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I’ve recently found myself fascinated (and a little obsessed) with the lives of three superstar women who aren’t afraid to expose their weaknesses to a world that is only familiar with their strengths.
Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda were each interviewed on TV in the same week that a DVD arrived from Netflix, Eleanor Roosevelt—An American Experience.
Of the many traits they have in common, the one that struck my interest was that they each developed such a late-career sense of self-esteem. Each acknowledged that she didn’t come into her personal comfort zones until she was in her 70s.
“Me too,” I kept mumbling, “me too.,”
Now in my 80s, I am convinced that these may be the most fulfilling years for some of us.
Each of these remarkable women speak about childhood wounds.
A couple of weeks ago, at a community meeting with other members of the Alliance for Healthy and Responsible Grocery Stores, I got to hear some testimony about working conditions at Walmart from a group of women who work at the retail giant’s stores around Los Angeles County. Our alliance is dedicated to making sure that grocery stores have the best impact they can on our city. After Walmart’s announcement that they were expanding into urban markets with smaller-scale grocery stores, we invited some workers to tell us about life as Walmart “Associates.” I will respect their anonymity here, so as not to cause them problems on the job.
I didn’t expect to hear much that was shocking, but what I heard that day threw me for a loop. I couldn’t stop talking about it to my wife when I got home.
As someone who works on food justice and economic issues,
I recently received an invitation to my 10-year high school reunion, and let’s just say I have absolutely no intention of going. First of all, every day on Facebook is a high school reunion. But second, for me, as well as many others, high school was brutal. And for anyone who forgets that and is filled with a silly nostalgia for yesteryear, I encourage a viewing of the movie Heathers or even a recent episode of Glee – both of which are full of popularity contests, cliques, and the compulsion to “look good” at all costs. After high school, everyone tells you that the days of “trying to fit in” and being “cool” are over.
“The real world,” they say, “is about succeeding at college, getting a career, etc., and has nothing to do with being the captain of the football team.” But after my 10 years in this so-called “real world,”
I’ll call him Alex. We work together at the RH restaurant at the Hyatt Andaz hotel on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. We are uneasy around each other now, since the strike. He chose one side. I chose another.
For the better part of a week in September, I watched him from outside the window. I held my Unite Here picket sign and wailed on the drum as he poured drinks for distraught customers. My blood boiled when I found out he crossed the picket line, and I’m sure he wasn’t happy that I was at least partially responsible for his lack of business in the restaurant. We made uncomfortable eye contact through the window far too many times.
Going on a strike and living its aftermath are like going through a divorce, where the children are told to pick a side. Some of us journey all the way through with one parent,
It’s been a while since the postman rang twice, but he won’t even be ringing once on Saturdays, if new proposals to downsize the U.S. Postal Service go into effect. Like so many of the economic wars being waged today, the attack against the post office doesn’t make financial sense. The USPS is immensely profitable and it is not a department of the federal government, nor are its operations paid for with tax money. It also remains one of the most efficient and popular services — putting a movie DVD in your mailbox may have been Netflix’s neat idea, but that company isn’t the outfit whose employees deliver those movies to your home.
And yet closing down the post office and parceling out its services (or at least, the profitable ones) to private companies occupies a special place in the ether dreams of anti-government radicals and free-market privateers.
“We’re off-budget,” Larry Brown recently told the Frying Pan,
Just about every day we hear about how consumer spending is the main driver of the economy. If only we’d spend more money, we could get the economy back on track. (Of course, this is overly simplistic, and fails to account for any number of factors, not least being the continued drag of housing on the economy, as well as the mountains of cash that businesses are sitting on as they fail to hire workers.)
So I’m doing my part—in fact more than my part.
You see, in a few days, I’m getting married. I never would have imagined the amount of money that my wedding is plowing into our local economy: thousands of dollars to a caterer, a bartending service, an equipment rental outfit, a DJ. We’re renting a municipally-owned venue, so the City should be getting a taste,
There’s something eerily Orwellian about the recent blog post, by L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce president Gary Toebben, entitled “L.A. Should Vote Down New Bureaucracy to Regulate Banks.” Mr. Toebben claims that a proposed new city ordinance that would reward banks that act responsibly toward L.A. consumers with the city’s deposits is “overly burdensome” and an “unnecessary regulation.” This is because, Mr. Toebben argues, “the federal government oversees a heavily regulated banking industry” — implying that businesses like banks and other job creators need to be left free to make lots of money, create lots of jobs so that the benefits can trickle down to everyone else.
The banking industry in the United States is “heavily regulated?” Really? Did the L.A. chamber somehow miss the great recession of 2008? You know, that one where the under-regulated banks got into so much trouble that we had to spend more than $700 billion in taxpayer money to bail them out?
We know Los Angeles is in dire need of both jobs and a transportation system that works. Recently, the Metro Board of Directors took action by moving forward on a sweeping, agency-wide Construction Careers Policy covering Metro construction projects for the next 30 years, including projects funded under Measure R, the half-cent sales tax.
The vote at Metro was preceded by more than a year of hard work by LAANE, the L.A./O.C. Building Trades Council, and a coalition of community, environmental, labor, and transportation advocates – all united to make sure that our tax dollars are used to make Los Angeles a working, greener city. This policy brings together the taxpayers’ wishes for better public transportation and our critical need to get Americans back to work.
Anthony Mitchell, an electrician and single father of two whose family is facing foreclosure, attended the vote.
As reported in a leading New York business paper, “the National Taxi Workers Alliance, which is not formally a union, is the first non-traditional labor organization to join the AFL-CIO since a farm workers group was chartered in the early 1960s.” This is exciting news for a few reasons: first, because it illustrates that labor leaders are thinking more creatively about how to reach hard-to-reach workers, and also because it shows how those organic worker organizations are getting formal institutional support. This is a good thing for both sides.
Beyond this, as the AFL-CIO blog entry describes, these are marginalized workers, workers who have historically been deprived of their legal rights because they have been misclassified as independent contractors. This is a problem we have seen again and again, and which we have visited before on the Frying Pan. As employers continue to push the envelope with these legal shenanigans,
What would cause 13 mostly 30- and 40-something electricians to come up with an event like the “Solidarity Sleepover” at Occupy LA? It all started with a text message. Howard Brown, adventurer, electrician and Occupy LA supporter wrote me, “would like 2 c mas union presence.” I had not been down to Occupy LA and before I put my name near it, I needed to do some recon to check it out. I had heard that it was this leaderless movement that really had no strong positions on anything because they could not get a consensus from the group. Being a lifelong Democrat, that sounded vaguely familiar. So down to City Hall I went with my good friend Gary in tow. I figured I needed some backup in case somebody tried to put a red Che Guevara beret on me when I wasn’t looking.
What Gary and I found instead were really cool,
I am particularly fond of Kenny Rogers’ song “The Gambler.” At a recent hearing for the Los Angeles City Council Ad Hoc Committee on Waste Reduction and Recycling, I kept thinking about this song as I heard many business groups and trade associations lobby against true reform of L.A.’s waste collection system.
The debate stems from how the City of L.A. should reform its system for dealing with waste at businesses and large apartment buildings. On one end, you have the Don’t Waste L.A. coalition, to which I belong through the Natural Resources Defense Council. It is a broad coalition of environmental, community, faith-based, economic justice and labor groups, advocating for a comprehensive solution to dealing with L.A.’s waste woes, instead of kicking the can down the road. You can read more about the coalition’s positions here and here. On the other hand, some business lobbying groups and trade associations are advocating for a system that keeps the status quo in place.
The great journalist Lincoln Steffens visited the USSR shortly after the Russian Revolution and infamously declared that he had “seen the future and it works.” My wife Mickey and I recently returned from a touristic trip to Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Most of our time was spent in typically touristic ways, but inescapably (and with help from our excellent tour guides) we got a taste of policy and politics in the current Scandinavian way. What we learned makes me want to say that we saw one future that seems to be working.
Norway is still responding to the horrifying July 22 terrorist massacre—but Norwegians are likely to say, as did Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg: “You will not destroy our democracy or our commitment to a better world. We are a small but proud nation . . . but no one will ever frighten us away from being Norway . . . the answer to violence is even more democracy,
The L.A. Times had two interesting pieces on college football this last season. The second (don’t worry, I’ll get to the first), is an editorial calling on the NCAA to reform the sport by improving conditions for the so-called amateurs who generate millions of dollars every Saturday.
The piece calls for some sensible and straight-forward steps, largely echoing the basic demands of the National College Players Association, a project sponsored by the United Steelworkers.
Its heart, however, comes from a fantastic piece in The Atlantic by Taylor Branch, best known for his trilogy of books about the civil rights movement; if you haven’t read them, your life is incomplete. That gives him a certain moral authority in describing what he calls “The Shame of College Sports.” Go read this piece. It’s long, but worth it.
Okay, it’s long,
After visiting a few times, I decided to go for broke and join the occupation to see it all first hand. It was very interesting to entertain the misconceptions people might have about this movement. Some may think it’s populated by arrogant 20-somethings looking for attention and a party atmosphere with leftovers from Burning Man and Coachella attendees. Some may think it’s a few leftist apologists and homeless people intermingling uncomfortably. Some may think it’s a breeding ground for anti-American anarchists and communists plotting the takedown of our infrastructure. Others think it’s just a passing fad like pointy shoes and Bedazzler jackets.
I had some of these misconceptions myself. I didn’t know what to expect, but I had to reject these doubts before I could really see what was taking place. I visited during a Demands Committee meeting and the General Assembly, the nightly gathering for decision-making, to get a better reading of what was taking place.
Confession time: I went to Arizona. Mea Culpa. I know I signed a pledge that I wouldn’t go there because of their anti-immigration laws, but then I got a call from my cousin asking us to join a family reunion in the mountains above Phoenix, so we went.
My wife Susan and I took the long way. We went through Flagstaff. Several years ago when we regularly drove to a retreat center in northern New Mexico, we discovered the cheap motels east of downtown, along old Route 66, across the road from train tracks that run 50 – 60 trains a day out of L.A. to the Midwest and back.
So we retraced our steps in Flagstaff and looked for one of our old motels. Except that when found, they looked worse for the wear. We tried to check into one but the manager just laughed at us, and handed us a key to look things over.
What’s fueling the ire behind the Occupy Wall Street protests that have spread from Manhattan’s financial district to cities in every state of the country and around the world? For starters, a certain corporation that 99 percent of us bailed out received $23 billion from the government but only paid one percent of its 2008 income in taxes after raking in $2.3 billion in profit.
And a new Salon.com story by Andrew Leonard, “Employers’ New Ruse: ‘Independent Contracting,” may help expose another master scheme in which Lloyd Blankfein and Goldman Sachs’ tax-avoidance maneuvering runs amok, only this time, the industry they’re manipulating isn’t banking – it’s global shipping transportation and the tens of thousands of port truck drivers that keep our economy moving.
Salon.com tells the story of Leonardo Mejia, a truck driver for Shipper’s Transport Express, a subsidiary of the massive container terminal operator SSA Marine.
I hung up the phone and got queasy. Leigh Shelton, the press spokesperson for Local 11 had just asked me if I wanted to MC the rally after the protest at the Hotel Bel-Air on Stone Canyon Road. I’m a dues -paying member of Unite Here, the hospitality workers union, but I never thought I’d be asked to do something like this.
My natural response to doing things that scare me is to say No, and then to inform the person that I would not be the right one for the job, that indeed I might be terrible. My excuse for not wanting to do this was imbedded in a traumatic comedy club experience where I thought I would give the MC position a chance. I can still see a few heckling faces in the audience to this day.
However, Leigh convinced me that it would just involve a few talking points and introducing a few key people.
Last April, I went to visit my 25-year-old son, Armando, who lives in El Salvador. Armando – who is half Salvadoran – has been living in the capital, San Salvador, for the past two years, trying to make it as a freelance artist. When I got down there, I decided right away that I wanted to buy a car seat for cute, little three-year-old Alfonso (the son of Armando’s then-girlfriend), who was riding around in the car “freestyle” so to speak, with some pretty crazy Salvadoran drivers making me nervous.
Armando reassured me 10 ways to Sunday that he was a “careful” driver and that Salvadoran law did not require car seats for kids. Laws aside, I was determined to do the right thing and get a car seat so Alfonso could be a little safer.So began my week-long quest to find a car seat in a country where the decision to strap in your child is left to the “common sense” of the citizenry.
An apple a day and eating your peas led to good health, we once thought. Now, according to major food manufacturers, fruits and vegetables are “job killers” that will devastate the American economy.
In April of this year, the Federal Trade Commission, along with three other Federal agencies (FDA, CDC and USDA), released a set of proposed guidelines for marketing food to children to reduce sugars, fats and salts in the diets of American youth, and increase fruits, whole grains and vegetables. In 2008 Congress, led by Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Tom Harkin (D-IA), asked for these recommendations to address the nations’ growing childhood obesity crisis.
A coalition of major manufacturers of processed foods (including Fruit Loops, Lucky Charms and SpaghettiOs), fast-food chains and the media industry that depends on their advertising dollars are spending millions on lobbyists to derail the proposed voluntary guidelines.