The Miami Workers Center is currently fighting a campaign against slumlords in Liberty City. Slumlords are subjecting residents to living conditions with various code violations on the buildings and several health/safety hazards, including decades of mold/mildew build-up, decaying ceilings, rat and roach infestations, piles of scrap and garbage in public spaces.
Our hope is to raise money to create a “Slumlord Fund” which will temporarily relocate tenants, and place them into affordable homes that they will own through a Community Land Trust (CLT). For more information on how CLTs function, please watch the video below:
For Immediate Release: March 18th, 2015
Contact: Keith Brunner, 802-363-9615
Vermont Workers’ Center: Preserve workers’ rights to strike and take collective action
Today, the Vermont Workers’ Center issued the following statement in response to recent moves by the Shumlin administration and some legislators to curtail the fundamental rights of working people in Vermont.
Amy Lester, NEA member since 2003 and board member of the Vermont Workers’ Center, said, “No one wants to participate in a strike. To leave your classroom and walk a picket line is the last resort. But it's a resort I don't want to give up.”
James Haslam, director of the Vermont Workers’ Center, said, “The right to work with dignity is a human right, which includes the ability to take collective action or strike if necessary. In this era of increased attacks on working people, Vermont’s legislature must preserve good jobs and public services which are critical for our communities, and reject the Governor’s austerity agenda.”
The statement reads as follows:
“Whereas private sector unions have faced a coordinated political and judicial attack for decades;
Whereas with private sector unionism at a historic low, wealthy industrialists such as the Koch brothers have expanded their political and judicial attacks to erode public sector union jobs;
Whereas historically when these reconfigurations of workplace rights have occurred, working people’s ability to win work with dignity has depended on their ability to engage in concerted activity, job actions and strikes;
Whereas both nationally and here in Vermont power holders refuse to raise revenue in an equitable manner by closing tax loopholes for top income earners;
And whereas simultaneously the same power holders use the resultant revenue crisis to defund public goods such as infrastructure and institutions and attack public sector unions;
And whereas the Administration’s revenue and investment policies represent a similar refusal to make the wealthiest in Vermont pay their fair share;
And whereas Governor Shumlin has targeted essential services provided by VSEA 911 dispatchers, caregivers at the Vermont Veterans Home, Educators at the Community High School of Vermont and job coaches and NEA teachers for cuts;
And whereas the Administration is holding state employees hostage by proposing that they open their contracts and give back their own wages to balance the state’s budget deficit upon threat of laying off of 325 state employees and slashing vital state services. All this while continuing to pressure communities to shutter their public schools;
And whereas Governor Shumlin has attempted to take away what little used tools working Vermonters have left to win work with dignity, to preserve good jobs, and resist austerity, namely job actions and strikes;
And whereas the rights to collective bargaining and to strike have been internationally recognized as inextricably intertwined as the right to collective bargaining is without practical effect in the absence of a right to strike, and would amount to no more than “collective begging;”. Thus the right to strike is explicitly recognized as a human right in the UN’s International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights (Article 8., 1966), and implicitly in numerous ILO interpretations of the human right to organize;
And whereas the right to strike is best understood as a collective right, the right of workers to band together to win justice, it is also grounded in the Constitution. “The constitutional right to strike rests on a number of bedrock principles: (1) the basic personal liberty to pursue happiness and economic security through productive labor… (2) the absolute prohibition against involuntary servitude and (3) the fundamental freedoms of association and expression.” (former Chief Justice Rose Bird of the California Supreme Court);
Therefore, the Vermont Workers' Center opposes any effort by the Vermont Legislature to further undermine the human and constitutional rights of workers to utilize all means of collective representation available to them by law, which include:
the right to organize a union
the right to take direct action on issues impacting their lives
the right to recognition of their union
the right to elect their own representatives
the right to meet as equals with the employer on employment related matters
the right to bargain collectively
the right to strike”
NNIRR recently joined with some 100 community, faith and labor groups from across the country to oppose the "Secure the Border First Act"--a proposal in the Senate that mirrors HR 399, a Republican initiative in the House designed to step up border enforcement and block any progress on immigration reform. Read the letter here.
Denver Public Schools endorses these "Know Your Rights!" guides for families and students to navigate disciplinary proceedings across the district. Often times, teachers and administrators find themselves in a place where they want to help families and students understand their rights but want to give accurate, approved information that will help and aren't sure where to find it.
Or, students and families may feel frustrated or confused about exactly what their school officials mean with various terms and processes. The Know Your Rights! Guides lays out in plainly the rights of students and families and what they can expect during the process. It also gives hotline contact information managed by Padres & Jóvenes Unidos so that if a student or family needs more help they can get it. The guides help teachers and administrators assist families in the process while providing a clear roadmap to students and families so kids can stay in school.
Check our youth's presentation to the district on Know Your Rights!
Campaign: Padres & Jóvenes UnidosEnd the School to Jail TrackDenver Local Campaign
(Note: This OpEd by Paul Langevin, of Johnson, VT was published in VTDigger)
On January 23, 2014, my wife Jeanette died of cancer. She was first diagnosed with thyroid cancer back in 2008. We were fortunate to have comprehensive health insurance at the time, and Jeanette responded well to treatment. Her cancer went into remission, and everything was great. Then 15 months ago Jeanette came down with a chronic cough. She went to the doctor, and was told that she may have allergies. Looking for a second opinion, she went back to the oncologist who had treated her thyroid cancer and got x-rayed and tested. The news was terrible: Jeanette had advanced Stage 4 cancer that had spread to almost all of her internal organs. We battled with our insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield, to get the chemotherapy pills Jeanette needed. They denied payment for the pills five times, saying that they needed to find the cheapest vendor. Finally, on the day Jeanette died, the pills arrived. They were tossed onto our deck and left sitting in 20-below-zero temperatures.
Losing my wife of 34 years is one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced, but it was made much worse by the battles Jeanette and I had over insurance and by the lingering questions over whether Jeanette might have survived or lived more comfortably if she’d gotten the right test and treatments. After Jeanette died, I asked her doctor why they’d done no testing during her remission to detect any growth of cancer beyond her thyroid. I was informed that testing was “cost prohibitive” and may not provide conclusive results. Let me be clear: prioritizing cost containment over patient care is in no way acceptable. Jeanette was a human being with the right to access the health care she needed. We should all be ashamed and aghast that Vermont’s market-based health care system denies people access to care unless they are wealthy.
I cannot say for certain whether earlier testing would have saved Jeanette’s life, but I have to think that the lack of accountability in the health care system played a role in her death. People like Jeanette are being denied tests and treatments every day not for medical reasons, but because they can’t afford the cost of care, and yet nobody – not insurance companies, not hospitals, and not the State of Vermont – is being held accountable for patients’ rights and patients’ health. With universal, publicly financed health care, this would be turned on its head. Instead of cost containments and profits determining the care that patients get, patients’ care would be based on their health care needs regardless of their ability to pay. We’d pay to support our health care system as we are able through equitable taxes, and each and every member of our families and communities would get the health care they need.
I ask that you, the reader, consider this letter with an eye towards objectivity and human decency. Health Care is a Human Right. We are all in need of the highest standards of health care and a system accountable to the patient. Our legislators must pass equitable health care financing, and we need to hold them accountable.
~Paul Langevin, Johnson, Vt.~
This week, our financing plan was introduced as bill H.475 into the Vermont House of Representatives.
Supporters of the Healthcare is a Human Right campaign have been calling their representatives and urging them to move the bill forward. Call the Sergeant-at-Arms at (802) 828-2228 today and leave a message for House Healthcare Committee Chair Bill Lippert.
Tell him: Healthcare is a human right: The time is now! Take up H.475."
I am a minimum-wage, part-time worker in Burlington. I am financially independent, and my job is my only source of income and my only way to feed, clothe and house myself. The lack of legally mandated access to earned sick leave in Vermont negatively affects my ability to perform the aforesaid actions while also maintaining my physical health.
Added on to this is the fact that I work in food service, ie, if I work while I am sick, I am endangering the safety of my customers and coworkers. However, in the past, I have had to neglect both my health and that of those around me, so that I could make rent, and so that I could avoid having to eat either Ramen noodles or canned vegetables for the rest of the month.
I’m not the only person that I’ve witnessed being affected by this lack of access to earned sick time, either. I’ve observed many of my coworkers struggling to support themselves and their families while sick or injured.
One of my former coworkers was afflicted with cancer. She was a part-time worker who struggled to support her children and feed herself while also undergoing chemotherapy. Day after day I observed multiple incidents of her working through incredible pain and fatigue, just so that she could make rent and feed her children. She often had to call in sick, because she was unable to get out of bed, or had to go to the hospital for emergency treatment. She complained of not having enough time to raise her children, or even make sure that they were attending school, because she had to fit her work schedule around the schedule of her treatments. She also spoke about how she would often have to choose between feeding her children and feeding herself, or paying rent. She eventually ended up having to leave her children with a relative, and move in with another relative, in another state, for medical treatment. I haven’t heard from her since, and I wish her all the best.
Every day I watch my fellow workers struggle with this same kind of difficulty. Many of them complain of having to work while still infectious, having to work after vomiting in the employee restroom. I watch them come into work, fatigue-ridden, and overdose on caffeine, drinking too much just to stay awake. Some of these coworkers operate heavy machinery; this isn’t safe. But we don’t have a choice. If we don’t work, we will starve. We will freeze. Given the choice between ruining our bodies gradually, or dying of exposure immediately, the only option is to work, regardless of our health/safety.
I understand, however, that I can sling all of the anecdotal evidence at the wall that I want, and still be laughed off as an idealist. Thankfully, the statistics are clear surrounding this issue: 20 percent of all Vermont residents, approximately 60,000 living, breathing individuals, have no form of earned sick leave. Sixty thousand of your fellow workers, of your neighbors, of your friends, are forced to work unsafely. That’s 60,000 of the people who prepare your food and your coffees and interact with you daily. Not all of us are part-timers, either: Many of us have full-time positions that still refuse to provide us with paid sick leave.
A survey found that 80 percent of minimum- and low-wage workers were not provided with any paid sick leave at all. These workers are the most likely to have at-will employment, and to be terminated from their jobs if they even take a normal, unpaid sick day. I know that I, personally, have worked while I was noticeably sick, because I was afraid that if I called out, I would be terminated from my position. When faced with these facts, the solution is obvious: something has to change.
Fortunately for all Vermont residents, our years of community organizing and testimonies about this issue have caused Vermont legislators to discuss a bill that would mandate employers provide their employees with access to earned sick leave. However, the fight is not yet won, as this bill is struggling to pass through the many layers of checks and balances that any bill must pass through before it is signed into law. It is up to us, the people of Vermont, to remind our representatives that we care about this issue, as it directly affects our health and safety. If you agree with my position on this, if you care about curbing the spread of infectious illnesses, and if you care about your fellow workers, please contact your representative and urge them to pass this bill.
We’re a week into our National “End Deathtraps” Worker Tour featuring Kalpona Akter, Director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, and Mahinur Begum, survivor of the Rana Plaza building collapse. Together we’ve hit ten cities in just a week with speak-outs, vigils, letter drops, rallies, and more, all in the name of worker safety in Bangladesh. Check out highlights and photos from this past week below and look back here for updates on where our movement is headed next!
Even More Students Are Joining Our Fight!
From the beaches of Miami to the frozen lakes of Chicago, Kalpona and Mahinur have shared their inspiring stories with students, faculty, and administrators. At each campus students have been ready to join the fight by demanding their University cut ties with Jansport/VF unless they agree to sign on to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. Sixteen schools have already taken action including NYU, Rutgers, Cornell, the University of Michigan, and Washington State University. Which school will be next to demand VF listen to the needs of their 190,000 workers in Bangladesh? It might just be one of the campuses below!
The Children’s Orphan’s Place
The Children’s Place was sourcing from Rana Plaza when it collapsed, killing 1,134 and injuring dozens more. However, the brand is still refusing to pay the $8 million it owes to the workers and families who were impacted by this historic disaster. In light of this, we made several visits to Children’s Place locations around the country demanding the brand pay up. As we walked around the store, Mahinur could easily point out the shorts and pants she used to sew when she worked at Rana Plaza. Although their apparel empire was built off the labor of workers like Mahinur, the Children’s Place is still refusing to take responsibility for this tragic incident and make their workers whole.
It wasn’t until our most recent visit that we learned managers were recently forced to sign a gag order preventing them from discussing the issue of fair compensation with anyone in their stores. What’s the Children’s Place trying to hide? Maybe we’ll find out as we continue our campaign at stores across the country.
Chicago Organizations Unite Around REI’s Sweatshop Apparel
We united with Chicago Fight for $15, members of UNITE HERE!, and Chicago Fair Trade for our final action of the week. Together our groups marched on REI to continue to demand the outdoor retailer cut ties with the North Face/VF until the brand agrees to sign onto the Accord. As soon as our chants began, REI employees were ready for us – taping up signs warning customers of “free speech activity” (see image). Although the store representatives were prepared with talking points straight from their friends at VF, they couldn’t object to Kalpona’s list of reasons why the corporate-controlled Alliance is an ineffective solution to the ongoing problem of factory safety for workers in her community. How many more actions will it take for REI to understand that their choice is clear: drop the North Face or continue to be shamed for selling sweatshop apparel.
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Friday passed a bill to finance the Department of Homeland Security, sending the legislation to the House with just hours to avert a partial shutdown of the agency at midnight.
The spending bill, which removed restrictions on President Obama’s executive action on immigration that were included in a bill passed by the House, easily passed the Senate, 68 to 31. Democrats also blocked a separate bill to undo the president’s action.
CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities commends the Brooklyn DA’s office for pushing for this indictment of NYPD Officer Peter Liang. However, we know that this was only possible because the community had an uproar and demanded the indictment. The murder of Akai Gurley was no “accident” as NYPD Police Commissioner Bratton adamantly claims. There have been 179 NYPD-related killings in the past 15 years and only 3 indictments. CAAAV continues to support the Gurley family in their journey in seeking justice, however they define justice.
We called for indictment of Liang as the family has asked, and now we call for a conviction. The so-called “criminal” justice system is no immediate solution, but we know that this system would not be able to handle cops who kill because it was not set-up to function in that way. The indictment of Peter Liang only means that we have to organize even harder to hold accountable, ALL COPS who use excessive force and take unarmed Black lives. This means that we have to support the Justice Committee (JC) and the family of Ramarley Graham to fight for their demands that Commissioner Bratton fire all officers involved and that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutes all cops responsible for Ramarley’s death. This means that we have to fight for justice for Eric Garner’s family who demands that Bratton fire all officers involved and that the DOJ prosecutes all officerswho killed Eric. This means that Chicago needs to fight for the conviction of the officer who killed Rekia Boyds. This means that Denver needs to fight for an indictment of the cops who murdered Jessie Hernandez.
Bratton’s policies are inherently racist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, and classist. He is just as responsible for Akai Gurley’s death, just as much as Peter Liang. He is responsible for Broken Windows policing and vertical patrols. Keep our eye on the prize – justice – however the families define justice for them and however communities define justice. For us, justice means that the systems and institutions that perpetuate the structural inequalities are dismantled and chipped away.
“Divide and conquer must become define and empower.” – Audre Lorde