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Beating the Muslim Ban, with Bhairavi Desai

On January 28, as protesters rushed to airports around the country seeking to defend refugees and migrants against Trump’s travel ban, taxi drivers with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance took the protest a step further and refused to pick up fares at JFK Airport. The taxi drivers’ strike caught the imagination of the public and even spurred a massive campaign to #DeleteUber after the ride-hailing app lowered its fares in an apparent attempt to break the strike. (Uber has since apologized, repeatedly.) But the taxi workers have more to teach us than just this one action.

It was amazing to see the outpouring of support. I think people were really touched that here was a workforce on the front lines of these hateful policies and also the economic margins of what we have seen is a growing sector of the economy which is piecemealing and turning a fulltime profession into part-time gigs. People out there know that taxi drivers are really hard working and that people really struggle day to day to make ends meet. The idea that they would put their incomes on the line and it would be a workforce that is so vulnerable, particularly in these times, to surveillance and deportations and further policing, that they would be the ones to stand up. It seemed to really touch people and we were so moved by their reaction. I think it was a beautiful start to solidarity with our movement.

Certainly, there are many reasons to be critical of Uber. Uber is a pretty horrible company. It is true we have been fighting for a long time to bring attention to Uber’s economic practices and the race to the bottom that it has created. But, however people were meant to come and take a closer look at us, we are ready to accept and, hopefully, from this point forward, folks continue with the struggle.

Up at The Progressive.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. Previous interviews here.

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Breaking the deportation machine, with Maria Castro

Last week, February 8, Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos went to her yearly check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Phoenix, Arizona, something she has done every year since 2008, when she was arrested in a raid by notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio and convicted of using a fake Social Security number to work (and pay Social Security taxes that she would never be able to collect). This time, instead of being sent home to her family, she was loaded into a van and deported to Mexico, despite a group of her friends and family and supporters placing their bodies in the way of the van. Her 14-year-old daughter had to pack her things for her; she, along with her brother and father, would be staying behind. Maria Castro was one of the people putting her body on the line to try to prevent Garcia de Rayos’s deportation, and she talks here about what will be necessary to prevent more families like Garcia de Rayos’s from being split up.

It is important to be grounded in community first and foremost. I think it is very easy to identify an action. Like one we did a couple of years ago, we jumped in front of a bus and made national news, but what is important is identifying the needs of our community. In this moment, our communities are being kidnapped out of their homes, out of workplaces, off the street, and we need to do whatever is necessary to protect them and make sure that we are being safe and bold and brave and in some spaces, depending on the conditions, in some of the more liberal states, you may be able to do more and you should do more. That is what is required of us. In some places, it may look like sitting in front of a bus. In other places, it may look like locking down some facility. In other places, it might look like vigils and creating sanctuary spaces. It all depends on the setting, but what is vital and necessary is that you do something.

Up at Truthout.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. Previous interviews here.

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Criminalizing dissent in “middle America,” with David Goodner


The news that several bills that would make certain protest tactics into felonies has sparked fears of a crackdown on dissent, but Iowa organizer David Goodner says it has also sparked organizing in response.

Stuff like what happened at Berkeley, that is going to be controversial. I think we also have to realize, at least in that sense, confrontation won. When we went to the airports all over the country and confronted and there was really the risk of shutting down these major airports, these major centers, again, of economic activity, we won major concessions from the Trump administration on his bad policy. The Women’s March, having millions of people in the streets, there may not have been a clear cut victory, but I think it did energize and mobilize people to realize that we can win when we stick together, when we develop a mass movement strategy, and when we fight like hell.

We need to take that just as seriously as we take the concerns about property destruction or about people with masks on and how that might look to Middle America, as well. I think people here in Iowa want to stand with somebody who they know is fighting for them. They are not going to care so much about ideology if they can see that there is a movement that has their back and is going to defend their interests. People are going to sign up and join it.

Up at Truthout.

Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. Previous interviews here.

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Standing Rock is everywhere, with Judith LeBlanc


Judith LeBlanc of the Native Organizers Alliance spoke at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. and remains part of the movement taking the resistance at Standing Rock around the country, from divestment campaigns in Seattle to a Native-led March on Washington coming soon.

No matter how strong capitalism seems to be, it is inherently full of contradictions and therefore masses of people, when organized, even if not the majority, can have an impact. We have organized this alliance, joined a coalition that involved many, many groups – faith groups, as well as divestment groups and environmental groups like 350.org – in doing a serious of actions in the last few days to pressure the seventeen banks who are invested in Energy Transfer Partners to meet with the tribe. To divest, but to do so on the basis of meeting with the tribes and understanding what the issues are and the impact the pipeline can have. We have also had tremendous numbers of people, I can’t remember the figures of people who closed their personal accounts that were in some of the seventeen banks. It has given many people the ability to say, “Amen” in their personal lives, to live a life that is actually in sync with their beliefs that we all have a role to play in saving Mother Earth.

Up at Truthout.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. Previous interviews here.

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Building the power to bargain, with Ben Speight

Donald Trump played a divide-and-conquer game on working people this election cycle, attacking immigrants on the one hand while promising jobs and an end to bad trade deals on the other. But many labor leaders and organizers didn’t fall for the con. Ben Speight is organizing director of Teamsters Local 728 in Georgia, and he joined me to talk about what real worker power looks like.

We have not mobilized a national movement of workers in recent memory. If we propose a National Worker’s March on Washington or a National Workers Day of Protest, that would create the circumstances for us to really have the power to demand a halt to reforms that strip us of our rights and to demand expansion of basic workers’ rights on the job. We have the capacity to call for such actions and sustain such actions, because of our resources, to hit the corporate regime where they are the most sensitive, which is in the workplace. Overall we have to shift, both inside the labor movement and outside of it, and see the workplace as a vital political battlefield. Not just a place to post anti-Trump stickers or flyers in the break room, but to actually see it as a place that we are challenging the prerogatives of those who set Trump up.

Up at Truthout.

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Up at The Baffler.

Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. Previous interviews here.