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[ 80 ] May 1, 2014 |


It’s been awhile since LGM had a cat mascot. So allow me to nominate my cat Torvald, who turned 11 today (or yesterday if you are on the east coast). A plutocrat with a revolutionary birthday, Torvald was born under my house in Albuquerque in 2003, two blocks down from the house where Jesse’s girlfriend OD’s on heroin in Breaking Bad. Torvald has managed to overcome his own catnip addiction, but still struggles to manage his addiction to eating his way through my pens, as is seen in this image. There are many stories, from the time he faced off a raccoon through a window over my bed at 3 am in Santa Fe to the time he decided

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to sneak out in a Denton, Texas monsoon to raise who knows what kind of hell and came back much the worse for wear to the time he decided he liked a gin and tonic when I wasn’t looking (no vodka for this cat). I look forward to many more years of being woken up far too early in the morning by this greedy libertarian pawing me in the face at 7 am demanding canned food and then ignoring me for the next 8 hours.

The Morally Correct Meat

[ 158 ] May 1, 2014 |

There may be many reasons not to eat meat, but there are no good reasons not to eat wild boars which are an invasive species tearing up southern and midwestern ecosystems like there’s no tomorrow.

Verbatim Libertarians: The Minimum Wage is More Racist than Donald Sterling or Cliven Bundy

[ 240 ] May 1, 2014 |

Libertarians are very special people.

Racist rants by federal lands moocher Cliven Bundy and vile comments attributed to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling have put old-school racism back in the news.

But let’s get real. However contemptible, Bundy and Sterling aren’t what’s holding down blacks and other minorities in today’s America.

Here are three policies that, whatever their original intentions, systematically screw over poor blacks and other minorities.

They include:

1. Barriers to work.

Whether it’s absurd licensing laws for at-home hair braiders, day care operators, and other small-time entrepreneurs or minimum wage laws that price young, unskilled black kids out of their first jobs, barriers to the labor market take their biggest toll on those with the least education, skills, and professional connections.

So paying people even a subliving wage is racist. The truly antiracist position is a race to the bottom with no floor. I guess that evens the playing field in one respect–if nobody is paid anything to work, there’s no racial wage disparity. A post-racial society indeed.

H/t to TG Chicago.

Nuclear Waste

[ 120 ] May 1, 2014 |

69 years into the Nuclear Era and no one still has any solution on what to do with nuclear waste. It’s one thing when we are talking about nuclear weapons production but the sheer level of waste produced in nuclear power plants makes it a

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nonstarter for thinking through solutions to our energy problems.

The Non-Recovery Recovery

[ 93 ] May 1, 2014 |

Looking at real GDP is pretty strong evidence that this is not a “recovery” at all but rather a very long stagnation. Why? I’d argue for the combination of a lack of government spending combined with the outsourcing of decent work. Dealing with either problem is basically politically impossible. Thus I foresee no real improvement and quite possibly a long slow decline over the next several years.

The New Republican Orthodoxy

[ 123 ] May 1, 2014 |

Tom Coburn calls to eliminate the national minimum wage. I

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fully expect this to be party orthodoxy in 2016, with every Republican primary candidate adopting this position. They’ve been moving toward this position for years.

When Australia Out Wingnuts the U.S.

[ 106 ] April 30, 2014 |

This is lovely. The Australian government wants to outlaw the secondary boycott–for everyone. This means that any group calling for a boycott of a company for involvement with an independent contractor engaging in poor labor practices or many other similar situations would be breaking the law:

Even as activists like Akter continue to push for change, the Abbott government is proposing to curtail worker activism. By extending secondary boycott provisions to cover activist groups, it could reduce civil society’s ability to express discontent against big business. Parliamentary secretary for agriculture Richard Colbeck, who wants to curb green activists, says it’s about “levelling the playing field” for business.

But citizens and civil society groups aren’t companies or unions in the industrial relations sense of the word. They are loose and responsive networks, there to give voice to those met with criminal injustice or corruption. Making it illegal for civil society groups like GetUp, Oxfam and Amnesty International to urge consumers to boycott companies for being poor corporate citizens is a type of despotism perpetuated by the executive.

“Levelling the playing field for business.” Love that one. It’s so hard for business to operate in a world where citizens sometimes want them to act with responsibility and not, say, work with the apartheid regime in South Africa or not contract with particularly irresponsible apparel producers. By criticizing corporations for complicity in killing 1138 workers in the Rana Plaza collapse, Amnesty International has created the greatest outrage in Australian history. Really it’s far worse than the genocide against the Aborigines. Not even close.

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 |


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.

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