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The Activist

Issue #241, 02-18-2018


In this issue:
Supreme Court to decide critical union case
City moratorium on new charter school facilities
Coming together for Richmond Youth
While Oakland is worried about getting coal, Richmond is covered in it
Richmond sues Chevron over climate change
Putting repeal of Costa Hawkins on the ballot
RPA starts gearing up for elections
Gayle: Don’t ever stop fighting for justice 
Team Jovanka: We can do it!
A new Sheriff in town (please!)
Sisters in Solidarity celebrates women in politics

Supreme court to decide critical union case

In less than two weeks, the Supreme Court will rule on a case that is hugely critical for public sector unions, and government itself. The following article (excerpt, May 2017) by Naomi Walker of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees explains the ramifications of Janus v. AFSCME.

Detroit.pngThe Entire Public Sector Is About to Be Put on Trial

The Right’s assault on public-sector workers is an assault on the public sector itself.

Within the next year, the Supreme Court is likely to rule on the latest existential threat to workers and their unions: Janus v. AFSCME. Like last year’s Friedrichs v. CTA—a bullet dodged with Justice Antonin Scalia’s unexpected death—the Janus case is a blatant attack on working people by right-wing, moneyed special interests who want to take away workers’ freedom to come together and negotiate for a better life. 

For years, the Right has been hammering through state-level “right-to-work” laws in an effort to kill public sector unionism; it would see victory in the Janus case as the coup de grace. 

Right-to-work laws allow union “free riders,” or workers who refuse to pay union dues but still enjoy the wages, benefits and protections the union negotiates. Not only does this policy drain unions of resources to fight on behalf of workers, but having fewer dues-paying members also spells less clout at the bargaining table. It becomes much more difficult for workers to come together, speak up and get ahead. In the end, right-to-work hits workers squarely in the paycheck. Workers in right-to-work states earn less and are less likely to have employer-sponsored healthcare and pensions. 

As a judge, Neil Gorsuch, Scalia’s replacement, sided with corporations 91 percent of the time in pension disputes and 66 percent of the time in employment and labor cases. If the court rules in favor of the Janus plaintiff—an Illinois public sector worker whose case not to pay union dues is being argued by the right-wing Liberty Justice Center and the National Right to Work Foundation—then right to work could become the law of the land in the public sector, weakening unions and dramatically reducing living standards for millions of workers across the country. 

To read the full article, click here.

[Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images]

City moratorium on new charter school facilities

charter.jpgOn January 30, the City Council extended a 45-day urgency ordinance prohibiting the approval of applications to construct, modify or place schools in certain commercial and mixed-use zoning areas. The moratorium was extended until December 17, 2018 so that the City staff could complete new zoning amendments that could potentially further restrict the establishment of schools.

Currently, Richmond has approximately ninety schools operating within its boundaries and at least eleven of them are public charter schools. Many of these charters are locating in mixed use zoning areas that are not meant for schools, but rather for commercial activities that generate tax revenue and provide employment.

The location of these charter schools are interfering with Richmond’s General Plan and Policies. For example, the City shifted a Light Industrial zone (once occupied by a business park) to Industrial Business in order to accommodate the planned expansion of an existing charter school. In Marina Bay, a former high-tech office was converted to a school; and in Hilltop approximately 13.4 acres of Industrial Business land that had contained 165,387square feet of one- and two-story commercial and industrial developments was purchased by Making Waves Charter School. According to the General Plan, Southern Shoreline and Hilltop were supposed to promote uses such as high-density housing. Now, they are suffering from traffic, parking and public safety difficulties from ill-located charter schools.

All the while, existing Richmond public schools are being hollowed out. Public schools anticipate that student enrollment will drop 34% in 2019-20, leading to excess facilities capacity and eventually school closures. This, according to the ordinance, “can lead and result in blighted conditions for communities that lead to significant public health, safety, and welfare impacts.”

The City of Richmond Planning and Building Services Department will conduct outreach to inform the proposed zoning changes. Check out this city webpage to keep up with development.

Coming together for Richmond Youth

RYSE1.pngRichmond’s children, youth and young adults have long needed more life-changing services and opportunities. Now, local community based organizations, labor unions, and political leaders have come together and agreed to establish a Richmond Fund for Children and Youth in order to more effectively invest in our youth.

A diverse coalition including RYSE, SEIU Local 1021, APEN, ACCE and elected leaders including County Supervisor John Gioia and Richmond Vice-Mayor Melvin Willis have joined together to support two measures which will be on the June 2018 ballot:  

  • The Richmond Kids First Initiative and
  • A charter amendment revising Richmond Kids First

The goal of Kids First is to ensure that Richmond’s youth are physically, emotionally, mentally and socially healthy, educated, and live in stable, safe and supported families and communities.

The coalition has also explored how to raise additional revenue for the City to offset the costs of funding youth services under the Kids First Initiative.

What is the Richmond Kids First Initiative and the charter amendment revising Kids First?

The Kids First Initiative was drafted with input from local youth and youth-serving organizations and modeled after similar funds in San Francisco and Oakland.  Youth and adult allies went door-to-door and collected about 14,000 signatures to put this measure on the ballot.

Kids First creates a dedicated funding source from the City’s general fund to support expanded services for youth and establishes a City operated Department of Children and Youth.

The charter amendment revising Kids First would do three things:

  • Removes the restriction on how much funding the City of Richmond can receive as well as the requirement that the City must partner with a non-profit
  • Adds a new requirement that the dedicated funding set aside only occurs after the passage of a general tax measure which increases revenues to the City
  • Delays the start date for the funding set aside until July 2021, or one fiscal year after the passage of a general tax measure, if no tax measure is passed by December 2020.

How will youth programs and services be funded?

After discussions with local residents and studying what nearby cities have done, the coalition is currently recommending that a sugar-sweetened beverage distribution tax of one cent per ounce be placed on the November 2018 ballot.  Albany, Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco have recently passed a similar one cent per ounce tax.

This tax is different from Richmond’s previous 2012 soda tax measure which was a business license fee on retailers. Instead, the tax would be levied on the distributors of sugar-sweetened beverages.  

The tax would not apply to baby formula, milk products (like chocolate milk), 100% natural fruit and vegetable juices (including aqua fresca), medical beverages, weight reduction beverages, and alcoholic beverages.   The tax would also not apply to distribution of sugar-sweetened beverages to small retailers.

The RPA commends the coalition for finding a solution that supports kids, protects the integrity of the city budget and workers, and promotes health. The RPA Steering Committee voted to endorse the Kids First policy package (the Kids First Initiative, the charter amendment and the sugary beverage tax) in February.

[Photo: courtesy of RYSE]

While Oakland is worried about getting coal, Richmond is covered in it

In case you missed it, the East Bay Express recently ran an article about the local public health impacts of the Levin-Richmond terminal in Richmond.

EBE.pngIn October 2014, Sylvia Hopkins first noticed the line of coal cars sitting on tracks close to her home in Richmond's Atchison Village. Shortly thereafter, she began to discover black, greasy deposits on her windowsills. "I went on the 'Toxic Tour' of Richmond in 2015," she said. "I saw the uncovered coal piles directly in the line of winds blowing from the bay."

Her lungs, she said, "are not what they were," and she lays blame directly on the coal and petcoke shipments going through the Levin-Richmond Terminal, a privately owned marine terminal that began exporting coal in 2013 and has been exporting petroleum coke, the byproduct of oil refining known as "petcoke," for decades. Records show the terminal has ramped up its coal and petcoke shipments during the last three years.

Hopkins was not the only one who noticed. Andres Soto, a longtime community activist who now is with Communities for a Better Environment, began seeing multi-car coal trains sitting on the tracks next to the BART station in Richmond four years ago. "And the Phillips 66 refinery in Rodeo is producing huge amounts of petcoke for export to Asia and Latin America," he said.

To read more, click here. Fired up? Get involved and join the next Richmond Coal Exports Working Group Meeting

Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018  7:00 PM  - 9:00

Bobby Bowens Progressive Center

2450 Macdonald, Richmond

Richmond sues Chevron over climate change

climate_chaos.pngLast month Richmond became the ninth city to sue fossil fuel companies such as Chevron for the costs of adapting to climate change impacts. Such impacts include droughts, heatwaves and sea level rise. For example, the complaint asserts:

"Sea level rise endangers City property and infrastructure, causing coastal flooding of low-lying areas, erosion, salinity intrusion, higher risk of liquefaction during seismic events, and storm surges. Several critical City facilities, existing roadways, wastewater treatment facilities, residential neighborhoods, industrial areas including the Port of Richmond and the Chevron Refinery, highways, rail lines, emergency response facilities, and parks have suffered and/or will suffer injuries due to sea level rise expected by the end of this century …"

According to the complaint, the city “has already spent significant funds to study, mitigate, and adapt to the effects of global warming.”

Richmond’s suit is similar one filed earlier by Santz Cruz, Oakland and San Francisco. It suit does not seek a particular sum of money, but seeks to shift the cost of future damages away from taxpayers and onto the fossil fuel companies. These climate lawsuits follow the same legal strategies that were used to hold tobacco companies accountable for the effects of smoking.

[Photo: August 2013 climate rally in Richmond, CA. Mona Caron]

RPA starts gearing up for elections

mtg2017.pngThis November, Richmond voters will be choosing its next Mayor, and as well as three City Councilmembers (Ada Recino’s, Eduardo Martinez’s and Jovanka Beckles’s seats are all up this year). The RPA membership has not yet made any 2018 endorsements for citywide races, but is gearing up now. At the end of the month, the RPA elections committee will make candidate questionnaires available to any candidates interested in seeking the organization's endorsement. As always, the RPA will not endorse candidates who accept corporate political donations.

In mid-March, the Richmond Progressive Alliance will hold a Candidates’ Night for members and the public to meet those running for citywide office. After a vetting process, the elections committee and Steering Committee will present a slate of candidates to RPA members at the March 31 membership meeting for vote. Stay tuned for more details!

Gayle: Don't ever stop fighting for justice

In honor of Black History month, below is a beautiful essay penned by former Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin. Gayle, who is running for California Lt. Governor, was recently endorsed by Bernie Sanders’ Our Revolution! Please volunteer with Gayle’s campaign or make a donation today! 

Blackhistory.pngFrederick Douglas said: "I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs". He escaped slavery and became a resistance leader. Harriet Tubman told us: "Don't ever stop. If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going". Frederick and Harriet reached freedom and helped many others reach it. They took action.

There were also those who turned around to fight their oppressors. During my first year as Mayor of Richmond in 2007, I introduced a proclamation honoring the Black heroes of Harper’s Ferry (1859) and all those who fought against slavery and all those still struggling for liberation. African-Americans Osborn P. Anderson, Dangerfield Newby, Lewis Leary, John Copeland, and Shields Green joined the military invasion of Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, led by John Brown and a small group of radical abolitionists, calling for slave insurrection, the end of slavery, and full control of their own destinies.

The actions of these brave freedom fighters became one of the most moving arguments for the end of slavery. Most of them died in the insurrection, except for O.P. Anderson, who escaped and later joined the Union Army as an officer.

Lucy Parsons was a 6-year-old slave girl in Texas at the time of Harper’s Ferry. She grew up to become an amazing American labor organizer. Lucy and her husband Albert were leaders in campaigning for the eight-hour work day. Although Albert was tried and executed in 1887, Lucy never stopped organizing, speaking, denouncing, writing, and demanding justice for working folks.

These true heroes are often excluded or erased from our history, yet their stories connect well with many subsequent struggles, all the way to today’s Black Lives Matter movement. During Black History Month I honor those brave Black men and women who rose up and fought oppression. I invite you to do the same. Let us be Californians of action against all injustice. “Don’t ever stop,” as Harriet said.                                                                                                                                 

To volunteer with Gayle’s campaign or make a donation, visit GayleforCalifornia.org

2/24, 9:30: Team Jovanka - We can do it!

Jovankarosie.jpgJovanka’s next big canvassing event is Saturday February 24. As an RPA supporter, you know that canvassing is our secret sauce: reaching out to voters one door knock at a time. This Saturday we’ll be door-knocking along heavily traveled streets in Richmond to plant yard signs, inexpensive advertising that reaches thousands of voters day after day.

Saturday, 2/24, 9:30-1:00

Bobby Bowens Progressive Center

2540 Macdonald Ave., Richmond

Registration and breakfast at 9:30, training at 10:00 with canvasser extraordinaire Melvin Willis, out the door by 11:00.

Swag alert! RSVP by Friday 5 pm and get a custom Jovanka for AD 15 name badge.

Jovanka has now been endorsed by more than 25 organizations, from Bernie’s Our Revolution to LGBTQ groups, unions, local and national political action groups, and environmental organizations.

We have a lot of hard work ahead of us, because there’s a great deal of money in this race backing business-as-usual candidates. It’s not going to be easy, but we can do it! Please donate and come canvass Saturday morning.

A new Sheriff in town (please!)

Livingston.pngThe RPA may be gearing up for Richmond citywide races, but one race that may go unopposed is the Contra Costa Sheriff’s race.

Judith Tannenbaum’s OpEd in the East Bay Times points out, “March 9 is a few weeks away, so there’s still hope that someone who better represents Contra Costa will file to run against the sheriff. However, even if Livingston runs unopposed, we must speak out against his record and speak out for a vision of public safety and justice that is more consistent with our values.” And excerpt of her OpEd is below:

My Word: Where are the candidates to oppose Contra Costa Sheriff Livingston?

Where is the sheriff Contra Costa County needs? Candidates have until March 9 to file for the June 5 election but, so far, only Sheriff David Livingston has signed up.

A sheriff, of course, runs the county jail system and decides how that system will operate. A sheriff can create a system based on the awareness that criminal acts are often a consequence of the racial and economic inequities that shape every aspect of life — from health care to education to workplaces to housing to transportation. A sheriff can learn from the people most affected by these inequities, listening to the personal stories that illuminate shared circumstances. And a sheriff can not only listen but also respond by providing alternatives to imprisonment, by recognizing that jail is no place for the mentally ill, and by offering the deep and substantive programming that encourages rehabilitation.

Or a sheriff can operate as David O. Livingston has, running our county jail system with the wrong-headed ideas and practices similar to those that resulted in three decades of nationwide mass incarceration.

For example, Sheriff Livingston contracts with ICE to hold immigrant detainees in the West County Detention Facility. At a time when SB54 is law and California a sanctuary state, this contract is a clear sign of how out of step our sheriff is with county and statewide values.

Click here to read the full OpEd.

3/10, 10am: Sisters in Solidarity

Celebrate 11 years of solidarity and the efforts of the women in politics. The event will promote leadership, empowerment  and support for the #MeToo campaign. Come out and help us lift each other up. This event is FREE and includes activities, speakers, entertainment, and lunch. #PressForProgress 

Speakers include Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton and Councilmember Ada Recinos.  The emcee will be Councilmember Jovanka Beckles.

2018 Sisters in Solidarity

International Women’s Day Celebration

Saturday, March 10th from 10:00am– 2:00pm

Richmond Memorial Auditorium

403 Civic Center Plaza

For more information call (510) 620-6581 or email Trina Jackson. Sponsored by the City of Richmond, the Richmond Progressive Alliance, and others.

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We need you!

2018 is off to an inspiring start: here in Richmond we are resisting the pernicious spread of charters and defending our neighborhood public schools. In January we became the latest city to sue oil majors such as Chevron for the local climate impacts they are causing. And although our residents are suffering from coal dust, we are fighting back.

Our work is done through the energy, passion and contributions of volunteers and activists like yourself. Please renew your membership today (at the last membership meeting, we voted to raise dues to $5/month). And if you can afford more please support us. THANK YOU!