N. Calif. PWW banquet raises $ 11,000

BERKELEY, Calif. – Keynote speaker Eliseo Medina, Service Employees Union international executive vice president, received a standing ovation at the People’s Weekly World banquet here Nov. 18 when he sharply criticized Republicans for killing an economic stimulus program that would have benefited working families.

Instead, Medina said, they substituted measures that are actually “aid to our favorite dependent corporations.”

In addition to Medina, the banquet honored the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), the Middle East Children’s Alliance, and Sacramento Activists for Democratic Trade. The event raised $11,000 for the 2001 Fund Drive.

Medina thanked the World and Nuestro Mundo for continued coverage of labor struggles.

“Wherever workers are in struggle,” Medina said, “they find the PWW regularly reporting issues and viewpoints that are seldom covered by the regular media. For us, the PWW has been and always will be the people’s voice.”

In a moving tribute to the thousands of workers who died in the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center, Medina called special attention to those undocumented immigrant workers “who lived and died in the shadows,” and whose families cannot even ask for help.

While welcoming federalization of airport security screeners, he criticized Congress’ new requirement that screeners must now be U.S. citizens – though this is not required of airline pilots or members of the military. He said immigration laws should be changed to grant immigrants equal rights.

“[K]eep a sense of purpose,” he urged the audience, maintain a “sense of outrage.”

Fight back, he said, against those who use the post-Sept. 11 crisis “to scapegoat immigrants and minorities, to make the rich richer and the poor poorer, and destroy what remains of government capacity to serve the great majority of people in this country.”

Honorees received certificates of Congressional recognition by the office of Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), in whose district the event took place. Lee’s greeting was presented by her aide, Saundra Andrews.

“At this time of crisis, when world peace hangs in the balance and the rights of immigrants are under attack,” Lee’s statement said, “it is more important than ever that our community come together to honor the work and legacy of those who struggle to advance the cause of peace and justice for working people everywhere.”

EBASE Co-director Amaha Kassa urged support for its campaign, together with the Alameda County Central Labor Council, to secure a living wage for thousands of low-wage workers at businesses connected to the Port of Oakland.

EBASE and the Central Labor Council are urging the Oakland City Council to place an initiative for a Living Wage at the Port on the ballot for the March 2002 election.

Penny Rosenwasser of the Middle East Children’s Alliance, speaking on behalf of Executive Director Barbara Lubin, vividly recounted her recent visit to the Palestinian territories.

She told of her conversations with Palestinian families who had been driven from their homes by Israeli troops, Israeli youth who are refusing military service and Palestinian children orphaned in the war who are calling for peace.

“We advocate for the human rights of all children, who deserve to be protected and respected,” Rosenwasser said.

“We love to call ourselves ‘SacActs,’” said Barbara Dean of Sacramento Activists for Democratic Trade, “because we know great things are happening in the Bay Area, but they’re also happening in Sacramento.”

SacActs, she said, grew out of that city’s Central American Action Committee, founded 20 years ago. “We were working on sweatshop issues when the anti-globalization movement came along, and we wanted to work on that, too.”

Juan Lopez, chair of the Northern California Communist Party, speaking for the World editorial board, said, “The Bush administration wants to do now what it was unable to do politically before the Sept. 11 tragedy – to impose an anti-labor, anti-woman, anti-immigrant, racist, anti-people program, and to strengthen the extreme right in the 2002 elections and beyond.”

Citing the need for lobbying, teach-ins, vigils, demonstrations and town hall meetings on the broad range of peace, economic, civil rights and liberties, and humanitarian issues brought to the fore by the crisis, Lopez said, “Any opening for struggle, however small, must be seized and made bigger by the actions of millions.”