RPA Activist Info Masthead
Issue: #78June 23, 2012

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Party: Independence from Big Soda
Helping LBGT Youth at Council
The Real Regressive Tax
City Budget: How to Make the Cuts
National Homelessness Conference in Richmond
Safety at Chevron?
Help Kids Write Our Future
Medrano: Advice to Graduates
School Sit-In Continues
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Council Study Session Tuesday

Helping LGBT young People


Always My Son from Family Acceptance Project
Always My Son
from Family Acceptance Project

Dr. Caitlin Ryan ─ Director of the Family Acceptance Project at SF State University ─ will discuss the groundbreaking research that she and her team have conducted next Tuesday, June 26  at a City Council Study Session. She will present the evidence-based family intervention model they are developing to help ethnically and religiously diverse families support their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) children, to reduce their risk for suicide, substance abuse, HIV and homelessness and to promote their well-being. This work has been called revolutionary. It is changing the way that health, mental health, social service providers and community programs serve LGBT young people, and is guiding parent education and family services to nurture and support LGBT children and youth. 


See the Family Acceptance Project web site 


Diabetes: The Real Regressive Tax


There are some well-meaning folks who claim that a tax on added-sugar drinks is regressive tax-that is, a charge to those who can least afford it. The additional tax on a sugar drink will be 12 to 20 cents.


Povert/Diabetes relationshipBut if we think about the impact of sugar drinks, we can immediately see that the cost of the health problems, particularly diabetes, is the real regressive tax on the poor.  We know that diabetes occurs at a greater rate and is growing faster in poor communities. The chart shows the disparities nationally and in Washington state. (See article on disparities.)


So just how much is the Diabetes "Tax"? If you're lucky and have health insurance, the cost is shared by all policy holders. But if you're poor you are less likely to have insurance and much more likely to have to directly pay a large share of treatment costs out of your own pocket. So how much is this "diabetes tax"?


Cost (tax) for One Year of Treatment for Diabetes requiring daily insulin shots:

  • Insulin $4300
  • Syringes   $500          
  • Test Strips  $800
  • Doctors' Visits and Labs $1000

So that is just $6,400 per year if things are going relatively well and you are staying in control.  Remember, however, that as a diabetic you are more likely to develop other conditions including heart disease, foot problems and just about everything heals more slowly.


Sugar Water CartoonWhat happens if you can't afford to pay for your care and if you put off getting treatment? You are more likely to develop severe, life threatening problems which can result in such drastic outcomes as amputations or kidney failure and a need for dialysis. These treatments, at least until recently, usually have been covered by the health care safety net. But what a "suffering" price (tax) to pay!


Now we can agree that medical conditions should be covered by national health care-extended Medicare. But they are not. So the costs of diabetes in this society fall disproportionately on the poor (both in terms of money or suffering).  Any measures which reduce sugar consumption and the related health problems relieves financial costs to the poor. And the same measures relieve the health risks --the hidden tax of consuming sugary drinks..


We can agree that athletic fields should be paid from a progressive income tax.  But until we get those progressive taxes passed, we can not stand by while those with less income are forced to endure far more of their share of medical problems AND far more of the  medical costs. Health disparity including higher rates of diet related illness and lack of access to quality health care for the poor is the real financial problem, not the penny per ounce being suggested. Don't let the beverage industry fool you!

--Mike Parker

Budget before Council on Tuesday
Valuable Programs,
Employee Compensation  to be Cut

The city is forced to trim its budget again. While the city has been cost-cutting the past several years mainly by not filling vacancies,  certain costs l--particularly medical, are going up at rapid rates but income  is not keeping up.  The recession has reduced spending,  which reduces the city's income from sales taxes.  Property tax income has gone down as a result of reduced property values. In other words we are still paying for the banker-induced financial collapse of 2008.

There are going to be some cuts in important programs.  Mayor  Gayle McLaughlin has proposed that the senior city management take a 2% salary cut before attempting to negotiate cuts for city workers (1.5%for those making more than $100,000 and 1% for those  between $40,000 and $100,000).

The Council is also considering cuts in festival subsidies, and trimming a number of city programs like library hours.
National Homelessness Conference In Richmond

Phillip Woods
Phillip Woods, Saffron Strand member, addresses national conference
Saffron Strand organized its third national conference on homelessness last week. National and local experts combined with staff of local community agencies and homeless individuals to discuss topics on health care, housing and especially employment readiness for homeless. The key note speaker was Gabriela Lemus, a senior Labor Department official.  Mayor Gayle McLaughlin gave this introductory speech:

"If Americans ever allow banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children will wake up homeless"  Thomas Jefferson

In today's world, that is exactly what has happened.   The lack of regulation on big banks and big corporations has put us into an economic freefall, causing both unemployment and homelessness, and so many other social ills.  The situation grows and grows and creates such hardship for so many and keeps getting worse.
There is another quote I want to share.  This is by English art critic and artist, John Berger, who said this in the 20th century: 

"The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich."

In the 20th century things were bad, and in this century things are only worse.....certainly made worse by the growing inequality of income and opportunity that we see at play in our country and all over the world, even though we as a society have the capacity to create opportunity for all.
In Richmond, we say: we do not "look away."  We stand in solidarity.

We say this in regard to all the social ills that confront us and we say this in regard to the issue of homelessness.   I want to give a big thank you to Saffron Strand and all its members, who have not only looked deep into the root causes of homelessness but are providing pathways out of homelessness through their dedicated work and commitment.  We often hear how psychologists tell us to learn about self-love.  But there is no self-love unless it is coupled with love in our hearts for our brothers and sisters.  For those who are taking pathways out of homelessness themselves, their efforts to help others find their way is so admirable.  Turning around this country's past vision of every man and woman for him or herself - each pulling oneself up by the bootstraps-- is essential.   And I believe the new vision is coming from those who have suffered the most.
So I commend all the members as well as the staff of Saffron Strand for being a part of this new vision.  And I commend all of you here (whether as practitioners, educators and trainers, businesses, non-profits, public employees, sponsors and/or interested members of the public) for being here to learn new ways and new strategies to implement this new vision.    Thank you for being here.

--Gayle McLaughlin
A New Approach to Homelessness in America  Video form the 2nd National Conference 
A New Approach to Homelessness in America Video based on 2nd National Conference

Chevron's Concern (?) for Safety and Free Speech


Those of us in Richmond living near the Chevron Refinery have an extra interest in the safety of those who work at the Chevron plant.  In one sense they are the canaries in the mines.  If they are safe then we are too. If the refinery is adequately staffed and trained then that is a protection for all of us.



Puppet at Chevron
Demonstration Outside Shareholders Meeting
Unfortunately Chevron does not have the same high regard for its workers. At the annual Chevron Stockholders meeting held on May 30, workers at the Richmond Refinery along with other oil industry workers who were also stockholders attempted to bring their concerns to the shareholders. 



The company treated them contemptuously.  Chevron barred some, including a representative of the Oil Workers in Brazil, from attending the meeting on technicalities. Others they simply tried to intimidate and silence. Mike Smith from the Richmond refinery and a member of the United Steel Workers' (USW) which represents 1400 Chevron workers at three refineries, had submitted a safety resolution to the shareholders meeting. The resolution called on the company to tell its investors "process" safety, procedures it is putting in place related to equipment reliability, inspection and testing, and preventative maintenance (including stopping discharge of volatile materials into the air and ground) to reduce the risk of accidents on drilling rigs and at oil refineries. The resolution received 8% support in preliminary balloting.


At the door, Chevron guards searched Smith and confiscated a sheet of paper with his prepared speech, stating that he could not take "propaganda" into the room.


"I was shocked that shareholders wouldn't want to know the decisions Chevron was making that could hurt the stock price," Smith said. "I'm an investor and I'd like to know if they were taking shortcuts on process safety. We still fight every day to make process safety the focus instead of personal safety so we can avoid major catastrophes. If we can guarantee our safety, that would guarantee the safety of communities around our refineries."


Smith added,  "They can take away my statement, but not my voice." But they took away other people's voices inside simply by shutting down the question and answer session with people still waiting to speak.


Outside the meeting there was a lively demonstration with hours of open microphone for those wanting to explain Chevron's bad faith on many levels  

Refiner Workers Meet Mayor
 A representative of the Brazilian Oil workers, national USW and Richmond Refinery workers met with Mayor McLaughlin the next day.

Because kids write our future 

Help Richmond High students succeed!  


Writer CoachWriterCoach Connection brings trained volunteer writing coaches into English classes to give students one-on-one support with their writing assignments. Coaches inspire and encourage students as they develop self-confidence and writing proficiency, and strengthen their comprehension, and creative and critical thinking capabilities. These are critical skills for school, college, and career success. There are 530+ writing coaches serving 2,000+ students in El Cerrito, Berkeley, Oakland, and Albany. Richmond High School is launching the program this fall.


You don't have to be a writer or teacher to volunteer

Our in-depth trainings will give you strategies for working effectively with students. We need community volunteers who want to help Richmond students learn to communicate their ideas with clarity, confidence, and pride. This is a gratifying experience that works towards closing the achievement gap and showing our youth that we care about them and their future...our future.


See Writer Coach website


Contact Shelli Fried  sfried0530@gmail.com   510530-7600 


You must be examples of organizing wherever you may be...


Advice to graduates   


(Graduation comments, May 25, 2012, ITA Academy, El Cerrito High School Auditorium

by Antonio Medrano, WCCUSD School Board member)


"You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who not afraid anymore." -Cesar Chavez


Antonio Medrano
School Board Member Antonio Medrano serving food at Safe Fields Coalition

Many of you are the first in your families to go to school and later college. So was I. My parents never finished school (they had to work in the fields). When I was born, my folks lived in a farm labor camp (campamento de campesinos) in Modesto, California.  


But throughout my early years, my folks stressed the importance of education ..." me decían." The purpose of education is to awaken one's conscience and learn to ask cuando, porque , como y para que (when, why, how and what for) and work to change the structure when they cannot answer those questions


I am often asked what examples can I give from my 40 years in education. I have many but I will give you two...


Click here for full article   

Oakland Lakeview School Sit-In and Program in 2nd Week


In protest of the school closures and the privatization of Oakland Public Schools, on June 15 parents, teachers, students and community members launched a sit-in at one of the closed schools, Lakeview Elementary. They re-opened the school's doors for the "People's School for Public Education", a free social justice summer program for children in pre-K through 6th grade.


Many Oakland residents have rallied to the school's defense. Below, to describe what is happening, we reprint the open letter by trade union activists. If you would like to add your name, send it, your union, and title/position to jackrgerson@gmail.com.



Open Letter: Labor Leaders Support the Lakeview Sit-In and People's School


Dear Brothers and Sisters,


We are writing to declare our support for the parents, teachers, and community member sit-in and People's School for Public Education at Lakeview Elementary in Oakland, and to urge full labor support and outreach for this fight to keep all Oakland neighborhood schools open, public, and fully funded, and to oppose the anti-union policies of the Oakland school district administration.

      At the end of this school year, the Oakland Unified School District closed 5 public elementary schools, displacing over 1,000 students. The school district plans to convert some of these school buildings into district administration offices, and to turn the others over to privately controlled (and non-union) charter schools. This continues a downward spiral of cuts, downsizing, privatization, and union-busting that has decimated Oakland public education, and has been particularly devastating to schools and students in the black and brown communities.

      In protest of the school closures and the privatization of OUSD, on June 15 parents, teachers, students and community members launched a sit-in at one of the closed schools, Lakeview Elementary, and re-opened the school's doors for the "People's School for Public Education", a free social justice summer program for children in pre-K through 6th grade.

      Specifically, here are their demands:

  • Don't close the 5 schools. Keep all neighborhood schools open.
  • Stop union busting: defend the OEA and all school worker unions
  • Repudiate the state debt
  • Fully fund quality public education for all
  • Demand OUSD Superintendent Tony Smith reopen all closed schools or resign

 What is the background to this struggle?

      A decade ago, the Oakland Unified School District had 54,000 students in public schools. Now it has only 36,000. Ten years ago, Oakland had 2,000 students in charter schools. Today there are over 8,000. Schools have been shut down. School libraries have been closed, and librarians have been laid off. Electives have been eliminated, vocational programs closed down, support staff positions have been consolidated. Much of this was done under the state takeover of Oakland schools, when the district's debt to the state was tripled (from $37 million in 2003 to $110 million in 2010) because the state administrators spent proportionately double the California school district average on outsourcing to consultants and vendors, and double the school district average on administration.


 Why should labor support this struggle?

      The school closures, privatization, and overall downsizing of OUSD are part and parcel of the austerity, downsizing, and privatization attack on public sector unions and on essential public services. The game plan is clear: to do to the public sector unions what was done in the private sector in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, barely one in 20 private sector workers are unionized. That's what's in store for public sector unions - unless we stop playing the game the same way and by their rules.

      OUSD imposed terms on OEA two years ago, and now it's flagrantly flouting the terms of its own imposition: two months ago, the school district unilaterally declared that all teachers at Castlemont, Fremont, and McClymonds High Schools would have to reapply for their jobs this year (and every year thereafter), and would have to work a month longer than teachers in all other schools. This union busting is just another aspect of the privatization of OUSD, and thus is closely linked to the school closures.

      So why support the parents, teachers, and community at Lakeview?

  • School closures mean fewer members for all schoolworker unions, weakening them
  • Weaker unions are easier targets for union-busting attacks on wages, health care, pensions, seniority and due process
  • Smaller and weaker schoolworker unions weaken all of labor, making other unions more vulnerable and subject to downsizing
  • Smaller and weaker public sector unions go hand in hand with harsh austerity cuts to all essential services - not just schools.
  • And finally, we ask: if public education is trashed, where and how will we educate our children?

      Although police have entered the Lakeview site several times to post "Stay Away" notices in a clear attempt to intimidate parents from enrolling their children, the People's School is growing: from seven students on Monday to 23 on Tuesday, with larger enrollments anticipated as excitement about the program spreads. The People's School can succeed. Its demands can be won - if labor commits itself to join and build a united labor-community fight.

      "An injury to one is an injury to all". Let's seize this opportunity to fight alongside parents, students, and community. We will mobilize our members to support this struggle.

      We call on East Bay union locals - especially those in the greater Oakland area - to urge their members to:

  • Endorse the Lakeview Sit-in and "The People's School for Public Education".
  • Turn out for and spread the word about the daily 5pm rallies in front of Lakeview Elementary (746 Grand Avenue Oakland, across from the Grand Lake Theater). 
  • Assemble at Oscar Grant Plaza (14th and Broadway) at noon on Saturday (June 23) and march to Lakeview Elementary.
  • Contact Alameda Labor Council secretary Josie Camacho and urge her to expedite declaring Lakeview Elementary to be a sanctioned picket site. 

 In Solidarity,


Betty Olson-Jones, president, Oakland Education Association

John Green, president, Castro Valley Education Association

Tanya Smith, president, University Professional and Technical Workers Local 1 (UPTE/CWA)

Ana Turestsky, president, AFT Local 771

Ruben Rodriguez, president, AFSCME Local 444

Amanda Armstrong, head steward UC Berkeley, UAW Local 2865


and many others


See article in SFGate    See  article in MercuryNews

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Come in or call and tell us what you are willing to do.
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RPA Activist Info

is for Richmond community members who want to be active in taking on the problems of the environment, racism, joblessness, housing, and crime to create a healthy Richmond. We believe that community involvement means more than voting every two years. It means regular communication with the candidates we elect, letting them know our issues and positions, supporting them as they try to take our issues forward. It means we attend meetings, use email, phone our neighbors, or go on marches building an organized movement to create real change.

Comments and columns are welcome. Articles and columns are the views of the author, unsigned text  the views of the editor, Mike Parker, and not necessarily those of the RPA. Send photos, articles, and comments to  RPAactivist@gmail.com or call  510-595-4661. Longer articles of analysis and archives of past newsletters can be found on our website.