food stamps.”
There you have it. Walmart’s perfected its food stamp scheme by keeping its employees dependent on taxpayer-funded food stamps, not paying its fair share in taxes to fund SNAP, and then reaping all the profits from food stamp redemption in its stores.
For a company that can easily afford to pay its employees decent wages, Walmart has decided to do just the opposite. Just last week, the company’s spokesman, David Tovar, published a snarky retort in response to a recent New York Times opinion column denouncing the company’s refusal to meet its employees’ most basic needs. As the Huffington Post revealed, Tovar’s “fact check” was short on actual facts, but it did illustrate another of Walmart’s usual strategies: when problems are exposed within your ranks, unleash a well-funded PR machine instead of addressing the issue.