May 2, 2014

The Real State of the Unions

Jesse D. Andrews is a graduating Senior Biology major from Fresno, California at Morehouse College. He is a youth philanthropist and guest journalist for New America Media. He is the Chairman of Atlanta’s premier scholarship foundation, The Exception Campaign. Ph. 404.953.0243 

Bernice Randolph is a Union Representative for Sodexo workers at Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and other surrounding colleges. She is the president of Born Again Words, Inc., a spoken word collaborative helping inner city youth grow into successful adults. She is a native of Trenton, New Jersey, but calls Atlanta her home. An author, artist, poet and designer, she is known for her talent in spoken words. Through her free form style, Bernice motivates, educates and inspires.

The Real State of the Unions

Recently the President of the United States of America, President Barrack Obama, gave the directives and goals for his second term and agenda for congressional leaders. Economic vitality, educational advancement and global impact was top priorities in his speech. However, what is of interest are the many Unions that actually represent the working American People. Why are they important? What do they do? How do employees benefit from them?

Unions are organizations of working people who unite to obtain rights on the job that they could not obtain by themselves. Whether it be a trade union or labor union the goal has been the same since its inception to create and implement better working conditions or pay for workers.

Unions have had a hard time to convince the American people that they are needed. Especially when organizations and businesses have a set pay scale or a set way of doing business. The President outlines his plans for the Union, the United States of America, but countless workers need support and help on advocating for their given rights within the unions, collective body of workers.

Labor unions began in the late 1800s becoming the largest labor relations organization in the country known today as American Federation of Labor or AFL. In 2010, it was noted by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development that Americans have the lowest proportion of workers who were apart of unions at a steady 11.4% compared to other countries.

Bernice Randolph, co-editor of this article, is a Union Representative for Sodexo, she fights furiously to get better pay and working conditions around the country for workers at our colleges and universities. She believes that people are not getting involved in unions because they fear for their termination if the employer found out they were associated with one.

Michelle Martin, host of Tell Me More on National Public Radio, did a special on college football players and their fight to establish a union for players in the NCAA. Players like Ramogi Huma aren't looking to get paid, but they are advocating for healthcare and guarantees on scholarships should they get hurt. It is to Huma and others advantage to ensure that many athletes get and receive the benefits to help enhance their collegiate experience and their quality of life.

This has been the case for many unions around the nation. However, much talk and discussion about Unions and their labor laws have been swept under the table. As the immigrant population continuously grows it is important for them to have unions that can help them in the transition from illegal to legal status. One of the most successful unions seen in America is the union for teachers. They are quick to advocate for better pay and teaching conditions. Their union lobbies for laws and policies that help them be successful teachers for generations to come.

Only 6.7% of non-government employees in the American workforce belong to unions. This is not because they are irrelevant as many suggest, but because the employees are not represented in certain sectors or they are not convinced they need a union. Frank Howe wrote in The Denver Post, "Labor unions exist for primarily two reasons: to protect their weakest members from their strongest and to promote socialism and collectivism." It is the "lazy", "incompetent" and the "marginal" who work extraneous and grueling hours to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to the pursuit of happiness and the American Dream. Should not they have a voice in their working conditions or a say in their workforce environment?

Working in the not-for-profit sector taught me that if the employees have a sense of ownership within the company or organization, they are more likely to be more involved in shaping the culture of the organization or company. Which helps enhance customer service and improve the financial bottom line.

Unions give the American People a voice and an advocate. Postmaster Anthony Dowell was a U.S. Postal Worker working in southwest Atlanta who believed in the people he worked with and for. He strived daily to be an advocate on working conditions, shift scheduling, pay raises, and understanding their basic human needs. He was the epitome of a union president. Unions are needed especially in the jobs we take for granted, even if only for a sense of advocacy, who knows, it may become a reality.

America Deals With Immigration

Jesse D. Andrews is a graduating Senior Biology major from Fresno, California at Morehouse College. He is a youth philanthropist and guest journalist for New America Media. He is the Chairman of Atlanta’s premier scholarship foundation, The Exception Campaign. Ph. 404.953.0243

America Deals With Immigration

Across this great nation citizens, politicians and immigrants are talking about America and her new thought on immigration reform. Primarily, comments are spurning great controversy and interesting discussions about its legality and its new formed thought of implementation. Thoughts ranging from deportation of more than 11 million people, making our borders more secure and the highly controversial DREAM Act.

Can we possibly deport more than 11 million people because they do not have a "Green Card"? I most certainly hope not! The 11 million people who reside in our country are comprised of those who work, attend primary and secondary schools, or are currently enrolled in a higher education institution. They do the jobs most Americans claim to be too educated to do and they have children who are legal citizens. So how do we deal with this?

President Obama proposed 21st Century Immigration Reform that allows for the United States to be the model country on dealing with immigration. In his proposal he highlights four points:

·         Responsibility by the federal government to secure our borders.

·         Accountability for businesses that break the law by undermining American workers and exploiting undocumented workers.

·         Strengthening our economic competiveness by creating a legal immigration system that reflects our values and diverse needs.

·         Responsibility from people who are living in the United States illegally.

It's a start. Whether this passes the House and Senate is another story. As heavy an issue as Immigration Reform is people have forgotten that the immigrant has feelings too. Too many immigrants who were scientists, nurses, engineers, and doctors in their own country have come to this country looking for opportunity, only to find that they can only work on a farm, clean in hotels and homes, and work other low wage jobs.

Yet, the only thing that is hard pressed in the media is economic growth, economic competiveness, and retaining talent from immigration reform by using the illegal minimal wage workers to do the labor. In an article published in the Chicago Business:

"According to the Bipartisan Policy Center Report, 'immigration reform would create 105,923 jobs in Illinois and boost the state's economic output by $1.8 billion.'"

Not only in Illinois, but these benefits from immigration reform exists across the 50 states of America reducing the national deficit by more than half by 2020. Last year alone it was reported by the National Conference of State Legislatures that over 437 laws and resolutions passed were on immigration. This means local measures are being put in place to ensure that the money doesn’t go to waste.

Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and others are sounding the alarm that they would support legalizing the 11 million illegal immigrants, but would not support reform that would help future immigrants become legal citizens. They could eventually get citizenship, it’s the eventually that creates the problems. It takes more than 10 years for an illegal immigrant to become a valid U.S. citizen. So what's driving this thinking? Possibly the fact that just a few years ago more than three out of four patents produced at top American Universities were immigrant inventors.

Many immigrants migrated to America looking for better societal values and to accommodate most of their diverse needs. Only to find a racial thread that is woven into the fabric of America, (12 Years A Slave brought this out) limitations on parents whose children are fluent in English. Lastly, a group of representatives who have no values and truly do not care about anyone’s diverse needs.  

Crossing the border into Mexico made it apparent that there is a new working class in America. Coming to America from France made it apparent that Americans need to work on being courteous when greeting foreigners. What was of significance was the lack of staff to man the borders to accommodate the growing rate of immigration.

Lastly, safer and secured borders are a must. Gun violence and security in our public schools should not receive inadequate attention from our national and local government. Foreign terrorism is real and too often domestic terrorism reminds us it’s alive and thriving in our public school systems and in higher education. This complex issue of immigration reform is a hot topic and it needs the voice of those whom the reform will affect to be at the table both legal and illegal citizens. 


New Leadership, New Horizons

Jesse D. Andrews is a graduating Senior Biology major from Fresno, California at Morehouse College. He is a youth philanthropist and guest journalist for New America Media. He is the Chairman of Atlanta’s premier scholarship foundation, The Exception Campaign. ph. 404.953.0243
New Leadership, New Horizons

It means a fresh start for the new leadership that has been elected to the Atlanta Public School’s Board of Education. What is of major importance, however, is how we begin to combat the needs of students in attaining the skills to be successful after their elementary and secondary education, teachers who get adequate pay for their expertise and incentives for educating our bright students, and parents who get the support they need to enroll their child and engage in their child’s progress. Benjamin E. Mays said, “A child must learn early to believe that she is somebody worthwhile, and that she can do many praiseworthy things.” Some of the best world and community leaders came out of the Atlanta Public Schools and with such a legacy we should ensure that students are equipped to handle and engage the ever changing world around them. We honor the past for it got us here; we embrace and sculpt the future that will carry us forward. Educational standards should be clear to the students and assure that they fall beyond the state and national average threshold. Morehouse College continues to challenge us to think about ways to strategically examine environmental, economic and sociopolitical sustainability in a global society. It must be the same when examining the best practices in classroom instruction and improving teaching quality. The world’s best educators are in Atlanta Public Schools and it would only make sense to provide those educators with the tools and supplies to teach their students. This can be done through providing meaningful incentives for their student’s achievement and their own creative prowess in the field of education. Most students are suffering to graduate, in particularly our boys of color, and they are frustrated with many administrative distractions. Such as, whether a school will close or not, a school model is appropriate, or the most common thread, whether their school has the adequate supplies for instruction. What is commendable for these students and their futures must be done. We have to invest in them, period. Earlier this week National Public Radio reported that most of Congress, “at least 268 had an average net worth of $1 million or more in 2012.” As the Board of Education works hard to ensure quality education for these students, it is clear that they are public servants who have taken an interest in the affairs of educating these students. Their salaries do nothing to reflect the actions they leave behind. The policies they make will be around long after they have spent their earned salaries. It is unfortunate that those current members of Congress have not worked or lived up to earning such salaries and they are millionaires not worth talking to. Most of these items must be on the agenda this year to make APS the best school district this nation has ever seen. It must be the model for great teachers, great administrators and exceptional students. Atlanta Public Schools must effectively track the performance of all its schools and intervene with proven practices. It must set improvement goals, along with corresponding milestones and timelines across the portfolio of schools. Lastly, it must find and share best practices to help boost their student’s success. Atlanta Public Schools is off to a great start.