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Unions Can Organize and Win Strikes. But Not With the Present Leadership

"This is William.  I apologize, I?m so sorry for what this contract gave us.  I didn?t vote for it.  I didn?t like it.  I?ve said my piece.  But, uh, I guess a lot of people were broken down or whatever.I feel that the company won.  I feel that the union didn?t fight hard enough.  But I definitely voiced my opinion at the meeting.  So I guess I got to go with the flow.

But I apologize for anybody else who is going to have their contract coming up.  Thank you for the coffee. Thank you for the encouragement.  And thank you for being on my side.

Take care, Rich. "

This above is what a striker wrote to me after five months on the picket line in the 2004 grocery strike and after the vote to go back to work.  I was on those picket lines every day during my lunchtime and after work. This strike was defeated due to the leadership of the UFCW and AFL-CIO that chose the employer over the worker. The comment below in bold the UFCW spokesperson Ron Lind made to the mass media in the midst of the strike when members were out of work losing money and sometimes their homes. Activists that ignore this role and don't challenge this collaboration and fight openly in our movement for the consciousness of the members and the working class and a different approach as a whole are derelict of duty. RM

?We want to make changes with a scalpel, not a chain saw.? *

by Richard Mellor

Afscme Local 444, retired

I have to bring this subject up again because it is such a glaring omission on the one hand and because the consequences of it disarm and in fact can demoralize, those rank and file union members who want to fight to change the present concessionary and pro-business policies of the AFL-CIO leadership. I am referring to this In These Times article on the subject of union organizing.  In These Times is a liberal/left newspaper directed mainly at academia and the liberal middle classes in or around the labor movement and often employed as staffers and advisors to the officialdom.

This article by Seth Kershner is about the retail industry.

Mr. kershner provides some useful information about the retail industry. He points out that retail has seen a 50% increase in employment to about $15 million workers since 1980 while real wages for these workers has fallen 11% over the same period. Mirroring the decline in union density over the past decades Retail had a union density rate of 15% in the 1970?s while grocery stores hit a peak of 31% in 1983. The source of Mr. Kirshner?s information is Peter Ikeler, a sociologist who has written books on the subject.

The professor blames de-unionization on the ?hollowing out? of the NLRA (National Labor Relations Act) system through legal challenges by the employers and correctly stresses that it is ?employer hostility? that is the most ?important factor? in the decline of union membership in retail and by implication, organized labor as a whole. ?The climate for labor organizing in retail is pretty explicitly negative?Ikeler argues. It wasn?t exactly positive in the 1880?s or 1920?s and 30?s either.

In what I assume is support of professor Ikeler?s book Hard Sell: Work and Resistance in Retail Chains, Mr. Kershner gives some examples of the hostility aimed at workers and unions. Kershner quotes examples of propaganda and lies that are part of workplace meetings along with what I describe as workplace terrorism; putting the fear of god in to workers if they even think or talk about unions. Another strategy is terminating workers found guilty of doing so to set an example.

In These Times and other similar journals are fond of quoting various ?labor experts? about the conditions workers face on the job, the threats, intimidation, violations of safety and other rules. The heads of organized labor who reside in Washington DC also turn to academia and the experts to legitimize their roles as heads of the organizations and their claims that things are bad.  Workers are sources of information but not of power in this approach.

Both Professor Ikler and Mr. Kirshner it seems claim that ?unions also share part of the blame?.  Now here is where I have to point out a glaring omission, certainly in Mr. Kershner?s article and possibly Professor Ikler?s book, and that is the absence of a union leadership. Ikler, Kirshner writes, ?thinks that unions have done a lousy job of keeping workers engaged? and he goes on to give some examples which show that many workers are not aware that they?re in a union. As a retired utility worker and union activist for 30 odd years I can attest to that, many union members cannot name their union and certainly not the AFL-CIO.

Both Ikler and kershner avoid, or cover for the role of the union leadership by using the all-inclusive term, ?the union? It appears that organized labor has members who pay the dues and work in the workplaces of the US and that?s it. Ikler according to Mr. Kershner and in agreement with him apparently, believes that ?unions need to step up their organizing and get back to what union were in their early New Deal, Days?

In other words, that members don?t know they are in a union or that they belong to the AFL-CIO or anything much else about the movement, and what has been happening to us is simply a product of ?the union?  (all of us) doing a ?lousy job?. It?s purely an organizational issue.

Many union members never see their officials outside of election time or when there?s a Democrat running for office that the union hierarchy is supporting. I have been on picket lines through three or more retail industry strikes and, like all workers, they have suffered defeat after defeat. In the case of the 2004 grocery strike here in California the UFCW leadership were asking shoppers not to cross informational picket lines up North while UFCW members were stocking the shelves. The UFCW leadership and the entire labor movement refused to mobilize the power of the membership and violate anti-union laws, no strike clauses and win. Yes, members have a responsibility, but leadership is crucial.

In some cases union leadership takes workers out on strike simply to encourage the employer to talk to them nicer. In the Wisconsin events of a few years ago with a hundred thousand or more workers in the streets and occupying the State Capital Rotunda the only two demands that the union leadership made an issue of were dues check off which is where the employer collects the unions revenue through payroll, and collective bargaining rights which affect the leadership?s role as official bargaining representatives and a seat at the table. I am opposed to dues check off as it gives the bosses? control of our funds and isolates more the rank and file member from the union as an organization.

Bargaining rights is important obviously but without this role the hierarchy has no job and overwhelmingly they have used their position to assist the employers and force concessions on their own members. In the case of Wisconsin, concessions were fine. The officialdom had the members out to defend their own jobs only.

In researching his book Ikler talked to workers at Target (Target used to be GEMCO and was unionized) who basically said they were afraid of losing their jobs if they supported unions. This is something every worker is well aware of. The question is where is the power to protect them when they do?  Target management claims that they solve issues with the help of ?their team? meaning the workers, and that they ?create an environment of mutual trust between Target and our team members.?

Talk to any worker that trusts you and they know damn well that they?re not on the same team. Yes, some conservative less class conscious workers might, but not many if they?re honest, because work teaches us otherwise.

Source Doug Henwood
These graphs on the left reveal the decline in strikes and workplace stoppages. This is the product of decades of cooperation with the employer's by the heads of the AFL-CIO and organized labor in general. It also reflects the fear that workers have after participating in or witnessing strikes that are not really aimed at stopping production but are merely 24 hour protests that end in defeat or being sent back to work after weeks on picket lines with no significant improvements.

In a previous piece on Labor and the SEIU I pointed to the massive propaganda campaign the AFL-CIO and SEIU waged to get employees of Kaiser Permanente, the huge HMO to get on board with the Team Concept. The AFL-CIO used its own version of fear and coercion to get those workers to vote against their gut instincts and place their faith not in our own power and mobilization of workers in and outside unions, but to allow their leadership to jump in bed with the health care executives. Its Industrial Union Department produced an expensive glossy fold out urging the rank and file of Kaiser?s unions to vote yes for a new ?labor management partnership? There were implications of catastrophe if the workers didn?t do so.
In 2009, the Western State Council of the UFCW presented its Person of the Year Award to the Chairman of Save-Mart Bob Piccini. Not a steward, not a militant rank and file fighter. A worker doesn?t need a sociology degree or advice from a labor history expert degree to know what this is.

It is not an accident that some workers don?t know whether they?re in a union or not, the present heads of organized labor from the top down prefer it that way. It is a conscious strategy on their part. They use member power very cautiously just to blow off some steam, call people out here and there, have rally after rally, make a lot of noise. But stopping production, real strikes, mobilizing the power of workers on the job and in our communities in an offensive of our own against austerity, this is a terrifying thought for them. Will they be able to control the anger that might arise when a collective sense of our own power frees it?

They support the Team Concept because they see no alternative to the market, they worship the market and capitalism. So in the face of an employers offensive they scramble to help them out which means attacking their own members? interests. To mobilize the potential power of their members can only lead to chaos from their world viewpoint.

This ignoring of labor?s leadership is a conscious thing. Many liberal academics work for or are connected to the labor officialdom in some way and are aware that it is not only non union employers like Target that push this labor management team nonsense, the unionized ones do too. The Team Concept, the philosophy that workers and bosses have the same interests is the dominant thinking among the labor hierarchy and the root cause of their class collaboration and betrayals.  To point to their role, which has meant cooperation and collaboration with employers and capital, would bring them in to a conflict with the hierarchy so they avoid it. But this more or less leads to blaming the members instead. 

I am not saying there aren?t academics or people that have been trained in certain fields that can provide huge benefits and assistance to the working class in our struggle against capital. Many have and many have made great sacrifices. But as Marx once said, the emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class itself. No force can do it for us.

Professor Ikler looks to the creation of worker centers where we can ? about work conditions and plan campaigns.?, and begin to build, "A strong occupational identity -- where workers are very committed to a craft, to an occupation -- this has often been a source of collective identity and resistance,"  I find this a bit of a confusing statement. Is he suggesting we return to the craft mentality?  He seems to think we don?t discuss work, we don?t discuss our type of work, we have no sense of working class unity. I realize it?s harder for someone at a university as these are capitalist institutions where their ideology is very strong; they are capitalist Think Tanks. But we talk a lot about work.

Workers talk about conditions all the time, after work, at the pub, at dinner and visiting friends. When talking of leadership they often blame criminal activity, corruption and obscene salaries as the reason for their leadership?s refusal to fight but these are secondary factors, the Team Concept philosophy is primary. Many an honest fighter has ended up on the other side; the road to hell is paved with good intentions as they say.

And it?s fine to plan a campaign but, again, Ikler runs away from the inevitable, any efforts at changing the present policies of concessions will bring these workers in to a conflict with the hierarchy and it can be fatal to ignore this. Many of the socialist left in the unions avoid openly challenging the present leadership also using building the ?Vanguard Party?as an excuse or claiming the union leadership will never do anything no matter what. The present leadership has built a relationship with the bosses? based on labor peace and they will not sit idly by when it appears a movement is arising that threatens that view. Even the organizing successes of unions like SEIU, is based on labor/management cooperation and making workers part of the team. It?s like a business, a road to increasing revenue.

For those of us developing strategies we must help prepare the rank and file for the reality of a struggle and help in it.

Ikler talks about unions getting back to the ??early New Deal Days.? but doesn?t really elaborate except calling them ?worker based?. I have no idea what he means by that but getting back to what won in the thirties is exactly what we have to do. Millions of workers joined unions in this period. Workers occupied factories, youth occupied schools, roving pickets traveled from workplace to workplace, the great 44-day Flint occupation should be labor?s 4thof July. We had three general strikes in 1934 and the last general strike in Oakland in 1946, a huge year for strike days lost. There were unemployed movements like A.J Muste?s group that joined in the 1934 Toledo General Strike, and housing and renters movements based on direct action tactics.

We saw an attempt in the 1980?s to push back against the capitalist offensive after the defeat of Patco in 1980 when Reagan fired 11,000 strikers and banned them from working in their industry for life. The union leadership did nothing but voice a few platitudes and raised some money. Numerous major strikes followed; Two Greyhound strikes, Eastern Airlines, AT&T Hormel Meat Packing in Austen Mn. Detroit Teamsters. We had strikes at Stalely, that took on the name the ?War Zone? and in the mines and International Paper. Public sector worker struck in Philadelphia and elsewhere. These strikes were defeated not because workers were unwilling to sacrifice but because the trade union leadership from the AFl-CIO down refused to bring the power of organized labor and our communities to the table and confront capital rather than defending it.

The rank and file of labor does have a responsibility and that is to build opposition caucuses in the workplaces, union halls where they can, and campaign openly against the policies of the present leadership. As a movement form below gains traction splits will occur in the present leadership and others will be replaced. Police brutality, environmental catastrophe, poison water, education and health care and the despair that leads people to right wing hate groups and the horrific school shooting are are witnessing are all union issues. If the left doesn?t fill the vacuum the right will. The silence of the present heads of organized labor on these issues is deafening.

We must return to what built the union in the first place. Rely on our own strength, challenge and build to a movement that can violate anti-union laws and demand what we need, not what the present officials and their friends in the Democratic Party tell us is realistic.

This is not a picnic------it never was.

* Ron Lind, UFCW spokesperson during the 2004 strike assuring the grocery bosses, through the mass media, that their profits would be safe.
Source: Unions Can Organize and Win Strikes. But Not With the Present Leadership
AlterNet / Has Donald Trump Tainted Jimmy Fallon for Good?
« Last post by AlterNet on Today at 06:20:41 AM »
Has Donald Trump Tainted Jimmy Fallon for Good?

Years after that fateful interview, we still can't stomach the "Late Night" host.


Late-night host Jimmy Fallon comes off as a sweetheart, a huge fan of pop music who improvises a song for any occasion and appears to have the entertainment industry?s A-list on speed dial. Guests on ?The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon? present an extra dose of sparkle when they join him onstage, their smiles artificially switched to a high beam setting as if to match the amplified pep of its host.

Depending on the day you?ve endured, an hour of Fallon can serve as a gentle, non-habit forming sleep aid. Or it can come off as the equivalent dumping a box of aspartame on to your tongue in an effort to chase away the bitterness of the previous 12-to-18 waking hours of that preceded his show. More and more, encounters with ?The Tonight Show? have come to feel like the latter.

Historically ?The Tonight Show? has been the dominant late night telecast, even when NBC fumbled its handoff from Jay Leno to Conan O?Brien before, to the public?s great displeasure, handing it back to the-very much-past-his-sell-by-date Leno in an act of desperation. That reign continued after Fallon took over, and would have steamed along full throttle, if not for the dawning of the stressful political era we now find ourselves in.

Few relationships are sunk by voicing a lack of love for Jimmy Fallon these days. Demonstrations of general disdain at the mention of his name, in fact, are all but expected among viewers who still care enough to watch late night talk shows in their timeslots. And this general sense of tsuris bears out in the ratings.

At present ?The Tonight Show? is pre-empted until February 26 by NBC?s coverage of the Winter Olympics currently underway in Pyeongchang, South Korea. But this week, NBC is airing a five-minute version of the late-night talk show called ?Tonight Show Fallon 5" following NBC?s primetime coverage of the games.

Five minutes of Fallon works pretty well, actually. Or it could be that SpongeBob and Paul Rudd make anything palatable. Hard to say.

Regardless of how that taster spoon of "Tonight Show" strikes you, in late November, a New York Times story indicated that Fallon?s audience declined by an average of 700,000 per night between the fall 2016 season and fall 2017. Meanwhile, the audiences for Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel, the two broadcast hosts offering spikier political humor that has, in Kimmel?s case, inspired conversation and dinner table debate, have gone up.

According to Nielsen, in the season-to-date ratings race ?The Late Show? is averaging an audience of 3.86 million to the 2.77 million who tune in for ?The Tonight Show.? ?Kimmel? is pulling 2.29 million on average. That?s total viewers. In the advertiser-attractive 18-to-49 demographic Fallon is still on top, with Kimmel and Colbert just about neck and neck. But even in that demographic, Fallon?s lead has diminished.

The larger question is why Fallon still inspires a level of low-grade animus in a number of viewers. It?s not just about his famous tousling of Donald Trump?s comb over anymore. Surely that has something to do with it, but Americans are famously forgiving and forgetful when it comes to celebrity gaffes, even the ones that normalize racists.

Rather, it?s a matter of Fallon?s stubborn inability to pivot into the new role of the late night host as mordant satirist and truth teller in an era marked by the obfuscation of truth, constant bitterness and endless anxiety.

Fallon opens nearly all of his monologues with some variation of, ?Guys, here?s what people are talking about.? What follows is a string of punchlines that barely meet that qualification. Take his monologue from the night after Trump?s State of the Union address, in which the harshest joke was a crack that Trump is keeping Guantanamo Bay open because he thought it was an amusement park (Rimshot!). Then he took a mild swipe at the annoyance of CNN?s new alerts.

Colbert dissected the speech, the Democratic response, and other political headlines, including Trump?s refusal to impose restrictions on Russia congress already approved; Trump?s dodging of a meeting with special counsel Robert Mueller; and congressman Devin Nunes? promotion of releasing the memo on the FBI supposedly proving the organization?s bias against the president. You know, the stuff people actually are (or were, at that time) talking about.

Where Colbert, Kimmel and other late night hosts rip into the absurd obscenity of today's presidential politics, Fallon opts for harmless yuks delivered with a Borscht-belt "hey-o!" insincerity. He?s a man obstinately camped out in a place he believes to be the middle ground in an era where such a place no longer exists, especially in comedy.

Here is where we touch upon the subtle-though-important difference between middle ground and common ground. In essence, the first term speaks to the effort to please everybody. The second acknowledges that regardless of a person?s political, religious or social affiliations, there are specific issues that hold a shared interest for all of us, or fundamental beliefs that are worth acknowledging. Our individual views on such issues vary wildly but, in essence, we can all agree that they are important.

This is why Colbert?s relentless hammering on the Russia investigation and Trump?s pathological mendacity has lifted the fortunes of ?The Late Show,? and Kimmel?s heartfelt statements about healthcare and DACA, have increased his audience numbers. Colbert's approach may be the more partisan of the two, but both speak to a shared feeling that something has gone very wrong with our political leadership and the soul of this nation. Kimmel?s takes, in fact, have gone viral.

Fallon?s continued strength in 18-to-49 is based on the viral nature of his ?Tonight Show? episodes, which he and his producers have structured into a series of digestible and social media-friendly bits made to be circulated. The ?Classroom Instruments? series in particular, featuring pop stars singing hits to tiny xylophones, toy synthesizers and miniature percussion kits, was made for the Internet audience.

But Fallon also styles his monologue content to mirror the broad appeal of his viral segments, which is to say they?re soft and consciously written so as not to offend anyone. In any age that?s a recipe for comedy poison. In these days, on almost any day, it's kind of like fiddling and doing a soft-shoe shuffle while Rome burns. Just slightly.

The late night landscape fractured long ago, with entities on broadcast and cable speaking to small niches based on personality. And part of the shift we?re seeing in post-prime time has to do with dueling schools of comedy. One could posit that Colbert and Kimmel studied at the feet of David Letterman, Carson?s protégé. Fallon, and current ?Late Night? host Seth Meyers, honor kings of late night that came before as well. They also made their bones under Lorne Michaels and ?Saturday Night Live,? and as we?re seeing now, that second mentorship culminates in different approaches. ?Saturday Night Live? is a laboratory meant to develop personalities with distinct styles into individual brands and stars.

What this translates to is an emphasis and sharpening of individual strengths which,  in this moment, favors Meyers, the one-time co-host of ?Weekend Update? alongside Amy Poehler. The ?Late Night? brand as Letterman developed it is a place where the host can push the comedic edge, enabling Meyers to comfortably serve up brutally incisive headline driven observations. Over on CBS, Colbert stepped into Letterman?s slot gingerly but, owing to the precedent set by his predecessor, was soon unleashed to go for the political jugular.

Against this we have Fallon?s doomed insistence upon clinging to the old vision of ?The Tonight Show? as established by the hosts who came before him ? Jack Paar, Johnny Carson and Jay Leno, notably ? men who adhered to a sense of being smoothly agnostic in their political humor.

Those men also performed in eras when the country was split between conservatives and liberals, as it has been throughout our history. They found a way to please all comers. The greatness of Carson, in fact, was that he was seen as a uniting force. He was also the only late-night talk show game going for many years. But he excelled at making the lives of the rich and famous accessible to everyday people, and getting an audience to break up simply by, say, puckishly mentioning "Bimini" as the preface to his last one-liner about one-time presidential contender Gary Hart.  Even the unctuous Leno cultivated an audience for his blandness.

Fallon is trying mightily to capture some version of these old feelings, but either he doesn?t understand or refuses to acknowledge that our worship of fame, an idolatry that he perpetuates, is in part what brought us to our dangerous and distressing social and political now. Today?s best late night hosts still feed the entertainment industry beast, but they also distill each day's new serving of political rhetoric and spin into plain language, showing the horror for what it is while inviting us to laugh at the cosmic farce of it all. Their work is medicine for our sanity.

Fallon wears ?The Tonight Show? like an off-the-rack suit that?s slightly too large and slides around on his slight frame, as if it?s not quite his but it?s not meant for anyone else in particular, either. One day he may tailor it to fit the times, and maybe that will help. Problem is, we?re used to seeing him like this, and that makes him a symptom of the problem when what we really need is potent relief.

Source: Has Donald Trump Tainted Jimmy Fallon for Good?
Infoshop News / Organizing on a Sinking Ship: The Future of the Climate Justice Movement
« Last post by Alternative Media Project on Yesterday at 06:06:04 PM »
Organizing on a Sinking Ship: The Future of the Climate Justice Movement

Climate change rarely comes up at the top of the list when people are asked about issues that concern them most. While this is not surprising, it is nonetheless disturbing considering the gravity of the climate crisis.
Source: Organizing on a Sinking Ship: The Future of the Climate Justice Movement
Infoshop News / The Class Politics Behind Last Week?s Market ?Correction?
« Last post by Alternative Media Project on Yesterday at 06:06:04 PM »
The Class Politics Behind Last Week?s Market ?Correction?

via The Hampton Institute by Ben Luongo Markets plunged into correction territory last week after losing 10% from record highs. Economists continue to reassure the public that market corrections are a normal part of a cycle that peaks and troughs over time. The term itself implies that the precipitous drops are temporary adjustments that put […]
Source: The Class Politics Behind Last Week?s Market ?Correction?
Infoshop News / Calling for Resistance: the Electronic Panopticon of Call Centers and the Neoliberal Future of Work
« Last post by Alternative Media Project on Yesterday at 06:06:04 PM »
Calling for Resistance: the Electronic Panopticon of Call Centers and the Neoliberal Future of Work

For Working the Phones: Control and Resistance in Call Centres, I spent six months working undercover in a call centre in the UK. Taking inspiration from workers? inquiry ? a Marxist method of co-research that combines knowledge production with organising ? the aim was to understand how work is organised in call centres and how workers resist in this context.
Source: Calling for Resistance: the Electronic Panopticon of Call Centers and the Neoliberal Future of Work
AlterNet / Donald Trump Jr.'s India Speech Mixes Business and Politics in the Worst Way
« Last post by AlterNet on Yesterday at 06:06:02 PM »
Donald Trump Jr.'s India Speech Mixes Business and Politics in the Worst Way

The president's family continues to disregard basic ethical standards around conflicts of interest.


As the Trump family continues to tear up all basic norms that undergird our political system, Donald Trump Jr. has made plans to give a speech in India reportedly about foreign policy as he travels to the country while selling luxury apartments to the largely impoverished country. 

The eldest of President Donald Trump son's will give a speech titled "Reshaping Indo-Pacific Ties: The New Era of Cooperation" this week in New Delhi at the Global Business Summit. According to Trump Jr., he's in the region to sell condos at Trump-branded buildings, and the State Department says he has not coordinated with the administration on the travel. 

"It raises questions about certain lines being blurred," said Sumit Ganguly, a political scientist at Indiana University, on PBS Newshour. "Where does a simple property development end, and where do the president's personal interests, particularly financial interests, become implicated?"

The Trump family has said it has committed to a policy of "no new deals" while the president is in office, but it's hard to know for sure what this means. Trump Jr. is certainly hoping to make some "deals" by selling condos on his current trip. Does anyone doubt that his father's political stature hasn't raised the value of these properties?

And what exactly do the buyers think they're getting?access to the president? One advertisement for the condos certainly seemed to suggest as much, telling potential buyers: "Trump is here. Are you invited?"

The visit also raises the specter of the Trump family's practices in India and elsewhere. The country has recently ranked ninth among the countries with the most corrupt businesses practices. It's hard to be confident that the Trump family stuck to the letter of the law over there as it bends every norm and standard for behavior in office at home. Should we expect that the man who said, "If it's what you say, I love it" to people offering secret dirt from the Russian government on a political opponent stuck to the highest standards of behavior abroad?

The Trump Jr. speech represents what we've come to expect from this president and his family. They have little regard for complying with basic principles to avoid conflicts of interest, so it's par for the course that Trump Jr. will deliver a speech with clear political implications while supposedly on a business trip. It's just another example of how Trump continues to degrade the standards by which a presidency is judged and weaken the moral standing of the country.


Related Stories

Source: Donald Trump Jr.'s India Speech Mixes Business and Politics in the Worst Way
Inter Press Service - Labour / African Brain Drain: Is There an Alternative?
« Last post by Inter Press Service on Yesterday at 06:06:01 PM »
African Brain Drain: Is There an Alternative?

Luc Ngwé, a Cameroonian researcher and freelance consultant, is the author of a series of studies on higher education and has taught at the University of Douala (Cameroon), and at universities in Nanterre and Avignon (France).

The post African Brain Drain: Is There an Alternative? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Source: African Brain Drain: Is There an Alternative?
Infoshop News / Devil?s Bargain: We already have planet-cooling technology. The problem is, it?s killing us.
« Last post by Alternative Media Project on Yesterday at 06:01:16 AM »
Devil?s Bargain: We already have planet-cooling technology. The problem is, it?s killing us.

Turns out we have been unwittingly geoengineering for decades, and just like in the movies, it?s gone off the rails.
Source: Devil?s Bargain: We already have planet-cooling technology. The problem is, it?s killing us.
AlterNet / Law Professor Proposes Bringing Back Indentured Servitude
« Last post by AlterNet on Yesterday at 06:01:15 AM »
Law Professor Proposes Bringing Back Indentured Servitude

This idea is probably best left in the dustbin of history.

It?s 2018, so of course we?re about to discuss the possibility of rejuvenating indentured servitude. The practice, which until recently only came up when Irish-Americans wanted to explain why they think they had it just as bad as Black people, settled into the dustbin of history a long time ago, but Chicago Law Professor Eric Posner, along with Microsoft Research?s Glen Wyel, have a new proposal in Politico to bring it back in a new form as the Visas Between Individuals Program.

Here?s how the program would work: Imagine a woman named Mary Turner, who lives in Wheeling, West Virginia. She was recently laid off from a chicken-processing plant and makes ends meet by walking and taking care of her neighbors? pets. Mary could expand her little business by hiring some workers, but no one in the area would accept a wage she can afford. Mary goes online?to a new kind of international gig economy website, a Fiverr for immigrants?and applies to sponsor a migrant. She enters information about what she needs: someone with rudimentary English skills, no criminal record and an affection for animals. She offers a room in her basement, meals and $5 an hour. (Sponsors under this program would be exempt from paying minimum wage.) The website offers Mary some matches?people living in foreign countries who would like to spend some time in the United States and earn some money. After some back and forth, Mary interviews a woman named Sofia who lives in Paraguay.

It?s like indentured servitude, but with a Silicon Valley spitshine as a gig economy solution.

While it?s easy to recoil in horror when people start talking about making immigrants live in your basement and perform menial tasks for you for less than minimum wage, Posner and Wyel offer a few reasonable observations about the program that everyone should consider.

First, whether you like it or not, America already allows this program to the relatively affluent. The J-1 cultural exchange visa, which Posner and Wyel correctly brand ?in reality a nanny migrant-labor program used by upper-middle class American families? is thriving in America. Why is the notion of a 20-year-old French girl changing diapers for wealthy people acceptable while the idea of a 40-year-old Paraguayan walking dogs for a high school dropout problematic? For that matter, why can corporations use H1-B visas to secure high-end talent to enrich their overflowing coffers while Mary the Wannabe Dog Whisperer can?t get her dream off the ground?

Posner and Wyel think migrants would be prepared to spend upwards of $6000 for sponsorship, allowing working-class families to boost their incomes even before the hypothetical Mary sees her dog business take off.  Stripping away the H1-B and forcing corporations to pay people like Mary to sponsor the software engineers they?re bringing over could offer another revenue opportunity. Posner and Wyel also suggest that people who interact with immigrants on a day-to-day basis are less racist about migrants.

This is a thoughtful suggestion that should be commended for thinking outside the box on an important issue. But it?s also the sort of libertarian pipe dream that only makes sense after polishing off a brick of hashish and thumbing through Atlas Shrugged.

A baseline assumption of this proposal is the libertarian article of faith that everyone is an entrepreneur and every idea ? no matter how stupid ? will make money if you just will it into being. Are there enough people with enough disposable income in Mary?s neighborhood to make her dog business work? That seems like a big deal regardless of how many crumbs her personal immigrant assistant is getting. In a nod to the variation between demand in different markets, Posner and Wyel suggest that people might move to areas that need more migrant labor to take advantage of that market. Except people don?t pull up stakes and move across the country for $6,000 ? especially when they?re likely moving to somewhere with a much higher cost of living. While a family of four could make $20K by sponsoring 4 migrants, they claim, I seem to have overlooked the glut of working-class families that have two or three spares rooms available to put up strangers.

For anyone questioning the existence of the Overton Window, the concept that the public only accepts a narrow window of discourse and that radical shifts make previously extreme ideas normal (here?s an entertaining primer), consider the straight line that runs from the White House trying to build a wall and law schools conflating slurs with policy debate to a high-minded discussion in a major publication about Uber-fying indentured servitude. This is a relatively tame and thoughtful proposal about immigration and the fact that we?re saying that with a straight face is way, way, way crazier than the idea itself.

But this is where we are in 2018.


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« Last post by Alternative Media Project on February 20, 2018, 06:00:13 PM »
How Segregation Persists

A pioneer in the study of segregation explores a groundbreaking new theory on why American neighborhoods are still so divided along racial lines.
Source: How Segregation Persists
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