Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Welcome to the Wall Street of the South

An Extraordinary Event By. Natalie Intondi Last week, I had the opportunity to join the Central Florida JwJ delegation to Charlotte, NC to protest the Bank of America shareholders meeting. It was an incredible experience to be with hundreds of people from all over the country filling the streets. Young and old, black and white, male and female we met with the same purpose to let Brian Moynihan, the CEO of Bank of America, know that the American people see him for the robber-baron that he is. This was no ordinary protest. The city of Charlotte recently established an ordinance called the Extraordinary Events Ordinance. It essentially said that any event in the city that was deemed “extraordinary” now gave the police the ability to search and or arrest anyone who was in possession of a water bottle, a backpack, a marker, a scarf, and other random items. The morning of the protest was damp and chilly and as a group we left our hotel and began our march with a feeling of excited anxiety wondering what the day would hold for us. How seriously would the Charlotte Police department take they're newly acquired power? As we walked towards where the showdown was to take place, outside of the main Bank of America building in downtown Charlotte, I remember looking toward the street and seeing van load after van load of police officers. There were groups of 20 or 30 police on bicycles riding ahead of us, headed to the same location. As daunting as those images were, the feeling of solidarity and unity around me was just as powerful. When we finally arrived in front of the shareholder meeting, we filled a major intersection of the city and party began. Music played, and drumming could be heard from blocks away. Police were everywhere, but we did not care. Let them hear us too. Let the police listen to the stories of those who lost their homes as a result of Bank of America's predatory lending practices, let them hear about how Bank of America sold people's homes without them even knowing it. The police needed to know who they were protecting.
That is when we all sat down in the middle of that huge intersection and one by one people testified to the nightmares Bank of America had put them through. Thanks to the Unity Alliance which included members of Jobs with Justice, Right to the City, the Push-back Network , National Domestic Workers Alliance that mobilized to the big showdown. People spoke on the tales of foreclosures and broken dreams that are the legacy of BoA. Johnny, a homeowner was arrested for trying to get into the meeting. He drove all the way from Boston because he and his partner were in the process of losing their home. The police handcuffed him and dragged Johnny off like a criminal for trying to fight for the home he and family built together. A home filled with hopes and built on a foundation of hard work. Johnny was not the criminal, Brian Moynihan is the criminal! He has robbed not only Johnny, but thousands of families of so much more than a roof over their heads. He has robbed people of their homes and livelihood. The city of Charlotte was right. This was an extraordinary event, but not for the reasons they deemed it extraordinary. It was extraordinary because it brought some many amazing people together who perhaps under normal circumstances would not have associated together, but on May 9th they were able to come together in solidarity and fight agai

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Action Alert: Tell Orange County Commissioner to Fund Public Transit

Could you imagine having to leave 3 hours early for work just so you could be on time? Lynx transit riders do. Or, having to work 8 hours straight without a bathroom break? Lynx bus drivers do.

While Lynx's ridership is growing, the bus service in Central Florida is becoming less sustainable. A dedicated funding source is needed so services can improve with more routes, better timing and good transit jobs. It is up to the elected officials on Lynx board to make dedicated funding a reality in their respective commissions. This is been an ongoing struggle for years and now that Sun rail is coming, we must send a clear message that bus funding cannot be left behind.

The People's Transit Movement has very simple demands:

  • Keep Lynx Transit Public and equitable for all communities.
  • For County Commissioners to find a dedicated funding source for Lynx Transit.
  • Expand public transit services as an investment for good transit jobs and services.

    We the undersigned are voting transit rider of Lynx Bus Services and supporters of public transportation. We are advocating that Orange County Commissioners collectively engage in supporting a source of dedicated funding that will generate new sources of revenue to support our current Lynx services. We are in support of our Orange County Commissioners passing an ordinance that would allocate dedicated funding revenue for Lynx bus services.
    Equitable public transportation is essential to Central Florida communities. We are in support of a transit system that is funded public, investing in good transit jobs and expanding fixed route service.
    Thank you for your special attention and insight into the importance of public transportation.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Florida Tenants left high and dry!

As the Florida foreclosure crisis continues to hit property owners, renters of those properties are often the most vulnerable and least considered . For the past 3 weeks, tenants of Golf Villas apartment complex in New Smyrna Beach, Fl were forced to live without water. The owner of this 20 apartment complex mostly of working class families went into foreclosure and has not paid the water bill even though tenants had been paying the rent. Tenants were never informed of the foreclosure or neglected water bill. Many self evicted themselves while others purchased bottled water to get by. Residents brought it to the City Commissioners who were reluctant to urge the Utilities Commission to work with these tenants to turn the water back on.

It was not until members from the Central Florida Jobs with Justice coalition and tenants came together to fight back and get their water turned on. Local faith and community leaders, students and labor leaders from the Volusia/Flager County AFL-CIO held a press conference this pass Wednesday to build pressure on the Utilities Commission to follow through with the legal proceedings of appointing another person responsible for the account so tenants could have running water. That was enough to force the Utilities Commission to meet with advocates and start working on getting the water turned on. Even then, when the legal process was complete, the Utilities Commission stalled until Wednesday night to send someone to turn it on for residents. A representative from the Utilities Commission stated ” So what, what another night without water?”

Our response: Another night without justice! Residents finally got the service back on in less than 24 hours. Due to the major oversight of responsible parties in this incident, residents are owed up to triple pay in rent plus damages . This was a small but powerful example of how solidarity makes all the difference in winning. One resident asked “What does it take for people like me to get justice?” Our response: Whatever it takes, we’ll be there!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

On July 2nd 2009 at 2pm, Senator Bill Nelson's office saw a little under one hundred people from a broad variety of community groups, unions and organizations chanting for a public option with healthcare available to Floridians and all American citizens. SEIU, AFL-CIO, and Jobs with Justice organized this rally with support from ACORN, the Florida Alliance of Retired Americans, UCF-SLAP, LCLAA, the Seminole Democrats and various members of different union members from across Florida.

These Floridian citizens spoke out about their own experiences and the experiences of their family and friends with our current healthcare system. Betsy Marville, a healthcare worker told her story: "I was in a hospital with a kidney infection, on antibiotics and unemployed, did not qualify for Medicaid and did not have the money to see a doctor or pay for any of my antibiotics. I got another job, but was soon fired because I was ill." Brother David Fitzgerald from UA local 295 told the story about his mother who died from heart failure for the sole reason of not being able to for her medicine. There were many more even more compelling stories that were told over the PA system for everyone to relate to. These stories were heard by the Orlando Sentinel and News 13 who came out to cover the event. Once people shared their stories a delegation of 12 retirees, health workers, and union members met with the staff of Nelson. Their meeting lasted for over an hour supported with the chants and honks for the rally constantly being heard by those in the office. Also, the delegation gave Nelson's office 5,000 signed letters of personal healthcare stories.

Despite the rally and the letters, Nelson's staff were persistent with their stand that Nelson is not signing anything at this present moment and that more people are encouraged to show their support for a public option.

The oppositional group, the 'teabaggers' protested the following day outside Senator Nelson's office, Grayson's and Kosmos's to encourage these senates not to support a public option. With 12 weeks till Congress go on recess, we have to continue rallying and showing our support for the next step towards universal healthcare.

Below is the link to the online write-up for the rally:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Orlando activists welcome a sweatfree NBA!

With the recent Orlando excitement with the Magic making it to the NBA basketball final against the L.A. Lakers, United Students against Sweatshops visited from all over the country to educate the Orlando community about where the NBA basketballs come from.

The NBA has a deal with the Russell Corporation for their merchandise and products. Why is it that the NBA, home of the most influential and inspirational basketball players in the US, works with the one corporation that repeatedly violated national and international labor laws? The Russell Corporation manufactures athletic apparel and equipment for hundreds of sports teams, sports organizations, colleges, universities and high schools. They have already had their factory in Jerzees de Honduras closed down due to the mass of reports about labor violations, illegal firings, and even death threats made against the employees. Another reason for the factory’s closure was because the workers organized against poor sweatshop conditions, but that backfired with 1,800 people becoming jobless.

Students of USAS took the NBA’s biggest event of the year, the NBA finals, to shed light on the real truth behind the NBA. There were students from all over the country, from Pennsylvania, Boston, and California flying and driving down in time for the first Orlando game of the final. That night USAS decided to just get their name out there and hand out leaflet’s about their organization and the relationship between NBA and Russell. They faced much hostility from not only the civilians but also the police. Therefore, as drastic times call for drastic actions, for the second home game

Students of USAS took the NBA’s biggest event of the year, the NBA finals, to shed light on the real truth behind the NBA. There were students from all over the country, from Pennsylvania, Boston, and California flying and driving down in time for the first Orlando game of the final. That night USAS decided to just get their name out there and hand out leaflet’s about their organization and the relationship between NBA and Russell. They faced much hostility from not only the civilians but also the police.

And for the final game in Orlando (and unfortunately the final game of the finals) USAS joined with SLAP at UCF and Jobs with Justice to loudly and visibly protest outside the arena. What I mean by loudly is about 20 people chanting "M-A-G-I-C Make the N-B-A Sweat-Free' and a couple of drums in the background to keep up the beat of the protest. The visual aspect came with the 10 feet tall puppet of David Stern in a suit with the sign "All about Greed" hung around his neck - it was so popular people had their photo with it! Many Magic fans showed interest in our cause, even the Laker's fans! They felt that they were enlightened on an issue hidden from them.

Overall, having USAS come down to this area was so liberating to see how these students traveled hundreds of miles to fight for the rights of worker's not to suffer poor working conditions. Also, it showed me how disconnected people in Orlando are from the real issues of the world. There's this phenomenon called the 'hundredth-monkey' effect whereby one group of monkey's with a new learned behaviors would instantaneously spread onto other people outside the group. The people of Orlando were confronted with a group of students against sweatshops, and with enough people to follow their beliefs there will be an instant where everyone will realize that we are all affected by sweatshop labor.