STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — August 14, 2017. Assembling in Tompkinsville Park – across the street from where Eric Garner was murdered – a diverse group of Staten Islanders held a silent candlelight vigil, standing united against hate in America and remembering Heather Heyer, who was brutally murdered for standing up for her country.
“We are Staten Islanders. We are New Yorkers. We are Americans. We stand united against hate.”
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Credit: “Thomas Altfather Good”
Licenced under the GFDL.
by Thomas Altfather Good
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — April 29, 2017. On a unseasonably warm Saturday hundreds of Islanders assembled in Staten Island’s Midland Beach, a coastal community ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, to demand Climate Justice from the Trump Administration — linking economic and environmental issues.
Workers from several local unions – including CWA Local 1102 and IBEW Local 3 – peace and environmental activists, and members of immigrant rights organizations gathered on Staten Island’s Franklin Delano Roosevelt boardwalk on Saturday. The protesters rallied and marched to demand climate justice from a president who appears to spend more time lounging in Mar-a-Lago and holding victory rallies than addressing pressing issues in a meaningful way.
Organized by two local advocacy organizations, Sustainable Staten Island and Move Forward Staten Island, with a broad coalition of labor unions, immigration rights groups, environmental justice, social justice and other community organizations from throughout New York City, the event was timed to coinicide with climate marches held in other cities.
The issues raised resonated with Islanders and turnout was impressive – the march was the largest on the Island since the Eric Garner protests of 2014.
The rally and march took place in an East Shore neighborhood that was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, a neighborhood still recovering from a storm whose impact was made worse by rising sea levels and abnormally warm temperatures on the ocean’s surface. Although all of New York City was affected, Staten Island’ East Shore was hit particularly hard by the storm. 24 Islanders perished, and thousands were displaced when their homes were severely damaged. Five years later, many Staten Islanders are still struggling to rebuild.
“Environmental toxins and climate change affect all of us. However, we also know that these issues can affect different communities disproportionately. And so we can’t talk about environmental issues and climate change without at the same time, addressing the variety of other social issues that keep our communities down,” organizer Julienne Verdi said, linking the issues of climate change and economic justice.
Founder of Move Forward Staten Island, Verdi told the receptive crowd: “We can no longer stand silent while our politicians ignore the science and reality of climate change. We must stand up, tell our stories and demand action now. And that’s what you’re doing by being here today.”
Other speakers included Sam Cocozza, vice president of CWA Local 1102 and Hurricane Sandy survivor, Sofia Gouin of Barnard Divest for a Just Transition, Nidhi Khanna of Climate Reality, Steve Lawton of Sustainable Staten Island, Yesenia Mata of La Colmena Project, Beryl Thurman from the North Shore Waterfront Conservancy, Caesar Vargas of Dream Action Coalition, and Allison Ziogas, an electrician with IBEW Local 3.
“We’re here to stand in solidarity with members of our community and amplify our collective voice to call for bolder commitments to sustainable energy. Transition to renewable energy represents not only an opportunity to make our communities greener and healthier, but also address economic inequality through job creation — good paying union jobs,” Ziogas said.
The march was led by the children attending the event — to underscore the urgency of the call for action.
“Our children will bear the burden of climate change if we do not act now,” said Jessica Indelicato Hamil, Move Forward Co-Chair and co-organizer of the event.
Recognizing the need to keep the pressure on elected officials, the coalition of labor, peace and justice organizations and environmental activists that planned the event is here to stay, according to organizers.
“Today is not the end of this movement. We will continue to stand together to protect our families, our city, and our Staten Island from climate change and other injustices,” said Steve Lawton of Sustainable Staten Island.
Thomas Altfather Good is a member of the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981
Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / UnionWriter.com
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — February 3, 2017. Members of Local 52 International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) deployed fake snow on Union Place outside the Paramount Theatre today – the last day of shooting for Marvel’s The Defenders (aka Group Therapy).
Members of Local 3 IBEW and workers from ULC Robotics repairing gas mains near Willow Avenue, Staten Island.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / UnionWriter.com)
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — February 1, 2017. National Grid workers no longer have to excavate to repair old iron gas mains – a small robot called a ‘CISBOT’ now effects repairs without disrupting the flow of natural gas or traffic.
A large silver cylinder called a ‘Launcher’ houses a CISBOT robot that descends into old iron gas mains, drills small holes near each joint and then injects sealant to replace degraded materials (old sealant). This activity extends the life of the iron main by sealing leaks without having to excavate and repair (or replace) the main. A National Grid worker said that the robot can travel 700 feet in either direction. The robot is guided remotely by workers using computers stored in a truck parked next to the launcher.
A “launcher” connected to a valve on a gas main – a CISBOT is inside the main resealing joints.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / UnionWriter.com)
I reached out to the company that supplies the robot, ULC Robotics, asking how the robot is deployed.
ULC’s Nathan King said, “The launch tube is a pressure vessel installed on top of a valve, which allows the robot to enter the gas main while the gas is still on — without allowing the gas to escape into the atmosphere.”
Statement from TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen on President Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration
On every level, I am descended from immigrants and refugees.
The Transport Workers Union was built by immigrants and refugees. So was NY’s subway system. The founder of our great union, Michael J. Quill, fled Ireland in the 1920’s, the victim of political and religious persecution. The Irish men and women who formed the backbone of my union in its earliest days came to the US to escape these same forms of discrimination. They came for the economic opportunity they were denied in Ireland.
My granny came from Derry City in the north of Ireland. She was part of the great successive waves of immigration to the US from Ireland. She came seeking freedom and an opportunity to raise a family in peace. I would be dishonoring her memory, and the memory of the founders of the TWU, if I did not speak out against the inhumane and discriminatory Executive Order on immigration signed by President Trump last week.
The story of the TWU is intertwined with the story of immigration. In its earliest days, immigrants from Ireland, Italy, England and Germany provided the bulk of our members and leaders. As the face of immigration has changed, so has the TWU. Chapters of our story were written by Black workers who migrated from the US South to escape persecution and violence. New chapters are being written by members and officers from the Caribbean, Bangladesh, countries of the former Soviet Union, Nigeria and dozens of other nations.
Like our founders, and all of my grandparents, they are coming for economic opportunity and to be free from religious and political persecution. They are welcome in the TWU.
I am not someone who always wears his religious faith on his sleeve, although anyone close to me recognizes how my Irish Catholic upbringing and adult Christian faith impact my life and the decisions I make every day. They help guide me as a father, a husband, a worker, a citizen and a union president. These beliefs have combined with my sense of personal and institutional history to lead me to speak out against barring refugees from entering the US, against giving a preference to members of one faith over another, and against denying sanctuary to people in desperate need of it. President Trump’s order is in opposition to traditional Christian values and teachings.
Personally, organizationally, and spiritually, I am the descendant of immigrants and refugees. I am proud to be such. I stand with my Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and non-believing sisters and brothers against efforts to demonize every Muslim as a potential terrorist. I stand with all those calling for a fair and humane immigration policy that provides welcome and comfort to the victims of war and persecution. This is a real American response, the correct response. And it’s the reason my granny was welcomed with open arms when she sought refuge from the persecution against Catholics in the north of Ireland all those years ago.
A few of the many great, mostly handmade, signs I spotted at the 2017 Women’s March on NYC:
“The Emperor has no clothes and a really tiny penis.”
“Say no to Twitler.”
“Keep your tiny hands off of my rights.”
“Romanian immigrant paying taxes, fighting for all women.”
Wait, there’s more:
“Make America think again.”
“140 letters do not equal character.”
“You can’t comb over racism.”
“Make racists afraid again.”
“The KKK is celebrating and we’re resisting. Which side are YOU on?”
“You ain’t seen nasty yet.”
“Fight like a girl.”
“Our rights are not up for grabs.”
“Raising our children to tear down your wall.”
And lastly, one of my favourites:
“In your guts you know he’s nuts.”