Can you name the worst job you’ve ever had? For Cliff Martin, that’s not an easy question. All three of his current jobs—delivering newspapers, delivering magazines and working as a janitor—are strong contenders. Taken together, they pay so poorly that the 20-year-old Northfield, Minnesota, native relies on MNsure, the state Medicaid plan, for healthcare and lives at home with his father to save money. But what if Martin’s bosses had to fork over a fee to the state for paying him so badly? That money, in turn, could be used to help support Martin and his fellow low-wage workers in a variety of ways, from direct subsidies for food and housing to social programs such as Medicaid or public transportation. Take Action Minnesota, a network that promotes economic and racial justice in the state, wants to make that fee a reality. It’s developing the framework for a bill that it hopes will be introduced in 2015 by state legislators who have worked with the network in the past. As conceived, the “bad business fee” legislation would require companies to disclose how many of their employees are receiving public assistance from the state or federal government. Companies would then pay a fine based on the de facto subsidies they receive by externalizing labor costs onto taxpayers.
Yesterday many of Southern Illinois’s elected officials, and representatives of the fossil fuel industry, held a one-hour press conference to complain about the fact that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has still not completed the rule-making process in order for fracking to begin in Illinois. Fracking is a controversial process used to drill for oil & gas. Millions of gallons of water, mixed with toxic chemicals and sand, are injected into mile-long horizontal wells at high pressure to fracture rock layers and release oil and gas. It is important that the public is aware of the dangers inherent in fracking jobs.
Pension cuts were approved in a landslide, according to results filed shortly before midnight Monday. The tally from 60 days of voting gives the city a boost as Judge Steven Rhodes determines whether Detroit’s overall strategy to eliminate or reduce $18 billion in long-term debt is fair and feasible to all creditors. General retirees would get a 4.5 percent pension cut and lose annual inflation adjustments. They accepted the changes with 73 percent of ballots in favor. Retired police officers and firefighters would lose only a portion of their annual cost-of-living raise. Eighty-two percent in that class voted “yes.”
Members of UAW Local 2110—which represents twenty-seven staff writers, editorial assistants, listings editors, and sales representatives at the Village Voice—voted to authorize a strike at the nation’s historic alternative-weekly newspaper after their three-year contract expired Monday. “We voted unanimously to set a date for a strike,” said Stephanie Zacharek, the principal film critic at the Voice and a shop steward with the union. The vote came after a thirteen-hour negotiating session failed to bring representatives of Voice Media Group LLC, the parent company of the Voice, and the employees’ bargaining committee to an agreement over health care costs and working conditions at the newspaper. The bargaining committee met Tuesday night to discuss a strike deadline.
J.J. Giuliano has been local chairman of the Selkirk unit of Albany, N.Y., Local 770 since 2003. Keeping his members safe is Giuliano’s top priority, and along with the leaders of the other trades at Selkirk, he sat on the shop’s safety committee. “For 10 years we made recommendations to management and for 10 years not one of them was funded by the company,” Giuliano said. “I stayed on because I wanted to look out for my guys. But at a certain point we were letting the company get away with avoiding solving safety problems.” In September 2013, Giuliano was done with the charade. He sent a letter to the plant superintendent telling him that he was quitting the committee. He listed 21 safety violations that threatened the health of IBEW members, public safety or both that had repeatedly been brought to the company’s attention and never fixed.
When Germany and Argentina square off in the Word Cup Final, the whole world will be watching the culmination of what may be the most exciting FIFA World Cup Tournament ever. What most people are unaware of, however, is the brutal conditions that FIFA creates to pull off the games.
Governors from across the country are in Music City to tackle key issues including education, health care and jobs. Saturday, protestors gathered outside the Omni Hotel demanding to be a part of the conversation. Legislative Plaza served as a meeting point for the hopes and dreams of dozens who gather under a collective front called the Freedom Side. With signs and tape over their mouths they walked in silent protest through downtown to the Omni, straight for the National Governor’s Association meeting. “We just want to talk to the Governors about four issues,” protestor Jayanni Webster said, “The criminalization of black and brown youth, living wage jobs, equal education and democratic rights.” Protesters were greeted by the Tennessee Highway Patrol, who created a barrier to prevent them from entering private property. After learning no one would come out to speak to them, five protestors tried to walk inside and were arrested and charged with trespassing.
Imagine the impact if a player from one of the remaining FIFA semifinal World Cup teams (Germany, Brazil, The Netherlands, or Argentina) were to engage in an act of protest against FIFA for it’s Imperial practices that have literarily displaced at least 250,000 Brazilians? Imagine if Lionel Messi, Thomas Muller,Arjen Robben, or even the injured Neymar were to pull a John Carlos sometime during the semifinals or finals of the World Cup? If any sports organization deserves to be protested, FIFA is it. As Dave Ziron correctly pointed out, Luis Suárez May Bite, but FIFA Sucks Blood.
There are many policies that can reduce inequality, but there is none as straightforward conceptually and as difficult politically as full employment. The basic point is simple: at low rates of unemployment, the demand for labor allows workers at the middle and bottom of the wage distribution to achieve gains in hourly wages, annual hours of work, and thus income. Levels of unemployment are not the gift or curse of the gods; they are the result of conscious economic policy. The decision to tolerate high rates of unemployment is a choice. It is one that has enor-mous implications not just for the millions of people who are needlessly unemployed or underemployed but also for tens of millions of workers in the bottom half of the wage distribution whose bar-gaining power is undermined by high unemployment.
Think a higher minimum wage is a job killer? Think again: The states that raised their minimum wages on January 1 have seen higher employment growth since then than the states that kept theirs at the same rate. The minimum wage went up in 13 states — Arizona, Connecticut, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington — either thanks to automatic increases in line with inflation or new legislation, as Ben Wolcott reports in his analysis at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. The average change in employment for those states over the first five months of the year as compared with the last five of 2013 is .99 percent, while the average for all remaining states is .68 percent.
A year after the birth of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City, writer, director and producer Dennis Trainor, Jr. made a full-length feature documentary capturing the fervor and passion that spread through the nation in fall 2011, fueled a street revolution and introduced the concept of “the 99%” to define the corporate greed that has crippled the U.S. American Autumn lets the protestors and organizers tell in their own words why they joined the protests and what they hoped to accomplish. Shot at the birthplace of the Occupy movement at Zuccotti Park in New York City, as well as on location at protests in Washington, D.C., Trainor offers a Ground Zero view of the movement and its participants. On camera, protesters strive to define the goals of Occupy as well as how to achieve them. “Imagine that a single voice carries as much weight as the CEO of Goldman Sachs” the film posits, distilling one of Occupy’s core beliefs.
A revitalized teacher union movement is bubbling up in the midst of relentless attacks on public schools and the teaching profession. Over the next several years this new movement may well be the most important force to defend and improve public schools, and in so doing, defend our communities and our democracy. The most recent indication of this fresh upsurge was the union election in Los Angeles. Union Power, an activist caucus, won leadership of the United Teachers of Los Angeles, the second-largest teacher local in the country. The Union Power slate, headed by president-elect Alex Caputo-Pearl, has an organizing vision for their union. They have worked with parents fighting school cuts and recognize the importance of teacher–community alliances. In two other cities –Portland, OR, and St. Paul, MN – successful contract struggles also reflect a revitalized teacher union movement.
Where are the worst places on the planet to be a worker? A new report by the International Trade Union Confederation, an umbrella organization of unions around the world, sheds light on the state of workers’ rights across 139 countries. For its 2014 Global Rights Index, the ITUC evaluated 97 different workers’ rights metrics like the ability to join unions, access to legal protections and due process, and freedom from violent conditions. The group ranks each country on a scale of 1 (the best protections) to 5 (the worst protections). The study found that in at least 35 countries, workers have been arrested or imprisoned “as a tactic to resist demands for democratic rights, decent wages, safer working conditions and secure jobs.” In a minimum of nine countries, murder and disappearance are regularly used to intimidate workers. Denmark was the only country in the world to achieve a perfect score, meaning that the nation abides by all 97 indicators of workers’ rights. The U.S., embarrassingly, scored a 4, indicating “systematic violations” and “serious efforts to crush the collective voice of workers.”
18 Million Rising, an online organization dedicated to “activating Asian America” pulled off a Yes Men-style hoax targeting the Gap. Posing as the clothing company’s public relations department, Cayden Mak and fellow 18MR organizers launched an impeccably designed fake website called Gapdoesmore.com and released a statement coinciding with the company’s shareholder meeting on Tuesday. The statement announced that Gap had signed on to a significant labor accord in Bangladesh. Gap has released a response confirming the Mak’s site as a fraud and serving them a take down notice. Despite the corporation’s statements, 18MR continues to plans for escalation in their ongoing campaign to expose Gap’s unjust labor practices.
Jack London’s ‘The Iron Heel’ is the strongest articulation of London’s emerging anti-capitalism and may have been the first dystopian-utopian science fiction novel–written in 1907. The novel predicted the first World War, though with a different outcome, and the merger of corporate power with authoritarian government seen in fascist governments in the 1930-40′s and today in the escalating concentration of of power and wealth in our current corporate capitalism. Much of it reads like it could be now, which is why a group of community artists, activists and organizers have chosen to bring it to life using puppetry, painted picture-storycantastoria banners, readers theater and live music. It will will be performed by the community-based The Iron Heel Theater Collective: Sunday May 18, 7pm the theater of Hillside Community Church 1422 Navellier St. in El Cerrito.