Oct 19 2012

Weekly Digest – 10/19/12

Our weekly edition is a nationally syndicated one-hour digest of the best of our daily coverage.

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This week on Uprising:

* Despite Obama’s Improved Debate Performance, Candidates Expose the Narrow Scope of their Differences
* Walmart Protests Spread, As Workers Threaten to Strike on Black Friday
* Supreme Court Weighs University of Texas’ Affirmative Action Policy

* * *

Despite Obama’s Improved Debate Performance, Candidates Expose the Narrow Scope of their Differences

President Barack Obama and his GOP rival, Governor Mitt Romney faced off for a second time on Tuesday night at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. The debate was moderated by CNN’s Candy Crowley and formatted as a town meeting, with Americans asking questions of the candidates directly on domestic and foreign topics. The audience, which was overwhelmingly white, asked questions which were not previously known to the candidates.

President Obama, who appeared to be much more energetic, performed markedly better than he had done at the last debate two weeks earlier in Kentucky. Responding to polls showing that Romney had started gaining among women voters, President Obama mentioned that he supported the Lily Ledbetter equal pay legislation as well as Planned Parenthood and women’s access to contraception. Romney who was put on the defensive seemed to backtrack on an earlier statement supporting the controversial Blunt amendment which would allow businesses to deny contraception to employees on moral grounds.

While a lot of the same issues were covered by the candidates surrounding the economy, the President did manage to reference Romney’s 47% comment, in which Romney characterized nearly half the American population as “victims” who do not pay taxes and also mentioned Romney’s off shore tax havens and outsourcing of jobs to China. Romney, in a heated moment of exchange, demanded that the President look at his own pension investments to see which ones were held by Chinese companies.

In one of the most spirited moments of the night, the candidates sparred about the semantics surrounding the bombing of the American Embassy in Benghazi, Libya. Rather than discussing the underlying issues behind the attack, the candidates merely battled over whether or not President Obama had called the bombing of the Embassy a terrorist attack immediately following the incident.

Noticeably absent during the debate was any mention of climate change. Instead, President Obama boasted about the positive effects of his energy plan which includes building the Keystone XL pipeline and increasing domestic oil production. Mitt Romney added to the discussion by promising more drilling on publicly held land. Neither candidate mentioned the words global warming.

GUESTS: Arun Gupta is a journalist and co-founder of Occupy the Wall Street Journal and covers the Occupy movement for Salon. Mattea Kramer is a Senior Research Analyst at National Priorities Project and lead author of the new book, A People’s Guide to the Federal Budget.

Walmart Protests Spread, As Workers Threaten to Strike on Black Friday

nullRecent protests at Walmart stores have shed new light on the mistreatment of Walmart workers in more than 5000 stores across America. Walmart, the nation’s largest employer has more than 2 million workers on payroll, comprising a massive 2% of the US GDP.

On October 4th, more than sixty Walmart workers organized a walkout from nine different stores across California. Since then, Walmart workers across the nation have followed with their own protests. On October 10th, workers staged walkouts in states such as Florida, Illinois, Missouri and Kentucky. On the same day, about a hundred current and former workers met outside an annual Walmart investor meeting Bentonville, Arkansas. The protests are organized primarily by the group Organization United for Respect or OUR Walmart.

The demonstrators are demanding better wages, stable and improved working conditions and less retaliation from management when speaking out. Colby Harris, a Walmart worker from Texas has not seen his wage increase from $8.90 an hour over the last three years. Many people claim that not only are wages stagnant, but that Walmart engages in wage theft and that overtime pay is not always honored.

Activists are scheduling an ultimatum for their grievances. Unless several of their listed demands are met, organizers are planning to walk out on Black Friday, America’s busiest shopping day of the year.

In light of the recent demonstrations, a memo was handed down by the management to salaried Walmart workers, giving advice as to how to deal with unions and organized demonstrations. The memo states: “As you know, activists or union organizers have been trying for years to stop our Company’s growth and to damage our relationship with our customers and members.”

While the hundred protestors who have recently walked out seems tiny in relation to the 2 million strong Walmart workforce, actions like these have worked in the past; in 2006, worker wages increased in 700 stores due to social and political protests against the company.

GUESTS: Nelson Lichtenstein, author of The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business and the MacArthur Foundation chair in history at the University of California, Santa Barbara and director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy,

Click here to read Nelson Lichtenstein’s article about the Walmart Walkout.

Supreme Court Weighs University of Texas’ Affirmative Action Policy

Supporters of affirmative action are bracing themselves for a possible setback after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Fisher v. The University of Texas at Austin in early October. The plaintiff, Abigail Fisher, brought the case after she was rejected from UT in 2008 claiming that less qualified Black and Latino applicants were admitted due to standards favoring disadvantaged minorities. Race as a factor in college and university admissions was declared constitutional by the court in 2003 in a case involving the University of Michigan.

Observers anticipate the court will revise its 2003 position based on Justice Elena Kagan’s decision to recuse herself because of work she did on the Fisher case as the Solicitor General under President Obama. Kagan, an Obama appointee is generally viewed as a liberal voice on the court, and her departure is believed by many to be an indication that a decision to uphold affirmative action in its present form is unlikely. Several states, including California, have already outlawed the practice.

However, universities like UT Austin claimed that a small amount of race-based decision-making in admissions has greatly helped diversify its student body. Major multinational corporations like Pfizer, Shell Oil and Viacom signed onto an amicus brief supporting affirmative action. The companies claim that diverse university graduates make US-based companies much more competitive globally.

Additionally, proponents of affirmative action argue that ending affirmative action will result in a lack of racial and cultural diversity on college and university campuses around the country and further entrench inequalities borne by disadvantaged minorities.

Others have questioned the plaintiffs motives. Reports have surfaced that Fisher, who has since graduated from Louisiana State University, was aided by a right wing legal defense fund called the “Project on Fair Representation” run by Edward Blum, former investment banker and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

GUEST: Julianne Hing, Blogger/Reporter for Colorlines.com.

Read Julianne Hing’s articles:
Reports from Supreme Court: Justices Skeptical About UT Austin’s Program

Affirmative Action Is Just One Part of the Educational Equity Fight

Sonali’s Subversive Thought for the Day

“Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

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