Tag Archives: Virginia New Majority

How the Rich get Richer and We Get Sicker | Dan Redick

15 Dec

By Dan Redick, Virginia New Majority, Richmond Chapter member

Early in the 21st Century my wife and I were touring Northern California by camper van when we decided to take a day’s excursion to Eureka, California. Nestled at the foot of some of the more rugged coastal mountains of California, Eureka’s position on Humboldt Bay made it a natural shipping point for the lumber industry fed by the forested slopes leading away from the Pacific.  As we looked at the setting on the map and read about the area, it seemed worthy of our exploration for neat and interesting places to visit, or even live.

As we crested a last hill before descending to the town below, we could see most of the bay was obscured by what at first appeared to be fog, not an unusual occurrence in California in the summer.  As we got closer, it became apparent that what we were really seeing was “smaze”, a term TV weather forecasters came up with so they didn’t have to say “smog” on the air.  As we pulled into a grocery store parking lot to replenish supplies, we quickly discovered why “smaze” and smog are the same.

Our first breath of the outside air irritated our throats, nasal passages and lungs.  Our eyes burned and watered.  There was a distinct acrid odor to the air.  My wife wondered aloud what was causing such an awful air problem.  My memory had been stirring from the first whiff until I remembered from many years previously the pulp mill in Canton, NC, where I had once visited.  Through pursed lips and semi-held breath I blurted out “pulp mill” and motioned we should get into the store quickly.  We did and while we shopped we marveled at how few of the people we encountered seemed to be affected by the abysmal air quality. The Evergreen Pulp Mill of Eureka would later be forced to pay hefty court-ordered fines for spewing pollutants into the air and lungs of the surrounding area. Continue reading

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Poem: The Enslaved | Kelvina Mitchell

8 Dec

The Enslaved

A poem by Kelvina Mitchell,
VNM member from Petersburg, VA

Tryna get up out this system.
Want to talk, but won’t nobody listen.
Guess that just the hand that I was given
Saw all the flaws of the previous generation
Yet I still wind up slippin
Even if I make one mistake
In this system, ones never forgiven
Tryna find some light to livin
So like everyone else here
I’ll just turn to religion

Tryna get the hell up out this system
Cause these teachers man,
They aint even tryna listen
If I express myself
They take it like I’m dissin
Sh*t need their permission just to take a piss and
Why you judgin me on how I dress
Im different
Not tryna conform
So forget you and ya wishes

Man im so tired of this  system
Been dependent on it  for a minute
Cant see me surviving if im not  in  it
Don’t  know how I can feed my kids
Or keep up on my rent and
They wont let me have a man
So I just forget it
Accept things for the way they are
And just keep on livin
But forreal I haven’t been happy for a while
And around tax time, is the only time I smile
For the rest of the time I just work hard
Maybe like 1 or 2 side jobs
Not really tryna mess up my benefits
So I just settle for this sh*t.

I refuse to be a victim of this system
Shut the hell up, cuz you really need to listen
Been livin  by these ways for  minute
From school, welfare, even to the prison
Got us so enslaved
We fear whats different
Not fueling creativity and possibilities,
Rather do what he says, and what she sees
What kind of person can you really be
If your reality is based off of tv?
Lift off the veil so you can really see
That were trapped in this world of conformity.
So hold on to all your dreams and ambition
And search for the truth, to help find your mission.

Beating a Path to a Progressive Virginia

6 Dec

Jeff Elkner (middle) with his wife Roxana Alfaro and son Louis.

by Jeff Elkner

My wife, Roxana, my son, Louie, and I are Arlington Virginia New Majority chapter members, and we attended the first VNM statewide members meeting of VNM in the state capitol building in Richmond on Saturday. What an inspiring day! We were so proud to join the fightback for a fair and free Virginia!

Highlights of the incredible day for me include: Continue reading

Right Wing prepares legal assault on VIrginia’s 99%

29 Nov

Originally posted at Progress|VA.

Conservative Lawmakers Lining Up Ideological Legislation

right turn.pngConservative lawmakers did not waste any time in getting partisan legislative proposals started for the next session that starts in January. Some controversial proposals are already public, just two weeks since the election, and they include:

  • Ending Criminal Background Checks for Gun Purchases – The Virginian-Pilot reports, “Gun-rights advocates have lobbied Gov. Bob McDonnell to scrap the program… Efforts to cancel the state’s 22-year-old background check system… could be debated in the upcoming General Assembly session.” This will likely be just one of many pro-gun proposals from conservatives.
  • Undoing Compromise Redistricting – Conservatives led by Republican Leader Tommy Norment would redo this year’s Virginia State Senate and House redistricting to be more favorable to Republicans. (Virginia Gazette) Conservatives are also trying to stall Congressional redistricting until January, in order to pass a map that will protect their 8 – 3 Republican Congressional majority and eliminate the creation of a second minority seat. (Washington Post)
  • Conservative Immigration Policy – New legislation, and legislation copied from other states, will have significant anti-immigrant impacts on Virginia law enforcement, businesses, social and medical services, education, and housing. (Change Servant)
  • Anti-Union Legislation – Del. Marshall has filed a bill to prohibit state revenue for the Dulles metro project if there is a project labor agreement. (VA Legislative Information System) Senate candidate George Allen also recently voiced opposition to Project Labor Agreements. (Progressive Point)
  • Removing a Ban on Uranium Mining – Conservative lawmakers will likely help the uranium industry remove Virginia’s 30-year ban on uranium mining in the Commonwealth. (Keep the Ban)
  • Exempting VA Coal Companies from the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and All Federal Regulations – Last year, conservatives passed legislation in the House of Delegates that would exempt any products mined, manufactured, or produced in any other way and sold in Virginia from all federal regulations. That means coal companies would be exempt from the Clean Water Act and utilities would be exempt from the Clean Air Act if they were burning coal mined in Virginia. (Virginia Chapter Sierra Club) This will very likely be put forward again in January.
  • Major Budget Cuts and Layoffs – Gov. McDonnell will soon submit a budget that will likely include layoffs and cuts of up to 6% for Virginia agencies, as well as many changes disingenuously labeled “reforms” from McDonnell’s commission that excluded Democratic members. (Richmond Times Dispatch Oct. 28, 2011; Richmond Times Dispatch Nov. 20, 2011)

Also likely to return is a proposal to change pension plans from defined-benefit to defined-contribution–a conservative plan to hand over teachers and firefighters’ retirement accounts to Wall Street for them to gamble away. (Virginian-Pilot) We can expect many other conservative legislative proposals, such as school vouchers, anti-transparency measures, and a right-to-work constitutional amendment.

Following Republican gains in Virginia’s State Senate and House, conservative lawmakers believe they will be able to force through ideological and controversial bills that had previously been stopped by the State Senate. These proposals are not in the best interest of Virginians and we cannot allow them to become law because we weren’t paying attention.

VIDEO: Occupy gets support from Veteran activists | The Institute for Southern Studies

22 Nov

Originally posted here.

Veteran activists voice support for Occupy movement | The Institute for Southern Studies.

Recently, a group of civil rights, labor and other social movement veterans gathered to form a group called the Council of Elders.

In this video, published by the Beloved Community Center in Greensboro, N.C. — site of the historic 1960 sit-ins that bolstered the Southern civil rights movement — the activists talk about why they support the Occupy Wall Street movement and its national offshoots as part of a larger movement for social justice:

Danville Workers Under Attack | Labor South

18 Nov
originally posted here.

The battle goes on for Ikea workers in Danville, and the world is watching

Workers at the Ikea-owned Swedwood plant in Danville, Va., are still struggling for their rights

Ikea founder and former Nazi sympathizer Ingvar Kamprad

against union-hostile supervisors despite workers’ 221-69 vote last July to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM).

“Supervisors are targeting union supporters for discipline, violating workers’ rights to be represented by stewards, threatening and intimidating pro union workers, and making numerous unilateral changes which by the law must be bargained,” writes IAM official William V. Street Jr. in the latest issue of the London-based International Union Rights magazine.

The July vote was heralded as a major and rare victory for labor organizers in the U.S. South, a region whose business and political leaders have fought against labor rights since before the Civil War. The vote came after workers complained of stretch-out-like conditions on the assembly line that evoked images of 1930s textile companies, mandatory and unpaid overtime, eliminated raises, and racial prejudice. “In many ways, work conditions more akin to Dickens than Keynes,” writes Street, director of IAM’s Woodworkers’ Department.

In addition, workers in Danville were paid considerably less than Ikea workers in Sweden, whose minimum wage is $19 an hour with five weeks of paid vacation. Ikea workers in Danville start at $8 an hour and get 12 vacation days. In the fall of 2010, packing department workers saw their wages drop from $9.75 an hour to $8 an hour. This came despite a 6 percent-plus hike in company profits in 2010 and a $12 million incentives package from local and state governments to get Ikea to locate in Danville. The median wage in Danville is more than $15 an hour

Ikea calls itself a Swedish company but “is actually chartered in The Netherlands while controlled by a family trust in Luxemburg,” Street writes. It was founded in 1947 by former Nazi sympathizer Ingvar Kamprad, one of the world’s richest men whose personal wealth is estimated to be anywhere from $6 billion to many times that much.

When an organizing effort started in Danville, the company hired the union-busting Jackson Lewis law firm to help keep the union out.

All of this proved an embarrassment to a company that had touted its code of conduct recognizing workers’ rights to join a union.

It also inspired an international effort to support the Danville workers. IAM ran a sophisticated campaign that put the spotlight on Ikea back in Sweden, prompting extensive coverage in the Swedish media and producing countless phone calls and emails and picket lines as far away as Australia.

“The capacity of the IAM and the need to educate both EU (European Union) affiliates and US citizens as to the backward nature of US labour law all were part of the decision making process,” Street writes. “In the US, this discussion was characterized as the US becoming Sweden’s Mexico, meaning a place for global business to exploit lax laws in order to exploit both workers and the environment.”

Meanwhile, however, the battle goes on at the Danville plant. “The media has left, the story is over,” Street laments.

However, IAM is fighting back, and so is the international labor community, which sees the Danville situation as part of a bigger picture of neo-liberal economic policies being pushed globally by the United States and organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. These policies are hostile to unions as they push to increase corporate profits and work to inhibit government oversight. “Swedish union leaders are planning to visit Danville to see the fight for social justice first hand,” Street says, adding that university-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the U.S. are also planning boycotts if workers’ rights continue to be abused in Danville.

Ikea is a classic example of a modern-day “hollow” corporation that attempts to evade labor and environmental standards through the use of wholly owned subsidiaries like Swedwood and supplier companies, Street says.

A “hollow” company works something like this: It publicly pressures its subsidiaries and suppliers to be good corporate citizens and meet acceptable standards, but when they do, it proceeds to squeeze those same operations to lower their costs to the very minimum, ultimately forcing wages down and hurting working conditions.

It’s the same kind of hypocrisy Walmart has engaged in for years. Once again, the South is in the middle of a battle that stretches around the globe.

Students’ Terror: Cops Moonlighting as Immigration Police

21 Oct

So many schools struggle to fulfill their core mission: to educate youth in this country and prepare them to fully participate in building a better future. They need more and better-trained teachers, and more resources to build better school buildings and equip classrooms. Yet, the reforms that some lawmakers pursue have far more to do with making schools unsafe for all its students and uniting corporate interests with the beliefs of the far right.

ColorLines Magazine presents a terrifying story, reposted here, about a school district in Colorado that is terrorizing students and families by inviting ICE agents to police its school corridors. As time passes and political rhetoric becomes ever-more hate-filled, stories like this seem normal. But it’s our duty and task to work for schools that keep our kids and families safe, and promote the kind of critical thinking that can answer the big questions that our current governing generations have failed to answer.

Originially posted here.

Colorado Town Debates Whether School Police Can Also Work for ICE

John Moore/Getty Images

by Julianne Hing

Friday, October 21 2011

What happens when the police officer who works at your high school also happens to moonlight as an immigration agent conducting raids in the neighborhood where you live? Latino middle and high school students in the small Colorado town of

Carbondale started reporting exactly this over a year ago, along with the fear that their school resource officer was using information he learned at school to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement pick up parents in the town.

Now, the school board for Carbondale’s Roaring Fork School District is considering a policy that would bar police officers from serving such dual roles.

“When it comes to immigration, mixing it with law enforcement is very problematic,” Continue reading

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