Category Archives: Labor rights

The Case Against Hillary: a Compendium of 175 Articles, 2005-2016

For those of you who want to immediately begin digging, please do proceed.

This compendium consists of 175 articles from 2005-2016 taken from independent news websites, blogs, and other sources and focuses on Hillary Clinton’s record as Secretary of State (2009-2013) and as a Presidential Primary candidate in 2008 and 2016. Her Senate record (2001-2009), though also important, is barely covered, but you can search her Senate votes and sponsorships online. In addition, the twitter feed Defeat the DINOcrats includes some graphics about Clinton’s votes on major legislation.

Topics covered include the economy, trade, politics, foreign affairs, diversity, justice, ethics, the environment, health insurance, and others.

Many of the news and opinion sources for this compendium rely on reader contributions to bring us the kind of insightful and independent reporting and commentary that isn’t available in the mainstream corporate media, so please consider giving to them. These organizations include
Alternet
Truthdig
Truthout
Democracy Now!
Pro Publica
Foreign Policy in Focus
The Nation, and
OtherWords.

LINKS
Compendium: https://theciviccenter.wordpress.com/cpdm00000045
This page: https://theciviccenter.wordpress.com/2016/02/27/00000045, http://wp.me/s1XWDT-00000045

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What the Muck?

I started this blog nearly four years ago intending to post my own original commentary, but I saw a comment on the website of NPR/WNYC’s On the Media that I could not leave buried in obscurity.

The comment criticizes the media’s lack of coverage of the plight of the lowest-wage workers in the U.S., in light of “On the Media” host Bob Garfield’s discussion on how a New York Times story about hazardous working conditions in nail salons became widely read. The commenter’s initialism “USCFM” apparently stands for U.S. Corporate-Funded Media, but I cannot decipher “ICBW”.

Garfield compares the NYT’s work on manicurists to the great muckrakers of the fin-de-si├Ęcle-beore-last, missing a *major* difference. Persons like Tarbell[1] and Sinclair[2] publicly declared their intent to fundamentally change their society and their pain when their work produced only token reforms: Sinclair famously despaired that (in The Jungle) he had aimed at his nation’s heart but merely hit it in the gut. ICBW, but I strongly suspect that the Times (and WNYC, and the rest of the US corporate-funded media) aims no higher than the nation’s toenails.

The “buried lead” (of which the NYC manicurists’ story is but a nail-clipping) is that mass migration to the US–especially illegal immigration–is driving down wages and working conditions (and increasingly living conditions) while driving up rents and housing costs, especially at the bottom of US labor and housing markets. (Mass emigration also drains energy, skills, and political oppositions from the source nations, but the discourse of “brain drain” appears to be banned from today’s USCFM.) ICBW, but I strongly suspect the NYT et al are going nowhere near that engine of inequality: it’s just too profitable for their 1% advertisers and funders. Instead of attacks on the *economics* of importing a new underclass–and especially on the bosses and landlords who profit most–the USCFM will deliver only xenophobic attacks on immigrants (but not those who exploit them) from the likes of Fox News and the Murdoch[3] press, and defenses of immigrants (but not the native-born underclass) by its more socially-liberal organs.

In 1906, President Roosevelt told the muckrakers to “know when to stop raking the muck”[4]. With increasingly few exceptions (like Seymour Hersh[5]–thanks for doing that, OTM!), the USCFM of 2015 don’t need to be told: they know to stop long before its stench afflicts the comfortable.

[1]: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ida_Tarbell
[2]: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upton_Sinclair
[3]: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rupert_Murdoch
[4]: en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Man_with_the_Muck_Rake
[5]: onthemedia.org/story/podcast-extra-seymour-hersh

More on hiring abuses

I have recently encountered actual job-application documents and websites that illustrate some of the hiring abuses that I denounced in this recent post.

After submitting an online application for a job at Texas A&M Univ. Agrilife Research, I was warned that

an “investigative consumer report” concerning my “character, . . ., general reputation, personal characteristics, police record, . . ., mode of living, and/or credit and indebtedness may be obtained in connection with your application for and/or continued employment . . .”

This threat to my privacy seeks information that is irrelevant to my ability to do the job and produce results for the employer.

Midland College of Midland, Texas, criminalizes job applicants and forces them to pay for the experience out of their own pockets! The last page of their application form (PDF) states that applicants . . .

. . . “will be required to submit a full and complete set of [their] fingerprints for analysis through the Texas Department of Public Safety AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System)” . . . and to “make an appointment with L1 Enrollment Services, submit a full and complete set of [their] fingerprints, request a copy be sent to the agency listed below, and pay a fee of $24.95 to the fingerprinting services company, L1 Enrollment Services.”

Essentially, anyone who wants to work at Midland College must pay a fee in order for their application to be considered.

The job application website of another public institution in Texas requires applicants to enter their Social Security and driver’s license numbers, potentially exposing confidential data for hackers and data thieves to steal. A recent cyber-attack on the University of Maryland, which exposed over 309,000 records of personal information, illustrates the vulnerability of campus information systems. Social Security numbers should be requested only for completing an IRS W-4 from, and driver’s licenses only for positions that require driving.

Ten Years and Ten Months Overdue

I just sent a letter (PDF) to Representative Peter Gallego (D-TX23) and to Senator Robert Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety, about hiring and employment abuses that have bothered me for a long time.

Some of the abuses that I address include the following.

  • Requiring employees to wear clothing or shoes of a particular color and pay for these items out of their own pockets
  • Deletion of overtime hours or refusal to pay overtime earnings
  • Hourly employees’ being forced to work on our national holidays
  • Lack of transparency in the workplace and in hiring
  • Incomplete job advertisements
  • Putting applicants’ confidential data at risk
  • Employers’ invasions of applicants’ privacy
  • Excessive use of background checks

I also urge the Congressman and the Senator to consider a $15 per hour minimum wage, as demanded by the striking fast-food and retail workers. President Obama’s proposal of $10.10 is 10 years and 10 months too late.

The Real Wal-mart Ad

A new Wal-mart television ad attempts to paint a rosy picture of working conditions in the company, but none of the employees featured in the ad appear to be full-time, non-supervisory, hourly associates. According to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), the median hourly wage at Wal-mart is about $8.80.

Anyone earning $8.80 per hour probably could not afford the gym membership that the logistics lady enjoys and likely would be on the receiving end of her charitable giving. And I’d bet that the coffee shop lady’s 401(k) retirement plan wouldn’t amount to much if she were paid $8.80 per hour. These apparently white-collar employees, along with the pharmacist lady, are more able to afford health insurance than the hourly employees are.

The playground lady works part-time at Wal-mart probably to supplement her income from a full-time job, from two other part-time jobs, or from a spouse. The well-dressed-lady in the ad claims that 400 Wal-mart employees are promoted everyday, but that number could be attributed to the company’s size or to turnover among managers. Based on what I’ve observed in my retail experience, employee advancement at Wal-mart is not extraordinary because promotion-from-within seems to be common in the industry.

In my experience, furthermore, I have worked with several managers who are women. However, both of the Wal-mart employees in the ad who identified themselves as managers are men, which doesn’t surprise me because of the recent class-action lawsuit claiming widespread discrimination against women in promotions.

By avoiding the most outrageous injustice at the company, the low wages of its full-time hourly associates, the Wal-mart television ad fails to improve the company’s reputation. For more information, visit the UFCW’s “Making Change” website, or see “The High Cost of Low Price”, a documentary film by Robert Greenwald.

Remember those who had to work

For the first time in seven years, I do not have to work on Memorial Day. My former employer, a retailer, opened on Memorial Day probably because their big-box competitors did also or because the owners put profits over patriotism. Indeed, Memorial Day has been degraded to a three-day weekend of mattress sales and beach outings. The incentives to shop and take trips outweigh the incentives to actually celebrate Memorial Day, except for those who participate in wreath-layings and other activities dedicated this holiday.

These incentives can be diminished by legislation. First, Congress could fix Memorial Day to its original date, May 29. Second, Congress could require that retailers, and perhaps some other types of establishments, pay double or triple wages on Memorial Day. That could diminish the profitability of opening on Memorial Day and therefore force businesses to close on that day. States could do their part by doubling their sales taxes for that day.

Memorial Day was established to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice–their lives. Compared to this, giving up shopping or business for just one day every year is little more than a temporary inconvenience.

Small Business Saturday

November 26, 2011, is declared Small Business Saturday to encourage consumers to shop at locally-owned retailers.

I generally prefer locally-owned businesses and encourage shoppers to patronize them, but I question their absolute value to local economies. First of all, chain stores and local businesses are subject to the same sales tax rates. Second, their economic impact depends greatly on how much they pay their workers. If the owners of a locally-owned business hoard the profits while the workers are living paycheck-to-paycheck, the economic impact is minimal.

The best way to ensure that your retail expenditures benefit the local economy is to shop at stores in which workers have collective bargaining, because workers that belong to a union are paid better than non-union workers are.

In the retail sector, grocery-store chains are where you will most likely find unionized workers. Many unionized supermarkets are marked by the UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers) label at the entrance. In addition to food, supermarkets nowadays offer over-the-counter and prescription medicines, cookware and other housewares, seasonal items, auto accessories, batteries, light bulbs, and coffee and meals to go.

In addition, many unionized and non-unionized retailers rely on Teamsters drivers to deliver merchandise to their stores. These include Home Depot, Kroger, Giant Food, Safeway, and some Ace Hardware stores.

The Teamsters union also represents United Parcel Service (UPS) workers. Postal-service workers also have collective bargaining, through the American Postal Workers Union and the National Association of Letter Carriers.