Sunday, July 22, 2012

ALEC for Beginners
ALEC is working to ensure that public education dollars get diverted to private profits. Their approach is working -- for them. Not so much for the students who pay the price in the form of a subpar education and poor performance.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

US Labor Organizing in the Age of Obama, Racism and NeoLiberalism

Bill Fletcher Jr. and Stephen Lerner on Unions in Peril

July 6, 2012
Lost in the Supreme Court media chatter last week: a disturbing ruling in Knox vs. SEIU Local 1000 that restricts labor unions from directing collected dues toward political causes. There’s no similar limit on corporations, naturally – yet another indication that the power and status of modern unions is waning, especially when compared to the unbridled influence of Corporate America. With a sharp decline in union membership, a legion of new enemies, and a series of legal and legislative setbacks, can unions rebound and once again act strongly in the interest of ordinary workers?
Bill talks to two people who can best answer the question: Stephen Lerner and Bill Fletcher, Jr. The architect of the SEIU’s Justice for Janitors movement, Lerner directed SEIU’s private equity project, which worked to expose a Wall Street feeding frenzy that left the working class in a state of catastrophe. Fletcher took his Harvard degree to the Massachusetts shipyards, and worked as a welder before becoming a labor activist. He served as Assistant to the President of the AFL-CIO, and is author of the upcoming book “They’re Bankrupting Us!”: And 20 Other Myths about Unions.

Bill Fletcher, Jr.

Activist and Writer
Bill Fletcher, Jr. was involved in activism as early as high school, and carries that torch today as an internationally-recognized racial justice and labor activist. After graduating from Harvard, Fletcher took a job as a shipyard welder as a way into the labor movement.  There he became involved in issues such as union democracy, health and safety, and racial justice.
Fletcher involved himself in the desegregation of the building trades in Boston, and later was a staff member in various unions including District 65-United Auto Workers, the Service Employees International Union, the National Postal Mail Handlers Union, and the national AFL-CIO. Fletcher served as Education Director for the AFL-CIO and, eventually, Assistant to the President. A visiting professor at Brooklyn College-CUNY, Fletcher was also president of TransAfrica Forum, a non-profit advocacy, research, and education center focused on justice for the African world.
During his prolific writing career, Fletcher co-authored The Indispensable Ally: Black Workers and the Formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, 1934-1921; and Solidarity Divided. His most recent book, “They’re Bankrupting Us!”: And 20 Other Myths about Unions, will be published by Beacon Press this August.

Stephen Lerner

Labor and Community Organizer
Stephen Lerner spent much of the past three decades unionizing hundreds of thousands of farm workers, garment workers, and janitors. His efforts as a labor and community organizer have resulted in wage increases, paid sick days, first-time health benefits, and additional improvements for workers in these and other trades. Lerner was a key leader in the Justice for Janitors campaign and now directs much of his attention to supporting unions and community groups looking for ways to fight Wall Street’s grip on democracy in America.
As director of the SEIU’s private equity project, Lerner launched a campaign before the current economic crisis to expose the impending economic disaster by documenting lax regulations and unsustainable practices of private equity firms. Lerner has published many articles on the future of the labor movement in an effort to confront the complex challenges of a global economy.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Trailer for Upcoming Black History Documentary: THE INVADERS

The Invaders from Prichard Smith on Vimeo.

The Invaders Documentary synopsis
“It might be well for the black and white community of well-wishing people of goodwill in Memphis to take a closer look at the Invaders. They may have something more than muscle to marshal demonstrations, parades and the like. They may be saying something and standing for something fundamental”.
-Nat D. Williams, WDIA Disc Jockey and journalist

1968. All over the planet – Paris, Belgrade, Mexico City, and a thousand other places – young people are screaming for change. Riots and bloodshed are the byproduct of a revolutionary new activism; but so is progress. The Invaders are Beale Street hustlers, Vietnam vets, young intellectuals, former street gang members, and singers with hits on Stax Records. The Invaders are Black Power. They’re from North Memphis, South Memphis, Klondike, Dixie Heights, Smokey City, and Riverside. These neighborhoods are only miles apart but might as well be separated by oceans. Memphis seems as divided within itself as the rest of the world - Black and White, rich and poor, young and old. But when two young black men, Charles Cabbage and Coby Smith, are inspired by militant black leaders Stokely Carmichael and Malcolm X, they join forces in the name of a radical new approach to Civil Rights. Their friendship forges a bond that unites themselves as well as their city.

The Black Organizing Project (B.O.P.) is their main vehicle for change. The Invaders serve as the organizations’ strong-arm. Their rise signals the decline of neighborhood gang warfare. But unifying young blacks in Memphis through militancy is dangerous. The Invaders inhabit a world of ministers and thugs where the F.B. I. is always lurking, James Brown bails them out of jail, and members whose allegiance is questionable sometimes turn up dead. But still their minds are sharp and their tactics innovative. Mao Tse Tung, marijuana, Otis Redding, and cough syrup – they’re all part of the Invaders experience. Feeding breakfast to poor school kids and shooting cops happens in the same day. But so does cutting back room deals with Dr. King in order to keep things cool after violence breaks out at the first march he tries to lead in Memphis. They don’t see the world in the same way. A generational shift has changed their point of view. To King, non-violence is a way of life; to the Invaders it’s a tactic. But, so is violence.

King needs a peaceful march and The Invaders need money to fund the projects of the B.O.P. Can they meet in the middle? The world will never really know what happened at the meetings between The Invaders and Dr. King immediately before his assassination. It depends on who you ask. Some say he felt “hoodwinked,” others say he hired their services. But one thing is certain, they held up their end of the deal while King’s assassination may have prevented him from doing the same. Some went to jail, some went to school, some went to Washington, some just went home - but they’ve never forgotten the struggle. And although the BOP and The Invaders were unable to fully realize all their community goals, for alienated black Memphians in 1968 they instilled a true sense of black identity, consciousness, and pride.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Schomburg's New Head -Khalil Gibran Muhammad- On Bill Moyers Show
A very rare interview for US TV where there is a sustained discussion of the historical roots of racism that is embedded in the very fabric of the Americas.