Happy New Year! I'm grateful for many blessings this year, and offer this gift to you, dear reader, the wind in my sails. You can see the forecast, by sign, for the year 2016 on the Chicago Tribune website, distributed to about a hundred newspapers and periodicals. Or read on. Continue reading
UCSB professor’s new biography of the labor leader is one of few in the US to be written in Spanish By Jim Logan Monday, September 14, 2015 - 15:15 Santa Barbara, CA chavez.1.jpg victor-fuentes.jpg When César Chávez founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers (UFW), he did it mostly in Spanish. For more than 30 years, he inspired millions of people — and hundreds of books about his life and work. Oddly, however, few of the works about the acclaimed labor leader published in the U.S. were written in Spanish. Victor Fuentes, UC Santa Barbara professor emeritus of Spanish and Portuguese, has added to the catalog with “César Chávez y la Unión: una historia victoriosa de los de abajo” (Floricanto Press, 2015). The work traces Chávez’s life from his early childhood to his work in building the UFW into one the most influential labor and civil rights movements of the 1960s and ’70s. Fuentes also takes a close look at the last 10 years of Chávez’s life and work, a period seldom documented. “He was charismatic and a great leader,” said Fuentes, who knew Chávez and volunteered on the Spanish edition of the union’s newspaper, El Malcriado, at La Paz, Chávez’s compound in the Kern County town of Keene. “Most of the people who write about him concentrate on the ’70s. In the ’80s, the unions started losing their gains; that’s why I focused on the last 10 years of his life and work. He was very alive and struggling, till the very day of his death, and kept on pushing and moving on.” Although some recent writers have been critical of Chávez and his handling of the UFW in the late ’70 and ’80s, Fuentes holds that political and economic circumstances of the time crippled the labor movement. Neither Chávez nor the union could hold back the anti-union forces of the Reagan administration, California’s Republican governors and corporate America.“The union of course is not what everyone expected it was going to be — a great national union,” Fuentes noted, “but what happened to the unions in the country?” Today only about 7 percent of Americans belong to a union, down from a high of 36 percent in the 1950s. “He did make some mistakes, but it’s nothing compared with the great things that he did.” Continue reading
University of California Divests $100 Billion Fund from Coal and Tar Sands (California, September 10, 2015) -- It was announced late in the afternoon on Wednesday, Sept. 9 that the University of California's Investment Office has divested the university's nearly $100 billion portfolio from coal mining and oil companies focused on tar sands, in addition to implementing sustainable investing criteria across their investment portfolio. At the UC Regents' Committee on Investments meeting, Chief Investment Officer Jagdeep Bachher outlined: “We’ve gone one step further as part of our housekeeping and managing risks over the course of the year, and selling our direct holdings, to reiterate, in coal mining companies, oil sands focused companies.” This announcement comes just one week after the California State Legislature voted to compel CalPERS and CalSTRS, the nation’s largest public pension funds, to divest from thermal coal stocks. Fossil Free UC is a campaign of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members demanding that the University of California divest from the fossil fuel industry and reinvest in community-controlled solutions. The UC’s decision follows sustained student pressure, including powerful escalation this spring across the country at a dozen schools including UC Berkeley, Harvard, Bowdoin and Swarthmore. The divestment announcement came through the university’s Framework for Sustainable Investing, which was a product of a task force charged with investigating divestment last summer after students pressured the UC to do so. “This is a hard-fought victory for students and our allies from across California who have been demanding the UC truly live up to its big talk on climate change,” said Jake Soiffer, an undergrad at UC Berkeley. In the last three years, the Fossil Free UC campaign has passed student government resolutions supporting divestment at all UC campuses, along with graduate student and faculty association resolutions at Berkeley and support from the UCSB Academic Senate. This year students ramped up the campaign through a series of coordinated protests across the UC campuses—including an overnight sit-in outside the chancellor's office at UC Berkeley. Despite student pressure, the University of California Regents are still profiting off of the oil and gas industries, which are major polluters in California. According to Soiffer, “This is a much needed first step, but oil and natural gas are the most powerful polluters in California, and we expect the UC to take robust action on the biggest climate villains in their backyard.” Though the announcement is not accompanied by a change in policy to reflect divestment from high carbon assets, students are certain that this is a permanent shift in the operations of the investment office. “Basing this divestment on market circumstances just reinforces the magnitude of the global transition away from fossil fuel energy. We’re certain that the CIO’s office won’t renege on their commitment to climate leadership by reversing position and buying up shares in the dirtiest and most unprofitable fossil fuels.” said Alden Phinney, an undergrad at UC Santa Cruz. Fossil Free UC will continue pushing the UC to divest fully, including oil and gas, and reinvest that money back in the hands of communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis. Victoria Fernandez, recent UC Berkeley graduate, shared, “If the Regents are serious about climate solutions that means not just divesting from fossil fuel companies, but investing in a just transition away from fossil fuels and towards the non-extractive economy. There is no stopping this movement. We have glimpsed a future of dignity, justice and sustainability, and we are determined to make it real.” Fossil Free UC is a campaign of University of California students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members calling for fossil fuel divestment. They are supported by the California Student Sustainability Coalition & the Divestment Student Network.
It's the stealth launch! Our book was delivered from the printer (after working on this project since about 2007 or so) the day that a beloved friend died. Since then, we haven't had the heart to promote it or do events, but we're working up to that. I expect we'll have an art show in January with books, if not more gathering opportunities. Difference Makers has been a labor of love and honor. We're grateful to finally share it.