Why You Should Join the Socialists

On October 13, 2014 by Mer R

Socialist activist Todd Cretien visited PSU in early October to give a talk titled Why You Should Join the Socialists (click here to listen).
Discussion is not recorded in order to keep the space safe for people to speak freely.

Staples Boycott!

On June 30, 2014 by ChrisW

The postal workers strike again, at staples!  Fighting for the union jobs, and public post offices.   Staples plans to install mini post offices staffed with untrained and non union employees, forcing more postal service closures.  My report is linked below!

Ready to strike for the schools we deserve

On February 7, 2014 by ChrisW
arah Levy reports from Portland, Ore., as teachers take a step closer to a strike.
February 6, 2014
PORTLAND TEACHERS voted overwhelmingly for a strike on Wednesday night, February 5, setting the stage for a walkout–the union’s first ever–on Thursday, February 20, after a waiting period required by Oregon law.
After months of dragged-out negotiations during which the Portland Public Schools (PPS) board has continued to demand dozens of take-backs in a new contract, members of the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT) sent a message loud and clear–that they are willing to stand up for their own working conditions and their students’ learning conditions.
The vote to call the strike was almost unanimous. Almost the entire union membership turned out, according to teachers at the vote.
In an earlier interview, Madison High School teacher Adam Sanchez said:

I don’t think many teachers out there want to strike. We want to be teaching our kids. But what we want even less than that is a contract that’s going to make it so we can’t provide a good education for out kids. And so if it takes going on strike to win the schools Portland students deserve, or at least to win somewhat of a better education for our students than what they’re getting now, we’re willing to do it.

The strike vote follows eight months without a contract for the teachers and an impasse at the negotiating table. The school district made it clear that its strategy was to let bargaining drag on, without conceding anything substantial, to try to wear down the union.
But since the start of the year, PAT members have made it clear–in two “strike assessment” canvassings required by union rules and then the strike vote on Wednesday–that they think a strike is worth it, if that’s what it will take to win a fair contract for both them and their students.
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THE VOTE came on the heels of an electrifying day of coordinated student actions across the city in support of their teachers’ fight for a contract–and to show the school board that students, too, are fed up with the way they have been treated.
Organized through the Portland Student Union [1] (PdxSU), high schoolers at six schools held walkouts or rallies, which brought out hundreds of students. At Cleveland High School, about 600 students–almost half the student body–marched through the streets of Southeast Portland, marching past two local elementary schools and defying police attempts to block them from going down main streets.
As Cleveland junior and PdxSU member Zoe LaDue said:
The district claims to have the best interest of the students in mind but they don’t. Time after time, they’ve made it clear that all they care about is money…The district can no longer push us around. Carole Smith and the Portland Public School Board don’t speak for students, and they don’t speak for teachers. They aren’t the ones in the classrooms everyday. We are done with cutting teachers. We are done with cutting classes. We are done with racially motivated school closures, and we are done with classes that have up to 40 students.
This walkout isn’t only about showing solidarity with our teachers, but showing the district what we’re capable of… If this many people can come together on such short notice, think of what we could do in terms of a strike. Day by day, we show the district how much power we have and how much power we are able to harness. At the end of the day, we shouldn’t be fearing the next cuts to our school. The district should be fearing us!
With some schools holding their first action where there wasn’t a PdxSU presence before, Wednesday was also further evidence of how quickly Portland’s student movement is picking up steam and bringing around newly active participants.
Hours later, teachers arriving at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall downtown for the strike vote meeting were greeted by a sea of community support organized by the Portland Teacher Solidarity Campaign [2].
Despite sub-freezing temperatures on one of the coldest nights this winter, several hundred supporters dressed in blue flooded both sides of Broadway Street downtown to show teachers that the community has their backs. Teachers from nearby Reynolds and Gresham-Barlow school districts, who fought their own contract battles in the spring of 2012, came out to show solidarity. Supporters passed out coffee, while Portland’s Overpass Light Brigade [3] held up their giant electric letters along the street to spell out “SUPPORT TEACHERS.”
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FROM THE beginning of its contract campaign, the PAT has used a social justice union model to energize rank-and-file teachers and reach out to the community for support.
The union framed its demands for negotiations in a preamble titled “The Schools Portland Students Deserve,” [4] after a similar document created by the Chicago Teachers Union to prepare for their victorious strike over a year ago.
The board has refused to bargain over the issues in the preamble, claiming they are “permissive”–meaning PPS isn’t required to discuss them under the law. But by focusing on the broader goals of education justice, the union has made it clear that the contract campaign is about more than just teachers’ working conditions, but their students and the community.
One central issue for teachers, students and parents alike–and one that the district predictably refuses to discuss directly–is class size and teacher workload [5]. Oregon has the third-largest class sizes in the nation, according to a website jointly published by the Oregon Education Association and Oregon PTA [6]. It’s not unusual to see kindergarten and first grade class sizes of over 30 students.
Since the district won’t bargain over class size caps directly, the PAT’s latest proposal calls for the hiring of an additional 175 teachers [7]–the minimum number necessary to begin to make class sizes management, according to the union.
Teachers and community members were further angered in recent weeks when it came to light that the district had an unexpected $29.9 million in revenue [8] that could go toward hiring more teachers and reducing class sizes–yet instead of putting any of this money into the classroom, the board voted to put it in its “reserves.” As PAT President Gwen Sullivan told board members at their January 2 meeting [9], “That’s a lot to stash in a rainy day fund at a time when it’s clearly raining–very hard–on the schools.”
Besides class size, other major issues still on the table include teacher workload and prep time, health insurance contributions, transfer rights, evaluation methods and retirement benefits. The district is demanding some 50 take-backs from teachers, down from 75 originally–and this comes on top of so many cuts over the last decade that Portland teachers have gone from some of the highest-paid in the metro area to some of the lowest.
At a January 27 board meeting, Madison High School language arts teacher Michelle Kenney spoke to why teachers are taking finally a stand now [10]:
In the past decade, I watched as programs and teachers were cut, schools were closed, class sizes ballooned, seat times shrank, and students’ education suffered under the money-saving 6 of 8 high school schedule…
When times were tough in 2003, and teachers were asked to give up 10 days of pay to keep a full year of school, we said yes. When we were asked to give up a cost-of-living increase in 2011 to save jobs, we said yes. When we were asked to delay a step increase for six months to stave off layoffs in 2012, we said yes. When in the same year we had to give up $400,000 of an arbitration agreement to once again keep our own schools open, we said yes…
After years of saying yes to cuts,. because we weren’t in it for the money, it’s time to say no!
- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -
THE STRIKE vote came amid a backdrop of continuing lies and misinformation from the district as it attempts to manipulate public sentiment and create an atmosphere of fear it hopes to use in its favor.
On Tuesday, one day before the strike vote, PAT filed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) complaint with the Oregon Employment Relations Board (ERB) charging the district with “unlawful behavior” for “threatening and bullying Portland substitute teachers who exercise their legal right to decline to work during a strike.”
A district spokesperson had claimed that subs could lose their jobs if they refused to go to work during a strike. In fact, the substitutes’ contract allows them to refuse to cross picket lines as long as they notify the district of this. But PPS’s claim has led to fear and confusion among some subs. “Not only is that morally wrong, it’s against the law,” said Sullivan.
Most subs see the teachers’ struggle as their own and understand the implications of scabbing, since many often rely on individual teachers to call them for job assignments. “It would be like cutting my own throat,” said Kent Spring, a Portland substitute. “The district is crazy to think they will find enough scabs to run the district. They need to wake up and settle a decent contract now.”
According to Ray Amling, chair of the Portland substitute teachers committee within the PAT, “Out of the 780 substitutes we’ve talked to, the response has been nearly unanimous that they will honor a picket line if the teachers are forced to go on strike.”
Aware that it might have a problem finding local subs to fill the over 2,800 teacher positions in case of a walkout, the district has put out offers to “retirees, recent graduates and even previous teacher job applicants who were not hired,” according to a KATU news report [11]. The district is offering to pay $170.76 a day and says it will guarantee five days of pay–a total of $853.80 [12]–even if the strike doesn’t last as long as that.
- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -
PORTLAND SUBS and teachers are acutely aware that this fight is about much more than just their union or their city.
Teachers in Medford, a city in the southwestern corner of the state, are facing similar conditions and will go on strike starting February 6 unless a last-minute agreement is reached. Ironically, district officials in Medford and Portland, by both offering lavish deals to long-distance scabs, have provided another way for union supporters to communicate heartening displays of solidarity–substitutes from Portland solicited to go to Medford are responding with messages of “No thanks! P.S. NO UNION BUSTING!” and visa versa.
Portland students are beginning to organize strike support in case it’s needed. With their own actions, as well as a document setting out their own demands titled “The Schools Portland Students Demand,” [13] students have already impacted negotiations and showed they are a fighting force.
Parents, meanwhile, are also making plans in the event of a strike, compiling information and advice about what to do in case of a walkout, including the resources available for meals and child care.
However, many parents say they would bring their children to the picket line with them to show support for the teachers. “It’s a lesson in democracy,” Betsy Salter, parent of an eighth-grade daughter at Mount Tabor Middle School, told KATU [14].
Getting involved in support of teachers has brought some parents together in ways that didn’t exist before. One group has talked about circulating surveys to fellow parents on the picket line to get a sense of the needs and concerns at different schools–perhaps the beginnings of a “The Schools Portland Parents Demand.”
The possibility of a teachers’ strike comes at a tense time for labor in the city, with many locals facing potential walkouts of their own or struggles to win contracts.
Just blocks away from the theater where the teachers’ strike vote took place sits Portland State University (PSU), where a union for associated professors is facing a potential strike. Last week, PSU students organized a forum to discuss what a professor walkout would mean for them and what their own involvement might look like in a potential strike. A previous “Strikes on the Horizon” panel at PSU organized by Portland Rising brought out over 100 students and community members.
With local high schoolers beginning to build connections with university students and the PAT forging ties with the faculty union at PSU, the possibilities of a powerful movement for education justice in this city are obvious.
A successful teachers strike that forces the arrogant board to back down from its demands for take-backs would have wide-ranging implications for Portland’s labor movement and for the struggle for education justice nationally.
Portland teachers have shown they are ready, and students and the community must be prepared to take a stand alongside them. We need to do whatever it takes to make sure they win a fair contract.
Jamie Partridge contributed to this article.
- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -
Published by the International Socialist Organization.
Material on this Web site is licensed by SocialistWorker.org, under a Creative Commons (by-nc-nd 3.0) [15] license, except for articles that are republished with permission. Readers are welcome to share and use material belonging to this site for non-commercial purposes, as long as they are attributed to the author and SocialistWorker.org.
  1. [1] http://portlandstudentunion.org
  2. [2] https://www.facebook.com/PortlandTeachersSolidarityCampaign
  3. [3] https://www.facebook.com/OLBPDX
  4. [4] https://portal.patpdx.org/files/6013/6865/9839/PAT_Initial_Bargaining_Proposal_summary_of_SPSD_proposals_1.pdf
  5. [5] http://socialistworker.org/2014/01/29/upsized-classes-downsized-education
  6. [6] http://oregonclasssize.com
  7. [7] http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2014/01/portland_association_of_teache_10.html
  8. [8] http://origin.library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1112531363895-95/01.22.14+Updated+Budget+Flyer.pdf
  9. [9] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csismqdeo48
  10. [10] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSYI7JqxgxA
  11. [11] http://www.katu.com/news/local/PPS-contract-talks-Both-sides-meet-with-mediator-as-strike-vote-looms-242932961.html
  12. [12] http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2014/02/portland_public_schools_tries.html
  13. [13] http://portlandstudentunion.org/2014/01/14/the-schools-portland-students-demand
  14. [14] http://www.katu.com/news/local/PPS-contract-talks-Both-sides-meet-with-mediator-as-strike-vote-looms-242932961.html
  15. [15] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0


P.A.T. Rally at the school board meeting

On October 22, 2013 by ChrisW

Here is my video from the rally, showing you the more emotional and empowering side the mainstream media didn’t stay for.


On September 25, 2013 by ChrisW

The union for KOIN 6 is under attack, today I went to the rally, and got this lovely little pice made. BIg thanks to the LAbor press reporter and of course the NABET worker for telling us her story.


Trayvon Martin National Day of action PDX

On July 21, 2013 by ChrisW

A short documentary abotu the rally today. About 1,000 people turned out, and as always the ISO and the CENJC was there!

Boy did I have fun making this, also I throughly enjoy the longer format, I may do it more, the speeches were so powerful, I just couldn’t cut them.

March and Rally for Trayvon Martin.

On July 16, 2013 by ChrisW

Video from the trayvon martin rally and march on sunday at 6pm. thank you all for coming out.

Pro choice and justice for trayvon a busy week!

On July 13, 2013 by ChrisW
Get out and protest.
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A quick follow-up to our last email.

In the wake of the Zimmerman “not guilty” verdict, there will be a Rally, Speakout, and March at 4pm, Sunday, July 14th, and Peninsula Park (N Ainsworth and N Albina).  Justice for Trayvon!  End the New Jim Crow!  No Justice, No Peace!


For context: If you haven’t heard, two big events are shaking up politics in the United States.  Despite weeks of ongoing protest, on Friday the Texas Senate approved a measure that further restricts a woman’s right to choose- banning abortion after 20 weeks and requiring that abortion clinics meet the standards of hospital clinics.  This is a direct attack on women’s rights, and will disproportionately affect minorities and the poor.  We cannot allow these attacks on our rights to continue.  For women to be equal in society, they need access to basic healthcare services and must have the right to make their own decisions about their body.  On Monday, July 15th, demonstrations will be held throughout Texas in opposition to the new law, and solidarity rallies will be held across the US.  In Portland, we’ll be meeting up at 6pm at Pioneer Square.  Bring signs, your friends, and take a stand to say “our bodies, our lives”.

To make this week’s news report even more horrid, a jury in Florida just found George Zimmerman, the murderer of Trayvon Martin, “not guilty”.  He will walk, with no ramifications for the crime of murdering a young black man.  The criminal “justice” system in the US cares little about black lives, and while we see that playing out every day in the form of the New Jim Crow, today’s injustice is nauseating.  Demonstrations are already in the works across the country- stay tuned for info about events in Portland.

While we simmer with these injustices, people in countries across the world are rising up- Egypt, Brazil, Turkey.  If you haven’t been following the news- or if you’re looking for more of an analysis of events in Egypt than “military coup”, check outwww.socialistworker.org for important coverage that helps to clarify what is going on.  Articles last week included multiple statements from Egypt’s Revolutionary Socialistsabout events, and transcriptions of articles by Egyptian activist and writer Hani Shukrallah.

Other countries have risen- when is it time for the US?

Machinists on strike in portland, Also a calendar of events for the new jim crow campaign.

On July 4, 2013 by ChrisW

For a holiday weekend there sure is plenty of news to talk about, fellow workers are on strike in portland!


Also I thought I’d post up the campaign to end the new jim crow campaign as well here.  It’s gonna be a busy month comrades!

Portland Campaign to End the New Jim Crow

Dedicated to building an inclusive grassroots movement to dismantle the New Jim Crow and its racist practices. These practices include mass incarceration, the school-to-prison pipeline, police brutality and the impoverishment of individuals and communities. This effort is led by a broad multi-racial, multi-cultural people and organizations including those most directly affected and their allies.
(facebook – New Jim Crow PDX)
(twitter – @newjimcrowpdx)
July Calendar
Sat. July 6th , 11 – 1pm – Portland Campaign to End the New Jim Crow, general meeting PCC Cascade Student Center, Rm 204
Mon. July 8th , 5:30 – 8pm – Partnership for Safety & Justice – Portland Action Team meeting  (criminal injustice organizing – survivors, convicts & families)     825 NE 20th Ave
Mon. July 8th , 7:30pm – Rally in Solidarity with Pelican Bay Prison Hunger & Work Strikers In 2011, nearly twelve thousand prisoners at Pelican Bay and other California prisons went on hunger strike.  Two years later, none of their major demands having been met, they are again resorting to hunger and work stoppages on July 8th.  The five demands of the strikers are
1. Eliminate group punishment, 2. Abolish debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria., 3. Comply with recommendations of US commission on safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons (2006), 4. Provide adequate food., 5. Provide constructive programs and privileges for SHU prisoners.  See the Facebook event page here.  Chapman Square Park, SW 3rd & Main.
Wed. July 10th , 6 – 9pm – Second Wednesday Parent Gathering- Portland Parent Union, in struggle against “school pushouts” and the school-to-prison-pipeline, sponsors a confidential parent gathering.  Location TBA.  Call503-880-9145.
Thurs, July 11th , 5pm – General Meeting, Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform.  Maranatha Church, 4222 NE 12th (@ Skidmore)/ or Allen Temple, 4236 NE 8th Ave @ Skidmore
Fri. July 12th, 6 -7 pm – Keaton Otis Vigil – Monthly vigil to demand justice for an unarmed Black man killed by Portland police.  NE Halsey/ NE 6th.  On facebook – Justice for Keaton Otis
Tues. July 16th , 5:30 – 7pm – Ending City of Portland Support for Private Prisons  Our City must not invest in an industry that lobbies for and profits from the mass incarceration of immigrants and people of color.  SEIU  Local 49 (3536 SE 26th Ave)  Refreshments provided
Sat. July 20th , 11 – 1pm – Portland Campaign to End the New Jim Crow, general meeting PCC Cascade Student Center, Rm 204
Mon. July 22nd , 10am – Hearing on New Rules for Addiction Recovery Mentors – CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECKS  LET THE STATE KNOW YOU DO NOT SUPPORT THE BCU’s (Background Check Unit) process for excluding people for old crimes, minor crimes, arrests with no convictions, or other exclusionary tactics, etc. Additionally, let them know this exclusionary process has a disproportionate impact on people in recovery from addictions and on ethnic minorities.  Portland State Office Building, 800 NE Oregon Street, Room 1-E

Protestors occupy private airport mail facility; five arrested

On July 4, 2013 by ChrisW
The last post on here was the postal struggle at the airport, and here is an update.
Hope everyone has a dandy holiday weekend, and we’ll be back on a normal schedule soon!


Communities and Postal Workers United                  contact:  Jamie Partridge 503-752-5112

July 3, 2013 (photos attached*)
Protestors occupy private airport mail facility; five arrested
Five protestors, calling themselves “postal protectors”, were arrested today in an occupation of a private air cargo facility slated to handle and process US mail.
“Postal mail handlers and mail processing clerks are losing their jobs to profiteering, private corporations,” declared Jamie Partridge, a retired letter carrier who joined the civil disobedience action at the Matheson Flight Extenders facility, just next door to the US Postal Service’s Portland Air Cargo Center.  “We protest the privatization of the public postal service.  We oppose the destruction of family wage, union jobs and the delay of the people’s mail.  We intend to disrupt this attack on our communities.”
Protest organizers, Portland Communities and Postal Workers United, are demanding that Matheson management pull out of negotiations for the subcontracting of postal jobs.  PCPWU is also targeting postal operations manager, Lisa Shear (Lisa.k.shear@usps.gov 503-294-2206)demanding that she put a halt to the privatization.
PCPWU has been fighting cuts and closures to the postal service for the past year.  In May of 2012, ten activists were arrested occupying Portland’s University Station post office, which has since been closed.  In April of this year, five protesters went to jail for a civil disobedience action at the Salem mail plant, which is now being dismantled with mail processing machines moving to Portland.  In June, the Portland-area USPS District had the slowest mail delivery in the nation — 83% overnight first class compared to the 98% goal.
Postal mail handlers and processing clerks are losing their jobs in Salem as the work is being subcontracted to the low-wage, non-postal, non-union Matheson corporation in Portland.
At the same time, Portland postal truckers are being put on standby while the low-wage, non-postal, non-union Dill Star/ LAPO trucking company takes their work.
“This privatization and union-busting is being carried out in the name of a phony financial emergency,” said Rev. John Schwiebert, one of the protesters occupying Matheson’s facility.  “The security, safety, and timely delivery of the mail are all at risk.  Rural communities, seniors and the disabled, small businesses and low-income communities are hit the hardest.  Postal management needs to stop and reverse these closures, cuts, and subcontracts which are sending our beloved postal service into a death spiral.”
Mail sorting machines being moved from Salem cannot fit into the Portland Air Cargo Center, so space is being leased next door in the Matheson (Asiana Cargo) facility.  But when the SWYB machine is moved into the Matheson space, it will be worked by twelve non-postal mail handlers and six non-postal processing clerks, hired by Matheson.  USPS management says the sub-contracting is necessary to save labor costs in this “financial emergency”.
The “financial emergency” is phony.  Since 2006 the USPS has been forced to spend nearly 10% of its budget pre-funding retiree health benefits 75 years in advance.  No other U.S. agency or private business faces such a crushing financial burden.  Not only would the postal service have been profitable without the mandate, the USPS has also over-paid tens of billions into two pension funds.
In the past year, the Postmaster General has closed 30% of mail processing plants, reduced hours by 25% – 75% in half of post offices, put 10% of post offices up for sale, subcontracted trucking and mail handling, eliminated tens of thousands of family wage, postal jobs and delayed mail delivery.
The USPS own studies (revealed at the March 22, 2012 meeting of the Postal Regulatory Commission), showed that big mailers leave the system as a result of such delays, costing more in lost revenue than is saved by lowering labor costs, not to mention the dramatic increase in trucking costs as mail is transported hundreds of extra miles to be sorted in the closest still open facilities.
Postal workers have seen their wages cut by 25% for new hires.  Bottom-tier Postal Support Employees (truckers and clerks) and Mail Handler Assistants now make less in wages and benefits than the non-postal, non-union sub-contract workers.
The postal service is not broke.  Subcontracting work is unnecessary and costly.  However, the agenda of corporate America, their friends in Congress and in postal management, according to the CPWU, is to cripple the USPS, to soften it up for union busting and privatization.  The USPS is a $65 billion annual business with over $100 billion surplus in its pension and retiree health benefit funds, over 30,000 post offices and 200,000 vehicles.  Postal activists claim that America is being confronted with a huge transfer of public wealth to for-profit, private corporations.
*photos (by Greg Sotir) – 1. Jamie Partridge in Matheson office, 2. “Postal protectors” (from left) Donna Daniels, Marj Hogan, Jack Herbert, Rev. John Schwiebert, and Jamie Partridge  3.  “Protectors” confronted by Matheson employees and police