I see a lot of excitement online, in places like Common Dreams and The Nation, and in my Facebook feed, about Bernie Sanders, supposedly remaking US politics, and Pope Francis, supposedly remaking the Roman Catholic Church.
About Sanders, I shake my head and wonder why long-time Democrat voters do not see him and his candidacy for what it is. About the Pope, I wonder why progressive people allow themselves to care.
Sanders is the new Dean
Bernie Sanders has been praised as a maverick, an independent, and a socialist. All of which may have been true at various points (Read more…)
Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss is an excellent addition to a bookshelf that includes works by Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Marian Nestle and others who write about the health of our food and the un-health of the industrial food system. Moss lifts the curtain on the giant corporations that engineer and market convenience foods and processed foods. What he reveals is largely invisible to us on a daily basis, yet affects our society significantly – and catastrophically.
Moss is a seasoned investigative reporter – he was the first to expose trans fats, (Read more…)
The resurgent workers’ movement scored a huge victory earlier this year, when Walmart announced it was raising wages - a step on the road to a true living wage and the right to unionize without fear of harassment. Other big corporations, such as Target, TJ Maxx, and Marshalls, followed with similar wage-hike announcements.
Naturally, it sounded like another important victory when McDonald’s announced it was raising wages to $10/hour… until we read the fine print. On Wednesday, McDonald’s followed the lead of fellow low-wage employer Walmart, announcing a small raise that puts its starting pay at $1 above the (Read more…)
Workers in the US have won a significant victory in their struggle for dignity and a living wage.
This week Walmart announced that within one year, all current Walmart employees will be paid at least $10/hour, and that newly-hired workers will start at $9.00/hour, with a real opportunity to earn $10/hour with six months.
While still far below a basic living wage of $15/hour, the increase does represent a recognizable improvement over the poverty-level $7.25/hour (the US federal minimum wage) that most Walmart workers now earn. And because Walmart is the largest private employer in the country – (Read more…)
Katha Pollitt’s new book, Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, is a powerful gust of fresh, clean air that blows away the toxic stench of the current discourse about abortion.
Pro is a thorough, no-holds-barred takedown of the hypocrisy of anti-abortion-rights movement – not only in the most obvious sense that people who claim to be “pro-life” also (usually) support war and the death penalty, oppose gun control, and encourage lethal terrorism against abortion providers and clinic staff, and of people who claim to care about women and children, but oppose all social supports that might improve the lives of actual (Read more…)
Revolutionary thought of the day: Hunger isn’t about the amount of food around. It’s about being able to afford and control that food. After all, the U.S. has more food than it knows what to do with, and still 50 million people are food insecure.
Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved and The Value of Nothing, quoted by Naomi Klein in This Changes Everything
Revolutionary thought of the day: …if there is a reason for social movements to exist, it is not to accept dominant values as fixed and unchangeable but to offer other ways to live – to wage, and win, a battle of cultural worldviews. That means laying out a vision of the world that competes directly with the one on harrowing display at the Heartland conference and in so many other parts of our culture, one that resonates with the majority of the people on the planet because it is true: That we are not apart from nature but of it. (Read more…)
Last Thursday, fast-food workers in more than 150 US cities went on strike. Some 500 workers were arrested for civil disobedience, including this man, José Carillo, an 81-year-old McDonald’s worker.
In Detroit, there were so many arrests that the police gave up: they ran out of handcuffs.
There’s a very short video compilation of some highlights from the day here on Facebook. And here’s another good video, this one of the Chicago action, where 51 workers were arrested.
Fast-food workers all over the US are on strike today, demanding a living wage and the right to form a union without retaliation. Did you know that the majority of fast-food workers are adults trying to support families on those crap wages? Their pay is so low, they qualify for food stamps! So taxpayers are subsidizing McDonald’s, as the fast-food industries rakes in billions in profits.
If you’re in the US and you pass a fast-food outlet today, especially a McDonald’s, please stop by to show support for these courageous workers. They are the cutting edge of the labour movement (Read more…)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has an excellent essay in Time, something only a big-name writer can get away with in the mainstream media. Abdul-Jabbar names the stark truths behind the uprising in Ferguson, Missouri. And the mere fact that this appears on Time.com is reason for hope. This fist-shaking of everyone’s racial agenda distracts America from the larger issue that the targets of police overreaction are based less on skin color and more on an even worse Ebola-level affliction: being poor. Of course, to many in America, being a person of color is synonymous with being poor, and being poor (Read more…)
I’m quite sure that Canadians who read this blog already know about this, and for others, it’s not relevant. But I want to add my small voice to the chorus of progressive Canadians who are angry, hurt, and disgusted at the Ontario New Democratic Party. Thousands of Ontarians who would normally vote NDP are either voting Liberal, not voting, spoiling their ballot, or considering one of those options in the upcoming provincial election.
If you are not Canadian and you are are interested in our once-progressive politics, you can read the email sent by 34 prominent NDP supporters to ONDP (Read more…)
Where oh where has the NDP gone?
One of the most wonderful things about Canada, for me, has always been the presence of a viable third party on the left. When we first moved here, it was so amazing to hear Jack Layton, Libby Davies, Peggy Nash, Paul Dewar, Olivia Chow, Linda Duncan, and many others defend the rights of working people, speak out against war, stand up for democracy, and in general represent the interests of average Canadians. Sometimes I would hear a speech and think, that’s an elected MP speaking! People say things like that in Parliament here!
To the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Industry:
In answer to your recent question, yes, it is your job to feed your neighbour’s child. And it’s my job, and it’s my neighbours’ jobs, too. It is all of our jobs to feed every hungry child, because we live in a society, and that’s what society is for. It is appalling that anyone in government would ask such a question.
Mr. Moore, you may have been cornered into an apology by public outcry, and of course you tried the old “I was quoted out of context” route, but we know (Read more…)
From The Nation: Last night, Worker Center Watch – a new website dedicated to attacking labor-affiliated activist groups like OUR Walmart, Restaurant Opportunities Center, and Fast Food Forward - began sponsoring advertisements on Twitter to promote smears against the protests planned for Black Friday. In one video sponsored by the group, activists demanding a living wage and better working conditions for workers are portrayed as lazy “professional protesters” who “haven’t bothered to get jobs themselves.”
“This Black Friday, just buy your gifts, not their lies,” instructs the Worker Center Watch narrator. . . .
Worker Center Watch has no information its website (Read more…)
If you haven’t read anything by Zadie Smith, I highly recommend finding White Teeth, her debut novel, and diving in. Smith wrote White Teeth while still attending university, and it was published to great acclaim when she was only 25 years old. It’s a wonderfully sprawling novel, by turns wry, satirical, and poignant, crammed full of vibrant characters, multiple themes and threads, and brilliant, surprising language. It deals with the cultural clashes and changes of immigration, generations, and class differences.
If you read White Teeth and didn’t like it, stop right there; you’re not going to like anything else (Read more…)
Part 1: McDonald’s version of company scrip (Part 2 below)
Any minute now we’ll see the return of company scrip.
In the bad old days before labour unions forced reforms, companies – especially in industries where workers were isolated, like mines, lumber, and farming – would pay their workers in scrip. Scrip was a credit that was only accepted at the company’s store – a store that charged wildly inflated prices. What a great deal for the owners, eh? They paid meagre wages, then recovered every penny, while ensuring they retained a steady supply of labourers who were (literally) hungry (Read more…)
The Casual Vacancy, J. K. Rowling’s first non- Harry Potter book, received almost universally poor reviews, ranging from tepid to savage. Reviewers found the book too long for the subject matter, too slow, poorly paced. They thought the plot was a soap opera. They found the writing cliched, studied, heavy-handed. In a book full of characters, they found few noteworthy. As one reviewer put it: “Unfortunately, the real-life world she has limned in these pages is so willfully banal, so depressingly clichéd that “The Casual Vacancy” is not only disappointing — it’s dull.”
Backlash? Impossibly (Read more…)
This is the first in a series of reviews of youth (formerly called YA, or young-adult) novels, which I will be reading in no particular order and with no particular method. I love youth literature, and it’s simply a pleasure to read what I want once again, with no schoolwork hanging over my head. As with all my “what i’m reading” posts, if it seems that I like everything I read, it’s because I only write about books I enjoyed.
I finally read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I’ve been intensely curious about this book since it was released (Read more…)