At times I sit here and wonder how I came to be Marvin Bing. A boy whose mother was taken from him at a very young age due to drug overdose. A boy whose father was incarcerated most of his life. A boy who feels alone in his family. A boy who doesn’t remember almost anything before the age of 13. A boy who doesn’t have many baby pictures. A boy who has been through foster care, the juvenile justice system, welfare, and homeless care. I guess it’s almost foreign have grown up with the heart only to help others. It’s just a mystery, with no explanation of how it all happened. I can’t give you a story or interview on how I changed. It’s all truly only divine conversion by whatever religious foundation you interpret.
Growing up, I was never taught about the Civil Rights movement, Jim Crow, Freedom, Race, and Struggle. I only realized struggle when I watched TV and saw things I didn’t have or that weren’t in my environment. I remember my grandmother Margaret Bing; a woman whose sacrifice in the name of her family I will forever hold dear to my heart. Truthfully, it was her that taught me the meaning of sacrifice and love. I remember her living in New Jersey—I used to go over there with my dad. I remember her playing with me, taking me to the store, buying me anything I even smiled at, kissing me and hugging me all throughout the day. I just remember her showing me agape love. I also remembered where she lived, in a Pennsauken suburb, a lot of trees and non-colored folks, and a whole house with a yard and an air-conditioned system outside the back door. I remember life felt good. I also remember Richard Allen Projects in Philly. Where movies like New Jack City, Boyz N the Hood, New Jersey Drive, Deep Cover, Menace to Society, Above the Rim all seemed to fit into one glass. I remember wearing no shoes outside because I didn’t have any. I remember syrup sandwiches because we didn’t have meat. I remember all these things and yet I still didn’t know what my history was and how I even came to be produced unto this earth. Two different worlds, two different understandings, two different meanings, two very different outcomes.
I am fast-forwarding because I’m getting a bit emotional. It was when I was in foster care that I first realized what life was really about. I remember the family: David and Geneva Sumter in Pine Forge Academy in Pennsylvania. I remember having to cut down and chop trees in the yard to make wood for the fireplace. I remember getting dropped off at the bus stop in the middle of a dirt road. I remember being the only person of color in a classroom. I remember having to ask when I got home to use the bathroom, get water, and come outside of my room. I remember being blamed for things that their daughters did on purpose to get me into trouble. I remember them getting the “foster care kid check”. I remember going to see my caseworker once a month and her evaluating me. I remember feeling like something I would throw into the trash rather than something I would water and put into the sunlight. That’s when I remembered starting to become resistant.
I then was arrested for the first time at the age of 13. I took a weapon to school and showed it to a classmate who told on me. I remember having to go to the principal’s office and then the police came and took me to a station. I remember then I was not free. I rememberwaking up at 5 am, having to stand outside in the cold holding my legs at 6 inches off the ground, having to run 1 mile, having to stand in the rain and cold of a winter in the mountains; all at the age of 13. I wasn’t free by any standard—and I now understood slavery. Not by a teacher, but by the experience. And trust me, I fully understand my situation was nothing in comparison to slavery but it’s my personal account from my personal experience. I remember it well.
As I have made the transition to where I am today, I marvel at it all myself. How and why or even when did all this take over my heart and soul—that my life was not of my own and belonged to the people? I can’t tell you in any knee jerk response what it was or what it means even today. All I know is, whatever it is, I only ask of you to do one thing: help me understand my purpose. It’s like my life has been up to this point educational, based off my personal experiences. It been good and bad all meshed into one. I am daily trying to grasp it and dissect it—to no avail—but it existed nonetheless.
This is just the beginning of my understanding, I will write more as we all get to know each other. The Bing Family, Politics, High School,New York, and more…
I never thought I would see the day when Social Justice Activists would lay down and play dead when the biggest fight in our generation was at the rivers shores. Michigan with all her glory and pride has been recently attacked by a right-wing, conservative, anti-worker, full of hatred, full of anti-people, full of anti-progress ideology that is weeping through the Michigan Legislature and trickling down to the people who took an oath to protect us. Where do we begin Lets start with the Emergency Financial Manager Legislation. A Law that lets an un-elected political hack come into any county, township, city, and agency and wreak havoc on workers, people, families, businesses, students, teachers, firefighters if they do not kneel to the throne of Rick Snyder and Andy Dillon. The powers endowed to an Emergency Financial Manager include the ability to dissolve local government; declare bankruptcy; hire, fire, and direct staff; eliminate positions or create new ones; consolidate or otherwise eliminate departments; reject, modify or terminate existing labor contracts; amend the budget of the local unit of government at will; sell community assets, including publicly held property; adjust salaries and benefits for elected and governing officials; and issue and approve vendor contracts. The law does not require that the governor-appointed Emergency Financial Manager be a citizen or taxpayer of the municipality. There is also no cap on the EFM’s salary, which is paid for by the local unit of government, and there are no term limits. This is called a Dictatorship and is meant to act as such.
Lets Talk about Right to work for a Second. Does a “Right to Work” law guarantee me a job or the “right” to a job? No. Right to Work laws have nothing to do with creating or providing jobs for workers? Does a “Right to Work” law protect me from losing my job? No. Michigan is an “at-will” employment state which means that you can be let go for any reason or no reason. So, under “at-will” employment my employer can fire me for no reason and the “Right to Work” law does nothing to stop this? Correct. A Right to Work law does not guarantee any right to “work” nor does it stop an employer from firing you under the at-will doctrine. What is a so-called “Right to Work” Law? It’s a loophole created under Section 14(b) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) that allows a state to enact a law prohibiting union security clauses in union contracts. It was enacted as part of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, a major anti-worker overhaul of Federal labor law pushed through by the 80th Congress despite a veto by President Harry Truman. It is worth noting that this was the first Republican controlled Congress since 1932. Do Right to Work laws affect wages and benefits? Yes. The real data shows that once “Right to Work” laws are enacted, they lower wages and benefits for all workers Union and No-Union. Workers in “Right to Work” states earn far less than their counterparts in Non-Right to Work states. It’s the same effect with benefits. – But where are the leaders telling you this??? Are they controlled by the Chamber of Commerce or beholden to the companies here who give Political Donations and yes have made them kneel in silence.
Lets Talk about the “Fake Eviction Notices” put on the homes of Detroit’s Delray Neighborhood. I mean how can we let this act go without saying a single word in defense of the families, children, working people in the neighborhood. Maybe because Rick Snyder has threatened an Emergency Manager if anyone says anything about it? The whole idea was mongered up by a group called Americans For Prosperity – yes Americans for Prosperity, not American for Working People, or Americans for Respect of Homeowners. The Group is founded and financed by Koch Industries Executive Vice President David Koch. The group has lobbied on behalf of conservative causes since its founding, and has in the past been an important organizer of tea party events. The same people who are really controlling Rick Snyder’s administration and the Emergency Managers. if the bridge is built, a number of residents of Detroit’s Delray neighborhood would in fact lose their homes because of eminent domain. Yes, they will say where are going to buy you out with a 125% of their home values. Have we seen the Home Values? They will Gain Mega Profits once again and lure families into a deal that would still stifle the family and they are using a percentage to do it. Profits over People and the Leaders who wont say a word.
I leave you with a Favorite Quote of mine by Dr. Martin Luther King; “I must confess, my friends, the road ahead will not always be smooth. There will still be rocky places of frustration and meandering points of bewilderment. There will be inevitable setbacks here and there. There will be those moments when the buoyancy of hope will be transformed into the fatigue of despair. Our dreams will sometimes be shattered and our ethereal hopes blasted. We may again with tear-drenched eyes have to stand before the bier of some courageous civil-rights worker whose life will be snuffed out by the dastardly acts of bloodthirsty mobs. Difficult and painful as it is, we must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future. And as we continue our charted course.”
Where do we go from Here!
When I was a young man, I was lost. Life had not been kind to me; I grew up in the foster care system in Philadelphia and found myself in the juvenile justice system by the age of 15. I was determined to make something more of myself, but I didn’t see the way out, until I found the Labor Movement.
This may seem strange to read at first. But in truth, the labor movement opened my eyes to the active struggle of the downtrodden for better lives, better opportunities, and work with dignity. I saw not just a path for myself, but a real, sustainable road for the many to go from oppressive circumstances to a place where they are empowered to influence those circumstances.
Today the labor movement is challenged like it hasn’t been in almost a century. There is an immediate and serious need to re-evaluate our programs, our leaders, our allies and enemies. One of the most crucial needs stemming from the crisis of the moment is the need to fully incorporate young workers into the strategic fight.
With battles in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, and Indiana, young workers have the most at stake—our entire future is at risk at the hands of these elitist, greedy, right-wing ideologues. Take a look at the issues: Social Security, Education (Interest on Loans, Pell Grants, K-12 Funding), Public Transit, Healthcare Costs, Immigration Reform, Marriage Equality, Foreign Affairs (Wars), and Clean Energy and Environmental Protection: all these issues will have the greatest impact on us and our future. If Social Security is destroyed, it is the young of today who will have no retirement safety net tomorrow. If public schools are defunded and shut down, it is our children who will suffer from lack of access. The battle today is over America’s future, and it is being fought on both sides by people who largely won’t be affected by it.
Organized Labor needs to advance the dialogue around young workers. Unions must begin to build young workers’ issues in their campaign plans. Young workers need to be supported, mentored, and given opportunities to lead. There is potential for diffusion: if we work to empower a group of young people who go out and empower another group of young people and this process continues, we will have a collective mobilization around a plural set of voices.
Young workers are ready for their vision and ideas to be realized. Younger workers are becoming more politically active to make their voices heard. Thirty-five percent say they voted for the first time in 2008, and nearly three-quarters now keep tabs on government and public affairs, even when there’s not an election going on.
And while we have young workers in our unions, there is another group of young people who are not in a union, do not vote, are not educated, do not have stable living situations, and are not engaged in any social-political activity. Young people who are in the juvenile justice system, are marginally employed, or hanging on a street corner with no direction. The Labor Movement must be proactive in creating programs like apprenticeships to bring them in, to get them working, and showing them how Organized Labor can help them turn their life around, as it did mine.
Nationally young workers are turning out to the polls and getting more involved in politics to make their voices heard. But there still seems to be a missing link between young peoples’ desire for change and their involvement in organizations working for that change. Simple overtures like incorporating social media into a campaign are not going to cut it. To get the Millennial Generation to embrace and engage in the labor movement, we need a solid plan to attract and educate young workers everywhere.
This could begin at the AFL-CIO’s Young Workers Advisory Council. Only the AFL-CIO has the power to build a comprehensive database of young workers across all unions and begin serious State Initiatives for Young Workers. By partnering with millennial organizations, such as the United States Students’ Association, Young People For, Energy Action Coalition, and others, as well colleges, churches and community groups, the AFL-CIO could create Young Worker Chapters in every state., add to that a Young Worker Bill of Rights, a Labor Leadership Pipeline Program, and a Legislative Action Center and you have a solid plan for reaching an untapped resource of activists who have a personal stake in the battle going on today.
Young workers need the labor movement to help organize and empower them, and the labor movement needs young workers to revitalize and strengthen it. It’s imperative that all young workers, including those hardest hit by the economic downturn, be given the opportunity to reclaim the lost decade—for this generation of young workers and for the next.
I’m an anomaly to many inside and outside the union movement. I’m a young person who belongs to, believes in and works for a union. We do exist. I’m also an anomaly to many of my peers. I love technology and social media, but believe people-to-people contact still trumps technology when it comes to union organizing.
Since many maintain we live in a “Technology Era,” where most young people are tuned into social media and web-based news, Facebook, Twitter or email seem to be the best bet for union organizing. That is what most believe particularly when it comes to organizing the next generation of union members— the young workers. That is probably half right. Half right because there are a lot of people who donʼt use Facebook and Twitter or don’t have the time to use social media with any regularity. So how do we reach them? Do we ignore them? Do we wait for them to just show up at a union meeting? Do we send them a text message? Wait, I got it. We send them an email to get them energized around the issues labor has and continues fighting for that are beneficial to them. If you agree with that thought, then I think you are wrong.
My first experience with labor unions, organizing and politics was working with my great-uncle during John F. Street’s 1999 campaign for mayor of Philadelphia. My great-uncle, Robert Muse, taught me what labor unions were all about—-a strong brotherhood and sisterhood with bonds similar to fraternities and sororities. He showed me the key to union organizing—to personally connect with people wherever they using the are.
Uncle Bob was chairman of the UAW’s Fair Practice Committee, a delegate and coordinator of the Community Action Committee and a union steward in the Skilled Trades Department. He was appointed to the UAW Manpower Department and served four years until he was appointed to the Temporary Organizing Department, where he served another four years. He was connected because he connected with folks. He didnʼt wait until a union meeting to talk to members or non-members. Uncle Bob used to go and talk to workers on their jobs on his off days. He used to walk the neighborhoods trying to get young people to join apprenticeships in any union they saw fit. He felt that the only way to connect the elderly labor movement with the youth was to take to the streets and build a true grassroots youth movement behind labor. He felt unions had to go to the people, talk with them and teach them some union history in order to connect and build a future generation union workers. Because of Uncle Bob, I’m in the labor movement today.
Another thing I learned about organizing from my uncle and my first campaign was that you canʼt substitute personal conversation with in personal tactics.
when I first used a calculator in high school, and my teacher was quick to jump on me and say.” Why not do the math problems the long way in your head.” I simply answered,because the calculator makes it so easy, and why would I do the long math, if I could just click 3 buttons and find my answer? Well thatʼs what I feel our new “ Go Tech” resolution is-The easy way. We are quick to promote a “webinar” instead of saying let’s do the training n a “Community Center”, We are quick to publish a “Twit” Interview, instead of doing a door to door conversation, We are fast to (Create an event on Facebook), but not as quick to say, let’s go pass out 5000 fliers in the community. Iʼm not criticizing Social Media, because anyone that knows me knows im an addict- I just want to create the awareness that our battle is not “Hi-Tech”, its in our communities, explaining and showing our passion about why the Labor Movement has been, and always will be the movement of working people, and workers interest.
When I first got involved, the people who introduced me to politics did it in such a way that I thought this was the coolest thing anyone could be doing. We were in nightclubs on Friday and Saturday, registering Voters around the candidacy of John F. Street, we were at playgrounds in urban areas having then Council President John Street taking pictures with mothers, daughters, community folks, children-right in the people’s own comfort zone – The Neighborhood.
I hope to get back to the true neighborhood organizing, taking our message, our struggle, and our values directly to the people-not just during election years but daily. As we look to build the next generation of young workers, lets instill in them that it’s not okay to have a blog but arenʼt willing to talk to a person face to face when asked a question, it’s not okay to accept a friend request, but not embrace that friend when in the same space, it’s not okay to do an interview online, but you arenʼt willing to talk to someone passing by on the street. Its time, to take our message back to the people.