Monday, March 30, 2009

Charlottesville Socialists Collaborate with Workers and Students United (WASU)

There is a new push for a living wage at the University of Virginia, a new group- Workers And Students United (WASU), has formed to take up the cause for a living wage at UVA and in Charlottesville. The group is calling for a starting wage for employees of $11.42 an hour, after benefits.

Previous attempts have been made at UVA to increase wages for workers, these campaigns have had small successes, but have generally fizzled out after the 4 years of schooling that students have are up. WASU is seeking to create a longer lasting campaign by working more closely with workers, students, and the Charlottesville community. As work continues inside UVA, spreading the effort to the Charlottesville community at large is an important goal for WASU as well. With the staff union now dismantled, it is ever more important for workers and students to support fair wages and policies from the contractors at UVA.

Socialist Party members in Charlottesville have involved themselves in WASU and wholeheartedly support their efforts, both on grounds and in the community at large. We call on ALL employers in Charlottesville to increase wages to $11.42 per hour and a MINIMUM of $4.40 and hour for tipped employees.

SPVA Members Participate in March on the Pentagon and War Profiteers

Report by Brandon Collins:

On March 19, 2003, George W. Bush smugly announced on television that the invasion of Iraq had begun, we watched, shocked and awed at the massive bombing that followed. In the lead up to the war, more than 200,000 people marched in Washington to oppose the invasion, quite an impressive showing from the anti-war crowd considering the war hadn’t even started yet.

6 years later, we find ourselves as deep as we have ever been in Iraq, and the anti-war crowd much smaller. Brandon, Noah and Reagan from the Socialist Party USA in Virginia joined our SP-USA comrades Greg (national secretary) Billy, Kristin, Alana (from the NYC local) and Peter for the March 21, 2009 March on the Pentagon and Corporate War Profiteers organized, mainly, by ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Rascism). The size of the crowd has been reported as less than 3000 in the press, and over 10,000 by ANSWER. I would guess around 5000. Either way you look at it, this was a small showing. The protest focused not only on Iraq, but Afghanistan and Palestine (and Pakistan to some extent). The people present were almost entirely from leftist, radical, activist groups. I witnessed very little participation by more moderate groups. Indeed, marching with the Socialist Party-USA contingent we almost felt like moderates in this crowd! Despite the more aggressive appearance and rhetoric of these folks, there was very little in the way of “militant” action.

We started the march in front of the Lincoln Memorial led by a procession of coffins representing various countries (including the U$) affected by U$ militarism . Crossing over the Arlington Memorial Bridge we were confronted by a small, but vocal, band of counter protesters. This was quite ugly, first we saw the “al queda supporters marching” sign, much signage and name calling of “terrorist” and “traitor”. We then witnessed 3 very disgusting things from the counter protesters, the first was Jane Fonda being hung by a noose in effigy, with a sign reading “Jane Fonda commie traitor bitch”. This was extremely ugly, but really, how effective do they think bringing up Jane Fonda with this crowd was going to be? We passed a man holding some kind of nationalistic banner, a marcher shouted something about him being a Klan member, the counter protester then smugly said “the Klan, yeah, I am, so what” and smiled. Ugliest of all was very vocal older woman with a mega phone berating a young boy, 8 years old or so. The behavior of this nationalistic pro-war group is a good indicator of how far we have to go in this country to promote peace and sanity. It was in the same location that we witnessed some ugly antics as well from our fellow marchers, some young anarchist types throwing mud and provoking the counter protesters. I believe this shows that the peace movement has a long way to go as well. The ethic of non-violence didn’t seem so important to some. In fact, a window was broken, and a small band of anarchists tried to block the march at one point (no one seemed to know why). While it is understandable that a lot of folks feel frustrations, these incidents speak to the underlying issue of who is actively participating in dissent in this country. Personally I find some comfort in the fact that so many leftist groups are engaging in anti-war activities, but the lack of more moderate voices, and more pacifist activism shows that something is amiss. Perhaps the biggest factor in this is overwhelming acceptance of the Obama administration’s war plans as being somehow a more reasonable foreign policy . Are anarchists, socialists and communists the only people out here who feel a need to oppose militarism and corporate endorsement of the wars and occupations? Judging from my experience I would say this is so. Of course, there are other factors- ANSWER’s notorious control of their “coalition”, poor promotion, and perhaps economic woes on the part of folks who might have made the trip had they been in a better financial situation.

The march was long, past the Pentagon, down a dirt road and storage facility (?) and into Crystal City, the heart of the corporate headquarters of Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics and KBR, it was here that we saw the biggest police presence. Regular D.C. cops with shields, batons, and an occasional tear gas launcher, pretty much stood shoulder to shoulder at corporate entrances and around buildings with lots of windows. They had cameras, and a big blue tank, to be expected I suppose. What was truly enlightening was the military and covert presence on rooftops, lots of cameras with zoom lenses, uniformed and non-uniformed men with walkie talkies, more cameras, sniper rifles and machine guns. Here was a visual affirmation of what we’ve known all along- these corporations are running the war on terror and they have an armed endorsement from the government to show for it. Lockheed Martin made 150 million in bonuses alone last year, a pretty good wage if all you have to do is listen to a few hundred leftists dissenting in front of your office for a few hours. The cops wouldn’t allow the coffins to be delivered, so they were left in the street where the day wound day with speeches and chanting.

While personally I found the day quite productive (meeting with fellow socialists and planning for organizing in Virginia), I was still left wondering why there weren’t more people, and what are we really doing in the peace movement? Perhaps the April 4 march on Wall Street will be more inclusive, get more press, and be more inspiring, and perhaps the two demonstrations have the ability to show people that it is still necessary and appropriate to criticize and to mobilize. I sure hope so, we have a long way to go.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

SPVA Members Attend Rally in Farmville to Stop the Immigrant Detention Center

On March 7, 2009, members of Virginia’s immigrant community, along with activists and concerned citizens held a large rally and march in Farmville, Va., to protest the proposed construction of a new, for profit, Immigrant Detention Center.

Background Information About the Detention Center:

Plans for the proposed detention 1,040 bed center were announced in September 2008 by the Farmville Town Council. The center is to be run by Immigrant Centers of America-Farmville LLC (ICA) by contract with the City of Farmville and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICA is a corporation newly created for this project, they have no experience in prison management, it’s principal investors are two real estate developers and the CEO of an industrial bakery supply company. Some of the funding is to come from the Virginia Tobacco Foundation to assist lost revenue from tobacco farming in that area. Other funding has remained secret. The agreement has ICE paying the City of Farmville $64 per detainee/per day and in turn ICA receives from Farmville $63 of the $64. ICA stands to make 8-12 million dollars annually.

The detention center is to utilize staff from Farmville’s other for-profit jail, Piedmont Regional Jail, where two immigrant detainee deaths have already occurred due to medical neglect. ICE has yet to approve the center, the City of Farmville has already approved the plan. Protesters marched to call for the City of Farmville to rescind it’s approval.

Protesters believe that imprisoning people for failed U$ economic and immigration policy is a violation of human rights, and does nothing to address the root causes of mass migration. Immigration violations are a civil offense, not criminal, and do not justify imprisonment. Other options to detention exist, with a high rate of success (93%), and are less costly and more humane. Systematic abuse is documented in every immigrant detention center. The profit motive for prisons is un-ethical, especially considering the profit motive is what causes forced migration to the U$.

Rally Report:

The rally began at noon, Socialist Party USA members from Virginia attended along with immigrants, activists and other concerned citizens. Around 250 to 300 people attended and marched. The event was organized by People United and Mexicanos sin Fronteras, with participation from many other groups (including Socialist Party members in Virginia). Speeches were translated into English and Spanish, with a strong emphasis on human rights and dignity. The first speaker pointed out that most folks called immigrant, latino, or Hispanic are actually native Americans and should feel proud to be considered as such. Most of the speaking was decidedly anti-capitalist and centered around U$ economic policy, prisons for profits, and worker’s rights. All of the speeches were well received. A couple of musical acts and a puppet show were offered to the crowd.

We began the march around 3:00, Farmville police kept a watchful eye, but generally were respectful to the marchers and made sure that traffic was stopped for marchers crossing the streets. Organizers ran “security” to make sure that nothing got out of control, and mainly to ensure that protesters stayed on sidewalks and didn’t provoke onlookers or police. The town of Farmville is quite small (population 6845), while townspeople surely had feelings about the detention center, it must have been quite mind blowing to see 250 people, mostly latino, marching up Main Street and chanting in Spanish- “Farmville Escucha, Estamos en la Lucha” and “Aqui Estamos y No Nos Vamos y Si Nos Echan Nos Regresamos!”. Onlookers seemed generally friendly to the cause, it was the first warm day of the year, and plenty of people were out on the tiny main street. The march turned off of main street and went through what looked like a poorer part of town, past some churches, and back onto Main Street. The rally ended with much partying and dancing. Socialist Party members managed to distribute pamphlets about opposing the detention center, and listing the SP-USA platform on immigration. At the end of the day, a coalition was announced called the Virginia Immigrant Peoples Coalition, formed of the various groups attending and organizing the event, including the Socialist Party members in Virginia. We look forward to working with these folks and to following up on our opposition to the detention center.

For more information visit

The People United

Mexicanos sin Fronteras

Below is information from SP-VA pamphlet on the subject.

The Socialist Party in Virginia supports The People United’s campaign to Stop the Detention Center for these reasons:

Imprisoning people addresses only the effects of a failed immigration policy and is a violation of human rights.

Neo-liberal policies concerning unfair trade, U.S. corporations, multi-national corporations, and business globalization are the main contributors to poverty in other nations, and thus to migration to the U.S.

Conducting raids in the middle of the night in immigrant communities does nothing to address the root causes of mass migration.

Physical and mental abuse in immigrant detention facilities is common place. Detainees often are held for unreasonable amounts of time before deportation.

Because of language barriers and fear of attracting ICE attention, family members have little contact with detainees. Contact with the outside world, and even prison officials is limited to the point where systematic abuse becomes the norm.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is partnering with the City of Farmville to build this facility. A no-bid contract has been granted to a private corporation- Immigration Centers of America which was created solely for this project.

ICA has no experience in detention.The main investors, responsible for management of the center, are real estate developers and the CEO of a bakery supply company. These people are investing in human detention, and stand to make a lot of money off of the deal. ICE will pay Farmville about $64 per day, per detainee. Farmville, in turn will pay the private corporation, ICA, about $63 per day, per detainee. It is estimated that ICA stands to make between 8 and 12 million dollars annually.

Running prisons for profit is un-ethical and a violation of human rights. The profit motive, by definition, would have detainees held for much longer times than necessary. Cutting costs in the center earn the investors money, but lead to sub-standard food and inadequate medical care, among other things. Big money in turn helps ICA to lobby lawmakers for harsher sentences, and more detainees.

Immigration, from the Socialist Party USA platform:

The Socialist Party works to build a world in which everyone will be able to freely move across borders, to visit and to live wherever they choose.

We recognize the central role global capitalism plays in forcing the immigration of people from the less developed to the more industrialized countries, often leading to further economic and social injustice.

1. We support secular democratic states, assuring equal rights to every citizen and resident in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

2. We oppose the militarization of the United States/Mexican border, and an increase in the service budget instead of the "military" budget of the INS.

3. We defend the rights of all immigrants to education, health care, and full civil and legal rights and call for an unconditional amnesty program for all undocumented people. We oppose the imposition of any fees on those receiving amnesty.

4. We call for an end to the use of "secret evidence" in deportation hearings, a ban on all immigration detentions and military tribunals, and full due process and habeus corpus rights in U.S. courts for all non-citizens on U.S. territory or in U.S. custody.

5. We demand an end to police raids in areas where immigrants congregate.

6. We oppose "guest worker" programs. We call for full citizenship rights upon demonstrating residency for six months.