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The Huffington Post just published an article I wrote with Kimberly Freeman Brown, who is the executive director of American Rights at Work, a great labor policy and advocacy organization. It explores TV’s #1 new show (ever noticed how every new show is somehow “TV’s #1 new show”?), Undercover Boss. When I first heard about the show, I was slightly intrigued but mostly skeptical. The premise of the show is that the head of a large corporation becomes an “average” worker, if that average worker was constantly followed by a television crew.
The show is painfully bad, but also politically bad, which is what our piece, “Undercover Boss as Undercover Advertising,” explores. If you read it and like it, perhaps leave a little note. Otherwise HuffPo has a way of completely burying a piece beneath important blogs about naked celebrities.
“Undercover Boss as Undercover Advertising”
Arizona is one of the most complicated states I’ve ever visited. In the fall of 2007 I was living with my wife in Tucson. For Thanksgiving we left Tucson and eighty degree weather for some time at the Grand Canyon. That night we slept in a tent on the rim of the Canyon for as long as we could stand it, braving sub-freezing temperatures in sweatpants and long sleeve shirts. Well before sunrise we finally retreated to the car, where in a very environmentally unsound fashion we idled the engine for hours to enjoy the heat and defrost our faces. That’s how I think about Arizona: a land of extremes.
Extreme temperature and terrain shifts are also accompanied by extreme compassion and fury. On the compassion side, there are lots of very dedicated people organizing for immigrant rights and to rescue desperate migrants who are attempting to cross the border–hundreds of whom die each year. We were fortunate enough to spend a day with the Samaritans, one of several groups who hike and drive along the border looking for folks in distress.
There is also just an insane amount of anger at Latino immigrants, which I’ve had the non-pleasure of getting to witness over the years, beginning with my travels with the Minutemen in 2005.
What makes Arizona such a funny place for such immigrant hatred is that almost no one I ever met while in Arizona is actually from Arizona (one of the few exceptions were members of the Tohono O’odham Indian Nation). On Sundays at the local sports bar in Tucson, folks argued over what football games they wanted to watch–but no one really cared about the Cardinals. I wanted to watch the Giants, another guy from San Diego was lobbying for the Chargers, a third woman from Wisconsin hoped to catch the Packers. Arizona is a state of newcomers, and like many newcomers, once they lay claim to the area they jealously guard it as their personal property.
Which perhaps helps explain the noxious new bill awaiting Governor Jan Brewer’s veto or signature. The bill, SB1070, would, among many other awful things, allow all government employees who harbor “reasonable suspicion” that a person is undocumented to demand identification and make it a crime for immigrants to not carry authorization papers.
The bill’s sponsor, Russell Pearce, is a complete idiot, but I was also curious to learn that he was joined by a State Representative from Yuma, Bill Konopnicki. If there is one person who should know the benefits of immigrants to Arizona, it’s Konopnicki. For example, here’s a photo of my lettuce crew:
Every other lettuce crew in Yuma consisted exclusively of Latinos, who all presumably look “reasonably suspicious” because they don’t have the pasty white skin of a Russell Pearce or Bill Konopnicki. That’s really what this bill comes down to: if you look Latino, get ready to be targeted.
So I’d like to recommend that everyone make a phone call or send an email to Governor Brewer and demand that she veto the bill. You can email her through this link: http://presente.org/ref/30667/campaigns/arizona.
Also, you can make a phone call directly to the Governor at 602-542-4331 or 1-800-253-0883. And definitely feel free to pass along…
A few weeks back, I did an interview for Asylum, which is AOL’s men’s lifestyle page and whose motto is “For All Mankind.” If you’re of the opposite sex and hoping for more information about what matters to men, according to Asylum it primarily consists of “humor, weird news, sex tips, fashion, dating, food and gadgets.”
During a lunchtime break at work I biked over the Manhattan bridge to arrive at a Brooklyn bar to be interviewed, then headed back over the bridge, only slightly tipsy this time. I come across as a bit of a goofball and somehow forget to work incorporate humor, weird news, sex tips, fashion, dating, food or gadgets. If you’re interested, you can watch it here:
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Last night was likely one of my final books events for awhile, held in Washington, D.C. at Busboys and Poets. Within a few weeks I’ll be a father, which means…well, I still don’t have too much of an idea of what that means. Based on conversations I’ve had with other new parents, it seems likely that this little boy might be making some demands on us. So I’ve stopped scheduling book events, in the unlikely event that a new baby could in some way infringe on my typical schedule of doing whatever I want.
So it was great to have so much fun yesterday at Busboys and Poets. Family and friends were in attendance, and there was also a recent college graduate, Art, who is actually from Russellville! That totally blew me away, and I was suddenly glad that I had gone the informal route and discarded my collared shirt for the Russellville “Golden Tigers” t-shirt. It turns out that his father had read an article in the local paper in 2008, which wrote about my firing from the plant after management realized what I was doing, and passed the piece along. Someday, when funds and time permit, I’d love to go back to Russellville, but at least in this case a small part of Russellville came to me.
I also learned yesterday about future plans for immigration reform actions, and that an expected 10,000-person march through Los Angeles on Saturday grew to 65,000. On April 10 there will be a series of actions across the country–from New York to Las Vegas to Seattle–which I’ll definitely keep writing about as things progress.
Also, I wanted to acknowledge that while there has been much excitement about the energy around immigration reform, many people on the left have been critical of key components of the legislation being drafted by Schumer and Graham. I, too, have my problems about it, as I wrote in The Nation:
Remaining vigilant is also a task for advocates who are dissatisfied with the proposed reform framework and oppose the inclusion of an expanded guest-worker program prone to labor abuses and the introduction of nefarious-sounding measures like the “biometric Social Security cards” recently praised by Senators Lindsey Graham and Charles Schumer in the Washington Post. And beyond specific policy improvements, progressives need to push back against language in the debate that tends to paint undocumented immigrants as guilty of anything but attempting to improve their lot. As Graham and Schumer wrote in the Post about their proposed legislation, undocumented immigrants “would be required to admit they broke the law and to pay their debt to society.” There’s another case to be made: we owe a debt to them.
I’ve been mostly quiet about my reservations about the bill, especially because it’s early and right now the energy on the ground is high. But I do think it’s worth mentioning that if we’re lucky enough to keep the momentum up, one role for progressives/radicals will be to do what we can to make the bill as humane as possible.
Finally, two groups that cosponsored the book talk yesterday were CISPES and Jobs with Justice, DC. They are both doing fabulous work, from organizing workers here in the US to addressing unjust trade policies that push so many folks from their home countries. Check them out below–and give money if you can!
Jobs with Justice, DC: http://www.dcjwj.org/
Last Sunday was the March for America, and I wrote up a piece that is in this week’s Nation magazine. You can read it here: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20100412/thompson
The NY Times also ran a great editorial, contrasting the March for America with the tea-party folks. It’s at:
I’ll be back in Washington, D.C. this weekend, speaking at Busboys & Poets (at their 5th Street Address, info below). The event is being co-sponsored by Jobs with Justice-DC and CISPES-DC (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador), and should be a good time. If you’re in town stop by!
Sunday, March 28, 4:00 PM
Busboys and Poets
1025 5th Street, NW
Tens of thousands of immigrants and their allies (and maybe more) are heading to Washington, D.C. to march for comprehensive immigration reform this Sunday. When I was in San Jose for my book tour, I happened to join a prayer vigil for reform–expecting perhaps 50-100 people. Instead, the group that organized the action, People Acting in Community Together, turned out nearly 700 folks. It was amazing, and got me thinking about how there might be tons of really effective organizing–and really motivated leaders–that are just below the media’s radar.
I wrote a piece about the San Jose event, and the lead up to the march this Sunday, for The Nation. The article, “Immigrants to Obama: It’s Time,” is at http://www.thenation.com/doc/20100405/thompson.
Also, I’m happy to report that a Spanish press has expressed interest in publishing Working in the Shadows. This is absolutely wonderful; one of my disappointments with There’s No Jose Here is that it never got translated, so many of the people I wrote about couldn’t actually read it. It’s still early and nothing has been finalized, but I’m excited about the prospect of sending dozens of Spanish copies to all the people I met during the year.
Okay, that’s it for now. Hope everyone is well, and maybe I’ll bump into a few of you in D.C. on Sunday…