Category Archives: Social Justice

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

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!