Dave is founder and principal author at Seeing the Forest, and a blogger at Speak Out California. He is a frequent public speaker, talk-radio personality and a leading participant in the progressive blogging community.
Before starting Seeing the Forest, Dave had over 20 years of technology industry experience. Recently he helped co-found Carbon Tracing, Inc., the company developing the desktop systems to validate carbon trading in the US. He previously held senior industry positions including CEO and VP of Sales and Marketing. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic, and he was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational applications of personal computers. Send e-mail to Dave. Twitter: http://twitter.com/dcjohnson
The world is out of balance. Everyone's nervous. There is a glut of money floating around the world and no one offers a "safe place" to put it. The stock market is way up, way down, way up, way down - sometimes all on the same day. China's currency...
Republican economics has been stated a thousand ways by a thousand (always paid) voices. But the basic idea behind all the schemes has been hard to pin down. Finally Republican front-runner Donald Trump has spelled it out in a way anyone can understand.
Thursday's Progressive Breakfast (you should subscribe,...
I had a conversation over the weekend about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). She's for it, because "more trade is always good."
TPP covers a whole lot more than what we would think of as "trade." Regardless, let's look here at the idea that expanding trade is always good....
A "sneak law" attachment to a "must-pass" bill gives sacred Native American land to a foreign mining company. How did this happen?
Do you remember that "Citibank budget," where a budget bill to avert an imminent government shutdown suddenly had in it a Citibank-written provision deregulating certain risky...
Here comes the next big one. Now that the corporations have fast-track trade authority in the bag, they are trying to push a huge, huge tax giveaway through Congress. We have to get the word out so this doesn't just sneak through. We can't let them continue to rig the...
Fast track trade authority passed last week. So many of us fought so hard but The money won again -- this time. What do we do now?
We take this awareness and energy into the fight against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). And then, win or lose, we build a...
"Fast track" passes. Our Congress -- the supposed representatives of the people -- voted to cut themselves and us out of the process of deciding what "the rules" for doing business "in the 21st century" will be.
How do the plutocrats and oligarchs and their giant multinational corporations...
Corporations are notorious for sneaking things into laws and regulations before the public can find out and rally to stop it. And we know from the conservative Supreme Court arguments against the Affordable Care Act that even what amounts to a typo can be used to change the...
The House is expected to vote on fast track trade promotion authority as soon as next week. If it passes, the corporate-negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a done deal -- even though it is still secret. Why is presidential candidate Hillary Clinton still silent on this?
The Money Wants TPP --...
Basic facts about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are under public dispute. Fast track must not be approved until this is cleared up. We the People deserve to know what is being voted on with fast track.
There is a big public dispute between President Obama and Sen. Elizabeth...
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has scheduled the voting process for trade promotion authority, commonly known as "fast track," to begin as early as Tuesday. If passed, fast track prohibits Congress from amending trade agreements, no matter what problems might show up, and it requires that these agreements be voted...
President Obama is scheduled to visit Nike's Oregon headquarters on Friday to promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Yes, Nike, a company that grew to be worth billions by outsourcing jobs to overseas sweatshops, a company that sets up P.O.-box subsidiaries in tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes, a company...
The U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday that the March goods and services trade deficit was $51.4 billion. This was an increase of $15.5 billion, or 43.1 percent, from the revised figure of $35.9 billion in February.
March exports were $187.8 billion, up $1.6 billion from February. March imports...
The "fast-track" trade-promotion-authority bill has been introduced in the Senate. Though Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution says, "The Congress shall have power to ... regulate commerce with foreign nations," under fast track Congress relinquishes that power and agrees to pass trade bills brought to them by the executive...
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) -- and the rigged "fast-track" process designed to pass it before the public has a chance to react -- has become a new "third rail" for progressives and the activist Democratic "base." (This is also true on the right, by the way.)
This game rigging is...
A key section of the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement has been leaked to the public. The New York Times has a major story on the contents of the leaked chapter, and it's as bad as many of us feared.
Now we know why the corporations and the...
A newly launched public-relations campaign in support of trade-promotion authority, aka "fast track," and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) calls itself the Progressive Coalition for American Jobs. At its foundation is a set of misleading (at best) claims that begin with a four-Pinocchio whopper.
It is unclear who is...
Trade is great. We all trade. A lot of us trade labor for money that buys other things. A farmer trades corn for money that buys other things, and so on. No one is "against trade."
But is anything called "trade" always good for all involved? Imagine you're a farmer,...
Opponents of fast track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are gaining momentum. In spite of a virtual media blackout, public awareness of the coming trade deal is increasing.
More and more public-interest organizations are organizing and denouncing the rigged fast-track approval process and TPP trade agreement. One after another,...
Silicon Valley is an area of contrasts. When you stop at a traffic light in Silicon Valley, you will often find a Maserati or a Tesla on one side of you and a beaten-up, 15-year-old Accord on the other. It seems there are more high-end Mercedeses, Jaguars, Bentleys or the occasional Maybach than in other areas.
Silicon Valley companies, many run by stock billionaires, pay a lot at the top and squat at the bottom. There are the lucky employees and a huge number of "contractors" -- employees who are not called employees. The employees who reach a certain age are discarded.
There are not a lot of people in the space between Silicon Valley's top and its bottom. One in three Silicon Valley workers cannot even afford to live anywhere within a one-hour drive. The regular three-bedroom house costs a million dollars, and don't even ask about the rents (starting at more than $2,000 a month for a one-bedroom apartment), but on the streets in working-class neighborhoods, there are so many cars parked that you can barely pass, because there are so many people and families crammed into the housing. And, of course, the traffic is terrible, but you have to use a car because public transportation is cut back due to tax dodging by giant companies like those in Silicon Valley.
The blatant lack of diversity in Silicon Valley companies is a big part of the problem. At the top of these companies, it's disproportionately white males. At the bottom it's mostly people of color. In fact, according to the report "Tech's Diversity Problem: More Than Meets the Eye," "Among the companies who have released data -- Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Google and eBay -- the portion of their U.S.-based tech workers who were either Black or Latino ranged between 3 to 4 percent."
Meanwhile 74 percent of grounds workers are Hispanic/Latino, and 41 percent of security guards and 71 percent of janitors are Hispanic/Latino or Black.
Repeat: The portion of their U.S.-based tech workers who were either Black or Latino ranged between 3 to 4 percent, 74 percent of grounds workers are Hispanic/Latino, and 71 percent of janitors are Hispanic/Latino or Black.
And, of course, the pay reflects this "occupational segregation." The San Jose Mercury News reports that workers with high-skill jobs have a median income of $118,700. Workers holding low-skill jobs have a median income of $27,000. There is also a sharp gender divide. "For those with a bachelor's degree, male workers in Silicon Valley have a median yearly income of $90,000, and female workers are at $56,000 -- meaning male wages are 61 percent higher. For those with a graduate degree, male workers were at the $125,000 median income level, and female workers were at $83,000 -- a 51 percent difference."
Repeat: In high-skill (tech, mostly white) jobs, the median pay is $118,700. In low-skill jobs (mostly not white), the median pay is $27,000. Men with undergraduate degrees get 61-percent more than women with the same degree, and 51-percent more with graduate degrees.
Silicon Valley Rising
In the midst of all this, a number of labor, faith and community groups have joined together to address income inequality, create affordable housing and urge corporate responsibility among tech companies. On Friday I attended the launch of the new coalition, called Silicon Valley Rising, which will engage in a comprehensive campaign to "raise wages, create affordable housing and build a tech economy that works for everyone." From their website:
While tech companies make massive profits, the workers who keep them running smoothly have been left behind.
Silicon Valley Rising is here to fix that by raising wages, creating affordable housing, and growing our middle class.
The launch event took place at McDonnell Hall at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. As significant as this event was, the location of the event amplified its significance. Two blocks from the event I passed this sign:
McDonnell Hall, the building where the coalition launch event was held, is in line to become a national historic landmark.
Chavez met there with other members of the Community Service Organization in the 1950s and 1960s to plan voter registration drives, civil rights lawsuits and legislative campaigns. They also taught citizenship and literacy classes. He later employed those skills to organize the United Farm Workers union and the famous grape boycott that launched him to national prominence as a civil rights leader and advocate of nonviolent protest.
From these roots Silicon Valley Rising will organize to lift the Valley's low-wage workers. Silicon Valley Business Journal writes in "New Silicon Valley coalition rises to attack income inequality":
The group will focus its considerable membership and lobbying strength on improving wages, increasing affordable housing options for renters and holding tech companies accountable for how contract workers are compensated.
Silicon Valley Rising will organize and fight for tech service workers, drivers, kitchen staff, security guards, maintenance workers, groundskeepers, cleaning staff, shuttle bus drivers and other support workers.
Father Jon Pedigo, pastor of the church, began by reading, "Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you.... You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you."
Fr. Jon added, to loud cheers, "But today we offer resistance!"
As Henry Millstein reports, "Another local progressive religious leader, Rabbi Dana Magat, read a passage from the prophet Jeremiah denouncing a king "who makes his neighbors work for nothing and does not give them their wages," concluding, "It's time to rise up!" to which the crowd responded with shouts of "¡Sí se puede!""
Ben Field, the executive director of the South Bay Labor Council, said "No one who works hard and plays by the rules should live in poverty. Silicon Valley Rising is a comprehensive effort to allow everyone to thrive in Silicon Valley's tech economy."
Rome Aloise, VP At-Large of the Teamsters, spoke about the bus drivers. Drivers who work for the company that contracts with Apple, eBay, Genentech, Yahoo and Zynga to drive their employees to and from work were voting on a contract as the launch event was taking place. (The results were 104-38 in favor of the union.) Facebook's drivers had already unionized and received a raise of up to $9 an hour; the end of split shifts, which required drivers to sit around for hours with no pay; health benefits; and a retirement plan. "For the companies it is about what they spend on ping pong balls," Aloise said.
Also speaking at the event were Derecka Mehrens, Executive Director of Working Partnerships USA; Luisa Blue, chief elected officer of SEIU Local 521; and Denise Solis of SEIU-USWW.
Partners in the coalition are:
Spotted at the event:
Already Achieving Results
The organizing effort that led to the formation of the Silicon Valley Rising coalition is already achieving results. Apple announced on Tuesday it will drop its contractor and make its security officers employees with benefits and predictable working hours. From a Silicon Valley Business Journal news report, "Apple to hire security guards as full-time employees as organized labor gains ground":
"Apple recently completed a comprehensive, year-long review of its security program and we've decided to directly hire a number of key onsite security roles for Apple's Silicon Valley operations which are currently contract positions," Apple said in statement. "We will be hiring a large number of full-time people to handle our day-to day security needs. We hope that virtually all of these positions will be filled by employees from our current security vendor and we're working closely with them on this process."
This is a big deal, and Silicon Valley Rising is a big deal. This and organizing efforts like it across the country will help improve pay, benefits and working conditions for millions of people.
This post originally appeared on the website of Campaign for America's Future (CAF) on their Blog for OurFuture. I am a fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary, and/or here for the Progress Breakfast.
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