Aug. 24, 2012: David Oloroso & Diara Lo: Occupy the Midwest in Detroit; Angela Demarse & Windsor’s climate change adaptation planning

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Occupy the Midwest was a major conference that  “originated with a call to action from Occupy St. Louis looking to host a regional Midwest conference in the early Spring of 2012. Many cities answered the call and the conference was a great success for activists and occupations to network and share ideas and knowledge. Occupy The Midwest continues to evolve in working toward its goal of multifaceted coordination across the Midwest to strengthen the Occupy movement. Occupy The Midwest is looking to hold 2 conferences a year on a 5/7 month cycle during April and September.” 

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I spoke with two organizers of the Detroit gathering: Detroiter Diara Lo and David Oloroso from Chicago, and here they describe their involvement with Occupy the Midwest, and their experiences with the occupy movement and what had transpired so far on Friday: 

In this clip Lo and Oloroso sum up with the  “message is our method”:


Windsor’s riverfront is a remarkable achievement (Photo: Paul Chislett)

On Friday, Aug 17 a public information session regarding the city’s climate adaptation plans was held out at the Ojibway Nature Centre and OPIRG Windsor board member Angela Demarse attended the meeting in her capacity on  the environment portfolio with OPIRG Windsor:

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Sample: Years:

Aug. 17, 2012: Liz Benneian & Derek Coronado, three R’s vs incineration

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Recent news reports indicate that the GM plant between Walker Rd and Kildare has been sold for demolition and that a garbage recycling firm will be building a plant in that location. According to Doug Schmidt in the Windsor Star, the plan “…is for construction of a $200-million recycling facility designed to handle garbage brought in by rail and then treated by plasma gasification, a process purported to produce no harmful emissions or toxic waste. Plasco Energy Group Inc., which has been running a pilot project in Ottawa and is in the midst of public meetings for a full-scale plant given the green light by city council there, describes the process as “decomposition not combustion” of wastes in an environmentally friendlier way than traditional incineration or even landfilling.”

The report has galvanized Windsorites because of concern over the location of the plant and that the plant in reality is just some kind of incinerator. In a city with the highest unemployment rate in the country and with a skimpy recycling system in place – for instance we have no organic waste collection as many other cities have – the fear is the city will accept any project on the grounds it will create jobs and the city would not have to bother expanding its recycling capabilities. A meeting of concerned activists will have occurred August 17 at 11 AM at the Citizens Environmental Alliance to discuss this announcement and the fact that incinerator operators are on the prowl for places to set up shop.

Joining me by phone in the first half hour was  Windsor native Liz Benneian, founder of the Ontario Zero Waste Coalition and Manager of Public Education and Communications for the Oakvillegreen Conservation AssociationAsked about the meeting she’d be attending Benneian described what she’d bring to the meeting and gave a brief rundown on the history of incineration in Ontario as well as other fight backs: 

In this segment, Benneian describes working at the local level to make change:

In the second half hour we heard from Derek Coronado, coordinator of the Citizens Environment Alliance on this issue and the state of Windsor’s recycling program.

In this segment he gives a local perspective on the news reports of a possible incinerator site and queries the term in the Windsor Star headline of “recyclery”, a term it seems is reserved for refurbishing bicycles :


Klinec Manufacturing Workers

On Monday, Aug. 13, non-union workers at Klinec Manufacturing walked off the job after being told to take a $3 an hour pay cut from $13.80 an hour to the minimum wage of $10.75. A neighbour who has led campaigns against this company, for trucks on the residential street for example, saw the workers gathering outside the plant and alerted CAW representative Ken Lewenza Jr. I became involved as a worker advocate at the Windsor Workers’ Action Centre after hearing media reports and was invited to a strategy meeting with the workers on Tuesday, Aug 14 with the Klinec workers. There the workers explained their situation, the abuse they have suffered in the form of yelling and things being thrown by supervisors to make production go faster, of inconsistent shifts with inadequate breaks, and health and safety lacking. Many of the workers have been there for 10 to 16 years and put up with the inhumane working conditions since they were making what approached a living wage in a city with the highest unemployment rate in the country. But a three dollar an hour pay cut was asking too much.

Klinec workers block the main gate to enforce demands for fair pay and working conditions (Photo: Paul Chislett)

Approximately 50 people, many of them CAW members, and me for the WWAC, gathered at the gates of the company to prevent trucks and other workers from entering who had already been called up by the owner the day before. It was real  solidarity among community members and the workers were buoyed by that because they had a tough decision to make – and to be clear it was theirs to make and they choose dignity over further exploitation by turning down an insulting offer by an employer who never viewed as more than an unavoidable expense. The mood was high at the end of the afternoon after the third negotiation attempt failed to resolve the issue of wages. At that point the employer provided figures showing his tax arrears and other debts and this information, if accurate, indicated a business going under for lack of a proper cash flow. The employer said he expected more contracts to come in but the workers would not put any trust in his words. The workers could see they were screwed anyhow and if they went back to work it could likely be to simply pack up the last shipments and be stiffed out of their last wages. It was a brave decision and one made in defiance of all they had put up with.

In the end approximately 20 workers chose not to go back for inferior wages and abusive behaviour by employer. (Photo: Paul Chislett)

As this story continues to unfold the employer did provide the final pay cheques and paperwork for EI. It remains to be seen if the workers will have to fight for EI if the agency denies their claim for EI. Workers should not have to put up with inhumane working conditions only to be bullied once again with a cut to their wages. There are lessons here for all workers in precarious employment without unions, benefits, pensions and so on. Things will only get worse if we do not take a stand for fairness and justice in the workplace. How low can wages go if we think we can maintain a civil society? How long can we put up with a race to the bottom while income inequality rises and the rich get richer and workers get poorer? The answers lay in community engagement and solidarity building, in finding ways to create democratic control of the economy and create new ones with worker cooperatives for example. It was a wonderful experience to be with these workers on the line and get to know them and for them to see that others in the community wanted to be in solidarity with them simply because it was the right thing to do.  I’ll keep reporting on the fallout from this event and efforts will continue to help workers empower themselves in an increasingly predatory work world.

Featured CD in honour of the Klinec workers:

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Sample track: Factory Gates:



August 10, 2012: David Lenz and Windsor/Essex Pride Fest; Greg Zink and John Ralston Saul’s A Fair Country

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This 2012 version of Pride Fest Windsor-Essex got underway – the 20th anniversary of the event – last week, and continued till Sunday, Aug. 12 when the parade made its way through downtown to the riverfront.

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This is an important event in Windsor and both celebrates the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered community while calling for the whole community of Windsor/Essex to include itself during the four days the Pride Fest runs. With me in the studio was David Lenz, president of Pride Fest Windsor-Essex, and he is currently the Director of Development for the AIDS Committee of Windsor where he manages donor relations, campaigns and events for the organization:

On Friday evening, Aug 10 in Stratford, John Ralston Saul, perhaps Canada’s most celebrated philosopher/author will give a talk by “revisiting his best selling book “A Fair Country: Telling Truths About Canada” (See link to the right for more on this book).   Saul’s talk was  followed by a Q&A period with the audience and then he was available for book signings and some one on one conversation.

The talk  was hosted by the Green Party in Perth-Wellington. On the phone from Stratford was Greg Zink, president of the Green party in that riding: 

The myths about our country, from its founding to the idea of us as a peacekeeping nation, are necessary topics of discussion if we are to counter the inhuman onslaught of the global economic order which threatens to tear this country apart. I suggest that if you read Saul’s book you also read Yves Engler’s  Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping: The Truth May Hurt:

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Sample: Rules and Regulations

August 3, 2012: Return to Kitchener’s The Working Centre with Joe Mancini


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Back in January of this year I had on the program Joe Mancini, a director of The Working Centre in Kitchener. “The Working Centre is a non-profit, community-based, volunteer inspired venture that seeks to give individuals and groups access to tools and opportunities to become involved in the building of community projects in Kitchener-Waterloo and surrounding areas.” Some of the things that happen are a job placement centre, a café, bicycle repair shop, a thrift shop, housing, and so on. There are paid jobs and many volunteer placements.

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That interview came about because of what I call occupy Windsor ripples: I met photographer Doug Maclellan during Occupy Windsor and over the course of some conversations he spoke of this fellow and his wife who began a unique social enterprise in Kitchener way back in 1982 based on the values of the Social Gospel, Dorothy Day and the Catholic Workers movement, and thinkers like Ivan Illich and Paulo Freire; a deep and rich stew, so to speak, of human potential, social justice, and a belief that together in community all can find their place in a meaningful existence. A board of directors is responsible for the operation of the whole enterprise and Joe and his wife Stephanie take a modest salary for the day to day work they do running the enterprise.

 Last week, my wife and I, and Doug MacLellan took a trip to Kitchener to see the operation and were graciously hosted by Joe and his wife. Joe took us around to each of the enterprises and we started with lunch at the café (which includes a bookstore and large space for movie showings and social gatherings) and made our way to the employment help centre, the thrift shop, the St John’s Kitchen where meals are served, showers can be had and medical help is available. From there we saw the bicycle repair shop and the supportive housing complex.

Bike shop interior
Words of wisdom in a worker’s locker

A philosophical underpinning of this enterprise is Personalism. “Personalists stress the person’s nature as a social being. According to personalists, the person never exists in isolation, and moreover persons find their human perfection only in communion with other persons. Interpersonal relations, consequently, are never superfluous or optional to the person, but are constitutive of his inherent make-up and vocation.”

Joe Mancini gives a tour of the job search resource centre. Click image for more.

I hadn’t heard this term before I met Joe and his wife and like all philosophical terms it is complex and open to debate, but I saw it in action at the Working Centre and the idea is a healthy counter to the dead weight of global capitalism that is the exact opposite of what workers need in Windsor. How to get there is the challenge. I have here for you an edited version of the conversation I had with Joe about the Working Centre last January before I saw the place for myself this week: 


The City of Windsor needs your input on our draft Climate Change Adaptation Plan

 The City of Windsor is seeking public input on our draft Climate Change Adaptation Plan.  Adaptation to climate change includes any activity that reduces the negative impact of climate change while taking advantage of new opportunities that may be presented.   How do you think Windsor should adapt to the effects of a changing climate? Please read the plan and submit your comments to by Monday, August 20th.   For more information or to speak to the Environmental Coordinator, join us at one of our Public Information Sessions (see the public input poster).

 The first Public Meeting will be held on Thursday, August 16th at the Ojibway Nature Centre (5200 Matchette). Doors will open at 5:30pm and there will be a brief presentation about the draft Climate Change Adaptation Plan at 6:30pm. We are excited to announce that at 7:00pm there will be a presentation from Dr. Gordon McBean, professor at the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction at the University of Western Ontario and author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Dr. McBean will discuss the need for Southern Ontario to adapt to the weather extremes ahead.

Click image to link to report by McBean on effects of climate change

 We will also be displaying the draft Climate Change Adaptation Plan at Devonshire Mall on Saturday August 18th and Sunday August 19th and welcome your comments at that time.

 The Climate Change Adaptation Plan does not have a name!  Submit your suggestions when you submit your comments.

 If you would like to register as a delegate when the Climate Change Adaptation plan is brought before the Environment and Transportation Standing Committee on Monday, August 27th, please register with the Clerks office.

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Sample track: War Torn Man:

July 27, 2012: Travis Reitsma and his research on media bias during 2009 city strike; Robert Mittag and fighting city hall (you can win)

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Friday’s program was pre-recorded on Wednesday, July 25 and I had in the studio a couple of guests including Robert Mittag, aka, Rockin’ Robbee, here to play some blues stylings and also talk about his ongoing campaign to keep the spotlight on Al Magnieh’s continuing presence on city council.

But first, we heard from Travis Reitsma, local musician and a UWindsor graduate student who recently defended his thesis entitled: “How the Media View Public-Sector Workers: A Critical Discourse Analysis of a 2009 Municipal Workers’ Strike in Windsor, Ontario”, and the media focus was the Windsor Star coverage of that strike.

Here, Reitsma explains why generally the media is biased against labour, an overview of the 2009 strike and a brief description of  his research methodology:

Reitsma frankly explains how the labour movement in in trouble:


Al Magnieh has, as we know, decided to stay on council and wait till elections in a few years for voters to decide his fate. Many people thought the man’s transgressions as chair of the library board were serious enough that he should have resigned his council seat at the time, in addition to losing the position as chair of the library board. As these things go, the issue is out of the news cycle and Mr Magnieh continues to sit on council stripped of his committee positions. It seems a huge affront to democracy and that’s the reason Robert Mittag: aka Rockin’ Robbee has continued to attend council meetings with signs and a petition to ask Mr Magnieh to do the honourable thing and step down. Obviously, Mr Magnieh has no intention to do so and Ward 10 residents, strangely silent, will have to wait for election time to vote for someone else. I’m sure Mr Magnieh is hoping his constituents have short memories and will buy whatever line he will have to sell them if he runs again. In the meantime, Robbee has had a letter delivered to his door by Express Post barring him from attending city council or entering any property at city hall without written permission to do so. This prompted Robbee to seek the help of a local lawyer. At last Monday’s council meeting supporters of Robbee – not all of whom agree with his tactics as respectful as they are – attended the council meeting with him to challenge the city’s attempt to muzzle his right to freedom of expression: here’s what the letter said…

 Let’s not forget something as the Magnieh affair sinks out of the news cycle: the public library has been uprooted and de-stabilized. Oh sure, the place is operating as it sits stripped of the café with a book machine in its place, something installed under questionable circumstances as the CEO of the library has also disappeared as a result of his complicity in the misuse of credit cards with his pal Al. The other travesty is that these two have mismanaged the library to a point where it is supposed to be installed in the art gallery that I understand is now sans a café and gift shop – can you imagine an art gallery without a gift shop?

Mittag explains his reasonable  actions:

On Tuesday, July 31 a group of concerned citizens attended a discussion led by local lawyers Victoria Cross and Kendall McKinney on freedom of expression which I also attended. Here we learned that Robert is not alone and that it is routine to have similar letters sent to people every day. To receive a letter all it takes is an outburst of frustration at any city facility. As Cross pointed out, city hall is a public venue for political debate, a workplace, and an administrative centre. Mittag was doing his duty as a citizen in continuing to hold Mr Magnieh to account and the city used a heavy handed method to try and bar Mittag from legitimately expressing himself. A the meeting on Tuesday the Windsor Committee for the Defense of Freedom of Expression was formed: stay tuned!

Rockin Robbee insists: He Won’t Back Down:

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association got involved in this serious breach of Mittag’s rights and click the image to read their letter to the city of Windsor

The city has since rescinded the ban on Mittag. As you’ll note, the letter banning Mittag mentioned nothing about a 30 day expiry, yet that is the reason the city solicitor gave for lifting the ban.