0 Comments · Tuesday, July 1, 2014
A national group working to convince
companies to change the way they buy produce picketed Kroger’s annual
shareholder meeting June 26.
by Nick Swartsell
57 days ago
Posted In: Labor Unions
at 01:52 PM | Permalink
Coalition for Immokalee Workers pushes for higher wages, better treatment
Oscar Otzoy, center left, stands with fellow protesters outside a Kroger shareholder meeting at Music HallNick Swartsell A national group working to convince companies to change the way they buy produce picketed Kroger's annual shareholder meeting Thursday.About 100 activists showed up, holding signs and chanting as shareholders filed into the meeting at Music Hall. Some were local, while others came from Columbus, Florida and elsewhere.The group organizing the event, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, is based in Immokalee, Fla., and pushes for higher wages and improved working conditions for farm laborers. A large amount of produce production takes place in Florida and throughout the South, and the industry is rife with complaints of worker exploitation and mistreatment.Hundreds of thousands of farm workers labor in Florida, and many make just pennies per pound picked, meaning it can take picking a couple tons a day to make a living wage. That’s if they make any money at all. Florida has prosecuted a number of cases of slave labor in the agricultural industry in the past decade and a half, leading to the discovery of more than 1,000 people being exploited for unpaid slave labor. The adverse conditions affect people of color disproportionately. A study by the Center for Racial Justice Innovation found that 50 percent of low-wage workers in the food industry are people of color, and that 65 percent of low-wage farm workers are Hispanic.CIW started in 1993 as a small, local coalition working to improve these conditions, specifically working with tomato pickers. The group began near the city of Immokalee in southwest Florida, known as “the tomato capital of the world.” The organization had big success pushing for higher wages and better treatment and has grown to become a national-level organizing group for workers.Oscar Otzoy picks produce and advocates for farm labor rights. He’s working in Columbus now but lived in Immokalee for eight years before that. He's been involved in the coalition to improve farm workers’ rights that entire time. He says before the coalition, working days in the fields were long, and workers had little recourse when they were mistreated. “Back then, you’d work long, hard hours, and if you were abused in the fields, if you were a victim of sexual harassment, as many women are, there was no system,” he said. “If workers wanted to complain, they would be fired on the spot. That’s all changing now.” Otzoy says the life of a farm laborer can be hard, especially without groups like the CIW. “You wake up very early in the morning, usually about 4 a.m., and then get on a bus to the field to work,” said Otzoy, describing a typical day before he joined the coalition. “But when you get there, you usually don’t start working until about 10 a.m., when the pesticides have dried and it’s safe to enter. All the time in between is unpaid.”Protesters picket as Kroger shareholders enter Music HallNick SwartsellThe CIW’s Fair Food Program, an effort to address some of the hardships of work in the produce industry, pushes for an extra cent per pound paid to workers, supports a code of conduct for companies and educates workers about their rights. CIW says the Fair Food Program has resulted in $12 million in extra pay for workers since it was first instituted. McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, Subway, Chipotle, Trader Joes, Whole Foods and Wal Mart, among other large companies responsible for billions of dollars in the produce trade, have all participated in the Fair Food Program. Some staunch holdouts include Wendy’s and Publix, a Southern grocery store chain. Kroger is another company that has yet to join in. “We’ve been here every year, and we’re trying to grow our numbers,” said Sameerah Ahmad, a local organizer working with CIW at the protest. “We’ve been organizing these protests for a few years. We want to show escalation and pressure and show we’re not going way. Kroger is the nation’s largest grocer after Wal-Mart, with total sales of more than $34 billion. The chain has not yet responded to calls to join fair food efforts. While the company itself hasn’t participated directly in any known agricultural injustices, Ahmad said that as part of the produce industry, the company should make sure it’s sourcing its food ethically. “Kroger can take a big step by supporting workers’ rights in the fields,” she said.
by Nick Swartsell
56 days ago
Posted In: News
at 09:53 AM | Permalink
Cincinnati startups, downtown grocery and income inequality
So I'm a bit late with news this morning, or the morning was a bit early, one of those. It probably has something to do with CityBeat winning six Cincinnati SPJ awards last night. Though I wasn't part of the team in 2013 when those awards were earned, I did my part by putting in extra hours celebrating. Anyway, enough about us. Here's what's going on in the world.Cincinnati’s startup community got some love yesterday when America Online cofounder Steve Case rolled into town with his Rise of the Rest tour, which celebrates entrepreneurs in American cities. Case praised Cincinnati’s progress in bringing vitality back to its downtown area and credited that renaissance at least in part to the city’s startups and young entrepreneurs. U.S. Chamber of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzger, who is riding shotgun on the tour, also praised the Queen City for the level of access startups have to the large corporations in town. She said what the city needs now is a big hit — a startup that really makes it big and shows the world that Cincinnati is a great place to start a business. Mayor John Cranley was in the mix as well, touting Cincinnati’s strengths as a marketing town. He called the city “the best place in the world” for marketing entrepreneurs. While that’s kind of like your parents talking about how awesome you are to their work colleagues (of course he’s going to say that), Cranley’s point holds some weight — with so many big companies in town needing all sorts of fresh ideas, it can’t hurt to be living at their doorstep if you’re hoping to do some business with them.One Cincinnati startup, called Frameri, got $100,000 from Case and an invitation to pitch their business in Washington, D.C. Frameri, which makes high-style glasses with interchangeable frames and lenses, beat out seven other local businesses in a pitch competition. The company is an alum of OTR’s business incubator The Brandery. No word from Case yet on my business idea, which involves a food delivery service that launches burritos from those pneumatic tubes you see in old bank building drive-thrus. Still waiting for that call, Steve…• In other downtown news, Kroger is adjusting its ideas about starting a grocery store in the Central Business District. The Business Courier reports that Kroger CEO Roger McMullen discussed the chain’s plans for a downtown store at yesterday’s annual shareholder meeting, revealing that less may be more in the company’s eyes. Kroger had been mulling a full-size store here but is now considering something smaller and more specialized.• Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld and other Democrats held an event this morning near UC criticizing Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio legislature for the low level of funding for higher education in the state. Democrats also gathered in Columbus to protest dwindling education spending, which they say make college unaffordable for many Ohio families. One talking point — Ohio’s budget spends less than 10 percent on higher education for the first time in four decades. Gov. Kasich has acknowledged that college affordability is a problem but says schools need to do more to cut costs and make sure degrees lead to good-paying jobs.• The Associated Press reports that Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office is having a difficult time documenting how it goes about choosing law firms for special assignments. DeWine says there’s a rigorous process used to vet firms and decide who gets the lucrative state contracts, but public records request by AP found… nothing. It’s entirely possible that the AG’s dog ate the records or that maybe DeWine just keeps all that info in his head. The revelation comes as allegations are being made that these kinds of contracts are often awarded to firms who donate to the state Republican party. DeWine’s opponent for the AG post, Cincinnati-based lawyer David Pepper, has said DeWine’s office is engaged in a “pay to play” arrangement. DeWine, however, says his office’s choices are transparent and fair.• A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that political polarization, which is at an all-time high, contributes to income inequality. This is kind of like a two-for-one in the “hot political topics” world. The study doesn’t go so far as to nail down why the gap between America’s political ideologies tracks so closely with the gap in rich and poor Americans’ incomes, but it does make a couple guesses, which are worth reading about. Basically, it may have to do with the country’s rightward shift toward policies that tend to benefit more wealthy citizens. Or heck, maybe it’s just a big crazy coincidence and the tea party really will make everything great for everyone if we only embrace their Mad-Max style dreams for a government-less future. Could be.
4 Comments · Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Bill Nye to debate anti-science creationist, Chris Finney gets kicked out of law firm and more in the worst week ever.
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 24, 2013
WEDNESDAY APRIL 17: The Vermont House of Representatives last
week approved a bill that will reduce the penalty for possessing up to
an ounce of marijuana. The bill passed by a 2-to-1 margin, which shouldn’t
come as much of surprise in the state that Phish is from.
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a measure into law that will
crack down on puppy mills — inhumane, large-scale dog breeding
operations run for profit, often resulting in severe neglect and abuse. CINCINNATI +1
0 Comments · Tuesday, December 18, 2012
I’ve always had some sense of “beef
jerky” over my lifetime. It’s always been in gas stations and convenient
stores. And I’m certain I’ve eaten jerky before. Not en masse, but a
bit. And not on a dare, even.
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Americans like to multitask, as long as
it doesn’t involve trying harder at their place of employment. That’s
why driving and texting has become such a problem. The Kentucky Office
of Highway Safety states that cellphone use while driving has caused 186
crashes so far this year.
by Kevin Osborne
Amid a growing public outcry, Kroger has joined the list of grocery store chains that will stop using so-called “pink slime” in their ground beef. The Cincinnati-based grocer announced Thursday it will no longer sell beef with the additive. Ever since ABC News did a report a few weeks ago on the meat filler, many consumers have pushed to have it either eliminated or clearly identified on packages. The product contains “finely textured lean beef,” the product made from beef trimmings after all the choice cuts of beef are removed, which is then treated with ammonia. Just eat more chicken.The police chief of Wilder, Ky., entered a not guilty plea Thursday to a drunken driving charge. Alexandria Police arrested Wilder Police Chief Anthony Rouse on March 1 for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol. During the court hearing, a prosecutor said Rouse violated the conditions of a pre-trial release from jail by allegedly driving a vehicle after drinking in a bar. Rouse said he was unaware of the conditions surrounding his pre-trial release. Chief, call a cab next time.A team of doctors from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center is partnering with a hospital in Ghana to complete more than 30 advanced surgeries there during a week-long mission trip. The team's focus will be on pediatric colorectal and gynecological conditions, specialties not widely practiced in Africa.About 128,000 Ohio workers hold jobs related to the production of “green” goods and services, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s first-ever green jobs report. Those workers represent 2.6 percent of total employment in the Buckeye State and are spread across various industries, based on a 2010 survey. Critics, however, say tax incentives create an artificial demand for such jobs.Ohio leads the nation in property insurance claims for the theft of copper and other metals, according to an organization that fights insurance fraud. The National Insurance Crime Bureau says Ohio property owners made 2,398 such claims during the three-year period from 2009-11. Texas ranked second, followed by Georgia, California and Illinois.Covington officials are upset about a rowdy St. Patrick's Day crowd in MainStrasse last weekend that resulted in a serious assault, unruly behavior and piles of trash left for residents to pick up. The owners of Cock and Bull English Pub and Pachinko's were apologetic Thursday after their advertised St. Patrick's Day parties drew a larger than expected crowd, which they blamed on the holiday falling on a Saturday this year and the unseasonably warm weather.In news elsewhere, civil liberties advocates are concerned by new rules approved by the Obama administration that allow counterterrorism officials to lengthen the period of time they retain information about U.S. residents, even if they have no known connection to terrorism. The changes allow the National Counterterrorism Center to keep information for up to five years. Previously, the center was required to promptly destroy, usually within 180 days, any information about U.S. citizens unless a connection to terrorism was evident.A U.S. soldier who allegedly shot and killed civilians in Afghanistan reportedly will be charged with 17 counts of murder. Robert Bales, an army staff sergeant and Norwood native, also faces six counts of attempted murder and six counts of aggravated assault, an official told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity. Bales, 38, is suspected of leaving a military base in Kabul, entering homes and shooting villagers, including nine children, in their sleep on March 11.A teenager in Minnesota is being prevented from bringing a porn actress to his high school prom. Mike Stone, 18, tweeted various actresses in the porn industry, seeking one to go to the prom in St. Paul. Megan Piper – star of films like “Tugged by an Angel” and “Squirting 2” – said on her Twitter account that she would go if Stone paid for her transportation from California. Once school officials learned of the plan from another parent on an Internet message board, however, they put a stop to it. They said her visit would violate a school policy that states visitors are allowed unless "the visit is not in the best interest of students, employees or the school district." Hate the game, don't hate the player.Census officials soon will allow first-time, instant public access to records that provide a snapshot of Americans at the end of the Great Depression and on the verge of World War II. Beginning April 2, the 1940 Census will be available online for free. The records document details of 132 million people, including 21 million who are still alive today, and what their lives were like. The project is expected to be a boon for history buffs and researchers.
by Kevin Osborne
Cincinnati’s new law for selling scrap metal, which was scheduled to take effect today, has been put on hold pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by two local dealers. The law, approved by City Council last month, would require people who sell scrap metal within the city to get a license and make businesses that buy the metal pay dealers by check with a two-day hold, among other changes. The law was designed to cut down on metal theft in Cincinnati, but Cohen Brothers in the East End and American Compressed Steel in Carthage argued it would adversely impact their livelihood. Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Robert Winkler issued a preliminary injunction Thursday afternoon.In related news, the Ohio Senate unanimously approved a bill Wednesday that requires scrap metal dealers to photograph anyone who sells them scrap. Dealers would be prohibited from buying metal from anyone who refuses to be photographed. Also, dealers must keep the photos on file for 60 days. The Ohio House will now consider the bill.Last week we learned that Aaron Boone would be the grand marshal of the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade, and now we know who will throw out the first pitch at the opener against the Miami Marlins. Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis Jr., who will retire later this year after a 41-year career in public service, has been selected for the honor. Just how far the 77-year-old Leis will be able to throw the ball remains to be seen, but we're betting he will do a better job than Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory did a few years ago.Clermont County residents who suffered property damage in the tornado two weeks ago will be able to apply for Small Business Administration loans beginning this morning. The Disaster Loan Outreach Center is now open at the Washington Township Hall, located at 2238 Highway 756. Renters could receive up to $40,000 in loans while homeowners could receive up to $200,000 in loans to rebuild their home or replace furniture, said disaster relief officials.Kroger, the Cincinnati-based grocery chain, is among the retailers that use so-called “pink slime” in some of its ground beef products. U.S. consumers generally have reacted with disgust after learning that many fast food restaurants and grocers use ground beef that contains “finely textured lean beef,” the product made from beef trimmings after all the choice cuts of beef are removed. About 70 percent of the ground beef sold at supermarkets contains the meat filler, according to reports.In news elsewhere, a United Nations official this week formally accused the U.S. government of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment toward Bradley Manning, the American soldier who was held in solitary confinement for almost a year on suspicion of being the WikiLeaks source. Juan Mendez has completed a 14-month investigation into the treatment of Manning since the soldier's arrest at a U.S. military base in May 2010. He concludes that the U.S. military was at least culpable of cruel and inhumane treatment in keeping Manning locked up alone for 23 hours a day over an 11-month period in conditions that he also found might have constituted torture, London's Guardian reports. American media, however, seem curiously quiet on this news.Although President Obama reiterated his intention this week to stick to a timeline that calls for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan in 2014, pressure is mounting to quicken the schedule. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is demanding that NATO withdraw its forces from the small, rural outposts around the nation and confine its soldiers to military bases. The demand is the latest fallout after the burning of Korans by U.S. service members last month and the massacre of 16 Afghan civilians Sunday, allegedly by an Army staff sergeant who went on a rampage.The Columbia Journalism Review looks at what The Gannett Co., the owner of The Enquirer, could've bought with the $37.1 million compensation package it gave recently departed CEO Craig Dubow. CJR's findings include that the money would've paid for the starting salaries of 1,474 staffers at The Indianapolis Star or 310,720 annual subscriptions to The Tallahassee Democrat's website. “In October, four months after handing 700 employees pink slips, Gannett gave Dubow a $37.1 million package, also accumulated over decades. He earned a mere $9.4 million in 2010, some of which padded his retirement package. A few weeks later, the company announced it would force employees to take their fifth unpaid furlough in three years,” the magazine reports.Much attention has been paid to a column published Wednesday by The New York Times, in which Greg Smith explained why he was resigning after 12 years at Goldman Sachs due to what he said was the unethical and corrupt culture at the investment firm. But lesser known is this letter to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission by an unidentified whistleblower at JPMorgan Chase. The writer describes similar reckless practices at that firm, adding, “I am now under the opinion that we are actually putting hard-working Americans – unaware of what lays ahead – at extreme market risk.”