Jobs with Justice Rallies to Support Verizon Workers

This past Saturday, December 10th, more than forty activists from Colorado Jobs with Justice rallied to tell Verizon to bargain fairly with its workers. All across the East Coast, forty five thousand CWA and IBEW members are trying to hold on to middle class jobs, but the massively-profitable Verizon wants to cut starting pay, force retirees to pay up to $6,000 a year for healthcare they've already earned, make it easier to outsource jobs, and cut pensions. Jobs with Justice coalitions across the country have been taking action in solidarity.

Here in Denver, in front of the Verizon Wireless store on the 16th Street Mall, the gathered crowd heard from Mary Taylor, Vice President of District 7 for CWA, Brother David Garner of Interfaith Worker Justice, and Seth Donovan, Co-Chair for Colorado Jobs with Justice. Mary Taylor said CWA is "proud of the fact that [we've] worked hard to make sure our member have stable middle-class jobs. . .what Verizon is doing is not just an attack on its own workers, but an attack on working people across the country." Brother David Garner emphasized that this struggle "must be seen in a moral context" because "we believe in people over profits. . .but profits over people is in the corporate DNA."

Last but not least, Seth Donovan from Jobs with Justice spoke to why JwJ turned out for our sisters and brothers at Verizon: We all took the Be There Pledge to show up for others' fights as well as our own, to stand against corporate greed and for workers' rights, and Jobs with Justice promised to show up to support Verizon workers. Thanks to everyone who showed up to help us keep that promise!

For more pictures from the rally, go here.


Time to stand up for Jeanette Vizguerra

by David Garner
posted orginally at examiner.com
Jeanette Vizguerra, a Colorado leader and mother of four, faces what may be her final court date on July 13. She faces deportation as an undocumented alien. Jeanette has lived in Colorado for over 14 years. She has 3 small children who are all US citizens
During her time in Colorado, she started a small business with her husband and has given selflessly as a community activist. She worked for SEIU as a labor organizer and currently volunteers at her children’s schools. She is part of the the Aurora Neighborhood Watch Program, and Rights for All People.  During the time she was doing all of this, her husband was diagnosed with cancer and the family incurred over twenty eight thousand dollars in medical bills. By working sometimes as many as three jobs at one time, this debt was retired. Not one dime of tax payer money went toward helping the family because, in Jeanette’s words, “It wouldn’t have been right.”  In any other situation, and most any other country, all of this would have qualified Jeanette for a Citizen of the Year award.  But not in our community and not in this country at this time in our nation’ history.
Jeanette’s story exemplifies our broken immigration system in which mothers, fathers, students, and workers are criminalized for minor violations. In her case, it was a matter of an expired emissions sticker. When she was pulled over, the first question asked was “Are you in this country illegally?” With that traffic stop, she entered the criminal justice system and became a statistic.
In testifying before the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary on March 9 of this year, Secretary of Interior Janet Napolitano said the following: “Likeour actions at the border, our interior enforcement efforts are achieving major results. In Fiscal Years 2009 and 2010, ICE removed more illegal immigrants from our country than ever before, with more than 779,000 removals nationwide in the last two years. Most importantly, more than half of those aliens removed last year – upwards of 195,000 – were convicted criminals, the most ever removed from our country in a single year.”There is a good chance that Jeanette Vizguerra will join that number.
Mark Twain once wrote that “there are three kinds of lies: plain lies, damned lies and statistics.” Our immigration policy is based upon the third kind of lie. It is time we change that. There will be a demonstration prior to Jeanette’s court appearance. It will be at 7:30Am in front of the federal court building at 17th and Welton in downtown Denver. It is your chance to help in this change.

Br. David received his doctorate in religious studies from Emerson Theological Institute. Dr. Garner also holds an MBA from Fairleigh Dickinson University and a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Denver. Br. David is a member of the Interfaith Worker Justice Council of Colorado and serves on the Steering Committee of the Abrahamic Initiative here in Denver. He was recently recognized by the Denver Area Chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement for his commitment to the community and to the Latino Movement. Author, teacher and social activist , he is currently Abbot of St. Dunstan's Benedictine Abbey in Denver, Colorado.


Regis University Ends Relationship with Sodexo

by Victoria Harris

After a student and faculty campaign to raise awareness about Sodexo’s practices, Regis has ended its relationship with Sodexo.

Students on campus were concerned that they weren’t getting what they were paying for.  Regis students described the campaign “ 'I Love Sodexo Workers’  as an effort to bring awareness to the fact that Sodexo, one of the biggest food service providers for college campuses here in the US, and also at Regis, has been accused of paying poverty wages, cutting hours, and offering its employees unaffordable health insurance.  Meanwhile students are paying high prices for low quality food, and contributing their money to a corporation that mistreats its employees.   The purpose of the campaign is that we want to show Sodexo workers that we appreciate them, but find that Sodexo as a company does not fit in with the Regis motto of 'How Ought We to Live?"

Students wore purple on campus to show support for workers rights and to send a message to Sodexo management and university decision makers.  Students also filled out hundreds of comment cards, reflecting on the poor quality of food and their continuing support of the workers.  "The workers are the only reason why I still eat at Sodexo. The food is AWFUL! But the workers try to make your eating experiences better,” said one Regis student. Another student comments, “"The workers here deserve better. We are a Jesuit University, let's start acting like one!"

In a speech to classmates in the Sodexo dining hall, Jon Denzler stated, “Workers have a right to organize, have decent pay, and affordable health care benefits. We think at Regis University, as a Jesuit School, when we ask “How Ought We to Live?” maybe our campus food providers should fit into that model as well.  We also think that whoever the food service provider is, the workers should be hired back.  These aren’t just workers, they are our friends.”

The new food service provider, Bon Apetit, will be on campus beginning in July.


Build Power. Fight Back. Win!

Corporations want to use the failing economy as an excuse to reverse every worker protection put in place over the last century, but we are standing together and fighting back!
Come to the Jobs with Justice conference to learn from and strategize with labor leaders, rank & file workers, students, religious leaders, community activists, workers excluded from labor law protection, and many, many more about how to build a powerful movement of working people to defeat the corporate agenda! Join us as we explore:
  • Establishing a new framework for collective bargaining rights in the 21st century

  • Building a new economy that supports full & fair employment

  • From the Middle East to the Midwest, building a culture of resistance – what’s next?

  • Defending, promoting, & expanding collective bargaining rights

  • Defeating attacks that divide workers by turning the tide on immigration criminalization & enforcement

  • Forging successful coalitions to defeat the corporate attack on working people

  • Kickoff to the Jobs with Justice 25th Anniversary Celebration

  • REGISTER NOW! Early bird rates in effect until June 24th.


    After Three Years, Reynolds Agrees to Meet with Tobacco Workers | AFL-CIO NOW BLOG

    After Three Years, Reynolds Agrees to Meet with Tobacco Workers

    by James Parks, May 15, 2011

    Photo credit: Jeremy Sprinkle

    Tobacco workers march in front of Reynolds American headquarters last week.

    In a major turnaround, officials of Reynolds American, who have refused for three years to meet with representatives of tobacco workers, agreed last week to look into the labor practices in their supply chain and work with other parties, including the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) to ensure they are not complicit with human rights violations.

    More than 50 FLOC members entered theReynolds American shareholders’ meeting last week in Winston-Salem, N.C., to deliver a report on the horrible conditions in the fields. Nearly 100,000 immigrant tobacco workers in North Carolina are paid sub-minimum wages and are exposed to dangerous conditions in the fields.

    The FLOC representatives pressed company executives to ensure that this new stance is more than just words and is backed up with serious action, including meeting with farmworkers and their representatives. No date for a meeting has yet been set.


    BREAKING NEWS: The National Labor Relations Board Doing Its Job: GOP Upset

    by Russell Bannan

    The National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Boeing for violating sections of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).   In its complaint, the board said that Boeing’s decision to move a production line to South Carolina was illegal retaliation against union workers for a previous strike and would discourage employees from striking again in the future (employees went out on a 58-day strike in 2008 over a contract dispute).

    The board explained that Boeing officials had clearly, in both interoffice communications and in a news interview, stated that the move to South Carolina was to avoid potential work stoppages.  According to the NLRA, it is illegal for employers to retaliate against workers for striking or for engaging in protected concerted activity.

    The GOP quickly began defending the corporation by verbally attacking the board for holding Boeing accountable to the law.  South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley stated several times that the board is “bullying” employers. The administration, I believe, is acting like thugs that you might see in a third-world country, trying to bully and intimidate employers,” stated Senator Jim Demint (dictionary.com defines “bully” as “a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates”).

    Also now Senator Lindsey Graham is threatening to defund the NLRB.  Why? He doesn’t agree with the board’s complaint against Boeing.  Sen. Graham’s threat to defund the board would be like someone threatening to defund the Supreme Court because they did not agree with a decision made.  South Carolina politicians have a history of staging flamboyant political theatre when they do not get their way.1

    The GOP’s recent bullying has made one thing crystal clear:  they will stand to defend corporations; not working people.

    1 Senator Strom Thurmond has the record for the longest filibuster, speaking for 24 hours and 18 minutes in a failed effort to stop the Civil Rights Act of 1957. More recently Joe Wilson continued the tradition by yelling “You Lie!” at President Obama.

    The title for this article came from the Mario Solis-Marich show in the interview below.

    Listen to AM 760's Mario Solis-Marich interview with Russell Bannan about the GOP's attack on the NLRB


    Wisconsin: The Implications

    originally published in the Colorado Labor Advocate

    Wisconsin public sector unions face a sobering truth after nine weeks of over 100,000 activists in the streets --- no contracts.

    Wisconsin Republicans with the leadership of Governor Scott Walker railroaded through the “budget repair” bill on March 9, which will strip many public sector unions of almost all of their collective bargaining rights.  Although it is currently tied up in the legal process many expect the bill to eventually take effect.

    This may seem like a statement we should be depressed about, but it is not.  It is a statement we should be proud of.  Out of the nine week struggle came forth a realization that all of us, together, must fight back.  Out of the nine week struggle rose up unprecedented solidarity across the country speaking out loud enough that a sleeping giant awoke---the labor movement.

    The implications of what has already taken place in Wisconsin are now being felt across the country. Governors are using the budget crisis to justify cutting resources to public programs and blaming teachers, firefighters, and nurses who exercise their right to collectively speak together to advocate for safety and economic democracy as the problem.  Why? Politicians receive financial contributions from the same individuals and corporations that are not contributing to the community by paying their fair share in taxes.

    Dennis Kucinich, U.S. representative from Ohio, stated it best at a rally in Wisconsin:
    This attack on our workers, this attack in Washington on working people that results in wealth being accelerated to the top, that results in tax cuts going to the rich, that results in energy policy turned over to the oil companies, that results in defense policy turned over to the arms manufacturers, that results in endless war, that results in the National security State, it's all a part of the same thing, and it's up to us to FIGHT BACK!
    So now working people are being asked to bear the budget on their backs. The question is: Will we?


    Letter sent by British Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald to Joslyn Williams, President of the Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO.

    BAT actions Ambassador Letter to Mr Williams AFL-CIO 5 4 11.pdf


    State of Fear

    CONTACTS:   FLOC: Briana Connors, 763-229-5970
        Oxfam America: Patrick Scully, 617-678-9098
    Manufacturers Urged to Pursue Industry-Wide Solutions
    Winston Salem, NC –The men and women who arrive in North Carolina each summer to tend and harvest the state’s economically critical tobacco crop are often repaid for their hard journey and work with subminimum wages, needlessly dangerous conditions in the fields, and inhumane living conditions. These are among the findings released today from a forthcoming, in-depth human rights assessment conducted by Oxfam America and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO (FLOC).That assessment, “A State of Fear: Human rights abuses in North Carolina’s tobacco industry,” will be published in full this summer.

    Oxfam and FLOC released their summary of findings, together with recommendations for correcting abuses in the industry, on the eve of the annual shareholders’ meeting of Reynolds American International (RAI).  RAI is one of the major tobacco manufacturers whose profits are based on the abusive system they created and control.  Those abuses were documented during the last growing season and harvest by researchers who conducted over 100 one-on-one interviews with farm workers, and with growers, tobacco manufacturers and the governmental and nongovernmental agencies mandated to protect and serve the workers’ needs.

    “This research reveals an industry that systematically exploits farm workers’ fears of arrest and deportation to deprive them of their basic, internationally recognized human rights,” said Minor Sinclair, Director of Oxfam America’s U. S. Regional Office, which oversaw the adaptation and execution of the international research model used for this study. ”These stunning findings should be a wake-up call to everyone attending the RAI shareholders’ meeting.  Do they really want to be a part of system that perpetuates these inhumane conditions?  We hope the people who can truly influence RAI will review this meticulously documented, first-hand research and take the suggested actions contained in the report.  Nothing less is acceptable,” he said.

    Among the findings highlighted in the summary released today are:

    • One-fourth of workers reported being paid less than the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour.
    • Most of the workers interviewed suffer regularly from symptoms of “green tobacco sickness” (GTS) including dizziness, vomiting, weakness, coughing, nosebleeds, and headaches. GTS is caused by excessive absorption of nicotine through the skin and can be prevented by use of gloves and other protective clothing.
    • Heat stroke is the leading cause of work-related death among farm workers, and many workers reported a lack of clean water or sufficient breaks to protect themselves from dehydration.
    • Nearly all who lived in employer-provided housing described inadequate or non-working showers and toilets, overcrowding, leaky roofs, beds with mattresses that were worn out or missing, insect and rodent infestations, and lacking or inadequate cooking and laundry facilities.
    • Growers who were interviewed said that changes in the industry have left them with little or no profit margin and no way to negotiate for better prices that would enable them to offer more to their workers.
    The report concludes with these recommendations:
    • Manufacturers must ensure respect for international human rights just as strictly as they ensure the quality and quantity of tobacco from their growers.
    • Industry leaders should create a council that brings together manufacturers, growers, farm workers, and their chosen representative, allowing all parties to have a voice and creating an effective tool for workers to ensure legal compliance in the workplace.
    • Manufacturers should act to ensure stability in the tobacco industry by allowing more grower input in their pricing formulas and by using multiyear contracts, agreed to earlier in the season, giving the growers more time to plan.
    As summer approaches, the next cycle is beginning. Hundreds of workers have already arrived at farms across the state to begin preparing and planting the fields. Their numbers will swell to about 100,000 by harvest time. This gives special urgency to efforts to address the problems uncovered by the researchers and to begin implementing their recommendations for resolving them.   Although many of the tobacco manufacturers, including RAI, profess support for human rights throughout the tobacco supply chain, those words are not enough.

     “Every day of delay is a day when workers will be needlessly sickened because of the lack of safety equipment or of adequate clean drinking water, when workers will continue to be paid illegal sub-minimum wages, when they will have to endure squalid, unsanitary housing, and when instead of being able to speak up to change these conditions they will continue to be silenced by fear,” said FLOC organizer Justin Flores. “This is an emergency that shames the entire tobacco industry and at Reynolds’ shareholder meeting tomorrow we will challenge the company to be a leader in its industry by taking responsibility and taking action to make things right.”
    #    #    #


    Axioms for Organizers by Fred Ross, Sr. 1989

    Fred Ross (1910 – 1992)
    Every Day –Organizing isn't a job done once and done with.  If organizers don’t renew their efforts every day of their lives, then only the grasping and greedy people remain active.

    Doing It “For” People –If you think you can do it for people, you’ve stopped understanding what it means to be an organizer.

    Lead By Pushing –An organizer is a leader who does not lead but gets behind the people and pushes.

    Duty of Organizer –The duty of the organizer is to provide people with the opportunity to work for what they believe in.

    Follow-up –90% of organizing is follow-up.

    Never Give Up –Good organizers never give up –they get the opposition to do that.

    Urgency –A good organizer must be able to charge an issue with a supreme sense of urgency.

    “From The Heart”–How can you move others unless you are moved yourself?

    Little Things –If you are able to achieve anything big in life, it’s because you paid attention to the “little” things.

    Half-Assed Job –In any kind of work if you do a half-assed job at least you get some of the work done; in organizing you don’t get anything done.

    People –It’s the way people are that counts, not the way you’d like them to be.

    Short-Cuts –Short-cuts usually end in detours, which lead to dead ends.

    Organizing Is –Organizing is providing people with the opportunity to become aware of their own capabilities and potential.

    Hope –To inspire hope, you have to have hope yourself.

    Winning Hearts & Minds –to win the hearts and minds of people, forget the dry facts and statistics; tell them the stories that won you to the cause.

    Questions –When you are tempted to make a statement, ask a question.  Temporary Organizer –An organizer tries to turn each person she meets into a temporary organizer.

    Ask #1 –Don’t tell the people–ask them.

    Build New –Don’t try and rebuild a dead organization; start over and build a new one. (Cesar Chavez)

    Organizing or Manipulating? –If you are moving people to act through truth and for truth, as you understand it, then you are organizing them. If you are moving them to act through deception, then you are manipulating them.

    Do It Now #1 –If there is something to be done, do it now.

    Do It Now #2 –If you wait until you have all the time, people and resources to go ahead, you may still never get there because you didn’t fill the interval with the action needed to get you there.

    Winning & Losing People –It’s easy to win people–and twice as easy to lose them

    Losers –Losers are loaded with alibis.

    Maybe –“Maybe” is a double, triple “No!”

    Messages #1 –Rare is the delivered message.

    People Power –People power must be visible.

    Reminding –Reminding is the essence of organizing.

    Organize –The only way to organize is to organize, not sit around and jaw about it.

    Burn-Out –Organizers don’t “burn-out”, they just give up and cease being organizers.

    Pressure –It’s not the quantity of pressure we exert that counts, it’s the quality.

    Willpower #1 –There is no substitute for willpower in an organizer.

    Ask #2 –Usually those who can spare a little time for the cause are actually ready to give it all if only someone would ask them.

    Concentration –When you are pushing a big drive or issue, you stay on it to the total exclusion of everything else –until it is done.

    Live Wires –When you find “live-wires” put them to work immediately.  Find something they can do –any little thing –get them started and ready to do more, or you’ll lose them for the cause.

    All the Way –When you do something –do it all the way!

    Leadership –You don’t develop new leaders, you push people in to taking action by refusing to do it yourself. You are then providing them the opportunity to become aware of their own capabilities.

    Willpower #2 –An organizer has to want to win badly enough to succeed.

    Volunteers –Never get so hungry for volunteers that you do their work for them instead of insisting they do it themselves.

    Hardest Choice –The hardest choice is usually the correct one.

    Vacations –Injustice never takes a vacation.

    Monotony –the way to break monotony is with motion and emotion.

    Appreciation #1 –Appreciation has an exceedingly short memory so strike while the iron is hot.

    Appreciation #2 –People are infinitely more appreciative of what they do for you than what you do for them. (Cesar Chavez)

    Respect Yourself –Don’t let them kick you around.  You have to live and organize, in such a way that you can respect yourself and be treated with respect by others.

    Put People To Work –Don’t talk at people –put them to work.

    The Disrupter –The disrupter is the lowest form of organizational life.

    Be Ready –A good organizer delegates responsibility but is always ready to jump in and do the job himself if necessary. (Saul Alinsky 1947)

    Social Arsonist –A good organizer is a social arsonist who goes around setting people on fire.

    Messages #2 –There is nothing less likely to be delivered than a message.

    Reaching People –If you can’t catch people at home during ordinary hours, you’ve got to go after them during extra-ordinary hours, to the outer edge of your tenacity and forbearance.

    By Brick –It isn’t hard to organize if you take it granule by granule, brick by brick.

    Fast Talkers –Look out for the fast talkers.

    Details –The measure of a good organizer is the amount of attention she pays to the most minute details.

    Helping People –Organizers must grow beyond helping people to “egging them on.”

    A Time For Silence –There is a time for sound and a time for silence and a good organizer needs to be able to differentiate between the two.

    Finding That Person –To keep an organization alive you’ve got to find that person who has to do something about it.

    The Incidentals –The incidentals make up the fundamentals.

    United Front: Labor, Immigrant Rights Movements See Converging Future

    originally posted on inthesetimes.com
    By R. M. Arrieta

    This May Day, the immigrant rights movement and the labor movement are joining forces for large rallies across the nation.

    Five years ago, the massive crowds who turned out in support of immigrant rights and finding a path to citizenship surprised the nation. Those May Day marches were among the largest coordinated protests in U.S. history.

    Now, with the labor movement itself under attack, an effort is underway to strengthen the alliances between immigrant rights and labor. Both Latinos and labor are under atack by right-wing forces. This year public-sector workers' collective bargaining rights have been rolled back in some states, and are being  challenged in others. Hate crimes and anti-immigrant rhetoric against Latinos have increased by 40 percent in the last five years.

    With their falling membership numbers, unions need Latino workers in order to grow. By virtue of their enormous numbers in the service sector and the construction industry, their role is pivotal for bringing union numbers up. Latino immigrants possess one of the highest participation rates in the labor force: 70.8 percent.

    The relationship is mutual. Latinos, among the most vulnerable workers, need the protections and benefits provided by unions. Union leadership has to reflect inclusion of minorities.

    For much of its history, unions have opposed the loosening of immigration restrictions. Now leaders of labor groups are realizing that Latino workers could positively impact the future their unions.

    The new report “Latino Workers in the United States 2011” by the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), offers a critical analysis about the state of Latino and undocumented workers. (The report can be downloaded on LCLAA’s website.)

    Latinos are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. workforce, which is now joining unions is at ‘near record lows.” The report says:

    "If the U.S. economy is a many-colored fabric, then Latino workers are the foundational cross-threads on which the bright pattern is woven. Without their dependable presence in nearly every job, the U.S. economy would literally disintegrate. Yet these workers remain stubbornly invisible to mainstream media and to those with the power to enforce and change labor laws that could help protect them."

    Tom Buffenbarger, International President of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) wrote:
    The future of America’s labor movement will be written in Spanish. Over the next twenty years, Latinos and Latinas will lead new fights for new rights all across this country. They will organize and mobilize a new generation of labor activists who will prevail over prejudice, corporate power and political foes. And they will change their communities and our country forever.
    Hector E. Sanchez, executive director of LCLAA and the report’s main author, wrote: “…As we reflect on this historical evolution of social conditions and labor rights for workers, there is a serious contradiction today where millions of workers in the nation still lack access to any of the benefits that this movement brought. This is especially true for a particular group of workers — Latino and immigrant workers — a community that has been under constant attack from various fronts throughout this nation over the last several years.”

    Enforcement-only policies have only enhanced that vulnerability to the point that immigrants have become disposable workers. It's a perfect system for exploitation, but we need to ask who is really benefiting from this, because so far everyone wants to blame undocumented workers. Eleven million immigrants living in the U.S. is not a mistake. This is public policy and the corporations and entire sectors of the economy are profiting from this broken system.
    Many Latinos in the labor force have to endure unsafe or abusive working conditions to make ends meet. Latino workers also deal with more minimum-wage and overtime pay violations than any other ethnic group. More than 77 percent of Latinos surveyed in various minimum wage industries did not receive overtime pay with higher incidences among immigrants.

    The bottom line: Thousands of working-class people, whether immigrants or not, unionized or not, are under attack across the board and they are beginning to understand their common links.

    Sanchez writes:
    Organized labor has been on the front line defending the most vulnerable and exploited workers. As we celebrate May Day all over the world, this is the time to stand in solidarity with those that are under serious attack in this nation – our immigrant brothers and sisters.                                                                                        
    The union movement must welcome these workers in a more aggressive way. Furthermore, Latinos and immigrants must embrace the labor movement as a tool for social protection and economic advancement.  This is the future of our movement, but more importantly this is the future of a more just and a stronger nation. No one should allow the assault of labor, human or civil rights of any group. It’s just bad political, social and economic policy.



    Delegation delivering the letter to H.M. Consul General Kevin Lynch. 
    DENVERThe Labor Council for Latin American Advance (LCLAA), Colorado Jobs with Justice, and community activists, led a delegation on behalf of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), the AFL-CIO, the TUC, the Geneva-based federation of food and agriculture workers, IUF, and American church groups into the British Consulate to deliver a letter to British Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald at the British Embassy in Washington, DC addressing human rights abuses.

    The letter and delegation addressed the widespread and egregious human rights abuses against U.S. tobacco field workers involving a British-based corporation, British American Tobacco (BAT), which owns the controlling shares in the U.S. tobacco giant Reynolds American.

    "These workers are scared to exercise their most basic human right.  The right and freedom to associate and collectively work to together to raise standards, living conditions, and fight for a living wage,"  stated Russell Bannan with Colorado Jobs with Justice.  "At Reynolds and out in the fields there is a culture that is conditioning this type of fear and it is unacceptable."

    LCLAA Denver Metro President Solomon Juarez who organized the delegation and asked, "Is it too much to ask that farm workers be treated like human beings?" After a few seconds Kevin Lynch, Consul General, responded "No."

    The delegation was part of an International call to protect human rights of U.S. tobacco farm workers. Similar delegations and letters were delivered to consulates in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Miami, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco. 

    Tomorrow in London, at BAT’s annual shareholders’ meeting, FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez will present a new report detailing the abuses of workers in the U.S. tobacco supply chain and will urge BAT to take immediate steps to ensure that all of the companies in its supply chain respect and follow the standards spelled out in the company’s corporate code of conduct.

    “We are urging the company to back up its words of support for human rights with monitoring and enforcement,” said Velasquez. “Through its control of Reynolds, BAT has the power and the moral obligation to take action to end these abuses.”

    AUDIO:  Listen to the interview from AM760's The Mario Solis-Marich Show with Russell Bannan



    MEDIA ADVISORY FOR:    Wednesday, April 27, 12 NOON

    WHERE:                                  British Consulate -1675 Broadway Denver, CO (
    British Embassy in Washington, DC, and Consulates in Atlanta, Boston,
    Chicago, Denver, Houston, Miami, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco

    CONTACTS:                           In Denver:  Russell Bannan 864-978-9374 (C), rpbannan@gmail.com
                                                   FLOC contact: Nancy Coleman 301-587-1034 (O); 301-537-0172 (C)

    Community leaders urge British Consulate to help end tobacco industry abuses
    At noon on Wednesday, April 27, union and community leaders will hand-deliver a letter to British Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald at the British Embassy in Washington, DC, asking him to urge British American Tobacco (BAT), which owns the controlling share in the U.S. tobacco giant Reynolds American, to end “widespread and egregious” human rights abuses against U.S. tobacco field workers.
    In Denver, a copy of that letter will be delivered to the British Consulate by Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Denver Area Labor Federation, and Colorado Jobs with Justice. Similar deliveries are slated for the consulates in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Miami, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco. 
    The letter cites “widespread and egregious violations” on tobacco farms in North Carolina, which supplies the largest share of the U.S.-grown crop. These include:
    “.  . . tobacco farm workers in North Carolina are exposed to pesticides and nicotine poisoning in the fields—while they endure squalid farm labor housing.  There is no protection for these workers if they complain or are fired for seeking union representation to help them improve their working and living conditions. . .
    “We believe you will agree that these workers’ desperate situation is something that no civilized society can tolerate, and we hope that you will use your good offices to urge BAT to take a leadership role in safeguarding human rights by insisting that the companies and suppliers they do business with must abide by the same code of corporate social responsibility they established for their own company.”
    In London on Thursday, April 28, at BAT’s annual shareholders’ meeting, FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez will present a new report detailing the abuses of workers in the U.S. tobacco supply chain and will urge BAT to take immediate steps to ensure that all of the companies in its supply chain respect and follow the standards spelled out in the company’s corporate code of conduct.
    “We are urging the company to back up its words of support for human rights with monitoring and enforcement,” said Velasquez. “Through its control of Reynolds, BAT has the power and the moral obligation to take action to end these abuses.”

    OBITUARY of Hazel Dickens

    Hazel Dickens 1935 –2011

    An Obituary by John Pietaro

    The high lonesome sound that touched so many, so deeply, could only have been born of both strife and fight-back in equal proportions. Singer/guitarist Hazel Dickens’ sound was probably about as high and lonesome as one got. The soundtrack of “Harlan County USA” introduced her to the many outside of the country home she remained a visceral part of, even long after she’d physically moved on. Dickens didn’t just sing the anthems of labor, she lived them and her place on many a picket line, staring down gunfire and goon squads, embedded her into the cause.

    She was born on June 1, 1935 in Montcalm, West Virginia, one of the faceless towns dotting Appalachian coal country. Her father was an amateur banjo player who worked as a truck driver for the mines and ran a Primitive Baptist church each Sunday. Here was where Hazel first began singing, unaccompanied out of necessity and the laws of tradition. But the devotional songs melded with the mountain tunes and ballads, creating a unique personal style. Bearing a rough, at times coarse timber, her voice eagerly reflected the broken topography about her as well as the pains of poverty in her midst. In a family of thirteen residing in a three-room shack, the music was far from distant symbolism for her.

    At age 16 Dickens relocated to Baltimore where she encountered Mike Seeger on the still fledgling folk scene. Seeger, working alongside his parents Charles and Ruth Crawford Seeger in the Library of Congress Archive of American Folksong, began performing with the Dickens family trio, but it was Hazel’s association with Seeger’s wife Alice Gerrard that offered notable area for impact on the music. The duet of Hazel & Alice recorded original compositions and deeply explored the feminist archetypes in Appalachian song. Dickens was sure to not only raise issues such as the need for equal pay for women workers, but to actively fight for these on and off stage. Among the titles she penned were “Working Girl Blues” and “Don’t Put Her Down, You Helped Put Her There”. She also composed the noted “Black Lung”, which called on the miners’ plight back home. Like Aunt Mollie Jackson before her, Dickens was able to capture the struggle of the moment in song, and this was most evident in her on-screen performances in celebrated films such as “Matewan” and “Song Catcher” and her work on the above noted “Harlan County USA”. The union cause was her cause and it lived anew each time she conjured a topical song set to a melody that sounded as old as the ages.

    A clear heir to the Appalachian stylings of Aunt Mollie Jackson and Sarah Ogan, Dickens became a respected figure and was a featured singer at folk festivals for decades. Since the 1970s, Dickens had performed with a wide array of musicians including Emmy Lou Harris, Elvis Costello, Linda Ronstadt, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Rosanne Cash. In 2007 she was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. Dickens was active as recent as last month when she was seen attending the South By Southwest Festival in Austin. Hazel Dickens died of complications of pneumonia in Washington DC on April 22. In the blackened crawlspaces of West Virginia’s mines the lament was a deafening silence as the mountain peaks seemed to bow in solemn reverence.

    -John Pietaro is a musician, writer and labor organizer from New York City—http:TheCulturalWorker.blogspot.com