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Jason Crane Posts

Countdown to the 2006 World Cup!

If you’re a soccer fan, you know that today was the draw for the 2006 World Cup. Four groups of eight teams were divided into eight groups of four teams. The United States ended up in Group E with Italy, Ghana and the Czech Republic. It’s already being called “The Group of Death” by some (though others might give that moniker to Group C). Very tough competitors who will present a real challenge to the U.S. team. A co-worker and I listened to the draw live on the BBC, and it was thrilling just to think about next summer’s action.

If you need to get up to speed on our opponents, here are some useful links:

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The future of labor organizing

As you know, I’m a union organizer for UNITE HERE in Rochester, NY. I recently attended the first national organizing conference put on by Change to Win, the union federation that split earlier this year from the AFL-CIO.

If you’d like to read my report on the conference, you’ll find it at Joan Collins-Lambert’s excellent labor blog, Work Related.

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Jack Bradigan Spula is back

If you know anything about Rochester’s progressive scene, you know the writing of Jack Bradigan Spula. Now you can peek into Jack’s brain again, via his new blog The Rochester Dissident. Do yourself a favor and check it out today.

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A silent vigil for economic justice

(24 October 2005) BRIGHTON – It’s 7 p.m. A light rain is falling. Snaking down Ambassador Drive in Brighton is a long line of silent workers, candles held in cups under their umbrellas. The line moves slowly down the street, a silent testament to labor solidarity in an age of “every man for himself.”

The men and women of Caldwell Manufacturing, proud members of IUE-CWA Local 81331, are bringing their fight for justice and security into the neighborhood where Caldwell’s owners live. The message? Ted and Jim Boucher are letting their greed overcome their family history.

Caldwell Manufacturing makes parts for windows – parts that you’ll find in most houses, including those on Ambassador Drive. For three generations, Caldwell has been run by the Boucher family, and the company has long provided good union jobs for Rochester workers. Now, though, Ted and Jim Boucher are attempting to bust the union by removing the union security clause from the workers’ contract. If they’re successful, Caldwell would be an open shop, a move that would pave the way to remove the union completely. And that would likely be the first domino in a long chain of anti-union activity in the Rochester area.

As the vigil moves through the streets of Brighton, keeping a silent watch, it may be difficult to connect these 50 rain-soaked workers and community members to the larger fight for Rochester’s future. But the connection is clear. Rochester needs good jobs with a living wage, health care, pension benefits, and job security. One proven way to provide those jobs is a union contract. These workers and their supporters in the community are fighting for the very life of this area.

Two by two, pairs of workers knock on the doors of the homes in the Bouchers’ neighborhood. They politely explain why the vigil is happening, and hand the residents a flyer outlining the situation. The response is largely positive, and the effect is immediate. By the end of the vigil, a local trial lawyer who lives on the street has come forward, offering to put a pro-worker sign in his front yard.

As the rain falls, the workers quietly return to their cars. This night’s action is over, but the morning brings the promise of more to come. The fight for Rochester’s future is under way.

Which side are you on?

For more information on the Caldwell strike, and on other local labor issue, visit Joan Collins-Lamberts’ blog, Work Related.

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A message from one of Abundance Co-op’s new board members

Tonight I was elected to the board of Abundance Cooperative Market. Abundance is a shareholder-owned co-op. In other words, it’s owned by the folks who shop at the store. The co-op has a general manager, but the policies and practices of the co-op are governed by the board, on which I now sit.

I’ve written before about Abundance, and about the idea of shopping locally. The Abundance Co-op is modeling a better world, and I ran for the board to help protect that cooperative system. The store turned its first profit this year, and as it grows, it’s vital that we remain true to the principles on which the co-op was founded. The “co-op” is the people — the store is just a happy result of the people’s efforts.

I’m excited to start working with the board. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for me as I start on this journey, feel free to contact me.

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Big Box Mart

Go to right now and watch the Big Box Mart video. You can thank me later.

(By the way, Jay Leno showed this whole video on The Tonight Show last night. And no, that is not a type-o.)

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A brilliant film

I just finished watching Sidney Lumet’s brilliant film adaptation of 12 Angry Men. I’ve seen it a half-dozen times, and it captivates and inspires me every single time.

There are moments in the film where the acting is so perfect that I find myself laughing out loud with joy. Then there are scenes so intense that I realize I’m holding my breath. For me, though, the most beautiful scene in the film is the very last one, when Davis (Henry Fonda) and McCardle (Joseph Sweeney) introduce themselves on the courthouse steps after the trial. There’s something so human and so connected in that scene that it floors me every single time.

If you haven’t seen it, see it. If you have, see it again.

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New boxed set from Utah Phillips

Utah Phillips

If you’re a folk fan, a progressive, a worker, or just someone who loves great music and storytelling, you need to check out Starlight On The Rails, the new boxed set from folk singer and raconteur Utah Phillips.

Here’s a link to the album at the iTunes Music Store, and here’s Chris Nickson’s review from the All Music Guide:

Utah Phillips has become an American folk institution — or is that an anti-institution? A former union organizer, he might not be well known in the greater scheme of music, but he’s certainly worth this four-CD, 61-track box set. What makes it especially fascinating is the fact that each of the cuts is accompanied by Phillips’ reflections on the pieces, whether performed by him or others. He’s as much a raconteur and philosopher as songwriter. With its mix of live, studio, and unreleased performances, it justifies calling itself definitive, whether on the topical “Talking N.P.R. Blues,” which excoriates not only the corporatization on public radio, but also the attitudes of the FCC. He can be funny, he can be serious, but whatever tack he takes, he makes his point concisely and effectively. He’s lived a hobo’s life, been there and done that, a symbol of America that’s fast disappearing, a time where the ideas of Mark Twain helped define a growing nation. He’s known the drifters, the characters, the politicians. Some he’s liked, some he’s loathed. But along the way he’s lived and acted for his conscience and written some fine songs, such as “Yellow Ribbon” and the title cut. For anyone who’s a fan of his work, this is a must-have purchase. But even for those less familiar with his canon, it’s a vital peek into America as it was, and in some small corner, still is. Hopefully he’ll be around for many years to come, remaining an inspiration to a younger generation of troubadours, celebrating people and loudly criticizing what needs to be criticized. (© 2005 All Music Guide)

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The land beneath our feet

Chris Clarke has a very interesting interview with Ward Churchill on his blog. Most of the interview is about Native American issues, and at one point, Churchill makes a very arresting comment about implementing a progressive agenda on land you stole from someone else:

“You can take all the progressive agenda items you want, including environmentalism and ecology, OK? The movement to combat sexism, the movement to combat racism, the movement against oppressive class structures, all of it. And if in the end, you come up with a scenario in which all of those goals are suddenly realized, do you know what you end up with? You end up with a society that is still predicated fundamentally in colonialism. It would still be a colonial society because it would have been implementing these relations, however progressive they may seem on their face, on somebody else’s land without their permission. You’ve still got an imperialist culture. You’ve got a culture that will reinvent all these forms you thought you just combated and destroyed. You gotta deal with the fundamental issue first and work out from there. You gotta lay a foundation for a different social order, a different social consciousness and all the rest of it. And the place to begin that, of course, is in relation to the land.”

Sometimes I agree with Churchill, and sometimes I don’t. I must admit, though, that I’d never really considered this particular point before. What do you think? You can click on Submit A Comment right below this message to add your thoughts.

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The great escape

This morning, my nearly-three-year-old son Bernie woke up at about 5 a.m., came into our bedroom, and spent nearly two hours crawling all over us on our bed. Finally, in desperation, Jen put on a Blue’s Clues video on the bedroom TV. No effect — Bernie continued to jump around, yell, sing, talk to himself, and kick the wall.

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I got the baby gate, put it up in the doorway to our room, and put him on the other side of it. As I turned to go back to bed, I shut the bedroom door … and discovered that Bernie had taken the knob off the door. Jen and I were now locked in the bedroom.

We live in a house built in 1902. The doors are original to the house, and many have missing or broken knobs, so very few of them actually shut. The door to the computer room, for instance, can only be opened with a butter knife. Thinking that maybe the bedroom door could be opened that way, Jen and I began calling through the door to Bernie, asking him to get a butter knife. He said “No!” and went into his own room. We heard his door shut.

We began to tear apart our bedroom — which usually looks like someone has already torn it apart. We were searching for some sort of implement to use to open the door. We tried a pen, a small screwdriver, a marker, a wooden clothespin, a plastic clothes hanger, part of a sewing machine … nothing worked. Then I remembered that there was a kitchen knife in the top drawer of one of our dressers. This dresser used to be in the computer room in our old apartment, which also had a door that could only be opened with a knife. I used to keep the knife in the dresser in case I ever got locked in the room. I tore open the dresser drawer, grabbed the knife, and discovered that it didn’t fit into the locking mechanism of the bedroom door.

Now we were starting to get desperate. Our bedroom is on the second floor, and it overlooks the porch roof. I considered climbing out the window, walking across the porch roof, and swinging down onto the porch. I went to the closet, got my fedora, leather jacket and whip, and cued John Williams to start the orchestra.

OK, I actually looked out the window, saw that it was raining, considered my lack of shoes, and decided against the Indiana Jones moment.

We thought about whom we could call. My sister lives close by, but she and my mom were on the way to Massachusetts. My dad was home — nearly 45 minutes away. We have friends close by, but even if they came, what could they do?

It was right about then that I remembered that the closet door in the bedroom had the same kind of knob as the bedroom door. I also remembered that it was loose. I reached over, yanked it out of the door, and used half of it to turn the lock in the bedroom door. We were free!

After a few hours of sober reflection, I feel I’ve learned an important parenting lesson from the ordeal. It is this:

Always keep a fire axe in your bedroom.

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Bruuuuuuce in Rochester

Jen and I saw Bruce Springsteen for the second time on this solo acoustic tour. Tonight’s show was the first show on this leg of the tour, following a couple weeks off. Here, to the best of my recollection, is the set list. Following the list if my little review:

  • Idiot’s Delight
  • Living Proof
  • Devils & Dust
  • My Father’s House
  • Long Time Comin’
  • Independence Day
  • Two Faces
  • Ain’t Got You
  • Maria’s Bed
  • Cautious Man
  • Reno
  • Nothing Man
  • Real World
  • Racing in the Street
  • The Rising
  • Further On (Up the Road)
  • Jesus Was an Only Son
  • This Hard Land
  • Two Hearts
  • Galveston Bay
  • Matamoros Banks


  • Growin’ Up
  • The Ties That Bind
  • The Promised Land
  • Dream Baby Dream

All in all, a fantastic show. His voice was in perfect form, the crowd was into it, and the show was a lot more upbeat than the July 18 Buffalo show, which had a great set list and a lame audience. Idiot’s Delight was a powerful opener, with somewhat distorted and delayed vocals and a great electric guitar part. Long Time Comin’ is quickly becoming one of my favorites. When he announced that he was going to play a song “for the first time on this tour,” the crowd cheered. He said, “I don’t know why people always cheer. I’ve played about 120 songs on this tour, which means you’re going to miss about 100 of them. But I’ve thought about it, and these are the best 20. There’s a system.” Then he played Independence Day. Further On Up The Road was very intense. The encore was great — Bruce changed some lyrics in Growin’ Up, I think. I know he also changed them in ain’t got you (from “king’s ransom for doin’ what comes naturally” to “king’s ransom for doin’ what I’d do for free”).

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Ogden police protect and serve … anti-union bosses

OGDEN, NY — Security guards bully workers. Workers call police to protect them from guards. Police arrive and hassle workers. Security company turns out to be owned by the brother of one of the cops. That cop is also moonlighting as a security guard. Welcome to Ogden!

The Ogden Police are routinely called to the picket line at Caldwell Manufacturing, where the workers have been on strike since August. Ted Boucher, owner of Caldwell Manufacturing, brought in scabs to staff the production lines, and he also hired guards from C.O.P. Security to direct the cars out of the parking lot as the workers marched across the entrance. That the workers are legally entitled to picket in that spot is of no consequence to the guards who enforce Caldwell’s anti-union policies.

Recently, the C.O.P. Security guards have been roughing up the strikers. Security guards have knocked down workers. Just days ago, one of the guards shoved a woman with both hands. In the face of this escalation, the union (IUE-CWA Local 331) has begun calling the police on their own behalf. But when the police arrive — even when they’ve been called by the union — they immediately bypass the workers and head straight for the guards to get the story. Turns out that one of the security guards is Sergeant Dale Barton of the Ogden Police Department. That’s right, he works for C.O.P. Security and for the police force the workers depend on to protect them from C.O.P. Security. Better still, Dale Barton’s brother is Rick Barton – the president of C.O.P. Security.

Why are the workers on strike? Because Ted Boucher, the owner of the company, decided not to bargain in good faith with the workers. He was censured by the NLRB, and he has appealed that ruling.

As Joan Collins-Lambert wrote on her blog Work Related: “The strike at Caldwell is about something more enduring than tomorrow’s paycheck. It’s about a union’s right to exist, and about a company’s obligation to bargain in good faith with its union workers. Among other things, Caldwell management wants to remove union security clauses in the collective bargaining agreement, and eliminate dues check-off. In other words, it wants the union to commit suicide.” That about sums it up.

So Boucher appealed, and the union workers reluctantly but unanimously decided to strike.

Last Thursday, Sept. 29, was a typical afternoon on the line. The most belligerent of the rent-a-cops, whom I’ll call Dom, shoved another worker today. The cops showed up and immediately pulled aside one of the strikers, keeping him in the back of a patrol car for about 30 minutes before letting him go. I talked to the cops, and told them that if anyone needed to be removed, it was Dom, not the worker. I pointed out that Dom consistently bullies the workers, while the police do nothing to protect the workers’ legal right to picket. The cop was nonresponsive.

Later in the afternoon, a woman pulled up beside one of the police cars to talk to the officer inside the car. Seeing a golden opportunity, I immediately began making fun of the officer over my megaphone. When the woman left, the officer — Lockwood by name — rode up to me and accused me of slandering his wife. I said it was in fact him I was yelling at, and I told him he should be ashamed of himself for protecting the “rights” of Ted Boucher over the rights of the workers. The workers surrounded me as Lockwood and I argued back and forth for a few minutes, until I got bored and walked away.

When it was time to go home, I did what everyone else before me had done and made a perfectly safe u-turn on the road to get back to the main highway. Within seconds, Lockwood was behind me with his lights flashing. One of my coworkers was in the car with me, and we were laughing uproariously as Lockwood approached the car to write me a ticket for “making an illegal u-turn on a curve.” He wrote up the ticket and held it in the window of my car. I took out my pad and pen and asked him for his name. “It’s right there on the ticket,” he said, but I took my time writing it down anyway. “I have an emergency call,” Lockwood protested, “take the ticket.

So a company breaks the law, is censured, and then appeals, forcing its employees to take their fight to the street. The police support the company, taking sides against their neighbors. There’s a serious conflict of interest at work in Ogden, and it’s directly harming the workers on the picket line.

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