South Los Angeles hungry to shop locally

Where do you shop and where would you like to shop? At the foot of the Baldwin Hills at the Crenshaw Mall near Leimert Park, Walter Melton of interviewed residents about the attractions and amenities in their South Los Angeles neighborhoods, and those that are lacking.

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Hosted by Walter Melton. Featuring Sika of Sika fashions and Clint Rosemond of Community Build.

Tips on how to make the temporary-to-permanent transition

As the economy improves, contract work and temporary employment are on the rise; many companies are hesitant to commit to permanent employees and higher benefit costs, the AP reported.

Erin Conroy, an AP business writer, said working a temporary job has its benefits. It is a reliable way to keep skills current and make new networking contracts, while still looking for permanent employment. But Tim Schoonover, chairman of career consulting firm OI Partners, said some should be cautious when attempting to turn some of these positions into full-time jobs.

“There are often no guarantees and no promises that they will be hired full-time, even if suitable openings arise,” Schoonover said. “The downside of contract work is there is this possibility that it can detract from a regular job search and create false hope about a full-time job.”

OI Partners generally offers this advice, and more, for making sure people get the most of their short-time position; it is important to make a smooth transition into permanent work.

The firm also suggests people ask up front if there is a full-time position available during the contract period. OI Partners stresses the importance of out-performing full-time employees who do the same, or a similar, job.

Part-time employees should be positive and upbeat about their commitment to the company. They should also act as if they are a full-time employee, Conroy reported.

“Don’t go around the workplace thinking of yourself as ‘only a contractor,’ and never display a negative attitude,” Schoonover said.

If one can understand the reasons for the contract job and the circumstances surrounding the position, he or she can also determine whether there is a future with the company. Another piece of advice offered is to meet as many people in the organization as possible. Sit in on staff meetings, keep in contact with the people who recruit for the company and complete any projects anyone assigns.

“Leaving projects unfinished will hurt you if you need to be a contract worker again or want a reference for your work,” Schoonover said.

Unemployment rate increases for black and Latino populations

The unemployment rate for blacks rose to 16.5 percent from 15.8 percent compared to February, even after the country gained 162,000 jobs in March, the Labor Department said. Hispanics also showed a slight increase from 12.4 percent to 12.6 percent, Aaron Glatnz reported for the Los Angeles Watts Times.

But for whites, the unemployment rate held steady at 8.8 percent and went down for Asians from 8.4 percent to 7.5 percent.

Peter Edelman, a former Clinton administration official who directs the Center on Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy at Georgetown University, told Glatnz the figures disappointed him.

“While some white people got jobs, some black people and Latinos actually fell behind more,” Edelman said.

Glatnz also reported that Seth Wessler, a researcher at the Applied Research Center in Oakland, said one of the biggest factors contributing to inequity is the cuts to public transportation.

“If the bus line you depend on is cut, it is impossible to look for a job or even hold onto the one you have,” Wessler said. “We know that people of color are much more likely to depend on public transportation.”

But Edelman believes a large factor in the job gap is the type of work available.

“The jobs that we project over the next decade that are reasonably well paying involve a degree of skills and a degree of preparation, and people of color have disparate educational attainment,” Edelman said.

President Barack Obama’s recognition of this gap yielded a $10 billion investment in community colleges. But during the reconciliation process between the House and Senate, the amount dropped to about $2 billion.

Heidi Shierholtz, a labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, said minority communities will probably see an increase in jobs in the coming months; the Census Bureau will hire 700,000 people who will help count the country’s population. But once those jobs are gone in the fall, Shierholtz believes the unemployment rate will increase again.

“I don’t think we’ve turned the corner, and we will not turn the corner until early next year,” Shierholtz said.

Protest for workers’ rights at South L.A. Wal-Mart

Religious leaders and workers’ rights advocates gathered in front of a South Los Angeles Wal-Mart on Monday morning to voice their support for the Employee Free Choice Act.

The pending legislation, which was introduced in the U.S. Congress on March 10, would “amend the National Labor Relations Act to establish an easier system to enable employees to form, join, or assist labor organizations” and “provide for mandatory injunctions for unfair labor practices during organizing efforts.”

The protest was organized by Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), an organization of more than 600 religious leaders from across Los Angeles County that advocates for the working poor.Protestors in front of Wal-Mart show their support for workers' rights.

The current law intended to protect workers’ right to unionize is the National Labor Relations Act, which President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into law in 1935. But workers’ rights advocacy groups like CLUE argue that the penalties are not severe enough to prevent employers from using harassment or intimidation to prevent workers from joining unions. In addition, CLUE said that even if workers are able to form a union, they are frequently unable to negotiate a contract with employers.

“We really believe that the Employee Free Choice Act is the best legislative option right now for lifting the working poor out of poverty,” said Pastor Bridie Roberts, Program Director for CLUE. “When workers’ right to organize is protected, when they can form a union, they make 20 to 30 percent more an hour almost immediately, and they almost always have access to family health insurance.”

Robert Branch, a security officer for a private security firm near LAX, spoke at the protest in support of the new legislation. Branch said that during a six-year battle between his union and his employer over a contract, three of his co-workers died because they did not have health insurance.

Under the Employee Free Choice Act, an employer would be legally required to recognize a union after a majority vote by employees, and contracts would be settled by a neutral third party if a union and an employer cannot reach an agreement within 120 days.

“The Employee Free Choice Act is so vital to working people,” Branch said. “If it passes, it’s going to be a benefit to working people, taking the stick of power out of the employer’s hand and putting it in the hand of working people, where it belongs.”

The location for the protest was chosen because “Wal-Mart is one of the most infamous and well-documented anti-union companies,” Roberts said.

Despite the location of the protest, no Wal-Mart employees appeared to be present. “I believe that they would be chastised or harassed or fired or just mistreated because of the way the company deals with its employees,” Branch said.

Professor Nelson Lichtenstein of the University of California Santa Barbara is the editor of “Wal-Mart: The Face of Twenty-First-Century Capitalism” and author of “The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business.” He spoke about the tactics Wal-Mart uses to “deprive workers of free choice.”UCSB History Professor Nelson Lichtenstein speaks about Wal-Mart's anti-union policies.

“The way that Wal-Mart is structured internally is that managers of stores, their bonus is dependent upon keeping labor costs down,” Lichtenstein said. Therefore, managers feel the need to “squeeze workers in every way they can.” According to Lichtenstein, the Wal-Mart system “can only be broken by the unionization of Wal-Mart workers.”

Lichtenstein also said that some politicians, including Dianne Feinstein, have argued that this is the wrong time for new labor laws because wages should not be raised during an economic recession. However, Lichtenstein said that the National Labor Relations Act, which was passed during the Great Depression, helped stimulate the economy by giving people greater purchasing power, and the Employee Free Choice Act would do the same.

Roberts agreed that now is the wrong time to neglect workers. “We’re in an economic crisis, and it’s really easy to forget the people at the bottom,” she said. “But unless you invest in the working people, which is the largest group of people in our country, we are going to spiral farther down this path.”

Roberts also pointed out that what she and fellow protesters are really asking for is the enforcement of rights that workers are already supposed to have. “The right to organize is granted to workers already, and there are so many things standing in the way,” she said. “It needs some correction. And it’s the people’s right to ask for a transformation of the law to make sure that it represents the people.”

Bank of America donates $50,000 to L.A. Regional Foodbank

Bank of America presented a check for $50,000 to the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank Saturday as 150 of its employees gathered at the facility to assemble about 1,000 packages of food for low-income senior citizens.

The Los Angeles Regional Foodbank, a 96,000-square-foot facility in South Los Angeles, disburses 34 million pounds of food each year through a network of 875 distribution centers across Los Angeles County.L.A. Regional Foodbank President and CEO Michael Flood receives a check for $50,000 from Bank of America.

The seniors who will receive the bags of food are part of the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. Many of them live only on Social Security, which on its own often does not provide enough money for a nutritious diet. Other seniors in the program are able to work but have lost jobs due to the economic recession. “The program is designed to provide them with a pretty substantial amount of food on a monthly basis, so it can prevent them from going hungry,” Los Angeles Regional Foodbank President and CEO Michael Flood said.

Bank of America has donated a total of $1 million to organizations that fight hunger in several cities across the nation. “It’s something that Bank of America wanted to do because they’ve heard that the demand for food assistance has increased so markedly throughout the United States,” Flood said.

According to the Department of Labor, California has fared particularly badly in the economic recession. The state’s unemployment rate of 11.2 percent is one of the worst in the nation, and the number of people out of work for a year has doubled in the last 12 months. These numbers are reflected in the 36 percent increase in demand for food assistance in Los Angeles.Bank of America employees assemble bags of food for low-income seniors.

“Although the Foodbank has increased its volume as far as what we can distribute, it’s still not enough to meet the demand that’s out there,” said Foodbank Communications Director Darren Hoffman.

In 2008, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation donated $200 million to charities, a record for a financial institution. This year the bank pledged to donate $2 billion over the next 10 years to nonprofit organizations “engaged in improving the health and vitality of their neighborhoods.”

Bank of America National Program Manager Dannille Campos said that even though banks are struggling through the economic crisis, “This is a time when the needs are so great, so there’s no way we can cut out philanthropic dollars when the community is so in need right now.”

In addition to assembling food packages at the Foodbank, Bank of America employees also volunteer at food distribution sites in El Monte, Van Nuys, Pacoima and Inglewood, which serve over 1,000 senior citizens. At the distribution sites, Bank of America teaches financial education courses that focus on budgeting and savings.

Organizers of Saturday’s event said it was easy recruit the 150 Bank of America employees needed to assemble the food packages. “The Bank of America associates are very much involved in the community events that we do, so they’re constantly looking to see what we have,” said Marketing Program Development Specialist Angela Molina. “It’s a good feeling to know that the associates are so involved.”