Saying Goodbye – practical tools for coping with grief

I killed at least 12 fish the year I was four, none of them on purpose. First overfeeding, then underfeeding. Once I forgot to clean the tank and they all jumped onto the rug. It was a hard way to. learn about death, killing things by accident. However, I think it has made me more conscious of treating things well when they are in my care. I also learned that when things are dead, they don’t come back.

Few of us ever learn to grieve well, and most people are told outright lies about what happens to people when they are dead. Whatever comfort we find in thinking that dead people are sleeping or living on some other planet or haunting the backyard, it will never bypass having to accept that they are not physically with us, but their influence can continue. What if we learned instead to consider everything transitory, and thus joyful for its presence in our lives right now? Or that not everything survives because if it did, there wouldn’t be room for everything that does? Or that this world is not fair or just, but we can find balance regardless? I believe in making up our own stories about death, ones that help us cope with the raw pain and the dull aching emptiness, until the memories are enough. I know of one child who decided that, when her grandmother died, she had an invisible extra body that was always with her in case of accident. It was a wonderful way to let her grapple with mortality as she got used to the idea of gram not being around any more.


Sometimes people must grieve for people who haven’t died, but still are no longer a part of their lives. Moving away from friends or leaving a lover are cause for grief just as much as death is. I have grieved for everything from the loss of a parent, friend and pet, to moving, leaving a job I loved, and ending a pregnancy. Hell, I’ve grieved about missing snow!

This notion of grieving contradicts the American ideal of retail therapy, that intimacy is replaceable with stuff, by asking ourselves to recognize what is satisfying and what is lacking in our lives on a regular basis. As much as we take the time to ask what is missing, we must also find ways to celebrate what is good and to compensate for our losses. It’s not enough (though it may help sometimes) to medicate the sadness with pills or food or shopping bags. It’s really important to find new ways to fill that cup.


If someone is fortunate enough to anticipate their loss, they have an incredible opportunity to make it a conscious transition. “The End” is not bad or to be feared, but it usually comes whether you want it to or not. Better to face it with a plan.

My partner and I have talked about what we will do if our rather serious relationship ends; we could either destroy each other (not desirable) or part as friends with mementos of our intimacy. There is no reason why this change must be destructive. We just need to recognize if our lives are so different that we can’t be close anymore.

When my mother battled 4 years of cancer, we tried to get as many stories as we could of her life in her own words and share meals as often as we could be together. When she finally died, we were there holding her hand, we were in each others’ company up to the last minute. Friends, and some very sweet acquaintances, kept us in food and company as we got through the first weeks without her. It was also important to me to keep up momentum in my life. I stayed active in music, stayed in school and tried to maintain a routine. Without ignoring that a huge part of me was hurt, I kept comfortable and familiar things nearby.


Sometimes loss happens without anticipation, and then we search for the message, the reason, and the straws of memory. The addition of shock to grief can make staying stable more difficult. At times like this, it’s good to know who and how to ask for help, and take some time off to let yourself adjust to a different reality. There are thousands of self-help grief books out there, and some of them really do give good advice. However, I’m wary of being told how we can have closure, especially through things like a funeral, and the pain doesn’t ever really disappear, no matter how much you accept it.

Perhaps the best way I dealt with losing a parent was to have a group of peers who were also grieving. We met once a week with a counselor (this was in high school) and had totally unstructured time. Though we rarely discussed our parents unless someone new joined the group (losses were: sudden, long illness, suicide, murder or accident), it was really helpful to be in the company of other people who had random thoughts like “dead people really do look they’re made of wax” or “shit, my mom won’t come to graduation now” or “why does my English teacher make us read so many tragedies?”. I didn’t feel so weird, knowing that other people referenced their grief like I did.


If I had to describe the ways in which my largest grief has changed over the years, it would be with two sets of pictures. In the first, my grief starts out all consuming. Then it becomes a distinct part of my identity which I occasionally reference. As I get farther away in time, the grief sort of scatters throughout my life, influencing all of it but dominating none. The second is a decreasing sinusoidal wave, marking the intensity of the pain I feel. Sometimes it really sucks. Sometimes, I feel as though maybe I would be a much worse person if I never suffered. Other times, I nearly forget that my life ever sucked.

But honestly, the point is that it isn’t intensely horrible forever. You will compartmentalize and integrate your grief if you give it space. And good things will happen to you in the meantime. Even if you never get over it.


Perhaps the most disappointing part of abandoning religion for me was the realization that most organized rituals don’t do much for me. There is nothing radical about death, but we can find radical ways to deal with death. Wakes and funerals (though they did once supposedly assure folks that the dead were really dead) have never really helped me grieve. I want a pine box or an incinerator, so choosing the silk in the casket and the readings from Acts of the Apostles doesn’t soothe me. A beer with friends in memory of the loss? Burning or burying mementos you don’t want to keep? Writing or singing or dancing? Hell yeah. Draw your own pictures. Being artistic is helpful in grieving, I’ve found. Favorite places and things to do can be great or traumatic. You’ll know once you try whether it helps to be there.

As each of us tries to untangle the commerce from our lives (a task not ever complete), understanding the significance of one’s actions helps recreate rituals that avoid trite mementos and empty words. While in the midst of grief, rituals to help get through denial and shock, or perhaps to numb instead, offer some soothing. Afterwards, it’s probably necessary to have some new routines to supplement what was lost. Whether it’s scheduling meals or finding new hobbies or solitude that helps– try it.

I want people to laugh and cry about the times I was thoroughly dorky when I’m dead and to forget my birthday as often as they did while I was alive. It’s selfish and disrespectful, to me, to ask others for more attention than they can honestly spare. We should give our dead what we can, without giving up living. It’s the least we can do with the time we’ve got.

The Feds can't imprison our spirits

Federal agents carried out raids in Oregon, Arizona, Virginia and New York Dec. 7 during which they arrested six activists on charges that they were involved in a number of arson attacks blamed on the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and Earth Liberation Front (ELF). Daniel McGowan, Sarah Harvey, Chelsea Gerlach, Kevin Tubbs, Stanislas Meyerhoff and William Rodgers were arrested. The Catalyst Infoshop in Prescott, Arizona where Rodgers lived was thoroughly searched. The arrests were apparently part of a nine year federal investigation and it is possible that more arrests will be made. Most of those arrested are being charged with multiple felonies and could face life in prison if convicted.

Support groups for those arrested have asked the alternative media to be very careful about what we write regarding these cases. In an Orwellian twist on “innocent until proven guilty,” the government has been using media reports about the arrests to smear those arrested. We have every reason to assume that all those arrested are innocent of the crimes of which they are accused, and that they will eventually be found innocent and released.

We also have every reason to believe that people everywhere will continue to resist industries and institutions that destroy the earth. Finally, we have every reason to believe that the government will do everything it can to frighten the environmental movement by infiltrating our circles, recording our conversations, and framing-up innocent activists. We won’t be scared and we won’t stop our activism. Many of us know some of the folks who have been arrested and our hearts reach out to them through the prison bars. Stay strong.

Events have moved quickly since the arrests. On December 21, Rodgers, 40, allegedly committed suicide in his jail cell with a plastic bag. (See obituary, page 6.) His supposed suicide came on the heels of the release of an affidavit from a federal agent in mid-December. The affidavit revealed that a cooperating government witness (snitch), believed to be Jacob “jake the snake” Ferguson, had worked closely with the government. Ferguson allegedly taped numerous conversations with a number of the arrestees. Also in mid-December, arrestee Meyerhoff was reported to be cooperating with the police by accusing his co-defendants of involvement in some of the alleged crimes in order to save himself. There are unconfirmed reports that another one of the arrestees may also be cooperating with the police.

Currently McGowan, 31, Gerlach, 28, and Tubbs, 36, are being held in Oregon and are seeking support.

Court papers filed in connection with bail hearings included a 25 page affidavit from FBI special agent John L. Ferreira who has apparently worked on the investigation for years. The text of the affidavit is available and makes very interesting reading for those interested in FBI investigative practices.

The document describes a detailed, 3 day long debriefing by an un-named cooperating witness (CW), believed to be Ferguson, describing the CW’s involvement in a number of arsons claimed by the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front. The document also describes how the CW wore a body recording device to secretly tape conversations with McGowan, Tubbs, Meyerhoff and Rodgers during numerous encounters over a one year period.

Gerlach’s public Defense attorney Craig Weinerman has attacked the credibility of the cooperating witness (Ferguson) since by his own admission he was involved in a number of the arsons, actually setting the fires in a number of instances. Photographs of a tattooed and pierced Ferguson show how he could pass easily through activist circles. The affidavit names a number of other individuals implicated by Ferguson who have not yet been arrested. Ferguson was reported addicted to heroin over the past several years. The arrestees are charged with involvement in a number of ALF/ELF actions (not all arrestees are charged in all of the following) : • A June 21, 1998, arson at the Animal and Plant and Health Inspection Services facility in Olympia, Washington. • An attack on a Bonneville Power Administration transmission tower near Bend, Oregon on December 31, 1999. • A January 2, 2001 fire at the Superior Lumber Co. in Glendale, Oregon • A May 21, 2001 fire at the Jefferson Poplar Farm in Clatskanie, Oregon. • A Dec. 27, 1998, fire at U.S. Forest Industries in Medford, Oregon. • A May 9, 1999 fire at the Childers Meat Co. plant in Eugene, Oregon. • A March 30, 2001, arson at Romania Chevrolet in Eugene which destroyed 35 vehicles.

In addition, media reports and court papers have indicated that the government seeks to charge some of the arrestees with involvement in an October, 1998 arson attack which did a reported $12 million in damage to a ski-resort in Vail, Colorado that threatened lynx habitat — one of the most destructive ALF/ELF actions.

Daniel, Chelsea and Kevin deny any involvement in any of these actions and so far it appears that there is no physical evidence connecting any of them to any crime. The arrests — and especially revelations about FBI informants and secretly recorded conversations — have spread fear in some activist communities, which may be precisely what the government wants. For many, the arrests underline the gravity of what we are struggling for and the lengths the government will go to protect corporate destruction of the earth. Any ALF/ELF actions against corporate property pale in comparison to the daily massive corporate attacks on the planet, its plants and animals, and ultimately its human inhabitants.

In the post 9-11 climate, it may be difficult for the arrestees to get a fair trial given sensational media coverage and government attempts to paint ALF/ELF actions as “terrorism.” In fact, no one was injured in any of the actions listed above. Despite the “property destruction only” nature of ALF/ELF tactics, John Lewis, the FBI’s deputy assistant director for counterterrorism, told a Senate committee in 2004 that environmental and animal-rights activists are the nation’s top domestic-terrorism threat.

Support information:

Daniel, Chelsea and Kevin need our support! You can send them letters of encouragement and/or contact their support groups. If you send a letter, keep in mind that all mail is read by prison officials. Do not use any nicknames or include any incriminating information. (See more tips, below.)

• Kevin Tubbs: Kevin Tubbs #1213751, Lane County Jail, 101 W 5th Ave, Eugene, OR 97401; Write to PO BOX 3025, Eugene, OR 97403,,

• Daniel McGowan, # 1407167, Lane County Jail, 101 West 5th Avenue, Eugene, OR 97401,

• Chelsea Gerlach #1308678, Lane County Jail, 101 W 5th Ave, Eugene, OR 97401,

Tips for writing to prisoners:

* Use only black/blue ink or type on plain white paper

* Use a white envelope. Avoid: tape, stickers, or markings beyond addresses


* Don’t discuss people’s pending cases.

* Even if you are a lawyer, don’t discuss legal information or offer legal advice.

Slingshot Issue #89

Slingshot is an independent, radical, quarterly newspaper published in Berkeley since 1988.

Welcome to issue #89, still running! We apologize to all our readers for our delayed publication.We planned to have an issue in December but after the deadline, the collective felt that we did not have enough good articles to spend the time, money and energy required to create the paper. Sooo, thanks for waiting! Here we are with more information about the crazy world out there, spending a rainy weekend using our hands and brains to lay out this paper.

In agonizing about the poor selection of articles a month ago, it became clear that the context surrounding radical publishing is changing in an internet dominated world. Ten years ago, if a non-mainstream voice wanted to be heard, they had to make a zine and then make as many copies as money or copy-scams would allow. Or, one could mail it to Fifth Estate, the Earth First! Journal or Slingshot. Nowadays, anyone with an opinion can make a blog or post to a website in a few minutes. Thus, when the Slingshot collective asks around to get some articles, a lot less people are willing to put in the energy because they’ve already satisfied their need to write.

We think the development of the internet and the way it democratizes information is great. BUT, publishing stuff on paper is still important. The collective process and editing — less common with the internet — often improve ideas and information. Plus, a publication on paper permits distribution to people who might not otherwise be looking at radical blogs or websites. In an internet dominated world, strongly opinionated people increasingly spend time talking to themselves and other people who already agree, rather than reaching out to new communities and individuals. We hope talented writers with smart politics and good organization skills will save a little bit of their writing energy for us and other paper-based media. Nuf said.

What else to write? Ohhhh yeahhhh!!! Guess whattt!!! Slingshot is having its 18th B-day on March 9 . . . that meannnnnnnsss . . . we are old enough to have sex and watch tons of porn and smoke millions of cigarettes but instead, we ain’t doing that ‘cuz we are here making the paper.

Slingshot is always looking to promote growth, change, and dialogue out in this big world and we are always on the lookout for new writers, artists, editors, photographers, translators, distributors and independent thinkers to help us make this paper. If you send something written, please be open to editorial changes. We hope to resume translating some articles into Spanish next issue.

Editorial decisions are made by the Slingshot collective, but not all the articles reflect the opinions of all collective members. We welcome debate, constructive criticism and discussion.

Thanks to the people who worked on this: Artnoose, Heafty Lefty, Cara, Eggplant, Gregg, Glenn, Maneli, MisTakE, Molly and PB.

Slingshot New Volunteer Meeting

Volunteers interested in getting involved with Slingshot can come to the new volunteer meeting on February 19th at 5 p.m. at the Long Haul in Berkeley (see below).

Article Deadline and Next Issue Date

Submit your articles for issue 90 by March 25, 2006 at 3 p.m. We expect the next issue out in April 9th .

Volume 1, Number 89, Circulation 14,000

Printed January 19th, 2006

Slingshot Newspaper

Sponsored by Long Haul

3124 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 94705

Phone: (510) 540-0751 •

Back issue Project

We’ll send you a random assortment of back issues for the cost of postage: send us $2 for 2 lbs or $3 for 4 lbs. Free if you’re an infoshop or library. Or drop by our office. Send cash or check to Slingshot to: Slingshot 3124 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 94705.

Circulation Information

Slingshot is free in the Bay Area and is available at Long Haul and Bound Together Books (SF), plus lots of other places. Contact us or come by if you want to distribute Slingshot for free in the Bay Area.

Subscriptions to Slingshot are free to prisoners, low income and anyone in the USA who owns a Slingshot organizer, or cost $1 per issue. International is $2.50 per issue. Back issues are also available for the cost of postage. National free distribution program: Outside of the Bay Area, we’ll mail a stack of free copies of Slingshot to distributors, infoshops, bookstores and random friendly individuals for FREE in the US if they give ‘em out for free.

Organizer update

Thanks to everyone who bought a 2006 Slingshot organizer — selling the organizer pays for us to publish this paper. We still have some organizers available — see the end of this for information on purchasing one. Please note: we are currently out of the spiral bound size but we may get some returns. If you are a bookstore and you have extra spiral size, please return them now so we can re-distribute them to the many people who have been asking for one.

Folks with a spiral bound organizer may have noticed a minor binding problem – 16 pages at the end of the book (starting with “Heroin overdose prevention” and ending with “Apocalypse Now”) are out of order! You can fix the problem Do It Yourself style in about 2 minutes, and at the same time laminate your cover so the whole thing doesn’t fall apart so easily.

Use a small pair of pliers (needle nose work great) to unbend the crimped end of the spiral wire, then spiral the wire out of the book. Then, reorganize the pages that are out of order so they make sense. The correct order of the pages on the right side of the book should be: (1) Booklist (2) Herbs and natural healing (3) Foot reflexology (4) How to tell if you are ovulating (5) Heroin/downer overdose prevention (6) page 2 of the police feature (starts with small text “to tell them anything other than your name and address”) (7) Radical contact list (8) Midwest USA (9) continuation of Canada section (starts with “The sprout (Veg restaurant)”.

While you have the whole thing apart, you can protect your cover by laminating it at a copy store or by covering it with clear packing tape or clear contact paper. Use a sharpened pencil or nail to poke holes through the plastic. Then, spiral the wire back into the book and re-crimp the wire.

We also recommend covering the covers on the small pocket organizers with clear packing tape or contact paper to protect them.

We’ll be working on the 2007 Organizer starting in June and going to print in August – let us know if you want to work on it with us. Send us your suggestions, contacts for the contact lists, and art. Please note: we now have about 10-20 historical dates per day, so not all dates can go in each year’s organizer — we try to print different dates each year.

Ordering Information:

Contact us if you want to order 20 or more copies (10 small plus 10 spiral equals 20). 20 pocket organizer is just $60 with fee shipping: Slingshot Collective: 3124 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 94705 • 510 540-0751 ex. 3,,

If you want to order less than 20 copies, please visit your local infoshop or independent bookstore or try one of the following mail order distros:

•Whoop! Distro PO Box 3885, Berkeley, CA 94703

•Microcosm 5307 N. Minnesota Ave, Portland, OR 97217 503 249-3826

•AK Press 674 A 23rd Street Oakland, CA 94612, 510 208 -1700

•Last Gasp 777 Florida, San Francisco, CA 94110 800 848-4277

Operation Get the Fuck out of Iraq – Let's make the war machine unstable

By m(A)tt – CLASH Collective (with shortening from slingshot)

We are fast approaching the third anniversary of the war in Iraq and the annual protests on the anniversary of the war. Hundreds of thousands have been killed, millions have suffered, and the situation becomes worse every day — indeed, every second. And in over three years of protest, we have by and large gone unheard in any practical sense. We may make some headlines now and again by winning celebrities to our cause, but regardless, our cries for peace and justice have gone unheeded.

Make no mistake: this war will come to an end, sooner or later. The hatred this unprovoked war has sewn is so entrenched, and the people of Iraq are so determined to be rid of an illegitimate, foreign rule, that it is simply impossible for the US to win in any sense of the word.

However, if we allow this war to run its course, the cost may be higher than we realize. The steady stream of broken bodies and damaged minds eats away the social fabric. The economic cost of the war — hundreds of billions of dollars — further cripples social welfare at home. The mainstream antiwar movement expresses concern for the war’s affect on society, but limits itself to liberal tactics and strategies incapable of stopping the war. Gradual tactic could take years to stop the war – similar tactics during the Vietnam war era permitted that war to continue for ten long years, which saw millions dead. The deep societal scars from Vietnam are still felt today by hundreds of thousands of American soldiers and millions of southeast Asians. Today, the consequences for the rest of the world, which will bear the brunt of an invigorated fundamentalist movement being bred in Iraq, will be far greater than anything the US government has yet to unleash upon the world. Another ten year war is not acceptable.

We must be clear about what the powers that be believe the stakes of this war are. While they are not sure if this crusade can be salvaged, they believe that no cost is too high to maintain US world supremacy in the twenty-first century. This includes the leadership of the Democratic Party every bit as much as it includes the Republicans, and we simply cannot depend on any anti-war candidates (like Richard Nixon) to do our dirty work for us. Campaign promises that run diametrically opposed to the status quo are unlikely to be honored. Fundamental change, which is the only worthwhile goal in this era, never in history has come from above and within the system — it has always come from below and without. The fact is that the government must be forced to cease its aggression by regular people of all walks, and we must intervene with our own bodies. We must end this war before it ends us.

Because of the urgency of the situation, the anti-war movement should abandon permitted mass protest and lobbying of so-called government representatives. It may be unrealistic to expect this of the whole mainstream movement immediately, but tactics that haven’t worked for three years should not be repeated blindly. We must wage war on the war-makers. Wage it in whatever ways that are consistent with our own beliefs through the use of direct action. But please, wage. We are not fighting for merely the moral imperative of the situation; it is a matter of self-preservation. If we continue to obey, we dig our own grave.

The US government is capable of waging war in the first place because it has a stable base from which to operate. That base is what is know as our society. From our society, it takes troops, weapons, goods, land for bases, and moral support, all in order to hold other peoples captive. We, the citizens of the empire, are therefore in a unique position to deprive the war machine of what it requires to continue its crimes. If we withhold troops through continued and intensified counter-recruitment work, they have no one to kill and die for them. If we block the development, manufacture and distribution of weapons, they have no implements of violence. If we put even the home bases of the military on the defensive, it will make it all the more difficult to go on the offensive. And already, the moral support for this war is steadily disintegrating. The application of these concepts are, in our opinions, very much up for debate — a debate that at the moment is very difficult to have in the broader antiwar movement, as dialogue is very much framed by the movement leadership and celebrities, who are decidedly against any such ideas.

In the last several decades, direct action has been often organized in a democratic fashion through organs of popular power known as spokescouncils. Spokescouncils are generally directly democratic (as opposed to democratic centralism) where all participants in the actions of a certain time frame and geographic area make decisions on general guidelines, agreements and policies for action, while maximizing freedom of movement and action for individual groups. Some spokescouncils are varyingly private, while others are open to the public, based on the level of police state mobilization. Concerns such as the vulnerabilities of some activists to state repression are discussed and addressed.

We realize that the repercussions for arrest are simply too high for some to risk, and so we recognize the strong and often urgent need for solidarity to our more vulnerable comrades. However, that doesn’t mean everyone must limit themselves to permitted protest. That one reality does not erase the other — that permitted protest has a bad track record in terms of making us heard by the war-makers. We believe the first priority in the struggle against the war is to use effective tactics and stop the war — they the chips fall where they may.

People who are unable to risk arrest can play pivotal supporting roles for those who do, such as providing medical, legal, media, communication, and other kinds of assistance. Other direct actions can even be legal, such as counter-recruitment work. If fulfilled, these can make an effective movement a sustainable one, and are therefore every bit as important. Maintaining visibility for people doing work behind the scenes and/or in supporting roles can be a challenge, but is by no means impossible, so long as we have organizations that are anti-hierarchical, participatory and radically feminist.

Further, practical on the ground solidarity can have a major impact on the safety of those who are more vulnerable to arrest and brutality, but risk arrest anyway. Some such examples are the tactics of forcible un-arresting, jail house solidarity, and generally being mindful of the vulnerabilities of others when planning and carrying out direct action. We also recognize that the escalation of the struggle can potentially mean that all of those who are more vulnerable in the movement become therefore more at risk, regardless of the roles they consciously play. However, we believe that any movement that effectively challenges the status quo, regardless of the tactics employed, will always receive state repression, of which we have already gotten a taste. Repression is inevitable. But if we concede effectiveness, we risk repression for nothing.

We desire a movement that is completely out of control, like a force of nature, or a wild, cornered animal. In our experience, direct action that is organized autonomously and non-hierarchically is generally the most effective kind. This effectiveness has been demonstrated at countless actions, most infamous in the streets of Seattle in November 1999, when hundreds of affinity groups blocked streets, the paths of WTO delegates, and in many cases successfully fought off police repression. We also believe too much is at risk to simply hand over command to any leadership, which may have very different priorities and ideas about what is at stake, just so they can negotiate us away with the State. What’s there to negotiate about? Either the war continues (and with it the march to apocalypse) or the war is over. What could
be simpler? Further, when those in the street are allowed to call their own shots, based on their own priorities and the mutual aid and solidarity of their comrades, they invariably call the right ones. It is only through autonomous direct action that we can foster an American insurgency capable of halting the war machine, and ultimately building the framework for a new democratic, cooperative, peaceful society.

Up the Ante!!

Waiting for the Bus – Angry New Yorkers Can't Get to Work – What about Solidarity with Transit workers

In attempting to secure a fair contract, the transit workers of New York City not only shut down the largest public transportation system in the country, but inadvertently brought to light the obstacles facing today’s labor movement. The negotiations, the previous spending habits of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the media onslaught, and the lack of solidarity from other unions all expose the disregard many people have towards workers. The contract reached between Transit Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 and the MTA does include some improvements for the workers. The way in which the negotiations and the strike played out reveal the overwhelming power wielded by the ruling class and yet the ability of the people to rally together in solidarity, bring a city to its knees, and achieve some measure of victory.


The previous contract between the MTA and its workers expired on December 16, 2005. On that day, a limited strike began against two private bus lines in Queens. Unable to agree on a contract, the TWU 100 extended the deadline to December 20. Still unable to reach an agreement, the TWU 100 went on strike at 3:00 am that day. Joining the TWU 100 were Local 726 (Staten Island) and Local 1056 (Queens) of the Amalgamated Transit Union. @Key demands of the workers included:

• an 8% salary increase per year for 3 years

• lowering the age of retirement from 55 to 50

• pay for maternity leave

• more money spent on station maintenance Key demands of the MTA included:

• 3.0, 4.0 and 3.5% raises over the next 3 years

• a two-tiered pension system which would raise the retirement age from 55 to 62 for newly hired workers (the MTA offered to drop this if new employees paid for 6% of their pensions instead of the current 2%)

• to have new employees pay for 1% of their health insurance (current employees pay nothing for their health insurance)

The two-tiered pension plan was the main point of dispute for the workers. If the MTA had hoped the current workers would be willing to sell out future hires, one would think they’d at least have enough sense to offer current employees a decent raise. Nevertheless, they refused to come even close to the 8% demand made by the workers, and considering current inflation rates, the offer of an average 3.5% annual raise was barely a raise at all. Meanwhile, the proposed raising of the retirement age to 62-years-old would have made new hires lifelong workers. While the MTA noted an increased life expectancy as a reason for wanting to raise the age, transit workers live significantly shorter lives due to harsh working conditions. The average transit worker in New York City lives six years past retirement; upping the retirement age by seven years would thus make them workers until death. Contributing to the shortened life span is the fact that transit workers have to deal with conditions not dealt with in other sectors. Many workers develop health problems they’d never had before, such as allergies and asthma, plus they deal with dirty restrooms and rat-infested workspaces on a regular basis. This, combined with other problems such as long hours and lack of bathroom breaks, has significant effects on the workers after years on the job.

Furthermore, the MTA’s attempt to negotiate pensions wasn’t even legal under New York’s Taylor Law. Officially called the Public Employees Fair Employment Act, it was passed in 1967 after transit workers struck the previous year. Section 201, part 4 lays out the basic definitions to be used in the law. According to this section, employers are allowed to negotiate only certain aspects of a contract. For example, wages, salaries, and hours are all included in what employers are allowed to negotiate. Other aspects, such as retirement funds, are not to be handled through collective bargaining, but are instead decided by the state legislature. While the MTA blatantly violated one portion of the Taylor Law, officials blasted the workers for violating another section of it. Section 210 of the law forbids public employees from striking and penalizes them two days pay for every day on strike. Thus, the MTA was able to put the focus on the illegality of the strike and simultaneously ignore the fact that they, too, were in violation of the same law.

Indeed, the MTA’s actions towards the workers were hostile every step of the way. The directors at the MTA did not feel they had to justify any of their actions. Instead, they sought to take as much as possible from their workers without even trying to appear sympathetic. All the while, they have been giving themselves huge raises while claiming to have a deficit.


When raising ticket prices, denying worker demands for improved safety, and negotiating contracts, the MTA cites a deficit, yet these supposed money problems have a way of disappearing during other times. In 2004, while the MTA sought to raise fare prices and institute a new state tax, it approved a 22% raise for executive director Katherine N. Lapp, raising her salary from $192,500 to $235,000. In addition, MTA directors have voted themselves a 20% pay increase over the last five years.

After claiming to have a very modest surplus in 2005, it was discovered the MTA actually had a surplus totaling, at the very least, a whopping $833 million. TWU 100 estimated the surplus to be as much as $1 billion. Hours before the December 16 contract expired, the MTA voted to spend the entire surplus.


Despite the reasonable demands made by the workers and the financial surplus available, the workers had insufficient public support to continue the strike over a long period, perhaps because of its crippling effects on daily life.

The reaction of the ruling class was typical. Billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg called the strikers thugs. The MTA tried to make the workers look greedy. Major Democrats failed to support the strikers: Senator Hillary Clinton declared herself neutral on the issue and said she supported the Taylor Law. The mainstream media presented a brutally anti-worker depiction of the situation: they treated the strike as a rash decision that wasn’t worth it; they pitted workers against each other by focusing on the problems faced by commuters and the losses experienced by retailers; they emphasized the illegality on the part of the workers; the much talked about cover of Rupert Murdoch’s NY Post superimposed bars over the face of TWU 100 President Roger Toussaint with the words “JAIL ‘EM.”

The mainstream’s response to the strike was appalling but not surprising. What is most disappointing about the way this strike played out was the lack of support the strikers received from other unions. Not one union struck in solidarity with the workers, and other union leaders failed to so much as verbally support the transit workers, let alone join them on the picket lines. Even the workers’ own union turned on them, when the TWU International informed Toussaint it would not support a strike at the last minute of negotiations. TWU International called the strike illegal and unsanctioned, instructed the workers to scab during the strike, and sent lawyers to argue on the city’s behalf.

While every facet of the mainstream turned its back on the strikers, certain groups and individuals stepped up to do all they could to support the strike. The New York Metro Area Anarchists formed an ad hoc group to support the TWU 100 and called for a four hour a rally at the Brooklyn Bridge on the second day of the strike. The Troops Out Now Coalition organized a rally on the third day of the strike and handed out leaflets to motorists. These are just a few of the many groups who came out in support of the workers, not to mention the various individuals who dropped banners, called Pataki and the MTA, signed petitions, and stood on the picket lines with the workers.


Given the odds stacked a
gainst the workers, they were able to at least have some successes in the contract. While they accepted the MTA’s low pay raise, they were able to reject the two-tiered pension plan, plus they got maternity pay, state disability coverage and Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday. @When TWU 100 went on strike, the goal was not to overturn the Taylor Law or challenge the capitalist system; they simply wanted a fair contract. Despite such moderate demands, they had no choice but to strike due to the MTA’s initial refusal to compromise on their offers. The fact that the workers were met with resistance from so many different angles, despite having such reasonable demands, shows the hostility this country has towards workers.

This was a struggle that revealed the priorities of those who claim to be friends of labor. The transit workers learned the hard way that union leaders cannot be depended on. While various leaders failed to come through for the workers when it mattered most, it was the people, who are not bound by political or business interests, who came through and stood in solidarity with fellow workers.

Freebox fracture – why is the univeristy so afraid of people doing stuff for ourselves

n a cowardly, middle of the night police raid, University of California at Berkeley workers tore out a brand new, steel free clothing exchange box Nov. 16 that volunteers had built in Berkeley’s People’s Park Nov. 12-13 — the third free box destroyed by the University in three months. People’s Park — a park built by Berkeley residents on land seized from the University in 1969 — has contained a free clothing box for most of the last 30 years. To this day, the university claims that they “own” the park and thus have the right to control and manage it.

Folks in Berkeley, however, do not recognize university ownership of the park and practice “user development” of the park — planting and maintaining gardens, hosting events, serving free Food Not Bombs meals, and building and maintaining the community free box. The university claimed they owned the park in 1969 and went so far as to occupy Berkeley with 3,000 National Guard troops and shoot over 100 residents with shotguns — killing one person — to enforce their claim. The university’s claim is covered in blood — the park, like all the world’s resources, belongs to everyone. The standoff between community members and the university bureaucracy has gone on for 36 years — with occasional flair-ups like the current dispute over the free box.

When a free box exists, anyone with extra clothes can bring them to give away, and anyone who needs clothes can come pick them up. The free box is thus a perfect form of non-structured recycling and economic mutual aid.

In April 2005, the previous wood free box burned down. When community members mentioned to university officials that they were planning to construct a replacement, university officials indicated that they would not permit replacement of the box. They implied that the box attracts the wrong element to areas near the university, i.e. poor and homeless people. As if poverty would go away if only no resources for poor people existed.

Of course, members of the community went ahead and started to build a replacement box anyway — the foundation of which was promptly torn down by the university in September. And we built another one in October which was also removed by police. And we’ll keep building new free boxes until the university gets too embarrassed to continue to pull them down.

Why is the university so threatened by a free clothing box? And why do we want one so much that we’ll keep building new ones even though they might get torn down? The free box and the park are key battlegrounds between the kind of world the university wants to impose and the kind of world we envision.

The free box is an example of anarchistic exchange in the best sense — exchange controlled by no one, un-mediated by money and operating on the principal “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need”. The world we envision is one of sharing, cooperation to meet human needs, and decisions made by users from the bottom up, not disconnected authorities from the top down.

In contrast, the university’s world view is threatened when people do anything for themselves — without permission from authorities, without expert planning, and without money. The university is threatened by any act of sharing or any formation of community. The university — and much of the city of Berkeley machinery which quietly tolerates university attacks on community in People’s Park — seeks to promote a world ruled by money in which those with the most money are constantly showered with more, while those in need are denied access to basic items that exist all around them in abundance.

The cops acted in the middle of the night because they are afraid — afraid that people would be outraged if they knew that the university and the city were spending thousands of dollars to rob used clothes from the poor. They didn’t want any pictures of their bulldozer cutting into the brand new shiny steel free box.

University and city leaders always imply that they need to “clean up” People’s Park — by which they mean “remove the visual indications of the inequality of a class society.” The University of California doesn’t want the future social leaders who attend the university to understand the ugly effects of capitalism, inequality and business as usual. But even more, they don’t want these future leaders to see that there are viable and beautiful alternatives to their system of greed — that people can share; that folks can use just what they need rather than accumulating property as an end in itself.

What would the world look like if everything was “cleaned up” and everyone conformed to a work-shop-die world? Do we even want everything to be clean, middle class, sterile and standardized? Do we want everything to be run on commerce and money?

The struggle to rebuild the free box — and with it to strengthen community that exists outside the economy — will continue because this is the key struggle of our age. This is the same struggle as the struggle against inhumane corporate power, globalization, sweatshops and the New World Order. It is a struggle that emphasizes direct action — communities getting together to construct the world we want to live in — not asking permission or submitting to a role as a passive consumer.

What you can do:

Folks will be getting together in People’s Park soon to build another free box — contact 510 390-0830 or People’s Park website if you want to be part of it. Or better yet, call Irene Hegarty at the Unviersity’s Office of Community Relations and tell her to let the free box live: 510 643-5296.

Active Youth: a new world in our hearts

Radical activism hits most of us at around the ages of 16-18 and pretty much changes how we think for the rest of our lives. Being an 18 year old activist I can tell you it’s not a very easy life calling, but I am not here to talk about me per say. Lately the youth of this country have been more silent then they have been in former years in the mainstream anyway. It seems like overall youth activism is declining, but that activism is instead getting more concentrated.

In Palo Alto a group of youthful activists (most no older that 18) have started an Anarchist Action group there. On May 20, 2005 the group was able to disable the downtown area of Palo Alto with a Reclaim the Streets rally. Anarchist Action is a group of activists focused on direct action in their own communities, but the name is much like Food Not Bombs — anyone with the desire can start one. Right now known anarchist action groups are in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Seattle and Kansas City.

The work youths are doing in Palo Alto and in many cities around the country is a growing phenomena. Instead of idolizing a political leader or some one else’s ideology, more youths are realizing that they hold a new world in their hearts and they can make revolution happen in any place they want to. This country is reaching another threshold of crisis and it is the youth that have the most to lose and in some cases are the most persecuted. Now I’m not talking about your yuppie scum youth that think they are being oppressed just because they can’t have fat free frozen yogurt in the cafeteria. Lower middle class to working class youth are losing their anchor to any cultural background. I feel people need history and culture to hold on to and when what exists loses its relevance, we need to make our own. And that is exactly what is happening — the shunned youth of this country are creating our own history to tell our grandchildren.

Now if you are a youth reading this, or a youth in a grown-up’s body, I’ve found that the key to liberation is realizing that you can make history — and not being afraid. Pretty profound aint it? Think about how you feel about your life. Do you like that you have a job you hate? Do you like that you drive a car that kills the environment everywhere? Do you like the clothes you buy come from people making 3 cents an hour? If you answered no to any of these questions, then welcome to the club! People feel the same way you do, but most people are too afraid to do anything about it. Most would rather let things go they way they are than risk abuse by speaking up. But you, YES YOU, can change that. The minute you decide to stand up for your beliefs and hand out pamphlets and hold up signs, people will join you. So come on, stop reading this paper and get outside, enjoy the sun or the rain and get active. Don’t want for the revolution to come, because the revolution in now in our hands — we just need to start building our new lives before they are taken from us!

Saying goodbye to Bill Rodgers – So long Avalon – Gone but not forgotten – the fight goes on

William Rodgers was one of 6 environmental activists arrested December 7. He was charged with one count of arson for a June, 1998 fire at the National Widlife Research Center in Olympia, Washington. He was found dead in his jail cell on December 21. Police claim he committed suicide with a plastic bag. Bill founded the Catalyst Infoshop in Prescott, Arizona in mid-2003.

We mourn the passing of our dear friend and community member, Bill Rodgers, who worked tirelessly for the causes of social justice and environmental sustainability. We ask that he be remembered as the gentle, kind, and compassionate person we all knew and loved here in Prescott. We remain committed to continuing the work of community building and ecological responsibility, through the Catalyst Infoshop, as part of the legacy Bill helped to create. We wish our friend the peace and serenity that he strived so hard to manifest in this world.

Bill was such a thoroughly good man; we are all richer for knowing him and having him with us, and we are all poorer for the loss of his wonderful, caring soul. We remember the inspiring conversations, and our amazement that someone so gentle and non-aggressive could have such positive, powerful hopes for the world. Words cannot express our impressions of this very human soul — nor can they contain the shock, anger, sadness and confusion about his death. Still, we will draw strength from this tragic loss to our community, and rededicate ourselves to the movement for the earth and for peace and justice. We know Bill would have wanted as much.

Bill, known to many as “Avalon,” was a deeply principled and complicated man, living a simple life oriented almost entirely around his activism to protect old growth forests and wild places. He made just enough money to keep gas in his truck, and spent the bulk of his days in the forests and deserts of the West. He was a wilderness guide and environmental educator who introduced adults to the principles of deep ecology. Bill was an articulate warrior for the wild, for environmental and social justice. He was a small man, delicate bones and gentle movements, who sometimes moved like a cat. And, like a small furry mammal, he was completely at home underground. He was never afraid to speak the truth as he understood it, and he was not afraid to take a stand against power, however risky. He was one of the brightest, most thoughtful people in this community; his insight and depth when he shared his thoughts on a subject were always well worth taking home and pondering. From catching (and releasing) live mice, to crawling through a cave opening the size of a coat hanger, to speaking for those without a voice, he will be well remembered.

The words most frequently mentioned about Bill have been “gentle,” “kind,” “compassionate,” “good natured,” and “friend.” At a small community gathering the evening we learned of his passing, we recalled funny Bill stories, his “pack rat” alter ego, how he was “the ultimate recycler,” and how he smiled even when he disagreed with you. His court-appointed attorney called him “a beautiful man with high principles,” and friends chalked “live wild” on the sidewalk in his honor. Casualty or free spirit, saboteur or man of principle, guilty or innocent — no matter. Bill was a kind, compassionate and gentle man who should never have been imprisoned. We ask that his untimely death remind us all of what is truly important in life and that it inspires personal growth beyond the need for injustice and insufficiency in the world. We know that it is now more important than ever to keep pushing forward. Endless tears on this dark night, but no fading memories or forgotten names — it will go down in action!

Earth First! Rendezvous!

Is winter in your bioregion a time of rest; a lull of activity in acceptance of nature’s cycles? Maybe February is the peak of a long and frigid season that has you curious about what your bare-skin looks like or what it was like to have full sensation in your fingers and toes…

Down here in the swamps and beaches of the tropics/sub-tropics of south Florida things are a little different: The ocean is perfect swimming temperature; the community gardens are in their full glory; with the mosquitoes at bay, it’s perfect weather for hikes through the pine flatwoods, cypress swamps and dwindling scrub lands; what’s left of local citrus trees offer a fresh-squeezed daily immune-system boost; and our season of kicking ass against developers and venture capitalists who are trying to turn this amazing bioregion into a sprawling concrete playground for the global elite is just about to reach climax.

Come out of hibernation and back out onto the frontlines! It’s that time of the year again, when the Earth First! network gathers up to hash out crucial movement decisions & direction, party their brains into mush and then invigorate the hosting bioregion with some badass action(s). So, start making your travel plans & affinity group schemes, it’s time for the Earth First! Organizers’ Conference/Winter Rendezvous: Feb. 15th – 20th 2006 Palm Beach County, South Florida. The meetings will be the 15th-17th at the Everglades Youth Camp inside the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area, which has full facilities (including cabin options, a swimming hole and, uh… alligators). Friday night will be the annual ‘Night To Howl!’ gathering of the Warrior Poets Society, so bring poems, songs and stories to share. The weekend will continue on a primitive campsite as the winter rendezvous and fiesta. Bring your workshops, music, and hiking gear and plan on sticking around, potentially, for a following week of actions.

The conference will include reports; evaluating strategy, tools & tactics; examining our visions & aspirations; where we’ve been, where we’re going; state repression review; anti-oppression check-in; and bioregional round-ups. We also hope to offer some extra attention this year to the question of solidarity beyond borders (national and cultural), and perhaps strategize a bit on an international level. We are issuing an invitation to activists outside the USA and are seeking translation assistance as part of this effort.

After the conference, protests are planned. In the wake of a monumental court victory against the Army Corps of Engineers, the battle against Scripps Florida Biotech Research Park is heating up to be one of the largest, broadest and most successful campaigns in this region’s eco-activist history. Massive land scandals, corporate biotech nightmare, bio-hazardous waste issues, bio-prospecting in the majority world, brutal animal research and an active construction site (still in operation as of this email, despite illegal permitting and more pending lawsuits) are all within a mile of our lovely camp in the swamp.

$25-50 donation requested. Bring basic camping gear, including your own kitchen utensils. Please notify the planning committee if you will be needing childcare or have any other special needs.

EF!OC 2006 committee: PO Box 961, Lake Worth, FL 33460 (561) 547-6686