February 2000

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Thurs., Feb. 3 1:00­3:00 p.m.

Board meeting at the office. All welcome!

Mon., Feb. 7 5:30 p.m.

Alliance For Democracy. 1531 Fulton. For info, 415/567-5348.

Thurs., Feb. 10 10:00 a.m.­noon

SAN, "Community Policing." St. Mary's Cathedral, 1111 Gough.

Thurs., Feb. 10 6:30 p.m.

Lawyers Guild presents Battle in Seattle, a video and panel discussion of

the recent WTO debacle. Golden Gate University, Auditorium A, second

floor, Mission between 6th and 7th Streets. Free.

Tues., Feb. 15 6:00­8:00 p.m.

Food Forum: genetically modified food vs. conventional vs. organic.

Koret Auditorium, Main Library. Free.

Tues., Feb. 15 12:30­3:00 p.m.

General Meeting. Wende Chan will lead us through the devious passages

and wording of the March 7 ballot measures. Wende's always

analytical and clear and we suggest you bring friends who might find her

explanations helpful.

Wed., Feb. 16 12:00­2:00 p.m.

Campaign to Abolish Poverty presents Envisioning San Francisco as a Full

Employment City in the Latino/Hispanic Community Room at the Main

Library. Free.

Sat., Feb. 26 10:30 a.m.­12:30 p.m.

OWL. Getting Rid of Clutter presented by Charlene Richter, professional

organizer, and Judy Cress, Central City Seniors Unit. Info call


Sat., Feb. 26 Regional Gray Panthers meeting in Sacramento

Mon., Feb. 28 Civil Disobedience and Legal Demonstration demanding a new trial for

Mumia Abu-Jamal. U.S. Court of Appeals, Mission and 7th St. Info


"Things are seldom what they seem,"

in the ballot measures schemes

Our March 7 ballot contains the usual number of propositions worded to present each measure as a panacea for all our ills. We will examine those on which we will be voting with Wende Chan, a talented analyst on the political scene.

Wende looks at more than just the words in these measures and predicts the possible effects on our daily living, pocketbooks and the repercussions for the future. Bring your Voters Pamphlet with you and be prepared to ask questions and bring your concerns to our attention. And bring your activist friends to ask the probing questions about measures that will affect all our futures.

Melee in Seattle

Saturday, January 15 the Gray Panthers of S.F. hosted a panel discussion and open mike on the implications of the recent international gathering of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle. It was one of our best meetings.

Paul Cheney, a college teacher who wrote his master's thesis on globalization, gave a comprehensive history of the beginnings of the WTO. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the United Nations were all involved.

While globalization is better than nationalism, the present and proposed governance system of WTO is an obstruction to a truly fair globalized trade structure, including the wise sustainability of human, social and environmental considerations. Paul is a working member of the Alliance for Democracy.

Rhoda Norman described her experiences in forums presented on the days leading up to the protests. Her narrative touched on Global Exchange, Alliance for Democracy, Public Citizen, church groups and progressive leaders in the U.S. Congress, Jubilee 2000 (a global campaign to cancel the debts of countries with extreme levels of poverty and environmental distress), and Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (Poclad) which provides an essential history of the rise of corporations and their increasing power through the years.

At the session on the WTO and the Global War System, it was pointed out that the military, military products and the international weapons trade are all exempt from the WTO!

Clare Corcoran was a participant in Art and Revolution and Ruckus Society street theater and direct action protests. Props were constructed along with education on the philosophy, principles and strategic actions of non-violent participation. Decision-making before and during the protests followed civil rights and anti-war models.

A wide-ranging open mike discussion followed, focusing questions and comments upon strategies to "fix or nix" the WTO and contain the spread of excessive violence used by the police to break up peaceful demonstrations.

Comments heard after the meetingbalanced, informative and provocative. The issue is very complex and requires deep thought and action to effect changes that will benefit all countries, rich or poor.

Health Focus

As soon as our membership meeting adjourned (see above) seven hardy Gray Panthers rushed to their next affair, "O Canada, Healthe Care Myths from our Norhtern Neighbors." The speaker and host at this forum, presented by Health Care for All/S.F. and California Physicians Alliance, was Karen Palmer, an independent consultant on public health with a special interest in comparative Canadian/U.S. health policies.

Ms. Palmer gave a succinct, documented discussion of the feasibility of single-payer health insurance, how it works in Canada, and how beneficial it would be to the U.S. Her information is not news to Gray Panthers but is most reassuring in its documentation. If you wish a refresher course on the subject her speech is available on the net. For more info from Health Care for all call 415/695-7891

Universal single-payer health care is a major campaign for the Gray Panthers, both nationally and locally. We are planning a forum on "Imagine Universal Health Care in San Francisco" for our membership meeting Sat., March 18.

Nearly one in four Californians24.4 percentdo not have insurance to cover doctor bills or prescription medications, according to a new report by researchers at UC­Berkeley and

UCLA. That's compared with a national average of just 17 percent.

On a national basis, to paraphrase a report from Tim Fuller, our national director, we seek to accomplish our goals with two primary means: issue mobilizing with coalitions and constituency organizing. Issue mobilizing relies mostly on organizations and populations already convinced or committed to a particular position or policy (Universal Health Care 2000 [U2K]) and aims to bring these forces into a collective alliance for the most effective influence. Constituency organizing moves from organizations to individuals to empower specific groups either in neighborhoods or population clusters. Our local activities described above fall within the first of these strategies.

What can you do right now? Help organize our March forum with ideas on a picture of U2K in S.F. such as a little street-theater type skit, anybody? Join with Neighbor to Neighbor in calling candidate Bill Bradley toll free at 1-888-643-9799 and tell him you want a single payer/universal health care plan.

On the Employment/Poverty Scene

On February 16 the Campaign to Abolish Poverty/Full Employment Coalition is sponsoring a symposium, "Envisioning san Francisco as a Full Employment City." Plans include reports from key government agencies including the Department of Human Resources, City College, the Private Industry Council (PIC) and community-based organizations (CBOs); Equal Rights Advocates, Chinese for Affirmative Action; CBOs that receive PIC funding.

There will be updates on parts of the local full employment legislation including living wage ordinance, job vacancy surveys and first source legislation. Action Strategy Groups will be formed based on needs determined by this symposium.

This symposium is a Gray Panthers kind of event and we urge members to attend at the Main Library, Latino/Hispanic Community Room, Wednesday, February 16 from noon to 2:00 p.m.

And from the Press

'90s Boom Was a Bust for State's Poorest

Across the nation, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorereven during the boom-boom '90s and especially in California. According to two Washington think tanks, for two decades the state's have-nots have not benefited from a surging economy and the middle class has seen its inflation-adjusted income steadily decline. The poorest 20 percent of the state's families saw their average inflation-adjusted income fall $1,410 or 10 percent. The wealthiest fifth California Families gained $s2,020 or 18 percent, the Economic Policy Institute and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported.

What will happen when (not "if") we have the next recession?

Welfare Reform = Welfare Repeal!

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 did not reform welfare so much as repeal and deform it. The law eliminated many kinds of grants, placed life-time limits on receiving assistance, and mandated workfare for everyoneregardless of health or family responsibility.

Now that we have effectively eliminated the safety net that FDR installed to forestall another '29 holocaust, what will happen in 2009, or 2029, or whenever?

A good reason to attend the above symposium!

Some Light on the Labor Scene

Labor leaders celebrated the largest increase in union membership in more than 20 years, saying they reversed a downhill slide by appealing to white-collar workers.

According to the Department of Labor's Bureau of Statistics the 16.5 million union members in 1999 represented an increase of 265,000 workers from the year before. But while the country added 2.7 million jobs last year, the overall percentage of workers who carry a union card remained at 13.9 percent. Union membership was at more than 30 percent at its peak in the 1950s.

In the vanguard, last year 45,000 doctors joined unions and 75,000 home health aid workers unionized in California. Right on!

"Hindsight" from John Bryan

Berkeley poet Diane Di Prima recently told me that during Seattle Week she monitored news staries about "protest in many countries. It's the first time in years I've heard that term used so much," she said. "I think we're in for a whole new decade of protests."*

"I'm supremely confident that it will be duplicated," said Jeff Perlstein of the Independent Media Center. "It takes tremendous energy, passion and commitment, but in Seattle we organized around a coalition of Ruckus, Global Exchange and the Rain Forest Action Network as well as others like Art and Revolution. They were doing street theater, giant puppets, giant parades and non-violence training."

Perlstein said that several strong, charismatic people took the lead. They included Sally Soriano and Michael Dolan, field director of the Citizen Trade Campaign, a Ralph­Nader-oriented group out of Washington, D.C.

Planning began last February. Getting official support from the AFL­CIO was a "long, convoluted process" but it ended up putting 30,000 union members on the streets Tuesday and turned the tide against WTO. Even Bill Clinton had to go along with labor.

People of color joined through LELO, the Labor Employment Office. Tyree Scott led there. Perlstein said a conscious effort was made to get more people of color out on to the streets.

"We had a problem early on with the whole coalition," he said. "It was not colorful enough. LELO broadened our base."

Perlstein said that the most important lessons learned in Seattle included methods of "combining direct action strategies and media activism strategies. A big aspect is creating an infrastructure for organizing, for education and communication.

"We're creating a new movement that's international. Protest groups from all over the world are starting to learn about each other and figure out who's on the map and then communicate. We're learning to trust and coordinate. In Seattle amazing convocations went on all week. A lot of solidarity was created."

I took lots of great pictures. I got gassed a couple of times. They used tons and tons of a really inferior tear gas mixed with pepper spray on over 30,000 potential tourists.

I got home all right on the Greyhound bus.

*1/29/00. Diane Di Prima is psychic! At the latest World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, more than 500 protested including smashing the local McDonalds.!

The Newsletter of the San Francisco Gray Panthers is published each month, and distributed free of charge to members and friends of this nonprofit organization.

Editorial Board: Rebecca Hirshleifer, Mitzi Raas; Publisher, Astrid M. Spector; Art Director, Fannie Biderman; Proof, Lurilla Harris; Circulation: Harold Greenblatt and Mary Francis Smith. Printed by Graffik Natwicks; Webpage design: Barry Simpkins

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