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These Tenants Fought Boston University For Ownership Of Their Homes, And Won

When a wealthy donor left four L.A. apartment buildings to his alma mater upon his death, it left the 130 tenants of those buildings wondering if they were going to be evicted or have their rents hiked. But on Jan. 10, tenants of the buildings in the Baldwin Hills neighborhood secured a major win when Boston University agreed to sell all four apartments to the Liberty Community Land Trust, which plans to keep the units permanently affordable. “Boston University accepted our offer because of the collective pressure we put them under as a collective, as a community,” tenants wrote on their Instagram page. “When we fight, we win!!!”

How California Could Save Up Its Rain To Ease Future Droughts

When California gets storms like the atmospheric rivers that hit in December 2022 and January 2023, water managers around the state probably shake their heads and ask why they can’t hold on to more of that water.

The Poor Are Bearing The Brunt Of California’s Storms

Since late December, the West Coast of the United States has been battered by torrential rain of up to eight inches, strong winds reaching 70 mph that have knocked down power lines and ripped trees from the soil, and forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate. US President Joe Biden has declared a state of emergency in California. The “parade of cyclones,” as read the National Weather Service warning, is predicted to cost USD$1 billion in damages. Thus far, 18 people are dead as a result of these storms. As these storms, heightened in frequency by climate change, wreak havoc in California, many wonder, what of the state’s 172,000 homeless people? California is notorious for its homelessness crisis, with an unhoused population that swelled by 22,000 during the pandemic, attributed to plummeting wages due to the pandemic crisis and increased housing unaffordability.

What Message Does A ‘Vote No’ Campaign Send?

In December, the contract bargaining team for Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2865 brought back a tentative agreement with the University of California and presented it to its membership of teaching assistants, graders and tutors for ratification. A lively “vote no” campaign arose. A vote no campaign sends a very public message. Does it tell the boss that the union is divided, and therefore weak, or does it warn the boss that members are ready to fight for more? What does it say about the union and the union leadership? When members vote on ratification of a contract, the main issue is trust—whether in the contents of the deal, the process, or both.

New California Project Uses Solar Panels To Restore Native Habitat

An innovative solar project at a decommissioned nuclear power plant in California has found a way to tackle both the climate and biodiversity crises. Non-profit the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) announced Thursday that they would restore native prairie and habitat for pollinators beneath and around 160 megawatts (MW) of solar panels. “The Rancho Seco project is a unique collaboration at the intersection of communities, biodiversity, and climate-friendly energy,” EPRI senior technical executive and conservation biologist Jessica Fox said in a press release. “Successful demonstration could provide the blueprint for future renewable energy projects throughout the country that are restorative not just in their kilowatts, but also for local people and biodiversity.”

UC Graduate Students’ Bargaining Committee Drops Core Demands

Academic workers at the University of California (UC), who are entering their second month on the picket line, are internally weighing strategic questions about how their union should move forward with negotiations. Roughly 36,000 graduate teaching and research workers, represented by two different United Auto Workers (UAW) locals, remain on strike after a third UAW local representing 11,000 UC postdocs signed a five-year contract with the university and returned to work December 9. UAW Local 2865 is the largest of the UC unions on strike. It represents some of the university’s lowest-paid workers—about 19,000 teaching assistants, tutors and readers, some of whom make an estimated $24,000 a year.

Elon Musk’s Takeover Through The Eyes Of Twitter’s Janitors

San Francisco, California - Billionaire Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter has captured headlines for its tumultuous effect on the company’s corporate staff and the risks it poses to the platform’s future survival. But Musk’s acquisition also has dire, albeit underreported, consequences for the service staff who keep the blue bird humming. In These Times spoke to four janitors who say that all 20 custodial workers at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters lost their jobs on December 5 because Twitter’s new custodial contractor refused to rehire them. The move comes less than two months after Musk, who bought Twitter on October 27, fired several senior executives and later roughly 3,700 employees ranging from engineers to communications workers to content moderators—half the company’s staff—on November 4.

A Communiqué From The Liberated Dining Halls Of So-Called Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz, California - The colonial capitalist university will never win. Union sell-outs and scabs will never win. Here at so-called Santa Cruz, we declare and express our solidarity to all communities in struggle. Today, along with comrades across so-called California, we are engaging in a transterritorial attack on UC incorporated and what they call food insecurity, a condition created by their capitalist greed. These spaces, like the dining commons, are spaces we understand as battlegrounds of the ongoing war against subsistence, where proles take up the war against capital by expropriating dining halls and feeding one another.

How Academic Workers’ Leverage Can Grow In A Long-Haul Strike

California - Forty-eight thousand academic workers have been on strike across the 10 campuses of the University of California since November 14. It’s the biggest strike in the country this year. The strikers are in four bargaining units—teaching assistants, student researchers, postdoctoral scholars, and academic researchers—all affiliated with the United Auto Workers. The following speeches were written for and read out at the Strike to Win Assembly on December 6 at UC Berkeley. This assembly was put together by rank-and-file members from the humanities, social sciences, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in UAW Local 2865 and Student Researchers United (SRU-UAW) in order to develop strategies for a building a longer, sustainable strike across campus.

1,000 Days Of Compassion

Santa Cruz, California - The streets went silent that misty March 14, 2020 morning.  I passed only two other vehicles on my way to prepare the meal at the Veteran’s Hall. News that the indoor food programs had been ordered shuttered meant our unhoused friends would have to go without food if we didn’t step up and fill the void. Eight of us Food Not Bombs volunteers gathered at LuLu Carpenters that cold Saturday to discuss our plans. I think all of us were in a state of shock at the mystery that lay ahead. A medical social worker who had just been trained in the COVID-19 safety protocols at Good Samaritans Hospital detailed what she had learned the day before. We moved our meal to the Town Clock from the Post Office so our line of guests would not be standing near the dozen or so people camping along the Water Street sidewalk.

We Need To Transform What It Means to Be An Academic Worker

When it comes to corporate news media coverage of labor actions, there are unfortunately a few tropes to look out for, even in 2022. First, while strikes in other countries may be presented as signs of freedom, in the US they will often be presented in terms of the disruption they cause. The New York Times’ November 14 report on the strike by some 48,000 University of California teaching assistants, researchers and others gave skimming readers the shorthand “highlight” that these people “walked off the job Monday, forcing some classes to be canceled.” “Classes were disrupted, research slowed and office hours canceled,” the paper noted, “only a few weeks away from final examinations.” Whatever an article goes on to say, the “harmful disruption” presentation encourages readers to understand that the status quo before the action was not harmful and did not disrupt, and that worker actions are therefore willful, selfish and possibly malignant.

Satellites Detect No Real Climate Benefit From Forest Carbon Offsets

Many of the companies promising “net-zero” emissions to protect the climate are relying on vast swaths of forests and what are known as carbon offsets to meet that goal. On paper, carbon offsets appear to balance out a company’s carbon emissions: The company pays to protect trees, which absorb carbon dioxide from the air. The company can then claim the absorbed carbon dioxide as an offset that reduces its net impact on the climate. However, our new satellite analysis reveals what researchers have suspected for years: Forest offsets might not actually be doing much for the climate. When we looked at satellite tracking of carbon levels and logging activity in California forests, we found that carbon isn’t increasing in the state’s 37 offset project sites any more than in other areas, and timber companies aren’t logging less than they did before.

The Academic Proles On The Barricades

In her 2019 book Squeezed, Alissa Quart gave a name to the middle class that was just getting by in today’s middle-class-unfriendly economy: the middle precariat. One group that may just manage to ascend, wobbily, to the ranks of the precarious middle are the 12,000 striking postdoctoral scholars who reached a tentative agreement with the University of California earlier today to boost their wages and benefits. Under the agreement, which will shortly be presented to the postdocs for an up-or-down vote, the scholars will receive raises of between 20 percent and 23 percent to take effect next year, as well as a couple thousand dollars in child care assistance. By my very rough calculations, that should put them in the lower ranks of the mid-precar, with annual incomes in the mid-40 thousands—not enough to get a decent rental in coastal California, but able to buy a good-sized car to sleep in.

UC Faculty Announce Work Stoppage

Hundreds of faculty across the system have committed to solidarity with the UAW strike against Unfair Labor Practices by the University of California, recognized by the Public Employment Relations Board. We support the four striking units’ demands for wages adequate to their cost of living, workplace and community safety, disability justice, and other fundamental issues. We recognize that, while education should be the University’s main mission, its core product is accreditation, which means degrees, which means grades. 48,000 academic workers across the UC have been on strike since November 14th, 2022. This includes UAW 5810, UAW2865, and SRU-UAW, representing Postdocs, Academic Researchers, Graduate Student Researchers, Trainees, Fellows, Graduate Student Instructors, Readers, and Tutors.

United Furniture Industries Fires All Employees Overnight

Victorville, California - Employees of the United Furniture Industries Inc. in Victorville were shocked upon receiving an overnight text message announcing the end of their employment with the company just before Thanksgiving. The announcement was made at the instruction of the Board of Directors of United Furniture Industries, Inc., and all its subsidiaries, according to the company. The text messages sent to all employees were obtained by VVNG, which reads as follows: At the instruction of the Board of Directors of United Furniture Industries, Inc., and all subsidiaries (the “Company”), we regret to inform you that due to unforeseen business circumstances the Company has been forced to make the difficult decision to terminate the employment of all its employees, effective immediately, on November 21, 2022, with the exception of over-the-road drivers that are out on delivery.
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