USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service wants to expand a pilot program in which inspectors examine 175 birds per minute, rather than the current rate of 35 birds per minute. A federal inspector remains part of the process in the pilot program, but only at the end of the poultry inspection line. Expansion of the program could result in the loss of up to 1,000 federal inspector jobs.Yeah, right. It's just fine and dandy to weaken government inspection because the companies are going to police themselves. They'd never choose to sell a diseased or dangerous chicken for a little extra profit!
Allowing private poultry inspectors to check and discard carcasses earlier in the slaughter and production process could provide plants greater flexibility to develop their own procedures for condemning contaminated carcasses, the proposal said.
In reality, here's what the high-speed inspection would mean:
In addition to federal inspectors losing their jobs and consumers being sold birds with tumors, scabs, or fecal matter, the higher-speed lines would mean increased rates of repetitive motion injuries for poultry processing workers. It's a lose lose lose.
- Under traditional inspection methods, inspectors can see all sides (and the inside) of the bird. But inspectors at HIMP plants can only see the backside of the bird - not the front (where the breast meat is) that may clearly show tumors or scabs. Nor can HIMP inspectors see the inside of the bird, where fecal matter and other disease causing abnormalities are found.
- Under HIMP plans, federal inspectors are replaced with plant workers who are powerless to speak out against their employers, and are responsible for removing adulterated product. The inspector whistleblowers have witnessed that these sorters are "rebuked by supervisors" when they try to slow down the line for food safety concerns.
A fair day's wage
- Lockouts are the labor story of the decade. In happier news, a nearly three-year lockout at a country club has ended, though the workers still don't have a contract.
- American Airlines pilots are still pissed off and making life difficult for the airline, with good reason. They've been working for years without a contract or a raise while top executives got bonuses, and now that the airline is in bankruptcy, the pilots are once again taking the hit.
- No deal: 22,000 unionized AT&T workers voted against ratifying a new contract, so negotiations will have to resume.
- Saying they've won some safety improvements, striking Walmart warehouse workers are back at work.
- The National Hockey League may be headed toward having no 2012-2013 season at all, thanks to its owners having locked out their players. The entire preseason has been canceled, and bargaining has been intermittent. Some players say they see it going on for a year or even more.
Sarah Jaffe explains that the NHL as a whole is profitable, and owners who aren't making enough money have other owners to blame—they're just finding the players an easier target:
Mirtle notes that the bottom 10 teams in the league (in such notorious hockey cities as Phoenix) aren't making enough money to cover expenses, while the rich teams have little interest in sharing revenue the way, say, the NFL or Major League Baseball do.For some owners greed is a simple answer, or an unwillingness to pick on people their own size leading them to go after their employees. But for some, the lockout fits in a hardline ideology:
“It’s an owner versus owner problem more than it is an owner versus player one,” Mirtle writes, but as a player agent tells him, “Owners would rather try to pound on players than pound on each other.”
Take Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider. He's the chairman of Comcast-Spectacor, which is partially owned by Comcast—yes, the media conglomerate that pays the NHL's TV contract. Snider was one of the founders of the Ayn Rand Institute in 1985; after a split within the “movement,” he became a supporter of the Atlas Society, the same place where Paul Ryan gave his speech calling for the end of Medicare. He was the executive producer of the Atlas Shrugged film and has publicly stated that “Capitalists build up business so that they can give weaker members of society jobs.”Note that "weaker members of society" here means less-wealthy ones; I'm pretty sure professional hockey players are physically stronger than this guy.
- Workers at a factory owned by China's notorious Foxconn rioted, with as many as 2,000 people involved and dozens injured. The factory is believed to be producing the iPhone 5, and there are reports that longer work hours and deadline pressures for that produce increased the tensions leading to the riot. Workers say guards beat them prior to the trouble.
- Mario Batali's Del Posto restaurant has settled for $1.15 million with 31 workers who alleged tip misappropriation and wage theft, racial discrimination, and more. Del Posto has now worked with the Restaurant Opportunities Center to become a high-road employer.
- Child labor in agriculture. It's common and it's ugly, and tobacco is an especially bad case.
- With the American Crystal Sugar lockout going on 13 months now, workers' kids are appealing to management to let their parents back on the job.
State and local legislation
- It's Andrea Zuckerman!
- Speaking of Prop 32, the Koch brothers have given $4 million to this effort to weaken unions' political power. Days later, the group that got the $4 million had a new ad. The Frying Pan takes a shot by shot look at what $4 million of Koch money produces.
The War on Education
- Oh, hey, did you know that charter schools increase segregation? Among other ways corporate education policies make inequality worse.
- By contrast, here's what American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis have to say about what Chicago teachers fought for in their recent strike:
First, use time wisely. The proposed contract lengthens the school day and year. A key demand by educators during the strike was that the district focus not just on instituting a longer school day, but on making it a better school day. Additional seat time doesn't constitute a good education. A well-rounded and rich curriculum, regular opportunities for teachers to plan and confer with colleagues, and time to engage students through discussions, group work and project-based learning—all these contribute to a high-quality education, and these should be priorities going forward.
Second, get evaluation right and don't fixate on testing. Effective school systems use data to inform instruction, not as a "scarlet number" that does nothing to improve teaching and learning. One placard seen on Chicago's picket lines captured the sentiment of countless educators: "I want to teach to the student, not to the test." If implemented correctly, evaluations can help Chicago promote the continuous development of teachers' skills and of students' intellectual abilities (and not just their test-taking skills).
- This would be disappointing coming from anywhere. Coming from the Chronicle of Higher Education it's just sad. The Chronicle is holding a panel on student loan default. That's good, right?
But the invitation asks us to "Join the Career Education Corporation and the Education Finance Council to explore" this topic, and those two enterprises are listed as the sole sponsors of the event, with the Chronicle of Higher Education as its "host."
Career Education Corporation (CEC or CECO) is the nation's fourth largest for-profit college, and one whose record hardly qualifies it to impart wisdom on issues of student debt. Yet, as I discovered, CEC not only is sponsoring this Chronicle event -- it selected all the panelists.