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Categories : Activism, Democracy, Occupy, People Power, Workers
from The National Journal
by Sean Sullivan
Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker is virtually certain to face a recall election following an announcement from the state Democratic Party that over a million signatures will be filed on Tuesday afternoon to put the first term governor on the ballot this year.
“The collection of more than one million signatures represents a crystal clear indication of how strong the appetite is to stop the damage and turmoil that Scott Walker has caused Wisconsin,” said Ryan Lawler, board member for United Wisconsin, the group spearheading the signature gathering process.
ust over 540,000 valid signatures are required to trigger a recall election. Activists had 60 days to collect the signatures, during which time they brought in nearly double the requisite amount.
Democrats were quick to tout magnitude of their accomplishment, noting that they collected 3,000 pounds worth of signatures, which fill 300,000 pages at 14″ each.
The signatures are now subject to review by the state Government Accountability Board, which has 60 days to examine the validity of the signatures, though the head of the board has said the process will take longer. Some will no doubt be disqualified, but given the amount collected, Walker — who has already been preparing for a recall campaign by raising money, staffing up and running television ads in the state — will almost certainly face another election, less than two years into his first term.
Several Democratic names have been floated as potential Walker challengers, including Walker’s 2010 opponent, Tom Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee. Other names include former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, state Sen. Jon Erpenbach and retiring Sen. Herb Kohl, among others. A recall election would be ordered within six weeks of the date the petition signatures are validated, but a contested Democratic primary could further push that day back by four weeks.
For his own part, Walker was nowhere near Madison on Tuesday, opting instead to attend a fundraisier in New York.
United Wisconsin collected over 845,000 signatures for the recall Rebecca Kleefisch, the lieutenant governor of Wisconsin.
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Categories : Activism, Democracy, News, People Power, Resistance 2.0, Workers
from Sustainable Tompkins
by Joe Marraffino and Gay Nicholson
Leaders in the sustainability movement believe that the most promising economic development strategy available may be a focus on economic justice. This would reduce poverty and increase tax revenues, strengthen democracy and the sense of a shared future, reduce the tax burden for social services, and increase support for investments in education and public infrastructure. All of these are part of a viable and sustainable local economy.
Worker cooperatives can be an important tool in this strategy. According to the Democracy Collaborative at the University of Maryland, cooperatives can create a green and just economy by building community wealth “in which ownership is broadly shared, locally rooted, and directed toward the common good. Worker cooperatives are businesses owned and democratically controlled by their workers. They have been organized since the dawn of the industrial revolution and have been successful in virtually every industry – from mining companies, to robotics firms, taxi drivers, health care providers, food processors, to creative and technology firms – anywhere where the workers and their community would benefit from having a stake in their workplace and the incentive of receiving an equitable share of the fruits of their labor.
While worker cooperatives have been a steady presence in modern history, they have surged during times of economic dislocation, and rapid cultural and technological change. During the massive movement of capital and jobs out of the upstate (New York) region in the 1970s and 1980s, a wave of efforts to create and save jobs through cooperatives and employee ownership rose up in Jamestown, Herkimer, Saratoga, the Mohawk Valley, Ithaca and elsewhere.
The wave was given technical assistance by the NYS School of Industrial and Labor Relations and supported by government loans. State workers, researchers and organizers in Central New York were considered authorities throughout the country, structuring buyouts and training workers. In the mid-1980s the New York State Legislature formalized their support by writing a new article into State Corporations law recognizing the benefits of the worker cooperative model.
Worker cooperatives can have profound social benefits in terms of job satisfaction and empowerment of citizens through the everyday practice of democratic participation. They have also been shown to have significant economic benefits, both at an individual and regional level. Participation in decision-making and an equitable share of profits increases worker productivity and creativity, and decreases the need for supervision. A broad base of employee ownership increases economic stability by increasing the incentive for firms and workers to stay in the region and via the multiplier effect of worker/resident’s local spending. Worker cooperatives also build and retain locally-rooted assets for workers who may have no other path to wealth creation or entry to the middle class.
In our current economic climate, worker cooperatives are increasingly being seen by governments, community groups, and workers as a valuable tactic to stabilize regional economies, create and retain local jobs, and create assets for residents, including those that may have no other path to enter the middle class. For example, Cooperative Home Care Associates, a NYC home health care business, has over 1,500 worker-owners and annual income of over $40 million. The cooperative has helped raise the base pay for the entire sector of workers in the region, and has created full-time work and career paths in an industry notorious for its instability and low pay. South of Rochester, one of the oldest worker cooperatives in the country, the 35-year-old, and $18 million per year food processor Once Again Nut Butter has grown and created jobs despite regional closures and layoffs.
The Finger Lakes and Southern Tier regions need a program to mobilize the creation of regional worker cooperatives. Worker cooperatives need technical assistance to get started. They need incubation services, connections with investments, and organizational development that is not available through existing business development agencies. This need exists in part because of the relative lack of familiarity that banks, attorneys, and workers have with the model, and also because of some unique aspects of the model itself.
Sustainable Tompkins is proposing a pilot project of an incubator and technical assistance center for worker coops. Let’s make sure that economic justice is at the heart of our economic development strategy. It’s good for business. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more and get involved.
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Categories : Democracy, People Power, Permaculture, Resistance 2.0, Workers
The story of the historic Occupy Wall Street Farmers March.
On December 4, 2011, farmers and activists from across the country joined the Occupy Wall Street Farmers March for “a celebration of community power to regain control over the most basic element to human well-being: food.” The Farmers March began at La Plaza Cultural Community Gardens where urban and rural farmers addressed an excited crowd about the growing problems in our industrial food system and the promise offered by solutions based in organic, sustainable and community based food and agricultural production. This was followed by a 3 mile march from the East Village to Zuccotti Park, the birthplace of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
We would like to thank Occupy Wall Street, the OWS food justice working group and all the farmers and citizens, urban and rural that participated in the day’s events.
Produced by Food Democracy Now!
Directed by Anthony Lappé, INVISIBLE HAND
In association with No Umbrella Media
DP (NY): Dave Ambrose
Additional footage courtesy of Pull-Start Pictures
Music by Libby Kirkpatrick with Daron Murphy
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Categories : Activism, Democracy, News, Occupy, People Power, Workers
from Al Jazeera
by Benjamin Dangl
October 14, 2011
Social movements from Argentina and other Latin American countries have been emulated in protests all over the world.
Massive buildings tower over Wall Street, making the sidewalks feel like valleys in an urban mountain range. The incense, drum beats and chants of Occupy Wall Street echo down New York City’s financial district from Liberty Plaza, where thousands of activists have converged to protest economic injustice and fight for a better world.
As unemployment and poverty in the US reaches record levels, the protest is catching on, with hundreds of parallel occupations sprouting up across the country. It was a similar disparity in economic and political power that led people to the streets in the Arab Spring, and in Wisconsin, Greece, Spain and London. Occupy Wall Street is part of this global revolt. This new movement in the US also shares much in common with uprisings in another part of the world: Latin America.
This report from Liberty Plaza connects tactics and philosophies surrounding the Occupy Wall Street movement with similar movements in Latin America, from the popular assemblies and occupation of factories during Argentina’s economic crisis in 2001-2002, to grassroots struggles for land in Brazil.
Almost overnight in late 2001, Argentina went from having one of the strongest economies in South America to one of the weakest. During this economic crash, the financial system collapsed like a house of cards and banks shut their doors.
Faced with such immediate economic strife and unemployment, many Argentines banded together to create a new society out of the wreckage of the old. Poverty, homelessness and unemployment were countered with barter systems, factory occupations, communally-run kitchens and alternative currency.
Neighbourhood assemblies provided solidarity, support and vital spaces for discussion in communities across the country. Ongoing protests kicked out five presidents in two weeks, and the movements that emerged from this period transformed the social and political fabric of Argentina.
New organising models
These activities reflect those taking place at Occupy Wall Street and in other actions around the US right now. Such events in Argentina and the US are marked by dissatisfaction with the political and economic system in the face of crisis, and involve people working together for solutions on a grassroots level. For many people in Argentina and the US, desperation pushed them toward taking matters into their own hands.
“We didn’t have any choice,” Manuel Rojas explained to me about the occupation of the ceramics factory he worked at outside the city of Mendoza, Argentina during the country’s crash.
“If we didn’t take over the factory we would all be in the streets. The need to work pushed us to action.”
This was one of hundreds of businesses that were taken over by workers facing unemployment during the Argentine crisis. After occupying these factories and businesses, many workers then ran them as cooperatives. They did so under the slogan, “Occupy, Resist, Produce”, a phrase borrowed from Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement (MST), which has settled hundreds of thousands of families on millions of acres of land through direct action.
In 2008 in Chicago, when hundreds of workers were laid off from the Republic Windows and Doors factory, they embraced similar direct action tactics used by their Argentine counterparts; they occupied the factory to demand the severance and vacation pay owed to them – and it worked.
Mark Meinster, the international representative for United Electrical Workers, the union of the Republic factory workers, told me that the strategies applied by the workers specifically drew from Argentina. In deciding on labour tactics, “We drew on the Argentine factory occupations to the extent that they show that during an economic crisis, workers’ movements are afforded a wider array of tactical options,” Meinster said.
Many groups and movements based in the US have drawn from activists in the South. Besides the 2008 occupation of the Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago, movements for access to water in Detroit and Atlanta reflected strategies and struggles in Cochabamba, Bolivia, where in 2000, popular protests rejected the multinational company Bechtel’s water privatisation plan and put the water back into public hands.
The Take Back the Land movement in Florida, which organised homeless people to occupy a vacant lot and pairs homeless families with foreclosed homes, mirrors the tactics and philosophy of the landless movement in Brazil. Participatory budgeting in Brazil, which provides citizens with direct input on how city budgets are distributed, is now being implemented by communities across the US.
These are just a handful of movements and grassroots initiatives that provide helpful models (in both their victories and failures) for decentralising political and economic power, and putting decision making into the hands of the people.
In the face of corrupt banks, corporate greed and inept politicians, those occupying Wall Street and other spaces around the US have a lot on common with similar movements in Latin America. Besides sharing the same enemies within global banks, international lending institutions and multinational corporations, these movements have worked to make revolution a part of everyday life. And that is one of the most striking aspects of about what’s happening with the Occupy Wall Street movement right now.
Occupying Wall Street
The organisation and activities filling Liberty Plaza in New York are part of a working community where everyone is taking care of each other and making decisions collectively. During a recent visit, a kitchen area in the center of the park was full of people preparing food for dinner with donated cooking supplies. Other spaces were designated for medical support, massage therapy, sign-making and meditation. One area was for the organisation of recycling and garbage; people regularly walked around the park sweeping up debris and collecting garbage.
A massive People’s Library contained hundreds of books along the side of the park. As with the cooking, sign-making and medical supplies, the movement had received donated materials and support to keep these operations thriving. Occupy Wall Street also has its own newspaper, the Occupy Wall Street Journal, copies of which were being handed out in English and Spanish editions on nearly every corner of the park. A media centre where various people sat around computers and cameras provided ongoing coverage of the occupation.
Within this community were pockets of areas with blue tarps and blankets where people were resting and sleeping, having meetings or simply holding home made signs on display. Singing, drumming, chanting, guitar and accordion playing were also going on in a wide array of places.
Ongoing meetings and assemblies, with hundreds to thousands of participants, dealt with issues ranging from how to organise space in the park and manage donated supplies, to discussions of march plans and demands. Police outlawed the use of megaphones, so people at the park have just been relaying what others say during these assemblies by repeating it through the layers of the crowd, creating an echo so everyone can hear what is said.
At the Comfort Station, where well-organised piles of clothes, blankets, pillows and coats were stacked, I spoke with Antonio Comfort, from New Jersey, who was working the station at the time. Antonio, who had his hat on backwards and spoke with me in between helping out other people, said that the donations of clothes and sleeping materials had been pouring in. People had also offered up their showers for activists participating in the occupation to use. While I was at the station someone asked for sleeping supplies for an older man, and Antonio disappeared into the Comfort Station piles and returned with an armful of blankets and a pillow.
“I’m here so I can have a better life, and so my kids can have a better life when they get older,” he said about his reasons for participating in the occupation. Everything at the station had been running smoothly, Antonio explained. “Everybody works together, and it’s very organised. We’ll be here as long as it takes.”
Adeline Benker, a 17-year-old student at Marlboro College in Vermont who was holding a sign that said, “Got Debt? You are the 99%,” told me that for her – like many other young students participating in the occupation in New York and elsewhere – it was all about debt.
“I will be $100,000 in debt after I graduate from college, and I don’t think I should have the pay that for the rest of my life just to get an education in four years.” Benker said this was her very first protest, and her first time in New York City. When I spoke to her, she had been at the occupation for a few days, and would be returning the following week.
Down the sidewalk was activist Tirsa Costinianos with a sign that said, “We Are the 99%”. Costinianos said, “I want the big banks and the corporations to return our tax money from the bailout.” Costinianos had been at the occupation on Wall Street every weekend since it started on September 17.
“I love this and I’m glad we’re doing this. All of the 99% of the people should join us – then we could stop the stealing and the corruption going on here on Wall Street.”
Ibraheem Awadallah, another protester holding a sign that said “Wall Street Occupies Our Government: Occupy Wall Street”, told me: “The problem is this system in which the corporations have the biggest influence in politics in our country.”
These types of encounters and activities were happening constantly in the ongoing bustle of the park, and underscore the fact that this occupation, now nearly into its third week, is as much of a community and example of participatory democracy as it is a rapidly spreading protest.
As the late historian Howard Zinn said, it is important to “organise ourselves in such a way that means correspond to the ends, and to organise ourselves in such a way as to create the kind of human relationship that should exist in future society.”
That is being developed now within this movement, from the leaderless, consensus-based assemblies, to the communal organisation of the various food, media and medical services organised at the occupation.
Similarly, movements across Latin America, from farmer unions in the Paraguayan countryside to neighbourhood councils in El Alto, Bolivia, mirror the type of society they would like to see in their everyday actions and movement-building.
As Adeline Benker, the 17-year-old student at the Wall Street occupation said, echoing the struggles from Argentina to the Andes and beyond, “We need to create a change outside of this system because the system is failing us.”
Benjamin Dangl is author of book Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America (AK Press).
The views expresed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
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Categories : Activism, Democracy, Occupy, People Power, Resistance 2.0, Workers
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Categories : Activism, Arab Spring, Democracy, Occupy, People Power, Workers