310,567 Signatures Block ‘Right To Work’ In Missouri

After a grassroots effort gathered 310,567 signatures, Missouri was forced to postpone the implementation of right to work till November 2018, when voters will determine its future. Photo: We Are Missouri

By Judy Ancel for Labor Notes – The results astounded everyone who thought they knew the Missouri labor movement: more than 300,000 signatures to repeal “right to work.” Thousands of union members and allies marched through the streets of the state capital August 18 to deliver 163 boxes of petitions signed by 310,567 Missourians. The signers called for a referendum to repeal the right-to-work law passed by the legislature earlier this year. The signatures gathered were more than three times the number needed. Although signatures were needed in only six of the state’s eight Congressional districts, there were enough to qualify from all eight, and they came from all 114 Missouri counties. The state was forced to postpone the August 28 implementation of right to work till November 2018, when voters will determine its future. The petition drive was coordinated by We Are Missouri, a coalition of unions both in and out of the state AFL-CIO. Volunteers from Missouri Jobs with Justice and the Sierra Club stepped up, too. Most of the money for the campaign came from Missouri unions, with contributions as low as $100 and as high as $83,000. Much bigger donations came from labor PACs representing the state AFL-CIO, Teamsters, and Carpenters. As of August 31, the labor side had raised $1.36 million and spent almost half of it.

DOE Officially Marks SunShot’s $1 Per Watt Goal For Utility-Scale Solar

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By Julia Pyper for GTM – It’s official. The solar industry has met the 2020 utility-scale solar cost target set by the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative — three years early. The DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released new research today that shows the average price of utility-scale solar is now under $1 per watt and below 6 cents per kilowatt-hour. That’s higher than the record-breaking project bids we’ve seen in the U.S. and abroad in recent years. But that’s because DOE calculations for levelized cost of energy (LCOE) do not include subsidies — such as the federal Investment Tax Credit — and are based on the average climate in Kansas City, Missouri. (Note: GTM documented the sub-$1 per watt milestone earlier this year, but the department is using its own metrics.) “Our mission is to make solar affordable for all Americans, and so our goals are defined for average U.S. climates. We use Kansas City as that example,” said Becca Jones-Albertus, acting deputy director of the SunShot Initiative. “Hitting a 6 cents per kilowatt-hour target for Kansas is a more significant metric than hitting 6 cents in sunnier parts of the country.” GTM Research reported that U.S. utility-scale fixed-tilt system pricing fell below $1.00 per watt earlier this year using a different methodology.

NAACP Issues First-Ever Travel Advisory For A State

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By Ian Cummings for Governing – NAACP officials say their recent travel advisory for Missouri is the first that the civil rights group has issued for any state. But the warning follows a recent trend of similar alerts issued by other groups for vulnerable people around the United States. The travel advisory, circulated in June by the Missouri NAACP and recently taken up by the national organization, comes after travel alerts began appearing in recent years in light of police shootings in the U.S. and ahead of immigration legislation in Texas and Arizona. The Missouri travel advisory is the first time an NAACP conference has ever made one state the subject of a warning about discrimination and racist attacks, a spokesman for the national organization said Tuesday. Missouri became the first because of recent legislation making discrimination lawsuits harder to win, and in response to longtime racial disparities in traffic enforcement and a spate of incidents cited as examples of harm coming to minority residents and visitors, say state NAACP leaders. Those incidents included racial slurs against black students at the University of Missouri and the death earlier this year of 28-year-old Tory Sanders, a black man from Tennessee who took a wrong turn while traveling and died in a southeast Missouri jail even though he hadn’t been accused of a crime.

History Has Good News For Today’s Student Protesters

Today's protests bring about memories of student activism in the 60s. Photo by AP

By Lily Rothman for The Times – In recent days, as protests over racial issues at the University of Missouri have resulted in the resignation of university president Tim Wolfe, and as thousands of Yale students organized a march in response to racial divisions on their own campus, it’s been easy to compare this latest wave of campus activism with previous such moments in American history. The anti-war demonstrations that swept the nation during the late 1960s and ’70s remain perhaps the most famous moment of American student activism—and, if the comparison holds, they provide at least one reason for today’s activists to be optimistic about the larger implications of their visibility.

How Many Lies Can You Find In This Interview With Ferguson Chief?

Police watch over protests which erupted after the police killing of Michael Brown, Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo.

By Molly Hennessy-Fiske in The Los Angeles Times – Alan “Al” Eickhoff, interim police chief in Ferguson, Mo., took over the embattled department in March after former Chief Tom Jackson resigned amid investigations into how police handled the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Eickhoff, 59, had joined the department as assistant chief five days before Brown’s shooting Aug. 9 by Officer Darren Wilson. Previously, he spent four years with the nearby Creve Coeur Police Department and 32 years with the St. Louis County Police Department. After a grand jury decided in November not to indict Wilson in Brown’s death, riots erupted in Ferguson. Then in March, officials from the U.S. Department of Justice said Ferguson police had persistently and repeatedly violated the constitutional rights of African Americans.

Protestors Disrupt Mo. Legislature Opening Ceremony

Photo by Bridjes O'Neil

Protestors disrupted the opening ceremony of the Missouri Legislature at noon today, after holding a die-in around the rotunda of the state capitol. Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder quickly ordered the entire gallery, or public seating, to be cleared. While Missouri Highway Patrol officers escorted protestors out of the gallery, they chanted “no justice, no peace” and then started singing, “We shall overcome.” They continued to march and protest throughout the capitol building. In a news release earlier today, Don’t Shoot – a coalition of nearly 50 St. Louis-area organizations formed in response to the police shooting of Michael Brown –called on lawmakers to address systemic problems surrounding police practices in communities of color As the Missouri Legislature kicked off its 2015 session.

Michael Brown Case Grand Juror Sues St. Louis County Prosecutor

St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch announces the grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, at the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton. Photo by Cristina Fletes-Boutte, cfletes-boutte@post-dispatch.com

A grand jury member’s lawsuit seeking a court order to speak out about the Michael Brown shooting investigation accuses Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch of publicly misrepresenting the panel’s viewpoint after it chose not to indict Officer Darren Wilson. In documents filed Monday in federal court in St. Louis, “Grand Juror Doe” wants freedom to challenge McCulloch’s comments, “especially the implication that all grand jurors believed that there was no support for any charges.” The filing says that the heavily redacted grand jury documents McCulloch released Nov. 24 “do not fully portray the proceedings before the grand jury.” McCulloch spoke publicly that night about the grand jury’s decision against charging Wilson.

Ferguson: Example Of Neoliberal State Violence Taking Hold Worldwide

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The recent killing and then demonization of an unarmed 18-year-old African-American youth, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri by a white police officer has made visible how a kind of military metaphysics now dominates American life. The police have been turned into soldiers who view the neighborhoods in which they operate as war zones. Outfitted with full riot gear, submachine guns, armored vehicles, and other lethal weapons imported from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, their mission is to assume battle-ready behavior. Is it any wonder that violence rather than painstaking, neighborhood police work and community outreach and engagement becomes the norm for dealing with alleged “criminals,” especially at a time when more and more behaviors are being criminalized? To read more articles by Henry A. Giroux and other authors in the Public Intellectual Project, click here. But I want to introduce a caveat. I think it is a mistake to simply focus on the militarization of the police and their racist actions in addressing the killing of Michael Brown. What we are witnessing in this brutal killing and mobilization of state violence is symptomatic of the neoliberal, racist, punishing state emerging all over the world, with its encroaching machinery of social death. The neoliberal killing machine is on the march globally. The spectacle of neoliberal misery istoo great to deny any more and the only mode of control left by corporate-controlled societies is violence, but a violence that is waged against the most disposable such as immigrant children, protesting youth, the unemployed, the new precariat and black youth.

Rebellion In Ferguson: A Rising Heat In The Suburbs

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The public reaction to the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., exposes the shifting dynamic of rebellion and repression in the United States. Spontaneous uprisings against the lethal force routinely employed by militarized police units will probably not erupt at first out of the old epicenters of unrest—Watts, Detroit, Harlem, Newark and others—but suburban black communities such as Ferguson, near St. Louis. In most of these communities, the power structures remain in the hands of white minorities although the populations have shifted from white to black. Only three of the 53 commissioned officers in Ferguson’s police department are black. These conditions, which approximate the racial divides that set off urban riots in the 1960s, have the potential to trigger a new wave of racial unrest in economically depressed black suburbs, and perhaps later in impoverished inner cities, especially amid a stagnant economy, high incarceration and unemployment rates for blacks and the rewriting of laws to make police forces omnipotent. “We are headed into a period of increased social protest,” said Lawrence Hamm, one of the nation’s most important community organizers and the longtime chairman of the People’s Organization for Progress. POP, which has roughly 10,000 members, is based in Newark and has 13 chapters, most of them in New Jersey. I met with Hamm in a downtown coffee shop in Newark.

Escalation Of Violence By Government, Escalates Street Violence

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In 1966, Martin Luther King started to campaign against segregation in Chicago only to find his efforts thwarted by violent mobs and a scheming mayor. Marginalised by the city’s establishment, he could feel that non-violence both as a strategy and as a principle was eroding among his supporters. “I need some help in getting this method across,” he said. “A lot of people have lost faith in the establishment … They’ve lost faith in the democratic process. They’ve lost faith in non-violence … [T]hose who make this peaceful revolution impossible will make a violent revolution inevitable, and we’ve got to get this over, I need help. I need some victories, I need concessions.” He never got them. The next year there were more than 150 riots across the country, from Minneapolis to Tampa. As the situation escalates in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, where police recently shot an unarmed black man as he walked down the street, many are clearly losing faith. As the first day of curfew drew to a close, hundreds of police in riot gear swept through the streets, using tear gas, smoke canisters and rubber bullets against an increasingly agitated crowd. Earlier this morning the governor, Jay Nixon, deployed the national guard.

Missouri Central To Debate On Race From Dred Scott To Michael Brown

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News out of Ferguson, Mo., has been devastating. Since unarmed teenager Michael Brown was killed by an as-yet-unidentified police officer, local police have responded to the community’s demonstration of outrage with unprecedented force—using military-style weaponry to suppress peaceful protests, arrest black elected officials and detain journalists. And Brown’s death seems to have unearthed a history of disregard for the rights of black residents. There is outrage across the country because Ferguson officials have not behaved as though the black citizens of this majority-black town have the same rights as all other Americans. Reporters keep saying that these images do not look like America, but Ferguson is America. And in America, black citizens should enjoy equal protection under the law and the right of a free press to report on what is happening anywhere in the United States. And this moment in Ferguson, Mo., makes me think about the historic Dred Scott v. Sandford case, an 1857 Supreme Court decision which had its roots in this same part of the country.

Ferguson Case Poses Test For Corporate Media

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The killing of Michael Brown, an African-American man, by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, posed a test for corporate media. The story was hard to avoid once the local community came out in protest, still ongoing, and were met harshly by police. Probably more significant for the press corps, the online community–in this case largely black social media–erupted in pain and anger, with some of their criticism directed at the press itself. Some media have hewed to troubling practices that privilege police accounts and play up the specter of unruly mobs, as with the USA Today story (8/14/14) that rhetorically balanced “angry calls for reform and tear gas lobbed at protesters,” in a piece that glossed the use of dogs, submachine guns and riot gear as police “seek[ing] order.” And some will always choose to bland it out, like the L.A. Times’ reference (8/13/14) to “an unsettled national conversation over race and policing.” The surprise, then, has been the extent to which some media seem to be taking the outcry seriously, talking about the militarization of police–brought home by the rough treatment given to reporters covering the story–and the criminalization of black people.

After Ferguson, How Should Police Respond To Protests?

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The events these last few days in Ferguson, Missouri ought to be of grave concern to anyone who believes in the First Amendment, and specifically the rights to free speech, protest, and assembly. As you may have read, last night was particularly ugly, as police arrested a St. Louis alderman, Huffington Post reporter Ryan J. Reilly, and our own Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery. Police also tear-gassed a news crew from Al-Jazeera. There are also reports, video, and images of police teargassing, arresting, and otherwise intimidating peaceful protests all over the town. While it’s true that there have been incidents of rioting, looting, and violence directed at police, the initial protests against Michael Brown’s killing were peaceful.* The only hint of violence at the first protest was described by an Associated Press reporter, who reported chants of “kill the police.” That report has since been disputed by people at the protest, who have suggested that the AP journalist or police misheard other chants. From what I can find, that report was also never confirmed by any other journalist. The problem lies in how local police responded to that initial protest. They brought out the full riot arsenal. Here we have a community that doesn’t see itself reflected in the police force. Ferguson is 67 percent black, while its police force is more than 90 percent white. It’s a community with long-simmering racial tension between police and the people they serve. It has now been well-reported that blacks are significantly over-represented when it comes to stop-and-frisks, traffic stops, and arrests in Ferguson, even though the town’s white residents are more likely to be caught with contraband like drugs or illegal weapons.

Civil Rights Commission Implores Eric Holder To Take Stronger Action On Ferguson

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The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is urging Attorney General Eric Holder to delve deeper into possible civil rights violations in the police response to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and to press for more accountability by police in communicating information to the public. In a Friday letter to Holder, the commission expressed support for the Department of Justice’s investigation of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teenager killed by a Ferguson police officer on Aug. 9, but called for more extensive scrutiny of the excessive police response to the subsequent protests. In particular, the commission requested that the Department of Justice examine the racial discrepancies between Ferguson’s residents and the city’s police force, writing that they “may be related, directly or indirectly, to the tension between concerned citizens and local government.” While over 60 percent of Ferguson’s residents are black, only three out of its 53 police officers and only one of its six city council members are black. The police force also has a history of racial profiling: Blacks in Ferguson are twice as likely to be stopped by police as whites. Racial profiling contributed to the city of St. Louis’ police chief’s decision to remove his officers from assisting the Ferguson police.

McCulloch Blasts Nixon For Replacing St. Louis County Police Control

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St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch Thursday night blasted the decision by Gov. Jay Nixon to replace St. Louis County Police control of the Ferguson situation with the Missouri State Highway Patrol. “It’s shameful what he did today, he had no legal authority to do that,” McCulloch said. “To denigrate the men and women of the county police department is shameful.” McCulloch noted that no one was seriously injured in the effort led by County Police Chief Jon Belmar until Nixon handed control of the Ferguson over to the state agency on Thursday. “For Nixon to never talk to the commanders in the field and come in here and take this action is disgraceful,” McCulloch said. “I hope I’m wrong, but I think what Nixon did may put a lot of people in danger.”