Category Archives: Student

Grad Student Strikes In The University of California System

Grad Student Strikes In The University of California System

"TFSR 11-27-22 | Grad Student Strikes In The University of California System" and image of people at a rally at UC Berkeley in 2020 holding a sign reading "Pay Us Enough To Live Here" with a sabo-cat image (original pic by Jintak Han for DailyBruin.com
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This week, Scott spoke with Rebecca Gross and Robin, Teaching Assistants at University of California Santa Cruz and members of UAW 2865 at the uni, to get informed about the ongoing strike in the UC system for, among other things, a cost of living increase demand for grad student employees and TA’s.

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The strike has extended throughout the UC system and picks up where the wildcat strikes of 2019 at that campus left off before the corona virus pandemic put so many things on hold. Similar strikes occurred earlier this year at Indiana University in Bloomington, are occurring in universities like New School in New York, as well as the system across the UK where the University College Union’s 70,000 members have voted to strike. These labor actions also touch on issues of housing affordability, tuition costs, as well as non-academic staff and employees. Check our show notes for links and social media to learn more or see how you can support or get involved.

Next week…

Next week, we hope to bring you an interview with someone involved in the UCU strikes planned across the so-called UK. Here’s an article sent by a comrade from before the strike votes started.

Sean Swain segment

Just a correction to Sean’s segment on Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, he split with the United Panther Movement and the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (Prison Chapter) to go on to co-found the Revolutionary Intercommunal Black Panther Party of which he’s Minister of Defense. [ 00:57:37 – 01:05:14 ]

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Featured Tracks:

  • To Hell With Poverty by Gang of Four from Another Day Another Dollar EP
  • Fuck Society by Mac Quayle from Mr. Robot, Vol. 1

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Transcription

TFSR: Can you all introduce yourselves with any names and pronouns that you want to use and any affiliations that you have?

Rebecca Gross: Yeah. My name is Rebecca Gross, my pronouns are she/they, and I guess for the purposes of this, I’m a TA at UC Santa Cruz, and I’m also a Head Steward with UAW 2865 for Santa Cruz.

Robin: My name is Robin, I use he/him pronouns. I am a grad worker at UC Santa Cruz. I am currently working as a TA…well, I’m currently on strike, but I have been working as a TA. Yeah, I’m a rank and file member of UAW 2865. And yeah, I guess I’m also a DSA member, if that’s important as well, I don’t know.

TFSR: Cool. Thank you so much for coming and talking with us today. So we’re talking because there’s a strike going on — I think it’s general in the University of California system, not only at Santa Cruz, right? Yeah, so multiple campuses. But maybe we can just start with a little bit of background, what led to the strike? Who’s involved, what kind of workers and what the workers are looking for?

RG: Yeah. So the strike has been building at UC Santa Cruz, specifically, for a long time now. Although this is currently a larger strike than just UC Santa Cruz, the COLA Demand, the Cost Of Living Adjustment Demand, has been brewing at Santa Cruz for three plus years. And back in 2019-2020, we had a wildcat strike that started at UC Santa Cruz.

So when I talk about what we’re demanding, COLA is at the top of the list, because currently our baseline pay is pitiful, it’s $24,000 a year, and that is taxable income. We ended up taking home less than $20,000, after student fees and things like that. We’re asking for $54,000 a year to keep up with inflation and rising rent costs. And the idea is that this would help remove rent burden, and would make it so that grad workers don’t end up spending more than 30% of their wages on rent. And at UC Santa Cruz 54k probably won’t even do that, because Santa Cruz is so expensive, but it will make it so we’re not severely rent burdened. So that’s really what I’m passionate about right now, and why I’m here fighting for this. But Robin, also, you’re an international student, so maybe you also have a different perspective with some of the other demands on the table.

R: Yeah, I mean, just to jump off of that, with the COLA Demand to start out: I think the issue of rent burden is very deeply felt on this campus. I moved here last September, in order to pursue my PhD program and to work here as a TA. I quickly noticed that many of my friends here, particularly, international students, and people coming from further afield, were ending up in these really bad housing situations. In some instances living in the same space as the landlord, and often dealing with, at best, kind of weird living situations, but at worst, even more abusive type scenarios. I had friends who moved out of that situation and ended up living in the Best Western hotel. And this was kind of one of the “solutions” that the university offered to address the housing crisis.

But really it’s not a solution at all because the folks who are living there are still in rent burden, still spending large percentages of their wages on rent, and also not having access to a kitchen. I had one friend from my program, who’s an international student, he moved here from Turkey, and he ended up in the Best Western and was dealing with bedbugs in his room. So, I think this demand, the demand for a cost of living adjustment to increase our wages, such that they’re commensurate with the rise in rental costs here in Santa Cruz, it’s very deeply felt here, but it’s also one that has gone statewide. And I think people on other UC campuses are also feeling a lot of the same crunch that we’re feeling here. I think that’s been really important to how the strike is going to play out, the kind of widespread resonance of that demand, and how the rent burden issue is affecting us all.

TFSR: Yeah, thank you for all that background. And yeah, you think about Santa Cruz and that area and imagine the rents are pretty high. I’m also in academia and whenever I look at contingent jobs, I’m thinking “Will the salary be able to pay my rent?” and it’s obviously even a worse situation for grad students who don’t make even a baseline salary that a one year contract faculty would have.

You know, one thing that just came to mind when you were talking about this is also the connection — I don’t know if you have thoughts on this — but that a lot of these cities now are kind of waging war against unhoused people. And it seems to me this situation that you’re outlining in terms of what students are experiencing is connected to that issue, because I’m imagining certain students are unhoused, living in cars, too. Have you made any kind of connections with people off campus in terms of like work going on to protect unhoused people?

RG: Yeah, I mean, you’re totally right about students experiencing housing and food insecurity and not having, both undergrads as well as grads, deal with this. I can say that a lot of support has come in from the community, because I think that they see this struggle as related to their own. Food Not Bombs, which is huge in Santa Cruz, they are always some of the folks that come out to help us when we need to feed people. People on the picket line will invite other community members from other unions to come speak. Faculty have been very supportive, by and large, because they understand that we can’t afford to live here, and that this could be this is really a pivotal moment, I think the way they see it.

Of course, you have the fringe folks that are like “well, I have to go through it so you should too”, but by and large, I think that this is seen as a community struggle, and one that is dealing with rent burden in California as a whole. And hopefully, once we get our COLA, we can help others get theirs at their workplaces. So, like Robin mentioned, he’s a part of DSA, I’m also a part of DSA, and we’re doing a lot of work in our labor working group to unionize various institutions and make sure that we can share what’s going on at UC Santa Cruz in the COLAs struggle with other members of the community and other workplaces.

R: Yeah, and just to add to that, many of us from UAW 2865 here at Santa Cruz were out there on the picket lines a few weeks ago when the city workers in SEIU went on strike. And that’s really like being reciprocated as well. A number of other unions have come out in support of us, including the bus drivers here in Santa Cruz have refused to cross the picket line. I believe UPS [drivers, as well]. We’ve been trying to link up with other organizations, especially labor organizing, going on in the area to make sure that the COLA isn’t just something that we win as grad workers, but can be something that we sort of help other unions and other movements fight for too.

I could also say that myself and some other people from from our union were out in the past few weeks canvassing for the “empty homes tax”, to try to tax the second and third homes of very rich people that they don’t actually live in these homes, and use that money to try and address the housing crisis and issues of that unhoused people face here in Santa Cruz. So, we’re trying to sort of link up with other movements, struggles, unions, and we’ve seen a lot of that reciprocated, I think, in the past few days, as we’ve gone on strike as well.

TFSR: That’s awesome. Thanks for pointing out all those connections. It’s really interesting to see the solidarity and the ways that you all are moving outside of the campus to do other projects. I imagine also, like you’re saying, if UC does a cost of living adjustment that’s a huge win for all workers, especially in the state, because UC is such a huge employer. But yeah, I guess maybe some more specific questions about the strike, like: how long has the strike been going on? And what has it been like on the picket line? Has there been a lot of repression? And you’ve talked a little bit about the support, but what’s going on there?

RG: Yeah. Well, we’ve officially withheld labor for the last five days. Well, we’ve had a picket Monday through Friday, but the labor itself now has been withheld for I guess, seven. Which is really exciting. This is an open ended strike, which means sometimes when people go on strike, it’s like, “Okay, we’re gonna withhold our labor for three days, and then we’ll be back just to give them a piece of our mind, show them what we’re worth”. But we actually are in a real position of power here because we have no plans to go back to work. And it’s really exciting. I’m kind of getting goosebumps just thinking about it. Because this week is a short week because of the holiday on Thursday and Friday, and so we are going to be at the picket Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and plan to go into the long weekend continuing to withhold our labor.

In terms of the length of the strike and where it’s at, there is continuous bargaining happening between the university and the bargaining teams, and it doesn’t seem like a lot of movement has taken place on the university side. They’re not willing to give us an offer of more than 7% increase in our wages, which would be like $250 extra dollars a quarter, it’s ridiculous. That’s not going to pay the rent, you know? So we’re sort of stalled and just going to continue doing what we’ve been doing until they actually start taking our demand seriously. And this is 40,000 people to be clear, that are on strike, because it’s four different units across UAW: we have student researchers, we have the 2865 unit, which is like TAs, grad student instructors, tutors, then we have the postdocs and the academic researchers. So the huge contingent of the university spread really widely.

R: Yeah, to echo what Rebecca was saying, we’ve just been out there for one week now and we really haven’t seen any movement on the administration’s end toward coming up with a more reasonable proposal to address the rent burden issue that we’re facing. And I mean, my thinking is that we need to dig our heels in and prepare for the possibility of a much longer strike, a more sustained strike, in order to actually force the concessions that we need to see to address the rent burden here.

TFSR: What labor are you withholding? And also is the timing strategic in terms of it being towards the end of term?

RG: Yeah, so currently, the labor that’s being withheld is, for me personally as a TA: I’m not teaching my section, I’m not going to the lectures of the class that I TA for, I’m not communicating with my students about course materials, although if they do reach out with a question about the strike, or about when they can come to the picket line to help, I will respond. And I would say it is strategic in terms of when we chose to go on strike. We had a lot of meetings over the summer and through the first part of the quarter, about this potential strike, having a feeling that this is where bargaining was going in terms of a stalemate. We chose mid November, as Robin mentioned, a lot of us were working on things like the empty homes tax, and we didn’t want to be distracted, or anyone else to be distracted by the midterm elections.

And we also wanted to situate this in week eight of the quarter gearing up for this Thanksgiving break that was coming, and then all of a sudden we’re in week 10 after that. And then week 11 is finals week, right? So this gives us, hopefully we’re not too tired by the time finals week comes and there’s still good energy on the picket line feeling like we can still be there, and we can still withhold things like teaching and grades, and for researchers it’s things like not going into their lab, not reporting their research results, similar things for post-doctorate students as well.

R: Yeah, I’m also withholding my labor in terms of not teaching sections, not attending lectures, not doing the readings for the class that I’m TAing for, and not responding to course related questions from students. Again, we’re trying to keep open like a line of communication so that students have information about the strike, they know how things are going, and they know how to come out and support us if they want to do that. And, yeah, I’ve been really happy to see many of my students out on the picket line over the past five days coming out to support us.

TFSR: You know, you’re talking about how you had support from faculty. I’m wondering, in particular, if you’re TAing, what that means in terms of the person teaching the class that you are an assistant for?

RG: Yeah, it’s a good question. And it’s really different for every single individual that is a TA. Like I’m TAing for a lecturer, which means that he’s part of AFT, the adjunct lecturers union at UC statewide. It’s different than…he’s not on a tenure track, and he teaches like eight classes across four different institutions. He has it rough, right? In terms of shared struggles, I see his struggle as mine and I really do think he sees my struggle as his. They have a no strike clause, so he really cannot withhold his labor in terms of teaching classes unless he’s willing to risk a very real possibility of being fired. And so he’s still continuing to teach his classes on Zoom, which he agrees and he knows is indeed crossing the picket line. However, he has agreed to withhold other things. For example, he’s dropped the class attendance policy. So if a student decides that they want to go to the picket, instead of going to the lecture, he’s not going to discipline them or reprimand them for that at all. He’s also not going to pick up my labor of grading, he’s not going to teach my sections. So there are various things that he’s able to do in solidarity with us.

Faculty have it a lot easier, in that they have nothing to worry about if they’re on a tenure track, or they’re tenured. So I think we’ve had pretty widespread support from faculty, they’ve been marching down everyday with a banner. They’ve been there singing songs, they’ve been leading reading workshops on the line and talking about labor. So it’s been great to see them there and to have their support.

And Robin, I know that you are actually a TA for another grad student and an organizer. So how’s that? I don’t know. How’s that for you, Robin?

R: Yeah. So, in my case, the course that I’m TAing is being taught by a graduate student instructor, or GSI, so he’s been on strike with the rest of us, actually. He’s actually one of the core, kind of most involved, organizers in our union here at UCSC. What’s interesting about those positions is that, so essentially when graduate students here at UCSC have completed their coursework and their qualifying exams, we are actually eligible to teach our own courses in certain instances, in certain departments. My department is one of those. However, the pay for doing that is actually, it’s not a whole lot higher than a standard TA salary, but it’s quite a bit more work. So, graduate student instructors, by and large, have been out there with us, alongside us on the picket line.

We’ve seen a lot of support from faculty, as well, as Rebecca was mentioning. I think it will just be important for faculty to understand that the potential for this to go on for a more extended period of time — if the UC continues bargaining in the way that they have and basically stonewalling and ignoring our demands — that would mean a longer and more sustained strike. I’m confident that faculty will understand the reasons why this is happening. It’s not because we want to be on strike forever. It’s because we need to, to make real concessions.

RG: And I’ll just add to that: if they don’t and they go back to teaching their classes — and I’ve heard some rumors that that might happen in my department, the Literature Department — they’re scabs.

TFSR: Classic.

RG: They’re not standing in solidarity with our struggle and that’s a shame. So we’re going to keep organizing our own folks and other grad workers, and hope that we continue to have the faculty support, but in the case they don’t…it’s not our job to organize them. It’s their job to do that amongst themselves. So I hope they continue to withhold their labor as well in solidarity with us, but at this point we’re really just worried about connecting with other grad workers and saying “Hey, how are you feeling? Are you experiencing retaliation? Like, how can we support you? Can you come to the line today? There’s free food here for you. There’s a community here.”

TFSR: I was just joking that literature professors as scabs is classic. I guess one difference that I hear listening to you is that you already have unions. I know at other campuses where people are trying to unionize, the tenure faculty can often be a huge obstacle to that because they don’t see themselves…I mean, there’s like a real caste system between, tenured, tenure track, contingent faculty, postdocs, all the others that you’ve mentioned who are going on strike at your campus. It seems like you’re saying you don’t have to deal with the faculty because you have your own union, and so they can’t really stand in your way, they can only just show support or not. I wonder, though, what kind of talks have you had with people in advance of the strike to prepare for it? For the faculty.

RG: Yeah, well, my department sent out a letter to our faculty as soon as the strike authorization vote went out, saying that everyone who voted, signed this letter, and basically was like “we really want your support, we would really like for you to cancel your classes”. You know, so there was communication channels there. But just recently, this past week, we saw in the STEM {Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics] departments, in STEM division, some faculty members were basically strike busting, sending out emails to grad workers saying “you’re not allowed to be on strike, because part of your duties are your student duties, and this is a student conduct issue”. That’s strike busting, and that’s not lawful. We were able to really organize around that, because we have our union, and because there are protections when you have a union and you’re on strike. So we are definitely in a privileged position on that front, to have the good union lawyers and all of that. But yeah, Robin, what do you think about that question? I feel like that’s my orientation around it.

R: Yeah. I want to emphasize the faculty within my department have been really supportive so far and have been canceling their lectures and refusing to cross the picket line, and have written letters in support of our demands, in solidarity with us. Yeah, I mean, our focus is definitely on what we can do as grad workers, and getting people out to the picket line, talking to people who are on strike, talking to people who for whatever reason are still working and trying to convince them to join us. That’s sort of been our focus and so far, the response for faculty, I think, has been really good. I think that will continue.

TFSR: The obstruction from STEM is another classic thing I’ve heard in terms of unionizing struggles. But I was wondering, with that kind of argument that they made to the students — maybe you haven’t had to deal with this, because you already have the union — but one of the issues that I think comes up when you’re talking about grad student striking, and even faculty, is the kind of mythology or the cultural ideas about student that that is not work that it’s something different than than labor that can be withheld. That you all are following a vocation that you’ve made the deal to live an impoverished life or something [laughs] so that you can read books all day. I mean, have you had to deal with any of that kind of baggage in the discourse around the strike?

RG: You know, I think it’s really rare if that does happen. I’ve heard a couple folks that sort of reinforced what I call the “hazing model”, which is just the “we all had to do it, so you should, too”. But as Robin mentioned, and to reiterate this, the faculty support, by and large, is huge and it’s there. And also the lecturers support, the adjunct support. In the case of the adjuncts, when you say, “Hey, once we get our COLA, let’s help get you one. Let’s negotiate, let’s help you all go on strike”. The AFT contract last year was in the works of renegotiating and they took a less than great deal at the 11th hour. And when I talked to other lecturers, I’m like, “you know, you shouldn’t have had to deal with that as a grad worker, that sucks. No one should have to deal with being rent burdened and struggling.” So let’s help change that, at any level of someone’s career.

And in the case of the faculty, they’ve been really supportive. These few people that are doing this strike busting stuff… Like we had a huge March and rally and picket in response to that on Friday afternoon. I would say probably 350 to 400 people were marching through the streets and then it culminated in a blockade for a little while that was very peaceful and a great rally down at the base of campus. That’s the energy we need to bring to show them that’s not acceptable behavior. We have more bodies on the ground then than they have, entirely.

R: So I guess in terms of perceptions around intellectual labor versus other kinds of labor, I think we’ve seen a lot of support from, for instance, people involved in the Starbucks unionizing campaigns. Obviously, as I mentioned, from the bus drivers, and from people in the city workers union, who saw us come up to their picket, and now they’ve come up to ours as well to show their solidarity. I think my perception is, yeah, okay, some people may have these ideas about what it is that academic workers do, but by and large, I think other workers in different sectors, different fields, understand that a victory for us will only benefit them as well. And that it’s one struggle.

This sort of question of STEM departments and getting them more involved: I think, compared to — I wasn’t here yet for it — but compared to the Wildcat strike back in 2019-2020, our STEM departments have done fantastic work to get themselves a lot more organized, especially with the formation of Student Researchers United across the UC. Research positions in certain STEM departments that previously would not have been under a union now are with Student Researchers United. I think a lot of the divisions that may have previously existed or unevenness between STEM and Humanities and Social Science departments, some of that has broken down. And we’ve managed to do a better job of organizing across different fields and different different types of work as well.

TFSR: That’s really good to hear. I want to ask maybe a little bit more about the previous strike. But before that, I did have another question about how you’re connecting with other workers on campus who are not professors or students, like the facilities workers, the people in the cafeteria, or even administration?

RG: Yeah, I believe that the folks that are custodial workers and working in food services on campus… there’s a couple tricky things there. One, I think some of them are represented by AFSCME [American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees], and I think might have a no strike clause. This is something I would love to double check with some folks after this meeting and just make sure that I’m correct about that. The other thing is that student workers that work in places like cafes, and cafeterias on campus, they actually are not unionized and have not been allowed to be unionized. So that’s really challenging in terms of enabling them to feel like they can stop work, because, as we’ve already said, they’re also experiencing things like food and housing insecurity, and these exorbitantly high tuition costs. So that’s a challenge. And I don’t believe we’ve been able to effectively organize, getting solidarity strikes from folks that work in cafes and cafeterias.

However, we have succeeded in getting all of the Metro buses that normally go through campus to stop doing that loop. So they essentially get to our picket, they take a left, they go up the road, and then they turn around and go back down toward downtown, instead of going through our campus. So that’s a huge disruption. We also have prevented UPS from going on to campus and sending deliveries during the picket hours. And the last thing we’ve been recently working on is getting construction halted on our campus, and that’s huge. So that’s really an exciting development. I’m trying to think of other kinds of spheres of campus activity, but those three ways have been really, really primary ways we’ve shut it down thus far. Robin, did I miss anything there?

R: I’m not sure if I know enough, honestly, on this question to speak on it. Sorry about that.

TFSR: That’s cool. That was great.

So yeah, I mean, going back to the Wildcat strike in 2019-2020, that was really inspiring and amazing to hear about. And then the pandemic kind of hit and everything seemed to sort of come to a halt. That also was a strike, maybe it’s because it was Wildcat — I don’t know if you have information about it — but it had a lot of violent repression from cops. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the relationship between your action now and what happened before? I mean, you’ve talked a little bit maybe about some of the lessons you’ve learned, but maybe what’s going on, what’s different? Because it seems like you aren’t facing the same kind of repression, at least now.

RG: Yeah. Robin, do you want to take this one first?

R: Sure. Yeah. So I wasn’t here yet for the Wildcat strike — I started my program the year after — but my understanding is that that action really set the tone for demands that are now just more familiar to us all. I think the language of “rent burden”, this kind of understanding that we shouldn’t be spending half of our wages or even a third of our monthly wages on rent, that this is not a sustainable situation, the cost of living adjustment or COLA demand, I think the Wildcat strike was really seminal in creating awareness of these issues, and setting the tone for a statewide strike on all the UC campuses.

I think, from what I’ve heard from organizers who were involved in the Wildcat, is that essentially things just happened very quickly and almost kind of organically in a sense. A small handful of people had been launching a campaign, throughout the fall quarter around the rent burden issue, and all of a sudden the language really connected with people, and the COLA demand really took off. And basically they were getting emails from people that they didn’t even know saying, “we need to withhold our grades”. People were turning up to union meetings and saying, “we need to take action, we need to go on strike now.” What I think is really great is that the organizers who were involved in it reacted to that, they seized the moment and they realized that the time was ripe to withhold labor to go on a strike.

At the same time this time around we just had much more time for preparation and organization. We’ve coordinated it across many different campuses. That gives us a lot more power because it’s not just UC Santa Cruz, it’s across the UC. We have certain legal protections that we didn’t have last time around because it’s a union endorsed strike. That gives us a bit of an advantage and just talking to other workers and addressing concerns that people might have, particularly international students or students who are otherwise more vulnerable. think that action, which is really just kind of a classic instance of workers self organizing at a moment of heightened intensity, and something that just happened very quickly, has really set the tone for what we’re trying to do now. Which I think can be a longer, more sustained strike, involving not just withholding grades — which was the big thing last time around — but withholding all of our labor. I think this time around, we’ve got an even better chance of actually winning a COLA.

RG: Yeah, I agree with everything Robins said and I’ll just add that, in terms of the police presence, it’s been really great to not see the police get lined up in their SWAT gear, which is terrifying and really scary, particularly, as Robin mentioned, for folks that are undocumented, for Black and Brown folks in the community, for undergrads that are just there in solidarity with us. And we’re hoping to really keep it that way. I understand there’s a lot of folks that are really excited about prospects of physically shutting campus down, and that’s fair, and that’s exciting and I’ve been there too. However, because this is such a long, sustained effort, and we’re hoping to be on the line for for as long as it takes to get this cost of living adjustment, we don’t need people that are brutalized by the cops, we don’t need folks going and having to spend their energy doing jail support. We will be there, we will be there if we have to. But if we can avoid it and use another tactic to contribute to our strategy I think that’s really important right now.

Something I’ll also say, this is the cops strategy too. It looked really bad for them last time when they were photographed brutalizing people. So this is, I think, a concerted effort and strategy on the UCs end and on the cops and to not do that right now, and that could change at any moment. So we’re prepared for that to change. We really hope it doesn’t.

TFSR: Yeah, I mean, it’s always the cops decision to escalate it to violence. Not like, yeah that would be the strategy to try to pull the cups out, because that doesn’t really help anyone. In terms of that strike, in relation to this, were there gains that were made? And how do you think the pandemic affected that, and also since it’s ongoing, your current strike action?

R: I know that we won a small housing stipend last time around, so nothing in the order of magnitude that would actually address rent burden. Basically the administration just throwing us a little bone hoping that that would kind of deflate some of the energy that was arising at the time. I’m not sure if I know the timeline well enough to speak to exactly the impact that the pandemic had the last time around…

RG: My understanding is that the pandemic seems to be one of the things that shut down the strike. I don’t know, I think energy was probably also dwindling outside of that. I think it’s exhausting to be on an unsanctioned strike for a month plus, but at the same time, definitely the pandemic, I think organizers were starting to even get sick, not necessarily with COVID, because we didn’t know COVID was around, but people were getting bad flu’s at the end, in early February, which definitely could have been COVID, [sickness was] starting to go around even within the picket. So, my understanding is COLA happens, strike happens, and then COVID starts. But things did come out of it: we also have five year job security, and I don’t think that was across the board in every single department and last time. When I signed my contract, I’m in my second year of my program. I have five years of employment no matter what. Which is fantastic. And that came out of some of the discourse from the Wildcat as well.

R: I mean, I think the biggest thing that came out of it, certainly we did see some small wins, but the biggest thing that came out of it was networks of organization and struggle that were activated that time. Especially bringing students who they weren’t involved in labor organizing, or an activism before, kind of into the fold. Many of those same networks have persisted up till today. That’s been huge for us this time around.

On the question of the pandemic, I wanted to add one thing: I think something important that we’ve learned also, is that in the times of COVID, the picket line is not merely like a physical thing, right? So we are asking people to cancel their lectures, their sections completely, and not to just move on to Zoom, because we moved on to Zoom for a pretty extended period with the pandemic, and we know that the university can still run on Zoom. So thinking of the picket line as not just a physical thing, that’s one important lesson that we’ve probably learned.

TFSR: Yeah, it’s interesting. When I was at NYU, at one point, there was a strike that faculty, to try to stand in solidarity, would just have their classes off-campus. At that time the strikers said that was okay by them, but then looking back thought that that was not really a good decision. So, it’s interesting to hear that with Zoom, too. I mean first of all, it’s labor, but also, like you said, the university knows now that it can function perfectly fine virtually. So it doesn’t it’s not as much of a disruption.

RG: Right.

R: Absolutely. Yeah.

TFSR: We’ve talked a little bit about the tactic of withholding grades, I was talking to someone about that strike who was involved. And they said that that was really powerful. I wonder if you had thoughts on why you think that is. They were talking about it in terms of accreditation and what the university is actually bestowing on students, but I don’t know if you have thoughts on that, and how that fits into your overall strategy.

RG: Well, I will say that this time around there’s been, as Robin alluded to, so much planning, getting ready for this, and each day there’s so much organization that goes into it. So, we haven’t, to be completely honest, we’re not there yet. We’re not necessarily thinking this time around about withholding grades specifically, although I’m sure that in the coming weeks we will be talking about this. But from what I’ve heard about the Wildcat and what that did, it really also linked undergraduate tuition dollars with grades. And that’s not a great look for a higher ed institution to basically just be passing out grades and it really links grades as this commodity that undergrads are paying for.

So, I think from a theoretical point of view was really powerful. But in terms of like the material disruption, undergrads oftentimes need those grades for various things, right? Things that the university stipulates. So things like financial aid, and sure, me saying that could seem like it’s a huge disruption for undergrads — obviously that’s not our intention — but when undergrads come to me, and they say, “I need this grade, because I need to be able to get financial aid for next quarter. I need to say that I passed all my classes last quarter”, I’m like, “I hear you, I’m with you, I’ll help you figure this out. But really this is the university that is preventing you from getting your financial aid because you’re not receiving a grade. They want you to think it’s me that’s causing this problem, but it’s them”. So I think it also produces a tool for us to align with our undergrads and disrupt their business as usual, and say, “Hey, this is disruptive. This is rough. This is difficult. How can we work together to get the university to budge and give us what we need to be able to work and teach here?” So, I think that that’s where a lot of this power lies.

Also, as you mentioned, Scott, I think there is some stuff about the UC receiving certain funding and certain grants, and this making its way into certain end of the year reports and things like that, to clout “oh, we had this many students that passed with flying colors”, whatever. But I think of it more in terms of the ability to connect with undergrads and show them that we’re in the same struggle and this disrupting them is part of our need to collectively disrupt the university at large.

R: Yeah, I would add that, in many ways, I think we, as academic workers, believe in the university’s mission much more than the university itself does. I’m speaking in terms of the administration here. Part of what we’re fighting for is to have more time to dedicate to each individual student, to fostering productive spaces for discussion and that would mean things like smaller class sizes, more personal attention from TA’s toward students. I mean these are all things that we can’t do very well when many of us are worried about getting evicted, or having to choose between paying rent and eating well, or healthcare. And I think we increasingly see this kind of commoditized, or neoliberal model of the university as this product where you pay tuition and then you get grades, right? And I think it’s actually us as academic workers who are on the frontlines of fighting against that, and fighting to provide a much better model of public education for our students.

That being said, we’re gonna see how much the university actually cares about that, through this strike. I mean, it may be the case that they’re okay with sections not being taught. It might be that we have to take this all the way to the end of the quarter, and to the extra leverage that we’ll get from withholding grades. As Rebecca was saying, we don’t know if it’s going to go that far. But we’re ready for it if that’s what has to happen.

TFSR: Yeah. Thanks, both of you, for that. I like the way that you outlined it, Rebecca, in terms of this is a place of potential solidarity between undergrads and graduate students, but clearly the university would try to pin it on the graduate students and say “deal with them, they’re the ones who are harming you”, without at all referencing the way that they allocate their funds not towards supporting the people. I think the way that you describe that, Robin, too, in terms of the time that you have to give to the labor is completely used up by just trying to survive [laughs in an exasperated way]. Anyway, I don’t know why I’m waxing on that, I have a lot I could talk to you about [laughs], but I want to ask you just a couple more questions.

There’s other actions going on other campuses right now. I know New School, I think part time faculty are striking there. I know people in the UK are about to strike. And there’s other unionization struggles on different campuses that I’ve been in touch with people, just wondering what connections you all have to people outside the UC system, if there’s any strategizing or collaboration that’s going on that you can mention.

RG: I haven’t personally been part of these conversations, but I know that last year, or two years ago I guess, when Columbia workers were on strike, there were a lot of discussions happening between folks that were here at Santa Cruz during the Wildcat and folks at Columbia strategizing and sharing stories and experiences and strategies. And then coming out of the Columbia strikes they have now shared their experiences and strategies and what worked and what didn’t work with us. So that’s been great. Also, over the summer, we did like a strike school series. So we had big Zoom rooms with panels of folks talking about their experience. We talked to the West Virginia teachers Wildcat strike that happened…I forget the year to be honest, I have to check that but…I don’t remember.

TFSR: Yeah I’m blanking on that too. Was it before COVID or during COVID?

RG: It was before, I think it was before.

TFSR: It was like 2019 probably.

RG: Had to be around then. And I mean, hearing their stories was super inspiring. So there have been these conversations with folks at different unions, at different institutions all across the country. Other organizers at Santa Cruz have really spearheaded that project. So I can, if you would like more info on that, Scott, I’m also happy to drop a line to some of those folks and ask if they can talk to you about that more.

TFSR: Yeah, I mean, that’s cool to get as many voices in.

R: We had, throughout the summer especially, a few different Zoom calls with different labor organizing projects. The Columbia people and the West Virginia teachers, and I think there was maybe one or two more as well.

TFSR: I know that UC had a pretty strong Cops Off Campus campaign, has that connected at all to the labor strike?

RG: Um, I think it’s huge. First of all, it’s one of our demands.

TFSR: Oh ok.

RG: We’re bargaining for cops off campus.

TFSR: That’s great.

RG: I don’t think I’ve been in any of the Zoom sessions where this has been addressed, and that means one of two things: either I just haven’t been there, or the UC has not been addressing it.

TFSR: Likely.

RG: It could be a combination of both. So this is something we’re bargaining for. And I mean, I see it as huge, because when people ask me things like “well, where’s the COLA money?” I’m like, “it’s going to the cops”. And elsewhere, but if we are to effectively get cops off campus, that budget could easily be redistributed to to give grad workers COLAs.

R: Yeah, just to add to that, I think sometimes in their dealings with us the administration wants to separate out these different kinds of demands. Not that there’s been any movement on the wages thing, either, but to dismiss things like cops off campus, or disability demands around COVID as like “activist demands”, which I think is really quite patronizing actually. And, on our end, I think, as Rebecca was pointing out, we view these things as interconnected. Money that could be spent toward graduate workers and giving us living wages is being directed toward things like campus policing instead. So I think it’s important to keep emphasizing those interconnections even as the line of the administration is to try and separate these things out, sometimes.

TFSR: Yeah, that’s interesting there to make that distinction between a “labor” demand and an “activist” demand.

My last question is just what can people do to support you, from other places, or any ways to connect or plugin if there’s ways that people can help?

RG: Yeah, yeah. I will send you a link to post to the Statewide Hardship Fund, which is going to be something that people are able to apply for if they’re really in a hard place. If our wages get docked and people need a little extra, we do have a strike fund and we do have strike pay from UAW, which is really fantastic that our union has that. But for folks with children or folks that have medical expenses, things like this, we have the hardship fund, so I can send that link over. But in general, I think just finding ways to put pressure on the University. I’m a fan of taking to Twitter, taking to Instagram, you can follow us [on Twitter and Instagram] @PayUsMoreUCSC. And the statewide campaign at @FairUCNow [TikTok]. I think that’s what I would say, is just keep an eye on the campaign.

R: I would encourage people in the community to turn up to the picket line and just come talk to us. Talk to people about their living situations, about our demands, about what is exciting us, what is keeping us out here day after day. And I would encourage people to also talk to their neighbors, their friends, their community, about the strike. Raise awareness and think about what organizations you’re in, what networks you’re in, and can you talk to coworkers, for instance, or people in maybe a community organization, get a letter of solidarity out, that sort of thing would be huge. I would encourage people to just start where they are and try to build some support from there. Yeah, I hope to see people join us out on the picket line, and I’m really looking forward to talking to anyone who comes out.

TFSR: Awesome. Thanks so much for taking the time and maybe, hopefully we can get an update with some really good news about what’s going on. So, yeah, power to you all. Anything that you want to say in closing?

RG: I don’t think so. Just really thank you so much for taking the time and for covering this, having the support from folks with platforms is huge. And I just really appreciate you offering to do this.

TFSR: Of course. Yeah. And we’ll link to all this stuff in the show notes when we post this and yeah, thank you so much.

R: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks so much.

UNCA Radical Rush and Supporters of Comrade Malik Washington

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For a 59 minute long, radio clean version for syndication purposes, please visit the archive.org collection.

Interviews

UNCA Radical Rush

In this two parter episode, firstly we chatted with Beck, a University of North Carolina Asheville student and fellow organizer this year’s Radical Rush Week, which builds off of the model of the UNControllables of UNC and their Disorientation. The hope of the event is to introduce opportunities to spark conversations and relationships to radical organizing initiatives on campus and introduce new students to local projects around the Asheville area. You can find more about this on fedbook by visiting “UNCA Radical Rush”, and find flyers for the week of events at UNCA and around the community including:
Tuesday, the 19th Radical Reflections of Students Past;
Wednesday, the 20th Tranzmission Prison Project & Asheville Prison Books Program packaging event;
Thursday, the 21st Sex, Drugs & Self Defense;
Friday, the 22nd Marathon of TROUBLE mini-documentaries;
Saturday, the 23rd Herbalism as a Tool for Resiliency and Resistance;
Saturday night DACA Solidarity Benefit Show

Supporters of Comrade Malik Washington

Secondly, our comrade and sometimes contributor Disembodied Voice shares several short interviews with members of politicized prisoner Keith Malik Washington’s support team.

Comrade Malik, as he is known to his friends and supporters, is currently in solitary confinement in Texas at Eastham Unit, where he was placed as retaliation for coordinating a work stoppage during last year’s nationwide prison strike on September 9th. In addition to his work around the End Prison Slavery movement, Malik is a member of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee of the IWW and the Deputy Chairman of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party prison chapter, and is active in the Fight Toxic Prisons campaign.

Malik has an extensive network of support nationally and even internationally, both within and outside of the anarchist community. The interviews we will share today show the diversity of backgrounds, motivations, and stories that go into forming a support network for those engaged in revolutionary struggle while incarcerated, which is to say, from behind enemy lines. The conversations cover a wide range of topics, including a look at the range of issues prison activists like Malik work around; the kinds of relationships prison activists form with their supporters on the outside; the importance of being in solidarity across identities and political labels; and what a revolutionary abolitionist movements means to the people doing this work.

As Malik would say: DARE TO STRUGGLE. DARE TO WIN. ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE.

You can view Malik’s work at comrademalik.com and write to him directly at:

Keith ‘Comrade Malik’ Washington
TDC#: 1487958
Eastham Unit
2665 Prison Road #1
Lovelady, TX 75851

The audio for these interviews is a bit rough because the interviews were done somewhat on the fly. Stay tuned (look for?) a transcript of these interviews in order to make comprehension a bit easier! It should come out sometime within the next two weeks.

B@d News!

Dear listeners, we would like to invite you to give a listen to the newest edition of the International Anarchist Radio Network’s monthly podcast, B(A)D News: Angry Voices From Around The World, fresh for September 2017. This 4th episode, available at our website, is about 45 minutes of updates from projects based in the UK, Chile, Greece, the Aegean Sea, Germany, El Salvador and from us!

Additionally,

Feel free to give a listen to ARadio Berlin’s Charlottesville reportback episode, done with none other than your host William Goodenuff. This was geared toward an international audience, so the news may not be new to a US based listening crowd, but if you want to hear why one of your hosts has been a lil absent for a sec, this is why. Everything’s fine tho, and I’ll be back to opine over the airwaves next week.

Show playlist is here.

An interview with a member of Koko Lepo – an autonomous youth collective in Belgrade -, an update on AntiFenix, and words from Sean Swain

Koko Lepo – Belgrade, Serbia

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This week we feature an interview with Freddy, who is a member of the autonomous youth collective in Belgrade, Serbia known as Koko Lepo. We speak about the origins of the collective as growing out of a self organized kindergarten primarily for Roma children, about solidarity between anarchists and Roma people in Belgrade, about some history of the region, and about the complex nature of solidarity itself.

 

It should be mentioned though, that due to a very unfortunate technical error, we lost the final 13 or so minutes of this interview, many apologies both to you – dear listeners – and to our guest. Just to give you a broad picture of what we talked about, we touched a bit more on the complex nature of actual solidarity, and made the point that sometimes so called “real” solidarity can look somewhat ordinary or boring. We also spoke more about the tour that Freddy just concluded with a stop in Asheville, and about challenges that the various audiences brought to the talks he did, in particular the question of race, racism, and ally complexes. Our guest brought up the point that there have been various conversations about this topic in the US that have not happened – or have not happened in the same way – as they have in Belgrade. He was particularly excited to engage with American audiences about this issue, and said a lot of really cool and poignant things which we are unfortunately unable to share with you. Though if you would like to write to this project you can email them at kokolepo(aat)riseup.net and get in touch with them on facebook by searching kokolepoav

However, all of this perhaps gives us the opportunity to share more in depth than we may originally have been able some of the musical projects that our guest recommended. It also bears mentioning that mutual aid in the form of money donations most often happen for this project in the form of music shows, punk, metal, hardcore, or other varieties. If you feel so moved to, please feel free to make a solidarity show in your town!

The first project we’ll share is a Roma language hip hop project called Lord Kastro with Djelem Djelem. The next is a track from a hardcore project called Katma, the singer of which is one of the co-founders of the original kindergarten. The third is another track from Gipsy Mafia (an antifa Roma hip hop group, a track from which opened up the show as well) with “Ava Kari”.

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Announcements

Operation Fénix

Here is an update from comrades in Czech Republic:

On Friday 5-27-2016 in Pankrác remand prison anarchist Martin Ignacák accused of terrorism went on hunger strike. He did this because on 4-29-2016 the City court in Prague ruled in favour of his release from remand and the state’s attorney appealed this decision to the High court in Prague. On friday 5-27-2016 the High court in Prague extended the remand. Therefore the anarchist has decided to protest by going on hunger strike and has stopped taking in nutrition and liquids. This type of hunger strike threatens the life of the hunger striker after a week.

During the year long investigation of the preparation of a supposed terrorist attack the imprisoned anarchist has exhausted all legal options, to achieve objective procedure of the respective organs active in the criminal proceedings. None of them were taken into account. This is why he now chose this radical form of expression, to draw attention to this manipulated police case. “I consider the approach of the investigators and the police to be very problematic, it is a threat to the freedom of every human being, a threat to freedom of speech, a threat to activism that tries to lead to a better world , and this doesn’t just involve anarchists.”

Martin has been prosecuted in the so called Fénix case since April 2015, in which 5 people altogether were accused of the preparation and the failure to notify of a terrorist attack on a train. Martin is the only one who has been in remand prison this whole time and his detention has now been extended after the intervention of the state’s attorney. As a reason for the extension of remand the state’s attorney used the testimony of a police agent who infiltrated the anarchist movement in 2014. From his testimony the state’s attorney drew the conclusion that Martin might attempt to escape to Spain. Another reason, according to him, was that Martin “is connected to the so called Sít revolucních bunek/ The Network of Revolutionary Cells (SRB) and therefore also to similar organizations abroad.” The police spoke about SRB when they began Fénix and provided information to the media.” Any connections between the 5 attacks ascribed to SRB and all the detained and accused have been refuted. The investigators themselves have ruled it out” says Martin.

At the moment Martin is the second longest detained prisoner in the Pankrác remand prison. For 13 months he has been living there under conditions that negatively affect his psychological and physical state. For example he has been refused food free of animal products, which means he practically doesn’t have access to hot food. Friends, who have come to visit him have been mentioned by name in the indictment. Police from the Department for combating organized crime have started to collect information on Martin’s sister, only because she tries to support her brother in whichever way she can.

For Martin parole would mean that after 13 long months he would again see his friends, family, nature, that he wouldn’t be exposed to emotional deprivation and physical hardship.

Update Sunday, May 29th: Martin’s sister Pavla B. joined her brother in the protest and this morning she has started hunger strike herself as well.

For more information follow https://antifenix.noblogs.org/

Our past interviews on AntiFenix can be found here: https://thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org/?s=antifenix

. … . ..

playlist

UNControllables: UNC Chapel Hill anarchist student group on organizing, austerity & community

UNControllables

https://www.facebook.com/carolinaUNControllables
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This week, Bursts spoke with members of the University of Chapel Hill-based student group called The UNControllables. Created in 2012, the UNControllables regularly present anarchist, feminist, anti-racist and anti-authoritarian presenters from around the world to speak to the student body and members of the community, organize around student issues, incarceration, reproductive health, and much more. For the hour, members of the group talk about what they’ve done and upcoming events they’ll be hosting, in particular an upcoming event with CeCe McDonald, a Black Trans Woman & LGBTQ activist who went to prison for defending herself against a hate attack by a white man with a swastika tattoo on his chest and served about 19 months. She’ll be at UNC Chapel Hill at the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture & History for free on Monday, March 21st at 7pm. Check the UNControllables’s fedbook page for details and updates.

A major focus of the discussion is the student and faculty opposition to the incoming president of the UNC systems, Margaret Spellings (#SpellCheck) this Tuesday at 11AM. The UNControllables knew of students at 7 of the 17 universities in the UNC system where student walkouts would lead to teach-ins and or protests around privatization of education and university services, threats to the continued cultures of Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU) and Native Universities in the UNC system. Spellings past as former Secretary of Education under President George W. Bush and was a prime mover in the No Student Left Behind project, a former Senior Advisor at the Boston Consulting Group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a former Board member of the University of Phoenix (facing lawsuits by former students), advisor to Ceannate (a for-profit student loan collection agency)… wow. There’s also a discussion of current relations between UNC system and faculty, adjuncts and employees in these times of growing precarity. Aramark Industries, which provides “services” within the many prisons, detention centers and jails around the U.S. produces the food at UNC Chapel Hill, interestingly.

Some faculty and adjuncts in the UNC system have been organizing under the name of Faculty Forward – NC.

We also present a couple of announcements:

Anarchist prisoner Eric King has accepted a non-cooperating plea deal, which he;ll sign on March 3rd. If you’re in Kansas City, MO & want to attend his hearing on Thursday at 1:30pm (or for other updates on his case) check out http://supportericking.wordpress.com

A request for letters supporting parole for accused former Black Liberation Army militant and New Afrikan activist and accupuncturist, Dr. Mutulu Shakur (written by the doctor) is up on http://mutulushakur.com along with information of his recent denial of release after serving 30 years since his arrest on February 12th, 1986.

Thursday, March 3rd at 6pm at Firestorm , 610 Haywood Rd, Asheville, NC 28806, the Political Prisoners Letter Writing Night will be holding a do-over for the January 22nd Trans Prisoner Day of Solidarity letter-writing night that was cancelled due to snow storms. Envelopes, paper, pens & postage will be provided. Check out the facebook event put on by Tranzmission Prison Project for more details.

Finally, there is a request for folks to seign a petition to Attorney General Loretta Lynch on behalf of Eddie Africa of the Move 9 following his 2 year hit during his recent parole hearing. The petition demands a federal investigation into the injustice and endangerment faced by the Move 9 To check it out, go to http://causes.com/campaigns/92454-free-the-move-9

Playlist

Breaking Loose: a conversation with Ron Sakolsky

Ron Sakolsky on Surrealism & Anarchy

http://littleblackcart.com/books/anarchy/breaking-loose
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This week’s episode features a conversation with Ron Sakolsky. Ron is a poet, an anarchist, a surrealist, a pirate radio broadcaster and author and more. Recently, Little Black Cart published a small book by Ron Sakolsky entitled Breaking Loose: Mutual Acquiescence or Mutual Aid? The essay is an anarcho-surrealist critique in which Ron levels a challenge to readers to move past (or break free) from the limitations we internalize from engaging with and within (as well as with others within) the systems of domination. In the conversation, Ron revisits the essay, breaks down some terminology and eggs the listener on to exercise their imagination and act from places of inspiration to apply direct action against the status quo. The essay it’s built off of can be found in Modern Slavery #1.

During the hour, we discuss that book, we chat about radio and Ron’s 30 years of radio experience starting in college radio in IL, later involved in the pirate station called Black Liberation Radio, publishing and promoting the building of micro-broadcast transmitters, and currently with Radio Tree Frog in the forests of Coast Salish Territories AKA British Colombia. He contributed to and edited the titles Seizing The Airwaves: A Free Radio Handbook (AK Press, 1998) and Islands of Resistance: Pirate Radio in Canada (New Star Books, 2010). A sample of featuring mostly content from the “Old Pal” show on Tree Frog radio is found here: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=tree+frog+radio&t=ffsb&ia=videos&iai=CACQMFIi9Pk

But first this announcement:

From The International Coalition to Free The Angola 3 we have some breaking news on Albert Woodfox, aka Shaka Cinque. From Friday, April 19, 2016:

“Just moments ago, Albert Woodfox, the last remaining member of the Angola 3 still behind bars, was released from prison 43 years and 10 months after he was first put in a 6×9 foot solitary cell for a crime he did not commit. After decades of costly litigation, Louisiana State officials have at last acted in the interest of justice and reached an agreement that brings a long overdue end to this nightmare. Albert has maintained his innocence at every step, and today, on his 69th birthday, he will finally begin a new phase of his life as a free man.

In anticipation of his release this morning, Albert thanked his many supporters and added: “Although I was looking forward to proving my innocence at a new trial, concerns about my health and my age have caused me to resolve this case now and obtain my release with this no-contest plea to lesser charges. I hope the events of today will bring closure to many.”

Over the course of the past four decades, Albert’s conviction was overturned three separate times for a host of constitutional violations including prosecutorial misconduct, inadequate defense, racial discrimination in the selection of the grand jury foreperson, and suppression of exculpatory evidence. On June 8th, 2015, Federal Judge James Brady ordered Albert’s immediate release and barred the State from retrying Albert, an extraordinary ruling that he called “the only just remedy.” A divided panel of the 5th Circuit Court of appeals reversed that order in November with the dissenting Judge arguing that “If ever a case justifiably could be considered to present ‘exceptional circumstances’ barring re-prosecution, this is that case.” That ruling was on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court when news of his release broke.

On behalf of the Angola 3 – Albert Woodfox, Robert King, and in memory of Herman Wallace – we would like to sincerely thank all the organizations, activists, artists, legal experts, and other individuals who have so graciously given their time and talent to the Angola 3’s extraordinary struggle for justice. This victory belongs to all of us and should motivate us to stand up and demand even more fervently that long-term solitary confinement be abolished, and all the innocent and wrongfully incarcerated be freed.”

For our 2014 interview with Malik Rahim about the case of the Angola 3, check out our blog

Playlist

#LibertaDiDimora: Hobo, Repression and Autonomia around the University of Bologna, Italy

hobo-bologna.info
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This week’s episode features a conversation with Francesca. Francesca is a student at the University of Bologna in Italy and is one of the people at the center of a wave of repression in response to ongoing autonomous organizing inside and outside of the University. The University of Bologna is the oldest, continuously operating public University in the world. Francesca is also a member of the Hobo collective, which runs an autonomous social space inside of the Poli-Sci department of the University.

In December of last year, after numerous marches and interventions around the city and university on a range of issues such as immigrant rights, precarity of employment, underpaying of university workers, increased cost and decreased quality of services at the university, affordable housing, the censure of political dialogue and more, the District Attorney of Bologna had Francesca and 5 comrades arrested as a preventative measure in order to stop their organizing and to terrorize the students and militants of the area. 4 students have been placed on house arrest in Bologna, making it quite difficult to make ends meet economically, and 2 were exiled from the city, thus cutting short their educational career. In response, a campaign called “#LibertaDiDimora”, which translates to freedom of home, was launched to respond to the repression of the 6 comrades and to continue struggles around freedom of movement and housing issues inside and outside of the university. More on student organizing around the world at http://commonware.org/

For the hour, we’ll be speaking with Francesca about her case, the campagn, the Autonomia movement which Hobo is alligned with, the monetization of education, precarity, internships, immigration in Italy, squatting and more. More at http://hobo-bologna.info

But, first a few announcements.

In the wake of the tragic murder of nine African American bible study members on June 17th, 2015 at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church by a white supremacist their was an outpouring of grief and solidarity expressed around the world. This was followed by a series of protests and direct-action removal of the Confederate Battle Flag from the capital grounds in Colombia, South Carolina. The pressure built in other Southern States to remove the CSA Battle flag from their state flags resulting in blowback from some white folks to the removal of this “heritage” symbol that means oppression to so many others. Subsequent to the killings and flag debates, at least 6 black churches were torched between June 22nd and June 29th around the South East. Churches in: Knoxville, TN; Macon, GA; Charleston, SC; Elyria, OH; Tallahassee, FL. To top this, and never to lose an opportunity to display their pointy heads, the Klu Klux Klan has decided to call for a rally on the steps of the South Carolina State House on July 18th at 3pm and just as the racists will be coordinating to show up at the rally, so are anti-racists and regular-ass folks around the region. There are all sorts of calls for participation in all sorts of ways to counter a public display of hatred by the KKK. I hope to see y’all there. http://columbiascdemocallout.tumblr.com/

In a perfect segway, the next evening, July 19th 2015, folks are invited to come to the new location for Firestorm Books & Cafe at 610 Haywood Rd for a presentation by Saralee Stafford & Neal Shirley on their book, Dixie Be Damned: 300 Years of Insurrection in the American South. For our conversation with the Shirley & Stafford, check out this link.

A reminder to listeners with graphic talents, we’re soliciting designs for stickers, posters and more. The artists who’s designs are selected will receive a few prizes from our freeboxes (actually, some tee shirts and literature). We’re looking for the name of the show, our website and images that may reflect the project. We’re hoping it can be a tool for better advertising the project and getting more folks involved. You can email designs in pdf format to thefinalstrawradio(aat)riseup( dott)net or send them in physical form to, again:
The Final Straw
C/o Ashevillefm
864 Haywood Rd
Asheville, NC 28806

Finally, I’d like to give a brief shout out to some other audio & video projects that have been kicking out the jams of late. If you’re familiar with The Final Straw, you may have heard some of their names on our 4th Anniversary show last year.

Check out the Free Radical Radio at http://freeradicalradicalradio.net for a mostly weekly mix of commentary, comedy, critique and always witty reparte.

For great action updates, audio documentaries, reviews and more, Crimethinc’s podcast called “The Ex-Worker” is not to be missed. You can find episodes at http://crimethinc.com/podcast, along with links and transcripts of the episodes.

WhichSide Podcast, which features hosts Jeremy Parkin & Jordan Halliday, did a great interview with Kevin Van Meter, contributor to the book “Life During Wartime”. Regular episodes feature chats on anarchism, activism, animal liberation, veganism and more. More can be found at http://whichsidepodcast.com.

Finally, I want to give a shoutout to The Stimulator & his f-ing show, It’s The End Of The World and We Know It (And I Feel Fine) for riot porn, interviews, commentaries, updates and stunning images and movie references. More from that project at http://submedia.tv

Playlist

Che Café still stands & Confrontations with Nazis in Olympia, WA

http://thechecafe.blogspot.com/
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This week we have three segments for the audience.

First, we bring you segment from Sean Swain, an anarchist prisoner in the Ohio prison system. You won’t be hearing Sean’s voice on this recording despite Sean having his communication reinstated. The segment is about calls by members and supporters of the Free Alabama & Mississippi Movement of incarcerated workers for a boycott of McDonalds due to some of their exploitation of prison labor. More on FAMM can be found at https://freealabamamovement.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/f-a-m-s-step-3-mcdonalds-initiative-s-to-p-the-school-to-prison-pipeline/

Next, William spoke with folks involved in the struggle to save the Che Café, a social space present on the University of California in San Diegos La Jolla campus. The Che Café is a 25 year running co-op space and venue that is now in danger of eviction by the University and is currently squatting their location. Check out the website for The Che Café http://thechecafe.blogspot.com. What you’ll hear is an anonymized version of the conversation for the safety of those in struggle with the campus. Thanks to the folks at the Ex-Worker for putting us in contact with the folks at the Café. You can find the text from William’s conversation later in this post.

Finally, Bursts & William spoke with an anarchist resident of Olympia, Washington about the shooting of Bryson Chaplin & Andre Thompson, two unarmed young Black men by Officer Ryan Donald of the Olympia PD and some events that followed. Chaplin & Thompson, in two incidents on the night of the 20th of May, shot and seriously injured the men for allegedly trying to steal beer from a convenience store. The men were shot in the back, Bryson Chaplin being left paralyzed from the waist down. Over the next few days, rallies took place under the monicer of Black Lives Matter with hundreds entering the streets of Olympia. In response pro-cop rallies under the name of Blue Lives Matter (not a pro-smurf movement, sadly), in small numbers, countered the anti-murder demonstrations. As time went on, White Supremacists became more visible in attendance, which the police tried to distance themselves officially from. As more White Supremacists, some openly carrying guns, attended these events an Anti-Fascist march was called for. This escalated into the night of May 30th when police held back their presence and the anti-fascist march collided with the White Supremacists, including armed Citizens Patrols Militia members, Neo Nazis, and Third Positionists. As conflict ensued, the racists were chased from the streets of Olympia for the night and their manifestation has been resisted by Anti-Fa patrols. We spend a good portion of the hour talking about police power, institutional White Supremacy, anti-fascist organizing and some of the potential pitfalls of de-centering struggle away from a critique of institutional power and towards the fringe reactionaries.

Related-ly, there has been a call-out for folks to engage in the July 25th 2015 International Day of Solidarity with Antifascist Prisoners. From the call-out:

“Antifascists fight against those who—in the government or in the streets—dream of imposing their fascist and other Far Right nationalist nightmares on the rest of us. Throughout the world, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, and racist bigotries are on the rise. Antifas are on the frontline in confronting these reactionary politics, and we will not forget our comrades imprisoned in the course of this struggle.”

More can be found at nycantifa.wordpress.com

Also, to relate this to local issues to Asheville North Carolina, well-known character from the so-called National Youth Front, Daxter Reed has been attempting to recruit at our local community college, ABTech as well as around town and in the punk and metal scene. The goofball even tried to show up at the May Day rally holding a sign for NYF and was summarily run off. It should be made apparent that these nazis and their foolish antics are not welcome here.

First, though, The Final Straw is soliciting folks in the audience with design skills to submit sticker and poster designs to us. We’re hoping these stickers and posters can make their way out to bookfairs, conventions, manifestations and the walls and un-smashed windows of the world, widening our audience and spreading some audio-anarchy further. We’re looking for the designs to include the show name, our website at thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org and either imagery or words pointing to the nature of the show. If you have a design, you can send a mockup or completed version to thefinalstrawradio(at)riseup(doot)net in pdf format. Designers of chosen images will receive some free swag from the Anarchyland.

Playlist

Script from Che Café conversation
William Goodenuff : First of all will you talk about the history of the che cafe?

Che Cafe : The Che café actually started as the Coffee Hut in the late 1960s. The project to build the café cost 15k and was funded by student fees alone. It was the first student center at UCSD that was both student funded and student run. It hosted and continues to host discussions that facilitate brainstorming of marginalized/non-main stream issues (race, social justice, climate change, non-hierarchical forms of student government, etc…)
CC : It had two main roles:
CC : 1) it was the campus social center where student group of all political persuasions and interests hung out and had discussions
CC : 2) the collective is an incubator for cutting edge, non-mainstream thought, and gave birth to innovative ideas and practices
CC : it’s also important because it’s a safe space where all students were and still are welcome to hang out
CC : especially at a time where oppressed peoples where facing violence. One example was where people in the lgbt+ community were facing violence. The Che held a series of lgbt sponsored non-sexist dances in the 80’s, providing a safe place where it didn’t exist elsewhere

WG : Gotcha, I wanna talk about safer space in a minute, but just to give some context will you describe the space for listeners who have never been there, is it more like a show space or do people live there too? Is it still a cafe?

CC : Do you want us to describe the space as it is currently or also as it has been historically?

WG : I was thinking more in terms of how it is today, just how it looks and feels to be there for the benefit of folx who haven’t seen it.
WG : But also if historical cues make sense I’d be into hearing that!

CC : Before the occupation, it was more of a hardcore punk venue for music. But with the occupation, it has expanded to become so much more

WG : What occupation do you mean?

CC : Well, the UCSD administration is trying to evict and destroy the Che Café. They served the eviction on march 23rd and we’ve been occupying the Che in resistance since then. 93 days and counting.

WG : Oh shit I didn’t know that there was an occupation!
WG : How has it changed since then?

CC : Regarding the events we’ve had since the occupation
CC : we’ve expanded our programming tremendously
CC : we’ve had political meetings. For example, hosting the IWW
CC : We’ve also had workshops, like zine making workshops, feminist workshops, vegan cooking workshops. And something called Fem Fest, which is a feminist centered festival. Speakers from all over have come to speak at the Che. We’ve hosted workshops with Synchronized Cycle, a feminist bike collective. We’ve had circle discussions talking about issues affecting the people. We had music events, such as Che Fest, which was an all day music festival. Bands played inside and outside, upwards of 20 bands played. Hardcore and Indie and Surf Punk.

We’ve also had movie nights, ranging from light hearted movies to serious documentaries, with discussions after documentaries, student film nights, documentaries made here, queer/feminist film nights

As far as music shows, for awhile, we stopped doing shows because we thought it would help our case with the university. The strategy killed momentum but it made us less of a threat. When we started doing shows again, the university started threatening us again. We had university security watching us.

We’ve painted the Che, touched up Mario Terero. He painted a lot of the murals. He’s a well known Chicano muralist and did some of the murals on the building. Students have also painted murals. One member of the collective wants to do a mural of a lot of Chicana feminist writers that have a lot of influence on the Chicano identities. The Che has always been a place for marginalized peoples, including Chicano people.

We’ve done record swaps, there aren’t many all-ages record swaps in the area. The Che has always been a space for all ages to be included.

There have also been open mic nights and poetry readings. This has been a recent thing that a lot of people have gotten more and more engaged with. We have prominent poets in San Diego and Los Angeles who will be featuring at the Che on July 24th

There’s also something that happens called the Co-op prom or Safe Space Prom: Co-op prom happens every year for all the members of all the co-ops on campus. Co-op members are super connected and this is yet another form of social bonding for us that can happen in a safe space with lots of political unity.

We also have Meatless Mondays: They’re nice because they get a lot of students to come to the Che. It’s really nice to have students out here. We used to sell vegan donuts and coffee. A lot of people who wouldn’t normally come would come and ask questions and talk to us about the space.
We’ve even had a play produced here called Sodom and Gomorrah

WG : Is the Che Cafe on UCSD campus itself? I’ve never been to San Diego.

CC : Yes, it is located in Revelle College. Revelle was the first college in this campus system, and currently there are 6 colleges in the UCSD system

WG : Gotcha, I think it’s really rad that it’s been a place for marginalized folks for so long. I’ve definitely known folks who held that space as really important for a long time.
WG : Is it ok if I go off script for one question?

CC : sure

WG : Without compromising your security/safety, has there been much solidarity with the Che from within the student population? Acts of support etc?

CC : The majority of occupiers have been students and there were also graduate students from UCSD that participated as well as outside help from UCSD alumni.
CC : as far as acts of support there have been minor acts like chalking and banner drops by students in support of the Che, as well as petitions etc

WG : Word.
WG : How often has UCSD issued eviction notices to the Che? And since the Che is not the only cooperative, does it similarly target other collective spaces on campus?

CC : I don’t have the exact number of times that the University has tried to get rid of the space but in its 49 years, it has been at least 10-15 times. We can give you a more accurate number if you like…?

WG : Gotcha. No worries on exact figures. I just wanted to get a sense of the extent that the University was trying to evict the space, and it seemed to me that they’d tried fairly often.

CC : Yeah, the Master space agreement for all of the other collectives on campus expire at the end of 2016, which is worrisome.

WG : Really quickly, what is the Master Space Agreement?

CC : the MSA is basically the agreement that (after much effort) allowed for these spaces to have the level of autonomy that they currently hold from the university, and it includes details on rent, etc. Kind of like a lease but a little more involved.

CC : To go back to the question of other evictions or threatened evictions, aside from collective spaces UCSD has in the last decade alone shut down CLICS ( a humanities library which was also occupied), Graffiti Hall, Porter’s pub, University Art Gallery, and the Ceramics Center

WG : That’s a crazy amount of resources shut down!
WG : What do you think the universities are trying to do? Is it a question of resources or control?

CC : Well, leading to why the university is trying to do, it might help to consider that the Che is physically located on the fringe of campus rather than prime real estate, it’s on the borders of a much more developed and built-up campus, but along with the cooperatives it is one of the few remaining establishments on UCSD run entirely by student and community members in the midst of a transformation of the university into a morass of private corporations and centrally-run “student” centers
CC : if you look at the corporate donor list for UCSD, it looks like you lined up a 100 NASCAR drivers
CC : There’s been a lot of construction on UCSD campus and two of the companies doing that are corporate donors not to mention that UCSD gets 2.5 billion dollars in funding from the Department of Defense, there’s an entire research center dedicated to drones and a bunch of other surveillance research is done here, and a lot of military research in general

WG : Holy shit! I had no idea about all of that.
WG : That definitely puts the eviction attempts in a totally new light, thanks for going into that.
WG : So as per the Master Space Agreement, the Che is a relatively autonomous space from UCSD?

CC : yes
CC : But the attack on collective and social spaces is not isolated to just UCSD. It has been happening elsewhere. We were talking to someone who went to UC Davis and the same stuff that has been happening here has also been happening there It’s systematic. And from what we heard, they’ve been trying to shut down the co-ops at UC Davis repeatedly

WG : That’s so brutal.
WG : What will it mean for the students if the Che gets shut down?

CC : If the Che gets shut down, that means the university will likely increase the pressure on all the other co-ops because the Che getting shut down would set a precedent.
CC : And like we said before, the Che has a long history of being an alternative community and social space for alternative and marginalized students and community members in general. It still very much is this for the community, despite pressure from the University. If we lose the Che, marginalized students and community members will lose a space that’s important to diversity of thought and expression. Keep in mind that the Che is a very long time part of the UCSD campus, even before it called the Che, back to the 60’s and 70’s.
CC : In addition, without this space, it will be harder for marginalized students and community members to resist against university policies.

WG : For sure. This is such a brutal example of how expression and politics are being increasingly curtailed by institutions.

CC : Yeah, it’s all about control. About shifting the university from a public to private model through any means necessary for the UC system in general.

WG : Agreed! It certainly looks that way to me.

CC : Additionally, an interesting note is that the current head of the UC system, Janet Napolitano, used to be the secretary of homeland security.

WG : Thaaaat just totally blows me away.
WG : You’ve already outlined the political and cultural place that the Che holds on campus, but could you talk about what it means for students to have a safe space within the context of the university?

CC : Could you clarify that question please?

WG : The question may actually be redundant, now that I come to think of it. I was wanting to get a sense of how large a part the Che played within the student body of holding safer space for folks, but I actually think we’ve touched on that sufficiently?

CC : Oh yeah, we can touch on that question
CC : The Che as it is today is unfortunately unknown to most of the students because the campus is so spread out.
CC : the Che, before it was even the Che, used to be the center of student life at UCSD during the 60’s and 70’s, being in the middle of the Revelle College.
CC : But there’s been purposeful expansion since then that has made it harder for students to gather in autonomous spaces, but the Che is still one of the main punk and anarchist spaces in San Diego.

WG : Wait, on of the main anarchist spaces in all of San Diego??
CC : Yeah! In my experience, I haven’t seen many other anarchist spaces in this town, the Che seems to be the main nexus for anarchists in the city

WG : Gotcha.

CC : Social spaces on campus have really shifted from autonomous student spaces to corporate spaces like the Price Center (*note: this is the largest so called “student” center in the country and hosts many capitalist ventures like fast food restaurants and a movie theater, it has over 30,000 visitors a day).
CC : And we have important safe spaces on campus like the Woman’s Center, the LGBT Center, the Black Resource Center, and other important spaces, but none of these spaces are as autonomous as the Che. They’re politically progressive where we’re more anarchist, and are unfortunately more beholden to the University

WG : Yeah, that makes total sense. It’s so important to have spaces for anarchist folk.

CC : yeah, basically

WG : Did you get a chance to read the statement from the Hobo space in Bologna? If so, do you have any words for those folx?

CC : Yeah, we read that statement
CC : And we definitely stand in solidarity with the students and community members resisting in Bologna
CC : We shouldn’t just defend and preserve the existing autonomous spaces but expand and open up more of these sort of spaces. The stronger the network of autonomous spaces for anarchists and radicals, the easier we’ll be able to resist against Power. We encourage the leftist, radical, and anarchist to defend existing spaces and open up more of these spaces by any means necessary.

WG : Totally agreed. I know they’ll take strength from that.
WG : Is there a way for people who aren’t in your area to help with the struggle concerning the Che?

CC : Yeah, definitely.

WG : And is there a way for folks to keep apprised of how y’all are doing? A website?

CC : Oh yeah, we have a facebook page, which is facebook.com/che.cafe.collective
CC : And the Che has a webpage which is thechecafe.blogspot.com
CC : and in regards to support
CC : People should get involved more with the struggle for the Che and the co-ops. Join the occupation if you can. Put pressure on the administration in whatever ways you can. Donations also help with legal funds, and we have a paypal account. You can reach us at checafe@gmail.com. We need more support from the media. If you’re in the media, contact us. Spread the word that we’re still alive and still fighting. Encourage people to come to meetings. Help us occupy. The more people who resist with us, the better. If you have an event you want to do, you’re welcome to do it in the space as long as you put it through the collective process. Send resources like vegan food and books and anything else. Volunteers to help clean up are also really appreciated.

CC : Also, Pressure the vice chancellor and the chancellor to stop evicting the Che.
CC : We have a meeting with the Chancellor on July 15th and the more support we have at that meeting, the better.

WG : Let me know how it goes and I can report in on the radio. Also are there contact details for the VC and the chancellor?

CC : Yeah, we definitely will keep you updated, and the web page with all that contact info is chancellor.ucsd.edu/cabinet

WG : Gotcha. That’s all the questions I have, do y’all have anything else you wanted to close on?

CC : In regards to that, it’s important that we fight for these spaces because it’s in these spaces where we’re more free: free of the majority of the power dynamics of our society.
CC : and fighting for these spaces ultimately will lead us into fighting against Power itself so we can ultimately abolish authority and power and live a free life where we decide what we want do, no one else deciding for us, no politician or boss, but us living lives of true joy.

WG : Totally agreed! Thanks so much for taking the time to have this interview! Keep us posted, stay safe. Solidarity to yall.

Ayotzinapa: Paramilitaries, Narcos, PRDistas + the Teaching Students of Geurrero

The Geurrero State Congress in flames
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This week we spoke with Dawn Marie Paley. Dawn came onto the show last year to discuss her essay, Drug War Capitalism. Dawn is now about the publish a book by that same title with AK Press.

On September 26, teaching students from the leftist Normalista College in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, Mexico, protested in the city of Iguala against public policies and in remembrance of the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre in the run-up to the Olympics. In response to the protest, their buses were fired upon by about a dozen police vehicles later that day. Following that, 57 of the normalista students were detained, with 14 later returned. That leaves 43 unnaccounted for, rabble-rousing students in southern Mexico who’ve been disappeared. Soon the story that Narco’s had taken the students from the police emerged but was withdrawn. The police chief and the Mayor are on the run. The search for the students brought news of 11 recent mass graves discovered in Iguala which an Argentine group is investigating, despite interference by the government. Protests have spread across Mexico, from the burning of the State Congress building in Guerrero to the blocking of freeways in Michoacan to demonstrations in Mexico City and abroad.

Dawn tells us about the overlaps between Narcos and the Mexican State in such state crimes as this and the involvement of U.S. policy/training/weapons & money in the formation of the Mérida Initiative (Plan Mexico) and creation of Drug War Capitalism seen in so many countries in Latin America. Also, this new moment that appears to be flowering in Mexico where people, despite the fear of the impunity of their attackers and the spinning of their webs, are talking and acting against government as a solution and seeking answers in their own hands.

More of Dawn Marie Paley’s writings can be found here: http://dawnpaley.ca/
The action plan of the Ayotzinapa Rural School in the National Assembly: http://www.mediacoop.ca/newsrelease/31942
Pretty impressive videos found on this page: http://revolution-news.com/mexico-government-palace-guerrero-burned-normalistas/

Playlist

Montreal Student Strikes (part 2)

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This week’s show features the second part of my conversation with Maria about anarchist perspectives on the student strikes in Montreal,
Quebec. Maria continues to draw the history of this last year of student strikes that have developed into a nascent social strike and talks about the call to help block the start of the next semester in early August of this year

The second half of this episode features music from and about the struggle of Miners against the bosses and the state and for survival and self-determination. The playlist can be found here.

Call Out to
block the next semester

Greve
Montreal

STUDENT STRIKE! POPULAR STRUGGLE! / GRÈVE ÉTUDIANTE! LUTTE POPULAIRE!

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This week’s show features a conversation with Maria, an American-born anarchist and former University student living in Montreal, Quebec. Maria shares with us the context of the student and social strikes of earlier this year in this conversation.

Some more resources on the subject include:
Greve Montreal
Montreal Counter-Info
Bloquons la Hausse
Call Out to block the next semester
a good piece on the student movement
The blog of one of the neighborhood assemblies
Sketchy Thoughts