Author Archive

Why to Stand Up.

This past week, four stories came together in my consciousness, clicking together in a way that is neat in the way that ecosystems, or star systems are– evolved according to law to a coherence that looks like design. The first, the story of a pipeline, funded by a Canadian company. Bigger and badder than all of the pipelines before it; and built to move the hottest, most toxic, abrasive petro-gunk ever mined from the earth. The Jane and Joe Ranchers whose land will be eaten up by easement contracts, won by fraud and threats, know that they won’t see any benefit from this massive relocation and refinery of tar sands, but they feel powerless before the corporate profit machine, the unlimited lawyers, the heavy equipment, the harried I’m Just Doin’ My Job employees.

The second story is about a trade agreement– the Trans Pacific Partnership– just hitting my airwaves, years late but before it goes into effect, out of the headlines because even Sen. Ron Wyden, the Chair of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Trade – the U.S. congressional committee with jurisdiction over TPP – had to submit new legislation this May to get access to the text of the treaty. This treaty to end all treaties (literally, as other member nations can be added at any later date), built in secrecy, pushes the limits in the race to put national governments in the service of multinational corporations. Tellingly, the US negotiators take a hard line compared to the rest on the issue of foreign investor rights. “In a manner that would enrage right and left alike, the private “investor-state” enforcement system included in the leaked TPP text would empower foreign investors and corporations to skirt domestic courts and laws and sue governments in foreign tribunals. There, they can demand cash compensation from domestic treasuries over domestic policies that they claim undermine their new investor rights and expected future profits. This establishes an alarming two-track system of justice that privileges foreign corporations in myriad ways relative to governments or domestic businesses. It also exposes signatory countries to vast liabilities, as foreign firms use foreign tribunals to raid public treasuries.”

Not only will it help US firms to pillage other signatories in spite of any labor or resource protection legislation that their populace may wish to put into place, it will help TransCanada and other foreign mining interests to do an end-run around any attempts by US Citizens to keep fossil fuels in the ground and foreign pipelines off our lands.

The next pair of stories is the story of geoengineering weather and bioengineering seeds. High-level scientists have already convened to discuss the options for testing of geoengineering technology. A Huffington Post article from 2011 cites worries within this group that “someone, some group, some government would decide on its own to conduct large-scale atmospheric experiments, raising global concerns – and resentment if it’s the U.S. that acts, since it has done the least among industrial nations to cut greenhouse emissions. They fear some in America might push for going straight to “Plan B,” rather than doing the hard work of emissions reductions.” In the year since this article was published, several key actors have come into the open about the fact that large-scale geoengineering experiments are underway. The multinational interests behind the global capitalist systems have no interest in doing “the hard work” of reducing emissions. If that were the case, it wouldn’t support the extreme forms of extraction which are bound to cause immediate environmental disasters and extreme weather– tar sands, deep water drilling, coal export to China and India, mountaintop removal, natural gas fracking.

Instead, they have pegged their hopes on spraying massive quantities of metal particles into the atmosphere to reflect the sun’s light. Unfortunately these metals weaken or kill the life that encounters them in the water and air. The documentary What in the World are They Spraying includes interviews with islanders from Hawaii who are experiencing heavy spraying of aluminum particulate (as confirmed by, among others, a 4th grade science class research project) and who find that plant life– except for certain genetically modified food crops– dies. Most importantly, this reflective layer only masks rising temperatures, it doesn’t affect root causes,so the spraying must continue indefinitely. Stopping aerosol spraying once it has begun would likely cause a rapid spike in temperature. The activity becomes self-justifying, concentrating wealth and power in the hands of those who control the technology.

Which leads us to the flip side of the geoengineering coin, seed engineering to create plants which can survive the combination of stresses from extreme weather caused by climate change and high concentrations of metals. Like geoengineering, this becomes an essential service, a matter of life or death– the ideal product for the holder of the patents on this technology. Of course Monsanto is prepared to profit with its “invention” of plants which are highly tolerant to stress, as well as the USDA– which holds a patent for aluminum resistance in certain species– and others. The technological fix to the ecological catastrophe facing the planet, as with all technical fixes, concentrates power in the hands of those with the technology, and those people are preparing to put the last nail in the coffin of our god-given, self-regulating ecological life-support systems; and preparing the legal regime to support their immensely profitable, sickening (literally) technological management of the global environment.

While this is hard to face, it is more and more clear that a majority of my generation is prepared to recognize that the stories I have just told are true; that the logic which places corporate profit as the driving force which organizes our whole global social system has the power to destroy the civilization that we know. This brings us to the cusp of despair, but also, hope. Given the daily evidence that corporate responsibility is an oxymoron and that governments will not hold corporations to account, the only option less is massive civil disobedience, and parallel construction of social and life-support systems which are not centered on maximizing profit. I support the Rising Tide North Texas action to blockade construction of the Keystone Pipeline; this is my launching into the new day of struggle, the day the fantasy of corporate responsibility and government regulation in the public interest dies.

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Janitor Strike is On

Days after the expiration of their union contract… Houston janitors strike in response to employer misconduct, workers across the city to stand with them for good jobs

Houston-Days after their contract expired, Houston janitors have called a strike. Workers report that they have been harassed and threatened by managers after standing up for the wages they need to support their families.

In response to janitors’ efforts to improve working conditions, employers have engaged in threats and other conduct prohibited by the National Labor Relations Act. Janitors from all nine buildings at Greenway Plaza announced tonight that they are striking to protest this conduct. Janitors say any building in Houston could be next.

“This was a very hard decision for us to make, but we are doing what we have to do,” says Maria Lopez, a janitor at Greenway Plaza and a mother. “We are standing up for a wage that will allow us to support our families. And in response we are being punished and harassed. So we decided together that we have to stand up for our families.”

As Houston’s poverty and hunger rate rise, janitors are calling attention to the income inequality that’s contributing to the deterioration of our communities. Houston janitors clean the offices of some of the richest corporations in the world, including profitable energy corporations Chevron, Exxon Mobile, Shell Oil, Penzoil, Centerpoint Energy and Reliant. Despite record profits and ballooning CEO pay, janitors who clean Houston’s office buildings are paid less than $9,000 a year-less than half the poverty level. A janitor would have to work more than 2,000 years in order to earn what the Exxon and Chevron CEOs make in just one year.

In recent weeks, the community has rallied around the janitors. Faith leaders have held special masses and written op-eds for newspapers; community organizations have held rallies and protests; and elected officials have publicly urged wealthy Houston building owners to take action.

“Once more we ask contractors to return to the bargaining table in good faith,” says Deacon Sam Dunning, Director of the Office of Justice and Peace of the Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston Houston. “What the janitors are asking for is, in our judgment, modest and reasonable and a contract agreement would go great lengths to promote justice for janitors.”

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Move to Amend, Wednesday 7pm

Call me if you are needing a ride and I will try to do some carpool organizing last minute.  859-556-0112

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Planning for 9-month anniversary

Jamin proposed last night, and it was passed, that we make an event to mark our 9-month anniversary of occupation on July 6th.  We’ll make an event page on Facebook and then people can discuss there about how we want to celebrate.  We also talked about tabling logistics, and heard about Occupy the Woodlands’ success with starting a regular tabling/meet-up every Saturday.  Having a same-time, same-place weekly tabling would give us a way to maintain our working relationship with each other and a public educational presence.

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Janitors Authorize STRIKE

With Wage and Benefit Cuts on the Line for Thousands of Families…
Houston Janitors Unanimously Vote “Yes” to Authorize Strike
Janitors call on all low wage workers to “Take Back Millionaire City”

HOUSTON—Houston janitors who clean the offices of some of the world’s wealthiest companies voted today to give their bargaining committee the power to call a strike. The vote was unanimous. Houston janitors also called on working people across the city to stand with them to restore fairness to our economy and good jobs to “Millionaire City.”

“Like many Houstonians, we are working harder and harder and falling further behind. Every day I see my neighborhood crumbling. Everyone says Houston is doing great, but that’s not the reality for many people,” says Sixta Gonzalez, a Houston janitor.

Despite the fact that Houston is home to more millionaires than any other US city, the city’s 3,200 janitors are struggling to raise families on less than $9,000 a year, a salary below half the poverty level. One in five workers in Houston are paid well below the estimated cost of living for a family of three. Janitors and community supporters are calling on cleaning companies, building owners and the richest corporations in the country to do their part and create good middle class jobs for Houston.

“Before we went on strike in 2006, all the odds were against us. The biggest corporations in the world laughed at us. We lived in the shadows. But we showed that ordinary people can achieve amazing things,” says Elena Delgado, a janitor in Downtown Houston.

Despite the Houston commercial real estate market being one of the healthiest in the nation, cleaning companies are currently insisting on a contract provision that could further impoverish thousands of Houston families. Janitors and contractors reached impasse last week, with both parties walking away from the table with no future bargaining dates set. The contract expires May 31st.

The strong “yes” vote to authorize the bargaining committee to call a strike comes as our country is in the midst of massive public protest over the disappearing middle class and increasing income inequality between the richest 1% and the other 99% of the country. While the U.S. economy has grown by more than 80% in the past 30 years, a majority of those gains in wealth have gone to the richest Americans while income for 95 percent of American households has either stayed the same or fallen.

BACKGROUND: In 2006, tired of working in deplorable conditions, more than 3,000 janitors went on strike for a better future for their families with dozens arrested in acts of civil disobedience. The five-week strike captured national attention and the support of religious leaders, elected officials and Houstonians alike, winning the janitors their first union contract.

Contact: Paloma Martinez, (832) 493-4839,martinezp@seiu1.org

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A Critical History of the USofA

Let your life be a friction to stop the machine.  An inspirational movie for your Memorial Day weekend.

Click “read more” to see embedded video

 

 

 

 

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Janitors online petition, please sign

WE ARE ALL JANITORS!

Dear Friends,   

On May 17, contract negotiations broke down between Houston janitors and the cleaning companies who employ them. Houston janitors clean the offices of some of the richest corporations in the world—JP Morgan Chase, Marathon Oil, KBR, Shell Oil, Continental, Chevron, and Exxon Mobilebut are only paid about $9,000 a year. While janitors tried to bring their hourly wages up to meet the rising cost of living, cleaning contractors made a proposal that would have kept janitors’ annual pay below half the poverty level. In the end, both parties walked away from the table with no future bargaining dates set. Their contract expires May 31st.

The contract Houston janitors won in 2006 after a five-week strike raised wages and created a path out of poverty for thousands of Houston janitors and their families. There is nothing that big business in Houston would like more than break the janitors’ union and take these workers back to minimum wage.

Houston janitors are calling on working people across the city, not just to support them, but to join them. Our city is no longer working for working families. Despite its status as the country’s #1 millionaire city, one in five workers in our city is paid less than $10 hour; Houston isn’t just anti-union—it’s anti-worker.

Together, we can make our voices heard. Sign this petition calling on Houston’s corporate elite to create good jobs for our city, and stay tuned for updates and action alerts from Houston janitors.  

Best wishes, 

Dave Atwood

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Protests in support of Houston janitors

Actions scheduled this week to support Houston janitors as they push for a new contract.  Occupy support!

On May 17, Houston janitors and representatives from some of the country’s largest cleaning companies met for the final scheduled bargaining meeting to determine wages and working conditions for more than 3,200 Houston janitors. Houston’s commercial real estate market is currently the healthiest in the country, yet janitors who clean Houston’s office buildings are paid less than $9,000 a year—less than half the poverty level. Janitors and contractors reached impasse today, with both parties walking away from the table with no future bargaining dates set. The contract expires May 31st.

For more info see: <http://www.seiu1.org/2012/05/17/contract-negotiations-between-houston-janitors-and-cleaning-companies-break-down/>

WHEN & WHERE:  Wednesday, May 23, 2012;  12:00 Noon 

                                    Pennzoil Bldg.

                                    700 Louisiana, Houston 

WHO:                        Hundreds of Houston janitors, family members, and community supporters

Other actions:

May 24 -  4pm – Reliant Bldg. – 1000 Main

***May 25 - 12 noon – Chevron Bldg. – 1500 Louisiana***

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