For Immediate Release
Press Contact: Herb Mintz (415) 759-9679
LaborFest 2022 presents
1934 San Francisco General Strike
Walk and Presentation by Gifford Hartman
Sunday, July 3rd at 12 noon PDT
LaborFest 2022 continues its 29th annual festival with a labor history walk and presentation by Gifford Hartmann that highlights the remarkable history of the San Francisco General Strike of 1934.
Participants will meet at the Harry Bridges Plaza Tower to the south, Embarcadero at Market in San Francisco.
No registration is necessary. Admission is free.
Eighty-eight years ago, a great battle took place between striking workers and the police and National Guard along the waterfront alongside the piers of San Francisco’s Embarcadero. We will look at the causes of the 1934 General Strike, why it was successful, and how the issues from that strike are still relevant to working class people today. The current movement against police murder of black and brown people can draw lessons from the way strikers invited black workers into their ranks to prevent racist exclusion from breaking their strike. We explain how an 83-day West Coast Waterfront Strike exploded into the 4-day General Strike that paralyzed all commerce in San Francisco. This tour will visit the sites of those events.
This two-hour free event is a walk around downtown San Francisco on Sunday, July 3rd, beginning at 12 noon PDT. Please dress appropriately.
For more information: https://laborfest.net/event/1934-san-francisco-general-strike-walk-presentation-by-gifford-hartman/
Events are subject to change or cancellation due to COVID-19 related issues. Check our website at https://laborfest.net/ prior to each event or for a calendar of all events.
LaborFest is the premier labor cultural arts and film festival in the United States. LaborFest recognizes the role of working people in the building of America and making it work even in this time of COVID-19. The festival is self-funded with contributions from unions and other organizations that support and celebrate the contributions of working people.
Find LaborFest on Facebook here:
The Campaign to Bring Mumia Home
“You can't separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom."
Doctors for Assange Statement
Doctors to UK: Assange Extradition
‘Medically & Ethically’ Wrong
Ahead of the U.K. Home Secretary’s decision on whether to extradite Julian Assange to the United States, a group of more than 300 doctors representing 35 countries have told Priti Patel that approving his extradition would be “medically and ethically unacceptable”.
In an open letter sent to the Home Secretary on Friday June 10, and copied to British Prime Minster Boris Johnson, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland, the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong, the doctors draw attention to the fact that Assange suffered a “mini stroke” in October 2021. They note:
“Predictably, Mr Assange’s health has since continued to deteriorate in your custody. In October 2021 Mr. Assange suffered a ‘mini-stroke’… This dramatic deterioration of Mr Assange’s health has not yet been considered in his extradition proceedings. The US assurances accepted by the High Court, therefore, which would form the basis of any extradition approval, are founded upon outdated medical information, rendering them obsolete.”
The doctors charge that any extradition under these circumstances would constitute negligence. They write:
“Under conditions in which the UK legal system has failed to take Mr Assange’s current health status into account, no valid decision regarding his extradition may be made, by yourself or anyone else. Should he come to harm in the US under these circumstances it is you, Home Secretary, who will be left holding the responsibility for that negligent outcome.”
In their letter the group reminds the Home Secretary that they first wrote to her on Friday 22 November 2019, expressing their serious concerns about Julian Assange’s deteriorating health.
Those concerns were subsequently borne out by the testimony of expert witnesses in court during Assange’s extradition proceedings, which led to the denial of his extradition by the original judge on health grounds. That decision was later overturned by a higher court, which referred the decision to Priti Patel in light of US assurances that Julian Assange would not be treated inhumanely.
The doctors write:
“The subsequent ‘assurances’ of the United States government, that Mr Assange would not be treated inhumanly, are worthless given their record of pursuit, persecution and plotted murder of Mr Assange in retaliation for his public interest journalism.”
“Home Secretary, in making your decision as to extradition, do not make yourself, your government, and your country complicit in the slow-motion execution of this award-winning journalist, arguably the foremost publisher of our time. Do not extradite Julian Assange; free him.”
Julian Assange remains in High Security Belmarsh Prison awaiting Priti Patel’s decision, which is due any day.
Sign the petition:
If extradited to the United States, Julian Assange, father of two young British children, would face a sentence of 175 years in prison merely for receiving and publishing truthful information that revealed US war crimes.
UK District Judge Vanessa Baraitser has ruled that "it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America".
Amnesty International states, “Were Julian Assange to be extradited or subjected to any other transfer to the USA, Britain would be in breach of its obligations under international law.”
Human Rights Watch says, “The only thing standing between an Assange prosecution and a major threat to global media freedom is Britain. It is urgent that it defend the principles at risk.”
The NUJ has stated that the “US charges against Assange pose a huge threat, one that could criminalise the critical work of investigative journalists & their ability to protect their sources”.
Julian will not survive extradition to the United States.
The UK is required under its international obligations to stop the extradition. Article 4 of the US-UK extradition treaty says: "Extradition shall not be granted if the offense for which extradition is requested is a political offense."
The decision to either Free Assange or send him to his death is now squarely in the political domain. The UK must not send Julian to the country that conspired to murder him in London.
The United Kingdom can stop the extradition at any time. It must comply with Article 4 of the US-UK Extradition Treaty and Free Julian Assange.
Recently I’ve started working with the Coalition to Free Ruchell Magee. On March 17, Ruchell turned 83. He’s been imprisoned for 59 years, and now walks with a walker. He is no threat to society if released. Ruchell was in the Marin County Courthouse on August 7, 1970, the morning Jonathan Jackson took it over in an effort to free his older brother, the internationally known revolutionary prison writer, George Jackson. Ruchell joined Jonathan and was the only survivor of the shooting that ensued. He has been locked up ever since and denied parole 13 times. On March 19, the Coalition to Free Ruchell Magee held a webinar for Ruchell for his 83rd birthday, which was a terrific event full of information and plans for building the campaign to Free Ruchell. (For information about his case, please visit: www.freeruchellmagee.org.)
Below are two ways to stream this historic webinar, plus
• a petition you can sign
• a portal to send a letter to Governor Newsom
• a Donate button to support his campaign
• a link to our campaign website.
Please take a moment and help.
Note: We will soon have t-shirts to sell to raise money for legal expenses.
Here is the YouTube link to view the March 19 Webinar:
Here is the Facebook link:
Sign the petition to Free Ruchell:
Write to Governor Newsom’s office:
No one ever hurt their eyes by looking on the bright side
Tell Congress to Help #FreeDanielHale
U.S. Air Force veteran, Daniel Everette Hale has recently completed his first year of a 45-month prison sentence for exposing the realities of U.S drone warfare. Daniel Hale is not a spy, a threat to society, or a bad faith actor. His revelations were not a threat to national security. If they were, the prosecution would be able to identify the harm caused directly from the information Hale made public. Our members of Congress can urge President Biden to commute Daniel's sentence! Either way, Daniel deserves to be free.
Laws are created to be followed
by the poor.
Laws are made by the rich
to bring some order to exploitation.
The poor are the only law abiders in history.
When the poor make laws
the rich will be no more.
—Roque Dalton Presente!
(May 14, 1935 – Assassinated May 10, 1975)
 Roque Dalton was a Salvadoran poet, essayist, journalist, political activist, and intellectual. He is considered one of Latin America's most compelling poets.
“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.
New Legal Filing in Mumia’s Case
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.”
Questions and comments may be sent to: email@example.com
Sign our petition urging President Biden to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier.
Address: 116 W. Osborne Ave. Tampa, Florida 33603
How long will he still be with us? How long will the genocide continue?
By Michael Moore—VIA Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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
E-mail: At this link
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland
Attorney General Merrick Garland
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”
Bureau of Labor Statistics
U.S. Department of Labor
For release 10:00 a.m. (ET) Thursday, January 20, 2022
(202) 691-6378 • email@example.com • www.bls.gov/cps
(202) 691-5902 • PressOffice@bls.gov
In 2021, the number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions continued to decline (-241,000) to 14.0 million, and the percent who were members of unions—the union membership rate—was 10.3 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The rate is down from 10.8 percent in 2020—when the rate increased due to a disproportionately large decline in the total number of nonunion workers compared with the decline in the number of union members. The 2021 unionization rate is the same as the 2019 rate of 10.3 percent. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent and there were 17.7 million union workers.
These data on union membership are collected as part of the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 eligible households that obtains information on employment and unemployment among the nation’s civilian noninstitutional population age 16 and over. For further information, see the Technical Note in this news release.
Highlights from the 2021 data:
• The union membership rate of public-sector workers (33.9 percent) continued to be more than five times higher than the rate of private-sector workers (6.1 percent). (See table 3.)
• The highest unionization rates were among workers in education, training, and library occupations (34.6 percent) and protective service occupations (33.3 percent). (See table 3.)
• Men continued to have a higher union membership rate (10.6 percent) than women (9.9 percent). The gap between union membership rates for men and women has narrowed considerably since 1983 (the earliest year for which comparable data are available), when rates for men and women were 24.7 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively. (See table 1.)
• Black workers remained more likely to be union members than White, Asian, or Hispanic workers. (See table 1.)
• Nonunion workers had median weekly earnings that were 83 percent of earnings for workers who were union members ($975 versus $1,169). (The comparisons of earnings in this news release are on a broad level and do not control for many factors that can be important in explaining earnings differences.) (See table 2.)
• Among states, Hawaii and New York continued to have the highest union membership rates (22.4 percent and 22.2 percent, respectively), while South Carolina and North Carolina continued to have the lowest (1.7 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively). (See table 5.)
Industry and Occupation of Union Members
In 2021, 7.0 million employees in the public sector belonged to unions, the same as in the private sector. (See table 3.)
Union membership decreased by 191,000 over the year in the public sector. The public-sector union membership rate declined by 0.9 percentage point in 2021 to 33.9 percent, following an increase of 1.2 percentage points in 2020. In 2021, the union membership rate continued to be highest in local government (40.2 percent), which employs many workers in heavily unionized occupations, such as police officers, firefighters, and teachers.
The number of union workers employed in the private sector changed little over the year. However, the number of private-sector nonunion workers increased in 2021. The private-sector unionization rate declined by 0.2 percentage point in 2021 to 6.1 percent, slightly lower than its 2019 rate of 6.2 percent. Industries with high unionization rates included utilities (19.7 percent), motion pictures and sound recording industries (17.3 percent), and transportation and warehousing (14.7 percent). Low unionization rates occurred in finance (1.2 percent), professional and technical services (1.2 percent), food services and drinking places (1.2 percent), and insurance (1.5 percent).
Among occupational groups, the highest unionization rates in 2021 were in education, training, and library occupations (34.6 percent) and protective service occupations (33.3 percent). Unionization rates were lowest in food preparation and serving related occupations (3.1 percent); sales and related occupations (3.3 percent); computer and mathematical occupations (3.7 percent); personal care and service occupations (3.9 percent); and farming, fishing, and forestry occupations (4.0 percent).
Selected Characteristics of Union Members
In 2021, the number of men who were union members, at 7.5 million, changed little, while the number of women who were union members declined by 182,000 to 6.5 million. The unionization rate for men decreased by 0.4 percentage point over the year to 10.6 percent. In 2021, women’s union membership rate declined by 0.6 percentage point to 9.9 percent. The 2021 decreases in union membership rates for men and women reflect increases in the total number of nonunion workers. The rate for men is below the 2019 rate (10.8 percent), while the rate for women is above the 2019 rate (9.7 percent). (See table 1.)
Among major race and ethnicity groups, Black workers continued to have a higher union membership rate in 2021 (11.5 percent) than White workers (10.3 percent), Asian workers (7.7 percent), and Hispanic workers (9.0 percent). The union membership rate declined by 0.4 percentage point for White workers, by 0.8 percentage point for Black workers, by 1.2 percentage points for Asian workers, and by 0.8 percentage point for Hispanic workers. The 2021 rates for Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics are little or no different from 2019, while the rate for Asians is lower.
By age, workers ages 45 to 54 had the highest union membership rate in 2021, at 13.1 percent. Younger workers—those ages 16 to 24—had the lowest union membership rate, at 4.2 percent.
In 2021, the union membership rate for full-time workers (11.1 percent) continued to be considerably higher than that for part-time workers (6.1 percent).
In 2021, 15.8 million wage and salary workers were represented by a union, 137,000 less than in 2020. The percentage of workers represented by a union was 11.6 percent, down by 0.5 percentage point from 2020 but the same as in 2019. Workers represented by a union include both union members (14.0 million) and workers who report no union affiliation but whose jobs are covered by a union contract (1.8 million). (See table 1.)
Among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $1,169 in 2021, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $975. In addition to coverage by a collective bargaining agreement, these earnings differences reflect a variety of influences, including variations in the distributions of union members and nonunion employees by occupation, industry, age, firm size, or geographic region. (See tables 2 and 4.)
Union Membership by State
In 2021, 30 states and the District of Columbia had union membership rates below that of the U.S. average, 10.3 percent, while 20 states had rates above it. All states in both the East South Central and West South Central divisions had union membership rates below the national average, while all states in both the Middle Atlantic and Pacific divisions had rates above it. (See table 5 and chart 1.)
Ten states had union membership rates below 5.0 percent in 2021. South Carolina had the lowest rate (1.7 percent), followed by North Carolina (2.6 percent) and Utah (3.5 percent). Two states had union membership rates over 20.0 percent in 2021: Hawaii (22.4 percent) and New York (22.2 percent).
In 2021, about 30 percent of the 14.0 million union members lived in just two states (California at 2.5 million and New York at 1.7 million). However, these states accounted for about 17 percent of wage and salary employment nationally.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Impact on 2021 Union Members Data
Union membership data for 2021 continue to reflect the impact on the labor market of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Comparisons with union membership measures for 2020, including metrics such as the union membership rate and median usual weekly earnings, should be interpreted with caution. The onset of the pandemic in 2020 led to an increase in the unionization rate due to a disproportionately large decline in the number of nonunion workers compared with the decline in the number of union members. The decrease in the rate in 2021 reflects a large gain in the number of nonunion workers and a decrease in the number of union workers. More information on labor market developments in recent months is available at:
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.
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:
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:
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
Priti Patel, Britain’s home secretary, approved the order. But Mr. Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who faces charges in the U.S. under the Espionage Act, will appeal.
By Megan Specia, June 17, 2022
An image of Julian Assange was projected in London in April to mark three years since his arrest and detention in the Belmarsh prison. Credit...Victoria Jones/Press Association, via Associated Press
LONDON — The British government approved an extradition order on Friday for Julian Assange, the embattled WikiLeaks founder, confirming a court decision that he can be sent to the United States to stand trial on espionage charges, though his legal fight against the decision is not over.
While the order is a blow for Mr. Assange, whose case is seen by rights groups as a potential challenge to press freedom, he is expected to appeal the decision in a British court, and the government said he had 14 days to do so.
The Home Office, in a statement, pointed to a British court ruling that did not find “that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr. Assange.” Additionally, the statement said, the courts did not find that extradition “would be incompatible with his human rights, including his right to a fair trial and to freedom of expression, and that whilst in the U.S. he will be treated appropriately, including in relation to his health.”
“This is disappointing news that should concern anyone who cares about the First Amendment and the right to publish,” said Barry J. Pollack, a lawyer for Mr. Assange in the United States. “The decision will be appealed.”
The approval of the order by Priti Patel, the home secretary, is just the latest turn in a long-running court battle and comes after a British court ordered Mr. Assange’s extradition in April.
In its statement, the Home Office said that, if Mr. Assange wishes to fight his extradition, his next legal step would be to apply to the High Court for permission to appeal against the decisions of both a district judge and Ms. Patel to order it.
In 2019, Mr. Assange was charged in the United States under the Espionage Act in connection with obtaining and publishing classified government documents about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on WikiLeaks in 2010. Those files were leaked by Chelsea Manning, a former military intelligence analyst, before being published by the site.
Throughout the prolonged legal battle against his extradition, Mr. Assange has remained in custody in London at Belmarsh prison, where he has been detained for nearly three years. Mr. Assange married his partner, Stella Moris, in prison this year.
“We are going to fight this, we are going to use every appeal avenue,” she said on Friday, adding, “I am going to spend every waking hour fighting for Julian until he is free, until justice is served.”
Mr. Assange was arrested in London in 2019 after spending seven years holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in an effort to avoid detention as he fought extradition to Sweden, where he was wanted for questioning in a rape inquiry. That case was later dropped.
Under current government guidelines, Ms. Patel is able to block extradition requests only in a small number of circumstances. Those include cases concerning people previously extradited or transferred to Britain from elsewhere, others involving people facing the death penalty, or those who might be charged with further, previously unannounced offenses after their transfers.
But if none of those issues were involved, Ms. Patel would have no reason to refuse an extradition request and would be obliged to comply, according to the Home Office.
However, Mr. Assange’s legal team will still be able to apply to appeal to Britain’s High Court on both Ms. Patel’s decision and potentially on a number of other points of concern about the U.S. request. The High Court will then decide which points Mr. Assange may appeal, if any. This process could take several months.
Once he has exhausted his options in British courts, Mr. Assange could also try to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
One of that court’s rulings this week grounded a flight that was scheduled to take some asylum seekers to Rwanda from Britain. Since then, some lawmakers from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party have called on Britain to remove itself from the remit of the court, which is part of the Council of Europe rather than the European Union.
Rights groups have expressed worries that Mr. Assange’s extradition to the United States could threaten press freedom, and when the court made a decision on his case, several organizations denounced the move.
“The Home Office’s decision to extradite Julian Assange exposes its complicity in undermining press freedom just as it claims to be a world leader on freedom of expression,” Quinn McKew, the executive director of Article 19, which campaigns for freedom of expression, said in a statement.
“It also sends a worrying message to the world that journalists, activists and anyone who exposes important truths about crimes — including those committed by governments and businesses — do not deserve protection for their rights to impart information and speak freely,” the statement added.
Several opposition lawmakers expressed their concerns about the decision, as did one senior Conservative lawmaker, the former cabinet minister David Davis.
“Sadly I do not believe Mr Assange will get a fair trial,” he wrote on Twitter. “This extradition treaty needs to be rewritten to give British and American citizens identical rights, unlike now.”
Stephen Castle contributed reporting from London, and Charlie Savage from Washington.
By Jessica Bennett, June 16, 2022
Ms. Bennett is a contributing editor in Opinion who writes on gender, politics and culture. Previously, she was The Times’s gender editor.
Illustration by Mel Haasch. Photograph by Nancy Crampton
Ms. magazine’s first stand-alone issue came out 50 years ago, in the summer of 1972 — a publication for women whose interests went “beyond the limits of home and husband.” It was the first mainstream magazine by and for women, and it counted Alice Walker, Adrienne Rich, Toni Morrison and Vivian Gornick among its early writers. Kathleen Hanna, the Bikini Kill frontwoman, used cutouts from her mother’s copies for early feminist art projects. Judy Blume, the children’s author, has said it helped her feel less alone. Some women hid it from their husbands; for others, it was a catalyst to leave them.
Advertisers scoffed at the idea of paying money to appear in its pages. The magazine was banned from some libraries, and some distributors refused to sell it on newsstands. At least one prominent male journalist snarked that the women would “run out of things to say.” Even President Richard Nixon thought it was preposterous — wondering, in a conversation with Henry Kissinger, how many people “give one shit” about Gloria Steinem’s feminist magazine.
The answer turned out to be millions. The magazine’s preview issue sold out in eight days and yielded at least 20,000 letters in response.
Ms. has faced its share of controversies over the years. The magazine was criticized as too radical but also not radical enough. There were jealousies and disagreements. Was Ms. doing enough for lesbians? For women of color? For rural women? Alice Walker — who would express her own controversial positions later in her life, including some considered to be antisemitic — resigned in 1986, dismayed by how white the magazine’s covers had become. (She would later return as a contributor.)
But for all its controversies — or perhaps because of them — those young issues of Ms. have never felt more prescient. Last month, The Times convened a handful of early Ms. editors and writers to reflect on the magazine’s founding and where the feminist movement is today. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Why the name Ms.?
Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Ms. co-founder: I remember we considered “Sisters” but rejected it because people would think it was going to be about nuns. Another possibility was “Sojourner,” in honor of Sojourner Truth, the 19th-century African American women’s rights activist, but it sounded too much like a literal travel magazine. At one point, Gloria suggested “Bimbo.” She meant it as an ironic appropriation, but in those years, we didn’t have the luxury of irony. We ended up calling it Ms. because it described a woman without reference to her marital status — an equal analogue to “Mr.” The term “Ms.” already existed in secretarial manuals, which routinely counseled using “Ms.” when addressing a woman in a business letter in cases where it couldn’t be established for certain whether she’s married or single.
Janet Dewart Bell, Ms. contributor: My mother thought the title “Ms.” was absolutely brilliant — that it brought dignity, that it brought power and understanding of equality. She felt, even though she never used the term “intersectionality,” that it made women more alike than different.
Gloria Steinem, Ms. co-founder: It took something like 15 years for The New York Times to use it. I was “Miss Steinem of Ms. magazine.” When The New York Times finally changed, a whole bunch of us went to see Abe Rosenthal [a former executive editor of The Times] and gave him flowers. And he said the most infuriating thing, which was that if he’d known it mattered so much to us, he would’ve done it sooner. We just wanted to punch him. I mean, we had previously picketed him, because many other publications and newspapers were already using “Ms.” as the equivalent of “Mr.”
Cottin Pogrebin: That was a time when you felt that protest led to action, led to reaction and people changed and things changed and institutions responded.
One of the early covers of Ms. depicted the eight-armed Hindu goddess Kali, pregnant and crying as she tries to juggle work and household tasks. The accompanying story was called “The Housewife’s Moment of Truth” by Jane O’Reilly.
Cottin Pogrebin: Jane’s piece was such an earth shaker, in the sense that it was the “Click!” that so many homemakers needed. I never noticed, prefeminism, that both my husband and I went out to work and when I came home, I started dinner and he picked up The New York Times and sat down. Because my mind-set was so rooted in this norm that women make dinner. And I think for millions of readers like me, Jane’s piece woke them up to those assumptions.
Jane O’Reilly, Ms. contributor: I was, at that point, a divorced mother and freelance writer in New York. When we all picked topics to cover for the first issue, I picked housework. I thought I could make it funny. Maybe I had been irritated by a friend’s husband at dinner the night before, who had asked, “Does feminism mean I have to wash the dishes?” After two months of hard work, I had written a manifesto. How to make your children pick up their own laundry. How to persuade your husband to vacuum. How to make your family value your work and, essentially, you. Women still read it and write to me, thanking me. After 50 years. Not quite as swift a revolution as I hoped for.
Cathie Black, Ms. advertising director: When you think about how many women have been at home throughout the pandemic, taking on all of those old tasks, it’s like, “God, has nothing changed?”
O’Reilly: It was horrifying to me that it was assumed during the pandemic that the woman in the family would stop working or work under the most difficult circumstances because she didn’t make as much money.
Steinem: Theoretically, at least, during the pandemic, men have done more at home. I’m always the optimist, hoping that this experience has helped to make them see that babies are interesting and that housework is a lot.
Early issues of Ms. featured an argument for gender-neutral pronouns, a piece about the Black family and feminism, and a proclamation signed by 53 women, including Anaïs Nin and Billie Jean King, that “we have had abortions.” Were you ahead of your time, or has the country moved backward?
Steinem: I feel proud, and I feel mad as hell. We are still dealing with the same issues.
Cottin Pogrebin: My feelings are of frustration and rage and deep disappointment when I look at how far we’ve slid back on two things: reproductive rights and nonsexist child rearing and education. There was a period of time when we were reporting on nonsexist curricula and teacher training and biases in textbooks. And now the pendulum is swinging the other way, and books are being banned, and very rigid definitions of sexual socialization are again back in the public discourse.
I’m sad to say that abortion is still something people do not speak of comfortably. I went public with mine in The Times Magazine, and women came up to me and said, “How could you do that?” And I said, “Have you had an abortion?” And they’d say yes. And I’d say, “Well, that’s why we’re not getting anywhere. You will not stand up and become the face of it. You’re a person with four children. You should be the face of it.”
Alice Walker, Ms. editor: I’m very grateful for the strength of the argument for abortion that was in the magazine. Though it’s true that people tend to slide back, it’s also true that once you really open people’s awareness to a situation, it’s very difficult for them to slide back altogether. If the magazine and the women in the movement had not stood firmly all those years ago, I shudder to think how young women would be feeling today. They would have no backup, no history to look back to. So I really applaud the women’s movement and the magazine for standing really firm on abortion.
Dewart Bell: One of the things about Ms. that I most appreciated was the willingness to tackle all sorts of issues. My husband and I had a conversation some years ago with Letty, who was trying to give up her white privilege. And he said, “Well, you can’t do that. But what you can do is use your white privilege as you have done to advance racial and other kinds of justices.”
Steinem: The alliances between Native American women and Black women and white women on the question of how to achieve control of their own physical selves, whether it was on birth or fertility, are endless and ageless.
Cottin Pogrebin: Which reminds me of the fact that our magazine was pulled off the stands whenever we had a woman of color on the cover.
Steinem: In the South. Not everywhere, but in the South.
How difficult was selling ads for a feminist magazine?
Black: Advertisers didn’t want to see us. You could see this look on their faces, like, “Oh, my God, what’s going to happen to me?” A look like, “I don’t want my world to change.”
I remember when we got the Philip Morris account, which we were very excited about. There was an ad for Virginia Slims — Philip Morris, the parent company, was very proud of having a woman’s cigarette. And Gloria, in her steely way, said, “We can’t run that ad because it says, ‘You’ve come a long way, baby,’ and, well, we really have not come that far yet.” A day or two later, they called and said they would withdraw their advertising if we didn’t run those ads. But we stood by Gloria.
Steinem: That also illustrates why we became a foundation and ceased being a for-profit corporation, so we could raise funds in different ways.
How did you know you were making an impact?
Steinem: I remember once going off to try to publicize the magazine in California. And when I got there, someone called to say they couldn’t find it. I called in a panic to say, “It didn’t get here! It didn’t get here!” And it turned out it had already sold out. And that was the beginning of an understanding that we definitely had an audience.
Cottin Pogrebin: It didn’t just sell out in New York and L.A. and Chicago. It sold out in tiny little towns in Kansas and community colleges and all over the place. That gave us the first inkling that we were really onto something.
We were the repository for people who didn’t feel they had a connection to the women’s movement. And once they read Ms., they did, and they felt there was an address where they could write.
There were overstuffed mailbags of letters. What astounded me was how personal they were. I was used to getting letters from women, but this was different. This was gut level. This was blood and bone. The number of letters admitting to being an incest survivor blew me away. So when we started to write about subjects that were verboten in mass market women’s magazines, we knew that we were reflecting women’s real lives. It was all in the letter bag.
Steinem: And those letters we’ve saved. They’re now in an archive at Smith.
What was the Ms. office like?
Cottin Pogrebin: Writers would bring their kids and know there was always a place for them. I had Rebecca Walker, Alice Walker’s daughter, on my lap half the time when she was in the office. I always loved to listen to her talk. She was a talker. My kids were in whenever they were on vacation. We created a physical tot lot.
And because I was the de facto family editor and I got the task of evaluating toys every year, my desk was often surrounded by toys. And, of course, that was a magnet for the kids.
Now I have a stroke when I go through toy stores where still everything is pink and blue. When you order a toy online, they say, “Is it for a girl or a boy?” They don’t say, “Is this a child who’s interested in nature or in bugs or in dinosaurs?” They say, “Boy or girl?” That was gone in the ’70s and ’80s. But that’s all slid backwards.
Walker: I remember my little daughter running around Xeroxing her hand a lot. Rebecca and Gloria had a really lovely relationship, and she liked to go and play with things on Gloria’s desk and possibly try on whatever beautiful thing she was wearing. So there was a very sweet feeling, for me, of feeling that my child was safe among all of these people who were quite different.
Steinem: It was wonderful for us who didn’t have children. There were children in our life. It was a gift.
Alice, one of your early articles for Ms. was a piece called “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston,” which is credited with helping revive interest in Hurston’s work. What did you see as your role at Ms.?
Walker: My world was very different, and I was always very aware of it. And so I brought what I needed to bring from my world to the magazine.
Steinem: You brought us South African writers, African writers —
Walker: And also writers from the South, you know, people who really live in a different world. You know, some women did graduate from scrubbing floors and raising too many children, but many women haven’t. And I was always very aware of that. And in my time there and the things that I chose to do, I wanted to make sure that those women were represented.
What do you say to young women when they ask you where we go from here?
Steinem: I don’t say to them; I listen to them. That’s the whole idea. I’m not lecturing them. I’m saying, you know, “What do you want to do? What do you want to be? And how can I help you?”
O’Reilly: So what do they say?
Steinem: Well, they’re quite specific, usually. “You can, you know, help us publicize this issue or this essay” or “We need a place to meet. How about your living room?”
Cottin Pogrebin: They sometimes ask me, as a person who had a family while being in the movement, “How do you balance it?” And one thing I say is just simply, “Don’t expect too much of yourself. Don’t drive yourself into the ground. Or get together with five other women and make sure you cover each other if you’re doing independent work and you need time off.”
Steinem: The companionship, right?
Cottin Pogrebin: The companionship in your struggle. It doesn’t occur to them somehow. Or the way it occurred to us that solidarity creates change. You know?
Dewart Bell: We have to really be very aware that there are people who are hungry for information, even though sometimes they’re tired. But we have to say it in a way, simplify it in a way that does not dumb down but it makes it accessible to people. People who don’t understand their history don’t understand that they have a future.
Cathie Black, a former chairwoman of Hearst Magazines and publisher of USA Today, began her career in advertising at Ms.
Letty Cottin Pogrebin, a founding editor of Ms., is a writer, lecturer and activist.
Janet Dewart Bell, an early Ms. contributor, is the author of “Lighting the Fires of Freedom: African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement.”
Jane O’Reilly wrote Ms.’s first cover story, “Click! The Housewife’s Moment of Truth.”
Gloria Steinem is an author and political activist and a co-founder of Ms.
Alice Walker, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, was an early Ms. editor and contributor.
Cover images courtesy of Gloria Steinem.
A police officer had a chance to shoot the gunman before he entered a school, according to a chief deputy sheriff. The officer declined to take the shot, fearing injuries to others.
By J. David Goodman, June 17, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/17/us/uvalde-shooting-gunman-police.html
A makeshift memorial after a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two adults dead. Credit...Callaghan O'Hare for The New York Times
UVALDE, Texas — A city police officer armed with an AR-15-style rifle hesitated when he had a brief chance to shoot the gunman approaching a school in Uvalde, Texas, because he did not want to hit children, according to a senior sheriff’s deputy who spoke to the officer.
The fateful decision, which has not been previously reported, represented the second missed opportunity for officers arriving at Robb Elementary School to prevent a massacre by intervening while the gunman was still outside the school. Officials have said that an officer from a different department, the Uvalde school district police force, arrived early but drove past the gunman, not seeing him in the parking lot of the school.
The quick arrival of several officers on May 24 reflected the speed with which the initial response took place, and contrasted sharply with what would become a protracted delay in finally confronting the gunman after he began shooting inside a pair of connected fourth-grade classrooms.
It also made clear the agonizing decisions law enforcement officers had to make as they confronted the gunman, who was firing shots outside the school; the officer who arrived with a rifle had only seconds to make a decision, and feared that firing his weapon could have meant hitting children, the senior sheriff’s deputy said.
Two teachers and 19 children were fatally shot after the gunman entered the school, and 11 were wounded, including a teacher.
The police response is now the subject of at least three investigations by the Texas Rangers, the U.S. Justice Department and a special committee of the Texas Legislature. A local district attorney has also been involved in the state’s investigation and has been handling media inquiries; she did not respond to a request for comment on the new details about the earliest stages of the police response.
The Texas Department of Public Safety, which includes the Rangers, referred questions to the district attorney. The Uvalde Police Department, whose officer was said to have had line of sight on the gunman, did not respond to a request for comment.
The chair of the legislative committee, Dustin Burrows, said the department had not made any of its officers available to provide testimony but on Friday had promised to do so. The committee met in Uvalde on Thursday and Friday but heard from witnesses behind closed doors.
A central focus of the inquiries has been the one hour and 17 minutes that elapsed from the time the gunman entered the classrooms and began shooting at 11:33 a.m. until a team of Border Patrol agents and a sheriff’s deputy from Zavala County entered the rooms and killed the gunman at 12:50 p.m.
The investigations are now showing that several officers arrived at the school before the gunman ever went inside, rushing to the scene after the first 911 calls around 11:29 a.m. reported that a truck had crashed near the school and that its driver was outside shooting.
At least two law enforcement cars arrived in close succession at the school, according to investigatory documents reviewed by The New York Times. One was driven by an officer from the small police force that patrols Uvalde’s schools. Another arrived less than a minute later, at 11:32 a.m., with officers from the Uvalde Police Department.
At that point, the gunman was still shooting outside of the school.
Officials have said he was firing at the building and toward a nearby funeral home, but arriving officers believed in the moment that the gunfire was directed at them, said Chief Deputy Sheriff Ricardo Rios of Zavala County, who also responded to the shooting in the neighboring county.
“My understanding, after talking to several officers that were there, was that the gunman engaged two City of Uvalde officers when they got there, outside the building,” Chief Deputy Rios said.
He said the two officers, including one with the long gun, took cover behind a patrol car. They wanted to return fire, he said, but held off.
Chief Deputy Rios, recounting his conversation with one of the officers, said that he was surprised and replied with a blunt question.
“I asked him, ‘Why didn’t you shoot? Why didn’t you engage?’ And that’s when he told me about the background,” he said. “According to the officers, they didn’t engage back because in the background there was kids playing and they were scared of hitting the kids.”
In one of the initial 911 calls, at 11:29 a.m., a caller told dispatchers about the gunfire outside and also that there were children running, according to the documents. It was not clear where those children were or if there were others in the line of fire in those first minutes.
The chief deputy sheriff said that any attempt to shoot the moving gunman would have been difficult, and that the officer would undoubtedly have faced harsh criticism and possibly even a criminal investigation had he missed and hit a bystander in the distance, especially a child.
The chance passed “really quick” he said, perhaps in a matter of seconds.
“I’m not bashing him or anything. I get it,” he said. “The Ranger who took my statement even said: ‘It’s come to the point where we’re second-guessing ourselves shooting somebody because we’re scared. Every bullet has our names.’”
On the day of the shooting, Chief Deputy Rios raced to the school in Uvalde along with his boss, the sheriff of Zavala County, Eusevio E. Salinas. As they were going, they learned that one of their off-duty deputies, Jose Luis Vasquez, was already en route.
Deputy Vasquez eventually ended up on the team of officers who later stormed the classrooms and killed the 18-year-old gunman, Salvador Ramos.
At the time when the shooting began, Deputy Vasquez had been heading to the gym in his department truck, dressed in a T-shirt and shorts. He rushed to the school anyway, Sheriff Salinas said. His daughter was a student at Robb Elementary, the chief deputy sheriff said.
Sheriff Salinas said he and Chief Deputy Rios arrived at the school at some point after 12 p.m. to find a chaotic scene, with both uniformed law enforcement and plainclothes officers responding.
“I saw a guy in street clothes carrying a shotgun,” Sheriff Salinas said. “I immediately pointed my gun at him, but a female officer popped up right beside him, so I said, ‘Wait a minute, this might be an off-duty officer.’” (He later learned that the man was an off-duty Border Patrol officer who had been at a nearby barbershop and borrowed the weapon from the barber.)
He said officers had established a perimeter around the school, and he saw, beyond that, a truck belonging to Deputy Vasquez, its lights flashing. He said he and Chief Deputy Rios remained outside the building until after the gunman, who used an AR-15-style rifle in his attack, was killed.
“We were there for assistance. The radio was pretty silent. It was real strange,” the sheriff said. “There was neighbors across the street, a lady watering her plants, another man working on his yard. Like nothing. Like nothing.”
Sheriff Salinas said he did not realize until later that his other deputy had been part of the team responsible for killing the gunman. He still did not know how it ended up that way, he said. Deputy Vasquez declined a request for an interview.
Chief Deputy Rios said his fellow deputy and others had been pressing to go in earlier and confront the gunman. “He told me that they wanted to go in,” he said. “He was saying, ‘Let’s go in, let’s go in.’”
Investigators are still looking into the reason for the long delay.
State officials have said the incident commander was Chief Pete Arredondo, who leads the small school district police force and has jurisdiction over the schools. He said in an interview with The Texas Tribune that he did not consider himself in charge of the response. Through his lawyer, Chief Arredondo declined a request for an interview.
Documents reviewed by The Times show that several ballistic shields had arrived at the school by noon, but that Chief Arredondo had been focused on getting a key to the classrooms where the gunman was holed up.
It was not apparent from the documents or video reviewed by The Times that anyone had checked the doors to see if they were locked.
By 12:46 p.m. Chief Arredondo told officers in the hallway outside the classrooms, who included Deputy Vasquez, who was armed with an AR-15-style rifle and protected by a bulletproof vest, that they could go in. “If y’all are ready to do it, you do it,” Chief Arredondo said, according to a transcript of body camera footage reviewed by The Times.
The team of officers took a key that had been located, turned it in the door and entered, Chief Deputy Rios said, citing information from his fellow deputy.
“Joe says it like this, he goes: ‘Rick, it was quiet. I just scanned really quick, and I just heard the door squeaking open, creeeeeeek,’” said Mr. Rios, referring to a closet door inside one of the classrooms, Room 111. “‘And then he just started shooting at us, bop bop bop bop bop.’”
As the gunfire inside the classroom began, a Border Patrol agent with a ballistic shield lowered it to the ground to protect the team’s legs, Chief Deputy Rios said. Deputy Vasquez was just behind the Border Patrol agent, pointing his gun around one side of the shield.
Deputy Vasquez reported that after he had fired several shots, his gun jammed. But the other officers continued to fire, separated by only several feet from the gunman.
Immediately after the gunman’s death, other officers and medical workers rushed to help the wounded.
“I remember they had a small child and they were working on her, CPR, chest compressions, and taping her,” Sheriff Salinas said, adding that he had kept his distance. He did not know if the girl survived.
Jaz Brisack became a barista for the same reasons that talented young people have long chosen their career paths: a mix of idealism and ambition.
By Noam Scheiber, June 19, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/19/business/starbucks-union-rhodes-scholar.html
Placards at a Denver rally this month in support of a union push at Starbucks stores. Credit...David Zalubowski/Associated Press
Most weekend mornings, Jaz Brisack gets up around 5, wills her semiconscious body into a Toyota Prius and winds her way through Buffalo, to the Starbucks on Elmwood Avenue. After a supervisor unlocks the door, she clocks in, checks herself for Covid symptoms and helps get the store ready for customers.
“I’m almost always on bar if I open,” said Ms. Brisack, who has a thrift-store aesthetic and long reddish-brown hair that she parts down the middle. “I like steaming milk, pouring lattes.”
The Starbucks door is not the only one that has been opened for her. As a University of Mississippi senior in 2018, Ms. Brisack was one of 32 Americans who won Rhodes scholarships, which fund study in Oxford, England.
Many students seek the scholarship because it can pave the way to a career in the top ranks of law, academia, government or business. They are motivated by a mix of ambition and idealism.
Ms. Brisack became a barista for similar reasons: She believed it was simply the most urgent claim on her time and her many talents.
When she joined Starbucks in late 2020, not a single one of the company’s 9,000 U.S. locations had a union. Ms. Brisack hoped to change that by helping to unionize its stores in Buffalo.
Improbably, she and her co-workers have far exceeded their goal. Since December, when her store became the only corporate-owned Starbucks in the United States with a certified union, more than 150 other stores have voted to unionize, and more than 275 have filed paperwork to hold elections. Their actions come amid an increase in public support for unions, which last year reached its highest point since the mid-1960s, and a growing consensus among center-left experts that rising union membership could move millions of workers into the middle class.
Ms. Brisack’s weekend shift represents all these trends, as well as one more: a change in the views of the most privileged Americans. According to Gallup, approval of unions among college graduates grew from 55 percent in the late 1990s to 70 percent last year.
I have seen this first hand in more than seven years of reporting on unions, as a growing interest among white-collar workers has coincided with a broader enthusiasm for the labor movement.
In talking with Ms. Brisack and her fellow Rhodes scholars, it became clear that the change had even reached that rarefied group. The American Rhodes scholars I encountered from a generation earlier typically said that, while at Oxford, they had been middle-of-the-road types who believed in a modest role for government. They did not spend much time thinking about unions as students, and what they did think was likely to be skeptical.
“I was a child of the 1980s and 1990s, steeped in the centrist politics of the era,” wrote Jake Sullivan, a 1998 Rhodes scholar who is President Biden’s national security adviser and was a top aide to Hillary Clinton.
By contrast, many of Ms. Brisack’s Rhodes classmates express reservations about the market-oriented policies of the ’80s and ’90s and strong support for unions. Several told me that they were enthusiastic about Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who made reviving the labor movement a priority of their 2020 presidential campaigns.
Even more so than other indicators, such a shift could foretell a comeback for unions, whose membership in the United States stands at its lowest percentage in roughly a century. That’s because the kinds of people who win prestigious scholarships are the kinds who later hold positions of power — who make decisions about whether to fight unions or negotiate with them, about whether the law should make it easier or harder for workers to organize.
As the recent union campaigns at companies like Starbucks, Amazon and Apple show, the terms of the fight are still largely set by corporate leaders. If these people are increasingly sympathetic to labor, then some of the key obstacles to unions may be dissolving.
Then again, Jaz Brisack isn’t waiting to find out.
The fight in Buffalo
Ms. Brisack moved to Buffalo after Oxford for another job, as an organizer with the union Workers United, where a mentor she had met in college also worked. Once there, she decided to take a second gig at Starbucks.
“Her philosophy was get on the job and organize. She wanted to learn the industry,” said Gary Bonadonna Jr., the top Workers United official in upstate New York. “I said, ‘OK.’”
In its pushback against the campaign, Starbucks has often blamed “outside union forces” intent on harming the company, as its chief executive, Howard Schultz, suggested in April. The company has identified Ms. Brisack as one of these interlopers, noting that she draws a salary from Workers United. (Mr. Bonadonna said she was the only Starbucks employee on the union’s payroll.)
But the impression that Ms. Brisack and her fellow employee-organizers give off is one of fondness for the company. Even as they point out flaws — understaffing, insufficient training, low seniority pay, all of which they want to improve — they embrace Starbucks and its distinctive culture.
They talk up their sense of camaraderie and community — many count regular customers among their friends — and delight in their coffee expertise. On mornings when Ms. Brisack’s store isn’t busy, employees often hold tastings.
A Starbucks spokesman said that Mr. Schultz believes employees don’t need a union if they have faith in him and his motives, and the company has said that seniority-based pay increases will take effect this summer.
One Friday in late February, Ms. Brisack and another barista, Casey Moore, met at the two-bedroom rental that Ms. Brisack shares with three cats, to talk union strategy over breakfast. Naturally, the conversation turned to coffee.
“Jaz has a very barista drink,” Ms. Moore said.
Ms. Brisack elaborated: “It’s four blonde ristretto shots — that’s a lighter roast of espresso — with oat milk. It’s basically an iced latte with oat milk. If we had sugar-cookie syrup, I would get that. Now that that’s no more, it’s usually plain.”
That afternoon, Ms. Brisack held a Zoom call from her living room with a group of Starbucks employees who were interested in unionizing. It is an exercise that she and other organizers in Buffalo have repeated hundreds of times since last fall, as workers around the country sought to follow their lead. But in almost every case, the Starbucks workers outside Buffalo have reached out to the organizers, rather than vice versa.
This particular group of workers, in Ms. Brisack’s college town of Oxford, Miss., seemed to require even less of a hard sell than most. When Ms. Brisack said she, too, had attended the University of Mississippi, one of the workers waved her off, as if her celebrity preceded her. “Oh, yeah, we know Jaz,” the worker gushed.
A few hours later, Ms. Brisack, Ms. Moore and Michelle Eisen, a longtime Starbucks employee also involved in the organizing, gathered with two union lawyers at the union office in a onetime auto plant. The National Labor Relations Board was counting ballots for an election at a Starbucks in Mesa, Ariz. — the first real test of whether the campaign was taking root nationally, and not just in a union stronghold like New York. The room was tense as the first results trickled in.
“Can you feel my heart beating?” Ms. Moore asked her colleagues.
Within a few minutes, however, it became clear that the union would win in a rout — the final count was 25 to 3. Everyone turned slightly punchy, as if they had all suddenly entered a dream world where unions were far more popular than they had ever imagined. One of the lawyers let out an expletive before musing, “Whoever organized down there …”
Ms. Brisack seemed to capture the mood when she read a text from a co-worker to the group: “I’m so happy I’m crying and eating a week-old ice cream cake.”
A black antifa T-shirt at the formal
Ms. Brisack once appeared to be on a different path. As a child, she idolized Lyndon Johnson and imagined running for office. At the University of Mississippi, she was elected president of the college Democrats.
She had developed an interest in labor history as a teenager, when money was sometimes tight, but it was largely an academic interest. “She had read Eugene Debs,” said Tim Dolan, the university’s national scholarship adviser at the time. “It was like, ‘Oh, gosh. Wow.’”
When Richard Bensinger, a former organizing director with the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and the United Automobile Workers, came to speak on campus, she realized that union organizing was more than a historical curiosity. She talked her way into an internship on a union campaign he was involved with at a nearby Nissan plant. It did not go well. The union accused the company of running a racially divisive campaign, and Ms. Brisack was disillusioned by the loss.
“Nissan never paid a consequence for what it did,” she said. (In response to charges of “scare tactics,” the company said at the time that it had sought to provide information to workers and clear up misperceptions.)
Mr. Dolan noticed that she was becoming jaded about mainstream politics. “There were times between her sophomore and junior year when I’d steer her toward something and she’d say, ‘Oh, they’re way too conservative.’ I’d send her a New York Times article and she’d say, ‘Neoliberalism is dead.’”
In England, where she arrived during the fall of 2019 at age 22, Ms. Brisack was a regular at a “solidarity” film club that screened movies about labor struggles worldwide, and wore a sweatshirt that featured a head shot of Karl Marx. She liberally reinterpreted the term “black tie” at an annual Rhodes dinner, wearing a black dress-coat over a black antifa T-shirt.
“I went and got gowns and everything — I wanted to fit in,” said a friend and fellow Rhodes scholar, Leah Crowder. “I always loved how she never tried to fit into Oxford.”
But Ms. Brisack’s politics didn’t stand out the way her formal wear did. In talking with eight other American Rhodes scholars from her year, I got the sense that progressive politics were generally in the ether. Almost all expressed some skepticism of markets and agreed that workers should have more power. The only one who questioned aspects of collective bargaining told me that few of his classmates would have agreed, and that he might have been loudly jeered for expressing reservations.
Some in the group even said they had incorporated pro-labor views into their career aspirations.
Claire Wang has focused on helping fossil fuel workers find family-sustaining jobs as the world transitions to green energy. “Unions are a critical partner in this work,” she told me. Rayan Semery-Palumbo, who is finishing a dissertation on inequality and meritocracy while working for a climate technology start-up, lamented that workers had too little leverage. “Labor unions may be the most effective way of implementing change going forward for a lot of people, including myself,” he told me. “I might find myself in labor organizing work.”
This is not what talking to Rhodes scholars used to sound like. At least not in my experience.
I was a Rhodes scholar in 1998, when centrist politicians like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair were ascendant, and before “neoliberalism” became such a dirty word. Though we were dimly aware of a time, decades earlier, when radicalism and pro-labor views were more common among American elites — and when, not coincidentally, the U.S. labor movement was much more powerful — those views were far less in evidence by the time I got to Oxford.
Some of my classmates were interested in issues like race and poverty, as they reminded me in interviews for this article. A few had nuanced views of labor — they had worked a blue-collar job, or had parents who belonged to a union, or had studied their Marx. Still, most of my classmates would have regarded people who talked at length about unions and class the way they would have regarded religious fundamentalists: probably earnest but slightly preachy, and clearly stuck in the past.
Kris Abrams, one of the few U.S. Rhodes Scholars in our cohort who thought a lot about the working class and labor organizing, told me recently that she felt isolated at Oxford, at least among other Americans. “Honestly, I didn’t feel like there was much room for discussion,” Ms. Abrams said.
By contrast, it was common within our cohort to revere business and markets and globalization. As an undergraduate, my friend and Rhodes classmate Roy Bahat led a large public-service organization that periodically worked with unions. But as the “new” economy boomed in 1999, he interned at a large corporation. It dawned on him that a career in business might be more desirable — a way to make a larger impact on the world.
“There was a major shift in my own mentality,” Roy told me. “I became more open to business.” It didn’t hurt that the pay was good, too.
Roy would go on to work for McKinsey & Company, the City of New York and the executive ranks of News Corp, then start a venture capital fund focused on technologies that change how business operates. More recently, in a sign of the times, his investment portfolio has included companies that make it easier for workers to organize.
On some level, Roy Bahat and Jaz Brisack are not so different: Both are chronic overachievers; both are ambitious about changing society for the better; both are sympathetic to the underdog by way of intellect and disposition. But the world was telling Roy in the late 1990s to go into business if he wanted to influence events. The world was telling Ms. Brisack in 2020 to move to Buffalo and organize workers.
Reaching Howard Schultz
The first time I met Ms. Brisack was in October, at a Starbucks near the Buffalo airport.
I was there to cover the union election. She was there, unsolicited, to brief me. “I don’t think we can lose,” she said of the vote at her store. At the time, not a single corporate-owned Starbucks in the country was unionized. The union would go on to win there by more than a two-to-one ratio.
It’s hard to overstate the challenge of unionizing a major corporation that doesn’t want to be unionized. Employers are allowed to inundate workers with anti-union messaging, whereas unions have no protected access to workers on the job. And while it is officially illegal to threaten, discipline or fire workers who seek to unionize, the consequences for doing so are typically minor and long in coming.
At Starbucks, the National Labor Relations Board has issued complaints finding merit in such accusations. Yet the union continues to win elections — over 80 percent of the more than 175 votes in which the board has declared a winner. (Starbucks denies that it has broken the law, and a federal judge recently rejected a request to reinstate pro-union workers whom the labor board said Starbucks had forced out illegally.)
Though Ms. Brisack was one of dozens of early leaders of the union campaign, the imprint of her personality is visible. In store after store around the country, workers who support the union give no ground in meetings with company officials.
Even prospective allies are not spared. In May, after Time ran a favorable piece, Ms. Brisack’s response on Twitter was: “We appreciate TIME magazine’s coverage of our union campaign. TIME should make sure they’re giving the same union rights and protections that we’re fighting for to the amazing journalists, photographers, and staff who make this coverage possible!”
The tweet reminded me of a story that Mr. Dolan, her scholarship adviser, had told about a reception that the University of Mississippi held in her honor in 2018. Ms. Brisack had just won a Truman scholarship, another prestigious award. She took the opportunity to urge the university’s chancellor to remove a Confederate monument from campus. The chancellor looked pained, according to several attendees.
“My boss was like, ‘Wow, you couldn’t have talked her out of doing that?’” Mr. Dolan said. “I was like, ‘That’s what made her win. If she wasn’t that person, you all wouldn’t have a Truman now.’”
(Mr. Dolan’s boss at the time did not recall this conversation, and the former chancellor did not recall any drama at the event.)
The challenge for Ms. Brisack and her colleagues is that while younger people, even younger elites, are increasingly pro-union, the shift has not yet reached many of the country’s most powerful leaders. Or, more to the point, the shift has not yet reached Mr. Schultz, the 68-year-old now in his third tour as Starbucks’s chief executive.
Mr. Schultz has long opposed unions at Starbucks, but Ms. Brisack, for one, believes that even business executives are persuadable.
She recently spoke at an Aspen Institute panel on workers’ rights. She has even mused about using her Rhodes connections to make a personal appeal to Mr. Schultz, something that Mr. Bensinger has pooh-poohed but that other organizers believe she just may pull off.
“Richard has been making fun of me for thinking of asking one of the Rhodes people to broker a meeting with Howard Schultz,” Ms. Brisack said in February.
“I’m sure if you met Howard Schultz, he’d be like, ‘She’s so nice,” responded Ms. Moore, her co-worker. “He’d be like, ‘I get it. I would want to be in a union with you, too.’”
Roughly two-thirds of employees at the store in Towson, Md., voted to join the union.
By Tripp Mickle and Noam Scheiber, Published June 18, 2022, Updated June 19, 2022
Customers picking up orders at the Apple Store at the Towson Town Center in Maryland in December 2020. Credit...Julio Cortez/Associated Press
Apple employees at a Baltimore-area store have voted to unionize, making it the first of the company’s 270-plus stores in the United States to join a trend in labor organizing sweeping through retailers, restaurants and tech companies.
The result, announced on Saturday by the National Labor Relations Board, provides a foothold for a budding movement among Apple retail employees who want a greater voice over wages and Covid-19 policies. Employees of more than two dozen Apple stores have expressed interest in unionizing in recent months, union leaders say.
In the election, 65 employees at Apple’s store in Towson, Md., voted in favor of being represented by the union, known as the Apple Coalition of Organized Retail Employees, while 33 voted against. It will be part of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, an industrial trade union that represents over 300,000 employees.
“I applaud the courage displayed by CORE members at the Apple store in Towson for achieving this historic victory,” Robert Martinez Jr., president of IAM International, said in a statement. “They made a huge sacrifice for thousands of Apple employees across the nation who had all eyes on this election.”
Tyra Reeder, a technical specialist who has worked at the Towson store a little over six months, said that she was “elated” with the outcome and that she hoped a union would help increase workers’ compensation; stabilize the store's scheduling, which has been strained by recent Covid-19 cases; and make it easier for workers to advance within the company.
“We love our jobs. We just want to see them do better,” Ms. Reeder said.
The outcome is a blow to Apple’s campaign to blunt union drives by arguing that it pays more than many retailers and provides an array of benefits, including health care and stock grants. Last month, it increased starting wages for retail employees to $22 an hour, from $20, and released a video of Deirdre O’Brien, who leads Apple retail, cautioning employees that joining a union could hurt the company’s business.
Apple declined to comment.
Employees in Towson said in a video produced by the website More Perfect Union ahead of the union vote that Apple’s anti-union campaign there was “nasty” and included management telling workers that unions once prohibited Black employees from joining their ranks. In the weeks ahead of the vote, Ms. O’Brien visited the store and thanked everyone for their hard work.
Soon after, employees said their managers began encouraging staff to air their concerns in meetings and help come up with solutions to their grievances. They also started to pull employees into one-on-one meetings where managers highlighted the cost of union dues, said Eric Brown, a Towson employee active in the union effort.
Earlier this month, employees at a store in Atlanta abandoned a planned election when support for the union fizzled after Apple’s moves to increase wages and highlight the benefits it offered. The union organizers in Atlanta have filed a formal charge with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing Apple of requiring workers to listen to anti-union messages during mandatory meetings. The board has not yet determined if the charge has merit.
Ms. Reeder said that workers in Atlanta had helped prepare union supporters at the Towson store to defuse the company’s talking points. “We kind of got some insight from the Atlanta store on things that were coming,” she said, citing the company’s suggestions that employees could lose certain benefits during a contract negotiation if they unionized.
“For that to happen, a majority of us have to agree,” Ms. Reeder added. “I don’t think any of us would agree to lose something we love dearly, that benefits us.”
At Starbucks, one of the companies where organizers have gained the most momentum, employees credited a vote to organize at a store in Buffalo with helping to spur other stores to file for union elections. Since that vote in December, more than 150 of the company’s roughly 9,000 corporate-owned stores in the U.S. have voted to unionize, according to the N.L.R.B.
Workers at stores that later unionized reached out to employees in Buffalo for advice on how to navigate the process.
“Workers gain interest and courage if workers elsewhere prevail,” said William Gould, a law professor at Stanford University and author of “For Labor to Build Upon: Wars, Depression and Pandemic.” “Many watch to see: Can workers succeed? Will they band together? If the answer is affirmative, it will encourage other workers to take a step toward collective bargaining.”
The ability of workers to win a contract may hinge on whether the campaign spreads to other stores. Union supporters at Starbucks have said that one of their largest sources of leverage over the company is the fact that they continue to win elections around the country.
Amazon workers who helped unionize a Staten Island warehouse in April have also said they would benefit if more warehouses followed suit. The company is challenging the outcome of that vote before the labor board. With only one U.S. location that has formally unionized, the company can focus resources on opposing the union there.
Apple employees are also organizing at the Grand Central Terminal store in New York and a store in Louisville, Ky. Those stores are building support before they ask for an election. Organizers in Atlanta have said that they plan to revive their election in the future.