Thursday, December 10, 2009

Notes from New York

While in New York I attended a labor conference held at the Joseph. S. Murphy Institute at CUNY. The conference took place very early in the morning my first day there. The topic for the panel was Unemployment and the African American community and the two panelists who spoke were Steven Pitts from California and David Jones from New York. Mr. Pitts is an academic and Mr. Jones is the CEO of a Nonprofit. Here are some of the notes that I jotted down from the session. Mr. Pitts spoke first and spoke about a U.S. Jobs machine-an idea that I had never heard or thought of before--the idea that jobs in this country--in that classic sense of the word, are created through a "jobs machine" as opposed to some kind of organic thing. He spoke about the need for place based jobs--construction, education, hospitality, healthcare-jobs that do not move and therefore are stable. Black women are situated mostly in place-based jobs--primarily domestics and social services.

Pitts' first major question/focal point was "Whats wrong with Black folks and the progressive community?" There has always been a disconnect between the Black Community and the Social Justice community (only with the communists from the beginning of the 20th century up through the 1950s was there truly a cohesive union between the two). The New Deal was basically Affirmative Action for white folks-- the two groups excluded from the Social Security Act--domestics and sharecroppers--blatantly excluding Black folks. Mr. Pitts made it very loud and clear


(My thoughts--my Aunt Johnnie was very active in the Chicago Teachers Union. My father was active in unions--disdains them-the bad rub for some Blacks with unions).

He said that the country needs to shift the discussion beyond job training -beyond individuals to a much broader picture.

Mr. Jones Asked-

why does the ruling class feel impelled to help the poor? Not because of any noble reasons--Social Control is the idea--you dont want sick immigrant workers handling food in the supermarket--make sure they have reasonable access to healthcare. You dont want a crime problem--fund schools and provide opportunities. Margaret Sanger and the early immigrants of the late 19th and early twentieth centuries.

Black Male Labor Participation. Currently there are approximately four million Black men unemployed in the United States. Rockefeller Drug laws--civil death for nonviolent offenders--they can never participate in the economy- unemployable. Not just an urban problem, but a suburban problem too.

Underpaid workers-- no sick days, no benefits, no unions, no nothing.

One million workers in New York City are working without the benefit of a High School Education.

unemployment rates for people with less than a high school education- 24.2 percent.

In NY half a trillion for transportation infrastructure. Need to create WPA camps.

Welfare reform in NY actually increased the poverty levels... tie that to the need for unionization among low wage workers.

The budget for public housing in NYC alone is 1.3 billion dollars.
Section 3 of New York housing code--give employment priority in public housing sector to public housing residents and people in the local community--this provision ignored.

Blacks and Latinos not universally welcomed into the U.S. labor market.

Unions need power-self interests.

power means the ability to cut deals--Steven Pitts.

David Jones-son of first black assemblyman in NY--friend of Shirley Chisolm.

Detroit has downsized from a population of 3000000 to 600000-all sorts of problems.

Borders are not official--they are an act of power. The nationstate is no longer needed.

Transnational corporations.

How do you engage folk?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

My Recent Trip to New York

I just returned from a lovely trip to New York on in the wee hours of Monday morning, where I spent four days in conference. While planning to make the trek to New York, I decided that one thing I wanted to do was find Chez Josephine, the restaurant dedicated to the legacy of Josephine Baker, owned and operated by two of her sons. I found the restaurant on 42nd Street in Manhattan, in the far end of the theatre district. I arrived terribly early, so was not able to eat there but did see the decor and exquisite menu offered.

God and the fates were at play that day as well as quite to my surprise, exactly right next door to Chez Josephine was the famed nightclub, The Lion, where Barbra Streisand got her start oh so many legendary years ago. Not to mention that I stayed in Brooklyn in Flatbush, where I constantly wondered how far I was from the actual birthplace of Barbra....what a lovely time!