Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, February 16, 2022

   Stop the Privatization of Our Schools and Our Port


No A’s Ballpark in Port

No School Closures


Solidarity Action Thursday February 17, 12:00 NOON Oakland City Hall, Oscar Grant Plaza

URGENT! ALL longshore workers will walk off the job on Thursday, Feb. 17th at noon to hold a rally at City Hall with the teachers. Both unions are fighting privatization—in the port against the Oakland A’s building a new stadium in the port and the teachers are fighting closing of the schools and privatization of the schools. Spread the word! Rally at City Hall by longshoremen and teachers Thurs. Noon!


The Oakland City Council is about to sell off the Port of Oakland to billionaire developers to the detriment of the workers and the community. The Oakland school Board is planning to close several schools in the Black and Latino communities. This protest is an important workers protest action, involving a work stoppage by the ILWU!


Solidarity with Longshore Workers and Oakland Teachers


International Longshore & Warehouse Union Local 10







United in Action to STOP KILLER DRONES:   



Spring Action, 2022


March 26 - April 2—Saturday to Saturday


 Co-sponsored by CODEPINK and Veterans For Peace





Screenshot of Kevin Cooper's artwork from the teaser.


 “In His Defense” The People vs. Kevin Cooper

A film by Kenneth A. Carlson 

Teaser is now streaming at:



Posted by: Death Penalty Focus Blog, January 10, 2022



“In his Defense,” a documentary on the Kevin Cooper case, is in the works right now, and California filmmaker Kenneth Carlson has released a teaser for it on CarlsonFilms.com


Just over seven months ago, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered an independent investigation of Cooper’s death penalty case. At the time, he explained that, “In cases where the government seeks to impose the ultimate punishment of death, I need to be satisfied that all relevant evidence is carefully and fairly examined.”


That investigation is ongoing, with no word from any of the parties involved on its progress.


Cooper has been on death row since 1985 for the murder of four people in San Bernardino County in June 1983. Prosecutors said Cooper, who had escaped from a minimum-security prison and had been hiding out near the scene of the murder, killed Douglas and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, and 10-year-old Chris Hughes, a friend who was spending the night at the Ryen’s. The lone survivor of the attack, eight-year-old Josh Ryen, was severely injured but survived.


For over 36 years, Cooper has insisted he is innocent, and there are serious questions about evidence that was missing, tampered with, destroyed, possibly planted, or hidden from the defense. There were multiple murder weapons, raising questions about how one man could use all of them, killing four people and seriously wounding one, in the amount of time the coroner estimated the murders took place.


The teaser alone gives a good overview of the case, and helps explain why so many believe Cooper was wrongfully convicted.



To: U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives

End Legal Slavery in U.S. Prisons

Sign Petition at:








Español  Português

On the anniversary of the 26th of July Movement’s founding, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research launches the online exhibition, Let Cuba Live. 80 artists from 19 countries – including notable cartoonists and designers from Cuba – submitted over 100 works in defense of the Cuban Revolution. Together, the exhibition is a visual call for the end to the decades-long US-imposed blockade, whose effects have only deepened during the pandemic. The intentional blocking of remittances and Cuba’s use of global financial institutions have prevented essential food and medicine from entering the country. Together, the images in this exhibition demand: #UnblockCuba #LetCubaLive

Please contact art@thetricontinental.org if you are interested in organising a local exhibition of the exhibition.



Kevin Rashid Johnson is Back in Virginia!


Rashid just called with the news that he has been moved back to Virginia. His property is already there, and he will get to claim the most important items tomorrow. He is at a "medium security" level and is in general population. Basically, good news.


He asked me to convey his appreciation to everyone who wrote or called in his support during the time he was in Ohio.


His new address is:


Kevin Rashid Johnson #1007485

Nottoway Correctional Center

2892 Schutt Road

Burkeville, VA 23922




Freedom for Major Tillery! End his Life Imprisonment!

Major Tillery and his family have set up a new Change.org petition to submit to the Board of Pardons in support his petition to commutation of his sentence to parole while maintaining his legal fight for exoneration and overturning of his conviction.
Major's commutation petition focuses on both his factual innocence as well as his decades of advocacy for other prisoners while serving almost 40 years as a lifer, over 20 of those years in solitary.

Please circulate and support the petition:






Wrongful Conviction podcast of Kevin Cooper's case, Jason Flom with Kevin and Norm Hile


Please listen and share!



Kevin Cooper: Important CBS news new report today, and article January 31, 2022


Great news for Kevin Cooper, an innocent man 

on San Quentin's death row:




Contact: Governor's Press Office


Friday, May 28, 2021


(916) 445-4571


Governor Newsom Announces Clemency Actions, Signs Executive Order for Independent Investigation of Kevin Cooper Case

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today announced that he has granted 14 pardons, 13 commutations and 8 medical reprieves. In addition, the Governor signed an executive order to launch an independent investigation of death row inmate Kevin Cooper’s case as part of the evaluation of Cooper’s application for clemency.

The investigation will review trial and appellate records in the case, the facts underlying the conviction and all available evidence, including the results of the recently conducted DNA tests previously ordered by the Governor to examine additional evidence in the case using the latest, most scientifically reliable forensic testing.

The text of the Governor’s executive order can be found here:


The California Constitution gives the Governor the authority to grant executive clemency in the form of a pardon, commutation or reprieve. These clemency grants recognize the applicants’ subsequent efforts in self-development or the existence of a medical exigency. They do not forgive or minimize the harm caused.

The Governor regards clemency as an important part of the criminal justice system that can incentivize accountability and rehabilitation, increase public safety by removing counterproductive barriers to successful reentry, correct unjust results in the legal system and address the health needs of incarcerated people with high medical risks.

A pardon may remove counterproductive barriers to employment and public service, restore civic rights and responsibilities and prevent unjust collateral consequences of conviction, such as deportation and permanent family separation. A pardon does not expunge or erase a conviction.


A commutation modifies a sentence, making an incarcerated person eligible for an earlier release or allowing them to go before the Board of Parole Hearings for a hearing at which Parole Commissioners determine whether the individual is suitable for release.

A reprieve allows individuals classified by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as high medical risk to serve their sentences in appropriate alternative placements in the community consistent with public health and public safety.

The Governor weighs numerous factors in his review of clemency applications, including an applicant’s self-development and conduct since the offense, whether the grant is consistent with public safety and in the interest of justice, and the impact of a grant on the community, including crime victims and survivors.

While in office, Governor Newsom has granted a total of 86 pardons, 92 commutations and 28 reprieves.

The Governor’s Office encourages victims, survivors, and witnesses to register with CDCR’s Office of Victims and Survivors Rights and Services to receive information about an incarcerated person’s status. For general Information about victim services, to learn about victim-offender dialogues, or to register or update a registration confidentially, please visit:

 www.cdcr.ca.gov/Victim_Services/ or call 1-877-256-6877 (toll free).

Copies of the gubernatorial clemency certificates announced today can be found here:


Additional information on executive clemency can be found here:





New Legal Filing in Mumia’s Case

By Johanna Fernández

The following statement was issued January 4, 2022, regarding new legal filings by attorneys for Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Campaign to Bring Mumia Home

In her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston wrote, “There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.”

With continued pressure from below, 2022 will be the year that forces the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and the Philly Police Department to answer questions about why they framed imprisoned radio journalist and veteran Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal. Abu-Jamal’s attorneys have filed a Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petition focused entirely on the six boxes of case files that were found in a storage room of the DA’s office in late December 2018, after the case being heard before Judge Leon Tucker in the Court of Common Pleas concluded. (tinyurl.com/zkyva464)

The new evidence contained in the boxes is damning, and we need to expose it. It reveals a pattern of misconduct and abuse of authority by the prosecution, including bribery of the state’s two key witnesses, as well as racist exclusion in jury selection—a violation of the landmark Supreme Court decision Batson v. Kentucky. The remedy for each or any of the claims in the petition is a new trial. The court may order a hearing on factual issues raised in the claims. If so, we won’t know for at least a month. 

The new evidence includes a handwritten letter penned by Robert Chobert, the prosecution’s star witness. In it, Chobert demands to be paid money promised him by then-Prosecutor Joseph McGill. Other evidence includes notes written by McGill, prominently tracking the race of potential jurors for the purposes of excluding Black people from the jury, and letters and memoranda which reveal that the DA’s office sought to monitor, direct, and intervene in the outstanding prostitution charges against its other key witness Cynthia White.

Mumia Abu-Jamal was framed and convicted 40 years ago in 1982, during one of the most corrupt and racist periods in Philadelphia’s history—the era of cop-turned-mayor Frank Rizzo. It was a moment when the city’s police department, which worked intimately with the DA’s office, routinely engaged in homicidal violence against Black and Latinx detainees, corruption, bribery and tampering with evidence to obtain convictions. 

In 1979, under pressure from civil rights activists, the Department of Justice filed an unprecedented lawsuit against the Philadelphia police department and detailed a culture of racist violence, widespread corruption and intimidation that targeted outspoken people like Mumia. Despite concurrent investigations by the FBI and Pennsylvania’s Attorney General and dozens of police convictions, the power and influence of the country’s largest police association, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) prevailed. 

Now, more than 40 years later, we’re still living with the failure to uproot these abuses. Philadelphia continues to fear the powerful FOP, even though it endorses cruelty, racism, and multiple injustices. A culture of fear permeates the “city of brotherly love.”

The contents of these boxes shine light on decades of white supremacy and rampant lawlessness in U.S. courts and prisons. They also hold enormous promise for Mumia’s freedom and challenge us to choose Love, Not PHEAR. (lovenotphear.com/) Stay tuned.

Workers World, January 4, 2022


Pa. Supreme Court denies widow’s appeal to remove Philly DA from Abu-Jamal case


Abu Jamal was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder of Faulkner in 1982. Over the past four decades, five of his appeals have been quashed.


In 1989, the state’s highest court affirmed Abu-Jamal’s death penalty conviction, and in 2012, he was re-sentenced to life in prison.


Abu-Jamal, 66, remains in prison. He can appeal to the state Supreme Court, or he can file a new appeal.


KYW Newsradio reached out to Abu-Jamal’s attorneys for comment. They shared this statement in full:


“Today, the Superior Court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to consider issues raised by Mr. Abu-Jamal in prior appeals. Two years ago, the Court of Common Pleas ordered reconsideration of these appeals finding evidence of an appearance of judicial bias when the appeals were first decided. We are disappointed in the Superior Court’s decision and are considering our next steps.


“While this case was pending in the Superior Court, the Commonwealth revealed, for the first time, previously undisclosed evidence related to Mr. Abu-Jamal’s case. That evidence includes a letter indicating that the Commonwealth promised its principal witness against Mr. Abu-Jamal money in connection with his testimony. In today’s decision, the Superior Court made clear that it was not adjudicating the issues raised by this new evidence. This new evidence is critical to any fair determination of the issues raised in this case, and we look forward to presenting it in court.”



Demand Mumia's Freedom:

Governor Tom Wolf -1(717) 787-2500  Fax 1 (717) 772-8284
Office of the Governor
508 Main Capitol Building
HarrisburgPA  17120    
After calling the governor, send an online communication about our concerns.   https://www.governor.pa.gov/contact/#PhoneNumber
Let us know what there response was, Thank you.  Mobilization4Mumia@gmail.com


Questions and comments may be sent to: info@freedomarchives.org



This beautiful and powerful exhibit is ongoing 

and can be viewed online at:



A Plea for the Compassionate Release of 

Leonard Peltier

Video at:


Screen shot from video.

Sign our petition urging President Biden to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier.




Email: contact@whoisleonardpeltier.info

Address: 116 W. Osborne Ave. Tampa, Florida 33603


Bury My Heart with Leonard Peltier

How long will he still be with us? How long will the genocide continue?

By Michael Moore

—VIA Email: michaelmoore@substack.com

LEONARD PELTIER, Native American hero. An innocent man, he’s spent 44 years as a political prisoner. The prosecutor who put him behind bars now says Peltier is innocent. President Biden, go to Mass today, and then stop this torture. (Sipa/Shutterstock)

American Indian Movement leader, Leonard Peltier, at 77 years of age, came down with Covid-19 this weekend. Upon hearing this, I broke down and cried. An innocent man, locked up behind bars for 44 years, Peltier is now America’s longest-held political prisoner. He suffers in prison tonight even though James Reynolds, one of the key federal prosecutors who sent Peltier off to life in prison in 1977, has written to President Biden and confessed to his role in the lies, deceit, racism and fake evidence that together resulted in locking up our country’s most well-known Native American civil rights leader. Just as South Africa imprisoned for more than 27 years its leading voice for freedom, Nelson Mandela, so too have we done the same to a leading voice and freedom fighter for the indigenous people of America. That’s not just me saying this. That’s Amnesty International saying it. They placed him on their political prisoner list years ago and continue to demand his release.


And it’s not just Amnesty leading the way. It’s the Pope who has demanded Leonard Peltier’s release. It’s the Dalai Lama, Jesse Jackson, and the President Pro-Tempore of the US Senate, Sen. Patrick Leahy. Before their deaths, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa and Bishop Desmond Tutu pleaded with the United States to free Leonard Peltier. A worldwide movement of millions have seen their demands fall on deaf ears. 


And now the calls for Peltier to be granted clemency in DC have grown on Capitol Hill. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), the head of the Senate committee who oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, has also demanded Peltier be given his freedom. Numerous House Democrats have also written to Biden. 


The time has come for our President to act; the same President who appointed the first-ever Native American cabinet member last year and who halted the building of the Keystone pipeline across Native lands. Surely Mr. Biden is capable of an urgent act of compassion for Leonard Peltier — especially considering that the prosecutor who put him away in 1977 now says Peltier is innocent, and that his US Attorney’s office corrupted the evidence to make sure Peltier didn’t get a fair trial. Why is this victim of our judicial system still in prison? And now he is sick with Covid.


For months Peltier has begged to get a Covid booster shot. Prison officials refused. The fact that he now has COVID-19 is a form of torture. A shame hangs over all of us. Should he now die, are we all not complicit in taking his life? 


President Biden, let Leonard Peltier go. This is a gross injustice. You can end it. Reach deep into your Catholic faith, read what the Pope has begged you to do, and then do the right thing. 


For those of you reading this, will you join me right now in appealing to President Biden to free Leonard Peltier? His health is in deep decline, he is the voice of his people — a people we owe so much to for massacring and imprisoning them for hundreds of years. 


The way we do mass incarceration in the US is abominable. And Leonard Peltier is not the only political prisoner we have locked up. We have millions of Black and brown and poor people tonight in prison or on parole and probation — in large part because they are Black and brown and poor. THAT is a political act on our part. Corporate criminals and Trump run free. The damage they have done to so many Americans and people around the world must be dealt with. 


This larger issue is one we MUST take on. For today, please join me in contacting the following to show them how many millions of us demand that Leonard Peltier has suffered enough and should be free:


President Joe Biden


Phone: 202-456-1111

E-mail: At this link



Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland


Phone: 202-208-3100

E-mail: feedback@ios.doi.gov


Attorney General Merrick Garland


Phone: 202-514-2000

E-mail: At this link



I’ll end with the final verse from the epic poem “American Names” by Stephen Vincent Benet: 


I shall not rest quiet in Montparnasse.

I shall not lie easy at Winchelsea.

You may bury my body in Sussex grass,

You may bury my tongue at Champmedy.

I shall not be there. I shall rise and pass.

Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.



PS. Also — watch the brilliant 1992 documentary by Michael Apted and Robert Redford about the framing of Leonard Peltier— “Incident at Oglala”





Resources for Resisting Federal Repression

Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests. 

The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page. 

Please visit the NLG Mass Defense Program page for general protest-related legal support hotlines run by NLG chapters.

Emergency Hotlines

If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities. 

State and Local Hotlines

If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for: 

National Hotline

If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:

Know Your Rights Materials

The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides. 

WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office

We also recommend the following resources: 

Center for Constitutional Rights

Civil Liberties Defense Center

Grand Jury Resistance Project

Katya Komisaruk

Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources

Tilted Scales Collective






1) Business Booms at Kroger-Owned Grocery Stores, but Workers Are Left Behind

A number of the stores’ nearly 500,000 employees have reported being homeless, receiving government food stamps or relying on food banks.

By Sapna Maheshwari and Michael Corkery, Feb. 12, 2022

"Kroger has one of the country’s starkest gaps between a chief executive’s compensation and that of the median employee. Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chief executive since 2014, earned $22.4 million in 2020, while the median employee earned $24,617 — a ratio of 909 to 1. The average C.E.O.-to-worker pay ratio in the S&P 500 is 299 to 1, with grocery chains like Costco (193 to 1) and Publix (153 to 1) lower than that."

Enrique Romero Jr. says donating plasma is a more reliable source of income than his part-time work at a Fred Meyer grocery store in Bellingham, Wash.
Enrique Romero Jr. says donating plasma is a more reliable source of income than his part-time work at a Fred Meyer grocery store in Bellingham, Wash. Credit...Jovelle Tamayo for The New York Times

When Enrique Romero Jr. finishes his shift fulfilling online orders at a Fred Meyer grocery store in Bellingham, Wash., he often walks to a nearby plasma donation center. There, he has his blood drained, and a hydrating solution is pumped into his veins, a process that leaves him tired and cold.


Mr. Romero, 30, said selling his plasma made him feel “like cattle.” But the income he earns from it — roughly $500 a month — is more reliable than his wages at Fred Meyer, which is owned by the grocery giant Kroger. His part-time hours often fluctuate, and he struggles to find enough money to cover his rent, his groceries and the regular repairs required to keep his 2007 Chevy Aveo on the road.


“The economy we have is grueling,” he said.


Business has boomed during the pandemic for Kroger, the biggest supermarket chain in the United States and the fourth-largest employer in the Fortune 500. It owns more than 2,700 locations, and its brands include Harris Teeter, Fred Meyer, Ralphs, Smith’s, Pick ’n Save and even Murray’s Cheese in New York City. The company, which is based in Cincinnati, said in December that it was expecting sales growth of at least 13.7 percent over two years. The company’s stock has risen about 36 percent over the past year.


But that success has not trickled down to its vast work force of nearly 500,000 employees, a number of whom have reported being homeless, receiving government food stamps or relying on food banks to feed their families. A brief strike in Colorado last month by workers, represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, at dozens of Kroger-owned King Soopers locations brought renewed scrutiny to the issues of pay and working conditions for grocery workers, who have been on the front lines throughout the pandemic.


The Economic Roundtable, a nonprofit research group that surveyed more than 10,000 Kroger workers in Washington, Colorado and Southern California about their working conditions for a report commissioned by four units of the food workers union, found that about 75 percent of Kroger workers said they were food insecure, meaning they lacked consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. About 14 percent said they were homeless or had been homeless in the previous year, and 63 percent said they did not earn enough money to pay for basic expenses every month.


“There is a race to the bottom that’s been going on for a while with Walmart and other large retail stores, and also restaurants, and to reverse that trend is not easy,” said Daniel Flaming, president of the Economic Roundtable.


Kroger was the sole employer for 86 percent of those surveyed, partly because more than half had schedules that changed at least every week, making it difficult to commit to another employer. About two-thirds said they were part-time workers, even though they wanted more hours. Keeping workers part time is a strategy employers use to encourage turnover and reduce costs.


Kristal Howard, a spokeswoman for Kroger, said the report was “one-dimensional and does not tell the complete story.”


“Kroger has provided an incredible number of people with their first job, second chances and lifelong careers, and we’re proud to play this role in our communities,” she said. Ms. Howard added that the company had raised its national average hourly rate of pay to $16.68 from $13.66 in 2017, a 22 percent increase, and that its benefits package included health care, retirement savings, tuition assistance and on-demand access to mental health assistance.


Some of the workers said that even though other retailers and fast food restaurants had started offering higher starting wages than Kroger, the company’s health insurance and retirement benefits, which the union negotiated, were more generous than what other employers offered. Other part-time Kroger workers say they stay on the job because they don’t want to lose their seniority and the chance for a full-time role.


Despite some of the wage increases and benefits, working at a grocery store no longer provides the stable income and middle-class lifestyle that it did 30 years ago, workers say. The Economic Roundtable report studied contracts dating back to 1990 and said the most experienced clerks — known as journeymen — in Southern California made roughly $28 per hour in today’s dollars while working full-time schedules. Wages for top-paid clerks today are 22 percent lower, and those workers are far more likely to be working part-time hours.


Ashley Manning, a 32-year-old floral manager at a Ralphs in San Pedro, Calif., works full time but is regularly strapped for cash. Ms. Manning, the single mother of a 12-year-old, said she had worked at Ralphs for nine years and earned $18.25 an hour. It took her four years to reach full-time status, which guarantees 40 hours per week and comes with an annual bonus ranging from $500 to $3,000.


She said she struggled to pay rent and moved into her grandmother’s house after being evicted last spring. She has needed help from her family to help pay for a car. She has tried to make extra money through a party planning and decorating business, but demand for those services dried up in the pandemic.


“I would think, ‘I have a good job and make decent money,’ and I don’t,” Ms. Manning said. “I’m still on the poverty level.”


During the pandemic, grocery store workers have been recognized as essential to keeping society going, but they have also faced health risks. At least 50,600 grocery workers around the country have been infected with or exposed to the coronavirus, and at least 213 have died from the virus, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.


Ms. Manning was hospitalized for Covid-19 last summer. She blames herself for her grandmother’s subsequent death from the virus in August.


“She was one of the people that would help me the most, if I was short on a bill or needed help, to pick my daughter up from school,” she said. But when her grandmother was in critical condition, Ms. Manning said, she was told that she couldn’t take more time off after being sick with Covid-19.


The illness and the company’s response were jarring, given that corporate workers had the flexibility to work from home, she said, adding that she ultimately took disability leave for a stretch.


Kroger has one of the country’s starkest gaps between a chief executive’s compensation and that of the median employee. Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chief executive since 2014, earned $22.4 million in 2020, while the median employee earned $24,617 — a ratio of 909 to 1. The average C.E.O.-to-worker pay ratio in the S&P 500 is 299 to 1, with grocery chains like Costco (193 to 1) and Publix (153 to 1) lower than that.


These disparities have fomented outrage among employees, who are also dealing with issues like fights over masks and theft and violence in stores.


In Colorado, more than 8,000 workers at the Kroger-owned King Soopers chain walked off the job last month when union contract negotiations broke down over wages, employee safety issues and scheduling.


Around the time of the strike, a nonprofit publication, A More Perfect Union, published an internal Kroger document in which the company acknowledged that one in five of its employees received government assistance in 2017. The document also included research showing that employee turnover was lower in places where it raised wages.


In response, Kroger said it had developed an improvement plan after the analysis, which included the wage increase and steps to improve tuition assistance and retirement benefits. The company commissioned its own study that stated last month that Kroger’s average pay and benefits in Colorado and three other Western states were higher than those of other retailers.


After more than a week of picketing, the union — Local 7 of the U.F.C.W. — won large concessions, including wage increases and a plan to move at least 500 part-time workers into full-time roles within a few months.


As successful as the strike was for workers in Colorado, Larry Cohen, former president of the Communications Workers of America, said the contracts covered only employees at specific Kroger chains, making it difficult for unions to gain broader leverage.


“When all contracts are local, how do you deal with a giant national company?” Mr. Cohen said. “Not very well.”


Kroger has tightly controlled labor expenses during the pandemic. The company offered hero pay and thank-you bonuses to workers in the early months of the pandemic but ended those well before vaccinations were available. (Grocery workers were also not given priority for vaccinations in many states.) While some municipalities like Los Angeles and Seattle sought to institute hazard pay mandates, Kroger and grocery lobbying associations fought such efforts.


Kroger’s resistance to wage increases peaked last year when the Los Angeles City Council approved a hazard pay mandate requiring large grocers and pharmacies to pay employees an additional $5 an hour for four months. In response, Kroger said it would close three stores in the area in May — two Ralphs locations and a Food 4 Less — blaming increased costs. The company pointed to a release at the time that said the stores were underperforming. But City Council members were left with the sense that the closures were retaliatory.


Paul Koretz, a member of the Council, said he had dealt with backlash from some constituents about the impending closing of a Ralphs in his district, a go-to for the local Orthodox Jewish community. He said Ralphs representatives had warned him that they would close the store if the mandate was instituted.


“I’m not sure I really believed that Ralphs would do it,” he said. “It just seemed so counterintuitive that you would mess with your very loyal customers.”


Shoppers in his district have adapted since the store closed. But he said he believed that the impact of the closings on employees and Council members’ fear of angering constituents probably had a chilling effect on other municipalities that were considering similar measures.


The mandated hazard pay gave many Kroger workers a glimpse of how their day-to-day lives could improve with more money. Areli Rivas, a part-time cashier at a Ralphs in Van Nuys, Calif., who is married to a full-time worker at the store, said the extra pay gave her “peace of mind.”


The mother of two said it was hard to justify purchases like a new backpack for her son, even though his current one is fraying. More pay would also allow her to get her daughter a new glasses prescription.


Some workers like Ms. Manning said that they couldn’t afford to shop at their store and that the employee discount of 10 percent applied only to Kroger-branded goods and did not always include produce and other essentials.


Kroger said that the discount covered 19,000 private-label food products and that it did include dairy, proteins and produce.


Pio Figueroa, 25, who has been working at a Ralphs in Laguna Beach, Calif., for about six years, said he was able to manage his monthly expenses now that he was among the highest earners in his store, making about $22.50 an hour. But at one point, he was making $15 or $16 per hour at the chain and struggled mightily.


“There were times I could only budget to spend $100 on food and everything a week,” he said. “So there were times I would go without a meal or definitely think, ‘What am I going to eat tonight?’”



2) Eminem Takes A Knee In The Middle Of Super Bowl 2022 Halftime Show

"It was no surprise to us," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told HuffPost Sunday.

By Carly Ledbetter, February 13, 2022, Updated February 14, 2022


Eminem takes a knee as he performs alongside Dr. Dre during the halftime show of Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, on Feb. 13. 

Eminem sent a message by kneeling in the middle of the Super Bowl LVI halftime show on Sunday, after reports surfaced earlier in the day stating that the NFL would not allow the rapper to do so.

The “Lose Yourself” entertainer kneeled during the end of the show, after performing alongside Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar and Mary J. Blige.

Articles published earlier Sunday suggested that the rapper would be barred from kneeling “Colin Kaepernick-style,” and that Dr. Dre would be censored from saying his lyric “still not lovin’ the police,” while performing his song “Still Dre.”

But NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy denied that certain elements of the performance caught anyone off guard.

“It was no surprise to us,” he told HuffPost Sunday. “We watched all elements of the show during multiple rehearsals this week and were aware that was going to happen.”

The NFL initially banned players and team personnel from sitting or kneeling during the national anthem, a policy that was approved by all NFL team owners, save for San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York, back in 2018. The policy stated that players wishing to protest could stay in the locker room.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at the time that “on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic.”

This policy, which was supported by then-President Donald Trump, also included the option to fine those who disobeyed it.

Kaepernick first began kneeling in August 2016 to protest racial injustice and police brutality against Black people, setting off a civil rights movement and leading athletes of all sports to follow in his footsteps. Prior to kneeling, the former NFL quarterback protested by sitting during the national anthem.

It wasn’t until Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 after the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor that the NFL admitted it was wrong for its treatment of players and personnel.

“We, the NFL, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest,” Goodell said at the time, without mentioning Kaepernick’s name. “We, the NFL, believe Black lives matter.”

The NFL has repeatedly come under fire for its mistreatment of Black athletes and, more recently, its racist hiring practices as alleged in a lawsuit by former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores.

Prior to the start of the Super Bowl, President Joe Biden called on the NFL to exercise “generic decency” in relation to its hires.

“The whole idea that a league that is made up of so many athletes of color, as well as so diverse, that there’s not enough African American qualified coaches to, quote, ‘to manage’ these NFL teams, it just seems to me that it’s a standard that they’d want to live up to,” Biden said. “I don’t know if there’s not a requirement of law, but it’s a requirement, I think, of some just generic decency.”



3) How Bad Is the Western Drought? Worst in 12 Centuries, Study Finds.

Fueled by climate change, the drought that started in 2000 is now the driest two decades since 800 A.D.

By Henry Fountain, Published Feb. 14, 2022, Updated Feb. 15, 2022

Water levels at the Great Salt Lake in Utah, the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere, have dropped to the lowest levels ever recorded.
Water levels at the Great Salt Lake in Utah, the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere, have dropped to the lowest levels ever recorded. Credit...Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

ALBUQUERQUE — The megadrought in the American Southwest has become so severe that it’s now the driest two decades in the region in at least 1,200 years, scientists said Monday, and climate change is largely responsible.


The drought, which began in 2000 and has reduced water supplies, devastated farmers and ranchers and helped fuel wildfires across the region, had previously been considered the worst in 500 years, according to the researchers.


But exceptional conditions in the summer of 2021, when about two-thirds of the West was in extreme drought, “really pushed it over the top,” said A. Park Williams, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who led an analysis using tree ring data to gauge drought. As a result, 2000-21 is the driest 22-year period since 800 A.D., which is as far back as the data goes.


The analysis also showed that human-caused warming played a major role in making the current drought so extreme.


There would have been a drought regardless of climate change, Dr. Williams said. “But its severity would have been only about 60 percent of what it was.”


Julie Cole, a climate scientist at the University of Michigan who was not involved in the research, said that while the findings were not surprising, “the study just makes clear how unusual the current conditions are.”


Dr. Cole said the study also confirms the role of temperature, more than precipitation, in driving exceptional droughts. Precipitation amounts can go up and down over time and can vary regionally, she said. But as human activities continue to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, temperatures are more generally rising.


As they do “the air is basically more capable of pulling the water out of the soil, out of vegetation, out of crops, out of forests,” Dr. Cole said. “And it makes for drought conditions to be much more extreme.”


Although there is no uniform definition, a megadrought is generally considered to be one that is both severe and long, on the order of several decades. But even in a megadrought there can be periods when wet conditions prevail. It’s just that there are not enough consecutive wet years to end the drought.


That has been the case in the current Western drought, during which there have been several wet years, most notably 2005. The study, which was published in the journal Nature Climate Change, determined that climate change was responsible for the continuation of the current drought after that year.


“By our calculations, it’s a little bit of extra dryness in the background average conditions due to human-caused climate change that basically kept 2005 from ending the drought event,” Dr. Williams said.


Climate change also makes it more likely that the drought will continue, the study found. “This drought at 22 years is still in full swing,” Dr. Williams said, “and it is very, very likely that this drought will survive to last 23 years.”


Several previous megadroughts in the 1,200-year record lasted as long as 30 years, according to the researchers. Their analysis concluded that it is likely that the current drought will last that long. If it does, Dr. Williams said, it is almost certain that it will be drier than any previous 30-year period.


Tree rings are a year-by-year measure of growth — wider in wet years, thinner in dry ones. Using observational climate data over the last century, researchers have been able to closely link tree ring width to moisture content in the soil, which is a common measure of drought. Then they have applied that width-moisture relationship to data from much older trees. The result “is an almost perfect record of soil moisture” over 12 centuries in the Southwest, Dr. Williams said.


Using that record, the researchers determined that last summer was the second driest in the last 300 years, with only 2002, in the early years of the current drought, being drier.


Monsoon rains in the desert Southwest last summer had offered hope that the drought might come to an end, as did heavy rain and snow in California from the fall into December.


But January produced record-dry conditions across much of the West, Dr. Williams said, and so far February has been dry as well. Reservoirs that a few months ago were at above-normal levels for the time of year are now below normal again, and mountain snowpack is also suffering. Seasonal forecasts also suggest the dryness will continue.


“This year could end up being wet,” Dr. Williams said, “but the dice are increasingly loaded toward this year playing out to be an abnormally dry year.”


Samantha Stevenson, a climate modeler at the University of California, Santa Barbara who was not involved in the study, said the research shows the same thing that projections show — that the Southwest, like some other parts of the world, is becoming even more parched.


Not everywhere is becoming increasingly arid, she said. “But in the Western U.S. it is for sure. And that’s primarily because of the warming of the land surface, with some contribution from precipitation changes as well.”


“We’re sort of shifting into basically unprecedented times relative to anything we’ve seen in the last several hundred years,” she added.



4) A Woman Is Cured of H.I.V. Using a Novel Treatment

She’s the third person ever to be cured. Researchers announced that the new approach holds the potential for curing more people of racially diverse backgrounds.

By Apoorva Mandavilli, Feb. 15, 2022


A colored scanning electron micrograph of H.I.V. particles, in yellow, infecting a host cell. The patient received cord blood from a donor with the mutation that blocks H.I.V.’s entry into cells.

A colored scanning electron micrograph of H.I.V. particles, in yellow, infecting a host cell. The patient received cord blood from a donor with the mutation that blocks H.I.V.’s entry into cells. Credit...Thomas Deerinck, NCMIR/Science Source

A woman of mixed race appears to be the third person ever to be cured of H.I.V., using a new transplant method involving umbilical cord blood that opens up the possibility of curing more people of diverse racial backgrounds than was previously possible, scientists announced on Tuesday.


Cord blood is more widely available than the adult stem cells typically used in bone marrow transplants, and does not need to be matched as closely to the recipient. Most donors in registries are of Caucasian origin, so allowing for only a partial match has the potential to cure dozens of Americans who have both H.I.V. and cancer each year, scientists said.


The woman, who also had leukemia, received cord blood to treat her cancer. It came from a partially matched donor, instead of the typical practice of finding a bone marrow donor of similar race and ethnicity to the patient’s. She also received blood from a close relative to give her body temporary immune defenses while the transplant took.


Researchers presented some of the details of the new case on Tuesday at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Denver, Colo.


The sex and racial background of the new case mark a significant step forward in developing a cure for H.I.V., the researchers said.


“The fact that she’s mixed race, and that she’s a woman, that is really important scientifically and really important in terms of the community impact,” said Dr. Steven Deeks, an AIDS expert at the University of California, San Francisco who was not involved in the work.


Infection with H.I.V. is thought to progress differently in women than in men, but while women account for more than half of H.I.V cases in the world, they make up only 11 percent of participants in cure trials.


But Dr. Deeks said he did not see the new approach becoming commonplace. “These are stories of providing inspiration to the field and perhaps the road map,” he said.


Powerful antiretroviral drugs can control H.I.V., but a cure is key to ending the decades-old pandemic. Worldwide, nearly 38 million people are living with H.I.V., and about 73 percent of them are receiving treatment.


A bone marrow transplant is not a realistic option for most patients. Such transplants are highly invasive and risky, so they are generally offered only to people with cancer who have exhausted all other options.


There have only been two known cases of an H.I.V. cure so far. Referred to as “The Berlin Patient,” Timothy Ray Brown stayed virus-free for 12 years, until he died in 2020 of cancer. In 2019, another patient, later identified as Adam Castillejo, was reported to be cured of H.I.V., confirming that Mr. Brown’s case was not a fluke.


Both men received bone marrow transplants from donors who carried a mutation that blocks H.I.V. infection. The mutation has been identified in only about 20,000 donors, most of whom are of Northern European descent.


In the previous cases, as the bone marrow transplants replaced all of their immune systems, both men suffered punishing side effects, including graft versus host disease, a condition in which the donor’s cells attack the recipient’s body. Mr. Brown nearly died after his transplant. Mr. Castillejo’s treatment was less intense, but in the year after his transplant, he lost nearly 70 pounds, developed a hearing loss and survived multiple infections, according to his doctors.


By contrast, the woman in the latest case left the hospital by day 17 after her transplant and did not develop graft versus host disease, said Dr. JingMei Hsu, the patient’s physician at Weill Cornell Medicine. The combination of cord blood and her relative’s cells might have spared her much of the brutal side effects of a typical bone marrow transplant, Dr. Hsu said.


“It was previously thought that graft versus host disease might be an important reason for an H.I.V. cure in the prior cases,” said Dr. Sharon Lewin, president-elect of the International AIDS Society, who was not involved in the work. The new results dispel that idea, Dr. Lewin said.


The woman, who is now past middle age (she did not want to disclose her exact age because of privacy concerns), was diagnosed with H.I.V. in June 2013. Antiretroviral drugs kept her virus levels low. In March 2017, she was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia.


In August of that year, she received cord blood from a donor with the mutation that blocks H.I.V.’s entry into cells. But it can take about six weeks for cord blood cells to engraft, so she was also given partially matched blood stem cells from a first-degree relative.


The half-matched “haplo” cells from her relative propped up her immune system until the cord blood cells became dominant, making the transplant much less dangerous, said Dr. Marshall Glesby, an infectious diseases expert at Weill Cornell Medicine of New York and part of the research team.


“The transplant from the relative is like a bridge that got her through to the point of the cord blood being able to take over,” he said.


The patient opted to discontinue antiretroviral therapy 37 months after the transplant. More than 14 months later, she now shows no signs of H.I.V. in blood tests, and does not seem to have detectable antibodies to the virus.


It’s unclear exactly why stem cells from cord blood seem to work so well, experts said. One possibility is that they are more capable of adapting to a new environment, said Dr. Koen Van Besien, director of the transplant service at Weill Cornell. “These are newborns, they are more adaptable,” he said.


Cord blood may also contain elements beyond the stem cells that aid in the transplant.


“Umbilical stem cells are attractive,” Dr. Deeks said. “There’s something magical about these cells and something magical perhaps about the cord blood in general that provides an extra benefit.”



5) The New Secret Chicken Recipe? Animal Cells.

Here’s an early taste of the laboratory-grown meat that companies are racing to bring to market, and a look at the questions it raises about how we feed ourselves.

By Kim Severson, Published Feb. 15, 2022, Updated Feb. 16, 2022

Mr. Davila prepared a sautéed cultivated chicken breast with beurre blanc, tomatoes and charred scallions for a recent tasting with a reporter.

Mr. Davila prepared a sautéed cultivated chicken breast with beurre blanc, tomatoes and charred scallions for a recent tasting with a reporter. Credit...Gabriela Hasbun for The New York Times

EMERYVILLE, Calif. — Until I read the release form, I wasn’t concerned that the bite of sautéed chicken breast I was about to eat had taken less than three weeks to grow from a few cells inside a laboratory tank to a thick sheet of meat.


Would I assume full responsibility, the form asked, for any personal injury, property damage or death that came from ingesting meat “whose properties are not completely known”?


I was in the airy test kitchen and production center that Upside Foods opened four months ago in a Bay Area residential shopping district as part of its quest to sell chicken grown from animal stem cells, first in the United States and then globally. They hope other foods, including beef, duck and lobster, won’t be far behind.


“We just cannot take for granted that what we eat now is the gold standard,” said Dr. Uma Valeti, the cardiologist who helped start the company in 2015 after he became convinced that the same medical technology used to grow stem cells to repair a human heart could also grow food.


“We are changing the paradigm,” he said. “We are detaching the meat from the animal.”


Tissue engineers and scientists in several countries are trying to find a commercially viable way to transform animal stem cells into a marbled Wagyu steak, briny oysters or sushi-grade salmon. Their work is fed by nearly $3 billion in investments from companies like Archer-Daniels-Midland and the Brazilian meat giant JBS; billionaires like Bill Gates; environmentally minded celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio; and government agencies including the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Qatar Investment Authority.


The global market for what is most commonly known as cell-based or cultivated meat could reach $25 billion by 2030, according to the consultants McKinsey & Company. That would be a tiny slice of the projected $1.4 trillion meat market, but one that food companies see as a key player in the fast-growing category called alternative meat.


Growing cells into meat remains the Wild West of food production. Although companies are racing to file for patents, and guard breakthroughs in cell technology like gold, almost a decade after the first cell-grown hamburger was introduced at a packed media event, the notion of buying an engineered steak at the grocery store remains an expensive theory.


Only about 700 people in the world have ever purchased cellular meat — most of it ground, breaded and fried, and all of it in Singapore, which became the first nation to grant regulatory approval in 2020. And though the United States isn’t far behind (the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration could finish writing rules about how to produce and sell cultured meat by the end of the year) all of this is still a long way from the grocery store.


There are plenty of questions about whether producers will ever master the technology and build plants big enough to make commercially viable amounts of the meat at a price consumers will pay.


But as the theoretical keeps inching closer to reality, curious cooks and adventurous diners are taking a closer look at whether farming meat cells will — or should — be widely embraced, the way plant-based meat substitutes have been.


“I’m not excited about it, but I wouldn’t bet against it,” said the restaurateur Danny Meyer, who added that he has yet to see evidence that cell-based meat is healthier, better for the planet or not just for elite diners. “I want to buy food for dinner, not a science experiment.”


For true believers, growing meat in tanks is a way to lessen the environmental impact of industrial meat production and relieve animal suffering. It could reduce food-borne illnesses, they say, and create an abundant meat supply to feed the world.


Opponents say the process ignores both culture and nature, and could be scientifically risky, creating potential allergens and untested byproducts, along with waste that might be a biohazard. And it ignores the value of time-tested regenerative agricultural practices in favor of unproven claims of environmental gain.


“If for any reason someone wants to avoid animal protein, why not just eat plants and foods made with plants?” said Alan Lewis, who oversees governmental affairs for the Natural Grocers health food chain. “The obsession with the taste and texture of meat I can understand. But taking the leap of faith to consuming synthetic protein seems entirely unnecessary.”


The chef José Andrés believes in the meat’s potential, and plans to serve it at one of his restaurants once it becomes available. He recently joined the board of Good Meat, a division of Eat Just that makes plant-based eggs from mung beans. In 2020, Good Meat became the first company in the world to sell cultivated meat. It debuted at a private club in Singapore, which tucked the meat into a bao bun and turned it into a crisp patty on a maple waffle.


Upside Foods has signed a multiyear consulting contract with Dominique Crenn, whose San Francisco restaurant Atelier Crenn has three Michelin stars. She serves no chicken or red meat on her tasting menu, but has promised to add the company’s chicken and help promote it.


When Dr. Valeti approached Ms. Crenn last year, her initial thought was, “No way.” But then she thought, why not? “I love farmers and ranchers. That is not what I am against. I am against factory farming. That is not sustainable.”


At her first tasting, she thought the breast meat was a bit mushy, but the flavor reminded her of poulet rouge, a heritage breed from France.


Michal Ansky, an Israeli food journalist who hosts “MasterChef Israel” and has opened several farmers’ markets, also is a fan. She tried cell-based chicken in January during a blind tasting set up by SuperMeat, one of several cell-based meat companies in Israel.


She and a panel sampled it alongside traditionally grown minced chicken. Ms. Ansky was convinced that the better-tasting chicken came from an animal. She was wrong, and became a convert. She even thinks the meat could even find a place at farmers’ markets.


“Food is more than ingredients,” Ms. Ansky said in a phone interview from Tel Aviv. “Food is about memory and tradition and identity and longing. If my grandmother was still alive and could make her chicken soup with the lab meat, many lives would be better.”


In 20 years, she said, “people will look at us as crazy people who slaughtered chickens.”


The chef Dan Barber, co-owner of the Blue Hill restaurants in New York State, said lab-grown food enriches no one but the investors, and ignores the environmental and phytochemical benefits that come when animals feed on pasture, which translates into both flavor and better nutrition. “As they say, ‘It’s not the cow, it’s the how,’” he said.


The meteoric rise of highly processed plant-based proteins has kicked open the door for cellular agriculture. It’s been only six years since Impossible Foods introduced a patty made with soy leghemoglobin to mimic beef blood. Now McDonald’s is testing a McPlant burger, and KFC is selling plant-based chicken nuggets from Beyond Meat.


Cultivated meat is an entirely different creature. It begins with stem cells from an animal biopsy, an egg or even a feather that multiply rapidly in a stainless steel tank called a bioreactor or cultivator. The cells feed on a complex broth that contains nutrients like carbohydrates and amino acids, and some type of growth factor, to become muscle, fat or connective tissue. Taste and nutrition are controlled by cell selection and the broth they grow in.


Making a product that looks like ground meat is easier than replicating traditional cuts. To create something that looks like a steak or a chop, some companies use an edible scaffold that the cells can attach to. Scientists are experimenting with biological 3-D printing technology originally designed to rebuild human tissue, using it instead to turn layers of muscle and fat tissue into Wagyu-style beef.


And the taste? In the Upside Food test kitchen, I sampled a slightly grainy chicken pâté and a perfectly round breakfast patty blended with plant-based proteins that fried up nicely. Generous seasoning masked the flavor of the meat.


The breast I ate came from tissue that had grown short meat fibers and had been pressed into plastic molds to approximate the size and shape of a small boneless breast. It had less chew but much more flavor than a typical grocery-store breast. The biggest difference was how the meat reacted in a pan. As it browned, the surface looked more like coarsely ground meat than whole muscle.


What to call meat grown in tanks remains a battle. The United States Cattlemen’s Association petitioned the Department of Agriculture in 2018 to limit the definition of meat and beef to products derived from animals born, raised and harvested in the traditional manner. The request was denied. States have jumped in. In Georgia, cell-cultured products have to be labeled “lab-grown,” “lab-created” or “grown in a lab.”


Most producers prefer the term cultivated meat, or cultured meat. The terms slaughter-free meat or clean meat are favored by some in the animal-rights contingent. Cooks, ranchers and others who oppose it call it synthetic, fake or engineered meat. The debate is likely to be settled, at least legally, when the agriculture department decides what to require on the label.


David Kaplan oversees the new National Institute for Cellular Agriculture at Tufts University, which in October received a $10 million grant from the Department of Agriculture to study cellular meat, from production to consumer acceptance. He prefers the term cultured meat. “Really, there is nothing artificial about this,” he said.


Dr. Kaplan and others acknowledge that squeamishness about the technology remains a hurdle. In a consumer survey released this year by Britain’s Food Standards Agency, only a third of those polled said they would try it. Just one in 10 Americans would be interested in trying food or beverages grown from cells, said Dasha Shor, an associate director of the market research firm Mintel.


The first consumer products will likely be a blend of plant-based proteins and cell-grown meat, she said, adding that younger people are more open to cultivated meat than their elders, which is why companies like Aleph Farms, in Israel, are recruiting members of Generation Z as cell-meat ambassadors.


Josh Tetrick, a founder and the chief executive of Eat Just, thinks acceptance is just a matter of time. “When the freezer came out, people thought it was bizarre, too,” he said.


Isha Datar is the executive director of New Harvest, a nonprofit institute that funds open, public research into cellular agriculture. In an October TED Talk that’s been viewed 1.6 million times, she contends that growing cells for meat offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fix a broken agricultural system. It could be as revolutionary, she says, as the transition from hunting to farming.


But she cautions that investors and companies have too much control over a process that, like making beer or cheese or growing vegetables, shouldn’t be treated as intellectual property.


“What does it mean for one company to own the recipe for meat?” she said. “It has the capacity to be very good and to be very bad.”



6) Opening a Restaurant in Miami? Invoking Cuban Communism Might Backfire.

The restaurant, Café Habana, is scheduled to open in the spring. But it’s already leaving a bitter taste for many Miami-Dade County residents.

By Christina Morales, Feb. 10, 2022

Café Habana, opening in the Brickell neighborhood, has caused an uproar among Miami-Dade County’s abundant Cuban community by citing inspiration from Che Guevara and Fidel Castro.
Café Habana, opening in the Brickell neighborhood, has caused an uproar among Miami-Dade County’s abundant Cuban community by citing inspiration from Che Guevara and Fidel Castro. Credit...Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

MIAMI — A Manhattan restaurant planning an expansion to Miami has drawn the ire of some Cuban Americans after its use of Communist lore was pointed out on social media.


Café Habana, which plans to open a branch in the Brickell neighborhood this spring, was inspired by the Mexico City restaurant where Fidel Castro and Che Guevara were rumored to have planned the Cuban revolution, according to a history now deleted from the restaurant’s website. The Miami Herald first reported the story.


This is the latest stumble for an out-of-town restaurant tone deaf to the histories of the local residents, many of whom still blame Castro and Guevara for upending their lives in Cuba. In 2017, the Turkish chef Nusret Gokce, known as Salt Bae, faced criticism online when he posted a photo of himself posed as Castro, according to the Miami Herald. He later opened a restaurant in Miami.


“Many Cubans living in Miami now, and its descendants, blame Fidel personally for being here,” said Jorge Duany, the director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University. “The level of hatred, for quite a number of Cuban immigrants, is quite intense.”


Café Habana, which at its location in the NoLIta neighborhood of Manhattan sells Mexican-style grilled corn and a Cubano sandwich with chipotle mayonnaise, has opened branches in Malibu and Tokyo. Sean Meenan, the chain’s founder, did not return repeated calls for comment, nor did others affiliated with the restaurant, including the company’s chief executive and partner, Luke Thomas.


In the past, Mr. Meenan has also played on the imagery of Cuban communism with a large mural in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, which married the iconic Alberto Korda photograph of Guevara with the face of the rapper the Notorious B.I.G. That mural was painted more than a decade ago for the chain’s Habana Outpost location, which has since closed.


“I was honestly shocked they had the audacity to open up in Miami,” said Josue Alvarez, 31, the son of Cubans who left the island in 1980. He was inspired to post a TikTok that spread on social media.


Lillian May, 62, took issue with the politics and the menu. “He has no right to be appropriating something for his own benefit and hurting the community he’s appropriating the culture of,” she said.


Others, like Jose Manuel Palli, 70, of Miami, were not bothered. Mr. Palli, who was born in Cuba and moved to Argentina when he was 8 years old, said it wasn’t surprising to see the community in an uproar, and added that he views the response as “just a way of trying to re-fight a battle that they lost many years ago.” He feels that many Cubans and their descendants have “built their lives and their identities on their anti-Castro stance.”


Mr. Palli said he would eat at the restaurant when it’s open. “My fellow Cubans will brand me as a Communist, but I’d love to make a statement there.”