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
The Best of the Week's News
- An in-depth portrait of fast food's Fight For 15 campaign in the New Yorker.
- Drop that snakeskin stiletto! Clothing made from endangered species is seized en route to Fashion Week. (sound plays automatically)
- Erosion costs Louisiana 16 square miles of land each year--it's so bad that the iconic boot shape of the state is disappearing.
- Severely injured children are less likely to survive their injuries if they are taken to trauma centers that specialize in adult care, rather than pediatric trauma.
- Check out the photos from last night's Your Shirt Off Their Backs panel discussion on sweatshops, labor, and the global economy. Thanks to our distinguished panelists and moderator, our hosts at 32BJ Headquarters, and everyone who came out to the event. We'll be adding more photos next week, so be sure to check back to see them all.
Join us tonight, Thursday the 11th, in Manhattan for "Your Shirt Off Their Backs," a public forum on sweatshops, the labor movement, and the struggles of workers in Bangladesh and Cambodia.
The Post and Courier wins the September Sidney Award for “Till Death Do Us Part,” an investigative multimedia series examining South Carolina’s domestic homicide crisis. This week also marks the twentieth anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, which was signed into law on Sep 13, 1994. The issue of domestic violence has been making national headlines this week, since Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was suspended indefinitely from the NFL after video surfaced showing him knocking out his future wife in a hotel elevator.
Getting back to the Post and Courier, more than 300 women have been killed by men in South Carolina in the past decade. At the time the series was published, the state had the highest rate of male-on-female murder in the country. An 8-month investigation by Doug Pardue, Glenn Smith, Jennifer Berry Hawes and Natalie Caula Hauff found sexism and guns were to blame for a death rate more than twice the national average.
Read my Backstory interview with Doug Pardue and Glenn Smith and learn about the making of this remarkable and highly influential piece of journalism. After "Till Death Do Us Part" ran, the speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives announced a special panel to help craft new domestic violence legislation for the next session.
The Best of the Week's News
- Living wage advocates turn up the heat on the fast food industry with civil disobedience in cities across the country.
- How construction companies are dodging taxes and cheating workers by misclassifying them as contractors.
- The Justice Department will pursue a broad civil rights inquiry into the Ferguson Police Department, not just a limited probe of the Brown shooting.
- Missouri swore it wouldn't use a controversial drug linked to botched executions, but it did.
[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]
Hillman Prize-winning journalist Steven Greenhouse reports on today's fast food worker demonstrations in New York City, and across the country:
Twenty-one workers demanding a $15-an-hour wage were arrested while conducting a sit-in outside a McDonald’s in Times Square on Thursday morning as the fast-food movement for the first time embraced widespread civil disobedience to escalate its fight.
Organizers said several hundred fast-food workers planned to sit in at restaurants in dozens of cities on Thursday. Organizers said the police arrested more than 50 workers in Detroit for such action on Thursday morning. The civil disobedience is intended to draw more attention to the “Fight for Fifteen” movement and to step up pressure on the nation’s fast-food chains. [NYT]
The living wage advocacy website Low Pay Is Not Okay has a large gallery of images from today's protest in Times square, which it says resulted in the temporary shutdown of 42nd St.
[Photo credit: Low Pay Is Not Okay.]
Alexis Okeowo tells the story of Biram Dah Abeid and his crusade to abolish slavery in his home country of Mauritiana. Abeid is the founder of the country's largest anti-slavery organization, and he will stop at nothing to get slave owners arrested:
Finally, the police took the slaves to the station, and Abeid and the others followed. For a moment, the activists—schoolteachers, civil servants, the unemployed—remained in a standoff with the police there, a force of some sixty officers. Abeid walked toward a policeman. When the policeman grabbed Abeid’s shirt, Abeid butted him twice with his head. “I wanted to go to jail,” he said. “When people ask why I am in jail, they will have to know there were two slave girls, and the government refused to put the slave owner in jail.” As the activists and the police clashed, Abeid lunged at the police again, and he was arrested. He was jailed for three months; the slave owner was released after nine days. But it was a seminal victory for IRA: the first time that police had imprisoned a slave owner. The organization has since helped to put about twenty others in jail, though often for brief terms. As owners heard about the arrests, they started releasing their slaves, in a ripple of fear. Working through a network of nine thousand activists, IRA has freed thousands of slaves around the country. Haratin often refer to the former slaves as Biram Frees. [New Yorker]
In 1981, Mauritiana became the last country on earth to outlaw slavery, but the country still has the highest incidence of slavery in the world. The practice is sustained by tradition, economic necessity, and idiosyncratic local interpretation of Islam that Abeid is risking his life to discredit.
[Photo credit: Nouakchott, the largest city in Mauritiana, by Manuel M. Almeida, Creative Commons.]
The Best of the Week's News: Labor Day Edition
- The attack on bad teacher tenure laws is an attack on black professionals, writes Andre M. Perry.
- We are entering the era of the mail-order abortion.
- 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.]
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.
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.]
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 we 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.]