Development or Colonization?
Chicago power-brokers take control of community redevelopment in Gary, Indiana
In 2016, the city of Gary, Indiana was faced with an almost apocalyptic set of challenges. More than half of the city’s children were living in poverty, 1 in 4 properties was vacant or abandoned, 2 in 5 buildings were in disrepair, and 1 in 5 properties are on tax sale every single year. City officials estimated the cost of demolishing all of the abandoned and blighted buildings at over $100 million.
In a desperate attempt to turn their struggling city around, Gary officials entered into an unprecedented partnership that would essentially privatize the redevelopment functions of the city. On July 29th, 2016, the City of Gary Redevelopment Commission approved a massive public-private partnership agreement with MaiaCo, a newly formed for-profit corporation backed by wealthy Chicago insiders from the inner circle of former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. Under the terms of the agreement, MaiaCo would put up the capital to allow the Redevelopment Commission to take control of tax delinquent properties. In exchange, MaiaCo would be guaranteed 65% of the proceeds from the sale of those city-owned properties to developers.
If the Green New Deal Happens, Who Will Build It?
The construction industry is poised to boom — but it won’t survive without much-needed diversity
In the weeks and months following the 2018 election, key organizations in the climate movement — spurred on in large part by the energetic work of the Sunrise Movement — have pushed forward a bold call for a Green New Deal. Envisioning a program at the scope and scale of Franklin Roosevelt’s post-Depression-era New Deal, the Green New Deal calls for a transition to 100 percent renewable energy, guaranteed employment in the clean energy sector, and massive investment in transportation and energy infrastructure.
The urgent proposal immediately gained significant traction. A week after the election, newly elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) joined a sit-in at the office of incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) to demand the creation of a select committee to draft the Green New Deal legislation. By the end of December, at least 45 members of Congress had come out in favor of the legislation, and over 140 progressive organizations had signed onto the campaign.
Nice HR Managers Can’t Fix Bad Jobs
As workplaces and the organization of work in our economy continues to evolve, many practitioners of human resources management (HRM) have argued that traditional models of union representation workplace organizing are no longer relevant to workers and that enlightened HR management can improve the world of work.
In an article published by the Society for Human Resources Management(SHRM), HR managers argued that more responsive HR practices can address the needs of workers in the current economy. Jim Gray, a labor relations consultant argued, “Accelerated employee engagement and personal development efforts — especially attractive to younger generations — are making union representation unnecessary.”
The Future of Work: Video Games in the Conference Room, Philosophy Lectures in the Machine Shop and Gourmet Meals in Underground Mines
For more than 100 years, economists, philosophers and scientists at all ends of the political spectrum have predicted a future where much of the work that has been historically been performed by humans will be taken on by machines and computers. In 1930, John Maynard Keynes imagined that his grandchildren would live in a world where the humans would struggle to find meaningful work to fill their time and the length of the work week would fall to 15 hours [i]. In 1950, mathematician Norbert Wiener, argued that machines would soon free society of ‘relentless and monotonous drudgery,’ allowing humans to spend our time on engaged in creative knowledge work [ii]. In 1971 anarchist Murray Bookchin suggested that industrialized countries were rapidly approaching a “materially abundant, almost workless era in which most of the means of life can be provided by machines,” in his proposal for a post-scarcity anarchism [iii].
More recently, in his 2015 book, “Rise of the Robots, Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future,” Martin Ford acknowledges that the previous warnings of mass technological unemployment but argues that the current wave of technological improvement is different because, the exponential growth potential of information technology “is pushing us towards a tipping point that is poised to ultimately make the entire economy less labor-intensive” [iv].
Research on the potential for automation in current jobs seems to support Ford’s prediction. In 2013, Oxford University researchers Carl Frey and Michael Osborne analyzed tasks performed in 702 detailed occupations to estimate the probability of computerization, suggesting that about 47% of US employment is at risk of technological displacement [v]. More recently, writing for the consulting group, McKinsey & Company, Chui, Manyika, and Mehdi took a more granular look at the question, examining the percentage of time workers spend performing particular tasks and assessing the degree to which those tasks are susceptible to automation [vi].
Clean Air and Good Jobs in the Mon Valley — Changing the Debate
At 4:15 am on Christmas Eve, a fire broke out at US Steel’s Clairton Coke Plant outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania causing significant damage to the plant’s №2 and №5 control rooms and vacuum machines used to clean coke oven gases. Without the use of the damaged equipment the plant cannot perform desulfurization of the coke oven gas generated during the coke-making process. Repairs to that equipment will not be completed until at least May 15, 2019.
In the meantime, continuing to operate the facility will result in increased emissions of Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), a pollutant that irritates the nose, throat, and airways causing coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath, and is particularly dangerous for people with asthma or other respiratory conditions. US Steel has attempted to mitigate some of its SO2 emissions by substituting natural gas for coke oven gas, but the facility is still releasing dramatically elevated levels of SO2. As a result, air quality levels in the area have gotten so bad that in nine of the first thirty-five days of 2019 local regulators were forced to issue air-pollution warnings advising people with asthma and other respiratory illnesses to stay inside.
The string of air-quality warnings and the strong odor emanating from the plant has led many residents and environmental and public health advocates to call for the impacted ovens to be placed on hot idle until the repairs are completed. US Steel has argued that it can continue to operate safely and many workers at the facility have expressed concerns that temporarily idling the facility may lead to permanent job losses.
This isn’t the first time this conversation has played out in the Mon Valley.
Anyone who lived in the Pittsburgh area through the 1970s and 1980s can remember hazy the cloud of pollution that covered the city day-in and day-out. Kids who grew up in the area have the piles of albuterol inhalers to remind them of the very real health impacts of all of that pollution. And in recent years Clairton Works hasn’t exactly cleaned up its act. As recently as last June, the Allegheny County Health Department fined US Steel $1 million for repeatedly violating its own commitments to reduce harmful emissions at the coke works.
Trump’s Presidency: It’s Been this Bad Before
Almost 100 years ago the US elected Warren G. Harding, a man widely remembered as the worst US president in history
As much of the country begins to come to terms with Donald Trump’s upset victory in the 2016 presidential election fear and fatalistic rhetoric have taken root in the public dialogue. Trump’s brand of racism, authoritarianism and unfettered capitalism is something that is, thankfully, without parallel in the current mainstream political dialogue in the United States.
The current political moment, however, is not without precedent.
In 1920 Republican Warren G. Harding was elected the 29th President of the United States. In the years leading up to his election the country had been worked into a nationalist, racist fervor. In the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and in the face of a growing anti-capitalist movement in the US, Congress passed the Immigration Act, the Espionage Act and the Sedition Act to undermine and outlaw subversive organizing. Attorney General Mitchell Palmer was rounding up radicals in the Palmer Raids aimed at breaking up left wing resistance in the United States. Fueled by the success of the 1915 film “Birth of a Nation” the Ku Klux Klan was growing at a rapid pace and had built a national reach.
At the onset of the campaign he was considered a long-shot candidate, even for the Republican Party nomination. As other more mainstream candidates battled for the nomination the convention was deadlocked. As the process played on Harding’s support grew and by the 10th ballot he won the support of the majority of his party’s delegates and became the Republican nominee for presidency.