Monthly Archives: April 2014

“Fight for Fifteen” May Day Vigil for Fair and Living Wages Slated for May 1

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In honor of May Day (international labor day), class will move from the classroom into the streets for a protest!A coalition of local groups will be sponsoring the “Fight for Fifteen” May Day Vigil for Fair and Living Wages on Thursday, May 1 between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. on the public sidewalk on 100 block North Genesee Street (across the street from the Hess Gas Station), Utica.

“We are holding this event to press for a higher minimum wage, improved wages for food service, child care, and hospitality workers, and living wages for all workers,” said Brendan Dunn, one of the organizers for the event.  “We are joining with countless people across the country to demand a $15/hour minimum wage. This is a new movement that has gained considerable momentum in Seattle and has its roots in the recent upsurge of fast food worker organizing. May Day is internationally recognized as Labor Day and has its roots in the US. In recent years it has been revived by the immigrant rights and labor movements.”

Over three million workers in New York–37 percent of the state’s labor force–work in low-wage jobs that pay less than $15 per hour, according to a 2014 report by the National Employment Law Project and the Fiscal Policy Institute. Census data show that workers of color in New York are disproportionately concentrated in low-wage jobs, with 49 percent of Hispanic workers and 48 percent of black workers throughout the state holding jobs that pay less than $15 per hour.

Two out of three (66 percent) small business owners in New York think cities and counties should have the authority to set their own minimum wage rates above the state level, according to a new poll released by Small Business Majority. The poll signals broad levels of support among small businesses for legislation introduced this year (S. 6516/A. 9036) by State Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assemblyman Karim Camara that would grant localities in New York the authority to set their own minimum wage rates.

The poll, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, found that 77 percent of small business owners in New York support setting the minimum wage above the state’s current rate of $8 per hour, as well as indexing the minimum wage to rise each year with the cost of living. The respondents were predominately Republican–with 45 percent of small business owners identifying as Republican, 40 percent as Democrat and 15 percent as independent or other.

The event is free and open to the public.  Local co-sponsors include Central New York Citizens in Action, Inc., IWW, Mohawk Valley Freedom School, Occupy Utica, and MoveOn.   For more information or transportation, please contact John Furman 315-725-0974, cnycitizenaction@gmail.com/Brendan Dunn 315-240-3149,maslauskas84@gmail.com.

For event details, please refer to http://cnycitizenaction.wordpress.com or https://www.facebook.com/events/598887090224476/ .  Follow events on  ‪#FightFor15 ‪#15Now  #FightFor15CNY.

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Trip to Syracuse for Cornel West Lecture and Drone Protest Sunday, April 27

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Cornel West Talk:
“Connecting the Dots: Poverty, Racism and Drones”

Sunday, April 27 at 2 pm (doors open at 1:30)
Tucker Missionary Baptist Church, 515 Oakwood Ave

MEET AT CORNERSTONE COMMUNITY CHURCH ON SUNDAY AT 12:00PM FOR A CARPOOL TO SYRACUSE! CALL 315 240 3149 IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN GOING OR HAVE QUESTIONS.

Rally and March at Hancock Air Base Follow

On Sunday, April 27 at 2 pm (doors open at 1:30), renowned activist and scholar Cornel West will speak as part of the National Spring Days of Actions Against Drones. Admission is free. He will speak on “Connecting the Dots: Racism, Poverty and Drones.”

Immediately following his talk at 4:30, there will be a rally and permitted march to Hancock Air Base (where drones are piloted over Afghanistan and drone pilots and sensor operators are trained). Gather at the OCM BOCES parking lot (6820 Thompson Rd. – near the intersection with E. Molloy Rd. See map). The theme “People’s Orders of Protection Against Drone Terror” alludes to the needs of people around the world to be protected from drone attacks, as well as to the Orders of Protection severed to many activists who have participated in nonviolent civil resistance at the Base. Those activists have been threatened with arrest if they participate on the legal march, an affront to their First Amendment rights of free speech.

Both events are organized by the Syracuse Peace Council and the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, and co-sponsored by many groups throughout New York. For more details see www.upstatedroneaction.org.

See www.knowdrones.org for a listing of events throughout the country.

For more details on either event, contact Carol – carol@peacecouncil.net or 315.472.5478

From Dr. West’s keynote speech at CodePink’s anti-drones summit last November:

“There is a cloud of witnesses that say that those innocent persons, especially the precious babies, who are killed by US drones in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen have exactly the same value as those priceless white children who were killed in Newtown, CT; as those black brothers and sisters in the south side of Chicago; brown brothers and sisters in barracks; red brothers and sisters on reservations; yellow brothers and sisters. We are here to bear witness and to say we will not allow the kind of callousness toward catastrophe and indifference to criminality to become the norm and routine in America…

We remember the legacy of Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Philip Berrigan, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Grace Boggs these are names that constitute figures in movements that say, it’s time to straighten our back up, it’s time for us to try to awake our fellow citizens; No More Sleep Walking in America when it comes to militarism, when it to comes to consumer market materialism, when it comes to racism, anti-semitism, anti Arab, anti Muslim, homophobia any form of xenophobia, and most importantly when it comes to imperial crimes that emanate from Washington, DC around the world.”

Freedom School Class – Thursday, April 24 – Crisis, Resistance, and Horizontalism – Argentina and the 2001 Uprising

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In 2001 the government of Argentina went bankrupt and the country was thrown into political and economic turmoil. Bank accounts froze for working people while the rich were allowed to withdraw millions. The middle class was thrown into poverty overnight. The people rose up, chanting “Que se vayan todos” (they all must go) as four presidents were ousted from office. The rebellion ushered in a new politics in the form of horizontalidad or “horizontalism” whereby people rejected the politics of the ruling political parties and business elites in favor of a politics rooted in concepts of autonomy, direct democracy, popular neighborhood assemblies and democratic workplaces. Workers under the banner “occupy, resist, produce” occupied factories and businesses and started to run them democratically without any bosses. Come to this exciting class to discuss the uprising in Argentina, horizontalism, and the new social movements that emerged. We will build off of our past discussions on anarchism and 1930s social movements to see what these movements in Argentina have to to teach us today.

As always, dinner will be served at 6:00pm and class will be from 6:30-8:00.

Freedom School Class – Thursday, April 17 – The Philosophy, History, and Politics of Anarchism

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This class was supposed to happen last week but was postponed until this week. We will be discussing the tenets of anarchism as both a philosophy and a tool for social and economic change. Anarchy is a topic not widely covered in standard classes of history or politics, though there is a great deal of literature on anarchy itself. Because it’s tenets are not more broadly known, there remain many inaccurate depictions of anarchists as well as what anarchy is and looks like. From the late 19th and early 20th centuries, anarchists (and anarcho-syndicalists) were the major driving force of Left wing politics in the United States seeking reforms to perceived ills such as lack of worker’s rights and the ability for laborers to organize. Anarchy was a highly visible and viable political option and force for much of the early 20th century in many different countries.

We will cover the origins of the term and the philosophical foundations of what we understand to be anarchy today as well as historical examples of anarchists and their efforts to realize their vision in spite of the state monopolies on power and force. Of particular note will be anarchists of the past and how their take on anarchy differentiates from group to group, participatory economics (“parecon”), anarchy and capitalism, the DIY ethos and self-determination, concepts of property, direct democracy, definitions of liberty in line with anarchist principals and what anarchy looks like today.

As usual, class will be at 6:30pm and dinner will be served at 6:00pm.

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Worker gets her Unpaid Wages after March on Boss

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The Freedom School had a successful IWW union training this past weekend with an unexpected surprise. Trinh Truong, a student at Proctor High School and former worker at The Children’s Museum, marched on her former employer along with activists and workers who came to the training. Trinh had been a volunteer and then paid worker at the museum for years but recently left her job after she could no longer deal with the mismanagement, a precarious work environment and lack of dignity and respect on the job. She never received her final paycheck even after making repeated requests to get what was legally owed to her.

She decided to approach the IWW for help. On Saturday, around twenty people accompanied Trinh to the Children’s Museum. Several Freedom School students also came to show support. She handed a letter to a former supervisor with the one simple demand that she get paid her last paycheck or else the IWW would take further action. The letter was signed by Trinh as well as members and supporters of the IWW. The group crowded into the front entrance of the museum and were told that director Marlene Brown was not there. Another supervisor took the letter, looked at the determined crowd, and said he would take care of the matter.

Within an hour, Trinh got a misspelled text from Marlene Brown informing her that she would receive her paycheck. Marlene kept her promise and Trinh received her paycheck in the mail on Monday. This is the first time an actual march on a boss was done during an IWW training. As the old IWW saying goes, “direct action gets the goods.” Through this action, Trinh and members and supporters of the IWW showed the importance of having a grassroots union like in Utica. Wage theft is a common practice by many bosses. Workers in Utica now have a way to fight back and Trinh was the first one that did.

Given the recent bad press about questionable and potential illegal practices of Marlene Brown, she made the right decision. (You can read more about this issue here: http://www.uticaod.com/article/20140321/News/140329899)

As the IWW often says, “An injury to one is an injury to all!” Hopefully, other workers will contact the IWW for their wage theft issues.

Freedom School Class – Thursday, April 3 – Social Movements and The Great Depression

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Join us for class this Thursday. Dinner will be served at 6:00pm and class will run from 6:30-8:00

We will discuss the social movements that rose from and defined the Great Depression of the 1930s. While much history that is taught about the 1930s deals with President FDR and federal relief programs, the human element is often left out of this narrative. The decade witnessed the rise of a massive industrial workers movement and an unemployed workers movement. Building off of the industrial unionism of the IWW, the CIO was formed as a rival labor federation to the AFL. The Communist Party grew in the 1930s and became a vibrant political force in places like Alabama, Harlem, and Chicago. In 1934 there were four major strikes in Appalachia, Toledo, Minneapolis and on the West Coast that were referred to by some as labor rebellions. Organizations formed to fight foreclosures of homes and farms and were successful in forcing over thirty state governments to declare a moratorium on foreclosures. Although the economic crisis of the decade brought misery and suffering to millions of people, it was also a time of renewed political activism as millions joined movements for a better nation and a better world.

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Part of class will also be reserved for an interactive discussion and role play where students will play the roles of activists and individuals in Utica during the depression and figure out how to effectively organize to change a city that is on the brink of disaster.

As always, we will ask, “So how is this history relevant to us today?” This is an important question given that we find this nation still reeling from the Great Financial Crisis of 2007-2008.

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People’s History: The Bread and Roses Strike of 1912

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Last class we discussed the exciting history of the Industrial Workers of the World. We read the “Proclamation of the Striking Workers of Lawrence” (posted below) in class. Some students made comparisons between this proclamation, the Ten Point Program of the Black Panther Party, and the Declaration of Independence. The strike was referred to as the Bread and Roses strike because workers demanded the necessities for survival as well as dignity and joy in their lives. A similar strike occurred in the same years in the mills of Little Falls. More on that strike can be found here: http://upstateearth.blogspot.com/2011/01/iww-great-textile-strike-of-1912-in.html

One of the most dramatic labor struggles in American history took place in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1912 when textile workers, mostly women, European immigrants speaking a dozen different languages, carried on a strike during the bitterly cold months of January to March 1912. Despite police violence and hunger, they persisted, and were victorious against the powerful textile mill owners. Borrowing from the U.S. Declaration of Independence1, the following strike declaration, issued by the workers of Lawrence, was translated into the many languages of the immigrant textile workers in Massachusetts and circulated around the world.

From Voices of A People’s History, edited by Zinn and Arnove

We, the 20,000 textile workers of Lawrence, are out on strike for the right to live free from slavery and starvation; free from overwork and underpay; free from a state of affairs that had become so unbearable and beyond our control, that we were compelled to march out of the slave pens of Lawrence in united resistance against the wrongs and injustice of years and years of wage slavery.

In our fight we have suffered and borne patiently the abuse and calumnies of the mill owners, the city government, police, militia, State government, legislature, and the local police court judge. We feel that in justice to our fellow workers we should at this time make known the causes which compelled us to strike against the mill owners of Lawrence. We hold that as useful members of society and as wealth producers we have the right to lead decent and honorable lives; that we ought to have homes and not shacks; that we ought to have clean food and not adulterated food at high prices; that we ought to have clothes suited to the weather and not shoddy garments. That to secure sufficient food, clothing and shelter in a society made up of a robber class on the one hand and a working class on the other hand, it is absolutely necessary for the toilers to band themselves together and form a union, organizing its powers in such form as to them seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that conditions long established should not be changed for light or transient causes, and accordingly all experience has shown that the workers are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves, by striking against the misery to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and ill treatment, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them to a state of beggary, it is their duty to resist such tactics and provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these textile workers, and such is now the necessity which compels them to fight the mill-owning class.

 

Famed labor activist and painter Ralph Fasanella’s “Lawrence 1912: The Bread and Roses Strike.”

The history of the present mill owners is a history of repeated injuries, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these textile workers. To prove this let facts be submitted to all right-thinking men and women of the civilized world. These mill owners have refused to meet the committees of the strikers. They have refused to consider their demands in any way that is reasonable or just. They have, in the security of their sumptuous offices, behind stout mill gates and serried rows of bayonets and policemen’s clubs, defied the State, city, and public. In fact, the city of Lawrence and the government of Massachusetts have become the creatures of the mill owners. They have declared that they will not treat with the strikers till they return to the slavery against which they are in rebellion. They have starved the workers and driven them to such an extent that their homes are homes no longer, inasmuch as the mothers and children are driven by the low wages to work side by side with the father in the factory for a wage that spells bare existence and untimely death. To prove this to the world the large death rate of children under one year of age in Lawrence proves that most of these children perish because they were starved before birth. And those who survive the starving process grow up the victims of malnutrition.

These mill owners not only have the corrupting force of dollars on their side, but the powers of the city and State government are being used by them to oppress and sweep aside all opposition on the part of those overworked and underpaid textile workers. The very courts, where justice is supposed to be impartial, are being used by the millionaire mill owners. And so serious has this become that the workers have lost all faith in the local presiding judge. Without any attempt at a trial, men have been fined or jailed from six months to a year on trumped-up charges, that would be a disgrace even in Russia. This judge is prejudiced and unfair in dealing with the strikers. He has placed all the strikers brought before him under excessive bail. He has dealt out lengthy sentences to the strikers as if they were hardened criminals, or old-time offenders. He has refused to release on bail two of the leaders of the strike, while he released a prisoner charged with conspiracy and planting dynamite, on a thousand dollars’ bail. He sentenced, at one morning’s session of court, 23 strikers to one year in jail on the fake charge of inciting to riot. This judge has declared he is opposed to the union that is conducting the strike.

The brutality of the police in dealing with the strikers has aroused them to a state of rebellious opposition to all such methods of maintaining order. The crimes of the police during this trouble are almost beyond human imagination. They have dragged young girls from their beds at midnight. They have clubbed the strikers at every opportunity. They have dragged little children from their mothers’ arms and with their clubs they have struck women who are in a state of pregnancy. They have placed people under arrest for no reason whatsoever. They have prevented mothers from sending their children out of the city and have laid hold of the children and the mothers violently and thr[own] the children into waiting patrol wagons like so much rubbish. They have caused the death of a striker by clubbing the strikers into a state of violence. They have arrested and clubbed young boys and placed under arrest innocent girls for no offense at all.

The militia has used all kinds of methods to defeat the strikers. They have bayoneted a young boy.2 They have beaten up the strikers. They have been ordered to shoot to kill. They have murdered one young man, who died as a result of being bayoneted in the back. They have threatened one striker with death if he did not close the window of his home. They have threatened to stay in this city until the strike is over. They have bayoneted one citizen because he would not move along fast enough. And they have held up at the point of the bayonet hundreds of citizens and Civil War veterans.

The city government has denied the strikers the right to parade through the streets. They have abridged public assemblage by refusing the strikers the use of the city hall and public grounds for public meetings. They have turned the public buildings of the city into so many lodging houses for an army of hirelings and butchers. They have denied the strikers the right to use the Common for mass meetings, and they have ordered the police to take little children away from their parents, and they are responsible for all the violence and brutality on the part of the police.

The Massachusetts Legislature has refused to use any of the money of the State to help the strikers. They have voted $150,000 to maintain an army of 1,500 militiamen to be ready to shoot down innocent men, women, and children who are out on strike for a living wage. They have refused to use the powers of the State for the workers. They have appointed investigation committees, who declare, after perceiving the signs of suffering on the part of the strikers on every side, that there is no trouble with these people.

All the nations of the world are represented in this fight of the workers for more bread. The flaxen-haired son of the North marches side by side with his dark-haired brother of the South. They have toiled together in the factory for one boss. And now they have joined together in a great cause, and they have cast aside all racial and religious prejudice for the common good, determined to win a victory over the greed of the corrupt, unfeeling mill owners, who have ruled these people so long with the whip of hunger and the lash of the unemployed.

Outlawed, with their children taken away from them, denied their rights before the law, surrounded by bayonets of the militia, and driven up and down the streets of the city by an overfed and arrogant body of police, these textile workers, sons and daughters of the working class, call upon the entire civilized world to witness what they have suffered at the hands of the hirelings of the mill-owning class. These men and women can not suffer much longer; they will be compelled to rise in armed revolt against their oppressors if the present state of affairs is allowed to continue in Lawrence.

Footnotes

1 “Proclamation of the Striking Textile Workers of Lawrence” (1912). In Charles P. Neill, ed.. Report on the Strike ofTextile Workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1912,62nd Congress, 2nd Session, Senate Document 870 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1912), pp. 503-04.

2 On Tuesday, January 30, 1912, a young Syrian striker, John Ramy, was bayoneted in the back and later died.