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Resisting collaboration from within: IBM workers against Trumpism


The tech industry likes to maintain a progressive reputation even when its policies increase inequality across the country. Yet after Donald Trump’s election, tech executives lined up to express willingness to work with Trump’s administration. For tech employees, this disconnect between the values that the companies preach in public and the values expressed by Trump has led them to begin organizing in their workplaces, demanding that their employers not collaborate with the president and using this moment as an opportunity to push the companies to live up to those values of diversity and inclusion. I spoke with Daniel Hanley and Sesha Baratham, workers at IBM who have begun just such a campaign.

Sesha Baratham: Apart from the general values, when Trump released that executive order, the Muslim ban and IBM’s response was corporate gibberish, it just felt like that was something very obvious that IBM could have stood up and spoken up against. As an immigrant, it just happens that I had to renew my green card and one of the questions they ask is “What category of green card holder are you?” I looked it up and it was “highly skilled worker.” I saw that IBM said in one of their statements that they were reaching out to all of their employees who were affected, but I think that is self-interested and I felt that IBM cannot protect its own workers if it doesn’t also stand up for everyone who is affected by it. I was really disappointed by that.

To me, it feels like tech workers have in the past been very privileged in a way. They have comparatively well-paid jobs and more security than other areas, but I think even tech workers now are really feeling the crunch of the economy and uncertainty about their own futures and livelihoods. I know I, myself, am in my late fifties and I have been at IBM for a long time. Over that time, I have started to be more and more insecure about my job and whether the company really has my interests in mind at all in whatever they do. My sense is that they don’t.

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A new definition of safety, with Rosi Carrasco


As movements continue to come together in the wake of Trump’s election, one important intersection between communities has been the issue of policing. Can a city be a “sanctuary” if it allows discriminatory and violent policing in poor communities and communities of color day in and day out? Rosi Carrasco has been an immigrants rights organizer in Chicago for years and is now part of a new coalition coming together to broaden the definition of “sanctuary,” as well as to build toward May 1’s general strike.

We are working together in different areas. One is of course the city policies of Chicago. We have this city ordinance that this ordinance has four exceptions or carve-outs, the police could call ICE if people have a criminal warrant or is in the gang database, In those cases, police could call ICE. This is something that we want to make sure that if the City of Chicago is calling itself a Welcoming City or sanctuary city, we need to make sure that there is no encounter with the police. The other thing is that when we talk about the safety of communities, we know that we no longer can believe just in the police because not only Latino or poor communities or undocumented communities have been criminalized, but also Black community, poor people in Black communities. So we are working together trying to redefine the concept of safety and, of course, to change the Welcoming City ordinance.

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Real talk on abortion access and reproductive justice with Eesha Pandit


Feminism–and debates over what it means–have been central to the movement known broadly as “the resistance.” But around the country, attacks on abortion rights continue, in the states and in the federal government. Those attacks, longtime organizer Eesha Pandit says, are part of the larger worldview of Mike Pence and his cronies. Now based in Houston, Texas, Pandit has been part of new organizing that connects attacks on abortion to attacks on trans people’s rights to use the restroom; connects immigrants rights to LGBTQ rights and sees different communities showing up for one another.

Those coalitions that came together to form those electoral victories are now working together in the resistance. One of the things that you will see is folks from the LGBT community and from the racial justice advocacy community showing up to lobby and to speak and to testify against the anti-immigrant bill and vice versa. It’s one of the most beautiful things that is happening in the Texas Legislature now, and it is really satisfying to see the shock on the legislators faces when they are like, “Wait, what are you doing here? You are not an undocumented immigrant. What are you doing here to talk about this?” and things like, “What are all these folks doing here to support reproductive justice?” It is really kind of amazing to see that happening.

By necessity, folks in red states have to organize intersectionally. That is just a truth that some of those organizers, in particular, know, because of critical mass and issues being connected and common enemies, etc. It is really amazing to see that resistance happening now in Texas and to see it happening intentionally and specifically and to be actually building momentum. That a Texas legislature actually puts the bathroom bill and the anti-immigrant bill at the top of their agenda and it has been the testimony that people came to offer that has shelved, I think at least the anti-immigrant bill, at least for the time being. Texas’s legislature meets only every two years for like twenty-five minutes or something. It is really an acute period of time that we are in this ring with them. It is hard to know how it will all shake out now, but there has been an inordinate amount of pressure and that pressure has been intersectional. That is really a singular sense of hope for us in Texas.

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Beyond the Clean Power Plan to real power, with Jordan Estevao

Donald Trump wants to destroy the planet–that’s often how it feels, but never more than when he’s dismantling protections against the ravages of climate change. On Tuesday Trump’s latest executive order dropped, opting out of the Clean Power Plan and removing other regulations designed to mitigate against climate crisis. Trump did so with a group of coal miners at his back, but his plan actually will do little to help those coal miners. I spoke with Jordan Estevao of People’s Action, a network of community organizations with a climate justice program that comes out of its organizing in directly-affected communities.

There are multiple states that had no plans to comply anyway. Actually, since last summer it has kind of been in limbo, the regulation, because as Antonin Scalia’s final act as a Supreme Court Justice he and the Court issued a stay on the order, which has left the states that wanted to keep on complying on track and some states waiting to see what happens. But, there is still lots of potential to win good policies. Our Illinois affiliates, Illinois People’s Action and Fair Economy Illinois, just recently passed the Illinois Future Energy Jobs Act which is going to double Illinois’ renewable energy production. It is going to invest between $500 and $750 million in low income communities for energy efficiency, renewable energy, job training, so that low-income people can get into that kind of work, and so on.

I think what a lot of folks on the right and in the Trump administration are missing is that the transition to clean energy, to energy efficiency actually could be a huge economic driver and a way to revitalize our economy, especially since the coal industry is already going under. It is already being undercut by fracking and low oil prices. Coal companies have been going bankrupt at a really high clip with no end in sight. He is not going to bring those jobs back. There is no bringing them back. What we do need to do is figure out where we can invest so that we can start to rebuild an economy that actually puts people to work and also is good for our environment and slows climate change.

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Running the movement for office, with khalid kamau


In the wake of the massive political shake-up that was the 2016 election, khalid kamau, a Bernie Sanders supporter and local movement activist, makes the argument that change has to come from below, not from the election of one leader to the top office. Accordingly, he’s running for local office, in the newly-incorporated city of South Fulton, Georgia, part of the greater Atlanta metropolitan area. A member of Democratic Socialists of America, a union activist, and an early part of BlackLivesMatter Atlanta, kamau argues for bringing the message of democratic socialism to a Southern, majority-African-American city.

I think the thing that is most powerful about this race, or even my campaign, is that I love Bernie, but I think where his campaign failed – I don’t think this is a personal failure of Bernie, but perhaps of the people that were around him and advising that campaign – is that there wasn’t enough attention paid to people of color. I am not sure that people of color who were in that campaign were listened to the way they should have been. Bernie didn’t make—he made a very excellent class argument. I think it is implied that people of color are more disproportionately affected by class disparities than whites. I think there was an assumption that people of color would understand that and would understand that the arguments that he was making about class and equality were implicitly also arguments about racial inequality.

I think that, frankly, because Bernie was an old white man, black folks, people of color, did not implicitly get that he was speaking to them. I did think he was speaking to them, but I am not sure everyone else did. One of the things that the progressive movement is going to have to do is find leaders of color and candidates of color to carry this message. When I speak about it, rightly or wrongly, when I am talking about income equality and when I am talking about working class families, the black and brown audiences that I speak to do implicitly get that I am speaking to them and that I am speaking for them and that I am speaking about them. I don’t necessarily go around making a lot of racial arguments. I think that my bona fides of BlackLivesMatter speak volumes about my own racial politics and that I can make these arguments of class and people of color get, because this city is 89% African-American and because I am African-American, people know that I am talking about them.

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Rich man’s war, poor man’s fight, with Rory Fanning

Donald Trump’s budget slashes social programs while inflating an already-massive military budget, meaning that for many people in already-underserved and underemployed communities, the military will be the closest thing to a welfare state they have. Rory Fanning is a veteran and conscientious objector, author of the book Worth Fighting For: An Army Ranger’s Journey Out of the Military and Across America, and his work centers on opposing U.S. militarism at home. He is also the co-author, with Craig Hodges, of the new book Long Shot: The Triumphs and Struggles of an NBA Freedom Fighter. We spoke about opposing Trump’s military buildup, the roles that veterans and athletes can play in movements for change, and the long tradition of imperialism in the U.S.

Recognize that people do the best with the information they have access to and most people think that the U.S. is fighting for freedom and democracy around the world and they sign up with very good intentions. I think a lot of people are disillusioned by what they actually see when they are overseas. One of the things I say when I actually do have a chance to talk to high school students here in Chicago, because it is very difficult, is just, “Thank you for allowing me to do it.” There is very little space for veterans to come back and tell their stories. There is a lot of patting on the back at sporting events and concerts and whatnot, but as far as actual space to hear the realities of war, there are next to none. Unless you have a very positive take on the last fifteen years, people don’t ask you to talk.

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Beating Trump’s budget, with Mark Price


When Donald Trump’s first partial budget proposal dropped, the Internet let out a collective howl at the size of the cuts and changes to beloved social programs. One of the results of Trump’s election has been new interest in the workings of government normally ignored by people who aren’t elected members of Congress, and so to help with that process, labor economist Mark Price joins us to talk about the budgeting process and where ordinary people have the power to disrupt it.

Basically, the president puts forward his initial budget and it now falls to Congress to hold hearings in the various committees on the president’s priorities and then form its own budget resolution. I think that points to where people can have an impact, because it is ultimately going to be the decisions that our Congressional representatives and Senators make in that next step of the budget process. They are going to be heavily influential in teasing out how much of the president’s priorities in each of these areas end up becoming law.
The president has put forward his initial proposal. As the name of the budget implies, it is skinny and both deep cuts to non-discretionary spending, but also he didn’t do a big chunk of his job which is essentially talking about the other parts of the budget. Perhaps those will be coming forward, but we have until April for Congress to step forward and put forward its own budget resolution, its own priorities and spending in each of the areas that the president had proposed.
One of the things that I am seeing, at least, is a lot of energy. People are energized particularly around healthcare. They are trying to reach out to their representatives. I live in a relatively small rural community and people are showing up at town hall meetings and giving their representatives an earful on these various priorities, like heating assistance for low income folks, Meals on Wheels. If people were to show up at town hall meetings to reach out to their members of Congress and let them know that they care about these programs, that will probably go a long way. That would probably have a great effect, certainly more than in past years.

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Native Nations Rising with Kandi Mossett


Last Friday, March 10 was the Native Nations Rising march and gathering in Washington, D.C., a coming together of water protectors and indigenous leaders and organizers from around the country. They gathered to remind the Trump administration that they were not going away and that the struggle to stop the pipelines, the “black snake,” would continue. But, says Kandi Mossett of the Indigenous Environmental Network, the gathering also allowed people to come together to refresh connections and to plan for the next steps.

I feel like it was a great success and it led people to work on all the other pipeline sites, because we do have Keystone XL back on because of Donald Trump. There are already camps. There is a camp in South Dakota already near the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. They are fighting, again, the same way they did before because the Dakota Access Pipeline encampment, all of that was a result of the success we had with Keystone XL. Now, all the people are going back to Keystone XL to continue to fight that. But there are people going to the Two Rivers Camp in Texas to fight against the Trans Pecos Pipeline which is the same company, Energy Transfer Partners. To continue to the Dakota Access Pipeline fight, a lot of people are going to Louisiana where a camp is being set up against the Bayou Bridge Pipeline. The Bayou Bridge Pipeline is the one that will connect to the Dakota Access Pipeline in Illinois so that the oil can continue to go down to Port Arthur, Texas where it will be refined and then shipped to foreign markets. It is all part of the same project. A lot of people didn’t understand that until they went to D.C. and saw the different information and made that connection that we need to continue to fight.
It is so much bigger than Standing Rock and one pipeline. In addition to that, we are arranging toxic tours and having people come to North Dakota to see the Bakken and the shale oil formation so that they can see where the oil is coming from and to help push more bans and moratoriums on fracking.

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Feminist organizing in Pence country, with Megha Anwer & Melissa Gruver

Lafayette, Indiana organizers are used to struggling with a repressive administration–they’ve dealt with successive governors who want to crack down on labor rights and women’s rights. Mike Pence, they note, was behind in the polls for re-election because of the work they had done to defeat him when he was swept up into the Trump campaign and ultimately the vice-presidency. Now “Pence country is spreading” and their organizing is getting correspondingly broader. The March 8 Women’s Strike offered them an opportunity to connect to a growing national movement.

Melissa Gruver: Our letter mentions that we are striking to reflect on the work that women have done throughout history to labor for us all. Then, to reflect on: What is our next move going forward? I think a lot of those conversations will happen here, even as we are kind of tugging away. Hearing people talk about the Affordable Care Act and sharing their own stories with that. I believe in the power of storytelling and counter-storytelling where people can connect with one another over that and raise their consciousness.

But also, for Younger Women’s Task Force, this is a really good opportunity to continue to build our base and to continue to have conversations about our own campaigns moving forward; which, right now, we have been focusing a lot on reproductive justice and sexual violence against women with an anti-racist framework. Younger Women’s Task Force is really thinking right now about strategic ways to continue to build our organization as it relates to working class women. For us, this was a really great way to connect with some people that maybe we have seen a couple of different times before–you are always thinking, “Hey, we will see you at the next meeting.”

We know that every time we do a public action like this, we gain more folks. Then, with more folks, we can strategize our organizing in the future. We are really focused on our work with Indiana Reproductive Justice Coalition right now, but we really want to make sure we are thinking about and looking to see where working class women are affected in our own local communities and our state.

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Fighting for healthcare under proto-Trump, with Cait Vaughan


The GOP dropped its “healthcare” plan this week, which seems to have pleased neither the right nor, obviously, the left. But organizers on the ground have been seeing the holes in the Affordable Care Act for years, as Cait Vaughan of the Southern Maine Workers Center notes. To move forward, simply defending the ACA won’t be enough, without understanding the human need (particularly in the time of the opioid crisis) and the ways in which the system has left many out.

The single payer movement has been around for a long, long time. There have always been people calling for a universal health program in this country. What the Healthcare is a Human Right campaign does differently, by using a human rights framework and by using not just a legislative strategy or even a ballot initiative strategy, we are trying to do true base-building that actually engages people around “What are your rights? Do you know them? Do you claim them?” Then, “Do you demand a different life based on knowing that you have human rights?”
Some single payer folks are really scared of that model. We have gotten pushback saying, “That is too bold a model. That is going to alienate the average person.” What they mean by the “average person” is probably a conservative white person who maybe doesn’t have a lot of money and maybe doesn’t have a lot of education. They are afraid that it alienates those people by saying “human rights.” What I have found is it is the opposite. For me, if I go up to someone and I just shove a policy solution at them and say, “Sign onto this” they are a lot more likely to be like, “No. Why are you talking to me like that?” You are just talking at somebody.
What we have done is engage people on values and talk to them about what they think human rights are and what it means to their lives. The response that I have gotten is that whether people have a good or negative reaction to it, they have a reaction that causes them to engage. And making such a bold claim – which is sad that it is such a bold claim, but whatever – actually gives us room to nudge people’s analysis forward.

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