With seed money from the United Auto Workers, Bethesda publisher Joel D. Joseph started the Made in the USA Foundation in 1989. The 60,000-strong, nonprofit advocacy group publishes a book listing American-made products and lobbies Congress to ban foreign goods made by child labor. In a June letter to the New York Times, Joseph advocated better pay and working conditions for sweatshop workers in Asia. “Just think what a doubling of wages would mean to workers struggling on subsistence wages. Possibly they could even afford to buy a pair of Nikes!” he wrote. On the home front, though, at least one former intern says Joseph doesn’t walk his talk. Last summer, Joseph recruited Georgetown University student Shilpa Mohan for an $8-an-hour job at the group’s K Street NW headquarters. Mohan, psyched to study labor exploitation, didn’t expect firsthand exposure. Two of three paychecks Joseph wrote to Mohan over the summer bounced, and despite repeated collection attempts, Mohan maintains Joseph still owes her over $400. Joseph contends Mohan’s claims are “absolutely false,” though he does not deny that some of his checks bounced. “We operate pretty close to the line sometimes,” he says. He adds that “[Mohan] has been paid more than she was due,” given that all she produced was a five-page report. “She was paid over $1,500 to write five pages. That’s more than any writer makes,” he says. But Mohan says Joseph never complained about her performance when she was answering the phones and holding down the fort at the bare-bones office. Says Mohan, “It’s hypocritical for a labor organization to make its employees go through this.”
Olympic Gold Card Organizers with a taste for the quixotic are now working to snare the 2012 Olympic games for D.C. The glamourous suits behind the Greater Washington Exploratory Committee (GWEC) kicked off their latest PR blitz on Monday with a Capitol-to-Kennedy Center torch run. But already, 15 years in advance, GWEC appears to be neglecting the much-maligned “Washington” in favor of the high-flying “Greater.” Of the 100-plus kids who mugged for cameras and chanted “U.S.A., all the way!” before accompanying a 1948 Olympian on the first leg of the run, all came from schools across the river in Virginia. Committee official Jennifer Raviv did note that the organization is planning to spend some of the half-million dollars kicked in by (Virginia-based) Mobil Corp. on sports-education events like the one last week at D.C.’s Tyler Elementary. Here’s hoping GWEC’s bigwigs remembers the city that loaned them its marketable symbols.
The Twilight Lane On June 29, the Department of Public Works cut the ribbon on the new Calvert Street, which features a single lane for cars andto the joy of two-wheelers and much kvetching from auto commutersa lane just for bikers. The bike lane materializes out of nowhere at the bottom of a hill on Cleveland Avenue and dissipates into thin air two blocks later just short of Connecticut Avenue. Three and a half months later, one daily commuter reports he has seen zeronadabikers using the lane on their morning rides to work. Instead, frantic commuters ooze into the narrow bike lane to squeeze by other cars so they can get to their desks a full 30 seconds earlier.
Hound Haven Every month, four or five D.C. residents call up Mark Sobo, interim committee clerk under Ward 1 Councilmember Frank Smith, to inquire about the status of the D.C. muzzle law. “People still think we’re dealing with this issue,” he chuckles. His boss was the ringleader in the push to get “dangerous-dog legislation” on the books in the spring of 1996, after a rash of violent incidents prompted a demand that all pit bulls and Rottweilers be silenced in public. The D.C. Council instituted a temporary muzzle law for pit bulls for three months last fall, but the permanent law never made it past the control board. The board decided the city couldn’t afford the estimated $40,000 cost of expanding the dog pound and the bureaucracy. Still, the proposed bill created enormous opposition, Sobo recalls. “I received [complaints] from as far away as Australia,” he says. So today all dogs are free to snap their jaws on the streets, and individual canines must be deemed dangerous via a mayoral hearing. Sobo says he regrets the control board’s veto. “When a pit bull [attacks], it’s really bad. You can’t compare [them] to chihuahuas.”
Reporting by David Carr, Sharada
Chidambaram, Michael Schaffer, and Julie Wakefield
Please send your City Desk tips to Amanda Ripley at email@example.com or call 332-2100 and ask for my voice mail.