SPANISH UNIVERSITY & RESEARCH STAFF GOING ON STRIKE ON OCTOBER 21st

Read a news commentary about the successful first action (Spanish only).


The Spanish labor union CGT (Confederación General del Trabajo) organizes a strike of University and Research staff for the next 21st of October 2020. This is the first time that this sector is calling for industrial action at the national level, and will hopefully establish the first of many fights aiming at winning decent working conditions for all members of staff and the end of neoliberalization of education and research—we fight towards university and science for the people. We build on internationalism to strengthen our position; the recent wildcat strikes of the University of California, and the strikes all over higher education in the UK by the UCU union are important references to follow. The current health crisis, due to COVID-19, shows that the working class cannot wait in order to organize the struggle. The many climate crisis that are to come must find a strong labor movement. Let us unite. Let us fight.

Why are University and Research sectors striking?

Over the past years, employees at universities and research centers have seen how working conditions deteriorate. The current COVID crisis made the situation even worse; employers are rapidly worsening labor conditions, intensifying job insecurity including safety measures.

Our inability to act strongly during the lockdown and after has allowed the Government, along with management teams at universities and research centers, to rule against workers. For example, staff were not involved in drafting plans for returning to work, negotiations on ongoing conflicts were suspended and causal contracts not renewed. This came in a moment in which institutions need more staff, and in better working conditions, in order to guarantee health and safety—let alone high quality of education and research.

This is not a time to be patient, as we are told from above, but a time to fight against the marketization of education and research. Time to fight for our working conditions.

Serious conflicts in these sectors remain as relevant today as ever: illegal and casual contracts, not a single upgrade in job stability demands, outsourcing, absurd staff hierarchies, increasingly higher fees for students, and evaluation criteria for staff still promotes levels of competitiveness that are harmful for both staff and education/research.

We need to stop the neoliberalization of higher education and research. We demand a model for the benefit of the working class. We fight for:

  • Funding 100% public and managed by staff.
  • Free education. Reduce student fees by 100%.
  • No staff hierarchies. Equal pay for equal work.
  • End casualization.
  • Work-life balance.
  • End outsourcing.
  • Change evaluation criteria to promote cooperation over competition.
  • Prioritize health and safety concerning COVID-19.

These are some of the most urgent demands, but there are plenty reasons for organizing the struggle. Let all members of staff unite and fight. Let’s start. Many voices; one fight.

We call all members of staff of universities and research centers for strike action on the 21st of October.

 

Statement on COVID-19 Pandemic

SftP Statement on COVID-19 Pandemic                                

The COVID-19 Pandemic has generated multiple crises across healthcare, economic, and social systems in the U.S. and across the world.

Progressive and radical organizations must rise to meet the immediate challenges of these crises, while also working to replace the failing systems that gave rise to them. We must practice solidarity by aiding impacted communities and by marshaling scientists and scientific resources in these efforts. We demand accountability for the effects of these crises from government, financial, and social institutions. We must support institutions conducting, supporting, and applying scientific research related to the pandemic. 

The pandemic is causing great harm not only due to direct effects of COVID-19 on health, but also through economic devastation affecting livelihoods, housing, transportation, medical care, education, access to nutrition, and all systems necessary for our health and well-being. Physical distancing and anxieties regarding the pandemic will have negative impacts on mental health and social relationships, with even greater impacts on working people laid off amidst financial collapse. Meanwhile, the absence of adequate resources for healthcare, combined with the focus on protecting the financial sector, lay bare the priorities of the capitalist system. 

People in low income and marginalized populations, often with compromised health and denied adequate healthcare long before the pandemic, are the hardest hit. Current government assistance plans proposed during this crisis have been woefully inadequate and leave out major sections of the population: the unemployed, the houseless, the disabled, people who are imprisoned, and the vast majority of people with no wealth and much debt, who are disproportionately people of color. We demand that their needs are put first in public assistance programs dealing with the pandemic. 

It is crucial that we grow and amplify scientific knowledge amidst this pandemic through responsible transparent research and technological development.  Building knowledge about the virus and the disease, including publicly available resources for genomics, epidemiology, infection control and vaccine development will improve containment and medical treatment. Centering vulnerable populations in our priorities will help protect them and build the best overall public health strategy; when vulnerable populations have good healthcare, care is better for everyone. Projections of the extent and severity of COVID-19 are crucial for planning strategic deployment of resources; testing must be universally available and implemented. We demand that any science and technology developed to respond to the pandemic are available for all, without profit or patent.

Nurses and other healthcare workers are on the front lines of fighting the pandemic and face great risks delivering care. Supporting these workers is critical for public health. They must have access to the personal protective equipment, adequate testing resources, and training programs needed to stay safe while providing care. Additionally, we must support the right of these workers to form unions and engage in collective bargaining to support their interests. Public funds must be allocated to greatly increase the number of healthcare professionals and to adequately compensate them. We demand that all public and private healthcare institutions listen to and meet the needs of nurses and healthcare workers.

The workers who are ensuring adequate supplies of food, transportation, and other essential supplies by continuing to go to their jobs through the pandemic, are mostly underpaid and lack the resources to choose to not show up. Farmworkers, many of whom are migrants in precarious situations, are continuing to work in the fields. We demand that these workers be given adequate pay, benefits, and protection immediately, not only during the pandemic but permanently.

Production of masks, protective clothing, ventilation systems, isolation rooms, and other protective equipment must become a top economic priority, to be provided free wherever needed. Universities, research institutions, government agencies, the military, and private enterprises that have personal protective equipment in their inventories must offer these resources to support medical response to the pandemic. We demand that healthcare and essential service workers be given proper personal protective equipment for their safety.

This pandemic shows us the impact of neoliberal defunding of public health institutions and attacks on science, education and  public media. Stopping and reversing this trend is critical for our survival. The exorbitant funds allocated for the military and state security apparatuses should be immediately reallocated to public health and social support systems. Professionals with expertise and experience in infection control must be given the opportunity to provide honest communication to the public. We demand truth in reporting and accurate data about the pandemic.

Local efforts to support these needs and control the pandemic should be supported. However, there is a pressing need for more adequate infrastructure and leadership from the federal government. We must support, politically and financially, institutions such as the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health, while at the same time greatly increasing the funding and political support for community health organizations and State and local health departments. We must develop and implement strategies for increasing the cooperation and collaboration of local health departments with the national institutions such as CDC. Combined, these measures help lay the groundwork for implementing the necessary programs for combating the pandemic and ensuring public health. We demand adequate funding and support for public research institutions.

The pandemic is a global phenomenon. It cannot be addressed by isolationist, xenophobic and  nationalistic “America First” policies. Internationalism and anticolonialism must guide collaborations across the world, for sharing research and resources, and for learning from best practices wherever they are occurring. In particular, sanctions that prevent countries such as Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela from accessing needed medical equipment and supplies must be suspended or cancelled.We demand a global and peaceful response to the pandemic.

Science for the People stands in solidarity with all people across the world as we work together to end the pandemic. We ask that scientists uplift these demands and provide aid where they can.

Science for the People

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College Park Chapter Report

The College Park (University of Maryland) chapter of Science for the People is just getting started. This semester, we’ve been hosting biweekly discussion groups as we try to find a core group and gain a better understanding for what important on-campus issues we’d like to work on. So far this semester we’ve discussed issues like how experts should interact with democracy, the science of sex and gender and how it relates to transgender rights, and climate change and ecological economics. At this point, we have 5-6 regular participants who are clearly interested in building a larger, more capable group.

Like any university, Maryland has plenty of issues we could tackle head-on: Vice called the University of Maryland America’s most militarized university; our proximity to DC allows for easy activism on federal politics (Congressional visits, etc); and the university is currently experiencing some political pressure from students who want us to cancel a contract with ICE. We’re looking forward to the spring semester and figuring out exactly how we can move from our regular reading groups to real action.

Ann Arbor Chapter Report

The Ann Arbor chapter of SftP has recently focused on the issues of climate change, reproductive justice, and solidarity strategy.

Actions around climate change have primarily been in collaboration with the Climate Action Movement (CAM) at the University of Michigan to put pressure on the U-M President and administration to develop a plan for carbon neutrality that is aggressive and incorporates the principles of environmental justice. SftP members were instrumental in aggregating data to assess University progress toward climate goals and, with CAM, developed a set of emissions reductions targets in accordance with the the latest IPCC recommendations for limiting warming to 1.5C. SftP and CAM members drafted resolutions based on the recommendations, which were then passed unanimously through student and faculty governments. Current work is focused on garnering a commitment in adherence to these recommendations from the President and Regents of the university, with tactics including official testimony, op-eds in university publications, and organizing direct actions.

We have also been working to introduce those engaged in climate action to a larger critique of the social structures at the root of the climate crisis. Along these lines, we have partnered with the local Marxist Collective to host Jason Moore for several speaking engagements at the University this Spring. Jason Moore is an environmental historian who is known for his books and essays on environmental history, capitalism, and social theory. Furthermore, a subgroup of SftP members are actively advocating to incorporate a course in the core curriculum in the School for Environment and Sustainability at U-M that more adequately incorporates environmental justice, critical analysis and environmental ethics.

SftP members have conducted a number of direct actions in solidarity with larger campaigns. These have included: 1) targeting events hosted by banks responsible for financing environmentally destructive pipelines with blatant disregard of indigenous land and rights; 2) advocating for effective and unbiased local police oversight; 3) debunking pseudo-scientific claims made by an anti-immigrant speaker.

Ann Arbor SftP periodically facilitates Science for Who events with an open discussion between panelists and community members about a specific area of science and its interplay with society-at-large. Our upcoming topic will revolve around reproductive justice, with invited panelists having expertise in the history of eugenics and genetic counseling, women’s studies, and reproductive ethnography. Science for Who has provided an informal setting (over food) to engage with and learn about the deeper implications of a variety of fields and served as the first point of contact with SftP for many members.

East Tennessee Chapter Report

Science for the People East Tennessee research party

The East Tennessee chapter of Science for the People is centered in Knoxville, but the activities of our membership extend to Oak Ridge and into the rural areas of the region. The largest research institutions in the area are the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory – the largest research and development facility for the US Department of Energy. We began to form around the time of the 2017 March for Science. Many of our members had been involved in both labor and environmental activism long before the emergence of SftP or the contemporary science movement in general. So, when it came time to plan and execute the local March for Science, we saw it necessary to strengthen the linkages between our organizing and our jobs as science workers. In building the march and speaker roster, we sought to build unity between the voices of people often marginalized within science, the campus and research workers that make science happen locally, and environmental justice organizations. We felt successful in steering the message of the march towards a distinctly radical tone—advocating the necessity of system change to address climate change, lifting up the struggles of marginalized and oppressed people within science, and promoting these struggle above banal “science advocacy.” Overall, the march helped us understand the balances of forces operating within the local science community and develop strategy for building our chapter over the coming months and years.

It took us some time to get into the rhythm of chapter building. We hosted a screening of the documentary Command & Control, about nuclear weapons accidents in the US, on the UT Knoxville campus in fall 2017, with about ten people showing up to learn more about SftP. This event went okay, but it probably would have done better to focus on SftP itself, rather than the content of the film. So, we reoriented our activities towards engaging with students and science workers we had personal connections with to bring them into to fold of SftP to learn about organizing in general, the struggles within science, and to think more deeply about how to engage in our local community.

We began hosting regular meetings in early 2018, with much of the content centered around discussing topics of organizing practices in general, our personal struggles within education and research, and thinking about how to engage with existing movement work locally. One of the lessons learned from these meetings is just how eager many people in the sciences are to learn about political organizing. A common theme in sharing our experiences in the sciences was how institutionally repressed we were from both engaging in political activism and coming to understand science in political terms. Therefore, the meetings became a space where we were sharing our knowledge and skills with one another, introducing each other to concepts familiar to political organizers but less so to scientists, while discussing how we could put this knowledge to practical use. When sharing our memories of the past year, many of our members felt strongly that this was one of the more useful aspects of our meetings.

Through our discussions, coalition building with other movement forces emerged as a primary goal for our work. In particular, there was real concern that if we weren’t careful, we might duplicate the efforts of existing movement groups operating within the region, which might be seen as pretentious or chauvinistic coming from a group of scientists. We took this concern to heart, so rather than plan our own campaigns, we reached out to existing groups in the area to help them with their already existing work. For instance, our members assisted with data entry for Appalachian Voices to aid with their campaign to build bottom-up membership power within rural electrical co-ops. Our members also turned out to support the longstanding efforts of Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM) to hold the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) accountable at hearings for their multitude of failures in the region, especially regarding the 2008 Kingston coal-ash spill. This environmental catastrophe killed over 30 cleanup workers and caused severe illness in several hundreds more of the one thousand workers, due to severe and deliberate negligence on the part of the contractor responsible for the cleanup.

SOCM routinely monitors the permit applications submitted to TDEC for wastewater, hazardous waste, and more. In the fall of 2018, one of the organizers for SOCM approached us concerning a hazardous waste permit application from a chemical plant operated by Dow Chemical subsidiary Rohm & Haas. This plant is located in the heart of Knoxville, in a high density neighborhood where predominantly working class people, people of color, and students live. The plant had racked up a series of wastewater violations in the past due to leakages of volatile organic compounds into the groundwater and nearby stream, so there were major concerns regarding permitting the storage of thousands of gallons worth of hazardous waste on site. As such, there was an opportunity to build coalition between SOCM and SftP and to engage in a shared campaign of awareness raising and to call for a public hearing regarding the plant. According to Tennessee state law, TDEC must comply with requests to host a public hearing regarding any new or renewed permits.

We requested that TDEC host a public hearing and we set ourselves to the task of raising awareness about the plant, and organizing community members and students to attend the hearing. From the outset, we understood that it was probable that the permit would be granted, but we saw this as the first step in long-term organizing for environmental justice in the area that intersected with class and racial dynamics. As such, this was a good chance to grow our collective skills and strengthen our solidarity. To build the coalition, we reached out to a long-standing student environmental group on the UTK campus called Students Promoting Environmental Action in Knoxville. SPEAK allowed us to come to their meeting to talk about this project and SftP in general, and many of the students were very curious about the permitting process and excited to turnout to the hearing. In preparing for the hearing, we hosted a research party to collect information about the history of Rohm & Haas, analyze the details of the application permit, review state and federal environmental law, and to prepare a community briefing document to enable people to make informed comments at the hearing. The research party was undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable and meaningful activities we have done together, as it allowed all of our members to put their scientific knowledge into service.

At the public hearing, we put all of this effort into action. As is typical, the state environmental regulators put forward a canned powerpoint full of assurances regarding their monitoring of the plant. When it came time for our members and coalition partners to comment, we brought the science in a strong and righteous way that demonstrated our prowess as scientists and commitment to serving the people. Each of us comes from different disciplinary backgrounds, including public health and environmental engineering, and our comments showed that our concerns were to be taken seriously. The local press coverage of the hearing reflected this, as they reprinted much of the strong commentary we brought forward. Many of the environmental regulators present expressed in private that they were impressed with our comments afterwards. We learned that, in addition to voicing these concerns at the hearing itself, it helps to prepare a solid written statement in conjunction, as these written statement are reviewed by the state beyond the hearing itself and can have an impact in the decision-making of the regulators. To carry this work forward, we are planning environmental “know your rights” trainings for community members in urban and rural areas to raise awareness and provide education on spotting environmental violations in these environmental, legal rights regarding the environment, how to effectively engage the state regarding these issues, and how to organize for environmental justice in ways that go beyond relying on government agencies.

Overall, we’ve learned a lot over the past year or so in building our chapter and working on our first campaigns. We hope to continue growing our membership base, strengthening our coalition partnerships, and demonstrating our solidarity with everyday people in the region. We also hope to create linkages with other chapters and to share skills and share organizing work to build Science for the People! You can reach out to us at sftpetn@gmail.com.

New York City Chapter Report

For the New York City chapter of Science for the People, the past few months have been defined by newfound potential to mobilize people power and grow our roots within the surrounding activist community. For many of our public appearances, we partnered with activists from organizations such as Democratic Socialists of America, Movimiento Cosecha, and Columbia’s Graduate Worker Union. In these efforts we strove not just to band together at public demonstrations, but to nurture our allyship through ongoing collaboration–giving organizers the floor to present at our bi-weekly chapter meetings, hosting art-build parties at apartments and public spaces, and leading topical discussions that related to the campaigns we’ve supported. Additionally, we’ve forged goodwill with local venues such as Verso Books, Bluestockings, Caveat, and Star Barr, where we hosted and co-hosted panels, fundraisers, film screenings, and even participated in science-themed nightlife events.

During the summer, amid the disturbing reports of the Trump administration’s xenophobic immigration policies, we launched a campaign to implicate the use of scientific developments, specifically in the tech sector, to expand militarism and enable governmental agencies to further violate human rights. As workers at major tech corporations began to demand accountability from their employers, we amplified their message in order to draw attention to the connections between corporate control of technology and human marginalization and de-normalize the practice of prioritizing profit over people. Our campaign started small, with a series of efforts such as: petition sharing, leafleting, picketing, and joining protests with our tech-implicating messaging. By July 31st, the influence of our campaign reached a culmination point, as we mobilized hundreds to take to the streets in heeding Cosecha’s national call for action.

After weeks of planning in collaboration with Cosecha NYC, organizers within our chapter staged a picket, march, and civil disobedience, where we disrupted midtown rush-hour to demonstrate at flagship Microsoft, Salesforce, and Amazon locations in the city. At the brick-and-mortar Amazon on 34th street, we created a booming spectacle with protestors chanting and singing and the Rude Mechanical Orchestra driving the energy with boisterous music. We shut business down with a human blockade that dared to hold the line until put under arrest. Coming out of this action we leveraged our momentum to draft a solidarity letter with tech workers, assist in the establishment of a NYC Tech Workers Coalition chapter, and raise awareness by picking up media attention.

As fall set in, we shifted to strategy and outreach events by supporting academics, authors, and community organizers in the execution of panels, discussions, and rallies. In the spirit of SftP’s legacy of international solidarity work, we supported Scientists for Palestine in executing the Second International Meeting for Science in Palestine, a multi-day conference that brought together academics, students, and scientists from Palestine and the international scientific community to collaborate on implementing concrete plans to bolster the access and achievements of scientific pursuits for Palestinians. Locally, we engaged with the community through Verso’s climate change panel series, where we expanded our network with SftP flyers, merchandise, and newsletter sign-up sheets in tow.

Presently our subscriber list is 300+ strong! Follow our activity on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pg/SFTPNYC and our newly launched website at https://nyc.scienceforthepeople.org.

Boston Chapter Report

The Boston chapter of Science for the People has passed through several stages since the rebirth of the organization on a national level in 2014. Currently, with the incorporation of new members inspired by the national convention in Ann Arbor in February 2018 and by politically oriented science events in Boston, the chapter has more than a dozen active members and many more who occasionally participate in chapter meetings. Most of the active members are associated with five universities around the city as students, post-docs, or faculty and represent a range of disciplines, such as physics, mathematics, oceanic and atmospheric sciences, bioengineering, public health, history and philosophy of science, with a few journalists, editors, and others not affiliated with universities.

The chapter has been consolidating itself through now twice-a-month meetings that include presentations by members and/or discussions of readings. Topics have included biodeterminism (presented by Jonathan Beckwith, one of the original members of Science for the People), the ideology embedded in artificial intelligence, gender/race/caste in science, a chapter on Lysenkoism by Levins and Lewontin, ongoing efforts to increase private-sector involvement in the US space program, and the politics of geoengineering technologies to mitigate climate change.

Boston Science for the People seeks to raise awareness of the political nature of science and technology among academics, STEM workers, and the public. The chapter has raised the profile of Science for the People through organizing or participating in public events such as the 2018 March for Science in Boston, a panel on feminist science in action during the MIT Day of Action, separate events to promote the new books Science for the People: Documents from America’s Movement of Radical Scientists and The Truth is the Whole: Essays in Honor of Richard Levins, and a session on Science for the People at the Solidarity in Action teach-in at UMass-Boston. Possible future projects being considered by the chapter are to organize a public lecture/discussion series at diverse venues around the city and to take responsibility for writing/editing an issue of the new Science for the People magazine.

Twin Cities Chapter Report

Cheers from the Twin Cities chapter! It’s been 6 months since our initial group met with Chris in June, and three months since we kicked off our first public meeting in September. We’re all looking forward to a new year!

As we move forward, it’s good to take stock of where we’ve been. In the beginning, there were just six of us. We began meeting in cafés, inviting friends, and having conversations: not only about SFTP’s history, but what we wanted for our future. This is a process that hasn’t stopped. As our group grew, and continued to lurch toward action, we finally convened ourselves for a four-hour retreat where we laid out our mission statement for the TC Chapter and planned our big public kickoff–where over 30 people attended!

Since then, we’ve been working to develop organizational norms, processes, and governance, all while bringing in more input from our growing membership. Some informal working groups were formed, though coordination has proven a little tricky thus far. As many people who have gotten involved thus far have multiple affiliations and are involved with other like-minded actions, it’s been an open matter of discussion among the organizers about how to best strike a balance between convening (our own events), participating (as an organization in others’ events), and more simply connecting (our members to different organizations and actions that align with interests). As with our many questions before, we’ll undoubtedly converge as a group towards a norm over time.

Here’s a list of some of our highlights thus far:

  • LOTS of workplace lunches, where we share in each other’s joys and struggles
  • Semi-regular book club meetings around the SFTP book chapters
  • Tabling at Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice summit organized by the People’s Climate movement
  • Leading Discussion at the Twin Cities Social Justice Education Fair (a branch of the IWW)
  • Drafting and Circulating a letter in support of Dr. Blasey-Ford signed by over 450 scientists and allies
  • Allying with efforts to build an environmental justice movement at the University of Minnesota
  • Collaborating with the Kitty Anderson Youth Science Center (a justice-focused youth science group) at the Science Museum of Minnesota
  • Hosting Sheila and Frank Rosenthal from Indiana, long time SftP members, during a Minnesota trip
  • Supporting efforts by the Agroecology and Rural Economics Research Corp

Things we’re looking forward to:

  • Involvement in resisting Line 3 construction with other activist groups and water protectors
  • Continuing to build solidarity and connections with intersectional organizers in the Twin Cities
  • Developing our norms and structure around governance
  • Setting up our website!

If you know anyone in the Twin Cities or Greater Minnesota, tell them to like our page on Facebook, sign up on our mailing list and share it with anyone they may know! We look forward to getting more involved nationally and getting to know many more of you all very soon. Until then, we leave you…

Report from the Western Massachusetts Chapter of Science for the People

Members of Western Mass Science for the People in Hennessey Park (Springfield, Massachusetts) participate alongside Arise for Social Justice in a Juneteenth Celebration
Members of Western Mass Science for the People in Hennessey Park (Springfield, Massachusetts) participate alongside Arise for Social Justice in a Juneteenth Celebration

The Science for the People blog periodically publishes reports from our chapters across North America. To find a chapter near you, or to start your own chapter, email sftp.revitalization@gmail.com.

The Western Massachusetts chapter is an eclectic and dynamic group with a core of about ten people who regularly participate and about seventy people on the mailing list. Our greatest strength lies in the diversity of experiences and perspectives we bring to the table, along with the many exciting intersections in our interests. We include community organizers, research scientists, historians of science, teachers, and students/recent alums—and many of us fall into more than one of these categories.

We meet weekly, rotating between the campus of UMass Amherst and the offices of Arise for Social Justice, a grassroots organization in Springfield. This allows us to be plugged into multiple communities and facilitates coalition work, for example with the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition. Public events this year have included a book talk at UMass with political agroecologist Jahi Chappell; a community discussion on mold, housing, and health at Arise; and tabling at two neighborhood gatherings in Springfield.

Many of our meetings include discussion of an article, short story, or video. In addition to reading some of the articles on geoengineering from the new SftP magazine, we often discuss materials related to geology, agro-ecology, space exploration and the militarization of space, and science fiction. We have future plans to continue exploring these and other issues.

Our most sustained campaign to date involves raising awareness and effecting change on the problem of mold, housing, and health—mold is a major factor in the high rate of respiratory illness in Springfield. At the center of this campaign is SftP member Tatiana Cheeks, a Springfield mother who has developed much expertise on the subject as she fights the mold that has caused her son to suffer respiratory illness in their rented apartment. Locating our meetings at Arise has provided many opportunities to learn from community organizers working directly with homeless people and tenants of slum-lords, making our understanding of mold contamination broader and more socially and politically informed.

The other big project that we’ve taken on is a workshop for K-12 teachers on science and social justice, which we hope to offer in the spring. The workshop would provide 15 hours of contact time so that teachers could receive 1 graduate credit and professional development points. We plan to introduce teachers to several conceptual frameworks for seeing the connections among knowledge of self, knowledge of society, and knowledge of nature. These frameworks will help teachers integrate three areas that are often treated separately: STEM, social studies / language arts, and social justice activism. We expect to provide approximately ten practical examples that draw from our diverse areas of expertise, including solidarity science (focusing on the mold campaign), geology in social and political context, agro-ecology and food justice, the ecopolitics of built environments and urban planning, and more.

Our website has recently undergone transformation and better reflects some of the exciting work we’ve been doing: http://westernmass.scienceforthepeople.org. We hope people will come visit us—whether in person or on the web!

Science for the People in support of Microsoft workers’ demand to end contract with ICE

In June, 2018, a wave of tech worker activism grew around the call for several companies, prominently Microsoft, Salesforce, and Amazon, to cancel their contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Their struggle is linked with our mission as Science for the People to fight for equity and justice in our application of science and technology, and as such, several of our chapters organized local actions to offer external support to the tech workers’ efforts. This article offers a brief summary of what happened and informs our next steps in pushing these companies to discontinue support with ICE and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as one step in a broader movement for worker control over the direction of scientific research, innovation, and application.

New York City

Two events were held in New York City: the first was an after-work picket outside Microsoft’s flagship store on June 30, and the second was part of Movimiento Cosecha’s Day of Action against businesses complicit with ICE on July 31. Around 25 people joined at the former event to leaflet, chant and picket to call attention to Microsoft’s support for agencies that were separating families at the border. By July 31, the family separation component of the ‘zero tolerance’ policy was significantly scaled down, but still many children were and continue to be detained away from their families in private prisons that subject them to forced psychotropic drug consumption and sexual abuse–some never to be reunited.
Meanwhile, worker campaigns continued to grow in momentum, leading the immigrant rights’ group Movimiento Cosecha to put out a call for a day of action making clear that #WeWontBeComplicit with companies that support ICE in order to enhance external pressure in tandem with workers’ campaigns. We built off our initial picket by growing a coalition alongside Movimiento Cosecha, the International Socialist Organization, Rise and Resist and Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM) to organize a march between Microsoft, Salesforce and Amazon downtown with pickets at each location. Outside of Microsoft, tech workers offered their support for our action while finishing their workday.

Outside of the 41 Street Microsoft office as part of the Movimiento Cosecha Day of Action on July 31, 2018
Outside the Bryant Park Salesforce office for the Movimiento Cosecha Day of Action on July 31, 2018

Our movement grew as we marched first to Salesforce, where the Rude Mechanical Orchestra joined to support our chants. On the way to Amazon, we disrupted rush hour foot traffic as by then we were hundreds in size. In the end, six people were arrested outside of Amazon for refusing to allow business as usual while children are imprisoned and tortured in the name of racist immigration policies. Through this action we extended our coalition to include not only scientific workers but also social justice and immigrants rights groups. With continued pressure from both inside and out, we can and will force these companies to #CancelTheContract. And ultimately, we will #AbolishICE.

March to End Family Separations across the Brooklyn Bridge on June 30

Atlanta

On Saturday evening, July 14, Science for the People (SftP) Atlanta in coalition with Metro Atlanta DSA rallied its members and allied tech workers in the halls of Lenox Square Mall in front of the Microsoft store in solidarity with migrants and Microsoft workers protesting their company’s contract with ICE.

After SftP and DSA members engaged in one-on-one conversations with Microsoft store employees to inform them about the ongoing petition, explain its demands, and express our organization’s support with the MS workers’ petition, the larger group of activists gathered in front of the store with signs and chants to draw attention to the cause. Flyers with Microsoft workers’ demands and ongoing petitions to end the contract with ICE were passed out to a large crowd that had gathered soon in the hallway around the store. To our surprise, many passerby joined the protest raising their voice in solidarity and chiming into our choir: “No Tech for ICE!”.

Metro Atlanta DSA and Science for the People members with No Tech for ICE signs in front of the Microsoft store at Lenox Square mall.
The protest action at the mall gathered much attention by passerby, many of whom showed interest in the cause and even joined the chants: “What’s disgusting? Family busting! What would be nice? No tech for ICE!” and “No hatred! No fear! Immigrants are welcome here!”

As anticipated, this spectacle was cut short. Police officers from the mall precinct eventually accosted the protesters and hustled the speaker out of the mall as the crowd booed, but they made no arrests. Watch a video recording of the Lenox square mall picket.

As noted also in the report by our allies from the Metro Atlanta DSA, this unfortunately interrupted the team’s plan to observe a moment of silence to reflect on the life of Efrain De La Rosa, who died by suicide the week before the action in ICE custody at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA. Any death in ICE custody is murder, facilitated by Microsoft technology and corporate profiteers. Despite the disrespect shown by Atlanta police, we can take a moment now to express love and solidarity for our Latino brother, Efrain De La Rosa: ¡Presente!

Boston

Coinciding with the Families Belong Together national day of action on June 30, SftP’s Boston chapter organized with Microsoft researchers and the local Solidarity chapter to flyer and make signs outside the Microsoft NERD Center in Cambridge. Thirty activists then marched to meet the main Families Belong Together event on Boston Common and talk to march participants about the link between tech labor and immigration injustice.

On July 11th Science for the People Boston, Tech Workers Coalition, ACLU Massachusetts, and LOGIC magazine hosted a panel discussion at MIT. Panelists were Sasha Costanza-Chock a scholar, activist, media-maker, and current Associate Professor of Civic Media at MIT; Kade Crockford, the director of the Technology for Liberty program at the ACLU of Massachusetts and MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellow; and Valeria Do Vale, the Lead Coordinator at the Student Immigrant Movement and an undergraduate at Northeastern University.

What’s Next?

In early June, Google engineers compelled the company to not renew Project Maven, a contract with the Pentagon using AI to improve drone strike accuracy. The success of their campaign—and recent outrage about human rights abuses by ICE—have inspired similar efforts at Amazon, Microsoft, and, Salesforce.

While these companies have not cancelled their contracts, pressure is growing. Microsoft has released two statements related to their complicity in supporting ICE–the first of which was a direct response to their January blog post proudly proclaiming support for the agency ahead of the outcry over the family separation  policy, and a more recent post largely deflected from the core message of the Microsoft workers’ letters by focusing exclusively on facial recognition technology and the role of government in regulating it–not on the company’s existing ICE contract.

Salesforce also faced immense shame after RAICES, the legal firm responsible for the defense of many detained immigrants, rejected a $250,000 donation from the company while they continue to hold their ICE contract. The letter from RAICES explicitly called on the company to follow its workers’ demands.

Amazon, most shamefully, expressed its pride in serving the police and ICE by providing facial recognition technology. Its workers also face the most severe repression for organizing around this policy and have not gone public with their identities for fear of retaliation. To contextualize what they face, Amazon recently called the police on its own European workers while they were on strike, which led to severe state violence against those workers. Amazon has shown its dedication to profit by any means necessary, but like any historical institution, it is fallible.

That these companies were forced to acknowledge the internal and public outcry around their ICE contracts shows that they feel the pressure. Indeed, workers at several other companies have been successful in calling on their companies to cancel ICE contracts, including the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. For the tech companies we targeted, Science for the People is committed to acting in solidarity with workers at these companies and to building external pressure until they stop supporting ICE and CBP.

Will you join us?