Capital & Main’s Latest News Section.
Wednesday, June 13, near the very spot where Walmart hopes to establish a beachhead in central Los Angeles, labor, community and political leaders will put the retail giant on notice that it can forget about getting the red carpet treatment. The company’s plans to open an express store selling groceries in Chinatown have provoked widespread opposition that goes beyond mere irritation over the arrival of a corporate megachain.
As Frying Pan News has documented, Walmart typically has a blighting effect on the communities where it locates: Local stores go out of business and the retailer’s workers, who lack decent wages and medical coverage, must rely on for public assistance in the form of food stamps and emergency room visits.
But it is mostly the dismal working conditions of employees at Walmart and its suppliers that is fueling resistance to the company’s expansion. Only yesterday foreign guest workers employed by a Louisiana seafood supplier to Walmart went on strike against what they say are long,
The fallout from the failed bid to unseat Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, along with election victories to curtail public-employee pensions in San Diego and San Jose, continues for organized labor. While a number of media stories have questioned the strategic wisdom of trying to unseat a sitting governor who had not been accused of criminal wrongdoing, many moderate and progressive writers have been thinking aloud about something more fundamental – the very existence of unions.
“These votes,” the Atlantic.com’s Derek Thompson writes, “didn’t announce a new trend. They reminded us of a very old one.” His post’s title asks the disturbing question, “Are Unions Necessary?” It turns out he doesn’t have an answer. After we follow a recap of the long, slow decline of labor over the past half century, and some scary line graphs comparing plummeting union membership numbers with the fall of middle-class incomes, Thompson invites us to offer our opinions.
There’s no pleasing stock traders. No sooner had European financial ministers granted Spain’s banks a $125 billion bailout than investors began worrying about Italy’s ability to pay its national debt – and to pitch in to save Spain. According to The New York Times, “[b]ecause Italy does not have enough economic growth to generate the money itself, the government will probably have to borrow it at high interest rates, adding to an already heavy debt load.” The Times on Monday quoted Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti’s pessimism: “There is a permanent risk of contagion.”
Although the mention of a European economic plague certainly makes ears stand up, the continent’s continual financial woes more resemble a Möbius strip of dominoes. With each new agreement to save one of the Mediterranean PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain), a new panic spreads on the floors of Europe’s stock exchanges.
Much was made in Ray Bradbury’s obits last week of his paradoxical nature: He was a science fiction writer who never drove a car or used a computer, a seer who looked to the past to describe the future. All of which was true – Bradbury was one of the few authors who could make a trip to the next century seem like a sentimental journey. The reason is that so much of his Tomorrowland was really mid-20th Century America dressed up in a space suit and relocated to Mars. The Midwestern front porch on a summer evening, lit by fireflies and the murmur of conversation, was as key to Bradbury’s fictional worlds as rocket ships and robots.
In fact, Bradbury is too often typecast as a science fiction writer – after all, he wrote a number of plays for Los Angeles theater, along with the screenplay for John Huston’s film Moby Dick and the narration for King of Kings.
Even as transit agencies around the U.S. are cutting back on bus and rail service and raising fares, L.A. has embarked on this country’s most ambitious transit expansion — from 118 miles and 103 stations to 236 miles and 200 stations, a work program likely to generate an estimated 400,000 construction jobs.
For the first time ever in Southern California there are three lines under construction at the same time: Expo to Santa Monica, the Gold Line to Azusa and the Orange Line to Chatsworth. Add the Crenshaw Line and the downtown L.A. Regional Connector — utilities are being relocated now so construction can begin — and that’s five lines under construction.
Suddenly the world is looking at Los Angeles in a very different light. As Brookings Institution spokesman Adie Tomer told the Los Angeles Times:
“You have this archetype of L.A. as the highway city of America.