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'The Power of Their Numbers,' Calendar

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  • Ed Pearl
    The Power of Their Numbers By Harold Meyerson http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/02/AR2006050201483.html Washington Post March 3,
    Message 1 of 1 , May 4, 2006
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      'The Power of Their Numbers'

      By Harold Meyerson

      Washington Post
      March 3, 2006

      This morning, for the first time in two months, it will
      be a day with immigrants at the University of Miami. On
      Monday the university's janitors -- almost all of them
      immigrants, and the vast majority refugees from Fidel
      Castro's Cuba -- won a nine-week battle with the
      university and its janitorial contractor over their
      right to be represented by a union. Today they report
      back to work. When the Service Employees International
      Union (SEIU) set out to organize the janitors, it
      didn't anticipate its campaign would turn into the
      struggle it eventually became. "Given who the president
      of the university is," said Eliseo Medina, SEIU's
      executive vice president, "we actually expected this to
      go rather smoothly."

      It seemed a reasonable expectation. The president of
      the University of Miami is Donna Shalala, secretary of
      health and human services in the Clinton administration
      and a longtime proponent of greater equity for the
      poor. Nonetheless, when the strike began, it was hard
      to find Miamians much poorer than the university's
      janitors. Maritza Paz, who was admitted to the United
      States 13 years ago as a political refugee from Cuba,
      hired on at the university 11 years ago at $4.35 an
      hour. When the strike began, she had worked her way up
      to a sumptuous $6.70 hourly wage with no benefits, for
      which she cleaned 17 bathrooms and 20 offices every

      But as weeks dragged into months, both the university
      and its contractor refused to deal with the union.
      Workers and students embarked on a hunger strike, and
      SEIU enlisted the help of its numerous Democratic
      allies. Behind the scenes, a number of Shalala's former
      Clinton administration colleagues worked to mediate a
      solution. A few weeks ago a Shalala-appointed
      commission recommended raising wages and establishing
      health benefits (recommendations that Shalala promptly
      enacted), but it did so without ever having met with
      any of the striking workers. Convinced that they still
      had no channel to talk to management, the workers
      stayed out. Medina embarked on a hunger strike that
      ended only Monday, when the university agreed to a
      procedure that enables the workers to get their union.

      Coincidentally, Monday was also a landmark day in the
      struggle for immigrant rights -- a struggle in which
      Medina has long played a pivotal role. In 1999 Medina
      led the successful fight to persuade the AFL-CIO to
      reverse its historical opposition to immigrants and
      embrace their cause. His union, SEIU, has been the
      principal funder and logistical coordinator for many of
      the recent legalization demonstrations. And Medina sees
      the current tsunami of immigrant activism as a portent
      not just of political change but of union growth.

      "My guess is that 90 percent of the people in the
      street have never done anything like this before," he
      said. "Fear of taking part in public actions is now
      less of a factor for them."

      After Monday's job boycott, their fear of taking part
      in job actions may be diminished as well. Perhaps the
      most economically significant shutdown came at the
      ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach -- combined, the
      nation's largest harbor and its primary entry point for
      Asian-made imports -- where roughly 90 percent of the
      almost entirely immigrant workforce of truckers who
      drive those imports all over the country stayed off the

      The truckers' tale is one of the most appalling in
      American labor. With trucking deregulated, neither the
      trucking companies nor the shipping lines will claim
      them as employees. Instead, the companies hire them as
      "independent contractors," and on average, these
      poverty-wage entrepreneurs clear about $20,000 a year.
      Over the past decade, several campaigns to organize the
      drivers have fallen flat, but now the Teamsters, with
      the help of the new Change to Win Federation, to which
      SEIU also belongs, are taking another run at it. This
      time, though, the zeitgeist has changed. Immigrant
      workers, Medina said, "are feeling for the first time
      the power of their numbers."

      Even a sea change among immigrant workers doesn't
      necessarily mean that the dark days of American labor
      could be coming to an end. In the growing high-end,
      high-tech workforce, said union strategist Jim
      Grossfeld, who with pollster Celinda Lake has
      undertaken a study for the Center for American Progress
      of professional and technical employees, "many workers
      have a problem with the word 'union' and with the old
      economic rules." Nonetheless, he points out, in a time
      of rampant economic insecurity, such unions as the
      Communications Workers of America have even managed to
      organize techies.

      But it's chiefly immigrant workers who are emerging
      from the shadows to lead the next generation's battles
      for economic equity. "Our victory," said Maritza Paz,
      speaking of her struggle in Miami but also about this
      transformative moment in American immigrant life,
      "shows workers they can overcome their fears. It has
      opened the doors."


      © 2006 The Washington Post Company

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      ANTHONY ARNOVE, author of "The Logic of Withdrawal" (forward by Howard

      will be speaking in Los Angeles this week on Thursday and Friday nights!
      This will be an excellent anti-war meeting. Anthony is also the co-editor,
      with Howard Zinn, of Voices of a People's History. Anthony also works with
      Joel Andreas in getting ADDICTED To WAR published in other languages.

      Thursday, May 4th at 7:00 PM
      featuring Anthony Arnove, author of Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal

      Reading at Eso Won Books
      3655 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles

      Friday, May 5th at 7:00 PM

      featuring Anthony Arnove, author of Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal

      Reading at Barnes and Noble Booksellers
      3rd Street Promenade
      1201 3rd Street, Santa Monica


      Details at:


      The New Press is organizing the End The War Now Tour in conjunction with
      dozens of national and local antiwar organizations working to end the war in
      Iraq, to protect of young people through counter-recruitment organizing, to
      defend the rights of conscience objectors, veterans and their families, and
      to inform the American public about the war in Iraq and the antiwar movement
      in the U.S. through independent, unfiltered journalism, book publishing,
      art, and music.


      I concur with the accolades below and regret I'll be away on
      Sunday. Charlie's songs are very powerful, his music, beautiful -
      a true gem that comes around only too rarely. Karen Brandow
      would be a new treat for me, and for you.

      You are Invited to a House Concert with the Fabulous
      Charlie King & Karen Brandow

      Sunday, May 7th at 7:00 PM

      Frank , Jane and Emily Dorrel's
      3967 Shedd Terrace (AKA Lauren Lane), Culver City 90232

      Gather at 7:00 PM ~ Concert starts at 7:30 PM
      $10 at the door
      Dessert and Drinks Served
      Call 310-838-8131 to RSVP or for directions


      Charlie King and Karen Brandow are musical storytellers and political
      satirists. Their repertoire covers a century and a half and four continents.
      They perform with the sweet and precise harmonies of life partners. They
      sing and write passionately about the extraordinary lives of ordinary
      people. In addition to a full time career of concert touring, King and
      Brandow have sung in support of numerous groups working for peace, human
      rights, environmental sanity and alternatives to violence. Their central
      vision as entertainers is to leave audiences with a sense of optimism and
      possibility about the future. "We try to cover a broad emotional landscape
      in our concerts. The stories we collect and the songs we write take the
      listener on a journey of humor, heartache and hope. What we most value in a
      song is the way it helps us see an old reality in a totally new light."

      Charlie King has been at the heart of American folk music for over 40 years.
      His songs have been recorded and sung by other performers such as Pete
      Seeger, Holly Near, Ronnie Gilbert, John McCutcheon, Arlo Guthrie, Peggy
      Seeger, Chad Mitchell and Judy Small. Honors include an "Indie" award for
      one of the top three folk recordings of 1984. In May of 1998 the War
      Resisters League gave their Peacemaker Award to Charlie and to Odetta. Pete
      Seeger nominated Charlie for the Sacco-Vanzetti Social Justice Award, which
      he received in November 1999. Charlie has released a dozen solo albums since
      1976. He has also released three albums with the touring ensemble Bright
      Morning Star, and numerous compilation albums with other artists. Charlie
      was born in 1947, and was raised in Brockton, MA. He cites as musical
      influences the folk music revival of the 1960's, the civil rights movement
      and the Vietnam War era.

      Karen Brandow has been performing with Charlie King since 1998. While doing
      human rights work in Guatemala from 1986-1994, Karen studied voice,
      performance and classical guitar. She performed at political and cultural
      events in that country as a soloist and was a founding member of the a
      cappella singing group, the Non-Traditional Imports. Karen was born in 1954
      in Philadelphia, PA. She began singing and playing guitar as a teenager.
      While living in Central America, she broadened her repertoire to include
      Latin American music of the "Nueva Canción" or New Song Movement. She
      performs songs in English and Spanish.

      What other's have said about Charlie and Karen

      "Charlie is one of the finest singers and songwriters of our time." ~ Pete
      Seeger ~

      "Two voices that complement each other beautifully & instrumentation that is
      spare, acoustic & just right"

      Victory Music Review ~
      "If we had more Charlie Kings in the world I'd be less worried," ~ Peggy
      Seeger ~

      "Karen's soft and simultaneously strong voice has the fluid sound of a
      Latina.their harmony singing is a thing of rare beauty." - The Folknik,
      California ~

      "Exactly what a folk music recording should be: songs that make you think,
      laugh, weep and dance."
      Matt Watroba, Folk DJ WDET, Detroit MI. ~

      "The music was nothing short of fantastic.If you have not done so yet, you
      must see these artists on stage."
      Activist San Diego concert Review ~

      "I am so very excited and honored to have Charlie King and Karen Brandow
      singing at our house this coming May 7th. Their music is very special.
      Hearing them is something I recommend to all of my friends". ~ Frank Dorrel
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