Posts Tagged ‘new york times’

Legalize LA

September 30, 2009

A recent post in the NY Times talks about a new tactic for dealing with illegal immigration: firing. (Of course, the irony that it is the New York Times talking about an incident taking place in Los Angeles, again, is not lost on me. Thanks to the internet, I can read news reports from across the country to find out what is going on in my own backyard.) The particular place of business discussed was the American Apparel factory in downtown LA.

American Apparel’s selling point is the fact that it is not a sweatshop, and not only does it pay its employees salaries above minimum wage, it creates T-shirts and other clothing here in the US. So to be the target of an investigation into hiring of illegals just seems the highest of ironies. Here is a company trying hard to keep jobs in the United States, and to give its workers a chance at being able to support their families, and it is a target of investigations by the Federal government. What sort of message is that sending? 

The American Apparel Factory in Downtown LA
The American Apparel Factory in Downtown LA

A couple years back, there were banners and posters and billboards plastering the city saying “Legalize LA,” referring to coming up with a policy that honors the fact that most illegal immigrants are decent, hardworking people, trying to make a new, better life for themselves and their families here in the US, just like every previous wave of immigrants that has made up our country.

Legalize LA

Legalize LA

The particular twist that ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) under Obama tried was to note any discrepancies between identifications provided to prove legal residency (and thus legality to be hired). It was actually American Apparel that decided to go ahead and fire the employees with the discrepancies that could not be cleared up. The company was not accused of knowingly hiring illegal immigrants. The chances that the documentation provided for hiring were fake is extremely likely. Thus, since it is illegal to hire those not legal to be in the country, and the descrepancies were brought to the attention of American Apparel, the only legal recource they had was to then ask the employees unable to clear up questions about their legal status to leave. They were fired for lack of certainty of their status.
Me personally, I am very divided on the illegal immigrant status issue. I know that on both sides of my family, my ancestors decided that conditions in their various parts of the world were unsatisfactory enough for an entire family to move to a country where they didn’t speak the language. And they stuck it out, worked hard, and advanced in society to leave decendants and eventually my family and I. I know the world is a very different place now, but the impulse is exactly the same: looking for a better life to provide for one’s family, wherever that may be.
American Apparel is firing 1,800 employees, nearly 1/4 of its workforce. With the flagging economy, chances were good that some amount of staff being fired will help the bottom line and was even perhaps needed, but I would guess this is not the manner in which management would have preferred to do it.
In my predominantly Spanish-speaking neighborhood, our parked cars on the streets are flyered on a constant basis. One day, I remember a flyer tucked under my windshield wiper was an ad in both English and Spanish asking if I needed a job and if I had sewing skills, to apply at American Apparel. I remember thinking it was interesting that my particular neighborhood was targeted for the flyers. Usually the flyers are for car insurance, local restaurants, delivery services and taxis. Not jobs.
Although American Apparel has been great at offering a non-sweatshop environment, providing above average wage jobs, health benefits and even some stock options, I have always been suspicious of their stepping into the fray on immigrant status issues. What do they have to gain from proposing clemency for current working illegals? If a quarter of their workforce had issues with their documentation, did they have any suspicions that some were not legal? Is that perhaps the true motivation for all the money spent on advertising Legalize LA?
Just passing thoughts and observations. It has struck me odd, and this latest legal interaction seems all the more strange. As the Chief Executive asks in the article, he wonders why his company was targeted. Could it perhaps have been the outspoken-ness asking for legalization that made this investigation a priority? Is freedom of speech in opposition to an immigration policy that actually works for everyone?

News Sources

March 3, 2009

Everyone has their favorite news source, ya know? I thought it would be interesting to share mine and let others see what a skewed view of the world it gives me.

First, I would like to mention what doesn’t work for me. I used to have a subscription to the Los Angeles Times, back when I was in an apartment with a door that faced the street and no gates preventing others from getting to me. I tried having one at my new place, but with two locked doors between my door and the street, the papers merely got thrown over the gate and if I didn’t pick it up early in the morning (say, on my way to work), it would simply go missing. So I stopped calling for my free replacement paper and just gave up the subscription. So I don’t subscribe to the main paper. (Or The Los Angeles Dog Trainer, as Harry Shearer calls it.)

I used to pick up the weekly Downtown News, which actually gets delivered inside our building, but as the papers piled up in my small space, I now just read it down in the lobby when I think of it, and put the copy back. Same for the local independent newspapers, the LA Weekly and City Beat. The less paper I bring into my apartment, the better the chances are that I will not one day be found gnawed and decomposing under a pile of newspapers, my cat fat and happy.

The LA Weekly, City Beat and Downtown News are all available online, with LA Weekly actually sending me emails and text alerts to give me the lead stories. So no paper. And I find without the physical paper, so much easier to ignore and not worth actually bothering to read much of it at all. Besides, what I really wanted to know from LA Weekly was when bands were playing and where. Since I am on the email lists and myspace bulletins of the local clubs and bands I want to go and hear, I already am getting some of that information, and fortunately, now sooner than just when they sell out.

I gave up watching the news years ago. It just made me anxious and depressed, watching about war and murder and car crashes and such. I think that was after a summer when I still had cable and I spent it lying on the couch watching SCUD missile attacks on CNN with Wolf Blitzer talking (and James Earl Jones’ langurous voice). There was nothing productive I was doing from wasting my time watching it, and nothing I was doing prevented it from continuing. In fact, I was doing nothing but allowing the TV’s images to hold me captive.

The images that most Americans have burned into their brains from 9/11 just aren’t in my head. My then boyfriend and I had just moved that week, and didn’t even have a TV yet at the new place, but had noticed we were having vivid color and violently disturbing dreams instead. Turned out there were some open paint cans we were breathing the fumes of every night when we closed the windows, so when we woke up that morning to the radio news, it just seemed like more of what we had been dreaming, death, mayhem and lots of red blood. Very surreal.

Predictions about the weather also never served me. The weather’s going to do what it’s going to do, and the best way to prepare for it, is to simply be prepared. I have an extra jacket, sleeping bag and water always stored in my car, so in case of snowstorm, car breakdown or sudden thunderstorm, I have it covered. No need to listen to the weather report to know it might rain. If I wake up and there are clouds in the sky enough to make it overcast and gloomy looking, it just might.

My real true main sources of news are in the form of podcasts. I subscribe to mainly music related podcasts, but also to APM’s Marketplace, a half hour week daily show about money, the economy and its impact on the world in relation to newsworthy items; and Harry Shearer’s weekly Le Show. You might think Harry Shearer, comedian, musician and the voice behind several familiar Simpsons characters would not be that up on the news, but I have to admit, he talks about issues that I don’t see covered in mainstream media. He had been talking for almost a year about the transition to the digital TV signal, and the coupons program not being effective, and how synching of visual and sound signals on HD broadcasts were woefully inadequate, etc. That’s in the part of the show called Welcome to the Digital Wonderland, with its own little theme song and copyright. Everything on his show is copyrighted, from News of the Warm, to broadcasting from the world famous Le Show Dome, in Santa Monica, Home to the Homeless. Or maybe it’s in New Orleans, where he alternatively broadcasts from, when he isn’t on the road and recording his show from various other locations. His Apologies of the Week are also entertaining, with anyone who apologized for something, often inserting their foots more firmly in their mouths in the process. No one is sacrosanct. He sings, he spoofs, he interviews people and keeps his listeners informed of the world we live in. Like continued letters about airport security and how NOT TIGHT it is, looking for one thing in the carry-on while ignoring the large bladed hunting knife. Go ahead, write a letter, he might read it on air!

And then, while on the computer, online, I have a little scrolling Google newsflash thing going by, and anything of interest I go and check out. Like news of that giant snake fossil found in Central America, which would have made it longer than a bus and weighing more than a ton. So see? I keep up on the news. And since it is tailoring the news to the stories I go check out, at this point, it is mainly showing me articles from The New York Times. Maybe their titles are just more interesting than any others….

Then when I go to login to check my email, of course Yahoo! tells me all about the latest celebrity gossip, in case I cared to know. So without even trying, I know more useless things that I really would prefer not bothering with.

When I first gave up watching the daily news, I was in college. I was actually afraid I might miss something important. Some classes used topical events as discussion points. But anything really important? I tended to already have heard about. And this was before the World Wide Web really got rolling. The only thing I really noticed was sometimes I just didn’t get a joke that David Letterman had. If it was really big news, he would joke about it again the next night, and usually I would have caught up on the subject matter, just from hearing other people talk, at the bus stop, waiting in line, before classes. It really wasn’t much of an effort to keep up. It was more the celebrity gossip that I missed out on. Big whoop. Not much missed there.

And so it was done. After noticing only small changes in my understanding of the world as a result of not actively seeking out the news, I gave it up. My two podcasts are the only things I actively listen to, and usually while doing something else, so not even with my full attention. And as a result, I don’t feel like I’m missing a thing. If I really want to know about something in the world, that’s what the internet and libraries are for. Research.