by Lindsay Beyerstein
How our blog got its name
Sidney Hillman was a powerful national figure during the Great Depression, a key supporter of the New Deal, and a close ally of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
When the rumor spread that President Roosevelt ordered his party leaders to “clear it with Sidney” before announcing Harry S. Truman as his 1944 running mate, conservative critics turned on the phrase, trumpeting it as proof that the president was under the thumb of “Big Labor.”
Over the years, the phrase lost its sting and became a testament to Hillman's influence.
It's hard to imagine a labor leader wielding that kind clout today, but we like the idea—and we hope Sidney would give thumbs up to our blog.
Clear It With Sidney
The Daily News reveals that contractors recruited by New York City to build affordable housing owe their own workers millions of dollars in unpaid wages:
Some members of the team helping Mayor de Blasio reach his dream of increasing the supply of affordable apartments in New York have a dirty little secret — an $11.8 million one. That’s how much an elite group of 10 contractors and one developer now building affordable units across the city owed this year to workers cheated out of wages they were supposed to get, a Daily News investigation has found.
The group is building or renovating nearly 2,800 affordable apartments in 37 developments across the city, records obtained under the Freedom of Information Law show. These projects are receiving $41 million in city grants or low-interest loans plus $206 million worth of tax credits. When finished, the apartments they’re building will count toward de Blasio’s oft-stated goal of building or preserving 200,000 affordable units in 10 years — a cornerstone of his administration. [NYDN]
Hat tip to reader Elizabeth, who sent us this story.
Wage violations are rampant in the construction industry, and employers find other ways to cheat employees out of benefits, too. Last month's Sidney-winners exposed the rampant misclassification of construction workers as independent contractors, a practice that denies them benefits and dodges taxes.
[Photo credit: vpickering, Creative Commons.]
The Best of the Week's News:
- WalMart workers stage the first sit-down strike in company history.
- The ex-CEO who presided over the worst mining disaster in 40 years has been indicted for allegedly violating safety regulations and lying to federal inspectors.
- "Women's Abortion Rights Trump Fetal Rights," says Rebecca Traister of the New Republic.
[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]
This is a powerful recent op/ed from the New York Times about how the civil liberties of pregnant women are being eroded by anti-choice legislation. The authors, Lynn Paltrow and Jeanne Flavin of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, have exhaustively researched cases in which pregnant women have been jailed for suspected suicide attempts, forced to remain in hospital against their will, and even forced to have unwanted c-sections because the state's interest in the fetus was deemed more important than the woman's civil rights.
[Photo credit: JerryLai08, Creative Commons.]
Adrian Chen, a rising journalistic star known for his coverage of the digital world, is the winner of this month's Sidney Award for his Wired feature, "Unseen," which introduces the reader to a hidden army of content moderators who battle to keep dick pics, child porn, gory traffic accident footage, and beheading videos off Facebook and other social networking sites.
Chen's coverage combines the best of tech journalism and investigative reporting to give us a glimpse of the working lives of the 100,000 people who sift through the worst filth the internet can dish up every day.
Read my Q&A with Adrian at The Backstory.
The Best of the Week's News
- Dozens of injuries went unreported at the World Trade Center construction site.
- Paul Krugman on the uses of ridicule.
- Is philanthropy bad for democracy?
- If you're not listening to This American Life's weekly true crime podcast, Serial, you should be.
[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]
The Sidney Hillman Foundation is now accepting entries for the 2015 Hillman Prizes which honor investigative journalism and commentary in the public interest. Winners exemplify resourcefulness and courage in reporting, skilled storytelling, social impact and relevance to the ideals of Sidney Hillman.
$5000 prizes will be awarded in the following categories:
- Opinion & Analysis
Click here for full application details and a link to our online submission form.
Please help us reach as many journalists as possible by sharing the news about the 2015 Hillmans. Sample tweet: Call for entries for 2015 @SidneyHillman Prizes now open! $5000 journalism prizes. Enter online today: http://bit.ly/1pq4twb
John Oliver explains why state legislatures, aka "the meth labs of democracy," matter more to the average American's day-to-day life than which party controls the U.S. Senate.
Hint: Unlike our federal legislators, State leges pass a ton of laws...and ALEC writes them.
The Best of the Week's News, Halloween Edition
- Scary: This giant drill bit nearly bored into a packed New York City subway car.
- Even scarier: How racial bias in juror selection is derailing the criminal justice system.
- As we gear up for the weekend, let's remember that overwork kills. Don't take any chances!
[Photo credit, Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]
Hurricane Sandy damaged or destroyed more than 650,000 homes in New York. At least 4000 day laborers toiled to clean up the mess. An estimated 75% of these workers were undocumented migrants, an atypically high percentage. Most hailed from Mexico or other Latin American countries.
Buzzfeed joined forces with sociology professor Héctor Cordero-Guzmán and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network to tell their stories.
[Photo credit: "The Power of Hurricane Sandy," by Rob Gross.]
In Wired, Adrian Chen profiles the small, poorly-paid army of overseas content moderators who preview facebook, YouTube, and other social network uploads to nix some of the truly horrible stuff that some users try to foist on the unsuspecting public.
Other content moderation is done by American workers who earn more money, but who typically burn out after just a few months on the job, previewing the absolute worst of what the internet can dish up:
But as months dragged on, the rough stuff began to take a toll [on Rob, a recent U.S. college grad]. The worst was the gore: brutal street fights, animal torture, suicide bombings, decapitations, and horrific traffic accidents. The Arab Spring was in full swing, and activists were using YouTube to show the world the government crackdowns that resulted. Moderators were instructed to leave such “newsworthy” videos up with a warning, even if they violated the content guidelines. But the close-ups of protesters’ corpses and street battles were tough for Rob and his coworkers to handle. So were the videos that documented misery just for the sick thrill of it. [WIRED]
Chen's piece offers a rare glimpse of an international workforce that slogs away behind the scenes to make sure that social networking spaces are free of disturbing content.
The piece doesn't really grapple with the larger cultural implications of private, profit-driven companies engineering their spaces to give the minimum offense--sometimes minimal transparency or accountability to their millions of users about what's forbidden or why. Facebook was criticized for censoring some photos of breastfeeding, an activity that is not only legal, but endorsed by public health experts worldwide. The social network eventually backed down in the face of public criticism.
Hat tip: Amanda Marcotte