Progressive Calendar 05.21.09
From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)
Date: Thu, 21 May 2009 06:29:32 -0700 (PDT)
             P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   05.21.09

1. Eagan peace vigil 5.21 4:30pm
2. Northtown vigil   5.21 5pm
3. Amnesty Intl      5.21 7pm
4. Econ development  5.21 7pm
5. Blaine resolution 5.21 7:30pm

6. Peace walk        5.23 9am Cambridge MN
7. Northtown vigil   5.23 2pm
8. Immigrant rights  5.23 4pm
9. MOVE/Philly/CTV   5.23 9pm

10. Michael D Yates - Work is hell: tales from the working class
11. ed              - bumpersticker

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From: Greg and Sue Skog <family4peace [at] msn.com>
Subject: Eagan peace vigil 5.21 4:30pm

PEACE VIGIL EVERY THURSDAY from 4:30-5:30pm on the Northwest corner of
Pilot Knob Road and Yankee Doodle Road in Eagan. We have signs and
candles. Say "NO to war!" The weekly vigil is sponsored by: Friends south
of the river speaking out against war.


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From: EKalamboki [at] aol.com
Subject: Northtown vigil 5.21 5pm

NORTHTOWN Peace Vigil every Thursday 5-6pm, at the intersection of Co. Hwy
10 and University Ave NE (SE corner across from Denny's), in Blaine.

Communities situated near the Northtown Mall include: Blaine, Mounds View,
New Brighton, Roseville, Shoreview, Arden Hills, Spring Lake Park,
Fridley, and Coon Rapids.  We'll have extra signs.

For more information people can contact Evangelos Kalambokidis by phone or
email: (763)574-9615, ekalamboki [at] aol.com.


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From: Gabe Ormsby <gabeo [at] bitstream.net>
Subject: Amnesty Intl 5.21 7pm

AIUSA Group 315 (Wayzata area) meets Thursday, May 21st, at 7:00 p.m. St.
Luke Presbyterian Church, 3121 Groveland School Road, Wayzata (near the
intersection of Rt. 101 and Minnetonka Blvd). For further information,
contact Richard Bopp at Richard_C_Bopp [at] NatureWorksLLC.com.


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From: Joe Schwartzberg <schwa004 [at] umn.edu>
Subject: Econ development 5.21 7pm

THIRD THURSDAY GLOBAL ISSUES FORUM
Free and open to the public
Thursday, May 21, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, 511 Groveland Avenue, Minneapolis
(at Lyndale & Hennepin) Park in church lot.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: A MAJOR TOOL OF DIPLOMACY
In today's complex, interdependent and globalized world, the economic
chasm between the global "North" and the global "South" is a major source
of political tension and instability. It also presents the affluent
countries of the North with a serious moral challenge. It has become
important, therefore, that the art of diplomacy recognize that without
basic economic development, there can be little hope for a sustainable
global peace. This presentation will discuss how the requisite diplomacy
might ideally be conducted.

Presenter: RONALD M. BOSROCK, J.D. After a long and varied banking and
international business career, Ron Bosrock was appointed to the Myer's
Chair at Saint John's University in 1998, a position he held until 2005.
Currently he is the author of the column, The Global Executive published
by the StarTribune. He is also the Founder of the Global Institute and a
guest lecturer at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna. He is also the
Honorary Consul General of Austria to Minnesota, a position he has held
for the past 30 years.

Sponsor Organizations: Minnesota Chapter, Citizens for Global Solutions,
UN Association of Minnesota, Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers, Social
Concerns Committee, Henneping Ave. United Methodist Church.


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From: Ron Holch <rrholch [at] attg.net>
Subject: Blaine resolution 5.21 7:30pm

Help PREVENT any EXPANSION Of the ANOKA COUNTY-BLAINE MINOR AIRPORT
COME TO THE THURSDAY MAY 21ST BLAINE CITY COUNCIL MEETING 7:30 P.M.

SHOW YOUR SUPPORT WHEN WE ASK THE
BLAINE CITY COUNCIL
TO PASS A RESOLUTION
OPPOSING
ANY EXPANSION AT THE  ANOKA COUNTY-BLAINE AIRPORT

By law, the AC/B airport is limited to runways of 5,000 feet in length.
A facility at the airport, Key Air, has asked the Metropolitan Airports
Commission (MAC) to lengthen the E/W runway to 6,000 feet in length.

FIVE cities have passed RESOLUTIONS to oppose any change in
MINOR airport law (MS473.641 Subd.4)
that limits MINOR airports to 5,000-foot runways
And TO OPPOSE ANY CHANGE IN LAW
making a MINOR airport an INTERMEDIATE airport
(with runways from 5,001 to 8,000 feet long)

ASK THE CITY OF BLAINE to PASS a RESOLUTION SAYING *NO* TO ANY RUNWAY
EXPANSION TO THE ANOKA COUNTY-BLAINE AIRPORT

NOTE: If you want to hear more about the threat of a longer runway at the
Anoka County-Blaine Airport, come to the next meeting of the Concerned
Citizens of the North Metro (CCNM) on Wednesday, May 27, 2009 at 6:00 p.m.
at the Anoka County/Northtown Library on County Road 10 in Blaine.
www.ccnm6.com


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From: Ken Reine <reine008 [at] umn.edu>
Subject: Peace walk 5.23 9am Cambridge MN

every Saturday 9AM to 9:35AM
Peace walk in Cambridge - start at Hwy 95 and Fern Street


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From: Vanka485 [at] aol.com
Subject: Northtown vigil 5.23 2pm

Peace vigil at Northtown (Old Hwy 10 & University Av), every Saturday
2-3pm


--------8 of 11--------

From: Lisa Luinenberg <lisacge [at] gmail.com>
Subject: Immigrant rights 5.23 4pm

Saturday, May 23rd, Socialist Action will host a public forum on the
immigrant rights movement.  Invited speakers include members of the local
immigrant community who have been organizing in partnership with the
Workers' Interfaith Network to gain better conditions and fair treatment
in their workplace. -Lisa Luinenburg Socialist Action

What's next for the immigrant rights movement?

 - Join us to hear members of the Minnesota immigrant community speak
about their recent struggle for fair treatment in their workplace.
 - Learn about the connections between the immigrant rights and the labor
movement.
 - Join a critical discussion on upcoming immigration reform legislation.

This event is free and open to the public.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
4:00 pm
May Day Books
301 Cedar Ave. S.
Minneapolis 55454
612-333-4719

Call 651-354-2331 or email lisacge [at] gmail.com for more info.
Event sponsored by:  Socialist Action www.socialistaction.org


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From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at] riseup.net>
Subject: MOVE/Philly/CTV 5.23 9pm

MOVE-ing Minneapolis Television Network (MTN) viewers:
"Our World In Depth" cablecasts on MTN Channel 17 on Saturdays at 9pm and
Tuesdays at 8am, after DemocracyNow!  Households with basic cable may
watch.

Sat., 5/23, 9pm and Tues, 5/26, 8am
MOVE: Confrontation in Philadelphia

a fast paced independently created documentary film of the events in the
late seventies which lead up to the Philadelphia police arrest of members
of MOVE, a radical mostly black commune. The video journalists reveal the
complex relationship of media bias, police harassment, and subtle economic
motivation in the violent removal of MOVE.


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For nearly everyone in the world, work is hell. The sad truth is that the
many have to be demeaned, worn out, injured, mentally and physically
deformed, and all too often killed, on the job so that a few can be rich.

Tales From the Working Class
Work is Hell
By MICHAEL D. YATES
May 20, 2009
CounterPunch

Economists never say much about work. They talk about the supply of and
the demand for labor, but they have very little to say about the nature of
the work we do. Like most commentators, they seem to believe that modern
economies will require ever more skilled work, which will be done in clean
and quiet workplaces, by educated workers, who will share in
decision-making with managerial facilitators. We should disabuse ourselves
of such notions. In the world today, the overwhelming majority of workers
do hard and dangerous labor, risking the health of their bodies and minds
every minute they toil.

The International Labor Organization (ILO), an agency of the United
Nations, issued its Global Employment Trends this past January. The report
examines unemployment, poverty employment, and vulnerable employment. The
unemployed are those not working but actively searching for employment.
The working poor are those with jobs that do not provide above a threshold
amount of money. Two thresholds are used: $1.25 per day (in 2005 prices),
which is "extreme poverty," and $2.00 per day, which is just "poverty".
People in vulnerable employment are the self-employed (called in the
report "own-account" workers) and unpaid but working family members in the
household of the self-employed. In most of the world, vulnerable
employment is what is known as casual work; the workers who do this do not
have formal arrangements with an employer, such as a labor contract with
stipulated wages. A man selling lottery tickets on a street corner, a
woman hawking tamales in a parking lot, or a teenager offering rickshaw
rides are examples of vulnerable employment. A child helping her mother
sell the tamales is an example of an unpaid family member doing vulnerable
work. In all countries, and especially in rich ones, not all
self-employment is vulnerable. However, in all countries, but mostly in
poor ones, the vast majority of the self-employed are poor and vulnerable.

The ILO estimates the number of people in each of the three categories
(unemployed, working poor, vulnerably employed) in 2009 under three
scenarios. The deep economic downturn now afflicting most of the world has
befuddled most economists, who neither saw it coming nor have been able to
say how much worse it will get. To compensate for the uncertainty
enveloping the global economy, the ILO economists have made three
estimates of the three labor market categories. The details of the three
"scenarios" are not important for our purposes. But, given the severity of
the "great recession" we are now experiencing, the deepest since the
1930s, the third or pessimistic scenario seems the most realistic. Relief
is nowhere in sight, especially for the world's workers.

Here are the numbers for 2009, under the pessimistic scenario, for world
unemployment, working poor, and vulnerable employment:

Unemployment: 230 million (7.1 percent of a world labor force of about
3.24 billion)

Working Poor (using $2 per day as poverty threshold): 1.377 billion (about
46 percent of total world employment of about three billion)

Vulnerable employment: 1.606 billion

Two points must be made about these numbers. First, the number of
unemployed might seem low to some readers, given the depth of the economic
collapse. However, in most of the world, open unemployment is not an
option; there is no safety net of unemployment compensation and other
social welfare programs. Unemployment means death, so people must find
work, no matter how onerous the conditions. Second, the categories of
working poor and vulnerable employment are partly overlapping. A
self-employed person can be both vulnerable and poor, and he or she is
counted in the labor force. However, an unpaid family member is only, in
the statistical definition, vulnerable; he or she is not counted in the
labor force. These are statistical quibbles. No matter how you look at the
numbers, they are staggering indicators of what the world of work is
really like.

To these gloomy numbers should be added another: there are, by ILO
estimates, at least 200 million child laborers in the world today. The ILO
classification of child workers is complex, but suffice it to say that 75
percent of these youthful toilers are engaged in the worst forms of such
labor: trafficking, armed conflict, slavery, sex work, and dangerous and
debilitating occupations like construction, brick making, and carpet
making.

It is not uncommon for working children to live in the countryside or to
have been forced from their rural homes, sometimes "leased" by their
parents, and made to work in the cities. The parents are peasants, two
billion strong, and their future is increasingly precarious. Their
connection to the land becomes more tenuous every year, and every year
they become citizens of what Mike Davis calls the "planet of slums". No
amount of economic growth will absorb them into the traditional
proletariat, much less better classes of work.

For nearly everyone in the world, work is hell. The sad truth is that the
many have to be demeaned, worn out, injured, mentally and physically
deformed, and all too often killed, on the job so that a few can be rich.
I am aware that the statistics have been made worse by economic crisis.
But when GDPs begin to rise again and unemployment rates fall, will the
world of work be transformed? Will we begin to "slouch toward utopia," to
use the pathetically inapt phrase of Berkeley economist, J. Bradford
DeLong, who really believes that we are on the way toward a middle class
world of high-income and satisfied workers? I can promise you that we will
not.

The devil, they say, is in the details. So, to give greater force to the
data, I have added some concrete examples. I am sure that readers can add
many of their own.

* Consider the automobile worker, Ben Hamper, who, in his book, Rivethead,
describes a visit to the plant to see what his father does. He says,

We stood there for forty minutes or so, a miniature lifetime, and the
pattern never changed. Car, windshield. Car, windshield. Drudgery piled
atop drudgery. Cigarette to cigarette. Decades rolling through the
rafters, bones turning to dust, stubborn clocks gagging down flesh,
another windshield, another cigarette, wars blinking on and off,
thunderstorms muttering the alphabet, crows on power lines asleep or dead,
that mechanical octopus squirming against nothing, nothing, nothingness.

Hamper calls the modern automobile plants, pioneered by Toyota, gulags.

* Consider Mira, a child prostitute in Bombay, at age thirteen sent by her
parents from her village in Nepal to work, they thought, as a domestic
servant. There are at least 20,000 child prostitutes in Bombay, "displayed
in row after row of zoo-like animal cages". We are told,

When Mira, a sweet-faced virgin with golden brown skin, refused to have
sex, she was dragged into a torture chamber in a dark alley used for
"breaking in" new girls. She was locked in a narrow, windowless room
without food or water. On the fourth day, when she had still refused to
work, one of the madam's thugs, called a goonda, wrestled her to the floor
and banged her head against the concrete until she passed out. When she
awoke, she was naked; a rattan cane smeared with pureed red chili peppers
had been shoved up her vagina. Later, she was raped by the goonda. "They
torture you until you say yes," Mira recently recounted during an
interview here. "Nobody hears your cries".

* Consider Irfana, a Pakistani girl sold to the owner of a brick kiln at
age six. Here is how she described her life:

My master bought, sold, and traded us like livestock, and sometimes he
shipped us great distances. The boys were beaten frequently to make them
work long hours. The girls were often violated. My best friend got ill
after she was raped, and when she couldn't work, the master sold her to a
friend of his in a village a thousand kilometers away. Her family was
never told where she was sent, and they never saw her again.

* Consider the lace maker, Mary Anne Walkley, immortalized by Karl Marx in
his book, Capital. Mary Anne died 146 years ago, but her story could be
told today and not just of child workers like Mira and Irfana, but by
hundreds of thousands of garment workers laboring in sweatshops every bit
as bad as that of Ms.Walkley, and not only in Pakistan and India but right
here in the United States. If you look up from the streets of Manhattan's
Chinatown, you see the steam from hundreds of sweatshops where today's
Mary Anne Walkleys work away their lives. Marx tells us that

In the last week of June, 1863, all the London daily papers published a
paragraph with the "sensational" heading, "Death from simple over-work".
It dealt with the death of the milliner, Mary Anne Walkley, 20 years of
age, employed in a highly respectable dressmaking establishment, exploited
by a lady with the pleasant name of Elise. The old, oft-told story, was
once more recounted. The girl worked, on an average, 16 hours, during the
season often 30 hours, without a break, whilst her failing labor power was
revived by occasional supplies of sherry, port, or coffee. It was just now
the height of the season. It is necessary to conjure up in the twinkling
of an eye the gorgeous dresses for the noble ladies bidden to the ball in
honor of the newly-imported Princess of Wales. Mary Anne Walkley had
worked without intermission for 26 hours, with 60 other girls, 30 in one
room, that only afforded 1/3 of the cubic feet of air required for them.
At night, they slept in pairs in one of the stifling holes into which the
bedroom was divided by a partition of board. And this was one of the best
millinery establishments in London. Mary Anne Walkley fell ill on the
Friday, died on Sunday, without, to the astonishment of Madame Elise,
having previously completed the work in hand....

* Consider cruise ship workers. Cruise ships usually register in countries
such as Liberia and are therefore immune to U.S. labor law. The employees
who do the most onerous work are invariably people of color, typically
from poor countries. Their pay is low, and their hours are long. If they
get severely injured on the job and need hospital care, they are often
forced to fly back to their home countries for care, even if better care
is available in the United States. One worker from a Caribbean nation
slipped on a kitchen floor while carrying a large pot of oil. The oil
severely burned his leg and foot. He was taken out of a hospital in
Anchorage, Alaska and forced to take several flights home. He called his
mother in desperation and managed at a stopover in Miami to contact a
lawyer his mother knew of through a friend. The attorney managed to get
him care in Miami, and then sued the shipping company. The company
retaliated by contacting the immigration authorities who promptly deported
the man.

* Consider the restaurant worker, Mr. Zheng. In Manhattan, restaurant
workers often toil for upwards of 100 hours per week for as little as
$2.00 per hour. Here is how a reporter describes Mr. Zheng's life:

Three years after arriving in this country from the coastal province of
Fujian [in China], Mr. Zheng, 35, is still working off a $30,000 debt to
the smugglers who secured him passage on a series of ships. He can devote
very little of his meager busboy's salary to rent, so he has 11 roommates.
They share a studio bracketed by triple-tiered bunk beds, with a narrow
passage like a gangplank between them. One bachelor household among two
dozen others in a complex of three low-rise buildings on Allen Street,
they split a rent of $650 a month, paying about $54 each.

Like the others, Mr. Zheng keeps his scant belongings in a plastic bag
above his mattress, nailed beside the herbal-medicine pouches and girlie
pictures that decorate his rectangle of a wall.

* Consider the New York City cab driver, Koffee, an African living in the
city for thirty years. Here is an interview with him, conducted by the
newsletter, Punching the Clock (PTC):

PTC: So what kind of hours do you drive?

Koffee: Twelve hours, five to five.

PTC: Do you mind working a twelve hour shift?

Koffee: That's how the industry, you know, they do it. In less than twelve
hours you don't make nothing....Sometimes you can work twelve hours and go
home with about $20 in your pocket.

PTC: What do you do with your free time?

Koffee: Free time? I relax. With this job, after twelve hours you can't do
nothing. It's a killing job. Sitting here driving for twelve hours. You
get home, you are exhausted. You don't want to do anything anymore. I get
home, I go to sleep. When I get up I just have time to get something to
eat.

* Consider the voice of a worker unemployed during this nation's first
great depression, in the 1870s. What he says could be said, with
appropriate variations, by nearly anyone who has experienced the brutality
of long-term unemployment, from the dust bowl farmers of the 1930s to the
victims of the massive plant closings of the past two decades to the
miserable jobless millions of the poorest countries of Africa, Asia, and
Latin America.. Just ask the next homeless person begging you for money.

Twelve months ago, left penniless by misfortune, I started from New York
in search of employment. I am a mechanic, and am regarded as competent in
my business. During this year I have traversed seventeen States and
obtained in that time six weeks' work. I have faced starvation; been
months at a time without a bed, when the thermometer was 30 degrees below
zero. Last winter I slept in the woods, and while honestly seeking
employment I have been two and three days without food. When, in God's
name, I asked to keep body and soul together, I have been repulsed as a
"tramp and vagabond".

* Consider the farm laborers, everywhere among the lowest paid and most
overworked. Bending over the crops, in terrible heat and cold, working
alongside of their children, without enough to eat, like the coffee
plantation workers who cannot afford to buy the crop they pick. In Mexico,
just south of Arizona and California, here is what "free trade" has
wrought:

In the fields, a single portable bathroom might serve a whole crew of
several hundred, with a metal drum on wheels providing the drinking
water....Toddlers wander among the seated workers, some of them nursing on
baby bottles and others, their faces smeared with dirt, chewing on the
onions. A few sleep in the rows, or in little makeshift beds of blankets
in the vegetable bins....As the morning sun illuminates the faces of the
workers, it reveals dozens of young girls and boys. By rough count,
perhaps a quarter of the workers here are anywhere from 6 or 7 years old
to 15 or 16....Honorina Ruiz is 6. She sits in front of a pile of green
onions.... She lines up eight or nine onions, straightening out their
roots and tails. Then she knocks the dirt off, puts a rubber band around
them and adds the bunch to those already in the box beside her. She's too
shy to say more than her name, but she seems proud to be able to do what
her brother Rigoberto, at 13, is very good at....These are Mexico's
forgotten children...

* Consider the workers in our packing houses, preparing meat for our
tables. Before the advent of modern production technology, the very names
of these workers conjure up a vision of hell: Stockhandlers, knockers,
shacklers, stickers, beheaders, hide removers, skinners, leg-breakers,
foot-skinners, backers, rumpers, hide-droppers, butchers, gut-snatchers,
gutters, splitters, and luggers. Then the work was done by European
immigrants and African Americans. Today it is done by new arrivals from
Latin America and Asia, but while the job titles have changed, the work is
still dirty and dangerous:

Beef, pork and poultry packers have been aggressively recruiting the most
vulnerable of foreign workers to relocate to the U.S. plains in exchange
for $6-an-hour jobs in the country's most dangerous industry. Since
permanence is hardly a requirement for these jobs, the concepts of
promotion and significant salary increases have as much as disappeared.
That as many as half of these new immigrants lack legal residence seems no
obstacle to an industry now thriving on a docile, disempowered work force
with an astronomical turnover.

Staggering illness and injury rates - 36 per 100 workers in meat - and
stress caused by difficult, repetitive work often means employment for
just a few months before a worker quits or the company forces him/her off
the job.  (Government safety inspections have dropped 43 percent overall
since 1994, because of budget cuts and an increasingly pro-business slant
at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.)

* Consider Michael, who took a job as a hotel desk clerk after thirty-two
years of college teaching. He says:

I thought that at the hotel I would have the luxury of not worrying about
what I was going to do tomorrow. But while it was true that I didn't have
to prepare for the next day's work, it was today's work that took its
toll. The job was tiring; I was on my feet all day. At the end of the day
I was free, but too exhausted to do anything. I often fell asleep soon
after opening a book, as early as seven in the evening. And on some days,
especially Sunday, which was the worst day in terms of work intensity and
customer complaints, I couldn't sleep at all. The computer keys I had
punched all day kept going through my head in an endless loop, and
conversations I had with irate guests kept bothering me. Monday morning
would arrive and I had to be at work at seven, and I didn't catch up on
sleep until about Wednesday evening. Teaching might have generated a lot
of anxiety, but this was both physically and mentally debilitating.
Thirty-two years of this would be unimaginable.

* Consider the temporary clerical workers, Kimberly and Helen, two of
millions of such workers worldwide. Here is how they describe their work:

Minimal work. Boredom. And no challenging work. I'd much rather be
fighting with a spreadsheet, trying to figure out how to set up a
spreadsheet, rather than just entering in the numbers. A boss who treats
you like a temp and is very much, like, always checking up on you or else
totally ignoring you. Doesn't really remember your name. Says, "Oh, I'll
just put this here. We'll wait till so-and-so gets back to work with it".

The isolation. The lack of benefits. The monotony. The underemployment.
Your resources, your skills, your intelligence are not integrated. I mean,
there's no change. So I guess just the hopelessness, just the stagnation.
The fact that there's never any increase in cerebral activity. Even when
they find out more about you, they still don't trust you to take on more.
But the loneliness. It's really lonely. Eating lunch by yourself every
single day. And no one ever asking you a personal question. Like the
secretaries never, ever, ask, "Where are you from?" or "What have you been
up to?"

* Consider the college teacher, Beverly Peterson, who after spending a
good part of her life in school and earning a PhD, has become a "gypsy
prof," teaching here, there, and everywhere, under terrible conditions for
little money. About 40 percent of all college teachers are now
part-timers, and they earn about $2,000 per course with no benefits. By
contrast I now earn about $8,000 per course with full benefits.

Ever since she passed her comprehensive exams at the College of William
and Mary in 1992, Beverly Peterson has searched for a full-time teaching
post in American Studies. Three years, 121 letters of inquiry and two
interviews later, she is still looking for a permanent position. "I'm so
used to getting rejection letters saying, 'You were one of 800 applicants
for two positions,.' says the 44-year-old scholar, who once worked as a
high school English teacher. So, while she waits to hear whether she will
win a tenure-track job at Penn State, Peterson is taking the path followed
by so many other newly minted PhD's: combining two teaching jobs to make
ends meet.

Peterson regularly commutes by car from her home in Smithfield, Va., to
jobs at Thomas Nelson Community college in Hampton, 40 minutes away, and
then to the College of William and Mary, an additional 40-minute ride.
Petersons travels take her across the James River drawbridge en route to
the Thomas Nelson campus, and she takes a ferry back home from William and
Mary. On the boat, she often works on lecture notes or reads class
materials-most recently, a re-examination of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Her
Chevrolet has some 97,000 miles on the odometer even though it is only
four years old. Says Peterson, "I like my job, but I wish I could do it
under easier circumstances".

* Consider the exceptional history teacher, Ira Solomon, teaching in East
Saint Louis, Illinois, a town extraordinary in its poverty. This is what
he tells Jonathan Kozol, author of Savage Inequalities:

"This is not by any means the worst school in the city," he reports, as we
are sitting in his classroom on the first floor of the school. "But our
problems are severe. I don't even know where to begin. I have no materials
with the exception of a single textbook given to each child. If I bring in
anything else - books or tapes or magazines - I pay for it myself. The
high school has no VCRs. They are such a crucial tool. So many good things
run on public television. I can't make use of anything I see unless I can
unhook my VCR and bring it into the school. The AV equipment in the
building is so old that we are pressured not to use it....".

"Of 33 children who begin the history classes in the standard track," he
says, "more than a quarter have dropped out by spring semester...I have
four girls right now in my senior home room who are pregnant or have just
had babies. When I ask them why this happens, I am told, 'Well, there's no
reason not to have a baby. There's not much for me in public school'. The
truth is,... [a] diploma from a ghetto high school doesn't count for much
in the United States today....Ah, there's so much
bitterness - unfairness - there, you know.....

"Very little education in the school would be considered academic in the
suburbs. Maybe 10 to 15 percent of students are in truly academic
programs. Of the 55 percent of the students who graduate, 20 percent may
go to four-year colleges: something like 10 percent of any entering class.
Another 10 to 20 percent may get some other kind of higher education. An
equal number join the military....."

"Sometimes I worry that I'm starting to burn out. Still, I hate to miss a
day. The department frequently can't find a substitute to come here, and
my kids don't like me to be absent".

* Consider two welfare mothers, Ursula and Joy, working hard to keep their
families together but excluded from the official count of workers and
reviled by more respectable society.

Ursula: I used to feel downcast for being on welfare. It was something I
felt low-rated about. It felt degrading. They want to know who is giving
you this or who is helping to send your child to school. If I had to stop
paying the water bill this month to keep them in school the next month, I
would do that. But that's my business. I don't like them prying into what
somebody may give me or who is paying something for me.

Joy: When you are on public assistance, it's like you're going to pick up
someone else's money that you didn't work for. You didn't make it
yourself. When I got my first welfare check it felt odd, because I could
compare it to receiving my work check. I knew what it was like to have
both. I used to hear people say, "Well, you are taking money from people
that work and you are not working," It felt kind of funny to be a person
on the other side this time. This is my first experience with welfare.
Nobody in my household had ever been on public assistance but me. My
mother worked for the government and so did my grandmother. I was the
first person that ever needed welfare.

I don't like the people who work in the welfare offices. They are nasty to
me. They have a bad attitude. They act real snooty and they really don't
want to do the work. They act like the money is coming right out of their
pockets. I figure, if I go in there with a nice attitude, because I know
some people are nasty with them, too, then they will be different. But it
doesn't help. They still are nasty.

* Consider the following memorandum sent by a supervisor to a group of
workers in a daycare center. Remember that these workers, all with
considerable experience and many child raising skills, are paid less than
parking lot attendants:

Now, more than ever, we as a business are under scrutiny by our clients.
They will be watching us, and questioning us to reassure themselves that
their children are safe and secure in our care. Your role is to do the
best you can when it comes to customer service. They have made a choice as
to where they want their child to be. And we need to reassure them that
they have made the proper choice. We need to give them what they pay for
every minute of the day. Parents and children must be greeted by name when
they arrive in the morning and when they leave at the end of the day. You
need to be working with the children, using your AM and PM lesson plans at
the beginning and the end of the day. You are not permitted to sit on
tables, chat with other staff people, or be cleaning or doing anything but
interacting with the children....Remember, the customer always comes first
and we always need to do what's best for children....A pre-school
classroom is a special place. It takes a special person to make great
things happen for children. Always remember that we are tank fillers for
the children. And that we owe it to the little people!

* Consider prisoner, Dino Navarrete, one of tens of thousands of prison
workers now laboring in the "prison-industrial" complex, helping private
businesses to make super profits. Could there be a more debased form of
labor outside outright slavery? But as a matter of fact, this is a growth
industry. The United States leads the world in number of prisoners, now
approaching 1.5 million, and these convicts are overwhelmingly people of
color.

Convicted kidnapper Dino Navarrete doesn't smile much as he surveys the
sewing machines at Soledad prison's sprawling workshop. The short, stocky
man with tattoos rippling his muscled forearms earns 45 cents an hour
making blue work shirts in a medium-security prison near Monterey,
California. After deductions, he earns about $60 for an entire month of
nine-hour days.

"They put you on a machine and expect you to put out for them," says
Navarrete. "Nobody wants to do that. These jobs are jokes to most inmates
here". California long ago stopped claiming that prison labor
rehabilitates inmates. Wardens just want to keep them occupied. If
prisoners refuse to work, they are moved to disciplinary housing and lose
canteen privileges. Most importantly, they lose "good time" credit that
reduces their sentences.

Navarrete was surprised to learn that California has been exporting
prison-made clothing to Asia. He and the other prisoners had no idea that
California, along with Oregon, was doing exactly what the U.S. has been
lambasting China for ".exporting prison-made goods" "You might just as
well call this slave labor, then," says Navarrete. "If they're selling it
overseas, you know they're making money. Where's the money going to? It
ain't going to us".

* Consider Larry McAfee, who became a quadriplegic after a motorcycle
accident. Like tens of millions of other disabled persons, he wanted to
work and could have if society had seen fit to provide him with the means
to do so. Instead it sent him straight into the nightmarish and ugly world
of health "care," whose main assumption was that making Larry able to work
was too costly. Larry got to the point at which he petitioned the courts
to let him die, something which the courts, the doctors, and the insurance
companies, following in the footsteps of the adherents of social
Darwinism, seem to be encouraging.

McAfee told Joseph Shapiro of U.S. News & World Report that he hated
losing control of his body but that losing control of his life was worse.
McAfee had hoped to remain a valued participant in society, but found his
way blocked at every turn by catch-22's. The lack of PAS [personal
assistance services] meant that McAfee had to be institutionalized;
institutionalization meant that McAfee could not respond to want ads or
take computer courses; no job retraining meant no chance for employment;
and employment itself could mean that work disincentives built into
disability policy would risk the very support he needed to survive.
Wouldn't any motivated person become despondent over such overwhelming
obstacles?

* Consider Mike Lefevre, a "common" laborer. Here is what he said to Studs
Terkel, author of the exceptional book, Working:

I'm a dying breed. A laborer. Strictly muscle work...pick it up, put it
down. We handle between forty and fifty thousand pounds of steel a day. I
know this is hard to believe - from four hundred pounds to three- and
four-pound pieces. It's dying....

It's hard to take pride in a bridge you're never gonna cross. In a door
you're never gonna open. You're mass-producing things and you never see
the end result. I worked for a trucker one time. And I got this tiny
satisfaction when I loaded a truck. In a steel mill, forget it. You don't
see where nothing goes.

I got chewed out by my foreman once. He said, "Mike, you're a good worker
but you have a bad attitude". My attitude is that I don't get excited
about my job. I do my work but I don't say whoopee-doo. The day I get
excited about my job is the day I go to a head shrinker. How are you gonna
get excited about pullin' steel? How are you gonna get excited when you're
tired and want to sit down?

It's not just the work. Somebody built the pyramids. Somebody's going to
build something. Pyramids, Empire State Building - these things just don't
happen. There's hard work behind it. I would like to see a building, say,
the Empire State, I would like to see on one side of it a foot-wide strip
from top to bottom with the name of every bricklayer, every electrician,
with all the names. So when a guy walked by, he could take his son and
say, "See, that's me over there on the forty-fifth floor. I put the steel
beam in". Picasso can point to a painting. What can I point to? A writer
can point to a book. Everybody should have something to point to.

* Consider finally this chorus of pained voices, again from Working :

For the many, there is a hardly concealed discontent. The blue-collar
blues is no more bitterly sung than the white-collar moan. "I'm a
machine," says the spot welder. "I'm caged," says the bank teller, and
echoes the hotel clerk. "I'm a mule," says the steelworker. "A monkey can
do what I do," says the receptionist. "I'm less than a farm implement,"
says the migrant worker. "I'm an object," says the high-fashion model.
Blue collar and white collar call upon the identical phrase: "I'm a
robot". "There is nothing to talk about," the young accountant
despairingly enunciates. It was some time ago that John Henry sang, "A man
ain't nothing but a man". The hard, unromantic fact is: he died with his
hammer in his hand, while the machine pumped on. Nonetheless, he found
immortality. He is remembered.

Michael D. Yates is Associate Editor of Monthly Review. His most recent
book is In and Out of the Working Class. He encourages correspondence and
can be reached at mikedjyates [at] msn.com.


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                                             [partial credit to Kate Neis]

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