Wednesday Oct 04


            Math-shaming is a thing.  I understand.  At the same time in trying to parse through huge datasets and various schemes, both deliberate and inadvertent. math turns out to be important, as our two lead articles this issue demostrate.

In one case, taking a survey of dollar stores and their workers in metro Atlanta, the primary authors, four MSW graduate students at Georgia State, found that once the numbers were crunched, as you will read, it working conditions were sketchy, and the workers seemed ready to do something about it.  In another case, our longstanding support of efforts by the Voter Purge Project to prevent voter suppression yielded clear evidence at the hands of Joseph Woods and his mathematical models, that there is underlying discrimination in purges for young and minority voters in Georgia and elsewhere.  These pieces aren’t just worth reading, they are worth studying, and then trying to figure out how to fix the problems.

We follow with the second part of “Evaluation of Base-Building Organizers” in a further unpacking of the skills and sensibilities that are essential in the craft, as reckoned by the authors.  Interestingly, the excerpt later from Paris-based Professor Pettijean’s book Occupation Organizer calls into question whether the degree of professionalism, advocated in this essay, is advancing or stifling social change.  These are hard, but important questions.  Our other excerpt, looks at the impact of taxpayer associations that came out of largely middle-class anger that began as part of the good government Progressive movement, but intensified and morphed into something different in the Great Depression, while continuing to foreground current divisions in our communities, between rights and obligations.

Lightening the reader’s load, a bit, we have an amusing piece of auto-fiction from Richard Wise about organizing dumpsters.  Not dumpsters and dumps per se, but the story of Rhode Island waste pickers doing recycling their own way.  James Mumm’s book review listens to a different drum, in this case, art and its role in organizing, advocated by long-time activist Ken Grossinger.  Mike Miller’s review essay applauds the initiatives to create cooperatives in Jackson, Mississippi, while noting that the walk needs to align with the talk, and to my delight pulling out a frequent quote of mine to make the point.

In our columns, Phil Mattera finds it unbelievable that corporations can so easily buy their way out of corruption. Drummond Pike is horrified at the political fakery involved in debt ceiling puppetry. Gregory Squires touts the essential tool of community benefit agreements in dealing with developers while wondering how much the community is really involved.  John Anderson argues in Canada and around the world, we need better protections against tenant evictions.  Finally in the Backstory, I marvel at the deja vu of historical repression as it rises and falls against advocates and organizations again and again in the United States.

In this issue one theme is inescapable:  you don’t have to understand the formulas to suffer the consequences.  At the same time, if we keep ignoring them, what goes around, will, once again, come around, making real solutions for the future even more urgent.