Author Archives: allielapehn

Black Friday at Walmart Brings More than Deals

Many of you have probably noticed that stores are opening earlier than ever for the craziest display of consumerism in America. Many praise this change as a solution to the aggression and injuries that plagues many stores’ workers and customers during the scramble for holiday deals. There is, however, a significant backlash against this decision made by many of the stores. With Walmart’s deals beginning at 6pm on Thanksgiving, many labor activists state that the “Black Friday” craze has gone too far.

While to many Walmart is known for its unbeatable deals, it is known to others for its poor working conditions and pay of employees. The superstore has maintained its low wages across the board by arguing that it is necessary to keep wages down if the consumers want the same lower prices. And while this seems like a reasonable argument, it is not the case.

Business Insider crunched the numbers for its article “Here’s How Much A Wal-Mart Pay Increase Would Cost Shoppers Per Trip” and found that the increase from federal minimum wage to a living wage of $12.50 per hour, would only raise total consumers costs about $12 per year or $0.46 per trip. This small change shows that the increase of wages is wholly possible, but until Walmart feels the push from within, they can and will continue to deny that the increase is necessary.

Walmart has been staunchly anti-union from its conception and continually busts any unions and organizing interests in their company. This year with the start of Black Friday deals on Thursday evening, many unions and workers have had enough. They say that pulling more workers away from they families on Thanksgiving highlights the disregard that Walmart management has for its employees. Calling for a change, the UAW has called on support from many other unions and labor oriented groups for support. While some workers have already organized strikes at their stores, a superpower like Walmart will need to see a nation push for unionizing and change in order to feel the pressure necessary to cause a change.

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Protesters in Vista, CA

By organizing picket lines and protests all across the country, the main goal was to educate shoppers about the struggles of the workers who serve them and to reach out to workers about the possibilities that unionizing could bring to them. Because Black Friday brings out many more consumers and workers, the message has the chance to really make an impact. If Walmart begins to feel the pressure from these protests, change may be closer than expected. For now, we can only hope that this Black Friday shoppers left with more than carts full of low-priced goods and workers left with new feelings of determination to change their workplace.

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Bold Poetry

Richard Blanco has been announced as a speaker at the 2013 inauguration of president Obama. While he is the fifth poet to speak at an inauguration, he racks up quite a few of “firsts.”
Blanco is the first ever Hispanic-American and openly gay poet to ever present at a presidential inauguration. He is also the youngest. When told the news that he had been selected to present, Blanco said he was ecstatic and could hardly believe that this opportunity had been given to him.
Blanco likes to say that he is a product of three countries, “made in Cuba, assembled in Spain, and imported to the United States.” His poetry reflects his diverse upbringing in the sense that in many works he is searching for an identity with one of the cultures that he is a part of.
One of his most known works, “AMÉRICA”, discusses his dilemma as a seven year old child when it came to the clashes of his Cuban and American influences. In one section, he was taught about a typical American Thanksgiving at school and he longed to experience this like his other classmates. His mother, who always made traditional Cuban cuisine, was persuaded to mix the cultures on this day and serve both turkey and pork.

A week before Thanksgiving
I explained to my abuelita
about the Indians and the Mayflower,
how Lincoln set the slaves free;
I explained to my parents about
the purple mountain’s majesty,
“one if by land, two if by sea”
the cherry tree, the tea party,
the amber waves of grain,
the “masses yearning to be free”
liberty and justice for all, until
finally they agreed:
this Thanksgiving we would have turkey,
as well as pork.

Richard Blanco (Photo by Nick Tucci)

Richard Blanco (Photo by Nick Tucci)


Full Poem Here: http://www.richard-blanco.com/city-of-a-hundred-fires/america.php

His poems exemplify the beauty of diversity in America. Blanco deserves this opportunity to speak at the inauguration as much as anyone, but I think the fact that he was chosen makes a significant point. America is evolving into an all-inclusive culture. Four years ago we elected our first black president. Now we will hear from our first Hispanic and openly gay poet. Opportunities are no longer being taken away from deserving citizens due to their race, background, and sexual preference. This is an America that I can be proud of.

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51 Stars for the Flag?

Among all of the re-election cries of both joy and concern, the media overlooked one very important vote. Puerto Rico’s vote on the referendum for statehood. Since 1898 Puerto Rico has been part of the Commonwealth of the United States. This allows for a small delegation in congress without voting privileges.

The relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States has sparked debate nationally and even globally. The issue revolves around whether Puerto Rico should remain a U.S. territory, become a U.S. state, or break off and form an independent nation.

On Tuesday their ballot contained two questions regarding the current “territory” status of Puerto Rico. The first question asked if they favor the current status of Puerto Rico. Fifty-four percent of voters responded no, signifying their discontent. The second question gave voters three choices statehood, independence, or “sovereign free association,” which would give the 4 million island residents more independence. Only 1.3 million voters chose to answer this final question. Of those, sixty-one percent chose statehood. Although this is a majority response, 500,000 voters chose to leave this question blank. With such a great number of voters refusing to make the choice, did statehood really win? Congress will have to react to the election results themselves, but for the first time a 51stseems like a great possibility.

Image by Rick Wyatt, 1998.

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Problems with the Electoral College

When heading out to the polls in two weeks, voters will probably be worrying about who they will vote for or who their fellow citizens will give their votes to. What should be on their mind now? The electors. The people who actually give the candidates the numbers of electoral votes that they need to win.

In a flawless electoral system, electors would cast their votes for the candidate that won the largest majority in their state. Americans have come to expect that electors will faithfully translate the popular vote into the electoral vote. Unfortunately there is no certainty that electors will actually choose to vote this way.

In a recent survey conducted by The Associated Press, as many as five republican electors said that they would not vote for Romney even if he won the overall majority in their state. These republicans were unhappy with Romney’s victory in the primary elections and will not work to overcome their disappointment even if Romney is who the citizens want. With an election that’s predicted to be very close, these rogue electors could really make a difference. If one elector chooses not to follow the popular majority, they could cause hundreds of thousands of votes to be worthless.

In 2008 alone, 80% of electors were contacted by lobbying groups with campaign materials, bribes, and even some death threats. About 12% of these electors said that the materials e-mailed to them by these groups did persuade them and make them consider voting against the majority.

These tactics are not new and have been used since the 1980’s when Ronald Reagan sent out personal letters to every republican elector. If candidates and their supporting organisations are thinking about the possibility of rogue electors, why aren’t we? More states should move to pass the Uniform Faithful Presidential Electors Act as soon as possible to ensure that each vote will count and that electors are not able to overlook the majority.

 

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Australian Prime Minister’s Speech Heard Around the World

Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia, gave a speech to parliament about sexism directed towards her opposition, Tony Abbott. After going through two weeks with sexism and misogyny as the hot topic in the Australian political media, she finally felt the need to address the issue herself.

Tony Abbott began attacking Peter Slipper, the Speaker of the House and demanding that he step down from office. Slipper was accused of sexually harassing an openly gay male staff member in a series of text messages, where he crudely compared the female sex organs to various aquatic animals.  Abbott said that if the Prime Minister Gillard defended Peter Slipper in any way she would be just as sexist as any “gay man that talks shit about vaginas.”

Gillard was very offended by his statements accusing her of being sexist. She attacked him in her rant about sexism in parliament on October 9th. Her voice rose to command everyone’s attention as she proclaimed that she “will not be lectured about misogyny by this man… Not now, not ever.”

Gillard then went on to point out his own hypocrisy by mentioning various campaign slogans that utilize sexist phrases like ‘Ditch the Witch’ and describe her as a man’s bitch. “If [Abbott] wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn’t need a motion in the House of Representatives, he needs a mirror.”

Gillard’s speech has now reached fame for her display of passion. As she points directly at Abbott and looks him in the eye, she made a statement. Sexism is a problem in modern day politics, but a worse problem is hypocrisy. It’s safe to say that Abbott’s support rating has plummeted since the “misogyny speech” given by Gillard.

Link to video: http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2012/10/10/sot-gillard-sexism-parliament.savo?iref=allsearch

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