In July, Metro Justice showed up in solidarity with Black workers, reached milestones of growth and reflection for Rochester for Energy Democracy, congratulated accomplishments of the Rochester Mutual Aid Network, and so much more!
Black Lives Matter to Labor Rally
On Saturday, July 11th, Metro Justice came out in solidarity with the Coalition for Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) for their "Black Lives Matter to Labor" rally! We heard from various Black union leaders on the importance of unions for Black working people, including Deb Lee (President of CBTU), Shelly Clements (member of CBTU), and Demond Meeks (former organizer with 1199 SEIU and NY Assemblymember-elect). Join us for a second rally, this time specifically in solidarity with essential workers, on Saturday August 15th at 11 AM located at 30 North Union Street. Our very own elected treasurer, Marcus Dunn, will be speaking on behalf of Metro Justice!
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, cooperatively owned utility with an elected board, a green energy mandate, and concrete commitments to a just transition for energy workers.
We reached an exciting milestone this past July: R.E.D.'s one year anniversary! Thus, our work in July focused on reflection and growth in order to become an even stronger movement in our second year.
We kicked off the month with our "Welcome to R.E.D." virtual orientation for new people who wanted to join our movement for energy democracy. During this orientation, the existing members and leadership of RED introduced themselves, our elected Steering Committee shared the history and goals of the R.E.D. Campaign so far, everyone shared their stories for why a public utility should replace RG&E, and Jessica Azulay from Alliance for a Green Economy (AGREE) led an Energy 101 Workshop followed by a Q&A. We are proud to share that over the course of July, our R.E.D. committee has nearly doubled in membership! Our strength is in numbers, and we are excited to see R.E.D. continue to build true bottom-up, people power a year later.
R.E.D. reached another milestone in July with the community-owned renewable energy side of our campaign! For the last year, we have been developing a model for a Community-Owned Solar Farm in the Plymouth-Exchange neighborhood of Rochester, with the hope that a successful template would allow other neighborhoods to have community-owned solar farms as well. While we identified a location for the farm and had the PL-EX Neighborhood Association on board, getting funding remained a challenge until we received some good news! Metro Justice was approved as a partner for the National Community Solar Partnership, giving us access to resources and a community of groups at various stages of similar types of work. We will also be submitted a grant application to NYSERDA (NYS Energy Research and Development Authority) to hold workshops that train residents on what a community-owned solar farm is and how to manage it so that it benefits their community. Shout out to Eric Zeise and Emily Ghosh for all of the work they have been doing to move this project forward!
Moving forward, R.E.D. will be focused on debriefing the successes and challenges of the last year. We will then build off that reflection to set new one-year goals and create a new one-year strategic plan to move us closer to winning a public utility and true energy democracy in Rochester!
Do you want to join us in halting the climate crisis and making energy a human right? Sign our petition here!
Rochester Public Power Hour
We released 2 episodes of the Rochester Public Power Hour in July! On Episode 3, we discuss why and how public utilities have a proven track record as one of the most massive and effective ways to lower energy bills for people while also implementing a rapid transition to green energy. Also, Michelle Wenderlich joins us again, this time with their colleague Timothy DenHerder Thomas, to discuss the ongoing fight for public utilities in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Then, on Episode 4, we discuss the connections between Black Lives Matter and public power, growing involvement in our campaign for a public utility to replace RG&E, the ongoing RG&E rate case in which we're fighting against rate hikes, exciting steps forward towards building a community owned and operated solar farm in Rochester's Plymouth-Exchange neighborhood, and an interview with Jonathan Koehn with Local Power in Boulder, Colorado.
You can also tune-in to all of our episodes on Spotify!
Campaign for NY Health
Metro Justice houses the Rochester Chapter of the Campaign for NY Health (CNYH): a statewide movement for universal healthcare in NYS! Every New Yorker deserves comprehensive health care without expensive premiums, deductibles, and copays. Click here to learn more about the New York Health Act (NYHA).
As a part of the statewide Campaign for New York Health, we urged our legislators to pass the People's Bailout this last month. This culminated in a banner drop outside Senator Schumer's office, where people who had previously been silenced shared their stories. You can watch the full press conference by clicking here!
If you are interested in getting involved in planning our upcoming actions to create a more equitable health care system, please follow our Facebook page! We also have monthly organizing meetings, now held over zoom. Message us on Facebook for the Zoom link or RSVP here on our website for the next meeting, which will be held at 6 PM on Wednesday, August 26th!
Elder Justice Committee (EJC) is one of our longest existing committees with some of our most dedicated members. Over the years, Elder Justice has gained statewide recognition for their work to ensure that elders live purposeful, self-directed, meaningful, and dignified lives in their homes and communities. A critical focus of this work has been transforming our nursing homes from hospital-like holding institutions into meaningful and nurturing homes where elders can continue to live truly fulfilling lives. A linchpin of this effort is winning the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act.
This past month, EJC won regulations that allow the safe and controlled resumption of family member visits to residents for those family members that play a necessary role in the care of their loved ones. You can read the full article from Channel 10, featuring our own Marydel Wypych and Jean Wells, by clicking here! Furthermore, EJC also released an updated Federal Ratings of Monroe County Nursing Homes for your use and distribution, which you can find here.
EJC continues to fight for the passage of minimum nursing staffing legislation, full transparency from the Department of Health, and far better enforcement of existing nursing home regulations. To learn how you join the fight, please email [email protected]!
Popular Education & White Supremacy
Within the past month, the popular education committee has made progress toward launching the pilot of the "Dismantling White Supremacy" series. The pilot will launch tentatively early 2021, pending COVID-19.
We will need volunteers to help facilitate the workshop pilot. If you are interested in being part of this initiative, please reach out to Nicole White at [email protected].
Rochester Mutual Aid Network (RMAN)
Metro Justice is honored to be the 501 c(3) sponsor of the grassroots Rochester Mutual Aid Network. RMAN is a partnership between the Rochester Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and a number of local charity and social justice organizations. RMAN is a cooperative network that was started to help our community sustain itself.
As of this past July, RMAN has officially fulfilled more than 500 requests for aid! Just this past weekend, they delivered 57 packages of fresh produce through their partnership with Flower City Pickers. You can request aid, donate, or sign up volunteer at their website www.rocmutualaid.com. In these times of crisis, people shouldn't have to worry about where help is going to come from. It's going to come from our community, so let's get to work!
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.
Rochester Rapid Response Network said goodbye to one of our longtime steering committee members, David. We will miss him, and thank him for his dedication to immigrant defense. RRRN has access to a bank account, and was able to transfer funds to one of the families that we fundraised for.
July has been a month of reflection for RRRN. As a volunteer run organization, we came to some important conclusions about our capacity and focus through extensive support we provided for a couple of families. Some of our work began to feel like case management, and while such work is crucial, we realized we do not have the capacity for it nor do we feel that it is our appropriate function. Moving forward, we plan to refocus our energy on strengthening our immigrant defense network, as well as providing court support to individuals facing deportation. Additionally, we are still looking for a treasurer to handle our finances, as this work is important to keep our organization running smoothly.
RRRN will be hosting an "Emergency Response Training" to build our capacity to respond to state aggression against our immigrant communities. Attendees will learn how to respond to various emergencies involving immigrant community members at risk of being detained by Border Patrol or ICE. Over the last few years we have responded to roughly 5 emergency calls. The training will be held over Zoom; specific date, time, and registration information will be sent out via email and posted in a Facebook event in about a week. Anyone passionate about practicing solidarity with our immigrant communities is welcome to join.
RRRN has several working groups that meet between general meetings; these working groups anchor critical work including immigrant family court support, communications & media, campaign planning & strategy, and membership recruitment & development. RRRN is in particular need of someone to fill the role of Treasurer on their Steering Committee. To learn more or join a working group, email RRRN at [email protected]!
Hi! My name is Ashley Ladiges. I am a teacher in the Rochester City School District and a founding member of the Rochester Organization of Rank-and-file Educators (RORE), an informal social justice caucus made up of RTA, RAP, and BENTE union members. I am also a member of the Rochester Mutual Aid Network (RMAN) which formed back in March as a disaster relief working group of the Rochester DSA in response to the COVID-19 crisis. RMAN has become a force of its own as a truly democratic, all volunteer organization, and we continue to expand in an effort to create self-sustaining communities in and around the city of Rochester. Since our inception, RMAN has grown immensely, coordinating with over 100 volunteers to fulfill over 500 requests for aid in our community.
As a fairly new Metro Justice member, I was excited for RMAN to receive fiscal sponsorship through Metro Justice; our partnership provides RMAN with valuable resources and, along with our ongoing relationship with the DSA, provides an opportunity to unite around progressive causes that will have lasting material change in our communities. While these three organizations are each their own entity and differ somewhat in their structure, function, and scope, the broader vision is largely the same: to build progressive movements in an effort to create a more just and democratic world free of economic, racial, and social injustice.
I moved to Rochester about eight years ago, and while I’ve only somewhat recently become an official member of Metro Justice, I’ve been involved with, or at least supportive of, many of the same campaigns taken up by the organization. Metro Justice’s long standing commitment to justice in Rochester has given me confidence that it will continue to fight for the long overdue changes this city deserves. As most of us know, “there is no single issue struggle”, and from their campaigns such as the Fight for 15 or Rochester for Energy Democracy (R.E.D.) to their unwavering support of organizations like RORE and RMAN, Metro Justice has helped create a nexus of social justice causes and has given many of us involved in this work a sense of much needed solidarity in these unsettling times.
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Metro Justice is a grassroots community organization, driven by our members. Much of this work would not be possible without the contributions of both time and money by the hundreds of members who work hard everyday fighting for racial, social, and economic justice. The contributions of our members are what allow us to forgo big grant funding so that we can be solely accountable to our community instead of large foundations.
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Wishing you, your friends, and loved ones health, safety, and support.