Saturday, January 26, 2013

Two Months Behind the Times, But In Case You Missed It

Glenn Beck has "authored" a dystopian novel titled "Agenda 21." Writing an Salon, the original, pre-Beck editor Sarah Cypher argues,
The novel “Agenda 21″ was inspired by Beck’s entreaty to his viewers to “do your own research.” Well, fine — if you read a single paragraph of a 40-chapter political tract, you can spin it all kinds of ways and call it “research.” Beck does as much on his show, and I worry that Beck’s many readers will get the wrong idea about the UN Agenda 21. In principle, it is an important part of city and regional planners’ work, which involves making sure that people can access things they need: food, education, doctors’ offices, stores. It’s about making sure those things are even there when you need them. It’s about helping people enjoy freedom and mobility, even if they are too poor or too old or too young to have a car. Or just don’t want one. It’s about the preservation of localness and sense of place instead of generic-ization, and about maintaining a familiar, comfortable way of life as our population expands from 300 million to over 400 million in my lifetime.
Climate Scientist Michael Mann reviewed the book for Popular Science, and makes the following conclusion:
Bad science is hardly the greatest sin in Agenda 21. The real problem is its transparent agenda to sow distrust and cynicism in good faith efforts to protect our environment. The great works of dystopian fiction yield lucid, cautionary tales of the potential dangers that may lurk in our future—be they nuclear holocaust, environmental catastrophe, or the subjugation by machine overlords—if we make imprudent choices in the present. The very worst of the genre, however, do the opposite; they obscure an actual looming threat (e.g. human-caused climate change) by instead drawing our attention away to a false, manufactured one. Nothing could be more dangerous or misguided than a screed like Agenda 21 that attempts to do just that.
In the relatively near future, I plan on exploring the social and economic roots of this increasingly mainstream conspiracy theory.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Your Cheatin' Heart: The Raley's Strike in Jackson, Part III

The Strike-Breakers By Michael Israel and David Roddy

Advertising for strike breakers. Photos credit
Zavi Katzvik
On the first morning of the strike, a casually dressed man left his vehicle on the far end of the parking lot and walked hastily towards the picket line. A striker called to him,
“You’re not shopping are you?”
The man replied, “Nope.”
“We’ll see.”
When questioned, most of the strike-breakers refused to talk about their new job. This lent them an aura of mystery, and the enigma of their presence fostered rumors about their origin. Some claimed they came from the Sacramento or Bay area, but the details were never clear. There were rumors that some came from Bel Air and Food Source grocery stores, both scandalously organized under the UFCW, but again these details were never confirmed. Exceptionally, one woman told us she commuted to Jackson from Fresno, and worked for another grocer in that area. However, she would not name the store, and told the strikers that she would be fired if she did not cross the line.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Your Cheatin' Heart: The Raley's Strike in Jackson, Part II

Spinning the Strike.
By David Roddy and Michael Israel
Michael Teel
The striking Raley's employees during the November 2012 strike faced the coordinated hostility of consultants hired by the company to negotiate against the union and to present the company's position to the media. The professional background of these consultants is a case study in the flexible networks formed by the power elite in the realms of politics and business, and demonstrates the use of public relations to present the interests of employees as one with their employers.
In December of 2011, one month before the expiration date of the union's contract with Raley's, the Sacramento Bee quoted CEO Michael Teel's “special assistant” Bob Tiernan that cuts to retiree health cuts and the introduction of a high insurance premium "will save the company millions and is critical to our future success." Tiernan established himself in the grocery business as the CEO of Grocery Outlet from 2004 to 2009, which he resigned from to take the position as Oregon's Republican Party chairman. In 2010 he triggered a media scandal by justifying the use of $2000 from the RNC at a West Hollywood topless BDSM club by stating it was an “extremely high-end bar.” As chairman, he was also the chief petitioner for mandatory minimum sentencing in the state, and the odious Measure 17, which made state prisoners work for companies without compensation in “public-private partnerships,” and eliminated any grievance mechanism for “free-workers” downsized from competition with prison labor.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Your Cheatin' Heart: The Story of the Jackson Raley's Strike, Part I

By Michael Israel and David Roddy

 Your cheatin' heart
Will make you weep
You'll cry and cry
And try to sleep
But sleep won't come
The whole night through
Your cheatin' heart
Photo credit Layla Griffin
The parking lot of Raley's supermarket in Jackson, California, was close to empty the evening of November 11, 2012. A thin, twenty-something man held his toddler and danced, whispering to his son the words to “Your Cheatin' Heart” as Hank Williams blasted from the cassette player of an aging Toyota pickup truck parked nearby. The man’s wife, a deli worker for the store, glanced angrily at a family of customers walking calmly passed her picket sign and into the store, where a waiting strike-breaker politely opened the door. The cheerful demeanor of the picket crossers defied Hank's prediction of a guilty conscience playing in the background.

Jackson is the heart of Amador County, a small county at the western foot of the Sierra Nevadas. Amador shares features in common with rural communities across the West: mostly white, Catholic, working class, and Republican. The county is home to the state’s largest Tea Party, and a majority of the county voted in favor of Proposition 32, an anti-union state ballot initiative. Unsurprisingly, the November strike at Raley’s polarized the community, demonstrating at once the optimism of labor's resurgence and the pitfalls facing a revitalized workers movement.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Trade, Timber, and Termination: Worker Struggles in California's Gold Country

Photos courtesy of Sue Jennings-Johnson

By Michael Israel and David Roddy

On August 23, 2012, sawmill workers in Martell, California, declared a strike against the owners of the SierraPine Ampine particleboard plant. Martell is the commercial and industrial pivot of Amador County, a strip of foothills between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe characterized by Black Oak, Ponderosa Pine, and Republican candidate lawn signs. The region had not seen a significant strike in years.

The workers and their union, Lumber and Sawmill local 2927, had previously been in the process of negotiation with the company since late May. The cooperative connotation from calling this three-month period a “negotiation,” however, is misleading. Management mostly ignored proposals from the union, and were relentless in their demand for cuts in benefits, wages, and increased mandatory overtime.

In their last contract pitch, the company surprised everyone by asking for more concessions than they had in earlier contract proposals, further signifying no interest in compromise. The proposal included a 2% wage cut, no wage increases for the following four years (the entire length of the contract), the loss of two holidays, an increase in hours required for one to qualify for vacation, the loss of a bonus week of vacation pay for one-third of the work force, and changes to the worker’s Healthcare Trust. The company also requested for the ability to call in outside contractors as opposed to calling in qualified laid off employees, the right to hire from any source regardless of whether they are qualified or not, for Supervisors to assume jobs held by the wage worker, and finally, they proposed the ability to request unrestricted mandatory overtime from any worker.

Union president Tony Garcia explained the situation to reporters:
“The contract was open as of May 31st. We started meeting with the company in late April. We had a series of meetings with them; two in April, two in June, two in August. We worked under the current agreement until we could come to a new agreement… We couldn’t make it anywhere with them. As of our last meeting in August, they gave use their last best and final and told us we could go vote it and they would implement it on the 27th either way. It was a take it or leave it. We voted it on Wednesday and it was 52 to 6 NOs. We went back to work Thursday and our representatives contacted their representatives and asked if there were more negotiations to be had. We couldn’t get anywhere, they had nothing for us. And here we are.”

One of the strikers told us that on the morning of August 24, the entire workforce of the plant, in the first instance of all the factory's departments uniting, walked out.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Lumber and Sawmill Workers in Amador County on Strike

Coverageof the strike from the Sacramento Bee.

Please call the highlighted number on this handbill to urge a fair contract with Sierra Pine's workers.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Agenda 21 in the News Again

In the Mountain Democrat AND