Good morning! To update my last post, the Chicago Teachers Union — some 26,000 teachers and support staff — has gone out on strike today. They are striking for themselves — for previously promised raises and decent health coverage, against being overworked by longer hours and larger class sizes — and also for their students — for “elective” courses such as art and gym and music, and for educational support such as librarians and social workers. You’d bet that mayor Rahm Emanuel’s children and the children of the Chicago School Board members attend schools that have all that and more. All of Chicago’s public school students certainly deserve the same. (Rahm, by the way, should be ashamed of himself. His mother, a union organizer, is probably rolling in her grave.)
If you are in Chicago, join a picket! Some handy person has mapped them all out, but I hear you can’t swing a cat in Chicago this morning without hitting some striking teachers. If you don’t have the time, but maybe have some financial resources, donate to the strike fund. Or stop by a picket with coffee and snacks. I’m sure the teachers will appreciate it. Also, as my fellow people’s librarian from Chicago, Rachel Allshiny, herself an unemployed teacher, notes on Twitter (follow her: @allshiny), “My parents raised me to never cross a picket line. But for some of these kids it’s the only way they’ll get breakfast.” And lunch, for that matter. Emptier schools will make for a more effective strike, so if you have folks in your neighborhood who need childcare, or kids who take free or reduced price meals at school, step up and help out. If supporters could take in children for weeks and months during the Lawrence textile mill strike a hundred years ago, you can surely make a couple sandwiches.
Here in NYC, we’ll be gathering at Union Square at 5pm this evening for a show of solidarity. (And inspiration? A girl can dream.)
Along with the start of the school year, it’s also the start of football season. I love football! If you google hard enough, you might be able to find pictures of yours truly at age 12 in pads and jersey and with a ponytail hanging out the back of a helmet. (As a side note, I especially love the Green Bay Packers, which is the only community-owned pro sports team in the US. And the only one to release all its financial information every year. And it’s against NFL rules for other teams to organize like this.) But if you’ve been watching pre-season games or this weekend’s season openers, you may have noticed that the calls were less than stellar. The NFL’s regular referees are locked out, a tactic I’ve previously written about that is being used by owners against workers with more and more frequency. In their place, the league has hired scabs up from Div II & III college ball, high schools, and sundry other leagues. (It just kills me that Shannon Eastin, the first woman to ref in the NFL, is a scab.)
There’s a lot to be said about this — how meeting all the refs’ demands would cost the league very little money, how the replacements’ collective lack of experience may endanger the players of a sport that has been paying increasing attention to long-term dangers of concussions and other impact injuries. Other people have spilled a lot of ink over all that. I’ll just say that I won’t be watching any games, and neither should you, until the refs’ demands are met and the lockout is over. If any NFL players happen to be reading, especially any Packers, or from teams in other old union towns — I’m looking at you, Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, and Pittsburgh Steelers — I suggest you get on the right side of history and start vociferously supporting your referees.
Here in New York we had an important victory just last week. On the Upper East Side, Hot and Crusty fired and locked out a couple dozen workers after they unionized and won improvements in wages and working conditions. Rather than not being a jerk, the owner closed up shop. Workers and allies occupied the place until the cops showed up and arrested a few people. Then they started picketing, running a cafe on the sidewalk, and holding a tough line against half-assed offers. As of now, workers’ demands have all been met, and Hot and Crusty is scheduled to reopen; let’s all keep an eye on this — the picket will continue until the owner follows through.
Last, but not least, some of New York City’s car wash employees are getting organized. Like the Hot and Crusty employees, many car wash workers are immigrants, often undocumented, which makes it easier for owners to exploit them, through fear of la migra. Let’s be ready to step up and lend some solidarity as these workers, too, start demanding their rights and dignity.
ETA: In international news, more and more miners, now more than 40,000, are striking in South Africa.
ETA: As of Wednesday, 9/12, teachers in Lake Forest, Ill., a suburb to the north of Chicago, and not part of the Chicago school system, have also gone out on strike. It sounds like they’re having a rough time of it, so any support from folks out that way would be appreciated, I’m sure. Lake Forest has a very different demographic profile from Chicago, being very white and very wealthy. With a median household income about three times that of the national average, residents should probably STFU about teachers wanting to be well-compensated for the valuable work they do.
ETA: It’s still Wednesday, and I’ve got more labor news! Workers at a warehouse in Mira Loma, California, that subcontracts with Walmart — and we all know how shitty Walmart’s labor record is — have walked off, after Walmart wouldn’t even come to the table to discuss wages, working conditions, and retaliation for previous organization attempts. In coming days they will be walking the 50 miles to Los Angeles to take up the issue with Walmart’s executives.
…but, I love a good strike.
ETA: Strike starts Sept. 10 unless a contract is negotiated in the meantime. Go read some more of the CTU blog, as well; it’s got lots of good stuff, such as advice that Teach for America teachers can strike along with their comrades.
And as the new school year approaches, it looks like Chicago’s public school teachers and other educational professionals (like school librarians, ahem) might be going out. Tomorrow they will file their 10-day strike notice. That doesn’t mean that they’ll definitely strike, but it does mean the option is definitely on the table. 90% voted to authorize a strike earlier this summer.
Wages, hours, and conditions of course. In this case a main issue is that the same number of teachers were being asked to cover an extended school day and larger class sizes. They seem to have made headway on that, but contract details have not been all straightened out yet. Also up for discussion are student services and what some might call elective or non-essential courses and activities — music, art, recess & P.E., libraries, etc. — aspects of education that are seen as essential to wealthy and high-performing schools, but somehow are always negotiable in poor schools. This, my friends, is one of the many way in which the playing field is not level, in which equal opportunity is not available, and in which inequality is perpetuated.
So, let’s see some support for our sisters and brothers in Chicago, trying to maintain fair working conditions in their public school system, so that they can best serve their hundreds of thousands of students.
A friend of the library sends along the following call for papers:
ANARCHISM: THEORY, PRACTICE, ROOTS, CURRENT TRENDS
Science & Society is planning a special issue on the broad theme of anarchism, as appearing in both past and present-day political movements. While contributors will of course shape the content and perspectives of the issue as it develops, we especially encourage contributions within the following subject areas:
1. The nature of anarchist theory and practice, from the standpoint of historical materialism. Anarchism as a laboratory for the study of the material roots of ideology. Does the existing body of anarchist writing contribute to Marxist understandings of the state? Of the nature of ruling-class hegemony? Of the balance between spontaneity and organization in the struggles of working and oppressed classes and strata? Of transformations in capitalism related to globalization, neoliberalism, financialization, cognitive commodities, creative labor, etc.?
2. The classical roots of anarchist thought in the works of Bakunin, Kropotkin, Emma Goldman, and others, especially in relation to the position of Marx and Engels in the International Working Men’s Association and the individual-country working-class movements of the 19th century.
3. The specific features of present-day anarchist thought. Survey of books, journals, websites, blogs. The role of new information technologies in contemporary social and political debate.
4. Anarchism in today’s new social movements: the anti- and counter-globalization protests; the uprising against the WTO, Seattle, 1999; the World Social Forum and its regional and national counterparts; and the present-day Occupy movement, in the United States and internationally. What is the nature of anarchism’s influence, and how has it evolved? How is anarchism conceptualized in today’s Occupy movement, and how do these conceptions differ from classical anarchism?
5. Anarchism and “black shirt” practices on the left, old and new, from the 19th century to the Spanish Civil War, to the 1960s peace movements and up to the present. How central is anarchist theory to these practices? Can it be separated from them?
6. The relation between anarchism and libertarianism. Does anarchist thought transcend the distinction between political right and left? Does anarchism have a distinctive post-capitalist vision?
While we expect contributors to innovate and shape their papers according to specific interests and views, we encourage them to contact the Guest Editors (email parameters provided below), so that completeness of coverage can be achieved, and duplication avoided, to the greatest extent possible.
We are looking for articles in the 7,000-8,000 word range. Projected publication is Spring 2014, so we would like to have manuscripts in hand by January 2013. Discussion about the project overall, and suggestions concerning content, should begin immediately.
The Guest Editors are: Russell Dale (firstname.lastname@example.org); Justin Holt (email@example.com); and John P. Pittman (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Your dear People’s Library, aside from summering as Governor’s Island, has also moved (for the time being, at least) to the Paul Robeson Freedom School.
We’ve been slowly trundling books and other materials across the bridge to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and three of us moved the very last bit this past weekend. Now it’s all in and we’re working on organization. Your librarians are all super stoked to have the collection be accessible and usable once again.
Drop in this Wednesday, July 25, for the Freedom School’s community night, from 5 to 9 pm. See what’s cooking with the school and maybe borrow a book or three. Know some young people who aren’t doing much this summer? The school still has room for students.
This summer the People’s Library has partnered with Superfront and artist collective DADDY in a project called the Library of Immediacy. Superfront challenged designers to create a semi-outdoor structure for our library within a set of strict parameters in a two-hour charrette that took place on June 10, 2012.
One of the aims of the project is to explore the notion of the library: to create and promote engagement, prompt collaboration and participation within a temporary public space–some of what we at the People’s Library do best! The project will serve as an evolving art installation, a functioning library and a welcoming gathering place.
Here are details about the winning design. The structure is currently being built for us on Governor’s Island–we plan to move a portion of the collection in to the space in the next few weeks.
The library will be open on Governor’s Island weekends from July 21st through September 23rd. Check back here for details about library programming and info on the opening party.
From the NYTimes this morning (and if the Grey Lady has bothered to say something about a problem, you know it must be really bad).
In short: colleges — especially top-tier four-year colleges — have gotten vastly more expensive; non-loan financial aid covers a decreasing percent of costs; students from lower income brackets have seen only slight increases in college graduation rates, while upper brackets have had sky-rocketing graduation rates; and all this has happened while the value, in terms of likely income, of a college degree has also risen sharply. That is, a college degree is literally worth more, and is harder for low income students to attain.
For those of us who have been to college lately — or maybe who haven’t been able to due to costs — this is no surprise. It is particularly galling that some of the highest-ranked schools in the country are perpetuating these problems. If they cared enough, these schools could be making the biggest dent, because they have the most money. They could aggressively seek talented students from lower economic classes and fund those students’ educations. These school can afford it. Very few, though, truly step up to the plate. Harvard had a $32 billion endowment in 2011. Last year Harvard spent $160 million on scholarships, but the endowment grew by $4.4 billion; they could have spent twice as much on scholarships and hardly noticed the difference. And doubling the amount given in scholarships would mean that an entirely different demographic — one with a lower income — could attend, without even compromising on supposed quality of student, because, as shown in the above Times article, those students are out there. If Harvard wanted it to be so, they could do it. Yale, by the way, follows up with the second-largest endowment, at $19.4 billion in 2011. (Even my own alma mater, a women’s college with fewer than 3,000 students, has an endowment of over a billion dollars. I, by the way, graduated college, with about $20,000 in student loans (admittedly not all from that institution, as I spent my first three semesters elsewhere).)
Some schools — including Harvard (I’m only a very little bit sorry for being so mean to Harvard) — have “no-loan” policies. Which is nice of them. But if the average student doesn’t really need that much, relatively speaking, in financial aid — only 60% of Harvard students receive aid — it’s kind of a bullshit policy. It takes a pretty high family income to not receive any financial aid at all, well above the U.S. median family income. The median household income, by the way, is currently about the same as, if not less than, the cost of some of these schools. This is an historic novelty — in 1970, Harvard cost less than half the median household income.
Blah blah blah, investments, blah blah blah, earning interest, blah. Non-profit colleges (for-profit colleges are another beast, and oh boy, don’t get me started) such as those we are talking about here spend very little of their endowments. There are some complications, such as when donors allocate the funds they give to a specific area, be it scholarships or a building or library books or what-have-you, but the amount spent hovers around 5%, while growth is around 10%. Excess is reinvested.
It’s this reinvestment that’s the problem. For an institution like Harvard, which has such a huge endowment, so far ahead of even the second largest university endowment (reminds me of the US’s military expenditures), what is the purpose of reinvesting and focusing so heavily on growing that already massive fund? At my own undergraduate institution, when the endowment broke $1 billion, friends and I wondered what it was for, when so many institutions were perfectly functional on much less. Why were we taking out student loans to fund our education, when our beloved college had so much money?
Let me wrap this up, and bring it back to the Occupation. One of the things we do at the Occupation is to imagine ways in which the current structures, which are not working for so many people, could be recreated to serve us all better. One of those structures is higher education. There’s no reason why college and university endowments have to function the way they do. They could spend more and reinvest less, and even still grow while doing it. Top colleges and universities could recruit outstanding students from lower socio-economic classes, and so facilitate economic justice. Fund managers, college presidents, boards of trustees, and other individuals and groups are empowered to think outside the box and make these choices. That so few have yet to do so means only one thing: that they don’t want to. As I always say, yes, this is class warfare, but we here at the Occupation sure didn’t start it.
I love it when bits of information come together serendipitously. This morning the ALA sent me an email and a friend made a Facebook post, and now you all have a (potentially) useful blog post about…
PRIVACY ON THE INTERNET!
Anyhow, the ALA alerted me to Choose Privacy Week, being held May 1-7. They say,
We live in an age when knowledge is power. New technologies give us unprecedented access to information. They also facilitate surveillance, with the power to collect and mine personal information.
People enjoy the convenience of having information at their fingertips. But most people don’t realize the trade off. For example, citizens turn a blind eye to the fact that online searches create traceable records that make them vulnerable to questioning by the FBI, or that government agencies can track their phone calls, airline travel, online purchases, and more.
As political activists, we are probably a little more aware of these problems than the average citizenry, even if we don’t really know what to do about it. Since some of our comrades have started getting visits from the authorities, maybe we should lend the issue a little more thought.
Anyway, there’s this: DuckDuckGo. A librarian friend brought it to my attention this morning. It’s a search engine that claims to offer pretty good privacy (friend says, “No saved and reported searches, no IP addresses, no sent and stored cookies, and no ads. Plus it’s adorable.”). It also seems to return search results that are nearly as good as, if not as good as, Google’s.
Now, I don’t know how true these claims are, but my computer-y folks seem to think it’s pretty good — one programmer friend uses it as his default search tool, but notes that since large swaths of the rest of the internet uses Google Analytics or Ads, you still have to deal with being tracked from that end. A public librarian friend says she recommends it to patrons who are doing “sensative” or “potentially illegal” searching.
Anyway, I wanted to throw that out there and crowd-source a bit. If you’ve never heard of it, give it a whirl. Those who’ve used it, what do you think? And, does anyone know of other, similarly useful tools?
Unlike the literature of Occupy Wall Street, the publishers of these newspapers did not have the benefits of digitization and the Internet to preserve and disseminate their information. Many of these papers would have been lost to history if not for the leaders of the Underground Press Syndicate (UPS) who had the foresight to preserve as many of them as possible. In 1970, Tom Forcade, Head of UPS at the time, formed a deal with the Bell & Howell Company to film the underground papers. This was an ongoing project that continued until 1985. The UPS partnered with the Bell & Howell Company to microfilm hundreds of underground newspapers and newsletters. The result is the UPS Underground Newspaper Collection which, according to a catalog record in WorldCat, is currently housed in 110 (primarily academic) libraries. There have been some efforts to digitize select underground newspapers. For example, Georgia State University has recently digitized all issues of the Great Speckled Bird and made them freely accessible on the Georgia State University Library Digital Collections Web site. Likewise, Liberation News Service is in the process of making LNS packets available from the Liberation News Service Archive. The It’s About Time: Black Panther Party Legacy & Alumni Web site also provides an archive of the Black Panther Party Intercommunal News Service. All issues of The Realist, a satirical newspaper, founded by Paul Krassner, are available from The Realist Archive Project. Although, some consider the Los Angles Free Press to be the first counterculture paper, many include The Realist which predates them all, having been founded in 1958. The Ann Arbor District Library has digitized all issues of the Ann Arbor Sun, from 1967-1976, on their Free John Sinclair Web site. The Sun was founded by John Sinclair. Also available on this Web site are some really cool photos and audio recordings.
On February 28th at 6:30 p.m. at 20 Cooper Square, N.Y.U.’s Program in Museum Studies and Fales Library and Special Collections at Bobst Library will be sponsoring an exhibit on the East Village Other titled “It’s Happening: “Blowing Minds” a Celebration of the East Village Other.” Although not freely available, libraries should consider purchasing the CD-ROM digital re-creation of The San Francisco Oracle which provides access to all twelve issues published. Although the Oracle is included in the UPS Underground Newspaper Collection on microfilm, the CD-ROM version provides access to the paper in color. Viewing the Oracle in black and white is like looking at a rainbow without color. Many terrific books have been written about the underground press. Click here for a “Free Handout” which provides a bibliography on such books, including authors cited in this essay, as well as two excellent recently-published titles; Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America by John McMillian and Sean Stewart’s On the Ground: An Illustrated Anecdotal History of the Sixties Underground Press in the U.S.
An interesting thought to end this entry on the UPS Underground Newspaper Collection is that, while scholars today are able to access many articles and newspapers online through databases and on the Web, the hundreds of papers which are not there still exist and only exist because of Thomas King Forcade’s efforts to have them microfilmed. Vendors, aggregated databases, and giant publishing conglomerates dictate what scholars and students are able to instantly access today. Because there is not enough demand for the UPS Underground Newspaper Collection (don’t confuse this with Alt-Press Watch) the vendor which holds the rights to the resource does not currently have any plans to digitize this Collection. Strangely, the very principles the underground press fought adamantly against, commercialization and allowing themselves to be co-opted, are the very reasons it has not entered the digital world. The powers that be just don’t consider the collection to have monetary potential. Perhaps it is up to us, the people, to protect and promote this collection. From their moldy, yellowed, microfilm tombs, it’s time to bring the UPS Underground Newspaper Collection back to life. Promote it. Use it. Demand it. Digitize it?
As many of you may have already heard The People’s Library in solidarity with Occupy Tucson recently launched an action called Operation Book Bomb Tucson. In response to the disgraceful decision of the Tucson Unified School District to end the ten-year old Mexican-American Studies program, and to ban books from the school curriculum The People’s Library is holding a series of teach-ins/book drives to support the Mexican-American community both in Tucson and throughout the U.S. We are collecting copies of the seven banned texts as well as Spanish language books, books on Mexican history, and books on Latino culture to ship out to the students and teachers of Tucson. We want to let the Mexican-American community know that we are not indifferent to their struggles, and to let the Tucson Unified School District know that a threat to educational freedom somewhere is a threat to educational freedom everywhere. Here is how you can help us.
We have received some generous donations of books from publishers throughout the U.S. including Arte Público Press, NYU Press, and The Southwest Organizing Project. Follow these links and you can ship us copies of the seven banned books to add to our book bomb. We want to ship as many copies of them as we can out to the students and teachers of Tucson. The first two books listed can be purchased at 50% off thanks to the good people at Arte Público. Just let them know you are purchasing books for Operation Book Bomb Tucson! We encourage you to support publishers and your local independent bookstores with your purchases, but if you need to shop elsewhere online, we’ve also provided some links to Powell’s Books. Click the links below to purchase any of the titles below.
Message to Aztlán by Rodolfo Gonzales
Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement by F. Arturo Rosales
Critical Race Theory by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic
500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures by Elizabeth Martinez
Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
Rethinking Columbus by Bill Bigelow and Bob Peterson
Occupied America: A History of Chicanos by Rodolfo Acuña from Powell’s Books
All books can be shipped to:
The UPS Store
Re: Occupy Wall Street
Attn: The People’s Library/Operation Tucson
118A Fulton St. #205
New York, NY 10038
Additionally we will be holding book donation drives and teach-ins here in New York City. Our first book donation event will be held at the next Occupy Town Square on Sunday, February 26 in Tompkins Square Park from 11AM to 5PM.
Our second event will be held at Word Up Community Bookshop, 4157 Broadway @ 176th St in Washington Heights on Thursday, March 1, from 7PM-9PM
featuring special guest speaker Chris Hedges. Please bring any books to these two events that you would like to donate to Operation Book Bomb Tucson. Keep those books coming and we will update you on our progress here. Thank you for supporting us and for supporting educational freedom everywhere.