Archive | June, 2017

Two Hundred Protest for Single Payer Outside California Assembly Speaker’s Office in Los Angeles County

29 Jun
Crowd

Protest, on Tuesday, June 27, in favor of Single Payer outside of California Assembly Speaker’s South Gate office; Photo by Barry Saks

More than 200 people protested, outside the office of California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D, Lakewood), at 12132 Garfield Ave., South Gate, on Tuesday, June 27, in favor of Senate Bill 562, also known as the Healthy California Act.

The program consisted of skits, speakers and chants.

DSC_0659

The character, “The Grim Reaper, on Tuesday, June 27, at protest; Photo by Barry Saks

The program started and ended with a skit linking the Assembly Speaker to the insurance and pharmaceutical companies through their campaign donations to him and to death through the character of the Grim Reaper signifying it.

David Sirota, in a June 26 article for the International Business Times, wrote, “Since 2012, Rendon has taken in more than $82,000 from business groups and healthcare corporations that are listed in state documents opposed the measure, according to an International Business Times review of data amassed by the National Institute on Money In State Politics. In all, he has received more than $101,000 from pharmaceutical companies and another $50,000 from major health insurers.”

DSC_0550

Former Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen speaks, on Tuesday, June 27, at Healthcare for All rally in South Gate, Calif., outside of the office of California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon; Photo by Barry Saks.

One speaker was Bao Nguyen.  Nguyen, who is a former mayor of Garden Grove, said, “Coming from Orange County, we’re all not conservative….We need healthcare too….Being I guess a politician, …we know what campaigns take and we know that you don’t have to take the money…We do not want our representatives to sell us out, especially here in California.  What difference are you (Assembly Speaker Rendon) compared to what is happening in Washington?”

A second speaker was Brenda Gutierez, who said she is a diabetic and had healthcare until she lost it this year.  Gutierez said her diabetic medication is going to cost monthly $674.85.

One chant was “Rendon, Rendon, shame on you, action now on 562.”  A second chant was “Medicare for all is our fight.  Healthcare is a human right.”  A third chant was “What do you do when your healthcare is under attack.  Stand up, fight back.” A fourth chant closer to the end of the program was “Recall Rendon.”  A fifth chant was “What do we need? Healthcare.  When do we want it? Now.”

One protester outside of the Speaker’s office was Rachel Burkhardt, 44, who now lives in Burbank, and is a stay-at-home mother “with some free time” because her two children are “at day camp.”  Burkhardt characterized herself as a registered Democratic, who believes in women’s and abortion rights.  She said, “There is no reason why our country can’t have a single-payer system…I want us (California) to lead the nation with a single-payer system…I feel like on a daily basis there is so much like soul-crushing news,…it hurts me….This is really the first time I’ve felt really compelled to pay attention and become active…What is so amazing is seeing this resistance build up.”

One person outside, who had a recall Rendon sign but was not protesting Rendon’s decision and who opposes the Healthy California Act, was Arthur Schaper. Schaper, with his iconic red Make-America-Great-Again baseball cap and President Trump tee-shirt, said, “I think single payer, forcing that on every person in California would be the most uncivil thing to happen.”  When Schaper was asked how many people he brought with him, he refused to answer.

A statement issued on the Assembly Speaker’s website, on Friday, June 23, in part, said, “As someone who has long been a supporter of single payer, I am encouraged by the conversation begun by Senate Bill 562.  However, SB 562 was sent to the Assembly woefully incomplete.”

While the Speaker decided the bill will remain in the Assembly Rules Committee, near the end of the statement, Rendon left some hope for supporters of the Healthy California Act by adding “this action does not mean SB 562 is dead….(I)t leaves open the exact deep discussion and debate the senators who voted for SB 562 repeatedly said is needed.”

 

Port Teamsters Protest at Long Beach City Hall

23 Jun

 

More than 150 people, mostly port drivers and warehouse workers from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, with their allies, on Tuesday, June 20, marched in downtown Long Beach from Promenade Square, at 1st and the Promenade, to City Hall to demand the end of wage theft and that workers be considered employees and not contractors for whom they work at the two ports.

The day before the Teamsters union called a one week strike at both ports for the port drivers and the warehouse workers the union is organizing.

A Cal Cartage warehouse worker estimated about 60 of coworkers were on strike at his workplace.

Jeff Farmer, who was identified as the director of organizing for the International, said “We’re dealing with many, many companies here in the port of L.A., Long Beach.  One of the companies in a sense is a kind of the poster child for we view as U.S. corporate greed is XPO Logistics….They are also in the freight industry and warehouse industry…Their scope is worldwide…We are attempting to do is right a serious wrong…That serious wrong is essentially the misclassification of drivers, where companies claim they are independent contractors…The reality is they are not independent.  They are in fact employees.  Every (governmental) agency that has looked at this issue has come to the same conclusion.”

DSC_0143

Marchers, Tuesday, June 20, posing for photo; Photo by Barry Saks

Farmer added XPO Logistics had lost a law suit filed by four drivers for misclassification.  The drivers were awarded $855,000.

Ernesto Rocha, an organizer for the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, led a short rally at Promenade Square, in English and Spanish.  The marchers weaved through downtown to City Hall.  In City Hall, they went up to the 14th floor, delivered a petition to a member of the mayor’s staff.

After delivery of the petition, a rally outside was held in Spanish and English, where supporters expressed their solidarity and union officials and workers expressed their determination to win.

One worker who spoke was Dwayne Wilson, 24.  Wilson, who lives in Long Beach, told the audience how at Cal Cartage the warehouse workers must pay for basic equipment, like steel-toed boots, back braces and rain vests.

Besides union members and their supporters speaking, First District Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez spoke.  She told the crowd her father is a retired teamster and that it was time to end wage theft.

DSC_0335

2nd District Councilwoman Jeanine Pearce speaking at the rally, Tuesday, June 20, outside of Long Beach City Hall.  In background is Vice Mayor and Ninth District Councilman Rex Richardson who is about to speak and to his right is 1st District Lena Gonzalez who had spoken; Photo by Barry Saks

Besides Gonzalez speaking, Second District Councilwoman Jeanine Pearce, Eighth District Councilman Al Austin, and Vice Mayor and Ninth District Councilman Rex Richardson also spoke.  Richardson told the crowd when he got out of college he was a strike organizer for the California Faculty Association.

DSC_0232

Part of a contingent of fast food workers show their solidarity by marching with the port workers.  Jose Paz (second on the right) spoke briefly at the march; Photo by Barry Saks

 

 

 

 

Bisnow Holds Long Beach Investment Event; Residents Protest

9 Jun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More than 20 Long Beach residents, on Thursday, June 8, outside the World Trade Center Long Beach, on the corners of Maine Ave. and West Broadway, to protest the Bisnow Boom event as a means to voice their concern regarding the lack of affordable housing, no local rent control or renter protections from unfair evictions.

The intent of the Bisnow Boom event was to encourage local real estate investment.

The protesters stood on the two southern street corners with their signs and chanted.  One chant was “Gay, straight, black, white, housing is a human right.”  A second chant was “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, these gentrifiers have got to go.” A third chant was “What do we want?  Affordable housing, when do we want it? Now.”  A fourth chant was “We will not give up the fight.  Housing is a human right.”

DSC_0043

Longtime activist and Long Beach resident, John Kindred, protests while holding his sign, June 8, outside the World Trade Center; Photo by Barry Saks

While the Long Beach Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America organized the protest, activists from the Gray Panthers, Long Beach Residents Empowered and the Service Employees International Union Local 2015, which is a statewide local representing home-care and nursing-home workers in California, participated.

Before the event by way of email, Josh Butler, the Executive Director of Housing Long Beach, said, “Housing Long Beach fully supports the demonstration. The Mayor and City Council are doing a lot to recruit new people to Long Beach, but doing nothing to mitigate the negative impacts on our current residents. Seniors, people with disabilities and communities of color are being pushed out.”

One of the protesters was Elizabeth Garcia.  Garcia, who lives and works downtown, said, “I’m here because we need to stop the gentrification of Long Beach.  It is becoming less and less affordable for the working-class community that has lived here for generations.  We are seeing developers come in and invest millions of dollars but not for the community but for their own profit and we’re here to try to stop that or at least bring light to the issue, to bring attention to the issue…It is easy for our politicians and representatives to ignore us when no one is paying attention to the issue.  So getting our community to be organized, to come together and to demand action from the people who represent us in our city council is a good way to do that.”

The Bisnow Boom investment event website said, “With many exciting developments on the horizon – including the $250M (million) proposed Queen Mary Island entertainment complex – along with over $2.6B (billion) invested in Downtown Long Beach over the past four years, come hear from all the major players in the region on the new capital coming into Long Beach, the evolving tenants, residential updates and more! All the major asset classes will be covered – mixed-use, retail, residential, office, and civic and adaptive reuse projects across downtown, Douglas Park, and the Long Beach airport.”

A flyer, which announced the protest, in part, said, “Developers and landlords have bought off the mayor and the city council and are replacing affordable housing with luxury condos.  A lack of rent control and eviction protections allows the wealthy to kick families out of their homes, replacing the diverse working class communities…with newcomers who are richer and whiter.”

DSC_0062

Backside of a protester, on June 8, wearing her union tee shirt; Photo by Barry Saks

Bisnow, according to one of its webpages, is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and is an “educational platform for America’s $11 trillion commercial real estate industry” and publishes in “25 major metros coast-to-coast.”

Neither the Mayor, nor any of the City Councilmembers were available for comment.  Also Bisnews and Joani Weir from Better Housing Long Beach were not available for comment.

 

 

 

 

Marshall Blesofsky on Military Recruiters in Long Beach, Zach Madeiros on Syria

1 Jun
DSC_0010

The audience waits for the program to start, Saturday, May 13, at Hellada Gallery; Photo by Barry Saks

In the small backroom of the Hellada Gallery, 117 Linden Ave., on Saturday, May 13, Marshall Bleskofsky spoke on the Recruit Awareness Project in Long Beach and Zach Medeiros spoke on Syria to about 20 people.

According to an email sent before the event, this was to be the first of a speakers’ series the Long Beach Area Peace Network would sponsor.

DSC_0016

Videographer Marlene Alvarado as emcee, Saturday, May 13, introducing Marshall Blesofsky; Photo by Barry Saks

With videographer Marlene Alvarado emceeing, the program consisted of a short video Alvarado produced, where Blesofsky spoke at a local solidarity march and rally at the Long Beach Islamic Center, which was earlier threatened; followed with Blesfosky speaking and ending with a photographic presentation of Syria with Medieros speaking.

DSC_0008

Marshall Blesofsky, on Saturday, May 13, Speaking on Military Recruitment in Long Beach; Photo by Barry Saks

Blesofsky said RAP is “to help students make informed choices about (joining) the military.”  He said when the military recruits someone, a contract is signed, in which language exists allowing the military to change the contract, but of course, no such language exists for the recruit.

Blesofsky pointed out, while cities like San Diego and Los Angeles have policies regarding the military recruiters in the high schools, Long Beach has none, essentially giving recruiters full access.  He added, “They (recruiters) can hang out (and) they go to lunch with the students….They get to know the kids, make relationships with the kids or the students and also recruit them.”

DSC_0036

Zach Medeiros, Saturday, May 13, Speaking on Syria; Photo by Barry Saks

Medeiros first provided a summary of the foundations of modern Syria, followed by the non-military aspects of the Syrian revolution, followed by the internationalization of the Syrian war and followed lastly with how we in the United States can best help the Syrians in their struggle.

Medeiros said that after 400 years of foreign domination with first the Ottoman Empire and then the French Mandate, Syrians ended their foreign rule in 1946, “(i)n 1949, Syria’s young democracy was overthrown by an army colonel backed by the CIA” and in 1963 the Syrian Ba’ath Party seized power.  He characterized the Ba’athists as “espous(ing) pan-Arab nationalism, top-down statist modernization, and Arab socialism.”  He added in 1970 Hafez al-Assad, the defense minister and “de-facto leader” took complete control of the country.  Mederios characterized the regime under Hafez al-Assad as “essentially (a) fascist dictatorship.”  He explained how al-Assad was able to maintain power.  He won popular support by improving rural conditions through regime-initiated large modernization, redistributing land to peasants, expanding the state to provide the urban working and middle classes with public sector jobs and he won support of the Alawites by integrating them into the power structure. Regarding state repression, Medeiros said to enforce complete obedience to the state and dictator, the army and secret police were used.

Mederios said in 2000, Hafez al-Assad died and his son, Bahsar, assumed power through a unanimous vote in a “sham election.”  He pointed out Bashar al-Assad accelerated the market liberalization, which “led to a dramatic increase in poverty, unemployment, and the concentration of wealth in an even smaller fraction of society, often in(to) …Assad’s own family.”  Mederios claimed the accelerated market liberalization contributed to making Syria “ripe for…revolutionary fervor…in 2011.”

Regarding the non-violent revolution, Medeiros said it didn’t start as an armed rebellion for revolutionary change, “but (for) things like jobs, basic rights, and an end to corruption, discrimination, brutality, and repression” and it began “as a multi-ethnic, non-sectarian movement.”  He added a democratic awakening occurred with the creation of “scores of independent media centers, films, newspapers, and magazines, and the flourishing of street art and citizen journalism.”

Regarding the internationalization of the Syrian war, Medieros said some leftists who characterize the Syrian revolution as nothing but a US-led plot against the anti-imperialist Assad regime, is a lie.  He argued the Assad regime was not anti-imperialist by pointing out the Syrian government joined the US during the first Gulf War, allowed Israel to keep the Golan Heights, weakened Palestinian resistance and lent the CIA torture during the Bush-Cheney years.  He explained how the US provided minimal limited support to the rebels to contain their revolution.  He said, “When the US began sending aid to rebel groups, it mostly consisted of nonlethal equipment and a trickle of light weapons…The CIA aggressively intervened to stop revolutionaries from gaining access to anti-aircraft weapons…The US repeatedly turned off the minimal flow of arms and ammunition whenever the rebels proved too successful on the battlefield.”

Medieros lastly told the audience how they could help.  He told them to arm themselves with knowledge and not to forget the uprising began as a democratic awakening; to learn and listen to revolutionary-democratic Syrians; to organize solidarity by supporting the White Helmets, the Syrian Medical Society, Doctors without Borders; and to echo the demands of Syrians, such as an end to all sieges, the immediate release of all political prisoners, a massive increase in direct humanitarian aid, the removal of all foreign armies and militias from Syrian soil, accountability for war criminals and to demand rights for refugees.

According to the Dr. Marshall Blesofsky for LBCC (Long Beach Community College District) Trustee Facebook page, Marshall Blesofsky is a retired educator from the University of Southern California and taught in the Allied Health Program at Long Beach City College.

According to the publication “The Socialist,” Zach Medeiros is a history student and is the Male Co-Chair of the Socialist Party’s International Relations Committee.

Barry Saks is married to Marlene Alvarado.

To hear the audio of Marshall Blesofsky’s talk, click here.

To hear the audio of Zach Mederios’s talk, click here.

To download the transcript of Mederios’s talk, click here.