Welcome to the February 2016 Issue of the Washington Socialist

February 2nd, 2016  / Author: woodlanham

The_Washington_Socialist1346533384

Welcome to the February 2016 issue of the Washington Socialist, the free monthly email newsletter of the Metro DC local of Democratic Socialists of America.

 

It’s a pretty full issue because it has to last through February 29. Leap Year, y’know, meaning a presidential election cycle. Maybe you heard something about that.

In fact, our February newsletter is launched in the early morning of the first day something is actually happening in the 2016 campaign, impromptu gatherings in Iowa that have been the focus of much attention and activity. The candidates and tendencies engaged in that demographically unrepresentative US state are carving out communities to act on their behalf, in Iowa and after. And we know that the cozy term “community” most often defines a group not only by what actually characterizes it — practices and similarities — but by who gets excluded, who gets “Otherized.”

This election cycle has featured the rhetoric of exclusion perhaps as much as any in memory, so it is gratifying for we socialists, who believe our concept of community is inclusive and humane, that some parts of the discourse of this election are pushing back on those terms. This issue of the newsletter has a strong focus on inclusion and its virtues, and on how much we have to learn anew, every day.

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ON THE AGENDA:
An Iowa Caucus Results Watch Party is being sponsored the evening of Feb. 1, 9 to 11, by the independent group DC for Bernie at, appropriately, the Marx Cafe, 3203 Mt. Pleasant St. NW in D.C.

The Socialist Book Group meets Sunday,  Feb. 7 to discuss Polanyi’s classic, The Great Transformation from 3-5 at the Kogod Courtyard inside the National Portrait Gallery, 8th and F Streets (Gallery Place).

Metro DC DSA members and other Bernie Sanders advocates will be flyering the first weekend of February, Saturday Feb. 6 at the Columbia Heights Metro station from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and at the Silver Spring Metro Station on Sunday, Feb. 7 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can find out more on our Meetup page entry about the event. Check our Meetup page periodically for further announced opportunities for this kind of socialist political work.

Metro DC DSA’s Monthly Membership Meeting is Sunday, Feb. 14 at at the Cleveland Park branch library, 3310 Connecticut Ave. NW, at 2:30. The Steering Committee meets prior to the membership meeting, at 1:30. THIS IS A CHANGE from the original newsletter location, though the date remains the same.
Because all these events are subject to change, our Meetup page is the best place to stay current.

ALSO: Our allies at Jobs with Justice are bringing their national conference to DC in mid-February (the 12th and 13th)

IN THIS ISSUE
Metro DC DSA members were in the vanguard, excuse the expression, of the March for Bernie Jan. 30 that stepped off in Lafayette Park that Saturday afternoon, sunny but brisk. See photos and text
Racism and the work of countering it has been in the forefront of Metro DC DSA’s concerns, accentuated by the violent events of 2015 and the struggle of the Sanders campaign to deal with it programmatically as well. Bill Fletcher Jr., who has worked and strategized in this since well before his work on the Jesse Jackson campaigns, brought history and analysis to the Socialist Salon in January. Participants in that wide-ranging discussion recount the details of Fletcher’s talk and responses to questions. Read complete article
Being an historically (though certainly not intentionally) majority-white organization that allies itself with the struggles of people of color, DSA is in a constant process of internal education. Ingrid Goldstrom outlines the counsel that members of those organizations offer to white allies – uncomfortable or not. Read complete article
The tally of dos and don’ts from an allies organization capsulizes the “rules of the road” when working with other groups on antiracist projects. Read complete article
In a related article, Goldstrom outlines the scope of work against Islamophobia and actions in Maryland that are happening now. Read complete article
The District of Columbia and its environs are getting short-changed every time we turn around, but two recent events are particularly stinging. Walmart, which connived its way into the juiciest areas of the DC market with a promise to bring its stores and employment to some of the city’s hardest-hit communities, has now reversed itself and canceled plans to include those (no doubt less lucrative) communities. And the city, which got none of those gaudy promises in writing, is stuck with no recourse. Bill Mosley anatomizes the Walmart betrayal. Read complete article.
Howard University’s public television station, WHUT, has nourished the metro area for many years, often with programming that can’t be found on other local PBS stations. The heavy bidding for spectrum space by big telecom companies has apparently been too tempting for Howard’s administrators, who appear to have put the station’s space in the bandwidth on auction with the FCC, Carolyn Byerly relates. Read complete article
In some good news, a potential loss of nearly 700 Prince George’s County jobs in Safeway distribution centers was averted, mostly by resolute and methodical union action. Support from the community and local officials also helped win a privatization fight brought on by invasive hedge-fund thinking, as Kurt Stand details. Read complete article
The struggle for women’s reproductive rights takes different forms and has different levels of intensity in our three jurisdictions – Maryland, Virginia and the District. But as veteran activists outlined for our January membership meeting, each locale has its own pesky problems. Merrill Miller recounts the discussion. Read complete article
There is a great deal that can be done to reduce the global carbon footprint by better control of methane escaping from extraction and application, Bill Boteler explains. But the infamous, uncontrolled methane leak in California’s Porter Ranch wellhead shows how the worst effects of cost-cutting and slipshod energy management can emerge at any time to send the whole effort tumbling backward. Read complete article
“Socialism in our time” is more often spoken with an ironic twist by many of us than with any real hope of seeing the goal reached in our lifetime (despite the astonishing evolution of discourse brought on by, or illuminated by, the Sanders campaign). Maybe you don’t personally have high expectations of living to see our particular millennium, but does that mean you won’t care about what the planet looks like absent you? The DSA national office has some thought-experiments for you. Read complete article
The Maryland General Assembly is, like the rest of us, shoveling out and working to keep to its schedule. Woody Woodruff checks off some of the progressive concerns that are in play as the legislators head toward their mid-April adjournment. Read complete article
Automation has been bringing big changes to the conditions and availability of work since the beginning of the industrial revolution, but the effects of today’s advances on tomorrow’s workforce could be really, really drastic. Andy Feeney reviews a book about robots and their role in our future. Read complete article.
Starting with a strong list of grownup readings for Black History Month, our “Good Reads” bring you articles you may have missed. Read complete article
You can read these and other past articles in the Washington Socialist on our website where they are archived, dsadc.org

 

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Our readers are our best writers. Join that group and submit an article about activism you are doing or someone else is doing; reviews of important books you have read; think-pieces contributing to the left’s perennial search for a better way to explain our crisis to its victims. You are part of this conversation. Submit contributions to The Washington Socialist at a number of levels — send us nominee for “Good Reads” (they should be available online so send links); send news and notices of activism; submit articles. Send to woodlanham@gmail.com.

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    SANDERS SUPPORTERS RALLY IN DC; DSA BANNER LEADS MARCH

    January 31st, 2016  / Author: woodlanham

    Bernie march pix 1 jan 2016 med size

    The Washington Socialist <> February 2016

    By Bill Mosley

    Nearly 200 supporters of Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid gathered at chilly McPherson Square on January 30 for a march through the streets of DC to the African-American Civil War Memorial, where they held a pro-Sanders rally.

    bernie march pix 3a med size

    Metro DC DSA members Coleson Breen and Merrill Miller fire up the crowd

    Metro-DC DSA had a strong presence at the event and our banner led the march up Vermont Ave., drawing cheers from numerous spectators. Speakers at the after-march rally included DSAers Merrill Miller and Coleson Breen as well as representatives of pro-Sanders student groups in the area. Singer-songwriter Hall Williams performed at the rally, getting the crowd dancing with lyrics promising a “people’s revolution.”

    “People appeared really excited to get more involved in the work and several signed up to volunteer,” Breen said.

    To get involved in the DSA for Bernie Campaign please check out our Meetup page later this week.

    The rally had been originally scheduled for January 23 but was postponed by the snowstorm.

     

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      BILL FLETCHER BRINGS HISTORY AND ANALYSIS TO THE RACE/CLASS TANGLE

      January 31st, 2016  / Author: woodlanham

      The Washington Socialist <> February 2016

      By Woody Woodruff

      Veteran activist and author Bill Fletcher Jr., believes the Bernie Sanders campaign needs to “expand its narrative” to include concerns and question of potential supporters beyond his largely white base and beyond the perspective of his hero, the socialist Eugene Debs, that “if you solve capitalism you’ve solved it all.”

      Fletcher shared his ideas on building a new, broad Left coalition at the Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America’s Socialist Salon Jan. 28. Fletcher, a labor strategist and theoretician with deep experience in the Jesse Jackson presidential campaigns of the 1980s, spoke to a packed dining room of nearly 40 about the prospects for a left electoral strategy that addresses the immediate opportunity of the Sanders campaign but has a long-game strategy as well to match the right wing’s successful movement-building approach.

      “Here we go again on the left—we have nothing that resembles an electoral strategy,” Fletcher began. He described a cycle in which left activists work on electoral campaigns and are so alienated by the process that they immediately drop out of electoral work until the next cycle four years later, starting all over again.

      Fletcher compared the well-documented ground-game strategy of the right beginning with Richard Viguerie’s direct-mail campaigns in the 1960s after the smashing defeat of GOP presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, building state-level organizations aiming “to reverse the 20th century.” Viguerie’s approach to organizing also contributed to coalescing the conservative base that would elect Ronald Reagan in 1980.

      In contrast, for left activists electoral politics were felt to be “insufficiently revolutionary,” Fletcher recalled, with the exception of the black electoral effort in the decades following the civil rights era of the 1960s and ‘70s leading to the Jackson campaign, which was specific and had a city by city movement-building approach.

      The right had an issue focus that allowed them to use guns and abortion, e.g., to capture non-urban areas and large sections of the white working class “to build a total reactionary movement.” Unlike the left, they didn’t expect total agreement ie: gun lobby supports might not be anti-choice, anti-choice activists were expected to demonstrate for the Second Amendment.  But the right did create a narrative around which they could mobilize their otherwise disparate base.

      fletcher talk pix small

      Fletcher called right-wing populism “the herpes of politics” because it plays on elements endemic in the political system and erupts every time the system becomes compromised – whenever anxieties arise the theme (“narrative”) is the victimization of whites.

      Fletcher anatomized the mistakes of the left, playing out again in this electoral cycle:

      The Sanders campaign, he said, is creating a “narrow narrative” compared to the more inclusive Jackson campaigns. For example, Sanders’ campaign doesn’t reach important constituencies that it could and “doesn’t include the questions that many people are seeking the answers to – it’s not the full picture.” Though supporters often argue that it is a groundbreaking assault on inequalities in the capitalist system, Bernie is “dizzy with success” and doesn’t realize that doing better than expected is still not doing everything he can.

      Fletcher faulted Sanders for being in elective office for several decades but doing little to try and use his position to mobilize a broad social movement to bring the Left back into electoral politics. Additionally, he pointed to Sanders’ lack of effort to address problems of racism and sexism that cannot be explained by economics alone.

      fletcher talk pix merrill

      Sanders’ campaign references both “racist oppression and capitalist exploitation” but “some populations are way worse off [in this equation] and need more help,” Fletcher argued. Sanders talks about jobs and rebuilding the middle class, Fletcher said, but “when another policeman kills a black person, Sanders seems unable to connect the issues or address the underlying racism that still exists in the country.”

      Jackson got wild approval from white farmers and workers because he could connect their lives and issues to the broader narrative. Unlike Jackson, Sanders is not seen as “their champion” by people who are unlike him. Sanders is an inspirational “leader” but “we need an organizer” as well, Fletcher said.

      Sanders’s veneration of Eugene Debs is telling, Fletcher said. “Debs was a complicated man and the Socialist Party was [a] complicated” political formation in Debs’ day. And Debs believed “philosophically that if you solve capitalism you solve it all.” In fact there are no “common economic demands” that can unify people across race lines, Fletcher declared.

      In an article posted in August 2015 on national DSA’s Democratic Left blog, Fletcher declared: “The sort of “political revolution” that the Sanders Campaign proclaims has been a long time coming. Yet it will never arrive if there is not a full recognition that the class struggle overlaps that of racial justice. The ruling elites, for several centuries, have appreciated that race is the trip wire of U.S. politics and social movements. When will progressives arrive at the same conclusion?”

      Fletcher reflected on his early days in 1960s-‘70s politics when he opted out of electoral politics, thinking they were irrelevant. He has come to a different place after years of working in grassroots campaigns and realizing that change can only come systematically through regular involvement in the political process.

      Among questions addressed to Fletcher after his formal talk, one queried whether left activists should work with Democrats or seek an independent electoral strategy. Fletcher recommends an inside-outside strategy, because the “two-party grip” on US politics “makes it hard for a third party to emerge.” Within this strategy for the immediate campaign, Sanders’ narrative has to expand. Fletcher said dismissively that “these sectarian debates [about the Democratic Party] are not worth having any more.” Activists in this cause “don’t have to agree on everything … let’s just get people together who aren’t going to shoot at each other. … We are the left that is interested in electoral politics –even though we hate it.”

      Fletcher advocates, instead, assembling a leadership whose members can find common ground on a few key issues and outline a strategy to address them. He favors local action to get progressive candidates onto school boards, city councils, and into state legislatures – “I want us to take over Texas, take over Alabama,” he said. “The right wing has been able to convince people in places like that that the Koch brothers are their friends” when this thinking really backfires on them.

      Why has labor – where Fletcher has been engaged as a rank-and-file activist, educator and strategist much of his life– become so weak? Fletcher responded with history: “Labor was devastated” by the Taft-Hartley Act’s restrictions on organizing and by the Cold War anticommunism that stripped activists out of the union movement and reinforced Gompers-style business unionism. Coupled with the radical changes in the economy of the 70s that diverted more and more resources away from workers and into financial capitalism, the effect has been like the frog in a pot who is brought to boil incrementally without noticing his own demise.

      Asked about remedies for the right’s dominance at the state and congressional level, Fletcher counseled left unity on a scale well beyond temporary alliances created by Sanders’s advocacy of democratic socialism. Somebody, he said, “has to call a meeting” to build a real bloc for a city by city left campaign to disrupt the right’s well organized and well financed grip by striking at the heart of its power. In trying to build a bloc, he said, who gets to be at the table is more important than who calls the meeting. Fletcher’s book Solidarity Divided expands on some of those themes.

      Fletcher argued for a continued electoral strategy, a “long game” to match that of the right. He acknowledged that the chance for cross-racial unity was complicated by an “anarcho-reformist” strain within some recent, youth-driven movements like Black Lives Matter. The strategy as he described it was to engage instead in street actions that would “force elites to do what we want them to do.” BLM is resistant to talking about class because “it is a way of obscuring race” as a salient issue.

      For more of Fletcher’s views, check out his website http://billfletcherjr.com/ or tune into Arise, his weekly radio program on labor issues (WPFW – 89.3 FM – Friday mornings at 9 a.m.

      Carolyn Byerly and Kurt Stand contributed to this article.

      The Socialist Salon of Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America meets monthly over dinner to hear and discuss issues of socialist politics and analysis. Our February Salon will address Socialist-Feminism; details will be on DSA’s Meetup page which always previews our upcoming events.

       

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        Moving Toward “Walking the Walk”: Allies in the Fights Against Violence, Injustice and Intolerance

        January 31st, 2016  / Author: woodlanham

        The Washington Socialist <> February 2016

        By Ingrid Goldstrom

        Is Metro DC DSA a non-racist or anti-racist organization? How about its individual members? To answer these questions, go to The Guardian’s short video, “Are you a racist?” Basically, the clip distinguishes being non-racist (as a moral stance) from being anti-racist (action) by virtue of whether we “talk the talk” or “walk the walk.”

        One could argue that we are by and large a non-racist organization with a number of individuals doing anti-racist work. Some of us do work locally with umbrella groups such as Black Lives Matters and as members of African American-led coalitions in movements so critical to the success of the political revolution espoused by the Sanders campaign around mass incarceration, police accountability, gentrification, economic inequality, etc. Yet, in the effort to build a multi-racial anti-racist DSA, we have lots of work to do.

        If we want to expand our anti-racism work, there is no need for us to start from scratch. We can work in coalition with groups like Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ)

        SURJ is a national network of groups (over 100 throughout the country) and individuals organizing white people for racial justice. Through community organizing, mobilizing, and education, SURJ moves white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority. It provides a both a national and local “one-stop shop” for finding out about events and learning more about racial justice.

        According to SURJ, the need for such an organization became evident when participants in the post-Ferguson actions and protests responded to reports that there also has been tension about how some white people specifically were showing up in a non-helpful way. SURJ was asked by people of color for two things:

        • **To show up at actions called and organized by People of Color (POC)
        • **To organize actions as white people to call attention to anti-Black racism and the threat to black lives and the lives of people of color

        SURJ has sterling credentials. It was founded in 2009 in response to a call – by people of color and whites engaged in racial justice work – for more white people to challenge the racial backlash after President Obama’s election. It focuses on working with people who, like us, are already “in motion.” SURJ (formerly US for All of Us: No Room for Racism) comes out of the Highlander Research and Education Center, formerly known as the Highlander Folk School, a social justice leadership training school and cultural center founded in 1932 and currently located in New Market, Tennessee. Highlander has provided training and education for the labor movement in Appalachia and throughout the Southern United States. It played a critical role in the American Civil Rights Movement; among its trainees were Rosa Parks, John Lewis and other members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ralph Abernathy.

        The SURJ website is rich in educational resources (see checklist, related article) and contains information on actions that parallel much of what DSA does around organizing; therefore, it can be useful for purposes of both anti-racism work and organizing in general. These include the following: notices of periodic “basebuilding” national telephone calls on such topics as strategies for rural and small-town organizing, combating anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia (see related article); action toolkits on how to undertake actions, including talking points for the media and messaging on such topics as police accountability and criminalization as well as a toolkit on how to start a SURJ chapters; yard signs; and a search tool to find local actions.

        Nationally, DSA chapters and SURJ chapters and affiliates are co-located in about 30 cities, creating a great opportunity to collaborate with like-minded people. Activities such as joint reading groups on race and class, for example, could be explored. In addition, places where there are DSA chapters and where SURJ does not exist provide an opportunity for DSA to develop affiliates of SURJ. Where SURJ exists and DSA does not have a chapter, individual DSA members will undoubtedly find a welcoming home for racial justice work.

        In Metro DC DSA, we are lucky enough to have three SURJ chapters in the region: in DC, Baltimore and Northern Virginia. The DC listserv provides a weekly calendar of events with specific requests for white allies to step up.   An example of that is a call for SURJ members to sign up for training on how to do childcare for Black allies who want to attend events critical to them. Events listed include notifications from not only Black Lives Matter but other organizations doing social justice work. For example, the listserv provides notices of vigils for: Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray Tamir Rice, Natasha Mckenna, and others, as well as local workshops and conferences on racial justice issues, and actions against Walmart and for farm workers. SURJ has also initiated a series of metropolitan discussion groups for white folk to speak with other white folk about stepping up to action around racial justice.

        So, where to start? In our local, we can begin by inviting our metropolitan SURJ chapters to come and tell us how we can plug into the work they are so especially equipped to undertake.  Perhaps with guidance from SURJ, a democratic socialist discussion group could be initiated and/or a joint DSA/SURJ event could be planned to move us forward in “walking the walk.”

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          Reshaping yourself and your surroundings as anti-racist (tips from SURJ)

          January 31st, 2016  / Author: woodlanham

          The Washington Socialist <> February 2016

          Compiled by Ingrid Goldstrom

          Some posts on the SURJ website provide “gentle reminders” of what it means to do anti-racism work. From the artist and organizer Ricardo Levins Morales in “Whites fighting racism: what it’s about…”
          “You may not get the validation you hunger for…The thing is that when you help put out a fire the people whose home was in flames may be too upset to thank and praise you – especially when you look a lot like the folks who set the fire. That’s OK. This is about something so much bigger than that. “

          According to SURJ (see related article for more), some of the basic do’s and don’ts below have been helpful to other white folks engaging in this work.

          Do: Organize white people to participate in actions led by People of Color (POC). Don’t: Expect to lead those actions.

          Do: Follow the directions of POC in actions. Don’t: Take over the action; Escalate the action (unless directed to do so); Get so into being the most radical person that your risky action becomes a distraction.

          Do: Help white people understand our “mutual interest” (i.e. what is our stake) with POC in overturning a racist, oppressive system. Don’t: Tell white people that they are “helping,” “supporting,” etc. POC.

          Do: Work as scouts, transportation, or other jobs as needed. Don’t: Waste time feeling that you should be doing something more “important.”

          Do: Listen carefully to POC, especially when they are telling you to stop doing something. Don’t: Interrupt; Assume you already know what they’re going to say; Talk over.

          Do: Educate yourself about interpersonal dynamics, racial justice history and politics, learn about the local POC-led organizations, etc. Don’t: Assume that POC will educate you; Assume that POC are or are not as educated as you are; Tell POC that you know how they feel.

          Do: Be aware of how your white privilege pushes you to claim leadership and control. Don’t: Believe that struggling alongside POC gives you a free pass to do whatever you want without consequences; Think that you can ever get completely over your privilege and racism.

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            Fighting the Current Scourge of Islamophobia

            January 31st, 2016  / Author: woodlanham

            The Washington Socialist <> February 2016

            By Ingrid Goldstrom

            Rising violence against Muslims, Arabs, South Asians and Sikhs as well as concerted efforts to halt the acceptance of Syrian and other refugees fleeing the Middle East demand that all people of good will, especially socialists and other progressives, raise their voices against anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia.

            One national organization (Showing Up for Racial Justice, or SURJ) and one statewide group focusing on the plight of Syrian refugees in particular (Maryland for Refugees) provide tools and serve as shining examples of just how to go about this. With just a few moments of our time, we can make a huge difference.

            At the national level, SURJ (see related article) provides tools for organizations and individuals to support Muslims, Arabs, South Asians and Sikhs, especially critical since their communities have been traumatized by events in the wake of the San Bernadino shooting and the vitriol spewed by the Republican Party candidates for President. Simple actions that we can take to show our support include the following: displaying yard signs of support for Muslim neighbors; writing op-eds for local papers; sponsoring letter parties where attendees write letters of support and deliver them to their local mosques; wearing buttons expressing support (DSA buttons are available at www.dsausa.org); taking photos of DSA locals holding supportive signs such as “We Stand with Our Muslim Neighbors” and posting these on social media; and holding conversations at membership meetings/salons, etc, addressing Islamophobia. Simply smiling or engaging in chit-chat with women wearing hijabs can go a long way in demonstrating our solidarity.

             

             

            antiislamophobia group shot jan 2016 med

            An impromptu group shot at the January Metro DC DSA membership meeting.

            An ongoing and fast-building example of local actions is the coalition of groups, including Peace Action and faith-based groups in Montgomery County, Maryland, spurred to action by the Maryland Governor Hogan’s (non-binding) rejection of Syrian refugees. The coalition quickly and successfully moved progressive local city councils in Greenbelt, Takoma Park and Rockville to introduce resolutions welcoming Syrian refugees. Four members of the Prince George’s County Council have cosponsored a similar resolution (which also opposes recent upticks in deportation of Latinos) to be considered Feb. 2. A letter to Gov. Hogan opposing his stance, initated by Takoma Park (Dist. 20) Sen. Jamie Raskin, had accumulated signatures from five Maryland senators and eleven delegates.

            The coalition created a Facebook page (Maryland Welcomes Refugees), Twitter account and listserv, developed welcoming signs for businesses to put in their windows, sent a deluge of emails to state legislators, and actively continue to find new ways to counter the harsh rhetoric of our times.

            Lucy Duff contributed to this report.

             

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              WALMART STAYS IN CHARACTER IN ITS BETRAYAL OF DC

              January 31st, 2016  / Author: woodlanham

              The Washington Socialist <> February 2016

              By Bill Mosley

              Walmart’s recent announcement that it would renege on its promise to build two stores in low-income, predominately African American neighborhoods of the District is par for the course for a corporation that built its fortune on exploitation – of its communities, its workers and its customers.

              The “handshake agreement” that former Mayor Vince Gray reached with the company allowing it to build stores in higher-income neighborhoods in exchange for promising a store at Skyland Town Center was, as we have seen, not worth the sweat that exchanged palms. There was nothing on paper, nothing legally binding that required Walmart to do anything, and once the company got the properties it wanted most, it thumbed its nose at the DC residents who supported the new Walmarts for the jobs and shopping opportunities – in lower-income, African American neighborhoods where both are scarce – that the stores would bring. The Skyland neighborhood has actually wound up in even worse condition than before, with many of its aging stores having already been demolished in anticipation of the Walmart that now will never come. At the same time, Walmart also canceled its plans for a store at Capitol Gateway, like Skyland located in the retail- and job-starved portion of the District east of the Anacostia River.

              Five years ago, as Walmart was gearing up for its entry into DC, Metro-DC DSA was part of the citywide “Respect DC” coalition demanding that Walmart meet a series of conditions if it was to come to the District, including local hiring, a living wage for employees, and protections for small businesses. These demands were based on the recognition that Walmart is no ordinary chain of big-box stores. It has become the world’s largest corporation by adopting a business model of low wages for retail workers, hostility to unions, and relentless pressure on its overseas factories to keep costs down – resulting in manufacturing workers in such countries as China, Bangladesh and Honduras working in sweatshop conditions for less than a dollar a day. It also is infamous for moving into mostly smaller communities and driving locally owned businesses to ruin with its low prices – and then, when customers have no shopping options other than Walmart, often jacking prices back up. The company’s foray into DC was part of a new strategy of opening in urban markets, as the company’s exploitation of suburbs and small towns began to produce diminishing returns. But in the case of Skyland, Walmart killed off local businesses even without opening a store of its own.

              But in the end, Walmart’s opponents in the District had little leverage to force the company to either be a good neighbor or stay away. Walmart did sign a watered-down “community benefits agreement” that contained no promises on wages or worker rights. The DC Council considered but failed to pass a bill that would require big-box stores such as Walmart to pay a higher-than-minimum wage, with much of the DC political establishment eager to welcome Walmart with open arms. With many of DC’s lower-income neighborhoods desperate for jobs and places to shop – many residents live miles from a supermarket – Walmart appeared to offer one-stop shopping for the District’s economic needs. And so with the feeble promise extracted from Gray to serve some of DC’s neediest neighborhoods, Walmart proceeded with building stores near Union Station, on upper Georgia Ave. and at Fort Totten Square, the latter one opening last fall with a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring Mayor Muriel Bowser.

              After Walmart’s announced it would not build the Skyland and Capitol Gateway stores, Bowser said she was “blood mad” about the company’s treachery. (Bowser, it must be remembered, opposed the bill to require Walmart to pay a higher wage when she was a councilmember). But the ire of DC officials is matched only by their inability to do anything about it. Walmart holds all the cards; it can pull out of communities at will, and its cancellation of the two DC stores was part of an announced shuttering of 154 stores nationwide, about two-thirds of which are the smaller-format Walmart Express stores, as well as over 100 stores in Latin America Only rarely has a community blocked the company from moving in, even in the face of considerable opposition. A possible silver lining is that the company’s retrenchment might indicate that its business model of retail shock-and-awe with low-wage labor is running its course.

              Perhaps it is time for communities, including DC, to cease depending on the kindness of giant corporations for jobs and economic development. Instead, local governments should be doing more to incubate small, locally owned businesses that serve, and are responsive to, the needs of their neighborhoods. Providing aspiring local entrepreneurs with low-cost (or no-cost) loans, assistance in acquiring permits and overcoming other regulatory hurdles, and guidance in marketing themselves to the community could create businesses that keep wealth local while leading to true neighborhood revitalization.

              In today’s corporate-driven environment, the idea of communities taking charge of their economic development might seem utopian. But until they do, big business will be in charge, and cities and towns will have to dance to their tune.

               

               

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                Update: WHUT-TV to participate in FCC auction

                January 31st, 2016  / Author: woodlanham

                The Washington Socialist <> February 2016

                 By Carolyn M. Byerly

                As anticipated, Howard University President Wayne Frederick announced in mid-January that the university, owner of public station WHUT-TV, would participate in the Federal Communication Commission’s reverse auction. That process (also called the incentive auction) allows station licensees to sell off all or part of their access to the electromagnetic spectrum they use for broadcasting.

                Howard has three options – to sell all rights to its spectrum, to move the broadcast station from UHF to VHF spectrum, or to enter into a shared arrangement (partnership) with another public station. All deals are secret until finalized, which should be summer or fall 2016.

                The university, which is experiencing a major fiscal challenge brought on by the Congress’s sequestration of $20 million in funds to Howard, and the Howard Hospital’s continuous financial losses, is looking at WHUT to bring in somewhere between $100 million and $500 million in revenues. Congress created Howard University in 1867 to educate and advance research related to African Americans, and the university has received an annual allotment from Congress in all the years since. While that allotment today makes up less than 20 percent of the university’s budget, its loss at this particular time has contributed to Howard’s fiscal problems.

                WHUT is the only African-American-owned public TV station in the US, and presently has 2 million viewers. Marketing research has shown that the African American audience is increasing for all public broadcast stations, jumping from 17% to 23% between 2011 and 2012.

                Our Howard Media Group has posted another protest and analysis of the decision on our website which puts the situation into a bigger context of the communication industry under neoliberalism. Telecommunications is the second largest income-generating industry in the world (second only to the pharmaceutical industry), and those who derive those profits wield enormous economic and political power both nationally and internationally.

                Research by the civil rights group Operation Push shows that representation by women and non-white individuals on boards of directors of traditional media, cable, and new media companies ranged from only7% to 30% in 2012. The matter of who has access to the channels of communication arises and who controls the policies of those companies is more than a scholarly concern for those of us who have followed the selling off of public airwaves. Who should speak for whom in a democracy also determines who has access to the public sphere, a discursive space required for democracy to function.

                A January 16 article in the Washington Post claimed that Howard has until March to decide if it will withdraw its letter of intent, but that provision hasn’t been verified by anything available on the FCC website.

                As this issue of the Washington Socialist goes to press, members of Howard Media Group are planning to meet and discuss next steps in addressing the potential loss of this important station. These steps may include the calling of a public meeting to allow supporters of the station to air their grievances over the impending sale of WHUT.
                Carolyn M. Byerly is a member of the Metro DC DSA.  She chairs the Department of Communication, Culture & Media Studies at Howard University, and is a member of Howard Media Group.

                Notes:

                See the Spectrum Act of 2012, which enables the continued sale of broadcast licenses.

                See the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s report Facing the Spectrum: Incentive Auction and Repacking Process (2012).

                 

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                  Union-Community Unity Leads to Victory: 700 Safeway Jobs Saved in Prince George’s County

                  January 31st, 2016  / Author: woodlanham

                  The Washington Socialist <> February 2016

                  By Kurt Stand

                  On January 21, members of Teamsters Local 639 and Local 731 voted to ratify a new contract for the nearly 1000 workers employed at Safeway Distribution centers in Upper Marlboro and Landover, Md. The union had to make some wage and benefit concessions, but preserved the job of every worker threatened by a permanent layoff. It was the culmination of a successful campaign that began in October when those workers were given notice that the warehouses were going to be shut down, with the work transferred to non-union facilities in Pennsylvania. Union unity, amongst Teamster members, from the Metro Washington Labor Council and its affiliated unions, and broad community support were the reasons why the jobs were won.

                  Moreover, local elected officials in Prince George’s County and state-wide in Maryland were upfront and vocal in support of the workers. There was a great deal of anger, because Safeway had been given tax breaks by the county to build new state-of-the-art facilities to keep local jobs – facilities and jobs threatened with abandonment.

                  That, of course, is the problem now experienced in Washington DC where Walmart, after receiving preferential treatment in order to enter the city, then decided not to open stores in the neighborhoods were jobs are most needed (see related story this issue by Bill Mosley). What is at issue here isn’t one particular company, but a model of business. The conflict in Prince George’s began because Safeway had entered into a business relationship with C&S Wholesale Distributors, a huge private corporation that has a history of union-busting, shutting down organized workplaces and shifting work to their non-union center in Pennsylvania. In 2011, 1,000 organized warehouse workers lost their jobs in New Jersey when C&S shut down A&P operations in the area. A&P and other regional supermarket chains have filed lawsuits against C&S because of their monopolistic practices, which lead to business shutdowns. It is a model that respects neither workers nor communities, a model that drives local businesses out of business – symptomatic of the drift of our entire economic system.

                  The victory just won gains extra importance because it resulted in Safeway taking back control of its warehouses from C&S in exchange for financial incentives from state and municipal leaders. The six-year agreement signed with the Teamster locals guarantees no outsourcing during the length of the contract.

                  Nonetheless, vigilance is still needed – the layoffs likely would never have been proposed in the first place had Cerberus Capital Management not purchased controlling interest in the retailer along with other grocery food chains. Symptomatic of the entire drift of neo-liberal economics, Cerberus is a hedge fund that makes money by closing thriving, profitable, companies, and reinvesting the money elsewhere to reap even bigger financial rewards. This parasitic model of corporate behavior is very much in line with the deregulation of banks, a model of the economy in which corporate profits and the production of goods and services have largely been severed.

                  Yet the preservation of the jobs shows that workers can fight back to preserve their jobs and their rights. In the words of Teamster Local 730 President Ritchie Brooks: “The key to our victory was that everyone banded together. Labor, political leaders and the community all came together to show Safeway our solidarity.”

                  Sources:

                  http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/18520/cs_wholesale_grocers_safeway_layoffs

                  http://www.nj.com/business/index.ssf/2011/02/1000_workers_laid_off_in_groce.html

                  http://www.dclabor.org/union-city-news: 1/22/16, 1/20/16, 11/13/15, 10/18/15

                  Teamster Website: “Teamsters, Elected Officials, Community Leaders Tell Safeway To Keep Jobs In Maryland’ 10/16/15

                   

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                    Socialist Solidarity with Reproductive Rights

                    January 31st, 2016  / Author: woodlanham

                    The Washington Socialist <> February 2016

                    By M. Miller

                    Caroline O’Shea, director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, and Diana Philip, director of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, spoke on January 10 at the monthly Metro-DC DSA meeting about the state of reproductive rights in Washington, DC, Virginia and Maryland. Each area has its own particular challenges to overcome to ensure that women have the right to make decisions about their own reproductive health.

                    Reproductive rights for many women in Washington, DC, for instance, are crippled by the Hyde Amendment, a law that prohibits federal funding for abortion coverage and that prevents women on Medicaid, federal government workers, women in the military, and members of the Peace Corps from accessing affordable abortions. Virginia also severely limits women’s reproductive rights by imposing waiting periods, biased counseling and insurance restrictions on abortion care. Even Maryland, often thought of as a relatively progressive state, restricts minors’ ability to obtain abortions and all too often fails to provide young people with sound sexual education and access to condoms and other forms of contraception.

                    I’ve written here previously about how abortion restrictions are not merely a women’s problem but largely a working women’s problem. While upper-class women will always have access to abortion, whether it is legally accessible or not, many middle-class women and certainly even more working class women are facing greater difficulties in obtaining not only abortion care but reproductive healthcare in general.

                    Despite abortion access’s importance in the lives of working class women, the connection between socialism and the support for abortion rights may not be immediately obvious. However, socialist and feminist Sharon Smith, in her book Women and Socialism: Class, Race, and Capital, argues that women’s oppression is related to the emergence of class oppression. (The book was discussed at a January Jacobin reading group meeting and is also to be discussed at a second DC Jacobin reading group Feb. 4.) She states, “…at the same time that men were playing an increasingly exclusive role in production, women were required to play a much more central role in reproduction.” In other words, women’s oppression is inherently linked not only to class but to women’s physical ability to reproduce children.

                    Capitalism exploits women not only as workers but also for their free labor in bearing and raising the next generation of workers. Therefore, a full range of reproductive choices for women must be part of any socialist agenda for widespread change in our society and our economic system. True reproductive freedom must include not only the right to abortion but also the right of women to bring children into the world who will be supported by their communities. Women’s reproductive choices then must include not only abortion access but also a myriad of issues that affect women and their children such as state-funded daycare, a robust public education system, and universal healthcare, among others. These are all issues that socialists are already passionately supporting, but even as we champion these causes for the working class, we should not forget that they significantly impact working class women.

                    Socialists certainly face significant challenges to implement these social supports for working mothers, and we perhaps have an even more arduous battle ahead of us to secure abortion access for all women, not just the wealthy few. The first step we can take is to educate ourselves about what the current landscape of reproductive rights looks like. Educating ourselves at the January 10th membership meeting was taking that first step, and I encourage my comrades to take that step even further by checking out updates from NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, the Guttmacher Institute and other resources on reproductive rights. We might not always agree with these organizations, or particularly with NARAL’s recent endorsement of Hillary Clinton, but we can stand in solidarity with their desire to see a society where women in our society have access to a full range of reproductive rights.

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