Meet the Preacher Behind Moral Mondays

Coming to Beaver County in June, The Reverend William Barber is charting a new path for protesting Republican overreach in the South—and maybe beyond.

By Lisa Rab

Beaver County Blue via Mother Jones

April 14, 2014 – The Reverend William Barber is charting a new path for protesting conservative overreach in the North Carolina—and beyond.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, the Reverend William Barber II [1] reclined uncomfortably in a chair in his office, sipping bottled water as he recovered from two hours of strenuous preaching. When he was in his early 20s, Barber was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a painful arthritic condition affecting the spine. Still wearing his long black robes, the 50-year-old minister recounted how, as he’d proclaimed in a rolling baritone from the pulpit that morning, "a crippled preacher has found his legs."

It began a few days before Easter 2013, recalled Barber, pastor at the Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina, and president of the state chapter [2] of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). "On Maundy Thursday, they chose to crucify voting rights," he said.

"They" are North Carolina Republicans, who in November 2012 took control of the state Legislature and the governor’s mansion for the first time in more than a century. Among their top priorities—along with blocking Medicaid expansion and cutting unemployment benefits and higher-education spending—was pushing through a raft of changes to election laws, including reducing the number of early voting days, ending same-day voter registration, and requiring ID at the polls. "That’s when a group of us said, ‘Wait a minute, this has just gone too far,’" Barber said.

Barber "believed we needed to kind of burst this bubble of ‘There’s nothing we can do for two years until the next election.’"

On the last Monday of April 2013, Barber led a modest group of clergy and activists into the state legislative building in Raleigh. They sang "We Shall Overcome," quoted the Bible, and blocked the doors to the Senate chambers. Barber leaned on his cane as capitol police led him away in handcuffs.

That might have been the end of just another symbolic protest, but then something happened: The following Monday, more than 100 protesters showed up at the capitol. Over the next few months, the weekly crowds at the "Moral Mondays" protests grew to include hundreds, and then thousands, not just in Raleigh but also in towns around the state. The largest gathering, in February, drew tens of thousands of people [3]. More than 900 protesters have been arrested for civil disobedience over the past year. Copycat movements have started in Florida [4], Georgia [5], South Carolina [6], and Alabama [7] in response to GOP legislation regarding Medicaid and gun control.

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Pittsburgh and The Revolt of the Cities

AN ARTICLE FOR DISCUSSION. During the past 20 years, immigrants and young people have transformed the demographics of urban America. Now, they’re transforming its politics and mapping the future of liberalism.

By Harold Meyerson
Beaver County Blue via American Prospect

Pittsburgh is the perfect urban laboratory,” says Bill Peduto, the city’s new mayor. “We’re small enough to be able to do things and large enough for people to take notice.” More than its size, however, it’s Pittsburgh’s new government—Peduto and the five like-minded progressives who now constitute a majority on its city council—that is turning the city into a laboratory of democracy. In his first hundred days as mayor, Peduto has sought funding to establish universal pre-K education and partnered with a Swedish sustainable-technology fund to build four major developments with low carbon footprints and abundant affordable housing. Even before he became mayor, while still a council member, he steered to passage ordinances that mandated prevailing wages for employees on any project that received city funding and required local hiring for the jobs in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ new arena. He authored the city’s responsible-banking law, which directed government funds to those banks that lent in poor neighborhoods and away from those that didn’t.

Pittsburgh is a much cleaner city today than it was when it housed some of the world’s largest steel mills. But, like postindustrial America generally, it is also a much more economically divided city. When steel dominated the economy, the companies’ profits and the union’s contracts made Pittsburgh—like Detroit, Cleveland, and Chicago—a city with a thriving working class. Today, with the mills long gone, Pittsburgh has what Gabe Morgan, who heads the local union of janitorial and building maintenance workers, calls an “eds and meds” economy. Carnegie Mellon, the University of Pittsburgh, and its medical center are among the region’s largest employers, generating thousands of well-paid professional positions and a far greater number of low-wage service-sector jobs.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto

Peduto, who is 49 years old, sees improving the lot of Pittsburgh’s new working class as his primary charge. In his city hall office, surrounded by such artifacts as a radio cabinet from the years when the city became home to the world’s first radio station, the new mayor outlined the task before him. “My grandfather, Sam Zarroli, came over in 1921 from Abruzzo,” he said. “He only had a second-grade education, but he was active in the Steel Workers Organizing Committee in its early years, and he made a good life for himself and his family. My challenge in today’s economy is how to get good jobs for people with no PhDs but with a good work ethic and GEDs. How do I get them the same kind of opportunities my grandfather had? All the mayors elected last year are asking this question.”

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Busy Week for Pittsburgh Area…

Calling all activists! We have a busy day ahead of us on Thursday, April 24,  starting with a noon rally in Market Square for fair wages for women and low wage workers, then to support postal workers at Staples on McKnight Road, the to the Pump House for the first film of the season: Sacco and Vancetti! Top it off on Saturday afternoon at the Pump House for a discussion on the fight for meaningful immigration reform. Join us!

Thursday, April 24 from 12:00 to 1:00 pm The Equal Pay Rally is on at Market Square. The rally will focus on the minimum wage, the impact of the gender wage gap on Pittsburgh families, and economic justice for all. The students of the Women and Girls Foundation (WGF) GirlGov program will have an Equal Pay Bake Sale at the rally to help illustrate the wage gap. Men will be charged $1 per item, and women will be charged 75 cents to exemplify the impact economic discrimination has on every aspect of our daily lives. We also are going to have "Will Work for Equality" t-shirts.

Thursday April 24, 2:30 PM – 6:30 PM, Rally in support of postal workers! At STAPLES, 4801 McKnight Road, Pittsburgh, PA. 15237. Demonstrations will occur at Staples stores across the country on April 24 to protest the deal between Staples and the U.S. Postal Service that jeopardizes mail service and thousands of good jobs. The deal takes living-wage USPS jobs and full service U.S. Post offices and replaces them with knock-off post offices at Staples staffed with low wage employees. This is privatization and a race to the bottom for customers, workers and our communities.  The Staples deal is bad for the consumers who will pay the same for less service. The public has a right to post offices and services that are staffed by uniformed employees that are accountable and sworn to safeguard your mail.

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Obama Pledges $600M for Job Training Programs in Oakdale Speech

Obama CCAC

April 16, 2014 — President Barack Obama talks about job training and the workforce of the future during an appearance Wednesday afternoon at the Community College of Allegheny County’s West Hills campus in Oakdale. Obama was joined by Vice President Joe Biden. (Joe Wojcik/Pittsburgh Business Times).

By Paul J. Gough
Pittsburgh Business Times

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden announced $500 million in job training and $100 million in apprenticeship programs Wednesday during a stop at the Community College of Allegheny County in Oakdale.

The programs would help train workers for the high-demand jobs of today and the future in what the president and vice president said would be high-paying, high-benefit employment to get more Americans into the middle class. Neither would require congressional approval, Obama said.

As part of the $500 million program, competitive grants will be offered to community colleges with job-driven training.

Obama said he envisioned skills-based education that "train Americans with the skills employers need, not something that looks good on paper and doesn’t give you a job."

"In today’s economy it’s never been more important to make sure that our folks are trained for the jobs that are there, and for the jobs of the future," Obama said during the speech that was also webcast on WhiteHouse.gov.

Continue reading Obama Pledges $600M for Job Training Programs in Oakdale Speech

‘Solidarity Fast’ This Week in Support of UMPC Workers

UPMC workers are organizing a weeklong fast at the doorsteps of Pittsburgh’s largest employer to speak truth to power and show their determination for winning a union and a decent standard of living.  Join Fight Back Pittsburgh as we show our support for these brave workers and stand up to Make it Our UPMC.

Tuesday, April 15 at 6:30pm
UPMC Headquarters (600 Grant Street)


About the UPMC Workers Fast for Our Future
UPMC workers have built an incredible movement to transform our city by transforming UPMC, our largest employer, healthcare provider, landowner and charity.

Our movement has won thousands and thousands of supporters – faith leaders, elected officials, community activists and our coworkers – to the simple idea that everyone who works should do so with respect and dignity, and that everyone who needs care should receive it.
Every day workers and the people of Pittsburgh challenge UPMC to live up to its charitable mission. 

Our fast is also a challenge. It is an act of hope and anticipation, and also a show of strength and determination.  Because UPMC puts profits over people, we have become accustomed to hunger and hardship. When hunger and hardship is experienced in isolation, and outside of a movement for justice, they are just hunger and hardship. Our fast transforms hunger and hardship into a call for justice.  We are putting fasting for ourselves, to test and develop our commitment. We are fasting to call on UPMC to put aside business as usual and work with us to build a better future.

AFL-CIO’s Trumka Praises Pittsburgh Labor Movements

By Ann Belser

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

April 10, 2014 – Pittsburgh, the cradle of the American union movement, is now nurturing a new generation of union workplaces.

“There’s more organizing drives going on in Pittsburgh than in any other city of the country,” said Richard Trumka, the national president of the AFL-CIO, in Washington, D.C., who came home to Pittsburgh Thursday to address the 41st Constitutional Convention of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.

Mr. Trumka, a former mine worker who grew up in Nemacolin, Greene County, said in his speech that there are 45,000 people who are in the midst of organizing campaigns at their workplaces in Western Pennsylvania.

In addition to the SEIU campaign targeting health care provider UPMC, there are high-profile campaigns at Duquesne, Robert Morris and Point Park universities. An effort to organize workers at the Rivers Casino is under way, as well.

Part of the change in unionization efforts has been that instead of various unions organizing businesses on their own, unions have come together to help each other.

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More Reasons for Moving to Clean and Green Energy

Beaver County’s ‘Little Blue Run’ coal ash site to close sooner

Plant owner must contain pollution

By Don Hopey / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

April 3, 2014 – The largest coal ash impoundment in the United States — Little Blue Run in Beaver County — will be closed and capped and mostly contained by its owner three years earlier than the company first proposed, under a new plan announced by the state Department of Environmental Protection Thursday.

The closure plan now requires Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy Generation LLC to complete all of the state-required work at the 1,900-acre impoundment by the end of 2028. A December 2012 federal consent order required the company to stop disposing of coal ash by the end of 2016, in part because seepage of pollutants from the unlined impoundment has contaminated groundwater and surface water in the area.

"We want to see it done sooner rather than later," said John Poister, a DEP spokesman. "It’s a big undertaking, but we think that it can be done in a little less time than FirstEnergy wanted, so we pushed for that."

FirstEnergy submitted a closure plan in October 2013 that the DEP said contained more than 160 deficiencies, including a failure to acknowledge arsenic contamination of groundwater around the impoundment.

Continue reading More Reasons for Moving to Clean and Green Energy