Capital & Main’s Latest News Section.
A few years ago the nonprofit, nonpartisan Los Angeles Economic Roundtable released a study that got too little attention. It found that union workers in the county earn 27 percent more than nonunion workers in the same jobs. These extra wages for the 800,000 union workers—17 percent of the labor force—added $7.2 billion a year in pay. As union workers spent their wages on food, clothing and other items, their additional buying power created 64,800 jobs and $11 billion in economic output. Let me repeat: $11 billion.
Clearly unions are good for the economy. But to hear business propaganda tell it, that 11 billion is the 11th Plague, because anything that moves the country away from an imaginary, 19th-century Utopia where business held all the cards, is to be avoided — like the plague.
This winner-take-all crowd should be happy because, in many ways, America today does resemble its Gilded Age of the late 1800s —
Corporations are forever arguing that all that stands between consumers and paradise is the “lousy gummint” and its lousy regulations. “Get out of the way!” is their rallying cry. Well, we had a bit of a natural experiment this past summer, as Congress forced a shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration. (As it happens, the shutdown sprang, in part, from anti-union ideological reasons, but that’s a whole other story.)
In addition to furloughing some 4,000 FAA employees and idling tens of thousands of construction workers, the shutdown deprived the government of an estimated $30 million in ticket taxes—every day.
Some might argue that the government needs that revenue. But let’s focus on the positive: Without the taxes, ticket prices are lower for consumers, and that’s a good thing, right? Awwww, you’re adorable. A couple of airlines did pass the savings on to travelers, but according to a travel agent I spoke with (yes,
The Los Angeles Times recently carried a report on one of its polls, the key finding of which was that the electorate is unwilling to compromise.
This article was dripping with contempt for voters, who apparently prefer things like “party orthodoxy,” want to “stick to their guns,” are “hardline” and “putting their priorities above compromise.” Their “concede nothing mentality” makes it hard for either side to “come out of its ideological corner.”
The evidence for these central findings is largely from one question (No. 59), asked only of Democrats: Would they’d prefer that Obama “compromise more with Republicans” or “stand up to Republicans”?
According to the pollster’s analysis, 60 percent of Dems want Obama to stand up, while only 33 percent want him to compromise. The problem is how the analyst got there. Voters had four choices: Compromise “somewhat or much,” and “stand-up somewhat or much;” the poll analysis aggregates the “somewhat” and “much” options to get its “total standup” versus “total compromise” result.
We were met at the Hyatt Andaz loading dock with a big sign that said, Welcome Back, Andaz Employees. I crept into the entrance, a nervous wreck, still uncertain if I had been fired or replaced, but I was soon relieved to find that everyone had been let back in. We were greeted with forced smiles and boxes of multi-colored donuts.
Union members refer to each other as brothers and sisters. It may seem cultish at first, but after my experience with a seven-day strike at the Hyatt Andaz last week, it makes perfect sense. There is nothing that bonds people like walking off a job together, protesting their employer and taking no pay for a week, all in hopes of getting a better situation. We made a financial sacrifice and some of us, including myself, are pondering the first of the month with certain dread.
There is a general sense of uneasiness,
[dc]J[/dc]ohn Densmore has been famous for longer than many of us have been alive. The drummer with the seminal 1960s L.A. band The Doors, Densmore parlayed his early success into a long career – not just as a musician but as a writer, actor, dancer, producer and social activist. He’s a native Angeleno (his childhood home is now an onramp where the 405 meets the 10) who cares deeply about his city and is clearly disturbed by the country’s right-ward turn
Densmore chatted recently with The Frying Pan about politics, Jim Morrison’s legacy and the subject of his upcoming book – greed.
Okay, let’s start with a rant.
I’ve been thinking about how the eight years of the Bush era brought us back towards feudalism – we’ve been feuding a lot. And of course the gap between the rich and poor is the worst in our history and the middle class is the glue between the upper class and the working class,
Ed Padgett works as a pressman at the L.A. Times’ Olympic Boulevard printing plant – a third-generation employee who has been with the paper 39 years. He currently blogs at his site, Los Angeles Pressmens 20 Year Club. Padgett began posting messages in 1990, before the advent of the Internet, because, he says, “I was getting a bit bored.” His tedium vanished in 2008 when, after press operators voted to join the Teamsters (the first union shop on Times property since 1967), Times managers began, he said, continual attempts to fire union members on a variety of workplace rule infringements.
What’s happening at the Times these days?
They’re expecting a really bad fourth quarter. The senior vice president told us we’ve got three years more of printing the hard copy Times before they shut it down.
I’ve been an electrician since 1999. I’ve worked on many kinds of jobs, the most rewarding being a few schools I helped build from the ground up. But those jobs are rare these days. These are the toughest times I’ve seen, and it doesn’t look like it’s about to let up.
The recession has hit construction so hard we can hardly believe it. In the last few years, I’ve only worked about four months out of the year. I’m on the list at the union hall. There used to be enough work to keep most of us busy, but now when a job opens up there are about 80 people on the books ready to take it. I think I’m number 82, so I’m not expecting a project to come through for quite a while.
Four months a year isn’t enough to get by on.
You hear a lot of talk about measuring student performance in public schools, but it’s a little known fact that schools themselves are also graded for their performance, when their infrastructures score well on operating costs and the efficient use of resources. At the top of this honor roll are high performance facilities known as “green schools,” which are built or renovated in ways that protect the environment, improve the health of students and educators — and save money over the long run.
Upgrading schools can also create new jobs, which we need now. According to 2008 Congressional testimony, a pair of state bond cycles that spent $10 billion on California school construction generated more than 175,000 jobs — and created an additional $20 billion of economic activity in their wake. That same testimony cited similar economic spikes, suggesting that long-term benefits are a virtual given for school infrastructure investments.
When I woke up this September 11 I turned on MSNBC. It was replaying the news coverage that took place that day 10 years before. I found myself glued to the TV once again. I felt sad not only for the innocent lives lost in 2001 but also for what followed. The wars, the death of innocent civilians, the torture and the greed for oil sent our country down a very ugly path. We have been trying to find our way back ever since. Today we have to live with the impact of 9/11, but we also have to deal with the impact of reckless financial practices fueled by greed that has resulted in the Great Recession.
Most would agree that our country will never be the same as a result of what happened on 9/11. Yet it can also be argued that the current recession will equally alter “the American way of life” forever.
On the alternate Earth where some pundits live, the worst thing to ever befall Americans during the Great Depression was the New Deal. To them, federal recovery programs were wasteful extravagances that straight-jacketed men of wealth from creating jobs while inventing a nation of loafers. Some revisionist historians have even suggested that the Depression wasn’t as bad as people say it was – at least not Grapes of Wrath bad. These Depression deniers and the fairy tales they spread on talk radio and in blogs help explain why today’s political wilderness rings with the sound of falling axes as Congress merrily chops down the social programs that protect the poor, unemployed and injured.
Men and women grow old and die, but there are documents, both large and small, that loudly declare these new interpretations of the Depression to be the myths they are. One of the small but forceful records is White Collar,
Imagine your neighbor, your neighbor’s neighbor and their neighbor . . . plus the most disgusting fast-food joint you can envision (Grade C in the window), the nearest gas station, the local pet store and an auto repair shop to boot.
Now, imagine all their trash coming at you on an endless conveyor belt – faster than chocolates on I Love Lucy .
Your job: to dig in and pull out the recyclables.
Thousands of workers, often immigrant Latinas, do this all day, every day, at material recovery facilities (MRFs) across Southern California. Many of these MRFs are grim, post-apocalyptic jalopy buildings that would have been perfect as sets for Blade Runner.
The workers are called “sorters,” and they’re at the front line of a shadow industry that desperately needs to be reigned in. They sort and sort and sort .
Remember August’s “Tower Guy” story? I happened to be working at the computer that night, when I heard my wife gasp from the other room, where she was watching the evening news. “Get in here,” she called, “some guy is having a Howard Beale moment!”
Turns out that she was watching KTLA, where police had just arrested someone for climbing Channel 5’s steel tower on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood—apparently he got some 30 feet into the air before the cops got him down. Was this some sort of crazy stunt by a thrill-seeker? An attempted suicide? A promo for some new reality show? Who could know? After all, the blurb in the L.A. Times was content to conclude that “it was unclear why he began traversing the metal tower.”
Of course, the dominant narrative is that the guy must be nuts. The cops sent a Mental Evaluation Unit.
Today’s uncertainty is tomorrow’s unemployment. At least that’s the way it seems to most of us who are teens and young adults. And so far, no one’s told us different.
We are growing anxious. The job market is down. College tuition is up. More and more, it feels as though the deck is stacked against us, with government busy looking out for the unemployed of the present, neglecting the unemployed of the future, and the private sector ignoring the unemployed all together.
Beyond that, we face a decision that seems to be lose-lose. If we graduate high school — which, believe me, many of us do not — we have the choice to go to college (if we can get in) or start hunting for work (if we can get an interview). The former situation guarantees us hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt over our next few decades.
I am an 84-year-old social activist – a calling that began in Pittsburgh, where I was recruited in 1942 at the age of 15 (69 years ago — oy) to organize an attempt to buy Jews out of Nazi Europe. That experience gave some focus to a world gone mad and, I believe, saved my adolescence. (And we had fun!) I have never since left “the fold” — who would I be if activism were not an important part of my identity?
Lately, though, I’ve been considering a new persona as I transition into my precious remaining years, asking myself, What? and Who? and How? This is where the Frying Pan comes in – by inviting me to post my thoughts about my plans here. Will these be more of the same? (And I do mean “same.” How many times can I gather up the passion and energy to work for peace,
My name is James and I’m a registered lobbyist. It’s been 24 hours since I last lobbied.
I don’t especially mind being designated a lobbyist, and on occasion I’ll even introduce myself that way. Even still, the moniker feels a bit strange. After all, I don’t meet anyone’s standard definition of a lobbyist — a paid flack for various and sundry rich interests.
For this reason, I’ve long resented having to register, but recently I started wondering why we ask even the real lobbyists (i.e. the paid flacks) to register.
The City of Los Angeles requires that anyone who speaks to city officials advocating for something for 30 hours within any three month period must register. Currently, there are 350 lobbyists registered with the City, just over 23 for each council office. Together, these 350 work for 157 lobbying firms (including my nonprofit, the L.A. Alliance for a New Economy),
I’m a professional green jobs advocate. On my way out the door every day, I tell whoever will listen that I’m going to work to stop global warming and create thousands of jobs. So what are green jobs?
Since it’s a matter that very much concerns the next generation, I asked a young representative that I found sitting on my couch watching pre-season football.
Even with this important distraction, my 11-year-old son managed: “It’s a job that helps the environment.”
Okay. But what are some examples?
“I don’t know,” said the rep. “Planting trees? Maintaining solar panels?”
That’s more information than the Bureau of Labor Statistics has to offer, although it is reportedly working on coming up with a green jobs measurement. In the meantime, the Brookings Institute released a study that undertook the task of counting green economy jobs. They identified 2.7 million workers nationally in sectors they determined to be green: waste management and treatment,
Last May, at a public meeting the National Park Service held in Oxnard to gather stories about the farmworkers movement, a man in his 50s came up to Martha Crusius. He told her about a rally he’d attended with his parents, migrant workers from Mexico, back in the 1960s.
“He was a little kid back then, and he really didn’t understand it,” Crusius says. “But he remembered that there was this small, soft-spoken Mexican guy leading the rally, and he was someone people really looked up to.” While listening to others testify at the meeting, he realized what he’d witnessed. “That man,” he told Crusius, “was Cesar Chavez.”
Crusius is director of the National Park Service’s Cesar Chavez Special Resource Study, an effort to curate and preserve the legacy of the iconic civil rights leader and United Farm Workers co-founder for future generations. It’s an effort that fits neatly,
I used to love Amazon.com. After a book group meeting I’d run home and order a used copy of the next book we were reading, sometimes paying only $1.00 (plus shipping) for a “lightly worn” paperback. I even bought a CD player and cordless phones from the online retailer. Amazon introduced me to online shopping and I thought I’d never have to enter a mall again in my life.
But this summer Amazon threatened to declare war on the great (and economically struggling) state of California, and I’m pissed off. By refusing to collect California sales taxes on purchases from our state, Amazon wanted to be a freeloader of local government services while it rakes in millions of dollars from California residents.
Where would Amazon.com be if the state and local governments didn’t maintain the streets and highways that UPS and U.S. Postal Service trucks drive on to deliver those little Amazon cardboard packages?