Tuesday, October 18, 2016

People's World Amistad Awards 2016

October 1, 2016
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
This year's Amistad Awards program is dedicated to carrying on the torch of     Arthur L. Perry, a great friend, union leader, and warrior for justice who received the People's World Amistad Award in 2009. The event will take place on Sunday, December 4, 2016 at 4:00 pm at Wexler Grant Community School, 55 Foote Street, New Haven on the theme "If there is no struggle, there can be no progress -- We march united for Racial Justice, Jobs and Peace."
We are excited to announce this year's awardees Ald. Jeanette Morrison, Dan Livingston and Juan Brito three outstanding leaders who have devoted their lives to the fight for economic and social justice for all.
A cultural program will highlight the event. 
We invite you to place an ad in the greeting book and take a bloc of tickets to honor the awardees and the occasion and pay tribute to Art Perry. The ad deadline is November 18, 2016.  Tickets are $10.  Greeting book and ticket information is available at ct-pww@pobox.com
Ald. Jeanette Morrison was elected to represent Ward 22 in New Haven as part of a labor-community coalition. She led the successful movement to re-build the Dixwell Q House, a youth center in the heart of the African American community next to Wexler-Grant school. As a social worker she fights to bring families together and for opportunities for children. She is a member of AFSCME.
Dan Livingston is a groundbreaking labor attorney and lifelong union and progressive activist. As a member of a firm of “troublemaking lawyers” (Livingston, Adler, Pulda, Meiklejohn and Kelly), he represents many public and private sector unions. He represents, works with, and serves on the boards of many coalitions, community and progressive organizations fighting for social justice in our state.
Juan Brito is a School Social Worker at Burns Latino Academy in Hartford, and a member of the Hartford Federation of Teachers. He is a writer for La Voz Hispana de Connecticut and a musician who has been performing with his wife Rebecca Delgado since 1977.  He has published two books of poetry about his country and experiences before, during and after the coup d'etat that affected Chile in 1973.   
The awards are presented to allies by the People's World on the occasion of the 97th anniversary of the Communist Party USA. We come together in hope and unity as rising economic and racial inequalities, climate change and war give rise to new organizing by youth, low-wage workers and the 99% toward a society that puts people and nature before corporate profits.
In Solidarity,
People's World Amistad Awards Committee

Door Knocking to Get Out the Vote in Newhallville

"If you have a vowel in the last letter of your last name, and if Trump gets elected president, if you leave the country and try to return you will not be entering this country again" Barbara Moreno a longtime resident of the Newhallville community strongly stated at her door last Saturday. She emphasized the importance of getting out the vote in this year's presidential election.

The door knocking team encountered many such conversations during the canvass of several streets in Ward 20. The main focus of these walks by the Winchester-Newhall Club is to mobilize, inform, and engage residents on their voter rights and the importance of voting for candidates who will champion their interests and needs.

Newhallville is a largely African American neighborhood with deep economic needs and high unemployment. Ward 20 has become one of the highest Democratic turnout wards in New Haven, electing a health care worker and union steward to the Board of Alders as part of a city-wide coalition. A high voter turnout in New Haven is key to election results state-wide.

At one door, a young woman said there was no point in voting because the whole system is bad. When she said she was a fast food worker and a student at Gateway Community College, the team told her that Hillary supports a $15/hr minimum wage and free tuition. She registered to vote, and will also receive information about the fight for $15.

Each week, small groups knock on doors and talk to residents, making sure they knew their voting poll station, checking to see if they are registered to vote and if not encouraging them of the importance especially this year. They are asked to sign a pledge to vote on November 8 and are asked if they would like to receive the People's World regularly.

Residents who have felonies are informed they can restore their voting rights, and given a flier with information provided from the website of the Connecticut Secretary of State.

In this election, the weekly door knocking

This weekly canvassing has been enjoyable and successful. It is helping inform the community and inspire participation and turnout.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

SCSU food service workers take on Chartwells

Food service workers at Southern Connecticut State University's dining locations are not giving in to contract negotiation proposals by Chartwells Schools Dining Services to lower health insurance, pension and life insurance benefits.

Chants of "No Contract! No Peace!"spread throughout the campus last Saturday on a sunny fall afternoon as Unite Here Local 217 members from Chartwells locations around the state marched and rallied together with students and community allies.

For several weeks the union members have been holding job actions to get their message out. Workers at SCSU's Connecticut Hall and Michael Adanti Student Center dining areas have been wearing "No Contract, No Peace?" union pins which get conversations started with students. The members of Unite Here Local 217 have walked off the food services lines and joined together for a quick solidarity chant before returning to their work stations.

Long-time Local 217 shop steward Nicholas McDonald explained "We're fighting for a fair contract. These are things we stand firmly on and fought hard to maintain. We are not allowing the company to take them from us," said McDonald. "We want decent jobs above the poverty level."

The workers, mostly African American, live in the New Haven area where SCSU is located, and have families and who might be in jeopardy of being laid off or losing their jobs and benefits.

"We are just using our First Amendment rights to march, rally, and do small demonstrations on the job site peacefully until our voices are heard and we have a better contract," said McDonald.

He added, "This is just one of many tools we use to show the company and university the strong bond and comradeship   among workers and unions alike. We are a part of the Southern Connecticut State University community, and we want to be recognized as such."

In addition to SCSU, Local 217 food service workers throughout the state are in contract negotiations with Chartwells. The workers have reached out to clergy, politicians, community organizations and other unions for solidarity and to apply pressure from the outside.

At Saturday's rally the SCSU food service workers were joined in the fight by their Unite Here Local 217 union brothers and sisters from the University Of Hartford, Eastern Connecticut State University, Trinity College, Electric Boat, Weslyan University, cafeteria workers at New Haven Public Schools, and New Haven Rising.

The crowd started out enthusiastically chanting "We are the union, the mighty, mighty union" in front of the Connecticut Hall dining facility and then marched to the University's bridge carrying a union banner "SCSU Food Service Workers United." They took pictures and encouraged cars driving by to honk their horns. After marching back to Connecticut Hall, they entered the cafeteria to confront Chartwells resident district manager Juan Dominguez.

The workers let Dominguez and Chartwells know that all the union food service workers are united and willing to fight for what they have. The workers sent a strong message that they are not giving in or moving backwards and they want decent contacts benefits and wages that keep providing vital jobs and lives for their families.

Unite Here Local 217 members at Trinity College, University Of Hartford, and Fairfield University are all currently in contract negotiations with Chartwells Dining Services, and are all in full support of each other during the fight for a fair contact. A series of upcoming actions have been announced. On September 29 there will be delegations at each campus. Public actions will be held at Trinity on October 8, at University of Hartford on October 15 and at Fairfield University on October 22.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Women's Capoeira Weekend Fuses Art and Struggle

Community residents, children, youth and families were introduced to the Afro-Brazilian martial art Capoeira in New Haven during an unprecedented women's weekend with Brazilian Mestra Tisza Coelho. Tisza, one of the first women ever to become a Capoeira Master, traveled from Bahia, Brazil to teach at the event organized by Lisa Bergmann, the first female professora in her studio, to honor women and mothers.
Bergmann and Master Efraim Silva, who has been teaching and leading Capoeira Academy for 27 years, kicked off the weekend with a crowded community class open for all to attend.
The youth and community members who crowded into the studio on a hot night enjoyed the interactive class and learning another culture.
The weekend's theme, "O Rio De Vida", Portuguese for "River Of Life," highlighted the expansion of Capoeira to women, showing that women who become mothers do not have to stop their Capoeira training and can also be great leaders.

The opening session began with a prayer to honor two Orishas, or Gods from the African Yoruba tradition that represent life, the earth,and the spirit. Honored were Oshun-Goddess of rivers, lakes, fertility, and Yemanja-the high mother Goddess, mother of all Orishas. 
In respect for the Orishas, participants signed a petition asking President Obama to stop the pipeline production and in support of the demands of the Standing Sioux Tribe to protect fresh water and sacred lands. Before the weekend was over, the President had halted construction for further investigation.
Capoeira's roots originate in Angola and the Congo, combining dance, acrobatics, and music.  The art form was developed in Brazil by enslaved West Africans who practiced the dance-like art form as training to escape to freedom. Capoeira is known for its quick and complex moves, using power, speed, and leverage for a wide variety of kicks, spins, and highly mobile techniques. 
Bergmann uses the art form to encourage everyone of all genders and ages. She started practicing 14 years ago when she fell in love with the music and the "Roda" or "Circle", where people play Capoeira. Today Capoeira is celebrated world-wide for it's mixture of dance, self-defense, and music.
Tisza began Capoeira in 1981 in Brazil. She started teaching in 1987, and then moved to Europe in 1991 where she taught and performed in many countries. In 1994 she came to the United States where she taught and lived in Boston and New York for several years.
Mestre Tisza is one of the few of the first generation of Capoeira women in Brazil to which she has dedicated her whole life. She is an inspiration to Capoeristas around the world. Her amazing 15 year-old-daughter Dora Flor, also an incredible Capoeirista, helped lead the women's weekend.

Participants in the weekend also learned from featured guest Janete Silva, a dancer, choreographer, performer and educator from Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. Silva's technique is a fusion of Capoeira and dance.
Capoeira is an art form for struggle and social justice and liberation from slavery. A word commonly used in Capoeira is "camara" which means comrade.
"Let's take the energy from this event and use it to commit to social justice in our present day. That's what Capoeira is about," Bergmann told the participants as the weekend concluded. "We have present day struggles that we must commit to continue the same way the struggle to end slavery was fought in Brazil."

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

New Union Leaders Emerge at Social Justice Academy

 Graduation was emotional for the dozen members of SEIU 32 BJ at the completion of the Social Justice Academy organized by their union and held at the New Haven Peoples Center.

The security guards and building cleaners set aside one Saturday each month to learn how to become stronger leaders in their workplaces. They discussed the causes and solutions to economic and racial inequality, the Fight for $15, immigrant rights, and the elections.

One worker said the sessions changed her life and gave her a renewed commitment to her union. Another called on all the participants to share their knowledge among their co-workers and develop many new leaders for worker rights.

A major theme was that all workers have a common concerns and needs, irregardless of country of origin or background.

Member Juan Aparicio prepared his remarks. An excerpt follows:

"Behind every social struggle  there are visionary people organizing, leading and seeking strategies to achieve  better objectives in favor of  the workers  and their community. A long time ago the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr said:
 "I am convinced that men hate each other because they fear each other. They fear each other because they don’t know each other, and they don’t know each other because they don’t communicate with each other, and they don’t communicate with each other because they are separated from each other.” (Mount Vernon, Iowa, Oct. 15, 1962)

"Today following his teaching I say:
"Dear brother Martin Luther King, in our SEIU 32 BJ, we are fighting to get rid of that hatred and that fear among us. Yes, my brother Dr. Martin Luther King, in our union (32 BJ) we can communicate with each other and we are not separated from each other anymore because we know that together we are stronger.
"Today when this seminar is done, the soul of the Reverend Martin Luther King and the souls of many other social activists are with us. Their legacy strengthens our spirits and raises our consciousness to higher levels in order to continue our fight for our community.  They showed us the path that we have to follow and we will achieve their legacy."