Thursday, February 13, 2014

A victory for the workers. For the people, For organizing


Carlos and I get ready for the press conference

The cold frozen world continues. Keeps us inside. Kind of claustrophobic. So what’s been going on?
Monday.  Martin comes in to talk. It has been a very frustrating stretch for him. There are things that need attending  to. Issues to be  resolved. He brings passion to everything he does. And he takes pride in his company and its work. And things that get in  the way of his doing the kind of work he wishes to create,in every aspect, become very frustrating. He needs to feel we’re in this with him. And I want to do the best we can to make it work.

RL looks in and I let him know we’re finishing a conversation. And that we’ll pick up later.

Pat O comes in for another look at the bottom line and another discussion hopefully leading to a strategic plan to enlist  the community in raising the money necessary to fixing the fa├žade.


John H and I go across the street to the Bean. We need to review the activity that’s been going on here. The Workcenter.  Dzieci. Bread and Puppet. How can we bring  together all those who  have been drawn to these explorations of archetype, ritual, mystery. And service.  They are common themes.  They are/can be the basis of an ongoing community.   What is the nature of that community? How does it relate to something called church?          

My son Dan is arriving from Philadelphia to help with my unpacking.        

And later, off to Newark to teach.


7:30 AM is a time that normally doesn’t exist for me. From my new place, to get there on time I need to be up by 6.   And if I’m up that early, I should be on a trip somewhere.  But it’s just to City Diner. Center folks. West-Park folks. Community folks. Working on building a plan to make a major capital campaign to support the work we need to do.  We continue to believe that   the community has  special responsibility when it comes to the  landmarked exterior. That part of our building that has been declared essential to the community’s  cultural heritage. Pat O has some good ideas about resources at Columbia grad school.

Mim and I stay longer to discuss plans for another seminary intern to start next fall. Exciting to think of creating what Ted refers to as a teaching campus. That would fulfill a dream of mine.

After my conversation with Mim, I walk up the street to the new coffee shop where Tracy works. I want to talk to her about the victory of the anti-sweatshop campaign over Dominos pizza, a campaign she helped launch. With me. Almost two years ago on a cold wet day. Now she’s running a coffee shop while taking her first courses to be a nurse.  From organizing to serving. In the coffee shop, she enjoys the conversations with the ever shifting cast if characters who come in for coffee. And a word.

Soon enough I’m on my way down to the Lower Eastside for the press conference with the National Movement Against Sweatshops(NMASS) , our neighborhood Sweatshop Free Upper WestSide and Justice Will be Served.  Just like the earlier victories over Saigon Grill and more briefly over V&T’s, this is a milestone victory. It’s the first against a corporation, not just a local establishment. It came with a city wide boycott, not just our neighborhood. It validated the workers’ complaints against their employers.
Cut off the evasive bankruptcy strategy. It was a victory for organizing. And one of the signs of good organizing is that the organizers and workers keep discerning clearly definable and winnable issues. They haven’t lost yet. And each victory builds workers strength. This latest victory is a 1.3 million dollar judgment against Dominos, to be paid to the workers.

We’re in a worker center on the edge of the ever expanding Chinatown even as the core of Chinatown begins to fall to gentrification. The press conference will be conducted in Spanish, Mandarin and English. I look at the array of microphones in front of me. 41, or canal quarenta y uno, and Telemundo, the big Spanish language stations, msnbc, a  Chinese language station and New York 1, the most watched local news. One more small victory.  One more small step forward.

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