Berkeley / East Bay
Gray Panthers Newsletter
June 2015

6501 Telegraph Ave.- Oakland CA 94609

Tel: (510)595-9696

The June membership meeting will be on
Wednesday, June 24, 2015 at 1:30pm
at North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst, Berkeley.

The subject will be The Bay Area Housing Crisis Hits Home
with speakers from HUD and the office of member of Congress Barbara Lee.
There will be a showing of a 22-minute film "Save Section 8" which was produced in 1999 by Strawberry Creek Lodge as part of a protest agains privatization.
All Panthers and community members welcome. Wheelchair accessible.

Board Meeting
Wednesday, June 10, 2015 At Niebyl-Proctor Library 6501 Telegraph
at 2:00pm

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Our good friend, Charles Robinson, long time Gray Panther and Board Member passed last month. He had provided the board, with reports from the advisory committee of Kaiser Permanente.
There was a memorial on Tuesday, May 19th at the Ed Roberts Campus on Adeline St in Berkeley
Condolences may be sent to Mrs Charles Robinson (Sarah) at the family home, 3000 Dohr St, Berkeley, CA 94702

Become a member of Gray Panthers!

Dues: $35/year ($15 low income)
Send a check with your name and mailing address to Gray Panthers of the East Bay, 6501 Telegraph Ave.- Oakland CA 94609.
NOTE -- Traffic Tickets can also be worked off by volunteer work for Gray Panthers

New Members and Renewals

East Bay Gray Panthers would like to welcome new members and renewals of present members.

Living Graveyard

Third Mondays, Noon - 1:00 pm.
date subject to change –– check
Oakland Federal Building, 1301 Clay Street (two blocks from 12th Street BART)
People lie down on the city sidewalk in front of the Federal Building, covered with sheets to represent the dead. The names of some of the Californians who have died in Iraq and the names of some of the Iraqi dead are read during the event. A gong is sounded after each name.
Please bring a white sheet. A pad to lie on is recommended.
Info: Ecumenical Peace Institute, (510)990-0374.

Monthly Peace Rally

Every 3rd Friday, Gray Panthers and Strawberry Creek Lodge sponsor a Peace rally, at Acton and University in Berkeley. Next rally will be on Friday June 19, 2-3 pm. Come sing, wave signs, listen to approving honks. For more info, Call Fran Rachel at 841-4143

Tax the Rich Rally

TAX THE RICH RALLY meets every Monday 5-6 pm at the top of Solano Ave in Berkeley (rain cancels) to protest the inequality of taxes in our country. We hold signs saying “Tax the Rich” and “Tax the Big Corporations.” Cars passing by honk in support. Pedestrians take leaflets. The signs and leaflets present information about the impact of tax inequities in our society, and how we must work together to bring about essential changes so that the rich and big corporations pay their fair share.

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Report on May Membership meeting

The May 27, 2015 meeting of the East Bay Gray Panthers was held at North Berkeley Senior Center. The audience was about 30 people. In addition to speakers bringing us up to date on local political issues, there were Song and Word performances, celebrating Labor History and Struggles.

Co-convener Edie Hallberg began with one of the songs from the Rockin’ Solidarity Labor Chorus-- “Labor History,” by Pat Wynn, which listed great events in the history of the labor movement.

The next performer was Dave Welsh, singing and accompanying himself on an electric organ. To test his setup, he began by singing the old favorite “You Are My Sunshine.” The audience sang along enthusiastically.

Then he did a song relating to Cuba. “Let the Little Yellow School Bus Go.” It was about a 1993 attempt to break the Cuba blockade by exporting a school bus to Cuba via Mexico. After a 3 week hunger strike in Laredo, Texas, federal officials decided that the bus was humanitarian aid and therefore did not need an export license.

Shattuck Cinema vs Development

Next up was Don Goldmacher, the film maker who produced Heist. He brought us up to date on the development in downtown Berkeley called “2211 Harold Way.” This plan threatens to demolish the Shattuck Cinema in order to build 3 to 5 18-story towers with 302 "market rate" (i.e. for rich people) condominiums. Already, the existing Shattuck Ave building has evicted the “Habitot” center for children, which was getting 50,000 visits a year. The Shattuck Cinema is quite profitable; it gets about 300,000 visitors a year. Mayor Bates has been trying to sell this building project as a big benefit to Berkeley. The Gray Panther audience derided that idea, with shouts of “wind tunnel” and “green washing.” Some members of the audience had been at the recent City Council meeting. On June 16, there will be another meeting of Berkeley City Council to deal with the Shattuck Cinema issue; the item will come up early in the evening. There is a petition circulating:

Berkeley Post Office

Gray Panther convener emerita Margot Smith then gave us the latest news on saving the downtown Berkeley Post Office. She told us that the Post Office building might not have to be sold. Already, the recent change to Civic Center district zoning made the property less interesting to buyers. On April 14, a U.S. Federal Court judge dismissed the city of Berkeley’s lawsuit to stop the sale and relocation of the city’s main post office on Allston Way, but in deciding that the city’s case was moot, the judge ruled that the United States Postal Service “had to formally rescind its decision to relocate the post office from 2000 Allston Way.” That means, for now, the Main Post Office is not officially for sale. Some services which had already been moved elsewhere are now being returned to the main Post Office. Margot said that, at one point, the judge had told the USPS representatives “please don’t give me any more double speak.”

This precedent will help Palo Alto pursue their suit, as well as paving the way for many other post offices to survive, all over the US.

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Comedy Routine

We were then treated to a comic performance by Mrs T-Bill Banks.

She began by quoting “give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free …” and asking if anyone recognized it as Obama’s immigration policy.

She spoke approvingly of recent improvement in treatment of transsexuals, but was not so sure about how TPP is transforming Obama into a Republican.

She said she had expected to hear Dave Welsh sing “There Once was a Union Maid” but wasn’t sure if any maids were actually unionized; maybe they have to go to 99% stores for their picket signs!

Minimum Wage

Next, we heard from Berkeley Labor Commission member Steve Kessler. Berkeley’s minimum wage is now at $10.47 with plans to increase it to $12.53 by 2016. Oakland has already increased their minimum wage to $12.53. Los Angeles goes to $15.35 on July 1st, starting with hotel workers, and for all of LA at the end of 2015. In 1968, the Federal minimum wage was $1.68, which would be equivalent to $11.00 today, but the Federal minimum wage is $7.25 Elizabeth Warren recently cited a report showing that if the minimum wage had kept up with worker productivity, it would now be $22.00.

Kessler told a story about somebody in Finland getting a $58K fine for speeding, because Finland pro-rates fines according to wealth.

Kessler said the strategy of the Labor Commission is to promote more jobs through things like single payer health insurance, so there are more people buying things.

He mentioned that his daughter had been an intern working with the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU192). They did a study of bathroom breaks. Talking to 98 bus drivers, they heard that 20% had "pee accidents" on the job. This violates OSHA, worker’s rights, even human rights.

Nancy Shimmel Songs

Then we went back to music, with songs by Nancy Schimmel, who sings with Occupella. She sang a song about "Old Paint, the horse with the union label".

Then she told about how unions supported war production during WWII by holding off strikes. She sang a song from that era:

   It's that U.A.W.-C.I.O.  Makes that army roll and go,
   Turnin' out jeeps and tanks and airplanes every day.
   It's that U.A.W.-C.I.O.  Makes that army roll and go --
   Puts wheels on the U.S.A.

Nancy followed that by a song she had composed
“Patriotic Meal” – a red white and blue breakfast (strawberries, yogurt and blueberries)

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Carol Denny Songs

The next singer was another local celebrity, Carol Denny. She sang “The Song of the Wealthy Man”, who says:

   You are not my brother we’re nothing alike 
   I’m driving my hummer you’re riding your bike! 

   It’s the song, it’s the song
   the song of the wealthy man!
   Always right, never wrong!
   Try to be just like me if you can!
   It’s the song of the wealthy man! 

Carol said she grew up in East LA, but her parents had come there from Appalachia. She said she frequently goes back to West Virginia to learn new songs. She sang a song “They're Building A Pipeline“ about building an oil pipeline through West Virginia. “We love our mountains, finest on earth”

She then sang a song about homelessness:

   Night after night, day after day
   Looking for mercy, to meet us halfway
   They want us to leave, but where do we go
   We are just people, they don’t want to know

At the end of her songs, Carol told about coming home late from a gig the previous night and turning on the TV to watch the 5/26 Berkeley City Council meeting. She said she was thrilled to hear so many Berkeley citizens offering clear and cogent arguments against the so-called benefits of destroying Shattuck Cinema in order to build tall buildings downtown.


Dave Welsh did the finale, a rousing rendition of “Solidarity Forever,” which everybody sang.

An expanded version of this report, with links to some of the songs, is available at