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  • Labor & EconomyMarch 22, 2012Jon Zerolnick

    Cash of the Titans: Life After Citizens United Ruling

    Last week, the AFL-CIO released a statement – “Restoring Democracy” – on the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in the Citizens United case.

    The federation eloquently and accurately inveighs against “excessive corporate influence” in the political process, calling for “greater balance . . . transparency and disclosure . . .  restoring Congress’ ability to regulate campaign spending,” and “abolishing corporate ‘personhood.’”  If necessary, the AFL states, we should pass a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.  To be sure, all of these things are true: Citizens United is bad for democracy in general, and especially bad for labor, as it makes the political playing field further unbalanced in favor of corporations and the wealthy.

    In the spirit of full accounting, though, let’s acknowledge that the ruling does give labor something: For the first time in the modern history of a presidential race,

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  • Culture & MediaMarch 21, 2012Steven Mikulan

    A People’s History of the Farmworkers Movement

    Anyone involved in the United Farm Workers campaigns of the 1960s and ’70s will tell you how critical those efforts were – not only to the well-being of farmworkers, but to the participant’s identity and the development of his or her views on labor and the world.

    Many activists, like myself, were not vineyard or orchid pickers, but merely college students who helped organize local boycotts and picket lines far from the state’s embattled valleys. Yet even we sometimes glimpsed first-hand the epic human struggles that were transforming California’s agriculture, as I did during a brief summer stint in the 1973 grape strike outside Fresno.

    To this day sense impressions remain vivid: The stifling 104-degree heat of the picket lines; the revivifying cold of the Kings River at night; the sweet sound of Superior Court Judge Peckinpah (Wild Bunch director Sam’s brother) ordering the release of thousands of farm workers from jail after they’d been arrested for protesting;

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  • Labor & EconomyMarch 20, 2012Capital & Main

    Calif. Unions Push for Jobs, Push Back on Pensions

    Calling on California’s leaders to invest in their state, the California Labor Federation (CLF) today unveiled an ambitious plan to pull the state out of its economic slump.

    The seven-point plan begins by urging construction of the long-planned, oft-fought high-speed railway line that would connect San Diego, Sacramento and the Bay Area. Only a few years ago this seemed like a staggering but plausible infrastructure project – a magic bullet train, as it were, that would create thousands of good, lasting jobs. But when the recession hit, it stalled – and since then territorial politics have stopped the project in its tracks, along with some new cost projections for a much higher than expected construction price tag. The CLF plan asks legislators to begin releasing money from Prop 1A bonds that were passed by voters in 2008.

    The CLF plan’s other planks include the following:

    • Ending home foreclosures for Californians who are in the process of receiving loan modifications.

     » Read more about: Calif. Unions Push for Jobs, Push Back on Pensions  »

  • Labor & EconomyMarch 20, 2012Ashley Baker

    Counting on the Kindness of Strangers

    I raise money for LAANE, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy. Asking other people for money isn’t something most people are comfortable with, but I do it every day because it’s the way I serve, how I heal the world. It’s the thing I can do, and I couldn’t look into the faces of people struggling in my community and say, “Sorry, it felt weird to ask for a check.” But I often wonder, “Who gives and why?”

    A lot depends on knowing the answer to that question, and the truth is we don’t always have one. We know that people give because they are asked. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. But we get turned down a lot even when we do ask. Sometimes our cause just doesn’t resonate with the donor, and that’s okay. But sometimes – a lot of the time, most of the time – a donor is a donor because they have some spark in them that demands they give back.

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  • Politics & GovernmentMarch 20, 2012Jon Zerolnick

    Making Mischief in California Primaries

    We’re thoroughly non-partisan here at Frying Pan News, but still we get many questions about voting. Most of them are about American Idol, but once in a while someone wants to know about elected officials. And while we still won’t tell you how to vote (though Professor Wagstaff’s dictum isn’t a bad place to start), we can happily answer some of your process questions.

    Q: Hey, I heard a lot recently about voters “making mischief” in the presidential primary in Michigan. ’Sup with that?

    A: It’s true—at least it’s true that you heard a lot about it, though there’s little evidence of any actual mischief-making. But some states do allow (just about) anyone to vote in (just about) any primary. In Michigan, the story goes, some Democrats – convinced that Romney would be the stronger opponent in the fall – crossed party lines to vote for Santorum in the primary,

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