What’s fueling the ire behind the Occupy Wall Street protests that have spread from Manhattan’s financial district to cities in every state of the country and around the world? For starters, a certain corporation that 99 percent of us bailed out received $23 billion from the government but only paid one percent of its 2008 income in taxes after raking in $2.3 billion in profit.
And a new Salon.com story by Andrew Leonard, “Employers’ New Ruse: ‘Independent Contracting,” may help expose another master scheme in which Lloyd Blankfein and Goldman Sachs’ tax-avoidance maneuvering runs amok, only this time, the industry they’re manipulating isn’t banking – it’s global shipping transportation and the tens of thousands of port truck drivers that keep our economy moving.
Salon.com tells the story of Leonardo Mejia, a truck driver for Shipper’s Transport Express, a subsidiary of the massive container terminal operator SSA Marine.
I hung up the phone and got queasy. Leigh Shelton, the press spokesperson for Local 11 had just asked me if I wanted to MC the rally after the protest at the Hotel Bel-Air on Stone Canyon Road. I’m a dues -paying member of Unite Here, the hospitality workers union, but I never thought I’d be asked to do something like this.
My natural response to doing things that scare me is to say No, and then to inform the person that I would not be the right one for the job, that indeed I might be terrible. My excuse for not wanting to do this was imbedded in a traumatic comedy club experience where I thought I would give the MC position a chance. I can still see a few heckling faces in the audience to this day.
However, Leigh convinced me that it would just involve a few talking points and introducing a few key people.
Last April, I went to visit my 25-year-old son, Armando, who lives in El Salvador. Armando – who is half Salvadoran – has been living in the capital, San Salvador, for the past two years, trying to make it as a freelance artist. When I got down there, I decided right away that I wanted to buy a car seat for cute, little three-year-old Alfonso (the son of Armando’s then-girlfriend), who was riding around in the car “freestyle” so to speak, with some pretty crazy Salvadoran drivers making me nervous.
Armando reassured me 10 ways to Sunday that he was a “careful” driver and that Salvadoran law did not require car seats for kids. Laws aside, I was determined to do the right thing and get a car seat so Alfonso could be a little safer.So began my week-long quest to find a car seat in a country where the decision to strap in your child is left to the “common sense” of the citizenry.
An apple a day and eating your peas led to good health, we once thought. Now, according to major food manufacturers, fruits and vegetables are “job killers” that will devastate the American economy.
In April of this year, the Federal Trade Commission, along with three other Federal agencies (FDA, CDC and USDA), released a set of proposed guidelines for marketing food to children to reduce sugars, fats and salts in the diets of American youth, and increase fruits, whole grains and vegetables. In 2008 Congress, led by Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Tom Harkin (D-IA), asked for these recommendations to address the nations’ growing childhood obesity crisis.
A coalition of major manufacturers of processed foods (including Fruit Loops, Lucky Charms and SpaghettiOs), fast-food chains and the media industry that depends on their advertising dollars are spending millions on lobbyists to derail the proposed voluntary guidelines.
(Editor’s Note: Yesterday Peter Dreier compared this year’s breakout film, The Help, to an earlier but more accurate Hollywood portrayal of the civil rights movement. Today Vivian Rothstein, a veteran of the Mississippi Freedom Summer, weighs in with comparisons of her own.)
From watching the recent box-office hit, The Help, you’d think the women’s liberation movement had triumphed by 1963, when the film is set. In the story, white women appear to be the primary enforcers of racial segregation; it would also seem that white and black women, working without any organizational support, can profoundly change social conditions — and that white women make the top decisions in literary publishing houses. None of which was true back when I went South to work in the 1965 Mississippi Freedom Summer project.
Men are nearly invisible in the film – so is the Jim Crow power structure that allowed Southern white men to perpetuate unequal school districts,
My dog sitter, Lezle Stein, is on fire. Let me be more precise. Lezle is a dog trainer, a shelter volunteer, animal advocate and a small business owner. She’s one of many who have been dealt a blow by this so-called recovery. When I drop off my whippet in the morning, we often check in. Lately, it’s been gloomy. There’s not been a class in weeks for Lezle to teach. She’s digging into her retirement savings. She’s looking for work to supplement her business income.
Suddenly, a week or two ago, she got a new lease on life. She had discovered Occupy L.A.. Her Facebook page lit up. She was watching movies about the labor movement. “I’m going to invite you to a meeting,” she warned one evening when I called to make arrangements for a dog drop-off.
So I went down to L.A. City Hall last Thursday to see what it was all about.
David Shoemaker, writing as The Masked Man on the sports site Grantland, describes a recent storyline on the professional wrestling TV show Raw, in which wrestlers and other employees walked off the job. The Masked Man sets off the fictional labor uprising against the actual – and unsurprisingly colorful – history of labor grievances in professional wrestling.
In one instance, wrestler and future Minnesota governor Jesse “The Body” Ventura attempted to organize a union, though he got little traction among fellow wrestlers. It was later revealed that Hulk Hogan had ratted him out to Vince McMahon. Ventura later won a significant lawsuit against his employers.
More recently, the Masked Man writes, “In 2008, three wrestlers — Raven, Chris Kanyon, and Mike Sanders — sued WWE for ‘cheating them out of health care and other benefits’ and insisted that the ‘independent contractor’ designation was a sham since WWE had ‘virtually complete dominion and control over its wrestlers.’”
The sham “independent contractor” designation is a serious issue for workers in more than a few industries.
(Editor’s Note: The Help, a Hollywood film set in the Deep South during the civil rights struggle, recently scored box office gold. It seemed a rare moment in which social activism was successfully married to commerce. But was historical accuracy sacrificed for popularity – especially to reach white audiences? Two veteran political activists discuss The Help and put it in context. Today Peter Dreier compares this movie with the lesser known The Long Walk Home. Tomorrow: Vivian Rothstein, who participated in the Mississippi Freedom Summer, offers another view of The Help.)
Film director Tate Taylor scored a late-summer box office smash with his adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s novel, The Help. A surprise hit with movie critics, too, The Help is set during the racial battles of 1963. It focuses on the efforts of African American maids to maintain their dignity despite the routine discrimination and vicious slights they confront while living in segregated Jackson,
As Occupy Wall Street approaches its one-month anniversary, protest zones have been spontaneously set up from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. Familiar bylines in America’s newspapers and on its blogs have, accordingly, been trying to explain the events.
1. The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg tries, in this week’s Talk of the Town opener (“A Walk in the Park”), not to sound too much taken in by the spirit of the protest, while at the same time acknowledging the charm of its spontaneity: “They’re making it up on the fly. They don’t really know where it will take them, and they like it that way. Occupy Wall Street is a political project, but it is equally a cri de coeur, an exercise in constructive group dynamics, a release from isolation, resignation, and futility. The process, not the platform, is the point. Anyway, [it] is not the Brookings Institution.”