We had some of our most powerful movement-building events and actions this year during October! Read on to learn more --
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).
We had almost 50 people join us for our "Fund Healthcare Not Police" event on Saturday, October 10th! During this event, we connected the dual crises of COVID-19 and racist police violence with the need to build a movement for universal healthcare. Michael Marshall, a leader with the New York chapter of the Poor People's Campaign, opened the event by sharing his struggles with recovering from addiction within the for-profit health system. He built off of his experience to illustrate the need for more comprehensive and accessible healthcare -- especially in mental health -- so that people can get the care they need rather than go through a punitive criminal justice system. He encouraged everyone in the audience to commit to fighting together to make healthcare a human right.
Metro Justice leaders in Rochester for NY Health, Rohith Palli and Alice Carli, explained the basics of why we need universal health care and educated folks on how the New York Health Act guarantees comprehensive health care for all without expensive premiums, deductibles, nor co-pays. They were followed by a series of speakers that shared their stories to illustrate the intersections between COVID-19 impacts, housing, racial justice, alternatives to policing, and universal healthcare. Speakers included Mahima Iyengar from Metro Justice, Mike Sportiello from Metro Justice and Rochester Mutual Aid Network, Tracie Adams from VOCAL-NY, and Patrick Braswell from the Rochester Homeless Union.
Mahima and Mohini Sharma (our Lead Organizer) then facilitated two activities in which folks partnered up and learned each other's health care stories and practiced having an effective organizing conversation that can move people to join the movement. We then laid out an overall plan to win, and another volunteer with Metro Justice, Rosie Quinn, shared all the different ways people could get involved to make a difference. Mahima then closed us out with an immediate call to action in which people took photos with a sign about why we should fund healthcare instead of police, to be posted on social media with a sign-up to link to encourage more people to get involved.
The event was a commendable feat of teamwork from all the Metro Justice volunteers in the Rochester for NY Health Committee. We also greatly appreciate the solidarity of organizations that sent speakers or brought their own members.
Because of this event and subsequent follow-up, we had a bunch of new people join our October organizing meeting for the campaign! Moving forward, the committee will have three different working groups: electoral, union solidarity, and basebuilding; each working group focuses on a different aspect of our strategy to win universal healthcare!
To learn more or join the movement, please sign-up by clicking here and someone from our team will be in touch! You're also invited to join our next monthly organizing meetings, now held over Zoom, on Wednesday December 2nd from 6-7:30 PM. Please RSVP here on our website to receive the Zoom link to join.
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.
Our movement for public power continued to grow in October! We completed quick informational pamphlets and graphics that explain why RG&E is an unethical and predatory company, the benefits of a public utility for our community, and how we can win. Check us out on Facebook, Instragram, Twitter, and email to follow along as we release them, and to share them with your friends and family!
We also completed the program for our teach-in series and began group rehearsals for presenting the content. We're looking forward to doing our first set of teach-ins with the Rochester Justice Housing Alliance, Rochester Democratic Socialists of America, the Pl-EX Neighborhood Association, 1199 SEIU, and Federation of Social Workers to grow and deepen solidarity for a public utility here in Rochester.
Volunteers have also been contacting other energy cooperatives across NYS for guidance on how best to conduct and find funding for a feasibility study that centers our vision for energy democracy in a utility. We have also reconnected with folks involved in the public power efforts in Boulder, Colorado and Minneapolis, Minnestoa that we interviewed for the Rochester Public Power Hour.
Our community-owned solar project in the PL-EX Neighborhood is also moving along. In partnership with Groundswell, Larson Engineering, and the PL-EX Neigbhorhood Association, we are discussing plans to contract with union labor for construction and secure grants to provide training and engagement for PL-EX residents to administer and maintain the solar farm once built. The Energy Democracy Alliance has also supported us in developing educational workshops for PL-EX residents on how community-owned solar works, its benefits, and how it's different from our current energy system and existing "community solar" projects.
In addition to our local campaign, we are also fighting for public utilities statewide through our membership in the Public Power NY Coalition. Specifically, we are pushing for 2 public power bills that will bring generation, transmission, and distribution under public control, so that it is not-for-profit and we can meet our necessairly ambitious goals for a green and just transition as soon as possible. We are excited that the coalition strongly supports one primary sponsor for each bill being a legislator from Rochester so that we can build upstate and downstate unity for public power.
Do you want to join us in halting the climate crisis and making energy a human right? Sign our petition here and then let's get to work, together!
Press Conference Against Evictions & Utility Shut-Offs During COVID
Eviction Resistance Kick-Off in August 2020
Another exciting accomplishment of RED in October was a joint press conference with other member organizations of the Rochester Housing Justice Alliance (RHJA) against evictions and utility shut-offs during COVID. In addition to Sierra Mendes and Rio Hartwell from RED, speakers included the EMCEE Kevin Aiken from Rochester VOCAL-NY; Barbara Rivera and Liz Mcgriff with the Rochester Citywide Tenants Union; Anastajah Haynes from City Roots Community Land Trust and Free the People Rochester.
We argued that the protections provided through the Tenant Safe Harbor Act were insufficient and would not prevent unjust evictions to keep people safetly housed during a pandemic. We raised the alarm that without comprehensive rent and mortgage relief provided by the state, hundreds of Rochester residents will be inhumanely evicted in the winter during a pandemic. Fast forward to today, and current eviction blockade actions are displaying the consequences of inadequate housing relief.
On top of rent payments, those facing financial hardship during the pandemic have additional bills - like utilities - to worry about too. Despite a moratorium on shut-offs and late fees for nonpayment, RG&E has continued to threaten residents with shut-off notices during this vulnerable time without mention of the moratorium. Sierra Mendes, a volunteer with RED, explained that “If households are struggling to pay their housing, you can be sure the utility bills are not far behind. Housing and utilities are basic human rights!” That is why in addition to rent and mortgage relief, we called for utility bill relief as well and for RG&E to be held accountable for sending predatory notices for disallowed shut offs. Rio Hartwell, Co-Chair of RED and the second RED speaker at the conference, highlighted the necessity for long-term solutions too: "The moral mission we face is clear: We need to keep struggling families in their homes, and as another Rochester winter rapidly approaches, we need to keep their lights and heat on. And we don’t have to wait for the largesse of our political class to start doing something about this. That’s why I’m here today, in solidarity with our partners, to call for debt forgiveness and to call for the creation of a public power utility here in Rochester.”
Black Lives Matter: Keep Jalil Muntaqim Free
Jalil Muntaqim, former Black Panther and respected elder, was recently released after nearly 50 years in prison. Then, District Attorney Sandra Doorley's office issued a warrant against Jalil Muntaqim with charges of voter fraud. These charges against Jalil are politically-motivated, senseless, and a waste of taxpayers' money. Metro Justice is committed to doing whatever we can to support Jalil in retaining his freedom, and has been in regular communication with him. Please stay tuned for calls to pack the court during Jalil's court dates. To join the growing list of community supporters, and to stay in the loop on opportunities to support further, you can also sign on by clicking here.
Popular Education & White Supremacy
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.
Elder Justice Committee invited several first-time Democratic Greater Rochester candidates for the New York Legislature including: Sarah Clark, Jeremy Cooney, ChaRon LeBlanc, Samra Brouk and Demond Meeks to our October Zoom meeting.
We discussed several topics significant to the lives of seniors in our area and New York State, including:
- The relationship of direct care staffing levels to the safety and quality of care of nursing home residents before, during, and post COVID-19
- Assuring that NYS Department of Health more strongly enforces nursing home regulations, including ending the continued operation of poorly performing home
- The consequences of for-profit takeover of not-for-profit nursing homes on safe and quality care
- The lock out of visitors to Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities
For many years, the Elder Justice Committee has been advocating for elders to live purposeful, self-directed, meaningful, and dignified lives in their homes and communities, including adult residential facilities. We welcome new members to join us in our advocacy efforts. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- MaryDel Wypych and Ken Traub, Co-chairs of the Elder Justice Committee
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.
In addition to providing aid to families and individuals this past October, RMAN also ran a fundraising drive so that it has the resources necessary to support our community through this pandemic. Some of their volunteers also put together a free mini library at a local laundromat, with more libraries coming soon! You can request aid, donate, or sign up to volunteer at their website www.rocmutualaid.com. RMAN has regular orientations and training for new volunteers; to receive updates, you can sign up on their website or follow them on their Facebook page. 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!
My name is Rohith Palli and I am an organizer for the Metro Justice Health Care Committee a.k.a. Rochester for NY Health. I first worked with Metro Justice six years ago as Metro Justice led the first upstate rallies and news conferences in support of the New York Health Act. In this as in other issues, Metro Justice has always been at the leading edge of necessary transformation in our society. Over the years, I have valued not only the advice of MJ staff in working toward health justice, but more importantly the community of activists working on intersecting issues. The health committee's recent "Fund Health Care, Not Police" event was a beautiful tribute to the intersection of anti-racism and health justice that would not have been possible without the organizing that has been happening here for years. Regardless of the outcome of the upcoming elections, the movement and issue organizing we do at MJ will be critical to pushing a more just future whether the policymaking happens in congress, the New York state legislature, or city hall.
Build With Us!
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.