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Blu Homes Protest Greets 30,000 at Pacific Coast Builders Conference Opening Day in San Francisco

The 30,000 attendees today at the annual Pacific Coast Builders Conference (PCBC) were greeted by a major protest from the employees of a green home building company seeking unionization of its northern California production facility.

More than 100 Blu Homes employees and members of the Carpenters Union Local 180 armed with giant 30-foot tall inflatable effigies of The Grim Reaper and a pig leafleted outside the largest gathering of the home building industry in the western United States today, the opening day of PCBC.

Blu Homes’ production workers are in a labor dispute with Blu Homes after company management has refused to recognize the union even after 38 of 45 workers at the company’s Vallejo signed a petition this year demanding representation by the Carpenters Union. More than 17 unfair Labor Charges have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board against Blu Homes.

The Carpenters Union charges that Blu Homes’ President Bill Haney and his behavior toward its workers and environmental practices do not match the pro-environment and pro-worker projects that have marked Mr. Haney’s career or the efforts of people on the company’s Board of Advisers, including Robert Kennedy, Jr., whose father played a pivotal role in the unionization of California farm workers.

Blu Homes Inc., a Massachusetts-based company that designs and builds pre-fabricated single family green homes, opened a new facility inside Vallejo’s historic Factory Building 680 on Lennar Mare Island in December 2011.

Shortly thereafter, workers approached Carpenters Local 180, asking for help in resolving issues of poor bathroom facilities, lack of gender specific bathrooms, job safety and the lack of a retirement plan.  The overriding factor was a lack of respect for the workers from management, according to Carpenters representatives.

Haney has been described in the NY Times as one of America’s leading environmental entrepreneurs.  In addition to his business and investment successes that made him a multi-millionaire, he is also a documentary filmmaker, taking his camera to places where social injustice was met with resistance by those on the ground.

From the Dominican Republic, where he focused on the struggle of Haitian sugar workers in “The Price of Sugar,” to the mountains of West Virginia, where he chronicled a community’s fight against mountain top removal mining, Haney’s films emphasize the power of ordinary people. Along the way, he has spoken forcefully against the evils of corporate greed, against environmental degradation and union busting, and for the powers of workers organizing into a union.

Haney, being interviewed about his documentary, “The Price of Sugar” and the struggle of Haitian sugar workers in the Dominican Republic said: “…one of the most interesting things that took place for me was to be present at the birth of a union. It was extraordinary to see the power and vitality of a union and how desperate these workers were without it and what improvements could be ripped from the plantations owner’s hands if there was one…”

Haney, commenting on Massey Energy and the fight against mountaintop removal mining: “…you know, there are miners working there who are getting a pathetic fraction of what they would have gotten even 10 years ago when they had protection with the unions. So, they’ve destroyed the unions, they’ve beaten up on the environment, they’ve violated federal health and safety standards, to what appears to be really the enrichment of a very small number of people, primarily the executives of the company.”

The Carpenters’ union thinks Haney is a hypocrite. Haney has positioned himself as a champion of the environment, an ally of the poor, and a defender of unions. So one must ask: why can’t he live up to his own words at his own company?

The Blu Home workers in Vallejo have overwhelmingly petitioned for union representation and they are being denied this right by the very same man that encouraged unionization in the Dominican Republic and in the hills of West Virginia. That’s not irony–that’s hypocrisy, some on the picket line said today.

In March 2012, Blu Homes raised $25 Million in Capital from new investors Brightpath Capital Partners and The Skagen Group in the Netherlands. According to the company, this brings total investment in Blu Homes to $50 million since 2007.

One can only hope that Mr. Haney and Robert F. Kenney Jr. and the other board members will recognize the right of workers to organize and have decent and safe working conditions and benefit from the growth of Blu Homes.

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Cross-Pollination: The Art of Lawrence Ferlinghetti June 23–September 23, 2012, at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art

29 May 2012 – Sonoma, CA: This summer, the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art (www.svma.org) honors the creative life of Lawrence Ferlinghetti with the exhibition Cross-Pollination: The Art of Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s work, in both literature and art, is a drive for liberation, transformation, and union—through love, literature, political struggle, nature, humor, art. Again and again, in paint and in words, he ponders themes of “Her”/woman, the Sea, man adrift, war and pacifism, and engages in direct dialogue with other artists and writers, including Homer and Joyce, Ginsberg and Van Gogh, Picasso and Pound. The exhibition, on view June 23 through September 23, 2012, focuses on key themes that have occupied the artist and poet throughout his creative life, in both word and image.

“We are thrilled to be presenting this exhibition of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s works, of which I am personally a big fan,” says the museum’s Executive Director Kate Eilertsen. “This exhibition takes a unique approach in looking at thematic parallels that have been consistent in his work, in whatever medium he chooses.” Long celebrated as a poet and publisher, Ferlinghetti, now 93, was first a painter, pursuing his craft at the Sorbonne in Paris shortly after his naval service in World War II. For more than sixty years, he has continued his passion for image-making in paintings, drawings, prints, and mixed media works that have been widely exhibited, including a major survey exhibition in 2010 in Rome and Calabria.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti (born March 24, 1919) is acclaimed as a poet, painter, liberal activist, and co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers in San Francisco. As early as his 1955 book A Coney Island of the Mind (published in 1958 by New Directions)—a collection of poems that has been translated into nine languages, with sales of over 1 million copies—he wrote about himself as a painter and the challenges of the visual artist. The first poem in the bestselling book addresses the work of Goya; and further along, in poem 12, he writes: “‘One of those paintings that would not die’ / its warring image / once conceived / would not leave / the leaded ground / no matter how many times / he hounded it / into oblivion…”

Cross-Pollination: The Art of Lawrence Ferlinghetti is guest curated by Diane Roby, an artist and curator who for several years has catalogued Ferlinghetti’s visual art at his Hunter’s Point studio in San Francisco. For this exhibition, she looks especially at the overlap of word and image as Ferlinghetti addresses recurring thematic material. “In Ferlinghetti’s art,” says Roby, “words give rise to image-making, and word and image meld in paint. The poet and painter, with pen and brush, turns his attention to his world of words and paint as he ponders questions of human existence and aspirations.”

Cross-Pollination: The Art of Lawrence Ferlinghetti tracks these themes through selected paintings, drawings, prints, and notebooks. Several works on loan from the artist will be exhibited for the first time, including notebooks of writings with pictures in the margins, and sketchbooks with text, as the artist forms his thoughts in line and verse. A viewing room will present video and audio clips of the artist reading and at work in his studio. Among these clips is the 1957 Allen Willis film “Have You Sold Your Dozen Roses?,” with a voiceover by Ferlinghetti (presented courtesy of the East Bay Media Center).

Cross-Pollination: The Art of Lawrence Ferlinghetti is generously supported by Cherie and Keith Hughes.

Cross-Pollination: The Art of Lawrence Ferlinghetti will be on view at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, 551 Broadway in Sonoma, June 23 through September 23, 2012. The Museum hours are Wednesdays through Sundays 11am– 5pm. Museum admission is $5 general; free for students in grades K-12. Admission is free for all visitors every Wednesday. More information about the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art is available at www.svma.org or by calling (707) 939-7862.

 

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