Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Ravenhub and I got out the door early this morning so we could join a picket line for workers at the Public Housing Authority. The event was up on 10th and Washington on the near north side. When we got there, the pickets were already in a circle. The Teamsters had pulled their huge semi-truck up along the sidewalk. It has fancy lights and pro-labor slogans all over it. We'd stopped for coffee and tea on our way. We walked on up and joined in the line. Seemed like everyone else there had on uniform jackets so we were a bit out of place. But people were very friendly, met our eyes and mouthed the word "thanks". We chanted along with the rest. "What do we want? Contract! When do we want it? Now?" and "Hey hey! Ho ho! Union busting's got to go!"

I counted about 75 people there -- overwhelmingly workers. After a while a couple of people came up beside us to ask us who we were and why we were there. I said I was a typesetter and that I'd gotten an e-mail about the demonstration from the Central Labor Council activist list. A bit later a man with a bullhorn came up and asked me to step into the middle with him. He told the crowd that I was there from the typesetter's union to support them. I got a round of applause! One of the older women came over to talk to me. She said she's been working there for 18 years and still doesn't earn top pay. Supposedly you get top pay after 12 years, but they find all sorts of reasons to not fulfill their obligation. I said, "Well you are such slow learners, right?" She laughed at that. As part of their work agreement, they take lots of classes to improve their construction skills. In return, the city is supposed to increase their pay, but they haven't done that either.

Many of these workers are basically supers for the buildings they work in. They get called day and night and have to handle anything that arises: plumbing, carpentry, electric. Plus they become friends to the tenants -- earn their trust and become like part of the family. These people make very real differences in the lives of so many people, and yet they can't get treated decently by the city. I met one of the union officers -- I shook his hand and said, "Hi, I'm a typesetter." He said, "I know! Thanks for being here." Later Ravenhub said that this same man said he recognized us from the work we did with the transit workers and the clerks at the University. Apparently we have street cred! LOL!

We discussed finding ways that the tenants can help the workers. I hope to find a way to help them educate people about their issues. There really needs to be some kind of informational leaflet that they can hand out that explains their issues and what the public can do to help support them. The only thing I could find was an article on Workday Minnesota. Which is good, but not enough.

Work was another long day with a lot to do, but I finally feel as if I got a handle on the book for February. Yes, it's complicated but there is a logic to it that I'm finally understanding. I got lots of help from the freelancers and we made good progress today. I hope I have a chance to look through everything tomorrow so I have some level of confidence going into internal proofs next week.

After work I attended the annual meeting of the Minnesota Tenants Union. A small, but productive group. It could be so much more, but nobody has the energy to build it right now. Even so, the success we had in the last year is awesome. The passage of the Application Fee ordinance in Minneapolis AND the protection of immigrants rights in St. Paul were both done over the past year. Next year will be about spreading the word and getting the suburbs on the bandwagon.

Via "Left i on the news" I heard about the Koufax Awards -- awards given for bloggers on the left-wing side of politics. I checked the award winners for the years before and was disappointed to find that much of what they call "left" seems to be fairly mainstream liberal thinking. It came up tonight when Hans was talking about the difference between United Way organizations and organizations that belong to the Community Solutions Fund. "UW supports groups who apply bandaids. CSF groups work to prevent the injuries from happening."

Liberals think the system can be fixed. Leftists know it must be transformed. I'm sure there are committed leftists on the web, I'm just having trouble tracking them down.