Helen Singleton was one of the Freedom Riders. She was the only African American female who was part of a cadre of African American and white students from UCLA getting on a bus to help desegregate the South. Her husband, Dr. Robert Singleton, one of the key leaders who had convinced others to get on the bus, asked her repeatedly not to go. He was fearful of her fate – what would happen if they were arrested and she was the sole woman on the bus? But Mrs. Singleton insisted on going. Thankfully, she wasn’t assaulted, lynched or raped. But she could have been. Mrs. Singleton told Liberty Hill’s Leadership Institute leaders on October 27, 2010 that she thought before going, “Bring it on!” And she did. They did. Approximately 400 Freedom Riders risked prison and far worse to challenge segregation and change the thinking of OUR nation.
After the CLEAN Carwash Campaign, a Liberty Hill grantee, uncovered massive violations of wage and health and safety laws, two carwash owners, brothers Benny and Nisan Pirian, were investigated by the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office and charged in a 174-count criminal complaint. The brothers subsequently were sentenced to a year in jail for minimum-wage violations, a loud wake-up call to owners of LA’s 500 carwashes. At the moment, no carwash workers are unionized. And until this recent verdict, little incentive existed for owners to treat workers well. But behind the scenes, the CLEAN Carwash Campaign, a coalition of 140 community, health, safety and labor groups in LA, has been engaging in a particularly complex process of union organizing.
The six janitors, members of SEIU-USWW’s Justice for Janitors movement, haven’t eaten since Monday, in protest against JP Morgan Chase, which laid off 19 SEIU-USWW janitors at its Century Plaza Towers.
As if janitors didn’t have it hard enough already,19 had been laid off and the remaining 57 janitors told to handle the full cleaning services that all 76 had originally performed, despite the 20% staff reduction.
Nowadays businesses requiring fewer employees to handle the same amount of work has become all too familiar, hasn’t it. And that's part of the point. The union says that these 19 janitors represent many more, and that SEIU is sending a message "industry-wide." )
Liberty Hill is greatly dismayed about the difficulty in securing services for the poor and has supported California Partnership, a statewide coalition of more than 120 community groups, in its efforts to combat poverty.
In March 2010 CAP kicked off a statewide campaign for budget transparency at a community forum in Los Angeles funded by Liberty Hill. The 100 community members in attendance listened attentively, first to Jean Ross of California Budget Project and then to a panel of elected officials: Assemblymembers Bob Blumenfield; Hector de la Torre and Karen Bass. The community leaders were heartened when these Assemblymembers asserted their strong interest in creating a transparent budgetary process.
If you relied exclusively on the Los Angeles Times and local radio newscasts for information about the dramatic turn of events in the city of Maywood, CA, you would conclude that Maywood has a disaster on its hands. You might also conclude that its dire circumstances could portend similar outcomes in other financially distressed cities within California.
But I spoke today with Leonardo Vilchis, director of Liberty Hill grantee Union de Vecinos (Union of Neighbors), who gave me an insider’s perspective on the newest troubles of the trouble-plagued town of Maywood. And the image he portrays stands in sharp contrast to what we’d otherwise infer.
Fasting has weakened their bodies but not their spirits. These low-income bus riders, organized by the Bus Riders Union, have entered the sixth day of their fast to draw attention to their plight.
The Labor Community Strategy Center (LCSC), which Liberty Hill has supported for many years, gave birth to The Bus Riders Union.
Maria Brenes, executive director of InnerCity Struggle, will receive the Wally Marks Changemaker Award Thursday, May 20, at Liberty Hill’s Upton Sinclair Dinner.