Morales Spreads the Money

Thanks to a heads up from our contributor - Sapere-aude - I caught this small development down in Bolivia. The newly elected president held true to a campaign promise (is this a first for a politician?) that he would cut his salary in half. In fact, he cut it by 57% to about $1800 per month. Morales also urged the Congress to cut their salaries as well, as by law in Bolivia, nobody in the government can earn more than the president (this according to a BBC article). He said that the money would be used to increase the number of doctors and teachers in the country. Check back, as recycled minds will continue with updates on further developments in Bolivia, Latin America, and beyond. Here's a link to a BBC article that tells of the paycut.
And how about this photo of Evo Morales (on the right) with superstar soccer player, Diego Maradonna, wearing a classic t-shirt with a message that has huge support around the world.

From Someone Who Knows...

It turns out that unbeknownst to me, a friend of mine has worked at both WalMart and WholeFoods. While I detest WalMart, I appreciate the fact that WholeFoods provides one of the bigger markets for alternative earthfriendly products, so it was disheartening to see the two compared. Anyway, here's my friends response to the previous post along with the article on Alternet:

I want to address the recent article that appeared on Alternet comparing Whole Foods to Wal-Mart. The idea behind the article is that people who work for low wages at Wal-Mart can’t afford the food they sell there while those who work at Whole Foods struggle with the same thing. I’ve worked for both companies spending two years as a deli worker and then stir-fry chef at Whole Foods and a year and a half as an unloader at Wal-Mart. From an employees standpoint the two companies are night and day. Wal-Mart wastes so much stuff because they refuse to give it out to employees. In some instances they will sell food that is about to expire at a lower rate but the food is never given out. At Whole Foods I took home shopping bags full of produce and baked goods every night. What wasn’t taken by the employees was then donated to organizations such as food not bombs or soup kitchens so that they could give it out to their customers. Wal-Mart would never do this, never. About the pay I started both jobs making seven dollars an hour. Within a year at Whole Foods I was moved to eight dollars and then within four more months I was moved to nine dollars an hour. At Wal-Mart the raises have consisted of forty cents here and forty cents there. Only when I moved to a higher paying region and started working at a Supercenter did I get an hourly wage remotely similar to what I was making at Whole Foods. But and this is a big but there is no mention in the article about the bonus checks Whole Foods pays each month to their employees. The checks are based on how much profit is left over at the end of the month and would usually turn into a dollar per hour worked or an extra one hundred and sixty dollars a month for a full time employee. Over the course of a year that is an extra two thousand dollars. That on top of the free food they allowed their workers to have makes Whole Foods a far better employer than Wal-Mart. Of course that’s not all. Whole Foods also provided merit benefits and opportunities to win gift certificates by learning about the products. They took the form of quizzes and each month the person with the highest percent of questions answered correctly would receive a twenty five dollar gift certificate. The scores were kept over a period of four months and the one with the highest total during that period was given a hundred dollar gift certificate. Needless to say for eight months in a row I was the highest scorer and that translated into an extra four hundred dollars in gift certificates. Now I could keep going about the fact that while illegal immigrants worked at Whole Foods they were paid similar wages to the other workers at the store and because of that these workers made more than they would anywhere else but I’ll save you the details. Take it from me, Whole Foods may be overpriced (although most health food stores are) and it may have its faults but it should not in anyway be compared to Wal-Mart.

It sounds like there really is no comparison.

Whole Foods = High Prices

Here's an interesting article posted on written by Stan Cox, who has done previous work demonstrating that a full-time WalMart employee could not afford to shop for basic needs at Walmart. Well, guess what? Whole Foods - the natural foods giant - falls under the same roof. The article lays it all out, but the bottom line is a new hire working the check-out lines can not afford to buy his/her basic needs at Whole Foods - even without food taxes and after an employee discount! It is fairly obvious that the real problem here is not product, but corporate ownership. When the bottom line is all important, the worker is left behind trying to survive - even if the product is supposedly earth friendly and feel good.

Chile Adds a Voice for the Left!

Times are a changin' down in South America. It looks like Chile is the next in line to elect a left-leaning/socialist president, and to top that off, it's a woman! Oh how far the U.S. truly has to go. Michelle Bachelet is set to become Chile's first female president. An AP article calls her a "socialist doctor, and former political prisoner" from the days of Pinochet. She beat out a billionaire businessman who was hoping his ties to the right-wing would carry him to victory. It looks like those days might be over in South America.
Also check out this NYTimes article that gives a little background on Bachelet and how she came to be president.
Check back here at recycledminds for more on what plans Bachelet may have for the skinny coastal country of Chile.

Chomsky on the U.S.

One of my personal favorite political analysts, Noam Chomsky, recently provided an interview to the Seattle-based journalist Geov Parrish for Chomsky spoke about the current state of the U.S. and some of the important issues that face the country. Notably, he begins by commenting on the weakness of the Democratic party, and how in reality, they are not an opposition party to the Republicans:
"George Bush would be in severe political trouble if there were an opposition political party in the country. The striking fact about contemporary American politics is that the Democrats are making almost no gain from this. An opposition party would be making hay, but the Democrats are so close in policy to the Republicans that they can't do anything about it."
Chomsky also talks about the war in Iraq (of course) and the U.S. foreign policy in general. He states that there really is no War on Terror, and that the U.S. is really out to control natural resources, namely oil.
If you have not read Chomsky before, this is a fine example of his style of critique. If you have, check out this interview as one of his most recent. And finally, a happy belated birthday to Dr Chomsky, who recently turned 77.