In socialist Cuba, medical research isn’t geared towards private profit. Instead, it’s done to improve the lives of not only Cubans but all the people of the world. Recently they developed an immune therapy called CIMAVax which stops lung cancer cells from growing. It is not preventative but has proven effective to save and extend lives. It is free to all Cubans. While Trump makes it illegal to buy Cuban products, thousands of Americans have defied the ban to travel to Cuba which makes the vaccine available to them as well.
By Peyton Gill
The nuclear power industry is requesting ending regulations from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which is made up of five members appointed by Trump. Straight from the mouth of one such board member, David Wright, “The NRC mission is reasonable assurance of adequate protection—no more, no less.” That is NOT in the best interest of the public, considering nuclear power plant accidents have led to horrendous disasters and diseases in people and towns having to evacuate permanently due to radiation seeping out with its deadly toxicity.
The 98 commercially operating power plants in the United States need to be highly regulated to protect our bodies and the environment. Entergy operates the Waterford Nuclear Power Plant less than 50 miles upriver from New Orleans, well within the NRC-designated “ingestion exposure pathway,” an emergency zone that mandates emergency plans for the ban of contaminated food and water. The Nuclear Energy Institute group submitted a letter to their buddies on the Commission who themselves have financial interests in the nuclear industry. By creating loop holes, evading safety assessments, and not requiring the nuclear plants to inform the public when there are problems or inspection failures (yes, this is one of the requests the nuclear power plant industry included in the letter), the nuclear industry is able to go unchecked in what is a high-risk danger for all life. Nuclear core meltdowns in Chernobyl in 1986, and in Fukuishima, Japan, in 2011 show this. A near melt down at the Three Mile Island Plant near Harrisburg, Penn., in 1979 left the entire Midwest and East Coast in a three day nightmare during the attempt to contain it. A demonstration of over half a million people took place following that.
The nuclear energy capitalists want the NRC to reduce the burden of radiation-protection and emergency-preparedness inspections, letting plant owners do “self-assessments” and “self-reporting”, and less disclosure to the public of plant assessments. Nuclear reaction plants need to be under the most scrutiny by safety inspectors who are not employed by the plants, and they have no valid correct reason to keep assessment information from the public. This goes to show you what happens behind closed doors in the interest of greed over safety of millions of people and the planet.
By LaVonna Varnado-Brown
In a March 8, 2019 press release, two days after Fat Tuesday, Mayor Cantell expressed deep gratitude to all the departments whose efforts contributed to a successful Carnival 2019. The city spent millions to mobilize the “New Orleans Police Department, New Orleans Fire Department, New Orleans Emergency Medical Services, Department of Health, Department of Public Works, Department of Sanitation, Department of Property Management, Parking Enforcement, Parks and Parkways, Orleans Parish Communication District, and the New Orleans Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.”
Aside from whatever enjoyment the people get out off Mardi Gras, its purpose is to bring in millions in profit for the tourist industry, which pays for none of these services. The press release magnifies the fact that the city is subsidizing multiple private industries without concern for the needs of the working class residents of New Orleans. I recognize that the mobilization of these resources is needed to ensure safety for the influx of tourists and New Orleans residents. But the contradiction is that many of these resources are denied to the residents who live and work here every day. In the case of hospitality workers and service industry employees, our work generates the bulk of the revenue that they, in private board rooms, allocate as they see fit—usually away from black, brown, low income spaces.
$180 million in hotel taxes go to private non-elected commissions to boost the profits of private companies. It does not go into the budget. Meanwhile we have no money for infrastructure and early childhood education. This $180 million dollars worth of stolen taxes could be allocated for childcare for service industry workers during Mardi Gras while schools are closed. This money could be used to provide healthcare, maternity leave, and pensions to service industry and hospitality workers. This is not money that we need to letter write and ask for politely. This money belongs to the working class and has been stolen. We Demand that it be returned and used to elevate the humanity of workers locally. Doing so can only further illuminate and strengthen the city. The time is now to educate ourselves on the things we want to see changed. Agitate others to view the contradictions that exist. Then organize for revolution. The time for change is now and can begin with you, now.
In commemoration of International Working Women’s Day, over 150 workers and supporters sat down in the middle of crowded Decatur St. in the French Quarter. For half an hour, the workers showed the city a taste of their power, shutting down the street in solidarity with the hospitality workers being forced to work for almost no wages, without healthcare, sick leave, or reliable public transportation. Other workers nearby cheered them on, including bus drivers and truckers who paused in their routes. Many hospitality workers came out of their workplaces raising their fists in solidarity.
The New Orleans Hospitality Workers Alliance and the New Orleans Peoples’ Assembly led a coalition of working women to demand the city and the Tourism Board return $180 million in taxes that currently line the pockets of the rich ruling class instead of serving the people. Hospitality and workers from other industries spoke up in the streets, demanding childcare, maternity leave, sick pay, better schedules, pensions, an end to racist and sexual harassment, and healthcare. All these programs could be funded by the tax money currently hoarded by the city’s greedy capitalists. Speakers included leaders from the New Orleans Hospitality Workers Alliance, Women With a Vision, the New Orleans Abortion Fund, the Amalgamated Transit Union (Bus Drivers) Local 1560, Erase the Board Coalition, New Orleans Workers Group, and others. The rally was conducted in English and Spanish.
As the workers marched out of the French Quarter, they chanted “We’ll be back,” promising to continue the fight.
We Must End the Industrial Tax Exemption Program
By Peyton Gill
ITEP is the industrial tax exemption program put into Louisiana state legislation in 1974, and for the past 45 years, it has been the most notorious property tax abatement program in the United States. It’s sold as a way to bring jobs to the state by luring corporations and large businesses with rebates on their taxes or by totally exempting these companies from paying their property taxes. In fact, over the last twenty years, Louisiana based companies have dodged $23 billion in taxes through this program while cutting net employment by more than 26,000 jobs.
The state is generous with tax abatements, offering corporations 10-year 100% tax exemptions. The tax dollars these corporations are not paying could be used to provide us workers with better living and working conditions. These tax dollars should be going to state and local government and streamed into schools, infrastructure, public transportation, etc. Responding to public outrage over this theft of public money, in 2016 Gov. Edwards announced changes in ITEP through an executive order, allowing for local governing bodies (like school boards) to weigh in on the decision-making when corporations submit ITEP applications for property tax exemptions.
Less than 6 months ago, members of two teachers’ unions in East Baton Rouge unanimously voted to hold a 1-day strike when they found out ExxonMobil would be submitting their routine request for a $6.5 million-dollar property exemption. Shortly after the teachers and school employees declared their threat, ExxonMobil withdrew its request for tax abatement. Power to the people! Go Louisiana Association of Educators and East Baton Rouge Federation of Teachers!
As a result of the school board having a seat at the Board of Commerce and Industry meetings, and voicing their objections to these thieving corporations, now two LA state legislators are proposing legislation for the upcoming session that would limit local involvement in ITEP. This was announced in January 2019. So—news flash—it is 100% obvious where our state legislators stand: with the million- and billion-dollar corporations, not with the people.
Both Democrat and Republican politicians are making their objective apparent: to keep their campaign donations flowing, while teachers are underpaid, schools do not have resources to provide the necessary attention and education to our children, our roads have sinkholes, healthcare/sick pay/vacation pay are considered “benefits” and people are struggling. We are smart though! When workers get together to study, discuss, and strategize (like the teachers’ unions did), we can overpower the corruption! Local involvement is necessary to ensure we workers are taken care of, because the business government ain’t doin’ it!
Louisiana is one of only four states that do not fund legal support for workers in civil courts. As a result, in 75% of civil court cases in the state, people represent themselves, whether they have any understanding of the law or not. While the rich are able to hire as many lawyers as they need to protect their interests, workers can’t afford to defend themselves against predatory landlords, businesses who have ripped them off, or bosses who have stolen from or harassed them.
Even with the right to sue, even with anti-discrimination laws or other protections on the books, workers can’t protect themselves without affordable access to the courts. While there was once state funding to help workers get legal support in the courts, this fund did not meet the needs of workers who struggle with Louisiana’s right-to-work laws, rampant environmental devastation created by oil companies, and insurance fraud in the wake of natural disasters. Even with access to legal representation, workers cannot rely on the courts for justice when corporations and capitalists’ money buys them the power to trample over the rights of workers. We workers have to organize to demand funding for civil legal representation so that we can better defend our class against the attacks of the bosses and the owners.
EVERY SOCIAL PROGRAM UNDER ATTACK
By Gavrielle Gemma
The ever-growing military budget of over $1 trillion a year —that’s 1,000,000,000,000 or a million millions— exists for two purposes. First, it lets the heads of profiteering war industries loot the treasury for themselves. Second, it enables the ultra-rich to loot the wealth of other countries through invasion and occupation. The U.S. military and its imperialist allies use lethal force to extract cheap labor and resources like oil from the countries they target, blocking any efforts of the workers to organize themselves and installing and supporting right-wing dictators.
There is nothing about the war budget that brings security or peace to the working class here or anywhere else. Yet year after year both Republicans and Democrats vote to increase it. This looting of the treasury is at the expense of everything workers need. Both parties of Wall Street set aside their differences and dance at the altar of war profits.
Trump has just demanded another increase in the war budget and a cut of $2.7 trillion —that’s about 3,000 billion dollars—to Medicare, social security, disability, food stamps, housing, Medicaid, transportation, student loans, education, pensions and non-military agencies.
Trumps’ budget cuts won’t be passed as proposed— they never are. They always demand larger cuts so we are relieved when we manage to beat back some of the attacks. Again and again the Democratic party colludes in this charade by agreeing to a compromise. Over the last 4 decades again and again this is the pattern that results in cuts to necessary social programs.
CAPITALIST GOVERNMENT SEIZING MORE POWER TO ENRICH THE FEW
There are two parts to Congress. The House of Representatives and the Senate. All budgets arise from the house of representatives. Congress just voted against Trump’s rotten wall but by declaring a national emergency Trump diverted funds for it anyway. So what’s to stop a repeat of that as far as cuts go?
Apparently what can’t be achieved by a vote in the millionaire’s club called Congress can be done through declarations and legal decrees. Now that Trump has packed federal and supreme courts with appointments for life, he is also trying to cut all funding for Medicaid and Obamacare by a court decree.
REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS RESPONSIBLE
The whopping tax cuts for the rich pushed by Trump continue the cuts of Bush and Obama, both of whom also increased the military budgets. George W Bush cut taxes by $4 trillion for the rich. Just as they were set to expire, Obama extended the Bush cuts in 2010 for another $900 billion and extended them again in 2013, saving the rich $5 trillion over ten years.
Both Bush and Obama each increased military spending during their terms by $6 trillion. A few progressive members of congress may vote initially against it but have pledged to support the Democratic Party no matter what. Even these “progressives” don’t oppose U.S. military and economic interventions.
HUNGER OF THE PEOPLE LESS IMPORTANT THAN GOVERNMENT STABILITY
Trump pursues criminal behavior every day. He supports white supremacy. He commits sexual assault. He engages in illegal business dealings and more. But Democrats went after by cooking up a hoax about Russia. They chose to attack him from the right rather than risk inciting the masses or instability in the government.
The government at this point is an example of state capitalism meaning that its major role is to prop up Wall Street profits and ensure global economic domination through endless murderous wars. It Is not by the people or for the people. It is bought and paid for by campaign contributions and tens of thousands of lobbyists. Any remaining measures that benefit the people are a result of the struggle we waged in mass movements. Nothing could be more urgent than an independent movement against war and cuts to programs.
By Tina Orlandini
This past weekend, March 22–24, a delegation of Take ‘Em Down NOLA comrades traveled to Jacksonville, Florida for the second annual Take ‘Em Down Everywhere international conference. This global grassroots movement is “a black-led, multiracial, international, intergenerational, inclusive coalition of organizers committed to the removal of ALL symbols of white supremacy from the public landscape as a part of the greater push for racial and economic justice and structural equity” (TakeEmDownEverywhere.org). Take ‘Em Down Everywhere was inaugurated last year in New Orleans, bringing together organizers from Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Trinidad & Tobago.
This year in Jacksonville, described by locals as “the city that time forgot,” organizers and allies spent the weekend sharing local history, exchanging organizing strategies, and hitting the streets. On Saturday, March 23, local historian Rodney Hurst led a bus tour of Jacksonville, visiting the birth place of James Weldon Johnson, author of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (also referred to as the Black National Anthem); Hemming Plaza where the monument of the Confederate soldier stands (for now), along with a historical marker commemorating Youth Council sit-in’s at W.T. Grant Department Store and Woolworth’s Five and Ten Cent Store in 1960. Though this was not the beginning of the Civil Rights movement in Jacksonville, it signaled a turning point in local consciousness and was succeeded by further agitation that forced the integration of lunch counters, schools, parks, restrooms and other public facilities within the decade.
Later that day, Take ‘Em Down Jax, the Northside Coalition, and the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition organized a rally, beginning with a press conference at Confederate Park in front of the Women of the Confederacy monument, where they proposed an economic boycott of Jacksonville. Ben Frazier of Take ‘Em Down Jax and the Northside Coalition said to a cheering crowd, “it’s time for us to start telling people not to come to Jacksonville, Florida. Don’t come to Jacksonville because Jacksonville is a racist city which refuses to deal with these Confederate monuments.” The crowd of about 140 marched in Take ‘Em Down NOLA style formation to the International Brotherhood of Electoral Workers (IBEW) Union Hall for a panel discussion featuring Take ‘Em Down NOLA’s very own co-founder, Michael “Quess” Moore. Other panelists included Reverend Ron Rawls, Pastor of St. Augustine Church in Saint Augustine, a city 40 miles south of Jacksonville described by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964 as the most racist city in the United States. Maya Little of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s “Move Silent Sam” movement skyped into the panel and shared her account of the recent removal of the Silent Sam Confederate Soldier monument, current attempts to bring it back to campus, and ongoing intimidation she’s experiencing from local white supremacists and the police.
Following the panel, Take ‘Em Down organizers broke bread and continued to build at the Yellow House Art Gallery, described by director and Take ‘Em Down Jax member Hope McMath as a space where art and activism meet to create change.
On the final day of the conference, organizers from New Orleans and Jacksonville discussed specific successes and strategies to move forward the work of dismantling white supremacy, rooted in the South with eyes on the more than 1,500 white supremacist symbols littering the United States, and even more internationally. By the end of the conference, Take ‘Em Down Everywhere announced that next year’s convening will take place in Montgomery, Alabama.
The Take ‘Em Down NOLA delegation left Jacksonville with gratitude for Take ‘Em Down Jax and energized by this growing movement of working class organizers, teachers, historians, artists, faith based leaders and elders unified in the revolutionary struggle to end white supremacy everywhere.
A conversation with Chayito
The Seafood Workers Alliance is a group made up of seafood industry workers in Louisiana who are organizing across the rural areas of the state to address the many injustices they face in the industry, such as forced labor, unfair wages, and workplace safety issues. These are the workers who produce and process the seafood that makes Louisiana famous, and they are making a call to allies and fellow workers to join them in this fight. Below are excerpts from a conversation with the vice-president of the Alliance, who goes by Chayito.
Where are you from and how long have you been working in the United States?
I’m from Sinaloa, Mexico. I came to the United States, invited by a friend who told me about a job at a crawfish plant in Baton Rouge. I have been working here for 11 years as a guest worker.
How did you get to know the Seafood Workers’ Alliance?
Eleven years ago I met organizers from the Guest Worker Alliance. I had a problem at the crawfish plant I was working at, where the workers wanted to be paid more. They wanted 25 or 50 cents more per hour. I met two organizers who were helping the workers in their struggle. The boss was very upset, he disrespected the organizers. The boss got so angry he cut off the electricity, disrespected the workers, and sent for a truck to return all of the workers to Mexico. I decided to stay with a friend because I had a child in the hospital, and I had to work to pay for the clinic expenses. I started working in a taqueria and made tamales a few days a week. Here I was completely lost. We could not speak the language. It was difficult, but I endured, and I left before the visa expired.
After being in Mexico for a while, I wanted to come to work again. But when I went to hand over the copies of my passport to another company, a friend of my sister told me, “I can’t bring you because the company does not want those who have been involved with in organizing.” I started having problems again. I met another person who offered me another visa in Lafayette. The manager of that plant had problems with me, and he insulted me. As we are organized, [the bosses] are also organized. They all know each other.
I returned to Baton Rouge and worked for another company. During my time there I was living in a house with co-workers. It was a company house, and we had to pay rent to the company. The house was very dirty, with rats and cockroaches. We were 23 people living there with only three bathrooms and a kitchenette.
When I started I was not very involved with the movement. Now I am more involved because I started to know about other cases. The workers began to talk among ourselves and realize what was happening, and we began to organize to defend ourselves. I want to avoid these things that have happened to me and my coworkers. The Seafood Workers’ Alliance was formed two years ago, and I serve as vice president of the Alliance.
What are the conditions like for women in the industry?
The pay is not the same. Men are paid more. Of course there is sexual harassment. We have a task this year to find a way to raise awareness among people to make reports and not to remain silent about this issue. There are many women organizing.
What inspires you in this work?
It inspires me that more people are approaching us. We have managed to get people to support us. We have opened the doors for people to listen, to learn about the experiences of guest workers, and I’m very inspired because there is a lot of support amongst ourselves. We know it’s not easy, but we have to keep going.
What is a message you have for people who are trying to get organized in their industry?
Do not stay silent. There will always be a door that will open. You have to lose your fear. All human beings have rights no matter race, color, fat or skinny. We all have the right to work. We are not objects. We have dreams, and no one has the right to take them away.
We want to inspire allies to join the cause, inspire people who are from here, who have the will to support and the heart to support. We can all support, but I have seen that people like to ignore these issues. I want the people in power to be able to see how people are treated in the rural areas where the food that is eaten is processed. Where the people who process what they put in their mouths live. This food is made with tears, with bad working conditions. We have no protection. We want to inspire the people who support us to change the industry. Because when something is made with love, it will be healthy.
Una conversación con Chayito
La Alianza de Trabajadorxs de Mariscos y Pescado (ATMP) es un grupo de trabajadorxs de la industria de mariscos y pescado en Louisiana, quienes se están organizando en las áreas rurales del estado para enfrentar a las injusticias en la industria como el trabajo forzado, salarios injustos, y el tema de la seguridad en el lugar del trabajo. Ellxs son lxs trabajadorxs que producen y procesan los mariscos y pescados famosos de Louisana, y están invitando a lxs aliadxs y a otrxs trabajadorxs a unirse a la lucha. Lo que sigue son partes de una conversación con la vicepresidenta de la Alianza, Chayito.
¿De dónde viene usted y cuánto tiempo ha estado trabajando en los Estados Unidos?
Vengo de Sinaloa, México. Yo vine a los Estados Unidos invitada por una amiga que me contó sobre un trabajo en una planta de crawfish en Baton Rouge. He estado trabajando aquí por 11 años como trabajadora huésped.
¿Cómo empezó a organizar?
Hace once años conocí a la Alianza de Trabajadores. Tuve un problema en el trabajo donde los trabajadores queria ser pagados más. Querían 25 o 50 centavos más a la hora. Conocí a dos organizadores de la Alianza de Trabajadores que estaban ayudando a los trabajadores en su lucha. El jefe se molestó mucho, le falto el respeto a los organizadores. El señor cortó la luz, se puso grosero, y mando por un camión y corrió a los trabajadores de regreso a México. Yo decidí quedarme con una compañera porque tenía un niño internado en el hospital, yo tenía que trabajar para pagar los gastos de la clínica. Empecé a trabajar en una taquería y hacia tamales unos días, aquí me quedé completamente perdida, no podíamos hablar el idioma, fue difícil pero aguante y salí antes de que se me termino la visa.
Después de estar en México un rato, quería venir a trabajar de nuevo. Pero cuando fui a entregar las copias de mi pasaporte para otra compañía, una conocida de mi hermana me dijo “fijate que no te puedo traer porque la compañía no quiere los que han estado organizando.” Empeze a tener problemas de nuevo, conoci otra muchacha que me ofreció otra visa en Lafayette. La encargada de esa planta no le gusto mi trabajo. Me falto el respeto. Como nosotros estamos organizados, [los jefes de las plantas] también están organizados. Ellos todos se conocen.
Me regrese a Baton Rouge y trabaje por otra compañía. Durante mi tiempo ahí estuve viviendo en una casa con compañeros de trabajo. Era una casa de la compañía y teníamos que pagar renta a la compañía. La casa estaba muy sucia, con ratas y cucarachas. Eramos 23 personas viviendo ahí con solo tres baños y una mini cocina.
Cuando empecé no estuve muy involucrada con el movimiento. Ahora estoy más involucrada porque empeze a conocer de otros casos, los trabajadores empezamos a platicar entre nosotros y darnos cuenta de lo que estaba pasando y organizarnos para defendernos. Quiero evitar estas cosas que me han pasado a mi y a mis companeros y companeras. La Alianza de Trabajadores de Mariscos Y Pescado se formó oficialmente hace dos años y yo sirvo como vice-presidenta de la Alianza.
¿Como son las condiciones para las mujeres en la industria?
La paga no es la misma, a los hombres les pagan más. Claro que hay acoso sexual. Tenemos una tarea este año de buscar la manera de cómo concientizar a la gente que denuncien y no se queden calladas sobre esto. Hay muchas mujeres organizando.
¿Que le inspira de este trabajo?
Me inspira que más gente se están acercando a nosotros, hemos logrado que lleguen personas a apoyarnos, se nos han abierto las puertas para que la gente escuchen, que sepan como es el trabajo de los trabajadores huéspedes, y muy inspirada porque hay mucho apoyo entre nosotros. Sabemos que no es fácil pero tenemos que salir adelante
¿Tiene algún mensaje a personas que están intentando organizarse?
No se queden callados, siempre va haber una puerta que se va abrir. Se tiene que perder el miedo. Todos los seres humanos tienen derechos no importa raza, color, gordo o flaca, todos tenemos derecho a trabajar. No somos objetos, tenemos sueños y nadie los deben de romper.
Queremos inspirar a personas aliadas a unirse a la causa, inspirar a personas que sean de aquí, que tengan las ganas de apoyar y el corazón para apoyar. Todos podemos apoyar, pero he visto que la gente ignora. Yo quiere que las personas en poder puedan ver como se trata la gente en las áreas rurales donde se procesa la comida que se come. Donde vive la gente que procesa lo que se pone en la boca. La comida ahora esta hecha con lágrimas, con malas condiciones de trabajo, no tenemos ninguna protección. Queremos inspirar a las personas que nos apoyen para que la industria cambie. Porque cuando se hace algo con amor va ser sano.