Alyssa Figueroa en Morning Joe Says Rap Music Responsible for Racist Frat Chant—And Twitter Responds Brilliantly <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Watch: Morning Joe suggests rap is to blame for SAE racism. #RapAlbumsThatCausedSlavery responds.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/morning_joe.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>In a cringe-inducing news segment, five white people sat around a table on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to discuss the recently released video of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity’s racist chant.</p><p>The video, which was published on Sunday, <a href="">shows</a> members of the University of Oklahoma’s SAE fraternity chanting: “There will never be a n--ger SAE. There will never be a n--ger SAE. You can hang ‘em from a tree, it’ll never [inaudible] with me, there will never be a n--ger SAE.”</p><p>Yet, instead of talking about racism, fraternity culture, the protests it <a href="">sparked</a> or other vital topics the video raised, those on Wednesday’s episode of Morning Joe decided to talk about rap music. Co-host Mika Brzezinski spearheaded the conversation by commenting on rapper Waka Flocka Flame’s <a href="">decision to cancel</a>his upcoming SAE concert due to his disgust with the SAE video. After making a mockery of herself trying to mock the rapper’s name several times, Brzezinski argued that, because of his music, black rapper Waka Flocka Flame has no business commenting on racism.</p><p>She said: “I look at his lyrics, and I’m thinking, why wouldn’t you ask this guy, why you would go on that campus?—and if you look at every single song … he’s written, it’s a bunch of garbage, full of n-words, full of f-bombs. It’s wrong. And he shouldn’t be disgusted with them, he should be disgusted with himself.” </p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="420"></iframe></p><p>Apparently, the media still has no shame using, and in this instance putting a spin on, the <a href="">“no angel” frame</a>—a common media portrayal of black people as perpetrators and therefore guilty until proven innocent. The Morning Joe crew brazenly implies that Waka Flocka Flame isn’t ‘innocent’ enough to discuss racism—leave that to the rich, white talking heads.</p><p>They proceeded to make a twisted argument that “gangster rap,” as Joe Scarborough degradingly referred to rap music, is somehow influencing white kids to be racist. The reasoning seems to be that because rappers like Waka Flocka Flame use the n-word, it’s no surprise that white people repeat it. Completely tone-deaf, they don’t acknowledge that: 1) white people don’t need to be a part of the conversation over how the people they continue to oppress should use a word that refers to their oppression 2) the context in which the n-word was used—the fraternity is derogatorily using the n-word and even references lynching (though one guest did try to make that distinction).    </p><p>In response to the outrageous segment, people took to Twitter to start the hashtag #RapAlbumsThatCausedSlavery. Some even put a satirical twist on popular rap albums. Below are a sample of tweets: </p><p> </p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p>Get North Or Die Trying <a href="">#RapAlbumsThatCausedSlavery</a></p>— PULLUP GERVAIS (@GrandeMarshall) <a href="">March 11, 2015</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p>The Intentionally Withheld Education of Lauryn Hill <a href="">#rapalbumsthatcausedslavery</a></p>— Little Skeedie (@SKEEerra) <a href="">March 11, 2015</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p>All Eyez On Me At Auction <a href="">#RapAlbumsThatCausedSlavery</a></p>— Common Sensai (@CommonSensai) <a href="">March 11, 2015</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p>My Beautiful Dark Twisted Ancestry <a href="">#RapAlbumsThatCausedSlavery</a> cc:(<a href="">@GrandeMarshall</a>)</p>— DENIS (@denismcinerny) <a href="">March 11, 2015</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p>Late Reparations <a href="">#RapAlbumsThatCausedSlavery</a></p>— PULLUP GERVAIS (@GrandeMarshall) <a href="">March 11, 2015</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script> Wed, 11 Mar 2015 17:42:00 -0700 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1033143 at Media Activism Civil Liberties Media News & Politics Video morning joe racism sae fraternity protest hashtag What To Do About Your Jerk of a Boss Before You Get PTSD <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Millions of workers are suffering from anxiety, depression and even PTSD because of bully bosses.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_226509502_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>Editor's note: The following is the latest in a new series of articles on AlterNet called <a href="">Fear in America</a> that launched this March. Read the <a href="">introduction</a> to the series.</em></p><p>There’s something dangerous happening to millions of Americans nationwide. It is happening in places where many people spend at least 40 hours a week. It is causing severe physical and mental illness. It runs off fear and manipulation. But its victims are not talking it about. </p><p>So what is it?</p><p>Work abuse.</p><p>Look around the average American workplace and it’s not too hard to find. Twenty-seven percent of all adult Americans report experiencing work abuse and an additional 21 percent of Americans report witnessing it, meaning some 65 million Americans have been affected. </p><p>“Anything that affects 65 million Americans is an epidemic,” said Gary Namie, co-founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute. “But it’s an un-discussable epidemic because employers don’t want this discussed.”</p><p>Not talking about work abuse has, in turn, normalized the violence, fear and power structure inherent to the phenomenon.</p><p>As Namie said, “Work abuse doesn’t shock Americans anymore.”</p><p>He continued, “We, as a society, treat it as domestic violence—we try to rationalize both away. ‘Oh you should have just got up and left it.’ Really? You’re just going to get up and leave your job and think you’ll find an equivalent? And you’re a single mom and you can just do that right? Or worse, ‘there must be something about her that provoked him.’”</p><p>While we try to explain away work abuse, its victims are quietly suffering anxiety, depression and even PTSD. In one extreme example, Carrie Clark, a former teacher and school administrator, developed such severe PTSD she suffered permanent brain damage that left her with a speech impediment.</p><p>“It’s shameful when you’re being targeted at work. It’s such an embarrassment. That had never happened to me before. I loved working. … I had quite the career,” Clark said of the months she was targeted by her boss.</p><p>As work abuse has become such a widespread employee health epidemic, it’s important to ask: Why is it so rampant? How can workers survive work abuse? And perhaps most importantly, is there any way for workers to put an end to it?</p><p><strong>Why Bosses Abuse Workers</strong></p><p>One of the most important things to understand about work abuse is that it’s not inevitable, but subsists within a culture that supports abusive interaction, says Judith Wyatt, a San Francisco therapist who, with her husband Chauncey Hare, is the coauthor of <em>Work Abuse: How to Recognize and Survive It. </em></p><p>“Bullying does not exist except in the context of a work system, a work culture that supports and demands bullying, rewards bullies and gets something out of bullying, which is an authoritarian, controlling environment,” Wyatt said.</p><p>In their book, Wyatt and Hare, who was a work abuse victim, call the majority of workplaces (95 percent) “authoritarian work organizations.”</p><p>“These are places that have, to some degree or another, a slave-to-slave-owner mentality operating,” Wyatt said. “In an authoritarian work organization, the people at the top have absolute power and they can do whatever they want to the people at the bottom regardless of the needs of the people at the bottom. We say that we live in a democracy in this country, but [we have] top-down organizations like that that people belong to everyday.”</p><p>These organizations also benefit from an unstable job market that supports their culture of fear.</p><p>“In a culture like the one we’re in now, the whole U.S. culture, jobs are scarce, and because it’s becoming normative to underpay people and have a job market where there are fewer jobs, it conditions people to feel like, ‘My god, a hundred people could apply to my job tomorrow, I have to accept whatever shit is coming down to me,’” Wyatt said.</p><p>Some companies have taken advantage of this fear by artificially creating instability in the workplace. Until 2013, Microsoft <a href="">enforced</a> a rank-and-yank system in which employees were ranked by performance every year, and the bottom 10 percent were fired.</p><p>Despite the fact that research finds abusive, unstable work environments actually decrease productivity, Wyatt says cognitive dissonance comes into play, and managers are more concerned about control than efficiency.</p><p>“There’s a culture of over-control and authoritarianism built into managerial school in this country,” Wyatt said. “So the idea is you have to have that power.”</p><p>The Workplace Bullying Institute’s Namie agreed that a lack of appropriate managing skills is one of the causes of work abuse.</p><p>“There’s going to be a certain proportion of managers who don’t know an alternative way to manage, and I blame the employer for that [and] for cutting back on training because it’s very hard to know how to manage well,” Namie said. “Then there’s another sub-group doing the bidding of someone up higher. Then there’s a portion of the managerial group that’s just sadistic. They’re narcissistic and sadistic and quite cruel.”</p><p>The latter, according to Wyatt, is the usual case. She said that like many people, bosses and managers have childhood traumas. But certain traumas can make for disaster when their victims are put in positions of power.</p><p>“The usual situation is that they are narcissistically wounded, in a way where the worker under them doesn’t understand how deep their wounding is,” Wyatt said. “And the worker doesn’t understand that they are triggering the boss—that the boss is somehow threatened by them. And if a narcissist is threatened by someone, they go into a rage and want to destroy them.”</p><p><strong>Bully Bosses, Their Targets, and the Effects of Work Abuse</strong></p><p>There are two kinds of abuse, according to Wyatt. One is the chronic neglect, over-control and over-work that occur in nearly every authoritarian work organization. The other is scapegoating, in which the boss has one or more targets he or she puts in a horrible position. </p><p>Bully bosses and their targets cut across all demographics. Namie said people from all income levels are victims of work abuse. But there are some trends, especially when it comes to gender. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute’s <a href="">2014 national survey</a>, a majority of abusive bosses are male (69 percent), and a majority of their targets are female (57 percent). When bully bosses are female (31 percent of the time) the majority of their targets are also female (68 percent). When it comes to race, Hispanics (56.9 percent) are most likely to experience and witness bullying, followed by African Americans (54.1 percent), Asians (52.8 percent), and whites (44.3 percent).</p><p>Namie said bully bosses tend to fall into four categories: The rare, over-the-top manager who screams at his targets in front of others; the character assassination manager who is out to destroy his targets’ reputations; the withholding manager who makes sure her targets don’t have what they need to succeed; and the constant critic who, through a series of infractions, leads his targets to doubt their own confidence.</p><p>In terms of the latter, Namie said, “They’re trying to convince you you’re stupid, which is a lie, but with prolonged exposure, your memory loss actually makes you appear that way. So you will be objectively less competent over time. We can say it’s a self- fulfilling prophecy now that we know what’s happening in brain.”</p><p>The effects of work abuse on mental health are severe. The Workplace Bullying Institute <a href="">found</a> that 80 percent of victims had debilitating anxiety, 49 percent had clinical depression, 30 percent had PTSD, 29 percent contemplated suicide and 16 percent had a plan to commit suicide.</p><p>Carrie Clark developed enduring disabilities as a result of severe work abuse. After suffering through 10 months of bullying and punishment at the hands of her superintendent, Clark developed PTSD. “He called my home drunk, stalked me on campus, waited for me outside the ladies room… invaded my personal space, and accosted me with fists,” Clark said.</p><p><strong>Fighting Work Abuse in Congress</strong></p><p>After she left her job, Clark attempted to sue her school district, but was unsuccessful.</p><p>“I didn’t realize at the time that it’s perfectly legal to harass, break and destroy a human being in the workplace so long as that poor target can’t prove some form of discrimination as a member of a protected class,” Clark said.</p><p>Clark joined Namie and the Workplace Bullying Institute in fighting to enact the Healthy Workplace Bill in states nationwide.</p><p>Currently, the United States is the only Western nation without a law forbidding bullying-like conduct in the workplace. U.S. anti-discrimination laws only protect workers from abuse in 20 percent of cases. Victims of work abuse must be a member of a protected class to claim a hostile work environment, sexual harassment or racial discrimination. On top of that, Clark said the Supreme Court has made it difficult to prove discrimination, sometimes requiring that other members of the protected class come forward.</p><p>The Healthy Workplace Bill would allow workers to sue their work abusers for harming their health. Employers would be held financially accountable for the abuse, creating an incentive to prevent abusive behavior. The bill would also require employers to write an anti-bullying policy and conduct trainings.</p><p>The bill has been introduced in five states this year and 28 states since 2003. It has yet to pass in any state.</p><p>“The hardest part is directly getting in to talk to a legislator. We don’t have money,” Clark said, adding that the Chamber of Commerce is a fierce opponent of the bill. “Grassroots is pitched from a lot of the legislators when they’re running for office, but in actuality, they don’t really want grassroots people bugging them, they want people with money.”</p><p><strong>Surviving Work Abuse</strong></p><p>While the struggle continues for better workplace laws, workers are left to find their own ways to navigate work abuse. Namie said that over time, there is not much employees can do to escape the harmful mental health effects of workplace bullying.</p><p>“Psychological injuries have very little to do with strength,” he said. “They just have to do with the frequency and the duration of the perpetrators and their actions. You don’t say some Marine is weak because he or she developed PTSD. It’s a wound because someone launched an attack.”</p><p>Wyatt emphasized that because it’s nearly impossible to escape authoritarian work organizations, where there’s always some kind of abuse, workers should learn some safeguards. The first step is developing a deep understanding of the norms of your workplace as well as acknowledging that you ultimately adhere to these norms. </p><p>“We like to think that we just walk through the world as individuals, especially in this country, but in fact, we all adapt to the organizations that we have to belong to for our survival,” Wyatt said. “You have to adapt psychologically, mentally, emotionally to the point of view of the organization as created through the norms. Your whole perception of reality shifts.… It’s like a hypnosis that happens.… You have to be a member. Or else you’re going to be at war with yourself every day, and people can’t survive like that. They have to make it through.”</p><p>Once workers understand this, Wyatt said, they should find a way to join the self-interests of the people whose support they need. Wyatt said she tells her clients to figure out what’s most important to those above them and what they are most afraid of. Then workers can get more of their needs met by talking to their bosses in a way that meets the boss’ needs as well and in language that’s going to get through to them.</p><p>“We try to teach people to be warriors because they can’t expect justice,” Wyatt said. “The hardest thing for people to accept in breaking through their denial about the workplace is that there’s no justice. It’s not about justice. If you want this job, if you want to stay there, you have to comply with the norms. Period. If you want to leave, you can. But you have to know what you’re up against.”</p><p>That doesn’t mean workers should lose their perspective. Wyatt suggests workers talk to someone inside the workplace they trust or their family and friends outside of work. She also recommends that workers bring a token to work that reminds them of who they are.</p><p>“You have to rise to the ability of becoming a very sophisticated warrior with an analysis of the norms and an analysis of how they are affecting you and everyone around you,” Wyatt said. “We tell people to have personal symbols of your own strength and your own sense of self around you at all times.”</p><p><strong>Building a Movement</strong></p><p>Wyatt said at the time she and Hare wrote their book in 1997, they would tell their clients to look for work in the few workplaces they called “collaborative work organizations”—places where everyone has input and conflicts are resolved through open dialogue.</p><p>“Anybody who has had any experience in working in a collaborative organization—it’s like having your heart open,” Wyatt said. “It’s so inspiring. It’s what we all long for, but we’ve had so little experience with that in our lives, most of us, that we don’t even know what it would look like.”</p><p>Because those organizations are so few and far between, Wyatt primarily focuses on helping her clients survive the workplace. She said that if people truly want to reverse the increasingly authoritarian trend in workplaces, much more collective effort is needed.</p><p>“I hate to say it, but there’s less hope now than when we wrote the book,” Wyatt said. “It’s going to boil down to moving from authoritarianism to collaboration. The people who have the power don’t want to do that. They’re moving in the opposite direction politically in this country. … That’s why there was Occupy Wall Street. That’s why people were taking on the whole system. If you want my honest opinion about it, I think there would have to be a huge political movement about rights in the workplace. … I would love to see it in my lifetime. … That would be the way to go, to talk about it and create a movement.”</p> Thu, 05 Mar 2015 09:56:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1032845 at Fear in America Civil Liberties Economy Fear in America Labor Personal Health Visions fear authoritarianism american workplace work abuse work bullying work bullying institute collaboration ptsd depression suicide Guess Which "Liberal" State Has 500 Laws Aimed at Oppressing the Homeless? <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">On the heels of a damning new report, the Right to Rest campaign pushes for statewide legislation to stop discrimination against homeless people. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/encampment.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Cities in the United States have a long history of criminalizing the public presence of people they consider undesirable. In the late 1800s, Southern cities established “sundown towns,” laws that restricted black people from being outside after sunset. Throughout the 19th century, cities ratified “ugly laws,” banning people who were diseased or deformed from being outside. During the Great Depression, California cities passed an “anti-<a href="">Okie</a>” law, making it illegal to assist poor people entering the state. </p><p>Today, society’s target is homeless people. Beginning in the 1980s when the federal government slashed the affordable housing budget, cities have enacted thousands of laws to criminalize basic human needs such as resting, sleeping, standing, and sitting, as well as acts like panhandling and food sharing.</p><p>That’s why the Western Regional Advocacy Project, a network of homeless advocacy groups on the West Coast, is pushing to pass the <a href="">Right to Rest Act</a> in Oregon, Colorado and California this year. The act, the first of its kind, would protect all residents’ right to rest, allowing people to occupy and use public spaces without fear of discrimination. The legislation was written based off interviews with more than 1,400 homeless people. It would also serve as a model legislation that could be enacted in every state across the nation.</p><p>While representatives in Oregon and Colorado are sponsoring the bill, no one has yet been willing to sponsor the bill in California. February 27 is the last day for the bill to be introduced into the legislature for this session—meaning if no one puts their name on it, the act is out for this year.* The final push to get the Right to Rest Act introduced in California comes on the heels of <a href="">a new research report</a> revealing the extent of the criminalization of homelessness.</p><p>Paul Boden, executive director of WRAP, said, “The fact that we have the most in-depth research by far in California and we’re having the hardest time by far getting a sponsor for the bill is a really sad statement about the politics of business and gentrification in the state.”</p><p><strong>New Findings on the Criminalization of Homelessness in California</strong></p><p>New research prepared for WRAP by the Policy Advocacy Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law details the impact criminalization has had on the homeless population in California, home to one in every five homeless people in the U.S. Researchers looked at a sample of 58 California cities and found 500 anti-homeless laws on the books—an average of nine laws per city. Each city has at least one code restricting daytime activities like resting, standing and sitting; 57 had codes restricting nighttime activities like sleeping, camping and lodging; 53 had codes restricting begging and panhandling; 12 had codes restricting food sharing. Some of these laws either overlap or criminalize the same action but in different locations.</p><p>“You can word these laws in different ways,” said Marina Fisher, a policy graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, and a researcher for the report. “You’ll have a city that has three different laws about begging. One is you can’t beg in public. One is you can’t beg near freeway onramps. You can’t beg in parks. And then you can’t be sitting on the sidewalk during these hours. And then another is if we catch you doing this twice in a row, it’s a bigger fee or penalty. There are a lot of variations.”</p><p>In addition to using anti-homeless municipal or state laws, cities also use other laws to criminalize homeless people. In San Diego, for instance, police have used a law intended to eliminate safety hazards around dumpsters to target the homeless population.</p><p>“These are laws that technically apply to everyone but anecdotally, people who appear to be homeless based on looks or demeanor are more likely to be targeted by police,” Fisher said. “One [San Diego] police officer even acknowledged that after state level laws got blocked by a lawsuit they looked through [local] laws and thought this one could be pretty applicable.”</p><p>With these laws on the book, homeless people are harassed by police, given citations, spend time in jail, and could end up with criminal records that further hinder them from finding housing or employment. In the report, a San Diego Police Department veteran told researchers that cops arrest homeless people if they presume that they could be “repeat offenders.” Fisher said her research team wasn’t able to get a larger picture of the impact of criminalization because cities don’t adequately track enforcement of these laws. Police also don’t document the housing status of those jailed.</p><p>But sending homeless people to jail is the inevitable consequence of these laws. A homeless man in San Francisco <a href="">spent</a> 30 days locked up for sitting on a milk crate, and faced up to two years in prison. And things could get worse. For homeless people who are mentally ill, police encounters to enforce these laws could be <a href="">fatal</a>. Last spring in New Mexico, Albuquerque police officers shot and killed James Boyd, a homeless man who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image media-image-right" height="311" style="width: 480px; height: 311px; float: right;" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image media-image-right" height="311" style="width: 480px; height: 311px; float: right;" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div><p>Despite these severe consequences, there is no shortage of new anti-homeless legislation being passed. According to the report, these laws first emerged in the ’80s, as federal cuts to affordable housing drove people onto the streets. Cities were left with limited legal recourse due to a Supreme Court ruling a decade earlier that struck down a municipal vagrancy law. Ever since, there’s been a dramatic increase, with a majority of these laws—59 percent—enacted since 1990. Since 2010 alone, 55 new anti-homeless laws have been enacted in these cities. If the trend continues, researchers predict that California will enact 110 new anti-homeless laws by the end of the decade.</p><p>“I think that this report was an objective analysis really for people to understand that we are not treating people without homes right in California,” said Nathaniel Miller, a law student at the University of California, Berkeley, and a researcher for the report. “California, across most of the categories, has a higher prevalence of these laws compared to cities … in the other 49 states. Local city councils are writing these laws by the month that are continuing to restrict these people’s ability to live.”</p><p><strong>Cities Create a Race to the Bottom</strong></p><p>While California certainly faces a crisis, criminalization of the homeless has reached disastrous levels across the nation. Some law schools are working to forge coordination across schools to inspect homeless rights issues on a statewide level. Law students at Seattle University School of Law have begun similar research to Berkeley's and are finding similar results.</p><p>“We do have some very hard data showing that there is very much a consistency in terms of the prevalence of these laws,” said Sara Rankin, associate professor at Seattle University School of Law, who is working with students on the research.</p><p>This shouldn’t come as a surprise. WRAP found in an <a href="">earlier report</a>that between 1979 and 1983, federally funded affordable housing was cut by approximately $50 billion, an amount that has never been fully restored. With homelessness on the rise ever since, cities have resorted to criminalization to appease residents and businesses and to give the appearance of having solved the crisis.</p><p>“I grew up in San Diego where there’s a huge homeless population,” Fisher said. “People would complain all the time to the police and government about, ‘I went downtown and there was a bunch of homeless people.’ So I think cities feel a lot of pressure to do something. It seems easier to say that you’re doing something by passing a law than investing millions of dollars in housing or counseling programs or retraining your police force to work differently. It’s shortsighted. And I think one of their hopes has been, that if they’re more restrictive than their neighbors, maybe they’ll push the homeless people out of their city and into neighboring cities, which at a state level doesn’t do anything; it’s counterproductive. But at a city level, it encourages a kind of race to the bottom.”</p><p>Boden said city officials sometimes don’t even try to conceal their efforts. He said mayors have gone to other cities to praise the effectiveness of criminalization.</p><p>“When we were having the hearings on sit/lie [in San Francisco] they brought up the mayor from Santa Cruz to talk about how great it’s worked there because it removed homeless people from the downtown area,” Boden said. “So they’re not even hiding that this is about getting rid of poor people. This isn’t about any other issue except removing people that they don’t like from local communities.”</p><p><strong>The Push to Put People Over Profit and Politics</strong></p><p>This is why WRAP is pushing for statewide legislation to squash this race to bottom among cities. In Oregon, Chip Shields of the state senate was the first to sponsor the Right to Rest Act, <a href="">stating</a>, “People who are homeless not only struggle with life on the street, they struggle with the indignity of being treated like criminals because they have nowhere to eat, sit or sleep. This bill is about making sure everyone is treated humanely under the law.” </p><p>Joe Salazar of the Colorado House of Representatives was next to sponsor the act. In both states, several state representatives have added their names to the bill. No California representative has yet offered to serve as a sponsor.</p><p>“It is a really disappointing shock no one has sponsored the bill in California,” said Boden. “And the fact that you have several sponsors in Oregon and several sponsors in Colorado—we actually anticipated those being a little harder because we have a lot more members in California. We came out of California. We have a Democratic controlled assembly and Senate and a Democratic governor. What we’re trying to say to these politicians: if not you, who?"</p><p>Politicians’ lack of courage in California may stem from the campaign’s history in the state. In 2012, former California State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano introduced WRAP’s Homeless Bill of Rights, which included the Right to Rest Act’s anti-criminalization component as well as the right to legal counsel and the right to 24-hour access to hygiene centers. The Assembly’s Judiciary Committee approved the legislation but it later died in Appropriations.</p><p>“It gave too many loopholes for the opposition to plug into and avoid the race and class issues that are really behind the criminalization piece of it,” Boden said, adding that this year, WRAP is back with the Right to Rest Act—the core of the Homeless Bill of Rights.</p><p>Ammiano took a lot of heat from the League of California Cities, the Chamber of Commerce and the Police Officers Association for the bill, Boden said. The business improvement districts were the most vehemently opposed.</p><p>“When you look at how many business improvement districts we have in the state—we’re turning what we used to call neighborhoods into business improvement districts,'” Boden said. “A lot of politicians aren’t comfortable going up against this kind of opposition.”</p><p>But WRAP is still pushing for politicians to put people over politics and profit before the February 27 deadline.</p><p>“At some point somebody has to stand up and say this ain’t right,” Paul Boden said. “Some groups had to finally say, we’re going to fight Jim Crow. Some groups had to finally say, we’re going to fight ugly laws; we’re going to fight Japanese exclusion acts. Right now, today, we need to be that group.”</p><p><em>*On Feb. 27, State Senator Carol Liu <a href="">introduced</a> the Right to Rest Act in the California.</em></p> Wed, 18 Feb 2015 11:44:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1032101 at Civil Liberties Activism Civil Liberties Economy News & Politics criminalization homelessness california right to rest Western Regional Advocacy Project police gentrification Meet the Badass Activist Collective Bringing Direct Action Back to Black Communities <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">“We know that direct action works. We have seen it work for hundreds of years.”</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/800_shutdownopd-juliacarriewong_20141215_01.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>In October, organizers in Ferguson put out a call for people nationwide to come to the city to participate in four days of resistance to demand justice for Michael Brown, who was killed in August by police officer Darren Wilson.</p><p>Hailing from Oakland, New York, DC and Boston, Chinyere Tutashinda, Celeste Faison, Laila Williams, Nene Igietseme and Terry Marshall went to Ferguson to answer the call for black direct action trainers to help coordinate Moral Monday and to facilitate direct action trainings. But in the middle of a protest, something unexpected happened.</p><p>“All of us unsuccessfully attempted to bring black non-violent direct action trainers down there, and when we got to Ferguson most of the training team were white allies. We noticed that there was a shortage of black direct action trainers,” Faison said. “We looked at each other and said we need to develop some more folks to train our people and coordinate actions. And from there burst the BlackOUT Collective on the frontlines around 11 o’clock at night in front of the police station.”</p><p>Since then, the collective has helped black communities think through, facilitate, train, and execute numerous direct actions. One of their first projects was helping a group of young organizers in Oakland who wanted to take action. The result of that process was Black Brunch, an action, now expanded into other cities, in which protesters enter restaurants that cater to a white crowd at busy brunch hours and conduct a ritual for black people killed by police. This includes reading the names of those killed by police and vigilantes. The collective also published the group’s <a href="">manual</a> on the tactic for others to use.</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image media-image-left" height="480" style="width: 360px; height: 480px; float: left;" width="360"><img alt="" class="media-image media-image-left" height="480" style="width: 360px; height: 480px; float: left;" width="360" typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div><p>On Black Friday, they assisted 14 black protesters in <a href="">shutting down</a> the Bay Area’s major public transportation system, BART, for four hours (how long Brown’s body lay on the street after he was killed) and 28 minutes (every 28 hours in the U.S. a black person is killed by law enforcement).</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image media-image-right" height="480" style="width: 425px; height: 480px; border-width: 0px; border-style: solid; float: right;" width="425"><img alt="" class="media-image media-image-right" height="480" style="width: 425px; height: 480px; border-width: 0px; border-style: solid; float: right;" width="425" typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div><p>In December, the collective co-coordinated the lockdown of the Oakland Police Department for four hours and 28 minutes (pictured above). They worked with a core group of black residents who led the action, as well as newly formed affinity groups like Asians for Black Lives and white allies of the Bay Area Solidarity Action Team to physically lock down the station.</p><p>Most recently, the collective worked with Black Lives Matter Oakland to hold a “people’s inauguration” for new Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf at her house early in the morning on MLK Day to literally wake her up to the crisis of police violence.</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image media-image-left" height="319" style="width: 480px; height: 319px; float: left;" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image media-image-left" height="319" style="width: 480px; height: 319px; float: left;" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div><p>While much of the collective’s work is centered in Oakland, where most of the founders live, it has lent support to other Black communities nationally and is working to launch a more national profile by the early summer. For now, black people looking for support related to a direct action can <a href="">contact them</a> for guidance.</p><p>“We believe in building leadership among black people and black communities and really engaging in direct action,” Tutashinda said. “Because through direct action people have the ability to find power.”</p><p>I had the opportunity to talk to three of the founding members of the collective. Below is a slightly edited version of our conversation.</p><p><strong>Alyssa Figueroa: One of the aims of the BlackOUT Collective is to “stop business as usual.” Can you talk about the importance of that?</strong></p><p>Chinyere Tutashinda: Business as usual has allowed black people to be oppressed in this country for the last 400 years. That is the business. If we really break it down, we were brought here as commodities, through the Transatlantic slave trade, and have continued to be oppressed in one way or another because it served the system. So part of the stopping business as usual is really because that is what needs to stop.</p><p>Then on a more tactile level, whether it’s locking yourself to something or blockading a building, it’s around doing things that really wake people up—that are jarring and make people pay attention to how people have been oppressed for generations.</p><p>Celeste Faison: It’s also a critique of capitalism; it’s a critique of business. We’re saying America needs a new business model, this idea of valuing profit over black lives is unacceptable and this notion needs to be stopped at this moment.</p><p><strong>AF: Have people been supportive of your actions—of stopping business as usual?</strong></p><p>CF: Yes! Black folks are inspired to take action. We receive lots of encouragement and request for support. We also have support from allies who are grounded in the fact that these systems built in America were designed specifically to oppress black people. People of color affinity groups like 3rd World for Black Power and white allies like the Bay Area Solidarity Action Team believe until black people are free then no one is free. And until black people are leading that movement to be free, the system doesn’t get fully dismantled.</p><p>And then the people who haven’t supported us are mostly trolls. For people who say, "Well this isn’t the best way to win us over,"—that’s not the goal. The idea is we’re not begging for respectability or for someone to recognize our humanity. This is not a movement for affirmation. We’re saying, this ends today. We’re affirming ourselves.</p><p><strong>AF: What’s it like participating in Black Brunch?</strong></p><p>Laila Williams: Participating in one of the recent events in Oakland was powerful. Most importantly, the Black Brunch tactics is a creative way to reclaim space even if it’s only to temporarily hold the space and reveal the real racist atrocities that are happening around us. It’s a space where black folks could come together and hold that space. It’s physical space, it’s emotional space, it’s spiritual space, and it’s space to honor our comrades and colleagues and our freedom fighters. The best part is that after every action the Black Brunch community comes together to share a meal and be in community with each other. In this way, the actions are also deeply binding on a black communal front.</p><p>CF: It’s also a very revealing action because you see the racist and ignorant behavior unfold around you over the course of the action. People will cover their own and their children’s eyes and ears, they’ll stand up and turn your back on you, they’ll put headphones on and the restaurant establishments we’ve visited have even locked their doors to prevent us community from entering.</p><p><strong>AF: The BART protesters are facing misdemeanor criminal trespass charges and a fine of $70,000 total in restitution—unusual in Oakland, where most protesters are cited and released, and then charges are dropped. (ColorOfChange put out a <a href="">petition</a> to demand the charges be dropped and the community has rallied in support of the protesters.)</strong></p><p><strong>What happens if the charges aren’t dropped?   </strong></p><p>CF: Laila and I are part of the BART 14. We all decided that we’re not paying one dime. They’re saying that they want restorative justice, and we said that that day was restorative justice. And we’re not going to do community service; that was our community service. So they threatened that we can do jail time for it, but we’re not giving that any type of energy because right now we’re saying the charges themselves are unjust.</p><p>I’ve been doing a lot of research lately and during the civil rights movement, there were so many trials against Martin Luther King, against SNCC [the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Commitee]. The government kept putting them on trial for stopping business as usual. So this is a tactic that we’ve seen before, and we welcome it. Because the action just wasn’t on that day, the action continues now. This is an opportunity to put the system on trial and lift up our local and national demands. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to speak directly to BART about how they uproot communities and criminalize black folk. So that action that we did on Black Friday set the stage for this moment.</p><p><strong>AF: There’s been a lot of talk recently about violent and nonviolent protest, and within that, people are defining violence differently. Does the collective define violence? And how does that affect your direct actions?</strong></p><p>CT: We work with various communities and with each of those groups that group has to decide what they view as being violent or nonviolent. I think that it varies [depending] on what community you’re in. As a collective, we believe in a diversity of tactics. It’s not our role to critique anybody’s tactics or any of the actions that are happening in the movement if they are continuing and supporting black people who want to do direct action. </p><p>CF: We just want to make sure that people are being strategic and people are being creative, and that’s what we need to support. It’s not our job to police the way people respond to their own oppression. It’s our job to support people who want to do direct action.</p><p><strong>AF: What’s one of the most important things you’ve learned from organizing the collective?</strong></p><p>CF: One of the biggest takeaways I learned—and this came out of Ferguson and this is one of the reasons why we formed—is direct action doesn’t have to fit in this cookie-cutter box that we learn in organizing methodology. One of the things BlackOUT Collective was really exploring is how do we support, act and respond to things as they happen. And how do we support that as the new generation of folks take on and define direct action for themselves.</p><p>SNCC believed that nonviolent direct action was a means of transformation of the individual self. We see evidence of personal transformation every day. The system seems like a big beast and that can make people feel hopeless. We often hear people say, “I didn’t even know it was possible to do that.” Direct action inspires new possibility.  </p><p>CT: I learned that people are ready and people are excited to take action. And I think that’s something I knew but didn’t really know until doing this because we just went and ran. We’ve become a really think-and-do shop. We think, then we do, and through that we learn and we grow. It’s a way in which we work internally, and we’ve been able to work with communities because we don’t have the time to wait for us to get it perfect before acting. We have to act now. Our lives are dependent on us acting now.</p><p>CF: And direct action, especially in a white environmental world, is very colonized—it’s a specific skill that only a few people have. We follow in the tradition of the Ruckus Society, one of the first formations that focused on democratizing direct action and bringing it back to the people. I’m trained by Ruckus and many folks from that network have thrown down with us as allies. We are learning what it takes to do wonderfully imperfect, high level actions with little resources. We’re democratizing direct action and we’re bringing it back to the people. Well, really the people are democratizing direct action naturally and we’re bringing these types of skills back to folks and saying, 'You don’t need to be a direct action trainer to be able to blockade a train. We can practice for a month or so and do it.' The possibility to just develop organically is amazing and it’s been a real humbling experience.</p><p>LW: I learned there’s no manual or restriction around action. It’s organic and most effective when it’s authentic. I also learned constantly going needs active courage, heart and soul. And so I think we’re also learning black direct action is contagious and is collectively affirming.</p><p>Also, as a think-and-do collective and because we are a new formation there is a long list of things we are still exploring. For example, we are exploring the role of direct action within different frameworks. On a basic level, direct action helps us to remember that the system is not impermeable and it challenges assumptions around power. Within a campaign framework, it can force quick systemic changes, via policy. The SCLC demonstrated this in the <em>Selma</em> movie. And within a black anarchist framework it allows folks to bang on the system so hard that the system is unable to operate and ultimately implodes.</p><p><strong>AF: What do you see as the future of the Black Lives Matter movement?</strong></p><p>CT: I think people will continue to do action nationally and locally. We know, and one of the reasons we were founded is, that direct action works. We have seen it work for hundreds and hundreds of years. From slave rebellions to the abolitionist movement to SNCC to the Black Panther Party and then internationally we have the work in South Africa during the student rebellions. These were all direct actions done by black people and black communities as a result of oppression. And I think that we’re seeing some of that happening now.</p><p>CF: We’ll be working on the <a href="">national demands</a> that are coming out of Ferguson. A couple of them include stopping the 1033 program, to have better data collection around racial profiling and murders by the police, and that police forces that continually commit atrocities against black folk no longer receive federal dollars. In Oakland, I know that black folks are working on getting police out of the school systems and stopping gentrification.</p><p>CT: I think the other thing is broadening the conversation and really looking at what the war on black people looks like nationally, outside just the aspect of police. We’re looking at the ways our education system is devised, [at] housing and transportation. People are really starting to put the dots together and vocalize all the ways we’re oppressed. Police violence is at the national forefront because it is literally taking lives. But our lives are being slowly killed in lots of different ways—environmental racism, gentrification, and our criminal justice system, our education system. There are so many systems that need to be dismantled. I think what we’re seeing now is almost like an age of enlightenment that these systems exist and we are beginning to build an analysis around it and then some demands around it.</p><p>LW: The Black Lives Matter movement is autonomous and leader-full which is a really radical and beautiful thing. And what I’m especially excited for is the frame of Black Queer Feminism. I think that frame is really important and it’s a radically inclusive black movement for black liberation, black self-determinacy, black resistance and healing. And to have it with this black queer feminist frame now expanded to include everyone, I think that’s the key to the future of the movement.</p><p>CF: Also, I think the point of it though is we’ve been fighting structural racism since the first African was brought here as a slave. So there are a lot of things to dismantle. There are some specific things we can answer in terms of goals and demands, and I think every city has its own. But we’re trying to dismantle a system of oppression and this idea of white supremacy and the notion that that is okay. The Black Lives Matter movement is a part of a larger movement for Black Liberation. So what I see coming up is that this movement won’t stop. People are agitated, frustrated and ready to take action.</p> Wed, 11 Feb 2015 11:40:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1031616 at Activism Activism Civil Liberties Visions direct action blackout collective black lives matter 9 Revolting Videos of Cops Abusing People (Just From Last Month) <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Cops are killing, pepper spraying and tasing, even on camera. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/pepperspraying.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Give a person a gun, tell them they can kill anyone they perceive as a threat to their safety, and what are you left with? An unsurprisingly toxic police culture in which some officers feel free to abuse their power. In January alone, cell phone videos, police dash cams and surveillance video managed to capture at least nine headline-making incidents of cop-on-citizen brutality. Some of these videos include footage released in January, though the incidents occurred prior to January. </p><p>As we learned with the case of Eric Garner, capturing police abuse on video doesn’t mean the officers will face any consequences. But it does add paint to the portrait of the police brutality crisis in this country. </p><p><strong>1. A Seattle police officer <a href="">harasses</a> an elderly veteran who used his golf club as a cane. </strong>The video was released Wednesday following a public records request. The officer claimed the man swung his golf club at her, which he vehemently denied. The man spent a night in jail. Police have since apologized and returned his golf club. The confrontation begins around the 1:50 mark.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="270" src="" width="480"></iframe></p><p><strong>2. A Seattle high school teacher is <a href="">pepper-sprayed</a> at an MLK rally. </strong>A Seattle police officer was belting out orders to protesters during a peaceful rally, when the teacher walked past on his cell phone. The officer then pepper sprayed him. The teacher is suing the city.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="270" src="" width="480"></iframe></p><p><strong>3. This video shows a man holding up his hands and lying down after running from cops. </strong>When the cops catch up to him, they <a href="">tase and kick him</a>, bloodying his face. The video show a different story from the one officers describe in their reports.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="270" src="" width="480"></iframe></p><p><strong>4. Recently released surveillance video of the aftermath of the Cleveland police killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice <a href="">shows</a> the cops’ callous treatment of Rice's 14-year-old sister when she arrives on the scene. </strong>The video shows Tamir’s sister running toward her brother who lay dying on the ground. The officers appear to shove her to the ground, arrest her, and put her in their patrol car. </p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="" width="480"></iframe></p><p><strong>5. This video shows a cop on a power trip.</strong> A video taken outside San Francisco’s Hall of Justice shows an <a href="">officer intimidating and then arresting</a> a public defender as she is trying to advise her client. The officer was trying to take photos of her client, when she steps in. Police are investigating the arrest.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="270" src="" width="480"></iframe></p><p><strong>6. A New Rochelle, NY cop <a href="">points a gun</a> at teenagers while the women taking the video says the teens were “having a snowball fight.” </strong>The town’s police department has claimed it was responding to a call from a woman who said she saw a man point a gun at another man. Police allege one of the teens ran from the scene when the officers arrived, and one officer chased him. The other cop pointed the gun at the other teens, screaming, “Don’t fucking move, guys.” According to the <a href="">Guardian</a>, police officials said this is not how they train officers to communicate with residents. </p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="270" src="" width="480"></iframe></p><p><strong>7. A surveillance video shows Oklahoma County police officers <a href="">kicking and punching</a> a man after handcuffing him inside a jail. </strong>The man was injured in the head, shoulders, wrist and back. The officers were fired and charged with assault and battery, but a judge dismissed the charges. The man said he wants people to see the video and plans to file a civil suit against the two guards.</p><p><script type="text/javascript" src=";;playerWidth=630;playerHeight=355;isShowIcon=true;clipId=11088169;flvUri=;partnerclipid=;adTag=Station%25202;advertisingZone=;enableAds=true;landingPage=;islandingPageoverride=false;playerType=STANDARD_EMBEDDEDscript;controlsType=overlay"></script><a href="" title=" - Oklahoma City, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports | "> - Oklahoma City, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports |</a></p><p><em>These last two videos show police officers taking lives—the unfortunate, but inevitable outcome of a society that permits such abusive police culture. In acknowledgment of the severity of these cop abuses, the videos are not included in this compilation. </em></p><p><strong>8. Newly released surveillance video shows cops <a href="">fatally shooting</a> 17-year-old Kristiana Coignard, who suffered from depression and bipolar disorder.</strong> Coignard had entered a police department in Longview, Texas, allegedly with a knife. The struggle between Coignard and police begins at the 8:00 mark and continues for several minutes. Some police departments <a href="">have a history</a> of shooting people with mental illness if they perceive a threat of any kind.</p><p>Trigger warning: graphic content. To view the video and read more, click <a href="">here</a>. </p><p><strong>9. In a graphic video released January 20, a police officer in New Jersey <a href="">shoots and kills</a> Jerame Reid, who had his hands up. </strong>The Bridgeton police officer allegedly pulls over two men for running a stop sign. The officer then takes out his gun and tells the men not to move. After several seconds, Reid, who was African American, appears to step out of the car with his hands up. The officer then shoots at Reid repeatedly. The county is <a href="">investigating</a> the killing, though activists want the state attorney general to take it over. </p><p>Trigger warning: graphic content. To view the video<span style="font-size: 11.9999990463257px;"> and read more,</span> click <a href="">here</a>. </p> Tue, 03 Feb 2015 12:24:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1031330 at Civil Liberties Civil Liberties Video police killing police shooting. pepper spray tasering police brutality The Ugly Walmart Truth: Some Managers Treat Workers Like Dirt <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A manager comes forward to reveal the corporation’s abusive culture and the way it retaliates against workers organizing for change.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/walmart_protest_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Low wages, no benefits, irregular schedules, and unreliable hours are just some of the horrible working conditions most Walmart workers have to endure. Yet when I asked some of the workers what they consider the worst part about working for the corporation, they didn’t mention any of these wretched labor practices. Instead, they all gave the same answer: disrespectful managers.</p><p>These managers have committed offenses big and small. Some have <a href="">refused</a> to return a “hello” from their workers. Others have <a href="">forced</a> workers to do heavy-duty work despite medical conditions and pregnancies. And worse, one manager even <a href="">told</a> an African-American worker that “he’d like to put [a] rope around his neck.”</p><p>When workers try to better their working conditions through OUR Walmart, a community of current and former workers, managers’ behavior often gets <a href="">worse</a>. A manager was even recorded <a href="">telling</a> workers he “wanted to shoot everyone” organizing for change.</p><p>This leads to one of two conclusions. Either Walmart is eerily talented at hiring the meanest bullies on earth, or there is something about the corporation’s culture that manipulates its managers into treating workers in a subhuman fashion. After reading leaked documents that <a href="">exposed</a> the way Walmart trains its managers on how to deal with OUR Walmart workers (hint: by misinforming and tattling on them), I developed a hunch it was the latter. Then "Dan," an assistant manager for a Walmart store in the Midwest, confirmed my intuition.</p><p>I spoke with Dan (a pseudonym) under the condition of anonymity. (Managers are not protected under the same federal labor laws as other workers.) Well-spoken, polite and admirably humble, Dan has been a manager at Walmart for several years and said the warped corporate culture comes down to how Walmart views its workers.</p><p>“We don’t treat people with respect,” Dan said. “The stigma within a Walmart facility, and even some of the really good ones, is still, ‘We need bodies.’ But, we’re human beings, we’re not bodies.”<em> </em></p><p>That outlook—that workers are just cogs in a massive capitalist machine—drives Walmart to give workers often unfeasible workloads created to squeeze out every drop of their labor. And managers are responsible for making sure these workloads are completed.</p><p>“Even when we talk about the facts, the figures, the data—even our own company programs that are used to assess how much a workload is—whenever the numbers don’t match up, we’re still expected to get everything done 100 percent,” Dan said. “And as managers, we’re expected to stay, to the point where I’ve worked 14-or 16-hour days on a regular basis.”</p><p>Faced with this extreme pressure, managers often pass their anxiety on to workers.</p><p>“Walmart has forced managers into bad positions because we’re overworked and overstressed and not handling it the best way we should and sometimes we take it out on associates,” Dan said.</p><p>Dan admits he’s not perfect and has occasionally snapped at workers. He tries to direct his frustrations to upper-management, but ultimately, they give him unusable advice instead of practical strategies for managing his staff’s workload.</p><p>“They say, you’re managers. I pay you to solve problems, and if you can’t solve the problem, I need to pay someone else to do it."</p><p>Dan said the higher-ups harass him on a constant basis about not working hard enough. As some form of protection, Dan began keeping notes on his workload, the amount of workers needed to complete it, and the standard company time it takes to get done. That way, when he’s told he hasn't done his job, Dan can say, “Show me the data.” His supervisors can’t. This is also why Dan has not faced administrative action for his supposedly poor performance. But he is punished in other ways.</p><p>“I say, you can’t tell me based on these facts and based on this math that I didn’t do my job for the evening," Dan said. “But they still will. And they’re designed to keep it verbal and they’re designed to make it personal. Because of the frustration I feel constantly being told I’m not performing, I’m not good enough, I don’t want my associates to feel that way when I know they’re performing.”</p><p>But many managers do make their workers feel that way. So what separates the respectful and the disrespectful managers at Walmart?</p><p>“It’s whether or not you drink Walmart’s Kool-Aid,” Dan said. “If you do, you’re going to go on with the solidarity. I don’t know how many meetings that I’ve been to that they say, whether we agree or disagree at the end of this meeting we are one team and we will have one direction. Deviation will not be tolerated. It’s also the fear of losing your job or the fear of administrative action controls you.”</p><p>It doesn’t help that Walmart incentivizes this by-any-means-necessary behavior.</p><p>“Unfortunately, we sometimes reward people who aren’t the best managers because they are getting things done,” Dan said. “But they’re getting things done because they’re trampling over the people below them and grinding them into the ground. So they are getting some results, but not getting results the right way and those results are not lasting.”</p><p>What this often means for workers is constant harassment and degradation from management. Dan told me about a recent situation where a manager he works with was hounding one of their workers, nearly screaming at him, because they were far behind on unloading a truck. The worker, who consistently performs at a high level, couldn’t understand why he was behind either.</p><p>“He said, I don’t know why I’m a failure today," Dan said. “Now this is a grown adult really on the verge of being in tears, and I’m like, that’s not appropriate.”</p><p>Dan managed to calm the other manager down and figured out that they were unloading the wrong truck. Instead of being behind, they were actually far ahead.</p><p>Belittling workers like this is no way to run a business, Dan said.</p><p>“You can only hold power for so long before either the fear holds no more power or rebellion sets in.”</p><p>Dan has already reached that point.</p><p>“I’ve gotten to a point where fear no longer runs my life, but there was a point in my career when it was,” Dan said. “At one point, I didn’t take a day off for 12 days, and that’s working 14-hour days. That’s how much I let the pressure get to me. And that does a lot of other things to a person. It has personally messed up a lot of things in my life. My last marriage kinda ended over the amount of work I was putting into my job.”</p><p>Walmart workers have had enough, too. That’s why some are organizing with OUR Walmart for better working conditions. But the corporation is also organizing. It has developed a plan to deal with OUR Walmart and has trained managers to carry it out. Some of these training documents were <a href="">leaked</a> early last year. Dan confirmed the documents’ statements on Walmart’s official response to workers’ organizing.</p><p>“If an associate asks about OUR Walmart, they tell you to call their Labor Relations Hotline and say to the associate, ‘They’re like a union. I don’t think we really need a union. We’re pro-associate, not anti-union’ and ‘You’re going to pay your hard earned money to someone to speak for you when you can speak for yourself.'" (OUR Walmart has an optional $5 monthly dues.)</p><p>Unofficially, the higher-ups at Walmart are also telling managers to hamper the movement.</p><p>“We were told on a conference call, ‘We don’t want this OUR Walmart movement, and you are directly responsible for whether they show up. If you’re thinking it’s going to come in, you got to start looking at the individuals who are bringing the influence in and figure out what’s going on,’” Dan said.</p><p>Sometimes, that means actually trying to solve workers’ concerns. But other times, that means managers are supposed to pay special attention to people who may be members of OUR Walmart.</p><p>Dan said one of his general managers was so paranoid he made his managers call him immediately if they heard a worker speak about OUR Walmart and provide documentation of every worker that employee was in contact with each day.</p><p>Managers are also encouraged to be particularly mindful of these employees’ work performances. Dan said sometimes managers will chastise workers they think are with OUR Walmart for trivial matters, like resting for a few extra minutes during a break.</p><p>“That comes up more often if that worker is identifying themselves as an OUR Walmart associate or are interested in it because there’s no way for us to really know if they’re an OUR Walmart associate,” Dan said. “But if we can suspect them, we can start the data trail in case something goes wrong.”</p><p>Dan recently contacted OUR Walmart hoping that, as a manager, they would let him join. He became a member last week. </p><p>“I support OUR Walmart. And I came to that decision when I reached the point where I wanted to do anything I can to help associates not feel the same way I do when I’m at work and not feel the way I feel about myself in their job.”</p><p>Dan said he hopes associates remember that managers are people, too.</p><p>“Your boss may be just as miserable as you are,” Dan said. “And they may not have the answer on how to fix things, and we don’t always agree with what’s going on. I would hope more associates would recognize that in managers and more managers will come out and say ‘Look, I agree this is wrong. I want to do what I can to help my associates.’ I would rather bridge this gap than create more of a friction.”</p> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 14:05:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1031115 at Labor Activism Economy Labor walmart OUR Walmart working conditions retaliation Watch: Men Accidentally Catcall their Mothers In Genius Video on Street Harassment <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">“Would you talk to your mother like that?” </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_1187204.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>“You wouldn’t want someone to speak to your daughter that way.”</p><p>“Imagine someone said that to your sister.”</p><p>“Would you talk to your mother like that?”</p><p>These are some of the ways women respond to street harassment to make offenders understand why catcalling is so harmful. After all, if men can imagine the women they respect being harassed, maybe they can learn to respect all women.</p><p>A new PSA put this concept to the test. A new project by the boxing company Everlast claims they researched chronic street harassers and then found their mothers for a little experiment.  The project was shot in Lima, Peru, where 7 out of 10 women experience street harassment, according to the video.</p><p>The mothers were given mini-makeovers and sent to walk down the street, passing their sons. Without fail, their sons whisper vulgar remarks, unknowingly, at their own mothers. The mothers then reveal themselves and proceed to flip out on their sons, screaming everything you’ve always wanted to scream at your street harassers (but can’t because some women have actually gotten killed when they did). “We women can wear whatever we want!” one mother yells. “How can you be harassing [women]? Aren’t you ashamed?” shouts another. </p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="270" src="//" width="480"></iframe></p><p>Some notes about the video. One: it could be kind of fake. As one writer at <em>The Guardian</em> <a href="">wrote</a>, “The scenes are incredibly staged, the acting barely hitting the heights of a school play.”</p><p>But more importantly, viewers must remember that men shouldn’t have to imagine women as their relatives to muster up respect for them—women should be respected in their own right.</p><p>The video, however, is crucial in re-sparking dialogue on street harassment, so this violence doesn’t get normalized. And for women who have been subjected to catcalling, the video is also extremely satisfying. </p> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 11:13:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1030963 at Activism Activism Civil Liberties Gender News & Politics street harassment catcalling sexism 4 Things You Need to Know About the Assault on Women's Rights on Roe v. Wade Anniversary <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The assault on reproductive freedom in this country is worse than you think. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_175719377.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>On the 42nd anniversary of <em>Roe v. Wade, </em>the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, the anti-abortion movement has geared up its ongoing fight to control women’s bodies. With a Congress that is openly hostile to reproductive rights, and state legislatures showing no signs of stopping their own attacks on womens’ right to choose, the future certainly seems grim.</p><p>A recent <em>New York Times</em>’ editorial <a href="">warned</a> of the challenges to come in the year ahead:</p><p>"The start of 2015 finds no letup in the attacks on a woman’s constitutionally protected right to make her own childbearing decisions.…Republicans scoff at accusations that they are waging a war against women. But this should not obscure a basic fact: The ability of women to control their reproductive lives is essential for their health, careers and equality."</p><p>Here are four things you need to know about the current assault on reproductive rights.</p><p><strong>1. GOP legislators to vote on national abortion ban.</strong>On the first day of Congress’ session, Republicans introduced legislation that would ban abortion nationwide after 20 weeks. Introduced by representatitives Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the so-called Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is based on the discredited belief that fetuses at 20 weeks are able to feel pain. Before a last-minute schedule change, the House was expected to vote on the bill on the anniversary of <em>Roe v. Wade</em>. The vote was dropped after female Republican lawmakers disagreed with the bill's requirement that rape and incest victims report to police before receiving an exemption to the ban. </p><p>The bill passed in the House last year, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) of the newly Republican-controlled Senate <a href="has%2520promised">promised</a> to bring a 20-week abortion ban to a vote. The American Medical Association and other medical groups <a href="">agree</a> that the nervous system of a fetus is not capable of feeling pain before the third trimester.</p><p>Still, Franks <a href="">said</a> of his bill that 20-week fetuses are “innocent and defenseless children who can not only feel pain, but who can survive outside of the womb in most cases, and who are torturously killed without even basic anesthesia.”</p><p>A ban on 20-week abortions directly conflicts with <em>Roe v. Wade,</em>which says abortion can’t be banned before viability. Science places viability at 24-28 weeks, and no 21-week fetus has ever survived outside the womb.</p><p><strong>2. Anti-abortion and anti-birth control activists take over Washington, DC. </strong>Every year, hundreds of thousands of anti-abortion fanatics are bussed into Washington, DC, to hold a “March for Life” on the anniversary of <em>Roe v. Wade.</em>While there’s a heavy GOP presence, politicians on both sides of the aisle <a href="">speak</a> at the spectacle.</p><p>But what sets this year’s march apart from others is its recent attempt to <a href="">conflate</a> birth control and abortion. The March for Life Education Defense Fund, which organizes the event, filed a lawsuit last year challenging the Affordable Care Act by claiming that hormonal birth control, known as the pill, causes abortion. This goes even further than the <em>Hobby Lobby</em>case, in which abortion rights opponents claimed emergency contraception and IUDs caused abortion.</p><p>The claim that any birth control method can terminate a pregnancy is medically unsubstantiated.</p><p>The lawsuit, which seeks an exemption for private employers from the ACA mandate to provide contraception coverage, is still ongoing. But you may not know this from the march. As Joerg Dreweke, a researcher with the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, <a href="">wrote</a>: “Rather than applying the claim that some contraceptive methods in effect cause abortion consistently to all aspects of their advocacy, antiabortion groups ignore and often contradict their positions when it might hurt them politically.”</p><p><strong>3. New investigations reveal the rampant assault on reproductive rights. </strong>A Guttmacher Institute report released earlier this year found that <a href="">231 anti-abortion restrictions</a> were enacted since the 2010 midterm elections. This four-year period witnessed a dramatic assault compared to former years:</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="452"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="452" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/last-four-years-231-restrictions-490.png" /></div><p>In 2014 alone, 26 new restrictions (out of the 335 restrictions proposed) were passed and 60 abortion clinics <a href="">closed</a>. Another report from NARAL Pro-Choice America just gave the United States a D in its new <a href="">report card</a> on the status of women’s reproductive rights. President Ilyse G. Hogue wrote in the introduction of the report that 2014 brought outright abortion bans, mandatory waiting periods, forced ultrasounds, detrimental Supreme Court rulings on <em>Hobby Lobby</em>and buffer zones, and TRAP (targeted regulation of abortion providers) laws placing ludicrous requirements on abortion clinics in the hopes of closing them.</p><p>Hogue wrote: “All across the country, people are waking up to a new reality shaped by anti-choice politicians and ideologically motivated judges and justices who believe they know better than women, our families, and our doctors about what’s best for us.”</p><p><strong>4. The assault won’t be stopping anytime soon. </strong>A new RH Reality Check <a href="">investigation</a> paints an ugly picture of the road ahead. Researchers found that anti-abortion legislators don’t stop introducing legislation aimed at restricting women’s reproductive rights—even if the legislation previously failed. Instead, pre-written, anti-abortion model legislation is being introduced over and over by state lawmakers.</p><p>RH Reality Check wrote in its <a href="">analysis</a>: “As state legislative sessions gear up for what could be one of the worst years on record for reproductive rights, anti-choice lawmakers across the country have in recent weeks filed barrages of laws that would restrict access to safe and legal abortion, all while duplicitously claiming that these measures are needed to 'protect' women. Many of these laws are identical, or nearly so, to laws that have repeatedly failed in the same states where they are being reintroduced.”</p><p>Americans United for Life, the National Right to Life Committee, the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Susan B. Anthony List are the four organizations that play a key role in writing up the legislation.</p><p>“With hundreds of pre-written bills at the ready, the underlying strategy is to throw every bill into the mix, hoping that one might pass,” the researchers <a href="">write</a>. “What emerges is a picture of how the legal architects of the anti-choice movement are succeeding in building a state-based framework that is making abortion increasingly inaccessible.”</p> Wed, 21 Jan 2015 12:50:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1030653 at Personal Health Civil Liberties Gender Personal Health reproductive rights roe v. wade gop abortion birth control march for life women's health women's rights reproductive health care Why You Should Pay Attention to this Activist’s Attendance at the State of the Union <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">This is big news for the anti-rape movement. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/emma_1_4.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Politicians often invite guests to the State of the Union who are the face of a campaign they are championing. But at least one invitee this year stands out for championing a movement herself: Emma Sulkowicz.</p><p>Sulkowicz <a href="">made headlines</a> last year for carrying her mattress around Columbia University as an art project to protest her rapist’s presence on campus.     </p><p>“I was raped in my own dorm bed, and since then that space has become fraught for me," Sulkowicz said in a video <a href="">published</a> by the <em>Columbia Spectator</em>. "And I feel like I've carried the weight of what happened there with me everywhere since then."</p><p>Along with other sexual assault survivors, Sulkowicz <a href="">founded</a> the No Red Tape, a student organization pushing for better management of sexual assault cases at their university. Their pressure has seen several successes at the university, including the opening of a second rape crisis center and free emergency contraception. Sulkowicz is also one of the 28 students who filed a Title IX complaint against the university.</p><p>Since Sulkowicz and the movement she’s helped build took off, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has been at the forefront of trying to reform the way campuses handle sexual assault. Gillibrand invited Sulkowicz to accompany her to the State of the Union. Gillibrand and Senator Claire McCaskill are co-sponsors of the Campus Safety and Accountability Act.</p><p>According to <em><a href="">The Washington Post</a></em>,  “the bill would establish minimum training standards for campus employees responsible for handling rape cases and outline specific penalties for Title IX violations, plus provide more resources for campus rape victims.”</p><p>While Obama is expected to talk about his plan to offer free tuition for two years at community college, Gillibrand said she hopes he also talks about making campuses safer for students.</p><p>Gillibrand <a href="">told <em>New York Daily News</em></a>, “I hope the President will seize this opportunity to shine a national spotlight on the need to flip the incentives that currently reward colleges for sweeping sexual assaults under the rug.”</p><p> </p> Tue, 20 Jan 2015 12:52:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1030592 at Activism Activism Education Emma Sulkowicz sexual assault campus sexual assault state of the union What You Can Do to Highlight MLK's Radical Legacy <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">This year, organizers are highlighting Dr. King’s radical legacy of civil disobedience.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_237428050.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Across the country, cities often celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a Day of Service, in which people are encouraged to volunteer for their communities. But this year, organizers coast-to-coast are pushing for a more radical approach to honoring the true legacy of the civil rights leader.</p><p>“While we recognize the importance of service, Dr. King was not assassinated because of his charity work,” Rev. Mark Tyler <a href="">told</a> the <em>Philadelphia Inquirer</em>. “He was assassinated because he challenged the status quo.” </p><p>Tyler is one of hundreds of activists nationwide organizing a Reclaim MLK action to pay tribute to King’s radical legacy of civil disobedience. Ferguson Action, an organization anchoring the national Black Lives Matter movement, put out the call to Reclaim MLK this year, <a href="">stating</a>:</p><p>"Martin Luther King Jr.’s life’s work was the elevation, honoring, and defense of Black Lives. …This movement was built on a bold vision that was radical, principled, and uncompromising. … Unfortunately, Dr. King’s legacy has been clouded by efforts to soften, sanitize, and commercialize it. Impulses to remove Dr. King from the movement that elevated him must end. We resist efforts to reduce a long history marred with the blood of countless women and men into iconic images of men in suits behind pulpits."</p><p>Ferguson Action’s national <a href="">demands</a> include demilitarizing law enforcement, a comprehensive federal review on police abuse and the passage of the End Racial Profiling Act, among others. Several cities are participating in <a href="">four-mile marches</a> for police accountability.</p><p>While local Reclaim MLK actions are standing in solidarity with this national push, communities are also broadening the lens of racial justice for their events. In Philadelphia, where 10,000 are expected to march, Tyler and fellow organizers <a href="">are demanding</a> an end to “stop and frisk,” a citywide $15 minimum wage, and a democratically controlled school system.</p><p>In Oakland, CA, organizers are planning 96 hours of direct action culminating in a Jobs and Economy march on Monday, which aims to connect the dots between police violence and economic violence. Protesters will start at the Fruitvale BART station, where police killed Oscar Grant in 2009, and march to Coliseum City, the site of a new redevelopment project.</p><p>“What we want to make clear is that police violence is a bookend of gentrification,” said Cat Brooks, who is helping to organize the march. Brooks is the co-chair of the <a href="">ONYX Organizing Committee</a>, which was born out of the struggle for justice for Oscar Grant and the need for black leaders to be at the forefront of that movement. ONYX’s <a href="">Anti Police-Terror Project</a>, which launched several months ago and is hosting the march, came from the need to have a long-term, sustained conversation around police abuse.</p><p>“Police come into communities at the beginning to do massive sweeps to get people out,” she continued. “And then the new folks, predominantly white and wealthy folks, move in. And then the police come on the other side to keep folks out or to heavily penalize folks who are still there.”</p><p>Oakland’s <a href="">Coliseum City project</a> is seeking to transform a large area in East Oakland, where many residents have already been displaced, “into a world-class sports, entertainment and science &amp; technology district that boasts a dynamic and active urban setting with retail, entertainment, arts, culture, live and work uses.”</p><p>In response, one of the demands of Oakland’s Reclaim MLK march is a Health Impact Assessment reporting how many residents will be displaced by the new development. They’re also asking that the project’s hiring policy enforce living-wage jobs with benefits. Fifty percent of the project’s jobs would go to people of color and 51 percent would be protected for disenfranchised populations, such as people on parole.</p><p>Brooks said that in order to sustain a movement, organizers have to help people see the bigger picture.</p><p>“If we’re only talking about policing and people are able to stick that in a vacuum or the state is able to compartmentalize that, it will be a lot easier to put that box away and keep moving forward,” Brooks said. “If we start connecting all of the ways war is being waged on black people and the negative impacts that that war has across race…that allows us to do what is critical in this moment which is deep political education and hopefully mobilizing new people at large numbers into the movement for real change.”</p><p>Martin Luther King, Jr. worked tirelessly to highlight injustice, especially in the last years of his life when he organized the Poor People’s campaign. The campaign called for guaranteed employment and more affordable housing. King linked capitalism’s injustice with racism and militarization. He once said, “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”</p><p>Brooks said the Reclaim MLK actions provide a chance for people nationwide to get involved with building a better future.</p><p>“It’s an opportunity to recommit ourselves to the type of society we want to live in,” she said. “King is a figure that really speaks to all of us to rally around because he was an inspiration to the country. We are in the process of the next social justice movement in our country and you’re going to have to pick a side. Are you going to be on the right side of history and justice or are you going to be on the wrong side?”</p><p><em>Find an MLK action <a href="">near you</a>.</em></p> Wed, 14 Jan 2015 13:10:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1030294 at Activism Activism Civil Liberties Reclaim MLK Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. mlk day police killings direct action oakland Homelessness Isn't Inevitable But Rather A Manifestation of a Society that Is Sorely Lacking in Justice <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A homelessness advocate reflects on 30 years of &quot;accountable organizing&quot; to build a social justice movement.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/1.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>When you first meet Paul Boden, the executive director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP) that's working to end homelessness, his initial shyness leaves you unprepared for what’s about to come. Just start chatting with Boden about homelessness, and his energy surfaces as if he’s explaining the crisis for the first time. Within minutes, he’s waving his hands and dropping f-bombs, which oddly makes you warm up to him quickly. It's probably because the best part about talking to Boden is you know he’s the real deal. While homeless himself in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood in the '80s, Boden started organizing to eliminate homelessness and he's continued ever since.</p><p>I recently had the opportunity to meet with Boden to talk about his new book, <a href=""><em>House Keys Not Handcuffs: Homeless Organizing, Art and Politics in San Francisco and Beyond</em></a>, which details what he’s learned from over 30 years of community organizing<em>.</em>Images are dispersed throughout the book, chronicling the role art played in the movement (slideshow below). One of the first things Boden emphasizes is that homelessness isn't inevitable. It was the result of massive federal cuts to affordable housing, approximately $50 billion between 1979 and 1983 under the Reagan administration.</p><p>“That’s when shelters began,” Boden writes in the book. “That’s when people were beginning to be forced to live on the street in numbers unheard of since the 1930s.”</p><p>The city of San Francisco responded by creating bureaucratic programs that provided only short-term solutions. That’s why, in 1987, he and a few others created the Coalition on Homelessness, so people on the frontlines could push for change. Boden went on to develop WRAP in 2001, after speaking with other homeless advocacy groups about the need for a larger network on the West Coast. WRAP is currently focused on passing a Homeless Bill of Rights in several states to stop the criminalization of homeless people.</p><p>One of the key things Boden learned from his decades of organizing is the importance of connecting homeless rights with other oppressed people’s rights.</p><p>“Homelessness is a visible manifestation of a society that is sorely lacking in justice,” Boden writes. “When we speak to all our communities in the spirit of what is socially just, we will be banding together to create a government that respects us all.”</p><p>But doing the actual organizing work—and doing it the right way—is essential to precipitating change, Boden says. He calls WRAP’s method “accountable organizing.” Here are several takeaways from my interview with Boden.</p><p><strong>Why he focused on “accountable organizing” in his new book: </strong>“I didn’t need to write a how-to manual. We don’t need to institutionalize community organizing. What we need to talk about is the spirit behind it, the power within it, and how to be accountable for using the word, ‘we.’ … For poor and homeless people, we got so many people that claim to speak on our behalf. … All are presenting themselves as speaking for the homeless people. But fuck that. We may not have housing, we may not have a job, we may not have a lot of money in our pocket, but we have a brain and we have a mouth. And so the role of the organizer needs to be how to connect that.</p><p>...I’ve seen it too many times over too many years to not know goddamn well that the reality of neighborhood-based community living and community working is what goes around comes around. If you’re out there pimping off of people without their input, without their respect, without them ever hearing their voices in anything you got to say as an organization, you’re a self-identified leader. You’re not a leader of shit. … When groups contact us, the first thing we do is send them the outreach forms, and say, ‘Start doing outreach and then we’ll talk to you.’ Nobody comes to our table that hasn’t been doing street outreach and documenting it and doesn’t have community forums. Otherwise, we don’t really care what you have to say, you’re just some person who identifies as an organizer. … I find that some groups are worried, ‘Well what if they say something we don’t agree with? What if the feedback I get isn’t what I’ve been pushing?’ And I think there’s a fear there. And that to me is where your organizing starts becoming skewed and starts becoming driven by the organizers.”</p><p><strong>To inform their organizing, WRAP organizers go out and ask the same set of questions: </strong>“We have talked [to] over 1,300 [people] to create the Homeless Bill of Rights campaign we’re doing now. And homeless people help out with that. So I’m homeless, I’m living in a fucking shelter, which means I’m sitting around for hours. Or I’m on line at St. Anthony’s to get something to eat, which means I got two hours to fucking spare. I can talk to my brothers and sisters on the line. And I can get feedback. And so I can automatically start participating in the process and be connected to something and have a legitimate, vital role in building something just right where I am in that moment. </p><p>So for the Homeless Bill of Rights, we talked to a lot of people. 81 percent said they were getting busted for sleeping, 78 percent for sitting, and 66 percent for loitering, which is basically standing fucking still. So those are our top three priorities. The organizers don’t decide what’s the priority, the street outreach and the community forums do. … And when we submit the legislation—you know all organizers have to deal with compromise. So if the legislators want to take something away, all we had to do is look at the priorities from our outreach and maybe have to say ‘We can’t cut a deal on that.’ People tell you what’s up and then you go and cut a deal behind their back? You better not keep doing outreach on that block.”</p><p><strong>Organizers shouldn’t let funding determine priorities: </strong>“We talk a lot about not letting the money drive the agenda. It’s important to remind yourself, when you actually do start getting a small little paycheck or you do get an office that, ‘We started this shit with nothing. So no matter what, we can’t end up with less than we started with.’ So if we’re freaking out, it’s about freaking out about what we got now, not starting over again because we’ve already been there. And it gives you this incredible amount of power to say, ‘Well, we’ll just stay within our means.’ And if the foundations want us to do something other than what we’re doing, then that’s not money we want.”</p><p><strong>Even the artwork around a movement has to come from the community </strong><strong>(slideshow below)</strong><strong>: </strong>“The artists we’ve worked with, they’re not creating a piece of artwork and then giving it to some poor people’s group and saying, ‘Here’s my interpretation of your life.’ … They’re actually organizers themselves. They’re getting feedback from the community. They’re incorporating that into creating images and connecting the message with the image that then resonates with the people being talked about. … When you think about poor and homeless people, you think about images: the images of some guy’s face with no teeth or some woman bent over curled up in a corner or some bag lady with all this shit. That’s the image people think of because that’s what’s projected out. And that resonates in people’s heads. They may not purposefully think it, but they’re not going to see homeless people as empowered, righteous, intelligent, dedicated and hard-working if the image in their head is projected as being pathetic and in need of help.”</p><p><strong>WRAP hopes its Homeless Bill of Rights will be up for debate in California, Colorado and Oregon in 2015. In Oregon, State Rep. Chip Shields (D-Portland) recently introduced Right to Rest legislation. And the California state legislature is expected to introduce it in the coming weeks. The campaign is a step toward winning bigger change: </strong>“Especially at the local level, [the bill] is a way to…say the first thing we can directly address is you can’t fucking get rid of us. You can’t criminalize our existence. We’re here. And we’re no longer going to allow you to use the police, to use private security, to use discriminatory laws, to incarcerate us and harass us until we leave town. We no longer accept that as the way our relationship is going to function with local governments and communities where we happen to fucking live whether we have a house or not. We have the right to exist. And we’ll use that as a building base for getting strong enough, for overcoming the corporate influence of decision-making and government and all of that.</p><p>People keep saying, ‘Oh that’s so long-term.’ It’s like fuck you, we’ve been doing this for 32 years around homelessness. If we had started this 32 years ago we’d be a hell of a lot further along than we are today, so we might as well start it now because the way shit is going now, it’s only going to get worse if we don’t start doing it. … And you know, you’re going to lose more than you are going to win. So you need to understand the issue isn’t: did you win? The issue is: did you fight? And, did you fight with accountability? And are you ready to fight again tomorrow?”</p><p></p><div class="media-image"><div id="media-node-1" class="media-node"> <h2 class="title"><a href="/slideshow/artwork-house-keys-not-handcuffs" name="image-1" id="image-1">Artwork from "House Keys Not Handcuffs"</a></h2><div class="slideshow-body"><div class="date-coverage"><span class="field field-name-field-date field-type-date field-label-hidden"><span class="field-items"><span class="field-item even"><span class="date-display-single" property="dc:date" datatype="xsd:dateTime" content="2014-12-16T15:42:00-08:00">December 16, 2014</span></span></span></span> </div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-introduction-text field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><p>  </p> </div></div></div> <div class="slideshow clearfix"><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-images field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><div id="altslideshow-embedded-gallery-1-0" class="altslideshow-embedded-gallery first" rel="1"><a href="/slideshow/artwork-house-keys-not-handcuffs"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/310x220/public/slideshow/1.jpg" /></a><div class="altslideshow-source">Source: Nili Yosha</div></div></div><div class="field-item odd"><div id="altslideshow-embedded-gallery-1-1" class="altslideshow-embedded-gallery" rel="1"><a href="/slideshow/artwork-house-keys-not-handcuffs?image=1"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/310x220/public/slideshow/2.jpg" /></a><div class="altslideshow-source">Source: San Francisco Print Collective</div></div></div><div class="field-item even"><div id="altslideshow-embedded-gallery-1-2" class="altslideshow-embedded-gallery" rel="1"><a href="/slideshow/artwork-house-keys-not-handcuffs?image=2"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/310x220/public/slideshow/3.jpg" /></a><div class="altslideshow-source">Source: Art Hazelwood</div></div></div><div class="field-item odd"><div id="altslideshow-embedded-gallery-1-3" class="altslideshow-embedded-gallery" rel="1"><a href="/slideshow/artwork-house-keys-not-handcuffs?image=3"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/310x220/public/slideshow/4.jpg" /></a><div class="altslideshow-source">Source: Art Hazelwood</div></div></div><div class="field-item even"><div id="altslideshow-embedded-gallery-1-4" class="altslideshow-embedded-gallery" rel="1"><a href="/slideshow/artwork-house-keys-not-handcuffs?image=4"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/310x220/public/slideshow/5.jpg" /></a><div class="altslideshow-source">Source: Christine Hanlon</div></div></div><div class="field-item odd"><div id="altslideshow-embedded-gallery-1-5" class="altslideshow-embedded-gallery" rel="1"><a href="/slideshow/artwork-house-keys-not-handcuffs?image=5"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/310x220/public/slideshow/6_0.jpg" /></a><div class="altslideshow-source">Source: Ronnie Goodman</div></div></div><div class="field-item even"><div id="altslideshow-embedded-gallery-1-6" class="altslideshow-embedded-gallery" rel="1"><a href="/slideshow/artwork-house-keys-not-handcuffs?image=6"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/310x220/public/slideshow/7.jpg" /></a><div class="altslideshow-source">Source: Jane Winkelman</div></div></div><div class="field-item odd"><div id="altslideshow-embedded-gallery-1-7" class="altslideshow-embedded-gallery" rel="1"><a href="/slideshow/artwork-house-keys-not-handcuffs?image=7"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/310x220/public/slideshow/8.jpg" /></a><div class="altslideshow-source">Source: Ronnie Goodman</div></div></div></div></div> <div class="slideshow-pager"><div class="item-list"><ul class="altslideshow-pager" id="altslideshow-pager-1"><li class="first"><div class="count">1 of 8</div></li> <li class="last"><a href="/slideshow/artwork-house-keys-not-handcuffs?image=1" class="next" rel="1">Next</a></li> </ul></div></div><div class="slideshow-tags"><h4 class="title">Tags</h4></div></div></div></div> </div> Mon, 12 Jan 2015 14:14:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1028810 at Activism Activism Civil Liberties Economy Labor homelessness organizing paul boden Western Regional Advocacy Project Homeless Bill of Rights Officials Ban Die-Ins at Grand Central Station <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">New York transit officials find a flimsy excuse to crack down on this form of peaceful protest.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_168752522.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>On Tuesday, New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority announced it would no longer permit die-ins at Grand Central Terminal. Since the failure to indict the police officer who killed Eric Garner, protesters have been participating in die-ins at the Terminal nearly every night. This sort of demonstration has become an increasingly popular tactic of the Black Lives Matter movement, in which protesters raise awareness of racist police violence by lying down to symbolize its end result: the death of people of color.</p><p>“They were happening on a regular basis since the Eric Garner non-indictment,” said Aaron Donovan, spokesman for the MTA. “Not exactly nightly, but almost nightly.”</p><p>Donovan said that while lying on the Terminal’s floor is against MTA’s rules, they accepted the protests that began in early December.</p><p>“We have been very flexible about allowing the die-ins to take place despite that rule because the protests were clearly on a matter of public concern, the protesters were not impeding the customers or in any other way violating the laws,” Donovan said. “Our main concern of course is running a train station and making sure our customers can get from point A to point B. And all of the protests have always been done in a way that is sensitive to that and allowed our customers to move about.”</p><p>Until Tuesday night, Donovan said. On Monday and Tuesday nights, a 24-hour vigil called #CarryTheNames took place at Grand Central. Protesters carried placards with the names of those killed by police. Twitter posts show that at one point, protesters placed the placards on the floor of the terminal and the MTA police moved in.</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p>NYPD removed our 170 name memorial &amp; STOLE SOME OF THE NAMES... We need people here now to <a href="">#CarryTheNames</a> <a href="">#SHUTITDOWN</a> <a href=""></a></p>— WEWILLNOTBESILENT (@RECLAIMLANGUAGE) <a href="">January 6, 2015</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>“Last night, a group of protesters laid placards on the floor in the main concourse over quite a large area, and we can’t really allow that kind of obstruction to take place,” Donovan said. “So the MTA police asked members of the protest to remove the placards and explain that we can’t allow them to violate the rule of sitting and lying on the floor. And so that’s basically what led to that. Following that, there were two separate incidents, in which members of the group, two separate protesters became physical with police commanders. As a result we had to make the very first first arrests since the protests began last night.”</p><p>According to the<em> Village Voice,</em> only <a href="">one arrest was made</a>. The arrestee’s partner told the Voice: "He said he wasn't resisting…They just clearly wanted him not to be there."</p><p>A video captured during the arrest shows officers picking up the placards from the Terminal’s floor. One protester shouted, “How dare you disrespect these names! Shame on you!”</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="//" width="480"></iframe></p><p>“This is really designed to kick the protesters out,” Lucy Sun, a protest organizer, <a href="">told</a> the<em> Wall Street Journal</em>. “Nothing unpeaceful was happening.”</p><p>Donovan said die-ins will no longer be permitted because the protesters put the placards down on Tuesday night.</p><p>“We have been extremely tolerant of their presence in the terminal for weeks and we are cognizant of the rights they have to express their opinions and have done everything we can to accommodate them,” Donovan said. “We’ve made it clear going forward we’re no longer permitting the laying down on the ground or laying out the placards and people who don’t comply will be subject to arrest.”</p><p>Asked how the MTA is making this change clear, Donovan said, “I don’t know, to be honest. We’ve been vocal about it all day to media, from my perspective, and I’m sure police would be able to communicate that to protesters, who may not be aware of it.”</p><p>Section 1085.5 of the <a href="">Metro-North Railroad’s rules and regulations</a> states that “No person in a terminal, station or train shall: (a) block free movement of another person or persons; lie on the floor, platforms, stairs or landings”</p><p>According to <em>Animal New York,</em>the MTA’s actions may be unconstitutional. The news site <a href="">wrote</a>:</p><p style="margin-left:.5in;">In a text to ANIMAL, famed civil rights attorney Norman Siegel asserts that the rules being imposed by the MTA aren’t constitutional.</p><p style="margin-left:.5in;">“Assuming the die-in does not interfere with pedestrian movement, the MTA policy is unconstitutional,” writes Siegel. “The policy is overly broad and violates the First Amendment right to peaceful protest.”</p> Wed, 07 Jan 2015 16:22:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1029930 at Activism Activism Civil Liberties News & Politics Grand Central Terminal black lives matter die in direct action 10 Worst Things Walmart Did in 2014 <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">From illegal discipline to mistreating pregnant workers, the corporation stooped to dismal lows this year.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_3_4.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>From mistreating pregnant workers to illegally disciplining workers fighting for change, Walmart has stooped to dismal lows in 2014. In its hunt for endless profit, the world’s largest private employer continues to do everything in its power to squeeze workers and silence those who speak out. Fortunately, a growing number of workers are <a href="">standing up</a> through OUR Walmart, a community of former and current workers pushing for better labor conditions. Worker power is scaring Walmart into taking some of the most ruthless and chilling actions we've witnessed to date. Here are the top 10 of 2014.</p><p><strong>1. Walmart’s propaganda campaign against OUR Walmart exposed.</strong></p><p>In the beginning of the year, leaked documents <a href="">exposed</a> Walmart’s propaganda campaign against those organizing for better working conditions through the group OUR Walmart. The leaked presentations revealed how corporate Walmart coerces its managers into thinking that unions are out to hurt workers. In one of the presentation’s slides, Walmart wrote sample opinions managers could share with workers, such as “I think unions are a waste of money. You can speak for yourself,” and “In my opinion, unions just want to hurt Walmart and make it harder to run our business. ”</p><p><strong>2. Walmart was sued twice for mistreating pregnant workers.</strong></p><p>Legal organizations recently <a href="">filed a second complaint</a> with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of a pregnant worker who was forced to work in unhealthy conditions. Candis Riggins claimed that while cleaning bathrooms in her Walmart store, she was exposed to chemicals that made her ill. After her doctor recommended she be put on lighter duty, Walmart eventually made her a door greeter, though they refused to let her use a stool as they allow other workers. The claim states: “Walmart has engaged in a pattern or practice of gender discrimination against female sales associates.” The organizations <a href=";current_page=1#bookmark">filed their first claim</a> earlier this year, but are refiling because Walmart failed to make adequate changes.</p><p><strong>3. Walmart steals millions in wages.</strong></p><p>Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court recently <a href="">ruled</a> that Walmart owes workers more than $150 million in stolen wages. Nearly 200,000 workers in the state were forced to work through unpaid breaks and off the clock with no pay. This isn’t the first time this year Walmart was forced to pay millions to workers. In May, Walmart <a href=";current_page=1#bookmark">agreed</a> to a $21 million settlement for a decade’s worth of wage theft at a warehouse in California. Employees at the warehouse often worked for less than minimum wage, without required breaks, benefits or overtime compensation. While Walmart tried to claim it had no knowledge of these conditions, a judge ruled that the presence of up to two dozen Walmart managers at the warehouses made them both aware and liable for the conditions at the warehouse.</p><p><strong>4. Walmart illegally fires workers.</strong></p><p>Earlier in the year, the National Labor Relations Board <a href="">charged</a> Walmart with illegally firing 19 workers for participating in strikes calling for better conditions. One of the fired workers <a href="">told</a> Salon, “The federal government is confirming what we already know.… We have the right to speak out, and Walmart fired me and my coworkers illegally.” Terminating workers for participating in labor actions is perhaps Walmart’s most chilling move yet. The NLRB complaint is still undergoing review.</p><p><strong>5. Walmart illegally disciplined workers.</strong></p><p>In a separate case, the National Labor Relations Board recently ruled that Walmart <a href=";current_page=1#bookmark">illegally disciplined</a> workers in Richmond, CA who were organizing for change, and ordered the corporation to rescind its disciplinary actions. Six workers had participated in a work stoppage action after their manager made a racially charged comment to one worker, telling him he wished he could tie a rope around his neck. After the workers returned to work, the same manager said he “wanted to shoot everyone in the union.” The NLRB <a href="">wrote</a> in its decision that Walmart should “cease and desist from  issuing disciplinary coachings to associates because they engaged in a protected work stoppage, and to discourage associates from engaging in those or other protected activities.”</p><p><strong>6. Walmart profits from forcing employees to pay for new work uniforms.</strong></p><p>Walmart workers <a href=";current_page=1#bookmark">were outraged</a> in August when they learned they would be forced to buy new work uniforms to adhere to the corporation’s updated dress code policy. The low-wage workers spoke out, explaining that they couldn’t afford to purchase the new clothes. The corporation’s HR executive cheerfully suggested employees buy the new uniforms at, you guessed it, Walmart. <a href="">Making Change at Walmart</a> found that Walmart could make $51-$78 million in sales from the dress code change by calculating the price of three outfit sets multiplied by its one million workers. They added that the Walton family, Walmart’s heirs, could buy one million employees three uniform sets with just six days of their Walmart dividends.</p><p><strong>7. Walmart cuts healthcare for 30,000 workers.</strong></p><p>Walmart announced in October that it would <a href="">eliminate</a> healthcare for its 30,000 part-time workers, defined as those working fewer than 30 hours per week on average. Walmart, which made $16 billion in profit in 2013, said its healthcare costs were getting too high. Some <a href="">rejoiced</a>, claiming workers could get better, more affordable insurance with Obamacare. But part-time workers in conservative states where GOP governors won’t expand Medicaid may not qualify for Obamacare. Others <a href="">pointed out</a> that even the health insurance Walmart offers its full-time employees is inadequate for such low-paid workers.</p><p><strong>8. Walmart heirs get billions in tax subsidies.</strong></p><p>An Americans for Tax Fairness’ <a href="">report</a> released this year found that the Waltons, Walmart’s heirs, received nearly $8 billion in tax breaks in 2013. That’s right—while millions of working- and middle-class Americans pay taxes each year, the richest family in the world avoided them. $6.2 billion of Walmart’s $8 billion in tax breaks were federal taxpayer subsidies because its employees wages are so low. Employees are forced to rely on government healthcare, food stamps and other taxpayer-funded programs. In a more recent report, Americans for Tax Fairness <a href="">found</a> that Walmart has $21.4 billion in untaxed profits offshore and is lobbying Congress to further decrease corporate tax rates.</p><p><strong>9. Walmart pays execs big bonuses despite poor performances and low wages.</strong></p><p>A May report in the<em> New York Times</em>revealed that Walmart made what it called “adjustments” to the company’s sales in order to give its CEO his bonus. William Simon was only supposed to receive a bonus if sales grew by two percent. But they didn’t. He walked away with a $1.5 million bonus anyway. As <a href="">ThinkProgress</a> pointed out, this means a CEO can get an 11 percent bonus for a poor performance while the highest bonus a Walmart employee could receive is 8 percent. One Walmart worker in California <a href="">said</a> the highest bonus you could receive in her store was 60 cents a year. The average Walmart worker makes around $25,000 a year.</p><p><strong>10. Walmart gives lots to lobbying and little to charity.</strong></p><p>Despite all its evil-doing, Walmart continues to try to fool the public by touting some of its own feel-good campaigns. This year, Walmart has been <a href="">called out</a> for launching a hypocritical “Fight Hunger, Spark Changes” campaign, while remaining silent on the fact that its workers use <a href="">$300 million</a> in taxpayer money for food stamps. The corporation also took heat this year after workers <a href="">exposed</a> that the vests purchased for employees for the new dress code were made in Jordan, highlighting the <a href="">pretense</a> of its “Buy America” campaign. Further highlighting Walmart’s failed attempts to do little good with its huge profits, <em>Mother Jones</em><a href=";current_page=1#bookmark">uncovered</a> that, when it comes to giving to charity, the average American family is 230 times more generous than a Walton heir. However, they did spend big bucks <a href="">lobbying</a> for corporate tax breaks, <a href=";current_page=1#bookmark">donating</a> to groups that don’t support sustainable energy, <a href="">lobbying</a> against a federal minimum wage hike, and <a href="">funding</a> the spread of charter schools.</p> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:00:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1028947 at Labor Activism Labor walmart OUR Walmart greed capitalism Top 5 Groundbreaking Movements That Rocked the Boat in 2014 <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">This year, there was plenty of resistance against abuses of power. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_1587620.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>2014 was an unjust year to say the least. From corporations pursuing control of the Internet to cops getting away with murder, the last 12 months were certainly filled with oppression. But that doesn’t mean people didn’t fight back. There was plenty of resistance from activists across the country pushing for change.</p><p>Here is a countdown of the top five groundbreaking movements that rocked the boat this year.</p><p><strong>5. The fight for net neutrality rages on. </strong>In January 2014, a court decision ruled in favor of Verizon, which had challenged the Federal Communication Commission’s ability to enforce net neutrality. The decision has sparked a yearlong fight to demand an Internet that is open and equal for all. Protesters <a href="">set up camp</a> outside FCC headquarters and followed up months later with <a href="">actions</a> in multiple cities after word got out that the FCC was considering a shoddy solution.</p><p>But the most effective use of people power was illustrated by citizens’ responses to the commission. The FCC website even <a href="">crashed</a> at one point following a hilarious plea by John Oliver to flood the site with comments. In the end, the FCC received a record of 3.7 million responses. In an analysis of the first 800,000, <a href="">only one percent</a> were against net neutrality. The FCC will likely make a decision on net neutrality at the beginning of 2015.</p><p><strong>4. The year of minimum wage victories. </strong>The federal minimum wage remains a measly $7.25—a 25 percent decrease in worth since it peaked in 1968. Workers have had enough. People across the nation came together to make 2014 an historic year for minimum wage victories. Both <a href=";rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=1&amp;cad=rja&amp;uact=8&amp;ved=0CB4QFjAA&amp;;ei=_BCSVPjMD4H-ggSbooSIBg&amp;usg=AFQjCNGcUroPL6u_84m6t8vVCWhjvyukJw&amp;bvm=bv.82001339,d.eXY">Seattle</a> and <a href="">San Francisco</a> passed the country’s highest minimum wage bills that will phase in $15. The Chicago City Council voted to raise the city’s minimum wage to $13, and voters in Oakland passed a November ballot initiative raising the wage to $12.25. Four red states also <a href=";current_page=1#bookmark">passed</a> minimum wage increases during the midterm elections. Early in the year, President Obama raised the minimum wage to $10.10 for all 2 million federally contracted workers.</p><p>Low-wage workers are playing a crucial role in sparking a national conversation around fair pay and labor practices. Fast-food workers continued <a href="">strikes</a> throughout the year, holding their largest <a href="">action</a> this December with workers in 190 cities participating. Walmart workers also took to the streets for various direct actions, including their third and largest Black Friday strike to date. (Walmart CEO <a href="">announced</a> plans to raise workers' wages so that no worker makes the federal minimum wage.) And federally contracted workers <a href="">walked off</a> their jobs, insisting that $10.10 is not enough.</p><p><strong>3. The struggle for ending deportations sees success. </strong>Dubbed by some as the “deporter-in-chief,” Obama has deported 2 million undocumented immigrants during his time in office, more than any other president in history. For years, organizers have called for an end to deportations, and their actions certainly didn’t slow down this year. Instead, organizers with <a href="">Not1More</a>, one of the most influential campaigns in the immigrant rights movement, held sit-ins, stopped deportation buses and went on hunger strikes.</p><p>Locally, immigrant rights groups nationwide worked on <a href=";current_page=1#bookmark">ending</a> the Secure Communities program, in which U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement works together with local law enforcement to deport undocumented immigrants. More than 140 local jurisdictions have passed ordinances or executive orders stating that they will no longer comply with the program. In November, Obama announced plans to shield about 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, a huge success for the movement. The movement <a href="">plans to continue its fight</a> to end deportations for all. </p><p><strong>2. The world erupts in support of Palestinians. </strong>After Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza in July, the global community erupted in support of Palestinians facing terror. Images of dead Palestinians, bombed hospitals and schools, and a city demolished outraged people worldwide. Israel <a href="">killed</a> more than 2,100 Palestinians in a few short weeks, including 519 children. About 50,000 people <a href="">rallied</a> in South Africa, 20,000 rallied in London, and hundreds in Paris <a href=";current_page=1#bookmark">defied</a> a protest ban to demonstrate. In the U.S., thousands took to the streets in New York City, Washington, DC, San Francisco and other major cities. Jewish activists against the war on Gaza, like one group that <a href="">organized a sit-in</a> at the NYC office of the Friends of Israel Defense Forces, were also very vocal. In Palestine, tens of thousands in the West Bank <a href="">marched</a> to Jerusalem in protest. </p><p>Activists on the West Coast held one of the most powerful protests in defiance of Israel’s occupation of Palestine when they successfully <a href="">blocked</a> an Israeli ship from docking on the coast. These “Block the Boat” actions were part of a larger boycott, divestment and sanctions movement to hit Israel where it economically hurts. Organizers in Oakland, CA, continued these actions, including one in October, when a ship was <a href="">forced</a> to sail all the way to Russia to unload.</p><p><strong>1. Police killings spark Black Lives Matter movement. </strong>After Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in August, the town exploded, spurring a global call for racial justice. The young black protesters in Ferguson sustained actions for weeks on end, forcing Americans to confront the racism and injustice that plague our country. They also exposed the world to the ruthless results of police militarization in the U.S., as they faced tanks, tear gas and rubber bullets. </p><p>After the grand jury investigating the case decided not to indict Wilson in November, huge protests <a href="">broke out nationwide</a> again, with actions in more than 150 cities. A week later, a grand jury similarly decided not to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo for the murder of Eric Garner, despite the fact that Pantaleo’s use of a banned chokehold was caught on tape. From NYC to Tokyo, people <a href="">across the world</a> held actions calling for justice and supporting the message that black lives matter.</p><p>As well as taking over the streets, young black activists are <a href="">experimenting</a> with different tactics to stop “business as usual.” Nationwide, they have interrupted speeches, shut down public transportation systems and major highways, interrupted holiday shoppers, and shut down a police department. Activists have also incited national conversations on the meaning of violence as well as how non-black allies can show solidarity with the movement. They are forming groups focused on long-term organizing to be sure the world will be hearing from them for years to come. The Black Lives Matter movement has defined 2014 as the beginning of a political moment that could truly transform America’s lethal combination of deeply rooted racism and police violence. </p> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 11:40:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1028923 at Activism Activism Visions activism protests resistance movements 2014 Activists Plan March to Demand Firing of Officer Who Tweeted #CopsLivesMatter, Death Threats Against Protesters <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The officer tweeted: “I will use my God given and law appointed right and duty to kill you.”</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/enhanced-13861-1418764857-33.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>On Thursday, activists plan to march to the San Jose police headquarters to demand the firing of Officer Phillip White for his recent threatening tweets, according to <em><a href="">Inside Bay Area News</a></em>. </p><p>White has taken to Twitter to mock the Black Lives Matter protests. As Buzzfeed reported, he tweeted on December 8:</p><blockquote><p>Nothing like some torrential rain &amp; wind to quell a protest. Let’s see how important this really is to them when they’re drenched.</p></blockquote><p>On December 11:</p><blockquote><p>Just wondering … where are the protesters today #ICantSwim.</p></blockquote><p>White’s tweets took a more ominous turn this past weekend when he wrote the following two tweets:</p><blockquote><p>Threaten me or my family and I will use my God given and law appointed right and duty to kill you. #CopsLivesMatter</p><p>By the way if anyone feels they can't breathe or their lives matter I'll be at the movies tonight, off duty, carrying my gun.</p></blockquote><p><a href="">Silicon Valley De-Bug</a>, a social justice community group, started an <a href="">online petition</a> calling for Officer White to be fired. To date, the petition has nearly 15,000 signatures. The group wrote on the petition: </p><blockquote><p>The San Jose community is appalled by Officer Phillip White's threats to protesters through his twitter account. His words, if tolerated, make the notion of positive police-community relations impossible. Every second he has a badge and a gun, our community is at risk. He must be fired.</p></blockquote><p>The San Jose police chief <a href="">stated</a> that White’s words do not represent the feelings of the department and that the SJPD does not “condone this type of behavior.” White has since deleted his Twitter account and has been placed on administrative leave with pay while the department investigates his actions. Buzzfeed <a href="">reported</a> that the San Jose Police Department of Internal Affairs and the city’s Independent Police Auditor would also investigate the matter.</p><p>Many community members still want White fired from the department. Activists will <a href="">meet</a> in front of the Santa Clara County government building today at 4pm and march to the SJPD to deliver their online petition.</p><p>Raj Jayadev of Silicon Valley De-Bug <a href="">explained to CBS San Francisco</a> why he wants White fired: “I saw venom and vitriol and I saw someone who is a walking danger and a walking threat who has a badge and a gun along with the state’s authority to use it.”</p> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 11:32:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1028920 at Activism Activism Civil Liberties News & Politics Phillip White san jose police department black lives matter movement police killings police brutality 8 Developments of the Black Lives Matter Movement Most People Don't Know About <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Activists say the best way to sustain the struggle is to let young black organizers take the lead. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/oakland_millions_march.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>This weekend, tens of thousands of people took to the streets nationwide to demand justice for victims of police brutality and unify around the message that black lives matter. While most Americans may have heard about the protests that drew large crowds in New York City, Washington, DC and the Bay Area, unconventional actions that received less attention in the press are also propelling the movement forward. In their struggle to dismantle the systemic violence communities of color face, activists are experimenting with new tactics and ideas to advance the fight.</p><p>Here are eight developments to know about.</p><p><strong>1. Young Ferguson activists interrupt Al Sharpton’s DC event.</strong></p><p>Al Sharpton's National Action Network held a Justice For All march in Washington on Saturday, which drew more than 10,000 people. But its scripted, scheduled format deviated from many recent Black Lives Matter rallies, in which people were permitted to speak even if they didn’t organize the event. So the National Action Network was in for a big surprise when a group of young Ferguson activists interrupted the rally and took the stage. NAN activists tried for several minutes to get the protesters offstage, but were met with loud chants of “Let them speak!”</p><p>Ultimately, they allowed Johnetta Elzie of St. Louis to speak. Elzie, who protested in Ferguson for more than 100 days, explained that young people started the movement and it needs to continue that way. She later <a href="">told</a> the press: “I thought there was going to be actions, not a show. This is a show."</p><p>Many young black activists who have been fighting the struggle on the ground share this sentiment. They don’t want the movement to be co-opted by older civil rights leaders who are mostly interested in pursuing inadequate reforms. As Stephen Thrasher wrote in the Guardian, “A movement of, for and about everyday people doesn’t necessarily require reenacting MLK’s greatest hits. It requires new kinds of protest nationwide.”</p><p>Watch Elzie speak: </p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="270" src="//" width="480"></iframe></p><p><strong>2. Hundreds of protesters deviate from planned marches.</strong></p><p>In another effort to create their own path in this movement, hundreds of protesters broke off from the planned marches in NYC, DC and Oakland, Calif. to form their own protests on streets that weren’t “permitted.” In DC, a small group left the march to stop traffic in major intersections in the city’s downtown area. Following the Millions March in Oakland, about 200 protesters continued through the streets of the city, briefly shutting down a tunnel leading to the island of Alameda. Police eventually kettled protesters, arrested them and put them on buses. Hundreds of people from the Millions March in NYC left the action that drew 30,000 people and marched about nine miles to the Brooklyn public housing unit where the NYPD recently <a href="">shot and killed</a> 28-year-old Akai Gurley.</p><p><strong>3.  Protesters continue disrupting business as usual.</strong></p><p>On Monday, protesters with the Oakland-based Blackout Collective, an all-black direct action collective, <a href="">chained</a> themselves to Oakland Police Department headquarters, effectively locking down the department. About 200 protesters gathered in solidarity. White allies joined in the protests by chaining themselves together and blocking off the intersections leading to the department. Asian allies blocked another set of doors to the department. Latino allies and elderly activists also blocked streets. One activist replaced the flag in front of the OPD with one bearing the faces of those killed by police violence. Police <a href="">made 25 arrests</a> for "obstructing and blocking a public safety building and delaying a police officer." Police were forced to use bolt cutters to break the chains on the headquarters’ doors.</p><p>Activists in Oakland have been experimenting with various direct action tactics to stop “business as usual.” They have disrupted the Bay Area’s major public transportation service, BART, multiple times and have also held rallies at popular <a href="">brunch spots</a>. Activists in NYC have disrupted holiday shoppers at large stores in Times Square like Macy’s, Toys’R’Us and H&amp;M, in addition to holding massive die-ins at Grand Central Station. On Monday, NYC <a href="">protested</a> outside Gracie Mansion, where Mayor Bill de Blasio was hosting a Christmas party.</p><p>Watch this video of Monday’s protest in Oakland: </p><div id="fb-root"> </div><script> <!--//--><![CDATA[// ><!-- (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); = id; js.src = "//"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk')); //--><!]]> </script><div class="fb-post" data-href="" data-width="466"><div class="fb-xfbml-parse-ignore"><a href="">Post</a> by <a href="">Wild Tigers</a>.</div></div><p><strong>4. Black organizers show white allies how to demonstrate solidarity.</strong></p><p>Oakland’s Monday protest provided a clear demonstration of how non-black allies could show support for black organizers as they lead the charge in this fight. A photo taken from a public organizing meeting in Boston illustrates the national conversation taking place about how white people can display solidarity with the movement.</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="360"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="360" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/10850168_10153034362247214_4315572627613242257_n.jpg" /></div><p><strong>5. Activists are reframing white narratives around “violence” and “#AllLivesMatter.”</strong></p><p>Some white voices have co-opted the protest message “Black Lives Matter” by using the hashtag and refrain “#AllLivesMatter.” At Saturday’s rally in Oakland, one poet set the record straight by explaining the particular terror that black people live with. In a powerful poem, she said, “All lives will matter when black lives matter.” She also discussed the white narratives around violence. <a href="">Dialogues</a> around the meanings of violent or peaceful protests have reemerged among organizers across the country. Meanwhile, the mainstream media continues to focus on the vandalism and few windows that get broken during protests—sometimes by white outside agitators—rather than on police killings.</p><p>Watch her speak:</p><div id="fb-root"> </div><script> <!--//--><![CDATA[// ><!-- (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); = id; js.src = "//"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk')); //--><!]]> </script><div class="fb-post" data-href="" data-width="466"><div class="fb-xfbml-parse-ignore"><a href="">Post</a> by <a href="">Dione Johnson</a>.</div></div><p><strong>6. Black women play crucial role in leading movement.</strong></p><p>In a recent <em>Guardian</em> piece<em>,</em> Hannah Giorgis <a href="">writes</a> about how women are leading protests in the Black Lives Matter movement. She wrote about how Erica Garner, Eric Garner’s daughter, led a protest march and die-in last week. As Giorgis points out, numerous actions and organizations have been created by women, including Saturday’s Millions March in NYC and the Ferguson grassroots group Millennial Activists United.</p><p>Women’s basketball teams from Notre Dame and UC Berkeley, respectively, wore T-shirts that depicted the message “I Can’t Breathe” and the names of victims of police killings. Black mothers of victims of police killings also <a href="">traveled</a> to DC last week to talk about their stories at a Capitol Hill briefing and in a meeting at the Department of Justice.</p><p><strong>7. Police experiment with different tactics, too.</strong></p><p>Organizers with the Black Lives Matter movement aren’t the only ones experimenting with various organizing tactics; so are police are. While police in Berkeley, like those in Ferguson, <a href="">used</a> tear gas and rubber bullets on peaceful protesters, NYPD officers <a href="">used</a> military-grade sonic weapons to disperse protesters in the city. According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, "The LRAD can reach decibel levels as high as 162. For comparison, a normal conversation is usually 60 decibels, while a lawn mower can reach to 90 decibels. A level of 130 decibels is typically considered the average pain threshold for most humans." The National Lawyers Guild <a href="">wrote</a> a letter to the NYPD police commissioner demanding a review of the devices and calling their use unconstitutional. </p><p>In Oakland, an undercover white California Highway Patrol officer pulled a gun on protesters. CHP’s chief defended the officer’s actions, saying he <a href="">will continue</a> to use plainclothes officers to infiltrate protests in order to gather information.</p><p>At Oakland’s protest on Saturday, one speaker said it is the responsibility of protesters to get organized because the police are already doing so. She said protests, tactics and raising awareness are important, but "they have to be tied to strategic, calculated and long-term organization." She continued, "If you're not in one, join one or start one. Make a plan—because they have one. They are sitting in a very well-funded think tank right now figuring out how to squash this. ... They're going to figure out a way to squash this if we are not organized."</p><p><strong>8. The movement continues.</strong></p><p>Activists nationwide are getting organized to sustain the movement. In terms of direct action, Ferguson Action <a href="">lists</a> upcoming planned actions on its site. Organizers in the Bronx have <a href=";set=gm.886717444682219&amp;type=1">planned</a> an #ItStopsToday rally for Thursday. On Tuesday, the UC Berkeley Black Student Union will also be cohosting a rally prior to the city’s final city council meeting of the year. Many other actions are likely to happen either spontaneously or without much public notice for effective civil disobedience.</p><p>The Black Lives Matter movement is developing into a powerful fight against racism and police violence. The best way to sustain the struggle is to let young black organizers take the lead. </p> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 15:28:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1028746 at Activism Activism Civil Liberties black lives matter activism protest racism police violence state violence Walmart Manager Allegedly Wanted to 'Shoot Everyone' Organizing for Better Working Conditions at Store <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Walmart has been ordered to stop making illegal threats against OUR Walmart members. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_11.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Raymond Bravo, a former Walmart employee in Richmond, CA, decided to go on strike with his co-workers back in November 2012 because they were tired of being disrespected. After their white manager made a racially charged comment, enough was enough.</p><p>“This manager, Van Riper, told one of the associates who was a member—they were pulling a shelf with rope around his waist—and he told him that he’d like to put that rope around his neck,” Bravo said. “And the associate is African American.”</p><p>Following the strike, Walmart gave the workers two writeups. Workers can only get three writeups before being placed on a probation period in which they can get fired after their next mistake.  </p><p>On Tuesday, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that Walmart had acted illegally and forced the corporation to rescind its disciplinary actions. The corporation’s retaliation tactics are one of the biggest impediments to Walmart workers organizing for change. That’s why this is a significant step in the workers’ national fight to improve their working conditions.</p><p>“It makes me feel hella good,” Bravo said.</p><p><strong>Going on Strike</strong></p><p>Bravo joined OUR Walmart, a community of former and current employees fighting for better working conditions, back in January 2012.</p><p>“When you start working at Walmart they give you 40 hours, then all of a sudden they start cutting your hours,” he said. “And then you start seeing the favoritism, the disrespect. There were some organizers coming into my store and they were handing out cards and I went online and looked at the videos online about it and I put two and two together and I joined. You had to do it. Because if you didn’t try to stick together and make any change, it would stay the same.”</p><p>Bravo said he and a few of his co-workers were tired of their managers lying about OUR Walmart.</p><p>“They were spreading rumors like, ‘OUR Walmart, all they do is want your money,’” he said.</p><p>But after learning about the store manager’s racist comment to their coworker, they wanted to do something about it. Bravo and a handful of his coworkers on the overnight shift decided to have a work stoppage. For two hours, they stopped working and sat at the customer service desk until the store opened to the public.</p><p>“The managers were yelling at us. They kept asking us to leave,” he said. “But it felt awesome because we were standing up for each other.”</p><p><strong>Returning to Work</strong></p><p>When OUR Walmart members return to work following a strike, they go as a group to their manager and read a script of their rights to strike and return to work. After Bravo and his co-workers at the Richmond store followed that procedure, their manager Riper responded by threatening workers’ lives.</p><p>“He claimed that we were a union, and he said that he wanted to shoot everyone in the union,” Bravo said. “It made me feel really mad and kind of hurt because we’re not doing anything wrong. And we don’t deserve to have our lives threatened. No one does. It made me feel hella bad.”</p><p>A week later, Bravo and the others were given two writeups for participating in the work stoppage. Because Bravo was written up once before, this placed him on “D-Day” or “decision day”—a sort of probation during which workers can get fired for one other incident. Bravo said if a Walmart worker doesn’t get written up for a year, it clears the writeups from their record.</p><p>“They were saying I was part of a well-orchestrated flash mob and that I was occupying Walmart property and disrupting sales and service,” Bravo said. “They didn’t recognize that we had that right to go on strike.”</p><p>But the threats didn’t stop there. Managers continued to discipline the workers who participated in the work stoppage.</p><p>“They told us that we better look for another job,” Bravo said. “They separated us. They told associates not to talk to us.”</p><p><strong>Fighting Back Against Walmart</strong></p><p>Since OUR Walmart workers nationwide held their first Black Friday strikes back in 2012, managers have escalated their threats to deter workers from fighting for change. A group of lawyers filed charges against Walmart to the National Labor Relations Board on the workers behalf. As the result of one of these charges, the NLRB on Tuesday called on Walmart to immediately stop its threats against OUR Walmart members and remove the illegal disciplinary actions from six workers who went on strike in Richmond.</p><p>The NLRB <a href="">wrote</a> in their decision that Walmart should “cease and desist from … threatening Richmond, California store associates that it would ‘shoot the union …’ threatening Richmond, California store associates by telling them that associates returning from strike would be looking for new jobs … Issuing disciplinary coachings to associates because they engaged in a protected work stoppage, and to discourage associates from engaging in those or other protected activities.”</p><p>In 2013, <a href="">Jobs With Justice</a> reported on Walmart’s efforts to silence workers, <a href="">uncovering</a> more than 150 incidents in stores nationwide. But in the report, they also called the NLRB out for taking years to make decisions, leaving workers without immediate relief. Bravo, for one, was fired from Walmart and is awaiting legal proceedings. He said he couldn’t discuss his case.</p><p>Jobs With Justice <a href="">wrote</a> in their report that the NLRB “has broken down for two main reasons: 1) employers face no punitive consequences for violating U.S. labor laws; and 2) excessive delays in enforcement in many cases render the already weak remedies for labor law violation virtually meaningless.”</p><p>While the NLRB’s ruling on Tuesday is just a step for now, it’s one that Bravo is deservedly proud of.</p><p>“Walmart can’t silence us and everybody has the right to go on strike,” he said. “And the government just reinforced that we had that right and it feels hella good to be a part of something so great and hella people are going to benefit from our actions.”</p> Wed, 10 Dec 2014 14:20:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1028496 at Labor Activism Corporate Accountability and WorkPlace Labor News & Politics OUR Walmart walmart strike nlrb workers' rights labor law retaliation Protestors Lie on Train Tracks, Stop Interstate Traffic in Berkeley <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Protests over the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner continue. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/sitin.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>At 5pm on Monday evening, University of California Berkeley students and their supporters began crowding the campus entrance. Students handed out protest kits in case the Berkeley Police Department decided to use tear gas, as <a href="">they did Saturday night</a>. The kit also included a list of people's legal rights in case of police confrontations:</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="386" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="386" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/img_0116.jpg" /></div><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="397" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="397" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/tear_gas_kit.jpg" /></div><p>A short rally took place before the march. Yvette Felarca of Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (<a href="">BAMN</a>) is pictured below. "For those who have been concerned about a few windows gettin broken, I want to clear the air on that up right now," she said. "You can never replace the life of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, but windows can always be replaced. So who do we hold responsible for inciting violence?" There was some disagreement on whether or not protests had to remain completely non-violent. A black woman who spoke after Felarca urged for peaceful protest. </p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="450"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="450" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/img_0126.jpg" /></div><p>The crowd of about 1,500 protesters then marched through downtown Berkeley, stopping by the dorms to chant, "Out of the dorms, into the streets."</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="335" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="335" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/dorms.jpg" /></div><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="360"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="360" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/dorms2.jpg" /></div><p>Protesters then began marching down streets, stopping traffic at popular intersections. </p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="348"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="348" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/block_traffic.jpg" /></div><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="360"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="360" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/img_0252.jpg" /></div><p>Protesters hold a sit-in for several minutes at Shattuck and Channing. </p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="279" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="279" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/sitin.jpg" /></div><p>Protesters then marched to the Berkeley Police Department. The street to the department was blocked off by metal gates. Police formed a line behind them. A few officers slammed their batons on the gates in order to, they claimed, remind protesters not to touch the gates. One officer shoved his baton into a young man's stomach. </p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="390"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="390" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/bdp.jpg" /></div><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="360"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="360" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/bpd1.jpg" /></div><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="360"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="360" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/bpd2.jpg" /></div><p>"Want to see who came to riot," the writing on his mirror reads. "Look who dressed for a riot."</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="342"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="342" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/riotmirror.jpg" /></div><p>After about 15 minutes, protesters dispersed into other marches. A few protesters laid down on the tracks of an Amtrak train, forcing it to stop. About 200 made their way to highway I-80, stopping traffic on both lanes for more than an hour. The California Highway Patrol arrived on the scene. According to news <a href="">reports</a>, the Berkeley Police Department made nine arrests while the California Highway Patrol made 150. </p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p>LIVE updates: Protesters lying on train tracks, blocking Amtrak train in <a href="">#Berkeley</a> protests. <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p>— SFGate (@SFGate) <a href="">December 9, 2014</a></blockquote><p> </p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p><a href="">#BREAKING</a>: All lanes of I-80 near University Ave. in <a href="">#Berkeley</a> closed due to protest. WATCH: <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p>— ABC7 News (@abc7newsBayArea) <a href="">December 9, 2014</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p>ICYMI <a href="">#berkeleyprotests</a> photos after I-80 was blocked and <a href="">#CHP</a> began making arrests. <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p>— Mercury News (@mercnews) <a href="">December 9, 2014</a></blockquote> Tue, 09 Dec 2014 08:29:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1028401 at Activism Activism Civil Liberties News & Politics berkeley protest michael brown eric garner police killings racism Exploding Protest Movement Goes National as Citizens Demand an End to Era of Brutal, Racist Policing <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">This is about changing policing as we know it.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/b4ykpmpcuaaagng_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Late Saturday, hours into a protest march over police brutality in Berkeley, Calif., police were looking to make arrests and spotted Kyle McCoy. </p><p>The young black man, a well-known racial justice activist and University of California-Berkeley alum was <a href="">arrested</a> on suspicion for felony assault with a deadly weapon. He was taken away and booked, but by Sunday morning he was free on bail. On Monday afternoon, when he was scheduled to be arraigned in court, a bailiff announced the criminal charge had been dropped.</p><p>That kind of routine police harrassment is partly why protests over police brutality and institutional racism continue nationwide. It is not just because ongoing deaths of unarmed black men and youths at the hands of police have struck a deep chord across America. The more you talk to protesters the more it becomes clear that this movement’s goals are crystalized by racist policing but do not stop there.</p><p>“Everyone out there is saying they can’t breathe for a lot of reasons,” said one protester who came to the courthouse to support McCoy, referring to Eric Garner’s last words before dying from a chokeheld during his arrest in New York City. “I know a lot of people who are out there [protesting]. It’s a lot of issues.”</p><p>In the Bay Area, today’s protesters are a mix of newcomers and veterans. There have been massive protests in recent years over other police killings of black men, notably Oscar Grant. There has been the Oakland-centered Occupy movement, protests over urban gentrification, rising higher education costs, and other issues with racial and economic justice underpinnings. But Cynthia Morse, an older white woman and longtime protester who came to the court to support those arrested this weekend, said police brutality was unlike other issues, especially if your family has been victimized.</p><p>“This whole issue has got to be a black people’s movement. It’s theirs. They want it. They don’t need direction from us. They need our support and that’s what most of us are really trying to do,” Morse said. “The institutional racism, the overt racism, the police brutality against young black men has been very real to us because we are part of Oakland and they have been so many of us [seeking justice] who are black, and mothers with children who have been killed, and friends—it’s really personal. This is a life and death issue.” </p><p>Morse said she was sickened by the outsiders who used the protests to vandalize local stores. “It’s such a disgusting lack of respect for the people who have died,” Morse said. “It is just the most incredible disrespect to them and their families.”</p><p><strong>Protesters Demands</strong></p><p>Across the country, the core demands of protesters following the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, have been to end the institutionalized racism in policing. This means ending racial profiling, changing the police practices and grand jury process that allow officers who use excessive force to evade accountability. It means taking a range of militarized weapons out of police hands in non-emergency contexts, such as at protests.   </p><p>But as demonstrations continue, there also are related concerns. In Berkeley, some leaders of the weekend marches said their demands included ending the “new Jim Crow,” the lack of educational and economic opportunities. They want to restore affirmative action on UC campuses and double non-white enrollment, said Yvette Felarca, a leader of the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (<a href="">BAMN</a>).</p><p>In Detroit, Michigan, Jose Alvarenga, another BAMN organizer, said their top agenda is to “connect the fight against police brutality to what’s going on in Detroit….We have been having marches on every Saturday in the east side of Detroit against police brutality. They definitely have been bigger now after the two [grand jury] decisions.”</p><p>“It comes down to the same line of growing inequality across the country,” he said. “In some instances, like with K-12 education and universities, it’s very clear who has more opportunities and resources. You have bitterness and anger in the communities that don’t have those opportunities. If you include violent police brutality and repression, then you will have the responses that Ferguson has had and now Berkeley, rightly so, is having.”    </p><p><strong>Coast to Coast Activism</strong></p><p>In New York City, protesters have staged a mass die-in at Grand Central Terminal on Sunday. They also <a href="">disrupted</a> shoppers in Macy’s and H&amp;M, tweeting “no justice, no shopping.” They swarmed Toys ‘R’ Us and held up toy guns in memory of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old who was shot and killed by a rookie officer in Cleveland. Some protesters went to Penn Station to <a href="">sing</a> “justice carols.” On Monday, protesters <a href="">blocked</a> traffic on the Verrazano Bridge during morning rush hour.</p><p>In Philadelphia, about 200 protesters <a href="">held</a> a die-in outside the Philadelphia Eagles’ stadium blocking cars from leaving following the game. Some pro athletes held their own form of protest by writing “I can’t breathe” on their clothing. NBA player Derrick Rose and NFL players Reggie Bush and Johnson Bademosi wore the message on their warmup shirts. NFL player David Joseph wrote it on his cleats. LeBron James is <a href=";soc_trk=tw">expected</a> to wear one during Monday’s game in Brooklyn.</p><p>The District of Columbia has also seen protesters rising up. On Saturday, dozens <a href="">staged</a> a die-in at Washington’s Union Station and blocked a bridge in nearby Arlington, Virginia. Elsewhere in the south, more than 200 demonstrators <a href="">staged</a> a die-in in North Carolina at a holiday event. In Miami, protesters blocked a major freeway and sustained protests for three days. Protesters <a href="">sang</a>, “We who believe in freedom cannot rest, until it comes.” </p><p>In Chicago, religious leaders from about 100 churches led a rally on Sunday. “The enemy might choke the breath out of our bodies but they cannot choke the breath out of our spirit,” said Rev. Michael Pfleger during a morning service.</p><p>In Los Angeles on Saturday, protesters held a “Blackout Hollywood” in which hundreds staged a die-in, shutting down a popular intersection where an allegedly armed black man was recently killed by police on Friday. Protests also unfolded in <a href="">Anchorage, Alaska</a>, and in Phoenix where police <a href="">killed</a> Rumain Brisbon, an unarmed black man, last week.</p><p>The international community also <a href="">held</a> actions this weekend, with protests in Tokyo, Paris, Melbourne, and Hannover, Germany.</p><p>Meanwhile, back in the San Francisco Bay Area, protests spread outward from Berkeley. In Oakland, protesters entered a popular restaurant on Sunday and <a href=";set=vb.215840&amp;type=2&amp;theater">sang</a> the old pro-labor song, “Which side are you on, friends? Which side are you on?” They then read a list of names of black people killed by police officers, saying, “Justice for Mike Brown is justice for us all. I will fight for freedom until justice is won.”</p><p>The caption on a video of their action reads, “We interrupt your regularly scheduled brunch to bring you #blackbrunch….No business as usual. Shut it down because #blacklivesmatter.” </p> Mon, 08 Dec 2014 17:36:00 -0800 Steven Rosenfeld, Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1028367 at Activism Activism Civil Liberties News & Politics Occupy Wall Street Michael Brown protests Eric Garner protests police brutality protests police excessive force Berkeley protests Detroit protests How Workers in One City Won the Fight Against Too Few Hours on Too Short Notice <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Workers at chain retail stores won big with a Retail Workers Bill of Rights. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_196039457.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The careers of workers in the retail industry are often at the mercy of their employers. Workers, especially those in part-time positions, often don’t receive their schedules far enough in advance to plan their lives, nor do they get enough hours to make ends meet.</p><p>But 40,000 retail workers in San Francisco will soon be seeing significant improvements thanks to the recent approval of the Retail Workers Bill of Rights. Last week, the city’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in favor of the bill, which will now be passed to the desk of Mayor Ed Lee. He is expected to approve it by the December 25 deadline.</p><p>“It’s groundbreaking legislation for part-time workers who work in chain stores,” said Michelle Lim, the strategic campaign organizer for Jobs With Justice, the key member organization of the coalition that pushed for the bill.</p><p>The bill contains five major provisions to curtail unfair practices at corporate retailers. According to Lim, workers were most in need of the one requiring fair and predictable scheduling. More than 80 percent of workers <a href="">report</a> having unstable work schedules. This provision requires employers to post schedules at least two weeks in advance. If employers change a worker’s schedule with less than a week’s notice, the employee will receive one hour of pay. If a worker's schedule is changed with less than 24 hours’ notice, workers will receive two or four hours of pay, depending on the length of the shift. </p><p>Another key provision in the bill requires employers to offer more hours to existing part-time employees before hiring additional part-timers. Lim said not getting enough hours is a big struggle for many workers. Involuntary part-time employment in California has <a href="">tripled</a> to 1.1 million since 2006.</p><p>“One of our worker leaders is a mom with four kids,” Lim said. “She can’t get more than 24 hours at the chain grocery store she works at. And they even put her on the night shift. And she’ll ask for more hours and explain she could work during the day, and she’s not able to get any more hours.”</p><p>Employers will now be required to put their extra hours needed in writing and present it to part-time employees. The workers will then have the option to take or reject the hours with no retaliation.</p><p>According to Jobs With Justice, the other three provisions <a href="">are</a>:</p><ul><li><strong>Discouraging Abusive On-Call Scheduling Practices: </strong>Employers will be required to provide two to four hours of pay to an employee at his/her regular rate of pay when he/she is required to be “on-call” for a specified shift but the employer cancels the shift with less than 24 hours’ notice.</li><li><strong>Equal Treatment for Part-Time Workers: </strong>Employers will be prohibited from discriminating against employees with respect to their starting rate of pay, access to employer-provided paid and unpaid time off, or access to promotion opportunities.</li><li><strong>Encouraging Worker Retention and Job Security: </strong>If an employer’s company is bought or sold, the workers must be kept on at their jobs for at least a 90-day trial period.</li></ul><p>This bill of rights will only apply to companies with 20 or more stores globally that have 20 or more employees in San Francisco. Lim said the bill was focused on protecting workers employed at the largest and most profitable companies such as Target, McDonald’s, the Cheesecake Factory, H&amp;M, and Whole Foods.</p><p>“When we asked around, a lot of the small businesses were already doing these things,” Lim said. “This policy is also incentivizing for small businesses to plan in advance.”</p><p>Lim said the idea for a Retail Workers Bill of Rights evolved from a large Retailer Accountability Act that failed to pass in Washington, DC, and Boston. Jobs With Justice then wanted to focus on winning in San Francisco to set the stage for change.</p><p>“San Francisco almost has a duty to set a high bar and a good bar,” Lim said.</p><p>Jobs With Justice then formed a coalition of dozens of community organizations, which worked closely with the National Employment Law Project. They drew on research from University of Chicago professor Susan Lambert’s <a href="">studies</a> on precarious work schedules, as well as hundreds of interviews with retail workers conducted by New York City’s Retail Action Project. In addition, they talked to workers in the city and formed a worker committee to advocate for the bill.</p><p>Lim said the key to winning this bill was creating a vast coalition that could help push the legislation. But getting all of the groups involved to agree on all the terms wasn’t easy.</p><p>“We had a coalition of 30 different groups having 30 different conversations,” she said. “We had to have lots of meetings”</p><p>Starting in January, San Francisco’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement will work with Jobs With Justice on a six-month education period to inform employers and employees about the new legislation. The bill will then be enforced in the summer of 2015. Jobs With Justice will create a two-year enforcement plan, which includes participatory research from its worker leaders, to ensure that the bill is properly implemented.</p><p>Other cities are in the preliminary stages of creating their own Retail Workers Bill of Rights. And George Miller’s (D-CA) introduction of the Schedules That Work Act in July has helped prompt a national conversation around fair scheduling.</p><p>Lim said it’s important for the labor movement to start taking a proactive approach to corporations’ attempts to weaken workers’ rights.</p><p>“I think a lot of labor groups, too often, too much take the defensive route, where they’re not actually strategically planning, they’re just responding to what corporations are doing,” Lim said. “So it’s really exciting to be part of something that’s like, hey, we’re not just going to wait for the company to do something, we’re going to put our foot down here."</p> Thu, 04 Dec 2014 16:04:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1028188 at Labor Activism Economy Labor Visions Retail Workers Bill of Rights workers' rights san francisco Jobs With Justice Fast Food Workers and Other Low-Wage Employees Strike In 190 Cities Today <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">&quot;We need a living wage to be able to support our families. They don&#039;t think we deserve it.&quot;</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_215115700.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Fast food workers along with other low-wage employees in trades like the airline and home care industries went on strike Thursday in nearly 200 cities nationwide. Workers are calling for $15 an hour and a union. Today's strikes may be the largest work stoppage in the industry's history. </p><p><em>The Guardian</em> <a href="">reports</a> that 40,000 airline workers are expected to strike. They wrote a collective letter to the CEO’s of American Airlines, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, and Delta Air Lines.</p><p>“We work hard and we care about our passengers because we work face to face with them every day,” the letter <a href="">states</a>. “But we don’t understand why, when we work so hard for you, that you an the subcontractors you hire are going out of your way to try to keep us in poverty.”</p><p>Federal workers in Washington, D.C., are also on strike to demand President Obama raise the wages of employees contracted by the government to $15. Obama had signed an executive order in February to raise the minimum wage to federally-contracted employees to $10.10.</p><p>The strike approximately marks the second-year anniversary of the first big fast-food strikes in November 2012, when more than 100 fast food workers walked off the job in New York City.</p><p>Reuters <a href="">reported</a>:</p><p>"Melinda Robinson of Kansas City, Missouri, and her 5-year-old daughter, Mercy, marched Thursday with about 100 people in downtown Kansas City, Kansas, seeking a $15 wage and union.<br /><br />"We need a living wage to be able to support our families. They don't think we deserve it," said Robinson, who has six children and makes $9 per hour working at a Subway."</p><p>With other low-wage workers joining in the strikes today, the movement is inspiring various low-wage workers to stand up.</p><p><em>Al-Jazeera America</em><a href="">reported</a>:</p><blockquote><p>"Andrew Ferguson, a Dollar Tree employee in Detroit, Mich., said he joined the strike after being approached by organizers from the local branch of the fast food campaign, Detroit 15 (D15). "The area where I live in Detroit, most people are struggling," he said. "I'm one of those people who's struggling. I would personally just love to make a livable wage, because I'm passionate about my job, I enjoy working in retail, and I enjoy working with people.'"</p></blockquote><p> </p><p> </p> Thu, 04 Dec 2014 11:47:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1028161 at Activism Activism Labor News & Politics fast food workers low wage workers strike Personnel File Reveals Cleveland Officer Who Shot and Killed 12-Year-Old Tamir Rice Had a Troubling History <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">And the Cleveland Police Department didn’t review the file before hiring him. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/tamir_rice.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The personnel file of Tim Loehmann, the officer who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, reveals some troubling details about his performance as an officer for the Independence Police Department in Ohio.</p><p>In the file, a letter penned by Deputy Chief of the Independence Police Jim Polak urges the department to remove Loehmann. As <a href=""></a> reports, Polak wrote: "He could not follow simple directions, could not communicate clear thoughts nor recollections, and his handgun performance was dismal … I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct the deficiencies." </p><p>The five-page letter is part of Loehmann’s <a href="">60-page personnel file</a> that was released this week. reported:</p><p>"According to a written report from Independence Police Sgt. Greg Tinnirello. … The problems at Independence erupted on Nov. 28, 2012, the records say. Loehmann showed up "sleepy and upset" for a 6 a.m. state gun qualification session. Tinnierello wrote that Loehmann "was distracted and was not following simple instructions" at the shooting range. At one point, he went to the back of the range to reload his magazine and could not return to the line where he was supposed to shoot from, Tinnierello wrote. Loehmann appeared to be crying and was emotionally upset so Tinnierello said they would stop the exercise for the day."</p><p>Loehmann ultimately resigned from the police department in Independence, a small suburban town, and sought getting hired for the city of Cleveland. <a href="">stated</a>: “<a href="">Loehmann's father said that his son left Independence </a>to pursue a job with Cleveland police because he wanted ‘more action.’”</p><p>The Cleveland Police Department hired Loehmann in March, and have <a href="">admitted</a> that he didn’t review his personnel file, raising larger questions on police hiring and transfer practices. On Wednesday, they updated their hiring policies to ensure that is a requirement going forward.</p><p>On Nov. 22, Loehmann shot Rice at point blank range within seconds of arriving on the scene. An analysis of surveillance footage <a href="">found</a> that the police waited four minutes to administer first aid. Rice later died at the hospital. According to police, a 911 caller reported an armed person waving a gun in a playground, adding that the gun was probably fake. This information allegedly wasn't relayed to the responding officers. </p><p> </p> Thu, 04 Dec 2014 11:25:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1028155 at Civil Liberties Civil Liberties News & Politics Tamir Rice police shooting Will NYC Follow Ferguson After Grand Jury Fails to Indict Cop Who Killed Eric Garner? <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The city is attempting to control protests and activists’ demands. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_206914753_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>When I asked local organizer Josmar Trujillo on Tuesday if he thought there would be an indictment for Daniel Pantaleo, the New York City police officer who killed Eric Garner after putting him in a choke hold, he said he wasn’t sure.</p><p>“One side of my brain tells me that it doesn’t make any sense not to indict him; it’s on video,” Trujillo said. “Politically, it doesn’t make sense to defend this cop. But I don’t know, it’s a Staten Island district attorney, and it’s the most conservative borough in New York. And it could potentially be a non-indictment. And if that happens all hell could break loose. Maybe.”</p><p>On Wednesday afternoon, news broke that the grand jury chose not to indict Pantaleo. That night, thousands took to the streets in New York City to protest the jury's decision. Chanting "hands up don't shoot," and "black lives matter!" protestors squared off with NYPD officers -- many in riot gear -- throughout the city. Will the protests continue and escalate?</p><p>NYC Police Commissioner Bill Bratton recently met with elected officials and some leaders of big anti-police brutality organizations in Staten Island to coordinate the response to the grand jury decision. One local news site <a href="">reported</a>: “Staten Island is not Ferguson. That was the message after a 90-minute meeting in St. George Monday between Police Commissioner William Bratton, community leaders and elected officials”</p><p>Trujillo said Bratton is trying to create a chorus of people to put limitations on community members’ protests.</p><p>“They’re trying to make sure they can have some level of control so they can be able to come into a controlled rally and say some rhetoric on racism and [that] we’re moving in the right direction,” he said. “But at the end of the day, just make sure that it’s not out of their control because if it’s out of their control then it’s something they’re afraid of.”</p><p>Indeed, the Associated Press recently <a href="">reported</a> that the NYPD sent detectives to St. Louis “to gather intelligence on ‘professional agitators’ who frequent protests and to share strategies for quelling violence.”</p><p>“Bratton has always reached out and coordinated with other police departments, not just in America, but overseas,” Trujillo said. “The NYPD has for years had public detectives stationed in Israel and across the Middle East, so it makes perfect sense for them to be coordinating in Ferguson.… It’s more like a message to activists to imply that if you’re going over there, because some New Yorkers have, we’re keeping track of you. So it’s meant to scare activists from showing solidarity with Ferguson, from connecting the dots. It’s a scare tactic.”</p><p>But just because the NYPD has made attempts to subdue the protests following the grand jury’s decision, it doesn’t mean protesters will comply. Trujillo said the spontaneous protests in NYC following the grand jury decision in Ferguson were uncontrolled in a good way. Protesters rallied in Times Square and ultimately shut down three bridges.</p><p>“It was still very powerful,” he said. “I don’t remember feeling that since the Trayvon Martin protest.”</p><p>Trujillo said it’s important that protests take shape in a somewhat organic fashion, led by those most affected by the culture of police brutality. He continued, "We need some level of experimentation. Not in a sense of just throwing things around and smashing things just recklessly with no control over each other. We need to be accountable, but we do need to do things outside of the traditional venues. And by letting these protests happen and by letting young people of color be in control, new and fresh ideas can come to the table and we can create a new civil rights movement potentially."</p><p>Trujillo added, "But we won’t do that if we have some of these traditional and politically connected people taking control of it and herd people into those traditional things like, ‘let’s do a city council bill,’ or ‘let’s wait until four years from now and elect a new guy.’ We need this to be open and have the space to find out what works and what doesn’t work."</p><p>One thing that certainly doesn’t work for Trujillo is Bratton's "broken windows" theory of policing, which aims to prevent major crimes by stopping low-level crime. Trujillo is a member of <a href="">New Yorkers Against Bratton</a>, an ad hoc group of activists, community advocates and parents formed after NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced he would bring Bratton back to New York as the city's police commissioner. The group, along with seven other community groups, has formed the Broken Windows Coalition, which demands the removal of Bratton and a rejection of broken windows policing. The group wants this to remain one of the main focuses of the community both during and after the protests. And just as they don’t want their protests controlled, those living with the realities of police harassment don’t want their message controlled either.</p><p>“Most of the groups and most of the political establishment in the city won’t say things like ‘Bratton shouldn’t be here, Bratton needs to go,’” Trujillo said. “Part of the reason we focused on that message is it differentiates people who have a real sense of history about Bratton and don’t want to be harassed for low-level crimes.”</p><p>We've seen evidence of broken windows, which unfairly targets communities of color, in police brutality cases nationwide. In Ferguson, Officer Darren Wilson approached Michael Brown for walking in the middle of the street instead of on the sidewalk. In NYC, Officer Daniel Pantaleo stopped Eric Garner for selling untaxed cigarettes on a street corner.</p><p>“Broken windows is the main contributor to the massive amounts of interactions between cops and community members that increases the likelihood that more confrontations like this will happen,” Trujillo said. “People here remember that before the '90s, if you arrested someone for sitting on the sidewalk or selling loose cigarettes on the street like Eric Garner, cops would have been like, ‘this is ridiculous, this is not what I’m here for. But in the '90s that became the dominant idea in the police department with Bratton and then it spread to other cities.”</p><p>A recent <a href="">report</a> from John Jay College of Criminal Justice found that misdemeanor arrests in NYC have increased from 60,000 a year in 1980 to 250,000 a year in 2012. Trujillo said he thinks it’s inevitable that the conversation in the city and ultimately the nation will be around broken windows. He recalls one city councilmember calling the theory the “5,000-pound elephant in the room.”</p><p>“Politically these things usually play out in a way that eventually the pressure just becomes enough,” Trujillo said. “And the issue just becomes so politically toxic like ‘stop-and-frisk’ was that things are going to have to go. And Bratton won’t stay if he’s being challenged like that. He’s going to go. We’re here to grease the wheels and make it go faster.”</p> Wed, 03 Dec 2014 14:54:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1028113 at Civil Liberties Activism Civil Liberties News & Politics ferguson eric garner chokehold nypd daniel panteleo Surveillance Video Shows Police Waited 4 Minutes to Deliver First-Aid to 12-Year-Old Tamir Rice <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Cleveland police shot and killed Rice after believing his toy gun was real.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_233734993.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>An analysis of a surveillance video that captured the Cleveland police killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice <a href="">found</a> that the officers waited four minutes to deliver first aid to the boy. </p><p>After Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann, who police say is a "rookie," shot Rice twice at point-blank range, he and his partner waited four minutes until an FBI agent came to the scene. When the agent arrived, one of the officers helped him administer first aid, reports <a href=""></a>. Tamir later died after being taken to a hospital. </p><p>According to police, a 911 caller reported an armed person waving a gun in a playground, adding that the gun was probably fake. This information allegedly wasn't relayed to the responding officers. </p><p>The video shows Tamir Rice in the park playing with the snow and his toy gun before police arrive on the scene and shoot within seconds.</p><p> </p><p><object classid="clsid:D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" codebase=",0,47,0" height="270" id="flashObj" width="480"><param name="movie" value=";isUI=1" /><param name="bgcolor" value="#FFFFFF" /><param name="flashVars" value="videoId=3911267519001&amp;playerID=2436822743001&amp;playerKey=AQ~~,AAAAQBxUNqE~,xKBGzTdiYSQO_AtyrK_TWDarhTlAxJpV&amp;domain=embed&amp;dynamicStreaming=true" /><param name="base" value="" /><param name="seamlesstabbing" value="false" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><param name="swLiveConnect" value="true" /><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always" /><embed allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" base="" bgcolor="#FFFFFF" flashvars="videoId=3911267519001&amp;playerID=2436822743001&amp;playerKey=AQ~~,AAAAQBxUNqE~,xKBGzTdiYSQO_AtyrK_TWDarhTlAxJpV&amp;domain=embed&amp;dynamicStreaming=true" height="270" name="flashObj" pluginspage="" seamlesstabbing="false" src=";isUI=1" swliveconnect="true" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="480"></embed></object></p> Sun, 30 Nov 2014 11:54:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1027893 at Civil Liberties Civil Liberties Video Tamir Rice police shooting cleveland ohio Activists Are Eating an Organic Thanksgiving Dinner on Monsanto Headquarters’ Lawn Today <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">And they haven’t asked permission. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/tgivs_dins.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Performance activists Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir will have an organic, non-GMO, local Thanksgiving feast in a very unlikely place this year: the lawn of Monsanto—the world’s largest biotechnology seed company.</p><p>Starting in New York City on Sunday, the activists, along with 30 others, have travelled by bus to the corporate giant’s headquarters outside St. Louis to bring attention to its <a href="">role</a> in environmental destruction and damage to our food systems.</p><p>“Obviously Monsanto is one of the most powerful corporations in the world,” said Savitri D, director of the Choir. “We don’t have delusions that our action there is going to impact their shareholders or their stock prices or their policies. We’re talking to each other with this action, as much as anything else. We’re trying to open up the ritual of Thanksgiving to discussion about the most important thing in the world: our food supply.”</p><p>Savitri D said the group has not asked permission to eat on the lawn, and some activists are prepared to be arrested. She said that the failed GMO-labeling ballot initiatives in Colorado and Oregon, as well as the legal challenge to the law that passed in Vermont, illustrates the corruption of our democracy. In turn, she said, people must fight back.</p><p>“There’s a desperation here to do something, do anything,” Savitri D said. “So we’re asking families across the country to join us in a solidarity dinner and commit to making their own dinner that’s non-GMO, pesticide free, as much as they can. I think it’s about sending signals in the face of these electoral defeats saying democracy is broken but we’re not broken.”</p><p>On Sunday, the group premiered their new show <em>Monsanto Is the Devil</em>, which sought to bridge, “two very distant but deeply connected issues: state violence against especially people of color and the rampant and outrageous use of pesticides on basically every surface in the world.”</p><p>She added,  “Those are hard topics to put into one show. We try to illustrate that the conditions that create both and how similar they are, and that the solution to both is, since democracy doesn’t seem to be responding to our pleas, activism. And these kind of symbolic actions are really what we can do at the moment.”</p><p>Savitri D said that Monsanto’s headquarters is seven miles away from Ferguson, and they plan to travel there as well. She said, “We hope we can be of service to the activists who are working so hard there.”</p> Wed, 26 Nov 2014 15:27:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1027761 at Activism Activism Civil Liberties Environment Food News & Politics monsanto thanksgiving activism Working for Walmart Is Even Worse Than You Think <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Victoria Alvarez explains why she and other Walmart workers nationwide are striking today, despite Walmart&#039;s attempts at silencing them. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/enhanced-buzz-wide-5883-1415912582-13.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">When I met Victoria Alvarez, 50, at a café after her shift at Walmart, I didn’t notice her knee brace. Instead I noticed her dark eyes and glittery nail polish, which in some ways is a great metaphor for Alvarez. She’s hurting, but her bold personality still dominates.</p><p dir="ltr">Within seconds of meeting her, you can tell she’s the type of person who's fun to be around; she talks with her hands, speaks her mind and doesn’t take anyone’s shit. Alvarez was born and raised in Mexico and immigrated to the United States more than 20 years ago. Her heavily accented voice is confident and captivating, and she had a lot to say.</p><p dir="ltr">She applied to work at Walmart during the 2009 recession. After a few months of work in Arizona, she transferred to a store in Fremont, CA, an hour from San Jose, where she lives with her husband in their mobile home. Alvarez works full-time and started at $9 an hour. After five years, she makes $11.  </p><p dir="ltr">“In the beginning, I almost lost my mobile home because I struggled,” Alvarez said. “My husband was sick and out of work. I had to borrow from friends, from family for a very long time.”</p><p dir="ltr">But there was more to the burden of working at Walmart than just low wages. Alvarez said as soon as she started working in Fremont, she noticed things weren't right. </p><p dir="ltr">“A lot of people were punished for things they weren’t suppose to be, like not finishing their work on time,” she explained. “A lot of people were doing the work of three to four people. That’s what happened to me.”</p><p dir="ltr">Alvarez and her supervisor ran Walmart’s Tire &amp; Lube Express department. She was servicing customers, making keys, dealing with tires, and carrying heavy merchandise.</p><p dir="ltr">“I was forced to skip meals,” she said, adding that many of her co-workers have to skip meals, too. Then the workers manipulate the punch-out clock to make it look like they took a break.</p><p dir="ltr">“They say, ‘If we find out you do it we’ll fire you,’” Alvarez said. “But then they show you how to do it.”</p><p dir="ltr">Eventually, Alvarez got carpal tunnel syndrome and showed managers a doctor’s note explaining that she needed modified work. But they wouldn’t recognize it. Alvarez had to call on California’s Labor Department, which finally wrote a letter to her Walmart store. Her managers then moved her to greeting customers and pushing carts.</p><p dir="ltr">“I had to push carts with the leg I have, with my bad knee,” she said.</p><p dir="ltr">When I asked Alvarez if she has healthcare, her face reddened.</p><p dir="ltr">“This is what happened with healthcare,” she began to explain, tears welling up. She pays $80 a month for Walmart’s lowest option for health insurance. This is all she can afford. While workers' compensation took care of her carpal tunnel surgery, an emergency room visit for appendicitis left her with a $22,000 bill.</p><p>“I said, ‘How am I going to pay this?’”</p><p dir="ltr">Alvarez applied for government financial aid, which fortunately took care of the bill. It’s estimated that Walmart benefits from $6.2 billion in taxpayer subsidies for healthcare, food stamps and subsidized housing.</p><p dir="ltr">“I’ve been through all this,” she said, closing her eyes. </p><p dir="ltr">I asked Alvarez why she joined OUR Walmart—the Organization United for Respect at Walmart—and she smiled. She recalled the day she saw her co-worker walk into the store wearing a bunch of OUR Walmart bracelets two years ago. “I joked with him and said, ‘Oh I like your bracelets, can I have one?’” Alvarez said, laughing. He told her that the group was a communitiy of former and current workers fighting for better working conditions.</p><p dir="ltr">“He explained it to me, and I said, ‘Oh my god, this is what I need!’” she recounted. “I really wanted to join because I had a lot to say.”  </p><p dir="ltr">Alvarez has since participated in many actions, including strikes and rallies in front of Rob Walton’s house. I asked Alvarez what she wanted to see change at Walmart. She answered before I'd finished the question. </p><p>“Retaliation is the most important thing I want to end,” she said. “That if you speak out about getting $15, about getting full-time, getting predictable scheduling, about the OUR Walmart organization or better health insurance, or workers comp or if you tell your manager, ‘Hey, I need people here to help me because the load that you’re giving me is for three people and I’m not going to be able to finish,’ they retaliate on you. And I want that to end.”</p><p dir="ltr">Alvarez began rattling off instances she felt she had been retaliated against. Once, she was called into the office and told she was disrespecting the dress code by wearing jeans. She was told either to go home or buy a pair of pants at Walmart. But Alvarez wasn’t wearing jeans. She was wearing black pants and fortunately saw a co-worker wearing the same pants in khaki. She pointed this out to her managers and told them, “If you’re sending me home, you have to apply the same rules to everyone.” They told her to forget the whole thing.</p><p dir="ltr">Another time, she was working apparel and needed to go to the restroom, so she called for backup. After waiting nearly an hour and calling for backup three times, she just went. When she got back, she was written up for her “irresponsible” act and for being “disrespectful” to management. Alvarez admits she was aggressive.    </p><p dir="ltr">“Of course, you’re going to get mad when someone comes and tells you that you’re irresponsible,” she said. “I held it for almost an hour. I was waiting for someone to come. I didn’t see anybody. When I came back somebody was already there—it was like they were waiting for me to come back.”</p><p dir="ltr">Most recently she faced retaliation after coming back from a strike in Los Angeles, where OUR Walmart members held their first store sit-in.</p><p dir="ltr">“When I came back from the strike, they sent me to work by myself at the men’s department for two days,” she said. “And then the managers called everyone in and said the schedules for the holiday week were ready and were designed based on people’s talents. And I was on for one day only. That was the first time in five years I was scheduled to work only one day. And I said to my manager, ‘Is this retaliation because I went on strike or am I not talented?’”</p><p dir="ltr">The manager ultimately gave Alvarez 40 hours. But she won’t be working all of it. She will be participating in OUR Walmart’s Black Friday strikes, expected to be the organization's largest ever, with actions happening at 1,600 stores. She also will be striking the day before on Thanksgiving, when Walmart’s Black Friday sale begins at 6pm. She told me that instead of her Walmart store giving employees bonuses for working on the holidays like they used to, they now only get a 25-percent-off coupon.</p><p dir="ltr">“How are we going to shop when we don’t have money to spend? It’s so ridiculous,” she said. “I really believe that by striking this Black Friday, we can change how things work. We really need to participate to change things. If we don’t participate, it will remain the same. We have come so far to not participate. We have started something that is very brave for everybody.”</p><p dir="ltr">I ask Alvarez if she ever feared standing up to Walmart.</p><p dir="ltr">“No, no, no, not at all,” she said. “Whatever sacrifice it takes to change things, I will do it. And I’m not doing it only for me; I’m also doing it for my co-workers. For all those who don’t have the courage. For all of those who are scared to speak out.”</p><p dir="ltr">After interviewing Alvarez for an hour and 40 minutes, I apologized for taking so much of her time and thanked her for meeting with me.</p><p dir="ltr">“You don’t have any more questions?” she asked, surprised.</p><p dir="ltr">I told her to tell me anything else she wanted, and she perked back up.</p><p dir="ltr">She told me that several of her co-workers get injured on the job but they're too scared to file for worker's compensation. One of her managers recently got fired for slapping a worker. A few of her co-workers are homeless and live on the couches of family, friends or co-workers.</p><p dir="ltr">“One of my co-workers, he’s older, he lives in his car,” she said. “He has the car parking there. He eats there, he sleeps there, he takes showers I don’t know where, but he’s always there.”</p><p dir="ltr">She told me that the way Walmart does evaluations is unfair because they are often done by random managers, who don’t really know the workers they assess so they only give a standard satisfactory mark. That lands you a 20-40 cent raise for the year. An excellent mark gets you a 60-cent raise, the highest Walmart gives.</p><p dir="ltr">“You’ll never excel,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how hard you work, how much work you do, how faithful you are to Walmart, get there on time every day, when they call you to come in. You never excel.”</p><p dir="ltr">She told me that seeing how some of her co-workers struggle breaks her heart. Another way she sees their struggle is when she’s working the register and rings up her co-workers’ lunches.</p><p dir="ltr">“One woman eats the same 59-cent can of soup every day,” she said. “It’s all she can afford.”</p><p dir="ltr">She told me she wishes more of her co-workers would stand up for themselves, and sometimes it’s very hard for her to understand why they don’t. She has tried many times to speak to that managers on behalf of workers who are too scared, but they won't let her. But it's not like she doesn't have her own concerns. </p><p>“Well, I am in fear. Really I am in fear,” Alvarez said. “But if Walmart fires me I’m sure something better for me is waiting for me out there—that’s how I want to think. But the only thing that I would regret is not being there for my co-workers. And it doesn’t matter if they fire me, I’m going to continue fighting until the end by supporting my co-workers with my presence in every strike. When I start something, I like to finish.”</p><p><em>To find a OUR Walmart Black Friday protest near you visit <a href=""></a>.</em></p> Wed, 26 Nov 2014 14:41:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1027756 at Activism Activism Economy Labor walmart OUR Walmart low wage workers black friday strikes NYPD Commissioner Bratton Splattered with Fake Blood During Protests for Michael Brown <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">NYC and other cities nationwide erupted in protests after the Ferguson grand jury decision.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/bloodybratton.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Protests took place across the country last night after the grand jury in Ferguson failed to indict officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown. In NYC, thousands of protesters swarmed Times Square and eventually shut down the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Triborough bridges.</p><p>In the midst of the Times Square protest, one activist threw fake blood on NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton. </p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p>BREAKING: <a href="">#NYC</a> Police Commissioner Bratton splattered with fake blood at <a href="">#Justice4MikeBrown</a> protest <a href=""></a></p>— Jeff Rae (@jeffrae) <a href="">November 25, 2014</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Bratton has been fiercely criticized for the NYPD's broken-windows policy of policing that focuses on patrolling communities of color and cracking down on low-level crimes. His theory is replicated in police departments nationwide. In Ferguson, Officer Darren Wilson approached Michael Brown for not walking on the sidewalk. Last week, an NYPD officer was patrolling a public housing unit when he “accidentally” shot and killed an unarmed black male named Akai Gurley.</p><p>Protesters in NYC used the fake blood that ran off Bratton to send a powerful message on the streets:</p><blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-version="4" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"><div style="padding:8px;"><div style=" background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:50% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;"><div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAAGFBMVEUiIiI9PT0eHh4gIB4hIBkcHBwcHBwcHBydr+JQAAAACHRSTlMABA4YHyQsM5jtaMwAAADfSURBVDjL7ZVBEgMhCAQBAf//42xcNbpAqakcM0ftUmFAAIBE81IqBJdS3lS6zs3bIpB9WED3YYXFPmHRfT8sgyrCP1x8uEUxLMzNWElFOYCV6mHWWwMzdPEKHlhLw7NWJqkHc4uIZphavDzA2JPzUDsBZziNae2S6owH8xPmX8G7zzgKEOPUoYHvGz1TBCxMkd3kwNVbU0gKHkx+iZILf77IofhrY1nYFnB/lQPb79drWOyJVa/DAvg9B/rLB4cC+Nqgdz/TvBbBnr6GBReqn/nRmDgaQEej7WhonozjF+Y2I/fZou/qAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;"> </div></div><p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"><a href="" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_top">Mike Brown's name now scrawled into the fake blood that was thrown around Times Square.</a></p><p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A photo posted by Nick Carbone (@carbonen) on</p><time datetime="2014-11-25T04:10:25+00:00" style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;">Nov 11, 2014 at 8:10pm PST</time></div></blockquote><script async="" defer="defer" src="//"></script><p> </p><p> </p><p>Protests also took place in Washington, D.C, Chicago, Seattle, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Oakland, CA.</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p>Protestors shutdown the 580 freeway in <a href="">#Oakland</a> during the protest last night. It took several officers to reopen it <a href=""></a></p>— KTVU (@KTVU) <a href="">November 25, 2014</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p>DOWNTOWN <a href="">#SEATTLE</a>: <a href="">#Ferguson</a> Protests Shut Down Traffic At 4th and Pine <a href="">@charlieharger</a> <a href=""></a></p>— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) <a href="">November 25, 2014</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p>Washington, DC --&gt; <a href="">#Ferguson</a> protests RT <a href="">@daveweigel</a>: Chinatown <a href=""></a></p>— Margarita (@margarita) <a href="">November 25, 2014</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p>Protestors in NYC have taken the Brooklyn Bridge roadway, traffic is stopped. <a href="">#Ferguson</a> <a href="">#BlackLivesMatter</a> <a href=""></a></p>— Robert Pluma (@RobotPluma) <a href="">November 25, 2014</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>In Ferguson, police chiefs had <a href="">refused</a> to rule out tear gas and rubber bullets. Numerous protesters were injured from both. This was the police response to one woman apparently having a heart attack:</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="270" src="//" width="480"></iframe></p><p>The St. Louis County Police Department sent out this absurd lie in a tweet:</p><p> </p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p>Police are not deploying tear gas. They are using <a href="">#smoke</a> to break up unruly crowds. <a href="">#Ferguson</a></p>— St. Louis County PD (@stlcountypd) <a href="">November 25, 2014</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>More than 100 <a href="">actions</a> nationwide have been planned around the grand jury announcement. </p> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 10:52:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1027652 at Activism Activism Civil Liberties News & Politics bill bratton broken windows Mike Brown ferguson Marissa Alexander Accepts Plea Deal, Forced to Return to Prison <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The domestic violence victim will finally be released in January. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/marissa.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Marissa Alexander, the domestic violence victim facing trial in Florida for firing a warning shot, accepted a plea deal on Monday. The deal required Alexander to plead guilty to aggravated assault in exchange for three years in prison. The 1,030 days she already spent in prison will be counted. Alexander, who was out on bail, will return to Duval County Jail after Monday’s hearing and has 65 days left to serve. She will be released on Jan. 27, and placed under house arrest for two years.</p><p>Despite <a href=";current_page=1#bookmark">testifying</a> that she was in fear for life when she fired a shot at the ceiling after her husband abused her, Alexander was denied Florida’s Stand Your Ground immunity twice. In his <a href="">initial deposition</a>, her husband Rico Gray told the same story, adding that he “was in a rage” and mentioning his history of violent abuse. “I got five baby mamas, and I [hit] every last one of them except for one,” he wrote. He also admitted to “four or five” previous instances in which he abused Alexander, including when he “pushed her back and she fell in the bathtub and she hit her head.”</p><p>State prosecutor Angela Corey maintained, however, that Alexander did not fear for her life when she fired the gun. The shot injured no one. Alexander was set to face trial on Dec. 8, and faced 60 years in prison after Corey <a href="">decided</a> she would have to serve the state’s 20-year mandatory minimum sentence consecutively. Alexander was charged with three counts of aggravated assault for firing the shot in the presence of her husband and his two children.</p><p>In a press release, Free Marissa Now organizer Alisa Bierria stated:</p><blockquote><p>The plea deal is a relief in some ways, but this is far from a victory. The deal will help Marissa and her family avoid yet another very expensive and emotionally exhausting trial that could have led to the devastating ruling of spending the rest of her life in prison.  Marissa’s children, family, and community need her to be free as soon as possible.  However, the absurdity in Marissa’s case was always the fact that the courts punished and criminalized her for surviving domestic violence, for saving her own life.  The mandatory minimum sentences of 20 years, and then 60 years, just made the state’s prosecution increasingly shocking.  But we have always believed that forcing Marissa to serve even one day in prison represents a profound and systemic attack on black women’s right to exist and all women’s right to self-defense.</p></blockquote> Mon, 24 Nov 2014 15:12:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1027608 at Civil Liberties Activism Civil Liberties News & Politics marissa alexander domestic violence stand your ground 14 Greedy Companies That Are Forcing Employees to Work on Thanksgiving <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Plus, the stores that are giving their workers off for the holiday.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_89560033.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>To open or close your store on a national holiday? Apparently, that is the question for some corporations again this year.</p><p>Numerous stores are continuing the corporate trend of bringing their <a href="">problematic</a> Black Friday consumerism into a day meant for community. Now known as “Black Thursday,” numerous large retailers are opening around 6pm on Thanksgiving Day.</p><p>Kmart takes the cake this year by announcing it will open at 6am and remain open for 42 hours.<em></em>ThinkProgress<em></em><a href=";elqCampaignId=~~eloqua..type--campaign..campaignid--0..fieldname--id~~">reported</a> that when one Kmart employee requested to work a split-shift on Thanksgiving, she was denied and told if she didn’t come to work, she would be fired.  </p><p>As a form of protest, nearly 100,000 people have liked the <a href="" title="The page.">Boycott Black Thursday</a> Facebook page, which states:</p><p>"Employees will be forced to work the majority of the day and evening in preparation for the huge sale. We believe this is an unethical decision that does not consider the families of the men and women who work at these stores, so we're boycotting Black Thursday."</p><p>It’s not just Big Box stores keeping their doors open on the holiday. Many workers in the service industry, such as those working at grocery stores, airports, restaurants and movie theaters, are forced to work as well. Many of these workers don’t get <a href="">paid holidays</a>. The United States is the only developed nation in the world that <a href="">doesn’t guarantee</a> paid holidays.  </p><p>The following stores will require their employees to work Thanksgiving Day:</p><ol><li>Kmart</li><li>Walmart</li><li>Macy’s</li><li>Target</li><li>RadioShack</li><li>Starbucks</li><li>Kohl’s</li><li>JCPenney</li><li>Sears</li><li>Toys”R”Us</li><li>Best Buy</li><li>Staples</li><li>Sports Authority</li><li>Gap/Old Navy/Banana Republic Company</li></ol><p>Whether it’s a <a href="">marketing move</a> or actual sanity, these stores are keeping their doors closed:</p><ol><li>Costco</li><li>Barnes &amp; Noble</li><li>Sam’s Club</li><li>BJs</li><li>Home Depot</li><li>Lowe’s</li><li>Nordstrom</li><li>TJ Maxx</li><li>Marshall’s</li><li>GameStop</li><li>Bed Bath &amp; Beyond</li><li>Burlington Coat Factory</li><li>Crate and Barrel</li><li>Petco</li><li>Neiman Marcus</li><li>REI</li><li>Pier 1 Imports</li></ol><p>Would you rather shop at a store that puts people first or its profits?</p> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 11:48:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1027428 at Labor Culture Economy Labor holidays paid holidays thanksgiving black thursday black friday Walmart Is Holding Food Drives Again to Urge Workers to Help Feed Their Co-Workers <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The retail giant would rather hold a food drive than pay a living wage.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/10311766_926617040699527_7085441149128140481_n.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Last year, when Walmart workers in Ohio released a photo (below) of food donation bins in their break room, the corporation was faced with fierce backlash. A sign on the bins read: “Please donate food items here so Associates in need can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner.” The hypocrisy of such a large and profitable corporation asking its low-wage workers to help feed its other low-wage workers rightfully sparked outrage. </p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="360" style="font-size: 12px;" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="360" style="font-size: 12px;" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/bins1-15660341jpg-b2a282e054d52e53.jpg" /></div><p>Despite last year’s criticism, Walmart has brought the food bins back (pictured below), this time in Oklahoma. A press release from <a href="">Making Change at Walmart</a>’s public consultants stated that in addition: <strong>“</strong>A worker from Indiana reports that managers there are also organizing bake sales, encouraging workers to support their co-workers with food donations.”</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="225" width="471"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="225" width="471" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/10311766_926617040699527_7085441149128140481_n.jpg" /></div><p>The news comes on the heels of a new <a href="">report</a> by <em>Eat Drink Politics</em>, a food industry watchdog consulting firm, which found that Walmart is a major contributor to the country’s hunger crisis.  </p><p>“National organizations and experts working to reduce hunger consistently cite low wages and part-time work as the most common root causes of hunger – both major problems for workers at Walmart,” the report states. “Walmart and the Waltons can have a direct impact in fighting hunger for the 1.3 million Americans that it employs.”</p><p>Walmart’s food drives show that the corporation knows that many of its workers are in need. But instead of giving workers fair wages and hours, the corporation would rather other people take care of its workers. In the case of the food drive, Walmart is relying on some of its workers paid poverty wages to help its other workers paid poverty wages, which is bad enough. But it also makes taxpayers bear the brunt of their low pay. An Americans for Tax Fairness <a href="">report</a> released in April, found that Americans are paying an estimated $6.2 billion annually for Walmart workers’ food-stamps, health care and other taxpayer-funded programs. Meanwhile, the corporation brings in $16 billion in profits each year.</p><p>Next Friday, Walmart workers have promised to stage the largest Black Friday strikes in history to demand $15 an hour and provide full-time work.  It is estimated that workers will hold more than 1,600 protests nationwide. </p> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 11:12:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1027425 at Labor Activism Economy Food Labor News & Politics walmart hunger low-wage work Walmart's Bottomless Greed: Dodging Billions in Taxes, Scheming to Avoid Billions More <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Rich companies like Walmart want more tax cuts now and in the next Congress.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-11-19_at_8.09.18_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>There’s another reason Walmart is known as one of America’s greediest corporations: it won’t pay its fair share of taxes.</p><p>Walmart Stores is America’s top-earning corporation. In 2013, its revenues were $473 billion, yet it only declared $16 billion in profits. While it has been <a href="">reported</a> that Americans subsidize Walmart because its low-wage employees receive an estimated $6.2 billion annually in Food Stamps, Medicaid and other anti-poverty benefits, what’s not widely known is that Walmart has <a href="">parked</a> $21.4 billion in untaxed profits offshore and is currently lobbying to cut U.S. corporate tax rates.</p><p>“Walmart’s offshore profits have doubled in recent years at the same time that its offshore investments flattened, suggesting that the company is piling up cash overseas to avoid paying U.S. taxes on the earnings,” a new <a href="">report</a> by Americans for Tax Fairness found. “Walmart is working to reduce corporate tax rates and eliminate all taxation of foreign profits.”</p><p>“You’re starting to see Walmart playing games like other companies,” said Frank Clemente, Americans for Tax Fairness executive director and author of <em><a href="">How Walmart is Dodging Billions in Taxes and Scheming to Avoid Billions More</a></em>. “They’re engaging in a tax dodge.”</p><p>Walmart employees 74 lobbyists in Washington, has spent $32 million on tax-related lobbying in the past five years and underwrites other tax-cut lobbying by the Capital’s three largest tax-cut groups, AFT found, which are the RATE (Reforming America’s Taxes Equitably) Coalition, Alliance for Competitive Taxation, and the Business Rountable.</p><p>“There’s a big campaign going on here in Washington, D.C., to reform the corporate tax system,” Clemente said. “It’s a big lobbying effort being waged by big corporations to try to reduce their income tax rate at the same they’re lobbying for corporate tax loopholes.”</p><p><strong>Corporate Lobbyists Smell The Money </strong></p><p>Right now in Washington, both parties are entertaining one of the most dangerous and destructive policy decisions that could affect all Americans for years to come. There is a growing bipartisan consensus that America needs tax reform and that many corporations are paying too much—even as giant multinationals have dodged paying taxes on $2.1 trillion that’s sitting <a href="">offshore</a> instead of being spent here.</p><p>Walmart’s $21.4 billion in untaxed offshore profits is part of that corporate tax-avoidance trend.</p><p>“What’s going on on the Hill is really, really insane,” said Stephen Wamhoff, legislative director for <a href="">Citizens for Tax Justice</a>, speaking of the growing obsession with tax reform. “Members and staffers are saying that they should renegotiate and get the policy right and not talk about revenue numbers.”  </p><p>“The whole purpose of taxes is to raise revenue. So how will they decide what that plan is?” he asked, explaining that Republicans want to keep cutting corporate taxes, even if America's biggest business <a href="">aren't paying</a> an estimated $100 billion a year. Worse, plenty of Democrats are going along with this script, Wamhoff said, instead of demanding a fairer system and more revenue for needed essentials. “It’s crazy,” he remarked.</p><p>It’s no surprise that after every federal election, the winners salivate about what they can do to enact their sponsors' agendas. But what’s especially dangerous now is that on the tax front, both parties seem willing to perpetuate the right-wing's “<a href="">starve the beast</a>” philosophy, which bleeds public programs and keeps giant tax evaders off the hook.   </p><p>In coming days, Congress has to decide if it will extend 56 individual and corporate tax breaks that are set to expire this year. If not renewed, they would yield an estimated <a href=";_r=0">$609 billion</a> over the next 10 years for the feds, with <a href="">tens of billions</a> also going to states. The GOP-led House wants these breaks to be permanent. The Democrat-controlled Senate is inclined to go along for now and revisit it next year.</p><p>“The reason you do comprehensive, bipartisan tax reform is that’s the place where you put the spotlight on each and every one of these provisions,” Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden <a href=";_r=0">told</a> the <em>New York Times</em>. “You can’t do that in the space of 11 days.”</p><p>No matter the explanation, the bottom-line is that tax-avoiding corporations are all but certain to keep evading taxes. And the worst of them will keep doing that by keeping their billions in untaxed earnings overseas, as their lobbyists—like Walmart’s team in Washington—moan that U.S. tax rates are too high.  </p><p>“Everyone is saying that the system is broken and needs to be changed, and corporations are trying to ride that wave,” Wamhoff said.</p><p><strong>Most Corporations Don’t Even Pay Today’s Tax Rate </strong></p><p>Talking about taxes, like anything involving numbers, can be numbing. And much of corporate America is depending on Americans to glaze over and not take a hard look at what has been going on for years when it comes to corporate America avoiding paying its fair share.  </p><p>“Corporations are lobbying Congress to get a better deal on taxes, claiming that they are harmed by the U.S. statutory income tax rate for corporations, which is 35 percent, which they argue is the highest in the world,” Wamhoff said. “But almost no corporation actually pays 35 percent of their profits in U.S. income taxes.”</p><p>Wamhoff’s group and other tax analysts looked at the Fortune 500 corporations that were profitable each year from 2008 through 2012 and found that they collectively paid <a href="">19.4 percent</a> of U.S. profits in federal income taxes in that time. They found that two-thirds of the multinational corporations studied actually paid lower effective tax rates in the U.S. than they paid in the other countries where they do business. This shows that corporate lobbyists’ claims that U.S. taxes are too high are nonsense.</p><p>“One reason American corporations pay so little is that they can use accounting gimmicks to make their profits appear to be earned in offshore tax havens—countries with no corporate income tax (or a very low one) or countries that have other loopholes that allow them to shift profits from one country to another,” he explained. “For example, the profits that American corporations tell the IRS they earn in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands (which both have a zero percent tax rate but very little real investment) equal <a href="">16 times</a> the entire GDP of those tiny countries! Clearly these profits are not truly earned in Bermuda or the Cayman Islands.”</p><p><strong>Devil In The Details</strong></p><p>The latest buzzword in Washington’s corporate circles is “revenue-neutral” tax reform. What that means, Wamhoff said, is allowing these giant companies to keep most of the money they should have been paying to the government for years. It’s as if there can only be “reform” if it benefits big business, not average American taxpayers who have seen government services shrink in many key areas, such as education.</p><p>“Even Obama and many Democrats have proposed revenue-neutral reform for the corporate and business part of the tax code,” he said. “Republicans insist that <em>all</em> of tax reform should be revenue-neutral and a close look at their plans reveal that they actually <a href="">lose</a> significant revenue.”</p><p>The reason why this entire discussion is so dangerous is that it sets the stage to do what right-wing extremists like Grover Norquist have wanted to do for years, which is shrink the federal government by starving programs such as Social Security of revenues that would be used to maintain benefits at levels upholding dignified living standards.  </p><p>“In 2011, Congress declared a budget emergency and enacted the Budget Control Act, which cuts over $100 billion from federal spending each year,” Wamhoff said, referring to the so-called federal budget sequester.</p><p>“When it started to go into effect, over 50,000 Head Start slots were being cut and medical research projects were halted. Lawmakers managed to undo part of these cuts temporarily but they are scheduled to be fully in effect again in 2016,” he said. “The big question is whether the next Congress can say with a straight face that we don’t need more revenue while kids are being kicked out of Head Start because of an alleged budget crisis.”</p><p>Needless to say, it would be wrong to call what’s unfolding a budget crisis. It’s a greed-driven revenue crisis, because a great many of America’s biggest and most profitable corporations are tax-dodgers that refuse to pay federal taxes, that have stockpiled billions overseas, that complain U.S. corporate taxes are too high, and won’t invest domestically, whether by paying living wages (like Walmart) or bringing manufacturing back home (like Apple).   </p><p>Walmart isn’t even the country’s biggest overseas corporate tax dodger. Americans for Tax Fairness <a href="">found</a> that distinction belongs to high-tech giants Apple, Microsoft, Oracle, Dell, and the pharmaceutical giants Amgen and Eli Lilly. But as America’s biggest retailer, and a company whose profits depend on delivering goods over public roads and bridges, Clemente said Walmart’s refusal to pay a fair share was notable.</p><p>“Everyone [the public in polls] says they want us to invest in rebuilding our infrastructure. They want us to invest in new medical cures. They want us to make our education system better. They want us to make college more affordable for kids. All these things require money,” Clemente said. “And the question is do you want corporations to get bigger tax breaks or do you want to make these investments? That’s what it comes down to.”</p> Wed, 19 Nov 2014 14:30:00 -0800 Steven Rosenfeld, Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1027390 at Corporate Accountability and WorkPlace Corporate Accountability and WorkPlace Economy Election 2016 Investigations Labor The Right Wing Wal-Mart stores Wal-Mart greed offshore tax loopholes 2014 tax extenders Citizens for Tax Justice Americans for Tax Fairness corporate tax dodgers corporate tax lobbying corporate tax reform Ferguson Organizer: ‘Police Are Preparing for War’ <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">‘We don’t see any interest from police in shifting their relationship with the communities they serve.’</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/438bb03f8a52f687462aa202b41b5dcd1a9923bb_1.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>So it begins. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency on Monday. He authorized the National Guard to assist police in Ferguson ahead of the grand jury’s decision on whether or not to charge Officer Darren Wilson for the murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown.</p><p>Less than a week ago, Nixon announced that law enforcement was well prepared for protests in Ferguson if Wilson walks free. He said, “Violence will not be tolerated”—but he wasn’t referencing police violence. Instead, since Brown was killed in August, St. Louis County police has <a href="">spent</a> $172,669 on tear gas, rubber bullets and other equipment meant to harm protesters.</p><p>“We see them preparing for war,” said Mervyn Marcano, spokesperson for <a href="">Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment</a> (MORE).</p><p>“We don’t see any interest from them in shifting the relationship between police and the communities that they serve,” said Marcano, who is from Oakland, California, and now lives in Ferguson.</p><p><strong>Police Prepare for War</strong></p><p>The Ferguson community has little faith that prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch will indict Wilson, Marcano said. And it’s doubtful that newly released evidence on Wilson will be taken into account.</p><p>In a <a href="">video</a> published Friday, Wilson is seen threatening a man and saying he will “lock [his] ass up” for filming him. Wilson then proceeded to illegally arrest the man. Also on Friday, the <em>St. Louis Post-Dispatch</em> <a href="">released</a> surveillance footage of Wilson heading to the hospital, which seems to <a href="">contradict</a> police’s claims that Wilson was severely injured.</p><p>But prosecutors play a large role in swaying a grand jury, and McCulloch has a history of <a href="">siding with police</a>. Because an indictment against Wilson is unlikely, Marcano said police have spent a lot of time and energy talking to businesses and in public forums stoking fear of the imminent protests.</p><p>“What the police publicly are saying is that they’re interested in protecting the First Amendment rights of protesters, but what they’re sort of doing is sending a racist dog whistle that the First Amendment is really dangerous,” he said. “So on the one side of their mouth they’re telling people they are preparing for peace, and on the other side of their mouth they’re instructing businesses to board up their windows and prepare for civil unrest.”</p><p><strong>Protesters Prepare to Fight for Peace</strong></p><p>Meanwhile, organizers in Ferguson have tried to push police to demilitarize their response to protests. The Don’t Shoot Coalition, which includes MORE, has proposed this in the form of its <a href="">19 “Rules of Engagement”</a> to officers, which police have refused to sign.</p><p>MORE has already trained more than 500 people in non-violent civil disobedience and will continue until the grand jury decision is announced. Its trainings include participating in direct action, documenting police misconduct and conducting jail support. Marcano said MORE has seen more than 300 arrests in Ferguson, and the organization will continue to play a key role in paying bail for protesters.</p><p> “You’ll see not just a legal defense strategy but an offensive legal strategy on our part,” he said. “We have a rock star team of civil rights lawyers coming to town to monitor the situation.”</p><p>Since Wilson shot Brown in August, Marcano said there’s been an outpouring of energy from people in the community looking to both get involved in the current struggle and have a long-term conversation about the justice system. MORE and other groups continued to plan actions, including <a href="">Ferguson October</a>, a "weekend of resistance." Ferguson organizers also <a href="">interrupted</a> the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra’s concert, singing the civil rights song, “Which Side Are You On?”</p><p>“That is a choice you have to make here,” Marcano said. “The young people in the streets, they’re asking for… transformative change in our system,” he added. “I think the measure of any society is the response to the loss of one of our members. And this system responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. … So the question for everyone in St. Louis is how will you stand with the young people asking for change and for justice and letting them define what that looks like?”</p><p><strong>Ferguson Faces Racism</strong></p><p>While Marcano said the Ferguson community is seeing a cross-section of older white people join with young people of color in the struggle, “all sorts of ugliness” has still been on display. Cops have worn “Darren Wilson” wristbands, community members have bought “Darren Wilson” shirts, and people nationwide contributed to raising more than $400,000 for Wilson. The local KKK also promised to use legal force on Ferguson protesters. Hacktivist group Anonymous has since <a href="">hacked</a> its site.</p><p>Marcano believes these people are in the minority, and that people are waking up to the idea that black lives matter.</p><p>“On the one hand, we’re seeing lots of folks across the spectrum show up and show out,” Marcano said. “On the other hand, you have the lingering race problem in St. Louis. St. Louis is the eighth most segregated city in the country and … [race] has not been in the forefront of this city’s conversation for quite some time. I think now, at the core, St. Louis is ready to have a conversation about race that it has not been ready to do before, and it is leading the nation in that conversation.”</p><p>Crucial to that conversation is an understanding of the injustice that occurred in Ferguson and accurately contextualizing the protests that are likely to occur.</p><p>“This isn’t easy,” Marcano said. “You know, what is the appropriate response to an 18-year-old child who was killed by an officer? What is the appropriate response to a community in grief that has lost a child? I don’t think anyone really has an answer for that. So our don’t forget the humanity of the people who are out in the streets—who are dealing with the loss of a child.”</p><p><em>Visit</em><a href=""><em></em></a><em>for actions planned across the country following the grand jury’s decision.</em></p> Mon, 17 Nov 2014 17:36:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1027287 at Activism Activism Civil Liberties Visions ferguson michael brown Darren Wilson Jay Nixon Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment How Courts Nationwide Are Using Junk Science to Restrict Abortion Access <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Anti-choice ‘science’ is even making its way up to the Supreme Court.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_166506209.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>When Justice Samuel Alito authored the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion on the recent <em>Hobby Lobby</em> case allowing privately owned businesses to exclude birth control in their employee health plans, he <a href="">explained</a>: “The owners of the businesses have religious objections to abortion, and according to their religious beliefs the four contraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients.”</p><p>The banned methods include emergency contraception, which does not cause abortion. That’s proven. By science. But across the judiciary and in state legislatures—especially in red states—that fact hardly matters. Instead, judges and politicians are relying on junk science when making decisions or writing laws that affect reproductive health options and outcomes. Like <em>Hobby Lobby</em>, many of these court rulings end up restricting women’s options. </p><p>This pattern of dubious information, which anti-choice activists peddle to judges and lawmakers, is what RH Reality Check<em> </em>found in its newly released <a href="">investigation</a> on the influence of anti-choice “experts” on law.</p><p>“Oftentimes the court themselves, even at the level of the Supreme Court, neither understand the evidence nor the public health implications of some of the decisions they’re making,” said Sharona Coutts of RH Reality Check. “The anti-choice movement depends on that in creating this confusion.”</p><p>In its “False Witnesses” investigation, RH Reality Check<em> </em>examined 14 “experts” whose research, despite being discredited, continues to be widely relied on by the courts.</p><p>Consider Dr. Donna J. Harrison, who has pushed the "emergency contraception causes abortion" myth that has influenced the <em>Hobby Lobby</em>case, <em>Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice</em>(a case concerning the banning of medicated abortion), and other legal rulings. Harrison is the executive director of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a group of 2,500 anti-abortion obstetrician-gynecologists. (In contrast, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which supports abortion rights, has 57,000 members.)</p><p>While some judges have issued rulings that <a href="">discredited</a> her claims, Harrison’s research continues to influences legislation. In 2011, the state of North Dakota <a href="">paid</a> Harrison $47,326 “to serve as an expert witness for abortion litigation between January 2011 and September 2014.” </p><p>In total, RH Reality Check<em> </em>found that state politicians have spent at least $657,000 paying these so-called expert witnesses to testify on behalf of their legislation. Coutts said courts take these testimonies as fact because of a huge loophole: when courts assess the constitutionality of state law they look at factual findings of state legislatures—including the so-called legislative record. The problem is that testimony can include anyone who turns up to testify. Courts, therefore, can end up citing falsehoods as facts; in essence, cherry-picking comments to bolster a legal argument.  </p><p>“The implications for public policy are devastating,” Coutts said. “It means that we are making decisions as a society that are based on literally fictional ideas about the dangers of abortion.”</p><p>RH Reality Check investigative reporter Sofia Resnick said the five key falsehoods these experts are pushing are: “abortion is a generally dangerous procedure,” “abortion increases the risk of breast cancer,” “abortion causes mental health crises,” “banning abortion entirely will not lead to an increase of unsafe and illegal abortions,” and “abortion restrictions are constitutional.”</p><p>Byron C. Calhoun is the one of the main false witnesses who perpetuates the myth that abortion is dangerous. Calhoun is a professor and vice chair at West Virginia University’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and practices at a hospital in Charleston. He is a fundamentalist Christian who has <a href="">written</a> about seeing himself as “God’s ambassador.” His testimonies have played a key role in the increase of TRAP (targeted regulation of abortion providers) laws that require clinics to be outfitted like ambulatory surgery centers and abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges. Calhoun was caught lying to West Virginia’s attorney general when he said there are weekly abortion-related complications at his hospital. When administrators at the hospital went back and looked at the data, they only found five cases that year.</p><p>In addition, RH Reality Check reports:</p><p>"Calhoun is heavily involved in the anti-choice political movement. He<a href="" title="(Open in new tab) "> testified</a> before the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012 in favor of a federal <a href="" title="(Open in new tab) ">ban on abortion at 20 weeks</a>. And during the debate over West Virginia’s 20-week abortion ban (a bill that has since been<a href=""> vetoed by the governor</a>), a<a href=""> letter Calhoun drafted</a>—peddling unfounded claims that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks because they react 'when they feel the needle' during an amniocentesis—was read aloud by an anti-choice advocate during a hearing."</p><p>Then there’s the false abortion-breast cancer link. Doctors Angela E. Lanfranchi and Joel L. Brind have been paid thousands of dollars to testify about research they say links abortion to breast cancer. Coutts said many false witnesses who make this causal link turn to some evidence that finds having a full-term pregnancy before the age of 30 offers some protection against breast cancer later in life. These doctors take the leap and state that if a woman ends her unwanted pregnancy, she is denying herself this benefit.</p><p>“It’s totally fallacious… and fear-mongering,” Coutts said.</p><p>There are various other falsehoods anti-choice activists parading as experts are making to influence laws. <a href="">Some claim</a> that abortion restrictions result in a reduction of abortions, despite overwhelming <a href="">evidence</a> showing these restrictions only work to limit safe and legal abortions. Teresa S. Collett, a constitutional law professor, has testified that 20-week abortion bans are perfectly constitutional, despite courts in multiple states ruling them unconstitutional. The state of Oklahoma has paid her more than $150,000 to act as a special assistant to the attorney general. She fiercely defended the constitutionality of an Oklahoma law requiring women to obtain a vaginal ultrasound before getting an abortion. The Oklahoma Supreme Court found it unconstitutional.</p><p>Then there’s the false link between abortion and mental illness. One of the most influential proponents of this claim is Vincent Rue. Coutts said Rue concocted a sham condition called “post-abortion syndrome,” claiming the procedure leads to mental illness. The American Psychological Association finds no evidence to <a href="">support</a> this claim, yet Rue has earned at least $195,000 in taxpayer dollars, despite being <a href="">discredited</a> numerous times. For one, researchers discovered that Rue, when conducting his study on “post-abortion syndrome,” never noted whether or not the women who had mental health problems after obtaining abortions had them before. Nevertheless, this false link between abortion and mental illness has found its way into scripts doctors in several states are required to read to patients seeking abortion care.</p><p>Vincent Rue is an independent legal consultant who works with attorney generals to choose and prepare "expert" witnesses to testify against reproductive rights.</p><p>“You can almost think of him as a talent agent for false witnesses,” Coutts said.</p><p>Rue was key in coordinating the expert witnesses during legislative hearings on Texas’ HB2 law that places strict restrictions on abortion in the state. Rue wrote and manipulated many of the testimonies for these “experts.” Upon learning this, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel dismissed the credibility of many of the witnesses.</p><p>“The credibility and weight the court affords the expert testimony of the State’s witnesses… is informed by ample evidence that, at a very minimum, Vincent Rue, Ph.D., a non-physician consultant for the State, had considerable editorial and discretionary control over the contents of the experts’ reports and declarations,” Yeakel <a href="">stated</a>. “The court finds that, although the experts each testified that they personally held the opinions presented to the court, the level of input exerted by Rue undermines the appearance of objectivity and reliability of the experts’ opinions.”</p><p>While some judges have scrutinized some of these false experts, Caitlin Borgmann, a City University of New York law professor, <a href="">told</a> RH Reality Check the better approach “would be for lower courts to cast a doubtful eye over any findings from state legislatures, and to aggressively test the qualifications and biases of any purported expert testimony.”</p><p>Meanwhile, RH Reality Check editor-in-chief Jodi Jacobson urges reporters to make sure they quote public health evidence that has been peer-reviewed by the broader scientific community. She said with a new Republican Congress, there will be many efforts to further limit reproductive healthcare based on false evidence.</p><p>“Just like climate denialists, the anti-choice community has learned how to influence public opinion using outright lies and falsehoods,” Jacobson said. “And these things have profound effects on health and civil rights in this country.”</p> Fri, 14 Nov 2014 16:42:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1027173 at Civil Liberties Civil Liberties Gender Personal Health The Right Wing junk science abortion reproductive health supreme court Immigration Activist on Obama’s Executive Actions: “Too Many May Be Left Out” <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">&quot;There shouldn’t be a categorical exclusion of people without a real consideration of their lives.&quot;</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_107261690.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>After having deported two million undocumented immigrants (more than any president in history), Obama is set to announce plans to shield up to five million undocumented immigrants from deportation, <a href=";_r=3">according</a> to <em>The New York Times</em>. </p><p>The <em>Times</em>reported that the president is planning to announce an executive action that would protect parents of children born in the United States and expand some of the requirements for applying for relief under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).</p><p>Tania Unzueta is an organizer for Not 1 More, a campaign to end all deportations. Unzueta said that while it’s still yet to be seen exactly what the president will announce, the early reports of the five million figure “seems low.” She said that Obama should at least be considering the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ <a href="">proposed</a> executive order that would protect seven million undocumented immigrants from deportation.  </p><p>“There’s always a level of excitement for the people who will be covered, and we know that this is the result of the work that we have done as part of the Not One More campaign,” Unzueta said. “But for all the people who are going to be left out, we have between now and the announcement to let people see the need for it to be as expansive as possible. And we know there’s going to be a fight afterward to continue to defend people who we know shouldn’t be deported.”</p><p>Unzueta said it’s going to be difficult to know that the plan could exclude many Not 1 More members and others in their communities.</p><p>“If we take Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals as a base, we know people with three misdemeanors or any misdemeanor that’s considered a significant misdemeanor, like a DUI for example, haven’t been able to qualify,” she said. “We hope that this will be more expansive than that. … There are definitely members that have had a DUI in their life, whether it’s five years ago, two months ago, or fifteen years ago. Our problem is there shouldn’t be a categorical exclusion of people without a real consideration of their lives, and their contributions, and what they have done to restore the mistakes they have made.”</p> Fri, 14 Nov 2014 09:25:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1027153 at Immigration Activism Immigration News & Politics immigration deportation obama Here’s Who You Should Boycott as Long as This Racist Gov Is on Their Payroll <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour continues making racial slurs. Let’s stop giving money to the clients of his lobbyist firm. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/haley_barbour_by_gage_skidmore.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Last week, Haley Barbour, former Mississippi governor and former Republican National Committee chairman, made headlines for calling President Obama’s policies “tar babies.” While Barbour and other defenders of the term <a href="">say</a> it means “a difficult problem that’s only aggravated by attempts to solve it,” the phrase has been used as a racial slur against African Americans.</p><p>When the offensive comment was brought to his attention, Barbour continued to defend the term and issued a non-apology. He <a href="">told</a> Politico: “If someone takes offense, I regret it. But, again, neither the context nor the connotation was intended to offend.”</p><p>This is far from the first racist remark Barbour has made. That’s why professor Peter Dreier is calling on people to boycott the clients of Barbour’s lobbyist firm BGR Group. He is also urging elected politicians and government officials to stop meeting with the group.</p><p>In Talking Points Memo, Dreier <a href="">wrote</a> that in 1991, Barbour co-founded BGR Group, whose clients consist of “corporations, trade associations, cities and one labor union.” Some of these include drug company GlaxoSmithKline, casino gambling group Caesars Entertainment, oil corporation Chevron, JetBlue Airways, Toyota, the University of Florida, the labor union National Air Traffic Controllers Association, and the cities of Waukesha, Wisc. and DuPage County, Ill. Last year, these clients <a href=";year=2013">paid</a> BGR Group $14.6 million to lobby Congress on their behalf.  </p><p>Dreier said it’s about time to start a “Boycott Barbour” movement to condemn Barbour’s racism and hit him where it financially hurts. Dreier <a href="">wrote</a>: </p><p>Barbour has a history of making racist “gaffes,” and then trying to twist their meaning to avoid taking responsibility for his ugly remarks.</p><p>In 1982, Barbour reprimanded an aide who had made a racist remark, but his comments revealed that his staffer wasn't the only bigot in the room. Barbour said that if the aide "persisted in racist remarks, he would be reincarnated as a watermelon and placed at the mercy of blacks," <a href="">according to</a> The Daily Beast.</p><p>In 2011, … Barbour refused to denounce attempts to create a special Mississippi license plate honoring Nathan Bedford Forrest, a confederate general, slave trader and former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard. …</p><p>Barbour grew up in Yazoo, Mississippi in the 1950s and '60s, during the height of the southern civil rights movement. Yazoo was a hotbed of civil rights activism. In 2010, asked about growing up in the midst of Jim Crow segregation, Barbour <a href="">told</a> the Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine: “I just don’t remember it as being that bad.”</p><p>Dreier also stated that Barbour has been a staunch defender of White Citizen Councils, white supremacist groups that supported segregation in the Civil Rights era. Dreier <a href="">wrote</a>: “Barbour is not a subtle racist.…He’s an outright in-your-face racist who has made a series of offensive comments.”</p><p>The Center for Responsive Politics has a full list of BGR Group’s clients <a href=";year=2013">here</a>.</p> Wed, 12 Nov 2014 14:28:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1027033 at Activism Activism Civil Liberties News & Politics The Right Wing racism boycott haley barbour BGR Group How San Francisco Won the Strongest Minimum Wage in the Country <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The city has set the bar, winning $15 for all workers, no exceptions. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/sf.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>On Tuesday, San Franciscans voted to raise their city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour for all workers by 2018, making it the highest in the country. While Seattle was ahead of San Francisco with its city council adopting a $15 minimum wage this June, that law will not fully take effect until 2021, and contains exceptions.  </p><p>“Seattle inspired everybody,” said Alysabeth Alexander, vice president of SEIU Local 1021, which has 54,000 members across Northern California and played a large role in the San Francisco campaign. “It set the bar.”</p><p>These two progressive West Coast cities took different paths. In San Francisco, the union worked with other community partners to push for higher wages. Early in the year, the coalition began gathering signatures for the ballot initiative and building a ground campaign.</p><p>Advocates in Seattle, in contrast, went directly to the city council. The mayor then put together a committee made up mostly of business leaders, and its final bill contained several loopholes, including delaying the law for small businesses.</p><p>Alexander said organizers learned from what happened in Seattle as well as from other cities in the Bay Area.</p><p>“Figure out where your bottom line is and start organizing first,” Alexander said. “If you have the ability to get it on the ballot, start gathering the signatures yourself to get it on the ballot. Otherwise, if you look at what happened in the city of Berkeley and the city of Richmond, where it just went through a city council process, they weren’t able to get consensus on a solid measure, so there’s a lot of carve-outs, a lot of exemptions, and they are very, very confusing measures.”</p><p>San Francisco’s new minimum wage law, which was adopted via the ballot initiative process, is quite simple. The wage will increase from its current $10.74 to $11 on January 1, $12.25 on May 1, $13 in 2016, $14 in 2017 and reach $15 in 2018. There will be an annual cost-of-living increase afterward. There are no carve-outs for small businesses, tipped workers, etc. Their essential goal was to get to $15 fast.</p><p>“If you wait too long to get $15, with inflation, it’s not worth $15 anymore,” Alexander said, referring to how future inflation undercuts delayed wage increases. “We wanted to get people up as quickly as possible.”</p><p>In Seattle, however, employers with more than 500 workers are given until 2017 to reach $15 or to 2018 if they are providing health insurance. Businesses with fewer employees will be given to 2021 to phase it in. As it gradually increases, tips and health benefits are counted toward workers’ minimum wage.</p><p>These are the types of loopholes the San Francisco coalition worked hard to avoid. During the campaign, however, the city’s Chamber of Commerce threatened to add a competing measure on the ballot that would make exceptions to the measure.</p><p>“We really had to organize and stick to our guns and do a lot of press work and community organizing to show how much support there was for our measures and to keep competing measures off the ballot,” Alexander said.</p><p>The coalition’s ballot initiative, known as Proposition J, won more than 76 percent of the vote. Neighboring Oakland also saw a minimum wage victory on Tuesday, winning $12.25 starting March 2015. Nearly 200,000 Bay Area residents will benefit from the measures. Alexander said more than half of workers of color and female workers will get a raise.</p><p>In some ways, San Francisco had the right mix of politics to get $15 approved. It’s a prosperous, progressive city with an extremely supportive mayor, who pushed for $15. Even many of the city’s small businesses supported the measure. But Alexander maintains that $15 can win anywhere.</p><p>“Workers just have been screwed over the last decade, and people just really need a raise,” she said. “Folks are working two to three jobs to make ends meet. I know folks that are renting floor space because their wages are too low. And workers everywhere are feeling the crunch, and are ready to lift up the standards.”</p><p>The 2014 midterm elections exemplified this. Minimum wage increases won in four red states: Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota.</p><p>“There’s so much corporate money and lies in politics, and I think a lot of people are feeling disillusioned at the federal level,” Alexander said. “But voters want to see change and when the issues are clear, they vote the right way.”</p><p>From fighting for affordable housing to protecting rent control, Alexander said there is still a lot of work to be done for economic justice in San Francisco, where cost of living is extremely high. With wage theft being a big problem in the city, the coalition is also working on creative ways to ensure the new minimum wage will be enforced. In addition, they are pushing for a <a href="">Retail Workers’ Bill of Rights</a> in order for workers to gain a fair and predictable schedule and full-time hours.</p><p>“Even if we are raising the minimum wage, workers who are working four hours here and six hours there, they’re not being able to fully benefit from it because their hours are so precarious,” Alexander said. “So it’s really important for folks to know what hours they’re going to work and to have access to full-time work when they need it.”</p><p>The union is still working on raising the minimum wage in other areas of the state.</p><p>“We were calling this effort Raise the Bay, where we were trying to look at raising the minimum wage in as many cities as possible in 2014 and 2015,” Alexander said. “But we’re getting so inspired by the wins, and we’re getting so many calls throughout California, that it’s gone from Raise the Bay to Raise California.…There are so many opportunities to win locally and just no momentum at federal level. We can do things now to create the momentum and then give leverage at the state and federal levels to do the right thing for all working people in this country.”</p> Fri, 07 Nov 2014 17:15:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1026374 at Labor Activism Economy Labor fight for $15 minimum wage san francisco california Hilarious Twitter Response to Tip that Women Avoid Sexual Assault by ‘Practicing Their Facial Expressions’ <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">#MyAntiRapeFace is women’s sassy response. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/antirapeface.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Don’t dress too ‘slutty.’ Don’t drink too much. These are common phrases victim-blamers often say to women who have faced sexual assault to imply that they were essentially ‘asking for it.’ Now, here’s a new one to add to the list: don’t make inappropriate facial expressions.</p><p>That was one campus administrator’s recent suggestion. Cory Rosenkranz, coordinator of Substance Abuse &amp; Violence Prevention at Ramapo College, has caused quite a stir after her presentation on sexual assault that students and faculty claimed was too focused on victims’ responsibilities. A student who attended the presentation <a href="">told</a> The Ramapo News:</p><p style="margin-left:.5in;">“She was saying that women need to watch their body language and that women should practice how they articulate their face [in a social setting] by practicing in the mirror.”</p><p>In a satirical response under the hashtag #MyAntiRapeFace, sexual assault victims and their supporters have been practicing their expressions: </p><p> </p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p><a href="">#MyAntiRapeFace</a> is <a href="">#JustMyFace</a>. Teach consent, not defense. <a href=""></a></p>— Ponta Abadi (@ponta_abadi) <a href="">November 6, 2014</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p><a href="">#MyAntiRapeFace</a> <a href=""></a></p>— teaharbor (@teaharbor) <a href="">November 7, 2014</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p>My face last night upon first reading the article about <a href="">#MyAntiRapeFace</a> <a href=""></a></p>— Heina Dadabhoy (@heinousdealings) <a href="">November 6, 2014</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p><a href="">#myantirapeface</a> You get it yet? Does this work? <a href=""></a></p>— rebecca fairclough (@Bex7t6) <a href="">November 6, 2014</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p>Because responsibility TOTES should fall on victims and not rapists. Fuuuuuuuuu... <a href="">#MyAntiRapeFace</a> <a href=""></a></p>— Devon P (@LayteeMoose) <a href="">November 6, 2014</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script> Fri, 07 Nov 2014 11:38:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1026337 at Activism Activism Civil Liberties Education Gender News & Politics sexual assault victim blaming 90-Year-Old Man Defies Police Orders, Continues Feeding Homeless People <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Arnold Abbott faces prison time and large fines, but that’s not stopping him. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/arnold.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Arnold Abbott, 90, has been feeding homeless people in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for more than two decades. He <a href="">has said</a> that this is his life’s mission. He even started a culinary program that trains homeless people in hopes of getting them jobs at local kitchens. But on Oct. 21, the city of Fort Lauderdale made his generosity a crime when they passed an ordinance that placed strict restrictions on sharing food.</p><p>Last weekend, Abbott was cited for breaking the new ordinance. He faces up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.</p><p>"One of the police officers said, 'Drop that plate right now,' as if I were carrying a weapon," Abbott <a href="">told</a> the <em>Associated Press.</em></p><p>But that’s not stopping Abbott. On Wednesday evening, he returned to the public beach where he cooks up food and was <a href="">met</a> with cheering crowd of nearly 100 homeless people and volunteers.</p><p>AP <a href="">reported</a>:</p><blockquote><p>"God bless you, Arnold!" some in the crowd shouted.</p><p> "Thank God for Chef Arnold. I haven't eaten all day. He feeds a lot of people from the heart," said 56-year-old Eddie Hidalgo, who described himself as living on the streets since losing his job two years ago.</p></blockquote><p>Police officers let Abbott feed people before issuing him another citation.</p><p> A local station reported that the city had <a href="">tried</a> to stop Abbott from feeding homeless people before, in 1999. He took them to court, won his lawsuit, and said he’s prepared to fight against the new ordinance once again.</p><p>"I’m going to have to go to court again and sue the city of Fort Lauderdale -- a beautiful city," Abbott <a href="">told</a> Local 10. "These are the poorest of the poor, they have nothing, they don't have a roof over their heads. How do you turn them away?"</p><p>Abbott’s story is part of a larger, national crusade to <a href="">criminalize</a> food-sharing. In its recent <a href="">report</a>, the National Coalition for the Homeless found that since January 2013 alone, food-sharing laws have been adopted in more than 20 cities. This is a 47 percent increase since the coalition’s last report in 2010.</p><p>“I know of no city in the country in which a low-income person could eat three meals a day, seven days a week at an indoor location,” Michael Stoops, editor of the new report, <a href="">told</a> <em>AlterNet.</em> “And that’s why food-sharing programs are really important to narrow the gap.”</p> Fri, 07 Nov 2014 11:21:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1026334 at Activism Activism Civil Liberties Economy News & Politics Arnold Abbott homelessness food sharing Defeating Big Soda's Big Bucks: Berkeley Voters Pass the Nation's First Soda Tax <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Berkeley’s success proves that communities can be victorious through effective organizing. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_183074165.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The American Beverage Association, aka Big Soda, spent millions to defeat ballot initiatives for soda taxes in both San Francisco and Berkeley, Calif. this election. And while its money may have won out in San Francisco, Berkeley became the first city in the nation to pass a soda tax measure.  </p><p>"We think it's going to be a historic moment for our kids' health," Martin Bourque, a spokesman for the Yes on D campaign told the <em><a href="">San Jose Mercury News</a></em>. "It shows that a community can organize for its own interests in spite of the outrageous amount of money spent against its interests"</p><p>In Berkeley, Big Soda spent more than $2 million trying to defeat Measure D. Its campaign even co-opted progressive rhetoric such as “it is not what it seems,” “Measure D is riddled with loopholes,” and “Measure D makes exemptions for chocolate milk and some coffee drinks.” Despite full-page ads in city papers and turning entire train stations into giant commercials against the tax, the Yes on D campaign was able to triumph over the corporate dollars.</p><p>“It was never about the money — we had the community connections, the coalition, the field campaign,” Bourque <a href="">told</a> the <em>Daily Californian</em>.</p><p>Approximately 75 percent of Berkeley voters supported Measure D, which will tax sugary drinks at one cent per ounce.</p><p>A Big Soda spokesman called Berkeley “very eclectic” in a statement warning other cities not to follow suit.</p><p>“Soda tax activists have been venue shopping for more than five years,” Roger Salazar, a spokesman for the No on Measure D campaign, <a href="">said</a> in a statement. “Over that time more than 30 cities and states have rejected similar taxes. Berkeley was low-hanging fruit, and doesn’t look like mainstream America. If politicians want to stake their reputations on what Berkeley did, they do so at their own risk.”</p><p>In San Francisco, about 55 percent of voters backed the soda tax known as Proposition E, but because the threshold to win in the city was two-thirds, or 66.67 percent, the measure failed. Big Soda spent more than $9 million to defeat Proposition E, which would have taxed soda at two cents per ounce. The money would have been earmarked for childhood obesity education.</p><p>One of Big Soda’s schemes in San Francisco included paying people to pretend to be grassroots activists holding rallies. An <a href=";singlePage=true">ABC <em>Nightline</em> video</a>(below) exposed the Coalition for an Affordable City, a fake front group for the American Beverage Association. An ABC reporter responded to the group’s Craigslist ad for protesters and learned that they was paying $13 an hour to exploit people for their cause—and it didn’t matter if they weren’t San Francisco voters. When the reporter attended the rally and asked the protesters why they were there, they said they weren’t “talking to the media.”</p><p>With millions of dollars at its disposal, Big Soda is capable of pulling out all the stops. But Berkeley’s success proves that communities can be victorious through effective organizing. Berkeleyside <a href="">reported</a> that organizers in the city learned from other failed ballot soda tax initiatives and sought early to unite the public:</p><p style="margin-left:.5in;">"Berkeley started to build a diverse coalition early, and that was key to its success, according to many members of the campaign. There were more than 250 volunteers who handed out 2,000 lawn signs and got 10,000 people to commit to a yes vote before election day.</p><p style="margin-left:.5in;">"The coalition not only included every member of the Berkeley City Council, but historically black churches, Latino Health groups, doctors, medical clinics, teachers, environmental groups, students, political groups and many more."</p><p><iframe height="270" scrolling="no" src="" style="border:none;" width="480"></iframe><br /><a href="">More ABC US news</a> | <a href="">ABC Health News</a></p> Wed, 05 Nov 2014 16:56:00 -0800 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1026091 at Activism Activism Election 2016 Food News & Politics soda tax big soda American Beverage Association san francisco berkeley Judge's Crazy Ruling: Cops Can Force You to Unlock Your Phone with Your Fingerprint <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Apparently, the 5th Amendment doesn’t protect fingerprint passcodes. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_209983420.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Before you set up Apple’s Touch ID feature on your new iPhone or iPad, a recent judge ruling may have you thinking twice. On Thursday, a Virginia court ruled that law enforcement officials could force people using fingerprint passcodes to unlock their phones.</p><p>Circuit judge Steven C. Frucci ruled that fingerprint passcodes, like providing DNA, is not covered under the Fifth Amendment. The Fifth Amendment protects citizens from incriminating themselves by disclosing knowledge, such as giving a police officer a memorized, numeric passcode.</p><p>The ruling arises from the case of David Baust, a man who was charged with strangling his girlfriend. Prosecutors wanted to compel Baust to hand over his passcode so they can look at video on his phone. It’s unknown if Baust used the Touch ID feature.</p><p>The <em>Huffington Post</em><a href="">reported</a>:</p><p>"The Touch ID case is not as binding as a Supreme Court ruling, but <a href="">it sets a precedent that other cases can draw on, Mashable noted</a>. According to the Virginian-Pilot, it's <a href="">unclear</a> how the ruling will impact Baust's case. If his phone is protected by Touch ID, prosecutors could access it using Frucci's ruling. If the phone is protected by a passcode or both a passcode and Touch ID, they can't. … One workaround to this issue could be to just turn off your phone if cops approach. In<a href="">that case</a>, you'd have to enter your four-digit pin when you turn it back on, even if you use Touch ID."</p> Sat, 01 Nov 2014 16:27:00 -0700 Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet 1025560 at Civil Liberties Civil Liberties fifth amendment passcodes apple iphone ipad privacy