A real labor candidate to challenge Eileen Brady?

by Steve, August 9th, 2011

laborAFL-CIO president Tom Chamberlain is considering running for mayor. This could finally force Portland’s complacent news media to talk about labor issues as a factor in Portland’s mayoral race.

I love this quote: “I really think the issue of jobs has to be from someone who has either created jobs, or represented workers, or worked on an agenda to create jobs. I don’t know if the other two candidates have done that.”

New Seasons co-founder Eileen Brady likes to talk about all the warm and fuzzy jobs her company has created, but as I’ve pointed out before, she hasn’t created a net increase in grocery jobs. Instead, she’s creating non-union grocery jobs where union grocery jobs used to exist. Put a bird on it, call it sustainable, and sell it to the hipsters. But that shit don’t fly when up against a real labor leader.

Some answers to questions you may have

by Steve, August 7th, 2011

Looking at the server logs, I see you have some questions… and I got answers!

Is Portland passive aggressive?

Why yes, it is.

What do you love about Portland?

Many things.

Do you have any cartoons about gay marriage?

I linked to a bunch of cartoons back in 2007, when Oregon passed its domestic partner law. (This has been a long-standing prime driver of traffic to this site, believe it or not.)

Are there hockey stores in Portland?

Northwest Skate Authority has a pro shop at Sherwood Ice Arena and one at the Winterhawks Skating Center. Decent selection (for a small shop), good prices and great service.

Are there hockey bars in Portland?

Claudia’s Sports Pub is rumored to be a decent place to catch a game. I’ve never been there, though.

Is Portland mayoral candidate Eileen Brady anti-union?

I don’t know, but her hubby sure was back in the 90s. And so far, Portland’s credulous scrivener corps hasn’t bothered to ask her about it much.

Are employees at Brady’s New Seasons stores union?

Nope.

Did Paul Newman do his own skating in Slapshot?

Yes he did, at least according to the commentary by the Hansen brothers on the DVD.

Where are good seats at Portland’s Memorial Coliseum?

I’ve always liked section 69, row H for hockey. It’s second tier, center ice. I’ve also enjoyed sitting in the Hosers’ section in the end above the goal where the Hawks shoot twice. But the place has great sight lines all around.

Is Oregonian reporter Bryan Denson a stupid fucking credulous hack?

Dan Savage sure thinks so, and I couldn’t resist putting a link to his criticism on the front page of the Oregonian Web site. (I don’t see any queries in the logs like “Is the Oregonian a useless dinosaur of an establishment rag that can’t figure out how to operate in the new media world?” but the answer is, of course, an emphatic “Yes!!”)

And finally, the number one search that brings people to this site lately:

Do you have a Portland ZIP code map?

Well, sort of. I’ve got one I scanned out of a phone book several years back, then color coded to show the shameful maldistribution of educational investment in Portland. You’ll have better luck finding a ZIP at the US Postal Service site. Funny that this post still brings visitors, as it was the post that launched my brief but intense career as a pundit, citizen journalist, and community activist in Portland Public Schools.

Reporters giving Eileen Brady a pass on labor issues

by Steve, June 10th, 2011

politics

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Let’s all go shopping

The Oregonian has never been much for covering labor issues, at least not since they busted their unions back in 1959-61. The O sets the pace for the rest of Portland’s media outlets, which are generally tone deaf to labor issues.

With a mayoral election looming, one of two early contenders coming from the business community, and an ugly national trend of attacks on collective bargaining rights, labor issues should be at the fore of this election. Or at least talked about.

But so far, not a single reporter has asked New Seasons founder Eileen Brady about her status as a non-union employer in a heavily unionized industry. Her campaign Web site features the subtitle “Progress the Portland way.”

Now, I realize “progress” can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. To me, as a reader of history, there would have been no social progress in the 20th century without a strong organized labor movement. A non-union employer claiming to be progressive is a slap in the face to all the workers who sacrificed to bring us weekends, the eight-hour work day, and child labor laws, among other things.

But to Portland’s pliant news media, “progressive” is just another buzzword, like “sustainable” or “green.”

Let’s name names:

  • The O’s Steve Duin waxes at length about Brady, giving her hubby a pass when he says “What we do is basic: Take care of your staff….”
  • The O’s Brad Schmidt quotes a Brady supporter calling her “progressive,” and even interviews AFSCME rep Rob Wheaton about the race… but somehow doesn’t manage to ask Wheaton or Brady about labor practices at her business.
  • The O’s chief political hack Jeff Mapes blathers a bit on OBP radio about Brady entering the race, but somehow avoids broaching a single issue, much less labor. He also notices that she’s a woman, and declares this to be an issue in the race. Way to get to the crux of the matter, Mapes.
  • The O’s Anna Griffin is fascinated with Brady, and wants her and the other candidates to “start the civic conversation about what Portland will be now that it’s grown up.” (Wait… when did that happen?) That conversation would include “economic problems” but apparently, somehow, not labor policy.
  • The Tribune‘s Jim Redden extensively quotes Brady’s campaign literature. He doesn’t appear to question any of this, including the parts about creating jobs.
  • The Mercury‘s Jeopardy Champ Denis C. Theriault lets Brady utter the word “progressive” without asking her what that means with regard to labor issues.
  • OPB lets Brady prattle about “the greenest city in the world with strong and safe neighborhoods, and…a vibrant economy” and leaves it at that.
  • KATU recorded a campaign video for Brady. She’s “laser focused,” yo! She’s not a career politician! (Funny, but it doesn’t show up as an in-kind donation on Brady’s rapidly bloating balance sheet.) Oh, and the raw interview clip is preceded by an ad for “pro-business, low-tax Idaho.” What the….
  • Not to be outdone, KGW’s Randy Neves gave Brady a few seconds of air time to spew some happy talk. They evidently didn’t have time to do a full campaign video for her like KATU, so they embedded her official campaign video on their site, where she talks about Values! How she “created a progressive workplace with a true sense of community!” How she’s focused, yo!
  • No surprise that the dick-wagglin’ hacks (wait, is “dick-wagglin’” hyphenated?) at Wankers’ Corner, er, I mean, Blue Oregon ask lots of meta questions but jump down the throats of anybody who brings up labor issues. (And I thought Blue Oregon was a Democratic Party blog, and the Democratic Party was pro-labor, and… Oh, never mind.)

Portland’s credulous scrivener corps doesn’t understand that grocery industry spending and employment are relatively flat. This gets into some rudimentary economics, so let me spell it out. When New Seasons opens a store and hires staff, they’re not creating a net increase in jobs (assuming overall grocery spending remains flat). Instead, they take business from union grocery stores, effectively converting union jobs to non-union jobs.

Is that “Progress the Portland Way?” It’s a fair question, but not a single one of these hacks is asking it.

Refuting Steve Rawley

by Steve, June 6th, 2011

election08I do like stirring the pot.

By the time I’d posted my story of butting heads with Brian “Mr. Eileen Brady” Rohter way back in the 90s, the Kindergartners over at Blue Oregon already had their panties in a knot about somebody else asking if entrepreneur and mayoral candidate Eileen Brady might be anti-union (a legit question, since she’s running to be the boss of many unionized workers).

(Aw, shit, I owe a serious apology to Kindergartners everywhere. Those Blue Oregon wankers wish they were half as mature and cool as Kindergartners.)

I posted a link to my Nature’s story to the comment thread at BO, which was met with more bashing of the guy who asked the first question, and hand wringing over what this had to do with anything, since it was 15 years ago (never mind the fact that Rohter and Brady are non-union employers in the heavily unionized grocery industry).

Anyway, stupid political hacks and wannabes being what they are, somebody jumped on their iPad late that night and searched Google using the phrase “refuting Steve Rawley nature’s union.”

This is funny on multiple levels:

  • It shows how freaked out they are by this open secret.
  • It’s a really poorly formulated search term; the top five results link to sites owned by me, the guy they want to refute.
  • And they clicked through to my site. Four times.

I got a hint for Brady and her sycophants: you can’t refute it, because it happened. Also, you’re not very good at using Google.

Let’s review: Brian Rohter, Eileen Brady’s husband and business partner, aggressively opposed at least one union drive, using the standard union-busting tactics of intimidation and happy talk (“we’re different,” “it would destroy our culture,” “union bosses make much money,” “a big union would stand between little old us and our happy employee family,” “two bosses,” “good as we’ve been to you,” etc.).

At some point, maybe, somebody will ask Brady directly how she feels about collective bargaining in her stores. Then we’ll get to hear a lot of pablum about that speshul New Seasons culture, and how staff doesn’t even want a union.

If it’s a typical lazy Portland political reporter asking the question, they’ll just print the fluff unchallenged.

But if the question is asked in a union hall (mayoral candidates have been known to make the rounds), I can imagine a nice follow up: “If you’re not opposed to your staff being represented, would you allow reps access to employees on site, and would you recognize the union if a majority of staff were to sign authorization cards (i.e. ‘card check’)?” (Note that in 1997, Nature’s, with Brian Rohter as general manager, not only refused card check, they launched a specious challenge to their workers’ right to hold an election after a majority in one department had signed authorization cards.)

So obviously, this is a very delicate question for Brady, probably more so for her business operations than for her political aspirations (a mayoral candidate can certainly win without union support). Whatever her answer may be, just asking the question puts her in a difficult spot.

So… who’s gonna ask?

Oregonian quote of the day

by Steve, April 30th, 2011

From today’s fish wrapper (Warning: Oregonian link, will likely be dead within two weeks):

He prayed. “Please, please, Lord, let this train stop in time.”

It’s hard to know if the plea helped.

Oregonian ed reporter finds spine, questions district PR fluff

by Steve, April 8th, 2011

schoolsNews flash: After over a decade of rewriting school district press releases, The Oregonian’s main education reporter has written not one, but two news stories critical of Portland Public Schools. Since they even cite sources outside the district, one might go so far as to call the stories almost “investigative.”

Today’s front page story (Warning: Oregonian link; will be 404 two weeks after publication) details how the district is violating state election law by campaigning for its half-billion dollar bond measure on the public dime.

This article comes less than a week after another article (Warning: Oregonian link; will be 404 two weeks after publication) critical of the cost basis of the bond measure.

Nice to see some critical ed reporting in the usually complicit, complacent O. Too bad it only comes when the reporter’s property tax is in danger of going up. Think about it.

So the mayor, a councilman and a billionaire walk into a bar…

by Steve, October 14th, 2010

Geo. W. Bush and Henry Paulson

If you know me, or if you’ve read this blog from time to time, you’ve got some inkling what I think of Merritt Paulson, ultra-rich scion of former Goldman Sachs CEO and Bush Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. (If you don’t know me, and don’t want to follow the links, here’s what I think: he’s a spoiled rich kid playing sports team owner and an annoying little twit.)

After a bizarre series of attempted deals with the Mayor of Portland, Sam Adams, and the shadow mayor, Portland Commissioner Randy Leonard — who tried like hell to figure out a way to build the Paulsons two stadiums on the public dime, but ran into tenatious opposition from veterans, architects, urban planners, neighborhood activists and historic preservationists — poor wittle Merrit only got one stadium and had to sell his wittle baseball team for lack of a suitable playground.

(His daddy is a partner in his minor league sports empire, by the way, so it’s a wonder he wouldn’t put up more cash to build a stadium if it’s such a sure fire financial win to invest in sports stadiums as is frequently claimed. But I digress….)

The excavators are already busy at PGE Park (nee Civic Stadium; the Paulsons get the dough on the naming deal), ripping out part of the $38.5 million renovations done in 2001. These renovations, that Portland is still paying off, were done to make it a better venue for baseball, including a retro, manually-operated scoreboard. It’s a long story. Cutting to the chase: they’re re-renovating nine years later as a soccer-specific venue, to the exclusion of baseball.

Today comes the news that the Portland Beavers have been sold as expected, and are officially moving to Escondido, California.

I generally avoid the crappy comments section at OregonLive, the crappy Web partner of our crappy daily The Oregonian, but today I couldn’t resist jumping in to the Soccer v. Baseball war when somebody posted an invitation to a “Timbers Army/Sam Adams joke contest.” Here’s my entry, edited here in a vain attempt to punch it up a little:

A mayor, a councilman and a billionaire walk into a bar. A couple sleepy customers are watching a baseball game on the screen behind the bar. Bartender says, what’ll it be, boys? Mayor says, whatever my friend here wants, it’s on the house. Bartender says, no way pal, hit the road.

Next thing you know, a bunch of drunken, middle-aged, white man-children wearing scarves are flooding through the front door, knocking over tables and singing vulgar songs…. pretty soon the sleepy baseball fans are out on their ears, there’s a soccer game on the TV, the billionaire’s behind the bar with his hands in the till and the bartender’s getting beat up by the councilman.

The mayor takes out his phone and tweets: “This is a great day for Portland. #timbersarmy #mls”

Yeah. It’s a joke, but it’s not very funny.

Do me better. What’s your Portland/Sam Adams/Merritt Paulson/Randy Leonard/Timbers Army/Beavers joke?

More fun with the Oregonian

by Steve, October 2nd, 2009

A couple years back, the Oregonian’s hackneyed Web front-end, OregonLive.com, started experimenting with a local implementation of Reddit, a link-sharing social network. It never gained critical mass, and it was easy to game the system to get (and keep) links on the front page of OregonLive.

Hey, we had our juvenile fun, but it was to a point: the Oregonian simply doesn’t have a clue how to operate in the 21st century new media world.

OregonLive made a number of tweaks to their Reddit system, including moving the links to the very bottom of the front page and giving up on hosting Oregon Reddit (it’s just a category at Reddit.com now). We can still have a little fun with them.
olive-reddit

They (obviously) still don’t get new media at the Oregonian (they had a daily podcast for a couple months starting in August 2008, which petered out last March), but that’s just a critique of their delivery.

The real knock on the O is the same knock on pretty much any old school daily: their pretension of objectivity makes them shills for the status quo.

Journalist, author and pundit Dan Savage had some fun recently with what he calls a “drug war” story in the Oregonian, and gave Oregonian reporter Bryan Denson the honor of “Stupid Fucking Credulous Hack of the Day” not once, but twice in the same week.

I thought that story deserved a link on the front page of OregonLive, and voila!

Dan also published a long and humorous e-mail exchange with Denson, which is an object lesson in the insularity of reporters at the O. (Here’s Savage’s Wikipedia page, just for future reference, Bryan.)

So that’s what I’ve been doing…

by Steve, July 1st, 2009

me…beat blogging!

Two and a half years ago, I started ranting on this site about the gross educational inequities in Portland’s public schools. This eventually got the attention of the local mainstream media and the greater school district community. I didn’t set out with a mission, other than just speaking my mind.

Pretty soon all I wrote about here was schools, schools, schools. One day, while writing yet another blog post about schools, my daughter asked me, “How come you only write about school politics on your hockey blog?” “Good question!” I said, and started another blog all about schools.

Why? Because I can (my day job is “professional nerd”).

Eventually, PPS Equity started taking on the look of a… what? Online magazine? I settled on calling it a “new media publication.” I even came up with a mission statement: “to inform, advocate and organize, with a goal of equal educational opportunity for all students in Portland Public Schools, regardless of their address, their parent’s wealth, or their race.” Readership climbed steadily, with around 20% of visits consistently coming directly from school district computers.

Since I host my blogs on a server that I own, I decided to open up my platform to others working for the common good.

That’s it, I thought, I’m doing “new media publishing!” It’s got a nice ring to it.

But I’m also doing some kind of journalism, and that’s where it gets tricky. I have a great deal of respect for professional journalists, and a healthy disdain of bloggers who pick up the latest news reports, toss off 500 words of commentary, and call themselves “citizen journalists” or some such. The point being that they are leeching off of the professionals. The story doesn’t run if somebody doesn’t report it in the first place. That’s what journalists — a.k.a. reporters — do.

When I wrote for Portland Metblogs (moribund since last February), I floated the idea of doing citizen journalism there, which didn’t go over well with a couple other contributors who couldn’t accept that writing from a point of view does not disqualify one as a journalist.

When I was invited to be on a panel about blogging at a conference for professional journalists and journalism students last fall, I had a little trepidation about being chewed up and spit out. (It was a very friendly crowd, as it turned out.) The two other bloggers on the panel were very clear about considering themselves journalists, but I made a point of identifying myself as a community activist, not a journalist.

But… the kind of writing — and reporting — that I do is outside of the usual realm activism. I actually do reporting, is the thing, at the same time I’m doing advocacy and organizing. “New media publishing” captures the big picture of what it means to run a community blog, but the actual beat reporting I do is, in fact, journalism.

Which all became clear to me the other day when BeatBlogging.org, a project affiliated with New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, gave me a nice shout-out on their Leaderboard, which they describe as “a list of the most innovative beat reporters in the world.”

Wha….? You’ve got to be kidding me! (Seriously, I’m floored over here!)

Their summary of my work on PPS Equity highlights the combination of advocacy and journalism. “…[I]t is starting to seem like good beatbloggers — especially education ones — mix in a bit of advocacy with their journalism. It’s not that they are biased, but rather that they care to see change,” writes Patrick Thornton, editor of BeatBlogging.org.

I poked around their site… man, great stuff. It’s all about “how journalists can use social networks, blogs and other Web tools to improve beat reporting.” I’ve only scratched the surface, but I’ve already found great information that I’ll be trying to incorporate into my work at PPS Equity going forward, like how in the hell to use Twitter effectively. (Sadly, I also found out that BeatBlogging.org is losing its funding. Damn, talk about bad timing!)

Most of all, I’m glad to have a name for what it is that I’ve been doing: beat blogging. It’s not at all what I set out to do, but here I am doing it. One of these days, I’ll have to figure out how to monetize it so I can quit my day job.

Things I hate about Portland

by Steve, February 4th, 2009

First off, I friggin’ love Portland, so don’t give me that hater bullshit.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, let’s cut to the chase: Portland is over-the-top passive aggressive.

It manifests in traffic, politics and inter-personal relationships. At the grocery store. At work. In lines. At concerts, sporting events, and the library.

Passive-aggressiveness rules so much, there is a taboo on directness. One cannot say “It creeps me out that the mayor was sucking face with a 17-year-old in a City Hall men’s room” without being labeled a prude. (In the words of Bob Dylan, “They smile to your face, but behind your back they hiss….”)

The People’s Republic of Portland (that’s not a put-down; that part I like) is a one-party state, as Willamette Week‘s Nigel Jaquiss said in his close-up on Newsweek’s Web site this week. “[P]ortland is a … go-along, get-along town where people don’t question the orthodoxy. They’re very comfortable having a real absence of critical debate of most issues.”

Nigel was talking (politely) about the reporters and editors at The Oregonian, which has thrice been scooped (twice by the Willamette Week) on stories about Oregon politicians with (ahem) self-control issues surrounding where they put their penises. (Oh, I’m sorry honey, am I being a prude again?)

That lack of critical coverage of our politics and government means that those with land and money can pretty much do what they want with our city, as long as they call it green.

Commercial real estate developers, the power behind the throne in Portland, have successfully co-opted environmentally-minded liberals in Portland and operate with impunity under the cover of many layers of indignity generated by their unwitting minions.

Example: you cannot be opposed to a streetcar project without being a tool of big oil (yeah, that’s me!), even if a primary goal of said streetcar project is to move not people but real estate.

If somebody says it’s “sustainable,” you damn well better not speak out against it, even if that sustainable condo block is driving gentrification and pushing black and brown folks further to the margins of our city and society.

We’ve got a real race problem in Portland, but you better not talk about it. It makes white liberals very uncomfortable to be confronted with their racism. Our neighborhoods are pretty segregated, but our schools are worse, like the Jim Crow south: separate and way unequal.

Are you a white person with some kind of “bikability” issue? The city’s got you covered! You got a problem with finding a place you can afford to live off your service-sector wages? Sorry, pal, Portland can’t help you unless you work “sustainable” into your pitch. Mental health problems? Hit the road, Jack.

Perhaps my biggest gripe is the disconnect between Portland!! and Portland; that is, between the hip and trendy little Pacific Northwest city as seen in the New York Times (Powell’s! Foodies! Coffee! Sustainable! Green! Did I mention Sustainable?) and the sometimes rough-around-the edges part of Portland I live in.

Next installment: Portland’s extended adolescence.