Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Personal account of permanent prison torture in California

Statewide Prisoner Hunger Strike to Stop Torture, Long-Term Isolation & Indefinite Solitary Confinement in Prisons [link]
2013-07-31 "I Spent Years in Solitary Without a Window, Listening to Grown Men Scream and Cry: Why the hunger strike going on across California's prisons matters" 
by Michael Cabral from "New America Media" [alternet.org/civil-liberties/i-spent-years-solitary-without-window-listening-grown-men-scream-and-cry]:
Michael Cabral has served ten years on a 15-Life sentence for murder, beginning when he was still a juvenile. His first two and a half years were spent in the Pelican Bay SHU. He spent time in Salinas Valley State Prison in Soledad, and is currently at Corcoran State Prison. His writing has appeared often in The Beat Within [beatwithin.org], NAM's weekly publication of writing and art by juvenile detainees, and NAM has published previous commentaries from him.
---
How can I make anyone understand what it's like to cling desperately to the hope of someday being heard because that's the only hope left? That's one reason why the hunger strike going on across California's prisons matters. It might just keep that hope alive for prisoners locked down in Pelican Bay State Prison's Security Housing and Administrative Segregation Units (known as the SHU).
At the age of eighteen years, four months, and six days, I was cast into the SHU where I stayed for two and half years, alone, without a window, a television, or a radio. (Mail, when it came, was delayed for months at a time.)
My only real distractions were the terrifying and gut-wrenching sounds and smells of grown men reaching their breaking points: crying, screaming, banging; blood and feces being smeared on walls and bodies; Correctional Officers (C/Os) yelling, shooting pepper spray… and puking.
I found a small measure of comfort in books and in treasured conversations through the ventilation system, with older men whose faces I’d never see (conversing with anyone face-to-face was so rare as to be nonexistent). There was also the sound of my door being padlocked shut whenever there was a tsunami warning, meaning that if a tsunami did wash over us, the inmates’ only hope is that death comes quickly. Maybe that sound was the most dehumanizing of all, because to realize you matter so little to other human beings is not a feeling one gets used to, or ever forgets.
There were seven inmate suicides during my time in the SHU. None of them surprised me. As an eighteen-year-old with my entire life ahead of me, I understood why people wanted to die.
To combat the temptation to follow my neighbors into the afterlife, I exercised with extreme vigor, I wrote, I studied family photos, as well as images I found in old magazines, imagining myself in the places and situations depicted. These offered at least the illusion of escape from the bare cement walls that always seemed to be closing in on me. Such relief came at a cost -- a progressive separation from my real life. I could get so lost in my fantasies (about home, barbecues, beaches, about committing violent crimes, about sex, building my dream house, about any number of things) that the slightest interruption -- the sound of the food port being unlocked at dinnertime -- could hurl me into fits of anger, depression, anxiety attacks. Living in the SHU was literally driving me mad.
On the bright side, there is a bakery in Pelican Bay. We’d often get fresh baked cookies in our lunches. They were delicious. Sometimes, though, C/Os [correction officers] would remove them from some of the lunches for their own enjoyment. They were that good, good enough to make someone squash an inmate's only sense of relief, perhaps his only source of joy, with a dirty boot before passing in the tray. "You really have to try one…"
I spent two and a half years in the SHU, ostensibly as punishment for a fistfight with another inmate (I was charged with battery with no serious injury). I believe the real reason was that I had defied the Administration by refusing to participate in prison gang politics and to inform on other inmates who were active gang members. You could say I was lucky to get out in that short a time. More than 75 Pelican Bay SHU prisoners have been held in isolation for more than twenty years, and more than five times that number have been there for more than a decade.
Ironically, when I was placed in the SHU they told me it was for my own protection, and to give the prison time to evaluate my housing needs. If that “evaluation” had taken any longer, I would have lost my mind.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Fresno is set Sept. 3rd to attack and exile everyone living without an address at the direction of local land-holders

Human Rights abuse in the City of Fresno [link]
Defend those without homes!
campaign page [link]

2013-07-30 "Homeless Encampments Targeted (Again)" 
by Mike Rhodes ( editor [at] fresnoalliance.com ) from "Community Alliance" newspaper [https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/07/30/18740629.php?show_comments=1#comments]:
Photo showing Lori Bryson and William Lewis

In the next couple of weeks, homeless people who live in downtown Fresno will be forced from their shelters and told to move on. The driving force of this relocation is the Poverello House, which is a homeless service center located at Santa Clara and F streets.
Poverello House staff have been complaining for some time now about the homeless encampments that have developed outside their gates. They claim these encampments are a magnet for crime and violence, which makes it more difficult for their clients to walk through a gauntlet to get to their facility. Adding credibility to their claim were several shootings in July, with one person killed and another paralyzed.
At about the same time as the late August demolitions at the homeless encampments take place, the Poverello House will be closing some or all of the Village of Hope, which are tool sheds where more than 100 people live. The combination of this closure and the eviction of the homeless people living near the Poverello House will create a massive dislocation, with no solution in sight.
The City of Fresno has focused on developing partnerships with groups providing housing for a limited number of homeless people. The three Renaissance projects are an example of this effort, but they house only 118 of the estimated 15,000 homeless people in Fresno. There are no construction projects for new homeless housing currently planned.
There has been renewed talk of housing vouchers being distributed, with the likely number being well under 100. There are more than 1,000 homeless people in downtown Fresno, and there is no safe and legal place for them to live. They have put up shelters around the Poverello House because that is where they can get free meals and services. The Rescue Mission, which has beds for homeless men (only), does not allow anyone to use them unless they are in a rehabilitation program.
The problem with drugs and violence in the homeless encampments is real and has been exacerbated by the Fresno Police Department’s hands-off approach. Most of the homeless people don’t feel protected by the police, and the police have, until recently, not made servicing the area a high priority. I have seen open drug sales taking place on street corners, domestic violence takes place regularly and, in many respects, gangs fill in the void and are the law of the land.
At least that was true until mid-July when the police made a concerted effort to take back control of Santa Clara and F streets with a massive presence. One homeless resident told me, “They are driving through here every five minutes.” Another man told me that he was put on the curb and illegally searched.
A homeless woman said, “They came into my shelter and asked me what I was doing there.” She said she was “trying to survive without people breaking into my house.”
The all-or-nothing police response at the homeless encampments leaves you wondering why they have abandoned them or alternatively that they are overreacting, possibly violating people’s constitutional rights.
When the evictions from the Village of Hope and new demolitions of the homeless encampments near the Poverello House take place, people will be forced to find new places to live. Of course, the locations where homeless people establish new encampments will create situations that lead to the next round of evictions. Some homeless advocates have compared this cycle to a cruel version of Whack a Mole.
Here is what happens when the homeless are forced out of downtown Fresno.
William Lewis and his friend Lori Bryson are homeless and live in the Herndon and Blackstone area. Lewis called the Community Alliance to complain of police harassment, saying they had been arrested and taken downtown, for allegedly “blocking a sidewalk and trespassing.” Lewis told me that the officer who threatened him with arrest issued a citation and took him and Lori to the downtown police department for processing.
“Officer Lee threatened to take our two dogs from us if he sees us anywhere north of the Poverello House,” Lewis said. He claims Officer Lee told him “that if I’m north of the Poverello House and see him coming for Lori and I to empty our pockets, put our hands behind our backs and to consider ourselves under arrest.” Lewis says he is having a hard time sleeping from all the stress.
Another example of the problems encountered when homeless people are forced out of downtown and end up in other parts of the city is what happened on July 17, when an encampment emerged on a ditch bank near Ashlan and West avenues in northwest Fresno. When I arrived, the Fresno Irrigation District (FID) was in the middle of destroying the encampment and everybody’s property.
Most of the structures had already been pulled out of the protective shrubbery on the southwest side of the canal bank. A bulldozer was busy picking up homeless people’s property and putting it in a dump truck.
I asked Murray, who said he was a supervisor for the FID, if they were saving any of the property. He said they had not found anything of value yet, but I think my question got him thinking about the implications of their actions. Murray said that they had put up notices informing the homeless people that they were going to “clean up.” I asked for a copy of the notice, and he said he didn’t have one.
I walked away for a moment to take some photos and when I came back the driver of the machine with the large claw (see photos at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/07/17/18739952.php ) said, “We don’t have time for this shit. Call the police.”
Someone (probably Murray) must have convinced the crew that they better make a show for the press because then they started going through the shopping carts and putting things aside, which they said they were going to save.
The FID frequently destroys homeless encampments. It is rare when someone photographs them in the act. The Community Alliance has filed a California Public Records Act request to see if the FID actually did store any property and to find out how the homeless can reclaim whatever was lost. Sometimes the items destroyed or saved include clothes, ID, photographs of loved ones and other valuable items.
The kind of reckless behavior being displayed by the FID is what has the City of Fresno facing multiple lawsuits from their October–November 2011 destruction of homeless encampments. The wheels of justice are turning slowly in that case, which will eventually end up in Federal Court. Right now, both sides are still in the discovery phase of court proceedings, interviewing witnesses, etc. The fact that 30-plus homeless people have sued the City of Fresno for violating their rights has curbed City Hall’s enthusiasm for taking a more aggressive approach against the homeless.
One way this manifests itself is by providing minimal police and other services. For months, the city did not provide any trash service. It still refuses to provide drinking water or portable toilets. As a concession to residents of West Fresno who complained about the health and safety implications of large piles of trash on the streets, the city now cleans up once every three weeks.
The Community Alliance is providing portable toilets and trash bins at the downtown homeless encampments. We also pay a previously homeless man to maintain the portable toilets, keep them supplied with TP and clean the trash off the streets. The four large dumpsters and 10 portable toilets help keep the streets cleaner, but more is needed.
The City of Fresno’s policy of chasing the homeless from one location to another is not going to end homelessness. It is not going to improve homeless people’s lives and does not move us one step closer to a solution. What would help is if the community started to establish safe and legal places where the homeless could live. These facilities would have basic public services and the people living in them would be treated with the same dignity and respect that everyone deserves.
If you would like to do something concrete to help the homeless in Fresno, you can drop off rolls of toilet paper at the Fresno Center for Nonviolence (1584 N. Van Ness Ave.) Monday–Friday 11 a.m.–3 p.m. You can also mail a contribution to help pay for the portable toilets and trash bins to the Community Alliance, P.O. Box 5077, Fresno, CA 93755 (make the check to “Eco-Village Project”). All of the contributions are used to help the homeless; nothing is used to pay for administrative or other overhead expenses.
###
The Fresno Bee printed a front page article, in the Tuesday, July 30 2013 edition, about the demolitions of downtown homeless encampments. See: [http://www.fresnobee.com/2013/07/29/3413693/three-big-homeless-camps-in-fresno.html]

2013-08-02 "Walking Through Fresno’s Homeless Encampments"
by Mike Rhodes ( editor [at] fresnoalliance.com ) from "Community Alliance" newspaper [https://indybay.org/newsitems/2013/08/02/18740840.php]:
This is a photo tour of what Fresno’s downtown homeless encampments look like today. These photos are the result of a walk I took through Fresno homeless encampments the morning of August 2, 2013.
The City of Fresno plans to bulldoze this encampment on September 3, 2013.
Photo below: A home built in the Monterey and E street encampment.

I found these three guys hanging out on G street, just south of the Rescue Mission

A view looking north on G street (near California avenue)

This is the Notice that the City of Fresno is going to demolish these homeless encampments

Rose lives on F street. She wanted to know where she was supposed to go after the city destroys her shelter.

This man said he had not been offered any help by the city

Simitrio Santa Rosa lives on the corner of Santa Clara and E street (by the offramp)

A view of some of the shelters on F street

Cars sometimes fly off Golden State Blvd and onto this off ramp


2013-08-02 "Found: A homeless encampment that the City of Fresno does not intend to destroy"
by Mike Rhodes (editor [at] fresnoalliance.com) from "Community Alliance newspaper" [https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/08/02/18740839.php]:
During a tour of homeless encampments today, I found a couple of fans of the alternative/independent Community Alliance newspaper (see photo below).
The encampment near the grain silos will not be destroyed

The photo of the couple above is at a homeless encampment near Palm and H street, behind the tall Grain Silos. What I found interesting is that the City of Fresno has not posted this encampment for demolition. All of the other downtown encampments will be demolished in late August and early September, but this one will not be destroyed.
 My theory is that the Poverello House (a large homeless center in downtown Fresno) is the moving force behind having all of the homeless encampments destroyed. They claim that the homeless encampments are interfering with the ability of their clients to access their facility. Of course, the homeless live there because they want to access these services. . . Representatives from the Poverello House say that these encampments are dangerous and that crime takes place in them. Of course, that could be said of lots of places in Fresno, but nobody is suggesting bulldozing River Park because of a crime that was committed at that shopping center.
 In any event the Poverello House has demanded that the city remove the encampments. The city is all too eager to participate in this latest attack on the homeless. See http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/07/30/18740629.php for the details.
The encampment near the Grain Silo is the only large encampment that is not located near the Poverello House.

Monday, July 29, 2013

"Corky Booze's Army" in Richmond compared to Ku Klux Klan by their supporter on Richmond City Council

The "Booze Army" are residents of Richmond who, under the guidance of openly fascist Rev. Ellis,  choose to spend their time on a "crusade of values" focused on people's sexual preferences, serving as a distraction specifically against local politicians who are helping the poor or defending human-rights!

"Nat Bates Hears No Hate!"
posted by the "Richmond Progressive Alliance" [youtube.com/watch?v=ftLjerZYwa0]:
On 6/25/13 the City Council of Richmond heard a proclamation celebrating Pride Month (See highlights at [youtube.com/watch?v=zacWvx8p3fs]). Unfortunately there was also hate which Councilman Nat Bates did not hear.  

See also how Bates encourages this behavior: youtube.com/watch?v=Ub2IiKQtr04]

2013-07-29 "Time for Richmond hate speech to end"
by Chip Johnson from "San Francisco Chronicle" [http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Time-for-Richmond-hate-speech-to-end-4687609.php]:
The one thing about hate speech is that even when you try to hide it inside a broader political agenda, it still sounds like hate.
And that's what has been spewing from the mouths of a small but boisterous group of Richmond residents who have been disrupting Richmond City Council meetings for months.
Sometimes, the point they're trying to make is muddled and unclear.
But when it's not, it's ugly, homophobic and stunning considering that it's being said during a public meeting in one of the most liberal regions of the nation.
Comments made at the June 26 and July 2 City Council meetings and posted on YouTube provide a horrifying example of hate - yet at least one council member defended some of the statements as fair, reasonable public comment.
"What I'm saying is these lesbians and homosexuals are no lower than an animal," Richmond resident Mark Wassberg breathed into the podium microphone in the council chambers. "That's what they are. It's disgusting."
It didn't get any better when the Rev. Wesley Ellis approached the microphone.

Whatever his intended point was, his comments quickly turned to Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles, who is African American and lesbian.
"There goes a girl, trying to be a man," Ellis said, referring to Beckles. "You proud of it, right? "But you know what? "You're just a little girl trying to be a boy, and don't even have the tools for it."
Ellis, who brought a bullhorn to Tuesday's council meeting, has been escorted out of council meetings before and it happened again on Tuesday, after the group broke into song just as the meeting was about to start. Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin had finally had enough. She cleared the chamber and held the meeting without a public crowd.
If that weren't enough, instead of defending the rights of a colleague, instead of warning speakers that foul-mouthed venom would not be tolerated, veteran councilman Nat Bates defended the atmosphere of intolerance.
"First of all, I didn't view the audience as being hateful," Bates said during the council meeting. "For council member Beckles to accuse individuals of being hateful out here. Rev. Ellis had his viewpoints. Others had their viewpoints. I didn't see that as hateful."
If the shoe was on the other foot and a speaker was describing African American residents in such a manner, I doubt that Bates - who is African American - would come to the speaker's defense, although he says he would.
"If the Ku Klux Klan came to this council and sat in the audience, I would defend their right to express themselves, even though I don't agree with them," said the 81-year-old Bates. "I stand by the principles of free speech."
Beckles views the personal attacks - some of which were too offensive to print - as some sort of perverted, horribly misguided political strategy in advance of her re-election campaign.
"There are legitimate reasons to protest - fairness in hiring, institutional racism, privatization of the criminal incarceration system," Beckles said. "That's the kind of stuff you protest, not getting kicked out of a meeting cause you don't know how to behave.
"They say our meetings are like the Jerry Springer show. Well, they're the Jerry Springer audience."
Beckles and McLaughlin and Councilman Tom Butt lay the blame squarely at the feet of colleague Corky Boozé, whose election to the council coincided with the rise of the outbursts in the council chambers.
Some council members refer to the group as "Corky's Army."
Boozé countered that the protests were the product of frustrated African Americans with no "voice" in government.
That's a rather convenient cloak to disguise what this group is apparently really all about.
Because if that's their best public speaking voice, and homophobic comments and personal insults are the only things they can offer, they'd best just shut up, because their collective ignorance is jarring, divisive, and hurtful to other people just trying to live their lives.
"That's the kind of room these people have been given, and they have taken it to the extreme," Beckles said.
The city's Human Rights and Human Relations Commission have discussed barring hate speech from public meetings. It's a tricky business in a land that cherishes and protects the people's right to speak freely.
But what's happening in Richmond is over the top, and responsible city officials need to put a stop to it.

United Front called for to defend BART workers & Labor union rights

Resources for BART Negotiations/Strike
* "7 Key Things You Need to Know About the BART Strike in California" by Alyssa Figueroa from "AlterNet": News and social media are awash in misunderstanding and disinfo about the strike. Here are the facts that matter. [alternet.org/labor/7-things-you-need-know-about-bart-strike-california]
* ATU 1555 website [atu1555.org]
* SEIU1021 website [seiu1021.org] [www.facebook.com/SEIU1021]
* [www.transportworkers.org]
* [www.wemakebartwork.com

"United Labor Rally for BART workers, August 1"
by Richard Chen [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHKeqCn4pzg]:
On August 1, more than 1,200 unionists from four unions - ATU, AFSCME, ILWU and SEIU - along with community supporters organized a United Labor Rally to defend BART workers and their communities as a BART strike approaches. Following the rally at Frank Ogawa (Oscar Grant) Plaza, participants marched to BART headquarters where a spontaneous action started up in front of the main entrance. A strike is scheduled for midnight on Monday, August 5th. ATU Local 1555 has called for a mass labor/community mobilization at 14th and Broadway in Oakland at 5pm that same day.


2013-08-02 "Support Bay Area Rapid Transit Workers Fighting for a Safer BART" 
from "California Labor Federation Spotlight":
It’s been nearly a month since the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) workers went on strike for fair wages and a safer BART, but BART management is still refusing to even discuss the major safety issues that put BART workers and the hundreds of thousands of people they transport in harm’s way.
BART workers are doing everything possible to avert a strike. Sadly, BART management doesn’t share the same commitment to the communities it serves. Instead of negotiating to keep a strike from happening, BART brought in a high-paid out-of-state attorney with a history of union-busting and driving disputes to strikes. Unless BART changes its tune, the workers will be left with no other choice but to strike again next week. Take action for a safer BART for workers and riders by calling BART Board of Directors at (510) 464-6095 during business hours and demanding that they give workers a fair contract that protects both workers and riders.


2013-08-02 "Safety of BART Employees and Riders At Center of the Current Dispute"
by John Logan, San Francisco State University [http://www.calaborfed.org/index.php/page/safety_of_bart_employees_and_riders_at_center_of_the_current_dispute]:
For several weeks, BART management has run a sophisticated media campaign telling the public that the lack of real progress in negotiations is solely the fault of the unions' unreasonable and uncompromising economic demands.
When it comes to wages and benefits, however, management has presented a highly misleading picture: it has failed to mention the enormous concessions that BART workers accepted in 2009 at the depth of the economic recession. BART President Thomas Blalock stated that he was "extremely pleased" with that cost-cutting agreement. BART employees were much less pleased, of course, but they recognized the need for significant sacrifice in the dismal economy.
Under the guidance of their highly paid, out-of-state chief negotiator, Thomas Hock, BART management is misrepresenting key economic and safety issues. Hock has an outstanding reputation for driving down employees' wages and benefits, but a dismal one for resolving disputes without disruptive strikes. By characterizing its bargaining position as fair and generous, BART management has failed to explain that, under its most recent written offer, most BART employees would barely stay in place, while many on the lowest incomes would likely fall even further behind. Nor has management explained how top management, not frontline workers, enjoy some of the system's most expensive and wasteful job perks.
BART management has also consistently misrepresented several key safety issues that are at the heart of the dispute. BART management has, for the most part, failed to resolve the unions' concerns on worker and rider safety. Indeed, State Controller John Chiang, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones wrote to management recommending that they "treat frontline employees-many of whom have raised numerous valid concerns about worker and rider safety-as partners in creating a safer system." Thus far, BART management has failed to heed their wise advice.
The figures on safety for BART employees speak for themselves. Since 2009, BART management has cut the system's operations staff by 8 percent. During the same 4-year period injuries that BART reported to Cal-OSHA have increased by a whopping 43 percent. Hundreds of BART workers are now injured on the job every year. And as a result of BART's dysfunctional and inefficient workers' comp system, many injured workers are involuntarily forced out of their jobs for weeks or even months at a time.
BART workers also face the threat of physical violence on a regular basis.
30 BART station agents were assaulted at work in 2009, while the same number were assaulted during the first four months of 2013. Recent incidents have involved an agent being attacked with a knife, an agent being punched in the face, an agent being thrown down stairs, and an agent being attacked by a group of five teenagers. As a result, several BART station agents have ended up in hospital with serious injuries. Other BART agents have had to deal with fatal shootings or horrific suicides in or around their stations. Yet BART management has thus far refused to do what is necessary to ensure worker and rider safety throughout the system.
BART management needs to spend more time engaging in real discussions at the bargaining table and less time trying to win the battle of public opinion through its sophisticated media campaign. Negotiating through the media may be easier than doing it face-to-face, but it won't resolve this dispute.
And neither will management's misrepresentation of the key economic and safety issues at the heart of the negotiations.




2013-07-29 "Labor makes a stand - first in Wisconsin, now BART"
by Jack Gerson [http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/Labor-makes-a-stand-first-in-Wisconsin-now-BART-4694427.php]:
Jack Gerson, a retired Oakland public schoolteacher, lives in Oakland and rides BART.
---
Two years ago, Wisconsin public workers and services were under assault. Hundreds of thousands of workers converged on the state capital, Madison, to fight austerity cuts proposed by Gov. Scott Walker. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10 shutdown Bay Area ports in solidarity with the Wisconsin struggle. Now BART workers and the Bay Area are in the crosshairs of the national labor struggle, and Wisconsin South Central Labor Council President Kevin Gundlach has pledged solidarity with BART workers.
The BART unions' temporary work agreement ends Sunday night and a new strike is likely. During the BART strike in early July, media coverage suggested these were "greedy workers" making life miserable for the public and jeopardizing the economy.
That's not what I found. Workers told me, "We're fighting for all of us, to say 'No more cuts.' " I'm convinced they are.
Four years ago, the unions agreed to wage and hiring freezes that saved BART about $100 million. Compared to 2009, BART has fewer workers; work-related injuries have increased. Those concessions were made in bad times. Now times are good (BART projects a $125 million-a-year surplus for 10 years). But management demands more concessions, seeking cuts to pensions, health care and compensation. BART management wants to jeopardize rider safety by cutting vehicle safety inspectors.
BART unions want a three-year contract with better safety conditions, no more cuts to pensions or health care and modest pay increases to keep them on par with the Bay Area's cost of living. The money's there, more than enough to improve safety and increase pay. Even a modest levy on developers and corporations, whose property values soar when BART expands, could reduce or eliminate fares.
Transit strikes make getting around a pain in the neck. But who's causing the pain? BART spent $399,000 on negotiator Thomas Hock, who has provoked strikes in several cities.
Wall Street and banks want to privatize and squeeze profits out of everything Americans have won through generations of struggle. We must fight back.
It will take solidarity from AC Transit and port workers, City College of San Francisco workers, teachers and students, city and county workers, nurses and postal workers, the unemployed and the underemployed. All of us.
The Bay Area has a proud tradition of labor and community unity going back to the 1934 general strike. The rank-and-file of AFSCME 3993, angered by their president, who directed them to cross BART strikers' picket lines, removed her as their chief negotiator in the BART dispute.
Let's turn the tide on austerity. Business depends on BART to deliver their workers and their customers. If BART workers shut it down and win a decent contract, it'll be a victory for us all.
Rally to support BART workers
Who: Called by Amalgamated Transit Union Locals 1555 and 192, Service Employees International Union 1021, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 3993, International Longshore Warehouse Union 10
Where: Frank Ogawa Plaza, at Broadway and 14th St., Oakland
When: 5 p.m., Thursday


CA AFL-CIO Backs August 1 Oakland Rally For BART Workers
THURSDAY: Stand with Workers -- Support a Safer BART

[http://www.californialabor.org]
In 2001, BART electrician Robert Rhodes was struck and killed by an oncoming train while working in a poorly lit tunnel near the 24th Street BART station. Since then, BART workers have repeatedly asked the management for improved lighting in BART tunnels, stations and parking lots, but thier safety requests have gone unheeded. Now, the BART workers are raising these concerns to policy makers and at the bargaining table, but BART management is refusing to negotiate on safety issues.
These dedicated BART workers need YOUR support in their fight to improve BART safety and secure a fair contract. They do not want to go out on strike again, but unless BART management changes its tune, they may be left with no choice.
*On Thursday, August 1st, take action with BART workers and stand up for safety for both the workers and the riders! The rally will kick off at 5pm at Frank Ogawa Plaza in downtown Oakland, and at 6pm, we'll march down to BART headquarters to make our voices heard.** *
*For more information on the march and rally, call 415.867.5174 or email [Cfinn.2000@yahoo.com].*
Together, we can make BART safer for us all.
In Solidarity,
[signed] Rebecca Band, California Labor Federation Communications Organizer
PS- Even if you can't join the rally, you can still make a difference by calling the BART Directors during business hours at (510) 464-5095 and telling them that you want a safer BART and a fair contract for the workers.


2013-07-29 "The BART Strike is About All of Us" 
by Mike Parker from "Labor Notes Bay Area" [labornotes.bayarea@gmail.com]:
The fact that a BART strike is likely is the result of a clear union busting campaign waged by BART management . They are aided by the media that portrays the issue as one of overpaid workers who do not want to make sacrifices like the rest of us. What is disturbing is that so many working people have picked up this line.
Four points need to be made to our brothers and sisters.
1. The 1% are not sacrificing -- they are growing wealthier at a phenomenal rate -- partly by forcing us to take sacrifices.
2. They get us to sacrifice by pitting us against each other. If the BART workers win a good contract, maintain pensions, and decent health benefits, it sets a standard for us all. If they fail it will encourage every employer to try to force our wages and conditions down further.
3. All this talk about how much BART workers make by including overtime is a smokescreen. People should not have to work overtime for a decent wage. BART management controls the overtime because they find it cheaper than to hire more people. Let's go back to the idea that people should not have to work more than 40 hours and that everybody should have a job.
4. The BART workers must have our active support - talking with community groups and our friends and neighbors, participating in large events, and writing and calling-in to the media. Years after PATCO was busted, unionists were still sorry that they had not mobilized to stop the beginning of the onslaught. Would've, Could've doesn't help. Do it when it counts.
The major unions involved in the BART strike, SEIU1021 and ATU 1555, are among the most progressive unions in the Bay Area when it comes to involving members, making community alliances, and focusing on what the working members need. Still, the whole union movement desperately needs reform if we are going to win back the allegiance of union members and those not organized and make working class solidarity a real force. On August 24th union activists will have the opportunity to exchange views with each other and Ken Paff who has led a struggle inside the Teamsters Union for almost 40 years.


2013-07-23 "SEIU 1021 reveals full extent of BART negotiator's union-busting background"
from "1021 NewsWire":
SEIU and ATU union researchers released a report this week that exposes the anti-union background of BART lead negotiator Thomas Hock ...
 ... at a press conference held the same day Hock began a 10-day vacation just as bargaining approaches the most critical days -- right before a state mediator's 30-day extension expires on August 4.
 On Monday BART informed SEIU and ATU that discussions on their general proposals, including all their economic proposals, could not even begin until Hock returned. That is, after six fruitless months at the table, the unions' major proposals don't even get discussed until three days before the end of the extension. And BART still refuses even to discuss the unions' safety issues.
 "Hock intentionally created the conditions for a strike by surface bargaining, a technique designed not to make progress. He used the strike to create a backlash against workers," said SEIU 1021 President Roxanne Sanchez, noting that Hock is not available to bargain 10 of the 14 days remaining on the extension.
 "We, however, are committed and will be here every day, and are asking the BART board and general manager to send someone with the authority to bargain or else they're creating the same conditions that led to the four-day strike on July 1."
 According to the report, Hock has taken part in negotiations resulting in seven transit system strikes over the past 11 years, including a three-day transit worker strike in Austin in 2008. Hock and his companies have also been accused multiple times of harassment and discrimination based on race, gender and disability.
"We are alarmed that [BART] would have hired an individual with that track record," Sanchez said. "This negotiation style is not welcome in the Bay Area. It is unnecessary. And to hold at ransom the public and the commuters and our community, and workers without pay, to destroy the little growth we're having in our economic rebound, is unconscionable."
---
Read the entire 40 page report [http://www.seiu1021.org/files/2013/07/HockBusinessPracticesMemo.pdf]


2013-07-22 "New Research Raises Questions About Why BART Management Chose Thomas Hock to Bargain Its Labor Contracts"
by "SEIU1021" [http://www.seiu1021.org/2013/07/22/new-research-raises-questions-about-why-bart-management-chose-thomas-hock-to-bargain-its-labor-contracts/]:
BART Negotiator has History of Scorched Earth Tactics, Strikes, Unfair Labor Practice Claims and Allegations of Discrimination and Conflicts of Interest...
SAN FRANCISCO — BART unions say one of the biggest impediments to bargaining a fair contract and avoiding another strike is the negotiator the district has chosen to bargain its contract. The Service Employees International Union Local 1021 say the tactics and behavior of Thomas Hock and his company, Professional Transit Management in current and past negotiations suggest a “scorched earth” strategy when dealing with transit unions.
The attorney selected by BART to lead its contract talks has been involved in negotiations that resulted in strikes in seven other transit systems over the past 11 years. “Hock’s unwillingness to bargain,” caused a three-day transit strike in Austin in 2008, according to union negotiators. Negotiators in Worcester, Mass. accused Hock of “making proposals designed to not make progress” in negotiations with transit workers in that City’s 2007 contract talks.
Findings from a public records research report (PDF) compiled by union researchers include:
• Thomas Hock and Professional Transit Management have been named in 47 complaints with the National Labor Relations Board since 2001
• Thomas Hock has been involved in negotiations that have resulted in 7 transit strikes since 2005.
• Thomas Hock and his companies have been accused of multiple forms of discrimination and harassment. Professional Transit Management and Veolia Transportation have been accused of discriminating against employees over race, gender and disability. In 2007, his company paid a $450,000 settlement for “maintaining a hostile work environment for African American, Hispanic and Asian employees” in a lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
• During ongoing contract negotiations with Hock in Phoenix in 2010, Veolia executives tried to hire replacement workers. “In the midst of “good faith” negotiations, Veolia executives placed ads in the Arizona Republic seeking temporary bus drivers and have flown in about 200 replacement drivers and supervisors…from all over the country,” according to published press reports.
• Thomas Hock has been accused of conflicts of interest related to his role as a negotiator for Austin’s municipal bus operator in 2008 and in a separate lawsuit by the fired CEO of Cincinnati Metro, a transit agency operated by Hock’s firm, which is currently on appeal.
Hock’s Professional Transit Management, which is owned by transportation giant, Veolia, was given a sole-source, no-bid contract for $399,000 to bargain the District’s labor contracts.
“Given Mr. Hock’s history, I can only conclude that BART either doesn’t check references before it hires consultants or the district specifically wanted someone with a reputation for stonewalling negotiations and causing strikes,” said Roxanne Sanchez, president of SEIU local 1021.
“I can tell you that our union sincerely wants to bargain a fair agreement and avoid a strike. The offer BART has on the table right now takes a BART system service worker with two kids making $52,000 per year, trying to live in the Bay Area, and cuts her take-home pay by $1,900 by the end of four years.”

2013-07-17 "#BARTStrike Update: "BART's top negotiator takes vacation in the middle of bargaining"
from "Local 1021 NewsWire"
The trains are running and the two sides are talking ... at least for now.
No one wants a second BART strike, but the chances of another one increased dramatically last week when the Bay Area Rapid Transit District announced that for at least the final week of the state-mediated 30-day contract extension -- maybe more -- BART's lead negotiator is going on vacation.
You read that right. In the middle of tense and difficult negotiations, after provoking one strike that left hundreds of thousands of Bay Area residents stranded, the District’s high-priced, out-of-town negotiator with a long history of anti-union practices and labor law violations continued to signal an unwillingness to hammer out a fair agreement by leaving town during the most critical days before the deadline so he can work on his tan.
“With a possible disruption in Bay Area rider service hanging in the balance, Thomas Hock and his $399,000 taxpayer-funded salary are going on vacation, which has caused the cancelation of an entire week of negotiations. This makes it clear for all to see that BART Board President Tom Radulovich, BART General Manager Grace Crunican and their hatchet man, Thomas Hock, are simply not engaging in good faith negotiations,” said John Arantes, president of the SEIU 1021 BART Chapter. “Where can Hock be going on vacation that is more important than making sure the interests of the taxpayers paying his $399,000 a year salary? Given what he is being paid, Hock needs to cancel his vacation and get back to the negotiating table.”


2013-07-09 #BARTStrike: "We are all BART: Why all working people should care what happens in the BART struggle"
from "SEIU 1021" [http://www.seiu1021.org/2013/07/09/we-are-all-bart/]:
Last week, employees of the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) made national news with a four-day strike that quickly became a test of wills between BART management and the striking workers, represented by SEIU 1021 and ATU 1555. In the wake of Wisconsin, the Chicago teachers' strike and other high-profile labor battles of recent years, the BART strike is already being seen as the next defining moment testing the strength and survival instincts of public sector unions. It is a fight we cannot afford to lose. On Friday, both sides agreed to a state mediator's request to extend their contracts by 30 days so that negotiations could continue and the trains -- which carry 400,000 riders a day -- could keep rolling.

The road ahead -
The San Francisco news website Beyond Chron has reported that the unions "have already won" -- by standing firm, we can only emerge with a better contract than management's last offer. Beyond Chron may be the only publication to think so, however. On the contrary, the often biased, pro-management slant of mainstream media coverage has become a news story itself. (See "Covering the Coverage" below.) The media has thrown much ink and many airwaves at "greedy" workers' wage proposals yet overwhelmingly ignored the management takeaways and other critical issues that pushed BART workers to sacrifice their paychecks, and a paid holiday, to strike:
* BART management refused to negotiate about safety issues, including lighting in tunnels -- a situation that cost one BART electrician his life several years ago.
* BART management has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations.
* BART management proposed offering a raise in exchange for eliminating safety inspectors -- a measure BART workers refused.
* BART management has spent over half a million dollars to bring in union-busting consultants to pretend to negotiate, while refusing to bargain in good faith.
BART’s general manager, Grace Crunican, receives $320,000 in base salary (after a $20,000 raise less than six months after starting work), and will be vested in health care for life after only two years -- all while demanding further cuts from BART’s frontline workers. If BART can get away with this while in the spotlight of the national media, the rest of us are next.BART’s general manager, Grace Crunican, receives $320,000 in base salary (after a $20,000 raise less than six months after starting work), and will be vested in health care for life after only two years -- all while demanding further cuts from BART’s frontline workers. If BART can get away with this while in the spotlight of the national media, the rest of us are next.

We are all BART - 
Pictured: BART workers display a check for $20,000, the amount of the raise that BART General Manager Grace Crunican received less than six months after starting her job, bringing her new base salary to $320,000. The U.S. Secretary of the Interior earns $199,700.Pictured: BART workers display a check for $20,000, the amount of the raise that BART General Manager Grace Crunican received less than six months after starting her job, bringing her new base salary to $320,000. The U.S. Secretary of the Interior earns $199,700.
It does not matter if you earn more or less than BART workers, or if your benefits are better or worse. BART management has shown callous indifference to both their employees and their riders:
* By lining their own pockets while demanding cuts from their workforce,
* By emptying the coffers on union-busting negotiators and attorneys to fight health and safety rulings,
* By leaving the public stranded for four days rather than negotiate in good faith with their employees.
Today it’s BART; tomorrow it’s the rest of us.

For more information on how you can help BART workers win a fair contract:
1) Visit seiu1021.org
2) Follow @SEIU1021 on Twitter.
3) Share and comment on Facebook.
4) Sign up at KeepBartRunning.com to receive regular email updates.

Covering the Coverage -
"It's a natural human impulse to lose the ability to empathize once one is inconvenienced, but when the media joins in on the mob mentality, it skews the story into an unfair depiction of striking workers as history's greatest monsters." - The Nation, July 2, 2013 Here are a few stories you should know about revealing a very different side of the BART story from what you heard in the mainstream media:
@AlterNet: "7 Key Things You Need to Know About the BART Strike in California" [www.alternet.org/labor/7-things-you-need-know-about-bart-strike-california]
@BeyondChron: "How Unions Won the BART Strike" [http://beyondchron.org/news/index.php?itemid=11554]
Daily Kos: "BART General Manager Grace Crunican's Broken Promises" [http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/07/04/1221323/-BART-Union-Rep-Negotiations-Not-Going-Well-Plus-BART-General-Manager-Grace-Crunican-s-Absent]
@TheNation: "BART Strike: Another Instance of Media Portraying Workers as Greedy" [http://www.thenation.com/blog/175063/bart-strike-another-instance-media-portraying-workers-greedy#axzz2YsqSUFy4]
@BeyondChron: "Why the BART Strike Happened" [http://www.beyondchron.org/news/index.php?itemid=11542]
Video chronicle of the BART/City of Oakland strike on July 1 [http://demotropolis.org/2013/07/04/bart-and-city-of-oakland-workers-strike/]



2013-07-03 "SEIU 1021 strikes hard in Bay Area, San Joaquin County"
 It's been quite a month in Local 1021.
 On Monday this week, our members in the City of Oakland and Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) held a major joint strike spanning the bay and becoming national news. A week earlier, City of Hayward workers voted with 93 percent to authorize a strike of their own. Meanwhile, 90 miles away in San Joaquin County, members made a strike unnecessary by rattling their sabers loudly and reaching an agreement at the last possible moment.
Welcome to the new, tougher SEIU 1021.

"Will Strike If Provoked" -
SEIU 1021 members made national news this week with a BART and City of Oakland strike that stopped the traffic in more ways than one.
Monday was a momentous day for Bay Area working people. SEIU 1021 took the lead, with our BART and City of Oakland workers shutting down the region's transportation system and one of its largest cities. Other unions followed, as did community organizations, joining striking workers on picket lines and at rallies in Oakland and San Francisco.
Oakland city workers have sacrificed to help the city in need -- they have given back more than $122 million just in the last few years -- while the number of part-time workers has doubled in recent years. These workers go without healthcare, job security and must hold multiple jobs just to make ends meet. These are not the "good jobs" our community deserves. Meanwhile, the city has cut 700 full-time employee positions since 2008.
The city continues to say it can't afford fair wages nor can it provide a path to fulltime employment for these workers. In reality, Oakland's City Administrators have not only hidden various pots of money to the tune of more than $100 million this year alone, it has purposefully stashed away its revenue from a recovering economy, and has yet to recoup or even investigate the more than $480 million that Oakland is owed from Wall Street banks through fraudulent bank deals. The payments and fees collected on these predatory deals represents the money that should have been invested in Oakland communities, but instead has gone to Wall Street profits.
Likewise, BART workers hadn't had a raise in five years, and had endured injuries and fatalities on the job. They knew a strike was required to move BART's management to address their serious safety concerns for both the riders and the workers who keep BART running.

The issues -
With both contracts expiring June 30 they made their plans. Walking out together they grabbed the attention of the media, the public and the other side of the negotiating table, making a strong and clear statement about the kind of community we want:
 * Safe transportation and public services provided by workers compensated fairly enough to enhance our local economy.
 * Part-time, low-wage jobs that drag down the community must be turned into living wage jobs that instead bring dignity and security.
 * Wall Street banksters, those who crashed our economy, stole our pensions and invented new ways to manipulate the market to continue to rob our communities, must pay to fix what they have wrecked.
Elected leaders must be held accountable for upholding our standards.

The media spent the day preoccupied with traffic and how much money those "rich, greedy public employees" make but largely missed the wider issues of rider and worker safety and the destruction of public services. Both strikes were Unfair Labor Practice strikes--legal action taken in response to numerous employer violations of federal labor law regulating the union negotiating process. These violations have a common denominator, an arrogant and callous disregard for their employees, the people they serve and their desire for a better life for all.

How the day unfolded -
With the last Sunday night trains put to bed after dropping off their passengers, the strike began at 2:00 in the morning as BART workers set up picket lines in Oakland and San Francisco. Hours later, city workers in Oakland had pickets at all entrances of City Hall, the administration buildings around Oscar Grant Plaza (aka Frank H. Ogawa Plaza), and other sites. By late morning City of Oakland strikers and their allies were gathering hundreds strong around City Hall, finally spilling into the street as they took over the downtown intersection of Broadway and 14th Street with chanting.
At noon nearly 2,000 unionists and allies packed Oscar Grant Plaza for a rally supporting the strike. Labor leaders, elected officials and representatives from community organizations lined up to publicly back SEIU 1021 and their striking fellow unionists at ATU Local 1555, which represents the drivers at BART, and IFPTE Local 21, which represents professional, technical and supervisorial workers in Oakland.

The people speak -
SEIU International Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina came to extend the full union's support. "We are here to help in any way you need. In the end we will win," Medina said. "As Cesar Chavez taught us, there is nothing a determined people cannot accomplish. Si se puede!"
Dwight McElroy, president of the SEIU 1021 Oakland chapter, put the action in perspective. "This strike is not about only our negotiations. When you have elected leadership that you should be able to expect dignity, transparency and honesty from and it's not forthcoming, we the community and the people must force those values forward," he said.
Ethyl Long-Scott, long-time Oakland activist and founder of the Women's Economic Agenda Project -- one of many community groups who showed up to support the strikers -- joined the groups in expressing her respect for SEIU 1021's courage and leadership.
"I want to give a shout out to 1021 for standing up for the people of Oakland, the residents, the workers, my neighbors who have faced too many layoffs, who have been part-timed, who have been kicked to the curb and treated like dirt," Long-Scott said. "Thank you for standing up and giving the labor movement of Oakland and this country a backbone again."
Then it was back to the picket lines. At 5 pm striking BART workers in San Francisco were joined by a couple hundred more SEIU 1021 members and other supporters at United Nations Plaza for a rally to close the day of picketing, which took place at stations throughout the city. Elected officials and more unions and community organizations spoke in support before all marched off to the Civic Center BART station for a final round of picketing and handing out information to commuters.

To be continued ...
Oakland city workers returned to their jobs on Tuesday; bargaining is scheduled for July 9, with the hope that their one-day strike will move city negotiators.
BART workers returned to their picket lines Tuesday, but late Tuesday afternoon both sides agreed to resume bargaining at 6:00 pm.


2013-07-02 "Why the BART Strike Happened" 
by Randy Shaw from "Beyond Chron" [http://www.beyondchron.org/news/index.php?itemid=11542]:
BART union ATU Local 1555

While the 2013 BART strike involves current disputes over wages, pensions and worker safety, its roots go back decades. BART management and its workforce have long had a poisonous relationship. The 90 day 1979 strike/lockout is the most obvious example, and despite the last strike occurring back in1997, bargaining always goes down to the wire with a work stoppage imminent. Why is this relationship so stormy? The chief reason is BART management’s historic insensitivity to its workers.
For over thirty years, BART’s primarily white management has disrespected its heavily minority workforce. And while compensation levels could reduce tensions over this lack of respect in good times, in the recent down years BART workers have gone backward. These workers (along with riders) have paid the price when the BART Board’s suburban majority long refused to raise revenue by charging for parking at its stations, and when BART squandered money on costly expansions rather than improving safety and service in existing areas. BART management never pays a price for its disrespect, and no elected BART Board member has lost their seat due to work stoppages during their tenure.
If you have lived in the Bay Area long enough, the BART strike was no surprise. This script plays out time and time again, and it will continue to occur until BART establishes a more respectful relationship with its workers.
When my wife and I moved to San Francisco in June 1979, we sought to live near a BART line. We were attending Hastings Law School and the Civic Center station was a block away. Unfortunately, the start of class coincided with a long BART strike/lockout, so we spent months on the incredibly overcrowded and much slower Mission Street buses.
That was my introduction to BART-worker relations. My wife eventually became an attorney for the firm representing the BART transit union, and I came to meet the union leadership and some of its members.

It’s About Respect  -
Labor attorney Stanley Neyhart negotiated the best transit worker contract in the nation for ATU’s BART workers when the system opened. During the 1980’s, the workers’ conflict with management was not primarily about compensation, but about something deeper.
It was about respect.
In those days, BART seemed to go out of its way to disrespect workers. And while each individual indignity seemed small, the cumulative impact of BART’s behavior created an enormous set of grievance among workers toward management.
This sense of grievance was worsened by its racial dynamics. BART’s Amalgamated Transit Union 1555 was heavily African-American. The leader in the 1980’s that I saw in action was a very charismatic and effective African-American, the late Hank White.
This dynamic from the 1980’s has not changed. Local 1555 and ATU Local 192 (AC Transit) released a video on June 23, 2013 titled “They Treat Us Like Slaves" [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1tFS3c0EK0]. The video expresses the pervasive attitude among workers that a primarily white BART leadership feels free to disrespect its largely minority workforce.
In recent years, worker feelings of disrespect have been accompanied by BART management imposing salary and benefit cuts. This has resulted in perhaps the greatest worker anger since the 1979 strike, as the union is convinced that management cares little about union workers or their families.

No Political Downside to Strike -
In the face of such conflict, a strike could only have been averted if labor or management faced a major political downside. But the opposite has typically proved true.
For a very long time, no Local 1555 President in power when a BART contract was signed was re-elected. Yet BART management is historically criticized for being too generous to workers.
We have workers feeling their leadership did not get enough, and management feeling it must take a hard line to show its toughness---even if this means inconveniencing much of the Bay Area by a strike.
SEIU Local 1021, the other union representing workers at BART, also had no reason to avoid a strike. Local 1021 has a separate set of grievances with the City of Oakland, and its Oakland members (joined by IFPTE Local 21) went on a one-day strike on July 1 to highlight their cause.
With its Oakland workers fired up and ready to go on strike, Local 1021 was not about to avoid a strike and accept a bad contract from BART. Historically, ATU has been more confrontational toward BART than SEIU, but today the insurgent Local 1021 leadership is in lockstep with its transit union ally.
(By the way, I understand the BART strike, but the City of Oakland's bargaining position toward its workers is a mystery. Mayor Jean Quan appears to have hidden herself in the same bunker where she stayed during the initial days of the Occupy movement. Quan is so fearful of losing labor support in her re-election campaign that she has apparently given orders to keep the city’s specific position toward its workers a secret. As a result, Oakland residents know little about the city's stance. Meanwhile, Local 1021 is using Twitter, emails and all forms of social and traditional media to build public support.)
Returning to BART, has any BART Board member ever been defeated because of voter anger over a BART strike? I can’t think of a single case.
No wonder management feels comfortable provoking strikes. The BART Board is so low-profile that members virtually serve for life. When an incumbent is defeated---as occurred when 25-year old Zakhary Mallett defeated Lynette Sweet in November 2012---the outcome was driven not by anything affecting the public but by contractors spending $60,000 against the incumbent because she criticized their lack of minority subcontractors [http://sfist.com/2012/11/12/lynette_sweet_ousted_as_bart_direct.php].
The tragedy of the current BART strike is that it was foreseeable, and avoidable. But unless BART management uses this work stoppage to create an entirely new relationship with its workers, we’ll be facing another strike when the next contract expires.


Support striking BART workers for fair wages, benefits, safety and more!" public service message from the "ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism)"
More information at [www.wemakebartwork.com] [www.keepbartrunning.com]  [www.AnswerSF.org].
Monday, July 1st, San Francisco actions:
All locations, start at Civic Center BART at UN Plaza:
6:00am Strike lines, passing out leaflets to riders
12:00pm Lunch-time picket
5:00pm Convergence rally and action to end Day 1 of strike at Civic Center BART, UN Plaza
---
Monday, July 1st, Oakland actions:
7:00am Strike lines go up at Frank Ogawa Plaza
10:00am 300 Lakeside (BART HQ) kick-off, march to Frank Ogawa Plaza
12:00pm Frank Ogawa Plaza major convergence rally and action
---

BART workers have gone on strike seeking a fair contract—one that speaks for the rights of workers and the safety of riders and workers. BART officials and the corporate media have tried to blame the workers for the strike, painting the workers as greedy and inflexible—playing off commuter fears about a strike. This is an unfair, untrue characterization of the workers and the strike. It is BART management that is responsible.
One major issue is safety. In the last three years, in five stations, 2,400 serious crimes have been committed, including 1,000 physical attacks on riders and 100 on BART workers. Also, BART workers are running more trains that carry more people but with a reduced workforce. BART officials have refused to respond to worker concerns over safety—spending dollars on outside attorneys to fight safety rulings. At the bargaining table, officials have all-out refused to consider the union's rider and worker safety proposals.
Another is wages, which includes pensions and benefits. Four years ago, workers sacrificed $100 million in wage increases and work rules. They haven't had a wage increase in five years. The workers are asking for a fair wage—increases of 5 percent a year. BART officials have been offering minimal wage increases of 2% a year, while demanding increased pension and healthcare contributions —meaning that workers would actually see their pay cut!
BART officials have released inflated salary estimates and averages for workers. According to the SF Examiner, train operators and station agents make a maximum annual salary of $62,000. A BART general manager makes $399,000 minimum!!
A 2011 report showed that a family of 4 in the Bay Area needed $74,341 a year just to get by. That was up from $62,517 in 2008. The same report said that the cost of basic needs—rent, food, health care, childcare, transportation and taxes—had risen 18.9 percent from 2008 to 2011. That trend has not changed. According to the Economic Policy Institute that number is now $84,133 a year.
The ANSWER Coalition calls on community members to support the BART workers. Join the picket lines and rallies. All of us are workers who understand how important transportation is to our lives and how inconvenient it is when BART doesn't run well. But the BART workers are standing up for all workers as more and more employers demand that we pay for our own healthcare and pensions, and survive on minimal wages in one of the most expensive places in the country. The BART workers are the ones who will make sure BART does run well. They have the right to do so in safety and to be paid fairly for their work. Demand that BART officials get BART running by supporting workers' safety and guaranteeing a fair, living wage.


2013-06-30 "BART Workers Approve Strike, Oakland City Workers Call Strike" 
from "Labor Notes":
The possibilities of a BART system strike this month are increasing quickly. At the same time, Oakland City workers have announced at least a one-day strike
Amalgamated Transit Union 155 and SEIU 1021 that represent most BART workers have both passed strike votes by large margins. Their contracts expire June 30 at midnight.
BART Management has clearly prepared for a battle. They have paid a well known union-buster hundreds of thousands of dollars to handle the negotiations.
Bart Board members have been circulating propaganda designed to place the blame for BART's deteriorating capital equipment on the workers and saying that workers must shoulder the burden of modernizing the system. No mention of the huge salaries paid to non-working management or the mismanagement that lead to their removal.
Whether or not there is a strike there will be rallies in Oakland and San Francisco on Monday. See below.
* ATU 1555 website [www.atu1555.org/index.cfm?zone=/unionactive/view_article.cfm&HomeID=218018]
*  SEIU1021 website [www.seiu1021.org/]
* Washington Post story [www.washingtonpost.com/national/bart-unions-negotiator-says-strike-likely-after-talks-with-management-break-down/2013/06/29/c1edab68-e126-11e2-a0de-145598a7b2b7_story.html].



2013-06-30 "Monday, July 1: UPTE, AFSCME, CNA Join Forces to Demonstrate State-wide" 
Call to Action from " Labor Notes ":
Berkelely: Noon, Bancroft and Telegraph
LBNL: 6-8am, Shuttle stop at downtown Berkeley BART
UCSF: 11:30am -1 pm, Parnassus
"Don't turn back the clock!" That will be the message from workers at nearly every University of California campus and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who plan to demonstrate Monday, July 1.
"UC wants to reverse decades of progress on quality public education," said UPTE's president, Jelger Kalmijn, a staff research associate at UCSD. "We won't stand for it!"
The university is a jewel that has been home to 59 Nobel laureates, and is honored around the world for contributions to research, health care innovation and teaching. Yet, for many, the luster is fading, as UC management continues to grow its top executives at the expense of its students, faculty and workers.
UC's top management has grown four times as fast as the total workforce in the last two decades. The top 140 executives will cost the pension fund $400 million. At the same time, UC is cutting benefits and pay for workers, causing high turnover and low morale. UC wants to force half of existing staff to work 15 years longer for the same retiree health benefits which were promised when we were hired. Tuition is increasing dramatically and faculty are taking their research grants elsewhere.
"We must preserve the integrity of UC for future generations," said Eric Lawrence, a UC Irvine technical worker. "We can't do that without fair pay and retirement security."
UC's 15,000 researchers, technical employees and health care professionals are represented by University Professional & Technical Employees, CWA 9119, and are part of a group of 44,000 union-represented employees working in coalition with AFSCME 3299 and the California Nurses Association to get UC management to reverse course.


2013-06-30 "Monday, July 1: Oakland City Workers Announce Strike Action" 
from "Labor Notes": 
12:00 noon, Rally, Frank Ogawa Plaza, Oakland
4:00 p.m., Rally, Civic Center, San Francisco
After City management stalled negotiations, Oakland employees, more than 5,000 workers, and community and labor allies are preparing for a strike beginning Monday at midnight.
Workers and officers of SEIU 1021 have declared that they will strike on Monday, effectively shutting down most city operations in Oakland.
"Managers are refusing to work with us in a fair, equitable fashion. We have had enough and workers are ready. The community is ready," said Roxanne Sanchez, President of SEIU 1021. Believing in good jobs for the community that pay fair wages, offer healthcare and a secure retirement - these are modest ideals. These are not just union ideals. These are American ideals. This is a community strike."
Oakland city workers believe their employer has short-changed residents the much-needed programs and services that allow the community to thrive. Because of a false choice the city has presented, pitting public services against public safety, workers say they have already paid the price.
Now, city employees are being asked for an additional 10 percent cut in their take-home pay, in addition to the $122 million they gave back over the last few years.
Click here for SEIU 1021 announcement [http://www.seiu1021.org/2013/06/28/oakland-city-workers-give-major-announcement-following-barts-72-hour-strike-notice/].

 
2013-06-29 “SEIU 1021 Applauds Assemblymember Phil Ting’s Call for BART Safety Hearing” 

from SEIU 1021 [http://www.seiu1021.org/2013/06/29/news-advisory-safety-hearing]:
Yesterday, Assemblymember Phil Ting called on the state Assembly Labor and Employment Committee to hold an oversight hearing on safety violations affecting workers at the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) district.
A Statement from SEIU 1021 President Roxanne Sanchez:
“We applaud Assemblymember Ting’s leadership in bringing attention to the District’s continued disregard for worker safety. BART is getting unprecedented revenue as a result of record ridership, while workers are forced to work under conditions that are dangerous and getting worse. The workers who keep BART running are being asked to do more work for less, while the District is spending tremendous amounts fighting CalOSHA regulations that would make the system safer. It’s unconscionable and unfair.
As we stand less than 48 hours away from the contract expiration, workers will continue to fight to improve safety for both riders and workers.”
Over 1,400 workers responsible for repair, maintenance and cleaning of the BART system are currently in contract negotiations with the transit district, which carries about 400,000 Bay Area passengers each weekday. The four-year contract with workers represented by SEIU Local 1021 and three other unions expire on June 30th.


2013-06-28 "Oakland City Workers Announce Strike, Along with BART and the Community; After management’s ongoing, stalled negotiations with BART workers and Oakland employees, more than 5,000 workers, community and labor allies are preparing for a strike beginning Monday at midnight" 
by SEIU1021 [http://www.seiu1021.org/2013/06/28/oakland-strike-announcement]:

Oakland, CA – Workers united with SEIU Local 1021 stood in front of Oakland City Hall today to announce they will strike on Monday, effectively shutting down most city operations in Oakland.
“Managers are refusing to work with us in a fair, equitable fashion. We have had enough and workers are ready. The community is ready,” said Roxanne Sanchez, President of SEIU 1021. Believing in good jobs for the community that pay fair wages, offer healthcare and a secure retirement – these are modest ideals. These are not just union ideals. These are American ideals. This is a community strike.”
Oakland city workers believe their employer has short-changed residents the much-needed programs and services that allow the community to thrive. Because of a false choice the city has presented, pitting public services against public safety, workers say they have already paid the price.
Now, city employees are being asked for an additional 10 percent cut in their take-home pay, on top of the $122 million they gave back over the last few years.
BART workers are still negotiating with the District through the weekend, pushing for measures that would improve safety for workers and riders alike. Workers continue to attempt to negotiate with BART over issues of safety, staffing levels, and compensation, but the District is refusing to bargain over these critical issues after delaying the bargaining process.
The announcement of the Oakland strike came a few hours after BART sent their 72-hour notice to the public of a pending strike that could shut down of all BART train operations throughout the Bay Area.


2013-06-27 "Oakland City Workers Give Major Announcement Following Bart’s 72-Hour Strike Notice"
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE [http://www.seiu1021.org/2013/06/28/oakland-city-workers-give-major-announcement-following-barts-72-hour-strike-notice/]:
WHO: SEIU Local 1021 leadership, BART and Oakland workers, labor and community allies
WHAT: After another day of unproductive negotiations, BART workers represented by SEIU Local 1021 officially delivered strike notices to BART management. Oakland’s bargaining day ended equally unproductive. Both contracts with BART and the City of Oakland expire on June 30th.
WHERE: Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Broadway and 14th Street, Oakland
WHEN: Friday, June 28 at 10 AM


2013-06-26 "BART Workers Vote to Authorize Strike; SEIU Local 1021 and ATU Local 1555 members authorize leadership to strike if necessary "
by SEIU1021 [http://www.seiu1021.org/2013/06/26/bart-workers-vote-to-authorize-strike/]:
San Francisco – SEIU Local 1021 and ATU Local 1555 announced today that the membership of both unions voted to authorize their bargaining teams to call a strike if necessary. The unions continue to attempt to negotiate with BART over issues of safety, staffing levels, and compensation, but the District is refusing to bargain over these critical issues. If an agreement cannot be reach or progress isn’t made by the time contracts expire on Sunday night, the bargaining teams of both unions may call for a strike.
“We have tried in vain to get BART to have serious conversations about the issues facing workers every day – there are fewer workers, working for less money, in more dangerous conditions,” said John Arantes, SEIU Local 1021 BART Chapter President. “This is a unsafe, unfair situation that can’t be allowed to continue. We don’t want to strike, but BART management seems determined to cause one.”
“Our members are under attack and the District refuses to act,” said Antonette Bryant, ATU Local 1555 President. “They won’t come to the table with serious proposals to protect workers from the thousands of attacks that happen in stations every year, instead they are leaving us understaffed and underpaid. All we want is fair compensation and a safe workplace.”
Instead of negotiating on these issues, BART has made unilateral changes to workers’ compensation claims procedures and pension benefits away from the bargaining table. The District has also refused to provide critical information to the unions about safety, revenue, and other relevant items. These actions are a violation of state law, and the unions have already filed a lawsuit to challenge the District’s unfair labor practices.
Among the issues that BART management refuses to address are:
· Worker and rider safety, starting with lighting improvements in the underground trackways, stations, and maintenance shops.
· Clean, open and accessible restrooms in stations
· Improved trainings on safety, in addition to skill development trainings and career advancement opportunities
· Job security and parity for part-time workers
· A fair pay package and an equitable cost of living increase. After 5 years without a raise, the District is proposing conditional 1 percent increases. Meanwhile, the cost of living in the Bay Area has soared 18.9 percent in the past three years.
· Adequate staffing levels
 · Bullet proof glass in station booths
The four-year contract with workers represented by SEIU Local 1021 and ATU Local 1555 unions expires on June 30th.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Hunger Strike Victory in the Northbay!

Statewide Prisoner Hunger Strike to Stop Torture, Long-Term Isolation & Indefinite Solitary Confinement in Prisons [link]

2013-07-27 "Contra Costa jail hunger strikers win their demands"
 by Coby Phillips, MDF Hunger Strike Representative, posted at [sfbayview.com/2013/contra-costa-jail-hunger-strikers-win-their-demands]:Send our brother some love and light: Coby Phillips, 2008011408, MDF D-C-4, 901 Court St., Martinez, CA 94553-1700.
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On July 19, 2013, all Martinez Detention Facility hunger strikers suspended their hunger strike. (Prisoners there had joined the statewide California hunger strike when it began on July 8, after submitting their own demands to the warden; see “Open letter to Contra Costa sheriff: Martinez AdSeg prisoners join hunger strike, issue demands.” [sfbayview.com/2013/open-letter-to-contra-costa-sheriff-martinez-adseg-prisoners-join-hunger-strike-issue-demands]) Below are the demands that were met by MDF command staff:

Martinez Detention Facility
Demand No. 1 was granted in full. Classification shall tell detainees in writing why they are being held in AdSeg as well as program expectations you must meet to be released from AdSeg.
Demand No. 2, to be released from your cell for at least an hour a day, be able to clean your cell and dump your trash, was partially granted. Command staff is working to come up with a free time schedule that follows Title 15 standards. One part of this that is granted in full is that all detainees will be given an opportunity to empty their trash can every day.
Demand No. 3 had three parts. Two parts were granted in full. MDF medical and mental health staff shall no longer conduct ANY type of appointment on the intercom system nor at detainees’ cell doors, where private medical issues are heard by others in violation of medical privacy laws (HIPPA). The third part, allowing AdSeg detainees to reach medical triage on the phone systems, as all other modules do, is still being worked on with command staff.
Demand No. 4 called for an end to housing mental health and non-mental health detainees together. Command staff told Classification to house mentally ill inmates only on D-module as a last resort.
Demand No. 5 was granted in full. All MDF detainees’ will be allowed to purchase ink pen fillers from canteen. Also, necessary photo copies will be made for detainees’ filing court documents. These will be implemented in a reasonable time frame.
It is in good faith that we suspend our hunger strike and that MDF command staff will continue to implement our Five Core Demands. MDF command staff has been very open to our ideas – with the exception of Dr. Dennis McBride, who tried to guide detainees into refusing water as well as food.
We hope all other hunger strikers can get some much needed relief on their demands. If this does not occur, we will resume our hunger strike.
Special thank you to our loved ones on the streets, all organizations and media outlets who covered our struggle.

An Open Letter to Jerry Brown: Stop the Torture of Solitary Confinement

Statewide Prisoner Hunger Strike to Stop Torture, Long-Term Isolation & Indefinite Solitary Confinement in Prisons [link]

Letter composed by Carole Travis, Attorney, activist, former president of United Auto Workers Local 719
[http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carole-travis/california-prison-hunger-strike_b_3670210.html]:
Monday, July 29, 2013. Today marks the first day of the 4th week of the California Prison Hunger Strike. On July 8 when the prisoners began their hunger strike to call attention to this torture, 30,000 inmates across California stopped eating. Saturday morning we learned that Billy Michael Sell housed in the Corcoran SHU (Solitary Housing Unit) died last Monday. Today over 600 men have only had water for 22 days. They protest their long-term torture. California is one of 19 states that use long term, often indefinite, solitary confinement and by far and away has the largest numbers of prisoners in solitary -- over 10,000.
Prisoners are not sentenced to solitary for their street crime. Prison officials assign them to this crushing isolation without due process, without review of the evidence against them, without legal representation or an impartial hearing. The deciding agency is made up of prison guards who have risen in the ranks through time. At Pelican Bay, California's super max, the men who decide the fate of the prisoners are white and have lived their lives in Crescent City with a population of around 9,000 people 15 miles south of the Oregon border. They believe they understand the culture of the prisoners, largely from major urban areas and communities of color because they have studied them in their cages for years. As a result of the July 2011 hunger strike there has been an impartial review panel deciding if those in solitary belong there. The panel found 68% of the prisoners they reviewed should be immediately transferred out of solitary into the General Prison Population.
The August (2013) issue of Scientific American highlights the ineffectiveness of solitary confinement to reduce crime in prison. It does have the capacity to induce or exacerbate mental illness. The practice is deemed cruel, inhumane, and ineffective. As the editors point out, "new research suggests that solitary confinement creates more violence both inside and outside prison walls." (p.10). Mr. Juan Mendez, Special Rapporteur on torture defines 15 days in solitary confinement as torture.
We are compelled to write this Open Letter to Governor Brown to step in and stop the torture. We ask you to join us and sign our letter.



Memorial to Billy 'Guero' Sell, dead while taking part in California Prisoner Hunger Strike for Human Rights

Statewide Prisoner Hunger Strike to Stop Torture, Long-Term Isolation & Indefinite Solitary Confinement in Prisons [link]

Anonymous commentator said...
I wonder how the cellmate Sell murdered in 2007 would respond to this story.....Karma? I do not think it is fair to paint this man, as a "victim"..when he showed no passion for his attempted murder years ago..and then for his victim and cell mate he murdered in 2007....I could care less about his art work.
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Northbay MDS replies:
Ah. Well, your comment "sets the record straight". As this project of recording various campaigns is being made by an individual, I support all efforts by the public to set the record straight with corrections or further information. Of course, the Human Rights abuse in California prisons is prevalent, and that's the real issue. If prisons were meant to be like an old Soviet GULAG, then there's no reason to think the USA is freedom loving. But if our prisons were meant to be better than a GULAG, than this is why these stories are being posted, to act as the watchful eyes for freedom against tyranny. Yes, I live amongst criminals here in this so-called "ghetto" in Vallejo's hillside, and I am cold in my heart having seen so much death and sex-slavery and deadly actions against our neighbors, but even I know that Human Rights abuse is evil, despite it occurring against a convicted violent criminal, abuse which makes his already bad character worse. The lesson here is, we live in California, and we shouldn't have to stand for conditions which are similar to dictatorships, even in our prisons, or we lose as a culture!

Drawing by an unknown prisoner


2013-07-27 "Prisoner in Corcoran SHU dies while on hunger strike; Fellow prisoners mourn, advocates raise questions about his death"
by Isaac Ontiveros, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition [http://sfbayview.com/2013/prisoner-in-corcoran-shu-dies-while-on-hunger-strike-2/]:
Isaac Ontiveros of Critical Resistance, a national grassroots organization working to abolish the prison industrial complex, is a spokesperson for the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition. He can be reached at (510) 444-0484 or isaac@criticalresistance.org.
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Oakand – Mediators working on behalf of hunger striking prisoners have received disturbing news that Billy Sell, known to his friends as Guero, died while on strike at Corcoran State Prison Security Housing Unit (SHU) on Monday, July 22. His death is being ruled a suicide by prison officials.
Fellow prisoners have reported that Sell was participating in California’s massive statewide hunger strike – now in its 20th day. They further reported that Sell had been requesting medical attention for several days prior to his death.
They described Sell as “strong, a good person” and openly questioned the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (CDCR) ruling his death a suicide, saying it was “completely out of character for him.”
Advocates are outraged at Sell’s death, noting that it could have been prevented if CDCR had negotiated with strikers.
Mediators are working to get further accurate information and accountability from the CDCR. “This story is deeply troubling and contradicts the assurances that the hunger-striking prisoners are receiving about appropriate medical care,” says Ron Ahnen of California Prison Focus and the mediation team representing striking prisoners.
Mediators have made an official inquiry to the federal receiver overseeing California’s prisons. This report comes amid growing concern for the medical care strikers are receiving, along with continued condemnation of the CDCR’s response to the strike and Gov. Brown’s total silence on the issue.
---
Bayview Newspaper Editor’s note: This very tragic news is of the first known death of a participant in the 2013 hunger strike. According to the person who first reported it and who spoke with several of his fellow prisoners, Billy Michael “Guero” Sell, CDCr No. P-41250, age 32, was housed in 4B-3L of the Corcorcan SHU, had not been under mental health care and had been going without water as well as food.
The prisoners reportedly described him as “strong, a good person, a good soldier” and concluded that “Billy died because of the hunger strike.” He is said to be from Riverside, but supporters have not yet been able to locate and talk with his family. The Bay View sends condolences to everyone who was Billy’s friend, comrade, fellow prisoner or family member.
This preventable death compels us all to push Gov. Jerry Brown harder to meet the prisoners’ demands and end the hunger strike before we lose any more of these brave freedom fighters. Billy “Guero” Sell’s life mattered.
Call Gov. Brown at (916) 445-2841, email him via http://gov.ca.gov/m_contact.php, fax him at (916) 558-3160 or write him at Gov. Jerry Brown, State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814.


PLEDGE OF RESISTANCE ALERT! (Week of July 29-August 4, 2013)
"Man Down!" That's the cry prisoners shout to the guards when a man needs immediate medical attention. The guards at Corcoran State Prison did not respond to the cry, and hunger striker Billy 'Guero' Sell died on July 22, 2013.
The Corcoran prison officials allege that Billy Sell committed suicide.
Prisoners tell a very different story...
"Man Down!" shouted hunger strikers to the guards in San Quentin's notorious prison within a prison, the solitary confinement Adjustment Center on Death Row. Four of the hunger strikers were not drinking water, as well as refusing all food.
Fortunately, these Adjustment Center prisoners are still alive. But, to this day, the Warden has not met with the hunger strikers to address their just demands.
In this fourth week of the hunger strike, even people with strong bodies and strong spirits will be in need of immediate medical monitoring. We do not want anyone else to die!
Please send this message to the prison officials (listed below):
*** I URGE YOU TO MEET WITH THE HUNGER STRIKERS NOW and ADDRESS THEIR JUST DEMANDS.
*** I DEMAND IMMEDIATE MEDICAL MONITORING FOR ALL HUNGER STRIKERS.
*** I DO NOT WANT ANY MORE HUNGER STRIKERS TO DIE!
1. To Warden Connie Gipson at Corcoran Prison:
phone: 559-992-8800 ext. 5008
email: Connie.Gipson@cdcr.ca.gov

2. To Warden Kevin Chappell at San Quentin Prison:
phone: 415-455-5000
email: Kevin.Chappell@cdcr.ca.gov

3. To CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
phone: 916-323-6001
fax: 916-442-2637

To keep up to date on the hunger strike, sign up for the daily list serve at
[www.prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com].

Send your love, solidarity and some postage stamps to a hunger striker:
Mr. Carlos Argueta F-63367;
Ca. State Prison - San Quentin 3AC - 15- N;
San Quentin, CA 94974

Thank you,
PHSS Pledge of Alert work group

See the beautiful artwork of Billy 'Guero' Sell, the prisoner who was hunger striking in Corcoran and died July 22, 2013 at age 32. Here is the link: [https://app.box.com/s/u2jzarb3mhowidpi0iwc]