Wednesday, October 28, 2009

As Chicago hotel walkout vote looms, Congress becomes longest strike

By John Bachtell
Chicago – “This is an embarrassing day for the city of Chicago,” declared Guadalupe Perez a striking Congress Hotel worker at an Oct. 26 action honoring the strike. “This is now the longest hotel strike in US history. For over 6 years the Congress has brought this city down. But we’ll be here for as long as it takes to get justice.”

The Congress Hotel strike officially surpassed the Frontier Hotel strike in Las Vegas that lasted 6 years, 4 months and 10 days and ended Feb. 1, 1998. Workers went on strike after the Congress unilaterally broke with the master agreement between the union and city hotels and imposed a lower wage scale.

“The torch has been passed from one group of heroic workers in our union to another group of heroes,” declared John Wilhelm, Unite Here international president, the union representing the Congress strikers.

Veteran union members of the Frontier strike brought solidarity greetings and praised the strikers for their courage. Joe Daugherty, now president of Unite Here Local 24 in Detroit, told the Congress strikers, “while it’s a long time it’s a short time in the fight for justice.”

“You never know when you will make history,” said Gloria Hernandez (pictured below) of Unite Here Local 165 in Las Vegas. “They know they can’t defeat us when we’re together. This is the only way they’ll respect us. You’re fighting for the future of Chicago and the next generation.”

As strikers, hotel workers and their supporters marked the occasion, others prepared to take a strike vote in response to demands for concessions by big hotel corporations.

Under light rain, hotel workers and their supporters took the “tour of crummy employers” down Michigan Avenue past the Hilton, Blackstone and ended at the Congress Hotel. Union contracts covering over 6000 workers at 30 downtown hotels expired on August 31. Three major hotel corporations employ most: Hyatt, Hilton and Starwood. Workers at five hotels are taking strike votes.

Hitting hard at the greed of hotel owners, Unite Here Local 1 President Henry Tamarin said, “we’re not going to settle for standing still, we won’t move back either. We’re only moving forward.”

“Malos, mucho malos, (bad ones, very bad ones)” cried the crowd in reference to the greedy hotels.

The Hilton Hotel is one of the big chains driving concessions. They are using the economic crisis to cut jobs and demand concessions in health care benefits and impose speed up. But when economic times were better they were just as stingy.

“The Hilton is not making this any easier,” said Eddie Simms, a worker at the Hilton Hotel. “Each day I feel like fighting somebody. I know what I have to do and each of us has to fight and not give up.”

Like the Boston Hyatt Hotel, the Hilton wants to subcontract out parts of their operation to lower paid workers. But shop steward Sherry Stevenson said workers are fighting any subcontracting along with the proposal for a five-year contract with no raise for the first 2 years.

The workers led by Unite Here have fought hard to raise wages and benefits in the hospitality industry in Chicago. Average housekeeper wages have risen from $8.83 an hour in 2002 to $14.60 today.

What galls the workers is the hotels are making profits even in the economic downturn. In the last three months, hotel company stocks have soared 20-30%. On Oct. 22, Starwood (which operates some of the hotels taking the strike vote) announced profits of $180 million for the first three quarters of 2009. Evidently, these profits are not big enough for greedy hotel owners, say the workers.

The protesters moved on to the Blackstone Hotel, a landmark that had been closed but was refurbished and re-opened with $47 million of taxpayer money. The hotel showed its gratitude by resisting a union organizing drive and after the union won by refusing to settle on a contract.

The Blackstone fired Renee Walker for her strong union support. “They ‘laid off’12 workers from the Room Service Department,” Walker told the People’s World. “We were the strongest union supporters. They said it was because the economy was bad. Then they had a job fair to hire our replacements and none of us were considered. We were essentially fired.”

Walker and her co-workers have filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) against the Blackstone to regain their jobs. “We’re going to continue to fight,” said Walker.

Imelda Martinez embodies the connection between the Congress strike and the fight at the other hotels. Martinez has been on strike at the Congress Hotel and now works at the Sheraton Hotel as a housekeeper, where a strike vote is being taken.

“Right now, two hotels are trying to cut my benefits and my rights. Today more than ever we have to fight. We’ll continue fighting in the path of Cesar Chavez and for wage and benefit justice. I am not afraid.”

Monday, October 26, 2009

CeaseFire to Receive Common Ground Award

From Search for Common Ground:

Search for Common Ground has announced that Chicago-based group CeaseFire will receive a Common Ground Award at a ceremony to be held in Washington DC on October 29th, at the Canadian Embassy. The Common Ground Awards are presented annually to honor outstanding accomplishments in conflict resolution, negotiation, mediation, diplomacy, community building and peacebuilding.

CeaseFire is an antiviolence initiative of the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention. Founded by Gary Slutkin, M.D., and based at the University of Illinois’ in the Chicago School of Public Health, CeaseFire treats gun violence as a public health problem and fights it by trying to change both individual and community behavior.

At the heart of CeaseFire’s work is high-risk conflict mediation through outreach workers and ‘violence interrupters’. These streetwise individuals are familiar with gang life, and use their connections to change the attitudes and behaviors of high-risk youth – helping to quell conflicts before they escalate to violence.

CeaseFire works with community-based organizations, local ministers, and community leaders to organize neighborhood marches, rallies, and vigils after shootings, and focuses on street-level outreach, conflict mediation and changing community norms to decrease violence.

Tio Hardiman, Director of CeaseFire Illinois, will be accepting the Common Ground Award on behalf of the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention and CeaseFire.

The other 2009 Common Ground Awardees are:

* Congressman John Lewis and Elwin Wilson, for their inspirational reconciliation
after Wilson’s apology for his civil-rights era violence against Lewis.

* Coach Luma Mufleh and the Fugees Family, a soccer team and support system for
refugee boys

* Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, for his unwavering advocacy of peace between Israel and
Palestine, despite losing his three daughters to the conflict.

* Karen Armstrong, for creating the Charter for Compassion.

* Stand by Me (music video) by Playing for Change, an international musical collaboration.

* Ring the Bells (music video) by Melissa Etheridge and Salman Ahmad & Participant Media, a fusion of western rock and sufi devotional singing that calls for unity and change.

These recipients have made significant contributions to bridging divides between people and finding solutions to seemingly intractable problems. Former Common Ground Awardees include Nobel Peace Prize winner Martti Ahtisaari, former President Jimmy Carter, former Senator George Mitchell, Muhammad Ali, the New York Philharmonic, Sesame Workshop, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and the Daniel Pearl Foundation.

Search for Common Ground is a Washington DC based organization that works internationally to help individuals, communities and countries find nonviolent ways to deal with conflict.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Larry McGurty: a tremendous life

Lawrence “Mac” McGurty passed away Oct. 9 at the age of 93. His life encompassed the major events and movements of the last century, many that he participated in as an activist rather than an observer.

Born in l915 to Estelle Raport McGurty and Edward McGurty in Pittsburgh, Pa., Lawrence’s parents were committed to the struggle for workers’ rights in the early years of the 20th century.

When his mother died at the age of 28, and his father was in a tuberculosis sanatorium, Lawrence was raised by his grandmother and aunt. He was raised as a Catholic, but later left the faith when he became active in industrial unionism during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Lawrence McGurty joined the U.S. Army in 1940 and fought in the Pacific from 1942-1945, being awarded three Bronze Stars. It was during his years of service that he met and married Mildred Davis of Memphis, Tenn. Mildred was the sister of William “Red” Davis, who was also a great fighter unionism, civil rights and peace. Mildred shared these same values. Their daughter, Mary, was born in 1943.

After the war, the McGurty family settled in Memphis. Larry worked on the Mississippi River, as a member of the National Maritime Union until red-baiting ended his and his brother-in-law’s days there. They both continued to work for unionism and racial equality.

In 1951, Lawrence and Mildred were very active in trying to save Willie McGee, an African American man from Mississippi who was to become a victim of legal lynching for the supposed rape of a white woman.

In 1957, Lawrence appeared before HUAC (House Committee on Un American Activities) -- for the second time—hounded for his beliefs and activities. Sen. James Eastland was the head of that particular committee, and the result was that all of Lawrence’s employment opportunities in the South came to an end. At the age of 42, he moved to Chicago, enrolled in college and became a teacher. He taught for 20 years, retiring in l981.

All of those years, he continued to work for union rights and representation, forming a successful teachers’ union chapter, which is still working for the rights of its members.

He and Mildred protested actively against the Vietnam War. He was in the l968 Democratic National Convention protest in Chicago, being tear-gassed in Grant Park with his nephew, Sam Davis.

Mildred passed away in 2001 and Lawrence continued working for the same causes on his own. Their generation has paved the way for the new one, which is working to improve the lives of all Americans in education, jobs and health care.

A memorial to celebrate Lawrence McGurty’s life will be held on Nov. 1 at 2 p.m. at the Beverly Unitarian Church, 10244 S Longwood Dr., in Chicago.

[The obit was sent in by his daughter and appears in the Oct. 24 print edition of People's World.

All Americans deserve healthcare

Reprinted with permission of author:

All Americans deserve healthcare. Private insurance companies are not getting the job done. Solving this serious national problem is a legitimate function of government. It requires a public solution.

The effects can be seen locally. For example, workers who retired after 2008 and today from Hamilton Sundstrand (where I work) have no employer-funded healthcare. People who are on indefinite layoff as a result of good Sundstrand jobs being moved out of town will likely suffer the same fate. If the company continues to let the air out of the Rockford plants, more of us will join the growing ranks of the uninsured – estimated at over forty-seven million nationwide.

Surging healthcare costs are already threatening millions of families with bankruptcy and putting others at risk of losing their homes. According to a recent Harvard University study, the medical crises contributes to one-half of all home foreclosures and could put as many as 1.5 million Americans at risk of losing their homes each year.

As layoffs continue, more Americans will lose healthcare benefits. Preventative care for these people will be out of reach. Many more will then be forced to use the most expensive and least efficient venue - hospital emergency rooms.

We need a healthcare system that puts the wellbeing of our families, friends, neighbors – and the USA -- ahead of the dollar. Today, however, a triad of pharmaceutical, hospital and insurance corporations engage in the destructive practice of rationing healthcare for profits.

Take the insurance industry. Its bottom line takes precedence over availability to healthcare. Aetna CEO Ron Williams made this very clear in a July 27 conference call to analysts: “We would be willing to forgo membership growth if necessary. We have a clear bias toward profitability over growth.”

Families USA cited these statistics in March-April ’08: “... 18,000 adults nationwide died in 2000 because they did not have health insurance... 22,000 adults died in '06...

“... Uninsured Americans are sicker, uninsured adults are 25 percent more likely to die prematurely, and Americans between 55 and 64 are at much greater risk of premature death than their insured counterparts. This makes lack of health insurance the third leading cause of death for the near-elderly, following heart disease and cancer.”

Corporate lobbyists are sparing no expense in a mind-bending campaign to steer our legislators away from universal healthcare. They are pitting the insured against the uninsured and the healthy against the sick. They want us to believe that our own democratic form of government is a monster and that private insurance companies will treat us more fairly than any public solution. These are the same companies that get between us and our doctors – the same companies that have made a science out of using words like “pre-existing conditions” or “reasonable and customary” to cancel coverage or deny claims.

Although healthcare is a necessity not a commodity like a TV set, taking on an abusive insurance company or finding affordable insurance is neither fair nor competitive. We need a level playing field for consumers and a competitive alternative to private insurance. Only a public option, which favors healthcare delivery over profitability, can provide these critical components.

Luke 14:13 states plainly: “But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.”

We are a nation of great wealth and great promise -- fully capable of providing a healthcare safety net for all Americans. The public option means one more vital choice in the marketplace. That’s why we need it.

Tim Mills

Co-chair, UAW Local 592 Community Action Program (CAP) Committee

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Radical economic and social reforms needed to exit crisis

The latest "official" unemployment reports for Illinois, now at 10.5%, once again demonstrates the need for far broader federal action to stimulate jobs creation. We join the chorus calling for a 2nd economic stimulus and for faster spending of the first federal stimulus.

Official unemployment may be at 10.5% but real unemployment is far higher. Unemployment in African American and Latino communities is over 20% and among African American youth nearly 80-90%, the backdrop to the tragic violence gripping such cities like Chicago.

Many economists believe the total number of unemployed may actually be 26 million Americans. There is no way the private corporate sector can create this many jobs and in any case jobs creation doesn't start from the top but from expanding the purchasing power of working people.

While the 1st stimulus has been a success in boosting economic growth and is projected to save or create 2-3 million jobs, it can't possibly stimulate the economy enough to make up for the remaining 24 million jobs needed.

Many economists are saying this will be a "jobless" economic recovery. Among other factors, the use of new labor saving technology has heavily impacted on the ability of US capitalism to create jobs.

Because Wall Street and Chicago board of trade capital seeks maximum profits, it has flooded over the past years into speculation and away from basic industry and manufacturing. It has tended to be concentrated in far fewer hands. Michael Moore says the top 1% of the population has accumulated wealth equal to the bottom 95%. That would mean in a place like Illinois, only 110,000 families have the wealth of the lower 10.5 million.

This is disgustingly illustrated in the announcement by Wall Street that it would pay out $150 billion in bonuses this year. Wall Street has recovered its profits while Main Street is falling into deeper crisis.

These titans of finance will not invest capital in a productive way that benefits the nation but in a way that benefits themselves. Government intervention that "redistributes" the wealth in the form of jobs creation, passage of EFCA and increase in wages and benefits, health care reform, education funding and aid to the cities and rural communities is urgently needed. These reforms constitute a curb on the power and ability of high finance and the mega transnational corporations to dispose of the nation's wealth.

Therefore a second stimulus package is desperately needed as part of a basic reform of the US economy, focusing on a "green" overhaul of the US infrastructure: building mass transit, re-insulating homes and offices, building new water treatment facilities, cleaning up brown fields and toxic waste dumps, etc.

Other radical measures needed are an immediate bailout of states and cities who are drowning in debt, being forced to slash services, moratorium on all home foreclosures, a cut in the work week with no cut in pay, extension of unemployment benefits to cover the full length of joblessness and to cover first time job seekers like youth entering the job market.

A radical restructuring of the federal and state tax codes is long overdue that corrects the theft that took place during the Reagan years. The tax burden should be restored to the wealthy and large corporations and banks.

This is only the beginning of far reaching changes needed to re-orient the US economy and society toward one that puts people before corporate and bank profits.

Friday, October 16, 2009

‘Fund the MAP, close the gap’

By Jim Dixon
People's Weekly World

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - More than 2,000 college students from across Illinois marched on the state Capitol to demand funding for more than 137,000 students whose Monetary Assistance Program grants were only funded for half the school year. A fearful governor and legislative leaders met Oct. 15 and agreed to pay the grants while stating they did not know where the money would come from in a state that has threatened layoffs of 2,500 workers.

Forty-seven percent of the grant recipients come from families with an annual household income of less than $20,000; another 30% come from families with an annual household income of $20,000 to $40,000.

In addition to serving less students this year with half as much money, there remain more than 150,000 additional financial aid applicants who also sought MAP this year and were turned down.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Thousands to converge on bankers convention to demand banks stop lobbying against financial reform

From National Taxpayer Mobilization to Break Bank Greed:

Taxpayers From 20 Cities Headed to American Bankers Association Chicago Conference October 25-27

Banks Using Taxpayer Money to Spend Millions Fighting Reforms that Would Help Prevent Next Financial Crisis

Chicago, IL—In the largest taxpayer mobilization since the economic crisis began, thousands of Americans from 20 cities will converge on the American Bankers Association (ABA) conference in Chicago from October 25 to 27 to demand banks stop spending millions in taxpayer dollars to lobby against reforms that would protect Americans from the next economic crisis.

After taking $17.8 trillion in taxpayer bailouts and backstops, the ABA and the six largest banks have spent more than $35 million fighting Congressional action on financial reform. Meanwhile, ordinary Americans continue to face rising foreclosures, record unemployment, skyrocketing bank and credit card fees, and vanishing pensions and 401(k)s.

From Spokane to Syracuse, ordinary Americans who have lost their jobs, their homes, and their life savings will be boarding buses and planes to demand banks end their overreliance on greed and profits and commit to using their taxpayer bailouts and backstops to help America’s economy recover.

Read a full report on ABA’s actions to lobby against financial reform here.

National Taxpayer Mobilization to Break Bank Greed

October 25, 2009

WHAT: Taxpayers put big banks and Wall Street on trial for breaking their commitments to the American taxpayers.

WHO: Hundreds of taxpayers from across the country who’ve lost their jobs, homes, and retirement security because of the economic crisis, workers, community leaders and allies, and academics.


Hyatt Regency Chicago
151 East Wacker Drive

October 26, 2009

WHAT: Demonstrations around American Bankers Association conference highlighting continued bank greed at the expense of America’s economy.

WHO: More than 1,000 retirees, family farmers, clergy, workers, students, homeowners, and community allies.


October 27, 2009

WHAT: Taxpayer march on American Bankers Association conference to demand banks stop lobbying against needed financial reform.

WHO: More than 5,000 workers, clergy, and community allies and leaders from 20 cities.

WHERE: March begins at 10:30 AM CDT at Intersection of Wacker and Stetson.

Rally at 11:00 AM CDT at the Sheraton Hotel, 301 E. North Water St.

Visit,, or for more details.

Groups participating in the three days of mobilizations include: A New Way Forward, AFL-CIO, Action Now, Albany Park Neighborhood Council, Alliance to Develop Power (ADP), Americans for Fairness in Lending, Americans for Financial Reform, ARISE Chicago, Brighten Park Neighborhood Council, Central Illinois Organizing Project (CIOP), Center for Community Change (CCC), Change in Terms, Change to Win, Citizen Action, Chicago Coalition of the Homeless, Communities United for Action (CUFA), Community Voices Heard (CVH), Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization (CCISCO), Grassroots Collaborative, Green Party of Nevada, Fuerza Laboral/Power of Workers, Illinois Hunger Coalition, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Jobs with Justice, Gender Just Metanoia Centers, Inc., Michigan People's Action (MPA), MoveOn, National People’s Action, Northside Action for Justice, Northside POWER, Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition, People Organized for West Side Renewal (POWER), PUSH Buffalo, Right to the City Alliance, Rights for All People (RAP), Roomdad Productions, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), SEIU Illinois State Council, SOUL, South Austin Coalition Community Council (SACCC), Sunflower Community Action, Syracuse United Neighbors (SUN), Teach Our Children (TOC), The Grassroots Collaborate, UE, UCLA Undergraduate Students Association, Workers United, and Working In Neighborhoods (WIN)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Update on state budget cuts: situation dire and getting worse

From the poverty to opportunity blog:

This week it will be 3 months since the state of Illinois passed its budget. As the economy worsens, money dwindles and need for social services increases, the impacts of this budget has become more pronounced. Our office, working collaboratively with the Responsible Budget Coalition has been contacting human service agencies to try and accurately gauge the depths of these cuts across the state. The findings have been clear: the enactment of budget cuts have compounded an already dire situation. Budget cuts, combined with delays in payment and increased demand for services have kept human service organizations scrambling just to keep their doors open. Below we provide a small sample of how these three factors plays out at actual agencies and what they implications they may have.

For full post:

Gutierrez Outlines Core Principles for a New Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill

From the office of Cong. Luis Gutierrez:

October 13, 2009

Media Contact: Rebecca Dreilinger (202) 225-8203


(Washington DC) At a rally today on the west lawn of the United States Capitol, U.S. Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) addressed a crowd of thousands who demanded change to our nation's broken immigration system. Rep. Gutierrez' address responded to a recent call from the immigration advocacy community to introduce comprehensive immigration reform in the House of Representatives.

Rep. Gutierrez has been actively talking to advocacy and civil rights groups, faith-based groups, labor groups and his colleagues on the Hill to identify the most essential components of such a comprehensive bill. Today he outlined some of those core principles.

In a statement, Rep. Gutierrez said:

"We simply cannot wait any longer for a bill that keeps our families together, protects our workers and allows a pathway to legalization for those who have earned it. It is time we had a workable plan making its way through Congress that recognizes the vast contributions of immigrants to this country and that honors the American Dream. I am preparing such a plan, and will introduce it in the near future. It will include the following core principles:"

Pathway to legalization for undocumented workers:

"Immigration reform will not work unless it takes a practical approach to dealing with the 12 million undocumented immigrants living, working, and raising families in the United States. We need a bill that says if you come here to hurt our communities, we will not support you. But if you are here to work hard—if you are here to make a better life for your family—you will have the opportunity to earn your citizenship."

"Our immigrants are hardworking, and they are up to the challenge. Give them the opportunity to earn their citizenship, and they will go through the background checks; they will pay their fair share of taxes; and they will learn English. It’s not an easy process, but it is a fair process."

Professional and effective border enforcement:

"We need professional and effective border enforcement. That means 21st century enforcement strategies that both make our nation’s physical and economic security stronger and stay true to our nation’s values. We need to require the federal government to make a real, working partnership with border communities and other stakeholders when designing and executing border enforcement policies."

Smart and humane interior enforcement:
"Inside the country, my plan will promote fair immigration proceedings, humane treatment of immigration detainees and policies that respect the tenets of community policing."

Protecting workers:
"Immigration reform will not work without a strong commitment to America’s labor force. Without it, too many employers will continue to pervert the system. We must expand the labor rights of workers and punish those dishonest employers who continue to exploit immigrants in order to undermine their honest competitors."

Verification systems:

"We must fix the current employment eligibility verification system, not only to protect Americans who are denied the right to work because of errors in the government’s databases, but also to prevent employers who would exploit the system and undermine workers’ rights. A vastly improved verification system is fundamental to reducing illegal immigration."

Family unity as a cornerstone of our immigration system:
"Family is the bedrock of our society, and immigration reform must support strong, united families and treat all immigrant families fairly and equally. Right now, our broken immigration system keeps too many American families apart for years and even decades, when they have done everything legally. We need a system predicated on family values by developing laws that better value families — a system that keeps families strong and, most importantly, keeps husbands and wives, parents and children together."

Future flows of workers:

"Our country attracts the best and brightest and the hardest workers from around the globe. That is a source of strength. But our current employment-based immigration laws are often at odds with the needs of our labor market and our economy. Many of our guest worker programs are badly broken, and they undermine workers’ rights. At the same time, our visa quotas are determined by politics, not by labor and economic need. My plan will create an employment-based visa system that is fair to workers and employers. It will ensure full labor rights for all workers, and it will create a commission to align visa numbers with actual labor market demands and economic needs, not political winds."


"Agriculture plays a fundamental role in our nation’s economy and in securing our nation's food supply. Comprehensive immigration reform must provide an agreement between labor and agribusiness that allows farm workers to access legal protections and immigration status while enabling employers to ensure a legal workforce and stabilize their businesses."


"We all want a country that is better educated, better motivated and better prepared for the future. My plan will strengthen the DREAM Act, making it quicker and easier for students who grew up in America and know no other home to fully participate in our society. Immigrants brought here as children should not be punished with fines or other means; rather, they should be fully integrated into our society as the Americans they truly are—and as quickly as possible."
Promoting immigrant integration:

"For years, state and local governments have taken the lead in helping new immigrants become new Americans. Recent arrivals face many challenges when navigating this process, yet the federal government has done little to help. I plan to recommit federal resources to promoting and assisting immigrant integration. It is about staying true to our nation’s success story of welcoming newcomers and helping them become part of the fabric of America."

"If we are to truly fix any of these critical issues, we must address all of them."

Monday, October 12, 2009

Founded in Chicago: The Young Lords turn 40

By Sijisfredo Aviles

CHICAGO — Community and political activists are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Young Lords, a national youth grassroots group that helped spur a movement for Puerto Rican and Latino community control and empowerment.

Founded in Chicago in 1969 as the Chicago Young Lords Organization (YLO), the group started as a youth gang. Yet under the leadership of a young man, Jose "Cha Cha" Jimenez, it was transformed into a community and political organization.

The Young Lords were part of a historical moment in the U.S. where youth questioned and challenged many decisions of government and experimented with alternatives to deal with issues of civil rights, racism and social justice. These were the times of the anti-Vietnam War movement, Students for Democratic Society, The Black Panther Party, and in Puerto Rico, it was the resistance against the conscription of Puerto Ricans in U.S. wars, getting the ROTC out of the college campuses, the surge of a new movement for Puerto Rican independence and its support of the Cuban Revolution and growing interest in socialism.

While in prison Jimenez read books and articles about the political and organizing ideas of civil and human rights leaders like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Consequently, he became more interested in reading about Puerto Rican and Latin American struggles and history. Figures and organizations that had major influences on him were Don Pedro Albizu Campos, political and nationalist leader of the Puerto Rican independence movement and Argentinean Ernesto "Che" Guevara, leader of the Cuban Revolution. Jimenez mentioned Puerto Rican independence fighters Lolita Lebron, Blanca Canales and Juan Antonio Corretjer (who let Jimenez and his wife, Mary Lou Porrata, sleep at his home), along with Movimiento Pro Independencia and the Nationalist Movement.

Later, the Young Lords learned from community people, like Obed Lopez and this author, who opposed the Vietnam War draft.

Fred Hamptom, leader of the Chicago Chapter of The Black Panther, served as an advisor in helping Jimenez structure the new political organization. The survival programs of the Young Lords were modeled after the Black Panthers.

The struggles of the Chicano community of the Southwest also inspired the group. Young Lords leaders took a trip to Denver and met Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales and learned about Cesar Chavez, Reis Lopez Tijerina and the take-over of towns and police stations.

Jimenez was convinced through readings and experience that the problems in the neighborhood were political. He concluded that the real enemies of the community were the city government of then-Chicago's Mayor Richard J. Daley's administration. Plus, the colonial policy of U.S. government that forced Puerto Rican families to leave their country. He did not consider the gangs to be the main problem.

He convinced gang members that fighting other gangs would not lead to the changes they wanted in their neighborhoods. He worked to declare a truce with other gangs. They agreed to work to change conditions in their neighborhood and challenge the police abuse and Chicago's lack of response to impoverished conditions found in their neighborhood,

In Chicago, the unjust conditions found in the Latino and Black communities led to the 1966 spontaneous revolt in the predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood of Humboldt Park. The revolt served as the impetus for the Puerto Rican community to found independent political activist organizations such as the Spanish Action Committee and the Latin American Defense Organization, and influenced the development of Young Lords Organization.

Before 1966, most Puerto Ricans participated in social clubs where people from the same towns met, celebrated family activities and holidays, listened to music, danced and played dominoes. There was a failed attempt to organize a structure to bring these groups together under El Congress Puertorriqueno. The Caballeros de San Juan, a Catholic organization led by priests and nuns, involved community members in civic affairs and its members helped to form a credit union that continues to serve the community as a subsidiary of Credit Union 1. Politically, the Democratic Party mobilized the community to come out and vote for party candidates.

The Young Lords organized and mobilized around issues that affected them immediately: police harassment; substandard housing and government urban renewal projects that moved their families from their neighborhoods to other slum and blighted areas; lack of childcare, health services, employment and educational opportunities. The Young Lords challenged the domestic policy and the political and social structures that generated such conditions. The challenge put them face to face against city government, its departments and agencies and brought the ire of Daley.

The Young Lords confronted racism, a force that demeans an individual and community through negative stereotyping. It's a force that can destroy people as well. In this case Puerto Ricans were stereotyped as being lazy, stupid and dumb, as in the phrase commonly used in the 1960s "dumb Puerto Ricans."

But the Young Lords researched and discovered Puerto Rican and Latin American heritage, culture and history. The symbols, struggles and heroes of Puerto Rican and Latin American heritage became interwoven into their call for justice, not only in their communities but also in Puerto Rico and the rest of Latin America.

They also challenged U.S. imperialism in the world, especially aggression toward Cuba and Chile. Independence for Puerto Rico became an important call for mobilizing the community tying political power and self determination in urban communities with the island's independence and the struggles for social justice.

Many members of the Puerto Rican community and the Young Lords charge that J. Edgar Hoover's COINTELPRO, an acronym for a series of covert, and often illegal projects conducted by the FBI, placed spies in the YLO to destroy it.

The legacy of the Young Lords continues to inspire youth of the need to organize at the grassroots, independently of the two major political parties. The legacy inspires many to contribute to the ongoing struggle for better social services, universal health care, workers rights, independence of Puerto Rico and an end to U.S. military aggression and corporate domination in Latin America and the world.

Photo of Jose "Cha Cha" Jimenez is used through Creative Commons,

Book Review: American Communism at its grassroots, 1928-1935

From the Platypus Affiliated Society Website:

by Ashley Weger

“It was not the economics of Communism, nor the great power of trade unions, nor the excitement of underground politics that claimed me; my attention was caught by the similarity of workers in other lands, by the possibility of uniting scattered but kindred peoples into a whole.”
— Richard Wright, Black Boy

Red Chicago: American Communism at Its Grassroots, 1928-35.

RANDI STORCH’S RED CHICAGO takes to task prevailing caricatures of American Communism during the so-called “Third Period” of the late twenties and early thirties, a period in the history of American Communism frequently criticized for its growing ideological rigidity, its organizational Stalinization, and its ultimate failure to revitalize the flagging world revolution and to check the threat of fascism. Against such views, Storch argues historians have been unfair to the early Chicago Communists, falsely constructing them either as mannequins manipulated by Soviet puppeteers, or else as heroic defenders of the city’s working class, a collection of hyper-romantic organic radicals whose every breath stood in defiance of both employers and the party itself. Storch, whose political imagination is less that of a historian than an anthropologist, attempts to resist these tendencies by uncovering the stories, personalities, and politics of Chicago’s Communists with more nuances in mind than the usual Stalinist, anti-communist, or anti-Stalinist histories. In place of the old preoccupations, Storch proposes parallel analyses of Soviet policy during the Third Period and local stories and practices of party organizers, members, and affiliates. In so doing, Storch postulates that party leaders, youth organizers, workers, and intellectuals each wished to paint the town red, albeit with different hues. Posing an inquiry as to how and why Chicago Communists’ crimsons, corals, roses, and maroons maintained their distinct character as part of a red Chicago offers an opportunity to interact with the fractures and complexities Communist politics assumed in its turn towards Stalinism.

In one sense, the combination offers insight into “the period’s broader social and political context and calls attention to the social, political, economic, and cultural forces that shaped American working-class life from the 1920s through the mid-1930s… [and explains] why and how ordinary people became radicalized” (5). Some were born into socialism, others gravitated to it from other radical traditions, and still others shared Richard Wright’s perhaps simplistic aim of joining together “the poor, the downtrodden and oppressed people all over the world” (54). The manner in which Storch’s work illuminates the variety of inspirations Chicagoans found in Communism during these years is effective in her conception of her work as a community study, but misses the mark in evaluating the political underpinning of such a Communist culture. It asks rather than assumes, “who were Chicago’s Communists? How, when, and why did they implement Third Period policy? What did they actually do in the city’s neighborhoods and industries? How did they understand the party line? When and why did they reinterpret it?” (4) However, Red Chicago cannot resist understanding Stalinism as a force somehow alien to party membership, rather than as a nuanced ideological reality that they actively participated in constructing. Perhaps, then, the use of Storch’s text lies in its psychological analysis of party members, but it does not operate as a political history.

The volume of information Storch compiles in Red Chicago is considerable. The book usefully highlights key tendencies within the Communist Party during the Third Period, and delves into considerable detail regarding recruitment, party culture, relief initiatives, radical trade unionism (and its demise), youth organizing, women’s rights, and anti-racism. In some ways, Third Period organizing appeared to take a dramatic turn to the Left, adopting a quixotic rhetoric of revolution. A microcosm of such Stalinist ultra-Left tactics is found in the dual-unionism strategy epitomized by the Trade Union Unity League (TUUL), which vilified the “moral capitalism” of organized labor under the AFL-CIO as a hazard and hindrance to working-class organizing. Under the Popular Front, the hyperbolically sectarian TUUL became passé, quickly forgotten in a rhetorical and political shift away from revolution towards unapologetic reformism, as groups previously described as “fascist” became close allies in the power shift inaugurated by the unfolding of the Second World War.

Storch claims these contradictions and paradoxes are partially products of the intense politicization of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Chicago was no exception, as its radical past acted as a peculiar foundation for its vein of Communism. The site of the Haymarket Riots and of the struggle against the resulting bogus prosecutions, not to mention the home of a massive eight-hour movement, Chicago was also the backdrop to the Pullman Strike, and a major center in the founding, first, of the Industrial Workers of the World and, later, of the American Communist Party. The rich history of struggle amongst anarchists, socialists, and communists for leadership of Chicago’s labor movement was clearly evident in the earliest days of the American Communist Party, when party leaders maintained contacts and friendships with “an array of activists struggling to find their own answers to the problems they saw inherent in the capitalist system” (9). Leftists of all varieties were in frequent dialogue and dispute with one another, polemicizing in parks to crowds of thousands: a political landscape almost unimaginable to modern readers, and antithetical to policies of zero collaboration.

Chicago epitomized a particular imagination of the proletariat. Brawny and bustling, built by 19th century industrial manufacturing and mass transportation, it was home to many militant workers, including thousands of highly politicized immigrants and black migrants, each of whom came to the party “with their own newspapers, cultural groups, institutions, and willingness to quarrel” (19). Of Chicago’s Communists, nearly half spoke foreign languages, and a quarter were African American; the party also included an abundant unemployed population, though this often conflicted with its organizing strategies, which were based in the labor union. It is too easy, however, to distill the Chicago party culture to a fundamental essence, a tendency Storch does not entirely escape. It was cosmopolitan and traditional; it had communities propelled towards preserving ethnic identity, and those promoting Americanization; it grappled with issues of sexism and racism in the State and within the party, with limited degrees of success. Perhaps Chicago was the muscle of the Communist Party, but it hardly resigned itself to that alone: it was home to such radical spaces as the Dill Pickle Club, Bughouse Square, and the John Reed Club, where famous intellectuals, writers, and artists such as Richard Wright and Nelson Algren debated and created works of artistic and political significance. And yet, Storch’s portrait of the city supposes that intellectuals were (and, frighteningly, perhaps forever are) outside, looking in on the proletariat, rather than existing as an integral part of working-class politics. Striving to dismantle preconceptions of the early Communist Party, Storch falls short on recognizing her own problematic reproductions of certain historical fictions.

Storch’s fascination with cultural contexts, then, sometimes comes at the expense of fully characterizing a sober evaluation of the pervasiveness of Stalinist politics, which is frequently positioned as some sort of Soviet boogeyman rather than the worldwide reality of Communist politics that it actually was. This is exemplified by her treatment of the problem Trotskyism posed within the Third Period. From Storch’s claim that Chicago’s Trotskyist sympathizers and non-conformists were “infrequently expelled, not forever severed and, sometimes, even readmitted,” one might suppose that political intolerance was only a Soviet phenomenon (95). Storch produces an unfortunate historical imagination here: While Trotskyists in the Soviet Union are condemned to exile, work camps, and extermination, their American counterparts are assumed to be benignly tolerated by party members. It is a dangerous assumption, one that proposes that American Communists were not conscious agents in the repression of political dissidence. Albeit generally more amiable than the USSR, the Chicago Communist circles were hardly a space for internal polemicizing.

There were real political commitments and allegiances based on cues taken from Moscow, so that plenty of American Communists quickly came to assume the role of Stalinist counterparts in the Soviet Union. Chicago Communists tirelessly organized, recruited, and routinely burned themselves out for the party. Take, for instance, the 2,088 demonstrations that the Chicago Communists organized or participated in during the first five years of the Depression. Beyond protesting, organizing labor, and working on reform initiatives, the Communists formed party schools, hosted community functions, and created relief networks. The repression and economic depression of the time produced a steadfast, even uncritical belief in capitalism’s imminent demise—a belief guided in equal parts by eagerness, theoretical immaturity, and a collective memory of the October Revolution. So while retention was a serious problem for recruiters, membership increased four hundred percent nationwide and five hundred percent within Chicago during the Third Period. This is expressive of a central contradiction of the Third Period: revolutionary fervor, on the one hand, and on the other a dilution of strength, with size taking precedence over sustained, ideological commitment (36). While the Popular Front attracted even greater numbers, including formerly unresponsive white-collar workers and Marxist intellectuals, its emphasis on collaborative efforts surrounding anti-fascism emerged only after fascism had already gained momentum in Europe and, even then, occurred at the expense of clear ideological stances. The embodiment of such a betrayal exists in the apology made by Communists internationally for the Hitler-Stalin Pact. As international relations became confused by the rise of the right, along with the Second World War and its aftermath, the aims and ambitions behind ultra-Left tactics appeared as a misguided dream.

If the history of the Left is one ultimately of failure, the Communists of Red Chicago prove to be no exception. And yet, we must not be disillusioned or delusional in our disappointment, but instead admit that it is only in their confusions and missteps that we can find potential. Storch’s text is a microcosmic example of why we must re-evaluate our relationship with the past. While, practically, it teaches both of methods and mechanisms successful in engaging interest about communism and of the systems, structures, and spaces that can be used as support for inquiry, it also represents a certain intellectual and political poverty, one that Storch seeks to overcome, but cannot entirely escape. Red Chicago poses a challenge that it does not fully deliver upon: to seriously consider how a Marxist understanding has (d)evolved since the Third Period through a reconfiguration of imaginations regarding the Left’s past and its participants. In the scores of narratives found in Red Chicago, no one is totally exempt from or irredeemably victim to the particularities of Stalinism and the Soviet Union; by projecting fictions of helplessness and radical subjectivity onto the past, we negate the potentiality history has to offer our present. At the same time, optimism for our political future exists only in accurately pronouncing the failings of the historic Left in terms of a regression of the possibility in actualizing Marxist intents. |P

Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2009.
From Mannuscript blog:

Dupage vigil urges end to war in Afghanistan

From Dupage Peace Through Justice Coalition:

About 75 attended a rally and vigil Sunday, October 11th in Bloomingdale to urge an end to the war in Afghanistan.

Speakers at the event included Kathy Kelly, a three-time nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in opposing the Iraq war. ( Her bio is below) The rally was followed by a march and "Honk for Peace " event in front of to Congressman Peter Roskam's office on nearby Bloomingdale Rd.. The purpose of this visit was to deliver a memorial for the soldiers with a written request to Roskam to join other Congressional leaders in calling for a national dialogue on on the strategy in Afghanistan leading to our withdrawal.

Peace events took place all over the nation to recognize the 8th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan.

The DuPage County event marked the sober anniversary of the start of the war.

During the rally, a collection was held of items to be donated to Hines VA Hospital in Maywood. Three baskets of personal items were collected to be hand- delivered to the VA Hospital and donated to needy veterans who reside there.
Organizers of the event hoped to send a message with this rally to local lawmakers that the public's sentiment with the war in Afghanistan is diminishing, and it is time to Bring the Troops Home.

Kathy Kelly co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence, ( a campaign to end U.S. military and economic warfare. As a co-founder of Voices in the Wilderness, she helped form 70 delegations, from 1996 - 2003, that openly defied economic sanctions by bringing medicines to children and families in Iraq. Kathy and her companions lived in Baghdad throughout the 2003 "Shock and Awe" bombing.
More recently, she has visited Gaza and Pakistan, writing eyewitness accounts of war's impact on civilians.

Kathy was sentenced to one year in federal prison for planting corn on nuclear missile silo sites (1988-89) and served three months, in 2004, for crossing the line at Fort Benning's military training school.

She and her companions at the Voices home/office in Chicago believe that non-violence necessarily involves simplicity, service, sharing of resources and non-violent direct action in resistance to war and oppression.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Cook County health board to close inpatient services at 2 hospitals, slash other services

From Health and Medicine Policy Research Group:

For the past 1 1/2 years, the Interim Board of the CCHHS has been putting in place top leadership and beginning budget and personnel reforms of the system. Now, the CCHHS, under new CEO William Foley, is undergoing strategic planning that will have a significant impact on all systems of care in the County.

On October 7, 2009, a day long strategic planning retreat was held, facilitated by Integrated Clinical Solutions, Inc.

The preliminary recommendations of CEO Foley, his team, and the consultants - which the public has an opportunity to comment on - are as follows:







CCHHS is about to hold a second round of Community Town Hall Meetings:
The Cook County Health and Hospitals System is about to hold a second round of Community Town Hall Meetings to present the System's plan for the future of healthcare in the County. This series of meetings will focus on sharing information gathered during the first series of community meetings, and will give the public another opportunity to comment on the strategic direction of the Health System. The meetings will be held at sites throughout the County in order to get the largest participation possible. A draft of the strategic plan will be available on 10-14-09 at

All meetings begin at 6:00 p.m.
Please attend the meeting in your area.

October 19, 2009
South Suburban College
15800 South State Street
South Holland, Illinois

October 20, 2009
Truman College
1145 West Wilson Avenue
Chicago, Illinois

October 21, 2009
Niles Senior Center
999 Civic Center Drive
Niles, Illinois

October 22, 2009
Math and Science Academy
8601 West Roosevelt Road
Forest Park, Illinois

October 27, 2009
Austin Town Hall Park
5610 West Lake Street
Chicago, Illinois

October 28, 2009
Chicago Urban League
4510 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois

October 29, 2009
Cicero Town Hall Community Center (in Spanish)
2250 South 49th Avenue
Cicero, Illinois

Download, share and post the flyer with meeting dates and times
This may be your last your chance to voice your opinions to these dramatic recommendations which will result in significant changes to the System! Health & Medicine strongly urges everyone to attend their local Town Hall Meeting to ensure that they are heard!

Cook County health board to close inpatient services at 2 hospitals, slash other services

From Health and Medicine Policy Research Group

> For the past 1 1/2 years, the Interim Board of the CCHHS has been putting in place top leadership and beginning budget and personnel reforms of the system. Now, the CCHHS, under new CEO William Foley, is undergoing strategic planning that will have a significant impact on all systems of care in the County.
> On October 7, 2009, a day long strategic planning retreat was held, facilitated by Integrated Clinical Solutions, Inc.
> The preliminary recommendations of CEO Foley, his team, and the consultants - which the public has an opportunity to comment on - are as follows:
> CCHHS is about to hold a second round of Community Town Hall Meetings:
> The Cook County Health and Hospitals System is about to hold a second round of Community Town Hall Meetings to present the System's plan for the future of healthcare in the County. This series of meetings will focus on sharing information gathered during the first series of community meetings, and will give the public another opportunity to comment on the strategic direction of the Health System. The meetings will be held at sites throughout the County in order to get the largest participation possible. A draft of the strategic plan will be available on 10-14-09 at
> All meetings begin at 6:00 p.m.
> Please attend the meeting in your area.
> October 19, 2009
> South Suburban College
> 15800 South State Street
> South Holland, Illinois
> October 20, 2009
> Truman College
> 1145 West Wilson Avenue
> Chicago, Illinois
> October 21, 2009
> Niles Senior Center
> 999 Civic Center Drive
> Niles, Illinois
> October 22, 2009
> Math and Science Academy
> 8601 West Roosevelt Road
> Forest Park, Illinois
> October 27, 2009
> Austin Town Hall Park
> 5610 West Lake Street
> Chicago, Illinois
> October 28, 2009
> Chicago Urban League
> 4510 South Michigan Avenue
> Chicago, Illinois
> October 29, 2009
> Cicero Town Hall Community Center (in Spanish)
> 2250 South 49th Avenue
> Cicero, Illinois
> Download, share and post the flyer with meeting dates and times
> This may be your last your chance to voice your opinions to these dramatic recommendations which will result in significant changes to the System! Health & Medicine strongly urges everyone to attend their local Town Hall Meeting to ensure that they are heard!

Cook County health board to close inpatient services at 2 hospitals, slash other services

From Health and Medicine Policy Research Group

> For the past 1 1/2 years, the Interim Board of the CCHHS has been putting in place top leadership and beginning budget and personnel reforms of the system. Now, the CCHHS, under new CEO William Foley, is undergoing strategic planning that will have a significant impact on all systems of care in the County.
> On October 7, 2009, a day long strategic planning retreat was held, facilitated by Integrated Clinical Solutions, Inc.
> The preliminary recommendations of CEO Foley, his team, and the consultants - which the public has an opportunity to comment on - are as follows:
> CCHHS is about to hold a second round of Community Town Hall Meetings:
> The Cook County Health and Hospitals System is about to hold a second round of Community Town Hall Meetings to present the System's plan for the future of healthcare in the County. This series of meetings will focus on sharing information gathered during the first series of community meetings, and will give the public another opportunity to comment on the strategic direction of the Health System. The meetings will be held at sites throughout the County in order to get the largest participation possible. A draft of the strategic plan will be available on 10-14-09 at
> All meetings begin at 6:00 p.m.
> Please attend the meeting in your area.
> October 19, 2009
> South Suburban College
> 15800 South State Street
> South Holland, Illinois
> October 20, 2009
> Truman College
> 1145 West Wilson Avenue
> Chicago, Illinois
> October 21, 2009
> Niles Senior Center
> 999 Civic Center Drive
> Niles, Illinois
> October 22, 2009
> Math and Science Academy
> 8601 West Roosevelt Road
> Forest Park, Illinois
> October 27, 2009
> Austin Town Hall Park
> 5610 West Lake Street
> Chicago, Illinois
> October 28, 2009
> Chicago Urban League
> 4510 South Michigan Avenue
> Chicago, Illinois
> October 29, 2009
> Cicero Town Hall Community Center (in Spanish)
> 2250 South 49th Avenue
> Cicero, Illinois
> Download, share and post the flyer with meeting dates and times
> This may be your last your chance to voice your opinions to these dramatic recommendations which will result in significant changes to the System! Health & Medicine strongly urges everyone to attend their local Town Hall Meeting to ensure that they are heard!

Friday, October 9, 2009

GAO Report Provides Roadmap for Ending U.S. Embargo of Cuba

Congressman Rangel, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and Congressman Jeff Flake released the following joint press release on Oct. 2:

Chairman Charles B. Rangel (D-NY), Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D – CA), and Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ) today released a GAO report (GAO-09-951R) that outlines the steps President Obama and Congress can take to bring an end to the failed U.S. embargo of Cuba.

“It is our hope that this GAO report will serve as a roadmap to finally reject a failed and outdated policy that has not resulted in any advances for the Cuban or American people," Rangel said. "A thorough rethinking of our policy regarding our nearest Caribbean neighbor is long overdue, and we believe that the time to act is now."

In its analysis, the GAO outlines the extent of the President’s authority to further ease regulatory restrictions, such as those on travel, remittances, gift parcels, and trade with Cuba. The President can ease travel to Cuba for certain purposes such as journalism and scholarship, increase the amount of cash remittances travelers may carry to Cuba, and expand the list of items eligible for gifts. The President can also ease restrictions currently placed on vessels that have entered a Cuban port. However, the President cannot suspend or terminate the embargo without the cooperation and support of the Congress.

“After nearly 50 years, the embargo has failed to defund, destabilize, or weaken the Cuban government. There has been a smooth transition of power to the new Cuban President, Raúl Castro, and with a new Administration here at home, it is time to use this nonpartisan report as a blueprint to bring the Cold War rivalries of the past to a final and long overdue close,” Congresswoman Lee said.

Congress recently eased the strict limits on family travel to Cuba and lowered some of the barriers on trade. In April, President Obama announced a number of changes designed to further ease embargo restrictions on family travel, cash remittances, and gift parcels to Cuba and to facilitate expanded telecommunications between the two countries.

“One would expect the Cuban government to restrict the travel and commerce of its citizens, but for our government to impose similar restrictions on Americans has never made sense,” Congressman Flake said. “After nearly 50 years, it’s time to concede that our current policy toward Cuba has failed. If we’re serious about hastening democratic reforms in Cuba, we need to try a new approach.”

“The unilateral embargo on Cuba is the most draconian set of U.S. economic sanctions against any country on earth – far exceeding sanctions against nations Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria,” Rangel said.

"The continued enforcement of the embargo hurts Cuban American families, the Cuban people and closes markets for American products. We look forward to working with the Administration to implement the roadmap outlined in this report,” Lee said.

During the past Administration, President George Bush clamped down on travelers and shipments to and from Cuba. In 2007, in a report (GAO-08-80) requested by Chairman Rangel and Congresswoman Lee, the GAO found that the increased intensive inspections of travelers returning from Cuba with personal items such as rum and cigars came at the expense of border security focused on terrorists. Bush also tightened restrictions on family travel and reduced the ability of family members to send cash and gifts to relatives in Cuba.

The new report can be accessed here:

White House tackles teen violence

By John Wojcik

CHICAGO - Attorney General Eric Holder declared Oct. 7 that the beating death of a 16-year-old high school student was a "stark wake-up call" to the nation to deal with youth violence.

President Barack Obama sent Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan to this city to meet with school officials, parents and students after the killing of Derrion Albert on Sept. 24. The fatal beating was captured on a cell phone video, and viewed by millions across the country.

"The scenes in the video left an indelible mark on the mind of every American who has seen them," Holder said. He said the video underlined "a reality that can be too easy for too many to ignore as they go about their daily lives."

Holder urged a "comprehensive, coordinated approach" to teen violence involving police, religious organizations, businesses and social service groups.

School closures, many say, are one of a number of factors that contributed to the violence and killing.

Since 2005, dozens of Chicago's public schools have been closed and thousands of students reassigned outside their neighborhoods, often across entrenched gang lines, as part of Renaissance 2010.

The plan involves replacing supposedly "failing" public schools with charter schools, something teachers' unions and many community groups oppose. Many parents, students and neighborhood activists say the plan has led to a spike in violence that often turns deadly.

At the press conference Duncan said it was "ridiculous" to suggest that a plan to improve education in Chicago contributed to a surge in violence among students.

"Chicago won't be defined by this incident but rather our response to it," Duncan said. "I am committed to this fight. I am committed to this cause."

Duncan, who as the former head of Chicago Public Schools, helped implement the district's "improvement" plan, told the press that "it is easy to point fingers, but the country needs to focus it's attention instead on the root of the problem."

Angela Robinson, 42, has a two-family home on S. Coles Av., about two miles northeast of where the killing occurred. Her nephew, a student at the high school attended by Albert, is living with her now. "My sister put him here because it's safer," she told the World. "The real root of this is that there is nothing in these neighborhoods for anyone, no way to live like a human being. I don't excuse violence but young people and a lot of other people here are left with nothing except to prey off of each other."

Pro-labor economists say the problem goes far deeper than just a lack of jobs, programs and services for youth and that the result of more than 30 years of "trickle down" economics and a widening of the income gap have left neighborhoods, if not entire cities, without an economic base that can sustain productive livelihoods for people.

Before the 2006 school year in Chicago, an average of 10-15 public school students were fatally shot each year. That soared to 24 deadly shootings in the 2006-07 school year, 23 deaths and 211 shootings in the 2007-08 school year and 34 deaths and 290 shootings in the last school year.

Albert, an honor student at Christian Fenger Academy High School, was attacked by a group of youth about six blocks from school on the city's South Side.

The video shows him curled up on the sidewalk, as other youth kick him and hit him with splintered railroad ties. So far, four have been charged in his death.

Duncan announced that Fenger High would receive $500,000 in federal emergency grant money to help it stabilize after the killing. The school says it will use the money for counselors and other programs.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Family files civil lawsuit in Barmore case

Official Press Release (Courtesy of Mannuscript blog)

A lawsuit was filed against the City Rockford and Rockford police officers ODA POOLE and STAN NORTH relating to the August 24, 2009 shooting death of Mark A. Barmore at a Rockford Day Care Center and Pre-school connected to a church.

The Complaint alleges that Officers Poole and/or Stan North presented themselves at the door of the day care center with guns drawn from the outset, looking for Mark A. Barmore who had gone inside after casually speaking with several people outside, including pastors and counselors.

In the middle of the afternoon, while children were present, the officers proceeded through the day care center, guns drawn, into “Toddler Rooms” and other rooms of children looking for Mark Barmore. They determined that he was in a windowed storage room behind a closed door. They kicked the door open and ordered him out of the storage room and into a play area outside the storage. Children were in the outer playroom at the time.

According to witnesses, including the pastor’s wife and 17 year old daughter, Mark Barmore exited with his hands raised and without a weapon. As he exited he was fired upon and struck once in the neck, in what was determined by independent autopsy to be a superficial wound. After he fell to the ground, and lay face down, he was shot 3 times in the back at point blank range. According to witnesses, and as can be clearly seen by photos attached to the complaint, Mark Barmore had no where to run based upon the configuration of the room and was unarmed. Photos attached to the complaint clearly show 3 bullet entrance wounds to Mark Barmore’s back which witnesses say were delivered as he lay defenseless on the ground. There were no exit wounds on the front of his torso.

Attorney Larry R. Rogers, Jr., of Power Rogers & Smith, P.C. in Chicago and one of the attorneys for the Barmore family stated, “The physical evidence doesn’t lie. Mark Barmore had no weapon, no where to run, and he was in a church day care center, yet he has 3 large caliber, police issued bullet wounds in his back which, according to a pastor’s wife were fired by an officer as Mr. Barmore lay on the ground. If this isn’t an unjustified use of excessive force by an officer, then what is?”

Attorney John F. Lyke, a former Cook County prosecutor who prosecuted several murders in Chicago and who also represents the family stated, “If we all had blindfolds on and were given these facts, it could be described as an execution style murder and we would want the murderers arrested, jailed and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Yet here we are, 6 weeks later and no findings have been reported and no arrests have been made and the investigation is ‘ongoing.’ Why? Solely because it involved police officers. While all policemen are not bad policemen, some are. These police officers killed this young man and must be held.”

Officer Poole, the officer believed to be the one who fired the fatal shots into Mark Barmore’s back has had several shooting incidents in the past 5 years that he has been on the force, one of which also involved the death of another black citizen.

Seven arrested at CIGNA demanding ‘profits out of health care’

By John Bachtell
Chicago – Seven health care activists were arrested when the refused to leave the lobby of CIGNA insurance company after they were denied a meeting with corporate executives. The activists were demanding immediate approval of all doctor recommended treatments by CIGNA.

The arrests were part of a national action and aimed at highlighting how the insurance industry drive for profits is resulting in thousands of unnecessary deaths.

“Forty-five thousand people die each year because they are denied care by insurance corporations,” said Edward Crouse, 34 of the Chicago Single Payer Action Network (CSPAN). This is more than die each year in car accidents. It’s criminal but it’s what happens when we have a health care system based on corporate profit making.”

Crouse said all the insurance giants were equally guilty, but they targeted CIGNA because of a notorious case in which the company denied Nataline Sarkisyan treatment for a liver transplant. Her family fought the decision and forced CIGNA to finally grant the treatment, but it came 2 hours before she died. The delay in approval became a denial of care.

Well-known whistle blower Wendell Potter was also the former head of corporate communications for CIGNA. He has said the insurance industry is forced to cut back on paying claims because of unceasing pressure from investors on Wall Street.

Potter recently told TV journalist Bill Moyers, “Back in the early nineties, 95 cents out of every dollar was used by the insurance companies to pay claims. Last year, it was down to just slightly above 80 percent.

”So, investors want that to keep shrinking. And if they see that an insurance company has not done what they think meets their expectations with the medical loss ratio, they'll punish them. Investors will start leaving in droves.

Potter said he had seen a company stock price fall 20 percent in a single day, when it did not meet Wall Street's expectations.

Potter also said the insurance industry is deathly afraid of any public competition in the health care field. In fact, the number of competitors has been shrinking due to buyouts and mergers.

“They don't want any more competition period. They certainly don't want it from a government plan that might be operating more efficiently than they operate. The Medicare program is a government-run program that has administrative expenses that are three percent," compared to the health insurance industry's 20%, he said

Back at the CIGNA protest, Crouse said while a single payer health care system wasn’t going to pass in this session of Congress the current reforms being considered won’t be enough to solve the health care crisis.

“Single payer may not pass, but it won’t be abandoned. We believe a single payer system is the only viable solution to the health care crisis,” said Crouse.

As he watched his friends being carried to the police wagon, Bill Bianchi of Progressive Democrats of America said “the biggest crime is the denial of insurance and the removal of insurance of those who have it. This greed is something you would expect from the Mafia, but instead we get it from large American corporations on a scale the Mafia never dreamed of.”

“Single payer is alive and well and we’ll continue to demand our legislators pass it. Everybody in and nobody out,” he said.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Unpaid Latino workers: hunger strike in Aurora, IL

Press Contacts: Jose Cipriano (331) 262-3331,Cristobal Cavazos (630)260-0142, Manuel Sanchez (630) 270-8750

Immigrant Day Laborers Jose Cipriano Nevarez and Manuel Sanchez Vega worked for over 7 weeks in late 2008 (Aug. 25- Oct. 10) having been contracted to dismantle an industrial air conditional system at the Apostolic Assembly of the Faith in Christ Jesus Church complex and flea market at 175 N. State Street (corner of State and Claim Street) in Aurora. Performing the work without proper safety equipment, they would later find out that the HVAC system in the aged structure was ridden with asbestos and other contaminants. The pair would go on to paint murals of religious imagery and other artwork around the complex in addition to maintenance and creation of signage around the complex at the request of the property management.

Apostolic Assembly of the Faith in Christ Jesus Church property owner and minister Rev. Rodolfo Hernandez refused to pay Cipriano Nevarez and Sanchez Vega when the job was complete alleging the two did the work “of their own volition.“ The workers, owed tens of thousand of dollars, have gone on to battle poor health and joblessness since they finished work on the property on October 10, 2008.

On Friday morning at 9 a.m. the workers will set up outside in front of the Aurora complex at 175 N. State Street with tent and signs and commence a hunger strike demanding their pay and denouncing the routine labor injustices suffered by immigrant workers across Chicagoland.

What? Latino Workers Hunger Strike
When? Friday, October 9, 9am
Where? 175 N. State Street, Aurora (corner of State & Claim)
Info:(331) 262-3331, (630)260-0142

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mercedes Sosa, Argentinian singer for Justice Dies

By Sijisfredo Aviles

Mercedes Sosa is dead, Long live Mercedes. And she will live in the hearts of many music lovers of the Nueva Cancion, the new form of music that combined modern popular music with folk music with a message of support of the exploited and a call for social justice for the indigenous people, Afro Latinos and the poor of Latin America. She will also live in other singers to whom she passed the torch of commitment to social justice and struggle.

As a singer, interpreter of the Nueva Cancion and a member of the Communist Party, she was considered an arch enemy of the military dictatorship that controlled Argentina from 1976 to 1983 after a coup. The regime either killed or disappeared perhaps 30,000 people, including their children who were kidnapped and given for adoption and whose family do not know their fortune. She and her audience were arrested during a concert and she was freed after an international campaign in favor of her freedom. Threats from right wing death squads forced her to flee, seek exile in France and live in Spain. She returned in 1982 just before the military dictatorship crumbled.

Born in Tecuman, one of the poorest northern province of Argentina, she died at age 72 this past Sunday, October 4 in Buenos Aires, peacefully according to her son, Fabian Matus, although she suffered from hepatitis and other complications. Her fans called her fondly "La Negra" in reference to the shining black hair that she inherited from her Quechuan Indian roots. Her death ended a sixth decade career that began at age 15. Her remains lay in state at the National Congress and a funeral procession accompanied her to the Chacarita Cemetery where she was cremated.

Thousands of people paid their respects with tears, flowers, dance and song. They remembered her as a person who loved humanity and justice and not only just a singer. After all there have been many singers but few as committed as Mercedes Sosa.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Rockford rallies for justice in police killing

By John Bachtell
Rockford, IL – Rainy cool weather couldn’t dampen the outrage of hundreds of people demanding justice in the murder by two white police officers of unarmed 23 year-old African American Mark Anthony Barmore in a church day care center here August 24.

Barmore had run into the church in fear of the police who approached him about a domestic complaint. He was gunned down in full view of horrified witnesses and small children. An autopsy revealed he had been shot several times in the back.

The killing has sparked a series of rallies in Rockford, an old industrial city 75 miles from Chicago that has been devastated by plant closings. Several weeks ago, Rev. Jesse Jackson met with the city’s labor movement and led a multi-racial march calling for justice and jobs to rebuild the community.

Rockford currently has the highest unemployment rate in the state and has experienced a history of racial segregation and tension. The police killing is the most recent in a long list of grievances by this city’s African American community. A rally in support of the police a couple of weeks ago only heightened bitterness.

Speakers called for unity against the police violence and appealed to the youth to get involved. Protesters are demanding the establishment of the civilian complaint review board with subpoena power, a federal government investigation of the killing and national standards for the use of force by police.

The NAACP mobilized its chapters across the Midwest to participate. “No distance is long enough to fight for the cause of justice, said Pastor Steven Bland of Detroit. “As Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ‘An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ Even a worm will wiggle if you step on it. I came to Rockford to wiggle.”

Also attending were NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous and actor Nate Parker, star in the movie “The Great Debaters.” Both had come directly from the funeral of Darrien Albert, the 16 year-old honor student who was beaten to death in Chicago by fellow students.

Because of the rain, a planned march was cancelled and protesters packed the Kingdom Authorities International Ministries church, whose adjacent day care center was the site of the murder. The church is situated on the city’s west side, where most of the African American community lives.

The throng was welcomed by Pastor Melvin Brown, who said had Barmore run into a church on the city’s largely white East Side officers would have stopped and asked questions and not come in with guns drawn.

A city newspaper had condemned the rally as the instigation of “outsiders.” To many, this smacked of similar charges leveled by the racist power establishment in the Deep South during the Civil Rights movement when protests erupted against Jim Crow segregation.

It was repeatedly noted the NAACP is celebrating its 100 anniversary. As Theresa Dear, President of the DuPage County NAACP branch put it, “The NAACP didn’t just show up. We’ve been in Rockford for 75 years and we’re not going anywhere!”

Another speaker said the only thing different about Rockford and Milwaukee or Gary is the name of the city. The problems are the same.

Caprica Cooper of the National Council of Negro Women said the killing reminded her of the barbaric church bombing that killed four little girls in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. “The Black church and NAACP is all we have. No one should take this from us,” she said.

The crowd was peppered with signs saying, “I am human.” In his remarks Jealous said, “Everybody is made in God’s image. We are all human, and police officers need to treat us as human “

Jealous placed the issue of police violence in the larger context of severely under funded public education, growing mass joblessness without any prospects for employment and 46 million people without health care. He said a huge challenge in the 21st century is the mass incarceration in the US and today’s young generation is the most murdered and incarcerated ever.

“The incarceration has a disproportionate effect on the Black community but not only,” he said. “This is a national problem. The US has five percent of the world’s people and twenty-five percent of the world’s prison population. Without all Black and Latino inmates, we would still lead the world in incarceration,” he said

“We come today and commit to a better day for our children,” said Jealous.

There were many other calls to continue to build the movement for justice. State Representative Charles Jefferson said people were joining together because they were sick and tired of the status quo. A spider may be small, but together they can tie up a lion, he said.

“It’s time for a change, Joyce Higgins of Chromelight II told the Peoples World. “This is just the beginning. People can accomplish a great deal if they come together.”

Friday, October 2, 2009

More radical steps needed to counter massive joblessness

The release of the latest "official" unemployment report - a rise to 9.8% and the loss of another 263,000 jobs in September - makes one thing crystal clear: corporate America will never get us out of this deep economic crisis. Government action is urgently needed.

To date there are 15 million unemployed Americans and millions more who are underemployed. According to new studies the high rates of unemployment will persist for years and its impact on working class communities will be profound.

With continuing job loss, the US can't wait for corporate America and the "market forces" to get us out of this crisis. Many economists, including those in the CPUSA, believe we are looking at a "jobless recovery."

Only some far reaching government intervention in the economy and radical reforms will alleviate the misery.

A massive 2nd stimulus package is needed that will create millions of new "green jobs" building affordable housing, mass transit, new schools and day care centers for a start. Millions could be put to work in environmental clean up, rebuilding our parks and recreation areas, cleaning up "brownfields" and planting trees and native plants.

But even that may not be enough.

Some radical economic reforms that need to be considered are:

First, conversion from a militarized economy to a peace economy. More jobs are created with the same expenditure of money in education, health care, and other fields.

Second, a shorter work week with no cut in pay or benefits. The 35 hour work week is standard in some countries. A shorter work week will create more jobs.

Third, expanding unemployment compensation for the duration of unemployment. The right wing says this will encourage people to be lazy. But they have no humanity - there are at least six people looking for each job. Most people want desperately to work and would rather work than be idle. Our society can't let people starve, lose their homes and families and ruin their lives.

Fourth, unemployment compensation for first time job seekers. Unemployment among young people is astronomical, especially in African American, Latino and neighborhoods of people of color. This young generation can see little future for itself. Unemployment compensation should be provided until young people attain jobs.

Corporations be damned! Unless radical measures are taken, we will not emerge from this crisis.