Baltimore's poor organizing for freedom from poverty

The UWA launched its Summer of Justice Campaign today at the April Fool's Day game between the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles.  While this game was preseason, we choose to start our campaign the day that Peter Angelos, owner of the Orioles, treats Nationals fans about as well as he treats the cleaners at Camden Yards.  

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To our surprise, Angelos and the Orioles announced a couple of weeks before our long scheduled protest that he'd give away 100% of the day's ticket sales to five Baltimore soup kitchens.  While we have nothing against billionaires giving money to charities, we do have a problem with the timing.  It seemed as if Angelos wanted to deflect any bad publicity for paying cleaners poverty wages (and for breaking his 2004 promise to start paying a living wage) by giving out up to $250,000 to soup kitchens.

Most troubling was how Angelos's patronage system was at work.  In addition to his $250,000, the charities would get a dollar-for-dollar match from the Weinberg Foundation, a major Baltimore foundation for poverty service providers.  It almost seemed that Angelos and his friends were paying for silence from service providers.  That's why we put them to the test by asking the charities and foundation to stand with the cleaners before the game.  All refused.

But even without the support of the five soup kitchens the kick-off to this summer's Summer of Justice Campaign sent a clear message to Peter Angelos: The cleaners at Camden Yards won't stand down.  Until every cleaner gets paid at least the Baltimore City Living Wage, we'll be calling on Angelos to keep his promise to pay a living wage to the cleaners.  It's time for the poverty conditions at Camden Yards to end.

We marched from our meeting spot a few blocks from the stadium just before the game was scheduled to begin.  Once we got to Camden Yards we formed a half-circle and held a press conference.  Our main points were that Angelos was attempting to buy off charities to keep them from supporting the cleaners, and that we weren't going to give up until every cleaner gets paid at least the Baltimore City Living Wage.  We also talked about our Summer of Justice Campaign, including the June 24 Freedom from Poverty March.

Download pdf of flyer for the Freedom from Poverty March

Our signs read "Angelos: Soup Isn't Enough." And UWA members banged pots and pans while kids wore "Missing Advocates" masks - whose mouths had been duct taped shut with $100 bills sticking out.  

The fact is that Angelos spent more today on soup kitchens that it would cost to pay every cleaner a living wage for over 2 years.  The issue isn't money.  It's poverty.  For some reason Angelos and the Orioles want to keep the cleaners in poverty, which is why we are going to keep up our fight for justice - until all poverty is ended - both at Camden Yards and beyond.  We hope to see you on the road to justice with us.

The UWA organizes low-wage workers in Maryland.  Our goal is to end poverty by working to secure the human rights of all persons.  We are part of the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign.  

Disclosure: I am on staff with the UWA.

Tags: day labor, economic justice, human rights, UWA (all tags)


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