Archive: August, 2011
Segregation: New studies show Philly has nation’s most separate and unequal schools, neighborhoods. Chicago, New York, Cleveland, Detroit close behind.
Two new studies show that the Philadelphia region is one of the most separate and unequal when it comes to neighborhoods and schools for blacks, whites, Hispanics and Asians. You can download them here.
The studies’ author, Brown University sociologist John Logan, broke it down for City Paper:
“Philadelphia's black population, and particularly its affluent black population, lives in much poorer neighborhoods than comparable whites because they are so highly segregated by race. In the greater Philadelphia area that includes Wilmington and Camden, even the most affluent black households are in neighborhoods that are close to majority black and very few such neighborhoods are predominantly middle class. The overall level of segregation has changed very little since 1980. In these ways Philadelphia is like a number of older and larger metro areas in the Northeast and Midwest where the historical legacy of segregation in central cities from before the Civil Rights era seems to be locked into place and continues to be reproduced even as minorities begin to move to the suburbs.”
Philadelphia blacks are exposed to poverty at a rate nearly three times higher than whites (demography wonks: we’re talking Metropolitan Division, not Metropolitan Statistical Area)--the third highest rate in the country after Newark and Milwaukee. The average black person in the Philly area lives in a neighborhood with a 24.8% poverty rate, compared to just 8.4% for whites. Chicago, Cleveland, St. Louis and Detroit follow close behind.
And Philly has by far the most extreme gap between Hispanic and white exposure to poverty. Hispanics are more than three times more likely to live in impoverished communities, living in neighborhoods with an average poverty rate of 25.4%. And we have the second highest ratio of Asian to white exposure to poverty: Asians are nearly twice as exposed, and live in neighborhoods with a 13.4% poverty rate.
And the schools. The Philadelphia area has the largest performance gap between black and white schools nation-wide, as measured by elementary school reading scores. The average black kid attends a school that scores in the 21st percentile, while the average white kid’s school scores in the 66th.
“Philadelphia is the extreme case, where the average white student is in a school where students perform at the 66th percentile, and black students are in schools below the 21st percentile. The white-black ratio is over three to one,” writes Logan. “Other metros at the top of this list include Chicago, Newark, Buffalo, Milwaukee, Cleveland, New York, and Pittsburgh.”
Same goes for Hispanics and whites: we’re number one, with Hispanics attending schools that are 3.28 times worse than those that whites attend. The average Hispanic attends a school that scores in the 20th percentile on reading tests.
Nation-wide, the average black student attended an elementary school that scored at the 35th percentile on state tests with Hispanics and Native Americans not far behind, while Asians and whites were at schools scoring around the 60th percentile.
This is a big deal, as Logan points out, because this “is the first national-level study at all grade levels to look beyond the racial segregation of schools to the question of inequalities in student performance of schools attended by children of different race and ethnicity.”
In 2011, we apparently still need to be reminded that separate means unequal. Where you live has a big impact on where you go to school: going to school in North Philly (you’re probably black) and the Main Line (likely white) are two very different things.
Crucially, Logan found that the free market sorting poor people into poor neighborhoods and rich into rich (as if this alone would be morally acceptable) couldn’t account for the racial segregation. Which leaves, well, race.
“The average affluent black or Hispanic household lives in a poorer neighborhood than the average lower-income white resident,” writes Logan. Indeed, the average black or Hispanic household making more than $75,000 per year lives in a poorer neighborhood than the average white household making less than $40,000
Interestingly, Logan was only able to use data from 2004, because the Department of Education “has yet to make public more current information.” The Bush and Obama Administrations’ failure to produce this information is particularly striking because Logan’s findings indicate that “attacking this pattern by focusing on a few low-achieving schools,” which is the modus operandi of No Child Left Behind, “can have only marginal results.” The problem is segregation and cannot be solved by pathologizing non-white schools and the people (say, teachers) who work there.
Indeed, as Logan notes, “it is hard to imagine how the disadvantages in schools attended by black and Hispanic children can be redressed unless there are major changes in the segregation of schools by race and class. And the issue of segregation is not on the policy agenda.”
We may have a black president, but segregation and racial inequality continue to define our nation’s geography. Most disturbingly, a new Pew study found that the recession wiped out recent wealth gains for blacks and Latinos: black household wealth fell by 55% and Hispanics lost 66%, while whites lost just 16%. The average white now has a net worth twenty times larger than blacks and 18 times larger than Hispanics--the largest racial wealth gap in at least a quarter century.
As Logan writes, “In its analysis of the sources of urban riots in the mid-1960s, the National Commission on Civil Disorders observed that the country was dividing into two nations, increasingly separate and unequal. Now – more than four decades later and in a very different social and political climate – new census data remind us that divisions remain very deep.”
Philadelphia, suburbanites and particularly all of you who are mindlessly obsessed with the deficit: segregation and inequality are a national disgrace.
Philadelphia casino employees aren't unionized: But what if they were? It's a question that hasn't come up in discussions over the performance of Sugarhouse Casino — which brought in far less than expected in its first year — or whether or not Philadelphia should (or will be forced to anyway) host a second casino.
Yet many other casinos in the region are unionized — partially, at least. A portion of workers at Harrah's Chester, for example, belong to Unite Here!, and Atlantic City casino employees belong to several unions, including Unite Here Local 54, which staged a thousands-strong protest of pay cuts just a few days ago.
Philly hasn't seen any public effort to unionize casino workers — not yet, anyway; but whether that could change is a question worth asking.
Certainly, it's been a serious consideration for the casinos themselves.
A Harrah's study titled "Building Excitement for Opening Day: A Case Study in Employee Engagement at Harrah's Entertainment" contains this tidbit:
The objectives were clear: 1) Hire 600 dealers in 120 days who were more upbeat and positive than any dealers in history and 2) Create a fun environment that celebrated the dealers’ energy, while training them on the functional skills they needed to succeed and 3) foster ongoing dialogue and feedback to avoid unionization.
And a 2009 Harrah's prospectus filed with the SEC mentions the following:
Some of our employees are represented by labor unions. A lengthy strike or other work stoppage at one of our casino properties or construction projects could have an adverse effect on our business and results of operations. From time to time, we have also experienced attempts to unionize certain of our non–union employees. While these efforts have achieved only limited success to date, we cannot provide any assurance that we will not experience additional and more successful union activity in the future. There has been a trend towards unionization for employees in Atlantic City and Las Vegas. For example, certain dealers, slot technicians and security guards at certain of our Atlantic City properties have voted to be represented by the United Auto Workers and the International Union, Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America, respectively.
One week after Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority chairman Sam Katz suggested privatizing Philadelphia Gas Works to shore up the city's underfunded pensions, City Paper has discovered that Mayor Michael Nutter has been quietly exploring doing just that.
On July 8, 2010, the city announced it had commissioned financial advisers Lazard Ltd. to assess the feasibility of selling or leasing PGW, appropriating $200,000 of ratepayer funds and an additional $900,000 for a possible phase two study.
Nutter was unwilling to discuss the plans. According to a terse email from spokesperson Katherine Martin, "The city is constantly reviewing its assets, and this study is another example of the city's diligence and deliberativeness."
The report was expected by Oct. 15, 2010, but now it's not known when it will be completed.
Proposals to privatize PGW surface regularly. It was Public Financial Management, a firm Katz founded, that in 1999 reported that the city could make between $128 million and $528 million from a sale — but only if rates were not reduced, "significant" layoffs were put into effect, and social programs that provide subsidized gas to the poor and elderly were "essentially eliminated."
"The consequences of eliminating those programs would be tremendous social costs," says Philip Bertocci, a Community Legal Services attorney and public advocate for PGW ratepayers.
There's not much fat left to cut, since PGW already trimmed personnel by nearly 40 percent since 1988 and boosted the collections rate to more than 98 percent. PGW is still loaded down with $1.217 billion in long-term debt, though at least they're now not paying off all that debt with new debt.
You'll want to do some clicking and follow links to the reporters prepared to do this story justice, but here's the quick rundown:
The School Reform Commission meeting this morning appears to have been total mayhem. A packed room included staunch supporters of Superintendent Arlene Ackerman — a few of whom, according to live tweets by Inquirer reporter Kristen Graham, described the Sup. as "sent from God," and Philly's "Rosa Parks," — as well as critics.
Among the bombshells dropped by SRC members: the gutting of "Promise Academies," Ackerman's legacy project, which aim to turn around the District's worst-performing schools.
At the news, some audience members exploded at the SRC.
SRC members, in turn, did not voice support for Ackerman.
Speculation that Ackerman will not preside over the schools when they re-open in September has been rampant, though Ackerman has consistently denied that she intends to leave, and has a contract through 2014.
Is it possible that the curtailing of her most-touted program will change her tone? We'll see.
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.
The progressive activist group Keystone Progress today released a report showing that state legislation to oppose healthcare reform and support privatization was copied from model legislation developed behind closed doors with major corporate donors at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
Rep. Matthew Baker's legislation opposing "Obamacare" was based on an ALEC model and praised in an ALEC press release--even though the organization claims it does no lobbying (Common Cause strenuously disagrees):
“The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) -- the nation's largest nonpartisan individual membership association of state legislators -- congratulates Pennsylvania State Representatives Matthew Baker and Curt Schroder for filing House Bills 2053 and 2179, which protect the right of individuals to make their own health care choices...Pennsylvania joins 31 other states where legislators have introduced, or will introduce, legislation modeled after ALEC's Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act. Under the legislation, any state attempt to require an individual to purchase health insurance -- or forbid an individual from purchasing services outside of the required health care system -- would be rendered unconstitutional.”
Rep. Seth Grove introduced the ALEC model "Council on Efficient Government Act" that would encourage privatization of government services.
Citizen activists and journalists have just begun to compare state legislation to ALEC models. ProPublica has a how-to guide for anyone interested in doing some digging on their own.
Last week, City Paper disclosed that State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe and other conservatives received taxpayer funding to participate in and travel to American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meetings. I further explored the matter in a separate article over at Salon.
See below for a list of Independent and third-party candidates who met Monday's deadline to file enough signatures to get on the ballot this fall. Thanks in advance, candidates, for making the upcoming (and usually altogether non-competitive) election a little more interesting ... that is, if you don't get knocked off the ballot with a petition challenge first!
Cheri Honkala — Green Party candidate for Sheriff
Richie Antipuna — Green Party candidate for City Commissioner
Richard Johnson — Independent candidate for Council at-large
Brian Rudnick — Green Party candidate for the 8th Council District
Jim Foster — Independent candidate for the 8th Council District
Bobby Curry — Independent candidate for the 9th Council District
Rahim Dawkins — Independent candidate for the 9th Council District
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