Archive for December, 2010
Snow began to fall lightly on Baltimore as harbor workers and allies gathered for today’s community play and action. Against the backdrop of a silent white harbor, we appeared onto the scene like a burst of yellow and black with our chants ringing clear. We marched through the Inner Harbor past the Hard Rock Cafe, past the Cheesecake Factory, and even past Santa’s Place to the staging ground for our play, “How the Harbor Stole Christmas.”
While the stage was being set and the actors prepared themselves, Armando Tema, a Leadership Council member with the United Workers, spoke to the significance of this play, “Workers have prepared this play to show how the developers have stolen Christmas, by robing workers of dignity and human rights. That’s why we are demanding that GGP and Cordish meet with us and enter into dialogue with us, so that together we can develop a solution to these abuses.” Harbor workers, Raquel Rojas and Janice Watson, then talked about the human rights abuses they’ve experienced working at the harbor and the importance of unity and solidarity in transforming this poverty-zone into a human rights zone.
The play began with Santa giving workers presents, which they opened to reveal their human rights wishes: “Respect,” “Sueldos Justos,” and “Dignity.” But along came Grinch the Developer off his mountain to snatch, one by one, worker’s human rights. As he hoarded and gloated over his stash, workers organized and decided to take action. To the tune of Frosty the Snow Man, workers led the group in song:
“…By stealing from the workers, they profit at the top
And it will keep on happening until we tell them, “stop!
We’ve got to stand up for development that’s fair
That respects us all, is sustainable, that communities can share”
Seeing workers, consumers, and the larger community sharing a common vision of Fair Development, the Grinch’s heart grew. Grinch the developer returned workers dignity and human rights restoring the Inner Harbor to its promise of living wage jobs and sustainable economic development for all.
But it was not only the Grinch’s heart that grew today, ours grew too. As we huddled together to keep warm, it was a reflection of our commitment to creating a community centered around human rights values. And when all was said and done, we enjoyed a nice cup of hot chocolate in the snow together.
Take a peak at these beautiful photos from the “How the Harbor Stole Christmas” play and rally by one of our allies, Amy Dewan. They really capture the energy and tone of Thursday’s action.
Independent media maker, Clayton Conn recorded testimony from Armando Tema, Raquel Rojas, and Janice Watson at today’s action.
To listen, go to http://indyreader.org
Check out this article by Greg Rosenthal talking about today’s action in the Indypendent Reader, Baltimore’s very own social justice media outlet.
Hundreds of low-wage workers across Baltimore’s Inner Habor will be experiencing yet another holiday of empty stockings, bare Christmas trees, and restaurant take-home leftovers for their family Christmas dinner. Harbor workers point to the Grinch-developers of the Inner Harbor’s outdoor mall and frequented tourist destinations as the culprits of their stolen Christmas.
This holiday season harbor workers, with the human rights organization, The United Workers, have marked their Christmas list, checked it twice, and demanded that the Grinch, a.k.a, the developers General Growth Properties (GGP) and Baltimore-based Cordish Companies, who are currently sitting atop the profit chain, give back basic human rights.
In a twist on Dr. Seuss’s classic “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” low-wage workers and community allies will tell the story of rampant wage-theft, poverty wages, and other human rights abuses taking place at the Cheesecake Factory, Hooter’s, and other vendors on Thursday, December 16th. While harbor developers and vendors make huge profits from the holiday shopping season, workers face another reality, one in which they struggle to meet their basic needs.
What: “How the Harbor Stole Christmas,” a community play and action.
When: Thursday, December 16th 11 AM-1 PM
Where: Gather at Panera Bread at Pratt St. and Market Pl. (across from the ESPN Zone)
“At Cheesecake, they would “clock us out” two or three hours before we finished our shift. In the three months that I worked there, they stole approximately $1,286.73 of my wages by doing this,” explains Raquel Rojas, former cook at the Cheesecake Factory, “These injustices are taking place across the harbor, not just the Cheesecake Factory. That’s why we are exposing these human rights abuses, educating consumers and connecting the community in demanding Fair Development.”
This play will not only shed light on the problem of poverty-zone development, but on the solution that workers have been calling for from Inner Harbor developers, GGP and Cordish. Despite requests to meet face-to-face, the developers have not come to the table.
In our play, the developer Grinch steals workers human rights and sits high above workers on his mountain looking down. It is only the sound of workers, consumers, and community allies singing in unity and solidarity that can make the developers heart grow. Join us this Thursday in raising the voices of low-wage workers in calling for Fair Development at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor!
Download flier here
If you missed the United Workers today on Midday with Dan Rodricks, listen to the podcast at http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wypr.
Janice Watson and Ashley Hufnagel with the United Workers were joined by Terry Cavanagh, executive director of Service Employees International Union, Maryland/DC, in discussing growing unemployment and poverty and the solution to this human rights crisis.
This past Monday, the United Workers joined Prometheus Radio and other backers of low-power FM community radio stations in a rally outside the National Association of Broadcasters to call for the passage of the Local Community Radio Act. Despite the act being approved by the House of Representatives, secrets holds have been placed on the bill in the Senate. Prometheus suspects Gordon Smith, the head of the National Association of Broadcasters, of having a hand in the hold-up. United Workers Leadership Organizer, Veronica Dorsey, spoke at the Rally on Monday in support of community radio and calling on the passage of the Local Community Radio Act.
To watch the segment from Democracy Now! featuring Veronica Dorsey, fast forward to 09:18, or just watch all the headlines.
On December 10th “Human Rights Day” from a small post office in Immokalee, Florida, we mailed two very important and identical letters. One of those letters was sent to the Cordish Companies and the other was sent to General Growth Properties (GGP), the two developers who control Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. In these letters, we called on GGP and Cordish to come to the table with workers to enter into a Fair Development Agreement that would ensure a right to work with dignity, a right to healthcare, and a right to education for all low-wage workers at the harbor. Read letter here.
What seemed like a small gesture, mailing a letter, marked the beginning of the fight for Fair Development. We took this step while on the Fair Food Solidarity Tour, where we traveled from Baltimore to Florida in solidarity with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to connect and draw attention to their fight to end to slavery and slave-like conditions in the fields. We have been inspired and taken many lessons from the CIW’s effective worker-driven corporate accountability campaigns. That day we took a page from their book by focusing our demands on the top of the profit chain.
Much has happened in the year since we mailed those letters, we have seen this call for Fair Development resonant throughout the country, and this movement grow tremendously. Hundreds of workers and allies staged a community-wide participation play connecting struggles for justice and economic human rights on Our Harbor Day. Workers continue to unite across the harbor building even stronger bonds of solidarity. We have taken the Campaign for Fair Development on the road through our Poverty Zone Reality Tours including a stop in Chicago, home of GGP’s headquarters. Although, we know this mounting pressure has got the developer’s attention, neither GGP nor Cordish has come forward to work with the United Workers to solve the human rights abuses taking place at their development. Instead, they continue to remain hidden, just like the human rights violations that they create with their poverty-zone developments.
The question is how long can GGP and Cordish continue to stick their head in the sand, hoping this problem will go away? Workers will not be hidden, we will continue to tell our stories, shine a light on the problem, and put forward our vision of fair development. Each day our community grows as consumers, faith leaders, students, and communities join the Campaign for Fair Development recognizing that the human cost of the Inner Harbor is far too great. We can no longer accept an Inner Harbor that disrespects human rights and that solely benefits the private developers and vendors, not the larger community. It is unsustainable and morally unacceptable.
On Thursday, December 16th, we’ll be staging a play “How the Harbor Stole Christmas” to tell the story of the human rights abuses at the harbor. Join us in shedding light on this human rights crisis and continue building the pressure needed to bring GGP and Cordish to the table with workers.