If you're reading this from home right now, you're not alone: a new study from the liberal Keystone Research Center finds that more than a quarter of Pennsylvanians experienced joblessness or underemployment in the past year. Republican Governor Tom Corbett and the GOP-controlled legislature have, like the federal government, made the problem worse by cutting government programs at a time when the private sector refuses to spend. Labor groups and many economists are pushing President Obama to offer a bold jobs initiative next Thursday. “The problems in our economy are self-inflicted,” says co-author Stephen Herzenberg, PhD, an economist and the center's Executive Director in a press release. “A bold shift of economic policy could restore growth and competitiveness, while bolstering the middle class.”
If you're reading this from home right now, you're not alone: a new study from the liberal Keystone Research Center finds that more than a quarter of Pennsylvanians experienced joblessness or underemployment in the past year.
Republican Governor Tom Corbett and the GOP-controlled legislature have, like the federal government, made the problem worse by cutting government programs at a time when the private sector refuses to spend. Labor groups and many economists are pushing President Obama to offer a bold jobs initiative next Thursday.
“The problems in our economy are self-inflicted,” says co-author Stephen Herzenberg, PhD, an economist and the center's Executive Director in a press release. “A bold shift of economic policy could restore growth and competitiveness, while bolstering the middle class.”It's not totally bleak: CEO pay in Pennsylvania went up 23 percent in 2010.
Student guestworkers at a Pennsylvania Hershey’s factory are on strike. The students paid $6,000 for a summer of work and cultural exchange and ended up working in a Hershey’s factory, and were allegedly threatened with deportation when they complained. Today, they protested outside the State Department office at 6th and Market in Philly--where I caught up this student striker from China.
Student guestworkers from around the world use J-1 visas to experience a summer in the United States. Thus the ubiquitous Eastern European presence on boardwalks up and down the East Coast.
Critics blame the State Department for lax oversight.
A group of Florida tomato pickers are showing up at the Center City Trader Joe’s tomorrow at 5pm to protest low wages and dangerous working conditions in tomato fields that are so brutal they have actually been the site of documented cases of slave labor.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has mounted pioneering and successful campaigns against Subway, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and the behemoth Florida Tomato Growers Exchange (FTGE) thanks to a nation-wide network of student and community solidarity activists. The farmworkers want Trader Joe’s to join these corporations and sign a “Fair Food agreement” that would guarantee workers a penny more per-pound for tomatoes picked.
Whole Foods has signed up with the farmworkers, but Trader Joe’s still won’t say where it gets its tomatoes. According to an article in Grist, however, it is likely farmworkers that pay the price in Trader Joe’s system for getting you cheap food:
Trader Joe's business model is based on offering a limited selection of high-quality products at very low prices. By restricting its inventory, it's able to effectively wield its purchasing power and demand deep discounts from its suppliers.
Unfortunately for farmworkers, it is precisely this type of high-volume, low-cost purchasing that has created strong downward pressure on wages and working conditions as suppliers look to cut costs in order to maintain profit margins. Supermarket chains may not have created farmworker poverty, but they continue to play an active, and profitable, role in perpetuating it.
The Immokalee workers will also be protesting Giant and Stop and Shop, which are both owned by Ahold.
In other news, it was West Philly’s Prometheus Radio Project that helped build Immokalee’s community radio station, Radio Conciencia.
And a new book called Tomatoland argues that alongside promoting slave labor, industrial Florida tomatoes also taste like crap.
Check out the Campaign for Fair Food’s press release here:
Philadelphia consumers to protest Trader Joe’s demanding fair labor standards for farmworkers
Grocer continues to spurn Campaign for Fair Food
PHILADELPHIA - On Thursday, August 4th, local consumers and community members will join with a delegation of farmworkers from Florida at the Trader Joe’s at 2121 Market Street in Center City, where they will call on Trader Joe’s to participate in a “fair food program” – a multi-party effort to end decades of farm labor abuse faced by Florida tomato pickers. The protest is part of a two-week East Coast tour calling on Trader Joe’s and Ahold (owner of Giant and Stop & Shop supermarkets) to join in the growing movement for fairly produced tomatoes.
When: Thursday, August 4th at 5:00 PM
Where: Trader Joe’s, 2121 Market Street, Philadelphia
Florida farmworkers have long faced brutal conditions in the fields, including sub-poverty wages, widespread labor rights violations, and even modern-day slavery. Farmworkers typically earn just 50 cents per 32-pound bucket of tomatoes, a rate which has remained nearly unchanged for 3 decades. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a Florida farmworker organization, has uncovered and assisted the Department of Justice in the prosecution of 6 modern-day slavery rings, freeing over 1,000 workers.
Nine major food industry leaders – including Subway, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Whole Foods – have signed Fair Food agreements with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a Florida farmworker organization. The Fair Food agreements include a penny-per-pound piece rate wage increase for tomato pickers, a strict code of conduct, a cooperative complaint resolution system, a participatory health and safety program, and a worker-to-worker education process. In November, the CIW and the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange (FTGE) signed an agreement to extend these principles to over 90% of Florida's tomato fields in a phased in process over 2 seasons.
“Today, however, we are finally beginning to see the first glimmers of more humane treatment at work, thanks to the Campaign for Fair Food,” said Oscar Otzoy of the CIW. “But Trader Joe's is standing in the way of progress, and their refusal to help improve farm labor wages and working conditions threatens to undermine the unprecedented – and still fragile – human rights advances that are just now starting to take root in the fields.”
Trader Joe's is refusing to participate, and if they have their way, the unprecedented farm labor transformation promised by the CIW's landmark agreement with the FTGE will be significantly diminished. Protesters will be calling on Trader Joe’s to contribute its fair share – its penny-per-pound – to improve wages for farmworkers who pick its tomatoes and to commit to directing its purchases toward growers who comply with the code of conduct – and away from those who don't – in order to help improve working conditions in the fields.
Why was a loud-mouthed blogger suddenly silenced?
That’s what some political junkies have been wondering ever since phillydecline.com, a local politics blog, shut down this month without explanation. Aaron Proctor, the former site’s 29-year-old author and a self-described “Tea Party patriot,” has made a name for himself throughout the past few years for being a firebrand — even by Philly standards. He was celebrated (and hated) for sticking it not only to the usual suspects, like Arlene Ackerman and John Dougherty, but to fellow conservatives and local heroes, too.
He called the city’s finance department “Mayor Nutter’s Bitch Boys”; wrote that City Council candidate Michael Untermeyer smelled bad; and wondered “how many cans of Steel Reserve” GOP mayoral candidate Karen Brown drank before a debate. No one was safe — not even local leaders whose supporters, Proctor claimed on his site, routinely sent him hate mail. Daily News columnist Stu Bykofsky, who dedicated a 600-word article to Proctor, called him “part gadfly, part H.L. Mencken, part Howard Stern” and said he “won’t shut up.”
But then, out of nowhere, he did just that.
City Paper tracked down Proctor to see why he got out of the game. He quit, he says, for a few reasons. Click below to find out what those are.
Yes, slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865, but yes, it still goes on: In 2008, we saw the most recent federal slavery conviction by the federal government, who charged employers of tomato pickers in Immokalee, Florida with "beating workers who were unwilling to work or who attempted to leave their employ picking tomatoes, holding their workers in debt, and chaining and locking workers inside u-haul trucks as punishment," as the Coalition of Immokalee Workers puts it â a charge that amounted, prosecutors said, to slavery.
Among the worst abuses was imprisonment in the trucks, as the Ft. Myers News Press reported in December, 2008:
One of the victims, Mariano Lucas Diego, spoke of what he'd endured: beatings and nighttime imprisonment in a truck, where the family's captives would have to urinate and defecate in the corners.
The Coalition is on tour now in a truck â like the one Mr. Diego was held captive in â they call the "Florida Modern Day Slavery Museum," which will be on Independence Mall until 8 P.M.
|Courtesy of Committee of 70
Zack Stalberg, president and CEO of good government group Committee of Seventy, has become something of a mythical Philadelphia character recently especially after the abolishment of the Clerk of Quarter Sessions (CQS) office and the Board of Revision of Taxes, both of which the Committee has long said should be shut down. (CQS, it should be noted, isn't completely abolished yet; the First District has taken over most of its responsibilities, but City Council legislation to officially shut it down is still in committee.)
So, while we definitely take the Public Record with a grain of salt, their recent pieces criticizing Stalberg are interesting for their singularity, if nothing else. The first article takes aim at Stalberg's annual salary the Record reports it's $248, 733 and how he allegedly "caused a meltdown" in the CQS; the second attacks his relationship with the local real estate industry, since he advocates for the abolishment of the Sheriff's office. Sez the piece:
Nearly seven out of every 10 contributors who attended the last breakfast fundraiser in November have financial ties to the local real-estate market, or provide professional or consulting services to the public sector.
The Committee of 70 touts its independence from special interests on its website and takes great pride in the fact it does not seek government funds.
Yet its take from the real-estate sector raises questions, in a city where Sheriff sales have emerged as a major target for the local giants in that industry.
This has become evident with the forecast by commercial real-estate experts of a second huge wave of foreclosures and defaults which will now involve the commercial real-estate sector, including multifamily residential projects and signature buildings.
You can read the rest of the articles here, if you're so inclined. There's no dirt in the pieces, though the Record promises it, but they do leave us wondering: What does labor have against Stalberg? And does it have something to do with Johnny Doc?
In fact, more than 1,500 Temple Hospital staffers are striking today at noon.
So how does a hospital continue to run without them? According to Young Philly Politics, the hospital is hiring nurses from HealthSource Global Staffing at a cost of more than $10,000 for each RN per week. If true, that's an exorbitant amount of money.
Head over to YPP for a good summary and video and what's gone on thus far (including the rally we told you about last Friday), and keep your eye on this one, people. I have a feeling it's gonna get ugly.
Back in November, we told you about a looming strike from Temple Hospital's nurses, and their brethren at the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP). At the time, their contracts had expired a month prior, and their complaints ranged from everything as predictable as wage issues to something a little more astonishing: the "gag clause."
Sez writer Joshua Fernandez:
According to a complaint PASNAP filed with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board Oct. 30, the proposed clause within TUH's contract offer states that no employee will "criticize, ridicule or make any statement which disparages Temple, or any of its affiliates or any of their respective managers or medical staff members."
Many months later, Temple and its nurses haven't come to an agreement, and the March 31 negotiate-or-we'll-strike deadline is next Wednesday.
So today at noon, nearly 350 nurses, hospital staff and representatives from various Philly labor groups rallied today outside of Temple Hospital to give a taste, if you will, of the coming strike.
Emily Randle, PASNAP's communications and government relations specialist, said the event fostered a "great mood," but ulimately wasn't very successful. "We were there today to ask for negotiations this weekend," she says, "and we're not sure that's going to happen."
|Michael T. Regan
Back in 2008, senior writer Isaiah Thompson wrote a piece about Philly cabbie leader Ron Blount, the Unified Taxi Workers Alliance of Pennsylvania (TWA-PA), and the difficulty that the city's taxi drivers faced while trying to unionize and ensure their rights. A year and a half later, what's one of the basic rights they're still fighting for? Workers' compensation.
Good news on that front: Todd Wolfson of the Media Mobilizing Project got the ear of Rep. Mark Cohen, who sponsored House Bill 1914, which would mandate that medallion (aka certification) owners pay for workers' comp for taxi drivers. Also, for handicapped passengers, the bill would provide wheelchair-accessible cab medallions.
The public hearing for the bill will be on Fri., March 19 from 10 a.m. to noon at City Hall, Room 400.
A tipster alerted us this evening to the unfortunate fact that the totally super-awesome Big Ass Beer Fest (some 50 craft brews for $35 bucks), scheduled for March 27 at the Sheraton on Race and 17th, has been canceled.
Why, you ask? According to the event's Web site:
We regret to inform you that this event has been canceled. The hotel's bartender's union WILL NOT allow brewery reps to pour their products and they want way too much money to work the event without us raising the ticket prices past what we feel is fair for a selection of beers that we could fit into the space available.
The bartender's union will not allow brewery reps to pour their products, and wanted too much money to work the event. I sent an email to the event organizers, and will try to get a hold of the union reps this weekend/Monday for comment. But yeah, seems pretty ridiculous, no?
The event organizers say they'll be back next year in a more accommodating venue.
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