When our world, our rights, our freedoms are being bombarded left and right, seemingly on a daily basis, it can be easy to get to a level of frustration and fatigue. The last two years of the pandemic were hard enough. Not only are we still dealing with Covid 19, now we are back at it fighting fights we thought we had already won. Is this really where we are in 2022, fighting, ONCE AGAIN, for people with uteruses to have the right over their own bodies? The potential backlash from the reversal of Roe v. Wade could be catastrophic to reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and further burden poor and disenfranchised communities Our neighbors of color are being violently attacked in senseless acts of terrorism. We are watching as voter rights are being attacked seemingly unchecked in state after state, district after district. We are watching as forces of empire, capital, and fascism have turned Ukraine into a warzone and taken hundreds of innocent civilian lives. And the tragic latest….the murder of 19 children, and two teachers, by a teenage gunman with an AR15 rifle, and over 300 rounds of ammunition.
Corporations and the greedy politicians that serve them rely on us burning out in the face of tragedies and attacks on our rights, so that we stay exploited and the rich stay rich. But, that moment where there just seems to be so much going on that you don’t know what direction to look in, or where to start that, and you get that overwhelming sense of dread, fatigue, and feel the optimism slip away….that is when we turn to each other for guidance, for strength, and for support to fight back harder. We, as a Metro Justice and Rochester community, will continue to be resilient. In numbers, we have strength.
Now is the time to continue to fight side by side together, and turn to each other for guidance, for strength, and for support.
Then we stand arm to arm and show those with power that we can be a powerhouse ourselves.
We Stand with Buffalo, NY
On Saturday, May 14th a terrorist attack was committed at the Tops on Jefferson Road in Buffalo, NY. A young white man, filled with inflammatory lies about the white race being under threat, murdered 10 people and injured 3 others. All of those killed were Black. The shooter drove across the state to target this supermarket because the zip code has one of the most dense Black populations in the region.
A lengthy racist rant published shortly before the attack makes clear that the shooter did this as part of a white supremacist, fascist and ethno-nationalist movement. Despite these sort of attacks being repeatedly treated as lone-wolf scenarios, this shooter made it perfectly clear that he was inspired by previous racist attacks and by a movement aimed at “race war” and racial cleansing in the United States. This is a movement that operates openly across the nation and intentionally works with the hope of inspiring similar attacks. They are a constant threat.
White supremacist violence and terrorism is deeply rooted in the history of the United States. From a founding in chattel slavery and Indigenous genocide to the lynching's and rise of the KKK that prevented meaningful Reconstruction. It’s evident in the mob violence and state-sponsored terrorism of COINTELPRO used to silence the Civil Rights and Black Liberations movements of the 20th century. We can see it all around us in the segregation caused by white flight, concentrated poverty and disinvestment that led to the very concentration of Black people on the East Side of Buffalo where this attacker knew he could find many victims.
These roots are deeply tied and are easily stoked by opportunists. The wave of right-wing “Trumpism” actively worked to stir up these ideas as a way to retain power for those interested in unregulated capitalism, US imperialism and theocratic social policy. In the midst of a rapidly changing society, and in reaction to growing progressive sentiment, the mainstream conservative movement opened America’s Pandora’s Box: fascist white supremacy. Conservatism and fascism have been old friends throughout the generations of US history. When the more polite conservatives can’t hold onto power, they call for more vicious backup.
Now that the fascist and white supremacist far-right has been emboldened by conservatives in power for several years, shootings like this one in Buffalo are a tragically predictable consequence. Given that ideologues of the far-right operate openly and even find outlets in the mainstream media, we sadly can’t expect this attack to be the last of its kind.
We live in a moment of political upheaval. The status quo worldwide is clearly failing. The far-right is growing bolder throughout the world. We can’t beat them by naively aspiring to a more liberal past where the same systems of oppression were politer in their stability.
We need to aspire to a better world altogether and demonstrate that our movements, progressive movements, are capable of bringing that world to fruition. Solidarity is our weapon against hate. We need to demonstrate that multi-racial and multi-ethnic organizations of the working class can fight for and win a better world together. By actively dismantling white supremacy and capitalism, we can replace them with solidarity and dignified lives for all people.
In particular, Metro Justice joins the dozens of faith, community and business leaders who have called on the Main Street Armory to cancel the August 12th tour stop of the ReAwaken America tour. This event would feature major conspiracy theorist and white supremacist speakers, including Michael Flynn and Roger Stone, who use precisely the language that led to the terrorist act in Buffalo. Rochester needs to tell those who incite violence for their own aggrandizement that we are not a city that welcomes white supremacy or its terrorist rhetoric. We encourage you to call the Main Street Armory at (585) 232-3221 to demand that they cancel the event, and ask that you stay tuned for a potential protest in August if the event is not canceled.
Rochester for Energy Democracy Campaign (RED)
Our RED Campaign is one of our most important areas of work. We have been making significant strides in our efforts. But first, here’s a summary of what we are trying to accomplish.
Our campaign is a grassroots movement to replace RG&E with a community-owned and operated ratepayer cooperative. This utility has 4 guiding principles. They are to be:
- Economically sound just by being not-for-profit. Necessities such as heat and electricity would be public goods instead of commodities controlled by distant shareholders to maximize their own profit.
- Democratic and fair through governance by a rate-payer elected Board of Directors. This board will be composed of elected community representatives, appointed representatives of organized labor, and appointed climate experts, so that decisions are made by and for our community.
- Committed to a green energy mandate that requires 100% carbon free by 2030 in accordance with the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.
- Committed to workers’ rights and a just transition for energy workers, with provisions determined in partnership with local worker unions.
RED is ramping up for the summer! Our first big announcement that is that Metro Justice welcomed our new Energy Democracy Organizer, Michelle Wenderlich:
Hello Metro Justice members!
My name’s Michelle, also Michi (pronounced “me-she”). I use they/them pronouns and I joined Metro Justice staff in May as the lead for the Rochester for Energy Democracy campaign!
I’ve been a part of energy democracy and climate justice movements since 2008, coming out of politicization in alter-globalization and anti-war movements. I grew up in the Finger Lakes but cut my teeth in organizing mass actions against coal and campaigns for democratic public ownership of energy and free public transportation in Berlin, Germany. I became so interested in municipalization and the commons that I decided to research the Berlin campaign alongside a similar one in Minneapolis.
Along the way I’ve organized against pipelines, for racial, economic, and housing justice, and for Treaty rights, in Massachusetts and Minnesota. I’ve got a policy degree and a PhD in geography, and both were motivated by and accompanied by roots in the practice of grassroots social movements and community building. I’m still active as an early music bassist (long story), love to swim and cook, and dance in the streets whenever possible.
I’m really excited to move from Minneapolis to Rochester and build and win the RED campaign with all of you! Feel free to get in touch!
What have we been up to, and what are we looking forward to?
For the first half of 2022, RED laid the groundwork to move critical aspects of our campaign forward.
Building a mass movement is foundational to this campaign. So far this year, we have continued to expand our coalition partners to include the United Christian Leadership Ministry, and are in initial conversations with the Beechwood and 19th Ward Neighborhood Associations. We also cosponsored a “Know Your Utility Rights” event with the Public Utilities Law Project and the Climate Solutions Accelerator, where our Organizing Director, Mohini Sharma, spoke about how a public utility is the long-term solution to ending abuses from RG&E.
Broadening our coalition is a priority for our summer, and we look forward to having our coalition partners grow, join us for canvases and actions, participate in decisions on the campaign, and encourage City Council to fund our implementation study.
We also had our first canvass of the year in May, in the Beechwood Neighborhood surrounding our Metro Justice office! We will be tabling at the 19th Ward Community Association’s Square Fair on Saturday, June 4th as well.
Furthermore, our Communications team has been doing amazing work to create easy to read infographics, and share relevant articles, to keep our Rochester community informed on energy issues and public power. Check out our explainer on why heating bills skyrocketed this past winter, RG&E stories from Rochester residents, an rundown on how fossil fuel corporations and private utilities are taking advantage of the War in Ukraine to raise gas prices, and how Avangrid (RG&E’s parent company) made historic profits this year off of raising rates on New Yorkers. Our very own Mohini Sharma and volunteer-leader Uday Chockanathan also appeared on Street Voices on Rochester Free Radio! We are close to finishing a “New Member Packet” to better equip new volunteers to engage with the campaign, and look forward to sharing that with you all as well. Lastly, we designed and mailed almost 4000 postcards to Rochester residents to build awareness on the RED campaign, encourage them to share their stories to build pressure against RG&E, and to fight back with us!
Stay tuned for announcements on monthly RED canvases, a RED-themed Metro Justice contingent in the Rochester Pride Parade, and town halls in each of our City Council districts to build the community strength we need to take on RG&E and win!
In addition to growing our movement, we have to get the implementation study off the ground. After months of research and deliberation that drew from the various expertise of our volunteers, we completed a first draft of a request-for-proposals, or RFP! The RFP prescribes the aspects of implementation that we need a firm to study, so that we know exactly how we can ensure a public utility fulfills our principles of energy democracy. After we completed the draft, we have spent the last few months soliciting feedback from other experts in public power and environmental policy, including from local labor unions, a similar campaign in Maine led by an organization called Our Power, and the American Public Power Association.
Earlier this month, we solidified initial support from every member of Rochester City Council to fund the study, and have been building support with County Legislators to encourage the County to fund this study in partnership with the City. Our next steps are to:
- Garner the support of Mayor Evans.
- Get the final draft approved by the Commissioner of Environmental Services with a quote for the cost of the study.
- Move a vote in City Council to approve the funding and begin the process to solicit the right firm to conduct the study.
- And, solidify a role for the Monroe County Government.
To join the fight or learn more, come to our “Introduction to RED” event later this month! Our volunteers and staff will lead a discussion on our experiences with RG&E, how our current energy system works, why we need energy democracy instead, and how we can get there through solidarity and strategic action. This introductory event will be on Wednesday, June 22nd from 6-8 PM at the Metro Justice Community Room. Dinner will be provided. For more details or to RSVP, please click here. You can also share our Facebook event linked here!
With your continued support, we will continue to make major strides towards winning affordable, clean, community controlled, energy for all Rochester residents. We have come a long way, but still have so much more to accomplish to reach our 100% carbon free by 2030 goal! Make sure that you have signed our petition, https://www.metrojustice.org/energydemocracypetition .
Our work has the most strength in numbers.
We have the opportunity to make a major impact in our community - on our environment - for our future generations.
Join the fight today!
Written by: Mohini Sharma - Lead Organizer
Michelle Wenderlich - Energy Democracy Organizer
Rochester For New York Health
If you are reading this newsletter, it is likely that you already know what the New York Health (A.6058/S.5474) is – it would cover every New York state resident (including undocumented people) for comprehensive health care coverage – from prenatal care to residential or in-home services for the elderly, and everything in between – medical, dental, vision, hearing, mental health and substance abuse. By replacing profit-driven administrative practices with a simple single monthly payment based on income, it will mean you can visit a doctor when you need to for no additional cost – no deductible, copay or coinsurance – and will overall cost billions of dollars less than our current system. You read that right. Covering every state resident for all of their health care needs costs less than the patchwork coverage we (well, some of us) get from our current, obscenely profitable private insurance system.
New York Health, when it passes (as it surely will, if we keep our current course) will save money for all of us, boost the economy (especially upstate) and make a huge positive impact on our physical health, financial health, and stress levels. But once again, the bill will fail to pass this spring in the NY legislature, despite strong support from our local representatives. Why? Was it another victim of the redistricting debacle? Did not enough people contact their legislators about it? Do not enough people yet even know about it? Or are wealthy and powerful insurance and pharmaceutical corporations using all of their political connections and some of their billions of dollars of corporate and personal profits to squash the bill?
How about all of the above! And do you know what? Every year we let more people know about New York Health, every year we learn a little more about how to organize effectively, and every year we get closer to passage. This year, despite continuing Covid restrictions, we taught more people how to tell their healthcare stories, canvassed more neighborhoods, had a regular party (and our first in-person meeting in months) to make signs for our annual visit to Albany, and during that visit we showed the Democratic leader that nothing will turn us back from getting our message through!
In the coming year we need to keep building on what we have already achieved, and grow our movement. This spring and summer we will be inviting the 300+ people who attended the May 14th Reproductive Healthcare rally to join us in making health care truly accessible; we will be working with Senator Samra Brouk and AM Sarah Clark to bring together local businesses to learn about New York Health and how it will impact them. And now is the perfect time for you to join the effort. We will be having a “June Jam” potluck at Genesee Valley Park, with a zoom component for those that cannot make it in person, on Monday, June 27th at 6 pm. We will bring everyone up to date on the movement, plan how to grow, and get ready to the word out, both here in Rochester and around the state. So mark your calendar now!
Next year, I want our Healthcare Committee Report to be all about how we won passage of the New York Health Act in May of ’22 and are gearing up to get the budget bill passed in 2023!
We can only do this with YOUR help! Please consider joining us today! Check out our latest developments and volunteer at www.metrojustice.org/healthcare .
Don’t have the opportunity to volunteer, but are passionate about the work that we are trying to accomplish? Your continued support through contributions is an important part of making forward strides!
Please consider donating today! www.metrojustice.org/donate
Written by: Alice Carli
Co-chair, Metro Justice’s Rochester for NY Health Committee
The Elder Justice Committee has been very busy since January 1, 2022. We have a new website which now has a temporary page up, a new telephone line to receive calls, new email addresses and a new logo as you can see above.
Legislative News: In 2021 New York State passed into law many nursing home reform laws including one regulating nursing homes to provide a minimum of 3.5 hours of nursing care per resident – per day. Another law regulates the minimum amount (70%) of revenue be spent on care, and of that 40% is to be used for resident facing staffing. Governor Hochul put a hold on these two laws but after much effort by advocates, including the Elder Justice Committee, the hold was lifted April 1, 2022.
We know that laws without teeth and enforcement are meaningless. That is why the Elder Justice Committee provided testimony for the 2022 Budget Hearings, asking that the DOH, which is responsible for much of the enforcement of the laws be provided funding to do so. On March 17 Elder Justice Committee continued our communication on the budget with our legislators via a joint ZOOM meeting. All of our area legislators attended or were represented by their staffers at the meeting.
Goals for 2022: that the DOH provides improved and effective oversight of nursing homes; that the 2021 and 2022 nursing home laws are implemented and enforced; and that nursing home residents and their representatives (i.e.: families) know their rights and that they are upheld.
Elder Abuse: Elder neglect, abuse and financial exploitation is a big but under reported problem. The Elder Justice Committee is presenting an Elder Abuse Awareness Day Forum on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, June 15 to increase awareness and provide practical help and solutions. Everyone is welcome. Here is the flier which includes location and how to RSVP.
For more information or to join us as we work to reform long-term care. You can contact us at [email protected] or call 585-397-3537.
Written by: MaryDel Wypych - Chairperson
Elder Justice Committee
Introducing our new Union Partnership Program!
Metro Justice has served as a bridge between unions and the rest of the working community. Over the years, we’ve been dedicated to bringing out the community in support of union efforts to unionize new shops, negotiate fair contracts, and strike. We’ve also sought union feedback and partnership in all of our issue campaigns, including the Fight for $15 and a union, the campaign for universal healthcare, and the campaign for public power. Metro Justice has had a long standing partnership with the local labor movement, fighting side by side for the betterment of protections and rights for workers. So it occurred to us, why not solidify this mutually beneficial partnership as membership? On April 5th we did just that with an exciting Union Membership Kick Off Happy Hour which took place at The Classic on Park Avenue!
The Union Membership Proposal was met with great enthusiasm from a group of around 28 of our esteemed Union Colleagues over a delightful spread of delicious food, and wonderful cocktails. Members of our host committee, Denise Young, Colin OMalley, Mohini Sharma, Larry Knox, and Nicole Maitland presented to the group addressing the long history of collaboration between Metro Justice and our local Union force, the call for further action to benefit our community, and how we plan to do just that through the creation of institutional memberships at Metro Justice for unions, so that unions become members of Metro Justice on an institutional basis. Union dues to Metro Justice would be on an annual basis at suggested Benchmark Tiers based on number of members. Metro Justice has committed to two seats on Council dedicated for members that are also union activists locally. This reflects current practice for nearly a decade already. We have also formed a Union Advisory Council. Unions will be entitled to send a delegate to two annual happy hours where union delegates will be briefed on the activities of Metro Justice by staff and the two Council members that are union activists. At this meeting, union members can discuss other work and campaigns that they are working on as well with staff and leadership of Metro Justice. This body would have a voice but no vote. Any proposals that they do move would still have to go to Council to take any effect. This means there is no necessary bylaws change.
The overall goal is to foster a closer relationship between our committees and union organizers in which we can support each other by listening to one another, public support, and grassroots activism in support of proposals and campaigns.
It was encouraging to hear the support that Union Leaders expressed at the Kick Off Happy Hour. It was abundantly clear that union members wholeheartedly recognize the importance that Metro Justice has played in their success in the past, and the benefits of what a closer working relationship can bring to their causes and expansion in the future. Additionally, many Union Leaders expressed their support for the importance of expanding Metro Justice’s membership base to support the important work that we do, and committed to the formation of a series of membership drives. We are already seeing success within this program, and are on track to exceed our goals for this year!
Metro Justice would like to formally welcome our Union Members!
Please join us in welcoming
Federation of Social Workers, IUE-CWA
1199 Service Employees International Union
Workers United, Rochester Regional Joint Board
We would also like to thank our esteemed Host Committee for their efforts in kicking off this important initiative
Many Thanks To:
Gary Bonadonna Jr - Workers United
Tracey Harrison - 1199 SEIU
Dan Maloney - Area Labor Federation/United Auto Workers
Christina Christman - Federation of Social Workers
Larry Knox - 1199 SEIU - MJ Council Member
Colin O’Malley - Area Labor Federation
We are looking forward to achieving great things in our community with our Union Partners!
Happy Hours are Back!
On May 13th, we re-introduced Happy Hours at the Metro Justice office. Nicole, our Fundraising and Membership Coordinator, invited potential and current members to come back to our community space to enjoy conversation, learn more about the organization, all while enjoying some refreshments, and a spruced up space. Mohini Sharma, Lead Organizer, and Council Members Marcus Dunn and Louis Ruiz joined in to talk with guests about the missions of Metro Justice, and why they have become a part of the organization. The conversations that occurred were productive, challenging, and overall exactly what we want to see when we gather in this safe space for change. As a result, we have welcomed two new members, and several new volunteers!
We would love to see these gatherings gain more momentum! Please keep an eye out for the next Happy Hour gathering.
Dates and invitations will be posted to our website and our social media pages. Keep an eye out in your inbox for email invitations as well.
This is What Progress Looks Like!
We have had a very promising quarter here at Metro Justice, and we will continue to make strides in our efforts. We hope that you have enjoyed the second 2022 edition of the newsletter. If there is something that you would like to see in the next edition of the newsletter, please feel free to reach out to Nicole Maitland at [email protected].
This year’s Annual Dinner planning is in progress. In consideration for the health and safety of our members as our nation still battles COVID 19, we will be holding another virtual dinner. We sincerely hope that next year we will once again be able to hold an in-person dinner. Details for the 2022 Annual Dinner will be forthcoming.
As always, I would like to thank the Metro Justice staff, committee, and Board members. Your dedication and hard work makes our progress possible. It is truly an honor to witness your complete and total dedication to our organization, its good work, and our community. We have so much to do, and are being bombarded with even more to fight for change! However, as we have proven time and time again, change is possible with loud voices and strong dedication!
The only way that we can do that is with the solidarity of our members! We would like to thank our members for their continued support, and offer this challenge: Do you have a friend or family member that would be interested in supporting our causes? If so, we would like to meet them! Please direct them to our website www.metrojustice.org , or bring them to an upcoming Happy Hour, join a protest, or join a phonebank! Dates for upcoming events will be posted to our website. We are strongest in numbers, and every single person counts in this work!
It takes so much to run this organization, and we couldn’t do it without your contributions. If you are not a member, please consider donating today towards the success of any one of our initiatives.
Donations can be made at www.metrojustice.org/donate
or by mailing a check to:
1115 East Main St.
Box 16, Suite 207A
Rochester, NY 14609
Thank you to our dedicated members for your continued support!
This Newsletter is dedicated to the Children, Women, and Men that senselessly lost their lives to violent gun massacres in Buffalo, NY and Uvalde, Texas
Rest In Power…We Will Fight for You Now
Say Their Names
Robert Drury, 32 - Tops - Buffalo, NY
Margus Morrison, 52 -Tops - Buffalo, NY
Andre Mackneil, 53 - Tops - Buffalo, NY
Aaron Salter, 55 - Tops - Buffalo, NY
Geraldine Talley, 62 - Tops - Buffalo, NY
Celestine Chaney, 65 - Tops - Buffalo, NY
Heyward Patterson, 67 - Tops - Buffalo, NY
Katherine Massey. 72 - Tops - Buffalo, NY
Pearl Young, 77 - Tops - Buffalo, NY
Ruth Whitfield, 82 - Tops - Buffalo, NY
Nevaeh Bravo, 10 - Robb Elementary - Uvalde, TX
Jackie Cazars, 9 - Robb Elementary - Uvalde, TX
Makenna Lee Elrod, 10 - Robb Elementary - Uvalde, TX
Jose Flores Jr., 10 - Robb Elementary - Uvalde, TX
Eliahna “Ellie” Garcia, 9 - Robb Elementary - Uvalde, TX
Uziyah Garcia, 10 - Robb Elementary - Uvalde, TX
Amerie Jo Garza, 10 - Robb Elementary - Uvalde, TX
Xavier Lopez, 10 - Robb Elementary - Uvalde, TX
Jayce Carmelo Luevanos, 10 - Robb Elementary - Uvalde, TX
Tess Mata, 10 - Robb Elementary - Uvalde, TX
Maranda Mathis, 11 - Robb Elementary - Uvalde, TX
Alithia Ramirez, 10 - Robb Elementary - Uvalde, TX
Annabell Rodriguez, 10 - Robb Elementary - Uvalde, TX
Maite Rodriguez, 10 - Robb Elementary - Uvalde, TX
Alexandria Aniyah Rubio, 10 - Robb Elementary - Uvalde, TX
Layla Salazar, 10 - Robb Elementary - Uvalde, TX
Jaliah Nicole Silguero, 10 - Robb Elementary - Uvalde, TX
Eliahana Cruz Torres, 10 - Robb Elementary - Uvalde, TX
Rojelio Torres, 10 - Robb Elementary - Uvalde, TX
Eva Mireles, 44 - Robb Elementary - Uvalde, TX
Irma Garcia, 48 - Robb Elementary - Uvalde, TX