Mega May Day: Global Fast Food Strike

Though International Workers’ Day technically falls on the 1st of May each year (May Day), the biggest developments appear to be happening two weeks later.  From, here’s what’s occurring around the world today…

On May 15, after months of relative quiet, fast food workers in 150 American cities will again go on strike. Once again, they will demand that some of America’s largest low-wage employers provide a base wage of $15 per hour and allow their workers to unionize. And once again, the striking workers will be joined on the picket lines by local politicians, community activists, and members of the clergy.

This strike, which KFC worker and movement organizer Naquashia LeGrand announced at a Wednesday rally, will likely be the biggest fast food labor action yet. In terms of the number of cities involved, it will certainly dwarf the previous record, a 100-city strike which took place in December. But perhaps more importantly, this will be the first labor action in the movement’s short history to spill across national borders. As workers in the United States walk off the job, fast food employees on six other continents will rally in solidarity.

“I work hard enough, just like everybody else. So I deserve a fair wage to take care of my family, just like everybody else around the nation,” said LeGrand. “We all deserve a living wage to take care of our families. There is no reason why we should be living in poverty. And that’s the reason why we’re going on strike.”

Danish McDonald’s worker Louise Marie Rantzau came to New York to attend the conference, and she spoke at Wednesday’s rally. Danish McDonald’s workers are unionized, she told msnbc, and employees who are over 18 make $21 per hour in American dollars.

“I can’t understand how McDonald’s can pay me a good wage and not do it in the U.S.,” she said. “I have this feeling that McDonald’s makes so much money, and it all goes in their pockets. So if they can afford it in Denmark, then they can afford it in the rest of the world.”

If every country cared about paying living wages the way Denmark does, then international strikes wouldn’t be needed.

To ignore the needs of base-level service workers is to also ignore the realities of a 21st century global economy.  As factory work has transitioned from human hands to robotic sequences, the world has seen a corresponding decline in middle class industrial employment.  Those factory jobs aren’t coming back, at least not in the same way they once did. But this decline in available employment for the many sure isn’t slowing down profits for the privileged few.  A shocking new report from Demos states that those at the helm of our fast food corporations are doing better than ever…

The average compensation of fast food CEOs was $23.8 million in 2013, making these executives some of the best-paid workers anywhere in the economy. At the same time, the fast food workforce is the lowest paid, with wages that fall below those of other employees in the sector and with little access to non-wage benefits. The CEO-to-worker compensation ratio is being pushed to its heights from both the top and the bottom, as executives in fast food have seen incomes grow substantially since 2000 while workers experienced virtually no growth at all.

After the Great Recession ended in 2009, CEOs captured the tide of economic growth with impressive rapidity. Executive pay recovered and outstripped previous levels within a single year. Workers, though, were left out of these gains. Since 2000, the average fast food worker has seen her total compensation climb by just 0.3 percent in real terms, and in 2013 was still making less money than before the recession. As a result of the trends for both components of the CEO-to-worker ratio, fast food stands out for its extreme imbalance in compensation practices.

The disparity between CEOs and base-level workers is unacceptable, if not criminal.  Adding insult to injury are states like Texas, who already don’t lift a finger to help their workers by refusing to raise the minimum wage, or explore any serious options for healthcare expansion to the poor.  Until this downward spiral is halted, and these workers gain access to a living wage, the voices for change will grow louder.

Brains and Eggs has a great post on this as well.

Fast Food Strike

(Photo Credit: Houston Public Media)



VA Still Paying Civil War Benefits!

It’s popular in contemporary American politics to question the effectiveness of government. Republicans often cast doubt that Federal agencies will be able to honor their commitments. For example, that reasoning is a popular theme for many state Governors refusing to comply with the ACA Healthcare expansion.

But a shocker of an article in the Wall Street Journal serves as a reminder that the US works hard to keep it’s word. Amazing as it sounds, the VA is still paying out Civil War benefits to a living American…

WILKESBORO, N.C.—Each month, Irene Triplett collects $73.13 from the Department of Veterans Affairs, a pension payment for her father’s military service—in the Civil War.

More than 3 million men fought and 530,000 men died in the conflict between North and South. Pvt. Mose Triplett joined the rebels, deserted on the road to Gettysburg, defected to the Union and married so late in life to a woman so young that their daughter Irene is today 84 years old—and the last child of any Civil War veteran still on the VA benefits rolls.

Ms. Triplett’s pension, small as it is, stands as a reminder that war’s bills don’t stop coming when the guns fall silent. The VA is still paying benefits to 16 widows and children of veterans from the 1898 Spanish-American War.

The last U.S. World War I veteran died in 2011. But 4,038 widows, sons and daughters get monthly VA pension or other payments. The government’s annual tab for surviving family from those long-ago wars comes to $16.5 million.

Spouses, parents and children of deceased veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan received $6.7 billion in the 2013 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. Payments are based on financial need, any disabilities, and whether the veteran’s death was tied to military service.

Two things come to mind from this… War is much more expensive than people realize, and the US honors its commitments.  It’s quite mind-boggling to think that we still have living connections to the Civil War, but Ms. Triplett serves as proof.  Her situation also begs to wonder how long we’ll be paying for the war in Iraq or current conflict in Afghanistan.

Triplett VA

Texoblogosphere: Week of May 12th

The Texas Progressive Alliance says Bring Back Our Girls for this post-Mother’s Day roundup.

Off the Kuff takes a closer look at the competitive legislative races on the ballot this fall.

Horwitz at Texpatriate notes that, while there may be a Democrat now on the Court of Criminal Appeals, he is not doing anything of use to stop cruel and unusual punishment.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos discovered Greg Abbott is hiding from Wendy Davis again. Perhaps it is because she and Texas cancer survivors have a bone to pick with him. Wendy Davis Links Greg Abbott to Cancer Institute Scandal.

WCNews at Eye on Williamson on the troubles of establishment Republicans in Texas in the GOP Primary, Thoughts On The GOP Runoffs for Lt. Gov and AG.

Polls show that even with 8 million Americans signed up, people still don’t like “Obamacare”, even though they support most provisions of the law. Texas Leftist wonders if this is simply an issue of nomenclature. Perhaps it’s time for Democrats to drop the name entirely when discussing the ACA.

Antonin Scalia and Kesha Rogers have more than the usual something in common, observes PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Bay Area Houston has a series titled “What idiot would…..” starring Greg Abbott. Today’s post is “What idiot would steal from cancer research fund?

Neil at All People Have Value says Wendy Davis needs to take up the real issues to get more folks to vote in the upcoming November election.

And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

The Citizens Transportation Coalition reports on a presentation by Texas Central Railway about their proposed high speed rail connection between Houston and Dallas.

The Makeshift Academic explains the impact that senior status federal judges can have.

Texas Clean Air Matters summarizes the state of air quality in Texas.

The Feminist Justice League announces the North Texas Abortion Support Network.

Unfair Park reminds us that climate change denialism is alive and well in Texas.

At the Rivard Report, UIW Student Body President Jonathan Guajardo presents his recommendations for the reformation of campus police policies that led to the shooting death of a fellow student.

Juanita notes the love Tom DeLay has for Cliven Bundy.

The Lunch Tray isn’t all that optimistic about the war on obesity.

Compromise Reached on ERO’s ‘most divisive’ Provisions

In the increasingly heated battle over Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, set to be voted on tomorrow by Council, Mayor Parker announced a major compromise today.  She was flanked by several Council Members that were originally on the fence about said provisions.  Here’s the scoop from Jayme Fraser of the Houston Chronicle

Mayor Annise Parker and supporters of her proposed nondiscrimination ordinance announced a compromise Tuesday in hopes of deflecting controversy over a small provision that had dominated discussion on the measure.

A paragraph specifying that no business open to the public could deny a transgender person entry to the restroom consistent with his or her gender identity had outraged conservatives. Church and Republican political leaders have used the clause to claim the ordinance “provides an opportunity for sexual predators to have access to our families.”

Members of the gay, lesbian and transgender community were equally outraged, however, by a clause that would give businesses an out if the defendant had a “good faith belief” that the person’s claim of being transgender was disingenuous.

The proposed amendment would remove that paragraph of the expansive ordinance. Transgender people barred access to a restroom still would be able to file a discrimination complaint to the city’s Office of Inspector General under the process outlined for all protected characteristics, such as race and veteran status.

Though bathroom protections are highly preferred by HERO supporters, the compromise of dropping the controversial ‘good faith’ clause is a reasonable one.  In nearly all of their speeches, those opposed to the measure have brought up the bathroom provision almost to a fault.  Removing this portion of the ordinance takes a huge bite out of their stated arguments to equal protections.  Those that do suffer discrimination will still have a local avenue to bring up complaints through the Office of Inspector General, a protection that doesn’t exist under today’s laws.

On the other hand, the ‘good faith’ clause is an ambiguous statement that gives people ability to claim religious exemptions from prosecution, and could be easily abused.  The removal of this provision strengthens the overall ordinance, and further discourages discriminatory practices.

This compromise does not include amendments offered by Council Members, which will be voted on tomorrow after thorough consideration.  Council Members Gallegos and Gonzalez presented important amendments that would help to strengthen the measure, while Council Member Pennington’s would eradicate most protections.  Check out Off The Kuff for more on this, and stay tuned here for fast moving developments.

HERO press conference

METRO Reveals System Re-imagining Plan

At over 2.2 million residents and over 600 square miles in land area, Houston has the unique distinction of not only being one of the largest cities in the US by population, but also one of the most spread-out cities.  This reality can be quite the challenge when trying to plan for the for the transit needs of so many people in such a large space. Also, as more citizens discover the benefits of public transit options, demand for quality service increases.

Which is why public transit advocates have been awaiting  some big news, as Houston METRO considers a total transformation of its existing bus network.  Last week, that news was revealed as the  transit re-imagining plan.  And as promised, it is a total transformation.

From the slideshow presentation, Here are the basic goals:

System Re-imagining delivers a transit network that…

  • Has more frequent routes to more places

  • Is much easier to understand and use

  • Connects more people to more jobs

  • Provides much better weekend service

  • Better serves METRO’s current riders

  • Provides faster, more reliable trips

  • Is built to support future growth.

Job centers are a big stress of this plan, with improved service to all of Houston’s major employment hubs.  At present, METRO has a lot of duplicating routes… multiple buses that travel on the same thoroughfare for an extended amount of time.  Under the new plan, those duplicated routes are virtually wiped away, in favor a simpler system.  This also would allow those simplified routes to run more frequently, which decreases wait times at stops.  What METRO calls its Frequent Network… buses that run every 15 to 20 minutes, would be dramatically expanded.

Here’s a look at METRO’s current Frequent Network…

Existing METRO


And here is what the proposed re-imagining would move to…


Clearly, the plan covers a wider area of the city, and stresses more reliable connections.  Of course this is at the expense of other routes, many of which are in areas that depend on METRO’s services the most.  The solution proposed for those cuts is called a Flex Zone… an area that operates essentially as a ride-share service instead of having fixed route coverage.  If one is in the Flex Zone, they would have to call ahead and schedule a ride (this is already done under the current MetroLift service) which would then take them to the nearest fixed route service.  Most of the Flex Zones are located in Northeast Houston.

Overall, this is a great first draft, and will represent a significant improvement over the current public transit network.  If METRO can deliver 10 to 15 minute service in the Frequent Network as promised, it will undoubtedly attract more riders to the system.

But the greatest concern here are the Flex Zones… especially that they are all in one concentrated area.  A call-in service may work for home-bound citizens, but it’s not a practical solution for frequent travelers that have jobs, children to support and other basic needs.  After spending billions of dollars to build the North, East and Southeast rail lines, it appears that these transit stops are being underutilized in the current iteration of re-imagining.  For example, the current route 52 Hirsch/ Scott is consistently one of the highest ridership routes in METRO’s system, with a northern terminus at Mesa Transit Center.  But under re-imagining, Mesa TC will be left with significantly reduced transit coverage, serviced by just three routes, and no frequent network coverage.  Additional connections to either Kashmere TC’s frequent route, or to Northline Station could be a low-cost solution that would decrease the need for such large Flex Zones in the area.

There are definitely some kinks to work out with this, but on the whole this is good plan for Houston’s transit future.  The public comment period for System Re-imagining is going on now, so this is the time to take a look at the new system, and leave METRO your feedback.   This is a bold opportunity to guide the future of Houston transit, so let’s be a part of it.

Reimagining METRO






Arkansas Issues Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

What seemed nothing short of impossible just a few weeks ago is now happening in the Arkansas, as marriage equality has made a surprise visit to the Natural State.  Here’s more from LGBTQNation via the Associated Press…

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Couples lined up before dawn Monday outside Little Rock’s courthouse as the state’s largest county began issuing gay marriage licenses following a judge’s ruling overturning Arkansas’ constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

The Pulaski County clerk’s office issued its first same-sex marriage license shortly after 8 a.m. After business hours closed Friday, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ruled that Arkansas’ voter-approved ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. Piazza did not issue a stay, and 15 same-sex couples obtained marriage licenses Saturday in the left-leaning tourist town of Eureka Springs.

The first Little Rock license went to Shelly Butler, 51, and Susan Barr, 48, of Dallas, who have been together since they met at Southern Arkansas University in 1985.

“When we heard the news in Arkansas, we had to jump in the car to get here,” Butler said shortly before receiving the license. “I’m just excited to marry my best friend of almost 30 years, finally.”

The second couple to receive a license was Thomas Baldwin, 37, and Devin Rudeseal, 24. The Bryant couple quickly married in the courthouse, and Rudeseal planned to take a final at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock later Monday morning.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, who recently said he supported gay marriage but would defend the ban, has asked Piazza to suspend his ruling. McDaniel said Saturday that he wants the state Supreme Court to take up the matter, but no appeal had been filed as of Monday morning.

More than 100 people gathered outside the Pulaski County courthouse before doors opened Monday. Randy Eddy-McCain, pastor of Open Door Community Church, was on hand to help perform marriage ceremonies for those seeking licenses at the courthouse. Eddy-McCain, who is gay, married his partner in New York. He said he looked forward to presiding over same-sex ceremonies in Arkansas.

“I want to get everybody in that I can before they issue a stay,” said Eddy-McCain, who along with his husband is a plaintiff in the lawsuit that led to Piazza’s ruling.

When Piazza didn’t issue a stay, Arkansas’ 75 county clerks were left to decide for themselves whether to grant marriage licenses. That caused confusion among county clerks, Association of Arkansas Counties executive director Chris Villines said.

A. G. McDaniel apparently didn’t see the need to file an emergency stay of Judge Piazza’s ruling, thereby setting the scene for future court battles just like the one that struck down California’s same-sex marriage banThe marriage licenses issued during this interim period will form the backbone that could permanently bring marriage equality to Arkansas, and if it travels to the Supreme Court, may even have national implications.  Besides Carroll County (home of Eureka Springs) and Pulaski County, same-sex marriage licenses are also being issued in Fayetteville, Arkansas at the Washington County courthouse, where dozens of couples were wed this morning.  All told, hundreds of licenses could potentially be issued before the stay.

This is in stark contrast to the state of Texas, where Attorney General Greg Abbott begged the state appeals court to issue an emergency stay, which prevented the granting of any same-sex marriage licenses in the state.

Just like the historic integration of Little Rock Central High School in 1957, it appears Arkansas is leading the way again as new Civil Rights battles come to the South.  Check back at Texas Leftist for more updates.

Marriage Equality Fayetteville

(photo credit:  The Fayetteville Flyer)

Stardig Against Equal Rights Ordinance

Houston City Council Member Brenda Stardig has finally revealed how she plans to vote on the proposed Equal Rights ordinance. In a District A newsletter, here’s what she said about the proposed ordinance…

Thank you for your recent email about the proposed equal rights ordinance.  While most Houstonians and I agree that discrimination of any kind is wrong, this proposed ordinance does nothing more than duplicate existing laws, add bureaucracy, and highlight the city’s endless overstepping of their jurisdiction.

The real question is not whether or not someone should be discriminated against. The real question is: What is the proper role of municipal government?  Cities are created to provide basic services such as water, sewer, fire and police protection, and infrastructure.  Cities are not created to govern comprehensive issues like discrimination.  We have different levels of government for a reason, and it is imperative that each level does not exceed their jurisdiction.

If passed, this ordinance would create a new bureaucracy for the city to address discrimination complaints.  Houston would have to expand government to handle the same issues already funded for and overseen by the state and federal government.  It is incomprehensible to me how the city can waste our time and your tax dollars to duplicate these services.  There are still pot holes, road repairs, and additional police and fire needs to which your city tax dollars should be allocated.

Cities should stick to what they were created to do. I was elected to represent my district on city matters, and I will not stand for the city overstepping their authority.


Brenda Stardig

Houston City Council Member, District A

It’s not exactly a surprise that Stardig would choose to vote against the ordinance.  After all, she did just reclaim her seat from Fringe-Right phenomenon Helena Brown. But of all the issues for Stardig to choose to prove her ‘Conservative’ bonafides, this is a choice that could ultimately come back to haunt her. Groups like the Log Cabin Republicans of Houston, which endorsed the Council Member and were some of her strongest supporters and campaign volunteers in the 2013 election against Brown, are reconsidering those actions now.  Here’s what the organization had to say in a press release…

The Log Cabin Republicans was shocked and saddened to hear about Council Member Stardig’s statement of opposition to the proposed Equal Rights Ordinance. The ordinance, which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, is a fair minded and solid proposal.

Council Member Stardig’s recent statement of opposition is based on the falsehood that these protections already exist in federal law. As it stands any Houstonian can be fired for no other reason than being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

It saddens us that despite receiving our endorsement, hearing the stories of those who have faced discrimination, and telling us that she did not believe in discrimination, Council Member Stardig has stood up for the right to discriminate.

We call on Council Member Stardig to reconsider her opposition which stands on the wrong side of history and equality.

Stardig’s decision may seem sensible in the short-term, but it’s a foregone conclusion that equality is supported by young adults across the political spectrum.  From ultra Liberal to staunch Conservative, they believe in the rights of anyone to be protected from discrimination, and have the same opportunities as anyone else.  As more Millennials become regular members of the voting citizenry, politicians should consider carefully how they treat these issues.  This will be a campaign issue for Brenda Stardig.

For more on this and other NDO developments, check out coverage from Texpatriate and Off the Kuff.


(photo credit:  ABC 13)