BY AMY Z. QUINN Like time, news waits for no man. Keeping up with the funny papers has always been an all-day job, even in the pre-Internets era. These days, however, it’s a two-man job. That’s right — these days you need someone to do your reading for you, or risk falling hopelessly behind and, as a result, increasing your chances of dying lonely and somewhat bitter. Hey, we know how it is — so many words to read, so little time to surf for free porn. That’s why every week, PAPERBOY does your alt-weekly reading for you, freeing up valuable nanoseconds that can now be better spent “roughing up the suspect” over at Suicide Girls or what have you. Every week we pore over those time-consuming cover stories and give you the takeaway, suss out the cover art, warn you off the ink-wasters and steer you towards the gooey caramel center of each edition. Why? Because we like you.
ON THE COVER
CITY PAPER: It’s a tossup for which is more effed up, the fact that the middle-class jobs that were once labor unions’ stock and trade are being replaced by low-wage service jobs, or exactly how low those wages are. Doron Taussig brings a broad view to the labors of the purple-clad Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and its efforts to bring a living wage to the people who clean up the offices after the union meetings.
Philly is a union town — everyone knows this. No one changes a light bulb in a large building without the help of John Dougherty and his electricians’ union, and the public sector remains a labor stronghold. But in recent years, this state of affairs has come to seem stagnant, still. Incidents . . . where unions triumph over adversarial employers, bring in new members and win them raises are actually quite rare. Organized labor has not, in many cases, reached the Philadelphians working low-paying jobs; it has not rebuilt the blue-collar middle class that left when manufacturing moved overseas.
Into this fray steps Wayne MacManiman Jr., now the leader and tough-guy-in-charge of the city’s SEIU local, now merged with similar locals in the Mid-Atlantic for even greater bargaining power. And things have started to happen for its members, many of them black or Latino women, people like maintenance worker Blanca Rivera.
Immediately, Rivera got a 50-cent-an-hour bump, to $8.50. Then she got another bump, and another. Now she’s up to $10.38, and in January, she’ll get another 75 cents. By the time the contract phases in, she’ll make about $14 an hour (minus union dues of about $40 a month), plus medical benefits she’s never had before (“If I get sick,” she says, “I go to the store and buy me some Tylenol”) and vacation days. Already, she can afford to eat a little better, and to go out occasionally with friends. Once the contract is fully in place, who knows?
“I think I’ll be able to move out of there,” she says. “I’ll be able to have a bank account.”
All the bad things you sometimes hear about unions are sometimes true: They can be corrupt, intractable, enablers of lassitude. But at its best, organized labor performs a fundamental role in a capitalist society: It makes it possible for people with no individual bargaining power to live economically dignified lives.
PHILADELPHIA WEEKLY: All hail the Fall Guide 2007, aka the alterna-weekly version of a fashion/arts/events preview. You won’t find any breathless proclamations about the Return! Of! The! Suit! or a listing of local corn mazes for the kiddies to cavort through, but you will find out which local designer can make you “an impressively Lynchian toothless teddy bear with one porcelain doll leg that might talk in reverse in your dreams.” There’s also a rundown on all the big music acts coming through town, what’s afoot on the local boards, new books headed to the shelves, and what’s to come on the local art scene. There’s a lot in there, so take your time with it. It’s gotta last you all week, remember? Also, in case Santa’s listening, I still never got a Track+Field bag. Sigh.
INSIDE THE BOOK
CP: East Falls no longer has a hospital, but it may soon have the Philadelphia Youth Study Center, an allegedly temporary solution to that pesky problem, namely where to put the juvies once the Barnes Foundation moves to the Ben Franklin Parkway. Note to Future Mayor Nutter: The folks in your former Councilmanic district are pissed. Now that most all of my girlfriends are married, the bachelorette party trips that once delivered us unto The Cave are few and far between. Though we could be persuaded to make a special trip for Carlos The Latin Lover.
PW: Cosmetic tattooing isn’t just for perma-liner. Sometimes, it’s an act of mercy. In all seriousness, a note to Liz Spikol: You can buy cheap, but accurate, pregnancy tests in bulk on the Internet. Maybe having them on hand all the time will calm your anxiety, the way having a pack of cigarettes in my purse at all times makes me less prone to have a freakout-oh-my-god-I-need-to-smoke-right-now nicotine fit. Plastic Little or Bloodhound Gang? You make the call.
WINNER: CP — IS THIS A THREEPEAT?