Truthout Stories Thu, 25 Aug 2016 11:14:39 -0400 en-gb Weapons, Pipelines and Wall Street: Did Clinton Foundation Donations Impact Clinton State Department Decisions?

New questions have arisen this week over Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation. On Tuesday, the Associated Press published a new investigation revealing that while Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state, more than half of the private citizens she met with had donated to the Clinton Foundation. The AP investigation comes after a three-year battle to gain access to State Department calendars. The analysis shows that at least 85 of 154 people Hillary Clinton had scheduled phone or in-person meetings with were foundation donors. This does not include meetings Clinton held with U.S. or foreign government workers or representatives, only private citizens. We speak to David Sirota of the International Business Times and Paul Glastris, editor-in-chief of the Washington Monthly. He was President Bill Clinton's chief speechwriter from 1998 to 2001.

Please check back later for full transcript.

News Thu, 25 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Bernie Sanders Launches New Organization, but Key Staffers Quit in Protest

Bernie Sanders and his supporters have launched a new political organization called Our Revolution. It seeks to support the next generation of progressive leaders, empower millions to fight for progressive change and elevate the nation's overall political consciousness. More than 2,600 watch parties were held across the country last night to witness Sanders launch the new organization. But reports have emerged of political tumult within Bernie Sanders' own team. Over the weekend, eight key staffers abruptly resigned in a dispute over the group’s leadership and legal structure. For more, we speak with Larry Cohen, incoming board chair of Our Revolution, and with Claire Sandberg, former digital organizing director for Bernie Sanders' campaign, who resigned as the organizing director for Our Revolution.

Please check back later for full transcript.

News Thu, 25 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Is Trump-Bashing Good for the Media?

Just about everyone now concedes that the media have it in for Donald Trump. A survey of eight major news organs during the primaries, conducted by Harvard's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy -- one I cited in a previous post -- showed that the press grew increasingly hostile to Trump, peaking at 61 percent negative to 39 percent positive at the end of the primary season. Even the conservative, Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal editorialized that he should consider quitting the race, and the normally cautious NBC Nightly News has turned reporter Katy Tur into a one-woman truth squad, correcting Trump whoppers.

If you deplore media cowardice, you might think this is a good thing, not because Trump is a mortal danger to this country, although he is, but because it means the press is doing its job. That is not, however, the way some media critics see it, and not just those with a stake in Trump's promotion, like Howard Kurtz of Fox News, who has accused the media of "piling on" poor Donald.

To see more stories like this, visit Moyers & Company at Truthout.

There is now a debate over whether Trump-bashing is undermining media credibility. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone, one of our most perceptive political journalists, warned in an essay last week that the mainstream media were getting perilously close to becoming partisan, pro-Democrat or pro-Republican, rather than ideological, tilting left or right, the way they used to be. And he felt the implications for the media were enormous. As he put it, "Once you jump in the politicians' side of the pool, it's not so easy to get out again."

If accurate, this would be a big deal, but I think Taibbi's analysis is based on two flawed premises. First, that the media are now arrayed in two camps: Republican and Democrat. And second, that Trump bashing (and Hillary bashing, for that matter) are the result of partisan side-taking and not of the candidates' considerable flaws -- in Trump's case, that he is a bigot, a compulsive liar, an ignoramus when it comes to policy, and a demagogue who is already attempting to delegitimize our electoral system to explain his anticipated loss. In fact, far from being "in the tank" for the political parties, as Taibbi puts it, I think the media might finally be performing one of the services they are supposed to perform: holding candidates accountable for their words and deeds.

This is a good thing, and we may have Trump to thank for it.

Let's look at the second charge first -- that the liberal media have it in for Trump, which is exactly what Trump has been saying, even as he boasts about how much media attention he gets. (The "piling on" is the "worst in American history," he tweeted on Tuesday.) In an essay this past week, Vox's Ezra Klein, another brilliant political analyst, remarked on the media's revulsion at Trump, and then went on to explain why they have abandoned any pretense of neutrality to go after him.  He believes that the press has been liberated by the fact that many conservatives don't much like Trump any more than liberals do (thus challenging Taibbi's thesis), that Trump's gross misinformation and disinformation insults the press in a "visceral" way, that the New York- and Washington-centric press has a "cosmopolitan" bias that works against a yahoo like Trump, and finally that the press feels both institutionally and personally, even physically, threatened by the prospect of a Trump victory.

Nothing Klein says is on its face untrue, and I am particularly sympathetic to his notion of a cosmopolitan bias -- one I discussed myself in an earlier post -- not because it is unfair to Trump, but because it skews coverage away from the disempowered and toward elites. Let's face it, the media are self-serving.

But sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and it is important to note that whatever theories you can concoct for an anti-Trump bias, the simple truth may be that, if you are any kind of journalist, you cannot cover him honestly without rebutting nearly everything he says. For a journalist to correct Trump's whoppers isn't taking sides against him any more than a scientist would be taking sides against someone who declares the moon is made of green cheese. As Klein admits, you can't treat Trump as if he were a normal candidate saying normal things because he isn't one. The danger isn't that reporters will gang up on him. The danger is that by not ganging up on him they will normalize the surreal circus he provides -- a circus that is subverting our political life.

That brings me back to Taibbi. He isn't critical of the media attacking Trump. His criticism is of a Trump-induced journalistic polarization that mirrors our political polarization and threatens our media the same way political polarization has threatened our politics. "We now have one set of news outlets that gives us the bad news about Democrats, and another set of news outlets bravely dedicated to reporting the whole truth about Republicans," Taibbi writes, and goes on to report the result -- namely that "we have no credible news media left." He calls the current coverage the "worst case of journo-shilling we've seen since the run-up to the Iraq War."

This endangers journalism, he says, because when you shill for a party, the way Fox News shills for the GOP, you lose credibility, even with your own viewers. All media take the hit. No one believes anything.

But is what Taibbi says about a binary media true? Conservative media actually are deeply divided between those who think Trump is the Second Coming (Fox News, Breitbart) and those who see him as the devil destroying ideological conservatism (The National Review, The Weekly Standard). CNN, which Taibbi places on the Democratic Party side of the divide, also pays former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, even though, reportedly, he continues to advise Trump. Meanwhile, CNN employs Dem operatives too, letting apologists from each side commandeer their air. The trouble with CNN may not be, as Taibbi says, that it is partisan, but that it is bipartisan, serving up both Republican and Democratic spin instead of journalism.

In fact, if, as Taibbi claims, this year's election coverage is "unique," it is not because we suddenly have Democratic and Republican news outlets (let's face it, Fox News was always the propaganda arm of the GOP) or that Trump and the GOP are getting hammered by one part of the MSM and Clinton and the Dems by the other part, but that both candidates are getting very negative coverage across the board. In that Shorenstein study reporting Trump's overwhelmingly unfavorable coverage in the final five weeks of the primary season, Hillary Clinton's was scarcely better, and, for that matter, neither was Bernie Sanders'. (By the way, the GOP losers -- Cruz and Rubio and Kasich -- got the worst coverage, suggesting a pro-winners bias.) And Shorenstein was looking across a range of the so-called MSM. Maybe things will look different when we get a survey of the post-primary coverage, but will that be because the presumed Democratic media were aligned against Trump or because he kept shooting himself in the foot? Will it be because GOP media were aligned against Hillary or because her emails kept popping up?

The media are banging away at both Trump and Clinton, and, if you exclude Fox and MSNBC, the way diving competitions throw out the low and high scores, the same outlets are often doing the bashing, neither an anti-Trump free-for-all nor a Republican and Democratic media schism. In fact, it may be a matter of the normal media bias toward negativity going mega-negative. The media really, really seem to hate everybody this election.

So both Ezra Klein and Matt Taibbi may be wrong about the state of the media in Campaign 2016. For all the havoc he has wrought elsewhere, Trump may have actually awakened some in the MSM from their long slumber. Sure, they are still too preoccupied with process to fasten on policy. Sure, they are still beholden to false equivalencies between Trump and Clinton. Sure, they are still likely to succumb to criticism and reverse course if they get accused of being too hard on Trump. But for all that, the media aren't letting Trump get away with his self-contradictions, fabrications and bigotry, and they aren't letting Clinton get away with her prevarications, political incest with contributors and attempts at misdirection.

Call it partisan bias if you like. I call it journalism. Maybe it's just been so long since we've seen it, we can hardly recognize it.

News Thu, 25 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Trump Illegally Pumped Up His Own Book Sales With Campaign Donations

Now we know how Donald Trump manages to write so-called bestsellers. He buys up thousands of copies himself.

The newest wrinkle in the Republican nominee for president's con artistry is that he used campaign donations -- to the tune of about $55,000 -- to buy up approximately "3,500 copies of the hardcover version of Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again, or just over 5,000 copies of the renamed paperback release, Great Again: How to Fix Our Crippled America," the Daily Beast reported Wednesday morning. 

According to a Federal Election Commission filing, the Trump campaign paid $55,055 to Barnes & Noble for the books in May. While it's not illegal to buy thousands of copies of your own book to artificially boost your sales, it is when you use campaign donations to do so, while also lining your own pockets.

At the very least, campaign finance experts say, Trump would have to forego any royalties on the sales. Federal campaign law says that, "campaign spending must not result in the conversion of campaign funds to the personal use of the candidate or any other person." Trump could donate any personal money he reaps from the sales to charity, potentially, but if history is any indication, he's not a big one for donating to charity.

The Trump campaign claims that the books were purchased for inclusion in the Republican Convention goodie bag, along with a ton of other Trump campaign paraphernalia. The swag bag also included plastic fetus figurines, which everybody always loves.  

News Thu, 25 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Temp Organizing Gets Big Boost From National Labor Relations Board

(Photo: UFCW International Union)Temporary workers can now organize along with direct employees and belong to the same bargaining unit, or form a separate bargaining unit composed only of temps. (Photo: UFCW International Union)

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Thanks to a National Labor Relations Board decision, workers employed by temporary staffing agencies may find it easier to organize and bargain.

The Board issued its long-awaited ruling last August in the case of Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI). The decision revamped the Board's test for what's considered a "joint employer," imposing new legal obligations on employers who hire through temp agencies and potentially also on giant corporate franchisors.

The new joint-employer standard provides a much more favorable legal framework for workers to form unions at temped-out warehouses, manufacturing and food processing plants, recycling facilities, hotels, and franchised janitorial services and fast food outlets.

Prior to this ruling, a factory that hired workers through a temp agency was not considered their employer and could not be compelled to bargain with the temps who worked at its plant.

The same standard would apply to a corporate franchisor like McDonald's, if it were found to be a joint employer along with the franchise owner.

Who Decides Conditions? 

The NLRB applied the new joint-employer test in a union election at BFI's California recycling facility, where all 240 low-wage sorters and screeners were hired through Leadpoint, a temporary staffing agency.

The temps had voted to join Teamsters Local 350, which already represents the 60 forklift operators and truckers directly employed by BFI.

The union argued that the temps should be considered jointly employed by both the temp agency and the recycling facility. As evidence, it pointed to contract terms that gave BFI control over the speed of the conveyor belts and the number of temp workers staffing the lines, as well as the right to discharge any agency worker.

Like many standard temp agency contracts, the agreement also limited the length of a temp's assignment to the facility, and capped the top wage the agency could pay. BFI argued that the temps were not its employees because they were supervised by onsite Leadpoint managers.

The Board sided with the union, finding that the temps' wages and conditions were co-determined by both businesses. It certified a bargaining unit that classified BFI and Leadpoint as joint employers, and ordered both bosses to negotiate with the union.

Temps Abound 

The BFI recycling facility is not unusual. In core industries and service sectors, staffing agency workers are everywhere.

Temp agencies accounted for more than 17 percent of net employment gains after the Great Recession of 2008.

The increase is most dramatic in the blue-collar and low-wage service sectors where "permatemps" are used to staff entire departments, job clusters, or facilities. In many auto assembly and parts plants, for example, temp agency workers account for more than half the workforce.

Temps are often paid as little as half of what regular employees make, with no benefits or paid holidays. For example, temps in the Chicago warehousing sector average $9 an hour, while direct hires average $12.48, almost 30 percent more. Thousands of employers now use temps this way, splitting their workforces into "core" and "contingent" segments.

Before the BFI decision, temps in these segmented workplaces were denied meaningful collective bargaining. They could not join the same bargaining unit as directly hired employees because, under federal law, they had two different employers.

Even in workplaces where temps made up a majority, the companies that actually controlled the terms and conditions of work weren't considered their employers, and therefore had no legal obligation to bargain.

And if temps engaged in concerted activity, the company could discharge them simply by requesting replacements from the staffing agency or by re-contracting with a different agency. Even if the workers were able to prove the temp agency committed an unfair labor practice, there would be no way to get rehired at the same company.

A New Day

Now -- assuming the ruling survives a federal court appeal -- all that has changed.

Temps can now organize along with direct employees and belong to the same bargaining unit or form a separate bargaining unit composed only of temps. In either case, if a union drive were successful, both the temp agency and the contracting employer would have to sit at the bargaining table.

Another important new NLRB ruling, Miller and Anderson, issued July 11, removes another legal obstacle that prevented temp workers and direct employees from belonging to the same bargaining unit, in workplaces where temps and standard employees work together. This decision eliminates the requirement -- reestablished by a Republican-controlled Board in 2004 -- that temp workers and direct hires could belong to the same bargaining unit only if the user employer and the temp agency both consented to that arrangement.

In addition, where joint-employer relationships exist, unions representing temps will now be able to take advantage of their right to picket and boycott both employers -- not just the temp agency. For instance, a union representing or campaigning to organize temps at Amazon distribution centers could picket Amazon facilities or corporate buildings, as well as the temp agency shape-ups where the temps are recruited, without being charged with secondary picketing.

Temps now have stronger legal protections against retaliation. Before BFI, if a certain temp at an auto plant was agitating for a union, the plant manager could simply order the temp agency to end the worker's assignment to this worksite -- and suffer no legal consequences, because the plant wasn't considered the temp's employer.

Now, the same action would be considered an unfair labor practice, permitting the Board to order the joint employers to rehire the temp worker with back pay and return him to his job at the auto plant.

Making use of the new ruling, immigrant Guatemalan temp workers won a union election last fall at a tire recycling business in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 328 now represents the temps in bargaining with the temp agency and the tire business.

The organizing campaign took off after the tire company fired three workers when they asked for a raise. Following a workplace protest, the three were rehired by the temp agency and tire business. One of the fired workers became a central leader of the organizing drive.

Fast Food Too

The Board's new joint-employer test may also be applicable to fast-food franchises, and to janitorial and hotel chains where the Board's control standard is met.

In the face of recent protests against low-wages, the fast-food giants have claimed that each local restaurant is the sole legal employer, even when the corporation dictates the particulars of the production process through franchise agreements and detailed manuals.

The Board's General Counsel has already issued unfair labor practice complaints naming McDonald's as a joint employer, along with a group of its franchisees, for retaliating against workers who protested against low wages and work conditions.

The complaints point out how McDonald's operations manual and computer system, which tracks labor costs and schedules employees, provide means of indirect, but substantial, corporate control over employment decisions. These have been consolidated into a massive case now being heard by an administrative law judge in the Board's New York office.

Organizing Possibilities

Going forward, the Labor Board will make joint-employer determinations on a case-by-case basis. Outcomes will turn on workers' and unions' ability to assemble a detailed picture of the mechanisms of control in the workplace.

This means that unions and worker centers will need to educate workers on the issue of control over the terms and conditions of employment. They'll need to gather evidence that the alleged joint employer co-determines such matters as schedules, overtime, the number of workers on the job, and the pace of work.

Further evidence will include franchise agreements and staffing agency contracts, which routinely set forth arrangements granting control over hiring, dismissal, work processes, and production standards to corporate franchises and businesses that hire temps.

These documents may also expose the hefty markups that temp agencies charge -- for instance, that the temp agency is receiving $20 an hour for an employee, and paying wages of just $10. Such information could be used to encourage temps and permanent employees to fight together for better wages and benefits.

Unions may now get access to these agreements at several points in the process of organizing:

  • in the context of proving joint employment, when the Board is determining the appropriate bargaining unit
  • when seeking evidence to prove an unfair labor practice
  • through information requests in the course of collective bargaining

The recycling center has appealed the BFI ruling to the federal circuit court in Washington, D.C. Whether or not this ruling survives appeal, many organizers agree that, to beat corporate divide-and-conquer, unions will need bring temps and direct employees together.

New book from Labor Notes: Secrets of a Successful Organizer is a step-by-step guide to building power on the job. "Full of so many creative examples and powerful rank-and-file stories, it makes you want to dive right in." Buy one today, only $15.

News Thu, 25 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Why Walmart Matters to 21st Century Working-Class Struggle

A 2013 congressional study estimated that Walmart alone costs taxpayers between $3,015 and $5,815 per worker. That's money that we should understand as a subsidy to Walmart, not to the workers -- it allows Walmart to save billions in wages and benefits by pushing those costs onto the rest of us.

Walmart Workers and supporters strike outside of a Walmart Neighborhood Market in downtown Chicago, IL, on November 28, 2014. (Photo: UFCW International Union)Walmart Workers and supporters strike outside a Walmart Neighborhood Market in downtown Chicago, Illinois, on November 28, 2014. (Photo: UFCW International Union)

What connects the recent movements that have shaken the foundations of US inequality? In her acclaimed book Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt, Sarah Jaffe introduces us to the people making trouble from Wisconsin to Ferguson, from Occupy Wall Street to Moral Mondays. Click here to order what Robin D.G. Kelley calls "The most compelling social and political portrait of our age."

In chapter three of Necessary Trouble, Sarah Jaffe covers the struggles of Walmart workers fighting for better pay, conditions and rights at work. This excerpt addresses the historical context for that struggle.

The image conjured by the term "working class" in the United States has been one of mostly white men toiling in a factory, wearing hard hats and those oft-evoked blue collars. Our labor policy was shaped around those men and the assumption that workers get health insurance from their jobs, have a pension on which to retire, and make a "family wage" that allows them to support a wife, who stays home to take care of the kids and the cooking and cleaning.

And yet with each year, that picture becomes less and less reflective of reality. The working class never was all white or all male, but now, more and more, the real story of the working class is the story of people like Colby Harris and Venanzi Luna, black and Latina, working in retail, restaurants, or another form of service work. The real story is not that women and people of color have moved into positions of power, but that more men are in "casualized" -- that is, in temporary, part-time, or presumably "unskilled" service jobs.

The occupations projected to add the most jobs between 2012 and 2022 are retail sales, personal care and home health care, nursing, and food service workers, including fast food. Except for nursing, those fields have a median annual income of around $20,000. That's less than half, adjusted for inflation, of the family-sustaining wage paid to unionized factory workers in their heyday.

The story of outsourcing -- of plant closures and "free"-trade deals and managers swaggering into the shop and announcing that the jobs were ending -- has been well told elsewhere. We have also been told a story of our brave new information economy, where knowledge will prevail. But the fact remains that even as Americans go into debt for advanced degrees to get those technical jobs, they're more likely to end up in the service industry. The choice to call what we have a "knowledge economy," rather than a service economy, was just that -- a choice, one that sounded more exciting than the reality of low-wage feminized service work for the majority.

Service jobs as a share of US working hours increased 30 percent between 1980 and 2005, and their prevalence has only grown since the Great Recession. One 2012 study found that although two-thirds of the jobs lost during the recession were mid-wage jobs, 58 percent of the jobs regained by the time of the study were instead low-wage, paying less than $13.84 per hour. Retail sales alone added well over 300,000 jobs in this period, at an average wage of $10.97 an hour; just behind was food prep, paying an average of just over $9 an hour. The trend had begun before the crisis, but after the crisis hit, it was impossible to pretend that something fundamental hadn't changed.

There could be, and have been, plenty of decent jobs in service industries; to assume otherwise is to mistake the historical conditions that produced stable jobs and high wages in manufacturing for intrinsic characteristics of the industry. In 2014, I spoke with Rosa Ramirez, a temp worker who had been shuffled through multiple factories outside of Chicago, sometimes for just a couple of days at a time, doing work that was once done by unionized full-time workers. Her experience and that of thousands of others like her should remind us that there's nothing inherently good or bad about any type of work; safe conditions, regular hours, decent pay, and respect can do a lot to improve even the worst job.

The rise of customer service work and its attendant demand for "people skills," such as patience and communication -- which are typically associated with women, and often assumed not to be skills at all -- created a crisis for the old masculine producer narrative. Service labor certainly was not new, but it had long been ignored by a labor movement mostly focused on industrial work. When that industrial work began to fade, labor's lack of a foothold in the growing service sector made it harder for it to withstand increasing attacks. Labor had failed to recognize and value service work, leaving the door open for the conditions in service jobs to creep into the rest of the economy. Factories that had employed full-timers with benefits could drive wages down by employing temps like Rosa Ramirez, temps who were easily fired and were paid less than permanent employees. Even the once-strong automobile industry is now rife with lower-paid temporary workers.

Women were commonly assumed not to need full-time jobs because they would have a husband who worked; women were presumed to prefer part-time or short-term gigs that would allow them to be home with the family while making a little "pin money" for themselves. Those assumptions continued to be held even in the 2000s. Women who joined the Dukes v. Walmart sex discrimination suit reported being told by their managers that male coworkers made more money because they had to support their families.

(Image: Nation Books)(Image: Nation Books)The emotional labor that went into a day's customer service work -- managing irate customers, soothing wounded egos, spending hours helping people find just the right item -- was likewise not seen as skilled work. Skills were valued -- or perceived at all -- based on how much power the workers who had them wielded in society, not the tools they wielded on the job. The men who built the labor movement in the skilled trades and on factory floors won power for themselves, but they had their own incentives for not helping women workers build power of their own -- incentives that wound up dovetailing with the interests of the boss. Leaving women and their work out of the labor movement wound up hurting the movement and working people as a whole; this is one of the reasons why organizing service workers like those at Walmart is so important.

Retail workers used to be excluded from federal minimum-wage laws -- John F. Kennedy made their low wages a campaign issue in 1960, though Walmart founder Sam Walton famously simply refused to pay the new wage when it first passed. Today, while retail is governed by wage and hour laws, other service workers still fight to be covered by them -- and service workers who get tips, from waiters to the people who push wheelchairs in the airport, are legally mandated a minimum of only $2.13 an hour by federal law.

A study by economist Catherine Ruetschlin found that a wage floor of $25,000 a year for a full-time worker in retail would affect more than 5 million retail workers and their families. More than 95 percent of those workers were over twenty, not teenagers, and more than half of them were responsible for providing at least half the family income. Such a raise would actually grow the economy and create new jobs, not kill them, as is commonly claimed.

Low-paid workers spend nearly everything they make; if they had more money to spend, they would be much more likely to spend it than their bosses, who make far more than they can spend at any time.

Scheduling, too, became a central issue in retail and food service work. Once, manufacturing workers fought for the eight-hour day; their battles shaped the workday and workweek that we now think of as normal, resulting in the Fair Labor Standards Act and time-and-a-half pay for overtime for waged workers. But restaurants and retail shops are open at different times -- in part so that those working a nine-to-five day in other sectors of the economy have time to eat and shop -- and make different demands on their employees' time.

In somewhat of a nasty coincidence, computerized scheduling systems entered the retail world around the same time as the financial crisis was wiping out jobs around the country. In an already weak job market, workers are less likely to push back on encroachments made by the boss, and so few challenged a system that rapidly worsened. Patricia Scott, a sixteen-year Walmart associate in Federal Way, Washington, had had a set schedule for ten years. This regular schedule allowed her to make plans in advance, and she was able to count on a certain amount of work each week. But when the computers came in, her hours changed. "They always tell me, 'Well, it's not us, it's the computer!'" she told me. "I'd say, 'Tell the computer to fix it!'"

Walmart might have been the leader in computerized scheduling, but other firms quickly followed. The software saved managers time they would otherwise have to spend making up the schedule, but it also wrung every last dime in labor costs out of the system. It calculated staffing needs based not only on availability, but also on sales numbers, so that stores would be staffed with just enough people to get the job done throughout the peaks and valleys in sales during the workweek. Computerized scheduling systems prioritize workers who have unlimited availability, but that makes it hard for workers to get a second job. And if you have children to care for, forget it. Many of the women who populate these industries struggle to find child-care options that are flexible and affordable; one low-wage field feeds another as more workers, mostly women, do the child care, often for less than minimum wage. "Just-in-time" scheduling means workers' needs come last, their hours sliced and diced as hours and minutes are shaved off of shifts.

The money adds up.

The eight-hour day movement demanded fewer working hours, but post-2008, workers were often fighting to get more. Involuntary part-time employment, when workers can only find part-time jobs but would prefer full-time, spiked in the recession years (from 644,000 in 2006 to 1.5 million in 2010), and retail workers made up 18 percent of those who were involuntarily working part-time jobs. Fifty-eight percent of those making up the involuntary part-time retail workforce in 2015 were women. That means there are a whole lot of adults who would like to have a full-time, steady job with a schedule they can rely on and a paycheck that can feed their families, but who instead are making do on eight or nine dollars an hour, twenty hours a week. That doesn't add up to a living.

The slack for all these low wages and insufficient hours is being picked up by all of us in the form of government programs that provide food assistance, health care, housing, tax credits, and more. A 2013 congressional study estimated that Walmart alone costs taxpayers between $3,015 and $5,815 per worker. That's money that we should understand as a subsidy to Walmart, not to the workers -- it allows Walmart to save billions in wages and benefits by pushing those costs onto the rest of us. And those Walmart and McDonald's workers are taxpayers, too.

Bene't Holmes, a twenty-five-year-old single mother, told me, "Recently I was forced to apply for food stamps just so my son and I don't starve. Walmart is the country's biggest beneficiary of food stamp dollars, and many of those dollars are coming from its own workers, like me." She was right -- some $13.5 billion every year in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funds are spent at Walmart. After Bill Clinton, from Walmart's home state of Arkansas, signed welfare reform into law, most welfare benefits for mothers like Holmes became short-term, yet Walmart continued to pocket welfare dollars, without a deadline.

Retail and the restaurant sector both have "upscale" and "downscale" markets, and while "upscale" dining or shopping doesn't guarantee the workers are getting a bigger cut of the cash, it is certainly true that Walmart and fast-food restaurants cater to people at the lower end of the income scale. It is this argument that is used to claim that raising wages is impossible because it will drive up prices, even though profits at large chains have returned to prerecession levels and executives and shareholders continue to be compensated handsomely. But the service economy is no more required to be filled with low-wage, unstable jobs than the manufacturing sector was before it. It was shaped this way through particular historical and political circumstances.

Copyright (2016), Sarah Jaffe. Not to be reposted without permission of Nation Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Opinion Thu, 25 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
iPhone or iExploit? Rampant Labor Violations in Apple's Supply Chain

Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, presents the new iPhone 5S at an event in Cupertino, California, on September 10, 2013. (Jim Wilson / The New York Times)Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, presents the new iPhone 5S at an event in Cupertino, California, on September 10, 2013. (Photo: Jim Wilson / The New York Times)

With heightened anticipation of an iPhone7 this September, it's worth noting that the conditions of workers in Apple's Chinese supply chain have not improved these last 14 years. A new report by China Labor Watch shows that the same legal and ethical violations continue.

Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, presents the new iPhone 5S at an event in Cupertino, California, on September 10, 2013. (Jim Wilson / The New York Times)Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, presents the new iPhone 5S at an event in Cupertino, California, on September 10, 2013. (Photo: Jim Wilson / The New York Times)

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Right now hundreds of thousands of young Chinese workers are laboring on iPhone 7 production lines. With these products set to launch in September, the final assembly is happening in a series of Foxconn and Pegatron factories across the country.

Foxconn is likely a familiar name to readers, as it became the focal point of international media attention in 2012 after widespread legal and ethical labor violations were revealed by This American Life and The New York Times. Pegatron, however, has received scant media attention, despite its growing role in Apple's supply chain over the last four years. Unfortunately, the terrible conditions in which 100,000 young Chinese workers labor and live at Pegatron's Shanghai factory are painfully familiar.

A new report published August 24 by China Labor Watch (CLW) demonstrates that the same legal and ethical violations that attracted media attention in 2012 continue unabated at Apple supplier factories today. In the case of Pegatron, CLW reports that conditions have actually worsened since 2015, despite years of audits commissioned by Apple, a membership in the Fair Labor Association, and promises from the company that it is committed to ensuring the safety and dignity of those who make its lucrative products.

CLW, a nonprofit organization dedicated to exposing labor rights violations in the Chinese factories that produce for global brands, revealed this through a study of workers' pay stubs and interviews with workers at Pegatron Shanghai. The study found that workers continue to be forced to endure extreme overtime hours, working as many as 109 hours per month beyond their regularly scheduled workdays -- three times the legal limit in China.

CLW found that the vast majority of workers within the maintenance department recorded more than 82 overtime hours in March 2016, while all 382 pay stubs examined from this department showed overtime hours in excess of the 36-hour-per-month legal limit for overtime. Included among these workers are student "interns" who are not legally allowed to work overtime, yet were found to log up to 80 hours of overtime per month.

When questioned about these practices, executives at Pegatron and Foxconn state that overtime within their facilities is optional. However, CLW's research shows that high production quotas imposed by Apple, low base wages imposed by the factory, and harsh management techniques and denial of requests for time off combine to remove workers' choice in the matter.

CLW's investigation revealed that the base wage offered to workers by Pegatron, after deductions, is equivalent to just $213 per month, which is $117 less than the legal minimum wage in Shanghai. Even with all of the overtime hours, workers still earn $300 below the average monthly wage for the region.

These figures represent a decline in wages for Pegatron workers from 2015 to 2016, because the factory management made up for a government-mandated minimum wage increase by cutting welfare payments and forcing workers to contribute monthly earnings to the social insurance benefit that was previously paid by the company. So, though wages were legally raised from $1.85 per hour in 2015 to $2.00 per hour in 2016, workers' real hourly earnings after deductions were just $1.60 per hour.

Other legal and ethical violations documented by CLW include daily unpaid labor of more than one hour, cramped and unsanitary living conditions in factory dormitories, and the failure to provide necessary protective equipment, which puts the health and safety of workers at risk.

A 14-Year History of Ignoring Serious Labor Violations

Legal and ethical violations like these at Apple suppliers should ring familiar. You've read about them before, here and in other media outlets. What you might not realize is that they are happening a full decade after they were first brought to Apple's attention.

On August 18, 2006, Britain's The Mail on Sunday published a scathing report on conditions at Chinese factories where Apple's iPod line was then in production. Investigative reporters found that workers were living 100-to-a-room at Foxconn's Longhua facility in Shenzhen, then dubbed "iPod City," and that they labored as much as 15 hours per day for very low wages. They found similar conditions at an Asustek facility in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, which produced the iPod Shuffle. Laboring up to 12 hours per day, workers lost half their wages to the factory-imposed cost of accommodations and food.

These legal and ethical violations in Apple's supply chain actually date even further back. In a report published in September 2005, SOMO, a Dutch nonprofit group that researches the practices of global corporations, documented trouble at Apple laptop suppliers Quanta Shanghai and Elite Computer Systems, located in Shenzhen. SOMO's investigation documented excessively long work hours, insufficient wages, failure to protect the health and safety of workers, intimidation and humiliation of workers by management and an absence of grievance channels through which workers could safely raise workplace issues.

Since then, my own analysis of available data on labor incidents shows that the same types of violations -- and others, including injuries and medical problems, worker exhaustion and emotional distress, the use of dispatch labor, and interference with third-party audits -- have recurred year after year at Apple suppliers across China. Using all known reports by nonprofits and scholars who have documented labor conditions in Chinese Apple suppliers, including CLW, Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior, the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs, SOMO, Good Electronics and a few others, I found that these violations, which occurred at 36 unique supplier factories over a period of 14 years, continue through the present.

In its annual supplier responsibility reports, Apple repeatedly claims that it works with troubled suppliers to improve workplace and dormitory conditions, and that it removes those who fail to improve from its supply chain. However, year-over-year repeat violations were found at 17 supplier sites owned by 10 companies with which Apple has contracted. Most recently, repeat violations have been documented at Pegatron-owned facilities from 2012 through the present, as well as at numerous Foxconn facilities through 2015.

In total, my study identified 76 unique cases, one for each year that legal and ethical violations were documented at any given factory. Over 14 years, the most common and consistent legal violations were overworking of employees and failure to protect worker health and safety -- each present in more than three-quarters of all cases. Further, I found other serious violations in half or more cases, including harsh management tactics involving intimidation and humiliation of workers, insufficiently low wages, workplace injuries or medical problems stemming from an unsafe workplace, unpaid wages, severe and chronic exhaustion often coupled with emotional distress, and the lack of a union or other body to represent and protect the interests of workers.


In addition, I found that in more than a third of the cases, workers reported that the factory had ineffective or nonexistent grievance channels through which to express complaints. In more than a quarter cases, workers suffered in poor living conditions. Also in more than a quarter cases, suppliers relied on "dispatch workers" who are economically exploited by both the factory and the employment agency that supplies them, and on student "interns" who are forced to work for low wages by their schools and local governments. These "interns" work as much as 80 overtime hours per month even though Chinese labor law prohibits overtime among student workers. Interference with third-party audits, through falsifying overtime documents or intimidating workers against speaking with auditors, was also common -- I found it in 12 percent of the cases I examined.

These data show unequivocally that Apple is not effectively holding suppliers accountable for violations that breach Chinese law and the company's Supplier Code of Conduct. Today, the same violations can be found at Apple suppliers as were present 14 years ago, calling into question the efficacy of the industry-wide practice of auditing.

What's more, CLW's Li Qiang asserts that Apple is actively "obstructing" positive change in the industry by squeezing suppliers to miniscule profit margins while simultaneously imposing production quotas that require round-the-clock factory operation. Due to Apple's role as the smartphone sector's profit-leader, Qiang believes that little will change in the industry until Apple changes its practices.

News Thu, 25 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Family of Slain US Journalist Hopes for Hearing in Syrian Civil Suit

The danger level for journalists in hot spots continues to rise worldwide.  Colvin et al v. Syrian Arab Republic, the lawsuit against Bashar al-Assad, is a small step toward ending the trend of killing journalists with impunity.

Rosemarie Colvin, the mother of Marie Colvin, an American reporter working for The Sunday Times of London, holds Marie's high school yearbook as she speaks with family at her home in Long Island, New York, February 22, 2102. (Uli Seit / The New York Times)Rosemarie Colvin, the mother of Marie Colvin, an American reporter working for The Sunday Times of London, holds Marie's high school yearbook as she speaks with family at her home in Long Island, New York, February 22, 2102. (Photo: Uli Seit / The New York Times)

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When journalist Marie Colvin was shelled to her death in 2012, ostensibly by Bashar al-Assad's government forces, there was little sign that her killers -- or those who killed hundreds of her fellow journalists -- would face any court of justice. In fact, over the course of the past decades, the vast majority of killers of journalists have gone unpunished, with rarely a killer or torturer being brought to justice, leaving dishonored the international laws that protect journalists as civilians and grant the rest of the global community the right to information. In fact, since the United Nations passed Resolution 2222 to affirm journalists' civilian status and the importance of free media, roughly 50 journalists have been killed. But laws and resolutions are not really meaningful without enforcement mechanisms. No enforcement generally means those laws can go ignored with no consequence.

This is what is heartening about the lawsuit filed against the Syrian government by the family of Colvin for her extrajudicial killing. Colvin was a deeply committed journalist who worked tirelessly to expose war crimes and other truths that otherwise would remain hidden from the public. She was among a core group of dedicated journalists on whom we rely to tell us the facts when war-makers and others refuse to give that information to us. And these journalists do so, often at risk to life, liberty and limb.

During the first war in Iraq, Colvin and then BBC journalist Allan Little sought to set the record straight when neither the Iraq government nor the Allied forces would speak honestly, according to Little. The two journalists physically traveled to a bombsite and counted the bodies one-by-one -- the numbers exceeded 350 dead.

"Let that be the end of the dispute," Little told me in our interview for Reporting From the Danger Zone: Frontline Journalists, Their Jobs and an Increasingly Perilous Future, my most recent book. It's just one tiny example of what Colvin and her colleagues do in the effort to set the historical record straight. Without this kind of work by ethical journalists worldwide, no one may ever know these types of important bits of information that governments and rebel groups would like to keep buried in some cases, and exaggerated in others.

Enabled by a 2008 law that waives immunity for states deemed as terrorists, the case, Colvin et al v. Syrian Arab Republic, will test the boundaries and potential remedies of these laws in US civil courts. These remedies could offer one venue for the aggrieved families to press their cases and will hopefully show that the killing of journalists does not go without any consequence. In the process, perhaps it will inch the needle toward justice in protecting our messengers, without whom we would be left with nothing but spin from war-makers on each side of a conflict.

The complaint filed by the Center for Justice and Accountability claims that Assad's forces deliberately targeted Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik, as a means to silence media coverage. Shrapnel struck a local translator, Wael al-Omar, and two other journalists, Paul Conroy and Edith Bouvier, who sustained serious injuries from the attack. The attack destroyed the Baba Amr Media Center, which was established by local Syrian citizen journalists, including Khaled Abu Salah, according to documents filed in court.

Civil lawsuits have been used to seek recourse for bad behavior and faulty products that caused damage. With large-dollar verdicts and public airing of facts, the actions have become one means of restitution for the aggrieved, often when either the government is the guilty party or when its other branches are incapable or unwilling to address the injustices caused by another entity. Civil rights lawyers believe the threat of large-scale fines and public shaming deters bad behavior by governments and corporations.

It remains to be seen if Colvin's family members will have their day in court and if they will see Assad on the witness stand or even take his deposition. It isn't enough to leave the matter of journalists' lives to private rights of action in the civil courts. But should the case proceed and act as a warning for others who target journalists, it is a step in the right direction.

News Thu, 25 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Day After Obama Tours Louisiana Flood Damage, Government Holds Massive Gulf Oil and Gas Lease Auction

On Tuesday, President Obama visited Louisiana for the first time since the devastating floods that killed 13 people and damaged 60,000 homes. The Red Cross has called it the worst natural disaster in the United States since Hurricane Sandy. While many climate scientists have tied the historic floods in Louisiana to climate change, President Obama made no link during his remarks. However, on Tuesday, four environmental activists were arrested in New Orleans protesting the Interior Department's decision to go ahead with a lease sale of up to 24 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas exploration and development. The sale is being held today in the Superdome -- the very building where thousands of displaced residents of New Orleans sought refuge during Hurricane Katrina 11 years ago. We speak to Antonia Juhasz, an oil and energy analyst, author of Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill. She joins us from San Francisco.


AMY GOODMAN: On Tuesday, President Obama visited Louisiana for the first time since the devastating floods that killed 13 people and damaged 60,000 homes. The Red Cross has called it the worst natural disaster in the United States since Hurricane Sandy. It also marked Louisiana's worst flooding since Hurricane Katrina. Some neighborhoods still have up to two feet of standing water left. President Obama spoke in Baton Rouge.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I just had a chance to see some of the damage from the historic floods here in Louisiana. I come here, first and foremost, to say that the prayers of the entire nation are with everybody who lost loved ones. We are heartbroken by the loss of life. There are also people who are still desperately trying to track down friends and family. We're going to keep on helping them every way that we can. As I think anybody who can see just the streets, much less the inside of the homes here, people's lives have been upended by this flood.

AMY GOODMAN: While many climate scientists have tied the historic floods in Louisiana to climate change, President Obama made no link during his remarks. But while Obama was speaking in Baton Rouge, four environmental activists were arrested in New Orleans while occupying the headquarters of the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management headquarters. They were protesting the Interior Department's decision to go ahead with a lease sale of up to 24 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas exploration and development. The sale is being held in the Superdome -- the very building where thousands of displaced residents of New Orleans sought refuge during Hurricane Katrina 11 years ago. One of the four arrested Tuesday was John Clark, a professor at Loyola University.

JOHN CLARK: You know, in a sense, I'm doing this for my ancestors, my children, my grandchildren, and that in my lifetime I've watched an area of the coastline the size of the state of Delaware disappear, and that it's very painful to me to think about the fact that my grandchildren and their children will not even be able to live here in the future, because we're going to lose southeast Louisiana.

AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about the flooding of Baton Rouge and today's oil and gas lease sale at the Superdome, we're joined by Antonia Juhasz, an oil and energy analyst, author of Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Antonia. Talk about the connections we're seeing today, from the protest in New Orleans to the flooding of Baton Rouge.

ANTONIA JUHASZ: Good morning, and thanks for having me, Amy. So, you know, just the timing of all of these events couldn't be more devastating, really. So, you have this historic flood. You have the president there to offer assistance from FEMAand to, you know, hopefully try and assist those on the ground, while at the same time the Interior Department is continuing the problems that help excel this storm in the first place, help make it more ferocious, help make these storms more frequent. And that, of course, is the burning of fossil fuels, leading to climate change.

President Obama has been very outspoken and, in some cases, aggressive in the needs to tackle climate change, at the same time as expanding offshore oil drilling, expanding the production of oil and gas to new record heights across the United States, but, in particular, right now, most relevant to look at the expansion in the Gulf of Mexico. So, the sale taking place in about two hours at the Superdome for 24 million new acres in the Gulf of Mexico, this sale will complete, if all the leases are sold, all unsold leases in the western part of the Gulf. So that's basically federal waters offshore of Texas. And these include some ultra, ultra-deepwater leases, so leases that would be at twice the depth of that which BP was drilling when the Deepwater Horizon disaster happened. It's 4,400 blocks. It's a big sale, a sizable sale. And there have been --

AMY GOODMAN: And for one second, for those who don't remember, when you talk about the BP Deepwater Horizon, talk about how many people died and how extensive the pollution and the damage was.

ANTONIA JUHASZ: Well, that would take many hours, because, of course, it was one of the most -- the largest offshore drilling oil spill in history. This was April 2010. Five million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, released over a three-month period of time, extensive damage, which I've witnessed firsthand from the -- in a submarine, at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, to the shores, to the air, to the animals, to the people. And the devastation continues.

One of the outcomes of this oil spill was, obviously, a tremendous amount of oil within the Gulf, and it's estimated that 33 -- that 30 million gallons of oil remain in the Gulf ecosystem to this day of oil spilled from the BP disaster, April 2010. But that oil has had all kinds -- has caused all kinds of problems. One of the problems that it contributed to was the destruction of marsh and the further erosion of the Gulf shore. Now, that destruction of the marshland is a continuation of harm caused by the oil and gas industry over decades that has contributed to coastal erosion, the elimination of marshes, the elimination of wetlands in Louisiana, which makes storms much more ferocious, because those wetlands, those marshes, should be there to suck in the water, as natural sponges, if you will, when water floods onto land. Without that marsh, that was eaten away by oil, without that coastline, that was eaten away by salt, that was allowed to incur on the coastline because of canals built for pipelines and other oil and gas infrastructure, the coast isn't there, and the floods just come in and decimate communities, which we're seeing more and more of.

In addition, there is, of course, the ongoing economic harm that's suffered by fisherfolk and people who -- oil workers, people who live off of the Gulf of Mexico that were harmed by this oil spill. And that, of course, makes dealing with catastrophes even more difficult, because they don't have the economic backpinnings to deal with this type of catastrophe. And a lot of people, frankly, whose lives were upended because they've spent the last six years now organizing to try and stop offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and their lives are focused on doing that, and then they're hit by these storms, and then, now, that makes it even more difficult to do that type of organizing. So the chain events sort of roll on and on.

And one of the biggest problems is that we haven't -- well, while the lessons have been learned from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster -- meaning numerous studies, incredible analysis -- the policies that are the -- that should be the expected outcome of those lessons have not been implemented. So, the Chemical Safety Board, the most important independent investigative body looking at disasters like these, in its most comprehensive analysis of the disaster, said, you know, basically, the chance of another Deepwater Horizon-like disaster is still very likely, and the lessons have not been learned. And a regulatory environment that invites companies to essentially say they can do the right thing, but not have to prove that they can do it, still perpetuates offshore oil drilling in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: In March, hundreds of protesters disrupted another government auction of oil and gas drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico. The government was attempting to auction off 43 million acres of offshore drilling rights at an event also held at the Superdome, like today's, in New Orleans. Cherri Foytlin of Idle No More–Gulf Coast spoke out during the protest.

CHERRI FOYTLIN: I'm standing here with 200 brave souls that are saying no, no to the fossil fuel industry, and yes to a just transition for all of our people. Whoo! We came -- we marched up here, maybe 500, maybe a thousand people -- I don't know. But it's the most amazing thing to see all these people stand together with self-determination and say it's time for a new day in the Gulf of Mexico. It's over. The fossil fuel industry, you're on your way out. Make yourself a bed. You're done. It's over. Bye-bye.

AMY GOODMAN: So, there you have Cherri Foytlin of Idle No More–Gulf Coast saying it's over. But is it over, Antonia? And what's the difference between that public auction and what's happening today?

ANTONIA JUHASZ: Yeah, so, I was there. That was quite a historic event. You know, really, public organizing against offshore oil drilling is something that is fairly brand new in this size and scale in the Gulf of Mexico. And it's really been a process over decades of Gulf Coast communities experiencing the harms of the industries, the up-and-downs of the markets for oil workers, as well. And then, of course, the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon disaster have led to this evolution of increased opposition to drilling among Gulf Coast communities. And that protest in the Gulf at the Superdome in March against the last -- the previous lease sale was really historic and nearly shut down the sale.

So, in response, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which is part of the Interior Department, for this sale taking place this morning, for the first time closed the sale to the public. So, the Superdome, which is this enormous facility, is going to have a room with, you know, 50 oil company representatives and 10 oil companies and maybe 20 journalists sitting in a room, and it will be closed to public participation, because they don't want to see this type of public opposition to the lease sale that they saw in March. It will be viewable online, so people can watch it online if they want, but that means all you can do is, you know, watch what unfolds, not try to participate in the process.

And the protest that you mentioned at the opening, at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's office in New Orleans, the like 15 or so Gulf residents and others who showed up to deliver 180,000 signatures on a petition calling for this lease sale today to be canceled, as you said, four of them were arrested because they said they wouldn't leave until the lease sale was canceled. They were hoping that the Obama administration would start doing in the Gulf Coast what it has done in the Atlantic, which, in its new proposal for the next five years -- it's finalizing a new proposal for offshore oil drilling -- new drilling in the Atlantic was taken off the table in that proposal, but offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico was expanded. And what the Gulf residents are saying is "We no longer want to be the sacrifice zone for the United States. If it's good enough for the Atlantic, it's good enough for us." And they were hoping that this lease sale would be canceled, and, if not canceled, I would imagine, hoping to have the opportunity to be there and be present and show their opposition. And that is not going to be able to be the case.

AMY GOODMAN: Antonia Juhasz, we want to thank you for being with us, oil and energy analyst, author of Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we look at two stunning new reports on climate change. One about, well, will the Olympic Summer Games be able to be held in the coming decades, because it's simply too hot? And another about the cost to the millennial generation nearing $9 trillion, the cost of climate change. Stay with us.

News Wed, 24 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Embracing the Alt-Right: New Trump Campaign Chief "Created an Online Haven for White Nationalists"

Last week, Donald Trump once again upended his campaign team and named Stephen Bannon, the head of Breitbart Media, to be his campaign chief. Breitbart regularly sparks controversy with headlines such as "Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy," "Trannies Whine About Hilarious Bruce Jenner Billboard" and "Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew." In a new article published by Mother Jones, investigative journalist Sarah Posner writes, "By bringing on Stephen Bannon, Trump was signaling a wholehearted embrace of the 'alt-right,' a once-motley assemblage of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, ethno-nationalistic provocateurs who have coalesced behind Trump and curried the GOP nominee's favor on social media." For more, we speak to Sarah Posner and Heather McGhee of Demos.


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, as we turn to look at "How Donald Trump's New Campaign Chief Created an Online Haven for White Nationalists." That's actually the headline of a new article in Mother Jones by investigative journalist Sarah Posner, who has closely followed right-wing movements for years. The piece looks at Trump's new campaign chief, Stephen Bannon, who until last week headed the right-wing website Breitbart Media.

In her piece, Sarah Posner writes, quote, "By bringing on Stephen Bannon, Trump was signaling a wholehearted embrace of the 'alt-right,' a once-motley assemblage of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, ethno-nationalistic provocateurs who have coalesced behind Trump and curried the GOP nominee's favor on social media," unquote.

Breitbart regularly sparks controversy with headlines such as "Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy" or "Trannies Whine About Hilarious Bruce Jenner Billboard" and "Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew."

Criticism of Breitbart Media has grown over the past year. Southern Poverty Law Center recently said, quote, "Over the past year however, the outlet has undergone a noticeable shift toward embracing ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right. Racist ideas. Anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideas -- all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the 'Alt-Right.'"

Even former Breitbart employees have spoken out. The site's former editor-in-chief, Ben Shapiro, recently wrote, quote, "Breitbart has become the alt-right go-to website, with [Milo] Yiannopoulos pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers."

Well, to talk more about Breitbart, Stephen Bannon and the Trump campaign, we're joined by Sarah Posner, and still with us is Heather McGhee of Demos.

Sarah, welcome to Democracy Now! Why don't you start off and talk about what you found?

SARAH POSNER: Well, I was covering alt-right activities at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last month. And that's where I encountered a couple of times Milo Yiannopoulos, who is the site's technology editor and the principal link between Breitbart and activists on the alt-right, activists that Yiannopoulos has explicitly embraced. And I also met and talked to Stephen Bannon, who was, at the time, the head of Breitbart and is now the CEO of Trump's campaign.

And in our interview, Bannon told me that Breitbart is the platform for the alt-right, but he denied that the alt-right is an inherently racist or anti-Semitic movement that embraces white nationalism. He said that Breitbart is a nationalistic site; he denied that it's a white nationalistic site. And he said that while there are elements of anti-Semitism or some people who might be racist in the alt-right, as a whole, the movement is not a racist or anti-Semitic movement.

Now, I asked him specifically about Ben Shapiro, who you discussed, who previously was an editor at Breitbart, who's emerged as one of the site's leading critics and who has been attacked on social media by anti-Semites tweeting -- you know, just tweeting like horrible things at him and saying things about him and his family. And I asked Bannon about that hate that's been directed at his former employee. And he dismissed it, calling Shapiro a whiner.

AMY GOODMAN: And explain more the term "alt-right."

SARAH POSNER: Well, as much as Bannon wanted to claim Breitbart as the platform for the alt-right, the alt-right existed before Bannon took over Breitbart, when Andrew Breitbart, the site's founder, died suddenly in 2012. The alt-right has been around before that. The "alt-right" term was coined by Richard Spencer, who is a white nationalist writer and activist who positions the alt-right as a dissident movement that's dissatisfied with conservatism, which they portray -- a term that you'll often see people on the alt-right using for a conservative, for a movement conservative, is "cuckservative." It's a disparaging term combining the word "cuckold" and the word "conservative." And that is how they portray movement conservatives.

And this is why they've been cheered by Trump's candidacy, because they see him as a candidate who's abandoned the traditional GOP, who scoffs at movement conservatism and, in fact, embraces their issues, is willing to talk about building a wall, who's willing to talk about race in the way that Trump talks about race, who's willing to break with GOP orthodoxy on trade deals. These are all things that have led the alt-right into the Trump camp. And a lot of it has to do with the ways in which he has rejected GOP and movement conservatism orthodoxy.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to Donald Trump speaking in Dimondale, Michigan, a largely white suburb of Lansing.

DONALD TRUMP: African-American communities have suffered under Democratic control. To those, I say the following: What do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump? What do you have to lose?

AMY GOODMAN: Donald Trump has been addressing the African-American community from the largely white, overwhelmingly white, community he was in there in Michigan and, before that, when he spoke in West Bend, overwhelmingly white community, a suburb of Milwaukee. Heather McGhee, that question, "What do you have to lose?"

HEATHER McGHEE: You know, we've been clear, I think, many of us in the African-American community, that Donald Trump was going to make an appeal to the black vote. He was very quick to attack Mexicans, Latinos, immigrants, very quick to attack Muslim Americans, but actually has been somewhat more reticent. And we have all been sort of anticipating this moment when he would try to divide and conquer among people of color, and say to working-class black men, particularly, that immigrants are coming to take their jobs.

You have to remember that Donald Trump -- speaking of the alt-right, Donald Trump was the loudest and, as he has in many -- with many racist ideas, the most effective mainstreamer of the idea that the first African-American president was not actually born here, is not a U.S. citizen, and therefore not a legitimate president. That's not something that the black community forgets. We also --

AMY GOODMAN: That Donald Trump was a leader of the birther movement --


AMY GOODMAN:  -- going back years challenging Obama.

HEATHER McGHEE: Yes. We also don't forget that the way that he sort of burst onto the scene in New York was as a slumlord who was forced to settle massive discrimination claims against African-American tenants. So, Donald Trump has very little support in the African-American community. Some polls say it's 1 percent, some polls say it's zero. And they understand what he is doing. Even more importantly than what Donald Trump is, it's what he is doing to reinvigorate white supremacy in this country. Even if Donald Trump is defeated on Election Day -- which I don't think is a given, right? Polls do not vote. We do not actually have Election Day by random dialing surveys. People do have to actually come out and vote, which is not necessarily a given right now. Even if he's defeated, the unmasking of American racism, the mainstreaming of these ideas, is going to be with us the day after Election Day. The African-American community is very aware of that.

AMY GOODMAN: Even Indiana governor, the vice-presidential running mate of Donald Trump, is aware of this. He was being questioned on Fox by the Fox News host Ainsley Earhardt about Donald Trump's claim that he could get to something like 95 percent of the African-American vote by 2020.

AINSLEY EARHARDT: Donald Trump is telling the African-American community, "I am the guy for you," and he says, by 2020, he's going to have 95 percent of the African-American support.

GOV. MIKE PENCE: [laughter]

AINSLEY EARHARDT: Why are you laughing?

GOV. MIKE PENCE: Well, that's Donald Trump.

AMY GOODMAN: So, there is Governor Pence just laughing. So, talk more, Sarah Posner, expanding on what Heather McGhee has said, about what Donald Trump has -- is doing with this alt-right.

SARAH POSNER: I think, on the one hand, he's embraced the alt-right, either explicitly -- by hiring Bannon, obviously -- but also implicitly. There's a lot of wink-wink at the alt-right, particularly in the way that Trump uses his Twitter account and some of his surrogates use their Twitter account. But I think, at the same time, he's trying -- and I think that this is completely going to be completely transparent to the African-American community and to African-American voters -- he's trying to pretend that he's got a strategy for reaching out to black voters and that he's -- and that he has a prayer of reaching out to black voters. So --

AMY GOODMAN: Let me interrupt and ask you something. Some are saying that this whole presidential election that he is involved with is actually a strategy for developing Trump TV, that he is consolidating a media leadership here with Bannon, with Roger Ailes, who is now forced out because of sexual harassment allegations by more than 20 women from Fox and now is reportedly advising Donald Trump. How significant is this possibility?

SARAH POSNER: Well, I'll just caveat my answer by saying I haven't done any independent reporting on the prospects of this media outlet. But if this is something that Trump does in fact have in mind, you know, the fact that he's asking Roger Ailes for advice, and was asking Roger Ailes -- he was in regular contact with Roger Ailes even before Ailes was forced out of Fox over the sexual harassment lawsuit -- and the fact that he's hired Bannon, and combine that with how, throughout his campaign, Trump has been so disparaging of the mainstream media, the way he calls out individual reporters at his campaign events, calls on his rally attenders to turn around and scoff at and disparage the media that's covering the rally from a press pen, all of this points to -- and also that he -- how he talks about the unfairness of the way the media covers him, and almost setting the stage for blaming the media if he loses. So, if you put all of this together, regardless of what Trump actually does organizationally in terms of creating a media outlet after the -- if he were to lose the presidency, after the campaign, it seems pretty evident that there's a lot of sowing of discontent about the mainstream media, and a bolstering of these alternative media sites that have been supportive of Trump and supportive of the alt-right.

AMY GOODMAN: We're going to have to leave it there. Sarah Posner, most recent piece, we'll link to, "How Donald Trump's New Campaign Chief Created an Online Haven for White Nationalists," and Heather McGhee, president of Demos, thanks so much.

News Wed, 24 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400