Capital & Main’s Latest News Section.
(Note: This January 27 post by David Madland and Nick Bunker appeared on the Center for American Progress’ Action Fund blog.)
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, data released today on the union status of the American workforce in 2011 show no growth in union membership—a troubling sign as the nation debates how to strengthen the middle class. That’s because unions help strengthen the middle class by giving workers a voice in the economy and our democracy. Yet the fact that union membership didn’t significantly decline—even amid a weak economy and harsh political opposition—is a significant accomplishment and offers some hope for the future.
Overall, the BLS figures show that the union membership rate fell from 11.9 percent in 2010 to 11.8 percent in 2011, but the difference is so small that the rate effectively stayed the same.
We know it’s last-minute, but for those wishing to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a tip of the hat to labor, the folks at L.A. Labor 411 have a list of businesses you may be in need of February 14 that proudly fly the union label. The following are a representative sampling from some select categories.
Russell Stover Candy
United States Postal Service
Encounter Restaurant LAX
Musso & Frank Grill
Doubletree San Pedro
“Creative destruction” has been widely invoked again since Newt Gingrich began attacking Mitt Romney’s record at the private-equity firm, Bain Capital. Of course, the term is a perennial favorite with business writers. But in response to Gingrich’s attacks, Romney and his allies have insisted that Bain exemplifies “creative destruction,” the closely-linked glory and pain of unfettered capitalism.
“Creative destruction,” the concept, however, carries a more mixed message than many of Romney’s defenders may think. In fact, it points to deep problems that face conservatives whenever they argue that ordinary people should look past the ugly and brutal side of economic life. The phrase was first used by the Austrian economist, Joseph Schumpeter, in his 1942 book, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. It referred to a phenomenon Schumpeter had been writing about for decades, a process bound up with entrepreneurship and innovation.
Entrepreneurs, Schumpeter argued, were no ordinary businesspeople. Entrepreneurs were visionaries,
It seems inevitable that national coverage of the Occupy movement has been dying down. The sporadic stories I read are of arrests of occupiers in different cities, but I surmise that this too will eventually become old hat in the media and we will soon settle our attentions wholeheartedly on the presidential election, which in my opinion is a real shame.
I’ve grown weary of our gerrymandered elections. For a country that holds freedom of choice so dear to American life, I find it odd and disheartening that we are really only given two parties to choose from. The consumer in me gets depressed every election cycle. It’s akin to going to Ben and Jerry’s and being told that you can only have chocolate or vanilla.
My sincere hope is that this year the narrative is different. I am pinning my hopes on the Occupy movement to resurrect itself to the national news media and overshadow our fixed-choice election for the presidency.
(This post originally appeared February 8 on the author’s Switchboard blog.)
Yesterday, the Bureau of Sanitation for the City of L.A. released its recommendations for fixing the inefficiencies in L.A.’s waste system. After more than a year of careful consideration, the Bureau determined that an exclusive franchise system with 11 franchise zones for the commercial and multi-family sectors would provide the best solution to increasing recycling and minimizing the burden that waste collection imposes on L.A. residents.
As I have written before, the commercial and multi-family sectors are responsible for approximately 70 percent of the waste L.A. sends to landfills, so it is an important nut to crack to meet the City’s zero waste goals. I have written several blogs on this issue and on the benefits of going to zero waste ranging from reducing our dependence on polluting and space hogging landfills to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions to creating more jobs.
(This post first appeared as a Los Angeles Times opinion piece.)
Last week, one of the country’s oldest and largest public economic development programs came to an inglorious end when the governor and Legislature pulled the plug on California’s 400 redevelopment agencies.
So why did the governor and lawmakers end the state’s only real community revitalization program, especially at a time when there is such great need for jobs and affordable housing?
The biggest reason was the desire of local governments and the state to use the programs’ resources — about $6 billion a year statewide — to fill budget holes. But part of the fault also lies with the agencies, which never fully articulated a mission or resolved tensions between public purpose and private profit.
The purpose of redevelopment, laid out in the original law authorizing it, was to “eliminate physical blight,”
By Maria Elena Durazo and Denny Zane
(This feature first appeared on the Huffington Post.)
While Washington, D.C. has been stuck in what amounts to a partisan traffic jam on the 405 at rush hour, unresponsive and unwilling to rebuild our national economy and infrastructure, we took matters into our own hands in Los Angeles.
In November of 2008 business, labor and environmental organizations of Los Angeles County worked together to sponsor Measure R, a half-cent sales tax increase to fund transportation projects throughout the county. When voters overwhelmingly approved Measure R, they may have been looking primarily for solutions to traffic congestion and air pollution, but they succeeded in approving nearly $40 billion over 30 years to create hundreds of thousands of jobs as well as an economic stimulus for Los Angeles.
In addition, Mayor Villaraigosa is working hard to convince the federal government to create a program of low-interest financing for Measure R’s transit program to accelerate the implementation of those projects over 10 years,
It’s not known if the Tea Party will ever be identified by one color, the way our two dominant political parties are. With red and blue already taken, it’s tempting to guess that the Tea Party would embrace – well, white. In any case, it won’t be green. Consider a February 4 New York Times piece, which spells out the tireless campaign waged by the movement against any legislation tilting toward a sustainable environment. Some of the laws vehemently contested include:
The reason for Tea Party opposition to these seemingly uncontroversial undertakings is a deep suspicion of an obscure and nonbinding United Nations resolution passed in 1992.
Last week economist Manuel Pastor and I went to talk to the L.A. Times editorial board about the importance of “updating” its position on living wage policies. The week before, the Times had written an editorial in support of the MTA construction careers policy, but at the same time criticized living wage policies as part of “a long and mostly unsuccessful history of using public resources to try to engineer positive social outcomes.”
Over the years, the L.A. Times editorial board has written at least a dozen editorials criticizing the various living wage policies adopted by the city and county of Los Angeles as job killers, bad economic policy, government interference with the market and many more names.
One of the things that I have written about before is that living wage policies in Los Angeles have actually been very successful.
Seven a.m. My alarm jolts me out of a deep slumber. I make my way to the bathroom and run a hot shower. Fifteen minutes later I proceed to the kitchen to start my morning coffee, Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, to be exact. I fill my cup and open the fridge to get some milk. No milk! My morning ritual comes to a grinding halt. No relative drank it all and placed the empty container back in the fridge; I’m just incapable of keeping my fridge stocked. I consider running to the supermarket, then realize that the nearest one is a mile away. I grudgingly put on a coat and walk two blocks to the corner store. I walk past the tiny aisle of wilted lettuce and mushy tomatoes to the combination dairy-alcohol case. I groan audibly. The shop only carries gallons of whole milk for almost $5 a gallon. Thank goodness I’m only out of milk.
Mr. Frank McCourt
Los Angeles Dodgers LLC
1000 Elysian Park Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012
In my 17 years, I’ve been to over 150 Dodger games. I’ve never seen them better than in 2009, when they defended the National League West title and played the Phillies in the NLCS. You were owner then, remember? Remember Mannywood? We swept the Cardinals in the Division Series. So much promise, so much hope.
Of course, it didn’t last. The day before we played the Phillies in Game One, you and Jamie announced you were getting divorced. I never understood how you thought that was a good idea, to announce it that day. We lost to the Phillies in five games.
And the unraveling began. You fired your wife. We found out neither of you paid any income taxes from 2004-2009. You had the Dodger Dream Foundation pay your friend $400,000 in one year.
By Jennifer Medina
(Note: This feature appeared on the New York Times Web site February 1.)
CLAREMONT, Calif. — The dining hall workers had been at Pomona College for years, some even decades. For a few, it was the only job they had held since moving to the United States.
Then late last year, administrators at the college delivered letters to dozens of the longtime employees asking them to show proof of legal residency, saying that an internal review had turned up problems in their files.
Seventeen workers could not produce documents showing that they were legally able to work in the United States. So on Dec. 2, they lost their jobs.
Now, the campus is deep into a consuming debate over what it means to be a college with liberal ideals, with some students, faculty and alumni accusing the administration and the board of directors of betraying the college’s ideals.
We are the 99 percent. Well, yes we are, but not everyone among us thinks so. Lots of people think they are part of the 1 percent when they aren’t even close. According to Harper’s Index 13 percent of Americans think they are part of the1 percent, and 28 percent of “Hispanic Americans” think they are part of the 1 percent. Since these are statistical impossibilities, it makes me wonder why people don’t identify with who they are instead of who they are not.
Some people identify with the rich because they expect to be rich some day. That is why so many low-income people play the lottery. One day their ship will come in. On the other hand, many people think that if they work hard, climb the ladder and make a few clever deals, they too will be rich. Some 43 percent of Americans actually think that.
That was the unlikely message to emerge from a series of town halls that have been held around the city over the last few months hosted by RePower LA, a new citywide coalition. From East and South L.A. to the Valley and the Westside, environmentalists, business owners and young people in need of jobs have sung the praises of energy efficiency.
Why the commotion? It’s over the promise and potential of making the LADWP, the nation’s largest municipally owned utility, a leader in energy efficiency. Energy efficiency programs can keep our bills low, saving businesses and residents hundreds or thousands of dollars a year. They also provide local jobs. And they can help wean us off our reliance on dirty energy sources that pollute our air and threaten our health.
Thousands of Los Angeles residents and businesses want the LADWP to invest in a sustained manner in programs that make our homes and businesses more energy efficient and create good jobs,
Arturo de los Santos, a 46-year-old former Marine who lives in Riverside, California, doesn’t usually listen to National Public Radio, but a friend told him to pay attention to a disturbing report broadcast Monday on NPR’s “Morning Edition.” The report disclosed that Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage company, whose mission is “to expand opportunities for home-ownership,” invested billions in mortgage securities that profited when homeowners were unable to refinance.
De los Santos is one of those homeowners that Freddie Mac bet against. Sunday night he got a court summons at his door from Freddie Mac stating that the mortgage giant was going to evict him.
But he’s fighting back, pledging to get arrested rather than leave voluntarily if Riverside County sheriff’s deputies try to remove him, his wife and four children from the home they’ve lived in for almost a decade. He is part of a growing movement of Americans inspired by Occupy Wall Street to stop banks and other lenders from foreclosing on their homes.
In the summer of 1963 between high school and college I badly needed a job. A friend from my class at Hollywood High School, who thought of himself as a free thinker and was headed to Reed College, told me his dad had a position open for a secretary and, with his help, I could get hired.
Quality Collection Company was located in a grungy office building in downtown L.A. and was run by my friend’s father and uncle who pretended they were lawyers. The company purchased contracts for items sold door to door in mostly black and Latino neighborhoods in Los Angeles and attempted to collect what was owed on those contracts. Families may have signed up for a deep freezer, not realizing that expensive monthly purchases of meat were part of the deal; or found they had committed to purchasing aluminum siding they didn’t need and couldn’t afford.
My job was to send out the increasingly shrill collection notices on these contracts that included more and more bold black or red lettering and exclamation marks threatening to garnish their wages or repossess their belongings if they didn’t pay up.
About half of all U.S. container trade comes through West Coast ports. Our most important trade partners, by far, are the Asian nations. (China and Japan alone account for over half of all the stuff we import.) The West Coast ports handle the bulk of this trans-Pacific trade. And the neighboring Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach claim the lion’s share of all of this: About 40 percent of Asian imports come into the U.S. through the San Pedro Bay ports. In Southern California, we arguably sit at the single most important locus of global commerce.
And trade has largely done well for us. It is a major driver of our regional economy, swapping places every couple years with tourism as the biggest job creator. The ports generate tens of thousands of very good jobs, mainly for longshoremen. (The ports also generate many thousands of crappy jobs for truck drivers and warehouse workers,
Ed Padgett was driving in the rain to a union meeting when the L.A. Times called to tell him he was fired. The pressman, a third-generation Times employee, listened in shock last December to an HR woman’s voice explain he was being dismissed for “safety violations, dishonesty and suspicion of sabotage.”
That last charge had a bittersweet irony. Padgett had been at the paper for more than 39 years and had done everything he could to help it prosper – even as members of the corporate wrecking crew that drove the paper into bankruptcy were still counting their money.
“It was similar to jumping into an icy cold pool of water,” Padgett recalls. “I felt like crying because I’d been there so damn long, but I soon got over it.” He drove on to his meeting in La Mirada, but hasn’t been back to the Times printing plant on Olympic Boulevard to clean out his locker.
Sometimes a simple statement can provide a window onto a worldview; in this case, the arrogance of privilege.
The City of El Segundo, home to a huge Chevron refinery, is considering raising the oil giant’s taxes to help meet the demands of a growing town. Refineries around the state pay far higher taxes to their local governments than Chevron does. The proposal would bring Chevron in line with its competitors and in line with a common sense definition of fairness.
Chevron, of course, wants to hold on to its growing profits and is fighting hard against any tax increase. It is doing the same at its Richmond, California refinery. In 2011, the company asked Contra Costa County to lower its assessed property value from $1.8 billion in 2007 and $1.15 billion in 2008. Contra Costa assessed the property value at $3 billion. If an appeals board rules in Chevron’s favor,
It’s been a busy, contentious couple of weeks on the economic front. As part of an ongoing series of conversations about the economy, politics and the future of Los Angeles, Frying Pan News asked USC Professor and economist Manuel Pastor to separate the good, the bad and the ugly.
Frying Pan News: Did President Obama’s State of the Union speech reclaim his status as a progressive populist?
Manuel Pastor: It certainly seems that he has his mojo back. This speech was one of the first times he was able to frame what he is doing in a way that makes sense. One element of the speech that was important was the concept that success come from teamwork, wrapping the idea of interdependency into the national narrative. The second thing is he was very clear that concerns about inequality do not stem from people begrudging others’ economic success;