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Berkeley Planning Meeting Dec. 14 to Free Marissa Alexander

Marissa AlexanderFacebook photo

In yet another example of the U.S. justice system’s inability to protect African Americans and battered women, the Florida “Stand Your Ground” law that protected George Zimmerman when he murdered Trayvon Martin did not protect Marissa Alexander.

Ms. Alexander, a battered woman threatened with a 60-year sentence for defending her life, has chosen to accept a plea deal with Florida. It will keep her in jail until Jan. 27, 2015, on top of the 1,030 days she has already served. Another 2 years of probation with a surveillance monitor will follow. However, forcing her to spend even a day in prison is an egregious act on the part of our justice system. It constitutes a “profound and systemic attack on a black woman’s right to exist and all women’s right to self defense.”

We must act. Please visit http://www.freemarissanow.org/ to learn how you can play a part in finding justice for Marissa and reforming our deeply flawed justice system.

Also in Berkeley, CA

Free Marissa Teach-In & Direct Action Planning

When: Sunday, December 14

Time: 1pm-4pm

Where: Berkeley Public Library, 3rd Fl, 2090 Kittredge St.

In May 2012, Florida resident Marissa Alexander received a 20-year sentence for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon because she fired a warning shot as her abusive husband threatened to kill her. She appealed and a judge ordered a new trial. Prosecutor Angela Corey, who could not get a conviction against Zimmerman, said she would seek a 60-year sentence at a second trial. Ms. Alexander is a licensed gun owner and a mother of 3 who had never been arrested before. She fired one warning shot into a wall, was not intending to hurt her husband or anyone else, and no one was injured. Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law says any person who is “presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death of great bodily harm” has the right to use deadly force to defend him or herself. Marissa Alexander was threatened by her abusive husband, and acted to defend herself.

 

Women’s Economic Agenda Project Hosted

AUSTERITY TEACH-IN
9-21-2013, Laney College

Saying NO to austerity, NO to disaster capitalism, YES to workers’ rights, YES to Economic Democracy

What will it take to stop the current no-holds-barred economic attack on working people, beat back the calls for austerity and achieve a sustainable economic democracy that works for everyone? That was the main question tackled by nearly 100 people at the latest teach-in and dialogue hosted by the Women’s Economic Agenda Project at Laney College in Oakland, CA.

The questions discussed at the meeting cut across race and gender lines and affect everyone who isn’t rich: Why are our national and local leaders preaching austerity to the 99 percent when global corporate profits are at an all time high?

Why are they starving the public services that hold communities together? Why are public workers coming under such sharp attacks?

Isn’t privatization just a devious way to divert public funds into private profits? What are we going to do about the growing movements to deprive citizens of democracy by taking away their rights to govern themselves?

The goal was for activists in a variety of single-issue struggles to find new ways to help each other confront the concerted attacks. WEAP Executive Director Ethel Long-Scott set the tone with a passionate speech on the meaning of the austerity being preached by both major political parties.

She said the smart microchips of the electronic revolution have produced “disaster capitalism,” where “the class that owns the means of production is profiting by forcing the human workers they no longer need out of the economic system.”

“They are forcing them out by squeezing them,” she said, “cutting wages, cutting pensions, health care and other benefits, taking as much money as possible out of public services – education, health clinics, transportation, public workers, municipal services of all kinds, sequesters.”

Disaster capitalism, she said, is “…deliberately designed to make the rich richer and workers poorer . . . The global super rich, billionaires and millionaires, are working hard to convince the American people that big bad unions and workers struggling to do right by their families are to blame for the death of cities like Detroit.”

Other participants were just as graphic in attacking the direction in which global corporations and the Wall St. banks are pushing the country. “The role of Wall Street is to get rid of the public sector,” said Chris Finn, a BART negotiator and train operator.“They want us out of the way,” said Dominic Ware, a fired Walmart worker active in the “Our Walmart” protest group. There’s a big push to move municipal workers to part time, said Alysabeth Alexander with SEIU Local 1021. Asantewaa Jordan of ONYX said policing and incarceration are being used to deal with economic and social problems. “Get money out of politics,” said Richard Hobbs of Move To Amend.

After video presentations on the impact of austerity on low-wage workers and Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow,” the meeting broke into small groups to discuss solutions. There were 5 subject areas, each corresponding to one of the five Resolutions of Action that came out of the U.S. Courts of Women on Poverty: Jobs, Poverty & Immigration; Foreclosures, Homelessness and Property Rights; Health Care for the 99%; Education; and Environment and the Justice System.

The discussions produced visions of a new society based not on the competition of scarcity, but on the cooperation made possible by abundance. Recommendations from the groups included everything from repealing Prop. 13 and ending corporate personhood to reaching out to other activists and community groups for support, pass the Robin Hood tax and make education free. Four of the five Resolutions of Action and suggested amendments to them included:

JOBS, POVERTY & IMMIGRATION:

  • We need an annual date and national rallies to proclaim the workers’ agenda.
    Build solidarity with workers throughout the world.
    More annual actions that bring out everyone’s issues.

HEALTH CARE FOR THE 99%:

  • Health care is not accessible, not affordable, someone else gets to determine what you deserve, what you get is tied to your job performance, the more you might need the less you get.

FORECLOSURES, HOMELESSNESS, AND PROPERTY RIGHTS:

  • Need to work in conjunction with groups like ACCE and WEAP.
    Reach out for emotional support.
    Be Proactive.  Don’t be hesitant, ashamed.
    Get the information you need, reach out to organizations.
    You have to know your rights. Lots of times hey are not in a position to foreclose, but they do it anyway because they can get away with it.
    Need an information center people can talk to.
    Need to talk more to each other.

ORGANIZING FOR A QUALITY EDUCATION:

  • Fund education with a Robin Hood Tax.
    Education should be free from kindergarten to Ph.D.
    Teach what our kids really need
    Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCS need to be strictly controlled or not done at all.

ENVIRONMENT AND THE JUSTICE SYSTEM:

  • Eliminate private prisons and privatization
    Eliminate GMOs, fight back against criminalization of the public food movement

The group discussions raised the issue of class consciousness, because the problems being discussed affect everyone who earns a living by working for someone else, no matter what their level of income. “One person’s fight is all of our fight,” said one participant. “Class consciousness, its not just something we do, it’s something we are . . . “

“We have got to build a movement to change what is coming at us,” said Carolyn Milligan of WEAP. “What is coming at us is the destruction of human beings.”

At a follow-up meeting to plan for the next teach-in and dialogue, BART  & other public sector workers laid out a gripping explanation of why their fight to maintain safe working conditions and benefits is important to workers nationally. “The reason they want to break our union is that we’re the line in the sand right now for organized labor,” said Chris Finn. “The private sector unions have already been destroyed,” down to around 7% of the private work force, “so public sector unions are the only ones left upholding fair wages and working conditions. If you kill public sector unions you kill organized labor.”

The Bay Area is known for its strong support of unions, another said. We are one of the few strong labor areas left in the country. If they can bring us down, I don’t think there’s anything they won’t do.”  . . . We are Michigan, right here, she added, referring to that state’s successful effort to void union contracts and strip people of their elected officials by appointing Emergency Managers to run financially troubled public agencies.

Over half of Oakland’s city workers are part time, no benefits,” said Gabriel Haaland. “Other wages and benefits follow. If that continues you’ll end up with Detroit and Walmart.”

“I really can’t afford to go on strike, but I really can’t afford not to go on strike,” said Alan Hollie.

WEAP Round Table Discussion and Teach In:
Healthcare, the ACA and Improved Medicare for All: Know Your Rights
 and how the New Law affects YOU

On July 27th 2013 the Women’s Economic Agenda Project hosted the first in a series of monthly community dialogues on critical issues eroding the well-being of working families. This past year we have seen more stripping away of our democracy, more attacks on the already shredded safety net, and more use of public money to privatize education, housing and healthcare. Schools are closing, workers are fighting for fair wages, cities are declaring fiscal emergency and healthcare is undergoing a massive transition focused more on profits than on health.  Austerity measures are slashing programs for the poor and eliminating jobs, pushing more people into destitution. Meanwhile, corporations are raking in record profits. Now more than ever, there is an urgent need to build the leadership and awareness among our community to fight for our rights. WEAP’s community dialogues, called “Teach Ins,” take a critical look at all these issues facing our communities.

WEAP’s teach-in entitled “Healthcare, the ACA and Improved Medicare for All: Know Your Rights” was a special opportunity to emphasize how linking the struggles of local residents with the struggles of labor, health and social justice workers makes everyone stronger. More than 30 people attended from organizations including Our Walmart, California Nurses Association, Tapestry Ministry, Just Cause and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner’s office. The discussion focused on unpacking the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly referred to “Obamacare.” The Teach-in aimed to help community members understand the politics of healthcare in this country and the real goals and impact of the new legislation. People engaged in the discussion and became empowered with new tools and resources.

WEAP began with one of its training tools, a slideshow presented by Joyce Mills and Austin Long-Scott highlighting the history and significant moments of healthcare in the US. It showed how for more than 100 years, the nation’s powerful corporations have always fought the kind of universal health care established in other industrialized countries, where more people get better health care for less money. The timeline documented the development of the Social Contract in the1900s, the creation of Medicare in 1965, the fight for healthcare as an economic human right in the 1990s. This history showed how better health care for workers has always been opposed by powerful companies – unless they felt it would contribute to their profits. It explained why the ACA is essentially the corporate takeover of the government’s role in ensuring public access to health care. This takeover developed over many stages including the struggle for single payer (Medicare for all), the defeat of a public option, adoption of the individual mandate and then finally the ACA.

The discussion turned to an in-depth look at the ACA and the changes it will bring. Guest speaker Rose Auguste, Northern Regional Organizer of Health Access California, provided an overview of the 900+ page ACA law and how it will impact those currently on MediCare, those currently insured and those that are uninsured. She outlined the key components of the ACA as:

✴Individual Mandate: Every legal resident will be required to obtain qualified health insurance. Residents who earn between $15-55 thousand per year will be eligible for subsidies. Cost of insurance will range between 3 and 9.8 percent of income, an estimated $39- $395 per month in premiums.
✴MediCal/MediCaid Expansion: Roughly 55 thousand new individuals will become eligible for Medical in Alameda County, 1.7 million individuals in CA.
✴New Requirements: Healthcare providers can’t deny service based on pre-existing conditions, most employers will be required to offer benefits, coverage continues under parents insurance up to age 26.
✴Subsidies: will only be available through Covered California during the 6-month open enrollment period from October 1st 2013- March 31st 2014. The call center is located at 401 Broadway and they will be taking applications and income verifications in person and over the phone at 510-271-9103.

The ACA is an evolving health reorganization touching all aspects of health care except cost control, and it’s important for women, workers and our community in general to consider all of its implications as we think about securing health care for ourselves and our families. There is a new class of dispossessed being left out of the healthcare debate and as costs of healthcare soar much faster than wages, most of us will not be able to afford medical coverage, even with subsidies. Undocumented immigrants who are not covered under the ACA combined with other uninsured residents will leave nearly 100,000 people without healthcare in Alameda County. As far as the quality of care under the ACA, experts argue that the bill doesn’t do enough to reform service delivery and the system of providers is not ready for increased caseloads of up to 700 people per doctor.

While WEAP believes that the expansion of MediCare/MediCaid under the ACA is a step in the right direction, we know that the “individual mandate” is not the answer. As part of WEAP’s proposed solution to health justice, the Teach-In turned to a discussion on “Improved Medicare for All.” WEAP Executive Director, Ethel Long-Scott and DeAnn McEwen, RN Nursing Practice Specialist, CA Nurses Association, National Nurses laid out the framing for “Improved Medicare for All” (HR 676) which is simple and accurate, single payer, universal health care that would save money in a time of fiscal crisis for all levels of governments. The fact that the US government bailed out Wall Street to the tune of $700 billion in a matter of weeks proves that we can have single payer, universal healthcare NOW if we are willing to fight for it.

The topics covered by WEAP’s Teach-In generated important dialogue and in closing, WEAP encouraged attendees to continue to become empowered to know their rights and be engaged in the decision making process. WEAP is always striving to elevate the discussion about collective solutions to move this struggle forward in the interest of the 99 percent. As an organization supporting women and their families, we seek to raise awareness of how the growing use of laborless production is creating a new class of workers being thrown under the bus, deprived of economic rights, political rights, human rights, and any realistic chance of building a better future for themselves and their families. To avoid the increasingly repressive future that automation and globalization are pushing us into, we must build  a broad Social Movement based on a vision of a better future for everyone except the greedy. This requires unity across struggles, across cultural and racial differences, and fighting for all our Economic Human Rights. Our message also emphasizes that privatization is dangerous for many reasons. Among them, hard fought battles for things like education, health care, democracy and safety are placed in the hands of private, individual interests and companies that only have one thing in mind: profit.

The Teach-In illuminated the connections between the struggles of different sections of the new class. The struggle for workers rights, health care, police accountability, the safety net all collide in the world of the everyday worker. Last year WEAP hosted the U.S. Courts of Women on Poverty (WCW), a grassroots, working class, women-led initiative that offered a platform to advance new visions for justice as well as transformative initiatives for healing and change. As a result, WEAP and a host of community partners drafted Resolutions of Actions (ROA) outlining strategies towards of our vision of transformation. WEAP’s education and leadership trainings proceed from the testimony and proposed initiatives referred to in the ROAs. We invite you to review WEAP’s ROA’s, short film documentation and other training and empowerment tools on our website and we urge you to join the fight and attend WEAP’s upcoming Teach-In on Saturday September 21st from 1-4pm entitled, “The State of Democracy: How Our Rights are Being Violated.” For more information or to RSVP, contact WEAP at  weap@weap.org

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