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Talk FURIE – 7/26/20

Chelsey Sprengeler writes:

Last month, some of us were given flack for questioning the “defund police” movement. Our suspicion was that liberals that have no interest in changing the racist system at large (particularly white liberals who have such a large stake in it) have ulterior motives in focusing on police *only*.

We predicted the growth of privatized police force would be the backhanded result of defunding public police because the powerful institutions supporting “defunding” have no interest in allowing the private and non-profit sectors to be separated from the enforcement arm of this capitalist system. The bar will be set even lower for accountability from police, in that case.

And here we are.

“It sounds like you’re getting rid of the police and you’re hiring your own private security force. So what we’re about to have is a bunch of [George] Zimmermans walking around making sure our little Trayvon Martins don’t get out of line,” said Whittier Elementary associate educator Rajel Johnson, who is also the father of a Whittier second-grader.

After cutting ties with police, Minneapolis schools are quietly hiring security guards

Whittier Elementary associate educator Rajel Johnson spoke out against the plan for Minneapolis Public Schools to hire 11 new

Whittier Elementary associate educator Rajel Johnson spoke out against the plan for Minneapolis Public Schools to hire 11 new “public safety support specialists.”

In June, like several other public and private institutions, the Minneapolis Board of Education unanimously voted to cancel its contract with the Minneapolis Police Department in response to the killing of George Floyd.

Students at North High School and their representative on the school board, KerryJo Felder, suggested an amendment that would allow northside schools to keep their school resource officers (SROs) if they wanted to, but other board members shot it down. When school starts again, there will be no SROs roaming the halls for the first time in more than 50 years.

But what will replace them? Superintendent Ed Graff is supposed to have a plan for alternative security by next month, but teachers, students, and families say they’ve received no communication from the district to engage them in that process.

Last week the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, the teachers union, stumbled upon a posting for a new full-time security position that the district calls “public safety support specialists (PSSS).” They won’t be cops, but are required to have law enforcement degrees and experience. Their list of responsibilities include breaking up fights, monitoring security at events, and providing “a bridge between in-school intervention and law enforcement.”

The district plans to pay PSSS $65,695 – $85,790. The application was posted online for two weeks.

On Sunday, more than 100 Minneapolis teachers and families rallied in the parking lot outside the Davis Center, the district headquarters, to protest the hiring – without prior warning – of what they suspect will be “rent-a-cops” with even less accountability than licensed police officers.

“When we said we didn’t want any more SROs, any more police officers in our buildings, we did not mean, ‘hire a bunch of private security officers and put them in our buildings,’” said MFT president Greta Callahan, a teacher at Bethune Community School in Near North. “Let me ask you a question. If I order a sandwich, and I say, ‘Hold the mayo,’ does that mean put a bunch of Miracle Whip all over it? They’re missing the point.”

The teachers’ union asked concerned students and parents to call the district with two demands: stop the PSSS hiring process, and involve the public on how school security will be reconstructed.

“It sounds like you’re getting rid of the police and you’re hiring your own private security force. So what we’re about to have is a bunch of [George] Zimmermans walking around making sure our little Trayvon Martins don’t get out of line,” said Whittier Elementary associate educator Rajel Johnson, who is also the father of a Whittier second-grader.

“Because who’s going to hold these people accountable? We don’t know these people. Where are you from? What do you believe in? At least with the police we had some checks and balances.”

Johnson had been a school security monitor for seven years before reaching the top of his pay scale at $18.10 an hour. He criticized the district’s intention to pay these public safety workers far more than most teachers, while failing to invest in hall monitors that have established relationships with students.

The district will save $1.1 million a year after canceling its contract with Minneapolis Police Department. Most of that money — up to $944,000‬ — will go toward hiring 11 public safety specialists.

On Monday, Minneapolis Schools acknowledged in a statement that they’re hiring these new employees on an “accelerated schedule,” in order to have them trained prior to the first day of school this fall.

The 11 job openings are just the first part of a two-step plan that will be presented publicly at the Board of Education meeting on August 18, according to the district, which said a “longer-term, more comprehensive plan that will allow for more thorough planning and community engagement” will unfold next year.

The statement also claims the job applications posted last week erroneously required a background in law enforcement, and that the vast majority of people scheduled for interviews don’t have that experience. In order to prove to students that public safety specialists “will be working in collaboration with schools to continue to dismantle the white supremacist culture we operate under,” the district stated it will hold a second round of interviews the week of August 3 that will include students who volunteered to serve on the district’s climate and behavior framework committees.

“We regret any misunderstanding about the intent for these initial positions,” according to the statement, which can be read here.

Protesters rally against ‘economic brutality’ by striking from low-wage jobs

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A protester raises their sign while gathered outside McDonaldÕs during a nationwide ÔStrike for Black LivesÕ bringing together low-wage workers deemed essential during the coronavirus pandemic to demand safer working conditions and higher wages in order address poverty and police brutality in marginalized communities, on Monday, July 20, 2020, in Durham, N.C. Casey Toth CTOTH@NEWSOBSERVER.COM

 

Protesters in Durham joined a nationwide movement of low-wage workers walking off their jobs Monday, striking against a stagnating minimum wage and racism in the workplace.

Hundreds of people gathered in front of the downtown Durham McDonald’s, braving intense heat to bring attention to the plight of low-wage workers during the coronavirus pandemic. And across the nation, tens of thousands of workers were planning to walk off the job, The Washington Post reported.

In Durham, the protest was led by NC Raise Up and the Fight for $15 groups. The group viewed the rally as an extension of the protests that have sprung up in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, as many of the lowest-paid front-line workers are people of color.

“It’s not just about police brutality. It’s economic brutality as well,” said Jamila Allen, who works at the fast-food restaurant Freddy’s.

While a lot of workers have been able to shift their jobs online and work remotely during the pandemic, many low-wage workers who have been labeled “essential” cannot. A study from the Brookings Institution found that 48 million workers, or about 42% of the country’s workforce, were in essential occupations, and that they were more likely to be Black or Hispanic than the rest of the country’s workforce. They are also twice as likely as other workers to have a high school education or less, Brookings found.

At the McDonald’s in downtown, a Black Lives Matter flag hung in the window next to a sign advertising managerial positions starting at $15 a hour.

Allen said that the lowest positions should be starting at that wage — not just manager positions.

Paying workers below $15 an hour, Allen said, is not sustainable, and places a larger burden on Black workers.

‘ESSENTIAL’ AND MINIMUM WAGE

A living wage calculator run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says that a living wage for a household of one worker with no children in the Durham-Chapel Hill metro area is $12.71 an hour. If one child is added to that household the wage would rise to $25.75 an hour.

Allen, who is 23 and Black, said most new employees make $8.25 an hour where she works, and workers did not get paid sick days.

Many of the speakers decried the fact that many corporations had made billions of dollars while paying their workers only $7.25 an hour, the minimum wage in North Carolina.

Those same workers, they said, are keeping the companies going during the coronavirus pandemic on that same wage.

Keenan Harton, pointing across the street to McDonald’s, said corporations aren’t doing enough for their workers. Harton, who now works in landscaping, recently worked at fast-food restaurants and his son works at a McDonald’s in Durham.

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Hasan Wilson Jr., listens to organizers gathered outside McDonaldÕs during a nationwide ÔStrike for Black LivesÕ bringing together low-wage workers deemed essential during the coronavirus pandemic to demand safer working conditions and higher wages in order address poverty and police brutality in marginalized communities, on Monday, July 20, 2020, in Durham, N.C. Casey Toth CTOTH@NEWSOBSERVER.COM

“They tweet about Black Lives Matter but they don’t really care,” he said. “Black and brown workers put on their uniforms every day but they don’t provide enough protection. They pay poverty wages.”

Protesters at the rally called for a $15 minimum wage, paid sick leave, hazard pay and the ability to unionize.

In a statement, McDonald’s said that it supported the need for racial equality in the country.

“McDonald’s unequivocally supports the need for racial equality and social justice and stands with Black communities across the globe where we are proud to offer employment opportunities and learn from our team members to make the McDonald’s System stronger,” the company said in an emailed statement. “We believe Black lives matter, and it is our responsibility to continue to listen and learn and push for a more equitable and inclusive society.”

The company added that it believes it has distributed an ample supply of protective equipment to its restaurants, including more than 100 million masks.

“We are confident the vast majority of employees are covered with sick pay if they are impacted by COVID-19,” McDonald’s added, noting its franchisees have awarded bonuses and raises to employees during the pandemic.

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Protesters raise their fists during an eight-minute-46-second moment of silence, representing the time a Minneapolis police officer knelt on the neck of George Floyd, outside McDonaldÕs during a nationwide ÔStrike for Black LivesÕ bringing together low-wage workers deemed essential during the coronavirus pandemic to demand safer working conditions and higher wages in order address poverty and police brutality in marginalized communities, on Monday, July 20, 2020, in Durham, N.C. Casey Toth CTOTH@NEWSOBSERVER.COM

HAZARD PAY IN CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC?

Faith Alexander, a certified nursing assistant from Fayetteville, drove to Durham on Monday to take part in the strike. She believes protests around racial justice are beginning to have an effect — but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

“We’re making progress, but I see corporations placing up signs but not making a change,” she said.

Alexander, who is Black, said in the health care system there are many people like her who are making less than $15 an hour, which she believes is too little to be working on the front lines of a pandemic.

Nursing aides, like Alexander, typically make around $13.38 per hour, and around a quarter of nursing home workers are Black, The Associated Press reported, citing the advocacy group PCI.

“The country is relying on (Black, low-wage workers) right now,” Alexander said. “And as a health care worker we are always relied on … even more so now.”

Alexander said that the government should pass some form of hazard pay for workers. The Brookings study found that a hypothetical $5 per hour increase for essential workers would cost just over $35 billion a month.

“We’re definitely under compensated at this point in time with COVID going on,” she said.

 

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