Unlike the Kelly Girls of years past, today’s temp workers are just as likely to be hired to fill blue collar jobs as office positions, with one major caveat: the new “temporary” hires who pick crops, pack vegetables or clean hotel rooms can work at those jobs for years at the same company — and with little or no advancement. And, according to recent research, that’s exactly the way some of America’s largest companies like it.
The practice has become so pervasive that California Assemblymember Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina) is pushing forward a bill, modeled on similar laws passed in Illinois and Massachusetts, intended to hold companies accountable for serious violations of workers’ rights committed by their own labor suppliers.
“As new jobs are added to the economy, employers are utilizing the subcontracted model known as ‘perma-temps’ to avoid accountability in the workplace,” Hernandez said last week.
This week we continue our series about the shaping of California’s laws and policies by Corporate Democrats. In his second article, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Gary Cohn examines how a bill does not become a law when powerful business interests lobby against it.
Jim Araby was dead asleep when his cell phone rang at 6 a.m. last June. Until then the labor activist had been enjoying an idyllic family vacation in Guerneville, on Sonoma County’s Russian River. But the number appearing on his phone told him the call was from Sacramento, suggesting bad news. The voice he now heard confirmed it.
“Can you get here?” a union colleague asked. “We need you.”
Araby, a regional director of the United Food and Commercial Workers, listened in dismay as he learned that Assembly Bill 880, which more than half a dozen community groups and unions had supported,
A bag of oranges
to be heavy
but hold one
yourself and count
cars driving by.
As she stands between
the stack of salty
peanuts and dusty
grapes, the bag
gets heavier and it
retains that heaviness
when it’s passed through
the window; and the driver,
hoisting it onto
the passenger’s seat,
thinks, this is a lot of
fruit for two dollars.
Source: “Complexities” first appeared in CQ: California State Poetry Quarterly, Winter 1986-1987; Volume 13, Number 4. It was subsequently selected as one of the poems for the 1988 SMARTS (Santa Monica Arts) Poetry on the Bus project. It also appeared as a spoken word track on Vehemence (New Alliance Records, 1993).
Bill Mohr is an associate professor in the Department of English at California State University,
“Truthfully, I’m burned out,” Wendy Kaufmyn sighs over the phone. “And frankly we’re all just really tired. We’re having a meeting next week to try and revitalize ourselves.”
Kaufmyn, a tenured engineering instructor at the embattled City College of San Francisco (CCSF) and a cofounder of the Save CCSF Coalition, is speaking about the 21-month fight for survival of California’s largest community college. The strain and weariness are evident in her quivering voice.
“I’ve been here 31 years,” she tells Capital & Main. “I love City College and I’m just heartsick at what’s going on. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Kaufmyn is not alone. Since January, when San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow issued a preliminary injunction that temporarily barred the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) from pulling CCSF’s academic accreditation, a cloud of uncertainty has hung over the 79-year-old institution and the future of its 80,000 students.
Vocation of the Chair
It longs to be the one
who holds you, keeps you
from falling, its curved legs
shapely as a bride.
The chair that would be saint.
martyr, acolyte. Your little
sins of omission and false pride
cannot sway it — the chair believes
in you. It grows taller in the dark.
Soon it will fill the room,
its cushion of praise all you need
in the crude and faithless light.
Laurel Ann Bogen is the author of 10 books of poetry and short fiction. In 2016, Red Hen Press will publish All of the Above: New and Selected Poems 1975-2015. From 1996 until 2002 she was literary curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
When Californians elected Democratic supermajorities in the state Assembly and Senate in 2012, many expected to see a new era marked by progressive policies on everything from the economy to the environment to education. While some change has come, it’s not the kind most voters envisioned when they left the polling booth two years ago.
A central reason, as Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Gary Cohn reveals in this first article of a new series, is the emergence of the Corporate Democrat, who is not a traditional moderate but an enabler of big developers, gambling concerns, insurance companies and other interests. With the continuing decline of the Republican Party in the nation’s largest state, the Corporate Democrat promises to shape California politics and policies for years to come.
Marin County is one of California’s most liberal regions and, with its iconic redwoods and stunning coastline, it is also a power center for environmental activism.
Skopje, Macedonia might seem a long way from Los Angeles, but for the 2,000 professional musicians who earn their living recording the film scores for Hollywood’s big movie studios, the Balkan capital — and the bleak future for L.A. movie musicians that it might represent — seems to be getting closer every day.
In at least one way, that future has already arrived in the form of Lionsgate’s Draft Day and the Ivan Reitman film’s nonunion score. Starring Kevin Costner, the movie tells an all-American story of a fictionalized general manager of the lowly Cleveland Browns and his efforts to save Cleveland football on NFL draft day by trading for the number one player pick.
Less all-American is the story behind the recording of Draft Day’s music, which was reportedly piped via the Internet to a Hollywood studio and the film’s composer, John Debney,
The Passionate Suitcase
I fall out of the door on my way to you, and the passionate
the old one, so many times strapped back together—
comes unstrapped. The leather ties slap at my calves like
tongues. The five silver dollars I got from my uncle for spelling
Mediterranean Sea roll along the ground. I believe the moon
I fall out of the door on my way to you one terrible night and the
passionate suitcase unhinges its mouth the way children sob. My
clothes lie in puddles at my feet. Pools of rice, pools of soft
lingerie. Which is more than the traffic of leaving; more than I’d
wanted to kneel, gather up.
I fall out of the door on my way to you with the passionate suitcase
I’ve carried so long flapping its one broken arm in the breeze.
In California, a state where nearly seven million residents admit to speaking little or no English, having access to a professional interpreter can mean the difference between life and death in hospitals. With so many Californians at daily risk, a new bill would ensure that patients with limited English proficiency receive correct medical treatment. The law, however, will come too late for Guillermo Garcia Rodriguez. In 2011, the then-45-year-old, Oceanside father of three rushed his 42-year-old wife Elizabeth, who had suffered a massive stroke, to Tri-City Medical Center where she was intubated and put on life support.
Talking to Capital & Main through an interpreter, Garcia, who like his wife, speaks no English, describes a bewildering and frightening month-long ordeal in which he could get little information from the mostly non-Spanish-speaking nurses and hospital staff.
— East Berlin
There is a pen scratching across a wall.
It is a white wall inside a white church
inches away from faces, crowds, the tumult
of history, but right now, there is only a pen,
bumping along a wall, no meaning
except the rise and fall of this nib,
a needle from an outdated gramophone,
playing each ridge and trough,
a landscape of chalk and moon.
Pireeni Sundaralingam is co-editor of Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American Poetry (University of Arkansas Press, 2010), which won both the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles National Book Award and the 2011 Northern California Book Award. Her own poetry has been published in journals such as Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner and The Progressive, anthologies by W.W. Norton, Prentice Hall and Macmillan,
An election campaign now being fought almost completely out of public view could radically alter the way California’s school children are taught. If Marshall Tuck unseats incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, the state’s public education system could become a laboratory for a movement that prizes privatization and places a high value on student test scores over traditional instruction. The contrasts between the two top contenders in the nonpartisan race could not be more dramatic – nor could the stakes for the country’s largest education system.
The 40-year-old Tuck is a Harvard Business School graduate who has worked as an investment banker for Salomon Brothers and as an executive at Model N, a revenue-management software company. He is a former president of Green Dot Public Schools, a charter school operation in Los Angeles, and later served as the first head of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools — former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s controversial education nonprofit that tried to improve 17 low-performing public schools,
The following additional conversations have been lightly edited for clarity. For full article, see A Great Divide: The Election Fight for California’s Schools.
Doesn’t the academic performance of California students have a lot to do with being near the bottom of the state on money spent per pupils?
Definitely funding has to play a role . . . but it doesn’t play the only role. I can share this from pure experience because I’ve worked in schools where we had limited funding and had better results. Also, at some schools where we actually got more funding the results didn’t necessarily translate into great success.
How do you counter arguments that Mr Torlakson has more classroom experience than you?
I’ve spent the last 12 years working directly in education, working with kids and parents, working with teachers, hiring principals, developing principals,
The nomination of Californian Ted Mitchell to the number two position at the U.S. Department of Education is the latest indication that proponents of school privatization are continuing to gain influence over the Obama administration’s education policy.
“He represents the quintessence of the privatization movement,” Diane Ravitch, an education historian and former Assistant Secretary of Education under President George H.W. Bush, tells Capital & Main. “This is a signal the Obama administration is committed to moving forward aggressively with transferring public funds to private hands.”
In education “privatization” refers to the contracting out of traditional public education services to for-profit companies or to charter schools that are set up as nonprofit organizations. In many ways, the Mitchell nomination reflects the ongoing battle being fought in Washington and in school districts across the country. It’s a battle that pits the views of teachers, their unions and community groups against a movement that is backed by wealthy philanthropists and corporations.
Marina woke me up and told me the garage next door was on fire
I got off the couch and climbed on the brick wall with the hose
I pointed the hose at the neighbor’s smoking garage
Its walls emitted white light and exploded into sheets of flame
Marina did as I said and pounded on the window of the house, but
no one seemed to be home; those neighbors never said hello
I put water on their roof, which was starting to smoke as the garage
was wholly consumed, flames thirty feet in the air and even across
thirty or forty feet of concrete the roof of the house was catching fire
I yelled at Marina to tell someone to call the fire department, which
arrived and the house was saved
Marina only six or seven,
As the Vergara v. California trial ends its fourth week, the most conspicuous absence from the plaintiffs list may be that of the man most responsible for bringing the education lawsuit — David Welch, the 52-year-old Silicon Valley entrepreneur and founder of Students Matter. His Menlo Park-based nonprofit initiated Vergara and is picking up all of the plaintiffs’ attorneys and PR fees — a bill that was running nearly $3 million even before Welch’s high-powered legal team first set foot in Los Angeles Superior Court for the trial.
Vergara was filed on behalf of nine students and seeks to erase nearly a hundred years of teacher protections from the state education code that were adopted to prevent discriminatory and capricious terminations. The suit claims that five statutes addressing teacher dismissal, seniority and tenure disproportionately harm minority students in high-poverty schools by making it too difficult to fire incompetent teachers.
was a time I would eat anything
torn from my body, as a city
recycles its bricks after trauma.
so I would eat the bitter black things,
those brittle wound stones. was a time, torn,
I’d eat anything from my body,
those yellowed bark ridges. a city
recycles gypsum after trauma.
I’d eat anything, pale crescents torn,
those Moor-less swords. after, a city
recycles. green things from my body,
those rotting gems. those sour gray things—
wasted clay. city, after trauma,
recycles its iron, those bones torn
from a city as though—a body:
those swords and bones, gypsum, gems, trauma:
a torn time recycled. a body
as a city, torn into a thing.
Source: The Black Automaton (2009), published by Fence Books.
An award-winning poet, performer and librettist,
Andrea Vidales makes $9 an hour taking care of a blind Korean War veteran and an elderly couple in their Merced County homes. Under California’s In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program, she spends about 60 hours every week bathing her clients, preparing their meals, cleaning house, paying their bills, driving them to doctors and dealing with other aspects of their medical care. She was delighted, then, when the Obama administration, through the U.S. Department of Labor, announced new regulations last September requiring in-home caregivers to be paid overtime for working more than 40 hours a week.
Her good fortune didn’t last long. On January 9, Governor Jerry Brown unveiled his proposed $155-billion budget for 2014-2015 at a press conference in Sacramento. Under the governor’s budget, Vidales and hundreds of thousands of other home health care workers would be prohibited from working more than eight hours a day, or 40 hours a week.
Last week’s announcements about 2013 earnings by California’s largest public pension funds suggest the agencies may be making significant progress in shaking off the lingering after-effects of the 2008 stock market crash.
The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) said it rode a 25 percent run-up in stock prices to post a 16.2 percent gain for its 2013 portfolio — its best showing in a decade. For its part, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) reported an impressive 19.1 percent return on its 2013 investments, led by a 28 percent return on its stock holdings.
The announcements undoubtedly came as welcome news to the roughly 1.6 million California government workers and 860,000 public school teachers represented by the systems. Ever since the 2008 global financial meltdown, their pensions have been in the crosshairs of fiscal conservatives and anti-public pension activists who wish to see the employees’
I knew him. He ran the lathe next to mine.
Perfectionist, a madman, even on overtime
Saturday night. Hum of the crowd floating
from the ball park, shouts, slamming doors
from the bar down the street, he would lean
into the lathe and make a little song
with the honing cloth, rubbing the edges,
smiling like a man asleep, dreaming.
A short guy, but fearless. At Margie’s
he would take no lip, put the mechanic big
as a Buick through a stack of crates out back
and walked away with a broken thumb
but never said a word. Marge was a loud,
dirty girl with booze breath and bad manners.
He loved her. One night late I saw them in
the kitchen dancing something like a rhumba
to the radio, dishtowels wrapped around
their heads like swamis.
Illustration by Lalo Alcaraz. (Click image twice for full size.)