People who work in America's big-box stores don't have much to be thankful for, so maybe it's for the best that many of them can no longer celebrate Thanksgiving.
At Walmart, Target, and numerous other large retailers, Black Friday has become Black Thursday—a day that's much darker because it puts corporate profits ahead of, well, pretty much everything else that our country is supposed to care about.
This sad trend began last year at (where else?) Walmart, which announced that it would begin offering Black Friday specials at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving night. Not to be outdone this year, Target announced a 9 p.m. Thanksgiving opening. But Walmart responded by pushing up the start of this year's Black Thursday to 8 p.m.
You don't have to be a marketing expert to see where our labor standards are going: retro. Like pre-1621 retro.
Thanksgiving is "one of the three days us retail workers get off a year: a day most of us spend with family we only get to see on that day," says Renee C, the author of a widely circulated petition to get Target to say no to "Thanksgiving Creep."
Target spokesperson Molly Snyder defended the company's decision to open on the holiday. "Target's opening time was carefully evaluated with our guests, team, and the business in mind," she told me in an email. "Thanksgiving weekend is one of the busiest of the year, and we appreciete our Target team's flexibility on this weekend and throughout the holiday season."
Of course, many big-box workers have no choice to but to be flexible. The compliant get rewarded with more hours; the rigid quickly get downgraded to part-timers, union leaders say. Take the example of Greg Fletcher, a member of the overnight crew at a Walmart in East LA. On the night before Thanksgiving he will work a 12-hour shift, from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. His wife, who also works at the store, must be there from 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving day until midnight. "For families like the Fletchers, there really won't be a Thanksgiving this year," said Dawn Le, a spokeswoman for Making Change at Walmart, a campaign working to unionize this and other Walmart stores. Yet Greg feels like he can't say no. Normally, Walmart only gives him about 30 hours of work a week.
The thankless jobs aren't just at Target and Walmart: Sears, Toys R Us, Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, and Kmart all will stay open on Thanksgiving too.
Broadly speaking, Thanksgiving Creep represents another example of "speedup"—or employers demanding more from their workers without offering them much of anything in return. In a sluggish economy, this is how they gin up profits.
"Just because there are millions of unemployed people does not mean that people who do have jobs should be denied a holiday off to spend with their families," said a poster on Reddit who drew attention to Thanksgiving Creep yesterday. "It may sound naive, but I think treating each other well is a much better ethos for our society than 'suck it up and be miserable.'"
"Cap and trade" may be a dirty expression inside the DC Beltway, but as of today in California it's the law of the land. Gov. Jerry Brown has brushed aside dire warnings from the fossil fuel industry to forge ahead with the state's first-ever auction of emissions permits under its groundbreaking climate law, AB 32. This morning's auction marks the official launch of the world's second-largest carbon market.
At heart, the concept is elegantly simple. Suppose you wanted to persuade a group of 10 pack-a-day smokers to cut back, and you controlled the cigarette supply. In the beginning, you'd provide the group with 200 cigarettes (10 packs) a day, which they'd have to bid for. That's the "cap." Then, each month, you would reduce each person's daily allottment of smokes, gradually lowering the cap. The people who managed to smoke less could sell their extras to the more hardcore smokers for whatever they were willing to pay. That's the "trade" part.
King and Pierce County prosecutors are dismissing more than 220 misdemeanor marijuana cases in response to Tuesday's vote to decriminalize small amounts of pot.
In King County, 175 cases are being dismissed involving people 21 and older and possession of one ounce or less. I-502 makes one ounce of marijuana legal on Dec. 6, but King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg decided to apply I-502 retroactively.
"Although the effective date of I-502 is not until December 6, there is no point in continuing to seek criminal penalties for conduct that will be legal next month," Satterberg said in a statement.
Keep in mind that these are just 2 of the state's 40 counties, and the decisions only apply to cases currently winding their way through the court system. Over the past 25 years, according to a recent study, Washington has convicted more than 241,000 people of misdemeanor pot posession, at a cost of $300 million in police and court time. That money will now go towards regulating the sale of legal weed, which, by the way, is expected to bring the state some $2 billion in tax revenues over the next five years.
This is the partial abolition of the war on drugs. Any questions?
A ski town weighs opening its doors to marijuana tourists.
Josh HarkinsonNov. 12, 2012 7:08 AM
Two years ago in Breckenridge, Colorado—on April 20 at 4:20 p.m., to be precise—Mike Davis opened up a pot lounge. The Club 420 didn't just cater to medical marijuana patients: Any adult with a bag of weed could come inside, rent a vaporizer, and smoke out. Citizens of this quaint snowboarding village had recently voted to decriminalize pot possession, but local officials figured a pot lounge was a step too far and quickly shut it down. No matter. Breckenridge continued to be known as Colorado's most toker-friendly tourist town—"the Amsterdam of the Rockies."
While Breckenridge's tourism boosters have hesitated to embrace that label—at least publicly—they might change their minds with the passage last week of Amendment 64, a statewide measure to legalize the sale and recreational consumption of pot. "Legalization will be a huge boon to the local economy," says Caitlin McGuire, the owner of the Breckenridge Cannabis Club, one of five medical marijuana dispensaries in this town of just 3,400 residents. "Plenty of people will choose Breckenridge so they can experience our great outdoor beauty—and then relax with a joint at the end of the day."
Be that as it may, Breckenridge is approaching pot tourism like an intermediate skier would scope out a double black diamond: with extreme caution. Local leaders still talk about the fallout from the town's 2009 decriminalization law, which inspired some conservative groups to call for a boycott of the town. "Fifty percent of people thought we were doing the work of the devil, and the other fifty percent thought we were the most enlightened community around," says Mayor John Warner, who backed the law. Ultimately, Breckenridge's embrace of pot had no noticeable effect on tourism, he adds.
Warner believes that the Town Council will probably embrace legalization—within limits: no cannabis shops in the middle of town, and no pot-leaf signs or provocative ads. The town doesn't want to scare away families with kids or attract the wrong kinds of visitors. "We have lived in a little bit of a bubble up here, where the feds have not been targeting us," he points out, "but as it becomes a little bit more high profile, I worry that we might see some sort of action from the Justice Department. So I don't see us becoming a mecca."
Of course, even if Breckenridge were to leave its pot regs up to Cheech and Chong, local "ganjapreneurs" might hesitate to replicate the freewheeling Amsterdam scene. "The first people through the wall will get the bloodiest," says Dale Sky Jones, the Executive Chancellor of Oaksterdam University in Oakland, California, which was raided by federal agents after its founder, Richard Lee, led a state legalization campaign in 2010. Federal crackdowns have crimped Oakland's pot tourism plans and scared other cities off of similar ideas.
Given the risks, the first towns to try and normalize the marijuana trade may be the ones with less to lose—for instance, municipalities in the grittier post-industrial parts of Washington state, which also voted on Tuesday to legalize marijuana. Possession of small amounts of weed will be legal there early next month, and state-licensed marijuana stores could open by December 2013.
And there's the pipe dream of pot-farm tourism: legalized cannabis plantations with tasting rooms and u-pick buckets. Don't count on it, says Chris Van Hook, the owner of Clean Green, a California-based pot ecocertification program. Some of the dozens of cannabis farmers he visits each year in the state's Emerald Triangle had considered the idea for their medical marijuana patients, but set it aside in the face of amped-up federal raids.
If the feds don't immediately nip legalized marijuana in the bud, chances are that "green travel" will grow slowly as entrepreneurs and pot-friendly towns gauge how far they can push matters. Places like Breckenridge might be the first beneficiaries as they rely on pot stores to draw additional visitors, but stop short of visibly promoting them. "Our current marketing focuses on the outdoors, culture, and the arts—and we are just continuing with marketing on those areas," says Rachel Zerowin, public relations director at the Breckenridge Resort Chamber. As for marijuana, "it's just not something that people bring up."
Now OWS is launching the ROLLING JUBILEE, a program that has been in development for months. OWS is going to start buying distressed debt (medical bills, student loans, etc.) in order to forgive it. As a test run, we spent $500, which bought $14,000 of distressed debt. We then ERASED THAT DEBT. (If you're a debt broker, once you own someone's debt you can do whatever you want with it—traditionally, you hound debtors to their grave trying to collect. We're playing a different game. A MORE AWESOME GAME.)
That said, almost all charitable undertakings are organized around some gimmick or other that serves as a focal point and helps get people interested. If the pecularity of the distressed debt situation and the concept of a jubilee happens to inspire people and motivate them to be more generous with their time and money than would otherwise be the case, this is a perfectly good idea.
But ultimately, the Rolling Jubilee could do much more than inspire charity. Spending $500 to cancel $14,000 in debt is an amazing bang for the buck—or, seen differently, an amazing illustration of how the financial system that we all bailed out now enslaves many of us. Even if the Rolling Jubilee becomes wildly successful, it probably won't cancel out more than a tiny fraction of our trillions worth of personal debts. Its value is as a devastating political statement: Debt is cheap, except when it's owned by the banks.