Honoring & Remembering bell hooks

FCCAN, our friends at the Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies Dept at CSU are planning a community ceremony to take place this spring to honor the indomitable bell hooks and mourn her passing. We will continue to cultivate love as the ground of our being, we will continue to learn as a means to elevate our mind, and we will continue to embrace loss as we open our hearts to our ancestors and the impermanence of all. Thank you bell for all you taught us about love, loss, and learning.

This fall, both bell hooks and Archbishop Desmond Tutu became ancestors. These two wildly different leaders have deeply influenced me in my life and work over the years. Particularly their capacity to be fierce and uncompromising in the face of “imperialism, capitalism, white supremacy and patriarchy” (to use the phrase that rolled off bell’s tongue decades before that language was spoken on NPR, or even uttered aloud in white led organizations), while also calling for a foundational, embodied practice of love. This it seems to me is the journey ahead – one of fierce commitment to justice and change, fueled by love.

This isn’t news – but it bears repeating, remembering. Our actions can create a path toward a culture of belonging, and away from one fueled by our human conditioning and the need to create an us vs. them. We need to begin again, walk the path until it is well worn and easily found for future generations to tread upon.

As we are moving into 2022, my longing is for each of us to experience an abundance of joy, a deepening of care, love and connection. May we each without exception find healing in relationship with Mother Earth, our human and more than human relatives, places and the beauty that is all around us. May we find the strength to call for accountability and repair, and to extend forgiveness and compassion to ourselves, our loved ones, and those who have harmed us.

No telling what lies ahead. Let’s keep loving each other through it. I am so grateful for all of us, this Earth, this day, this life. Thank you for being with us on this journey.

No telling what lies ahead. Let’s keep loving each other through it. I am so grateful for all of us, this Earth, this day, this life. Thank you for being with us on this journey.

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Reflecting on 2021 Accomplishments

 It is the time of year when we naturally reflect on where we have been and where we are going. In 2021, we cultivated partnerships and coalitions to provide opportunities for our community to explore and organize solutions to important issues and to amplify the voices of change makers.

Today we’d like to share with you some of the things we are proud of accomplishing this year. Not all of them are about the ends, many of them are about the process, and the community we created and the love we generated in the doings.

Some of our favorite projects of this year include:

🎉  the ongoing creation of our immigrant-owned and worker-led cooperative, La Fondita Latina. After years of seeing workplace abuses and wage theft, after years of seeing head of households detained and separated from their families leaving a single partner unsure of how to provide for the family, we are  creating alternative employment in which everyone is a co-owner. This fall, La Fondita Latina sold over 1,000 tamales to fundraise money to support the development of the coop!  
✊🏾Our Environmental Justice Working Group supported Hughes Land Back initiative with sharing lessons learned, resources, articles and data with Indigenous leaders.
 
🙌🏾 Fuerza Latina’s hotline, which was formed in 2006, has continued to field hundreds of calls this year. We have helped youth held at the border connect with their families here, we have connected families with a loved one in detention to attain legal aid and learn how to navigate detention and bond hearings to freedom. We have helped women escape abusive situations of domestic violence, and walked with workers injured on the job, workers whose wages have been withheld and families on the cusp of an eviction. Our team has grown to nine members, a mix of native Spanish and English-speakers. Our vision is to walk with the callers we serve, bringing them the information they need, in a context of love, to feel empowered to navigate a crisis and go on to help others.

🙌🏾 The School Justice PSD campaign closed the year-long chapter after launching in Summer 2020 and has continued with building relationships across the state for a Police-Free coalition. Fuerza Latina, FCCAN and Padres y Jovenes Unidos organizers of color came together for the National Week of Action with Dignity in Schools to create know your rights trainings and information for students over social media.
 
✊🏾The Fort Collins Homeless Coalition (FCHC) has taken a step back to reflect on lessons learned from the pandmic, and the past year’s organizing efforts. We demanded that Fort Collins develop pandemic emergency plans that include homeless, marginalized, and incarcerated people; joined legal action against the State of Colorado demanding emergency housing for all;  and are continuing to fight for the safety and survival of all.

🔥 Fuerza Latina Hosted a series of DACA clinics in collaboration with Immigration Lawyer Kim Medina, the Poudre District Library and DREAMer leaders from Fort Collins. ✊🏾 In partnership with ISAAC of Northern Colorado, we hosted a vigil for healing and immigration justice, this space was to share, collectively heal and tell stories about the immigrant experience in this community.
 
🎉Fuerza Latina hosted over a dozen of vaccine clinics in Fort Collins, with the help La Fondita Latina, undocumented leaders we registered and vaccinated over 2,000 members of the latinx and immigrant community this year alone, and continue the efforts into the new year with third doses and doses for children.

🔥FCCAN joined the Children in Nature Network, in a state-wide coalition dedicated to deepening youth’s access to nature and work together to strengthen efforts to advance equity in access to nature.

🙌🏾 Fuerza Latina worked with Colorado Legal Services and Colorado Poverty Law Project to create a user-informed Housing Empowerment Guide for tenants and mobile home residents during the pandemic. Fuerza also worked with ISAAC, La Familia and the Poudre River Library to host three housing clinics with free legal consults with housing attorneys, Know Your Rights trainings, and one-on-one rent assistance by community members for community members. 

🎉We successfully hired two, youth community organizers of color! Yurixhi Toro Rivera and Litzy Listra, welcome to the team!

✊🏾The FCCAN spokescouncil came together for our annual retreat where we developed our first-ever organizational values that ground us in the work and our highest vision for the community moving forward. We’re partnering with local artist, Cristyn Hyper where we’ll have some amazing art work that represents our values soon.

🔥We worked with local community members to develop a new, fully bilingual website for Fuerza Latina !

🙌🏾We returned back to hosting monthly, in-person Healing Justice workshops, partnering with the Wolverine Farm to provide Writing with Ancestors community spaces.

🎉 Fuerza Latina, The BIPOC alliance and la Cocina hosted the first ever dia de los muertos parade in Fort Collins, hundreds of folks gather in old town to celebrate an honor their gone ones, we had food, drinks, a mariachi group, aztec dancers and we hosted a gathering of traditional rituals with a curandera.
Now is the perfect time to say thank you. As we reflect back and look forward, we are ever more grateful for the support of our community. Thank you for providing resources, creative collaborations, and opportunities for us to listen, learn, and do better.  
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November family time & Reflecting on being an immigrant family

By: Kevin Parga-Martinez, Ethnic Studies Intern

November has arrived, and with it, has brought us closer to what may seem like a year filled with momentous achievements and instances of tragic events.

Despite such a rollercoaster of emotions that we’re dealing with, the month of November has become synonymous with family gatherings and the obvious all-around large feast that many either regret or enjoy once again the next day.

With such festivities becoming an annual norm for the dominant culture and a majority of families all around the world but specifically in the United States, it’s so important to understand that some families do not have the pleasure or privilege of having such moments family time.

As someone who grew up in a Latinx household, it was nice to see most of my family every year around the table and talk about the memories of the year or future plans we have to look forward to together. Notice the keyword Most…My family was no stranger to the struggles of having certain family members unable to attend the holiday due to the fact that they were detained by law enforcement and/or being held near the border for trying to make their way into the US.

My experience is only one of hundreds if not thousands of similar circumstances that involve families across the nation in which having a family member not able to attend the holiday added stress to an already desperate and broken-up family.

In fact, FWD.us estimates that some 10.6 million U.S. citizens live with undocumented immigrants.1 More than 22 million people in the U.S. live in mixed-status households, where at least one undocumented person lives with U.S. citizens, green card holders, or other lawful temporary immigrants. All told, more than 1 in 20 people in the U.S. are under constant threat of being separated from family members and loved ones in their home.

About 5.8 million U.S. citizen children live with undocumented household members, with 4.9 million of these children having at least one undocumented parent. Most of these children were born in the United States, are U.S. citizens, and are enrolled in public schools. Some U.S. citizen children have been barred from accessing benefits to which they’re entitled, including access to COVID-19 recovery assistance, because of their parents’ undocumented status.

At the same time, nearly 1.7 million U.S. citizens have a spouse who is undocumented. Roughly a quarter have been married for 20 years or longer, while more than half have been married for 10 years or longer.

            So, when it comes to the upcoming holiday and spending time with all your family around the dinner table, be courteous of others and acknowledge the fact that not everyone will be spending the holiday with certain family members. In a time filled with laughter and love, no one deserves less than the rest of us.

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The Misconstruction of Halloween

By: Kevin Parga-Martinez

FCCAN & Fuerza Latina Ethnic Studies Intern

It’s to no one’s surprise that Halloween has become an annual staple, allowing for an escape from reality and being able to come together as a community and enjoy the wonders that are trick-or-treating and terrifying decorations.

While the typical festivities surrounding the holiday allow for one’s expression to flourish in terms of being able to dress up as a favorite hero, television-series character, and (yes) even their favorite food, throughout the years, many have become unaware of the real life consequences that comes with the notion of cultural appropriation and the effects it has on the identity of various groups.

For those unaware of the elements that make up cultural appropriation, it entails the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity, which has become synonymous in terms of dressing up for Halloween.

In attending Colorado State University, I’ve seen my fair share of cultural appropriation throughout the years in and around the community of Fort Collins, and while many acknowledge the fact that it’s an issue that must be dealt with, many simply blow it off as just “having fun” or it being something that’s “not too serious”.

This simply is not the case as it dehumanizes an entire culture down to a stereotypical portrayal that does not have to do with their identity at all. It’s important to understand the seriousness of such acts, as we live in a time that seeks the dissolvement of stereotypes yet still allowing it to continue simply because a holiday validates these types of claims is counterintuitive.

Everyone can have and should have fun during this month and be able to demonstrate their creativity and love for the holiday, however, not at the expense of demoralizing others.

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Five recent labor struggles you should know about

*This post was originally shared on the Chicago based, workers owned cooperative, Tesa Collective’s blog, and posted here with their permission.

Ever since the dawn of modern labor, there have been labor struggles. Take, for example, the wage cut protests of female mill workers in 1834, the 1877 uprising of Irish-American coal miners that resulted in 19 hangings, or the many workplace accidents that led up to the 1970 development of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. 

This has led to a powerful tradition in the US to fight for the wellbeing of the working class; and even though these goals have been difficult to achieve, the struggle has not stopped. 

It was in this spirit that our past collaboration with Jobs with Justice yielded the creation of STRIKE! The Game of Worker Rebellion. This game allows players to build their own labor movement, placing them as workers looking to stop a mega-corporation from taking over their city. (According to the website The Fandomentals, STRIKE! is “a great game to learn about labor rights that doesn’t sacrifice the fun factor.”)

And right now, so many people and communities are facing unimaginable and unprecedented uncertainty due to the pandemic. However, the ramifications of these hardships mostly fall on small businesses and the working class. While small businesses and individual working people suffer, many corporations have greatly increased their wealth during the pandemic. So in the face of this, American workers are finding new ways to organize and build power together, just as they have for hundreds of years.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at five recent labor struggles we should all know about – some during the pandemic, and some before: 

Warrior Met Coal Strike in Alabama (2021)

Though many of us were just hearing about the strike involving coal miners in Alabama for the first time in 2021, the events that set this struggle in motion took place back in 2016. When the former Walter Energy went bankrupt and was purchased by hedge funds, the company was renamed Warrior Met Coal. 

When Warrior Met Coal took over the mines, they attempted to intimidate workers by asserting that they would only recognize the union (the United Mine Workers of America) if the workers were willing to make sacrifices in the name of the company.

By “sacrifices,” the new owners meant that they would cut hourly pay by $6, decimate healthcare benefits, and eliminate pensions in favor of 401k plans. They assured workers that when the time came to negotiate a new contract, conditions would be improved.

However, because the new owners failed to agree to the improvements they initially promised, mineworkers went on strike in April 2021. It has been more than five months and Warrior Met Coal employees are still holding out and fighting for the wages and benefits they’re entitled to.

Amazon Alabama Workers (2021)

Alabama is no stranger to labor struggles, and the corporate giant Amazon is no stranger to fighting unionization.

Just this year, Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer held a vote for unionization, after a long organizing process, which eventually fell short with only 30% votes in favor. The drive was led by the Retail, Wholesale, And Department Store Union, who intends to challenge the outcome of the vote. This challenge is being formulated with the support of statements claiming that Amazon broke the law both before and during the vote, which negatively influenced its outcome against the unionization drive. 

Amazon’s anti-union tactics may seem like it has been successful this round, but according to NPR, warehouse workers may have a second chance to vote on the issue.

Obviously, taking on a mega-corporation like Amazon was always going to be an uphill fight, and it did not go the way workers would have hoped. But the bravery and dedication of these warehouse workers has laid the groundwork for future attempts to unionize the behemoth that is Amazon and its warehouses. This is not over yet. 

General Motors Strike (2019)

Looking a little further back: In September of 2019, more than 50,000 hourly workers at GM went on strike in pursuit of a better labor contract. Lasting six weeks, it was the longest nationwide walkout in the auto industry within the past 50 years.

Part of the new labor agreement promised $11,000 signing bonuses to new workers, as well as ensuring that veteran workers would receive a 6% increase to their wages during the life of the contract (four years). In addition, the new labor contract made it so temporary workers could be more easily hired for permanent positions and reduced out-of-pocket healthcare expenses. These are big wins. 

There were positives and negatives associated with the new agreement, however, as three GM plants the union hoped to save were closed. Most of the former workers at those plants found jobs at nearby GM plants, but many of those new positions required relocation. It’s a reminder that even when we win some ground, there’s a lot more to do.

Charter Communications Strike (2017 – Present)

The Charter Communications strike has been the longest labor strike in US history. What started back in March of 2017 proceeded long into the days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The incidents leading up to this record-breaking strike occurred when the Spectrum company acquired Time Warner Cable and began trying to make changes to employee health and retirement benefits. Obviously, those changes would have impacted workers negatively.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers objected to the idea, and the workers went on strike.

This strike has held out for four long years, and workers are far from giving in. In fact, according to ArsTechnica, “Charter Communications employees who have been on strike since 2017 are building an Internet service provider in New York City called “People’s Choice.” People’s Choice is even an employee-owned cooperative. Here’s what they say on their site:

People’s Choice Communications is an employee-owned social enterprise launched by members of IBEW Local #3 to bridge the digital divide and help our neighbors get connected to the Internet during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are the workers who built a large part of New York City’s Internet infrastructure in the first place. We built out Spectrum’s cable system, until in 2017, the company pushed us out on strike by taking away our healthcare, retirement, and other benefits… At a certain point, we realized that we weren’t the only ones who had a problem with Spectrum. Most New Yorkers are unhappy with the high prices and low-quality service of their Internet Service Provider. And those are the people who have service. According to the Comptroller’s Office, over 2.2 million New Yorkers don’t have high-speed broadband at home because they can’t afford it. This “digital divide” was a problem before the pandemic, during COVID-19 lack of Internet access became a matter of survival.

We decided to see what we could do to help.

Talk about worker innovation! 

TESLA Unionization (2019)

Tesla’s owner (and though we joke – this should NOT to be confused with TESA), Elon Musk, has a history of flaunting his anti-union views. And so in 2019, an administrative judge ruled that the Tesla company violated California labor laws on twelve separate occasions. These violations included: 

  • banning workers from displaying pro-union sentiment with shirts and buttons
  • interrogating union promoters (which included firing one organizer) 
  • allowing security guards to harass workers for distributing union pamphlets

As a result, Tesla was ordered to rehire the union organizer they fired and pay him for lost wages. In addition, Musk was ordered to inform his employees that they have the right to unionize. He was also ordered to delete the anti-union tweets he posted in 2018. Tesla appealed the ruling and the case was seen by a judge who ruled similarly to the 2019 ruling.

At this time, Tesla workers are not unionized, though it seems it could be a matter of time.

***

With the way that current events are unfolding, labor struggles are unlikely to fade in the near future. However, thanks to the internet and social media, recent labor struggles are being noticed and supported around the world. People are finding new ways to show solidarity with the workers who are pushing for better conditions, pay, and benefits in industries and companies that have traditionally lacked labor power. This includes Starbucks workers in Buffalo who are aiming to become the first unionized Starbucks workers in the country. These Starbucks workers have been at least partially inspired by the union organizing efforts of Colectivo Coffee workers, who successfully overcame employer resistance to become “the largest unionized coffee chain in the U.S.”

More eyes are on worker strikes and labor struggles than ever before, and slowly, the working class is taking power back from corporations. Solidarity forever. 

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