• Farm Day in Ventura County

    • 01/11/2019
    • Mark Friedman
    • News
    • Comments are off

    A Road Tour: Where Our Food Originates

    By Mark Friedman, RLn Staff Writer

    Farm day is an adventure for the entire family.  Held annually in Ventura County, this day features 20 farms and agribusinesses in Ventura County that are open for tours, explanations of their farm and processes, and of course the sampling.

    Living in an urban environment we are far removed from the origins of our food.  Even in California, the largest agricultural producing state, and a major exporter of farm goods, we are so near distance-wise, but so removed in our thoughts.

    For me, as a political and union activist, this tour brought back memories of marching with the United Farm Workers for union contracts in grape vineyards and strawberry fields.  Passing by fields of farm-workers, we see the grueling, intensive stoop labor and understand why the organization of farm workers into a union is so critical today.  There are only a couple of small farms with UFW contracts, due to union-busting efforts by big agribusinesses.

    Union organization and solidarity is especially needed now when Washington escalates its attacks on and deportations of immigrants (farm-workers, industrial workers, students, youth), we must stand with all organizing efforts and struggles by the farm-workers for a decent salary, benefits and health/safety in the fields. We must bridge the gap and build unity with the farm-workers, small family farmers and city workers.

    During this once-a-year tour one can choose from many sites during Farm day, but I would certainly suggest a stop at the Agricultural Museum of Ventura County, located in an historic mill building in downtown song Santa Paula.  Built in 1888 as an agricultural warehouse and later served as a feed and grain outlet is today filled with 1000 items, from farm implements to Vaquero paraphernalia (hats, saddles, chaps, etc.) and even hatching chickens.  It contains a fascinating working beehive and throughout, the exhibits describe the agricultural roots of Ventura County, which now produces massive quantities of citrus, avocados, celery, tomatoes, flowers, etc.

    Some of the more interesting farm day locations include the AGQ laboratory, which tests farmland soil for contaminants and toxic metals, Agromin, a major composting company that takes restaurant, school and household green waste and converts it into potting soil and fertilizer (you get to take home a bag as well).  Houwelings, a modern hydroponic tomato farm that produces 150 million pounds of greenhouse tomatoes (12+ species–organics too) on only 150 acres, with 800 workers.  It would take a corresponding 3000 acres of field land at a far more labor-intensive rate to produce a similar amount.  And if you want to learn about onion production, and take away some giant onions as big as softballs, drop by Gills onions.

    A hands-on display by Rincon-Vitova Insectaries featured techniques to control garden pests through natural biological parasites and predators (available for urban gardeners as well) thus eliminating insecticides and food contamination-especially when one knows that the average US resident consumes 5 pounds of insecticides per year in the course of eating vegetables and fruit.

    Farm Day was cosponsored by seeag.org, an organization that educates students about farm origins of their food from field to table, and nutritional wellbeing.

    All events are free.  Plan on this adventure next year in early November. www.venturacountyfarmday.com

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  • Border Wall Farce

    • 01/10/2019
    • James Preston Allen
    • At Length, News
    • Comments are off

    False metaphors of the wall versus the Statue of Liberty

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    That the national broadcast media gave up prime time television minutes in exchange for a metaphoric shadow boxing match over the border wall is telling in and of itself. After all President Donald Trump is as much a reality TV Frankenstein creation of their own chasing of ratings as he is anything else.  That the corporate media actually allowed some short vantage point of “balance” in light of the stalemate on the government shutdown is only telling in that this is what they could do, but usually don’t. Give each side the same amount of time to speak, unfiltered, to the American public at prime time.

    Usually we get told stories in sound bites with reporters telling us what this or that politician said, rather than letting us hear for ourselves.  I find it rather demeaning that some reporters have to “explain” what is being said in plain English —even though Trump needs an interpreter and an editor, as well as a shrink.

    This Oval Office teleprompter version was so completely scripted that Trump ended up having to breathe through his nose just to get through it, as if he was repressing his usual rage and incivility.

    If this farce of standoff didn’t have such real life implications for workers, immigrants and the nation as a whole, it would be seen as a Shakespearean satire.  Perhaps it really is just that.

    The standoff continues with Trump insisting upon a barrier, a fence or a wall. At this point, he’d accept anything as long as he could claim Mexico was paying for it, while the Democrats point to inscription on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  At this point, it’s an argument over symbols, like kneeling at an NFL game during the national anthem, neither addressing immigration nor racism.  This is what Trumpster is good at —raging against the indignity of the symbolic issue, while failing to address the cause of his imagined crisis.

    Fact:  illegal immigration at our southern border is the lowest it’s been in years.

    Fact: immigrants cause less crime than American citizens.

    Reality: more illegal immigrants are now here because they’ve overstayed their visas and arrive through our airports than cross our land borders, the majority of them coming from Asia.

    We don’t hear a lot of hyperventilation emanating from the White House over the hordes coming from the Far East, just a trade war with China over steel and pork bellies.

    Yet, the cyber-crime and hacking of computer servers coming out of Asia and Russia seems to be a greater threat to our digital borders, national security and private information than 5,000 Guatemalans are who are fleeing oppression in their homeland.

    A new attitude in Congress

    Meanwhile, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer continue to object to “The Wall” on both practical and political grounds, there’s a new set of younger activist democrats who aren’t waiting in line to take shots at Trump. In a much publicized social media clip the newly elected Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan made headlines recently for declaring: “We’re going to go in there and we’re going to impeach the motherfucker!” in reference to Trump.

    She made the pronouncement at a Washington, D.C. bar, a few days after she made history when she and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota became the first Muslim women sworn into Congress. Whatever she’s drinking let’s send a bottle to every member of Congress.

    This younger class of first term congresswomen like headline-grabbing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez out of the Bronx 14th District, who is a solidly democratic-socialist à la Bernie Sanders, are not going to be politely silent. The other 110 women  (81 Ds, 29 Rs), comprise 20.6 percent of the 535 members; 23 women (23 percent) serve in the U.S. Senate, the rest in the House of Representatives.

    It appears that the #MeToo movement has now arrived in Washington, D.C. to confront the chauvinism of Beltway politics and will give Trump, the Republicans and the Democratic leadership some opposition.

    America has been waiting for this generation to arrive since Nixon was driven from office, Roe vs. Wade won women’s right to choose and the Vietnam War ended. Or, has it just been since Donald Trump stole the 2016 election with the help of the Russians? Whichever it is, I endorse this new attitude.

    This Oval Office nine-minute attention- grabbing narrative was false in its very premise and I’d like to hear the new members of Congress, if not the media, call him out on it.

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  • Music for the Soul

    • 01/10/2019
    • Melina Paris
    • Music
    • Comments are off

    Setting the Standard with a Blues Holler

    By Melina Paris, Music Columnist

    I’ve been preoccupied by two thoughts in regard to music these past few months.

    First: Thank God we have “standard repertoires of music.” Standard repertoires are identified by having been performed or recorded by a variety of musical acts, often with different arrangements. Standard repertoires are extensively quoted by other works and commonly serve as the basis for musical improvisation.

    Second: Ethnomusicologists seem to struggle mightily when explaining how the human voice, irrespective of the words coming out of a person’s mouth, can evoke very specific and very powerful emotions in those within earshot. Music scientists describe with detail the feelings a sound evokes. Music scientists even recount the history of a  sound pattern from when it was first heard. But until you actually experience it, you don’t know what it truly is. That’s what I thought when I first heard Connie Rouse sing.

    Rouse’s small stature hides a powerful voice. I saw her sing at the Music for the Soul concert put on by Namaste Church in Long Beach back in September. She got me hooked when she delivered a bona fide holler that made me catch my breath before singing an old standard.

    All those months ago, Rouse opened with Baby (You’ve Got What It Takes), by Dinah Washington, and sang standards that were hits by Carole King, Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin. Franklin had died only a week before and the grief was still raw.  Rouse performed (You Make Me Feel) Like A Natural Woman and Think with grace and power that were at once emotional and healing.

    In my newfound fandom, I wanted to peek into the well from which Rouse’s voice came.

    Originally from Chicago, Rouse has lived in Long Beach since 1988. Her singing voice is big, but she speaks softly. She began singing at six years old, doing talent shows and some tap dancing. She sang with the choir in high school, did some musical theater there and in college, and was a member of the South Coast Chorale

    Rouse started singing professionally at 25. She has enjoyed performing on several prominent Southern California stages– the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Carpenter Center, Disney Hotel and Orange County Performing Arts Center, as well as Long Beach venues. Locally, she has performed at The Sky Room, Red Barrel and The Paradise.

    She landed performances at these venues by auditioning and she also used to sing with the South Coast Choral.

    “When the (then artistic director) left the South Coast Choral, that final concert was where I performed, I Will Always Love You with an orchestra,” Rouse said. “After that, he helped me put together the concert at the Carpenter Center. It was cabaret style and it was done on the back stage in an intimate setting with about 250 people. It was sold out.”

    She released her first album in 2006, A Love Like This. Then she moved away from singing and began working in the field of human resources. After performing as a guest vocalist at Namaste (her church home), the music director of Namaste invited her back to join Namaste’s music team.

    If she could make an album of any material she wanted, she would choose Four Women, written by Nina Simone. It has more recently been performed live in a recording session called Sing the Truth, Jazz in Vienna, 2009 by Simone’s daughter, Lisa Simone, Dianne Reeves, Lizz Wright and Angelique Kidjo. It would also include something by Caro Emerald, a Dutch pop and jazz singer and the arrangement that Whitney Houston did of I Will Always Love You, which Rouse performed that at the Carpenter Center.

    About that big holler that she entered the Namaste church concert with, Rouse said. “I just have a big voice. It’s a blessing. It took me a while to learn to like my voice, although I love to sing because I find music very healing. I would compare my voice to other voices so it took me a while to come into liking my own.”

    To Rouse, music is healing and she feels blessed to have the voice that she does. Her goal is to not just sing but to share music.

    “I know if I can hear a song that truly moves me, then I hope to do the same thing for someone else,” Rouse said. “Music really impacts people. A woman I perform with, she and I go to some of the elderly homes and perform for them and you just see them light up. The music helps them and it’s so needed. It’s a way to be of service.”

    You can find her on iTunes, YouTube and CD Baby. Namaste Center for Spiritual Living is at 129 W. 5th St., Long Beach

    Details: www.namastecsl.org

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  • Politicians or the Grassroots: Who Should Lead the California Democratic Party?

    • 01/10/2019
    • Reporters Desk
    • Editorials
    • Comments are off

    Carrie Scoville is running as one of 14 Blue
    Revolution candidates. Photo courtesy of Cesar Armendariz.

    Politicians or the Grassroots: Who Should Lead the California Democratic Party?

    In June, 3,000 Californians will meet at the state’s Democratic Party Convention in San Francisco to shape the California Democratic Party’s platform, policies, endorsements, and leadership in the run-up to the 2020 elections. In the past, these conventions have been dominated by elected officials and other party insiders. Many of these insiders have made positive contributions to our state. But, unfortunately, party insiders have a tendency to craft policies which put politicians’ personal aspirations ahead of the common good.

    Of the 3,000 Democrats who will vote at the California Democratic Party Convention, one third will be chosen from the community at the Assembly District Election Meetings, known as “ADEM” elections. Every registered Democrat can show up on January 12th to vote for 14 delegates from their Assembly District. The problem with the ADEM elections is that, historically, the candidates have been politicians and members of their inner circles. Elected officials are not satisfied with two thirds of the vote at the party convention – they want it all. Since most Democratic voters do not know about these party elections, the turnout is usually low and the politicians usually win.

    This year, two slates of candidates are contending for the 14 seats in Assembly District 70, which includes Long Beach, San Pedro, Signal Hill and Avalon. Members of both slates have strong community service records. However, one slate is tied to Long Beach politicians who already control most of the Democratic Party’s levers of power. In contrast, the Blue Revolution slate is a rainbow coalition of grassroots change makers. Its members have decades of experience in activism, with a proven track record working for racial, economic and gender justice; for immigrants rights, single payer health care and world peace. Slate members include activists from the California Nurses Association, the Service Employees International Union, the Long Shore and Warehouse Workers Union, and Our Revolution Long Beach.

    Blue Revolution and allied change makers began the process of democratizing the Democratic Party in 2017. At that convention, they passed several resolutions, including a resolution that leveled the field for new voices by making incumbents meet the same vote threshold for the state party endorsement as grassroots candidates. Due to the high number of appointed delegates at the convention, Blue Revolution and its allies were narrowly defeated in their drive to elect fresh party leadership. Backed by politicians and party insiders, Eric Bauman won 51% of the vote for the chair of the California Democratic Party, while the grassroots candidate, Kimberly Ellis, earned 49% of the vote. Bauman, at the time of the election, was the chair of the mighty LA County Democratic Party. Many political insiders feared standing up to Bauman because he had long been in a position to make or break a politician’s career. Tragically, his tenure as state party chair ended in a disgusting scandal which would have been avoided if progressives held just a few more convention seats.

    In 2017, Blue Revolution won 10 of 14 delegate slots. This time, sending 14 members to the Convention will send a powerful message to party bosses and will help ensure that the California Democratic Party becomes an even more powerful, diverse, and unified voice for change. Voters from Assembly District 70 who demand fundamental change, need to vote for all 14 Blue Revolution candidates on Saturday, January 12th, 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM, at Teamsters Local 848 (3888 Cherry Ave, Long Beach, California 90807).

    For more information about the candidates and the ADEM elections, visit https://www.adems.vote/

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  • Ports’ Clean Air Progress Clouded by Lack of Transparency

    • 01/10/2019
    • Paul Rosenberg
    • News
    • Comments are off

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    Just before the holidays, more clouds appeared on the horizon of the ports’ Clean Air Action Plan, raising new questions about the ports’ transparency, honesty in reporting and commitment to stated long-term zero-emission goals, in the continued absence of a community oversight body similar to the Port Community Advisory Committee.

    On Dec. 18, the ports released a draft feasibility assessment of clean truck technology, which was seriously out of line with the zero emission goals, according to community critics.

    “The title of the study and scope of study is inappropriate,” the Coalition For A Safe Environment said in a draft of its comments made available to Random Lengths News by Executive Director Jesse Marquez. “It is a fact that zero- emission trucks exist and are commercially available for sale in California now.  The Port of Los Angeles is manipulating the title and study to infer that zero-emission trucks do not exist and are not feasible for port freight transportation or project mitigation.”

    The coalition comments went on to note the study’s failure “to conduct a thorough survey and study of all zero-emission truck manufacturers.” The coalition does monthly updates of its own zero-emissions commercial availability survey, which lists nine Class 8 trucks, only one of which is mentioned in POLA’s analysis. Public comments are being accepted through  Jan. 23. (See “Community Alerts,” p. 9.)

    The next day, at the Clean Air Action Plan Advisory Committee meeting, Wendy Gutschow from the USC Keck School of Medicine delivered detailed critical comments prepared by professors Andrea Hricko and Jill Johnston. The written report they submitted ran 24 pages.

    While Keck applauded the ports for their significant reduction of air pollution emissions between 2005 and 2018 — and for their ongoing efforts, they went on to note that “Both ports have been disingenuous in claiming that this past year’s emission reductions were the ‘greatest ever’ even while cargo loads increased.”

    In fact, emissions increased at both ports for a majority of categories tracked. There are eight categories of emissions tracked, for five source categories, for a total of 40 categories, 23 of which have gone up from 2016 to 2017 at POLA. These include seven out of eight pollutants for locomotives and all eight pollutants for cargo-handling equipment. Harbor craft were the only emission source with decreases in all categories, while heavy-duty trucks saw increases in five categories and oceangoing vessels saw increases in three. Total emissions of particulate matter, hydrocarbons, sulfur oxide, carbon dioxide and total greenhouse gasses all increased.

    “The Port of Los Angeles stands by the 2017 emissions inventory,” the port said in statement provided by spokesman Phillip Sanfield. “The headline and first paragraph in the accompanying news release refers to record low nitrogen oxide emissions.”

    However, after the first paragraph, the press release read, “Overall, the 2017 findings show the port has maintained or exceeded the dramatic clean air progress it has made over the last 12 years.”

    “Not true,” Keck responded. “It has not maintained its progress since 2016! Sixty percent of pollutant emissions are up since 2016.”

    Peter Warren, a long-time port activist with Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council said, “It is clear from this latest POLA emissions inventory that port growth still means more year-to-year pollution and that the port has not met the challenge of decreasing air pollution overall as growth increases.”

    Two other key points were raised regarding POLA.

    “No mention was made in the emissions inventory for 2017 that cruise ships had not been able to plug into electricity for more than four months at the end of 2016 because the cruise terminal was being remodeled and shore power was not available,” Gutschow said. “And, no mention was made in any of the emission inventories from 2012-2016 that the USS Iowa battleship was using a diesel generator instead of plugging into electricity. For at least some of that time, the generator was not even permitted by the AQMD!”

    Regarding cruise ships, POLA said: “Our 2017 emissions inventory includes emissions of cruise ships that plugged in to shore power and also those that did not plug in to shore power.”

    And, regarding the Iowa, POLA said, “We do not include smaller stationary source emissions,  such   as the portable generator used by the Battleship Iowa.”
    But this conflicts directly with underlying rationale of the Clean Air Action Plan, which was to develop and implement a comprehensive port-wide approach. It’s unclear how many other emissions are not included.

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  • Dave Arian, 1946 – 2019

    • 01/10/2019
    • Reporters Desk
    • News
    • Comments are off

    Love of Family, Union and Social Justice

    By Mike Bonin, Los Angeles District 11 Councilman

    Alan David Arian, 72, a prominent labor leader, accomplished community organizer, fierce social justice activist, and respected civic leader, died Jan. 2 at his home in San Pedro after a brief and valiant fight against cancer. He was surrounded by family and friends.

    Known to most everyone as “Dave” or “David,” Arian rose from part-time dockworker and upstart left-wing political organizer to international president of the powerful International Longshore and Warehouse Union, and vice president of the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners. A self-described radical, Arian will be remembered as a passionate, generous, truth-talking organizer who effectively used his influence to promote economic justice, racial equality, peace, and grassroots democracy.

    Arian’s life revolved around his three loves: his family, his union and a progressive political movement. He integrated the three into a lifelong mission to promote economic and social change, to help others, and to treat everyone with dignity and respect.

    “The thing that means the most is what you give back,” Arian said in a 2014 interview. “That’s what stays with you. Your family. Your grandkids. The movement.

    “Those are things that are real in life. It’s a movement of why your life could be different, how you could fulfill your life and not always be ‘It’s about me.’”

    Hundreds of friends rallied to support Arian since August, when he announced he had been diagnosed with anaplastic thyroid cancer, a rare and brutally aggressive form of cancer. The number and range of people attending organizing meetings to support Arian demonstrated the unique and powerful impact he had on so many people—family and friends, progressive activists and elected officials, recovering addicts and business executives, port officials, and waterfront workers. An equally diverse array of people mourned his passage and underscored his impact on Los Angeles.

    “David Arian embodies what service means for his fellow human being,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “From the docks to the board room, his humor, his intelligence and his commitment to justice built the most successful port in the Americas, while doing right for the workers and the community that are the lifeblood of the Harbor community. Our city and our world are better places because of David Arian’s extraordinary career and because of his deep humanity.”

    “[Arian was] a revolutionary leader and organizer, a principled man of the working class, a thinker and speaker, a tireless fighter for justice,” said Luis Rodriguez, former Los Angeles poet laureate, political activist, and friend of Arian’s since the 1960s. “His battles, struggles and triumphs have helped so many people, in the Harbor Area, but also throughout the U.S.”

    “You could not find a better friend or comrade or advocate,” said Norm Tuck, Arian’s best friend and fellow dockworker for 50 years. “He had the most amazing values. He believed everyone should have a voice and there should be justice for everyone. He would stand up for those values and for people, no matter what.”

    Labor Leader

    Arian was most widely-known as a fiercely loyal and active member and leader of the ILWU. After working as a casual on the docks lugging bananas for five years, Arian became a full-fledged member of ILWU Local 13 in 1969, following in the footsteps of his father, “Honest Lou” Arian. He joined the union’s district council in 1970 and then won election and served two terms as president of Local 13, starting in 1984. In 1991, he ran an aggressive grassroots campaign for the presidency of the international union, winning an upset victory to become only the third person in union history to have the job.

    His election sent shockwaves through the union, prompting the San Francisco Examiner to report that “some union old-timers regard him as a left-wing radical.” He was unseated in the next election in 1994, but was elected again in 2004 as president of Local 13 in Los Angeles. He later served as president of the Southern California District Council of the ILWU.

    As a labor leader, Arian took a hard line with employers, but earned a reputation as a pragmatic dealmaker. He was instrumental in winning dramatic increases in pension benefits for workers, insisting on more stringent workplace safety rules, and creating a “one-door policy” for entrance and advancement into the union through the hiring hall. He reinvigorated the union’s organizing efforts and helped double the size of the ILWU workforce at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Early in his career, he played a key role in changing the ILWU registration process to allow women to become union members.

    “Dave Arian was a treasure,” said Luisa Gratz, president of ILWU Local 26, and the first female trade unionist of any ILWU local, elected in 1983. “Some people believe in something and don’t do anything about it. And some people actually live what they believe  — and Dave Arian lived it. Dave and his family lived through the struggle and helped build ILWU. The best way people can honor him is to get involved in the union, be part of the change in this country, and stand for something. That’s what Dave Arian did  — heart and soul.”

    Arian was an advocate for teaching labor and progressive history. In 1992, he founded the Harry Bridges Institute, an education project committed to preserving the history of the union movement and working families. When he retired from the waterfront in 2009, he published the book The Right to Get in the Fight and produced the film Eye of Storm, both recounting the history and significance of the ILWU.

    Arian used his perch as a labor leader to advance other progressive causes, pushing the ILWU to refuse to handle cargo from apartheid-era South Africa, opposing the shipment of nuclear fuel rods through West Coast ports, organizing solidarity marches for striking grocery workers, and corralling labor voters in Nevada to turn out to vote for Barack Obama. He said he felt that the ILWU, as a powerful and progressive union, had an obligation to support other struggles and to make real its slogan, “An Injury to One is an Injury to All.”

    When he retired in 2009, Arian said the ILWU gave him the opportunity to live true to his ideals.

    “If it weren’t for the ILWU, I’d be in jail or be dead,” he said. “The ILWU has allowed me to have political views that are not mainstream, and the luxury of expressing those views and making a good living. If I wasn’t in this union, there’s very few jobs I’d be able to keep. My political views and things I’ve fought for would have isolated me in this society.”

    Radical Politics

    A working-class intellectual who read 50 books a year, Arian mastered history and political and economic theory, despite never earning a college degree. His biting analysis of capitalism and economic power formed the backbone of his progressive worldview and of his political organizing.

    Arian’s activism started early. Born into a politically-active, labor-left family, one of his earliest memories was attending a candlelight vigil for Ethel and Julius Rosenberg with his mother, Rose Arian, a dedicated activist who had been arrested protesting nuclear testing in Nevada. In high school, he attended an NAACP protest in Torrance with his sister Laraine, and in 1965 he was arrested (for the first of many times) at the Wilshire Federal Building during a demonstration in solidarity with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and civil rights workers in Selma, Ala.

    Arian became an outspoken advocate for civil rights and an early, militant opponent of the war in Vietnam. He organized and attended demonstrations throughout the state, traveling with groups of friends in his magenta-colored station wagon or Volkswagen bus, forming coalitions with members of the burgeoning student, Black Power and Chicano movements.

    In 1966, he opened the Community Action Center in San Pedro, creating a drop-in center where hundreds of young people gathered and learned about political issues, such as civil rights, Vietnam and the Delano grape boycott. The facility was shot at and eventually burned down.

    The center was where Arian met and fell in love with Roxanne Nielsen, a fellow San Pedro resident. They married in 1968, and Roxanne gave birth to their son Sean in 1969 and their daughter Justine in 1972.

    The two later amicably divorced, remaining close, lifelong friends. In the late 1960s and 1970s, Arian worked as a grassroots organizer with striking employees in San Francisco and other cities, with former members of Students for a Democratic Society, and with activists with the League of Revolutionary Black Workers and the Communist Labor Party.

    It was during a trip to Michigan in 1976 to campaign for a Communist Labor Party candidate for the state legislature that Arian met and began an 8-year-long romantic relationship and decades-long political partnership with Diane Middleton. In the late 1990s, he helped found the Diane Middleton Foundation, which provided funding and support for grassroots progressive and labor efforts in Los Angeles.

    “Dave has made a lasting impact on me and organizers all around Los Angeles, demanding deep commitment and analysis and providing support and mentorship,” said Becky Dennison, who met Arian when she founded the Los Angeles Community Action Network. “Among his so many talents and contributions, I have been most inspired by his integrity, fierceness, humor and love, which he used in unique contribution to demonstrate, demand and advance justice.”

    Harbor Commission

    Arian’s strong community and labor credentials afforded him access to power that his politics might not have. He became a friend and trusted confidante of mayors Antonio Villaraigosa and Eric Garcetti, County Supervisor Janice Hahn, Reps. Alan Lowenthal and Nanette Barragan, and Los Angeles District 15 Councilman Joe Buscaino. In 2006, Villaraigosa appointed him to serve on the joint Port of Los Angeles-Port of Long Beach Advisory Board for the San Pedro Bay Clean Air Action Plan. In 2010, Villaraigosa appointed him to the powerful Board of Harbor Commissions, and Garcetti re-appointed him to the post in 2014.

    As vice president of the commission, Arian relished the role of bridge-builder, making sure that the port benefitted everyone.

    “My role on the Port Commission is to ensure a social compact,” he said in 2013. “The port has to continue to produce and make money. The terminals have to do well, the workers have to be protected and the community has to benefit from it.”

    Arian was proud to serve as vice president of the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners. During his tenure on the commission, Arian championed projects that benefited the community and protected workers, including the Wilmington Waterfront Park and the new ILWU Hiring Hall. He was a supporter and staunch defender of the port’s waterfront development efforts. His vision for a workforce training center included not only the “just transition” of longshore labor into a cleaner, more efficient port complex, but also a jobs pipeline for the local community into adjacent cargo-related operations.

    In response to intensified competition from other trade gateways, Arian supported the port’s continued infrastructure development, including the Main Channel deepening, development of on-dock rail, and terminal modernization. Arian also challenged the port to evolve out of its traditional landlord role and work more closely with its business partners on efficiency measures, like development of a data-sharing portal, peel-off operations and expanded gate hours.

    When Villaraigosa appointed him to the commission, Arian’s militant labor background concerned some,  but he turned them around. Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles and a former shipping executive, said Arian built relationships based on trust and mutual respect and a desire to find common ground.

    “He had the ability to speak with a dockworker and CEO in much the same way– straightforward and solutions driven,” Seroka said. “He got the most out of people while making them believe in themselves. When bargaining, he wanted to win, but not at all costs. In business, he believed shared success drove long-term partnerships. With people, he stayed involved, kept talking and saw issues through. Many times he would tell me, ‘Stay at the table and things will get done.’”

    Pragmatism

    Arian said he learned his pragmatic approach is one he learned on the docks in the 1960s  —  from a black revolutionary named Nelson Peery, who urged him to use his keen mind to channel his political energy.

    “He gave me a foundation for me being analytical politically, not just being emotional, and not just being a revolutionary who wants to overthrow the world, but really seeing what you could achieve and what you could not achieve,” he said. “To get things done, you have to be objective, and that means being realistic about what is possible in that point in history.”

    Arian and Norm Tuck were best friends, ILWU colleagues, and partners working on the docks.

    “David was a firebrand and could stand up to anyone, and his intellect gave him the ability to look at a situation, get to the real heart of the matter,” said Tuck, who was part of ILWU leadership and negotiating teams with Arian. “He knew what the end of the conversation needed to be and how to get there.”

    Family Man

    By far, Arian’s proudest achievement was his large and tight-knit family and circle of friends, for whom he was patriarch, wise man, voice of common sense and source of encouragement. At large family functions, he could be found playing with the grandchildren, tending to the barbecue grill, or in a long conversation with someone needing guidance.

    His son Sean and daughter Justine recall a devoted father who coached youth sports, attended countless school functions, drove them on long cross-country trips in his Dodge van, and visited them in foreign locales. Arian was, they said, an indefatigable champion of their interests, their talents and their careers, and the nucleus of frequent family trips to Lake Tahoe, Hawaii and Desert Hot Springs.

    In retirement, Arian became a particularly engaged grandfather, babysitting, attending soccer games, school recitals and swimming lessons — and walking with his grandchildren in the annual Wilmington Labor Day Parade or teaching his grandson The Internationale. A few months before his death, Arian said “one of the highlights of social activism in this family” was seeing both of his children and all five of his grand- children attend the Women’s March in downtown Los Angeles in January 2017.

    For Arian, family was not limited to blood relations. He embraced and welcomed others, offering a bed, a job, a second chance and often a home to anyone who needed it. The “Dave Arian’s Wellness Journey” page on Facebook is full of moving testimonials from people Arian helped and influenced.

    One friend noted: “You will always exemplify for me what Che meant in that famous quote about true revolutionaries being guided by great love.”

    Mary Gimenez-Caulder, a San Pedro resident who has known generations of Arians, said the family is known for displaying an abundance of “friendship, honesty, trust, generosity, and most of all love and acceptance of all people. Dave embodied all of those traits and more.”

    Arian was born Dec. 4, 1946. He grew up on 8th Street in San Pedro, attended Cabrillo Elementary School and Dana Junior High School, graduated from San Pedro High School in 1965, and attended classes at Los Angeles Harbor College. He devoted himself to supporting community causes and organizations, including Toberman Settlement House, Harbor Interfaith Shelter, Beacon House Association and San Pedro Boys & Girls Club, where he played as a child. He was a tremendous booster of the San Pedro High School Pirates football team, attending games regularly. When Arian was not working, attending meetings, organizing, or babysitting, he enjoyed reading, swimming, practicing bikram yoga, rooting for his beloved Lakers and Dodgers, and traveling, particularly with family.

    Arian is survived by: his son Sean and husband Mike Bonin of Los Angeles, and their son Jacob; his daughter Justine Arian-Edwards and husband Ethan of Huntington Beach, and their children, Jadyn, Destan, Aneka and Keira; his sister, Laraine Arian, of San Pedro; his ex-wife and close friend, Roxanne Arian, of San Pedro; and dozens of nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws, and extended family members. He is predeceased by his brother Arthur, who died in 2006.

    This story was originally published at Medium.com. It is reprinted with permission of the author.

    Video of Los Angeles Harbor Commission Tribute to Dave Arian

    A  memorial service for Dave Arian will take place on Sunday, Jan. 27 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the ILWU Local 13 Dispatch Hall, 1500 E. Anaheim St., Wilmington.

    The family asks that in lieu of flowers donations be made to the Harry Bridges Institute for the Dave Arian Memorial Project, 350 W. 5th St., Suite 209, San Pedro, CA 90731.

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  • A New Day for Mexican Workers

    • 01/09/2019
    • Reporters Desk
    • News
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    The Lopez Obrador administration is changing the law so that workers can actually choose a union and vote on their contracts.

    By David Bacon, Contributing Writer

    NAFTA had been in effect for just a few months when Ruben Ruiz got a job at the Itapsa factory in Mexico City in the summer of 1994. Itapsa made auto brakes for Echlin, a U.S. manufacturer later bought out by the huge Dana Aftermarket Group.  In the factory, asbestos dust from brake parts coated machines and people alike. Ruiz had hardly begun his first shift when a machine malfunctioned, cutting four fingers from the hand of the man operating it.

    It seemed clear to Ruiz that things were very wrong, so he went to a meeting to talk about organizing a union. When Itapsa managers got wind of the effort, they began firing the organizers. Nevertheless, many of the workers joined STIMAHCS, an independent democratic union of metalworkers.

    Itapsa workers filed a petition for an election, but then discovered that they already a had “union”—a unit of the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM). They’d never seen the union contract—in essence, a “protection contract,” which insulates the company from labor unrest.

    The plant’s HR manager told Ruiz that Echlin management in the U.S. said any worker organizing an independent union should be immediately fired. “He told me my name was on a list of those people,” Ruiz recounted, “and I was discharged right there.”

    Nevertheless, there was a vote, in September 1997, to decide which union workers wanted. But before the election, a state police agent drove a car filled with rifles into the plant. Two busloads of strangers arrived, armed with clubs and copper rods.

    A worker who lost his job in the privatization of the Ruta 100 bus line in Mexico City was overcome with emotion during the inauguration in the zocalo of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Photo by David Bacon.

    During the voting, workers were escorted by CTM functionaries past the club and rifle-wielding strangers. Some workers were forcibly kept in a part of the factory to keep them from voting. At the polling station, employees were asked aloud which union they favored, in front of management and CTM representatives.

    STIMAHCS tried to get the election canceled. But the government body administering it, the Conciliation and Arbitration Board (JCA), went ahead, even after thugs roughed up one of the independent union’s organizers. Predictably, STIMAHCS lost.

    For 20 years the Itapsa election has been a symbol of all that’s gone wrong with Mexico’s labor law, which provides protection on paper for workers seeking to organize but which has been routinely undermined by a succession of governments bent on using a low-wage workforce to attract foreign investment. Dana Corporation was just one beneficiary—Itapsa has been the norm, not the exception.

    In 2015 thousands of farm workers struck U.S. growers in Baja California. Instead of recognizing their new independent union, however, growers signed protection contracts with the CTM, which were certified by the local JCA. Strikers were blacklisted. Later that year workers tried to register an independent union in four Juarez factories. Some 120 workers making ink cartridges for Lexmark were fired, as were another 170 at ADC Commscope, and many more at Foxconn and Eaton.

    The labor board declined to reinstate the fired workers in Juarez and Baja—following the pattern it had set at Itapsa two decades earlier. Indeed, the JNCs have been key to the defeat of workers’ attempts to form democratic unions, invariably protecting employers and corporate-friendly unions.

    The new Mexican government, headed by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), says that’s all over. Deputy Secretary of Labor in the new administration, Alfredo Dominguez Marrufo, promises that, “after all these struggles, we can finally get rid of the protection contract system. We can make our unions democratic, choose our own leaders and negotiate our own contracts. This government will defend the freedom of workers to organize. That right has existed in theory, but we’ve had a structure making it impossible. This will change.”

    In his speech to the Mexican Congress during his December 1 inauguration, the new president charged that 36 years of neoliberal economic reforms had lowered the purchasing power of Mexico’s minimum wage by 60 percent.

    That could have a big impact on political life in Mexico, where corporate union leaders have had an inside track to political power and corruption. It could change the dominating role U.S. corporations have played in the Mexican economy, and affect relations between workers in both countries. Most of all, it would raise a standard of living for workers that Lopez Obrador has called “among the lowest on the planet.” In his speech to the Mexican Congress during his December 1 inauguration, the new president charged that 36 years of neoliberal economic reforms had lowered the purchasing power of Mexico’s minimum wage by 60 percent. Today, on the border, that wage comes to a little above $4 per day.

    According to University of California Professor Harley Shaiken, “The Mexican government created an investment climate that depends on a vast number of low wage-earners. This climate gets all the government’s attention, while the consumer climate—the ability of people to buy what they produce—is sacrificed.”

    Protecting corporations from demands for higher wages has made Mexico a profitable place to do business. Big auto companies, the world’s major garment manufacturers, the global high tech electronic assemblers—all built huge plants to take advantage of Mexico’s neoliberal economic policies, starting more than two decades before the negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

    That wild-west climate for investors produced more than low wages, however. Be­tween 1988 and 1992, 163 Juarez children were born with anencephaly—without brains—an extremely rare disorder. Health critics charged that the defects were due to exposure to toxic chemicals in the factories or their toxic discharges. The Chilpancingo colonia below the mesa in Tijuana where the battery plant of Metales y Derivados was located experienced the same plague.

    As the companies came south, the people came north. “During the neoliberal period [which he defines as the last 36 years, or six Mexican presidencies] we became the second country in the world with the highest migration,” Lopez Obrador charged. “They live and work in the United States, 24 million Mexicans [Mexico’s population in 2017 was 129.2 million] … They are sending $30 billion a year to their families … the greatest social benefit we receive from abroad.”

    In his six-year campaign for office, in which he spoke in practically every sizeable town in the country, Lopez Obrador repeated what he later told the Congress—that only development “to combat poverty and marginalization as has never been done in history” would provide an alternative to migration.

    “We will put aside the neoliberal hypocrisy,” he announced. “Those born poor will not be condemned to die poor. … We want migration to be optional, not mandatory, [to make Mexicans] happy where they were born, where their family members, their customs and their cultures are.”

    In his speech, Lopez Obrador criticized two other neoliberal articles of faith—that privatization of the state-owned section of the Mexican economy would lead to economic growth, and that pro-corporate changes in its labor law would create jobs and higher incomes.

    Starting before NAFTA was passed, Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gortari rammed through the Congress changes in the Constitution’s guarantees of land reform, to make private land ownership easier. Many of the communal ejidos, created in previous decades, were dissolved and their lands sold to investors. Farmers became wage workers on land they’d previously owned. Subsequent land reforms led to granting foreign mining companies concessions on over a third of Mexico’s territory, allowing them to develop operations even in the face of local opposition.

    Prices on basic goods were decontrolled, and government subsidies on food were cut back or ended altogether. In 1998, the government dissolved CONASUPO, a system of state-run stores selling basic foodstuffs like tortillas and milk at subsidized low prices. At the same time, price supports for small corn growers were also ended. As NAFTA allowed U.S. corporations to flood the Mexican market with cheap subsidized imported corn, millions of farmers were displaced, no longer able to sell their corn at a price that paid for growing it.

    “Mexico is the origin of corn, that blessed plant,” Lopez Obrador noted bitterly, “and now we are the nation that imports the most corn in the world.” He announced that a CONASUPO-like subsidized food production and distribution system would be reestablished.

    Privatization marked a 180-degree change in the direction of Mexican economic policy.

    Privatization marked a 180-degree change in the direction of Mexican economic policy. After its 1910-20 Revolution, nationalists believed that to be truly independent Mexico had to ensure its resources were controlled by Mexicans and used for their benefit. The route to this control was nationalization, to stop the transfer of wealth out of the country and to set up an internal market, in which what was produced in Mexico would be sold there as well.

    Mexico therefore guaranteed rights to workers that U.S. unions and workers could only dream of. Severance pay was mandatory and workers had a right to profit-sharing. During legal strikes, companies had to shut their doors until the dispute was resolved. On paper, the government acknowledged the right of all people to education and housing.

    In return, however, Mexican unions gave up autonomy and control of their own affairs. The government registered unions, and oversaw their internal processes and choice of leaders. It never tolerated independent action by workers and unions outside its political structure. When the government changed its basic economic policy, using low wages to attract foreign investment, and producing for the US market instead of for Mexico, the government could and did punish resistance severely.

    Under Presidents Salinas de Gortari and Ernesto Zedillo (1988-2000) privatization reforms became a whirlwind. Among the companies and industries affected were the Aeromexico airline, the telephone company, the petrochemical industry dependent on the state-run oil company, the Sicartsa steel mill, the railroad network, many Mexican mines, and the operation of the country’s ports.

    The leader of the union at Aeromexico was imprisoned after he refused to accept the company’s privatization and the layoff of thousands of workers. The head of one of the largest sections of the union for employees of the social security system, IMSS, also spent months in jail in 1995 for denouncing government plans to privatize the enormous federal pension and health-care agency.

    Police and the state labor board in Tijuana cooperated in bringing in fake voters and strikebreakers from the CTM to break the strike of an independent union at Han Young. Photo by David Bacon.

    In 1991, the Mexican army took over the port of Veracruz, disbanded the longshore union, and installed three private contractors to load and unload ships. Hourly wages of Veracruz longshoremen fell from about $7.00 to $1.00, even as productivity rose from 18 to over 40 shipping containers handled per hour.

    When the Sicartsa steel mill was privatized in 1992, wages were cut in half, and 1500 of the mill’s 5000 workers were laid off. They were then rehired as temporary labor under 28-day contracts.

    The Mexican government sold the Cananea and Nacozari copper mines, among the world’s largest, to German Larrea’s Grupo Mexico at a fraction of their book value.  In 1997 Larrea bought the 4052-mile Pacific North railroad, in partnership with Pennsylvania-based Union Pacific. Workers throughout northern Mexico mounted a series of rolling wildcat strikes over cuts in its workforce of 13,000 by more than half. They lost.

    Thirteen Mexican financiers became billionaires during the Salinas administration, and Larrea was one of them. Grupo Mexico forced Cananea’s miners’ union to go on strike in 2009, a conflict that is still unresolved. After 65 miners were entombed by an explosion in Grupo Mexico’s Pasta de Conchos coal mine in 2006, the union’s president Napoleon Gomez Urrutia was forced into exile in Canada. He’d accused Larrea of “industrial homicide” for giving up rescue efforts after only three days.

    This October Gomez Urrutia was elected senator in Sonora on the Morena ticket (Lopez Obrador’s party-in-formation), and finally returned from Canada to take office.

    The harshest privatization came in 2009, when President Felipe Calderon dissolved the state-owned Power and Light Company of central Mexico. In firing all its 44,000 workers, Calderon hoped to destroy one of Mexico’s oldest and most democratic unions, the Mexican Electrical Workers (SME). The company’s operations were folded into the Federal Electricity Commission. Private electrical generation was already permitted by Salinas and Zedillo, and Lopez Obrador’s immediate predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto, had set up plans for private power sale to consumers.

    Meanwhile, the Federal Electricity Commission itself was slated for elimination. Peña Nieto pushed a Constitutional reform through Congress to reverse the guarantee of national ownership of both the oil and electrical industries.

    Miners on strike in Cananea burn a flag with the image of German Larrea, the owner of the mine, who they also hold responsible for the deaths of 65 coal miners in Pasta de Conchos. Photo by David Bacon.

    Far from increasing productivity and investment, however, “the damage caused to the national energy sector during neoliberalism is so serious,” Lopez Obrador charged, “that we are not only the oil country that imports the most gasoline in the world, but we are now buying crude oil to supply the only six refineries that barely survive.”

    Humberto Montes de Oca, foreign secretary of the SME union, says, “The country is bankrupt. Before we can redistribute wealth we have to recover it. We know the banks will act against reversing the energy reform along with the others. We will all have to participate in order to defend any changes this new government tries to make.” The SME has established a cooperative and has regained control of seven power generation stations, along with other property that formerly belonged to the old company.

    “Privatization has been synonymous with corruption in Mexico,” Lopez Obrador charged in his speech. “The robbery of the goods of the people and the riches of the nation has been a modus operandi. The government will no longer facilitate looting, and will no longer be a committee in the service of a rapacious minority.”

    To date, only one economic reform enacted by Lopez Obrador’s predecessors has been repealed outright: the education reform that mandated standardized testing for students—and of teachers themselves, which led to many politicized firings. Mexico’s teachers have a long history of resistance and radical politics. More than 100 teachers in the state of Oaxaca alone were killed during their struggle over control of their union, and in defense of the indigenous communities in which they lived. Years of massive teacher strikes against the government’s education reform eventually led to a massacre in Nochixtlan in June 2016, in which nine people were gunned down by federal and state police.

    The disappearance and murder of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa training school in September 2014 was also an indirect product of the corporate education reform program. Their school had a reputation for turning out radical teachers, as do many rural training schools like it, and their students came from some of the poorest families in the countryside.

    Striking teachers march through downtown Mexico City to protest the pro-corporate education reform, which President Lopez Obrador has promised to repeal. Photo by David Bacon.

    Claudio X. González Guajardo, cofounder of the Televisa Foundation and the Mexicanos Primeros corporate education reform lobby, called such public schools “a swarm of politics and shouting.” He demanded the government replace them with private institutions. Following Lopez Obrador’s speech to the Congress, Gonzalez tweeted, “AMLO—Against the free market, against the energy reform, a retrograde, statist, interventionist, stagnant vision. The markets will react negatively. It will go very badly with us, very badly. A shame.”

    In his address, Lopez Obrador had promised, “The so-called education reform will be canceled, the right to free education will be established in Article 3 of the Constitution at all levels of schooling, and the government will never again offend teachers. The disappearance of Ayotzinapa’s youth will be thoroughly investigated; the truth will be known and those responsible will be punished.” In meetings with the democratic teachers caucus he also promised free elections in their union, the largest in Latin America. Eliminating the authoritarian group that has held power in the union for decades could shift the balance between the left and right in Mexico’s institutional politics.

    Despite the move against education reform, most Mexican unions do not expect the new government to reverse the privatizations that have already taken place, at least not for the first three years of Lopez Obrador’s six-year term. Instead, they have concentrated on winning a basic reform of Mexico’s labor law, which has changed radically during the past two decades.

    In May 2000, the World Bank made a series of recommendations to the Mexican administration, “An Integral Agenda of Development for the New Era.” The bank recommended rewriting Mexico’s Constitution and Federal Labor Law by eliminating its requirements that companies give workers permanent status after 90 days, limit part time work and abide by the 40-hour week, pay severance when they lay workers off and negotiate over the closure of factories. The bank called for ending the law’s ban on strikebreaking, and its guarantees of job training, health care and housing.

    The recommendations were so extreme that even some employers condemned them. President Vicente Fox embraced the proposal, but it failed to pass the Congress. After further attempts, however, President Felipe Calderon did get a similar reform adopted in 2012. It allows companies to outsource, or subcontract, jobs, which was previously banned. It allows part time and temporary work and pay by the hour rather than the day. Workers now can be terminated without cause for their first six months on the job.

    Arturo Alcalde, one of Mexico’s most respected labor lawyers and past president of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers, called the reforms “a road to a paradise of firings.” As he predicted, subcontracting proliferated with disastrous results. In just one instance, Grupo Mexico replaced strikers at the Cananea mine by contracting out their jobs.  Inexperienced replacements died in mine accidents, and allowed a huge spill of toxic mine tailings into the Sonora River, contaminating communities and sickening residents.

    According to Benedicto Martinez, co-president of the Authentic Labor Front, the union federation to which STIMAHCS belongs, “The motivation of the government, assisted by corporate unions, was to encourage the layoff of longtime employees, who could be replaced by subcontracted workers. There are companies now where all the workers are subcontracted, who have no employees of their own at all. The conditions are very low, just slightly above the legal minimum, and sometimes below.”

    Last year, under pressure from the European Union, which sought a free trade agreement with Mexico, the Peña Nieto administration had to agree to reform some of the pro-corporate labor practices. The government was forced to ratify Convention 98 of the International Labor Organization, guaranteeing freedom of association (something the United States has not done). Peña Nieto then got the Mexican Congress to pass a Constitutional reform, embodying these changes. Corporate unions like the CTM, clearly feeling threatened by the reform, introduced their own legislation in 2017 to nullify its effect. They couldn’t get it passed, however, as it became evident that Lopez Obrador would be elected the next president.

    In Martinez’ eyes, the Constitutional reform is “the most advanced proposal that you could imagine. It includes union democracy, and the disappearance of the Conciliation and Arbitration Boards, which have always been complicit with the bosses and the corporate unions.  In some states a union contract is treated like a state secret, that no one is allowed to see.”

    Martinez believes the reform was the fruit of many years of groups like his fighting the government. “It was like talking to a wall,” he recalls. “We were accused of being traitors to the country, because we organized international pressure with unions all over the world, denouncing the practices here in Mexico.”

    Domingues Marrufo, Lopez Obrador’s Deputy Labor Secretary, agrees. “If it were not for that support from the [U.S. and Canadian] United Steelworkers and other unions, it would have been impossible to achieve the Constitutional reform.”

    But changing the Constitution does not change the particular laws that govern labor activity.

    But changing the Constitution does not change the particular laws that govern labor activity. Implementing legislation must be passed to define rights and procedures, and set up the structure for enforcing the reform. After Lopez Obrador won the election in July, but before he took office in December, Mexican unions and labor lawyers set up a discussion group, the Citizens Labor Observatory, and debated how far the new changes should go.

    Some wanted to undo Calderon’s 2012 reform completely, by reversing, for instance, the reform laws that now allow subcontracting and temporary employment. In the end, though, the consensus among the democratic unions was to limit the proposal to the implementing legislation that gives workers the right to vote for the union and union leaders of their choice, and to approve or reject their contracts. It was clear this was Lopez Obrador’s favored choice. As Mexico City mayor in 2000, he had appointed another dean of Mexican labor lawyers, Jesus Campos Linas, as head of the city’s labor board. Campos Linas then made public an estimated 70-80,000 protection contracts whose contents had never been released to the workers they covered.

    Two days before Christmas, deputies from Lopez Obrador’s Morena Party-in-formation introduced their labor reform bill into the Chamber of Deputies. It will abolish the JCAs and substitute an independent system of labor tribunals. Unions will be independent of the government and business, and leaders must be elected by a majority of the workers. Union contracts will be public, and must be ratified by the majority of the workers in a free and secret vote.

    Sweeping though it will be, the new labor law is just a beginning. On taking office, Lopez Obrador appointed Maria Luisa Alcalde the new Labor Secretary. She is a former legislator, daughter of labor lawyer Arturo Alcalde , and at 31, the youngest person in AMLO’s cabinet. “She is very clear that the democratization of the unions will create a new situation and our society will have a much better chance to raise living standards,” Dominguez says. But, he warned, “We aren’t accustomed to organizing ourselves. We’re used to waiting for some powerful person to come from above to help us.”

    In the zocalo these people came to cheer the inauguration of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, part of a crowd estimated at over a million. Photo by David Bacon.

    And while waiting for unions and workers to use the new law, the government is still faced with many legacy strikes and fights inherited from 36 years of neoliberal administrations. The telecommunications reform, for instance, mandated the breakup of TelMex, the old telephone monopoly sold to billionaire Carlos Slim. In February it is set to be divided in two, a move the telephone workers union bitterly opposes. They are threatening to strike if it isn’t stopped.

    In the mid-1990s the telefonistas, together with the Authentic Labor Front (FAT) and two other unions, formed the National Union of Workers, an independent labor federation. They supported Lopez Obrador very strongly. “Our corporate elite had to respond to the fact that the vast majority of Mexicans voted for him, and were unable to use their electoral fraud strategy to deny him victory, as they had in the past,” says Victor Enrique Fabela, vice-president of the union.

    But he doesn’t believe that Lopez Obrador will simply do what unions ask, pointing out that the new president invited Carlos Slim to hear his inaugural speech to the Congress, an invitation not extended to the union’s general secretary, Francisco Hernandez Juarez. Further, long-term operating concessions have been renewed for Televisa and TeleAzteca, two media giants with a record of right-wing politics. “We have to be critical,” he cautioned, “while understanding that we have to support the direction AMLO is moving.”

    The strike in Cananea has yet to be settled, and there and in Nacozari, two of the world’s largest copper mines, the miners’ union was forced out by previous JCA decisions favoring the CTM and Grupo Mexico. The communities on the Rio Sonora are still suffering the health effects of the toxic spill, three years later. And on November 29 at the giant PKC wire harness plant in Ciudad Acuña, just two days before Lopez Obrador was sworn in, CTM thugs marched into the facility, shouting “Mineros Afuera!” [Miners’ Union Out!] as workers were about to vote on the miners’ union as their representative.  They overturned ballot boxes, the election was canceled, and the mineros say the union’s representatives were beaten.

    “We all want a change,” charged Moises Acuña, the mineros’ political secretary.  “We have a chance to move forward now, and we have to use it.”  Meanwhile, a new federation of independent unions in the auto industry has also been formed, and plans to fight with the CTM over the right to negotiate contracts with the industry’s giants.

    In dealing with the workers’ upsurge and the emergence of new unions, however, Lopez Obrador’s government faces a complex situation. The JCAs will disappear and the new tribunals will be formed. But there are no judges yet, and they won’t be in place for the first three years. The tribunals have to be funded, and judges and personnel trained in administering a completely new law.

    “But during that time, in order to represent workers and negotiate, a union still has to be certified by the authorities,” Martinez says. “There must be some way to ensure that the workers have approved this union, and this approval must take place before any negotiation begins. Plus, who are the inspectors now responsible for investigating the outsourcing, to make sure it’s legal? We need an army of them, and there’s no money to hire them.”

    Despite the institutional challenges, Dominguez believes that the time has arrived when Mexican workers may be able to reshape their nation. “Today many workers live in poverty, on one or two dollars a day. This is the fundamental problem. But we’re not just fighting for an economic goal, not just for decent wages, but for the revitalization of the democratic life of workers, of our unions and the organizations we belong to.”

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  • What Can we Learn from France’s Gilets Jaunes Protests?

    By William Below, RLn Paris Correspondent

    Paris, France —At 6 p.m. on Dec. 7, shop owners all around Paris were boarding up their windows as if a Gulf Coast hurricane were about to blow through town. We were in our building, at the wine merchant downstairs, as workmen finished covering the display window with thick sheets of plywood. “After last weekend, I prefer to take no chances,” the shop manager told us. “I’d rather have the day off than risk having my inventory looted.” I looked around at the premium bottles of Cristal champagne and VSOP Cognac thinking that if I were a ski-masked marauder, it wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

    That this ,kind of preparation was happening in a neighborhood four miles from the Champs-Elysées, the expected meet-up place of the Gilets Jaunes yellow (literally, yellow vests), the protesters recognizable by wearing exactly that, is testimony both to the surprising level of violence visited on the capital the previous week, and the apprehension the protests caused amongst Parisians. Every Saturday since mid November, the Gilets Jaunes protests have spilled onto roundabouts and highways around France, and lately in Paris as well.

    Burned cars, shattered shop windows and ransacked stores aren’t uncommon in Paris, when protests become prey to opportunistic mayhem by hoodlums and hooligans who usually arrive towards the end of those protests. But this seemed different — the Gilets Jaunes had covered the Arc de Triomphe in graffiti and smashed the contents of the museum inside. It was a more-than-symbolic attack on the capital, itself.

    On the eve of the protest, Paris was eerily quiet. On the morning of the protest, we watched a live stream of the Champs-Elysées as crowds of protesters gathered. Earlier that week, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced the repeal of the gas tax, ostensibly the reason the protests had sparked at all. Nevertheless, the Gilets Jaunes converged on the Champs-Elysées. This time, 8,000 police and gendarmes had been deployed throughout the city and some 89,000 throughout France. Despite the security, by the end of the day, scores of cars were once again burned, buildings ransacked and torched; 1,200 people had been detained.

    This past May the French presidential general election pitted Marine Le Pen of the extreme right National Front party against Emmanuel Macron, leader of a newly formed centrist party that had come out of nowhere to largely replace the mainstream Socialist party. In fact, neither of France’s main parties would make it to the general election. After Trump and Brexit, the possibility that France would swing to the far right was a credible threat.

    A typical Le Pen voter was less educated, living in a rural region or small town and working in a low paying job (less than 1,250 euros per month). The more money people made, the more likely they were  to vote for Macron. Le Pen voters were also galvanized by anti-immigrant and white nationalist sentiment. Although Macron trounced Le Pen, taking 66.1 percent of the vote, the National Front received record support in the primaries (7.64 million votes) and over 10.5 million votes in the general. These people did not go away. According to a survey taken in the last few weeks, a Gilet Jaune protester tends to be male, makes 1,700 euros per month, works in an office rather than in a factory, doesn’t feel that labor unions represent his or her grievances and is unaffiliated politically with either the right or the left. Many are protesting for the first time.

    Macron came into power with no shortage of enemies on the right and the left,  but an ambitious reform agenda, nonetheless. Those  included casting off some of France’s entrenched employee pro- tections, both to kickstart the economy and make France more competitive. Macron sees France becoming a “startup nation.” Once in office, he abolished the wealth tax, in place for 40 years, followed by the loosening of worker protections, making it easier to fire employees. These reforms, along with Macron’s personal wealth from his days as an investment banker, helped give him the reputation of “the president of the rich”. A few “basket-of-deplorables”-style comments did little to change opinions. In one comment he suggested the “Gallic soul” was hostile to change, evoking images of white, rural clans resisting the fast-moving globalized economy.

    One protester suggested that while the political class discussed the end of the world due to climate change, the average person is just happy to get to the end of the month. The regressive nature of a carbon tax on diesel and gasoline would hit middle to low income rural families disproportionately. While any additional tax could seem like an existential threat to low wage-earners, a gas tax seems to particularly target rural regions where the drive to work is longer, services sparse and public transportation spotty, if not non-existent. It was hard for many not to feel that rich city dwellers, who hardly need cars, were addressing climate change on the backs of the poor.

    On Dec. 10, President Macron addressed the French people on television, offering a series of additional concessions. They include increasing the minimum wage by 100 euros per month, cancelling a tax increase on those receiving the lowest pensions and exempting overtime pay and bonuses from  taxes. While the concessions will come with a high price tag for the government, they don’t seem to have bought  Macron much wiggle room. Indeed, the Gilets Jaunes are planning a fifth round of protests for Saturday in Paris. For Parisians and their businesses, it means continued disruption during the last critical weekends before Christmas, adding to losses already calculated at well over one billion euros nationwide. At least one of the capital’s 20 neighborhood mayors is calling for Macron to ban the protests, a sure formula for even more violent clashes.

    There is likely no good way to impose a carbon tax, no matter how justified it may be. One takeaway for enlightened policy makers is the need to give more consideration to rural-urban tensions before levying environmental taxes. Macron’s pro-business reforms and perceived coddling of the rich while  tampering with France’s strong employee protection laws, has unleashed some of the country’s potent and deep-rooted passions. How he handles the ensuing confrontations will determine both the viability of his reform agenda and France’s role as a bastion against a European populist revolution.

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  • Random Letters: 12-20-18

    • 12/21/2018
    • Reporters Desk
    • Letters
    • Comments are off

    Open Letter — Concern about honesty in City administration

    A few months ago, those who support the Watts Towers Arts Center (WTAC) Campus wrote you to ask if you cared about Watts. Now I write because, at the October 16 meeting of the Mayor’s Office Watts Towers Arts Center Interdepartmental Task Force, the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) openly rejected honest engagement with Campus staff and community support groups.

    The WTAC Campus and its staff provides exemplary and irreplaceable arts education and exhibitions to the Watts community and to visitors and scholars from all over the world who come to the Watts Towers, the only tourist site in Watts – Sabato Rodia’s “Nuestro Pueblo” – the unique masterwork of architectural sculpture standing as a beacon of freedom and initiative for all of us, no matter what our origin.

    Instead of helping to provide the site with much-needed resources, the DCA under General Manager Danielle Brazell has put the Campus staff under unnecessary duress in a three-year effort to bring repeated charges of wrongdoing against Campus Director Rosie Lee Hooks, an internationally renowned and beloved arts educator and administrator. In defending Ms. Hooks against these attempts to diminish her professional and personal reputation, her union  — the Engineers and Architects Association (EAA) — has succeeded in overturning all charges in three successful arbitrations, as well as in a recent decision made by the Civil Service Commission.

    In response to this decision, Watts community support groups asked Ms. Brazell to apologize for suspending Ms. Hooks in April, 2018, for not following appropriate procedures in having a mural painted of Charles Mingus in 2017 on a Campus building named for the jazz giant. In July, 2018, DCA Director of Community Arts Leslie Thomas knowingly testified falsely at Ms. Hooks’ appeals hearing that she had been informed of public art procedures at a May 5, 2016, meeting. On September 13, 2018, the Civil Service Commission revoked Ms. Hooks’ three-week suspension after being presented with irrefutable documentation that she was in transit to South Africa at the time of that meeting. Further repudiating Mr. Thomas’ trumped up basis for DCA’s case, it was shown that Ms. Hooks had never received formal notice about the new procedures. One commissioner called the entire case “ridiculous and a waste of time” and the EAA has issued a formal complaint to Ms. Brazell.

    Edward Landler

    Watts

    Student Letters

    Editor’s note: In the past few weeks, Random Lengths News received a group of Letters to the Editor from the students of San Pedro High School English teacher Michael Kurdyla. Students commented on stories from the past few months. The end result was more than 10,000 words from high school students engaging the most topical issues being discussed today.  In the interest of space, we will select a few of the letters for print, while posting the remainder online.

    Re: “Kavanaugh’s Party Times Come to Roost”

    After reading “Kavanaugh’s Party Times Come to Roost” by Sara Corcoran, it made me realize how big of an issue sexual assault is. It’s very angering to know that there are people out there who are able to get away with something as cruel as sexual assault. It’s also frustrating to know that there are people who don’t take sexual assault seriously and don’t think it’s a big deal.

    Sexual assault is not a joke and it has a huge impact on people’s lives. When it happens, it’s impossible to ever get that memory out of your head. This issue is important to me because I know some people in my life who have been affected by it and I know how emotionally scarring it is.

    “Most girls rarely confront their attackers. They choose instead to share their traumas with friends or counselors along the way to self-recovery.” (Sara Corcoran, 2018) This really shows how difficult it is for people to cope with sexual assault. A lot of people were giving Christine Ford flack for not coming out about Kavanaugh until 30 years later, and they claimed she was “making it up.” However, people shouldn’t think that because they need to respect how the assault has affected her emotionally, and it’s hard enough for people to come out about an attack, so who cares about how long ago it was? It still happened and it will always matter. People need to be more understanding about sexual assault and how damaging it is for the victims. This is an issue that applies to our whole society because it can happen to anyone– old, young, male or female, it happens. People, from a young age, need to be educated about sexual assault so that they know how to avoid bad situations and so that they know exactly what is sexual assault so they don’t become attackers. If we don’t do anything about this, sexual assault will keep on happening and negatively impacting the lives of everyone, which isn’t something we want in our society.

    Kayle Craigen

    San Pedro High School

    Email Letters to the Editor to: letters@randomlengthsnews.com. Letters must include your name and city of residence to be considered for publication.

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  • New Years Eve Events

    Sixth Annual Grand Park + The Music Center’s NYELA to Celebrate the Future of Los Angeles with LA Dreams

    More than 50,000 people are expected  growing a Los Angeles grand-scale, highly popular, free event that put Downtown Los Angeles on the map as home to the West Coast’s flagship New Year’s Eve celebration.  The alcohol-free, family-friendly event will cover 90 acres, from Grand Avenue to City Hall (Spring Street) and from Temple Street to 2nd Street.

    West Coast’s Flagship New Year’s Eve Event Features One-of-Kind Countdown to Midnight

    Inspired by the Imagination of L.A.’s Children

    Aloe Blacc and Maya Jupiter to Headline the “Countdown Stage;” an All-Female DJ Lineup

    to Perform on the “Get Down Stage”

    The sixth annual Grand Park + The Music Center’s N.Y.E.L.A., is expected to draw more than 50,000 people to the grand-scale, highly popular, free event that put Downtown Los Angeles on the map as home to the West Coast’s flagship New Year’s Eve celebration.  The alcohol-free, family-friendly event will cover 90 acres, from Grand Avenue to City Hall (Spring Street) and from Temple Street to 2nd Street.

    The New Year’s Eve event will feature the theme LA DREAMS, a celebration that imagines the future of Los Angeles County through the collective thoughtfulness and creativity of its children.  Attendees will enjoy the work of Los Angeles County 5th graders, whose dreams inspired the event’s signature 3-D animated countdown to midnight filled with colorful artwork and inspirational language.  The evening’s entertainment includes a wide variety of musical performances on two stages including Aloe Blacc, Maya Jupiter and an all-female lineup of DJs featuring Spiñorita, Ericalandia and Kronika.

    Countdown Stage (Grand Park’s Event Lawn in front of City Hall):  

    Host: Mario Hernandez

    Schedule:

    8 to 9 p.m. – DJ Day

    9 to 9:30 p.m. – Georgia Anne Muldrow

    9:30 to 10 p.m. – DJ Day

    10 to 10:30 p.m. – IRKA Mateo Band

    10:30 to 10:45 p.m. – DJ Day

    10:45  to 11:15 p.m. – Maya Jupiter

    11:05 to 11:55 p.m. – Aloe Blacc with Stevie Melody

    11:55 to 12 a.m. – All eyes on City Hall for Countdown to 2019

    12 to 1 a.m. – Aloe Blacc, Maya Jupiter and guests

    Get Down Stage (Grand Park’s Performance Lawn between Grand Avenue and Hill Street): Host: Valiyah

    Schedule:

    8:00 PM – 8:20 p.m. The County of Los Angeles Public Library’s Turns the Tables Youth DJ “E.L.”

    8:30 to 9:30  p.m. – Kronika

    9:30 to 10:30  p.m. – Ericalandia

    10:30 to 11:30 p.m. –  Spiñorita

    11:30 to 11:55  p.m. – Kronika

    11:55 p.m. to 12:02 a.m. – All eyes on City Hall for Countdown to 2019

    12:02 to 12:30 a.m.  – Ericalandia

    12:30 to 1:00  a.m. – Spiñorita

    Time: 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.

    Cost: Free

    Details: grandparkla.org/nyela or musiccenter.org/nyela

    Location: Throughout all of Grand Park plus adjacent streets, with a footprint from Grand Avenue to Spring Street and from Temple Street to Second Street.

    RockStallion ROCKS New Year’s Eve at Shenanigans Long Beach

    Celebrate with RockStallion as it Rocks Shenanigans on New Years Eve

    Time: 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.

    Cost: Free

    Details: (562) 437-3734

    Venue: Shenanigans Irish Pub and Grille, 423 Shoreline Village Dr. Long Beach

    New Years Eve Open Mic Party

    Join a New Year’s Eve Open Night Mic Party. Celebrate with us and hear some great live music on New Years Eve! Includes party favors and champagne toast.

    Open mic performer Liam Wall Music will perform to ring in the new year. Reservations are required due to limited seating availability.

    Time: 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.

    Cost: Free

    Details: (562) 810-5452; www.fivewinebar.com

    Venue: Five O’Clock Wine Bar 194 N. Marina Dr., suite 10, Long Beach

    New Year’s Eve 2019 “Vegas in Long Beach” Spectacular

    Join in celebrating the amazing city that is Las Vegas right here in Long Beach.

    There will be full casino gaming tables, dancing all night, showgirls, gourmet dinner packages, bottle service packages, live band and DJ -champagne and party favors on arrival.

    The Reel Band will be playing dance music, pop, R&B. Plus: DJ Jonney Miles spinning a variety of dance music all night.

    Time: 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.

    Cost: $35 and up

    Details: (562)596-4718; GaslampTix.com

    Venue: Gaslamp Long Beach, 6251 Pacific Coast Highway, long Beach

    Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Spain

    Join Sevilla on New Year’s Eve for a special four course Prix Fixe NYE Menu. The dinner menu is also available with a $40 minimum. You can also enjoy a dazzling flamenco dinner show experience.

    Time: 6 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.

    Cost: $69.50 to $79

    Details: (562) 495-1111

    Venue: Cafe Sevilla, 140 Pine Ave. Long Beach

    2019 NYE Masquerade Party

    Join Sevilla to welcome 2019 the right way with hundreds of beautiful ladies and gentlemen, hosting the biggest new year celebration. buy your tickets or reserve for bottle service now and assure entry.

    Time: 9:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.

    Cost: $20 to $30

    Details: (858) 900-6377

    Venue: Sevilla Nightclub of Long Beach, 140 Pine Ave Long Beach

    Salsa and Bachata Mondays

    Salsa Bachata classes and dancing with an all star cast of teachers and djs.

    Schedule:

    8 p.m. Bachata open level with DjVince Torres & Sabrina Siya Fest

    9 p.m. Salsa beg. Dj Vince Torres, adv William Henry Carpenter and Eden Hayes Fleming

    10 p.m. music and dancing. Still free cover before 10 pm if not taking classes

    Time: 8 p.m.

    Cost: $5 to $10

    Details: (562) 596-1631; www.goldensailshotel.com/pchclub

    Venue: PCH Club, 6285 Pacific Coast highway, Long Beach

    NYE DTLB Waterfront Amphitheater/Cami & Long Beach Unplugged

    This free family-friendly celebration at Rainbow Harbor. Then at 9 p.m., the sky will light up for an East Coast countdown with a fireworks spectacular from Rainbow Harbor lighthouse peninsula.

    Time: 5:30 to 10:30 p.m.

    Cost: Free

    Details: downtownlongbeach.org/event/new-years-eve-at-the-waterfront

    Venue: Outdoor Waterfront Amphitheater Downtown Long Beach, (between Gladstone’s & PF Chang’s), 330 S Pine Ave, Long Beach

    Spend New Year’s Eve w/ Jupiter 2.0 at Shoreline Village

    Ring in the New Year at Shoreline Village. There will be live music this New Year’s Eve and front-row viewing to two fireworks shows – one at 9pm (at the nautilus shell) and another at midnight (from the Queen Mary)

    Time: 10:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.

    Cost: Free

    Details: (562) 435-2668

    Venue: Shoreline Village, Shoreline Drive, Long Beach

    21 + New Years Party, Fireworks Dinner Cruise

    Cruise through the beautiful Long Beach Harbor, enjoy an open bar, appetizers, DJ, and dancing and a fireworks show on our new exclusive VIP yacht, La Espada!

    This event is for ages 21 and over. Boarding at 9:00, Departing at 9:30 am

    Time: 9 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.

    Cost: $150 to $250

    Details: (562) 432-4900; Tickets by Eventbrite

    Venue: Harbor Breeze Cruises, 100 Aquarium Way, Dock #2, Long Beach

    Silent Party NYE “Masquerade”

    It’s your typical party…with no speakers or amps. Instead, attendees don wireless headphones and turn them to various stations, then boogie amidst other revelers dancing to whatever’s in their headphones. Three DJs are competing for your attention spinning the Dopest 90s hits to today’s RNB/Hip Hop. Party-goers can turn down the volume of their headphones or take them off whenever they want to chat with others. It’s way easier to have conversations and meet new people.

    Time: 9:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.

    Cost: $55.80

    Details: silentpartylongBeachNYE.eventbrite.com

    Venue: La Traviata, 301 N. Cedar Ave., Long Beach

    New Year’s Eve – The Parlour

    NYE Premium Open Bar in the Parlour. The event includes live music, 21+ with valid ID, open bar with premium liquor, specialty punch bar and access to the nightclub in the Federal Underground

    Time: 9 p.m.

    Cost:  $100.00 – $120.00

    Details: tinyurl.com/tweb-com-event-new-years-eve

    Venue: The Federal Underground, 102 Pine Ave. Long Beach

    New Year’s Eve 2019 in The Exhibition Room

    Ring in 2019 at the world famous Exhibition Room. This exclusive New Year’s Eve party will include live music, hors d’oeuvres and a champagne toast at midnight. The guest list is limited, so don’t hesitate to get your tickets now. Upscale attire required. This event is 21+.

    Time: 9 p.m.

    Cost: $40

    Details: Text 562-826-2940

    Venue: The Exhibition Room Long Beach Craft Cocktails, 1117 E. Wardlow Rd., Long Beach

    New Year’s Eve Presented by Night Dive

    Ring in 2019 at the Aquarium of the Pacific. It will be a night to remember with live bands playing in the Great Hall and DJs spinning in the galleries—all curated by the team that brings you Night Dive.

    Time: 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.

    Cost: $34.95

    Details: aquariumofpacific.org

    Venue: The Aquarium of the Pacific, 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach

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