Human Rights Zone

Join us Tomorrow Night! ‘The Bible and Social Change’ Public Forum

Posted in Events, Faith and Justice, Fight for Fair Development, Human Rights Zone, Unity on November 21st, 2013 by Mike – Comments Off

What’s the Bible got to do with social change? How has it been used and misused through the centuries—both to justify oppression and inspire movements for justice and liberation? What can today’s social activists and religious leaders learn from social movements in biblical times?

Join us tomorrow night, Friday, November 22, for a public forum on “The Bible and Social Change,” at St. Anthony of Padua Church, 4414 Frankford Ave, Baltimore. The event will begin at 6:30pm. Here’s the Facebook event pageHope to see you there! 

“The Bible and Social Change” will feature United Workers leaders, biblical scholars, religious leaders, the organized poor, and the general public. We’ll discuss what it means to be part of a growing movement for human rights and explore how the Bible has been used to both justify oppression and inspire movements for justice and liberation.

The event is sponsored by the United Workers, the Presbyterian Hunger Program (PCUSA), Light Street Presbyterian Church, St. Anthony of Padua-Most Precious Blood Catholic Parish, and the Society of Biblical Literature’s Consultation on Poverty in the Biblical World.

The Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) is the oldest and largest learned society devoted to the critical investigation of the Bible from a variety of academic disciplines. Its more than 8,500 members from around the world teach the Bible in academic settings, publish books, and conduct scholarly research on ancient texts, peoples, contexts, interpretation, translation, and pedagogy. In recent years, SBL scholars and staff have regularly articulated a concern for biblical scholarship to be more engaged with and relevant to public issues and communities of interpretation and practice.

Tomorrow’s public forum will be the culminating activity of a daylong exchange of deep discussion and study between the United Workers, SBL, and faith leaders. We will be doing a reality tour around Baltimore City, sharing worker stories, and engaging in deep discussion and study about the Bible, human rights, and fair development. We hope you can make it. We believe it will offer an exciting opportunity to learn from one another as we continue to build unity across multiple sectors in the movement to end poverty.

This Friday, November 22nd at 6:30

@ St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church

4414 Frankford Ave, Baltimore, MD 21206

Our 2013 Human Rights Dinner – Photo Slideshow

Posted in Culture, Human Rights Zone, Media, Unity on May 23rd, 2013 by Mike – Comments Off

Celebrating our Annual Human Rights Dinner—This Sunday!

Posted in Events, Fight for Fair Development, Human Rights Zone, Unity on May 16th, 2013 by Mike – Comments Off

United Workers members and supporters participate in the 2011 Human Rights Dinner.

Our annual Human Rights Dinner is this Sunday! We’ll have fabulous Latin American food, powerful stories, and a silent auction of local art. We’ll also be remembering our exciting victories over the last year, celebrating the winners of this year’s Human Rights Champion Awards, and honoring the latest graduate from our Poverty Scholars program. We hope you can be there. If you have not yet purchased tickets you can do so here, RSVP to info@unitedworkers.org, or pay at the door.

The dinner will take place on Sunday, May 19th, 6-8pm at Faith Presbyterian Church (5400 Loch Raven Blvd, Baltimore, MD, 21239).

The menu will include chips with guacamole and six different types of homemade salsa, mixiotes with Spanish rice and salad, horchata, hibiscus tea, and tres leches cake.

Our silent auction already has over a dozen pieces donated by local artists. To see pictures of some of the art, visit our 2013 Human Rights Dinner Facebook page.

Leadership development is at the heart of our work. This year we’ll be celebrating Raquel Rojas’s graduation from our three-year university level Poverty Scholars program. Raquel is a United Workers member and leader, and a restaurant worker that has witnessed systemic abuses of workers’s rights at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Below Raquel explains what it has meant for her to be a member of the United Workers and the Poverty Scholars program.

Raquel Rojas testifies about Inner Harbor abuses in 2011.

I’ve been in the United Workers Poverty Scholars program for three years and I have learned how to organize and identify new leaders. I have learned about our rights as people, and how to stand up for them. Before joining the United Workers I didn’t know that we had human rights. I thought that if our bosses yelled at us, it was just part of life, just a reality of working. But that’s not true. We, as workers, should not be treated with discrimination and disrespect.

The United Workers fights for workers rights, for us to have work with dignity, healthcare, the right to study and to also spend time with our families. I want to continue to fight to educate more people, identify more leaders, and also help others to know that as human beings we have rights, although a lot of people don’t realize it.

Folks should come out to the human rights dinner and learn more about the United Workers, our achievements over the last year, and plans to continue in the struggle to end poverty. Leadership is important because, with unity we can lift our voices and fight. Not just for us, but for the elderly and also our children. The next generation has an uncertain future, with so much delinquency and corruption, and we need to stand up and make a change for everyone. 

Commemorating Dr. King—Join our Human Rights Dialogue this Saturday

Posted in Events, Fight for Fair Development, Human Rights Zone on January 15th, 2013 by Mike – Comments Off

Join the United Workers, Healthcare is a Human Right – Maryland, Public Justice Center, Legal Aid, and the Baltimore Algebra Project for our 2013 Human Rights Dialogue, as we commemorate the anniversary of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We are coming together because we recognize that our communities are in crisis. We are experiencing systemic human rights abuses in every sector—work, housing, health, education, and the environment. The fight to address these big problems requires the building of a large social movement. Part of building our movements depends on studying the lessons of past struggles which is why our Human Rights Dialogue will include a study of Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign of 1968 and the transformation from Civil to Human Rights.

Dr. King called for a movement of the poor, united across color lines, to be a “new and unsettling force” in our complacent national life (see the video above). Dr. King unmasked the failures of our broken system, where there are enough resources, but not the priorities to meet everyone’s needs; where people are forced into bankruptcy because they lack health care; where workers work two jobs to make ends meet; where students do not have the basic materials they need to study like books and lab equipment; and where homeless families live on the street next to abandoned homes. We will discuss this and more, as we carry on in the legacy of Dr. King’s dream.

Join us in helping shape the next steps of our campaigns!

What: Human Rights Dialogue

When: January 19, 10:00 am – 3 pm lunch provided

Where: James McHenry Recreation Center (911 Hollins Street, Baltimore, MD 21223)

10th Anniversary: ESPN Zone and Fighting for Justice

Posted in Culture, Events, Fight for Fair Development, Human Rights Zone, Unity on November 27th, 2012 by Mike – Comments Off

The United Workers understands that to build a strong movement for human rights and an end to poverty requires at its foundation the development of powerful leaders. As we near our big 10th Year Anniversary Celebration this Saturday, December 1, we are publishing a series of blog posts from United Workers leaders, with their stories of personal transformation and memories of important moments in United Workers’ past. The 10th Anniversary Celebration will take place on Saturday, December 1, 3-6pm at James McHenry Recreation Center (911 Hollins Street, Baltimore, MD 21223). To purchase tickets email us at info@unitedworkers.org or go to http://unitedworkers10th.eventbrite.com/#

By Keith Brown

Former workers and their allies protest the ESPN Zone closing in 2010

I worked at ESPN Zone in the Inner Harbor for six years. I was a busser, a line cook, and a prep cook. It was OK, but I like working around the people more than the job. It was the only thing that had you coming back—the community.

Then, in June 2010, we found out from the news that ESPN Zone was closing. They didn’t give us any notice and we were all surprised. It was the first time that I saw people break down on the job ‘cause they didn’t know how they were gonna pay for their child care or school and things they needed to survive.

Right around that time, United Workers members were there with surveys asking harbor workers about their jobs. They heard about the ESPN Zone closing and quickly helped us get organized. They also helped us protest the closure and file a lawsuit against Disney, ESPN Zone’s parent company, which had violated the WARN Act by closing without any notice and with inadequate severance packages. I stuck around cause I liked the work and because I made a lot of friends.

With United Workers I’ve learned about a lot of things. How people are being treated like slaves—the tomato pickers, for instance, in Florida—with low wages and horrible working conditions. With United Workers I’ve traveled to NYC and Philly. We went to meet with folks from the Poverty Initiative and the Media Mobilizing Project. I learned that they had the same problems in NYC and in Philly.

Keith Brown at the 2011 Human Rights Dinner

Keith Brown at the 2011 Human Rights Dinner

My most memorable moment was the United Workers human rights dinner in 2011. We were sitting in a circle and it was time for the award part of the ceremony and then they called my name. I didn’t know why they called my name. And Michael Coleman handed me this award for championing human rights and I had to give a speech. I told them I really didn’t deserve it and that I’d try to live up to it. It was a total surprise.

With United Workers, I have begun to see the city in a different light. I have learned how the developers really operate. How they just want their money. And how the city has been supporting these developers with subsidies at the same time as it is cutting funds from public services—libraries, rec centers, fire stations. Since earlier this year I’ve been a member of United Workers’ West Side Committee. It’s a hard-working great bunch of people, and we have been fighting to keep the fire stations and rec centers open.

After collecting petitions and doing several rallies, we were able to convince the mayor to reverse her decision to close the Truck 10 firehouse. The mayor magically found the money to keep Truck 10 open for another year. It was a great victory, but it also shows you the power of the mayor and the city. She says to close the fire stations and rec centers and gives the developers the go ahead to do whatever they want and that’s not fair. We need fair development, with community participation and real accountability. That’s why we will continue to keep fighting, and that’s why it’s important for you to get in contact and unite with United Workers.

Baltimore’s former ESPN Zone workers are back in court this Friday for the latest hearing in their case against Disney.

An Opportunity for Change at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor

Posted in Fight for Fair Development, Human Rights Zone on October 30th, 2012 by Mike – Comments Off
Haborplace, 2010

Haborplace, 2010

On Tuesday, October 23, Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced that General Growth Properties (GGP) had sold its lease on Harborplace to the New York real estate investment firm Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation. The sale is a fresh opportunity for change at the Inner Harbor.

Since acquiring the lease to Harborplace eight years ago, GGP has failed to lead Baltimore’s Inner Harbor forward. Under GGP’s watch, human rights abuses have been widespread at Harborplace, including chronic wage theft, abusive working conditions, a widespread lack of health insurance and sick days, and a failure to respond adequately to workplace injuries.

For instance, over one three-month period Cheesecake Factory stole nearly $1,300 from one employee by clocking her out early and suddenly deciding that she was not on the schedule. Hooters refused to pay its employees overtime.

“I normally work 10 hours per day, and sometimes I work two shifts. But when payday comes, we’re only paid for our regular hours,” said one Hooters employee. “A year has now gone by, and they’ve never paid us for the overtime hours that we’ve worked.”

In 2008, United Workers launched the Fair Development campaign to demand the basic human rights to work with dignity, health care, and education for the workers at the Inner Harbor. Since then, workers have attempted to initiate a dialogue with GGP over abuses. In 2009, a delegation traveled to GGP headquarters in Chicago to appeal for a resolution. We have tried to contact GGP at their Inner Harbor offices and, most recently, on May 19, workers marched on the Inner Harbor to demand their rights. GGP responded by locking Harborplace’s doors in an attempt to prevent workers from discussing their issues with consumers. GGP has ignored all appeals for dialogue.

It is clear that the Inner Harbor needs a new direction and that the city needs a new vision. This must include basic human rights to work with dignity, health care, and education. With this transition comes an opportunity for dialogue and meaningful change. We call on Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation to meet with workers and look forward to a renewed attitude of respect at Harborplace.

National Presbyterian Church Passes Fair Development Overture

Posted in Faith and Justice, Fight for Fair Development, Human Rights Zone, Solidarity, Unity on August 2nd, 2012 by Luis – Comments Off

The Presbyterian Church USA became the latest to endorse our Fair Development struggle, passing a Fair Development Overture at their 220th General Assembly held in Pittsburgh, PA this past June. An overwhelming majority voted 68% in favor of standing with low-wage workers to demand that developers including Inner Harbor developers, GGP and Cordish ensure that their developments respect human rights, maximize public resources and foster sustainability.

Both United Workers Leadership Organizer, Luis Larin, and movement leader Rev. Roger Powers of Light St. Presbyterian church in Baltimore spoke before the Social Justice Committee before the overture’s successful passage. Rev. Powers explained why Fair Development matters:

 

The United Workers have now turned their attention to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.  If you’ve ever visited Baltimore, you’ve probably seen the Inner Harbor.  It is the major tourist destination in the city, with lots of restaurants and shops to attract visitors.  It’s a nice place to visit, but it’s not such a nice place to work.  The people who work in the restaurants and retail outlets receive poverty wages with no benefits.  They experience poor working conditions and have their rights violated again and again.  (You heard Luis Larin speak about this during the Open Hearing.)  The United Workers Association has been organizing low-wage workers in the Inner Harbor to demand living wages, better working conditions, and respect for human rights.

Developers such as General Growth Properties and the Cordish Company, which control the Inner Harbor, receive large amounts of public money for what are billed as “revitalization” projects for depressed areas.  Yet the jobs created by these projects are unregulated, minimum wage, seasonal, and rife with human rights abuses.

Overture 11-02 asks the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to call for an end to this kind of Poverty Zone Development and to advocate for Fair Development that respects human rights, maximizes public benefits, and fosters sustainability.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a long history of supporting economic justice.  Our church has stood in solidarity with the poor and the oppressed, called for reform of corporate misdeeds, proposed living wages, supported economic boycotts, demanded safe working conditions, and supported collective bargaining.

Our own Confession of 1967 says “a church that is indifferent to poverty, or evades responsibility in economic affairs . . . makes a mockery of reconciliation and offers no acceptable worship to God.”

To read the Fair Development Overture go here: at https://www.pc-biz.org/Committee2.aspx.

The successful passage of the Fair Development Overture is just the latest in a growing chorus of faith, community, and labor organizations across the United States to publicly call for justice at the Inner Harbor and more broadly for Fair Development that re-imagines economic development – not as a “race to the bottom” where public resources go to create low-wage work but instead we begin to create spaces where human rights are restored. We have seen our movement grow over the last year as more and more become clear that key to ending poverty is addressing what our development priorities. In February the Presbytery of Baltimore voted to approve our Fair Development Overture sending this on to the Assembly in Pittsburgh. This was followed by our Spring National Day of Action where groups protested at GGP malls across the country including Vermont, New York, Minnesota and Florida culminating in our March to Occupy GGP this past May.

With this great national call for support by the Presbyterian Church USA, United Workers now has bases of support across the nation. We look forward to our future work with the Presbyterian community. This decision is a powerful example of how Christian faith communities continue to grapple with the fundamental teachings of Jesus and their particular denominations and traditions to genuinely understand and live out the charge for love and justice for all in their local, national, and global contexts. May this fight for human rights now move beyond into the pulpits, the pews, and into the streets.

Video: Final Report from the March to Occupy GGP

Posted in Events, Fight for Fair Development, Human Rights Zone, Media, Unity on June 25th, 2012 by Ashley – Comments Off

Check-out the final video report from the March to Occupy GGP, a 4 mile march to the Inner Harbor led by low-wage workers on May 19th. Harbor workers, Raquel Rojas and Derrick Davis, narrate the video, taking us from the start of the march as we entered GGP’s Mondawmin Mall through Baltimore’s West side communities en route to the Inner Harbor. Derrick explains the history of repeated attempts by workers to bring GGP to the table, while Raquel speaks to the reality that workers face and the impact human rights would have on workers lives, “We are fighting so that we might have a change in our lives and for the future of our children.”

The video captures so many beautiful moments from this incredibly powerful action. Even for those who were there, watching the video can reveal moments that one might not have witnessed personally, but that came together to produce the experience of building community united around human rights values.

Video: Teaser from the March to Occupy GGP

Posted in Culture, Events, Fight for Fair Development, Human Rights Zone, Media on May 21st, 2012 by Ashley – Comments Off

There is more to come, but here’s a teaser to wet your palate. Check back in for a longer video report from Saturday’s action.

 

The Light of Fair Development Shines On!

Posted in Events, Fight for Fair Development, Human Rights Zone, Solidarity, Unity on May 21st, 2012 by Ashley – Comments Off

The March to Occupy GGP was a glorious demonstration of determination, hope, and solidarity. Low-wage workers, faith leaders, students, community organizers, and activists gathered at an elementary school in West Baltimore to prepare for the four-mile march to occupy the Inner Harbor mall. We were joined by many of our allies from Baltimore and beyond, Media Mobilizing Project, Poverty Initiative, Picture the Homeless, Community Farmworkers Alliance, Good Jobs Better Baltimore, Another BDC is Possible, Unite HERE!, and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers traveling all the way from Florida.

We could not have asked for a better day, clear and bright, like the message we were sending to General Growth Properties: two years of ignoring the problem of rampant human rights abuses at your malls is unacceptable, it’s time to put your house in order and ensure workers’ human rights to work with dignity, healthcare, and education.

With that message in mind, we set off from the elementary school. Just blocks from the school, we approached Mondawmin Mall, one of six GGP malls in Maryland. Harbor workers and families led the march right into the mall singing “This Little Light of Mine, I Am Gonna Let it Shine!” We disrupted this temple of consumerism charging it with the energy of the beloved community. And just like a flash of light, we went in one door and out the other bound for the Inner Harbor.

Our march route connected us with a Baltimore much different from the Baltimore showcased to tourists in the heart of our city. But as the heart of our city, the Inner Harbor does not act like most hearts, pumping blood throughout the body down to the last fingers and toes, rejuvenating the entire body with necessary nutrients. No, this heart is a heart that only pumps one way, to the top.

As we marched down historic Pennsylvania Avenue, Baltimore’s African-American entertainment midway where Billie Holiday used to perform at the Royal Theater, we saw a city that had seen better days, but we were greeted with overwhelming expressions of solidarity from people on the street. One woman who used to work at the Inner Harbor making less than minimum wage, told us to ‘go get’em.’ One driver rolled down the window saying thank you repeatedly as she drove past the march. Marchers passing out fliers got into great conversations with bystanders who related with the message of freedom from poverty and Fair Development. In a city that has been devastated by poverty, we were not simply shining a light on the problem, but letting the light that exists within to shine through.

We kept marching, across Martin Luther King Boulevard, down Eutaw Street and past another historic and thriving Baltimore landmark, Lexington Market. In contrast to the branded space of the Inner Harbor, Lexington Market is the original festival marketplace, a commercial, social, entertainment, and transportation hub for the city. Once again, bystanders demonstrated overwhelming support for the march as we got closer and closer to our final destination, the Inner Harbor.

We arrived at last at the Inner Harbor. While tourists and consumers were surprised and entertained by our energetic spirit and music, Harborplace management were very prepared and not at all entertained. Instead of allowing the peaceful march to flow through their mall carrying the message of Fair Development, they decided instead to shut-down the mall. They locked and barred all the doors, trapping consumers inside the mall and locking consumers out, save one heavily guarded door. Ironically by shutting down their own mall, their actions were more disruptive to business than our actions. It is telling that they would rather shut-down the mall rather than engage workers and the community. Instead of coming to the table with workers, they send security to monitor and shadow our actions.

However, what their actions do reveal is that workers and allies are being heard. We wrapped up the March to Occupy GGP with words of solidarity and a recommitment to the fight for Fair Development. As Luis Larin, United Workers Leadership Organizer, stated, “the march might be over, but the fight goes on until human rights are respected.”

Hispan TV: “Movilizaciones contra el sistema corporativo en EEUU”

Posted in Fight for Fair Development, Human Rights Zone, Media, News Coverage, Unity on May 20th, 2012 by Ashley – Comments Off

Hispan TV, international Spanish language media outlet, coverage of the March to Occupy GGP.

March route, plus join CIW for action following the March to Occupy GGP

Posted in Events, Fight for Fair Development, Fight for Fair Food, Get Involved, Human Rights Zone, Solidarity, Unity on May 18th, 2012 by Ashley – Comments Off

We hope to see everyone at the March to Occupy GGP tomorrow! We’re gathering at 11 am at Gwynns Falls Elementary (2700 Gwynns Falls Parkway) and from there marching 4 miles to the Inner Harbor. It’s looking like Saturday is going to be a gorgeous day, so put on your walking shoes and come on out!

Joining us all the way from Florida is the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and in an exciting encore to the March to Occupy GGP, the CIW will be protesting and delivering a manager letter at the Inner Harbor’s Chipotle as part of weekend of action. The CIW is calling on Chipotle to end the hypocrisy and and ensure real rights and fair wages for farmworkers in its supply chain.

March to Occupy GGP

  • Saturday, May 19th
  • Gather at 11 am at Gwynns Falls Elementary (2700 Gwynns Falls Parkway)
  • See march route below
  • For parking and mobility details, go here

Demand Fair Food from Chipotle!

  • Saturday, May 19th
  • Gather at 6 pm at Chipotle at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor; 621 East Pratt Street, next to the Blue Bambu


View Larger Map

The March to Occupy GGP is almost here! Volunteer to be a part of the action!

Posted in Events, Fight for Fair Development, Human Rights Zone, Unity on May 15th, 2012 by Ashley – Comments Off

After months of gearing up for the March to Occupy GGP, it is almost upon us. Before you now it, we’ll be marching 4 miles connecting the Baltimore where workers live, take their kids to school, and worship to the Poverty-Zone where they work. Once we arrive at the Inner Harbor, low-wage workers will lead the march through the downtown mall.

The March to Occupy GGP is going to be an exciting demonstration of the escalating pressure against General Growth Properties with hundreds from Baltimore and beyond participating. That said, with only several days left, there are still many ways you can be a part of making it happen.

Ways to Take Part:

  • Be a part of a street team and flier march route Wednesday-Friday
  • Help make sandwiches on Friday for marchers
  • Give rides the day of, removing barriers to members
  • General volunteering on the day of

Let us know if you can volunteer for any of these efforts by emailing occupyggp@unitedworkers.org or calling 410-230-1998.

Also, if you haven’t already told us you’re coming, shoot us an email or give us a call, we’d love to hear from you!

A Look Back in Photos: The Fight for Fair Development and General Growth Properties’ two year silence on systemic abuse at their mall

Posted in Events, Fight for Fair Development, Human Rights Zone, Unity on May 11th, 2012 by Ashley – Comments Off

As we prepare for the March to Occupy GGP, we thought we’d take a stroll down memory lane to remind ourselves (and General Growth Properties) of the steps along the Human Rights Zone Campaign that have led us up to this point.

October 25, 2008—Low-wage workers march from Camden Yards to the Inner Harbor, declaring it a "Human Rights Zone."

November 2009— Harbor workers move human rights demands to the "top of the profit" chain to the developers who control the Inner Harbor.

December 10, 2009— Juan Paredes, Cheesecake Factory worker, signs demand letter to harbor developers, General Growth Properties and the Cordish Co.

December 10, 2009— On our Fair Food Solidarity Tour with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the United Workers mails off demand letters from a post office in Immokalee, Florida.

May 1, 2010— Over five hundred low-wage workers and allies come together for a city-wide participation play involving four neighborhood street performances and a march through the Inner Harbor.

September 2010— While on our first Poverty-Zone Reality Tour, a delegation of harbor workers and allies attempt to deliver the demand letter to top GGP executives in person.

November 18, 2010— United Workers attempt to reach out to Harborplace General Manager, Chris Schardt, about rampant human rights abuses at mall.

December 10, 2011— After two years of being ignored by GGP, harbor workers and allies stage a mass letter drop to demand immediate action. This action kicks off a national ramp-up against GGP.

Two years of silence from GGP on systemic human rights abuses at their mall is unacceptable. Harbor workers and allies from across the country demand action now and hundreds will be joining us next Saturday for the March to Occupy GGP. Harbor workers are calling on all our allies to stand with workers in calling on GGP to meet workers demands and restore the promise of the Inner Harbor.

For more details on the March to Occupy GGP, go here

To let us know you’ll be joining us, email occupyggp@unitedworkers.org or call 410-230-1998.

Larger than life! Gearing up for the March to Occupy GGP

Posted in Culture, Fight for Fair Development, Human Rights Zone, Unity on May 7th, 2012 by Ashley – Comments Off

This weekends actions were larger than life, literally. From a blown up demand letter to large scale projected animations, this past weekend was one of the most interactive, art filled and BIGGEST expressions of Occupy the Malls to date. As we gear up for the March to Occupy GGP on May 19th, the United Workers Action Team, a group of low-wage workers, artists, and activists have been designing creative tactics for getting the message out about the human rights abuses at the Inner Harbor and General Growth Properties steadfast refusal to acknowledge workers demands.

On Friday as tourists and harbor goers enjoyed a lovely Spring evening, an unusual thing happened. A light was cast on the Inner Harbor, exposing the reality of poverty-zone development on Baltimore. Greenpants, a Baltimore based group of artist, activists, and educators, came up with a brilliant idea to project an animation on the exterior of the mall that told the story of workers fight for work with dignity and fair development at the Inner Harbor. This mesmerizing projection was a perfect example of public art being used to open up space for conversations about development, poverty, and human rights.

The very next day, the Action Team unveiled a blown-up version of harbor workers demand letter (the one we’ve been dropping off at GGP malls across the country). Who knows, maybe GGP hasn’t responded to our letter because they couldn’t read the small font. But instead of bringing this letter to GGP, once again, we decided to instead bring it to the people. One by one, harbor visitors gravitated to the giant yellow letter and once learning of the abuses at the harbor they added their signature to the call for workers demands to a right to work with dignity, healthcare and education.

After several hours of educating consumers and gathering signatures, we walked up several blocks to the plaza outside the offices of the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) to join the Spring Development Forum. Organized by Another BDC is Possible, the Spring Development Forum was right up our alley. Leaders from across the city, working on a variety of social and economic justice issues, from worker’s rights to juvenile justice reform, came out to discuss how our current model of economic development benefits only a few and share how we can create a new model of economic development that truly benefits all.

This weekends actions proved once again that the message of Fair Development resonates with people from all walks of life. As we prepare for the March to Occupy GGP, we’re calling on all those who believe in the tenants of Fair Development, respect for human rights, public benefits over private gain, and sustainability, join us in this major action on May 19th.

Flickr photoset: Mall projection and Giant letter signing

Posted in Culture, Events, Fight for Fair Development, Human Rights Zone, Unity on May 6th, 2012 by Ashley – Comments Off

International Workers’s Day: “The struggle for human rights is one we must all carry”

Posted in Fight for Fair Development, Human Rights Zone, Media, Shared Responsibility, Solidarity, Unity on May 1st, 2012 by Ashley – Comments Off

International Worker’s Day is a day for lifting up the voices of workers struggling for dignity and justice at work and in their communities. It is a celebration of unity and solidarity across geography, sectors, race, gender, and all barriers that would divide us. Across the world, marches and actions take place to honor this day. In Baltimore, postal workers, service-sector workers, day laborers, community activists and labor organizers will rally at McKeldin Square at the Inner Harbor. While in Montpelier, our good friends, the Vermont Workers Center are staging their annual May Day march and rally to Put People First.

It is in this spirit of raising our voices that we share this video of United Workers leader, Raquel Rojas, telling her story. She connects the exploitation she experienced working at a marble factory in Mexico to the exploitation she experienced working at the Cheesecake Factory in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Raquel talks about why she decided to become an organizer, saying that, “the struggle for human rights is one that I believe we all must carry.”

Raquel has become one of many leaders in the fight for Fair Development at the Inner Harbor. On November 18, 2010, she led a delegation of workers and allies to General Growth’s Properties offices at Harborplace to once again call their attention to the rampant human rights violations taking place at their mall, see past web post. Despite these attempts by workers, GGP has continued to turn a blind eye to the exploitation of workers. That is why, as Raquel states, we must all carry the struggle for human rights and why we’re asking for everyone to join the March to Occupy GGP on Saturday, May 19th.

Go here for more information on the March to Occupy GGP. If you have not already told us you’re planning on coming, please email us at occupyggp@unitedworkers.org or call us at 410-230-1998.

May 19th— March to Occupy GGP, let us know you’ll be there!

Posted in Events, Fight for Fair Development, Get Involved, Human Rights Zone, Unity on April 23rd, 2012 by Ashley – Comments Off

March to Occupy GGP

Saturday, May 19th
11 AM

Gather at Gwynns Falls Elementary
2700 Gwynns Falls Parkway, Baltimore, MD 21216

 

On May 19th, hundreds of low-wage workers and community allies will take the fight for Fair Development one step further with the March to Occupy GGP, a 4-mile non-violent march and occupation. We’ll be taking back our harbor and demanding a change to business as usual. We’re bringing the march directly to the steps of General Growth Properties and once we arrive at their steps, we will not stop there. We will march right on in and march through Harborplace mall. For a moment, we will occupy this temple of consumerism and fill the space with the possibilities of our shared dreams and demands for human rights and Fair Development. This simple act will send a resounding call to General Growth Properties that they need to put their house in order and ensure human rights for workers at their malls.

Now, is the time to stand with harbor workers and the vision of a “Human Rights Zone” at the Inner Harbor and malls across the country. Nation-wide GGP malls are part of problem of growing inequality and poverty in our communities, but we know they can be a part of the solution, if we demand it.

Email occupyggp@unitedworkers.org to let us know that you’ll be there on May 19th for the March to Occupy GGP!

Occupy the Malls Round-up: Florida, Minnesota, Vermont, New York and more!

Posted in Events, Fight for Fair Development, Human Rights Zone, Media, Solidarity, Unity on March 20th, 2012 by Ashley – Comments Off

The Occupy the Mall movement is picking up speed. Last week, we announced the March to Occupy GGP, a major non-violent march and occupation at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor on May 19th, allies in Florida, Minnesota, and Vermont participated in the National Day of Action, we recorded a radio appearance for the Michael Eric Dyson Show and we hit GGP’s South St. Seaport Mall this Saturday with a spectacular letter drop as a part of the Left Forum Conference in New York. What a week!

For a recap of the National Day of Action and announcement of the “March to Occupy GGP,” check-out this powerful video produced by our very own internal media team. Thanks to the Vermont Workers Center, the Center for Workers United in Struggle, and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers for bringing the fight for Fair Development home!

Also, tune in to the Michael Eric Dyson Show on Monday, March 26th at 9am (EST) in Baltimore on WEAA 88.9 or stream live via the web to hear Inner Harbor worker, Jared Gary, and Leadership Organizer, Luis Larin talk about the poverty producing conditions at the Inner Harbor and the struggle to hold General Growth Properties accountable.

Be on the look-out for more videos and updates to come!

GGP Solidarity Action in the Twin Cities!

Posted in Fight for Fair Development, Human Rights Zone, Media, Solidarity on March 20th, 2012 by Ashley – Comments Off

On the National Day of Action, the Center for Workers United in Struggle (CTUL) and allies took steps to demonstrate to GGP that the message was spreading that GGP does not promote respect for human rights in their developments. As an organization that organizes retail cleaners, CTUL connected the conditions of cleaners in the Minneapolis to the conditions at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Thank you to CTUL for their consciousness in demonstrating the connectedness of our struggles.

To learn more about CTUL, go to http://ctul.net/