“Am I stutterin’, son?” the green-eyed pleasant-looking man with the perfect teeth said to the tall newcomer standing by his table. Around them the din of the eatery seemed to recede. “There’s no DeMarkus around here.” Like his displeasure, Teaflake made no effort to hide the butt of the Glock sticking out of his waistband.
The young woman sitting with Teaflake smiled understandingly, like she was ushering a patient in for a tooth extraction, Joseph “Little Joe” Dixon reflected.
“Didn’t mean nothing,” he said. “Heard you two was boys is all.” He wasn’t about to back down but wasn’t looking to escalate matters either.
“Who are you?” Teaflake said, his voice low, his enunciation clear and concise, a sharp contrast to the way the usual street hoodlum swallowed vowels and ignored tenses.
Little Joe said, “I’m the new fitness director at Water Stones.” The multi-purpose center was Waterston but everybody called it by its mangled nickname.
OAKLAND – The growing nationwide movement by cities and counties to raise the minimum wage is currently centered here in the Bay Area, and its success couldn’t be more urgent for workers like John Jones III.
Jones, 40, is a licensed aircraft mechanic but works as a Burger King security guard in downtown Oakland, making $10 an hour — $1 more than California’s minimum wage. His life is a series of financial challenges and daily indignities as he struggles to support his wife D’Nita, his 12-year-old son Kai and his newborn boy, Josiah.
To take a shower in his apartment, Jones has to use pliers to turn on the water because the knobs are broken. He can’t complain to his landlord because he’s behind on the rent. When his family runs out of toilet paper, Jones cuts paper towels into quarters to save a few bucks. He covers the windows in his bedroom with blankets because he can’t afford curtains.
“You don’t know what the hell you sayin’,” the red-eyed man blurted. He came off his barstool too fast, knocking it over as he did so. Drunk, he teetered over to Hank Dixon, who’d turned on his stool toward him but remained sitting.
“Best slow your roll, Al,” the one-handed bartender Pierre Gaston said languidly. He took hold of an empty glass between the pincers of his prosthesis. Behind him and above the bottles on a flat screen TV, played a near mute newscast about a truckers’ job action at the port.
“Oh, I’m’a slow somethin’,” Al Griffiths sneered, ignoring the advice. He stood close to the stockier Dixon; Griffiths’ beer and vodka chasers a heavy aroma in the other man’s nose. “You didn’t go around with Juanita. She wouldn’t have had anything to do with you, toilet seat fixer.”
Dixon squinted at his accuser as he sipped on his beer.
The latest sign that the nation’s 14-year romance with the for-profit cyber charter industry might be cooling came last week when the Board of Trustees for Pennsylvania’s scandal-plagued Agora Cyber Charter School discussed completely severing its relationship with K12 Inc., the nation’s largest for-profit cyber charter management and curriculum supplier.
The action came nearly three weeks after an August 5 vote by Agora’s board to not renew its management contract with the online learning giant beginning with the 2015-16 school year.
Agora had been the jewel of K12’s 29-state network of virtual charters, accounting for 14 percent of the company’s annual revenues of $848.2 million. So when news of the August 5 decision came to light during an August 14 K12 Fourth Quarter investor conference call, it sent K12’s high-performing stock into a nearly 13-point tailspin. The call-in’s moment of revelation can be heard here:
A consumer-rights bill that would require upholstered-furniture manufacturers to clearly disclose whether furniture sold in California contains flame-retardant chemicals recently received a huge boost when furniture manufacturers dropped their opposition to the measure and decided to support it. Senate Bill 1019, which is backed by firefighters, environmentalists and consumer protection advocates, is being bitterly fought by the chemical industry, whose campaign against regulation and clear public disclosure of flame-retardant chemicals is reminiscent of Big Tobacco’s fight against government controls.
The furniture makers, however, switched sides after state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) agreed to an amendment clarifying the definition of flame retardants.
“AHFA [the American Home Furnishings Alliance] and principal members of the furniture coalitions withdraw our opposition of the bill pursuant to the inclusion of the amendments agreed upon to define flame retardant chemicals and offer this letter of support for S1019,” Bill Perdue, AHFA’s vice president for regulatory affairs,
Whether California consumers will continue to enjoy the convenience — and suffer the environmental guilt — of toting their groceries in free, disposable plastic shopping bags may be decided on Thursday.
That’s when Senate Bill 270, the latest version of a statewide measure that would phase out single-use plastic bags in California’s grocery and convenience stores, pharmacies and liquor stores, comes up for a full floor vote in the state Assembly. The bill, which also mandates a 10-cent charge for paper bags, was introduced in February by state Senators Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach).
If it survives Thursday’s Assembly vote and is signed by the governor, it will make California the first state in the nation to adopt a ban even as it replaces 86 local bag ban ordinances covering more than 115 cities and counties — including San Francisco,
As Sacramento shifts into its August overdrive this week, three key health care reforms have been attracting fierce lobbying attacks by business interests and the hospital and health insurance industries, to keep them from advancing out of the Senate Appropriations Committee for floor votes. August 31 is the deadline for the full Assembly and state Senate to pass any bills destined for the governor’s desk.
AB 1522, known unofficially as the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act, was introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) with the support of the California Labor Federation. It would make California, after Connecticut, the second state to require employers to provide paid sick leave for all of its workers. (The California Labor Federation is a financial supporter of Capital & Main.)
AB 503, the proposed hospital charity care law, introduced by Assemblymen Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) and Rob Bonta (D-Oakland),
One night last year, as the public debate about economic inequality began to sharpen, California State Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) was walking to the Berkeley premiere of a documentary film focused on that very subject. Inequality for All, narrated by former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, had been executive-produced by the man DeSaulnier was walking with that evening, Stephen M. Silberstein. At the time, DeSaulnier was casting about for ways to attack economic inequality and during their walk Silberstein, a software entrepreneur and philanthropist, mentioned an idea he’d been working on to help tackle the problem.
Until the 1980s, corporate CEOs were paid 30 times the amount the average worker received, but today, according to some conservative estimates, they make about 330 times that. What if, Silberstein proposed, state corporate taxes were tied to a company’s annual CEO compensation relative to its employees’ wages? DeSaulnier liked what he heard and so,
It might surprise many to learn that business people all over America have joined the fight against economic inequality. Here are 10 notable, wealthy individuals who have advocated for ending tax cuts on the rich and increasing programs for the poor:
Jon Coupal is nothing if not blunt when he describes one motive behind a Ventura County ballot measure that would replace the “defined benefit” pensions currently enjoyed by county employees and replace them with 401(k)-type plans for all future hires.
“This is meant to be a template for other counties,” Coupal tells Capital & Main. By that, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association’s president means the measure’s conservative and libertarian backers see the “Sustainable Retirement System Initiative” as the newest and most promising weapon in their assault on California’s public employee retirement plans. Having failed to place similar measures on state ballots in 2012 and 2014, a coalition of wealthy individuals, anti-tax activists and government privatizers has seized on an aspect of California law that allows 20 counties to fashion their own public employee retirement policies apart from the CalPERS system that administers such policies for nearly all of the state’s remaining 38 counties.
When Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu struck down the tenure rights of the state’s public school teachers last month in Vergara v. California, his decision was hailed by Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., lead attorney for the plaintiffs, as “a terrific, wonderful day for California students and for the California education system.”
The lawsuit, which had been brought on behalf of nine California schoolchildren, argued that the retention of “grossly ineffective” teachers through five due-process statutes violated the students’ civil rights.
The suit and its accompanying public relations blitz had been bought and paid for by Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch under the umbrella of Students Matter, Welch’s personal Menlo Park education reform nonprofit. Welch made his fortune designing large-capacity fiber optic transmission systems for the global service-provider market.
The City Breathing
Consider three a.m. when the city begins
to breathe without labor, its inky exhalations
unfolding around the custodians of night:
doorman, trash picker, street sweep,
caretaker, cook. The woman making a bed
from slatted bench, the man rattling iron grates
to summon the comfort of echoes.
A bus driver carves a path up Broadway,
carries his fragile cargo away from
the city center where these guardians tend
its injuries while we sleep.
Let them be cloaked in the phosphor
of a falling star. Let them be warmed by
the breath of a world made new.
Source: First published, in slightly different form, as part of Terry Wolverton/Writers at Work “Common Prayers” Poetry Postcards Project, supported by a grant from the City of Los Angeles.
Candace Pearson’s “Hour of Unfolding” won the 2010 Liam Rector First Book Prize for Poetry from Longwood University.
For years firefighters and environmentalists have warned of the dangers from upholstered furniture treated with flame-retardant chemicals that are linked to cancer, decreased fertility, hormone disruption and lower IQ development. Although state safety regulations allow the use of flame retardants, they are not required — the choice is left to manufacturers. Today Californians wishing to buy a sofa or easy chair free of toxic chemicals are in for a surprise when they try to get information in stores about the presence or absence of flame retardants. An informal survey of West Los Angeles furniture showrooms recently encountered these scenes:
Trouble Down the Road
At the flat top grill, he was all business,
flung raw eggs dead center into the corned beef
hash like a strapping southpaw.
In the alley, with me, he was all ideas.
Said he’d be leaving soon, had a shot back east—
a tryout for the big leagues.
Said his sister would loan him a Buick convertible,
and he’d fill it with malt beer and tuna.
All he needed was a woman to hold
his cat while he drove.
I like animals, I told him. Then I dropped
my cigarette into the dusty clay,
ground it out, slow,
felt the road under my foot.
Source: Luvina, Issue 57 (December 2009).
Cece Peri’s poems have appeared in journals and magazines, including Luvina: Writers of Los Angeles Issue (University of Guadalajara),
Every year Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center releases a glossy brochure called Report to the Community. Among the doctor profiles and research-breakthrough stories are several dry metrics dealing with the number of beds, total patient and outpatient days and, perhaps most impressively, the year’s dollar value for something called “community benefit contributions.”
Cedars, which is the state’s third highest-earning nonprofit hospital, claimed $640.3 million as its 2012 community benefit contribution.
This number turns out to be the real point of the report. Because under state law all not-for-profit hospitals must justify their continuing tax exemption as charitable institutions by demonstrating that they are providing a community benefit — free charity care to indigent patients and what California calls “activities that are intended to address community needs and priorities primarily through disease prevention and improvement of health status.”
Whether Cedars and California’s other nonprofit hospitals have been living up to that charitable obligation is a question that Assembly Bill 503,
(They drive our trains and buses, teach our children, repair our roads and protect our safety. Public employees perform these and countless other jobs, although they remain mostly off the radar of the public they serve. Our Common Ground series takes us into the lives of these men and women.)
In a large lecture hall in the Biological Sciences Building of Cal State L.A., a student in the introductory anthropology class raised his hand to inquire as to whether or not female chimpanzees demonstrated the same sexual behaviors with each other that males did. “Not that it matters…” he remarked sheepishly. His question elicited giggles across the room while Dr. Jessica Bodoh-Creed shook her head knowledgably, visibly pleased with engagement of her students as she pointed out some key differences in male and female chimp behavior. With captivating energy, Dr. Bodoh-Creed continued her lecture on the behavioral patterns of chimpanzees with anecdotes and media to maintain active listening among her one hundred and forty students.
Read the Writing
Read the writing on the cinder block wall:
Joker, Jasper, Dopey, Termite, Tokes, Crow.
It’s not an “is it art?” debate, at all;
these are the monochromatic zip codes
of my gangster, tattooed, sharp-creased cousins.
Scribbled in black on a bus bench, strangled
names crossed out, over names crossed out again,
red under yellow under green tangled
like wire. Memo, Cowboy, Flyboy, Topper.
Neil Armstrong planted a flag on the moon;
it can’t be seen from their clearly marked world
where, if you don’t live there, you better run.
Tight fence of paint, like barbed wire that’s hidden.
Trespassed borders end lives, I’m not kidding.
Source: My Name on Top of Yours (2013),
Last April, when Federico Lopez and his sanitation team were ordered to clean a Taylor Farms storage area, the 23-year-old didn’t like what he saw.
“I went into the hallway that they expected me to clean,” Lopez remembers. “There was pigeon feces, dead pigeons, dead bats and black mold. I’m certified for that, but the rest of my coworkers weren’t.” The crew had only been given dust masks for the job by the temporary labor contractor who employed them.
When Lopez raised concerns about the cleanup, he says Taylor Farms, which is the world’s largest producer of cut vegetables and salads, assured him everything was fine and not to bother with the mess. He says that later that evening, an equally unequipped and untrained night crew cleaned the room. Shortly after, Lopez was given his notice after only three weeks on the job.
This month Assemblyman Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina) heard Lopez’s and other stories in the Central Valley town of Tracy from about 200 mostly Latino Tracy Farms workers and family members.