“The Brief Origins of May Day” by Eric Chase (iww.org)

Most people living in the United States know little about the International Workers’ Day of May Day. For many others there is an assumption that it is a holiday celebrated in state communist countries like Cuba or the former Soviet Union. Most Americans don’t realize that May Day has its origins here in this country and is as “American” as baseball and apple pie, and stemmed from the pre-Christian holiday of Beltane, a celebration of rebirth and fertility.

In the late nineteenth century, the working class was in constant struggle to gain the 8-hour work day. Working conditions were severe and it was quite common to work 10 to 16 hour days in unsafe conditions. Death and injury were commonplace at many work places and inspired such books as Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and Jack London’s The Iron Heel. As early as the 1860’s, working people agitated to shorten the workday without a cut in pay, but it wasn’t until the late 1880’s that organized labor was able to garner enough strength to declare the 8-hour workday. This proclamation was without consent of employers, yet demanded by many of the working class.

At this time, socialism was a new and attractive idea to working people, many of whom were drawn to its ideology of working class control over the production and distribution of all goods and services. Workers had seen first-hand that Capitalism benefited only their bosses, trading workers’ lives for profit. Thousands of men, women and children were dying needlessly every year in the workplace, with life expectancy as low as their early twenties in some industries, and little hope but death of rising out of their destitution. Socialism offered another option.

A variety of socialist organizations sprung up throughout the later half of the 19th century, ranging from political parties to choir groups. In fact, many socialists were elected into governmental office by their constituency. But again, many of these socialists were ham-strung by the political process which was so evidently controlled by big business and the bi-partisan political machine. Tens of thousands of socialists broke ranks from their parties, rebuffed the entire political process, which was seen as nothing more than protection for the wealthy, and created anarchist groups throughout the country. Literally thousands of working people embraced the ideals of anarchism, which sought to put an end to all hierarchical structures (including government), emphasized worker controlled industry, and valued direct action over the bureaucratic political process. It is inaccurate to say that labor unions were “taken over” by anarchists and socialists, but rather anarchists and socialist made up the labor unions.

At its national convention in Chicago, held in 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (which later became the American Federation of Labor), proclaimed that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labor from and after May 1, 1886.” The following year, the FOTLU, backed by many Knights of Labor locals, reiterated their proclamation stating that it would be supported by strikes and demonstrations. At first, most radicals and anarchists regarded this demand as too reformist, failing to strike “at the root of the evil.” A year before the Haymarket Massacre, Samuel Fielden pointed out in the anarchist newspaper, The Alarm, that “whether a man works eight hours a day or ten hours a day, he is still a slave.”

Despite the misgivings of many of the anarchists, an estimated quarter million workers in the Chicago area became directly involved in the crusade to implement the eight hour work day, including the Trades and Labor Assembly, the Socialistic Labor Party and local Knights of Labor. As more and more of the workforce mobilized against the employers, these radicals conceded to fight for the 8-hour day, realizing that “the tide of opinion and determination of most wage-workers was set in this direction.” With the involvement of the anarchists, there seemed to be an infusion of greater issues than the 8-hour day. There grew a sense of a greater social revolution beyond the more immediate gains of shortened hours, but a drastic change in the economic structure of capitalism.

In a proclamation printed just before May 1, 1886, one publisher appealed to working people with this plea:

  • Workingmen to Arms!
  • War to the Palace, Peace to the Cottage, and Death to LUXURIOUS IDLENESS.
  • The wage system is the only cause of the World’s misery. It is supported by the rich classes, and to destroy it, they must be either made to work or DIE.
  • One pound of DYNAMITE is better than a bushel of BALLOTS!
  • MAKE YOUR DEMAND FOR EIGHT HOURS with weapons in your hands to meet the capitalistic bloodhounds, police, and militia in proper manner.

Not surprisingly the entire city was prepared for mass bloodshed, reminiscent of the railroad strike a decade earlier when police and soldiers gunned down hundreds of striking workers. On May 1, 1886, more than 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses across the United States walked off their jobs in the first May Day celebration in history. In Chicago, the epicenter for the 8-hour day agitators, 40,000 went out on strike with the anarchists in the forefront of the public’s eye. With their fiery speeches and revolutionary ideology of direct action, anarchists and anarchism became respected and embraced by the working people and despised by the capitalists.

The names of many – Albert Parsons, Johann Most, August Spies and Louis Lingg – became household words in Chicago and throughout the country. Parades, bands and tens of thousands of demonstrators in the streets exemplified the workers’ strength and unity, yet didn’t become violent as the newspapers and authorities predicted.

More and more workers continued to walk off their jobs until the numbers swelled to nearly 100,000, yet peace prevailed. It was not until two days later, May 3, 1886, that violence broke out at the McCormick Reaper Works between police and strikers.

For six months, armed Pinkerton agents and the police harassed and beat locked-out steelworkers as they picketed. Most of these workers belonged to the “anarchist-dominated” Metal Workers’ Union. During a speech near the McCormick plant, some two hundred demonstrators joined the steelworkers on the picket line. Beatings with police clubs escalated into rock throwing by the strikers which the police responded to with gunfire. At least two strikers were killed and an unknown number were wounded.

Full of rage, a public meeting was called by some of the anarchists for the following day in Haymarket Square to discuss the police brutality. Due to bad weather and short notice, only about 3000 of the tens of thousands of people showed up from the day before. This affair included families with children and the mayor of Chicago himself. Later, the mayor would testify that the crowd remained calm and orderly and that speaker August Spies made “no suggestion… for immediate use of force or violence toward any person…”

As the speech wound down, two detectives rushed to the main body of police, reporting that a speaker was using inflammatory language, inciting the police to march on the speakers’ wagon. As the police began to disperse the already thinning crowd, a bomb was thrown into the police ranks. No one knows who threw the bomb, but speculations varied from blaming any one of the anarchists, to an agent provocateur working for the police.

Enraged, the police fired into the crowd. The exact number of civilians killed or wounded was never determined, but an estimated seven or eight civilians died, and up to forty were wounded. One officer died immediately and another seven died in the following weeks. Later evidence indicated that only one of the police deaths could be attributed to the bomb and that all the other police fatalities had or could have had been due to their own indiscriminate gun fire. Aside from the bomb thrower, who was never identified, it was the police, not the anarchists, who perpetrated the violence.

Eight anarchists – Albert Parsons, August Spies, Samuel Fielden, Oscar Neebe, Michael Schwab, George Engel, Adolph Fischer and Louis Lingg – were arrested and convicted of murder, though only three were even present at Haymarket and those three were in full view of all when the bombing occurred. The jury in their trial was comprised of business leaders in a gross mockery of justice similar to the Sacco-Vanzetti case thirty years later, or the trials of AIM and Black Panther members in the seventies. The entire world watched as these eight organizers were convicted, not for their actions, of which all of were innocent, but for their political and social beliefs. On November 11, 1887, after many failed appeals, Parsons, Spies, Engel and Fisher were hung to death. Louis Lingg, in his final protest of the state’s claim of authority and punishment, took his own life the night before with an explosive device in his mouth.

The remaining organizers, Fielden, Neebe and Schwab, were pardoned six years later by Governor Altgeld, who publicly lambasted the judge on a travesty of justice. Immediately after the Haymarket Massacre, big business and government conducted what some say was the very first “Red Scare” in this country. Spun by mainstream media, anarchism became synonymous with bomb throwing and socialism became un-American. The common image of an anarchist became a bearded, eastern European immigrant with a bomb in one hand and a dagger in the other.

Today we see tens of thousands of activists embracing the ideals of the Haymarket Martyrs and those who established May Day as an International Workers’ Day. Ironically, May Day is an official holiday in 66 countries and unofficially celebrated in many more, but rarely is it recognized in this country where it began.

Over one hundred years have passed since that first May Day. In the earlier part of the 20th century, the US government tried to curb the celebration and further wipe it from the public’s memory by establishing “Law and Order Day” on May 1. We can draw many parallels between the events of 1886 and today. We still have locked out steelworkers struggling for justice. We still have voices of freedom behind bars as in the cases of Mumia Abu Jamal and Leonard Peltier. We still had the ability to mobilize tens of thousands of people in the streets of a major city to proclaim “THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!” at the WTO and FTAA demonstrations.

Words stronger than any I could write are engraved on the Haymarket Monument:

THE DAY WILL COME WHEN OUR SILENCE WILL BE MORE POWERFUL THAN THE VOICES YOU ARE THROTTLING TODAY.

Truly, history has a lot to teach us about the roots of our radicalism. When we remember that people were shot so we could have the 8-hour day; if we acknowledge that homes with families in them were burned to the ground so we could have Saturday as part of the weekend; when we recall 8-year old victims of industrial accidents who marched in the streets protesting working conditions and child labor only to be beat down by the police and company thugs, we understand that our current condition cannot be taken for granted – people fought for the rights and dignities we enjoy today, and there is still a lot more to fight for. The sacrifices of so many people can not be forgotten or we’ll end up fighting for those same gains all over again. This is why we celebrate May Day.

Post comments online re: Trump’s attempts to gut EPA regulations (from Frank Bergamaschi)

Post Comments Online Re: E.O. 13777

Make Your Voice Heard!

Executive Order 13777 is one of Trump’s attempts to gut EPA regulations. By law, the EPA has to take public comments on the changes Trump wants. Below is an abbreviate guide to doing so. The deadline is May 15th

  1. Go to: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OA-2017-0190-0042
  2. Click the link near the top that says “Open Docket Folder”
  3. Under the “Primary Documents” heading you’ll see a document called “Evaluation of Existing Regulations” with a “Comment Now” button to the right. Click on that button and leave your comment

To see comments by others, at the page described in #2 above, scroll toward the bottom of the page. Next to the “Comments” heading click on “View All.”

Note: The web site appears busy, so pages might not load quickly enough for the links noted to be seen immediately.

Portland, Ore., Becomes First Major U.S. City to End All New Investment in Corporations

To avoid doing business with socially irresponsible corporations, the city is willing to lose investment income—about $4.5 million a year.

Portland Corporation Investment.jpg

Renato Quintero, a 50-year-old janitor in Portland, Oregon, has firsthand experience with private prison corporations. Originally from Sinaloa, Mexico, Quintero immigrated to the United States and eventually became a citizen. But his family hasn’t been as lucky. One of his cousins, who came to the United States as a child but never became a legal resident, was sent to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, after being stopped for a traffic violation. The center provides service to Immigration Customs and Enforcement, but is privately run by a firm called GEO Group. Quintero’s cousin was eventually deported back to Mexico, which put financial and emotional strain on the entire family.

During a city council meeting last December, Quintero was one of several Portland residents who testified in favor of the city divesting from two corporations, in particular: Wells Fargo, for its financing of the for-profit prison operators CoreCivic and GEO Group; and Caterpillar, the construction equipment maker that provides bulldozers to the Israeli government. President Trump has also said that he will rely on Caterpillar to build a border wall with Mexico.

“That was something that affected me,” Quintero said. Like many other immigrants in Portland, he was frustrated with the city’s investments in corporations that he said take advantage of vulnerable communities. He felt that went against the spirit of the Portland’s official status as a “sanctuary city,” which is one with policies that limit local law enforcement’s cooperation with federal immigration officials.

The Portland City Council voted to halt all new investments in corporations.

An April 5 vote exceeded Quintero’s expectations. Through pressure from a coalition of grassroots organizations, the Portland City Council voted to halt all new investments in corporations—not just Wells Fargo and Caterpillar. The unanimous vote made Portland the first major U.S. city that has promised to end new investments in corporate securities—debts that are repaid to the city with interest. For now, Portland will continue investing in its current corporate securities, but will not renew them when the final one matures in 2019. Instead, Portland will invest in non-corporate options like U.S. government bonds, and is in talks of creating a municipal bank. The city’s investments total over $1.7 billion, and about one-third of that is in corporations.

But ceasing investment in corporate securities will come at a price. Jen Clodius, Portland Office of Management and Finance spokeswoman, says that the city will likely lose $4.5 million in revenue a year.

“Oregon has been a sanctuary state for more than 50 years. So we’re constantly trying to be responsible neighbors and invest wisely,” Clodius said. “But by the same token, we also want to have general funds available so that the city can operate, so that we have money to put into infrastructure, fixing potholes, and supporting homeless shelters.”

The commissioners’ decision came, in part, from wanting to save time spent on analyzing individual companies’ social responsibility. But activists say the driving force was a coalition of grassroots groups representing marginalized communities and divestment campaigns. Those who testified at city council meetings said that they didn’t want tax money to go toward companies that fund the Dakota Access pipeline, private prison corporations, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

They didn’t want tax money to go toward companies that fund the Dakota Access pipeline.

The coalition originated from a comprehensive framework called the Freedom Cities movement that came out of the New York Worker Center Federation, which is a multiracial coalition of immigrants and workers that strive to build worker-led movements. Following the 2016 election, federation members met to brainstorm what cities needed to be more safe and welcoming for Muslims, black people, and immigrants. Their ideas included economic justice, workers rights, divestment from militarized policing, and investment in communities.

Enlace, an international alliance of organizations that works for racial and economic justice, and a co-convener of the New York Worker Center Federation, spearheaded a Portland Freedom Cities campaign by coalescing over 25 grassroots social, economic, and racial justice organizations. Their demands focused on divestment from companies that they said backed human rights abuses.

Throughout the years, the organizations in the coalition have won piecemeal victories, like pushing Portland to create a socially responsible investment policy. But they felt that it wasn’t enough. Following a national movement to divest from Wells Fargo, the coalition convinced the city council to temporarily stop investing in all corporations last December.

“I think with that city council was perhaps hoping that we would just go away,” said Jamie Trinkle, Enlace’s senior campaign and research coordinator. But the coalition held community forums, circulated petitions, and asked immigrants and people of color to testify against corporations that they said were destroying and exploiting their communities, like Wells Fargo and Caterpillar. “We were able to come back at the end of that temporary period and show really strong resistance and deep connection among all of our issues,” she added.

Hyung Kyu Nam, a member of the committee that ensured the city was investing in socially responsible companies, said that the vote is significant because Portland was willing to lose money. “It sends a message that despite what they’re trying do at the federal level, that people getting involved in policy at the local level … can take back control and resist.” Since the vote, Nam has become involved in creating a municipal public bank in Portland.

Quintero hopes that Portland’s vote to end new corporate investments will be the first of many policies that make life easier for immigrants. He hopes that others will be granted a pathway to citizenship like he was. If nothing else, he says, the vote sends a message to the Trump administration that if “you want our money, you have to treat us well.”

“Code Pink Protesters at Sessions Hearing Could Face Year in Prison” by Christopher Mele (nytimes.com)

Desiree Fairooz, right, an activist affiliated with the group Code Pink, at the confirmation hearing in January on the nomination of Jeff Sessions to be attorney general. CreditAndrew Harnik/Associated Press

May 3, 2017

A jury on Wednesday convicted three Code Pink protesters on charges that they disrupted the confirmation hearing of Jeff Sessions for attorney general — including a Virginia woman who said all she did was break out in laughter. Each could face up to 12 months in prison.

The Virginia woman, Desiree A. Fairooz, was found guilty of the two charges she faced: disorderly conduct and parading or demonstrating on Capitol grounds.

The jury also convicted two other activists in the group she was with, Tighe Barry and Lenny Bianchi, who were dressed as Ku Klux Klan members with white hoods and robes and stood up before the Jan. 10 hearing started.

They were acquitted on a count of disorderly conduct but were convicted on two separate charges of parading or demonstrating, Mr. Barry said.

The verdicts were returned shortly after noon Wednesday. A two-day trial in United States Superior Court in Washington ended on Tuesday.

Ms. Fairooz, 61, of Bluemont, Va., said she was “really disappointed.” She said her lawyer, Samuel A. Bogash, would file post-trial motions seeking to set the verdict aside. She said it was too early to discuss an appeal.

“We’ll face that music when we get to that,” Ms. Fairooz said. She added that she was undeterred and would continue to protest.

Photo

Officers leading Ms. Fairooz out of the hearing. CreditAlex Brandon/Associated Press

“I’m so disgusted with so many different aspects of our current government,” she said.

A spokesman for the United States Attorney’s Office in Washington did not immediately return a call and email seeking comment about the case.

It was early in the hearing when Senator Richard Shelby, Republican of Alabama, said that Mr. Sessions’s record of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented,” Ariel Gold, the campaign director of Code Pink, said on Wednesday.

Ms. Fairooz said that, on hearing that, she let out a giggle.

“I just couldn’t hold it,” she said on Wednesday. “It was spontaneous. It was an immediate rejection of what I considered an outright lie or pure ignorance.”

She said when officers came over, she expected to be warned or told to shush and was surprised to be taken into custody.

Mr. Session’s nomination was contentious, as critics, pointing to past statements he had made, asserted, among other things, that he was a racist.

Ms. Gold, who was at the hearing, described the noise Ms. Fairooz made as a “reflexive gasp” that was no more loud than a cough. “I would barely call it a laugh,” she said.

Ms. Fairooz said the noise was not intended to disrupt the hearing, which had formally been called to order.

“None of us planned to get arrested,” said Ms. Fairooz, who attended the hearing dressed in pink as Lady Liberty and carrying a sign. “We just wanted to be a visible symbol of dissent.”

All three activists pleaded not guilty to the charges, rejecting a plea deal and demanding a trial.

“Time to rename Justin Herman Plaza” … Chelsea Manning Plaza anyone?

By David Talbot May 2, 2017 (sfchronicle.com)

The Vaillancourt Fountain at Justin Herman Plaza. Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle.  The Vaillancourt Fountain at Justin Herman Plaza.

Lots going on these summery spring days. (Who turned up the heat?) So today’s column will have to do some multitasking.

Item No. 1: After watching “Citizen Jane” — the excellent new documentary about writer-activist Jane Jacobs and her titanic struggles with New York urban planning czar Robert Moses, who preferred high-rises and highways to human beings — I got to thinking about San Francisco’s own Moses, Justin Herman.

Back in the late 1950s and ’60s, when Herman ruled over the city as executive director of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, he was responsible for razing much of the Fillmore district and disappearing thousands of its black residents in the name of urban renewal — or “Negro removal,” as James Baldwin mordantly put it.

Once known as the Harlem of the West, with its vibrant nightlife and street scene, the Fillmore became a bleak moonscape of vacant lots and dreary street corners after Herman’s wrecking balls began their destructive work. Herman became so loathed in San Francisco’s eviscerated African American community that one irate citizen lunged at him during a heated Redevelopment Agency meeting and nearly throttled him. The powerful bureaucrat died shortly after of a heart attack in summer 1971.

Tom Fleming, editor of the Sun-Reporter, an African American newspaper, summed up Herman’s sorry legacy this way: “Negroes and the other victims of a low income (fate) generally regard him as the arch villain in the black depopulation of the city.”

As cities across America re-evaluate their histories, taking down monuments and renaming streets that celebrate dishonorable men, it’s time for San Francisco to do the same. We need to rename Justin Herman Plaza.

There have been earlier efforts to do this, but they went nowhere. In 2001, Supervisor Chris Daly introduced a resolution to strip Herman’s name from the plaza, but it never even got a board hearing. In 2015, Brett Harris-Anderson, who grew up in the Western Addition, and his wife, Michelle, started a petition to rename the plaza after the late poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, who was San Francisco’s first black female streetcar operator and began her performing career here. Unfortunately, their campaign didn’t catch fire, but it’s time to reignite it.

“I would welcome a public conversation about changing the name of Justin Herman Plaza,” Supervisor Aaron Peskin told me. The plaza is located in his district, so he’s the right one to start that conversation. “Herman’s name evokes memories of a dark time in San Francisco history that we’re still grappling with today. It’s a legacy of displacement, of removing people of color and low-income people. That’s not something we should be honoring.”

A Call to Action – Help Us Stop Unconstitutional and Unwarranted Surveillance in Oakland Before It Gets Started! (from Mike Zint)

It’s been a little over three years since we came together to stop the DAC – the surveillance octopus Orwellingly named the Domain Awareness Center.

Out of that effort came the establishment of the Oakland Privacy Advisory Commission by the Oakland City Council. One of its mandates was to propose an ordinance to regulate all uses of surveillance equipment by the City of Oakland, including and especially by OPD.

The ordinance the Commission has crafted, approved unanimously in January, is now up for consideration by the Oakland City Council. It will first be taken up by the Council’s Public Safety Committee on May 9th, 2017 at 6:00 PM at Oakland City Hall – THIS IS A CRUCIAL HEARING.

We need and would very much like you to send a simple letter of support for the ordinance to City Council members. You can do that easily by using this web tool to send a note:

tinyurl.com/kdjq6qh

Calling is an excellent idea as well. Here are the phone numbers for the four City Council members who sit on the Public Safety Committee:

Noel Gallo, District 5, (510) 238-7005

Abel Guillen, District 2, (510) 238-7002

Larry Reid, District 7, (510) 238-7007

Desley Brooks, District 8, (510) 238-7006

A suggested message:

“I strongly support the Privacy’s Commission’s Surveillance Equipment Regulation Ordinance, coming before you on May 9th at Public Safety. Please vote to approve it!”

Here’s a brief summary of what the ordinance will require:
· Public hearings on every new gadget and computer program that can be used for surveillance or monitoring
· Approval or denial by vote of the Council on such equipment and software acquisition.
· Approval or denial by vote of the Council on any proposed information sharing with Federal agencies (e.g. ICE).
· Evaluation of civil rights concerns, and a cost/benefit analysis, BEFORE approval.
· Putting in place a privacy and use policy before any equipment or software can be deployed, specifying what it may – and may not – be used for, and how long any data it may gather may be kept.
· A public report every year on how and when the equipment or software has been used.
· Penalties for violations of the ordinance or a use policy.

This is a strong regulatory framework that will make sure that no unconstitutional or unwarranted surveillance is taking place in Oakland. We need your help to make sure it becomes law.

Please act now! tinyurl.com/kdjq6qh

This note was sent to you by the folks at Oakland Privacy.

You may also be interested in checking out the Oakland Privacy website,http://oaklandprivacy.org , which has information about our other projects fighting against the surveillance state.

Also here:  http://org.salsalabs.com/o/1734/p/dia/action4/common/public/?action_KEY=21683

“The student debt crisis is exploding — nothing less than a student debt jubilee will do” by Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers

April 27, 2017 (Occupy.com)

The level of student loan debt in the United States has risen to $1.5 trillion, and defaults are at more than 40% of debtors and rising. Student loan debt has grown to overwhelm all other categories of non-housing consumer debt in this nation.

Underneath this crisis are rising tuition costs, a predatory student loan industry and an absence of consumer protections for students. Student debt is the only debt that can’t be removed through bankruptcy.

Governor Cuomo recently signed a new law that is supposed to help with the cost of higher education, and Senator Sanders introduced similar legislation at the federal level, but these are not real solutions to the crisis.

Alan Collinge, the founder of Student Loan Justice, says that these efforts will not relieve current students of debt, nor will they protect future students from acquiring debt. He anticipates that this crisis will explode within the next 12 to 18 months. Nothing short of a student debt jubilee will work.

At present, these massive debts are crippling the lives of more than 40 million people. They are trapped in debt until death because in 2005 Congress, led by Joe Biden, a senator at the time, changed the bankruptcy laws so the debt would continue even after bankruptcy. In fact, student debt collectors can garnish wages, seize social security and take assets from estates to repay the debt. More than $1 billion has already been taken from Social Security to pay student debt.

Collinge writes about the human and economic impacts:

“The human cost of this phenomenon cannot be understated. Families and individuals are being financially destabilized and wrecked. Family formation, home and other purchases are being delayed or cancelled, people are actually fleeing the country and even committing suicide as a result of this predatory debt.”

Student loan debt was created by the rapidly rising costs of college and predatory lenders. As schools have lost public sources of funding over the past 50 years, they’ve turned to other methods of acquiring funds such as high tuition, room and board prices and assorted fees. This has been fed by rising amounts of money that students are permitted to borrow. Student loan officers are incentivized to encourage students to borrow large amounts without informing them of the disastrous risks they are taking.

Finance predators have been given a lot of power to collect student debts. In Texas, people who defaulted on student loans have had swat teams break down their doors and have been arrested for not paying. For-profit colleges have a history of targeting people living in desperately poor neighborhoods with student loans, even though they know the students will be unlikely to pay them back or even to graduate with a degree.

The result is that at present 27 million people are unable to pay back their loans and are in default or in arrears in some way. That is nearly 10 percent of the country unable to pay back their student loan debt and unable to declare bankruptcy. And, if a parent or grandparent co-signs the loan, they are in the same situation – with a loan that will follow them to the grave.

HOW STUDENT LOAN DEBT BECOME THE ONLY KIND OF DEBT THAT CANNOT BE RELIEVED IN BANKRUPTCY

Over the past forty years, student loans have become increasingly unprotected and predatory. If you follow former vice president Joe Biden’s senate career, you can map virtually every step of the process. Initially, legislators made it more difficult for students to be relieved of the debt in increments by requiring delays before a graduate could declare bankruptcy and stripping protections from particular types of student loans. By 2005, student loan debtors found themselves without any rights. Biden was the Democrat with a middle-class image who provided cover and political weight to these efforts on behalf of his largest contributor, MBNA, and the finance industry generally.

The Obama administration made the crisis worse. They moved student debt into the Department of Education so that now the government is profiting from it immensely. While Obama promised to reverse the Biden law that eliminated bankruptcy protection from student debt, his administration did nothing. DOE’s program is now run by people brought in from the loan industry and they fight to make sure protection of debtors does not occur because they make more money from defaults.

Despite its impact on tens of millions of people and the anchor it creates on the economy, the DOE makes sure that the various loan forgiveness programs put in place over the last decade, such as debt forgiveness for working for non-profits and income-related provisions, fail. Hundreds of thousands have already failed in these programs. The Obama administration became an enemy of those suffering from student debt.

During the presidential campaign candidate Donald Trump criticized the federal government from profiting from student debt. Trump said in his campaign speeches, “That’s probably one of the only things the government shouldn’t make money off — I think it’s terrible that one of the only profit centers we have is student loans.” He was right, the average student loan debt is $34,000. Interest alone on this amount is about $90 billion per year. Unfortunately, President Trump has been silent on the issue and has done nothing despite the growing crisis. The DOE is making $50 billion in annual profits from student loan debt.

The other big profiteers are colleges and universities. As Collinge writes:

“Not only have administrative salaries and capital improvements exploded at college campuses across the nation, their cash reserves (separate from their endowments) have ballooned over the past decade. Since the financial crisis of ‘08, the colleges have managed to build up reserves — aka slush funds — that could possibly be greater than the combined value of all college endowments.”

What is the student debt movement to do? Of course the Biden bankruptcy protections should be repealed but that is not enough. We need a complete student loan debt forgiveness program. These debts are ill gotten gains and should be forgiven. If the government refuses to forgive these debts, people must rise up together and refuse to pay any student loan debt.

The people have the power to end this injustice and must mobilize to do so. A student loan debt jubilee, whether mandated by law or put in place by the people, will bring economic freedom to tens of millions, end their debt servitude and allow them to participate in the economy. It will be a significant economic stimulus, but more importantly it will end an injustice.

Visit StudentLoanJustice.org and join one of the fifty state chapters. It is critical that we are ready when the crisis implodes to demand nothing less than a student debt jubilee.

Originally published by Popular Resistance

student debt, college debt crisis, Student Loan Justice, student debt jubilee, predatory loans, debt forgiveness

“How the March for Science seized San Francisco, fueling a growing movement” by Ryan Elwood (occupy.com)

April 25, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO – Former Chief of Data Science Dr. Patil hands a fistful of markers to his daughter and motions to a blank poster board, asking her what she’d like to write on her sign. A man to his left dressed as Albert Einstein holds one reading, “Understanding global warming doesn’t require an Einstein – just an open mind.” Flying Spaghetti Monster flags flutter over two men dressed as Smokey the Bear, and as demonstrators stream into Justin Herman Plaza to kick off the March for Science in San Francisco, it is already clear this is not your usual demonstration.

Responding to the Trump administration’s recent budget cuts and the muzzling of entities ranging from the EPA to the National Park Service, the March for Science inspired hundreds of thousands worldwide to take to the streets on Saturday to defend scientific research and its use in informing public policy. The March was hatched by Bay Area-based science educator Kishore Hari immediately following the Women’s March on Washington in January; less than 24 hours after Hari announced the planned march, it had more than 1 million followers.

“The tone of the conversation is that [scientists] fundamentally felt like their work, who they were, was being questioned. You could hear the hurt and frustration in that,” Hari told Occupy.com. On Earth Day, April 22, more than 20,000 people filled the downtown streets of San Francisco while some 600 March for Science satellite events spanned the globe – from New Zealand to India to the event’s epicenter, Washington, DC – as science supporters demanded the administration take a new tack. As Hari said, the international demonstration amounted to “[the] largest science event in the history of humankind.”

Creative protests signs featured prominently here and in marches nationally. So did the roster of high level scientists who were invited to speak. While Bill Nye was perhaps the most prominent figure to address the crowd in DC, San Francisco featured numerous leaders in the field, including Kathy Seitan, former project manager of the Environmental Protection Agency.

“EPA is the eye of the storm,” Seitan told Occupy.com. “We are the number one agency that they want to dismantle. Of course, they want to dismantle anything that has any relevancy to people’s actual lives. The EPA is the center of that because we’re the ones who produce the facts and the solutions to the problems that they deny even exist, so that’s why we’re bearing the brunt of the attack.”

Prior to the march, controversy circulated among scientists about the potentially negative outcomes of politicizing science – making it a partisan issue by attacking primarily Republicans’ position on science issues, ranging from climate change to vaccines to reproductive health. But “everything is political, what isn’t?” said Seitan. “The scientific method itself is not political, it remains objective and it strives to be objective – it means we strive to be unbiased to the facts. However, what is political are the attacks on science and the refusal to apply science to our most pressing policy issues. Scientists [are] standing up for themselves and the work we produce to use it to affect policy.”

Dr. D.J. Patil, former U.S. chief data scientist, spoke to the power of science in helping steer more enlightened, practical policy measures. “When we were in the White House, and you saw whatever crisis came through – Zika, Ebola, or even the question of how do we find the next tailored genomic treatments for somebody who has a rare disease or cancer – that requires scientists,” Patil told Occupy.com. “Not just investment in science but active, aggressive figuring out how science goes into every single type of policy, every single thing we do as a nation. When that comes together, that’s really one of those super powers for us as a country.”

Adam Savage, scientist and co-host of the popular show Mythbusters, also spoke at Saturday’s rally prior to the march. He said he doesn’t see politicization as an issue worth focusing on. “I’m excited about this demonstration,” Savage said. “One of the key ways we exercise democracy is by voting, but even more importantly by gathering together and unifying our voice – voting is one way to do it, this is another. And I think that the last few months have shown that this is a really powerful way for the left to organize and let their voices be heard.”

When the speeches came to an end just after noon, the mass of thousands began walking, singing, chanting and cheering as they made their way down Market Street. Some protesters carried bird puppets, while others rode bicycles with speakers blaring protest songs. Every so often, “science, not silence” shouts emanated from the crowd. The march emptied out into a science fair in front of City Hall, where dozens of educational booths were set up, including the Cal Academy of Science and the 49ers STEAM team.

Now, in the aftermath of Saturday’s success, the inevitable question arises: Where does the March for Science go from here? “I’m hoping that [after this], people will better understand what the attacks on science are, and how critical they are to the life of the entire planet” Seitan added, “and [that people] will continue to put pressure on the whole political spectrum for making sure that science informs our decisions and that we act on these very pressing problems.”

Bryan Dang, a marketing and tech professional who helped organize the March for Science in San Francisco, said he hopes this “becomes a real paradigm shift in terms of mentalities that people have towards scientists and how scientists engage with the public, and how we’re able to come together to promote evidence-based policy and stand for the scientific consensus that we may have at the time. In San Francisco, I hope that this turns into a group that really focuses on outreach in the Bay Area.”

Speaking to the political nature of debates over science, Savage said, “[Even] if there are people who are going to hear me that will disagree with me politically, I hope we can agree that we all have the same first principles: a better world for ourselves, our kids, our loved ones, our community. If we can start a conversation from that, we are in great shape.”

The March for Science is following Saturday’s event with a national and global “week of action”, including tools to reach out to elected officials and other ways to champion science for the common good. The organization is looking to grow its network of chapters and partner organizations, sharing resources as it encourages science and grows other civic outreach efforts.

March for Science, climate march, climate protests, science demonstrations, science activism, Trump policies
March for Science, climate march, climate protests, science demonstrations, science activism, Trump policies
March for Science, climate march, climate protests, science demonstrations, science activism, Trump policies
March for Science, climate march, climate protests, science demonstrations, science activism, Trump policies
March for Science, climate march, climate protests, science demonstrations, science activism, Trump policies
March for Science, climate march, climate protests, science demonstrations, science activism, Trump policies
March for Science, climate march, climate protests, science demonstrations, science activism, Trump policies
March for Science, climate march, climate protests, science demonstrations, science activism, Trump policies
March for Science, climate march, climate protests, science demonstrations, science activism, Trump policies
March for Science, climate march, climate protests, science demonstrations, science activism, Trump policies
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