The Uprising, August 10, 2018

These aggressive, retaliatory measures were adopted as a means to threaten and intimidate union members and Lifespan management should be embarrassed by its boorish behavior.
Chris Callaci, UNAP general counsel

Welcome to The Uprising!

1. Rhode Island Hospital

Negotiations are not going very well between Lifespan, which owns Rhode Island Hospital and Hasbro Children’s Hospitals, and UNAP (United Nurse and Allied Professionals) Local 5098, which represents the staff.

After a 3-day strike ended two weeks ago, “Lifespan unlawfully instituted unilateral and punitive changes to employee terms and conditions of employment and deliberately targeted members of the collective bargaining unit who freely exercised their protected right to strike,” said Chris Callaci, UNAP general counsel.

UNAP has filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Perhaps seeing those charges coming, Lifespan filed its own complaint with the NLRB, contending that the union is negotiating in “bad faith.”

“The hospital knew ahead of time that we intended to file charges this morning and looks as if Lifespan filed charges to distract the public’s attention from their own unlawful conduct,” said Callaci. “We look forward to litigating these matters before the NLRB.”

UNAP held informational pickets outside Rhode Island Hospital and Miriam Hospital to keep the public informed about the lack of progress in the negotiations.

“We’re here today to let people know that we’re still working without a contract and that we’d like to have a contract as soon as possible,” said William Deware, UNAP 5098 treasurer. “We wanted the information to get out there that nothing has changed. We still haven’t gone back to negotiations. We’re here to ensure that ourselves and our patients receive the best care they can get.”

Last week the union voted “no confidence” in Lifespan CEO Timothy Babineau and Rhode Island Hospital President Margaret Van Bree. The union also voted to authorize members of its bargaining team to issue a 10-day strike notice, in the event that negotiations with Lifespan again break down.

UNAP members continue to work under a contract that expired on June 30th.

2. Ocean State Against Hate

The Providence Resist Marxism Rally lasted about two minutes last Saturday. Organizers had their tents pulled down and their amplifiers and electronics were quickly soaked in the relentless rain. The rally in Providence was timed to coincide with the approaching anniversary of the Charlottesville Unite the Right Rally where Heather Heyer was murdered and on the same day as a Patriot Prayer/Proud Boys rally in Portland, Oregon.

One of the planned Resist Marxism speakers, Samson Racioppi, was reportedly hit in the back of the head with a bike lock and briefly hospitalized. Raccioppi is running for United States Congress in Massachusetts.

Racioppi seemed fine on Monday, when he spent two hours distributing blueprints for 3D firearms at the Boston Statehouse.

Apropos of nothing, here’s a primer from Wikipedia on Karl Popper‘s paradox of intolerance.

3a. Avoiding Debates

Governor Gina Raimondo laughed when Nathan Carpenter asked her to debate her Democratic Primary challenger Matt Brown.

“Governor Raimondo has no plans to debate in the primary at this time,” Raimondo campaign spokesperson Emily Samsel wrote to the Providence Journal. “As we’ve seen time and again Matt Brown won’t act in good faith when given a platform.”

“Debates are absolutely essential to democracy,” said Matt Brown in a statement. “Gina Raimondo and I have very different visions. The voters deserve to hear us present our ideas and answer questions in an open format. Like the free press, debates promote accountability that is so crucial, especially in our current political climate. It’s hard to believe that we might see a Democratic candidate for Governor of Rhode Island refuse to debate in a primary election in 2018.”

Candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Aaron Regunberg, is having similar problems with incumbent Dan McKee.

“It’s disappointing to hear Dan McKee is backing out of proposed debates with Aaron Regunberg,” said campaign manager Jake London. “Representative Regunberg is proud of his record taking on the backroom deal culture and corporate lobbyists at the State House to win paid sick days for 100,000 Rhode Islanders and raise the minimum wage for 20,000 tipped workers. Rhode Islanders deserve honest answers from Dan McKee on why he is using taxpayer dollars to promote predatory energy companies, dismissing the need to protect reproductive rights and refusing to return thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from opioid producers.”

This isn’t just a Democratic Party issue. Republican Party candidate for Governor Allan Fung is also declining debates, agreeing to do just one on the John DePetro Radio Show (which is just gross.)

What do candidates who avoid debates have in common?

They are afraid. They are hiding. They want to deny voters information about themselves, their policies, their records and their opponents. They want to win through insider politics and campaign cash alone.

Democracy dies in darkness, and debates are a source of illumination.

3b. Welcoming Debates

There was some robust and important debating going on in Providence last night. Candidates for Rhode Island House District 4, Rhode Island Senate District 6 and Mayor of Providence took questions from both WPRI/Channel 12 reporter Dan McGowan and the audience, in an event that pushed the three-hour mark on a hot, sweaty night.

McGowan did a great job moderating, by the way.

Mayor Jorge Elorza showed a bravery that has so far not been in evidence in the Rhode Island gubernatorial race. He took hits from both constituents and challengers Kobi Dennis and Robert DeRobbio on issues like monetizing/selling/leasing Providence’s water, school funding/education/PTU and speed cameras. You might not agree with the Mayor on the issues but give him credit: He didn’t flinch.

Senator Harold Metts thanked his Democratic challenger for Senate District 6, Jonathan Hernandez, for entering the race and engaging in the democratic process, even though Hernandez called the Senator “intolerant” on LGBTQ issues and reproductive rights.

Candidates for House District 4, Rebecca Kislak and Mark Tracy, also participated in their debate with an interest in letting their community know who they are, what their values are, and where they stand on the issues.

3c. Pension Cuts

Gina Raimondo‘s signature accomplishment as Treasurer of Rhode Island was her pension cuts. Matt Brown, who is challenging Raimondo in the Democratic Primary, held a town hall style press conference to make the case that those pension cuts were cruel and unneeded.

“For teachers, cops, firefighters and state workers, a pension is a promise of financial security,” said Brown. “It was part of the deal — they paid in for years. Governor Raimondo broke that promise when she slashed pensions starting in 2011 as Treasurer. Where did the money go? To her hedge fund friends on Wall Street, who were paid massive fees.”

Featured at Brown’s event was Tom Sgouros, part of the research faculty at Brown University and a senior researcher for the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society. Sgouros’ work focuses on the intersections of public finance, economics, and public policy. Sgouros wrote a critique of full pension funding, Funding Public Pensions: Is full pension funding a misguided goal?

In his work Sgouros makes the legal, chronological, actuarial, mathematical, financial, economical, political and philosophical arguments that show that the pension overhaul spearheaded by Raimondo were never necessary.

3d. The Mikado

During the “undebate” held nearly two weeks ago, James Kuo took Robert DeRobbio, Democratic candidate for Mayor of Providence, to task for Opera Providence‘s staging of Gilbert and Sullivan‘s The Mikado at the the Columbus Theater four years ago. DeRobbio was the president of Opera Providence. Kuo maintains that DeRobbio’s production was racist and that DeRobbio ignored the complaints from people concerned about the production. Kuo and DeRobbio exchanged words outside the show when Kuo protested the performance. There is a pretty good primer on the entire controversy here.

DeRobbio attempted to answer the issue before Thursday night’s mayoral debate by holding a press conference defending The Mikado and his production of it.

Here’s a perspective on the portrayal of Asians in Western media from Wikipedia.

During Thursday evening’s Mayoral debate Kuo, who was at the debate holding signs accusing DeRobbio of racism, was allegedly assaulted. I expect a Providence Journal piece on this soon.

3e. Jo-Ann Ryan

The Rhode Island Chapter of Sierra Club is questioning the environmental bona fides of Providence City Councilmember Jo-Ann Ryan for comments about the Sierra’s Club support for her plastic bag ban. “While it is correct to assert that the Chapter is in favor of taking measures to reduce single use plastic in all its forms,” says Sierra Club’s Environmental Justice Chair David Veliz, “It was disingenuous to relate that to the councilor’s plastic bag reduction ordinance. Councilperson Ryan led a hasty and problematic process that ignored calls for further public input and considerations of more equitable ways to implement the reduction.”

Veliz also mentioned Ryan’s support for the monetization/sale/leasing of Providence Water and the support Ryan is receiving from attorney Nicole Verdi, one of the lawyer’s working for Invenergy, the company trying to build a $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant in the pristine forests of northwest Rhode Island.

4. Panhandling in West Warwick

The West Warwick Town Council unanimously voted down a panhandling resolution sponsored by Council President David Gosselin Jr that would authorize the display of signs at locations where panhandling occurs, encouraging passersby not to give money or other items to individuals who are panhandling. Three advocacy groups for the homeless – House of Hope CDC, Rhode Island Homeless Advocacy Project, and Help the Homeless – and the ACLU of Rhode Island had emailed a letter to the West Warwick Town Council opposing the resolution.

During the public comment period on the resolution, no one spoke in favor. Instead, person after person spoke against the resolution.

“These signs will do nothing but demonize the poor,” said West Warwick resident Richard Garganta.

“There’s nothing wrong with being homeless,” said West Warwick resident Michael Gaudreau. “There’s nothing to be ashamed about.”

Then things got dark:

West Warwick resident Alan Palazzo suggested that Council President Gosselin was engaged in a publicity stunt to garner attention ahead of the 2018 elections. “In my honest opinion this was just something to gather publicity…”

“Alan…” said Gosselin.

“Please don’t interrupt me,” said Palazzo.

Gosselin interrupted. “Well before campaign season this was sent to the council… I had no idea – none – that this would blow up the way it did.”

“Thank you for interrupting me,” said Palazzo. “I will just leave with one last statement: I wasn’t born yesterday, I was born in 1952. Hopefully you can understand that.” Palazzo then returned to his seat.

“You got a fifty year anniversary coming up too,” said Gosselin.

Some in the crowd, seeming to understand Gosselin’s reference, reacted.

“…this is what we mean about you…” said a woman.

“That was uncalled for!” said a man.

“I tell ya, I can’t believe what’s coming out of their mouths,” said a man in the audience.

Palazzo returned to the microphone. “Okay. For those of you who do not understand that – We are in the month of August. In August, 1969, myself, [then] a 16-year old boy, was involved in an accident…”

“Alan, you’re off the agenda,” said Gosselin.

“Two of my friends died in that [accident],” continued Palazzo. “That, I believe, in my opinion, is what he was referring to.”

“No, that was not what I was referring to and I’ll talk to you outside if you’d like to talk about it, okay?” said Gosselin.

“You brought it up in the public!” said Michael Gaudreau, from the audience. “That’s why we need to get rid of you!”

5. Sanctuary Cities

“The current administration in Washington claims to support public safety, but then inexplicably and maliciously targets the very grants that support our local police departments. This absurd approach undermines community policing and would make us all less safe. Local police should be focused on preventing serious crime, not shaking down people who forgot to use their turn signal,” said Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza. “We are filing this suit alongside the City of Central Falls because the federal administration’s plan would hinder the already demanding work of our police department and increase the risk for all residents. Providence is a welcoming city, we will stand by our values, and we will fight the federal government’s illegal and unconstitutional overreaching.”

No one is using the term Sanctuary City, but that’s the subtext of the Department of Justice’s move to impose new conditions on  policing grants. Those new conditions include “the certification of compliance with 8 U.S.C. § 1373, a federal statute that bars restrictions on federal-local sharing of immigration status information; unlimited access to local police stations and law enforcement facilities by United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) personnel to interrogate arrestees; and the requirement that cities provide DHS with at least a 48 hour notice prior to an arrestee’s release, which would require detaining residents longer than is permissible under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

A hearing on a restraining order, schedule for 1pm Friday, has been cancelled since “the federal government has agreed to indefinitely extend the deadline to accept the award until the litigation is resolved.”

6. The Time is Already

The Time is Already is a short documentary film (32min) about the efforts of a dedicated group of LGBTQ activists to pass a bill to ban conversion therapy in Rhode Island. It’s about small group of people who came in angry and hurt after the 2016 election. It’s about people who were ignorant of the political process, but were determined and eager to do right and contribute. It is a story of what happens after you say, “What can I do to help?”

This is a documentary film shot in Rhode Island, in our own State House, with our own LGBTQ community, with our own legislatures. This is Rhode Island as Rhode Island gets.

The film is being shown as part of the 2018 Rhode Island International Film Festival.

Tickets are $10 and available here.

Friday, August 10, 8:30pm at the Woodman Center at the Moses Brown School, 250 Lloyd Ave, Providence, RI 02906.

You can view the trailer here:

7. Sean Spicer

Last week I mentioned that writers from Full Frontal with Samantha Bee were apparently at Sean Spicer‘s book signing at Barrington Books in Barrington. Here’s what they were up to:

My original coverage of Spicer’s book signing is here.

8. Single-payer

Will Weatherly, over at RI Future, has an interview with Dr James Cowan.

“The only way to make health insurance accessible to everybody in the country—assuming that’s what you want to do—is to put everybody in a group of some kind,” Cowan said. “And the most efficient way to do that is to put everybody in a single group. And the best example of that is Medicare, which currently insures around 65 million Americans, with customer satisfaction higher than any private insurance company.”

9. Tim White

Bill Bartholomew welcomes multi-award winning WPRI Investigative Reporter Tim White to the loft for a wide-ranging conversation on media, Rhode Island politics, the legacy of The Mafia in Rhode Island, and building his own brand of reporting as the son of legendary journalist Jack White.

10. Kat Kerwin

Katherine Kerwin, who is running unopposed to be the Ward 12 city councilor in Providence, and who also serves as communications director for the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence, joins Political Roundtable to discuss her campaign, the reluctance of gubernatorial frontrunners to take part in debates, and the legislative debate over guns.

10. New Bridges for Haitian Success

I just found out that New Bridges for Haitian Success has chosen to give me a Legacy Community Impact Award.

I am beyond words. I look forward to thanking everyone in person at the October 6 Fundraising Dinner.

11. Picture of the week:


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About Steve Ahlquist 599 Articles
Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading. atomicsteve@gmail.com

1 Comment

  1. Once again, thanks for the “uprising” weekly summary. My comments on section 3:
    3a I’d say candidates Raimondo, McKee, and Fung are avoiding primary debates, not because “they are afraid” but because simply they think they are ahead, have more name recognition, and don’t want their primary opponents to get attention. They are all likely to debate before the general election. I think Fung’s strategy is the most objectionable because he has most avoided taking stands on issues.
    3b I think Elorza is right to defend the speed cameras now that the fines and hours have been reduced. With highway deaths rising, especially for pedestrians, the other candidates are irresponsible to pander to motorists’ sense of entitlement to speed, even in school zones.
    3c I agree with Brown and Sgouros about the outrageous hedge fund fees Raimondo spent as Treasurer, 2% or more every year. In contrast, even investors like me (my defined contribution pension must be invested somewhere) have found index funds charging only about 0.1%/year, with choices – stocks, bonds, real estate… However, the defined benefit state retirement plan, benefits based on the last few years, was subject to political insiders being given special consideration their last years to boost pensions, a scam partly responsible for the eventual blowback.
    3d About the Mikado, I’m disappointed the Uprise community didn’t rise more to defend the arts and those who produce shows for us. There are some too quick to charges “racism” (and to a lesser extent, “Islamophobia,” “anti-Semitism” when disliking something somebody said.) To paraphrase Gilbert and Sullivan: ” when everybody is a racist, then nobody is a racist” (original line “when everybody is somebody then nobody is anybody”)
    3e its disappointing the Sierra Club attacked the sponsor of the plastic bag ban over some procedural concern rather than trying to do something about the plastic piling up in our waterways. We need environmental groups to prioritize the environment as nobody else seems to.

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