Progressive Groups Stand in Solidarity with the Charleston-Area McDonald’s Workers Arrested in Chicago

960Protesters demonstrate outside McDonald’s headquarters in Oak Brook. (Chuck Berman, Chicago Tribune / May 21, 2014)

Seven Charleston-area fast food workers, including six McDonald’s employees, were arrested Wednesday during a protest at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Oak Brook, Illinois. A delegation of ten workers from Charleston joined more than 2,000 fast-food workers, community supporters, clergy and elected officials at the corporate headquarters near Chicago to escalate their call for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation. Wednesday’s protest took place less than a week after strikes and protests rocked 230 cities around the world in what MSNBC called the “biggest fast-food strike ever.”

Among the local McDonald’s workers arrested was Cherri Delisline, a mother of four. “I’ve been working for McDonalds for 10 years and my hourly paycheck is the same now as it was my first day on the job: $7.35,” she said. “It’s not okay for McDonald’s to rake in huge profits but pay us so little we can’t support our families. I went on strike and now I got arrested, and I will continue to protest until McDonald’s listens.” Delisline was among more than 100 McDonald’s workers to be arrested Wednesday.

The SC AFL-CIO, the Charleston Central Labor Council, the SC Progressive Network (Charleston chapter), the Carolina Alliance for Fair Employment, the Coalition (People United to Take Back our Community), and the International Longshoremen’s Association (Local 1422) stand in solidarity with the Charleston fast food workers and their efforts to form a union and raise the minimum wage. Last Thursday (May 15), more than three dozen workers went on strike at area fast food restaurants. They were joined on picket lines in front of Burger King (4709 Dorchester Rd., North Charleston) and McDonald’s (2988 W. Montague Ave., North Charleston) by dozens of community supporters.

“If you do the math it doesn’t add up to surviving,” said Erin McKee, president of the SC AFL-CIO. “You cannot live on $7.25 an hour.” McKee noted that many of the fast food workers are also parents. “I know what it’s like to wonder if you have enough to pay the bills or to worry about losing your job if you miss work because your child gets sick,” said McKee who has been a single parent for all of her adult life.

McDonald’s annual shareholder meeting, scheduled for Thursday, approaches as investors and company officials are increasingly realizing they need to respond to workers’ call for higher pay. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company admitted that the growing and focus on inequality might force them to raise wages. And in response to class-action lawsuits against McDonald’s that allege widespread and systematic wage theft, the company announced it was launching a comprehensive investigation.

Scrutiny on the company has intensified since the release of a report earlier this month by Demos showing that the fast-food industry has the largest disparity between worker and CEO pay. New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said that excessive pay disparities “pose a risk to share owner value,” and that conversations around inequality should move into the boardrooms of profitable fast-food companies.

USA Today noted that the growing worker movement would be front-and-center at McDonald’s annual shareholder meeting, naming it “the issue that just won’t go away.” And Business Insider wrote that the company was barring reporters from the annual meeting because of “the pressure the company is feeling from shareholders, franchisees, and especially workers — who are planning to protest at the meeting in Oakbrook, Illinois.”

“The problems of pay disparity in fast food extend beyond the industry to affect the rest of our economy,” said Catherine Ruetschlin, Demos Policy Analyst and author of the report Fast Food Failure. “Even the industry leader, McDonald’s, has acknowledged that rising inequality is a risk to their bottom line, as companies see the negative consequences of pay disparity appear as operational issues, legal challenges, and diminishing worker and customer satisfaction. Those consequences pose a real risk to shareholders, who have a material interest in addressing the practices that drive income inequality, undermine the long-term performance of the firm, and inhibit stability and growth in the economy overall.”

As McDonald’s U.S. sales are slumping, the company is facing growing criticism from both customers and franchisees. A recent Harris poll found that McDonald’s reputation among customers fell sharply, and surveys show that a majority of franchise owners are upset with the company, describing their relationship as “poor” and giving McDonald’s the lowest ratings it’s seen in 12 years.

In the past year, McDonald’s was widely ridiculed for its sample budget for workers, which required them to get a second job to make ends meet; its employee advice site that told workers to sing away stress, take small bites of food to avoid hunger and not eat fast food; an employee hotline that encouraged workers to apply for public assistance; and findings that the company costs U.S. taxpayers $1.2 billion annually in public assistance for its workers.

McDonald’s workers who will protest at the annual meeting, and who have now struck six times in the past 18 months, are challenging the company’s outdated notion that their workers are teenagers looking for pocket change. Research shows that a majority of fast-food workers are adults, many of whom are struggling to raise children on a median wage of $8.94.

A campaign that started in New York City in November 2012, with 200 fast-food workers walking off their jobs demanding $15 and the right to form a union without retaliation, has since spread to more than 150 cities in every region of the country, including the South—and now around the world. The growing fight for $15 has been credited with elevating the debate around inequality in the U.S. When Seattle’s mayor proposed a $15 minimum wage earlier this month, Businessweek said he was “adopting the rallying cry of fast-food workers.”

The spread of the worker movement overseas should cause further alarm. International fast-food restaurants are expected to expand at four times the rate of U.S. businesses, according to a recent Merrill Lynch report. And while US sales slump, companies like McDonald’s are relying on growth overseas to boost their bottom lines more than ever.

For more on last week’s strike and protests, visit

Truthful Tuesday defendants get day in court


Over the three weeks that the South Carolina Senate debated a bill to “nullify Obamacare,” 28 people were arrested for blocking the legislators’ entrance to the State House garage. Twenty seven of those arrested requested a jury trial, and the City of Columbia’s response is expected to be announced in Columbia Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, May 6, at approximately 9am. A 10am press conference will follow the hearing.

“We were arrested to bring attention to our state’s immoral refusal to accept Medicaid funding for our states poorest citizens,” said the group’s spokesperson, Rev. Tom Summers.

Then-interim Columbia police chief Ruben Santiago, who oversaw the first round of arrests, said recently, “Prior to the protests, I didn’t know that we had turned down a free Medicaid card for all the homeless people in Columbia. You can’t imagine what a difference that would have made, not only in the lives of our homeless citizens, but to the police who have to deal with them daily.”

Santiago said that a lack of medical care and prescriptions for the homeless have turned the cops into “social workers with guns.”

The SC Progressive Network and its Truthful Tuesday allies will continue working to get SC to implement the Affordable Care Act by launching a statewide “Healthy Democracy” campaign to educate the 123,279 registered SC voters living below the poverty level who were denied a free Medicaid card.

To put this number in perspective, the anti-ACA candidate Nikki Haley won the governor’s race in 2010 by 59,971 votes. If the people denied free health care turn out and vote, the next governor will support the ACA.

New Legacy Project: Contradiction as Truth

By Daniel Deweese
Columbia, SC

When we were first formulating the New Legacy Project, Becci shrewdly pointed out that “New Legacy” is a contradiction. How can something be new and at the same time be a legacy? If there is a lesson from Marxist (Hegelian) dialectics, it is that truth emerges from such paradoxes and contradictions. Starting from close to a zero point, a one emerges and the repetition continues, followed by two and three. Every emergence is constituted by a legacy, every legacy thereby produces some thing new. The New Legacy Project has emerged as the result of the work of Modjeska Simkins and now the SC Progressive Network.


This New Legacy Project, this contingent is not contingent. It is necessary. One simply has to observe the growth of right wing fascist-nationalist movements, the ever increasing influence or should I say ownership of democracy by big capital and the  looming ecological crises to see that the New Legacy Project is a necessity.

There is in absence in our movement. What is missing? Students and young people. Gone are the student and youth movements of the ’60s, perhaps only briefly rekindled during the Occupation. A movement that was quickly crushed. What has happened to a once dynamic emancipatory force?

We must look for answers in the inescapable phenomena of ideology. Youth are interpelated, that is addressed as subjects, by the ‘power structures’ as Modjeska correctly identified them, as subjects of pure hedonism. Consume, don’t think too much, watch TV, be your ‘true self” ,which is another way of putting the narcissistic (superego) imperative (Zizek, The Pervert’s Guide, 2013).


As a student this is not only my own anecdotal experience, it is also supported by clinical and academic data. However, this is is not a case study. This is a call to action.

The New Legacy Project possesses the potential to undermine this ideology, connecting with student organizations and thereby reaching other youth who persist in a state of apathy. We can only rekindle the  dream of an emancipatory collective pursuing freedom by a creating a new legacy.

Email for details.

Network’s Spring Strategy Conference Recap

About 80 activists from across the state spent part of last Saturday debating and refining organizing strategies for the rest of the year. Continuing the SC Progressive Network‘s strategic focus on the state’s refusal to accept Medicaid funding, and the general sad state of democracy in South Carolina, we are preparing tools you can use to organize in your town or county. We can map the location of registered, inactive and unregistered voters by neighborhood who have been denied Medicaid coverage. The Network is calling for voter education and mobilization around a healthy democracy.


Health care is being denied and our democracy is being held hostage in a rigged game. 75% of South Carolinians will see their House representative elected without major party opposition on Nov. 4, most with 99% of the vote. Practically speaking, our best opportunity to affect state policy is in the governor’s race.

Our nonpartisan campaign will provide side-by-side comparisons of the candidates’ health care positions, and let informed voters decide.

We believe that our plans to “change the dialogue” on accepting Medicaid funding in South Carolina worked. Our Truthful Tuesday educational and act-up efforts helped more people understand the issue, and widened the gap between rational conservatives and anti-government radical fundamentalists.

A “Health Democracy Road Show” committee has been formed to carry our message beyond Columbia and Charleston. Anyone interested in helping organize events around the state between June and November should email

The individual members of the Network’s political action committee, SC Progressive Voter Coalition, met and are refining plans to focus on a few political campaigns where we may make a difference. ProVote made two primary endorsements of long-time Network supporters, Sen. Brad Hutto for US Senate and Shelia Gallagher for Superintendent of Education.

See photo album on Flickr.

Affordable Health Care Update


Network Navigators are still on duty to help people with a “life changing event” sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Life changing events include moving to a new state, certain changes in your income or family size, getting out of prison. See if you can get coverage (substantial discounts based on income) at Call the Columbia Network office at 803-445-1921 for help.

New Legacy Project


Our youngest Network members announced at the conference that they are launching a campaign to educate and mobilize new blood. With the Network’s core activists graying, it is great news to see a new generation take the initiative to grow their own grass roots. Stay tuned for more. Meanwhile, any younger people wishing to get involved can contact Wayne Borders at

SC progressives to talk shop at statewide conference on April 26

Join us for the Network’s annual spring strategy session

This meeting of the SC Progressive Network/Progressive Voter Coalition (SC ProVote) will be held at the spacious new Teamsters Hall in West Columbia. We will finalize plans for the Network’s ground game through the end of the legislative session, the primary elections and the November general elections. 

Please RSVP by calling 803-808-3384 or by email to Pay at door. Nobody turned away for lack of funds. You do not need to be a Network member to attend. All welcome for all or part of the program.

Registration with no meals, $5; with lunch only, $15; with dinner only, $15; with lunch and dinner, $25.

See you at Teamsters Local 509 Union Hall, 2604 Fish Hatchery Rd. in West Columbia!


9:30am – Registration

10 – Welcome

10:15 – Health care and the Affordable Care Act – What’s fact and fiction, how is it being used politically, and what role we can play in health care reform in South Carolina? We will discuss nonpartisan strategies that churches and civic groups can use to educate voters about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act — and the tragic human cost of refusing to accept billions of federal dollars to provide health care to 250,000 poor South Carolinians.
• Origins of the ACA’s individual mandate was a Republican plan
• Single payer and universal health care
• The ACA as planned and implemented in SC
• Can SC still accept the Medicaid expansion funding?
• What does a nonpartisan GOTV campaign for health care look like?
• Hometown strategies
• Challenging the faith communities

Noon – Voting rights – staying vigilant in light of recent changes
• Election Protection project: Photo ID and Section 5
• Legislative report: Early voting and election system reforms
• Missing Voter Project (State Voices database)

1pm – Lunch. Catered sandwiches and sides on site. Time for networking and small-group discussions.

2pm – Network business
• Brief reports from chapters; and updates on membership, finances and communications
• Modjeska Simkins School
• New Legacy Project
• Brief reports on legislation we are tracking

Adjourn c-3 meeting. Convene c-4 meeting

3pm – Taking it to the streets and polls
• Mapping political realities and strategies for maximizing our movement-building
• Targeting legislative districts for grassroots campaign on health care
• Defining roles of SC Progressive Voter Coalition and SC Democratic Party Progressive Caucus
• Members-only political action web site

4pm: Primary and general election targets

4:30pm: Endorsements

5pm Adjourn for dinner

Read Free Times’ write-up on the meeting.

SC Congressional town hall meeting NOT “open to the public”

Wade Fulmer
Columbia, SC

On April 16, the 7:30 a.m. morning television news announced that there would be a “town hall meeting” … “open to the public” with SC’s congressional delegation at 4 p.m. The town hall meeting was to be a part of the day’s programming of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, the town hall meeting at 4 p.m., a part of “Washington night”, all to be held at the Columbia downtown Marriott. I phoned the Marriott which confirmed and read to me a schedule of the day’s activities.

Having experienced some of SC’s individual politicians’ past town hall meetings, it seemed beyond belief that the whole of the members of S.C.’s congressional delegation would ever expose themselves together “to the public”, to the people, at any time.

People, citizens, constituents, the congressional delegation “town hall meeting…” was NOT “open to the public”.

When we arrived, we walked down the corridor to where the business, corporate, and lobbyist games crowd attendees were mingling with members of the delegation before the 4 p.m. hour. I, and friend, Bill Kreml, were stopped at an entrance table and were directed to another table to “register” for the town hall meeting. There, we were asked if we were members of the chamber? I said, no, we were there for the town hall meeting.

The political elitists’ bomb was then droned on our ears that each would have to pay $125 to attend. I reminded the staff person that the town hall meeting was “open to the public”, that we were SC constituents and veterans and that we should be allowed to attend the “open to the public” town hall meeting. She persisted and I asked to speak with someone in charge. She crossed over to quietly talk with another staff. That staff then joined her to repeat that we each would have to pay $125 to attend.

I then asked for the name of the chamber’s president, that I would mention him in my report to media about their “open to the public” town hall meeting, but now, NOT open. She hesitated. I waited. She then gave me the name of the chamber’s president and CEO Otis Rawl, (803-255-2585). I assured her I would report their denial of our attendance. It was later reported that only Republican delegation members attended, and that three delegation members, Gowdy, Clyburn and Scott did not attend.

The “town hall meeting” … “open to the public” was NOT open to the public, but excluded the public for lack of paying what could be called a constituent charge of $125. The town hall meeting was a sham, a PR work of exclusion of the public, of the people. This sham and citizen exclusion seems no more than another example of plutocracy, corporate and elitist hypocrisy, of cover charge and denial of congressional delegation by non-transparency workings for special interests, and of the continuing politics of money and status quo non-representation in lieu of representation for the people.

We the people must not and shall not be silent. Money in politics, congressional and legislatures, must no longer be tolerated. Profiteering elitist moneychangers of non-representation and shame shall be held accountable. 2014, the people, we the constituents, workers, families, military, veterans, jobless, and seniors will vote out incumbents of Washington and states whom prey on dollars and power paid for by the taxpaying public, while avoided by non-taxpaying corporates and wealthy tax dodgers.

Cowardly members of congress and legislatures, of greed and arrogance shall be booted out. Non-representatives, sell out office holders, corporate cronies of economic and wars mayhem do not and will not ever represent the people, humanity, or nation. Slam out the shams. The town hall meetings will be “open to the public”, of, by, and for the people, 2014.

Homophobic lawmakers in glass houses…

By Charlie Smith
Charleston, SC

There are between 200,000 and 300,000 gay people in the state of South Carolina. What we have learned as gay citizens in SC in the past two months is that we have no right to be present in the literature or even the policies of our own public colleges and universities. We are unfit for service on the Boards of Trustees (but not necessarily the presidencies) and the General Assembly has the right to cut off the funding of public institutions of higher learning if those institutions’ policies in any way allow their closeted LGBT students to come to new and positive understandings of themselves as human beings. It is amazing what positive outcomes can happen to people when they are removed from the stifling influences of those who have taught them to be ashamed of themselves, like Bright and Fair, who, by the way, are neither.

It is an important function of our colleges and universities to provide better tools for self-understanding than those provided by Leviticus. Believe it or not there have been a few somewhat more positive literary and scientific revelations about human sexuality than Leviticus since 1000 BCE. Christians like Bright and Fair were still riding dinosaurs then. Now dinosaurs like Bright and Fair are more apt to be riding the backs of gay people.

The real shame here is that the General Assembly has no means of bringing their own closeted gay members to the correct understanding of themselves, as hypocrites who use their closets for snipers’ nests of course. Perhaps Lee Bright and Mike Fair should turn their attentions to disclosing and discrediting their own closeted colleagues and leave our colleges and universities alone.

If they are that obsessed with rooting out homosexuality, why not start in their own backyard, the SC House and Senate? We could even include the executive and judicial branches if we really wanted to be thorough. There are lots of folks you can start with…and they are almost all in Bright’s and Fair’s own party. You can actually Google it. Let’s get started, Mike and Lee. Who’s going to be first?


Calling all SC progressive political junkies

SC Progressive Network • SC Progressive Voter Coalition

Spring strategy conference. Join us on Saturday, April 26, 10am – 5pm, for a day of talking shop.
Dinner and social 5-6pm
Teamsters Local 509 Union Hall
2604 Fish Hatchery Rd., West Columbia, SC

This statewide conference will be held at the spacious new Teamsters’ Hall in West Columbia. We will finalize plans for the Network’s ground game through the end of the legislative session, the primary elections and the November general elections. The agenda will include our nonpartisan voter education work on Medicaid expansion, as well as the plans for our engagement in Republican and Democratic races.

A full agenda is being developed, and will be posted at least a week before the conference. Please let us know your thoughts about items or issues you want to see included in the day’s agenda. Send email to or attend an upcoming Network meeting near you.

Please confirm your attendance so we can have enough conference materials for everyone. Registration fee of $20 includes lunch and dinner. RSVP required for meals. Pay at the door. (But nobody will be turned away for lack of funds.)

Help grow the grassroots!


Just say no more abuse!

Ringling Brothers circus returns to Columbia March 27-30. Join compassionate friends for a peaceful demonstration against the heartbreaking loneliness and cruelty the elephants, tigers, horses and other animals trapped in circuses are forced to endure for corporate profit.

We will meet in front of the Colonial Life Arena, near the corner of Greene and Pendleton Streets. Parking is available in the large lot across the street for a fee, and on the surrounding streets. Please allow yourself extra time to find a spot.

Friday March 28th ~ 5;45 PM-7 PM
Saturday March 29th ~ 9:45-11 AM, 1:45-3 PM, 5:45-7 PM
Sunday March 30th ~ 12:15-1:30 PM, 4:15-5:30 PM


What would Jesus do?

By Jeff Koob
Columbia, SC

We’re undoubtedly the most powerful nation on earth, and arguably the most prosperous. All of the other major industrialized nations recognize health care as a basic human right, not a privilege.

Republicans who oppose this principle are on the wrong side of history. They say they’re against the Affordable Health Care Act because it’s unworkable, but have no alternative plan to care for people who are too poor to get preventive health services, or too disabled to support themselves financially. The conservative hardcore doesn’t think that the government should be responsible for caring for our neediest citizens, even in times of relative prosperity.

Many Republicans in the SC legislature want to turn down Medicaid funds that would prevent illness and save lives, purely on ideological grounds. The federal funds SC turns down will go to other states.

What’s happened to Christian values like, “love thy neighbor as thyself”? When Jesus was asked, “Who is my neighbor?” he told the story of the Good Samaritan. Legislators who profess to be Christians seem to be more wedded to the values of dog-eat-dog capitalism: “Every man for himself.”

They are like the priest and the Levite who passed by their injured neighbor, unconcerned with his plight. They need to put the welfare of the neediest of their constituents above their more-conservative-than-thou political posturing.

IMG_1807Jeff Koob (wearing blue hat) was among 17 people arrested on March 18 for blocking the road outside the SC State House as part of a sustained lobbying effort to pressure lawmakers as they debated the “Nullify Obamacare” bill. Read more about South Carolina’s Truthful Tuesday movement here.

Nullifying the nullifiers; a political primer

sen davis

SC Progressive Network Director Brett Bursey challenges Sen. Tom Davis outside Senate chambers before senators take up the “Nullify Obamacare” bill. Truthful Tuesday activists have been lobbying lawmakers since the legislature reconvened on Jan. 14.

The “Nullify Obamacare” bill was voted down in the SC Senate late Wednesday night, with a vote of 33 opposed to nine in favor of the House-passed version. It’s complicated, but here’s a breakdown.

Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) completely rewrote H- 3101, which expressly rejected Medicaid expansion and regulated federal ACA Navigators. (The Network was among the groups in South Carolina awarded a grant to help people navigate the insurance marketplace to be in compliance with the new health care law.)

The amended bill died after Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell ruled that Davis’ amendment was not germane to the House version. McConnell, who serves as president of the Senate, said of the House version, “I was having trouble understanding what that bill really did.”

Sen. Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg) raised a point of order that the regulations placed on Navigators had nothing to do with the original bill. McConnell agreed, and ruled Davis’ entire amendment out of order.

In a move seen as disrespectful in the body that prides itself on being deliberative and cordial, Davis appealed McConnell’s ruling to the Senate floor. Twenty-eight senators, 14 from each party, upheld the decision to kill Davis’ amended bill.

With Davis’ version of H-3101 dead, the vote then was called on the original House version that even Davis had declared unconstitutional. Only nine Republicans voted to adopt the “Nullify Obamacare” version of the bill. In the end, 19 Republicans joined 14 Democrats to reject the bill on a 33 – 9 vote.

That only nine of 28 Republican senators took the rigid Tea Party stance against “Obamacare” is seen by SC Progressive Network Director Brett Bursey as “a rare victory for rational thought in the legislature.”

That said, Bursey cautioned that the damage has already been done, calling the time-sapping legislative posturing “bad political theater.” South Carolinians are already suffering from the state’s refusal to participate in the Affordable Care Act, with more than 1,000 deaths predicted here this year because lawmakers refused to accept Medicaid expansion money (which, we remind you, is OUR tax dollars.)

The death of H-3101 doesn’t mean that South Carolina lawmakers will stop obstructing the ACA. South Carolina is still refusing money for a state insurance marketplace and Medicaid expansion. The Davis bill would have added regulating state Navigators and blocking public bodies from helping people get insurance to the state’s anti-Obamacare campaign.

“A goal of our Truthful Tuesday protests,” Bursey said, “was to get people talking, change the dialogue, and reduce the Tea Party influence on Republicans. That is happening.”