March 2014 | Hillman Foundation

Clear It With Sidney

Notes on journalism for the common good, by Lindsay Beyerstein

March 2014

Moshe Marvit Wins March Sidney Award for Profiling the Most Exploited Workforce You've Never Heard Of

Moshe Marvit, an attorney and writer with the Century Foundation, wins the March Sidney Award for his Nation magazine profile of the hidden world of crowdworkers, digital pieceworkers who earn an average of $2-$3 an hour at home, performing repetitive “microtasks,” such as transcribing words from photographs, analyzing snippets of text, and judging whether images are pornographic. Nobody knows exactly how many of these workers exist, but millions of people in the United States and around the world do crowdwork at least part time.

Crowdwork customers range from large companies like Twitter to individual web surfers. Brokerages like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and CrowdFlower bring buyers and sellers together and take a cut of the action.

Wage theft is rampant in the industry and discrimination is practiced openly because crowdworkers are independent contractors who operate outside the protections of most labor and civil rights laws. Get the Backstory on this shadowy industry that employees millions, and the lawsuit that could help change their working conditions for the better. 

[Image credit: Courtesy of The Nation, Art by Tim Robinson.]

2014 Canadian Hillmans Announced: Foster Care Fatalities, Car Crashes, and Racism in Paradise

Sidney Hillman Foundation announced the winners and honourable mentions for the 2014 Hillman Prizes today.

Congratulations to the winners, Karen Kleiss of the Edmonton Journal and Darcy Henton of the Calgary Herald, who were recognized for their expose of child deaths in provincial foster care. 

Gabrielle Duchene and Carolina Touzin of La Presse received an honorable mention for their in-depth investigation pinpointing the exact locations of lethal car crashes in Quebec. 

J.J. Adams, Cassidy Olivier, Cheryl Chan, Elaine O’Connor, Susan Lazaruk, Sam Cooper, Jon Ferry, Erik Rolfsen, Rafe Arnott, Ben Ngai, Katie Mercer, Jason Payne, Arlen Redekop, and Carolyn Soltau received an honorable mention for “Racism in Paradise,” a portrait of prejudice in a rapidly-changing British Columbia.


[Photo credit: vtgard, Creative Commons.]

#Sidney's Picks: Trigger Warning--Scott Walker Does Something Right for a Change

The best of the week’s news

  • Senate rejects nominee for top civil rights post because of his propensity to advocate for civil rights.


[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

Car Wash Kingpin to Pay $3.9 Million to Settle Labor Violations

Car wash workers in New York City will receive compensation for a spate of labor violations at the hands of their boss, John Lage, and his associates, Erica Pearson reports: 

New York City’s carwash kingpin must pay millions to workers he cheated out of wages and clean up his businesses after an investigation uncovered massive labor violations, the Daily News has learned.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will announce Thursday that John Lage and two associates agreed to pay $3.9 million in a settlement to stave off potential prosecution.

“It’s a huge thing for me to know that justice is being done,” said Ernesto Salazar, 39, who has worked for Lage since 2001 and says he started out making just $3.50 an hour plus tips. “We’ve advanced in this industry, thank God.”

Schneiderman’s probe of 21 city carwashes owned and operated by Lage, his son Michael and associate Fernando Magalhaes, found widespread violations, including underpayment of workers and skimping on employees’ compensation and unemployment insurance costs by paying for coverage for only a fraction of the staff. [NYDN]

This settlement sends a message to employers that low-wage workers cannot be exploited with impunity in New York State. 


[Photo credit: jlseagull, Creative Commons.]



March 25: Remember the Triangle Fire

What: Remember the Triangle Fire, a public memorial to mark 103rd anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, an industrial catastrophe that killed 146 workers and launched an international movement to ensure safety and health in the workplace. 

When: Noon-1pm, March 25, 2014.  

Where: Washington Place & Greene Street, Manhattan, NY.

Learn More:, the website of the Triangle Fire Coalition. 


Confused about Ukraine? Raise Your UQ With These Stories

Some essential background reading on the crisis in Ukraine:

  • Tim Synder on the haze of propaganda and the ongoing debate over whether the Ukraine protests constituted a coup d’etat
  • Julia Ioffe on why Putin is occupying Crimea and what the West can do about it (hint: nothing) 


[Photo credit: e r j k p r u n c z y k, Creative Commons.]

On the Front Lines of the Abortion Wars: Dispatches from a Clinic Escort

Caitlin Keefe Moran writes about her experiences as an abortion clinic escort for The Toast: 

We see the same protesters week after week. They drive in from a church almost twenty miles away, but always beat us there, until we begin to speculate that they just sleep outside the clinic the night before. The group is led by Pastor Creep (not pictured), a sixty-ish man with wire-rimmed glasses and, in the winter, a graying beard. He loves to riff on the Holocaust: “Just like the Nazis!” he bellows at Ruby, a fellow escort, and I as we walk a woman and her incredulous friend to the door. “Leading the Jews to the gas chamber. ‘Oh, you’re just going to take a shower!’ But they never came out!”

Miriam, another volunteer and the descendent of Holocaust survivors, checks her watch. “Seven thirty-five,” she says, “and we’re already on the Nazis.” [The Toast]

The protesters resort to every conceivable tool of psychological warfare from accusing women of being baby-killers, to belittling the manhood of their male partners, to telling escorts of color that they are race-traitors complicit in black genocide. On Moran’s first day, protesters taunted her for paying attention to a man who apparently committed suicide by leaping from the building across the street.