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Restaurant Income Inequality

[ 59 ] July 15, 2014 |

Like those takers serving you at Red Lobster deserve to even make this much:

Last year, according to a new analysis from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the CEOs of America’s top 25 restaurant corporations, including McDonald’s, Burger King, the Cheesecake Factory, Chipotle, and Jack in the Box, took home an average of 721 times the money minimum-wage workers did, and 194 times the take-home pay of the typical American worker in a production or nonsupervisory job. Restaurants and food services employ nearly half of all American workers who earn the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour (or less).

The report “confirms what we have long known,” Cherri Delesline, a McDonald’s crew member and mother of four in Charleston, South Carolina, told Mother Jones. Since November 2012, she and hundreds of other fast-food workers have gone on strike in 150 American cities and 80 foreign cities, demanding they be paid $15 per hour. “While CEOs make millions of dollars in profits, we still can’t afford to pay our rent or buy clothes for our children,” says Delesline, whose hourly pay is $7.35.

Your Weekly Wussy Post

[ 23 ] July 14, 2014 |

Look, if you’d all just buy Wussy’s albums, we’d stop promoting them so much. This recent performance at KEXP has 4 songs from their new album and “Pizza King” from Strawberry. I most recommend “Bug” which is a great song.

Infrastructure

[ 182 ] July 14, 2014 |

In this Greg Sargent piece on the need for Democrats to talk more about economic issues is a depressing piece of information about government spending on infrastructure, which is at its lowest levels on record, with data going back to 1947:

Indeed, according to Bureau of Economic Analysis data compiled by Moody’s for its investors and shared with me by White, current state and local investment, in 2009 real dollars, now totals 1.4 percent of GDP. In 1947, the first year for which BEA data is available, the total was 1.7 percent. It steadily rose and peaked in the late 1950s and 1960s, topping out at 4.6 percent, before steadily declining throughout the 1970s and 1980, before dropping below 2 percent during the Great Recession and its aftermath — amazingly — and settling at 1.4 percent today.

Now you can debate whether building more roads is a good idea, but it’s not as if rail or bridges or sewers or other infrastructure is receiving funding either. So basically America falls apart and creating the tax base to fix it is politically impossible.

Good Job University of Miami

[ 38 ] July 14, 2014 |

The University of Miami for the win, if by win you mean destroying the planet:

One of the world’s rarest forests, a section of Miami-Dade County’s last intact tracts of endangered pine rockland, is getting a new resident: a Walmart.

About 88 acres of rockland, a globally imperiled habitat containing a menagerie of plants, animals and insects found no place else, was sold this month by the University of Miami to a Palm Beach County developer. To secure permission for the 158,000-square-foot box store, plus an LA Fitness center, Chik-fil-A and Chili’s restaurants and about 900 apartments, the university and the developer, Ram, agreed to set aside 40 acres for a preserve.

Ram also plans to develop 35 adjacent acres still owned by the university.

But with less than 2 percent of the vast savanna that once covered South Florida’s spiny ridge remaining, the deal has left environmentalists and biologists scratching their heads.

“You wonder how things end up being endangered? This is how. This is bad policy and bad enforcement. And shame on UM,” said attorney Dennis Olle, a board member of Tropical Audubon and the North American Butterfly Association, who wrote to Florida’s lead federal wildlife agent Friday demanding an investigation.

The university said in a statement that it is committed to protecting the forests — only about 2,900 acres of rockland are left outside Everglades National Park — and helped execute plans for the preserve, but would not respond to questions.

I mean, sure we are committed to saving the rockland in the sense that we will sell for the 1,000,000th Wal-Mart in this country and turn it into cash we can then concentrate in improving the salaries of our most administrators. That is what America is all about, destroying rare ecosystems to buy ivory backscratchers (unfairly illegal!) to not only our president and provost, but our deans as well. Thus, no questions.

Business Owners Always Hate Worker Power

[ 184 ] July 14, 2014 |

Yes, I too am shocked to find out that my small-time capitalist who sells lefty books also hates unions like a member of the Walton family.

Water Thieves

[ 55 ] July 14, 2014 |

If only we could combine Michigan’s draconian anti-water laws with Texas’ love of killing people we would be able to deal with these savages committing the heinous crime of having water in their homes.

Pizza Toppings

[ 280 ] July 13, 2014 |

It seems unlikely that we have never had a thread on pizza toppings before, but a quick search of the blog’s archives suggests we have not. I am reminded of this because yesterday my parents took me here. The pie we had was actually quite solid. But you have to search through a menu dedicated to whatever rococo concoctions Oregonians think belong on pizzas to find something that reminds me of pizza. Most revolting is this pizza:

Springfield Sunrise
Classy pizza isn’t just for dinner anymore. We were asked how creative we could be with breakfast & we started thinking about those inspired (& filling) farmer’s omelets. Country sausage gravy, potatoes, eggs, cheddar & country bacon.

First, no food should ever be named after my home town. This is not a good sign. Second, country gravy on pizza is the single most disgusting thing I have ever of, except for getting this very pizza with a cheese stuffed crust (because not enough cheese on the actual pizza).

If you all have heard of a worse idea for a pizza, this is time to share for your therapy.

I am no traditionalist when it comes to pizza. Jon Stewart is fundamentally correct on Chicago style pizza (although if you want a pizza-style casserole at 1500 calories per slice, it can be tasty), but then a lot of traditional New York pizza leaves much to be desired as well. I know this is heresy to many, but I think pizza’s finest forms have come out of California cuisine, adding delicious fresh ingredients to a food too often defined by canned olives and canned mushrooms. Sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, kalamata olives, these are outstanding ingredients for pizza. The year I spent teaching outside of Cleveland, we asked around for the best pizza place in Cleveland. The place universally lauded served a pie with canned mushrooms. I was not impressed. There is some pretty good pizza in Providence. I am particularly a fan of Tommy’s, both for quality and for price. But overall, I can’t help but think that the California food revolution has helped improve the overall quality of American pizza tremendously. Except when people demand country gravy on it.

…Worst pizza idea in the United States anyway. I am reminded of the pizzas of South Korea, consisting of imitation cheese, sliced up hot dogs, canned corn kernels, and ketchup for the sauce. But that’s a different category of bad food.

Latino Lynchings

[ 106 ] July 13, 2014 |

We think of lynching as something whites did to African-Americans and that was of course often the case. But the use of extralegal violence to eliminate perceived threats without a trial was pretty common. Whites were often lynched, especially in power struggles in the West. There’s also a long history of lynching Latinos in the Southwest, a part of American history almost totally forgotten. That’s especially tragic because the white supremacy driving the lynchings of African-Americans was the same impulse leading whites to kill Mexican-Americans at the same time. Our racial history is so often reduced to black-white, but it’s really whites versus all people of color.

Seafood Labor Fighting Exploitation

[ 3 ] July 13, 2014 |

One of the world’s most exploitative industries is seafood, mostly for rich nation consumption. Two of the biggest areas of production are in southeast Asia and the Gulf Coast. In the southeast Asia fisheries, slave labor is far too common, with frequent killings of workers, usually immigrants from Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia, for actions such as asking to be paid. Things aren’t quite that bad on the Gulf Coast, but they are pretty terrible.

So it is positive that seafood workers in the Gulf are working with the National Guestworker Alliance to try and put pressure on the big retailers like WalMart and Whole Foods over working conditions
. Those companies don’t care if supply workers live or die, as we see from WalMart’s response to the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh. But putting pressure on them at least gets people’s attention and hopefully builds the movement necessary that humane working conditions can return to this country.

The Volkswagen-UAW Deal

[ 26 ] July 13, 2014 |

As most of you know by now, Volkswagen and the United Auto Workers came to an agreement to create a union local in the company’s Chattanooga plant to represent the workers who want to join. This agreement will not include any dues collection until after a collective bargaining agreement is reached. It comes in the face of the UAW’s devastating election loss earlier this year after unprecedented political interference.

My general reaction to this agreement: meh.

I suppose it’s not a bad thing. For those who want representation, they have it, sort of. It doesn’t exactly show the union in a good light to people around the country who are maybe on the fence about joining, since it does seem to ignore the vote, but who really cares. The bigger question is whether it is remotely replicable or whether we would even want it to be. I’m skeptical. I have a hard time seeing the UAW taking a hard line with Volkswagen on anything given that the company and union have already agreed for it to exist. Of course, the UAW isn’t talking tough to any of its employers at this point. This can only be replicated if other employers want the UAW in their factories enough to create such a system. That’s unlikely. The Volkswagen case is unique because of the pressure the company faces from its German unions, a level of power that American unions do not have.

More positively I think is promoting the idea of minority unionism, where a voluntary group of workers seeks to stand up for themselves in the face of hostility from employers and even other fellow workers. There’s no reason why this sort of unionism shouldn’t be promoted. No, it isn’t going to lead to big membership gains and dues infusions to the unions nor is it likely to lead to a collective bargaining agreement, but it still can provide workers a voice on the job and lead to concrete gains when workers are angry enough to act.

At best, this agreement between VW and UAW leads to real material gains for union members and it convinces others that joining up is in their best interests. Whether that happens or not in the face of the two-tiered contract the union agreed to with the Big Three that helped doom the Chattanooga vote, I don’t know. And I suppose it already has led to more jobs, with VW following up this announcement with one picking the factory for the construction of a new SUV. Hopefully workers see the connection between unions and more jobs and sign up.

Also, read Benjamin Sachs on the legal side of a members-only union creating a works council.

The Forthcoming Miami Disaster

[ 78 ] July 13, 2014 |

Between having 2.4 million people living at six feet above sea level or less and a nuclear power plant ready to be inundated with sea water, watching the United States’ first climate refugee crisis is going to be incredibly depressing. Not that Florida politicians care.

Tommy Ramone

[ 30 ] July 12, 2014 |

I suppose there’s something very punk about the last surviving original member of The Ramones dying at the ripe young age of 65.

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