Sunday, September 30, 2012

Workers and Union Condemn E-Verify

Photographs by David Bacon

SAN JOSE, CA  (9/26/12) -- Mexican supermarket (or mercado) workers, supporters and union organizers marched through the Latino immigrant community on San Jose's East Side, from Guadalupe Church to the Mi Pueblo supermarket.  They protested the use of the E-Verify immigration screening system by the Mexican market chain, and accused the chain's owners of using immigration enforcement to terrorize workers during their effort to organize a union in the stores.

Mi Pueblo Foods management announced earlier this month that they had decided to voluntarily implement the controversial Federal immigration program, in which employers contact a database maintained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to verify the immigration status of job applicants.  Some workers also say the chain is demanding that current employees reverify their immigration status. 

Mi Pueblo management says it is obligated to use the E-Verify system.  But a reporter from the Los Angeles Times quoted a spokesperson from the Department of Homeland Security, who asserted that this government agency does not force employers to use the E-Verify program.  Father Jon Pedigo, the parish priest at Guadalupe Church, compared the situation of the workers to that of the Israelites in Egypt, saying they are exploited as workers in the U.S. much as the Israelites were by the Pharaoh.  He condemned the use of E-Verify, saying it made workers more vulnerable to pressure by employers.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Why are students so apathetic ?

 Balancing Anger, Hyperbole and Criticism  By
Rodolfo F. Acuña

Writing books and writing blogs are similar. They should be truth. If they were not the author loses credibility and his/her ability to convince suffers. This is how it should be.  But Arizona is testing this rule of thumb.   

The assault on the truth in Arizona makes it impossible for those seeking the truth to get traction, and like Sisyphus; they fall into a rut with the boulder rolling back on them, at every turn.

Because of the apparent futility and ability to communicate, people become dispirited. Those who continue to fight have to resort to hyperbole to get their message across. They become so desperate that they want to emotionally shake up people to get their attention.

A hyperbole is defined as an exaggeration of fact, but in my experience this not necessarily true. The speaker just wants to wake up people.

Hyperbole was used in the 1960s before the anti-war demonstrations when students were told that they were exaggerating the truth.  When people finally woke up thousands of Americans, and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese were dead.

The truth be told, a motivated student mass stopped the use of nuclear weapons and the bombing of innocent civilians. At home changes were brought about by politicized students, which made possible the enrollment minorities into all white student campuses. 

Students were interested in a more just society, and they were attracted to groups that had a social purpose. Consequently, the number of fraternities and sororities fell drastically on college campuses.

American students, for a brief time, became more like European and Latin American students who have historically been politically and socially active.

One of the roles of students was to act as champions of the underdog and confront tyranny.  Because of this, Latin American students were targeted by dictators.

The United States does not have a tradition of student activism. And recent in times campus activism has become an endangered species.

Human Rights to Clean Water

by Dan Bacher 

Governor Jerry Brown yesterday signed historic legislation establishing a state policy that every Californian has a human right to safe, clean, affordable and accessible drinking water. 

AB 685, authored by Assemblymember Mike Eng (D-Alhambra), also requires that all relevant state agencies consider the state policy when creating policies and regulations. 

By signing this bill into law, California becomes the first state in the nation to declare safe, clean, affordable and accessible water a human right. 

“Around 8.5 million people in Californians repeatedly experience excessive levels of toxicity in their drinking water every year,” said Assemblymember Eng. “As the representative of a district that sits on an aquifer that is the largest Superfund in the United States, I am very pleased that Governor Brown agreed that safe, clean, affordable and accessible drinking water is a basic human right and is willing to codify it into state policy.” 

California’s failure to provide clean, safe drinking water to its residents captured the attention of the United Nations in a special report released in August 2010. Reporting on her mission to the United States, Catarina de Albuquerque, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, cited a host of alarming drinking water supply and sanitation conditions in California. ( 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Chicano students in California Schools

    California public schools are in crisis- and they are getting worse. This is a consequence  of massive budget cuts imposed on the schools by the legislature and the governor in the last four years.  Total per pupil expenditure is down over $1,000 per student. The result is significant  class size increases.   Students are in often classes too large for learning.  Supplementary services such as tutoring, art, and drop out prevention  classes have been eliminated.  Over 14,000 teachers have been dismissed due to the budget emergencies.
         Over 48% of the children in California public schools are Chicano/Latino or descendents of  Mexican/Latino parents.  ( See link, Demographics).  The Chicano drop out rate has not significantly changed in 30 years.   ( See Choosing Democracy: a practical guide to multicultural education, and Chicana/o Educational Pipeline ) All children need a good education to participate in our democracy and prepare for  life in the rapidly changing economy.
     We need to invest in urban schools, provide equal educational opportunities in these schools, and recruit a well prepared  teaching force that begins to reflect the student populations in these schools. At the same time the largest, most succesful teacher preparation program for Chicano/Latino children has been closed down at Sacramento State-  We must insist on equal opportunity to learn, without  compromise.  When we do these things, we will begin to protect the freedom to learn for our children and our grandchildren, and to build a more just and  democratic society.
       California schools are now 47th. in the nation in per pupil expenditure and 49th in class size. Low achievement scores on national tests  in reading and math reflect this severe underfunding. California teachers have been subject to demoralizing  budget cuts that often prevent good teaching. 
     Instead of working with teachers to restore budgets, or to limit budget cuts, a group that claims to be school “reformers” argue that the important issue is teacher accountability.
      This group of “reformers” includes so called   Democrats for Education Reform  led by former State Senator  Gloria Romero and  by Michelle Rhee, former Chancellor of the Washington, D.C. schools. See.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Calderón Launches new anti labor attack

IndustriALL Global Union and its activist affiliates of the Tri-National Solidarity Alliance (TNSA) are leading opposition to dangerous labour law reform to be fast-tracked through the Mexican parliament. The legislation would intensify the serious obstacles already facing workers and democratic trade unions in Mexico.
Join those calling on the parliamentary coordinators of the Mexican Congress to end this proposed initiative to regressively reform the labour law, and to instead focus on establishing a national process of social dialogue that is inclusive of Mexico’s independent trade unions as the legitimate social partners.
IndustriALL urges all affiliates and supporters to use General Secretary Raina’s letter as a model to write to Mexico’s parliamentary coordinators. The contact details of the seven individuals are in the letter. Please send on your organization’s letterhead to those addresses, with in copy. 
Concretely the proposed legislation would weaken the right to strike, widen the abuse of protection contracts used by employers to bypass the legitimate trade unions representing its employees, and interfere with union autonomy. Further, the proposed changes would proliferate precarious work in Mexico by legalizing subcontracting without creating a regulatory mechanism to ensure accountability of companies for the respect of labour rights through their production chains. Under the new law workers could be hired without job security on six-month probation contracts or even hired by the hour. Back pay in cases of illegal termination would be capped at 12 months to allow employers to delay legal cases for years and pressure workers to accept smaller compensation payments.  Clearly the core, internationally recognized rights of Mexico’s workers would be traded away by this proposed legislation in exchange for greater freedom and flexibility of employers.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Help stop farm worker heat deaths

Less than 10 days left for Governor Brown to decide on lifesaving heat bills. You can help!

Cesar Chavez once asked, when speaking of the perils pesticides bring farm workers,"What is the worth of a man or a woman? What is the worth of a farm worker? How do you measure the value of a life?" The United Farm Workers still battles against toxic poisons that can threaten both farm workers and consumers.

But exposure to extreme heat continues to pose just as deadly a threat to farm workers. Much of the problem is a lack of state enforcement of California's existing rules to protect farm workers from dying or becoming ill from the heat. This summer, the UFW convinced the California Legislature to pass and send two bills to Gov. Jerry Brown. AB 2346 would let farm workers enforce state rules themselves by suing agricultural employers who repeatedly fail to comply with mandatory requirements for shade and drinking water. AB 2676 says employers must treat farm workers at least as well as animals by providing shade and water or face the same criminal penalties the law imposes when animals are denied these necessities, including possible jail time and fines.

The agricultural employers are lobbying intensely against the measures. We can't assume Gov. Brown will sign these bills. Won't you please urge the governor to do the right thing because the lives of farm workers are valuable. You can help by going to

Thank you and Si Se Puede!

Arturo S. Rodriguez, President
United Farm Workers of America

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Chicago Teachers Give Us All a Lesson

Two-thirds of parents supported the Chicago school teachers' protest in spite of the inconvenience caused by the strike.

by Dean Baker

We don't know the final terms of the settlement yet,
but it appears that the Chicago public school teachers
managed to score a major victory over Rahm Emanuel,
Chicago's business- oriented mayor. Testing will not
comprise as large a share in teachers' evaluations as
Emanuel had wanted; there will be a serious appeals
process for teachers whom the school district wants to
fire, and laid off teachers will have priority in
applying for new positions.

If these seem like narrow self-interested gains for the
teachers and their union, think again. Teaching in
inner city schools is a difficult and demanding job.

Most of the children in Chicago's public schools are
poor. Their families are struggling with all the issues
presented by poverty. Many of the schools are in high
crime areas and serious crimes often take place on
school premises. It can be a lot harder job than
working for a hedge fund.

It will not be possible to get committed and competent
people to teach in the public school system if they
cannot be guaranteed at least a limited amount of job
security and respect. The $70,000 annual pay that was
ridiculed as excessive by so many pundits would not
even be a week's salary for many of the Wall Street
types who do nothing more productive than shuffle

16th. of Sept.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Slain ambassador Stevens was member of Chinook Tribe

Slain ambassador Stevens was member of local Chinook Tribe

The Daily Astorian
Chinook Observer
September 13, 2012

Slain U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and his family
are members of the Chinook Indian Tribe, the historic Oregon
people who met Lewis and Clark at the mouth of the Columbia
River, and the Tribal Chairman has put out a call asking for
prayers on their behalf.  Stevens' mother Mary Commanday,
well known in the tribe, received a call from President
Obama to express his condolences

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Difference Between a Political and a Pedagogical Judgments

 White Lies  And  What’s to be Done?
By  Rodolfo F. Acuña

When I was a kid there was what we used to call white lies.  You distinguished them from lies that were untrue. You told white lies because you did not want to reveal a secret or hurt someone’s feelings. Children would easily get caught telling lies – we were not too good at it. However, we got better as we marched into adulthood often believing our own lies.

I guess I never grew up, a lie remained a lie. When I started to write commentaries in the 1980s this got me into trouble with many of my politico friends. They told me that what they said were not lies but political judgments. The first rule in politics, they said, was to get re-elected.

In L.A., I began to lose friends not only because I had to tell it like I saw it, but because as a writer and historian if I got caught in a lie, my moral authority suffered and this undermined the purpose for writing. At first it was easy because I concentrated in exposing the injustices in the system. But as Mexican Americans and Latinos became part of the system I found myself criticizing my friends.

The issues that caused me the most anguish were police brutality, education and Latino politicians taking large sums of campaign funds from the likes of Downtown Real Estate Attorney  Richard Riordan and developer Eli Broad. When I criticized them mutual friends would say that they were making “political judgments” and that to be successful and remain players that they had to make these sorts of compromises.

I could not live with the contradictions so I distanced myself -- unwilling to make a complete break because there were issues where they got it right and benefited the community.

I literally got sucked into the controversies in Arizona. I have been interested in the abuse of immigrants there since the 1970s with the Hanigan Case where a well-connected rancher and owner of a Dairy Queen and his two sons tortured three undocumented Mexican workers. It infuriated me that the state court would not convict them.