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VIDEO: #FastFoodGlobal Rally in Austin, Texas

7:13 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

 

Protester outside Popeyes Kitchen: Austin, TX On Strike For $15/hr & A Union, #FastFoodGlobal

Austin, Texas joined #FastFoodGlobal, an international day of action.

A handful of fast food workers walked off their jobs in Austin, Texas yesterday, the closest thing our city had to a true May Day celebration in the streets. It happened as part of a global one-day strike led by the Fight For 15 movement. Dozens of workers and allies gathered outside a Popeye’s Kitchen on the east side of town, along a strip of fast food restaurants that cluster near the intersection of Martin Luther King, JR Boulevard and Airport Boulevard. This strip of strip mall purgatory could be any arterial street in America, reeking of fry grease and automotive exhaust.

After a member of the local clergy led us in prayer, we heard from several workers. The star of the show was Alonzo Simms. If the press release I got handed hadn’t told me he was 47-years old, I’d never have known — he had more energy than me, despite being older by over a decade. He told us about working sometimes seven days a week at $8.25/hour, with no raises in sight. He’s raising two kids on that salary and struggling to make ends meet, while the CEOs of fast food chains make sometimes as much as thousands of dollars per hour.

After his story he led the crowd into one fast food restaurant after another. Neither the protesters nor the media (with multiple local TV stations putting in an appearance) were phased by the complaints of the store managers, who made obligatory declarations that we had to leave or shut off our cameras. In each restaurant we chanted before Simms spoke directly to the workers. Some were supportive, others indifferent or mildly hostile. In the middle of a school day, these were not the teenagers that supposedly make up the bulk of fast food workers, but people from a range of ages and races.

Other than the brave efforts of local anti-deportation activists, this was some of the boldest action I’ve seen in Austin since last summer’s pro-choice protests at the Capitol. We’re a long way from Seattle, where $15/hour may become reality. One construction worker objected that he handles specialized equipment and still doesn’t make that much — a sign that to many, these protests seem like fantasy, rather than a movement with the potential to elevate us all.

But these workers seem determined, and if the movement grows — if we strike for more than a day – it’ll be days like this that got us there.

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#TPP Wrap-up: Secret Deals Under Fire

11:05 am in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

For a #TPP Photo Gallery, visit Kit O’Connell’s Approximately 8,000 Words

After a weekend of protest and controversy, it’s clear that the TransPacific Partnership, the secretive and far-reaching international trade deal negotiated in Addison, Texas is under fire. The more sunshine we let in, the less attractive this deal looks to world leaders.

From a direct action perspective, the highlight of the week was the major disruption caused by Yes Lab pranksters with support from Occupy Dallas. Their efforts, which included replacing the toilet paper in the hotel with special ‘TPP’ message paper, culminated in a major infiltration and the presentation of a fake “Corporate Power Tool” award to US Trade Representative Ron Kirk:

The first action began when a smartly-dressed man approached the podium immediately after the gala’s keynote speech by Ron Kirk, U.S. Trade Representative and former mayor of Dallas. The man (local puppeteer David Goodwin) introduced himself as “Git Haversall,” president of the “Texas Corporate Power Partnership,” and announced he was giving Kirk and other U.S. trade negotiators the “2012 Corporate Power Tool Award,” which “Haversall’s” partner held aloft.

Citizens on Twitter from around the world bombarded political accounts in the US with demands to halt the deal:

@BarackObama We Japanese appreciate your kindness such as Tomodachi operation. But we are not happy with TPP! #TPP — tweet by ファーファ@座り込み (@saQra629)

On Saturday, I livetweeted and liveblogged from the TPP: Out of the Shadows rally. A collection of activists from around the country (and even a handful of international visitors) gathered in Addison Circle Park. The coalition, organized by the Texas Fair Trade Coalition, ranged from unions like the Teamsters to multiple Occupy groups like Austin, Dallas and San Antonio. I was dropped at the park around noon on a bus with about 40 occupiers and activists; I’d greatly enjoyed the quiet company of the National Nurses United contingent who were proud of their victory in the upcoming Chicago rally and Tom Morello concert. A lunch had been provided for some, but with no vegetarian options a few of us went in search of other food.

By the time I got back, the rally had grown to over 300 people. Red TPP balloons dotted the crowd, along with signs and banners. Occupy Austin had brought our banner from May Day, “Workers of the World: Occupy!” Anonymous supporters were even present among the crowd, a sign of the major push that movement has been making against the trade deal on social media. The only mainstream media I spotted were from Japan, but I didn’t catch which network they represented.

At about 2pm central time, we marched on the Intercontinental Hotel. This march had a permit; we were to remain on the sidewalk until we reached the roads immediately around the hotel. Teamsters assigned as parade marshals tried to enforce this, but occupiers led a surge into the streets some blocks ahead of schedule. We’d been told not to enter hotel property, even the parking lot, or risk arrest. Simple wooden barricades were placed at the entrance. A couple dozen cops were present, but none of the riot gear reported earlier in the week was visible, although dark suited federal police lurked around.

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