Dreamers Mobilize to Save DACA and Resist Trump
Interview with Carolina Borotolleto, activist with the group United We Dream and co-founder of Connecticut Students for a Dream, conducted by Scott Harris

As long expected, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Sept. 5 that the Trump administration is ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The DACA program, initiated by President Obama with an executive order in 2012, benefited immigrants without serious criminal histories who were younger than 16 years old when they arrived in the U.S. before 2007. An estimated 800,000 young undocumented immigrants, 91 percent of whom are now employed, currently benefit from DACA protections.

With this announcement, no new DACA applications will be accepted, but the administration will allow DACA recipients with a work permit set to expire before March 5, 2018, the opportunity to apply for a two-year extension. Trump’s Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke stated there would be a six-month delay for current DACA recipients to give Congress time to pass alternative legislation.

In making the announcement, Sessions condemned DACA, as Donald Trump often has, labeling it as unconstitutional and “unilateral executive amnesty” that has taken away hundreds of thousands of jobs from Americans. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Carolina Borotolleto, a DACA recipient who came to the U.S. from Brazil when she was 9 years old. She’s now an activist with the group United We Dream. She discusses what the end of DACA will mean to her and nearly 1 million other young immigrants – and the protest actions organized in response to Trump’s decision.

CAROLINA BOROTOLLETO: DACA works. It’s an excellent program. I think there’s a statistic that says that over 91 percent of people who have DACA are working, and those who are not working are in school, usually in college. So it’s been a program that’s really been a lifeline for a community – it’s allowed undocumented people like me to be able to pursue careers, get jobs, to support their families. So taking away DACA is really a cold-hearted decision because it disrupts the lives of so many immigrant communities and families, schools, places of worship, employers.

But I guess that the fact is that we’ve known that this would be a possibility since the election, really. This is something that Trump ran his election on saying that he was going to take away DACA. So we’ve been expecting, but we’ve been preparing for this since Nov. 9, 2016. And the fact that it’s you know, seven months after Trump took office and we still have DACA, I think is a testament to both that it’s not a politically good decision for him to take away the DACA program, and it’s also a testament to the large amount of support that exists for this program, both within the immigrant community and also outside the immigrant community.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Carolina, what kind of preparations have you made in the event DACA is abolished and you yourself face deportation, as well as family members that you arrived here with?

CAROLINA BOROTOLLETO: I guess personally, I’m not really sure what I’m going to do, but I do know that no matter what happens, I want to keep fighting for the rights of immigrant communities. We’ve always known that DACA was just a temporary stop-gap measure. It’s not law, it’s just an executive order, so we’ve known it was temporary so we’re still going to keep fighting some more.

BETWEEN THE LINES: What will the fight look like? What kind of preparations has your group locally and the national United We Dream organization made to defend DACA, as the Trump administration moves to close it down?

CAROLINA BOROTOLLETO: Well, here in Connecticut, we’ve been trying to get all elected officials to show their public support for DACA. And so, a few weeks ago, we got Connecticut delegations – Sen. Blumenthal and the five congresspeople to sign onto a letter in support of DACA that was addressed to then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, by asking him to keep the DACA program in place. And then we got the attorney general to voice his support for DACA and sign on to a letter saying that he would like to DACA program in place.

BETWEEN THE LINES: And I’ve heard that preparations are being made for a massive fast is being planned in Washington, D.C., as well as protests, rallies and vigils across the country to bring attention on this issue. Tell us a little bit more about that if you could.

CAROLINA BOROTOLLETO: So, tomorrow (Sept. 5) about 40 or so of undocumented youth are going to get on a bus at 4 a.m. and go down to Washington, D.C. for a national day of action to defend DACA. So there will be a large rally, followed by some smaller actions. Then some youths are going to take part in tomorrow, and tomorrow also begins a weeklong fast that some organizations are organizing down in Washington, D.C. They’re going to be fasting for five days to show their support for DACA and the moral crisis that taking away DACA would cause for communities.

I believe there’s a week of action down there in Washington, D.C. So we’re sending people down there for the whole week and they’re going to do actions at members of Congress’ office and try to meet with members of Congress to keep pushing for a legislative solution.

BETWEEN THE LINES: You know, there’s been a lot of attention on white supremacist groups – the KKK, the Nazis – a lot of hateful organizations who have been emboldened by Donald Trump’s election to the presidency. Carolina, what are the links in your mind between this drive by the president to abolish DACA and white supremacy that seems to have come out of the shadows since the election?

CAROLINA BOROTOLLETO: I think the effort to end DACA is just another step forward in the white supremacist agenda for this administration. A lot of people benefit from DACA, other people of color. By saying that you want to take away this program and potentially deport people, what you’re is that you know, immigrants, especially immigrants of color, don’t belong in this country and they need to be taken out. So I think the criticism of DACA, which is such an economically successful program, really has its roots in xenophobia and white supremacy.

For more information, visit United We Dream at unitedwedream.org; We Are Here To Stay at weareheretostay.org; Defend Daca at defenddaca.com and on Twitter at ; Action Network at twitter.com/TheActionNet; CT Students for a Dream at ct4adream.org.

Fight For $15 Labor Day Protests Demand Living Wage and a Union
Interview with Angel Candelario, a Burger King employee from Hartford, CT who marched for $15 an hour and union representation on Labor Day, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

Along with more than 300 other cities across the U.S., Hartford, Connecticut, hosted a Fight For $15 march and rally on Labor Day. About 200 fast food workers, other low-paid workers and their allies rallied in front of a McDonald’s restaurant, then marched two miles past many more fast-food franchises and held a rally in front of a downtown church where workers from the food, day care and home care sectors talked about the need for a livable wage and a union.

The national workers alliance known as ‘Fight for $15,’ was founded in 2012 and backed by the Service Employees International Union, which has initiated other successful organizing drives including the Justice for Janitors campaign. With their Labor Day rallies, Fight For $15 is launching a campaign to defeat anti-worker politicians across the U.S. in 2018.

While covering the Hartford Fight For $15 rally, Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus met Angel Candelario, a 37-year-old Burger King employee. He explained how it’s impossible for him to support his family on Connecticut’s minimum wage of $10.10 an hour, especially when, like most fast food workers, he doesn’t work full time. He recounts that although he was hired 7 months ago at 20 hours a week, he has since seen his hours cut in half. Here, Candelario, who has suffered from leukemia since the age of 8, talks about why he became active in the Fight For $15 movement and the importance of having the right to join and be represented by a union.

ANGEL CANDELARIO: Because I started standing up for myself and fighting for or my rights and actually believing in everything with this movement, and my management knows about me and this movement, they’re not pleased with it, so now my hours got cut from 20 to 10 and I only get 5 hours for 2 days a week, Saturdays and Sundays. But I only bring home $60 and some cents. So right now, it’s like, Let’s fight.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Is this the only job you have?

ANGEL CANDELARIO: Right now, yes. At one point I was doing a temp agency job. I was working installations, and then Burger King. But due to my health issues and difficulties, I’m not able to. So I had to reduce to just one job.

BETWEEN THE LINES: So how are you surviving?

ANGEL CANDELARIO: I’m not. If I was to say yeah, I’d be lying to you. I’m just living off my sister or my mom or my ex-girlfriend. That’s the truth.

BETWEEN THE LINES: How does that feel to you?

ANGEL CANDELARIO: Degrading. At the end of the day, it’s degrading. It hurts, man pride. You know that good stuff – man ego. But right now with this fight, they got my back. They make me feel it’s all right. You have to stand for something. If not, you’re going to fall for every single thing they throw at you in life. So for today, I’m standing for everybody, not just for myself. I’m standing for the people that was afraid to come because they might get in trouble with their job. But it’s gonna be all right. It’s gonna be all right.

BETWEEN THE LINES: So, how do you think … first of all, if you could get paid for 40 hours a week, $15 an hour – do you think that would be an acceptable salary to live on?

ANGEL CANDELARIO: Yes. Let’s think about it though. Our movement is called “Fight for 15 and a Union.” If they say, OK, Connecticut, here’s $15, but we don’t have a union, the management still has the right to take the hours from you – so here’s one day of work a week, $15 dollars an hour, 8 hours. What then? So we want that union because the union’s gonna guarantee us safety. The union’s gonna treat us like a family, the union’s gonna pay attention to our hours; the union’s gonna make sure that once we sign that dotted line to get a job, we gonna get 30 hours, nothing less but better.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Is there a specific union you’re wanting to join?

ANGEL CANDELARIO: If I was to join a union, it’s a blessing. To pick one – I didn’t even know we could pick one. But to have our own and have our own backbone, because now we understand. Seven months ago I wasn’t part of this. I was afraid to even speak to the union because at my job I was told to walk away from the union, don’t talk to the union, don’t interact with the union, you are capable of getting fired if you interact with the union.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Which is illegal for them to say.

ANGEL CANDELARIO: (sighs) But men and women today don’t have the proper knowledge on what is what, on what is the rules and regulations that is happening behind closed doors. What we can or cannot do, what we can say. Who can we talk to and go to the proper chain of command. I would love to create our own union; that’s my answer. And if we had the opportunity, and by the grace of God we do, we’d like to create our union. We are family. These are my brothers and sisters in the same common struggle every day.

BETWEEN THE LINES: What other fast food places or other businesses are represented here? You work at Burger King; what are some of the other ones?

ANGEL CANDELARIO: It’s a list. We have McDonald’s. We have Burger King. We have Wendy’s. We have Taco Bell. We have under-the-table restaurant workers. We have people who work in car washes. We have people, secretaries of dentists. They want to believe in this. We have medical people that want to come over here and protest with us.

BETWEEN THE LINES: You said you had health issues. Under the Affordable Care Act, do you have any health insurance?

ANGEL CANDELARIO: Under the Affordable Care Act, I have HUSKY. Burger King offers medical, but if you sign this piece of paper waiving your medical rights, we can make sure you get over 30 hours a week. That’s what I was told. Excuse me – me being a young man, naïve, I signed. I signed, so now I don’t get no medical, nothing, my medical’s weak, and my hours are weak.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Burger King told you if you signed a waiver…

ANGEL CANDELARIO: If you sign this piece of paper we can guarantee you over 30 hours, because we can’t really give you benefits and also provide you 40 hours. I bit the bullet because I didn’t understand. I was still naïve, still immature as to the rules and regulations. But now that I understand it, I bet it won’t happen to the next person. I won’t allow it.

BETWEEN THE LINES: If you talk to your fellow workers, can you talk about any of the other struggles that your fellow workers have had to deal with, making only $10.10 an hour?

ANGEL CANDELARIO: There’s a young gentleman I was working with at a restaurant under the table – great pay because it’s under-the-table – we get the cash, you know? But this gentleman lost a tooth, and he’s undocumented, and because of that he can’t go to a regular dentist. He has to pay cash, to get seen as a favor, because of his legal situation. It’s unbelievable, that people get hurt and can’t get workman’s compensation. You get hurt and you can’t complain about it to your boss, because what are you going to do? Either you get fired or suck it up, or you get one day off.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Without pay.

ANGEL CANDELARIO: Without pay. So, I want to tell everybody that if you have a fight you want to stand up for in your life, anything, one moment, one day, Fight for 15 is the movement.

Learn more about Fight For 15 at hfightfor15.org.

Unchecked Development and Deregulation Exacerbated Hurricane Harvey’s Destruction in Texas
Interview with Robert Buzzanco, professor of history at the University of Houston, conducted by Scott Harris

Hurricane Harvey was a Category 4 hurricane when it slammed the southeast Texas coast on Aug. 25. But when Harvey downgraded to a less powerful tropical storm, it then dumped torrential rains that flooded the region with a record 52 inches in some areas. After countless homes were flooded, more than 53,000 Texans were forced to seek shelter with the aid of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. According to news reports, FEMA expects nearly one million applications for aid stemming from Hurricane Harvey.

Houston, America’s fourth largest city is now drying out, but municipal, state and federal officials say that it will take years to fully recover from the storm that killed 60. President Trump has asked Congress for an initial $7.9 billion for Harvey recovery efforts. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott estimated that the cost of recovery could be as high as $180 billion.

Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Robert Buzzanco, professor of history at the University of Houston, who examines how the absence of zoning laws, unchecked development and deregulation of the fossil fuel and chemical industries in the city contributed to the scale of the destruction wrought by Hurricane Harvey and endangered public health.

ROBERT BUZZANCO: In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison, which was the worst until this one hit, between 2001 and 2010, 167,000 acres of green space were plowed under and turned into asphalt and so that’s really kind of the way Houston kind of reckons with these things. We have more – they keep on using the word “development” – I don’t like that word, it’s Orwellian. But you can see maps. The local paper had map of Houston, you know, over the last 5 years, the last 10 years, the last 15 years, the last 20 years. In areas where there was once parks or greenspace, or whatever, which are now basically concrete, so there is nowhere for the water to go.

There are two reservoirs west of Houston, Addicks and Barker and those are rated One, which is the lowest rating by the (Army) Corps of Engineers. In both cases, they were ready to break and they had to do controlled releases and deliberately flood neighborhoods in order to avoid them breaking, which would have been utterly cataclysmic. When these things happen, you hear a lot of you know, kind of hand-wringing and people’s alarm. But nothing gets done. And in fact, the regulations become even easier to build, and you see more construction and more strip malls, big apartment buildings and townhouses and things like that going up. So, if you look at the data, if you look at the topography, we actually have a lot less green now than we did, even though these storms get incrementally worse.

It’s a recipe for greater disaster, obviously.

BETWEEN THE LINES: I’ve read that the city of Houston, the fourth largest city in American has no zoning regulations. That there’s just unchecked development as far as the eye can see with no restrictions for flood plains, and other critical infrastructure that most cities take into account when allowing buildings to go up in certain vulnerable parts of the city.

ROBERT BUZZANCO: It’s true. Usually when you read these, you take them with a grain of salt. But it’s true. There’s no zoning, there’s really no regulation. No one’s unaware of the problem here, and there’s an outcry about it in the immediate aftermath of these, and then it just gets stopped. I call it cowboy capitalism here in Texas. You know, the government’s bad; we don’t want people telling us what to do, we don’t regulations. It’s going to cost us jobs.

Texas has touted itself as different and kind of an economic miracle, and you know, a lot of time when the rest of the country is suffering really bad economic downturns, they’re less severe here. But that kind of becomes the excuse to do nothing, because things are going well and if we start caving in to “treehuggers,” we’re going to lose jobs and the economy is not going to be as good. As so then inertia sets in and nothing gets done, and it’s like the old joke. You got a hole in your roof, when it’s raining you can’t fix it, and when it’s dry, it’s as good as anybody’s roof. That’s kind of the way they look at things.

BETWEEN THE LINES: There are these eight trailers of organic peroxides that we’ve all been reading about that have caught on fire and extremely noxious and toxic smoke is going far and wide around the town of Crosby there. Then Lt. Gov. Abbott, who’s now serving as the Texas governor had put in place some regulations that allowed chemicals like Arkema to keep secret what they have in their chemical plants. Any my question, you’ve got a lot of people living in this region who they themselves, or their children are being exposed to this, yet the government and these corporations are conspiring with each other to keep it secret and not allowing some kind of transparency so people can protect themselves. It seems another case where self-interest is being trumped by corporate interests.

ROBERT BUZZANCO: Absolutely, I mean, I don’t know what to say. Even the first-responders, when they first got there, they didn’t know what to expect. So about 21 of the first wave ended up in the emergency ward of the local hospital.

Yeah, they are aware of what’s going on. I mean, you know, I don’t who owns it, but I’m pretty sure it’s a French companies so the owners probably aren’t there. Even the local managers probably don’t live next to the plant, and it’s just not in their interest. I think if all of these 500 facilities told everybody in the neighborhoods where they’re located what was there, I think a lot more people would be a lot more concerned.

But the governor, as you said, (unintelligible) the West Texas, actually made it easier for them to withhold this information. Once toxic chemicals are emitted into water, they can go anywhere, they’re not confined. But we always say, “Well, this is the one that’s going to force people to act,” and let’s hope it does. But, if you live in Texas– I’ve been here for over 20 years now – I’ve heard that many times. I heard it after Allison in 2001. “Well, we’re going to have to do something now.” And you know, actually, what they did was pave up even more land ,you know, in the interests of these corporations, especially the petroleum and chemical industry. You know this is one of the most industrialized cities in the world, and really, the kind of the world capital for what they call energy. You would think in their own self-interest, right, to maintain their own stability, they would do something – maybe this time they will. But we’ve heard this before. Those of us who live there.

Video interview with Robert Buzzanco on Hurricane Harvey at vimeo.com/231443737.

This week’s summary of under-reported news

Compiled by Bob Nixon

Since late August nearly 60,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees have fled growing violence in Myanmar to Bangladesh. The ethnic Rohingya have faced brutal repression in recent years at the hands of Myanmar’s majority Buddhist population. A new wave of violence erupted after a small group of Rohingya insurgents attacked military outposts. Burma’s military quickly counter-attacked burning and clearing out Rohingya villages. (“Myanmar Conflict: Bangladesh Police Allow Rohingya to Flee,” BBC, Sept. 2, 2017; “Ap Explains: How the Insurgency behind Myanmar Attacks Grew,” Washington Post, Aug. 31, 2017; “Aung Sang Suu Kyi’s Office Accuses Aid Workers of Helping ‘terrorists’ in Myanmar,” The Guardian, Aug. 28, 2017)
Laboratoria, a computer skills training school runs coding programs in Mexico, Chile and Peru and recruits ambitious young women to train for high paying tech jobs that are increasingly in demand across Latin America. The program is now seen as a model for skills training to expand the middle class throughout the Americas. (“The Latin American ‘lab’ Where Women Are Learning to Code across the Employment Gap,” Christian Science Monitor, May 3, 2017)
Four years ago, President Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder adopted a policy known as “smart on crime” — reforms that directed federal prosecutors to defer using harsh mandatory minimum sentences when dealing with low level, nonviolent drug offenders. (“How Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump Have Restarted the War on Drugs,” The Guardian, Aug. 21, 2017)

ON Between the Lines | September 8, 2017 | 9:00 am

Dreamers, Fight For 15, Harvey

Dreamers Mobilize to Save DACA and Resist Trump
Interview with Carolina Borotolleto, activist with the group United We Dream and co-founder of Connecticut Students for a Dream, conducted by Scott Harris

As long expected, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Sept. 5 that the Trump administration is ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The DACA program, initiated by President Obama with an executive order in 2012, benefited immigrants without serious criminal histories who were younger than 16 years old when they arrived in the U.S. before 2007. An estimated 800,000 young undocumented immigrants, 91 percent of whom are now employed, currently benefit from DACA protections.

With this announcement, no new DACA applications will be accepted, but the administration will allow DACA recipients with a work permit set to expire before March 5, 2018, the opportunity to apply for a two-year extension. Trump’s Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke stated there would be a six-month delay for current DACA recipients to give Congress time to pass alternative legislation.

In making the announcement, Sessions condemned DACA, as Donald Trump often has, labeling it as unconstitutional and “unilateral executive amnesty” that has taken away hundreds of thousands of jobs from Americans. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Carolina Borotolleto, a DACA recipient who came to the U.S. from Brazil when she was 9 years old. She’s now an activist with the group United We Dream. She discusses what the end of DACA will mean to her and nearly 1 million other young immigrants – and the protest actions organized in response to Trump’s decision.

CAROLINA BOROTOLLETO: DACA works. It’s an excellent program. I think there’s a statistic that says that over 91 percent of people who have DACA are working, and those who are not working are in school, usually in college. So it’s been a program that’s really been a lifeline for a community – it’s allowed undocumented people like me to be able to pursue careers, get jobs, to support their families. So taking away DACA is really a cold-hearted decision because it disrupts the lives of so many immigrant communities and families, schools, places of worship, employers.

But I guess that the fact is that we’ve known that this would be a possibility since the election, really. This is something that Trump ran his election on saying that he was going to take away DACA. So we’ve been expecting, but we’ve been preparing for this since Nov. 9, 2016. And the fact that it’s you know, seven months after Trump took office and we still have DACA, I think is a testament to both that it’s not a politically good decision for him to take away the DACA program, and it’s also a testament to the large amount of support that exists for this program, both within the immigrant community and also outside the immigrant community.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Carolina, what kind of preparations have you made in the event DACA is abolished and you yourself face deportation, as well as family members that you arrived here with?

CAROLINA BOROTOLLETO: I guess personally, I’m not really sure what I’m going to do, but I do know that no matter what happens, I want to keep fighting for the rights of immigrant communities. We’ve always known that DACA was just a temporary stop-gap measure. It’s not law, it’s just an executive order, so we’ve known it was temporary so we’re still going to keep fighting some more.

BETWEEN THE LINES: What will the fight look like? What kind of preparations has your group locally and the national United We Dream organization made to defend DACA, as the Trump administration moves to close it down?

CAROLINA BOROTOLLETO: Well, here in Connecticut, we’ve been trying to get all elected officials to show their public support for DACA. And so, a few weeks ago, we got Connecticut delegations – Sen. Blumenthal and the five congresspeople to sign onto a letter in support of DACA that was addressed to then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, by asking him to keep the DACA program in place. And then we got the attorney general to voice his support for DACA and sign on to a letter saying that he would like to DACA program in place.

BETWEEN THE LINES: And I’ve heard that preparations are being made for a massive fast is being planned in Washington, D.C., as well as protests, rallies and vigils across the country to bring attention on this issue. Tell us a little bit more about that if you could.

CAROLINA BOROTOLLETO: So, tomorrow (Sept. 5) about 40 or so of undocumented youth are going to get on a bus at 4 a.m. and go down to Washington, D.C. for a national day of action to defend DACA. So there will be a large rally, followed by some smaller actions. Then some youths are going to take part in tomorrow, and tomorrow also begins a weeklong fast that some organizations are organizing down in Washington, D.C. They’re going to be fasting for five days to show their support for DACA and the moral crisis that taking away DACA would cause for communities.

I believe there’s a week of action down there in Washington, D.C. So we’re sending people down there for the whole week and they’re going to do actions at members of Congress’ office and try to meet with members of Congress to keep pushing for a legislative solution.

BETWEEN THE LINES: You know, there’s been a lot of attention on white supremacist groups – the KKK, the Nazis – a lot of hateful organizations who have been emboldened by Donald Trump’s election to the presidency. Carolina, what are the links in your mind between this drive by the president to abolish DACA and white supremacy that seems to have come out of the shadows since the election?

CAROLINA BOROTOLLETO: I think the effort to end DACA is just another step forward in the white supremacist agenda for this administration. A lot of people benefit from DACA, other people of color. By saying that you want to take away this program and potentially deport people, what you’re is that you know, immigrants, especially immigrants of color, don’t belong in this country and they need to be taken out. So I think the criticism of DACA, which is such an economically successful program, really has its roots in xenophobia and white supremacy.

For more information, visit United We Dream at unitedwedream.org; We Are Here To Stay at weareheretostay.org; Defend Daca at defenddaca.com and on Twitter at ; Action Network at twitter.com/TheActionNet; CT Students for a Dream at ct4adream.org.

Fight For $15 Labor Day Protests Demand Living Wage and a Union
Interview with Angel Candelario, a Burger King employee from Hartford, CT who marched for $15 an hour and union representation on Labor Day, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

Along with more than 300 other cities across the U.S., Hartford, Connecticut, hosted a Fight For $15 march and rally on Labor Day. About 200 fast food workers, other low-paid workers and their allies rallied in front of a McDonald’s restaurant, then marched two miles past many more fast-food franchises and held a rally in front of a downtown church where workers from the food, day care and home care sectors talked about the need for a livable wage and a union.

The national workers alliance known as ‘Fight for $15,’ was founded in 2012 and backed by the Service Employees International Union, which has initiated other successful organizing drives including the Justice for Janitors campaign. With their Labor Day rallies, Fight For $15 is launching a campaign to defeat anti-worker politicians across the U.S. in 2018.

While covering the Hartford Fight For $15 rally, Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus met Angel Candelario, a 37-year-old Burger King employee. He explained how it’s impossible for him to support his family on Connecticut’s minimum wage of $10.10 an hour, especially when, like most fast food workers, he doesn’t work full time. He recounts that although he was hired 7 months ago at 20 hours a week, he has since seen his hours cut in half. Here, Candelario, who has suffered from leukemia since the age of 8, talks about why he became active in the Fight For $15 movement and the importance of having the right to join and be represented by a union.

ANGEL CANDELARIO: Because I started standing up for myself and fighting for or my rights and actually believing in everything with this movement, and my management knows about me and this movement, they’re not pleased with it, so now my hours got cut from 20 to 10 and I only get 5 hours for 2 days a week, Saturdays and Sundays. But I only bring home $60 and some cents. So right now, it’s like, Let’s fight.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Is this the only job you have?

ANGEL CANDELARIO: Right now, yes. At one point I was doing a temp agency job. I was working installations, and then Burger King. But due to my health issues and difficulties, I’m not able to. So I had to reduce to just one job.

BETWEEN THE LINES: So how are you surviving?

ANGEL CANDELARIO: I’m not. If I was to say yeah, I’d be lying to you. I’m just living off my sister or my mom or my ex-girlfriend. That’s the truth.

BETWEEN THE LINES: How does that feel to you?

ANGEL CANDELARIO: Degrading. At the end of the day, it’s degrading. It hurts, man pride. You know that good stuff – man ego. But right now with this fight, they got my back. They make me feel it’s all right. You have to stand for something. If not, you’re going to fall for every single thing they throw at you in life. So for today, I’m standing for everybody, not just for myself. I’m standing for the people that was afraid to come because they might get in trouble with their job. But it’s gonna be all right. It’s gonna be all right.

BETWEEN THE LINES: So, how do you think … first of all, if you could get paid for 40 hours a week, $15 an hour – do you think that would be an acceptable salary to live on?

ANGEL CANDELARIO: Yes. Let’s think about it though. Our movement is called “Fight for 15 and a Union.” If they say, OK, Connecticut, here’s $15, but we don’t have a union, the management still has the right to take the hours from you – so here’s one day of work a week, $15 dollars an hour, 8 hours. What then? So we want that union because the union’s gonna guarantee us safety. The union’s gonna treat us like a family, the union’s gonna pay attention to our hours; the union’s gonna make sure that once we sign that dotted line to get a job, we gonna get 30 hours, nothing less but better.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Is there a specific union you’re wanting to join?

ANGEL CANDELARIO: If I was to join a union, it’s a blessing. To pick one – I didn’t even know we could pick one. But to have our own and have our own backbone, because now we understand. Seven months ago I wasn’t part of this. I was afraid to even speak to the union because at my job I was told to walk away from the union, don’t talk to the union, don’t interact with the union, you are capable of getting fired if you interact with the union.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Which is illegal for them to say.

ANGEL CANDELARIO: (sighs) But men and women today don’t have the proper knowledge on what is what, on what is the rules and regulations that is happening behind closed doors. What we can or cannot do, what we can say. Who can we talk to and go to the proper chain of command. I would love to create our own union; that’s my answer. And if we had the opportunity, and by the grace of God we do, we’d like to create our union. We are family. These are my brothers and sisters in the same common struggle every day.

BETWEEN THE LINES: What other fast food places or other businesses are represented here? You work at Burger King; what are some of the other ones?

ANGEL CANDELARIO: It’s a list. We have McDonald’s. We have Burger King. We have Wendy’s. We have Taco Bell. We have under-the-table restaurant workers. We have people who work in car washes. We have people, secretaries of dentists. They want to believe in this. We have medical people that want to come over here and protest with us.

BETWEEN THE LINES: You said you had health issues. Under the Affordable Care Act, do you have any health insurance?

ANGEL CANDELARIO: Under the Affordable Care Act, I have HUSKY. Burger King offers medical, but if you sign this piece of paper waiving your medical rights, we can make sure you get over 30 hours a week. That’s what I was told. Excuse me – me being a young man, naïve, I signed. I signed, so now I don’t get no medical, nothing, my medical’s weak, and my hours are weak.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Burger King told you if you signed a waiver…

ANGEL CANDELARIO: If you sign this piece of paper we can guarantee you over 30 hours, because we can’t really give you benefits and also provide you 40 hours. I bit the bullet because I didn’t understand. I was still naïve, still immature as to the rules and regulations. But now that I understand it, I bet it won’t happen to the next person. I won’t allow it.

BETWEEN THE LINES: If you talk to your fellow workers, can you talk about any of the other struggles that your fellow workers have had to deal with, making only $10.10 an hour?

ANGEL CANDELARIO: There’s a young gentleman I was working with at a restaurant under the table – great pay because it’s under-the-table – we get the cash, you know? But this gentleman lost a tooth, and he’s undocumented, and because of that he can’t go to a regular dentist. He has to pay cash, to get seen as a favor, because of his legal situation. It’s unbelievable, that people get hurt and can’t get workman’s compensation. You get hurt and you can’t complain about it to your boss, because what are you going to do? Either you get fired or suck it up, or you get one day off.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Without pay.

ANGEL CANDELARIO: Without pay. So, I want to tell everybody that if you have a fight you want to stand up for in your life, anything, one moment, one day, Fight for 15 is the movement.

Learn more about Fight For 15 at hfightfor15.org.

Unchecked Development and Deregulation Exacerbated Hurricane Harvey’s Destruction in Texas
Interview with Robert Buzzanco, professor of history at the University of Houston, conducted by Scott Harris

Hurricane Harvey was a Category 4 hurricane when it slammed the southeast Texas coast on Aug. 25. But when Harvey downgraded to a less powerful tropical storm, it then dumped torrential rains that flooded the region with a record 52 inches in some areas. After countless homes were flooded, more than 53,000 Texans were forced to seek shelter with the aid of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. According to news reports, FEMA expects nearly one million applications for aid stemming from Hurricane Harvey.

Houston, America’s fourth largest city is now drying out, but municipal, state and federal officials say that it will take years to fully recover from the storm that killed 60. President Trump has asked Congress for an initial $7.9 billion for Harvey recovery efforts. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott estimated that the cost of recovery could be as high as $180 billion.

Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Robert Buzzanco, professor of history at the University of Houston, who examines how the absence of zoning laws, unchecked development and deregulation of the fossil fuel and chemical industries in the city contributed to the scale of the destruction wrought by Hurricane Harvey and endangered public health.

ROBERT BUZZANCO: In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison, which was the worst until this one hit, between 2001 and 2010, 167,000 acres of green space were plowed under and turned into asphalt and so that’s really kind of the way Houston kind of reckons with these things. We have more – they keep on using the word “development” – I don’t like that word, it’s Orwellian. But you can see maps. The local paper had map of Houston, you know, over the last 5 years, the last 10 years, the last 15 years, the last 20 years. In areas where there was once parks or greenspace, or whatever, which are now basically concrete, so there is nowhere for the water to go.

There are two reservoirs west of Houston, Addicks and Barker and those are rated One, which is the lowest rating by the (Army) Corps of Engineers. In both cases, they were ready to break and they had to do controlled releases and deliberately flood neighborhoods in order to avoid them breaking, which would have been utterly cataclysmic. When these things happen, you hear a lot of you know, kind of hand-wringing and people’s alarm. But nothing gets done. And in fact, the regulations become even easier to build, and you see more construction and more strip malls, big apartment buildings and townhouses and things like that going up. So, if you look at the data, if you look at the topography, we actually have a lot less green now than we did, even though these storms get incrementally worse.

It’s a recipe for greater disaster, obviously.

BETWEEN THE LINES: I’ve read that the city of Houston, the fourth largest city in American has no zoning regulations. That there’s just unchecked development as far as the eye can see with no restrictions for flood plains, and other critical infrastructure that most cities take into account when allowing buildings to go up in certain vulnerable parts of the city.

ROBERT BUZZANCO: It’s true. Usually when you read these, you take them with a grain of salt. But it’s true. There’s no zoning, there’s really no regulation. No one’s unaware of the problem here, and there’s an outcry about it in the immediate aftermath of these, and then it just gets stopped. I call it cowboy capitalism here in Texas. You know, the government’s bad; we don’t want people telling us what to do, we don’t regulations. It’s going to cost us jobs.

Texas has touted itself as different and kind of an economic miracle, and you know, a lot of time when the rest of the country is suffering really bad economic downturns, they’re less severe here. But that kind of becomes the excuse to do nothing, because things are going well and if we start caving in to “treehuggers,” we’re going to lose jobs and the economy is not going to be as good. As so then inertia sets in and nothing gets done, and it’s like the old joke. You got a hole in your roof, when it’s raining you can’t fix it, and when it’s dry, it’s as good as anybody’s roof. That’s kind of the way they look at things.

BETWEEN THE LINES: There are these eight trailers of organic peroxides that we’ve all been reading about that have caught on fire and extremely noxious and toxic smoke is going far and wide around the town of Crosby there. Then Lt. Gov. Abbott, who’s now serving as the Texas governor had put in place some regulations that allowed chemicals like Arkema to keep secret what they have in their chemical plants. Any my question, you’ve got a lot of people living in this region who they themselves, or their children are being exposed to this, yet the government and these corporations are conspiring with each other to keep it secret and not allowing some kind of transparency so people can protect themselves. It seems another case where self-interest is being trumped by corporate interests.

ROBERT BUZZANCO: Absolutely, I mean, I don’t know what to say. Even the first-responders, when they first got there, they didn’t know what to expect. So about 21 of the first wave ended up in the emergency ward of the local hospital.

Yeah, they are aware of what’s going on. I mean, you know, I don’t who owns it, but I’m pretty sure it’s a French companies so the owners probably aren’t there. Even the local managers probably don’t live next to the plant, and it’s just not in their interest. I think if all of these 500 facilities told everybody in the neighborhoods where they’re located what was there, I think a lot more people would be a lot more concerned.

But the governor, as you said, (unintelligible) the West Texas, actually made it easier for them to withhold this information. Once toxic chemicals are emitted into water, they can go anywhere, they’re not confined. But we always say, “Well, this is the one that’s going to force people to act,” and let’s hope it does. But, if you live in Texas– I’ve been here for over 20 years now – I’ve heard that many times. I heard it after Allison in 2001. “Well, we’re going to have to do something now.” And you know, actually, what they did was pave up even more land ,you know, in the interests of these corporations, especially the petroleum and chemical industry. You know this is one of the most industrialized cities in the world, and really, the kind of the world capital for what they call energy. You would think in their own self-interest, right, to maintain their own stability, they would do something – maybe this time they will. But we’ve heard this before. Those of us who live there.

Video interview with Robert Buzzanco on Hurricane Harvey at vimeo.com/231443737.

This week’s summary of under-reported news

Compiled by Bob Nixon

Since late August nearly 60,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees have fled growing violence in Myanmar to Bangladesh. The ethnic Rohingya have faced brutal repression in recent years at the hands of Myanmar’s majority Buddhist population. A new wave of violence erupted after a small group of Rohingya insurgents attacked military outposts. Burma’s military quickly counter-attacked burning and clearing out Rohingya villages. (“Myanmar Conflict: Bangladesh Police Allow Rohingya to Flee,” BBC, Sept. 2, 2017; “Ap Explains: How the Insurgency behind Myanmar Attacks Grew,” Washington Post, Aug. 31, 2017; “Aung Sang Suu Kyi’s Office Accuses Aid Workers of Helping ‘terrorists’ in Myanmar,” The Guardian, Aug. 28, 2017)
Laboratoria, a computer skills training school runs coding programs in Mexico, Chile and Peru and recruits ambitious young women to train for high paying tech jobs that are increasingly in demand across Latin America. The program is now seen as a model for skills training to expand the middle class throughout the Americas. (“The Latin American ‘lab’ Where Women Are Learning to Code across the Employment Gap,” Christian Science Monitor, May 3, 2017)
Four years ago, President Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder adopted a policy known as “smart on crime” — reforms that directed federal prosecutors to defer using harsh mandatory minimum sentences when dealing with low level, nonviolent drug offenders. (“How Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump Have Restarted the War on Drugs,” The Guardian, Aug. 21, 2017)

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