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