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New Labor Forum: Black Lives Matter/Fight for Fifteen

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Left to right: Kendall Fells, Frances Fox Piven, Jelani Cobb, Alicia Garza. By Lindsay Beyerstein. 

Black Lives Matter and the Fight for Fifteen are two of the most dynamic social movements in the United States today. These were the subject of Monday’s New Labor Forum, sponsored by the Murphy Institute and the Sidney Hillman Foundation. 

Scholar and activist Frances Fox Piven introduced the panel, which was moderated by Hillman Judge Jelani Cobb.

Kendall Fells of Fast Food Forward/SEIU described the genesis of the Fight for Fifteen movement. Fast food workers were desperate, he said, because they had no consistency in their scheduling and no respect at work. One woman was fired for drinking water out of the wrong-sized cup, another for eating a single chicken nugget. At first, a $15 minimum wage for the fast food sector seemed like an unattainable goal, Fells said. Today, a $15 wage is a reality for many fast food workers in New York, California, and other states. 

Alicia Garza is a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement and the executive director of National Domestic Workers Alliance. She described how veterans of the Fight For 15 in Ferguson applied their newfound leadership skills to the struggle for civil rights and police accountability in Ferguson. 

The panelists agreed that poor communities are both underpaid and overpoliced, and their residents are more likely to be Black and Latino. These are the threads that tie Black Lives Matter and the Fight for Fifteen together. Fells pointed out that the same workers who were striking for respect at their fast food jobs were also getting harrassed by the police on their way to work. 

Sidney’s Picks: Bernie and the Drug Baron; Wage Theft in the Big Apple

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Randy Bayne, Creative Commons.

The Best of the Week’s News


ProPublica and AL.com share October Sidney for "Take a Valium, Lose Your Kid, Go to Jail" Series

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Grant Blankenship for ProPublica.

Nina Martin of ProPublica and Amy Yurkanin of AL.com win the October Sidney Award for exposing Alabama’s attempt to twist an anti-meth-lab law to punish women for using drugs during pregnancy. The arrests of hundreds of new mothers combine the worst excesses of the War on Drugs with the anti-abortion movement’s “personhood” agenda. 

Find out how this remarkable piece of investigative journalism came to be in an interview we call The Backstory, with Lindsay Beyerstein. 

Sidney’s Picks: Elephants, Planned Parenthood, and the Nobel Prize

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Diana Robinson, Creative Commons.

The Best of the Week’s News

  • “Wal-Mart is the embodiment of our broken economic system,” says AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka
  • New York City teacher speaks out against the burden of standardized testing.
  • GOP probe of Planned Parenthood finds no evidence of wrong-doing. 
  • A newly-discovered gene accounts for elephants’ enviably low cancer rates.
  • A Russian journalist who chronicled Chernobyl wins the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Sidney’s Picks: The Oregon Killer, Captain America, and the Missing 43

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Lindsay Beyerstein.

The Best of the Week’s News

  • An early profile of the shooter in the Umpqua Community College massacre.
  • Terror in California: A suspicious fire at Planned Parenthood was arson. 
  • Captain America unmasked at the Clinton Correctional Facility. 
  • new theory emerges in the disappearance of Mexico’s 43 missing normal school students. 

Hillman Judge Ta-Nehisi Coates Wins MacArthur Genius Grant

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Courtesy of Ta-Nehisi Coates. 

Hillman Judge Ta-Nehisi Coates has been selected to recieve a MacArthur Genius Grant for his work in journalism, social criticism and memoir. The $625,000 grant is awarded to exceptionally creative people. It provides a stipend for five years with no strings attached: 

“We take ‘no strings’ quite seriously,” said Cecilia A. Conrad, the foundation’s managing director. “They don’t have to report to us. They can use the funds in any way they see fit.” [NYT]

Coates, the author of the best-selling memoir, Between the World and Me, is one of 24 outstanding winners. This year’s MacArthur fellows include a cutting-edge brain researchers, visual artists, economists, and a puppeteer. 

Sidney’s Picks: Homeless City Workers, Pesticides, and Nazi Memorabilia

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David Shankbone, Creative Commons.

The Best of the Week’s News

Sidney’s Picks: Secret Arms Deals; C.J. Chivers; and Slavery

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Nicoliee528, Creative Commons.

The Best of the Week’s News

  • Would you buy a used missile from this company, known as Purple Shovel?
  • Constitutionally, slavery was a national institution.
  • C.J. Chivers retires from war reporting after fourteen storied years. 
  • 6 hours for work, 8 hours for sleep, 10 hours for what we will: Sweden experiments with shorter work days at full pay.