Political Flavors

Feminist Coffee Hour Episode 21: Pregnancy Discrimination

Posted in Podcast Episodes, Pregnancy And Motherhood Thinkpieces on November 9th, 2017

Pregnancy Discrimination

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We interviewed Caroline Piela-Cohen, an attorney with the NYC based law firm Crumiller PC to talk about gender and pregnancy discrimination, paid leave in New York State and more.

Discussed in this episode:

Crumiller PC Law Firm Website


Feminist Coffee Hour is now on Patreon.

This episode was edited by Brianna Carpenter.

Our theme song is composed by Bridget Ellsworth, check out her sound cloud page!

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The Ethics of Origins Cosmetics – Organic Doesn’t Mean Good Labor Practices

Posted in Editorials on September 2nd, 2015

There’s and article in Pacific Standard about the child abuse perpetuated by a Christian cult called “The Twelve Tribes.” The article asks how far the First Amendment goes – can religious freedom really protect the harming of children? It’s a disturbing but important article and you should read the whole thing.

Something that jumped out at me though was this paragraph about how the children in this cult were often taken out of school and made to work at businesses.

The Jones children were put to work at an early age. For several weeks when she was seven, for example, Shuah boarded a 15-passenger van at dawn with other grade-schoolers and drove to the Tribes’ Common Sense factory in Rutland, an hour away. One of the Tribes’ biggest clients was Estee Lauder, which contracted the group to make its popular Origins salt scrub. Shuah spent 10 hours a day labeling and packaging the scrub and other products. At a certain point, she told me, the elders passed out sleeping bags so the kids could sleep on the factory floor. “We’d take little breaks and run around and play and get spanked for it,” recalled Alicia Gonyaw, who worked at the factory when she was 12. “We weren’t allowed to be kids.”

I was shocked. I’ve heard that there is child labor and sweat shops in the United States, but it’s something I don’t like to think about. It’s something that happens in other places. And I felt guilty! I love Origins products and I have reviewed them glowingly on this blog. But my mistake was in assuming that because a product is organic, it’s produced in accordance with fair labor standards too. And as I have found, that is just not the case.

I buy organic products not just for my own health and for the quality of our water and soil, but because I believe it’s a labor and human rights issue. Farm workers who are exposed to pesticides can have serious health problems including higher rates of cancer, infertility and birth defects.

But makeup isn’t like a blueberry or an apple. It must be processed, and there are ingredients that aren’t plant based. Mineral ingredients must be mined, and there are numerous abuses in the mining of minerals for makeup.

Children toiling illegally in Indian mines are producing a key ingredient used in the products of some of the global cosmetics industry’s most prominent names.

A report by campaign group DanWatch said child labour is being used in the eastern states of Jharkhand and Bihar to extract mica, which is then added to the make-up produced by at least 12 multinational companies.

At least 5,000 children may be producing mica – used to add glitter to natural cosmetics – which is bought by intermediaries and then exported to high-profile international customers such as L’Oreal and Estee Lauder.

Estee Lauder is the parent company of Origins.

I tweeted at Origins hoping for a response yesterday – Shuah’s story happened many years ago and perhaps they have new safeguards in place. But I have received no response except for some conversation with Stacy Malkin from SafeCosmetics.org.

Knowing what I know now, though, a response from Origins stating that they don’t or won’t use that specific factory anymore isn’t enough. We need more transparency about how the ingredients in our makeup are mined, not just how they are farmed. The jewelry industry has the Kimberly Process and the No Dirty Gold campaign. Cosmetics companies need to get on board.

For me, makeup is something fun I like to use on weekends or special occasions. No matter how a person chooses to wear it, it’s production should not involve the endangerment or exploitation of children or adult workers.

Mayor DeBlasio’s War on Boobs Misfires

Posted in Editorials on August 21st, 2015

I voted for Bill DeBlasio. In general, I think he’s doing a good job. But this week he’s gone off the rails a bit. In Times Square, there are women who call themselves “desnudas” (Spanish for naked) who wear body paint and thongs. They take pictures with tourists and ask for tips. Apparently this is a crisis. Because tourists are SHOCKED and WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?

But since it’s legal to be topless in New York, and it’s legal to panhandle, it seems like there’s nothing illegal about what is going on here.

From The New York Times:

So complex is the issue that Mr. de Blasio, who has angrily vowed to put a stop to the practice, suggested on Thursday that one option would be to simply tear out the pedestrian plazas where the women operate.

The mayor met this week for almost three hours with police and city officials on how to restrict the women’s activities before deciding more study was needed, his aides said. On Thursday, he announced that he had formed a task force of city officials, local politicians and business leaders and gave it until Oct. 1 to come up with strategies.

There is something shady going on in Times Square, and it’s not the presence of breasts. It’s wage theft, tax evasion and violation of labor laws. According to this Daily News Article, the desnudas are not just a bunch of women doing this for fun and profit, but seem to be employees of a business. They work 12 hour days with no breaks, and share tips with their painters, managers and a boss. According to the article that leaves them with an average of $90 a day. That’s a mere $7.50 an hour – which is $1.25 below the minimum wage in New York City. And I doubt their boss is making sure that taxes and social security are being withheld.

As with the Lingerie Football League we should not be distracted by the spectacle of sex or the cheap moral outrage. It’s a ridiculous position to seem so upset by nudity. And I must point out the striking discordance that we live in a culture where women’s bodies are decorative sex objects but we are outraged when they attempt to make money from that objectification.

Where we should be focused is on the rights of these women. They, like millions of people in this country who work “off the books” in restaurants and other businesses due to immigration status or the inability to find work elsewhere, are being exploited by their employers. If Mayor DeBlasio really wanted to clean up this city he could start by enforcing our labor laws. Because if all he does is make it impossible for the desnudas to work in Times Square, who is going to care if they wind up at jobs working even longer hours for less money but wearing more clothing?

Albany is a little more corrupt this morning

Posted in Editorials on September 10th, 2014

In case you were wondering, Albany got a little more corrupt yesterday. While Sen. Malcolm Smith, who allegedly tried to rig the NYC 2013 Mayoral election and is awaiting trial, was defeated, it was the only ray of light in a rather bad day for those seeking a more ethical Albany.

Republican Sen. Tom Libous, under Federal indictment, defeated his primary challenger, and fellow senator John Sampson, a Democrat and also under indictment, won his race as well.

To top it off, Andrew Cuomo was yesterday’s victor, along with his flip-flopping deputy Kathy Hochul. Hopes were that Hochul would lose to Tim Wu, and Wu would refuse the Independence Party nomination, thus finally killing the scandal-ridden organization.

In other bad news, senators Jeff Klein and Tony Avella both won. These individuals were elected as Democrats, but then caucused with the Republicans under the guise of the “Independent Democratic Conference (IDC)” to give the GOP control of the chamber.

And the icing on the cake: moderate Republican Senator Mark Grisanti was defeated in his primary. He was defeated with the help of the teachers union, who said Grisanti was not “conservative enough.” While this was done as a way to help Democrats reclaim the seat in the general election, it ultimately served to make the IDC even more powerful as both Republican Leader Dean Skelos and Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins will be willing to give away more chits to garner their support in January. Ironically, it was Skelos who refused to usher through campaign finance reform that would have made it harder for the teachers union exercise its tactics.

So, New York, the winners in yesterday’s primary are a governor under Federal investigation, two senators under indictment, the corrupt Independence Party, the teachers union, and the sleazy Independent Democratic Caucus.

As usual, the loser is all of us who live in this state and must deal with the consequences.

Hey New York: Voting takes about five minutes. Try showing up next time.

WFP Endorses Cuomo: Business as Usual in Albany

Posted in Editorials on June 3rd, 2014

Corruption and Albany are synonymous. In fact, nothing about Albany corruption surprises us anymore. Indictments run rampant. Scandals loom in every corner. Deals are made every day under the assumption that voters are stupid and don’t pay attention. And it seems that at any given time, jury selection is underway somewhere in New York for a pending trial of some politician.

So the Working Families Party’s nomination of Gov. Andrew Cuomo this weekend should come as no surprise. What is odd is that the Governor, who is in good shape to be handily re-elected, threw the Senate IDC-Republican “co-majority” under the bus in order to win a nomination that four years ago he was considering not taking at all.

Perhaps the governor saw what the “professional left” has done to other, more centrist, Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Christine Quinn and he was afraid he would eventually meet the same fate. However, it doesn’t really seem logical that a WFP candidate would garner enough votes to realistically threaten his re-election. The candidate being considered, Zephyr Teachout, is an unknown entity who would have trouble garnering the 50,000 votes the WFP needs to remain an active political party with ballot access in this state. If the WFP endorsed her, the unions would still back Cuomo, siphoning votes and dollars from any campaign she had.

In fact, there is much more for the WFP to lose than gain in not endorsing Cuomo.

So why? Was this all really about a local minimum wage, income inequality, corporate tax breaks, and other populist issues? Unlikely. It would seem almost ridiculous to buck a sitting governor when he has delivered on other progressive initiatives like gun control and marriage equality.

Questions remain: Will Cuomo be true to his word and actually turn on his GOP-IDC allies in Albany? Can he actually follow-through on any of his legislative promises given that the session is about to close? Does the WFP have any recourse if he doesn’t? Is this really about satisfying liberal activists in advance of a presidential bid?

And overall: Why? Why the fight, the drama, the tension?

Perhaps the answer is in who came to Andrew Cuomo’s rescue at the WFP convention: none other than Mayor Bill de Blasio. Darling of the Working Families Party and the professional left.

Maybe it’s as simple as de Blasio and his allies just taking another pol down a peg after a strenuous six months.

As always with Albany…we may never know. Unless there’s an indictment.

Midwinter Resolution: Fair Trade Baking

Posted in Food and Drinks, Green Product Reviews on January 31st, 2013

Something that “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” reminded me of was that chocolate is frequently farmed with slave labor, and that farmers are exploited by the large manufacturing companies who produce and distribute it. I don’t keep a lot of candy in my house, but I do buy chocolate chips and cocoa powder to use when baking fairly regularly.

I like to give Divine fair trade chocolate as a gift, but last week at the supermarket I thought about the fact that the chips in my cookies might be made by slaves too. I knew that there were human rights problems with Nestle and Hershey (although the latter has said they will only be using slave labor for a few more years) I reached for Ghirardelli, which I honestly think is better quality than those other brands, albeit slightly more expensive. Although they claim they do not use slave labor, Ghirardelli is not fair trade certified.

For Christmas, Adam and I received some Dagoba drinking chocolate which is organic and Rainforest Alliance Certified. It’s also the best hot chocolate I have ever had.

The second best hot chocolate I have ever had was made with Guittard Cococa Rouge, which to my happy surprise is both Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance certified! (They should put that on the label!)

So I do have some ideas on which brands of fair trade cocoa powder I will like to use in baking. But, what about chocolate chips? I could buy some fair trade chocolate bars and break them up, but looking around online there are several different companies that do sell fair trade chocolate chips.

The previously mentioned Divine, Dagoba and Guittard sell chips or drops. As do Sunspire and Sweet Earth. I have not yet tried any of these, and I hope I am equal to the task! Let me know if you have any recommendations.

What’s Wrong With The Lingerie Football League?

Posted in Editorials on January 22nd, 2013

Last week, the entity previously known as the “Lingerie Football League” made an announcement. It will now be known as the “Legends Football League, and

-Performance wear replaces all lingerie aspects of uniform.
-New design of logos removing any sexy female figures.
-Redesign of shoulder pads to increase protection.
-Brand tagline shifts from ‘True Fantasy Football’ to ‘Women of the Gridrion

To be honest, I expect the new uniform to be just as revealing – the video accompanying the announcement shows women lifting weights in sports bras and short shorts instead of frilly bras and panties.

I don’t object to the idea of skimpy uniforms just because they are skimpy. There is nothing wrong with the idea of erotic performance in general. But I do object to the LFL on the grounds of workers rights and human rights (Hat Tip, Fit and Feminist):

1. LFL Players don’t get paid a salary. They get a percentage of the box office for each game, depending on whether or not they win, and this money rarely amounts to minimum wage.

2. Playing a full contact sport in a uniform designed for sex appeal rather than safety is extremely dangerous. LFL players frequently suffer rug burns from playing tackle football in their underwear, which can lead to nasty infections.

“We were sustaining really severe turf burns … because we had basically elbow pads and knee pads that you could just buy at the dollar store,” said Poles, who added that she got a staph infection from the burns after the league’s championship game last February.

Even more serious is the risk of head and neck injury. The players do not wear Football helmets that other leagues use, (even women’s leagues who wear traditional uniforms) and their shoulder pads have not been adequate for the game they are playing.

“We were given shoulder pads but no helmets, and were engaging in contact at practice,” one player told me. Players say they observed multiple injuries that they believed to be concussions during practices.

Even after helmets showed up, the head injury concerns didn’t abate. According to players, the league sent them helmets that were totally inappropriate for football and had them modify the helmets themselves in dangerous ways.

“Two weeks before the game, we were sent hockey helmets and were asked to drill and attach football chinstraps and visors ourselves,” one player said. “The coaches, of course, helped. This drilling compromised the integrity of the helmet.”

Players said the safety concerns went well beyond just the helmets, though.

“More extreme concerns arose when our shoulder pads arrived a month before the game, and they were boys’ pads with a maximum weight restriction of 120 pounds,” one player said. “The majority of girls on the team weigh more than that.”

Although the recent press release notes that the shoulder pads have been resdesigned, there is no mention of a change in helmets, and this is a matter of life or death.

3. Medical treatment for injuries sustained during games or team practices are not covered by the league.

A player’s primary insurance policy is used to cover any injuries resulting from a league-mandated practice or game, according to a 2010-11 Chicago Bliss contract obtained by the Star. If the player does not have a primary policy, she can opt to pay $250 (U.S.) for a league policy that covers injury up to $10,000.

“A $10,000 cap is not going to cover any type of severe injury,” Poles said. “There are a significant number of players that are no longer playing because their insurance didn’t cover injuries.”

Natasha Lindsey, a former quarterback and captain for the Seattle Mist from April 2009 to October 2010, is suing the league for $10,000 worth of unpaid medical bills. Lindsey tore ligaments in her knee last October during the Bliss’ season opener and said she spent $16,000 on surgery plus rehab costs.

“During my injury, I was not given any insurance information by the league to help pay for any bills, although the league kept my paycheque for the first game for the ($250) insurance deductible,” she said in an email. “It took the league three months to get me an MRI and another three months to contemplate even paying half of my surgery.”

4. The league opposes the creation of a players union. Most other professional sports leagues in the United States are unionized, even niche ones like the WNBA, MLS and professional lacrosse.


Until serious changes are made to the actual terms of employment and safety protection of the players, it doesn’t matter if the name has changed from “Lingerie” to “Legends,” or if the uniforms now cover a few more inches of skin. That no player has yet been killed or paralyzed during a game is a matter of sheer luck. It’s clear that LFL puts profit and fan enjoyment/titillation over the health and lives of the players, and this is unconscionable.

Letter Writing Sunday: Grocery Store Slavery

Posted in Editorials, Food and Drinks on June 26th, 2011

My husband and I are frequent customers at our local Stop and Shop. The location is convenient, and they have a large selection of organic produce and meats for a cheaper price than Whole Foods. However, it has come to my attention via this editorial by Mark Bittman that the labor practices used by their supplier of tomatoes is akin to slavery.

Normally we get the “Nature’s Promise” tomatoes, Stop & Shop’s generic organic brand, but the label only reads “Made in the USA.” It’s impossible to tell if they were grown in the conditions Bittman describes, although they may not be as he says the fields in Florida require a massive amount of fertilizer. Luckily out local farmers market will be able to supply us with tomatoes for the time being, and we will be giving this letter to the store manager.

This website has other letters you can give to the manager at your local Giant, Kroger, Martin’s, Publix or Trader Joe’s as well. These chains also sell tomatoes from Immokalee Florida.

Why Ian Murphy Isn’t Lila Rose

Posted in Editorials on March 1st, 2011

Last week, Ian Murphy, a blogger at the Buffalo Beast, called Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, posing as conservative millionaire, and Tea Party funder David Koch. Walker believed that he was Koch, and admitted, among other things his strategies for busting the public unions of Wisconsin, that he had considered hiring people to disrupt the peaceful protests with violence and that he saw defeating the unions as akin to defeating communism.

This Sunday, on CNN’s Reliable Sources, the pundits complained that many in the media praised Murphy as a hero and bemoaned the fact that he was not demonized as Lila Rose, James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles were for trying to make people believe that Planned Parenthood and ACORN actively aided traffickers of underage girls.

KURTZ: Amy Holmes, MSNBC led with this hour after hour. The focus was on the embarrassment of Scott Walker. Nobody seemed to mention that this guy lied, that he committed a journalistic fraud, pretending to be someone else. Why?

HOLMES: Right. Well, I think because it fits their ideological framework. And I looked at this, and he was hailed as “Most Intriguing Person of the Day” by CNN. And you didn’t see the hand-wringing over journalistic ethics like you did, say, in the ACORN case, when those two young people used the same sorts of tactics of being an impostor and sort of — some people would say tricking people into participating in this. And there, there was a huge discussion about journalism and is this fair, is this right?

In this, it was, like, he’s a hero. He accomplished a feat, as you just heard.

KURTZ: I was also struck by CNN saying he was the “Most Intriguing Person.” If anybody who worked for CNN did what this guy did, they would have been fired.

Jim Warren, you want to get in on this?

WARREN: Yes. I mean, on one hand, I thought it was fascinating and revealing, what was going on in the governor’s mind in a certain sort of cynical pragmatism that was playing out on his side.

At the same time, I didn’t see this guy as performing any vaguely legitimate form of journalism. He was perpetuating an absolute hoax, starting with misidentifying himself. Although I think there are times when mainstream legitimate journalists can misidentify themselves. But, boy, it has to be for higher causes — maybe saving lives or actually revealing some huge systemic government fraud. In a case like this, just to embarrass, no.

KURTZ: And Steve —

PEARLSTEIN: He’s not a journalist. He’s a blogger. That doesn’t mean there’s not two overlaps between those two, but there is a difference between them, and you just identified one of them.

KURTZ: Well, look at the way it was picked up. We talked about MSNBC playing this. Fox News barely mentioned it, although Greta Van Susteren was interviewing Governor Walker, so she asked him about the call.

And as Amy points out though, when the ACORN sting happened — you remember James O’Keefe and the pimp and the prostitute — liberal commentators all attacked them, but Fox News played them up and that story up in a way that was much more favorable.

So how much of this is ideological.

HOLMES: Right. And the ACORN folks, they said that they were activists. They were very explicit about their point of view, where, in this case, oh, well, maybe he’s a blogger, maybe he’s a journalist. It doesn’t really matter and he doesn’t get any kind of criticism for his methods.

KURTZ: Are you giving — saying we should judge people like this by a different standard because they are not card-carrying newspaper journalists, they’re just bloggers, or they have online news sites?

PEARLSTEIN: Well, Howie, you sort of dismiss it with the question, well, they are not card-carrying. He’s not a journalist because he doesn’t behave like a journalist.

How do I know he doesn’t behave like a journalist? He does pranks like that. Journalists don’t do that. I’m not saying there’s not a legitimate function for it, but that’s not what journalists do.

Here’s the difference between Ian Murphy and Lila Rose.

Ian Murphy started with the premise that Scott Walker would talk to David Koch, but not to him. He knew the two had political ties, and wanted to find out more about their relationship and whether or not Walker was participating in illegal activity. All he really found was political dirt – but he never claimed otherwise. He presented the audio unedited to the world, and while his opinions are well known, he didn’t make any claims that the audio could not support.

Lila Rose started with the premise that Planned Parenthood aides and abets pimps who traffic underage girls. When she found no evidence of this, she insisted that it did. The films have been shown to be heavily edited, so it’s difficult to know what really went on.

Finally, there’s something satisfying about punching up. Ian Murphy was attacking a man who is trying to take the collective bargaining rights away from state employees like teachers, nurses, and prison guards. Lila Rose is attacking an organization that gives contraceptives and cancer screenings to poor people. If there’s a reason he seems more sympathetic to you, that’s probably it.