community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
On this week's show... * Fighting for fair food in Pittsburgh and across the country,an update on the Student Farmworker Alliance KingDOOM days of action against Burger King * results from the recent Guatemalan presidential election * Media activists, community radio operators and government representatives discuss the benefits of Low Power FM Radio * an interview from "Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America" * and more in our local and global headlines
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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...
Rustbelt Radio is broadcast live from WRCT studios every Monday at 6 PM on 88.3 FM in Pittsburgh, and the program airs again on WRCT every Tuesday morning at 9AM.
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We turn now to local stories.
On October 31, a resolution was passed to approve a “Request for Proposal” to evaluate the gender wage gap in the Pittsburgh workforce. The “Gender Wage Gap Study” bill was introduced to the City Council by its President, Doug Shields, on October 16. The resolution, sponsored by Shields and City Councilman Bill Peduto, opens bids from consultants or researchers to conduct a study of the gender wage gap in Pittsburgh. Citing the 1963 Equal Pay Act, the resolution called for “gender based wage equity study… to insure that the City is in compliance with all related gender equity laws of the Commonwealth and the United States of America.” The Equal Pay Act makes it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women who hold the same job.
Earlier this year, the Women and Girl’s Foundation asked Shields to support the creation of citizen-led review panel that would assist the Department of Personnel and Civil Service Commission’s search for the author of the wage-gap study.
"We know that as a city we have one of the worst wage gaps in the country," said Heather Arnet, president of the Women and Girls Foundation of Western Pennsylvania. The bill quotes research showing that “the wage gap between men and women is greater in Pittsburgh than the national average. Where nationally women are making $.77 compared to $1 for male counterparts, women in Pittsburgh are earning just less than $.70.”
Last week, Pittsburgh City Council delayed for two weeks a vote on legislation to address police domestic abuse. This came after they rejected an amendment to seize the guns of officers subject to protection-from-abuse orders.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl asked for more time to craft a bill that would satisfy police, council and advocates for women. This is the first time he has endorsed the concept of an ordinance on the subject, since the issue was brought up in June. He stated (quote): "I support this bill being put in the form of an ordinance so that the police department is held accountable...despite some of the concerns of the law department and the personnel department and the police department and the union." (end quote)
Some police worry that an ordinance would mean staff members could be charged with summary offenses if they mistakenly failed to enforce the gun seizure proposal. Council President Doug Shields' proposal would require extensive background checks of new hires and bar the hiring of recruits with (quote) "tendencies indicative of abusive behavior." An officer subject to a PFA could be reassigned or fired.
An amendment proposed by Councilman Bill Peduto would force officers subject to PFAs to turn over their guns, but it fell one vote short.
Then council voted 6-3 to postpone a vote on the entire bill, with Mr. Peduto, Mr. Shields and Mr. Koch opposed to waiting. The delay came after women's advocacy groups were split over how to proceed. Some groups advocated a vote before the Tuesday general election, while some urged lengthier talks with the administration.
A spokesman for Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato has confirmed that Onorato is considering the transfer of the duties Allegheny County Air Quality program to the state Department of Environmental Protection. The county Air Quality program, which is a division of the county health department, has been in existence for 50 years. It was formed to respond to the air pollution problems caused by the concentration of industry in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas. The push to eliminate the air quality board appears to be spearheaded by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, a powerful association of business and industry. Over the past year the conference has been a vocal critic of the air quality program, saying that it drives industry away and diminishes the region’s competitiveness in attracting jobs and investments. However, the program has been very successful in protecting public health. It has developed a sophisticated air quality monitoring system, and it sets and enforces limits on pollution that are often stricter than the state DEP. Examples include standards for coke oven emissions, airborne asbestos, abrasive blasting, and lead. Allegheny Conference executive president Kathryn Klaber asserted the program's permit process takes too long, writing in the Pittsburgh Business Times that (quote) Many employers here have experienced delays lasting years or lost investments in their facilities (end quote). However, Sandra Etzel, head of the county air permitting section, said she's not aware of any unusually long permit delays with county permits. In the last quarter, the county received applications for and granted five permits with an average issuing time of 157 days, which includes a 30-day public comment period and time to address those comments.
The cost of the air quality program has also been criticized. But it requires only about 200,000 dollars of county tax payer money each year to operate, as more than 80% of its funding comes from the DEP and from penalties charged to companies that violate air quality standards.
Although Onorato’s investigation of transferring the program appears to have been underway for about a year, he has made no public announcement of the idea and sought no public input. The response of other elected officials to the rumors has been varied. County Council president Rich Fitzgerald says he supports the transfer because the program is too restrictive of industry. State representative David Levdansky, whose district includes the Clairton Coke Works and two coal-fired power plants, said that (quote) "I would expect that Onorato, the DEP and the Rendell administration would engage the public and the Legislature, and that we would hold hearings on the issue." (end quote). Rachel Filipini, executive director of the Group Against Smog and Pollution echoed these concerns, saying that (quote) we've heard about the possibility the state will take over for some time but it's been difficult to know how to fight it because nothing's on the record. They can't get rid of a program that's been around for so long and has been so successful without going through a transparent process." (end quote)
The county air quality program has also been under fire recently from its own supervisory agency, the county board of health. In response to data showing that diesel engine emissions are a major source of air pollution, the air quality program had worked with its citizen’s advisory group to develop new regulations that would reduce diesel emissions by restricting diesel engine idling. However, the Board of Health said that it (quote) didn’t ask for legislation on diesel idling (end quote) and suspended meetings of the citizen’s advisory council until new operating procedures can be approved. County Air Quality Manager Roger Westman said the Board of Health has told the advisory committee it is not to initiate discussion of environmental issues or legislative proposals. This is a major change from the way the committee has operated for 50 years.
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.
The Student Farmworker Alliance held nation-wide “KingDOOM Days of Action” this past week, from October 27th through November 4th, to bring attention to the treatment of farmworkers in the Burger King supply chain. The SFA is a national network of students, youth and other community members organizing with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to eliminate sweatshop conditions and modern-day slavery in the fields. Earlier this year, the Coalition won their campaign to get McDonalds to pay a penny more per pound for tomatoes picked in Immokalee, Florida.
From bike rides and protests to film screenings and vigils, over twenty actions were organized in fourteen different states this week. Here in Pittsburgh, the manager of the Burger King at the University of Pittsburgh received fifty signed letters from students urging Burger King to recognize farmworkers' rights.
Rustbelt Radio spoke with Marc Rodrigues from the Student/Farmworker Alliance about the response to this week's actions from Burger King:
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Student Farmworker Alliance are now turning their attention to Burger King headquarters in Miami.
The events at Burger King headquarters in Miami on December first will also include a Concert for Fair Food, featuring artists like the Hot 8 Brass Band from New Orleans, Olmeca and Son del Centro from LA, and Rebeldiaz, a hip hop group out of New York City. The upcoming mobilization on Miami follows on the heels of the successful McDonald’s campaign this spring, and the celebratory Concert for Fair Food that was held in Chicago, home of McDonald’s headquarters.
In India, 25,000 landless people undertook a 210 mile march from the city of Gwalior (PRONOUNCE: GWAL - ee - or) to the capitol of Delhi demanding land redistribution. On October 29th, the marchers reached Delhi, but were prevented by police from gathering at the Indian Parliament. However, shortly afterwards the government announced it will comply with the marchers' major demand, the creation of a special national commission to advance land redistribution.
The march was organized by the group Ekta Parishad (PRONOUNCE: EK-ta par-ee-SHAD), which translates as "united forum." Ekta Parishad is a grassroots organization with 150,000 members in four Indian states. The pace of industrialization has accelerated in India during the last two decades, and industrial projects have displaced over 50 million people, including subsistence farmers as well as members of forest-dwelling indigenous tribes, known as Adivasis (PRONOUNCE: ah - dee - VAH - sees). The industrialization of agriculture and the opening of Indian markets to foreign products have also contributed to the impoverishment and displacement of farmers.
Ekta Parishad organizer P.V Rajagopal (PRONOUNCE: ra - jah - go - paul, even emphasis on all syllables):
Ekta Parishad is one of the grassroots groups that have formed to demand a more equitable alternative to this path of development. Its simple motto is "People's control of livelihood resources," and the group is organized around Gandhian principles. It promotes constructive work at the village level through voluntary action, as well as non-violent mass agitation for government redress of inequality. The Janadesh 2007 march is the culmination of a three-year People's Verdict campaign to demand that the government implement land reform legislation passed in 2004. The march brought together disenfranchised people from across cultural and caste lines; subsistence farmers, Dalits, and Adivasis. Dalits are the caste known derogatively as untouchables, while Adivasis are the indigenous tribes, many of whom have traditionally lived subsistence lifestyles of farming or gathering in forested regions. Adivasis' occupation of their lands predates the establishment of legal land titles, and many Adivasis never established legal titles. Legal means do exist for Adivasis to assert their rights to historically occupied lands even when they are now occupied by others. Legal provisions for redistribution of land to disenfranchised people also exist; but in both cases the process of acquiring legal rights to land requires a lengthy court challenge. Thus, key demands of the march are that the government commission will investigate land disputes, and that it establish a fast-track court system for redistributive claims and title disputes.
The marchers organized for a year to send delegations from many different villages, and each village also sent provisions to feed their marchers.
In an interview during the march, P.V. Rajagopal describes the reaction in the areas the march has passed by:
If the demands had not been granted, the marchers were prepared to sit in at the Parliament indefinitely.
From the BBC, here are some of the marchers' reactions to the news of their victory.
Ekta Parishad now must continue its campaign to hold the government accountable to its promise.
Guatemala's election results are in. Alvaro Colom of the National Unity for Hope or UNE will be Guatemala's next president. He won fifty two point eight percent of the vote. His campaign was particularly strong in rural areas. By contrast, his rival, retired General Otto Perez Molina of the Patriot Party, won in Guatemala City and secured forty seven point two percent of the vote nationally. Perez Molina, who ran on a tough-on-crime platform, is implicated in human rights abuses including the 1998 murder of Bishop Gerardi.
For an elections analysis, visit the website of the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala, at www (dot) n-i-s-g-u-a (dot) org.
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.
Seven years ago, the Federal Communications Commission recognized the need for more diverse programming on the airwaves and allowed for the licensing of new Low Power FM radio stations. This new broadcasting window was immediately closed due to lobbying by powerful commercial radio interests. Educational institutions, labor unions, churches, towns, and community groups seeking to start Low Power radio stations HAVE FACED restrictive license requirements that limit community access to the airwaves. The Local Community radio act, approved last week by the Senate Commerce committee, SHOULD ease these restrictions and allow for hundreds of new non-commercial stations.
Currently there are over 800 Low Power FM radio stations across the U.S. that have opened the airwaves to a wide range of music, news, community dialogs and much needed local programming. KOCZ is A Low Power FM radio station in Opelousas Louisiana that serves as an outlet for Zydeco Music and community news. Director John Freeman believes that accessible media is a VITAL ASPECT of democracy:
Freeman also believes that Low Power FM stations have the power to impact the larger broadcast of corporate stations.
In Immokalee Florida, Radio Consciencia broadcasts not only the music popular among the immigrant farmworkers who reside in the Region, but also news in Spanish, Creole and various indigenous Guatemalan languages. With the help of the Prometheus Radio Project, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, started the LPFM station Radio Consciencia years ago. According to Romeo Ramirez, their radio has played a central role in the Coalition of Immokalee’s fight against corporate fast food giants UNWILLING TO PAY ANY MORE THAN SLAVE WAGES TO THE FARMWORKERS who GROW their tomatoes.
Realizing these benefits of Low Power FM, a broad coalition of media activists, musicians, religious groups and community organizations had lobbied the FCC in 2000 to expand the radio dial. The FCC agreed to open up third adjacent channels for low power FM radio stations. This means that if a station currently exists at 89.1 FM the next available Low Power radio station would be 89.7 FM. With current restrictions a station would not be available until the fourth adjacent channel which is 89.9. Kate Blofson, an organizer with the Prometheus radio project explains how large broadcasters blocked this FCC ruling that would have allowed for the licensing of third adjacent channels, thus opening the low power FM radio market.
In order to convince Congress to disallow 3rd adjacent radio stations the National Association of Broadcasters distributed a Compact Disc of this alleged interference. It was later discovered that this misleading CD was produced by artificially mixing two previously recorded radio signals and was not a demonstration of actual interference between two FM radio stations. Further debunking this interference claim, the Mitre STUDY which was released in 2003 showed no interference can be expected.
However, LPFM's opponents still use this argument as a means of preventing licensing of more channels on the dial for new radio stations. Russ Withers, spokesperson for the National Association of Broadcasters appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday to repeat that "broadcasters ... have serious concerns with introducing thousands of micro-radio stations to the FM band."
Northern Minnesota's Boundary Waters Radio Station is one of many LPFM initiatives prevented from going on the air by FCC regulations that p them from using available radio channels. Mary Cich says they have broad community support but still cannot obtain a license.
With wide congressional support, the local community radio act is set to clear this obstacle. Mike Doyle, congressman representing Western Pennsylvania, is one of 55 co-sponsors of THE BILL. He commented on the Senate Commerce Committee’s support of Low Power FM.
KOCZ in Opelousa was the only station broadcasting in their area in the days following Hurricane katirna. John Freeman says they were able to aid many people in this time of crisis.
ClearChannel, the Media Conglomerate who owns more than 1100 AM,FM and shortwave radio stations has come under sharp criticism for their media outlets lack of response in times of crisis. When a train derailed in Minot, North Dakota leaking thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals into the air, none of the city’s six non-religious commercial radio stations – all owned by Clear Channel – aired warnings for local residents. As a result, one person died and hundreds were treated for immediate health problems.
Mike Jankovec of the Boundary Waters station believes that Low Power FM can also be helpful in emergency situations that occur on an everyday basis.
In the coming months legislative versions of the Local Community Radio Act will appear before the Senate and House of Representatives. If it passes, the airwaves in almost every major city and small town in the United States will be opened up to hundreds or even thousands of new community based Low Power FM Radio stations.
"The most dangerous woman in America" is what West Virginia District Attorney Reese Blizzard called Mary Harris Jones in 1902. The famous labor organizer, better known as Mother Jones, was arrested there for ignoring an injunction banning meetings by striking miners.
Rose Feurer, a professor of History at Northern Illinois University, has produced a documentary film about the noted labor activist and organizer Mary Harris Jones. The film is entitled “Mother Jones: America’s Most Dangerous Woman”, and was recently featured on Chicago Independent Television, a monthly production of the Chicago Independent Media Center. Today Rustbelt Radio brings you these excerpts from the film's interviews with author Elliott Gorn.
Those were excerpts from Rose Feurer's film “Mother Jones: America’s Most Dangerous Woman.”
And now we present the Indymedia Calendar of Events:
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Thanks for tuning in to Rustbelt Radio here on WRCT Pittsburgh, WPTS Pittsburgh, WNJR Washington, WVJW Benwood, WIUP Indiana and WKCO Gambier.
Our hosts this week are Diane Amdor, Andalusia Knoll and Matt Toups with additional contributions from Jessica McPherson, Juliana Stricklen, Carlin Christy and Veronica Milliner. This week's show was produced by Phill Cresswell. Special thanks to all of our hosts, producers, and contributors.
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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.