by Lindsay Beyerstein
How our blog got its name
Sidney Hillman was a powerful national figure during the Great Depression, a key supporter of the New Deal, and a close ally of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
When the rumor spread that President Roosevelt ordered his party leaders to “clear it with Sidney” before announcing Harry S. Truman as his 1944 running mate, conservative critics turned on the phrase, trumpeting it as proof that the president was under the thumb of “Big Labor.”
Over the years, the phrase lost its sting and became a testament to Hillman's influence.
It's hard to imagine a labor leader wielding that kind clout today, but we like the idea—and we hope Sidney would give thumbs up to our blog.
And the October Sidney Award Goes To...
Sasha Chavkin, Anna Maria Barry-Jester, and Ronnie Greene of the Center for Public Integrity for Mystery in the Fields, a multi-part investigation into an international public health crisis.
A new kind of kidney disease is and killing thousands of people on multiple continents. The victims are primarily young men, typically farm workers who toil in extreme heat. They are sugarcane cutters in Central America, rice farmers in India, and coconut harvesters in Sri Lanka. They are the breadwinners of their families. When fathers die of the disease, their teen sons are forced into the fields, only to succumb themselves within a few years.
Nobody knows what causes the disease, dubbed CKDu for "chronic kidney disease of unidentified origin," but its incidence has tripled since the 1990s. Experts suspect that a deadly combination of pesticides and dehydration are to blame, but powerful agribusiness interests are pushing hard to discredit that explanation.
Read my interview with Sasha Chavkin in The Backstory.