In Historic Move, Walmart Workers Across Los Angeles Walk Off the Job

In Historic Move, Walmart Workers Across Los Angeles Walk Off the Job

In what labor rights groups are calling a first in Walmart history, workers from multiple stores have walked off the job today. Workers led a one-day work stoppage for nearly a dozen Walmart stores to protest the retail giant’s retaliation for worker’s efforts to organize for better treatment and pay.

“Walmart should not be silencing workers for standing up for what’s good for my store, my co-workers, my family and my community,” Venanzi Luna, a striking worker at the Pico Rivera Walmart, said in a statement. Luna is a member of OUR Walmart, a national Walmart employee organization with a presence in 43 states that’s backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers union.

At a rally today outside the Pico Rivera Walmart where Luna works, workers will tell their stories of struggling to barely get by on Walmart wages and dealing with reduced hours, safety issues and staffing issues. Among those coming out to support the striking workers are plenty of immigrant, labor and religious organizations who say Walmart workers shouldn’t be forced to rely on public assistance to get by, especially as the corporate behemoth turns around $16 billion a year in profits. Walmart has 1.4 million so-called associates around the country, and is union free in its North American stores. Workers on strike today say they are fighting for all of them.

Lakers Sign the NBA’s First Salvadoran-Honduran Player Ronnie Aguilar

Lakers Sign the NBA's First Salvadoran-Honduran Player Ronnie Aguilar

The NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers signed the league’s first Salvadoran-American player recently. Ronnie Aguilar is a 7’1” center who was born and raised in L.A. by a Salvadoran father and Honduran mother.

Aguilar played basketball, volleyball and football at John Marshall High School in Los Angeles, and he’s excited to play for his hometown team. From ESPN Deportes:

“It’s a dream to be here, especially since I’m from Los Angeles. I grew up watching the Lakers, especially Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It’s a pleasure and an honor to be here playing on the same team I have loved since I was a child. I want to do everything possible to grab that ‘ring’ (ring) we want, ” the 25 years old center told ESPN en Español.

Aguilar, a 7-1, 250 pound center, most recently played in six games for the Bakersfield Jam of the NBA Development League during the 2011-12 season, averaging 2.2 points and 4.2 rebounds in 11.5 minutes.

TAGS: NBA sports

Near Silence on Poverty in the Presidential Debate

Between the two of them, Obama and Romney cast about the words middle income or middle class 31 times. Obama referred to the amorphous group of Americans 19 times and Romney 12. That’s about once every three minutes. Meanwhile Obama didn’t mention poor people, low income people, or poverty even once and Romney rattled out the words poor, low income, lower income and poverty seven times, but mostly to attack Obama. He offered no substantive plan for addressing poverty issues.

In a presidential debate about the economy in this time of prolonged economic downturn and high poverty, the near eclipse of explicit talk of poverty and low-income Americans takes work. The candidates actually did talk around poverty quite a lot last night, bur rarely actually named it. Medicaid, school vouchers, food stamps and the unemployed found their way into the scripts, but poor people themselves barely did. Both described the struggling middle-income Americans they’ve run into the on the campaign trail, but not poor folks. Obama offered that he’d like to build “ladders of opportunity into the middle class,” but still, no talk of the people at the botton of those ladders.

As noted on the New York Times editorial page:

The two candidates said nothing about poverty in Wednesday’s debate. The political reasons for focusing the campaigns on the middle class are obvious, but that doesn’t change the fact that the candidates are ducking responsibility for neglecting those without a powerful voice at the ballot box, with Mitt Romney treating them with particular disdain.

As the 2007 speech shows, Mr. Obama was once quite passionate about improving the lives of what he called “young men and women without hope, without miracles, and without a sense of destiny other than life on the edge — the edge of the law, the edge of the economy, the edge of family structures and communities.”

Indeed, the omission is not terribly surprising, but it is hugely significant because the silence once again draws a line around which kinds of Americans matter. Those who face disproportionate levels of poverty—people of color, single women—are growing demographics who overwhelmingly support Obama. He decided last night to take them for granted.

Plenty of Common Ground in Obama and Romney’s Ed Reform Pitches

Plenty of Common Ground in Obama and Romney's Ed Reform Pitches

For all the back and forth sparring during the presidential debate on Wednesday, one might think President Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney don’t see eye to eye on anything. But look at Mitt Romney and President Obama’s respective education agendas and you’ll see something rather striking: plenty of ideological overlap about how to fix public schools.

Romney’s education platform, which calls on the federal government to tie federal education funding to state commitments to school reform, puts a focus on improving the U.S. teacher force by evaluating teachers based on their students’ test scores and expanding choice options for parents. Romney supports far more aggressive school choice models, including vouchers which encourage families to leave poor performing neighborhood schools for other private and charter schools. But he, like Obama, encourage the expansion of charter schools in the U.S. public education system. In fact, Romney’s ideas look remarkably like President Obama’s marquee education initiative Race to the Top, a competitive grant program which exchanged money for promises from states to enact harsher accountability measures for teachers, a more open school marketplace, and better data tracking. During the debate last night, Romney even managed to say he agrees with “some” of the ideas in Race to the Top.

Numbers USA Ad Pits Black Voters Against Immigrants

It’s an old ploy of anti-immigration advocates to pit people of color against one another to distract from people working together and understanding one another. Numbers USA is dedicated to sending out misleading and inaccurate messages about immigration and exploiting economic distress. Here’s their latest ad:

Orlando Cruz Becomes First Openly Gay Man in Boxing

Orlando Cruz Becomes First Openly Gay Man in Boxing

On Wednesday, featherweight Puerto Rican boxer Orlando Cruz made history by describing himself as a “proud gay man.” has more:

The No. 4-ranked featherweight by the WBO, said, “I’ve been fighting for more than 24 years and as I continue my ascendant career, I want to be true to myself…I want to try to be the best role model I can be for kids who might look into boxing as a sport and a professional career. I have and will always be a proud Puerto Rican. I have always been and always will be a proud gay man.”

As Curdell ‘Doc’ Hoskins, a gay 40-year-old amateur boxer who organized the Gay Boxing League, told Out in 2009, “Being gay in the boxing world is very taboo. There are definitely some out there, but no one talks about it.”

Watch Tonight’s Presidential Campaign Debates With Us!

The good folks here at and the Applied Research Center will be watching tonight’s first presidential debate, and we’d love for you to join us! Our economic justice reporter Imara Jones — who noted a few weeks ago that Mitt Romney’s 47 Percent comments had everything to do with race — will be livetweeting tonight’s debates, so be sure to follow him on Twitter at @imarajones.

If you need an extra nudge, watch Imara in action on a recent episode of Melissa Harris Perry’s show on MSNBC.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Harlem Woman Becomes Episcopal Church’s First Female Korean-American Priest

Harlem Woman Becomes Episcopal Church's First Female Korean-American Priest

Christine Lee has become the first female Korean-American priest at the Episcopal Church. New York has more info:

When she first started attending All Angels’, an Episcopal church on the Upper West Side with her husband a decade ago, Christine Lee, who grew up in an Asian-American church, wasn’t particularly fond of worshiping there.

“I just didn’t feel like I fit in at All Angels’. It was too different, the liturgy, the worship style. Going from an Asian-American church to a church where there were only about five Asians, I had such a hard time connecting to anything or anyone,” said Lee, 40, who has lived in Harlem for nine years.

But over time, Lee, the daughter of a reverend, connected with the congregants at the 5 p.m. service, which includes people who are homeless and others from diverse ethnic, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds

Read more.

TAGS: faith Religion

Shonda Rhimes Teams Up With ‘Awkward Black Girl’ Issa Rae for New ABC Comedy

Shonda Rhimes Teams Up With 'Awkward Black Girl' Issa Rae for New ABC Comedy

Issa Rae delighted thousands of fans last year with her hit online comedy “Awkward Black Girl.” And it turns out that one of those fans was heralded screenwriter Shonda Rhimes (of Grey’s Anatomy fame).

Earlier this week Rhimes tweeted that “Shondaland has been busy!” and included a link to a story on her big plans for Issa Rae — a new ABC comedy called “I Hate LA Dudes.”

Here’s more:

I Hate L.A. Dudes centers on an aspiring journalist, new to Los Angeles, who becomes the lone female voice on a budding, male-driven Internet talk show, while learning to decode the often humiliating and exasperating rules of the LA dating scene. Rae, repped by UTA, 3 Arts and John Meigs, is writing/co-executive producing. Expanding into comedy has been a major priority for Shondaland, which established its brand in drama.

Why Consumers of Color Should Care About T-Mobile’s MetroPCS Merger

Why Consumers of Color Should Care About T-Mobile's MetroPCS Merger

Less than a year after T-Mobile failed bid to merge with AT&T, the wireless carrier has announced that it’s now trying to combine with MetroPCS. The move is controversial, especially because the wireless market is notoriously uncompetitive — and because Metro PCS has previously charged its users more for its different services, a direct challenge to the FCC’s net neutrality rules.

The move, however, is being explained by the companies as one that will help two “weaker” telecom companies in its competition agains the big boys: AT&T and Verizon.

More from the Los Angeles Times:

Under the terms of the agreement, MetroPCS shareholders will receive $1.5 billion in cash and 26% ownership in the company, which will have the T-Mobile name. Deutsche Telekom AG, the Germany company that owns T-Mobile, will receive a 74% stake.

In a teleconference call with media Wednesday, Rene Obermann, chief executive of Deutsche Telekom, said the merger “means we are here to compete, we are here to unlock value and we are here to win. This deal has the potential to be a game changer.”

Already, the move is drawing criticism from consumer advocates.

Oscar Grant’s Mother Turns to New Theater Project to Explore Grief

Oscar Grant's Mother Turns to New Theater Project to Explore Grief

Wanda Johnson knows pain. She was thrust into the national spotlight in 2009, after her son Oscar Grant III was shot and killed by former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle on a Bay Area subway platform. Video of Grant’s murder went viral, and during the ensuing media onslaught and criminal trial, Johnson had the unimaginable task of trying to sum up her son’s life for reporters.

Now there’s word that Johnson, alongside other Bay Area mothers who have lost children to violence, is taking part in a theater project that tries to make sense of all the chaos. “Love Balm for My SpiritChild: Testimonies of Healing Justice through Mothers’ Memory” is a 4-part performance workshop that brings together the pain and resilience of mothers who’ve lost their children to violence.

Artistic Director Arielle Brown wrote this about the project:

TAGS: Oscar Grant

Junot Díaz Thanks ‘Teachers and Librarians’ for Genius Grant

Junot Díaz Thanks 'Teachers and Librarians' for Genius Grant

This week has been a big one for writers of color. On Monday, the MacArthur foundation announced that Pullitzer Prize winning Dominican American writer Junot Díaz was one of the recipients of this year’s MacArthur Genius Grant Awards.

On Tuesday, Díaz took to his Facebook page with a note to the people who helped make it possible:

Thanks to everyone who wrote a letter to make this happen. Thanks to all the teachers and librarians and booksellers who kept me in circulation through the long silences. Thanks to the beautiful readers who did the same. This honor belongs to my community, whose sacrifices and courage and yes genius made me possible. Gratitude without end.

The $500,000 award was one of 23 given out this year by the foundation to writers, scientists, musicians, and photographers. Award-winning Ethiopian American author Dinaw Mengestu was also announced among this week’s winners.

If you want to see Junot Díaz in action, make sure you register to attend our national Facing Race conference this year in Baltimore, where he’ll be the keynote speaker.

Voting While Trans: Watch the Public Service Announcements

Voting While Trans: Watch the Public Service Announcements

Turns out that gender identity matters at the polls. The National Center for Transgender Equality has released a series of public service announcements to call attention to the specific challenges transgender folks face while trying to vote.

The challenges facing transgender folks are especially unique, as explained by’s Voting Rights Project reporter Brentin Mock:

Over 25,000 transgender American citizens may face stiff barriers to voting in the November 2012 election according to the report “The Potential Impact of Voter Identification Laws on Transgender Voters,” released last week by the Williams Institute at UCLA’s law school. This is, by any measure, the portion of the electorate that is among the most marginalized and stigmatized, and hence probably most in need of the right to have a say in who governs their lives. But discussions on both sides of voter ID laws tend to leave out transgender citizens in discussions about who would be most adversely impacted.

The center has also released a checklist for transgender voters:

Voting While Trans Checklist

Pa. Voters Won’t Have to Show ID, but Poll Workers Can Still Ask For It

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson handed down a partial preliminary injunction on Act 18, the state’s photo voter ID law. According to lawyers close to the case — and from local media reports out of Pennsylvania — this means that a state-issued photo voter identification card will not be mandatory for voting for this November’s election.

The Harrisburg Patriot-News reports:

Simpson is postponing Pennsylvania’s tough new voter identification requirement, ordering that it not be enforced in the presidential election. Today’s ruling comes five weeks before the election. An appeal is possible.

Meanwhile, The Advancement Project, the civil rights law organization that is one of the petitioners listed on the case challenging the voter ID law, says that the ruling allows for poll workers to ask voters for ID, which could cause confusion.

“While we’re happy that voters in Pennsylvania will not be turned away if they do not have an ID, we are concerned that the ruling will allow election workers to ask for ID at the polls and this could cause confusion,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Penda D. Hair. “This injunction serves as a mere Band-Aid for the law’s inherent problems, not an effective remedy.”

Judge Simpson said during last week’s hearing that he anticipates his decision will be appealed back up to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court either way. The state has not indicated whether it will appeal yet. Meanwhile, if the read on this ruling is correct, then voters will not be turned away from voting if they don’t have photo ID on them.

“We are very glad voters will not be turned away from the polls this November if they do have an ID,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis. “The evidence made it clear to the judge that this law would indeed disenfranchise voters and that the Commonwealth was not equipped to implement it fairly right now.”

Check back in at Voting Rights Watch 2012 later for further analysis of the ruling. Meanwhile, yo can read the Judge’s ruling here:

Full full background on Pennsylvania’s voter ID law hearings, you can read here:

See Colorlines’ Brentin Mock discuss the Pennsylvania voter ID hearing on the Melissa Harris Perry show this past weekend:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Day Laborers Denounce Governor Brown’s Veto of TRUST Act

California Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday vetoed legislation designed to curtail the deportation of undocumented immmigrants arrested on minor or non-violent offenses. AB 1081, also known as the TRUST Act, would have changed how law enforcement agencies could participate in the controversial federal immigration program, Secure Communities.

In response to Governor Brown’s veto of the TRUST Act (AB 1081), Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network issued the following statement:

“By vetoing the TRUST Act Governor Brown has failed California’s immigrant communities, imperiling civil rights and leaving us all less safe. The President’s disastrous Secure Communities program is replicating Arizona’s model of immigration enforcement nationally, causing a human rights crisis. Immigration and Customs Enforcement strong-armed the Governor to defend its deportation quota instead of defending Californian’s rights. On this sad day, we renew our commitment to fight to keep our families together despite the Governor and the President’s insistence on seeing them torn apart.”

The TRUST Act could have been a significant blow to the Secure Communities program because over a quarter of ‘S-Comm deportations’ are currently from California.

Meet Richard Hayes, the Black Man Who Picks Up Mitt Romney’s Trash

Meet Richard Hayes, the Black Man Who Picks Up Mitt Romney's Trash

Even Mitt Romney’s garbage man, Richard Hayes, is taking offense to his 47 percent comments. Hayes is a City of San Diego sanitation worker whose route includes Romney’s $12 million oceanfront villa in La Jolla, Calif.

Hayes is featured in a new video spotlighting public service workers who provide services to Romney. The series juxtaposes the personal stories of public workers with Romney’s 47% comments and his agenda to cut and privatize public services.

“My name is Richard Hayes, and I pick up Mitt Romney’s trash. We’re kind of like the invisible people. He doesn’t realize that the service we provide — if it wasn’t for us, it would be a big health issue, us not picking up trash,” Hayes says in the video.

“We’re kind of like the invisible people. He doesn’t realize, you know, the service we provide… When I’m 55, 60 years old I know my body’s gonna be breaking down. Mitt Romney doesn’t care about that,” Hayes goes on to say.

The second video, “Meet Temo” features Temo Fuentes, a City of San Diego employee who fixes the fire trucks that service Mitt Romney’s neighborhood. (Fuentes’ mother used to clean houses in the area also.)

The videos were produced by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, and the workers featured are AFSCME members.

California Approves Driver’s Licenses for Young Undocumented Immigrants

California Approves Driver's Licenses for Young Undocumented Immigrants

On Sunday, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assemblymember Gilbert Cedillo’s (D-Los Angeles) AB 2189 in to law, which will allow DREAMers who are granted deferred action to apply for a California Drivers’ License. The bill states that any document received by a person granted deferred action will be accepted as proof of legal presence for the purpose of applying for a California Drivers’ License.

“It is a victory for those who were brought here through no choice of their own, played by the rules, and are only asking to be included in and contribute to American society,” Cedillo said in a statement. “I wholeheartedly thank and congratulate Governor Brown for signing this bill into law making California the first state in the nation to grant drivers’ licenses to this worthy group of people.”

Gov. Brown’s spokesman Gil Duran said “President Obama has recognized the unique status of these students, and making them eligible to apply for driver’s licenses is an obvious next step.”

Undocumented immigrants were eligible for driver licenses in California until 1993, when the Legislature passed SB 976. Gov. Pete Wilson signed the bill which required residents to provide a Social Security number and proof that their presence in California “is authorized under federal law” in order to obtain a license to drive.

“What we’re seeing now are the fruits of the hard-driving immigrant youth movement,” said Julianne Hing, immigration reporter for “There’s clear support for undocumented youth in the state. It should be noted that Cedillo was the author of last year’s successful California Dream Act, a new law which grants undocumented college students eligibility for public financial aid. But there’s not necessarily so much goodwill toward their parents or the larger immigrant community, judging from Gov. Brown’s veto of the TRUST Act and the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.”

Utah, Washington and New Mexico are the only states in the nation that allow residents to access driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status.

Philly Cop Appears to Punch Woman at Puerto Rican Day Parade

Philly Cop Appears to Punch Woman at Puerto Rican Day Parade

There’s not a whole lot of context to the video above that was recorded at this past weekend’s 50th Annual Puerto Rican Day Parade in Philadelphia. But what’s clear from the 36 second video is that a woman jumping around celebrating (by spraying silly string) ends up with a busted lip after an officer throws her down on the floor.

The video was posted to Reddit Monday morning with just a few details added by the person who shot the video.

“Police Brutality in Philadelphia: Officer sucker punches woman he assumed sprinkled water on him. The video shows it wasn’t her,” wrote the user zombiesrus. In just 6-hours since the video was posted, Reddit users have deconstructed the video and created GIFs that illustrate ‘zombiesrus’ observations.

Commenters also say the officer that allegedly punched the woman is believed to be a sergeant because he is wearing a white shirt.

We’ll keep you updated if and when we get any information from the Philadelphia Police Department.

Calif. Gov. Vetoes Legislation That Would Protect Farm Workers from Heat-Related Deaths

On Sunday, Gov. Jerry Brown rejected The Humane Treatment for Farm Workers Act - authored by Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D-Whittier) - that would make it a misdemeanor crime, punishable by jail time and fines, to not provide appropriate water or shade to workers laboring under high heat conditions. The governor also vetoed AB 2346 - The Farm Worker Safety Act - by Assemblywoman Betsy Butler (D-Los Angeles). It would have allowed workers to enforce the state’s heat regulations by suing employers who repeatedly violate the law. The United Farm Workers strongly supported both bills.

United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez issued the following statement:

“The UFW is appalled at the governor’s decision to deny farm workers the basic legal tools to protect themselves from employers who intentionally put their lives at risk by refusing to provide them with adequate water and shade despite the dangerously high temperatures. By vetoing AB 2676, the governor continues the policy of giving animals more protections than those currently offered to farm workers.

Since California issued regulations in 2005 to keep farm workers from dying of extreme heat, preventable farm worker deaths have continued. State regulators are investigating two possible heat-related farm worker deaths that occurred this summer. There are over 81,500 farms and more than 450,000 farm workers working under a corrupt farm labor contractor system. It’s time the government admits that without adequate enforcement, regulations are ineffective. We are weighing our legal and other options to determine how we better provide the protections farm workers deserve as human beings.”

“While I believe enforcement of our heat standards can be improved, I am not convinced that creating a new crimes — and crime that applies only to one group of employers — is the answer,” wrote CA Gov. Jerry Brown in his legislative update issued Sunday. “Instead, we should continue to enforce our stringent standards for the benefit of all workers in all industries.”

Calif. Gov Protects Some Immigrant Families, Leaves Others Out in the Cold

Calif. Gov Protects Some Immigrant Families, Leaves Others Out in the Cold

California’s governor yesterday signed two pieces of legislation aimed at protecting immigrant parents and their children from permanent separation. The bills, inspired in part by’s Shattered Families investigation, take steps to stop U.S. citizen children from getting stuck in foster care if their parents are detained and deported. But the immigrant rights victories are tempered by Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision to veto the closely watched Trust Act, a bill that would have curtailed the state’s participation in Secure Communities, the federal government’s core deportation program.

The two family bills were introduced earlier this year to address the separation of families at the intersection of deportation and the child welfare system. In November, published a national investigation that conservatively estimates over 5000 children are stuck in foster care with detained and deported parents.

The first bill, SB 1064, introduced by Sen. Kevin De Leon of Los Angeles, extends the period of time for family reunification afforded to deported parents. Current California law provides between six months and a year for families to reunite before courts move foster children into adoption, but parental detention and deportation often makes it impossible for parents to take part in reunification requirements. The bill allows judges to lengthen these timelines when deportation erects barriers to reunification.

De Leon’s bill also instructs child welfare departments to ignore immigration status when evaluating an adult family to care for a young relative. Without such clear guidance, many county child welfare departments refuse to place foster children with their own relatives if the adults are undocumented immigrants. The effect is that these kids can end up in the custody of strangers.

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