Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “stocks”

Stay Competitive – Tom Rossi

During a recent grocery-chain strike, in which the workers were not trying to gain anything, but stop the company from taking away a large part of their health benefits, we all got to hear the broken-record, trump card ubiquitous employer-speak in these situations – “We have to stay competitive.”


“Oh, OK. Competitive. Yeah.” That’s the unspoken response. Everybody accepts the argument. But wait a minute… What argument? What does “competitive” mean, anyway? This is such a magic mantra of capitalism, that we all just accept this vague smokescreen without question.

Well, here’s the cheat-sheet on this code: “competitive,” in this usage, refers to nothing except a company’s value on the stock exchange. It has nothing, whatsoever, to do with attracting customers, nothing to do with whether or not new stores can be opened up, and nothing to do with the prices of food and other items in the store.


This is the direct result of our wonderful corporatocracy. For a company’s stock to compete with other stocks, for it to keep rising in price and paying dividends, profits always have to be rising. And half of the profit equation is costs, including labor. That’s why corporations are always trying to cut pay and benefits, at least when they can get away with it.

This particular strike, however, took place at stores mostly located in San Mateo County, just south of San Francisco, CA. Sorry, bean-counters. In the Bay Area, people care about each other, and they care about fairness.

When the workers went on strike, the customers did something miraculous… they honored the picket line and refused to shop at the stores. This caused revenues to drop like a stone, and soon the company realized it was losing much more money than it would cost to keep their employee’s health benefits intact.


There’s a not-so-subtle lesson here: If we stick together, we can at least hold our ground against the corporate onslaught. Instead of envying our neighbors pay or benefits, we should demand a reasonable living from our employers too. Think about it, instead of jealously berating public employees for having things like a retirement benefit, shouldn’t we all be asking why we don’t all have that?

Don’t buy the vague, bogus “competitiveness” argument. It’s a cliché meant to cow the populace and trick people out of actually thinking.

-Tom Rossi


Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.


It’s OK to be Food Secure – Roger Ingalls

Have you seen or read the weather reports coming from America’s heart land? Heat and lack of rain are playing havoc with the crops. The prices for corn, soybean and wheat have jumped over the past two days (5.5%, 3.6% and 3.1% respectively). This may seem like a small increase but when you consider that 70% of everything we consume uses these three commodities in some way, it is a significant jump. Hot, dry weather is expected to stay with the nation’s breadbasket for awhile which may further impact crop yields and prices.

Picture from Standeyo.com

To those who understand our so-called modern food system, it’s obvious that we, the consuming public, have lost control of the basic necessities we need to sustain ourselves. The enticement of farm subsidies has created a corporate rush to drive out traditional local farmers. We now have consolidated and centralized mega-farms all practicing similar techniques. This lack of diversity exacerbates weather related events leaving the public at risk (food shortages and high prices). In addition, food prices are no longer solely established by supply and demand. Since deregulation under the Bush administration #2, it is now legal to speculate on food commodities in ways similar to stocks, hedge funds and oil which further drives the price of food. Yes, Wall Street is now gambling on our food. Lastly, corporatized or industrial farming is fossil fuel intensive so food prices are tied to oil and natural gas.

So how do we take back control of our food? This is really an economic and marketing question. We need to develop a substitute food system with value that will motivate consumers to switch.

It just so happens that an alternate food system does exist and has been successfully implemented in an American country very close to our border. Cuba had a farming system similar to the US, Europe and other industrialized nations but they relied on imports from the Soviet Union for oil-based pesticides, natural gas based fertilizers and diesel for transportation of goods from farm to city. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, Cuba’s supply of fuel and fossil-derived chemicals dwindled to near extinction. Fortunately for the Cuban people, their government saw what was coming and developed a smart strategy to replace industrialized chemical farming. They rolled out a farming system based on biological fertilizers, biological/cultural pest control and implemented it right in the cities. Essentially, they created organic urban farming out of necessity. Here are a few amazing statistics and other information:

1)       With a workforce of approximately 4.8 million, they’ve created 350,000 new jobs.
2)       Local production of fresh vegetables increased a thousand fold, yields per square meter increased from 1.5 kilograms to 25.8 kilograms.
3)       Food production is local so transportation is eliminated, food is fresh and harvested when ripe and not chemically gassed to ripen as with industrialized farming.
4)       Diets and health of the Cuban population improved, food is nutrient rich and free from toxic petrochemical pesticides and fertilizers.
5)       Urban farmers earn more than government workers and are as respected as doctors.

By duplicating something similar to the Cuban urban farming method we can take local ownership of our food, create jobs and enjoy healthier, tastier food. Just as important, we reduce the risk of shortages and high prices by decoupling food from the oil industry and speculative gambling by financial institutions. Urban agriculture is formed on multiple locations and managed by many small companies or sole proprietors. This creates additional diversity in produce and farming methods, thereby further improving food security.

Take a few minutes and really think about this organic local food system. It’s not a backward approach; it’s scientifically progressive with a thorough understanding of biology and how a living ecosystem really works. Imagine the positive benefits this would bring to your community: healthy food growing in every available space, people working and food secure, produce businesses or co-ops within walking distance for most everyone, a thriving self-made community.

It’s OK to say no to 1940s industrialized chemical farming practices, it’s OK to say no to market manipulation by financial institutions and IT’S OK TO BE EMPOWERED!

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