What Happens When a Growing Black Business is in the Crosshairs of a National Union
By Jeff Thomas
Brothers Jimmie and Glenn Woods started Metro Disposal (a/k/a Metro Service Group, Inc.) with vision, grit and determination. “It was just us. We had an old truck and we handmade our containers ourselves,” said Jimmie as he closed his eyes, leaned back in his chair and held his head back. “Around 8 at night I would drive and Glenn would be the hopper, and we would pick up the trash that had accumulated that day.”
“And the next morning we would put on a shirt and tie and knock on doors to get more customers,” added Glenn. “But I was the wheel man for the containers. If one of them broke, I would jack it up and fix it right there on the spot.”
“One day our truck broke down and I was under it laying in a rancid pool of maggots and feces infested water,” said Jimmie as the brothers teased about who worked the hardest. “You were good at anticipating the tool I would need next though.”
Metro has grown significantly over the last 38 years into a multi-state operation that is much more than two men and a truck. In New Orleans, Metro is one of the two African-American owned companies responsible for collecting the trash across our city. The two brothers parlayed their quick wardrobe changes and penchant to work long hard hours into being one of the largest companies in New Orleans. They now operate in 9 states and provide residential, commercial, industrial, construction and consulting services.
As the brothers joyfully reminisced inside their office, their happy mood switched to angst about the small crowd of protestors just outside the fence of their sprawling New Orleans East complex.
Across the country during this COVID-19 pandemic, union organizing has gained steam and momentum. Businesses are being identified by their size, scope and industry and organizers are contacting their employees and helping them gain better pay and protection during these life-threating work conditions. Our front-line workers deserve a living wage and proper protection.
Businesses are facing intense pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic and must adjust on the fly. Multiple unforeseen forces are simultaneously attempting to leverage business owners, while they struggle to even make a profit as their markets shrink or disappear. Additionally, workers who are fortunate enough to earn a living see their value as significantly higher and press for higher paychecks.
Smart business owners are balancing workers’ needs and rights within their own strained balance sheets and providing the resources we all desperately need during this pandemic. The best companies are transforming their business models—think Twitter allowing workers to permanently work from home. Workers will continue to organize. And this national resurgence in union organizing gives workers more ability to pressure companies.
Sitting inside their offices, the Woods brothers see this local attack through a different lens. The brothers not only currently pay, but have always paid a living wage, and they have been out in front of all the trendy hiring concepts that promulgate the latest social consciousness.
“We are the original second chance givers. We have always hired and paid a good salary to men who nobody else would even look at! Men who work with us can afford a good life in New Orleans.” “Our core beliefs are paying our people a living wage,” said Jimmie. “We always have,” echoed Glenn.
The men who Metro have hired are considered by some as castaways. Criminal records searches are used by 93% of employers that conduct pre-hiring screening, according to Sterling Talent Solutions in 2017. 70 million Americans have a criminal record, and often can’t find work because of it. The Woods’ brothers hiring practices get pass that discrimination and help formerly incarcerated persons get back on their feet. They routinely hire people who otherwise would not have a chance at earning a living wage and are proud of their support of the First 72+ program—a program that helps formerly incarcerated individuals to integrate back into society in a meaningful way.
Now, suddenly every morning young white liberals intermingle with the protestors, helping them to make signs, speak to the media and recruit others. Union organizers use laptops and smartphones to collect data from the group of largely African American men who normally start their shifts in the wee hours of the morning. These young organizers circulate information about unions and workers’ rights to the group of hoppers who normally assemble inside the gate. Hoppers are now demanding higher wages, PPE and safe working conditions.
The Woods brothers are most discouraged by the fake news being pushed by these organizers. Having been in the business for nearly 40 years, they have seen union organizers before. In fact, several years ago Metro workers voted overwhelmingly not to unionize; but now organizers are using the COVID-19 crisis to get another opportunity. Metro insists that it has treated all of their employees and subcontracted hoppers with the respect and dignity they deserve. They maintain that they pay $16.75 per hour per hopper to PeopleReady, the direct employer of the hoppers; that they have always had and made PPE available, and that their trucks are amongst the best maintained in the industry.
PeopleReady, the direct employer of the protesting hoppers, is a part of TrueBlue, Inc., a global workforce solutions leader connecting clients with over 840,000 associates across 70 countries. They recruit, hire and directly pay the hoppers. The PeopleReady profit per hour per employee is the difference between the living wage that Metro pays for the hoppers as compared to the multi-national company whose global focus is on their own profit. PeopleReady confirms that it currently pays the hoppers at least $11.19 per hour, which is the current Living Wage under the City’s Living Wage Ordinance.
Metro has always, not only had enough PPE for their employees and sub-contractors, but have even loaned supplies to other companies that were expecting delayed deliveries. They are committed to doing everything they can to protect the citizens of the city and every person associated with Metro, whether direct employees or indirect employees. The Woods brothers live in New Orleans and shiver at the thought of them being a source of community spread. Back in February, they sourced enough PPE for each team member and plan to continue to provide them protective gear as long as there is a need. In fact, they have invoices that prove this point.
Even though PeopleReady is responsible for providing all protective gear to the hoppers, Metro has stocked enough for the hoppers. Metro has communicated in no uncertain terms to PeopleReady that it should properly protect the workers. Viewing themselves as a front-line and an essential service, Woods says, “Metro will continue to lead the way in ensuring everybody in New Orleans is safe.” In fact, Metro is researching several products that can be sprayed on cans and give them long term resistance to germs, bacteria and viruses. Though not contractually required, Metro has always been an innovative company that protects our community.
The union claimed that Metro used prisoners from Livingston Parish to collect the trash in New Orleans. Metro does not refute this, but clarifies that when the hoppers decided not to work on May 5th, and stated that no truck would move and no trash would be collected in the City on that date, it had to act quickly to protect the citizens of New Orleans from the environmental effects waste build-up, along with honoring its contractual obligations to the City. During this pandemic, more people are home and creating and putting out more trash than normal, and Metro is committed to collecting the trash.
Faced with a reduced workforce, Metro reached out to industry competitors. None could help because they are also collecting more trash than normal. In a jam, the brothers took drastic measures. Referred to Livingston Parish by someone in the business, Metro hired trustees, who are at the end of their confinement, and are eligible to work. And New Orleans remains safe and clean. They only worked for 4 days. Metro paid a living wage to every man who worked during that 4-day period. Metro’s quick decision protected the people of New Orleans and helped some men who needed and were eligible to work.
The company has invested over $3 million dollars in their fleet of trucks, and in constructing a Compressed Natural Gas plant. If you used to listen for the garbage man and run out in your PJ’s to pull out the can, you might be out of luck if Metro services your neighborhood. They use Compressed Natural Gas trucks. The trucks are super quiet, virtually eliminating noise and air pollution, but making last minute can pullers job tough.
In their sprawling NOLA East complex, Metro employs certified mechanics, who in addition to servicing the trucks replace their own tires and paint the trucks themselves. Environmentally conscious and focused on cleanliness, Metro removes the trash in late-model, well-maintained, quiet trucks. They operate the mechanic shop 24-hours a day to keep clean running compressed natural gas-powered vehicles available.
Union organizers repeatedly question hoppers about problems. One day one hose broke on one truck. Suddenly a list of demands included stopping hydraulic fluid from pouring onto hoppers. The truck was serviced the same day and back on the road with a newly repaired hose that did not leak. Jimmie and Glenn pride themselves on keeping their vehicles in tip top shape.
Municipalities like to contract local because their partners are truly invested in the community. Lifelong residents of the greater New Orleans area, Jimmie and Glenn are well known contributors to important causes that benefit us all. Churches and community groups have leaned on the businessmen over the years, so much that they had to pull back and are forming a philanthropic nonprofit that will help raise funds and be responsible for aid distribution going forward.
Metro is a family-owned business that is the American success story. Metro is an African- American owned business that is growing. Metro hires African-American men, many who would have no other work opportunity, and pays them a living wage. The company is run by native New Orleanians who live in the city. Their children attend local schools. They go to local churches and shop in local stores. They are here to protect and serve our community.
But during these strange COVID-19 times, they are being branded as a something else. A national movement to increase union membership is active and real in New Orleans. Sometimes union organizers use local people as their pawns. Instead of speaking themselves, local union organizers got three local people to be their spokesmen. Sadly, they made false claims. Most hoppers have returned to work through PeopleReady, and Metro has welcomed them back.
Let’s protect workers’ rights. Unionize when necessary. But we should not smear the good names of a local family that runs a great business and treats its people the way they would like to be treated themselves.
Strong unions are good for America. They protect our workers and safeguard working conditions and pay. Our economy is stronger when our workers have enough money to live productive lives. But national unions hurt themselves and create mistrust when they make false claims and attempt to smear the good name of a local community asset like Metro Disposal. During COVID-19, unions are growing. Workers’ rights are important. We need to do everything we can to support our people. And we need strong companies from our communities who hire our people and treat them right
Why people divert attention to “All Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter.”
Sam Louie MA, LMHC, S-PSB
Source: Photo by Mike Von on Unsplash
It’s hard for some Americans to understand the slogan, mantra, and heart behind, “Black Lives Matter” (BLM). These three words infuriate certain white Americans and make them defensive and angry, and they repsond in a manner that detracts, dismisses, and diverts attention from the initial cause behind BLM.
For example, earlier this week, the NBA’s Sacramento Kings’ sportscaster, Grant Napear, who is white, was in a Twitter exchange with former Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, who is African-American. Cousins asked Napear for his thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement and Napear responded with, “All Lives Matter…Every Single One!”
Napear lost his job amidst the controversy and in his defense released this statement, “I’m not as educated on BLM as I thought I was,” Napear said. “I had no idea that when I said ‘All Lives Matter’ that it was counter to what BLM was trying to get across.”
Not only was his initial tweet dismissive but his response adds even more consternation because nowhere does Napear take responsibility for the negative impact it has on African-Americans. Even if given the benefit of the doubt, people should know that intent is separate from impact. Even if he didn’t intend to offend anyone, it did impact others, and he should have thought about it or discussed it with someone prior to posting.
If racial reconciliation and healing are going to happen, people need to learn how to acknowledge the hurt they’ve caused. No explaining, no justifying, no defending—which is what Napear has done.
People also need to stop hijacking the Black Lives Matter mantra for their own agendas. The movement began in 2013 with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the 2012 murder of African-American teen Trayvon Martin. The movement grew following the 2014 death of Michael Brown, resulting in protests and riots in Ferguson, Missouri.
But shortly after the Black Lives Movement gained national exposure, white America came up with its own response in defiance of BLM. Consequently, the phrase “All Lives Matter” sprang up as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement. in addition, the hashtag #BlueLivesMatter was created by supporters of the police.
Some like Napear may claim ignorance and naivete. As a psychotherapist and speaker who specializes in cultural issues and trauma, we can see unconscious bias or possibly even conscious bias coming forth in these retorts.
More specifically, implicit bias is built into why people respond with, “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter.” They are not comfortable seeing the attention and spotlight given to a cause that’s not relevant to their lives. People negatively misinterpret, “Black Lives Matter” to mean “Only Black Lives Matter.” How does one misinterpret this? Confirmation bias may be at play. They infer from the phrase “Black Lives Matter” that African-Americans are singling themselves out as the only race that matters.
But nowhere do they confront their own assumptions and rarely do they accept feedback from a Black person on how this might negatively impact them because of the sociological effect known as “White fragility,” coined by sociologist Dr. Robin Di’Angelo. White fragility, in essence, is the knee-jerk defensiveness white people get when confronted with actions that might be construed as having racial implications, or at the very least considered racially insensitive. Due to this fragility, white people often refuse to hear the cries, pleas, and concerns of not only African-Americans but ethnic minorities in general by blithely saying, “Oh, that’s not what I meant” or “That wasn’t meant to be racist.”
In light of the recent protests, may the Black Lives Movement not only garner attention for racial inequities in policing but also lead Americans to finally acknowledge that racism exists in this country on a deep, systemic level across numerous institutions. That is the aim of the Black Lives Movement. Let’s not allow it to be hijacked by “All Lives Matter” or others who want to focus on the looting, lest we lose sight of why the protests are occurring in the first place.
Reform is insufficient. It’s time to democratize public safety.
Tim Wise · 8 min read
IfAmerica is to live, policing as we know it must die. It is that simple. If we aspire for it to become a multicultural, multiracial, and pluralistic democracy, America simply cannot go on this way much longer. Too many bodies are buried in the soil, too much blood has been spilled, and too many families have been shattered.
Those bodies and lives and families have been sacrificed in the name of law and order. But when the law becomes lawless, there is no order, and so here we are. We are watching it all collapse in real time, in HD, on the nightly news, on Twitter, on TikTok, as police respond to nonviolent protest with brutality. They gleefully shoot rubber bullets at journalists, mace children, and shove the elderly, anyone who dares criticize them for murdering black folks.
The back of the national camel has met its last straw.
That things are breaking down is no surprise. It is only surprising it has taken this long. The United States was conceived from the contradictory impulses of liberty and slavery, freedom, and oppression. It was forged from the fires of a fundamental incongruity: On the one hand, the inalienable rights of man, and on the other, the alienable lives of those deemed lesser than human.
Beset by its split personality from the beginning, America has demonstrated the impracticality of trying to walk the thin line between tyranny and liberty, of seeking to have it both ways. This doesn’t work. Once you establish a country around the precept some are to be free and others not, that some are to be protected and others subordinated, neither time nor pretty words will undo what has been done.
Law enforcement has always been the root of the problem. It is the fulcrum of white supremacy and has been so from the beginning. Remember, the Constitution says it right there in Article IV, Section 2:
No person held to service or labour in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labour may be due…
Shorter version: If an enslaved person runs away to a free state and we catch them, their ass is going back.
And who, one wonders, would be given the task of “delivering up” said runaways? It would be, of course, the 18th century’s equivalent of cops, whether recognized as members of an official law enforcement body or simply white men deputized by dint of their skin to act as such. Slave patrols had been operating since long before the nation was founded. Indeed, many white men over a certain age were required to participate in them. In this way, not only was the oppression of black people baked into the nation from the start, so too was the collaboration of white people.
It was part of the recipe. It was the yeast without which the bread would not have risen. It was the roux around which all other ingredients would blend. And how does one undo the gumbo once it has been simmering for hundreds of years? Or more to the point, how does one unwind a culture of policing fostered over centuries?
Not with simpleminded reforms, and not with more training, that’s for sure. Training suggests law enforcement’s violence and misconduct result from some kind of failure in the system. But policing has been about violence from the beginning, at least so far as black folks have experienced it. It was never Officer Friendly who came to get your cat out of the tree or gave little Johnny a ride-around with the siren going just for fun.
Policing has been about violence from the beginning, at least so far as black folks have experienced it.
For black people, police served to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act, and later, Jim Crow segregation. Sheriffs and their deputies would arrest black men, on suspicion of some fabricated wrongdoing, only to release them into the hands of a white mob that would hang them, burn them, and mutilate their bodies. Lynchings were a local spectacle and could only happen with the active collaboration of police.
How could training have made a difference? Perhaps we could sit down with the murderers and have a heartfelt discussion about their implicit bias? Please. And body cams? Those would merely have allowed us to witness the carnage in higher pixelation. Training assumes a system failure is the problem, but where is the failure?
When Jim Clark and his goons brutalized marchers on the bridge in Selma, they were doing their job, and that’s the problem. So too Bull Connor. These men weren’t failing under the terms set by the system under which they operated. Everything they did flowed from the system itself.
When cops enforced the war on drugs, they too were doing their job. It was not a system breakdown. It was the system operating as designed. Thinking that one can train one’s way out of oppression — when oppression is the point — makes no sense. It’s like standing at the end of a conveyor belt in a sausage factory waiting for it to give you chicken nuggets and becoming frustrated at its unwillingness to do so. It’s a sausage factory. Sausage is what it does. Expect sausage.
Ultimately we must envision a society without policing, at least in so far as we currently conceive of it. The purpose of such a body must be reconceptualized and rebuilt with the explicit participation of the communities it is meant to serve. Not just their participation — their control.
Police culture, as it exists, must be destroyed.
This means no more decommissioned tanks from the nation’s armed services, no more military hardware — which suggests to officers that when they go into a neighborhood, they are going to battle against a foreign enemy. No more camo. You don’t need desert camouflage in Ferguson or Baltimore or Minneapolis. There are no sand dunes with which you need to blend in. Police wear gear to feel like soldiers, and for no other reason. Enough.
The warrior mindset — which many departments openly encourage and even send officers to trainings to learn better — must be stamped out. So too must be the inward protectionism which encourages officers to place loyalty to the blue brotherhood (and sisterhood) above all else.
You’ll hear it often said by cops that “my number one job is to get home to my family each night.” No, it’s not. And any cop who thinks that’s their job should be fired on the spot. Their job is to protect and serve. It’s in the oath they took.
Ultimately we need a society built on the idea that communities are in the best position to protect themselves and to serve themselves, and that we — the collective — will provide them with the resources needed to do so. This means that rather than policing as we know it, we must move to conflict resolution models that are community-driven and bottom-up rather than top-down. Gang interrupters, drawn from the community, many of them formerly incarcerated, can prove far more effective at crime control than outsiders and enforcers, especially if we provide them with the resources we currently piss away on cops.
And I know, many will say that without aggressive policing, crime will spiral out of control. But it’s not true. Crime has fallen even in those cities that have moved away from broken windows enforcement and stop and frisk. It could fall even further were we to move to the next levels of de-escalation.
What is often missed is how criminal offense itself is a direct outgrowth not only of economic deprivation — which requires a much broader set of solutions — but also a sense of hopelessness and lack of control over one’s life. Lacking power, lacking perceived agency, folks will act out and hurt others.
De-policing cannot occur overnight, but we must begin the transition.
Some, feeling disrespected daily by the larger society, sadly, will manifest the same disrespect against others, including others in their own communities. But ask please, who taught them their lives and the lives of their neighbors didn’t matter? Where did they learn that lesson? Not on the corner. They learned it in our schools, our media, and from every instruction offered by our national history. Perhaps if we reconstituted the notion of public safety, beginning with the idea that the people themselves should have control, that sense of autonomy would translate into respect for self and others.
Such a sea change will take time. De-policing cannot occur overnight but we must begin the transition. So here’s an idea. It’s the kind of thing that activist groups like the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and others have discussed for years, and it’s time we took it seriously.
First, anyone looking to serve as an officer in a community of color — regardless of that aspiring officer’s race — should submit to a probationary period of, say, four months. During that time, they would be on the payroll, but they would not have powers of arrest. They would have no gun. Their job would be to get to know the communities and neighborhoods where they seek to serve — walking the blocks, talking to folks on their front porches, their stoops, in their barbershops, their cafés, their bodegas, their houses of worship. They would be talking, yes, but more crucially listening to the voices of those who live there. Finding out what they want and need from law enforcement. Assessing their hopes and fears.
After aspiring officers had gotten to know the people of the community — having met their families and shown them pictures of their own, and connected along the lines of a common humanity — the community would get to vote. The community would get to say yes or no to every aspirant. Having had the time to assess the humility, the character, and the commitment of each one who seeks to become a cop, the people would decide.
In all likelihood, those who weren’t cut out for this new and democratized culture wouldn’t make it four days, let alone four months. They wouldn’t even submit to the process in the first place. They would self-select out of policing as a career, at least in so far as they would be working in such communities. Good.
And those that stuck with it? Those who worked for months as community organizers, whose first job is always to listen? They would likely get the thumbs up. Either way, the control would be in the hands of the people.
This cannot be the endgame, of course. We need to rethink the entire concept of policing and move toward other forms of protecting public safety. But in the meantime, promoting self-determination would go a long way toward signaling that we were prepared to let the old ways die, to allow the scaffolding of police culture as we know it to crash and burn so that the nation doesn’t have to.
It would signal that we love the idea of America and still believe in it. Far more indeed than those who would defend the existing order.
by Kenneth Cooper
Yeah, that’s it. Go home. Vote. Elect a black president, a liberal congress, a liberal mayor, a liberal city council, even have a black AG appointed as the nation’s top prosecutor. After that, everything will be alright. You’ll be able to ride, run, walk up the street assured that you’ll be treated as a citizen equal to all others, and if not, those who violate your right will be met with the swiftest of justice.
Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling, Trayvon Martin – 6 murders, 0 justice.
Maybe try other methods. Try getting a job, fashioning yourself as a presentable negro. But one day you’re out for a ride with your girl and her kid, you get pulled over, you simply try to tell the officer that you’re exercising your right to carry a gun, and next thing you know — bam. Seven bullets are unloaded in your chest. Two of them hit you right in the heart. You’re left there, bleeding to death in the passenger seat, while the child screams behind you. All your girl can think to do is frantically record your last breath on her cell phone, hoping it’ll make a difference.
“Your, Honor, he was a black man with a gun. I feared for my life. What else was I supposed to do? 🤷♂️”
No justice. You try breaking the peace. You riot. You loot. You burn buildings to the ground. Probably because there’s no other outlet for your frustration. People call you an animal, a thug. Hardly anybody in power addresses the root of the problem, how systematically throwing black people in jail and under-investing in our communities has produced generations of disillusioned, poor people trying to live the American dream by any means necessary
Nope, they’ll be no tears or any form of reparations for you, just escalating forms of resistance and violence when you protest in outrage (blockades, negative media coverage, curfews, police armed with militarized weapons).
What’s the solution? A race war is out of the question. Black people are outnumbered, out-gunned, and out-organized. 10 cops swinging batons and firing rubber bullets can scatter a hundred unorganized protesters.
Last Monday, 3 police officers pinned a 46 year-old black man to the ground then proceeded to suffocate him until he cried for his mama. They only decided to take their knees off his neck and back after he stopped breathing for 2 minutes and 53 seconds. 1 officer stood by. A crowd just watched and recorded as he slowly died.
“Before we go any further, we’re asking you to be patient, while we proceed in due diligence to ascertain all the facts of the case and not make a rush to judgment – you know, basically give these guys the fairness and consideration they didn’t give to the man they just killed.”
We watch them die. We watched George Floyd die. We watched Eric Garner die. We watched Alton Sterling die. We heard Trayvon Martin fight for his life until a gun went off. “Racism is not getting worse, it’s getting filmed.” – Wil Smith
Many feel the problem is that too many police look like this (👮♂)while the citizens they often harass and murder look like this (🧑🏽🦱). Often those complaints are met with a simple🖕🏻in reply. Black people’s pleas to be treated equally have been met with that type of dismissiveness since the day we were dragged here in chains.
“I don’t wanna be a slave on this plantation.”
“I just wanna be treated like any other free man.”
“I just want the right to vote and the same civil rights as any other citizen.”
“Black lives matter.”
“I’m going to call the police and tell them that an African American man is threatening me.”
No, those aren’t the words that got Emmett Till killed. Those are the words of a white woman, who earlier this month threatened to weaponize the police against a black man for having the audacity to tell her to put a leash on her dog as the park rules required. Clearly she recognized historical precedent.
A word from the president on how the police should apprehend suspects:
“Please don’t be nice.”
What are we to do?
“We’ve tried black faces in high places. Too often our black politicians, professional class, middle class become too accommodated to the capitalist economy, too accommodated to a militarized nation-state…You’ve got a neoliberal wing of the Democratic Party that is now in the driver’s seat…and they really don’t know what to do.” – Cornel West
Nobody knows what to do. Slavery ended 155 years ago. Yet the mentality hasn’t.
How many more will lose their breath, waiting for change?
By Oliver Thomas
Ever since the formation of law enforcement and the criminal justice system the public has been encouraged to “Come Forward” and be a witness. Stand for justice and help make your community safe. Throughout American history, we the people have been led to believe that safe communities and true justice requires citizens coming forward standing with law enforcement against an evil criminal element trying to destroy our communities and even take our lives.
Because our lives matter. Well what we know centuries later is that this decree was never meant for true justice. It never really applied to law enforcement. Protect and serve was really to protect them from us. Black and brown communities have always been seen as the threat. Do I need to name names? How far should I go back?
Well one name equals all names these days. George Floyd!! George Floyd could never breathe. Not in an America that smothered him his entire life – that saw his blackness as a menace, needing to be destroyed. Fairness, decency, opportunity, equality, and certainly justice were never truly an option for him. But George Floyd couldn’t breathe not just because there was knee on his neck. He couldn’t breathe because centuries of brutality and cruelty clogged up his airways the moment he took his first breath here in America.
He had crying souls in his lungs and long suffering ghosts who prayed for an America where being a black man was no longer only seen as a threat. Instead black men would be recognized for the contributions to building this great nation. George Floyd deserved that honor and respect for all that was lost and taken away solely because of the color of his skin.
Millions more of us can’t breathe. We have learned to live without the fullness of breath, and without what we’re owed. Yet like all of us, George is a man. We know that your denial of his manhood, of our very humanity, gives you cover. For had it not been for my sacrifice you would not be able to rest your knee on my neck and enjoy wealth on my peoples back! One day we will learn we can breathe and don’t need your air.
It’s polluting. Our planet is creating germs and viruses that no man control. Ironically, the time has come for us to realize we need each other. So anyone who has ever been silent or whispered just how unfortunate or bad those incidents are must now speak loudly. It’s time for you to call out these murderous cops. The hatred in this injustice system is now bad for you. It even frightens you.
When George Lloyd said he couldn’t breathe he wasn’t speaking for himself -he was speaking for everyone. Your silence is the knee. Get your knees off his neck. Your privileges are no longer safe. Or none of us may be able to breathe.
Now is the time to take a deep breathe, come forward and be a witness.
ARE ESSENTIAL WORKERS BEING USED AS CHARMS IN A MONOPOLY GAME?
by CC Campbell Rock
When the Coronavirus came to America, news reporters lauded doctors, nurses, and EMTs for the essential workers they are, but, as the coronavirus death count continues to rise, it’s clear that grocery store employees, delivery drivers, police, fireman, postal workers, nursing home aides, janitors, meat packing plant workers, and sanitation workers are also essential workers.
At last count, 68 grocery workers have died from the novel coronavirus. Almost 12,000 meatpacking and food plant workers have reportedly contracted COVID-19; 48 have died, and 28,100 residents and workers have died from the coronavirus at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, according to a New York Times database.
Providing adequate PPE and health benefits for these workers is essential to the overall public health of the nation. Without them on the front lines, the economy would tank, public health would become an even bigger catastrophe, and the odds of stopping the spread of this deadly pandemic would be horribly diminished.
And what we can’t do is to believe that the coronavirus is going to disappear and reappear. COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere soon. We must learn to live with it and that starts with stopping the spread among frontline workers, who may be asymptomatic and bringing the virus home.
On May Day essential workers walked off their jobs, nationwide, to demand safer working conditions and hazard pay. “Rolling job actions have popped up across the limping economy, including by Pittsburgh sanitation workers who walked off their jobs and fast-food employees in California who left restaurants to perform socially distant protests in their car,” according to an ABC news report. Picket lines went up in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, and other cities.
In New Orleans, several sanitation workers (hoppers) walked out of the Metro Services Company work yard on May 5, to protest a lack of adequate PPE and to demand $15 per hour and $150 per week in hazard pay, health insurance, and sick leave benefits.
Although brothers Jimmie and Glen Woods, the owners of Metro, the city’s first African-American owned waste disposal contractor, hired a staffing company, PeopleReady, to recruit, hire, and manage the hoppers’ payroll, the Woods’ decided it was in everyone’s best interest to meet directly with the hoppers to find a resolution.
A Metro spokesperson said the hoppers turned down the invitation to meet with Councilperson-at-Large Jason Williams, who agreed to mediate the dispute between the owners and the hoppers, because they people helping them form a new union, the City Waste Union, prohibited them from meeting with officials and Williams, while the unionization process is ongoing.
There’s no doubt that unionizing is a savvy move for the hoppers. But sources, who asked to remain anonymous, have pointed out what may be a nefarious move by IV Waste, a Metro competitor, whose owners, Sidney Torres, IV and his father, Sidney Torres, III, are allegedly bankrolling the white operatives who are representing the hoppers.
If the allegations are true, then what we have here are black workers pitted against a black-owned firm by whites, who want to snatch the city contract from the black-owned firm in a city that is 60 percent black. If true, the striking hoppers are at the epicenter of a conspiracy to overthrow a 38-year-old black owned business. IV Waste has been in business since 2016 and contracts with Kenner and St. Bernard Parish. Is IV Waste playing monopoly and using the hoppers as the charms?
That the hoppers want to unionize is a good thing. Their lives are on the line. If it weren’t for sanitation workers, there would be a public health crisis here that would make the coronavirus look like a picnic outing. But while they’re striking and putting together their own union, Metro must find workers to fill their positions.
In the interim, there has been talk about raising the sanitation fee by $1 per household to raise the capital needed to meet the hoppers’ demands and the possibility of the city increasing Metro’s contract amount. Reverend Gregory Manning, the co-coordinator of Justice & Beyond, a civil rights and social justice coalition, crunched the numbers and determined that if Metro eliminated PeopleReady, they could meet the hoppers’ demands and still have a $3 million profit margin.
Surely, all low-wage essential workers deserve a living wage, hazard pay, health insurance, sick leave, and fresh PPE on the daily. They are, after all, our front line public health protectors. But would it make more sense, for expediency sake, the public’s health, and their own financial well-being, for the hoppers to come to the table and find common ground, first?
Sit Still Sit Quiet: An Increasingly Unfocused Screed About A Nightmare That We’re All Having
by Jordan Rock Part 4
Every morning I get out of bed (not wake up, mind you, just, you know, get out of bed), and prepare myself for whatever horror the news cycle is going to throw in my face. Since bad news keeps on rolling in, it’s the especially egregious bits that become the most memorable.
Usually it’s about the growing pandemic. Today it’s about Trump threatening legislative action to prevent Twitter from fact-checking the bile and bullshit that he vomits onto his feed every day.
It’s astonishing: How can a man throw two trillion dollars at companies that have been “troubled” by the ongoing pandemic, without disclosing all of the recipients to the public, mind you, and fail entirely to even feign interest in lending that kind of support to the American people…and then turn around a couple of weeks later screeching about how Twitter won’t let him spread blatant political lies about his ‘perceived enemies,’ (like the cable news host and former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough, whom Trump says should be investigated for ‘murder’ of an aide who accidently hit her head on a desk and died) and ‘massive’ voter fraud, because he cares more about getting re-elected than lifting a finger in the interest of dealing with COVID-19? Pretty evident where his energy is going right now.
I haven’t had a chance to say it in written words until now, so I’m taking my shot here; racist white folks across America were so pissed at the very idea of a black president that they rallied behind a man who made a career for himself as a blatant swindler, so that he could swindle the entire country, and all because he’s a crusty old white man like back in the good ole’ days.
Now the administration is caught in this endless game of Russian Roulette where somehow Trump gets to pass on each of his turns.
Oh, I’m sorry, did you think I was going to finish talking about life in contemporary America without talking smack about Trump? Please.
Trump is, at the very least, the perfect poster boy for the modern G.O.P. That is to say, he is a white supremacist ghoul, who belongs in a maximum security retirement home.
At least watching this failed Orwellian Kickstarter that he calls an administration gets a bitter laugh out of me now and then.
Where was I? Right, life in plague world.
In review, I’d like to say that the way America has handled this pandemic is a train wreck, but that would imply that the train was ever on the tracks in the first place. In truth, our present circumstances are the ultimate result of the bluster of Trump and his administration’s failure, and that tweet from this morning is a flawless example. The most powerful nation in the world is being led by a man who wants to shakedown Twitter in an alleyway for fact-checking him, when he could be doing something, ANYTHING, to help America recover from this virus.
We get to watch the rest of the world recover from their quarantine because they took this virus seriously from the jump. Compared to every other developed nation in the world; our hospitals are understaffed, our healthcare workers are overworked, our citizens can barely afford to make rent, let alone go and get checked, let alone further taking preventative measures or getting treated if they are infected.
And meanwhile? The rich get richer. Because our current administration is being run like every Trump enterprise thus far; a business intended to fail. That’s the takeaway here; like every business that Trump has defaulted on and subsequently declared bankrupt, the last four years have just been one long con to line his own pockets and the pockets of anyone lacking in enough scruples to profit off the misery of the American people.
So, before I sign off, there’s something I’d like to say. There’s been a lot of talk about being productive during quarantine, which I think is bunk. There’s been responses to that rhetoric about how millions of us are showing tell-tale signs of depression and PTSD due to this ongoing catastrophe that we are all limping through. There’s been people rioting in the streets with assault rifles over being told to stay indoors to police indifference, and there’s been peaceful protests over the deaths of people that look like me that have naturally been met with tear gas and pepper spray. This is the America I know. I wanted to say to you, whoever it is that’s reading this, that you deserve better.
America deserves better than this.
So, here’s what I want you to do. Survive. Do whatever it is you can to make ends meet, to push through this calamity.
And while you’re at it, make sure that you allow yourself to live. Really live. Not by the standards of our late capitalistic society, but by your own. You don’t have to reinvent yourself while you’re sitting still and quiet in quarantine. You don’t have to be exercising, or changing your diet or working, working, working. All you need to do is survive. Because the world we live in right now is so beyond horrifying, the only thing we can control, that we can rely on in any capacity, is ourselves.
So survive. First and foremost, survive. And while you’re doing that, demand better. Rest assured; this is a fight for your own survival. The government won’t help you. There are going to be people out there determined to pretend nothing is wrong, but you and I know better.
Wear your mask. Only go out if you have no other choice. Work if you absolutely must but survive. And when it comes time to vote, do us all a favor, and vote that great blubbering windbag out of office and straight into court for all that he’s done. These are desperate times, and no man is more desperate than a shyster who knows when his time is running out. This long, obvious con is coming to an end, and most people want this man out of office, at least so that we don’t have to listen to him squawk anymore. Don’t let a loud-mouth minority sabotage this country again. Don’t let this man cheat his way into another term.
Demand better, America. Because if you don’t, whatever comes next will make this pandemic seem like a dream and the Trump-dominated nightmare we’re in will never end.
We can survive this. But only if we stand together.
Sit Still Sit Quiet
by Jordan Rock Part 3
Let me take this opportunity to talk about the bizarre experience of living during a global pandemic, and about how it relates to work. I know how silly that sounds; we are literally ALL living through a global pandemic right now, we Know how it feels. But, well, these types of things can be hard to express, and perhaps the strangeness of this situation hasn’t quite set in for you yet. After all, I didn’t start thinking about all of this in terms of posterity until my job evaporated. Do you still have a job during this crisis? How does that make you feel? For the vast majority of Americans, it is our modus operandi to be worked into the ground in order to make ends meet.
We work to earn the right to work some more.
When you’re working your fingers to the bone, it’s easy to focus on the aches and pains rather than the society that led you to them. Even as I write this, it’s amazing to me how badly I want to get back to work. Not because I liked my job, but because without the anchor of a regular schedule, I can feel my grip on time pulling away from me. Because I’ve been made to sit still, only venturing out for essential survival materials, my main contact with the rest of the world is being funneled through social media, and the news cycle. I want to do something, but all I Can do is watch this horror show play out. For me, this anxiety is familiar ground.
This situation bears a striking resemblance to another major disaster that had a direct effect on my life. That of Hurricane Katrina. Since you’re here, on this website, I assume you’re familiar with it. Even after my family escaped from New Orleans in the wake of the hurricane, we kept up with the news cycle just to see what had become of our city. We watched along with the rest of America as the devastation played out.
I was twelve years old at the time and let me tell you; that was the first time I experienced true horror. We had heard the warnings, and we had prepared, but nothing can get you ready mentally
To see your home ravaged.
To know that there is a high chance that the people you know, and love are drowned or starving,
To be denied access to survival resources by your government because there simply isn’t enough to go around.
To pick yourself up wherever it is that you’ve landed and start all over again.
To look back and see what could have been done to prevent the disaster.
To research, and understand all of the ways that your infrastructure, your leadership, the very systems meant to support you, have failed you when you needed them most.
Twelve years old is far too early to lose any and all faith in the society you live in, I think. It has been the longest heartbreak of my life. But, more to the point, that horror was visceral and personal to me. I could look at my streets and see the devastation wrought by the wind and the rain and the failing infrastructure. This virus is different. It doesn’t destroy cities; not directly. It destroys lives. It is at once a distant threat and one that surrounds me at all times. This disaster looks completely different from the last one. I can’t run away from it, because nowhere in America is safe from it.
Today, I stand at the window and think about how oddly beautiful the streets are when they are so damn empty and quiet. I hold back tears when I talk to my friends, who have been given the illustrious title of “Essential Worker” at social gunpoint so that they can risk their lives for someone else’s bottom line. I watch the so-called leadership of America downplay this pandemic and expect us all to play along. This disaster is so much bigger than the one from my youth, and we had so much less warning. This time, the flood waters, as it were, have yet to recede. We’re standing waist deep in this crisis, watching people drown, and still we’re all being told to get back to work.
I explained last time that the United States has proven itself the best at being the worst at handling this world-wide viral pandemic. The death toll climbs by the hour, and even as we hear pyrrhic news about how people that recover from the virus become immune to it, or how a vaccine is in development, they are like fireflies in the void of space. Distant stars, too far to reach.
I’m amazed at how angry I am this time around. Whenever something vile has happened to American people in the last four years of our current administration, its been wrapped up with a neat little bow in the 24 hour news cycle, trotted around for ratings and then tossed under the stampede of fresh horrors running in. There is no solidarity or mourning for this crisis, for the thousands dead and dying. There is only the constant knowledge of it as thousands more shuffle off to risk their lives for a paycheck that doesn’t justify their peril.
I read the other day that the United States is the only country that has not agreed to make the vaccine free and available for its people when it is completed. All I can think when I hear this is that the cure for this plague is going to become a luxury item, and suddenly this virus consuming the world will be written off by the great and the good as a poor person’s disease.
This is growing incoherent. But that’s the thing; our reality makes less and less sense the longer we sit still. We’ve all grown so numb to the horrors of these times, able to stumble through our days as long as we can have a distraction to motivates to slough through all of the nonsense. But now, for so many of us, the constant cycle of work, sleep eat has been disrupted, and all we have is to sit. And those of us that can sit and wait for this to blow over are the lucky ones. And yet, it feels like being held down with our eyes taped open. When you aren’t going to work, you lose track of time. If you don’t set your own schedule, monitor yourself, you lose control. All there is for those stuck inside is to watch as their country mishandles every step of the battle against the virus. From that perspective, it almost makes sense how many people furiously reject the idea of staying inside right now. I can almost sympathize with the desire to ignore the virus and try desperately to live normally.
I understand how hard it is to sit still.
I’m a busy body. My ADHD-addled brain frequently zips through associations and ideas at a breakneck pace, like the world’s least sensical game of synaptic ping-pong, and while that makes me a fantastic idea man, it also means I must be a relentless note-taker with a restless mind. Add on top of that the trauma of our shared situation, and you get a lot of sleepless nights. Since this lockdown started, I can’t remember the last time I slept all the way through the night. And now, with the virus only ramping up, with the death toll climbing higher and higher, with lunatics running around without masks claiming that it is their civil right to put everyone around them at risk of infection, we’re being told that now is the time for shops to reopen, for us to go back out and sweat and bleed for the economy?
I want to be shocked. I really do, but then I think about it. Americans have been so socialized, so hammered by the idea that the only purpose we have in life is to go to work, consume products, breed and make more consumers that will also go to work, all to line the pockets of the rich and powerful, its almost seductive to wiggle our jobs in front of our faces during a pandemic.
I have a friend in the Bay Area who happens to be an EMT, and listening to the routine he has to go through of undressing on the porch, disinfecting his clothes and then trying to sanitize himself before touching anything inside his house makes my hands shake. When you go through a crisis, you come out on the other side shaken, with the knowledge that your world has changed. You would think that America itself, so rattled by this nightmare would at least acknowledge the horror of it all, that our current administration would be able to pretend for a moment that it cares for its people.
We need work, because a single check from the government is not going to be enough to pay our inflating rents. Hell, for many, it wasn’t enough to pay one month of rent. We need work, because the pittance we received for our previous work has already been spent just trying to survive.
Just what in the world Is an essential worker, anyway? Far as I can see, it’s someone that has a choice; you can get out there and work, or you can starve. Either feed the beast of the economy with your labor or feed it with your life.
They are the life support plugged into a failed economic experiment; a feed bag strapped to the face of our broken system. A bare neck for our vampiric oligarchy to bite into.
We are as essential as pigs are to a butcher.
No wonder I’m so mad. I’m not mad at the virus, or mad that I’m stuck inside. I’m mad, because when disaster struck me at twelve years old, I got to watch the Bush administration put on a show of caring about my poor, destroyed city. This time, at twenty-seven, I get to watch the Trump administration bail out a bunch of major corporations with one hand and use the other to root around in my pockets for loose change.
Opening Up America Again
President Trump has unveiled Guidelines for Opening Up America Again, a three-phased approach based on the advice of public health experts. These steps will help state and local officials when reopening their economies, getting people back to work, and continuing to protect American lives.
Downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses (ILI) reported within a 14-day period
Downward trajectory of covid-like syndromic cases reported within a 14-day period
Downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period
Downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period (flat or increasing volume of tests)
Treat all patients without crisis care
Robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing
State and local officials may need to tailor the application of these criteria to local circumstances (e.g., metropolitan areas that have suffered severe COVID outbreaks, rural and suburban areas where outbreaks have not occurred or have been mild). Additionally, where appropriate, Governors should work on a regional basis to satisfy these criteria and to progress through the phases outlined below.
Core State Preparedness Responsibilities
TESTING & CONTACT TRACING
Ability to quickly set up safe and efficient screening and testing sites for symptomatic individuals and trace contacts of COVID+ results
Ability to test Syndromic/ILI-indicated persons for COVID and trace contacts of COVID+ results
Ensure sentinel surveillance sites are screening for asymptomatic cases and contacts for COVID+ results are traced (sites operate at locations that serve older individuals, lower-income Americans, racial minorities, and Native Americans)
HEALTHCARE SYSTEM CAPACITY
Ability to quickly and independently supply sufficient Personal Protective Equipment and critical medical equipment to handle dramatic surge in need
Ability to surge ICU capacity
Protect the health and safety of workers in critical industries
Protect the health and safety of those living and working in high-risk facilities (e.g., senior care facilities)
Protect employees and users of mass transit
Advise citizens regarding protocols for social distancing and face coverings
Monitor conditions and immediately take steps to limit and mitigate any rebounds or outbreaks by restarting a phase or returning to an earlier phase, depending on severity
Proposed Phased Approach
BASED ON UP-TO-DATE DATA AND READINESS
MITIGATES RISK OF RESURGENCE
PROTECTS THE MOST VULNERABLE
IMPLEMENTABLE ON STATEWIDE OR COUNTY-BY-COUNTY BASIS AT GOVERNORS’ DISCRETION
Guidelines for All Phases Individuals
Continue to adhere to State and local guidance as well as complementary CDC guidance, particularly with respect to face coverings.
CONTINUE TO PRACTICE GOOD HYGIENE
Wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer, especially after touching frequently used items or surfaces.
Avoid touching your face.
Sneeze or cough into a tissue, or the inside of your elbow.
Disinfect frequently used items and surfaces as much as possible.
Strongly consider using face coverings while in public, and particularly when using mass transit.
PEOPLE WHO FEEL SICK SHOULD STAY HOME
Do not go to work or school.
Contact and follow the advice of your medical provider.
Guidelines for All Phases Employers
Develop and implement appropriate policies, in accordance with Federal, State, and local regulations and guidance, and informed by industry best practices, regarding:
Social distancing and protective equipment
Use and disinfection of common and high-traffic areas
Monitor workforce for indicative symptoms. Do not allow symptomatic people to physically return to work until cleared by a medical provider.
Develop and implement policies and procedures for workforce contact tracing following employee COVID+ test.
For States and Regions that satisfy the gating criteria
ALL VULNERABLE INDIVIDUALS should continue to shelter in place. Members of households with vulnerable residents should be aware that by returning to work or other environments where distancing is not practical, they could carry the virus back home. Precautions should be taken to isolate from vulnerable residents.
All individuals, WHEN IN PUBLIC (e.g., parks, outdoor recreation areas, shopping areas), should maximize physical distance from others. Social settings of more than 10 people, where appropriate distancing may not be practical, should be avoided unless precautionary measures are observed.
Avoid SOCIALIZING in groups of more than 10 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing (e.g., receptions, trade shows)
MINIMIZE NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL and adhere to CDC guidelines regarding isolation following travel.
Continue to ENCOURAGE TELEWORK, whenever possible and feasible with business operations.
If possible, RETURN TO WORK IN PHASES.
Close COMMON AREAS where personnel are likely to congregate and interact, or enforce strict social distancing protocols.
Minimize NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL and adhere to CDC guidelines regarding isolation following travel.
Strongly consider SPECIAL ACCOMMODATIONS for personnel who are members of a VULNERABLE POPULATION.
SPECIFIC TYPES OF EMPLOYERS
SCHOOLS AND ORGANIZED YOUTH ACTIVITIES (e.g., daycare, camp) that are currently closed should remain closed.
VISITS TO SENIOR LIVING FACILITIES AND HOSPITALS should be prohibited. Those who do interact with residents and patients must adhere to strict protocols regarding hygiene.
LARGE VENUES (e.g., sit-down dining, movie theaters, sporting venues, places of worship) can operate under strict physical distancing protocols.
ELECTIVE SURGERIES can resume, as clinically appropriate, on an outpatient basis at facilities that adhere to CMS guidelines.
GYMS can open if they adhere to strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols.
BARS should remain closed.
For States and Regions with no evidence of a rebound and that satisfy the gating criteria a second time
ALL VULNERABLE INDIVIDUALS should continue to shelter in place. Members of households with vulnerable residents should be aware that by returning to work or other environments where distancing is not practical, they could carry the virus back home. Precautions should be taken to isolate from vulnerable residents.
All individuals, WHEN IN PUBLIC (e.g., parks, outdoor recreation areas, shopping areas), should maximize physical distance from others. Social settings of more than 50 people, where appropriate distancing may not be practical, should be avoided unless precautionary measures are observed.
NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL can resume.
Continue to ENCOURAGE TELEWORK, whenever possible and feasible with business operations.
Close COMMON AREAS where personnel are likely to congregate and interact, or enforce moderate social distancing protocols.
Strongly consider SPECIAL ACCOMMODATIONS for personnel who are members of a VULNERABLE POPULATION.
SPECIFIC TYPES OF EMPLOYERS
SCHOOLS AND ORGANIZED YOUTH ACTIVITIES (e.g., daycare, camp) can reopen.
VISITS TO SENIOR CARE FACILITIES AND HOSPITALS should be prohibited. Those who do interact with residents and patients must adhere to strict protocols regarding hygiene.
LARGE VENUES (e.g., sit-down dining, movie theaters, sporting venues, places of worship) can operate under moderate physical distancing protocols.
ELECTIVE SURGERIES can resume, as clinically appropriate, on an outpatient and in-patient basis at facilities that adhere to CMS guidelines.
GYMS can remain open if they adhere to strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols.
BARS may operate with diminished standing-room occupancy, where applicable and appropriate.
For States and Regions with no evidence of a rebound and that satisfy the gating criteria a third time
VULNERABLE INDIVIDUALS can resume public interactions, but should practice physical distancing, minimizing exposure to social settings where distancing may not be practical, unless precautionary measures are observed.
LOW-RISK POPULATIONS should consider minimizing time spent in crowded environments.
Resume UNRESTRICTED STAFFING of worksites.
SPECIFIC TYPES OF EMPLOYERS
VISITS TO SENIOR CARE FACILITIES AND HOSPITALS can resume. Those who interact with residents and patients must be diligent regarding hygiene.
LARGE VENUES (e.g., sit-down dining, movie theaters, sporting venues, places of worship) can operate under limited physical distancing protocols.
GYMS can remain open if they adhere to standard sanitation protocols.
BARS may operate with increased standing room occupancy, where applicable.
Appendix Vulnerable Individuals
1. Elderly individuals.
2. Individuals with serious underlying health conditions, including high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and those whose immune system is compromised such as by chemotherapy for cancer and other conditions requiring such therapy.
All the proceeds of this fundraiser go directly to students who now more than ever need gap tuition financing. These are academically high performing students who need financial help. And you get some delicious crawfish and sides.