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.
Clear It With Sidney
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.]
Sidney Hillman Foundation announced the winners and honourable mentions for the 2014 Hillman Prizes today.
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.]
The best of the week's news
- Scott Walker does something right for a change: Governor signs bill to screen for birth defects after Milwaukee Journal Sentinel expose of preventable infant deaths.
- Fed up with Congress, immigrant workers take to the streets to push for reform.
- Senate rejects nominee for top civil rights post because of his propensity to advocate for civil rights.
- When "trigger warnings" in academia cross the line from courtesy to coddling.
[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]
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.]
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: RememberTheTriangleFire.org, the website of the Triangle Fire Coalition.
Some essential background reading on the crisis in Ukraine:
- David Remnick on Putin's War in Crimea
- Tim Synder on the haze of propaganda and the ongoing debate over whether the Ukraine protests constituted a coup d'etat
- Megan Carpentier on the Ukraine protests
- 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.]
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.
The Best of the Week's News
- Driving while black: Young black men are more than twice as likely to be stopped on suspicion than their white counterparts, regardless of how they drive. Is it time to bring back The Green Book?
- An independent inquiry confirms that U.S. Border Patrol agents have shot people in cold blood on multiple occasions.
- 13 workers at a nuclear waste dump in New Mexico inhaled radioactive material because of a leak.
- Where have all the lobbyists gone? Underground.
Susan Zalkind's boyfriend Erik was brutally murdered in 2011 and his killing was never solved. Erik was a close friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, an obscure amateur boxer who would become infamous two years later as one of the Boston Marathon bombers. In her deeply-reported long form story in Boston Magazine, Zalkind argues that the marathon bombing might have been prevented if only the police had taken more interest in Tamerlan as a suspect in 2011.
After the United Auto Workers lost the election to unionize a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, TN, despite the support of management, former union strategist and author Rich Yeselson wrote an influential essay for Jacobin, explaining why the UAW lost. Yeselson continues the discussion with Francis Wilkinson of Bloomberg.