February 29, 2012

Seattle buses: Palestine equal rights information

Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign (SeaMAC) launches new ad campaign on King County Metro buses

Check out the latest bus ad by US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation member group SeaMAC.

SeaMAC has launched new ads on King County Metro buses as part of a continuing effort to expose the misuse of U.S. taxpayer money to support Israel’s ongoing discrimination against the Palestinian people.

Contact: press@SeaMAC.org

Peter Lippman (206) 432 1669
Edward Mast   (206) 633-1086
Carla Curio (206) 450-0706

With the slogan “I’M A PALESTINIAN – EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ALL”, the ads will run on twelve buses for the next four weeks.  Photo available on request.

SeaMAC’s new ad campaign is also part of Israeli Apartheid Week, February 27-March 2.   Local Israeli Apartheid Week events are being held at the University of Washington, Antioch University and Seattle University. Visit http://seattle.apartheidweek.org/ for information.

“Palestinians want equal rights,” says Carla Curio, volunteer with SeaMAC.  “Israel’s discrimination and apartheid are basic causes of the ongoing conflict.  Equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis will be the foundation of a just peace.”

Israel controls the lives of over five million Palestinians, most of whom have neither voting rights, political rights nor civil rights.  Israel has separate sets of laws, rights and opportunities for Israeli Jews and non-Jews.  Palestinians in the Occupied Territories are denied basic civil rights.  Palestinians citizens of Israel are subject to segregation and discrimination, with central provisions of Israel’s Basic Law explicitly denying equal status to non-Jews.

The US gives several billion dollars of military aid to Israel each year, plus political, diplomatic and military support, in spite of US laws forbidding such aid to any country that has a consistent record of gross violations of human rights.

SeaMAC designed the new ads to fit King County Metro’s revised and restricted advertising policy.  SeaMAC continues to pursue a lawsuit against King County for censoring SeaMAC’s Metro bus ad campaign launched last December, “ISRAELI WAR CRIMES: YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK,” which was approved, accepted, printed, then cancelled by King County.  With legal representation by the ACLU, SeaMAC has filed an appeal to overturn a recent dismissal of the lawsuit.

SeaMAC has also been running a series of print ads exposing Israel’s ongoing discrimination and war crimes against Palestinians.  The complete series of SeaMAC ads is available at www.SeaMAC.org.

Press packet available on request.

The Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign is incorporated as a non-profit corporation in Washington State and as a 501 (c)(3) organization under Federal tax code.

Oregon: A call for an end to unjust deportations in Multnomah County

(Note:  Scroll down for English.)
Grupos de la comunidad aplauden la resolución del condado de Multnomah;
Hacen llamado a su aprobación y tomar acciones futuras

Resolución muestra preocupación por los efectos de la aplicación de las prácticas de inmigración federales en materia de seguridad pública y la confianza pública en el Condado de Multnomah

Portland, OR— Acción por Justicia y Dignidad (ACT), es  Una red de comunidades de fe, grupos de derechos laborales, inmigrantes y organizaciones de libertades civiles, insta a la aprobación de la resolución del Condado de Multnomah, que aboga por el uso discrecional de agentes o cortes de migracion en proceso de deportación de inmigración y piden que se ponga fin a las deportaciones injustas.

“Este es un primer paso importante para no someterse a la voluntad forzosa en los pedidos de detención migratoria de ICE  en el condado de Multnomah ", dijo Eliana Machuca, una portavoz de la red. "Instamos a los miembros de la comunidad para hacer oír su voz y asistir a esta audiencia."

La audiencia abordara temas críticos sobre la seguridad pública y derechos de los inmigrantes en el Condado de Multnomah. Al pedir a nuestras agencias locales del orden público a detener y mantener a los inmigrantes indocumentados en las cárceles del condado, los agentes de migración han obligado a los gastos de la ejecución federal de inmigración en los gobiernos locales y sus residentes, disminuye nuestra seguridad pública, y sin necesidad de separar a miles de familias de Oregon.

ACT aplaude a los Comisionados para llamar la atención sobre las importantes cuestiones de influencia de ICE (Migracion) en materia de seguridad pública y la confianza pública en el Condado. Su preocupación es expresar un primer paso fundamental para comenzar a abordar los efectos de las políticas de Migración aquí en el Condado de Multnomah.  ACT espera medidas concretas y cambios después de esta resolución.

"El Condado de Multnomah debe ser un lugar donde la gente, sin importar su estado migratorio, se sientan seguros a presentarse y denunciar el delito, ya sea una víctima, un testigo o tener conocimiento de actividades criminales", dijo Becky Straus, Directora Legislativa de la ACLU de Oregon.

"Con esta Resolución, el Condado está haciendo un compromiso de trabajar con miembros de la comunidad, incluyendo a los miembros de nuestra red, para reconstruir la confianza de la comunidad en nuestro sistema de seguridad pública.", Dijo Straus. "Estamos agradecidos por este compromiso y esperamos poder abordar estas asuntos en los próximos meses."

Community Groups Applaud Multnomah County Resolution;
Call for Passage and Further Action

Resolution raises concern over the effects of federal immigration enforcement practices on public safety and public trust in Multnomah County.

Portland, OR— Act for Justice and Dignity (ACT), a network of faith, labor, immigrant, and civil liberties organizations, urges passage of the Multnomah County resolution, which calls for use of prosecutorial discretion by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in immigration deportation proceedings and calls for an end to unjust deportations. 
“This is an important first step in breaking ICE’s hold on Multnomah County,” said Eliana Machuca, a network spokesperson. “We urge community members to make their voices heard and attend this hearing.”

The hearing will address issues critical to public safety and immigrant rights in Multnomah County. By asking our local law enforcement agencies to detain and hold undocumented immigrants in county jails, ICE has forced the costs of federal immigration enforcement onto our local governments and their residents, diminished our public safety, and needlessly torn apart thousands of Oregon families. 

ACT applauds the Commissioners for bringing attention to the important issues of ICE’s influence on public safety and public trust in the County.  Their voicing concern is a critical first step in beginning to address the effects of ICE’s policies here in Multnomah County.  ACT is looking forward to concrete steps and changes that follow this resolution.

“Multnomah County ought to be a place where people, regardless of their immigration status, feel safe to come forward and report crime, whether they are a victim, a witness or have knowledge of on-going criminal activity,” said Becky Straus, the Legislative Director of the ACLU of Oregon.

"Con esta Resolución, el Condado está haciendo un compromiso de trabajar con miembros de la comunidad, incluyendo a los miembros de nuestra red, para reconstruir la confianza de la comunidad en nuestro sistema de seguridad pública.", Dijo Straus. "Estamos agradecidos por este compromiso y esperamos poder abordar estas asuntos en los próximos meses."
“With this Resolution, the County is making a commitment to work with members of the community, including advocates in our network, to rebuild community trust in our public safety system.” Straus said.  “We are appreciative of this commitment and look forward to addressing these issues in the coming months.”

Victory! Colombian Political Prisoner Liliany Obando to Be Freed

Colombian Political Prisoner Liliany Obando to Be Freed on Thursday, March 1st, after 3 1/2 Years of Incarceration on False Evidence

by James Jordan,

Alliance for Global Justice National Co-Coordinator

The International Network in Solidarity with the Political Prisoners (of which The Alliance for Global Justice is a co-founder) has just received the wonderful news that labor activist, human rights defender and Colombian Political Prisoner Liliany Obando will be released on bond tomorrow from the prison where she has been held for three years and seven months on charges of "Rebellion".

Liliany Obando was arrested August 8, 2008 while serving as the Human Rights Coordinator for FENSUAGRO, Colombia's largest organization of peasant farmers and farm workers unions and associations. She was apprehended while finishing a report about the more than 1,500 Fensuagro members who had been killed by Colombian military and paramilitary troops over its first 30 years of existence. She was detained on the basis of evidence allegedly obtained from computers that "miraculously" survived an attack against a FARC encampment across the border from the Colombian Department of Putumayo, in Ecuador. That camp was not a camp carrying out aggressions, but was involved in negotiations toward the release of FARC captives Ingrid Betancourt and three US citizens. The Uribe administration had learned that the camp had had back-channel talks with members of the US State Department. The attack, ordered by then-Defense Minister and current Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, was widely considered to be an attack on hopes for a peace process itself.

Evidence said to be contained in the computers was not credible. The international police agency INTERPOL said that the sources of files the computer contained could not be authenticated. The chain of custody of the evidence was broken and unaccounted for several times during the first days it was seized and at least two Colombian law enforcement personnel testified that the files had been manipulated. Charges against Obando were made on the basis of copies of emails said to have been found on the computer. However, Police Captain Ronald Hayden Coy Ortiz, who oversaw the initial investigation testified in court that the computers contained no email records.

Nevertheless, Obando's case was stretched out over more than three years without resolution. Even when the Colombian Supreme Court ruled that the evidence against her was inadmissible, she continued to be jailed

But even if the Supreme Court, Interpol and the government's own witnesses could be ignored, an international campaign for her freedom could not. After years of friend of the court statements signed by such notable supporters as Prof. Noam Chomsky, Sanctuary Movement founder and former President of the Presbyterian Church Rev. John Fife, Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin and others, petitions, letters, emails, demonstrations, phone calls and delegations on her behalf, Liliany Obando is finally looking forward to being united with her two children and other friends and family--and to her freedom. It is no mistake that her release was announced concurrent with a major conference in support of the more than 8,000 Colombian political prisoners: the Colombia Behind Bars Forum, with guests from around the world, including representatives of the INSPP and AFGJ. This is yet another example of the power and influence of international pressure!

Nevertheless, all is not settled regarding Liliany's case. The court process has not been suspended and she still could be sent back to jail. Further, political prisoners released into the general public are often at risk of violence in the first days, weeks and months following their liberty.

I spoke today to Liliany at the Buen Pastor (Good Shepherd) Women's Penitentiary just moments after receiving the news. I was so happy, overjoyed I could barely contain myself. Lily greeted me, "You heard the good news?" Yes, of course, I'd heard it. I asked her how she was feeling, and she said, "I have mixed emotions. I want to leave, but I don't want to leave the other political prisoners behind. We have to keep working until all the political prisoners are free."

Yes, that is the Liliany Obando that so many of us have come to know, love and look up to. Never tiring of the struggle for peace, justice and human and labor rights, the day she entered the prison she started collecting the testimonies of other political prisoners and organizing on their behalf. From within the jail cells, Liliany proposed the establishment of the International Network for the Political Prisoners and always insisted that we not only advocate for her freedom, but for the freedom of all her comrades deprived of liberty. And she insisted that we not just advocate for the freedom of the political prisoners, but for peace in Colombia.

From the beginning, the INSPP has insisted that a first step toward a real and just peace in Colombia will begin with a humanitarian exchange of Prisoners of War, and with the immediate freedom of all of Colombia's Prisoners of Conscience and Prisoners Due to Judicial Set-ups.

Today there are many indications that a legitimate peace process could be ready to begin in Colombia. The recent announcements that the FARC would release all their current military prisoners met with the release of Liliany are significant. But international pressure must not let up! Now is the time to demand the freedom of all Colombia's 8,000 political prisoners and, more, for an inclusive peace process based on dialogue and negotiations, and without unrealistic pre-conditions. And for us in the US, we must demand an end to our country's sponsorship of war and repression in Colombia, including our funding and restructuring of Colombian prisons where political prisoners are concentrated under harsh conditions.

But as we vow to continue this struggle...let us also take a moment to celebrate this great victory. As Liliany once told me, "By day we struggle, by night we dance!

As a high profile political prisoner, Liliany Obando is under the threat and risk of violence and there has been a request for international accompaniment for her during her first days of freedom. AFGJ and the INSPP are preparing for the possibility of traveling to Colombia to help provide protection. There is also a need to raise more than $3,000 to cover her bond payment. AFGJ is starting a fund to cover travel costs and, if needed, contribute to her bond. Checks and Money Orders can be made out to the Alliance for Global Justice--and be sure and put "Lily Obando Fund" in the memo line. Send them to:

1247 E Street SE
Washington, DC 20003

To make an online contribution, go to this link: http://afgj.org/afgj-donations . Then, BE SURE AND SEND AN EMAIL TO james@afgj.org telling the amount you contributed and that it was for the "Lily Obando Fund". If you don't do this, the contribution will go into AFGJ's general fund.

Traspasa los Muros (Beyond the Walls), Lazos de Dignidad (Links of Dignity), The International Forum of Denmark, the International Network in Solidarity with the Political Prisoners (of which the Alliance for Global Justice is a founding member), the National Lawyers Guild announce:

We received news this afternoon a phone call from the Political Prisoner of Conscience LILIANY PATRICIA OBANDO VILLOTA, informing us that the Superior Court of the Judicial District of Bogotá--Criminal Chamber, resolved to REVOKE the order of first instance by which the 9th Circuit Specialized Judge of Bogotá had denied her liberty.

As a consequence, the court ordered the immediate liberty of LILIANY PATRICIA OBANDO VILLOTA in consideration that her case had exceeded the limits of the criminal case.

We emphasize that LILIANY PATRICIA OBANDO VILLOTA is a defender of human rights in Colombia and that she has been in custody since August 8, 2008, held in limbo in a trial process with no seeming end that by virtue of this fact became itself a sentence, with her endruing three hard years and seven months detained in an arbitrary manner.

We solicit that the Colombian state guarantee her personal integrity and safety as well as that of her family now that she has been set at liberty.

We thank the international community for their accompaniment and we ask that they maintain solidarity and continue with watchful eyes concerning the case of LILIANY PATRICIA OBANDO VILLOTA, since her well-being remains at risk. We receive the news of her freedom with much happiness and we ask that it be shared widely.

We will continue struggling for the freedom of all the political prisoners of Colombia.

Greetings and solidarity.

February 29, 2012


It doesn't really surprise me, but there are certainly a lot of members of the Democratic Party base who have fallen for Elizabeth's populism. As progressives fill her coffers because they hear her actually say corporate crooks should go to jail and says she believes there needs to be some regulation of Wall Street..and then the progressive pundits fall all over her and promote her candidacy. I realize her kind of talk from a Democrat is strange to hear. But I have asked what her position is on other important topics. But as she has decried the lobbyists for the financial industry it looks like the lobbyists from AIPAC have had a willing ear.

She has now put an "issues" section up on her official web site. "Israel" and "Iran" predominate. The line that caught my eye was "Iran must not have an escape hatch". This is in relation to the important role the U.S. has in getting other nations to to impose strict sanctions. It sounds like war to me. But decide for yourself.

Since its founding more than 60 years ago, Israel and the United States have been steadfast, trusted, and reliable allies. I unequivocally support the right of a Jewish, democratic state of Israel to exist, safe and secure. I believe that it is a moral imperative to support and defend its existence.

For generations, the United States and Israel have shared a commitment to a stable, secure, and peaceful Middle East. But our alliance runs far deeper: it is a natural partnership resting on our mutual commitment to democracy and freedom and on our shared values. Both our countries have been sustained by our commitment to liberty, pluralism, and the rule of law. These values transcend time, and they are the basis of our unbreakable bond.

As a United States Senator, I will work to ensure Israel’s security and success. I believe Israel must maintain a qualitative military edge and defensible borders. The United States must continue to ensure that Israel can defend itself from terrorist organizations and hostile states, including Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, and others. I also believe firmly that a two-state solution is in the interest of Israel and the United States. Lasting peace, however, requires negotiations between the parties themselves, and although the United States can and should aid in this process, we cannot dictate the terms. Unilateral actions, such as the Palestinians’ membership efforts before the United Nations, are unhelpful, and I would support vetoing a membership application.

Iran is a significant threat to the United States and our allies. Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, it is an active state sponsor of terrorism, and its leaders have consistently challenged Israel’s right to exist. Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is unacceptable because a nuclear Iran would be a threat to the United States, our allies, the region, and the world. The United States must take the necessary steps to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. I support strong sanctions against Iran and believe that the United States must also continue to take a leadership role in pushing other countries to implement strong sanctions as well. Iran must not have an escape hatch.

February 28, 2012

Shut Down Corporations: February 29, 2012 action in PDX

Join us in the Streets! 

WHEN: Wednesday, Feb 29th at 12:30pm

WHERE: SW Ankeny & Naito Parkway on the waterfront side of the street. You'll see PCASC's (Portland Central America Solidarity Committee) banners and props!

What: Tomorrow is #F29 - a national day of action called to Shut Down the Corporations & PCASC will be there, demanding Wells Fargo divest their prison stock!

March with us & help spread the word about the dark side of Wells Fargo's investments!
We will not allow the detention of immigrants to be a profit source for Wells Fargo!

This is the first public action since PCASC decided to take on the Wells Fargo Prison Divestment campaign and we're really excited that it's a part of #F29!

Rally begins at 11:30am, we march at 1pm.

See you there!

Say NO to ICE’s unjust deportations; March 1, 2012 action in Portland, OR

Help End Unjust ICE Deportations in Multnomah County

Join immigrant, faith, labor, and civil liberties advocates to stand up for our communities and say NO to ICE’s unjust deportations in Multnomah County!

Thursday, March 1st, 10am-12pm
Commissioners Board Room, Multnomah Building
501 SE Hawthorne St, Portland, Oregon

Hearing before Multnomah County Commission to pass a resolution supporting our communities’ and ICE Director John Morton’s demand for prosecutorial discretion on all deportation cases in our region.

Supported by the ACT for Justice and Dignity Network

The hearing will address issues critical to public safety and immigrant rights in Multnomah County. By making it mandatory for our local law enforcement agencies to do their dirty work, ICE has forced the costs of federal immigration enforcement onto our local governments and their residents, diminished our public safety, and needlessly torn apart thousands of Oregon families. Help us make our voices heard as we support Chair Cogen and the County Board of Commissioners in protecting our communities and seeking accountability from ICE.

Can you show your support by attending the hearing?

For more information, please visit www.actforjusticeanddignity.org or contact Aeryca Steinbauer at aeryca@causaoregon.org.

Encourage your faith leader to sign on to our ONSM Faith Leader Letter of Support.  Read the letter. 

It is important for us to show strong support for this resolution, which paves the way for continued work to support immigrants in our community.

February 27, 2012

Stern Advice to the Left from the House of Lords

From Zoltan Zidegy:

A sense of humor is essential to balance the humbuggery of much of the political commentary that surfaces today. “Astonishment” is the best word for a recent “provocative discussion” (Say No to Protectionism) posted on the Political Affairs website and authored by Peter Mandelson--“Lord Mandelson” to his UK peers. In the past, Political Affairs was the source of timely, informative articles that expressed the views of advocates of the Marxist-Leninist perspective, authors like Jacques Duclos, Palmiro Togliatti, William Z. Foster, Henry Winston, Herbert Aptheker, Paul Robeson, and many other committed Communists.

But today Political Affairs embraces a far wider spectrum of opinion including now, for undoubtedly the first time, a “lord” from the prestigious UK House of Lords, Lord Peter Mandelson. Unlike Foster, Winston, and Robeson, Mandelson has established his credentials by championing the “third way”, a position to the right of traditional social democratic doctrine.

Mandelson, a pal of George Bush’s subservient buddy, Tony Blair, argued that the UK Labour Party should transform into a market-friendly, classless party located somewhere in the narrow political space occupied by the US two-party farce.

Go here for the rest of the article.

February 25, 2012

Wolves and Oregon tax credits???

A wolf pack now inhabits Oregon, and in coming years there will likely be more. Oregon already has a strong wolf management plan.It supports programs designed to help livestock producers take proactive, non-lethal activities to reduce the risk of livestock loss from wolves.
Actually, in states that have wolves, only 1/10th of 1% of all cattle losses were due to wolves; for sheep, it’s an average of less than 2.5%. 

 The expenses of breeding and raising livestock are already deductible from Oregon taxes. Yet in 2011, the legislature added a renewable $100,000 wolf kill compensation fund. (See ORS 610.150). Clearly the needs of these ranchers have now been met.

Yet HB 4005B, a new tax credit for livestock killed by wolves, has just been passed by the House Revenue Committee. If this unneeded bill becomes law, ranchers will be faced with a choice between the tax credit and the wolf kill compensation fund. Why would a majority of the committee pass this wasteful bill? We thought our lawmakers were supposed to be cutting government waste.

Some members of the House Revenue Committee actually called the cost of the tax credit “miniscule,” and we agree, since it is estimated that wolves will kill only 5 sheep and 5 cattle in Oregon next year. But Rep. Jules Bailey said it best when he described the credit as “bad policy.”

Bravo for his lone vote against the bill in committee. 

In the past 12 years, bill by bill, vote by vote, such tax giveaways, officially known as tax expenditures,” have grown from 36% to a staggering 46% of the General Fund, diminishing the revenue urgently needed for our public services such as schools and state police.

HB 4005B is bad public policy. Please click here to call or email your Senator and your Representative right away and ask them to kill this unneeded, wasteful tax break.


There will be a free screening of the award-winning documentary, "Ballot Measure 9" on Wednesday March 28th at Louck Auditorium (Salem Library).

If you were in Oregon in 1992 you will remember this campaign. It was the Oregon Citizen's Alliance initiative that was a vicious attack on the LGBT community. Our response galvanized our community and its allies. It also was the beginning of union involvement in fighting these types of initiatives. Particularly SEIU503 which took on this fight as its own.

This presentation is sponsored by the Salem Human Rights And Relations Advisory Commission. Following the film there will be a panel discussion.

February 24, 2012

Diversity on college campuses under attack

The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that could mean the death knell for racial and ethnic diversity on college campuses. It could threaten gender based affirmative action as well.
But, despite the notion that the High Court is "protected" from public opinion and politics, the American people do have the ability to influence the case's outcome.

Ever since the modern-day civil rights movement and its victories, the extreme right wing in the United States has been gunning for any and all democratic gains from those struggles. This includes remedies for past and present discrimination, such as affirmative action.

Affirmative action has already been hobbled by the Bakke decision, and state laws driven by Ward Connerly and crew. This is the logical outcome of a campaign to  destroy government mediation in cases of past and present discrimination.
Today the US Supreme Court is packed with legal representatives of this extreme right-wing worldview.

In 2003, the US Supreme Court ruled that universities could take into account racial and ethnic diversity in their admissions process, although they could not use "quotas." Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was the author of the majority opinion in that 5-4 ruling.

Public universities could use race in their complex admission point system, as they use children of alumni as a factor, because the goal of racially diverse campuses was good for the country, democratic, and constitutional, the court said.

And indeed studies show that while class-based considerations can increase the numbers of black and Latino college students, race-based considerations result in slightly higher percentages, more reflective of the population at large.

In 2004, one study of 146 selective colleges and universities found that Blacks and Latinos would account for 4 percent of the student body without any affirmative action considerations. Affirmative action based on race/ethnicity increased that number to 12 percent, the study found. With socio-economic affirmative action the number of black and Latino students would have been 10 percent. In the U.S. population as a whole, African Americans and Latinos make up 13 and 16 percent, respectively.

O'Connor retired in 2005 and in her stead President George W. Bush appointed Samuel Alito, who vehemently opposes any attempts to remedy racial, gender or other types of discrimination.

The four dissenting justices in 2003 were Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and William Rehnquist. Chief Justice John Roberts, who has written opinions hostile to remedies for racist discrimination, replaced Rehnquist. In short, the court is even further to the right and hostile to civil rights than it was in 2003.

To make matters worse, on the more liberal side of the court, Justice Elena Kagan is recusing herself from the case. She was the Obama administration's solicitor general and worked on the case before being appointed to the Supreme Court.

It looks grim indeed. The court will hear arguments this fall on the case, which is based on a white student's suit against the University of Texas claiming she was denied admission because of her race. It is sure to be an issue in the 2012 elections.

The far right will try to throw sand in the electorate's eyes with claims of "reverse discrimination," that men and whites will have rights taken away.
These are divide-and-conquer tactics. Affirmative action is a remedy for past and present discrimination. Equal protection under the Constitution is there exactly for that reason - to remedy the ongoing damage from the racist institution of slavery. Racism and other forms of discrimination still exist. Therefore remedies need to exist. These remedies have benefited all Americans, including women, people with disabilities and others.

That's where the American people come in. Electing a president and Congress that will stand squarely with civil rights and diversity sends a message to the court, a message they will hear loud and clear. Just think of how much more further right the court could go with a President Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul.

Defeating the enemies of affirmative action in the elections is not the only way to fight. Students, families, unions, schools - the 99% - have to send other messages through petitions, demonstrations, letters to the editor, online campaigns, that racial diversity and affirmative action are valued and necessary for a 21st century democratic America.
Susan Webb
co-editor, PeoplesWorld.org

Serious Energy Workers Strike a Deal to Try and Save Jobs

Workers Strike a Deal to Try and Save Jobs
by United Electrical Workers (UE) on Friday, February 24, 2012 at 12:17am

After being told by local management this morning that the Serious Energy window factory would close effective immediately, workers at the former Republic Windows and Doors plant had one demand: time to save these jobs by finding a buyer for the business. Local management refused and in response, workers voted to occupy for the second time with their union the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America, UE. In 2008 UE members successfully occupied their factory and won $1.75 million in wages and benefits owed to them from Bank of America.

After the occupation began, Serious Energy's corporate leaders stepped in, declared that the local management should not have acted in this manner, and immediately began talks to resolve the situation responsibly. A deal has now been struck to try and save the jobs. Serious Energy has agreed to keep the plant operational and people on the job for another 90 days while the union workers and the company work together to find a way to keep the plant open with new ownership because the plant will no longer be part of Serious Energy's business plan. After 9 hours the occupation has ended with a hopeful workforce.

"We started the morning with the plant closing and ended the day with work and a chance to save our jobs." said Armando Robles, President of UE Local 1110, "We are committed to finding a new buyer for the plant or if we can, buy the place ourselves and run it. Either way, we are hopeful".


KBOO 90.7 FM, streaming at KBOO.fm
Monday, February 27th, 6 – 6:30pm.

Workers organized with UNITE HERE local 9 at Vancouver’s Hilton Hotel are in struggle for a fair union contract. Their wages are so low that some have to rely on food baskets to feed their families. Their medical benefits are so expensive that less than 5% of the workers are on the plan. Co-host Jamie Partridge brings us testimony from the Jobs with Justice Workers Rights Board hearing held at the Vancouver Library last Thursday.

In the second half of the show, co-host John Walsh interviews an undocumented Guatemalan worker who was picked up in an immigration raid on Fresh Del Monte Foods in June, 2007. In legal limbo some five years later, this worker is still unable to legally support her family, continues to face the threat of deportation, but remains active in a support group of Del Monte workers who are fighting for legal status.

February 23, 2012


Vincente Ranzel, Armando Robles, Leah Fried of United Electrical 1110 are just three of the 65 workers currently occupying their workplace. Calls have gone out in the Chicago area for supporters to gather and show solidarity. These workers who had occupied Republic Windows And Doors in 2008 have again locked themselves in their plant.

Oscar Abarca told the Chicago Tribune that he got a call from his Union Representative and was told not to leave the building at the end of his shift. California based Serious Energy, Inc told the workers that they were closing the plant at the end of the day. Union leaders say they want time to find a buyer for the company. Negotiations continue by phone. Serious Energy bought the former Republic Windows And Doors plant in 2009 promising to hire back the former Republic workers. Leah Fried, Union Spokeswoman said they never hired back more than 75 of the 200 workers.

February 22, 2012

Jesus Was a Commie

DETROIT - Sound provocative? According to the Rev. Tim Yeager it's not: "I've been saying that for years. If anybody wants to know what this priest's position is, the answer is 'yes.' Look it up, it's in that secret book, you know, the black one."

The book Yeager was referring to is the Bible. He added, "People who claim to follow Jesus ought to read that once in a while."

Yeager, an Episcopal priest from Chicago, was in Detroit this past Saturday to discuss Jesus Was a Commie, a 15-minute short film directed by the actor Matthew Modine. In the film Modine poses questions about the life of Christ and its meaning in the 21st century. The People'sWorld hosted the discussion, attended by an enthusiastic crowd of believers and non-believers.

The priest cited the Biblical parable of the laborers in the vineyard. In his words, the landowner (who is God) made several trips to the town square during the course of a day to pick up workers for his vineyard. While the first group worked the full day, the last worked a much shorter time. Despite some grumbling from those who had worked longer hours, all were paid a full wage - a "living wage," Yeager added.

As he put it, "In the Kingdom of God you will be expected to contribute what you can and you will get what you need ... That's also how the early church in Jerusalem operated after the crucifixion. Look at Acts 4:32." He compared this sentiment to Karl Marx's description of an advanced communist society where the motto "from each according to their ability to each according to their need" will guide society.

Matt Modine "is reclaiming the history of what the early church practiced in the first centuries after the crucifixion," said Yeager. "That's a useful thing when you hear the name of Jesus being invoked to defend all sorts of things such as denying women the right to choose, contraception, or to invade another country, not likely something Jesus would have approved of."

The priest said, "Throughout the New Testament, we find Jesus tearing up the old rules of society." Examples he cited included these: Jesus stopped the stoning of the woman accused of adultery. While men were not supposed to speak to women - they were seen as property - Jesus talked to women all the time, including women who were not Jewish. When Jesus was crucified the disciples were nowhere to be seen, but the women braved going to that dangerous spot. "Women saw in him their liberator, much more than the men," Yeager added.

The Episcopalian minister asked the audience what phrase is most often said by Jesus in the Bible. After hearing numerous wrong answers, he replied that it is, "Fear not."

"Jesus called upon his people to be bold for justice," said Yeager. "He says the same thing that Karl Marx says at the end of the Communist Manifesto: fear not, stand up, move into this new era, be free, you have nothing to lose but your chains."

The Episcopalian minister is also a United Auto Workers organizer. He told the audience, "When I talk to my union members, I say the God of your upbringing is not neutral. We should not be neutral. God is on the side of the oppressed, on the side of justice, on the side of working people."

At the same time, Yeager said, all who profess some faith or ideology should have "humility."

"The sins and the crimes committed against humanity in the name of the Prince of Peace would fill a concert hall, but don't hold that against him," he said. "I don't hold the crimes of the crusades, or of the white slaveowners, or of the Methodist pastor who led the Colorado militia to slaughter the Native Americans at Sand Creek, against Jesus.

"Just as Christ should not be responsible for all actions of his followers, we should have an understanding that neither should Marx be held responsible for the crimes of Pol Pot or Joe Stalin. There is no philosophical tradition or ideology or religious faith that is without its detractors, without its distorters, without its criminals."

Finally Yeager said, "The U.S. has a heavy interweaving of Christianity and theology throughout the fabric of our society. Whatever your philosophy or ideological orientation, if you are dealing with Americans, you have to deal at some point with this subject."

Modine's film highlights the themes of forgiveness and nonviolence, the priest noted. "As we fight the struggle to make a better world, this approach allows us to find the common humanity that unites us all," he concluded.

JOBS NOT CUTS! Town Hall For A People's Budget

Saturday, April 7
1:00 PM to 5:00 PM
First Unitarian Church of Portland
1211 SW Main St., Portland
Call 503-890-4645 for more info.

February 21, 2012

What the Communist Party accomplished in Washington State

From Michael Munk:

A major theme of the McCarthy Era was the media influenced fear that Communist party members would take over progressive or liberal organizations if they were allowed to join. The Washington Commonwealth Federation was described by a leading anti-communist historian, Harvey Klehr, as the most effective alliance between Communists and non-Communists of anywhere in the United States during the Depression era

Wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Commonwealth_Federation provides evidence that

"...by 1937, 56 of the 72 members of the WCF's governing Executive Board were members of the Communist Party. Another reliable insider indicated that 90 percent of those employed by the WCF's newspaper were CPUSA members, including both of the publication's editors.

This was a time of substantial influence, with more than a dozen "concealed communists" elected to the statehouse in Olympia between 1936 and 1939, including 11 members of the Washington House of Representatives and 3 State Senators. WCF-backed politicians constituted fully one third of the seats in the 1937 Washington House — a voting bloc which enabled the passage of a bevy of bills addressing longtime progressive concerns, including repeal of the state's criminal syndicalism law, passage of a pure food and drug act, establishment of a minimum wage for state employees, establishment of a graduated income tax, and other measures.

Given the opportunity to influence legislation, look at what Communist influence accomplished.

Foreclosure Reform Hijacked by Big Banks

This just in from our friends at Economic Fairness Oregon, who have been a leader in the fight on foreclosure reform in the state of Oregon. They need you to call your representatives at this number right now:
See below for more details on the big banks' last minute attempt to gut foreclosure reform.  Then please take a moment to call your Representatives at 1-800-332-2313 and urge them to support SB 1552 and SB 1564 – without any amendments!

Thanks for all you do,

Steve Hughes, State Director
Oregon Working Families Party


From: Economic Fairness Oregon
Date: Tue, Feb 21, 2012 at 12:16 PM
Subject: Foreclosure Reform Hijacked by Big Banks

Two bills to curb Oregon's foreclosure crisis were passed last week by the Oregon Senate with strong bi-partisan support. SB 1552 and SB 1564 were both voted out of the chamber. The story is quite different in the House, where Republican leaders have decided to take the bills in a much different direction. Yesterday, House Republicans shared their proposed amendment to SB 1552 that contains a veritable “wish list” of big bank items. The Oregonian had an overview of the gut and stuff today, but we’d like to take a moment to highlight just a few of the outrageous proposals:

- Retroactively legalizing the highly controversial and cloudy chain of title issues surrounding the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, or MERS. MERS was developed as a way for banks to avoid paying county recording fees every time a mortgage was sold to a new investor. The problem is that without public recording, it’s unclear to the homeowner who owns the loan, and therefore who has the right to foreclose.

- Eliminating the implementation of a mandatory pre-foreclosure mediation program as outlined in SB 1552.

- Repealing the Attorney General’s authority to go after banks that engage in abusive mortgage servicing practices.

Not only would the proposed amendment not provide any protections against foreclosure for Oregonians, it would actually leave them more vulnerable by rolling back the AG’s enforcement authority. Don’t let a few legislators who are more in step with banks than their constituents block real progress on solving Oregon’s foreclosure crisis! Please take a moment to call your Representatives at 1-800-332-2313 and urge them to support SB 1552 and SB 1564 – without any amendments!

From: Economic Fairness Oregon

MALCOLM X - May 19, 1925 – February 21, 1965

“I'm not a Democrat, I’m not a Republican, and I don’t even consider myself an American...I’m speaking as a victim of this American system. I see America through the eyes of the victim. I don’t see an American dream, I see an American nightmare...They have got a con game going on, a political con game and you and I are in the middle. It’s time for you and me to wake up and start looking at it like it is, and then we can deal with it like it is...”

Malcolm X

Shut Down the Corporations rally on Wednesday, February 29 in Portland

Common Cause Oregon is helping spread the word about a Shut Down the Corporations rally on Wednesday, February 29. One focus of this event is exposing the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council (or ALEC.)

Twenty-two firms on the "private enterprise board" of ALEC have given $370 million to state campaigns since 2001, including $16 million to Oregon candidates and measures according to analysis by Common Cause Oregon.

ALEC opposes federal and state environmental regulations, trade and public employee unions, state minimum wage laws, and federal health care reform.

Please come out to Waterfront Park (SW Naito and Ankeny) in downtown Portland on Wednesday, February 29 at 11:30am for a rally!

Help End Unjust ICE Deportations in Multnomah County

Join immigrant, faith, labor, and civil liberties advocates to stand up for our communities and say NO to ICE’s unjust deportations in Multnomah County!

Thursday, March 1st, 10am-12pm
Commissioners Board Room, Multnomah Building
501 SE Hawthorne St, Portland, Oregon

Hearing before Multnomah County Commission to pass a resolution supporting our communities’ and ICE Director John Morton’s demand for prosecutorial discretion on all deportation cases in our region.

Supported by the ACT for Justice and Dignity Network

The hearing will address issues critical to public safety and immigrant rights in Multnomah County. By making it mandatory for our local law enforcement agencies to do their dirty work, ICE has forced the costs of federal immigration enforcement onto our local governments and their residents, diminished our public safety, and needlessly torn apart thousands of Oregon families. Help us make our voices heard as we support Chair Cogen and the County Board of Commissioners in protecting our communities and seeking accountability from ICE.

Can you show your support by attending the hearing?

For more information, please visit www.actforjusticeanddignity.org or contact Aeryca Steinbauer at aeryca@causaoregon.org.

Encourage your faith leader to sign on to our ONSM Faith Leader Letter of Support.  Read the letter. 

It is important for us to show strong support for this resolution, which paves the way for continued work to support immigrants in our community.

Oregon’s Union Pacific Gravy Train

House Bill 4028A: Oregon’s Union Pacific Gravy Train
 “If their tracks need repairs, it’s their job as a business, not ours as taxpayers, to fix them.” Jody Wiser, Tax Fairness Oregon, Willamette Week, Feb. 8, 2012.
 “Gravy Train,” the recent Willamette Week story by Kara Wilbeck, notes that last year, Union Pacific Railroad had profits of $3.3 billion. Yet since 2006, under a law stating that Oregon should subsidize transportation businesses that “lack capital,” the state has already handed out $24.7 million tax dollars to this corporate giant. 

The current legislative session in Salem is slashing school budgets and senior services, potentially closing a jail and counting every penny. But HB 4028A is trying to add another $10 million to the $40 million already in the fund called “ConnectOregon,” for gifts to businesses and to public entities for multi-model (non-highway) transportation projects. 

Of the 69 grant applications – most ask the public to do most of the spending
  • 48 are for grants where the project owner will pay 25% or less of the project cost.  Thus the public through Connect Oregon will be covering 75% or more of the cost. 
  • 11 applicants will cover 25% to 50% of cost.
  • 10 applicants will cover 51% to 75% of the cost.
Of course there may be other grants or loans coming to the project owners from other sources, which would further reduce their own contributions.  
Of that additional $10 million for Connect Oregon, $8.2 million could go to UP. The gravy train just keeps rolling along. 

Why is UP once again seeking Oregon subsidies? The corporate giant’s mouthpiece Aaron Hunt answers in discredited terms that should make taxpayers grab for their wallets: the corporation just “wanted to partner with the public” and create “trickle down throughout the economy.” 

This is the type of taxpayer rip-off that giant corporations like to arrange behind the scenes, even as their mouthpieces are complaining about “big government.” 

In this short session, the next decision point in the state legislature is coming right away in the Capital Construction Sub-Committee of the Ways and Means Committee. Legislators there could add the extra $10 million--but passing out more cash to corporations is not acceptable. 

Please phone or email one (or more) of the committee members now and say “NO” to the $10 million ConnectOregon allotment in HB 4028A. Tell them to use our tax dollars to pay teachers to teach, not to pay for corporate-owned railroad tracks. Thank you.

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February 20, 2012

Today's Rally At The State Capitol

A number of unions an some union allies, including a spirited group of Occupy activists, rallied at the State Capitol with a "No More Cuts!" message today. Several thousand people attended, marched and briefly occupied the rotunda. The main message of the rally speakers dealt with no further cuts to education and the education budget, but rank-and-filers in attendance held signs with the unifying messages such as "People Before Profits!" and "No Cuts To Social Services!" and broader social messages.

People in the crowd demanded jobs, but this was not the jobs-at-any-price crowd. It helped that student bands played and that so many young people were present.

On the downside, the rally moderator from KPOJ claimed to be the furthest left person present and then struck a centrist-populist line. SEIU and OEA leaders and Occupy folks corrected the error in practice by holding key positions in the rotunda and leading chants promising that we will be back and giving the popular chant "Tell me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!".

The crowd came from all parts of Oregon and was definitely militant and progressive. It was an energizing event.

1912 San Diego Free Speech Fight Has Lesson for Today

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the fight for free speech in San Diego after the city—in response to an organizing drive by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)—banned public speaking in a popular downtown area. In this cross-post from the California Labor Federation’s Labor’s Edge blog, Lorena Gonzalez, secretary-treasurer and CEO for the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, looks at the 100-year-old fight for workers’ rights and today’s struggle for worker justice.

It started as an organizing drive for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). But 100 years ago in San Diego, when the Wobblies took to their soapboxes, it turned into a battle to defend free speech that mobilized thousands across the country.

For more go here.

John Bellamy Foster & Robert W. McChesney: Global stagnation and China

February 2012 -- Monthly Review -- Five years after the Great Financial Crisis of 2007–09 began there is still no sign of a full recovery of the world economy. Consequently, concern has increasingly shifted from financial crisis and recession to slow growth or stagnation, causing some to dub the current era the Great Stagnation.1 Stagnation and financial crisis are now seen as feeding into one another. Thus IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde declared in a speech in China on November 9, 2011, in which she called for the rebalancing of the Chinese economy:

The global economy has entered a dangerous and uncertain phase. Adverse feedback loops between the real economy and the financial sector have become prominent. And unemployment in the advanced economies remains unacceptably high. If we do not act, and act together, we could enter a downward spiral of uncertainty, financial instability, and a collapse in global demand. Ultimately, we could face a lost decade of low growth and high unemployment.2

To be sure, a few emerging economies have seemingly bucked the general trend, continuing to grow rapidly—most notably China, now the world’s second largest economy after the United States. Yet, as Lagarde warned her Chinese listeners, “Asia is not immune” to the general economic slowdown, “emerging Asia is also vulnerable to developments in the financial sector.” So sharp were the IMF’s warnings, dovetailing with widespread fears of a sharp Chinese economic slowdown, that Lagarde in late November was forced to reassure world business, declaring that stagnation was probably not imminent in China (the Bloomberg.com headline ran: “IMF Sees Chinese Economy Avoiding Stagnation.”)3

Nevertheless, concerns regarding the future of the Chinese economy are now widespread. Few informed economic observers believe that the current Chinese growth trend is sustainable; indeed, many believe that if China does not sharply alter course, it is headed toward a severe crisis. Stephen Roach, non-executive chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, argues that China’s export-led economy has recently experienced two warning shots: first the decline beginning in the United States following the Great Financial Crisis, and now the continuing problems in Europe. “China’s two largest export markets are in serious trouble and can no longer be counted on as reliable, sustainable sources of external demand.”4

In order to avoid looming disaster, the current economic consensus suggests that the Chinese economy needs to rebalance its shares of net exports, investment, and consumption in GDP—moving away from an economy that is dangerously over-reliant on investment and exports, characterized by an extreme deficiency in consumer demand, and increasingly showing signs of a real estate/financial bubble. But the very idea of such a fundamental rebalancing—on the gigantic scale required—raises the question of contradictions that lie at the center of the whole low-wage accumulation model that has come to characterize contemporary Chinese capitalism, along with its roots in the current urban-rural divide.

For the rest of the article go here.

Granito: The Power of a tiny grain of sand

Granito: The Power of a tiny grain of sand

Date: 2012-02-28

Event Time: 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Location: St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
410 SW 9TH ST
NEWPORT, OR, 97365-4725

Organization: Coastal Progressives of Lincoln and South Tillamook Counties

More Info: http://www.coastalprogressives.org

Description: The Immigration Information Response Team of Lincoln County brings to Newport another socially relevant documentary meant to increase our understanding of human rights and contribute to informed decisions on issues of social change and the public good. Granito: How to Nail a Dictator tells a story that captures a historical moment, the violence that enveloped Guatemala 25 years ago, as a lens through which the filmmaker examines her values and her relationship to her art.

Like “tiny grains of sand,” the filmmaker pieces together the memories and forensic evidence that makes Granito a tipping point in the quest for justice in Guatemala, where in 1982 a genocidal “scorched earth” campaign by the military exterminated nearly 200,000 Maya people. Granito's release added its 'grain of sand' to the quest for justice reached in Guatemala this year, where more perpetrators of the genocide against the Maya people have been arrested, tried and convicted than in the previous 30 years.

Granito has been screened around the world in more than 50 film festivals, including Sundance, where it received a standing ovation. It was the Opening Night Film at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in New York. It will be screened in Newport on Tuesday, Feb. 28, at 6:30 p.m. in the upstairs meeting room of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, SW 9th and Hurbert in Newport. There is no admission charge, and light refreshments will be provided.

For more information, please call 541 265 6216.

Why No Revolution? A Short History of American Left Movements: Part 1: early 1800s to 1945

Tuesday, February 21, 6-7:30 pm
Multnomah County Central Library
U.S. Bank Room, 801 SW 10th Avenue
Lecture, Q & A discussion, Free

Since the early1800s, there have been labor struggles, struggles against slavery and struggles for a more equitable distribution of wealth in the United States. Uris will briefly examine some of that history, including the formation of labor unions, idealistic and utopian movements for social justice, peace movements and efforts to bring a better share of the resources of this continent to all its people.

Dr. Joe Uris is an associate professor (ret.) of history and sociology at Portland State University, a journalist, and KBOO (Tuesday am) talk show host. From the early 60s on, Joe organized for peace and social justice in New York and Portland.

History of Social Justice Organizing is an ongoing series of presentations by activists and scholars on a wide variety of social justice organizing both in Portland and elsewhere. A program of Occupy History and Our School

Find upcoming programs at historyofsocialjustice.wordpress.com/
info@occupyhistory.us occupyhistory.us ourschoolportland.org

Feb. 21 CPUSA teleconference: A conversation with educator/filmaker Tokumbo Bodunde

Please join us for the next national CPUSA teleconference celebrating African American History Month.

The topic is "Contemporary Black Women in Popular Culture, "Real" Culture, and Everything in Between" with teacher/film maker Tokumbo Bodunde.

Date: Tuesday, February 21,
Time: 8 pm EST, 7 pm CST, 5 pm PST

Call 605-475-4850 access code 1053538# at the prompt.

Join us for a conversation with Tokumbo Bodunde, who will talk about recent images and stories about black women in the mainstream media in relation to black women's lived realities and material conditions.

February 19, 2012


These are exciting times. For every act of repression there is fightback. Not just fightback but creative action that organizes more people and strengthens those in the midst of struggle. I have written before about the struggle to save the Mexican American Studies Program (MAS) in the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD). In addition we all know about the anti-immigrant policies in Arizona and other states.

The Librotraficante Caravan has been organized to bring the contraband books from Houston to Tucson. Of course there are those who believe the only avenue left is the slow legal strategy. But these activists, writers, educators and students have a different response to taking on Arizona's unconstitutional laws and fighting for freedom of speech. The result will be a network of underground libraries and community resources.

"Every great movement is sparked by outrage at a deep cultural offense" explained Tony Diaz of Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having their Say. "When we heard that TUSD administrators not only prohibited MAS, but then walked into classrooms, in front of Latino students, during class time, removed and boxed up books by our most beloved authors - that was too much. This offended our very soul. We had to respond..If we allowed this to happen these laws would spread. Other states will follow suit."

The Caravan will travel with stops in Texas, New Mexico and end in Tucson. They set themselves goals both general and specific:
1. Raise Awareness of the prohibition of the MAS program and removal of books from the classroom
2. Promote banned authors and their contributions to American Literature
3. Celebrate diversity. Children of the American dream must unite to preserve the civil rights of all Americans
4. Create a network of resources for art, literature and activism
5. Underground Libraries. Librotraficantes will donate copies of banned books to local non profits in Houston, San Antonio, Albuquerque, and Tucson
6. Teach-Ins. Conduct workshops that include free curriculum guides and lesson plans to be used in classes
7. Network of Librotraficantes across the country

I encourage you to check out their website and donate if you can:

February 18, 2012


Not a surprise that the U.S. government just does not comprehend the changes taking place in Central and South America. There is something about social democracy that is more difficult than the old dictatorships they used to easily control.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa was speaking for most countries in the region when he stated that there should not be a summit without Cuba's participation. He spoke during a meeting of foreign correspondents in Quito.
"We cannot allow the return of colonialism". He was referring to statements by the U.S. State Department spokesman who had asserted that Cuba did not meet the "democratic requirements" to attend the summit. Correa continued, "Who gave them (U.S.) such authority, such arrogance, such a colonial attitude, which prevents them from understanding what is happening in our Americas? We could do the same as these self proclaimed judges of right and wrong and ban participation at the summit for any country that invaded another."

The Summit Of The Americas is sponsored by the Organization Of American States (OAS), from which Cuba was expelled in 1962 following its decision to establish a socialist system.

February 17, 2012

Bill for Jobs in Oregon, Killed by OR Legislature

Steve Hughes, State Director
Oregon Working Families Party

I've received a lot of questions from many of you about what happened to HB4142, the bill that would have expanded the state's purchasing preference for recycled paper to include giving priority to recycled paper produced in Oregon's paper mills.

As you know the bill was killed. I want to review what happened here, because I think it is instructive for any of us trying to make positive change in the Oregon legislature.

First of all, to pass this legislation, here are some of the things we did:

  • Built a coalition: We assembled a coalition of labor and environmental organizations behind the bill, including the Association of Pulp and Paper Workers, the Steelworkers union, the Oregon Environmental Council, the Sierra Club and the Coalition for a Livable Future. 
  •  Worked with the legislature: We recruited sponsors for our bill. Arnie Roblan, the Democratic Co-Speaker of the House signed on as the chief sponsor, and 5 of the 8 members of the House Business and Labor Committee, the committee to which the bill was assigned, signed on to be co-sponsors, including the committee co-chairs Bill Kennemer (R - Oregon City) and Chris Garrett (D - Lake Oswego).
  • Organized public testimony: We presented testimony to the committee last Wednesday. We brought forward rank and file mill workers, union leaders, representatives from environmental organizations, and the management of one of the mills in Oregon to speak on behalf of HB4142.
  •  Applied grassroots pressure: We presented YOUR petition signatures and comments--numbering almost 1500 of you from every corner of the state--to the committee in support of this legislation.
You might say we had gotten all our ducks in a row. Which is why the legislature's inaction on this bill was as disappointing to me as I'm sure it was to you.

So, why did this happen?

I think the Oregonian's coverage of the bill's demise this week put it best:

The Oregonian, February 14, 2012:

Powerful lobbyists can also pull the trigger on a bill, even a bill that has House Co-Speaker Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay, as its chief sponsor. 
Barbara Dudley, a volunteer with the Oregon Working Families Party, accuses Salem veteran Mark Nelson of helping to kill a bill directing state agencies to give preference to Oregon paper mills when buying recycled paper. 
People testifying at the public hearing were overwhelmingly in favor of the idea because it's about jobs, Dudley says. 'But we ran up against industry interests.'

Roblan confirms that the co-chairs of the House Business and Labor Committee 'weren't able to get it out' and onto the floor. Nelson says he did speak to lawmakers about the bill.

The paper mills that Mr. Nelson is referring to are, among others, Georgia Pacific, which happens to be owned by the notorious Koch brothers. Furthermore, as a multi-national corporation, Georgia Pacific is positioned to actually benefit from the offshoring Oregon's mill jobs.

You might say this the way things always happen in Salem, and we just need to suck it up and accept it. It's true that the legislative process is unpredictable and sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. But, what I refuse to accept is a system that has become so distorted by corporate influence that common sense legislation can be killed so quickly and quietly by lobbyists who choose to operate behind the scenes.

Where to now?

I'm still hopeful that something good can come out of this disappointing incident, but I need your help. If you're upset like I am that powerful industry lobbyists with ties to the Koch brothers have the power to snuff out a good bill that successfully united organized labor and the environmentalists after years of strife, then please help keep this story from dying.

We don't have the money the Koch brother have and we never will, so we will have to use the tools we do have available. And in case you feel like the fight is just too big let's remember that the generations of justice seekers that went before us faced long odds too. They won some and they lost some, but they never gave up.

Please take a moment to see the news coverage of HB4142's demise. And then, please, take a moment to write a letter to the editor.

Thanks for all you do,

Steve Hughes, State Director
Oregon Working Families Party

PEBB adopts some HEM reforms, fails to suspend surcharges

I just finished testifying at the PEBB meeting regarding the wish of thousands of SEIU members that PEBB change the way the Health Engagement Model works. You can read my testimony here:


After hearing public testimony – which also included forceful arguments from HEM labor management committee member Keary DeBeck, an SEIU member in DOJ – our PEBB representatives made a motion to adopt the labor management committee’s principle recommendation: that PEBB suspend the HEM surcharge for 2012 to allow sufficient time to communicate about the program and make other much-needed reforms.

Unfortunately, despite a unanimous vote by the SEIU and other union delegates, the four management delegates on the Board united to defeat this proposal. It is incredibly disappointing that the management delegates would pass up an opportunity to truly reset the discussion around health engagement.

On the positive side, the PEBB delegates did vote to adopt other recommendations made by the joint labor management committee, including the following:

*Provide at least 45 days to complete the online Health Assessment and e-lessons.
*Change the surcharge for couples with one non-HEM participant to $20/month rather than the current $35 charge. Currently, the surcharge structure provides no incentive for one partner to participate in HEM if the other partner opts out.
*Pro-rate HEM surcharges for part-time workers to $10 for individual participation and $20 for participation by both members of a couple. Part-time workers currently pay a pro-rated share of their insurance costs or sign up for a plan with fewer benefits, so their surcharge should also reflect their part-time status.
*Allow PEBB members to enroll in HEM at any point during the year, so as to encourage mid-year participation.
*Provide an additional 30-day grace period in 2012 for missing deadlines for doing the Health Assessment and e-lessons. This already occurred in a previous Board vote – the new deadline is March 15.

In addition to these structural changes, PEBB also committed to provide information around the reasoning behind the questions in the health risk assessment, continue to address PEBB member concerns around privacy, and make sure they are communicating about wellness support for PEBB members on an ongoing basis. I want to thank the union members on the labor management committee for moving these and other suggestions forward: Wednesday Martin (DHS-Roseburg), Keary DeBeck (DOJ-Salem), Lois Yoshishige (UofO-Eugene), Sabrina Freewynn (OHA-Portland), Shaun Parkman (OHA-Portland), and Siobhan Martin (Staff).

Our SEIU delegates also raised the issue of Representative Richardson’s (R-District 4) recent public information request of member email addresses. Rich Peppers and Paul McKenna explained the problems this release has caused for member-confidence in PEBB’s data security protocols, and requested that PEBB staff take any steps necessary to prevent this problem from recurring, including development of a legislative bill to exempt PEBB from the provisions of public records law for the next full legislative session. Other Board members expressed support for that approach.

What’s next? The HEM Labor Management committee will continue to meet to evaluate HEM and make recommendations for the 2013 plan year. To help inform their work and that of our PEBB representatives, and discuss other changes in healthcare, we will be hosting a Healthcare Summit on Saturday March 31 in Salem. Registration info will be available at www.seiu503.org next week.

Thank you to the over 6,000 members who signed the petition to suspend the HEM surcharge. Although the outcome of the vote on that issue was not what we wanted, we did win some other important changes suggested by members. We will continue to advocate on the PEB Board and labor management committee for more reforms, and will update you on progress and ways you can help.

Heather Conroy, Executive Director
SEIU Local 503, OPEU