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Why Michigan’s Struggle is Important

Michigan today, perhaps in your town tomorrow

Why should you care about Michigan? Because the economic earthquake battering Michigan is headed our way. Michigan is our early warning system of how the 1% intend to keep the 99% in line as they keep raking in huge profits while workers continue to be thrown out of good jobs by the exploding laborless production of the electronic revolution.

The big question is WHY? WHY are workers scrambling all over the U.S. while corporate profits soar to new record highs every quarter? WHY does the small number of good jobs left continue to shrink? WHY do elected officials preach austerity to us while they give away billions in public dollars to help private corporations profit? If the economy is in recovery, WHY are all the profits going to corporate executives while workers actually lose ground? Do elected officials really believe private business can do everything better?

It’s NO ACCIDENT that the pressures on workers keep growing. There is an agenda behind the profoundly unfair combination of rising wealth and deepening poverty. It’s an agenda for complete corporate control of the economy, so it can be shaped for maximum profits as workers drop like flies. The key is that with laborless electronic production corporations don’t need workers like they used to. But they do still need profits.

The history of labor shows that companies ruthlessly throw workers on the scrap heap whenever they don’t need them anymore. Now the labor-replacing microchip has dramatically changed the landscape for all workers. The old industrial-age social contract of lots of good jobs with good benefits in exchange for a good day’s work is gone forever. Workers  have to play by new and much harsher rules.

Why isn’t this obvious to us? Partly because we usually don’t notice the national narratives that help shape our thinking. As one of the fighters in Michigan has said, there had to be a national narrative about the worthlessness of Native Americans to allow us to slaughter and displace so many of them. There had to be a national narrative about African Americans being subhuman in order for us to enslave and torture so many of them. There had to be a national narrative about the inferiority of women in order for us to treat them as less than equal to men for so long. National narratives are extremely useful tools for social control because we tend to accept them so easily.

Today’s national narrative is the need for austerity, and it’s being pushed most strongly by global corporations. The same corporations that are racking up the largest profits and cash reserves in history. When multi-billion dollar corporations and their millionaire and billionaire executives push austerity, they really mean continued maximum profits for themselves and austerity for the rest of us.

Michigan is important because the corporate agenda of doing away with anything that interferes with maximum profits is more advanced there, and more easily seen. But in fact, that corporate agenda is pushing forward everywhere. Let’s look at 4 examples – threats to democracy, water, pensions and privatization.

Threats To Democracy

In 2012 Michigan voters threw out a state law that disenfranchised citizens by allowing appointed Emergency Managers to strip all power and duties from public elected officials. Then the legislature and the governor, pushed by strong business interests, wrote an even more powerful Emergency Manager proposal and made it law. Appointed Emergency Managers now run 17 places in Michigan, including Detroit, leaving public elected officials there powerless.

In the Bay Area, the equivalent of Michigan’s Emergency Manager system runs San Francisco City College, once the state’s largest community college. Its original 85,000 enrollment has shrunk dramatically in the 15 months since an accrediting commission threatened to yank its accreditation. The threat had nothing to do with its quality of education and everything to do with shaping its curriculum to fit the corporate agenda.  Financial strategies, including pension and health care costs, were big issues.

The needs of corporations have won the battle for the attention of American public elected officials of both major parties. The few elected officials who still fight for working people find themselves isolated and defanged in their arenas of power.


The right to water, the giver of life, is under attack. In Michigan, under Detroit’s Emergency Manager, the city cut off water to 100,000 mostly poor households that had fallen behind as little as $150 on their water bills. But Detroit didn’t shut off water to corporations that were as much as $400,000 behind. A United Nations committee was outraged, calling Detroit’s tactics a violation of the human right to water.

In California the worst drought in memory is making the right to water a huge issue. Farmers are already in trouble in the state that grows half of the fruits, vegetables and nuts used in the U.S. Big city residents, who haven’t felt the impact yet, soon will. Farmers use 80% of California’s water, much of it subsidized by taxpayers. It now costs them up to 10 times more than before the drought, up to $1,100 per acre foot. An acre foot is enough to supply an average Southern California family with water for 18 months. If the drought continues, is it people or corporations, including the vast corporate farms of California agribusiness, who will get priority for the water they need? And what will families do when they can’t afford the higher water bills?

Right now the oil companies that use enormous amounts of water to force oil and natural gas from deep underground, are suspected of pushing for scarce California water to be privatized and sold to the highest bidder. Oil companies are reported to be willing to pay up to $3,300 per acre-foot, and the huge Westlands Water District, which supplies water to almost 10% of California’s farmland, has been accused of making money by selling some of its publicly subsidized scarce water to oil companies.


In Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has said wage, benefit and pension obligations to workers represent “a national problem” because elected officials in financially troubled cities “were not successfully managing their cities.” That means corporations have the right to maximize their profits, but public officials don’t have the right to meet the basic needs of their citizens, especially lower income citizens who populate financially troubled cities.

In California financially troubled Stockton and San Bernardino, the state’s largest bankrupt cities, tried at first to protect the pensions of their workers when they filed for bankruptcy. But as pressure from business interests mounted and Detroit retirees reluctantly accepted a 4.5% cut, both California cities backed away from trying to honor their pension obligations.

Stockton now proposes converting $544 million in lifetime retiree health benefits into a $5.1 million one-time payment. That gives workers just under a penny for every dollar promised them. And a judge’s ruling due any time now could declare Stockton’s workers no more worthy of protection than any of its corporate debtors. Such a ruling could encourage other California cities with large pension debts to file for bankruptcy to cut worker pension payments.

For about a year San Bernardino stopped paying into California’s public worker pension fund, called CalPERS. While it is once again making payments, it has refused to make up $13.5 million worth of back payments. A court-imposed gag order prevents a proposed settlement from being publicly disclosed.


In Benton Harbor The Rev. Edward Pinkney has been leading a 20-year fight to keep the Whirlpool Corp. from gentrifying the city and privatizing a public waterfront park. His tactics include recall petitions against local officials who side with Whirlpool’s agenda. Now officials have filed phony vote fraud charges against him for the second time. It is a clear attempt to silence an effective critic.

In California, Silicon Valley millionaires are driving an expanding gentrification that is turning Silicon Valley into Silicon Bay Area. Gentrification is an important part of the corporate agenda because it drives the poor out of sight, and raises neighborhood incomes to the point where they can afford privatized services like security and education. Yet corporations are fighting against a livable minimum wage. Business lobby pressure watered down minimum wage proposals in Berkeley and Richmond, and killed a state legislature proposal to raise the state minimum wage.

Workers in California are also under particular attack from employers trying to lower wages and benefits and even break public employee unions, which are some of the strongest in the nation. A weakening of unions would allow more public services to be privatized.

Successfully fighting the corporate agenda requires new tactics, because of the way electronic laborless production has changed the employment game. In Michigan it was a coalition of grassroots organizers, labor unions and community groups that put together the referendum which overturned the first Michigan Emergency Manager law in 2012. People from different stratas of the working class came together to fight for something in all of their interests. This was an example of a working class response to what is clearly an ongoing ruling class attack.

In Ferguson, MO, the uprising against the murder of unarmed teenager Michael Brown showed that to be effective, such coalitions have to be in place long before an emergency comes up where you need them. Building them means working to build mutual support for other people’s issues, as long as the goal is a better deal for working people.

The military-style crackdown against peaceful protesters that police mounted in Ferguson is another example of a battle plan that serves the corporate agenda. Poverty has increased dramatically in Ferguson over the past decade and law enforcement has been searching for ways to keep dissatisfaction and unrest from exploding in ways that would be bad for business. We have seen this played out in various ways in Bay Area protest demonstrations, including the crackdowns against Occupy and against the shutting down of the Oakland Port.


Michigan Tour Comes to the Bay Area

WEAP Michigan Sponsorship- FINAL3-1Working families are in trouble everywhere – and especially in Michigan, where state law replaces democratically elected officials with appointed Emergency Managers who have the power to sell off public property, shut down schools and change or cancel union contracts.

Talk about taxation without representation!

This is how thousands of poor Detroit residents recently got their water shut off while delinquent corporations owing thousands of times more were allowed to keep their taps flowing. WEAP believes community leaders fighting the Emergency Manager system, corporate dictatorship and austerity in Michigan have much to teach us about Bay Area efforts to strip away the rights of working people, employed and unemployed, and poor and part time workers.

Watch the WEAP website for more details on a planning speaking tour bringing community warriors from Michigan to speak in the Bay Area. Or click here if you are interesting in endorsing or sponsoring the tour.

WEAP Michigan Sponsorship (PDF)

All meetings are free and open to the public

Saturday, Oct. 4, 10am – 2pm in the Laney College Bistro, 900 Fallon St., Oakland, 94607. Hosted by WEAP, co-sponsored by Laney, Associated Students of Laney College, Black Students Union, Peralta Federation of Teachers and Ethnic Studies.

Sunday, Oct. 5, 5pm – 8pm at Tapestry Ministries, 1798 Scenic Ave. on the Pacific School of Religion campus in Berkeley. Hosted by WEAP, co-sponsored by Tapestry Ministries.

Tuesday, Oct. 7, Noon – 2pm in the Laney College Forum room, 900 Fallon St., Oakland, 94607. Hosted by WEAP, co-sponsored by Laney, Associated Students of Laney College, Black Students Union, Peralta Federation of Teachers and Ethnic Studies.

Wednesday, Oct. 8, 9am – 1pm in the Huey P. Newton Room at Merritt College, 12500 Campus Drive (off Redwood Rd.), Oakland, 94619. Hosted by WEAP, co-sponsored by Associated Students of Merritt College and the Black Students Union.

Thursday, Oct. 9, 5:30pm – 8:30pm at Service Employees International Union Local 1021 in Oakland, 155 Myrtle St., Oakland. Hosted by WEAP, co-sponsored by SEIU, the Social and Economic Justice Caucus, and the African American Caucus.

Friday, Oct. 10, 11am – 1pm College of Alameda in The Pitt (F Building), 555 Ralph Appezzato Memorial Parkway, Alameda, 84501. Hosted by WEAP, co-sponsored by Associated Students of Alameda College.

Friday, Oct. 10, 5:30pm – 8:30pm at Service Employees International Union Local 1021, 350 Rhode Island St. in San Francisco. Hosted by WEAP, co-sponsored by SEIU, the Social and Economic Justice Caucus, and the African American Caucus.


The Michigan Struggle

Pinkney trial October 27, 2014 – mark your calendar

Michael Sepic of Berrien County is a corrupt prosecutor who does not work for the people,but works to please Whirlpool. For my current prosection (persecution) Sepic and the sheriff brought in a hired gun to testify: Mark Geoff. Geoff is a forensic document examinerwith the Mich. State Police.

Geoff’s testimony was limited to an opinion having no substance. He claimed the dates were changed with different ink, which made no sense at all. However, he specifically testified that he could not determine who made the changes or when they were made.Geoff provided no evidence regarding who did it or when it was done.

There is absolutely no evidence that a crime was committed. Every single person who signed the petition told the sheriff they signed the petition on the date or altered (corrected) the date themselves. There was no crime committed.Prosecutors continue to lie, cheat, and manufacture evidence to send innocent citizens to prison. They have no accountability, and hide behind the prosecutorial immunity law like the cowards they really are.

If you do not believe these sort of things happen, you are living in an isolated world. If you think this does not happen in your city, you are wrong. Here in Berrien County it happens every single day the courthouse is open. Removal of the Benton Harbor population is the goal – by any means necessary.

Rev. Edward Pinkney

Pinkney’s trial delayed

My trial has been delayed by the Berrien County powers-that-be. Instead of the originally scheduled date of July 21, it has been postponed until Oct. 27 which just so happens to be my birthday. The status conference has been set for

October 20, 10:30am, jury selection Oct. 23, and  the trial Oct. 27-31.

My attorney, Tat Parish, filed a motion with the Court of Appeals on July 9 to quash the June 5 bind-over due to lack of evidence or no evidence.  As we all know, there is absolutely no evidence that I or anyone else committed forgery – no handwriting expert, no confession, no witnesses, or evidence a crime was even committed.

Sheriff Paul Bailey and Prosecutor Mike Sepic made up the false charges, and both want me in prison.  Bailey and Sepic were the ones to order a SWAT team to surround my house without any evidence of a crime.

We the people must take a stand against corruption.

The power of the people is stronger than the people in power.


California Drought

By Sal Sandoval, M.D.
May 2014



MERCED, CA —This has been the driest year in recorded history. The Sierra snowpack is 12% of normal. Delta water may be unavailable for many Central Valley farmers. In some counties ground levels are sinking as groundwater is pumped out. With fields left unplanted, up to 20,000 farm workers won’t have work this year. School districts will lose money as children move with their families in search of work. Beef prices may rise by 40%, and milk prices by 50 cents per gallon. Seventeen valley towns may go without water as pumps run dry. Five billion dollars in loss of revenue to farms, trucking, and food processing have prompted a state of emergency by Governor Jerry Brown and a visit to the Valley by President Obama.

In this irrigated desert, the most productive agricultural area of the world, water is on the verge of being privatized and sold to the highest bidder.

Into the third year of the drought, a political fight that has long been simmering is starting to boil over. Variously blamed on environmentalists, bureaucrats, fishermen, greedy farmers, wasteful homeowners, all sides are clamoring for relief.

Lurking behind the scenes, however, is a potentially more ominous player at the water trough. And that is the oil companies, who utilize enormous amounts of water to extract oil and natural gas from deep under the ground in a process called fracking.

It is suspected that the Westlands Water District is selling its water to oil companies. The water was obtained at subsidized prices and then sold at a profit to farmers and to Southern California. If farmers are charged $30 per acre foot of water and oil companies are prepared to purchase water at $3300 per acre foot, who is likely to get the water, particularly since Kern County where the Westlands Water District resides is called “oil land”?

All of the proposed “solutions” to the water crisis, whether Democrat or bipartisan happen to benefit the Westlands Water district, which is 49% controlled by Beverly Hills billionaire Stuart Resnick, who has made financial contributions to both political parties.

The drought and the upcoming elections signal that we are at a crossroads. One road enriches billionaires and career politicians, as it impoverishes and indebts the rest of us, and further degrades our environment. The other is a radical break from the two-party system.

The Green Party platform, for which Luis Rodriguez is California Gubernatorial Candidate, is the only one which recognizes that we exist in a fragile balance with our environment upon which our survival depends, as well as promoting an economic bill of rights of sustainable jobs, financial reform, and real democracy where production is planned to nurture us and our future generations.

Vote in the June primaries so that Governor Brown is forced to debate a candidate with a platform that serves our real interests and not those of profiteers who don’t care about us and our children’s future.

We encourage reproduction of this article so long as you credit the source.
Copyright © 2014 People’s Tribune. Visit us at

Maureen Taylor on Emergency Managers at Netroots Nation in Detroit

Maureen Taylor on Emergency Managers at Netroots Nation in Detroit





Maureen Taylor, State Chair of MWRO, speaks at Netroots Nation panel on ‘Fighting for Democracy After Emergency Manager Takeovers in Michigan.’ She discusses the national narrative going on to depict Detroit residents in a way that makes it easier to blame them for poverty, and makes it easier to agree that they should not have water and other essentials for life.


For additional information, you can check out some of the links below.


Occupy Radio: Emergency Managing the Corporate Takeover of Michigan

Michigan’s Emergency Manger law was given sweeping powers over local governments in early 2011, and those powers were voted out by popular referendum in 2012. Now, in 2014, Michigan’s Emergency Manager law is stronger than ever.

Rivera Sun and Getch talk with Claire McClinton of Flint, and Sylvia Orduno, of Detroit, Michigan. We discuss human rights violations and democratic breakdowns this week on Occupy Radio.

Maureen Taylor discusses the water shut-offs on Democracy Now

Michigan Welfare Rights Organization

By Claire McClinton

Claire in the Washington Times

Clearing the FOG Radio: What the EFM is Going on in Michigan?

Michigan’s Emergency Manager Law: What it is and Why You Should Care

Contact Occupy Radio:

Twitter: @occupyradio23


Phone: (541) 632-4092

Author/Actress Rivera Sun sings the anthem of our times and rallies us to meet adversity with gusto. In addition to The Dandelion Insurrection, she is the author of nine plays, a book of poetry, and her debut novel, Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars, which celebrates everyday heroes who meet the challenges of climate change with compassion, spirit, and strength.
David Geitgey Sierralupe prefers you call him Getch. As Dr. Seuss once noted, there are way too many Daves. When not plotting to Occupy the Media through an activist, internet media hub, Getch remodels homes in Eugene, Oregon.

Child Refugees: The Consequences of the 2009 Coup in Honduras

Child Refugees: The Consequences of the 2009 Coup in Honduras



The international community refused to legitimate the elections that brought to power a political rival of the deposed president, while the American people were focused on a golfer’s extramarital activities, allowing the U.S. government to endorse the presidency of Porfirio Lobo Sosa, whose administration subsequently committed all sorts of human rights atrocities in the name of fighting narcos.

Under the banner of the war on drugs, the U.S. government has increased military aid and training in Honduras in the years sincethe coup, providing hundreds of millions of dollars to a regime known to use death squads and attack defenseless campesinos, LGBT rights supporters, child advocates, political opponents and other critics of the regime. All the while the American people never paid Honduras any mind, which ensured that the U.S. government would never be held accountable for any of it.

To their credit, some members of Congress have voiced their concern over what’s happening in Honduras, even before 13,000 Honduran children seeking asylum showed up at the Rio Grande.

Still, it’s clear that the current refugee crisis was made possible only by the complete and willful ignorance of the American people. I say “willful” because most Americans have purposefully avoided learning anything about Central America, much less Honduras. The military coup came and went, and most Americans viewed it as they do disturbances in Sub-Saharan Africa — being of no importance or consequence to the United States and its way of life.

That’s how much of American foreign policy operates: out of sight, out of mind.

Now that conditions in Honduras have placed the country directly in sight of most Americans, suddenly everyone’s deeply concerned, wondering why and how. Now every newspaper and talk show is decrying the tragedy that is Honduras.

Which brings me to the last issue that needs to be cleared up.

Take it from the son and grandson of Honduran immigrants, the people of Honduras are not “backward.” That’s not why their government is evil, why violent gangs control their neighborhoods, and why women and children are fleeing by the tens of thousands. If Honduras seems “backward,” it’s only because it’s been kept back by the U.S. government and U.S. business interests, which have overthrown the sovereign will of the Honduran people whenever promising reforms were on the horizon.

Between the U.S. government, the American people and the Honduran government, I place the least amount of blame on the “thugocrats” in Tegucigalpa, because as the coup and the United States’ increased aid and training have shown, the Honduran government is only capable of doing what the U.S. government allows it to do.

And the U.S. government is only capable of doing what the American people allow it to do. If not, then the current state of democracy in the United States is no better than it is in Honduras.

But if the U.S. government is still answerable to the American people, then shame on them for looking the other way while their government subverted democracy in Honduras for so long.

And shame on them if they even consider turning their backs now on the children they’ve left nationless.


Hector Luis Alamo, Jr. is a Chicago-based writer. You can connect with him @HectorLuisAlamo.


What Will It Take to Win

10-4-2014 Teach In Flyer Final Vs1-New Logos 3-1How can workers fight the powers that are crushing them into the ground? How can we win against the forces of Corporate Dictatorship, Austerity and the Criminalization of Poverty?

That’s the subject of the next Women’s Economic Agenda Project Community Teach-In and Dialogue, set for Saturday, Oct. 4, at the Laney College Bistro, 900 Fallon St. in Oakland.

There will be presentations on the different ways working class rights are under attack, the value of class solutions in fighting for a better future, and round table discussions to hear ideas from members of the audience.

We will hear from special guests who are leading these battles in Michigan, the poster child of attacks on workers’ rights. The 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. event is free to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

10-4-2014 Teach In Flyer (PDF)

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