Why Not Coffeehouses in Latin America to Support Cooperatives and Organizing

Why not ACORN International / Fair Grinds Coffeehouses" in large Latin American cities?

Miami              The more we talked to coffee producer cooperatives in the Marcala and San Juancito mountains of Honduras and tried to piece together a plan to directly trade coffee to the USA and Canada and especially our own Fair Grinds Coffeehouse in New Orleans and its monthly support of our offices in Central America, the more it seemed a natural to think about opening our own small mini-coffeehouses in places like Tegucigalpa and perhaps Lima, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City.  The notion would be to open café cooperativas for ACORN & Fair Grinds that would only serve coffee and other products directly obtained from cooperatives operating in the home country.  The proposition would to reverse fair trade into the home countries and keep the “buy local,” “buy organic,” and “buy fair trade” right there rather than something that happens in rich, developed countries.

Would it work?  Could “coffee cooperatives” work and compete, especially with the local market?  Not sure about that.  Ironically in places like Honduras where great coffee is grown the local market, like so many places is driven by price.  A lot of what is sold in places like Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula is coffee beans cut with a variety of other substances to lower the costs.

But, we don’t have to compete with Starbucks, just duplicate the “mission-driven” ACORN International / Fair Grinds model sufficiently to pay the coffeehouse bills, support the cooperatives by opening up a better market, and do well enough to support the local organizing with a local self-sufficiency plan.  Why not?  Could work!


James O’Keefe Over the Line – Again!?!

New Orleans               I continue to be fascinated that James O’Keefe has any credibility with anyone anywhere in the world.  The list is endless from his ACORN fake costuming and scurrilous video editing to his crazed phone tapping of Senator Mary Landrieu’s office in New Orleans and on to one preposterous self-aggrandizing ego trip after another including a puff piece in the New York Times magazine.  A piece popped up on my Google Alerts though that surprised me so much, I wondered if it was a hoax, given how bizarre it is even for O’Keefe.  The piece ran in Op Ed News by a Gustav Wynn.  It has been previously reported by O’Keefe’s home town paper in New Jersey and by Keith Olbermann, so some serious credibility has been attached to the piece.

At the least, suffice it to say, this dude is still totally out of control!

Sex, Drugs and Videotape: James O’Keefe Implicated in Barn Rape Plot

By: Gustavo Wynn

As reported by Keith Olbermann, Raw Story and NorthJersey.com, disturbing charges were leveled against James O’Keefe, the undercover “pimp” made famous in videos that informed a Congressional vote to defund ACORN (later ruled unconstitutional).

A conservative blogger from Tampa has reportedly shared details indicating she believes she became incapacitated and had her underwear stolen while she was in O’Keefe’s company.

Her October 2nd visit concerned a proposal to be in one of O’Keefe’s anti-Occupy Wall Street videos, says accuser Nadia Naffe – O’Keefe picked her up at the Newark train station and stopped off at a liquor store before driving her to his parents house where negotiations got contentious and O’Keefe became verbally abusive.

Naffe claims she began to have trouble controlling her muscles and threatened to call the police when she felt O’Keefe was trying to coerce her to stay. As she testified in a criminal complaint, O’Keefe demonstrated an “intent to persuade me to spend the night in the barn”. O’Keefe and a pal instead drove her to Penn Station in NYC, Naffe reported, adding she lost consciousness during the ride.

After traveling on to Boston where she attends grad school at Harvard, Naffe alleged her bag had been rifled through, with panties and other items taken. She also reports O’Keefe made an unsolicited offer of money, but began harassing her shortly after she refused the cash, through direct messages and third parties.  Continue reading


Business Assistance Living Wage Campaigns

New Orleans               Support is increasingly lining up in New York City and elsewhere not simply for living wage ordinances, but more specifically for a more targeted type of living wage program where public dollars are partnered with private development.  These so-called “business assistance” living wage ordinances that also draw from experiences with “community benefit agreements” and other equitable urban policy initiatives are extremely important for any city trying to use its tax revenues to not only create new jobs and opportunities, but to also make sure that the benefits of such investments are broadly shared by the citizens.

In the current fight in New York City an oft cited study that buttresses the case for coupling public investment in private development with living wage improvements on such projects was written by T. William Lester and our old friend and comrade, Ken Jacobs from the University of California at Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education.  The study, “Creating Good Jobs in Our Communities:  How Higher Wage Standards Affect Economic Development and Employment,” put together a list of cities that had enacted “business assistance living wage” ordinances and created a database to compare them to a similar set of cities to determine in a unique way whether or not cities had hurt their growth and job development with such policy initiatives.  The cities  had a good dose of California in them, not surprisingly, but also included a good smattering from around the rest of the country, making the work truly national in scope.

The results contained good news for all of us who have advocated and organized for such policies to be enacted in our cities:

“Economic development wage standards are one tool that a city can use to create jobs of greater quality. We have compared two sets of cities in order to assess the effectiveness of such laws—those with enforced business assistance living wage laws and those without—and found that there is no loss in the number of jobs due to the living wage requirement. It appears that, even during hard times, economic development wage standards are an effective tool for increasing wages in a city without sacrificing the number of jobs.”

This work builds on the path breaking work done by Dr. Robert Pollin of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst that had established in Los Angeles and later, working with ACORN in both New Orleans and Florida, that the any adverse impacts were at worst negligible, and at best wildly positive.  Walmart ran from ACORN’s big-box proposed ordinance in Chicago in 2006 which would have coupled business assistance with their development and pulled up stakes in Sarasota, Florida when we won an ordinance requiring living wages on such developments in that city, but these studies seem to conclusively argue that they simply left money on the table, rather than allowing cities to develop in equitable and sustainable fashion.

With the first hints emerging that we may be coming out of the recession, we need to dust off all of these reports and initiatives and move more aggressively to reassert these agendas in North American cities and around the