Tag Archives: minimum wage

What You Need to Know About the State of the Union

State of the UnionTalking about politics is a touchy thing (and we don’t try to hide that we’re pretty liberal here at Intent – but we do promote listening to contrary opinions with an open ear and encourage healthy, respectful debate!). However, the annual State of the Union address isn’t really about which side of the aisle you vote for – it’s about civic responsibility to  be informed about the state of affairs of the country.

Last night the President covered several important topics from raging minimum wage, increasing America’s clean energy initiatives, creating greater access to higher education and ending the war in Afghanistan. He repeatedly called out Congress’ tendency to gridlock in debate rather than create legislation to help Americans move out of a recession and lead the way in the 21st century. He also re-iterated on several fronts, including minimum wage and infrastructure policy – that he will take whatever action he can without legislation to promote American progress, circumventing the roadblocks often created by tension in the House of Representatives.

The President’s most powerful moment however came at the end of the address when he called out  Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg who was severely injured during his 10th deployment to Afghanistan. After being hit by a bomb while on duty, Cory was left unable to speak and barely move. After dozens of surgeries, hours of grueling physical therapy today, Cory has relearned to talk, stand and walk. He still has trouble with his left side but he and his father were both present for the State of the Union address. His presence garnered an extended applause and standing ovation from the entire assembly. “Cory reminds us what is best about America,” the President said.

If you missed the State of the Union, we’ve compiled some of President Obama’s most compelling quotes from last night:

On Congress’s responsibility to the American public: “If our business is shutting down the Government or ruining the good faith and credit in America then we are not doing right by the American people.”

On creating a bi-partisan Federal budget: ‘The budget compromise should leave us freer to focus on creating new jobs, not creating new crisis.”

On American wages: “But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.”

On American troops and military involvement abroad: “I will not mire our sons and daughters in open ended war entanglements. We must fight battles that need to be fought, but not those that terrorists prefer for us. America must move off it’s permanent war footing.”

Closing statement: “If we work together, if we summon what is best in us, with our feet planted firmly in today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow, I know it is within our reach.”

To see these quotes in context and to hear the President’s point by point plans for energy initiatives, healthcare progress and the path to comprehensive immigration reform you can watch the full State of the Union Address below:

What do you think of the State of the Union? Leave your opinion in the comments below. Remember to be respectful of those that disagree!

*Picture credit to WhiteHouse.Gov

Did Prison Inmates Make Your Bra?

Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 11.01.21 AMDo you remember Tim Robbins’ character from The Shawshank Redemption working in the prison laundry? We see him sorting through huge industrial washing machines, sweating in the dim and crowded laundry room. The scene is actually true to life in many ways. Visit any number of prisons around the US and you would find “a small army of workers” laboring in what some are calling the country’s secret sweatshop market.
The steady privatization of prisons has allowed privatizers like the Corrections Corporation of America and G4S to actually sell prisoners’ labor to large corporations, including Chevron, Bank of America, Victoria’s Secret, Starbucks, Wal-Mart, and many others. At first glance this might seem like a perfect solution. Give the inmates some engaging work, minimize outsourcing, and get the American people their much-coveted products. But underneath the surface it’s not so tidy.

candice-swanepoel-rosie-huntington-whiteley-victorias-secret-ads-6Prisoners in this country have produced everything from meat products to bedding, dental instruments, lingerie, Game Boys, airplane parts, and even missile cables. They can be paid as little as $0.93 a day, or up to $4.73 a day (“minimum wage” minus fines and victim compensation.) This is a workforce with virtually no rights, no agency, and no organizing power, much like the prison workers of the 19th century immortalized in the motif of the “chain gang.” The private prisons of our era suggest a kind of ownership of able, disenfranchised bodies, which one company might lease to another for labor. Maybe prison laborers don’t deserve the kinds of rights other workers have? Maybe they enjoy staying busy and find rehabilitation through the work? Who’s to say.

On the other hand, inmates in one Brazilian jail are actually speaking up in favor of prison work. A local fashion designer found herself struggling to keep up with increasing sales in foreign markets and turned to the prison system for helping hands. Now, a group of prisoners spends their days knitting and crocheting, and earning one day off their sentences for every three days spent working. Watch the BBC report to learn more:

Does this story make prison labor more palatable to us? What if American workers were given the same sentence deal as these Brazilian inmates? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!

 

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