Category Archives: Civil Rights

Celebrating the Labor Activism of Paul Robeson

On this 100th Anniversary of Paul Robeson’s graduation from Rutgers College in 1919, the Union of Rutgers Administrators (URA-AFT) expresses our gratitude to Paul Robeson for his labor activism and leadership in the international struggle for worker rights. We honor his legacy by continued activism and mutual support among all unions and student groups in the Rutgers community devoted to social justice.

Paul Robeson

A brief history:
Paul Robeson (1898 to 1976) began his labor-related activism at the age of 37 starring in union-based plays and films. He would go on to sing at union rallies and march on picket lines during the height of McCarthyism: United Auto Workers in Detroit (1941), Labor Victory Rally at Yankee Stadium (1942), Madison Square Garden Rally for Fair Employment Practices (1945), Waterfront Strikers in San Francisco (1946), Food and Tobacco Workers in North Carolina (1947), and United Public Workers in Washington, D.C. (1949). In 1950, he helped found the National Negro Labor Council, supporting black workers striking throughout the country.

Paul Robeson

An actor and singer of international renown, Paul Robeson faced severe retaliation for his labor organizing. In 1949, he gave a now-famous speech in Paris, where he spoke out against a possible war with the Soviet Union. The press labeled him a traitor and, in 1950, the U.S. Government revoked his passport.

From 1949, the FBI put pressure on concert halls to not allow him to sing,” his granddaughter told BBC News in 2014. “No recording company would issue a contract and he disappeared from the radio.” His name was stricken from the college All-American football teams and news footage of him was destroyed. His income dwindled from over $100,000 in 1947 to $6,000 in 1952.

The efforts to silence him failed. Threatened by the State Department with possible imprisonment in 1952, he sang by telephone to union workers in Vancouver; he then sang to an crowd of 40,000 at the U.S.-Canadian border. In 1956, he appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee and told them: “You are the Un-Americans.” He continued his activism and humanitarian efforts throughout his life, a testament to all people devoted to social justice, worker rights, world peace, and international solidarity.

There is no standing above the conflict on Olympian heights. There are no impartial observers. [The] artist, the scientist, the writer is challenged. The struggle invades the formerly cloistered halls of our universities […] The battlefront is everywhere.”
— Paul Robeson: Here I Stand (1988)

By Kathryn Neal

Sources:
Philip S. Foner, ed., Paul Robeson Speaks: Writings, Speeches, and Interviews, a Centennial Celebration (1978)


Dr. Mark D. Naison, Fordham University; “Americans Through Their Labor”; http://richgibson.com/paulrobeson.htm

Paul Robeson: Internationally Acclaimed Performer, Champion of the People, American Postal Worker Magazine; http://www.apwu.org/labor-history-articles/paul-robeson-internationally-acclaimed-performer-champion-people

We Bargain for Members and Advocate for Unions

What the Janus Decision Means To The URA

The U.S. Supreme Court just punched us in the gut. Just when URA – and 17,000 other Rutgers workers are negotiating for new contracts, the Supreme Court decided today to abolish the 40-year old system of “fair-share” fees, in a case called Janus v. AFSCME.

From now on, as a union member, you’ll be covering the cost of maintaining a strong union… but your co-workers who are not full members can ride for free.

What will they get for free?

Read more here


Looking at Janus from the Bargaining Table

Bargaining with an employer like Rutgers is difficult enough. With the Janus decision now in play, do not think twice about maintaining your membership with URA-AFT—it is THE thing ensuring that your stable union job will continue to exist as you enjoy it. Less memberships means less bargaining strength for proposals that we want and need. Your co-workers on the URA bargaining team put countless hours of concern, thought and effort into our proposals based on our collective experiences and your feedback. There are always gains to be made. But Rutgers is proposing cuts to our benefits and will win more cuts if we are not unified and working TOGETHER AS MEMBERS. We have faced similar threats before. Remember when Rutgers froze wages?  We weathered those storms (and even Hurricane Sandy) TOGETHER. As members we decided to help our brothers and sisters after Sandy. We set up a union-funded vision care program to offset medical costs when Rutgers did not.  We need to solidify and protect our “seat at the table”.

Read more here


Oppose Austerity Budgets!

From the Better Choices Budget Coalition:

Legislators have massively let down working families across the state. They voted to continue Chris Christie austerity’s gimmicks and balance a budget on the backs of working families.

One can only wonder why Democrats would opt to protect millionaires while cutting an additional $75M from public transportation, $95M cut from Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements, or even eliminating the long overdue increases in gun licensing fees. One thing is for certain, regardless of whether it was driven by malicious desire or misinformation, the reality is that they failed us!

Make no mistake, this is NOT a balanced, fair, and sustainable budget. Email your legislators to take action today!


Remembering Carolyn Foote

A founding member of the Union of Rutgers Administrators-AFT union at Rutgers University, Carolyn Foote died Sunday, June 3, 2018, in Newark, New Jersey. Hundreds of family members, colleagues from Rutgers, the union and community gathered the following Friday to celebrate the impact of her too brief 67 years.

Family members told stories about her role as a matriarch and positive influence on their lives. URA-AFT Executive Vice President Darlene Smith talked about her travels with Foote to union conferences and conventions.

Read more here

Remembering Carolyn Foote

Carolyn Foote
Carolyn Foote

A founding member of the Union of Rutgers Administrators-AFT union at Rutgers University, Carolyn Foote died Sunday, June 3, 2018, in Newark, New Jersey. Hundreds of family members, colleagues from Rutgers, the union and community gathered the following Friday to celebrate the impact of her too brief 67 years.

Family members told stories about her role as a matriarch and positive influence on their lives. URA-AFT Executive Vice President Darlene Smith talked about her travels with Foote to union conferences and conventions.

Foote worked at Rutgers University-Newark in the John Cotton Dana Library for 30 years, the majority of that time as a Library Associate assigned to the Inter-Library Loan Department, identifying, locating and retrieving works for research projects.

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Foote and Dorothy Grauer (right)

Union members will always remember Foote’s friendship and collaboration with Dorothy Grauer, with whom she shared an office for the entirety of her 30 years at Rutgers. Foote and Grauer would finish one another’s sentences and laugh, making references to one another’s family members and colleagues from throughout the campus and broader Newark community. They often traveled together around campus or to meetings in New Brunswick.

The two joined the organizing effort on campus in 2006 and once URA was recognized, steadfastly assumed (sometimes alternating) roles as lead stewards, campus vice presidents and executive board members of their local, as well as delegates to their state and national unions.

Foote led in a quiet, dignified manner. She was not a big talker in meetings, not someone who sought the spotlight or spent time promoting her own achievements.

Since the union’s recognition in 2007, Foote handled many grievances on the Newark campus, according to union director Greg Rusciano. He said that local members will miss having her as a dependable, capable, staunch advocate. Fortunately, the campus enjoys a strong steward structure and one former steward even remarked that she would have to get back to steward duties to try to fill some of the gap of Foote’s absence.

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Foote and Kathy Licinski (right)

Foote volunteered for many of the union’s political activities, including phone banks and home visits during political campaigns to elect the nation’s first African-American President, and progressive candidates like New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.

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Foote at Occupy Wall Street Labor March

Foote represented the union in delegations to Occupy Wall Street to demand economic justice in the movement that declared: “We are the 99%” and decried the excesses of Wall Street millionaires and billionaires.

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Foote at Newark rally against police brutality

She lead the union’s Civil Rights Committee participating in protests and rallies calling for justice for murdered African-American teen Trayvon Martin, a “million-person march against police brutality” in Newark with the People’s Organization for Progress the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s March in Washington DC for jobs, peace and freedom.

See Carolyn Foote Obituary »