Voting concluded Monday on whether to create the first Amazon labor union in the United States, at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, after a historic, five-month David versus Goliath battle. Attention has now turned to ballot counting by federal officials following a contentious unionization campaign which has drawn national attention and the involvement of numerous political figures and activists. The lobbying continued to the bitter end with labor activists from around the United States meeting workers before dawn to congratulate them for their efforts. The National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency which manages union elections, was set to begin the count on Tuesday. The final results could take several days or weeks, given that some ballots may be challenged based on errors in signature or other factors. “Today is the beginning of the less fun part for us” including the ballot counting and legal challenges, said Joshua Brewer, the local president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which would represent the 5,800 employees if a majority votes in favor. “I think we’re happy for the country that’s really paying attention, and really (it is) just a continuation of what they were already looking at, which is a shrinking middle class or rising income inequality and so we’re proud of that.” The bruising months-long battle has sparked intense debate over workplace conditions at the tech and e-commerce behemoth, which has more than 800,000 US employees. Coming at a time when Joe Biden has promised to be the country’s “most pro-union president,” the Bessemer effort could open the floodgates to organizing drives at other Amazon sites, as well as at other firms. Unions and political leaders have argued that Amazon employees face constant pressure and monitoring, with little job protection, highlighting the need for collective bargaining. Amazon has argued that most of its workers don’t want or need a union and that it already provides more than most other employers, with a minimum $15 hourly wage and other benefits. – Workplace pressures – For five months, union organizers in Bessemer have been posted at the intersection outside the warehouse, making their case. “We need safe working conditions. We need to be treated with respect and equality,” said Amazon employee Jennifer Bates. Sondra Hill, a 61-year-old part-time packer at Amazon, said she was hopeful about the vote. “If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t stop here,” she said. “I’m staying to see this happen, without this effort to unionize I would most likely leave, because people deserve better.” Another employee, Lafonda Townsend, said she was initially happy with her pay; but that she is forced to eat fast on breaks “like a prisoner… because if you’re one minute late, there’s an hour unpaid time.” Amazon spokeswoman Heather Knox defended the company and claimed the union had misrepresented its practices. “Our employees know the truth — starting wages of $15 (hourly) or more, health care from day one, and a safe and inclusive workplace,” Knox said. “We encouraged all of our employees to vote and hope they did so.” Both sides have traded accusations about tactics. Amazon acknowledged that it hosted information sessions to allow employees to “understand the facts of joining a union and the election process,” including union dues. – ‘Maintain power’ – Amazon, which went on a hiring spree in 2020 and nearly doubled its net profit to $21 billion, thanks to the explosion in demand during the pandemic, is embroiled in clashes with political leaders and the public over its policies. The company dismissed reports that workers had been reduced to urinating in plastic bottles because of a lack of time to go to the bathroom. Some observers say the issue is less about finances, and more about control. “Big tech companies, like other employers, will spend an almost unlimited amount of money in persuading workers not to unionize,” said Rebecca Givan, a professor of labor relations at Rutgers University. Dawn Hoag, a warehouse quality manager, believes employees don’t need representatives to voice their needs. “If… all these stories were all true, then there are 5,800 idiots working inside the building where I work, and I don’t work with a single idiot, and I’m not an idiot,” she told AFP. But Darryl Richardson, the 51-year-old employee who first called in the RWSDU, said it was time to “take a stand.” “I need job security. I need to be able to retire one day,” he said. Brewer said the vote had already inspired many other workers. “We have received over 1,000 different inquiries from about 50 different warehouses so far,” he said.
As of May 26, 2020 at 7:15 PM
Alabama had 15,650 confirmed cases of coronavirus
with 580 deaths
Greene County had 91 confirmed cases with 4 deaths
BIRMINGHAM – Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.) on Saturday, May 23, urged Governor Kay Ivey to establish a health care manufacturing task force to explore ways for Alabama to move to the forefront of health care manufacturing for the United States.
Senator Jones’ proposal would utilize existing infrastructure to create jobs in Alabama, provide a supply chain for vital COVID-19 supplies, reduce dependence on foreign health care suppliers, revamp Alabama’s manufacturing economy.
In his letter to Governor Ivey, Senator Jones suggested utilizing existing infrastructure across the state, like shuttered factories, to build a statewide health care manufacturing sector as a way to produce critical health care items to respond to and mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, reduce our dependence on foreign health care suppliers, and revamp Alabama’s manufacturing economy as we face an uncertain period of economic hardship.
In light of the state of Alabama facing an estimated budget shortfall of more than $1 billion, this effort could also help generate new streams of revenue to support Alabama’s state and local governments.
“Just as the automotive industry has changed Alabama’s economy since Mercedes arrived in the 1990’s, a concerted effort to expand health care manufacturing in Alabama will help grow our population, raise our standard of living, and improve the quality of life for generations to come,” wrote Senator Jones, a member of the Senate Health Committee.
“For instance, it has been reported that Goodyear is unlikely to reopen its facility in Gadsden. While I had hoped that Goodyear could have found a way to keep the plant operating, its likely closing is reflective of the ongoing transition in our state’s economy and adds urgency to the need to look for new opportunities to put local residents and others throughout the state back to work.”
Many industrial parks across Alabama have available buildings that could be used to develop businesses to produce medical supplies and equipment. In the Crossroads of America Industrial Park at Boligee, Alabama, which serves Greene County, there is a 50,000 square foot building that could be used for manufacturing health care supplies.
The Greene County Industrial Development Authority built this structure a decade ago to attract industrial/manufacturing projects to Greene County.
“The shortage of PPE, ventilators, and other vital healthcare related items that we have seen in the course of dealing with this pandemic has demonstrated that our supply chains in the health care space are too dependent on foreign suppliers and not as diversified as they need to be,” he continued. “While a number of businesses in Alabama and across the country are stepping up and repurposing facilities during this pandemic to make these critical items, it is likely that they will return to their original purpose once the crisis has subsided. It is my view, however, that the United States needs to make a concerted effort to reduce our dependence on foreign suppliers of items essential to the delivery of healthcare, just as we did with foreign suppliers of oil a number of years ago.”
The Alabama Civil Rights Museum Movement celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the occasion of what would have been his 91st. birthday.
The Civil Rights Museum sponsored three programs to honor Dr. King. On Wednesday, January 15, 2020, the actual day of his birthday a program to honor and involve young people was held at New Peace Baptist Church.
On Monday, January 20, 2020, the 34th anniversary of the National Holiday in honor of Dr. King’s Birthday a Unity Breakfast was held at the Eutaw Activity Center, attended by 200 people. Rev. Carlos Thornton, Pastor of the Mt. Pilgrim Primitive Baptist Church in Tishabee, Alabama was the keynote speaker. A smaller number participated in the march from the Eutaw Activity Center to the William M. Branch County Courthouse. At the Courthouse a program to honor ‘Godly Women of West Alabama’ was held. Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton of the 5th District of the CME Churches of Alabama was the speaker.
The Museum honored a group of men and women for their service. The ceremony in the Greene County Courthouse was particularly poignant as it was held in the courtroom, one of the only county courtrooms in America, where a picture of Dr. King hangs above the judge’s seat.
Greene County was the first county in the South and the nation to elect all Black officials after the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that Dr. King worked diligently to pass.
By Linda Givetash, David Ingram and Farah Otero-Amad, NBC News
Climate strike rally at Federal Courthouse in Opelika, Alabama (photo by Jim Allen)
Crowds of children flooded the streets of major cities in a global show of force Friday to demand action on climate change, with many young people skipping school in protest and sharing a unified message aimed at world leaders.
Rallies were held across Alabama including Tuscaloosa, Huntsville, Birmingham, Mobile and east Alabama at Opelika.
“No matter how many times they try to ignore the issue, you can see every teenager in the area is here,” said Isha Venturi, a 15-year-old high school sophomore from New Jersey who joined tens of thousands in New York’s lower Manhattan taking part in a second “Global Climate Strike.”
“We’re not quiet anymore,” she added, “and change is coming.”
From New York to London and San Francisco to Sydney, Australia, not just children but other groups took part in the strikes, including trade unions, environmental organizations and employees at large tech companies such as Amazon and Google. And their demands were similar: reducing the use of fossil fuels to try to halt climate change.
“As leaders, we’ve failed them,” Halima Adan, 36, of Somalia, said amid the large number of young people in New York, where the city’s 1.1 million public school students were told they could skip classes to attend protests.
Adan, who was in the city for the Peoples’ Summit on Climate, organized by the United Nations Human Rights Office and others, said her own war-torn African nation has felt the effects of “every aspect of [the] climate crisis.”
In a day of coordinated global action, when millions were expected to protest:
• Australia saw some of the first protests kick off Friday morning with organizers estimating that upwards of 300,000 students and workers filled the streets of Melbourne, Sydney and other cities in the biggest protests the country has seen in years.
• New Delhi, India, one of the world’s most polluted cities, saw dozens of students and environmental activists chant “we want climate action” while hundreds marched in Thailand’s capital Bangkok, before staging a “die-in” outside the Ministry of Natural Resources
• In London, thousands of people from infants to grandparents blocked traffic outside the Houses of Parliament chanting “save our planet.”
• Crowds gathered in European capitals, including Berlin and Warsaw, Poland, and African capitals such as Nairobi, Kenya, while organizers said there are some 800 events planned across the U.S.
“The climate crisis is an emergency — we want everyone to start acting like it. We demand climate justice for everyone,” organizers said on one website dedicated to Friday’s protests, adding that there was action planned in more than 150 countries.
A coalition of environmental groups, youth organizations and others using the hashtag #strikewithus have demanded passage of a “Green New Deal.”
The climate strike movement began as a weekly demonstration led by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg in August 2018.
The latest worldwide demonstrations are timed to nearly coincide with Monday’s U.N. Climate Summit in New York, where U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said he wants to see governments and businesses pledge to abandon fossil fuels. “We are losing the fight against climate change,” he said at a news conference on Wednesday, according to Reuters.
Anna Taylor, 18, who co-founded the climate strikes movement in the U.K., addressed a crowd in London on Friday that young people are now “desperate.”
Writer Lavinia Richards, 41, said she decided to take the day off work to join the London march when her 6-year-old son, Ruben, asked to join.
“I was pleased that he wants to do the right thing and he’s standing up for what he believes in,” she said. “If these children are brought up to be ethical and responsible, then maybe there is a chance.”
Ruben told NBC News that he wanted to strike in hopes of seeing Thunberg, his role model, and “to save the rainforest and all the tarantulas and the gorillas.”
“Some people think there is going to be a sixth mass extinction, so we don’t really want that to happen,” said Rosa Cormcain, 9, with her group of friends carrying signs that read “there is no planet b” and “don’t be a fossil fool.”
Protesters blocked roads around London’s Parliament, waving flags, beating drums, chanting and singing in the sunshine for hours. At 1 p.m. local time, strikers honked horns, rang bells, blew whistles and cheered in an effort to sound the alarm for action on climate change.
“If we don’t take action now … it won’t be a certain amount of people who will suffer, it will be everyone on this planet,” said activist Al Shadjareh, 16.
Shadjareh and his peers point to warnings from scientists, including an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report from last year, that forecast severe consequences for the environment and human life if global temperatures rise more than 2.7 degrees.
More than 2,300 companies around the globe from a variety of industries, including law, tourism and technology, have joined the Not Business As Usual alliance and pledged to support their workers to strike with students on Friday.
Global brands including Ben & Jerry’s and Lush announced they would be closing their stores on the day of the protest.
Thousands of tech workers say they are planning to join the protests in the middle of their workdays, showing a renewed level of political activism in Silicon Valley where software engineers and other employees traditionally haven’t spoken up in public against their bosses.
Amazon Employees for Climate Justice said it expected more than 1,600 employees would walk off their job sites to protest what they called the company’s lack of action in addressing the climate crisis. It will be the first strike at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters in the company’s 25-year history, according to Wired magazine.
The Federation of Greene County Employees (FOGCE) Federal Credit Union held its Annual Meeting and Christmas Celebration on Wednesday, December 19, 2018 at the credit union’s offices in downtown Eutaw.
The meeting was well attended by more than 35 members who came to learn the status and future plans for the credit union.
Joyce Pham, Treasurer, gave a financial report indicating that as of December 31, 2017, the FOGCE had $503,782.56 in loans outstanding to the membership with assets of $1,343,153.16. There are 891 members and net income for 2017 was $13,819.19.
Mary Dunn, Chairperson of the Credit Committee reported that the FOGCE had made 333 loans in 2018, for a total of $421,537.69, which included ten automobile loans with a value of $153,839.
Rodney Pham indicated that the Credit Committee had increased the maximum loan for an automobile from $40,000 to $60,000. Loans are based on the car’s value, repayment ability and credit rating of the borrower.
Dr. Carol P. Zippert, President reported on the credit union. “ We started in 1975, 43 years ago, with around $25,000 in savings and we have grown to have $1.3 million in assets today. After years of operating in renter spaces, we now own our own building on the Courthouse Square in Eutaw.”
Zippert continued, “ We recently received a $10,000 grant from Inclusiv (formerly the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions) for technology upgrades, accounting and compliance, financial education and counseling for members and marketing and communications expenses to improve contact with our members. We plan to use these grant funds to grow and improve our credit union. We would like to have 1,000 members and over $1.5 million in assets by the end of 2019.”
Joyce Pham indicated that any person who lives, works or worships in Greene County is eligible to join the credit union. It takes $35.00 to join, with $10 for administrative fees to set-up the account and $25.00 as the initial share deposit. All savings are insured by the National Credit Union Administration up to a value of $250,000 per account.
Pham said the credit union is now getting payroll deduction of savings and loan payments from more than thirty employers and businesses in Greene County and surrounding communities including Aliceville, Demopolis, Tuscaloosa and others.
In the business meeting, the members re-elected three board members including Darlene Robinson, Rodney Pham and Mollie Rowe. Also re-elected to the Credit Committee were: Mary Dunn, Rodney Pham and Vonda Richardson. .
Several visitors from the Federation of Southern Cooperatives made congratulatory remarks to the members. These included: Carrie Fulghum, Alabama Board member with the Federation, Dr. Marcus Bernard, Director of the Rural Training and Research Center in Epes, Alabama, and John Zippert, long time Federation staff member.
By NewsOne Staff
Former football player Colin Kaepernick has continually used his platform as an avenue to bring attention to social injustice. He’s been honored by several institutions and organizations for lending his voice and resources to overcome issues faced by the Black community. The latest institution to recognize Kaepernick’s efforts is Harvard University. The school awarded him with the W.E.B. Du Bois medal on Thursday, the Huffington Post reported. Colin Kaepernick received Harvard’s prestigious W.E.B. Du Bois medal last week for his tireless protests of police brutality and racial inequality. The medal is awarded to individuals who are fierce advocates for human rights and who have contributed to shaping Black culture, the news outlet writes. Kaepernick joins a list of legends who have received the award in the past, including the late Muhammad Ali and Maya Angelou. While accepting the award, Kaepernick recounted interacting with a high school football team during his travels around the country. “ One of the young brothers says, ‘We don’t get to eat at home, so we’re going to eat on this field.’ That moment has never left me. And I’ve carried that everywhere I went,” he said, according to the news outlet. “I feel like it’s not only my responsibility but all our responsibilities as people that are in positions of privilege, in positions of power, to continue to fight for them and uplift them, empower them. Because if we don’t, we become complicit in the problem.” Amongst the other individuals who were honored included Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Institute in Montgomery, Alabama, Florence Ladd, and Dave Chappelle. Kaepernick has won several awards for his brave decision to stay dedicated to what he believed in even though it impacted his career. Earlier this year, Amnesty International, a global human rights organization, awarded Kaepernick its 2018 Ambassador of Conscience Award. “This is an award that I share with all of the countless people throughout the world combating the human rights violations of police officers, and their uses of oppressive and excessive force,” he said during his acceptance speech.
The 53rd commemoration of the “Bloody Sunday Selma-to-Montgomery March for Voting Rights” will take place in Selma from Thursday, March 1 to Sunday, March 4, 2018. This will also be the 25th anniversary of the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, featuring over 40 events to celebrate voting rights and plan for future actions to maintain and expand voting rights.
The theme of this year’s Bridge Crossing Jubilee is Many More Bridges to Cross. Most of the events being held over the four-day period are free to the public.
The initial event is the Old Fashioned Mass Meeting at Tabernacle Baptist Church on Broad Street from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Thursday, March 1, 2018. Bishop Staccato Powell of AME Zion Church is the main speaker. Tabernacle is the site of the first mass meetings of the Selma Voting Rights Struggle more than half a century ago. The Miss Jubilee Pageant for youth is also that same evening from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the School of Discovery.
On Friday, March 2, 2018, there is an Educational Summit to deal with major issues facing the education of young people, a Mock Trial on an important issue and a special rally for the “Poor People’s Campaign – A National Moral Revival” featuring Rev. William Barber. The Jubilee Golf Tournament begins early Friday morning and the day ends with a “Stomp Out the Vote” Step Show.
On Saturday, March 3, 2018, there will be a parade, the Foot Soldiers Breakfast, to honor pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement, an Intergenerational Summit, with Congresswoman Maxine Waters, the Jubilee Street Festival, to be held on Water Street close to the bridge, and the Freedom Flame Awards Banquet.
On Saturday there will also be two major workshops on “Human Rights Violation is a Devastation to Our Nation” and “What Democracy Looks Like and Making Democracy Work for US”. Many speakers including Cornel West, Ruby Sales, Raymond Winbush, Anthony Browder and others will participate. These workshops will be held at the Dallas County Courthouse.
Sunday, March 4, 2018, will begin at 7:30AM with the Martin and Coretta Scott King Unity Breakfast at Wallace Community College. Kamala Harris, U. S. Senator from California will be the keynote speaker for the breakfast. She will be joined by new Alabama U. S. Senator Doug Jones, Congresswoman Terri Sewell, Rev. Jesse Jackson and many others. After breakfast, marchers are encouraged to join church services around Selma.
At 1:30 PM Sunday, there will be a pre-march rally at the Browns Chapel Church, followed by a re-enactment of the historic Selma-to-Montgomery Voting Rights March starting at 2:30 PM. Thousands are expected to attend and follow the original march route across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. A post-march rally and other activities will be held later that afternoon.
Faya Rose Toure, organizer of the Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee said, “We invite everyone who supports and celebrates the right to vote to come to this largest annual continuing Civil Rights Celebration, but we also must rededicate ourselves to working on the next necessary steps to carry the movement for voting rights, civil rights and human rights forward!”
Alabama State Senator Hank Sanders said: “Tens of thousands come to Selma every year to be a part of these events. There is something for everyone of all ages and all backgrounds. See you in Selma!”
For more information and a detailed schedule of all events, check the website: http://www.BridgeCrossingJubilee.com.
The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund will celebrate its 50th. Annual Meeting on August 17 to 19, 2017. The organization was founded in 1967, by 22 cooperatives and credit unions, arising from the Civil Rights Movement, serving low-income farmers and rural people in the South.
On Thursday evening, August 17, Attorney Mike Espy of Jackson, Mississippi will receive the 16th annual Estelle Witherspoon Lifetime Achievement Award at a fundraising banquet at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Interstate 495 in Birmingham. Estelle Witherspoon was the Manager of the Freedom Quilting Bee in Alberta, Alabama and a founding member of the Federation.
Mike Espy served as the first Black Congressman from Mississippi since Reconstruction, from 1987 to 1993. In 1993, President Bill Clinton selected him to be the first African-American and the first Secretary of Agriculture from the Deep South. Today, Espy heads the Mississippi office of the law firm of Morgan and Morgan and was involved in the Pigford Black Farmer Discrimination lawsuits against USDA.
Espy has worked closely with the Federation in all of his professional pursuits. As a Mississippi Congressman he co-sponsored the “Minority Farers Rights Bill” and helped to get several of its major components, including the Section 2501 Outreach Program, into the 1990 Farm Bill. As Secretary of Agriculture, he worked closely with the Federation on the efforts to bring greater civil rights concern to the department. As a lawyer, he worked closely with the Federation and our members on the Pigford lawsuit.
On Friday and Saturday, August 18 and 19, the Federation’s Annual Meeting will shift to the organization’s Rural Training and Research Center, near Epes in Sumter County. Friday will be a day of workshops, presentations and celebration of the Federation’s half century of work and achievements on behalf of Black farmers and landowners. Friday evening there will be a fish-fry, wild game tasting and other dishes from the regional membership of the Federation.
On Saturday, the Federation will hold a prayer breakfast followed by the organization’s business meeting, which includes reports from the Board of Directors, Cornelius Blanding, Executive Director, and state caucuses of the membership.
Cornelius Blanding said, “For five decades, the Federation has served its membership of Black farmers and other low income rural people across the South. We have held true to our mission and worked at the grassroots level to transform people and communities, many times in the face of racial hostility and economic exploitation, to win a better future with social and economic justice for our membership. I am proud to be part of the continuing legacy of the Federation and hope to lead it into the next half century of progress.”
Persons interested in attending the Estelle Witherspoon Awards Banquet and the 50th Annual Meeting should go to the organization’s website at http://www.federation.coop to register. Information is also available from the Federation’s offices in Atlanta (404/765-0991) and Epes, Alabama (205/652-9676).
Special to the Democrat by John Zippert,
Members of the Black Warrior Electric Membership Corporation, as of February 24, 2017 have received a package of materials, including a revised set of By-laws, a summary of the changes and a mail ballot to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on all of the changes in one vote.
Members have contacted the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, which has been sponsoring “a co-op democracy project” focused on Black Warrior, to ask how they should vote on these by-law changes. Black Warrior members have also contacted the Greene County Democrat and other trusted community organizations to ask for advice on this by-law package.
If you receive your electric power from Black Warrior EMC you are a “member” of the cooperative. Black Warrior has 26,000 members in the rural parts of many of the western Alabama Black Belt counties including Greene, Sumter, Hale, Perry, Choctaw, Marengo, Tuscaloosa and others.
If you paid your deposit and have a Black Power Electric meter, you are a member of the “electric membership corporation” or cooperative and you have a vote on major issues facing the cooperative, like election of the board of directors, changing the by-laws and other important issues.
Rev. James Carter of Tishabee Community in Greene County said, “I was surprised to receive this 24 page set of new by-laws in the mail and a ballot to vote, without more explanations, without a meeting scheduled to explain these changes. I have an education but I feel you need to be a lawyer or other professional expert to fully understand this document and make an informed and intelligent vote on it.”
Carter, who is one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit to make Black Warrior’s Board and Management more transparent, accountable and democratic, also said, “ I am happy to see these by-laws because they answer many questions the members have been raising with Black Warrior, for a number of years, but they also raise new questions about additional discretionary powers granted to the co-op’s Board of Directors, which may adversely affect the members.
“We need more time and a series of meetings in the Black Warrior EMC service area to explain these changes and allow for the members to understand what they are voting on. We are also asked to vote up or down on the whole package in one vote even if we disagree with some of the specific changes or would like to add other changes to make the cooperative more democratic and responsive to its members.”
Adriauna Davis, a Community Outreach Worker with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, who has been meeting with BWEMC members to discuss and strategize ways to make the power provider more democratic and responsible to its members, said, “We plan to go to court, under our existing lawsuit, and stop this by-law mail ballot until a membership meeting or district membership meetings are held to explain these new by-laws and the changes.”
“In the meantime, we are urging BWEMC members to vote “NO” on the ballot and write in that, “ I do not understand all of these by-law changes and want a meeting to understand and discuss these changes,” said Davis.
Davis points out that the current BWEMC By-laws require a membership meeting to amend the by-laws. The Board and Management, who developed and sent out the new ballot revisions, say their effort is legal under new provisions of the Electric Cooperative Statute of Alabama, which allow for a mail ballot.
Marcus Bernard, Director of the Federation’s Rural Training and Research Center in Epes, Alabama said, “We received about 100 phone calls last week from BWEMC members who were mailed the by-laws package. They say that they do not understand what to do. Many do not fully understand that they are members and are entitled to vote on the by-laws and other matters. We are recommending a “NO” vote until there are educational meetings to explain the changes to members.”
Bernard pointed out that the BWEMC was founded in 1938 and has not revised its by-laws in 66 years since 1950. The co-op has not had an official Annual Meeting of Members to elect the co-op’s board of directors during this same period. Since their have not been official membership meetings, with the required quorum of 5% (1,300 members) the board has been allowed to perpetuate itself without meaningful input from the members.
The Democrat will be following this story closely in coming weeks and will have more articles and opinion pieces on these important issues.
By: John Zippert, Co-Publisher
Amid the celebration and commemoration at this weekend’s Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma, Alabama, celebrating the 52nd anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday March” in 1965, there was a demand for “Full Restoration of the Voting Rights Act” by Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina Repairers of the Breach and Forward Together Movement. Rev. Barber’s demand was echoed by other speakers and was the central issue in many of the workshops and programs of the Jubilee.
In addition to the workshops, there was a parade, golf tournament, dinners, a unity breakfast, street festival, and the march reenactment on Sunday afternoon. Ten thousand or more marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge behind a host of local and national leaders, including: Rev. Jesse Jackson of PUSH, Charles Steele of SCLC, Rev. Barber, Faya Rose Toure, Senator Hank Sanders, Rev. Mark Thompson of Sirius 127 Radio and many others. The Masons of Alabama turned out in force and in uniform, to participate in the march.
The weekend culminated in Monday’s “Slow-Ride from Selma to Montgomery” with a caravan of 35 vehicles including a Greene County School bus, carrying the members of the Eutaw High Ninth Grade Academy. The caravan was met by local Montgomery leaders for a rally on the steps of the State Capitol.
Prior to the re-enactment march, Attorney Faya Rose Toure pointed out that the Edmund Pettus Bridge was named for an Alabama Klu Klux Klan leader and that the name should be changed to honor Ms. Amelia Boyton Robinson and the Voting Rights Foot-soldiers who won the 1965 VRA.
Rev. William Barber spoke many times, as ketnote for the Sunday morning breakfast, at Brown’s Chapel Church before the march reenactment, on a national radio broadcast from the Dallas County Courthouse on Sunday evening and at the rally at the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery at the end of the slow-ride.
Rev. Barber made similar points in each speech. At the breakfast, we invoked the martyrs of the civil and voting rights movement – Dr. King, Jimmie Lee Jackson, Jonathan Daniels, James Reid, Viola Luizzo, and un-named others, whose blood he said was crying out to people today to continue the work of restoring the Voting Rights Act, fighting voter suppression in all its forms, and building a more beloved community involving Blacks, Whites, Latinos and all religious faiths.
He said he had come to Selma, ”not for the nostalgia of history but to listen for the ‘blood’ that was shed and soaked into the concrete of the bridge and the wooden pews of the churches.” Barber said that America was headed by an egotistical narsisistic man, “but this is not the first time that a racist was in the White House. Steve Bannon is not the first white Supremacist to be in high places. Trump is not the first President to hold these views. Many of his predacessors felt the same way.”
“On June 25, 2013”, Barber said, “the U. S. Supreme Court in the Holder vs. Shelby County case, overturned Section 4 and nullified Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Within an hour of the destruction of pre-clearence of voting changes in the Shelby decision, Texas approved a voter ID law and other changes; two months later, North Carolina passed voter suppression laws.
Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and other Southern states also passed voter ID and other voter suppression measures. Voter fraud is a lie, voter suppression is alive.”
“Twenty-one states adopted 47 regressive voting changes within a year of the Shelby decision, The 2016 Presidential election was the first in half a century without the protection of the Voting Rights Act.
868 fewer polling places were allowed in Black and Brown communities around the nation. In the 25 Presidential debates, both Republican and Democratic, no mention was made of the issue of voter suppression in our communities,” said Rev. Barber.
“Long before Russia interfered in our elections, voter suppression had hacked and distorted the system,” said Barber. He pointed out that in Wisconsin 300,000 voters were disenfranchised due to the voter ID requirements and Trump defeated Hillary by 20,000 votes in that state.
Senator Hank Sanders spoke to the problems of voter suppression, voter ID, Legislative gerrymandering in Alabama, Packing and stacking Black voters in majority Black districts. He also recounted the history of now Attorney General Jeff Sessions role in initiating voter suppression in Alabama with voter fraud trials of civil rights activists.
Rev. Barber said, “ the 11 former Confederate states have 171 electoral votes, you only need 99 more to have the 270 needed to win the electoral college. These states have 26 U. S. senators, the extremists need only 25 more Senators to control the Senate which they are doing now. They have the House of Representatives, statehouses, county courthouses, we have work to do to fully restore the Voting Rights Act.”
As part of the evening radio broadcast and rally at the Dallas County Courthouse, Rev. Barber displayed maps, which showed the concentration of poverty, child poverty, low wages-right-to-work states, states that did not expand Medicaid, overlapped with the states that adopted new voter suppression measures. Most of these maps showed concentration of these problems in the rural South. Rev. Barber also displayed a map of states and areas with a concentration of protestant Evangelical Christians and once again the overlap was clear. He called this a “mis-teaching of faith and a false interpretation of the Bible”.
At the rally in Montgomery, speaker after speaker blasted the voter suppression, racial gerrymandering and limits to voting by the people. Rev. Barber said, ”We must get ready for a 100 days of disruption and civil disobedience in our state houses and in Congress to work for full restoration of the Voting Rights Act. Different state organizations should be preparing to go to Washington, D. C. and non-violently disrupt the process qnd win back our full voting rights.