Thursday, June 30, 2011

2011-06-30 "Going Undercover with the Oakland Police" by daphne from "Californians against slavery"
Two weeks ago, I went on an undercover operation in Oakland. We were on International Blvd., where I drove by often when residing there. We even passed by my favorite taco truck.
While I was aware that youths were being sold for sex on the streets, I didn’t imagine the magnitude. There were girls all over! It was like an open faucet. After we picked up one girl, we would circle around and see three more walking onto the “track” – the area where they’d be sold. Some of them were in groups of 2 to 5, meaning they were working for the same pimp.
To the normal eyes, many looked like they were just “hanging out” and walking along the streets. Then you’d see them hopping into cars with men who were old enough to be their fathers and grandfathers.
One girl who looked very young hopped into a car with a “john.” We initially were going to follow the car, but they decided to focus on the undercover agent who was trying to pick up another girl at the same corner. My heart sank – it was like seeing this girl being raped and just turning the other way.
It was crazy and surreal. The sun was still out, and families and professionals walked on by as this vibrant sex trade of girls was taking place. And this is just those I saw on the streets. Think about the web…
When we needed to stop discrimination in this country, we passed the Civil Rights Act. When we needed to end harassment in the workplace, we legislated.
This experience confirmed for me that the CAS initiative isn’t about changing one piece of legislation – it’s about changing culture! The CAS initiative will not only give California effective laws to fight human trafficking, it will force our state to confront a hideous issue that is real in every community.
And who are the voters? They are our teachers, social workers, nurses, businessmen and women, and families. They are the store owners and church leaders who see these girls standing in front of their buildings every day. Little is being done to stop this vicious crime now, not because we don’t care, but because we don’t know about it or don’t think we can make a difference.
[ ... ]

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

2011-06-29 "Vallejo could get major makeover" by Jessica A. York from "Vallejo Times-Herald" newspaper
Several Vallejo nonprofit agencies are joining forces next month to try to improve the city's external image.
In a joint presentation by Fighting Back Partnership, Rebuilding Together and Vallejo Outreach at Tuesday's Vallejo City Council meeting, the public was given a preview of the upcoming "A Call to Change Vallejo."
The July 16 event will pull together efforts that each nonprofit has already engaged in during past years.
All three groups are seeking more volunteers.
There will be graffiti paint-outs, neighborhood and park cleanups, senior home rehabilitation and a waterfront outreach providing entertainment, professional referrals, health screenings and food, among other attractions.
Several weighty and controversial city decisions were scheduled for later in Tuesday's meeting, including discussions on the proposed November ballot measure hiking the city sales tax by 1 percent, a potential medical marijuana business tax ballot measure and a Solano County Fairgrounds project viability update. But they were not completed by press time Tuesday.
Much of the council's focus early in the meeting was spent on public and council comments on smaller items. Resident Bob Schussel, foreseeing a potentially lengthy meeting, asked the council to peel off non-urgent items for a later meeting, to no avail.
Just prior to press time, the council and the public entered into lengthy discussion during a public hearing about Klein Financial Corporation's proposed purchase and renovations of the Sonoma Apartments. The public hearing is required by the company to gain public comment prior to the new developer seeking state multifamily housing revenue bonds to pay for the project.
While the city will have no liability in the project, the proposed project's continued property tax exemption and 40-percent, low-income housing requirements prompted concerns from some members of the community and council. A contractor pledged a new community center with resident programming, 24-hour security and a significant property makeover.
For more information, including how to get involved, visit the groups' Facebook event page. [!/event.php?eid=206673766041609]

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

2011-06-28 "Isleton pot farm plan blasted by grand jury" by Carolyn Jones from "San Francisco Chronicle"
ISLETON, SACRAMENTO COUNTY -- Officials in a hamlet on the Sacramento River succumbed to the lure of easy money when they signed off on a plan to turn an abandoned housing development into a large marijuana farm, a grand jury said Monday.
In a blistering report, the Sacramento County grand jury said officials in Isleton had paid too little attention to the law when they approved a plan to build six greenhouses where marijuana would have been grown for medical use.
"They forgot the old saying, 'If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,' " wrote Donald Prange Sr., the grand jury's foreman.
"The city ... pushed a project that is perched on the blurry edge of marijuana law," Prange wrote. "It did so, not because of any desire to test the limits of the law, but because of the promise of money and jobs."
The saga began in July 2010 when a marijuana collective called Delta Allied Growers approached the city with plans to build a 4,000-square-foot pot farm.
The operation would have been devoted primarily to marijuana research and development, said the group's spokesman, Scott Hawkins. The marijuana grown there would have been distributed at medical dispensaries in Southern California, he said.
The greenhouses would have been built on the outskirts of the town of 800 people, on the site of an abandoned housing development.
Officials in the cash-strapped town saw the plan as a great opportunity to turn a failed development into a profitable enterprise, City Manager Bruce Pope said.
Taxes and fees from the farm would have brought in as much as $850,000 a year, more than doubling Isleton's general fund, he said.
In addition, Delta Allied Growers would have bought Isleton's Police Department new computers and security cameras.
The City Council approved the project and the collective started installing greenhouses, a security fence and generators, and storing plants in the abandoned model homes.
"Then the D.A. showed up," Pope said. "She just lit into me, saying, 'You have approved a project that violates state and federal law.' It was crazy."
According to the grand jury, the project was in clear violation of federal law, which bans growing, distributing or possessing marijuana. State law is less clearly defined because of Proposition 215, the medical marijuana law that voters passed in 1996.
In May, U.S. Attorney Ben Wagner sent warning letters to Isleton and other jurisdictions about the federal law.
The project is now dead, and Isleton and its officials are out more than $200,000 in legal fees and lost wages incurred while complying with subpoenas to testify before the grand jury, Pope said.
"If they think we did something wrong, why didn't they just tell us so we could correct it?" he said. "This is not a rich town. We don't have time or money to waste on this kind of thing."
The grand jury was not sympathetic. The City Council should have read the law more carefully before committing to the project, the panel said.
The city has until Sept. 21 to respond.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

2011-06-15 "Justice for Oscar Grant" by Judy Greenspan
More than 500 angry protesters marched several miles from the Fruitvale Bay Area Rapid Transit station to downtown Oakland, Calif., June 12 to protest the imminent release of Johannes Mehserle, the BART cop who shot and killed Oscar Grant, an unarmed Black man, on Jan. 1, 2009, while Grant was restrained and handcuffed on the platform. Family members and friends addressed the rally outside the BART station where Grant had been waiting with friends for a train. Mehserle was released June 13 after serving less than a year on manslaughter charges. Family members, including Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson, addressed the crowd before the march started. “There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about Oscar,” she said. “Thank you for continuing to fight for justice for my son.” More protests are planned and community organizations will continue the fight for justice for Oscar Grant and all victims of police murder and brutality.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

2011-06-12 Rally in Oakland against the release of Oscar Grant's murderer Joannes Mehserle

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

2011-06-08 "Questions surround feds' raid of Stockton home" by C. Johnson and Leigh Paynter from News10/KXTV
STOCKTON, CA - A federal education official Wednesday morning offered little information as to why federal agents raided a Stockton man's home Tuesday.
The resident, Kenneth Wright, does not have a criminal record and he had no reason to believe why what he thought was a S.W.A.T team would be breaking down his door at 6 in the morning.
"I look out of my window and I see 15 police officers," Wright said.
As Wright came downstairs in his boxer shorts, he said the officers barged through his front door. Wright said an officer grabbed him by the neck and led him outside on his front lawn.
"He had his knee on my back and I had no idea why they were there," Wright said.
According to Wright, officers also woke his three young children, ages 3, 7, and 11, and put them in a Stockton police patrol car with him. Officers then searched his house.
"They put me in handcuffs in that hot patrol car for six hours, traumatizing my kids," Wright said.
As it turned out, the person law enforcement was looking for - Wright's estranged wife - was not there.
Wright said he later went to Stockton Mayor Ann Johnston and Stockton Police Department, but learned the city of Stockton had nothing to do with the search warrant.
U.S. Department of Education spokesman Justin Hamilton confirmed for News10 Wednesday morning federal agents with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), not local S.W.A.T., served the search warrant. Hamilton would not say specifically why the raid took place except that it was part of an ongoing criminal investigation.
Hamilton said the search was not related to student loans in default as reported in the local media.
OIG is a semi-independent branch of the education department that executes warrants for criminal offenses such as student aid fraud, embezzlement of federal aid and bribery, according to Hamilton. The agency serves 30 to 35 search warrants a year.
"They busted down my door for this," Wright said. "It wasn't even me."
The Stockton Police Department said it was asked by federal agents to provide one officer and one patrol car just for a police presence when carrying out the search warrant.
Police officers did not participate in breaking Wright's door, handcuffing him, or searching his home.
"All I want is an apology for me and my kids and for them to get me a new door," Wright said.

Kenneth Wright
Victim of Fascism

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

2011-06-07 "Cutbacks Mean Bleak Summer For Low-Income Urban Kids" by Angela B.
The harsh cutbacks of a failing economy are cutting into American kids’ futures like never before. This time, it’s summer services for kids that are being targeted for cuts, leaving urban youth without the staff, materials, money and facilities they need to advance their learning, find work or have a safe place to spend their time. Tight financial budgets in several states will mean a bleak summer for many inner-city youth, as summer 2011 children’s enrichment and summer school programs are shuttered or slashed to the bone due to lack of funds.
Among the standard programs and activities for urban kids that are facing cuts: pools and swimming programs, recreation centers, libraries and reading/literacy programs, short-term job options and all manner of learning and enrichment activities, nature experience camps and even summer school.
Hardest hit by cutbacks are kids in such huge metropolitan areas as New York, Washington D.C., Houston and Detroit, all cities long dependent on summer programs for serving the learning and activity needs of low- and middle-income youngsters through structured enrichment.
The non-profit youth advocacy group, D.C. Action for Children, reports on the negative impact these deep cuts may have: “With the District slicing away at summer school, the youth jobs program and a host of summer programming and enrichment activities, children will lose an estimated $17 million worth of programming this summer… These cuts will directly impact up to 15,000 District children and youth. But it will also impact the entire city. Parents of young children who rely on summer camp or afterschool programs that have been cut will now have to find alternatives such as paying a babysitter — if they can afford to — to be able to continue to work regular hours. These alternatives often lack the learning and enrichment component of community-based programs. Neighborhoods may see a surge in youth crime as more idle teens stay out on the street and get into trouble. Nonprofits will face the prospect of turning away children in need of summer programs, and the schools will not be able to provide classes to many students looking to bridge the summer learning gap or earn the credits needed for graduation.”
In New York, about 10,000 teens who would typically partake in the city’s summer jobs program will find themselves unemployed due to a $15 million reduction in that program’s funding. Samantha Gross of The Associated Press New York reports []: “Also on the chopping block in New York City’s proposed budget: four swimming pools, New York Public Library children’s program cuts that would result in 70 percent fewer youngsters being served, more than 6,000 public-school teaching jobs, family literacy programs and outreach for homeless youth.”
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, one of many officials who opposed to the program cuts, points out the elimination of these youth services will most prfoundly hit the city’s middle class and working poor families who have no other options. “This is certainly not going to be the year of the child in New York,” he said.
2011-06-07 "Local 10 needs your support for the campaign to defend Bay Area longshore workers who stood in solidarity with the labor movement in Wisconsin" by Ragina Johnson. Jenna Wolshyn contributed to this report.
THE ORGANIZATION that represents most West Coast shipping bosses is suing the longshore workers' union local for the Bay Area over a one-day work stoppage earlier this year to show solidarity with the struggle against union-busting in Wisconsin.
International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 was answering the call by the AFL-CIO for a day of solidarity with Wisconsin workers on April 4--the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tenn., where he was supporting striking sanitation workers. Following the AFL-CIO's slogans of "We are all one" and "No business as usual," rank-and-file members of Local 10 decided unanimously to stay off the job.
Now, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) is suing ILWU Local 10 and its president Richard Mead for "unspecified damages" over the work action.
The PMA is citing the notorious Taft-Hartley Act--an anti-union law passed in 1947. Taft-Hartley law was crafted to ban solidarity strikes--secondary boycotts, mass pickets and wildcat strikes--actions that built the unions in the 1930's. The law was also used to purge radicals from the unions.
The last time Taft-Hartley was used against the ILWU was in 2002, under George Bush Jr., when the PMA locked out longshore workers who were facing attacks on their working conditions, wages and benefits. A court order obtained by Bush required the ILWU to return to work for 80 days in the event of the lockout being judged a "national emergency."
At a May 24 organizing meeting for a defense campaign for Local 10, longtime activist Jack Heyman explained why the PMA is going after the longshore workers:
[begin excerpt]
We're running a defense campaign for the only union that stuck its neck out for Wisconsin workers by stopping work. The PMA wants to intimidate a local that has a stellar record in coming out in solidarity with oppressed peoples. That's why the PMA is legally attacking Local 10. If the employers are successful, it will have a chilling effect on the entire labor movement.
[end excerpt]
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
THE MEMBERS of ILWU Local 10 decided in favor of the action on April 4 against their union leadership as a show of solidarity with their brothers and sisters around the country. As Clarence Thomas, the past secretary-treasurer of Local 10, explained in an interview with Democracy Now!:
[begin excerpt]
[O]ne of the reasons that we don't see more solidarity action coming from unions is the threat of the employers [with] lawsuits [against] secondary boycotts and so forth. This is a means of intimidating the rank and file. We believe that in light of these attacks on the working class, the rank and file must have rank-and-file unity. And we believe that solidarity is not an empty slogan. Solidarity means making a sacrifice. And on April 4, our members did not go to work. We did not get paid. And for 24 hours, international commerce was shut down. And we believe that more unions need to do the same.
[end excerpt]
In fact, the ILWU has a rich history in standing up not only for workers but oppressed peoples, in the U.S. and internationally. "An injury to one is an injury to all" is not just a slogan slapped on placards and banners for the members of Local 10.
As point four of the "Ten Guiding Principles of the ILWU" states:
[begin excerpt]
To help any worker in distress must be a daily guide in the life of every trade union and its individual members. Labor solidarity means just that. Unions have to accept the fact that solidarity of labor stands above all else, including even the so-called sanctity of contract. We cannot adopt for ourselves the policies of union leaders who insist that because they have a contract, their members are compelled to perform work, even behind a picket line. Every picket line must be respected as if it were our own.
[end excerpt]
Many of us who were activists in the movement to stop the invasion of Iraq first saw the ILWU in action in a March 2003 port shutdown in Oakland, when longshore workers refused to cross a community picket line at 6 a.m. In that experience, the word "solidarity" came alive for us and showed the power of the working class to not only fight for better wages and working conditions, but also to end wars and occupations and stand against injustice.
This wasn't lost on the port bosses nor the politicians in Oakland. Our peaceful pickets were attacked by police that morning. Former Oakland Mayor--and now Governor--Jerry Brown gave the green light for police to attack the pickets, using wooden dowels, rubber bullets, pellet bags, concussion grenades and tear gas. This use of unprovoked force was later condemned by a UN Human Rights Commission investigator, who characterized the attack as "the most violent" against antiwar protesters in the U.S.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
THE ILWU's fighting tradition dates back most famously to the 1934 general strike that led to the union's founding, but it has carried on this legacy of putting sentiments of solidarity into action ever since. For example, in the 1980s, the ILWU took action in support of Black workers in South Africa against the racist apartheid regime.
In 1984, the ILWU refused to unload cargo from the South African Nedlloyd Kimberly ship for an unprecedented 11 days. Despite millions of dollars in fines imposed on the union, the longshore workers did not give up. As Clarence Thomas noted, "When Nelson Mandela came to the Bay Area in 1984, he cited the ILWU Local 10 for its action in raising the consciousness of the anti-apartheid struggle."
Before that, Local 10 refused to handle cargo destined for Chile and El Salvador in protest against the military regimes in those countries.
The fight against racism and oppression at home has also been a core principle for the ILWU. With unemployment and poverty rates double or more for African Americans in California and nationally, the fact that ILWU Local 10 is a majority Black union is striking.
In 1999, longshore workers on the West Coast organized a work stoppage to protest the planned execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal, an innocent Black man on Pennsylvania's death row. A decade later, Local 10 shut down the port to highlight the fight for Oscar Grant, an unarmed Black man killed by transit police in Oakland on New Year's Day in 2009.
Most of the labor movement has shied away from talking about justice for Palestinians, but ILWU Local 10 supported an action at the port of Oakland following the Israeli attack on the Freedom Flotilla that was bringing aid to Gaza in May 2010. In the first-of-its-kind action in the U.S., Local 10 adapted a similar attitude as it did to South African apartheid. When labor and community activists came together to picket the Israeli Zim Line ship, Local 10 members refused to cross the picket line in solidarity.
In 1998, in solidarity with 500 fired Liverpool dockworkers, Local 10 refused to cross picket lines to work a ship filled by scab labor. In Seattle in 1999, members of Local 10 participated in the mass protests for global justice with actions against the World Trade Organization meeting. In 2000, the local authorized a 24-hour strike to support five dockworkers in Charleston, S.C., who were attacked by police and then charged with felonies. The five served nearly two years under house arrest until a solidarity campaign, in which the ILWU played a key role, won their freedom.
Today, Local 10's fight is not only a struggle against the PMA and corporate interests, but with their own international union bureaucracy, which has so far refused to mount an active defense of members at Local 10 over the April 4 work stoppage.
In fact, the AFL-CIO and International ILWU leaders didn't truly want rank-and-file workplace actions to occur on April 4, especially in California where Democrat Jerry Brown is now in charge of implementing cuts similar to the ones that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker pushed through in Wisconsin.
ILWU Local 10 needs our support now. If the PMA succeeds in its campaign, the labor movement will be pushed backward in a period where we need rank-and-file union activism and solidarity to grow. The battle against the current attacks on all workers in the United States and internationally needs Local 10 and they need us now, more than ever!
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
What you can do:
* As part of the defense campaign, ILWU Local 10 is collecting statements of solidarity and campaign endorsements. You can sign onto the solidarity campaign on the Internet [] or send your solidarity statement directly by e-mailing [].
* Activists in the Bay Area can attend the next defense campaign meeting on June 15 at 7 p.m. at 400 Northpoint in San Francisco. Come out to help organize future actions, including a possible mass picket outside of PMA, to get the bosses to drop the lawsuit.

ILWU Local 10 members and supporters gather for a rally (Robert B. Livingston)