Archive | January, 2017

Unionists and Labor Rights Activists Rally in front of Carl’s Jr.

23 Jan

Unionists and Labor Rights Activists Rally in Front of Carl’s Jr. in S.F. to Protest Trump’s Anti-Labor Agenda

By Alan Benjamin (*)

SAN FRANCISCO — An estimated 100 labor activists braved the torrential rain Friday afternoon, January 20 (Inauguration Day), to protest Trump’s anti-labor agenda. Fourteen unions were represented at the rally, which was held in front of Carl’s Jr. to denounce Trump’s nomination of Andrew Puzder as the new Secretary of Labor. (Puzder, the CEO of Carl’s Jr., is opposed to an increase in the minimum wage; in fact, he does not believe in the need for any minimum wage.)

The half-hour Labor Rally was held immediately prior to the 5 p.m. mass rally organized by the ANSWER coalition. Many union contingents arrived for the main rally but could not make it to the earlier labor feeder rally, as union members were just getting out of work at that time.

The Labor Rally was co-sponsored by the San Francisco Labor Council (AFL-CIO) and Jobs with Justice SF. The leaflet calling for the Rally put forward the following demands, all of which were addressed by the rally speakers:

* No to Privatization of Social Security & Medicare!
* No to Right-to-Work (For Less) Laws!
* There Is a Real Solution: Single Payer Now!
* Money for Jobs and Social Services, Not War!
* End All Deportations, Stop All Hate Crimes!
* $15 Minimum Wage and a Union!

The labor rally was chaired by two co-emcees: Alisa Messer, Political Director, AFT 2121; and Kung Feng, Lead Organizer, Jobs with Justice San Francisco. Both highlighted the powerful protest marches, rallies, and actions held earlier in the day throughout downtown San Francisco.

Six speakers addressed the labor gathering. They were:

– Tim Paulson – Executive Director of San Francisco Labor Council

– Fakhra Shah – Mission High School Teacher and member of United Educators of San Francisco

– Raquel Botello – Organizer with La Colectiva, the San Francisco Women’s Collective and leader with the California Domestic Workers Coalition

– Lucia Lin – Senior Movement Building Coordinator with the Chinese Progressive Association and leader with the Progressive Workers Alliance

– Jonathan Meade – Chairperson of Campaign for a Healthy California San Francisco Chapter and retired member of SEIU Local 1021

– Michael Gene Sullivan – San Francisco Mime Troup Collective and member of SAG-AFTRA

Following are the presentations from three of the six speakers (Fakhra Shah, Raquel Botello, and Jonathan Meade) who addressed the Labor Rally. These were the only speakers who had prepared written statements. We were not able to tape the other speakers.

– – – – –

(* Alan Benjamin, an OPEIU Local 29 delegate to the S.F. Labor Council, was a co-organizer of the Labor Rally)

* * * * * * * * * *

Presentation by Fakhra Shah

[Note: Fakhra Shah, a social studies teacher at Mission High School and a member of United Educators of San Francisco, is the author of a lesson plan, drafted just hours after Trump’s election, to help teachers at her school struggling with how to answer students’ questions and concerns about Trump becoming president. The four-page plan’s introduction includes this guidance: “Let us please not sidestep the fact that a racist and sexist man has become the president of our country by pandering to a huge racist and sexist base.” The lesson plan was posted to the union’s website, stirring a huge national debate that was covered widely by the media.]

Good Afternoon!

I said this to you once before, I will say it again: A racist and sexist man has become our president. However in saying that, there are a few things that I left out, I missed: an ABLEIST, xenophobic, and Islamophobic man has become our president — and we MUST REFUSE to allow ourSELVES, OUR students, OUR YOUTH to be threatened in our schools. WE WILL NOT NORMALIZE bigotry and HATE IN OUR SCHOOLS.

How many here today are educators? How many are educators of color? How many of you have fought oppression your entire lives? It’s true, we have always been threatened, but now we are going to be directly assaulted by Trump, by his cabinet, and specifically by Betsy DeVos!

BETSY DEVOS is unqualified to serve as Secretary of Education, and she is an ableist. How can someone be nominated for Secretary of Education and not be familiar with the federal law, specifically with the INDIVIDUALS WITH DIASBILITIES EDUCATION ACT (IDEA)?

In the hearing, DeVos did not agree to uphold federal law to protect students with disabilities; as a matter of fact she had no idea that this was a federally mandated law that all schools receiving federal funding must uphold.

We MUST NOT ALLOW someone like Betsy DeVos to become Secretary of Education. Everything that we have ever fought for is at stake. Human rights are at stake.

There are many who are asking us educators to be neutral, Betsy DeVos, is NOT NEUTRAL. TRUMP IS NOT NEUTRAL. They want to dismantle all of the rights we have ever fought for.
As educators, as adults, we must fight to keep ourselves and our communities safe. We must keep fighting, keep speaking out, and remember, when they are asking you to be neutral, that is their only way of disarming us! Will not be disarmed!

Remember the words of Desmond Tutu:

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

* * * * * * * * * *

Presentation by Raquel Botello

Good afternoon,

My name is Raquel Botello. I am a member of La Colectiva de Mujeres (Women’s Collective) and of the Day Labor coalition. I am a domestic worker.

I thank the organizers of this event for inviting me to speak.

We have enormous challenges ahead with the new president, but we must resist. We must organize and mobilize to demand our rights. We must mobilize to defend and expand our healthcare rights. We need a real healthcare system — whatever name you call it — that meets all of our needs as working people.

We must mobilize to demand an end to the deportations of our undocumented immigrant sisters and brothers. Not One More Deportation. We cannot accept the separation of our families, with our children no longer able to live with their parents. We need to return America to its best values and traditions!

We must demand an end to the Border Wall of Shame!

And we must demand an end to the discrimination against women. We women should be valued and respected fully. We must demand equality in all realms. We must demand respect and dignity!

But to do all this we must unite; labor and community must work together. United we will win, because our unity is our strength.

Si Se Puede!

Thank you.

* * * * * * * * * *

Presentation by Jonathan Meade

Good afternoon. My name is Jonathan Meade. I’m with SEIU Local 1021, and I’ve been with my union for 36 years. It’s good to see all of you union members out here today. Because we know what’s going on here today is more than a protest. This is the beginning of a fight. And fighting is what we do.

It doesn’t matter if it’s our employer, Donald Trump and the Republicans in Washington, or corporate democrats in California. You come after me – you come after my family – you come after my grandchildren – these assholes/people do not even know what they’re in for.

I’ve been asked to talk to you about defending Medicare, Medical, and Social Security, but you know, I worked the streets of San Francisco for 30 years as a paramedic, so I know about healthcare. If the Affordable Care Act is dismantled – if Medicare is privatized – if Medical is cut to the bone – if your retirement age is raised and your Social Security benefits are cut – millions of people will be thrown into poverty – and thousands will die. They don’t care. And what will happen to our union healthcare benefits? We all know what’s going on there. We’ve been fighting that fight at the bargaining table for the last 20 years, and we are not winning.

From 1999 to 2014 healthcare premiums across America rose by 191% — and worker contributions rose by 212%. Many union members and union leaders still think we can protect our healthcare benefits through contract negotiations and fighting our own individual fights. That is dead wrong. The last 20 years have already proved that.

We can’t win by just trying to hang on to what we as union members have. If millions of people lose their healthcare coverage in California, you think they are going to care what happens to our benefits? Everyone needs healthcare. Not just union members – everyone deserves healthcare.

The only way to protect our union healthcare benefits from the death of a thousand cuts at a thousand different bargaining tables is to create a healthcare system in California that provides decent healthcare benefits to everyone. Some people call this single payer – some call it Medicare for All, but just like in Canada, in England, in France, in Germany, in Japan, in Taiwan, in Cuba – we can have universal health coverage. Medicare for All covers everyone, costs less than we are spending now, and takes healthcare off the bargaining table. No insurance companies – guess what, we don’t need them – they add nothing of value to our healthcare system – by cutting out the middleman, we can save tens of billions of dollars every year.

This is not pie in the sky. We can actually do this. Californians are not going to accept the dismantling of Obamacare, the gutting of Medical, and the privatizing of Medicare. We have an opportunity – to go big and go on the offensive – through the California legislature, or through the ballot initiative process. The only things standing in our way are the insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and ourselves. We know that if all of California labor unites around an issue we can win. We’ve done it before. It’s time to unite – and fight – and win. Thank you. Long live unions.

* * * *