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Grog

[ 72 ] February 17, 2014 |

We now know something about the recipe for early Scandinavian booze:

When a desire for an alcoholic beverage strikes, sometimes the best strategy is to use what you have to make your own.

That appears to have been the approach taken by the ancient Scandinavians, who crafted fermented beverages as far back as 3,500 years ago. Research led by Patrick McGovern, scientific director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Project at the Penn Museum, has found that people from northern Europe incorporated local ingredients into their brews, such as honey, lingonberry, bog myrtle, birch tree resin, and cereals. McGovern’s analysis also revealed the presence of grape wine imported from southern or central Europe in a 3,000-year-old drink, offering evidence of an early trading network across the continent.

Of course Dogfish Head has crafted a beer based on this research.

Remembering Our Presidents

[ 157 ] February 17, 2014 |

Earlier this morning, I summed up each presidency in one tweet. They are collected here.

Kelsey Atherton undertook a similar project, also worth reading.

Dead Horses in American History (VII)

[ 46 ] February 16, 2014 |

Soldiers cutting up abandoned horse during General George Crook’s “Horsemeat March” to punish the Lakota after the Battle of Little Bighorn, 1876. It was called this because the American troops had few supplies and so had to eat some of their horses.

Just think, this protein ingestion contributed to genocide. This one goes out to all of you who were complaining the previous dead horse images were too gruesome.

Shorter Kristof: “I’m Too Lazy to Find the Hundreds of Professors Writing in Prominent Places, So Why Are Academics So Irrelevant?”

[ 63 ] February 16, 2014 |

I know Nic Kristof doesn’t put in any actual work to write his columns, but this is ridiculous.

Erik Voeten with the obvious rejoinder that, in fact, academics are pretty much everywhere in public policy.

[SL]: Corey Robin has much more. Professional disincentives notwithstanding, if you can’t find academics writing for a general audience about issues that interest you it’s almost certainly because you’re not looking.

The Deserving Rich

[ 141 ] February 16, 2014 |

Finally, someone at New York Times shows the courage and bravery to fight back the Holocaust against the 1% known as asking them to pay slightly more in taxes and perhaps be liable for their illegal actions. Greg Mankiw leads this brave charge of talking about how the rich deserve their wealth. He starts the article by knocking over a strong man argument nobody is making–how dare we criticize the actors and athletes who get paid well, since clearly Occupy Wall Street was critiquing the salary of Robert Downey, Jr. and George Clooney. Then he goes to those who really matter, those under an attack unknown in human history since the defeat of Nazi Germany–CEO’s and financial gurus:

A similar case is the finance industry, where many hefty compensation packages can be found. There is no doubt that this sector plays a crucial economic role. Those who work in banking, venture capital and other financial firms are in charge of allocating the economy’s investment resources. They decide, in a decentralized and competitive way, which companies and industries will shrink and which will grow. It makes sense that a nation would allocate many of its most talented and thus highly compensated individuals to the task.

In addition, recent research establishes that those working in finance face particularly risky incomes. Greater risk requires greater reward.

So, by delivering extraordinary performances in hit films, top stars may do more than entertain millions of moviegoers and make themselves rich in the process. They may also contribute many millions in federal taxes, and other millions in state taxes. And those millions help fund schools, police departments and national defense for the rest of us.

Unlike the superheroes of “The Avengers,” the richest 1 percent aren’t motivated by an altruistic desire to advance the public good. But, in most cases, that is precisely their effect.

Thank you Greg Mankiw, thank you. Finally, someone gives voice to the oppressed. From here on out, my posts will consist of nothing but heartfelt thanks to the plutocracy for all the good they do in society. Jay Gould and Andrew Carnegie could not have asked for a better hack to present their viewpoints during the first Gilded Age.

….See Dean Baker for a definitive takedown of Mankiw.

Pete Camarata, RIP

[ 3 ] February 16, 2014 |

The Teamsters reformer who was beaten by goons at the 1976 Teamsters convention after challenging IBT president Frank Fitzsimmons and proposing a rule that any Teamster who took a bribe from an employer be kicked out of the unions has passed away.

Today in the Sixth Extinction

[ 79 ] February 15, 2014 |

Are you having a good day? Well, you aren’t anymore.

A Titanic Defeat

[ 191 ] February 15, 2014 |

The United Auto Workers lost its attempt to unionize the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga after Tennessee politicians interfered to defeat the vote when VW acquiesced to unionization.

In a defeat for organized labor in the South, employees at the Volkswagen plant here voted 712 to 626 against joining the United Automobile Workers.

The loss is an especially stinging blow for U.A.W. because Volkswagen did not even oppose the unionization drive. The union’s defeat — in what was one of the most closely watched unionization votes in decades — is expected to slow, perhaps stymie, the union’s long-term plans to organize other auto plants in the South.

A retired local judge, Samuel H. Payne, announced the vote results inside VW’s sprawling plant after officials from the National Labor Relations Board had counted the ballots. In the hours before the votes were tallied, after three days of voting at the assembly plant, both sides were predicting victory.

The vote this week came in a region that is traditionally anti-union, and as a result many said the U.A.W. faced an uphill battle. The union saw the campaign as a vital first step toward expanding in the South, while Republicans and many companies in Tennessee feared that a U.A.W. triumph would hurt the state’s welcoming image for business.

It’s hard to overstate what a terrible defeat this is. Here you had the company suggesting the UAW enter their plant so they could create the American version of the German works council that would be illegal without a union election (would violate the company union provisions of the National Labor Relations Act). The UAW will never receive a more favorable opportunity in the American South and just like its failures in the 90s, it came up short. From what I have read so far, it does not seem the UAW messed up the campaign. They did agree with VW to not do home visits, since those went against German union norms. If the UAW had conducted home visits, no doubt they would have more effectively fought back Bob Corker and Grover Norquist and the outside group propaganda. But if they had pushed home visits from the beginning, they wouldn’t have had a campaign because VW wouldn’t have gone along.

So why did it fail? We can’t blame it all on the politicians and scaremongering. Yes, that probably clinched the failure, but it did not turn 712 votes. There were almost certainly several hundred no votes from the beginning. Why? First, the white South has always been very difficult to organize. A combination of ideas of self-reliance, the fact that unions are seen as something northern with Yankee ideas, the impact of evangelical religion, and a culture that united rich whites and poor whites through racial solidarity that also created other ties within communities that cut across class have all made unionization strikingly difficult. For an additional example of the last point, see how the people of West, Texas rallied around the fertilizer plant owner last year after his facility caused an explosion that wiped out half the town. They went to church with him after all. So there are long, historical struggles to unionize white workers here that go back to the textile towns of southern Appalachia in the 20s and the failure of Operation Dixie in 1946. And while I have not seen any demographics on the racial breakdown of workers in Chattanooga, pretty much all I’ve seen in interviews are white; at the very least, it seems to lean pretty heavily white. So outside groups tainting the UAW with Obama no doubt helped, but it doesn’t explain 712 votes.

There’s also the specter of capital mobility looming over the plant. Even though VW said it wasn’t moving the plant, this was a major theme of the outside groups and it does seem to have affected some workers. Despite left-leaning labor activists beating up Big Labor for a lack of union democracy, far and away the top reason for labor’s decline is the jobs disappearing to nonunion states and to foreign nations. Given what capital mobility did to Detroit and the subsequent almost mythological role Detroit has played in American culture, it becomes easy to taint the UAW with the decline of Detroit, which was a central part of the anti-union strategy. On top of that, the UAW having to agree to two-tiered contracts so the Big Three auto makers would keep jobs in Michigan and Ohio, contracts that drastically lowered wages for new workers, did not lend itself to potential new members thinking the UAW was going to make their lives better. That’s a tough spot for the UAW to be in and the blame goes to capital mobility because if the UAW doesn’t agree, those jobs are gone and Lansing and Toledo and other union towns are just dead. So long as corporations can move at a whim, it will be tremendously difficult for labor to win meaningful victories.

But I think another major reason for this loss was that it was never clear to many workers why they were joining a union. Some claim to have been UAW members in the past and had a bad experience, which is the kind of low-level complaining fairly common in all unionized workplaces, often by people who lost a grievance or who screwed up and the union didn’t take on their hopeless case, or they weren’t friends with the shop steward, or whatever. Who knows. But in any case, the usual union victory results from dissatisfied workers organizing with demands. That really wasn’t the case here. To quote a union organizer friend of mine, “If the vote becomes “Can we trust the Union?” instead of “Should we unite to solve our problems?”, the boss wins.” I think this is fundamentally what this vote was about.

The UAW is considering filing to have the election thrown out because of Bob Corker’s intimidation and there is a real chance he crossed the line. But this is probably a dead campaign. And it’s hard to see how the UAW or any union comes into southern factories and wins major victories at this point. Incredibly dispiriting.

This Day in Labor History: February 15, 1907

[ 25 ] February 15, 2014 |

On February 15, 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt and the Japanese government signed the so-called “Gentlemen’s Agreement” to stop the migration of Japanese to the United States. This came about after the organizing of whites on the west coast against Japanese immigration, as whites steadfastly maintained their states were for the white man alone. Not only had the Japanese entered the labor market in a number of low-wage areas after the end of Chinese immigration in 1882, but they also managed to make a legitimate go of it on farms that whites had failed to make work. The outrage over Japanese labor competition was but one episode in a long history of west coast labor opposing people of color.

West Coast employers wanted cheap labor. The region received very little immigration from southern and eastern Europe like the east, so they had to be creative. Originally, western employers hired the Chinese to do menial work, but the angry response from west coast labor that led to the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first major legislative victory for organized labor in the nation’s history, ended that supply in 1882. So employers turned to Japan. Japan in the 1880s was modernizing rapidly, but was still poor. Encouraging migration was a useful way to undermine internal social problems. Almost immediately after 1882, Japanese migration to the United States soared. Much of this was to the sugar plantations of the American soon-to-be colony in Hawaii, but large numbers came to California, Oregon, and Washington as well. There they would serve as a key part of the low-wage labor force for the next sixty years.

Japanese workers entered the growing agricultural industry of California, especially sugar beets. By 1902, 9 contractors supplied Japanese labor to farmers. Wages were originally high but when slashed in 1902, 500 Japanese and 200 Mexican workers organized the Japanese-Mexican Labor Association in 1903, winning some important early victories in raising wages in the fields. Others worked on railroads. Many Japanese women worked in domestic service for whites, often in very difficult conditions.



Japanese celery harvesters, California, circa 1920

Many Japanese went into the timber industry as well. Japanese mill workers on Washington’s Bainbridge Island lived in “Jap Town,” which consisted of several hundred people. This large community had a Baptist church and Buddhist temple, a baseball diamond, and multiple shops that served both Japanese and white customers. Kihachi Hirakawa, a Christian minister in a Washington logging town, remembered all the Japanese laborers living together and the long nights of gambling that kept him up. He fretted about the all-male aspect of these communities, recalling three hundred or more Japanese workers, but only eight or nine families. Whites resisted even these relatively small numbers. In 1904, the Panel and Folding Box Company of Hoquiam, Washington “put on a night crew of Japs” because they “have been unable to secure a sufficient number of girls.” The mill’s manager, a man named Finlayson, defended himself from accusations that he had tried to undermine white labor and simply claimed that “if forced to employ Japs, it will only be to supply that cannot otherwise be filled.”



Tsukamoto and Nakamura Laundry, Salem, Oregon, 1919

Whites became even more angry when Japanese began leasing land (California had laws against Asians owning land) and starting families, seeking permanency in their new home and offending the white Californians who had defined their state as a place of free white men from the time of the gold rush. They were growing fruits and vegetables and would pretty quickly become important and successful small producers within the California agricultural economy. Of course, interracial sex happened too. One farmer wrote to the California legislature:

Near my home is an eighty-acre tract of as fine land as there is in California. On that tract lives a Japanese. With that Japanese lives a white woman. In that woman’s arms is a baby. What is that baby? It isn’t Japanese. It isn’t white. I’ll tell you what that baby is. It is a germ of the mightiest problem that ever faced this state; a problem that will make the black problem of the South look white. All about us the Asiatics are gaining a foothold.

Like in the 1870s and 1880s in California, anti-Japanese fervor began dominating west coast politics in the 1900s. San Francisco passed a law to segregate Asians out of public schools while west coast politicians wanted Washington to end this yellow peril. Organized labor lent its support to the effort. White workers believed any job held by a Japanese was a job stolen from a white man. In 1905, 67 labor unions met in San Francisco to found the Asiatic Exclusion League to eliminate the perceived Japanese and Korean threat to their jobs, much as they had so successfully done in 1882 against the Chinese. Such organizations would continue until World War II. In 1908, the Laundry Workers and Laundry Drivers Union began the Anti-Jap Laundry League, urging whites to boycott doing business with Japanese laundries. Attacks on Japanese immigrants grew. A laundry operator said, “The persecutions became intolerable. My drivers were constantly attacked on the highway, my place of business defiled by rotten eggs and fruit; windows were smashed several times.”

Japanese-American railroad workers

By 1907, the Japanese government was happy to keep their citizens in Japan, as the nation’s rising imperial ambitions meant holding onto potential industrial workers and soldiers. President Theodore Roosevelt, having just negotiated the end to the Russo-Japanese War, did not want to anger the increasingly powerful Japanese who were concerned about the treatment of their citizens abroad. So Roosevelt and the Japanese government came to an informal agreement. The U.S. would not pass a bill to exclude the Japanese and would force California to repeal its school segregation bill. In return, the Japanese government would take steps to halt immigration.

This effectively ended large-scale immigration from Japan to the United States, although the agreement did not apply to Hawaii and thus migrants could go to Hawaii and then to the mainland, although relatively few did. Japanese men in the U.S. could also send back to Japan for wives, leading to the thousands of picture brides coming to the U.S. in the next couple decades. By the time Japanese immigration ended, about 400,000 had migrated to the United States. West Coast employers, still seeking cheap foreign labor, turned their attention to the new American colony of the Philippines. Since the Philippines was actually American, stopping the importation of that labor would prove much more difficult for white labor, although they would eventually accomplish it in 1932, at which point employers began bringing in Mexicans (or did so after the Great Depression anyway).

White resentment remained strong and the anti-Japanese scare after Pearl Harbor was also an excuse to expropriate Japanese property and again turn the west coast into a white man’s haven.

There is a very large literature on Japanese immigration and the backlash to it. I took much of this, including the good quotes, from Ronald Takaki’s Strangers from a Different Store. On the experiences of Japanese women, see Evelyn Nakano Glenn’s Issei, Nisei, War Bride. The material on logging in the Northwest comes from my dissertation.

This is the 93rd post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

Remember Your Wait Staff Tonight

[ 118 ] February 14, 2014 |

A 14th century image of the beheading of St. Valentine

If you, like me, are forced to go out to dinner on this corporate created holiday of love expressed through consumerism, remember your wait staff and don’t contribute to their exploitation by being a cheap tipper. Plus poor tipping contributes to the poverty of women.

And a sexist one. Seventy percent of restaurant servers are women, so effectively when you enforce a policy that says “It’s O.K. to pay tipped workers less than ‘regular’ workers,” you’re discriminating against a job largely done by women and reinforcing the age-old notion that women’s work is worth less than men’s.

It’s almost as if servers have to interview with the people paying the majority of their wages — customers — every time a new person sits down; their income is dependent on our judgment and largesse (and, we hope, our sense of fairness). And when you listen to Saru Jayaraman, co-director of ROC-United and director of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, and a woman who hears workers’ stories daily, you realize even more what an unjust situation this is: “The level of sexual harassment is four times higher in restaurants than in the average of other sectors, and there are endless stories of women being sent home to dress more sexually — to show more cleavage, for example.”

On Thursday, ROC-United had its annual “2/13” day of action, calling on us, and Congress, to “love your server” and raise the tipped minimum wage. Valentine’s Day is the second busiest restaurant day of the year, after Mother’s Day. Thank that server — who is not going out to dinner with her loved one, she’s waiting on you — and think about this: For 23 years the federal tipped minimum wage has stood at $2.13. Isn’t it time to change that?

Yes. Yes it is. To the federal minimum wage. Which will hopefully soon surpass $10.

Eugenics Will Never Die

[ 72 ] February 14, 2014 |

Better keep the underclass from reproducing. Will destroy the race or something.

A prison doctor investigated by the California medical board after ordering tubal ligations without state approval is responsible for hundreds of other inmate sterilizations, The Center for Investigative Reporting has found.

Dr. James Heinrich also has a history of medical controversies and malpractice settlements both inside and outside prison walls. Female patients have accused him of trying to dictate their reproductive decisions, unsanitary habits and medical malpractice.

Despite that history, Heinrich was not only hired by the prison system, but also kept on once a federal judge appointed a receiver to clean up the prison’s medical system.

Heinrich, 69, retired from Valley State Prison for Women in 2011 after six years. Federal authorities rehired Heinrich as a contract physician, and he continued treating inmates at Valley State though December 2012.

An earlier CIR investigation, published in July, found that more than 100 tubal ligation surgeries took place without the required state approval from 2006 to 2010. At the time, prison documents indicated there were 148 of those surgeries. Analysis of subsequent data and documentation provided under the state Public Records Act shows there were 132 because some were double counted.

The women were signed up for the surgery while pregnant at the two women’s prisons that house pregnant inmates, the California Institution for Women in Corona and Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla. Valley State became a men’s prison in 2013.

Why, it’s almost like this nation still oppresses women, people of color, and the poor.

Colonialist Labor Relations with Every Cup of Tetley

[ 48 ] February 14, 2014 |

The tea industry, as exploitative as most of the rest of the food industry. Turns out Tetley likes its labor extra exploited, as if the British still colonized India. Must add to the flavor.

The abusive conditions for APPL workers are consistent with conditions in the sector as a whole. They are rooted in the colonial origins of plantation life which continue to define the extremely hierarchical social structure, the compensation scheme, and the excessive power exercised by management.

The tea workers of Assam and the adjacent area of West Bengal come from two marginalized communities — Adivasis (indigenous people) and Dalits (the so-called “untouchable” caste) – whose ancestors were brought from central India by British planters. They remain trapped in the lowest employment positions on the plantation, where they are routinely treated as social inferiors. …

Workers live in cramped quarters with cracked walls and broken roofs. The failure to maintain latrines has turned some living areas into a network of cesspools. APPL is failing to provide adequate health care, both in respect of quality and access. Medical staff are poorly-trained and frequently absent. …

At one plantation, while the manager lauded the old and new mechanisms in place to ensure that pesticide spraying happened safely, and stressed the absence of any gaps, the research team watched a group of sprayers walk past his window with chemical tanks on their backs and no protective gear at all on their bodies.

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