On March 6, 2023, a small group of protesters belonging to the University of South Florida chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, trooped across campus to the Patel Center where the university president, Rhea Law has her office. The marchers were mostly young women carrying nothing more sinister than a megaphone, a banner reading “we want increased Black enrollment” and the water bottles ubiquitous among students on Florida campuses. In addition to their demands for higher Black enrollment, they wanted President Law to speak out in opposition to proposed Florida HB999 which banned diversity initiatives, and a meeting with her.
Tallahassee, FL - On July 13 Tallahassee community organizers and experts gave presentations at the Mayor's LGBTQ+ Advisory Council at City Hall. The presentation's focus was the demand to transform Tallahassee into an LGBTQ sanctuary city. The Tallahassee Community Action Committee (TCAC), represented by its president, Delilah Pierre, and communications director, Regina Joseph, led the program. The presentation was created in response to the anti-LGBTQ policies enacted under Governor Ron DeSantis' administration. These laws include the anti-trans law that forces people to use the bathroom associated with their assigned sex at birth and the ban on gender-affirming care for minors.
When the first recruiting class of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new Florida State Guard showed up for training last month, they had varied experiences and expectations. Over 30 days in June, teenagers out of high school and retired military veterans came to Camp Blanding, the National Guard base near Jacksonville. Many were told they would volunteer for a revived State Guard with a nonmilitary mission: help Floridians in times of need or disaster. Instead, the state’s National Guard trained the volunteers for combat. Khakis and polos were replaced by camouflaged uniforms. Volunteers assured they could keep their facial hair were ordered to shave.
Across Florida, protests are taking place to mark the beginning of an immigrant labor stoppage that is scheduled to last until at least July 3rd. Large crowds are being reported in Orlando, Tampa, and various areas in South Florida and as far away as Chicago and California. As SB 1718 goes into effect, the anger and economic concerns felt by many across the state forced Republican legislators to backpedal earlier this week. (See more about the new law in our last report.) Despite spin from elected state officials claiming the law “has no teeth,” thousands of undocumented immigrants and mixed-status families have already fled the state, leaving job sites and agricultural fields nearly empty.
Tampa, Florida - Since national negotiations started in March, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters has reached many tentative agreements in their national contract with United Parcel Service. These agreements that will benefit Teamsters include but are not limited to better cooling systems in package cars, strengthened grievance procedures, and the creation of more union jobs. The current Teamsters contract with UPS was a five-year agreement which expires on July 31. Unless the Teamsters bargaining team reaches a tentative agreement with UPS for a next contract and the rank and file votes “yes” by July 31, over 300,000 Teamsters are set to strike on August 1.
Tallahassee, Florida — A group of Chinese citizens who live, work, study, and raise families in Florida, as well as a real estate brokerage firm in Florida that primarily serves clients of Chinese descent, are filing a lawsuit to combat Florida’s discriminatory property law, SB 264. Signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the legislation unfairly restricts most Chinese citizens — and most citizens of Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, Russia, and North Korea — from purchasing homes in the state. Unless the courts act, the law will take effect on July 1, 2023. The plaintiffs are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Florida, DeHeng Law Offices PC, and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), in coordination with the Chinese American Legal Defense Alliance (CALDA).
Tampa, Florida – Florida state prosecutor Justin Diaz it trying to put the Tampa 5 in prison. The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) members, arrested at a campus protest against the racist agenda of Governor Ron DeSantis, each face a trumped-up felony charge, alleging “battery on a police officer,” carrying five years of jail time. When the activists rejected a plea deal requiring them to apologize for doing the right thing, the prosecutor added on more felony charges. This means that three of the activists are facing more than ten years behind bars. In addition, the activists face ten misdemeanor charges.
A nationwide truckers boycott of Florida is being organized in opposition to a new state law targeting undocumented migrants and refugees. The new legislation was initially announced by the state’s fascistic governor Ron DeSantis in February and framed as a means of countering what he termed “the Biden administration’s failure to secure our nation’s borders.” In a statement published on a government website, DeSantis declared, “Florida is a law and order state, and we won’t turn a blind eye to the dangers of Biden’s Border Crisis. We will continue to take steps to protect Floridians from reckless federal open border policies.”
This week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into a law a bill aimed at making it much harder for public employee unions to exist and function. Watching a Republican governor with his eye on the White House aim a crude legislative club at public unions is a familiar sight. Rather than dwelling on why DeSantis is an oily bum, let us use this opportunity to discuss another, unseen villain in this sickening process: police unions. The Florida bill — which bans automatic deduction of union dues from paychecks and decertifies unions when their membership drops below 60% of the workforce — is aimed primarily at weakening the state’s teachers union, which represents some of DeSantis’s strongest political opposition.
Messages keep coming in to me from LGBTQ teachers throughout the South who have been fired or threatened with firing. These teachers have years of experience and exemplary records. Many have advanced degrees. LGBTQ teachers are increasingly fearful. The Stonewall National Education Project, which educates teachers about inclusive classroom practices, reports that its annual symposium was sparsely attended due to fear of repercussions. One teacher who did attend wore a mask and asked not to be photographed. This trepidation is not new, but it’s been heightened by the current climate.
In December of 2016, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), based out of Immokalee, Florida, received a phone call from two men who had just escaped captivity near the town of Pahokee by hiding in the trunk of a car. The two men were migrant farmworkers, working on H-2A visas, who had been harvesting watermelons for Bladimir Moreno, owner of the farm labor contracting business Los Villatoros Harvesting LLC—a business that, in reality, was little more than a modern-day slave camp. “They told of being held against their will on a labor camp surrounded by barbed wire,” the CIW notes, “working and living under constant surveillance, and earning extremely low pay.”
Beverly May, retired nurse practitioner and current epidemiologist at the University of Kentucky, lives maybe 100 feet from the house she grew up in Floyd County, Kentucky. She characterizes her community as “hillbilly country,” an area in central Appalachia that once served as a critical cog in the coal industry’s wheel. When historic floods ravaged the area in late July 2022, May decided to trade in her medical work for flood research and activism with the nonprofit community well-being organization Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. “I’ve lived here all my life, and I could not believe it when I saw helicopters going out to rescue people,” she says. “Never has there been this many deaths.”
As the new semester began, teachers throughout Florida were faced with new state laws strictly limiting curricula—prompting schools to remove droves of books from their classrooms and libraries for fear of being in violation of the draconian but opaque new laws. An already-chilling reality gripping the third most populous state is getting even chillier in the wake of controversial legislation such as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and the Stop Woke Act, which both went into effect in July 2022. The DeSantis administration rolled out several initiatives in January 2023 aimed at eliminating broad swathes of the existing curriculum, including banning the teaching of Advanced Placement (AP) African American Studies for high school students throughout Florida.
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.