Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for May 31st, 2011

It is illegal to dance in America

Posted by Charles II on May 31, 2011

Via Avedon at Sideshow:

Unbelievable. I hope those cops get hit with a civil suit the size of West Virginia.

Posted in abuse of power | 1 Comment »

Honduran dictatorship, day 510

Posted by Charles II on May 31, 2011

Amy Goodman:

When President Zelaya walks off the plane, he kneels down and kisses the ground. After greeting family and friends, many of whom he hadn’t seen for years, his motorcade slowly made its way through massive crowds to the rally to thank his supporters. It was held at the memorial to the young man killed by Honduran security when Zelaya had attempted to land in Honduras a week after the coup. President Zelaya addressed the crowd. Zelaya then went to the presidential palace and had a ceremonial banquet with the delegation that accompanied him on the flight, as well as the current Honduran president, Porfirio Lobo, and OAS Secretary General Insulza. President Zelaya then went home for the first time in 23 months. Friends and family gathered throughout the house, including his bedroom, singing songs and greeting each other.

Xiomara Hortensia (Pichu) Zelaya described the kidnapping here.

And from the interview with Zelaya:

AMY GOODMAN: Why were you brought to the U.S. military base? It is not that far to fly from Tegucigalpa airport to Costa Rica. Why would you be brought to the U.S. military base? And they must have had the U.S. military’s permission.

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] The U.S. State Department has always denied, and they continue to deny, any ties with the coup d’état. Nevertheless, all of the proof incriminates the U.S. government. And all of the actions that were taken by the de facto regime, or the golpista regime, which are those who carried out the coup, and it is to make favor of the industrial policies and the military policies and the financial policies of the United States in Honduras.

AMY GOODMAN: You say that the coup was a conspiracy. And you talked about the right wing in the United States. Explain exactly what you understand. Who fomented this coup against you?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] The conspiracy began when I started to join what is ALBA, the Latin American nations with Bolivarian Alternative. So, a dirty war at the psychological level was carried out against me. Otto Reich started this. The ex-Under Secretary of State Roger Noriega, Robert Carmona, and the Arcadia Foundation, created by the CIA, they associated themselves with the right wing, with military groups, and they formed a conspiracy.

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Hugo Llorens cooperated in order to avoid the coup d’état. He knew everything that was happening in Honduras. And I am a witness to the effort that he made to stop the coup. But when he perceived that he could no longer stop it, then he withdrew. I don’t know if he had orders to withdraw, but he allowed everything to happen. He did help my family a great deal after the coup. And I am grateful to him now. He showed me that he is someone who believes in democracy and not in the coups d’état. But a great part of the Pentagon does not believe this, nor does the Southern Command.

AMY GOODMAN: What does the Southern Command have to do with this?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] The link that Ambassador Ford, who was the ambassador from the United States before Llorens, he said that I could not have a friendship with Hugo Chávez. He wanted me to give political [asylum] to Posada Carriles.

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated]… Ford, left this letter as a profile of the president, and when you read it, you can tell that it is the precursor of the coup itself. WikiLeaks published this document. They published the profile that Ambassador Ford made of me to give to Hugo Llorens, saying that the United States needs to make decisions about what it will do the following year in order to detain me, because I am tied to narcotrafficking and to terrorism and to many, many other things. So, he prepared the ambiance, situation. And he was transferred from the embassy to the Southern Command. And that is the tie. And if you ask today, where is this Ambassador Ford? He is in the Southern Command. And so, he left here in order to prepare the coup d’état.

Adrienne explains in NACLA why she thinks the situation is not tenable, and Dana Frank, writing in The Progressive, agrees. From their descriptions, most of the leftist countries of Latin America are falling into line with recognizing Honduras. Only Rafael Correa points out, correctly, that if no one is punished, then the most basic condition for reconciliation– the admission of wrong–has not been fulfilled, so impunity reigns. Grassroots organizations, while greeting Zelaya enthusiastically, may also not be in line. In an epic series of posts, RAJ and RNS at Honduras Culture and Politics expand on this theme:
1. A translation and analysis of the Cartagena accord. In this post, RNS notes a division in the Resistance between those who want to form a political party (thus fatally splitting the Liberal Party) and those who want to remain a movement independent of political parties. I think this is not as bad as it sounds, since the rump would be Micheletti and his cronies, leaving them unable to use the Liberal Party as a mask for their reactionary activities. RNS seems to think that the Cartagena Accord was negotiated outside of US influence, calling State “decidedly unhelpful in pursuing mediation,” but since the larger objective of glossing over the coup has been accomplished, I doubt State is too worried.
2. An analysis of how the Resistance is reacting by RAJ. The Resistance seems to be indicating that it does not accept the unacceptable human rights situation, is creating some distance of separation between the Resistance and Zelaya, and does not wish to become a political party.
3. A former leader of the neoliberal/reactionary UCD objects to the accords.
4. RAJ reviews the statement by Artists in Resistance that Adrienne translated in part.

[To be continued here]

Posted in Honduras, Latin America | 1 Comment »

Wrestlers, Paperkids, Grocery Workers: Why the CTUL Fight is Important

Posted by Phoenix Woman on May 31, 2011

US Representative Keith Ellison (in red CTUL shirt) and Minnesota Representative Jim Davnie join CTUL hunger strikers on the picket line, Sunday, May 29, 2011. Courtesy CTUL.net

When I was growing up in the ’70s, I shared a paper route with my brother. He did the mornings, I helped him in the evenings, and our parents sometimes helped us on the weekends — if nothing else by making sure we got out of bed on time.

The paper we delivered was the St. Paul Pioneer Press in the morning and the St. Paul Dispatch in the afternoon; the two papers were once separate entities, but were both bought by the Ridder company in 1927, and ever since then were essentially the same paper. In 1990, as TV news continued to eat into print media’s market share, the Dispatch was shut down and the PiPress has been a morning-only paper ever after.

The Pioneer Press was and is a “union” newspaper, in that its reporters belong to a union, the Minnesota Newspaper Guild. Most major newspapers have a unionized reporting staff; this has been the case for decades. The people who deliver the paper to your front door, however, are not unionized employees of that paper. In fact, they’re technically not even employees of the paper, but “independent contractors”, which in essence means they get paid a pittance (and in our case the pay depended on going door-to-door each month to collect the subscription fees, which we didn’t mind doing as at least that way we could get tips or even Christmas bonuses, which didn’t happen when subscribers opted for automatic renewal by mail or credit card).

The “independent contractor” concept shows up in other fields, too. Did you know that Vince McMahon’s wrestlers aren’t actually employees of the WWE, but “independent contractors”? That means that Vince doesn’t have to do diddly in terms of providing benefits, sensible work hours, or job security. That means that he can overwork them as much as he wants without letting them have time to rest and recover — and that means that alcohol and drug use and abuse is rampant, as it’s hard to take such a punishing schedule unless you’re sloshed or doped to the gills, and often not even then. (Jesse Ventura’s first brush with politicking was when he attempted to form a union in the 1980s back when he worked for Vince McMahon — oh, pardon me, I meant was “an independent contractor whose paychecks just happened to come from Vince McMahon”.)

This brings me to discussing the persons that clean the stores belonging to local grocery chains such as Cub Foods. While other grocery-store workers, both at Cub and at stores like Rainbow and Byerlys, are unionized employees, the cleaning people are all too often “independent contractors”, which in their case means they work for an agency that farms them out to various stores and pays them a pittance, thus allowing the grocery-store chain to avoid paying them a living wage, much less provide benefits or acceptable working conditions:

All night long, Jose Garcia performs his job while surrounded by food — a painful bit of irony, he says.

The 52-year-old Mexican immigrant works the overnight shift cleaning floors inside a Cub Foods store in Minneapolis, Minn., a job he’s mostly appreciated for the nine years he’s held it down. But lately, waxing aisle after aisle filled with groceries has simply reminded him of how little he has.

Despite his long tenure with the same cleaning company, Garcia says he earns a wage of $9 an hour — more or less the same rate he was making when he started cleaning floors back in 2002. Taking inflation into account, his salary has effectively gone down since he started working on the cleaning crew.

There are times when he can’t afford as much food as he’d like. He says it pains him to see workers at the store throw out unsold perishables like roasted chicken at the end of the night.

These are jobs that once were good union jobs held by unionized employees. Not any more. They’re all contracted out to third-party companies, who sometimes subcontract to other companies, all in the quest to keep wages low even as the workload grows.

The contracting agencies depend on exploiting the labor of people like Mr. Garcia, immigrants who may not be aware of what rights they may have as workers in America — and may find themselves trapped in untenable situations as a result.

This is why Jose Garcia and his fellow cleaning-crew workers are saying: Enough!

At the Lake Street Cub Foods, CTUL (Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha), began an open-ended hunger strike to change the unfair wages and working conditions of workers who clean Cub Foods and other Twin Cities stores.

For over a year cleaning workers have asked Cub Foods to negotiate a Code of Conduct ensuring fair wages and working conditions for the workers who clean their stores. Ten years ago, many workers who clean Cub Foods made up to $10-$11 an hour. Now, most workers make as little as $7.50 an hour and the workload has doubled. The workers’ requests for dialogue with Cub have been ignored and in one incident peaceful protesters and bystanders were pepper-sprayed by Cub security.

“Every night we work in grocery stores and are surrounded by food, yet often many of us cannot even afford to feed our families. I am hunger striking to bring to light the injustices workers face every day cleaning Cub Foods and to call on Cub Foods to meet with us,” said Mario Colloly Torres, a former cleaner at Cub Foods and who was fired from his job after the protests against Cub began.

One thing that the wrestlers, paperkids, and cleaning crews here have in common is that society has been encouraged to think of them and their concerns as trivial. This is especially true in the case of the cleaning crews, where because so many of the cleaners happen to possess darker skins and non-Midwestern accents, the specter of bigotry plays an unsavory role.

It will be interesting to see who sides with whom in this fight. Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1189 union, which has endorsed the campaign, are appearing at the CTUL protests in solidarity on the picket line with the CTUL hunger strikers. Sadly, some persons one would expect to be sympathetic to CTUL’s cause are in fact very friendly with Cub Foods management, and may well want to keep on the good side of Mike Erlandson, the former DFL party chair who now works for Cub’s parent chain, SuperValu.

Time will tell.

(Crossposted to MyFDL and Renaissance Post.)

Posted in food, immigration, Minnesota, unions | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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