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This may be organized labor’s summer of discontent, but don’t tell that to the folks at L.A. Labor 411. The communications group, which for the past five years has supplied Angelenos with directories listing more than 3,000 unionized businesses, goods and services, has been busy compiling socially conscious drinking recipes (mojitos ahoy!), products and venues for those who imbibe. They call one of their standouts the Union Made Long Island Iced Tea – although I’ll bet that Back East it might be known as the Last Exit toBrooklyn. All its ingredients are processed or manufactured by companies where workers enjoy the wage, health-care and vacation benefits of union representation.
Dale DeGroff, the “King of Cocktails” who mixed many a L.I. Iced Tea at New York’s Rainbow Room, places the drink’s birthplace at the Old Beach Inn in Hampton Bays.
(Update, June 17: A United Teachers L.A. bulletin has announced the 58-42 percent membership approval of the agreement discussed below.)
My neighbor Rena found her life’s work at the age of 50. Today, 10 years later, she could lose that work and her profession teaching English as a second language.Thousands of teachers in L.A. this week are voting on a proposed agreement to reduce their own pay in order to save adult and early childhood education programs, teacher-librarians, counselors and nurses, and to reduce class sizes. It’s a deal that would make most of us blanch – threaten our own family’s economic health for the common good? No thanks.
In fact, by refusing to raise property and other taxes in California, we’ve essentially left it to the teachers to volunteer for the sacrifices the rest of us are not willing to make for the welfare of our state’s public school children.
On Wednesday, June 13, Caroline, an organizer at a downtown press conference held by opponents of a proposed Chinatown Walmart store, noticed a young woman chatting to reporters. She’d seen her exactly one week before at another news conference. There, the young woman introduced herself as Zoe Mitchell, said she was a student at the University of Southern California and, somewhat vaguely, mentioned that she was interested in writing human interest stories.
At the June 6 event, Mitchell seemed sympathetic to the cause of workers who had a long list of complaints against the Walmart-contracted warehouses they worked in. And she had a request – could she talk to some of these workers who spoke English and record their names and stories?
Caroline was happy to accommodate the student and hooked her up with a lengthy interview with the worker present who spoke English.
Who is the woman seen in this photograph talking on a cell phone? Last week she claimed to be “Zoe Mitchell,” a young student at USC interested in the terrible and illegal conditions found inside warehouses that move goods for Walmart. She told warehouse workers she was a journalist interested in their plight. (See her business card and last week’s event sign-in information below. Click to enlarge the image.)
Today, while gathering information at a news conference held by community and labor groups opposed to the retail giant’s entry into Chinatown, she let her true identity slip. “Zoe Mitchell” is completely fictional. Zoe is actually Stephanie Harnett, a fake “reporter” working for Walmart — more precisely, a senior associate at Mercury, a giant PR firm that represents a wide range of corporate interests. Mercury says it is about “high stakes public strategy” and boasts that it is especially adept at “Latino Communications.”
The big question is,
It’s a strange feeling to recognize someone not by his or her face, but by their name-tag. This was the experience I had in Providence, Rhode Island this past week, where I attended the annual Netroots Nation conference for progressives on behalf of my union, UNITE HERE Local 11. It was good to finally match up the tweets to all these faces that I had been in touch with for the past year.
I arrived at the conference later than most of my UNITE HERE comrades because of my work schedule and a delayed flight. One of the moments that I was sad to have missed was when hotel workers from the Providence Westin came onstage and thanked the Netroots organization for moving its 2010 conference from their hotel due to a contract dispute with the Westin over wage cuts, slashes in vacation and the elimination of union jobs for subcontracted ones.