In recent years, U.S. labor organizing has turned an exciting corner. National headlines have burst with workers putting pressure on far corners of the economy for fair wages and safe, secure jobs — from employees at major logistics corporations like Amazon and UPS to auto workers and Hollywood writers and actors. The world of higher education is no different, and colleges and universities across the country have seen their own wave of new labor campaigns. Last fall, for example, 48,000 workers at the University of California went on a 40-day strike — the largest higher ed strike in U.S. history.
More than a thousand Chicagoans of all ages, genders and sexualities packed tightly into the Metro for its sold-out “Chicago Loves Drag!” show on April 14. The balconies overflowed with people dressed in exuberant color, eagerly peering over one another to get a view of the night’s 41 performers. Drag kings and queens made the room their own, claiming the audience’s full attention with lip syncs, comedy acts and dance routines, a radiant variety show highlighting the broad — and liberatory — entertainment that drag offers. Proceeds benefited the work of LGBTQ organizations in Chicago and Tennessee.
On May 31, Dollar General workers rallied and marched towards the annual meeting of company shareholders to demand safe working conditions in Goodlettsville, Tennessee. As workers mobilized, shareholders voted to approve a resolution put forward by a progressive-leaning investment firm to conduct an independent worker safety and well-being audit on the company, despite Dollar General advising shareholders to vote no. The company argues that it already performs its own safety checks and audits, while the investment firm claims that Dollar General is unclear if employee feedback at all informs its safety policies.
The death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols at the hands of Memphis police officers last month once again ignited outrage over the violent, militarized nature of U.S. law enforcement and placed scrutiny on police departments’ bloated budgets . Among the objections to policing that are being revived are criticisms of a controversial series of trainings and exchange programs for U.S. police in Israel. Scores of American law enforcement leaders have attended the programs, where they learned from Israeli police and security forces known for systemically abusing the human rights of Palestinians. Some of the Memphis Police Department’s top brass, including current Chief Cerelyn Davis, participated in the programs. Davis, who previously helmed the police department in Durham, North Carolina, completed a leadership training with the Israel National Police in 2013.
The cold-blooded assassination of Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, also known as Tortuguita, Spanish for “Little Turtle,” is a reminder that fascism in the United States cannot be reduced to the political intentions of avowed white nationalists. African/Black and Indigenous people residing in the settler-colonial project known as the United States continue to be subjected to a cycle of state-sanctioned violence and political repression with bipartisan consensus. People of the global majority and their allies must not allow these latest episodes of injustice to go unanswered. The Atlanta City-Wide Alliance of the Black Alliance for Peace (BAP-Atlanta) has been working with a coalition of Indigenous people, African/Black people, other people of color, and Euro-Americans to prevent the construction of “Cop City,” as BAP-Atlanta expressed in a recent statement. The statement highlighted the obvious nexus between the proposed $90 million police-training facility site, where Tortuguita was killed on January 18, and the white supremacy-fueled genocide, militarism, and oppression the U.S. empire exercises both outside and within.
People took to the streets across the United States Friday night after the city of Memphis, Tennessee released videos of a January 7 traffic stop that led to five police officers being fired and charged with the murder of 29-year-old Black motorist Tyre Nichols. Demonstrators and the Nichols family have called for disbanding the MPD Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods (SCORPION) team that launched in 2021 and was involved in the traffic stop. The Memphis mayor said Friday afternoon that the unit has been inactive since Nichols' January 10 death. The footage shows that after police brutally beat Nichols—pushing him to the ground; using pepper spray; punching and kicking him; and striking him with a baton—it took 22 minutes from when officers said he was in custody for an ambulance to arrive and take him to the hospital, where he later died from cardiac arrest and kidney failure.
Memphis, Tennessee - Five police officers from Memphis, Tennessee who murdered the 29-year-old Black father Tyre Nichols, were arrested and charged with second-degree murder on January 26. Nichols was brutally beaten for three minutes by Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith following a traffic stop on January 7. He succumbed to his wounds three days later, in the hospital. An autopsy found that he had suffered excessive internal bleeding as a result of the beating. His death provoked mass outrage in Memphis and throughout the country, and many have been demanding accountability for those responsible. Although police violence is prevalent in the US (2022 recorded 1,176 police killings, more than any year in US history), it is extremely rare for police to be held accountable for these crimes. From 2013 to 2022, 98% of police murders did not result in officers being charged for a crime.
Brentwood, Tennessee - Latino immigrant kitchen workers and a group of racially diverse women servers walked out at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Brentwood, Tennessee, on Saturday, January 14. They say their employer is serving up of a toxic brew of racism and sexism. “We went on strike to fire a manager because he is mistreating my co-workers verbally and physically,” Juan Carlos Mendoza, a barback with six years at the restaurant, told the Spanish-language news channel Nashville Noticias. “The manager is a racist… and that’s why we raised our voices.” Eighteen workers walked out, accusing general manager Andrew “Hunter” Kirkpatrick of racist and abusive behavior, including throwing away their lunches, berating them for speaking Spanish, and threatening to call the police on them. The kitchen workers are indigenous people from Mexico and Guatemala.
Starting July 1, people experiencing homelessness who sleep on state-owned land could face prison time and heavy fines. The controversial law has many people concerned about the unhoused community in the area. That’s why several people gathered at Legislative Plaza for a rally and march to Commerce Street Park. Some advocates are planning on sleeping overnight at the park to send a message to lawmakers that homelessness should not be a crime. The group Open Table Nashville organized the protest. The new law makes it a felony to camp on public property and could lead to up to six years in prison and thousands in fine. It also makes it a misdemeanor to camp under state bridges and overpasses.
Tennessee - If you are wondering what it looks like when school privatizers are close to total victory, Tennessee is a prime example. Here, the forces that want to take public money and hand it over to private entities are on the verge of completing their conquest. Tennessee’s current legislative session features a range of attacks on public schools. Some of these would have immediate impacts, while others take a longer-term approach to fully privatizing K-12 education in the state. First, it is important to understand that groups backing privatization in the form of charter schools and vouchers are among the top spenders when it comes to lobbying state legislators. For example, the American Federation for Children—an organization founded and previously led by the family of Betsy DeVos, a school privatization advocate and former President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education—spent $887,500.
Tennessee’s Rutherford County, which has been widely criticized for its juvenile justice system, has been jailing Black children at a disproportionately high rate, according to newly obtained data. And, in a departure from national trends, the county’s racial disparity is getting worse, not better. In an earlier story, ProPublica and Nashville Public Radio chronicled a case in Rutherford County in which 11 Black children were arrested for a crime that does not exist. Four of the children were booked into the county’s juvenile jail. Since publishing that story, the two news organizations have received reports from the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. This data shows that while the county was locking up so many kids — often illegally — it was also jailing an exceptionally high percentage of Black children.
It’s hard to find good climate news these days–but there’s some out of Tennessee. A company that was set to build a hotly contested oil pipeline through Black neighborhoods in Memphis said on Friday that the project is off. “The stars aligned for this fight,” Ward Archer, founder of Protect Our Aquifer, a community group fighting the pipeline, told the Memphis Appeal of the decision. “Sometimes the good guys win and this is one of those times.” The 49-mile Byhalia Connection pipeline, if it had been completed, would have run through Tennessee and Mississippi to connect two existing pipelines, eventually transporting crude oil from Texas to Louisiana for export. A spokesperson for one of the partial owners of the project, Plains All American, said in a release that their decision to drop the Byhalia project was “due to lower U.S. oil production resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Black communities in Memphis, TN are leading a growing opposition campaign to the Byhalia Connection Pipeline, a proposed crude oil pipeline funded by the fossil fuel corporations Valero and Plains All American. Byhalia has yet to receive a crucial federal permit for the project, lacks local government approvals, and has not acquired all necessary easements for the pipeline route. Advocates argue that there is ample local authority to block the pipeline project. In an interview, Wyatt Price, a supervising land agent for Plains All American, said: “We took, basically, a point of least resistance” in reference to siting the project through Southwest Memphis, highlighting the concerns of locals who believe that they were targeted because of the racial and economic composition of the area.
Nashville, TN - A social justice group out of Knoxville, Tennessee made the trek to the State Capitol building on Tuesday, demanding that lawmakers take immediate action on issues like Medicare for all, and the fight for racial equality. This comes on the first day of the legislative session. Earlier Tuesday afternoon when the demonstration was still happening, the rally organizers said their groups wasn't as big as they had hoped it would be, partly because of what happened at the U.S. Capitol last week. But despite their small numbers, they say their message carried big importance. "What's that spell? Black Lives Matter! What's that spell? Black Lives Matter! What's that spell? Black Lives Matter!" demonstrators chanted.
A middle school educator in Knoxville, Tennessee recently came forward to speak with the World Socialist Web Site about the unsafe conditions at her school. Knox County currently has nearly 13,000 cases of COVID-19 and 92 deaths, making it the third most affected county in the state, behind Shelby (Memphis) and Davidson (Nashville) counties. With the abandonment of even the most rudimentary safety measures at schools and other workplaces, cases in Tennessee have continued to surge in recent months. October has been the state’s deadliest month of the pandemic, with over 700 succumbing to the virus.