“We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.” ― Historian Howard Zinn
By Doug Porter
It’s hard to keep all the players straight at this point.
Last month protesters rallied in 52 countries and 436 cities world-wide as part of ongoing global protests against seed giant Monsanto and the genetically modified food it produces.
This month there are massive protests in Turkey. Nationwide demonstrations in Brazil. A huge construction workers strike in Quebec, with 175,000 strikers angry about being asked to work 14 hours a day, six days a week with no overtime pay.
And there are lots of smaller, less likely to be covered by the mass media, protests slated for San Diego, including an unusual coalition planning a July 4th rally protest prompted by the recent disclosures regarding government surveillance.
Today we’ll take a look around at what’s happening in this year of protest.
Two States Pass GMO Labeling Laws
Agribiz giant Monsanto may have elected to hide behind statements purporting that its efforts are aimed at ending world hunger in the face of last month’s protests, but state legislators and smart businesses are seeing the handwriting on the wall.
Both Maine and Connecticut have passed laws this month requiring that foods and seed containing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, be labeled. Grass roots efforts have mushroomed nationwide as activists have reacted to the defeat of California’s pro-GMO labeling initiative by redoubling their efforts. Proposition 37 lost at the ballot box in the Golden State following an all out $45 million effort against labeling by agriculture and food industry groups.
The “Right to Know” movement has seen GMO labeling laws introduced in 26 state legislatures around the country since last November.
The Marketplace Reacts
Few were surprised back in March when Whole Foods Stores announced their intention to ban GMO foods from their shelves by 2018. The same holds true for Ben and Jerry’s and Chipolte which are also moving to eliminate their use.
More important, at least in terms of its impact on the retail trade is the decision by Target in introducing its “new grocery wellness brand” known as Simply Balanced in order to “meet the increasing demand for healthy food products at a great price.”
The new food line will not contain any products with artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, or controversial unhealthy ingredients such as high-fructose corn syrup. 105 common food additives will be omitted from the foods.
Nearly half of all of Target’s Simply Balanced foods will be organic and, to the delight of many, the company says that most of its food items will be made without genetically modified ingredients. For those who are still wary about some GMOs still lingering, Target says its Simply Balanced collection will “eliminate all GMOs by the end of 2014.”
Traders Joes has reacted to news of a pending FDA approval for the sale of genetically modified Salmon by saying that they’ll refuse to sell it.
Turkish Protests Spread to Organized Labor
Anti-government protests, originally triggered by police brutality aimed at demonstrators seeking to prevent Gezi Park in Istambul from being bulldozed for construction of a shopping mall, continue throughout Turkey this week.
Trade unions representing 800,000 Turkish workers, including members of the KESK and DISK labor coalitions, have joined the protests and are out on strike again today.
Although the government took a conciliatory tone last week, now there is talk of calling out the military as the ‘people’s resistance and mobilization’ enters its 20th day. Five people have died, almost 7,000 people have been treated for injuries, including 15 people who have lost their eyes due to indiscriminate firing of police projectiles. Thousands of people are in custody.
Protesters are united by complaints about the government’s increasing authoritarian and religious tendencies, in a country known for being a secular democracy.
It’s About More Than Bus Fare Increases in Brazil
Government indifference to the economic status of Brazil’s working and middle classes is at the core of the biggest protests Brazil has seen in over 20 years—up to 200,000 people on the streets in 11 cities. Supposedly, according to much of the US media, it’s all about a bus fare increase.
Here’s the story in a nutshell, from The Nation:
The pot has officially boiled over as hundreds of thousands of people marched in at least ten cities this week. The financial capital of Sao Paolo was brought to a standstill. The political capital, Brasilia, saw protesters climb onto the roof of the national congress. In Rio, several thousand marched on legendary Maracana Stadium, the epicenter of the 2016 Summer Olympics, at the start of the Confederation’s Cup. As fans cheered inside, there were gassings and beatings on the outside. While sports journalists recorded the action on the field, reporters in the streets were shot with rubber bullets, and are now alleging that they were targeted. This has been referred to as the “salad uprising” after a journalist was arrested for having vinegar in his backpack (vinegar is a way to ward off the worst effects of tear gas.) Now vinegar is carried openly and in solidarity.
There are numerous factors driving people into the streets but the back-breaking piece of straw that crystallized the discontent was a 20-cent fare hike for public transportation. The country is investing billions in tourist infrastructure and paying for it by bleeding out workers on their daily commute. It was too much….
…Nevertheless, the protests are gaining energy and are finding voice amongst the Brazilian diaspora throughout the world. Over 300 people marched in New York City on Monday with signs that read, “Olympics: $33 billion. World Cup: $26 billion. Minimum Wage: $674 [about $320 a month in US dollars) Do you still think it’s about 20 cents?” There have also been reported protests in France, Ireland, and Canada. This isn’t a movement against sports. It’s against the use of sports as a neoliberal Trojan horse. It’s a movement against sports as a cudgel of austerity. It’s a movement that demands our support. Until there is justice, we are all salad revolutionaries.
Restore the Fourth Rally on July 4th
As with the Monsanto protests, the grass roots response to recent disclosures about government surveillance is being organized via Social Media.
An amorphous group – not the usual suspects, but a coalition of both left and right groups–calling itself Restore the Fourth is staging rallies throughout the country on July 4th. From the organizers:
We believe the government of the United States must respect the right to privacy of all its citizens as the Fourth Amendment clearly states. We seek to bring awareness to the abuses against our civil liberties and the erosion of this cornerstone of our democracy.
Our inalienable rights protected by the U.S. Constitution have been secretly violated by the activities of the NSA. Restore the Fourth was created to demonstrate to our leaders the permanence of the rights of American citizens and the importance of transparency in addressing its constituency. Furthermore, we aim to prove that when these rights are idly ignored, the parties responsible will be held accountable for their actions.
Here in San Diego the protest has been scheduled for July 4th, 11am at the Balboa Park Fountain. After a rally they intend to march to Senator Feinstein’s office. For more information, click here.
Marriott La Jolla Employees Hold Press Conference, Demand Unpaid Wages
Not all protests consist of marches and rallies. Employees with the Marriot La Jolla Hotel have gone to the press, seeking to publicize claims for unpaid wages filed with the California Department of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE).
Thirty one workers have filed complaints, saying they are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in back pay due to missed 10-minute rest breaks, interrupted meal periods, and work performed off the clock.
The workers, most of who work in Housekeeping, began testifying in settlement conferences in March. Shortly thereafter, they began taking their 10-minute rest breaks in the hotel’s employee cafeteria, just as other employees often did.
Hotel management responded by disciplining the workers, giving housekeepers warnings simply for taking their breaks in their customary break location that they have been using for years. Ten workers have subsequently filed additional claims of retaliation with the DLSE for those warnings, alleging that the company is unfairly targeting them because they had already spoken up about violations of their rights under state labor code.
An Unfair Labor Practice charge has also been filed with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing Marriott of targeting these workers for taking collective action, in violation of federal labor law.
County Employees Slate Rally for Saturday
Employees represented by the SEIU are staging a rally on Saturday, June 22nd, hoping to urge the County Board of Supervisors to consider the needs of County workers.
Calling the event ‘Put People First in San Diego’, they’re urging working families, faith communities and local politicians to meet up at the corner of Harvey Milk and Normal Streets starting at 1pm. For more information, click here.
Proposition 8 Decision: Will it be a Protest or a Celebration?
Chances are good that Supreme Court will announce their rulings on California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act next Monday. But maybe not.
Whatever and whenever the decision, local organizers are urging Gay Rights supporters to rally at the Pride Flagpole at 5pm on the day it comes down.
Assuming there is also cause for celebration, community members will be directed to the San Diego LGBT Community Center at 7pm. The Center will host a celebration with the Majority Leader, the Council President and Kevin Keenan from the ACLU as speakers and of course, music, food, drinks, and hopefully, champagne and cake….Hope for cake!
This event is being organized with help from:
The San Diego LGBT Community Center, ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, Activist San Diego, Alliance San Diego, Canvass for a Cause, Democrats for Equality, Greater San Diego Business Association, Human Rights Campaign, San Diego, Metropolitan Community Church of San Diego, S.A.M.E., San Diego LGBT Pride, San Diego Remembers
For more information, click here.
Blowing the June Gloom Away
I was fortunate enough in an earlier life to have worked in the nightclub business in Washington DC, and got to see literally hundreds of shows by musicians, some great, some not so great.
On a few occasions I was lucky enough to witness seminal performances. I guess the 1960’s vernacular would be ‘I got my mind blown’. Mostly by amazing guitar players.
Seeing Steve Ray Vaughn on his first tour outside Texas, with a tiny audience consisting mostly guitarists was one of those moments. (He slept on my living room floor that first night.) Luther Allison’s powerful guitar solos with his Gibson Les Paul guitar would be another. And frankly, I thought those days were behind me.
But I was proven wrong last night. And it wasn’t a guitar doing the proving.
The Scripps In Concert for Cancer performance by New Orleans’s Trombone Shorty was beyond words. The June gloom, that chilly marine layer that can make life miserable at the Humphreys venue, was literally blown back over the sea as Trombone Shorty and his Orleans Avenue band took the stage for a ninety minute performance.
Part jazz, part blues, part funk and all New Orleans, the band’s energetic set kept the audience on its feet throughout the show.
I wish I had a video of the show. You’ll have to settle for this NPR Tiny Desk Concert video instead. (Go see Trombone Shorty if you ever get the chance!)
On This Day: 1948 – Columbia Records publicly unveiled its new long-playing phonograph record, the 33 1/3, in New York City. 1959 – A Federal Court annulled the Arkansas law allowing school closings to prevent integration. 1983 – Dr. Sally Ride became the first American woman in space aboard the space shuttle Challenger.
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