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Notes on journalism for the common good
by Lindsay Beyerstein

Clear It With Sidney

Fri, Aug 29, 2014

The Best of the Week's News: Labor Day Edition

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The Best of the Week's News: Labor Day Edition

  • The Ebola virus is rapidly mutating as it spreads within Africa, according to a new study.
  • A settlement has finally been reached in the Market Basket standoff in Massachusetts.

 

[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

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Thu, Aug 28, 2014

As Labor Day approaches, Hillman Judge Harold Meyerson asks where it all went wrong for the global economy...

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As Labor Day approaches, Hillman Judge Harold Meyerson asks where it all went wrong for the global economy...

Labor Day — that mocking reminder that this nation once honored workers — is upon us again, posing the nagging question of why the economy ceased to reward work. Was globalization the culprit? Technological change? Anyone seeking a more fundamental answer should pick up the September issue of the Harvard Business Review and check out William Lazonick’s seminal essay on U.S. corporations, "Profits Without Prosperity."

The short answer is that corporations are paying out almost all their profits to shareholders. Lazonick's research shows that this wasn't always the case. From the end of the Second World War through the 1970s, big companies reinvested the lion's share of their profits to hire more workers, raise wages, research new technologies, and generally grow their businesses--with positive effects for the larger economy. These days, large corporations spend most of their profits paying returns to shareholders and buying back their own stock. Companies started buying back a lot more of their own stock after restrictions on the practice were lifted during the Reagan Era. CEOs who are paid in stock options have a vested interest in buy-backs because they increase the value of the company's stock. 

These days, 91% of corporate profits of S&P 500 companies go to shareholders, leaving just 9% for pay raises, R&D, or any other purpose. 

Corporations are systematically redistributing wealth from workers to investors, and if we don't implement the reforms to curb this trend, the problem is only going to get worse. 

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Wed, Aug 27, 2014

Law professor Erwin Chemerinsky explains how the Supreme Court made it virtually impossible to reign in police officers who use excessive force against citizens. 

 

[Photo credit: Dan Backman, Creative Commons.]

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Law professor Erwin Chemerinsky explains how the Supreme Court made it virtually impossible to reign in police officers who use excessive force against citizens. 

 

[Photo credit: Dan Backman, Creative Commons.]

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Tue, Aug 26, 2014

Reminder: Seats are still available for our upcoming panel discussion on the struggles of Bangladeshi and Cambodian garment workers, but space is limited. RSVP to alex(at)hillmanfoundation(dot)org

Join us on Thursday, Sept 11 at 6pm at SEIU 32BJ (25 W. 18th St, Manhattan) for a public forum on sweat shop labor, global supply chains, and what labor can do to improve the lives of garment workers in Bangladesh and Cambodia.

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Reminder: Seats are still available for our upcoming panel discussion on the struggles of Bangladeshi and Cambodian garment workers, but space is limited. RSVP to alex(at)hillmanfoundation(dot)org

Join us on Thursday, Sept 11 at 6pm at SEIU 32BJ (25 W. 18th St, Manhattan) for a public forum on sweat shop labor, global supply chains, and what labor can do to improve the lives of garment workers in Bangladesh and Cambodia.

The panel will feature New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Bangladeshi labor leader Kalpona Akter, SEIU global strategies director Jeff Hermanson, and Judy Gearhart of the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF). Anna Burger, former SEIU Secretary Treasurer, will moderate the panel. 

This event is sponsored by the Sidney Hillman Foundation, Balcony NY, and the ILRF. 

[Photo credit: SETCa BBTK, Creative Commons.] 

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Fri, Aug 22, 2014

 

The Best of the Week's News 

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The Best of the Week's News 

  • Till Death Do Us Part: A South Carolina paper publishes a sweeping multi-media report on the state's spousal murder crisis.
  • Sidney-winner Jina Moore interviews the brave Liberians who are protecting the living by burying the highly contagious remains of patients who succumb to the Ebola virus.
  • Elephant poaching is increasing dramatically, thanks to rising demand for ivory in China, a new study reveals.

 

[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

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Thu, Aug 21, 2014

Join us on Thursday, Sept 11 at 6pm at SEIU 32BJ (25 W. 18th St, Manhattan) for a public forum on sweat shop labor, global supply chains, and what labor can do to improve the lives of garment workers in Bangladesh and Cambodia.

Continue reading

Join us on Thursday, Sept 11 at 6pm at SEIU 32BJ (25 W. 18th St, Manhattan) for a public forum on sweat shop labor, global supply chains, and what labor can do to improve the lives of garment workers in Bangladesh and Cambodia.

The panel will feature New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Bangladeshi labor leader Kalpona Akter, SEIU global strategies director Jeff Hermanson, and Judy Gearhart of the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF). Anna Burger, former SEIU Secretary Treasurer, will moderate the panel. 

This event is sponsored by the Sidney Hillman Foundation, Balcony Films, and the ILRF. 

Space is limited. RSVP to alex(at)hillmanfoundation(dot)org

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Tue, Aug 19, 2014

Protests and heavy-handed policing, are still the order of the day in Ferguson, Missouri, over a week after 18-year-old Michael Brown, an unarmed black youth, was shot to death by a police officer. In the New Republic, Hillman Prize-winner Jon Cohn argues that two things must happen to restore calm in Ferguson. Cohn argues that two things have to happen before the residents of Ferguson will be prepared to stand down.

First, Cohn says, the investigation must reach some kind of concrete result. The police have been very stingy with real information, but gratuitous about leaking potentially prejudicial information against Brown, such as a video that purports to show him shoving a convenience store clerk in the course of stealing a handful of cigars, and the news that Brown had marijuana in his system when he was shot. Second, police procedures in Ferguson need to change to reduce the chances of police brutality and racist policing in the future. 

[Photo credit: Light Brigading, Creative Commons.]

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Thu, Aug 14, 2014

Unpredictable hours create chaos in the lives of low-wage workers. Today, Jodi Kantor of the New York Times shines a spotlight on the tyranny of unpredictable hours, which affects countless working people, but which typically receives scant attention from the elite media.

Jannette Navarro is a 22-year-old Starbucks barista raising a son on her own and working towards a college degree, but her unpredictable hours are wreaking havoc on her ability to build a stable life and advance in her career:

But Ms. Navarro’s fluctuating hours, combined with her limited resources, had also turned their lives into a chronic crisis over the clock. She rarely learned her schedule more than three days before the start of a workweek, plunging her into urgent logistical puzzles over who would watch the boy. Months after starting the job she moved out of her aunt’s home, in part because of mounting friction over the erratic schedule, which the aunt felt was also holding her family captive. Ms. Navarro’s degree was on indefinite pause because her shifting hours left her unable to commit to classes. She needed to work all she could, sometimes counting on dimes from the tip jar to make the bus fare home. If she dared ask for more stable hours, she feared, she would get fewer work hours over all.

Companies use high-tech computer scheduling to wring extra profit out of their operations by minimizing downtime, at the expense of the freedom and quality of life of their workforce. Workers are often expected to be available with little or no notice. These expectations make it difficult to schedule childcare and transportation, get an education, or plan any activity more than three days in advance.

Low-wage workers are gaining unprecedented visibility thanks to the efforts of groups like Fast Food Forward. As low-wage workers gain a stronger voice in the workplace, scheduling is sure to be a major issue.

Update: Starbucks has resolved to reform its scheduling policies in the wake of the New York Times story.  

[Photo credit: Bernard Polet, Creative Commons.]

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Wed, Aug 13, 2014

We are very proud to award this month's Sidney Award to Jay Root of the Texas Tribune for his series, Hurting for Work, an expose of the threadbare workers' compensation system in Texas. Did you know that any employer can opt out of the Texas workers' comp program and substitute unregulated private insurance or nothing at all? Read more about the broken system in my Backstory interview with Jay Root

 

[Photo credit: Texas State Capitol: House of Representatives, Texas State Library, Creative Commons.]

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Mon, Aug 11, 2014

Morgue workers in Baghdad told independent journalist Rania Abouzeid that, this year, religious militias have repeatedly massacred people at sites allegedly linked to the sex trade. The largest of these killings occured last month. On July 13, thirty-two people were murdered in two apartment buildings in the Zayouna district of Baghdad:

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Morgue workers in Baghdad told independent journalist Rania Abouzeid that, this year, religious militias have repeatedly massacred people at sites allegedly linked to the sex trade. The largest of these killings occured last month. On July 13, thirty-two people were murdered in two apartment buildings in the Zayouna district of Baghdad:

Early on the morning of July 13th, the shot-up bodies of twenty-eight women and five men were retrieved from two apartments in a building complex Zayouna, a neighborhood in eastern Baghdad. Both apartments were said to be sites of prostitution. By 10 A.M., the police had delivered the bodies to a city morgue, where they were strewn over the dirty, blood-streaked floor, one woman’s outstretched arms abutting another woman’s head, someone’s splayed legs near someone else’s torso. This is the third time this year that a group of women suspected of being prostitutes has been killed; this group was the largest to date, according to morgue workers. [New Yorker]

A shopkeeper told NBC that the shootings happened after a group of suspected militiamen in uniform entered Zayouna. The Baghdad Police say the killers left notes saying that the killings were "punishment." 

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