Dancing on the Grave of No-7-Eleven-NYC

Back in June, I wrote that the anti-worker group No 7-Eleven NYC had “packed it in”. They had gone from meeting weekly in front of the 7-Eleven store on Avenue A and East 11th Street, to meeting only on the first Sunday of every month.

Well, at most, that amounted to two meetings. I wasn’t around to see, but I’d bet anything they didn’t meet the first Sunday of September, which was Labor Day weekend. And this was the scene in front of 7-Eleven at 1:30pm yesterday:

_MG_2596

Unfortunately, the sentiments that gave rise to them in the first place have not disappeared. No doubt they will reform in some other guise to fight efforts by DeBlasio to raise the minimum wage in New York City.

* * *

Spoiler alert!

Back in November of 2013, I wrote something that I scheduled to post automatically in October of this year. That’s all I’ll say about it, other than that it pertains to the 7-Eleven in question.

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Foreign Scientific Jargon

I am working on a piece, the second of three, that deals with stealth gentrification, and I noticed that the author of the essay I’m quoting from uses the word entrepreneur to describe small-business owners that moved into the Lower East Side during the period of her study. “Why does she use that term?” I wondered.

I thought about other French terms: bourgeois, petite-bourgeois,* proletariat, that fall into the general category of French terms that describe (or obscure) capitalist social relations, but these terms evoke a different response in the reader than entrepreneur. Some people even consider them to be cliché (although they’re fine with the word cliché!).

It’s not that they’re French (or non-English, as it were), that people shy away from these words, it’s that they denote class position. Despite what George Orwell says: “Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent,” if you were to replace these with English terms, e.g., if you were to say “small-business owner,” instead of petite-bourgeois, it changes the meaning. The first is “the lifeblood of our economy,” the second is a deviationist, and resorts to fascism in times of crisis.

“Working class” is better than proletariat; the terms for the capitalist class are the problematic ones. Nobody says bourgeois as a compliment. No one ever says “Those are some fine bourgeois values you have!” If I say I want to open a store, no one would say “You’re a real petite-bourgeois now!”§

I still don’t know why she used the word entrepreneur though, even if she doesn’t say petite-bourgeois. Instead of:

    Such tactics have been deployed by a diverse succession of actors — from squatters and artists, to local entrepreneurs and hipsters, to real estate investors and brand-name retailers.

why not say “local small-business owners”? She must have had a reason, I just wonder what it was. She doesn’t write “bourgeois” (petite– or otherwise) anywhere in the essay. She uses the term entrepreneur 18 times!

I don’t like the word entrepreneur. The etymology of entrepreneur in the Oxford Concise Dictionary is “Origin: early 19th cent., from French, from entreprendre ‘undertake’ (see enterprise)”. “Enterprise” as in “free enterprise”. It’s understandable why capitalists prefer euphemisms to “capitalist,” but why the author of an essay on stealth gentrification?

Un…less…

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* I prefer petite to “petty” because “petty” means “insignificant” or “trifling, and while small businesses might be insignificant or trifling, it’s their smallness that I mean to convey.
§Actually, friends of mine would probably say this!
Politics and the English Language. Accessed August 18, 2014.

Hyper-Gentrification Revisited

In Hyper-Gentrification, I wrote about a blogger called Jeremiah Moss. Specifically, about something he wrote called On Spike Lee & Hyper-Gentrification.

Since that time, he was invited to rewrite that piece for the New York Times, as part of their overview of gentrification. So his position, distilled, is:

    The old-school gentrification of the 20th century, while harmful, wasn’t all bad. It made streets safer, created jobs and brought fresh vegetables to the corner store. … Unlike gentrification, in which the agents of change were middle-class settlers moving into working-class and poor neighborhoods…

    …hyper-gentrification in New York was implemented via strategically planned mass rezonings, eminent domain and billions in tax breaks to corporations…

    So before gentrification became “hyper”, it wasn’t all bad, according to Moss. When the process of removing the working class from their neighborhood was happening, using all of the tools at the disposal of both real estate developers and the city, from illegal evictions, to arson, to filling vacant apartments with drug dealers to drive out tenants, to turning over in rem buildings to “developers” for pennies on the dollar, to programs like AHOP, this wasn’t all bad. The same private/public interests (themselves, bourgeois legalisms) were at play as today, at the then-existing level of development.

Moss sees gentrification starting when people and small businesses start to move into an area where they weren’t before. He fails to understand the processes that led to that, despite his many references to Neil Smith. He doesn’t see the “flipping” of buildings (buildings bought and then sold at a profit, sometimes without any renovations being made) as part of the process, or even the transition from a healthy building stock to a decrepit one. For him, as for so many like him, it starts when the outward signs become noticeable.

So what is his solution?

    Let’s drastically reduce tax breaks to corporations and redirect that money to mom-and-pops. Protect the city’s oldest small businesses by providing selective retail rent control, and implement the Small Business Survival Act to create fair rent negotiations. Pass a citywide ordinance to control the spread of chain stores. … Shop local and protest the corporate invasion of neighborhoods.

Increase taxes on corporations? OK. Direct the money to small businesses? To what end? If the Small Business Survival Act creates fair rent negotiations (Moss’s contention), small business rents will be lower. So what will they do with the money? Raise their employees’ wages? Ha! Pocket the money? Probably. Use the money to expand? Probably. So the small businesses will become big businesses, in time. Maybe even chains. Regarding shopping locally, I’ve already addresses that.

Moss’s changes will only benefit small business owners. That is his starting and ending point.

    This … is the transformation of society in a democratic way, but a transformation within the bounds of the petty bourgeoisie. … [I]t believes that the special conditions of its emancipation are the general conditions within whose frame alone modern society can be saved and the class struggle avoided.*

=-=-=-=-=

* The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, accessed April 27, 2014.

Veselka Supports Fascism in Ukraine

This past Sunday [February 9], a friend of mine and I ate at a restaurant called Veselka, on East 9th Street and Second Avenue. When we were finished and leaving, I noticed this sign:

veselka-euromaidan

Since most “East Villagers” don’t know anything about what’s happening in the world, for their benefit, I will introduce “Euromaidan” to them:

veselka-the-nation1

and

veselka-ibd2

and

veselka-rev-news3

That’s it, in a nut shell. Connect to the articles footnoted below for more information.

So here it is, in the heart of the “East Village”, an open advocation of fascism, and what do you suppose the local reaction is? Well, as I already said, most people don’t even know what it means. But of those who do? Or should? Newspapers, and the like? This is how The Villager soft-pedaled efforts here to advance the fascist effort, in a January 20 article:

veselka-the-villager

An “awareness campaign”!

It’s not surprising that The Villager either doesn’t know what “Euromaidan” is, or worse, supports it. The social composition of fascist movements have historically been the small capitalists that they champion.

So on February 12, I posted this photo on Twitter, and @’d local news organizations/bloggers:

 
(Cue crickets.)

OK, not crickets exactly. EV Grieve posted something about Veselka yesterday:

veselka-evgrieve

=-=-=-=-=

1The Ukrainian Nationalism at the Heart of ‘Euromaidan’
2Euromaidan: The Dark Shadows Of The Far-Right In Ukraine Protests
3The Ukrainian Euromaidan: The Solution to Putin, or Just Another Fascist Political Coup?

East Village Community Coalition

There is an organization in the “East Village” called the East Village Community Coalition. I don’t know how long they’ve been around, but a whois search shows their web site was created on 08-Jun-2004, so it’s probably safe to assume they came into being some time around then.

They’re pretty secretive, too. Their registrant, admin, and tech contacts are masked. But that’s not why I’m writing about them. I want to discuss their
Guide to East Village Local Shops.

This is from their web site:

evcc-shopping-guide

Point by point:

Choose creativity and personality over uniformity – If you shop in one place because you like the color of the paint, or don’t shop in another because you don’t like the awning, it’s all the same. Besides, many local shops show neither creativity nor personality, and uniformity, in itself, is not a bad thing. And there are plenty of chain stores that vary their appearance. I suspect there will be more of this in the future, as they try to meet the demand for this type of “creativity and personality”.

Provide economic diversity and stability – It makes no sense to speak of “economic diversity” within such a small area. A country might have economic diversity, even a city, but when you break it down to ever-smaller localities, like neighborhoods, you can’t maintain this. It makes no sense, under any mode of production, to have manufacturing, distribution, retail, finance, agriculture, etc., all in one square block.

I doubt that the EVCC really expects manufacturing or agriculture to exist here. They understand the division of labor. They’re talking about retail only, which means that they want to take the level of productive forces as they’re given, and freeze them there.

Keep more of your money in your community – Does shopping locally keep money within the community? Leaving aside for now what “the community” really is, let’s set the boundaries as Houston Street on the South, 14th Street on the North, the East River on the East, and Third Avenue on the West. Imagine this is a closed system, with no money coming in and no money going out. (If the “East Village” were actually isolated from the rest of the global economy, it would die off in no time. Still, for the sake of argument, let’s imagine this.)

All value, in the capitalist sense, is created within this closed system. No money/resources/people come in or go out, and everything functions under the capitalist mode of production. People go to work and make commodities that are sold only inside these boundaries – wages to the workers, profits to the owners. Right away you can see, in a very short time, there would be a crisis of overproduction. Assuming everyone can buy one of everything produced on their wages, once they have what they need they won’t need more. The producers would have to look outside these boundaries to sell their wares, and the local paradigm is demolished. This is essentially the national economy, reduced to the area described above.

And what about the surplus population? There are not enough jobs provided by the local businesses in the “East Village” for everyone who lives here. People will have to emigrate to other neighborhoods and send money back home. Which is, of course, what actually happens. Almost no one who lives in this geographical area works here. While the EVCC tells us to keep the money in the neighborhood, they couldn’t survive without its coming from outside the neighborhood.

Which is a good thing, because it’s the retailers themselves who are sending the money out! Since there is no manufacturing or agriculture here, local retailers sell commodities manufactured somewhere else, or with raw materials originating somewhere else, whether it’s tchotchkes at Alphabets or coffee at Mud.

The first section of EVCC’s Guide is Cafes. Cafe types, and some of their non-local ingredients, are:

Cafe Type Imports
Bakeries Butter, Flour, Sugar
Cafes Coffee
Candy & Chocolate Chocolate, Sugar
Ice Cream Eggs, Milk, Sugar, Vanilla
Juice Bar Fruits, Vegetables
Tea Shop Honey, Sugar, Tea

 
The next section is Fashion. Most of the retailers don’t make what they sell: Dinosaur Hill, Jane’s Exchange, Village Kids Footwear, etc. It’s possible that some others do, but they don’t make the sewing machines or material or thread. The other categories are: Galleries; Gifts; Florist; Health and Beauty; Culture, Music, Entertainment; and Specialty Services. It’s the same with all of them.

Create local jobs with fair living wages – The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows little variation in pay for professionals and managers by establishment size, but differentials widen as you move down the status hierarchy. Data entry clerks in small establishments earned 7% below the national average, while those in large firms earned 20% above. Gaps for janitors were wider, and those for laborers were wider still.

This fact persists regardless of occupation, industrial sector, education, experience, geographical location, union status. Workers in larger firms are more likely to be covered by company-paid health insurance and have some type of retirement plan. Also, worker safety is worse in small businesses — “Size and risk are inversely correlated at all levels of scale,” according to an International Labour Organization report.1

Sustain small business owners who strengthen the local economy – Redundant.

People who make the claims made by EVCC like to point to studies that show how much money stays in the community with small business than with larger businesses. One study conducted in Chicago found that for every $100 spent by customers, $43 stayed in the area for chains, while $68 stayed in the area for non-chains. One problem with this is that the geographical boundaries were the entire city of Chicago, so money that moved from a poor neighborhood to a richer neighborhood was still considered to be “local”. Likewise with the “East Village”. Many of the owners/workers do not live here. The money they make leaves the neighborhood daily.

A bigger problem is that this is only a measure of profits. For the chain, some part of the profits, or even gross revenue, is sent to the corporate office, leaving the manager with less to spend than the owner, but this assumes that the owners spend all their profits. Owners reinvest profits, or they use them to pay their more-expensive mortgages or vacations or restaurant bills. The argument ultimately centers on filling the capitalist class’s luxury-goods market, something that doesn’t even exist in the “East Village”.

Defend our neighborhood’s identity – Is the neighborhood’s identity really defined by its retail shops? This is definitely a petite-bourgeois perspective! Anyway, this neighborhood’s identity was defined by the real estate industry, not the retail industry. The term “East Village” was coined by real estate developers in the 1960s as a way to attract renters, by linking the area above Houston Street with Greenwich Village, and disassociating it from the Lower East Side’s immigrant, working-class roots.

Fight the lie that “low prices” at chain stores makes up for the loss of local business ownership – Low prices benefit workers, local business ownership benefits owners. Welcome to the class struggle.

***

A few things about small businesses that I’ve written about before, but which bear repeating:

Unemployment Insurance – If employees are paid in cash, there is no record of their employment, making it impossible for them to collect unemployment when they lose their job.

OSHA Requirements – If a company has fewer than 25 employees, their penalty is cut by 60 percent. If the business has fewer than 10 employees, they’re exempt from many requirements that obligate them to report workplace injuries.

Discrimination Laws – Federal laws against discrimination in the workplace do not always apply to small businesses. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act apply to employers with 15 or more employees. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act applies only to employers of 20 or more people.

Employee Health Insurance – Beginning in 2014, employers will be expected to pay a “shared responsibility fee” for health insurance coverage under the terms of the Affordable Care Act. Small businesses are exempt from this rule. If the company has fewer than 50 employees, they have no healthcare responsibilities.2

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1The Small Business Myth
2Small Business Exemptions

Class Struggle on Avenue A

So, 7‑Eleven on Avenue A and 11th Street finally opened for business on October 30, 2013, and in less than a week’s time, “No 7-Eleven NYC” (N7E) began attacking their workers on Twitter:

n7e-tweet-anti-711-worker

And from their blog:

n7e-attacks-711-workers

The claim that 7-Eleven employees are harassing local businesses comes from one of their supporters: the owner of the Hi-Fi bar, across the street (red highlighting mine):

hifi-attacks-711-workers

N7E and Co. has never been judicious with the truth. They have attempted to use everything and anything they find as a cudgel against 7-Eleven, from ministers leading campaigns against the store because it sells beer, to claims that 7-Eleven is a “crime magnet” due to the fact that 24-hour 7-Elevens in isolated areas have been robbed, to claims that the city’s attempted soda cap would give 7-Eleven unfair advantage over restaurants and movie theaters! They laud bodegas that over-charge for expired merchandise and make the bulk of their money from selling cigarettes, beer, and lottery tickets in poor neighborhoods.

bodega-front'
Yeah, bitch! Bodegas!

It defies reason to accuse the workers of 7-Eleven of this. To begin with, the workers at the new 7-Eleven are new to this hoopla. They haven’t been around since the time of the Hurricane Sandy planning session; they didn’t take the job and immediately join the fray. Secondly, their manager isn’t going to let them leave the store while they’re on the clock, especially to create mischief on the block.

I went into the 7-Eleven yesterday and spoke with a worker there. She told me the story of the owner of Hi-Fi coming in and confronting her. When she told him it wasn’t anyone from there, he became more confrontational. She also told me that most local businesses owners have been very friendly, and wished them well.

Once again, N7E rears its petite-bourgeois head. Attacking big businesses on the one hand, and workers on the other. These are the people who claim the mantle of resistance in the neighborhood.

***

Why would they even make this claim? Apart from the fact that they’ve never bothered with being honest, maybe it’s because this is exactly what they do!

Thursday, Oct 31
n7e-1031-0933

n7e-1031-2048

Sunday, Nov 3

Monday, Nov 4
EV Grieve reported that someone inside the store revised the N7E skull sign.

Later, he reported that someone outside the store destroyed the revised skull sign.

Friday, Nov 8

The accusations come easily to them because the actions themselves come easily to them.

***

Back in August, in response to the assertion that the 7-Eleven on Avenue A “targets only non-local foot traffic coming to the bars on A,” I responded “It’ll be people in the neighborhood who shop there, watch and see.”

What does N7E say?

n7e-no-customers-1109-0917

n7e-no-customers-1109-1606

I’ve made it a point to pass by there more often recently, to see who is going in, and just as I predicted, it’s neighborhood people. Mostly young mothers and children, mostly Black and Hispanic. In my two times entering the store, and the many times I’ve pass recently, I’ve noticed that the employees are also either Black or Hispanic! Of course, these people are not even on the radar of the all-White N7E!

“NYC Community Media” Endorsements

In Workers Need Not Apply, I showed the endorsements the non-neighborhood papers owned by NYC Community Media LLC (NYCCM) made, to demonstrate their lack of editorial independence. Today I’m going to see which of their people won.

endorsements

Mayor

Well of course the big loser was Christine Quinn. They weren’t just off, they were way off! She came in third! You have to wonder what motivated this holding company to endorse her. I can’t take any of the newspapers themselves to task, because they don’t write their own editorials, but did NYCCM think people wanted Bloomberg-2? It’s more likely that they thought they would benefit from a Quinn victory, and this was their chance to get people to help them. It will be interesting to see how their reporting changes going forward, now that their audience let them down so.

On the Republican side, Joe Lhota won over NYCCM’s Catsimatidis. It’s interesting that they only endorsed a Republican in The Villager and The East Villager. I wonder if there are more registered Republicans in these areas? You’d think there would be more in the Downtown Express domain. Well, I would think so, anyway. Maybe it was the “self-made” man thing. That kind of thing resonates strongly here.

Public Advocate

Daniel Squadron, who now faces a runoff election against Letitia James, was endorsed in only one NYCCM’s newspapers: Gay City News. Their reasons for endorsing him are valid, in an identity-politics sort of way, but if you’re trying to influence people, why endorse him in only one newspaper? If they’d have endorsed him in their other four newspapers, maybe he would have won?

Comptroller

Oddly enough (is it odd?) NYCCM didn’t endorse anyone for Comptroller.

Manhattan Borough President

Julie Menin came in last. Last! I like what Tenant.net wrote:

    [A]ll four candidates are disappointments. Of the four, Gale Brewer is less objectionable…

Gale Brewer won. Julie Menin came in last.

City Council District 1

If I were registered to vote Democrat, and lived in District 1, I would have voted for Rajkumar!

City Council District 2

Rosie Mendez is the big winner over Richard Del Rio, but why would NYCCM not endorse Mendez in the newspapers where her district is situated? Maybe they thought there was no reason, that she was a shoe-in. Still, why not score some points? They only endorsed her in a newspaper with a significant portion of its readership outside Mendez’s district. Maybe they don’t really support her?

City Council District 3

Corey Johnson was the winner over Yetta Kurland. Another successful choice for NYCCM. It’s probably not a surprise that they endorsed Quinn and Johnson. Tenant.net describes Johnson as “Christine Quinn’s mini-me.” They link to this article back in June:

    Corey worked for a billion dollar real estate company, GFI Capital, which has made a habit of evicting poor and middle class workers and replacing SROs with luxury hotels and condos. His former employer has even been sued by the Department Of Justice Civil Rights Division for discrimination.

Endorsements aren’t predictions. These are the candidates NYCCM wanted it to appear their neighborhood newspapers thought would best serve the residents of their circulation area. But if they also want us to think these newspapers have their finger on the pulse of the neighborhood, they bungled it big time. I suspect Jennifer Goodstein will be looking to sell soon.

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