News Releases

Labor Day: Tipping Point for Restaurant Workers?

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Labor Day is Monday. Many restaurant workers are increasing their organizing and their demands for ending the tipped minimum wage. Last year, the House passed a bill doing just that, but the Senate refused to consider it.

ABBY GINZBERG, abbyginzberg@gmail.com, @wagingchange
Ginzberg is a Peabody award-winning director, producing documentaries about race and social justice for over 30 years. She has just released the film “Waging Change.”

She said today: “In honor of Labor Day, we are doing a national free virtual screening of ‘Waging Change,’ which reveals a disaster hiding in plain sight — that restaurant workers in 17 states make only $2.13 an hour and have to get to minimum wage by relying on their tips. Only seven states require that workers be paid the full minimum wage plus tips. With the pandemic, the situation for tipped workers has gone from bad to horrendous as many do not qualify for unemployment due to their low wages.” The trailer is here.

SARU JAYARAMAN, saru@onefairwage.org,   NIKKI COLE, nikki@onefairwage.org, @onefairwage
Jayaraman is the president of One Fair Wage, Cole is the group’s national policy director. Jayaraman said today: “Coronavirus shutdowns throughout the pandemic have exacerbated the problem of the tipped minimum wage. Many service workers are being denied unemployment insurance because their wages were literally too low to qualify. And now they’re being forced back to work without safety protocols and paid sick days for a sub-minimum wage of under $5 an hour in most states, when tips are down 75-90 percent in most parts of the country. … Black workers are tipped less because of implicit bias, and women are subject to twice the rates of sexual harassment when they aren’t paid a base, living wage.”

CHIEADZA KUNDIDZORA, ladychikundi@gmail.com
A restaurant worker, Kundidzora said today: “As an African American woman who has worked in the restaurant industry for over a decade, I have seen and experienced the damage done to women workers who are forced to rely on tips to survive and feed their families. It is past time to end the tipped minimum wage so that restaurant workers have the opportunity to earn a living wage without being dependent on sexual harassment in order to survive.”

Ginzberg is making segments of the film available to news outlets, including clips covering the following topics: overview of tipped minimum wage by states; wage theft in the restaurant industry; sexual harassment in the restaurant industry (featuring Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez); racial inequities in front vs. back of the house; reliance on public assistance; the tipped minimum wage as a legacy of slavery; and the little known fact that the House of Representatives passed a bill to end the tipped minimum wage in 2019, which has not been considered by the Senate.

Journalism’s Gates Keepers

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TIM SCHWAB, timschwab2020@gmail.com, @TimothyWSchwab

Available for a limited number of interviews, Schwab just wrote the in-depth investigative piece “Journalism’s Gates Keepers” for Columbia Journalism Review. He writes: “Gates’s generosity appears to have helped foster an increasingly friendly media environment for the world’s most visible charity. Twenty years ago, journalists scrutinized Bill Gates’s initial foray into philanthropy as a vehicle to enrich his software company, or a PR exercise to salvage his battered reputation following Microsoft’s bruising antitrust battle with the Department of Justice. Today, the foundation is most often the subject of soft profiles and glowing editorials describing its good works.

“During the pandemic, news outlets have widely looked to Bill Gates as a public health expert on covid—even though Gates has no medical training and is not a public official. PolitiFact and USA Today (run by the Poynter Institute and Gannett, respectively—both of which have received funds from the Gates Foundation) have even used their fact-checking platforms to defend Gates from ‘false conspiracy theories’ and ‘misinformation,’ like the idea that the foundation has financial investments in companies developing covid vaccines and therapies. In fact, the foundation’s website and most recent tax forms clearly show investments in such companies, including Gilead and CureVac.”

Schwab writes that he examined “twenty thousand charitable grants the Gates Foundation had made” and found “$250 million going toward journalism. Recipients included news operations like the BBC, NBC, Al Jazeera, ProPublica, National Journal, The Guardian, Univision, Medium, the Financial Times, The Atlantic, the Texas Tribune, Gannett, Washington Monthly, Le Monde, and the Center for Investigative Reporting; charitable organizations affiliated with news outlets, like BBC Media Action and the New York Times’ Neediest Cases Fund; media companies such as Participant, whose documentary Waiting for ‘Superman’ supports Gates’s agenda on charter schools; journalistic organizations such as the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, the National Press Foundation, and the International Center for Journalists; and a variety of other groups creating news content or working on journalism, such as the Leo Burnett Company, an ad agency that Gates commissioned to create a ‘news site’ to promote the success of aid groups.”

Schwab scrutinizes NPR’s coverage and writes that “since 2000, the Gates Foundation has given NPR $17.5 million through ten charitable grants—all of them earmarked for coverage of global health and education, specific issues on which Gates works.”

Earlier this year, Schwab wrote the piece “Bill Gates’s Charity Paradox” for The Nation which documents how the Gates Foundation has given hundreds of millions of dollars to companies it is invested in, including Merck, Unilever and Novartis. It also documents how the Gates family and Foundation’s assets continue to grow, “raising questions about the long-term influence of billionaire philanthropy” in politics.

Trump in Kenosha

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President Donald Trump is scheduled to travel to Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Tuesday, where Jacob Blake was shot repeatedly by police in the back.

DENNIS J. BERNSTEIN, dennisjbernstein at gmail.com, @burn_stick
Bernstein is the executive producer of the program “Flashpoints” and just wrote the piece “Don’t Expect Justice for Black People in Kenosha if Sheriff Beth Has His Way.

KEVIN ALEXANDER GRAY, kevinagray57 at gmail.com, @kevinagray
Gray is a civil rights organizer in South Carolina. He co-edited Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence which scrutinizes the impunity of perpetrators of violence to African Americans in U.S. society.

He is also author of Waiting for Lightning to Strike: The Fundamentals of Black Politics, which connects various issues, such as the drug war, to issues of oppression of African Americans and police violence. The book also lists Confederate and other memorials.

Many of his writings — including his essays “Rolling Back the Police State,” “What It Feels Like to be Black in America” and “Back to the Jim Crow Future” are available at Counterpunch and The Progressive.

Could NBA Strike Fuel New Strike Wave? 

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MIKE ELK, mike.elk@gmail.com, @MikeElk
Elk is the senior labor reporter at Payday Report — which has featured a map showing strikes around the U.S.

He said today: “The NBA strike — which is unprecedented in many ways — could inspire a whole new round of BLM strikes across the United States, much how George Floyd’s murder sparked more than 500 strikes in less than a month. And with Labor Day coming up, the NBA strikes could open the door to a whole new round of strikes in various industries.

“The strikes come as many teachers feel unsafe about returning to teach in classrooms across the U.S. Already, both major teachers’ unions, the AFT [American Federation of Teachers] and NEA [National Education Association] have pledged their financial support to support ‘safety strikes’ over unsafe school reopenings. In June, there were hundreds of strikes.”

Elk’s past pieces include “COVID & Disaster Capitalism: Busting Unions in Baseball” and “As South Carolina Teachers Walkout, 10,000 Storm State Capitol in Columbia.”

RNC, DNC and Anti-Palestinian Agreement

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MICHAEL F. BROWN, michael@electronicintifada.net, @intifada
Brown is a journalist with The Electronic Intifada covering the intersection of white supremacy in the U.S. with anti-Palestinian sentiment and backing for an expansionist Israel. His recent pieces on the election include “Biden-Harris ticket a blow to Palestinian hopes” and “Marjorie Greene, the QAnon anti-Semite gun fanatic who loves Israel.”

He said today: “The Republican Party has made clear this month its absolute support for Israel and its de facto annexation of the West Bank. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s in-your-face land-grabbing convention speech from Jerusalem with the occupied Old City as a backdrop is one smug signal from the top, but Republican voters have also sent the same message with strong backing from Islamophobes such as Marjorie Taylor Greene in Georgia and Laura Loomer in Florida. Both are staunch supporters of Donald Trump’s moves in Jerusalem that seek to diminish the rights of Palestinians. The QAnon, reactionary wing of the Republican Party is overjoyed at its success in making life as miserable and painful as possible for Palestinians. Four more years of depraved anti-Palestinian policies will serve only to entrench the Israeli occupation and apartheid and make more certain that the Palestinian struggle is transformed into one for equal rights in one state as in South Africa and the Jim Crow American South.

“Yet the Democrats are only marginally better. And in some ways worse because expectations for Democrats to stand up to racism are higher. But Democratic leaders consistently indulge Israel’s anti-Palestinian racism. Their platform fails to name the occupation. It criticizes the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights and freedom while deigning only to accept it as a free speech right, saying nothing about the many U.S. states limiting BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] free speech rights. The platform rejects Israeli annexation of the West Bank, but delegates voted against taking any meaningful action against future annexation or illegal settlements through limiting or altogether stopping the annual $3.8 billion in U.S. military aid to Israel. Democrats also openly accept Israel as a Jewish state, disregarding the presence and rights of Palestinians there. People who would never accept the U.S. as a white, Christian state are encouraging Joe Biden to promote Israel as a discriminatory ethnonationalist state. There is, however, a disconnect between Democratic leaders and pressures emanating up from a grassroots increasingly aware of the injustices pervading U.S. policies against Palestinian rights and freedom.”

Deadly Combination: Nursing Homes and Wall Street During Pandemic

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PATRICK WOODALL, via Carter Dougherty, carter@ourfinancialsecurity.org,  @RealBankReform
Woodall is senior researcher at Americans for Financial Reform, which just put out the study: “The Deadly Combination of Nursing Homes and Private Equity During a Pandemic.”

Woodall said today: “The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged nursing homes around the country and has highlighted the role played by Wall Street private equity firms in degrading care when it buys up facilities and cuts costs while reducing staffing, all to fatten the bottom line.

“Our new study study on this phenomenon reviews data from nursing homes in New Jersey during the height of the COVID-19 crisis. It found that 59 percent of private equity-affiliated nursing home residents contracted COVID-19 — an infection rate 25 percent higher than the state average and 57 percent higher than at public nursing homes. The resident COVID-19 fatality rate at private equity nursing homes was nearly 29 percent, more than 10 percent higher than the state average.

“Private equity firms raise money from pension funds, wealthy individuals, and endowments and use it to buy control of companies, often by saddling their takeover targets with a heavy debt load. These Wall Street behemoths now sit atop a cash pile of $3.9 trillion. Over the last decade, the industry’s growth has been marked by looting-like behavior in industries as diverse as retail, media, and health care.

“Extensive studies and reporting have revealed poorer quality of care at private equity-affiliated nursing homes in recent years. This study is the first to document the negative impact of private equity nursing homes during this deadly pandemic.

“The study concluded that the racial gap was especially pronounced at private equity facilities, with staff at private equity facilities seven times more likely to die working at nursing homes in counties where people of color make up the majority of the population than in 80 percent white counties. Residents were 9 percent more likely to die of COVID-19 in communities of color than in predominantly white areas.

“Private equity has always had a troubling record of degrading the care offered in nursing homes, but the quality issues during this pandemic can have particularly deadly consequences. The nation will have to come to grips with the often-poor treatment residents face in the nursing home business, with chronic understaffing, too little investment in facilities, and lax enforcement of regulations. But private equity’s business model of siphoning profits away from providing adequate care now appears especially deadly.”

Major Post Office Hearings Today

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The House is having hearings with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Monday, see here for livestream. The following two analysts have done extensive research on the issues and are available for interviews:

CHRISTOPHER W. SHAW, christophershaw.ca@gmail.com, @chris_w_shaw   

Shaw is a historian and author of Preserving the People’s Post Office. He recently had an op-ed in the Washington Post: “Postal banking is making a comeback. Here’s how to ensure it becomes a reality.

He said today that since taking office, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s “actions have targeted the agency’s civic role and jeopardized voter participation in the 2020 election.

“People are starting to wake up to the need to regard the Postal Service not as a government agency that should emulate a business, but as a great public institution — enshrined in the Constitution — that has been under constant attack for decades, now accelerated under the Trump administration.

“The Postal Service is an essential public service offering a whole range of social benefits that are now under threat. By offering universal service at uniform postage rates, the U.S. Mail has bound the nation together for more than two centuries. By connecting every corner of the United States — no matter how remote — the Postal Service provides a crucial lifeline for low income Americans and residents of rural areas who otherwise would not receive affordable delivery. Post offices are centers of community life and local identity. Special postage rates for news and nonprofit organizations facilitate democracy and the public interest. Americans depend on the Postal Service for the delivery of 4 million critical prescription medications every day.”

LISA GRAVES, via Evan Vorpahl, evan@truenorthresearch.org, @itstruenorth

Graves is the executive director of the policy research group True North. She was recently on an IPA news release: “Behind the Attacks on the Post Office,” that scrutinized the conduct of DeJoy and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. A month ago, she wrote the brief “The Billionaire Behind Efforts to Kill the U.S. Postal Service,” about Charles Koch.

She said today: “Congress must insist that the mail sorting and delivery capacity be restored to the pre-Louis DeJoy level of this spring and machines that were removed be restarted or repaired. Congress must also restrict the power of Steve Mnuchin to interfere with the timely delivery of mail, including medicines and ballots, and provide the funding requested by the prior Postal leadership.

“Never before in the past century has the Postal Service leadership been held by such partisans as DeJoy and Mike Duncan [chairman of the Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service], both of whom have financially aided not just the political campaigns of President Trump but also Senator Mitch McConnell. Never before has the Postal Service faces such a grave risk from the privatization pressures unleashed by billionaire Charles Koch.

“Congress should scrap the stacked and packed current Board of Governors, and take measures to ensure to restore its political independence and integrity and make sure future appointees are genuinely devoted to preserving and expanding the vital public service our Postal Service and its dedicated public servants provide.”

Biden: An FDR or Deficit Hawk?

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BRANKO MARCETIC, branko.95.m at gmail.com, @BMarchetich
Marcetic is author of the book Yesterday’s Man: the Case Against Joe Biden. See his recent pieces at In These Times and  Jacobin.

He said today: “Last night and since April, Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his advisors have insisted the former vice president is planning what New York magazine in May called ‘an FDR-sized presidency.’ These claims have been amplified by a hopeful liberal press.

“Over the past week, however, Biden and his team have signaled they will not be following through on this promise. Last Saturday, Democratic congressional aides told the Hill the party likely wouldn’t push forward with Biden’s public health insurance option should he win, and would instead pursue tweaks to Obamacare, a claim the Biden campaign didn’t correct. Meanwhile, the Democratic convention featured hard-right Republican John Kasich assuring conservative viewers Biden wouldn’t ‘turn sharp left and leave them behind,’ in a four-day program targeted chiefly at Republican voters.

“Even Biden’s promise in his DNC speech last night to ‘protect Social Security and Medicare’ should be viewed with caution. A President Biden could try, as he suggested in 2018 and in private in 2014, to means-test Social Security and claim he is ‘protecting’ it from insolvency, without having technically cut it.

“Wall Street has happily highlighted similar, earlier signals. One financial advisory firm called the Biden-Bernie Sanders unity task forces ‘a very successful effort by Biden and his team to control the narrative and policy direction,’ while the chairman of another celebrated that ‘his pick of Harris reinforces’ that he won’t move left. Biden is now outraising Trump among Wall Street donors, with some of them giving the campaign policy advice, with one reportedly telling his staffers to match any big federal spending with budget cuts.

“Longtime Biden advisor Ted Kaufman has now told the Wall Street Journal Americans shouldn’t expect more spending should Biden win, warning that ‘what Trump’s done to the deficit’ means ‘we’re going to be limited.’ This appears to directly contradict Biden’s claim in May that he wanted something ‘a hell of a lot bigger’ than the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus and that massive public investment was the only way out of a deficit.

“All of this signals not just a narrowing of Biden’s ambitions, but the alarming prospect of austerity during the Covid recession. Biden is uniquely susceptible to budget-cutting dogma. He quickly became a fiscal hawk after entering the Senate in 1972, introducing the Federal Spending Control Act five years later to potentially put all federal spending programs on the chopping block, and musing that Reagan’s 1980 victory was ‘more consistent with the budgetary thrust that a guy like me … has been going for.’

“From the 1980s on, Biden has called for and introduced legislation aimed at slashing federal spending, including by cutting Medicare and Social Security. He voted three times for a balanced budget constitutional amendment, and as vice president, repeatedly made deals with Mitch McConnell and other Republicans to choke off government revenue and make drastic cuts to programs.

“By no means does this make Biden worse than President Trump, who has cut taxes for the rich while seeking massive cuts to these and other vital social programs, and recently proposed to do so again if he’s re-elected. But it’s a reminder that socialists, progressives, and rank-and-file Democratic voters must organize to hold Biden’s feet to the fire right now and after his prospective win in November, and be willing to take to the streets whether it’s a Republican or Democratic president who implements austerity.”

Big Media and DNC: Distinguishing Policy Criticism from Slurs

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ROBIN ANDERSEN, andersen at fordham.edu
Andersen is professor and director of graduate studies in the department of communication and media studies at Fordham University. She just wrote the piece “Not All Criticism of Kamala Harris Is Created Equal,” part of the media watch group FAIR’s focus on the 2020 election.

She writes: “Yet emerging as a corporate media frame is a sloppy, mystifying confusion that refuses to distinguish the racist and sexist slurs against Harris from an authentic discussion of the trajectory of her political positions, and what they might mean for her as a serving vice president and a potential future leader of the Democratic Party. Within this frame, criticisms from the left and the right are treated as equally offensive.

“This was evident early on in an opinion piece penned by Anthea Butler for NBC News (8/11/20), which asserted that after the announcement of Harris on the ticket, ‘the attacks and criticisms began flying across the web from conservatives and liberals alike. She’s ‘extraordinarily nasty.’ She’s ‘a cop.’ She’s too conservative — or she’s too liberal. She changes her mind constantly.’

“Criticizing the word ‘cop’ when applied to Kamala Harris makes little sense. In fact, the word comes from Harris herself. Harris served as San Francisco district attorney from 2004 to 2011, and as California attorney general from 2011 to 2017. Amid the fanfare of winning the position of California attorney general, speaking behind a podium with a victorious smile on her face, Kamala accepted her new position by saying, ‘And I now stand before you as the Top Cop in the biggest state in the country.’ To illustrate the sloppy nature of this frame that all criticism is equal, Harris is shown calling herself a ‘cop’ on a video segment sandwiched into Butler’s piece.”

Twelve U.S. Billionaires Have a Combined $1 Trillion

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12 Top Billionaires imageOMAR OCAMPO, via Olivia Alperstein, olivia at ips-dc.org, or Bob Keener, bobk at ips-dc.org, @IPS_DC
Ocampo, a researcher for the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies, just co-wrote the report “Twelve U.S. Billionaires Have a Combined $1 Trillion,” which states: “For the first time in U.S. history, the top twelve U.S. billionaires surpassed a combined wealth of $1 trillion. On Thursday August 13, these 12 held a combined $1.015 trillion.

“This is a disturbing milestone in the U.S. history of concentrated wealth and power. This is simply too much economic and political power in the hands of twelve people. From the point of view of a democratic self-governing society, this represents an Oligarchic Twelve or a Despotic Dozen.

“The Oligarchic Dozen are Jeff Bezos ($189.4b), Bill Gates ($114b), Mark Zuckerberg ($95.5b), Warren Buffett ($80b), Elon Musk ($73b), Steve Ballmer ($71b), Larry Ellison ($70.9b), Larry Page ($67.4b), Sergey Brin ($65.6b), Alice Walton ($62.5b), Jim Walton ($62.3b), and Rob Walton ($62b).

“Since March 18, the beginning of the pandemic, this Oligarchic Dozen have seen their combined wealth increase $283 billion, an increase of almost 40 percent.

“Elon Musk has been the biggest pandemic profiteer, seeing his wealth triple from $24.6 billion on March 18th to $73 billion on August 13, an increase of $48.5 billion or 197 percent.

“Amazon co-founder Jeff Bezos was worth $189.4 billion on August 13, up $76 billion or 68 percent since March 18.

“Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was worth $95.5 billion on August 13, up $40.8 billion or 75 percent since March 18.”

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