On Saturday October 29, the Florida Board of Medicine voted to begin drafting rules that will ban all gender affirming care for anyone under 18. They did this based on a “medical report” written by a dentist, after refusing to let activists and experts opposed to the ban speak at the hearing while trans youth led a die-in outside. This is the latest advance of the far-right’s deadly and radical anti-trans agenda. The Florida Board of Medicine sets and regulates medical practices and medical professionals in the state of Florida. This rule would essentially ban medical professionals from providing gender affirming care unless they want to risk losing their licenses. This vote follows the DeSantis administration issuing a non-binding order to the Florida Department of Health to stop not just medical transition but also social transition for trans children.
Say what you want about the insurance industry — damn bloodsuckers constantly cranking up your bills — but you must admit that they understand risk. It is, at its heart, a simple business: Estimate with great precision how much you are likely to pay out in claims, and then charge customers more than that, so you make a profit. The success of insurance companies is closely wedded to their ability to analyze the real world with accuracy. Some businesses, like advertising, may run on delusion, but in insurance, that sort of thing is poison. So it poses a problem for a certain variety of right-wing free market fundamentalists when the insurance industry begins sending signals that climate change is very, very real — so real that it should be upending our way of life already.
Over 100 people are dead in Florida after Hurricane Ian ripped through the state, making landfall on September 28 as a Category 4 storm. Over 202,000 Florida homes and businesses are still without power. The hurricane caused damage that Biden claimed could rank as “the worst in the nation’s history,” with economic damage that could cost up to $75 billion—possibly among the five costliest storms in US history. The death toll combined with the imagery of utter destruction paints a harrowing picture of the fate of Floridians after this storm. Cities such as Fort Myers were leveled, Sanibel Island completely cut off from the mainland, and 3.4 million homes and businesses experienced power outages across several states and a boil water notice was issued in the hardest hit county.
Hurricane Ian caused mass destruction to Southwest Florida, taking dozens of lives and leaving millions without power. But in the midst of devastation, a small solar-powered community was left virtually unscathed — despite being just 12 miles northeast of hard-hit Fort Myers. Babcock Ranch is a solar-powered town with roughly 2,000 homes and more than 700,000 solar panels. Homes and businesses in Babcock are built to be energy efficient and weather resistant, many of them constructed with durable insulated panels meant to withstand Florida’s extreme weather. Many residents have additional solar panels and solar battery systems as an extra layer of protection from power outages. If Hurricane Ian was a test of the town’s resiliency, Babcock Ranch passed with flying colors.
Every day the republican governors of Texas, Greg Abbott, and Florida, Ron DeSantis, eagerly announce that they are sending people generically labeled as migrants to what are known as sanctuary cities. The corporate media report that thousands of people have been convinced to board buses to New York City or Washington DC or Sacramento or Chicago or even chartered flights to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. What they don’t explain is who these migrants are and why their status is highly problematic and a function of imperialist foreign policy. Republicans rail against what are called sanctuary cities and imply that federal law doesn’t apply in these places or that undocumented people get some sort of special deal. However, the term sanctuary city doesn’t really mean very much.
Members of the Hillsborough County teachers union packed the school board meeting, September 20, to demand a better contract that takes teachers' needs for a livable salary into account. A sea of the union's red shirts confronted the board members and the county's superintendent, who with faux concern, offered nothing but the platitude that he "heard" teachers’ concerns. The crisis could not have been clearer to anyone with eyes and ears, as union members shared stories not just of having to work second jobs for pennies, but unsafe conditions for students. One teacher said that because of understaffing due to a lack of funding, students were left without school counselors, wandering the campus, vaping in bathrooms, fighting and wandering off campus. Teachers emphasized to the school board that it was impossible to be pro-student and anti-teacher. School officials even suggested a plan to train high school students in technical repair and assign them to repair district computers and electronics, owing to a lack of adequate staff.
Naples, Florida - A simple grievance can take many months to get results. But at the post office where I work, we got fast results defending our breaks with a different approach: direct action. I’m a city carrier assistant (CCA)—part of the lower-paid second tier of letter carriers—in Naples, Florida. The retention rate for CCAs nationwide hovers around 20 percent. Letter carriers start each day by sorting the mail and loading it into our trucks. In my post office, Mondays through Saturdays we take our first 10-minute break together inside the office, with the air conditioning, before heading out to start deliveries. We used to take our breaks together on Sundays, too. We would chip in for donuts and coffee, a sign of our camaraderie. But in April, the Postal Service implemented a new way of doing the Sunday package runs.
On Monday morning, Popular Information broke the news that migrants from Venezuela were provided with false information to convince them to board flights chartered by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R). A brochure distributed to migrants says that they will be eligible for numerous benefits in Massachusetts, including "8 months cash assistance," "assistance with housing," "food," "clothing," "job placement," "registering children for school," and many other benefits. None of this is true. The benefits described in the brochure are resettlement benefits available to refugees who have been referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and authorized to live in the United States. These benefits are not available in Massachusetts to the migrants who boarded the flights, who are still in the process of seeking asylum.
Hollywood, Florida - Weeks after a big strike vote, 450 hotel workers at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida, have reached a tentative agreement on a four-year contract that boosts minimum hourly pay to $20, halts subcontracting, and restores daily housekeeping. “This is an incredible victory for workers in South Florida,” said Wendi Walsh, secretary-treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 355, in a statement. “This was possible because workers decided to fight back, willing to risk it all. Hospitality workers are the backbone of South Florida’s economy and finally the value of their contribution is being recognized with wages they can live on.” Like their counterparts across the country, hotel workers in Florida have been on high alert as management has tried to clobber their union in a cost-cutting bonanza while raking in record profits.
Jacksonville, Florida - As the people of Jacksonville face rapidly increasing rent hikes and evictions, local organizers and residents rallied outside of City Hall on August 9. Before entering the city council meeting, they rallied and chanted, “Peoples Budget now!” “Make housing affordable,” and “Rent stabilization now!” After listening to speakers outside of city hall, many people spoke at the city council meeting, demanding a People’s Budget. The proposal from the Jacksonville Community Action Committee will reallocate funds from the inflated Jacksonville Sheriff's Office (JSO) budget back into the community. The People's Budget proposal focuses on Jacksonville’s city budget and reallocating funds because, under Mayor Curry, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office currently holds nearly 40% of the $1.4 billion budget.
In a couple of weeks, I’ll walk back into my college classroom and continue my second decade of teaching at one of Florida’s universities. Despite the recently passed HB 7 Amendment (Stop WOKE Act), I won’t be adjusting my syllabi to remove readings or discussions that make students “uncomfortable,” and I won’t pretend that systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia and other forms of oppression do not exist. I will not “whitewash” our country’s history or minimize the challenges and oppression that so many still experience, especially those who are women and/or members of the BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities. Instead, I will do what I have always done. I will select the creative work of writers who belong to all sorts of communities, and I will require students to read their stories and discuss the work and their themes.
Airport workers have been on the front lines of the pandemic and the labor struggle in recent years. In Florida, for instance, workers in Tampa, Orlando, Miami and beyond have staged multiple actions over the past year to demand a living wage. Many airport workers in Florida earn as little as $7 an hour, tips included. Now, a new bill, the Good Jobs for Airports Act, could establish national wage and benefits standards for airport workers. To learn more about airport workers’ ongoing fight for dignity and higher wages, freelance journalist and new TRNN contributor McKenna Schueler talks with Scottie Walker, a cabin cleaner at Tampa International Airport and a member of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 32BJ .
Lee County, Florida - Casey Scott, an elementary school art teacher at Trafalgar Middle School in Lee County, Florida, asked students to make flags to represent themselves as part of an art project. In their discussions about identity, several of her students expressed that they were gay, bisexual, and trans. Many of them wanted to represent themselves using the rainbow flag or the pink, blue, and white flag that represents trans rights. After she hung the flags up on her bulletin board, school administrators told Scott that it would be “in her best interest” to get rid of them immediately. When she got home, she was told her contract would not be renewed. This is one of the first examples of a teacher being fired under Florida’s new right-wing law attacking educators and LGBTQ+ folks.
Tampa, Florida - The Tampa community has struggled for an end to the housing crisis since the eviction moratoriums ended last year. With this year’s midterm elections approaching, Tampa activists demand a rent control ordinance to stop the rise in rent prices. Enough public support can push the Tampa city council to address the housing emergency. Tampa is among the cities facing the worst of the national housing crisis. Tampa ranks ninth worst in the world for decrease in housing affordability. Renters in the city spend 42% of their income on housing, a 6% increase from 2017 during a time of rising inflation and stagnant wages. In 2022, affordable housing listings decreased by 46% while housing prices increased by 26%. More people in Tampa are at risk of losing their housing.
Three years ago, Jorge Palacios, David Roper and Josh Placeres came together with a shared vision to make a better world for communities of color in Miami. They wanted to create a space where Black and Brown families can access fresh produce and learn how to live a healthy lifestyle. Borne of their own social justice and community activism, the trio cultivated a food movement by transforming an empty land lot into a lush community garden in the heart of the historically Black Overtown neighborhood. Carrots, eggplant, garlic chive, kale, cranberry hibiscus, papaya, Thai basil, and moringa are in abundance for a community that has limited fresh produce options. The three launched the Green Haven Project in 2019, to expand their efforts.