A year or so ago, while picking up socks off of the living room floor, and considering the innumerable tasks of being a single parent, I exclaimed to my kids, “You know what? We think what we need is more money, but what we really need is community.”
It occurred to me that I was upset about my money flow, but I was equally upset about the growing sense of isolation that comes with a lack of connectedness with the people in my apartment complex, my street and my city.
Little did I know that those words that tumbled from my mouth would soon be so prophetic for me and the community I live in.
A long-time resident of Long Beach, I was raised in a multicultural working class neighborhood in the city. We weren’t rich–Dad is a military veteran and Mom worked for the phone company–but my family owned their home and impressed upon us a strong work ethic.
The New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blogger, Nate Silver, had some choice words about Politico, which had taken pot shots at his election-polling skills during the recently concluded presidential campaign. Politico wasn’t alone: The entire spectrum of right-wing punditry, led by Fox News, attacked Silver for predicting that an Obama victory was at least 80 percent certain. The Electoral College specifics of Silver’s long-prophesied Obama win turned out to be uncannily accurate.
What was remarkable to me is that you had some, like, journalist for, um, Politico, or something … who, like, tweeted … ‘All Nate’s doing is averaging polls and counting electoral votes?’ … ‘That’s the secret sauce?’ It’s like, well, yeah, and the fact that you can’t comprehend that very basic thing … that says more about you than,
Looking back on the eight weeks of the Long Beach living wage campaign, I could write about the conversations with voters, or the discovery of neighborhoods in a city I thought I knew like the back of my hand. I could go on and on about those I got to know through the canvassing work, the friendships that started and blossomed over the two months that went by so quickly.
But the real story is how we strengthened community in the city of Long Beach.
Yes, in the spring 35,000 people signed petitions supporting the workers in Long Beach’s largest hotels, helping them get one step closer to fair pay, sick leave and tip protection by placing Measure N on the ballot. And this fall not only did we get support from six city council members, we passed Measure N with the support of 63 percent of voters.
(On November 6, Long Beach became one of three cities in the country to pass minimum wage ballot measures, and the only one to guarantee paid sick leave to workers. This story is the second in a weeklong series of reflections on that important victory.)
Numbers never lie – that was our mantra at the Yes on Measure N headquarters. Canvassers for the hotel living wage law would come back talking about how a voter just wouldn’t give them the time of day, or how the 100-degree weather dragged on their hustle. And we would respond, “Well, numbers don’t lie.” This was just our way of saying, some days are good, some days are harder, but come the end of the campaign numbers will tell the true story of our hard work. And while I don’t want to oversimplify how we won,
As the 2012 elections approached I started to feel very guilty about the state of the country that my generation, which was born shortly after World War II, was about to leave to my grandchildren and their peers. The conservative agenda was promising to starve government services of all kinds – public schools, food stamps, even the post office – with the aim of privatizing institutions that have served our nation well for decades. More laws limiting women’s reproductive rights seemed on the horizon, global warming was being dismissed as a liberal hoax, and the rights of labor — well, don’t even go there. I was afraid to wake up to a Republican sweep and a future of desperation and dislocation for millions of Americans. It felt like a huge generational and personal failure.
Instead, the November 6 election was a salve to my baby boomer soul. Having cut my political teeth in the civil rights movement of the 1960s,
(On November 6, Long Beach became one of three cities in the country to pass minimum wage ballot measures, and the only one to guarantee paid sick leave to workers. This story is the first in a weeklong series of reflections on that important victory.)
Since the times of Supervisor Harvey Milk in San Francisco, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) communities have worked with labor organizations to improve the lives of people simply trying to stay afloat in the world. Through the Coors beer boycott of the 1970s, Milk not only laid the foundation for a solid partnership between seemingly disparate communities, he created something much larger: a space for individuals, organizers and union representatives to grow, expand and converse. He created the opportunity for bonds to form and for hearts and minds to open and understand how difficult it was in the 1970s — both for working people and LGBTQ people to be afforded respect,
My mail delivery guy just got happier. He can finish his route while it is still light outside – this despite the change back from daylight savings time. Now he gets his work done in daylight: With the election over, he has less junk to deliver.
I don’t know how it was in your neighborhood, but in my apartment building the stuff filled the box every day for a month, and in the last week, so much mail rolled in that it couldn’t fit anymore. So my mail carrier patiently sorted it into clumps and placed it in the magazine space at the bottom of the mailbox area.
As far as I can tell, the vast majority of these ads went untouched, unless some conscientious soul threw them directly from the mail box into the recycling crate across the hallway. In any case, a couple of million dollars-worth of campaign mail wasn’t read,
Two thousand workers who clean the rooms and serve the food at hotels in Long Beach, California had special cause for celebration election night. They will finally earn a living wage and be able take a sick day without risking a paycheck or a job.
“I have said all along that the second thing I would do when Measure N passes is take my family off of public assistance,” said Maria Patlan, a 10-year housekeeper in Long Beach’s hotel industry. “But the first thing I will do is a dance of joy.”
Maria and scores of workers like her helped lead the diverse Long Beach coalition that organized for months to pass the ballot initiative that became known as Measure N. It establishes a minimum wage of $13/hr (about $2,000 a month) in Long Beach’s hotels employing 100 or more, guarantees workers can earn five sick days a year and protects their tips.
Jonathan Parfrey wears several hats: executive director of Climate Resolve, president of the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters and a commissioner at the L.A. Department of Water and Power. Election Day morning found him up early gathering climate-change documents in advance of a public DWP hearing. He remained unfazed by volatile election scenarios painted by pundits.
“I relied heavily on Nate Silver as my online therapist,” Parfrey said. “He kept fixing my head so I could function.” (Silver’s dry polling metrics, carried in his New York Times blog FiveThirtyEight, consistently predicted the presidential race to be a walk-off for Obama.)
Parfrey would vote that day at the L.A. Job Corps Center on Broadway.
“The volunteers were under 87 years old!” he marveled.
Something extraordinary happened Tuesday in Long Beach. A city long dominated by an ideologically driven business sector and marked by token community participation, embraced a living wage measure. With a resounding 63 percent of the voters in favor of Measure N, we can clearly state that the Long Beach community stood in favor of fairness and justice November 6. From a practical perspective it means lifting 2,000 Long Beach workers above the poverty line, perhaps a two-bedroom apartment for a family of four, or the “luxury” of taking a paid day off to attend to a sick child or relative. It also lays the foundation for renewed economic growth by providing additional income that will be recycled through the Long Beach economy.
How did this happen in a city controlled by business interests who said a living wage should not, could not and would not pass? By acknowledging four things:
Long Beach hotel workers and community activists made history Tuesday, passing a living wage ballot measure that will help lift 2,000 people in that city’s tourism industry out of poverty.
Long Beach was one of three cities nationwide that passed minimum wage measures (San Jose and Albuquerque were the others), and the only one that enacted a law with paid sick leave. Workers at Long Beach’s large hotels will now earn at least $13 per hour and will have five paid sick days a year.
The passage of Measure N is the culmination of a multi-year effort by LAANE, UNITE HERE! (the union representing tourism industry workers) and the Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community to build grassroots power in Long Beach, a city that for decades has been dominated by business interests largely disinterested in the huge numbers of working poor. Beginning with a large-scale civic engagement project,
For me, especially once Mitt Romney named Paul Ryan as his running mate, the presidential race became a contest between two Americas: one traditional, Christian, white and wealthy; the other was, well, the Other — a pioneering America of varied ethnicities, incomes and spiritual traditions. The Rainbow Coalition that Jesse Jackson first named a generation ago has come to fruition and it’s a bright day for America. Obama garnered 70 percent of the Latino vote, 70 percent of the Asian vote, 93 of the black vote, 73 percent of the gay vote and close to 60 percent of the female vote. We once again proved that this country is always changing, and that change is our strength.
Obama’s victory is thus history’s victory, the people’s victory, and a victory for all those who believe we succeed best and most when we work together across the so-called “lines” that tradition and history have often put between people.
When asked by prospective employers to describe my life’s work, I generally say that I have toiled as a writer on the extreme fringes of the entertainment industry, and most of that in New York. I’m far more familiar with the fantasies peddled by the world of movies and the theater than the one that was being sold this year to Californians by a consortium of billionaires, religious cranks, hedge-fund managers and libertarian extremists bent on financially kneecapping California labor out of the state’s political picture.
Yet when Frying Pan News offered me an election-season gig as a Prop. 32 research assistant to investigative reporter Matthew Fleischer, I didn’t hesitate. I mean, I was no less qualified to look into the issue than the average voter.
No sooner did I begin to track down Prop. 32’s backers than they began emerging as a virtual Who’s Who of the same well-heeled special interests that their initiative was promising to weed out: Bizarre,
Triumph of the Numbers
Signing off last night, Brian Williams on NBC said something about how the presidential election defied the very idea of prognostication. All night the result was characterized as a surprise, which makes sense given how often television analysts before the election described this race as a toss-up, or too close to call.
Last night was the first time I’d watched any television news since Obama’s 2008 win and it was a good reminder why. Tuesday morning I searched for election predictions, and came up with 11 sites that crunched the numbers and made predictions1. All 11 predicted an Obama victory. One of the 11 expected Obama to lose Colorado, and two expected him to lose Virginia, but the rest were up in the air only about Florida (which was genuinely too close to call).
There was, in the run-up, a fair bit of criticism of such predictions,
It’s a curious feeling, this brown-becoming, the “Latino vote” hurling itself over the fence as it were, saving Barack Obama from the ignominy of becoming the first black president to lose a reelection bid. I’ve been writing about the potential of the Latino vote going on three decades, and although we’ve had inklings of what kind of power it can wield (such as when it modestly pushed a few swing states toward George Bush in 2004), this time it’s at the center of the electoral narrative.
There was George Will on ABC, minutes after the election was called, talking about how Barack Obama could now put “immigration reform front and center, giving the Republicans a reef upon which they can wreck themselves.” Brian Williams and all the old school network anchors welcomed the “non-Cuban Hispanic” cohort (read: Mexicans, Central Americans, Puerto Ricans) to the national story.
It’s a curious feeling because,
Mitt Romney never had a chance.
Even in the media maelstrom that painted an electorate divided not merely between Democrat and Republican, but between rote decency and full-throated venality — I never believed the story was that simple.
Make no mistake, there was plenty of comic-book villainy, including overt racism and mushrooming fear of the Other (Obama, immigrants, blacks, unions, etc.) that seemed to be overriding any sense of common good. But none of that stuff could really match the bigger mood of the country—battered but cautious, perhaps too entertained by extremism, but not prone to joining it–which is more like Obama the man than any of us knew.
I’ll take that for now. There’s some encouragement in the fact that the center can hold when the margin that’s been fighting to replace it for the last four years is so utterly unappealing, regressive and downright undemocratic.
Nor can money buy everything.
What do weather and women’s bodies have in common?
Both figured dramatically this election season, forcing debate on issues candidates would have preferred to skitter right past. And both had a decisive influence on the vote when it became clear that certain candidates, mired in superstition and ignorance, were using theology to make decisions on matters best left to science. And, as it turned out, weather and women both had ways of shutting that whole thing down.
If Election Day 2012 was a referendum on anything, it was science, and not just the wizard-like math skills of Nate Silver, author of the New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog and statistician extraordinaire. It is not incidental that the same people asserting that women’s bodies refuse to fertilize rapist sperm are the same ones denying that carbon emissions from our burning of fossil fuels have caused the climate to warm, as every reputable scientist insists.