Monthly Archives: February 2012

Supreme Court bias against the disabled


This is a travesty. It is a shame that the United States Supreme Court would side with religious institutions referring to a “ministerial exception,” that allows for the discrimination against those with disabilities.

In his majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts validated prior lower courts’ precedent finding a “ministerial exception,” and ruled that it covered Perich. “Requiring a church to accept or retain an unwanted minister, or punishing a church for failing to do so,” wrote Roberts, “intrudes upon more than a mere employment decision. Such action interferes with the internal governance of the church, depriving the church of control over the selection of those who will personify its beliefs.”

I’m glad that the Obama administration took the right side of this argument. This had nothing to do with theology and everything to do with an unfair labor practice. It is also a perversion of the word freedom.

Staples co-founder Tom Stemberg is such an as#h%le


Seriously I love conservatives when they take provisions in a bill and come up with things like “death panels” and “lactation chambers,” I think Frank Luntz has been spoon feeding these people for too long.

Stemberg doesn’t want to use capital to pay for:

…provisions in the Affordable Care Act that require employers to give lactating mothers “reasonable break time” to nurse their child, as well as “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public…” The place they provide for new moms does not have to be a dedicated room as long as it’s private and can be called into use when female employees need it.

I feel sorry for his wife honestly. She has to deal with having such a brute for a husband. He actually thinks doing this will cost jobs. No, it’s called being cheap Tom.

Israel says private prisons violate human rights


I have to congratulate the Israeli Supreme Court on its recent ruling that private prisons are a violation of human rights.

(Supreme Court President Dorit) Beinisch wrote that the incarceration of anyone was a violation of human rights but when it was done by the state, it was done for the public good. When the state allows a private group to incarcerate, the violation of human rights is being perpetrated for profit – both the state’s and the private entrepreneur’s.

Here in the United States we have corporations like Wackenhut (now G4S Secure Solutions USA) who run private prisons. Through the years there have been a litany of issues which have surfaced in regards to these institutions. Wackenhut is also notorious for strike breaking. Therefore, getting corporations like them out of the private prison system anywhere in the world is welcome.

Why is Oregon trying to criminalize Twitter?


It’s the oddest thing. A new law being proposed in Oregon would stop people from using electronic media to promote activities that can be considered illegal. Those activities include anything pertaining to acts of civil disobedience. It would appear this is directly aimed at Occupy Portland as Mother Jones is reporting.

The bill, SB 1534, would make it a felony to use “electronic communication to solicit two or more persons to commit [a] specific crime at [a] specific time and location.” The punishment could include up to 5 years in prison and a $125,000 fine.

The author of the bill defends his creation by saying it has to do more with real criminal behavior like robbery being organized online, but with the way the bill is written it would target any peaceful protest that sought to break a law. It’s one thing to try and stop people using Twitter or Facebook to organize an armed robbery. But you can’t draft your legislation so loosely that it affects acts of civil disobedience.

Service based jobs are the future of organizing


I was reading a post on the Atlantic’s website talking about how Latino’s were able to rebound to pre-recession levels of employment in the U.S. economy. The article states that 50 percent of new jobs since 2010 went to Latinos. The jobs they are being hired to do however are on the low-wage side of the scale in service jobs like cashiers, stock clerks and restaurant workers. We are in a two-tier economy; one where you have high-end knowledge workers and low-end service workers.

The sectors where Latinos have greater-than-average employment also tend to be among the fastest-growing sectors. Health care, hospitality, retail, food manufacturing, and mining were among the top six sectors for jobs added in 2011.

It’s up in the air if the United States can ever return to the era of heavy manufacturing. There has been an increase in manufacturing jobs as of late, but it’s a fry cry from decades past. Detroit is making cars again as we’ve seen in the past two Chrysler Super Bowl commercials, but how many jobs will it create going forward?

Therefore, if organized labor is going to attempt to grow their ranks, they’ll have to focus on service jobs. SEIU has obviously realized this and has been actively organizing for at least a decade now. Service jobs are the fastest growing sector of the economy after all. I would end by saying that as unions organize in the service sector, they should also focus on social mobility. We want to get more people into the higher paying jobs too.

Super Bowl 46: Remember the Hyatt Housekeepers


So here we are at the dawn of Super Bowl 46. It’s the New England Patriots versus the New York Giants; an east coast love/hate affair if there ever was one. Super Bowl 46 continues the tradition of the Super Bowl being one of  America’s largest non-secular holidays–rivaling only that of Earth Day.

As you enjoy Super Bowl 46,  there’s one story I’d like to remind you of as it won’t be one of those multi-million dollar commercials you see today. Right in the center of it all at the Hyatt Regency Indianapolis there are hotel workers fighting a Super Bowl-like battle of their own.

From the AFL-CIO blog:

Last month after area hotel workers filed a federal lawsuit alleging wage and hour violations against Hyatt subcontractor Hospitality Staffing Solutions (HSS) and 10 downtown hotels, including the Hyatt Regency Indianapolis, Hyatt announced that it would cut ties with HSS, according to UNITEHERE .

Thus far, Hyatt has refused to hire the HSS workers directly and that means 20 workers, some who have been on the job for nine years as full-time employees, will be out of work after Feb. 8.

If there ever was a comparison to make between the 99 percent versus the 1 percent it would be the fact the Hyatt and other hotels can make $1,000 a night during the week of Super bowl 46. You would think that some of that profit could be passed down to ensure hotel workers have a good and secure job.

The film Chronicle and Bullying

I don’t write film reviews or blog about them often, but I felt that I had to comment on the film Chronicle after viewing it today.  I think it was very well done and is not what I expected whatsoever. I thought Chronicle was one of those teen Disney-like films. It was only after the buzz from people I follow on Twitter that I decided to go to Metacritic and saw it had received decent ratings.

Chronicle really hit home for me on a few points. It highlights the cruelty of our society as it pertains to bullying and domestic abuse. It gives the victim in the story the power to lash out, which he does to tragic ends. I found myself entirely empathetic with this character as he faced an abusive father, a dying mother and bullying in high school and elsewhere.

It takes special powers to make Andrew attractive to women. It takes having special powers for him to even have friends to begin with. Once this fact is known to Andrew it only antagonizes him more. I felt catharsis tinged with a little guilt watching our un-hero strike back at his father and the roughnecks who had wronged him.

I am someone who was the victim of adolescent and teenage bullying, so I hope you can understand my relation to the story portrayed in Chronicle. As a kid of Indian descent in a majority African-American and Hispanic area of the Bronx (a borough I often refuse to admit I’m from); I faced bullying on the account of my ethnicity. I was also bullied for my appearance which wasn’t limited to one race doling out the punishment.  The difference between the fictional character Andrew and myself was the fact that I lived in a good home with loving parents. I did loose my father at the age of fourteen however.

Since the tragedies of Columbine and numerous other school shootings, bullying is now a subject which is given more credence by school administrators. That is a positive occurrence. While we don’t condone shootings or even the violence meted out by a character in a ficitonal movie; we can learn more about bullying and how to stop it.

As a result of the bullying I faced I am somewhat of a tortured soul you could say. I don’t put much worth into my appearance and I only truly value my intelligence and the capabilities pertaining to that. I am probably also a bit of a self-loather; a term brought more fully to my attention by the comedian Janeane Garofalo.

I often say I wouldn’t wish life on anyone and I still believe that. Human nature has left a lot to be desired, though it tries to change for the better. It still has a long way to go and we are an evolving species.

Jack Abramoff starts anti-corruption blog?


“Casino” Jack Abramoff the disgraced lobbyist who took down a few GOP congressmen with him last decade is back in the news. As someone who milked Native American tribes who owned casinos for millions of dollars; Jack Abramoff might actually have some insight into corruption that is worth listening to (sarcasm).

It is not clear how much Jack Abramoff will be contributing personally, although he does write, “I just want to say how honored I am to join Nick Penniman, Josh Silver, and the gang at United Republic in the vital effort to effect real reform in Washington. It is a privilege for me to add my insights and experience to their strong and sagacious team and I look forward to working with them to reveal to our nation the way Washington really works.”

Jack Abramoff is apparently on some sort of “reform” tour. As someone who also was part of the K Street Project with Rick Santorum, Grover Norquist and Tom Delay; I’m going to find it rather difficult to take his mea culpa seriously. The K Street Project sought to get Republicans hired at all the top lobbying firms in DC. It also attempted to bully lobbying firms to stop giving to Democrats and focus on the Republicans who were in power at the time. Basically, what Delay and his cohorts were saying was, you have to pay to play. What I also find saddening is the fact that the press hasn’t really gone after Santorum as presidential candidate on his ties to Abramoff or the K Street Project.

Circuit City: This day in labor history


Ah yes, I remember how horrible a move this was for Circuit City. A lot of executives like “Neutron Jack” back in his day, would put workers on the chopping block even when the company was profitable. They would look for ways to cut costs to satisfy Wall Street. In this day and age companies like Whole Foods will use the recession to lay people off, and Verizon will try and shaft their workers in contract negotiations.

Circuit City was one example of the shortsightedness of the executive suite:

In what turns out to be a bad business decision, Circuit City fires 3,900 experienced sales people because they’re making too much in commissions. Sales plummet. Six years later it declares bankruptcy.

Source: Metro Washington Council – AFL-CIO

Street Sense a paper that helps the homeless help themselves

A paper you may not have heard about….

There’s this woman that I hear before I see in Dupont Circle almost everyday. She awaits you at the top of the escalator as you are exiting the Metro. Her familiar call can be heard from 19th Street down to the depths of the escalator tunnel. It goes “purchase a copy of Street Sense eyahh! “Help the homeless help themselves, Street Sense!”

She repeats this line throughout the morning while gaining a patron every now and then. This vendor of  a street newspaper, has got to be one of the most determined and hard working people I know—although I have to admit her routine can be monotonous. Who else would stand out there for hours on end, no matter the weather to sell a paper? After all, long gone are the days of the newspaper boys standing on street corners.

All of the vendors, most of them homeless, put in a lot of effort to sell this  street newspaper. They get to keep most of the money from its sale. It’s a way for the homeless to help themselves. Street Sense not only empowers the homeless financially by having them be vendors of the paper; it also provides them with a voice as a lot of the content in the paper is written by homeless people.

Yet all of this effort by the vendors of the paper has me thinking, why doesn’t an employer also see this determination? Just think, if any one of these vendors were able to get a basic retail job or work at a grocery store; they would be making a lot more than they do selling the paper. I know that some of the homeless who sell Street Sense are able to move on to more a more steady source of income, but there are others who stay on as vendors for a very long time. Street Sense is working to get their vendors hired by the way. I’d suggest people give them a look.