Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Gift of Workers' Voices.

In the state of Georgia and the "right to work" South it is rare to hear the voice of workers in the media, at public events and through the internet.  The roots of this silence run deep, and, like most things are not kept in place by chance.  In order to lift the power of Georgia workers... the voices, interests, dreams and priorities of GA workers must be amplified from the church pulpit to the Atlanta Journal Constitution to the workplace floor to the neighborhood association meeting and through our very own social networks and self made media.  Workers must be front and center owning their own narrative.

We at Atlanta Jobs with Justice wanted to highlight two examples of GA workers taking charge and having their own voices heard:

1*) A recent piece of media coverage on CBS Atlanta that did in fact highlight the hard working school workers of Georgia....  The event covered is part of the Atlanta Jobs with Justice "Justice for School Workers" campaign that seeks to 1) reinstate earned unemployment benefits for all Georgia school workers (with back pay) and 2)  develop union organizing drives in impacted workplaces and 3) develop student organizations to fight alongside campus workers.

Click HERE for coverage that highlights two workers that have led the statewide Justice for School Workers campaign in GA. A 20 year Sodexo food service worker at Georgia Tech and a First Student Teamster bus driver in Savannah, GA.

2*) Atlanta Jobs with Justice has established a Workers' Rights Board comprised of faith, community, labor and academic leaders who use their position in the community to leverage the voices and agency of workers against injustice in the workplace and in support of the right to organize.  These leaders listen to the stories of workers, issue recommendations, lead letter delegations and organize their base(s) to broaden and deepen support for GA workers.  This August, we held a kick off event for the Atlanta Jobs with Justice Workers' Rights Board called the "People's Court"  GA school workers were put front and center, articulating their hardships as well as the path forward for the Justice for School Workers campaign and efforts to hold rogue Labor Commissioner Mark Butler to some level of decency.

Of all the gifts that one can give to a loved one...  We would like to share the gift of GA workers articulating their need(s) and vision. In the coming year, let it be a task for all of us to prioritize the voice(s) of those who make our economy tick... The voice of GA workers.


Photo courtesy of Sean Moore

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Thank the US DoL for Standing up for Georgia's Schoolworkers and Hold Butler Accountable

Action Alert: Join us to Thank the US Dept of Labor for Standing up for Georgia's Schoolworkers and hold GA Labor Commissioner Mark Butler Accountable
Friday, December 21 12:00pm
US Department of Labor at Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Building. 
       61 Forsyth Street, SW (Get Directions) 
 

This is part of the Justice for School Workers Campaign. 

The Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler unlawfully cut off unemployment benefits to laid off school workers this summer. The US Department of Labor (DoL) called him out for violating state and federal guidelines and threatened to cut off $72 million in federal administrative grants to the GA DoL if he did not immediately reinstate the benefits. Butler has since replied to the US DoL with the help of GA attorney general Sam Olens claiming that he is following state and federal guidelines and asking the US DoL to reconsider their stance.

Please join us this Friday, we will be gathering at the regional US DoL office in Atlanta to thank them for their initial stand against Butler's attack on Georgia's school workers (bus drivers, food service workers, janitors, crossing guards). However, it is imperative for the well being of tens of thousands of school workers and their families that this issue is resolved expediently. We need the US DoL to press Mark Butler to follow basic state and federal guidelines.

If you can make a sign please do! Otherwise we will have some signs for folks.

Sign Examples:
"US DoL, Right the First Time"
"Butler hurts school workers"

Directions By MARTA: go to Five Points station and exit on the Forsyth street side. The Sam Nunn Federal center is about 200 yards to the left after exiting the station.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Fannie Mae Blinked, But Mark We Still Got Your Back!

When word of the planned candlelight vigil in support of Desert Storm veteran Mark Harris, outside of Fannie Mae’s South Eastern Regional Office VP’s home went public last week, one of Fannie Mae’s senior VP’s made contact with Mark.

They made an offer that is closer to keeping Mark Harris in his home for good. This in its self is a huge deal! Fannie Mae is not a bank, and they rarely engage in direct negotiations with home owners.

Because negotiations are underway we are calling off the planned demonstration today at Mark’s request. The fight for Marks home is certainly not over until a deal is made that can keep him in his home where he belongs. We are all on pins and needles waiting to see what will happen this week.

While we wait for Fannie Mae to come to the table with a deal that Mark can live with, we need to make sure that we're keeping the pressure up. Our goal is to get 5,000 signatures on Mark's petition by the end of the week. To do that, we need your help! Can you send this petition to at least 5 of your friends asking them to support Mark Harris in the fight for his home? Can you help us meet this goal? 

http://start2.occupyourhomes.org/petitions/disable-desert-storm-veteran-needs-help-to-save-his-home

We'll be sure to send updates on Mark Harris as soon as they come in, and will be ready to take action to keep Mark, and the many others that are facing a housing struggle in their homes this holiday season. You can check out some of the stories of the other brave residents who have chosen to fight the banks for their homes at our website here.

Below is Mark Harris' Story:

I have worked hard and tried to do the right thing my whole life. I joined the Army in 1982 just out of High School, and served a year in Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm. After transitioning from active duty I got a job with UPS and was proud to join Teamsters Local 728. I purchased my home in 1996 with a VA backed home loan and refinanced it in 2004.

In 2005 I started my own trucking business, and then the economy crashed. I got illnesses related to my time in Desert Storm, and I fell behind on my mortgage. I’ve been trying to catch up ever since; recently I’ve applied for the HomeSafe program here in Georgia. While my application was being processed my VA benefits kicked in, which meant I could afford to make my payments.

Sadly, as my finances were finally coming together in October 2012, Green Tree Mortgage Servicing foreclosed on my home on behalf of Fannie Mae, despite the fact that I was doing everything I could to catch up and modify my loan.

Fannie Mae auctioned off my home, knowing that HomeSafe was working with me. Now that I am receiving my service connected disability compensation I can make my monthly payments but Fannie Mae wants me out now. All they're willing to offer me is $1500 cash for keys to get out.

In looking over my assignment documents I’ve also discovered that some of the country’s most famous robo signers signed the mortgage assignment that was used to foreclose on me.

Fannie Mae is aggressively moving forward with an eviction, and it could happen as soon as November 15th. As a veteran, I thought the toughest battles were behind me. I never thought I’d be struggling to keep a roof over my head. I fought for this country, so I know I have a right to fight for my home! - Mark Harris

Thursday, November 29, 2012

**Event Cancelled** Mark Harris, We Will Do What it Takes to Save Your Home!

On Monday December 10th join Mark Harris, Occupy Our Homes Atlanta (OOHA), Teamsters Local 728, Atlanta Jobs with Justice, and American Friends Service Committee for a candle light vigil and prayer at the home of Catherine "Candy" Lasher, the regional director of Fannie Mae. Candy can decide whether or not to throw Mark Harris - A US Desert Storm Veteran and 20 year UPS Teamster out of his home.

December 10th is "Human Rights Day" and what better way to celebrate than lifting up the need for fair housing for all people, including US combat veterans.

1/3 of Atlanta's homeless population are US veterans, and for every one of them there are six empty homes, many of which are owned by Fannie Mae. Atlanta doesn't need another homeless combat vet, and we don't need another boarded up eyesore in our community.

This marks a critical turning point where worker organizations are taking a stand against the greed of Fannie Mae. We understand the leading cause of foreclosure is unemployment. We need full and fair employment for our community members and we will to fight to keep workers in their homes. Unions stand with workers inside and outside the workplace.
 

Our message to Catherine "Candy" Lasher and Fannie Mae: "We are prepared to do whatever it takes to keep Mark Harris in his home." 

Facebook Event: www.facebook.com/events/442019789191693/

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Right to Organize in the South. Justice for School Workers.

Atlanta Jobs with Justice travelled to the School of the Americas (SoA) Protest at Ft. Benning in Columbus, GA to stand with unlawfully fired school bus drivers that were organizing for better working conditions on the job.  Taylor Motors, a contracted company on the military base fired Miss Glenda and Miss Olivia for their leadership in the work place.

This effort is part of the Justice for School Workers campaign that aims to reinstate all earned unemployment benefits (WITH FULL BACK PAY) for Georgia School Workers as well as organize Georgia school workers in a broad, transformative way.  The Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler unilaterally denied earned unemployment benefits to 64,000 Georgia School Workers for the first time this summer (many school workers get laid off over the summer and other school breaks), throwing many workers into economic devastation.

We will not tolerate any employer that blatantly violates protected union organizing activity in our state of Georgia.  Taylor Motors is a federal contractor and therefore must be held to basic standards outlined for all federal contractors.

We met with Taylor Motors bus drivers including Miss Olivia as well as UNITE HERE to collect petition signatures in support of the bus drivers.  We collected over 1300 petition signatures in support of the drivers in just 1.5 days!

We would like to thank the good people of SoA Watch for their consistent and effective organizing against US imperialism in the Southern Hemisphere and their willingness to support a broad agenda for economic and social justice. With no prior notice, SoA watch listened to the plight of the bus drivers and gave a big shout out to the work here:

And we want to give a big shout out to Connie Jones who collected 168 petition signatures in support of the school bus drivers !!!!!!  Check out Connie working her magic below:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Stand Up with Unlawfully Fired School Bus Drivers at the School of the Americas Protest.

Justice for School Workers.

Every November, thousands of social justice activists gather at the School of the America's (SoA) in Columbus, GA to protest the school that has trained Latin American soldiers to murder and shut down political dissidents and democratically elected governments in the region.


Atlanta Jobs with Justice will be going to Columbus, GA specifically to support two recently fired bus drivers (Miss Glenda and Miss Olivia) who worked at Ft. Benning.  Miss Glenda and Miss Olivia are leaders in the "Justice fo
r School Workers" campaign that aims to reinstate unemployment benefits denied to laid off Georgia school workers and organize for union protection on the job.  This led into union organizing in their workplace where they are both dynamic leaders. Miss Glenda and Miss Olivia were unlawfully fired by their company (Taylor Motors - which has a contract at the military base) because they were standing up for their rights on the job. The company made this move to intimidate other workers out of organizing. We cannot tolerate any acts of retaliation against organizing workers in our state. We must hold this company accountable.


We will provide transportation and lodging for anyone that is willing to put 2 hours of time into collecting petition signatures and spreading awareness at the SoA protest in support of Miss Glenda and Miss Olivia. The rest of the time, feel free to enjoy the general events. This event is critical because there will be thousands of social justice advocates converging in Columbus, GA.... And we know that Taylor Motors holds federal contracts throughout the Southeastern United States. We aim to raise awareness and push for action against Taylor Motors until they agree to rehire Miss Olivia and Miss Glenda.

We will meet at our office location at 7:00 am in order to car pool down to the SoA protest. Our office is located here: 250 Georgia Ave. Room 309 Atlanta, GA 30312. Meet in the parking lot. We would like to offer two options for participants to either return from Columbus later on the night of November 17th, or stay the night in Columbus and return to Atlanta the afternoon of November 18th.
 


Join the Facebook Event HERE

HERE is more information about the School of the Americas (SoA) schedule of events and history

HERE is more information about the Justice for School Workers Campaign

Hold Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler accountable.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Meet Our Elected Leadership.

Charmaine Davis is Co-Chair elect of Atlanta Jobs with Justice and is the Georgia State Director of 9to5 Working Women.
Charmaine Davis is originally from Lorain, Ohio. She graduated from The Ohio State University in 2005 with a BA in both Political Science and African American Studies.  After graduating from Ohio State Charmaine became a political organizer with the national organization Project Vote. The first campaign Charmaine worked on was the Minimum Wage campaign in Ohio. She recruited, trained and managed a staff of over 40 field canvassers who collected over 250,000 petition signatures from registered Ohio voters who supported raising the state minimum wage. The initiative made it on the Ohio ballot in 2006. Charmaine helped to mobilize Ohio voters to vote in favor of it. Charmaine successfully helped to raise the minimum wage in Ohio from $5.15 to $6.85. This was a huge victory for low-wage workers in Ohio.
In 2007 as a community organizer in Flint, Michigan, Charmaine built the membership of Young Urban Voters, a branch of Project Vote, to over 2,500 members. She had the opportunity to work with and develop many young adults and into active community leaders through one-on-one meetings and mentoring. Later in 2007, she was promoted to national staff with Project Vote; she managed several voter registration drives across the country that registered more than 1 million voters.
In 2010 Charmaine moved to Atlanta to become the Lead Organizer for the Atlanta chapter of 9to5, The National Association of Working Women where she is continuing to help build a movement to achieve economic justice by engaging directly affected women to improve working conditions.

E-mail: Charmaine@9to5.org

Ben Speight is Co-Chair elect of Atlanta Jobs with Justice and the Organizing Director of Teamsters Local 728. Teamsters Local 728 is comprised of 7,000 truck drivers and helpers in Georgia.  Speight is a 14 year veteran of social and economic justice struggles in Georgia and in the last year has organized over 1,000 workers in the Atlanta and Savannah areas. Speight also works in solidarity with the immigrant rights movement and serves on the board of WRFG community radio.

E-mail: bensp8@gmail.com

George Kimbrough Johnson is the Chair of the Atlanta Jobs with Justice Workers' Rights Board A native of Houston, TX, George Kimbrough Johnson is a 1996 recipient of a Master of Divinity degree from The Chicago Theological Seminary and a 1993 cum laude graduate of Dillard University in New Orleans, LA.
He is the former College Chaplain and Instructor of Religion and Ethics of Wiley College in Marshall, Tex. He served as Pastor of the Corona Congregational Church United Church of Christ, Corona , NY (New York City-Queens), New Birth United Methodist Church of Longview, TX., Bethel United Methodist Church of Queen City, TX., and St. Paul’s United Methodist Church congregations of Jefferson and Texarkana, TX.
Johnson’s ministerial service has been enhanced by his participation as a student intern and ambassador for The Black College Fund of The United Methodist Church, as well as his experiences in missionary work South Africa and Namibia.
Johnson is a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. He was inspired to join this fraternal organization by the example of his former pastor, Bishop Robert E. Hayes Jr. of the Oklahoma Annual Conference. He was initiated into the Delta Ganna Boule of the Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity in Tyler, TX.
He currently serves on the ministerial staff of the Big Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Atlanta, GA and as the Chair of the Workers' Rights Board of Atlanta Jobs with Justice. 
His greatest accomplishment is marrying his college sweetheart, a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, The Rev. Maria Church Johnson, Pastor of the Richards Chapel United Methodist Church of Covington, GA.

E-mail: gkjohnson1906@yahoo.com

Milt Tambor is the elected Treasurer of Atlanta Jobs with Justice and Chair of the Metro Atlanta DSA.  Milt moved to Atlanta from Detroit in 2001 and is currently retired. He worked for Michigan American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Council 25 as a staff representative and education coordinator. As staff representative he represented public sector workers in collective bargaining and grievance appeals. As labor educator he conducted classes in collective bargaining, steward training, labor history, economics, strategic planning and health and safety. With a Ph.D. in Sociology, Milt also taught classes as an adjunct faculty at Wayne State University's School of Social Work.

E-mailmltambor@yahoo.com

Neil Sardana is the elected secretary of Atlanta Jobs with Justice. He is originally from Metro Detroit and holds a Master of Public Health and a Master of Public Policy from the University of Michigan where he focused on social policy advocacy, community-based health promotion, community organizing, and economic development. Most recently, Neil worked as a public health analyst in Atlanta, GA and focused on issues of health disparities, environmental justice, food security and nutrition, access to healthcare, and chronic disease. Previously, he worked as urban planning and development researcher on issues of employment, economics, education, land use, and demographics. As an organizer and social justice educator, Neil has collaborated with labor unions, community organizations, student activists, and NGOs around the defense of human rights rights, fairness and equality, economic justice, and the environment. In Atlanta, Neil has focused on building Atlanta Jobs with Justice, supported worker’s rights campaigns, and he organized with Healthcare Now Georgia focusing on the right to healthcare.
As a student, Neil worked with labor unions in South Africa and Cambodia, assisting them with their organizing campaigns, communications to partners and employers, and research efforts. He also worked with Amnesty International India in supporting the development of a campaign to repeal India’s draconian Armed Forces Specials Powers Act, 1958.  He was a leader with the United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) serving as a member of the group’s Coordinating Committee and as a leader at USAS affiliates at Michigan State University and University of Michigan.  Neil was a social justice educator at the University of Michigan’s Program on Intergroup Relations, where he taught a course on intergroup dialogue, social identities, and anti-oppression. During his time as angraduate student instructor he served as steward for the U of M GraduateEmployees' Organization. 

E-mail: neil@atlantajwj.org

Roger Sikes is the Organizing Director of Atlanta Jobs with Justice.  He built campaigns in collaboration with food service workers and students on 5 college and university campuses in Atlanta, GA to improve working conditions and win union recognition. Roger helped to build a broad coalition of labor unions and community organizations to defeat Georgia’s SB469 – a bill aimed to gut unions and criminalize effective non-violent protest.  He campaigned against the closure of Grady Hospital’s public dialysis clinic, the clinic ultimately closed, but the pressure caused private dialysis providers to take on some of the patients. 

E-mail: roger@atlantajwj.org

Monday, October 15, 2012

Breaking the Chains - A Speak Out Against Criminalization in Our Communities

The criminalization of our communities creates a huge barrier to employment.  Why? And within whose interest(s)?  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

**EVENT POSTPONED.Hold Butler Accountable. Thank the US DoL.

***EVENT POSTPONED FOR STRATEGIC REASONS.*** PLEASE CALL OUR OFFICE IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS 404-913-9595. WE WILL BE IN TOUCH ABOUT NEXT STEPS TO KEEP THE HEAT ON GA LABOR COMMISSIONER MARK BUTLER.

Justice for School Workers.

The Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler unlawfully cut off unemployment benefits to laid off school workers this summer. The US Department of Labor (DoL) called him out for violating state and federal guidelines and threatened to cut off $72 million in federal administrative grants to the GA DoL if he did not immediately reinstate the benefits. Butler has since replied to the US DoL with the help of GA attorney general Sam Olens claiming that he is following state and federal guidel ines and asking the US DoL to reconsider their stance.

We will be gathering at the regional US DoL office in Atlanta to thank them for their initial stand against Butler's attack on Georgia's school workers (bus drivers, food service workers, janitors, crossing guards). However, it is imperative for the well being of tens of thousands of school workers and their families that this issue is resolved expediently. We need the US DoL to press Mark Butler to follow basic state and federal guidelines. School workers are in debt from the summer and any delays in paying back the denied unemployment is immoral and unlawful.

Please join us at the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center to thank the US DoL for doing the right thing the first time and to urge them to follow through with their commitment.


Thursday October 4th
11:30 am
Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Building 61 Forsyth Street, SW.

If you can make a sign please do! Otherwise we will have some signs for folks.


"US DoL, Right the First Time"
"Butler hurts school workers"

By MARTA: go to Five Points station and exit on the Forsyth street side. The Sam Nunn Federal center is about 200 yards to the left after exiting the station.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Support the Union Musicians of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Friends,
Many of you know that the 95 union musicians of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Players' Association, have been locked out by the ASO management and Woodruff Arts Center management.  Although the musicians have offered many concessions, management wants more and has even cut off the musicians' health insurance!  The first concert is scheduled for October 4, so this coming week will be crucial.   

You can find out many details on the Players’ Association web site www.ATLSymphonyMusicians.com .  A few facts and ways we can help--pasted below—were taken directly from the web site.

Facts:
  • As of August 26th, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra musicians have been without any pay or benefits, also known as being locked out.
  • On August 31, health, dental, and disability insurance policies for all musicians, several of whom are battling cancer and other debilitating health crises, have also been cancelled by the Woodruff Arts Center as threatened.
  • Musicians have offered $4 million in concessions over two years and to contribute more for their health insurance, but the ASO management wants more.
  • The musicians point out that between 2006 and 2012, ASO staff compensation increased 49.5% while musicians’ compensation increased 16% (inflation was 14% between 2006 and 2012).
How we can help:  Email and/or phone those in charge! And send a letter-to-the-editor to the newspapers suggested below.  The musicians also say they will appreciate our sending a copy of our correspondence to them at ATLSymphonyMusicians@gmail.com   

Stanley E. Romanstein, Ph.D.,
President
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Jim Abrahamson
Chair of the ASO Board
Jim.Abrahamson@interstatehotels.com

Virginia Hepner (write emails to the WAC Executive Board to her)
President & CEO
Woodruff Arts Center
Virginia.Hepner@woodruffcenter.org

Larry Gellerstedt, III
Chair of Executive Board of Woodruff Arts Center

Howard Feinsand
Finance Chair

To submit a letter to the editor of the AJC:
http://www.ajc.com/news/news/opinion/letters-editor/nRBGw/

Creative Loafing:
letters.atl@creativeloafing.com

Atlanta Business Chronicle, click on the contact the editor tab to submit:
 

http://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/about-us/contact/

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Atlanta Jobs with Justice Receives Grant from RESIST Foundation

The Atlanta Jobs with Justice Coalition has been awarded a grant from RESIST, Inc., a national progressive foundation located in Somerville, Massachusetts.

The grant was provided for Atlanta Jobs with Justice to lead and support strategic labor and community campaigns throughout the city of Atlanta. "It's great to see the RESIST Foundation recognizing and valuing the work we do and providing direct support to further our efforts" states Neil Sardana the Secretary of Atlanta Jobs with Justice.

RESIST began in 1967 in support of draft resistance and in opposition to the Vietnam War.  As the funder of first resort for hundreds of organizations, RESIST's small but timely grants and loans are made to grassroots groups engaged in activist organizing and educational work for social change.  RESIST defines organizing as collective action to challenge the status quo, demand changes in policy and practice, and educate communities about root causes and just solutions.  RESIST recognizes that there are a variety of stages and strategies that lead to community organizing.  Therefore, they support strategies that build community, encourage collaborations with other organizations, increase skills and/or access to resources, and produce leadership from the constituency being most directly affected.  In fiscal year 2011, RESIST gave over $342,000 to 130 organizations across the country.

"Each year, RESIST funds groups like Atlanta Jobs with Justice, because our mission is to support people who take a stand about the issues that matter today, whether it's to resist corporate globalization, promote a woman's right to choose, or develop activist leaders," says Board Chair Miabi Chatterji.  "And we believe it's especially important to help grassroots organizations that might be too small or too local -- or too radical -- for mainstream foundations."

More information about the RESIST foundation can be found on their website HERE

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The People's Court: Testimony. Part 2.

An impressive set of five work place leaders is assembled behind the judges, elevated slightly.  The workers sit solemnly, looking out at the community assembled before them, prepared to share their testimony with the world.  Bus drivers from Columbus and Savannah sit staunchly among the group, Sodexo food service workers from Morehouse College and Georgia Tech anchor the group while a Georgia Pre-K lead teacher sits in the center of those assembled.

Belinda Myles is called to the stand. Belinda is a caring teacher whose leadership in the class room shines through in the court room as well. As Belinda approaches the stand a hush falls over the court...

Belinda begins...

"I want you to imagine for one second Miss Belinda sitting in-front of 22 smiling faces looking up at me one morning and one of them says, "Miss Belinda, what are we going to talk about today?"

Belinda replies... "We're going to talk about our summer vacation." The student asks, "Miss Belinda.... How did you spend your summer vacation?"
Belinda Myles Poised at the Stand


"Well.... I spent my summer with the letter B.  Beans. Beans start with the letter B.  Because like 64,000 other Georgians, this is all we could afford to eat." 

"Another word starts with the letter B... Bills, Bills, Comcast, Georgia Power, Rent, mortgage, the gas company, student loans.... "

"There is another word that starts with the letter B....Borrow.  I had to use that word so much that my name became Borrow instead of Belinda.........  I had to ask family and friends.... May I please Borrow money to buy Beans?"  

"And then finally there is that last word students.... Butler.... It starts with the letter B.....  Mark Butler... Our state labor commissioner children, the one who said, I don't care if you only have beans to eat, I don't care if you have bills, I don't care if you have to borrow... I have business to handle, I have a budget. Now please, don't bother me."

"I know that of the 64,000 I mentioned there was a Georgia Pre-K student somewhere in some household in our lovely state of Georgia who looked up at mama and daddy and said, "mama I want a Balloon.... mama, I want some Bubbles, mama... I want a Ball... But that mother and that father had to look at that four year old Georgie Pre-K student and say..... Baby.... Mama has to put Beans on this table.  Daddy has to pay the Bills...."

Belinda looks back at the other Georgia school workers assembled and says... 

"I feel your pain. I feel your pain. And I know how it feels to have to Borrow. But we do what we have to do to survive....."

Olivia Currie Speaks
The crowd affirms her and many impacted workers sing out after hearing her words.

Belinda Myles is a Georgia Pre-K teacher and has led a number of the collective actions this summer at Georgia Department of Labor headquarters in protest of Mark Butler's decision.  Belinda has inspired school workers to stand up for their dignity together.

Olivia Currie is a strong and principled leader in her workplace and community. As her name is called to testify she rises slowly in a dignified manner and makes her way down as her fellow Georgia workers look on in support.

Olivia highlights the severe anxiety caused by the economic depravation felt this summer and the dignity denied in the process.

"Some of my co-workers had to go to the hospital from the anxiety.....
We had to rely on going to food banks.... It was undignified"

Olivia Currie has worked as a Bus Driver for Taylor Motors at the Fort Benning military base in Columbus, GA for 3 years.

Reba Shinholster a quiet leader that shakes with conviction when she speaks is next to testify.

"I've been feeling real small, it makes me feel like I've been working all these years for nothing.  Mr. Butler needs to have a conscience...."
Reba Shinholster Standing Strong

Reba Shinholster has worked as a Sodexo food service worker at the Georgia Institute of Technology for 20 years.  Reba was born in Atlanta, her favorite color is blue.  She loves to read especially love stories but has more recently been getting into mystery novels.

Olivia and Reba embrace as they sit back down together.

Elaine Watts, a workplace leader that has participated in collective action with her co-workers in the past strode to the mic.  Elaine points out that what Butler is doing is violating law... As a result of this, her and her co-workers are

"really hurting...."  One of her co-workers is now living in a shelter.  "She is responsible for her 5 grand children.  She is really hurting."

Elaine Watts has worked as a Sodexo food service worker at Morehouse College for 7 years.  Elaine was a leader in the recent, successful union organizing drive at Morehouse College.  As a result Elaine and 79 of her co-workers have a negotiated contract with their Sodexo management.  
Jerome Irwin Speaking Truth

Jerome Irwin is next to testify and his powerful presence proceeds his eloquent words as he strides to the stand.  His booming yet calm voice permeates throughout the microphone.

"It is my understanding that Mark Butler is the only elected labor commissioner in the United States....  This is sad to think that we elected Mark Butler.  Now we have to get him out of there."

Jerome Irwin is First Student Bus Driver in Savannah, GA and shop steward with Teamsters Local 728.  The Savannah Bus Drivers were some of the first workers to take collective action at their local department of labor.  This sparked significant media attention and played a key role in guiding other working across the state in how to organize against Mark Butler's unlawful policy change.

Stay tuned for the statement from an expert witness and the verdict from the 9 judges assembled at the court......



Impacted Workers and Community Supporters Reacting to Testimony