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 Leveson Inquiry is an ongoing public investigation into the News Corp phone hacking scandal. Prime Minister David Cameron convened the inquiry because staffers at some UK newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp were caught hacking the cell phones of celebrities, politicians, and crime victims; bribing police officers; and deploying other unethical and illegal reporting tactics.
Miss Insomnia Tulip, a perceptive and public-spirited confectioner, has assembled a rogue's gallery of cake pops depicting the major figures in the inquiry including Rupert Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks-Wade, James Murdoch, and the LOL Blackberry. The pop on the top left is God.
Are cake pops eligible for major editorial cartooning awards? If not, they should be.
HT: Boing Boing.
- One in three American Indian women is a survivor of rape or attempted rape, according to the Department of Justice. Timothy Williams of the New York Times takes an in-depth look at sexual violence on tribal lands and the failure of politicians in Washington to address the problem.
- The Orange County Register reports on the Axxent FlexiShield, a medical device designed to protect patients undergoing radiation. The shield can fragment inside the body, peppering tissues with tungsten particles. The FDA approved the device without clinical tests to prove its safety through a controversial approval process known as 510(k). Medical device manufacturers successfully lobbied to expand the 510(k) program, which was originally intended for low- and moderate-risk devices only but today accounts for about 90% of all devices approved for market, including high-risk implantables.
- Dr. Amy Tuteur, a retired OB-GYN, savages the New York Times' credulous coverage of home birth midwife Ina May Gaskin: "Let's get something straight: Ina May Gaskin has blood on her hands, and not merely the blood of her own child sacrificed on the altar of homebirth. Gaskin presides over a large multi-faceted business empire comprised of trade, propaganda and lobbying organizations, all with one purpose in mind: allowing uneducated women like herself to provide substandard medical care to pregnant women while ignoring the growing pile of tiny bodies."
[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]
Frank Bardacke, the 2012 Hillman Book Prize-winner meets Tom Morello, winner of the 2012 Hillman Officer's Award at the Hillman Prize ceremony at the TimesCenter. See Verso Books' website for more details.
Spencer Soper won a Sidney Award for his expose of deplorable working conditions at an Amazon warehouse complex. This week, Soper published another memorable labor story. His latest dispatch is about truck drivers who say they were fired for talking about forming a union:
Five months after it opened a new $35 million cardboard plant in Lower Macungie, Pratt Corrugated Logistics laid off most of its 18 truck drivers, telling them the company decided to contract with outside haulers instead.
But 13 drivers who lost their jobs in April allege in legal documents that their terminations came after the company found out they were talking about forming a union.
The drivers complained to the National Labor Relations Board that they were terminated due to union activities, in violation of federal laws that protect workers' rights to form collective bargaining units.
The Morning Call interviewed eight truck drivers who were terminated, and those interviewed maintain they have reason to be suspicious of the company's motives. [Morning Call]
Read the whole thing.
[Photo credit: visagency, Creative Commons.]
Trymaine Lee of the Huffington Post accepts the April Sidney Award from Hillman executive director Alexandra Lescaze. Lee won the Sidney for his outstanding coverage of the Trayvon Martin shooting, coverage that helped turn a local tragedy into a national scandal.
[Photo credit: Lindsay Beyerstein, all rights reserved.]
If you want a case study of everything that is wrong with money politics, this is it.
Chances are that if you’re sitting on a couch right now, it contains flame retardants. This will probably do no good if your house catches fire — although it may release toxic smoke. There is growing concern that the chemicals are hazardous, with evidence mounting of links to cancer, fetal impairment and reproductive problems.
For years, I’ve written about this type of chemical, endocrine disruptors, but The Chicago Tribune has just published a devastating investigative series called “Playing With Fire” that breaks vast new ground. It is superb journalism.
It turns out that our furniture first became full of flame retardants because of the tobacco industry, according to internal cigarette company documents examined by The Tribune. A generation ago, tobacco companies were facing growing pressure to produce fire-safe cigarettes, because so many house fires started with smoldering cigarettes. So tobacco companies mounted a surreptitious campaign for flame retardant furniture, rather than safe cigarettes, as the best way to reduce house fires. [NYT]
It's great to see the Tribune's work getting the high-profile recognition it deserves.
[Photo credit: abbyladybug, Creative Commons.]
- Better TED than Red? In March, millionaire tech entrepreneur Nick Hanauer gave a TED Talk on a simple idea: Middle class consumers, not captains of industry, are the true job creators. Why? Because without consumer demand, entrepreneurs would have no one to buy their products. Jobs come from a positive feedback loop between consumer demand and innovation to meet that demand, Hanauer said. In an deeply unequal society, even vastly rich people can't consume enough to sustain demand. Therefore taxing the rich and investing that money to bolster the middle class benefits everyone. Initially, TED seemed eager to distribute Hanauer's talk, according to the National Journal, which broke the story: “I want to put this talk out into the world!” a TED official wrote to Hanauer. Yet, somehow the enthusiasm faded. TED Talk curator Chris Anderson later said that the organization decided not to post Hanauer's talk because it was too partisan, and not special enough to merit the honor of being displayed on the main TED website. Specialness may be in the eye of the beholder, but the idea that consumer demand drives job growth is Econ 101.
- Tim Murphy of Mother Jones has the inside scoop on Joe Ricketts, the bigtime GOP donor behind the super-PAC out to portray Obama as a "metrosexual, black Abraham Lincoln." The PAC is looking for "extremely literate conservative African-American" to narrate the spots, or John Voight, whichever.
- Michelle Chen of In These Times describes how migrant domestic workers around the world are documenting their struggles and pushing for change.
This month, Graham Rayman of the Village Voice continued his hard-hitting investigation of unchecked violence at Rikers. Be advised, the photos of inmate injuries that he obtained are horrific. The Voice published these images in the hopes of shocking New Yorkers and their elected officials out of complacency regarding conditions at the prison.
In 2008, the Voice exposed a "fight club" for teen prisoners which operated with the support of guards, who used inmate-on-inmate violence to keep order. Two correctional officers went to prison for their role in the fights, know as The Program.
Rikers officials say that the Program is no more, but insiders tell Rayman a different story:
However, several sources, including current and retired investigators, say that the practice is very much still in place, which is backed up by hundreds of internal Correction Department documents obtained by the Voice.
The documents also lay bare the extreme influence that gangs, mostly Bloods, still exert on day-to-day life in the jails—particularly at the Robert N. Davoren Center, where teens are housed and where Robinson was murdered three years ago.
Documents show that inmate leaders known as "the team" control access to the phones; extort phone privileges, commissary allowances, and food from weaker inmates; and even enforce rules on where inmates can sit when watching television in the dayroom. The weakest inmates have to sit on the floor. All of this happens right under the noses of Correction officers.
Inmates at the juvenile detention center have sustained 10 broken jaws, 6 broken noses, and 3 shattered eye sockets in 2012, according to serious injury reports obtained by The Voice. The real numbers may be much higher, because not all injured inmates seek treatment in jail. Rayman estimates that over 4000 teens are injured every year at Rikers, and that the majority of those injuries are from violence.
Nadia Sussman accepts the Sidney Hillman Prize for Social Justice Reporting at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism's Awards for Excellence in Journalism banquet.
Sussman is a 2011 graduate of the CUNY J-School who was recognized as the student in her class with the highest commitment to excellence in social justice journalism. At CUNY she produced slideshows and web videos on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, day laborers in New York, and immigrant girls coping with the aftermath of female genital cutting. Sussman is currently a web video producer for the New York Times.
We at the Sidney Hillman Foundation congratulate Nadia on her achievements and wish her all the best in her future endeavors.