Monday, March 30, 2009

Immigration Forum Fosters Workers' Unity

by Joelle Fishman

As white supremacist anti-immigrant hate groups increase their targeting of New Haven and adjacent East Haven, a dialogue was held this week addressing the need for unity of workers of all racial and national backgrounds.

The historical background presented by Dr. Kenneth Brown, diversity training consultant from Maryland, led to a lively and productive exchange with the audience.

The meeting, organized by the Center for New Community, was held in the historic African American Dixwell neighborhood at Beulah Heights First Pentecostal Church and was welcomed by Bishop Theodore Brooks.

Brown expanded on the history of racism in our nation, built on slavery and on the exploitation of immigrants, and gave examples of how unity against racism has led to social progress. Recalling how the Irish and then the Italians were victims of super exploitation and were pitted against one another and against African Americans when they first came to the United States, he said they soon discovered that they had to get together in order to improve their conditions.

Brown gave the example of the early years of the auto workers union in Detroit when Henry Ford hired African American workers from the South as strike breakers. But when African American and white workers united in the UAW, “Ford lost his juice,” said Brown.

Today, exploited Mexican immigrants are picking apples in Michigan, said Brown, pointing out that while they must pay into Social Security, they can never collect. Referring to US trade policy, he asked the audience to consider why Latin America is in poverty conditions which are driving people to this country to survive.

“Why are we talking about hard working immigrants ‘taking our jobs?’” he asked the audience.

Alan Felder, a member of the service and maintenance union at Yale University, Local 35, and an independent plumber, said immigrants have most of the jobs in construction. When asked if Black workers had those jobs before, the answer was no.

New Haven needs to talk about how to get contractors to not exploit anyone, said Brown, adding that until the entire community gets together to fight exploitation, the contractor will just enjoy himself out on his yacht. The issue, said Brown, is that there should be jobs for everyone in New Haven.

Felder has made a name for himself as an African American who joined with the anti-immigrant Community Watch Dog Project to protest the municipal ID card issued in New Haven to allow everyone who lives in the city, regardless of status, a photo ID for business and public services. While saying he learned a lot at the meeting, he continued to maintain an “enforcement first” approach to undocumented workers.

A number of Felder's co-workers from Local 35, also at the meeting, expressed appreciation for the methodical and common sense approach presented by Brown. Local 35 has been a strong voice for immigrant rights and for workers unity in New Haven.

At the end of the meeting Brown walked to a group of Latino immigrants and asked each one to tell their story. “Wouldn't you want to know such hard working fine people?” he said to everyone in the church.

The dialogue was organized by Brown's son, Ken Brown Jr., who moved to New Haven several months ago to work on building unity—among African Americans, immigrants and all segments of the community—against anti-immigrant hate. He thanked his father profusely and left the meeting with the challenge to continue the process of coming together.

Reprinted from People's Weekly World

Thursday, March 26, 2009

No Cuts - No Layoffs - Tax the Rich

More than 1,000 union and community activists with Better Choices for Connecticut gathered at the State Capitol on March 25 to urge the Governor and Legislature to stop budget cuts, enact fair taxes and help Connecticut overcome the economic crisis.

Rally mcee, Shawn Lang of the CT AIDS Resource Coalition said “if these cuts go through, more and more Connecticut residents will fall through a safety net already rife with holes.”

Lindsey Matthews, whose son George lives at a group home for people with developmental disabilities, thanked his 1199 union care-givers. “The people who help feed, bathe and clothe him every day do it because I can’t be there. I can’t imagine what life would be like for our family without this critical service and we’re just one family out of thousands.”

The Better Choices plan includes raising income taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents making over $200,000 per year, as well as closing corporate tax loopholes. Governor Jodi Rell has proposed a budget based almost entirely on cuts to services and layoffs of state workers. Nobel Prize economists say that reducing public spending in an economic crisis, when services are needed the most, would send the economy into a further downward spiral. Some estimate that Rell’s budget could cost the state from 30,000 to 50,000 jobs.

Peoples Center signs read: No Cuts - No Layoffs - TAX the RICH

More information at:

Friday, March 20, 2009

Demonstrators Demand Board to Stop Cuts

On March 17, more than 100 Hartford parents, teachers, and students marched to demand that the Hartford Board of Education stop the 254 planned staff cuts. It includes about 120 teachers, 48 central office staff, 30 paraprofessionals, 15 custodians and 10 guidance counselors. The PTO Presidents Council organized the demonstration.

At the Board of Education meeting that followed the demonstration parents, students, teachers, and community leaders made it clear the deep cuts will not be tolerated. They said that the Superintendent and the Board are not listening to them and they demand respect and the right to be heard. Martha Miller, a parent, said "You're playing Russian roulette with our children. They are real. And they are our future." Speaker after speaker demanded that the Board of Ed stop the staff cuts. They said they would continue to fight for the children of Hartford.

On March 25 state workers and community organizations will rally at the Capitol to demand that state cuts in funding and layoffs of workers be stopped with the funds being raised by taxing the highest incomes and closing corporate tax loopholes. The state-wide rally will be held at 4:30 p.m.

by Tom Connolly

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Coming Together to Stop Racial Profiling in East Haven

by Joelle Fishman

EAST HAVEN, Conn. -- Community meetings and solidarity actions are being organized in support of Latino residents and immigrant owned businesses in East Haven who have become the victim of racial profiling by police and targets of an extremist anti-immigrant hate group.

Two weeks ago Father James Manship of St. Rose Church in New Haven, Conn., was arrested while photographing police harassing the owners of My Country Store on Main Street here where some members of his predominantly Latino parish live.

When the story hit the press, Latino business owners on Main Street were visited by a hate group called North East White Pride, from Haverhill, Mass., which delivered fliers headlined "Immigration or Invasion?"

First the fliers were delivered by men in army fatigues. Several days later, the fliers were delivered again, this time dropped outside the stores at night in white bags.

The immigrant rights group Unidad Latina en Accion immediately began organizing support for the Latino community and reaching out to others for solidarity.

After hearing of the situation, a delegation from the New Haven Peoples Center paid a visit to four Latino-owned businesses to see firsthand what they are facing. Their account follows:

"Our first stop was at Guti'z Bakery to show support and solidarity and naturally to taste their delicious breads. We were welcomed and thanked very much for coming. Information about the Peoples Center was left with phone numbers to call. We promised to encourage others to come and support the bakery.

"The next visit to Los Amigos Grocery was very emotional. The owner and his wife and little child were in the store. A reporter who also happened to be there did translation. When we said how sorry we were that this incident is taking place it brought him to tears. No one had ever come to his store to show support. He said he is losing business because people are afraid to come in since the police started parking in the front and back of his store. This was the first day that he made a sale in some time. He couldn't believe that people would do this horrible thing to him, he said he just wants to survive.

"Dorothy Johnson related the story of what African Americans went through in the segregation days in the South.

"'People had hatred in their hearts and in their minds. They were not born that way, but as time went on that hatred was drilled into their heads. But it is not right when hatred groups prey on immigrants who want to start a business. this really is going backwards,'" Johnson said.

"When you think about what happened to African Americans in the 60s down South, how difficult it was for them to survive, what did people do? They formed support groups, community groups, they educated and mobilized people to come together and victory was won. This is a very good opportunity for people who can't understand the immigrant situation to be educated because we should be joining forces to fight these big corporations, not fighting one another. This country has been divided so long, now we have a good opportunity to make the change that should have happened decades ago.

"Across the street we left information for the owners of La Bamba restaurant to contact us since they were not there. Then we went to My Country Store. We were greeted by a friendly young woman. We explained why we were there and she was very thankful. The same performance that the police did at Los Amigos Grocery, posting cars in front and back, they did here too and now their business is also slow. We said we are here for you. Dorothy Johnson related her story and said what happened in the 60s must happen now. 'We must regenerate this solidarity.'

"The owner said the only word to use to describe how the Latino community feels is 'terrified....all Latinos are being profiled not just immigrants,' she said. 'We live in constant fear.'

"She showed us the fliers that the extremist anti-immigrant group brought to their store, dressed in army fatigues. The propaganda that some of the anti-immigrant groups are putting out is that the immigrants 'come for welfare, or to take our jobs and ring with them drugs, crime and disease.' The fliers attempt to whip up hysteria by claiming 'they send their children to school without immunization and expose your children to this.'

"There is a need for more education on immigration. Some people do not understand and think the immigrants have come to take their jobs. In many cases they have come for a livelihood because of the difficult economic conditions in their own countries caused by corporate trade agreements.

"The Peoples Center encourages our friends and family members to please go down to the Latino owned stores, support them and embrace them. They are really afraid. It is time to spread the word. Go to these stores. Help our friends out. Spread the word now. When the time comes for a community meeting we must pack the hall with supporters and create the conditions so that bigotry cannot prevail."

New Haven Peoples Center can be visited at

Reprinted from the on-line edition of the People's Weekly World

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Message from Working America

An important step toward restoring balance and fairness to our economy was taken today—the Employee Free Choice Act was introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Your senators, Sen. Dodd and Sen. Lieberman, helped lead the way by adding their names as co-sponsors.

Thank Sen. Dodd and Sen. Lieberman for co-sponsoring the Employee Free Choice Act.

Now that the fight has moved to the halls of Congress, we need to take our campaign to the next level—and give more workers a shot at the American Dream. Congress will debate and vote on this important bill soon.

Your senators' decision to co-sponsor this bill is critical to demonstrating the broad support for the Employee Free Choice Act. With Big Business interests spending tens of millions of dollars pressuring members of Congress to oppose this bill, you should be proud that Sen. Dodd and Sen. Lieberman are both fighting for working families.

The decision to co-sponsor the bill was not an easy one for senators and it's critical they hear from their constituents today.

With the most pro-worker Congress in years, and President Obama committed to the cause, this is our best chance yet to pass this bill. But it’s anything but a done deal. Corporate special interests are twisting arms, spending millions on misleading ads and spreading lies and propaganda to block the bill.

Senators frequently talk to each other about how their constituents react to their votes and other actions. If we send enough thank you letters to Sen. Dodd and Sen. Lieberman, they'll be able to tell other senators how popular the Employee Free Choice Act is among their constituents.

Thank Sen. Dodd and Sen. Lieberman right now.

The stakes couldn’t be higher—giving more workers a fair chance to bargain for better pay, benefits and job security will help restore the struggling middle class and make the economy work for everyone.

In solidarity,

Working America, AFL-CIO

P.S. It’s been two years since corporate lobbyists undermined the middle class and blocked this bill. They were backed by the same union-busters and greedy CEOs who ran this economy into the ground—and they will stop at nothing to keep workers from getting a fair shake. Thank your senators today.

PETITIONS AVAILABLE: Call (203) 624-8664

Monday, March 9, 2009

No Cuts - No Layoffs - Tax the Rich

Mark Your Calendar

Better Choices for Connecticut – Rally at the State Capitol

March 25, 4:30 p.m.

Join with neighbors, friends, community groups, public service providers and consumers to support these Better Choices for our State Budget. Stop the cuts, enact fair taxes, and help Connecticut overcome this economic crisis.

Ø Increase income tax rates for those who can best afford it

Ø Close corporate tax loopholes

Ø Stop cuts in vital services when they are needed the most

Better Choices for Connecticut is a community coalition working to help Connecticut make smarter choices on ways to improve the state’s imbalanced revenue system so that it: Advances opportunity for shared prosperity for all Connecticut residents - Preserves services for children, families and the elderly - Creates and sustains good jobs - Reinvests in the middle class and our communities.

For more information contact Maggie Adair – or Bill Meyerson -

Sunday, March 8, 2009

International Women's Day 2009: Women Need a Union

by Joelle Fishman

March 8 International Women's Day was born of the struggles of women in the textile mills in our country at the turn of the last century. They fought and died for better wages and working conditions, an end to child labor, and the right to vote.

First adopted as a celebration to be held around the world at an international socialist conference in 1910, International Women's Day was recognized by the United Nations in 1978.

The appointment of Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor with an overwhelming vote despite right-wing opposition, is a great victory to celebrate this International Women's Day.

Women voted in large numbers for change in 2008, and were an important part of the labor and people's alliance that elected Barack Obama and a stronger Congress.

It is no wonder that Hilda Solis, born into a working class, union, immigrant family, a leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, was given a standing ovation on her first day at work in the Labor Department. What a breath of fresh air after years of being run as an anti-labor, anti-union department under Reagan and Bush.

"I'll work to strengthen our unions and support every American in our nation's diverse workforce," says Solis.

Millions of women, including many single mothers, are in desperate need of a union in their workplaces today. For three decades corporations have been given a free ride on deteriorating health and safety standards, while wages and benefits have been falling through the floor.

Union membership helps raise workers' pay and narrow the income gap. Union women earn 32 percent more than non-union women. African American union members earn 28 percent more than their non-union counterparts. For Latino workers the union advantage equals 43 percent.

The best celebration of International Women's Day is to make a call to Congress for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act which would remove many of the barriers that have been placed in the way of workers forming a union. It is being re-introduced into Congress next week.

Call your Congressional Representatives and ask them to be leaders to get the Employee Free Choice Act passed this year.

Remember the message of the courageous women textile workers who went on strike in 1912 in Lawrence, Massachusetts in protest of a pay cut. Their banner "we want bread and roses, too,"
inspired this poem by James Oppenheimer, later turned into a song:

Bread and Roses

As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day,

A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,

Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,

For the people hear us singing "Bread and roses, bread and roses."

As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,

For they are women's children and we mother them again,

Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;

Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread but give us roses!

As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead

Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.

Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.

Yes it is bread we fight for but we fight for roses too!

As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days.

The rising of the woman means the rising of the race.

No more the drudge and idler - ten that toil where one reposes,

But a sharing of life's glories: Bread and roses, bread and roses!

Reprinted from the on-line edition of the People's Weekly World, March 8, 2009

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Clergy tell Gov Rell: Meet with us on health care

March 5, 09

Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Unitarian Universalist clergy led a spirited demonstration of several hundred people to the State Capitol today to demand a meeting Gov. Jodi Rell to discuss health care reform. The Gov. has refused to met with their group, Interfaith Fellowship for Universal Health Care.

"Connecticut is facing tough times. It is critical for us to talk to Governor Rell about making sure the people of our state do not have to worry about health care," said Rabbi Stephen Fuchs of Congregation Beth Israel in West Hartford. "Now is the time for strong leadership. We cannot understand, nor do we accept our Governor's refusal to meet with us," he said.

The Rev. Bonita Grubbs of Christian Community Action of New Haven noted, "When people are ill or injured and in distress they call their faith leaders. We hear their suffering. We also hear about the difficulties people have getting care or paying for care. We've shared these stories in our 'Voices of Healing' collection and we need to bring these voices to Governor Rell.

Other clergy noted:

Rev. Emilio Hernandez, Knowing God Ministries - "We must place our difference and past hurts aside and become one voice for those who have none."
Dr. M. Reza Mansoor, Muslim coalition of Connecticut - "In all the Islamic pillars of faith, one thing that comes out clearly is that all of them ask us to comprehend the equality of us all under on God..."
Rev. F. Lydell Brown, McCall Memorial AME Zion Church - "As a pastor listening to the pains of a congregation, I know without a shadow of a doubt that universal health care for all is needed."
Rev. David Foy Crabtree, Connecticut Conference, United Church of Christ - "If there is anything Jesus Christ is universally known for, it is this: caring for each individual so deeply that He focused His healing power on each of them."

-- Tom Connolly

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

"Dear President Obama, My dream is...."

Poetry and Essays by K-12 students on the theme
“Dear President Obama, My dream is....”

Written during the Martin Luther King Celebration at Peabody Museum and for the African American History Month High School Arts and Writing Competition sponsored by the People’s Weekly World in Connecticut, 2009. Bound and given to Rep. Rosa DeLauro for presentation to President Obama

First Place Poetry:
Dear Mr. President, My dream was A Mighty Domino Effect

Aishah Jenkins, Age 16
Hopkins School, New Haven

And In my dream,
A man went to sleep one night,
And as he slept, he had a dream.
He dreamt of equality and equal opportunity,
He dreamt of one water fountain,
He dreamt of one bathroom for each gender,
And he dreamt of schools where his children too could prosper
Like their white counterparts had been able to for so long.
Soon after, another man spoke unto the world,
This man however was not born in the city,
He was born in a little tent, by the riverside.
This man claimed to know for a fact that change would come.
Simply because, it had been such a long time coming.
And one more great man said,
That there is nothing enlightened about shrinking
Just so that the people around you won’t feel insecure.
He let us know that once we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give others permission to do the same.
These three men have become famous names
Their names have circulated for generations in each black home throughout America.
And as Martin spoke, and peered over the mountain top,
He heard Sam singing a song of promise.
And as Sam sand,
He read in the news, the inaugural speech of Mr. Mandela.
And as Mr. Mandela gave his speech,
He spoke to You, Barack Hussein Obama.
And as You listened,
You decided.
You decided to go to Harvard.
You decided to become senator.
And you decided it was time for change.
And because you decided, Mr. President
So have I.
I have decided, that the time has come for me, along with America,
To set aside childish things,
Thank you Mr. President