Posts filed under Take Action

Grassroots Expansion for Red Emma’s in Baltimore

In Baltimore, Red Emma’s has some big plans, and they are looking for some grassroots support to build out their worker-owned radical bookstore, café and community space.

Here’s more from the Red Emma’s collective, via IndieGogo. As you may know, one of the harshest restraints on most worker-owned shops, co-ops and radical spaces are the extreme difficulties they have in paying for maintenance and expansions — you need resources to expand but you need to expand to get access to resources, and it’s hard to get bank loans, credit, or any other form of capitalization when you don’t look like a traditional corporate capitalist enterprise. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done but it does mean if it’s going to happen it largely depends on us and our networks to step up and put up the mutual support for the kinds of radical spaces that we want to see, that their institutions won’t fund. Anyway, the campaign is running now over at IndieGoGo, and any support you can send their way will really help with what sounds like some really awesome plans.

After 8 years in the storefront at 800 Saint Paul, Red Emma’s has decided it’s time to move: our current space just isn’t big enough to hold all the things we want to collectively make it do.

Over the past eight years, we’ve hosted a thousand public events, created two new radical spaces (2640 and the Baltimore Free School), organized international conferences, built an amazing annual radical bookfair, and served as a hub knitting together Baltimore’s different politically engaged communities, all the while keeping a collectively-owned and operated business open just about 365 days a year.

… We’ve just signed a lease for the fall of 2013; located at 30 West North Avenue, next door to Liam Flynn’s Ale House (itself started by founding Red Emma’s collective members!), the new space will be over five times the size of our current location.

We’ll be expanding our food operation to a full kitchen, moving beyond our current limited cafe menu to really let some of the culinary talent we’ve got in the collective shine. And we’ll be doing this in a way that makes extensive use of locally sourced agricultural products while keeping prices affordable: healthy, sustainable food should be the norm, not a luxury. We’ll be increasing the footprint of our bookstore sixfold—space constraints alone have prevented us from building the world class selection we’ve dreamed of, and the new space will make it possible to really build the kind of radical bookstore Baltimore deserves.

… The space is going to be far more welcoming; not only are we going to vastly expand the number of seats, we’ll also be full-accessible in the new space … And most importantly, scaling up is going to let us do something we’ve always dreamt of: pay the people working on the project a living wage. Our current storefront has never been big enough to reach the economies of scale we would have needed to keep funding our political mission and also pay ourselves something sustainable for the long-term; most of us work on a volunteer basis right now, and those of us who do get paid don’t get much. With the new space, our plan is to start with a living wage and work our way up from there.

Our plan and your help

Between renovations, equipment purchases, licensing, and other fees, we need roughly $250,000 to open this new space; we’re hoping to raise at least $50,000 through crowdfunding on this site, but the more we can raise here the less debt we will start off with in the new space. While the funds we raise here and elsewhere are crucial, there’s going to be all sorts of opportunities to pitch in to help us get the new space off the ground in other ways as we get closer to opening. Keep up with the status of the project by following us on Twitter, liking us on Facebook, or subscribing to our mailing list.

The Red & Black is surviving. Help them flourish.

So a couple months ago I put up a note about the emergency fundraising campaign for The Red & Black in Portland, Oregon:

If you’re not familiar, the Red & Black is a worker-owned co-operative restaurant in Portland, Oregon. The food’s all vegan; the ingredients are mostly organic, and either locally sourced or Fair Trade. The worker-owners are organized as an IWW shop, and directly manage their own workplace. It’s also an important hub for the anarchist community in Portland, providing a venue for regular talks, films, and other community events. I just sent $50; which is more than I can really afford right now, but the Red & Black, and places like it, matter. A lot. Any mutual aid you can send their way — or anyone you can tell about this situation — will really help.

As a follow-up, here is a note that the folks at Red & Black posted a few days ago to their website and to their Facebook page. I’d link directly, but it appears that the permalinking on their website is broken; so instead:

A little over a month ago we alerted our friends and allies that the Red & Black Cafe was in trouble. We had reached a crisis point, were unable to pay our mortgage, and we made the difficult decision to stop paying ourselves. We’re happy to say, that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. At this point we’re treading water and are figuring out when we can pay ourselves again.

This is due to our own grit and determination to survive and because of the outpouring of support in the form of donations and increased business. But also in the form of help. Help with things like design work, cutting our ingredient costs, & setting up amazing events…

The Red & Black clearly matters to a lot of folks!

We’re a quarter of the way to our goal of $20,000. So we’re kicking up our fundraising drive and we need even more help to reach outside of our immediate communities. We also have some awesome project ideas and could use help getting them off the ground. If you’ve got some skills, and/or know of someone who can help us out, contact us! Spread the word.

Tell your friends, family, co-workers, and that person you just met why you think we’re special!

Here are some suggestions but please do add your own:

  • 100% vegan food & drink. We are a space that is unapologetically for animal liberation. We regularly host fundraisers, prisoner letter writing nights and animal lib speakers and workshops. We’re also friendly to omnivores and, we hope, informative and not preachy on the subject.
  • Safer space: We’re committed to supporting survivors of sexual assault and relationship abuse. We are also committed to confronting and disrupting oppressive language and behavior in the cafe and we encourage the same from you or anyone else who sees it.
  • The Red & Black is welcoming to folks who are houseless. Whether or not you have an address you are welcome to: use the bathroom w/o buying something first, have free wifi, charge your phone, use the free computer terminals, get hot water, come to events or meet your friend. We are working with Sisters of the Road to explore the possibility of accepting EBT (foodstamps/snap) from houseless folks, people over 60 and people on SSI! It’s not a sure thing but we’re making every effort to figure this out.
  • Environmental stuff: We pick up coffee and supplies by massive, amazing bike trailer. Our produce is local, organic and bike delivered! We serve food from the lowest trophic level!
  • Labor movement & co-op stuff: We’re an Industrial Workers of the World closed shop (100% union members), we’re worker owned, there’s no boss and we’re all paid the same wage for the same work. Every participates in the day to day restaurant work as well as the behind the scenes work. We act in solidarity with labor every chance we get. This includes buying authentically fair trade coffee from Equal Exchange, another worker owned co-op. We participate in regional and national worker co-op efforts through the USFederation of Worker Co-ops.

Thank you so much for your support! <3

Please donate if you can (anything helps), and share widely! If the “DONATE” button below does not take you directly to the Red & Black’s PayPal page, please log in and enter “general@redandblackcafe.com” as the recipient.

Follow us on Twitter @redandblackcafe & ‘Like’ us on Facebook and get regular updates at facebook.com/redandblackcafe (please also hover over the ‘Like’ button on our page & check “show in news feed”)

Stay tuned: we’re organizing a volunteer days to make major improvements to our space.

Book your event with us! This is huge; we need your awesome events! Keep in mind that we do music, film, workshops, fundraisers for cool groups, game nights, art openings etc. For selected events, we will stay open til Midnight! It’s easy just go here: redandblackcafe.com/event-booking.

Support needed for The Red & Black in Portland

I just read this note from the Red & Black Cafe’s page on Facebook. If you’re not familiar, the Red & Black is a worker-owned co-operative restaurant in Portland, Oregon. The food’s all vegan; the ingredients are mostly organic, and either locally sourced or Fair Trade. The worker-owners are organized as an IWW shop, and directly manage their own workplace. It’s also an important hub for the anarchist community in Portland, providing a venue for regular talks, films, and other community events. I just sent $50; which is more than I can really afford right now, but the Red & Black, and places like it, matter. A lot. Any mutual aid you can send their way — or anyone you can tell about this situation — will really help. (The website doesn’t seem to have a post about the current situation yet; but you should be able to use the PayPal donation buttons in this post. I just attached a note to the donation asking them to put it to use wherever it would be most helpful.)

From the Red & Black collective, via Facebook:

The Red & Black is in trouble. Our finances have reached a crisis point. This situation has been brewing for many months as our cash flow slowly dried up. To be blunt: we are unable to make our mortgage payment on time and we’ve bounced checks to some of our vendors and staff. A couple of days ago at our collective meeting we contemplated shutting our doors for good.

So what happened? Like many other local restaurants after 4+ years of recession (depression?): we need more business. In this economy many people have less money to eat out. Our situation is compounded by the fact that we have never had anything near a comfortable amount of working capital. We attempted to raise sufficient capital during the fundraising drive we held when we decided to buy our building. While we did raise enough money to make our down payment, we were far from our goal. This left the collective financially vulnerable to the point that a slow month could bankrupt us. . . .

While there are several things we do that don’t make a lot of business sense, financially, they are things we refuse to compromise on. We are welcoming to unhoused folks who often can’t afford to spend money at the cafe. We make most of our food from scratch which is labor intensive and because our ingredients are (mostly) organic, they are more expensive.

We are also much more than just a restaurant. We are a community space; specifically we are a radical, queer-positive safer space; an important hub for many overlapping grassroots political projects, a cop-free zone, an amazing vegan restaurant, a music venue, a hangout and meeting space for Industrial Workers of the World union members, a low income collective household upstairs— the list goes on.

In order to meet this challenge head on we’re making changes that we believe will not only avert catastrophe, but put us on a path of financial sustainability. The most dramatic and immediate change is that we’ve decided to work without pay until we can turn this situation around. This decision is both difficult and easy to make. Difficult because we, as individuals, can’t afford it for long and because we are a closed union shop with the goal of paying ourselves a living wage. But the decision is also easy because the alternative is something none of us want: losing the Red and Black.

So we are fundraising $20,000 in donations, gift certificates and merchandise sales. This amount would not only cover our current obligations, it would mean having an adequate amount of working capital for the first time. We would be able to afford to go back to a paid wage, to purchase adequate equipment, fix the window, and keep the building. This is a crucial time for the Red and Black and we need your help! . . .

Please visit our website www.redandblackcafe.com to donate and Twitter @redandblackcafe for updates on our hours and menu. . . .

Guatemaltecan Trade Union Leader Killed, Others in Danger: FW Luis Ovidio Ortíz Cajas

R.I.P. FW Luis Ovidio Ortíz Cajas, and three bystanders — Bildave Santos Barco, Fredy Leonel Estrada Mazariegos, Oscar Alexander Rodríguez — murdered last week in Guatemala City. From Amnesty International USA:

URGENT ACTION

TRADE UNION LEADER KILLED, OTHERS IN DANGER

A trade union leader was shot dead on 24 March in Guatemala City, together with three other men. He may have been targeted for his trade union activities. Other members of the trade union may be in grave danger.

Luis Ovidio Ortíz Cajas was shot on 24 March at around 8.30pm as he walked to a shop near his home in the capital, Guatemala City. He was a public relations secretary of the Executive Committee of the National Trade Union of Health Workers (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Salud de GuatemalaSNTSG). A group of men were playing cards outside the shop. As Ovidio Ortíz was about to go into the shop, a young man got out of a white sedan car and started shooting at him and the group playing cards, with what a local source said was a 9mm pistol. Another local source said that Ovidio Ortíz was shot about eight times, twice in the head and six times in his upper torso. The other men who died as a result of the attack were: a farmer, Bildave Santos Barco, who was shot twice in the head and died instantly; Fredy Leonel Estrada Mazariegos and Oscar Alexander Rodríguez Lima who died later in hospital. Two other men were wounded.

The trade union of which Ovidio Ortíz was a member has campaigned for many years on issues of corruption in the management of the country’s public health facilities, and in December 2010 filed an official complaint against the previous Minister of Health, accusing him of corruption. On 22 March the trade union’s Executive Committee reached an agreement with the Ministry of Labour regarding seniority-based annual pay rises (bono de antigüedad) for health sector employees.

Please write immediately in Spanish or your own language:

Call on the authorities to order an independent, thorough and impartial investigation into the killing of Luis Ovidio Ortíz Cajas and the three other men (Bildave Santos Barco, Fredy Leonel Estrada Mazariegos, Oscar Alexander Rodríguez Lima) killed on 24 March, publish the results and bring those responsible to justice;

Urge them to take immediate steps to provide all necessary protection to SNTSG members, in accordance with their wishes;

Remind them that human rights defenders, including trade union leaders, have the right to carry out their activities without any restrictions or fear of reprisals, as set out in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 11 MAY 2012 TO:

Attorney General
Claudia Paz y Paz Bailey
Fiscal General de la República
Ministerio Público
15ª Avenida 15-16, Zona 1, Barrio Gerona
Ciudad de Guatemala,
GUATEMALA

Fax: +502 2411 9210

Twitter : @mpclaudiapaz

Salutation : Estimada Sra. Fiscal General

Minister of the Interior Lic. Mauricio López Bonilla
Ministro de Gobernación
6ª Avenida 13-71, Zona 1,
Ciudad de Guatemala,
GUATEMALA

Fax: +502 2413 8658

Twitter: @mingobguate

Salutation: Dear Minister / Estimado Sr. Ministro

And copies to:

Health workers’ trade union
Sindicato Nacional Trabajadores de la Salud de Guatemala - SNTSG
Email : sindicatodesalud@yahoo.com

. . .

Additional Information

Trade unionists in Guatemala face dangerous conditions due to their work on labour rights.

Byron Arreaga, a member of an administrative workers’ trade union, the Sindicato de Trabajadores Administrativos del Segundo Registro de la Propiedad (Trade Union of Administrative Workers for the Second Property Registrar, SITRASEREPRO) was shot dead in the north-western city of Quetzaltenango, on 13 September 2011. See UA 293/11, AMR 34/013/2011 - : http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR34/013/2011/en

Idar Joel Hernandez Godoy, a finance secretary in the Sindicato de Trabajadores de las Bananeras de Izabal (Trade Union of Banana Workers, SITRABI), was shot several times by individuals riding on a motorcycle on 26 May 2011. Amnesty International called for a thorough and impartial investigation into the killing. See the press release, http://www.amnesty.org/en/for-media/press-releases/guatemala-urged-investigated-trade-unionist%E2%80%99s-killing-2011-05-27

Hunger strike at Pelican Bay State Prison

Received this morning in my inbox from a friend involved with Nevada Prison Watch. The solidarity e-mail campaign is from Change.org; the notice about the hunger strike comes from California Prison Focus, a member of Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity.

From: A. Parker
Subject: Please sign the petition to support the demands of the prison hunger strikers in Pelican Bay State Prison, California

Please sign the petition to support the demands of the prison hunger strikers in Pelican Bay State Prison, California, who will start an indefinite hungerstrike on July 1st.

http://www.change.org/petitions/support-prisoners-on-hunger-strike-at-pelican-bay-state-prison

Prisoners in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison (California) are going on an indefinite hunger strike as of July 1, 2011 to protest the cruel and inhumane conditions of their imprisonment. The hunger strike was organized by prisoners in an unusual show of racial unity. The hunger strikers developed five core demands. Briefly they are:

  1. Eliminate group punishments. Instead, practice individual accountability. When an individual prisoner breaks a rule, the prison often punishes a whole group of prisoners of the same race. This policy has been applied to keep prisoners in the SHU indefinitely and to make conditions increasingly harsh.

  2. Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria. Prisoners are accused of being active or inactive participants of prison gangs using false or highly dubious evidence, and are then sent to longterm isolation (SHU). They can escape these tortuous conditions only if they “debrief,” that is, provide information on gang activity. Debriefing produces false information (wrongly landing other prisoners in SHU, in an endless cycle) and can endanger the lives of debriefing prisoners and their families.

  3. Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to longterm solitary confinement. This bipartisan commission specifically recommended to make segregation a last resort and end conditions of isolation. Yet as of May 18, 2011, California kept 3,259 prisoners in SHUs and hundreds more in Administrative Segregation waiting for a SHU cell to open up. Some prisoners have been kept in isolation for more than thirty years.

  4. Provide adequate food. Prisoners report unsanitary conditions and small quantities of food that do not conform to prison regulations. There is no accountability or independent quality control of meals.

  5. Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates. The hunger strikers are pressing for opportunities to engage in self-help treatment, education, religious and other productive activities…. Currently these opportunities are routinely denied, even if the prisoners want to pay for correspondence courses themselves.

    Examples of privileges the prisoners want are: one phone call per week, and permission to have sweatsuits and watch caps. (Often warm clothing is denied, though the cells and exercise cage can be bitterly cold.) All of the privileges mentioned in the demands are already allowed at other SuperMax prisons (in the federal prison system and other states).

For more information and continuing updates, visit http://www.prisons.org/hungerstrike.htm

PETITION LETTER

Grant the 5 Core Demands of the Pelican Bay SHU Hunger Strikers

Dear Warden Lewis, Secretary Cate, and Governor Brown:

We support the prisoners on hunger strike in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) of Pelican Bay State Prison and those in other units joining them. We strongly urge you to grant their five core demands as soon as possible.

[Your name]