Drinking Liberally — Seattle

DLBottlePlease join us this evening for a celebration of labor along with some political conversation over a pint at the Seattle Chapter of Drinking Liberally.

We meet tonight and every Tuesday evening at the Roanoke Park Place Tavern, 2409 10th Ave E, Seattle. The starting time is 8:00 pm, but some folks show up before that for dinner.

Can’t make it to Seattle? Perhaps you can check out another Washington State chapter of Drinking Liberally over the next week. The Tri-Cities chapter also meets this Tuesday. The Lakewood chapter meets this Wednesday. And on Thursday, the Tacoma chapter meets. Finally, the Enumclaw chapter meets on Friday.

With 203 chapters of Living Liberally, including eighteen in Washington state, three in Oregon and three in Idaho, chances are excellent there’s a chapter meeting somewhere near you.

Florida Man Removed from City Commission Meeting for Refusing to Stand During Prayer

A great example of why church and state should always remain absolutely separate:

The mayor of Winter Garden, Fla. on Thursday had a man removed from a City Commission meeting after he refused to stand during an opening prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance.

As an atheist, I absolutely dread those stand and pray-or-pledge moments. And while I like to tell myself that I now stand out of respect to others, the truth is, my obeisance comes as much from a fear of standing (well, sitting) out as it does the desire to politely observe a societal norm. I got my share of nasty stares and verbal attacks when I was younger and more defiant. It just didn’t seem worth it.

But I never recite the Pledge of Allegiance—the “under God” part just sticks in my craw. And ironically, were I an observant Jew, I’m not sure I could pledge my allegiance to a flag regardless, a notion that sure does seem to contravene the second commandment prohibition on bowing down to graven images, at least in spirit.

So while some might click through the link and come back to argue that the man was tossed out for refusing to stand for the pledge, not the prayer, I’d argue same difference. As long as “under God” is in there, the pledge is a prayer. And as such it can always be used as a tool for ostracizing, excluding, and bullying nonbelievers.

Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza!

ONN: The Onion Week in Review.

Jonathan Mann: Fuck Yes, I’m A Social Justice Warrior:

Presidential Fashion:

John Green: Understanding agriculture in the developing world.

Mark Fiore: Pentagon hymn, The Shores of Tripoli.

Ferguson Issues:

Ann Telnaes: An ice bucket challenge for the media.

Ed and Pap: Could Mitt possibly save the GOP?

Mental Floss: 25 famous people who were once interns.

Sam Seder: Obama’s ambitious new global climate push.

Turtle Soup:

Psychosupermom: Put the blame on me, Bob.

White House: West Wing Week.

Young Turks: Chris Christie is against voting unless you’re a Republican.

Gov. Oops:

Sam Seder: State senator pleads guilty to bribery—for switching his vote from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul.

Alex Wagner and Chris Cillizza: The role of Obamacare in the North Carolina’s Senate race.

Sharpton: Female voters Just Say No to Republican candidates.

Former Home of the Whopper:

Puppet Nation: Shrub returns Barry’s call.

Chris Hayes: Republicans threaten ANOTHER government shutdown

ONN: GOP maintains solid hold on youth that already look like old men.

Last week’s Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza can be found here.

My First Freelance Journalisty Thing Since Leaving The Stranger

When the editors at Yes! Magazine first asked me to write a piece on Seattle’s $15 minimum wage struggle, I initially joked that they’d have to change their name to No! Magazine, because, you know, I don’t have much of a portfolio writing upbeat, forward looking pieces on local politics. But in fact, if there’s ever a political story to instill optimism, it’s “$15 and Change: How Seattle Led the Country’s Wage Revolution…”

Shortly after 11 p.m. that night, May 29, 2013, Durocher walked off her $9.19 an hour job to become the first fast-food worker in Seattle to strike for a $15 an hour minimum wage. The next day, hundreds of Seattle fast-food workers and their supporters followed her lead, temporarily shutting down as many as 14 restaurants to chants of “Supersize our salaries now!”

It was an outrageously ambitious goal—a 64 percent pay hike to more than twice the federal $7.25 an hour minimum wage. Yet only one year and four days later, the Seattle City Council met their demands, unanimously approving the first $15 minimum wage in the nation. Seattle’s path to a $15 minimum wage is a winding tale of effective organizing, smart messaging, bold experimentation, opposition missteps, and blind dumb luck. It is also a roadmap for bypassing our nation’s partisan gridlock by rolling out a broader progressive agenda one city at a time.

You can read the whole thing in the latest issue of Yes! Magazine, available online and on newsstands now.

It’s maybe not the smoothest piece I’ve ever written, but that’s totally my fault—I turned in a kajillion more words than they asked for (I originally included a historical context that stretched all the way back to 1905, because I’m just like that), and so some of the narrative flow necessarily got lost in the editing. Still, I think I give a pretty good overview of how the fast food strikes, the SeaTac $15 minimum wage initiative, and Kshama Sawant’s unlikely victory all played off of and into each other to yield the larger victory, sowing the seeds for similar victories nationwide.

Give it a read and let me know what you think.

And if you’re wondering what else I’ve been doing to pay the bills since leaving The Stranger, well, I’ve got news to share soon on that front too, as well as what it might mean for the future of HA. Stay tuned.

Rebel SPD Officers: “We’re Shocked, Shocked to Find that Politics Is Going on in Here!”

From the Stating the Obvious Department:

In an open revolt, more than 100 Seattle police officers suing to block new use-of-force polices assert that high-level city, police and union officials privately agree with their contention that the court-ordered changes put them and the public in danger.

But the officers who filed the suit aren’t naming those high-level officials, saying only that the officials told them they won’t seek to alter the policies because of the “politics” of the situation and the “perceived inability” to fight federally mandated reforms, the officers allege in newly filed court papers.

“This means that the City is now knowingly and willingly playing politics with Plaintiffs’ lives and the lives of the law-abiding citizens of Seattle,” the officers wrote in a 34-page amended complaint filed late Wednesday with U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman.

While I don’t think the court will view this complaint with much credence (“Evidence of police injuries is mounting,” the complaint says, without providing a scrap of, you know, evidence), I think this “playing politics” charge does provide a window into a fundamental misconception underlying many police abuses: some officers seem to have forgotten who is actually in charge.

See, it’s our democratically elected civilian government that writes the rules, not the guys with the guns and the pepper spray and the scary demeanor. And politics is the process through which democratic governments craft and enact policy. So of course the City is playing politics with the use of force of guidelines. That’s how city governments work.

Is it the perfect method for crafting and enacting policy? No. The perfect method would be to appoint me benevolent dictator. But alas, in a democratic republic, we’ll just have to rely on politics to get public policy done as best we can.

Ironically, by filing this complaint and giving it to the press, the rebel SPD officers are playing politics too. Which is fine. But the fundamental assertion implicit in their complaint—that it is the officers who should write the use of force rules, not their civilian overseers—is downright disturbing:

In the complaint, the officers allege the use-of-force policies do not reflect the work of department members who were asked to develop them and instead were hijacked by Bobb and the Justice Department.

“Those personnel will testify that the UF policy they wrote was altered almost in its entirety and replaced with specific language provided, and required, by the Monitor,” the complaint says, referring to the overall use-of-force policy.

“This supports,” the officers wrote, the “contention that DOJ, in partnership with Mr. Bobb, intends to use consent decrees in Seattle, as well as other jurisdictions, to rewrite longstanding constitutional law and principles intended to protect officer safety, and eliminate reasonable police practices, with which they — from the comfort and safety of their desks and with no experience facing dangerous threats — disagree or find distasteful.”

This is were some police officers go wrong. It is the officer’s job to enforce the law, not write it. And if these rebel officers truly harbor such arrogant disrespect for civilian authority, then I’m not sure we should feel comfortable arming them to the teeth and trusting them to patrol our streets.

Too Bad There’s No Regulatory Authority to Protect UberX Drivers

I hate to say I told you so, but… no… wait… I actually kinda love saying I told you so:

Some UberX drivers in Seattle are no longer working for Uber as a way to protest how they’ve been treated by the transportation company.

About 100 drivers from a new group called Seattle Ride-Share Drivers Association gathered Wednesday to show their frustration with a recent price reduction Uber has implemented.

[...] The Seattle Ride-Share Drivers Association, which has 500 members, said Uber’s claim that its drivers are making more overall income is “unfounded.” It noted how some drivers, when expenses are accounted for, are actually now losing money when accepting a ride.

“No sensible person would stop working if he or she is making more money,” association board member Jamal Ahmed told GeekWire.

One of the more insulting and Orwellian attacks on me for advocating a more gradual and regulated entry of so-called “ride share” into Seattle’s taxi and for-hire market, was the charge that I was “anti-driver”—that I was shamelessly (and perhaps racistly) shilling for exploitive taxi owners at the expense of the city’s largely immigrant for-hire work force.

Well, you tell me: who is exploiting who?

Yes, under the old system we had a regulated monopoly with legal barriers to entry, but at least we had government regulators charged with looking out for the interests of drivers and consumers. But when Uber and Lyft are done with their creative destruction, there will be one, maybe two out-of-state for-profit monoliths dominating the market and dictating terms to drivers and customers alike.

Uber is going to have to do something to justify its $17 billion market capitalization. And as UberX drivers are beginning learn, that something will come at their expense.

Meanwhile, the lack of caps leaves aggrieved drivers nearly powerless to wage a meaningful protest. With over a thousand drivers in its system UberX apparently suffered no slow down in pick up  times due to the labor action. It’s like UberX has a virtual scab feature built right in. Hooray for progress!

 

Nobody Is Forced to Join a Union

So, I’m not going to link to them again (because why drive them traffic?), but the ironically named Freedom Foundation seems intent on drawing me into a pissing match. In their latest web video, their scruffy faced young spokesdude asks me (and you can tell he’s just an average Joe from his facial hair and his closet full of plaid shirts): “How does forcing someone to join a union spell freedom? Answer us that, Goldy.”

Well, as spokesdude very well knows, I can’t answer that. Because it’s a trick question. Nobody is ever forced to join a union.

Under federal law, the most a worker can be required to pay the union is an “agency fee” that covers the worker’s fair share of the cost of collective bargaining, contract administration, and the grievance process. No contract can require workers to join a union, or pay the fees that cover the union’s political activities. And yet nonmembers are still fully covered by the collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the union and the employer, receiving all of its benefits. Sweet!

What the Freedom Foundation is fighting for in its “right to work” initiatives is the freedom for nonmembers to get an entirely free ride: all of the benefits of the union contract, without paying any of the costs of negotiating or administering it. They are counting on narrow self-interest to drive individual workers to opt out of paying agency fees, bankrupting the union in the process. It is a calculated exercise in the tragedy of the commons.

So that’s the short answer to the specific question: nobody is forced to join a union.

As for scruffydude’s larger implication that being forced to pay one’s fair share of the cost of negotiating and administering a union contract is somehow a violation of one’s personal liberty, I guess the most direct response is: grow the fuck up!

I don’t get to opt out of paying for wars I oppose, or roads I don’t drive on, or a prison-industrial-complex predicated on the racist policy of jailing black men for petty crimes at much higher rates than we imprison whites. In addition, there are plenty of actual line items deducted from our paychecks to fund programs that, as individuals, we may or may not support; if you are a non-union-member employed in a unionized workplace, the agency fee may be one of them. So answer me this, spokesdude: How would paying an agency fee be any more a violation of your personal freedom than the portion of my paycheck funding Predator drone attacks and domestic NSA surveillance is a violation of mine?

Through our laws we make all sorts of collective decisions that inevitably run counter to the desires of individual members of the republic. One of those decisions, which coalesced during the previous Gilded Age, is that it would be beneficial to society to enable workers to organize collectively in order to at least partially balance the inordinate power of capital. The result was an expansion of wealth and economic opportunity unprecedented in all of human history.

That you oppose this policy, scruffydude, is clear. That the Freedom Foundation and its ALEC co-conspirators and the Koch brothers et al. who fund your cute little videos would like to free corporate America to dictate the terms of employment entirely unencumbered by government regulation or union organizing, is no secret. And you are free to pursue your agenda.

But when you crusade against the institution that won American workers the weekend, the eight-hour workday, paid overtime, workplace safety standards, workers compensation for on-job injuries, unemployment insurance, paid vacation time, the minimum wage, paid health insurance, and any number of other benefits and reforms we all now take for granted—don’t you dare pretend that it has anything to do with securing workers their freedom.

Open Thread 8-28

- The best way to make sure McCleary is enforced is to make sure that there are no penalties on anyone.

- Tim Eyman said that the biggest lie of his life was when he paid himself when he told people he was campaigning out of the goodness of his heart. But I think the idea that there’s any traction, even statewide, to repeal Seattle’s $15 minimum wage is a bigger lie of his lifetime.

- More Than ‘Just Women’s Issues’ in Moral Week of Action

- I like the idea of time limits on Sunday parking.

- Probably was cited for something more serious than parking in the bike lane.

Because Elections Have Consequences on Elections

The Seattle Times on “How to fix Yakima’s racially polarized elections“:

Legislators should also rectify this un-American disparity, too common in the state, and pass the Washington Voting Rights Act, which empowers local jurisdictions to solve problems of voter exclusion at the local level.

No doubt. But also, you might want to stop endorsing all those Republican senators who are blocking passage of the Washington Voting Rights Act. Just sayin’.

Not a Coincidence

In the aftermath of Ferguson, it was reported that the St. Louis area has one of the largest gaps between white unemployment and black unemployment in the country. What hasn’t been talked about much is what exactly drives that, other than a general sense of racial bias.

Here are some numbers that help provide some more context on how it happens. These figures are from the ACLU’s 2013 report on the racial disparity in marijuana arrests. These were the 7 worst states (including D.C.) (page 20). The figure is the ratio of black arrests to white arrests

Iowa 8.34
D.C. 8.05
Minnesota 7.81
Illinois 7.56
Wisconsin 5.98
Kentucky 5.95
Pennsylvania 5.19

Now here is the list from the National Urban League [PDF] this year showing the cities with the highest gaps between black employment and white employment (page 43). The cities that are within the states above are bolded

1. Madison, WI
2. Lancaster, PA
3. Milwaukee, WI
4. Minneapolis, MN
5. Des Moines, IA

6. Baton Rouge, LA
7. Cleveland, OH
8. Chicago, IL
9. Washington, DC

10. St. Louis, MO

A city-by-city comparison would be even more telling, since St. Louis by itself was an off-the-charts 18! But just looking at these stats alone makes it awfully clear what causes the employment gap. When police are more aggressively saddling people with criminal records for something as common as marijuana use, it becomes harder and harder for those people to find employment.

Because If I Hope to Achieve Anything Here on HA, It’s Whoring the Links of SEO Clients

What do you think? Sounds like a great opportunity to improve the quantity and quality of content here on HA, doesn’t it?

Dear Sir/Madam,

How are you? I hope you don’t mind that I contact you today. I am emailing to ask if you would be interested in accepting articles for your site.

I have a campaign I am currently running for which I feel that your website would be a great fit. My client is a respected provider of online casino. I am looking to provide you with an informative, entertaining, and well worded article which contains only one text link to the page of my client and does not look like advertising.

We are keen to establish a mutually beneficial relationship with you. Could you please let me know if you would be interested?

I look forward to hearing back from you.

Kind Regards,

Juliette Duprès
Marketing Specialist – Omnibuzzmedia

I get these sort of emails all the time. Yes, an “article” from a “respected provider of online casino” would be a “great fit” on a blog like HA with a long history of passionate screeds against expanding legal gambling. Makes me wonder how much of the Internet is composed entirely of advertorial link spam?

That said, I am always open to taking on new contributors. So if you’re a great local writer looking for your big shot at the minor leagues, let me know and I’ll give you read.

Will Washington State Be the NRA’s Waterloo?

The recent infusion of $3 million from local zillionaires Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Steve Ballmer, and Nick Hanauer, has drawn national attention to Washington’s Initiative 594, which would close the so-called “gun show loophole” by finally imposing universal criminal background checks on all private gun sales in the state. And it’s got national pundits wondering if the NRA has finally met its match.

Yesterday in the Daily Beast, columnist Cliff Schector suggested that in Bill Gates, “the NRA pissed off the wrong nerd genius.” And then last night on MSNBC, Lawrence O’Donnell repeated the theme, ending with NRA lobbyist Brian Judy’s infamous background-checks-equal-Hitler audio. “I think the rule is, when you reach for Nazi Germany, you know you’re losing,” concludes O’Donnell.

To be clear, this has been a very bad month for the NRA, which has been running silent ever since I released Judy’s anti-Semitic comments back on July 28. A month later, local and national coverage of I-594 still leads with that audio, and the NRA remains speechless. At this point it’s not only preventing the NRA from fighting I-594, it’s also interfering with its ability to lobby Washington lawmakers in advance of the coming legislative session.

Generally, I’m not a fan of really rich people buying their issues onto the ballot. But I’m also not a fan of fighting a political battle with one hand tied behind my back. The NRA has enjoyed the money advantage for far too long. It is entertaining watching them run up against an even wealthier foe.