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Art of the Corporate Shakedown

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There is probably no poverty pimp that is lower than a leech. This type of hustler wants to suck up as much money as he/she can within a very short period. These guys are found all over the nation and many try to camouflage themselves by “representing” a nonprofit. As they demand money from reputable corporations who provide products and services to the public and create jobs by the thousands. They have no shame whatsoever. It is like a soft robbery. When they succeed there is damage to sincere groups trying to protect the under-served or under-represented. Money given to them is the money that was formerly earmarked for the community. That is where the damage is done.

It happens so much in the activist arena that when true accomplishments are achieved the leeches will claim, “He must have been paid off. How much did he get?” When we protested a United Air Lines billion dollar project in Indianapolis, no one believed we could make them do the right thing. When it was announced that victory was ours, a rumor went around claiming that I took a $300,000 payoff. I was enraged by this, being that Kay and I were having financial pains at the time and we would not have lowered ourselves even if it were offered to us. They didn’t want to talk about the $200 million we brought to the local Black businesses. They just called it a payoff.

Another good example is when the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) filed a discrimination suit against U.S. West (now Quest). This went on for a couple of years and it was contentious. The Black businesses of Denver were terrified that we would come from D.C. and sue their biggest employer. It was like “You going to get us in trouble.” I would reply, “You Negroes just sit back and watch how Black folks fight those who discriminate against our businesses.”

They actually thought we were going to be in trouble for challenging a Fortune 100 company. Every time I went to Denver, I would be given certain evidence to support our suit by anonymous citizens, mostly US West employees. During depositions, I would let the US West lawyers know that I had such information. The strategy worked and we settled. The last settlement discussion with the CEO was done on their corporate jet that took us to Washington Dulles Airport.

You would think the people of Denver would marvel at the victory for our five members who were made whole by the settlement money. No, they claimed that I sold them out during the flight. That’s silly. Our plaintiffs were happy with the settlement money they received and nothing bad happened on that plane – the NBCC did not receive a nickel. Nothing humiliates a leech more than someone playing the game correctly with honor and succeeding.

Mergers by major corporations draw leeches like no other transaction. AT&T was merging with Pacific Bell and officials of a California nonprofit decided they would file a lawsuit to contest the merger. This was their modus operandi whenever there was a merger in California. They would file suit, put up a major fit, and embarrass the companies in the public. Then they would offer an easy settlement. The settlement would be a couple of easy steps and no money except reimbursement for their legal fees. The law firm would be a one man shop. That man would actually be the real principal of the nonprofit and his legal fees would be $600 per hour. 500 hours of legal fees would amount to $300,000 in his pocket and a kick back to the nonprofit. I saw this guy and his nonprofit do this three times in two years.

High level leeches can receive more than a million dollars in a merger. They threaten to hold up the process, costing market share and value for the companies trying to merge. It can be intimidating to stock holders, board of directors and executives. One day I hope companies would stop submitting to this and hold their ground.

So now, Comcast and Time Warner have proposed a merger. This is major in terms of market share, annual sales and a number one position in the telecommunications industry. Its “tall cotton” as southerners would say. Trust me, the leeches will be coming. Some will be subtle and try to do the shake down behind the scenes and others will be boisterous and try to drag it through the “court” of public opinion. So let’s watch as they emerge and try to discredit these two major corporations in hopes of fast cash or hush money. I don’t think it is going to work this time. American corporations have had their fill of it.

Harry Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Website: www.nationalbcc.org Email: halford@nationalbcc.org

Today, Let’s Kill at Least One Nasty Stereotype about Black Fathers

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It really is tough being a black man in America.

The more year-round calendars I trash and birthday celebrations I avoid, the more privy I grow to the hate and belligerent ignorance aimed at me and men who look like me all because we are black.

The ongoing social campaign to dispel negative stereotypes about African-Americans continues, and that requires more education and diligence. It requires vigilance and personal responsibility to intercept and destroy  stereotypes, no matter the occasion or environment.

With that said, there are few stereotypes, particularly about black men, that are more pervasive than the stereotype about black men being absentee fathers. The fact is, an insightful report released last year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates that black men are fathers to their children – and more so than any other racial group. This may be hard for many to digest since this idea has frankly haunted black men for a long time – and I’m one of them.

As an adult black male, I’ve dealt with the unpleasant assumption that I’m probably a father to someone’s child and if I say that I’m not, it’s suspicious. Not suspicious that I would electively choose to not have kids (I’ve got a career and personal life to contend with every day, so I couldn’t fathom fatherhood) but that I am a father who probably is neglecting his responsibility … and of course lying. Yes, the woman I probably impregnated from year’s past has been raising our child all alone. Give me a break!

The stereotype that disproportionately paints black men as absentee fathers will take time to correct, but before this stereotype is defended based on analogic experiences, let’s establish at least one thing:  the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is under the Center for Disease Control (CDC), which releases tons of credible reports that journalists, such as myself, reference in articles. Therefore, I trust the information.

But if personal experiences are enough to deride an actual study, which was probably labored over, let me give it a whirl.

I am a 32-year-old black male (dancing his way to age 33) who was born and raised in Los Angeles. I didn’t grow up in a fatherless home. My father married my mother (there goes that other stereotype) and even after they separated when I was child, he was still trying to be a dad.

Before today, it never occurred to me that of all the black friends and family in my life, the number of them who didn’t have fathers in their lives are so low I had to really jog my memory to find the minority.

I have a feeling I’m not alone.

I challenge black America and #blacktwitter to rally memories of their fathers and the examples of fatherhood around them. I’m sure there’s plenty to share to highlight a more deserving perception of black men.

And to my father, I wish you a happy Father’s Day. You are no longer in this realm, but you are a staple in my life. Without you, I don’t think I would have ever learned what “unconditional love” really means.

#unconditionallove

Corey Arvin is a Contributing Editor for Black Voice News and a winner of the national Scripps Howard Award for Web Reporting. His column is published every week on blackvoicenews.com. He can be reached at Corey@Blackvoicenews.com and followed on Twitter at Twitter.com/CoreyArvin.

Eric Cantor Virginia Primary Loss a Stunning Reminder of Far Right's Ire Power

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It is unprecedented. Not that a Tea Party candidate could unseat a Republican in a primary election, but that Tea Party voters could eject a ranking House member and disrupt the Republican establishment leadership.

U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) lost his seat to David Brat, a Tea Party challenger who many predicted would bring a tough battle to Cantor. But the race wasn’t close. With all precincts reporting in Virginia, Brat edged out Cantor with 55.55 percent of the total votes, about 36,110 votes.

All of those pundits and prognosticators who think the Tea Party is dying should look again. Extremism is real. President Obama is so viscerally hated by Republican extremists that any discussion of remotely-progressive legislation, whether real or perceived, is asking for trouble when you’re representing a heavy Tea Party district. The remainder of this year's elections could mirror the 2010 mid-term elections, if not more thanks to gerrymandered re-districting.

So where did Cantor go wrong? Cantor, who was elected in 2000, certainly was never the Tea Party’s golden boy, but he did have some Tea Party support. That support began to slip away as Cantor talked about immigration reform. Brat pounced on this, running attack ads on Cantor and immigration. Cantor represents one of the most, if not the most, conservative districts in his state. By now, we all know how far right Republicans feel about immigration.

Today’s news is a blow for the Republican establishment and moderate Republicans who have been desperately trying to convince Americans, particularly swing voters, that it isn’t controlled by a minority of extremists. Nor does it believe Tea Partiers are sustaining ideologies in the Republican Party that are out of touch. (If you think they’re not “out of touch”, just read Marco Rubio’s comments on climate change).

Tomorrow won’t be business as usual for Republicans, assuming John Boehner gets any sleep tonight. The leadership (as it stands) may want to re-think about their position on immigration.

Today is one for the history books, and I don’t doubt that historians will have a field day trying to unearth long-forgotten comparisons throughout political history that they can find for Cantor’s loss to Brat. That might be a fool’s errand.

It’s hard to find a silver lining in this situation. Virginia is a red state that may turn purple – one day, therefore, the chances of a Democratic challenger like Jack Trammell winning the 7th District this November are hard to imagine. Then again, crazier things have happened … like a House Majority Leader losing to a Tea Party challenger in a primary election.

Corey Arvin is Associate Editor of Black Voice News and a winner of the national Scripps Howard Award for Web Reporting. His column is published every week on blackvoicenews.com. He can be reached at Corey@Blackvoicenews.com and followed on Twitter at Twitter.com/CoreyArvin.

A Backdoor Approach to Lowering Wages

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(NNPA) There has arisen a peculiar phenomenon over the past seven years. Conservative legislatures in states such as Florida and Wisconsin have passed statutes that limit the ability of cities and counties to raise minimum wages and pass other legislation to advance the interests of workers. This has become part of a well-oiled operation by the political Right to restrict the ability of working people to improve their living standards.

This effort has emerged in response to increasing demands around the U.S. for raising minimum wages, including the achievement of what is frequently referenced as a “livable wage.” Given gridlock in Congress and the unwillingness of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives to do anything about the declining living standard of U.S. workers, many labor unions and other worker organizations have turned their attention to the fight at the state, county and municipal levels. Locally-based campaigns have been conducted, and frequently won, improvements in minimum wages and other employment standards. Most recently strikes have been carried out by many fast-food workers demanding increases in their salaries.

Conservative state legislators have struck back by attempting to strangle democracy at the local level. Despite all of the conservative political rhetoric about local control and local initiative, when it comes to the rights of workers, this is quickly forgotten. Replacing local control are directives from the state capitals made at the request of business lobbies that see the only way to improve their – business – situation as being through ruining the situation of the worker.

In the November 2014 elections, there will exist the possibility, in many states, to turn this around. In addition to court action challenging such outrageous state legislative actions, the most powerful response should be success at the polls by candidates who are actually interested in representing working people.

The crushing of the working person, in the name of improving the climate for business, obviously does nothing positive for working people. It also does nothing positive for democracy. It actually represents a further demonstration of the evolution of the U.S.A. toward nothing short of a plutocracy: a society dominated by a small minority of its wealthiest citizens.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a racial justice, labor and global justice writer and activist. He is the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

'Gainful Employment' Attacks Educational Opportunities

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(NNPA) On March 17, Obama administration took aim at career colleges and schools across the country with a new raft of regulations that would displace millions of minority students, strain local economies and reduce overall access to education for all Americans. The administration’s proposed “gainful employment” rule is nothing short of a direct attack on private-sector schools, which have a long tradition of helping to provide opportunity for life improvement to the underserved in this country by providing them access to important vocational training and higher education that they would otherwise be unable to access.

The proposed rule targets programs offered at private-sector schools and colleges and would deprive them of access to Title IV federal student aid if they fail to meet certain arbitrary and arduous metrics. While the administration claims that these regulations will help lower student debt and single out “bad actors,” it neglects to mention that they will also shut down accredited programs with good outcomes and high pass rates on independent licensing exams, or force them to abandon their mission of serving many African-American, Latino and other minority students who otherwise would not have the opportunity to pursue a higher education. As the Washington Post editorial board recently noted, the current draft regulations would force schools to admit only low-risk students, making it harder for minorities, low-income people and nontraditional students to obtain the education needed to improve their lives.

Independent studies have shown that if the current draft of the rule were implemented as written, 42 percent of programs at proprietary schools would fail or be in the failing zone. This includes more than one-third of certificate programs, three-quarters of associate degree programs, one-fifth of bachelor degree programs and one-third of professional degree programs. Moreover, in excess of 1.1 million students that are currently enrolled in these programs would lose eligibility for Title IV federal student aid under the proposed regulations, many while in the middle of pursuing their education.

By singling out private-sector schools with this rule the administration shows a clear preference for public and non-profit colleges and universities, despite the fact that many of these schools perform no better, and in many cases, worse, than their private-sector peers. On top of that, community colleges would not even be able to absorb all of the students affected by the proposed rule. Many community colleges are already filled to capacity, and, in many case, making substantial cuts.

Despite concerns from industry experts and members of Congress, including members from the president’s own party, the Department of Education continues to push this regulation on the American people. Additionally, the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, has attempted to back up the administration’s work with questionable, and sometimes false, statistics and misleading statements. Duncan claimed that 72 percent of graduates from for-profit programs earned less than high school dropouts, a statistic that was proven to be “bogus” by the experts at the Washington Post. Nevertheless, the Education Department has taken to social media to promote its fabricated numbers in an attempt to deceive the American public and damage the reputation of these important institutions.

Recent reports show that student’s aren’t enamored with the administration’s decisions, either. To the contrary, students realize that these regulations would not only hurt their own academic opportunities, but those of many future students and employers who rely on these important programs. CBS’s South Carolina affiliate television station recently captured comments from some of these students who are preparing for important careers in specific fields. “I believe that it not only just limits choice but it also limits creativity,” said one student studying fashion retail management.

Gutting important programs offered at private-sector institutions by denying students the financial aid they need does nothing to further the administration’s stated goals of improving access and affordability in higher education. Furthermore, the regulations would serve as another setback to the U.S. economy by adding to the skills gap we are currently experiencing in this country.

If the administration truly believes its rules to be so great, it would apply them equally to all institutions and end its crusade against private-sector institutions. In fact, as the administration develops its proposed college scorecard, if the metrics embodied in the gainful employment rule are a good measure of quality and outcomes for the private sector institutions, why not use those same metrics to measure the outcomes and quality of programs offered at traditional institutions, public and non-profit? The 845-page draft gainful employment regulation fails to acknowledge the important role that private sector colleges and universities play in educating an often neglected segment of the U.S. population and shows just how out of touch the administration is with the American people. The administration should rethink its gainful employment rule if it truly wants to help students receive the education of their choice and expand opportunities for low-income minority Americans in higher education.

Harry C. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Email: halford@nationalbcc.org

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