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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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#Sidney's Picks: The Best of the Week's News

  • Hundreds of domestic women and their children rallied outside California's state capitol building on Tuesday to urge legislators to pass a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. Domestic workers are not protected by many standard labor laws. Therefore they are routinely subjected to working conditions that would not be tolerated in any other sector. Many who "live in" lack basic amenities: space to cook their own meals, time off between shifts, or even their own beds. "What I'd like would be a bed where I could sleep by myself," a Filipina caregiver who shares a bed with her client told In These Times reporter David Bacon.
  • "The Grey Box: An Investigative Look at Solitary Confinement," by Susan Greene of the Dart Society is a harrowing look at solitary confinement in America. Up to 80,000 American prisoners are housed in isolation on any given day. We associate solitary with the most dangerous criminals, but some isolated inmates have no record of violence inside or outside of prison. Solitary confinement was denounced as barbaric in the mid-to-late 1800s and largely abandoned, but solitary came roaring back in 1983 with horrifying consequences.
  • Adam Gopnik's provocative New Yorker essay on mass incarceration in America delves into the history the prison industrial complex. There are over 6 million people "under correctional supervision" in the U.S. today, more than Stalin imprisoned at the height of the Gulag. Gopnik contrasts two competing accounts of how America became the world's leading jailer. The so-called "Northern" hypothesis is that our prison system grew out of 19th century reform movements that championed "rehabilitative" imprisonment as a more humane alternative to corporal and capital punishment. That's ironic, considering the brutal conditions that prevail in prisons today, including unchecked rape. The even-more-depressing "Southern" hypothesis is that the prison industrial complex is an outgrowth of the old slave plantation system. The burgeoning prison labor sector adds credence to the latter view.
  • The New York Times ran two sensational stories on Apple and China this week. The first attempted to answer a simple question posed by President Barack Obama to Steve Jobs, "Why aren't iPhones made in the U.S.A.?" The second story exposed brutal working conditions at Chinese factories where Apple products are made.

[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]


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