Wednesday, June 10, 2015

No Racism!!!

Liberal America's photo.
Labor 411's photo.

The only good news about the McKinney pool party is the white kids’ response to racism


An image from Monday evening's protests in McKinney shows white teens protesting the police department's conduct. Deray McKesson
In the story of the Texas pool party, where a police officer was caught on tape manhandling and pointing a gun at young black teenagers, there's a lot to be concerned and outraged about. But there's also one tiny thing to celebrate: the actions of two white kids.
Just 14 and 15 years old, they wasted no time speaking on the record about the racist comments made by adults that they said set off the incident, and recording the discriminatory treatment they said they witnessed.

Sadly, when it comes to public opinion about the event, it's likely that these accounts have more weight coming from the white kids than from the black kids who have offered similar stories, but whom many media consumers might see as potential criminals and untrustworthy reporters of what happened.
Their stories shaped the early media narrative of the event, and their sense of responsibility to memorialize what happened should be seen as an example. Many American adults could learn something from their brave decisions to acknowledge rather than avoid or explain away the injustice they saw, but also to make sure the rest of us understood.

The white teens are the reason we're even hearing about this

Brandon Brooks speaks to a local news station about the video he captured

Brandon Brooks speaks to a local news station about the video he captured
According to BuzzFeed News's David Mack's report on the incident, Grace Stone, a white 14-year-old, said when she and her friends responded to white adults' comments that the black pool party guests should return to "Section 8 [public housing]," the older women became violent.
The police were called, and Brandon Brooks, a white 15-year-old, took out his cellphone to record what happened next — creating a record of the event that he later posted to YouTube, along with this commentary: "So the cops just started putting everyone on the ground and in handcuffs for no reason. This kind of force is uncalled for especially on children and innocent bystanders."

"I think a bunch of white parents were angry that a bunch of black kids who don't live in the neighborhood were in the pool," he told BuzzFeed. He made it clear that he felt he was spared because of his race, saying, "Everyone who was getting put on the ground was black, Mexican, Arabic. [The cop] didn't even look at me. It was kind of like I was invisible."
"You can see in part of the video where he tells us to sit down, and he kinda like skips over me and tells all my African-American friends to go sit down," he said in a Monday interview with CW33.
They weren't alone. Images from protests in McKinney show demonstrators  including a white teen holding a sign that read "White silence = white consent."

These kids decided addressing racism was their business

Stone's choice to speak about the racist comments she witnessed, and Brooks's decision to post his recording and analysis on YouTube and give an interview about what he observed, represents an unusual commitment to honesty about racism and discrimination — topics many white adults don't see through the same lens.
For example, a November 2014 Pew poll revealed that nearly half of white Americans thought race got too much attention in the discussion surrounding 18-year-old Michael Brown's death at the hands of a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. When asked about confidence in police to not use excessive force on suspects, 36 percent of white respondents expressed a great deal of confidence, compared with 18 percent of black respondents.
White people were more likely than not to say they thought anti-white discrimination had become a bigger problem
And in October 2014, the Washington Post reported on an analysis of years of polling by Harvard University professor Michael I. Norton, who found that 56 percent of black people but only 16 percent of white people said they believed there was "a lot" of discrimination in America. White people were more likely than not to say they thought anti-white discrimination had become a bigger problem than bias against blacks.
When you consider the well-documented social, economic, and political injustices against black people that have been committed both with and without the backing of the legal system, this looks like willful ignorance, and it can be infuriating.
That's why when Walter Scott, a 50-year-old unarmed black man, was shot in the back and killed by Charleston, South Carolina, police officer Michael Slager, Tim Wise (a white author who focuses on anti-racism) wrote this on his public Facebook page in response to those who insisted race had nothing to do with the tragedy:
I know there are some well-meaning (as well as not well meaning) white folks who say how awful the killing of Walter Scott was "regardless of the racial element," but please... When we as white folks strip away the social context within which these things happen, or refuse to acknowledge the generations-long soul wound imposed by racism upon peoples of color, we speak as if history didn't happen, as if historical memory doesn't matter, as if every day is disconnected from the last, and patterns are irrelevant. We speak, in other words, as persons with the privilege of ignoring the backbeat of white supremacy, as persons who enjoy the luxury of viewing life as a collection of random experiences, and ourselves are mere individuals floating through that life. How nice. People of color have not the luxury of such a conceit ...

The kids' reactions were encouraging. Take note, adults.

Outside of the context of American racism, what the kids did wouldn't really be a big deal: they saw that other kids their age were being wronged, and they told the truth about what happened. But against the backdrop of a society in which many adults both perpetuate racism and go to great lengths to deny it, their reactions stood out.

Brooks, who got out his phone to record the incident, even recognized and admitted that he was benefiting from his race by being able to loiter around without being antagonized or arrested. Meanwhile, Stone, 14, told a reporter about the racist comments that she said started the whole event, adding essential context to what had previously been characterized as just "a fight."
In this way, Stone and Brooks weren't just standing up for the black kids at the pool; they were also, hopefully, setting an example — and maybe, if we're really optimistic about their generation — predicting the future.

Monsanto Exposed for Trying to Hide 'Ugly History' By Ditching Its Name

Published on
Common Dreams  Borrowing tactic of Philip Morris, agrochemical giant tried to change name as part of corporate merger
Sarah Lazare, staff writer           
Monsanto has faced global protests for its steamrolling of environmental health and human rights. (Photo: Lisa @ Sierra Tierra/flickr/cc)
Monsanto has faced global protests for its steamrolling of environmental health and human rights. (Photo: Lisa @ Sierra Tierra/flickr/cc)
Agrochemical giant Monsanto—known for its power over food systems world-wide—recently suggested a name-change as part of a proposed corporate merger, in what critics say is a bald attempt to bury the poor human rights and environmental reputation associated with the company's brand.
Founded in St. Louis, Monsanto recently revealed that it would like to move its headquarters from the United States to the United Kingdom as part of a proposed merger with Swiss rival Syngenta.
A June 6 letter from Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant, made public by Syngenta, reveals that, as part of the deal, the U.S. company would "also propose a new name for the combined company to reflect its unique global nature."
Gary Ruskin of the consumer organization U.S. Right to Know put the name change differently: "Monsanto wants to escape its ugly history by ditching its name," he said in a press statement. "This shows how desperate Monsanto is to escape criticism: of its products, which raise environmental and health concerns, as well as concerns about corporate control of agriculture and our food system."
Market Watch, not known as a corporate watchdog publication, reiterated this point: "Branding experts said a name change could help Monsanto shed some baggage associated with its past, such as its Vietnam War-era manufacturing of the herbicide Agent Orange, used by the U.S. government in the war and since linked to chronic health problems in humans."
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The company continues to face global protests for its push of genetically modified crops, pesticides, and agro-industrial models at the expense of workers' rights, food and environmental health, and indigenous sovereignty.
A February Harris Poll found that Monsanto has one of the poorest reputations of "the 100 most visible companies" in the United States. Moreover, the corporation was numbered among eight companies that "show the largest declines in reputation" over the past five years—alongside Walmart, McDonald's, and others.
Monsanto does not appear to be winning any popularity contests. While the company has sought to buy Syngenta for over a year, it keeps getting turned down, including with this latest proposal.
Joe Satran wrote of the rejection in The Huffington Post: "You know you're unpopular when not even a company notorious for selling chemicals banned in Europe for harming defenseless invertebrates wants anything to do with you."
Despite Syngenta's latest rejection, critics of the company say the proposed name-change is telling, especially given the history of such moves. When notorious tobacco corporation Philip Morris changed its name to Altria Group in 2003, many charged that this was simply an attempt to avoid bad publicity, and ultimately, protect its bottom line.
"The merger process is still ongoing, and it's clear that Monsanto will keep making offers," Ruskin told Common Dreams. "It's so telling that Monsanto wants to ditch its own name. It speaks to how strong rejection of the company is in the United States and around the world."

Barack Obama poised to hike wages for millions


The Labor Department could propose a rule that would raise the current overtime threshold — $23,660 – to as much as $52,000.
US President Barack Obama speaks prior to signing a presidential memorandum increasing workers' overtime protections during an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, March 13, 2014. The memorandum instructs the Secretary of Labor to update overtime regulations, including increasing the number of employees that are eligible to earn overtime pay. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB        (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

The Obama administration is on the verge of possibly doubling the salary levels that would require employers to pay overtime in the most ambitious government intervention on wages in a decade. And it doesn’t need Congress’s permission.
As early as this week, the Labor Department could propose a rule that would raise the current overtime threshold — $23,660 – to as much as $52,000, extending time and a half overtime pay to millions of American workers. The rule has already come under fire from business and Republican opponents who say it will kill jobs and force employers to cut hours for salaried employees.
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“The minimum wage they can’t do,” said Bill Samuel, director of legislative affairs for the AFL-CIO. “This is probably the most significant step they can take to raise wages for millions of workers.”
Congressional Republicans are gearing up for a major battle against raising the overtime threshold. The House Education and the Workforce subcommittee will devote much of a scheduled June 10 hearing on federal wage and hour standards to the overtime rule, even if it isn’t yet released. Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, said the rule—sight unseen—“seems engineered to make it as unappealing as possible to be an employer creating jobs in this country.”
The business lobby, which is currently battling in two court venues what it calls the National Labor Relations Board’s “ambush elections rule” streamlining union elections, is likely to devote at least as many resources to fight the overtime rule. Randel Johnson, senior vice president for labor at the Chamber of Commerce, warned Labor Secretary Tom Perez in a Feb. 11 letter that any changes to existing overtime rules “threaten to upend years of settled law, create tremendous confusion, and have a significantly disruptive effect on millions of workplaces.”
By law, any salaried worker who earns below a threshold set by the Labor Department must receive overtime. The current threshold of $23,660 lies below the poverty line for a family four. The proposed rule is expected to raise that to somewhere between $45,000 and $52,000—closer to the median household income—greatly expanding the pool of Americans who qualify for overtime pay.
The overtime threshold is not indexed to inflation and has been updated only once since 1975. It covers 12 percent of salaried workers. Boosting the threshold to $50,440 would bring it back in line with the 1975 threshold, after inflation. By one estimate that would give somewhere between five to ten million workers a raise.
Some workers above the salary threshold also qualify for overtime pay under current law. But the historic shift from a manufacturing-based economy to a service economy has reduced their number because white collar workers—defined quite expansively—are exempt. The forthcoming overtime rule is expected to tighten up that definition.
Under the current rules, the white collar exemption excludes “executive, administrative and professional” employees from receiving overtime pay, which means, for example, that a secretary will sometimes be ineligible for overtime pay. Employers routinely avoid paying overtime to lower-wage workers such as store managers or fast food shift supervisors, and even to some non-supervisory workers by giving them discrete, only nominally supervisory responsibilities.
“It’s hard to believe that somebody making $30,000 is a supervisor,” said Daniel Hamermesh, an economist at the University of Texas at Austin, who has done extensive research on overtime. “At this point, I don’t think even our regulations are in line with the original intent of the law.” Hamermesh said raising the threshold was “an absolute no brainer.”
One key concern about expanding overtime is that it could prompt employers to reduce the number of hours that individual employees work to avoid paying time-and-a-half. McDonald’s, reportedly, already uses its computer system to record the hours worked by individual fast-food workers, and sends alerts telling franchisees to send this or that worker home when he or she is about to exceed 40 hours. In many instances reducing employees’ hours worked may endanger their eligibility for benefits.
Business groups carry that reasoning further, saying the rule will reduce employment. Aloysius Hogan, a senior fellow at the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, said it will have a “job killing effect.” Hogan said businesses will be incentivized to lay off higher-paid executives and replace them with lower-paid workers. The National Retail Federation, a likely leader in the battle against expanded overtime, last month issued a study that came to a similar conclusion. On its release NRF senior vice president for Governor Relations David French said the rule would “hollow out middle-management careers and middle-class opportunities for millions of workers.”
But Hamermesh said that to whatever extent employers reduced hours to avoid overtime the result would be more job creation, not less, since someone else must hired to perform that work. Jared Bernstein, an economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden during President Barack Obama’s first term, added that for many workers reduced hours would be a plus: “Their salary is the same but they have more time with their families.”
The Obama administration’s interest in updating overtime rules can be traced to November 2013, when Bernstein, by then a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the Economic Policy Institute, presented a paper on the subject to the Labor Department. The following March President Obama issued a memorandum noting that overtime regulations “have not kept up with our modern economy” and instructing the Labor department to draft revisions.
Both Eisenbrey and Bernstein voiced optimism that the administration will have time to review public comments on the proposed rule and issue a final rule before the president leaves office. But that’s not likely to happen without a fight. When Obama issued his memorandum last year, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline and subcommittee chairman Tim Walberg issued a statement saying “executive memos and unilateral actions cannot provide the income security our struggling families need.” Republicans, they said, had long recognized the need to update the Fair Labor Standards Act, but they warned the rule should not be “just another political distraction from the president’s failed policies.” If the response to the “ambush elections” rule is any guide, there will be litigation against the overtime rule and at least one attempt by the Republican Congress to block its implementation.
The fight is already spilling over into the 2016 presidential contest. In announcing his candidacy May 30 former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley called for “overtime pay for overtime work.” Sen. Bernie Sanders did the same in his May 26 kick-off speech in Burlington, Vt., calling it a “ scandal” that “millions of American employees, often earning less than $30,000 a year, work 50 or 60 hours a week— and earn no overtime.”
Thus far the Republican field is somewhat dismissive of the overtime issue. When asked to comment on the forthcoming rule Rick Tyler, Sen. Ted Cruz’s national spokesperson, replied in an e-mail, “Overtime? [Who’s] working overtime anymore since Obamacare? People are not even getting full time.” Stuart Stevens, a top strategist for Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, echoed that sentiment. “It’s just not a solution to a larger problem [of] the economy,” he said. “I think the fact that so few people can get full time jobs is a lot more pressing than overtime.”
But a spokesman for Dr. Ben Carson addressed the overtime rule more directly. “I don’t think anyone has offered any compelling evidence that a new labor department overtime regulation is warranted,” he said.
Brian Mahoney contributed to this report.

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Citizen Action/IL State PAC Announces 2015 City of Chicago Municipal Election Endorsements

 CHICAGO) – On January 24th, the Progressive Action Project, the Citizen Action/IL state PAC convened in Chicago to make endorsements in the 2015 City of Chicago Municipal Elections. The following candidates were endorsed:
Mayor: Jesus “Chuy” Garcia
Ward 2: Alyx Pattison
Ward 3: Pat Dowell
Ward 5: Leslie Hairston
Ward 6: Roderick Sawyer
Ward 8: Tara Baldridge
Ward 10: Susan Sadlowski-Garza
Ward 15: Rafael Yanez
Ward 16: Toni Foulkes
Ward 17: David Moore
Ward 20: Willie Cochran
Ward 22: Ricardo Munoz
Ward 26: Juanita Irizarry
Ward 29: Zerlina Smith
Ward 32: Scott Waguespack
Ward 35: Carlos Ramirez-Rosa
Ward 37: Tara Stamps
Ward 38: Nicholas Sposato
Ward 44: Mark Thomas
Ward 45: John Arena
Ward 46: James Cappleman
Ward 50: Debra Silverstein

The board also endorsed three advisory referenda including one requiring employers to offer employees paid sick leave to care for loved ones and a second one that aims to reduce the influence of special interest money in politics. The board also approved a measure for an elected school board. That question will appear on the ballot in 37 of the 50 wards.

Citizen Action/Illinois is the state's largest public interest organization. Building on over a two decades of experience, Citizen Action/Illinois is a key player in the fight for social and economic justice at the state and national levels. Citizen Action/Illinois has led campaigns for lower utility rates, fair taxes, affordable and quality health care, insurance and campaign finance reform, and stronger environmental and food safety protections. Citizen Action/Illinois works hard to hold our elected officials accountable on these issues every day in the State House and in the Congress.

Access to Justice Campaign: Protecting Workers Compensation and Civil Justice

 Powerful special interests, led by Governor Rauner, are determined to diminish the rights of individual citizens and the access those citizens have to the court system by promoting the myth of “frivolous lawsuits”.
Get the facts!  Don’t let special interests distort our civil justice system and intimidate individuals from exercising their constitutional rights and seeking justice when they are injured or a loved one is killed due to negligence.
Take a minute to get the facts.  Here are some important FACT Sheets that get past the myths:
·   American Tort Reform Association’s Annual Report Attacks Illinois’ Civil Justice System