On this week's show...
* Organizers and members of SEIU Local 3 describe the role they played in the recent Houston SEIU victory.
* Local artists dialogue with community members on racism, history, memory, and social justice.
* Reports by human rights groups detail the trafficking of Asian workers by US contractors in Iraq.
* Word on the Street: mass transit cuts
* and more in our local and global headlines
Welcome to this week's edition of Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of the news from the grassroots, news overlooked by the corporate media.
On today's show...
Reports by human rights groups detail the trafficking of Asian workers by US contractors in Iraq.
Organizers and members of SEIU Local 3 describe the role they played in the recent Houston SEIU victory.
Local artists dialogue with community members on racism, history, memory, and social justice.
Rustbelt Radio airs live every Monday from 6-7 PM and again on Tuesday mornings 9-10 AM on WRCT 88.3FM in Pittsburgh. We're also on Pacifica affiliate WVJW Benwood, 94.1 FM in the Wheeling, West Virginia area, on Thursdays from 6-7 PM. And we're on at a new time on WPTS - 10-11AM on Wednesday mornings on 92.1 FM from the campus of the University of Pittsburgh.
We're also available on the internet, both on WRCT's live webstream at W-R-C-T dot ORG and for download, stream or podcast at radio dot I-N-D-Y-P-G-H dot org.
We turn now to local headlines.
[4:20] Transit Hearings and Rally
The Port Authority of Allegheny County will hold a series of nine public hearings on proposed fare and service changes. The first hearing was held today, January 22, 2007 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Pittsburgh Hilton Downtown. The last hearing in the series will be held February 7, 2007 in Castle Shannon. The hearings are an opportunity for the public to comment on proposals to reduce service by twenty-five percent beginning in June 2007 and to raise the base fare to either $2 or $2.50 beginning January 1, 2008. The service reduction proposal includes the elimination of one hundred twenty-four weekday, fifty-nine Saturday, and thirty-nine Sunday routes.
‘Save our Transit’, a local group of public transportation users, held a march and rally before the downtown Port Authority hearing. ‘Save our Transit’ is opposed to the service cuts and fare hikes.
Jeff Cummings of Polish Hill attended the 'Save our Transit' rally:
Before the hearing began, Port Authority CEO Steve Bland addressed the audience:
Speakers represented a diverse range of public transit riders, the majority of whom are students, senior citizens, handicapped and disabled people, and average to lower-income workers.
Jonathan Robeson spoke about the injustice of what Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato called "right-sizing" the Port Authority system:
Students frequently use the bus as their primary form of transportation. Rob, a student at Point Park University spoke about the impact of the proposed service changes on students:
Students also frequently use the 28x airport bus when traveling to and from Pittsburgh. A graduate student from CMU:
The 28x does not only serve airport travelers.
One of the routes to be discontinued provides transportation for workers on Camp Horn Road. Clarence Love addressed this topic:
The hearing was also an opportunity for many people, like Carol Whey of the South Hills, to voice their frustration with elected officials and the Port Authority:
There is still time to submit written testimony and to register to testify at a hearing. Individuals wishing to testify can contact the Port Authority. The proposals are available on Port Authority’s Web site and at the Authority’s Downtown Service Center, 534 Smithfield Street, on buses and light rail vehicles, at Port Authority pass and ticket sales outlets and at all major schedule rack locations and subway stations.
[1:40] Summit Against Racism
Last Saturday, the Black and White Reunion held their 9th Annual Summit Against Racism at the East Liberty Presbyterian Church. The summit brought together an interracial group of activists, community members, political leaders, and others to meet, exchange stories, strategize around struggles for racial and economic justice, develop analysis and action plans, and continue the mission of earlier civil rights movements in the Unites States to fight for justice for all people. The summit was co-sponsored by the InterCultural House and the Black Political Empowerment Project.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl visited the event briefly in the morning. In a speech to the conference, Ravenstahl insisted that his efforts to include people of color in his office demonstrated a new era in race relations.
Responses from participants throughout the day presented a different perspective and analysis of racial justice that moved beyond the tokenizing claims of public officials. A morning and afternoon of workshops covered an array of topics and revealed how deeply racism shapes every social institution we inhabit, from schools to prisons, workplaces and public transit. Workshop titles included, "Creating a Breakthrough in Police Community Relations in Metropolitan Pittsburgh," "Progressive Political Empowerment: Rights, Responsibilities, and Action," and "Speaking the Unspeakable: Let's Talk About Racism."
Representatives from groups like Save Our Transit, the Citizen Police Review Board, Planned Parenthood, and the American Friends Service Committee numbered among the panelists and facilitators. At the end of the summit, participants were given evaluation forms which asked them to identify steps they would take in their own lives to work for justice in local communities. Dialogues on undoing racism and linking collective struggles reflected the summit's theme for this year, "Building Bridges from the Dream to a New Reality: A Fresh Look at Diversity."
[1:30] Word on the Street: Public Transit
Rustbelt Radio wanted to know what people in Pittsburgh are saying about the Port Authority's proposed fare increases and service cuts. Word on the street says:
That was Escha, from Penn Hills. A University of Pittsburgh student had this to say:
Finally, Rita from Squirrel Hill:
That was this week's 'Word on the Street'.
For more on local news, you can visit pittsburgh dot I-N-D-Y-M-E-D-I-A dot org.
You are listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news overlooked by the corporate media. We turn now to news from other independent media sources around the world.
[3:30] Prisoner Telephone Justice
The New York Campaign for Telephone Justice was recently victorious in challenging monopolistic profit driven phone rates for prisoners. In New York State, since 1996, family members and friends of prisoners have been forced to pay phone rates up to 630% above market to call their incarcerated loved ones. The government has received 60% of this profit. These soaring phone rates have left many family members deciding whether they should maintain their relationship with a relative or put food on the table.
On January 8th, New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer committed to end the back door tax on collect calls to inmates' families. Governor Spitzer declared that instead of raising funds via a backdoor tax imposed on the family members of inmates, the state will pay for mandated services in prisons using the State's General Fund. Alison Coleman, Director of Prison Families of New York, Inc. a partner in the campaign outlines Spitzer’s decision.
That was just Alison Coleman, Director of Prison Families of New York speaking about the elimination of the back door collect call telephone tax. The NY Campaign for Telephone Justice hopes that the New York State Senate and Assembly will also pass the Family Connections bill before a new phone contract is passed in April. The Family Connections Bill would amend the New York State Corrections Law to provide prisoners with fair-market telephone rates. It would require the state to enter contract with the lowest bidder for the purposes of providing telephone services to inmates as well as prevent the state from making a profit off of the arrangement and present facilities with the choice of providing phone service through collect calls or a debit card service
The US was one of the last nations in North America to outlaw slavery in 1865, and now a human rights group says that US tax dollars still fund slavery in Iraq. Recent reports from San Diego Indymedia and Free the Slaves have documented the violent abduction of workers from Nepal, India, Bangladesh, and the Phillipines. These workers have been taken to US military bases in Iraq to work for US subcontractors like KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton, against their will. After the deaths of 12 Nepali men forced into labor in Iraq, KBR recently refused to pay their families the death benefits required by law for US subcontractors. Cam Simpson, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, writes that illegally trafficked people are building the new US embassy in Baghdad. These workers are being paid as little as $10 a day.
According to Corpwatch, the Pentagon issued a report in April 2006 confirming that US contractors in Iraq had been using bait and switch tactics to force South Asian workers into doing construction work in Iraq, while living in crowded quarters with inadequate access to food. A Pentagon memo issued on April 19, 2006, stipulated that contractors must "cease and desist" in the seizure of worker passports, yet the Pentagon refused to name corporations involved in human rights abuses, or to impose penalties on companies engaging in these abuses. An article by Corpwatch writer David Phinney also cites an incident of a contractor, First Kuwaiti, lying to Filipino workers about their new worksites (workers were told they would be flown to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, not Baghdad, Iraq). Rory Mayberry, a US citizen working as a medic for construction crews in Iraq, spoke to Corpwatch about the vulnerability of workers from countries with little diplomatic presence in Iraq, asking, "If you don?t have your passport or an embassy to go to, what you do to get out of a bad situation? How can they go to the US State Department for help if First Kuwaiti is building their embassy?"
Human trafficking has become a hushed aspect of the war in Iraq. Several mainstream media sources have started to report on it, from the New York Times to the Washington Post, both of whose articles are linked on the Corpwatch web site. First Kuwaiti, the subcontractor importing laborers into Iraq for the United States embassy construction project, has to date not allowed a single journalist into the 104 acre site.
Here's Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick of Free the Slaves, with more on human trafficking in Iraq:
* HumanTrafficking2.mp3: Human Trafficking In Iraq2 [1:00]
For more information on the campaign to end slavery, visit freetheslaves (dot) net. For information on the campaign to end trafficking in Iraq, visit www.warslavery.org.
[1:00] Violence Against Transgender People
Here is an update from Newstandard News on violence against transgender people.
* antitransviolence.mp3: AntiTransViolence
In a report released last month by the Gender Public Advocacy Coalition detailing the murders of people who transgressed gender boundaries, 91% of those victims for whom a racial identity was known, were young people of color.
To read Gender Public Advocacy Coalition's report, 50 Under 30:Masculinity and the War Against America's youth, which documents gender-based violence against young people, visit http://www.gpac.org/5-0-u-n-d-e-r-3-0.
For more New Standard News updates, you can visit www.newstandardnews.net
[4:00-5:00] New Orleans public housing residents take action on MLK Day
In New Orleans, public housing residents and their supporters took action on
Martin Luther King day to reopen the St. Bernard public housing development which
has been closed since Hurricane Katrina. Hundreds of public housing residents
cut open chain link fences and returned to clean their units in defiance of
Bill Quigley is a law professor and Director of the Law Clinic and the Gillis
Long Poverty Law Center at Loyola University New Orleans. He spoke to Brian
Denzer of the program Community Gumbo about the housing crisis in New Orleans.
The Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Housing
Authority of New Orleans (HANO) plan to demolish the buildings and replace them
with new housing, little of which will be available to the low income residents
who lived on the site previously. Quigley spoke about HUD and HANO's claims that
the demolition is necessary due to storm damage:
Activists with Mayday New Orleans have begun an occupation of the project's
community center to keep it open, and have been there all week. They say they
aren't leaving until St. Bernard is reopened.
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.
[15:00] A.I.R. Race Dialogue
Artists Maritza Mosquera and Emory Biko 's exhibit Yours and Mine: Talking Our History, lines the walls of the second floor of Pittsburgh's Artists Image Resource with bright screenprints, black and white photographs, and multimedia installations. On the Saturday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Rustbelt Radio visited these two artists and spent the afternoon at Artists Image Resource for a dialogue on race, Pittsburgh, art, and social justice, among other topics.
Minutes before the conversation began, the collage aesthetic of the collected pieces found viewers circling the room multiple times, talking eagerly or watching quietly, examining works from new angles, and sometimes, remarking on the familiarity of a photograph or block of text. Together, these works gather varied threads of Black experience, from lingering patterns of violence against people of color in the United States to the triumphs of Black liberation struggles. A giant clock created by Biko, in the shape of the African continent, features the faces of Black women, while a photograph of Maritza as a young girl in Ecuador shows her clutching a doll with dark skin.
Here's Maritza Mosquera, speaking about her collaboration with Emory Biko:
* maritzaecuadorpgh.mp3: Maritza: Ecuador/Pittsburgh [2:30]
More from Maritza Mosquera:
* maritzaartists.mp3: Maritza: Artists [1:30]
Walking around the exhibit Yours and Mine, we found a photobooth picture of Emory Biko as a teenager. Here's Biko with more on that photograph:
* bikophotobooth.mp3: Biko: Photobooth [4:05]
More from Biko:
* bikoblackmemorabilia.mp3: Biko: Museum of Black Memorabilia [0:35]
From an afternoon conversation on race at Artists Image Resource, January 13th, facilitated by Maritza Mosquera and Emory Biko:
* whitesupremacy.mp3: White Supremacy [0:20]
* whitepplchange.mp3: White People and Change [1:00]
Following the conversation, we heard from participants:
* synergy.mp3: Synergy [0:50]
From a participant in the dialogue on race at Artists Image Resource:
* postconversation.mp3: Post-Conversation [1:50]
To see the exhibit Yours and Mine: Talking Our History, by Emory Biko and Maritza Mosquera, you can visit Artists Image Resource at 518 Foreland Street in the North Side of Pittsburgh.
[11:30] SEIU Houston Victory
Last November, Thousands of Janitors in Houston, Texas went on a month long strike to demand better wages and health insurance. Members and Organizers with the Service Employees International Union or SEIU from Pittsburgh’s Local 3 and locals all across the country went down to Texas to support the workers. They engaged in civil disobedience to put pressure on the five major cleaning contractors to improve conditions for the workers. The fifty three hundred striking janitors were victorious when these 5 cleaning companies agreed to a contract where their hourly wages will increase from five dollars and thirty cents on average to seven dollars and seventy five cents over the next two years. In addition, the cleaning companies have agreed to offer longer hours, paid holidays, vacation time and health insurance starting in 2009.
Tim Finucan (Fih-new-cun) an organizer with SEIU local 3 and Cheryl Worthy a member of SEIU Local 3 and employee of One Source Cleaning Company both went down to Houston to assist in the janitor’s organizing efforts.
We turn now to an interview with Finucan and Worthy about the role janitors nationwide played in this victory and the ramifications it has for other workers.
* SEIU1.ogg: 1:35
Cheryl Worthy on the Houston Actions and Civil Disobedience.
* SEIU2.ogg: 2:00
Tim Finucan gives us the chronology of Houston’s events.
* SEIU3.ogg: 6:30
That was just Tim Finucan and Cheryl Worthy speaking about the Houston Janitor’s recent victory. Stay tuned to Rustbelt Radio for upcoming updates about other SEIU vitories. To listen to an interview with a Houston Janitor,Ercilia Sandova., go to the November 21st edition of Democracy Now! At democracynow.org
Calendar of Events
And now we present the Indymedia Calendar of Events:
This week at the Regent Square Theater the movie "Iraq In Fragments" will be showing every night this until Thursday Jan. 25th. This film is a documentary of war-torn Iraq as seen through the eyes of Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. Showtimes can be found online at pgh filmmakers.org.
On Thursday the 25th from 7:00 to 9:00 PM come and learn about current day issues in criminal civil rights law. This workshop will teach you how to protect yourself against unwarranted intrusions by the government, exercise your rights, and how to recognize unconstitutional police tactics.This event is sponsored in part by the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. The event will be held at 3900 Forbes Ave., Barco Building-Ground Floor, Teplitz Moot Courtroom,at the Pittsburgh Law School in Oakland.
During the weekend of Friday, January 26th – 28th a series of events will take place in the Bloomfield/Lawrenceville neighborhoods of Pittsburgh to educate people about the plight of Burmese refugees on the Thai-Burma border. These events will raise money for the Mon Women’s Organization in Thailand. Some of MWO’s current projects include: human rights education, English language training, the construction of a nursery school and an emergency health care fund for students. For more information on all of the events, log on to www.thomasmertoncenter.org/ calendar
[ Outro Music ]
Thanks for tuning in to Rustbelt Radio here on WRCT Pittsburgh, WVJW Benwood and WPTS Pittsburgh.
Our hosts this week are Jessica McPherson and Matt Toups with additional contributions from Diane Amdor, Andalusia Knoll, Vani Natarajan, Lizzie Anderson and Carlin Christy. This week's show was produced by Donald Deeley. Special thanks to all of our hosts, producers, and contributors.
You can get involved with Rustbelt Radio! To contact us, or to send us your comments, email RADIO at I-N-D-Y-P-G-H dot ORG. All of our shows are available for download or podcast on our website at RADIO dot INDY-P-G-H dot ORG and this show can be heard again Tuesday morning on WRCT at 9 AM after Democracy Now!
Tune in next week at this time for another edition of Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.