Big Boss Man vs the Indigent Children

July 7, 2013

laughingtothebank

Political Cartoon by Khalil Bendib

By Eric Ahlberg

Get a job. Nothing seems to disturb the gentrifiers of Venice like unemployed youth hanging out on their block. Why can’t they just get a job like us decent hard working American middle class people. Well maybe the jobs suck, the pay sucks, and often the employers suck.Venice has it’s share of sucky employers, from popular trendy restaurants to the fast food chains.

The boss, the big guy, the guy in charge, the entrepreneur, the self-made man, the guy who can take the money right out of the till. It has come to our attention that several local restaurants have settled lawsuits over wages and hours and unreported income. I’m sure it’s just an annoyance to them, and viewed as unfair, and they see it as a conspiracy of Lawyers and disgruntled ex-employees after money, which is true enough, that’s what it takes to settle. It’s all about the money. Restaurant workers must be paid at least minimum wage, excluding tips.

The restaurant servers may pool tips, to share with the other workers. Restaurant Owners may try to take control of tips, but tips are gratuities from customer to server and the restaurant owner should have no part in it. Restaurant workers are also entitled to uninterrupted 30-minute meal breaks and 10-minute rest breaks. It is ironic that employees working in the food service business are illegally deprived of their right to enjoy an uninterrupted 30-minute meal and be relieved of their work duties during this time. Violations of the employment laws can subject the employers to six figure settlements, including back pay, penalties, fines and civil penalties.

The failure to pay proper overtime compensation or pay for missed meal and rest periods may give rise to other violations of California’s labor laws. In addition to the actual overtime compensation owed to the employee (computed at 1.5 or 2 timesthe employee’s regular rate), employees may recover the following: 1) Legal Interest 2) Statutory Penalties. 3) Attorney’s Fees and Costs 4) Civil Penalties.  If you think your employer is screwing you, we suggest you file claims and contact an Employment Attorney at http://goo.gl/Ym7wi. There are several employment attorneys in Venice.

Restaurant owners have a great incentive to cheat workers on hours worked and overtime, and often do so with impunity. Why? Because they can be greedy Pricks. If a restaurant owner is a prick about paying his workers, he is also a prick about most other things. This is what greed does to people, they must seek advantages over others, and pocket the difference. This is basic capital accumulation on the grass roots scale in the small businesses.  Now we love it when a business has a positive attitude toward its workers, it pays them well, and encourages them to be a team player with the other workers, and treats them kindly. But then there are the arrogant entitled shits who are always trying to screw everybody, who seem to always question your worth to them, even when you pull their ass out of the fire. You’re just a fucking peon and you are lucky to have a job. Seventy percent of American workers are “emotionally disconnected” at work, with nearly one in five employees “actively disengaged.” Fifty percent of women work for minimum wage, and that includes a lot of single moms.

Indolent youth on the street? Get a job bum! But what’s a young person to do? Twenty percent youth unemployment, fourty-three percent for black youth.  Anybody ever see a Oakwood black kid working on Abbot Kinney Fast Food Job? Forty percent of fast food outposts in the country fail to consistently pay their employees a minimum wage or overtime, and eighty-four percent of NY fast food workers complained that their employers regularly force them to work off the books, work overtime without overtime pay or pony up for their own gas for deliveries. The whole structure of franchising is set up to throw workers under the bus while insulating corporations from the messy exigencies of their labor. Sexual harassment too. A GF of mine, a great flute player, studied with Galway, but she was working at a national hamburger chain. Turned out that it’s mandatory to attend team building retreats where fucking your superior is your path to suckcess.

No Future? Yes we still treasure the punk rebellion cuz it sucked hard. Now the world is going punk Anarchy everywhere while the richest just keep getting richer. No Future is what the one percent are offering.

Then we have the bottom of the labor pool. The Homeless Street Kids. These kids seem to be the punching bags for the OPD gentrifiers in Venice.  They’re the most likely to try sleeping in a car, because it is unsafe to sleep in the bushes.  There are 10,000 homeless youth in LA. Here is a recent report about this issue, No Way Home: http://goo.gl/nJ3Ph

The statistics are frightening..
• Every 26 seconds a child runs away, and 1.6 million children run away from home each year in the U.S.
• One in three teens will be recruited by a “pimp” within 48 hours of leaving home and becoming homeless.
• At least 100,000 to 300,000 youth are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation annually in the U.S.
(Estes and Wiener, 2001)
• The average age of entry into the commercial sex industry in the U.S. is 12 years old.

Hollywood has a serious problem with homeless street kids and prostitution.  Sexing people up for money is a survival skill, also known as the oldest profession, and the pimps know what a gold mine a beautiful young thing can be. You don’t suppose any of those 12 year old sex workers are in Venice?  Here we like to bitch about 12 year old Muslim brides in the Middle east, what’s wrong with those people?

The Golden Path to Riches…Exploitation.  Exploitation can be defined as any harmful or dangerous work detrimental to the physical, psychological well-being and emotional development of children and / or disrupting their education. Child abuse affects 1 in 8 children in the world – about 179 million children between the ages of 4 and 17 years (ILO 2002). Sexual abuse through exploitation for commercial purposes is one of the main violations of children’s rights. Approximately 1 million children (mainly girls but a considerable number of boys also) fall into the sex industry each year. The refugee phenomenon of exploited and abused children, street children and children engaged in hazardous work, is a universal phenomenon.  The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors recently launched a multiagency task force to address the ongoing issue of sex trafficking involving youth in the foster care system. The move was spurred the passage of an anti-sex-trafficking ballot measure, which county officials said will shift much of the responsibility for juvenile prostitutes from the criminal justice system to the foster care system. Which is to say that when you call the cops on a homeless youth, you may be sending them into sexual slavery in a corrupt foster care system.

The system is broken folks, the government is not able to take care of this and it is up to you. How about instead you get to know them, respect their humanity, have some empathy, and help them get to an appropriate solution provider. This problem is only going to get worse unless you act to create and support humane solutions.
•HOLLYWOOD HOMELESS YOUTH PARTNERSHIP: http://hhyp.org/
•A Safe Place for Youth – has a drop in center in Venice Beach, open Tuesdays and Thursdays. Donations and Volunteers welcome. http://safeplaceforyouth.org
•My Friend’s Place assists and inspires homeless youth to build self-sufficient lives. http://myfriendsplace.org/
•The Gay and Lesbian Center has a youth center on Highland in Hollywood. http://goo.gl/XM8Qq
•Los Angeles Youth Network http://layn.org/
•Ocean Park Community Center 1616 7th Street Santa Monica 90401 Free food Mon., Wed., Fri. 9am.
•Teen Challenge 3156 Euclid St., Lynwood, free christian residential program, intake on Tuesdays from 1-4pm.
•Housing Resource center, low income housing Call 877-428-88444
•PATH-People Assisting the Homeless–low income housing 340 N. Madison ave., L.A.
•New Image Shelter–3804 Broadway Place, L.A. Call 323-231-1711
•Labor Ready (ID reqired) Short term work 323-860-0783
•Los Angeles Dream Center one year discipleship Call 213-273-7171
•Los Angeles Mission, 213-629-1227 ext. 317

•Downtown Woman’s Center-213-613-1024, 325 S. Los Angeles St. 90013

•New Beginings Christian Discipleship 323-766-1784, 1167 W 39th PL, L.A. 90037
– with help from Rick Garvey, The Asian Journal,
‘How Fast Food Companies Steal Worker’s Pay’ by
Seth Freed Wessle


Skateboarding While Black

September 1, 2012

By Ronald McKinley

While skateboarding home on a nice, warm summer afternoon, Ronald Weekley, Jr. was beaten and then arrested by LAPD. Not beaten and arrested; there is a difference. The charge was for skateboarding on the wrong side of the street, and resisting arrest. Weekley has a broken nose, fractured cheek, and a concussion.

Several cell phone cameras captured the incident on Saturday, August 18. All the videos were by women who lived in the area. They can be heard speaking to the police.

One woman can be heard saying, “hit him again for the camera” in an effort to stop the police from doing just that. Weekley was prone face down and handcuffed on the lawn in front of his home, with four well-fed cops on his back. One of the officers grabbed Weekley’s hair with his left hand and punched him in the face with his right. One woman said, “That was a bitch-ass move.” Meanwhile other officers, not involved in the beat-down, tried to stop the videoing. Later she said: “ I know this isn’t Orange County, we just want to make sure you don’t kill him.”

The call for documentation could be heard: “video, video, video, video.” There were several cell phones recording. The women were brave, they kept a dialogue going with the police the entire time Weekley was prone on the ground. They were not kind to the police. I would have not been so inclined myself.

The Violent Crime Task Force is whom we have to thank for this mess. I thought they were supposed to stop violent crime. So skateboarding on the wrong side of the street is a violent crime? I guess if you knock over someone’s latte…

At the Venice Neighborhood Council’s August 21 meeting, held at the Westminster Elementary School auditorium, Capt. Brian Johnson, the commander of the pacific division, and Alex Bustamante, the inspector general of the police commission, held a question and answer session in the public safety-LAPD report portion of the meeting. This report includes a monthly Venice crime report and updates on law enforcement issues in Venice.

Johnson spoke on policing constitutionally, a favorite theme of his. He did not know the status of the officers involved in the incident, they could still be on the street. Bustamante spoke about the job of the office of the inspector general, the Professional Standards Bureau quality control for the police department. He also answered questions.

A number of people at this meeting spoke on being humiliated by the LAPD. One woman spoke about five officers stopping her from returning to her home after shopping. One man spoke about his 4th of July celebration stopped by the police; he said they set up a command post in front of his house. This happened to me some years ago, after the police formed a skirmish line and cleared the whole beach, after a confrontation in the pavilion between the police and graffiti artists.

The August 28 community meeting concerning Weekley, who called himself “present-day Rodney King,” was an intense gathering attended by Johnson, Bustamante, and Mike Bonin from Rosendahl’s office. The policemen who were involved in Weekley’s arrest did not attend any of the meetings or rallies that took place.

Johnson pretended not to know there was racial profiling taking place under his watch. He spoke of Oakwood and was corrected by a woman in attendance, according to whom, “Oakwood is a park, but all of it is Venice. Separating Oakwood from Venice is a ploy to separate blacks from Venice.”

Venice is changing, and not for the better. Money has found Venice. The police answer to the moneyed. Walk down Rose Av. from the boardwalk to Lincoln Blvd. Slowly the people who make Venice, Venice are beaten down.

The place that perfected skateboarding is now making it a crime. I don’t skateboard. I did when I was a teenager; that is when we nailed skates to a board. This is what happens when you don’t vote. Someone who doesn’t know you decides your fate.

Weekley, Jr. was held for six hours before being treated for his injuries. He was told he had to sign a certain document before treatment. I could not find out what this document was.

Weekley, Sr. spoke of a legacy, where young people of all colors could enjoy Venice; where kids could walk, skate and play in their own community without fear.

Now we wait to see if the charges against Weekley, Jr. are dropped. We wait on the use of force report. This investigation could and probably will continue until sometime next year. Peace from the police and enough is enough.


Skateboarding is Not a Crime

September 1, 2012

By CJ Gronner

There was a rally August 22 for Ronald Weekley, Jr., the kid that was beaten by police August 18th for skateboarding on the wrong side of the street. In Venice, California. That alone should tell you how wrong it is.

How horrifying is it that this can still happen in this day and age! And how inspiring and chill inducing it was to be there this afternoon with a Venice community that CARES, and is demanding action.

Weekley, Jr.’s skater friends were there, his classmates, his neighbors, the news, and people that had never heard of him before this despicable incident, came out in support on a gorgeous Venice afternoon, as cars of strangers drove by and honked their support.

The police line is that the young skater was violating traffic code by skating down the wrong side of the street (who hasn’t?), and then resisting arrest for this blatantly heinous crime (who wouldn’t?!). Then it was somehow decided to have four cops beat him up. In broad daylight. In front of his home that he was skating back to. He has a concussion, a broken cheek, jaw and nose, and frankly, he looked a little like a Picasso painting as he stood in front of the crowd at the rally. For SWB. (“Skateboarding While Black”, as one of the speakers said, and which appears to be so sad, but awfully true. Sorry, but you consider the neighborhood, the kid doing nothing anyone else doesn’t do every day in Venice, and it really does look like his afro was his main problem. Which sickens me just to type). His father said that his son had thought he was going to die. In front of his own home. For SKATING!

Weekley Jr’s very well-spoken and unbelievably calm, considerate father, Ronald Weekley, Sr., addressed the gathered crowd and brought tears to my eyes with his considerate and heart-felt words. He clearly loves his community, and wants kids of ALL colors to skate safely in Venice. He said people have asked what the family wants, and it is simply to have their son’s charges dropped (he had to spend a night in County Jail without visiting a hospital first!), and the police officers that committed the crimes against Weekley, Jr. identified and charged publicly. In other words, JUSTICE. Which IS what we want, and we do want it NOW, as the chant went.

Mr. Weekley, Sr. went on to say that they hold no vengeance, no hate, and they are practicing forgiveness, but “forgiveness in context”. That’s right. He asked for skaters around California (and the World) to join together to combat police oppression, and “Redefine what it means to protect and serve!” That got a round of applause, as did most everything everyone said. When we weren’t crying.

Like I was when Weekley, Jr. took the microphone stand and cried himself as he very softly said, “Don’t be angry at what happened … Just help people that need it.” What a special young man, that he already lives in a place of forgiveness, and is himself moving on to looking how to help others.

Obviously we have a big problem with police using excessive force in this country. It happens far too often to deny it. Now the press has it out that Weekley Jr. had warrants out for traffic misdemeanors  (that almost everyone in Los Angeles has also had), but who cares? Police can’t tell you have warrants by looking at you, and warrants don’t equal beatings, even in our antiquated law books. The Weekleys have retained Benjamin Crump to help them, the same attorney who is handling the Trayvon Martin case. The Nation Of Islam were there today, standing in solidarity in their bow ties, and their spokesman Tony Muhammad reiterated that “This is not about color, this is about justice.”

Reverend Al Sharpton called the family, and let them know that the whole nation is watching Venice now because of this. Venice 2000 and the Venice Neighborhood Council were both represented, and all claimed to be in it “for the long haul.” Police need to be re-trained in cultural sensitivity, and as their Pastor, Horace Alan, of Westminster Baptist said, “We are ALL human beings … and human beings need to be treated better than laws.” Amen.

Weekley, Sr. took the microphone again in closing, and expressed his family’s gratitude for everyone there, for this “Community of HUMAN BEINGS”, and again said all they want is for kids to be FREE to live and play safely in Venice. Everyone wants that. For it to be the police themselves making that NOT the case is abhorrent, and Venice won’t stand for it, I can tell you that. Over-zealous, over-steroided, over-whatever their problem is cops will not be tolerated here. Where skateboarding is definitely NOT a crime.

The press conference wrapped and one of the young skaters started up the Justice chant as Weekley Jr. was surrounded by press wanting more from him.

The chant evolved into “Peace From The Police!” as the group made their way down 6th Street, holding signs that read “Justice 4 Ron!” and the best one, “PEACE for Ron!” To quote everyone there, …. “YEAH!”


Day of Remembrance to Honor Oakwood Deceased

June 1, 2012

Every year  on Memorial Day, we remember the dead and wounded of the wars our country has fought against other countries. The H.E.L.P.E.R Foundation invites everyone, on June 15 and 16, to remember the dead and wounded from a war that took place right here in Venice 18 years ago. From August 1993 to June 1994, a real war raged between the Black and Latino gangs in Oakwood, there was at least one gunshot EVERY night; usually more than one, often many more. It ended with three separate shooting incidents in one day (two dead and two seriously wounded in one, one person with a minor wound in each of the other two.) When the war was over 17 people had died and 55 had been wounded in 10 months.

Many present-day Venice residents don’t remember that time, either because they’re too young, or they moved here after 1994. Whether or not you can attend a Day Of Remembrance event take some time to think about what YOU can do to help ensure that nothing like that ever happens again. Especially now, when so many outside forces threaten the very identity of Venice, it’s time for everyone who loves Venice, regardless of ethnicity or socio-economic class, to help build a commUNITY where Venetians will NEVER fight other Venetians again.


Benches and Tables to Remain at Oakwood Park; New Fitness Stations? Maybe

November 1, 2011

By Anne Alvarez

Fitness stations versus park benches was the most important item on the Oakwood Park Advisory Board’s agenda, Nov. 1, and quite clearly what drove Venice locals to come out and make their voices heard.

According to Lizka Mendoza Oakwood Park Director, final decision for it’s whereabouts are unknown. At one point, according to various people in attendance, during a previous Advisory meeting had been led to believe that “park benches would be removed in order to make room for the exercise equipment” this statement was denied by Mendoza and the rest of the board members.

One thing was made clear however, and that is that Venice residents most of them lifetime residents, are completely opposed to any kind of relocation or removal of park benches, which according to many like Sheila Smith, who has lived in Venice for the past 44 years, is where the true heart of the community lies. Old friends gather and play dominoes, checkers or cards on any given day, family picnics and birthday celebrations take place every weekend. It is a place where memories and tradition are kept alive.

Gentrification is a word that was used by most who took the floor, the local community mostly African American and Latino which have resided in the Oakwood park area for generations, feel their community is being torn apart by the new more affluent residents that have recently begun to call their neighborhood, home, and they turned out in force to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Not only do residents oppose the proposed site for the exercise equipment, but they want more park benches added as well as an outdoor restroom.

Not one person was opposed to having outdoor exercise equipment provided, Shaylon Williams from the Venice Bulldogs said “Having a fitness area is a great idea.”  95 percent of those who spoke voiced their concerns about the location, while the other 5 percent were concerned with trash and safety. All made valid points and everyone present at the meeting clearly cares about the future of the community.

Make your voice heard by sending an email to Jon Kirk Muri  jonkirk.mukri@lacity.org  or calling 213-202-2656 at Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Dept., tell them you oppose any attempt to move or relocate any existing park benches at Oakwood Park, let them know bathrooms and proper lighting are imperative in keeping the Park and community safe and clean.


Vera Davis Center Offers Services, Needs Help

October 1, 2011

By Greta Cobar

The Venice community won the legal battle to allow social services to continue being provided out of the Vera Davis. However, operating budgets have been slashed significantly by the city of LA, and the organizations operating are reaching out to those who are able to donate money in order to ensure that in these tough times the needy still have a refuge.

The Mildred Cursh Foundation provides food distribution every first and third Thursday of the month starting at 12:30pm. In addition, Reach for the Top brings in and hands out fresh, organic vegetables, tofu, yogurt and other healthy items every Friday from 1pm to 5pm. Bread and Danishes are also available every Tuesday and Thursday morning. An estimated five to six hundred people show up to take advantage of the free meals every month, and more are always invited to participate.

Another great program that has been running out of the Vera Davis center is Tech Training, with classes re-starting October 4. Lois Webb coaches students through instruction in Web Design, E-Commerce, Microsoft Office, CISCO and Digital Music Production to name just a few. The classes are available every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 1pm to 3pm for adults and from 3pm to 5pm for youth under 18. The computer-based training allows the participants to go over and over each section until they are comfortable moving on to the next section without the intimidating pass/fail grading system. Twelve computers are available, and all classes are free of charge.

The Latino Resource Organization provides free legal consultations concerning taxes, immigration or passport questions every weekday from 8:30am to 1pm. Department of Public Social Services representatives are available every fourth Thursday to help people sign up for food stamps. Senior bingo takes place every Friday night, and Alcoholics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings take place Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

The dedicated volunteers who run these programs, especially the food distribution efforts, are in dire need of some help from those who are fortunate enough to be able to spare. Let’s make an effort to sustain these vital programs in these dire times.


Oakwood Barbecue Draws Hundreds

August 1, 2011

By Roger Linnett

The 5th Annual Venice Community BBQ and Picnic held at Oakwood Park July 16 was acclaimed a rousing success by all who attended. In addition to tons of great food and equally tasty music there were games and races and a jumper for the kids, a tug-of-war, a watermelon-eating contest and a food competition.

The BBQing duties were expertly handled again this year by the firefighters from Venice’s own Station #63, and the enormous, mobile MOAB (Mother Of All BBQs).  (You’d think those guys deal with enough smoke already, though, come to think of it, probably not as appetizing.)

A host of volunteers served up a wonderful array of “pot luck” side dishes, including various green and pasta salads, the essential and traditional baked beans and much more brought by a host of area residents to complement the BBQ’d chicken, pulled pork and hot dogs served up by the firemen and volunteers. A nice assortment of homemade cookies and cupcakes provided a sweet finish to the delicious meals.

A line of hungry Venetians, that snaked its way across the grassy field, barely diminished in length during the entire afternoon. Between 1,200 and 1,500 people were fed thanks to the efforts of the firemen, the volunteers and the donations by the event’s many Venice-area sponsors.

VNC President Linda Lucks served as M.C., introducing several featured speakers, including Deputy Mayor Larry Frank, who was pleased to announce that the city’s libraries, including our own Abbot Kinney Branch would return to a six day-a-week schedule starting July 18, due in large part, he said, to the employees of the City of L.A., who helped ease the city’s financial problems by making concessions in their compensation and benefits.

The ubiquitous Councilman Bill Rosendahl was on hand, and gave out four Certificates of Recognition to the BBQ Committee that included Barklie Griggs, who organized the BBQ portion of the event and spent two days prepping and cooking, Mindy Meyer, Daryl Barnett and Carolyn Rios of the VNC.

Part of the festivities included a competition and prizes for the best entry in several food categories. Ana Metcalf’s acclaimed 5-bean salad took the prize for best side dish, and Chad Mann won the best dessert prize for his sublime lemon bars. Also, the VNC conducted a raffle for some great donated door prizes, which included bottles of wine and a stay at the Hotel Erwin.

Music for the afternoon’s festivities was supplied by four musically distinctive, but equally polished, acts, perfectly suited to the occasion. Kicking off the fun was the New Bethel Baptist Church Choir – a wonderfully powerful and enthusiastic group whose joyful sound washed over the crowd like the warm breezes off the ocean and set the mood for a one-big-happy-neighborhood block party.

Following them was Alejandro and his guitar. Compared to the choir who filled the stage, Alejandro almost looked lonely on the big stage, but his clean, clear voice and rousing ‘n’ rocking artistry on the guitar matched them in volume and set the audience’s toes to tappin’ as he pounded out one upbeat pop classic song after another.

After the announcements and acknowledgements mentioned above, it was time for the Venice Kazoo Band, showcasing our abundant local talent. They were a perfect warm up for J.T. Ross and his blues band. They took the stage for a raucous set of authentic Chicago-style blues with J.T. on harmonica. Echoes of Paul Butterfield, Elvin Bishop and Mike Bloomfield charged the atmosphere and took the party up another notch.

Rounding out the afternoon’s musical tetrad was the 7-piece Ska/Reggae band, FuDogs. Combining spot-on covers of The English Beat, Elvis Costello and Chicago with some original compositions, FuDogs had a whole herd of folks, dubbed “The Grass Dancers,” and everyone else for that matter, hoppin’ and boppin’ to their infectious, brassy sound.

When it came time to call it a day, everyone gave the organizers, volunteers and firemen a rousing round of appreciative applause and then dragged themselves home for a late afternoon nap while a dedicated band of volunteers removed any sign of the good times, save the stage and huge canopy, until next year.


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