“Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings.”– Nelson Mandela
The USA has a new War on Poverty, but this one is not led by a US president, but by the low wage workers of this country. The Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago (WOCC) is a part of this national movement, demanding $15 an hour and a union for retail and fast food workers. This Fight for $15 campaign is a key part of the larger low wage workers movement.
Way back In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson declared in his State of the Union address,”This administration today, here and now, declares an unconditional War on Poverty in America.”
As part of his War on Poverty, Johnson proposed an ambitious set of social programs rivaling those of Franklin Roosevelt during the Depression of the 1930‘s. Johnson’s War on Poverty ended in surrender beginning in 1968 because of the costly Vietnam War and the election of Richard Nixon.
Although it did not end poverty, the first War on Poverty was not the total failure that many critics label it. Largely a response to the Civil Rights Movement, it gave us such critical social programs as Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start and the Food Stamp Act. Today the USA has some of the worst poverty of any wealthy nation, but it would be far more devastating without these programs.
Just ask today’s fast food and retail workers, many of whom depend on Medicaid and food stamps because of their poverty wages. Now low wage workers’ groups like WOCC are taking up the unfinished business of ending poverty in this country by raising wages and organizing unions.
The low wage workers’ movement is very diverse and includes adjunct college professors, car wash workers, port truck drivers, janitors, farmworkers and more. I recently learned that one third of bank tellers live in poverty. Maybe they’ll be the next to join. Read more
Filed under: Discrimination, Society & Economy, U.S. Politics, Unions, Workplace
“Every tree has its enemy, few have an advocate. In all my works I take the part of trees against all their enemies”.—- J.R.R. Tolkien
It was the largest tree my seven year old eyes had ever seen. Stately thick limbs spreading out into a huge leaf canopy that seemed to reach skywards forever. Beneath was a small clearing of grass and dirt where I could admire the tree house that the big kids had built, complete with small boards attached to the tree to make a ladder upwards.
The tree house was sturdily built with a strong platform, a roof of boards and a glassless window where one could look out on the rest of the forest. And best of all, the big kids who built it told me I could use it anytime. I have no idea how old these kids were, probably no more than 12 or 13. But they were nice big kids, not the like the bullies I often encountered in Glenmont MD of the 1950’s. Read more
Filed under: Job Safety & Ecology, Me Stuff, Society & Economy
“I’m proud that this Neighborhood Schools Fair came from neighborhood parents— from neighborhood moms. And that they invited people from all over the city to be involved.”— Kim Bowsky, Chicago Public Schools teacher
You might not associate colorful balloons and a room full of school displays with a bold act of resistance, but that is what happened at Roberto Clemente High School on a gray drizzly November day in Chicago. It was the Neighborhood Schools Fair, a testament to the love that Chicago has for its neighborhood schools and their critical importance to the city.
It’s been a tough year for the education justice movement in Chicago. A lot of heartbreaks. A lot of tears. Fifty schools closed. Massive layoffs of teachers and other education workers. Sit-ins and multiple arrests. Parents frantic about their children’s’ safety going to school. Deep emotional ties among favorite teachers and their students broken. A steady stream of insults and lies coming from City Hall and the Chicago Public Schools(CPS) top brass.
The movement really needed affirmation. Something positive and joyful. Thankfully a small circle of activist women who call themselves “The Badass Moms”, or BAM, got together and hatched the idea of a one day exposition where neighborhood schools could set up displays, hold workshops and talk about their successes and their challenges.
Rousemary Vega, one of the BAM’s, told me that the goal was to create a web of relationships among neighborhood schools to build for a better educational future. This web would cross traditional racial and neighborhood lines in one of the most segregated cities in the USA, where neighborhood insularity and distrust of “outsiders” is the stuff of legend. Read more
Filed under: Discrimination, Race, Society & Economy, U.S. Politics, Unions
It was a cold clear Chicagoland morning with a sharply defined crescent moon hanging above the apartment complex in front of my Oak Park IL home. It was November 29th. Black Friday. A day devoted to mass consumption and mass hysteria in malls and shopping centers across the nation.
I turned on my bicycle flashers and rode down the street to the East Ave CTA Blue Line station. I was headed for the Black Friday protest against Walmart’s employment policies. The protest was sponsored by Our Walmart, an employees organization.
The train arrived quickly and within minutes we had crossed Austin Blvd and were speeding through the West Side of the city. I sat in the front car thinking about the relationship between poverty and the education crisis on the West Side of Chicago
I had recently attended 3 meetings in North Lawndale sponsored by several community groups as the largely Black and Latino West Side struggled to recover from a series of school closings.
The Walton family who owns Walmart has poured money into school privatization efforts in Chicago and must be held partly responsible for the 50 schools closed in Chicago last spring.
The Walton Foundation had even organized the hearings where thousands of anguished parents and teachers fought for their schools in front of stony-faced Chicago Public Schools( CPS) representatives who refused to answer any questions.
Filed under: Discrimination, Global Economy & Politics, Me Stuff, Race, Society & Economy, Unions
In October of 1991 a convergence of powerful weather systems created a monster storm in the cold waters of the North Atlantic. It killed the entire crew of the fishing boat Andrea Gail among other storm casualties. Journalist Sebastian Junger used the phrase “The Perfect Storm” as the title of his book about this unusual weather event. The book became the basis for a Hollywood film of the same name.
Since then the term “perfect storm” has entered the language to mean any catastrophic collision of natural, political, or social forces that combine into a disaster greater than the sum of its parts.
Lasting only a few days, the 1991 storm was centered along the US eastern seaboard region. Neo-liberalism, climate change and militarism is “The Perfect Storm” engulfing the entire biosphere and is projected to last for years to come. It is a perfect storm of planetary proportions. Read more
Filed under: Global Economy & Politics, Job Safety & Ecology