I was on The Rich Smith Show Wednesday night talking about that evening’s huge march and labor’s deepening relationship with Occupy Wall Street. Here’s the audio (I come on about 90 minutes in).
Tag Archives: activism
LONGSHORE WORKERS SOLIDARITY STRIKE SETTLEMENT RAISES QUESTIONS FOR FUTURE UNION ACTIONS
At Alternet, I break the news of a settlement between PMA and ILWU Local 10 over the latter’s industrial solidarity action – and describe the controversy that settlement has created among the membership:
Four months ago, longshore workers shut down the ports of San Francisco and Oakland in solidarity with workers in Wisconsin and across the country whose collective bargaining rights have come under attack. The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which is made up of longshore employers, responded with a federal court lawsuit against the workers’ union, International Longshore and Warehouse Workers Union (ILWU) Local 10. In an interview yesterday, Local 10’s president publicly acknowledged for the first time that PMA and Local 10 have agreed to a settlement. Workers will be discussing it at a membership meeting tonight – and some will be questioning whether the union gave away too much, and why they didn’t get to vote on it.
Check it out. And here’s my May story on the lawsuit for In These Times.
WHY WON’T TRADER JOE’S SIGN AN AGREEMENT NOT TO SELL SLAVE LABOR TOMATOES?
At Alternet, I report on the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ campaign for a Fair Food Agreement with Trader Joe’s, and the company’s resistance – which I suspect is more about power than money:
The company’s letter passes responsibility onto its wholesalers, who buy tomatoes from growers and sell them to Trader Joe’s (and have less to fear from public embarrassment). In a point-by-point rebuttal to the letter, CIW retorts that “Apparently, Trader Joe’s is better at innuendo than math.” CIW notes that when it began discussions with the wholesalers — several separate competing companies — the wholesalers said they needed to talk to Trader Joe’s before moving forward, but then stopped returning CIW’s calls.
My piece also shares reports from tomato growers who’ve worked in Florida’s fields before and after their employers entered Fair Food agreements. Check it out.
BLAST FROM THE PAST
Who knew that this site was one of the top Google hits for Paul Eastlund? Answer: Paul Eastlund knows.
Two and a half years ago (I know, weird – back when I was nineteen and I had my whole life ahead of me) I posted here about a troublingly unfunny counter-counter-counter-protest celebrated by the Cornell Review and linked approvingly by Jonah Goldberg. Basically, the protesters said we were violating people’s rights at Guantanamo, the counter-protesters said they deserved it, the counter-counter-protesters said the counter-protesters were racist, and the counter-counter-counter-protester stuck it to the counter-counter-protesters by saying racist things. Ironically. I made an attempt to lay the tableu out slightly more comprehensibly here.
At the time, Jonah Goldberg approvingly quoted a dispatch from Cornell Review Editor Paul Eastlund:
Nick is an uber-conservative who we’d never met before, but who hung out with us pretty much all day, and he is one of the coolest guys I’ve ever met…Occasionally he shouted things like “Support the Middle East Glass-Making Program” and “They don’t deserve 3 meals a day, they deserve a bullet to the head.” At one point, a few hecklers decided to pretend they were with us, and shouted “All Muslims are terrorists!” and “Kill all Muslims!” Before we could insist that we weren’t saying anything of the sort, Nick responded by shouting “All Muslims are terrorists!” and “Kill all Muslims!” They were dumbfounded. It was pretty hilarious.
Now flash forward two and a half years. We lost an election. We won a community benefits agreement. Paul Simon, twenty years later than Art Garfunkel, fell prey to a sense of personal contentment that’s robbed his music of its pathos. My bright college years have come to an end, and now I go to synagogue and get excitedly referred to as part of the “Under 40” crowd. And now, as I sit hunched over my laptop trying to figure out when Aaron Sorkin’s new show airs on the West Coast, I find an e-mail sent from far away harking back to long ago. From Paul Eastlund. He asked me to pass the following along (emphasis all mine):
I’ve clearly come across as the sort of person I would despise, so let me try to clarify.
First of all, your post is dead-on: the story, as quoted, is quite indefensible. A handful of staffers and I threw the page describing the counter-protest, containing that anecdote, together in a bit of a hurry. At some point later, I reread it, noticed that anecdote, and reworded it, although the page has been long since deleted. Anyway, it has been too long since the protest for me to remember anything with exactitude, but here’s my explanation of the ‘joke’ that you brought up.
We were irked by a display that dramatized injustice to seemingly innocent prisoners at Guantanamo (the actors portraying prisoners were well-groomed, mild-mannered academics who spoke perfect English and had no idea why they had been imprisoned) and implied quite directly that they should be released. We countered with signs that cited favorable facts and quotes about prisoner conditions in Guantanamo, as well as having one of us dress up in a TNT vest and hold up a sign saying “Death to America! Death to the Great Satan! Do you really want me going free?” Plenty of people reacted positively — not necessarily agreeing with us, but taking the time to debate us civilly — but some insisted that our display was racist. This irked us because the other Review leadership and I had, amidst some opposition, specifically worked to avoid giving the impression that we were advocating intolerance toward any religion or ethnicity. After having received that sort of complaint for the first day, we had deliberately cast non-Arabs in the “terrorist” role to further distance our message from any sword of religion- or ethnicity-based prejudiced.
Regardless, we continued to hear accusations. Nick’s response was along the lines of: “No, if we were going to single out Islam, it would be more like this” — and then he proceeded to demonstrate, briefly. The point was to contrast our display with the sentiments they were accusing us of espousing.
Anyway, that’s how the story was supposed to have come across. I realize that, in the version you quoted, it didn’t, and I apologize for that. I have to agree with you that it’s a bit of an alarming oddity that, written as it was, it was palatable to Jonah Goldberg and the many well-wishers who wrote to us before it got changed online.
I just wanted to send you this note clarifying, and apologizing for, how it was written before. I’ve always tried to steer clear of the uglier, race-baiting side of conservatism — in fact, I was so unpalatably “socially liberal” during my stint at the Cornell Review that a chunk of the staff mutinied and broke off to form the more conservative Cornell American, which focused almost exclusively on issues of race and homosexuality — and I was alarmed to find myself and the Review indicted on your site for precisely the sort of sentiment I spent much of my career in Cornell politics opposing, and that the Cornell Review in general no longer embodies.
Like you, my first thought upon reading this e-mail was: Someone reads this site who I’m not related to? And my second was: Is it possible that I’m related to Paul Eastlund.
Even with Paul’s account, the whole episode remains less than savory. And while they may not all have been “well-groomed, mild-mannered academics who spoke perfect English” there were indeed plenty of people at Camp X-Ray with “no idea why they had been imprisoned.” But that said, I appreciate Paul’s gracious e-mail and I’m glad to see him rebuke the account celebrated on The Corner. I hope he’s shared his e-mail as well with Jonah Goldberg, who to my knowledge has said nothing in the intervening couple years to suggest that he sees responding to an accusation of racism by yelling “Kill all Muslims!” as anything other than hilarious.
A fitting close to the strike today, with a roving band of musicians on the pickets and poetry in several languages on the Languages picket (I was even compelled to write up a quick sonnet during the picketing), followed by a sprawling march around campus to Helen Hadley Hall, where Chinese graduate employees are fighting discrimination from their landlord, and from there to Betts House, home of Yale’s Globalization Center. Today we called for global leadership from Yale in the form of a new commitment to human rights and global justice. And LWB-favorite Barbara Ehrenreich was there to share moving words on issues and the fight ahead.
This week we ratcheted up the pressure on Yale, brought the message to new audiences, mobilized and organized new people, and broke down Yale’s decade-long policy of non-engagement with the union representing the teachers who makes this university function. Now on to that meeting with Roland Betts…
Inspiring picketing today all over campus, including great conversations with other undergraduates and prospective students about what GESO is fighting for and what our stake is in it. Moving words this afternoon from union, community, and political allies, and from several of the men and women striking their teaching this week to defend their rights. As Dick Blumenthal said this morning, “GESO, I recognize you.”
Some thoughts on what yesterday was about:
Tuesday night, after four months since receiving the platform for real financial aid reform borne out of our hundreds of canvassing interviews and supported by over a thousand students, President Levin had a great opportunity to offer real solutions, or to take to heart the voices of students who had. And he blew it. He opened the under thirty minutes on financial aid by trying to discuss our platform and the parallel Yale College Council in terms which made clear just how empty his claim that he couldn’t respond until February 22 because he was carefully reviewing our proposal had been. He told students he wanted feedback on whether Yale should make some change on the student contribution or the family contribution, insisting that Yale “can’t lead on every dimension.” Not something one would hear Levin say if we were talking about different dimensions of, say, scientific research. Yale can and should lead on drawing a diverse group of students and on fostering a more equal and more integrated experience for those who are here. A choice between the student contribution and the family contribution is an impossible choice. And it’s a meaningless choice for those students working additional hours to pay what Yale expects from their parents as well. But when those students spoke up Tuesday night, Levin responded by making facial expressions roughly approximating Bush’s during the first debate while questioning their honesty and describing them all as extreme cases. He even went so far as to conjecture, with a shrug, that if there was a problem it only affected a couple hundred students. I’m not sure whether it was this baseless claim, or the implication that the quality of life of a couple hundred students could not be an urgent issue for the university, which angered more of us. So it should have come as no surprise to Levin that students left deeply disappointed and personally insulted.
Yesterday we demonstrated that we’re not willing to sit back and wait for President Levin to offer what he thinks is a sufficient proposal for change, and we’re not willing to settle for a proposal which makes modest change in either the student contribution or the family contribution. So fifteen of us showed up at the Admissions Office as a tour group was leaving and let Dean of Admissions Richard Shaw know that we didn’t plan to leave without a meaningful commitment from Levin to comprehensive reform. Dean Shaw told us we’d have to be out of the building by 5 PM, passed the message along to Levin, and then disappeared into selection committee. We never heard from Levin, despite enough phone calls from students inside and outside of the building, alumni, and parents that the phone began going directly to voicemail. Unfortunately, it appears Levin would rather arrest his students than talk to him.
Folks working in the office were by and large very friendly to us, with a few notable exceptions, and we had a number of productive conversations with some of them about our campaign. We weren’t able to communicate directly with any more prospective students, because the Admissions Office was soon locked to the public and tours were moved to the Visitor’s Center. Because this was signified only with a sign on the door to the Admission’s Office, our folks on the outside got ample opportunities to talk to somewhat confused visiting families about what we were fighting for, to generally very positive response by all accounts, before giving them directions to the new location. The Admissions Office made the peculiar decision to communicate with those families only by yelling at them through the window. The low point during the day in our interactions with others in the building was during the noontime rally outside when Phoebe opened and leaned out of a window to address the crowd and Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith physically yanked her back into the building (fortunately, the whole thing was caught on camera by Channel 8). Not long after that, they cut off all internet access in the building.
There are no words which can describe my admiration for the tremendous organizing undergrads, as well as folks from Local 34, Local 35, GESO, and the broader community did outside all day yesterday, in constantly shifting conditions and fairly unfavorable weather. Every time a door opened and we heard surging chants, I think each of us was moved and inspired. They did amazing work, talking to visiting families, sending a delegation to President Levin’s office in Betts House, finding Yale Corporation member Margaret Marshall on the way to a Master’s Tea and calling on her to come visit us, dropping into dining halls to share news, and standing outside yelling through the cold for hours.
One of their greatest accomplishments was keeping a powerful crowd outside for the nearly three hours over which Yale made gestures and having us arrested and then, presumably in hopes of waiting out the crowd and the cameras, chose to delay. It had been a full two hours (much of it spent singing, which inspired at least one administrator to turn up “We are the Champions” in his office) since the time we had been told that morning was closing when plainclothes police showed up in an unidentified van and Martha Highsmith had someone videotape her (despite some technical difficulties) reading to us from the Undergraduate Regulations. When we made clear that we still had no intention of leaving without a commitment from Levin to a financial aid policy which better reflects the best values of the university, the police told us were under arrest. We were taken in pairs into Jim Nondorf’s office, cited for simple trespass and led out, singing “Carry It On” and holding our citations, to a still strong crowd. There we shared some stories with each other and ate the pizza that they had been unable to get to us while we were inside before heading back to campus.
On the eve of the Yale Corporation’s meeting, right before the budget deadline, we mobilized a new breadth and depth of student support, leveraged new pressure, took our message to new audiences, and demonstrated the urgency of the issue. Now it’s time to keep building.
I’m frustrated to see Keith Gottschalk arguing that a poll suggesting troops in Iraq support the President is cause not to support the troops:
Taken all the above quotes into context it shows that truly we do cull the ordinary Americans from the heartland to serve in the military. No critical reasoning skills among the majority of this bunch, even when their own lives are being used as cannon fodder. In this they reflect the simple majority of Americans who have been dumbed down and trained not to think critically or question what they are told.
The poll itself is highly questionable, insofar as it draws only on subscribers to military magazines. And “Support the Troops” as a slogan is more often than not cynically manipulated by the same crowd defending Rumsfeld’s “Screw the Troops” approach. That said, whether our politics line up with those of the majority of the soldiers currently bearing the burden of the failed policies of much wealthier, safer politicians is an awful way to judge whether their needless death and suffering, like that of Iraqis, should trouble and pain us. Too often the left has made the mistake of blaming those in the working class carrying out policies when our animus should be directed at the rich bastards who are fashioning them. And deriding the poor as stupid is a terrible and offensive excuse which makes it that much easier to avoid confronting the organizing failures of the left, and in so doing perpetuates needless suffering and savage inequality.
Looks like the author of this boilerplate conservative complaint about “the angry and debilitating, empty-rhetoric of mob-style street politics” of the left, is the same Republican volunteer who dragged down and kicked a protester at the convention. As Julian Sanchez observes, being in the mob must make mob-style street politics less debilitating. Or maybe it’s only a mob when it’s non-violent. That’s apparently what the police who arrested the protesters and left him alone thought.
Real, real strong turnout at today’s protest on the eve of the Republican National Convention. Certainly much larger than either of the anti-war rallies I attended in New York a year and a half ago. There may have been little shared ground among the protesters beyond opposition to Bush, but that message came through loud and resoundingly clear, and is about as much information as the mainstream media can be expected to communicate anyway.
Speaking of which, the most telling moment for me may have been when thousands of us, in the middle of a protest easily several hundreds of thousands large, were causing a ruckus around the Fox News Headquarters. We looked up to the channel’s gigantic display overhead, and what was on Fox News? A discussion of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. That, ladies and gentlemen, is as concise a statement of the problems with the corporate media as any.
The question hanging over the protest was what, in the event of a Kerry victory, becomes of this several-hundred-thousand-strong group, some of whom chanted Kerry’s name and others of whom wore masks mocking his face. How do those of us who identify as the left, re-energized and validated by the devastation wrought by the sitting President, organize with the same extent of urgency and breadth of coalition to hold accountable his replacement?
Last summer, the New York Times magazine ran a cover story on “The New Hipublicans” – college Republican activists. The article, despite seeming to bend over backwards (likely cowed by the ever-present specter of “liberal media bias”) to paint the kids in as positive a light as possible, came under attack from all corners of the conservative press as another example of how out of touch the Times was when it came to conservatives. As I said at the time, if there was something leery and out of touch about the magazine’s coverage of conservative activists, it was an outgrowth of the Times‘ leery, out of touch approach to activists of any stripe, not to conservatives. One classic example would be the NYT cover story on the Howard Dean movement that so bugged me in December. Another would be today’s front-page piece on anachists, which introduces them by listing off protests at which they’ve been blamed for violence:
Self-described anarchists were blamed for inciting the violence in Seattle at a 1999 meeting of the World Trade Organization in which 500 people were arrested and several businesses damaged. They have been accused by the police of throwing rocks or threatening officers with liquid substances at demonstrations against the Republican convention in Philadelphia in 2000 and at an economic summit meeting in Miami last year. Now, as the Republican National Convention is about to begin in New York City, the police are bracing for the actions of this loosely aligned and often shadowy group of protesters, and consider them the great unknown factor in whether the demonstrations remain under control or veer toward violence and disorder.
No discussion, of course, of the role of New York City police in determining whether demonstrations veer towards violence and disorder. Instead we get this implication that civil disobedience is something to be ashamed of:
But even anarchists who are against violence are warning of trouble and admit that they are planning acts of civil disobedience…
And to top it off, a couple paragraphs for John Timoney, who oversaw the unfortunate violence of the police treatment of protesters in Philly and Miami, to blame it all on the activists without anybody to refute him.
Needless to say, a book like Starhawk’s Webs of Power gives a much more grounded, nuanced, relevant portrayal of anarchists and their relationships with other activists. Maybe someone at the Times should read it
The Editor-in-Chief of the Cornell Review, the campus publication which launced Ann Coulter and Dinesh D’Souza, shares a “hilarious” story. Given that I’m apparently too dense to get the joke, maybe some intrepid reader can explain it to me.
A group of Cornell students sets up a mock-up of Camp X-Ray at which they act out detaining passing students in order to demonstrate the illegality of American human rights violations in Guantanamo Bay (a position I’ve taken here before).
The Cornell Review sends a group of counter-protesters dressed up as Muslim terrorists to pretend to kill passing students, hoping to demonstrate that if not for America’s handling of inmates in Camp X-Ray, all of those inmates would be out killing people.
A group of other students, whom we’ll call the counter-counter-protesters, begin mingling with the counter-protesters and yelling “All Muslims are terrorists! Kill all Muslims!” hoping to demonstrate what they see as the real message of the counter-protest.
Then in comes the counter-counter-counter-protester. According to Paul Eastlund, Editor-in-Chief of the Review,
Nick is an uber-conservative who we’d never met before, but who hung out with us pretty much all day, and he is one of the coolest guys I’ve ever met…Nick stayed around and helped deal with jerks and hecklers all day. Occasionally he shouted things like “Support the Middle East Glass-Making Program” and “They don’t deserve 3 meals a day, they deserve a bullet to the head.” At one point, a few hecklers decided to pretend they were with us, and shouted “All Muslims are terrorists!” and “Kill all Muslims!” Before we could insist that we weren’t saying anything of the sort, Nick responded by shouting “All Muslims are terrorists!” and “Kill all Muslims!” They were dumbfounded. It was pretty hilarious.
In other words, the Editor-in-Chief of the Cornell Review is glad that his guys showed those hippies a thing or two by responding to the allegation that labelling everyone in Camp X-Ray as a terrorist who should be shot to death demonstrates racism by…yelling racist things. You get it?
Me neither. But maybe Jonah Goldberg, Editor-at-Large of The National Review, who linked the piece, can explain it to me.