New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


Two-Tiered Work

January 16, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Diane Lefer, Economy

What Happens in Bogotá Doesn’t Stay in Bogotá

by Diane Lefer

Jorge Parra is speaking out — even though his lips are sewn shut.

Parra was a skilled trades welder when he went to work for General Motors Colombian subsidiary Colmotores. There, he developed herniated discs, severe carpal tunnel in both hands, and upper spinal tendinosis.

In a translated written statement, he explained, “I underwent three surgeries and now walk with a cane due to the injuries I sustained at GM. When I first started feeling pain in my lower back and legs … I went to GM’s medical center. They gave me injections of Oxycontin and Diclofenac and sent me back to work.” (more…)

Twilight of Twinkie Capitalism

January 04, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Devon G. Pena, Ecology, Economy

Transforming the Food System and Honoring Workers’ Demands

by Devon G. Peña

The Twinkie® I will admit is one of those quintessentially ‘American’ foods that I did not get to eat as a child. We never bought junk food in our home and so I was in college before I tasted something that my peers swore was a classic guilty pleasure. I was not impressed when I finally ate one, but then again I grew up savoring pan dulce, including the inimitable pan de semita, from La Superior Bakery in Laredo, Texas. To me, the Twinkie tasted like Elmer’s Glue with sugar encased in a squishy sponge or pound cake. It was too chalky and gooey all at once. Hmm. Must have missed out on the Leave it to Beaver upbringing required, I imagine, to love a quasi-food like that.

[I use the term quasi-food here to refer to what is typically called “processed food.” My choice is based on recognition of the fact that many wholesome and organic foods are processed and so I feel that is an inadequate and misleading concept. For e.g., to produce our farm’s chicos del horno (adobe-oven roasted white flint corn) requires that we process organic heirloom white flint corn in a labor-intensive artisanal practice involving no less than 19 distinct steps. Quasi-food implies that the food is processed through various steps before consumption but also that it incorporates numerous non-food chemicals and additives, thus rendering the product more of an industrial quasi-food item rather than a processed food.] (more…)

Economic Indifference

December 04, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Economy, Robert C. Koehler

On Brand Names and Mass Graves…

by Robert C. Koehler

Cheap clothes! Their cost, as it turns out, is beyond calculation.

“Babul Mia said he identified his wife Mariam Begum, 25, who was apparently burnt beyond recognition, but he could identify her bangles and her small teeth,” reported Bangladesh’s main English-language newspaper, The Daily Star.

“Zahera Begum, who worked on the fifth floor of Tazreen Fashions, too, was identified by her husband Iqramul from her nose ring, bangles and necklace.”

So a fire swept through a sweatshop in Bangladesh on Nov. 24, killing at least 112 people, nearly half of whom were unidentifiable and buried in a mass grave. (more…)

Memorial Day Redux

May 01, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Diane Lefer, Economy, Family, Politics

Working Smarter to Save Workers’ Lives

by Diane Lefer

According to US Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, more people die in the American workplace in a single year than have been lost in nine years of war in Iraq. “Each day in America, twelve people go to work and never go home,” she told the audience at the Action Summit for Worker Safety and Health held at East Los Angeles Community College on April 26, one of many events leading up to Workers Memorial Day, April 28, an annual date of remembrance for those killed, injured, or sickened on the job.

María Elena Durazo, Executive-Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, reported there were 500 work-related deaths in 2011 in California and “Workers are still being fired for speaking out in order to avoid death.”

This loss of life and countless serious injuries, continue to occur although the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), intended to protect workers, was signed by Richard Nixon 41 years ago. (more…)

Martyrs for Justice

April 27, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Jerry Elmer, Politics

The Haymarket Affair and the Origins of May Day

by Jerry Elmer 

May 1st is May Day, the international workers’ holiday honoring the labor movement. May Day is celebrated in at least 80 countries worldwide, from Argentina to Vietnam, but not in the United States. Here, our “Labor Day” was carefully put into September – by President Grover Cleveland in 1894 – specifically so that we would not observe May Day, with all of its radical roots in syndicalist labor history. This is deeply ironic, for the event that gave rise to May Day observances the world over occurred right here in the United States: the bombing at Haymarket Square, Chicago, on May 4, 1886, during a labor rally.

The context for the Haymarket riot in 1886 was the movement for the eight-hour work day. The movement had started at least as early as 1877, when the Workingmen’s Party in Chicago called a general strike beginning July 25 in support of the eight-hour movement. The next day, on July 26, 1877, thousands of strikers were attacked and beaten into submission by police and U.S. Army infantrymen with fixed bayonets. Thirty strikers, including a number of children, were murdered by the police and federal troops. During that strike, typesetter Albert Parsons, later one of the Haymarket martyrs, was fired from his job because of a speech he had given during the strike. The bloody suppression of the 1877 strike caused another of the Haymarket martyrs, upholsterer August Spies, to join an armed worker’s self-defense organization. (more…)

Restore the Middle Class

February 28, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Economy, Guest Author, Politics

Promoting Economic Security Beyond Jobs

by Peter Barnes

A cushion of reliable income is a wonderful thing. It can help pay for basic necessities. It can be saved for rainy days or used to pursue happiness on sunny days. It can encourage people to take entrepreneurial risks, care for friends, or volunteer for community service.

Conversely, the absence of reliable income is a terrible thing. It heightens anxiety and fear. It diminishes our ability to cope with crises and transitions. It traps many families on the knife’s edge of poverty, and makes it harder for poor people to rise.

There’s been much discussion of late about how to save America’s declining middle class. The answer politicians of both parties give is always the same: jobs, jobs, jobs. The parties differ on how the jobs will be created — Republicans say the market will do it if we cut taxes and regulation. Democrats say government can help by investing in infra¬structure and education. Either way, it still comes down to jobs with decent wages and benefits. (more…)

Remembering the Lawrence Strike

January 09, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Economy, Jerry Elmer, Politics

On the Centennial of a Nonviolent and Decisive Workers’ Victory

by Jerry Elmer

January 12, 2012 is the one hundredth anniversary of the commencement of one of the most important labor strikes in American history – the bloody 1912 Lawrence, Massachusetts, textile strike that lasted 63 days. The strike represented the organizing apogee of the radical, syndicalist Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, or Wobblies); the strike has also become associated (albeit erroneously) in popular lore with the slogan “Bread and Roses” (the phrase originated in a poem by James Oppenheim published in 1911, but was apparently never used by the Lawrence strikers in 1912).

On January 1, 1912, a new Massachusetts law had gone into effect that cut the maximum work week to 54 hours. Mill workers’ pay was given out on Fridays, not for the week just ended but for the previous week; thus, on Friday afternoon, January 12, 1912, workers received their pay for the work week of Monday, January 1 through Saturday, January 6. Workers found their pay to be an average of 32¢ short, representing the fewer hours that the mill workers had toiled. (more…)