Metro Justice had a strong close to 2019. Read on to catch up on everything our members accomplished in December! Fighting against cuts to Rochester city schools, pushing our new Energy Democracy campaign forward, the Alternative Fair and more can be found in this monthly recap!
Rallies Against RCSD Budget Cuts
Last month, our community banded together to save our school district from devastating, mid-year budget cuts. To solve a deficit of $64.8 million, RCSD Superintendent Terry Dade proposed a 5% across-the-board cut in staffing mid-year. These jarring cuts would have eliminated 326 staff positions (including 194 teachers, and 15 support staff like tutors, counselors, and social workers); shortened the school day by 1 hour in some schools; and made cuts from alternative programs like LyncX Academy, Young Mothers and NorthSTAR which help the district's most vulnerable students.
RCSD Students led multiple courageous and inspiring walkouts to protest these cuts. Community organizations like Metro Justice, a robust coalition of labor unions, and other Rochester residents turned out in hundreds to both of the RCSD Board of Education meetings in December. We protested these cuts alongside students and pushed for alternative solutions to the budget deficit. Investing in a just and prosperous future means investing in our kids’ education, and our community is determined to continue the fight for adequate funding and resources in our school district!
Rochester for Energy Democracy (R.E.D.)
R.E.D. is a campaign started by Metro Justice to halt the pending climate catastrophe and ensure environmental justice in the long-term. We are striving to build an energy system in which communities -- not corporate investors -- decide what energy we use, where we get it, what we pay, and how that money can be used to benefit our community. The first steps towards this vision is organizing our neighborhoods for community-owned solar and replacing RG&E with a public, not-for-profit utility with a community-elected board.
The R.E.D. committee meets biweekly on Wednesdays from 5:30 - 7:30 PM. At our first meeting in December, we discussed progress and next steps to continue to base-building in the Plymouth-Exchange (PL-EX) Neighborhood of Rochester. Through our membership in the NY Energy Democracy Alliance, we also participate in a statewide coalition for public power campaigns. Thus, our meeting included a report back from the recent coalition call, followed by a discussion of next steps for how Metro Justice engages in statewide campaigns. Furthermore, two new members gave a detailed presentation on the scale, capacity, and finances for the first community-owned solar array we could build; their presentation included how the impacted community could allocate revenue from energy generated towards savings on their electricity bills and investments in energy efficiency infrastructure for homes. Lastly, we began planning the first convening of a PL-EX Organizing Committee on this campaign, a statewide base-building training for the public power coalition, and a campaign launch event in Rochester!
After the success of our first outreach phone-bank to recruit Metro Justice's existing contacts in the Plymouth-Exchange neighborhood, we had another phone-bank for our second R.E.D. meeting in December. We had a team of 5 volunteers make more than 100 calls, and we’re dedicated to continue building grassroots power for climate justice in PL-EX!
Campaign for NY Health
Metro Justice houses the Rochester Chapter of the Campaign for NY Health: a statewide movement for universal healthcare in NYS.
Rochester for NY Health meets monthly on the last Wednesday of every month from 6 - 8 PM, and every meeting is a potluck! December’s meeting focused on how to best utilize these monthly gatherings to follow-up with people interested in getting involved, planning a meeting with Representative Joe Morelle, organizing regular educational events, and planning organizing trainings.
Following the monthly meeting, the committee hosted an organizing training called “Effective Follow Up, Part 1: Follow Up Phone calls and Scheduling 1-on-1s.”
In the New Year, Rochester for NY Health aims to focus on more recruitment, more leadership development for volunteer activists, and bolder public action to win universal health care in 2020!
Alternative Fair 2019
Thanks to months of hard work by our Membership & Fundraising Committee, our 37th annual Alternative Fair was especially festive and special. Not only is it one of our biggest grassroots fundraisers of the year, it also allows families to holiday shop with a conscience. Every year, the fair features thousands of unique fair trade, earth friendly, and locally produced goods that support a strong local economy and a just and sustainable world. Our members volunteer to cater the two-day event and local musicians entertain visitors in the lobby and dining room, creating a festive environment for people to shop and connect with one another. This fair, we also introduced an activist corner so that visitors could learn about and get involved with various community organizations fighting for a just and prosperous world for everyone. Over the course of the weekend, almost 700 people came through! We hope to see everyone again in December 2020.
Rochester Rapid Response Network (RRRN)
Metro Justice remains a dedicated ally and fiscal sponsor of the Rochester Rapid Response Network. RRRN is an ally group formed to support immigrants facing detention or deportation by engaging in community-based strategic actions and public education guided by their directly-affected immigrant families.
On December 6th, RRRN conducted an emergency response training at Temple Sinai. These trainings are critical to increasing RRRN's capacity to respond to emergency immigration enforcement situations. This last training prepared 20 individuals to engage in this crucial work to protect our immigrant families from cruel and unjust detention and deportation.
Volunteers with RRRN also regularly provide rides for immigrant families engaged in legal proceedings. Thus, one of RRRN's volunteers provided ride assistance for a family that needed to connect with legal support.
As many of you know, we finally won the Greenlight Campaign and therefore the right to drivers' licenses for all immigrants regardless of immigration status. To aid undocumented people in applying for these drivers' licenses at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), RRRN made an information graphic on how to protect oneself from detention when visiting the DMV in case ICE or BP agents are present.
Coming Up --
Annual Members' Meeting
It’s time for our Annual Members’ Meeting! This past year, we've won significant victories that wouldn’t have been possible without our dedicated members who volunteer their time to ensure that we stay on the front-lines of the fight for racial, social, and economic justice. That said, we also face historic and unprecedented challenges in the months and years to come.
As a grassroots, democratically run organization, the Annual Members’ Meeting is our most important meeting of the year. Every year, our entire membership convenes to make critical decisions about Metro Justice’s goals for the upcoming year, elects the year’s governing Council, votes on the year’s budget, gets updated on all of our campaigns and committees, and learns about how to participate in Metro Justice’s campaigns and committees to achieve our goals for the year.
This year’s meeting will be Saturday, January 25th, from 10 AM - 2 PM located at the Visual Studies Workshop (31 Prince Street). Lunch will be provided!
We aim to have ambitious plans for 2020. As a member-driven and member-funded organization, Metro Justice needs your involvement to form and accomplish these plans! Now is the time for us to come together to strategize and resist unchecked authoritarianism, fascism, racism, and xenophobia.
While the meeting is open to everyone, you must be a dues-paying member to vote. To renew your membership or become a member before the meeting, click here!
Will you be joining us?