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September 22, 2016 - 11:36am

Centerbridge Partners is a vulture fund that’s heavily invested Puerto Rico’s debt. Last summer, Centerbridge commissioned a report to push Puerto Rico to close more schools, lay off more teachers and make deeper cuts in basic support so they could make huge  profits. Some 200 schools have been closed, and millions cut from education.

John Lewisohn - a New York hedge fund manager and senior managaing direct of Centerbridge - is part of a small group of hedge fund billionaires that make huge profits off the Island’s misery. What’s more, he sits on the board of Families For Excellent Schools (FES). FES, a New York advocacy group, has funneled almost $5.75 million of untraceable money to Great Schools Massachusetts this year to push Question 2 to expand charter schools. That unregulated expansion would mean millions of dollars in cuts from Massachusetts schools, which would lead to cuts in programs, teachers and school closures. 

For a downloadable flyer with this information in both English and Spanish, check out the file link below.

For more information on Families for Excellent Schools, check out this report by Massachusetts Jobs with Justice.

 
September 14, 2016 - 7:57am

Check out this important article just published by The Boston Herald that traces most of the money being used to fund the campaign to lift the cap on chater schools back to just four billionaires - including the Wal-Mart family. 

"Four out-of-state billionaires — including the Wal-Mart heirs and Michael Bloomberg — and two New York lobbying groups have pumped in most of the $11.5 million raised this year for ballot Question 2 to lift the cap on charter schools, while three major teachers’ unions have doled out $6.7 million to keep the cap, campaign finance reports show."

September 13, 2016 - 2:23pm

Thousands turned out to a rally on the Boston Common in support of the more than 13,000 New England area janitors whose contracts are set to expire at the end of the month. Calling for more full-time jobs so workers can qualify for health care benefits, as well a cost-of-living wage increase, SEIU union and community members came from New York, New Jersey, Hudson Valley, and Connecticut to support SEIU District 615.  

Elizabeth Waren was also on hand, speaking about her father's experience as a janitor and making clear how important labor is to maintaining a vibrant - and clean - community.

September 13, 2016 - 1:52pm

On Monday, September 12, hundreds gathered at the MA State House as part of a national day of action(link is external) calling our legislators to a moral revolution of values. Sponsors of the event included, among others, the Boston Chapter of the NAACP, Bethel AME Church, Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry, the Jewish Labor Committee, Mass Interfaith Worker Justice, and MA Jobs with Justice.  

moral declaration(link is external) was delivered to law makers, calling for economic democracy, equality in education, healthcare for all, criminal justice reform, and equal protection under the law. Stay tuned for more Moral Monday actions in MA, and be sure to check out the national website(link is external).

To get involved, email moralrevivalboston@gmail.com(link sends e-mail).

September 13, 2016 - 1:48pm
145 registered nurses at Holy Family Hospital at Merrimack Valley, who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), have been attempting for several months to negotiate a new union contract.

A delegation of local religious and labor leaders came forward to help nurses at the Steward Holy Family Hospital in Merrimack Valley get a new contract. This group of community leaders delivered a letter to hospital President Joseph Roach this past Thursday showing solidarity in the ardent fight that the nurses have been since the expiration (and further two-month extension) of their contract this past March 31st.

The 145 registered nurses at HFHMV, who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association(link is external) (MNA), have been attempting for several months to negotiate a new union contract, yet the hospital has failed to engage in a good faith effort to negotiate with the nurses. As a result, the nurses were forced to file two unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the facility for bargaining in bad faith.  

The letter addressed to Roach states that while Steward Healthcare reported $14 million in profits between the company's Haverhill and Methuen hospitals in 2015, the hospital has lost 70 nurses over the last two years — more than 41 percent of the registered nurses staff due to low wages.

These nurses have demonstrated their commitment to their communities when they sacrificed their own wages and agreed to a zero-percent increase in wage scales for three years, 2012, 2013 and 2014, followed by a half-percent increase in 2015. However, the Steward Health Care System, a community-based health care organization with 3,000 physicians, 10 hospital campuses, and 24 affiliated urgent care provider locations headquartered in Boston has shown very little initiative to come to a fair agreement.

The HFHMV nurses hope this letter helps convince their management to do the right thing for its nurses and, most importantly, for their patients by being fair to those who care and settle this agreement for the good of all in this community

Join the Workers' Rights Board meeting to show your support on September 20, 6:00pm - 8:00pm, at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 16 Ashland St., Haverhill,  01830 (call Tarshia Green-Willimas at 857-266-3559 for more information).

To sign a petition in support of the nurses' contract fight, click here.

 

September 13, 2016 - 1:43pm

Paul Sagan, Chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which approves and oversees charter schools in Massachusetts, donated $100,000 to the Question 2 campaign in an effort to lift the cap on charter schools. This is a blatant power grab by a wealthy individual who wants to control billions of dollars in state and local education funds.

Sign the petition to Governor Baker calling for Sagan's resignation.

September 13, 2016 - 1:22pm

After 125 days on strike, members of Teamsters Local 25 in Boston, MA ratified a new five-year contract with ABC Supply, Co. According to the Teamsters, the contract "provides a $5,500 signing bonus, significant increases to the employer contributions for retirement security and $3.00 in wage increases over the life of the contract. It also returns the five sick days per year which the employer had sought to revoke." Congratulations, workers!!!

August 24, 2016 - 11:39am

"Food with integrity."  That's what Chipotle vows to serve in its restaurants.

But for the people who prep tomatoes and peppers at Taylor Farms for Chipotle, the reality is very different. They have had enough of the chemical spills, injuries, sexual harassment, surveillance and retaliation on the job and they're standing together for a more fair workplace.

Click here to urge Chipotle executives to stand with the people who work at Taylor Farms.

Taylor Farms is the largest fresh-cut produce and pre-packaged salad producer in the world – but the company is dead set against allowing the people who make them successful from achieving a safe and fair return on their work. Taylor Farms has illegally fired, spied on, threatened and retaliated against working people at its Tracy, California plant for joining together for a better life.

No one should have to work in such dangerous conditions. Four chemical spills at the Taylor plant since October have sent more than 20 people –including two pregnant employees – to the hospital. Taylor’s managers told the men and women working at the plant to keep working and keep quiet or else risk losing their jobs.

Taylor Farms has already been charged with 70 citations by the California Occupational Safety and Health Agency in the last year, and the National Labor Relations Board has prosecuted the corporation and its temp agencies for more than 50 labor law violations. Yet none of these investigations have registered with Chipotle – which claims to care about how its food is sourced.

In spite of the "food with integrity" pledge Chipotle commits to on its website, the burrito giant has ignored requests from the working people at Taylor to help them push their supplier to do better.

Chipotle should be condemning, not ignoring the conditions at Taylor Farms!

Urge Chipotle to live up to its promise and do the right thing: Tell Taylor to clean up its act or else drop them as a supplier.

Companies like Chipotle have a responsibility to exert their influence over their major suppliers and give a fair deal to the working people who help boost their bottom lines.

In recent years, activists like you helped put pressure on Chipotle and other fast-food chains to commit to a life-changing raise for Florida farmworkers: An extra penny per pound of picked tomatoes. Now, with your help, we can convince the company to live up to its ethos once again. And if we turn up the pressure, Taylor Farms will be forced to shape up.

Please speak up and call on Chipotle to do the right thing.

August 22, 2016 - 4:36pm
 

Contrary to the multi-million dollar ad campaign put out by the misnamed "Great Schools Massachusetts" charter schools don't function like public schools in their funding, in their accountability, or in their treatment of students. 

Lost Funding

This year alone, charters will divert more than $400 million from public schools. That's money districts desperately need so they can offer more science, technology, arts and music classes, as well as preschool serves and smaller class sizes. The money should be kept in the public schools for the benefit of all students.

No Local Accountability

Charter schools are not accountable to their local communities. The state often approves them over the united opposition of the communities where they will be located. That's wrong. Local communities should have the final say on what kinds of schools they want.

'Separate and Unequal' Education

Charter schools are divisive, creating a two-track system described by the NAACP as "separate and unequal." They typically underserve English language learners and special needs students, leaving public school with fewer resources to educate a higher-need population.

How You Can Help

While the opposition has millions of dollars from hedge funds and corporate backers, we rely on people power to stand up for children in our public schools. If some of our public schools are falling short, we should fix them - not keep taking money away and giving it to unaccountable charters.

 

To get involved in the campaign to defeat Question 2, click here.

 

June 30, 2016 - 12:59pm

So the Fight Continues: Reflections on SCOTUS Striking Down DAPA/DACA extension

by Juan Pablo Blanco

In a 4-4 deadlock, the supreme court has killed President Obama’s attempt to provide deportation protections and the ability to work legally in the U.S. to up to 4.5 million immigrants who would have been eligible.

 

In United States V. Texas, the failure of the High Court to come to a decision means that the ruling of the Fifth Court of Appeals stands and the case will be sent back to a conservative judge in Brownsville, Texas. There is wide acceptance that the judge will rule against these executive measures. While the 2012 DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program will continue to be active, both DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents) and the planned DACA expansion have been halted by the United States V. Texas case.

 

DAPA, which would have allowed for protections to be granted to parents of American citizens or permanent residents could have protected the 17 million people that currently live in mixed status families according to the Pew Hispanic Center. About 4.5 million children who are born in the U.S. have at least one undocumented parent, and families continue to be torn apart. While president Obama has repeatedly said that deportation should target “violent offenders and people convicted of crimes; not families, not folks who are just looking to scrape together an income.”, during the first six months of 2011 22% of the total number of people deported were parents who had at least one child who was an American citizen.

 

The court’s decision and subsequent failure of the DACA expansion would have removed the age cap that is currently enforced to apply, expanded the required date of entry from before 2007 to before 2011 and would have granted work authorization for three years instead of the current two. While this program would have offered no path to permanent residency or citizenship, the deportation protections and access to work permits they would have afforded would have been paramount in ensuring undocumented people access to dignified jobs with the same legal protections that most Americans already enjoy. In addition, in more than seventeen states DACA recipients have access to in-state tuition or federal financial aid, something which the people who were not able to meet the requirements of the 2012 program will still have no access to.

 

While this is definitely a setback, there are other legal avenues available. The case can come up to the Supreme Court again, either if a request of rehearing by the Department of Justice or through an appeal on the decision based on the merits - rather than the injunction that was at hand today. President Obama’s record breaking deportations still continue unabated and the use of immigration raids still continues to terrorize our communities. We need to keep putting pressure on our President to end these injustices against our communities and our people and focus on getting the presidential candidates for this coming election to recommit to these executive actions and provide us with the ways they plan to provide relief and protection to our undocumented brothers and sisters.

 

Some movements are even looking outside the legislative process to put pressure on our politicians to provide real change to our immigration policies and practices. Organizations and movements like the Cosecha Movement look at civil disobedience, mass strikes, boycotts and public ultimatums as the tools that will ensure this to happen.

 

No matter which way one thinks is more effective to create a just society in which the needs and dignity of our undocumented people are respected, we all need to be involved in some capacity.

 

movimientocosecha.com

unitedwedream.org

immigrationadvocates.org

Juan Pablo Blanco is an ardent Immigrant rights advocate active on many fronts with Mass JWJ and ROC Boston. By night, you will find him trying to make the Bass a cool instrument again.

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