Friday, May 31, 2013

Today in Labor History—May 31

Scene at Bossenden Wood

May 31, 1838 -- Kentish peasants clashed with armed British troops at Bosendon Wood. (From the Daily Bleed)
May 31, 1905 – The Spanish anarchist Alexander Farras threw a bomb into a procession headed by French President Loubet and the King Alphonso XIII of Spain. The leaders were not hurt, though several people were wounded. Farras was never caught. Four other anarchists were arrested, tried and acquitted. (From the Daily Bleed)
May 31, 1906 – Another attempt was made on King Alphonso XIII. This time, anarchist Mateo Morral hid a bomb in a bunch of flowers and threw it at the King during his royal wedding. Because he worked in Modern School’s publishing house and was a friend of Francisco Ferrer (the founder of the first Modern Schools), Ferrer was later arrested and imprisoned as an accomplice.
Protest for Sacco and Vanzetti in London, 1921
May 31, 1921 - The infamous trial of Sacco and Vanzetti, in which the two Italian anarchists were railroaded for a crime they did not commit, began in Dedham, Massachusetts. Judge Webster Thayer’s anti-worker and anti-immigrant opening remarks set the tone for the trial. (From Workday Minnesota)
May 31, 1921 – Over 300 were killed in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the worst race riot in U.S. history. The violence was precipitated by a false report in the Tulsa Tribune, accusing a black man of attacking a white girl in an elevator. While the headline made the front page, there was an accompanying editorial on the back page calling for a lynching. White Tulsans began shooting blacks, and then looted and burned their homes and businesses, completely destroying the black community of Greenwood. (From the Daily Bleed)

May 31, 1955 – The Supreme Court ordered school integration "with all deliberate speed." (From the Daily Bleed)

May 31, 1961 – A U.S. sponsored coup in the Dominican Republic led to the killing of Dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo. Dominicans then voted in Juan Bosch, who incensed the military and the ruling elite by refusing to buy military airplanes, announcing agrarian reforms, legalizing divorce, and increasing workers' wages. Within seven months there was another coup, by the same generals who led the coup against Trujillo, School of the Americas alumni: Generals Imbert and Wessin y Wessin. The U.S. immediately recognized the new government.
(From the Daily Bleed)
May 31, 1968 –Student protests were spreading throughout the world, with protests on this date in Vienna, in Denmark and Buenos Aires on June 1, and the Yugoslav insurrection beginning soon after. Thousands of students went on strike in Brazil on June 6, followed by protests in Geneva and Turkey, 20. (From the Daily Bleed)
May 31, 1986 – The Tiananmen Square demonstrations entered their 18th day, with 100,000 filling the Square. (From the Daily Bleed)
May 31, 2000 – Protesting teachers burn pamphlets at a fence around the Los Pinos presidential residence in Mexico City, as riot police attempted to protect the building. Teachers throughout the country had been protesting for better wages and education reform since May 15.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Did Molestation Hysteria Imprison an Innocent Man??

The Fourth District Court of Appeal recently overturned the firing of an elementary school teacher from San Diego, who served over three years of a 15-year-to-life sentence, after an earlier appellate court threw out his child molestation convictions, according to Metropolitan News-Enterprise.  Justice Terry O’Rourke said the teacher was fit to teach and had not engaged in immoral conduct. He also ruled that Superior Court Judge William Nevitt, who had upheld the termination, had failed to show compelling reason to overrule the commission on professional competence, which had vindicated the teacher.

Thad Jesperson, who taught at Toler Elementary in the Clairemont neighborhood of San Diego, had fought for 10 years to clear his name of accusations that he molested students between 2001 and 2003. During his first trial he was convicted of only 1 of the 13 counts for which he was charged, with the jury deadlocked on the remaining counts. During his second trial he was again only convicted of 1 count, with the remaining resulted in acquittal or further deadlock. In his third trial he was convicted of 7 counts and sentenced to 15 years to life. However, in 2007, all convictions were reversed due to juror misconduct and ineffective counsel.

Despite the 2007 ruling in his favor, his school district fired him in November, 2008, for “unfitness, immoral conduct, and failure to maintain a professional relationship with students.”

So did he or did he not act inappropriately or unprofessionally? Was the school district protecting students from an actual threat, or was this yet another case of administrators hanging a teacher out to dry in order to appear to be protecting children?

The commission on professional competence ruled that the allegations were unproven. While Jesperson had been “physically affectionate” with pupils—something that is relatively routine in the lower grades, where children are constantly in need of reassuring hugs and affection, particularly when they hurt themselves—he had not done so in an inappropriate way, The children initially denied that Jesperson had touched them in an inappropriate way and only changed their stories under pressure from parents, police and social workers, his attorney said. One student’s testimony was particularly suspicious, claiming the “bad” touching occurred every day in front of all the other students, something that is quite unlikely. Yet Judge William Nevitt said he believed her based on the “hundreds” of children’s testimonies had had heard in juvenile court and used this argument to justify ignoring the commission’s administrative findings.

Parents today have plenty to worry about, from the terrible state of the economy and material insecurity to the threats posed by climate change. Perhaps nothing is scarier to parents than the possibility that a stranger at the playground or school yard will steal their child’s innocence and cause lasting emotional scars. This risk, however, is probably no greater today than in the past, but our awareness of it is, thanks to better preventative education and outreach programs, increased reporting and monitoring, and a prurient media that whips up hysteria with every accusation, even the meritless ones.

Heightened awareness and fear are no justification for witch hunts, judicial hysteria, or imprisoning innocent people. The current witch hunt for pervy teachers is reminiscent of the satanic day-care molestation panic of the 1980s and 90s, in which a few false accusations led to the arrests and harassment of numerous innocent people and a mass fear that every preschool was a front for satanic molestation cults.

The most infamous of these cases involved the McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach, California, which resulted in the longest and most expensive criminal trial in U.S. history and perhaps the most frivolous. From the start, observers and police should have been skeptical of the absurd claims of hidden tunnels, ritualistic animal slaughter, Satan worship, coprophagia, bloodletting and orgies.  Furthermore, the credibility of the McMartin’s accuser, Judy Johnson, was suspect as she was a diagnosed schizophrenic and chronic alcoholic.

Rather than doing its job of investigating, questioning and critiquing with a skeptical eye, the media simply aped back the ridiculous allegations with prurient delight, thus pandering to the public’s lusts and fears, exacerbating parents’ anxieties about their children’s safety and creating mistrust of all preschools and day care centers. The SDUSD case was not much different, with absurd accusations by a young child that she was molested daily in front of the entire class and a gullible judge buying it all, as well as media reports with salacious descriptions of what he supposedly did to the girls.

Today in Labor History—May 30

May 30, 1741 – 13 black men were burned at the stake, and 17 black men, two white men, and two white women were hanged, for their roles in a New York City slave revolt in. (From the Daily Bleed)
Mikhail Bakunin
 May 30, 1814 –Anarchist Mikhail Bakunin was born, Russia. (From the Daily Bleed)
Maxim Gorkey, 1906 (Library of Congress)
May 30, 1901 – Maxim Gorky, imprisoned for printing revolutionary literature, was released after Leo Tolstoy interceded on his behalf. Gorky later served a similar role, interceding on behalf of writers imprisoned by Stalin. (From the Daily Bleed)

May 30, 1912 – U.S. Marines invaded Nicaragua. (From the Daily Bleed)

May 30, 1937 - “Memorial Day massacre:” Police attacked striking steelworkers, shooting many in the back, killing 10 and wounding 100, at the Republic Steel plant in South Chicago. (From Workday Minnesota)

May 30, 1968 – May Days continued in France, which was now in the midst of a giant general strike. Trains stopped running. Airports were shut down. Millions of workers barricaded themselves in their factories. Even soccer players occupied their stadiums. Politicians warned that they were on the verge of civil war or revolution. (From the Daily Bleed)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Latest Federal Data Confirm: College NOT Road to Prosperity

College educated people do have higher incomes and lower unemployment rates, on average, than those who have not been to college. However, the goal of achieving prosperity by obtaining a college education is becoming less attainable and secure than ever before, primarily because of staggering levels of student debt and a stagnant labor market offering mostly low wage jobs in the service sector, but also because of growing competition for limited space on college campuses.

“A college diploma no longer guarantees a direct pathway to the middle class, making it harder to justify the expense of a degree,” National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Commissioner Jack Buckley told Diverse Education. Student loan debt is the only type of loan debt that has increased since the recession started. In 2012, total student loan debt reached $1 trillion, surpassing credit card debt, becoming the second largest source of personal debt after home mortgage debt. Consequently, even for those lucky enough to earn a college degree and find a job, high monthly loan payments can easily force them into the ranks of the working poor.  Considering that the average undergraduate owes more than $25,000, a repayment schedule of 10 years at 6.8% comes to $288 per month, which is a lot of money for someone earning only $30-40,000 per year.

Despite his dire assessment, Buckley went on to repeat the cliché that most of the “good” jobs are going to those with college degrees. Yet, he does not define “good,” which, today, generally means “a steady salary,” regardless of the amount of that salary or the working conditions. Today people are working longer hours than they did 30-40 years ago and earning less in constant dollars, even with college degrees, so a more precise statement would be that people with college degrees are more likely to have just plain jobs, not necessarily good ones. Furthermore, even those who have college degrees are finding it harder to get hired and to hold onto their jobs. What good is a “good” job if it barely pays ones living expenses and college loan debt and leaves one with no time or energy to spend with family or leisure?

College For All: A Pathway Toward Unemployment and Lower Wages
While the growing expense of college and the ensuing debt burden are certainly good reasons to question the assumption that college is a good investment, one must now consider the job prospects that are possible with a college degree, as well, since many of the jobs that require a college degree are expected to decline over the next decade. This could result in a labor surplus in those fields and drive down wages, while forcing many graduates into other fields or the ranks of the unemployed. For example, over 250,000 bachelor’s or master’s degrees in education have been awarded yearly since 2000, though there will only be 539,100 teaching jobs available through 2020, and nearly ten times more advanced degrees in psychology will be awarded than there will be jobs in this field. Ph.D. scientists are already feeling the pinch of job and grantshortages, forcing them to look for other sources of income. (Statistics from National Center for Policy Analysis) And college graduates, in general, are having a tough time finding work in their fields of expertise, with 50% of all recent college graduates currently unemployed or underemployed in low wage jobs unrelated to their training like bartending or retail, the San Jose Mercury News reported last year. Roughly 1.5 million, or 53.6%, of those under the age of 25 with bachelor's degrees were jobless or underemployed last year—the highest rate in more than a decade.

One might reasonably wonder why legislators and reformers have been pushing a school reform agenda of “college for all” when college graduates routinely cannot find work in their fields of expertise and must then accept low-wage, unskilled jobs to repay their $25,000 of student debt. College may no longer be such a good investment for young people, but it is a huge boon to the banks and lending agencies that profit from the $1 trillion in student debt (a debt that cannot be erased through bankruptcy) and to the institutions and businesses that will be able to increase their profit margins as wages decline because of the increasing competition for scarce STEM jobs and other fields requiring highly educated workers.

Get Good Grades and to College or You’ll Wind Up a Ditch Digger
It used to be (and perhaps still is?) common for teachers to chastise shirking students with the threat that they’ll wind up digging ditches if they don’t start doing their homework and paying attention in class, yet the median income for a heavy equipment operator (e.g., backhoes, tractors, bulldozers and other ditch digging machinery) is $60,483, according to The fact is there are lots of jobs that pay relatively high wages that do not require a college education and many of these industries are projected to grow considerably over the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Jobs in masonry, for example, are expected to increase by 40%. Jobs in plumbing and pipefitting are expected to grow 26%. Jobs operating construction machinery are expected to increase by 23%. (Statistics from National Center for Policy Analysis)
Go To College (If You Can)
Another obvious problem with the College for All agenda is that it is impossible for everyone to go to college. Even before states started to slash contributions to their public universities there weren’t enough teachers and classrooms for every high school graduate. At the same time, large numbers of young people are either not graduating from high school, or graduating without the necessary skills to succeed in college. This problem has only been exacerbated by the recession and years of federal policies prior to the recession that favored the interests of older Americans at the expense of younger Americans. For example, the federal government now spends $480 billion on Medicare, but only $68 billion on education, according to Esquire. As a whole, the U.S. government spends 7 times as much on its seniors as it does on its children, per capita, according to a 2009 Brookings Institution study. Mike Males writes that younger workers are currently contributing 15% of their payroll income to pay for Social Security and Medicare payments for seniors, since Congress gutted the Social Security Trust Fund (originally designed to cover future generation’s benefits) to pay for current government needs.

As a result, the wealth gap between younger and older Americans is now the largest on record. In 1984 Americans who were sixty-five and over made ten times as much as those under the age of thirty-five. By 2008, older Americans were earning nearly forty-seven times as much as the younger age group. Older Americans suffered far less under the current recession, with the median net worth of those under 35 falling 37% between 2005 and 2010, while falling only 13% for those over the age of 65. This wealth gap is not small, either. The median net worth of households headed by someone 65 or older has increased 42% since 1984, to a comfortable $170,494, while the median net worth for younger households has declined 68% to a desperate $3,662, according to the Pew Research Center. (For more, see the following articles in Esquire and Newsweek).

The road to prosperity for young people today, if there is one at all, may be taking care of their parents in their old age and hoping they inherit whatever wealth they may have had.

Today in Labor History—May 29

Louise Michel
May 29, 1830 – Anarchist Louise Michel, was born in Vroncourt, France. Michel, also known as The Red Virgin, was a leader of the Paris Commune. (From the Daily Bleed)

May 29, 1839 – Revolution against the Mexican government broke out in Yucatan. (From the Daily Bleed)

May 29, 1854 – Civil rights activist, Lydia Flood Jackson, opened the first school for black children in Sacramento, California. (From the Daily Bleed)

May 29, 1881 –Chinese anarchist Li Shizeng was born. He led the anarchist Jinde Hui group (Society for Progress and Virtue), with Wu Zhihui, & Zhang Ji. He also tried unsuccessfully to turn the Guomindang into an anarchist organization. (From the Daily Bleed)

May 29, 1922 – The Portuguese army and police opened fire on 10,000 protesters outside the police station in Macau. The protesters wanted the release of three Chinese barbers who had beaten up soldiers for sexually harassing a Chinese woman. Seventy people were shot dead, while over 100 beaten, leading ultimately to a general strike is declared. (From the Daily Bleed)

May 29, 1943 – The British RAF dropped 1,500 tons of bombs on Wuppertal, Germany killing 2,450 civilians and destroying nearly 4,000 houses. (From the Daily Bleed)

May 29, 1946 - The United Mine Workers (UMWA) and the U.S. government signed a pact establishing one of America’s first union medical and pension plan. The UMWA Welfare and Retirement Fund permanently changed health care delivery in U.S. coal fields. The Fund was used to build eight hospitals in Appalachia. It also established many clinics and recruited doctors to practice in rural coal field areas. (From Workday Minnesota)

May 29, 1950 –The United Auto Workers (UAW) at General Motors won hospitalization plan. (From the Daily Bleed)

May 29, 1967 – The Poor Peoples' Campaign was launched in Washington D.C. (From the Daily Bleed)

May 29, 1969 – Government violence triggered General Strikes in Cordoba and La Plata Argentina. (From the Daily Bleed)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Administrators Union Protecting Bad Bosses or Just Business as Usual?

While the teachers unions have been quick to jump on the evaluation reform bandwagon in hopes of appearing “reasonable” and “professional,” the real movers and shakers behind the Eval Reform movement are primarily interested in making it easier to fire bad teachers.  Their presumption (at least the one conveyed to the press) is that there are a lot of bad teachers out there—how else to explain the deplorable state of public education in America. Never mind that graduation rates are higher than they were in the 40s or 50s and the number of kids from all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds taking and passing AP and SAT exams is higher than ever.

Yet where in all this hysteria about rotten schools and our duty to the poor, innocent children is the scrutiny of the administrators, the ones who are ultimately responsible for all that occurs in their schools?

In Los Angeles Unified (LAUSD), Superintendent Deasy fired the entire teaching staff at Miramonte Elementary in response to sexual abuse allegations against two teachers, in a PR game intended to trick the public into thinking he and his under-administrators were doing a good job when, in reality, LAUSD ignored many prior allegations against one of the teachers and lost personnel files on him.

Now, in an unrelated case, LAUSD will have to pay $1.4 million to a fourth-grade special needs student who was repeatedly sexually assaulted by a male classmate. The incidents occurred at an after school program where LAUSD failed to provide adequate supervision. There was only one staffer supervising up to 100 students at a time. Consequently, the boy was able to take the 9-year-old to various secluded locations on campus away and sexually abuse her. The girl’s attorney said the district “minimized her harm throughout the trial,” according to the Los Angeles Times, and the “jury found that offensive.”

But hey, $1.4 million is chump change, right? No administrators will be punished. Business as usual will continue. And everyone can go back to presuming the classrooms are filled with pervy teachers protected by selfish unions.

Today in Labor History—May 28

Grachus Babeuf
May 28, 1797 – Revolutionary Gracchus Babeuf was executed (1760-1797). Babeuf formed a secret society that plotted to overthrow the government, known as the Conspiracy of the Equals. The group included Sylvain Maréchal, Jacques Roux, Jean Varlet and others. (From the Daily Bleed)

May 28, 1879 – The First American law prohibiting employment of women was passed to prevent women from working in Illinois, in coal mines. (From the Daily Bleed)

May 28, 1937 – Petroleum workers struck in Mexico. (From the Daily Bleed)

May 28, 1946 –A General Strike shut down Rochester, New York. (From the Daily Bleed)

May 28, 1967 – Schoolteachers returned to work after a 6-day strike. (From the Daily Bleed)

May 28, 1968 – Students occupied the University of Madrid (still under control of fascist dictator Francisco Franco). Cops raided the campus and removed the occupiers, and then shut down the University. (From the Daily Bleed)