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$25K in 25 Days!

Labor/Community Strategy Center - Wed, 11/12/2014 - 2:25pm
NO CARS IN L.A. NO TANKS IN L.A. NO APARTHEID PASSES ON MTA BUSES AND TRAINS IN L.A. NOT ONE MORE DEPORTATION IN L.A. Los Angeles today is ruled by the privatizing, polluting, policing corporate class that is making life unbearable for the vast majority of the people. The city and the entire country, is creating a low-wage, no wage, global warming empire backed up by police, immigration raids, and military occupation. We need your help to fight for the social welfare state not the police state, the environmental justice state not the warfare state. The Fight for the Soul of the Cities is the fight for the soul of the United States-inside and outside its territorial borders. 

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Categories: Grassroots Newswire

In the face of conquest, Palestinians’ existence is resistance

GGJ Blog - Wed, 11/12/2014 - 12:17pm

By Ashley Franklin, Labor/Community Strategy Center, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ)

Ashley was one of two GGJ members who participated in the Grassroots International Travel for Change delegation to Palestine, from October 27-November 6, 2014. Delegates participated in the olive harvest and learned about the struggle of the Palestinian people for self determination and food sovereignty. Stay tuned for a reportback conference call this winter.

In the face of conquest, Palestinians’ existence is resistance. This was made evident in the 10 days that I spent with the Grassroots International Delegation in Palestine. Below is an explanation of the Israeli occupation through a compilation of Palestinian experiences and resistance focusing on colonial settlement, land grabs, the use of political prisoners to suppress movements through fear, intimidation and dehumanization.

Land Grabs and the Israeli Occupation

As the Israeli Authorities continue on a quest to build an Israeli state, they have used land theft, demolition expansion, and policies of settler colonialism to uproot entire Palestinian families in the West Bank, steal farmland and usurp water supply. A critical component to the Israeli agenda is to use a barrier wall—“apartheid wall” —that surrounds entire villages, isolates others, or threatens to expel villages from their Israeli resident status.

This barrier wall, approved by Israeli Prime Minister Barak in 2000, cuts deep into the West Bank, and will encircle over 1.5 million Palestinian refugees into only 12% of Palestinian in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Surrounding the wall are 634 military checkpoints that include trenches, barriers and soldiers to control when community members can enter or leave their communities. Often times, these check points create only one entrance into villages, and if these entrances are shut, it prohibits people who live in those villages from entering, as reported by Stop the Wall. Israel’s strategy to create mass destruction and to end people’s freedom of movement is an effort to imprison the Palestinian minds and bodies and further the Israeli State colonial settlement agenda. The restriction on building new homes prevents people from living in dignity and controlling their growth.

We met a Palestinian liberation fighter who explained his struggle to curb the wall from being built near his home.

A tall concrete wall garnished with high definition cameras and barb wire, extends across the yard of Mr. Nidal, isolating him from all of his neighbors. This military imposed wall is decorated with a hand painted Palestinian Flag that serves as the welcome sign leading to a locked gate that Mr. Nidal must use to enter his property nestled between his village and the Palestinian occupied Israeli settlement. Mr. Nidal, like many other Palestinians, suffered from the wall being placed in the middle of his property—confiscating land, uprooting trees and crops, and furthering the colonization of the West Bank.

As Mr. Nidal welcomes us to his home, he begins to reflect: “66 years ago my family began this struggle with my grandparents’ home where they would cultivate the land and live peacefully with the world until war and imperialism occupied the country.” The war pushed his family from their land, where his grandfather was killed fleeing to Jordan leaving his grandmother and 5 children without income. Just like his father, he did not have a week of normal life from the day he was born until today. Nidal dropped out of school and has steadfastly worked as a carpenter 20 hours a day. All of the money he made was used to build the homes that were destroyed by the Israeli Authorities, three times, under their court order to confiscate the land.

“Although I bought the land in 1974, the Israeli settlement came in 1978 where I have been battling just to keep what little land that has not been stolen from me. Before the occupation, I had a very profitable store and farm, where I built a greenhouse that cost 300 sheckels but was worth 3 million sheckles to me. The authorities’ act of destroying my home and greenhouse, confiscating my land and attacks on my children is their attempt to make the conditions of our lives so hard that we just leave.”

However, his strength to defend his land and the Palestine prevails over the Israeli Authorities scare tactics:

“I remember the land confiscation order that was given to me when Israeli Authorities wanted to build the wall. The Soldiers planned to put the wall directly at my front door, leaving less than 6 feet from my stairs to the concrete wall. They also imposed a curfew with the wall, to ensure the gate that leads from my village to the stolen land of the Israeli settlement would only be open twice a day for 15 minutes. They wanted me to feel like I was trapped. However, I knew the peak of good faces the peak of evil. We are on the front lines here to face the evil.

“At one point a high ranking solider told me that I should just let them do their job because the bulldozers regardless will plow over my home, but I informed the soldier that every home they demolish is not bulldozing Palestine rather it is bulldozing Israeli. It is exposing the state of Israel and the harms that it is causing to Palestinian communities.”

As Mr. Nidal continued to share his stories of resistance, we noticed the newly painted wall was covered with a dove that read “freedom,” while the surrounding area was completely white. When we asked Nidal why the wall looked as if it had been painted over, he responded that the wall was too beautiful. He said that one day he was looking out of his window and realized the hard work of the volunteers who painted the wall, was soothing. This was opposite of everything the wall represented. He said, “I painted over the wall so that I can be reminded that this wall represents colonization and control. Instead of coming to paint beautiful pictures, we must tear the wall down.”

“After months of protest, many arrests of activist and attorneys, and the Israeli Authorities’ attempt to build the wall, my victory is having the wall placed further away from my front door, defeating the curfew and having a key to freely enter the gate to my land and preserved my land. With all the suffering, I can’t help feel a sense of victory when I walk on my land and when I pump water from my well.”

Political Prisoners

In a continued effort to repress any social uprising by the Palestinian people, the Israeli government employs incarceration, criminalization, and collective punishment to instill fear in the masses and cripple the Palestinian movement. Yet, their determination for liberation only fuels their resistance. The state has used Israeli laws to capture over 6,200 Palestinian political prisoners—500 administrative detainees, 18 women, and 210 youth—by operating under an independent court, soldiers and laws. It is common practice in Palestine for the Israeli state to arrest and detain Palestinians under “Administrative Detention” where they can be held for an indefinite amount of time, ranging from 1-6 months, without the detainee or lawyer knowing why.

Below you will find the testimony of a Freedom Fighter who was captured as a Political Prisoner. This political prisoner from Ramallah, Palestine, whose name I will keep disclosed, is a central component in the ongoing efforts to free political prisoners, free Palestine and to fight against new laws such as the 20 years of imprisonment for throwing stones at Israeli Authorities through the Addameer Prison Support and Human Rights Association.

I was awakened in my home by a resounding noise of sound canons coupled with live ammunition shot through the window next to me. It was 3:00am and I could hear my name being called on a loud speaker “surrender now and come out of your home” but I was physically incapable of moving because rounds of ammunition continued to be shot through the window. Once the bullets and sound canons ended, I thought that my nightmare was over—yet, it was only the beginning. There were laser lights from all directions pointing to my chest and the heart wrenching sound of fear form my mother and wife that loom my home. In my night clothes, I found myself escorted by a solider into a van with my feet bound and eyes covered I could feel boots repeatedly kicking every inch of my body where I would slip in and out of consciousness.

I woke up in an interrogation room with an Israeli Internal Intelligence agent, who would spend three days interrogating me. There were hours that I thought I was living in a completely different world. If I was found sleeping during the interrogation, I would be awakened by a heavy downpour of cold water. This agony ended with me forced into solitary confinement with 18 year old Israeli Soldiers who controlled my body. My only human interaction was with the officers who interrogated me, while I was being held without any charges. These officers would tell me that my house has been demolished and my family was in danger if I didn’t speak, which was a common practice of the Intelligence agency to force political prisoners to confess to crimes they did not commit. Their threats and stories were always met with my silence because my only crime was being a Palestinian.

My cell was my height in length which included a drain on the ground for me to use the restroom. However, this drain will constantly get backed up and once I waited an entire day for the officers to fix the pipes but had to spend the night in the sewage water. What seem to be endless hours and days, left me passing time by picking an argument with the police, counting stones, or talking to creatures that would come from the drain. The loneliness and intentional isolation of each prisoner had us picking fights with the guards just so that when they beat us we could feel human, again.

These conditions would never end because the judges and soldiers around me were all connected so they kept extending my solitary confinement. I decided to go on hunger strike! This was a bond built with the prisoners around me, as we stood in solidarity for our freedom. We would read three books and write reports in two of them and prepare a presentation for the entire group for the other book. The academics in prison would hold classes to teach each prisoner their specialization, be it English or mathematics. This is how I spent my time until I was released four months after being arrested. Now, I am even more committed to make sure every political prisoner is released and returned to their families and the struggle for liberation.

Third Hunger Strike Begins at the Tacoma Detention Center

For Immediate Release Monday, November 3, 2014 – 2:15pm Third Hunger Strike Begins at the Tacoma Detention Center

At least 200 people stopped eating on Fri. Oct. 31st, and more people will join today

Tacoma, WA – Immigrant detainees are putting their bodies on the line for the third time this year, to call attention to the inhumane treatment in the GEO Group detention center. Geo Group, a corporate giant that profits off the unnecessary suffering of those it imprisons for the convenience of ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, while their civil immigration status is investigated. Advocates are concerned that hunger strikers will suffer retaliation similar to the retaliation inflicted during previous hunger strikes. Hunger strikers were placed in solitary confinement for up to 30 days and threatened with force-feeding. Last spring hunger strikers received promises from ICE officials that have never been implemented.

Geo Group has been allowed to supplement their lavish compensation of more than $100 per day per person with a cluster of self-reinforcing schemes to profit even more from the people placed in their “care.” Those schemes include:

  • Unwholesome meals with insufficient nutrients
  • High commissary prices for food and other items
  • Using the labor of detainees paid at the rate of $1 per day to prepare the meals, do the cleaning and laundry
  • Charge fees to families to provide money to the detainees

Geo provides inadequate nourishment which creates a demand for commissary food at inflated prices, which induces detainees to work for essentially no pay and then profits from families’ contributions to those commissary accounts.

Cipriano Rios, one of the hunger strike leaders, provided supporters with the following information this weekend.

As of today regardless of the difficulties we detainees face in communicating with each other, we began another volunteer peaceful hunger strike starting October 31st to November 2nd. Utilizing radio, visits from relatives and other ways, more detainees have joined the strike. Just today 35 more people joined, making a total of close to 200 detainees in hunger strike. We are certain that if it wasn’t for all the communication restrictions we face, more detainees would have joined, reaching more than two thirds of the total population. Our action is in the name of justice, hunger for freedom; therefore the hunger of the body, for most of us, is not above the claim for justice. Not one more! Stop families destruction!

– Colectiva de Detenidos NWDC

In honor of Día de los Muertos, supporters of the detainees are holding a four-day encampment outside the GEO Group detention center, mourning family members who have passed, and all those who have died due to the aggressive immigration system over the years. They also honored and mourned the loss to their families and communities of all those deported and locked away in the NWDC. Thus far, some 150 supporters have come from all over Washington to join the festivities which have included a procession of the souls, music performances, an installation of a cramped solitary confinement cell, and altars. Opening ceremonies included a blessing by the Rev. William Bichsel, S.J., affectionately known to many Pacific Northwesterners as Father Bix for his active opposition to nuclear weapons and the School of the Americas which has earned him about 50 arrests and approximately three years in prison.

The Northwest Detention Center Resistance also participated in the Tacoma Art Museum’s Dia de los Muertos with an altar to the great injustices at the Northwest Detention Center. The Northwest Detention Center Resistance has had a constant presence outside the immigration prison since March in support of the incredible organizing and hunger strikes that have taken place inside.

### Contact:

Jolinda Stephens, 614-915-4079

Maru Mora Villalpando, (206) 251-6658



Categories: Grassroots Newswire

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SWU - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 5:51pm
Todos Somos Ayotzinapa – We are all Ayotzinapa
Tuesday, November 11, 2014 – 11:00 AM
Mexican Consulate
127 Navarro st San Antonio TX 78205
San Antonio stands solidarity with the 43 disappeared students from the Raul Isidro Burgos Ayotzinapa Normal School, in the southern state of Guerrero. Thousands of people around the world are calling for Enrique Peña Nieto, the Mexican President, to step down after Mexican authorities say the Iguala mayor ordered the attack on the students.Ayotzinapa has been ‘the straw that broke the camels back’. The history of violence against students in Mexico is not new, in October of 1968 in the Tlatelolco Massacre in the City of Mexico, as well as the 300 disappeared in Allende, Coahuila in 2011 has left Mexicans outraged. Last week 115 schools were on strike and over 100 thousand people took the streets in Mexico demanding the return of the students and an end to the persecution targeting revolutionary students and ideas in Mexico.Earlier in October a mass grave was found in the outskirts of Iguala, Guerrero. Investigators believe it may contain the remains of the missing students, but say DNA tests to confirm their identities will take several weeks. In the mean time we are hopeful that the students will be return alive.Southwest Workers Union stands in solidarity with the students and their families we demand peace in Iguala and in the streets of Guerrero, and an end to the political regression on behalf of the Mexican government.
Contact: Chavel Lopez 210.413.8978
Categories: Grassroots Newswire

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Padres & Jovenes Unidos - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 3:58pm
Address: CO
Categories: Grassroots Newswire

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Padres & Jovenes Unidos - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 3:58pm
Address: CO
Categories: Grassroots Newswire

One Struggle: From Burque to the West Bank and Back

GGJ Blog - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 2:03pm

By Rodrigo Rodriguez, SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP), Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ)

Rodrigo was one of two GGJ members who participated in the Grassroots International Travel for Change delegation to Palestine, from October 27-November 6, 2014. Delegates participated in the olive harvest and learned about the struggle of the Palestinian people for self determination and food sovereignty. Stay tuned for a reportback conference call this winter.

The occupied territories of Palestine sit almost 7000 miles away from my home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

It is literally half a world away. But in many ways it felt like I never left.

I grew up in the occupied territories of the Rocky Mountain west of the North American continent, in the heart of Aztlan. Much like the occupied territories of Palestine it is an intensely beautiful part of the world with an intensely brutal history. It is a history of colonization, of land grabs, and genocide; but also a history of struggle and resistance.

In 1848 the US signed the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, ending its war with Mexico and ushering in an era of settler colonialism that epitomized the uniquely “American” ideal of Manifest Destiny.

The Indigenous and Spanish speaking Mestizo peoples of what would become the western United States had already been colonized, mostly in the name of the Catholic Church for over two centuries. The conquistadors who moved north were famous for their banner cry of “God, Glory and Gold”. They were also famous for the cruelty they practiced in their subjugation of Indigenous peoples. In 1680 the Indigenous leader Popay helped organize The Pueblo Revolt in New Mexico, the first instance of indigenous peoples pushing the colonizers out.

The period of colonization that followed westward expansion of the US Empire would quickly find the communities, cultures, languages, and life ways of Indigenous and Chicano communities under attack once again. The US military expansion that accompanied the settlers would also quickly become famous for the brutality it practiced on these communities. The post civil war period known as the Indian Wars, saw a rapid intensification of this brutality. One of its more subtle measures was the use of Black soldiers in these ‘Indian Wars’. The units that became famous as the ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ would find their way to New Mexico in the hunt for Apache leaders like Geronimo, Victorio, and Nana among many others.

In the 60s and 70s my mother’s home community of Taos became a destination for the hippies. Decades before that it was a haven for artists from the East Coast, what eventually became known as the Taos Artists movement that helped introduce the world to “Southwest Style”. Nowadays it is a playground for the wealthy elite, for skiers and snowboarders, for backpackers and white water rafters; a haven for tourists who come to gawk at our quaint adobe homes and take pictures of our colonial period churches and Pueblos. The Chicano and Indigenous people are still there, but every year it gets harder to maintain the land base, the water resources, and the way of life. For every Dennis Hopper, Julia Roberts, and Donald Rumsfeld that decides to build a million dollar adobe mansion it gets harder for the poor and working people to keep up with skyrocketing tax bases. It gets more expensive to keep your water rights. It gets harder to stay. This is arguably the third force of colonization that our beautiful state has undergone.

If you take into account the fact that the military is our largest employer; thanks to the nuclear weapons research and proliferation industry, the military bases, weapons facilities, the massive military industrial complex (Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin all have facilities in New Mexico) and now the nuclear dump (The Waste Isolation Pilot Project in Carlsbad) it becomes pretty evident New Mexico is still very much a military colony of the United States. One of the main reasons the states of Arizona, Utah, and Colorado were carved out of the New Mexico territory was to surround, isolate and subjugate the indigenous and Chicano communities who make up the majority of the population of New Mexico.

I say all of that to offer a little context to my thought process.

When we talk about the struggle for land, water, human rights, food sovereignty, and justice in the context of the Chicano and Indigenous communities of the US versus a free Palestine; it looks like the same struggle because it is the same struggle. The colonial policies of the US Empire have created a situation in Palestine that looks every bit like the history of the colonial United States.

Steal the land, admit that it’s wrong; but keep doing it anyways. The banners may not say, “God, Glory, Gold” anymore but the fundamental concepts are the same. They’ve changed the war cry now to read “Freedom, Democracy, and Security”, but nothing about its intent has changed.

Stop the Wall Logo

On our last night in Ramallah I told Jamaal Juma from the organization Stop the Wall that he needed to come visit us in New Mexico. We talked about how I could show him the wall that ‘protects’ my state from the now foreign country that it used to be a part of. Jamaal offered that we should compare them, and see whose wall is bigger.

This is the most amazing thing to me about this journey, the humor and graciousness that the Palestinian people hosted us with. We heard horrific stories from dozens of people about the brutality of the occupation. They told us stories of resilience and resistance and struggle that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Everywhere we went we were immediately offered coffee and tea and laughs. We heard from many of our hosts that you can’t take everything so serious, if you allow it to drag you down then the occupation had already won. This was a central theme from many of our hosts. You have to keep living, and you have to fight back.

Abu Nidal’s gate (photo credit Ann Gary)

Abu Nidal, a man whose house has been completely surrounded by the wall, told us that he is grateful to be the one to fight back. He forced them to build him a gate, when they wanted to control the gate he fought them. The Israeli occupation forces then offered him a gate but it would remain locked and they would keep the key; so he fought them again. He has the key to his gate in their wall now. But his home just like most homes, it seems like, has a demolition order on it. His only interest is to create a life for his family that is worth living, “But if you throw a rock at me I will throw one back.”

Another man we met named Abu Saqr, his name means Father of the Eagle, in the Jordan Valley shared his story with us. The Israelis have demolished his village 7 times after they built a settlement on his traditional lands. Every time they demolish his home he rebuilds it closer to the settlement. He says that the next time they come to demolish it, he will rebuild inside the settlement. Abu Saqr has 25 children, the Israeli settlement on his land has 35 settlers, he says this is his battle; they are 35 so he must be 40.

Sumud (photo Credit Marie Kennedy)

Abu Saqr and his wife introduced us to their baby girl named Sumud, who was born during one of the demolitions. Sumud in Arabic means steadfast.

This is what she represents to her father and the people of Palestine. Steadfast perseverance.

Steadfast perseverance in the face of oppression.

Steadfast perseverance in the midst of brutality.

Steadfast perseverance in the struggle for liberation and self determination for the people of Palestine and the people of New Mexico and people everywhere.

Darwish: “On this land is something worth living for.”

Painted on one of the tents in the village of Sussiya is a quote from the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, “On this land is something worth living for.”

To me, this is everything. Sussiya is a farming village that lives everyday under the threat of demolition. They have a demolition order claiming the land as being a place of historical significance and that no one should live there. This obviously didn’t stop the Israelis from building a settlement just up the hill. The people live in tents and caves that are regularly demolished and rebuilt.

One of the village elders was very clear in his sumud, he said that he was born in Sussiya and he will die in Sussiya. Either god will take him or the army will, but either way he’s not leaving.

In Sussiya we also met a farmer and his family, a man named Mohammed Jboor. We helped plant olive tree saplings in his field. The settlers have destroyed over 100 of his olive trees over the years. Every time they destroy the trees he plants new ones. One of the things Mohammed said that sticks with me is that the struggle of Palestine is about much more than human rights, “Rights without power only makes sheep”.

I feel like this is the most important point of this journey.

There are almost 2000 NGOs in the West Bank, working on everything from prisoner’s rights, home demolitions, women’s empowerment, and human rights issues, to farming and agriculture. A powerful young organizer named Mariam Barghouti was very clear that Palestine doesn’t need more saviors, Palestine needs solidarity. It’s not our place to romanticize their struggle, there’s nothing romantic about it. It is our job to stand alongside Palestine and her people; to uplift and amplify their struggle and their voices. It’s the Palestinian people who will determine her future, and it is our duty as her allies to stand and fight with them against the forces of colonialism, empire and oppression.


East Michigan Environmental Action Council - Sat, 11/08/2014 - 12:46pm
EMEAC’s Contribution to Universidad Sin Fronteras:
A Brief History of Universidad Sin Fronteras Detroit Campus DATE COURSE WORK 2008-2010 US Social Forum organizing process Spring 2010 Initial #UpSouth/DownSouth delegation to Detroit for USSF work project Summer 2010 USSF Detroit: 20,000 national and international activists Spring 2011 Young Educators Alliance (YEA) founded Spring 2011 Detroit Peoples Movement Assembly (PMA) against RightSizing process 2011 Cass Corridor Commons created as EMEAC takes ownership of UU church building 2011 St. Peter’s Episcopal Church welcomes grassroots groups to Commons model Summer 2011 EMEAC/YEA #UpSouthDownSouth delegation to Project South for Youth/ Education Justice PMA Summer 2012 EMEAC/ YEA #UpSouthDownSouth to Jackson, MS for South x Southwest strategy session Winter 2013 YEA organizes Feed 1 Teach 1 on Gentrification in Detroit LIBERATION Spring 2013 UNSIF-Detroit organizes “Gentrification is Today’s Colonization” with EMEAC/YEA EMANCIPATION Autumn 2014 UNSIF-Detroit organizes “Decolonize SW Detroit” with Raiz Up Collective & St. Peters Spring 2014 #UpSouthDownSouth delegation to Jackson Rising·  Embodying local leadership of activists in 20s-30s,·  Cultural organizers taking greater leadership in local and national scenes LIBERATION Spring 2014 UNSIF-Detroit hosts Nelson & Joyce Johnson at St. Peters·      Welcomes Charity Hicks home from jail·      #WageLove is first announced

FREEDOM Summer 2014 UNSIF-Detroit facilitates community workshops·      Decolonizing Detroit at Our Power Gathering·      Our Culture, Our Water at African World Festival with Peoples Water Board·      Intergenerational Activism and Water at The Healing North End Arts Festival Summer 2014 #UpSouthDownSouth delegation to Southern Movement Assembly 4 EMANCIPATION Autumn 2014 UNSIF-Detroit organizes “Peoples Power & the Power of Big Money” with EMEAC & St. Peters
Adjunct Faculty exchange and model sharing between Cochibamba and Detroit Water Warriors   Clearly there are multiple issues we are grappling with in Detroit.  And at EMEAC we’ve had our hands in many as we continue work to empower the Detroit community to value the air, land and water ecology. Our food system is directly nested in our environmental/ecological systems & worldwide energy footprint and in the JUST TRANSITION campaign we are calling for a transition from our extreme energy economy to a JUSTICE centered, localized, resilient economy. Policy has a significant role to play in this shift towards resilience and must be leveraged to build transformative solutions, alongside grassroots organizing.
In Detroit, we are grappling with multiple issues simultaneously (e.g., incinerator, highway expansion, trolley, increased pollution, water shutoffs, limited access to healthy foods, etc.), all of which are rooted in a socioeconomic, political system that perpetuates and benefits from race, class, and gender inequalities and oppressions.  We are building with others locally and regionally to oppose this system, while generating solutions that involve creating local living economies that foster community resilience.  
The main strategy that we will employed to build community resilience is through political education tactics using the Universidad Sin Fronteras platform.
As part of her orientation to youth leadership work, Youth Coordinator Siwatu Salama-Ra asks,
“How can I translate what we are discussing here [at EMEAC] to the folks back in the neighborhood?”  
Universidad Sin Fronteras (University without Borders) and the Cass Corridor Commons University:  The Commons University (CCCU) is a collaborative between community, partners, Wayne State, University of Michigan and MSU comprised of community-based learning enriched course work that encouraging students to apply the knowledge and skills learned in the classroom to the pressing issues that affect our local communities. Working with faculty members and community leaders, students develop research projects, collect and analyze data, and share their results and conclusions, not just with their professors, but also with organizations and agencies that can make use of the information. Students can do such community-based work both in courses and, in a more in-depth manner, as part of junior or senior independent work.  The courses below and many others have a community-based component and/or offer an opportunity to do a community-based work project in partnership with local organizations.  CCCU course work will focus on food justice.The opportunity for building this as a political education tool is in building EMEAC base and working towards one of our E4H goals of increasing membership in numbers and quality of experience.
In order to provide political and popular education and skills development training, Southwest Workers Union established an in-house organizing leadership justice institute early in 2003.  This educational work and leadership development has evolved and grown into the University Sin Fronteras founded in 2010.  EMEAC is the Detroit site and anchor for UNSIF.  UNSIF course will include food justice, discussion and round tables educating community members and University students on food related policy and practices.
Universidad certification, credits, accreditation and fee schedule:  Given the dire economic and educational situation in Detroit we feel strongly compelled to make UNSIF relevant

Categories: Grassroots Newswire


East Michigan Environmental Action Council - Fri, 11/07/2014 - 12:54pm
See firsthand what is happening in Detroit to fight extreme energy while building community Just Transition solutions in this Our Power video shot during the gathering at the Cass Corridor Commons, Detroit 2014 hosted by East Michigan Environmental Action Council.
Categories: Grassroots Newswire

Climate, Environmental Health, and Justice - 2014 Nexus Gathering

East Michigan Environmental Action Council - Fri, 11/07/2014 - 12:09pm

The Nexus 2014 Global Gathering on Climate, Environmental Health, and Justice sprang out of a recognition that many activists and organizations of the Global South were implementing solutions that are of immense value to the world’s fight to stop and reverse climate change.  I identify with this line of thinking because of Detroit’s status as a Global Black Metropolis and thus an internal colony of the usa.  I was sent to represent EMEAC and the Climate Justice Alliance.  CJA holds the motto “It takes roots to weather the storm” and exists to empower frontline communities to greater leadership in the national and international movement against climate change.  At one point I joined with a few other comrades to emphasize the distinction between “climate change” analysis and climate justice.  We are working for system change not just a reform of industrial pollution practices that maintains their power over our lives and our governments.
I also represented our local work with the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).  GAIA was a co-convener of Nexus 2014, an international gathering on climate, health and justice that was organized in coalition between four powerhouse worldwide organizations in the field of global environmental health: GAIA, Healthcare without Harm, Pesticide Action Network, and IPEN which works towards a toxics free future. Jenifer Altman Foundation was the fifth convener. Nexus 2014 was hosted by University of California at Irvine as part of their Towards a Sustainable 21st Century Initiative with planning support and facilitation by the UCI Sustainability Initiative.
Day 1 was a conference held at UCI.  There were panels and presentation.  I was on a panel called “Health Energy, Clean Air.” I spoke about Detroit’s fight against incineration and broader struggles against waste-to-energy.  These policies actually provide incentives for corporations to build incinerators as they label these monstrosities “sustainable energy” Day 2 we worked on story telling. One prompt was to “Describe a challenge you faced in your work.” I told the story of organizing during the US Social Forum and how local medical doctors withdrew their support from our health care organizing.  Due to the tireless work of Charity Hicks and Dr. Anjali Taneji we organized less priveleged sectors of health professionals (nurses, EMTs, physician assistants, etc) and still created a powerful rapid response team for 20,000 people during the USSF 2010. Daly 3 focused on sharing strategies and small groups.  I enjoyed our GAIA small group, exchanging with organizers from China, Brasil, and India.  From this discussion I got a greater idea of the connections between climate justice and our waste policies. We analyzed packaging and the consumer culture of the United States, breaking it down all the way to individually wrapped candies and mints! There’s great untapped potential in this framework to build our local Just Transition framework and help create synergy between activities that may be viewed as separate.
After this, we went to San Francisco, where the group presented a Funders’ Briefing. The testimony was powerful. Our group made clear that connections between climate change and community health, while making compelling cases for the leadership of the Global South. At the reception that evening, we networked with funders.  Later, we debriefed the entire week at the National Resources Defence Council, and had a pizza and beer party at a Berkeley brewerie.
One of the best benefits of my participation in this meeting was relationships with a powerful group of organizers.  Alex from the Union of Waste Pickers in Porto Allegre, Brasil was inspirational.  He conveyed a powerful analysis contrasting corporate capture  with peoples’ recycling and told how his Union has offered a nationwide Zero Waste plan to national leaders. They have the political swagger to demonstrate that recycling offered by cooperatives is actually LESS expensive and more effiecient than done by major corporations.
I was welcomed by a trio of powerful African women activists, Mercia from South Africa, Elizabeth from Zimbabwe, and Bridget from Uganda.  Bridget works with the Pan-African Food Sovereignty Network. We discussed a skill exchange: sharing our experiences in youth organizing, as they share skills in international policy work.  Both our organizations are committed to fighting REDD+ (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) which diminishes indigenous sovereignty, local agriculture, and strengthens corporate land ownership in the Global South all while posing to reduce carbon emissions.
They kept our schedules quite full, but there was some spare time for other pursuits such as: an acupressure massage, riding the BART around the Bay Area, looking at the ocean, standing beneath redwood forest, learning about gentrification and its resistance in Oakland, meeting with a strategic funding ally, and catching up with friends from Detroit, University of Michigan, and beyond.
I am still in my first month as Climate Justice Director for EMEAC. Nexus 2014 helped me to broaden my scope while connecting climate justice to the work EMEAC has already been doing.  There are some powerful opportunities to connect zero waste, Just Transition and build local economic networks.  I am honored to serve as your Climate Justice Director and help build a cleaner, stronger, self-determined Detroit.
Categories: Grassroots Newswire

Local 243 Celebrates 75 Years of Rank-and-File Unionism at Sargent

UE - Fri, 11/07/2014 - 10:24am
07 November, 2014Members of the organizing committee who built the union from 1939 to the NLRB vote in 1941.New Haven, CTby Alan Hart, UE News Managing Editor

Members of Local 243 gathered on Saturday evening, November 1 at a banquet hall to celebrate their local's 75th anniversary. You can see a photo album of that event on UE's Facebook page. The Spring 2014 issue of the UE NEWS included the following piece on Local 243's distinguished history.

This is a year of anniversaries for UE Local 243 at Sargent Manufacturing. The company, a leading manufacturer of locks and other architectural hardware, started in New Haven 150 years ago. Local 243 was born 75 years ago. And in November, Local 243 President Ray Pompano will have been president of the local for 30 years. As far as we know, he holds the record for longest tenure of a UE local president.

Sargent workers began organizing with UE in 1939 and received their charter on May 15, 1939, just three years after the national union was founded. The late Angelo Frisketti, a charter member, told the UE NEWS in 1975 about the early organizing. Union activists asked co-workers to sign union cards, one by one. “We hid our cards,” Frisketti recalled. “We hid them until we had almost the whole plant signed up. Then we went to management and told them we had a union and we wanted them talk. If we’d let them know who had signed cards when we had only half the plant – well, half the plant would have been fired.”

But the company refused to meet with the union, and through 1941 workers pressed their demand for recognition through on-the-job actions, which included foundry workers using hammers to bang on their shovels as the signal to call a meeting, slowdown or walkout. Late that year workers decided to strike for union recognition. James Matles, UE’s first director of organization, sent a telegram to the director of U.S. Labor Department’s Conciliation Service: “Am informed 1500 Sargent and Company employees… set for walkout Tuesday morning. Were unsuccessful in bringing about meeting of company and union.” The government quickly sent in a mediator, and on December 18, 1941 the National Labor Relations Board held an election. The result was 927 votes for UE, 250 against. By March 1942 the workers had negotiated their first agreement.

Sargent has a reputation today as one of the best-paying workplaces in Connecticut. But that wasn’t the case before UE. An old saying around New Haven, which originated in the city’s Italian immigrant community, was, “I work at Sargent & Company, lots of work and no money.”

Ray Pompano was hired in July 1965, right out of high school. “Back then we’d give half our pay” to help our families, he recalled. He became steward of the skilled trades in 1971. “I started at $1.66 an hour. In the 1980s we turned it around” with some substantial wage increases. In the three-year contract negotiated in 1986, the local won 4 percent raises each year; in the 1989 contract, the raises were 5 percent each year.

“The other major struggle I remember,” said Pompano, “was when we got locked out in 1974 – more than 600 of us. We voted down the company’s final offer. The company put a padlock on the door and wouldn’t let us in. So we all marched down, in rank-and-file order, to the unemployment office at Chapel and Olive Streets.” He recalls that the company had a lawyer from New York, where locked-out workers couldn’t collect unemployment benefits, but in Connecticut they could. So the locked-out members of Local 243 qualified for unemployment benefits. “After the second week the company said ‘the doors are open’ but we didn’t go back, so the lockout became a strike.” The members were militant and unified and won a good contract, and Pompano remembers one other benefit from that strike: “After that, the company fired the big-shot lawyer from New York, from that day on that was the last time they used a lawyer” in negotiations.

Pompano recalls that in 1980, before he was president, the local agreed to give up the cost-of-living adjustment in order to keep the 100 percent medical insurance, “and we use that argument today, to keep our 100 percent medical plan. If we hadn’t given up the cost of living we might have had a few more bucks, and we keep letting them know that, 30-some years later.”

Pompano says the union has taken a balanced approach, seeking to keep the plant successful and competitive and maintain’s Sargent’s reputation for high quality, while improving the wages, benefits and working conditions. The union’s position has become more difficult now that Sargent is owned by Assa Abloy, a Swedish multinational corporation that has also bought up Sargent’s former competitors in the lock business. But the union is proud of its success. “We had some pretty respectable contracts and we moved ourselves to where we’re quite proud of our medical coverage and our wages,” Pompano says. “We’re still here because of the outstanding workforce, skills passed on from generation to generation, often within families, black and white working together. We take great pride in our workmanship.”

The local was founded to a large degree by Italian American workers, and throughout its history, unity between African American and white workers has been its key to success. This was particularly obvious in 1989 negotiations, when one of the union’s goals was to add Martin Luther King Day as a paid holiday. The company replied that it would agree to add MLK Day if the union would give up the existing benefit of each employee getting his or her personal birthday as a paid day off. This was an obvious attempt to divide white and black workers, but it didn’t work. Local 243 had pins made that showed Martin Luther King’s face and the words, “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. - UE 243.” The entire membership wore these buttons every day in the plant. The company got the message that the members were united, and agreed to add MLK Day as a holiday, with the union giving up nothing in return.

Wayne Morrison, the local’s chief steward, is proud to be part of Local 243 and its legacy. “I’ve got 30 years now in the company. I got involved in the union to help make some changes, and I’ve seen a lot of great things happen. This is a good place to work, and Local 243 is always pushing to make it a better place to work. The union has helped me and a lot of other families to be able to own homes and do pretty well. We’re united and we’re strong.”

The UE NEWS also spoke to Frank DiNicola, who retired from Sargent in 1996 with 44 years service. He served for many years as the local’s treasurer, member of the bargaining committee, and delegate to many UE conventions and to UE District 2.  “I enjoyed enjoyed working at Sargent because we had a good union. I miss the people in there. We stuck by our guns in negotiations and when we went on strike.” DiNicola also recalled the late Harry Kaplan, UE field organizer who assisted the local for decades. DiNicola says Kaplan “was a brilliant man. He gave us a lot of backup. We couldn’t have done it without him.” He added, “We had a lot of fun. When we went on strike everything was organized real well. We had a good crew, a lot of good people. We got quite a few benefits through the union.”

Women have also played a major role in Local 243. The late Madeleine Scilla served as president from 1958 to 1978, one of the first woman presidents of a major UE local and Local 243’s second-longest-serving president. Interviewed by the UE NEWS in 1975, Scilla downplayed the significance of her gender. “In the first place, more than half the local members are women – and seven out of our 14 stewards are women. But even more important, I’m not elected because I’m a woman. I’m elected because the membership thinks I do a good job for them. My concern has always been for the membership.”

The 71st UE National Convention in 2009 was a proud moment for Local 243, held in New Haven just a few miles from the Sargent plant, in the year of the local’s 70th anniversary. In the opening session President Pompano welcomed delegates, spoke briefly about his local’s history and accomplishments, and then called for the stewards and officers of Local 243 to come forward. Over 20 men and women, all attired in blue-and-gold UE 243 jackets, marched through the hall and onto the stage as delegates stood and applauded.

That convention was later addressed by retired Professor David Montgomery, a former UE member, the most respected labor historian in the U.S., and a good friend of Local 243 during his years teaching at Yale. Montgomery, who died in 2011, talked about early 20th century struggles at Sargent, GE and Westinghouse that laid the groundwork for UE, including the 1902 strike at Sargent, led by Italian immigrant workers. That strike was defeated, but the goal for which those workers fought – a union that unites all workers regardless of skill or ethnicity – was achieved 40 years later. That early struggle also “left behind long memories,” said Montgomery, who had learned from Harry Kaplan that when UE Local 243 struck Sargent in 1951, some of the workers said “I’m making up for 1902!”



Categories: Grassroots Newswire

Climate Justice Declaration

East Michigan Environmental Action Council - Thu, 11/06/2014 - 1:19pm
Poor nations, people of color, Indigenous Peoples, and low-income communities in all nations are the first to experience negative climate change impacts such as sea level rise, flooding, drought, heat-death and illness, respiratory illness, infectious disease, and economic and cultural displacement. 
The first conference convened in the United States on "Just Climate? Pursuing Environmental Justice in the Face of Global Climate Change" was held at the University of Michigan in March, 2004. The following 14 principles, developed as the Climate Justice Declaration at the 2nd People of Color Environmental Justice Leadership Summit, surfaced in a workshop at the Michigan conference. The Climate Justice Declaration is endorsed by a variety of individuals and institutions.
To protect the most vulnerable communities, climate policy must follow these principles: 
1. Stop Cooking the PlanetGlobal climate change will accelerate unless we can slow the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.   Communities have the right to be free from climate change, its related impacts and other forms of ecological destruction.
2. Protect and Empower Vulnerable Individuals and CommunitiesPoor nations, low-income workers, people of color, and Indigenous Peoples will suffer the most from climate change's impacts.   We need to ensure the opportunity to adapt and thrive in a changing world.
3. Ensure Just Transition for Workers and CommunitiesNo group should have to shoulder alone the burdens caused by the transition from a fossil fuel-based economy to a renewable energy-based economy. A just transition would create opportunities for displaced workers and communities to participate in the new economic order through compensation for job loss, loss of tax base, and other negative effects.
4. Require Community ParticipationAt all levels and in all realms, people must have a say in the decisions that affect their lives. Communities, particularly affected communities, must play a leading role in national and international processes to address climate change.   Indigenous Peoples must have the right to self-determination to control their lands and resources.   Nations must recognize their government-to-government relationships with tribes.
5. Global Problems Need Global SolutionsThe causes and effects of climate change occur around the world.   Individuals, communities, and nations must work together cooperatively to stop global climate change. 
6. The U.S. Must LeadAccording to the principle of common but differentiated responsibility agreed to by 165 nations as part of the 1992 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, countries that contribute the most to global warming should take the lead in solving the problem.   The U.S. is four percent of the world's population but emits over twenty percent of the world's greenhouse gases.   All people should have equal rights to the atmosphere.
7. Phase Out Exploration for Fossil FuelsPresently known fossil fuel reserves will last far into the future.   However fossil fuel exploration destroys unique cultures and valuable ecosystems, so exploration should be phased out as it is no longer worth the social and environmental costs.   We should instead invest in clean, renewable, locally controlled and low-impact energy sources.
8. Monitor Domestic and International Carbon MarketsAny market-based or technological solution to climate change, such as carbon-trading and carbon sequestration, should be subject to principles of democratic accountability, ecological sustainability and social justice.
9. Caution in the Face of UncertaintyNo amount of action later can make up for lack of action today.   Just as we buy insurance to protect against uncertain danger, we must take precautionary measures to minimize harm to the global climate before it occurs.
10. Protect Future GenerationsThe greatest impacts of climate change will come in the future.   We should take into account the impacts on future generations in deciding policy today.   Our children should have the opportunity for success through the sustainable use of resources.
11. Ecological Debt Must be RepaidFossil fuel and extractive industries must be held strictly liable for past and current life-cycle impacts relating to the production of greenhouse gases and associated local pollutants.   Industrialized country governments and transnational corporations owe the victims of climate change and victims of associated injustices full compensation, restoration, and reparation for the loss of land, livelihood, and other damages.
12. Hold Financial Institutions and Corporations AccountableStop the role of financial institutions and transnational corporations in shaping unsustainable production and consumption patterns and lifestyles that lead to global warming.   Stop their role in unduly influencing national and international decision-making on policies that affect the climate.
13. Create Culturally-Appropriate Climate EducationEducate present and future generations about climate, energy, social and environmental issues based on real-life experiences and an appreciation of diverse cultural perspectives.
14. Foster Individual and Community Responsibility to Mother EarthIndividuals and communities must make personal choices to minimize consumption of Mother Earth's resources, reduce our need for fossil energy, make the conscious decision to challenge and reprioritize our lifestyles, and re-think our ethics with relation to the environment and Mother Earth.

We acknowledge and endorse the Bali Principles of Climate Justice, the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative's "10 Principles for Just Climate Policies in the U.S.", and the Principles of Environmental Justice adopted at the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit of 1991, from which these principles were drawn.
Conference steering committee: Dr. Bunyan Bryant, Diana Copeland, Emily Maxwell, Terry Ogawa
Categories: Grassroots Newswire


East Michigan Environmental Action Council - Thu, 11/06/2014 - 10:49am
Our Power DetroitOur Power Detroit is the locally based JUST TRANSITION work in the city of Detroit and anchored by EMEAC.  Last summer EMEAC hosting an Our Power Gathering at our Cass Corridor Commons center.  The Our Power Detroit gathering began with Directors Diana Copeland and Ife Kilimanjaro, joined by the Young Educators Alliance (YEA), setting the tone with a profound opening ceremony. Over 130 people participated in Our Power Detroit Gathering–this doesn’t even count the Detroiters who came only to roll up their sleeves for the Water Is Life Community Action! We had about 60 people from all over the country join us representing CJA member organizations and other environmental justice allies.The weekend was full of workshops, discussions, activities and conversation. Saturday Night saw a concert headlined by the YEA, celebrating their new mixtape “Liberation Day.”  The closing day, Sunday, brought everyone together for a discussion on Just Transition.Participants began to get a taste of Detroit’s Just Transition which includes: fighting extreme energy (marathon oil refinery, tar sands expansion, pet coke piles along Detroit river, incinerator), advocating against privatization and protecting the public commons (water crisis, transportation, public financing of private corporations, emergency management and electoral democracy) while building community resilience (1000+ urban farms and gardens, youth leadership from front line communities, solar powered street lights, bike collectives, food hubs, markets and co-ops).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. We are happy to announce thatover 2/3 of gathering participants were 25 and younger. Khafre Sims-Bey of YEA remarked, “I have a feeling that I will be seeing them over and over again”.The Water Is Life Community Action was a demonstration on Our Power in effect.  We worked with the People’s Water Board, We The People of Detroit, Detroit 2014: Building a National Network and other local change agents to help bring the city’s first Relief Station to life.This action was inspired and spirited by Charity Hicks who transitioned after the gathering on July 8th, 2014. May her spirit live on through OUR POWER.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, exercise classes, and youth recreation.Dexter-Elmhurst Community Board President Helen Moore sends her thanks to all participants:Dear Fellow Warriors,I would like you to share this with the team that volunteered to clean-up and help repair our center. 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. You inspired me and made me see that “All things are possible with God” You are my guardian angels. I cannot say enough about all the serious, dedicated young people who gave their time and effort so that the community and other young people could return to the center. We are proud of you. We are so happy to be a part of this worthwhile endeavor to be able to be the first Water Station in our city. We believe that we will be able to save lives and draw attention to the demonic deeds of those who have no regard for our families lives. May God Bless each and every one of you. Please know that you have a special place in my heart and the Dexter Community will always be grateful for your service.Peace and Love,
Mama HelenOur Power Detroit received helpful positive feedback from its participants’ evaluations:
  • 97% of participants felt they have a better understanding of how their work in the community connects with others to build a broader climate justice movement.
  • 91% of participants felt that their voice was heard and valued during the break-out sessions.
  • 88% of participants felt their was a good balance between plenary, panels, skill-building, networking, organizing, and direct action activities.
OPD got its highest evaluation marks in Sharing Strategies, Improving Understanding of Our Power Campaign, and Demonstrating Our Power.Positive Feedback from Our Power Detroit Participants:“I shared what me and my organization does and I learned how other organizations from all across the world are fighting for the same thing”“Performed for the first time to kill self doubt and do the most radical thing we can do – love ourselves”“Almost all activities required total group input/involvement. Well done!”“I stepped back as an adult ally (and felt supported in doing that)”“It was great learning experience for me as being new to EJ. I would have liked to have more small group discussions & more on youth involvement. It was very inspiring being here & learning from others. The Detroit youth are HELLA Dope!”“I still learned a lot of skills that I know will carry on with me that will help me when I go back home and find out the issues in my community & join in the movement in my community”
Categories: Grassroots Newswire

RELEASE: Vermont Workers’ Center calls on political leaders to hold the line on healthcare

VWC - Wed, 11/05/2014 - 4:22pm


5 November 2014

Contact: Keith Brunner at keith@workerscenter.org or 802.363.9615

Vermont Workers’ Center calls on political leaders to hold the line on healthcare

Following yesterday’s elections, the Vermont Workers’ Center and Healthcare is a Human Right campaign are calling on elected officials to recommit to Act 48, which lays the groundwork for a publicly-funded, equitably financed healthcare system that provides comprehensive coverage for all Vermont residents.  

Dozens of Workers’ Center members canvassed at polling stations across the state yesterday, speaking with community members about their experiences with the ongoing healthcare crisis in Vermont.  A major theme brought up by voters at the polls was the need to go beyond the Affordable Care Act and the Exchange, which have led to even more barriers to care for many Vermont residents.

Elizabeth Jesdale from Berlin, VT was one of the many who agreed to participate in a mass photo project with people taking portraits illustrating the path Vermont should head towards universal healthcare. Jesdale, a longtime union food service worker, chose the path to treat healthcare as a “public good”, and that our system must include “all people, all care”. 

“It seems like we’re at a crossroads in Vermont -- are we going to continue with another version of the same healthcare system which is geared to make a few people a lot of money, or will we move forward with one which is actually focused on providing care to our communities?” said Jesdale. “As a union activist, I’m dedicated to looking out not only for me and coworkers, but to make sure that all working-class people have dignity and respect. It’s time to leave behind this system which treats our health as a commodity, and make sure that everyone gets the care we need, when we need it.”

Over the next few months, the Shumlin Administration and the Green Mountain Care board are expected to release proposals for healthcare coverage and financing.  The Healthcare is a Human Right campaign is organizing to ensure that these proposals articulate a system which is financed through progressive taxes, and which covers all health needs, including dental, vision, and reproductive care. The campaign has developed a position paper laying out a detailed financing package including income taxes on earned and unearned income, combined with a progressive payroll tax on employers only, with exemptions for the smallest businesses. 

“The election might be over, but democracy doesn’t end on Election Day. With powerful interests opposed to changing a healthcare system that stuffs their pockets, thousands of people across Vermont must be engaged and taking action together for us to win the kind of universal system that we can be proud of and our communities truly need. Vermont is going to be the first state, but the first of many and for us to make sure we eventually have a great universal health system its important that we get it right,” said James Haslam, Executive Director of the Vermont Workers’ Center which has coordinated the Healthcare Is A Human RIght Campaign since 2008.

“If we are able to draw any lessons from this election, it’s that people are demoralized by a political system which consistently fails to provide for our fundamental human needs,” continued Haslam.  “Only by building a powerful people’s movement and organizing to change what is politically possible will we be able to reinvigorate democracy and win real victories for economic justice and human rights in Vermont.”


Categories: Grassroots Newswire

NNIRR E-News: Election, Borders and more

NNIRR - Mon, 11/03/2014 - 12:44pm
Story Type:  Blog Story Author:  NNIRR

Building Action for Human Rights at International Borders

read more

Categories: Grassroots Newswire

Vermont at a Crossroad: Election Day Organizing - Let's Make Democracy Begin, Not End

VWC - Sat, 11/01/2014 - 3:57pm

Election Day Organizing For Healthcare Is A Human Right
This Tuesday, November 4th is Election Day in Vermont and around the country. The Vermont Workers' Center and members of the Healthcare Is A Human Right Campaign will be going to dozens of polling stations across the state to reach out to our neighbors to build support for our state to become the first state in the country to have real universal healthcare. There are huge challenges ahead as forces are mounting to either derail Vermont from going down this road, or pushing us down a path that resembles the same old mess the profit-seeking healthcare system has us in right now. We will be inviting people to take photos standing with a sign supporting the Healthcare Is A Human Right Campaign and inviting them to sign the petition supporting universal healthcare which will be delivered to the lawmakers once they arrive in Montpelier in January. The VWC has already gathered more than five thousand signatures from VT residents on this petition and there are organizing committees in regions across the state building this campaign.

Here's what you can do:
- Take a shift at your local election polling station on Tuesday! Contact your local organizing committee, Kate at 802-825-8399, kate@workerscenter.org or Matt at 802-272-0133 or matt@workerscenter.org
- Sign the petition online here: http://newcivi.workerscenter.org/civicrm/petition/sign?sid=19&reset=1

Learn more at www.workerscenter.org/healthcare

Tags: healthcare is a human right campaign
Categories: Grassroots Newswire

Take Action to Support Fairpoint Strikers

VWC - Sat, 11/01/2014 - 3:30pm

Real democracy means dignity in our workplaces, which is why we're supporting the FairPoint workers' strike and asking you to take action by demanding FairPoint's Wall Street investors use their influence to bring the company back to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair contract with the workers.
Take action to send letter to hedge fund owners: http://afl.salsalabs.com/o/4023/c/195/p/dia/action3/common/public/?actio...

"FairPoint Workers Strike against Wall Street “Wolves” by VWC member Traven Leyshon

Two thousand telecommunications workers walked off their jobs in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine last Friday after FairPoint Communications imposed its final bargaining table proposal.“We’re not negotiating with a phone company, we’re negotiating with wolves of Wall Street,” said Glenn Brackett, business manager of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 2320 in New Hampshire. The hedge funds that own the company are squeezing the workforce to make FairPoint more attractive to possible buyers, said union negotiators, who charge that the company has been negotiating in bad faith since April. The striking workers build and repair home and commercial phone and data connections, and staff call centers. Most of the workers are IBEW members while 300 are members of the Communications Workers (CWA).

The unions agreed to work past the August 2 contract expiration, but on August 28th the company declared impasse. The unions insisted that they were not at impasse and continued to work while the company gradually imposed new terms. On October 17 the workforce walked out in an unfair labor practice (ULP) strike. The new employment terms include a two-tier wage system that would pay little more than the minimum wage to the lower tier, the elimination of defined-benefit pensions for future hires, a freeze on contributions to existing pensions, and higher health care costs. But the main issue in negotiations was job security. “Their imposition gives them the freedom to outsource everything and eliminate 800 jobs in Maine, not to mention 1,700 in New England,” said Jenn Nappi, assistant business manager for the IBEW Local 2327 in Maine. The outsourcing could go to out-of-state or foreign contractors. To win the states’ approval of a FairPoint-Verizon deal in 2007, FairPoint promised to create at least 675 jobs in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. But FairPoint has cut its workforce by almost 22 percent, outsourcing jobs in violation of its promises and its collective bargaining agreements.

In 2013, the unions won a legal battle over the use of outsourced workers to handle some of the company’s sales calls. The unions have appealed to the Labor Board to reinstate the expired contract and order FairPoint back to the bargaining table. The charge, that the company illegally imposed its final proposals without the parties having reached impasse, is still being investigated by the Labor Board. However, the unions warned on their website, “it can take the Board months or years to issue a decision on a ULP, workers must never depend on the legal process alone to win justice….That is why our mobilization efforts are absolutely essential to win this fight.”

Union members saw their employer’s offensive coming when North Carolina-based FairPoint Communications acquired Verizon’s northern New England operations in 2008. Eighteen months later, FairPoint filed for bankruptcy, confirming employee predictions. In 2011, FairPoint emerged from bankruptcy, but in the process hedge funds and others purchased shares at a discount, securing a controlling stake in the company. The hedge funds are pressing for cost-cutting measures, including lower wages and fewer benefits. The goal is to make the company more attractive for a sale or merger.

“The top five shareholders are hedge funds,” said Peter McLaughlin, the unions’ bargaining chair. “They’re not here to run a telephone business. They’re here to make money. If they can pretty this thing up and sell it, then they’ll try to do it.” Over the years, this skilled workforce has maintained union conditions and family-wage jobs and benefits through tough bargaining, backed up by strikes. The two unions warned workers to be prepared for a potential strike three years ago, and have coordinated bargaining and contract campaigns. This could be a long strike. The company has trained managers to be strikebreakers, and is using out-of-state scabs. In addition to picketing FairPoint offices and garages, union members are mobile picketing the scabs. Teams of strikers have been following scab trucks and picketing wherever the work is being done, including on telephone poles.

“This is a very scary time for us, but we’re in it for the long haul,” said Julie Dawkins of IBEW, Local 2320 in New Hampshire. The IBEW does not have a strike fund, so most workers aren’t getting strike pay. Health insurance runs out at the end of the month. Across all three states, customers will be collateral damage as installations and repairs will suffer without skilled staff to provide the services. Charging that this is dangerous for rural populations whose emergency 911 calls could even be disrupted, unions are trying to bring pressure to bear on their state governments to demand that FairPoint provide essential telecommunications services by settling a fair contract. In a hopeful sign, Vermont Governor Pete Shumlin said through a spokeswoman that he hopes the parties come back to table soon to work this out. “Meanwhile, he expects FairPoint to fulfill its commitments to maintain service and respond to its customers,” she said, “and has asked his Department of Public Service to monitor that situation closely.”

Labor and community supporters are showing their solidarity on the picket lines, bringing hot coffee and pizza and joining workers in the rain. In Vermont, members of the Vermont Workers Center have joined the lines, and in Maine, Teamsters and the Maine AFL-CIO have come out. An impressive number of dogs are walking the picket lines, leading to a Facebook page, Dogs for Fairness@Fairpoint. FairPoint workers are fanning out across the region to talk about their struggle and mobilize other unions and public support. And yesterday they carried signs and banners into a cocktail party in Rockport, Maine attended by telecom industry groups including FairPoint.

Keep updated on the strike through the website http://fairnessatfairpoint.com/ and on Facebook at Fairness at FairPoint.

Traven Leyshon is Communications & Community Engagement Coordinator, Vermont State Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

Tags: solidaritywork with dignityPut People First
Categories: Grassroots Newswire

Call the Picket Master

UE - Fri, 10/31/2014 - 3:22pm
Categories: Grassroots Newswire

Nov 4th: POWER Voter Guide

As POWER supporters are well aware, we are living in the age of the New Jim Crow – where Black and Latino communities have been targeted by decades of policies and structural racism that have created what is now well understood as the school to prison pipeline.

Since 1980, the prison population in California has increased sevenfold.  California now has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world.  Two-thirds of people in CA prisons are Black and Latino.  We have to strengthen the movement–led by formerly incarcerated people, families of prisoners, and people organizing on the inside–to end mass incarceration in California and across the country!

That is why POWER prioritized the YES on Prop 47 campaign in the election this November.  Prop 47 reduces 6 low-level ‘wobbler’ felonies to misdemeanors, and redirects millions of dollars away from prisons and into schools, rehabilitation, and trauma recovery services.

We also agree with our close allies Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and All of Us or None, who put out a statement earlier this week raising concerns with the messaging of the campaign that tried to paint a sharp divide between ‘good prisoners’ and ‘bad prisoners.’  We join with LCPC in saying we want our families, friends and neighbors free. We are committed to freeing whoever we can now and we will continue to fight to free more whenever we can.

Prop 47 is one step toward the much bigger movement we must build against the punishment economy that tracks youth of color into the criminal justice system from day one through poverty and racist policies, and profits off the mass incarceration of our communities.

We are seeing this movement grow from the hunger strikes of 2013 to the growing campaigns against the criminalization of Black and Latino youth and students across the country.

We must begin to build the healing economy. Let us keep breathing life into this movement!

See our full voter guide below, and join us on November 4th in voting YES on Prop 47!


POWER & SF Rising Endorsements: November 2014
Ballot Measures
San Francisco

Prop G – “Anti-Speculation Tax” –Transfer Tax on Residential Property Re-Sold in Five Years

Prop G will push back on one of the strongest driving forces of gentrification and displacement in San Francisco, speculation. It will stop serial evictors by requiring investors who “flip” (quick purchase & re-sale for huge profits) multi-unit properties in less than 5 years to pay higher taxes on the re-sale. That’s why Prop G was the policy chosen by the hundreds of renters and tenants rights activists who participated in the first City-Wide Tenant Convention, this past February. Vote yes on Prop G.

Prop J – “Minimum Wage Increase” – Minimum Wage Increase Referred Measure

If passed, Prop J will raise the minimum wage in San Francisco to $15/hour. This is part of a national fight and points toward the call for a real living wage for all workers. San Francisco has the fastest growing wealth divide and the highest housing costs in the country. The current minimum wage of $10.74 leaves working families unable to cover basic living expenses. Support workers and vote YES on Prop J.

Prop 47 – Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative

Proposition 47 is a step towards addressing the unjust mass incarceration of poor communities and people of color. This proposition reduces penalties from felonies to misdemeanors for those who have not committed violent or serious crimes. As a result, it will reduce the state’s prison population allowing California to direct hundreds of millions in prison savings per year to K-12 education, victim services, and mental health and drug treatment programs. It will also reduce barriers to employment and housing for formerly incarcerated individuals charged of petty crimes. Vote yes to Prop 47.

San Francisco

Prop A, Transportation and Road Improvement (Bond)

Prop A will finance the repair of city streets and the improvement of transportation infrastructure. The measure creates a Citizens’ Oversight Committee and focuses on providing more accessible, safe, and reliable transit. Voting for Prop A is a vote for communities that depend on public transportation.

Prop C, “Children and Families First” City Funds Tax and Administration Proposal

Prop C renews and expands funding for public school programs and youth services through the renewal of 2 existing funds, the “Children’s Fund” and the “Public Education Enrichment Fund.” These resources support services including: childcare, after school programs, youth jobs, school based services, and support for families and transitional age youth.

Prop E, Sugary Drink Tax

Modeled after the tobacco tax, Prop E aims to reduce the impact of the soda industry on diabetes & other significant health problems in our communities. It would add 2 pennies per ounce to the cost of sugary beverages (like soda and energy drinks), and the estimated $54million will fund active recreation and nutrition programs.

Prop K, Additional Affordable Housing Policy

Prop K is the result of a hard won compromise between community organizations and the Mayor. As a policy declaration, it affirms the City’s commitment to address the housing affordability crisis by creating a Housing Action and Neighborhood Stabilization Plan. The plan includes: affordable housing production (with 1/3rd for low and moderate income), expanding the housing acquisition program, and tracking the ratio of affordable to market rate housing.


Prop 2 – Rainy Day Budget Stabilization Fund Act

Prop 2 will force the legislature and governor to save state money in order to decrease state debt. We need to prioritize resourcing underfunded state programs for services our people need – not “saving for a rainy day” when people need services now. Vote no on Prop 2.


Help get out the vote and win Prop G & Prop 47!  

Join our voter outreach mobilizations and bring a friend!

WHEN: Saturday, November 1st
WHAT: Volunteer Get Out the Vote Walk (door-to-door voter contact to ensure supporters for Prop G & Prop 47 get to the polls!)
WHERE: Filipino Community Center, 4681 Mission St., San Francisco

Please contact Becki Hom at becki@sfrising.org to RSVP

Categories: Grassroots Newswire