Saturday, May 21, 2011

2011-05-21 "College of San Mateo parking lot draws protests" by Nanette Asimov from "San Francisco Chronicle"
The trees on campus may not be put into a tree museum, but trustees for the College of San Mateo did vote this week to pave at least 20,000 square feet of paradise to put up a parking lot.
They expect the job to be done in the next few months, but angry students and faculty have hired an attorney who says state law requires a full environmental review to determine if it's legal to pave over the 50-year-old garden.
"It's a really peaceful place now. A beautiful place," said student Nick Carlozzi, who often writes music in the doomed habitat where hundreds of plants - from the ancient Bunya-Bunya, to the rare Fragrant Pitcher Sage - attract wildlife, bees, hawks and herons.
"Animals are not going to want to live there if there are cars coming in," he said.
As part of a campus improvement plan paid for with construction funds, San Mateo County Community College District trustees voted Monday to transform about 100,000 square feet of aged buildings and habitat. The new space will include the parking lot and up to 18,825 square feet of garden space, down from 39,500 square feet, district records show.
The trustees say the plan is fiscally sound because it calls for demolishing a hazardous building that houses sparsely attended floristry classes and a defunct horticulture program, while getting rid of a decrepit greenhouse.
A place to rent
In their place will be 200 parking spaces for staff, faculty, students and an army of visitors who, the trustees hope, will flock to rent a newly opened facility intended for everything from job fairs to weddings and bar mitzvah parties.
"We're trying to generate revenue any way we can," said board vice president Dave Mandelkern, noting that the three-campus college district has lost about $20 million in state funding over two years.
"We need the parking spaces," he said. "I don't see this as paving paradise and putting up a parking lot."
Student Shawn Kann disagrees. Like Carlozzi and others, the physics major has come to love the peaceful campus sanctuary, and has a different vision for it.
"They can turn this into a showpiece for the community, with urban farming," he said. "They can get the community involved, and show people how to grow their own vegetables. I see potential."

Garden variety -
Science instructor Lin Bowie wrote a four-page letter to the board, urging preservation.
"The garden contains over 300 plant specimens, including a wide variety of plants that produce fruits, nuts and seeds of all types," Bowie wrote, noting the campus removed numerous mature trees last year that contributed to the loss of food sources for wildlife.
Bowie is faculty adviser for the students' Save the Garden Club, which has hired environmental attorney Susan Brandt-Hawley to represent it.
"Under state law, you have to do an environmental study because it's a new project, and they didn't do it," Brandt-Hawley said, referring to the building demolition and parking lot construction.
The group says it is considering whether to sue the college district.
But the trustees, who hired the consulting firm ICF International to study the issue, say the work is not a new project, but the natural progression of an existing project.
"We believe on legal advice that (a new study) is not triggered," said Richard Holober, the board president.
"So the question is, how do we best serve our students?" he asked. "We have on our campus 83 acres of open space. So the reduction (of the garden) is one-third of 1 percent of that space.
"It's baffling to me that with the remarkable improvements we've been making - providing 21st century, state-of-the-art classrooms and laboratories for student success - that this seems to be the only thing a few people care about.
"I don't get it."

Friday, May 20, 2011

2011-05-20 "East Bay schools not serving minorities and low-income students well, new study says" by Shelly Meron, Katy Murphy, Theresa Harrington and Eric Louie from "Contra Costa Times" newspaper
East Bay schools rank among the worst in the state when it comes to improving academic performance of African American, Latino and low-income students, according to a new study.
The report by Education Trust-West, an Oakland-based advocacy group, graded 146 large school districts in California based on four components. The list shows sobering results for several East Bay districts, including Mt. Diablo, Berkeley, and Antioch.
At the bottom, and with the only overall F grade, is the West Contra Costa Unified School District.
"Across the board, the grades are very low, suggesting not only that students are performing low in (West Contra Costa), but they're not improving either," said Carrie Hahnel, director of policy and research at Ed Trust and a co-author of the study, published in April.
The district earned D's in performance and improvement, and F's in the college-ready categories and gaps -- how Latino and African-American students' achievement compares to white student achievement, based on gaps in API scores.
"I would have liked to see at least one grade where things were moving in the right direction," Hahnel said of West Contra Costa.
The study looked at state data from 2006 to 2010, focusing on four areas: Performance, improvements, gaps, and college readiness. Districts were graded on the performance and improvement of students of color and low-income students in standardized tests; test score gaps between whites and Latinos and African Americans; and the rate at which students of color graduated with completed courses required by state universities. Combined, these formed each district's overall grade.
Wendell Greer, West Contra Costa's associate superintendent for K-12 operations, called the district's grade a "disappointment," adding that administrators are aware of issues with academic achievement, particularly among the groups examined in the study, and are working to address them. Greer said West Contra Costa has shown improvement recently, but recognized there is still much left to do.
"What we've seen is an upward trend over the last six to seven years. We feel that we're making strides, and going in a positive direction," he said. "Overall, we need to do better. We just want all of our kids to get an education that they can be proud of and their parents can be proud of."
Greer said the district's grade on college-readiness may not be accurate due to a data submission problem on the district's end -- something he's working to correct. Hahnel said she can't say how the new data might change the district's grade in that category without seeing it, and that her organization isn't able to change West Contra Costa's overall grade.
Still, other study categories were based on API scores and were not affected by the discrepancy. The API scores have increased in recent years, Greer said, with the district's overall score going from 660 in 2006 to 694 in 2010. Districts need a score of 875 to be "proficient."
Scores for African American and Latino students in West Contra Costa have also risen since 2006 but are still below 700, and lag significantly behind scores of white, Asian and Filipino students.
Greer said the district has worked to address performance problems in several ways recently. To improve overall API scores and the achievement gap, West Contra Costa has focused on small career academies; emphasized college-track courses earlier, such as algebra I in eighth-grade; implemented "culturally responsive" teaching practices; and honed in on three schools identified as "persistently low-achieving," implementing reforms like a longer school day and a re-evaluation of staff. Greer said administrators chart the progress of initiatives through hard data and feedback from teachers and administrators, refining their approach as needed.
College-readiness has also been emphasized in recent years through programs like the Ivy League Connection, and by giving every student in 9th, 10th and 11th grade the PSAT exam since 2006.
The district has also increased the number of students taking AP exams each year since 2003, and had 77 percent of last year's graduates say they planned to go on to a four- or two-year college or technical school.
Still, the number of students completing state university-required courses in the district hasn't grown by much, increasing from 33 percent of seniors in the 2007-08 school year to 37 percent in 2009-10.
Of the school districts in Contra Costa and Alameda counties ranked in the study, San Ramon Valley was highest with a C+. District spokesman Terry Koehne said local educators were proud of their relatively high rankings, but also noted the achievement gap that still exists.
"That's not just a local issue. It's state and nationwide," Koehne said.
He questioned the rankings, noting that no district got higher than a B. He also questioned some of the methodology, particularly in the improvement category, saying it's hard to do well in that area when students are already high achievers.
Hahnel is more concerned with San Ramon's achievement gap between whites and African Americans, in which the district earned a D.
"Overall, students of color are doing pretty well, but they're still far behind their white peers," she said.
Educators in the Mt. Diablo district, which earned a D in the study, said they are still reviewing the data, but were aware of their achievement gap and are working to correct it. Mildred Browne, assistant superintendent for pupil services and special education, said she's still not clear about the grading system and how districts with different demographics could get the same grade.
Still, the school board recently lowered the number of credits needed to graduate and dropped their math requirement from three to two years. The state also flagged the district for "disproportionate" numbers of black and Latino students identified for special education, suspensions and expulsions.
Browne said the district will apply for a grant to reduce the number of black students referred to special education. Mt. Diablo also recently formed an "Equity Advisory Team" and is focusing on its dropout rate.
"It's really troubling to see so many of our kids not be successful as far as being able to graduate," Browne said, "particularly our students of color."
The school board is seeking input in developing new initiatives, and hope to adopt a "vision" and multiyear equity plan after having "courageous conversations" about race and poverty, and reviewing plans in other districts.
The racial achievement gaps are enormous in Oakland and Berkeley. Oakland Superintendent Tony Smith says he aims to change those patterns by addressing the needs of children and families in poverty, as well as by improving instruction.
This fall, Oakland freshmen will face a new graduation requirement: The courses needed for state university admission. Smith also created a privately-funded department to improve the trajectory of African-American males, one of the lowest-performing groups in the district.
"The inequity in Oakland is everybody's problem," Smith said last week as he presented a five-year strategic plan to the school board.
Hahnel said she sees Oakland as a "glimmer of hope."
"Most districts had an area where they did do well. Maybe the performance was low but there is improvement in the district over time," she said. "Oakland is a good example. They're moving in the right direction."
Berkeley Superintendent Bill Huyett said his district is conscious of its racial and socioeconomic achievement gap. The district, which earned a D grade overall, recently decided to use $500,000 in parcel tax money to boost math and literacy skills of struggling students, and is aiming to expand before- and after-school offerings for high school students.
Huyett said it's important to highlight the progress, or lack of it, of historically low-achieving student groups. But, he said, "I object to the 'A-B-C-D-F' ratings. I don't think it's a valid rating system and I don't think it's particularly productive."
The Antioch School District scored a D overall, but is hoping to address the achievement gap by aligning all but a handful of high school courses to state university requirements, according to Stephanie Anello, the district's director of program improvement. Antioch is also identifying struggling students early to provide intervention and to accelerate learning, she said.
"It is sad to see that most districts throughout the state continue to struggle with unacceptably large achievement gaps," Anello said.
Hahnel said it's clear most districts in California have a lot of work ahead of them, and recognized it's become harder in a time of state budget cuts. Still, she pointed to several districts at the top of the list who are performing well, and hoped districts on the bottom will use the study as a jumping off point toward improvement.
"I just hope that this prompts people to ask more questions of their district, and cause people to peel back the layer of the onion a little bit -- not just look at one number that rates the district," she said. "If nothing else, we'd be delighted if this is a conversation starter."

The study can be viewed at
HOW SCHOOL DISTRICTS got their grades
"A Report Card on District Achievement: How Low-income, African-American, and Latino Students Fare in California School Districts" looked at four components in 146 large school districts:
Performance: This category looked at how well low-income students (defined as children eligible for free or reduced-price meals) and students of color scored on state tests, using Academic Performance Index (API) scores. On a scale of 200 to 1,000, the API scores indicate how well districts, individual schools, and subcategories of students within each school are performing in several standardized tests.
Improvement: Districts were graded on how much their low-income students and students of color improved over five years based on the sum of year-to-year improvement in API scores.
Gaps: This indicator shows how Latino and African-American students' achievement compares to white student achievement, based on gaps in API scores. The study looked at the gaps between white and African American students, and white and Latino students.
College readiness: Rankings in this category were based on how many of each district's Latino and African-American students are graduating with completed course work required for admission at UC and CSU schools, also known as "A-G requirements."

Overall grades of East Bay school districts
San Ramon Valley: C+
Castro Valley: C-
San Lorenzo: C-
Livermore Valley Joint: C-
Oakland: D+
Pleasanton: D+
Alameda City: D+
New Haven: D+
Pittsburg: D+
Hayward: D
Berkeley: D
Fremont: D
Antioch: D
Mt. Diablo: D
San Leandro: D
West Contra Costa: F

Report Card on District Achievement []

Monday, May 16, 2011

2011-05-16 "'N-word' tagging stuns Ozcat radio in Vallejo" by Sarah Rohrs from "Vallejo Times Herald"
The founder of Vallejo Ozcat, the community-based FM radio station, made a disturbing discovery Saturday morning -- racist epithets scrawled on his son's vehicle and the business' mailbox and doorway.
The graffiti involved liberal use of the "N" word, and included "N---- radio station" written on a Suburban and "No N----" across the mailbox slot in the 1100 block of Georgia Street. A sign written on the back of a flier and stuck near the door contained another epithet.
The tagging occurred between 3 and 7 a.m. Saturday, said David Martin, who is African-American.
"This saddens my heart. We are not a black or white radio station, but a community radio station," Martin said. "I'm shocked."
An Ozcat radio board member said an emergency board meeting would take place today to discuss the incident and what should be done. The station will not be intimidated, said the board member, who gave only her DJ name -- Golden Lady.
DJ Damon Williams said the tagging was probably done by someone with no knowledge of the radio station's mission or the people behind it.
Martin said the station had not been targeted by racist taggers before and he has no idea who is behind them.
The tagging, Martin stressed, would not discourage him from the radio station's mission of presenting a full range of musical styles and celebrating the community's diversity. "This gives me the strength to push on," he said.
The station plays a diverse array of musical types and styles representing many cultures and styles. The station also gives local musicians and art groups a venue.
The Vallejo Police Department received a report on the Ozcat radio graffiti and would be looking into it, Lt. Lee Horton said.
"Obviously, we'll do whatever we can to catch them," Horton said. "We'll do our best."
Horton added that other parts of Vallejo were hit with graffiti Friday night.
Formerly broadcast only on the Internet, Ozcat was granted full programming rights by the FCC and secured the call letters KZCT and a place on the dial at 89.5.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

5th Annual Berkeley C.O. and War Resisters’ Day, on International Conscientious Objectors’ Day

11:00 A.M. Sunday, May 15, 2011
Peace Flag raising ceremony, first at Civic Center flagpole at 2180 Milvia Street, corner of Allston Way and then at the flagpole at Civic Center Park, 2151 MLK, Jr. Way (between Center Street and Allston Way, across from Old City Hall), Berkeley
With Conscientious Objectors and War Resisters from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars
* Jeff Paterson, Courage to Resist, Bradley Manning Support Network
* Bob Meola, Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission, War Resisters League
* Sing along “Ain’t fest” led by Max Ventura ["I Ain't Marching Anymore,” “(Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody) Turn Me Around,” “Down By the Riverside (Ain’t Gonna Study War No More)”
* Vic Sadot singing his song, “Courage to Resist” ( Sponsored by City of Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission
Endorsed by War Resisters League-West and Courage to Resist

Friday, May 13, 2011

2011-05-13 "Standing Up for Oakland: SEIU 1021 delegation confronts Goldman Sachs in the Big Apple"

 from "1021 NewsWire" Vol. IV, Issue 5.2
Small but packing a punch, a delegation from SEIU 1021 joined New York City-based labor and community groups this week in various actions, demonstrations, and teach-ins that targeted big banks in the heart of New York's financial district. The actions were a part of the "Week of Rage" -- a campaign to demand that the banking industry pay its fair share of taxes, therefore protecting our schools and public services from further cuts.
Centered at the United Federation of Teachers' (UFT) headquarters, just a block from Wall Street, the broad coalition of labor, tenants, youth, and anti-foreclosure groups organized around-the-clock activities to draw public attention to the need for increased accountability of the banking industry. Such activities included song-and-dance flash mobs at the World Financial Center, spontaneous protests inside of bank branches, flying squad marches through Wall Street, political theater in high profile areas, and teach-ins on legislative action that would close corporate tax loopholes and re-fund local governments.
While participating in these activities was inspirational and educational for the SEIU 1021 delegates in attendance, the delegation was sent to Wall Street to address a specific grievance. Prior to the collapse of Goldman Sachs and the $53.4 billion bailout it received from the nation's taxpayers, the City of Oakland (like many other major cities) entered into an interest rate swap deal with Goldman that's now forcing the city to pay GS $5 million per year for the next 10 years, even though the principle is already paid off. That or pay a stiff termination fee of $17 million.

Settling accounts -
Goldman Sachs has already made $26 million in profits from the swap deal. Meanwhile, the Oakland City Council and Mayor, facing a $58 million deficit this year, are considering drastic cuts to public libraries, after-school recreational programs, and other crucial services. In an effort to expose Goldman Sachs' callous profiteering at the expense of Oakland's youth, the SEIU 1021 delegation confronted the corporate criminals themselves.
Armed with a letter to CEO Lloyd Blankfein, our delegation marched to Goldman Sachs' headquarters with the Week of Rage coalition and refused to leave until someone came out to receive the letter, which demanded that Goldman forgive the debt and return to Oakland the $26 million that they've pocketed from the swap deal. After several rounds of negotiating with security, a Goldman employee who works under Blankfein came outside to accept the letter.
After attempting to assure the delegation that the letter would be promptly delivered to Blankfein, the delegates asked the Goldman employee if he knew what was happening with the City of Oakland. To this, the Goldman employee turned his back and walked away. This symbolic gesture reminded the delegation of how Wall Street has turned its back on America's working families and is walking away with our pensions, jobs, benefits, homes, and now our rights in the workplace too.
Video: SEIU 1021 members vs. Goldman Sachs []

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

2011-05-11 "Taking a stand in the California Capitol"
Elizabeth Terzakis reports on the protests and civil disobedience in California's Capitol as teachers and college students rallied to demand funding for public education.
SOME 68 activists were arrested the night of May 9 as the California Teachers Association (CTA) continued a week of protests against cuts to state funding for K-12 education, which has already been slashed by $20 billion since 2008.
The majority of those arrested were college students, who attended the rally to support public school teachers and students, as well as oppose the additional cuts targeting higher education.
The action began as with hundreds of CTA members in pale blue T-shirts circulating through the halls of the Capitol, lobbying their representatives, while students from Bay Area colleges prepared to occupy the building and, if possible, sit in overnight.
Yet from the beginning, the CTA leadership attempted to limit the protest. The morning started with a meeting of CTA members in a theater near the Capitol, where union members heard a prayer for "legislative courage" and were instructed to focus on lobbying for one demand: the extension of regressive taxes, including a 1 percent increase in sales taxes and an increase in vehicle licensing fees.
These are Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's only proposed "solutions" to the budget crisis--he and fellow Democrats have rejected any measure to increase taxes on corporations or the rich.
CTA officials handed out a packet with pictures of the four Republican representatives who are standing in the way of the tax extensions getting on the June ballot for statewide referendum--union members were told to find those politicians and convince them to support the extensions.
But rank-and-file activists clearly had different ideas in mind. At several points during the day, groups of students and teachers came together in the central chamber of the Rotunda, chanting "Tax the rich" and "Students first, corporations later," and singing labor anthems. By 4 p.m., California Highway Patrol officers had given orders to disperse three times.
John Gallagher, a CTA member from Fremont in the East Bay, explained what happened:
[begin excerpt]
The state police closed the rotunda off sometime before 3 p.m. This was where the CTA had planned a prayer service of some sort and unity activities at 5 p.m. After teachers had finished their day of lobbying, there was talk of just meeting back at the union's "Camp Inspiration"--some were calling it Camp De-escalation--which was several blocks away from the Capitol.
The CTA initially stuck with the plan and had people go back to the Capitol for the unity activities. But once they realized the student contingent was not on message--extend the current taxes, and nothing more--union officials encouraged people to leave the Capitol.
As I was trying to convince some of the individual teachers to stay, one of the CTA staffers said, "You people have your agenda," and that we weren't going to be here for the long term. This was the same person who also told a large group of students and teachers that our chant, "Tax the rich! That will fix the deficit!" was isolating some of our members.
When I told her I was a teacher from Fremont and asked her what she meant by "you people," she went off on how the students had taken over "our" rally. In the end, about 20 to 30 CTA teachers stayed in the Rotunda area, and a few were arrested.
[end excerpt]
Ragina Johnson, a socialist activist from San Francisco, gave a similar account:
[begin excerpt]
CTA staffers literally pulled their members from the rally, and one of them even slapped one activist, Kitty Lui, while calling her the b-word, because the whole crowd started chanting "CTA--where you at?" as they were leaving. Union leaders also gave no support to those of us who were arrested while we endured up to 12 hours in the county jail. This showed how much the CTA's leadership wanted the event to stay "on message" and not veer towards any criticism of Brown and support for taxing the rich.
That said, the action was amazing and so inspiring. It made a difference to all the teachers who participated to get arrested in solidarity with the students, and vice versa. The teachers who stayed were disgusted that the CTA left young people hanging after the union leaders were the ones who called for an occupation in the first place.
[end excerpt]
ABOUT 25 teachers were among those arrested, including the leadership of the Oakland Education Association and five members of the Educators for a Democratic Union (EDU) caucus of United Educators of San Francisco.
"We were in kept in cramped holding pens with no place to lay down--maybe 30 people crammed into a 20-by-30-foot area," said David Russitano, an EDU member and a middle-school math teacher in San Francisco. "They gave us medical exams and tried to give people TB tests so they could stick us with needles. They gave us the whole run-through, like we would be staying for months for what should have been a cite-and-release arrest."
Those arrested, along with their supporters, argued that civil disobedience was necessary to highlight the high stakes in this struggle. As University of California-Santa Cruz (UCSC) student Courtney Hanson explained, "I'm here in solidarity with all the students, teachers and other workers who are suffering because the people at the top of the hierarchy won't take responsibility for their actions."
Hanson, who came with 100 other UCSC students and planned to stay the night, made it clear that her goals go way beyond extending regressive taxes. "I'm here because of my concern for the children of the future--for my children," she said. "Right now, the future doesn't look good, but as a collective, we can change that. People have to understand that revolution is a process. It can be frustrating, but you have to keep going."
Hanson was not the only activist at the Capitol with solidarity on her mind. Berkeley Federation of Teachers member Lorna Cross described herself as a "spokesperson for the kids. Teachers have to advocate for students, who get less and less. They are our future--the future of America or wherever they will end up going if we let America get too messed up. Somebody needs to speak for them; sometimes their parents can't."
The situation is dire. Republicans have proposed $28 billion in cuts, while Brown, a Democrat, wants cuts of $13 billion--but Brown's proposal depends on the passage of the regressive tax extension.
By putting forward the demand "tax the rich," activists took a stand against both the Republican and Democratic versions of austerity to demand a free and fully funded public education for all.

Friday, May 6, 2011

2011-05-06 "The Protest Has No Clothes: Regarding the Recent Actions in Sacramento" from "Modesto Anarcho" news journal
 “[T]he income gap between the rich and poor is wider than at almost any time in history and magnified by sudden wealth and lavish living of a growing elite.” – Los Angeles Times[i]

Protesters face arrest at the capitol.

          Less than a month ago, marchers from the bay-area descended on the Central Valley under the slogan, “march, strike, occupy.” Was the revolution here? Was massive change just around the corner? Why had people from across California taken up such a radical slogan (alright, it was originally ‘Strike, Occupy, Takeover'), that before was only found within the student movement? The goal of the marchers: to bring a Wisconsin-style occupation to the steps of the state capital. While we were perplexed as to why you would announce such plans to the police ahead of time, we couldn't help but be intrigued. However, after the symbolic arrests were made, protesters cleared from the capitol grounds, and the union leaders finished giving their speeches – it was clear that the recent ‘occupation’ at the state capitol was simply more of the same. It was an attempt to get those in power to listen; to act on our demands. But if the police hauling you away wasn't clue enough as to how this system works… 
          The solution to the current budget crisis is not more taxes or taxing the right or even the richest people. These are all attempts at managing capitalism better; of “managing the disaster.” We are not interested in slightly less border patrol guards and more taxes for schools from BP, we are interested in a social revolution in which people and communities take back the land on which they live and create a completely new relationship with it. Whereas human labor is directed towards needs and not sold to those that own property for the sake of profit. The solution to the problems brought on by austerity is attacking the problem at its source: the capitalist system. The crisis isn’t brought on by a lack of “money;” the corporations have never had it this good, as Wal-Street reports the highest gains in decades. The crisis was created by the constant boom and bust cycle of capitalism – a cycle that we constantly take the fall for and in the end, pay for.
Those who parade around as ‘our’ leaders want to smash organized labor and lower wages, they want to divide the working-class and further criminalize migrant workers, they want to drive up the costs of education and privatize it completely, they want to destroy every safety net and social program that currently exists. With the financial crisis, they have their context. Thus, they tell us that “we all need to bleed,” while we become shriveled and they sit fat and torpid at the blood bank. Ultimately, they have the power of the law, the police, and the military on their side – we only have each other and our ability to get organized and collectively fight back. The question is: will we try and beg for a more ‘kinder, gentler’ system, or will we finally shovel the last bit of dirt onto the bourgeoisie and bury them for eternity?
Everywhere the assault on poor and working people across the globe is becoming more naked and brutal. Opening up the Modesto Bee, all one seems to read about is rising costs, the closure of schools, and laid-off workers. But it’s not just here in the Central Valley, but across the United States that schools are shutting down, services are being slashed, and access to benefits and programs are drying up. Meanwhile, we see privatization being touted as the best alternative and the unions, where they still exist, doing nothing but trying to hold onto their dues money and their power. They are not interested in resisting; they’re interested in keeping their power and managing their business: the union itself.
While corporations gain the highest revenues in decades, real wages are frozen and the cost of living continues to rise. Recently, Jerry Brown’s administration proposed that the remaining budget deficit be covered by even more cuts to public education, low-income medical coverage, and social welfare programs.[ii] What’s more, the Obama administration is proposing to ax $100 billion dollars from the federal budget. This decision would have a massive impact on working-class students, because it would deny access to Pell Grants based on need.[iii] States such as Wisconsin are also passing or attempting to pass laws that make certain strike actions illegal, curtail the power of public-service unions, and reduce pay and benefits for employees. It’s not just Republicans like Wisconsin’s Walker who is leading the charge against union members either. According to Labor Notes:
[begin excerpt]
Politicians of both parties have been tough on public employees in this recession, balancing state and city budgets through layoffs, wage freezes, furloughs, and benefit cuts. But rarely have labor-backed Democrats targeted the very right of public employees to collectively bargain. That’s now changing. In Massachusetts, New Jersey, Illinois, and Connecticut, Democratic legislators, eager to save money, are betting they can cut into public employee bargaining rights and still win union backing at election time.
[end excerpt]
At the same time, many states are also trying to pass anti-migrant worker legislation that would make it easier for the state to deport migrant workers. Centers like Planned Parenthood lose funding and close down, placing even more burdens on poor and working-class women. Everywhere there is social war; all across the terrain. We are partisans in a global struggle between the working class and the elites. So then, where are our weapons?
The (oh-so) ‘loyal’ opposition, the Democrats and the trade unions, have done nothing to stop this assault. And of course, it is Brown’s administration which has helped push through so much of these cuts and the union officials which have supported him. While much of the Left prepares for Obama’s next electoral battle, they are also attempting to keep our anger firmly within realm of the ballot box and tightly controlled demonstrations. The unions helped launch Brown into office by portraying him as a ‘friend of the workers,’ but it is both parties which are helping to destroy services and programs that workers and those in poverty depend on.
According to the major labor unions and the Democrats, our greatest current “hope” lies in the proposed tax extensions (which are simply continuations from Arnold’s increased sales, income, and vehicle taxes) that will help stop cut from becoming deeper. As Dan Brown and David Conway wrote:
[begin excerpt]
The governor’s tax proposals, like the austerity measures, have been supported by the trade unions. The California Teachers Association launched a campaign for the tax increases that culminated in “state of emergency” protests earlier in the month. The unions have repeated the line from Brown that the only alternative to the regressive taxes, mainly targeting working people, is massive cuts in K-12 education funding.
[end excerpt]
          The message from both the unions and the government is the same: you pay either way, either through increased taxes or further budget cuts. This isn’t a solution – it’s a threat! We are forced to choose between taxes and further cuts, yet the real question is: will we revolt or do nothing? And, even if the tax extensions are extended, Brown and the rest are already continuing to cut education, health-care, and all social services. The cuts that have already happened stay on the books and more cuts will keep coming.

Tax or abolish?...

There are others that proclaim that instead of simply more taxes, we should instead tax the richest people within society. It is these people that made up the coalition of Leftists who came to the state capitol in early May. They are calling for higher taxes on the rich and a re-shifting of priorities on what tax-money is spent on. Large non-profit activist groups such as Code-Pink, socialist political parities like the Peace and Freedom Party, and ‘peace’ talking-heads like Cindy Sheehan have helped to organize this ‘May Strike and March’ from the bay area to Sacramento which also coincided with a week of demonstrations by unions designed to promote the tax extensions.[iv]
The march started in the bay area and snaked its way east towards the valley, stopping in various towns along the way to hold banners and small protests. Upon reaching the capitol, the plan was that the group would convene in front of the capitol and then go in and ‘occupy’ the building, gaining numbers from the union demonstration. Both camps were united in agreeing that the ‘democratic process’ was capable of meeting their demands and that if they could just get the politicians to listen or pressure them enough, things would change.   
On May 9th, these demands fell on deaf ears. After the marchers had arrived and listened to a parade of union official’s speeches, about 70 people were arrested inside the Sacramento capitol rotunda after refusing to leave. When the police made the announcement that arrests were immanent, many people got up and headed for the door as the arrests were purely symbolic. The capitol had already been closed and ‘politics-as-usual’ had already gone home to their mansions.[v] In the coming days, the CTA (teacher’s union) also conducted several pre-staged media stunts that resulted in 26[vi] people getting arrested.[vii] The next week, Brown also released his proposed budget plan which included the continued sweeping attacks on education, social-services, and medical care. At this point, it remains unclear as to if Republicans will be able to block the tax-increases on the ballot during the summer.

The coming Wisconsin?

The Leftists involved with organizing the May Strike and March, proposed that they would “occupy” and camp out at the capitol until “their” legislature agreed “to fund education, schools, and teachers.” In doing so, they reasoned that they would “bring Wisconsin to Sacramento.” Looking back at our recent interview with someone involved in the Wisconsin occupation on this blog [], we can see that this is clearly not the case. Workers and students in Wisconsin began actions in the face of Walker’s proposed bill attacking public employees by launching wild-cat strikes, walkouts of schools, and calling into work sick en mass. All of these actions were discouraged against by the labor-unions officials. Soon, people were occupying the state capitol of Wisconsin in an attempt to block the passing of the bill. As our interviewee noted, this wasn’t an exercise in democracy, but instead one of working class power. As wrote: “This is not the ultimate form of democracy. We are imposing our needs on society without debate—needs that are directly contrary to the interests and wishes of rich people everywhere. There is no way for us to speak on equal terms with this society.”
Despite the actions in Wisconsin, Walker passed the bill, leading to the second occupation of the capitol building as some workers began to talk about the need for a general strike: a massive strike of all workers, regardless of industry or profession. The union leaders responded by instead calling for everyone to end the occupation and return to work. Instead they claimed, people should push for a recall of Walker. Let the lawyers and professional activists handle it, they cried. Let us lead you, they begged.
But it was the ordinary people of Wisconsin who had started things, not the union apparatus. And thus, any talk by Leftists of ‘bringing Wisconsin to Sacramento’ is false. They were not interested in self-organized and autonomous working class action - they were interested in lobbying and begging those in power to change.


We locate ourselves within the revolutionary camp. We do not think tax-extensions are the answer; they are based on the same idea that we should pay for the crisis. Taxes themselves are just ways in which those above us suck like parasites from our wages; taking that money and hiring more cops, launching more wars, and keeping their system running. Fighting for something like tax-extensions distracts us from the real battle of attacking the capitalist system. Nor do we think that slightly more taxes for the rich or less money spent on things like the military or wars will create the kind of revolutionary change that we want or need. None of these things change the full nature of a system that makes a few rich through controlling property while the rest of us are wage-slaves. Further still, the elite class will not give up their power without a struggle.
          We need to recognize the protests in Sacramento and others like as purely symbolic; as not having the ability to give us any sort of power. Along with the failed “occupation” at the capitol, there have also been sit-ins at banks, protests against bailouts, and disruptions at against shareholders meetings all organized by similar large non-profit and union groups. While we certainly are happy that working-class people are taking action, we feel that this mode of activism, or the focusing on issues and trying to get those in power to respond to our concerns is useless. If we understand ourselves to be a we with shared conditions, then we can begin to act on our needs regardless of the laws or edicts of other classes. 

Build power.

          But what are the ways that we can act and organize that build power instead of give it away? How can we resist so that it prefigures the world we want to live in and meet our needs now instead of placing faith in politicians? Capitalism blocks access to things that all of us need based upon violence and centralizes resources in the hands of a ruling class. The current austerity measures attack the safety nets that seek to make this reality less brutal – in a sense, making the lack of access that we all have to food, clothes, shelter, health-care, and security even more deep.
First, we can begin to think about ways we can act that reverse this process, and open up access to resources we all need and return them to the neighborhoods and communities that use them. Or, we can shutdown and occupy the infrastructure of our enemies and make it work for us. Have they shut down a day-care center at your Junior College? Occupy it or another vacant building and have free day-care for all. Is a vacant lot sitting unused? Take it over and plant gardens. Takeover vacant houses and turn them into meeting centers or housing for those foreclosed on or evicted. The process of taking things out of the hands of those in power and liberating them back into the hands of the people for our own purposes has been called, “communization.” 
          Second, we must normalize collective confrontation with the state and its police when we are attacked. With the crisis comes increased repression. In countries like France, police murders are often met with nights of rioting, the looting of businesses, and clashes with police. We need to begin this practice as well. Furthermore, we can normalize other actions as well. When prices are raised on say, public transportation, we can collectively refuse to pay. We can also begin to loot en-mass, take over property, and begin the practice of meeting together to discuss our actions and how to proceed. We can promote walkouts, general strikes, sabotage, and occupations – actions which refuse to give anything to those in power. All of this comes along with a rejection of a belief in ‘democracy,’ or the working class giving the ruling class power, and instead puts faith in our own abilities and actions.

Occupation at Glen Cove.

          Third, we must generalize struggles and break down the barriers that divide us. As this piece is written, several large labor struggles are boiling in Southern California. Grocery workers at several major chains are on strike and nurses have also walked out. We need to expand these strikes from beyond these industries and push them into general strikes. If one neighborhood, community, or workplace takes up a struggle, we should show solidarity with it as much as possible. And by solidarity, we do not mean hitting the "like" button on facebook, we mean showing physical solidarity in ways that help that struggle. The recent indigenous occupation of Glen Cove in Vallejo, California [] has brought hundreds, if not thousands of people out to the over month long occupation. There, indigenous warriors have occupied the land to stop development of a sacred site. In times like these, these spaces act as a commune and a base of power in which rebels can come together to meet each other and discuss strategy; forming bonds and making plans. 
          The crisis will get worse next year – much worse. We will see continued battles in public education as well as more and more labor struggles. Everywhere we must seek to make the connections within the working class; immigrants, students, workers, the unemployed…We must resist those that want simply a new version of this system and push forward towards the world that we truly want to see. 


Thursday, May 5, 2011

2011-05-05 "Isleton insists planned pot farm isn't dead yet" by Kevin Fagan from "San Francisco Chronicle" newspaper
(05-05) 18:14 PDT ISLETON, SACRAMENTO COUNTY -- A plan to build the north state's biggest government-sanctioned pot farm in the Sacramento County town of Isleton may not be dead after all.
Developer Michael Brubeck has put his project on hold in the face of threats by federal prosecutors, who say they are going after large growing operations - but Isleton officials say they still consider the farm deal good.
The City Council is planning to vote on an amendment Wednesday to waive the farmer's fees until the heat from federal prosecutors and a related Sacramento County grand jury investigation dies down.
"We still want to go ahead with this project, and we are going to do what we can to keep it going," City Councilman Mike Gomez said Thursday. "It's not dead."
The council approved an agreement last fall allowing Brubeck, a nephew of jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, to construct a 4,000-square-foot medical marijuana farm in Isleton. The Delta hamlet of 800 was to collect $25,000 a month, or 3 percent of gross profits, whichever is more.Brubeck's Delta Allied Growers had five greenhouses nearly finished on Monday when the company and Isleton's city leaders received letters from U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner telling them that even though state law may permit such operations, federal law does not. If the project proceeded, everyone involved could be subject to criminal and civil prosecution, he warned.
William Portanova, an attorney representing Brubeck, said he had told his client to shelve the farm.
"Osama bin Laden knows what it's like when the U.S. Department of Justice comes knocking," Portanova said. "You can't ignore it. They don't go away."
Brubeck's official position is that the project has been suspended. Delta Allied's spokesman, Scott Hawkins, said Brubeck would now focus on "research and development of medical marijuana technology."
Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully issued subpoenas last month for Brubeck, several of his workers and nearly all of Isleton's leaders - from the City Council to City Manager Bruce Pope - to testify before the county grand jury.
The farm agreement violated state law, Scully wrote. Witnesses have been testifying before the grand jury since April 27. City leaders including Pope were given immunity in exchange for their testimony, but Brubeck has not testified yet.
The federal warning to Isleton is similar to those sent in recent months to officials in eight states, including Rhode Island, who are considering expanding the ability to grow medical cannabis.
The Obama administration declared 18 months ago that it would not arrest people who complied with their states' medical pot laws. However, Lauren Horwood, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney in Sacramento, said Thursday that farms such as the one proposed in Isleton are larger that personal ones, making them "operations involved in the trade of illegal drugs."
A similar federal warning helped sideline plans late last year by the Oakland City Council to allow large farms.
United Public Workers For Action Press Conference
Date & Time: Monday May 9, 2011 11:00 AM
Location: West Side Of Capitol Sacramento, California
Contact: UPWA [415-867-0628] [] []
Exposure of Nepotism & Corruption by California State Agencies Managers and Support For Taxation/Revenue Proposals
On May 9, 2011 thousands of teachers, education workers and public workers will be attending the actions at the State Capitol to demand proper funding of education in California.
The United Public Workers For Action [UPWA] will be having a press conference to
release information about the systemic cronyism in the California Commission On Teachers Certification CTC and the threat to public education by this commission.
A former employee of the Old Republic Title will also report on the the massive outsourcing of jobs by the Title insurance industry and the resulting illegal foreclosures in California that have cost the state of California billions of dollars. These monies should be returned to the state of California and the State Attorney General should pursue legal action.
Diane Brown, President of the United Teachers Of Richmond will also report on the attack on public education and the increasing financial support of the State and Federal government for privatization in the schools while budgets are been decimated in public education.
We will also have a speaker supporting the newly Initiative that has been cleared for circulation that is called Tax on California Oil
This will provide a 15% tax on all oil extracted from California and the revenues will go to public education.
The United Public Workers For Action is for uniting all 1.5 million California public workers to act collectively to protect public education and public services.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

2011-05-04 "West County Teachers, Parents Protest in El Cerrito Against Education Cuts; On the busy corner of San Pablo Avenue and Cutting Boulevard, teachers and parents spent the day Tuesday waving banners urging protection of students from budget cuts"
Saying they're fed up with state cuts to education year after year, teachers and parents of the West Contra Costa Unified School District held a protest rally all day Tuesday to draw attention to the impact on students.
Teachers took shifts before and after school while parents and retirees took the hours in between to maintain a constant presence on the busy corner of San Pablo Avenue and Cutting Boulevard in El Ceritto.
“State of Emergency. Sixty kids in PE, 45 kids in science,” parent Charles Rachlis called out from a bullhorn. "State of Emergency. No money for education but 84 billionaires live in California.” His daughter is a ninth-grader at El Ceritto High School.
The West Contra Costa district — like districts up and down California — is bracing for a new cuts the state says are likely following the collapse of Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan for extending certain taxes to fix the state budget deficit without cutting education.
Brown had said K-12 education had already been cut too much, following losses of $18 billion in the last three years. But his plan involved convincing the legislature to put a tax extension measure on the June ballot, and Republican legislators did not agree, leaving him short of the two-thirds legislative approval needed to pass any budget-related item.
Now, the state is advising school districts to plan on a cut of $330 per student in the budget for the next academic year.
For this district, that’s estimated to be a $11.6 million loss.
“I feel like kids, especially the kids in West Richmond, need more resources — more books, more teachers — not less," said Mary Flanagan, a third grade teacher at Nystrom Elementary School in Richmond. "We don’t have anyone teaching art, science or PE at the elementary level.”
Flanagan said that six of the 24 teachers in her school had received pink slips indicating they'll be losing their jobs at the end of the school year.
Districtwide, 80 teachers are holding layoff notices. Earlier this spring 138 teachers were handed pink slips, but some of those were rescinded, leaving 80 without. The district employs about 1,500 teachers to teach K-12.
State funds account for 84.2 percent of the West County schools budget, while local parcel taxes and donations account for 7 percent and the federal government 8.8 percent.
“This is something much bigger than El Cerrito. This is an attack on all public schools," said Rachlis. Republicans and Democrats alike are enforcing an austerity on the schools. Meanwhile there are 84 billionaires in California. Right down the block Chevron is raking in billions, but our schools are falling part.”
School districts won’t really know what their resources from the state will be until at least May 15 when the governor is expected to release a revision of his proposed January budget. Even that budget is subject to possibly significant change as legislators negotiate and horse trade before hammering out a final budget. It could get worse.
Or it could get better. If Brown manages to convince just two Republicans of the need for tax extensions — or even just to ask voters in a ballot measure whether they want to extend the temporary taxes a few more years — then the cuts to education might be avoided.
Teachers and parents in the West Contra Costa Unified School District protested state cuts to education in El Cerrito, May 3, 2011. Credit Barbara Grady
2011-05-04 "Teachers Are Singled Out in Attacks on Public Employees" by Howard Ryan from "Labor Notes"
Like other public employees, teachers find their collective bargaining rights under fire in the Republican-governed states. But the attacks on teacher job security and the drive to replace public schools with charters are universal—and bipartisan.
For example, the Democratic governor of New York and Democratic mayors of Chicago, Los Angeles, and Providence, Rhode Island all support measures weakening teachers’ job security.
The other important trend is that some teachers are fighting back.

Governor Chris Christie unveiled proposals in mid-April to make it easier to strip teachers of job protection: a teacher who received a bad performance evaluation in any one year would lose tenure. Job security would come only after three consecutive years of good evaluations.
At least half of an evaluation would be based on student test scores—even though education researchers widely regard standardized tests as poor measures of either student learning or teacher performance. Moreover, linking job security to performance evaluations generally is an invitation to management favoritism and a handy tool for getting rid of those at the top of the salary scale.
Christie is also pushing for a school voucher program to subsidize students attending private schools with public money.
Several thousand rallied in Trenton and Vineland April 27, while in Newark, Al Sharpton told teachers and other public workers that Wall Street bankers “have become the sacred cow that can’t be touched, while workers become the slaughtered lamb.”

Governor Rick Scott signed a “Student Success Act” in March that puts newly hired teachers on one-year contracts, with renewals based primarily on student test scores. The measure also weakens the job security of tenured teachers: two bad evaluations in three years would subject them to firing. Layoffs would be based on evaluations, not seniority.
Other bills moving through the legislature target all public employees unions. One would require unions whose membership falls below 50 percent in a bargaining unit to hold recertification votes each year. Another, which opponents are calling the “union gag bill,” would prevent public employers from deducting union dues or voluntary deductions for political action from workers’ paychecks.
Capping the anti-union measures, the governor has proposed a slashing budget. Scott wants a 10 percent cut for schools, pension cuts for public employees, fewer weeks allowed for unemployment insurance, and new tax breaks for corporations.
The Florida Education Association brought members out for an “Awake the State” day that featured rallies in 22 cities—drawing up to 2,000 in Miami and Tallahassee and 500 to 1,000 in smaller cities.
“Things are very doomy here in Florida for public employees and students,” said FEA President Andy Ford. On the other hand, “every time we’ve been attacked, we grow stronger.”

By a unanimous vote, the Illinois Senate passed a bill in mid-April that would weaken seniority, virtually eliminate the right of Chicago teachers to strike, and tie job security to teacher evaluations.
For layoffs, seniority becomes a tie-breaker after evaluations are taken into account.
After two unsatisfactory evaluations in seven years, teachers would be dismissed, and would potentially have their Illinois teaching licenses revoked.
Finally, Chicago teachers only—long singled out in the state’s school legislation—are subject to a new rule on strike approval: 75 percent of all unit members, not just those voting, must vote “yes” for a strike to be legal.

Mass layoffs and new teacher seniority rules threaten to up-end Los Angeles schools, thanks in part to a controversial court case. The district is sending layoff notices to more than 5,000 of the city’s 40,000 unionized teachers, claiming a $400 million deficit.
The layoffs will test the impact of new seniority rules, based on the January settlement of an ACLU-led class-action lawsuit against the school district. The ACLU claimed that low-income students of color were suffering educational inequity because their schools, with predominantly new teachers, experienced exceptionally high turnover each year due to seniority-guided layoff rules.
Under the settlement, 45 schools will be protected from layoffs. The result: hundreds of teachers with one or two years’ experience will be favored over teachers with as much as 10 years.
United Teachers Los Angeles has appealed the settlement and launched a long-term plan to fight both the layoffs and the district’s privatization push. It began with a mass picket and packing of the L.A. school board meeting March 15. Escalating actions are planned for the week of May 9-13, as part of statewide coordinated actions led by the teachers unions in response to huge impending state budget cuts.

Three new laws passed in April under the guise of school reform—two of them shredding teacher rights and one threatening to replace teaching positions with computers. The heart of the three, a measure called “Students Come First,” limits teachers’ collective bargaining rights to salary and benefits only, and a local union may bargain only if more than 50 percent of teachers have joined.
The law eliminates tenure for new teachers, instead offering them one-year or two-year contracts. And even teachers who have continuing contracts can be terminated without just cause. “A continuing contract won’t mean much under the new law,” warned Sherri Wood, president of the Idaho Education Association. “If the superintendent’s daughter-in-law needs a teaching job, a longtime teacher might discover herself out the door.”
A second new law ties teachers’ raises to student test scores. A third mandates more online learning, and funds the online programs by shifting money away from current teaching programs—which will lead to teacher layoffs.
The IEA organized protests across the state, including a hands-around-the-Capitol action in Boise that drew 1,000 teachers and supporters. The IEA now seeks to reverse the bills through voter referendums. They must collect 48,000 signatures by June 1—on each of three petitions—in order to put the three measures before voters next year.

Governor Brian Sandoval is pressing for a voucher program to facilitate privately run charter schools and seeks to eliminate teacher tenure and seniority in layoffs.

In New York City, where up to 6,100 teacher layoffs are in the works, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pressing to eliminate the district’s “last in, first out” seniority provision for layoffs, substituting evaluations driven by student test scores.
Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo prefers instead a proposal to weaken seniority through a mix of evaluations and seniority in deciding which teachers get the axe. The leadership of New York City’s United Federation of Teachers thought that was good enough to ask members to “call Governor Cuomo to tell him that we appreciate his leadership on workers’ rights and our schools.”

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"Count The Ballots" UAW2865 UC Grad Students Want A Fair Election"
UAW 2865 UC graduate students have been fighting for a democratic union that will defend them and the public against privatization and other attacks on the UC system. UAW 2865 UCB chief steward Mandy Cohen who is a member as well of UAW 2865 Academic Workers For A Democratic Union is interviewed and discusses the issues facing graduate students and their lives.
For more information about their caucus UAW 2865 Academic Workers For A Democratic Union []
She was interviewed on 5/3/2011 at the statewide union office in Berkeley, California where a
sit-in was going on.
This interview was also done for
Production Of Labor Video Project [] []

"As Workers Celebrate May Day, UAW Officials Attempt to Steal Internal Leadership" "Election-Grad Union Reformers Call on UAW 2865 to Count Every Vote in Union Leadership Election
Contact: Charlie Eaton, UC Berkeley, Candidate for Financial Secretary, 510-220-1520
The UAW 2865 internal union Elections Committee has been conducting a vote count since Friday, April 29th for a contentious election for the Local's top elected leadership. As the count proceeded, it appeared possible that a slate of reformers, Academic Workers for a Democratic Union ( would win the election. Then, at 8 pm Saturday, April 30, the incumbent- controlled Election Committee abruptly decided to terminate the vote count, leaving 1500 ballots uncounted -- nearly half the ballots cast.
In a blatant effort to hold on to the power and privileges of their high paying positions, paid union official Daraka Larimore-Hall and his incumbent slate have tried to spin this egregious violation of UAW election procedures. Many of the incumbent candidates are not graduate students, including three of the incumbent candidates for top officer positions. With the vote count, together these candidates stand to lose the hundreds of thousands of dollars in income and benefits they give themselves annually with graduate students’ dues dollars.
Cheryl Deutsch, AWDU candidate for President, said, “We won't know if AWDU won the election until all the votes are counted, but it's hard to understand why else the current union administration would abandon the vote count without having counted nearly half the ballots cast in the election.”
All but three of the Elections Committee members abandoned all of the election materials in the union's LA conference room, including boxes of more than 1500 uncounted ballots from UCLA and Berkeley union members.
A group of more than 20 UAW 2865 member reformers and three Elections Committee members still present left all materials in the conference room exactly as they were when the Elections Committee abandoned the vote count. The group then locked the conference room to preserve the integrity of the ballots, after photographing and videotaping the room and its contents in detail. UAW 2865 members remain at the LA office to monitor the ballots and ensure they are not tampered with until they can be counted.
AWDU has demanded that our UAW 2865 Elections Committee count every vote and have called on Mr. Larimore Hall and all candidates on his slate to join us in our demand.
Academic Workers for a Democratic Union was formed by graduate students who had been actively organizing against the implementation of budget cuts in the UC since summer 2009. We felt it inexcusable that our union was not at the forefront of this fight for public education–everywhere grad students were self-organizing, working with undergraduates and other workers in the UC, but without the benefit of support from our union.
Read more about AWDU here: []
For background on the election, and what's at stake, please see the following links:
2011-05-03 "East Bay Groups Rallying To Protest State Cuts To Education" from "KTVU 2"
RICHMOND, Calif. -- East Bay education advocates are rallying today to encourage the state Legislature to extend tax increases instead of making what they say would be devastating cuts to education funding to balance the budget.
Protesters in Richmond and San Leandro are asking lawmakers to extend increases to the state's sales tax, vehicle licensing fee and other revenue generators scheduled to expire this summer to avoid making $5 billion in cuts to K-12 education.
The California Teachers Association is holding a "State of Emergency" campaign all next week, but supporters of the West Contra Costa Unified and San Leandro Unified school districts decided to get an early start.
"If these taxes aren't extended, we're looking at a real catastrophe as far as I'm concerned," San Leandro Teachers Association President Jon Sherr said. "We've already cut anything that could halfway be described as 'fat.' I'm not sure what's left. Shorten school year? I don't know."
Sherr said the San Leandro school district had to cut $3 million this year from a budget that has already been shrinking for years.
Kindergarten through third-grade class sizes have gone from 20 students to 24 to 28 over the last three years, and this year they will go up to 32, he said.
Half of the district's elementary physical education specialists have been laid off, meaning classroom teachers will have to take on some of those duties.
Middle school counseling is also being eliminated, which Sherr called a "tremendous hit" to the district because it serves many students in need, he said.
He said teachers in the district had already been planning today's rally before the state campaign was announced, and that they decided to continue because they thought it would be a good precursor to the "State of Emergency" events.
"We want to alert the community to what's on the table here," he said.
Teachers and other supporters planned to flock to San Leandro High School at 2200 Bancroft Ave. as soon as the school day ended at about 3 p.m., Sherr said.
San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy, Superintendent Cindy Cathey and School Board President Morgan Mack-Rose are scheduled to speak.
Protesters in Richmond are also rallying all day to publicize the impacts of billions of dollars in state cuts to education funding over the last three years, according to the United Teachers of Richmond union.
Educators gathered at the corner of San Pablo Avenue and Cutting Boulevard at 6 a.m. today and planned to after school let out, according to the union.
Labor groups and parents are picketing throughout the day while staff and teachers are in school.

Monday, May 2, 2011

2011-05-02 "Napans rally downtown for immigrants’ rights" by REBECCA HUVAL from "Napa Valley Register" newspaper
In 75-degree heat on Sunday, a crowd of almost 100 demonstrators played Mexican music, hoisted protest posters and gathered around downtown Napa for the annual rally for immigration reform.
“I believe immigrant workers deserve full rights as workers in the United States,” said Guillermo Herrera, a Napa Valley College student. “I believe human rights should transcend all borders.”
May 1 is celebrated in Mexico as International Workers’ Day. The holiday is also commemorated in the United States by rallies nationwide for undocumented workers’ rights, including the Napa County march that started in 2006 in St. Helena by the local activist group Latinos Unidos.
Many of the marchers were immigrants from Mexico and Central America advocating for the immigration reform that President Barack Obama promised — a pathway to legalization for the
11 million undocumented residents in the United States.
The Napa march also brought up related issues, such as the California DREAM Act, which would give undocumented students in the U.S. options for legalization.
Daisy Chavez, a DREAM Act Coalition member at the Napa Valley College, wore a DREAM Act sandwich board around her body.
Her coalition will host a conference at Napa Valley College on May 29 to teach first-generation and undocumented college students about their funding options.
“I want them to know they’re not alone and there’s support here for them in Napa,” said Chavez, 18, of Napa.
She was excited to march on Sunday, she said. “Our voices get to be heard. We have freedom of speech to show how we feel — that everyone should have equal rights.”
Alongside her, the president of the Democrats of Napa Valley, Joanne Gifford, also marched with the group several blocks from Main Street to Socol Avenue and back.
“I think there’s a growing amount of xenophobia [in Napa],” Gifford said. “It seems to be OK to immigrant-bash in a way I haven’t seen before.”
She said she was proud to march beside Napa’s Latino students and workers. “It makes a statement: We support the equal treatment of all people.”
Passersby and business owners in downtown Napa stepped outside of stores to watch the marchers, reading the signs that said “Keep Arizona Out of California” and “We’re ALL Immigrants.”
“I’ve not experienced anything like this,” said Mike Glavin, who moved to Napa from San Luis Obispo six years ago, and now owns a wine bottling company. “San Luis Obispo is a strict town — there’s no demonstrations or anything.”
Glavin said the protest inspired him to do research on vineyard worker treatment in Napa. “Being in the wine business, I don’t know if there are unfair practices,” he said.
Erika Cazares, 20, was walking down the street with her cousin when they saw the demonstrators walk down First Street.
“They have a really diverse group,” Cazares said. “It shows that people are more open, and maybe breaking some of the social barriers some of us have.”

Sunday, May 1, 2011

2011-05-01 "Occupy the State Capitol May 9-13" from "Educators for a Democratic Union/EDU"
The California Teachers' Association (CTA) has declared a "State of Emergency" in public education and public services and issued a call to all unions and their allies to support a Week of Action, May 9 - 13, to occupy the Capitol in Sacramento. The California Federation of Teachers (CFT) has also endorsed this action. United Educators of San Francisco (UESF) is getting involved locally and in Sacramento!        
Educators for a Democratic Union (EDU) is asking for a concerted effort to kick off the week of action by having as many of our unions, community members and parents allies join us by occupying the Capitol on Monday, May 9th. Consider coming for as much of the week as you can: EDU hopes to turn out huge numbers on Monday May 9!  Call UESF at 956-8373 to ask about transportation to Sacramento.
Bring signs that say:
- Tax the Rich and the Corporations
- Fully Fund Public Education and Public Services
- California for All: Transfer the Wealth to the Bottom
For educators, public workers and recipients of public services, the "state of emergency" in California is no surprise.  Public workers at all levels have seen cuts to our livelihoods: furloughs, pay cuts, and layoffs.  Residents and students have seen services cut and tremendous increases in fees, while attempts to stave the bleeding are usually regressive local tax options.
The Republican party and their more extreme Tea Party allies blame public workers and portray the public sector as a drag on economic growth and efficiency.  Currently Republicans are calling for a firm $25 billion in cuts. Democrats tell us to live within our means and tighten our belts.  Jerry Brown is pushing for $12 billion in cuts and $12 billion in largely regressive tax extensions on sales, income and vehicle fees. Public debate is only beginning to address corporate responsibility, an unfair and unfixed tax system -- and a horrifying and increasing unfair distribution of wealth. NOW IS THE TIME to mobilize independently and build a coalition around defense of public service and progressive taxation.
      The $25 billion budget shortfall has a solution!
- Raise the income tax on the wealthiest 1%  by 4% = $20 billion
- Increase the corporate tax rate by just 4% = $4 billion.
- Institute an Oil Company Severance Tax = another $1 billion.
 Even if you think that Jerry Brown and the Democrats current "alternative" is reasonable or a "necessary evil" -- you probably agree with BUILDING an ALTERNATIVE; a CALIFORNIA for ALL.
There is the wealth in California to fully fund parks, water systems, schools, public transportation, etc. EDU asks you to join us in resisting a discourse and a system that tells us poverty is the only choice: user fees, less services, more unemployment, ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE -- for us, for other public workers, for our students and their families.
There is an alternative: Tax the Rich. And then help us bring the debates and on-going organizing & coalition-building back to the local level, regional and state levels, Empowerment, not poverty; Build the alternative: California for all.
To work with EDU on "Tax the Rich/Fight Cuts/Fight for Public Education" and public service/community coalition efforts, please contact:
Andy Libson at:  &/or 415-336-5034

 If you are an SF teacher and are interested in Educators for a Democratic Union,
The next EDU meeting is: Thursday May 19th, 4:30 at the Glen Park Library; 2825 Diamond Street