This week Roqayah and Kumars are joined by Olivia Katbi Smith and Sahar Muranovic, two former staffers at the Portland-based nonprofit Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO), where management has decided against neutrality in a fierce unionization battle. Olivia is also the co-chair of the Portland, Oregon chapter of the DSA, and in her previous appearance on the show talked about the state of Israel-Palestine discourse and personal smears she’s faced being a vocal Arab woman in the public eye. Sahar begins by sharing her own background as an Iranian immigrant and her firsthand experience of the Trump administration’s repression when her sister Sara Yarjani, a graduate student in California, was briefly deported to Austria after the Muslim ban went into effect in January 2017. Olivia and Sahar both elaborate on what brought them to IRCO, explaining the nonprofit’s day to day function of helping refugees and other immigrants in the Portland area get navigate social services and, increasingly, legal challenges.
The gang situates IRCO’s issues within the broader nonprofit problem experienced by cities like Portland where social services have been outsourced from the public sector to private nonprofits where workers don’t have union protections and benefits. Olivia and Sahar explain how this dynamic has resulted in an environment of low pay, little transparency and no input from workers that has led workers to demand a union. Olivia describes how she was fired for her vocal support of the union drive, and Olivia and Sahar detail the union-busting tactics they witnessed before they were forced out, including the hiring of a union-busting law firm with a reputation for violent intimidation. Finally, Olivia and Sahar talk about why it’s essential that the people serving marginalized communities are empowered in their own workplaces, and share their hopes for the future of the IRCO union.
This week, Roqayah and Kumars are joined by Christine O’Donovan-Zavada, a reproductive rights organizer in central Pennsylvania. After Christine shares how she cut her teeth as an organizer, she discusses the implications of restrictive anti-abortion legislation that is on the rise, including so-called “fetal heartbeat” bills that have emerged recently in Ohio and Georgia.
The gang talks about the role trigger laws may play in states where abortion restrictions have failed should Roe v. Wade be overturned, thereby making abortion illegal. Christine goes on to describe the chilling effect of these unconstitutional bills, including now-failed Texas House bill 948, which would have not only banned abortion but would have made it a capital offense. We also discuss the Trump administration's domestic Title X gag rule, and how this will obstruct pregnancy options by slashing access to contraceptive care, and deny patients abortion referrals.
Christine describes the restrictions that have historically faced those attempting to access abortion facilities: from the trauma of having to travel some 100 miles to reach one of only 780 clinics in the United States, to the costs associated with making the journey as well as having the procedures themselves. The crew also dives into what solidarity efforts you can engage in, including the National Network of Abortion Funds’ annual Bowlathon, and why the fight for abortion access is an integral part of the struggle for reproductive justice.
Follow Christine on Twitter @queenozymandias.
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This week, Roqayah and Kumars are joined by Kooper Caraway, the current president of the Sioux Falls AFL-CIO central labor council in South Dakota and a Labor Rep for AFSCME Council 65, representing workers in Minnesota as well as North and South Dakota. Before being elected central labor council president at age 27, making him the youngest ever in the history of the AFL-CIO, he worked with the American Federation of Teachers and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. Kooper begins by sharing his first experiences of organizing, including successfully thwarting an ICE deportation raid while still in high school.
The gang talks about the Sioux Falls AFL-CIO’s decision to ban white supremacists from union membership, and Kooper discusses the need to forge lasting connections between the labor movement and community organizers, including the actions his organization has taken to support workers in South Dakota’s Native communities. Kooper ends with his thoughts on the importance of changing the culture of union organizing towards inclusivity and international solidarity.
Follow Kooper on Twitter @KooperCaraway.
This week, Roqayah and Kumars are joined by John Halcomb, a computer technology preparatory teacher at Prescott Elementary in Oakland, California. John is a rank-and-file member of the Oakland Education Association (OEA) and participated in last month's week-long teachers’ strike which resulted in a tentative four-year agreement with teachers will reportedly receive an 11% salary increase and one-time 3% bonus.
We discuss the reasons behind the OEA's 3,000 member strike—from paltry wages, congested classrooms, to a startling lack of school nurses—and how the city's growing inequality has impacted students and staff. John explains how the strike emerged, and the tactics that were implemented to pressure school administration and discourage workers from crossing the picket line.
John discusses why he believes both the OEA demands, and the ratified agreement didn't go far enough. He also stresses the need for sustained political education and organizing among educators between contract fights.