What's a Mondragon?

It’s the largest worker-owned cooperative corporation in the world. Georgia Kelly of the Praxis Peace Institute in California has been taking Americans there for decades, but most American have never heard of it. Mondragon doesn’t advertise; it has no public relations department. Started in Franco’s Spain, this cooperative kept a low profile, but since then they’ve transformed their poverty into wealth that values people over profits, and has put education at its center. This video shares Georgia describing how they handled the 2008 crash when so many jobs were lost. How? Not the way so many American companies did. This is an hour-long, but worth a watch—including great questions from the audience.

There are still spots available in this year’s Mondragon Seminar and Tour in Spain, June 16-22, 2019. To register, go to www.praxispeace.org/mondragon for info on registration, prices and travel.

One Hundred and Eight Years of Marching

This photo shows a woman with a sign that mentions the Shirtwaist Factory, a reference to the deadly New York City fire that took the lives of 145 women seamstresses in 1911. But as early as 1908, working women were organizing and marching for better working conditions and pay, and still we’re waving signs in the streets, believing a better world with women’s say-so is not only possible, but essential.

This photo shows a woman with a sign that mentions the Shirtwaist Factory, a reference to the deadly New York City fire that took the lives of 145 women seamstresses in 1911. But as early as 1908, working women were organizing and marching for better working conditions and pay, and still we’re waving signs in the streets, believing a better world with women’s say-so is not only possible, but essential.

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day, March 8, celebrated around the world. Do something special! Wear a big hat, go out with your girlfriends, negotiate for a raise, march for your rights! The date it commemorates marks its beginning in 1908, when 15,000 women marched in the streets of New York City, demanding shorter hours, better pay, and the right to vote.

 The following year, an enterprising Socialist Party of America organized a women’s conference and proposed there that March 8th become an annual commemoration of women. The next year, 1911, a working women’s conference in Copenhagen attended by 100 women from 17 countries proposed March 8th become an international day of recognition. This year marks the 108th International Women’s Day.

 So what do we American women have to show for it? Well, economist Heidi Hartmann, who founded the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington D.C., and who introduced us to the gender pay-gap and updates it every year, came out with a longer-term analysis with her colleague Stephen Rose in November 2018. They say that when looked at in 15-year increments, women make only 49 cents on a man’s dollar, not the more often cited 80 cents of Equal Pay Day that makes us feel as if we’re gaining a bit. 

It’s pretty simple why this is so: American women are still much more likely than men to cut back hours or take a break from the job market to have children or care for a sick family member. Without affordable child care or family leave time built into our American social contract, women workers and their families cannot help but come up short.

Meanwhile, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) just released an update on women’s educational debt. Going to college in greater numbers than men now, women also tend to borrow more money. They owe two-thirds of the nation’s $1.3 TRILLION in educational debt—and then the pay gap (see above) makes it harder for her to pay it back. The women most deeply in debt upon graduating are African American women—on average owing $33,000, compared to $22,000 for white women and $19,500 for white men. The educational benefit that exists for military veterans just doesn’t apply here—but it could, with adequate state and federal support.  

That apparently will take more women marching in the streets, and perhaps (gasp) more dread democratic socialists like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

 

Student Debt is a Woman's Issue

Thanks, AAUW, for highlighting a dangerous situation for all of us. Screwnomics has often pointed out that women now graduate from college at higher rates than men, borrowing to do so, and when they get jobs, a persistent pay gap makes it harder for them to pay them back. Meanwhile, SLABS (Student Loan Asset-Backed Securities) have taken the place of mortgage securities on Wall Street, which is cashing in on all that dangerous debt. Throw in continued expectations for US women to birth and care for children without the kind of help other nations provide, and it cripples our national future.

No Human Being is Illegal: A Letter from the Border

El Paso was in the news this week, with crowds attending Beto O’Rourke’s March for Truth to counter a Trump Rally across the street. .The El Paso Times reported big crowds for both but untruths for Trump and toned down crime talk in light of a new Congressional deal. Annunciation House volunteer Jo Romano’s letter back home  cuts to the heart of matters.

El Paso was in the news this week, with crowds attending Beto O’Rourke’s March for Truth to counter a Trump Rally across the street. .The El Paso Times reported big crowds for both but untruths for Trump and toned down crime talk in light of a new Congressional deal. Annunciation House volunteer Jo Romano’s letter back home cuts to the heart of matters.

On Friday, Sally, Abby and I arrive in El Paso to see the city’s sights, and also to volunteer.  Our goal is to welcome, feed, clothe and help refugees, arriving daily with their next destination somewhere in the United States.  On Sunday we begin orientation with Annunciation House. Because a new site to receive immigrants has just opened at a hotel, Annunciation House asks us to travel Sunday morning to Las Cruces, New Mexico. We three are up for the trip, 45 minutes away from El Paso.

 We arrive shortly before 50 immigrants do, mostly from Guatemala, some from Honduras and El Salvador. There’s no time for our orientation! Fifty people arrived by bus and sit outside on sidewalks and curbs in the hotel parking lot, mostly small, young families, usually pairs, a mother or father with a child.

 We learned about their journey. They cross over the bridge from Mexico to El Paso. They are taken to a detention center to be registered. They are given a thin metallic blanket and must sleep on a cold hard concrete floor, one blanket for two of them. The air conditioning is turned up high, the people kept very cold, not what they’re used to. Adults are given one frozen burrito three times a day.  The children are given a juice box and animal crackers, three times a day. When each adult and child is registered, they are given a date for legal action.

 A thick, heavy, black ankle monitor is put on the adult, programmed with the address of their sponsor, while they wait for the immigration court proceedings to unfold. It is a stark and frightening experience for them, on purpose, we are told.  The officials at the holding center are directed to make the stay very unpleasant in hopes they will decide to ‘self deport’.  A fair number of these people develop sickness, colds, fevers, and upset stomachs during their 2-5 day stays.

 You may have read about this in the news. Currently there are 30 people in one detention center in El Paso that are on hunger strike because of the conditions.  They are force-fed by a tube that is put through the nose and down their throats. The government officials at the detention centers refer to the immigrants as “bodies,” and when it is time for them to eat, they say, “It is feeding time,” as if they were animals on farms, not human.

 I am furious and very disturbed, hearing the experiences confirmed. Often a new site needs to be opened at a hotel to meet the need, as happened in Las Cruces when we arrived. There are 300-400 people arriving daily in El Paso seeking asylum from poverty and violence in their home countries.  The Detention Centers call Annunciation House Director Ruben Garcia daily to say how many they are releasing from detention. There is a tremendous amount of coordination going on to make this system flow daily. Thus the need for local and faraway volunteers like us.

Nearly all the refugees have someone in the US who will sponsor them.  The destinations of those I’ve worked with so far included Chicago, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri, Atlanta, Washington D.C., upstate New York and New York City, Philadelphia, North and South Carolina, Florida, California, Oregon, Washington, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, and even Vermont.  The receiving family member, friend or sponsor pays for a plane or bus ticket, trips that take one to three more days of travel.

 What do we do as volunteers? Each mother and child, or father and child (sometimes there are 2 or 3 children per adult) is welcomed by the site coordinator, and told they are safe, there will be food to eat, and enough water to drink, and medicine for those that need it. They will be warm here, respected and supported to complete their journey to their sponsor. 

 Volunteers are introduced, so families know who can help or answer questions. They then are escorted, family by family, into “the central office,” really two hotel rooms, where four Spanish-speaking volunteers complete intakes. One volunteer writes down the full name of the mom or dad, the name and age of the child(ren), where they are from, and where they need to get to next.

 Then the family moves to another table where another Spanish-speaking volunteer begins to make transportation plans.  They call the receiving sponsor in the US, and the sponsor and volunteer arrange for plane or bus tickets. Usually the parent and sponsor talk on the phone to ensure both parties understand the plan. Forms are filled out and pinned to complex whiteboards, delineating next steps by date—today, tomorrow, or the next day, by bus, plane, or pickup, if very local. 

 On those occasions when the destination address changes from the one programmed into the government’s ankle bracelet, it’s a real problem. Then arrangements have to be made to take the adult back to the detention center to get permission, and to reprogram the ankle monitor!  

 (Editor’s note: The Associated Press reports that early in 2018, immigrant families were separated as part of a “zero tolerance” program. But after a presidential executive order reversed that, families are often detained, then issued ankle monitors and released while they go through sometimes lengthy court proceedings. Inquiries into costs and suppliers and whether these monitors are effective remain unanswered by ICE—but that they associate immigration with criminality is clear.)

 After intake, the family goes to Annunciation’s next station, where I am serving as a volunteer who coordinates and assigns a hotel room number. That sounds simple, but keeping track of the rooms, and where everyone is assigned, is a feat.  There’s a large matrix on the wall, filling in who is where, with colored sticky notes, color depending on the day they arrived, and making sure that parent roommates are matched by gender, and by children with a matching age and gender. Yes, it is complicated!

 I give families their room number and escort them to the next station where Sally is volunteering, and they get a small packet of toiletries (soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb). Sally takes them to meet a “runner.” Abby is serving as a “runner,” taking the adult and child(ren) to their assigned room, and speaking enough Spanish to help them get settled in their room.

 She tells them how to open and close the door, how to work the shower, makes sure they know to flush toilet paper inside the toilet, rather than put it in the trash can, as they did back home. She explains they cannot use the hotel phone and only have one key for two families, shares the schedule for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and explains that while they are free to come down to the lobby, they must not leave the building, and can come to the office any time with any questions or medical needs.

 Families then can relax—or sometimes not!  Rooms are limited.  I often have to reassign a family to another room at a moment’s notice.  Abby then goes to them, and asks them to relocate to the room I reassign.  Abby says they are all so accommodating— “Sure no problem, and thank you.”

 Other Spanish-speaking volunteers work on transportation plans, time and flight, and find and assign a volunteer “transporter” to take the family to the airport or the bus station. I took one family to the local bus station in Las Cruces and made sure they got on the bus, but people are being transported to buses or planes throughout the day, morning or night, every day. I am amazed at the coordination it takes for all these volunteers and all this responsibility—and then there are the missed buses or connecting flights that have to be solved.

 There is a room assigned for medical help and supplies.  Today, there was a mom and three-year-old daughter, who had a rash. The nurse practitioner was called in to look at it and he determined it was scabies. So a prescription was called in, and a volunteer had to go to pharmacy in El Paso to pick it up, etc.

 At any time during their short stay, families may choose to go to the “clothing room” where Sally, Abby and I also volunteer, organizing and sorting donated clothing.  Each person is provided one new pair of socks, one new pair of underpants, a pair of pants, a blouse or shirt, and a winter coat if needed for a cold destination. 

 Local churches volunteer to provide lunches and dinners for our hundred people, which consists of rice, pinto beans, corn tortillas, sometimes shredded chicken, and when there is a lack of volunteering, pizza is brought in. When the moms and dads and children leave, they are provided with a bag filled with food.  If leaving on a bus, a family of two traveling on a three-day bus trip requires 18 sandwiches. 

Sally, Abby and I are pretty busy from 7:00 AM into the evening, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and packing destination bags with fruit and snacks. We smile and comfort these folks, many of whom are frightened. It is our honor to greet our neighbors from abroad with empathy, compassion and a smile.  As the mission of my home Unitarian Church says, we welcome all, as we build a loving community, to honor each person’s spiritual journey, to serve human need and protect the earth, our home.

Love, Jo Romano

Interested in helping? Find more about Annunciation House and volunteering here: https://annunciationhouse.org/volunteer/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 On Friday, Sally, Abby and I arrive in El Paso to see the city’s sights, and also to volunteer.  Our goal is to welcome, feed, clothe and help refugees, arriving daily with their next destination somewhere in the United States.  On Sunday we begin orientation with Annunciation House. Because a new site to receive immigrants has just opened at a hotel, Annunciation House asks us to travel Sunday morning to Las Cruces, New Mexico. We three are up for the trip, 45 minutes away from El Paso.

 

We arrive shortly before 50 immigrants do, mostly from Guatemala, some from Honduras and El Salvador. There’s no time for our orientation! Fifty people arrived by bus and sit outside on sidewalks and curbs in the hotel parking lot, mostly small, young families, usually pairs, a mother or father with a child.

 

We learned about their journey. They cross over the bridge from Mexico to El Paso. They are taken to a detention center to be registered. They are given a thin metallic blanket and must sleep on a cold hard concrete floor, one blanket for two of them. The air conditioning is turned up high, the people kept very cold, not what they’re used to. Adults are given one frozen burrito three times a day.  The children are given a juice box and animal crackers, three times a day. When each adult and child is registered, they are given a date for legal action.

 

A thick, heavy, black ankle monitor is put on the adult, programmed with the address of their sponsor, while they wait for the immigration court proceedings to unfold. It is a stark and frightening experience for them, on purpose, we are told.  The officials at the holding center are directed to make the stay very unpleasant in hopes they will decide to ‘self deport’.  A fair number of these people develop sickness, colds, fevers, and upset stomachs during their 2-5 day stays.

 

You may have read about this in the news. Currently there are 30 people in one detention center in El Paso that are on hunger strike because of the conditions.  They are force-fed by a tube that is put through the nose and down their throats.

The government officials at the detention centers refer to the immigrants as “bodies,” and when it is time for them to eat, they say, “It is feeding time,” as if they were animals on farms, not fellow humans.

 

I am furious and very disturbed, hearing the experiences confirmed. Often a new site needs to be opened at a hotel to meet the need, as happened in Las Cruces when we arrived. There are 300-400 people arriving daily in El Paso seeking asylum from poverty and violence in their home countries.  The Detention Centers call Annunciation House Director Ruben Garcia daily to say how many they are releasing from detention. There is a tremendous amount of coordination going on to make this system flow daily. Thus the need for local and faraway volunteers like us.

 

Nearly all the refugees have someone in the US who will sponsor them.  The destinations of those I’ve worked with so far included Chicago, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri, Atlanta, Washington D.C., upstate New York and New York City, Philadelphia, North and South Carolina, Florida, California, Oregon, Washington, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, and even Vermont.  The receiving family member, friend or sponsor pays for a plane or bus ticket, trips that take one to three more days of travel.

 

What do we do as volunteers? Each mother and child, or father and child (sometimes there are 2 or 3 children per adult) is welcomed by the site coordinator, and told they are safe, there will be food to eat, and enough water to drink, and medicine for those that need it. They will be warm here, respected and supported to complete their journey to their sponsor. 

 

Volunteers are introduced, so families know who can help or answer questions. They then are escorted, family by family, into “the central office,” really two hotel rooms, where four Spanish-speaking volunteers complete intakes. One volunteer writes down the full name of the mom or dad, the name and age of the child(ren), where they are from, and where they need to get to next.

 

Then the family moves to another table where another Spanish-speaking volunteer begins to make transportation plans.  They call the receiving sponsor in the US, and the sponsor and volunteer arrange for plane or bus tickets. Usually the parent and sponsor talk on the phone to ensure both parties understand the plan. Forms are filled out and pinned to complex whiteboards, delineating next steps by date—today, tomorrow, or the next day, by bus, plane, or pickup, if very local. 

 

On those occasions when the destination address changes from the one programmed into the government’s ankle bracelet, it’s a real problem. Then arrangements have to be made to take the adult back to the detention center to get permission, and to reprogram the ankle monitor!  

 

(Editor’s note: The Associated Press reports that early in 2018, immigrant families were separated as part of a “zero tolerance” program. But after a presidential executive order reversed that, families are often detained, then issued ankle monitors and released while they go through sometimes lengthy court proceedings. Inquiries into costs and suppliers and whether these monitors are effective remain unanswered by ICE—but that they associate immigration with criminality is clear.)

 

After intake, the family goes to Annunciation’s next station, where I am serving as a volunteer who coordinates and assigns a hotel room number. That sounds simple, but keeping track of the rooms, and where everyone is assigned, is a feat.  There’s a large matrix on the wall, filling in who is where, with colored sticky notes, color depending on the day they arrived, and making sure that parent roommates are matched by gender, and by children with a matching age and gender. Yes, it is complicated!

 

I give families their room number and escort them to the next station where Sally is volunteering, and they get a small packet of toiletries (soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb). Sally takes them to meet a “runner.” Abby is serving as a “runner,” taking the adult and child(ren) to their assigned room, and speaking enough Spanish to help them get settled in their room.

 

 She tells them how to open and close the door, how to work the shower, makes sure they know to flush toilet paper inside the toilet, rather than put it in the trash can, as they did back home. She explains they cannot use the hotel phone and only have one key for two families, shares the schedule for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and explains that while they are free to come down to the lobby, they must not leave the building, and can come to the office any time with any questions or medical needs.

 

Families then can relax—or sometimes not!  Rooms are limited.  I often have to reassign a family to another room at a moment’s notice.  Abby then goes to them, and asks them to relocate to the room I reassign.  Abby says they are all so accommodating— “Sure no problem, and thank you.”  

 

Other Spanish-speaking volunteers work on transportation plans, time and flight, and find and assign a volunteer “transporter” to take the family to the airport or the bus station. I took one family to the local bus station in Las Cruces and made sure they got on the bus, but people are being transported to buses or planes throughout the day, morning or night, every day. I am amazed at the coordination it takes for all these volunteers and all this responsibility—and then there are the missed buses or connecting flights that have to be solved.

 

There is a room assigned for medical help and supplies.  Today, there was a mom and three-year-old daughter, who had a rash. The nurse practitioner was called in to look at it and he determined it was scabies. So a prescription was called in, and a volunteer had to go to pharmacy in El Paso to pick it up, etc.

 

At any time during their short stay, families may choose to go to the “clothing room” where Sally, Abby and I also volunteer, organizing and sorting donated clothing.  Each person is provided one new pair of socks, one new pair of underpants, a pair of pants, a blouse or shirt, and a winter coat if needed for a cold destination. 

 

Local churches volunteer to provide lunches and dinners for our hundred people, which consists of rice, pinto beans, corn tortillas, sometimes shredded chicken, and when there is a lack of volunteering, pizza is brought in. When the moms and dads and children leave, they are provided with a bag filled with food.  If leaving on a bus, a family of two travelling on a three-day bus trip requires 18 sandwiches. 

 

Sally, Abby and I are pretty busy from 7:00 AM into the evening, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and packing destination bags with fruit and snacks. We smile and comfort these folks, many of whom are frightened. It is our honor to greet our neighbors from abroad with empathy, compassion and a smile.  As the mission of my home Unitarian Church says, we welcome all, as we build a loving community, to honor each person’s spiritual journey, to serve human need and protect the earth, our home.

 

Love, Jo Romano

 

Interested in helping? Find more about Annunciation House and volunteering here:

https://annunciationhouse.org/volunteer/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Trouble with THE Truth

National Intelligence 2019.jpeg

Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, gathered by 17 federal agencies, reported to Congress on Jan. 22, about our national security in 2019.  He said our American goal must be seeking the truth and speaking the truth, which was embraced by newscasters as a hopeful development, given Trump’s flip relationship with facts. Yet I couldn’t help but notice the security team was mostly male, as were the intelligence system’s creators. All seem resigned to a world under threat and guarding against inevitable war with more and bigger guns.

The inclusion of Gina Haspel, the first woman to ever head the CIA, hardly put me at ease. She’s the one who destroyed tapes of waterboarding that would hold the CIA responsible for using terror—a cherry on top of a banana-split history of political disruption and foreign violence. It was close enough to Martin Luther King Day that you’d think they might be mulling over why he said America had three big problems: race, poverty, and militarism. He left out gender, but back in his day, most everyone did.  Did I mention our top intelligence team is as white as I am?

 So why give us old news from the same old crew who says their mission is THE truth, the seeker and speaker of a single truth? Who exactly runs the distillery of their truthiness, and what rum-recipe are they using?

In our post-colonial time, we have learned there are many truths, and different ways to see matters. History is a war tale written by “victors,” and most updates of our time have come from the victims, not so much from the perps. When entrenched power speaks of change or apologies, it’s most often unconvincing—as with Guliani’s spins, the Virginia governor’s recent black-face moonwalk, or those priestly and corporate settlements out of court to avoid public exposure.

 While the public is pretty accepting of lies and half-truths after a century of advertising—the traditional funder of our journalism—lately the lies slip closer to ceaseless nuttiness. A masculine market logic of bloodless numbers, and impersonal facts of profitable threats undermine trust and solutions. A more genuine security report would surly include more girls, more color and difference, and more freedom to feel more than fear. Check out the link above.!

 The mid-term election of more diverse voices showed us a majority of Americans already know this. Unless we cherish all the life on our one green earth and begin to plot collaboration and peace, we may not survive, much less prosper. That requires a truth spoken by diverse bodies using all five senses: a shared feeling and hearing and touching of genuine thoughts, experiences, and emotions to discover what we hold in common.

 Then we might speak a more unified and inclusive truth—not THE truth, which can only be imposed by those with the biggest guns.  

—Rickey Gard Diamond

Gillette's Best Men: Will it Influence SuperBowl Ads?

It’ll be interesting to see how Super Bowl advertisers react to Gillette’s bold move, switching its slogan, “the best men can GET,” to “the best men can BE.” Their short film with their logo has gotten 747 K Thumbs Up on YouTube, and 1.3 Million Thumbs Down, notes Forbes, and they’ve been criticized for hiring a female director for the shoot, and for showing a “toxic masculinity” without any blame falling on women. Aren’t there “mean girls,” too? Don’t men have toxic mothers as well as toxic dads? Sure! We’re all toxic by those standards. Stand by for a backlash! One step forward….but hey, it’s better than being ignored!