Eating Healthy When You’re Poor: You Can’t (UPDATED)

I’ve spent a good deal of time talking about the stereotype of the “fat poor”. You know the right-wing slur: if we’re so broke, how come so many of us are overweight? It’s just another way of claiming that being poor is our own damn fault and has NOTHING to do with, like, an income distribution system heavily shewed toward the top. In an article in the Lifestyle section (“Lifestyle”, for chrissake) of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Phuong Cat Le writes that decent food is often out of reach of the poor price-wise, especially if they’re on food stamps. Continue reading

Foreclosure filings up 70 percent in 2006

We knew this was coming, didn’t we?

Petitions to foreclose on Massachusetts homeowners rose nearly 70 percent in 2006, and the number of distressed properties that went to auction increased 46 percent, a report said today. Continue reading

Wal-Mart (ahem) Expands? (Updated)

If this isn’t the be-all, end-all, last-word killer argument for finally dumping deregulation, I don’t know what is: Wal-Mart wants to become *cough* a bank.

The federal agency that insures bank deposits is expected to decide this week whether Wal-Mart Stores can move ahead with its plan to open a bank.

Wal-Mart critics want the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s board, which meets Wednesday, to deny the retailer’s application for a type of bank known as an industrial loan company, or ILC. Continue reading

Feature Launch: TrenchNews

With the passing of Jordan Barab’s Confined Space and Nathan Newman’s Labor Blog, it falls to the rest of us to try to pick up pieces of his work and keep it going. The most natural piece for me to concentrate on is covering organized labor. In my surfing, I almost always come across way more labor-related stories than I have time to write about. I hate to just let them go by since hardly anyone else is talking about them.

So, with that in mind, today I’m launching a new Trenches feature called TrenchNews. Once a week, I’ll try to do a round-up of some of the news stories on unions and labor issues that the MSM either buries in the Business pages or doesn’t cover at all. Taking a leaf from The Carpetbagger Report, TrenchNews will be a collection of links with brief summaries and/or quotes attached to stories I think need to be up and around more than they are. Sometimes I’ll follow up one of these stories with a detailed post; most of the time I won’t. But at least you’ll have heard a little of what the media isn’t telling you.

Now, without further ado: Continue reading

Bush’s “Health Care Reform” 2: Selling the Scam

In the previous post, I said Bush’s pro-corporate proposal to address the health care problem through tax policy was liable to turn out to be the only initiative in the SOTU that he actually cared about and might try to implement. So far, I seem to be batting a thousand. He hasn’t mentioned the ethanol/alternative fuels thing, and even in the White House nobody knows what “Civilian Reserve Corps” means, let alone how it would be set up, who would be in it, or what it would do. But less than 48 hours after the speech ended, he was already out on the hustings hustling his health care “reform” package. Continue reading

Bush’s “Health Care Reform” Aims to Kill Employer Coverage

As I’ve said elsewhere, the only initiative Bush put forward in his lame SOTU that he might actually be serious about is the health care “reform” in which he wants to address a social problem through tax-policy-tweaking. I wrote:

But the truly insidious element is in the unspoken subtext: what this proposal basically does is offer cover to the corporatocracy so it can decide to stop offering health care to its employees. Why should it?

“Now employees can buy a private plan and pay for it themselves, right? Well, they’re paying $400/mon for our corporate-subsidized plan anyway and the govt will let them keep another $400, so there’s your $800/mon for a modest plan, and what do they need us for? They don’t. End of problem. Alright, so a modest plan probably won’t cover shit like surgery and extended hospital stays, and certainly won’t cover drugs or pre-existing conditions (and everything’s a pre-existing condition to an insurance company, just ask them), but what’s that to us? We can quit paying all that money to insurance companies and put it in our own pockets.”

This is potentially a major boost in the Great Risk Shift, taking a tremendous burden off corporations and dumping it straight onto the backs of its workers under the guise of “helping” them, while at the same time ensuring that greedy, inefficient but profitable insurance companies will stay in control of our health care system. It’s not just insidious. It’s evil.

It seems I’m not the only one to have reached – or at least to be on the road to reaching – that conclusion. Continue reading

Confined Space Closes Down

I suppose it’s to be expected that from time to time real life has to take precedence over blogging. It happened to me, it’s happening to Kevin Hayden, and now Jordan Barab is giving up Confined Space to take a job with the House Committee on Education and Labor. I’m glad that if we have to lose him, we’re at least losing him to a different part of the fight instead of illness or financial difficulties or – worse – the corporate dogs of legal warfare. For almost four years, Jordan has been, if not the only, certainly the strongest voice in the blogosphere standing up for workers’ rights in a time when they were being taken away by a government that was little more than a subsidiary of the corporatocracy.

To say “he will be missed” is like saying we’d miss food if we didn’t eat for a year. He showed a lot of us – including me – how blogging could be used to enlighten, educate and enrage. Continue reading

Republicans Filibuster Minimum Wage Bill

I must be getting naive in my old age. I actually thought the minimum wage bill had so much momentum that the Republicans wouldn’t be able to stop it. I was wrong. Shameless Pub Senators, corporate puppets all, are staging a filibuster against the bill. The Democrats tried to end the “debate” but lost the cloture vote as the Pubs demanded – get this – more tax breaks for businesses to “make up” for what they will supposedly lose when the minimum wage is raised. Continue reading

Labor and Business Join for Immigration Reform

There is almost no coverage of unions or labor issues in the nation’s mainstream press. As Studs Terkel pointed out 15 or 20 years ago – and before that, for all I know – every newspaper has a Business Section, along with a Lifestyle Section (now that’s critical news), an Entertainment Section, an Automotive Section. Not one – not one – has a Labor Section. Nor have they ever had one, not even in the 50’s when 35% of the US workforce belonged to a union. When (if) they cover labor news at all, they usually put it in the Business Section where you can pretty much count on a certain, well, slant to the reporting. (There. I’ve said it.)

One day a year, at least, we used to be treated to saccherine paeans to the Old Labor Movement, although they were almost always quickly undercut by “historical reminders” of how corrupt the Teamsters were. Nowadays we don’t even get that. We get instead stories about the modern (mainly non-unionized) workforce “adapting” to the “new workplace”. I’ve seen articles on the incredible levels of employee stress, on employee health care, child care, and the “productivity costs” of absenteeism due to sick children or sick parents. In virtually all of these articles there are two glaring omissions: any mention of unions and any mention of employer responsibility for the problems discussed. Few business reporters are willing to bite the bullet and name the obvious culprit: employers who expect too much and pay too little for it.

I wrote about this in the previous post – and no, I’m not going to get back on that horse again here – because it is the biggest unaddressed issue in the working world today, and probably the biggest reason for workers to unionize. Labor unions, as I wrote a few days ago, have been looking for ways to make alliances with corporations and conservative groups that promise to cut through some of the built-in animosity that exists between them by joining together to work on issues common to both. Yesterday the Washington Post reported on the second such merger this week. This time the issue is immigration reform, and once again the SEIU is right in the middle of it. Continue reading

Developing White-Collar Unions, Pt 1

Writing in The Democratic Strategist, ex-labor organizer and current union PR consultant Jim Grossfeld summarizes the results of a survey he and his partners conducted into modern attitudes about unions at the request of the Center for American Progress. The results aren’t so much surprising as they are cohesive. It’s not that, as David Kusnet points out in his reply in the same magazine, any of what Grossfeld says is all that new; but it’s knowledge that’s been scattered all over the place. Joining it all together helps bring the problems of labor organizing in the new millenium into sharper focus.

Grossfeld’s findings suggest that today’s workforce has what he calls a “nuanced” attitude toward unions. I call it “confused”. Basically, today’s employees are caught between identifying with management and a management that treats them like disposable tissue. Continue reading