my screenplay - Bordello Politique: The Crimes of Dolly Fine

My Screenplay pitch made the top ten at the Storylink pitch-perfect contest. 


Link to my recent union activities, with friends! - AFSCME

Here is a link to a story I produced and photos of a warm September 27th Saturday spent working with my union brothers and sisters of the AFSCME (American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees). we were there representing the low-wage workforce of the University of California who  are still locked in a struggle over our expired contract.

We visited the new president of UC Mark Yudof, even brought him his favorite food, PANCAKES, but he didn't show.

read the post on IndyBay...


Goodbye Dona Spring

Dona spring died on Sunday the 13th of July, 2008.

she served Berkeley and represented the green party exceptionally well.
Here are some clips, the first from the Berkeley Daily Planet is the best, but many news reports failed to say she was a Green.

BERKELEY, Calif. (KCBS) -- Berkeley City Councilwoman Dona Spring has died, Dona Spring An Appreciation.
Berkeley Daily Planet, CA - Jul 14, 2008 By Becky O’Malley



Editorial in the Daily Cal responding to University of California Regent Blum and new President Yudoff

I had an editorial published on July 21, 2008 in the independent student paper at UC Berkeley, the Daily Californian, pg. 4, addressing the only comments to come out of the University during our five day strike uttered by Richard Blum and M. Yudoff. Most of the rest of the infrastructure has been silent about AFSCME's walkout.



Green party election wrap June 4, 08

I'm quoted in this press release from the Green Party of CA after the June primary.

"Low voter turnout, expensive advertising, out of control independent expenditure committees, special interest pandering and only two parties in competition. That is the state of elections in California these days," said Hank Chapot, a Green party member and union organizer.

"Without public financing, proportional representation and free media, we will remain stuck in the dysfunctional system and never get to peace, environmental justice and small d democracy," he lamented.


The history of tree sitting, since 1930

Tree-Sitting, Since 1930

By Hank Chapot

Thursday June 26, 2008

The Memorial Stadium oak grove standoff at the University of California is a dangerous and dramatic business, but tree sitting has a more prosaic origin. In the summer of 1930, when “endurance marathons” were the rage, schoolboys and girls across the country became tree-sitters for glory and prizes and a chance to get their picture in the paper.

In the first summer of the Great Depression, bicycle marathons, pole-sitting, even mustache contests were popular diversions. Very young kids across the nation took up the challenge, climbed up high in a backyard tree and built some great tree-houses. Newspapers and radio stations increased readership and announced prizes; bicycles, a wristwatch, savings bonds, a job. Local merchants supplied shoes and radios and tacked advertisements to the tree trunks and fences. Money boxes nailed to the trees jingled with coins dropped by the growing crowds. Feature stories followed: twins sitting, a mother of three, a boy scout and even a housewife with a bathing tub were going for the record in neighborhood trees. The story exploded; children across America took to the trees.

From Jersey to Georgia, Bremerton to Santa Barbara, the “tree sitting epidemic” spread. Sitters went on radio, took baths and had haircuts and doctor’s visits aloft. Radio stations updated hourly and interviewed 4-year-olds on the resupply teams. To the consternation of parents and property owners, the crowds increased by the week.

Twelve-year-old E. B. Landre of 5866 Shafter Ave., Oakland (gone beneath Highway 24) joined the challenge, completing 360 hours as Oakland’s “Human Apple” in his mother’s apple tree, inspiring a dozen imitators across the East Bay. Neighbors thronged to the Shafter Avenue house, and his mother was happy to know where her son was for once. Before alighting to join child star Billy Page on the NBC radio network, “Eebee” (his nickname) was assured of his standing, for the moment, as Bay Area champion. He then got ready for a new school year.

Some writers recommended cutting all trees. Will Rogers suggested they climb the giants in Yosemite.

One kid relocated to a new tree and was carried on a severed branch. Another was attacked with slingshots and gave up, one lit his tent on fire, others were chased from the trees by lightning, summer heat and rain. One was visited by a skunk, and some got homesick, like Lisa Simpson.

A Florida newsmen’s association passed a resolution against wasting more ink on tree sitters unless and until they fall and break their necks, with a view toward protecting children from reverting to their “ape-like tendencies.” The Bremerton tree sit lasted 518 hours, a Santa Rosa youth went 1,305 and one in southern California went 1,320 hours.

A year later, consensus seems to support Leslie “Rhubarb” Davis’ record of 107 days in Gibson City, Ill. When asked why he did it, Rhubarb replied, “I didn’t have to work the whole time I was up there.”

As the publicity spread, law-and-order citizens, juvenile courts, child welfare societies and police combined forces to end the nonsense. Cities declared public parks off-limits. A few sheriffs climbed ladders and grabbed kids by the belt or around the neck.

In late August, coverage ended abruptly when four hours shy of his goal of 500, 16-year-old Nelson McIntosh of Lexington, Ken., fell to his death while pulling up his lunch. Competitors quickly descended and requested Nelson be declared state champion. The fun quickly bled from the game. Before long, “tree sitting” and the marathon craze become fodder for propagandists as proof America had gone soft.

There is more. In Woodstock, Virginia, in 1935, Mrs. Lorraine F. Brown, denying she had a pistol or a pitchfork in hand, perched among the branches of her maple tree and secured a court injunction to save the tree in front of her house from street widening. In 1937, a London play called Climbing satirized a youth who climbed a tree as the first step in flying. In 1939, Mr. Bink sat in a tree in the movie On Borrowed Time. A one-act play called Sittin’, about a Guinness World’s Record, played at the Ensemble Studio Theater in 1980. (By the way, the Guinness website does not cover tree sitting). My favorite tree sitter is the uncle in Fellini’s 1973 film Amarcord.

Berkeley’s own Malvina Reynolds wrote a song after housewife Lois Knill in 1965 tried to stop the destruction of a row of pines on adjacent property in her wealthy Harbor Point subdivision on Tiburon. Mrs. Knill did not exactly sit in a tree, she took up residence on top of a stump, threatened the developer, whom she called a pig, talking about a .44. Originally titled, “The Lady and the Tree,” Reynolds’ song tells the story of a woman who “cried and cursed for the murder of a tree.”

Tree sitting has a single purpose now, and tree defense rages across the planet, there have been deaths, and every loss is permanent. But, take heart: young people not much older than Eebee are still climbing trees. As witnesses to the drama at Memorial Stadium, take a moment to ponder the young folk of 1930, children my father’s age, who jumped at the chance to spend some warm summer nights sleeping in a tree.

published: Berkeley Daily Planet 6.26.08


UC bereft of commencement speakers

Contact: Lakesha Harrison, President: 310-877-6878
Maricruz Cecena, Graduating Senior: 310-429-2207

Retired General Wesley Clark Latest in a Series of Cancellations by UCLA Graduation Speakers


Clark joins Former President Bill Clinton, and Congressmembers Waxman and Solis to refuse to cross the picket line of 20,000 UC workers

California – Retired General Wesley Clark is the latest of a growing group of speakers to cancel their scheduled appearance at UCLA’s commencement ceremonies this weekend unless 20,000 UC workers receive of a fair contract. Former President Bill Clinton confirmed his cancellation on Tuesday and was joined by Congresswoman Hilda Solis and Congressman Henry Waxman who were also scheduled at UCLA this weekend. Students, workers and community supporters are planning to picket at commencement ceremonies across the state this weekend.

"I am disappointed that I will not be able to be a commencement speaker, but I won't cross the picket line. The students who are graduating, along with their parents who support them should be congratulated on their achievement. My hope is this dispute will come to a resolution very soon."
– Retired General Wesley Clark

"Until the University of California and the 20,000 patient care and service workers resolve their dispute, I won’t be able to speak at the commencement ceremony for the U.C.L.A. School of Public Health. I will not cross the picket line and hope this is resolved as quickly as possible."
– Congressman Henry Waxman

The 20,000 patient care and service workers do everything from assisting in surgeries to cleaning dorm rooms in the University of California’s ten campus/five hospital system. They have been negotiating for a fair contract since August, 2007.

Graduations at other UC campuses have also been affected by this show of solidarity with UC workers, including Speaker Emeritus of the California Assembly Fabian Núñez’s cancellation on Wednesday at UC Davis. Robert Kennedy Jr., Assemblyman John Laird, Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, Angela Davis and many notable professors have also pledged to cancel unless the contract is settled. This represents speakers at nearly all UC campuses where graduations are scheduled.

At issue are UC wages, which are dramatically behind other hospitals and California’s community colleges where workers are paid an average of 25% higher for the same work. Patient care workers are concerned this is contributing to high-turnover, staffing shortages, and over-reliance on temps which can affect patient care as extra time is needed to train the constant flow of new staff.

For service workers, wages are as low as $10 an hour, and 96% of UC service workers are income eligible for at least one of the following public assistance programs: food stamps, WIC, public housing subsidies, and reduced lunch. Many work 2-3 jobs to meet their families’ basic needs.

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299, AFL-CIO represents
20,000 patient care and service workers at UC including licensed vocational nurses, medical techs and assistants,
respiratory therapists, custodians, cafeteria workers, and security officers.
2201 Broadway Ave, Suite 315
Oakland, CA 94612, (510) 844-1160, media@afscme3299.org


Man in the Moon kite

I've saved this kite since I was a teen age kite flyer. We used to go up on "Moron Hill" and smash our kites into each other, kind of a kite dogfight.


UC, the Wal-Mart of higher education?

published in the Berkeley Daily Planet February 1, 2008

If you love the University of California, you may be interested in a study released Jan. 15 by the Center for Labor and Community Research, titled, “Failing California’s Communities: how UC’s low wages affect surrounding communities.”

For those who pay attention to UC’s labor issues, the story is depressingly familiar. This study of zip codes and census data for roughly 20,000 low paid UC service and patient care employees at ten campuses and five hospitals asked the question; if UC paid market-rate wages, what would be the economic impact, or “multiplier effect,” and where would it show? It was produced with help from AFSCME local 3299.

The conclusions were clear, UC’s lowest paid workers are concentrated in low income communities most in need of economic improvement and UC is failing those communities by paying wages significantly below other colleges and hospitals in California (25 percent below overall). Comparisons were made to wages at regional hospitals and large community colleges. Citing a 2005 study by the National Economic Development and Law Center, one-third of UC’s 124,000 employees do not earn sufficient wages to pay for food, rent and other basic necessities and many are eligible for public assistance. Nearly half of UC patient care and service workers live in neighborhoods with a poverty rate 50 percent higher than those surrounding the campuses. In the Bay Area, the percentage is probably higher.

That study recognized that compensation practices of large employers affect entire communities. CLCR researchers note that as one of the largest employers in the state, if UC paid prevailing wages, it would have significant direct economic impact on struggling communities, including Oakland and Richmond, Inglewood and Hawthorne, plus 55 other working class communities near the UC system, where incomes run 15 percent lower than average. CLCR researchers conclude that, “the economic impact of UC matching prevailing wages is estimated to add $147 million in spending on local goods and services in those communities, create nearly nine hundred new jobs, add $9 million in state and local taxes and contribute $23 million in local business earnings.” Obviously, if UC were to provide market-rate wages, the social returns in low and moderate income communities would be far greater than any increase in sales of luxury goods in upscale districts adjacent to UC campuses from payoffs and perks lavished on top management.

Old-timers tell me UC used to say, “it is a privilege to work for the greatest university in the world, and because of our interest in public service and the egalitarian mission of the university, you will gladly accept a little less.”

More recently they said, “the economy is bad, we have to raise fees, tuition, health care costs, and no, no equity increases this year.” Seems every year, good or bad, UC’s primary customers, students, classroom educators and hospital patients take the hit.

This year the mantra is, “Arnold won’t give us the money, $14B deficit you know.” But the state budget slice for service workers at UC is just 8.6 percent, the rest comes from hospital revenues, the feds and non-governmental funding such as food services and parking. While tuition costs explode, students fees, the ultimate battering ram of UC’s excuses, provide barely 1 percent of service costs.

And I’m talking about unionized workers here, usually the most stable members of working class communities, whose wages UC is keeping down. People end up taking second jobs, putting their teen-aged children into the workforce and even collecting cans during breaks for a little extra cash.

Sources in current contract negotiations say the university has acknowledged that it is not about money, rather, they claim it would be “fiscally irresponsible” to raise workers pay to prevailing wage. That from a public entity with 22 billion dollars in net assets(assets minus expenses), up 18 percent in the last two years, a university system that is the largest recipient of Federal R&D funding in the nation, $4 billion last year alone. Current Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau recently cited low turnover at the bottom as justification for underpaying workers, and it is true that we need our jobs and UC can be a good place to work. However, we have less employment mobility than UC’s elite and are therefore ripe for exploitation.

Readers will be unsurprised that labor contracts within the UC system are in flux. One of the largest employers in every jurisdiction where it resides, UC seems determined to continue depressing wages, in contradiction of its stated ideals.

From the study’s conclusion; “What is at stake is the economic future of West Sacramento, San Pablo, Watsonville, El Cajon, East Oakland and other poor communities that would greatly benefit if UC made a greater economic investment in California’s communities.”

A PDF version of the study “Failing California’s Communities: how UC’s low wages affect surrounding communities” is at www.clcr.org/index.php.

letter on Campus workers, UC Berkeley


Editors, Daily Planet:

As Richard Brenneman highlights events and issues at UC Berkeley in 2007 (BDP v.9, #77) he omitted some good stuff concerning workers on campus. Local 3299 of AFSCME chalked up important achievements this past year, we won a pay equity struggle to bring the lowest paid food services and custodial pay up from poverty wages a dollar or so and established protection of workplace language rights and restitution of faulty pension calculations for employees at the International House.

Numerous commencement speakers honored our request to stay away from graduation when informed of the equity dispute, and some Democrat candidates for president refused to come on campus. We would like to thank them for their solidarity.

In other news, UAW-represented academic student employees won wage and contract improvements while the coalition of UC labor unions—including UPTE Professional and Technical Employees, CUE clericals, UC-AFT lecturers and librarians, UAW Academic student employees, AFSCME service workers and patient care employees and CNA—successfully blocked pension-withholding increases for all 10 campuses, took up the struggle of toxic pollution at the Richmond field station and are working across boundaries to help the unions that are currently in or soon entering in to contract negotiations.

Hank Chapot, Oakland

UCB central campus gardener