Eyes on the Prize: Solidarity from the Streets of Portland

Along with cities from around the country, Portland erupted on November 25th in one of the largest demonstrations and actions it has seen in years.  The Portland Solidarity Network came on as an official sponsor of the event that was planned in solidarity with the Mike Brown actions happening both in Ferguson and in cities across the country.

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After the fatal shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri this last August, Officer Darren Wilson was cleared by a grand jury on November 24th.  The jury was directed to determine whether or not there was probable cause to level formal charges against Wilson, which could range from first-degree murder down to involuntary manslaughter.  The jury determined that no charges were to be filed, in a decision that many were saying was coerced by a mishandling by the District Attorney’s office.

 

In Portland, the Albina Ministerial Alliance and the Urban League put the solidarity action together.  In front of the Justice Center, they called together over two thousand people to a rally that targeted the racist police violence that has become commonplace both in our city, and the U.S. broadly.  The people present overwhelmed the area, taking Third Street over as well as the park on the other side.  Speakers ranged from local organizations and churches, each putting out a call to create a movement that has the force to confront the kind of mammoth power of institutional racism and white supremacy.  After an emotional round of Eyes on the Prize was sung, a speaker from the AMA came up and boiled the issues down to their essence.

“The blood of Michael Brown cries out for justice today.  Across this nation, and across the world.  Once again, the African American community, communities of color, mental health communities, the poor, the marginalized, citizens who love justice and democracy, those who have been crushed by the decision of the grand jury not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown.  Once again we rise at the criminal justice system of America, and law enforcement is tainted with racial bias when it comes to rendering justice and fairness for black people.  For communities of color.  For the disenfranchised and the marginalized.  We know from our own experience here in the city of Portland, that the brokenness of the criminal justice system and law enforcement.  We know from Kendra James.  We know from James Chasse.  We know from Aaron Campbell.  We know from Keaton Otis, that there is no justice and fairness when it comes to white police officers killing black and brown and poor people and mentally ill people.”

“What must we do about it?  We must not go back to our old routines, and just talk about it.  No, no, a thousand times!  We must fight to change this broken, unjust and unfair system.  We must use these times of injustice to build a movement!”

 

Speakers came forward from the NAACP, the All-African All-People’s Revolutionary Party, various churches, Jefferson High School, and many others to draw together the issues of police violence and racism to the various struggles in the city.  A student from Portland State University’s Black Student Union spoke powerfully and bluntly.

“Do not go quietly into that dark night!  This happens a thousand times in America.  But we have an opportunity to rise up and use our collective voices to tell America, ‘Enough is Enough!’  … American, how much more do you want us to bear?  We bore the injustices of slavery.  We bore the injustices of the lies of emancipation.  We bore injustices of segregation.  We bore indignities of Jim Crow.  We bore the annihilation of our communities.  We bore the brunt of mass incarceration.  We bore the debt of your housing market.  We bore the magnitude of under and unemployment.  We bore the assassination of our leaders, and now our children.  How much more America?  What is the cost of justice and freedom?  What is the mortgage on the lives of black and brown folks?  How many more payments before you reduce the principle balance on our freedom? “

“When will black lives matter?”

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Speakers from the Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines and the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party drew the killing right back to capitalism, imperialism, and the need for revolutionary change and international solidarity.  A call here was really to get involved in ongoing organizing efforts, from challenging police violence to related movements such as housing struggles and labor.

 

A march was then led, through downtown with a population that over swelled even the roads.  The memetic chant “Hands up!  Don’t shoot!” was common, with people focusing directly on the targeting of young people of color that has marked the city in recent years.  There was a sense of group solidarity as major unions, non-profits like Basic Rights Oregon and the NAACP, and more radical organizations like the Black Rose Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation and the International Socialist Organization stood together with a complementary vision.   As the march wound back to the Justice Center, the AMA led a final talk about Michael Brown’s family and led a chorus of old spiritual activist songs and a candlelight vigil.

 

At this point a large contingent began to form that did not want to end the action at that point, many calling for direct action at the Justice Center openly.  From a third to half of the crowd broke away at this point and led an unpermitted march that again took the streets over and head towards the Morrison Bridge.  Here protesters began to push against the forming police force in an effort to take the bridge, with police beginning to shove through the crowd and drive motorcycles into the crowd.

The march moved back down the street and took over the Burnside Bridge, making it across the river and blocking the intersection on the other side.  Moving through the Water District, the next spot was to openly block Interstate 5 from Providence Park the same way that organizers have done so in Oakland and Los Angeles.  It was at this point that the police force took another turn and began attacking protesters with the riot-prepared troops and cavalry.  As hundred of protesters attempted to stage a sit-in on the freeway, the police began swinging batons and letting pepper spray loose.  Participants of color had to be treated by street medics for pepper spray directly into their eyes, which is an irony that must have been lost on the Portland Police Department.  A former member of the Portland Solidarity Network, and close ally, was seriously injured by police batons, and had to be cared for by a street medic before being rushed to the emergency room.

 

A move was made to take the next bridge and head back into downtown, though police were beginning to pick off large portions of protesters by blocking them onto portions of the bridge and going for mass arrests.  Luckily, many people were saved from being taken into custody as unarrests in the chaos of the freeway action were roundly successful.  From here protesters made it in the direction of PGE Park, where a now fully militarized police force began using rubber bullets and tear gas.  Though there were seven arrests reported, the numbers could have been much higher without a conscious move by the people on the ground to keep the crowd together and to watch out for the treatment of fellow protesters.  Things ramped up even more aggressively as the police riot van had its windows smashed in and there were reports of protestor injuries increasing rapidly.

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An action like this shows both the passion and desire that is necessary for mass movements, and the ability to think in a more radical context to directly confront the kind of racial animosity that has tarnished our local and national institutions.  Though we are incredibly happy to see the actions play out as they have, we also want to see this turn into long-term organizing that will be able to continue to target this systemic inequality.  The kind of racism that was implicit and led to both the shooting of Mike Brown by Darren Wilson, and the several police murders in the Portland area, is just as prevalent in people’s workplaces and housing situations.  Redlining, Section 8 and rental discrimination, unequal foreclosure rates, and inaccess to public housing all mark institutionalized housing oppression against people of color in our communities.  We are committing to work with tenants across the city to use community solidarity to force concessions and change in people’s neighborhoods and housing complexes.  These racial issues are not just at play in loud points of cruel violence, but also the subtle evictions that we see in apartment complexes across all cities and the kind of gentrification that turns previously communities of color into trendy shopping centers for upper-class whites.  Let’s take the anger and determination that we saw on November 25th and continue to challenge these institutions, and hopefully we can use this as an opportunity to spotlight the racism that is central to the unequal access to housing in this city and country.

 

Stories of Victory and Solidarity: A Conversation With SeaSol and PDXSol

 

Portland Solidarity Network standing in support of a day laborer who had wages stolen!

Portland Solidarity Network standing in support of a day laborer who had wages stolen!

Tired of bosses and landlords ripping you off?

The Inner City Committee of the Portland Solidarity Network (PDXSol), invites you to a discussion on organizing to win with the Seattle Solidarity Network and PDXSol.

We’ll hear from people who have successfully won grassroots campaigns to turn the tables on landlords who refused repairs or stole security deposits, and bosses who stole their pay. Whether it is organizing in the neighborhoods against landlords, or in the workplace to get what we deserve from our bosses, we come together to show solidarity across the community!

Guests will include members of Seattle Solidarity Network(SeaSol), who will talk about their recent victories and how they achieved them.  SeaSol was the first major solidarity network, and has garnered major attention for not only focusing on returning stolen wages and security deposits, but for doing “multi-tenant” organizing and actual workplace strikes.  They have helped to push this new organizing model, which provides and incredible avenue for those looking to organize in both housing and the workplace.  The Portland Solidarity Network(PDXSol) will also be there to talk about their formation and recent victories, both in housing and in collaboration with the VOZ Worker’s Center on wage-theft cases.  We have a long history of successful organizing that looks at both wage-theft and tenant exploitation, and we want to expand and grow in our community.

Come and learn more about how people can come together to support each other and win real gains and power in their communities!

We fight together, and we’d love your help.

Facebook Event Page:  https://www.facebook.com/events/739195322840514/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

 

Miranda and the Portland Solidarity Network Announce Tenant Victory in the Outer Eastside

Miranda holding the check issued to her from her former landlord!

Miranda holding the check issued to her from her former landlord!

Miranda and the Portland Solidarity Network are proud to announce that we have reached amicable terms with Bluestone & Hockley.  The company, now the property management company handling the Patia’s Corner Apartments, paid Miranda the full amount that was demanded.  This includes her complete security deposit; the prorated rent for the time that she was not in the apartment, and the additional money for the utilities that then negligence in repairs cost her.  A check for $1195 was written to her directly and her complaints and issues were finally heard and understood. This marks a major victory for the first campaign for the Outer Eastside Committee of PDXSol, and a major step forward for tenant organizing in this city.

 

After the community came together to support Miranda on our demand delivery, we continued our escalation campaign by postering in the apartment complex itself.  These posters addressed the owners of the complex and demanded that they do the right thing and pay Miranda the owed sum.  The goal of this was to publicly show what had happened and remove the shadows that negligent landlords often hide these sorts of cases in.  It was also a beacon to other tenants who may have faced similar mistreatment and whose stories may have gotten brushed aside.  The demand letter was sent to the owners and the property management company Bluestone and Hockley Real Estate Services, who was brought on recently and had not been in charge when Miranda was a tenant.  They were unaware of what kind of conditions the tenant relationships had been under their previous property management.  After seeing the community support and hearing the legitimacy of Miranda’s claims, they decided to settle and pay her the money that was owed.

 

The Portland Solidarity Network is committed to supporting tenants who have been the victims of slumlord practices, and will continue to build a ground-up tenants movement in the outer eastside of the city.  These working class neighborhoods are some of the hardest hit areas when it comes to exploitative landlords, and the only way to truly curb this behavior is to organize and develop community power.  We hope to move beyond the single cases and create a permanent network of tenants to support each other and fight back through collective and direct action.  Miranda’s case shows that just a small display of our power as regular people can push forward a track of justice, and we need to take this inspiration as we head into further cases and new tenant campaigns.

 

From our workplace to our homes,

When we fight, we win!

 

#pdxsol

#pdxsolvictory

March on the Slumlord: Miranda and PDXSol Announce Campaign With Demand Delivery

Miranda and her mother marching together to stand up to her slumlord.

Miranda and her mother marching together to stand up to her slumlord.

There is a point at which everyone breaks, and Miranda has already exceeded it.  Living on a limited income and with pets that she could never abandon, Miranda moved into her former apartment with some reservations.  There was clear damage inside, all of which she was repeatedly reassured that it would be taken care of quickly.  When she was given a pile of documents to sign no red flags came up from her new landlord, Kurt, telling her that she was signing in agreement with a walk-through that had never happened.

Over the subsequent three years the decay in the apartment hit a fever pitch, a problem that rested entirely on their shoulders.  Their property manager, whose erratic behavior and drug use made common notifications next to impossible, ignored their requests for repairs regularly.  The water heater became a central problem, and instead of seeking professional repairs or replacements the landlord sent his son into her apartment to drain it with a hose through the window.  This did not put an end to the mechanical trouble as it continued to keep the water at a boiling temperature, which shot her utility bills up hundreds of dollars.  Her final solution was to manually shut off the water heater at the circuit breaker whenever it was not in use, which means that anytime showers needed to happen the roommates had to come together in a sequence or forgo hot water entirely.  After two years the pipes began failing and leaking rust-stained water into her home, and the housemates eventually had to do their dishes in the bathtub because of the malfunctioning fixtures in the kitchen.

“I paid him over $23,000(in rent) over three years, and he never would fix anything,” said Miranda.“

Miranda’s requests for repairs had become a regular cycle, with Kurt either outright ignoring her or pacifying her for the moment.  She eventually confronted him at his door, filming him to keep a record of the systemic abuses she was seeing in this relationship.  Instead of living up to his commitment, he slammed the door in her face.  Shortly there after she got a text message saying that she had thirty days to get out.  An eviction deriving directly from her simple requests to have her apartment brought up to basic living standards.

Test message Miranda received notifying her of her eviction.

Test message Miranda received notifying her of her eviction.

Though the eviction was in clear violation of local tenant laws, Miranda conceded and even moved out ahead of the eviction date.  When she attempted to get Kurt to do the walk through in the apartment with her so that she could document that she had made no damages, he refused and angrily slammed the door in her face.

 

Does this story sound familiar?  It does to most of us, as this type of “slumlord” tenant exploitation is commonplace for young people and those on lower-income scales.  Landlords use tenant’s security deposits, which are legally required to be put into a bank account and saved, without giving just cause as to what it is really for.  Thirty-day no-cause eviction is commonplace in most states, and in Oregon it is one of the main things that allow people like Kurt the freedom to create a pattern of fear around his tenants.  Miranda was clearly excised from the property for having the audacity to hold Kurt to his end of the agreement, and that was just unbearable for him.  He decided to keep her security deposit, citing damage to the unit that was there long before Miranda had set foot inside.  He is also charging an additional $700 for damages that no one can seem to identify, but, as Kurt knows full well, most tenants will just pay the amount rather than go through the arduous legal process that is stacked in favor of the property-owner.

 

Miranda is going for a third option.

 

She, along with the Portland Solidarity Network, has decided to fight back with community support.  The Portland Solidarity Network was formed several years ago, working on a model popularized by organizations like the Seattle Solidarity Network.  The foundation of this is simple: create tangible goals and demands and then use escalating tactics to put pressure on a target.  Whether these are wage-theft cases or security deposit related campaigns, the goal here is to see the exploiter relinquish what is owed based on the community pressure.

On August 10th, Miranda led a group of community supporters and PDXSol organizer in a “march on the slumlord,” to Kurt’s residence to deliver her demands.  Miranda had been by there a little while earlier to simply discuss the charges, an episode that was met by Kurt’s abusive rage.  He eventually called the police on her, which prevented her from ever setting foot back on that property.  She remained stationary on the sidewalk as the rest of the group descended the long driveway to Kurt’s door.  Miranda’s mother came armed with the demand letter, which she planned to read aloud whether or not Kurt decided to let her in.

“It has come to our attention that Miranda Rivamonte, a former tenant of Patia’s Corner Apartments, was given a thirty-day notice to vacate on May 15th, 2014 in response to her repeated requests to property manager Kurt Albright for necessary repairs to her apartment’s plumbing,” she read out loud.

Miranda's mother reading the demand letter.

Miranda’s mother reading the demand letter.

“Ms. Rivamonte vacated the premises on May 22nd, 2014, leaving only pre-existing damages and those incurred by normal wear-and-tear over the three years of her tenancy. However, property manager Kurt Albright refused to perform a walkthrough when asked at this time, and subsequently, Albright Enterprises saw fit to withhold the entirety of Ms. Rivamonte’s refundable security deposit ($600.00), failed to refund her rent for the period of May 23rd through May 31st (nine-days at $21.67 equaling $195.03), and proceeded to demand an additional $719.05 in scurrilous charges.”

“Furthermore, Ms. Rivamonte’s water heater was never fully repaired over the course of her three years of tenancy, despite repeated requests for this to occur.  As a result, Ms. Rivamonte endured increased utility bills estimated at approximately $400.00.  We see it as your responsibility to ensure that this situation be resolved by Albright Enterprises dropping all claims of damages for her apartment and that she be reimbursed for her security deposit, back rent for the period of May after she vacated the apartment, and the utility costs incurred as a result of the negligence of her property manager, totaling $1,195.03.”

“We expect this to be addressed shortly, within a period of no more than fourteen-days; otherwise we will take further action.”

This has been a familiar campaign stop for those utilizing the Solidarity Network model around the country.  Popularized by the Seattle Solidarity Network, this model has conventionally taken on fights such as tenant issues and wage-theft cases.  The goal is to utilize direct action and an “escalation plan” model of organizing, where by very material demands are put together and a target has pressure put on them through community action in a consistently increasing fashion.  This often takes the form of confronting former bosses about unpaid wages, past property management companies around stolen security deposits, and a variety of new possible projects coming out of the missed gaps in organized labor and housing activism.  This has spread to places like Houston, Boston, Olympia, and San Francisco, as people try to target fights that are very based in the material realities of everyday life, but have also often been neglected by the more established left movements of the area.  The Portland Solidarity Network has been at this for several years now, having taken on many high profile housing and labor fights in recent years.  This has evolved into an established place for dealing with low-wage worker issues in the area, often partnering with the VOZ Worker’s Center and the Portland Jobs With Justice chapter.

Miranda had come in contact with the Portland Solidarity Network after they had established a committee and meeting space in the outer eastside of Portland, which has a lower income base than the more affluent inner city.  Together they worked on an escalation plan and developed a long-term strategy for how to see this campaign through.

After the demand delivery it was discovered that Kurt had actually returned to prison, leaving the property up to a new management company and other members of the family.  Miranda and the Portland Solidarity Network are continuing to the next stages of the escalation campaign, moving out to the rest of the controlling parties and letting them know that this groundswell of support and action is nowhere close to peaking.

“I think because all of us have felt this kind of thing at one time or another,” Miranda said to a crowd of supporters.  “We felt just pretty much helpless and stuck by someone in a higher position than you.  So I just think its really cool that we can flip it on this guy and tell him ‘hey, we’ve got the power, not you,’”

 

 

Solidarity and Clean-Up: Supporting a Community Leader

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The Portland Solidarity Network has made a commitment to stand with tenants who are facing harassment, exploitation, and eviction from landlords and property managers, understanding that we need collective support as working class people if we are going to be able to stand up to the forces in power.  The way we do this is different than a “service” oriented organization, such as a non-profit that you go to receive help with a problem.  Instead we use a “solidarity” model, where we choose to join and support a person whose struggle it is as we organize collectively to take on the issue.  We understand as members that the success of one person’s struggle is beneficial to us in the larger sense, and therefore we have a material stake in these struggles even if we are not economically tied in the immediate way.  The format we take is to use community pressure and organizing to counter attacks from landlords, but each case is fundamentally different and we make collective decisions about how we want to address each problem.

 

Recently during our outreach for the new Outer Eastside Committee, were approached by a woman that was having trouble with her current property management company.  Granny Annie, as she likes to be called, is a notable medical marijuana activist from the area, and has seen many property management companies come and go at her current apartment.  As they moved people in and out, there was an accumulation of old furniture and trash that grew behind the fourplex’s collective storage shed.  The current property management company, not having understood the recent history of the complex, began to pressure her to have it removed.  Since she is eighty years old, on a tight fixed income, and having severe health problems, she was not in a position to take care of this.  She was then having eviction threatened for a problem she did not create and could not solve on her own.

 

After discussing the campaign we decided that the most direct approach to the issue was to simply get together and remove the offending garbage from the property.  Several members came together with two pick-ups and gathered everything that was there and hauled it away to the local dump.  This was fundamentally different than anything we traditionally have done, but we felt that it was important to extend our community support in this case where it was desperately needed.

 

A new relationship was forged with this community leader, and we will also stay in touch, as there have been other issues with repairs and raised rental rates that she has had to deal with.  We are happy that our collective support can be a resource to the community, and we only hope to get more people from the neighborhood involved in the kind of collective support that is needed to protect our neighborhoods from ruthless landlords and developers.

United Campaign Workers Demand Promised Payment from the Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp

When a progressive campaign cannot take care of its workforce according to the principles it claims, they are in a great deal of trouble.

 Taking the streets!

Earlier this week a crew of nine campaigns canvass workers walked off their jobs at the Oregon Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp (CRRH) and into the office of the Industrial Workers of the World looking to form a union.  The workers had been refused the paychecks they were owed for their time, which only built on the several bounced paychecks in the past.  After their checks did not arrive on the late schedule, and management did not even want to discuss what had just happened, they walked out collectively as a unit.  This action had been a long time coming for a group of workers who had seen a “culture of secrecy and information repression that make incidents like this an ongoing problem,” said a statement they released this week.

 

Together they formed the United Campaign Workers (UCW) with IWW support and began a campaign to come back to work with a written agreement from management offering them the $15/hr pay rate and correct overtime they had been promised.  After initially marching on the boss with their demands and being ignored, they started what has become a nationwide call-in campaign of supporters and union partners phoning the campaign headquarters to show their support for the union.

 

On Friday, June 13th the workers staged another march on the boss, this time with dozens of supporters from the Portland IWW, Portland Solidarity Network, Jobs With Justice, Rose City Resistance, and other organizations and union members, and took to the streets to approach the CRRH office.

Kyle Purdy, Canvas Director, insulting and swearing at the workers.  He says he is the "real grassroots."

Kyle Purdy, Canvas Director, insulting and swearing at the workers. He says he is the “real grassroots.”

Upon entering a spokesperson from the UCW tried to present their demands to the Canvas Director at the location, Kyle Purdy, who repeatedly screamed and swore and the picketers.  Claiming that he represented a “real grassroots” campaign, he decried the workers attempt to unionize as insane and marginal.  “Grassroots doesn’t mean you’re held to a different standard than everyone else,” said UCW worker Micha, “It means you should hold yourself to a higher standard.  It means you are trying to effect positive social change.”

Workers trying to negotiate, while management just films and shouts.

Workers trying to negotiate, while management just films and shouts.

The campaign has been working on Oregon legislation I-21, the Oregon Cannabis Amendment, which would end all legal penalties around marijuana products and would even extend growing permissions to Oregonians.  It has been paired with the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, I-22, that would override existing laws to create a new regulatory framework and funnel money from marijuana sales into state programs.  This is a campaign that has large support amongst the institutional left in the state, a campaign that the workers say they are adamantly in support of and would like to see pass.   The crew repeatedly asked to go back to work, and noted that their crew alone pulls in over 600 signatures a day.  That would mean that as of that moment, the campaign has lost an estimated 3,000 signatures due to the strike.  Though this campaign has had large non-profit and union support, active labor organization came out to support the workers and the local Jobs With Justice presented the campaign with a community petition of supporters demanding they negotiate with the newly formed union.

Starting the march to the bosses!

Many of the newly hired workers were completely confounded by the action, as those who were newly hired were not aware they were replacing striking workers.  They are being offered the wage that the UCW workers were originally offered, but were never actually granted.  The workers even made several concessions, including healthcare, just to get management to the bargaining table.  One of these was a recent call for a bonus for workers with dependent children who were not able to purchase groceries after paychecks bounced.   According to the workers, a manager made the argument that it was “heteronormative” to provide the bonus for people caring for small children.  “As a member of the LGBT community, I find that highly offensive,” said fellow UCW worker Ken Kautz.  “It is not “heteronormative” to have dependents.  To have children.”

 

After management threatened to call in the police, the workers and community supporters took the demonstration outside.  This is only the beginning of the campaign, and a larger contingent will be heading back into the CRRH headquarters on Monday morning.

 

If you want to find out how to help, or more about the campaign, contact the United Campaign Workers at unitedcampaignworkers@gmail.com.

PDXSol Announces an Outer East Side Committee

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Portland Solidarity Outer Eastside Committee Statement

As we face rising costs of living, the threat of increased rents and displacement from our homes, and exploitation by our employers and landlords, we feel a need to band together and build power in our communities to defend our neighborhoods.

 

Portland Solidarity Network, a volunteer network of community members, has successfully advocated for the rights of workers and tenants by directly confronting individuals, organizations, or corporations responsible for exploiting, harassing, or cheating workers and tenants.  Now the Portland Solidarity Network is forming an East Portland committee focused directly on issues in outer eastside neighborhoods.  We want to connect with working people of different backgrounds and languages and together become a force to address housing, workplace, and community issues specific to East Portland.  As the wave of gentrification rolls into the working class neighborhoods on the edge of the city, we will attempt to build neighborhood movements that specifically stand with tenants of low-income apartment complexes, public housing, section 8, mobile home parks, and other areas that are specifically targeted by urban renewal and development.  In the traditions of direct action, community organizing, and mutual aid, our goal is to create a real committee of community members that can come together and fight for material gains while developing a real force in the interest of working people.

 

This committee will begin taking on cases in these neighborhoods, eventually evolving into an somewhat autonomous branch located in this specific area of the city.  We see that keeping struggles regional can help them to act directly democratically and in response to the specific community, while federating with other local and national solidarity networks to continue building the movement.

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You can get in touch with us by e-mailing us at EastPdxSol@gmail.com, and we are now having weekly meetings for the summer in outdoor area of the Montavilla Community Center.  We are looking to meet people in the area who would like to get involved in forming the group, discuss project ideas, or participate in actions.  We will be continuing outreach to the community through postering and direct communication, and we need community members to come get involved if this new project will be a success.

 

Whether it is tenants facing eviction, workers having their wages stolen, or communities at risk, we are putting out a call to stand together and show what a community in solidarity can do!

 

Meeting Information:

 

Thursdays @ 6:00pm

Montavilla Community Center Park Pavillion

8219 NE Glisan St, Portland, OR 97220

 

Contact

Email: EastPdxSol@gmail.com

Phone(Voicemail): (503) 446-6065

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Stand With United Campaign Workers: Supporter Phone Blast Alert!

 

At the Portland Solidarity Network we stand with workers no matter the struggle, especially when it is for recognition and gains in their workplace.  Recently, canvass workers came into the local Industrial Workers of the World office looking to form a union.  Below is one of the steps of their escalation plan, and a great and easy way for you to support them.  JUST CALL THEIR BOSSES, FOLLOW THE SCRIPT BELOW, AND TELL THEM THAT YOU STAND WITH THE WORKERS!

Campaign workers standing united!

Campaign workers standing united!

 

Support the United Campaign Workers!

We’re simply requesting that our employer clearly define and agree to the terms of our employment in writing, something every worker should be entitled!

We would all, and I would personally, extremely appreciate anyone’s support and solidarity in participating in this phone zap.

On June 5th, 2014, workers at the Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp (CRRH) were refused the paychecks lawfully owed them. This is not the first time paychecks were delayed or dishonored; in fact, a large majority of the paychecks from the previous pay period bounced. Workers were informed (with “98% certainty”) that their paychecks would arrive the following morning. The checks did NOT arrive on Friday, and workers were told to wait until Monday morning to see them. Workers were given coffee, bagels, cigarettes and a $5 bill in lieu of payment, then asked to work over the weekend. On Monday morning, checks were discussed only when brought up by employees, with management quickly brushing concerns aside and asking employees to participate in a “team-building activity.” Workers then walked out–not just for their unpaid wages, but in protest of a culture of secrecy and information repression that make incidents like this an ongoing problem and not just an anomaly. Due to the risk of reprisal by management, workers decided to protect themselves and the rights of their coworkers by forming United Campaign Workers (UCW), a union dedicated to canvassers. In the aftermath of the unionization by CRRH employees, management has repeatedly disrespected, intimidated, or otherwise harassed union members, all while refusing to negotiate with UCW in good faith. In light of management’s complete disregard for the needs of workers, we have no choice but to escalate.

Phone Zap to Support the United Campaign Workers!
Please call the CRRH campaign office at (503) 235-4606 and the following CRRH directors:
Jersey Deutsch (917) 952-4526
Kyle Purdy (503) 875-7298
Leo Townsell (914) 419-0293
Jordynn Jimenez (632) 262-6578

Please start calling NOW!

Script:
Hi, this is __________ calling regarding the ongoing union activity at CRRH, where workers are continuing to strike due to management’s refusal to sign any agreements. We’re reaching out to you because we’ve been informed that YOUR ACTIONS are preventing canvassers from returning to work and hindering efforts to create a more just, transparent, and egalitarian workplace. We DEMAND an immediate cessation of any and all anti-union or anti-worker activities, and urge you to stand in solidarity with United Campaign Workers as they fight to improve working conditions for ALL employees.

Facebook event for call in:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1428324297441119/?ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular&source=1


For more information on how to get involved, please email unitedcampaignworkers@gmail.com.

Spontaneous Insurrections: Organizing to Defend Alicia Jackson’s Home

Early morning at Alicia Jackson's, waiting for a possible eviction.

Early morning at Alicia Jackson’s, waiting for a possible eviction.

As we gathered together on Alicia’s lawn we collectively wished we had weeks of planning behind us. Months really. As with anything, a looming eviction defense is something that escalates quickly and requires the kind of coordination that takes dress rehearsals. We had a few hours, maybe. When it comes to defending a house from a foreclosure-based eviction, you will be lucky to have a few minutes of warning before the police descend and begin forcefully removing a family. We needed to be ready to see the police car headlights before they see the several dozen people in front of the house ready to block their entrance.

Alicia Jackson's home liberation on May Day 2012. Photo from Oregon Live

Alicia Jackson’s home liberation on May Day 2012.
Photo from Oregon Live

The story of Alicia Jackson’s foreclosure and eviction go back several years, telling a common story of illegal banking practices and community response. After being foreclosed on by Fox Capital and evicted she liberated her own house with the help of the Portland Liberation Organizing Committee and community members on May Day in 2012. In 2011 she was foreclosed on after she was owed a home modification as a part of her Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing, but the property was still transferred to Fast Cash House Buyers LLC before being passed along to Fox Capital. On May 1st, 2012 she joined up with a direct-action contingent to move back into her home and made it an outpost for housing justice in Northeast Portland. For a full year and a half eviction watch shifts happened with people checking in regularly and coordinated scheduling. With the support of We Are Oregon, and their project Housing Is for Everyone, supporting Alicia was a main project as they attempted to keep her in her home as long as possible.

Fox Capital temporarily dropped the foreclosure case as they changed leadership, but as the brother of the original owner took over the company they went back to threatening eviction. A court date finally happened this past April 6th, which really just determined when Capital supposedly has a “chance to negotiate.” Since the We Are Oregon project had begun to wane from SEIU funding cuts, there was no organization actively taking on Alicia’s case as the final court date loomed. A few community members independently decided to take over the Rapid Response network, which is a grouping of phone numbers of community supporters that can be notified immediately if an eviction is taking place.

A second court date took place where Fox Capital laid out its case, saying that they didn’t take the home illegally even though they did not have rights to the property. While waiting for the verdict on this, Alicia received an eviction notice saying that she needed to be out of her home by Sunday at 11:59 pm. It was already Friday, and the community was not prepared to respond.

Decisions were made quickly and a call-out came for people to join together at Alicia’s house to stay the night on the lawn, recognizing that since the eviction notice specified “11:59,” then the marshal’s office and the police could theoretically come anytime after that. Quickly outposts were made on surrounding blocks where people could watch for the police on shifts and then use walkie-talkie’s to communicate with each other if they saw a caravan of law enforcement heading into position. Watchers were stationed at the house as well, and people took shifts sleeping so that there was always a contingent available to act quickly.

A meeting was first called together where people shared concerns and ideas on how to take care of this. Brief committees were formed to work on separate projects, such as putting together a response plan. Without having a formal organization in place, or having an organization take it over as “their project,” the community members were able to put together a point-by-point plan on how to defend the house from the police eviction within a matter of hours. This included how to defend the interior of the house from its other entrances, who was going to risk arrest, and how we were going to use the resources we had to physically block an invasion. Medics and media people were coordinated, a press release was written and sent to major media contacts, and outreach continued as we talked to friends and comrades from around the city. As we camped overnight, people discussed the plan and became more comfortable with what was going to happen when the police finally did show up.

Together we kept shifts on a tight schedule, made sure the medics had what they needed, ensured that proper video would be captured upon the police arrival, and that the exact plan of action was known to all new comers so they knew when and how to position themselves.  What was clear was that when people brought in organizing experience in the past they were able to apply those ideas and skills in a situation that did not have a formal organization backing it.

Dozens of people were ready and waiting in the morning.

Dozens of people were ready and waiting in the morning.

When morning came, there were dozens of people, several tents and sleeping bags, and a slew of signs and banners that showed that this was an eviction encampment that was not simply a passive protest. These people were ready to keep this house, and had a clear idea of how they were going to do this.

The police never came that day, and the eviction defense strategy continued with coordinated shifts of watchers and maintaining the plan that the community members had agreed upon during the initial planning. Somebody called the sheriff’s office and convinced the undersheriff to meet with Alicia to discuss the eviction so that we could get a better sense of what was coming. This gives us time to get the legal paperwork for the appeal in and to do the most important part of this struggle: organize in our community. The formal appeal of the court’s decision will validate that she can live in the property to another bank. It should also allow her to have her water turned on, which she has been without since her initial eviction two years ago. The title to the house would actually be in her name, and this would mark a real, yet possibly temporary, victory.

The community showed that there was an implicit will towards resistance embedded within us, and that even with only a few hours to spare we were able to create a fighting force that was willing to put itself on the line to keep Alicia in her home. There seemed to be an implicit understanding that the wave of foreclosures and evictions that we have seen over the last few years of crisis and austerity only mark and increasingly unjust system of capitalism, and that we have decided the power of solidarity and community has more weight than the authority of capital. As we stand with Alicia today, we see the seeds of resistance that can spread to other neighborhoods, and we know that all it takes is the fire to get organized and take risks.

Wages of Class War: Reflections on Portland’s May Day

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Coming together in working class solidarity!

 

May Day can be your local mixer of “who’s who” in the radical and progressive scene, giving ample excuse to bring out the flags and dust off IWW songs from the 1930s.  As we are heading into deep periods of post-crisis recession, institutional union busting, increasing repression of civil liberties, and a general crisis in working class confidence, it can take something like May Day, or International Workers Day, to bring back people’s confidence in the movements they are seeding.

Portland, Oregon’s event has been marked by a unity of radicalism and Big Labor, where unions participate alongside anarchists just as they would in more conventional Labor Day parades.  In the wake of the Occupy Movement, 2012’s march was glossed with police confrontation and militant street action.  The last two years saw a far more tame (by comparison) show, but saw steady participation and rhetoric about both capitalism and corporate control without using coded language to soften the blow.

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This year, as many as a thousand people descended on Portland’s Park Blocks to first rally then march, bringing together a diverse crowd that seemed to highlight a few key ideas.  As with 2013’s event, immigration was a top focus with signs donning slogans like “No One Is Illegal,” and the crowd has a larger influx of Spanish speakers.  Both universal healthcare and a call to a $15 an hour minimum wage were popular targets, part of which is from the local $15 Now campaign pushed by people like the Socialist Alternative.  This is on the heels of Seattle’s announcement that they will be the first city to institute a $15 an hour minimum wage, which was a main platform point of their new socialist city councilor.  Though the ten year plan to institute this new minimum wage leaves a lot to be desired, it clearly was motivating a great deal of action locally.  The IWW’s new “High Five” campaign was infecting new life into the discussion of what wage increases can mean beyond simply adjusting the minimum wage, especially since its goal looks at five dollar and hour raises in a workplace through organizing in that workplace.

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Whether it was targeting the TransPacific Partnership, looking towards labor issues, or suggesting a critique of late capitalism itself, economics is still at the forefront of a day used to celebrate the success of the eight-hour workday.

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Since May Day is a yearly event that is not dependent on a specific campaign, we often see more generalized anti-capitalist language.  All of this is built on a set of ideological ideas since, as the history of the holiday suggests, these are ongoing struggles that are not disappearing after individual campaigns are won or lost.  With that being known, it can often be more of a celebration for organizers who have been fighting hard and thinking tactically all year to simply come together and stand in solidarity.  At the same time, the amount of effort and labor that goes into an event like this is also the perfect time to focus in on our campaigns and use them as leverage to build the movements that we need to inch our way forward to the final goals the day is spirited with.

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ILWU speaking out against union busting!

While this was very clear for wage campaigns and healthcare campaigns, the real standout here is with the ILWU Local 4 and their lockout with United Grain.  The International Longshoreman and Warehouse Union Local 4 have been shut out of their workplace for more than a year as scabs have been brought in.  Local 8 in Seattle has seen similar union busting tactics, and members of the Portland Solidarity Network and many other organizations stood with the ILWU and blocked the scabs entrance to the port several weeks before.  This is an ongoing fight and they came in force with support from everyone from the Laborers to the IWW to Jobs With Justice.   As the march continued on its set path, which was permitted specifically, the ILWU lead a breakaway contingent that was made up of the majority of attendees.  They headed directly over to the Wells Fargo building, which is also the local headquarters of United Grain.  There they rallied in front of the building and told the story of working people trying to make ends meet as their livelihood and right to organize is being severed.  They put out a call to action and solidarity, and asked that we collectively stand together as they head into heated negotiations in the coming months.  This was the most energetic moment of the entire day as there was an almost universal moment of connection as we saw the reality of working-class struggle right in front of us, and we were given the choice to participate.  As they decended from the steps they were met by a round of hugs and handshakes, and they responded with the kind of love you only get when people have decided together to fight a shared battle.

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This shows the perfect use of a day like today, where the abstract ideas the holiday was built on are brought home and given tactical equipment.  Today the march became a tool in the fight with United Grain, and will hopefully drum up even more support as the ILWU continues its fight.

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What was noticeably absent from the march was a focus on housing issues that marked much of the previous year’s engagement.  Last year, foreclosure and eviction were a chant-ready topic that were tied to everyone’s economic and immigration concerns, but it was almost completely absent from the discourse.  This is largely from a deficit of local work around housing issues, especially after the promising SEIU project Housing is for Everyone dissolved.  For the Portland Solidarity Network, this shows the importance of moving into tenant work as the issue continues to be of incredible importance even as the housing market appears to recover.

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The showing of May Day was impressive from coast to coast, and we even saw a 1,500 person crowd form in Salem focusing on immigration.  Thousands took to the streets in cities like New York and Chicago, where the sentiment echoed many of the same issues that we were seeing in Portland.  This can often be a temperature check for the collective mood of the country and what issues are really on people’s minds, but more specifically it tends to be a reflection of exactly what issues and campaigns people are actively organizing around.

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As we head back into our daily work we should use this as a time to reflect on how this global day of action can really be tied directly to our struggles.  As the Portland Solidarity Network continues wage-theft campaigns with partners like the VOZ Worker’s Rights Education Project and tenant support issues, we want to use this momentum to get right down to the campaigns that see material results for everyone’s lives.  Let’s make next year’s May Day the culmination of the kind of fights that get traction and see working class power developing in our workplaces and neighborhoods.  Let’s get something big to celebrate next year!