Thursday, April 26, 2007

Important Endorsement for Galatzan

Tamar Galatzan, SFVYD's candidate for LAUSD boardmember, was endorsed yesterday by Louis Pugliese. Pugliese was the third candidate in the primary, whose vote percentage kept Galatzan or incumbent Boardmember Lauritzen from winning a majority outright.

Pugliese was interviewed by SFVYD's E-board during the primary; we found him to be a smart, capable educator as well as a passionate advocate for teachers and students alike. We're glad to see he has endorsed Galatzan in the race, and hope he stays involved in the fight for improved L.A. public schools.

If you would like to volunteer for Tamar's campaign, contact

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Circuit City Updates

Here's the latest on our Circuit City boycott - remember to mark your calendars for our protest rally on May 6 - 10am-1pm at the Van Nuys Circuit City on 13630 Victory Blvd.! Please RSVP if you will be attending.

  • The Sherman Oaks Democratic Club has joined our boycott! A big thanks to club President Marilyn Grunwald - we are thrilled to have the support of this important and influential Valley club.

  • Check out this article by Michael Kinsman of the Union Tribune, who understands why this is a bad business decision for Circuit City:
    So the company cut some jobs to save money, nothing wrong with that. But by terminating its most senior and knowledgeable salespeople, Circuit City has sent a disturbing signal to every working American that it doesn’t value experience, competence or success in its personnel.
    And what about the motivation of the remaining employees? The company has already shown that it doesn’t value or want higher-paid workers, and seems determined to employ the lowest cost labor it can. That means entry-level workers at every turn. Who will continue to work at the company for more than a few months if they know they can’t get ahead by being successful?
  • Also check out this excellent piece by Harold Meyerson, in which he argues that the loss of union representation is slowly destroying the middle class:
    Once upon a time, American prosperity actually benefited Americans. From 1947 through 1973, U.S. productivity rose by 104 percent, and median family income rose by an identical 104 percent. Those were also the only years of real union power in the United States, years in which one-quarter of the workforce, and in some years one-third, was unionized. Apparently, this level of worker power and mass prosperity proved intolerable to our financial elite and their political flunkies.
  • Finally, Napster recently announced they were teaming up with Circuit City to provide an online music service. Anybody want to write a letter to Napster saying you'll never sign up for their service until Circuit City rehires their workers at their old wages? Napster's address is:

    Napster, Inc.
    317 Madison Avenue, 11th Floor Suite 1104
    New York, NY 10017

See you all at the rally!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Redistricting Rumble

Wow! Big news this morning on the redistricting front: Assembly Speaker Nuñez is now proposing that independent redistricting apply to Congressional as well as State Legislative districts. This puts Nuñez at odds with Speaker Pelosi, who has opposed independent redistricting for California House districts.

There are so many things to say about this I can barely arrange my thoughts... but I'll give it a go.

First... there's no question that state legislators drawing their own districts presents a conflict of interest. Whether or not you believe that independent redistricting would create many more "competitive" districts (and I'm skeptical), it's clear that our state's lines were not drawn to represent communities, but to protect incumbents. Period.

Does the same apply to Congressional districts? Well, under our current system, Congressmembers do not draw their own lines; the State Legislature does that. But party collusion meant that protecting incumbents still took first priority in 2000. Take a look at our Congressional districts and you'll see what I mean.

So from that standpoint, it makes sense to hand Congressional redistricting over to an independent body as well.

But now things get complicated.

The question Pelosi raises - and it's a fair one - is whether enacting this reform solely in California gives Republicans too great a political advantage. Won't we lose good Democrats while Texas keeps its Republicans in power?

Maybe, but I'm not so sure. At this point it's important to clarify the difference between protecting incumbents and boosting majority seats. The latter is what Tom DeLay did in 2003 in Texas... that is, instead of drawing districts around all the incumbents to protect their seats, DeLay redrew the map to add Republican seats by consolidating (and therefore eliminating) Democratic seats. This was later ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States - in large part because it amounted to racially-based gerrymandering.

But that is not what happened in California in 2000. After the last redistricting, the number of California's majority Republican and majority Democratic districts remained the same. All the seats were made safer but no new Democratic seats were created. The motive was to decrease competition, not to engineer partisan gain.

So... if Texas allowed an independent panel to redraw their Congressional district maps, it would mean an almost certain gain for Democrats. In California, however, an independent map could hypothetically benefit either side. Who stood to gain the most would come down to which party was best able to compete in any newly competitive districts.

In fact, if we'd had more competitive Congressional districts in California last November, Democrats could very well have picked up more seats in our state. Instead, our "safe" seats map shielded our Republicans from their party's most disastrous election in recent history.

So Pelosi is correct that independent redistricting should be applied to all states - BUT I disagree with her assessment that applying it only to California would endanger our Congressional majority. Competitive seats are only a threat if we are afraid to fight for them. If we fight and win, competition will strengthen our party - and give voters greater confidence in the process. I salute Nuñez's stand and urge Speaker Pelosi to back down from her opposition.

Friday, April 13, 2007

More Groups Join Circuit City Boycott

I received word today that the Jewish Labor Committee and the Stonewall Young Democrats have both signed onto our boycott. We are proud to have the support of these well-respected organizations!

Pencil Sunday, May 6 on your calendars - we will be announcing an action to take place on that date shortly...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Valley Dems United Joins Circuit City Boycott

I received word this morning that Valley Dems United has joined in our boycott of Circuit City!

SFVYD is proud to have the support of VDU, one of the Valley's largest and most active Democratic clubs. Special thanks to Club President Brad Parker and 3rd Vice President Margie Murray, who relayed the news. We are working out a date for a protest and "consumer education" day soon - stay tuned!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Circuit City Update

Lots of Circuit City news today:

  • Kiplinger reports that Circuit City has lousy service compared to competitor Best Buy:
    A visit to Palo Alto's Best Buy and Circuit City to pick up a component-video cable illustrates the differences.

    At the Circuit City, it took some effort to find a store employee to ask where to find the cables - and the red-shirted employee who was tracked down misdirected this shopper to cables for TVs.

    At Best Buy, the greeter at the door quickly responded with a more specific question, "What kind of component video?" By asking, he learned the cable's purpose was for a game console and pointed to the video game section.
    Do you suppose firing 3,400 of their most experienced salespeople will improve Circuit City's service?

  • A group of older workers has filed a lawsuit charging Circuit City with age discrimination. According to the LA Times:
    California's Fair Employment and Housing Act, more stringent than those of most states, protects workers age 40 or older. A 2002 amendment to the statute declares that the use of salary as the basis to terminate employees may constitute age discrimination if older workers as a group are negatively affected.
    One of the workers describes the scene of her firing:
    The day she was laid off, (Eloise Garcia) thought she was being called in for a meeting of the store's entertainment committee, which organizes bake sales and other events for employees and charities.

    "I couldn't believe it, after 17 1/2 years, that they were doing it," said Garcia, who lives with her grown son.

    "You could tell they felt bad too. My supervisor was crying and she made me cry. It was awful. There was nothing they could do; they just said, 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry.' "

    Garcia said she got eight weeks of severance pay from Circuit City but would have to find another job.

    Although that will probably mean starting over at a new company for minimum wage, Garcia said she had no choice since she was still paying off medical bills from a fall she suffered a few years back.
  • An El Paso Times article ties these layoffs to the larger issue of outsourcing:
    "In some ways, I think people thought that, somehow, domestic jobs (jobs that can't be moved) are more insulated (from wage-cut pressures). You can't move local retail jobs overseas or to other parts of the country (to save money)," said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a Chicago outplacement consulting company.

    This demonstrates in a "particularly blunt way" that "even local jobs are not insulated from those same pressures to cut wage costs," he said.
    Is this the future we want our children to inherit? Workers and consumers get screwed so executives can profit even more? That's not capitalism - that's a perversion of capitalism.

  • Finally, Barbara Ehrenreich (author of Nickel and Dimed) follows this corporate strategy to its logical conclusion:
    But from Allentown to Times Square, no one is commenting on where the new flexibility may be taking us. Time was, not so long ago, when seniority was rewarded with higher pay and other perks. But that higher pay now carries a lethal risk. As a friend who writes software for a major multinational explained to me: "If you ask for a raise, the boss is going to say, 'Why would you want that? It would be like having a bulls-eye painted on your back.'" The more you make, the more tempting it is to fire you.
Tonight SFVYD's E-Board will meet to discuss the next steps in our boycott of Circuit City. I will be recommending a series of actions in front of local Circuit City stores protesting the firings and asking people to shop elsewhere. If you or your organization would like to join these protests, please contact me at

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Daily News Covers Boycott

This morning's Daily News reports on SFVYD and CYD's boycott of Circuit City in the Business Section, Page 3. Unfortunately I am unable to find an online link, but here's the article, bylined "Staff and Wire Reports."
From April 3, 2007 Daily News, Business Section, Page 3 -- "Briefcase"

Circuit City target of boycott

VAN NUYS - In response to Circuit City laying off 3,400 high-paid store clerks, San Fernando Valley Young Democrats and California Young Democrats called for a boycott of the electronics giant Monday.

"Like too many American businesses, Circuit City is replacing skilled workers, knowledgeable about the products the stores are selling, with unskilled workers simply to cut costs," said Damian Carroll, president of the Valley group. But Circuit City did it in a way that was "particularly blatant and insulting."

Refusing to spend dollars at the nation's second-largest consumer-electronics retailer is the best way to protest the move, he said.

Circuit City spokesman Bill Cimino said the layoffs were crucial to become competitive and affected the fewest number of employees. Those who were laid off were paid "above market wages" but did receive severance packages, he added.

"We have 40,000 other associates who we needed to think about," Cimino said. "While it impacted these people directly, this (plan) impacted the fewest number of employees."
To Mr. Cimino's assertion that these layoffs will make Circuit City more "competitive," I can only say that I hope he is calculating in their loss of business from disgusted customers. There are plenty of unwise ways for businesses to cut costs; for example, they could start selling a shoddier product. Lower costs doesn't necessarily translate into higher profits if it means customers will make their purchases elsewhere. Through our boycott we hope to change the equation so businesses will no longer think replacing trained employees with know-nothings is a moneymaking option.

If your club or organization has joined SFVYD and CYD in this boycott, please let us know at

Monday, April 2, 2007

Circuit City Letter in Daily News

The Daily News published my letter today (scroll down to "Appalling Firings") regarding the Circuit City boycott, even giving props to SFVYD in the signature. Just as important, this morning they highlighted a study by UCLA warning that "the next generation of workers could find itself ill prepared to labor its way from poor to rich."

This is exactly the issue highlighted by Circuit City's ill-treatment of their loyal employees. More and more, entry-level jobs are becoming nothing more than dead ends, with no opportunity for growth and advancement. As companies replace skilled labor with unskilled minimum wage positions, hardworking young people have a dwindling number of opportunities to carve out a living. Not only workers, but consumers lose out in this strategy, as we are confronted daily with customer service that is unhelpful, untrained, and unmotivated.

The only segment of America that benefits from this is stockholders. But even stockholders depend on customers - we can fight back by refusing to buy from companies that value profit over customer service and worker's wellbeing.

I hope you will join with SFVYD in promoting our boycott of Circuit City. In the next couple days we'll be offering downloadable fact sheets you can use to spread the word, and announcing the support of some of our sister organizations. Stay tuned and thank you for your continuing support!