Newsletter: People Power Grows, Demands Justice

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Above photo: By Ellen Davidson

Five Crucial Campaigns for Social, Economic and Environmental Justice

This week tens of thousands of people in the United States flooded the streets to demand racial justice. It is one of many issues that has been building for years, reaching the tipping point and seeming to explode in a national awakening. We also saw that in the last two weeks with national protests for living wages.

1fpFour years ago when we organized the occupation of Washington, DC at Freedom Plaza, we listed 15 crisis issues that the country needed to face. None of these 15 core issues has been adequately dealt with. In each there are people working to build support for their cause; each has the potential to explode on the national scene – some already have.

This newsletter highlights five current campaigns and mobilizations that are demanding social, economic and environmental justice.

Demand Justice: End Racially Abusive Policing

The Staten Island grand jury decision in the Eric Garner killing, coming shortly after the Ferguson grand jury and the killing of 12 year old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, followed by police lies about Tamir’s killing, has created a national eruption calling for justice. People have repeatedly flooded the streets across the country since the Ferguson grand jury decision.

1asIn our last newsletter we described how people in 170 cities took to the streets and shut cities down over the Ferguson grand jury decision. Since then, protests have continued, even throughout a holiday weekend and then at 1:01 pm on Monday thousands walked out of high schools, colleges, work and took to the streets in a national die-in. One woman, Knox College Women’s Basketball Player Ariyana Smith, took action by herself protesting during the Star Spangled Banner at a basketball game with her hands up and then falling to the ground for 4.5 minutes. Smith explained it was a last resort.

After the Staten Island grand jury decision, protests in New York City and throughout the country were so large that even the mass media had to extensively report on them. The NYPD knew this was coming, thousands had marched protesting Garner’s death this summer, so they sent investigators to Ferguson to gather intelligence on professional agitators. The nationwide protests are already resulting in government officials announcing plans to review policing in communities.

Mock coffins are carried across the Brooklyn Bridge bearing the names of people who have been killed in police encounters. Photo by Michael Nagle, European Pressphoto Agency.

Mock coffins are carried across the Brooklyn Bridge bearing the names of people who have been killed in police encounters. Photo by Michael Nagle, European Pressphoto Agency.

Police abuse, harassment of African Americans and killings of civilians has been going on for years. There is a long history of the NYPD (and other police) killing unarmed African Americans, as well as a history of grand juries not indicting police who kill citizens. The injustice in the US justice system has become so evident that the United Nations is strongly criticizing police and prison practices in the United States as well as torture abroad.

While politicians are now talking about changes to police training, increased use of cameras on police and other reforms and  the Department of Justice is taking action, protests must continue and be sustained in order to achieve the necessary changes . For example, there are sustained protests planned at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC every Monday at 4:00 pm.We must be uncompromising in our consistent demand for justice.

Demand Justice: End Poverty Wages

Another issue that is increasing its people power and political strength is the reality of millions of US workers receiving poverty wages. In the last two weeks there were two national days of action by people seeking living wages. Economic injustice has deep roots but now it is beginning to be addressed.

1ff15Three years ago these mass actions would have been unthinkable, but over the past three years people protested at Walmart and workers walked off their jobs on the biggest shopping day of the year, Black Friday.  This year there were protests and walk-offs at 1,600 Walmarts in 49 states, the largest ever. The protests will continue to grow until Walmart starts paying people living wages.

Two years ago 200 fast food workers in New York City walked off their jobs. This has also grown into a national movement. This Thursday in more than 190 cities people walked off their jobs and protested for a $15 an hour living wage and union rights. The movement has not only grown geographically but also now includes more categories of workers. This year, baggage handlers, skycaps, wheelchair attendants and aircraft cleaners from 10 major airports supported the strikers as the Fight for $15 movement.

And, in two years of organizing, 8 million low-wage workers have seen raises. The lesson from this experience is that organized people can build power and create change.

1tpptextDemand Justice: Stop Secret Trade Agreements

This coming week is a key one for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Trade negotiators arrive in Washington, DC on Sunday evening and we will be at the US Trade Representative office to welcome them. On Monday morning we will greet them with a “Sit-in to End Secrecy” where we’ll deliver an open letter calling for them to release the text of the TPP to the public. This will be followed by a noon rally. Please join us for this historic opportunity to stop the TPP.

If you can’t be in Washington, DC, then take action to demand an end to secrecy in trade negotiations. You can sign a petition and get emails of key trade officials here.  Write them and demand transparency – release the text. Secret negotiations are an injustice and are inconsistent with democratic governance.

1ttipDue to public pressure, last month European trade negotiators announced they will be releasing their positions on trade and giving the people of their countries the transparency that is essential for a functioning democracy. They wanted to release the text of the full agreement but the Obama administration continues to insist on secrecy. Tell the US to release the text!

For the last two years we have successfully fought off attempts to pass fast track trade promotion authority. Without fast track it will be very hard for the TPP and other trade agreements to become law.  This week President Obama told CEO’s of transnational corporations, which will profit from rigged trade at the expense of the people and planet, that he is willing to defy Democrats and work with Republicans to pass fast track. We will not let that happen. We have been successful so far, and with your help we can continue to stop rigged trade.

1nn1Demand Justice: Equal Access to the Internet

This Thursday, December 11, 2014, the Federal Communications Commission will hold a public meeting. They have taken the future of the Internet, net neutrality, off the agenda. Protests led to President Obama supporting our position: reclassifying the Internet as a common carrier and enacting net neutrality rules. We must insist that the FCC stop dragging it’s feet on net neutrality!

We need people to join us at the next meeting with the message “Reclassify Now!” We are calling on people to attend a rally at 9 am outside the FCC at 445 12th St. SW, Washington, DC and then to attend the public hearing at 10:30 am. Bring a small sign (8 1/2 by 11 suggested) to hold during the meeting. Messages should focus on calling for Title II reclassification now without delay.

This is another example, just like the TPP, of people-powered strategic actions winning. As we reported in a recent newsletter, when we started this campaign 8 months ago nobody thought it was possible to achieve reclassification and net neutrality. After months of actions we have turned the politically impossible into the politically inevitable. Help us finish the job!

1kiewitDemand Justice: Stop Destroying the Planet with Extreme Energy Extraction

No doubt one of the most critical issues facing humans is the ecology of the planet: climate change and extreme energy extraction undermine our health and safety as well as leading to a massive species die-off. The scientific literature on climate change is clear: humans need to rapidly transition to a clean energy economyend our reliance on fossil and nuclear fuels and leave oil, gas, coal and uranium in the ground. It is time to stop building infrastructure for carbon and nuclear-based energy and switch to energy efficiency and renewables.

This week we participated in the launch of a new coalition, We Are Cove Point, to stop construction of the first liquefied fracked gas export terminal on the East coast and the first one ever to be placed in a neighborhood. Residents of the community have been fighting Dominion Resources since they learned about the terminal a year ago, but the courts and local, state and federal governments have ignored them. The federal permit for the project was issued in late September by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) despite the absence of safety and environmental impact studies. More permits will still be required from the state of Maryland.

We Are Cove Point marchers on the Hindhorst’s driveway in front of the area where Dominion is building a fracked gas export terminal.

We Are Cove Point marchers on the Heinhorst’s driveway in front of the area where Dominion is building a fracked gas export terminal.

We visited the community in early November and were appalled to see that the terminal is surrounded by nearly 2,400 homes, including 19 day care centers, and two elementary schools, and that the only evacuation route is a two-lane road that passes by the terminal. In the event of a chemical spill or explosion, the community will be trapped. Even if  no accident occurs, the terminal will dump 20.4 tons of toxins and 3.3 million tons of greenhouse gases into the air each year, will consume 210,000 gallons of fresh water from the local aquifer each day and will contaminate the waterways upon which the local economy depends. All of this risk and damage to export gas abroad. The only beneficiary will be Dominion, while the community and the environment pay the costs.

The dangers of Dominion’s gas export terminal extend to all of us. If completed, it will drive fracking of the Marcellus Shale and construction of more pipelines and compressor stations which will endanger other communities throughout the region. And if the Marcellus Shale which extends from New York to Ohio and down to Virginia and Tennessee is fracked, that will release millions of tons of carbon that will worsen the climate crisis.

We Are Cove Point direct action camp participants practice soft blocks. 11/30/14. By Elias Weston-Farber.

We Are Cove Point direct action camp participants practice soft blocks. 11/30/14. By Elias Weston-Farber.

Inspired by We Are Seneca Lake, members of the Cove Point community joined allies in a nonviolent direct action training last Sunday followed by three days full of actions to resist construction and raise awareness about the efforts to stop the export terminal. We were pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic support and warm welcoming from passersby. The community was happy to see people taking action to protect their health, safety and economy.

Over the past month, 29 people have been arrested resisting the terminal. We have plans to continue organizing and resisting. We need your help. Stopping Dominion’s export terminal is an issue that should unite everyone concerned about climate and the environment. It is another opportunity to unite people across geographic and issue areas and build a campaign that can stop the construction of this terminal.

By Dave Hardy

By Dave Hardy

We see multiple avenues toward victory (even though, as is so often the case, people say it is impossible) but to achieve success we need to get more people involved.  Visit WeAreCovePoint.org and sign up to participate in what will be a historic victory against carbon infrastructure. The Cove Point terminal is the KXL pipeline of the Marcellus Shale. We must stop it!

One of the chants we often use in actions is “The people are rising, no more compromising!” It is beautiful to see this rising together for a better world.

On all of these issues and more, we are united in our desire for justice and together we are a powerful force.

 

  • Sean Bechtold

    In regard to demanding a living wage…

    The only relevant purpose for having a minimum wage is to establish a baseline from which an actual living wage may be built. The purpose of such a scale being to reward people for our contributions to society. And since greed will remain a temptation for as long as we use money – the richest people in the world only had thousand of dollars when they were royalty during feudalism, became millionaires when they were entrepreneurs who held monopolies in the 19th and 20th centuries, and are now billionaires in an age where the average person is only considered to be a consumer that must be drained of its assets on a daily basis – each factor that applies to any given job needs to be expressed in a percentage so it may keep pace with inflation.

    The following is by no means a complete list, and no exact percentages have been designated because what people get paid is an issue that effects everyone, so should therefore be determined by all of us. In short, it’s up to us to decide what we think is fair. So this essay is merely a conversation starter. A little boost in the right direction so we can lead ourselves to where we want to be.

    As it has been applied so far by the wealthy, the minimum wage is simply a measuring stick for how cheaply labor may be acquired and used, and it causes an economic penis envy between business owners, leading them to relocate their factories and sweatshops to places where the wages are scant. This is not slavery exactly, but it equates the entire planet to a company store and our entire population to indentured servants. Large corporations produce everything we use and need. They set the prices and raise them whenever they want, with the smallest excuse being justification to permanently increase profits. Because profits are all that matter to them. As if life can be reduced to mathematics. This scheme, or scam, is a disservice to just about every intelligent person on Earth. It keeps a vast majority of our population desperate for prolonged periods – usually our entire lives – and desperate people don’t think straight, don’t act properly,
    and commit crimes.

    For the average person, every month spent in the Shake Down Theory of Capitalism is a waste of time. We need to work for at least a week just to pay our rent. Just to have the right to live in a building that’s generally in a state of disrepair. Another week’s labor produces wages to keep our vehicles on the road, put gas in them, and make repairs. Another week is needed to buy groceries for 30 days and pay our utility bills and prevent our phones and other means of communications from being shut off. And we never see the fourth week’s wages – it’s siphoned off by taxes that pay governments that never look out for the best interests of the people they allegedly represent. It doesn’t take a genius to interpret such an existence as a meaningless waste of time, which is a shame since time is one asset we all have in common. Yet the entitled elitists who are sucking the most benefits out of life are so god damned stingy when it comes to paying
    the people who make their magnificent wealth possible that it is not uncommon for there to be a 10,000 to 1 disparity between the incomes of the extra special (the haves) and the seemingly useless and downtrodden (the have-nots). How this could not be the exact definition of monopolized responsibility that is misconstrued, misdirected, and mistaken is beyond reason.

    Such disparity only causes despair for the vast minority that’s brainwashed to believe personal responsibility ends with paying the bills and sending the kids to college. These immoral standards permeate society and make equality impossible. How else is there to describe one set of laws that’s applicable to everyone, only to be subverted whenever the accused has shit-tons of money? What word other than hypocrisy can be applied to a situation where there are two scales of justice? Not to mention two scales of access, quality of life, and freedom.

    It seems evident that what we have been instructed to accept as normal is really just ignorance that insults out intelligence, reduces an overwhelming majority of us to disposable assets, and throws away most of our species’ brilliance and potential on counterproductive pursuits of individual wealth, prestige, and social standing.

    These are all reasons why we need to prevent greedy people from hording decisions that effect everyone else – they obviously cannot be trusted to do anything more than skim off the top while they graciously allow everyone else to wallow in poverty. Case in point – the minimum wage in America only recently topped seven dollars an hour. Had it kept up with inflation since its inception, the minimum wage would be somewhere around twenty dollars an hour. Seven is approximately one-third of twenty. So, over time, the people who buy and sell our government officials have bent the law so far in their own favor that the fairness and honesty of wages have been crippled. This when the minimum wage in Australia is seventeen dollars an hour, and their mom and pop shops haven’t been forced out of business by large corporations, and they’ve not had to give billions and billions and billions of dollars to their banking industry to prevent its collapse.

    Time is precious, life is short, and standing up for ourselves to demand what we deserve because we work to earn it is an idea whose time has come.

    MENTAL FACTORS

    1) STRESS. Every job requires a certain amount of skill and technique which can be tedious to acquire. Jobe also require various levels of patience, including risks to our mental and physical well being. So, like many other categories, this one deserves to have its own sub-scale.

    2) DISCOVERY AND INVENTION. Leading us into the future by developing better tools and new technologies, or by expanding our overall level of expertise in any given field, are important contributions that need to be properly compensated.

    3) INSIGHT AND IMAGINATION. Creative talents improve the lives of others by expanding people’s awareness of and appreciation for life.

    4) SKILL LEVEL. People who are highly accomplished in their fields pass along techniques that improve everyone’s productivity.

    5) DARING. We have a constant need to try new approaches, develop new technologies, and prove new theories. The courage it takes to experiment and expand our horizons cannot be underestimated.

    6) SELFLESSNESS. Putting the greater good ahead of personal advancement is one of our most underutilized attributes. So more encouragement would seem to be in order so we can motivate people to help others through humanitarian efforts.

    7) EXPERTISE. Many careers require a great deal of training and education before the tasks involved can be performed to a high standard, so the longer it takes to prepare for a career, the higher the initial salary should be.

    8) TEAMWORK. More often than not, jobs demand the talents of a few people to achieve success. Sometimes hundres or thousands of people. And when natural disasters require a massive response, millions of people. the greater the cooperation and coordination required, the greater the reward should be.

    PHYSICAL FACTORS

    1) SENSES. Our senses guide us through life. Yet there are lots of jobs that diminish a person’s natural abilities. Sewage workers have their sense of smell abused every day, just like people who work in dog food factories. Welders need extraordinary protection for their eyesight. Electricians get zapped about once a month, and glass cutters get sliced just about as often. Aircraft mechanics near jet engines and steel workers near blast furnaces need excessive earplugs to protect their hearing. The list could go on and on, so people who are willing to give of themselves to get a job done should get more in return for their sacrifices.

    2) PHYSICAL DEGRADATION. Our bodies face constant abuse in the course of performing many jobs. we get worn out and broken down. Such accumulative debilitation effects our joints and bones as well as our muscles and tendons. Medical conditions result, like plantar warts in cooks and servers who are constantly on their feet, and arthritis and tendinitis in people who spend large amounts of time on ladders.

    3) IMMOBILITY. Modern conveniences like telephones and computers allow people to perform tasks from a seated position while using repetitive motions. This can lead to back problems as well as carpal tunnel syndrome. It can also cause people to gain weight from their lack of mobility, which is another list of maladies ranging from diabetes to heart disease.

    4) ATHLETICISM. There are skill sets that are intricate enough to require a great deal of strength and coordination, a generous amount of balance, and a solid center of gravity. These attributes cannot be taught very easily, so sharing physical gifts should be rewarded.

    5) INDISPENSABILITY. We undertake intricate projects that impact so many people that they cannot be accomplished without the efforts of many bright assistants. We also offer each other services that only exist to enhance the enjoyment of life through comfort and pleasure. These provide an important peace of mind and happiness that are invaluable to society.

    6) CRUNCH TIME. External factors such as deadlines and celebrations and festivals work to make some jobs much more hectic than they usually are, and when people work twice as hard as usual they should be paid twice as much as usual. That’s simple math.

    7) HEIGHTS. The higher a person goes on scaffolding or a ladder, the greater the risk of suffering a devastating personal injury. Add to this our recent ability to work at altitude, including space, where death becomes more likely in the event of an accident, and the increased risks would seem to require their own sub-scale.

    8) DEPTHS. Many professions offer the possibility of instant death, as happens sometimes when walls fall in on tunnel builders or plumbers, or when sailors fall overboard on ships that cannot turn around just to pluck one person out of the sea. Plus there are immediate dangers as well as long term effects of constantly going through decompression after using scuba gear. All of which deserves hazard pay.

    9) MACHINERY. We operate elevators and lifts, airplanes and aircraft, cranes and dredges, bridges and huge trucks, boats and tractors – all various degrees of massive structures and vehicles that can kill many people if anything goes tragically wrong. Much care is required by such jobs since they have the potential to effect so many other lives. Safety must be ensured, and properly compensating people for making sure others stay safe is a great place to start.

    MEDICAL FACTORS

    1) EXPOSURE. Germs, filaments, compounds, fibers, gases, radioactive materials, poisons, and even chemical weapons are dangerous to handle and have seriously long term detrimental effects on our health. Sometimes we don’t fully appreciate the gravity of the situation we’re in until it’s too late, as happened to Madame Curie, and so many asbestos workers. We can avoid some of these mistakes by valuing human life more than profits. At the same time, everyone who faces such risks should be generously compensated for their risks.

    2) SANITATION. Anything that prevents filth, contamination, and infestation, or increases our quality of life through cleanliness, constitutes an invaluable contribution to our existence.

    3) PRESERVATION. Everyone suffers loss. Loved ones pass. Cherished homes burn to the ground or get flooded out of usefulness. Events beyond our control take away things we depend on for peace of mind. So people who dedicate themselves to reducing or eliminating the pain we feel should be constantly reminded that their efforts are greatly appreciated.

    4) LIABILITY. We sometimes give more of ourselves than we intend to at work, often with irreparable consequences. So anyone diminished by tragedies should benefit from guarantees from society that we will be taken care of for the rest of our lives so we do not become burdens on our families.

    HISTORICAL FACTORS

    1) IMPACT ON YOUTH. Each new generation represents a higher rung climbed on humanity’s ladder of evolution. The care, education, general well being, and health of our children ar therefore fundamental requirements of intelligent evolution.

    2) IMPACT ON INTELLIGENCE. Intelligent civilizations aggressively expand their fact-base, cultivating smarter citizens by sharing pertinent information that increases everyone’s appreciation for life.

    3) IMPACT ON EVOLUTION. Developing well thought out plans for out future transform our good intentions into species oriented goals that benefit everyone and shape our destiny.

    4) IMPACT ON ECOLOGY. Repairing the damage we have selfishly inflicted on the environment we depend on for survival and maintaining a sustainable way of living will remain a high priority for as long as we need to live on Earth. This might last for another million years, until dogs or dolphins are ready to evolve to the point we have recently reached… the realization of their place in the universe.

    5) IMPACT ON HEALTH. Mankind is almost certainly the most infectious species currently investigating space since we’re faced with hundreds of diseases that have developed specialized ways of attacking us and breaking us down. So the people who treat our injuries and cure our maladies should be held in the highest esteem.

    6) IMPACT ON SAFETY. We have only recently begun to improve conditions in the workplace. The importance of careful efforts made in this direction make life easier for all of us.

    7) IMPACT ON COMFORT. We all deserved to be treated well. Pampered here and there to help us relax. We certainly do not deserve to be disregarded if we are born infirm or rendered less stable by deceitful governments that have consistently and intentionally under-mind us. So those of us who care for the stricken are among the bravest and strongest alive , just as those who attend to our needs whenever we cannot or temporarily will not do it ourselves are among the most indispensable.

    8) IMPACT ON HAPPINESS. We could all use a few more laughs, a few more smiles, a few more dances. A few more cheers, a few more stories, and a few more songs. It makes us feel good about being alive. Meaning anyone who increases our ability to emote and empathize while improving our understanding of and appreciation for life provide imaginative contributions to mankind’s overll level of consciousness.

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  • Snopes

    As far as I can see the only alternative to a complete collapse of US political and economic systems or some sort of violent revolution down the road is the sort of incremental changes suggested by Bernie Sanders recently in his 12 point plan–as a way of testing of the run-for-president waters, which are pretty close to the 15 point plan above. I think labor democrats, liberals, and everyone else to the left of center would approve the list; with getting money out of politics probably at the top everybody’s list.

    So, are we getting closer to building a coalition with a sharp enough focus and enough muscle to roll back Citizens United? Is getting Bernie elected the opportunity to really get things rolling? Or do things still have to get a lot worse before they can get any better? What does the urgency of a deteriorating environment add?