Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Harvard strike solidarity inspires Connecticut workers

Just two days after a huge march and rally in support of 750 striking Unite Here Local 26 Harvard dining hall workers, the University agreed to the contract demands for wage increases to $35,000 a year and to maintain current healthcare benefits.

This significant victory for the lowest paid workers at the wealthiest university in the world was won with solidarity from students and faculty on campus, and union workers across New England. It was the first strike at Harvard in 33 years.

Connecticut Unite Here food service and university workers came by bus and car to take part in the march and rally. The experience made them even more committed to winning their own current contract negotiations for a living wage and affordable health care benefits.

Food service workers from Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) were among those to take the trip up to Boston, some with their children and families, to march and rally alongside hundreds of their food service brothers and sisters at Cambridge's Commons Park. They could relate to the strike demands since they are in contract negotiations with one of the wealthiest food service companies, Compass Group U.S.A,

"We're facing the same issues our people up in Boston are facing," said SCSU union member Rodney Cox, during the drive to Harvard. "They're trying to take food from all of our families' mouths. We are mostly minority, we work for these rich universities and corporations, and we are trying to provide for our children in these times," he said. "These are greedy rich people who want to take everything we fought for away from us, and before we allow that to happen we will go on strike if we have to like our family in Harvard!" 

SCSU dining hall shop steward George Sanchez brought his second oldest son with him, "to show him the power of people coming together peacefully to rally and march for change and worker's rights. We all want better pay and benefits," he said.

Local 217 members have been rallying. marching and holding job actions at SCSU, Wesleyan University, Fairfield University and the University of Hartford as part of Unite-Here's October Month Of Action, a three-week solidarity with dining hall employees in contract negotiations.

"Every Saturday we have been fighting, and it's all gonna pay off, we have a voice and we are making our voices known along side our Harvard family, who truly need our support right now," said Sanchez angrily said as he glanced out the window on the rainy day. "We're fighters, It's in are blood," he said as he cracked a smile. "No Contract, No Peace! No Contract, No Peace!."

Members of Unite Here Locals 34 and 35 at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut also took a break from their own contract negotiations with wealthy Yale University to travel to Harvard and support their sisters and brothers on strike. They were joined by Local 33, the graduate teacher union that has filed a complaint with the NLRB to gain recognition from Yale, and their community affiliate New Haven Rising,

The cost of health care premiums and co-pays, one of the main issue of Harvard's strike, is also a big issue for Connecticut's Local 217 members. Increased health care premiums and higher co-pays will be devastating for all dining hall employees and are a matter of life and death.

The arguments Harvard made, that worker's wages are higher than most food service workers and that health costs have risen steeply, are the same arguments major food service companies and universities are using everywhere to avoid paying livable wages and benefits.

For the food service workers this raised a class question: how can workers survive a capitalism that will not pay them wages and benefits they or their families need to live on comfortably?

"This march opens our eyes to the fact that we're all under attack!" John DeCarbo a University of Hartford employee said.

"We're here to support our brothers and sisters from Boston to let them know we're here in the fight with them. We're rallying and marching for the same thing in Connecticut. Our food service company Compass Group U.S.A. has the money to give us fair wages and benefits, just as Harvard can do the same for it's employees" Sanchez exclaimed.

Our Revolution comes to Connecticut

What happens on election day will determine the road to advance a progressive agenda. Job number one in continuing the battle for "our" revolution sparked by Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign is to soundly defeat Trump and the racism and misogyny he drags with him.
How to best move the agenda starting November 9th, the day after the election, was discussed last week in Connecticut at a special meeting of Bernie Sanders' supporters with national radio commentator and writer Jim Hightower. 
Hightower had traveled from Texas to Connecticut to visit with union members from UAW and SEIU and get them charged up to work for local progressive candidates during the last three weeks of the election season. 
He met with state Bernie Sanders supporters at the Teamster Local in South Windsor.
Jim Hightower was a national surrogate for Sanders during the Democratic primary campaign, and he is currently on the board of “Our Revolution”, the group spun off by Sanders to continue organizing. These diehard supporters, young and old were anxious to hear about Bernie’s new organization.

The agenda of Our Revolution consists of many of the items fought for by the Sanders platform team at the Democratic National Convention. Jim Hightower was an instrumental part of that team. 
The Democratic Platform passed at the convention is considered the most progressive Democratic platform ever. It includes stopping bad trade deals like the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) and fighting for income equality, affordable higher education, a cleaner, healthier planet and much more. 
The plan of Our Revolution is to have a 50 state network. Each state will have the autonomy to operate “within the framework of Bernie’s ideals and Bernie’s issues”. 
He started off by reminding us that, ” Presidential elections end on Election Day, revolutions don’t. Noting that many young people have been turned off by the major parties, he assured them that the group will be an independent political force with no official ties to any party. “We want a thousand flowers bloomin’ out there,” Hightower said.

He also reiterated that Our Revolution will not be accepting corporate money. Like Sanders himself they will be counting on small donor contributions. 
Hightower spoke for about 15 minutes followed by a question and answer period. The attendees asked thoughtful questions on funding, structure, etc. Hightower noted that they will continue to be active inside the Democratic Party, and suggested that people consider creating change from within, citing a midwest State Democrat Committee where Bernie folk recently won the majority. 
The goal is simply to transform America,” he said. “It’s not enough to be “PRO-gressive” anymore; we need to be A-ggressive”. “We’re going to be an independent political force.”

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
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.