Editorial & Opinion

The Uprising! November 29, 2019

Today is Black Friday, but for some of us, this is Buy Nothing Day, a protest against consumerism and out-of-control capitalism. In Providence, outside the State House and at other locations throughout the state, there was the But Nothing Day Coat Exchange, where people could donate gently used outerwear to those in need of warmth this winter. This annual event,

Published on November 29, 2019
By Steve Ahlquist

Today is Black Friday, but for some of us, this is Buy Nothing Day, a protest against consumerism and out-of-control capitalism. In Providence, outside the State House and at other locations throughout the state, there was the But Nothing Day Coat Exchange, where people could donate gently used outerwear to those in need of warmth this winter. This annual event, founded by Greg Gerritt, is pro-environment, since rather than shipping new coats from across the country, we’re redistributing our excess right here in Rhode Island.

Let’s run down the week:

1a. Joe Biden

Joe Biden came to Rhode Island last Sunday, and like Pete Buttegieg before him, he didn’t come to spread news about his campaign or even to campaign at all. He came to Rhode Island to pick up a bag of cash. Biden though, wasn’t as surreptitious as Bettegieg. Biden actually found himself interacting with people outside the private, east side fundraiser he was attending, much to his annoyance. When climate activist Michael Kearney asked Biden why he was now accepting money from fossil fuel executives, despite having signed the Sunrise Movement‘s No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge, Biden denied it, then sniped at Kearney, “Why don’t you go home, huh?”

Here’s the thing. Kearney was home, he lives in Providence. Biden, on the other hand, was just here to pick up money, on his way to where he though the election mattered more.

“Why don’t you go home, huh?”

1b. Bleak

Biden’s reaction to a climate activist is particular telling in light of the United NationsEmission Gap Report, which details the many ways we are just not on track, as a planet, to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. Basically, we’re fucked, because a bunch of billionaires are enjoying the ride towards Armageddon too much.

1c. Chase Bank

Speaking of billionaires, Chase Bank is still the largest funder of fossil fuel companies in the world, and they are aggressively moving branches into the Providence area. The Chase Bank on Thayer Street was the subject of an action by Climate Action Rhode Island (CARI) Saturday night, when a group of activists projected anti-Chase/pro-environment slides on the Bank’s exterior.

1d. Invenergy

Invenergy may be long, but their presence in New England has engendered a lasting legacy, in the sense that we now have a rule to prevent companies like Invenergy from profiting off our energy markets without producing any power.

Invenergy exploited loopholes in ISO New England‘s annual Forward Capacity Auctions to make over $26M during their four years of trying to build an unneeded, $1B fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant in Burrillville, Rhode Island. The way this all worked is a little complicated, but explained here. The upshot? To prevent companies from extracting millions of dollars from ratepayers in the future, ISO New England was forced to change their rules. Remember when Invenergy promised that they were here to save Rhode Islanders money?

2. Direct Care Providers

Some conservatives like to tweet that the poor are lazy, but anyone who pauses to understand these things by looking at the real world rather than a textbook about Hayek knows that in truth, the poor work harder than anyone in our society, and they are paid low wages for extremely important work. Know this: If your business can’t pay employees a living wage, you are exploiting people, not running a business.

That said, employees from Arc of Blackstone Valley in Pawtucket held an informational picket on Tuesday to draw attention to the fact that they are fighting for adequate staffing to protect the patients in their care, and for adequate pay for themselves. This is an industry with a 33 percent turnover. That kind of turnover does not result in better outcomes for anyone but the CEO of Arc of Blackstone Valley, who makes $360K annually and gave his COO a 12 percent raise this year. The only pay increase those doing the frontline care came from the General Assembly agreeing to increase Medicaid payouts, which were begrudgingly passed through to them by companies like Arc of Blackstone Valley.

I talked to Monica Scott, a direct support professional with 24 years on the job. on the picket line:

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“We are here basically trying to get safe staffing and also to get adequate pay for what we do. Safe staffing is making sure that there’s enough staff in a home for the clients we support,” said Scott. Reflecting on caring for four men, Scott said, “It’s kind of hard to pass meds, cook their meals, make sure they’re safe in the bathroom and the showers when there’s only one person on.

“I believe that the people doing this work should be making more than $15 an hour, especially being in here as long as I have. I’ve been here for 24 years an I make $13.70 to do what I do.”

I also spoke to State Representative Joseph McNamara (Democrat, District 19, Warwick) who gets a hard time from Uprise RI in his role as the Chair of the Rhode Island Democratic Party and as a close ally to Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello.

“You have to be a special person to do this kind of work,” said McNamara,” but being a good person doesn’t put food on the table.”

Let’s remember these words when the new legislative session gets under way.

3. Food Insecurity

As the economy, according to established indicators, get better, some people are doing much worse. Even as Trump supporters celebrate an economic recovery, food insecurity in Rhode Island has grown. But don’t worry, because the Trump Administration, is working an initiative aimed primarily, believe it or not, at families with children, that would take SNAP benefits away from 11,000 Rhode Islanders, including 5,000 children.

“This year’s Status Report on Hunger updates the data we released in 2016 regarding missing meals in Rhode Island,” said Andrew Schiff, CEO of the Rhode Island Food Bank at a press conference. “Even with a safety net that includes income, federal assistance and food pantries, low-income Rhode Islanders are missing millions of meals. We have seen some improvement mostly because more people are working and able to purchase their own food. But with pending cuts to SNAP, we could lose the gains we’ve made in the past three years. Low income Rhode Islanders miss out on six percent of the meals that they need. In a year, that totals up to more than 11 million meals.

Andrew Schiff, CEO of the Rhode Island Food Bank

4. BDS

Last spring, 69 percent of participating Brown University students voted for a referendum encouraging the school to divest from human rights abuses in Palestine. Following the referendum University President Christina Paxson essentially nixed that idea, writing, “Brown’s endowment is not a political instrument to be used to express views on complex social and political issues.”

As Sara Van Horn reports, “On November 18, over two hundred students, activists, and community members filled Metcalf-Friedman Auditorium at Brown University to engage in conversation about the BDS Movement and Palestinian liberation. Co-hosted by student organizers from Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), the panel of speakers included Linda Sarsour, an award-winning racial justice activist, and Rabbi Alissa Wise, national co-director of JVP, as well as Mr Barghouti, who spoke over video call because the United States government has denied him entrance into the country. The panel was moderated by Professor Ariella Azoulay…”

5. Opeds

Uprise RI is proud to publish opeds from readers. This week we got three of them:

6. Justin Katz

One thing I try very hard to do is give credit where it is do. I take the trouble and the time to link out to pieces that inform my work, whether I agree with them or not. I don’t particularly love the Providence Journal or the Ocean State Current, but I always attribute their work if I use it.

Sadly, that courtesy and honesty is not always reciprocated. Case in point, this oped by Justin Katz in the Providence Journal. For his piece Katz used my reporting on a public meeting of the Economic Development Council to go after State Senator Samuel Bell. I know he used my reporting because I was the only reporter in the room, and the only person to report on the meeting.

Putting aside Katz’s childish economics and sad attempt to frame Governor Gina Raimondo as a progressive, it’s too bad he couldn’t have acknowledge the contribution of Uprise RI here, or on his own blog linking back to his oped.


8. The Bartholomewtown Podcast

9. College Hill Independent

10. ConvergenceRI

11. Picture of the Week:

Outside Arc of Blackstone Valley

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