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.
Tallahassee, Florida - The $27 million in regressive sales tax money diverted from potentially legitimate Blueprint projects to enhance the football experience of powerful white friends of the Chamber of Commerce and Florida State University (FSU) trustees who could care less about poor people in general and Black and brown people in particular, represents a betrayal. It is a betrayal by Nick Maddox and every single Black politician that sold their souls in support of this FSU monstrosity. These include Bill Proctor, Carolyn Cummings, Curtis Richardson and Dianne Williams Cox. Obscene levels of Black infant mortality have not gone anywhere. Yet the Tallahassee power structure would never spend this amount of money to deal with the mortality of Black and brown infants and their mothers.
Date on which the Florida Senate Education Committee gave initial approval along party lines to a bill sponsored by Republican state Sen. Manny Diaz Jr. and championed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis that would prohibit public schools and private businesses from making white people feel "discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress" when teaching about racism: 1/18/2022 Number of days later that a Florida school district canceled a college professor's seminar for teachers on the history of the civil rights movement, citing in part concerns over critical race theory: 1 Month in which DeSantis held a campaign-style event in which he called critical race theory — a decades-old academic movement examining the intersection of race and law — "crap" and said he'd press for legislation banning it from being taught in his state's schools: 12/2021
2022 marks 10 years since fast food workers in New York first went on strike to demand higher wages, better working conditions, and the right to unionize — sparking the Fight For $15 movement. Since that time, the movement has gained traction, with California raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour and several other states passing legislation that will gradually do so. As the ongoing global pandemic has drawn attention to the fact that the people who keep the country running are overworked and underpaid, workers have continued to strike for higher wages and union rights. In many cases, their demands are being met. Showing the tremendous strides made by Fight for $15, a record number of states and localities are raising their wages this year.
We write to request the expedited release of American Indian elder Leonard Peltier, who is 77 years old and who has served more than 44 years in federal prison, some in solitary confinement, in numerous prisons across the United States. He suffers from severe health conditions, such as diabetes and an abdominal aortic aneurysm that can be lethal if ruptured. The Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a national response to the COVID-19 pandemic authorizing the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to release elderly inmates and those with underlying health conditions from federal prisons. Mr. Peltier is currently imprisoned at the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Florida. Given his underlying health conditions and age, we ask he be granted clemency and immediate action be taken to release him from federal custody.