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Archive for the ‘Activism’ Category

By Joseph Entin

On Monday, September 26, I, along with at least 3 other folks from the RT board, and 500 other members of our union, PSC-CUNY, descended on the CUNY Board of Trustees meeting to demand that the university adequately fund health care for adjuncts, who do more than half of the teaching on CUNY campuses. About 100 of us made it into the meeting room, where we stood silently in the audience holding paper signs urging CUNY to “DO THE RIGHT THING.” Early in the meeting, as CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein was droning on about CUNY’s participation in various economic development projects, all of which sound as if they are designed to reinforce various corporate initiatives, someone next to me starts rustling his sign. The rustling makes a low noise, and I think I see Goldstein glance up briefly, as if looking for a fly he hears buzzing across the room. A few other protesters gently shake their signs, and the signs in unison create a rustling sound that reverberated around the cavernous meeting space. Soon everyone in the room who is holding a sign starts waving them, and a tide of sound builds, gently at first, and then louder and louder, until Goldstein is almost inaudible, drowned out by a hundred rustling pieces of paper. Some of the Trustees glance around, or fidget, or sniffle, apparently uncomfortable. Then, Goldstein looks up and addresses those of us assembled in the room, reading from a prepared statement: he admits that we have a “legitimate concern” and announces that, for the first time ever, he is going to include funding for adjunct health care in the budget request he will submit to the state legislature. Stunned, and gratified, we applaud and file out. As we gather with our colleagues who have been demonstrating outside the meeting, our union president announces the victory, while warning us that it is, of course, merely a first step, and will require a great deal more collective action to enforce.

In general, I feel remarkably pessimistic about the present political conjuncture, and many signs – from the prolonged high unemployment in the face of historic corporate profits, to the execution of Troy Davis—give me little hope. But I was heartened that Goldstein publically admitted the ethical force of our demand for adjunct health care, and it made me wonder if a new outrage about economic inequality, at least — if not about racism, and militarism, and sexism — may be brewing. In addition to Goldstein’s decision, this week saw the circulation of sensate candidate Elizabeth’s Warren statement, captured on video at campaign event, that “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody,” and the growing attention to Occupy Wall Street, which is being led by many college and college-aged people, and links to which students in one of my classes posted on our course blog. Maybe I’m grasping at straws, and maybe these seemingly positive signs do not amount to anything. Any optimism I feel tends to be fleeting, and may only last as long as the caffeine coursing through my system thanks to the strong up of coffee I had this morning. But I had to ask: do you, radical teachers, see any evidence of emergent, progressive possibilities in the current moment?

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By Sarah Roberts

To my out-of-state and international friends who want to know what to do: I recommend you do your own phone banking or mass emailing event. With a little review online you can find out the names/numbers of Wisconsin state GOP senators and Assembly reps who are supporting this bill. You can also find out which ones are in danger of recall.

Then, you can have your callers explain to the legislator’ staffers on phone or in email that you consider the Wisconsin state line a PICKET LINE. No more dollars into Wisconsin. No more purchasing of Wisconsin products. Publicity ALL OVER YOUR LOCAL AREA (issue a press release) of what you’re doing. This is my advice here.

I can try to get more info regarding names and numbers, or if someone has a cheat sheet, please let me know.  You can start with this list from the Daily Kos:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/02/19/947160/-Recall-Wisconsin-Republican-Senators

And use lookup info from: http://legis.wisconsin.gov/

http://legis.wisconsin.gov/w3asp/contact/EmailDirectory.aspx?house=senate

http://legis.wisconsin.gov/w3asp/contact/EmailDirectory.aspx?house=assembly

Hopper, in particular, is vulnerable, having won by only 163 votes, in 2008. In addition, you can get information about the unbelievable provisions of SB 11, including:

– the privatization of state-owned power plants, to be sold on a no-bid basis to whomever the state decides

– the rejection of MILLIONS of federal dollars for public transit, due to contingencies around collective bargaining for employees, that will SHUT MUNICIPAL BUSES DOWN, stranding thousands upon thousands who rely on bus travel to work every day

– the decimation of state heath care funding for those who have no other heath care

These are just a few of the other items not receiving as much coverage, but worthy of immediate action and mention.

Finally, in other quarters, Walker’s appointees are rejecting millions from the federal government for state broadband service, intending to funnel state money to Walker campaign donor AT&T:

http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/education/local_schools/article_28c5e5c6-3882-11e0-8bd0-001cc4c03286.html

Please mention any or all of these issues in your communications with Wisconsin state legislators.  Thank you.

Would you like to donate some funds to a clearinghouse group coordinating efforts on the ground? Visit: http://www.defendwisconsin.org/

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By Sarah Roberts

As I write to you from inside the Wisconsin State Capitol, the jubilant cacophony of tens of thousands of peaceful protesters both inside and surrounding the building is echoing off the walls.  People have arrived on this Saturday from all over the state of Wisconsin – firefighters from Eau Claire and Green Bay, teachers from every corner of the state, steelworkers, iron workers, municipal workers, police, teamsters, nurses, graduate students, and their friends and families.  Solidarity caravans of people have come from Illinois, Washington state, Iowa and elsewhere to support the people. All have descended upon the state capital of Madison to defend the rights of working people to organize and bargain on their own behalf – not just in Wisconsin, but across the country and across the world.  The showing it Madison is the civics lesson you had in elementary school in action.  As the chant refrain goes, “This _is_ what democracy looks like!”

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By Sarah Roberts

I’m writing to you to share with you a little bit about the unprecedented events in Wisconsin, and to ask how you might like to make a presence and show of solidarity with brothers and sisters to the north. As you probably know, the Tea Party-backed recently elected Governor, Scott Walker, introduced a sweeping anti-labor, anti-family and union-busting budget last Friday afternoon, hoping to avoid public discourse and using a trumped-up fiscal crisis as his excuse (http://host.madison.com/ct/news/opinion/editorial/article_61064e9a-27b0-5f28-b6d1-a57c8b2aaaf6.html). He did so with no warning, and refused all negotiation on his measure. In addition, he made a menacing and disturbing suggestion that he would send out the National Guard on citizens rightly incensed by the dismantling of their collective bargaining rights, among _many_ other hard-earned benefits and protections. (more…)

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By Susan Jhirad

I just wrote how inspired I was by the mass movement in Egypt. In addition to bouquets of roses, I might add that we need to start organizing our own mass movement against the budget cuts being proposed both by Republicans (the harshest) and the Obama Adminstration- including such items as aid for home heating oil in one of the worst winters we have known, all in the phony name of “cutting the deficit.” Can we organize a giant, broad-based rally in D.C. under the simple rubric: “End the War in Afghanistan: Support Human Needs at Home” or something at that ilk? We could mobilize students, labor, poor people, parents of children with disabilities etc. to join us. We could use Facebook, Tweet, Twitter, whatever to make it really huge. I am no longer connected with any organized peace groups, and have found most of them too narrow in their outreach and focus. But maybe some of you younger folks out there know how to do it! I will certainly be happy to put my marching shoes on these arthritic feet and join you!

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As a critically queer librarian in a vibrantly gay urban setting, out and proud for as long as I can remember, I sometimes forget how important simple acts of recognition can be. Dan Savage’s It Gets Better project is a poignant reminder, and a wonderful opportunity for GLBTQ adults to send messages to young people struggling with issues of sexuality and identity. By recording simple videos and uploading them to YouTube, folks living happy gay adult lives can tell young gay people–whose suicide rates are shockingly higher than among their straight peers–that life really does get better.


A pair of teachers has recorded a video that is a difficult but moving reminder that teachers are often unable to live openly and honestly without enormous personal risk. Life gets better, but it’s also still hard. Wearing bandanas that cover their faces and telling their stories with words printed on the page rather than with voices that might give them away, they assure students that gay teachers do exist despite their occasional silence. “We will work to protect you,” they say, even if that protection sometimes happens under cover. “Trust your instincts.” Acknowledging the often-silent links between GLBTQ teachers and their GLBTQ students, the video also points to the work we still need to do together to make a world where all of us are welcome.

–Emily Drabinski, Brooklyn, NY

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The silence in the English-language press about the student strikes at the University of Puerto Rico stands in stark contrast to the roar produced by the growing number of students who have moved to shut down UPR to protest state disinvestment from public education.

The basic terms of the strike: As the state legislature has systematically diverted money from Puerto Rico’s only public university system, UPR has been left with a $100 million budget shortfall. In response, the Board of Trustees wants  to make up that gap on the backs of the students, more than 60% of whom qualify for need-based aid. The Trustees want to force the students to choose between receiving federal Pell Grant aid and aid from the University based on merit or special skills. They call it double-dipping. The students call it class-based discrimination, a clever way to prevent poor and working class students from receiving honors and recognition along with the money necessary to make the $12,000-a-year education possible, and they aren’t having it.

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