People Against Injustice welcoming newcomers to projects

by Jane Mills, PAI

People Against Injustice is currently involved in several projects and newcomers are welcome to join us in our efforts.

  • On November 19, PAI hosted Sen. Gary Winfield to discuss upcoming justice-related legislative initiatives. Sen. Winfield reviewed the package of justice reforms just signed into law. Going forward, a promising political climate appears to exist for slashing the prison population; raising the maximum age of juveniles to 20 (from 18); and bail reform, which would attempt to eliminate or curtail cash bail. PAI supports these efforts and will be focusing attention on the design of the Public Defenders system in Connecticut as well as how to boost its resources. PAI is also examining some problems that may be addressed by policy or rule changes rather than legislative reform, such as obstacles faced by minors attempting to visit family members in Whalley Avenue jail, and several rules and practices in the state courts in New Haven related to defendants’ rights.
  • PAI’s NHPD Freedom of Information request: PAI has uploaded dozens of New Haven Police General Orders and procedures to the Internet in order to make these documents available to the public. They are the result of a Freedom of Information request that PAI submitted in October. PAI will be submitting a second request for confirmation of completeness, as the documents, though numerous, do not appear to be a complete set. The public can access, download and even comment on the data here http://tinyurl.com/PAI-NHPDdocs.
  • Upcoming event: In the coming weeks, PAI will be announcing an event tentatively set for late January. To receive announcements, check our Facebook page periodically for an update, or send us your e-mail address. Our url is http://www.facebook.com/PeopleAgainstInjustice. PAI can be reached at peopleagainstinjustice@riseup.net.

Women’s Studies Conference Scheduled for Mid-April

Alisha Martindale, Women’s Studies Program SCSU

Save the date: The 22nd Women’s Studies Conference “#FeministIn(ter)ventions: Women, Community, Technology” will be held at Southern Connecticut State University Friday, April 15 and Saturday, April 16, 2016. Conference sessions will juxtapose global, comparative, inter-sectional, interdisciplinary and inter-generational perspectives for the collective re-thinking on women, community, and technology. Expect serious fun through meals and performance, with women, girls and their allies speaking of their struggles and power. Registration is required for attendance. Please email the Women’s Studies Program at WomenStudies@Southernct.edu or call (203) 392-6133 for more information on registering for this event.

Be sure to visit the Women and Girls’ Fair while attending the conference. The fair will feature a number of local female-centric, female-owned businesses and organizations aimed to introduce you to local and regional handmade goods, gifts, crafts, and more. For more information on how to register as a vendor for the fair, please contact the Women’s Studies Program at (203) 392-6133 or email at WomenStudies@Southernct.edu.

Labor History Legislation Becomes Law in CT!

by Steve Kass, Vice President, GNH Labor History Association

After a 5-year organizing effort to get labor history taught in the Connecticut public schools, the “labor history bill” was ceremonially signed into law on July 29, 2015, by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. The legislation directs the state department of education to make a curriculum available in “labor history and law, including organized labor, the collective bargaining process, and existing legal protections in the workplace.”

Thus, Connecticut became only the third state in the nation to have a bill that teaches labor history in the public schools.

Senate Majority Leader President Martin Looney spear-headed the effort with strong grassroots support from the AFL-CIO, labor activists, 15 statewide unions, and individual members of the Greater New Haven Labor History Association.

Looney expressed the value of exposing students to labor history. “Without the contribution of organized labor and the sacrifice and courage of union activists, the average worker, even the average non-union worker, would have many fewer rights and benefits in employment,” Looney said. “We owe it to the children of Connecticut to teach them about these extraordinary contributions so that they might have an understanding of this critical component in American history.”

Advocates for this bill recognized a lack of awareness of the role labor played in history in helping to create the middle class. Young people today don’t know that it was through the effort of workers and unions that helped give American society the weekend, minimum wages, health care benefits, social security, Medicare, 40-hour work week and unemployment insurance.

Most people don’t remember or know how important the labor movement was in pushing Depression-era politicians to pass legislation that systematizes the basic features of American work wages earners now take for granted. In 1935, President Roosevelt called the labor legislation “the most far-reaching, far-sighted program for the benefit of workers ever adopted.”

With growing income inequality and a declining union movement, this legislation is needed now more than ever to get the untold story of labor’s contributions included in American history. Follow us at http://laborhistory.com.

Arts Build Community: Call for Proposals

by Nichole René, Communications Manager, GNH Arts Council

The Arts Council is pleased to announce the third round of support for creative community engagement projects: Arts Build Community. Artists and arts organizations are invited to submit proposals for projects that actively engage community members in the creative process. We believe that participatory art making experiences can have a profound impact on our community. They can enrich the quality of community life, enhance the lives of individuals, and build connections between people. Small project stipends of $1,000 to $2,000 will be given to selected projects.

Deadline for proposals is January 15, 2016. Successful proposals will suggest project activities and events that reflect an understanding of the community or relationship with target audience. To review the complete RFP requirements and submit your application, please visit the Arts Council website at http://www.newhavenarts.org/seeking-community-engagement-through-art-proposals or email info@newhavenarts.org or call (203) 772-2788.

Previous recipients include: Adam Christoferson’s Inspired Songs of New Haven, a song-writing project with youth, adults with mental illness, and veterans dealing with PTSD; an inter-generational drawing project led by the Free Artists of New Haven to create murals of Latino leaders in Fair Haven; a  project inviting the public to create Symbolic Healing Objects for children at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital; and a series of workshops at neighborhood libraries with the artist Krikko, where community members created portraits of their neighborhoods that will be displayed together as a neighborhood mosaic.
Visit the Arts Council online at http://newhavenarts.org, call (203) 772-2788, like us on Facebook at http://facebook.com/artscouncilofgreaternewhaven, follow us on Twitter @newhavenarts, or Instagram @newhavenarts. #ArtEverywhereNHV.

City of New Haven Board & Commission Membership

by Aaron Good, New Haven Votes Coalition

The City of New Haven has 45 different Boards and Commissions which are filled by over 300 New Haven citizens from all neighborhoods and all walks of life who volunteer to serve the city. These posts range from such highly visible assignments as the Board of Education, the Housing Authority of New Haven and the Police Board to many less visible, but equally vital posts such as the Commission on Disabilities, the Historic District Commission, and the New Haven Democracy Fund. The City is always looking for people to serve in these important volunteer posts. While there is generally no pay, the opportunity for civic engagement can be tremendously rewarding.

Please take time to learn more about the various Boards and Commissions. If you find one that interests you, contact the chairperson and attend one of its meetings.

If you decide that you are interested in serving, you can fill out the application (contact City Hall or www.newhavenvotes.org) and mail it to City Hall (Mayor’s Office, 165 Church St., New Haven CT 06510). You can either express your interest in one or more specific appointments, or the Mayor’s Office can identify an appropriate choice for you based on the information provided in your application. CURRENT LIST OF BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS See: http://www.cityofnewhaven.com/Government/pdfs/Commissions.pdf.

New Haven Energy Task Force News

by Paula Panzarella, ETF

The push for affordable solar energy in the New Haven area has gotten the attention from various companies and organizations. PosiGen, Grid Alternatives and SolarizeCT all offer programs that will help people get solar panels and greatly lower their electric bills.

PosiGen, a solar installation company that specifically includes low- to medium-income homeowners in their target group, will be running a campaign in New Haven starting mid-January. PosiGen’s service includes a free energy audit. PosiGen recently started a campaign in Bridgeport, and has signed up close to 170 homes there, 50 percent of them low- to medium-income. The press conference announcing the beginning of its campaign in New Haven is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 12 at Neighborhood Housing Services in Building #3 of 333 Sherman Ave., New Haven. Please call Kathy Fay for details at (475) 227-0540.

Grid Alternatives has met with the New Haven Energy Task Force and plans to come here in the spring. The City of New Haven is currently reviewing the Solarize New Haven proposal and, once approved, its campaign will also take off in our city.

The New Haven Energy Task Force supports these campaigns and will help with their outreach efforts. These are exciting opportunities to bring solar power to New Haven residents, particularly those who may think that solar is out of their reach due to financial constraints.

We do not specifically endorse any one company’s services compared to the services of any other installer. Interested residents should get quotes from alternative installers to compare service and prices. Before you sign any contract make sure the company answers your questions and explains the process so you know what to expect. Members of the Energy Task Force are available to answer questions about solar that residents may have. Please call me at (203) 562-2798 if you are interested in the process we went through when our solar panels were installed.

Other news: The City of New Haven has officially re-instituted the Environmental Advisory Council. Its first meeting will be in January, the date has yet to be announced. Stay tuned on our Facebook page for more information or sign up for free email updates on this page.

Abysmal: Seymour’s Progress Towards ADA Compliance | Joseph Luciano

by Joseph A. Luciano, Founder, Disability Rights Action Group of CT

To date, Seymour’s post office remains inaccessible to elderly and persons with disabilities (PWDs) unable to climb its mountainous steps to the “public” lobby.

It has succeeded in evading ADA compliance and enforcement twice.  The U.S. Dept. of Justice claims lack of jurisdiction because this post office was built before ADA’s enactment in 1990.  Then the U.S. Access Board determined it also lacks jurisdiction because the steps were constructed in 1917 and have not been altered since the 1968 enactment of the U.S. ABA.   The postmaster refuses to re‑open the ramp at the rear where for years postal workers cheerfully provided services to anyone.

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A rally in May of 2015 at the Post Office in Seymour, Conn., shows the stairs, insurmountable to many, in front of the federal building.

USPS has notified only me that, to obtain service, I must telephone the facility’s “dedicated” number when I arrive at the foot of the steps.  [In practice, (203) 888-3830 is the regular phone number and not dedicated to serve PWDs.]

USPS has ignored my repeated requests that Seymour’s post office should publicize its rules applicable only to PWDs and that it should be required at least to provide signage visible to all customers unable to climb to the public lobby.

Every year since 2012, Seymour’s town hall has assured me that by each year’s end or next spring work would begin to replace broken impassable sidewalks and to construct crosswalks and curbcuts.  These promises remain unfilled.  While new curbcuts have been constructed downtown, two are inaccessible because of steps in front of them, and another is inaccessible because the sidewalk leading to it is impassable.  Also, curbcuts have been provided to access two brickwalks—but curbcuts are absent at the other ends enabling continued travel.  Thus, dead-ends exist—25 years after ADA 1990.

Again, I invite PAR readers to consider signing the petition to ensure architectural access at Seymour’s post office, all other public accommodations, and all state and local government buildings.

Go to http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/seymour-ct-post-office?source=s.fwd&r_by=3363627
Joseph A. Luciano, (203) 463-8323,  DRAGconnecticut@yahoo.com.

Fast Against Fracking

by Melinda Tuhus, environmental activist and journalist

The bad news is that fracked gas pipelines exist and more are proposed all over the country. The good news is the same, meaning the front lines of the battle are everywhere, involving thousands of people – property owners, students, climate activists. Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE) was born in July 2014 when a group sat in and was arrested in D.C. at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), a quasi-governmental agency (funded by the industries that it regulates) that approves gas infrastructure, including interstate pipelines, storage facilities, compressor stations and super-high polluting liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals. We have done three multi-day actions at FERC in the past year. From September 8-25, a dozen members of BXE conducted an 18-day, water-only fast in front of FERC headquarters, demanding No New Permits.

Why a fast? Despite opponents attending meetings, speaking at public hearings, filing comments on dockets of proposed pipelines, carrying out civil disobedience in which hundreds of people have been arrested both at FERC and at various sites – all without having much of an impact – members of BXE determined that a fast would be a different kind of action and could reach the hearts of people in a way these other actions hadn’t. We distributed thousands of handouts and talked to hundreds of people, including FERC employees and even the chairman of the Commission.

I provided logistical support for the fast, including driving the van, writing flyers and contacting the media. We all stayed together at night at a D.C. church. And we didn’t just sit around at FERC – we were very active in supporting other issues and events, like the culmination of the NAACP’s Journey for Justice from Selma to D.C.; a major press conference to support Bernie Sanders’s Keep It in the Ground bill in the Senate to end permitting for fossil fuel extraction on public lands; a climate-conscious Yom Kippur service at the Lincoln Memorial and events related to Pope Francis’s visit to D.C.

No, FERC didn’t stop issuing permits – yet. But we feel we changed the tone of the conversation, solidified our commitment to stopping fracked gas and its infrastructure, and mutually expanded our connections with many other groups like Black Lives Matter, faith-based communities, and climate justice workers around the country.

For more information about BXE or groups in CT working on this issue, email me at Melinda.tuhus2@gmail.com.

NICHOLAS AIELLO, Dec. 14, 1924-Nov. 5, 2015

by Joan Cavanagh, archivist and director, GNHLHA

nicholas-aielloWith great sadness the Greater New Haven Labor History Association records the death of our co-founder, President Emeritus and inspiration, Nicholas Aiello.

Nick was a long time organizer and business agent for the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America Local 125. Raised on Wallace Street, he came from a family of Italian-American garment workers. From a family of 14, Nick had seven sisters, all of whom worked in the industry for years. The pre-union conditions were “horrible,” as Nick described in an interview published in Anthony Riccio’s The Italian American Experience in New Haven: Images and Oral Histories, 2006:

“When New York got completely organized, the ‘runaway shops’… ran to New Haven where there were no union shops. And they would open up a storefront. They’d put twenty, thirty machines on the fourth floor and most of the stitching plants were on the fourth floor with no elevator … Then in the 1930s came the Amalgamated and they started organizing drives in the area.”

Nick also brought his passion as a union organizer to other endeavors, as a member of the New Haven Board of Aldermen, as Commissioner for the New Haven Housing Authority and as a leader for the Greater New Haven Central Labor Council.

In 1988, recognizing the importance of keeping labor and working class history alive for present and future generations, Nick co-founded the Greater New Haven Labor History Association with other labor activists. He was active in the organization for the rest of his life.

GNHLHA will honor Nick as part of our 2016 annual conference and meeting. Tentative date: June 5th.

Capitalism vs. the Climate vs. Spectra Energy

by Dan Fischer, Capitalism vs. the Climate

Early in the morning of Nov. 16, Bernardo McLaughlin of Capitalism vs. the Climate (CvC) obstructed the start of the work for Spectra Energy, locking himself to equipment at a compressor station in Chaplin, CT that Spectra is expanding as part of a massive expansion of fracked gas pipeline infrastructure. Police removed and arrested McLaughlin after he had disrupted construction for nearly three hours.

“I placed my body here because we’re out of options. The political class has decided they can survive climate catastrophe and written the rest of us off as acceptable losses. Nobody is coming to save us. Our only hope is organized grassroots power and direct action,” said McLaughlin.

Spectra’s billion-dollar “AIM Project” creates an incentive for increased fracking, a dangerous method of extracting methane gas from shale fields. Spectra plans to build part of the pipeline, which carries highly-flammable gas, just one hundred feet from New York state’s Indian Point nuclear power plant, running the risk of catastrophic injury to tens of thousands of people. The engineer Paul Blanch has said that a disaster at this part of the pipeline could cause the release of more radioactive materials than were released in Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The Federal Regulatory Commission has said that the Chaplin area construction would directly impact Mansfield Hollow State Park, twelve streams, two wetlands and habitat for state-protected species.

So far, activists have been arrested 66 times in the campaign against Spectra’s pipeline expansion. The actions have had an impact. Last week, dozens willing to risk arrest in West Roxbury, MA, arrived at a vacant construction site. Spectra had abruptly decided to pause construction in West Roxbury until the spring. Meanwhile, Spectra has been seeking $30,000 in damages from three protesters who nonviolently blocked construction in Burrillville, RI, in September. Activists see Spectra’s extreme responses as a scare tactic to deter future demonstrations and as an acknowledgment that the ongoing blockades and lock-downs are effectively disrupting the company’s construction plans.

You can help out with Bernardo’s legal costs at http://bit.ly/CVC-Action.

Excerpts of Letter from US Labor Against the War (USLAW) Nov. 19, 2015

by uslaboragainstwar.org

For the first time since World War II, at the close of a long night of terrorist attacks on Nov. 13, France found itself under mandatory curfew. Since the announcement that France would treat this as an “act of war,” over 150 counter-terrorism raids have taken place. A manhunt is raging, not to mention the bombing of the capital of ISIS in Syria.

The events that have transpired in France are a stark reminder of the violent and challenging world we live in. We mourn the loss of life of our brothers and sisters from acts of terrorism and condemn the violence that caused that loss of life.

We should be clear about where this problem of rapidly metastasizing terrorism comes from. Our problem has consistently been us – nations with power and influence. Instead of using diplomatic means to solve crises, we have turned to military strategies that have lead us farther and farther down the wrong path. Even our president has admitted that using the military to solve this problem seems futile. So killing and maiming many innocent civilians in pursuit of terrorists will likely make things worse, not better. Sadly, the very people we’ll be bombing in Syria and elsewhere hold the key to the solution. It will take the work of the citizens of this region to make their situations better. Anything else will lead to more displacement.

We should also remember that what happened in Paris on that Friday night happens with regularity in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan. These countries experience similar tragedies yet don’t receive the goodwill bestowed upon the French. Most days they are ignored. While it doesn’t diminish the horror and sadness that we should all feel at what Parisians have experienced, it certainly makes you wonder where we draw the line when it comes to human suffering. Are Iraqis, Syrians, Yemenis, Afghans or Lebanese somehow less deserving? We should view a loss of life anywhere just as deserving of international solidarity and support. Anything less is hypocrisy.

[Full text of letter was printed for the Nov. 22 Sunday vigil leaflet and can be read at http://newhavensundayvigil.wordpress.com.]

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