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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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Clear It With Sidney

Mon, Apr 2, 2012

For Immediate Release:

The Sidney Hillman Foundation Announces 2012 Hillman Prizes for Excellence in Reporting in Service of the Common Good

Awards Ceremony Tuesday May 1 in New York City

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For Immediate Release:

The Sidney Hillman Foundation Announces 2012 Hillman Prizes for Excellence in Reporting in Service of the Common Good

Awards Ceremony Tuesday May 1 in New York City

The Sidney Hillman Foundation announced today the winners of the 2012 Hillman Prizes, given to journalists whose work identifies important social and economic issues and helps bring about change for the better.

This year, the Foundation recognized stories about the struggles of families during the recession, fairness in immigration policy, flaws in education reform, contract workers on military bases, farm workers and battered women in prison.

The Hillman Foundation will present its distinguished annual journalism prizes, awarded every year since 1950, at a ceremony and reception at The TimesCenter in Manhattan on May 1st.

This year's winners are:

Hillman Prize in Book Journalism
Frank Bardacke
Trampling Out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers, Verso Books

Hillman Prize in Opinion & Analysis Journalism

Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic

Hillman Prize in Newspaper Journalism

Heather Vogell, Alan Judd, John Perry
"The Atlanta Schools Cheating Scandal," The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Honorable Mention: Danny Hakim and Russell Buettner, "Abused and Used: At State
Run Homes Abuse and Impunity," The New York Times

Hillman Prize in Magazine Journalism
Sarah Stillman
"The Invisible Army," The New Yorker

Hillman Prize in Broadcast Journalism
Yoav Potash
"Crime After Crime," The Oprah Winfrey Network

Honorable Mention: Anderson Cooper, "Sissy Boy Experiments," CNN

Hillman Prize in Photojournalism
Katie Falkenberg
"A Lasting Toll," Los Angeles Times

Honorable mention: Lara Solt, "Unending Battle," The Dallas Morning News

Hillman Prize in Web Journalism
Seth Freed Wessler
"Thousands of Kids Lost From Parents In U.S. Deportation System," Colorlines.com

Sol Stetin Award for Labor History
Nelson Lichtenstein
MacArthur Foundation Chair in History
Director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor and Democracy
University of California, Santa Barbara
Central and influential in the field of labor history. Books include: Walter Reuther: the Most Dangerous Man in Detroit (1996) and State of the Union: A Century of American Labor (2002).

The Foundation also announced a special Officers' Award given to activist, songwriter, and musician Tom Morello for his commitment to workers' rights.

Since 1950, the Sidney Hillman Foundation has celebrated the legacy and vision of union pioneer and New Deal architect Sidney Hillman. As founder and president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, a predecessor union to Workers United, SEIU, and a founder of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), Hillman is considered one of America's greatest labor leaders. His tireless efforts to bring dignity and respect to working people left a lasting legacy for the American public.

Past winners include prominent figures in the field, as well as young journalists or publications that have yet to receive adequate recognition. Each winner receives $5,000 and a certificate drawn by Edward Sorel and lettered by Seymour Chwast.

Our distinguished panel of judges consists of Hendrik Hertzberg, senior editor, The New Yorker; Harold Meyerson, editor-at-large, The American Prospect and columnist for the Washington Post; Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation magazine; Susan Meiselas, Magnum photographer; and Rose Marie Arce, senior producer, CNN.

The award ceremony and reception will be held Tuesday, May 1, 2012, 6-9 PM, at The TimesCenter, 242 West 41st Street, New York City.

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Contact:
Julie Sedlis, ChangeCommunications
info@communicatechange.com

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Mon, Apr 2, 2012

Guest post by Jin Zhao, reprinted with permission from Things You Don't Know About China.

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Guest post by Jin Zhao, reprinted with permission from Things You Don't Know About China.

March 31, 2012. This morning, Chinese government’s cracking down on websites and arresting six netizens for spreading the rumor of a military coup in Beijing became a headlining story in many major Chinese and international media. AP and The Washington Post both reported that two microblogging websites Sina Weibo and TencentWeibo were “punished” and comments have been temporarily suspended until next Tuesday. The report by both news organization, however, is not accurate.

According to Xinjing Bao, a Beijing based newspaper, the government shut down 16 websites because of their “creating and spreading rumors and negligence in management” which have resulted in “extremely negative social impact.” However, Beijing and Guangdong Internet administrative agencies only “severely criticized” Sina Weibo (based in Beijing) and TencentWeibo (based in Guangdong) and “punished them accordingly.” However, there is no information about the specifics of the “punishment.” Xinjing Bao also reports that “the two websites have agreed to abide the relevant laws, implement corrective measures, and further strengthen management.”

I tested both microblogging websites this afternoon and it appears that users can post, comment and repost microblogs as usually. As to what measures the websites are going to implement to “strengthen” their management, I haven’t seen any signs of stricter censorship or blockage.

It is possible that the commenting and reposting functions on weibo sites were suspended and recovered shortly, for some netizens have complained the blockage of comments on these sites. A journalist posted in the group “Chinese Journalists” on Sina Weibo, criticizing the government for “fabricating a harmonious society.” “It’s fine that you (the government) are shameless,” he wrote, “but what makes you really shameless is to block weibo‘s comments.”

It is still unclear what is going to happen to these websites. It will be hard for the government to flat-out close or directly censor these websites largely because of economic reasons. Moreover, like the journalist mentioned earlier, many Chinese are no longer willing to accept whatever imposed on them, and those who see weibo a freer and more open space for information sharing and public debate, many of whom are opinion leaders in China, will not let it to be smothered without a fight.

Updates:

April 1, 1:15 PM EST – As of now, Sina Weibo disabled commenting, but still allows reposting. On Sina Weibo, a message says when one clicks on “comments”: “From March 31, 8 PM, to April 3, 8 PM, commenting is suspended temporarily. We apologize for the inconvenience.” The reason for suspension, according to Sina Weibo, is so that website can “cleanse” the website of “harmful” and “illegal” information.

On Tencent Weibo, it seems commenting and reposting are both still functioning.

[Photo credit: BWJones, Creative Commons.]

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Fri, Mar 30, 2012

  • ABC News released exclusive police security camera footage of Trayvon Martin's shooter, George Zimmerman, being taken into custody on the night of the killing. The police report claimed that Zimmerman had a bloody nose and a cut on his head from an altercation with Martin and a wet jacket from lying on his back on the grass. No trace of trauma or dampness is visible in the video. The footage raises doubts about . Obtaining this footage was an investigative coup for ABC. The network also obtained cell phone records that seem to corroborate Martin's girlfriend's claim that she was on the phone with Martin when he was shot.
  • Erin Schikowski of The Nation writes about the fight to save public sector pensions in Providence, Rhode Island. 
  • The New York Times has a bracing op/ed entitled "The Cruel Budget," about how Paul Ryan's budget, which Mitt Romney has endorsed, would affect the poorest Americans. The budget would cut $3.3 trillion from programs for low-income Americans and "leave millions of struggling families desperate for food, shelter and health care." 
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Thu, Mar 29, 2012

Hillman Judge Harold Meyerson supplies some striking statistics about America's inequality crisis in his latest column:

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Hillman Judge Harold Meyerson supplies some striking statistics about America's inequality crisis in his latest column:

Occupy Wall Street is not known for the precision of its economic analysis, but new research on income distribution in the United States shows that the group’s sloganeering provides a stunningly accurate picture of the economy. In 2010, according to a study published this month by University of California economist Emmanuel Saez, 93 percent of income growth went to the wealthiest 1 percent of American households, while everyone else divvied up the 7 percent that was left over. Put another way: The most fundamental characteristic of the U.S. economy today is the divide between the 1 percent and the 99 percent.

It was not ever thus. In the recovery that followed the downturn of the early 1990s, the wealthiest 1 percent captured 45 percent of the nation’s income growth. In the recovery that followed the dot-com bust 10 years ago, Saez noted, 65 percent of the income growth went to the top 1 percent. This time around, it’s reached 93 percent — a level so high it shakes the foundations of the entire American project. [WaPo]

To make matters worse, intergenerational economic mobility is on the decline. Americans like to think of their country as a land of opportunity, a meritocracy where hard work is rewarded and children can do better than their parents. It's easier to excuse massive differences in wealth if you believe that anyone can become rich. The latest statistics from the Brookings Institution show that the U.S. has less intergenerational mobility than Germany, Finland, or Denmark.

[Photo credit: Jamie H, Creative Commons.]

 

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Tue, Mar 27, 2012

Sarah Jaffe, AlterNet's tireless labor reporter, takes an in-depth look at the consequences of stripping public sector workers of their collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin and Ohio. These laws sparked national outrage when they were passed. Now the dire predictions are coming true.

Wisconsin and Ohio, where industrial democracy goes to die:

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Sarah Jaffe, AlterNet's tireless labor reporter, takes an in-depth look at the consequences of stripping public sector workers of their collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin and Ohio. These laws sparked national outrage when they were passed. Now the dire predictions are coming true.

Wisconsin and Ohio, where industrial democracy goes to die:

"For all its faults, the National Labor Relations Act established that it is the policy of the US government to encourage collective bargaining," Jacob Remes, assistant professor of public affairs and history at SUNY Empire State College, told AlterNet. "The New Deal established collective bargaining as a fundamental part of democracy--what they called industrial democracy. We talk about how the New Deal era has ended, but I think one of the great things about these fights is that they reminded people--politicians, pundits, the populace--that despite the decline of the rest of the New Deal, we still believe in at least this element of industrial democracy."

A typical Wisconsin state employee earning $40,000 a year has seen a wage cut of over $3000. Under the new law, unions must vote to recertify every year and the law stacks the deck against recertification. At least 51% of the workers in each bargaining unit must vote to recertify, 51% of the votes in the election isn't good enough. In principle, 100% of the voters could vote "yes" and the union would still be decertified if less than 51% of the workers voted.

Without collective bargaining rights, Wisconsin's teachers are facing increasingly intrusive dress and conduct codes from administrators bent on rooting out "moral turpitude," a vague term that encompasses everything from wearing jeans and skirts above the knee to "friending" their students on facebook.

Some prison guards have lost their bathroom privileges when they accompany inmates to the hospital.

The assault on the collective bargaining rights of public sector workers is just the beginning. The enemies of labor know that the public sector is the last bastion of high union density in the United States. If the public sector unions are decimated, the labor movement will lose political power and become an less effective advocate for the rights of private sector workers.

[Photo credit: Self-portrait on the first day of the term, by Cathdew, a teacher from the Netherlands. Creative Commons.]

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Mon, Mar 26, 2012

New York State is investigating whether car-wash kingpin John Lage is underwriting his luxurious lifestyle with wage theft. In an exclusive for the New York Daily News, Erica Pearson reports that Lage is accused of paying $1.75 per hour below minimum wage to workers at his many car washes:

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New York State is investigating whether car-wash kingpin John Lage is underwriting his luxurious lifestyle with wage theft. In an exclusive for the New York Daily News, Erica Pearson reports that Lage is accused of paying $1.75 per hour below minimum wage to workers at his many car washes:

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman last week slapped a subpoena on John Lage, who is linked to more than a dozen car washes and lives in a $900,000 lakefront house in Westchester.

Workers claim that the car washes pay $5.50 an hour — $1.75 less than the legal minimum — plus a pittance in tips. They don’t make overtime and complain about harsh working conditions.

Sources close to the investigation say Schneiderman is zeroing in on “serious” allegations of wage-and-hour violations.

Attendant Adan Nicolas told Pearson that he earns just $5.50 an hour at a Lage-owned car-wash in Astoria. He says that at the end of his 12-hour shifts, his nose bleeds and his vision blurs from all the chemicals he's exposed to, but he doesn't get overtime. Until recently, Nicolas was afraid to speak up because he is undocumented. “You ask for a raise, and they say no,” he told the Daily News, “In a certain way, they say, since we don’t have papers, we don’t have rights.”

[Photo credit: Whizchickenonabun, Creative Commons.]

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Fri, Mar 23, 2012

  • The new vigilantism: How so-called "stand your ground" laws, championed by the gun lobby, have emboldened racists and crackpots to shoot first and ask questions later. [Facing South]
  • How our old friends at the American Legislative Exchange Council are passing bills in state legislatures to gut the climate science curriculum in public schools. What's next, the Scopes Troposphere Trial? [AlterNet]
  • News anchor Diane Sawyer is touting egg-freezing as a means to extend fertility, but the American Society for Reproductive Medicine still classifies the $15,000 procedure as experimental because thawed eggs don't reliably produce pregnancies and some of the chemicals used in the freezing process may be toxic to embryos. [RH Reality Check]
  • The UAW is stepping up its bid to unionize a West Virginia Volkswagon plant, which, if successful, would extend the union's influence beyond its traditional stronghold in Detroit. [Reuters]

[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

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Thu, Mar 22, 2012

TORONTO, CANADA. Timothy Sawa, Diana Swain, and Angela Gilbert of the fifth estate accept the 2012 Canadian Hillman Prize for Scout's Honour, an expose of decades of sexual abuse and coverups in Scouts Canada and the Boy Scouts of America. (March 20, 2012.)

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TORONTO, CANADA. Timothy Sawa, Diana Swain, and Angela Gilbert of the fifth estate accept the 2012 Canadian Hillman Prize for Scout's Honour, an expose of decades of sexual abuse and coverups in Scouts Canada and the Boy Scouts of America. (March 20, 2012.)

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Fri, Mar 16, 2012

 

  • And now for something completely different: Republicans against prison labor! When public exploitation undercuts private profit, something has to be done. Defense contractors say they're being undercut by Federal Prison Industries, a publicly-owned company that pays inmates between 23 cents to $1.15 an hour to make clothing and other items for the U.S. military, Diane Cardwell reports in the New York Times. The defense contractors have enlisted their friends in the Senate, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), to level the playing field between FPI and the private sector. Now, a bipartisan group of legislators seeks to revive a bill that would raise the minimum wage in federal prisons and increase Congressional oversight of the prison system.
  • Why the U.S. needs to bring back the 40-hour work week to preserve our sanity and our productivity, by Sarah Robinson in AlterNet.
  • Last week Rush Limbaugh attacked Tracie McMillan, the author of the critically acclaimed book The American Way of Eating as "wide-eyed" "authorette," and an "overeducated" but unintelligent single woman. Clarissa León takes Rush to task for his ill-informed, sexist, classist diatribe in the Daily Beast: "‘Rush Limbaugh has crystallized something that is bigger than just him,’ writer Annia Ciezadlo says. ‘What he’s sort of unwittingly articulated is this hatred of the idea that working-class women will have a voice in anything that they do.’"
  • Former Goldman Sachs executive Greg Smith quit the legendary investment banking house because he realized that short-term greed was eclipsing long-term greed at Goldman, Ezra Klein explains in the Washington Post. In other words, Smith felt that Goldman was more interested in wringing money out of its own clients (short-term greed) than in making them money and taking a cut year after year (long-term greed).

 

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Wed, Mar 14, 2012

Goldman Sachs executive Greg Smith explains in the op/ed pages of the New York Times why he's stepping down today after twelve years with the organization:

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Goldman Sachs executive Greg Smith explains in the op/ed pages of the New York Times why he's stepping down today after twelve years with the organization:

How did we get here? The firm changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.

Smith is concerned that integrity is on the decline at the 143-year-old investment bank. He's not worried about what Goldman is doing to society at large, but he draws the line at what he sees as his former firm's willingness to exploit its own clients.  "Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over internal e-mail," he writes. That does sound like a bad sign.

[Photo credit: Erik Daniel Drost, Creative Commons.]

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