Labor activists will take to the streets this Saturday to protest as they educate locals of economic inequalities within Santa Barbara in the People’s March for Economic Justice.
The day will begin with the Many Faces of the Environment Conference in Isla Vista Theater, with a breakfast at 8 a.m. and workshops at 9. At 11:30, attendees will be transported to Ortega Park where they will join supporters of economic justice. The march will begin at noon and will proceed up State Street to the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, off Figueroa Street, where speakers will address the crowd.
Keynote speakers Julia Butterfly Hill and Levonne Stone will conclude the environmental conference after the march at 6 p.m. in I.V. Theater, with a free dinner.
The People’s March for Economic Justice, originally proposed by the UCSB Campus Labor Action Coalition (CLAC), was organized in response to issues in the community such as the living wage ordinance, CLAC member and graduate student Samara Paysse said. The living wage ordinance is a proposal that would raise the minimum wage for city employees to $11 per hour with health benefits or $12.25 without health benefits.
“The idea for [the march] started within the Campus Labor Action Coalition, which in the past had been working on global issues, specifically sweatshops,” Paysse said. “Then, at the beginning of the year, in keeping with that, we decided to put some of our efforts toward helping get the living wage ordinance passed. We wanted to bring attention to the fact that there are economic issues in Santa Barbara. There are people working full-time jobs here who can’t afford to live here and therefore have to commute, and there are people lacking adequate healthcare and childcare also.”
The march is being supported by organizations within UCSB and Santa Barbara, including the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Latinos for Better Government, the I.V. Tenants Union and Campus Greens, Paysse said. The Fund for Santa Barbara donated $7,500 to help supply the march with funds for speakers, permits and organizing materials.
“We wanted to have the march to draw attention to these issues which are part of the living wage and in doing this, create a network of people and organizations working on the different facets of these issues,” she said. “Through organizing the march, we’ve been able to bring all these groups together and we hope to keep this network going even after the march.”
Paysse said the march’s route was strategically chosen.
“We chose to begin the march on Cota Street because there is a lot of employers like Service Master, who would be one of the employers affected by the living wage ordinances because they do work for the city,” she said. “Then we wanted to march on State Street because it’s like the locus of Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara is this beautiful tourist place, and we want to bring attention to the irony that there are also all these people suffering here.”
After the march, attendees will listen to speakers, including Steve Rhode, president of the Southern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, UCSB history Professor Alice O’Connor and various musicians.
UCSB Environmental Affairs Board Chair Courtney Estes said the I.V. conference will feature a morning of workshops to address issues, including indigenous rights and free trade, and their relation to the environment.
“[In the morning] we’re going to do seven workshops, where we talk about environmental justice and what it actually is. A lot of times people involved in the environmental movement don’t see all the issues – by taking justice, we can bring in social and economic issues as well,” she said.
After the march, the I.V. conference will feature keynote speakers Butterfly Hill and Stone. Estes said the speakers will address the connections between social and economic issues and the environment.
“Levonne Stone is a member of the Fort Ord Environmental Justice network. She works mainly on environmental justice and environmental racism. They are closely linked,” Estes said. “The environmental justice issue deals with taking situations where someone is affected by the environment and getting justice. In a lot of minority communities, they’ll dump waste right next to their homes. Environmental racism is looking at the situation and making the connection between race and environmental degradation.”
Estes said Butterfly Hill, who is well-known for her two-year stint in a redwood tree, is another example of someone who works toward both social and environmental justice.
“She pulls in a lot of economic and social issues,” she said. “Julia works on indigenous rights and any other social issue, as well as the environmental stuff. She’s an amazing woman.”
For more information, visit www.peoplesmarch.org.