During the week of April 18th I took in two forums on the pollution of the lower Great Lakes basin: Crossing Borders and Making Connections on April 19 in southwest Detroit, and then on the following evening, April 20, in Windsor: Pollution in our Midst: International Forum on Environmental Issues in the Lower Great Lakes Basin. The April 18th forum featured Crystal Lameman, a Tribal leader of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation in the middle of the Tar Sands in Alberta. She gave a compelling overview of the destruction of the land, air and water of her nation because of the Tar Sands bitumen extraction.
Vanessa and Lindsay are community activists at Aamjiwnaang, and they gave an overview of the effects of living there amongst the many chemical refineries, and Rhonda Anderson of the Sierra Club in Detroit spoke about organizing in the southwest Detroit area where Marathon Oil dominates the health and quality of life. In effect, Windsor and Detroit are the terminus for Tar Sands bitumen. It is in and around marginalized and racialized communities where refineries are located.
Here is the audio from the April 20th forum in Windsor featuring Vanessa and Lindsay Gray and Sierra Club Michigan’s Rhonda Anderson:
Lindsay Gray (L) and Vanessa Gray (R) speak at the SW Detroit forum April 19, 2016 (Photo: Paul Chislett)
Also at both forums were Theresa Landrum, who lives in the directly affected area of SW Detroit around the Marathon plant. On Friday April 22 I spoke with Theresa Landrum on The ShakeUp, airing on campus community radio station CJAM 99.1FM, on her community work and the effects of the petro-chemical industry on that area. She describes the literally day to day struggle to monitor corporations like Marathon Oil and challenge them when they push to expand:
Theresa landrum, community activist, speaks at the SW Detroit forum April 19, 2016. (Photo: Paul Chislett)
Click image to support the work of Aamjiwnaang and Sarnia Against Pipelines (ASAP) legal defence
Recently the Uber ride app was activated in Windsor immediately threatening the livelihoods of some 300 unionized cab drivers in the city. Over the New Year holiday many complaints were heard in Windsor over the cost of rides, and this seems to have prompted the mayor to talk about regulating Uber.
Uber is backed by venture capitalists and worth tens of billions of dollars. As with typical capitalist enterprises it’s only a small group of shareholders who profit while the rest of us struggle to make a living amongst all the disruption.
Going deeper, in November-December on The ShakeUp, I attempted to examine the roots of the Uber phenomenon and its claim to be an element of the sharing economy. Many see app platforms as a way to disrupt traditional systems (like cab rides and hotels) that need to give way to new forms of organizing work. However, what is being disrupted by the likes of Uber is the ability of workers to make a living wage. A wild west sort of world is being created as this article points out alleging sabotage tactics by Uber against a rival. It seems that the Uber-ization of app technology will turn us all into contingent contract workers driving everybody to a wage so low no one could make a living in an unregulated maze of anything goes. It doesn’t have to be this way.
A true sharing economy could be one based on principles of mutual aid and cooperativism. A sharing economy would also be based locally while also connected to the broader world. Instead of globalization, it could be internationalism where national and local economies are allowed to flourish. Instead, globalization is resulting in a new colonialism where local economies must serve a global market with the cheapest goods and services possible. While wages have risen in supplier countries, workers still struggle for the right to organize for better wages and working conditions. This was always the fallacy of free trade and globalization: some pockets of workers have better lives, but they can only make a living making cheap goods for consumption in the west.
In a series of conversations below, I attempted to illustrate how workers and governments could use the same app technology as the venture capitalists to form a true sharing economy, through what Trebor Scholz has termed “Platform Cooperativism”(described below) in order to build a new economy and society:
Episode 1 aired on The ShakeUp November 6, 2015:
Sharing is a very human thing to do and the working class and people in poverty and/or marginalized communities have always found sharing and cooperativism crucial for meeting needs and building community. Uber is private company worth, it is said, $18 billion and backed by venture capital. It is subject to the cool factor where urban dwellers have more choice and ease in finding transportation that is supposed to be less expensive and hassle-free than a cab ride. In the crossfire are cab drivers who make a living wage and feel under direct threat of losing their livelihoods. In Windsor Uber could be a disaster for 320 cabbies recently in the news voicing their concerns over the mayor’s exuberant support of Uber. So, where is the sharing – who gets to take part in the sharing, and if these enterprises are backed by millionaire venture capitalists where does sharing come in at all? How is Uber any different from any other corporate entity? Tawanna Dillahunt is an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Information and co-author of “The Promise of the Sharing Economy among Disadvantaged Communities” that explored how low income and marginalized people encounter the sharing economy. She is also the principal investigator of The Social Innovation Group that seeks to “design, build and enhance innovative technologies to solve real-world problems.” The paper investigated the “perception and feasibility of finding temporary employment and sharing spare resources using sharing-economy applications in a city [like Windsor] suffering economic decline.”
“Eli Feghali is the Director of Communications and Online Organizing for the New Economy Coalition. He is a Lebanese-American who has spent the majority of his professional life working as a communications specialist and community organizer. He has particular expertise in strategic communications, press relations, new media strategy, and web design.”
“Michael Toye became Executive Director of the Canadian Community Economic Development Network (CCEDNet) in August of 2008, bringing a deep background in community economic development (CED) to the Director’s chair. Upon earning his Master of Social Work at McGill, Michael helped set up two worker co-operatives that provide research, consulting and training services related to CED and the social economy.”
In the following segement I conversed with Toye and Feghali on the solidarity economy:
Episode 4: Platform Cooperativism.(Aired on The ShakeUp Dec, 4 2015)
“It’s a call to workers, designers, and developers. It’s up to you: the blue pill or, well, you know the Matrix story — the red.
There has been backlash against unethical labor practices in the “collaborative sharing economy” because of an utter lack of concern for the workers. Take, for example, Uber’s app, with all its geo-location and ride ordering capabilities. Corporate owners and shareholders do not have to be the main benefactors of such platform-based labor brokerage. How to dodge Uber and put a worker-owned cooperative or unionized labor pool in their place?
Imagine, just for one moment, that the algorithmic heart of the citadels of anti-unionism could be cloned and brought back to life under a different ownership model, with fair working conditions, as a humane alternative to the free market model.”
Trebor Scholz is Associate Professor of Culture & Media Studies at the New School New York City and a convenor of the recent conference on Platform Cooperativism. I spoke with him on the concept of Platform Cooperativism:
On November 13-14 in New York City a “coming out part for the Internet: was held in the form of a conference on Platform Cooperativism:
Briefly: “RIPESS-NA (Intercontinental Network for the Promotion of the Social Solidarity Economy-N. America) initiated the process of organizing this forum. RIPESS-NA members include these national networks: the U.S. Solidarity Economy Network (SEN), the Canadian Community Economic Development Network (CCEDNET) and the Chantier de l’économie Sociale in Quebec.”
March 8th was International Women’s Day, a commemoration going back over 100 years, and according to the website dedicated to the day, “International Women’s Day has been observed since in the early 1900’s, a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies.”
Hagar Farag, Mireille Coral, and Theresa Sims in the CJAM studios March 6th 2015
On Friday, March 6th I had in the CJAM 99.1FM studio Theresa Sims a Six Nations Mohawk and member of the Turtle Clan, Hagar Farag, a graduate studies student at the University of Windsor studying the militarization of North American police forces, and Mireille Coral an activist educator and alumni of University of Windsor. She was also one of the founders of the Womyn’s Centre at the university in the 1980’s.
They spoke about personal experiences as women, politics, identity, and who shapes the narrative around issues like, for instance, dress, culture, and what is important to talk about.
We attempted to create a cross section of women’s experiences for a discussion and to start off it was thought each could have a few minutes to describe their encounters in the world as women and the significance of IWD to start off the discussion.
The program is The ShakeUp, a project of OPIRG Windsor airing Friday’s at 4PMEDT
This is part of my on – air commentary this afternoon after 4:30 PM on The ShakeUp Campus Community Radio program on CJAM 99.1FM. It is a response to various local media reports (and Here) in reaction to Bonduelle’s decision to pull its re-zoning application:
On Wednesday Bonduelle announced it was withdrawing its application to Tecumseh Town Council for a re-zoning of a portion of their property so they could house up to 60 migrant workers in a renovated office building.
The company claimed that having the workers live on site would be safer for the workers, and that since migrant workers are housed on site at greenhouse operations and farms they should be able to do the same on the processing plant site. It should be stressed here that food processing plants are NOT farms or greenhouse operations – they are more akin to factories.
On behalf of the Windsor Workers’ Education Centre, and with representatives from Legal Assistance Windsor and Justicia for Migrant Workers, I was a delegation at a public meeting in Tecumseh in January where we argued against the re-zoning application. Here is a summary of the main arguments:
The re-zoning is contrary to the Town’s own master plan
The diagram produced by the company was not to scale and it was unclear the living arrangements would be adequate for the number of workers proposed
Having workers housed on a plant that suffered a major fire last year is obviously not a safe option
Workers will be segregated from the rest of the community and from allies who can advocate on their behalf
Isolated workers are less likely to speak up in the workplace in defence of their rights
The company would have total control over the movement of the workers and it is not clear visitors would be able to access company private company – this is uncomfortably close to indentureship
The plan is to hire only males for the bunk house which is a discriminatory practice
Migrant workers seem to be good enough to work here but not live in the community in which they play a crucial economic role.
What we should be talking about is a Migrant Workers Bill of Rights such as the one proposed by the Ontario Federation of Labour (more about that in a minute)
At the public meeting some residents expressed concerns about having Black men near their backyards and in the community. This racist thinking was a minority expression at the public meeting. The people who were recognized as delegates, including Adrian Munro, a migrant worker, spoke to the points I’ve just outlined. As worker advocates we recognize that migrant workers are a feature of a globalized economy that wreaks havoc on local communities around the world. We speak of the loss of the middle class in our country yet the global south achieves only great inequality between rich and destitute. To survive means to travel thousands of miles from home to make a living. Migrant deserve our solidarity not racist indentureship. Our goal as worker advocates is to make social and political changes so migrant workers are not treated as second class workers. In other words, just because the global economy treats workers as mere inputs doesn’t mean we as workers ourselves have to play into that system.
Tecumseh and similar area towns are small communities in a globalized economy; an economy that relies on low wages and low corporate taxes; an economy that is run by private investors who seek maximum profit achieved almost entirely on the backs of workers and communities deprived of fair tax revenues. A proper response in communities should not be to treat workers like garden rakes and house them in what amounts to sheds in between shifts, or to react with racist indignation to migrant workers. The response required is a political one where workers and their representatives, citizens, business leaders and political leaders carve out a coherent Canadian labour strategy in contrast to the ‘wild west’ investor run “casino economy” that pits us against each other. A start would be a community discussion on the 8 point proposed Migrant Workers Bill of Rights… (pp 18 – 19 MWBR).
Since the killings of Canadian Soldiers in Quebec and Ottawa many in this country are waiting to see what kind of laws and surveillance measures the Harper regime will come up with in order to keep the public “safe” from terror. In the resulting narrative all eyes, at least in the media, shift to Muslim communities where we are supposed to hear condemnations of terrorists and ISIS and so on.
There seems to be pressure to prove one is a “good” Muslim, even as it should be abundantly clear that the killers of the soldiers were misdirected loners who lost their way in the most tragic sense. Then there are the young men and some women according to reports who have left Canada and other countries of the west to fight in Syrian and Iraq. Then the narrative is one of if they come back will they carry out violent acts at home.
On Wednesday, Nov. 19 I met with two University of Windsor students to have a discussion on this topic of the good Muslim and the need to change the dominant narrative that has Muslim communities in Windsor and elsewhere going to great lengths to prove they are good Canadians: Hagar Farag is a graduate student working on her thesis: “The Militarization of North American Police and the Effects on Minorities”, and Mohammed Almoayad is an undergrad student in Political Science.
In the conversation they really challenge not only Muslim communities, but all of us to resist the dominant narrative that forces Muslims to prove they are worthy citizens.
They challenge all Canadians to wake up to the reality of Canadian foreign policy that has directly or indirectly caused massive suffering in Muslim countries, yet Canadians remain surprised that young men and women would go off to fight:
(For an electronic copy of the audio, contact the author in the comment section)
Thursday, November 27th, the Ahmadiyya Muslims Students’ Association Presents: Stop the CrISIS
The association states on the Facebook event page that : “In the wake of the tragedies in Ottawa and Montreal, and with the rise of extremism across the world, we the Ahmadiyya Muslim Students’ Association felt there was a great need to condemn and counteract these horrific and un-Islamic act” Connected to this event is a talk by Faisal Kutty who wrote a column appearing in the Windsor Star and he wrote:
But as experts such as John Horgan, director of the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies at the University of Massachusetts, point out, deradicalization initiatives could be counterproductive if ill-conceived. He told Rolling Stone last year, “The idea that radicalization causes terrorism is perhaps the greatest myth alive today in terrorism research.”Indeed, radical ideas are not crimes. Imagine a world without Gandhi and Mandela.
Kutty adds that
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s belittling of the role played by his hawkish foreign policies and draconian anti-terror initiatives on radicalization, as well as Muslim defensiveness and denial, are of equal concern. At the same time, blunt generalizations and reductionism hurt more than help.” Violent radicalization must be confronted without undermining social cohesion, violating human rights and deviating from core democratic ideals.”
Faisal Kutty will speak on:
Understanding Violent Radicalization, Wednesday, November 26, 20146 p.m.Ambassador Auditorium, CAW Student Centre, University of Windsor
Hopefully, between the audio conversation above and a chance at dialogue Wednesday and Thursday evenings we will broaden the conversation between the overreaction and hysteria of the State regarding terrorism, and the need for political solutions to the crisis in democracy in Canada brought about by the militaristic Harper regime. (See: Harperism: How Stephen Harper and his think tank colleagues have transformed Canada).
It’s pledge drive at CJAM this fall and it’s an important time for the station as a good portion of operating costs come from this pledge drive.
More information follows and as you scroll down you’ll come across links to ShakeUp programs that ran over the last weeks and months…
About Pledge Drive:
CJAM is a non-profit campus-based community radio station. We are limited in our capacity to raise money via advertising and rely heavily on listener supported dollars. Radio is a capital-intensive business and we still need the annual funding drive to help pay for everyday items, equipment and operations.
Much of CJAM’s budget comes from the annual fees that are paid for by the University of Windsor’s students. Despite inflation CJAM has not had an increase in these fees for nearly two decades.
ON-AIR Pledge Drive Dates: Friday, October 31 (noon) through Friday, November 7. (noon) – 24 hours daily.
• Purpose: To raise money for CJAM 99.1 FM annual budget. The Drive also represents an opportunity for the non-University listening audience to do their part in supporting community radio in Windsor/Detroit.
• Goal: To raise $30,000 in order to maintain CJAM’s daily operations
$20 INCENTIVE – MUSIC PRIZE PACK:
Donating 20$ allows donors to go into the music CD store at CJAM and pick out a music prize from our room of music incentives. Alternatively, hosts can create music giveaways for listeners.
$50 INCENTIVE – T-shirt
Limited edition CJAM 2012 T-Shirts, screen printed on a black American Apparel track shirt for a $50 pledge. T-shirt design is by Greg Maxwell.
$100 incentive – Gift package + t-shirt
The Gift packages will feature different items and gift certificates from local businesses and organizations, plus a limited edition t-shirt.
– CJAM is looking to raise $30,000, 20% of our annual budget.
– CJAM needs these funds for equipment, tariffs, insurance, staff salary, and other necessities that allow CJAM to operate day-to-day.
– CJAM has one of the smallest staffs in the Canadian campus-community market.
– The majority of the work is done by over 150 dedicated volunteers
– CJAM is not for profit, grassroots media
– CJAM is a not-for-profit radio station, so you are not bombarded with ads. Satellite radio has a subscription, but CJAM is free.
– Pledge Drive is the one time of the year where we ask for your support and help.
– CJAM’s music covers all genres and languages: local, international, independent, etc,.
– CJAM’s spoken word covers issues and topics ignored by mainstream media: labour issues, media criticism, feminism, local politics from all perspectives,
– On CJAM you can hear programming in Portuguese, Macedonian, Serbian, Bosnian, Arabic, English, Spanish, Hebrew, Hindi, Cantonese, Mandarin, French, Croatian, Slovakian, and Ukrainian. Plus you’d be hard-pressed to find a language not featured in our music.
Windsor, Ontario is a Canadian border city across the Detroit River from Detroit, Michigan. The city centre suffers from an over abundance of bars and clubs that heavily cater to young Americans taking advantage of a lower Ontario drinking age than in Michigan.
Bars seem to have preferential treatment when zoning issues come up and like thousands of other cities in Canada, downtown cores have been hollowed out because of suburbanization and subsequent big box developments on the fringes of suburbia.
The main theme of the broadcast was: ‘whose downtown is it?’, and a selection of voices, from a coffee shop owner, a condo resident, a renter, panhandlers and other low income people can be heard.
From Left: Howard Pawley, Mireille Coral, Ron Balla, Mike Longmoore, Robin, & Adele Pawley (Photo: Paul Chislett)
The broadcast was inspired by a conversation I had some months ago with Ron Balla, owner of The Coffee Exchange, on how difficult it is to make a go of it as an independent business owner in the downtown, given the predominance of bars and clubs and a Starbucks and Tim Horton’s nearby.
The consensus was that independent businesses meeting the needs of Windsorites while providing a living wage and decent working conditions for workers will ensure a thriving downtown that others outside the city would want to visit. To get there means working on a vision beyond the short range thinking of bar owners and city planners cashing in on state and provincial regulations on the drinking age.
The 1 hour version was broadcast Sept 18th on CJAM 99.1 and was co-hosted and conceived by Paul Chislett, Host of The ShakeUp which airs Fridays at 4PM, and All in a Day’s Work co-host Andrew Nellis (airs Thursdays at 8PM.: