The incidents of mindless, mass carnage in the United States have become so routine that they do not even make national headlines unless the incident has a potential attention-grabbing twist. One of those dramatic twists is when the victims of a mass-shooting are from a common social identity and the perpetrator appeals to be motivated by hatred of the targeted group. This is what makes the shooting in Buffalo stand out. The authorities could not hide the fact that it was a hate crime and the media saw a juicy story, if only for a day or two. However, for those of us who are members of communities and peoples who are increasingly finding ourselves on the receiving end of state and private racially motivated violence, we have a life-or-death requirement to attempt to understand the complex political and socio-cultural elements that are producing this dangerous environment.
Buffalo, New York - On Thursday, workers at a downtown Starbucks in Buffalo, New York went on strike after the company announced it was planning to withhold proposed wage increases and benefits from employees at newly unionized stores. The one-day strike, which shut down the entire store, was a direct response to the announcement by CEO Howard Schultz that proposed raises and benefit increases at corporate-owned Starbucks cafes would not apply to locations that had already unionized or which are planning to unionize. Schultz, who founded the company and now has a net worth of almost $4 billion, claimed that his hands were tied and that Starbucks is legally unable to make changes to wages and benefits at stores that have organized or which are currently involved in collective bargaining. But this is a lie.
On April 28, 2022, in DeWitt, NY night court, Judge David Gideon presiding, pro se defendants Mark Scibilia-Carver and Tom Joyce of the Ithaca Catholic Worker and the Upstate Drone Action Coalition, had their 2019 violation charges for blocking, with several others, the main entrance of Hancock drone base, home of the 174th Attack Wing of the NYS Air National Guard. dismissed “in the interests of justice.” According to Sujata Gibson, stand-by counsel and Cornell Law School faculty, the dismissal “was significant, not just to this movement but to our collective conversation about the role of non-violent peaceful action in our democracy.” Gibson continued, “It was an honor to witness the thought that Judge Gideon put into his decision and deeply moving to hear the words of those who put themselves on the line to bring attention to these issues.”
Folsom, California - After a pharmacist tells Maria Bernal in January she probably has Covid-19, Bernal goes to the Jack in the Box fast food restaurant where she works with a fever and chills. She can barely read the order screen, she’s so dizzy. To show her manager how sick she is, Bernal places her cold hands on her manager’s face. “Don’t worry, everyone has it, you can still work,” the manager says, according to a complaint filed January 14 with the Sacramento County Public Health department. “Just wear a mask and don’t tell anyone.” Bernal says she worked a double shift that day and continued working with Covid over the next four days. Three of Bernal’s coworkers have joined in the complaint, alleging Covid-related violations of public health guidelines.
Thousands of porters, doorpersons, superintendents, concierges, and handypersons with SEIU Local 32BJ gathered on Park Avenue in Manhattan on Wednesday for a rally to demand a fair contract. These essential residential workers are currently in contract negotiations with the Real Estate Advisory Board and are demanding wage increases and fully employer-paid health insurance for their families. The workers also raised the slogan of “no givebacks,” in response to bosses demanding they pay into their own health insurance and take cuts to paid time off. These workers deserve what they have already — and far more.
Much has been written in recent months about the New York City jail at Rikers Island. The violence is overwhelming there. Corruption is endemic. Prisoners die from neglect or from violent acts with regularity. But the sad truth is that Rikers is not the worst prison in the world, as many believe. It’s not even the worst prison in New York. That would be the Great Meadow Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in Washington County, New York. The most recent statistics released by the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) show that Great Meadow has the highest rate of suicide of any prison in the state, the highest rate of suicide attempts, the highest rate of self-harm and the second-highest rate of staff violence. These figures point to an ongoing crisis that New York’s politicians have done literally nothing to correct. And there is no indication whatsoever that federal authorities are willing to get involved.
In the past year, Elsa Martinez has seen utility bills from New York energy monopoly Con Edison soar to as much as $300 per month. The costs seemed inexplicable to Martinez, a disabled Harlem resident. “Half the time I wasn’t home! That’s what threw me off.” Martinez mentions that the high bills may stem from her grandkids watching television. And the fact that she has to leave her hallway light on to make sure she does not miss steps when she gets up in the night — things she fears giving up. Martinez had to turn to Adult Protective Services to keep her lights on, though Con Ed has shut off her power multiple times since the start of the pandemic. “They’re the pits to me, I call them a bunch of crooks,” said Martinez about Con Ed.
In initial vote tallies today, Amazon warehouse workers in New York are ahead by hundreds of votes in favor of forming a union, while in Alabama the election is too close to call, pending a court hearing. The vote at Amazon’s mammoth warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, was a rerun of the election last April that the union lost by more than 2 to 1. The results of that election were thrown out after the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that Amazon had illegally interfered with the vote. This time, out of 2,375 valid ballots, 993 workers at the fulfillment center voted against joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, while 875 workers voted in favor. There are 416 ballots being contested by either the company or the union, and 59 voided ballots.
This is the latest attempt by New York State to oppress the Onöndawá’ga (Seneca) People. New York State Governor Kathy Hochul has found a way to deliver an economic blow to the Seneca Nation of Indians (SNI); by freezing their banking transactions in a time during gross inflation and need for medicines and assistance. Governor Hochul’s husband is employed as general counsel for Delaware North Corporation (DNC); ergo: Hochul household income is partially provided by Delaware North Corporation, the very same company that built three racetrack casinos in violation of the original 2002 exclusivity gaming agreement between SNI and NYS. It was this violation, in which New York State was a guilty party and business partner of DNC, that led to the 2013 amended compact… the core of the ongoing legal dispute between NYS and SNI.
Akwesasne Territory – The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council is pleased to report that the decades-long dispute over the reservation boundary has been decided upon by the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York. In a summary judgment ruling issued by U.S. District Judge Lawrence Kahn on Enniskó:wa/March 14, 2022, the court ruled that New York State’s purchase of reservation lands in the 1800s violated the federal Non-Intercourse Act. “To say that we are pleased is an understatement,” shared Tribal Chief Beverly Cook. Chief Cook added, “We should all be proud of the perseverance that our recent and ancient ancestors displayed, who stood fast in their determination to protect our lands. We stand in the footprints of our parents and grandparents who fought relentlessly to reclaim our land that was illegally taken.
Just as New York case rates drop and officials roll back health requirements for schools and businesses, another coronavirus variant is showing signs of derailing the state’s recovery from the winter COVID surge. Known as BA.2, this virus is an offshoot, or sublineage, of the omicron variant that just swept through New York State. It’s like a kid sister, and some experts even call it “Omicron 2.” But it spreads about 30% faster than its sibling — BA.1 — and is just as severe, according to the World Health Organization. Data from the New York State health department shows that BA.2 is quickly moving to dominate its viral kin. BA.2 is doubling in proportion statewide every two weeks and represents about one in 10 sequenced cases.
Buffalo, NY - Starbucks workers at a store in Buffalo, New York, voted to unionize on Thursday, a first for the 50-year-old coffee retailer in the U.S. and the latest sign that the labor movement is stirring after decades of decline. The National Labor Relations Board said Thursday that workers voted 19-8 in favor of a union at the Elmwood Avenue location, one of three stores in Buffalo where elections were being held. A second store rejected the union in a vote of 12-8, but the union said it might challenge that result because it wasn’t confident all of the eligible votes had been counted. The results of a third store could not be determined because both sides challenged seven separate votes.
A dozen oil workers rally in front of the United Metro Energy (UMEC) terminal in Brooklyn on their 113th day on strike August 10. They’re fighting one of the largest suppliers of heating oil and motor fuels in New York. The strike began months prior, on April 19. After workers spent one of the hottest summers in decades on the picket line, the rally provided a much-needed morale boost. The workers were joined by dozens of supporters, including fellow Teamsters and some perhaps unexpected allies — four of New York City’s elected democratic socialists, all of whom campaigned for the drastic reduction of fossil fuel use.
Twelve workers at a Long Island vineyard became the first agricultural workers to form part of a labor union in New York State. On Sept. 27, the New York State Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) certified Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW, to represent these workers, who are employed at Pindar Vineyards in Peconic, New York. “My coworkers at Pindar and I joined Local 338 because we want dignity and respect. Our work should be valued and only by receiving equal treatment and things like sick days and paid time off to spend with our loved ones will it be,” Rodolfo M., Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW member and worker at Pindar Vineyards, said in a statement. “We know that being a union member will help us get the recognition we deserve for all of our efforts.”
Roughly 2,200 nurses, aides and health care staff walked off the job Friday morning in Buffalo, New York, to fight for better wages, staffing and working conditions at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo. Workers on the picket line describe horrific conditions at the hospital. Patients’ rooms, hallways, cafeterias and even medical equipment are filthy because the hospital refuses to hire enough workers. “Very poor conditions,” Carrie Dilbert, a registered nurse, told cable news station Spectrum News. “The hospital is not kept up the way it needs to be. It’s very dirty. Very low staffed. The morale is terrible. The culture there is terrible.” “It’s heartbreaking when I have to decide which critical patient I really need to take care of,” Maureen Kryszak from the Emergency Department told Spectrum News.