Life from the margins

So I’m sitting here while watching Jamie Dimon do his ritual apology in front of the Senate Banking Committee, and I have a tea towel tied around my head to hold the ice bag. I woke up with a throbbing headache, something I don’t normally get, and I’m pretty cranky about it. I’ve also had a stiff neck for three days, and while I do have some muscle relaxers, I can’t take them now because I’ll be useless for the rest of the day. (Thought: Why does Sen. Richard Shelby dye what little is left of his hair? It looks like he uses brown shoe polish. Is it because he’s convinced it makes him look younger to the lobbyist-supplied hookers? You don’t see Jamie Fucking Dimon dying his gray hair. The man may be a crook but he’s a confident one!)

Richard Shelby may be the Senate’s worst speaker, and that’s saying something. No, I take that back. Tim Johnson is even worse.

As the hearing started, a group of foreclosure protesters confronted Dimon, telling him to “face the people you foreclosed upon.” It sounded like some of the Very Important People in the room were laughing at them. Well, why wouldn’t they? No one’s going to steal their houses, or take their jobs.

This morning I found out I didn’t get one of the jobs for which I was interviewing. I didn’t think I would, and didn’t want to work there, anyway. But I need a job, and really soon. It’s all I think about, really. (That might have something to do with the neck.) I’m so worried.

I’m also trying to figure out if the yogurt I ate for dinner gave me the headache. It’s the sinus-y kind, where the entire upper half of my face and the top of my head hurts – hence, the ice pack on the head.

This is not a good day, and this is not a good country anymore. I have to figure out how to swim through it all.

UPDATE: Just to top thing off, just got a $100 ticket in the mail from one of the city’s red-light cameras. I feel like Job.

The hands that feed us

It’s not just waitstaff – chefs (unless you own the restaurant) are getting paid peanuts, too:

Many people in the nascent food movement and in the broader “foodie” set know our farmers’ (and their kids’) names and what their animals eat. We practically worship chefs, and the damage done to land, air and water by high-tech ag is — correctly — a constant concern.

Yet though you can’t be a card-carrying foodie if you don’t know the provenance of your heirloom tomato, you apparently can be one if you don’t know how the members of your wait staff are treated. We don’t seem to mind or even notice that our servers might be making $2.13 an hour. That tip you debate increasing to 20 percent might be the difference in making the rent.

It’s true that a bit of attention has been paid to farmworkers — with some good results — and occasionally you read about the horrors of life in a slaughterhouse. But despite our obsession with food, the worker is an afterthought.

The Hands That Feed Us, and the work being done on the ground by groups like ROC-U — which contributed to the report and helped create the Food Chain Workers Alliance in 2008 — may signal the beginning of a change.

Take that $2.13 figure, the federal minimum wage for tipped workers. Legally, tips should cover the difference between that and the federal minimum wage, now a whopping $7.25. If they don’t, employers are obligated to make up the difference. But that doesn’t always happen, leaving millions of servers — 70 percent of whom are women — taking home far less than the minimum wage.

Which brings us to the happily almost-forgotten Herman Cain. What’s called the “tipped minimum wage” — that $2.13 — once increased in proportion to the regular minimum wage. But in 1996, the year Cain took over as head of the National Restaurant Association (NRA), he struck a deal with President Bill Clinton and his fellow Democrats. In exchange for an increase in the regular minimum wage, the tipped minimum wage was de-coupled. The result: despite regular increases in the regular minimum wage, the tipped minimum wage hasn’t changed since 1991.

Other disheartening facts: Around one in eight jobs in the food industry provides a wage greater than 150 percent of the regional poverty level. More than three-quarters of the workers surveyed don’t receive health insurance from their employers. (Fifty-eight percent don’t have it at all; national health care, anyone?) More than half have worked while sick or suffered injuries or health problems on the job, and more than a third reported some form of wage theft in the previous week. Not year: week.

Holy moley

This is just infuriating:

The Supreme Court will soon hear a case that will affect whether you can sell your iPad — or almost anything else — without needing to get permission from a dozen “copyright holders.” Here are some things you might have recently done that will be rendered illegal if the Supreme Court upholds the lower court decision:

1. Sold your first-generation iPad on Craigslist to a willing buyer, even if you bought the iPad lawfully at the Apple Store.

2. Sold your dad’s used Omega watch on eBay to buy him a fancier (used or new) Rolex at a local jewelry store.

3. Sold an “import CD” of your favorite band that was only released abroad but legally purchased there. Ditto for a copy of a French or Spanish novel not released in the U.S.

4. Sold your house to a willing buyer, so long as you sell your house along with the fixtures manufactured in China, a chandelier made in Thailand or Paris, support beams produced in Canada that carry the imprint of a copyrighted logo, or a bricks or a marble countertop made in Italy with any copyrighted features or insignia.

Read the previous cases, because they’re just crazy. Whatever happened to global trade? Apparently it has to be stamped out when it works in our favor, and not the corporations.

You can sign a petition here.

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