David Bacon

David Bacon is a California writer and photojournalist; his latest book is The Right to Stay Home (Beacon Press, 2014).

Recent Articles

Strike Force

SAN FRANCISCO -- Socorro Carrillo, Junior Tejano, and Davey Eng didn't really expect they'd be going back to work. Nevertheless, at the start of their normal 7:30 a.m. shift, they presented themselves at the ornate entrance to the Fairmount San Franciso Hotel, one of San Francisco's classiest establishments, backed by dozens of other workers, clergy, and public officials. Confronted with all these people and hoping perhaps that they'd go away, manager Mark Huntley waited half an hour before meeting them in front of the doors. When he did, despite their low expectations, the trio still found his message upsetting. The limited lockout, instituted by 10 hotels after UNITE HERE's Local 2 struck four others, would be continued indefinitely, Huntley said. The Fairmount was one of the 10, and workers there had already gone almost two weeks without paychecks. It wasn't economic pain that upset the three workers, however. "They just don't respect us," Tejano said. After decades in the hotel,...

The Wages of Death

That morning, Edilberto Morales' supervisor called at 3. The phone rang in the apartment above the gun store, where he and five friends shared three rooms. They all got up, and in the cold darkness they put on their work clothes and made their lunch, their breath puffing like smoke in the September air. Outside, the van picked them up a little before 6. Another nine people were already inside -- they lived in the apartment of the driver, Juan, just a few minutes away in the tiny town of Caribou, Maine. The men stopped at the gas station to buy snacks, and the van pulled out onto the road. Its destination lay more than two hours away -- a field of trees at the end of a network of dirt roads in the north Maine woods. At 8 a.m. the jolting of the van jarred Morales awake, and he saw they were barreling fast down the track through the trees. They'd left early that morning because rain had kept them from working the day before -- Juan was trying to squeeze a few additional minutes into the...

A Charged Atmosphere

I f the proposals for privatizing Mexico's nationalized electrical system bear an eerie resemblance to California's disastrous experiment in deregulation, it should come as no surprise. The proposals, after all, share some of the same authors. In fact, as Jeffrey Skilling and Ken Lay were setting up shadow corporations to hide Enron's huge U.S. losses in 2001, other Enron executives found time to hobnob with Mexican politicians and design projects in cooperation with that country's industrial elite. Enron executives advised incoming President Vicente Fox on energy policy during his transition period. Since Fox took office in 2000, a slew of power companies, many of them U.S.-based, have gone on a construction spree in Mexico in anticipation of legislation that will privatize the nation's electric-power industry, which has been nationalized for the past four decades. On April 4, 2002, Enron Energia Industrial de Mexico received a license from Mexico's Electricity Regulatory Commission...

Shore Bet?

T he bitterness of the current West Coast longshoremen's lockout was vividly demonstrated on Tuesday, Oct. 1, when the two sides met in Oakland, Calif., to explore federally mediated bargaining. Representatives of the Pacific Maritime Association showed up at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service office accompanied by two guards armed with pistols. International Longshore and Warehouse Union President James Spinosa, who said that both sides had previously agreed to bring only five negotiators apiece, was taken aback to see the entire negotiating team for the PMA with its security escort. "Hiding behind the government and armed thugs, PMA's lockout is holding a gun to the head of the American economy," Spinosa declared angrily. "Now they move to aim real guns at us. We will not be intimidated." After the head of the FMCS, Peter Hurtgen, said he was aware of the PMA's plan to bring guards, Spinosa and the union delegates walked out. Hurtgen apparently was unaware the guards...

In the Name of National Security

E rlinda Valencia came from the Philippines almost two decades ago. Like many Filipinos living in the San Francisco Bay Area, she found a minimum-wage job at the airport, screening passengers' carry-on bags. Two years ago, organizers from the Service Employees International Union began talking to the screeners. Valencia decided to get involved and eventually became a leader in the campaign that brought in the union. "It seemed to us all that for the first time, we had a real future," she recalls. A new contract raised wages to more than $10 an hour, and harassment by managers abated. Then the airplanes hit the twin towers in New York, and everything changed. In short order, legislation established a new Transportation Security Administration, which required that screeners be federal employees. That could have been a good thing for Valencia and her co-workers: Federal workers have decent salaries and federal regulations protect their right to belong to unions -- at least they used to...

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