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Boston Workers Alliance
M embers of the Boston Workers Alliance (BWA) met last October in New York City for the second national conference of the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives. They were there to discuss plans for a temp agency cooperative and to network with people willing to assist their efforts.
The BWA was founded in 2005 at a convergence of “jobless workers” from Boston’s low-income Dorchester and Roxbury neighborhoods. Committed to “uplifting [the] community by building powerful collective challenges to the crisis of unemployment,” BWA envisioned creating a network that would work cooperatively to aid ex-offenders being released from prison and other individuals unable to find work in Massachusetts due to discriminatory hiring practices under the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) Act.
The BWA currently has 300 members who pay $2 a month in dues, 50 of whom attend regular meetings and participate in projects. They work in partnership with local residents who are unable to access the job market. Projects they are involved in include everything from community outreach and CORI reform advocacy to developing and implementing job creation strategies as well as legislative lobbying and media work.
Aaron Tanaka, an organizer for the BWA, works with the job creation committee to gain support from local employers and the community for the temp agency. “The temp agency is our first economic development project. The reason we decided to do this is because we want to use worker co-ops as a job creation strategy,” he said. Tanaka believes “the temp agency will allow us to place people where they might not ordinarily get hired.” He admits it may be difficult to run a cooperative temp agency due to the high rate of employee turnover, but feels it is not impossible.
David Ludlow, a volunteer and support member with the BWA, sees the group starting “an alternative economy for communities of color in the greater Boston area, through creating worker cooperatives in which people can sell their services to each other rather than relying on large corporations.”
According to the BWA, “Blacks with [criminal] records applying for entry level positions have a 5 percent chance of being called back for interviews and blacks without [criminal] records have a 14 percent chance. Whites with records have a 17 percent chance and whites without records have a 34 percent chance.”
Greg Young is an active BWA member to whom the temp agency project would be beneficial. Following his release from a Massachusetts State Correctional facility after serving a two-year sentence, Young was turned away or terminated from employment because of his CORI status. A CORI is a record of a person’s criminal history. This record includes any time an individual was in court on a criminal charge, no matter what the final outcome of the charge. Many employers are required to run a CORI check on all job applicants even though CORI documents are full of legal jargon, making the documents very difficult for the untrained reader to understand.
There are over 2.3 million CORIs on file in Massachusetts and over 10,000 organizations in the state have access to these records. CORIs are frequently used to deny people housing, employment, and access to student loans. CORIs from misdemeanors remain open for 10 years and felonies for 15 years, even if the individual is found not guilty. It is possible for individuals to access their CORI and have it sealed—but that requires time and processing fees, which are often hard to come by in low income communities. According to the BWA, “many businesses will not hire anyone with a CORI regardless of their qualifications or commitment.”
Young believes that the majority of people who are incarcerated are good people who “deserve a second chance.” For most people, he explained, “time in prison is lonely. Guys are in a cell all by themselves with nothing but walls and guards. All we ever think about is freedom and how we want to work because we screwed up.” Upon his release, he felt he “had already been corrupted by all the violence” he witnessed in jail and was “looking for some peace and humbleness,” along with the opportunity to “have a job to take care of [his] kids and be a good role model.”
Young’s involvement with the BWA has been an uplifting experience that has given him hope for his future. “Getting in touch with this organization really touches me because though I am not working temporarily I feel as if it is really going to take me to a different place. What we need to do is focus on the CORI situation. Guys just want to turn their lives around and do the right things.”
Chris Heneghan is an independent journalist who reports on social justice issues. His work appears in Grass Roots Economic Organizer and the Uconn Free Press . He is also the founder of the Wrench in the Works Collective, a radical lending library in Connecticut.
Z Magazine Archive
HUMAN RIGHTS - The U.S. Human Rights Network will celebrate its 10th anniversary with the Advancing Human Rights 2013 Conference, December 6-8, in Atlanta, GA.
Contact: 250 Georgia Avenue SE, Suite 330, Atlanta, GA 30312; email@example.com; http:// www.ushrnetwork.org/.
AFRICAN/SOCIALIST - The Sixth Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party USA will be held December 7-11, in St. Petersburg, FL.
Contact: 1245 18th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33705; 727- 821-6620; info@aps puhuru.org; http://asiuhuru.org/.
SCHOOLS - The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) will host a workshop on the DSC “Model Code on Education and Dignity: Presenting A Human Rights Framework for Schools” at the Mid-Hudson Region NY State Leadership Summit on School Justice Partnerships, December 11 in White Plains, NY.
Contact: http://www.dignityin schools.org/.
ANARCHIST/BOOKFAIR - The Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair will be held December 14, in Eureka, CA.
Contact: humboldtgrassroots @riseup.net; http://humbold tanarchist bookfair.wordpress. com/.
CLIMATE - The World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities is hosting a follow-up event to the 2012 Rio de Janeiro symposium. The gathering will be held in Qatar on January 28-30, 2014.
Contact: http://environment.tufts. edu/.
LABOR - The United Association for Labor Education (UALE) will host Organizing for Power: A New Labor Movement for the New Working Class in Los Angeles, March 26-29. Proposals are due December 15.
Contact: LAWCHA, 226 Carr Building (East Campus), Box 90719, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0719;lawcha @duke. edu; http://lawcha.org/.
MEDIA FELLOWSHIP - The Media Mobilizing Project is seeking applicants for the first annual Movement Media Fellowship Program. The Fellow will work with MMP to produce the spring season of Media Mobilizing Project TV. MMPTV is a news and talk show that tells the stories of local communities organizing to win human rights and build a movement to end poverty.
Contact: 4233 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104; 215-821- 9632; milena@media mobilizing.org; http://www.media mobilizing.org/.
RACE - The 7th Facing Race: A National Conference will be held in Dallas, TX November 13-15, 2014. Organizers, educators, artists, funders and everyone interested in racial equity is invited to exchange best practices and learn about innovative models and successful organizing initiatives. Proposals must be submitted by January 24, 2014.
Contact: Race Forward, 32 Broadway, Suite 1801, New York, NY 10004; 212-513-7925; media @raceforward.org; http://race forward.org/.
VETERANS - They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars - The Untold Story, by Ann Jones, is about the journey of veterans from the moment of being wounded in rural Afghanistan to their return home.
Contact: Haymarket Books, PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-583-7884; http://www.haymarketbooks.org/.
LIBYA - Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade U.S. Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution, by Francis A. Boyle, is a history and critique of American foreign policy from Reagan to Obama.
Contact: Clarity Press, Inc., Ste. 469, 3277 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta, GE 30305; 404-647-6501; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. claritypress.com/.
CHILDREN - Fannie and Freddie by Becky Z. Dernbach is about two bumbling villains who gamble away the savings of the people of Homeville.
Contact: fannieandfreddiebook @gmail.com; http://fannieand freddie.org/.
PROTEST/COMIC - Fight the Power!: A Visual History of Protest Among English Speaking Peoples, by Sean Michael Wilson and Benjamin Dickson is a graphic narrative that explains how people have fought against oppression.
Contact: Seven Stories Press, 140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013; 212-226-8760; info@ sevenstories.com; http://www. sevenstories.com.
CHILDREN - Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is the true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history.
Contact: http://www.harpercollins childrens.com/Kids/.
FESTIVAL - The 2014 Queer Women of Color Film Festival will be held June 13-15 in San Francisco. The festival is currently accepting submissions until December 31.
Contact: QWOCMAP, 59 Cook Street, San Francisco, CA 94118-3310; 415-752-0868; email@example.com; http://www.qwocmap.org/.
IRAQ/REFUGEES - Ten years after the U.S.-led war in Iraq, thousands of displaced Iraqi refugees are still facing a crisis in the United States. The Lost Dream follows Nazar and Salam who had to flee Iraq in order to avoid threats by Al- Qaeda-affiliated groups and Iraqi insurgents that consider them “traitors” for supporting U.S. forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Contact: Typecast Films, 888- 591-3456; info@type castfilms. com; http://type castfilms.com/.
HUMAN RIGHTS - Lyrical Revolt! III will be held December 4 in Syracuse, NY. The event will feature hip-hop musician Anhel whose album Young, Gifted, and Brown was just released. The event is sponsored by ANSWER Syracuse, Liberation News, and SyracuseHip Hop.com. Performers and artists are encouraged to send submissions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.answercoalition.org/syracuse/.
FOLK - Musician Painless Parker has released his album Music for miscreants, malcontents and misanthropes featuring “Fuck Yeah, the Working Class.”
Contact: email@example.com; http://painlessparkermusic.com/.
COMEDY - Political comedian Lee Camp’s new album Pepper Spray the Tears Away has been released.