Skip to main content

Former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee spoke to The Commonwealth Club of California on March 21, 2013.
Michelle Rhee: Won't debate without friends, doesn't have enough friends to debate at all.
Michelle Rhee became a media star during her time as chancellor of the Washington, DC, schools because she was supposedly soooo tough. She'd stand up to powerful people—like teachers she had the power to fire. Why, she'd fire someone right on camera! Turns out, though, she's not quite so tough when it comes to a free and open exchange of ideas in public.

Rhee was supposed to debate Diane Ravitch in February at Lehigh University, but, Ravitch writes, Rhee backed out of the debate. Why?

Rhee first demanded that we have two people on each team, then three people on each team.

I readily assented and selected a wonderful second and third for the debate.

Early on, Rhee said her second would be Rod Paige.

My choices were the Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg (a visiting scholar at Harvard this year) and Philadelphia parent activist Helen Gym.

Rhee and I–through our agents– mutually agreed on the date.

However, the debate is off because Rhee says she cannot find a third partner.

Ha ha ha ha ha! "I need an extra person on my team." "Fine." "I choose George W. Bush's education secretary." "Fine." "I need a second extra person on my team." "Fine" "Oops, I can't find a second extra person, guess we can't do it!"

It's tempting to compare this approach to the corporate education reform movement: change the rules and stack the deck in your own favor, and if failure seems imminent, change the rules again. Or run away, apparently.

Continue reading below the fold for more of the week's labor and education news.

A fair day's wage

  • Why are children getting nicotine poisoning working in tobacco fields?
  • If your pay hasn't gone up since last year, here's some Thanksgiving good news: The price of Thanksgiving dinner hasn't gone up, either. In fact, it's gone down 44 whole cents.
  • University of California workers are striking. Josh Eidelson explains why:
    Four months after former Obama Homeland Security head Janet Napolitano took the helm of the massive University of California system, unions representing 35,000 U.C. employees are staging a one-day strike over alleged illegal intimidation. [...]

    At issue in today’s walkout is AFSCME’s allegation that U.C. management repeatedly violated state labor law in efforts to discourage the union’s members — patient care technical and service workers employed in medical centers – from mounting an unprecedented work stoppage last May. In charges filed with the government, AFSCME charges that administrators violated the state Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act through a battery of fear tactics: repeated statements by top officials promising or implying potential punishment for strikes; threatening postings and letters; and interrogations by individual managers.

  • Macy's has some unionized workers, but apparently it's engaging in a campaign to avoid having any more. Erik Loomis has an anti-union handout from Macy's, which he describes as:
    ... while such a pamphlet is legal, it’s brimming with half-truths about unions that are intended to do a combination of scaring workers and making them think a union is a waste of their time and money. The highlight for me is when Macy’s says a union can’t guarantee workers benefits; technically true but what it really shows is just that Macy’s is going to refuse to negotiate for higher wages with a union.
  • Um, go Ashton Kutcher? (That was weird to type.)
  • A New York City waitress says she was fired for not paying a bill her customers walked out on.
  • Los Angeles port truckers went on strike Monday. Sarah Jaffe reports:
    In total, some 100 port truckers from three different companies—Green Fleet, American Logistics International and Pacific 9 Transportation—walked off the job [Monday] in a coordinated effort to raise working standards. Unlike the truckers at Green Fleet, who are employees, the workers from Pacific 9 Transportation are considered independent contractors. They argue that this is an illegal misclassification because they have none of the benefits of real independence—such as being able to set one's own hours or work for different companies. Meanwhile, their bosses deduct operating costs from their paychecks, something that would be illegal if they were indeed employees. More than 50 Pacific 9 drivers have filed claims with the California Labor Commissioner alleging that this practice has robbed them of more than $7 million in wages. According to the labor federation Change to Win (which is backing much of the port trucker organizing), hundreds of similar claims filed in recent years by port truck drivers have all resulted in “substantial penalties” for the employer. [...]

    Paula Winicki, a research and policy analyst for the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, breaks down the costs that Pacific 9 deducted from a single contractor’s paycheck: $125 a week for the lease of the truck, $530.05 in fuel, $50 for repairs, other miscellaneous deductions for parking, insurance, permit and license fees, and more, that with fuel, repairs and lease add up to $962.90. The paycheck for one week after the deductions was $12.90. Winicki notes that these issues are endemic to port trucking companies, so leaving wouldn't help much. And in any case, once they sign a long-term lease for a truck with Pacific 9 or another company , “They’re tied to the company. … If they walk away, they lose a truck— and maybe get sued for breaking the lease agreement.”

    Drivers at Pacific 9 have filed claims of wage theft against the company.

    Truckers at Australian-owned Toll Group won a union vote and got a good contract in 2011 and 2012, so while this will be a very tough industry to organize and raise standards in, there is precedent for a win.

  • Lest we forget, the development of was largely outsourced to private contractors.
  • The Washington, DC, city council may have failed to override Mayor Vincent Gray's veto of the Large Retailer Accountability Act, but that doesn't mean it's game over for a living wage:
    D.C. Working Families, a local offshoot of the national group Working Families, is pushing for a ballot initiative that would require a minimum wage of $12.50 an hour by 2017, as well as a minimum wage of $8.70 for tipped workers.
  • It looks likely that Massachusetts activists have collected enough signatures to get a minimum wage increase and earned sick leave on the ballot in 2014.


  • Education Secretary Arne Duncan's slam at "white suburban moms" was ... just plain wrong on the merits. Sabrina Joy Stevens explains:
    In reality, tests scores have never exclusively reflected a child’s knowledge or skills. They reflect what a given set of test-makers and a given set of public officials decide should count as having knowledge and skills. They can’t possibly capture all of the different ways different people display their skills and knowledge, and that’s to say nothing of the many ways in which test-makers unintentionally create test items that reflect cultural and other forms of bias (hence the tight correlation with family background and income). Likewise, public officials can and do raise and lower passing scores as needed to satisfy different goals, including political ones.

    The difference now is that, while the old tests used to align fairly closely with what middle- and upper-class students and schools do, the new tests subject these students and schools to a kind of mismatch similar to what low-income students and schools have always dealt with.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sat Nov 23, 2013 at 10:55 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site