Tuesday, April 30, 2013

California, Poorest/Richest State in the Nation

California currently has more than 600,000 millionaires and 85 billionaires in the Forbes 400 list, far more than any other state in the nation. At the same time, California is now the poorest state in the nation, with the highest percentage of residents living at or below the poverty level. According to the Census Bureau, 23.5% (8.7 million Californians) are living in poverty. Florida is number 2 at 19.5%.

These numbers reflect a revision in how the Census Bureau measures poverty. In the past, it looked solely at income versus food costs. Under this system, the poverty rate would be only 16%. Under the new system, it now considers income plus assistance programs (e.g., food stamps, welfare) versus tax rate, childcare, housing and medical costs, in addition to food expenses, providing a much more realistic (though still incomplete) picture of families’ financial challenges.

Nearly 50% of California’s children live in or “perilously close” to poverty according to the newer metric, probably the single biggest reason for the state’s low test scores. True poverty rates are further obscured by the arbitrary and absurdly low federal threshold of $23,021 for a family of four. Considering that average monthly rents are $1552 in Los Angeles, $1431 in San Diego, $1938 in San Jose and $2106 in San Francisco, families must spend between $17,172 and $25,272 per year just to place a roof over their heads.

It is not just that better methods are providing a more accurate measure of poverty. The recession has also contributed to a dramatic increase in poverty. Between 2008 and 2011, for example, poverty rose 12% in Los Angeles County to 24.3%, and rose even more in some of the state’s rural counties. Conditions have grown so bad that California has seen negative migration patterns for the past eight years, according to the WSWS. A combination of low unemployment rates in Mexico (roughly half of California’s in recent years) and increased militarization of the border and deportations (a record 400,000 in 2012) has significantly reduced migration from Mexico. This has led to labor shortages in the state’s agriculture sector, with some farmers opting to let unpicked produce rot rather than increasing wages to attract domestic employees, since the former increases sales prices and profits, while the latter only cuts into profits.

While the state’s economy “recovers,” job growth has been primarily in low-wage service jobs. Thus many formerly unemployed are now earning far less than they did prior to the recession, contributing to the ranks of the working poor. Cuts to social programs has placed further downward pressure on living standards and contributed to the growing number of poor Californians under the new measurement system.

Today in Labor History—April 30

April 30, 1927 – 109 miners were killed by an explosion at the Everettville mine, in Everettville, West Virginia.  (From Workday Minnesota)

April 30 1871 –A mob massacred more than 100 Apaches who had placed themselves under U.S. protection at Camp Grant, Arizona. (From the Daily Bleed)
Haymarket Affair, Harpers Weekly
Convicted Anarchists
April 30 1886 50,000 workers in Chicago were on strike, with 30,000 more joining in the next day. The strike brought most of Chicago’s manufacturing to a standstill. On May 3rd, the Chicago cops killed four unionists. A mass meeting and demonstration was called for the 4th, in Haymarket Square, where a cop will be killed by an assailant who will never be identified. Ultimately, eight anarchists (many not even in attendance) will tried for murder & sentenced to death. This event, known as the Haymarket Tragedy or the Haymarket Affair, will be the inspiration for International Worrkers’ Day, celebrated on  May 1st in every country in the world except the U.S. (From the Daily Bleed)

April 30 1899 The Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, miner's strike continued, with 1,200 workers getting arrested, and being placed into specially erected bullpens until the strikes were broken. (From the Daily Bleed)

April 30 1945 – Eva Braun and Adolph Hitler committed suicide, in Berlin. (From the Daily Bleed)

April 30 1965 – The TWU (Transport Workers Union) won $9.5 million in pensions for former Fifth Avenue Coach employees after long court battle. (From the Daily Bleed)
National Guard Patrolling Los Angeles (Public Domain
April 30 1992 –Following the Rodney King verdict in LA, there was rioting in cities throughout the U.S., including Las Vegas, San Francisco (where a state of emergency was declared), Oakland, Madison, Minneapolis, Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Boston, Seattle, Toronto and Pasadena. (From the Daily Bleed) In San Francisco, your humble blogger was shot at by an frightened shop owner (along with hundreds of others).

Monday, April 29, 2013

Terrorist Teachers Threatened in Mexico

The U.S. may have initiated the absurd propagandistic ploy of equating teachers with terrorists back when Bush’s Education Secretary, Reid Lyon, called the National Educators Association a terrorist organization. However, the Mexican state has taken it a step further, issuing arrest orders against Minervino Morán and Gonzalo Juárez, leaders of the Guerrero Teachers Union (Coordinadora Estatal de Trabajadores de la Educación en Guerrero, CETEG).

The arrest order was issued by Angel Aguirre Rivero, governor of the state of Guerrero, charging the two as instigators of the uprising of teachers who are opposing President Enrique Peña Nieto’s free market reform agenda. Aguirre has accused the two of being “vandals” and “delinquents,” and, more alarmingly, with being connected to the ERPI guerrilla movement, according to the WSWS.

The strike began in February as a protest against Nieto’s free market education reforms, including privatization of public schools, teacher evaluations based on student test scores and a restricting of union rights. In March, the Guerrero government seemed to have conceded to the teachers, signing an agreement with the CETEG that would have preserved free public education and “democratic” teacher evaluations, as well as agreeing to pay back wages lost during the strike.

When the government appeared to be going back on their word, the teachers resumed their protests. Joined by members of the union of public employees (Sindicato Único de Trabajadores Públicos, SUSPEG) and the United Front of Teaching Schools (Frente Único de Escuelas Normales, FUNPEG), the teachers blocked the highway connecting Acapulco with México City in early April. The subsequent police assault resulted in five arrests and three injured teachers.

The strikes shut down numerous schools—20%, according to the Aguirre administration, which threatened to replace teachers with scabs if they did not return immediately to work. On April   10,   legislators met to discuss changes to the Guerrero Education Code. On April 24, according to the WSWS, the legislature rejected union demands, including its demand to be part of the teacher evaluation process. However, the legislature did agree to abolish student fees and keep public education free in Guerrero.

Meanwhile, at the same time legislators were meeting to discuss the changes, vandals attacked the headquarters of all the major parties in the city of Chilpancingo, according to the WSWS, while the police sat idly and did nothing, suggesting that the vandals may have been agents provocateur and not teachers or unionists, though CETEG President Moran suggested that militant factions of his union were involved. The Mexico City weekly Proceso magazine, reported that the vandals also attacked and insulted female reporters.

Regardless of whether the CETEG was behind the vandalism or the assaults, the union is clearly more militant than its counterparts in the U.S., as their highway blockade indicates. However, one should not confuse this militancy with any fundamental philosophical or strategic differences. The union leaders’ primary goals are to maintain their “seat at the table” with the legislators and their elevated status and pay as union bosses. They are not interested in any sort of radical reforms of the Mexican education system. For example, their demand for “democratic evaluations” is merely a call for CETEG to be a “partner” with the Aguirre administration, a vague plea that leaves open the use of student test scores and other arbitrary and unreliable metrics that could be used to punish or fire teachers vindictively, in response to their advocacy or union activities, or in order to cull higher paid veterans.

Likewise, the protests against the privatization of the Mexican education system, like those by their counterparts in the U.S. and elsewhere, never call into question the primary role of public education as a subsidy to the employers which provides them a sufficiently educated and obedient workforce and ample consumers for their goods and services. Whether or not the schools are privatized, the students are still treated as commodities and the teachers are still exploited workers. The main difference is that privatization weakens the size and power of the large national teachers unions and the job security of their leaders.

Today in Labor History—April 29

Coxey's Army Leaving Camp (Library of Congress)
April 29, 1894Jacob Coxey led a group of 500 unemployed workers from the Midwest to Washington, D.C. His Army of the Poor was immediately arrested for trespassing on Capitol grounds.

The Return of Coxey's Army (By Eddie Starr)
When they busted all the unions,
You can't make no living wage.
And this working poor arrangement,
Gonna turn to public rage.
And then get ready . . .
We're gonna bring back Coxey's Army
And take his message to the street.
(From the Daily Bleed)

U.S. Marines With Captured Sandinista Flag, 1932
April 29, 1895Warships were sent to Nicaragua to "protect" US interests, the first of many military interventions in that small Central American country. President Taft ordered the overthrow of President Zelaya in 1909.The U.S. later invaded in 1910 and occupied the country in 1912, an occupation that was ultimately ended by the resistance of Augusto Sandino and the original Sandinistas in 1933. In 1934, Anastasio Somoza assassinated Sandino. (From the Daily Bleed and Wikipedia)
April 29, 1899Failing to achieve their demand that only union men be employed at the Bunker Hill Company at Wardner, Idaho, members of the Western Federation of Miners (WFM) dynamited the $250,000 mill, completely destroying it. President McKinley responded by sending in black soldiers from Brownsville, Texas, with orders to round up the miners and imprison them in specially built "bullpens." From 1899 to 1901, the U.S. Army occupyied the Coeur d'Alene mining region in Idaho. (From the Daily Bleed)

April 29, 1915 –The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom was founded at The Hague, which works for world disarmament, full rights for women, racial and economic justice, an end to all forms of violence, and to establish the political, social, and psychological conditions which can assure peace, freedom, and justice for all. Its first president was Jane Addams, who founded and directed Hull House in Chicago for newly arrived immigrants. (From Workday Minnesota)

Captured Revolutionary, May 1919 (German Federal Archive)
April 29, 1919From April 29 to May 2, government forces in Munich violently crushed the Republic of the Councils of Bavaria. Workers, socialists, anarchists, and sympathizers bravely resisted. Over 700 were summarily executed. (From the Daily Bleed)

April 29, 1937 –The Friends of Durruti Group postered Barcelona with a list of their demands: "All power to the working class. All economic power to the unions." (From the Daily Bleed)

April 29, 1970 –The National Guard killed seven students at Ohio State University. (From the Daily Bleed)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Today in Labor History—April 28

Fletcher Christian's Home (public domain)
April 28, 1789 – Fletcher Christian led a group of mutineers against Captain William Bligh’s brutal working conditions on the HMS Bounty. The story was later retold by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall in their trilogy. “Mutiny on the Bounty,” was, of course, the most famous of the trilogy. The descendents of Christian and the other mutineers live today on the South Pacific island of Pitcairn. (From the Daily Bleed)

Jules Bonot, After the Cops Got Him
April 28, 1912 Jules Bonnot, French leader of the anarchist/illegalist Bonnot Gang, was killed in a police shootout. (From the Daily Bleed)

April 28, 1914 – 181-192 workers died in a coal mine collapse disaster at Eccles, West Virginia. The mine was owned by the Guggenheim family. (From the Daily Bleed and Wikipedia)

April 28, 1919 – A bomb plot was discovered in which over 30 dynamite bombs were to be sent people "on the anarchists' enemies list," including U.S. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, who had been rounding up, imprisoning and deporting anarchists and union activists. Other targets included  J. P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis. (From the Daily Bleed)

April 28, 1924 – 119 workers died in the Benwood, West Virginia coal mine disaster. (From the Daily Bleed)

April 28, 1945 – Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini was hanged by partisans. (From the Daily Bleed, which also asked the question: Was he hung well??) 
Execution of Mussolini (Click here for newsreel footage)

April 28, 1953 – After overthrowing the democratically elected government Iran, the CIA installed the Shah, launching a 25-year reign of terror against the Persian people. (From the Daily Bleed)

April 28, 1965 – 20,000 U.S. Marines invaded the Dominican Republic to prevent democracy and to prop up the military junta. (From the Daily Bleed)

April 28, 1967 Muhammad Ali refused to be drafted to fight in Vietnam and was thus stripped of his boxing title within hours. His justification for refusing to go:  "No Viet Cong ever called me nigger.” (From the Daily Bleed)

April 28, 1970 – Congress approved the creation of OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (only to watch idly as it was gutted by Reagan, and again by his successors). The AFL-CIO declared April 28 “Workers Memorial Day” to honor the hundreds of thousands of working people killed and injured on the job every year. (From Workday Minnesota)

April 28, 1977 – The Mothers of the Disappeared held their first rally at Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires. Under the U.S.-supported military dictatorship, 20,000 to 30,000 people were murdered or disappeared in Argentina between 1976 and 1983. (From the Daily Bleed)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Today in Labor History—April 27

April 27, 1521 Philippine Natives ambushed and killed Ferdinand Magellan. (From the Daily Bleed)

Death of General Pike, Battle of York
April 27, 1813The U.S. burned down Toronto in an unsuccessful attempt to gain control of Lake Ontario during the battle of York. (From the Daily Bleed)

April 27, 1825The first strike for the 10-hour workday was started by carpenters in Boston. (From Workday Minnesota and the Daily Bleed)

Robert Owen, by John Cranch, 18

April 27, 1825Robert Owen set up his Utopian Socialist Colony at New Harmony, Indiana. (From the Daily Bleed)

SS Sultana on Fire, from Harpers Weekly
April 27, 18651,450 paroled Union POWs died when the steamer "Sultana" blew up in the worst shipping disaster in American history. The river steamer Sultana was overloaded. It was equipped with tubular boilers which were not well-suited for use in the muddy waters of the lower Mississippi. The boat blew up & sank near Memphis, Tennessee. Over 2,300 perished in all, many of them emaciated Union soldiers returning north after being released from a Confederate prison camp. (From the Daily Bleed)

April 27, 1904Congress extended the Chinese Exclusion Act indefinitely (first passed in 1882; again in 1902), making it unlawful for Chinese laborers to enter the U.S. and denying citizenship to those already here. (From the Daily Bleed)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Today in Labor History—April 26

Levellers Declaration (public domain)
April 26, 1649 – Robert Lockier was sentenced to be shot for leading a revolt by the New Model Army in England.  The first Digger's Manifesto, “The True Levellers' Standard Advanced,” was published:
"For by their labours, [the poor] have lifted up Tyrants & Tyranny; & by denying to labour for hire, they shall pull them down again. He that works for another, either for Wages, or to pay him Rent, works unrighteously, & still lifts up the Curse."  (From the Daily Bleed

Apr 26, 1862 – The Anti-Coolie Act of April 26th, 1862 was passed. It was titled "An Act to Protect Free White Labor.” The law was one of a series of xenophobic laws enacted specifically to block the immigration of Chinese to the U.S., particularly to California. (From San Francisco Chinatown.com)

April 26, 1873 – Captain Thomas Wright and Captain Evan Thomas were beaten by Captain Jacks' band of Modocs in the "Thomas-Wright Massacre." U.S. troops lost twenty men & and four officers. 16 were wounded, while one-third of their troops were lost to desertion. The Modocs suffered no deaths. (From the Daily Bleed)

Chinese Laborers Building Transcontinental Railroad in Snow
April 26, 1902 –The U.S. Congress continued its xenophobic and racist practices by passing the second Chinese Exclusion Act, barring Chinese laborers from entering the U.S. for the next 10 years and denying citizenship to the Chinese already here. In 1904 the act was extended indefinitely. (From the Daily Bleed)

April 26, 1942 – The deadliest mining disaster ever occurred in Benxi, China, when an explosion killed between 1,549 and 1,572 miners at the Honkeiko mine. (From the Daily Bleed)

April 26, 1966 – Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales started the Chicano activist group Crusade for Justice in Denver, Colorado. (From the Daily Bleed)

April 26, 1968 – As many as one million high school and college students across U.S. protested the war in Viet Nam, with 2,000 boycotting classes at University of Washington. (From the Daily Bleed)

April 26, 1975 60,000 people marched on Washington, D.C., demanding jobs for all Americans. Angry people rushed the stage, which included mainstream politicians like Hubert Humphrey, causing the rally to be shut down prematurely. (From Workday Minnesota)
Mutation Attributed to Chernobyl (Image by Vincent de Groot, wikipedia)

April 26, 1986 – The Chernobyl nuclear disaster occurred in Ukraine, U.S.S.R. (From the Daily Bleed)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Give the Kids What the Corporations Want: Downsizing, Vouchers and PROFITS!!!

Michigan’s constitution currently bans providing subsidies to private schools and the public currently opposes vouchers. However, little things like a state constitution and public sentiment are not enough to get in the way of Gov. Rick Snyder’s plan to open his state’s public education system even further to corporate expansion. A gang of 20 has been meeting in secret with business leaders to figure out how to circumvent this rule, the WSWS reports.

The group includes several employees of the Department of Technology, Management and Budget, as well as software company and charter school representatives. The group wants to increase the use of online learning so they can reduce the number of teachers. They are also proposing a voucher-like “Michigan Education Card,” a debit card families or students could use to pay for “tuition” at so-called “value schools.” They are called “value” schools because they are a great value to their owners, since they bring in $7,000 per pupil from the taxpayers, but only spend $5,000 per student, thus producing large profits. (While the state would be providing $7,000 per student to the “value” schools, the state average is actually closer to $10,000 per pupil).  According to the group’s white paper, the debit card could also be used to pay for AP courses and exams, sports team fees, music classes and online classes, the Detroit News reported this week.

Not surprisingly, many of the companies that would profit from the change in rules were present at the meetings. Some of these included InfoReady Corp. of Ann Arbor, Vectorform LLC of Royal Oak, Billhighway Inc. of Troy, and the Huizenga Group of Grand Rapids. Bay Mills Community college, which already operates 43 Michigan charter schools, is another that stands to benefit from the plan. Bay Mills places a heavy emphasis on digital and distance learning (i.e., video conferencing, online classes, fewer flesh and blood teachers).

The meetings have been held in secret, in part because of the undemocratic nature of the plan and in part to avoid protest by a public that overwhelmingly opposes vouchers. However, their plans were exposed by former Michigan Teacher of the Year Paul Galbenski, who was offended by the conspiratorial nature of the talks. He said he quit after realizing “they were discussing a special kind of school being created outside of the Michigan public school system.”

On Monday, the state’s school chief, Mike Flanagan, asked that the gang of 20 be disbanded and pulled a Department of Education employee off the group because of the lack of transparency and the perception that this was a backdoor route to vouchers, according to the Detroit News. After news of the secretive group had been exposed, Gov. Snyder tried to distance himself from the group, but continued to insist that he was open to good ideas, and it was all about improving education and providing better job opportunities.