Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Latino music heritage

Excellent exhibit at the Sacramento Central Library:
Latino musicians have had a profound influence on traditional genres of music in the United States, including jazz, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, and hip-hop. At the same time, their experiences living in the United States triggered the creation of new musical traditions, such as mambo and salsa. “American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music,” a traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian, presents the musical contributions of U.S. Latinos from the 1940s to the present, exploring the social history and individual creativity that produced stars like Tito Puente, Ritchie Valens, Celia Cruz, Carlos Santana and Selena.

Hidden faces of the Gulf miracle (short version)

Sunday, June 26, 2011


How Tea Party hijacked California redistricting reform

Protecting Undocumented Workers

Legislation would expand the protection of 'U visas' to those who come forward to report workplace violations.

By Harold Meyerson
June 24, 2011
Nearly every day for three years, Josue Melquisedec Diaz reported to work by going to a New Orleans street corner where contractors, subcontractors and people fixing up their places went to hire day laborers. It was there, one day in 2008, that a contractor picked him up and took him to Beaumont, Texas, just across the Louisiana line, to work on the cleanup, demolition and reconstruction projects that Beaumont was undertaking in the wake of Hurricane Gustav.

Diaz was put to work in a residential neighborhood that had been flooded. The American workers who were involved in the cleanup, he noted, had been given masks, gloves, boots and sometimes special suits to avoid infection. No such precautions were afforded Diaz and his crew of undocumented immigrant workers. "We were made to work with bare hands, picking up dead animals," he says. "We were working in contaminated water," tearing down and repairing washed-out homes.

Diaz told his story last week to a gathering of legislators and others in a meeting room at the U.S. Capitol, just a few doors down from the Senate chamber. He said that he and his crew asked their boss for the same safety equipment given their American counterparts. Instead, Diaz said, the boss responded by cutting the undocumented workers' pay in half — at which point, Diaz and 11 others went on strike. Soon after, both the local police and immigration officers showed up to haul off the workers. The strikers were first taken to a local jail, then transferred to a federal immigration jail.

Fortunately, Diaz was a member of the New Orleans Congress of Day Laborers, which managed to get him and his co-workers released after four months behind bars. Since then, three of the 12 workers have been deported, one has died, and Diaz faces a deportation hearing scheduled for July 20. At least until then, he is trying to publicize the cause of workers who labor in dangerous conditions, who are compelled to work long hours for no extra pay, who get cheated altogether out of their paychecks and who have, in this nation of laws, no legal recourse.

Undocumented immigrants are just one among many groups of workers who effectively lack the on-the-job protections that most Americans take for granted. When the Fair Labor Standards Act, which established a national minimum wage and overtime pay, was enacted in 1938, it excluded restaurant employees and retail, domestic and farm workers. (Winning the votes of Southern senators required President Franklin D. Roosevelt to effectively exclude all occupations then largely filled by African Americans.)

In time, the act was expanded to cover some of those workers, but agricultural laborers still have no federal legal right to collect overtime, home healthcare workers have no right to the minimum wage and "tipped" workers such as waiters are entitled to a minimum of just $2.13 an hour. Nor are agricultural and domestic workers accorded the right to unionize under the National Labor Relations Act (though farm workers have won this right on the state level in California), and such low-paid independent contractorsas port truckers and taxi drivers are similarly excluded.

As construction workers, the Diaz 12 actually came under the protections of wage, hour and unionization laws. But employers know they can violate these laws with impunity when their workers have no union contract and are undocumented. The odds are overwhelming that the outcome of such conflicts is worker deportation, not management fines. This de facto exemption ofundocumented immigrants from the protection of workplace laws actually encourages employers to hire more undocumented workers. It is easy for management to ignore labor laws when employees can't complain.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Why is the NAACP suing New York City Schools?

By Benjamin Todd Jealous


For 102 years, the NAACP has fought to ensure that all our
children have access to high-quality public education. Our
founders made improving education our primary strategy for
improving America. They did so because they knew from
experience that educational inequities are not only the
product of broader inequalities and dangerous social
tensions but also maintain them.

We believe that if we make all our schools great places to
learn, we will have more than better institutions and
better-prepared students - we will have a better country.

Toward this end, we filed a lawsuit last month on behalf of
New York City's public schoolchildren and their parents.

The NAACP has a long history in New York. One hundred years
ago this month, our first local branch in the nation was
founded in Harlem. Since then, thousands upon thousands of
New York students, parents and grandparents have
volunteered with the NAACP to end the mistreatment of

This lawsuit was filed for the most common reasons we have
sued boards of education across the decades: Students are
being grossly mistreated, their parents are being deeply
disrespected and the entire community stands to suffer.

There are two issues we are particularly concerned about.

First, the city has located charter schools under the same
roofs as traditional public schools in a way that is unfair
and unjust. Their poor handling has led to many complaints
from our members and their neighbors, including:

    * Students in the traditional public school must now
    eat lunch at 10 a.m. so that charter school students
    can enjoy lunch at noon.

    * The "regular school's children" had library access
    for a little over four hours so that the "new
    charter school's kids" could have access for almost

    * Traditional school students" were moved to a
    basement, where they were next to the boiler room,
    to make room for their charter school peers, and
    teachers of the regular students were forced to
    teach in the halls due to lack of space.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Left victory in Peru

Humala's Win in Peru Consolidates Gains for Left, More Independent and Democratic South America, CEPR Co-Director Says

AddThis For Immediate Release: June 5, 2011

Washington, D.C. - Ollanta Humala's apparent presidential electoral victory in Peru represents a consolidation of the gains made by left-leaning leaders in South America over the past decade, Center for Economic and Policy Research Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said today.
"Democracy, national and regional independence, and economic and social progress have gone hand-in-hand with South America's leftward political shift over the past decade," said Weisbrot. "This election continues these trends, for sure."
As of late Sunday night, quick counts from two firms, Ipsos-Apoyo and Datum Internacional, had Humala ahead with over 51 percent of the vote, compared to less than 49 percent for his opponent, Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of Peru's former authoritarian president Alberto Fujimori. Exit polls showed Humala ahead by over five points.
News of Humala's victory was welcomed by well-known politicians from across the political spectrum. Author and politician Mario Vargas Llosa, a well-known conservative, said that Humala's win "saved democracy," while former president Alejandro Toledo said, "It's the hour of reconciliation. The people have won, democracy has won, the memory of the people won. The people have opted for economic growth with social inclusion."
Although official Washington – outside of spokespersons for the far right – did not express a preference, it appears that the Obama Administrationfavored Fujimori.
"This election result also represents another setback for the U.S. government's strategy of 'containment and roll-back' in the region," said Weisbrot.