Monthly Archives: November 2012

Sierra Club and 350.org Rally Washington

The Sierra Club and 350.org rallied in Washington DC on the 18th of this month to draw attention to the XL Pipeline for which construction is already underway and activists are putting up a long battle on the ground against.

In New England, the Trailbreaker Tar Sands pipeline also proposed, but unfortunately, the focus seemed to be mostly on the XL line.  The struggle against both pipelines is ongoing.

See story here, Big Tar Sands Rally in Washington

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , ,

Wal-Mart Actions Around New Hampshire

Protesters in Manchester on South Willow Street on Black Friday.

Actions against the employment practices of Wal-Mart happened in three locations in the state this past Friday after Thanksgiving — known as “Black Friday”.

Activists from Occupy NH, Occupy Seacoast, the I.W.W. union and Occupy North Country set up protests, handed out flyers and in one instance, reportedly clashed with local police.

In Manchester participant Mark Provost said, “People were generally positive, honking their horns, waving their fists in solidarity, the jig is up, people know what is going on.”

In Somersworth, NH

In Somersworth Occupy the Seacoast held a protest outside the store in the morning, according to David Holt, “9 put of 10 people that reacted to us when we were outside were positive, gave us the thumbs up or honked and waved in support.”  David said that the group also went inside Wal-Mart with their signs, “We walked thru the Walmart with our signs and the management tried to herd us out, they called the police but we were gone before they showed up.”

When they were outside David said, “One cop pulled over in a cruiser and rolled down the window and we weren’t sure what he would say but he said he was behind us 100%.” Of the numbers of people in Occupy David said, “We had a wide range of people that had never come to an occupy event before, one of the people event printed up pamphlets and handed them out about what Walmart does.”

Some reported that an individual had a clash with the police in Littleton, but that person has asked not to speak to the press, so no further information is available at this time.

More about the action in Somersworth from the Foster’s Daily Democrat: Demonstrators in Somersworth Call for Changes at Wal-Mart

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Somerville Mass Restaurant Owner Won’t Pay His Help

As detailed in the Boston Occupier, members of various groups such as the Boston I.W.W. and Centro Presente have continued to picket and make noise at a local restaurant, Diva because the owners, One World Cuisine have refused  have refused to pay their laborer’s due wages.

The picket goes on and those interested in joining to help fight for the cause should contact the Boston I.W.W. for more information.  The picket goes on everyday.

 

Tagged , , , ,

DSA Statement: Reject the Fiscal Cliff

Reject the Fiscal Cliff, Tax the Rich,

Invest in Infrastructure and Services

A statement of the National Political Committee of the Democratic Socialists of America

November 20, 2012

DSA rejects the “fiscal cliff” hysteria of the corporate establishment and the pressure for a “Grand Bargain” that would cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. While unemployment remains high and economic growth slow, the government should not impose austerity measures that reduce essential programs that benefit the middle and working classes and that further shred the safety net for the most vulnerable. Rather, government policy should prioritize investments in job creation, public education and healthcare reform, while raising essential revenues by taxing the large corporations and wealthiest citizens who can afford to pay.

Immediately after the election, Wall Street-backed foundations such as Third Way and the Concord Coalition organized a “Campaign to Fix the Debt” to spin the election results as a mandate for a “bi-partisan” focus on reducing the deficit as the highest national priority. For decades the billionaire Pete Peterson has funded groups that claim that the universal entitlement programs Social Security and Medicare are bankrupting the nation and that their future growth must thus be drastically trimmed.  These neoliberals scored an initial success in 2011 when the Simpson-Bowles Congressional Commission put to a vote a long-term “budget compromise” that would have instituted three times as much in budget cuts than in tax increases. But despite President Obama’s evident willingness to reach such a one-sided compromise, Tea Party insistence on no tax increases, even on the wealthiest, scuttled the deal. The “resolution” of this manufactured, alleged “budget crisis” was to postpone a decision on further deficit reduction until the end of 2012, hence the contrived “fiscal cliff.”

What is the fiscal cliff? If Congress makes no changes to the Budget Control Act of 2011, the Bush tax cuts will expire on January 1, 2013. In addition, automatic cuts of $55 billion each in annual defense and “discretionary domestic” spending will begin. These tax increases and spending cuts, combined with the expiration of the FICA payroll tax cut and the end of extended unemployment benefits, will create a significant fiscal drag on the economy. The annual budget deficit will fall from over $1 trillion in 2012 to $500 billion dollars in 2013; and the resulting drop in aggregate demand from this combination of spending cuts and increases in taxes would almost definitely cause a double-dip recession.

Like other progressive groups, DSA rejects the notion that some “unified” fiscal cliff must be addressed in the lame-duck session of Congress. It is in fact a “fiscal obstacle course” that Congress should address without panic early in 2013, while heeding the election results. A progressive solution would include restoring all automatic domestic cuts, while making more strategic and deeper cuts in defense procurement spending. The revenue for expanding domestic social welfare spending can be raised by ending the Bush tax cuts for the top 2% and corporate tax-giveaways, while instituting a modest financial transaction tax on stock and bond transactions. In addition, Congress should restore the tradition of not requiring a separate authorization vote every time the current debt ceiling is crossed. Requiring such a vote provides the right with endless opportunities to blackmail the Congress into counter-productive budget slashing.

Specifically, DSA advocates that Congress pass legislation to:

1. Restore all the automatic cuts to the domestic discretionary budget. These cuts would deny WIC nutrition to 750,000 mothers and children, eliminate Title I funding for 1.8 million low-income school children and would deny 734,000 households home heating assistance. In addition, it would cut financing of all federal regulatory agencies by 10%.

2. Reauthorize federal funding of extended unemployment insurance. Otherwise, on January 1, 1.5 million unemployed workers and their dependents will lose their unemployment benefits.

3. Restore the improvements to the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Care Credit that have reduced the tax burden on the middle and working classes. To preserve the purchasing power that would be lost by an end to the 2% FICA payroll tax cut, reintroduce the 2009 Recovery Act refundable tax credit of $500 for individuals and $1,000 for families earning under $110,000.

4. Abolish the Bush tax cuts on the top 2% and tax capital gains and stock dividends at the same rate as earned income. Increase effective corporate taxation through the elimination of corporate tax loopholes and corporate “tax expenditures.”  These reforms would yield $275 billion in additional annual revenue. In addition, instituting a “Robin Hood Tax” could net another $300 billion in annual revenues. (This financial transaction tax is a small sales tax, for example 0.25%, charged on all trading in stocks, currencies and debt instruments such as bonds, derivatives, futures and options.)

5. Make major cuts in our bloated defense budget, while creating a public jobs program that trains the unemployed to rebuild infrastructure, creates an alternative energy grid and expands mass transit.

6. Extend and strengthen Social Security for future generations, funding enhancements by progressively lifting the cap on earned income subject to the FICA tax and extending it to income derived from capital.

7. Progressively extend and strengthen Medicare/Medicaid, until it covers U.S. residents of all ages, while installing effective cost controls.

DSA welcomes and will work with broad national and local coalitions that are forming to fight cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; to preserve programs that benefit the working poor and most vulnerable; to promote greater investment in public education and healthcare and to raise revenues by taxing the rich and corporations.  We also support Tavis Smiley’s and DSA National Honorary Chair Cornel West’s call for President Obama to convene a White House conference on poverty.

DSA will bring to these coalitions the educational perspective of our GET UP (Grassroots Economics Training for Understanding and Power) and The Other America is Our America (TOA) projects. GET UP analyzes the neoliberal capitalist roots of the Great Recession and advances social market economic alternatives. TOA demystifies the history of anti-poverty policy and argues for a new, true war on poverty. We can only stop the corporate drive for austerity if we educate, agitate and organize. DSA will join those in the streets resisting the bi-partisan effort to thwart the needs of the very constituencies that just re-elected our president.

Tagged , , , ,

Updates on Northern Pass

Found this in our mailbox, sent from Bury Northern Pass, updates on the latest goings-on around the issue of the transmission lines that PSNH and Hydro-Quebec wants to pass through the White Mountains including the National Forest.

Burial bill
Nov. 22, 2012
NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.
A North Country legislator is proposing a law that would require new electric utility lines to be located along existing highways.
If Rep. Larry Rappaport’s bill become law, utility companies would be required – as much as possible – to put new electric transmission lines alongside state rights-of-way such as highways.
Rappaport, of Colebrook, contends that would have two benefits.
“The roads are already there.”
 It would also help the state with its budget problems.
“That will mean that the money which would be obtained by leasing or renting or whatever would accrue to the state of New Hampshire as opposed to private, for-profit companies.”
That could affect the Northern Pass project.
Under the current arrangement Hydro-Quebec would provide the electricity.
Then, it would pay Northern Pass to transmit it along a route Northern Pass developed through the state.
If the law passes Rappaport says Hydro-Quebec would pay tens of millions of dollars a year to New Hampshire and not Northern Pass.
Yale
Northern Pass Leases Coos Land Linked To Yale
NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.
Nov. 21
The Northern Pass Transmission project has taken a big step forward in its search for a route through the North Country – with some help from Yale University.
Northern Pass has signed a deal allowing it to put transmission lines along 20 miles through eastern Coos County.
In a statement Public Service of New Hampshire president Gary Long described the arrangement as “a huge step for the project.”
However, the statement did not say if Northern Pass has all the land it needs.
The land was leased from Wagner Forest Management on behalf of the owner, Bayroot LLC.
Bayroot LLC is an investment linked to Yale University, according to 2009, 2010 and 2011 filings with the IRS.
A Yale spokesman said the university does not discuss its investments.
The Coos County Democrat reports that the  lease allows transmission lines to be either above or below ground.
Northern Pass gains another 20 miles of right-of-way for towers
By PAULA TRACY
New Hampshire Union Leader Nov. 23
CONCORD – Developers of the Northern Pass electricity project said this week they have cut a deal for 20 miles of needed right-of-way from Dixville Peak toward Stark in Coos County.
Public Service of New Hampshire President Gary Long called the leasing of Wagner Woodlands land a huge step for the project that would deliver electricity from Hydro-Quebec through New Hampshire and into the New England power grid.
“This brings us closer to our goal of delivering clean, low-cost hydropower to the region’s energy grid while providing New Hampshire with hundreds of new jobs and millions in new tax revenue,” Long said in a statement.
“This project not only brings significant economic benefits to our state, but will also have a tremendous environmental impact as well by removing 5 million tons of carbon from our atmosphere.”
The Society for the Protection of NH Forests, which had hoped to strike its own deal for the Wagner land, maintains that it can still block the 180-mile high-power transmission project. Forest Society spokesman Jack Savage said it is seeing more money coming in to preserve private land in the Stewartstown area.
Savage acknowledged, however, that the society had failed to meet its self-imposed deadline to raise $2.5 million for the blocking effort. He said it was a “somewhat arbitrary deadline of the end of October.” It has raised about $1 million to date.
The Society used some of that money to buy an easement on a Balsams tract of more than 5,000 acres, which abuts the land managed by Wagner Woodlands.
The Lyme-based Wagner company works on behalf of its client and property owner, Bayroot, a timber management organization. It essentially funds pensions by timbering.
Tom Colgan, Wagner’s president and chief executive officer, said the Northern Pass complements its forest management and that Wagner is pleased to help bring to the region “a major new source of clean and renewable energy.”
No financial information was offered about the deal, which was posted on the Northern Pass website Tuesday.
The $1.2 billion project to bring 1,200 megawatts of hydroelectricity into the New England grid is proposed by PSNH parent Northeast Utilities. It would transmit power on 140 miles of existing right-of-way but needs to link together 40 miles of North Country real estate to connect with the existing infrastructure in Groveton.
Savage of the Forest Society says regulators consider it a private transmission development not necessary for the New England grid and he questions the “clean” claim because of the flooding of Canadian lands to develop the hydro power.
Comments:
Susan Schibanoff said:
In other words, more (but different) rich folks in Connecticut are trying to rip off Coos County and NH. This time they’re in New Haven, not Hartford — Yale Univ. investments are linked to Bayroot/Wagner (see NHPR). And Yale’s colonial NH forest administrator at Wagner, Tom Colgan, mouths false green pieties about “clean” big hydro to justify the exploitation. (King George III probably said something to the same effect that it was beneficial to steal all the white pines from New England to keep the Empire afloat.) It’s time to stand up, NH, and demand autonomy from the forces in New Haven, Hartford, and Montreal that want to strip NH of our economic independence and our ability to determine our own way and quality of life. There’s a new governor and many new legislators in NH. Let them know what you think. Now. If NU and Hydro-Quebec get through overhead this time, it’s just the beginning.
Tom Colgan, Wagner Forest CEO, on feeling good at the end of the day
“[Our foresters] want to feel good at the end of the day about what they’re doing, about how they’re working, and what they accomplished in the woods. They are locals. They have to live with what they do every day and have to live with the community.” –Tom Colgan, President and CEO, Wagner Forest Management, at a Yale Forest Forum, 2002. (http://environment.yale.edu/gisf/files/pdfs/yff_reviews/05.03.pdf, p. 18)
It’s so much easier to tell the truth: fallout from the Q3 investor call
In a lame attempt to cover for NU’s Tom May, who made bizarre claims in the Nov. 13th Q3 investor call, Martin Murray has offered equally far-fetched explanations. According to Murray, May didn’t say that Northern Pass has the support of every environmental organization in New England; May said they support Cape Wind. May didn’t say that ISO-NE was a big proponent of Northern Pass; May said ISO-NE is a big proponent of fuel diversity (an equally questionable claim). May didn’t say that Maggie Hassan is supportive of Northern Pass; May said “if” she is supportive of Northern Pass. . . .
Exec’s Statements On Northern Pass Challenged
NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.
Last week at a conference in Arizona a top official at Northeast Utilities provided an update on the Northern Pass Transmission project.
But some of his statements are being refuted.
The industry conference was for electric utility companies, analysts and those interested in the business.
In one session Thomas J. May, the president and CEO of Northeast Utilities spoke about his company’s Northern Pass project.
“This project has the support of every environmental group in New England, basically.”
That came as a huge and infuriating surprise to some of the region’s major environmental groups.
Jack Savage is with the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, which opposes the project.
“Well, I thought at best Mr. May was irresponsibly misinformed.”
Christophe Courchesne, is a lawyer for the Conservation Law Foundation, which opposes the project in its current form.
“We’re not aware of any groups that support the project.”
A Northern Pass spokesman didn’t respond when asked for a list of environmental groups May said were supporting the project.
May also puzzled some people with a comment about ISO New England, which operates the region’s high-voltage power grid and wholesale electricity markets.
“ISO New England, which is responsible for our reliability and keeping the lights on to a great degree are very concerned about capacity and the need for increased fuel diversity. So, they have been a big proponent of this project.”
But ISO New England spokeswoman Marcia Blomberg said the group has not taken a position on Northern Pass.
May also suggested there is good news ahead when Governor-elect Maggie Hassan takes office.
“There is a new governor in New Hampshire that we believe is supportive of the project.”
However, Hassan spokesman Marc Goldberg said Hassan “is not supportive of the initial proposal” and “any new proposal should undergo rigorous review and address concerns of the communities involved.”
Finally May told the group that the governor of Connecticut – where Northeast Utilities is based – is behind the project and will go to some lengths to help.
“Governor Malloy has been very outspoken about it and has suggested he would go to President Obama to help us with the licensing on this project.”
Andrew Doba, a spokesman for governor Dannel Malloy, said the governor thinks Northern Pass could be a good thing for the region.
But, he said, the governor did not offer to speak to President Obama about it.
 
Comments:
James Doyle
Thank you for stating the record and refuting addressing the disinformation tactics.
Northern Pass official under fire over assessment of project’s support
By ANNMARIE TIMMINS
Monitor staff
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Several environmental groups say a Northern Pass official grossly misrepresented the project’s standing in New Hampshire at a financial investor conference last week by claiming the groups and Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan support the project. The official says his comments are being twisted to hurt the project.
Tom May, chief executive officer of Northeast Utilities, which is behind the $1.1 billion Northern Pass project, told conference attendees that the proposed hydro-power project would bring more environmental benefits to New England than any project before it. He also said that his company believes Hassan supports the project when she has publicly said she has some concerns about it.
“We believe New Hampshire will recognize the value of this project to them,” May said.
But most controversial was this statement: “It’s a pretty big environmental impact,” May said, according to a recording of his remarks available on the internet. “And this project has the support of every environmental group in New England, basically.”
That’s untrue – if May was talking about Northern Pass, as environmental activists say he was.
But Martin Murray, a Northern Pass spokesman, said Tuesday that May was not referring to Northern Pass in that last statement. He said May was instead referring to the offshore Cape Wind energy project in Massachusetts. Murray said Northern Pass officials are aware of objections raised by environmental groups.
The proposed Northern Pass, introduced in 2010, is a partnership between Northeast Utilities, Public Service of New Hampshire and Hydro-Quebec. The project would bring hydro-power through New Hampshire and into the New England energy grid along 140 miles of high-voltage transmission lines.
North Country opposition
The project has been delayed by opposition, especially from North Country landowners and environmental groups. In response to that opposition, the Legislature this year passed a law prohibiting a private project like Northern Pass from taking land by eminent domain.
From Goveton south, the Northern Pass lines would run in the existing power line clearings maintained by PSNH. Project officials have struggled to build the northern 40 miles of the route, which will require new clearings. Several miles of transmission lines would run through the White Mountain National Forest.
Project officials are buying land now with plans to unveil the full route by the end of the year.
In his conference remarks last week, May did refer to Cape Wind but only once. And he had returned to discussing Northern Pass before he mentioned the support of environmental groups. He was speaking at the annual Edison Electric Institute Financial Conference in Arizona.
“I think you have to consider Mr. May’s comments, at best, irresponsibly misinformed,” said Jack Savage, spokesman for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, which is trying to raise $2.5 million to block the project. The group has raised more than $1 million from 1,200 donors in 178 New Hampshire cities and towns, Savage said.
The society is going to use that money raised to put conservation easements on two parcels along Northern Pass’s likely path. The group hopes to put conservation easements on three additional parcels. Savage said the environmental objections have been no secret to May.
“You can go to Northern Pass’s own project journal and see references to us, the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Conservation Law Foundation as three environmental groups that clearly do not support Northern Pass as proposed,” he said.
Susan Arnold, AMC’s vice president for conservation, said she didn’t know of a single New England environmental group that does support Northern Pass. “The Appalachian Mountain Club does not support the Northern Pass project as proposed and we have been very public about our concerns,” Arnold said in an email. “We are mystified as to where Mr. May gets his information.”
Christophe Courchesne, an attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation in New Hampshire, disputed May’s statements in a lengthy blog post on the foundation’s website, clf.org. He also posted a link to a recording of May’s comments.
“It was extremely disappointing that Northeast Utilities continues to take the approach of repeating false and misleading information,” Courchesne said in an interview Tuesday. “And this time, it’s not even colorably accurate.”
The Monitor listened to the recordings of May’s remarks several times Tuesday.
He began by saying Northern Pass was making good progress. He said the project’s timing is “critical” because ISO-New England, which oversees the supply and demand of the New England energy market, has been looking for more energy diversity in the market.
Northern Pass would introduce 1,200 megawatts of hydropower to the New England market, which currently relies heavily on natural gas, nuclear energy and oil. May said ISO-New England has “been a big proponent of this project.”
An ‘elective’ project
Marcia Blomberg, a spokeswoman for ISO-New England, said Tuesday that the organization has not taken a position on the Northern Pass. ISO-New England has said previously that Northern Pass is an “elective” energy project that is not needed to “keep the lights on” in New England.
Asked about May’s statement, Murray said May was saying only that ISO-New England is encouraging a diversity of energy sources and that hydro-power would do that.
May next said that Northern Pass would lower energy prices in New England.
“No other project that anyone has considered in our region has anywhere near the economic or environmental impact that this project has,” he said. May said “people are suggesting” that the project could lower energy prices in the region by $200 to $300 million annually.
“The environmental value, there is no project that is anywhere near or a series of projects that have anywhere near this impact,” May said. “Many of you have heard about the Cape Wind project. This has six to seven times more environmental value in it.”
May then said Northern Pass would lower carbon fuel emissions in the region to a degree that the drop would equal taking 900,000 cars off the road annually. Then May made the comment that environmental groups have criticized.
“So, it’s a pretty big environmental impact,” May said, “and this project has the support of every environmental group in New England, basically.”
Jobs, tax revenue
May spoke next about the 1,200 jobs and the $25 million in property taxes Northern Pass is predicted to bring New Hampshire. He said he’d been in Quebec two weeks earlier meeting with his Canadian partners.
“I believe that we’re both very anxious to get going on this project now that the elections are over and now that there is a new governor in New Hampshire that we believe is supportive of the project, and we can start to bring our case before the people of New Hampshire once again.”
Tuesday, Murray disputed that version of May’s remarks. He said May couched the remark by saying “if there is a governor in New Hamsphire that is supportive.” The Monitor did not hear the comment that way.
Unwavering position
And during her campaign, Hassan said the project would need the support of local communities to get her support. She also said she would prefer to see the transmission lines buried, something Northern Pass officials have said is too expensive and impractical to consider.
Hassan’s spokesman said Hassan’s position has not changed.
“As a state senator, she worked to pass a constitutional amendment to prohibit the use of eminent domain for private gain, and she opposes the use of eminent domain for this project,” said Marc Goldberg in an email. (Northern Pass officials have said they don’t intend to pursue eminent domain.) “Gov.-Elect Hassan believes that we must protect the scenic views of the North Country, which are vital to our tourism industry and to protecting our quality of life. As governor, she will ensure that, in accordance with the law, New Hampshire undertakes a rigorous review process of any proposal and provide significant opportunities for public voices to be heard.”
Goldberg also said Hassan hopes that the next proposal will address the concerns of the communities involved.
“She believes that burying the lines would be a more appropriate approach, and also supports looking into home-grown energy sources, such as the new biomass plant under construction in Berlin,” said Goldberg.
Tagged , ,

Are the Takers Our Enemy?

by Nick Vazzana:

Since the election, Mr. Romney has been making statements that he lost because “certain special-interest groups” who voted for the Democrats were given “big gifts.”  He went on to call them “takers” who got financial gifts that included Pell Grant Loans for college students, Obamacare, Medicare, and food stamps.

There is nothing new about Romney’s libertarian ideas. Anyone who watched the “The Dust Bowl” by Ken Burns on PBS saw an example of the Federal Government trying to help a segment of its citizens survive at a time of unspeakable natural disaster. Through the AAA or Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933, President Roosevelt attempted to balance supply and demand for farm commodities so that prices would support a decent purchasing power for farmers.

The Ken Burns documentary did not point it out, but many business leaders, and those who hated Roosevelt, contended that the Constitution did not give the Federal Government any power over agriculture. These “patriotic conservatives” thought it was up to the insolvent states of the Dust Bowl to solve their own problems. They were also against the idea of taxing the food processing industry to pay for farm subsidies. In the U.S. vs. Butler, the Republican-dominated Supreme Court agreed and declared the AAA unconstitutional. Fortunately, in 1938, the Congress re-wrote the legislation to overcome the court’s objections.

Many politicians, including some Republicans have distanced themselves from Romney’s comments. Unfortunately, no such criticism of these remarks has come from the Tea Party, the business community or right-wing media. This silence speaks volumes about an unpatriotic and dangerous political philosophy that has become ingrained in many of our citizens.

This reactionary view of labeling those who benefit from government as “takers” also fits into a larger condemnation of Federal efforts that help the poor, the retired, the ill, college students, women and even veterans. The voters were correct in choosing President Obama’s path to economic stability for 100% of the American people. He has been working, without much Republican help, to get this nation out of a world-wide slowdown that was caused by the financial meltdown of 2008-09.

Nick Vazzana
Sandwich, NH

Tagged

The Hand That Feeds You

If you live in America and shop for your food, services and other goods in the mainstream market, then you have probably been served or helped by a low-wage worker.  If you don’t work in the low-wage world, then more than likely you have the convenience of not having to consider the sacrifice that these people make to serve your needs.

From the retail worker checking out your goods on a weekend or late in an evening, checking out your last minute the holiday eve, the person who is there to punch in the amount of your fuel at the last minute before rushing to your relative’s house for a day of relaxation and celebration. The person who hands you your sliced deli meats after you get out of work, the one who hands you a cappuccino.  Get the point?

While you, middle class person that you are, have put in your time in a regular schedule, the same shift every week, the same pay that allows you to purchase a house, a new car, finance for the kids college, yes that gives you some semblance of a future to hope for a sanity for today based on some measure of predictability, there exists an entire economy of people toiling and struggling to make ends meet, who end up on the bottom of the social ladder to serve your interests, who have no ability to negotiate anything; if they want the job they will be on the job when appointed to do so — mostly in service to your desires.

Its awfully convenient to be able to run into the toy-store two hours before official Christmas Eve to get that last toy, to rush into the convenience or grocery store to pick up a bottle of wine or something you forgot for the dinner celebration.  Its awfully convenient that someone will serve you fried eggs at 3 o’clock in the morning on a Saturday after a long night of partying with your friends, or who will be there in the brisk am on Christmas day to make sure the gas pumps are on so you can drive out of town.

Its all awfully convenient.  But at what price? Most people assume that with the degree of labor or sacrifice given, the employee has room to negotiate and bargain for better wages and working conditions; that the employee who works on a holiday, a late-night or on weekends has chosen to do so, thus we can believe in our minds that there really was no sacrifice at all.

But the fact is that more and more unskilled work is unregulated by an agency of the worker.  Bereft of union representation and the power of organization amongst themselves, most low-wage workers toil in silent rage that soon stifles down to surrender and a sense of complete powerlessness.

Nothing reminds a low-wage worker more of their position in our current economic system than the snotty, hurried middle class shopper who will complain and threaten one’s job over an imagined slight or trivial inconvenience.  Nothing reminds a low-wage worker more of their economic position than the sneer of their peers and others when one mentions working at a retail establishment or the old “You want fries with that?”.  Because of course, no one wants to be a servant and no one wants to be on the end of the social ladder.

It never really is a surprise to anyone either that jobs open to women who don’t have a college education are predominantly in the retail and service industries that pay pitifully low wages.  While non-college educated men can still regularly count on trade work which often has some level of social respect (construction) and/or union representation, most female dominant jobs do not offer union representation, good wages, benefits or even a modicum of social respect.  Instead, women and all too often, people of color of both sexes, ex-felons (even if their felony was non-violent or minor) or those with disabilities are relegated to work that often does not take into account their full potential, nor give them a chance to realize their full potential to contribute to society.  Next time you assume your convenience store clerk has maximized all their opportunities and has reached their apex, think again.

Which is why workers on all levels must stand up to support the fair representation of low-wage workers, so that hopefully the term ‘low-wage’ is one reserved for the history books and not as a relegation to poverty for millions of Americans in this country.  Which is why all middle class people, who have good jobs, who have the ability to make change in their lives and to assist change in others’ lives must step up to do so.

The following demands should be made and the middle class must be willing to step up and make clear that they can and will make the sacrifice necessary to see to it that workers are treated fairly — and more importantly, will help to demand that the plutocracy that has arisen out of the hierarchy of work in our society be gone forever!

People should demand the following as the very basic of worker’s justice:

1.  That workers be allowed the day off on major and religious holidays to spend time with their families and in their communities.

2.  That all workers be granted health insurance and life insurance benefits.

3.  That workers with families be given a regular weekly schedule that is predictable and allows them to adjust their family lives around their work.

4.  That workers be given affordable childcare — paid either by meaningful state/federal subsidies and/or with a tax on the employer.

5.  That doling out jobs and positions by gender or race identification cease immediately.

6.  That wages be pegged to a basic needs tested standard of living measure.

As a worker, especially if you do better than a low-wage worker who serves your needs:

1. Be aware of the sacrifice made economically for your low prices — that it all too often comes from the worker, not the company owners.

2. Chose to consume less and to shop during reasonable times of the day – be the proof that worker’s don’t need to occupy a store at times when most people are at home with their families.

3.  Break down human commodification by treating all workers as your equal.  No one has more value as a person than you.  Recognize your privilege.

4.  Speak out about worker justice that you understand; make an effort to learn more.

5. Support worker actions for justice.

6.  Learn to shop before holidays; spend time at home with your family and share this value with your family and friends.  Stay home on large marketed shopping days such as “Black Friday” or the day after New Year’s, do not shop stores that make their employees work on holidays or long nights or weekends.

For more reading on this topic:

Improving the Situation for Low-Wage Workers…

One in Four Workers Will be in Low-Wage Jobs…

Low Paying Jobs are Here to Stay

Down and Out

Sustainable Scheduling

Tagged , , , , ,

Hostess and the Private Welfare State

From the online magazine Jacobin, Peter Frause makes a very good case for the closing of the Hostess plant.  The hype around the closing, as can be expected in an anti-union, anti-worker environment, has been trumpeted by the shareholders and top brass of the company and willingly repeated by the mainstream media, as a boondoggle created by a greedy, selfish union, but the facts tell a different story:

Hostess Brands, maker of the Twinkie, announced its liquidation today. This provoked a wave of now-more-than-everism, as both liberals and conservatives rushed to use the company’s failure as a testament to their longstanding hobbyhorses.

To the Right, of course, the end of Hostess is just another great opportunity to bash unions. Although perhaps it’s a sign of progress that even Fox News decided to soft-pedal this line, talking up the conciliatory position of the Teamsters while blaming the recalcitrance of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union for the closure. The idea that this is all about greedy unions is idiotic beyond belief, but sadly something we apparently still have to talk about. So if you don’t believe me you can go read Sarah Jaffe or Diana Reese.

A line I’m seeing from liberals, meanwhile, is that this is another case of private equity vulture capitalism ruining the American dream. Hostess Brands was under the control of a couple of hedge funds, as is the style these days. And so one line of argument is that Hostess could have been a perfectly sustainable company with good paying jobs, if only those short-sighted PE guys hadn’t showed up to loot it. A typical example of the genre is this from Laura Clawson at Daily Kos. Mark Price puts it more pithily on Twitter: “Private equity runs up debt, takes out fees and investment in capital goods declines leading to cost disadvantages.”
Read more : Hostess and the Private Welfare State

Tagged , , ,

Thanksgiving – A Time of Mourning

From Black Commentator.com:

Frank James

When Frank James (1923 – February 20, 2001), known to the Wampanoag people as Wampsutta, was invited to speak by the Commonwealth of Massachusettsat the 1970 annual Thanksgiving feast at Plymouth. When the text of Mr. James’ speech, a powerful statement of anger at the history of oppression of the Native people of America, became known before the event, the Commonwealth “disinvited” him. Wampsutta was not prepared to have his speech revised by the Pilgrims. He left the dinner and the ceremonies and went to the hill near the statue of the Massasoit, who as the leader of the Wampanoags when the Pilgrims landed in their territory. There overlooking Plymouth Harbor, he looked at the replica of the Mayflower. It was there that he gave his speech that was to be given to the Pilgrims and their guests. There eight or ten Indians and their supporters listened in indignation as Frank talked of the takeover of the Wampanoag tradition, culture, religion, and land.

That silencing of a strong and honest Native voice led to the convening of the National Day of Mourning. The following is the text of 1970 speech by Wampsutta, an Aquinnah Wampanoag elder and Native American activist.

I speak to you as a man — a Wampanoag Man. I am a proud man, proud of my ancestry, my accomplishments won by a strict parental direction (“You must succeed – your face is a different color in this small Cape Cod community!”). I am a product of poverty and discrimination from these two social and economic diseases. I, and my brothers and sisters, have painfully overcome, and to some extent we have earned the respect of our community. We are Indians first – but we are termed “good citizens.” Sometimes we are arrogant but only because society has pressured us to be so.

It is with mixed emotion that I stand here to share my thoughts. This is a time of celebration for you – celebrating an anniversary of a beginning for the white man in America. A time of looking back, of reflection. It is with a heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my People.

Even before the Pilgrims landed it was common practice for explorers to capture Indians, take them to Europe and sell them as slaves for 220 shillings apiece. The Pilgrims had hardly explored the shores of Cape Cod for four days before they had robbed the graves of my ancestors and stolen their corn and beans. Mourt’s Relation describes a searching party of sixteen men. Mourt goes on to say that this party took as much of the Indians’ winter provisions as they were able to carry.

Massasoit, the great Sachem of the Wampanoag, knew these facts, yet he and his People welcomed and befriended the settlers of the Plymouth Plantation. Perhaps he did this because his Tribe had been depleted by an epidemic. Or his knowledge of the harsh oncoming winter was the reason for his peaceful acceptance of these acts. This action by Massasoit was perhaps our biggest mistake. We, the Wampanoag, welcomed you, the white man, with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end; that before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a free people.

Although the Puritans were harsh to members of their own society, the Indian was pressed between stone slabs and hanged as quickly as any other “witch.”What happened in those short 50 years? What has happened in the last 300 years? History gives us facts and there were atrocities; there were broken promises – and most of these centered around land ownership. Among ourselves we understood that there were boundaries, but never before had we had to deal with fences and stone walls. But the white man had a need to prove his worth by the amount of land that he owned. Only ten years later, when the Puritans came, they treated the Wampanoag with even less kindness in converting the souls of the so-called “savages.” Although the Puritans were harsh to members of their own society, the Indian was pressed between stone slabs and hanged as quickly as any other “witch.”

And so down through the years there is record after record of Indian lands taken and, in token, reservations set up for him upon which to live. The Indian, having been stripped of his power, could only stand by and watch while the white man took his land and used it for his personal gain. This the Indian could not understand; for to him, land was survival, to farm, to hunt, to be enjoyed. It was not to be abused. We see incident after incident, where the white man sought to tame the “savage” and convert him to the Christian ways of life. The early Pilgrim settlers led the Indian to believe that if he did not behave, they would dig up the ground and unleash the great epidemic again.

The white man used the Indian’s nautical skills and abilities. They let him be only a seaman — but never a captain. Time and time again, in the white man’s society, we Indians have been termed “low man on the totem pole.”

Has the Wampanoag really disappeared? There is still an aura of mystery. We know there was an epidemic that took many Indian lives – some Wampanoags moved west and joined the Cherokee and Cheyenne. They were forced to move. Some even went north to Canada! Many Wampanoag put aside their Indian heritage and accepted the white man’s way for their own survival. There are some Wampanoag who do not wish it known they are Indian for social or economic reasons.

What happened to those Wampanoags who chose to remain and live among the early settlers? What kind of existence did they live as “civilized” people? True, living was not as complex as life today, but they dealt with the confusion and the change. Honesty, trust, concern, pride, and politics wove themselves in and out of their [the Wampanoags’] daily living. Hence, he was termed crafty, cunning, rapacious, and dirty.

History wants us to believe that the Indian was a savage, illiterate, uncivilized animal. A history that was written by an organized, disciplined people, to expose us as an unorganized and undisciplined entity. Two distinctly different cultures met. One thought they must control life; the other believed life was to be enjoyed, because nature decreed it. Let us remember, the Indian is and was just as human as the white man. The Indian feels pain, gets hurt, and becomes defensive, has dreams, bears tragedy and failure, suffers from loneliness, needs to cry as well as laugh. He, too, is often misunderstood.

The white man in the presence of the Indian is still mystified by his uncanny ability to make him feel uncomfortable. This may be the image the white man has created of the Indian; his “savageness” has boomeranged and isn’t a mystery; it is fear; fear of the Indian’s temperament!

Even before the Pilgrims landed it was common practice for explorers to capture Indians, take them to Europe and sell them as slaves for 220 shillings apiece.High on a hill, overlooking the famed Plymouth Rock, stands the statue of our great Sachem, Massasoit. Massasoit has stood there many years in silence. We the descendants of this great Sachem have been a silent people. The necessity of making a living in this materialistic society of the white man caused us to be silent. Today, I and many of my people are choosing to face the truth. We ARE Indians!

Although time has drained our culture, and our language is almost extinct, we the Wampanoags still walk the lands of Massachusetts. We may be fragmented, we may be confused. Many years have passed since we have been a people together. Our lands were invaded. We fought as hard to keep our land as you the whites did to take our land away from us. We were conquered, we became the American prisoners of war in many cases, and wards of the United States Government, until only recently.

Our spirit refuses to die. Yesterday we walked the woodland paths and sandy trails. Today we must walk the macadam highways and roads. We are uniting We’re standing not in our wigwams but in your concrete tent. We stand tall and proud, and before too many moons pass we’ll right the wrongs we have allowed to happen to us.

We forfeited our country. Our lands have fallen into the hands of the aggressor. We have allowed the white man to keep us on our knees. What has happened cannot be changed, but today we must work towards a more humane America, a more Indian America, where men and nature once again are important; where the Indian values of honor, truth, and brotherhood prevail.

You the white man are celebrating an anniversary. We the Wampanoags will help you celebrate in the concept of a beginning. It was the beginning of a new life for the Pilgrims. Now, 350 years later it is a beginning of a new determination for the original American: the American Indian.

There are some factors concerning the Wampanoags and other Indians across this vast nation. We now have 350 years of experience living amongst the white man. We can now speak his language. We can now think as a white man thinks. We can now compete with him for the top jobs. We’re being heard; we are now being listened to. The important point is that along with these necessities of everyday living, we still have the spirit, we still have the unique culture, we still have the will and, most important of all, the determination to remain as Indians. We are determined, and our presence here this evening is living testimony that this is only the beginning of the American Indian, particularly the Wampanoag, to regain the position in this country that is rightfully ours.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

13 Year Old Girl is Dragged by Her Hair in LA Park — Cops Say “Hope all is Well”

In an unbelievable story ran across from Yahoo.com news that was apparently culled from a local Los Angeles local news affiliate, a thirteen year old girl that was — wait for this — dragged by her hair and then having her clothes removed by the assailant has apparently been abandoned to fate.

Here’s the story as reported by an international online news source that uses ‘dragged by her hair’ so many times it makes one wonder if this phrase serves some kind of purpose for titillation all by itself.  Of course, aren’t all rape stories and any stories about women’s subjugation at the hands of men just so much fap fodder?

Its really hard to know what is more cringe worthy in this story; the fact that witnesses watched the event unfold and did absolutely nothing to stop it, or that the police chief makes the unbelievably lame comment that he hopes the two will have reconciled their differences and moved on.  Because of course, all young girls should expect to be physically punished when they engage in an argument with a man, amirite ladies?  Apparently the folks that stood by and watched thought nothing enough out of the ordinary was occurring before their eyes to take action to stop it. Just another day in the life of a woman in America.  If she lives to tell the tale of what happened to her, she can be sure she’ll have an entire audience ready to qualify whether she deserved the beating, rape or whatever general wrath and abuse may have come her way.  The offender can of course, after some head-shaking and the acceptance of the Eternal Truth of the Patriarchy– that man is helpless to his animal nature that woman brings out in him and sometimes, well some boys just go too far.

Which will of course bring out the conversation as to whether this young girl was sexually active, because as all women know; little hussy temptresses will get what they get coming to them.  No need to suddenly forget the history of wingnut woman-hating now that some of the worst were booted out the last term; they represented a constituency of mouth-breathers who love to see woman as nothing more than vessels of their power.  Those women who have the temerity to live outside the proscribed lines must be put down immediately; whether children or not — that’s not important. (as many girls find out, you were born with certain equipment that is useful, whether you know what it is about or that you are connected to it is of little import to the patriarchy).

I hope that this young woman comes out of this alive and fully intact, since like everywhere else in the patriarchy, she obviously cannot count on law enforcement, family, friends or even passive strangers witnessing her being brutally abused, to give enough of a damn to even lift a finger to help her.

Tagged ,