A+ R A-

More Commentary

Walmart and Under-Employment

E-mail Print PDF

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.

NNPA Columnist

As University of California-Berkeley Labor Center Professor Steven Pitts regularly notes, African Americans not only face a crisis of lack of jobs, but we also face a crisis centering on the quality of those jobs. In fact, “underemployment” has been a recurring theme in Black America, where we find ourselves forced into jobs that are low wage, few (if any) benefits, and insufficient hours.

Walmart, for all of its fancy advertising and suggestions of a family-friendly environment, is one of the main perpetrators of underemployment on the U.S. scene and this has particular ramifications for Black America. Walmart, the largest employer in the USA (which has a workforce that is 18 percent African American), and a very significant multi-national corporation, is the quintessential representative of everything that is wrong with the current U.S. economy. At the top, the Walton family is among the richest in the country, with more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of the population. By contrast, Walmart associates (employees) are at the other end of the ladder. At salaries of an average of $8.81/hour, paying for healthcare insurance becomes nothing short of overwhelming.

The Walmart example is important to note because it points to the fact that a demand for jobs must be qualified with a few additions. First things first: workers in the USA do not live part-time lives; they do not have partial rents or mortgages or partial grocery bills. Holding jobs that keep you near the federal poverty line is of little help when you are trying to cover the expenses of a family. Yes, having a job is better than not having a job, but the scourge of underemployment means that you have to run around trying to piece together additional work or additional hours just to break even.

There is little pressure on Walmart to change. The company is often quite strategic is donating funds to various causes so that their profile is beyond reproach. Yet the workers in their various stores do everything that they can to keep a smile on their faces and to keep standing with some degree of respect. Consumers go to Walmart stores in search of bargains, rarely questioning why this company is able to make so much money and why the workforce scrapes by. Nor do they stop and ponder the fact that for all of its rhetoric, Walmart is a net destroyer of jobs, costing 3 jobs for every 2 “created.” Their business model, in fact, undermines existing, local retail jobs.

There is no particular reason that the wages and benefits of the Walmart workers need be so low. The profits accumulated by the company could adequately raise the compensation of a very hardworking workforce without creating much of a dent in the halls of avarice of the Walton family. Many Walmart workers realize just this and they have begun to organize for justice. Known as Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), this organization of workers–which is not a union but has the support of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union–has been pressing Walmart for justice and respect. Without greater attention, and certainly in the absence of community support, their cause will be a very uphill struggle.

Perhaps it is time for the rest of us to give a damn. It is not just about the Walmart workers; it’s also about our community.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, the co-author of Solidarity Divided and the author of “They’re Bankrupting us” – And Twenty other myths about unions. He is the chairman of Retail Justice Alliance steering committee and can be reached at papaq54@hotmail.com.

Valuing Some Lives over Others

E-mail Print PDF

By Julianne Malveaux

NNPA Columnist

The national support for the victims of the recent Colorado shootings is great. However, if we believe in the equivalency of life, what about the lives of young men in Chicago, where there have been more deaths than in Afghanistan so far this year. While the hospitals in Aurora say they will cover hospital bills for those without insurance (one in three in Colorado), who will cover bills for those who are hospitalized after a drive-by? We mourn some deaths and ignore others, which suggests that some life is valued and some life is cheap.

Does it have anything to do with media attention? In Tuscaloosa, Ala., a crazed man walked into a bar looking for “a Black man”. He shot a man who did not know him, and with whom he had no beef. He also wounded 17 other people. Why has this story received only limited national attention?

If we spend a minute watching any news, we have heard about Veronica Moser, the 6- year-old who was massacred in Aurora. We’ve seen pictures of her smiling face and of her playing. Certainly we can all mourn the tragedy of her young life being snuffed out by a madman. Still, some young lives are valued, while others are not. One of the young deaths that rocked my soul was the 2004 murder of Chelsea Cromartie, who sat in her grandmother’s window playing with her dolls when she was killed by a stray bullet. She wrote, in a classroom exercise, that she was an “amazing girl”. We don’t have to go back to 2004 to find a child’s death. Two weeks ago, Heaven Sutter, who had just had her hair styled for a trip to Disney World, was shot. Again the culprit was a stray bullet.

Details of the lives of those who are killed humanizes them and tugs at our heartstrings. In Aurora, we have learned about a man whose wife just gave birth, about another who died saving his girlfriend, of a young woman who missed a Toronto mass murder by a few seconds, aspired to be a sports journalist, and was killed in Aurora. Rarely do we hear about the lives of those who are killed in the inner city, about the lives of Chelsea Cromartie and Heaven Sutter.

The dis proportionality of death commentary hits home when one remembers the stories in the New York Times after September 11, 2001. For months, postage stamp sized photos accompanied short but revealing blurbs about those who lost their lives. On one hand, the blurbs were humanizing. For me, though, they were a reminder of the equivalency of life and the lives we choose to ignore.

There were 12,000 gun-related deaths in the United States in 2008. Eighty percent of the gun deaths in the world’s 23 richest countries happened in the United States, as did 87 percent of the deaths of children. We have more than 270 million privately owned guns in this country. When we add the number of military (police, sheriffs) guns, there is at least one gun for every man, woman, and child in this country. Some hark back to their Second Amendment rights in their gun ownership, but the Second Amendment was passed before assault weapons and Glocks.

If people have the right to bear arms, do they have to right to have 6,000 rounds of ammunition, obtained on the Internet? If we can’t limit guns, can we at least regulate the distribution of ammunition? In the same year that there were 12,000 gun deaths in the United States, there were a scant 11 gun-related deaths in Japan. Indeed, while the United States has 90 privately held guns per 100 people, the next largest per capita rate of privately held guns is in Yemen. In contrast, China has three guns per 100 people.

The National Rifle Association loves to say, “guns don’t kill, people do.” As usual, they display limited thinking. People with guns are the ones who kill! Why won’t we address that by dealing with issues of gun and ammunition control? The 12 people who lost their lives represent a fraction of 1 percent of those who die from gun violence annually. As we mourn these lives, let us mourn the lives of the thousands who were also killed because it is easier to buy a weapon than it is to buy marijuana in most parts of our nation.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

Sick of Healthcare Lies

E-mail Print PDF

By Bill Fletcher Jr.
NNPA Columnist

The on-going debate about healthcare reform hit me this week when I became quite ill. I am one of the lucky ones. I have an employer-provided healthcare plan so I was ultimately able to go to a medical facility, get diagnosed and begin treatment. My co-pay was minimal, and certainly would not have put me under water. But what if I had not been so lucky? I use the term “lucky” quite specifically since having healthcare, at least until President Obama’s reforms, has been the luck of the draw: Did you belong to a union? Did you have an employer that provided insurance? Did you have enough money to pay for it on your own? Not to mention the actual quality of your plan, if you were, like me, lucky to have one.

Obama’s healthcare reform did not go as far as it needed to, and, with all due respect, made too many compromises with private-sector interests. In that sense, the struggle is not over for universal healthcare. President Obama, both because of his connections with corporate America and his early belief in bi-partisanship, sincerely seemed to believe that reasonable people could strike a compromise. He could not accept, and perhaps still cannot completely accept, that the Republicans from Day One of his administration — have been out for blood.

We needed and still need full healthcare reform. We need, in other words, the extension of Medicare to cover us all. We have to reject the false notion that this means a loss of jobs. While I have been ill this week I have considered many of the arguments raised by the Republicans against Obama’s plan, a plan that has now been upheld by the Supreme Court as constitutional. The most ironic of the arguments comes from Mitt Romney, who is in no position to criticize the plan since it is largely based upon the one that he initiated as governor of Massachusetts.

But the arguments of the Republicans actually are deeper and meaner than Romney’s flip-flopping. They go to the question of whether there are, or should be, a “deserving” population and an “undeserving” population. This may sound vaguely familiar, and so it should since it goes back to the Reagan era separation of the poor into the “deserving” and the “undeserving.” In both cases, a right-wing moral judgment has been cast against a segment of the population. In today’s situation, the notion is simple: the right-wing argues that there is a segment of the population that has done little to earn any of the so-called entitlements that they receive. Therefore, these should be cut.

Flowing from this fuzzy line of thinking is Republican opposition to Obama’s plan — Romney’s hypocrisy notwithstanding — becomes more understandable and equally unsettling. As far as they are concerned, let the so-called undeserving swing in the wind and look out for themselves. And if this means that this undeserving population cannot get access to quality healthcare, jobs, food housing, proper education, etc., as far as the right-wing is concerned, so be it. Just in case you think that the right-wing is not talking about you, let me clarify who they see as the undeserving populations: the poor (the right-wing is not making the distinction anymore between a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ section); people of color; youth; immigrants of color; low-waged workers; and in many cases, anyone who makes less than $100,000/year. Do you see yourself in that picture?

This is what the November 2012 election is all about. It is not about Obama and his record. It’s really about whether you have a right to be treated for illnesses in such a way that you are not cast into the bottomless pit of debt and poverty. Sick or not, there is no way that I am staying home on Election Day.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the co-author of Solidarity Divided. He can be reached at papaq54@hotmail.com.

SB Files Bankruptcy

E-mail Print PDF

Personal Agendas Aside, Council Needs to Work Together for the Betterment of San Bernardino

By Hardy L. Brown

Just prior to the San Bernardino city council meeting on Tuesday evening, two more citizens lost their lives from gunshots on 9th Street and Medical Center Drive and later that evening, a Colton police officer shot and killed another citizen in the city during a crime committed in Colton. Also reported the same day, an 18-year-old was shot by an off duty police officer because the youth had broken into the officers home while his family lay asleep in another room. The young man was not killed but was later taken into custody.

In between all of these shootings, the city council met and with a 4-2-1 vote ordered the city attorney to file chapter 9-bankruptcy in federal court. Led by council members Rikke Van Johnson, Virginia Marques, Robert Jenkins and Wendy McCammack voting in favor of the motion and Dennis Shorett and Chas Kelley voting no and John Valdivia abstaining.

This action came on the heels of an analysis that showed for the past 20 years the city revenues have lagged behind the expenditures and just a few years ago the city lost $16 million in sales tax.

City Attorney Jim Penman, said that for 13 out of the past 16 years budgets presented to the council was inaccurate and the budget documents were false. This implies that the mayor and council have been lied to or misguided by staff members. I do not know if the documents are false or not but I do know that this city knew they have been heading toward bankruptcy for some time. They have ignored the warning signs presented to them and proceeded to “rob Peter to pay Paul” or as I said before they preferred to “fiddle while Rome was burning”.

Just as guilty as those we elected are the citizens, like myself, who voted for Charter Section 186 that gave auto pilot income to public safety without intervention from the public regardless of the financial conditions of the city. Believe me that is not the total problem because our now defunct redevelopment agency has made its share of very bad deals and shabby investments. They would buy and sell property then bail out the city during those lean years of budget shortfall.

As those who profited from these actions, they took the money and moved out of the city thus draining the city from a higher property tax and lack of sales tax that was now being spent in other cities. It was shown in one report that public safety alone exported over $40 million each year out of the city and last night it was stated if the council eliminated every department but, public safety from the city including the mayor and council they would still have to cut something in public safety. And according to Penman there is nothing the council can do because we the citizens put it into the charter which is protected from bankruptcy.

The city has a $45.6 million shortfall and will not be able to meet payroll by August 15 if they do not file chapter 9-court action. One thing I noticed from the vote is it brought together voting partners. Johnson and Marques were joined by Jenkins and McCammack in supporting the motion while Kelly joined with Shorett in opposing the motion. Valdivia the newest member on the council did not know what to do by claiming he did not make this mess, so he abstained.

Regardless of who is to blame, and not one person or group is, the fact is we are all in the same sinking ship so what do we do to stop the leak? Those citizens with the life jackets moved out of the city years ago; and now standing on the shore looking back and saying I got mine while the getting was good.

Let me say the council did the right thing last night but must now do the heavy lifting by putting aside personal agendas and working together for the betterment of the city. The groundrules must be that everything is on the table and everyone is encouraged to say what they think regardless how crazy it might sound without the other ones taking it personal or feelings being hurt. It will take everyone to stop the leaks. It is like the commercial with the Aflac duck plugging the holes in the boat; we have enough holes so every hand will be needed.

Because Some Laundry Needs to Be Aired

E-mail Print PDF

By Jasmyne A. Cannick

When I got the text from one of my best friends that she was being admitted into the hospital at 1:30 in the morning, I immediately called her back to find out what was wrong. It’s not unusual for me to be up all night working, especially if I have to be at the radio station by 4:30 a.m. I’d rather sleep later than risk oversleeping and missing the show. I never reached her that night and so when I was done with the show at 6 a.m., while my intentions had been to go home and go to sleep for a few hours, something inside of me wouldn’t let me. So at 6 a.m., I got on the freeway in search of my friend. I went to her house and she wasn’t there so I called her cousin in hopes she would know what hospital she was at—no help there. I often forget that while I am an early riser, most people are not.

So I went to the nearest hospital thinking that’s where she would be, call it logical deduction. She wasn’t there. Then it came to me to read the text message she had sent to me again. I did and realized she had actually said where she was at and so I got directions and headed over there.

I don’t know what I expected when I finally reached my friend’s hospital room, but I do know that what I saw when I walked into that hospital room nearly killed me and is something that I will never forget for the rest of my life. I practically collapsed on the spot when I walked into that hospital room and saw my friend hooked up to an IV, withered down to skin and bones. She had lost a lot of her hair, including her eyebrows and her skin color—it just wasn’t normal.

I immediately burst into tears crying and asking what’s going on. I had seen enough with family members to know that what I was looking at wasn’t normal. My friend, always the protector of everyone else but herself, immediately explains to me that it’s just stress from working two jobs and not eating. She told me that she was dehydrated and that stress had done this to her.

I wasn’t buying it. I didn’t tell her that, but inside, I didn’t buy that excuse for a minute. I know stress and what I was looking at wasn’t stress. For the sake of my friend, I pretended to go along with the story. I comforted her, I talked to her, I held her, I kissed her, I loved her. I didn’t want to leave my friend’s side not even for a minute after I got there but after a while I suggested that I should run to her house and grab her clothes and other toiletries she might need—she agreed.

After giving me a laundry list of things to bring back with me, I left the hospital to go to her house.

In the car, I called a mutual friend of ours in tears explaining what had just happened. I needed to talk to someone who knew us both. I was so scared for my friend. I was still on the phone with our mutual friend when I reached my friend’s house. I remember walking into her house looking around and surveying her refrigerator. Why the refrigerator? Because she told me about not eating and I wanted to see what food she had.

Still crying while I am talking to our friend on the phone, I began to gather her clothes. While digging around for a shirt she wanted, I came across a stash of medicine hidden in a hamper. I remember thinking, that’s weird, why is the medicine in the hamper under all of these clothes? I abruptly ended the conversation I was having on the phone and pulled out the pills and took a closer look at them. They were awfully colorful, all packaged up by day and time of day. How efficient, I thought. They weren’t opened. That can’t be good. I managed to read the names and numbers on the pills and I started punching them up on my phone’s Internet browser to find out what they were for. Orange pill. TMC. So I searched for “TMC pill.” Pill imprint 400 TMC has been identified as Prezista 400 mg. Prezista is used in the treatment of hiv infection and belongs to the drug class protease inhibitors. I thought, okay well it must treat more than that. Let me search another pill. Blue pill. Gillead 701. Pill imprint GILEAD 701 has been identified as Truvada 200 mg / 300 mg. Truvada is used in the treatment of hiv infection; nonoccupational exposure and belongs to the drug class antiviral combinations. Cue the denial. White pill. 227. Pill imprint 227 has been identified as Isentress 400 mg. Isentress is used in the treatment of hiv infection and belongs to the drugclass integrase strand transfer inhibitor. And then I scream. Looking back now, I know her neighbors were probably like what the hell is going on next door. I screamed. I cried. I ran around her apartment and then I literally collapsed right there on her living room floor into a ball. I’m not sure how long I lay there crying and screaming “why” over and over again before I called the one person in the world I could talk to about this—my grandmother. It turns out that my best friend had been living with HIV since 2007 and had kept it a secret from her family and her friends all of this time. The shame, stigma, fear, and denial were simply too much for her to bear. After being unable to deal with the side effects of the medicine she was taking while still working two jobs, she simply one day decided to quit taking them. The result of her doing that was a viral load of 1.5 million and 4 T-cells. She had just 4 white blood cells to defend her body against any new infectious diseases and the 1.5 million virus infections already in her.

It’s been a month since she was released from the hospital and she’s not out of the danger zone yet, but she’s on the way. My friend’s situation is not unique—this is happening all over Black America because of the stigma, hate, and fear we’ve placed on HIV/AIDS. Most people don’t die from HIV/AIDS in America anymore thanks to recent medical advancements and access to antiviral drugs. But when it comes to Black people, we die from the shame and fear and attached to HIV/AIDS because of our attitudes towards getting tested and then seeking treatment if we are positive coupled with the stigma we have cultivated andseemingly embraced in the Church, our homes, and among our family and friends. Our fear prohibits us from getting tested and allows us to believe that we are somehow immune and it can’t happen us. I got news for you, no one is immune—not you and not me and HIV doesn’t care how fine you are, how much money you have, how old you are, what you think your man or woman is or is not doing when you are not around, or what God you pray to and how highly favored and blessed you are. Until we break the cycle of fear and shame about HIV/AIDS, Black people are going to continue to die from the fear and shame of the same disease that others manage to live long, healthy, and productive with. Real talk. June 27 was National HIV Testing Day. It’s still not too late to take the test, take control.

Chosen as one of Essence Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World, Jasmyne A. Cannick is a campaign media and public affairs specialist. She is also a radio andtelevision politics, race, and pop culture critic. Follow her on Twitter @jasmyne and on Facebook at /jasmyne.

Page 38 of 88

Quantcast

BVN National News Wire