Editorial & Opinion

The Uprising July 27, 2018

“We don’t need an extended ‘cooling off’ period, we need to fix the systemic problems surrounding unsafe staffing, a lack of resources and an unfair economic package that contributes to increasingly high turnover rates among caregivers at Rhode Island Hospital.” –Linda McDonald, RN, UNAP president. 1. United Nurses & Allied Professionals The biggest story in Rhode Island this week is
Photo for The Uprising July 27, 2018

Published on July 27, 2018
By Steve Ahlquist

We don’t need an extended ‘cooling off’ period, we need to fix the systemic problems surrounding unsafe staffing, a lack of resources and an unfair economic package that contributes to increasingly high turnover rates among caregivers at Rhode Island Hospital.”
Linda McDonald, RN, UNAP president.

1. United Nurses & Allied Professionals

The biggest story in Rhode Island this week is the strike at Rhode Island Hospital and Hasbro Children’s Hospital. The three-day strike (extended to four days by Lifespan) started on Tuesday and was easily the largest labor event I’ve ever attended. With such a show of strength, support and solidarity, you would think that Lifespan might be ready to come to the table with some serious offers.

Instead, when the strike ended on Friday, Lifespan revealed that they will not be resuming talks with UNAP for two weeks.

“Our members are putting everything on the line for each other, their families and their patients,” said Linda McDonald (also quoted at the top of this piece). “The least Lifespan could do is act as if they give a damn about settling this contract any time soon.”

Lifespan told some workers they were not welcome back on Friday. “This is a violation of our contract,” said Ken DeLorenzo, staff representative for UNAP 5098, “It’s a violation of our seniority, it’s a violation of the layoff provisions of the voluntary call-off. There is no involuntary call-off in UNAP.” DeLorenzo said that the union is collecting the details of this involuntary call-off and told members to file for unemployment immediately.

Here’s what’s coming next if UNAP and Lifespan don’t come to some sort of agreement:

Thursday, August 2: At a union meeting the UNAP executive board will be seeking a vote of no-confidence against Lifespan in general, Dr Margaret Van Bree and Timothy Babineau. They will also be seeking a ten-day strike notice.

Monday August 6: UNAP will be outside Rhode Island Hospital for an informational picket.

Tuesday, August 7: UNAP will be outside Miriam Hospital for an informational picket.

Wednesday, August 8: UNAP and Lifespan will be back at the bargaining table.

2. Unite Here!

Last Friday hundreds of UNITE HERE Local 26 workers and allies picketed outside the Omni Providence Friday evening to bring attention to their fight for a new contract that includes fair wages, reasonable workloads and affordable health care. The worker’s last contract expired January 31, 2018.

“Paying for health insurance for my entire family is too expensive,” said Chris Cook, a 20-year veteran in purchasing and receiving and Executive Board member of UNITE HERE Local 26 says. “Every year, I take home less money because of rising health care costs. I have coworkers that go without seeing a doctor because they can’t afford it. That’s not right.”

3. Service Employees International Union

Educators at the Groden Center schools in Providence and Coventry picketed on the East Side of Providence to demand safer classrooms for their students and living wages for staff. The informational picket comes less than a week after WPRI/Channel 12 reported that the non-profit had bought an Audi A3 for their CEO.

“We feel we are left with no other choice but call public attention to what’s going on,” said Kaile Bautista, a Behavior Specialist at Groden North school in Providence. “Parents and taxpayers have the right to know what management wants to sweep under the rug: that many of our students are not receiving even the basics of their educational needs due to our safety and staffing crisis.”

4. Aaron Regunberg

One thing all the above labor protests have in common? Representative Aaron Regunberg (Democrat, District 4, Providence), who is running for Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island. I know of no elected official more committed to working men and women. All politics aside, Aaron Regunberg shows up at picket lines again and again, even when he’s not running for office. This is not an endorsement. This is simply a fact.

5a. Sheldon Whitehouse

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s ninth annual Rhode Island Energy, Environment and Oceans Leaders Day, held at the Rhode Island Convention Center featured entities such as the Walton Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Walmart, National Grid, the energy company demanding a 19 percent rate increase for Rhode Islanders and Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who wants to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil extraction. You can see Murkowski’s address to the conference here.

5b. Robert Flanders

“… you’ve got a Senator down there, Mr Whitehouse, who supposedly is a champion of the environment and someone who is adamant about opposing fossil fuel plants like this one and yet all we hear from him on this issue is crickets,” said former Judge Robert Flanders, a Republican candidate for United States Senate, to the nearly 50 people gathered in the First Universalist Church of Burrillville.

Flanders was talking about Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who, Despite repeated requests from Burrillville residents, has declined to speak out against Invenergy‘s proposed $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant aimed at the pristine forests of Burrillville. Every environmental group and 35 cities and towns in Rhode Island have officially opposed the power plant.

“Unbelievable!” continued Flanders. “What hypocrisy. Where has this man been and why isn’t he advocating for your interests and hearing you out? Especially when he’s hypocritically taken these positions on a national level that would seem to be right into his wheelhouse? So I don’t understand why this guy is failing you in the way he’s failing you.”

As far as Whitehouse’s contention that a sitting Senator speaking out on the power plant while the Energy Facilities Siting Board is deliberating would be inappropriate or somehow taint the process, Flanders was dismissive. “There’s still free speech here and he’s a Senator. He can express his point of view. I don’t accept for a minute his suggestion that that would taint the process.”

Flanders, by the way, supports the development of the natural gas industry, just not in Burrillville.

6a. Manchester Street Power Station

The iconic Manchester Street Power Station is up for sale, along with another power station in Pennsylvania, for a cool $1.5 billion. Dominion, the current owners of the power station, are seeking to save $150,000 by renegotiating their tax stabilization agreement with the City of Providence. The company is trying to gather up $8 billion so that they can begin construction on as many as six new natural gas burning power plants across the country.

So in Providence, Dominion Attorney Edward Pare attempted to convince the two members of the Providence City Council Finance Committee who bothered to show up that this decrease in tax payments was actually an increase in tax payments.

None of the city councilmembers I’ve spoken to seem to understand the details of the deal. They are awaiting a briefing from city lawyers.

In the meantime, I think we should all be questioning the wisdom of incentivizing, through tax breaks, the burning of yet more fossil fuels.

6b. Invenergy

Maybe there will be a day of hearings before the Energy Facilities Siting Board where Invenergy, the company seeking to build a $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant amidst the pristine forests of northwest Rhode Island won’t insult the people of Burrillville.

“Would you agree with me that the perception in the community, an educated community, that is aware of [air pollution impacts from the power plant] might have a negative impact on property values?” asked Burrillville attorney Michael McElroy.

Invenergy witness Michael Marous took several seconds to compose his answer, then said “Such as large yellow signs in the neighborhoods? Probably one of the worst things that an area can do to promote property values. Perception is an issue. There’s no question about it.” [38m48s Video 3 below]

“Oh come on,” said a Burrillville resident from the gallery.

It was yet another condescending remark from a representative of Invenergy to the people of Burrillville, who Invenergy would have you believe are complicit in destroying their own property values, by daring to oppose the will of an uninvited billion dollar fracked gas energy company.

6c. Cleanwashing

Even as Providence grants tax breaks to fossil fuel burning power companies, the State of Rhode Island is pretending that seriously dirty sources of energy generation are actual clean and renewable. Food and Water Watch gave Rhode Island a grade of ‘D’ in their Cleanwashing report.

Rhode Island considers energy sources such as waste methane burning and wood burning as “renewable,” and it includes the processes in its Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) clean energy initiative.

“Counting filthy energy as clean, renewable power is a cynical, hazardous ploy to reward polluting industries while avoiding the real work required to transition Rhode Island to a real clean energy future,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “We know that truly clean, renewable energy sources like wind and solar are cheaper than ever, and building out these industries would create scores of good jobs. So what are Governor Gina Raimondo and state leaders waiting for?”

Rhode Island’s RPS plan includes three different sources of dirty energy: wood burning, waste methane/biogas, and renewable energy credits (RECs). Rhode Island allows utilities to purchase RECs instead of producing actual renewable energy, while continuing to generate the same amount of fossil-fueled electricity.

7a. Rhode Island Board of Elections

Here’s an interesting look at the way the Rhode Island Board of Elections (BOE) handles disputes between potential candidates and local boards of canvassers. When a candidate is a few signatures short on their nomination papers, it’s possible to appeal. If the BOE can rule a few signatures valid that the local Board of Canvassers rejected, the candidate can get on the ballot.

On Tuesday the BOE decided eight cases. Five people were added to the ballot (or not kicked off the ballot) based on the work done.

7b. Undebate

The first of two “Candidate Primary Forums” was held by the Mount Hope Neighborhood Association, Summit Neighborhood Association, and Observatory Neighborhood Association, in collaboration with the Providence Cultural Equity Initiative in Providence Thursday evening. All candidates for elected office who face a primary on September 12. This included the Providence mayoral race, the House seat in District 4, the Senate seat in District 6 and the Democratic Committeeman for House District 4.

All the candidates are Democrats.

This first forum followed the “Un-Debate” format, “wherein,” write organizers, “candidates provide brief introductions and the focus of the event is for members of the community to voice their concerns and questions while the candidates listen carefully. This is a chance for the candidates to learn more about the needs of the community they seek to represent. Candidates are encouraged to take notes and consider their stances over the following two weeks in advance of the second event.”

The next event, to be held on August 9, will be a more traditional debate format emceed by WPRI/Channel 12 reporter Dan McGowan.

The debate model followed here will hopefully be copied throughout the state. Also, please let me know about any candidate forums in your area. I can’t attend them all (I think) but I can try.

7c. Sabina Matos

In a letter to Robert Rapoza, executive director of the Rhode Island Board of Elections (RI BOE), Ward 15 Providence City Councilmember Sabina Matos leveled a series of accusations at her Democratic primary opponent Oscar Vargas and members of his family, alleging that Vargas, his wife Claudia Vargas and others have illegally voted in Providence over the course of many years and many elections.

“The evidence I have gathered indicates that Mr Vargas does not live in the city of Providence, where he has been voting for the past twelve years,” writes Matos, “rather, it shows he lives in the city of Warwick with his wife Claudia and his children.”

That should be an interesting Board of Elections meeting.

7d. Sheldon Whitehouse (again!)

“Some time ago, I was asked at a community meeting why I accepted corporate PAC money. That question stuck in my mind. I told the young man who asked the question that I’d think about it, and I have. I’ve mulled on it for some time and come to a decision.

“I don’t want to say that there is anything wrong with accepting corporate PAC money. It is reported, limited and transparent. The real problem in our country’s politics is the unlimited money and the dark money that has swamped our politics since Citizens United. My brain understands that reported, limited, transparent corporate PAC money is not the real corporate influence problem.

“But the question stuck not just in my mind, but in my heart. No one in the Senate battles harder against dark money and corporate influence than I do. I’ve even written a book on it. I see that influence behind the Kavanaugh nomination, and guiding the horrible tax bill, and in Republican inaction on climate, and as the reason for Congress’s failure to rein in Pharma prices, and on, and on.

“My heart tells me I should stop.

“So I told my team I’ve taken my last corporate PAC contribution. I’m going to count on my support from people like you. If you think this is a good or bad idea, please let me know.”

“Can you imagine that?” asked Whitehouse’s Republican opponent Can you imagine that? Here he is sitting on the four million he’s garnered just in this election cycle, and now he’s telling us that now that he’s gathered all this money, he’s not going to take any more of it. What a guy!”, “Here he is sitting on the four million he’s garnered just in this election cycle, and now he’s telling us that now that he’s gathered all this money, he’s not going to take any more of it. What a guy!”

8. GoLocalProv

Providence City Council President David Salvatore revealed that former City Council President Luis Aponte ordered the City Clerk in January of 2016 to execute a contract giving GoLocalProv $3,000 a month to publish city meeting notices. Salvatore is now calling on GoLocalProv to return approximately $67,500 in payments made to the digital news website, as the contract was apparently structured to circumvent the City’s competitive bidding process. Salvatore also pointed to an unusual provision of the deal that seems to suggest GoLocalProv would provide former City Council President Luis Aponte with “relevant information” and “consult” with him regularly.

Note: UpriseRI could really use $3,000 a month, and would be happy to publish city meeting notices.

9. The Woman Project

The Woman Project interviews Allison Cole, Illustrator, artist and teacher:

“When I was younger, I often overlooked the issues surrounding this in Rhode Island – I figured, we live in a blue state, so our local politicians who are Democrats must be for Reproductive Freedom and women’s rights. It is so totally NOT the case, and it is so important to research your local candidates and really look in to the record of who you are voting for. If these are issues that are important to you, find the right candidates to support, write letters, call, hold elected officials accountable!

10. #TransLawMA

The TGI Network, Rhode Island’s only statewide advocacy and support organization for transgender, gender-expansive, and intersex people, is asking Rhode islanders to supportTrans Law MA” aka “Yes on 3” in neighboring Massachusetts.

“A hard-fought battle in the Massachusetts House in 2016 resulted in passage of a bill extending the state’s non-discrimination protections to include public accommodations. Far-right, anti-equality forces, backed by out-of-state money, immediately started a campaign to place a repeal on the 2018 ballot. This campaign has been capitalizing on the worst fears of people who have never known a transgender person, holding up wildly inaccurate and offensive caricatures of men assaulting women in private spaces – a crime already prohibited under the law…

“This election will have lasting consequences, either by establishing that equal rights for transgender people are here to stay, or opening the door to further efforts to sideline transgender people as second-class citizens.”

11. The Bartholomewtown Podcast

Singer/songwriter/musician, writer and pod host Bill Bartholomew invites a wide range of guests to his Providence, Rhode Island loft studio for in-depth conversations. From elected officials and candidates, to artists, musicians and media personalities, welcome to Bartholomewtown!

Recent guests include Seth Magaziner, Arlene Violet, Robert Flanders, Patricia Fontes, Dan McGowan and Roz Raskin!

11. Newport Tower

Did you know that the Newport Tower, located in Touro Park in Newport, has a twin in Cheshire Massachusetts? The Stafford Hill Monument “was built in 1927 to commemorate Colonel Joab Stafford, who fought in the battle of Bennington during the Revolutionary War and who was an early settler of Cheshire.” You can learn about the effort to restore that tower here.

12. Ocean State Against Hate

Ocean State Against Hate, a coalition of anti-racist, anti-sexist, pro-LGBTQ, anti-fascist, socialist, labor, and community organizer will be counter protesting the Resist Marxism event scheduled to take place at the Rhode Island State house on August 4.

“We ask that on Saturday, August 4th, at 11 AM, you join us on the Rhode Island State House steps in a display of people power and community self-defense.”

Read their oped for more information.

13. Sinclair Broadcast Group

Sinclair Broadcast Group is an American telecommunications company. The company is the largest television station operator in the United States by number of stations and total coverage. Since taking ownership of local Rhode Island station WJAR, Sinclair Broadcast Group has mandated that WJAR include two minutes of right-wing or pro-Trump propaganda in local news broadcasts nine times a week, just as it does all its stations.

Turn Off 10, a campaign coordinated by the Rhode Island ReSisters, continues to target local advertisers who place ads on WJAR 10 News. On Friday, they protested Cox Communications in West Warwick.

Kevin McElroy has an oped on where the Sinclair/Tribune merger stands now.

14. Picture of the week:

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