Monday, February 23, 2009

African American History Month -- REALIZING THE DREAM

by Dorothy Johnson and Joelle Fishman

The Peoples Weekly World 35th Annual African American History Month celebrations in Connecticut last weekend had overflow crowds in Hartford and New Haven including many young people. The events featured local panels, music and a tribute to W.E.B. Du Bois.

Panelists addressed questions around the theme, “Building the Momentum for Change. Realizing the Dream for Jobs - Peace - Equality.” They were asked to reflect on next steps to achieve equality and how to keep the unity growing that elected Obama.

In New Haven, the inspiring music of Brian Jarawa Gray and Friends had people swaying to the beat of the drums. Young people of every ethnic background were in attendance to see and hear history in the making.Awards were presented to winners of the second annual People’s Weekly World high school arts competition around the theme “Dear President Obama, My dream is....” The students, from various area high schools, came with their families, accepted their prizes and shared their work.

New Haven panelist Clifton Graves, a long time civil rights activist, emphasized to the audience “you are not going to agree with everything Obama does, but it is up to us to keep the momentum going for change. This is one of the best opportunities that Americans have had in decades."

Graves spoke especially to the youth in attendance about earlier civil rights struggles which enabled Obama’s election, quoting Frederick Doublass that “power concedes nothing without a demand, it never has and it never will.” The fight for affirmative action is not over, he said.

Ashaki Binta, a union organizer with UE, thinks a good way to keep the ball rolling is to re-establish some of the coalitions that have faded in recent years. She warned about the dangers of the right-wing which continue even as the country is moving in a more progressive direction.

It was emphasized that while the election reflects growing unity, vigilance against racism, which has always been a divider in our country, is necessary. Cited was the recent NewYork Post racist caricature of Obama making fun if the stimulus package. The point was made that we are all human beings trying to achieve the same goals, a better life for ourselves and family, and in order for us to reach our dream everyone must be united and work together.

Andrew Greene, high school student and member of New Growth Praise Center, wasn’t shy about speaking his mind. He was very motivated when he went to Philadelphia to door knock for Obama in the summer. He believes this will help some young people turn their lives around so they will know there is hope for them. He encourages his fellow high school students to stay focused and get a good education.

Craig Gauthier, a former union leader who moderated the discussion, concluded by saying that “our tasks and responsibilities have been laid before us. We must take up the banner for equality, justice and organize to take action in these hard economic times.”

In Hartford, panelists also stressed unity and grass roots organizing to achieve the goals of jobs, peace and equality.

Coalition of Black Trade Unionists president Kathleen Jackson recalled being spat on at school where she was the only Black student. She helped organize a bus to the Inauguration just to be present as Barack Obama was sworn into office.

Jackson lauded youth panelist Kedar Fluker for his activism and emphasized that the most important thing is to encourage young people who will shape our future. Fluker called on young people to get involved and participate in opposing looming budget cuts in Connecticut and stand up for better opportunities.

Brian Steinberg reflected on the change in thinking that has taken place in the South since his experience in the 1960's during Freedom Summer in Mississippi when three civil rights activists were slain. He said Obama’s election represents an expansion of democracy in our country, won by the unity of the people, which must continue on.

The events raised nearly $2,000 for the People’s Weekly World fund drive.

Reprinted from the on-line edition of the People's Weekly World, Feb 25, 2009

Republic Windows Workers Come to Connecticut

by Dorothy Johnson

UE Local 1110 president Armando Robles and other officers recently toured the country to make public their sit-in at Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago which won a severance package.

In early February they came to Connecticut. The tour was sponsored by Jobs with Justice chapters to let workers know if companies don’t abide by the law you must make them do the right thing.

While in Connecticut they told their story at a press conference at the state capitol and at a community and labor meeting at the First and Summerfield Methodist Church in New Haven.

Workers at Republic Windows and Doors refused to accept the owners closing of the plant without getting their due advance notice and benefits. Several weeks before the plant closing was announced workers discovered that equipment had been leaving the facility. Some of the workers decided to follow the truck driver to find out where they were taking the equipment. They spoke to the driver and he said he was told to move the equipment. Workers realized that the plant would be closing very soon.

About 240 workers were employed there at the time. Disregarding the law requiring a WARN notice, Republic Windows called the workers and told them the plant was going to close and this is your last pay check.

Robles and Local 1110 vice president Melvin Macklin said they responded, “no way, the workers are going to get what is due to them.” They went to the union office and did a little strategy. They decided to sit in for as long as it takes to get what’s due to them and their respect.

They began a 24 hour sit-in in early December. The company called the police to tell them they had to exit the building. Robles stated to the police this is not your fight, it is between the company and the workers. The police went back to their cars. Worker brought their children to help in the protest. Numerous visitors come into the shop to bring food, sleeping bags, and music.

Robles said that when his shift was over he would go home, take a shower, and then quickly return. The Rev. Jesse Jackson was there in support of the workers.

Macklin said when he told his wife about the plan to sit in, she said “no, you will be arrested.” He replied, “ what do you have to lose?” Once President Obama threw his support to the workers, his wife said it was okay. Some workers didn’t want to take part in the sit-in. Once seeing their co-workers on tv they decided to join their co-workers.

Sit-ins in America don’t happen that often. Since the 1930's we haven’t had many. When you’re forced to sit-in for your bread and butter workers realize it’s the right thing to do.

As a result of the sit-in the workers achieved a victory. They got a severance package, but knowing how the economy is today that won’t last long.

UE Local 1110 has been in negotiations with a California company to see if they could re-open the plant. They are hoping that if this happens all the workers will be hired back. They will have to go through bankruptcy court to get it approved. They are hoping that by March they will have confirmation for the company to re-open.

Reprinted from the on-line edition of the People's Weekly World, Feb 23, 2009

Friday, February 13, 2009

No Cuts in Services - No Layoffs of Workers

A big mobilization is underway in Connecticut to stop dire cuts in services and layoffs of state workers proposed by Gov. Rell. One state union, SEIU, called together 200 members for a legislative accountability session. The meeting was led by Carmen Boudier, President 1199 New England Health Care Employee Union and Paul Filson, SEIU State Council Director. Five State Legislators attended the meeting and promised to work with SEIU and the coalition of unions and community groups.

Carmen Boudier noted that a series of legislative accountability sessions are planned for all over the State of Connecticut. She said that SEIU will join with others to fight for a budget that defends jobs and services in these bad economic times. There was a clear message to pass a progressive income tax and to close tax loopholes. All the state unions are meeting with their members to mobilize for a budget that meets peoples needs. It is past due time for a progressive tax structure in our richest state so that the needs of all those who live in Connecticut are met.

-- Tom Connolly

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Support Economic Recovery -- Call Today

TEN WAYS the Economic Recovery Plan helps CT

45,960 jobs saved or created by 2010

54,300 people benefit from new SSI funding

44,560 people get emergency unemployment comp

51.992 Pell Grant recipients for college at $3,287

$152,000,000 increase in food stamp benefits

$601,032,043 for infrastructure (highways, transit)

$718,194,000 state fiscal stabalization fund

$175,591,000 school modernization

$1,207,187, 000 Medicaid funding

$1,217,000 Make Work Pay Tax Credit

Tell Senators Dodd and Lieberman
Pass the Jobs & Economic Recovery Plan

The economy is in serious trouble. Every day we delay taking action means more people are losing jobs, homes and healthcare. President Obama's Jobs and Economic Recovery Plan will create more than 3 million jobs by making major federal investments in transportation, energy efficiency, health care and schools.

The House passed this bill.
Now the Senate must act. Call today!

SEN CHRIS DODD (800) 334-5341

SEN JOE LIEBERMAN (800) 225-5605.

Tell them you vote in Connecticut and top priority is passage of the Jobs and Economic Recovery Plan for relief, good jobs and economic growth.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

High School Arts and Writing Competition

Area high school students are invited to enter an arts and writing competition for African American History Month around the theme “Dear President Obama, My dream is.....”

Entries must be received by February 13. Students are asked to express in artwork, poetry, essay or song the change they want to help make happen to realize the dream of good jobs, peace and equality for all.

Savings Bonds and other prizes will be awarded to first, second and third place winners on Sunday, February 22 at the 35th annual African American History Month celebration sponsored by the People’s Weekly World at the New Haven People’s Center, 37 Howe Street, New Haven.

Artwork should be on paper not larger than 12" x 18". Written contributions should be not longer than two pages. Name, address, phone, age and school should be submitted with each entry to 37 Howe Street, New Haven, CT 06511.

This is the second annual competition held in memory of Dalzenia and Virginia Henry who dedicated their lives to the well-being of New Haven's children.

For further information call 203-624-8664.