I said when I started calling upon the Furies they there would be no shortage of material for them to deal with, and there certainly isn't. Just as a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as "unceasing," "grudging," and "vengeful destruction."
This being Thanksgiving week, I want to start by calling on Megaera to listen to the tale Leo Gerard has to tell. You see, every Thanksgiving, at the Old Homestaed Steakhouse in New York City, a very special meal is served. This year three lucky families will spend $45,000.00 – each – for a Thanksgiving meal most of us can barely imagine.
Each meal includes two turkeys. Because when would one, 20-pound free-range, organically raised bird at $75 a pound ever be enough? It includes gravy made with Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, which goes for $4,900 a bottle. Because when would $9 worth of cooking sherry ever be good enough? It includes whipped sweet potatoes festooned with $1,600-an-ounce Royal Osetra caviar. Because when would the red-light-special, $115-an-ounce can of fish eggs ever be acceptable? (Let alone – shudder – marshmallows.) The final course is pumpkin ice cream decked with 24-carat gold flakes and a $4,200 bottle of private reserve rum-infused eggnog sauce.
Oh, yes. And a 2 carat diamond ring in the stuffing. Mustn't forget that.
Leo points out that, while we don't have their names (and that must be a sad challenge for them – trying to get their names publicized enough to get them bragging rights, but not enough for the general public to show up at their homes with pitchforks), anyone who HAS that kind of money and CHOOSES to spend it on a single meal has essentially stolen it from working people via their trickling up of productivity gains away from the productive workers and toward overpaid bosses. Since we don't know names, can we be certain they are people who are helping to take safety nets away from the poor, and keeep the minimum wage as low as possible? No. Would we bet money (not that kind of money, but something we could afford) that they are? Oh, yes.
Of course, Megaera, you are a professional and probably don't need advice – but it did occur to me you might think of reserving standing room in Tantalus's lake for the patrons. For the restaurateurs, maybe the Midas touch. Only something other than gold. They'd just sprinkle that on ice cream.
I certainly thought of Alecto when I saw this sub-heading in Bloomberg Business: "The retail giant is Always watching."
In the autumn of 2012, when Walmart first heard about the possibility of a strike on Black Friday, executives mobilized with the efficiency that had built a retail empire. Walmart has a system for almost everything: When there’s an emergency or a big event, it creates a Delta team. The one formed that September included representatives from global security, labor relations, and media relations. More terrifying than the thought of a strike was the thought of labor organizing into unions.
The group working on the strike was (and is) called the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart). Publicly Walmart pooh-poohed the size and potential influence of OUR Walmart. “This is just another union publicity stunt, and the numbers they are talking about are grossly exaggerated,” David Tovar, a spokesman, said on CBS Evening News that November.
Privately, though – Walmart "hired an intelligence-gathering service from Lockheed Martin, contacted the FBI, staffed up its labor hotline, ranked stores by labor activity, and kept eyes on employees (and activists) prominent in the group. During that time, about 100 workers were actively involved in recruiting for OUR Walmart, but employees (or associates, as they’re called at Walmart) across the company were watched; the briefest conversations were reported to the 'home office,' as Walmart calls its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark."
Over a thousand pages of documents were produced in discovery ahead of a NLRB hearing into OUR Walmart’s allegations of retaliation against employees who joined protests in June 2013. The testimony was given in January 2015, during the hearing. OUR Walmart, which split from the UFCW in September, provided the documents to Bloomberg Businessweek after the judge concluded the case in mid-October. A decision may come in early 2016. So Bloomberg is able to go into quite a but of detail about what happened.
The "intelligence-gathering service from Lockheed Martin" is a very little known servce of Lockheed. From the website: "LM WISDOM® ITI (Insider Threat Identification) is the industry leader in detecting and mitigating insider threats. LM WISDOM® ITI is a leads generator tool based on employee attributes, behaviors and actions that may be indicators of potential insider threat. This capability significantly improves the productivity of your security and counterintelligence organizations, allowing analysts to focus on the highest priority threats and take proactive mitigation steps. Built on best practices from counterintelligence professionals with decades of commercial and government experience, LM WISDOM® ITI takes a holistic approach — seamlessly fusing data sources across the enterprise and modeling behavioral indicators on the individual."
Don't ask me when Lockheed Martin decided it needed to privatize intelligence, because I don't know. Companies have always kept an eye on their workers, of course. But this seems to be an unexpected level. "While most of the OUR Walmart activists being watched expected to be, none thought it would be by a company like Lockheed Martin. 'We’re artists, not ISIS.'"
Training videos, executive memos, and various other anti-union materials have been leaked over the years by groups hoping to embarrass Walmart. A 49-page document from 1997, A Manager’s Toolbox to Remaining Union-Free, begins: “As a member of Walmart’s management team, you are our first line of defense against unionization.” Based on the documents from the ongoing case, many of the tools in the toolbox remain in use. The 1997 guide instructs managers to remain alert for signs of low morale or organizing among their employees. They’re supposed to address the causes of low morale and report the organizing to the Bentonville hotline.There is far too much detail in Bloomberg to give – you are welome to click thorugh. This year, instead of striking, OUR Walmart has been staging a 15-day fast leading up to Black Friday. Workers want to wait until the NLRB ruling before walking off the job again…. The hunger strike is in support of a $15-an-hour minimum wage and to highlight the problems some Walmart workers have feeding their families. Some 1,400 people have been participating in the fast as they see fit and about 200 of those are former and current employees.
On Black Friday there were demonstrations around the country, organized by groups connected to OUR Walmart and joined by employees who had already taken the day off or weren’t scheduled to work. In addition to the nation, I'm sure Alecto will have been watching.
Early in the morning of Sunday, November 15, 2015, a young man of color was shot and killed by police in Minneapolis, MN. Yes, I know this happens all the time, though less often in Minneapolis, which is a fairly progressive city, but stay with me, Tisiphone and readers, I do have a point to make.
Witnesses say Jamar Clark, 24, was unarmed and handcuffed when an officer shot him. Police, of course, dispute this. Activists took to the street and protested outside the Minneapolis Police Department. This too is hardly new.
"The young man was just laying there," Teto Wilson, a resident who claims to have witnessed the shooting, said. "He was not resisting arrest. Two officers were surrounding the victim on the ground, an officer maneuvered his body around to shield Jamar's body, and I heard the shot go off." Black Lives Matter activists and the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP have called for the officers to be fired. Still familiar ground.
On the night of November 23, the story took on a little different direction. There is the background that activists representing several different organizations, including Communities United Against Police Brutality as well as the groups previously mentioned, started to notice on the furst night of the protest, and continuing every night, white supremacist groups (the participants described as masked men in military style clothing) were also out and threatening violence. The activists were concerned enough to put together a safety committee. On November 23, then, three men wearing masks and bulletproof vests were noted and were removed from the protest area. They were confronted by the safety committee, and there was an argument.
The three men walked away from the crowd and through a gate, and some activists followed. Witness said the three men ran off, with several activists chasing them. They stopped in an area where there were no cameras, turned around, and opened fire. Five protestors were shot, fortunately, none was seriously injured. The shooters were not immediately identified.
Some social media users began claiming the shooters fired in self defense. Well, we've heard that before too.
That was November 23rd. On November 24, a suspect was arrested. A 23 year old while male. So close in age to Jamal. So far away in spirit.
It has now been learned that white supremacists have discussed various strategies online for sparking confrontation at the demonstration, which they described as a “chimpout.”
“Do you know if the BLM n*****s are planning to protest again tomorrow, and if so, at what time?” one white supremacist asked in an email chain.
They agreed to wear camouflage clothing and display a four of clubs to identify each other, and the white supremacist agitators argued over whether they should carry guns or wear Guy Fawkes masks.
SInce then, a total of five suspects have been arrested. One was released because he was not present at the shooting. The other four are being held. The County Attorney has received an extension of time to determine charges; hate crime charges are being considered.
Here's the point I have been going for. It appears there are numerous people in different groups shooting guns in Minneapolis. However, only one group is being shot at. Black Americans. Tisiphone, I hope you are still with me. Please, see what you can do.
For the rest of us, there is a petition on Force Change regarding this case. We too can do something.