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Street Spirit Volume 17, No. 09 September 2011 A publication of the American Friends Service Committee JUSTICE NEWS & HOMELESS BLUES IN THE $1.00 BAY AREA Fighting the Firings and the Workplace Raids Unions have said little, even as their own members were fired in “silent raids,” and immigrant workers have been afraid. Over the last few months, however, a wave of protest is starting to break that silence. by David Bacon BERKELEY, Calif. — When the current wave of mass firings of immigrant workers started three years ago, they were called “silent raids” in the press. The phrase sought to make firings seem more humane than the workplace raids of the Bush administration. During Bush’s eight-year tenure, posses of black-uniformed immigration agents, waving submachine guns, invaded factories across the country and rounded up workers for deportations. “Silent raids,” by contrast, have relied on cooperation between employers and immigration officials. The Department of Homeland Security identifies workers it says have no legal immigration status. Employers then fire them. The silence, then, is the absence of the armed men in black. Paraphrasing Woody Guthrie, they used to rob workers of their jobs with a gun. Now they do it with a fountain pen. Silence also describes the lack of outcry on behalf of those workers losing their jobs. No delegations of immigrant rights activists have traveled to Washington, D.C., to protest. Unions have said little, even as their own members were fired. And undocumented workers themselves have been afraid. Those working feared losing their jobs. Those already fired worried that immigration agents might come knocking on their doors at night. Over the last few months, however, a wave of protest is starting to break that silence. In Berkeley, workers facing firings at Pacific Steel Castings, the largest steel foundry west of the Mississippi, have sought community support in a fight to keep their jobs. City councils in Oakland and Berkeley have passed resolutions asking Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to back off efforts to force the company to terminate the workers. Churches and immigrant rights activists have sent her letters with the same demand. In Los Angeles, 1400 janitors marched among the Bunker Hill skyscrapers, blocking downtown traffic at lunch hour. They protested a wave of similar firings by Able Building Maintenance, California’s largest privately held building services contractor. Thousands of Los Angeles janitors and their family members have held huge protests and sit-ins in resistance to the firing of immigrant workers. David Bacon photos See Fighting the Firings page 15 Spirited Flashmob Invades S.F. Financial District Condemning Big Finance’s theft of billions of dollars, protesters marched on the union-busting Hyatt Hotel and financier Charles Schwab, then shut down Wells Fargo bank. by Carol Harvey W est Coast social justice groups from San Francisco, Portland and Los Angeles rallied with New York and Chicago allies at Union Square in a protest led by poor and working-class people on August 5. Demonstrators angrily protested Big Finance’s theft of billions of tax dollars, nationwide home foreclosures, attacks on workers’ unions, and record rates of criminalization and incarceration of poor and homeless people. This protest, organized by the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP), was part of a two-day Community Congress of civil rights and housing workshops held on August 5 and 6 at SEUI offices, 350 Rhode Island in San Francisco. The goal of the Community Congress was to broaden state, regional and nation- The Brass Liberation Orchestra led hundreds of protesters through the S.F. Financial District. al coalitions working for economic justice by laying the groundwork for a movement of immigrants, unions, homeless and housing groups made up of impoverished, marginalized and homeless people. WRAP Director Paul Boden said that this movement will address “the corporate gluttony and political corruption” “pitting us against each other to the point where we are all drowning in the sea of trickledown economics.” At Friday’s protest, Boden spoke to energetic crowds, including tourists, “We have destroyed 600,000 units of affordable housing and built 800,000 jail cells.” He pointed an accusing finger at corporate Carol Harvey photo offices. “There’s your answer!” From Union Square, hundreds of chanting marchers took part in what organizers labeled “The Great American TARP Tour,” demonstrating loudly outside the offices of the “biggest culprits.” The fired-up marchers proceeded from the See Flashmob Invades Financial page 14

Street Spirit Sept 2011

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