Articles ~ Actions ~ Events for Sat. 3/6 – Thurs. 3/11 (From Adrienne Fong)

Am NOT back posting…Need to catch up on paper work etc.

*** ASL interpretation – Let me know if your event needs this service .***

Please include Accessibility and ASL info in your events! And if your action is ‘child friendly’

Please post your actions on Indybay: https://www.indybay.org/calendar/?page_id=12

 See Indybay  for many other listings of events.

Site for other Bay Area Events

ARTICLES:

A. US opposes ICC war crimes probe, citing support for Israel – March 4, 2021

US opposes ICC war crimes probe, citing support for Israel | Human Rights News | Al Jazeera

B. Mission District police are flagged for potential misconduct more than other officers. SFPD can’t explain why. –March 4, 2021

Mission District police are flagged for potential misconduct more than other officers. SFPD can’t explain why. – Mission Local

C. Update: Mumia has congestive heart failure and has tested positive for COVID 19

The Jamal Journal Home Page: Update: Mumia has congestive heart failure and has tested positive for COVID 19

  See Action # 9 and Event # 1

D. Aurora Police Killed Without Consequence, Now Their Protestors Face 48 Years for “Kidnapping” Cops

Aurora Police Killed Without Consequence, Now Their Protestors Face 48 Years for “Kidnapping” Cops (mintpressnews.com)

E. Thousands at Oakland Coliseum received wrong vaccine dosage, medical staff say – March 3, 2021

https://www.ktvu.com/news/thousands-at-oakland-colis     eum-received-wrong-vaccine-dosage-medical-staff-say

F. Ice reached a new low: using utility bills to hunt undocumented immigrants – March 3, 2021

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/mar/03/ice-reached-a-new-low-using-utility-bills-to-hunt-undocumented-immigrants

G. We Must Not Detain Children in Toxic Cages, Regardless of the Administration in Charge – March 2, 2021

We Must Not Detain Children in Toxic Cages, Regardless of the Administration in Charge | Earthjustice

H. Only one George Floyd family member at a time allowed in Chauvin trial, judge rules – March 2, 2020

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/only-one-george-floyd-family-member-time-allowed-chauvin-trial-n1259313

I. US seizes UN aid allocate for Rukban refugees, distributes it amont terrorists  – March 1, 2021

US seizes UN aid allocated for Rukban refugees, distributes it among terrorists: Russia, Syria (presstv.com)

J. Big new cuts at City College  – February 28, 2021

Big new cuts at City College | 48 hills

K. Stop Line 3 Pipeline! #StopLine3Mural – Vimeo video by Peter Menchini

No Pipeline, No Way! – 4K on Vimeo

   See Alert # 5

ACTIONS / PETITIONS:

1. Tell President Biden: Close Guantánamo

  SIGN: Amnesty International USA (amnestyusa.org)

2. Speak Out Against JNF-KKL Settlement Expansion Plans

  SIGN: Speak Out Against JNF-KKL Settlement Expansion Plans (actionnetwork.org)

3. Demand Israeli authorities immediately end solitary confinement of Palestinian child detainees

  SIGN: Take Action: End solitary confinement – No Way to Treat a Child (dci-palestine.org)

4. Tell Congress to Investigate COVID Origins & the Pandemic Response!

  SIGN: Tell Congress to Investigate COVID Origins & the Pandemic Response! – Organic Consumers Association | Organic Consumers

5. Tell President Biden: Shut Down the Climate-Busting Line 3 Tar Sands and Dakota Access Pipelines

  SIGN: Shut Down Line 3 Tar Sands and Dakota Access Pipelines | NRDC

6. Demand President Joe Biden cancel all student debt within 100 days

  SIGN: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/sign-the-petition-demand-president-joe-biden-cancel-all-student-debt-within-100-days?source=20210204_CancelStudentDebt_DP&referrer=group-demand-progress-3&redirect=https%3A%2F%2Fsecure.actblue.com%2Fdonate%2Fstudent-debt-cancel-dp%0A

7. Stop using that soil contains war dead to build a military base

  SIGN: http://chng.it/Gg8fg4NL4q

8. Stop this Toxic Treaty

  SIGN: Avaaz – Stop this toxic treaty now

9. URGENT! Please CALL these 4 phone numbers now – Demand  that Mumia Abu-Jamal (AM 8335) be  unconditionally released from prison:

SCI Mahanoy Prison: (570) 773-2158

PA DOC Secretary, John Wetzel:(717) 728-2573

Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner:(267) 456-1000; @DA_LarryKrasner

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf:(717) 787 2500

EVENTS

Saturday, March 6 – Thursday, March 11

Saturday, March 6

1. Saturday, 11:00am – 1:00pm (PT); 2:00pm – 4:00pm (ET), Freedom Has Never Been So Close

Online / On/Off facebook

Zoom, YouTube, FB link provided after registration

RSVP: RSVP: Freedom has Never Been so Close (google.com)

A GLOBAL STREET MEETING

-International Support
-Legal Explanations and Updates
-Discussion on Political Prisoners
– COVID in Prisons
-The Changing Political Climate in Philly
-The Brutal Role of the Police
-Music, Art, Poetry, Videos!

SPECIAL APPEARANCES BY:
Vic Mensa – Chicago Hiphop Artist
Chairman Fred Hampton Jr – Black Panther Party Cubs

Host Mobilization4Mumbia

Info: FREEDOM HAS NEVER BEEN SO CLOSE | Facebook

2. Saturday, 2:00pm (PT); 5:00pm (ET), National Solidarity Organizing Meeting & Workers Assembly

Online

Register: Meeting Registration – Zoom

Support Alabama Amazon Union: Organizing

Between Feb 8, and March 29, approximately 6,000 Amazon workers at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama will begin voting by mail on whether to be represented by the Retail, Wholesale Department Store Workers Union. The harsh working conditions at Amazon warehouses, along with Amazon’s refusal to adopt measures that protect workers from COVID 19, have pushed Amazon and Whole Foods workers everywhere to step up organizing and fighting back.

These predominantly Black Amazon workers, who have in recent months formed the BAmazon Workers Union, are on the cusp of launching a history-changing workers organization against one of the biggest and most powerful transnational corporations in the world, and its super rich union busting owner, Jeff Bezos.  In addition, these workers are standing up to the racist, anti-union laws that suppress labor across the south. No matter what the outcome of the vote, this fight for a union in Alabama is already rocking Wall Street and energizing a much needed national explosion of worker organizing.

Participants include:
Organizers for 50+ Actions on February 20
Charles Jenkins – Coalition of Black Trade Unionists NYC
Jaribu Hill – Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights
Matt Smith – Kshama Solidarity Campaign
World Federation of Trade Unions representative
#WorldAgainstRacism representative
Tom Burke – Co-chair, Political Action Forum, IATSE Local 26
& MORE!

3. Saturday, 2:30pm – 4:30pm, Celebrating International Women’s Day

Zoom: To join the forum, click here or write   acpfp@mail.com

discussion with

Urszula Wislanka, activist with News & Letters, California Coalition for
Women Prisoners and Pelican Bay Hunger Strike Support Coalition, on The Living History of International Women’s Day

Kara Murray-Badal, election activist and member of Democratic Socialists of America, on Getting out the Vote in the Georgia Senate Race

Karina Stenquist, host of podcast “Mondays Off” and DSA member, on
Women in the Hospitality Industry

Info: Celebrating International Women’s Day : Indybay

4. Saturday, 4:30pm, “Flint: Who Can you Trust?” Film & Discussion: Impact of Flint Water Crisis on Poor & POC

Info & RSVP: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/flint-who-can-you-trust-watch-party-tickets-138489853881

Filmed over 5 years and long after the story was front page news, “Flint: Who Can You Trust?” is full of new twists and turns. Journalist/filmmaker Anthony Baxter goes beyond the headlines in Flint, Michigan, where a government poisoned its own citizens’ water supply, to show the complete breakdown of authority, public trust and faith in the truth itself.

“Flint” is a powerful investigation of the breathtaking scope of toxic pseudo-science, celebrity activism, and official negligence. The film reveals the devastating impact on poor people and people of color, which make up the majority of the residents in Flint, as they continue to seek justice and clean water.

Featuring Marc Ruffalo and narrated by Alec Baldwin. Produced by Richard Phinney and Sabrina Schmidt Gordon.

Anthony Baxter, Director/2020/119 min/Social Justice, Water, People & Cultures, Health

POST VIEWING DISCUSSION

After the screening, stay connected to discuss the film with:

–Anthony Baxter, Director, “Flint: Who Can You Trust?”

–Nathalie Baptiste, Washington DC-based Reporter & Columnist, Mother Jones Magazine

–Moderator: Alejandro Bodipo-Memba, Founder & CEO, OVP Management Consulting

Host: One Earth Film Festival

Info: “Flint: Who Can you Trust?” Film & Discussion: Impact of Flint Water Crisis on Poor & POC : Indybay

5. Saturday, 5:00pm, Vigil Commemorating the 3rd Anniversary of Jesús Adolfo Delgado’s Murder by SFPD

In person

Capp St. (between 21st & 22nd Streets)
SF

The Family of Jesús Adolfo “Dopher” Delgado Duarte will be holding a remembrance vigil commemorating the 3rd anniversary of his murder by SFPD.

All are invited.

The Family has expressed their thanks in advance to everyone helping to keep Adolfo’s name alive.

Posted on:

 Justice for Jesús Adolfo Delgado Duarte, killed by SFPD 3/6/2018 | Facebook

&

(1) Justice for Jesus Adolfo “Dopher” Delgado Duarte, killed by SFPD 3/6/2018 | Facebook

Sunday, March 7

6. Sunday, March 7 till March 13, Boycott Amazon in Solidarity with Amazon Warehouse Workers in Alabama

Don’t Cross this Virtual Picket Line

Simple weeklong Boycott of Amazon starts Sunday March 7th

Workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama have been voting on joining RWDSU for the last month. If they are successful, they would be the first Amazon employees in the United States to join a union.

At the same time, workers at the warehouse have faced an unrelenting anti-union campaign. They have received numerous anti-union texts a day and they can’t even go to the bathroom without seeing Amazon’s anti-union propaganda. Amazon is even working with local officials to change the time that lights outside the warehouse stay red so that organizers can’t speak to the workers while they wait at red lights.

To support Amazon workers and let the company know that we do not approve of their union-busting tactics, a one-week boycott of the company has been planned. From March 7th- March 13th, everyone is being asked to not use Amazon or Amazon Prime and do not stream videos using the Amazon Prime video service.

Info: Don’t Cross this Virtual Picket Line | ucomm blog

7. Sunday, 12Noon – 2:00pm, Rally! Free Malik! GEO Out of Cali!

Meet at:

111 Taylor St. (nr. Turk St.)
SF

Mask & Social distancing

San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper Editor Malik Washington is being severely retaliated against for releasing a public memo documenting a preventable Covid outbreak at 111 Taylor, a reentry facility run by the $2B+ for-profit prison corporation GEO Group in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. GEO staff stole his phone and put a gag order on him in what is the most egregious attack on journalism and Malik’s constitutional right to freedom of speech. The Bureau of Prisons is now threatening to send him back to prison and Malik Washington and the SF Bay View have filed suit against the BOP and GEO. For more information, see below :

https://48hills.org/…/covid-outbreak-and-media…/https://48hills.org/…/editor-sues-over-gag-rule-at…/https://48hills.org/…/bay-view-editor-wont-face…/

For an excellent documentary exposé on the atrocious, dehumanizing conditions at 111 Taylor St, please view the 11- minute documentary put forth by SF Public Defender’s The Adachi Project : https://wearedefender.com/111-taylor

GEO Group is fighting Malik, but they are also currently litigating against AB 32, which would ban private detention facilities in California, arguing that they would lose $15M per year in revenue, with a large portion coming from caging our siblings in abusive ICE Detention Facilities across the state. Well we say NO to PUTTING PROFITS OVER PEOPLE EVERY SINGLE TIME! For-profit prison companies have no place in California or anywhere!

 rally is being organized by the Malik Washington Defense Committee. To donate to his legal fees and to support Black, radical journalism, please donate here : https://fundrazr.com/free-malik….

Info: (2) RALLY! FREE MALIK! GEO OUT OF CALI! | Facebook   or  RALLY : Free Malik! Kick Geo Group Out of Cali! Stop For-Profit Prisons! : Indybay

8. Sunday, 12 Noon, Solidarity With the People of Burma – Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge

Meet at SF side of GG Bridge

(limited parking)

Wear masks; social distancing 10ft apart

Come walk with Buddhist monks across the Golden Gate Bridge in solidarity with the Burmese People.

On Sunday, March 7th, we will be gathering in solidarity with the people of Burma and doing a simple walk–peaceful but united—led by Buddhist leaders and monks.

join us at 12pm noon on the San Francisco side of the bridge to show the world that we are watching the situation in Burma (Myanmar). And the people we care about are not alone.

Please wear red, bring a friend, and absolutely wear a mask.

We will be gathering informally, walking 10-feet apart, and focusing on loving-kindness.

It is hard to watch what is happening to our brothers and sisters across the world, but we can bear witness with our presence and express our deep caring and humanity. And that matters.

(This idea for this walk was inspired by Jack Kornfield of Spirit Rock Meditation Center and Partners Asia.)

Info: Solidarity Walk | Facebook

9. Sunday, 1:00pm – 2:30pm, Not A Nation of Immigrants: Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy, and a History of Erasure

Zoom Meeting

https://zoom.us/j/2200241232?pwd=aCt1dWI0OGxUdUxjeUJ5K0xSY09uUT09

Meeting ID: 220 024 1232

Passcode: 328697

Dial by your location

        +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)

        +1 929 205 6099 US (New York)

Unitarian Universalist SF – Forum

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz grew up in rural Oklahoma in a tenant farming family. She has been active in the international Indigenous movement for more than 4 decades and is known for her lifelong commitment to national and international social justice issues. Dunbar-Ortiz is the winner of the 2017 Lannan Cultural Freedom Prize, and is the author or editor of many books, including An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, a recipient of the 2015 American Book Award. She lives in San Francisco.  Not A Nation of Immigrants is scheduled to be released in August 2021 by Beacon Press.

Many Americans, regardless of party affiliation, whether in political debates or discussions about immigration, proudly state that we are a nation of immigrants. In this bold new book, historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz asserts this ideology is harmful and dishonest because it serves to mask and diminish the US’s history of genocide, white supremacy, slavery, and structural inequality, all of which we still grapple with today.

Info: Not A Nation of Immigrants: Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy, and a History of Erasure : Indybay

10. Sunday, 2:00pm – 3:30pm(PT); 5:00pm – 6:30 pm (ET), Workers and the World, Unite! DSA for PRO Act Campaign Launch Call

Online

Register: Workers and the World, Unite! DSA for PRO Act Campaign Launch Call (actionnetwork.org)

campaign launch call with special guests Naomi Klein, AFA-CWA union president Sara Nelson, Rep. Jamaal Bowman, and more!

In the 20th century, major gains for the working class in the original New Deal were achieved through militant labor organizing. Rebuilding this capacity is crucial to winning the world we want.

No matter who’s running the government, only a radicalized and organized working class can win transformative reforms that can make the 21st century livable for all.

To solve our climate and economic crises, we need a Green New Deal.

To win a Green New Deal, we need mass worker power.

To build mass worker power, we need to pass the PRO Act.

That’s why, in the first 100 days of the Biden administration, Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) are going all in on a national push to pass the PRO Act, which would strengthen unions, root out racist & unjust labor practices like right-to-work laws, guarantee that immigrant workers have the same rights afforded to their fellow workers, build the power of all workers to organize on the job, and grow our collective capacity to win a just transition to a green economy for all in the years ahead.

Host: DSA

Monday, March 8

International Women’s Day

11. Monday, 10:30am – 11:30am (PT); 1:30pm – 2:30pm (ET), International Women’s Day: Womxn Act for Climate Justice

Virtual Global Event

Register here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/1816136055431/WN_JWtw3YUOQci66IFWAghLZA

Global event.

Join us for an amazing speaker line-up of Indigenous, WOC, and other feminist activists fighting for climate justice on behalf of our Earth Mother and all her children, as we all face
the existential crisis of the worsening climate emergency.

Womxn worldwide are continuing to call for a different path forward in 2021 and beyond as we reweave and forge a path onward in the midst of multiple crises, with global communities confronting the COVID-19 pandemic and intensified climate chaos, racism, gender and economic inequity, Indigenous rights violations, environmental degradation, and much more.

SPEAKERS:

— Neema Namadamu, WECAN Coordinator in the Democratic Republic of Congo

— Casey Camp-Horinek (Ponca Nation), Environmental Ambassador, WECAN Senior Project Lead/Board Member

— Carmen Capriles, WECAN Coordinator for Latin America

— Monique Verdin (Houma Nation), member of Another Gulf is Possible, Director of The Land Memory Bank & Seed Exchange, and WECAN Indigenous Food Security & Sovereignty Program Coordinator

— Daiara Tukano, Tukano Indigenous peoples of the Brazilian Amazon, Independent communicator and coordinator of Radio Yande

— Karina Gonzalez, WECAN Women Speak Programs Coordinator

— Rebekah Sawers (Yupik) and Kari Ames (Tlingit), WECAN Indigenous Representatives in the Tongass Forest, Alaska

— Comments and analysis by Osprey Orielle Lake, WECAN Executive Director.

Host: Women’s Earth Climate Action Network (WECAN)

Info: International Women’s Day: Womxn Act for Climate Justice : Indybay

12. Monday, 12Noon – 1:00pm, Digital Rally on Anniversary of Selma’s Bloody Sunday & International Women’s Day w/PPC

Day of:

Livestream here: https://www.facebook.com/anewppc/

Website info & livestream here: https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/livestream/

We will mark the 56th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when peaceful protesters, putting their lives on the line for voting rights, crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama and were met with lethal force at the hands of federal and local law enforcement. This year’s commemoration is especially urgent: The Senate, the US Supreme Court and legislatures around the country are once again debating voting rights.

March 8th is also International Women’s Day, an official United Nations day in support and recognition of women’s rights worldwide. We’ll be hearing from poor and low-wealth women and workers, including our union partners, who are organizing and agitating in their communities from Alabama to Appalachia, from California to Carolina.

See site for action items

Host: Poor Peoples Campaign & PPC – CA

Info: Digital Rally on Anniversary of Selma’s Bloody Sunday & International Women’s Day w/ PPC : Indybay

13. Monday, 1:00pm (PT); 4:00pm (ET), Uncage, Reunify, and Heal the Children: A Virtual Plática

This is a Facebook Live Event
RSVP to the event through the following link: https://fb.me/e/h1UQ7dmuU

Join Caravan for the Children campaign on International Women’s Day, March 8 for a virtual roundtable plática to discuss the work being done locally, and nationally, in the efforts to Uncage, Reunify, and Heal the children still in ICE detention. As we demand the Biden-Harris administration to stay accountable to their promises outlined in the Biden Immigration Plan within their first 100 days, the campaign seeks to bring together allies, advocates, and organizers to learn of the efforts being done by folks on the ground as well as to inform the public of how we all can contribute to these efforts as a community. Join us at this great virtual event!

Literary Performance by:
Paola de la Calle- Interdisciplinary Artist

Lineup of speakers:
Efrén C. Olivares- Southern Poverty Law Center
Stephen Kang- ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project
Vanessa Velasco- CARECEN SF
Lariza Dugan-Cuadra- CARECEN SF

Host: CARECEN

Thursday, March 11

10th Anniversary of Fukushima NUKE Meltdown

14. Thursday 3:00pm – 4:00pm, Rally-Speak Out on Tenth Anniversary of Fukushima NUKE Meltdown

In-person

San Francisco Japanese Consulate
275 Battery St. (nr. California St.)
SF

Masks & Physical distancing

No More Fukushimas, No Olympic In Japan In the Middle Of Pandemic

Thursday March 11, 2021 is the tenth anniversary of the earthquake and meltdown of three nuclear reactors at Fukushima.

The nightmare for the people and refugees of Fukushima and Japan continues. They are struggling to survive.


Despite promises that the melted nuclear rods would be removed they have not been and the recent earthquake has added greater dangers.

Two reactors at the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan have begun leaking cooling water following last weekend’s 7.3 magnitude earthquake, indicating that the existing damage to TEPCO’s Unit 1 and 3 reactors has worsened

The government is also planning to dump over a million tons of contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean despite the opposition of the Fisherman’s co-operative and the people of Japan and Korea.

At the same time the Japanese government under former Japanese prime minister Abe and now Suga continue their denialism mode. They say that they have overcome the nuke plant meltdowns and still want to have the Olympics in Japan this summer 

They also have shown their sexist attacks on women when the former head of the Olympics Yoshiro who was also a former prime minister said women speak too much. He was forced toresign but their reactionary sexism, denialism and racism continue

clear clean-up workers including workers from overseas and other workers continue to get contaminated with no proper health and safety education and tens of thousands of bags of radioactive waste continue to remain scattered throughout the prefecture with no place to go.

It it time to remember the families and children who are still suffering from this man-madedisaster and let them know that people in the United States and around the world stand with them.

Host: No Nukes Action

Info: Rally-Speak Out Thursday On Tenth Anniversary of Fukushima NUKE Meltdowns : Indybay

15. Thursday 6:00pm- 7:30pm (PT), 10th Anniversary of Fukushima: an update on impacts of radiation on females

Online

Register: Meeting Registration – Zoom

MOTHERS FOR PEACE INVITES YOU TO A WEBINAR FEATURING BIOLOGIST MARY OLSON

On the 10th anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, Mothers for Peace is hosting an online event, featuring a presentation by biologist Mary Olson. Learn about her work showing greater harm to the female body from radiation than the male body, the basis of data for regulators. This must change!

 The event will begin with a current update on Fukushima by Yuji and Beverly Findlay Kaneko, co-producers of Voices from Japan, a special segment of Libbe HaLevy’s Nuclear Hotseat podcast.

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“Vegas Is An Amazing Place For Progressives”

Buoyed by Bernie’s big 2020 caucus win, Nevada progressives hope to win control of the Democratic Party’s state leadership this weekend.

Sam Mellins Mar 4, 2021 (The Daily Poster)

This report was written by Sam Mellins.

The Nevada caucuses in February 2020 were the high-water mark of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. Sanders captured over 40 percent of the vote in a crowded field, with particular strength among Latino voters and the staff of the many hotels and casinos on the Vegas Strip. 

One of the reasons for his commanding victory was the organizing efforts of the Las Vegas Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), which according to leadership has grown its membership by over 150 percent in the past two years, largely through its organizing on behalf of the Sanders campaign. Now DSA members and other progressive organizers are using the organizing tactics and power they built during the Bernie 2020 campaign to try to reshape the Nevada Democratic party into a progressive force.

This process began last summer, when progressives captured majorities on the Democratic Party’s state governing committee as well as that of Clark County, which includes Las Vegas and is by far the most populous county in the state. Now, progressive and socialist groups including Las Vegas DSA and Our Revolution Nevada are supporting a diverse slate of longtime organizers in the March 6 election for the state party’s leadership roles.

The electorate is composed of the roughly 650 members of the state party’s central committee. Victory would give progressives control of the state party’s staffing and campaign strategy, including a budget that can reach into the tens of millions of dollars each election cycle. 

Organizers involved in the campaign told The Daily Poster that if victorious, they plan to reallocate budget funding away from consultants and mass media and towards on-the-ground organizing, especially in Nevada’s Latino, Black, and immigrant communities. They also hope to change party rules that currently tilt the playing field against progressives in primary elections. If successful, the effort could provide a roadmap for others looking to turn sleepy state party machines into progressive electoral powerhouses.

Laying the Groundwork

More than four years of work has gone into reaching this point. Since 2016, progressives have dedicated themselves to “making structural change in the party and returning power back to the people” said Judith Whitmer, who is the Clark County Democratic Party Chair and also the DSA- and Our Revolution-endorsed candidate for chair of the state party. 

Whitmer, a transportation project manager by trade, has been active in politics since campaigning for Barack Obama in 2008, and has become a leading organizer in Nevada’s progressive community since moving to the state in 2015.

During the first few years of their efforts, progressive activists never quite had the numbers to challenge Nevada’s old guard in the state and county-level Democratic parties. They spent their time building political infrastructure instead: In 2017, socialist organizers founded Las Vegas DSA, and in 2018, Whitmer and DSA organizer Keenan Korth founded Left Caucus, a progressive club within the state Democratic party. 

The 2020 Sanders campaign changed the progressives’ numerical weakness by providing a huge boost to DSA membership and overall progressive involvement. DSA worked with Sanders campaign staff to host debate watch parties and outreach events. Korth, a progressive political consultant and former architect, turned his garage into a canvass launch site and caucus training location. 

But as they were working towards Sanders’ February 22 caucus victory, progressive organizers were also thinking about translating the campaign’s energy into enduring power on the state level. Las Vegas DSA built its own pro-Sanders organization separate from the official campaign, so that its organizing network could stay active even after the Sanders campaign moved on. 

“Folks that we brought into our organization because they wanted to canvass for Bernie are now helping us to organize mutual aid drives and doing all sorts of eviction and housing justice work,” said Korth. “That’s been a big part of our ability to organize beyond the caucus.”

In addition to allocating delegates for the Democratic National Convention, the Nevada caucus also allocates delegates for county-level conventions. Sanders’ commanding win meant that progressives were able to get a supermajority of delegates at the Clark County Democratic convention last summer and pass the county party’s most progressive platform ever, endorsing Medicare for All and a nationwide transition to 100-percent renewable energy. 

Campaign volunteers also expanded their presence in communities that have historically played marginal roles in state politics. Dr. Zaffar Iqbal, who immigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan in the 1990s and now runs a rural Medicare and Medicaid clinic in Kingman, Ariz., founded Nevada Muslims for Bernie in 2019, and helped the group run a phone bank every Sunday for the three months before the caucus. 

According to Iqbal, who is currently running for reelection as the Nevada state party’s second vice chair, these efforts translated to greater progressive Muslim involvement in state politics. “Now we have more than 25 Muslims on the state central committee. Before there were only three,” he said. 

Since becoming second vice chair of the state party in October 2020, Iqbal has been holding roundtable meetings with representatives of other marginalized groups, including Nevada’s Black and Asian-American communities. At these meetings, he’s heard from community leaders about how the Democratic party could better represent them, and what it would take for community members to become more involved in the party, such as a greater focus on criminal justice and decarceration. 

“These communities have wonderful younger people who are willing to organize, but the party needs to invest in them” said Iqbal, adding that having similarly-minded organizers join him in the party’s elected positions would enable this to happen. 

A Level Playing Field

In addition to skimping on voter outreach, the state party’s current leaders have created structural obstacles to progressives running for state legislature and other down-ballot races, Whitmer said. 

Under the current status quo, certain candidates for state legislature are endorsed by the Democratic caucus in the legislature before the party primary. “Once they have that endorsement, the legislative caucus puts its thumb on the scale,” Whitmer said. “They actually provide resources and money and staff.”  

“They’re always able to provide more resources to the candidates that they favor, that they know will be in lockstep and not rock the boat, and do what the majority leader tells them to do,” she added. Progressives who might push the caucus left are rarely awarded endorsements. 

Whitmer said that giving progressives a fair shot in primaries by ending party involvement in the process would be a top priority if she is elected chair. 

But Whitmer also stressed that as party chair, she would work towards protecting all Democratic incumbents against Republicans in general elections. She believes current leadership has not been fully committed to this goal. Whitmer said that she made her final decision to run for chair after attending an event where a Democratic state senator said that the party would probably lose seats in the 2022 elections. 

“I went home and I thought, why are we already willing to concede 2022? Are we not willing to put in the kind of work it takes to get there?” said Whitmer. “I’m not willing to concede one single seat.”

“I see a very bright future”

As progressives and DSA members have made inroads in Nevada over the past year, they have faced rancor from entrenched Democratic forces. Some Democratic power brokers “are incredibly hostile to us,” said Kara Hall, co-chair of Las Vegas DSA. “They don’t listen, they don’t pay attention, they won’t work with us on things.”

Part of this she attributed to the suddenness of the progressive surge. “I think it’s very scary to the establishment. I don’t think they were expecting it,” said Hall. “They were just being very lazy about it; they don’t organize. And then all of a sudden, it just happened.”

Progressives have continued to receive blowback in the lead-up to the March 6 election. An open letter signed by two dozen Democratic Party representatives, reported on by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, accused Whitmer of stacking the state central committee with her loyalists and suppressing diversity within the party, even though she and her progressive colleagues have prioritized reaching out to marginalized communities. Whitmer denied these accusations when asked about them by The Daily Poster and said that she had simply added members to the committee in the order of their application as places became available.  

While Iqbal criticized the claims made in the letter, he said such attacks don’t worry him. All the candidates have been working hard whipping votes, he said, and “There are a lot more progressives [on the voting central committee] now than when I was running [initially].”

The Democratic Party has a powerful brand, and huge cash resources with which to promote it. By taking power within the party, socialists and progressives can change what that brand stands for, and use its tools to promote policies like universal health care and a $15 minimum wage in Nevada and beyond. 

“The movement that Bernie started is now organizing into a real structure. We can see it from the Clark County party,” said Iqbal. 

“Vegas is an amazing place for progressives,” he added. “I see a very bright future as progressives become more and more organized.”


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Will 2021 Be Public Banking’s Watershed Moment?

Posted on March 4, 2021 by Ellen Brown

Just over two months into the new year, 2021 has already seen a flurry of public banking activity. Sixteen new bills to form publicly-owned banks or facilitate their formation were introduced in eight U.S. states in January and February. Two bills for a state-owned bank were introduced in New Mexico, two in Massachusetts, two in New York, one each in Oregon and Hawaii, and Washington State’s Public Bank Bill was re-introduced as a “Substitution.” Bills for city-owned banks were introduced in Philadelphia and San Francisco, and bills facilitating the formation of public banks or for a feasibility study were introduced in New York, Oregon (three bills), and Hawaii. 

In addition, California is expected to introduce a bill for a state-owned bank later this year, and New Jersey is moving forward with a strong commitment from its governor to implement one. At the federal level, three bills for public banking were also introduced last year: the National Infrastructure Bank Bill (HR 6422), a new Postal Banking Act (S 4614), and the Public Banking Act (HR 8721). (For details on all these bills, see the Public Banking Institute website here.)

As Oscar Abello wrote on NextCity.org in February, “2021 could be public banking’s watershed moment.… Legislators are starting to see public banks as a powerful potential tool to ensure a recovery that is more equitable than the last time.”

Why the Surge in Interest?

The devastation caused by nationwide Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020 has highlighted the inadequacies of the current financial system in serving the public, local businesses, and local governments. Nearly 10 million jobs were lost to the lockdowns, over 100,000 businesses closed permanently, and a quarter of the population remains unbanked or underbanked. Over 18 million people are receiving unemployment benefits, and moratoria on rent and home foreclosures are due to expire this spring. 

Where was the Federal Reserve in all this? It poured out trillions of dollars in relief, but the funds did not trickle down to the real economy. They flooded up, dramatically increasing the wealth gap. By October 2020, the top 1% of the U.S. population held 30.4% of all household wealth, 15 times that of the bottom 50%, which held just 1.9% of all wealth. 

State and local governments are also in dire straits due to the crisis. Their costs have shot up and their tax bases have shrunk. But the Fed’s “special purpose vehicles” were no help. The Municipal Liquidity Facility, ostensibly intended to relieve municipal debt burdens, lent at market interest rates plus a penalty, making borrowing at the facility so expensive that it went nearly unused; and it was discontinued in December. 

The Fed’s emergency lending facilities were also of little help to local businesses. In a January 2021 Wall Street Journal article titled “Corporate Debt ‘Relief’ Is an Economic Dud,” Sheila Bair, former chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and Lawrence Goodman, president of the Center for Financial Stability, observed:

The creation of the corporate facilities last March marked the first time in history that the Fed would buy corporate debt… The purpose of the corporate facilities was to help companies access debt markets during the pandemic, making it possible to sustain operations and keep employees on payroll. Instead, the facilities resulted in a huge and unnecessary bailout of corporate debt issuers, underwriters and bondholders….This created a further unfair opportunity for large corporations to get even bigger by purchasing competitors with government-subsidized credit.

….This presents a double whammy for the young companies that have been hit hardest by the pandemic. They are the primary source of job creation and innovation, and squeezing them deprives our economy of the dynamism and creativity it needs to thrive.

In a September 2020 study for ACRE called “Cancel Wall Street,” Saqib Bhatti and Brittany Alston showed that U.S. state and local governments collectively pay $160 billion annually just in interest in the bond market, which is controlled by big private banks. For comparative purposes, $160 billion would be enough to help 13 million families avoid eviction by covering their annual rent; and $134 billion could make up the revenue shortfall suffered by every city and town in the U.S. due to the pandemic. 

Half the cost of infrastructure generally consists of financing, doubling its cost to municipal governments. Local governments are extremely good credit risks; yet private, bank-affiliated rating agencies give them a lower credit score (raising their rates) than private corporations, which are 63 times more likely to default. States are not allowed to go bankrupt, and that is also true for cities in about half the states. State and local governments have a tax base to pay their debts and are not going anywhere, unlike bankrupt corporations, which simply disappear and leave their creditors holding the bag.

How Publicly-owned Banks Can Help 

Banks do not have the funding problems of local governments. In March 2020, the Federal Reserve reduced the interest rate at its discount window, encouraging all banks in good standing to borrow there at 0.25%. No stigma or strings were attached to this virtually free liquidity – no need to retain employees or to cut dividends, bonuses, or the interest rates charged to borrowers. Wall Street banks can borrow at a mere one-quarter of one percent while continuing to charge customers 15% or more on their credit cards. 

Local governments extend credit to their communities through loan funds, but these “revolving funds” can lend only the capital they have. Depository banks, on the other hand, can leverage their capital, generating up to ten times their capital base in loans. For a local government with its own depository bank, that would mean up to ten times the credit to inject into the local economy, and ten times the profit to be funneled back into community needs. A public depository bank could also borrow at 0.25% from the Fed’s discount window.

North Dakota Leads the Way

What a state can achieve by forming its own bank has been demonstrated in North Dakota. There  the nation’s only state-owned bank was formed in 1919 when North Dakota farmers were losing their farms to big out-of-state banks. Unlike the Wall Street megabanks mandated to make as much money as possible for their shareholders, the Bank of North Dakota (BND) is mandated to serve the public interest. Yet it has had a stellar return on investment, outperforming even J.P. Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs. In its 2019 Annual Report, the BND reported its sixteenth consecutive year of record profits, with $169 million in income, just over $7 billion in assets, and a hefty return on investment of 18.6%. 

The BND maximizes its profits and its ability to serve the community by eliminating profiteering middlemen. It has no private shareholders bent on short-term profits, no high-paid executives, no need to advertise for depositors or borrowers, and no need for multiple branches. It has a massive built-in deposit base, since the state’s revenues must be deposited in the BND by law. It does not compete with North Dakota’s local banks in the retail market but instead partners with them. The local bank services and retains the customer, while the BND helps as needed with capital and liquidity. Largely due to this amicable relationship, North Dakota has nearly six times as many local financial institutions per person as the country overall.

The BND has performed particularly well in economic crises. It helped pay the state’s teachers during the Great Depression, and sold foreclosed farmland back to farmers in the 1940s. It has also helped the state recover from a litany of natural disasters.

Its emergency capabilities were demonstrated in 1997, when record flooding and fires devastated Grand Forks, North Dakota. The town and its sister city, East Grand Forks on the Minnesota side of the Red River, lay in ruins. The response of the BND was immediate and comprehensive, demonstrating a financial flexibility and public generosity that no privately-owned bank could match. The BND quickly established nearly $70 million in credit lines and launched a disaster relief loan program; worked closely with federal agencies to gain forbearance on federally-backed home loans and student loans; and reduced interest rates on existing family farm and farm operating programs. The BND obtained funds at reduced rates from the Federal Home Loan Bank and passed the savings on to flood-affected borrowers. Grand Forks was quickly rebuilt and restored, losing only 3% of its population by 2000, compared to 17% in East Grand Forks on the other side of the river.

In the 2020 crisis, North Dakota shone again, leading the nation in getting funds into the hands of workers and small businesses. Unemployment benefits were distributed in North Dakota faster than in any other state, and small businesses secured more Payroll Protection Program funds per worker than in any other state. Jeff Stein, writing in May 2020 in The Washington Post, asked:

What’s their secret? Much credit goes to the century-old Bank of North Dakota, which — even before the PPP officially rolled out — coordinated and educated local bankers in weekly conference calls and flurries of calls and emails.

According Eric Hardmeyer, BND’s president and chief executive, BND connected the state’s small bankers with politicians and U.S. Small Business Administration officials and even bought some of their PPP loans to help spread out the cost and risk….

BND has already rolled out two local successor programs to the PPP, intended to help businesses restart and rebuild. It has also offered deferments on its $1.1 billion portfolio of student loans.

Public Banks Excel Globally in Crises

Publicly-owned banks around the world have responded quickly and efficiently to crises. As of mid-2020, public banks worldwide held nearly $49 trillion in combined assets; and including other public financial institutions, the figure reached nearly $82 trillion. In a 2020 compendium of cases studies titled Public Banks and Covid 19: Combatting the Pandemic with Public Finance, the editors write: 

Five overarching and promising lessons stand out: public banks have the potential to respond rapidly; to fulfill their public purpose mandates; to act boldly; to mobilize their existing institutional capacity; and to build on ‘public-public’ solidarity. In short, public banks are helping us navigate the tidal wave of Covid-19 at the same time as private lenders are turning away….

Public banks have crafted unprecedented responses to allow micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), large businesses, public entities, governing authorities and households time to breathe, time to adjust and time to overcome the worst of the crisis. Typically, this meant offering liquidity with generously reduced rates of interest, preferential repayment terms and eased conditions of repayment. For the most vulnerable in society, public banks offered non-repayable grants.

The editors conclude that public banks offer a path toward democratization (giving society a meaningful say in how financial resources are used) and definancialization (moving away from speculative predatory investment practices toward financing that grows the real economy). For local governments, public banks offer a path to escape monopoly control by giant private financial institutions over public policies.

_____________________________

This article was first posted on ScheerPost. Ellen Brown is an attorney, chair of the Public Banking Institute, and author of thirteen books including Web of DebtThe Public Bank Solution, and Banking on the People: Democratizing Money in the Digital Age.  She also co-hosts a radio program on PRN.FM called “It’s Our Money.” Her 300+ blog articles are posted at EllenBrown.com

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Lawsuit Cites Global Candy Companies; Seeks Freedom, Compensation for Children Forced into Dangerous Work on Cocoa Farms

The 1.5 Million Child Slaves Behind Your Chocolate Bar

The 1.5 Million Child Slaves Behind Your Chocolate Bar

By Jillian S. Ambroz

Ambroz DCR

Jillian S. Ambroz

February 23, 2021 (dcreport.org)

Next time you take a bite of a chocolate bar, consider the small hands that farmed the cocoa beans.

Industrial food heavyweights like Nestlé USA, Hershey and MARS Inc., rely on cocoa grown in Côte D’Ivoire, the Ivory Coast, to make their confections. And the West African nation relies on enslaved child laborers to farm its cocoa crops, a well-known fact in the candy world that keeps the cocoa at favorably low prices for the big companies.

class-action civil suit brought against the big chocolate companies sheds stark light on the entire candy bar industry. It outlines the relationships between the candy makers and the cocoa farms in West Africa, which provide 70% of the world’s cocoa supply. Half is grown in Ghana and Ivory Coast. Most American chocolate is made from Ivory Coast cocoa beans.

In cocoa-growing regions of Ghana and the Ivory Coast more than 43% of all children between the ages of 5 and 17 living in agricultural households are engaged in hazardous work.

The plaintiffs are eight former enslaved children who, the court papers charge, were trafficked from their home country Mali, and sold to cocoa farms in the neighboring West African country.

“This lawsuit against the cocoa and chocolate industry is about much more than the eight Malian citizens who were trafficked and exploited as child slaves to harvest cocoa,” says Fernando Morales-de la Cruz, founder of Cacao for Change and Cartoons for Change. Both organizations in Strasbourg, France, seek to raise awareness of child labor in both the cocoa and coffee trades.

Enslaved Cocoa Planation Boys with their machetes in Ivory Coast

Enslaved cocoa plantation boys with their machetes in Ivory Coast (Terrence Collingsworth / IRAdvocates)

Low Price Business Model

“The business model of the chocolate industry is cruel, exploitative, and illegal because it exploits between 2.2 and 3 million children worldwide, besides exploiting millions of farmers and farmworkers, all to buy cocoa for less than one-third of the real price,” Morales-de la Cruz said.

He noted that a number of chocolate companies run their revenues through Switzerland to avoid taxes in countries, like the United States, where they earn their profits selling chocolate confections. “With their Swissploitation business model the cartel of cocoa companies ‘saves’ more than $20 billion per year buying cheap cocoa,” he said.

This is the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor as declared by the United Nation’s International Labor Organization. The time is ripe to press for an end to profiting off exploitive and forced child labor.

Make no mistake, chocolate is big business. The global chocolate market is a $136 billion business. It’s expected to grow to $182 billion by 2025.

The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Columbia just days ago, selecting the U.S. legal system for several reasons. In 2000, Congress and President Bill Clinton enacted a landmark law against human trafficking known as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, or TVPA. It has been reauthorized five times, most recently in 2019 with Congress earmarking $250 million toward the effort. That law gives us extraterritorial jurisdiction.

Our Government Knows

Since the 1990s, the U.S. State Department and the Department of Labor have recognized the existence of child slavery in the cocoa industry in the Ivory Coast. In 2004, State estimated there were at least 15,000 child laborers working on cocoa, coffee and cotton farms there. As the photo above shows these children wield machetes to do their dangerous harvesting.

A study conducted by Tulane University in 2015 found that the number of children engaged in the ‘Worst Forms of Child Labor’ on cocoa plantations grew substantially between 2009 and 2014.

In October 2020, a new report by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, which was funded by Labor, was released showing child labor had increased again in the cocoa production sector since the Tulane study.

In the 2018 to 2019 harvest season, the prevalence of children involved in hazardous child labor in the cocoa sector in the Ivory Coast and Ghana rose to almost 1.5 million children. That’s also 1,000 times the official U.S. estimate in 2004. The Ivory Coast has fewer than 26 million people.

Hazardous Work

The study also found that in cocoa-growing regions of Ghana and the Ivory Coast more than 43% of all children between the ages of 5 and 17 living in agricultural households are engaged in hazardous work – not just child labor, but hazardous child labor.

Comparing a 10-year span concluding with the 2018-2019 harvest season, the NORC report found a 14% increase in child labor and a 62% increase in production over the same period.

ACTION BOX / What You Can Do About It

Enslaved Boy with machete on cocoa plantation in Ivory Coast

Enslaved boy with a machete on a cocoa plantation in Ivory Coast (Terrence Collingsworth / IRAdvocates)

Contact Customs Border Patrol.

Customs Border Patrol regulations state that any person with reason to believe merchandise produced by forced labor is being or likely to be imported to America may contact any port director or the commissioner of the CBP. To report allegations of forced labor and child labor, go to the CBP web page to report violations at https://eallegations.cbp.gov/Home/Index2.

Contact the candy giants. 

Write Mars here or you can contact the company on Twitter @MarsGlobal.

Hershey’s: Tweet @AskHershey; Call 1-800-468-1714, or send an email.

Nestlé USA: Tweet @NestleCare; Call 1-800-225-2270; or email.

“There is a large group of extremely poor, vulnerable boys in Mali and Burkina Faso who are on the verge of starving and will do about anything for the promise of a paying job,” said Terry Collingsworth, who was arrested by the Ivory Coast police as he interviewed enslaved boys at a cocoa plantation. Collingsworth is executive director of International Rights Advocates.

Mali and Burkina Faso both border the Ivory Coast. Cacao refers to the beans harvested to make chocolate. Cocoa refers to the product after the beans are roasted.

Sweet Talk

So, what’s the U.S. government doing besides bankrolling studies?

In 2001, the House passed a bill that would require U.S. importers and manufacturers to certify and label their products “slave-free.” Have you seen those startling words on your recent candy wrappers? No? That’s because of what’s known as the Cocoa Cartel, the defendants in the lawsuit, rallied against it.

Instead, they were able to get themselves a sweet deal, the Harkin-Engel Protocol, a voluntary private inspection and enforcement system that all but guaranteed the continuance of enslaved child labor.

In fact, as part of the initial Harkin-Engel Protocol, the candy companies gave themselves an arbitrary deadline till 2005 to end their reliance on child labor for cocoa harvesting. That deadline got extended again and again.

Now the industry has a goal to stop profiting from enslaved child labor by 2025, though an industry spokesperson admitted in 2018 that the industry would fail to meet that deadline.

As the class-action suit alleges, the defendants’ “voluntary initiative is a sham, and they are getting away with and profiting from an international human rights crime while claiming they are making progress.”

Given the fact that enslaved children are still picking the beans, it’s fair to call it the Cocoa Cartel strategy “see no enslaved children.” Clearly, this willful blindless strategy worked.

The U.S. government has several agencies monitoring human trafficking, in addition to the State Department and Department of Labor, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

A Loophole Hurts Kids

There are several federal laws going back to the Tariff Act of 1930 designed to reduce the profit motive for labor trafficking by barring the import of goods made with trafficked labor.

But these laws had a loophole. All importers had to do was show that domestic production could not meet demand and the use of enslaved children was irrelevant. Since the United States is not a cocoa bean country, that was as easy as breaking off a piece of a KitKat bar.

That loophole was supposedly closed in 2015, although almost no one noticed. The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 was intended to close a loophole in an earlier law that made it possible for goods produced using forced labor to still enter the United States.

The new law enhanced the Customs and Border Patrol’s ability to block such products altogether.

Clearly, the chocolate titans found a workaround. The lawsuit brought on behalf of the enslaved children asserts that the “defendants have engaged in various deceptive practices to avoid taking responsibility for their long-term profiting from various forms of child slavery.”

After the Tulane report came out, the defendants “renewed their false assurances to consumers and regulators that they would initiate programs to reduce child labor in their supply chains,” according to the suit. As the NORC study showed, child labor increased.

The suit states, “Defendants control production and could, if they wanted to, stop profiting from child labor. Instead, they chose to delay taking action by creating ineffective programs that provide public relations cover for their obviously failed efforts.”

Helping 1 in 1,000

One such example is Nestlé’s remediation assistance for some 15,000 children. By remediation, they mean handing out school kits, birth certificates, tutoring and other provisions – not assistance ending their enslaved labor conditions.

Other chocolate heavyweights named as defendants are Cargill Inc., Barry Callebaut USA LLC, Mars Wrigley Confectionery, Olam Americas Inc. and Mondelēz International Inc. (Nestle’s American candy division has been sold to the Ferraro Group.) In addition, the suit lists 10 unidentified ‘Corporate Does’ as defendants.

These candy companies have higher profits because using child laborers keeps the cost of cocoa down. If the farms paid adult workers using proper protective equipment to maintain the crops and harvest the beans, prices would rise. Chocolate makers would see profits fall unless they could raise their prices. Upping consumer prices, whether by subtly shrinking candy bars or slapping on a higher price, runs the risk that people will eat fewer chocolate treats, causing sales volume to fall, lowering the profit margins of the Cocoa Cartel companies.

Dangerous Jobs for Kids

We’ve already noted that the work done by children on cocoa plantations is classified as hazardous and the “worst forms of child labor,” according to the Tulane and NORC studies.

So, what are these enslaved children doing exactly? Children who work on cocoa plantations burn and clear fields, fell trees to expand cocoa plantations, spray hazardous pesticides without any personal protection, wield machetes to break cocoa pods and transport heavy loads of cocoa pods and water.

Add to that claims of negligent supervision, intentional infliction of emotional distress and physical abuse. Enslaved child laborers are not usually paid. They are forced to work long hours. That’s true even when sick. The lawsuit says they are underfed and locked in their housing at night to prevent them from running away.

Industry Standard

Though the defendants, the Hershey’s, MARS’ and Nestlés, do not own cocoa farms – a fact they like to hide behind – they maintain and protect a steady supply of cocoa by forming exclusive buyer-seller relationships with Ivorian farms, according to the lawsuit. This is similar to the practice with chicken farms in the United States where companies like Perdue and Tyson Foods require chicken ranchers to rear the birds in cages of specific sizes, to feed them exact amounts of food bought from the big meat companies or at their direction and many more details that effectively make the farmers not independent businesspeople, but 21st century American serfs.

The Cocoa Cartel manages its relationships with the cocoa farms through memorandums of understanding and written and oral agreements and contracts, according to the suit. These companies dictate the terms by which such farms produce and supply cocoa to them, including “specifying labor conditions under which the beans are produced.”

The candy companies control so much of the world chocolate business that they can easily wield economic leverage over the West African farmers, effectively controlling the production of Ivorian cocoa while insisting they have not seen any enslaved children.

Willful Blindness

To cultivate and keep their exclusive relationships with the farms, candy makers offer both financial assistance and technical farming assistance designed to support cocoa agriculture. Financial assistance includes advanced payment for cocoa and spending money for the farmers’ personal use, according to the lawsuit. Tech support includes equipment and training in various growing techniquesnand even appropriate labor practices. Just what do these conglomerates consider appropriate?

The defendants or agents working for them visit the cocoa plantations regularly throughout the year and therefore must see firsthand the enslaved children working the crops. They know the deal. Instead of using their position to effect change for the sake of the enslaved children, they choose profit via willful blindness and zero accountability.

“The chocolate industry owned by multibillionaires and large corporations exploits millions of children and women, paying them less than the price of a candy bar,” Morales-de la Cruz says. “They also deceive consumers claiming that they are fair and ethical.

“This has to stop!”

Meanwhile, Nestlé USA Inc. and Cargill Inc., which is also named in the class-action suit, are facing a consolidated legal battle before the U.S. Supreme Court with an anonymous defendant for their responsibility in the human rights violations in the cocoa industry. A third defendant, Archer Daniels Midland, reportedly was dropped from the suit after settling with the plaintiffs.

The court heard oral arguments in January in that consolidated case, Nestlé USA, Inc. v. Doe 1 and Cargill, Inc. v. Doe 1.

That case goes back to an initial filing in 2005. It was dismissed in 2010 by Judge Stephen V. Wilson of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. He held that “corporations could not be sued under the current understanding of the Alien Tort Statute (ATS).” In 2013, that decision was reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The candy companies filed petitions for review by the Supreme Court after being denied an en banc hearing, a review by a panel of judges or all the judges of a court.

Corporate Accountability

At the heart of that lawsuit is whether domestic corporations can be held accountable and liable for aiding and abetting human rights crimes committed abroad. The case could redefine the limits of corporate liability under the ATS, according to the blog Just Security.

The Trump administration tried to intervene in the case. Strangely, the acting solicitor general filed briefs on an issue none of the parties raised: whether aiding and abetting liability claims are ever permissible under the Alien Tort Statute.

“Child labor is unacceptable and goes against everything we stand for. Nestlé has explicit policies against it and is unwavering in our dedication to ending it. We remain committed to combatting child labor within the cocoa supply chain and addressing its root causes as part of the Nestlé Cocoa Plan and through collaborative efforts,” a Nestlé spokesperson said.  “This lawsuit does not advance the shared goal of ending child labor in the cocoa industry. Child labor is a complex, global problem. Tackling this issue is a shared responsibility. All stakeholders – including governments, NGOs, the communities and the broader cocoa industry – need to continue to address its root causes to have an impact.”

Some candy companies have made public efforts to at least make seem like they are trying to make changes – putting band-aids on a cancerous practice. MARS launched an endeavor in 2018 to “reshape the cocoa industry,” noting the child labor and forced labor practices of the cocoa farms, for example. That effort is backed by what the company says is $1 billion.

Since the cocoa industry’s use of child labor has been on the world’s radar for years, it clearly will require a large-scale public reckoning and massive revenue loss to see any real change.

We would love to tell you much more about this story from the perspective of the candy companies and the federal agencies that are supposed to seize as contraband imported products made with child labor and slave labor. The problem? Calls to Hershey’s, MARS and the Customs Border Patrol were not returned. Only Nestlé responded, as noted above.

Featured Image: Candy Land / YouTube

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Stockton gave people $500 a month, no strings attached, to fight poverty. It paid off, study says.

Meryl Kornfield, The Washington Post

March 4, 2021 Updated: March 5, 2021 6:35 a.m. (sfgate.com)

In this Aug. 14, 2019, file photo, Susie Garza displays the city provided debit card she receives monthly through a trial program in Stockton, Calif. A study of people in California who received $500 a month for free says they used it to pay off debt and get full-time jobs. A pair of independent researchers reviewed data from the first year of the study and released their finding on Wednesday, March 3, 2021.
In this Aug. 14, 2019, file photo, Susie Garza displays the city provided debit card she receives monthly through a trial program in Stockton, Calif. A study of people in California who received $500 a month for free says they used it to pay off debt and get full-time jobs. A pair of independent researchers reviewed data from the first year of the study and released their finding on Wednesday, March 3, 2021.Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Residents of Stockton, Calif., who received $500 a month from a first-of-its-kind guaranteed-income program were more likely to find full-time jobs, be happy and stay healthy, according to a year-long study published Wednesday.

Supporters of universal income programs – which provide regular, unconditional payments from the government to people – say the findings should dispel common criticisms of the idea, such as that money with no strings attached disincentivizes people to work or encourages them to spend it on drugs and alcohol.

Recipients of the monthly payments were twice as likely to gain full-time employment than others, according to data analysis by a pair of independent researchers, Stacia West of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and Amy Castro Baker of the University of Pennsylvania. Most of the money distributed was spent on food or other essentials. Tobacco or alcohol made up less than 1 percent of tracked purchases.

As lawmakers in Washington consider limiting eligibility for coronavirus stimulus aid, Michael Tubbs, the former mayor of Stockton who began the program in 2017, said the research provides clear support for giving regular payments to people in need – a theory that was once deemed fringe but popularized more recently by tech entrepreneur and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang.

“The data proves that, particularly in a pandemic, it’s not wise policy to make less people eligible for what we know is necessary and needed,” Tubbs, who lost his reelection bid last year, said in a video conference Wednesday.

Starting in February 2019, the Stockton program has provided monthly payments for two years to 125 residents living in neighborhoods with a median income below $46,034. Participants can use the money as they see fit, without work requirements or other restrictions.

It is funded by the Economic Security Project, a philanthropic group helmed in part by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes.

Tech giants have thrown their weight behind universal basic income as automation has led to the loss of jobs, testing the idea in Stockton, a suburban city neighboring Silicon Valley and the more conservative, rural counties to the east.

The released results were collected before the coronavirus pandemic had hobbled the U.S. economy, and a second study is expected to be published next year, according to the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED).

The findings provide insight into how money can alter a person’s behavior in a crisis such as the pandemic, according to the researchers.

The study’s authors said they believe the payment recipients were better able to set goals and have their own agency to seek more stable employment. They were also less anxious and depressed, as well as less likely to feel fatigue or body pain associated with poor emotional health.

People, especially those in less-financially stable families, also stretched their resources to help feed their households and others.

Tomas Vargas Jr., a recipient in the study, said his overall health improved and he was able to spend more time with his children and wife. Vargas, formerly a part-time supervisor at a warehouse, also found a full-time job once he started receiving regular payments.

“It was a big change in my life,” Vargas told reporters Wednesday. “I was very depressed. I was down and out. I was at the bottom. SEED brought me back, gave me that chance, that opportunity.”

Positive stories in Stockton have already prompted leaders in other cities to consider implementing a similar project: Dozens of mayors have joined an initiative to advocate for guaranteed income, and several pilots in cities including St. Paul, Minn., and Compton, Calif., have already begun.

“The study shows what mayors know: People are working but the economy isn’t,” St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said.

Written By Meryl Kornfield

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Film: Haiti Betrayed

from Cinema PoliticaPRO on April 29, 2020 (vimeocom)

“We never had that democracy. It’s like putting a seed on the ground. We never see it grow because someone keeps coming and steps on it.”

Garry Auguste, former member, Haitian National Police

Haiti Betrayed reveals how Canada colluded with the United States and France to topple the democratically elected government of Haiti. Seven years in the making, Brière’s film meticulously reconstructs Canada’s role in the coup d’état of February 29, 2004, the immediate bloody aftermath and the manipulated elections that followed.

Haiti became the world’s first independent black republic in 1804. It presaged the modern human rights movement by ending slavery following the final defeat of Napoleon’s army of reoccupation.

In February, 2004 Haitians were celebrating the bicentennial of that extraordinary achievement when the US, Canada and France landed troops in Haiti. They removed the president, Jean Bertrand Aristide, in a pre-dawn raid on his home and exiled him to Africa. The elected legislature was also eliminated. This is the first time Canada has played a strategic and military role alongside the U.S. in the removal of a democratically elected government.

Against great odds, Haitians elected three broadly popular governments between l991 and 2004. These governments improved health, education and the rule of law even while under siege by powerful local elites and their US and Canadian allies.

Haiti Betrayed tells the story of a countrywide people’s movement for a more just and equitable society. It is a searing indictment of the role of Canada in derailing that movement and the aspirations of Haitians for a better life.

Haiti is in the throes of a popular uprising against the corrupt and authoritarian current government, installed with the support of Canada and the US. Brière’s film reveals that the seeds of the current crisis were sown in the coup d’état backed by Canada seventeen years ago, part of a long history of foreign interference in Haiti.

Elaine Brière / Haïti / 2019 / 90′

All proceeds generated from the streaming of this video are split between the artists/rights holder and Cinema Politica. To find out more about Cinema Politica visit: cinemapolitica.org

Haiti Betrayed from Cinema Politica on Vimeo.

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Is the US finally talking about taxing the rich?

In Congress, and in New York, progressive legislation is on the agenda. Still waiting for California.

ByTIM REDMOND

-MARCH 2, 2021 (48hills.org)

Is it possible that the United States is – finally – getting serious about addressing economic inequality?

I’m not pushing this too far. The Biden Administration can’t even get Congress to agree on a $15 minimum wage. Which is a bit nuts: A $15 minimum wage is only $31,200 a year (assuming that everyone who gets it works 40 hours a week and gets paid for 52 weeks in a year). That will lift more than 1 million people out of poverty – but not much out of poverty.

From the Tax the Rich Facebook page

During the pandemic, according to Americans for Tax Fairness, the 664 richest people in the United States saw their net wealth increase 44 percent.

Again, which is a bit nuts: Billionaires picked up an additional $1.3 trillion – almost as much as the entire national stimulus package that Biden is proposing – in just 11 months, while tens of millions of people in this country lost jobs, scrambled for food, lost housing, and endured suffering that ought to be unthinkable in the US.

Do the math: While everyone else was trying to get through the unemployment system or going to work and risking their lives, the average very, very rich person picked up nearly $2 billion in net worth.

Jeff Bezos: $76 billion richer. Bill Gates: $25 billion richer. Mark Zuckerberg: $41 billion richer.

This ought to be the number-one talking point of the Democratic Party and the Biden Administration. It’s not even a minor talking point.

But at least Elizabeth Warren has moved to impose a modest wealth tax on people who have $50 million (and a slightly larger tax on people who have $1 billion.) This isn’t a radical idea at all: Most communities in the United States use the revenue from property taxes to fund local government. Those taxes typically cover only real estate – houses and commercial buildings. But there’s no reason that property taxes can’t be expanded to cover, say, yachts and other luxury goods and stock and bond holdings and other securities.

About 60 percent of voters, including a majority of Republicans like the concept.

Meanwhile, New York is seriously considering removing the tax-break for expensive yachts, better taxing capital gains, lowering the floor of the inheritance tax, and raising taxes on the wealth of billionaires.

The governor of New York, who probably won’t be governor much longer, likes to say that if you raise taxes on rich people in New York, they’ll just move somewhere else.

We’re hearing that about California, too.

But Cristobal Young, a sociology professor at Cornell, studied more than 3 million tax returns of high earners, and concluded that the rich really don’t move:

Tax migration is not like other forms of tax avoidance. The main thing rich people do to avoid taxes is hire accountants, lawyers and wealth managers, who engage in paper games with the tax authorities. But migration is not something your accountant can do on paper for you — there is no avoiding the life disruption.

One reason the tax flight myth persists is confirmation bias. There is one-way interest in anecdotes about elite migration. When New Jersey billionaire David Tepper moved to Florida, there was a media frenzy over his tax flight story. When he moved back home a few years later, it was hardly reported.

The reality is that most millionaire migration, when it happens, has nothing to do with taxes. Some 85% of these moves are tax-neutral. Most of the anecdotes we hear are quietly counter-balanced by rich people moving to higher-tax places.

So it’s starting, slowly. But as the evidence of pandemic-related economic inequality continues to emerge, so perhaps will more calls for the only solution to that inequality that really works: High taxes on the rich.

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Stop Pretending Biden Is A Powerless Bystander

An LBJ tale debunks Democratic apologists now pretending Biden has no power to try to shift the minimum wage votes of his party’s lawmakers. 

David Sirota Mar 3, 2021 (The Daily Poster)

Left: President Lyndon B. Johnson leans over a political colleague; Right: Joe Biden. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

This report was written by David Sirota.

When a Republican is president, Democratic politicians, pundits, and activists will tell you that the presidency is an all-powerful office that can do anything it wants. When a Democrat is president, these same politicians, pundits, and activists will tell you that the presidency has no power to do anything. In fact, they will tell you a Democratic president cannot even use the bully pulpit and other forms of pressure to try to shift the votes of senators in his own party.

A tale from history proves this latter myth is complete garbage — and that tale is newly relevant in today’s supercharged debate over a $15 minimum wage.

In that debate so far, we have seen Democratic senators prepare to surrender the $15 minimum wage their party promised by insisting they are powerless in the face of a non-binding advisory opinion of a parliamentarian they can ignore or fire

That explanation is patently ridiculous and factually false, so Democratic apologists are starting to further justify the surrender by suggesting that even if the party kept a $15 minimum wage in the COVID relief bill, conservative Democrats such as Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema would block it anyway.

The White House itself is now falling back on the idea that it doesn’t have the votes to do much of anything, insinuating that Joe Biden — who occupies the world’s most powerful office — somehow has no power to try to change the legislative dynamic. And this spin is being predictably amplified across social media

To be sure, there is no guarantee that Manchin or Sinema could be moved. Maybe they couldn’t, but maybe they could, considering they have both previously supported bills to increase the minimum wage. And we know they may be sensitive to pressure. After all, Manchin recently freaked out and whined that “no one called me” when Vice President Kamala Harris dared to do one straightforward interview with a West Virginia television station.

Whether such pressure ultimately works, the point is indisputable: It is laughable and preposterous to argue that a newly elected president has zero power to even try to shift the dynamic.

And yet, whether you call this all deliberate deception or learned helplessness, this fantastical myth of the Powerless President will inevitably be used to shield Biden from criticism for abandoning his pledge to fight for a $15 minimum wage.

The apologism is particularly absurd because unlike his predecessor Barack Obama, who was a relative newcomer to politics, Biden’s major selling point was that he knows “how to make government work.” The guy explicitly pitched himself as the best Democratic presidential candidate by suggesting that in an era of gridlock, he knows how to make the Democratic agenda a reality and Get Things Done™, like master of the Senate Lyndon Baines Johnson.

That’s where LBJ himself comes in to destroy the narrative that Democratic presidents in general — and Biden specifically — are inherently helpless.

“Lyndon Told Me To”

In 1964, Johnson was trying to pass Medicare, but two conservative Democratic senators threatened to take down the entire legislation over a tax issue. In a story flagged by economist Stephanie Kelton, the New York Times noted that months before that legislation passed: “Opponents proposed a large and popular increase in Social Security benefits (and taxes) which would have made passage of new Medicare taxes almost impossible. At the last minute, Senators George Smathers of Florida and Russell Long of Louisiana, both Democrats but Medicare opponents, switched and voted to save Medicare. ‘Lyndon told me to,’ Senator Smathers explained.”

The pivotal story was recounted in more detail in The Heart Of Power by Harvard University’s David Blumenthal (a former Obama administration official) and Brown University’s James Morone. They noted that presidents can play a particularly unique role in these situations, and they warn against presidents who refuse to leverage their offices to push their agendas:

Johnson knew there was an indispensable role that only he could play: he could best publicize the idea, build support, jawbone interest groups into line, and organize (and lobby) the congressional coalition. When reporters asked Senator George Smathers (D-FL) why he had switched his vote and salvaged the administration’s Medicare proposal in 1964, he responded, simply, “Lyndon told me to.” Presidents win complicated reforms by doing what the office of the presidency is uniquely designed for — publicizing and persuading….

There is, of course, a danger at the other extreme — that of the disengaged executive. The president chooses his analysts, gives them directions, and decides when the debate is over. The staff always knows when the boss has lost interest — and the issue, no matter how well staffed, is probably doomed.

There has been a lot of dishonesty and deception floating around Democratic Washington these days. There was the lie two months ago that $2,000 checks would be coming “immediately” to a desperate nation struggling through a pandemic. There is the lie about the parliamentarian supposedly being the reason the $15 minimum wage is stalled. There is once again the lie of a forthcoming “public option,” which Democrats promised but which is barely being discussed at all, and is not part of the COVID relief legislation.  

But the LBJ story shows that the mendacious narrative of a helpless Democratic president is the most pernicious lie of all. 

“Fighting Our Guts Out” Vs. Preemptive Surrender

If this lie about a Powerless President seems familiar, that’s because it was trotted out during the last Democratic presidency, when Barack Obama refused to lift a finger to pressure similarly conservative Democratic senators to support a wildly popular public insurance option or a union card check initiative that he explicitly promised. He had enormous congressional majorities and a huge election mandate, but didn’t bother to go to Democratic states to build Democratic voter pressure against recalcitrant Democratic senators. 

On the contrary, Obama’s chief of staff berated progressives trying to pressure conservative Democrats over health care reform and Obama simply surrendered. Meanwhile, obsequious liberal pundits scoffed at a so-called “Green Lantern Theory,” mocking those who suggested that the most powerful man on Earth has any power to influence elected officials in his own party. Obama is still pretending he couldn’t do anything.

Now we see this same Powerless President narrative in the minimum wage fight — and if you look closely, the Biden administration is all but admitting it’s a lie. 

After all, the White House continues to say it is “fighting our guts out” for Neera Tanden’s nomination, even though it might not have enough Senate votes for her confirmation. And yet, the same White House is simultaneously retreating on the minimum wage, seemingly unwilling to force a floor vote on the issue, even though presidential pressure, legislative brinkmanship, and negotiation could change the outcome.

In the Tanden situation, in fact, the Biden team is acting like a White House’s power of persuasion and legislative arm twisting can potentially move votes for something a president cares about — in this case, the nomination of a Washington insider to a fancy White House job. 

The real story, then, is that Biden seems unwilling to use the same influence to push as hard as possible for a minimum wage increase that would boost the pay of millions of Americans during an economic emergency. 

He has the power to at least try — he just seems unwilling to.


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SF Berniecrats endorse 5 bills

March 4, 2021

At last night’s monthly membership meeting, the San Francisco Berniecrats endorsed three bills creating or making way for public bank:

The Reinvest in San Francisco Ordinance — supports creating a public bank so San Francisco can reinvest millions of dollars in city revenue into the bank to promote economic recovery, affordable housing, small business lending and green infrastructure. (bizjournsls.com, Jan 26, 2021)

AB 1177, as introduced, Santiago. Deposit: state funds: eligible bank. Existing law requires the Treasurer, if possible, to deposit all money in the State Treasury or under the control of the Treasurer into an eligible bank. … This bill would make nonsubstantive changes to the definition of an eligible bank. (leginfo.legislation.ca.gov, Feb 18, 2021)

HR 8721 Public Banking Act “To provide for the Federal charter of certain public banks, and for other purposes.”

Also endorsed were:

San Jose Assemblyman Alex Lee’s proposed California Tax on Extreme Wealth

and:

California SB-331 Public contracts: local agencies: negotiations. … The act would prohibit a final determination by the governing body regarding approval of any contract until the matter has been heard at a minimum of 2 public meetings of the governing body. (leginfo.legislature.ca.gov)

–compiled by Mike Zonta, co-editor of OccupySF.net


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