SEK can talk about current films that make billions of dollars all he wants to; readers of LGM know that the movies that really matter are the ones I like. And thus allow me to recommend Alex Cox’s essay on the superb Lonely Are The Brave.
Author Page for Erik Loomis
The definition of bravery is a worker who organizes a union or speaks out about bad conditions in the workplace. That’s because companies come down like a ton of bricks on these workers.
See for instance Elvia Bahena, a housekeeper who works for a company Hyatt Hotels uses to subcontract its cleaners. She testified in front of the Indianapolis City Council on the working conditions she and her other housekeepers face. And now she’s been fired.
Or take Wal-Mart, which is punishing workers who took their story to the company’s shareholder meeting. According to Josh Eidelson (America’s best labor journalist in my opinion), Wal-Mart has fired one worker involved in the action and has issued a “third-level warning” to another, meaning they are ready to fire him the next time he drops a bag of diapers or something.
In discussing Hyatt Hotels heir Penny Pritzker’s support of Obama while UNITE-HERE has called for a boycott because of the terrible way the chain treats its housekeepers, it’s worth pointing out Pritzker’s other recent activities–attacking teacher unions.
Penny Pritzker’s role as one of the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education has been prominent since Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed her in May 2011. As one of her first acts on the school board, she spoke in favor of the controversial (and since proved mendacious) decision by the Board of Education to vote that it was facing a “fiscal crisis” and therefore did not have to honor the fifth year of the labor contract with the school system’s unions. That vote rescinded the four percent raise that the unions had negotiated four years earlier with the previous school board. Two months after that vote, Pritzker voted quietly to transfer an additional $70 million to the City of Chicago for police services in the schools, a scandal that has lately been exposed by researchers (including this reporter) at the Chicago Teachers Union. The school system had a valid contract with the city requiring it to pay $8 million per year for police services, but after breaking the unions’ contracts, the members of the Board voted to transfer the additional money to Rahm Emanuel’s city budget. As with most decisions of the Board since Pritzker became a member, the action was taken in August 2011 without discussion or debate.
The most prominent public activities of Penny Prtizker during the past year have not been the occasional soiree with rich people (and Rahm Emanuel) at her Ochard Street mansion on Chicago’s north side, but her monthly attendance at the meetings of the Chicago Board of Education, where she has spoken openly in favor of the union busting privatization policies of Rahm Emanuel’s appointed Chief Executive Officer, Jean-Claude Brizard.
Of course, it’s not like busting teacher unions is something Obama has much concern with, given his close ties the a whole cadre of Chicago “reformers,” including Emanuel, Pritzker and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
Can’t wait until Democrats take power in order to create sensible education policies that support teachers….
But I’m sure labor will have a far greater say in the 2nd Obama term than Penny Pritzker!
Now we just have to discover the Roman Jerry Seinfeld.
Although this makes little sense on multiple levels, there are many accounts that state it to be correct.
….Wakeman, Wakefield, whatever. Everyone’s just lucky I didn’t ask about Irving Howe’s role in the band.
Given the nature of American politics in the post-Citizens United era, it’s hard to blame Obama for going all out for fundraising, especially since Romney is toasting him in the money department.
On the other hand, it hardly inspires my confidence in a Democratic president when he buddies up with Penny Pritzker, whose family empire is Hyatt Hotels, against whom the biggest current labor action in the country is taking place. Pritzker was actually Obama’s original choice for Secretary of Commerce before her involvement in subprime mortgages took her out of the running.
Penny Pritzker is worth approximately $1.7 billion. Who do you think has more influence with a Democratic president, Pritzker or UNITE-HERE?
If the Romney campaign wants to run on an open platform of white supremacy (oh I’m sorry “Anglo-Saxon heritage”), I say that’s the greatest thing since, well, ever. Nothing screams candidate of 21st century America like open white supremacy. I guess if Romney’s goal is to win less than 25% of the under 30 vote, this is a good start!
I Next Want to See A Debate Over Whether Henry Wallace Took a Strong Enough Position Against Leon Trotsky at an Early Enough Date
Last night, I followed an interesting conversation between Corey Robin and Michael Cohen on Twitter. Two people I respect a lot though they differ ideologically in places. The subject: whether Alexander Cockburn should be remembered fondly because he was seen as an apologist for Stalin early in his career as well as his late in life questioning of climate change (which is depressing but whatever, he was an old cranky dying dude). To be brief, Cohen thought the Stalin defense was a greater problem than Robin. Robin posits the debate within a larger problem he sees in modern American liberalism:
Why is he or she willing to make his or her peace with the American state—despite all its crimes (crimes acknowledged by liberals!)—yet never willing to make his or her peace with critics like Cockburn, whose only “crime,” if you can call it that, was to apologize for the Soviet Union long past its sell by date? Why so much room at the inn for Truman, JFK, or LBJ—all men with real blood on their hands—while people like Cockburn and Chomsky are denied entry?
I think Robin is fundamentally right here. The Serious Liberal (TM) in late 20th-early 21st century America must condemn those to left, whether old-school trade unionists, those who reject global capitalism, or those who take a hard left stance against American imperialism. Only then can the Serious Liberal be taken seriously by People Who Matter (TM). This all reminded me of so many discussions I’ve had over the past 15 years about Fidel Castro. Despite the horrors of Latin American history, it’s always Very Very Important for liberals to talk about how bad Castro is whenever Latin American issues come up. And sure, in some ways he’s a bad dude. But these conversations are always much more about distancing oneself from a leftist with old-timey ideology and being someone who is serious than placing Castro’s legacy within the checkered past of Latin American governance or the almost universally evil history of American involvement in the region. Where are those conversations between left intellectuals?
But I have a slightly different position on these questions overall. Applied to this specific debate, here it is.
Who gives a shit if Alexander Cockburn may not have condemned Stalinism consistently throughout his career?
I certainly do not.
I come to this conclusion for a number of reasons.
First, my top concern in this world is improving the everyday life of as many people as possible. Economic justice, social justice, sexual justice, etc. Does Alexander Cockburn’s position on Stalin matter for any of this? No. If Stalinism was somewhere even close to a legitimate option of governance in the West during Cockburn’s lifetime, I might say that he should have taken a stronger stance. But it wasn’t and so I don’t see how his position on the issue matters to the larger question of equality, even during his height of fame.
Second, this is a classic argument that destroys the left. While we can spend energy arguing whether an important but ultimately relatively powerless journalist condemned a monster harshly enough, conservatives continue to push their agenda against working people. They don’t have these debates. Dick Cheney not only supported apartheid, but was an influential congressman and then cabinet member with the kind of power Cockburn could only dream of. Whatever happened to that guy?
Third, is this 1972? Do young people today really care one way or another about these issues? Does taking the right position regarding people who have been dead for 60 years who ruled a government of a type discredited and never to return have any importance to, say, the people on the streets during Occupy Wall Street last fall? Does this address their lives in any important way? Does this address the lives of Americans struggling with debt, racism, or homophobia? Not that I can see. This debate is straight out of the post-60s left, more concerned with ideology and theoretical arguments than touching base with everyday people. I just don’t have time for it (despite the fact that I’m writing this post about how I don’t have time for it).
Now you may say that there are serious moral questions here. How could someone like Cockburn say anything good about Stalin? I don’t know–the times, the strains of marijuana he was smoking during the 70s, being contrary, needing a tool to beat the American imperialist monster with, etc. And given that Cockburn was a leftist in the comfortable West critiquing its excesses, racism, and imperialism, using Stalin as a tool to beat the capitalists probably had value to him. As I’ve said before, the left needs some kind of anti-capitalist alternative model in order to provide some kind of alternative, undesirable in actual fact as it may be. I’m not apologizing for Cockburn. I just don’t really care. The guy was there for a lot of good battles. As a whole, his life was dedicated to making other people’s life better. If he wasn’t ideologically perfect throughout his life, well, who among us can say that we have not made mistakes? And if we haven’t, have we made any difference at all?
Note that I have no real dog in this hunt. I rarely read Cockburn and he was not influential in my thinking. But do get sick of frequent debates about whether American leftists condemn bad guys in other countries with enough vigor.
Because liberal fascists have taken over our beauty pageants, conservatives have decided to start their own Miss Conservative Pageant.
Never mind that many liberals are more or less disgusted by such events and how they objectify women. Or that…oh why even bother pointing out how ridiculous this is. Refuting conservative arguments is like arguing with children. A pointless waste of time.
Sally Ride indeed blasted through the space ceiling for women.
It’s made even sadder by the fact that despite her pioneering past, she couldn’t crack another ceiling–the one allowing same-sex partners to receive the same death benefits from the government that partners in heterosexual marriages receive.
Here’s a bit about her partner, Tam O’Shaughnessy. Although they didn’t become partners until 1985, they were friends from the age of 12.
UNITE-HERE has launched a campaign to boycott Hyatt Hotels. The primary reason is the very bad working conditions to which it subjects its housekeeping staff. Here’s 10 reasons why:
1. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Hyatt fired its entire housekeeping staff in Boston and replaced them with temp workers earning minimum wage.
2. Three days for a C-Section? Hyatt demanded a dishwasher in San Francisco come back to work three days after she had a C-section. When she refused, Hyatt tried to fire her.
3. Crushing Workloads. Some Hyatt housekeepers clean up to 30 rooms per eight-hour shift, requiring rushing that can lead to serious injuries and even permanent disability.
4. Even the federal government thinks there’s a problem. The federal government has issued a companywide letter to Hyatt, warning the company of hazards its housekeepers face on the job. It’s a first in the hotel industry.
5. And the experts agree. In a study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine examining a total of 50 hotel properties from 5 different hotel companies, Hyatt housekeepers had the highest injury rate of all housekeepers studied when compared by hotel company.
6. Citations issued nationwide. OSHA or its state counterparts have issued 18 health and safety citations against Hyatt at 11 hotels and 3 citations against one of Hyatt’s housekeeping subcontractors with over $100,000 in proposed penalties.
7. Adding insult to injuries. In 2011, Hyatt took the lead in lobbying against legislation in California that would make housekeeping work safer.
8. You rally, you roast. Hyatt turned heat lamps on protesting workers during a brutal heat wave.
9. Unjust firings. Hyatt fired a housekeeper and her sister – who had 30 years of service combined – after one of them tore down digitally-altered photos of housekeepers in bikinis that were posted in the break room.
10. You want a job AND you want to get paid? Hyatt’s subcontracted workers in Indianapolis filed a lawsuit for not getting paid for all the hours they worked. Hyatt responded by firing the subcontractor, putting in jeopardy the jobs of people who bravely stepped forward in the lawsuit.
While many of the usual suspects like the AFL-CIO are on board, the boycott is also receiving heavy promotion from the NFL Players Association, which is a nice PR win. Cleve Jones has also done a ton of groundwork with the LGBT community to get them to see the workers’ struggle as not so distant from their own and to not stay in Hyatt properties.
UNITE-HERE is one of the best unions at organizing, using new media, and creating 21st century unionism. I’d really encourage all readers to join in the boycott. I’ll have more on this later.
Also, you can follow what’s going on with the #hyatthurts hashtag on Twitter.
The American justice system–where rapists who shared the pictures of the woman they raped with friends can get off with a slap on the wrist and the outraged young woman they raped faces jail time because she tweeted their names.
Seriously, this is one brave, empowered woman and this story deserves major attention. The rapists have not yet been sentenced and the judge has the power to reject or modify the plea deal.
…Savannah Dietrich, whose I name I did not actually give in the post, continues to not back down and has started a twitter feed to connect with her supporters.