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The Security Guards at the Art Museum are demanding recognition for their union and an end to poverty wages.  Here is their new video presenting their campaign to the incoming CEO of the museum, Timothy Rub:

Welcoming Change at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

The guards are also holding a rally next Sunday to welcome Mr. Rub, check it out! Also see below for more information on the campaign from a recent article in Philadelphia Weekly. [alex]

Welcoming Party for Timothy Rub

2 pm, Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Philadelphia Museum of Art, front “Rocky” steps

Join the Philadelphia Security Officers Union and Philly Jobs with Justice as they hold a — “welcoming party” — for incoming museum CEO, Timothy Rub.

Security Guards at the museum earn less than $20,000 per year, below the federal poverty line.

The Philadelphia Security Officers Union supports the Employee Free Choice Act.

We have signed up a majority of the security officers at the Philadelphia Museum on union representation cards.

If the Employee Free Choice Act was law right now, we would already be a union.

March with the Philadelphia Security Officers Union in support of card check and the Employee Free Choice Act

2:00 pm—3:30 pm,
come early and take advantage of the free day at the museum

Featuring NYC’s Rude Mechanical Orchestra! It’s a party!


Financial Insecurity

Museum guards ask new director to hear them out.

By Daniel Denvir

Philadelphia Weekly, August 25, 2009.

On April 19, Jennifer Collazo woke up with a $2,882.47 hospital bill. The 33-year-old Army veteran is a Philadelphia Museum of Art security guard employed by the private contractor AlliedBarton. Collazo pays into the medical insurance offered by her employer, but when she came down with severe neck and back pain on the job, she discovered that her health benefits didn’t even cover things like the ambulance ride.

Paltry medical coverage combined with low wages has driven Collazo and other museum guards to organize the Philadelphia Security Officers Union (PSOU). While the museum and AlliedBarton have rebuffed them in the past, guards hope that the institution’s incoming director, Timothy Rub, will be open to dialogue when he takes charge early next month. Read the rest of this entry »

silkwoodAfter watching the brilliantly-acted and courageous film Silkwood (1983, starring Meryl Streep), I learned the compelling story of Karen Silkwood and her death, which has seemingly been forgotten by America. Karen, only 28, was a union activist working in a Kerr-McGee nuclear power plant in Oklahoma, who died in a suspicious car accident while on her way to meet with a New York Times reporter for a story that would have exposed the company’s dangerous and illegal mishandling of plutonium.

Karen was active in her union, calling attention to the radioactive contamination in the plant, and spent months compiling evidence to show that the company was deliberately covering up the fact that their fuel rods contained imperfections, which could put millions of lives at risk if they sparked a meltdown. The night of her death, many believe Karen was deliberately driven off the road by another car, and her family was later able to sue Kerr-McGee for $1.3 million in damages, but the company admits no wrongdoing.

The nuclear plant where Karen worked was shut down in 1975, one year after her death. When Karen’s story became public controversy, it helped display the dangers inherent to nuclear power, contributing to the amazingly successful anti-nuclear movement that has stopped construction of all new nuclear plants in the US since 1979. Thus is especially important today as some corporate lobbyists are trying to repackage nuclear power as a “clean” or “carbon-free” energy “source.”  In fact, it’s none of those things.

Karen’s story is both a warning and an inspiration – that capitalism pushes companies to sometimes do terrible things to protect their profits, even if it means endangering lives, but also that brave people such as Karen Silkwood, in bringing the truth to light, can challenge us to create a better world.

Here is her entry on Wikipedia for more info. [alex]

Karen Silkwood

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Karen Gay Silkwood (February 19, 1946 – November 13, 1974) was an American labor union activist and chemical technician at the Kerr-McGee plant near Crescent, Oklahoma, United States. Silkwood’s job was making plutonium pellets for nuclear reactor fuel rods. She died under mysterious circumstances after investigating claims of irregularities and wrongdoing at the Kerr-McGee plant.

Early life

Silkwood was born in Longview, Texas, the Read the rest of this entry »

bookchinThe Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy

by Murray Bookchin

1982 Cheshire Books

Murray Bookchin (R.I.P., 2006) was one of the most important American theorists of the 20th century. He is most known for pioneering and promoting social ecology, which holds that “the very notion of the domination of nature by man stems from the very real domination of human by human.” In other words, the only way to resolve the ecological crisis is to create a free and democratic society.

The Ecology of Freedom is one of Bookchin’s classic works, in which he not only outlines social ecology, but exposes hierarchy, “the cultural, traditional and psychological systems of obedience and command”, from its emergence in pre-‘civilized’ patriarchy all the way to capitalism today. The book explains that hierarchy is exclusively a human phenomena, one which has only existed for a relatively short period of time in humanity’s 2 million year history. For that reason, and also because he finds examples of people resisting and overturning hierarchies ever since their emergence, Bookchin believes we can create a world based on social equality, direct democracy and ecological sustainability.

It seems to me this fundamental hope in human possibility is the most essential contribution of this book. In discussing healthier forms of life than we currently inhabit, Bookchin makes a distinction between “organic societies”, which were pre-literate, hunter-gatherer human communities existing before hierarchy took over, and “ecological society”, which he hopes we will create to bring humanity back into balance with nature, but without losing the intellectual and artistic advances of “civilization” (his quote-marks).

Of ‘organic society’ he says “I use the term to denote a spontaneously formed, noncoercive, and egalitarian society – a ‘natural’ society in the very definite sense that it emerges from innate human needs for association, interdependence, and care.” This, he explains, is where we come from. Not a utopia free of problems, but a real society based on the principle of “unity of diversity,” meaning respect for each member of the community, regardless of sex, age, etc. – an arrangement that is free of domination. Read the rest of this entry »

Hi, I’m Alex Knight. I’m a teacher, writer, and activist. I manage and I’m writing a book called The End of Capitalism.


I was born on July 4, 1983. I was raised an All-American boy in a working class family in a small town outside of Philadelphia. As a child, I excelled in sports (I was an all-star baseball player for 10 years), and in school (I was placed in the “gifted” class at the age of 7). Ambler, Pennsylvania was a wonderful place to grow up in. My neighborhood friends and I used to walk to elementary school in the morning and chase fireflies in the park at sunset. But my hometown was also burdened with a painful legacy from its industrial past, one which illustrates how capitalism’s obsession with profits far too often leads to environmental damage and human suffering.

The twin house I grew up in was originally home to Italian immigrants who worked in Ambler’s asbestos factory in the early 1900’s. Owned and operated by Keasbey and Mattison Corporation, this five-story factory made Ambler what it was – an industrial working class community and the “asbestos capital of the world[1]. Asbestos, a mineral known for its fire-resistant properties, was very popular at the time as a material used in everything from home insulation, roofing tiles, ship engines, brake pads, and shoes. Unfortunately, asbestos also has a nasty habit of giving people a form of lung cancer (mesothelioma) from breathing in its dust. Hundreds of the Italian-American workers and their family members contracted mesothelioma and suffered for years with breathing problems, or died[2]. When the factory was finally shut down in the 1970s, 3 million tons of asbestos waste had been piled into what are now known as the “White Mountains” – thinly-covered man-made hills of toxic waste.[3]

While I was growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, over 50,000 claims were brought against Keasbey and Mattison by former workers, residents and consumers who had been exposed to asbestos poisoning[4]. At the same time, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was classifying the White Mountains a Superfund site, sealing it off from the public and cleaning up some of the carcinogenic mess[5]. Nevertheless asbestos pollution remains a persistent concern for Ambler residents[6], and according to a Montgomery County Health Department analysis mesothelioma rates in town continue to be significantly higher than normal[7], despite the factory closing over 30 years ago. One resident interviewed in 2008 stated, “Six households on one block report a family member dying from asbestos-related disease. I have lost 5 members to asbestos-related disease”[8].

Although the company almost certainly knew the dangers of asbestos and its connection to lung cancer as early as the 1930s, it kept the information secret, from the public, and from its workers, despite the growing cases of illness and death. The reason is obvious. If people knew that asbestos would give them cancer, they wouldn’t want it in their homes or their household products, and would stop purchasing it. And if workers could prove that the company was responsible for their health problems, they would sue and the company could go out of business. In other words, the corporation knew it was causing ecological and social harm, but lied about it to protect its profits.

Ambler’s story is not that exceptional. Every town in America, indeed across the globe, has its own story about how it’s been affected by capitalism.

Likewise my decision to devote my life to the cause of environmental and social justice is not that exceptional. People all around the world are making the same sorts of decisions about how to live their lives in harmony with nature and with their fellow human beings, every single day.

I attained a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Lehigh University in 2005, then went on to receive a Master’s in Political Science the next year. During college I got involved in activism and led a successful campaign pressuring my university to purchase wind energy to help supply the school’s electricity. Since then, I became an organizer with Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a national youth organization working for peace and democracy. Now I’ve begun working with other men to overcome sexism and male-dominance in our lives and in society. I currently reside in Philadelphia and work at a community college, where I teach English as a Second Language (ESL) and Computer Basics courses. Besides writing, I enjoy bike rides, music, food, and hanging out with friends.

My overriding inspiration is that the places where we live – where our children grow up – and the people in our lives – loved ones and strangers – don’t need to suffer the way Ambler and its inhabitants have. We don’t need to be slaves to a system that considers profits more important than human and ecological well-being. I think these priorities are skewed, and I think most people would agree with me. And just think, if everyone who feels this way were to work together, we could change the world. In fact, millions of people are already engaged in this work and through their efforts, the world is changing, slowly but surely. Healing doesn’t happen overnight. And we need to heal not just ourselves, but our communities, as well as our planet.

I believe in our capacity to heal. Even in an economic crisis, our spirits will never be silenced. When we let go of capitalism, we can embrace a better future – one where human life and environmental sustainability are more important than the profits of large corporations.

A new world is on its way. We are building it, one day at a time.

Alex Knight
August 3, 2009

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