Michelle Obama: Tell Barack to honor his campaign promise to label GMOs

Michelle Obama: Tell Barack to honor his campaign promise to label GMOs

By Organic Consumers Association (Contact)

To be delivered to: Michelle Obama, First Lady

Michelle, tell President Obama to honor his campaign promise to require GMO labeling and ask him to endorse California’s Proposition 37, a citizens’ ballot initiative to label GMOs.

Michelle Obama is a champion of better nutrition in school lunches and of ending childhood obesity. Which makes it all the more disappointing that her husband, President Obama, has failed to keep his campaign promise to support GMO labeling.

On the campaign trail in 2007, candidate Barack Obama said: “We’ll let folks know whether their food has been genetically modified because Americans should know what they’re buying.”

But since becoming President, Obama has turned his back on the 90% of Americans who want GMO labeling.

If Michelle has done her homework, she knows that many studies link GMOs to childhood allergies and obesity–even cancer. So we’re asking her to pressure the President until he does the right thing: Honor his word and support California’s Proposition 37, a citizens’ ballot initiative to label GMOs.

National polls indicate that that more than 90% of Americans want GMOs labeled. And yet, President Obama has continued to green light a flood of new GMOs, including genetically engineered alfalfa, salmon, and 2,4 D “Agent Orange” corn.

The FDA does no pre-market safety testing on genetically engineered foods, instead relying on the word of Monsanto, Dupont and other biotech companies that these foods are safe. However, a growing number of studies link genetically modified foods to a host of health issues, including obesity and allergies. Even the American Medical Association has recently warned that GMO foods need to be safety-tested before they are placed on the market. Nearly 80% of all non-organic processed foods in the U.S. contain GMOs. Without labeling, it is very difficult to keep these foods out of our, and our kids’ diets.

In a visit to an elementary school in January, in Alexandria, Va., Mrs. Obama said: “We have a right to expect the food (our kids) get at school is the same kind of food we want to serve at our own kitchen tables.” http://thegrio.com/2012/01/25/michelle-obama-school-lunches-to-have-more-veggies-whole-grains/

If Prop. 37 passes in November, California will become the first state in the country to require what nearly 50 other nations in the world already require: labels on genetically engineered foods.

Michelle, please tell President Obama to honor his word!


Civic Center Hotel: Learn More

Civic Center Hotel: Learn More

The Civic Center Hotel, a 156-unit building at 12th and Market Streets in San Francisco, is home to a diverse community of retirees, working people, disabled folks, immigrants and families with children. It is one of the few affordable housing options available to low-income residents of downtown San Francisco.

This community is in danger of being destroyed. The Plumbers’ and Steamfitters’ Union Local 38, which owns the Civic Center through its pension fund, applied last year to demolish the building. Now, after repeated requests from the tenants, the union has refused to disclose whether it still plans to demolish the building. Recently, the union’s attorney stated in a letter that “The demolition of the building remains an open question.”

Meanwhile, the Civic Center is one of the few hotels in San Francisco that still has no in-room fire sprinklers, more than two years after the city-wide deadline for installing them. This puts tenants’ lives at risk. Fires are a major problem in the city’s SROs, and there have been several at the Civic Center in the past two years.

Tenant advocates have expressed outrage that a union which is supposed to stand up for working-class San Franciscans would put profit motives ahead of low-income tenants’ right to safe, stable housing. The fact that a plumbers’ union delayed installation of fire safety sprinklers for years adds insult to injury.

Please TAKE ACTION and tell the Plumbers’ Union to abandon the demolition and do the right thing for San Francisco’s low-income tenants.

For more information about this issue, contact Sarah Norr at the Central City SRO Collaborative at (415) 775-7110.

Don’t Close the Tenderloin Self-Help Center

Self-Help Center: Learn More

The City and County of SF is about to close the Tenderloin Self-Help Center, an essential part of the City’s fraying homeless safety net.

Since 1985, Central City Hospitality House has served as many as 6,000 members of the city’s “chronic” homeless population each year through the Self-Help Center. Now, facing a budget shortfall due to the failure of two revenue-raising measures on the November 2004 ballot, Mayor Gavin Newsom is proposing budget cuts that target services for the poor, and city officials have opted to eliminate the model used by the Self-Help Center.

The Center was originally created for people who have a hard time engaging with traditional services because of severe mental health problems and other issues. Programs at the Center include counseling and case management on housing and benefits, crisis intervention, as well as employment services. The Mayor’s decision to shut down the Self-Help Center was made without any consultation with the affected community.

The city’s homeless population is estimated at between 8000 and 15,000. Of that number, only about 1100 remain on welfare. For many of the rest, Hospitality House has provided a critical refuge for respite, groceries, crisis intervention, and other services.Closing the Center will severely limit access to a range of services designed to meet specific needs in the Tenderloin, home to many of the city’s homeless people.

Please TAKE ACTION and tell Gavin Newsom to keep the Self-Help Center open as a resource for homeless people in San Francisco.

For more information about this issue, see Rachel Brahinsky’s article in the SF Bay Guardian and/or contact Jackie Jenks, Executive Director of Central City Hospitality House, at 415/749-2113 jackiejenks@earthlink.net.

Tell Mayor Brown to Keep Wal-Mart out of Oakland

Wal-Mart: Learn More

Wal-Mart is in the midst of a major push into California. The labor practices of the world’s largest retailer are increasingly being criticized. Wal-Mart faces an array of lawsuits and charges for sex discrimination, intimidation and retaliation of union members, abuse of undocumented workers, and other violations. In addition, a study by the University of California has documented that the Wal-Mart business model involves dramatic costs for states and counties. Wal-Mart employees are forced to rely heavily on public benefits to meet basic needs, needs not met by their poverty-level wages.

The New York Times has reported that WalMart is going “gangbusters” into California and decried the “Wal-Martization of the work force… which threatens to push many Americans into poverty.” And opposition to Wal-Mart is mounting in the East Bay. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors passed and is working on a resolution to bar super-sized stores over 100,000 square feet in unincorporated areas. The Oakland City Council passed similar legislation last October. Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, who sponsored the Oakland measure with Councilmember Jane Brunner, pointed out that “Supercenters are going into communities and doing damage to local economies.”

Yet Wal-Mart is pressing ahead with plans to move into Oakland as part of a proposed development project near the Oakland Airport.

Please TAKE ACTION to demand that Mayor Brown use his authority to keep Wal-Mart out of Oakland.

For additional information about this issue, see these articles and other web resources on Wal-Mart:










Public Transit : Learn More

Public Transit : Learn More

San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Authority (MTA) is threatening to balance its budget by increasing MUNI fares and decreasing service. This “solution” would disproportionately affect poor and working people who rely on public transit in San Francisco. It would also discourage transit use and result in increased traffic congestion. Transit riders, environmentalists and social justice advocates are demanding that the MTA instead tap other revenue sources, such as having car users pay for the environmental, public health and congestion costs they create, and getting downtown interests to pay their fair share to support public transit service from which they greatly benefit.

MUNI director Michael Burns projects a budget shortfall of $18 million for fiscal year 2005. A variety of revenue sources are being considered including increasing the parking tax on garages and lots, increasing residential parking permit fees, raising the transit impact development fee paid by downtown developers and/or creating a downtown transit assessment district.

To the dismay of public transit riders, a fare hike and service reductions are also on the table. Director Burns is requesting that the MTA Board of Directors declare a “fiscal emergency,” which would allow service cuts without environmental review. Muni riders successfully fought Burns’ effort earlier this year to fast track service cuts.

At a January 4, 2005, hearing, the MTA Board considered these budget issues. Members of the public spoke passionately in opposition to the “fiscal emergency” declaration, against fare hikes and service cuts, and in favor of eliminating existing subsidies for motorists and taxing downtown interests rather than balancing the budget deficit on the backs of MUNI riders. Noting the public testimony, the Board postponed deciding on these budget issues. All revenue raising and cost saving measures remain under consideration to be decided at upcoming MTA Board meetings.

Please TAKE ACTION to tell the MTA not to raise fares or cut service.

For more information about this issue, see these articles in Beyond Chron andChronicle.

For a list of potential MTA revenue sources, see Transportation For a Livable City’s“Muni Revenue Sources” web page.

Demand accountability for San Francisco police shooting: Learn More

Police Shooting: Learn More

On May 5, 2004, San Francisco police shot and killed Cammerin Boyd, a disabled African American man. Boyd, 29, had two prosthetic legs. Witnesses say Boyd was surrendering with his hands in the air when he was shot. Police say Boyd appeared to be reaching for a weapon. The community needs to know what happened on May 5, 2004, and stiff punishment is necessary if there was police misconduct.

The San Francisco Police Department is notorious for failing to police its own. The Department routinely states that it is investigating shootings, but final reports on shootings are long-delayed. Endless investigations ensure that no information will be made public. As recently reported in the Bay Guardian, the SFPD still has not even completed an investigation of the police shooting of 23-year-old Idriss Stelley. Stelley was shot more than 20 times at the Sony Metreon over three years ago.

Civil rights leaders in San Francisco are demanding an independent and prompt investigation of the Boyd shooting and accountability for the officers involved. The SFPD claims that it has been investigating the shooting, but no official findings have been released. Police Chief Heather Fong has not filed charges with the Police Commission.

San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris should promptly investigate the shooting of Cammerin Boyd and prosecute any officers guilty of criminal misconduct. Harris won praise from civil rights advocates for standing up to the San Francisco police in recent months. She withstood police demands that she seek the death penalty for the alleged killer of an undercover SFPD officer, standing by her opposition to the death penalty. Harris now has another opportunity to demonstrate her commitment to justice by making sure that the police are held accountable for the shooting of Cammerin Boyd.

Please contact District Attorney Harris to demand that her office take action on this police shooting.

Oakland Pesticide Use: Learn More

Oakland Pesticide Use: Learn More

The City of Oakland banned the use of pesticides on city-owned property in 1997 with its Integrated Pest Management (IPM) policy. Now there’s a proposal to employ herbicides in the Wildfire Prevention District in the Oakland hills. Median strips, playing field construction, and numerous other exceptions have already been carved out of the IPM.

“Pro-Safety/Anti-Pesticide Coalition” has formed under the leadership ofStopToxicTrespass.org and including groups such as East Bay Pesticide Alert, the Cancer Prevention Coalition, Enviromental Health Network and the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides. The coalition is calling on Oakland to maintain its ban on pesticides.

The pesticides in question are Glyphosate (Roundup) and Triclopyr (Garlon). East Bay Pesticide Alert reports that Roundup is associated with the increased frequency of liver tumors in male rats and thyroid cancer in female rats; that it is a reproductive toxicant, is toxic to fish and aquatic organisms, and is highly persistent in soil; that Garlon is associated with respiratory problems, tremors and kidney damage, skeletal deformities, genetic damage to plants, and reduction in moss and lichen diversity; and that EPA calls Garlon very mobile in soil, with the potential to leach into groundwater. See the EBPA site for details.

The resolution will be presented at the City Council Public Works Committee meeting on Tuesday, March 8, at 12:30, Oakland City Hall, Hearing Room One. Please TAKE ACTION and tell City Councilmember and Public Works Committee Chair Nancy Nadel to vote against using pesticides in the Oakland hills.

This issue does not affect Oakland alone. With municipalities from Livermore to Richmond making strides in reducing the use of toxins, to have a city of Oakland’s size and progressive reputation turn back to the use of pesticides sends the wrong message around the Bay.

For more information, see the websites of East Bay Pesticide Alert and the “Pro-Safety/Anti-Pesticide Coalition”Read the draft text of the proposed exemptions to Oakland’s IPM Ordinance.

Adult Education: Learn More

Adult Education: Learn More

Oakland’s public schools are currently being run by State Administrator Randolph Ward. After shutting down at least ten schools across the city, and restructuring others as semi-public charter schools, Ward has now proposed shutting down the entire Oakland Adult Education program.

Under Dr. Ward’s plan, 25,000 – 30,000 adults who rely on Adult Education for English and other language classes, computer and job training, high school equivalency diplomas, senior citizen programs, and more would be left in the lurch — including the city’s only free English as a Second Language classes. Hundreds of teachers, clerical workers, custodians, and other employees would lose their jobs.

The entire adult education program in Oakland may be closed down as of June 30th of this year. Many Adult Education teachers in Oakland received a notice on Feb. 18th stating that if class attendance falls below 14 students, that class will be considered for immediate closure.

Ward claims that eliminating the program may prevent cost overruns that could draw money away from K-12 schools. He proposed that the Peralta community college system take responsibility for adult education in Oakland, but reports indicate that Peralta would be hard-pressed to meet demand. Ward said the district might keep its adult education program if unions agree to cost-saving measures at the bargaining table, leading observers to speculate that he was cynically using the threatened cutbacks as leverage with union negotiators.

A town hall meeting to defend public education has been called for, Tuesday, March 8th, 6-8 p.m. at the First Congregational Church, 2501 Harrison St.

For more information, see this report on Indybay and this Oakland Tribune article.

Ellis Act Reform: Learn More

Ellis Act Reform: Learn More

State assemblyman Mark Leno (D-SF) has introduced an important change to the Ellis Act that would make it more difficult for real estate speculators to evict tenants. The amendment would impose a five year waiting period before a new owner of property could invoke the Act to evict tenants.

The Ellis Act is a state law that allows a landlord to evict all tenants to get out of the rental business. When the Act passed in 1986, landlord lobbyists argued that the Ellis Act was necessary to relieve long-time property owners of the burdens of being landlords.

Since the real estate boom of the 1990′s, the Ellis Act has been regularly abused by speculators. These speculators purchase buildings populated by long-term, low-rent tenants. They then evict all tenants under the Ellis Act, and turn around and sell the units as tenancies-in-common (TIC’s) for conversion to condominiums. The 1990′s witnessed a massive displacement of low income tenants from San Francisco, and Ellis evictions are on the rise again.

Under the Ellis Act, a city such as San Francisco cannot prohibit an owner from invoking the Act to evict tenants. This provides a major loophole for property owners to evict senior and disabled tenants who would otherwise be protected from eviction by local law in cities like San Francisco.

Assemblyman Leno’s proposed amendment would impose a waiting period. Under the proposal, existing owners of property would maintain their right to invoke the Ellis Act, but new owners would need to wait until 5 years after their purchase before using the Ellis Act to evict tenants. The real estate lobby is expected to mount a major effort to fight the bill.

Assemblyman Yee (D-SF) has not yet taken a position. Please TAKE ACTION to demand that he support Assemblyman Mark Leno’s Ellis Act amendment.

For more information about this issue, visit the websites of the SF Tenants’ Unionand the Western Center on Law and Poverty, and/or read this article in the SF Examiner.

Julie Lee: Learn More

Julie Lee: Learn More

San Francisco real estate agent Julie Lee has been a major fundraiser for local and state elected officials. Recent reports accuse her of illegally funneling money to Secretary of State Kevin Shelley’s campaign through her nonprofit organization, San Francisco Neighbors Resource Center, and through third party donors. The Center has received nearly $200,000 in grants from the city and a $500,000 state grant.

The San Francisco Chronicle has recently reported that Lee allegedly funneled tens of thousands of dollars to Shelley by twice having real estate buyers write checks for their down payments ($30,000 and $50,000) directly to Shelley’s campaign for Secretary of State. Her Center also reportedly made payments to consultants totaling over $168,000, and within weeks, each of the five consultants made $25,000 donations to Shelley’s campaign. This money reportedly came from government grants for a ‘neighbors resource center’ that was rarely ever open to the community.

By all appearances, this is a classic tale of political corruption. The public facts strongly suggest that Lee defrauded the government and laundered campaign contributions to a candidate through third parties in violation of state law. Lee has yet to publicly deny the allegations.

Former Mayor Willie Brown appointed Julie Lee to the San Francisco Housing Authority (SFHA) Commission, where she currently serves as president. According to the SFHA’s website, “The primary mission of the SFHA is to provide safe, sanitary, affordable, and decent housing to very low-income families, senior citizens and persons with disabilities.” The SFHA’s budget is over $200 million.

Several members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors have called for Lee’s resignation from the Commission, but Mayor Newsom has not asked Lee to resign.

Lee should resign immediately from the Housing Authority Commission because of the appearance of impropriety. If she does not, the Commission will operate under a cloud of suspicion, and will not be able to focus on its mission to provide affordable housing to low income San Franciscans.

Please Take Action to demand that Julie Lee resign from the SFHA Commission immediately.