PJC Kids’ Club “Global Gatherings”: Africa

The PJC Kids’ Club continues July 26th from 2-4pm with celebrating Africa! Bring the kids for an afternoon of cultural acceptance, exploration, and fun! Francine Serwili-Ngunga will be sharing about her Rwandan culture through dance, story telling, and yummy sambusa making. Get the next stamps for your PJC passport and join us for this special afternoon at the Peace & Justice Center on Lake Street. Bring your sense of adventure to this event and to all Summer PJC Kids’ Club days: August 9th (Europe) and August 23rd (Asia)! This Summer Series is Free and open to all ages!

The focus of the Kids’ Club is on promoting peace, justice, and appreciation for cultural diversity through informal education and play. Through these four events we hope to increase the global awareness and the cultural acceptance in our young community members needed for them to engage in today’s multicultural society. Family participation is encouraged to strengthen relationships and understanding not only between family members themselves, but also between members of different cultural identities with the Burlington community at large.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership: an Assault on Workers

tpp-fast-track-1BY Alissa Boochever, PJC Intern

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) continues to be secretly negotiated among certain members of the US Congress and 11 countries including Australia, Brunei, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru,Singapore,and Vietnam. A major agreement affecting a third of all world trade, those partici- pating in the TPP negotiations have kept its contents a close secret.

Although publicized as a free trade agreement, only five of the 29 chapters have to do with trade issues. The real concern comes with the knowledge that over 600 corporate officials have been given access to the document, yet it remains hidden from the public and the majority of Congress. The other 24 articles of the agreement are statutes that would protect corporate interests. These include allowing corporations to avoid domestic laws, accessing land without government oversight, extending copyrights on brand name medicines, banning Buy America and Buy Local preferences that invest in US economy, and restricting internet freedom.

The impending impact on global and local workers’ rights illustrates the true discrepancy between fair trade and free trade. The TPP pushes the free trade agenda of lowering tariffs, quotas, labor principles, and environmental standards in order to loosely trade between nations without constraint. Of the countries currently negotiating the TPP, Vietnam, Mexico, Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei have been notorious violators of labor rights with the abyssmal minimum wages – translating to roughly $1.27/ hour in Malaysia, .59/hour in Mexico, and a meager .28/ hour in Vietnam.

The TPP echoes NAFTA in its two- pronged attack on workers both on US soil and abroad. It will increase the competition between desperate workers accepting low wage jobs out of necessity and unionized US laborers who cost more to companies. In 1994, former President Clinton claimed, “NAFTA means jobs. American jobs, and good paying American Jobs.” Yet we now know that NAFTA had the opposite effect. According to Lori Wallach of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, US government data show that the average annual growth of our trade deficit has been 45% higher with Canada and Mexico than with countries not included in the NAFTA agreement. If the US enters into a NAFTA-style agreement with not just two but 11 other countries, the effect will likely be just as extreme if not more.

Senator Bernie Sanders has voiced his concern saying, “trade is a good thing, but what we must begin doing is negotiating fair trade agreements that reflect the interests of working families in America, working families in other countries, and not just large multinational corporations and CEOs who help write these trade agreements.” We have already seen the effects that free trade agreements like NAFTA have had on worker rights including sweatshops which not only abuse the rights of foreign workers, but decrease the number of those jobs for American workers, just so companies can maximize profit.

As opposed to free trade, fair trade emphasizes creating economic opportunity for marginalized laborers instead of increasing profits for multinational corporations, more direct trade, livable wages for producers, higher environmental standards, and a focus on empowering people to improve the quality of their lives. We need to support small producers, local jobs, and people-to-people interactions, not secret deals like the TPP which support powerful profit-maximizing international corporations.

If you would like to get involved, or have the Peace & Justice Fair Trade Campaign present on the Trans-Pacific Partnership or fair trade in general at your community group or school, contact Carmen at carmen@pjcvt.org or (802) 863- 2345 x3.

  • Thank Senator Sanders for his outspoken opposition to the TPP by contacting him: 1 Church St, 3rd Floor, Burlington VT 05401 or 802-862-0697.
  • Thank Senator Leahy for his concerns surrounding fast track and the TPP and ask that he openly oppose the agreement: 199 Main St, 4th Floor, Burlington VT 05401 or 802-863-2525.
  • Thank Representative Welch for his concerns surrounding the potential affects to the dairy industry as well as the dangers of fast track, and ask that he openly oppose the agreement: 128 Lakeside Ave, Suite 235, Burlington VT 05401 or 802-652-2450.

Pipeline 9: Do you want to pay for it? Vermont Gas Systems’ Ratepayer Petition to the Public Service Board

It is arguable that environmental justice is the issue of the time. Without deep societal change, we will eventually obliterate ourselves as well as most of the earth’s ecosystems and other species. While environmental catastrophes are rising, they are impacting certain populations more than others, locally and globally. Therefore as we work to mitigate climate change, we must simultaneously work for social and economic justice. Because of the intersecting nature of all injustice, there is no absolute distinction between environmental, economic or social justice. The Peace & Justice Center’s mission names social and economic justice, human rights and peace. However, environmental justice as an integral part of our work.

-Rachel Siegel

Click Here for the Petition And/Or Visit Rising Tide Vermont to learn more.

Below is the language for the petition:

The projected cost of Phase 1 of Vermont Gas Systems’ proposed fracked gas pipeline has unexpectedly risen 40% from $86 million to $121.6 million.

This pipeline is being financed by the public – current Vermont Gas ratepayers – but does not benefit the people of Vermont. Vermont Gas continues to exploit ratepayers to finance fossil fuel infrastructure expansion in the face of ever-growing economic and ecological crisis. A $35.6 million cost increase is simply unacceptable. This project is not in the public good.

As Vermont Gas Systems’ ratepayers, in light of these projected cost increases, we demand that the Public Service Board of Vermont halt construction and reopen the Certificate of Public Good permitting process for Phase 1 of the fracked gas pipeline.

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Reflections on Vermont’s First Loving Day and Growing up Multiracial

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BY Samantha Grise, PJC Intern

O n June 7, 2014, something truly beautiful occurred. I was moved and excited by the birth of a new celebration for Vermonters to revel in. I joined with members of our community as Vermont celebrated its first ever Loving Day. Loving Day is a national celebration of the 1967 court hearing Loving v. Virginia which made it illegal for states to have or enforce laws banning interracial marriage.

Growing up multiracial in Chittenden County, Vermont you do not see many other individuals of mixed race ancestry. This means that you do not regularly, if at all, see other people who look like you, or with whom you can easily identify. Add to this the fact that from a young age we are taught how to compare and contrast different items. A red ball is different than a blue ball. A square is not a circle. I watched people struggle to categorize me or place me within their own mental lists as they regarded my face.

In elementary school I remember staring for five minutes at test forms that asked me to identify my “race” and having to choose one category. I remember with a flushed face asking a teacher what to do and being told to “pick one,” like the choice would be easy, as I watched my peers breeze through the forms. Should I pick white or Asian and ignore my other heritage? If I did this was I putting a hierarchy to my own genetics? This was an inner turmoil of my child- hood, until the day in middle school when I was given the option of picking two categories, a moment I will never forget. I remember being elated and at the same time feeling heartbroken that I had had to choose for so many years.

At grocery stores people would occasionally not believe my mother was my mother. Once, on a train ride with our parents, my sister and I were shaken awake by border patrol before they even checked our parents IDs. They did not think that we were a family or thought that my sister and I might be trafficked.

I was often misidentified or questioned about my heritage. I heard questions like “What are you?” or “Where are you from?” The former question often became a guessing game of my background. Was I Spanish, Hawaiian, Native American, any Asian nationality, Native Alaskan? These questions did not and do not dissuade me from being comfortable with myself as an individual, but being asked these questions year after year as I grow older I am forced to think about these perceived lines that mankind has drawn throughout history and how those lines apply to me and others.

I do not mind answering these queries, I understand the innate curiosity of people and I am exceedingly proud of my mixed heritage, but I have found that most of the discourse on this specific subject stems from people trying to understand my heritage or the heritage of other individuals. Not enough discussion occurs in the mainstream. People are usually too afraid or too polite to touch on the subject of race. However not talking about it does not make racial issues go away. Do not be afraid to enter the discussion. We as a global community need to keep up persistent conversations about important issues.

All this made the Loving Day event especially close to my heart. It was a wonderful chance for many different people to discuss “race” in a safe public forum. The amount and quality of discussion was delightful. With conversations stemming from the speeches given by three wonderful speakers: Phyl Newbeck, Nikki Khanna, and Melinda Mills, we as a group considered topics such as how growing up multiracial affects children, how multiracial individuals identify themselves, how is it different to date being multiracial, and how the world perceives multiracial individuals. We even had the great fortune to explore other topics, like how do disabilities manifest themselves within the rights of marriage, why does the constitution not better protect the right to love, and same sex marriage in light of Loving v Virginia.

Some great stories and experiences were shared that I hope to never forget. I look forward to the next Loving Day event in Vermont. I hope it is magnified tenfold, so that more people can join in on this great celebration and discussion of love and acceptance.