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Clear it with SidneyHow our blog got its name >

Notes on journalism for the common good
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.

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JFK Security Guards Pause Strike for Talks with AirServ

Security guards at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport have paused their strike now that the Port Authority has asked their employer to meet with them.

The guards at JFK will have lots to talk about with AirServ, starting with the fact that they, the professionals who keep terrorists from skirting TSA checkpoints, earn poverty wages and don't get sick days:

[Prince Jackson, a guard at JFK's Delta Terminal] wasn't thrilled about the wages—less than he'd made in other security jobs—but Jackson was desperate. He has been working the overnight shift ever since—except for a week last year when he got a severe stomach flu.

Jackson found a clinic in Astoria that would treat him for $15. "When I came back the next week, I brought a doctor's note, so they didn't fire me. But we don't get sick days, so I didn't get paid. That really put me in the hole. I'm still behind on my rent."

On its website, Air Serv describes itself as a people company. "To have satisfied customers, you must first have employees who feel valued and are recognized for exceptional job performance. . . . Once a year, 110% Club galas are held across the country to recognize those employees who play a huge role in our success."

Jackson isn't convinced. "We never heard anything about a 110 Club," he says. "The first time they mentioned that was when we started talking about a union." [Village Voice]

The guards are working with SEIU 32BJ, which specializes in organizing security workers and other support staff. Even if the talks go well, the AirServ guards are still expecting a long fight for fair pay and decent working conditions.

[Photo credit: Prince Jackson, JFK guard, by Dania Eliazov.]



There is a similar situation going on for security guards in the UK at the moment. Wages and standards are worse now than they have been for many years. Yet you never here of UK security guards striking. I know of no organisations that can mobilize the guards in such a way. It's quite a lonesome career these days.  

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