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  Szwaja, Joseph
NameJoseph Szwaja
Seattle, Washington , United States
Website [Link]
Born Unknown
ContributorBarack O-blame-a
Last ModifedRalphie
Jun 07, 2007 08:35pm
InfoJoe Szwaja is an award-winning community and international activist and an acclaimed public school teacher.

Joe has worked for six years as a key member of the East Timor Action Network of Seattle, serving as the group's Project Coordinator and Volunteer Coordinator. He has involved young people in leadership roles; helped to lead ETAN's lobbying, media, and fundraising efforts; and co-authored legislation calling for an end to Washington State's investments in Indonesian-controlled East Timor that violated international law. In November of 1999, he won the United Nations Association of Seattle's Human Rights Award for his work on behalf of the people of East Timor.

Joe is an acclaimed teacher at Seattle's Nova Project, a democratically run public high school in Seattle�s Central District, where his classes include History, American Government and Economics, Human Rights and Activism, History of Gender Relations, Systems, Spanish, and Weight Lifting. He has been Nova's Building Representative in the Seattle Teacher's Union since 1996.

Together with Nova students, Joe developed the Fair Trade Coffee Project to convince Seattle grocery stores and coffee shops to use fairly traded organic coffee.

Joe is active in the movement against the WTO and IMF in which he has engaged many young people, created skits promoting non-sweatshop clothing, and developed literature promoting positive consumer alternatives in clean, green, fairly traded products.

In Madison, Wisconsin, Joe served four terms on the City Council as a Labor Farm Party member, and chaired the Labor Farm Party for Wisconsin's 2nd Congressional District for three years. As a council member, Joe actively promoted the redirection of funds to serve human and environmental needs. He successfully fought many corporate welfare giveaways including Convention Centers and parking lots, and won victories over urban sprawl projects by demonstrating that they would raise taxes for existing residents and degrade the environment. Joe promoted Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights, authoring and gaining approval for an alternative families ordinance to allow equal access to housing, public accommodations, and health and bereavement benefits. Joe was a leader on labor issues, preventing efforts to weaken prevailing wage rates rules involving carpenters and other construction workers, and leading efforts to oppose city funding of discriminatory, non-union firms. Labor locals and federations including the Carpenters and Building Trades Union consistently endorsed Joe.

Joe authored the Arcatao Sister City Resolution, which officially linked Madison to a war-torn area in El Salvador. This project, which continues today, has sent hundred of thousand of dollars in aid and allowed people to safely return to their homes after being attacked by the Salvadoran army. Joe authored similar legislation to link Wisconsin's Dane County to Apartado, Colombia, an area occupied by the Colombian army. The project has improved safety and economic development for residents, mostly impoverished banana workers.

Joe served as the chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission in Madison and was twice elected chair of Madison's Affirmative Action Commission. He authored many budget amendments to increase funding for affirmative action and Women�s Business Enterprise programs, and successfully opposed efforts to restrict housing for former inmates.

Joe has been involved in many other global and local activist organizations. He served as coordinator for the Community Action on Latin America, lobbying and coordinating media and fundraising for this group affiliated with the self-determination groups Nicaragua Network, Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), and Guatemala Solidarity Organization (GUASO). He worked as an Environmental and Consumer Organizer as a member of Citizen�s Utility Board, a group originated by Ralph Nader that promotes regulation of utility rates and energy conservation, and of Wisconsin�s Environmental Decade which lobbies statewide for environmental protection. Joe served as Immigration Specialist/Advocate at El Centro Hispano in Madison, facilitating his parents' sponsorship of two Cuban refugees. He worked with disadvantaged African American youth at Dane County Neighborhood Intervention Program.

Joe lives in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood with his wife Debra Morrison. He has one son, Engel, and three stepsons, Sam, Leaf, and Reed. He grew up in Cleveland, Ohio where his parents helped lead the fight to desegregate Cleveland schools. Joe received his B.A. in History and Spanish Literature from Kenyon College in 1978. He studied at Universidad de los Andes in Colombia for a year as an undergraduate, where he helped research a critique of the World Bank. Following his undergraduate studies, Joe taught English in Mexico for one year. In 1984 he received a Masters degree in Latin American History and in 1992 a Teaching Certificate, both from the University of Wisconsin. He has taught at the Madison Area Technical College and the University of Wisconsin. Joe speaks fluent Spanish. A former high school and college basketball player, he can still dunk on a good day.


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