Updated: 1 hour 21 min ago
Wed, 12/04/2013 - 00:06
Hot on the heels of the second year of Black Friday protests last week, fast-food restaurant workers in 100 cities around the U.S. plan to strike on Thursday, organizers have announced.
Their call is for a $15 an hour minimum wage--a major but, say workers, necessary, hike from the current federal minimum wage of $7.25. While one-day strikes have been happening for the last year in major cities like Seattle, New York City and Los Angeles, they'll be happening for the first time this week in Providence, Rhode Island; Charleston, South Carolina; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the New York Times reported.
It has been a big year for both retail and fast-food industry worker public actions. This spring and summer were dotted with one-day fast-food strikes of McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's restaurants around the country. In August retail and fast-food workers in 50 cities staged a one-day walkout for their cause. The calls come as cities are grappling with growing class inequality and poverty. One solution is to raise the minimum wage. Last week, Seattle area voters approved a ballot measure to increase the minimum wage in SeaTac to $15 an hour, a harbinger of changes to come, advocates hope.
Tue, 12/03/2013 - 23:04
The best films are often those with plots that are snatched from our most searing newspaper headlines. Back in 2012, the Associated Press broke the story of how the NYPD had monitored Muslim students on at least 16 college campuses, part of a growing post-9/11 effort to monitor Muslims in America. Now there's a new film in the works called "Naz + Maalik" about two closeted gay Muslim teenagers who are unknowingly being surveiled by the U.S. government.
At its core, it's a love story, but it needs your help to cross the finish line. The filmmakers have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $35,000. With less than a day to go, the campaign has already reached its goal, but every little bit counts.
Tue, 12/03/2013 - 21:50
Here's a fun test. There's a list challenge our of 100 must-see black films that includes some perennial favorites, including "Set It Off" and "Coming to America." How many have you seen?
Tue, 12/03/2013 - 21:21
Comedian Aziz Ansari went on Conan yesterday to show off his new saris and the appearance is hilarious.
(h/t The Aerogram)
Tue, 12/03/2013 - 21:13
It's been more than a week since video of an assault by one teenage black girl over another went viral. The video shows one girl, 16-year-old Sharkeisha, sucker punching a former friend, 17-year-old Shamichael Manuel. The video of a black person in distress, like so many others before it, has become a joke for some viewers, with some viewers making racist comments about the girls' names. But, as Demetria L. Lucas pointed out over at The Root, the real tragedy is how many people enjoyed watching the video:
This isn't funny. At all. It's a vulgar display of violence, a tragic depiction of someone who lacks anger management and humanity and a shocking example of just how wayward some teens are. Sharkeisha's reaction to a petty dispute over, likely, a boy who didn't care about either of these girls is a clear-cut case of assault. This isn't entertainment to get through the workday. The way that girl was kicked in the face could have resulted in her death.
To that point, the victim in the video has spoken out to local Houston news stations about how the popularity of her assault has impacted her life.
(h/t Madame Noir)
Tue, 12/03/2013 - 19:47
Last Friday some 111 people were arrested in civil disobediance actions around the country as part of Black Friday protests against Walmart, said protest organizers. In protests around the country, from Sacramento, California, to Hyattsville, Maryland, and Chicago, Illinois to Orlando, Florida, Walmart workers and their supporters came out to decry the labor practices and wages at the nation's largest employer and largest retailer,* and to demand better.
This year's protests marked the second year that current and former Walmart associates went on strike over the Thanksgiving holiday to demand higher wages and better treatment. This year's actions were larger than last year's, and involved more public support. But striking Walmart workers weren't the only ones claiming wins.
Despite low shopper turnout and decreased spending across the retail industry this Black Friday, Walmart spokesperson David Tovar said in a statement, "This has been the most successful Black Friday in Walmart's history."
Tovar also defended the company's wages. "For our part, we want to be absolutely clear about our jobs, the pay and benefits we offer our associates, and the role retail jobs play in the U.S. economy," Tovar said in a statement. "Walmart provides wages on the higher end of the retail average with full-time and part-time associates making, on average, close to $12.00 an hour." But, say current and former Walmart workers with the union-backed group OUR Walmart, the truth is the majority of Walmart associates make less than $25,000 a year--a short hop from the current federal poverty rate.
Seven Democratic lawmakers urged Walmart to listen to its striking workers and increase wages, The Hill reported. Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Ed Markey from Massachusetts, Reps. Jan Schakowsky from Illinois, Judy Chu of California, Lacy Clay of Missouri, Gwen Moore from Wisconsin and Jim McDermott of Washington wrote, "We stand with the courageous Walmart workers who are demanding better wages and an end to illegal retaliation," the lawmakers wrote. "Walmart, the largest private employer in the United States, has a responsibility to their employees and our country to respect workers and their rights. No one should have to fear losing their jobs just for speaking up."
*Post has been updated since publication.
Tue, 12/03/2013 - 19:44
Michael B. Jordan is big time. That much was made obvious this year with his stellar performance in Ryan Coogler's debut film "Fruitvale Station." But Jordan, known for his roles in hit shows "The Wire" and "Friday Night Lights," has over time developed a reputation as one of the most important black actors of his generation. David Simon, the writer behind "The Wire", had this to say about Jordan's breakout year for GQ:
The drug war? Stop and frisk? Racial profiling? Black-on-black violence? Our separate Americas? All that is commentary. If you need white folks to actually feel something, it pays to aim a handgun at Michael B. Jordan's delicate and nuanced humanity and pull the trigger. Suddenly the risks of being young and black on an American street are apparent.
Tue, 12/03/2013 - 18:01
Representations of queer women of color in film are still hard to come by, particularly one as intimate and jarring as "Lucky." In this first-ever documentary from journalist Laura Checkoway, you meet Lucky Torres--a fierce Puerto Rican lesbian mom from the South Bronx. Life isn't easy for Torres, who came up in the system, bouncing around foster homes until she ran away and wound up homeless. She has two children--a daughter who was taken from her at age 14, and a young son who stays with her as she travels between homeless shelters and transitional housing. Her struggles to survive have wounded her, and she approaches life with serious attitude and even rage at times.
But what's most striking about Torres is her face--an outward manifestation of her inner turmoil. The word bitch is tattooed across her right cheek, a black spiderweb is on her left, and she has a skull on her chin as well as several others markings that stretch across her forehead, neck, eyebrows and torso. Her tattoos and piercings are accentuated by a hot pink mohawk. She wants to be a model and performer and Lil Wayne's protege--anything to be famous. These aspirations are hampered by mental and financial instability and a sadness that often paralyzes her.
There's nothing soft about this surprising and brutally honest film, which is currently on the festival and college circuit. It is not a projects to the palace story, and Torres is an unlikely hero. But throughout the film viewers become aware of how her attitude and the physical scars she wears have everything to do with a lifetime of survival. Filmmaker Checkoway spent six years embeded in Lucky's world. Here's her take:
Your movie takes a provocative look at beauty. Can you talk to me about that?
I thought I was following this badass chick; a style and street icon. But I soon realized that it was more of a story about the wounded and vulnerable person inside. Lucky is very interesting to look at on a superficial levels, and is stopped in the street constantly. Passersby always want to take pictures with her. People are very taken with her exterior--both excited by it and repulsed by it. I think it's interesting that her surface is so bold, and that she has such bravado, but that only goes so far and there's so much more she has yet to figure out.
Something that I love about this film is that I haven't seen much representation onscreen of women that look like the women in this film. And they're all so beautiful, and really underrepresented, almost invisible in the mainstream. There's something about seeing the beauty in daily life, and in seemingly ordinary moments. And I think that that there's beauty in our flaws and imperfection, and a lot of truth in pain. Lucky wears all of that and shares all of that in this story.
In the film, Lucky has to hustle her way out of homeless shelters and into public housing by fabricating a story. Why did you choose to include this?
For me, it's an important part of the story. If a program or a system is backwards, then the way to make it work for you is backwards as well. Lucky knows that system really well and has been stuck in it, and sort of wired into it, and that's how she makes it work.
I understand Lucky attended the New York premiere and responded erratically during a Q&A. What do you make of her reaction?
Lucky is a loose cannon. She is woman of many moods, as I guess we all are. But I think she is really pleased with the way the film turned out. She was invited to attend the premiere at the HotDocs festival [in Canada], and most people on my team said not to bring her. But I knew in my heart I would. She'd never traveled internationally and there were tons of hoops to jump through just to get her to Canada. But she did make it, and she was wonderful.
She had a tough night at the [New York City] premiere, and stormed out. She wasn't sober--something that I identified a long time ago as being key to her being in control of herself. But, it must be so overwhelming, a packed house, and the entire cast of the film was there--no one had ever seen it before, and they were all in the front row. So, I just imagine it was very overwhelming from her on various levels. She's there and being celebrated in this great way, but then it's like, "Where am I going to [sleep] tonight?"
I have been very clear with Lucky that subjects of documentaries don't get paid, that it's not a money-maker. She has a very powerful story and a very powerful voice, and I would love for the film to create opportunities through outreach, to connect with young people and women. The point of this film is to open people's eyes and change people's lives.
What's the most meaningful reaction you've gotten so far?
There's been so many. This film, it's so heavy with so many issues, I thought the conversation would be about that. But actually at some smaller screenings, people just wanted to start spilling their guts and sharing their dark pasts in a really guttural and powerful way. And it kept happening. There really is power in that, that sharing truth and pain sparks others to feel comfortable opening up in that same way. I know it's a pretty hard core and raw portrait, and Lucky isn't the most typical hero. In some way there can be some healing through sharing this story, of showing someone who's had a hard time and has found a sort of healing.
Six years is a long time. When did you know the film was done?
I guess what you're waiting for in a story is closure, and that takes time. I think a lot of stories often expect complete transformation, which is not the case in this story. Like when she and her sister Fantasy were able to piece together some of their broken past, and we got some answers. But, really, when Lucky finally reached a point where she was able to be a bit more reflective, that was really key for me, and for the story. There were moments that I was glad that I waited for. I felt that I had told a story.
Tue, 12/03/2013 - 16:46
There are more than 16 million retail workers in the U.S. according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and this year many big-name stores have asked them to work through the Thanksgiving holiday. It seems Black Friday has now become Black Thursday, and at least a dozen stores are opening their doors in the middle of turkey day.
Those working on Thanksgiving are likely to be working part-time for low wages, and despite their low income many are also the primary earners in their households. Here's a look at who decided to stay open this year, and a snapshot of who's likely working this Thanksgiving.--Von Diaz
Tue, 12/03/2013 - 16:41
Aamer Rahman is a standup comic based in Australia who uses humor to tackle racism. Along with fellow Muslim comedian Nazeen Hussain, Rahman's part of a touring comedy show called Fear of a Brown Planet.
He recently broke down colonization, enslavement, imperialism, systemic inequity, war, internalized racism and ("tun, tun, tun!") reverse racism--all in less than three minutes.
Tue, 12/03/2013 - 01:38
I first came across Brontez Purnell's work back in 2008 when he started to release his zine, Fag School. The 31-year-old Triana, Ala., native was living in Oakland and had already spent the past several years making a name for himself in the Bay Area's indie party scene with the band Gravy Train!!!. The proudly gay electro rock band gained national prominence with their wild live shows.
In some ways, Fag School was Gravy Train!!! in written form--a collection of unapologetically irreverent stories of sex, love and heartbreak written with an honesty and snark seldom seen in the buttoned-down, marriage-obsessed gay rights movement. "I basically wanted to do a zine that reflected what I was feeling at the time," Purnell told Lambda Literary about his Fag School days. "I hadn't really seen a zine or at least a personal gay zine that dealt with the difficult subject of gay sex with both humor and frank talk. It covered some real issues. Race, the condom code, poop dick. You know?"
Taken as a whole, Purnell's work is a refreshing reminder of the political power of queer love. His indie, DIY-aesthetic is both a throwback to the radical beginnings of the queer rights movement and a recognition of how the vast majority of young queer folks exist in the world. These days Purnell's work has evolved into a punk rock band of his own called The Younger Lovers that's getting ready to release its third LP "Sugar In My Pocket" on Tuesday, December 10. Go ahead and pre-order the album at Southpaw Records. In the meantime, here are five reasons why you should love Brontez Purnell and The Younger Lovers.
1. He's a lover...
That much is obvious from his band's name. After his Gravy Train!!! days, Purnell says he was ready for a change. "I got older and I just wanted to go out onstage in my normal clothes and play music." The result has been a project that's been 10 years in the making and can't help but pull at your heart strings.
2. ...and a fighter
Outside of his art, Purnell made local news headlines a couple of years ago when he was gay-bashed outside of a club in Oakland. The incident, which was covered in detail by the Bay Citizen, led to a meaningful online discussion of what it means to be a victim; namely, does a victim have the power to fight back? And if they do, are they still considered to be a victim? Writer Kenyon Farrow captured some of the fallout on his personal blog, including Purnell's response to alleged witnesses who were ashamed by his actions. "Sorry. I'm not the type of girl who's gonna cross her legs and act fucking nice after some jock tells me I'm at the wrong club two blocks from my own fucking house!," he wrote.
3. This video for "Hey Now," the first single off of "Sugar in My Pocket" is too cute. Seriously.
4. He's much more than just black and queer and punk.
As he told me recently over e-mail:
"I feel like every aspect of my personality is central to my art you know? Like sleeping in a punk warehouse for 10 years; being 'thick;' having a super femme voice; making art in Oakland as opposed to like [San Francisco] or New York; not having a snowball's chance in hell of ever escaping the underground; making art with no money and then being like, 'Oh shit how did i do this really cool thing with no money?;' being a voice of a generation; being the anti-voice of a generation; crying myself to sleep wondering if there are 10 other me's in the world; being an incurable slob; being an incurable slacker alongside being a rampant over achiever and the list goes on.
5. His art demands your attention.
In addition to writing and making music, Purnell is a dancer. He studied contemporary dance at Cal State Easy Bay. As he told Lambda Literary, "I'm ultimately a communicator and will use any dirty trick to get you to notice and understand me, be it my body or my words."
Tue, 12/03/2013 - 00:13
For possessing a trace amount of heroin, Paul Carter is 16 years into serving a life sentence. So too is Leon Horne but, for damaging two police cars while fleeing New Orleans police. The ACLU profiles both men in a new report drawing attention to a sobering legacy of 40 years of "tough on crime" policies. More than 3,000 people nationwide are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole (LWOP)--all for nonviolent offenses.
Of these nonviolent offenders, 65% are black, 17.8% are white and 15.7% are Latino. Most cluster in the south, with Louisiana ranked first among states for most LWOP prisoners. It's presumed that the $1.8 billion spent by taxpayers to imprison these men, according to ACLU estimates, is significantly more than the repair cost of two police cruisers.
"If lengthy mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug addicts actually worked, one might be able to rationalize them," says the report, citing one federal court judge. "But there is no evidence that they do. ...[F]or all the times I've asked jurors after a drug conviction what they think a fair sentence would be, never has one given a figure even close to the mandatory minimum. It is always far lower."
Mon, 12/02/2013 - 23:38
At about 10 a.m. on Sunday morning someone on the Republican National Committee's social media team decided it would be a good idea to tweet a photo of Rosa Parks along with one of her quotes that read, "You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right." That, alone, might have been fine and well if not for the message that the GOP tweeted alongside it: "Today we remember Rosa Parks' bold stand and her role in ending racism."
Yup, that's right. The GOP is celebrating the end of racism because apparently no one person or institution is racist anymore. A few hours later the RNC tweeted a correction that the "previous tweet should have read "Today we remember Rosa Parks' bold stand and her role in fighting to end racism." Whoops.
That sparked the moment when Twitter user @FeministaJones started the #RacismEndedWhen hashtag. Buzzfeed has a pretty concise history of what comes next, most of which includes some really great and sometimes snarky reflections on race in America.
Mon, 12/02/2013 - 17:32
Workers who earn minimum wage at retailers open on Thanksgiving Day can thank fallout from the government shutdown for being on the job that day. A record number of retailers will allow consumers to spend during an unprecedented number of hours on America's most storied holiday this year. Though this trend of "Black Friday Creep" is not new, it is reaching new heights and being driven by errant decisions in Washington.
To be fair, since the 2008 recession, Thanksgiving has been slowly transforming into a shopping day that marks the start of the holiday retail season. But the collapse in consumer confidence after the shuttering of the government in October and the rollback in government food assistance just weeks ago, has unnerved retailers and pushed them to extend hours to unseen limits. That's because without a successful holiday season the retail business simply doesn't make economic sense.
According to the Retail Federation of America, sales between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve account for up to 40 percent of a store's annual sales. Those four weeks is when consumer businesses swing into profit. They essentially underwrite operations for the previous 11 months.
The lack of a gangbusters holiday season translates into serious trouble for retailers.
In fact, Black Friday--the historic beginning to the most important shopping season of the year--is called such because it was once the beginning of the time when retailers moved from yearly losses, or "red," into making money, or "black." Spurred by an economy that cratered six years ago, "Black Friday" has given way to Thanksgiving Day as the start of it all.
This year retailers are so worried about holiday sales that, according to The Wall Street Journal, they cranked up holiday marketing campaigns earlier than last year, starting before Halloween. By the end of October they'd reached 35 percent more consumers with store ads and gifts than the same period of time last October.
Why the panic?
Before the government shutdown retailers were poised to have a strong 2013 holiday season. Forecasts put sales 4 percent higher than last year--twice the growth rate of the economy--and consumers were set to spend $786 on gifts this year. But the 17-day government shutdown changed all that.
During the D.C. showdown two million federal workers--disproportionately people of color--and the families that depend on them were denied vital pay at a critical point in the pre-holiday season. The government shutdown ultimately sucked $25 billion out of the economy.
The consequence of this economic earthquake is that it pushed consumer confidence in the month of October to lows not not seen in two years.
Adding to the worry of consumers and retailers is the fact that on Nov. 1, SNAP food assistance--which helps one out of five working poor recipients with food costs--was slashed. This move took an additional $5 billion from the pockets of potential holiday shoppers and removed $8.5 billon in overall economic benefit right before the start of the crucial shopping season.
It's no surprise then that between the shutdown and the rollback in SNAP, Americans slashed their holiday budgets by 10 percent, telling Gallup this month that they plan to spend $704 on gifts instead of the $786 that stores and chains had been counting on.
Responding to the reversal of consumer sentiment and budgets, retailers decided to open their stores earlier than ever with the hope of enticing more shoppers to spend. They announced the change during the same week in November when disappointing consumer confidence data were released and when SNAP benefits were cut.
The problem is that extended hours may not be enough for retailers to hit their profit numbers. With real wages at a 40-year low and the actual value of the current minimum wage lower than in 1968, the reality of workers' earning power might just be catching up to holiday sales.
"I think until the issues are resolved that are making news these days, we're not going to see a very large rebound in the middle of the economy and in consumer confidence," Walmart U.S. CEO Bill Simon told The New York Times.
But whether this holiday season will ultimately surprise everyone is unknown at this point. According to business channel CNBC, "factors such as the growth in online shopping, rising home values, a stock market that continues to reach new highs and gas prices at their lowest holiday levels in four years" could lead to an unexpected turnaround.
This might be true, but regardless of how the holiday season turns out, tens of millions of struggling workers will have to report to work this Thursday in order to ensure that companies meet their financial targets, which were jeopardized by actions in Washington. The rough beginning to the holiday season for retail workers is yet another casualty of the ongoing Budget War in the nation's capital.
Mon, 12/02/2013 - 17:28
In a long overdue adaptation of the classic Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, Retha Powers offers an epic compendium of quotes by and about black people. Ranging from "Go shorty, it's your birthday" (50 Cent) to "You dance because you have to," (Katherine Dunham), the book spans more than a century of black thought and writing through poetry, literature, speeches, and song lyrics.
Published in 1855, the original Barlett's did not include black writers until its 14th edition in 1968. This new version includes an introduction by Henry Louis Gates who describes it as "the finest thought produced by writers throughout the African Diaspora."
Gene Demby at NPR's Code Switch blog shares his thoughts on how this book might offer a new way to explore the history and evolution of black culture in the U.S.
The middle of the 20th century finds all kinds of people thinking thoughtful and urgent things about The State of Black People. (It's always good to be reminded that Fannie Lou Hamer was a badass.) And then -- boom -- Ray Charles is singing about the woman across town that he's creeping with. The tenor of the quotes changes as the book moves forward in time. So does their form. Scripture gives way to abolitionist entreaties; lyrics from soul music give way to hip-hop's staccato cadences. It all seems a little random, but there's serendipity in stumbling onto something juicy in that randomness.
(h/t NPR Code Switch)
Mon, 12/02/2013 - 17:21
Every year before Thanksgiving, TIME asks public figures to write about what they're grateful for. This year, there are some surprising contributions, including Ai-Jen Poo and Kid President. But one of the most poignant is from Chelsea Manning, who's serving 35 years at Fort Leavenworth for leaking classified documents while she served in the Army--including video that illustrates U.S. forces targeting and firing upon children and innocent adults in Baghdad. Manning begins her statement with a clear understanding of why she's reluctant to observe Thanksgiving:
I'm usually hesitant to celebrate Thanksgiving Day. After all, the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony systematically terrorized and slaughtered the very same Pequot tribe that assisted the first English refugees to arrive at Plymouth Rock. So, perhaps ironically, I'm thankful that I know that, and I'm also thankful that there are people who seek out, and usually find, such truths. I'm thankful for people who, even surrounded by millions of Americans eating turkey during regularly scheduled commercial breaks in the Green Bay and Detroit football game; who, despite having been taught, often as early as five and six years old, that the "helpful natives" selflessly assisted the "poor helpless Pilgrims" and lived happily ever after, dare to ask probing, even dangerous, questions.
Manning goes on to explain that she's grateful for Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Harvey Milk and others who put their lives on the line for social justice:
I'm also grateful for having social and human justice pioneers who lead through action, and by example, as opposed to directing or commanding other people to take action. Often, the achievements of such people transcend political, cultural, and generational boundaries. Unfortunately, such remarkable people often risk their reputations, their livelihood, and, all too often, even their lives.
For instance, the man commonly known as Malcolm X began to openly embrace the idea, after an awakening during his travels to the Middle East and Africa, of an international and unifying effort to achieve equality, and was murdered after a tough, yearlong defection from the Nation of Islam. Martin Luther King Jr., after choosing to embrace the struggles of striking sanitation workers in Memphis over lobbying in Washington, D.C., was murdered by an escaped convict seeking fame and respect from white Southerners. Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician in the U.S., was murdered by a jealous former colleague. These are only examples; I wouldn't dare to make a claim that they represent an exhaustive list of remarkable pioneers of social justice and equality--certainly many if not the vast majority are unsung and, sadly, forgotten.
You can read Chelsea Manning's entire statement on TIME's website.
Mon, 12/02/2013 - 17:20
Black Friday may be an unofficial U.S. shopping holiday, but Walmart workers and their supporters are set on redefining the day. In protests planned for 1,500 Walmart stores around the country, members of the union-backed Walmart worker group OUR Walmart will walk off the job and protest the labor conditions at and retaliation from the nation's largest retailer and employer.
Dominic Ware will be among them. Ware, a 27-year-old former Walmart associate and member of OUR Walmart, was fired this summer after taking part in a 14-day work stoppage to protest the poor wages and treatment he received in his two years at the store. "We're going to turn it into a day for workers," Ware said ahead of the Thanksgiving and Friday protests, which will include worker walkouts, teach-ins and protests outside stores. "We're going to show people the truth and put Walmart on blast."
Organizers have promised that this year's will top 2012's protests, which took place in 100 U.S. cities. The Walmart protests come amid a wave of low-wage worker strikes and continued economic instability and growing inequality. They reflect a political and economic movement. "Black Friday is the new Labor Day," says Peter Dreier, a professor of policy at Occidental College. "Instead of picnics we're seeing protests by a wide spectrum of Americans standing up against Walmart. The issue of the working poor is galvanizing the country and many ... families realize you can't have a decent society if people are working poverty wages."
Walmart is set on appearing unfazed. "This is the busiest time of year for Walmart and we're really focused on serving our customers to make sure they're having the best holiday season ever," Walmart spokesperson Brooke Buchanan told Huffington Post. Walmart stores, including its 24-hour stores, opened for regular hours on Thanksgiving, and their holiday shopping sales started Thursday.
After last year's Black Friday protests, the company dismissed them as a nuisance that did not put a dent in their sales. The company certainly hopes the same will be true this year. Walmart has 4,783 U.S. locations; protests are planned for 1,500 of them. And yet, in recent years Walmart revenue has been on the decline and the company has lowered expectations for this holiday shopping season."Some customers feel uncertainty about the economy, government, [and] job stability," Walmart CEO Mike Duke said of its earnings this fall, USA Today reported.
As the nation's largest retailer and employer, many of Walmart's own workers make up their low-income consumer base. Two-thirds of Walmart's 1.3 million-member workforce make less than $25,000 a year, former CEO Bill Simon inadvertently announced this year at a conference as he was touting the company's "great job opportunities." That's only slightly more than the federal poverty level for a family of four in 2013: $23,550.
Such statistics underscore a central complaint of protesting Walmart workers: Associate pay is so low that too many workers, even Walmart veterans who work 40 hours a week at managerial positions, are forced to rely on public assistance such as SNAP benefits and Medicaid to make ends meet. However, the Walton family's wealth currently totals more than $144 billion, roughly equal to the bottom 42 percent of Americans, according to Dreier.
In a short span of time OUR Walmart has shone a light on the retail giant's labor practices, putting workers at the center of the story. OUR Walmart began their public actions last October in their first coordinated strike, and organized their first Black Friday walkout last November. In June of this year, workers from 30 cities caravanned to Walmart's corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas to demand better pay and an end to the disrespectful treatment and manipulative scheduling which OUR Walmart workers say typify their retail experience. Earlier this month, 54 people were arrested outside a brand-new Walmart location in Los Angeles' Chinatown. It was the largest act of civil disobedience in Walmart history, organizers said.
The stakes for Walmart workers who protest are very real. Ware took part in the Ride for Respect to Bentonville this summer. There, he spoke up about the poor treatment he received as a Walmart associate: erratic, unpredictable scheduling of shifts, little respect on the job, embarrassingly low wages. But a month later, he was fired for his actions. Walmart did not recognize his 14-day absence as as strike.
Ware has since found a new job, but he's going to keep protesting. "I need Walmart to know they cannot retaliate against workers for speaking out."
"Some people really do spend 20 to 30 years in retail," Ware said. "It really is a career now and we have to treat it that way. And Walmart's way of doing things is not working in today's economy."
Mon, 12/02/2013 - 17:18
Around these parts we're pretty excited about--and thankful for--our publisher's new name. What was The Applied Research Center is now Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation. To celebrate, we have a new mix from our resident DJ, Jay Smooth and we're sharing it with you just in time for Thanksgiving. If you loved our fall mix, When Autumn Comes Around," you'll adore this soulful mix featuring Invincible, Big Daddy Kane, Nina Simone, Curtis Mayfield and a gang of others. Enjoy and have a happy and safe holiday!--Editors
Curtis Mayfield - "Move On Up"
Fela Kuti - "Zombie"
Sylvester - "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" (accappella)
Shad - "Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrins)"
Marvin Gaye - "What's Happening Brother"
Nona Hendryx - "Transformation"
Eddie Palmieri - "Puerto Rico"
Ray Barretto - "Pastime Paradise"
Labelle - "What Can I Do For You"
James Brown - "I Don't Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing (Open Up the Door, I'll Get It Myself)"
Invincible - "Shapeshifters"
Big Daddy Kane - "Warm It Up Kane"
Queen Latifah - "Dance For Me"
Eddie Kendricks - "Goin' Up In Smoke"
Nina Simone - "I Got Life (Live)"
The Impressions - "Keep On Pushing"
Wed, 11/27/2013 - 22:41
In another example of how expansive and diverse the U.S. is, The Atlantic produced an audio map that charts 10 different English language dialects across country. Based on Bert Vaux's 2003 Harvard Dialect Survey, and visualizations by Joshua Katz, reporters called people across the country and asked them to pronounce words such as "pecan," "roly poly," and "bag." The map reflects unique phrases and pronunciations that might give some hints as to migration patterns and cultural differences across the nation.
(h/t The Atlantic)
Wed, 11/27/2013 - 21:52
Bruce Lee is arguably the most influential martial artist of all time--and his work as an actor and filmmaker marked a turning point in the way Asians were depicted in film in the U.S. Here are five quotes to remember him by on the day of his birth, 73 years ago today.
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