#HandsOffDewey – A Successful BBQ and Next Steps

31 Jul

BBQ for Dewey

The coalition to defend Dewey just finished up a very successful BBQ at Dewey Academy that brought out over 75 students, staff, parents, and community supporters of Dewey.  Check out the pics.  Be sure to not miss the video linked below.  As always, for up to date info and more media, check out our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/stopgentrificationousd.

Fists up for Justice!  Hands off Dewey!

Fists up for Justice! Hands off Dewey!

Dancing at the BBQ!  "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution."

Dancing at the BBQ! “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”

******* Click here to check out the dope student-produced video!  *******

Get Involved

We need to build a movement to keep OUSD and the developers’ hands off Dewey.  That means we need all the support we can get.  Here are a couple ways you can help us:

1.  Come tomorrow, Friday 8/1, and help us Crash the Developer’s Meeting!  We’ll be meeting at 1000 Broadway at 10:30AM.  Check the flyer here.  Click on the images to get the PDF for printing.

 One Pager Final_Page_1 One Pager Final_Page_2

2.  Sign our petition here: http://www.change.org/petitions/oakland-unified-school-district-and-the-city-council-hands-off-dewey-students-before-profits-and-meaningful-community-engagement

3.  Share the struggle.  Tell folks to like our Facebook page to get updates and show support: https://www.facebook.com/stopgentrificationousd.  And share our hashtags too: #handsoffdewey #schoolsnotcondos #educationnotgentrification #rescindtherfq

4.  Email board members.  Here is a simple guide to help you write a quick email:

Easy Guide to Emailing School Board Members

Key Points: Don’t Demolish Dewey! Rescind the RFQ!

  1. Open a fresh email.
  2. SUBJECT LINE:  Choose one from the list below, or write your own beginning with Don’t Demolish Dewey, then copy and paste into “Subject:”
  3. SEND TO:  Copy and paste all of the email addresses below into “Recipients:”
  • Don’t Demolish Dewey! Rescind the RFQ! – Dewey Students Cannot Be Moved — Even for One Year!
  • Don’t Demolish Dewey! Rescind the RFQ! – Selling Schools Is Not a Source of Funds!
  • Don’t Demolish Dewey! Rescind the RFQ! – Public Land Should Stay Public!

gary.yee@ousd.k12.ca.us, maria.santos@ousd.k12.ca.us, david.kakishiba@ousd.k12.ca.us, roseann.torres@ousd.k12.ca.us, james.harris@ousd.k12.ca.us, jody.london@ousd.k12.ca.us, christopher.dobbins@ousd.k12.ca.us, jumoke.hodge@ousd.k12.ca.us, anne.washington@ousd.k12.ca.us

  1. YOUR MESSAGE:  Copy and paste one of the suggested messages below into the body of your email, or write a brief message of your own, and press SEND:

Don’t Demolish Dewey! Rescind the RFQ! Dewey should not be moved because Dewey students are already at-risk.  Moving their school, even for just one year, definitely raises the likelihood of them dropping out.  Any other location would be unsafe for Dewey students. Dewey was just moved a decade ago and it was intentionally moved near Lake Merritt because it’s gang-neutral territory. Students have said this location is the safest place for them. Moreover, Dewey students as at-risk youth of color in Oakland, are always being under-supported and not prioritized.  You of all people should not be thinking of demolishing Dewey.

Don’t Demolish Dewey! Rescind the RFQ! There are much better sources of funds than gentrifying Oakland and demolishing active, thriving public schools. We should cut managerial administrative positions and salaries instead.  In 2012-13 (the most recent year with sufficient data), OUSD had 2x the administrators than Fremont, the next closest sized district in Alameda County.  If we had the same amount of administrators we would save $13 million. And OUSD officials and Board members should start a campaign that developers, Kaiser, the Port, Google, and other Oakland and Bay Area corporations be taxed to fully support quality public education.

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Update on Dewey

31 Jul

Posted below is our most recent update on Dewey.  We published it a couple weeks ago on the Oakland Local blog.  It’s not fully up to date at this point since it’s missing our most recent actions including our BBQ on Monday, 7/28.  Still it’s worth posting for our archives here and so everyone can get an idea of the ongoing nature of our work around Dewey and gentrification within OUSD.


Stopping Gentrification in OUSD:

Update from Struggle to Stop Displacement of Dewey and Privatization of Public Land

By Aram Mendoza and N. Finch

Since we last wrote about the potential development deal that would potentially displace Dewey Academy and sell off public land, we’ve witnessed an inspiring awareness and mobilization among  the OUSD community.  At each of the two relevant board meetings that happened last week, the 7-11 meeting and OUSD school board, students, educators, and community members came out to speak against the proposed development deal that would privatize public land.  Below we outline a brief update on each meeting and review the major problems of this attempt to privatize public space in Oakland.  Throughout this piece we put forth a vision of how we should approach the key issues in this process.

Specifically, we call for:

  • Public land to remain under public control; No privatization of public land.
  • Parent, staff, student, and community should decide OUSD policy.
  • The OUSD admin and the school board should become community activists and fight for taxes on property developers, corporations, and the port, rather than resorting to short-term privatization schemes.


Sign-making before we protested at a 7-11 Committee meeting.

Sign-making before we protested at a 7-11 Committee meeting.


7-11 Meeting, Community Response and Colonial Analogies


On Monday, June 23rd, the 7-11 Committee convened its third meeting in order to advise the school board on whether or not Dewey Academy should be considered “surplus property” and thereby offer it up to luxury condo developers as a saleable/leaseable parcel of land.  While OUSD so poorly promoted attendance at previous 7-11 meetings that no more than four or five community members showed up, this one had over 30 educators, students and parents from Dewey, joined by a handful of concerned community members.

The fact that educators and students were able to quickly get the word out and mobilize the community, without any outreach support from OUSD, demonstrates the strong opposition to the OUSD administration’s plans to privatize the public land that Dewey rests on.  The grouping of educators, students and community members put up signs around the room that read, “Schools Not Condos,” “Dewey is not Surplus,” “Not One Inch of Public Land for Private Developers,” and other messages that clearly took a clear stand against the administration’s move to privatize public space.

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Dewey Academy in Danger of Displacement: Gentrification and the Oakland Unified School District

21 Jun

Dewey Academy in Danger of Displacement:

Gentrification and the Oakland Unified School District

By Aram Mendoza and N. Finch in collaboration with Dewey teachers


Displacement of long-time, low-income residents due to gentrification has been an all too common story in the Bay Area recently.  Now the same insidious process is targeting some of the most “at-risk” students in Oakland.  Over the past two weeks, in the end of school rush, the Oakland Unified School District’s administration revealed they have been in close discussions with gentrifying developers that puts Dewey Academy, one of the public continuation high schools in the OUSD, in the cross-hairs of real estate agents and developers.  The developers are already planning a 24 story luxury condo building overshadowing Dewey and now want to add Dewey and the old OUSD headquarters to the project.  What follows is an overview of the situation, why it’s problematic, how it’s situated in the context of gentrification in the Bay Area, and what those of us opposed to the displacement of Dewey and the gentrification of Oakland can do about it.


Dewey gone.  In it's place condos.

Dewey gone. In it’s place condos.


“Surplus Property” and “Surplus Populations”


On Monday, June 10th, an OUSD-initiated group named the “7-11 Committee” (the name stems from the requirement that the committee have at least 7, and not more than 11, people on it) met for the second time.  The Committee was composed of various real estate attorneys, members of charter school boards of directors, and a couple community members.  Not a single active OUSD teacher or student was on the committee – the only current educator on the committee was the current principal of Dewey Academy.  They were charged with “advising” the school board as to the status of the OUSD property located on 2nd Avenue, east of the lake between E. 10th and E. 12th streets.  This property currently houses the former OUSD administration building, which was mysteriously flooded last year, as well as Dewey Academy.  The question set before the Committee was to determine whether or not the parcel of land housing both the former OUSD admin building and Dewey Academy was “surplus property.”

Surplus property is defined as property that is retained by the school district but is not currently being used.  How can anyone imagine that an actual school – Dewey Academy – that has just graduated about 130 students in the past weeks, and that houses a GED program for community members could ever be considered “surplus”?  During the first 7-11 committee, one of the OUSD’s attorneys referred to the “surplussing” of Dewey – that is, using the word “surplus” as a verb – and described the way that the OUSD and developers could actively convert Dewey into “surplus property” in order to make it open for development. (1)

The surplus property category is being used as a means to displace Dewey students and treat them as a surplus population.  It has nothing to do with Dewey actually being property that’s considered “surplus.”  This mirrors the treatment of Oakland’s youth in the broader society.  Seen as an expendable, incarcerable, and unemployable “surplus population,” Oakland’s youth are those who should be pushed to the margins in order to make way for more desirable occupants of land – those that can afford the lakeside view from the window of their 10th floor condominium.  This is the opposite of how they are treated at Dewey Academy where educators and community members work hard to support students who are missing credits needed to graduate, impacted by gangs and who might otherwise slip through the cracks of other OUSD schools.


Dewey Academy students and staff. Surplus property?


Against the Displacement of Dewey Academy


“The safest place for Dewey to be [for the students] is right where it is . . . “ - Dewey High School alum


There are at least three central reasons that highlight how problematic and oppressive the move to displace Dewey and the OUSD Administration building are.

First of all, Dewey’s current location is next to the Youth Heart Health Center, a student centered free health clinic that Dewey students helped design, in collaboration with OUSD employees and MetWest High School students.  What sense does it make to take our highest risk, highest need students away from a health center that they helped design?  While the OUSD has committed in rhetoric to prioritizing the social/emotional needs of Oakland youth, this move by the administration directly goes against the social/emotional needs of Dewey students and, by extension, all youth who access the health center. These students helped shape the YHHC with the understanding that they would be able to access the medical services there.  Since its opening, Dewey students have made up the highest percentage of youth who have accessed the clinic.  Without these young people being in close proximity to the YHHC, the center’s numbers may decline and put them at risk of budget cuts and layoffs, causing further harm to all students who access the center – including those from MetWest and La Escuelita.

Additionally, many students at Dewey are gang-impacted, and the location of Dewey in an accessible and relatively neutral territory by the lake means that students can come to school and be in a safer space than they would be if they had to attend another school in another neighborhood. The informally discussed alternative locations of Fremont High School in East Oakland, Santa Fe elementary in North Oakland and Lakeview campus north of the lake are all either unsafe for gang impacted students or inappropriately far, especially for youth who are already struggling with truancy.  This proposed displacement will only further the alienation and marginalization that these young people face by destabilizing what is perhaps one of the most stable institutions in their lives.  If Dewey did not exist and function as it is, and where it is, many of these students would not have the opportunity to recover credits in a safer space and eventually graduate with a high school diploma.

Lastly, the decision making process behind Dewey’s forced displacement has been incredibly undemocratic and marginalizing of youth, educator and community voices.  The committee that is advising the school board on whether or not Dewey is “surplus property” includes real estate lawyers that represent condominium developers and charter school board members.  This is unacceptable and disrespectful – nobody should decide the fate of a school but the students, educators and staff who make the school run on a daily basis.  The fact that this committee was appointed by the superintendent without any meaningful engagement with the school community is a slap in the face to a community of students and educators who have worked hard to make Dewey one of the safest campuses for struggling students in Oakland.

All of these problematics surrounding the seemingly forced displacement of Dewey lead us to the question: why is this displacement being pushed forward in such a rushed way?

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Where is the Money?

27 May


The Disconnected Rhetoric of a Forgotten Superintendent

23 Apr


Tony Smith’s recent anti-teacher editorial in support of the plaintiffs in the Vergara v. California supreme court case, published by the OaklandTribune (a historically and current right-wing pro-business rag) comes as no surprise to Classroom Struggle. His departure–from the lucrative post as superintendent of Oakland Unified School District (OUSD)–was precipitated by teacher, student, and parent-led protests of school closings/union busting/closure of Adult Education, and two Oakland Schools police scandals.  As Smith oversaw a record influx of charter schools, and a number of public school closures, the flood of protest resistance rose higher than the flood waters at the 2ND Avenue OUSD Administration offices, which forced a relocation to the former Cole Middle School — a school later replaced by an Oakland Schools police substation and eventually a charter school move-in. The amount of money Tony Smith’s leadership wasted on administration and consultants coupled with an annual failure to spend the mandated 55% of budget funds on classrooms, should shed light what Tony Smith actually did as Superintendent of Oakland Schools. This oft-spoken advocate of critical race theory and strident supporter of young African American men, is gone and forgotten, though the legacy of his devastating policies present the public with important work to organize against and overturn these corporate/private attacks on public education.

In contrast to the teacher, student, and parent outrage at Tony Smith’s policies, his plans were met with a minimum level of resistance by the Oakland teachers’ union, the Oakland Education Association (OEA). The only minor pushback consisted of a widely respected one-day strike in response to Smith and the School Board’s contract imposition. Otherwise, Smith did everything he could to delegitimize the OEA. With the majority of the school board in his back pocket and union leadership too willing to collaborate, Smith’s promise of “full-service community schools” proved in reality to be no-service community schools.

But the OEA was not alone in this fight, resistance heightened up to and throughout the Occupy Movement where a proposal at the Occupy Oakland general assembly, resulted in the creation of a committee (the Occupy Oakland Education Committee) specifically aimed at challenging Smith’s policies and his union-busting corporate, pro-charter camp. With the support of the Occupy Oakland Movement,this committee, now called Classroom Struggle, participated in organizing thousands of Oakland’s finest students, teachers and parents in marches for the defense of public education. This organizing reached a high point in a concerted fight against Smith’s closure of five public elementary schools after the 2011/2012 school year.

Collaborating with Occupy Oakland, Classroom Struggle served as the organizing committee for an 18 day sit-in and People’s Summer School at Lakeview Elementary — an effort led by teachers, elementary and middle school children, and parents devastated by the closures of their neighborhood schools. The sit-in culminated in a march and rally on the front lawn of Tony Smith’s house after a 4am police raid (commanded by infamous Officer Bhatt, more on him later) on what was a peaceful sit-in and People’s School. Without a doubt, the presence of a huge and diverse crowd of Oakland citizens protesting Smith’s policies and police action on a peaceful sit-in, landed an impactful left hook to the chin of a bureaucrat who did everything possible to maintain a progressive facade–a facade shaken by two Oakland schools police scandals.

The police scandals began with the resignation of racist Oakland Schools Police Chief Pete Sarna, and followed with the murder of an unarmed, black young man by two Oakland schools police officers.  Tony Smith was complicit in these two scandals.  First, he presided over the hiring of Sarna, who prior to working as OUSD Police Chief, resigned in disgrace from the position of Deputy Director of Law Enforcement for Jerry Brown’s state Justice Department–after Sarna crashed the state’s Chevy Tahoe into a tow truck and was cited for misdemeanor drunk driving.  Apparently Smith and the Oakland School Board felt this type of behavior was good enough for Oakland Schools Police Chief.

Equally disgusting was Smith and the OUSD School Board’s pick to replace the racist Sarna after Smith’s second police scandal in which a young unarmed, black man, Raheim Brown, was shot and killed by OUSD police officers. Officer Barhin Bhatt was chosen as Interim Police Chief after having just shot and killed Raheim Brown outside a Skyline High School Dance.  According to Barhin Bhatt’s partner, Officer John Bellusa, Bhatt shot two rounds into the body of Raheim Brown, and then fired another five rounds to finish off the young man who had driven up the hill to hangout with his date.  In a sworn affidavit, Bellusa testified that he ordered the first round of shots because Brown allegedly had a screw driver, but no longer considered Raheim a threat after the first bullets, yet Bhatt still made sure this young man wouldn’t live to see his 20th birthday. Bellusa also swore he witnessed Officer Bhatt consume alcoholic drinks while on duty; another nice choice for Chief of the Police Department that “serves and protects” the students of the Oakland Unified School District.  To top it all off, Bellusa also implicated Tony Smith in the coverup of Brown’s murder.  In making the decision to promote a trigger happy Bhatt and assisting in the coverup of murder, Smith’s concern for young black men proved to be the standard lipservice of a top down bureaucrat. To read a full report of this gross police misconduct click here.

This decision to name Officer Bhatt as Interim Chief of Police was met with stiff resistance and a large campaign for justice led by Raheim Brown’s family. This young man was gunned down by an incompetent police force who were being led by a racist drunk. With this type of misleadership, no sane person would ever mistake Tony Smith for someone who truly cares about the lives of OUSD students and families, especially young black men and their families. Smith’s shameless pandering to a progressive urban populace is nearly as bad as he and the School Board pretending to provide full service community schools, while defunding libraries, counseling, nursing, the arts and the remnants of Adult Education/GED programs, to name but a few of the services gutted by the Smith regime.

Yet, if the above doesn’t dispel Tony’s myths about teachers, then maybe the numbers will. The Smith-led Oakland Unified School District was fined every year for having too many administrators. With an excess of school administrators, high turn-over of OUSD teachers, and the imposition of the Accelerated Teachers on Special Assignment (TSA) policy, one has to wonder about the legitimacy of Smith’s claim that administrators don’t have the capacity to fire “bad teachers”.  The district was fined just under one million last year alone for its numerous administrators;  lets also remember that OUSD and its School Board chose not to dispense the mandated 55% of the overall budget to classroom expenditures every year since Smith took office.  In 2011, classroom teachers were shorted $10.8 million dollars below the required minimum 55%, while the district continued to waste further millions on consultants and police annually–money that could pay for more teachers, allowing for reduction in class sizes and caseloads, and student access to crucial services.  Surely re-prioritizing spending on teachers and student access to services would get much closer to “full-service community schools” than the Tony Smith model of racist killer cops; excessive administration payouts; school closures; rampant union busting; the decimation of Adult Education; or a record # of charter schools spreading anti-union agendas, something Tony Smith also proved to be quite committed to with mutual matching and the Accelerated Teachers on Special Assignment (TSA) positions forced upon teachers at Fremont, Castlemont and McClymonds high schools.

T. Smith’s model  is not a recipe for “full-service community schools”. No, his is a recipe for privatization with teachers as scapegoats and poor childrens’ futures, the collateral costs. For more context on the annual shortchanging of Oakland’s teachers and families and its connection to the criminalization of youth as more and more money is spent on police and security, please check out this report. Just because Tony Smith is gone and forgotten, doesn’t mean his policies are not still front and center in the Struggle for Public Education. There can be no rest until Public Education is transformed into something entirely different from the Broad/Gates/Smith “Race to the Top” plan.  Unified action is necessary.

Good riddance Tony, your thinly veiled privatization schemes will never fool the teachers, students, and families of Oakland.  Your backhanded attempt to degrade the profession of teachers and slander the real commitment Oakland teachers have to Oakland children holds no ground when faced with the realities of your racist, police scandal ridden, and privatization legacy.  

Classroom Strugglehas launched a campaign with parents, students and teachers to ensure that class-size reductions proposed by the OEA are won in negotiations–a struggle that may necessitate a teacher, parent, and student strike.  We call on Oakland residents who are committed to quality public education for all children, to work side by side with us to create those “full-service community schools” that Tony Smith loved to pay lipservice but never, in fact, realized.

Classroom Struggle: Vision – Platform – Strategy

5 Apr




We are Oakland parents, students, teachers and school workers who are organizing for the defense and transformation of our public schools. We are fighting for the public schools that students and communities deserve. These are public schools that are fully-funded, safe, democratically controlled, and committed to supporting every student to develop their full potential as creative, intelligent and caring human beings.  

  • We need schools that are fully-funded in order to support the full development and potential of each student, teacher, and our communities.  Instead of budget cuts, bare bones funding and concentration of resources at the top, we need to fight for new sources of school funding and democratic control of resources.  

  • We believe curriculum should be deeply meaningful to students’ lives through a holistic approach to education that supports the self-actualization of young people, and gives us the skills we need to both to survive within capitalism and to overthrow it.  We vigorously oppose “reforms” that track students, standardize our education and turn us into data points.  

  • We understand that in order for students to learn they need to feel safe. We foster safe schools through the development of the social and emotional supports students need to forge a path outside of the violence that surrounds us, as well as through struggle against the violence waged by the state and owning class against working class, oppressed groups and political dissidents and struggle to shift the violence internalized in our communities.

  • We need democratically controlled schools where decisions are made by the people who use and run them: teachers, parents, school workers, students.


We believe the following changes could move us toward this vision:

  1. Decision-Making – Parent, teacher, student and school worker representatives have real decision-making power at school site level; School decision making informed by bi-annual community wide assemblies to discuss all changes and budgeting.

  2. Class-size and caseloads – Sharply reduce class size and special education caseloads across K-12.

  3. Curriculum – Shift away from standardized testing towards meaningful assessments and critical thinking based curriculum; Integrate ethnic studies and community based learning (i.e. participatory research and internships) throughout the curriculum; Fully fund athletic/music/art programs.

  4. Full Service Community Schools – Actualize the district’s slogan of “full service community schools” by ensuring that the social, emotional and health of each student is supported by school-based health services, schools counselors and speech therapists with manageable caseloads, and healthy food.  

  5. Transportation – Provide free AC Transit and BART cards for students and parents so that no one misses school or goes without other basic needs because of the strain of paying for public transportation to school

  6. Safety – Replace school police with restorative justice facilitators and conflict mediators (train SSOs to play these roles); Moratorium on suspensions and expulsions except when there are serious threats to safety.  

  7. Early Childhood and Adult Education – Broaden the reach of our schools to the full community – reopen early childhood and adult education programs in every neighborhood.

  8. Staff Retention – Invest in school workers and retain them through 1) raising wages/benefits of classified staff (office, support, custodial and security workers); 2) unionizing afterschool teachers and other un-unionized school workers; and 3) a fair contract for Oakland teachers that increases planning time and decreases caseload.

  9. Teacher Training – Institute fully-funded projects of team teaching where new teachers can team-teach with veteran teachers;  Fight burnout and incompetency by keeping the veteran teachers active and on their toes while the newer teachers gain the wisdom and experience their more senior co-workers embody.

  10. School Closures and Charters – Moratorium on school closures and shift in policy towards supporting students through increasing stability of the school and surrounding community not further destabilizing them – Moratorium on new charter schools as charter schools selectively recruit OUSD students and increase the segregation of our school system.  Convert current charter schools back to public schools. Reform top-down curriculum controls that incentive some public schools to go charter.  

We need to fight for the money to implement these changes:

  • Shift priorities as a society – raise taxes on the wealthy, demand banks pay back the bailout money, stop building prisons, cut military spending

  • Reform Proposition 13 so that California’s per pupil spending is no longer among the lowest in the U.S.

  • Renegotiate the state debt – Oakland students should not be held accountable for money wasted by state trustee

  • Demand influx of Local Control Funding Formula funds go to the students who need it most (low-income, English language learners, special education and foster youth)

  • Tax the Port of Oakland – Use this money to fund Oakland schools

  • Shift priorities for how we use funding the district already has – Lower admin salaries, cut consultants and move central office student support positions to school sites.  


We need to organize collectively to get there.

  • We need to organize ourselves as parents, teachers, school workers and students.  We need to develop a democratic district-wide student union, parent union, teacher and school worker unions that are using to use their power through strikes and other militant actions to demand what our schools need.

  • We need to come together through the development of school site committees of parents, teachers, students and school workers, as well as a city-wide organization through which we can learn, teach and support each other’s struggles.

  • We need to ensure that the bases of power we build in schools and the community-at-large are independent from politicians, corporations and the administrators that work under their control.

  • We need to learn how to build an alliance of all oppressed sectors, races, genders, sexualities, abilities, religions that can unite through our different strengths without ignoring our deep divisions. 

  • We need to envision what it would look like for us to organize across all workplaces, communities, and sectors that are under attack by the same forces in capitalism and to grow a common movement that reaches across Oakland and out towards the Bay Area, California, the U.S., and the world.


Our Contract = a Social Justice Document

5 Apr


What is the future of collective bargaining? According to the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers, “our contract…[is] the most important legal document – and social justice document – for ensuring a quality education for our students.” To push back against “management prerogatives”, SPFT has been explicit in placing teachers’ compensation as the last issue they address. Instead, they are working closely with parents and community members to fight in 7 key areas outside of “conventional” bargaining: 1) Educating the whole child, 2) Family Engagement, 3) Smaller classes, 4) Teaching, not testing, 5) Culturally relevant education, 6) High-quality professional development, and 7) Access to preschool. In so doing, SPFT is moving collective bargaining forward as a space both to fight for teachers’ working conditions and advance the interests of students, parents, and the community. Our struggles are tied.  

What can we learn from Saint Paul? For more information, read here! https://portside.org/2014-03-24/present-past-and-future-collective-bargaining


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