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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?
I grew up on the western edge of South Central, near Century Boulevard and Van Ness Avenue. My block was full of local government workers—sanitation, probation, school district. I don’t know if the private-sector folks were unionized, but their wages were competitive enough to allow them to buy houses in the area, a scenario made possible by the standards set by unions that, from my perspective, were becoming mainstream. Part of that standard was hiring blacks as a matter of course.
It hardly needs to be said that today’s focused attack by the Right on unions all over the country is an attack on the working and middle classes. Public employee unions are the big target now because the private sector unions have frankly become too puny over the last generation to pose much of a threat any more to the corporate powers that be, which have expanded as rapidly—more rapidly, actually– as unions have dwindled.
The right-wing has never been happy with the National Labor Relations Board’s mission of safeguarding employees’ rights. But in the past year, there has been a full-scale attack on this commitment, in the wake of NLRB decisions to charge Boeing with unfair labor practices and its rulings in other key cases. The Senate has refused to confirm new members to the board, forcing the President to make recess appointments to keep it functioning. Now the attack on the NLRB has reached a fever pitch, as the powerful Club for Growth has made defunding the board a “key vote” test for lawmakers.
[caption id="attachment_487" align="alignnone" width="525" caption="Photo: RKO Pictures"][/caption]
As some folks know, the City of Los Angeles’ Bureau of Sanitation and Board of Public Works have been holding a series of stakeholder meetings about raising the bar for how our city picks up and handles waste at businesses and apartment complexes. As of now, we have what’s called a permit system – and, despite the city’s Herculean efforts, it’s a free-for-all. Basically, private waste hauling companies pick up trash on overlapping truck routes – jumping over one another in every corner of the city for individual accounts.
In general – whether we’re talking about job standards, air quality standards, or recycling standards – we’ve got a race to the bottom. For now, though, let’s talk about truck routes. We’ve got neighborhood blocks – particularly in communities with a high proportion of renters– with five or six different companies picking up trash at adjacent buildings. That means emissions,
“[T]he ruling elite […] have created societal institutions that have subdued young Americans and broken their spirit of resistance to domination.” So claimed psychologist Bruce E. Levine in his article “8 Reasons Young Americans Don’t Fight Back,” which appeared on AlterNet last July.
The author of Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite cited a 2010 Gallup poll that asked American workers, “Do you think the Social Security system will be able to pay you a benefit when you retire?” Seventy-six percent of 18 to 34-year-olds responded “No.” These young workers are currently paying Social Security taxes yet expect no return on their money.
For Levine, their evident acquiescence to this shafting is a strong indication that the “ruling elites” have succeeded in breaking the spirit of young Americans.
Burdened with student loans, overmedicated with anti-depressants and battered into consumerist passivity —
The Frying Pan recently visited John Hernandez, the owner of a State Farm Insurance agency in Pacoima, a blue-collar community located in the North San Fernando Valley. He is also a member of the Pacoima Chamber of Commerce, Arleta Neighborhood Council, Pacoima Neighborhood Council, LAPD Foothill Area Booster Association and a member business of Icon Community Development Corp.
Frying Pan: You opened your insurance office in July 2010 — why open in such tough economic times?
John Hernandez: I guess you could say I have that entrepreneurial spirit — being in the business for over 20 years, I felt the need to open my own. I wanted to come to a community where there was no presence from other major carriers. I felt like there was a need in Pacoima for affordable insurance and a preferred carrier. I have four employees, so I was also focused on bringing some jobs to the community.