Labor

Thumbnail image for California Consumers Gouged for $550 Million at the Gas Pump in February

California Consumers Gouged for $550 Million at the Gas Pump in February

by Doug Porter 03.25.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

The higher prices Californians pay for gasoline was the focus of a hearing chaired by San Diego’s Sen. Ben Hueso this week.

A report issued by the Consumer Watchdog group alleges consumers were gouged for an extra $550 million at the gas pump during February as the result of a strategy by refiners to keep inventories artificially low. The group came to this conclusion by calculating the difference between US and state prices and allotting for consumption.

Members of the transportation, housing and energy, utilities and communications committees questioned energy industry executives about recent price spikes in California. Earlier this week Californians were paying 84 cents more per gallon than the rest of the nation for their gasoline.

Read the full article → 2 comments
Thumbnail image for How Privatization Degrades Our Daily Lives

How Privatization Degrades Our Daily Lives

by Source 03.25.2015 Business

By Paul Bucheit / Common Dreams

The Project on Government Oversight found that in 33 of 35 cases the federal government spent more on private contractors than on public employees for the same services. The authors of the report summarized, “Our findings were shocking.”

Yet our elected leaders persist in their belief that free-market capitalism works best. Here are a few fact-based examples that say otherwise.

Health Care: Markups of 100%….1,000%….100,000%

Broadcast Journalist Edward R. Murrow in 1955: Who owns the patent on this vaccine?
Polio Researcher Jonas Salk: Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?

Read the full article → 0 comments
Thumbnail image for The Uptown Battle for Safer Bike Routes

The Uptown Battle for Safer Bike Routes

by Doug Porter 03.20.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

There’s a special meeting of the Uptown Planners next Tuesday (March 24) to discuss overriding the SANDAG Regional Bike Plan in Mission Hills and Hillcrest. Cycling advocates are expected to face off against various organizations and people opposed to proposed traffic changes in the area.

This meeting is, I think, symbolic of a larger battle going on over the future of transportation in the city. While all the organizations involved give lip service to the Climate Action Plan’s goal of 18% bike mode share in Uptown by 2035, there are individuals who come across as negative about actually doing anything to achieve the goal.

Despite a growing body of evidence contradicting what some small businesspeople assume about the negative impact of bike lanes, parking spaces and traffic calming measures, when it gets down to an actual plan, all they can say is “no.” (Kinda like the GOP on their alternative to Obamacare, I think.) 

Read the full article → 6 comments
Thumbnail image for Humane Prosperity or More Economic Inequality for San Diego? Debating Free Trade Agreements Like TPP

Humane Prosperity or More Economic Inequality for San Diego? Debating Free Trade Agreements Like TPP

by Doug Porter 03.17.2015 Business

By Doug Porter

Sometime this spring Senator Orin Hatch will ask the congress to vote on giving the President “fast track” authority in relation to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). What this means is that the terms of the treaty establishing ground rules for trade, intellectual property and corporate behavior around the Pacific Rim will be subject to a simple yes or no vote. 

Opponents of TPP and the companion Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) make a big deal out of the fact that the nuts and bolts of these deals are negotiated in secret. As a practical matter I don’t see how a complex agreement between nation-states and corporate entities could be negotiated in public. But we should have a right to know –beyond platitudes– what our government supports in negotiations.  

The crux of this matter is that we’re being asked to trust negotiators to create a mechanism along the lines of previous trade deals. Many of the people who negotiated those earlier deals now admit they failed to provide the promised economic benefits to anybody not owning stock in a multinational corporation. 

Read the full article → 2 comments
Thumbnail image for The Battle Over the Trans-Pacific Partnership: Elizabeth Warren Strikes Back  Against the Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing

The Battle Over the Trans-Pacific Partnership: Elizabeth Warren Strikes Back Against the Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing

by Jim Miller 03.16.2015 Business

By Jim Miller

Just as the folks in the New Democrat Coalition (NDC) were gearing up to marginalize the progressive wing of the Democratic Party leading up to the 2016 election, Elizabeth Warren struck back with what even CNN reported as “a push to kill major trade negotiations” being championed by President Obama and previously supported by Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.

And it’s a very good thing that Warren has elevated the debate over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to the national media because proponents of this deal have done everything they can to keep the details secret. As I wrote in this column back in January, the TPP is one of the most under-reported stories in America, and it would affect most of us adversely as “it will increase the outsourcing of U.S. jobs, threaten collective bargaining, undermine environmental regulations, jeopardize food safety, limit access to affordable prescription drugs, and much more.”

Read the full article → 3 comments
Thumbnail image for Help Us Find San Diego’s Progressive History and Locales

Help Us Find San Diego’s Progressive History and Locales

by Staff 03.13.2015 Activism

By Staff    

A reader from Liverpool, England, wrote us recently requesting our help in finding “hidden gems of progressiveness and places of historical importance I should visit whilst I’m there.”

That request got us to thinking about how much local history we must be blissfully unaware of. So we’ve decided to create and continue to update a page where the local history of progressiveness and protest will come alive for visitors, students and locals.

We’d like your help in putting this together. You can leave us ideas in the comments section of this article or email us at contact@sandiegofreepress.org with the subject line Progressive San Diego. Many thanks!

Read the full article → 9 comments
Thumbnail image for A Wealth Tax for California?

A Wealth Tax for California?

by Source 03.13.2015 Economy

By Roy Ulrich / Capital & Main

California has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s main poverty measure, 16.8 percent of all Californians and 23.5 percent of the state’s children lived in poverty in 2013. Yet it also has the most billionaires in the country: 111. The state’s 33,900 millionaire taxpayers (just .2 percent of the state’s taxpayers) have combined incomes of $104 billion. According to the California Budget Project, California has the seventh widest income gap between rich and poor among the 50 states, ranking between Alabama and Texas.

Read the full article → 0 comments
Thumbnail image for Scott Peters and the New Democrats Take Aim at the Warren Wing of the Party

Scott Peters and the New Democrats Take Aim at the Warren Wing of the Party

by Jim Miller 03.09.2015 Activism

…And Other  Sordid Tales

By Jim Miller

Today a “right to work” bill that will gut the union movement in Wisconsin is likely to hit Governor Scott Walker’s desk and no doubt he will sign it.

While there is much discussion in Democratic circles of how Walker is doing this to position himself even more solidly on the right to please potential Republican primary voters, there is much less discussion about how this latest assault on workers’ rights helps speed the runaway train heading toward plutocracy that is the United States.

Indeed, the very same corporate forces and reactionary billionaires who want to buy the 2016 election are the key beneficiaries of this “right to work” policy, but some Democrats don’t seem to be bothered by that. So instead of standing up for an American labor movement under assault, a group of Democratic neoliberals, the New Democrat Coalition (NDC), is more interested in checking the progressive wing of its own party.

Meet one such Democrat: Congressman Scott Peters.

Read the full article → 11 comments
Thumbnail image for Faulconer’s First Year: Mostly Doing Nothing, But Looking Good While Doing It

Faulconer’s First Year: Mostly Doing Nothing, But Looking Good While Doing It

by Doug Porter 03.03.2015 Battle for Barrio Logan

By Doug Porter

Unlike the women performing on the field at Chargers’ games, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer is getting paid for his cheerleading efforts.

The local daily paper ran a puff piece on Sunday, celebrating Faulconer’s first year in office, reporting on the “nearly unanimous praise” for making San Diego a “vastly different place than it was under the tumultuous tenure” of he-who-cannot-be-named-without-contempt.

Largely airbrushed out of history was former interim mayor Todd Gloria, whose reward for leadership following the fall of Filner was to get booted out of the position of City Council President, lest he actually accomplish any items proposed during his tenure.

Read the full article → 7 comments
Thumbnail image for Gas Prices Rise in San Diego as Refinery Strike Spreads

Gas Prices Rise in San Diego as Refinery Strike Spreads

by Doug Porter 02.25.2015 Business

By Doug Porter 

The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline reached three dollars in San Diego this week, roughly seventy cents more than a month ago. The primary cause of this steep increase is the largest refinery strike in 35 years, a walkout that’s continuing to spread as negotiations have stalled out. 

A total of 6,550 workers represented by the United Steel Workers are on strike at 15 plants, including 12 refineries accounting for one-fifth of U.S. capacity. The central issue in this labor dispute is safe working conditions for the USW members at more than 200 oil terminals, pipelines, refineries and chemical plants in the U.S. 

The American Automobile Association says the steep increase in prices comes on the heels of a record 123 consecutive days of declines. 

Read the full article → 4 comments
Thumbnail image for Why We’re All Becoming Independent Contractors

Why We’re All Becoming Independent Contractors

by Source 02.25.2015 Business

By Robert Reich

GM is worth around $60 billion, and has over 200,000 employees. Its front-line workers earn from $19 to $28.50 an hour, with benefits.

Uber is estimated to be worth some $40 billion, and has 850 employees. Uber also has over 163,000 drivers (as of December – the number is expected to double by June), who average $17 an hour in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., and $23 an hour in San Francisco and New York.

But Uber doesn’t count these drivers as employees. Uber says they’re “independent contractors.”

What difference does it make?

Read the full article → 10 comments
Thumbnail image for A Call to Action on the Labor Crisis in Higher Ed: Colleges Are Running On the Backs of Underpaid Part-Timers

A Call to Action on the Labor Crisis in Higher Ed: Colleges Are Running On the Backs of Underpaid Part-Timers

by Jim Miller 02.23.2015 Columns

February 25th is National Adjunct Walkout Day

By Jim Miller

As I have noted here recently, the successful assault on public sector unionism has marched hand in hand with the surge of income inequality and the erosion of the American middle class. Of course, central to this is the ongoing war on teachers’ unions and the nationwide trend toward austerity budgets in state capitols across the country.

In the world of higher education, what this means is that as we have seen taxes go down for the wealthy and corporations over the last thirty years, budgets for education from K-12 to the university have suffered.

And while the growing student debt crisis has received significant attention, far fewer people are probably aware that in addition to gouging students, colleges across the country are increasingly relying on an exploited army of highly educated part-time teachers in the classroom to help keep their budgets in line.

Read the full article → 2 comments
Thumbnail image for San Diego’s Racial Unconscious: History is the Narrative that Hurts

San Diego’s Racial Unconscious: History is the Narrative that Hurts

by Jim Miller 02.16.2015 Battle for Barrio Logan

…the insistence on what one might call “San Diego exceptionalism,” the notion that our city is somehow free of the same troubled history as the rest of the country, is at the heart of our city’s failure to truly serve the needs of all San Diegans. 

By Jim Miller

Last week, leading up to this week’s special focus on race and racism, the San Diego Free Press posted a story about a new report released by the Equal Justice Institute (EJI) that notes how, “Capital punishment and ongoing racial injustice in the United States are ‘direct descendants’ of lynching, charges a new study, which found that the pre-World War II practice of ‘racial terrorism’ has had a much more profound impact on race relations in America than previously acknowledged.”

This hidden history of racial terrorism in America is far more influential than many of us would prefer to acknowledge. As EJI Director Bryan Stevenson observes, “I also think that the lynching era created a narrative of racial difference, a presumption of guilt, a presumption of dangerousness that got assigned to African Americans in particular—and that’s the same presumption of guilt that burdens young kids living in urban areas who are sometimes menaced, threatened, or shot and killed by law enforcement officers.”

And if a lack of awareness or outright denial of the significance of our racist past is a problem in the United States at large, San Diego is certainly not immune though our civic religion—banal self-promotion by the tourism industry—would have us think otherwise. But underneath the official ahistorical pastiche of styles and fantasies designed to aid commerce and nature-packaged-as-spectacle there is another story.

Read the full article → 5 comments
Thumbnail image for As San Diego Bike Share Rolls Out, State Legislator Touts Helmet Law

As San Diego Bike Share Rolls Out, State Legislator Touts Helmet Law

by Doug Porter 02.12.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

San Diego’s bike share program has finally launched, following multiple delays as private operator DecoBike navigated financial and political challenges along the way towards setting up 180 stations around the city.

This week California State Senator Carol Liu announced a bill (SB 192) expanding mandatory helmet use to include all riders over 18 years of age. Violators will face a $25 fine.

Taken at face value this legislation, which also requires reflective clothing at night, seems to be a common sense move aimed at preventing the often tragic head injuries associated with bicycle accidents.

Not so fast, say cycling advocates, who point out that similar laws in other cities have resulted in unintended consequence and a controlled Canadian study finding helmet laws have a minimal impact on the number and severity of head injuries.

Read the full article → 7 comments
Thumbnail image for Labor Unrest Spreads to Refineries, West Coast Ports, SoCal Edison and Football Stadiums

Labor Unrest Spreads to Refineries, West Coast Ports, SoCal Edison and Football Stadiums

by Doug Porter 02.09.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

Local gasoline prices have increased by roughly 20% over the past few weeks. Retailers dependent on imported goods are voicing concerns about bottlenecks in supplies coming through west coast ports. And that could be bad news for consumers. There’s more to the story than what you’ve likely seen or heard.

While the factors surrounding both these development are complex, a major element in each are labor unions seeking safe working conditions. In what amounts to a sad commentary on the state of the news media in the U.S. the coverage has been largely one dimensional, leading with management’s pronouncements about wages and benefits.

Right now the issues being put before the public are rising fuel costs and the possibility the next new gadget may be in short supply. What’s missing is the realization that the health and safety issues are at the core of these economic disruptions. Today I’ll try to round out the picture of what’s really happening here.

Read the full article → 0 comments
Thumbnail image for San Diego Labor Goes Green: New Environmental Caucus Formed

San Diego Labor Goes Green: New Environmental Caucus Formed

by Jim Miller 02.02.2015 Columns

“Let’s be clear, climate change is the most important issue facing all of us for the rest of our lives.” –John Harrity, President of the Connecticut State Council of Machinists

By Jim Miller & Micah Mitrosky

We are facing a historic environmental crisis that threatens our present and future survival. Think Progress pithily summarized the conclusions of last year’s United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, noting that:

The world’s top scientists and governments have issued their bluntest plea yet to the world: Slash carbon pollution now (at a very low cost) or risk “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.” Scientists have “high confidence” these devastating impacts occur “even with adaptation” — if we keep doing little or nothing.

A short list of the many catastrophic effects that unchecked climate change may bring includes severe drought, dangerous wildfires, increased disease, threatened food systems due to Dust Bowl-like conditions, ocean acidification, more global conflict over resources, economic collapse, and mass extinction.

In short, the overwhelming majority of serious scientists as well as governmental agencies such as NASA and even the U.S. Defense Department are warning of a grim future if we fail to address this issue.

Read the full article → 11 comments
Thumbnail image for Super Bowl XLIX: Winners and Losers Off the Field

Super Bowl XLIX: Winners and Losers Off the Field

by Doug Porter 01.30.2015 Columns

By Doug Porter

 According to reports from around the country not much is going to happen this weekend approaching the importance of a certain Sunday football game. The New England Patriots will face off against the Seattle Seahawks (3:30pm PT) at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. 

An estimated 184 million Americans are expected to watch Super Bowl XLIX, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. That’s about 55 million more humans than voted in the 2012 presidential election. Beside the celebratory nature of the day, it’s an event with a huge economic impact. 

So today I’ll indulge in some mostly off-the-field news items; some serious and some silly, starting with a look at the non-helmet wearing people who make it happen.

Read the full article → 1 comment
Thumbnail image for Voice of San Diego’s Intern ‘Irony’ is Just the Latest Insult

Voice of San Diego’s Intern ‘Irony’ is Just the Latest Insult

by Doug Porter 01.29.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter 

Earlier this week Voice of San Diego Editor/CEO Scott Lewis took the Center on Policy Initiatives, a local think tank, to task for a Facebook posting soliciting for unpaid internships to assist in a campaign aimed at increasing minimum wages. 

In the essay and subsequent social media postings, Lewis said he found the idea of volunteer interns working on this particular issue to be ironic. And he seemingly disparaged the notion that the trade-off of job experience and/or college credit as a smokescreen for exploitation.

The old saying about people who live in glass houses comes to mind when viewing the web journal of a high school student who interned with Voice of San Diego. 

Read the full article → 8 comments
Thumbnail image for City Budget Requests, Unpaid Glitter Unicorns and Congressional Follies

City Budget Requests, Unpaid Glitter Unicorns and Congressional Follies

by Doug Porter 01.28.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

There’s lots to report on today, starting with the annual wish lists for the coming fiscal year’s City of San Diego budget. The consensus item among the city council’s lists is finding more money for paying police.

A local non-profit’s Facebook posting seeking unpaid interns (along with paying positions) to participate in building support for increased minimum wages came under fire yesterday. But things aren’t always as they seem; I think there is another agenda at play here.

And the 114th Congress is off to a great start, unless you want to count passing meaningful legislation as part of it’s goals.

Read the full article → 4 comments
Thumbnail image for McDonald’s Customers, Employees Not Lovin’ It

McDonald’s Customers, Employees Not Lovin’ It

by Doug Porter 01.23.2015 Business

By Doug Porter

Fast food giant McDonald’s is reportedly spending $3 million daily on U.S. advertising, yet business is declining. As the company has pumped up its menu to counter the explosion of fast-casual restaurants, food quality and service times have suffered. And increasingly negative image of the fast food industry as an exploiter of its workforce certainly hasn’t helped matters.

Last year was the company’s worst in three decades. Domestic sales actually declined by 1.7 percent. Global profits declined by 21 percent in the most recent quarter. Franchise owners are unhappy about menu bloat. Customers are confused by assorted pricing schemes. Employees are appearing on TV holding picket signs. And now the company is facing even more bad news.

A July ruling by the National labor Relations Board deeming the company a “joint employer” with its franchisees could spell big trouble, as 10 former workers at three McDonald’s locations in Virginia have filed a lawsuit alleging they were unceremoniously fired last May after being told by supervisors that there were “too many black people” working at their locations.

Read the full article → 1 comment
Thumbnail image for What’s the Fix for San Diego’s Crumbling Infrastructure?

What’s the Fix for San Diego’s Crumbling Infrastructure?

by Doug Porter 01.22.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

Pssst! Got a spare two billion dollars? That’s a number being talked about in the search for a comprehensive approach to fixing San Diego’s deteriorating streets, pipes and public spaces.

The City of San Diego has issued a report outlining what it says are our infrastructure needs over the next five years, and it isn’t pretty. Our roads are falling apart. Public buildings like libraries and fire stations have repair needs that are mounting faster than the city can pay for them.

I’m told discussions about how to sell taxpayers on paying for this among the city’s big time players (led by the Chamber of Commerce) are already underway. While I don’t dispute the need to upgrade the bones of this city, whatever deal emerges to sell us on paying for it needs to include a whole lotta people who’ve been getting the short end of the stick lately.

Read the full article → 10 comments
Thumbnail image for Redefining the American Dream

Redefining the American Dream

by John Lawrence 01.13.2015 Business

By John Lawrence

The American Dream is the ideological underpinning of the middle class. Now that the middle class is disappearing, it no longer makes sense as historically defined.

Thom Hartmann (Rebooting the American Dream) and Hedrick Smith (Who Stole the American Dream) have defined the American Dream as a good job at good wages plus benefits. They bemoan the fact that this has pretty much gone by the wayside in today’s world.

Well, it’s time to get over it because the conditions that gave rise to middle class prosperity in America from 1945 to 1980 are not coming back.

Read the full article → 4 comments
Thumbnail image for Mental Health Professionals Strike at Kaiser Permanente

Mental Health Professionals Strike at Kaiser Permanente

by Doug Porter 01.12.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter 

Protesting what they’re calling systematic under-staffing, 2,600 psychologists, therapists and social workers have called a week-long strike at Kaiser Permanente medical centers.

Organized by the National Union of Health Workers (NUHW), there are 65 picket lines in 35 California cities in responding to failed negotiations with the company.

Back in September, Kaiser agreed to a $4-million fine levied by state regulators. The Department of Managed Health Care found patients had excessively long wait times to get a therapy appointment, or were shuttled into groups when they wanted individual therapy.

Read the full article → 0 comments
Thumbnail image for A Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party, San Diego Style

A Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party, San Diego Style

by Doug Porter 01.09.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

Oh, the drama. As the dates approach for the Democratic party election in San Diego for delegates to the state party convention, a behind-the-scenes rebellion against the current party leadership is going on.

Steve Rivera, an event coordinator for the Interfaith Center for Worker Justice is challenging current party Chair Francine Busby,  Wounds within the party dating back to the Filner scandal and the Fletcher vs Alvarez contest have been re-opened.  Emotions are running high. Backroom caucuses are running late into the night.

Activists, disillusioned by what they perceive as ineffective leadership and a lack of support for progressive candidates and causes, are challenging the old guard. Based on what I’ve been able to piece together it appears (the vote isn’t until January 20th) the established leadership will weather the crisis. But the rebellion is, at a minimum, symbolic of the lack of faith many rank and file members have in the Democratic Party.

Read the full article → 20 comments
Thumbnail image for National Campaign to Increase Minimum Wage Takes Aim at San Diego

National Campaign to Increase Minimum Wage Takes Aim at San Diego

by Doug Porter 01.08.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

San Diego is one of seven cities selected by the national AFL-CIO for a long-term effort to concentrate political and economic actions aimed at making increasing the minimum wage an issue in the next presidential election.

The labor federation’s President Richard Trumka announced the nationwide campaign Wednesday during first National Summit on Raising Wages, held at  Gallaudet University Washington, District of Columbia. More than 300 activists and labor leaders along with thousands of other people watching a live stream video also heard speeches by Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

The AFL-CIO effort will kick off with statewide Raising Wages Summits in 2015 in Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina, typically the first four presidential primary states.

Read the full article → 3 comments