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Kerim’s Triptych for Sunday, October 1st, 2023

Kerim’s Triptych for Sunday, October 1st, 2023

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Item 1: Joe Leahy’s Funeral

In The Guardian, Stephen Dupont writes about the funeral of Joe Leahey. I didn’t know him, or have particularly strong feelings about him, but he was the central figure in a series of three documentary films by Bob Connolly and Robin Anderson: First Contact, Joe Leahy’s Neighbours, and Black Harvest. Back in the 1990s these were some of the most discussed films in the world of anthropology. These films had a huge impact on me, and I watched each of them multiple times, as both a graduate student and later as a teacher. For these reasons news of Joe Leahey’s death this past August meant something to me — not unlike the death of a celebrity.

Item 2: A Yakshi Fertility Spirit

The image depicts a “An Indian ivory figure of a yakshi fertility spirit unearthed at Pompeii, first century CE.” It was “found perfectly preserved amid the ruins of Pompeii, where there was once a shop owned by Furius, faber et negotiator eborarius (a maker and seller of ivory), who apparently sold nothing but ivory furniture, boxes, and tablets.”

I read about it in an article by William Dalrymple on the ancient trade between India and the Roman Empire. According to new research, the size and value of this trade was far greater than people had previously suspected. He cites estimates that “custom taxes raised on the trade coming through the Red Sea would have covered around one third of the funds that the Roman Empire required to administer its global conquests and maintain its vast legions.”

Item 3: The Cemex Case

The National Labor Relations Board just handed down a landmark ruling – the Cemex case – that "brought worker rights back from the dead."

At issue in Cemex was what the NLRB should do about employers that violate labor law during union drives. For decades, even the most flagrantly illegal union-busting was met with a wrist-slap. For example, if a boss threatened or fired an employee for participating in a union drive, the NLRB would typically issue a small fine and order the employer to re-hire the worker and provide

Everyone knows that "a fine is a price." The NLRB's toothless response to cheating presented an easily solved equation for corrupt, union-hating bosses: if the fine amounts to less than the total, lifetime costs of paying a fair wage and offering fair labor conditions, you should cheat – hell, it's practically a fiduciary duty…

Enter the Cemex ruling: once a majority of workers have signed a union card, any Unfair Labor Practice by their employer triggers immediate, automatic recognition of the union. In other words, the NLRB has fitted a tilt sensor in the American labor pinball machine, and if the boss tries to cheat, they automatically lose.

The above is from a blog post from Cory Doctorow, who goes on to point out some of the limitations of this ruling, while remaining optimistic about the future. Most importantly, it shows the possibility of real, substantive, political change.

Endnote

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