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Put the People First in Tennessee

[ 18 ] April 30, 2014 |

Building off North Carolina’s Moral Monday movement, this the kind of community organizing/coalition building/attention raising that those who care about labor in red states need to engage in to bring some attention to the extreme difficulties of the working class in these states.

Note of disclaimer–United Campus Workers (CWA Local 3865)–prominent in this piece–is the union I helped to get started back about 15 years ago now.

Republicans See Poor People, Think They Are Too Rich

[ 230 ] April 30, 2014 |

In case you needed a reminder that the Republicans are engaged in open warfare with the poor, Republican senators filibustered the minimum wage bill today.

Wal-Mart Worker Safety

[ 53 ] April 30, 2014 |

Wal-Mart’s labor practices are really great for workers who want to get hurt on the job.

Workers at an Indiana Wal-Mart warehouse allege they were subjected to safety risks including falling freight, forklifts on fire, and frostbite – and then illegally fired for organizing in response.

“They never want you to stop working,” said fired worker David Fields. “They want you to keep working – and no matter how unsafe it is, they want you to just keep going.” Fields, who asserts he was fired this month for organizing co-workers to take on safety issues at Walmart Consolidation Center #7100, joined co-workers in filing National Labor Relations Board charges alleging illegal retaliation. He told Salon that a temp agency manager terminated him April 2, the same day

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workers planned to deliver a petition with 100-some signatures protesting unsafe conditions. “Seeing we were all on the same page,” charged Fields, “they got threatened, and this is why they got rid of me.” He added that management had been intentionally “secretive” about ejecting him: “They took me out the side door, and they basically fired me on lunch.”

Wal-Mart, the only company whose goods move through the Hammond, Indiana, consolidation center, has contracted Linc Logistics (a subsidiary of Universal Truckload Services) to run the facility; Linc has brought in temp agencies Malace HR and Swift Staffing. Wal-Mart, UTS, Malace and Swift did not respond to Salon’s requests for comment on the allegations. Linc “has said the disciplinary actions were unrelated to the protests in January,” according to The Times of Northwest Indiana.

While Wal-Mart doesn’t directly employ any of the facility’s workers, Fields told Salon, “Everything that Linc would tell us in the pre-shift meeting, they basically said, ‘Oh, this is Wal-Mart’s policy.’” He said that included a “policy of loading the freight high and tight,” even though “it’s unstable – it’s basically putting everybody at risk of being crushed by these falling boxes. They are quite aware of what’s happening, but they really just don’t care.”

Fields told Salon he was also repeatedly required to drive forklifts despite conditions made unsafe by accumulated rain or snow on the docks. “I mean, you can’t stop or anything like that…” he said. “It was a terrible feeling.” In addition, he charged, “the hydraulics system didn’t work properly”; “a lot of people were frostbitten”; and “there’s no fire alarms.” Workers at Walmart Consolidation Center #7100 also alleged this month that forklifts have had faulty brakes, and caught on fire.

Note as well that this is technically a contractor of Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart controls everything about it except that it is shielded from responsibility for the conditions of labor. The workers are driven by Wal-Mart directives and the costs are determined by Wal-Mart, but the workers aren’t Wal-Mart employees. This is the same immoral system that helped create the Bangladeshi factory collapse a year ago. This system of contracting to avoid labor responsibility needs to end–the ultimate receiver of goods needs to be legally responsible for all labor issues at their contractors. There is no good reason at all that Wal-Mart or any other company should be able to shield themselves from liability for its labor, whether in Indiana or Bangladesh.

Poultry Plants

[ 41 ] April 29, 2014 |

The Southern Poverty Law Center has filed a federal complaint against conditions in an Alabama poultry factory.

Beatriz Navedo began to feel dizzy as she worked a processing line at the Wayne Farms poultry plant.

As the line zipped by, her chest also began to hurt. It was a heart attack.

But Navedo wasn’t sure what was happening. She just knew she needed help. She went to the plant’s nurse, but the nurse wouldn’t call the hospital, instead offering aspirin. Navedo’s daughter, who also works at the plant, left her shift early to take her mother to the hospital. Both women were punished by having points added to their employee files. Workers who accrue too many of these points are automatically fired.

It was another example of the abuse workers endure at the plant. Navedo had previously been threatened with firing for reporting on-the-job injuries. “We were promised a dream, but what we really got was a nightmare,” said Navedo, who no longer works at the plant. “I felt like a slave.”

The SPLC filed a complaint with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) today charging that workers at the Enterprise, Ala., plant have been forced to either endure unsafe and abusive conditions or lose their jobs.

OSHA is so underfunded and the meat industry so politically powerful that the largely immigrant workforce in these once unionized and now union-free jobs are treated like garbage, effectively bringing the dangerous working conditions of the Gilded Age of past America to the present and the outsourced dangerous factories of the developing world back to the United States.

It’s also worth remembering that every meal you eat has a labor history to it and if you are eating pretty much any meat, it’s extremely likely it is produced on the back on dangerous labor. That’s not to say don’t eat meat. It is to say that lending your voice to the fight for safe working conditions in food processing needs to be central to any food movement.

Jack Ramsay, RIP

[ 29 ] April 28, 2014 |

jack-ramsey

An icon in both coaching and fashion. I was a huge Blazers fan as a kid so I grew up expecting success on the court and on the runway.

A Completely Legal Act

[ 276 ] April 27, 2014 |

Repeal the Second Amendment:

A Georgia man panicked parents and children at a local park and baseball field by randomly walking around and displaying his gun to anyone he encountered in the parking lot.

According to witnesses who spoke with WSB-TV, the man wandered around the Forsythe County park last Tuesday night showing his gun to strangers, telling them “there’s nothing you can do about it.”

“Anyone who was just walking by – you had parents and children coming in for the game – and he’s just standing here, walking around [saying] ‘You want to see my gun? Look, I got a gun and there’s nothing you can do about it.’ He knew he was frightening people. He knew exactly what he was doing,” said parent Karen Rabb.

Rabb said that the man’s intimidating behavior panicked parents causing them to hustle children who were there to play baseball to safety after the man refused to leave.

“It got to the point where we took the kids and brought them into the dugout and the parents lined up in front of the dugout,” Rabb said.

Police report they received 22 calls to 911 reporting the man.

After deputies arrived, they questioned the man who produced a permit for the handgun. According to authorities, since the man made no verbal threats or gestures, they couldn’t arrest him or ask him to leave.

Sterling in the Lead

[ 130 ] April 26, 2014 |

You have to give Dan Snyder credit. He’s really given it his all in the race to become the Biggest Scumbag among American Sports Owners. Under normal circumstances he’d be the consensus winner. But Donald Sterling has held this title for three decades and has really upped his game to put the young whippersnappeer in Washington in the runner-up position.

I wonder if the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP is still going to give their Lifetime Achievement Award to Donald Sterling?

The Albuquerque Police Really Likes Shooting People

[ 120 ] April 25, 2014 |

Albuquerque’s police is so notorious for shooting people that the Department of Justice recently ripped the department for its tactics.

Not that this stopped the APD. A woman named Mary Hawkes was just killed by an Albuquerque police officer. Who was this officer? Why, an officer specifically called out by the DOJ report for killing before and then telling conflicting stories about the event.


Mary Hawkes spoke out about her life before she was gunned down.

I lived in Albuquerque for 5 years. If you went downtown on a Friday or Saturday night, the place would be flooded with cops on horses swinging batons. I saw blood literally flowing in the streets on multiple occasions after white police officers beat the living hell out of young brown people. It was crazy.

And look, Albuquerque is a hard town. Breaking Bad is what Burquenos call a “documentary.” But that said, the APD legal thugs police only make these problems worse through their systematic shoot first policy.

Castro On The Ball (1959)

[ 21 ] April 24, 2014 |

Tonight’s Pathe film is a short bit on Fidel Castro shortly after

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the revolution.

Fashions of the Future, 1893

[ 21 ] April 24, 2014 |

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The fashions of the 20th century, as imagined in 1893
.

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More or less what Motley Crue was wearing on the Girls Girls Girls tour.

Chinese Water

[ 26 ] April 24, 2014 |

Hard to see the problem:

Beijing’s water authorities have defended their plan to ease the capital’s water shortage by processing seawater from the highly polluted Bohai Gulf, a mainland newspaper reported.

The capital’s municipal government has announced a project to build a desalination plan in Tangshan in Hebei province to process one million tonnes of water a day by 2019 to ease Beijing’s water crisis.

Wang Xiaoshui, the general manager of the project, told The Beijing News the plan was feasible and dismissed concerns the water would be undrinkable. The water will be treated to strip it of salt, heavy metals and bacteria and will be drinkable straight from the tap.

The plan has prompted public concerns because Bohai, the innermost gulf of the Yellow Sea, has some of China’s most polluted waters.

I have said before that the greatest challenge both China and India face in continuing their rise as world powers is the ability to manage their environmental issues. I tend to believe China has a better chance of this than India, but sending polluted water to your capital for consumption does make me think twice. I suppose the Chinese could develop systems that truly make this drinkable, but somehow I’m skeptical.

Unpaid Internships

[ 47 ] April 24, 2014 |

Indeed, unpaid internships should be illegal. Stolen labor is never acceptable.

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