Philadelphia – Fast for Safe Schools

“In the beginning of June the School District of Philadelphia mailed over 3000 layoff notices. Out of that, 1,202 were for Student Safety Staff (members of Local 634), who are an essential part of the schools. This layoff was district-wide, and with this decision the schools would be completely unsafe for the children and the few remaining staff members.

On June 11, 2013, I was asked by the leaders of Local 634 to be a part of a drastic move to change the course of the projected plans of the school district for the upcoming school year. The move was to fast and pray for two weeks eating no food and drinking only water and resting in the basement of a church. It was not a hard decision for me to make because it was for the children and I wanted to do whatever it took to make a change.

Through the mighty action of the fast, the layoffs and current unsafe school situation went from only being a passing conversation among workers and family members perhaps, to gaining nationwide and international recognition. Most of all, the Governor changed his course of action from giving nearing nothing to fill the 330 million dollar deficit, to finding 140 million dollars and the recognition that there will be a new priority set for the Philadelphia school system in the future. The 140 million dollars is not enough to satisfy the current budget needs, however it is a start in the right direction to educate our children rather than to prepare them for failure and life of incarceration.”

– Marcia Teagle, School Cafeteria Worker, UNITE HERE Local 634 Member

New Haven Summer Organizers Sarah, Latoya, Eshe, and Mark went to Philadelphia with a delegation of local union and community leaders to join the Fast for Safe Schools. New Haven Summer Organizers Max and Gabe (not pictured) joined the fasters’ support team and stayed in Philadelphia for the duration.

 

“Spending time with the fasters in Philly further affirmed for me what organizing always seems to be teaching us: that our connections to each other, to some higher purpose, even to God—when channeled right—can be powerful enough to get even the strongest governments and companies to bend, and acknowledge that the people are a powerful force they must answer to in some way.”

– Eshe, Summer Organizer, New Haven

 

 

 

BREAKING NEWS: U.S. Marine Corps did not renew sponsorship of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)

Las Vegas, Nevada – After a nationwide public outcry, the U.S. Marine Corps did not renew its sponsorship of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the Las Vegas-based promoter of cage fighting events.

“We applaud the Marine Corps for taking this important step that respects the dignity of our men and women in uniform,” said Beatriz Topete, a U.S. Army veteran and director of the Veterans Committee of UNITE HERE, a labor union that represents more than 250,000 workers in the hospitality industry in North America. “We believe it is time for other sponsors to follow the lead of the Marine Corps and sever all ties with the UFC.”

The decision by the Marine Corps follows months of outrage and media attention. Military veterans, LGBTQ activists and survivors of sexual assault publicly called on the Marine Corps to sever its ties with the UFC over violent, homophobic, misogynistic and otherwise socially irresponsible remarks made by UFC fighters and its president, Dana White. The campaign to end the UFC-Marine Corps partnership was supported by more than two dozen state and national organizations. They included the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, Protect Our Defenders, National Institute of Military Justice, Veterans For Common Sense, Veterans For Peace, Veterans United For Truth, Women in the Military Project, and Sanctuary Project Veterans, as well as individual survivors of military sexual assault.

“This action by the Marine Corps is a step in the right direction. Military culture for too long has permitted degrading, violent and hate-filled speech and behavior towards men and women,” said Nancy Parrish, President of Protect Our Defenders, a national group that advocates for survivors of military sexual assault.

Popular UFC fighters have joked about rape on their public Twitter accounts, and made remarks that are demeaning towards women, gays and Latinos. In a disturbing video published in April on YouTube, UFC fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson pretends to sexually assault a woman in a parking garage using chloroform and zip ties. Jackson is scheduled to fight on the “UFC on FOX 6” event on Jan. 26th.

Other sponsors or business partners of the UFC include: Anheuser-Busch InBev, Edge Shaving Gel, Electronic Arts, FOX, Harley-Davidson Inc., MetroPCS Communications, MusclePharm, SafeAuto, Toyo Tires, TapouT, and XYIENCE Energy.

Boston UFC Delegation

On July 12th, this past Thursday, a group of summer organizers, volunteers, members of Veterans for Peace, and one veteran member of our union delegated the US Marine Corps to tell them that the UFC is Unfit for the Corps. After preparing for this delegation for several weeks, and roleplaying some possible outcomes, we were ready (yet nervous) to deliver the demands of over 4,000 supporters to the nearby Marine Corps recruitment office.

There was a lot of energy and excitement as everyone introduced themselves and the spokespeople shared their stories. Although several of the recruiting officers put up some arguments, defending their “partnership” with the company known as UFC, after it became clear that we weren’t going to be persuaded to give up, they stopped arguing and agreed to pass the message and petitions up the chain of command. After leaving the office with their promise to pass the message on, our high spirits continued onto the street where we passed out leaflets to people passing by the office.

We’re looking forward to hearing more about how things went down in other cities, as well as how the Marine Corps will respond to our collective actions.

Solidarity

-Neimy and Liam, 2012 Summer Organizers, Boston

 

Above Group Photo: “OBBers, volunteers, a Local 26 member veteran, and Veterans for Peace allies about to head in for their delegation.”  Back Row:  Charron (OBB volunteer),  Pat McGuire (Veterans for Peace),  Mark Matthews (Local 26 member and veteran), Liam (Summer Organizer), Douglas Stuart (Veterans for Peace), David Aguirre (Veterans for Peace), Thandiwe (Summer Organizer), Sam Geaney-Moore  (site leader), Alicia (Summer Organizer), Thien (Summer Organizer), Jia Hui (Summer Organizer). Front row: Roudna (Summer Organizer), Renee (Summer Organizer), Mary (Summer Organizer), Sergiu (Summer Organizer), Neimy (Summer Organizer).

New England Joint Board Joins the Training in NYC

You know you had a fun and meaningful day when you’ve been up since 4:30 a.m., travelled through three states, drove an hour home at 10:00 p.m. and still had plenty of energy to tell your roommate all about it.  In late June, members and OBBers from the New England Joint Board went to New York City for a training, and were introduced to campaigns with themes that have implications in the bigger picture of the labor movement.  When learning about the LSG Sky Chef’s campaign, there was a clear message that winning doesn’t happen overnight.  What was also clear is that a global perspective is not only vital, but also makes the campaign that much more intricate and exciting.

 

 

The campaign involving the Marines and the Ultimate Fighting Championship is a unique and bold undertaking.  Being part of the LGBT community and coming from a family background that includes generations of combat veterans makes me proud to be able to contribute to this campaign.  Often times, issues concerning respect for veterans, the LGBT community and women’s rights are put into categories of social justice, while issues of worker’s rights are put into the category of economic justice.  Here we can see that we can’t afford to separate any kind of injustice.  What we can learn from this is that any movement that limits its vision of equality will short change itself from any progress that it can make.

Finally, being in the presence of the team from the headquarters as well as our union’s President was affirming of one of the basic principles of the labor movement.    Regardless of what role you play, your voice matters and we are all a part of the whole.

Daniel, 2012 Summer Organizer, NEJB

Photo to the Left: Back Row (L-R): Ryan Hand (US Marine Corps Veteran, NEJB Local 406), Mike Bolduc (US Army Veteran, NEJB Local 687T), Jose Pichardo (US Navy Veteran, Local 687T), Lester Tuller (President, Local 687T), Larry Dixon (President, Local 406), Al Scafuri (NEJB Business Agent). Front Row (kneeling L-R): Ethan Snow (NEJB Political and Communications Director), Daniel (NEJB OBB intern), Benjamin (NEJB OBB intern), STANDING – Flora Perez (LOA OBB intern, NEJB Local 75), Emma Ross (NEJB Chief of Staff).

Photo to the Right:  (L-R): Ryan Hand (US Marine Corps Veteran, NEJB Local 406), Mike Bolduc (US Army Veteran, NEJB Local 687T), Jose Pichardo (US Navy Veteran, NEJB Local 687T), Lester Tuller (President, NEJB Local 687T), Larry Dixon (President, NEJB Local 406).

*NEJB Local 687T represents workers at Dyno-Nobel in Simsbury, CT manufacturing explosive detonation devices for the US military and commercial use.*NEJB Local 406 represents workers at General Dynamics ATP in Saco, ME manufacturing weapons systems for the US military including the M2 machine gun.

Victories in University Food Service: “We Discovered How Powerful We Really Were”

Great news from Northwestern and Harvard!

Will reports from Chicago:

“After 8 months of organizing and fighting, workers here at Northwestern won an amazing contract.

“After several negotiating sessions, including a marathon pair of sessions that totaled 24 hours over two days, workers on the negotiating committee finalized a deal that includes a new wage floor of $10.00 per hour on day one, up from $8.40, a combined raise of $2.30 over the four year contract, amazing protection for immigrant workers, and free health care for every full-time worker by the end of the contract.

“When students and workers started organizing together in January, the contract seemed impossibly far away. For many of us, it was our first real contract fight. As we dug ourselves into the work, however, the bonds between us tightened and we discovered how powerful we really were. This victory has changed the lives of both the workers and the students at Northwestern, and it has energized everyone here to fight harder to keep the movement rolling.”

In Boston, 550 members of Local 26 settled a groundbreaking contract with Harvard University. In their contract campaign, they called on Harvard to provide sustainable food and create sustainable jobs. Real earnings had fallen over the last several years as Harvard cut back the number of hours worked.

Dining hall workers partnered with Harvard students who organized delegations, participated in demonstrations, sat on the bargaining committee, and even leafleted Harvard president Drew Faust. Workers from Local 35 at Yale came to Harvard to attend rallies and participate in contract negotiations. As part of the contract settlement, Harvard agreed to create a joint committee with the union to adopt best practices for environmentally responsible food sourcing and preparation. Harvard also agreed to give Local 26 members priority hiring for jobs during the summer and winter recess, as well as language requiring that Local 26 members be offered work, including overtime, before temporary jobs can be assigned. Other key components to the ground-breaking contract included better protections for immigrant workers, better sick day coverage, seniority that workers carry with them throughout Harvard departments, significant wage increases, and a preservation of the quality health insurance with no increased payment by workers.”

Boston Summer Organizer Neal describes his experience fighting for victory at Harvard:

“Workers, students and allies from across New England had a lot to celebrate last week when the 550 dining hall workers at Harvard University settled a new contract. The September victory was won through worker organization and participation, as well as the activity of the Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) at Harvard and the support of other unions across Boston and the workers from Local 35 at Yale.

“The new contract increases wages and protects workers’ excellent health care benefits. It also commits Harvard to hiring dining hall workers for summer jobs, so that those workers will now have an income throughout the year, rather than just while school is in session. The most innovative part of the contract establishes a joint worker-management committee which will put Harvard on the path to a more systematic commitment to serving sustainable food – food that will be bought locally and prepared at Harvard. This is a significant victory for workers who know that this will mean more full-time work in the future and who want to be cooking high quality meals. It is also a victory for the student and environmental movements at Harvard, which have long sought ways to reduce our university’s environmental impact. Together, worker and student power won the day.

“As a student, I was particularly proud to see months of worker-student cooperation culminate in such a good contract, which won the overwhelming support of the union membership. I have been a member of SLAM for four years, and this past year was definitely the most active and exciting year of them all. We organized large contingents to march in several parades alongside our union allies, and also joined in pickets and protests. Three of our members even sat on the bargaining committee throughout the negotiations. During the summer, teams of students and union organizers went out to workers’ homes to talk about the fight for a new contract. Many thanks are owed to the workers and organizers who invited us to join in this historic fight, and found really substantial ways for us to make an impact on the fight.

“We learned a lot, and we won. Who could ask for more?”

A Chance to Reflect

Crew from Local 217 and Local 26My fellow Summer Organizer Chris and I were so glad to be a part of Local 217’s retreat last weekend. We deeply appreciated the opportunity to reflect on our work and grow closer as a team.
-Jen, Summer Organizer, Providence

Summer Organizer JenJen, Connie Holt, Courtney Smith, Karl Lechow, Chris, Local 26 President Brian Lang