Southern California Warehouse Workers on Strike

Workers Call on Walmart to End Unsafe Working Conditions, Illegal Threats, Spying and Intimidation by Management

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Warehouse workers went on strike to protest unfair labor practices they have faced on the job Wednesday morning, following months of working in hot temperatures under extreme pressure in a major Walmart-contracted warehouse in Southern California.

Workers—who do not have a recognized union—walked off the job during the first shift at an NFI warehouse in Mira Loma, California to call for an end to retaliation and unfair labor practices. Workers have been fighting for more than a year for safe working conditions and for Walmart to take responsibility for conditions in the warehouse.

“When we spoke out to change terrible working conditions, workers were suspended, demoted and even fired. They spied on us and bullied us, all because we are fighting for dignity” said Limber Herrera, a warehouse worker for four years.

The strike comes one day before workers and their supporters begin a 50-mile, six-day pilgrimage from the warehouses to Downtown Los Angeles.

Workers face inadequate access to clean water, work under scorching heat that reaches well over 100 degrees, and have little access to basic healthcare, regular breaks, and properly functioning equipment. Their wages are low –$8 per hour and $250 a week, or $12,000 per year. Workplace injury is common.

But when workers tried to offer solutions to fix these abuses, they have been met with illegal threats and intimidation by management. Workers are employed by NFI and a temporary labor agency, Warestaff. Both companies are Walmart subcontractors, but the retail giant has ignored repeated attempts by workers to meet and address the inhumane and illegal conditions in its contracted warehouses.

As the largest retailer in the world, Walmart dictates the standards of operation in the logistics and distribution industry.

“These workers have exhausted all options,” said Guadalupe Palma, a director of Warehouse Workers United, an organization committed to improving warehousing jobs in Southern California’s Inland Empire. “Walmart must stop ignoring warehouse workers and intervene to uphold its own stated “Standards for Suppliers,” eliminate inhumane and illegal working conditions and sit down directly with warehouse workers to hear about their experiences in the warehouses and figure out how to improve working conditions.”

More than 85,000 workers labor in warehouses in Southern California, unloading merchandise from shipping containers that enter through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and loading it onto trucks destined for retail stores like Walmart. The National Labor Relations Board is currently investigating numerous federal charges filed by the warehouse workers.

WHAT: Press Conference to Launch Warehouse Worker Pilgrimage
WHEN: 10 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 13
WHERE: 601 S. Milliken Ave., Suite A, Ontario, California 91761
WHO: Warehouse Workers
Assemblymember Norma Torres
Rev. Eric Lee, Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Art Rodriguez, President of United Farm Workers of America
Members of the clergy
VISUALS: Warehouse workers and their supporters will hold a short press conference in front of a warehouse and then commence marching up Milliken Ave. with signs and a backdrop of some of the world’s largest warehouses.

Warehouse workers will embark on their 50-mile march Sept. 13. They will sleep on church floors and rely on community organizations for support and meals. Marchers will be joined daily by supporters and elected officials. Workers will hold daily media events and will be available for interviews in English and Spanish throughout the entire march.

Follow the march on social media using the hashtag #WalMarch

[originally posted by Warehouse Workers United at http://www.warehouseworkersunited.org/southern-california-warehouse-workers-on-strike]

Bailing Ourselves Out: Leveraging Against Banking Barons in America’s Heartland

Bank of America — via the gravelly voice of Kiefer Sutherland (best known as the torture-happy government agent Jack Bauer on afternoon television) — has referred to itself for the last few years as the “Bank of Opportunity.” But in the midst of an economic civil war, they’ve dropped their advertising company – the propagandists that had shifted BoA’s previous slogan from the laughable “Higher Standards” – and find themselves scrambling for a new market-friendly façade. Regardless of whatever branding the new spin-doctors come up with, Bank of America is proving itself to have zero standards – and the opportunity a snowball faces in hell.

When Julian Assange announced that Wikileaks was planning to release records of “unethical practices” prevalent in an “ecosystem of corruption” surrounding a major US financial institution, Bank of America was one of the first to respond – by refusing to service any donation made to the whistleblower organization. And their master plan for preparing for this massive leak of corporate wrongdoing? Buying up more than 450 internet domain names that might prove to be embarrassing to the bank or its CEO. Sad to say, friends, but BrianMoynihanSucks.com is taken. Their attempts to conceal the truth, however, only reveal the gravity of their situation – and ours.

The attorney general of Arizona, a state not known recently as a bastion of legislative tolerance, has criticized Bank of America’s attempts to obstruct investigation of their practices, noting that the bank has “repeatedly deceived” customers looking to lower their loan amounts. They’ve promised to fix the situation by negotiating settlements with borrowers who must agree to keep them secret and not criticize the bank in exchange for cash payments and loan relief.” Court documents show desperate demands from BoA that borrowers “remove and delete any online statements regarding this dispute, including, without limitation, postings on Facebook, Twitter and similar websites.”

Bank of America, by demanding their customers keep their mouths shut in exchange for ‘fixing the problem,’ seems to be taking a page out the mafia’s protection-racket handbook.

This isn’t the first time that Bank of America has refused to cooperate with investigations into their mortgage practices either. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s inspector general said in a 2011 lawsuit that “Our review was significantly hindered by Bank of America’s reluctance to allow us to interview employees or provide data and information in a timely manner.” That lawsuit was part of a damning HUD investigation that found all 5 of the nation’s largest mortgage companies defrauding taxpayers.

These multinational casino-capitalist banks aren’t content with exorbitant usury, with destroying entire neighborhoods of foreclosed homes, harassing the families of deceased customers – they’re trying to foreclose on people who never even had a mortgage, sucking funds out of needy schools and cities, and using your money to pay legislators to advance their agenda. Those employees who reveal the severity of the situation are hunted down like witches in 17th century Massachusetts. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone had it right when wrote on Bank of America’s excess, calling them an institution “too crooked to fail.” He joined a recent Occupy Wall Street day-of-action to remind occupiers how shady Bank of America really is.

“This bank has systematically defrauded almost everyone with whom it has a significant business relationship, cheating investors, insurers, homeowners, shareholders, depositors, and the state. It is a giant, raging hurricane of theft and fraud, spinning its way through America and leaving a massive trail of wiped-out retirees and foreclosed-upon families in its wake.”

But Bank of America isn’t the only player in this high-stakes game of Monopoly; a culture of greed and corruption has permeated – even driven – each of the financial institutions that the government emphatically calls “too big to fail.”

Since greedy financiers at the major banks initiated an economic race to the bottom in 2008, they’ve been rewarded with massive bailouts, lucrative tax breaks, and golden parachutes for fatcat executives, while workers lose jobs, retirement, and homes. The toxic mix of political, economic, and corporate interests has been the equivalent of financial terrorism upon communities nationwide. Even before the crash, market fundamentalists have allowed unchecked economic warfare to be waged, ravaging neighborhoods across wide swaths of the country. But the people – real people, not ‘corporate persons’ – are fighting back.

November 5th, 2011 was Bank Transfer Day, an Occupy-inspired day-of-action in which thousands of people around the country moved their money from the banking behemoths and into consumer-owned credit unions. While it is difficult to pin numbers down to grassroots initiatives like this, the month found credit unions adding 650,000 new members (normally around 80,000 in a regular month), resulting in more than $4.5 billion in new deposits. The reaction from the corporate banking establishment was shocking, even to those who hadn’t been paying attention: customers fed up with bad business were locked inside banks and faced arrest when trying to close their accounts.

Individual actions are a necessary component of any meaningful change in a broken financial system. But even more heartening is when entire communities have come together to pull their money out of corporate clutches. The city of Norman, Oklahoma, has done just that.

Not surprisingly, mainstream media outlets gave almost no coverage of the move; the local papers only made the briefest of obligatory mentions. But for members of Occupy Norman and concerned community leaders, the change is a real difference in the third-largest city in Oklahoma. 

“Banks that are ‘too big to fail’ are too big to exist!” says Mary Francis, a fiery 60-something activist from Norman. “Local banks and credit unions make more loans to local businesses than big Wall Street banks and they reinvest in the community. The obscene profits of huge corporations such as Bank of America or Wal-Mart do not get circulated in the local community. It’s only the local banks who have had a history of participating and donating to community events and charities.”

What started as an investigation of how the City used funds entrusted to it became a months-long campaign to get Norman to divest its money from Wall Street and bring it home. Occupiers first approached the City Council in December of 2011 with concerns about illegal and risky gambling with community funds; by April, the Occupy Norman Direct Action Committee’s “Move Our Money” campaign reached its apex after in-depth editorials, research into local banks and credit unions, and discussion with community leaders.

In a unanimous vote, the Norman City Council voted to terminate its contract with Bank of America and move all financial services to Bank of Oklahoma, a Tulsa-based institution. Grant DeLozier, a member of the Norman group, reminded Bank of Oklahoma – and the Council – that although the bank has thus far been free from the kinds of controversy and malfeasance that have plagued the larger institutions, they would not be getting a free pass. He pledged the group’s effort in keeping them honest. More banks need that reminder.

Norman City Council member Tom Kovach posted to Occupy Norman’s Facebook page after the vote, thanking local activists for using community pressure and proactive research to get accomplished what couldn’t be done through normal legislative channels.

“I first mentioned the Bank of America problem to the City in 2009 after the financial meltdown and BoA was on the brink of insolvency. No one wanted to make the move. It took the efforts of a dedicated group to make the change happen. Last night alone, several Occupy members waited five and a half hours to support this move. But it is the continuous efforts and the professional and respectful manner the whole group conveys that creates the impact necessary to make this advancement. Great thanks to all of you.”

Occupy Norman’s actions are part of a groundswell of public outrage with the big multinational banksters over their role in the country’s financial and foreclosure crises. And although the approximately $250 million-dollar move represents only a small bite out of Bank of America’s bottom line, it hits them in the only way that capitalists understand. The withdrawals, like the May Day demonstrations, are a visible sign of the seething anger in the working class; they bring communities together, uniting disparate groups in common cause.  Councilman Kovach reminds:

“We can bridge gaps and must to achieve positive change. Preaching to the converted only keeps things alive; to grow and make change, we must go beyond our comfort zones and listen to and work with unusual allies.”

The movement to divest from seemingly-monolithic banking institutions continues to progress as cities join individuals, unions, and churches in demanding accountability from Wall Street.

The cities of Philadelphia and Cleveland have already instituted a Community Reinvestment Act and dedicated activists have stormed the New York City Banking Commission to demand one. Other major metropolitan areas like Boston and Los Angeles have considered or passed laws known as “responsible banking ordinances” that require banks who want to do business submit detailed plans that outline how they’ll reach the needs of low-income and working-class residents.

These are all important steps to take to safeguard against poverty pimps seeking to bankrupt American dreamers. But isolated efforts at reform like this are not enough; when contemporary political realities reveal supranational financial institutions lording over governments – the banker-technocrat coup d’état in Greece and Italy, the austerity measures demanded in Spain and England, and so forth – only a revolution of values will create any meaningful change.

The global uprising has to be more than just a demand on a worldwide Ponzi scheme; we must demand an end to an entire system of oppression and coercion.

Why do we allow an economic minority – those who fatten themselves on capitalism’s largesse – to own the collective efforts of billions? Why do we accept a media stranglehold by nine megacorporations, genetically-bastardized pseudo-food from Monsanto and ConAgra, a stripping of worker’s rights won over the last century? Why do we allow politicians from both the Republican and Democratic wings of the corporate party to turn womens’ bodies into political battlefields? A continuous state of emergency, eradication of fundamental principles of democracy, privatization of the commons?

What to think – the questions we ask – isn’t nearly as important as how we think. Capitalism is a pervasive ideology; to deny its recuperative mechanisms requires interrupting the spectacle of the status quo – and acting in those liberated spaces, both physical and mental. The answer to some of these questions may already be well-known; getting to the substance of the question and actualizing the answer requires more. It requires a leap of faith.

Philosopher Simon Critchley writes in Adbusters that a “perfect storm” is brewing amongst disaffected youth, something “at once exciting and frightening.”

“What is so inspiring about the various social movements that we all too glibly call the Arab Spring, is their courageous determination to reclaim autonomy and political self-determination. The demands of the protesters in Tahrir Square and elsewhere are actually very classical: they refuse to live in authoritarian dictatorships propped up to serve interests of Western capital, megacorporations and corrupt local elites. […] The various movements in North Africa and the Middle East aim at one thing, one ancient Greek concept: autonomy.”

It is up to us to determine if this storm will rage enough to sweep away the accumulated dross of cancer-stage capitalism … or if our actions remain a tempest in a teapot.

_________________________________________________________

Dr. Zakk Flash is an anarchist political writer, radical community activist, and editor of the Central Oklahoma Black/Red Alliance (COBRA). He lives in Norman, Oklahoma.

Find more about the Central Oklahoma Black/Red Alliance (COBRA) at www.facebook.com/COBRACollective

House Available: 55 El Mirador Dr Nicasio CA

Fabulous Nicasio estate formerly owned by Jerry Garcia. Gated and private, this amazing property sits on a sunny knoll top with views of Tam and the East Bay. Gorgeous main home with wonderful indoor/outdoor connection with pools, fountains, garden beds, play area for children and so much more. Artist’s studio and six car garage, 12 minutes to 101

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http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/55-El-Mirador-Dr_Nicasio_CA_94946_M12040-89798?source=web

Job Opportunity: UC Berkeley’s Operational Excellence/OE initiative seeks a Communications Manager

RESPONSIBILITIES: The Communications Manager involves developing, implementing and executing a comprehensive, multidisciplinary communications program to support UC Berkeley’s Operational Excellence (OE) initiative. Provides consultative and hands-on support to the OE Program Office, the executive leadership, and project leaders, leveraging existing vehicles and launching new ones when appropriate and necessary. Develops and executes a strategic communications plan and measures and tracks all work.

Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree in journalism, public relations, communications, marketing or related field. / Master’s degree in Business Administration desired. Follow link for full details. Salary is commensurate with experience. This is a one year contract position with the possibility of extension. EOE/AA

To Apply:  Please go to http://apptrkr.com/255224   and reference job #14072. Submit your cover letter and resume as a single attachment when applying. This position has been designated as sensitive and may require a Criminal Background Check. We reserve the right to make employment contingent upon successful completion of a Criminal Background Check.

MACAO

On May 5th a group of “artists, curators, critics, guard room, graphic designers, performers, actors, dancers, musicians, writers, journalists, art teachers, students, and everybody who works in the field of art and culture” occupied the Galfa Tower (Torre Galfa) skyscraper in the heart of Milan, Italy. We have been in touch with members involved in the occupation and they will be sharing things here on OE in English in the coming weeks. Below please find their first press release.

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We are glad to declare the opening of MACAO, the new arts centre in Milan, a great experiment in building with a bottom up approach a space where to produce art and culture. A place where artists and citizens can gather together in order to invent a new system of rules for a common and participatory management which, in an autonomous way, will redefine time and priorities of their work and allow them to experiment new common languages.

We are artists, curators, critics, guard room, graphic designers, performers, actors, dancers, musicians, writers, journalists, art teachers, students, and everybody who works in the field of art and culture. We’ve been mobilizing for one year, meeting in assemblies where to discuss our situation as precarious workers in the fields of artistic production, entertainment, media, entertainment industry, festivals and the so-called economy of the event. A world increasingly hostage of the finance that exploits and absorbs the primary task of culture, which is being an economy of sharing.

We represent a large share of the workforce of this city that has always been an outpost of advanced service sector. We are the multitude of workers of the creative industries that too often has to submit to humiliating conditions to access income, with no protection and no coverage in terms of welfare and not even being considered as proper interlocutors for the current labor reform, all focused on the instrumental debate over the article 18. We were born precarious, we are the pulse of the future economy, and we will not continue to accommodate exploitation mechanisms and loss redistribution.

We open MACAO in order to let the culture strongly regain a piece of Milan, in response to a story that too often has seen the city ravaged by public procurement professionals, unscrupulous building permits, in a neo-liberal logic that has always humiliated the inhabitants and pursued a single goal: the profit of few excluding the many.

Since last spring, many citizens, artists and cultural workers have given life to new experiences through practices of occupation of public and private abandoned spaces. Such experiences are proving to last in time, by taking care of culture, territories, work, new forms of economy and new forms of collective intelligence. The artistic production must therefore be entirely rethought, we must take this time and this right in a serious and radical way, directly taking care of what is ours. Macao is this, a space for everyone, that must become an active laboratory where art, entertainment, culture, education and information workers are invited. Here artists, intellectuals, lawyers, constitutionalists, activists, writers, film makers, philosophers, economists, architects and urban planners, neighbourhood and city inhabitants should take the time to build a social, common and cooperative dimension.

We have a lot of work to do, we must transform these words into real practices, more and more constituent and effective, in order to build alternative models to those in which we live, and everything depends on us. We should not take anything for granted, producing competent inquiries, debates, analysis and confrontations concerning all the territories that produce inequality and expropriation of value, not to mention the new forms into which the capitalist ideology is disguising. We need to have joy and humour to transform this commitment into a human, collective and liberated moment. We should take care of this space so that it can host everyone. It is fundamental that in this space art and communication cease to be ends in themselves. On the opposite, they must explode and find their motivations in this fight, building new imaginaries and bringing into light the world that we see. Viva Macao and keep up the good work!

We fought alongside and within this network: Lavoratori dell’arte, Cinema Palazzo in Rome, Teatro Valle Occupato in Rome, Sale Docks in Venice, Teatro Coppola in Catania, L’Asilo della Creatività e della Conoscenza in Naples, and Teatro Garibaldi Aperto in Palermo.

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For more information, please visit their Facebook page where they have been posting updates and more.