Posts Tagged ‘labor’

Monday, November 14, 2011

Repeating Past History: The Occupy Movement

Despite the wisdom of elders and some noted quotations (“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it”), we are often caught up in another axiom that defines insanity: “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” When I was much younger, both of those ideas impressed me as I read books about French Indochina and France’s miserable, lengthy, disastrous attempt to rule, particularly in Vietnam.

It fueled my anti-war sentiment when the US decided to ignore the past and repeat the mistakes of the French. After another decade of slaughter, the results were the same. It struck me recently that “Occupy Wall Street” should read pertinent history to avoid the results of the past.

If you follow the media stories covering today’s movement (the 99 percent vs. 1 percent), you’ve heard about this new idea that the extreme wealth and corporate greed of the 1 percent should have limits. Likewise, you’ve heard claims from those favoring the 1 percent that by trying to raise taxes on the rich, the 99ers are waging class warfare against our wealthiest citizens.

Clearly, these are all new ideas resulting from a situation like no other. However …

If you enjoy history, you’ll probably enjoy this headline from 105 years ago, appearing in The New York Times of January 6, 1907: “The Country’s Wealth: Is 99 percent of it in the Hands of 1 percent of the People.” Similar stories appeared in many other publications.

What happened then is happening again today: supporters of the 99ers are speaking out on behalf of the unemployed, the underemployed, the underpaid, and the poor, while the other position is defended by those who feed off the 1 percent and must serve as their bullhorn. And, as usual, the 1 percent itself remains largely silent, content to have others speak out for them.

As for those siding with the 1 percent, who have declared the Occupy Wall Street movement as class warfare against the wealthy—it’s certainly a novel idea, right? These three quotations support that premise.

On the side of the 99: “The cry of class warfare was raised against us by the government and wealthy classes, as pure propaganda, in the hope of enlisting sympathy of the public against labor.”

On the side of the 1 percent, regarding tax loopholes for the wealthy: “… to collect the taxes, the administration now seeks to attack the rich and the thrifty … This becomes part and parcel of the class warfare which has been waged … to gain popular favor with the masses…”

And finally, against the 99, portrayed variously as troublemakers, lazy, shifty, drug abusing, etc.: “A peculiarity of all professional agitators of class warfare in the United States is their personal aversion to toil. Many of them never did a day’s work at manual labor. They know no more about the working people of America than a pig knows about Christmas, yet profess to be the tireless champions of the working class … and have hit upon a plan for feathering their nests without ever laying an egg. They just cackle and collect.”

Those who are involved in today’s issues would be well served by researching protests of years past, which might prepare them for arguments made against the movement. Read the three quotations again, and consider that they came from 1920, 1937, and 1949, respectively, but could just as well have been uttered by any number of talking heads who ramble on in today’s media, especially the day-long “news” shows.

Perhaps by knowing the questions that have been asked so many times in the past, and the answers that were given, there might be the possibility for change.

But for observers who look at history to see what has gone before us, it’s hard not to subscribe to another famous axiom: “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” General translation: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Photo Top: NY Times headline, January 6, 1907.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

John Warren: What the Occupation is All About

Over the past few weeks Adirondackers have gathered to hear about their economic situation and what we can do about it. North Country Public Radio’s Brian Mann has been suggesting that the Adirondack Park Agency shift its focus toward economic development. Clarkson University’s Forever Wild initiative has brought forward plans to expand broadband services and connect local workers to new wired jobs. The Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) provided its own twist on our economic situation, offering a panel that suggested we’re not as bad off as others around the nation.

Missing from these discussions has been the big picture thinking about our economic problems, namely the changes in our economic and democratic system that have endangered the ability of young people to control their economic destinies.

At the ANCA meeting last week Jaison Abel, Senior Economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, reported that “The Upstate economy has generally proven to be more stable than average, and has performed relatively well through the recession and recovery to date” [Emphasis His]. His presentation (available as a pdf here), like most of the economic discussions in the Adirondacks lately, was misleading in its narrow scope.

Taking a wider view are the demonstrators that have been occupying cities and towns across America in recent weeks. The Occupy Wall Street movement began when a large group of people, calling themselves the 99%, established a modern day Hooverville at a privately owned park near Wall Street. Despite claims they are unorganized anarchists, they have met daily in a direct democratic assembly to make decisions and plan and prepare for what has become a nationwide movement to change the fundamental operation of our relatively recently failed economic and democratic systems.

In exchange for exercising their First Amendment rights to peacefully assemble for redress of grievances, they have been maced, beaten, and driven from the places where they have assembled for democratic change. News of police actions in New York City were widely circulated via social media (disturbing video 1, 2, and 3 for example) and served to grow the ranks of protesters exponentially.

In recent days there have been beatings, macings and arrests of many more in cities such as Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Albuquerque, Portland, San Francisco, and even in Des Moines, Iowa where a former Iowa state representative and a 14-year-old girl were arrested. Many of those arrests have included bystanders, independent media, legal observers, and medics caring for the injured. It appears that more than 2,000 have been arrested so far and with widespread demonstrations planned for Saturday that number is likely to rise. Demonstrations are expected to take place over the next week in Canton, Saranac Lake, Montreal, Plattsburg, Burlington, Glens Falls, Saratoga Springs, Albany, Utica, Rochester, Syracuse, and Buffalo.

Although the call for an end to corporate control of our economic and political systems is no more vague than the Tea Party’s call for an end to big government, the Occupy Wall Street movement has been characterized as unfocused and lacking concrete goals. Two videos that have gone viral in the movement serve to sum up most of the complaints being voiced, and counter the recent criticisms. The first, which has played frequently on the Occupy Wall Street livestream is an older video from George Carlin (warning: explicit language) who warns: “it’s a big club and you ain’t in it”. The second is the first cohesive response to the movement’s detractors from John Stewart.

It’s no surprise these videos come from comedians, a class of Americans who are often the only people who can be so direct in their critiques. They also reflect the nature of the movement itself, which is forced to use a kind of comic theater of the streets to be heard. There are more serious commentators as well. Bernie Sanders points out why he thinks protests are a necessary part of the process and even traditional conservatives have weighed in at The Atlantic. The Christian Science Monitor reminds us of the long history populists movements occupying Wall Street. The Nation published an Occupy Wall Street FAQ some weeks ago when the movement was small that explains in a serious way what it’s about.

This being a largely social media driven movement, videos and documents from the 1% have been used against them. Take for example this video of a Wall Street trader on BBC who defiantly claims “governments don’t rule the world, Goldman Sachs rules the world,” or the page from JP Morgan Chase’s website which reminded protesters that they had given $4.6 million to the New York City Police Foundation, a gift they said (even while the NYPD was keeping protesters from protesting in front of their building) that “was the largest in the history of the foundation and will enable the New York City Police Department to strengthen security in the Big Apple.” Both links have gone viral among the Occupy Wall Street movement. Some of most interesting coverage of the movement is being written by a group of reporters with the Village Voice toting cameras and smart phones and posting to the #OccupyWallSt and #OccupyWallStreet hashtags on Twitter. There have been more than sixty 24-hour livestream channels set up from occupations around the world in the last 24 hours.

No doubt there will still be some who say they just don’t understand what it’s all about, so it’s probably fair to say that the movement’s goals are to roll back a number of economic trends which Adirondackers, like nearly all Americans, are experiencing. For those who like charts with facts and figures, Business Insider has a series of charts titled “Here’s What The Wall Street Protesters Are So Angry About…“. Here are a few excerpts from the most salient:

Unemployment: Three years after the financial crisis, the unemployment rate is still at the highest level since the Great Depression (except for a brief blip in the early 1980s). A record percentage of unemployed people have been unemployed for longer than 6 months. The average duration of all unemployment remains at a near an all-time high. If people working part-time who want to work full-time and people who have given up finding a job through official means are included, the unemployment rate is at 17%. That is the lowest percentage of Americans with jobs since the early 1980s.

Corporate Profits: Corporate profits are at an all-time high. As a percentage of the economy, corporate profits are near a record all-time high. With the exception of a short period just before the 2007 crash, profits are higher than they’ve been since the 1950s, vastly higher than they’ve been for most of the last half-century.

Worker Pay: CEO pay is now 350 times the average worker’s pay, up from 50 times the average worker’s pay between 1960-1985. Adjusted for inflation, CEO pay has jumped 300% since 1990 alone and corporate profits have doubled. Average “production worker” pay has increased just 4% and the minimum wage has fallen. After adjusting for inflation, average hourly earnings haven’t increased in 50 years. While CEOs and shareholders have been cashing in, wages as a percent of the economy have dropped to an all-time low.

The 1%: The top 1% of American wage earners have the biggest percentage of the country’s total pre-tax income than any time since the late 1920s, almost 2 times the long-term average. Income inequality has gotten so extreme that the US now ranks 93rd in the world in “income equality” behind China, India, and Iran.

Social Mobility Through Hard Work: Social mobility in America is near an all-time low. The top 1% of Americans own 42% of American financial wealth; the top 5% own nearly 70%. 60% of the net worth of the country held by the top 5%. Taxes on the nation’s highest-earners are close to the lowest they’ve ever been. The aggregate tax rate for the top 1% is lower than for the next 9% — and not much higher than it is for almost everyone else.

Bank Theft: Despite bailing out the banks so that they could keep lending to American businesses, bank lending has dropped sharply except to the American Government, which has risen sharply. They’ve also been collecting interest on money they are not lending — the “excess reserves” at the Federal Reserve Bank. At the same time, because the Fed has slashed the prime rate to almost zero, the banks are able to borrow money for essentially free – as a result they have made $211 billion in the first six months of 2011. That’s one reason there is near-record financial sector profits while the rest of Americans have sunk to their economic lowest.

Check the facts for yourself, but one thing is clear – all the hand-wringing about our local economies in the local media has missed the point entirely.

Photo: Above, photo-shopped Occupy Saranac Lake illustration courtesy Aaron Hobson; Middle and below, two viral Occupy Wall Street photographs that have made the rounds in the past few weeks.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Dangerous Adirondack Jobs: Produce Manager?

The North Country has been home to some dangerous occupations. If you think for a moment, you’ll probably come up with three that really stand out. The obvious choices are farming, logging, and mining. But let me offer a fourth possibility: produce manager.

Sounds ridiculous, right? Thousands have entered those other three occupations knowing full well the potential downside. Produce manager, on the other hand, seems pretty safe. But what would you choose—a job with the risk of injury, or a job that might one day “produce” your worst nightmare? If you’re squeamish, you’d have to be bananas to choose the latter. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 11, 2011

The Long and Fruitful Life of Ticonderoga’s Enos Dudley

Card of Thanks entries were routine fare in newspapers of years past. They were commonly used by families acknowledging those who provided aid and comfort during times of bereavement. The “Cards” shared a standard format—citing doctors, nurses, and friends, followed by the names of the immediate family who were doing the thanking—but some stood out as unusual. The death of Crown Point’s Enos Dudley in 1950 is a case in point.

Shortly after he passed, a Card of Thanks noted “the death of our beloved father, Enos J. Dudley” and featured the names of seven family members. Below it was a second Card of Thanks referring to Enos as “our beloved husband and father.” It ended with the names of six other family members. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Tahawus Blast Furnace Ruins

If you ever climbed Mount Marcy from Lake Colden, you probably drove up the narrow road from Newcomb to the Upper Works trailhead, past an odd but massive stone structure near the southern entrance to the High Peaks. You might have wondered about this relic from the American industrial revolution, how it worked, and when it was built.

In a few months, the Open Space Institute (OSI), which bought the site from NL Industries in 2003, will install illustrated interpretive panels explaining the fascinating history of this important Adirondack site. I’ve been working on the team preparing these panels, and I’ve learned far more about 19th-century iron smelting than I ever thought was possible. » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Adirondack Labor: New York’s Anti-Loafing Law

It’s interesting (sometimes) to listen to the multitude of political pundits, politicians, and talking heads as they inform us what our “founding fathers” intended, and the rules, ethics, and morals this country was founded on. In reality, they are often telling us what they WANT the founding fathers to have believed. History tells us they are often far off the mark, but the lack of accuracy doesn’t deter them from saying it publicly anyway.

The often muddled view of history offered by some commentators is troubling, and is usually, of course, self-serving. But the modern media has proven one thing: if you say something often enough, whether it’s accurate or not, people (and maybe even the speaker) will begin to believe it.

When it’s intentional, that’s just plain wrong. History is important. It can offer valuable perspective on possible solutions to some of our problems, and can play an important role in how we view the present and future. It can also tell us more about who we are, something that was brought to mind recently as I listened to a radio discussion about the current jobless rate.

The focus was on the nation’s high unemployment, which reminded me of how I annoyed my teachers long ago when that very same topic was discussed. Back then, we all learned how lucky we were not to live in other countries, an argument that was backed with plenty of scary facts.

For one thing, other countries allowed no choice when attacking certain problems. We were told that some countries didn’t even ALLOW unemployment. Idle men were conscripted into the military and/or put to work for the good of the nation. All male teenagers were required to begin military training. Those countries were said to be anti-freedom, but we had choices. That kind of thing couldn’t happen here.

And that was my cue to interrupt. I’ve always read a lot, and as a teenager, I was ready to challenge my teachers (and pretty much any authority). So, I thought I had a really good set of questions about those terrible practices, something I had learned on my own.

My teacher, a fervent military man who still seemed to be fighting World War II, was not amused when I said I knew of just such a place. I said that they made unemployment illegal and forced men to take jobs chosen for them by local authorities (unless the man chose one of his own). Each man was required to work a minimum of 36 hours per week.

Even worse, I added, the government passed another law ordering all teenagers 16 or older to attend military drills or perform military duties. Doing so earned them a certificate, and here’s the kicker: without that certificate, young men were not allowed “to attend public or private school or obtain employment.”

Right away the other students began guessing. Russia? Germany under Hitler? Cuba? (Cuba did outlaw unemployment at that time.) Who would order its citizens in such fashion? My classmates knew it had to be someplace evil. After all, we were in the midst of the Cold War.

At that point, I knew I was in trouble. The instructor was staring at me with cold, beady eyes, waiting for me … no, daring me … to say it. So I said it. It wasn’t intended as a criticism. I was just happy to know the truth, excited that I had learned something unusual on my own, and couldn’t wait to share the surprise (that is, until his stare began).

“New York State and the Anti-Loafing Law,” and that’s about all I was allowed to say. The teacher immediately launched into an explanation. It was true, he said, but it was nothing like the situations in other countries. We did those things, but it was different.

And he was right, maybe. But what bothered me was how he seemed to take it personally, how insulted he was. It seemed to suggest that this was HIS country. It was, but it was my country, too, so I fought back. As I soon learned, you might have the truth, but might makes right.

The Anti-Loafing Law was passed in New York State in 1918, less than a year after the US entered WW I. Maryland and New Jersey led the way, and we were next. I found it fascinating that in a democracy, the law could require all men between the ages of 18 and 50 to be “habitually and regularly engaged in some lawful, useful, and recognized business, profession, occupation, trade, or employment until the termination of the war.”

If a man didn’t have a job, a local authority was assigned to choose one for him. And no one could turn down a job because of the level of pay. Every man must work. It was the law.

“Useful” work had its implications as well. Already, by orders of the US General Provost, Enoch Crowder, men between the ages of 21 and 30 were “not permitted to be elevator conductors, club porters, waiters, pool room attendants, life guards at summer resorts, valets, butlers, footmen, chefs, janitors, or ushers in amusement places. Men of that age were needed for war.

New York’s government, indicating there would be few exceptions to the new law, fed the media a wonderful sound bite taken directly from the text: “Loitering in the streets, saloons, depots, poolrooms, hotels, stores, and other places is considered prima facie evidence of violation of the act, punishable by a fine of $100 or imprisonment for three months, or both.”

Still not clear enough? Charles Whitman, governor of New York, chimed in: “The purpose … is to force every able-bodied male person within the State to do his share toward remedying the conditions due to the present shortage of labor.” By signing the law after New Jersey passed theirs, Whitman had a handy reason: if we didn’t pass our own law, men from New Jersey would flood across the border into New York State to avoid being forced to either work or fight.

How would it sit with you today if you read this in your favorite online journal? “The State Industrial Commission will cooperate with the sheriffs, the state police, and other peace officers throughout the state to find the unemployed and to assign them to jobs, which they must fill. It will be no defense to anyone seeking to avoid work to show that he has sufficient income or means to live without work. The state has the right to the productive labor of all its citizens.”

Governor Whitman admitted “there may be some question as to the constitutionality” of the law, but enforcement began on June 1, 1918. Sheriffs across the state were required to act, and they did. Some, like Clinton County Sheriff John Fiske, made sure there were no scofflaws, scouring local establishments as the law instructed, looking for loiterers.

Those who were jailed in Clinton County had to pay a fine and serve their time, just like the law said, but they weren’t allowed to sit idle. Fiske put them to work full-time in the community, ensuring they would comply with both the letter and the intent of the law.

On the surface, those laws look absolutely un-American and undemocratic. The argument was, extreme times (WW I) call for extreme measures. Other states and countries (including Canada) passed similar laws. Maybe New Yorkers were lucky. In Virginia, compliance was extended from ages 16 to 60. And some people retire today at 55!

Learning all of that was interesting, but sharing it in school was less than wise, at least in that particular classroom. After that, my so-called “history teacher” saw me as nothing but anti-American, and he made life miserable for me. He caused me to dread that class every day.

I argued that protesting and speaking out were critical to America—it’s how the country was formed. But it didn’t matter to him, and after that, I didn’t care. I lost all respect for him. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why he wouldn’t just deal with the facts, and the truth. In my mind, that’s what every history teacher’s work should be based on.

I always hated those lame “George Washington cut down the cherry tree” stories. Making stuff up just means you have something to hide. Apparently they didn’t want us to know he owned slaves. As a teenager, I wanted the truth, and I could deal with it. It was far more interesting than some of the stuff they fed us.

Photo Top: NYS’s Compulsory Labor law.

Photo Middle: Clinton County Sheriff John Fiske.

Photo Bottom: NYS law ordering lawmen to search each community for able-bodied males.

Lawrence Gooley has authored nine books and many articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. He took over in 2010 and began expanding the company’s publishing services. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Monday, January 17, 2011

John Warren: Teresa Sayward’s Pay Day

Back in 2003, in a classic Glens Falls Post Star puff piece about one of their favorite local politicians, Teresa Sayward pined about moving to Georgia when she retired. “It may be years away, but Sayward said she and Ken have started discussing their retirement, perhaps buying a condo someplace warm for the winter months,” Stacey Morris wrote. Turns out – Sayward retired a few weeks ago.

Well, retired might not be the correct description, because Sayward won’t be leaving her job. She’ll be collecting her retirement AND her salary. That’s about $90,000 in annual salary for a six month job plus her new retirement benefit of about $30,000. From here on out, Teresa Sayward will be collecting about three times the median income per HOUSEHOLD of her constituents, for half their work.

What makes this all the more offensive is that Sayward has claimed to be a big opponent of such pensions. Just three months ago, she completed a questionnaire for the League of Women Voters. “Political appointments and benefits are way too rich, Albany needs to lead by example… retirement benefits are unsustainable,” she said, knowing full well she was about to take advantage of a loophole (along with 11 other state legislators including Janet Duprey) that would would line her own pocket. Her idea of leading by example? Get as much as you can, while you can.

I know, it seems crazy. I mean, how can it be that three months ago Sayward says that the retirement benefits of legislators are unsustainable, and now she takes advantage of a loophole that allows her to collect those same “unsustainable” benefits early? What changed? The answer is nothing. The retirement benefit she started taking now is a loophole. It’s not meant to be the actual retirement benefit, which is why just 11 legislators are taking it and Betty Little is not. It’s not a legitimate benefit as some would argue, it’s an unethical loophole and she’s scamming the system. The state closed this retirement loophole in 2005, but she’s still one of the few who are eligible and thinks they deserve it.

Just a year ago, Sayward was crowing to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise about how she was saving taxpayers money:

Another idea Sayward has is to privatize some of the golf courses, swimming pools and campgrounds. She also said cutting the number of mailings that senators and assembly members send out will save money. And, she said, both the governor’s political appointments and legislative staff could stand to be reduced. Sayward said she is already doing this herself and has one less staffer this year than last.

Did you get that? Sayward laid off one of her staffers to save money – money that is going into her own pocket. Last week Sayward gave the Post Star two reasons she deserved that money more than her employee. The first was that her husband would have to live on social security alone if she died.

“This decision did not come easily for me,” she said. “But my husband and I, as you know, are farmers. And so my husband has nothing for his retirement other than Social Security, which is not a lot.”

The second, was that she drives a lot. “Sayward said she travels a lot of miles on rural roads representing the 113th Assembly District, the largest geographically of any Assembly district in New York,” the Post Star reported, “That places her at a higher risk than average of getting in a car accident, she said.”

These excuses are outrageous – no dairy farmer expects a retirement, that’s why the average age of principal farm operators in Essex County is 54 years old. Like most Americans, local farmers work until they die, or can’t work anymore and are forced onto the public dole by the costs of their own healthcare.

Driving too much Teresa? That’s laughable to folks who live in rural areas like the Adirondack Park. The fact is, despite repeated claims to the contrary, Sayward lives outside the Blue Line in Glens Falls – maybe that’s why she drives so far.

Another item she called for, just three months ago, was term limits: “4 year terms, three terms max.” Forget for a minute that she has just started her fifth term, because she wants to extend the current two-year terms anyway, and has run unopposed the last two times around. Focus instead on the fact that Sayward thinks 12 years is enough for any one politician to be in office.

Sayward was elected to the Assembly in 2002, and before that spent many years as a politician in Willsboro. Now that she’s made her pay day, certainly she must believe her time in the job is over?

I haven’t heard her “this is my last term speech” yet, but I suspect it’s not coming.

“I’m not proud of doing this but I’m not going to hold my head down,” Sayward told WYNT.

So she knows it unethical, she just doesn’t care. The message she sends is that her family is more important than yours.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Lake Placid’s Adworkshop Certifies Women-Owned

Adworkshop, Lake Placid’s employee-owned digital marketing agency, announced this week that it is now a certified Women-Owned Business Enterprise through New York State’s Division of Minority and Women Business Development (MWBE). Adworkshop, established by Adele and Tom Connors more than three decades ago, is now listed in the Directory of Certified Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises, which is used by agencies and contractors statewide.

The MWBE certification, which is awarded by the Empire State Development Agency of New York, was given to the tourism marketing agency at the end of December. A majority percentage of the company ESOP shares are now owned by the 16 female employees of Adworkshop and Inphorm.

The MWBE program is designed to encourages equality in economic opportunities for women and minorities by seeking to eliminate barriers that may stand in the way of pursuing state contracts. Adworkshop and Inphorm join the more than 6,000 certified women and minority-owned businesses located throughout New York State.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo outlined goals for MWBE’s in his State of the State Address Jan. 5, 2011:

“Of the 1.9 million business entities operating in New York State, more than 50 percent are owned by women or minorities. The vast majority of these companies are small businesses and a critical driver of the New York State economy. To ensure that MWBE’s have the opportunity to earn their fair share of the State’s business, Governor Cuomo directed State agencies to double the current MWBE participation goal from 10 to 20 percent and ease bonding restrictions that they will face and expand the Owner-Controlled Insurance Program model to expand opportunities for small businesses.”


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Let’s Eat: Lumber Camp Cook Rita Poirier Chaisson

Rita Poirier Chaisson was born in 1914 on Canada’s Gaspe Penninsula. In 1924, her father Paul Poirier, a lumberjack, moved the family to the North Country where logging jobs were more abundant. Her mother agreed to leave Canada with reluctance. The Poirier family spoke French, no English, and she was convinced that New Yorkers “just talk Indian over there.”

The family kept a farm near Tupper Lake, with as many as 85 cows. Rita planted potatoes and turnips, and helped with the haying. She and her siblings attended a local school, where she was two years older than most of her classmates. Although she picked up English quickly, her French accent made integration difficult. She left school at the age of 14, and worked as a live-in maid, cooking and cleaning for local families for three dollars a week. She used her earnings to purchase clothes by mail order for her sisters, mother, and herself. » Continue Reading.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Hacker Builds Luxury Boat Factory to Meet Global Demand

The factory was humming, despite the fact that it was Sunday morning.

A busy factory would be an unusual sight almost anywhere in America today, but in the Adirondack Park, where unemployment exceeds 20% and manufacturing has all but disappeared, it’s a true rarity.

The fact that this plant manufactures a Lake George product that is shipped around the globe makes the factory not only a rarity, but unique.

Located in a former palette plant in Ticonderoga, the 32,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility produces Hacker boats, from start to finish.

“Our former facility, housed in several buildings, was not efficient enough. Our new facility makes it easier for us to build boats with the extraordinary craftsmanship that defines every Hacker,” said Lynn Wagemann, Hacker-Craft’s president and CEO.

According to Wagemann, the new plant has enabled Hacker-Craft to shift every aspect of production to one, central location.

Since opening the new plant in April, Hacker-Craft has hired 12 new employees and expects to hire more workers as orders for the luxury mahaogany boats increase. Hacker-Craft now provides comprehensive health insurance to all qualified employees, said George Badcock, a Hacker-Craft owner.

That kind of investment will enable Hacker-Craft to recruit and retain the employees it needs to become a global company, said Badcock. “Hacker-Craft had to expand its market beyond Lake George, the Adirondacks and even the US if it’s to be the success it deserves to be,” said Badcock, a Lake George summer resident who is also president of an international leasing company.

Among the boats nearing completion was a 26-ft runabout, which, according to Dan Gilman, Hacker’s vice-president for sales, is the first new runabout model to be designed and produced by the company since 1995. “This is on its way to France,” said Badcock, who explained that Hacker has entered into an agreement with a European investment group that will market the boats throughout Europe and Asia. “This group has access to new luxury markets, where the demand for a classic Hacker is only growing,” said Badcock.

Hacker now has similar arrangements with groups in the mid-west and in Canada, said Badcock.
Building a single runabout requires as many as 1,500 hours of labor before it’s completed, said Gilman. “This factory is organized according to the same principles used by John Hacker, Chris Smith and Gar Wood,” said Gilman. “The only difference is that we now have power tools.”
Every successive stage of production is visible through the length of the factory, from framing to planking and finishing.

“The boats are now built completely of mahogany; in the past, oak, spruce and ash were used, which worked less with the most advanced expoxies,” said Gilman. The Honduran mahogany, Gilman said, is also harvested from forests certified as sustainable. “That’s something we’re very proud of,” he said.

Some employees are specialists, others can do practically any job required to build a boat. “These are master boat builders,” said Gilman. “We’re apprenticing new employees with the experienced builders, trying to make certain that the craft is passed along.”

Approximately 16 boats were under construction at the factory last week. This number will rise to 25 this year; operating at full capacity, the factory can produce as many as 35 or 40 boats a year, said Badcock.

“Lynn Wagemann has put together a great crew; they take tremendous pride in their work,” said Badcock. According to Wagemann, Hacker Boat Company’s Silver Bay location is now used as a boat yard, for administration and as a show room for the company’s boats.
Hacker also has a facility for restoring and repairing boats in downtown Ticonderoga and storage facilities for 240 boats in Hague, Wagemann said.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Forever Wired: Some Thoughts On Adirondack Wired Work

Having taken some time to digest everything that happened at Clarkson University’s Forever Wired conference this week, I thought I’d try to wrap up the experience (coverage by Almanack contributor Mary Thill and me here) with some thoughts about what’s happening, where we’re heading, and where we should be headed. It seems to me that several strands are developing around the issue of a wired workforce in the Adirondacks.

The first is the technological build-out of broadband in the Adirondack region. Mary covered what we know is happening and has happened here, but there is still a lot to be learned. The big providers hold their plans close to the vest, but as Mary noted recent developments by CBN Connect, a nonprofit affiliated with SUNY Plattsburgh, and the Development Authority of the North Country (DANC) have gotten us off to a good start, and there are hopes for a small piece of the $7.2 billion federal stimulus funds for broadband to extend coverage into the park. There is still, however, the looming question of how much of the park has broadband now. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Congresswoman Kirstin Gillibrand, and Clarkson President Tony Collins have all said that 70 percent of the park lacks broadband, but without public data (and real baseline for what should really be called broadband), we just don’t know. The bottom line is that on the technology build-out front, we’re moving forward, albeit hopefully. Clarkson president Tony Collins said the next step is a retreat September 22 at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake for an infrastructure working panel, an offshoot of the Forever Wired gathering.

A second big piece coming into play was highlighted at the Forever Wired conference. Much of the energy there is being put into convincing seasonal residents to move themselves and their jobs to the Adirondacks and work from home. Proponents of this plan point to the recent study by the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages that indicated declining school enrollments and an aging park population. The general sense is that bringing new residents into the park will improve both situations and that selling the Adirondack wired lifestyle will help turn around our sluggish local economies. A plus side to the wired-permanent-residents approach is that it could lower the number of individuals with mailing addresses outside the park, those who currently own about half of the total residential property value and that may increase local property values and grow local property tax revenue. It’s felt that more full-time residents will also mean more jobs, but it might also mean fewer jobs for our current crop of young residents as new full-timers with technology skills take jobs. There is also the affordable housing squeeze, and then of course, more development sprawl caused by wiring the backcountry and lakeshores.

The final piece I want to mention has been generally left out of the equation—employing current local residents in existing wired work opportunities. If we’re going to have a plan for wired work, it would be helpful to know how many workers in the park might be eligible to move toward telecommuting. Human resources departments, bookkeeping and accounting, marketing, secretarial, media, political boards and committees, and no doubt other positions could possibly be moved to the home office. A representative of IBM reported that home-based employees save the company $100 million a year in real estate costs alone. Increased productivity (believe it or not), reduced costs of childcare, time and money saved on commuting (one of the park’s largest uses of energy) are all benefits of moving Adirondack workers toward wired work from home. Could recent job cuts in Warren County for instance, have been avoided if twenty or thirty percent of the county’s workforce worked from home? Twenty or thirty percent of energy costs? Building costs? Snowplowing? The list goes on. Could the folks who recently lost jobs at the county’s cooperative extension office have kept them if they closed down the office and everyone worked from home? The bottom line here is we don’t know, and the focus on technology build-out, future call center workers, and converted full time residents is leaving out the direct and fairly immediate savings current residents might reap from transitioning existing jobs to wired work now.

Some folks at the Forever Wired conference, folks like Elmer Gates — a Blue Mountain Lake native, engineer-turned-CEO-turned banker and a force in starting the Adirondack North Country Initiative for Wired Work—understand that getting broadband infrastructure here is just one step. Gates told the Almanack that people need training for technical support or call-center jobs. He was also quick to point to support offered by Clarkson University’s Shipley Center for Leadership and Entrepreneurship, where existing start-ups and small businesses can learn to succeed in the new business environment through free consultations.

Gates says he got behind the Wired Work Initiative because he “just got tired of everybody having given up” on finding good jobs in the Adirondacks. “That’s a defeatist attitude and we are going to change it,” he said, adding that he’s not satisfied with the track record of regional economic development agencies and plans to keep the Wired Workforce Initiative a private, volunteer effort.

I like the sound of that. Adirondackers need training for new wired jobs that can keep young people employed in sustainable, environmentally sound ways. But employers (public and private) need training too. They need to learn the benefits of wired work to their bottom line and to their workers’ (and taxpayers) wallets.

Local residents need a to path to the wired work future—who will lead the way?


Monday, June 15, 2009

Adirondack Park Regional Assesment Conclusions

A long awaited report sponsored by the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages (AATV) that profiles all the 103 municipalities that comprise the Adirondack Park was released on June 3rd. My copy was provided by Fred Monroe (Town of Chester Supervisor, Chair of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, Executive Director for the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, and an Executive Board Member of the Adirondack Association of Towns & Villages).

It’s quite a tome, about 125 pages, that compliments in many ways the 2004 Adirondack Atlas and the 1990 The Adirondack Park in The 21st Centuryreports. Suffice it to say the region has been studied over the last 20 years – probably more carefully than any other in the nation. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cornell Offers Green Jobs Forum in Warrensburg

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Warren County is working with Cornell University and the Workforce Development Institute of New York to host a Green Jobs forum on Thursday, June 25, 10:00am to Noon. The forum will be broadcast to Cornell Cooperative Extension Associations located in 14 counties across New York State via Cornell’s distance learning network. The forum is free and open to the public. Information on the following topics and issues will be addressed:

* what is meant by the term “green jobs”
* where and in what sectors of the economy do they exist
* information on available training programs
* what does the future look like for the “green jobs sector”

General information about the workforce development institute and information about what services are available to the public will also be discussed.

The Green Jobs Forum will also provide information on starting a home performance / home energy audit business. New York State currently has training programs in place and some financial incentives available to entrepreneurs and home improvement contracting firms that want to expand into the home energy audit field.

Seating for the Green Jobs Forum is limited so if you are interested in attending, please phone Cornell Cooperative Extension of Warren County at 668-4881 or 623-3291 to reserve a seat.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

More: Yesterday’s 2009 Environmental Bond Act Hearing

We’ve received a little better sense of what the organizers of the green jobs bond act are looking to accomplish. It comes in testimony of Scott Lorey, Legislative Director for The Adirondack Council, at the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation Public Hearing on the Enactment of a New Environmental Bond Act yesterday morning. Since this statement details the state of environmental financing and offers a focus on watershed protection and clean water infrastructure (something the Adirondack Council has been working on), and it’s all we know so far, I’m reprinting most of it here: » Continue Reading.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

2009 Environmental Bond Act Pitch From Adk Council

I’m reprinting below a press release issued on the proposed $5 billion 2009 Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Bond Act by John Sheehan, Director of Communications for the Adirondack Council. The bond act is also being pushed by businesses like Caterpillar and Nova Bus, and the American Cancer Society, Audubon New York, Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment, New York League of Conservation Voters, New York Public Transit Association, New York State Laborers, Scenic Hudson, and The Nature Conservancy. The hope is that the targeted spending in this time of economic crises will encourage a green economy and provide more jobs. Projects include wastewater infrastructure, energy efficiency, transit, public health protection and economic development projects. Although details are scarce (bond act organizers are waiting for the Legislature to suggest projects), I have a copy of a slightly more detailed pdf fact sheet outlining the bond act, if anyone is interested. More later today. » Continue Reading.