The Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor

by Jeremy Brecher

Labor Network for Sustainability


As United States Energy Transfers Partners began building the Dakota Access Pipeline through territory sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, the tribe began an escalating campaign against the pipeline. By this summer nearly 200 tribes around the country had passed resolutions opposing the pipeline and many hundreds of their members joined nonviolent direct action to halt it. Amidst wide public sympathy for the Native American cause, environmental, climate protection, human rights, and many other groups joined the campaign. On September 9, the Obama administration intervened to temporarily halt the pipeline and open government-to-government consultations with the tribes.

The Dakota Access Pipeline has become an issue of contention within organized labor. When a small group of unions supported the Standing Rock Sioux and opposed the pipeline, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka issued a statement discounting Native American claims and urging that work on the pipeline resume. Other constituencies within labor quickly cracked back. Why has this become a divisive issue within labor, and can it have a silver lining for a troubled labor movement?

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Dining Hall Workers Strike at Harvard

by Brandon J. Dixon and Hannah Natanson


Hundreds of Harvard’s dining service workers began picketing early Wednesday morning, commencing a historic strike precipitated by months of tense—and thus far fruitless—negotiations with the University.

The workers’ strike marks the first time they have walked off the job during the academic year, according to Brian Lang, president of UNITE HERE Local 26, the Boston-based labor union that represents HUDS. The strike is the first walk out Harvard has seen since 1983, according to Lang.

HUDS workers picketed outside of dining halls and stationed four RVs in the Harvard area as “mobile strike centers.” At 9 a.m., roughly 600 workers rallied in the Science Center Plaza, according to Local 26 spokesperson Tiffany Ten Eyck, eventually marching to Massachusetts Hall, where University President Drew G. Faust’s office is located.

According to Lang, around 500 dining service employees checked into picket lines across the campus as of about 8 a.m. using strike identification cards. There are about 750 total HUDS workers.

Lang and Ten Eyck also confirmed that as of about 8 a.m. they were not aware of any dining services workers that had reported for work.

Local 26 negotiator Michael Kramer gave opening remarks at the rally, calling for an increase in HUDS employees’ wages. “At this, the richest university in the world, no worker that is here and that is ready work should be making less than $35,000 a year,” he said.

Anabela A. Pappas, a HUDS worker stationed in Pforzheimer and Cabot Houses, followed Kramer. She said that HUDS employees would rather be “in the dining hall feeding the students” than outside rallying, and that Harvard had forced workers into striking.

“All the money they have, and they still want to squeeze every bit out of us,” she said. “You greedy people. This is what you caused, not us. We didn’t want to be here.”

Over the course of the months-long bargaining—which began mid-June—Harvard and union negotiators have faced a stalemate over wages and health benefits.

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Stronger Together : The Verizon Strike

Good piece on the Verizon Strike and organizing a union in Verizon.

Voting Power for Working People

The Willie Velasquez story.

As November 8 looms large, PBS is taking a moment to celebrate the activism of a movement that could decide this election.
“Su voto es su voz” (your vote is your voice), Mexican American activist Willie Velasquez once said. The San Antonio leader of a grassroots movement forever changed our American political landscape
through his nonpartisan Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project (SVREP). Now, his story is being retold through a new documentary, Willie Velasquez: Your Vote Is Your Voice, which airs on PBS on Oct. 3, 2016.

Velasquez is responsible for over 1000 voter registration drives in 200 cities and launching a nationwide political movement that continues to grow.

Watch an exclusive clip from Willie Velasquez: Your Vote Is Your Voice Continue reading

How A Vote Saved California Schools

California 17,000 Teachers Laid  Off in 2009.

Four years ago California voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 30, the emergency ballot measure that Governor Jerry Brown and state education leaders had argued was needed to rescue public schools and community colleges from the fiscal free-fall of the 2008 Great Recession.
The good news, according to the California school teachers and officials, parents, college professors, health-care advocates and economic researchers interviewed by Capital & Main for this series, is that the initiative not only performed as advertised, but it may be the most spectacularly successful ballot initiative in the state’s notoriously uneven history of direct democracy.
Proposition 30 averted thousands of new teacher layoffs during the Great Recession.

By raising income taxes on the wealthy and the sales tax on everyone, Prop. 30 dramatically stabilized school funding in the wake of the recession, averting thousands of new teacher layoffs while beginning the work of restoring the jobs and programs lost during the first years of the crisis. It was also instrumental in allowing the state legislature to balance its budget for the first time in years without slashing social programs.
About This Series

Together with a recovering economy, the temporary tax measure has to date reinvested more than $31.2 billion in preschool, K-12, and community colleges. By boosting per-pupil funding by more than 14 percent, Prop. 30 bumped the state’s Great Recession-battered national ranking from dead last in 2010-11 to 40th among all states at $10,493 per student in 2016-17. It’s still a far cry from California’s long-ago position as a top funder of public education, and a 2016 report estimates that merely moving California to the average funding level of the top 10 states would require roughly a doubling of current state funding under Prop. 30. Continue reading

Millions in U.S. Climb Out of Poverty

by Patricia Cohn,
The availability of full-time jobs at a livable wage may be essential to move out of poverty but is not necessarily enough. Many poor people, saddled with a deficient education, inadequate health care and few marketable skills, find small setbacks can quickly set off a downward spiral. The lack of resources can prevent them from even reaching the starting gate: no computer to search job sites, no way to compensate for the bad impression a missing tooth can leave.
Many of those who made it had outsize determination, but also benefited from a government or nonprofit program that provided training, financial counseling, job hunting skills, safe havens and other services.
Cheyvonné Grayson, 29, grew up in South-Central Los Angeles, where he, at the age of 14, saw a friend gunned down. Since graduating from high school, Mr. Grayson has worked mostly as a day laborer. In 2014, he was paying $300 a month to sleep on someone’s couch and showing up at 6 a.m., morning after morning, at nonunion construction sites in the hopes of getting work.
Often the supervisors and workers spoke only Spanish, and it was hard to understand the orders and measurements. He remembered one foreman looking him up and down, skeptical that he could do the job.

“I had to prove this man wrong,” Mr. Grayson said.
At every site, he said he tried to pick up skills, carefully observing other workers, asking questions and later reinforcing the lessons by watching YouTube videos. Even so, the work was inconsistent and paid poorly, he said.
What made the difference, he said, was getting into the carpenters’ union — a feat he could not have achieved without the help of the Los Angeles Black Worker Center. “That was the door opener,” Mr. Grayson said.

He had to borrow a few hundred dollars for fees and tools, but his first apprenticeship as a carpenter started at $16.16 an hour. He quickly moved up to $20.20 an hour and is paid for his further training. He is now hanging doors for new dormitories at the University of Southern California.
For the first time in his life, he opened a bank account.

As a carpenter he started at $16.16 an hour. He quickly moved up to $20.20 an hour and is paid for his further training. He is now hanging doors for new dormitories at the University of Southern California.
For the first time in his life, he opened a bank account.
Read the entire piece.

Labor Veteran Dolores Huerta on What’s at Stake in the 2016 Elections

huertaAlly Boguhn, Rewire

Since the founding along with Cesar Chaves and others of the United Farm Workers (UFW) union, through her current work in supporting union democracy, civic engagement and empowerment of women and youth in disadvantaged communities, Huerta’s influence has been profound. The creation of the UFW changed the nature of labor organizing in the Southwest and contributed significantly to the growth of Latino politics in the U.S. .

Republican nominee Donald Trump launched his campaign for president in June 2015 with a speech notoriously claiming [1] Mexican immigrants to the United States “are bringing drugs, and bringing crime, and their rapists.”
Since then, both Trump’s campaign [2] and the Republican Party at large have continued to rely upon anti-immigrant [3] and anti-Latino rhetoric to drum up support. Take for example, this year’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where Sheriff Joe Arpaio—whose department came under fire [4] earlier this year for racially profiling Latinos—was invited to take the stage to push [5] Trump’s proposed 2,000-mile border wall. Arpaio told the Arizona Republic that Trump’s campaign had worked with the sheriff to finalize his speech.
This June, just a day shy of the anniversary of Trump’s entrance into the presidential race, People for the American Way and CASA in Action hosted an event highlighting what they deemed to be the presumptive Republican nominee’s “Year of Hate.”
Among the advocates speaking at the event was legendary civil rights leader Dolores Huerta, who worked alongside [6] César Chávez in the farm workers’ movement. Speaking by phone the next day with Rewire, Huerta—who has endorsed [7] Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton—detailed the importance of Latinos getting involved in the 2016 election, and what she sees as being at stake for the community.
The Trump campaign is “promoting a culture of violence,” Huerta told Rewire, adding that it “is not just limited to the rallies,” which have sometimes ended in violent incidents [8], “but when he is attacking Mexicans, and gays, and women, and making fun of disabled people.”

Huerta didn’t just see this kind of rhetoric as harmful to Latinos. When asked about its effect on the country at large, she suggested it affected not only those who already held racist beliefs, but also people living in the communities of color those people may then target. “For those people who are already racist, it sort of reinforces their racism,” she said. “I think people have their own frustrations in their lives and they take it out on immigrants, they take it out on women. And I think that it really endangers so many people of color.” Continue reading