Sow hunger, reap anger: Why Bosnia is burning - Privatization, unemployment at the heart of protests
February 9, 2014

Bosnia-Herzegovina finally emerged from the sidelines, once again as a country in flames. On February 5, laid off workers of the recently privatized factories of the industrial city of Tuzla, the third largest in Bosnia-Herzegovina, took to the streets to claim their healthcare and pension payments, to get their 50 months’ back pay, and to demand the government to fight youth unemployment, whose rate in Bosnia-Herzegovina ramped up to 60%.

The protests, organized by the local trade unions and the association of unemployed of the canton, and announced by the Facebook page “50.000 people for a better tomorrow”, were joined by students and citizens, who stood in front of the cantonal court building before moving towards the cantonal government building with the intention to enter its premises. Pushed back violently by the police, protesters started to hurl eggs and stones against the building’s wall, while the riot police — intending to secure the entrances of the cantonal building — reacted with teargas and rubber bullets. The town of Tuzla was completely blocked, and at the end of the day 27 people were reported arrested, while another 23 were injured.

Since the workers did not give up, two more days of unrest followed. Within days, six rallies in solidarity with Tuzla’s workers were organized across Bosnia-Herzegovina, in both of the semi-autonomous entities that compose the country since the end of the war: Republika Srpska, the predominantly Serb entity, and the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Bosniak-Croat entity. However, while the gathering in Banja Luka, the capital of the Serbian entity, followed a pacific path, in Zenica, Mostar and Sarajevo the protests were transformed into an urban guerrilla.

After the governmental building of Tuzla was set on fire, and the head of canton Sead Čaušević resigned, on the third day of unrest even the cantonal government of another industrial town, Zenica, was torched, and its premier resigned as well. That very same day, in the ethnically-divided city of Mostar, both the town hall and the cantonal building were set ablaze, together with the headquarters of the two main nationalist parties, the Croat HDZ and the Bosniak SDA. In the capital, Sarajevo, the presidential building, hosting the national archives, and the cantonal and the town council became the target of the rage; symbols of a corrupted and incompetent political class that has been plundering the country since the end of the last war. In Sarajevo, at first, police reacted with stun grenades and rubber bullets, and clashes were reported in the Skenderija area.

Although at this time analysis and debates revolve around the violent turn the protests took, it is worth taking a step back to where and why the protests surfaced to begin with. Tuzla, the “salty ground”, had an industrial vocation since the Austro-Hungarian times. The multi-ethnic town, a crossroads of different peoples, is known for being a stronghold of the (allegedly multi-ethnic) Social Democratic Party. The largest factories in the area, nationalized under the socialist system, underwent a process of privatization after the war, which resulted in their bankruptcy and consequent job loss for most of the workers.

After the 2007 privatization of the detergent factory DITA, its major owner — heavily indebted with bank loans — did not pay any pension funds and health insurance to the workers, and, although he was sued, cannot be prosecuted owing to his alleged inability to appear in court*. Following the closure of their firm, in December 2012 the workers of DITA — a giant that before the war guaranteed 1.400 working places — chose not to go on strike but rather to start pickets outside the factory. Today, after more than one year of protests and hunger, eventually the world got to know about their grievances.

The workers of Tuzla are just a symptom of the economic collapse of the country, whose administrative and political system — imposed from without — has never worked. Their collective outrage put the question of political economy back on the Bosnian agenda, while politicians tried to hide the economic conditions of the country by playing the ethnic card. With an overall unemployment rate close to 28%, endemic corruption and an inefficient legal system, the workers of Tuzla demonstrated that precariousness as a result of the neoliberal privatization of their firms, affects all sectors of society.

Full article
Photos 

Italian protesters take on police during mass march against austerity
October 20, 2013

Violence broke out between police and demonstrators in Rome on Saturday as tens of thousands took to the streets to protest Italy’s new budget.

Fifteen protesters were arrested and at least 20 police officers were injured, according to the Corriere della Sera newspaper. 

“We are laying siege to the city!” chanted the crowd, as a small minority pelted the police and government buildings with water bottles and eggs. 

A group of protesters turned over garbage bins and set some of them on fire in front of the Economy Ministry. 

Police say they confiscated tear gas canisters and rocks from some of the radicals in the predominantly youthful crowd and found chains stashed away along the route of the march. 

Organizers estimated that 70,000 people took part in the protest, while authorities placed the number closer to 50,000. 

“With this budget the government is continuing to hurt a country which is already on its knees,” said Piero Bernocchi, leader of the left-wing COBAS trade union that was behind the demonstration. 

“Even after austerity has proven to be disastrous, with debt rising, the economy crumbling, and unemployment soaring, they still continue with these policies.” 

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Enrico Letta - who is presiding over a fractious Left-Right coalition - presented the 2014 budget that immediately came under a firestorm of criticism from both sides of the political spectrum. 

Left-wingers criticized the document for freezing state sector pay and pensions, while right-wingers and businesses said it failed to stimulate growth with insufficient cuts to Italy’s oppressive corporate taxes.

Source

Moroccan unemployed graduates protest over budget cuts
October 7, 2013

Thousands of unemployed graduates marched through Morocco’s capital Rabat on Sunday demanding jobs in the public sector, weeks before parliament is due to debate planned budget cuts.

Morocco’s Islamist-led government, already under pressure from international lenders to reduce spending, is trying to push through sensitive cuts to state salaries and fuel and food subsidies.

Unemployed graduates have protested in small numbers for years, but Sunday’s anti-austerity march was the first to bring together disparate groups including leftists, the Islamist opposition and union activists in such large numbers.

"We know the government plans more austerity cuts, but we have started to get the opposition’s support. That would help us to apply more pressure," said Azougagh, a protest organizer.

Analysts say the government may be vulnerable in pushing its reforms because King Mohammed is keen to avoid a return to 2011 pro-democracy protests.

The palace stifled those protests with harsh policing, heavy public spending and limited constitutional reforms.

Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane of the Islamist Justice and Development party (PJD) is struggling to form a new government after a conservative junior coalition partner quit in July due partly to disagreements over the reforms.

Source

Prison labor booms as unemployment remains high; companies reap benefitsJuly 28, 2013
The American government has been critical of China’s forced-labor policies, but the United States has a burgeoning prison labor pool of its own.
Russia Today filed a report on Sunday that said hundreds of companies nationwide now benefit from the low, and sometimes no-wage labor of America’s prisoners.
Prison labor is being harvested on a massive scale, according to professors Steve Fraser and Joshua B. Freeman.
"All told, nearly a million prisoners are now making office furniture, working in call centers, fabricating body armor, taking hotel reservations, working in slaughterhouses, or manufacturing textiles, shoes, and clothing, while getting paid somewhere between 93 cents and $4.73 per day,” the professors write.
And some prisoners don’t make a dime for their work, according to the Nation, which notes that many inmates in Racine, Wis. are not paid for their work, but receive time off their sentences.
The companies that do pay workers can get up to 40 percent of the money back in taxpayer-funded reimbursements, according to RT.
That not only puts companies that use prison labor at a distinct advantage against their competitors, but, according to Scott Paul, Executive Director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, it means American workers lose out.
"It’s bad enough that our companies have to compete with exploited and forced labor in China,” Paul told the Nation. “They shouldn’t have to compete against prison labor here at home. The goal should be for other nations to aspire to the quality of life that Americans enjoy, not to discard our efforts through a downward competitive spiral.”
Companies like Chevron, Bank of America, AT&T, Starbucks and Walmart all take advantage of that so-called “competitive spiral.”
One of Walmart’s suppliers, Martori Farms, was the subject of an exposé by Truthout in which one female prisoner described her typical day working for the private company.
Currently, we are forced to work in the blazing sun for eight hours. We run out of water several times a day. We ran out of sunscreen several times a week. They don’t check medical backgrounds or ages before they pull women for these jobs. Many of us cannot do it! If we stop working and sit on the bus or even just take an unauthorized break, we get a major ticket which takes away our ‘good time’.
In response, Joseph Oddo, Martori Farms’ human resource director, told the Guardian that the company is no longer using inmates because prisons are not always able to provide workers on call the way they need. Oddo also said that workers were provided enough water, but the prisoners didn’t sip it slowly enough.
In a press release on Walmart’s site, Ron McCormick, vice-president for produce, said, “our relationship with Martori Farms is an excellent example of the kind of collaboration we strive for with our suppliers.”
Source

Prison labor booms as unemployment remains high; companies reap benefits
July 28, 2013

The American government has been critical of China’s forced-labor policies, but the United States has a burgeoning prison labor pool of its own.

Russia Today filed a report on Sunday that said hundreds of companies nationwide now benefit from the low, and sometimes no-wage labor of America’s prisoners.

Prison labor is being harvested on a massive scale, according to professors Steve Fraser and Joshua B. Freeman.

"All told, nearly a million prisoners are now making office furniture, working in call centers, fabricating body armor, taking hotel reservations, working in slaughterhouses, or manufacturing textiles, shoes, and clothing, while getting paid somewhere between 93 cents and $4.73 per day,” the professors write.

And some prisoners don’t make a dime for their work, according to the Nation, which notes that many inmates in Racine, Wis. are not paid for their work, but receive time off their sentences.

The companies that do pay workers can get up to 40 percent of the money back in taxpayer-funded reimbursements, according to RT.

That not only puts companies that use prison labor at a distinct advantage against their competitors, but, according to Scott Paul, Executive Director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, it means American workers lose out.

"It’s bad enough that our companies have to compete with exploited and forced labor in China,” Paul told the Nation. “They shouldn’t have to compete against prison labor here at home. The goal should be for other nations to aspire to the quality of life that Americans enjoy, not to discard our efforts through a downward competitive spiral.”

Companies like Chevron, Bank of America, AT&T, Starbucks and Walmart all take advantage of that so-called “competitive spiral.”

One of Walmart’s suppliers, Martori Farms, was the subject of an exposé by Truthout in which one female prisoner described her typical day working for the private company.

Currently, we are forced to work in the blazing sun for eight hours. We run out of water several times a day. We ran out of sunscreen several times a week. They don’t check medical backgrounds or ages before they pull women for these jobs. Many of us cannot do it! If we stop working and sit on the bus or even just take an unauthorized break, we get a major ticket which takes away our ‘good time’.

In response, Joseph Oddo, Martori Farms’ human resource director, told the Guardian that the company is no longer using inmates because prisons are not always able to provide workers on call the way they need. Oddo also said that workers were provided enough water, but the prisoners didn’t sip it slowly enough.

In a press release on Walmart’s site, Ron McCormick, vice-president for produce, said, “our relationship with Martori Farms is an excellent example of the kind of collaboration we strive for with our suppliers.”

Source

Detroit’s collapse reveals the awful dystopia the US is becoming
July 20, 2013

The big question is whether Detroit’s bankruptcy and likely further decline is a fluke or whether it tells us something about the dystopia that the United States is becoming. It seems to me that the city’s problems are the difficulties of the country as a whole, especially the issues of deindustrialization, robotification, structural unemployment, the rise of the 1% in gated communities, and the racial divide. The mayor has called on families living in the largely depopulated west of the city to come in toward the center, so that they can be taken care of. It struck me as post-apocalyptic. Sometimes the abandoned neighborhoods accidentally catch fire, and 30 buildings will abruptly go up in smoke.

Detroit had nearly 2 million inhabitants in its heyday, in the 1950s. When I moved to southeast Michigan in 1984, the city still had over a million. I remember that at the time of the 1990 census, its leaders were eager to keep the status of a million-person city, since there were extra Federal monies for an urban area of that size, and they counted absolutely everyone they could find. They just barely pulled it off. But in 2000 the city fell below a million. In 2010 it was 714,000 or so. Google thinks it is now 706,000. There is no reason to believe that it won’t shrink on down to almost nothing.

The foremost historian of modern Detroit, Thomas J. Sugrue, has explained the city’s decline. First of all, Detroit grew from 400,000 to 1.84 million from 1910-1950 primarily because of the auto industry and the other industries that fed it (machine tools, spare parts, services, etc.) From 1950 until now, two big things happened to ruin the city with regard to industry. The first was robotification. The automation of many processes in the factories led to fewer workers being needed, and produced unemployment. (It was a trick industrial capitalism played on the African-Americans who flocked to Detroit in the 1940s to escape being sharecroppers in Georgia and elsewhere in the deep South, that by the time they got settled the jobs were beginning to disappear). Then, the auto industry began locating elsewhere, along with its support industries, to save money on labor or production costs or to escape regulation.

The refusal of the white population to allow African-American immigrants to integrate produced a strong racial divide and guaranteed inadequate housing and schools to the latter. Throughout the late 1950s and the 1960s, you had substantial white flight, of which the emigration from the city after the 1967 riots was a continuation. The white middle and business classes took their wealth with them to the suburbs, and so hurt the city’s tax base. That decrease in income came on top of the migration of factories. The fewer taxes the city brought in, the worse its services became, and the more people fled. The black middle class began departing in the 1980s and now is mostly gone.

Other observers have suggested other concomitants of the decline, like poor city planning or the inability to attract foreign immigrants in sufficient numbers. I suspect that the decline of Detroit as a port is important somehow to the story (only one of the four old locks at Sault St. Marie lets big ships come down to the lower Great Lakes and therefore to Detroit any more. A new, big [pdf] modern lock is being built to accommodate larger vessels, but it will be a decade before it opens. Some observers point out that Detroit would make sense as a Midwest hub port for international shipping containers if its harbor was expanded and linked by rail to the cities of the region, but I suspect the new lock at the Soo is a prerequisite.

Full article

"Hi I was wondering if it would be possible for you guys to help spread the word about something. A riverside area of London known has ‘the Southbank’ is home to a disused space or ‘undercroft’ which is well used & loved as skateboarding space.

There is never a time where it isn’t full of people hanging out and making use of it. The Southbank Centre is a group of ‘arts’ centers that want to destroy this community-loved-space in order for refurbishments e.g. probably more high rent retail units or restaurants even though  there are already plenty in this space.

They want to destroy a genuine piece of culture & heritage within the local community for the sake of commercializing the area even more. There has already been a petition against this but right now one of the biggest steps we can take is to object the official planning permission request by the Southbank center.”

Submitted by http://flowersdotcom.tumblr.com

Additional resource:

Community space free of rampant exploitation that doesn’t revolve around some commercial, corporate, capitalist exchange, and gives increasingly poor young people a place to spend their time, is important.

Eurozone unemployment hits new high with a quarter of under-25s jobless; overall unemployment now at staggering 12.2%
June 2, 2013

Protesters who picketed the European Central Bank on Friday are planning a second day of action across European cities as anger grows over austerity measures that many blame for taking Eurozone unemployment to an all-time high.

In rain and strong winds, members of the Blockupy movement cut off access to the ECB’s Frankfurt headquarters and vowed to keep up the disruption on Saturday in a financial hub they describe as a seat of “dictated austerity”. Their action came as official figures showed eurozone unemployment hit a new high last month with young people again the hardest hit – almost one in four are now out of work.

Unemployment in the crisis-stricken currency bloc rose to 12.2% for April, according to Eurostat, the statistics office of the EU. At 24.4%, youth unemployment was double the wider jobless rate and up from 24.3% in March. The problem was most extreme in Greece where almost two-thirds of those under-25 are unemployed. The rate was 62.5% in February, the most recently available data.

The numbers come days after eurozone leaders unveiled plans to get more young people into work as they faced warnings about the risks of civil unrest, long-term economic costs and fears that a generation could lose faith in the European project.

In Frankfurt Blockupy protesters blamed the troika of institutions it says is pushing austerity measures on southern Europe: the ECB, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and perhaps most importantly, capitalism. Blockupy’s Roland Süss said: “With the blockade of the ECB we are making the European resistance against the devastating poverty policy visible. It’s an expression of our solidarity with the people in southern Europe whose existence is threatened by the austerity programs.”

Blockupy, a European version of the Occupy Wall Street movement, put the number of activists blocking the ECB at 3,000. There was a more conservative estimate of between 1,000 and 1,500 from police, who used pepper spray to prevent the protesters breaking into the central bank’s high-rise building. Protesters also targeted Deutsche Bank’s headquarters and Frankfurt’s airport. The movement and other anti-austerity groups are threatening rallies throughout European cities on Saturday, including London.

While France and Germany responded to growing anger at youth unemployment this week with a new jobs plan, labor market experts warn that any measures will take time to turn the tide after 24 consecutive monthly rises in the jobless level. Economists say things will get worse before they get better for the 19.4 million people in the eurozone out of work.

In the wider EU area unemployment stood at 11%, as the rate rose in all but nine countries compared with a year earlier. The biggest rises in overall joblessness on a year ago were in Greece, Cyprus, Spain and Portugal. Youth unemployment in Spain is 56.4%, in Portugal 42.5%. Italy recorded its highest overall unemployment rate since records began in 1977, at 12%, with youth joblessness at 40.5%. Economists said that the rise in unemployment was fairly broad-based with rises in so-called core countries as well, including Belgium and the Netherlands. The rate in France was 11%.

Ireland recorded one of the biggest falls in unemployment, down to 13.5% from 14.9% a year ago. That compares with a rate of 7.7% for the UK, where youth unemployment is 20.2%.

Source

Update: Today, the clashes sparked by this outrageous reality continued in Frankfurt, Germany with thousands on the streets. See video here.

#Occupy Capitalism

Greek workers walk out to protest ban on teachers’ strike
May 14, 2013

Greek public sector workers walked off the job on Tuesday to protest against a government decision to ban a strike by high-school teachers, shutting down several schools and reducing staff at hospitals to a minimum. Invoking emergency legislation, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has threatened teachers with arrest and dismissal if they go ahead with a planned walkout on Friday that would disrupt university entrance exams, as he tries to show Greece’s foreign lenders that Athens is sticking to unpopular reforms.

The action on Tuesday was the latest in a string of anti-austerity strikes since 2010, when Greece adopted severe budget and wage cut measures as part of its international bailout. The turnout was not near someone of the movement’s larger demonstrations; turnout in demonstrations last year topped 100,000 at times. But activists insist that they are committed to fighting for humanity.

"Our message, that we fully condemn these policies, was sent, despite the low turnout," ADEDY’s general secretary Ilias Iliopoulos told Reuters. "The government must make up its mind and show that it does care about students and teachers.

The conservative-led coalition wants teachers to put in two more hours of work each week to reach the average levels of high school teachers’ working hours in Europe, and transfer 4,000 of them to remote parts of Greece to plug staffing gaps.

These measures would allow the government to dismiss about 10,000 part-time teachers when their temporary contracts expire, causing outraged unions & citizens alike to call for the 24-hour strike on Friday and rolling strikes next week.

The government responded by invoking a law that allows it to mobilize workers in the case of civil disorder or natural disasters.

ADEDY had disagreed with the high school teachers’ decision to hold a strike on the first day of exams because it would inconvenience students. However, it opposed the government using emergency laws to pre-emptively ban the action, saying this was undemocratic and violated workers’ constitutional rights. ADEDY and GSEE, Greece’s largest private sector union, are also planning a four-hour work stoppage on Thursday.

More than 1,000 high-school teachers marched to parliament late on Monday, holding banners reading: “No to the civil mobilization and this terror!” and “It won’t pass”.

GSEE and ADEDY represent more than half of Greece’s workforce, which has been shrinking rapidly during the crippling recession after years of austerity. As unemployment grows, unions may not yield as strong of turn outs as they have when they had higher membership, but the increasingly impoverished people of Greece will not tolerate limitless government oppression.

Source

Prospects for social unrest high; dim prospects for the class of 2013
April 27, 2013

The Great Recession that began in December 2007 was so long and severe, and the government response so inadequate, that the crater it left in the labor market continues to be devastating for workers of all ages. The U.S. labor market still has a deficit of nearly 9 million jobs, and the unemployment rate has been at 7.6 percent or higher for more than four years. (In comparison, the highestunemployment rate in the two recessions prior to the Great Recession was 7.8 percent, for one month in the early 1990s downturn.) The weak labor market has been, and continues to be, very tough on young workers: At 16.2 percent, the March 2013 unemployment rate of workers under age 25 was slightly over twice as high as the national average. Though the labor market is now headed in the right direction, it is improving very slowly, and the prospects for young high school and college graduates remain dim.

This paper’s title, The Class of 2013, is admittedly something of a misnomer, as we do not yet know the labor market outcomes of these soon-to-be graduates. However, the outcomes of recent high school and college graduates provide a good sense of the labor market conditions the young men and women graduating in the Class of 2013 this spring will face. This briefing paper examines the labor market that confronts young graduates who are not enrolled in further schooling—specifically, high school graduates age 17–20 and college graduates age 21–24—and details the following findings:

  • Unemployment among young graduates is extremely high today not because of something unique about the Great Recession that has affected young people in particular, but because young workers always experience disproportionate increases in unemployment during downturns. The Great Recession and its aftermath has been the longest, most severe period of economic weakness this country has experienced in more than seven decades.
  • The large increase since 2007 in the unemployment and underemployment rate of young college graduates, and in the share of employed young college graduates working in jobs that do not require a college degree, underscores that today’s unemployment crisis among young workers did not arise because these young adults lack the right education or skills. Rather, it stems from weak demand for goods and services, which makes it unnecessary for employers to significantly ramp up hiring.
  • Unemployment and underemployment rates of most young graduates have only modestly improved since last year, and rates among all graduates are substantially higher than before the recession began.
  • For young high school graduates, the unemployment rate is 29.9 percent (compared with 17.5 percent in 2007) and the underemployment rate is 51.5 percent (compared with 29.4 percent in 2007).
  • For young college graduates, the unemployment rate is 8.8 percent (compared with 5.7 percent in 2007) and the underemployment rate is 18.3 percent (compared with 9.9 percent in 2007).
  • There is no evidence that young adults have been able to “shelter in school” from the labor market effects of the Great Recession; college and university enrollment rates of both men and women have not meaningfully departed from their long-term trend since the start of the Great Recession.
  • The long-run wage trends for young graduates are bleak, with wages substantially lower today than in 2000. Between 2000 and 2012, the real (inflation-adjusted) wages of young high school graduates declined 12.7 percent, and the real wages of young college graduates declined 8.5 percent.
  • The erosion of job quality for young graduates is also evident in their declining likelihood of receiving employer-provided health insurance or pensions.
  • Between 1989 and 2011, the share of employed young high school graduates who receive health insurance from their own employer dropped from 23.5 percent to 7.1 percent. Over the same period, the share of employed young college graduates who receive health insurance from their own employer dropped from 60.1 percent to 31.1 percent.
  • Between 2000 and 2011, the share of employed young high school graduates who receive pension coverage from their employer dropped from 9.7 percent to 5.9 percent. Over the same period, the share of employed young college graduates who receive pension coverage from their employer dropped from 41.5 percent to 27.2 percent.
  • Young graduates with jobs lack opportunities for advancement, a trend underscored by the fact that there are now more than 20 percent fewer total voluntary quits each month than there were each month in 2007.
  • Graduating in a bad economy has long-lasting economic consequences. For the next 10 to 15 years, those in the Class of 2013 will likely earn less than if they had graduated when job opportunities were plentiful.
  • The safety net of federal and state assistance programs often does not cover young workers due to eligibility requirements such as significant prior work experience.
  • The cost of higher education has grown far more rapidly than median family income, leaving students with little choice but to take out loans which, upon graduating into a labor market with limited job opportunities, they may not have the funds to repay.
  • The scarcity of job opportunities for the Class of 2013 is a symptom of weak demandfor workers more broadly. What will bring down young workers’ unemployment rates most quickly and effectively are policies that will generate strong job growth overall, such as fiscal relief to states, substantial additional investment in infrastructure, expanded safety net measures, and direct job creation programs in communities particularly hard-hit by unemployment.

Unemployment rate twice as high for young workers

In economic recessions as well as expansions, the unemployment rate of young workers (those under age 25) is typically around twice as high as the overall unemployment rate (see Figure Afor national data and Appendix Table A1 for state-level data). This trend persists over time because young workers are relatively new to the labor market—often looking for their first or second job—and they may be passed over in hiring decisions due to lack of experience. As for young workers who are already employed, their lack of seniority makes them likely candidates for being laid off when their firm falls on hard times or is restructuring. Young workers also tend to be more mobile than older workers, moving between jobs, employers, careers, or even cities, and thus spend a larger share of their time as job seekers.

Source (with more interactive graphs & much more text)

Police ‘cleaning up’ Detroit by kidnapping the homeless, stranding them in other cities
April 22, 2013

Imagine that you are homeless in Detroit. You have an area where you know you are safe, where you can find food and shelter if you ask. Now imagine that a cop grabs you from the street, throws you into a van, drives you to the edge of the city or even a suburb and then kicks you out. That’s what the ACLU is accusing the Detroit PD of doing.: they filed a complaint with the Justice Department against the DPB this week.

The complaint comes at the end of a year-long investigation into claims that the department routinely drove homeless people to areas unfamiliar to them, leaving them to get back on their own. They will approach homeless people, especially in tourist areas like Greektown, force them into vans and drive them miles away, the complaint alleges. Sometimes the officers would even take what little money they had, leaving them with no recourse but to walk back to the city. Sometimes the homeless victims would even be left in neighboring towns and suburbs like Dearborn and River Rouge.

Speaking for the ACLU of Michigan, staff attorney Sarah Mehta told the local CBS affiliate:

“DPD’s practice of essentially kidnapping homeless people and abandoning them miles away from the neighborhoods they know – with no means for a safe return — is inhumane, callous and illegal. The city’s desire to hide painful reminders of our economic struggles cannot justify discriminating against the poor, banishing them from their city, and endangering their lives. A person who has lost his home has not lost his right to be treated with dignity.” (source)

The ACLU was contacted by the St. Peter and Paul Jesuit Church Warming Center, a homeless shelter. They told the organization about several homeless people who were “taken for a ride” by DPB officers. One such story came from Andrew Sheehan, a 36-year-old who used to be homeless but is now working at a grocery store:

“I had my back turned to him and I did not see him approaching, and the first thing he did was he kicked me. He didn’t identify himself as an officer and he kicked me and told me to get up. I asked him if I was free to go. He told me no.” (source)

The organization has published the stories of five homeless people who were kidnapped and harassed by Detroit police. According to the ACLU’s complaint, some of the homeless who were taken had to walk many miles to get back to downtown shelters. This puts them in danger from a variety of sources, especially in the middle of winter.

The ACLU has asked the Department of Justice to investigate the allegations. They have also asked the city to issue a directive to police officers to desist this practice immediately.

This is unconscionable, but it’s not new. Removing the vagrants and undersirables from where the “regular” people might be upset by them is an old practice, according to Samuel Walker, a police accountability expert:

“This is a familiar story with a long history in policing. You do wonder what did this Police Department learn from the consent decree experience?” (source)

Detroit’s Chief of Police, Chester Logan, declined to comment, saying that he had not yet seen the complaint. The AP was also unable to get comments from Mayor Dave Bing or the city’s emergency manager, Kevyn Orr. Not surprising.

This bad economy has seen an uptick in the homeless situation. Yes, it makes some of us uncomfortable to see them, perhaps because we see more of ourselves in them than we would care to admit. But ignoring the problem won’t solve it and taking these people to the edge of town and exposing them to danger is not the way to handle it. Detroit’s police need to look inside and find their better nature before they get someone killed.

Source

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I originally came across the article that posted these graphs from something we reblogged from anarcho-queer (you should follow anarcho-queer for daily news & information along the same lines as what we post. They post just-as, if-not more regularly than we do).

Posted on The People’s Record Facebook page. Like our page for daily news. “Favorite” the page to get more than 10% of our posts in your feed (10% is the facebook default for likes, if you don’t favorite).

Get the message out, share it on Facebook.

I originally came across the article that posted these graphs from something we reblogged from anarcho-queer (you should follow anarcho-queer for daily news & information along the same lines as what we post. They post just-as, if-not more regularly than we do).

On this day in history: On March 7, 1930 ‘red’ assemblies in the U.S. protested against unemployment. Masses of people in New York and Washington, led by communists, demonstrated against high unemployment, and broke into riots.

New York, Thursday.

Despite extraordinary precautions taken by the police throughout the United States, a number of minor disorders and rioting took place in various parts of the country today. In Washington the police were obliged to use tear gas to disperse a gathering on “Unemployment Day” demonstrators in front of the White House, and several communists were injured in a struggle with the police when the leader of the demonstrators climbed the iron railing of the Presidential grounds and attempted to speak.

President Hoover had previously sent out word to the police not to interfere with the meeting provided there was no disorder and the demonstrators confined themselves to the public thoroughfares. The police considered that the leader of the demonstrators had violated the President’s instructions and forced him to get down on the ground.

A boy of eighteen, wearing a flaming red sweater, grasped one of the policemen from behind, and a general mêlée started. Youth and police fell to the pavement together, whereupon another policeman drew his revolver and fired a charge of tear gas at the demonstrators, who fled in all directions. About twenty persons, including several girls, were immediately arrested. Throughout the demonstration President Hoover was working in the office only a hundred yards away.

In New York, a mammoth demonstration was staged in Union Square – the Trafalgar Square of New York. A crowd estimated at more than 75,000 was present. The square was jammed to overflowing, and traffic had to be diverted. The roof tops and windows were lined with curious onlookers. More than one hundred detectives moved among the crowd.

Considerable resentment was caused in newspaper quarters when it was discovered that [Police Commissioner] Mr Whalen had disguised a number of his detectives as reporters, even equipping them with special press badges. Two bags full of tear-gas were held in readiness. Scores of speakers addressed the crowd from various rostra and the audience joined lustily in singing the “Internationale.”

Later, however, when the demonstrators wanted to form a procession to march to the City Hall they found the way barred by Mr Whalen and his men and the trouble began. The Police Commissioner first attempted to parley, and offered to take the leaders in his car to City Hall to see the Mayor, Mr “Jimmie” Walker, but the offer was refused and the Reds attempted to rush Mr Whalen and his bodyguard. A “riot call” was at once sent out, and militia, fire brigades and riot squads appeared as if by magic.

The police rallied and charged the demonstrators, eventually succeeding in dispersing the meeting. Several policemen as well as a number of Communists were injured. The ringleaders were arrested on a charge of inciting to riot.

Source

U.S. – spending slightly up; income drastically down with austerity on its way means tragic economy for working-class Americans
March 2, 2013

U.S. consumer spending rose in January as Americans spent more on utilities, with savings providing a cushion after income recorded its biggest drop in 20 years.

The Commerce Department said on Friday consumer spending increased 0.2 percent in January after a revised 0.1 percent rise the prior month. Spending had previously been estimated to have increased 0.2 percent in December.

January’s increase was in line with economists’ expectations. Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity and when adjusted for inflation, it gained 0.1 percent after a similar increase in December.

Though spending rose in January, it was supported by a rise in services, probably related to utilities consumption after a cold snap during the month.

Spending on goods fell, suggesting some hit from the expiration at the end of 2012 of a 2 percent payroll tax cut. Tax rates for wealthy Americans also increased.

The impact is expected to be larger in February’s spending data and possibly extend through the first half of the year as households adjust to smaller paychecks, which are also being strained by rising gasoline prices.

"We expect a significant decrease in real consumer spending in the first half of the year," said Yelena Shulyatyeva, U.S. economist at BNP Paribas, New York.

"We are looking for a very subdued Q1 reading, and that’s the effect from the fiscal tightening. That will weigh significantly on first-quarter GDP, which we expect at 1.2 percent.

GDP advanced at a 0.1 percent rate in the last three months of 2012, with consumer spending rising at a healthy 2.1 percent annual pace.

Income tumbled 3.6 percent, the largest drop since January 1993. Part of the decline was payback for a 2.6 percent surge in December as businesses, anxious about higher taxes, rushed to pay dividends and bonuses before the new year.

Taking into account the higher taxes that went into effect at the start of the year, the squeeze on households was even greater. The income at the disposal of households after inflation and taxes plunged a 4.0 percent in January after advancing 2.7 percent in December.

Excluding the unwinding of the dividend and bonus boost, disposable income increased 0.3 percent in January.

With income dropping sharply and spending rising, the saving rate - the percentage of disposable income households are socking away - fell to 2.4 percent, the lowest level since November 2007. The rate had jumped to 6.4 percent in December.

Savings were the smallest since December 2007.

Inflation was largely contained, even though gasoline prices pushed higher. A price index for consumer spending was flat for a second straight month.

That left its increase over the past 12 months at 1.2 percent, the smallest since October 2009. It increased 1.4 percent in December.

So-called core prices, which strip out food and energy costs, edged up 0.1 percent after being flat the prior month. The year-on-year gain was 1.3 percent, the smallest since April 2011 and well below the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent target.

The U.S. central bank last year embarked on an open-ended bond buying program and said it would keep it up until it saw a substantial improvement in the outlook for the labor market. It hopes the purchases will drive down borrowing costs.

Weak growth and benign inflation could compel the Fed to maintain it’s very easy monetary policy stance.

Source

Man trampled as hundreds of desperate Greeks scuffle for foodFebruary 7, 2013
A fruit and vegetable handout in Greece led to one man being trampled on Wednesday, calling attention to the desperate conditions in the crisis-hit country. Some 55 tons of produce was given away by farmers who were protesting high production costs.
The person was injured when he was pushed by a crowd trying to grab the goods and fell and hit his head.
The chaos was sparked when food stalls ran out of fruits and vegetables, prompting dozens of people to rush to a nearby truck.
It was an “every man for himself” situation as the Greeks shoved their way to the front of the truck, competing for the food that was left. The 55 tons of food was completely gone in under two hours.
A Reuters employee at the scene was hit on the head with cauliflower heads as he attempted to photograph the situation.
"These images make me angry. Angry for a proud people who have no food to eat, who can’t afford to keep warm, who can’t make ends meet,"
Kostas Barkas, a lawmaker from the leftist Syriza party, told Reuters.
Other Greek lawmakers said the situation showed images “of people on the brink of despair” and the sense of“sadness for a proud people who have ended up like this.”
It’s a reality that many Greek citizens find hard to comprehend.
"It’s difficult. I never imagined that I would end up here," 65-year-old Panagiota Petropoulos said.
"I can’t afford anything, not even at the fruit market. Everything is expensive, prices of everything are going up while our income is going down and there are no jobs," she continued.
Greece, which is currently in its sixth year of recession, is experiencing record high unemployment rates. Citizens have been forced to endure wage and pension cuts to satisfy European Union and International Monetary Fund demands.
The handout was an attempt by farmers to persuade the government to give them a 50 per cent price reduction on diesel-powered farm equipment, abolish the obligatory declaration for cultivation and cut Value Added Tax from 23 per cent to 6 per cent on their products and agricultural machinery and equipment.
Strikes continue to take place in various sectors, as workers protest the government’s austerity plan.
On Wednesday, Greece’s ruling coalition forced striking seamen to return to work after a six-day action that suspended ferry services to dozens of Greek Islands. The strike led to food and medical shortages.
But when one strike ends, others continue.
Farmers throughout the country are in their ninth day of demonstrations, staging roadblocks with their tractors on highways across Greece on Wednesday.
Journalists working for state broadcasters went into a third day of strikes on Wednesday, protesting against the government’s policies regulating the sector. The strike is scheduled to continue until Thursday.
Various Greek Unions have held a wave of strikes over the past three years to protest the harsh austerity measures taken to secure international rescue loans.
Source
Unemployment for workers under 25 is now at 57.6 percent, & more than one fifth of the population lives in poverty in Greece. Austerity measures have also cut wages by 60 percent. The IMF & the EU are planning more cuts to the minimum wage & public sector wages.

Man trampled as hundreds of desperate Greeks scuffle for food
February 7, 2013

A fruit and vegetable handout in Greece led to one man being trampled on Wednesday, calling attention to the desperate conditions in the crisis-hit country. Some 55 tons of produce was given away by farmers who were protesting high production costs.

The person was injured when he was pushed by a crowd trying to grab the goods and fell and hit his head.

The chaos was sparked when food stalls ran out of fruits and vegetables, prompting dozens of people to rush to a nearby truck.

It was an “every man for himself” situation as the Greeks shoved their way to the front of the truck, competing for the food that was left. The 55 tons of food was completely gone in under two hours.

A Reuters employee at the scene was hit on the head with cauliflower heads as he attempted to photograph the situation.

"These images make me angry. Angry for a proud people who have no food to eat, who can’t afford to keep warm, who can’t make ends meet,"

Kostas Barkas, a lawmaker from the leftist Syriza party, told Reuters.

Other Greek lawmakers said the situation showed images “of people on the brink of despair” and the sense of“sadness for a proud people who have ended up like this.”

It’s a reality that many Greek citizens find hard to comprehend.

"It’s difficult. I never imagined that I would end up here," 65-year-old Panagiota Petropoulos said.

"I can’t afford anything, not even at the fruit market. Everything is expensive, prices of everything are going up while our income is going down and there are no jobs," she continued.

Greece, which is currently in its sixth year of recession, is experiencing record high unemployment rates. Citizens have been forced to endure wage and pension cuts to satisfy European Union and International Monetary Fund demands.

The handout was an attempt by farmers to persuade the government to give them a 50 per cent price reduction on diesel-powered farm equipment, abolish the obligatory declaration for cultivation and cut Value Added Tax from 23 per cent to 6 per cent on their products and agricultural machinery and equipment.

Strikes continue to take place in various sectors, as workers protest the government’s austerity plan.

On Wednesday, Greece’s ruling coalition forced striking seamen to return to work after a six-day action that suspended ferry services to dozens of Greek Islands. The strike led to food and medical shortages.

But when one strike ends, others continue.

Farmers throughout the country are in their ninth day of demonstrations, staging roadblocks with their tractors on highways across Greece on Wednesday.

Journalists working for state broadcasters went into a third day of strikes on Wednesday, protesting against the government’s policies regulating the sector. The strike is scheduled to continue until Thursday.

Various Greek Unions have held a wave of strikes over the past three years to protest the harsh austerity measures taken to secure international rescue loans.

Source

Unemployment for workers under 25 is now at 57.6 percent, & more than one fifth of the population lives in poverty in Greece. Austerity measures have also cut wages by 60 percent. The IMF & the EU are planning more cuts to the minimum wage & public sector wages.

Worldwide unemployment soars, young workers most vulnerable – UN report
January 22, 2013 

Global unemployment is at a record high in the wake of the financial crisis, says a UN report. A rise in joblessness of 5.1 million is expected in 2013, impacting the world’s youth hardest in a climate of stifling austerity and economic instability.

UN agency, the International Labor Organization (ILO) released its annual report on worldwide employment on Tuesday, marking a significant worsening in unemployment trends.

The report states that approximately 197 million people were out of work in 2012, a rise of 4.2 million. Guy Ryder, director-general of the ILO, stated at the press conference accompanying the release of the report that “inadequacy of policy to counter” unemployment was largely to blame for the slump in investment and hiring.

“This has prolonged the labor market slump in many countries, lowering job creation and increasing unemployment duration even in some countries that previously had low unemployment and dynamic labor markets,” he added.

Ryder stressed the numbers did not convey the full extent of the crisis because “labor force participation has fallen dramatically…masking the true extent of the jobs crisis.”

Over 39 million people dropped out of the global job market last year because of the increasingly bleak outlook. The economic climate in the eurozone has been earmarked as one of the worst areas for the job market, indicative of a “piecemeal approach” to the crisis.

“The global nature of the crisis means countries cannot resolve its impact individually and with domestic measures only,” he declared.

‘Global youth missing out on vital skills’

The document reported that young people are worst-hit by soaring unemployment and are losing valuable experience as a result of difficulties in getting onto the employment ladder in the first place.

"The crisis has dramatically diminished the labor market prospects for young people, as many experience long-term unemployment right from the start of their labor market entry," the UN agency said, stressing that such a phenomenon had not been witnessed during previous downturns.

At present there are around 73.8 million people aged between 15 and 24 out of work worldwide and “the slowdown in economic activity is likely to push another half million into unemployment by 2014.”

The ILO signaled that, perhaps most worrying of all, in advanced economies around 35 per cent of unemployed young people had been jobless for more than six months. This extended period of time out of work has a detrimental impact on their future career prospects, depriving them of the necessary skills needed to compete in the job market.

“Many of the new jobs require skills that jobseekers do not have,” Mr. Ryder informed.

The ILO signaled that employment prospects varied from region to region, emphasizing that Eastern Europe, East and South-East Asia and the Middle East would see youth joblessness on the rise in the coming years.

Growth of the global jobs market trailed off in 2011, writes the report, adding that many countries were also experiencing “a worsening in job quality.”

Source