Tuesday, July 24, 2012

In Midwest, fight over labor unions to be at heart of 2012 election

Although labor unions have had some reservations about President Obama, they're still looking to him as their best ally in the 2012 election. Meanwhile, Republicans who are hoping to further curb unions are putting stock in Mitt Romney.
Temp Headline Image
In this June 8 file photo, President Obama talks about the economy in the briefing room of the White House in Washington. Four years ago, Obama won the upper Midwest, where union membership is densest. But since then, Republicans in this part of the United States have targeted labor rights.
(Carolyn Kaster/AP/File)


The fight over labor unions in the Midwest is a big reason why this region is shaping up to be a major battleground in the general election this fall.

Four years ago, Barack Obama won the upper Midwest, where union membership is densest. But since then, Republicans in this part of the United States have targeted labor rights. Legislation curbed bargaining rights in Wisconsin and made Indiana a "right to work" state. Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) signed a law that limited collective-bargaining rights for all public-sector workers, although voters repealed it last year.

Moreover, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) has proposed cuts to state pensions and closures of prisons, which has rankled organized labor because it would eliminate thousands of public jobs.

Confronted with such moves, unions have also mobilized. In Michigan, they're trying to put a measure on the November ballot that would make right-to-work legislation unconstitutional.

And overall, unions and their supporters are now spending big money: Whereas political-action committees representing unions parceled out $73.1 million for political activity in 2008, they've spent almost $2 billion since that time, according to the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington.

Although unions have had some reservations about Mr. Obama, they're still looking to him as their best ally. Meanwhile, Republicans who are hoping to further curb unions are putting stock in Mitt Romney.

"The Midwest is absolutely crucial in the presidential race," says Jeff Hauser, spokesman with the AFL-CIO. "Those are not states that can be taken for granted."
Since Obama took office, the numbers for union membership have shrunk. Nationally between 2008 and 2011, public and private union membership dropped by 3.3 percent. The numbers in the Midwest are more dramatic: a 14.5 percent slide in Wisconsin, 13.9 percent in Indiana, 12.9 in Michigan, 9.7 in Ohio, 8.1 in Pennsylvania, and 6.7 in Illinois, according to UnionStats.com.

Mr. Hauser says that four of the six states that the AFL-CIO plans to focus heavily on ahead of the election are in the Midwest: Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and the western half of Pennsylvania. The strategy will be to pursue undecided voters through grass-roots organizing.

The economic uncertainty in the Midwest is expected to galvanize voter turnout, which is expected to help Obama, says labor historian Mike Smith of Wayne State University in Detroit.

"I would not be surprised if there was greater union turnout than what we had four years ago because so much has happened to labor unions in the Midwest, especially if you had thousands of members in each state who lost their jobs during the crisis," he says. "They're a group to be reckoned with."

But enthusiasm for Obama and other Democrats is expected to be somewhat blunted in certain areas of the Midwest where unions have felt betrayed, says Henry Bayer, executive director of the Illinois chapter of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. Among other things, such betrayal stems from Obama's absence and the lack of financial support from the national Democratic Party during the recent gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin, in which Gov. Scott Walker (R) retained his seat.

Still, such shortcomings don't amount to enough for unions to abandon Democrats for Republicans, labor experts say. "The fact is, the labor movement at large has not been happy with Obama because he hasn't done enough for them; but on the other hand, what's the alternative?" Mr. Smith says.

Source: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2012/0724/In-Midwest-fight-over-labor-unions-to-be-at-heart-of-2012-election

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Seventeen magazine's vow to celebrate all body types: It's about time.

Seventeen magazine vows to never change the shape of girls' faces or bodies in photos. If we don’t reconfigure the way girls see themselves on TV, in movies, and in magazines, even smart teens will believe the media lie that their worth is in fastidious attention to the superficial.


In the August issue of Seventeen magazine, editor-in-chief Ann Shoket responds to a fierce campaign to “keep it real” by vowing to keep photo shoots transparent, celebrate all body types, and never change the shapes of girls’ bodies or faces. And it’s about time.

Many teen girls are caught in the body-image trap, but it snares people of all ages. Last month, talk-show hostAnderson Cooper kicked off his guest – the British mother Sarah Burge – because he could no longer hear her defend the decision to give her eight-year-old daughter vouchers for breast implants and liposuction, redeemable when she turns 18. Ms. Burge has reportedly spent more than $500,000 in plastic surgeries to become “the human Barbie,” as she calls herself.
The following week, news broke that the US SenateFederal Credit Union sent out a mailing with a photo of a smiling tanned blonde featuring large fake breasts in a low-cut, tight shirt. The mailing urged credit union members to consider borrowing cash for any upcoming “big plans.”
The over-tanned human Barbie could be any Botoxaddict I see at the beach every summer in California’sOrange County. In fact, the city where I was raised, Irvine, Calif., is so notoriously appearance-conscious it ranks as the No. 1 city in America in household spending on high-end fashion.
Last year, I returned to my hometown to lead several discussions on the documentary film “Miss Representation.” The film, written, directed, and produced by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, attempts to refute the media portrayal that “a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality,” as the film’s website describes it.
I had high hopes of creating radical change around issues of female empowerment and body image among Irvine’s youth. But I found resistance instead.
After I asked a question about the difference between growing up male and female, one young woman insisted that this difference – of girls being pressured to dress or act in a certain way – “just doesn’t exist anymore. There is no pressure in high school.”
I was speechless. She attends my alma mater, and when I went there in the early 2000s, girls obsessed about weight – and teeth whitening, shopping, manicures, pedicures, waxing, and hair salons. With plastic surgery, it’s getting worse. And all over Orange County, mothers sign waivers for their underage daughters to tan.
In the all-girl groups I led, I tried to steer the talk about body image to leadership and empowerment. But the girls consistently re-directed. “Guys are only into really skinny girls, like Lady Gaga” one teen admitted, “so I’m always on a diet.” The group eagerly echoed, “I KNOW!” and “ME TOO!”

So much for no pressure in high school.
On the flip side, Lady Gaga tries to empower youth with her new Born This Way Foundation. But I believe female youth need to look elsewhere for a leader in the next body-image revolution. After all, like the high school girls I met suggested, Lady Gaga’s strutting on stage in a bra and panties like a stripper has not helped them one bit on campus. High school boys watch her suggestive videos and expect their girlfriends to perform the same role.
As long as we don’t reconfigure the way girls see themselves on TV, in movies, on billboards, in fashion magazines, and in music videos, even our smartest teenagers will continue to believe the media lie that all their worth is in their fastidious attention to the superficial and transitory.
Michelle Obama is working hard to cultivate nutrition and healthy living awareness. We need more female leaders like writer Lisa Bloom, author of the book, “Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World,” and documentary maker Jennifer Siebel Newsom. They can help create a new generation of empowered females around the topic of healthy female body image.
Various youths are finding their own way to combat the media canard that a woman can only be attractive and happy if she is skinny.
Julia Bluhm, a teen from Maine, created a Change.org petition demanding that Seventeen print one unaltered photo spread per month. With fellow activists, she handed the petition – with more than 84,000 signatures –  to the executive editor of Seventeen. The magazine listened, and has committed to “celebrate every kind of beauty.”
These efforts are vital if we are to prevent the next media and beauty obsessed mother from giving her preteen daughter vouchers to grow up and become another human Barbie.
Chelsea Carmona is the West Coast regional manager of The OpEd Project, which aims to increase the range of voices and quality of ideas in public discourse. Joe Loya, an essayist, playwright, and author of the memoir, "The Man Who Outgrew His Prison Cell: Confessions of a Bank Robber," contributed to this commentary.

Source: http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2012/0706/Seventeen-magazine-s-vow-to-celebrate-all-body-types-It-s-about-time

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