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The Tomatoes of Wrath September 26, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Agriculture, Human Rights, Immigration, Labor.
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Published on Monday, September 26, 2011 by TruthDig.com

  by  Chris Hedges

It is 6 a.m. in the parking lot outside the La Fiesta supermarket in Immokalee, Fla. Rodrigo Ortiz, a 26-year-old farmworker, waits forlornly in the half light for work in the tomato fields. White-painted school buses with logos such as “P. Cardenas Harvesting” are slowly filling with fieldworkers. Knots of men and a few women, speaking softly in Spanish and Creole, are clustered on the asphalt or seated at a few picnic tables waiting for crew leaders to herd them onto the buses, some of which will travel two hours to fields. Roosters are crowing as the first light of dawn rises over the cacophony. Men shovel ice into 10-gallon plastic containers from an ice maker next to the supermarket, which opens at 3:30 a.m. to sell tacos and other food to the workers. The containers—which they lug to pickup trucks—provide water for the pickers in the sweltering, humid fields where temperatures soar to 90 degrees and above.

(Illustration by Mr. Fish)

Ortiz, a short man in a tattered baseball cap and soiled black pants that are too long and spill over the tops of his worn canvas sneakers, is not fortunate this day. By 7 a.m. the last buses leave without him. He heads back to the overcrowded trailer he shares with several other men. There are always workers left behind at these predawn pickup sites where hundreds congregate in the hopes of getting work. Nearly 90 percent of the workers are young, single immigrant men, and at least half lack proper documents or authorization to work in the United States.

Harvesting tomatoes is an endeavor that comes with erratic and unpredictable hours, weeks with overtime and weeks with little to do and no guarantees about wages. Once it starts to rain, workers are packed back onto the buses and sent home, their workday abruptly at an end. Ortiz and the other laborers congregate at the pickup points every morning never sure if there will be work. And when they do find daywork they are paid only for what they pick.

“I only had three days of work this week,” Ortiz says mournfully. “I don’t know how I will pay my rent.”

Ortiz, who along with many others among these migrant workers sends about $100 home to Mexico every month to support elderly parents, works under conditions in these fields that replicates medieval serfdom and at times descends into outright slavery. He lives far below the poverty line. He has no job security, no workers’ compensation, no disability insurance, no paid time off, no access to medical care, Social Security, Medicaid or food stamps and no protection from the abusive conditions in the fields. The agricultural industry has a death rate nearly six times higher than most other industries, and the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that of the 2 million farmworkers in the United States 300,000 suffer pesticide poisoning every year.

“We are standing on the threshold of achieving significant change in the agricultural industry,” Marc Rodrigues, with the Student/Farmworker Alliance, tells me later in the day at the CIW office in Immokalee. “But if the supermarkets do not participate and support it then it will not go any further. Their lack of participation threatens to undermine what the workers and their allies have accomplished. They represent a tremendous amount of tomato purchasing. They wield a lot of influence over conditions in the field. For those growers not enamored of the concept of workers attaining rights and being treated with dignity, they will know that there is always a market for their tomatoes with no questions asked, where nothing is governed by a code of conduct or transparency. If we succeed, this will help lift farmworkers, who do one of the most important, dangerous and undervalued jobs in our society, out of grinding poverty into one where they can have a slightly more decent and normal life and provide for their families.”

The next major mobilization in the campaign will take place at noon Oct. 21 outside Trader Joe’s corporate headquarters in Monrovia, Calif. This will follow a week of local actions to target supermarkets across the country. To thwart the campaign, the public relations departments of Trader Joe’s, Publix and other supermarkets are churning out lies and half truths, as well as engaging in unsettling acts of intimidation and surveillance. Publix sent out an employee posing as a documentary filmmaker to record the activities of the organizers.

“Publix has a cabal of labor relations, human relations and public relations employees who very frequently descend from corporate headquarters in Lakeland, Fla.—or one of their regional offices—and show up at our demonstrations,” says Rodrigues. “They watch us with or without cameras. They constantly attempt to deflect us: If we attempt to speak to consumers or store managers these people will intercept us and try to guide us away. These people in suits and ties come up to us and refer to us by our first names—as if they know us—in a sort of bizarre, naked attempt at intimidation.”

If you live in a community that has a Whole Foods, which is the only major supermarket chain to sign the agreement, shop there and send a letter to competing supermarkets telling them that you will not return as a customer until they too sign the CIW Fair Food Agreement. Details about planned protests around the country can be found on the CIW website.

Workers in the fields earn about 50 cents for picking a bucket containing 32 pounds of tomatoes. These workers make only $10,000 to $12,000 a year, much of which they send home. The $10,000-$12,000 range, because it includes the higher pay of supervisors, means the real wages of the pickers are usually less than $10,000 a year. Wages have remained stagnant since 1980. A worker must pick 2.25 tons of tomatoes to make minimum wage during one of the grueling 10-hour workdays. This is twice what they had to pick 30 years ago for the same amount of money. Most workers pick about 150 buckets a day. And these workers have been rendered powerless by law. In Florida, collective bargaining is illegal, one of the legacies of Jim Crow practices designed to keep blacks poor and disempowered. Today the ban on collective bargaining serves the same purpose in thwarting the organizing efforts of the some 30,000 Hispanic, Mayan and Haitian agricultural laborers who plant and harvest 30,000 acres of tomatoes.

The CIW, which organized a nationwide boycott in 2001 against Taco Bell, forced several major fast food chains including Yum Brands, McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, Whole Foods Market, Compass Group, Bon Appétit Management Co., Aramark and Sodexo to sign the agreement, which demands more humane labor standards from their Florida tomato suppliers and an increase of a penny per bucket. But if the major supermarkets too do not sign this agreement, growers who verbally, sexually and physically abuse workers will be able to continue selling tomatoes to the supermarkets. This could leave at least half of all the fields without protection, making uniform enforcement of the agreement throughout the fields difficult if not impossible.

“Supply chains are very opaque and secretive,” says Gerardo Reyes, a farmworker and CIW staff member. “This is one of the reasons a lot of these abuses continue. The corporations can always feign that they did not know the abuses were happening or that they had any responsibility for them as long as there is no transparency or accountability.”

One of the most celebrated modern cases of fieldworker slavery was uncovered in November 2007 after three workers escaped from a box truck in which they had been locked. They and 12 others had been held as slaves for two and a half years. They had to relieve themselves in a corner of the truck at night and pay five dollars if they wanted to bathe with a garden hose. They were routinely beaten. Some were chained to poles at times. During the days they worked on some of the largest farms in Florida. It was the seventh such documented case of slavery in a decade.

“As long as the supermarket industry refuses to sign this agreement it gives the growers an escape,” says Reyes. “We need to bring the pressure of more buyers who will sign the agreement to protect the workers. We have gotten all of the major corporations within the fast food industry and food providers to sign this agreement. Two of the three most important buyers within the industry are on board. But if these supermarkets continue to hold out they can put all the mechanisms we have set in place for control at risk. If Wal-Mart, Trader Joe’s and other supermarkets say the only criteria is buying from those growers who offer the lowest possible price then we will not be able to curb abuses. If the agreement is in place and there is another case of slavery then the growers will be put in a penalty box. If we do not have the ability to impose penalties then there will always be a way for abusive growers to sell. The agreement calls on these corporations to stop buying from growers, for example, that use slave labor. Without the agreement there is no check on these practices.”

“Supermarkets, such as Trader Joe’s, insist they are responsible and fair,” Reyes goes on. “They use their public relations to present themselves as a good corporation. They sell this idea of fairness, this disguise. They use this more sophisticated public relations campaign, one that presents them as a friend of workers, while at the same time locking workers out of the discussion and kicking us out of the room. They want business as usual. They do not want people to question how their profits are created. We have to fight not only them but this sophisticated public relations tactic. We are on the verge of a systemic change, but corporations like Trader Joe’s are using all their power to push us back.”

Members and supporters of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers will march from a Trader Joe’s store at 604 W. Huntington Dr. in Monrovia, Calif., to the market chain’s headquarter a mile away, starting at noon Oct. 21. The farmworkers organization is demanding that Trader Joe’s support the human rights of the men and women who harvest tomatoes sold in its stores. For more information, click here, send an email to damara@justharvestusa.org or telephone (510) 725-8752 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (510) 725-8752     end_of_the_skype_highlighting.

© 2011 TruthDig.com

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Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.  His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

25 Comments so far

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Posted by corvo
Sep 26 2011 – 10:50am

Well, expecting that Aldi (a hyperconservative German family that owns Trader Joe’s) will budge is kind of unrealistic, noble as it may be.  Even more extremely than Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s sells a feel-good lifestyle for liberals who’d rather not think too long or too hard about where their money is going.

Of course the laborers deserve to be treated fairly.  But really, who in his/her right mind and with three functioning taste buds buys tomatoes from a supermarket to begin with?

Posted by Ollupsutit
Sep 26 2011 – 10:51am

Sorry Chris, this is all the price of supporting illegal immigration. Until these workers adopt the methods and restrictions of Caesar Chavez they will continue to be exploited. And there will continue to be cases of virtual slavery discovered.

How anyone can call themselves Progressive and support the exploitation of these workers is beyond understanding.

Posted by redballoon
Sep 26 2011 – 11:14am

Titus Pullo – do you eat tomatoes, ketchup, pizza, etc. Nothing we consume is free of evil.

Posted by Ollupsutit
Sep 26 2011 – 2:53pm

You have a point, however, buying the produce is not the same as actually supporting the business’s involved and helping them exploit these poor workers. And the thing that strikes me most is remembering what Chavez said about it’s not just the undocumented that suffer, it’s the American worker too. Our fields are not just serviced by the undocumented, no matter what the Right say’s.

But, you have a point, none the less.

Posted by Paranoid Pessimist
Sep 26 2011 – 4:30pm

Good point indeed.  If we tried to consume only products produced by people who were paid American standard-of-living wages, there would be nothing.  People can understand the situation and purchase responsibly as much as possible, but all that’s accomplishing is salving their personal consciences — like ecologically correct consuming (“It’s not my fault; I bought only green socially responsible stuff”).  It won’t help to have lived that way once the big crunchdown begins in earnest.

The business wing of the right wing says that they have to offsource jobs because the American workers are paid so much more than third world peasants.  They say that it’s because American workers are selfish (not because our way of life is barely affordable even with “living” wages) and that if we had real competitive community spirit, we’d give up all that minimum wage b.s. and enthusiastically join in on the race to the bottom, assured that because we’re God-blessed Americans we’d somehow come out on top.

Posted by SJRyan
Sep 26 2011 – 11:47am

Two wrongs don’t make a right. “Nearly 90 percent of the workers are young, single immigrant men, and at least half lack proper documents or authorization to work in the United States.” I’ll bet it’s considerably more than 50%. The workers don’t belong here. They are exploited by big and small Agra business. The tomato industry makes billions for its wealthy owners. We have to pay $2 a pound in the grocery store for tomatoes. Losers: American consumers & Illegals;   Winners: Wealthy Agra Business owners

Simple solution is to grow your own. I grew cherry tomatoes this years. It was fun and easy. I’m not a gardener. I think we should be given tax credits for planting fruit trees. Zucchini is easy to grow and produces so much that the excess could be given to food banks. If the masses started to grow food big time, prices would come down. Grocery stores would not be able to charge so much.

Supporting our illegal problem is not a solution. Illegals need to fight for their rights in their own countries. If we stopped illegal immigration and tomatoes rotted in the fields and the price of ketchup skyrocketed then we would start growing our own. Local small organic farms would spring up. The price of tomatoes would go down. We would not have an illegal problem and the only losers would be those getting rich charging $2 for tomatoes.

Posted by pjd412
Sep 26 2011 – 2:26pm

I don’t know what is worse, your suburban-bourgeois-liberal self-absorbed smugness or your complete lack of understanding understanding of basic economics.

The Mexican/central American workers worker’s alternative is either to come up here for work or watch themselves and their families starve.  Understand?  What would YOU do if you were in their situation?

Posted by Galenwainwright…
Sep 26 2011 – 2:31pm

Eat the rich?

Posted by SJRyan
Sep 26 2011 – 2:42pm

The Mexican/Central American worker’s should overthrow their masters or remain poor for a few more centuries. How about a Mexican/Central American Spring? The easy way is to head north. We have problems of our own.

Posted by Sonmi451
Sep 26 2011 – 2:56pm

Easy way?  Define easy.  And we?  Excuse me, but I think most of us have more solidarity with the poor Mexican/Central American workers who may “remain poor for a few more centuries” than with you.

Posted by raydelcamino
Sep 26 2011 – 3:03pm

Those Mexican/Central American workers have been governed by “masters” installed and protected by higher and mightier masters in New York (and the politicians they own in Washington DC) for more than a century. Any overthrows during that time would have resulted in a subsequent US-approved master replacing the previous one.

Posted by SJRyan
Sep 26 2011 – 4:26pm

“…most of us have more solidarity with the poor Mexican/Central American workers…”

I do not agree. I believe you’re claimed solidarity is a liberal myth. Jobs, jobs, jobs are on the minds of most Americans. Illegals flood the job market and suppress wages. Jobs Americans won’t do, they would do for more money. No more money is offered because ‘Manuel’ the laborer from south of our border will work for slave wages.

Tomatoes need to rot in fields year after year till wages and working conditions improve. It would be a form of strike that will never happen because ‘Manuel’ and his friends are waiting every morning at 6 am in parking lots across the south to work for slave wages. Gandhi marched to the sea and made salt. We could certainly grow a few tomatoes! (tomatoes – cook and add salt and you have ketchup; cook and add sugar you have tomato soup)

Illegal immigration needs to be dealt with. No more kicking the frijoles can down the road. I’m all for putting the no vacancy sign on the Statue of Liberty. We no longer have a western frontier to explore and settle. We need all the jobs we can get for our own children and our own ex-slaves. All liberals are not bleeding hearts.

Posted by Siouxrose
Sep 26 2011 – 3:04pm

SJRyan: You appear to be morphing into Thomas More here!

As for me, I will write that letter to Publix. There must be ten Publix supermarkets in Gainesville, and many cater to “upscale” community members. The university, added to two hospitals, seems to fuel a complex of well paid employees and the shelves at Publix all but glitter like gold. The extra penny or so is NOTHING to this operation or the vast majority who shop at Publix.

I will be writing a letter in support of this initiative.

Some in this forum are so adamant that they can only accept radical, immediate solutions. These are not likely to happen. By discarding what CAN be done, they show no respect for, nor tolerance of increments that just might make a difference in someone else’s life. Sure, I’d love to see Wall Street overthrown, the covert government coup disabled, the MIC put on virtual house arrest, the tax money collected directed at matters that actually improve human lives… but in the meanwhile, maybe small acts of decency can insure that a few more might not find themselves in slavery.

Posted by corvo
Sep 26 2011 – 4:20pm

Publix is a viciously conservative operation.  But then, most supermarket chains are.

Posted by Ollupsutit
Sep 26 2011 – 3:05pm

SJRyan

I would like to point out that it is hard to do as you say when they are harnessed to NAFTA, etc. no less than our own workers.

Can we afford to subsidize business in using the undocumented? No. Should they be allowed to come here illegally. Of course not. Now that those things are out of the way, how does anyone blame someone for trying to support their family? We cannot and must not blame these exploited workers for our faults. And the fault is ours.

One question. If you were a corn farmer and your government agreed to a trade agreement (NAFTA) that put you out of the business of farming and just across the border were business’s, a government and other’s for political reasons that enticed you to come here illegally but offered to pay you far more than you could get at home (nada) and not to enforce their laws so you could work and they could pay you slave wages there (but to you is a high wage), what would you do?

I know exactly what I would do.

Posted by shipleye
Sep 26 2011 – 12:12pm

I would suggest reading Barry Estabrook’s Tomatoland which talks about the terrible working conditions of the migrant farm worker and the poisons that are sprayed on the fields and by “accident” the workers themselves.
I believe that a shorter version was published in Gourmet under the title: The price of tomatoes.

Posted by WayneWR
Sep 26 2011 – 12:27pm

I am not positive of this, but in most cases the greatest cost of doing busiess is usually employees wages… I am going to (assume) that would be true for the tomato business.

So,,, a field worker is paid (fifty cents) to pick 32 ponds of tomatoes, the same wages as they were paid in 1980… Something is very, very wrong here.

Two years ago a can of Cambell’s tomato soup cost between 55 cents up to 65 cents…  Now the price is more than a dollar and in some supermarkets a buck and a quarter… That steep rise is for all varieties of canned soups however…The price of all canned tomatoes, spaghetti sauses, has also about doubled in just two years.

One would think, it would be fair to have doubled the field workers wages in the past two years, or at least a fair pay hike.

Someone is makeing LOTS, tons  of unfair profit… Who? __ Who really controls the price of food? __ Fuel cost is currently about the same as two years ago and a lot less than four years ago, it isn’t just the cost of fuel that has raised the price of food so high.

Is it all due because they started using a FOOD crop (corn) to make ethanol, (instead of hemp),  and the price of corn very quickly went way up and so then did all other food prices go way up? __  I’d like to know. why the cost of food has skyrocketed in two to three years time.. .

And Trader Joes?__ We love TJs,,, much lower prices for almost everything and a great selection of breads, spices, unusual food items, etc… Paper bags too.

Posted by raydelcamino
Sep 26 2011 – 3:06pm

As WayneWR pointed out, the price of food in the US (not just food containing tomatoes) has doubled during the past two years While wages for the workers producing the food have been flat or declining.

Note that many third world nations have seen food costs more than double during the same period.

Doubling the cost of food in the US is the result of several factors, including the following:

Skyrocketing medical insurance costs for the workers producing, processing, transporting and selling food.

Serial regressive Federal Reserve monetary policy combined with unregulated speculation of the commodities (including fossil fuel) needed to produce, process, and transport food.

Higher electrical power costs caused by security costs and risk-shifting from owners to ratepayers.

A weak US dollar.

Posted by Heavyrunner
Sep 26 2011 – 2:56pm

The price of oil has also doubled in that time. Without oil, our global agricultural system collapses.

Posted by WayneWR
Sep 26 2011 – 12:46pm

I just thought of something else…  When I was a teen, in the 50s, living in New Jersey,  when harvest time came, all of us school kids, college students picked tomtoes, cukes, apples and peaches, blueberries, etc…  I was paid 50 cent for every half a bushel of apples back then., never saw any pickers from Mexico or South America.

What the heck has happened to us here in America?  This isn’t the America I grew up in.

Posted by raydelcamino
Sep 26 2011 – 3:10pm

ALL of the jobs  I worked at from age 12 through 25 (newspaper delivery, picking crops, construction, factory work) are now done by immigrants.  Parents today want their kids to have jobs that lead to one of the few careers that actually pay a decent salary.

Posted by NateW
Sep 26 2011 – 12:53pm

Perhaps Chris Hedges needs to do a bit more research as to where the majority tomatoes sold in Trader Joe’s come from (Mexico).  This sort of sloppy action really muddies the waters and reeks of ‘activism for hire’ along the lines of what the American Conservative Union did at the behest of FedEx against UPS a few years ago (notice the admonition to shop at the ultra-faux progressive Wal-Mart of chain markets, Whole Foods?).  While Trader Joe’s & their owner, Aldi Nord, are no paragons of shopping virtue by any stretch of the imagination, it will be a cold day in Hell before I ever step foot into John Mackey’s ‘Whole Paycheck.’

Posted by WayneWR
Sep 26 2011 – 1:56pm

Well ~~Nate~~ where do you think the tomatoes sold at Trader Joes, other than perhaps ‘organic’ grown come from? __ Have you done any resarch on that? __ How do you know how much research ~Chris Hedges~ has done or has not done on the tomato subject?

I know one thing,,, about 40% of our food is now imported and most of our veggies now arrive from Mexico and or South America…  And Wal-Mart can kiss my rear. I hate walking a half mile to get from the auto parts to the cookie jars and seeing 90% of the stores junk comes from China…   We once found swollen cans of diced carrots in a Wal-Mart.

Got a red vested “May I Help You” fellow to see it and he immediatly cleared the shelves… He said those canned carrots came from China… Scary huh?

Posted by Sonmi451
Sep 26 2011 – 2:16pm

What a perfect microcosm of our entire corrupt and contemptible system.  Most people are still under the destructive assumption that corporations “give” us jobs.  That the market will regulate itself and pay workers what they are “worth”.  Any study of capitalism, whether historical or contemporary, will reveal how corporations always have and always will maximize profits by ANY means necessary. Of course, that is their raison d’etre.  Employers will do as little as possible, until they are forced to do more.  It is what you get when you order a system based on greed and avarice.

Posted by Galenwainwright…
Sep 26 2011 – 2:37pm

The had a civil war once over shit like this.

You had people, your own citizens, suffer incredible hardship and destitution like this in the Lesser Great Depression.

The plight of the migrant worker, whether illegal immigrant or American born poor, has been popularized by the “liberal’ intelligentsia since the 1980′s.

AND NOTHING HAS CHANGED!

So either shit or get off the pot. Either these people are human beings deserving of basic dignity, or they are utterly expendable slaves who exist only to fuel the Corporations. Decide. Now.

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Labour bargains with a gun at its head — again September 20, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Labor.
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By Tim HarperNational Affairs Columnist, Toronto Star, September 20, 2011
OTTAWA

Lisa Raitt’s talking points included two reasons for threatening to legislate Air Canada flight attendants back to work before they had a chance to put their tray tables in the upright position.

The labour minister said the Conservatives will intervene whenever they see a labour disruption having a significant effect on the economy or the general public.

She didn’t mention two other reasons.

First, the Harper Conservatives are micromanaging labour disputes in this country because ideologically they are delighted to put unionized workers in their place.

And they are doing it because no one can stop them.

The government’s latest move to usurp bargaining rights in this country was as certain as leaves in Ottawa changing colour in September.

Even the president of the union representing 6,800 flight attendants told his membership in August that the Harper government had them over the barrel when he urged ratification of an earlier agreement.

In a Ground Hog day moment, the last parliamentary session ended in June with an NDP filibuster over the government’s back-to-work order to postal workers and the fall session began with a threatened NDP filibuster over the government’s back-to-work order to flight attendants.

But the party, now in the hands of interim leader Nycole Turmel, seemed uncertain how to react to this latest affront to workers, and tried to stay away from the matter Tuesday.

Like a hanging in the morning, the threat of back-to-work legislation tends to focus the mind and eliminate posturing at the bargaining table.

The Conservatives will doubtless point to Tuesday’s settlement as evidence of its good work.

But the government has offered no parameters on what constitutes an economic threat to the country or significant inconvenience for the Canadian public.

That should concern workers everywhere in this country because by using criteria so broadly sketched no one can be certain that their hard-won bargaining rights will be respected.

This was a private company in which both management and union appeared to be negotiating in good faith without the long, meddling reach of the federal government.

In an August memo recommending ratification, Jeff Taylor, the president of the CUPE Air Canada component, bluntly told his members “the Conservative government will not let us go on strike.’’

He argued for acceptance because they were facing a government “that would rather enforce back-to-work legislation than allow your union to strike.’’

He was right.

Had the flight attendants jumped off the cliff into a strike situation, they risked losing even more.

As they did with the postal workers, the Harper Conservatives were prepared to enshrine an offer in the legislation that was less rich than that offered by the airline.

Raitt has been quick in the past to point how rarely back-to-work legislation has been used in this country and how extraordinary such a measure would be.

It is extraordinary no more.

The last three major potential labour disruptions — none of which resulted in a full-blown strike — have been met with legislative threats or action from Raitt, a self-styled friend of labour and daughter of a union organizer.

Air Canada says its flight attendants are the best paid in the country.

They had offered the workers a 12 per cent hike over five years (they accepted nine per cent over four), with defined-benefit pensions.

They point out that there are 25 applicants for every job opening and say once hired, flight attendants tend to stay until retirement.

The attendants counter they must be better compensated because they must be bilingual, must familiarize themselves with more aircraft than flight attendants on other airlines, and must undertake more long haul flights with shorter layovers.

That sigh of relief heard midday Tuesday came from air travellers and the NDP caucus.

While the travellers can take to the air with confidence, it is clear the post-Jack Layton NDP is still trying to find its wings.

Tim Harper is a national affairs writer. His column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Over Two Thousand Six Hundred Activists Arrested in US Protests May 24, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Nuclear weapons/power, Torture, War.
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Roger’s note: Just prior to posting the article below about those arrested for protesting various areas of injustice, I had posted an article entitled “Too Big to Jail,” an article decrying the fact that no one has been arrested or jailed for the economic crimes committed by various sectors of the banking and finance community, which lead to thousands of Americans losing their homes.  This juxtaposition (justaposition?) was not planned, it just happened.

Published on Tuesday, May 24, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

  by  Bill Quigley

Since President Obama was inaugurated, there have been over two thousand six hundred arrests of activists protesting in the US.   Research shows over 670 people have been arrested in protests inside the US already in 2011, over 1290 were arrested in 2010, and 665 arrested in 2009.   These figures are certainly underestimate the number actually arrested as arrests in US protests are rarely covered by the mainstream media outlets which focus so intently on arrests of protestors in other countries.

Daniel Ellsberg flashes a pair of peace signs as he’s led away by capitol police on December 16, 2010.

One hundred thirty one protestors, including numerous veterans, gathered in the snow outside the White House challenging the war in Afghanistan. (CommonDreams)

Arrests at protest have been increasing each year since 2009.  Those arrested include people protesting US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Guantanamo, strip mining, home foreclosures, nuclear weapons, immigration policies, police brutality, mistreatment of hotel workers, budget cutbacks, Blackwater, the mistreatment of Bradley Manning, and right wing efforts to cut back collective bargaining.

These arrests illustrate that resistance to the injustices in and committed by the US is alive and well.  Certainly there could and should be more, but it is important to recognize that people are fighting back against injustice.

Information on these arrests has been taken primarily from the newsletter The Nuclear Resister, which has been publishing reports of anti-nuclear resistance arrests since 1980, and anti-war actions since 1990.

Jack Cohen-Joppa, who with his partner Felice, edits The Nuclear Resister, told me “Over the last three decades, in the course of chronicling more than 100,000 arrests for nonviolent protest and resistance to nuclear power, nuclear weapons, torture, and war, we’ve noted a quadrennial decline as support for protest and resistance gets swallowed up by Presidential politicking. It has taken a couple of years, but the Hopeium addicts of 2008 are finally getting into recovery. We’re again reporting a steady if slow rise in the numbers willing to risk arrest and imprisonment for acts of civil resistance. Today, for instance, there are more Americans serving time in prison for nuclear weapons protest than at any time in more than a decade.”

In the list below I give the date of the protest arrest and a brief summary of the reason for the protest.   After each date I have included the name of the organization which sponsored the protest. Check them out.  Remember, they can jail the resisters but they cannot jail the resistance!

2011

January 1, 2011.  Nine women, ages 40 to 91, who brought solar panels to the Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor were arrested for blocking the driveway at Entergy Corporation.  Shut It Down.

January 5, 2011 and February 2, 2011.  Five arrests were made of peace activists protesting at Vandenberg Air Force base, including a veteran of WWII.  Vandenberg Witness.

January 11, 2011.  Ten people protesting against the continued human rights violation of Guantanamo prison trying to deliver a letter to a federal judge were arrested at the federal building in Chicago, Illinois.

January 11, 2011.  A sixty one year old grandmother protesting against excessive radiation was arrested for blocking the path of a utility truck in Sonoma County, California.

January 15, 2011.  Twelve people protesting against Trident nuclear weapons at the Kitsap-Bangor naval base outside of Seattle, Washington were arrested – six on state charges of blocking the highway and six others on federal charges of trespass for crossing onto the base.  Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action.

January 17, 2011.  Marking the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, people protested outside the Lockheed Martin Valley Forge Pennsylvania office where eight people were arrested.  Brandywine Peace Community.

January 17, 2011.  Three people protesting the US use of armed drones and depleted uranium were arrested at the Davis-Monthan air force base near Tucson Arizona.

January 29, 2011.  Eight peace activists marking the 60th anniversary of the testing of the atom bomb were arrested at the Nevada Nuclear Test Site.   Nevada Desert Experience.

February 10, 2011.  Twenty three hotel workers were arrested after protesting management abuses at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco.  UNITE Here Local 2.

February 15, 2011.  A former CIA agent turned whistleblower was arrested and battered by police for standing silently and turning his back during a speech on the need for human rights in Egypt delivered by the US Secretary of State.   Veterans for Peace.

February 17, 2011.  Nine people protesting against the attack on collective bargaining in Wisconsin were arrested at the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison.

February 25, 2011.  Eleven people protesting federal budget cuts against the poor, including one person in a wheelchair were arrested charged with blocking traffic in Chicago.

March 4, 2011.  Three people were arrested in Seattle after a protest against police abuse.

March 4, 2011.  Sixteen people were arrested at a protest against tuition increases at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.

March 10, 2011.  Fifty people protesting the removal of collective bargaining rights were arrested after being carried out of the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison.

March 16, 2011.  Seven union supporters protesting proposals to strip collective bargaining from teachers were arrested in Nashville Tennessee.

March 19, 2011.  One hundred thirteen people protesting the eighth anniversary of the war in Iraq, lead by Veterans for Peace, were arrested at White House. Veterans for Peace.

March 19, 2011.  Eleven military family members and veterans were arrested in Hollywood California after staging a sit protesting the 8th anniversary of the war in Iraq.  Veterans for Peace.

March 20, 2011.  Thirty five people were arrested protesting outside the Quantico brig where Bradley Manning was being held.  Bradley Manning Support Network.

March 28, 2011. Seven people defending a family against eviction and protesting home foreclosures were arrested in Rochester, NY, including a 70 year old neighbor in her pajamas.  Take Back the Land.

April 4, 2011.  Seven people protesting against unjust immigration legislation barring undocumented immigrants from Georgia colleges were arrested for blocking traffic in Atlanta Georgia.

April 7, 2011. Seventeen people were arrested protesting budget cuts in assistance for the poor and elderly and calling for an end to corporate tax exemptions in Olympia Washington.

April 10, 2011.  Twenty seven people calling attention to the thousands of murders of people in Latin America by graduates of the US Army School of the Americas/WHINSEC were arrested outside the White House. School of Americas Watch.

April 11, 2011.  Forty one people, including the Mayor and many of the members of the District of Columbia city council, protesting Congressional action limiting how the District of Columbia could spend its own money were arrested in Washington DC.

April 15, 2011.  Eight teenage girl students, some as young as fourteen, were arrested after they refused to leave their public school Catherine Ferguson Academy, which is specially designated for pregnant and mothering teens in Detroit.  Also with the young women were children and teachers.  The school is targeted for closure due to budget cutbacks.

April 22, 2011.  Thirty seven people were arrested protesting the use of drones outside the Hancock Air Force base near Syracuse New York.  Syracuse Peace Council.  Ithaca Catholic Worker.

April 22, 2011.  Eleven women chained and locked the gate at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon Vermont before being arrested.

April 22, 2011.  Thirty three people protesting at the Livermore Lab which designs nuclear weapons at an interfaith peace service were arrested for trespassing in California.

April 22, 2011.  Four people were arrested at the Pentagon after they held up a banner and read from a leaflet outside of the designated protest zone.  Dorothy Day Catholic Worker.

April 24, 2011.  Sixteen protestors against nuclear weapons at the Nevada National Security Site were arrested after a sixty mile sacred walk from Las Vegas.  Nevada Desert Experience.  Pace e Bene.

May 2, 2011.  Fifty two protestors against a nuclear weapons plant in Kansas City Missouri were arrested after blocking a gate to the construction site.  Holy Family Catholic Worker.

May 9, 2011.  Five people protesting against draconian immigration laws were arrested in the governor’s office in Indianapolis, Indiana.

May 7, 2011.  Seven people celebrating Mothers Day and protesting nuclear weapons were arrested outside the Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor twenty miles from Seattle.  Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action.

May 9, 2011.  Sixty five people protesting cutbacks in education funding were arrested in Sacramento California.

2010

January 6, 2010.  Over one hundred people protesting for union recognition of hotel workers at Hyatt San Francisco were arrested.  UNITE Here Local 2.

January 15, 2010.  A man who served nearly six months in jail and who was still on probation for hammering windows at a military recruiting center in Lancaster Pennsylvania was arrested at the recruiting center after insisting that recruiters and recruits to leave the army.

January 18, 2010.  Seven people commemorating Martin Luther King’s birthday wore sandwich board messages saying “Make War No More,” “It’s about Justice,”  and “its About Peace,” outside of Lockheed Martin’s main entrance in Merion Pennsylvania until they were arrested.  Brandywine Peace Community.

January 21, 2010.  Forty-two people protesting the ongoing human rights violations of Guantanamo prison were arrested at the US Capitol building.  Twenty-eight were arrested on the steps of the Capitol and fourteen inside the rotunda.  Witness Against Torture.

January 26, 2010.  Thirteen people from Minnesota lobbying to stop funding for war were arrested after holding a die-in on the sidewalk in front of the White House.  Voices for Creative Nonviolence.

January 31, 2010.  Eight people were arrested trying to protest at Vandenberg Air Force base in California, one of those arrested, an octogenarian, was brought to the hospital for injuries suffered in the arrest.  A few days later, seven protestors were arrested at the same spot.   A month later, four more protestors were arrested.  Vandenberg Witness.

February 22, 2010.  Five people protesting against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were arrested inside US Senators’ offices in the Des Moines Iowa federal building.  Voices for Creative Nonviolence.  Des Moines Catholic Worker.

March 4, 2010.  Four students protesting against rape were arrested after they refused to leave the administration building at Michigan State University in East Lansing Michigan.

March 20, 2010.  Nine peace activists were arrested in Washington DC for lying down beside mock coffins outside the White House.

March 21, 2010.  Two people protesting at the Aerospace and Arizona Days air show at Monthan Air Force base held a banner declaring “War is not a Show” in front of a Predator Unmanned Air Vehicle (drone) were arrested.

March 30, 2010.  Eight protestors were arrested during a march against police brutality in Portland Oregon.

April 2, 2010.  Eleven people on a Good Friday walk for peace and justice were arrested outside the USS Intrepid in New York city after they began reading the names of 250 Iraqi, American and Afghan war dead.  Pax Christi New York.

April 2, 2010. Nine people carrying a banner “Lockheed Martin Weapons + War = The Crucifixion Today” in the 34th annual Good Friday protest at Lockheed Martin were arrested in Valley Forge Pennsylvania.  Brandywine Peace Community.

April 4, 2010. Twenty two people protesting against nuclear weapons after the Sacred Walk from Las Vegas to the Nevada Nuclear Test Site were arrested after the Western Shoshone sunrise ceremony and Easter Mass.  Nevada Desert Experience.

April 7, 2010.  Three people, including a 12 year old girl, were arrested inside a US Senators office in Des Moines, Iowa with a banner “No More $$$ For War.”  The mother of the 12 year old girl was called into the police station and issued a citation the next day for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.  Voices for Creative Nonviolence and Des Moines Catholic Worker.

April 15, 2010.  A man protesting nuclear weapons was arrested inside the security fence of a nuclear missile silo near Parshall, North Dakota.

April 16, 2010.  Twelve people protesting against Sodexho mistreatment of workers were arrested in Montgomery County Maryland.  Service Employees International Union.

April 20, 2010.  A woman was arrested for standing in the path of a bulldozer to try to prevent mining in Marquette County, Michigan.

April 26, 2010.  Seventeen people protesting war and poverty inside and outside the federal building in Chicago were arrested.  Midwest Catholic Worker.

April 26, 2010.  Boulder Colorado police arrested five people protesting at Valmont coal power plant.

May 3, 2010.  Three people protesting nuclear weapons were arrested at Bangor Naval Base outside of Seattle Washington.  Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action.

May 3, 2010.  Twenty two people protesting nuclear weapons were arrested at Grand Central Station in New York city after unfurling banners saying “Nuclear Weapons = Terrorism,” and “Talk Less, Disarm More.” War Resisters League.

May 9, 2010.  Seven people trying to stop a foreclosure-driven eviction were arrested in Toledo Ohio.  Take Back the Land.

May 15, 2010.  Thirty four people protesting against Arizona’s draconian immigration laws were arrested outside the White House.

May 17, 2010.  Sixteen people were arrested in NYC protesting against unjust immigration policies.

May 20, 2010.  A woman US Army specialist who served as a Military Police applied for conscientious objector status while serving in Iraq and who later left her unit was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

May 24, 2010.  Thirty seven people protesting against unjust immigration policies were arrests in New York City.

June 1, 2010.  Fifty six people protesting against unjust immigration policies were arrested in NYC.

June 8, 2010.  Six peace advocates were arraigned in federal court in Des Moines, Iowa for numerous actions protesting in US Senators offices for the previous several months.  One activist, a grandmother and hog farmer, held weekly die-ins in Senators’  offices and was arrested frequently.  Once, when police asked her to leave, she replied that she was dead and couldn’t leave.  Voices for Creative Nonviolence.

June 15, 2010.  Several people protesting against evictions caused by bank foreclosure were arrested in Miami Florida.  Take Back the Land.

June 23, 2010.  Twenty two people protesting in favor of immigration reform singing “America the Beautiful” and “This Land is Your Land,” were arrested and charged with blocking traffic in Seattle.

July 5, 2010.  Thirty six people protesting for a nuclear free future were arrested at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee – thirteen of federal trespass charges and twenty-three on state charges for blocking a highway.  Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance.

July 6, 2010.  Seventy eight people protesting against police brutality in Oakland California and the trial involving a shooting by a BART police office.

July 23, 2010.  One hundred fifty two hotel workers protesting against management at the Grand Hyatt San Francisco were arrested.  UNITE Here Local 2.

July 29, 2010.  Thirteen people were arrested in Tucson Arizona protesting against the state’s illegal immigration laws.

August 9, 2010.  On Nagasaki day, three people protesting against the US commitment to nuclear weapons were arrested outside the US Strategic Air Command in Omaha Nebraska.  Omaha Catholic Worker.

August 15, 2010.   A twenty two year old female student at Michigan State University who pitched an apple pie at a US Senator during an anti-war protest was arrested and charged with federal felony charges of forcible assault on a federal officer.  Another anti-war activist was also arrested and charged with the same crime.

September 9, 2010.  Twelve people protesting for equality for gay people in the workplace were arrested in San Francisco.

September 27, 2010.  One hundred fourteen people protesting mountaintop removal coal mining were arrested at the White House after a conference of people from West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.  Prior to this protest, forty-nine activists in the Climate Ground Zero Campaign have served jail time for taking action against strip-mining in Appalachia.  Climate Ground Zero.

November 5, 2010.  One hundred fifty two people protesting police killings were arrested in Oakland, California.

November 8, 2010.  Five people protesting wind turbines in Lincoln, Maine were arrested including an 82 year old native of Maine.

November 21, 2010.  Three people were arrested on federal charges and twenty-four more on state charges at the School of Americas/WHINSEC protest in Columbus Georgia outside the gates of Fort Benning. Six others were arrested at a protest against a private prison housing immigrants in rural Georgia. School of Americas Watch. ACLU Immigrant Rights Project.

December 1, 2010.  Three people protesting against unjust immigration policies were arrested at the office of a Congress rep in Racine Wisconsin.  Voces de la Frontera.

December 16, 2010.  One hundred thirty one protestors, including numerous veterans, gathered in the snow outside the White House challenging the war in Afghanistan, the cover-up of war crimes and the prosecution of Bradley Manning and Wikileaks were arrested for failing to clear the sidewalk.  In a parallel New York City protest, several others were also arrested.  Veterans for Peace.

December 17, 2010.  Twenty two people protesting against unfair home foreclosures were arrested when they blocked an entrance to a Chase bank branch in Los Angeles.   Alliance Californians for Community Empowerment.

December 20, 2010.  Six people were arrested after protesting at Bank of America against the foreclosure of an elderly couple in South Saint Louis.  Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment.

December 28, 2010.  Three parents asking for the abolition of all nuclear weapons were arrested for leafleting at the Pentagon.  Dorothy Day Catholic Worker.

2009

January 2009, seventeen people, clad in black mourning clothes and white masks, were arrested in the US Senate Building for reading the names of the dead in ongoing US wars and unfurling banners stating “The Audacity of War Crimes,”  “Iraq,” “Afghanistan,” “Palestine,” and “We Will Not Be Silent.”

January 26, 2009, six human rights advocates were sentenced to two to six months of federal prison or home arrest in federal court in Columbus Georgia for challenging training of Latin American human rights abusers at the US Army School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC) by walking onto Fort Benning. School of Americas Watch.

January 2009, a former Army specialist who refused to graduate with his Airborne Division because he realized he could not kill anybody was arrested and jailed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  The former soldier had been ordered home in May 2002 to await discharge papers.  Courage to Resist.

February 2009.  There were fifteen arrests of activists protesting mountain top removal by Massey in West Virginia.  Climate Ground Zero.

February 2009, five peace activists in Salem Oregon fasting on the steps of the state capitol building so that National Guard soldiers would not be sent to Iraq and Afghanistan were cited for trespass by state police.

March 1, 2009, six anti-nuclear activists protesting the 55th anniversary of the US nuclear  bomb detonation at Bikini Atoll were arrested at the Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Kitsap, Washington after they knelt in the roadway.  Ground Zero Community and Pacific Life Community.

March 4, 2009, nine people seeking to present a letter to CEO of Alliant Technologies outlining how weapons manufacturers were prosecuted as war criminals at the end of WWII were arrested in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.  Alliant Action.

March 12, 2009, four people who were arrested during a protest at Vandenberg Air Force base were fined between $500 and $2500 by federal authorities.  California Peace Action.

March 17, 2009, seven people seeking a meeting with US Defense Secretary to challenge the legality of the war in Iraq were arrested at the Pentagon.  National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance.

March 18, 2009, seven women, ranging in ages from 65 to 89, some in wheelchairs and walkers, were arrested protesting the war in Iraq after wrapping yellow crime scene tape around a military recruiting center and blocking the entrance for an hour in New York City.  Grannie Peace Brigade.

March 19, 2009, three people protesting the war in Iraq were arrested in Washington DC.  In one instance a US Army veteran scaled the front of the Veterans Administration building and unfurled a banner saying “Veterans Say NO to War and Occupation.”  Protests against the war in Iraq in Chicago resulted in an arrest there after banner drop.

March 19-21, 2009, protests against the war in Iraq in San Francisco resulted in twenty-two arrests at a die-in in the financial district, eleven more for blocking a street outside the Civic Center, and ten more at the Saturday march when Palestinian marchers were confronted by pro-Israel counter protestors resulting in police using batons and tear gas.

March 31, 2009, four people were arrested in Brattleboro, Vermont, for standing in silent opposition to the Vermont Yankee nuclear power reactor.

March 31, 2009, an anti-nuclear protestor was convicted of trespassing at the Los Alamos nuclear weapons facility and sentenced to two days in jail, community service and probation.  Trinity House Catholic Worker.

April 3, 2009, four people protesting injustices on Wall Street and in Afghanistan and Iraq were arrested in New York, NY, for marching down the center of the street.  Bail Out the People Movement.

April 9, 2009, fourteen people were arrested at Creech Air Force outside Las Vegas Nevada base protesting against the US use of drones in lethal attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.  Nevada Desert Experience.

April 10, 2009, eight people were arrested while kneeling and praying for peace at the Pentagon.  Another, clad in an orange jumpsuit and black hood, was arrested at the White House where he was chained to the fence protesting the human rights abuses of Guantanamo.   Jonah House.

April 10, 2009, sixteen people were arrested while protesting the war profiteer Lockheed Martin in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.  Brandywine Peace Community.

April 12, 2009, twenty one people were arrested while protesting the use of nuclear weapons at the Nevada Nuclear Test Site on Western Shoshone tribal lands.  Nevada Desert Experience.

April 17, 2009.  A man protesting US polices of violence, racism and poverty-production was sentenced to six months in prison for hammering out some windows in the US Military Recruiting Center in Lancaster Pennsylvania.

April 23, 2009, four people protesting lies by military recruiters were arrested after locking themselves to the door at the military recruiting center in Minnesota.  Three others were arrested at the Knollwood Plaza  after disrupting the recruitment center so much it had to be closed.  Another woman was arrested near a recruiting center after placing a “Don’t Enlist”  sticker on a police car.  Antiwar committee.

April 24, 2009, a woman calling for the return of the National Guard from Iraq was arrested in the US House Appropriations during testimony by US Generals in Washington DC. Code Pink.

April 28, 2009, a US Army veteran who refused to fight in Iraq was court-martialed in Fort Stewart, Georgia and sentenced to one year in prison.  Courage to Resist.

April 29, 2009, twenty-two people were arrested after trying to serve a Notice of Foreclosure for Moral Bankruptcy on Blackwater/Xe, the mercenary company responsible for so many deaths in Iraq, at its compound in Mount Carmel, Illinois.  Des Moines Catholic Worker Community.

April 30, 2009, sixty three people were arrested at the White House protesting against illegal detention and torture at Guantanamo prison.   Witness Against Torture.

May 20, 2009.  Twenty one people protesting against the war in Iraq were arrested outside a military recruiting center in Milwaukee Wisconsin.

July 22, 2009, four people protesting against Boeing’s role in the production of drones, which have killed more than 700 people in Afghanistan and Pakistan, were arrested inside the Boeing lobby in Chicago, Illinois.  Christian Peacemaker Teams.

August 4, 2009, four shareholders who sought to speak at the shareholders meeting of depleted uranium munitions producer Alliant Techsystems were arrested when they approached the microphone in Eden Prairie Minnesota.  Alliant Action.

August 5, 2009, a US Army specialist who refused to deploy to Afghanistan was sentenced to 30 days in jail and given a less than honorable discharge in Killeen Texas.  Courage to Resist.

August 6, 2009, a 75 year old priest, protesting the 64th anniversary of the US dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima, was arrested outside of Greeley Colorado where he cut the fence around a nuclear missile silo, hung peace banners, prayed and tried to break open the hatch on the silo.

August 6, 2009, nine antiwar activists were arrested at Fort McCoy Wisconsin after a three day peace walk protesting against US nuclear weapons and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Nuke Watch.

August 6, 2009, two people were arrested at the Pentagon entrance on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing carrying a banner stating “Remember the Pain, Remember the Sin, Reclaim the Future.” Jonah House.

August 6, 2009, twenty two people protesting the horror of Hiroshima were arrested in Livermore California when they blocked the entrance to the Lawrence Livermore weapons lab. Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment.

August 6, 2009, nine people at a vigil for peace and nonviolence were arrested for walking onto Lockheed Martin property at Valley Forge Pennsylvania and spreading sunflower seeds, an international symbol for the abolition of nuclear weapons.  Brandywine Peace Community.

August 6, 2009, two people were arrested when they refused to stop praying at the gates of the Davis-Monthan Air Force base in Tucson Arizona.  Rose of the Desert Catholic Worker.

August 10, 2009, nine persons calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons were arrested at Bangor Naval base, home to the Trident submarine, twenty miles from Seattle Washington.  Ground Zero Community.

August 14, 2009, a US Army Sergeant who refused to go to Afghanistan and who asked for conscientious objector status was found guilty of disobeying lawful orders and going AWOL at a trial in Fort Hood.  He was sentenced to one year in prison and given a bad conduct discharge.

August 17, 2009.  Four people were arrested outside the Boalt Hall classroom where they were protesting John Yoo, who coauthored the memos authorizing torture on people in Guantanamo during the Bush administration.

August 22, 2009, two people protesting against nuclear missile testing were arrested at Vandenberg Air Force base and cited for trespass.

September 9, 2009.  Four people protesting against Massey Energy mountain top removal were arrested in Madison West Virginia.  Climate Ground Zero.

September 12, 2009, seven people who were protesting against the use of the high-tech bloodless arcade Army Experience Center in Philadelphia were arrested.  Seven other protestors were arrested there earlier in the year.  Shut Down the AEC.

September 24, 2009, ninety two people protesting management disregard for union rights of hotel workers were arrested at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Francisco.  UNITE Here Local 2.

September 27, 2009, twenty one people protesting against the Nevada Test Site were arrested at the Mercury gate.  At an action to “Ground the Drones”  protesting the increasing use of lethal drones in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, another eleven people were arrested.  Code Pink.  Pace e Bene.  Nevada Desert Experience.

September 28, 2009, four women, ages 66 to 90, walked past security guards at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant protesting inadequate safety at the plant.  Carrying signs saying “Yom Kippur, September 28, Time to Atone, Shut Down Vermont Yankee,” this was the seventh set of arrests at the nuclear plant or its corporate headquarters since 2005.

September, 2009, the US Army accepted the resignation of Lieutenant, who refused to fight in Iraq because he believed the war violates international law, and gave him a discharge under other than honorable conditions.   Courage to Resist.

October 1, 2009.  A well known mixed martial arts fighter was sentenced to 90 days of work release and a fine of $28,000 for spraying symbols on an Army recruiting center and the Washington State Capitol building to help raise consciousness about the illegal war in Iraq.

October 2, 2009.  Four people trying to deliver a document titled “Employee Liabilities of Weapons Manufacturers under International Law” to the weapons manufacturer Alliant Technologies were arrested in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.  Alliant Action.

October 5, 2009, a couple, who married the day before and who were carrying a banner saying “Just Married; Love Disarms,” were arrested during a peace protest at Lockheed-Martin in Sunnyvale California.  A priest was also arrested as the three gave out leaflets to workers entering the war contractor work site.  Albuquerque New Mexico Catholic Worker.

October 5, 2009, sixty one people were arrested while protesting the ninth year of the US war in Afghanistan in front of the White House.  Some of the arrested were in orange jumpsuits and chained to the fence.  Secret Service officers assaulted other protestors, pushing and pulling them away from the protest site, bruising some.  No Good War and Jonah House.

October 7, 2009, twelve protestors against the war in Afghanistan were arrested in Rochester, NY.  Some of the arrested were treated at the hospital after being struck by police.  Rochester Students for a Democratic Society.

October 7, 2009.  Two people were arrested in Grand Central Station after unfurling banners which said “Afghanistan Enough!”  War Resisters League.

October 11, 2009.  Two women who held up banners when Tiger Woods was ready to putt, saying “President Obama – End Bush’s War,” and “End the Afghan Quagmire,” were handcuffed and escorted away from the President’s Cup golf tournament in San Francisco.

November 2, 2009.  Five people calling for nuclear disarmament cut through the fence around the Naval Base Kitsap which houses the Trident nuclear submarines and nuclear warheads outside of Seattle Washington.  The five walked through the base until they found the storage area for nuclear weapons and cut two more fences to get inside where they put up banners and spread sunflower seeds until they were arrested.  Disarm Now Plowshares.

November 4, 2009.  Two people were arrested while protesting outside Vandenberg Air Force base in California.  Vandenberg Witness.

November 4, 2009.  Eight protestors, including one who was 91 years old, were arrested at the Strategic Space Symposium in Omaha Nebraska while holding a “Space Weapons=Death” banner.  Des Moines and Omaha Catholic Worker.

November 15, 2009.  Five people protesting against US torture practices at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, where military interrogators are trained were arrested.  Torture on Trial.

November 22, 2009.  Four people protesting the training of human rights abusers by the US Army at their School of Americas/WHINSEC were arrested in Columbus, Georgia.  School of Americas Watch.

November 23, 2009.  A longtime war tax resister pled guilty to avoiding paying taxes for war at court in Bangor Maine.  National War Tax Resistance Coordination Committee.

December 1, 2009.  Protestors at 100 cities across the country challenged President Obama’s talk at West Point to escalate the war in Afghanistan.  Six were arrested at West Point, eleven in Minneapolis, and three in Madison Wisconsin.

December 9, 2009.  Six people protesting that President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize were arrested outside the federal building in Los Angeles.  Los Angeles Catholic Worker.

December 10, 2009.  Six people protesting the use of lethal drones were forcibly escorted out of the 11th Annual Unmanned Aerial Systems Conference outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Trinity Nuclear Abolition and Code Pink.

More information about many of these arrests can be found at www.nukeresister.org.

Bill Quigley

Bill Quigley is Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans.  He is a Katrina survivor and has been active in human rights in Haiti for years with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. Contact Bill at quigley77@gmail.com

The Democrats Attack Unions Nationwide May 16, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Labor.
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By shamus cooke
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Obvious political truths are sometimes smothered by special interests. The cover-up of the Democrats’ national anti-union agenda is possible because the truth would cause enormous disturbances for the Democratic Party, some labor leaders, liberal organizations and, consequently, the larger political system.
Here is the short list of states that have Democratic governors where labor unions are undergoing severe attacks:   Massachusetts  , Connecticut, Oregon, California, New York, Illinois, Washington, Hawaii, Minnesota, Maryland and New Hampshire. Other states with Democratic governors are attacking unions to a lesser degree.
The Democrats in these states have sought to distance themselves from the Republican governors of Wisconsin and Ohio, who have specifically attacked the collective bargaining rights of unions. The above Democrats all hide their anti-union attacks behind a “deep respect for collective bargaining;” akin to a thief who will steal your car but, out of respect, will not target your deceased Grandma’s diamond earrings.
For example, the anti-union Democratic governor of Connecticut is demanding $1.6 billion in cuts from state workers! The contract has not been ratified yet, but Governor Malloy referred to the agreement as: “historic because of the way we achieved it – we respected the collective bargaining process and we respected each other, negotiating in good faith, without fireworks and without anger.”
The anti-union Democratic governor of the state of Washington uses similar language:
“They [labor unions] contributed [to fixing the state budget deficit] with a salary cut; they contributed by paying more in health care. They have stepped up and said we want to be a part of the solution. I did it by going to the table, respecting their collective bargaining rights and we got the job done.”
The anti-union Democratic governor of Oregon is demanding 20 to 25 percent pay cut for state workers:
“But [says the Governor] those concessions will be made across a bargaining table through our collective bargaining process and with mutual respect.”
This garbage normally wouldn’t fool a 4th grader, but some labor leaders are playing dumb, in the hopes that the above attacks will not ruin the long-standing friendship between unions and Democrats. Of course, such hopes are founded on illusion: workers are not so blind as to not notice that the governors they campaigned for are now demanding their wages and benefits be destroyed in an unprecedented attack.
But by minimizing the Democrats role in targeting unions, some labor leaders are disarming the labor movement. On the one hand, labor leaders of both the AFL-CIO and Change to Win federations have drawn some correct conclusions from the events in Wisconsin, especially when they say that “labor is in the fight of its life” and “the corporations are out to bust unions.” On the other hand, both union federations have made excuses for the anti-union Democratic Party, enabling labor to be vulnerable on its “left” flank to the anti-union attack.
The fight against massive cuts in wages and benefits cannot be separated from the attack on collective bargaining; they are two sides of the same coin. Workers only care about collective bargaining because it enables them to improve their wages and benefits. A union that agrees to massive cuts in wages will not remain a union for long, since workers will not want to pay dues to an organization that cannot protect them. Concessionary bargaining destroys the power of a union in the same way that cancer destroys the body; pulling the plug [ending collective bargaining] comes after losing a battle with cancer.
Fighting the concessionary cancer is the essence of the problem. This is the real lesson of Wisconsin: workers want to fight back against the nationwide attack against their livelihoods, whether it be wages and benefits or collective bargaining. The AFL-CIO and Change to Win realize this to a certain degree; they are separately creating campaigns to deal with the attack, with SEIU jumping out in front with its Fight for a Fair Economy.
These union campaigns are doomed to fail if the energy generated by them is funneled into the 2012 campaign for Barack Obama.
Any successful union campaign will require that massive resources and energy be used, since the attack workers are facing is colossal. If workers are told to halt their campaigns to door knock and make phone calls for Obama, the campaign will lose all legitimacy, since Obama has established himself as a friend of Wall Street and thus no friend to workers. Voting for Democrats has a demoralizing effect on workers when the inevitable “betrayal” happens; and demoralized union members will not fight as effectively for their own pro-union campaign.
A successful union campaign will require that workers are energized about it. SEIU’s campaign focuses largely on making more connections with other labor and community groups, which is very positive. However, without waging an energetic battle to prevent state workers from making massive concessions, the campaign will fail, because workers who make massive concessions will be demoralized and not take the union campaign seriously, since it failed to address their most pressing needs. The fight to defend state workers has the potential — as Wisconsin proved — to unleash tremendous fighting energy among workers, while also uniting those in the broader community, who are eager for working people to fight back.
If labor unions continue down their current path of making huge concessions in wages and benefits while making excuses for the Democrats attacking them, the movement will wither and die.
If, on the contrary, labor unions demand that state budget deficits be fixed by taxing the rich and corporations, workers would respond enthusiastically; if public-sector unions demanded No Cuts, No Concessions, workers would energetically join the union’s cause; if unions banded together to demand that a national jobs campaign be created by taxing the top 1 percent, a flood of energy would erupt from working people in general; if, during election time, unions joined together to run their own independent candidates with these demands, an unstoppable movement would quickly emerge.
Without using aggressive demands aimed at solving the immediate problems facing working people, a social movement cannot be created to deal with the crisis facing labor unions and working people in general.    ONLY a national social movement with Wisconsin-like energy has the potential to shift the direction in which the country is going, away from the rich and corporations towards working people. Such a social movement cannot be born from soft demands, half-fought battles, or campaigning for Democrats.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for  Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org)

1) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/14/nyregion/connecticut-reaches-deal-with-unions-to-close-budget-shortfall.html?_r=2&hp

2) http://www.npr.org/2011/02/27/134103416/Governors-Meet-As-Pro-Union-Protests-Spread

3) http://www.katu.com/news/local/117565323.html

From Cairo to Madison: Hope and Solidarity Are Alive February 24, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
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Medea Benjamin

Co-founder, CODEPINK: Women for Peace

Posted: February 21, 2011 03:58 PM

Here in Madison, Wisconsin, where protesters have occupied the State Capitol Building to stop the pending bill that would eliminate workers’ right to collective bargaining, echoes of Cairo are everywhere. Protesters here were elated by the photo of an Egyptian engineer named Muhammad Saladin Nusair holding a sign in Tahrir Square saying “Egypt Supports Wisconsin Workers — One World, One Pain.” The signs by protesters in Madison include “Welcome to Wiscairo,” “From Egypt to Wisconsin: We Rise Up,” and “Government Walker: Our Mubarak.” The banner I brought directly from Tahrir Square saying “Solidarity with Egyptian Workers” has been hanging from the balcony of the Capitol alongside solidarity messages from around the country.

My travels from Cairo to Madison seem like one seamless web. After camping out with the students and workers in the Capitol Building, I gave an early morning seminar on what it was like to be an eyewitness to the Egyptian revolution, and the struggles that are taking place right now in places like Libya, Bahrain and Yemen. Folks told me all day how inspiring it was to hear about the uprisings in the Arab world.

Some took the lessons from Cairo literally. Looking around at the Capitol Building that was starting to show the wear and tear from housing thousands of protesters, I had mentioned that in Cairo the activists were constantly scrubbing the square, determined to show how much they loved the space they had liberated. A few hours later, in Madison’s rotunda, people were on their hands and knees scrubbing the marble floor. “We’re quick learners,” one of the high school students told me, smiling as she picked at the remains of Oreo cookies sticking to the floor.

I heard echoes of Cairo in the Capitol hearing room where a nonstop line of people had gathered all week to give testimonies. The Democratic assemblymembers have been giving folks a chance to voice their concerns about the governor’s pending bill. In this endless stream of heartfelt testimonies, people talk about the impact this bill will have on their own families — their take-home pay, their health care, their pensions. They talk about the governor manufacturing the budget crisis to break the unions. They talk about the history of workers’ struggles to earn living wages and have decent benefits. And time and again, I heard people say, “I saw how the Egyptian people were able to rise up and overthrow a 30-year dictatorship, and that inspired me to rise up and fight this bill.”

Solidarity is, indeed, a beautiful thing. It is a way we show our oneness with all of humanity; it is a way to reaffirm our own humanity. CODEPINK sent flowers to the people in Tahrir Square — a gesture that was received with kisses, hugs and tears from the Egyptians. The campers in Madison erupted in cheer when they heard that an Egyptian had called the local pizza place Ians Pizza and placed a huge order to feed the protesters. “Pizza never tasted so good,” a Wisconsin fireman commented when he was told that the garlic pizza he was eating had come from supporters in Cairo.

Egyptian engineer Muhammad Saladin Nusair, the one whose photo supporting Wisconsin workers went viral, now has thousands of new American Facebook friends. He wrote in his blog that many of his new friends were surprised by his gesture of solidarity, but he was taught that “we live in ONE world and under the same sky.”

“If a human being doesn’t feel the pain of his fellow human beings, then everything we’ve created and established since the very beginning of existence is in great danger,” Muhammad wrote. “We shouldn’t let borders and differences separate us. We were made different to complete each other, to integrate and live together. One world, one pain, one humanity, one hope.”

From the trenches of Madison’s State Capitol Building, hope — and solidarity — are alive and well.

Medea Benjamin is co-founder of CODEPINK (www.codepink.org) and Global Exchange (www.globalexchange.org).

 

Follow Medea Benjamin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/medeabenjamin

Why Workers Need the Employee Free Choice Act April 9, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Labor.
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by David Bacon

Unions are good for workers. Today, median weekly pay for union members is $886, compared to $691 for nonunion workers. Moving cargo on the Oakland waterfront pays three times what stocking shelves does at Wal-Mart because longshore workers have had a union contract since 1934.

In 1936, Congress recognized the value of unions and passed the National Labor Relations Act, setting up a legal system in which private sector, nonfarm workers could join unions and bargain. The preamble declares the law’s purpose: “encouraging the practice and procedure of collective bargaining and … protecting the exercise by workers of full freedom of association, self-organization, and designation of representatives of their own choosing.”

Today, however, the law is virtually unable to fulfill its intended function. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, has proposed commonsense measures to restore its effectiveness in the Employee Free Choice Act. Employers are mounting a hysterical campaign against it, even calling it “bolshevism,” and claiming to be protectors of their workers’ rights. We need a reality check about what really happens when workers try to organize.

The Employee Free Choice Act would require employers to repay three times the back pay of a worker fired for organizing a union, with $20,000 fines for willful or repeated violations. It is illegal to fire a worker for union activity, but pro-union workers were fired in 30 percent of union-representation elections in 2007, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research. There are no fines or penalties on employers for this – just reinstatement and back pay, and employers even get to deduct the unemployment benefits of the fired worker.

The National Labor Relations Act is the only federal law where violators receive no punishment. Workers, knowing they can be fired so easily, are understandably afraid to join unions.

The proposed legislation would therefore bring back the process for forming unions used in the years after the labor act was first passed (and which is used today in Canada). Workers would be able to sign union cards, and employers would have to recognize their union if a majority signed. Today, employers demand secret-ballot elections, and then wage an anti-union campaign that peaks on election day. For instance, according to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, at Blue Diamond in Sacramento, the company told workers two days before the election that many might lose their jobs if the union won because growers wouldn’t bring any more almonds to the plant.

Companies like Blue Diamond use outside union-busters, who have created a billion-dollar industry managing these anti-union campaigns. Campaign tactics include: In the weeks before these tainted elections, 51 percent of employers threaten to close if the union wins; and 91 percent force employees to attend one-on-one anti-union meetings with supervisors. This conduct is effectively unpunishable, making a mockery of free elections. Signing cards is a safer, calmer process that workers control themselves, and workers keep the option of using either the cards or the election – their choice, not their employer’s.

Last, when workers form a union and a majority supports it, companies should negotiate a contract. That’s what the law says. The reality? Even when workers win elections, companies don’t negotiate in half the cases. After a year, they can legally walk away. When workers at the Rite-Aid warehouse in Lancaster (Los Angeles County) won an election, the most important agreement they could achieve after 18 bargaining sessions was the location of the union bulletin board.

With the Employee Free Choice Act, after 120 days of fruitless bargaining on a first-time contract, an arbitrator can resolve the issues still in dispute. Companies say they fear an outsider imposing unrealistic conditions. But with no mechanism to force agreement, companies know it’s lots cheaper to wait out the year than to raise wages and provide better benefits.

Many employers simply do not accept the law’s intention – encouraging workers to organize. They created the need for the act by undermining the process and rights established in 1936. By first undermining the law, and then resisting Miller’s common-sense remedies, they are pushing for a return to an era when organizing a union had no protection at all.

 © 2009 The San Francisco Chronicle

David Bacon is an East Bay writer who comments frequently on labor and immigration issues.

Urgent Call For Solidarity With Mexican Miners January 10, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Labor, Latin America, Mexico.
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Written by John L. Lewis

January 10, 2009 at 4:41 am

Union News, http://unionnews.wordpress.com/2009/01/10/urgent-call-for-solidarity-with-mexican-miners/

The National Union of Mineworkers, Steelworkers, Steelmakers and Allied Workers of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSSRM) is being subjected to fierce repression by the fraudulent government of Felipe Calderon and by the Grupo México, the mining monopoly that seeks to destroy the union. What is the mineworkers’ crime? It’s defending the right of workers to decide who their leaders should be without government interference; it’s defending their collective-bargaining agreement.On December 4, Carlos Pavon Campos, Secretary for Political Affairs of the mineworkers’ union, was arrested in Mexico City. He was immediately transferred to the city of Monclova in the state of Coahuila (in the north), on charges of alleged fraud. The day before, Juan Linares Montufar, president of the union’s Main Committee of Vigilance, was transferred to Mexico City. Linares Montufar had been arrested in the city of Morelia in the state of Michoacan.

 

A few weeks earlier, the government “froze” the bank accounts of the union. On December 9, a judge ruled “Illegal and non-existent” the mineworkers’ strike in Cananea, Sonora. Those workers, together with mineworkers in Sombrerete and Taxco have been on strike for over a year to defend their working conditions and the existence of their union. Grupo Mexico has simply refused to negotiate with the union. Today [Dec. 13] the media report that 50 mineworkers in Cananea were issued arrest warrants.

The crackdown against the union began under the Fox administration (2000-2006) through the creation of “white [scab] unions” in opposition the National Union of Mineworkers. Legal charges were brought against Napoleon Gomez Urrutia, president of the union, who was forced to seek political asylum in Canada. The crackdown has intensified under the government of Felipe Calderon and has reached a level of absolute arbitrary force, outside legal norms, with the appointment by the government of Francisco Gomez Mont Urrueta, a man who had previously been the legal assessor of Grupo México, that is, the very company set on destroying the union.

The government aims to break the will of those fighting to defend the freedom of association and workers’ conquests. The government does not tolerate the union’s demand that the circumstances of the deaths in the Pasta de Conchos mine (in the state of Coahuila) be clarified and the union’s demand for the recovery of the bodies (still buried deep underground) of the deceased workers in this mine.

All these repressive actions taken against the mine workers’ union are an indicator of what the government is preparing with the labor counter-reform it seeks to impose in 2009 (as announced by the Secretary of Labor). This new law aims to eliminate labor rights, to exert even greater pressure on the unions to impose individual and test contracts and to facilitate lay-offs.

The defense of the Mexican mineworkers’ union requires the support of mineworkers and of all unions and union activists the world over. An urgent solidarity response is needed on an international with these embattled mineworkers.

We urge you to demand of the Mexican government:

* The immediate release of Carlos Pavon Campos and Juan Linares Montufar, leaders of the Union of mineworkers
* The withdrawal of all arrest warrants against mineworkers in Cananea
* The return of the bank accounts of the union
* The strict observance of union autonomy and independence
* No to government interference in the internal affairs of the union
* Observance of ILO Conventions 87 and 98

Please send your petitions to:
LIC. Felipe de Jesús Calderón Hinojosa,
Official Residence de los Pinos Casa Miguel Alemán
Col. San Miguel Chapultepec, CP 11850, Distrito Federal, MÉXICOTelephone and fax: (55) 50935300
Felipe.calderon@presidencia.gob.mx

LIC. FERNANDO Francisco Gomez MONT Urueta
Bucareli 99, 1er piso Colonia Juarez CP 06699 México DF,
>Fax: (00 52) 5 55 546 5350, (00 52) 5 55 546 7388

DR. José Luis Soberanes Fernánde
PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

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