Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Headmaster of St. Bernard's School in NYC Fired, Parents File Class Action Lawsuit

Credit...Brittainy Newman/The New York Times

The Manhattan Private School That Tore Itself Apart

St. Bernard’s, the renowned boys’ school, removed its beloved headmaster — and a war between very wealthy parents erupted.
Six days before Christmas, the headmaster of St. Bernard’s, the 116-year-old boys’ school on the Upper East Side, sent a letter to parents announcing that he would retire in the spring of 2021. For an institution profoundly rooted in its own traditions and protocols and rarely trafficking in the unexpected, the news had a jolting effect.

“After 40 years here,” he wrote, “I’d like to try something different. (Suggestions welcome.)”

It was those last two words that struck many parents — who at St. Bernard’s belong roughly to the demographic subsets of the have mores and the have everythings — as cryptic. Headmaster Stuart Johnson III was known as a man of purpose and passion, and if he were leaving on his own volition, the thinking went, he would have a plan — to study Virgil, to recreate Regency gardens.

Parents and alumni (who are in many cases the same people) quickly surmised that the decision to leave was not entirely the headmaster’s own, and this made them very angry. Mr. Johnson stood for something beyond the ruthless pursuit of scores, metrics and marketable achievements. He stood for the intrinsic value of erudition. What would happen if he were gone?

As the universe spun ever more furiously, St. Bernard’s under his guidance had kept to its own metabolism. While schools around the country were conforming to new ideologies and evolving ideas about class and gender, for example, St. Bernard’s remained steeped in mandatory Latin and French, blue blazers and penmanship — not Mandarin and coding and self-reflection. This was the territory it had staked among the incubators of the meritocracy, the many schools in which a child could be educated in New York for the approximate sum of $50,000 a year.

This, too, was why so many parents had selected St. Bernard’s for their boys. So often it seemed like the last refuge from our crass technocracy, from the deadening ambition that had come to characterize a certain kind of Manhattan life, spent in front of Bloomberg terminals and animated largely by a series of upgraded real estate acquisitions.

From a particular light, it was not just the future of a school that appeared to be in jeopardy; it was a means of approaching the world that had all but vanished. The executive committee of the school’s board of trustees seemed to have a vision for St. Bernard’s that did not include Mr. Johnson, and perhaps, someday, parents feared, might not include the principles he embodied.

That committee was made up of hedge-fund and private-equity types, who many parents felt were treating a precious institution like a distressed asset — something to be overhauled and mined for greater value.
The exceedingly well-off have long left an outsize imprint on the city, but during the past two decades, New York has been even more aggressively reshaped in their image. By now, the merely wealthy were long weary of the vanities and self-certainty of the very rich, and if the narrative that was playing out at St. Bernard’s seemed provincial, it spoke to broader frustrations with entitlement shared even among the immensely privileged. You came to St. Bernard’s for what it was, not for what you decided it ought to be.

For so long, the school had managed to inoculate itself from some of the more distasteful aspects of Wall Street culture. Wasn’t it worth going to war in the name of preservation?

Since its early days, St. Bernard’s set out to produce a singular kind of man — one both successful and surpassingly learned, a supplicant to rigor and good will. Traditionally, St. Bernard’s, which goes through ninth grade, has been a first step on the path to the best boarding and day schools, to the Ivy League and then, as surely as sunset, to the most venerable investment houses, law firms, cultural institutions, public-sector work.

“Old Boys,” as the school’s alumni are called — not half-jokingly but as a matter of institutional vernacular — are reciters of poetry; they are givers of toasts and eulogies that are remembered — tomorrow, 20 years from now — for their eloquence and self-effacement. By the time a child graduates from St. Bernard’s, the school’s literature informs, “he will have practiced the skill of a good handshake several hundred times.”

After the news of Mr. Johnson’s departure settled in, emails and petitions began circulating in his name as a group of parents coalesced around the goal of extending his tenure — or at the very least, holding the board accountable for its lack of transparency. Mr. Johnson remained in the background; he had signed a nondisclosure agreement. (And, as a result, he did not respond to my efforts to reach him.)

“I am deeply troubled by what I am hearing about Stuart Johnson’s dismissal,’’ wrote one parent who identified herself as a graduate of Yale Law School. Her letter typified a prevailing mood.

She had addressed it to the board’s president, Craig Huff, one of the chief executives of Reservoir Capital Management. She chose St. Bernard’s for its “old fashioned values,” she wrote, for “the teachers’ ability to refuse smart boards, the classic books, the poetry, the Bible stories, the hymns and prayers (and I am an agnostic).”
The board of trustees tried to address the worries of the aggrieved with a listening tour, gathering together groups of parents. At one such meeting, the hostess, Margo Nederlander, of the theatrical dynasty, began to cry as she talked about how much she used to love walking into St. Bernard’s and how upsetting it was now.

The session, which was recorded with the permission of those in the room, revealed how ill-equipped the three board members present were to handle the emotion and anger directed at them.

Parents argued that the board could not be trusted. In fact, the board ought to be replaced with members from a universe beyond elite finance; it needed more educators, more diversity of profession and viewpoint. The trustee in charge of the school’s strategic planning — the individual tasked with helping to develop St. Bernard’s vision — was a broker of Park Avenue co-ops.

One mother wondered why members of the board, realizing how upset so many parents were, hadn’t simply resigned. “Leave,’’ she advised.

Things got personal. Intellectual snobberies were revealed. One parent who supported Mr. Johnson confronted another who did not: “Are you fluent in Latin? What is your favorite Shakespearean sonnet? Who is your favorite Pre-Raphaelite artist?” The parent on the receiving end of this interrogation shrugged in response.

To manage the fallout, the board hired a strategic communications firm, and this in turn spurred further rancor. “Should we really have a board that is working on damage control rather than responding to the broad and profound discontent with its decision?’’ the writer Andrew Solomon, a St. Bernard’s parent, wrote in a letter to the community last month. Should tuition money, he wondered, be subverted to pay for public relations?

This being the context of New York City private schools, those opposing the power structure were hardly pulled from the ranks of the meek and the marginal. In addition to Mr. Solomon, the group of outraged parents included Philip Bobbit, the legal scholar, presidential adviser and nephew of Lyndon B. Johnson. Scott Bessent, one of the most prominent investors on Wall Street, called for parents to cease making charitable gifts to the school until Mr. Johnson was reinstated.
A compromise proposal was born at a meeting brokered by a former St. Bernard’s parent, Mary Jo White, the former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who also served as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Part of the compromise would allow the school to review its approach to math and science to see if there were ways for those departments to improve. At its heart, this is what terrified many parents all along — the expansion of STEM at the expense of Ovid and “Twelfth Night.”

In addition to the math and science provisions, the proposal submitted to the board called for a replacement of six board members and an extension of Mr. Johnson’s stay by five years. The board has not responded to the proposal yet.

The school’s perceived academic fustiness was not, in fact, the whole story. The compromise document also agreed to the appointment of an “exmissions coordinator.’’ For the past few years, St. Bernard’s had not been maintaining its record of sending its boys to the most coveted schools. This rankled certain parents both on and off the board.

To his credit, or detriment, depending on your vantage, Mr. Johnson was not one to network and make calls to get his boys into ongoing schools. St. Bernard’s students were meant to stand on their own merits.

In the past, Mr. Johnson had maintained good relationships with the headmasters of boarding schools, but now fewer and fewer parents had wanted to send their children away. This was another way that the world had evolved.

Although Mr. Johnson had managed to keep so much about St. Bernard’s unchanged since he was named headmaster in 1985, he could not keep parents behaving as they did decades ago. They were a different species now, unable to look from a distance at their children and trust that they would succeed.

They were embedded in their notebooks and extracurriculars, in their SATs. While Stuart Johnson was high-mindedly not picking up the phone to persuade Trinity to admit young Coleman, parents across the country were paying consultants to cast their children as water polo champions to get them into the University of Southern California.

Mr. Johnson had selected the members of his board, presuming that their loyalty might be assured.
That idea, too, turned out to belong to another time.

Ginia Bellafante has served as a reporter, critic and, since 2011, as the Big City columnist. She began her career at The Times as a fashion critic, and has also been a television critic. She previously worked at Time magazine. @GiniaNYT

Parents of St. Bernard's School File Class Action Lawsuit Against School Board Members for Firing of Headmaster and Financial Malfeasance 
New York, NY, March 18, 2020 — A group of concerned parents of St. Bernard’s school has filed a class action lawsuit against the members of the Executive Committee of the school’s Board of Trustees over the removal of the school’s Headmaster of 35-years. In the complaint, the parents detail how a small group of board members pursued a personal agenda to advance the interests of their own children at the expense of the larger student body, and then sought to cover their misconduct by hiring teams of lawyers and public relations spin doctors to mislead other parents and the community.
The purpose of this announcement is to ensure St. Bernards parents, faculty and alumni are aware that a class action has been filed on their behalf and encourage them to contact Class Counsel, Jim Walden, at StBernardsLegal@gmail.comto be advised of their rights. Any communications between parents and the lawyers will be treated as privileged and confidential in anticipation of potential participation in the litigation.

Jim Walden, the founder and Managing Partner of Walden Macht & Haran, represents the families. He states, “Our complaint alleges that certain members of the St. Bernard’s Board of Trustees have sadly abused their powerful positions. These trustees are alleged to have violated the law, the school’s own bylaws, and the school’s norms and practices with their arbitrary and capricious actions, which include removal of a beloved Headmaster, placing pressure on St. Bernard’s to admit unqualified students and various financial improprieties. With this claim, St. Bernard’s parents are standing up in a unified and singular mission to support the healthy academic and social development of all children at their school. Their wish is simply to restore the integrity of their community so that students and families can focus on learning in an environment that is fair and just to every child.”

The Headmaster

Since 1985, Stuart H. Johnson III has served the St. Bernard’s community with integrity, academic vision and grace. He has presided over two generations of students, during which time he diversified and modernized the school, expanded its commitment to social consciousness and diversity, all while maintaining rich traditions of rigorous instruction, hard work and citizenship. Parents chose the school because of the healthy academic and social environment it offered under Mr. Johnson’s leadership. They enrolled their children at St. Bernard’s with the understanding that he would oversee their development and the curriculum.

The Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees

In May 2019, the Executive Committee of the St. Bernard’s Board of Trustees unilaterally removed the Headmaster from his position without cause or explanation. They forced him to announce his “departure,” leading the Board of Trustees and the parent community to believe he was voluntarily retiring. He was not. Instead, the Executive Committee acted — without the necessary consent of the full board — because, our clients believe, they wanted preferential treatment for certain children in the post-Bernard’s placement process, they sought to admit the children of their friends, and they wanted control over the St. Bernard’s substantial endowment and investments, all of which Johnson had steadfastly fought against.

After news of the termination broke, parents revolted en masse, with more than 600 parents signing a letter asking Mr. Johnson to stay on as Headmaster. Immediately following these events, the Executive Committee is further alleged to have breached its fiduciary duties by using school funds (estimated at more than $1 million) to hire an army of lawyers and public relations consultants to obfuscate its misconduct.

The current expense of lawyers and public relations firms engaged by the Executive Committee for the purpose of masking the crisis is estimated at between $30,000 to $50,000 per day, equal to the cost of a full tuition scholarship for a single student for one year, or to substantial raises for teachers. The parent plaintiffs seek to stem this unconscionable outpouring of funds, which predates the filing of their claim.

Various intermediaries attempted to broker a resolution of the impasse between the Executive Committee and every other part of the St. Bernard’s community. However, the Executive Committee refused to compromise. Without any further recourse available to them, the parents of St. Bernard’s engaged Walden’s firm to represent them in this action.


The plaintiff parents are seeking to restore Mr. Johnson as Headmaster of St. Bernard’s. They also ask the court for removal of the Executive Committee members from the school’s Board of Trustees.

Parents and school staff have also filed complaints with the New York Attorney General’s Office, asking for a thorough and complete investigation.
— — —

 Media contact: Julia Pacetti,, (917) 584-7846

Walden Macht & Haran, 1 Battery Park Plaza, New York, NY 10004 

Monday, March 16, 2020

Court Actions To Stop COVID-19 in New York State

e-Law Press Release on New York courts:

Important Court Information

I am including the latest court information that has been made available to eLaw. As the situation is rapidly changing, I will continue to provide court information as it is provided to me by the Court, members of the Bar and our partner companies, PM Legal and ZRPD.
To view any of these Administrative Orders as a downloadable PDF file, please click on the corresponding links:
Judge Marks’ 3/15/20 Memorandum
Judge Marks’ 3/13/20 Memorandum
Judge McMahon’s 3/13/20 Order

Kings County, Supreme Civil

Starting today JCP and CCP will not be open. There will not be any jurors or jury trials until further notice. Trials that have started will be allowed to finish.
During the pendency of the current coronavirus threat Intake, CCP and the City Discovery Part will accept submissions of PC, Compliance Conference and motion Orders on consent. Said Orders may be in writing or by E-File. After submission, the Court will assign a Final Compliance date and Note of Issue date, as necessary.

First and Second Departments of the Appellate Division

As part of the response plan to COVID-19, the First and Second Departments of the Appellate Division have decided that all matters on the Courts’ calendars will be taken on submission. This effort will reduce courthouse traffic and is consistent with New York State’s recommendation to limit public gatherings. The change will go into effect on March 17, 2020 and will continue until further notice.
However, each of the departments are making arrangements for those litigants who still wish to argue their appeals. Argument will not be permitted in person but, upon request, appearance can be made via Skype.

Bronx County Bar Association

Notice to All Attorneys Having Cases Assigned to the LPM
(Labor Law, Products Liability, Malpractice (Other than Medical)) Part
Effective immediately and until further notice:
1. All Preliminary, Compliance, Status and Pre-Trial conferences scheduled on March 24, 2020, and thereafter will be adjourned to a future date. Attorneys of record will be notified of the adjourn date(s). However, attorneys should check E-Courts for adjourn dates.
2. In lieu of appearances on Preliminary, Compliance and Status Conferences attorneys may submit an order on consent of ALL parties to

• This option is only available for cases where 7 or less prior compliance/status conferences were held.
• If all parties sign the form and return it to the court before a scheduled conference date, such form will be "so ordered" by the court, the conference will be marked held and a future date will be scheduled for a compliance or further status date.
• Signed Orders will uploaded to NYSCEF (for e-filed cases) or Bronx County Clerk’s Office (for non-e-filed cases).
• Any unresolved issues will require an appearance.
• When emailing Orders/Stipulations to the court include all parties.
3. All appearances on motions and OSCs will remain the same.

Orange County Foreclosure Settlement Part

Due to mounting concerns regarding the Coronavirus pandemic, foreclosure settlement conferences scheduled before me are being adjourned 45 days.

Southern District Update

Effective Monday, March 16, 2020, the following protocols will be in place for the next 30 days, or until further notice:
1.No new jury trials, civil or criminal, will be permitted to commence in any of our three courthouses (Moynihan, Marshall, Brieant).
2.Jury trials that have already commenced will be concluded. Judges conducting those trials – there are five of you – have been provided with special information about meals and transportation to share with your jurors.
3.The running of speedy trial time will be suspended effective today due to the now-declared state of emergency and medical crisis.
4.Existing grand juries will continue to meet. We will consult with the USAO before deciding whether to try to empanel the April 2 grand jury.
5.Until further notice, Magistrate’s Court will be conducted in its usual location on the Fifth Floor of the Moynihan Courthouse. If there are presentments in White Plains, they will be handled by the Duty Magistrate in White Plains.
6.Until further notice, Part I will be staffed out of the Foley Square courthouses. FYI: next week’s duty judges are Swain (Monday, March 16); McMahon (Tuesday, March 17-Saturday, March 21).
7.The courthouses will not be closed. However, only the following persons will be admitted: judges, chambers staff, SDNY supervisory personnel (unit executives and managers), SDNY personnel who are on “skeleton” duty (see below), lawyers who have to appear in district court civil matters or before the Court of Appeals, Assistant United States Attorneys, defense lawyers, criminal defendants and members of their families, persons who have been directed to report to Probation and PreTrial Services, visitors to the Pro Se Clinic in the Marshall Courthouse, and credentialed courthouse press. No one who does not have case-related business in the courthouse will be permitted to enter. Even persons who are otherwise authorized to enter must pass the screening protocol, which can be found in the Second Amended Standing Order in the matter now entitled In re Coronavirus/COVID-19 Pandemic (M-10-468), entered today.

Previously Issued Orders

To view any of these Administrative Orders as a downloadable PDF file, please click on the corresponding links:
We will continue to monitor all information as it is received as pass along any changes. Please refer to our blog, Facebook page or twitter account for the most current information. Stay safe!
Dominick Esposito
eLaw President

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Coronavirus in New York City: No Schools Will Close Because Homeless Kids Have Nowhere To Go

Far from the national media coverage we see 24/7 on the multimedia news feed is the story of the homeless in NYC. Kids are particularly hard hit because they are without a voice, often without medical care, and without resources to get out of the rut to find a better life. We do not in any way want to malign the good name of the many wonderful organizations in New York City who are treating and supporting the homeless. But these organizations first have to find the people they need to care for, and this is a problem.

Many of the poor, elderly and/or sick people in this city do not reach out for help and do not seek assistance, for any number of reasons. In our opinion, the fact that NYC's Mayor and Chancellor will not close the public schools is dangerous for everyone who works in or attends the biggest public school system in the United States and can serve to spread the corona virus or any other contagion. We know that the NYC Department of Education gets paid for each seat that is occupied and does not get paid when the seat is not occupied. Too bad.

Latest tweet from the NYC DOE March 10, 2020:

"The health and safety of our students and school staff is our first priority. There are no plans to close schools at this time. Latest information sent to NYC public schools families regarding #coronavirus is available here:"

The Coalition For the Homeless has the statistics. We know the problem. We must, as citizens, try to deal with it appropriately, i.e. for the health, safety and welfare of all the people in the city, country, world. We are all in this together.

 Betsy Combier,
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials 

Basic Facts About Homelessness: New York City

Coronavirus: New York Won’t Close Schools Because Homeless Kids Have Nowhere Else to Go

For many thousands of students across New York City and the United States, school is the only place they receive regular meals, shelter, medical care, and other vital services.

As the number of cases of COVID-19 in the tri-state area rises to over 150, Governor Andrew Cuomo has declared a state of emergency across New York State. Local universities like Hofstra, Columbia and Yeshiva have shut their doors on students today. But the city has no plans to close public k-12 schools – because tens of thousands of homeless children have nowhere else to go. 34,000 children in New York City’s public school system currently live in emergency shelters, and a further 74,000 have only been spared the same fate by relatives, friends or neighbors who have taken them in. With 1.1 million students, the city has the largest public school system in the United States, one in ten of whom experienced homelessness in the 2018-2019 school year, according to a recent report from education group Advocates for Children. Thus, for many thousands of students, school is the only place they receive regular meals, shelter, medical care, and other vital services. For that reason, School Chancellor Richard A. Carranza said that they would remain open despite the risk and that closures would be considered only as a “last resort.”

Homelessness among young people has reached epidemic proportions nationwide. Federal data shows that more than 1.5 million students across America experienced homelessness during the 2017-2018 year, with California atop the table. And yet the problem has become normalized to the point where children in the richest society in world history living on the streets are unremarkable. In a story about homeless New York child chess prodigy Tanitoluwa Adewumi, the New York Times and other media outlets described his playing style and his personal brilliance but did not ponder how he came to be homeless or what that said about the society he lived in. The problem is particularly acute in the Bronx, where 37 percent of residents also often go to bed hungry, the highest rate in the entire country.

While Columbia University intends on teaching classes remotely from Wednesday on, schoolteachers in poorer boroughs note that it is impossible to do the same, as up to half of the students do not have Internet access at home. “We can’t do distance learning,” said Nicole Manning, a ninth-grade math teacher at Herbert H. Lehman High School in the Bronx, “It wouldn’t be fair.”

Y'all the NY school system won't shut down because over 100,000 students are homeless and will not get a meal otherwise. The US is the dystopia they imagine everywhere else being.

— Laleh Khalili (@LalehKhalili) March 9, 2020

Other responses to the coronavirus have raised eyebrows. If the outbreak reaches pandemic proportions, the city has made plans to make prisoners from the notorious Rikers Island jail dig mass graves for victims on Hart Island, a policy first proposed by Michael Bloomberg when he was mayor. And amid a run on the product, inmates in prison factories have also began producing large quantities of hand sanitizer for public use. This weekend a Manhattan hardware store was fined for hiking prices on cleaning products. Meanwhile, banking lobbying groups are pressuring the government to force through emergency deregulation of Wall Street, supposedly to help fight the virus.

It appears that the subway will be kept open at almost all costs, too. The confined space filled by 4.3 million people every day could pose a serious contagion threat, but it is also a crucial artery of the city. Mayor Bill de Blasio has suggested using alternative means of transport, if possible. “If you take the subway and you are able to wait for a less packed train, please do. If you have the option of walking or biking, please do. Buses can be crowded too, but less than subways, so please use these if you can,” he advised.

There has also been an epidemic of anti-Asian xenophobia on the subway. The New York Police Department is investigating a hate crime after a Chinese woman was attacked last month. Thai and Hmong communities have also been the target of racist abuse.

The NYPD and the Hate Crime Task Force encourage the victim to report this incident to the police for a full investigation.

— NYPD Hate Crimes (@NYPDHateCrimes) February 5, 2020

From the inadequate public health provisions, the wave of intolerance to the shocking levels of homelessness, the coronavirus is exposing many of the flaws of and the dark undertones of American society. Without a functioning social safety net, the United States will find it harder than other nations to combat the virus’ spread.

Feature photo | A commuter wears a face mask in the New York City transit system, March 9, 2020, in New York. John Minchillo | AP

A new report shows that New York City plans to use prison labor to dig mass graves in case of a deadly outbreak of the Coronavirus.

wo dozen new cases of Covid-19, a deadly strain of novel coronavirus, were detected in the United States over the weekend, bringing the total to 42, with 47 more U.S. nationals infected either in China or aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Included in the 42 is New York City’s first case; the patient in question is currently confined to her Manhattan home.
“There is no cause for surprise – this was expected. As I said from the beginning, it was a matter of when, not if there would be a positive case of novel coronavirus in New York,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo, who last week called for the state legislature to pass $40 million in emergency management funds to confront the outbreak. Yet even with the extra money, it seems clear that the city would be almost completely unprepared to handle a crisis on the scale that much of the media is hyping it up to be.
A new report by New York Magazine, based upon information from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and a 2008 New York City pandemic response plan, shows the Big Apple would be overwhelmed in the case of a Spanish Flu-like epidemic. Last week Mayor de Blasio announced he had set aside an extra 1,200 hospital beds in case of need. But a truly serious outbreak could see as many as 26,300 new patients per day arriving at hospitals. Furthermore, the city has barely one sixth of the ventilators it would need in that situation, with medical masks also in perilously short supply.
Perhaps the most notable information from the report is that if the city’s crematoria are overrun, New York intends to use prison slave labor to dig mass graves:
The city has plans to send corpses to Hart Island in the Long Island Sound where, in the late 19th century, yellow-fever patients were quarantined. Prisoners from Rikers Island would be ferried over to do the digging.”
This policy is based on a document authored during Michael Bloomberg’s tenure as mayor, one that saw a more authoritarian approach taken to crime and policing. Bloomberg is currently running for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Billionaire "Democratic" candidate Mike Bloomberg has ties to Harvey Weinstein, Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffery Epstein among other notables.
Yet while the prospect of Harvey Weinstein and other inmates of the infamous prison being forced to come into contact with contaminated corpses might raise some eyebrows, New York prisoners already bury thousands of poor, homeless or unidentified people in deep, mass graves containing up to 1,000 bodies on Hart Island, being paid $0.50 per hour for their labor. More than one million people have been interred on the desolated island off limits to the public. In the past, it has also been used as a quarantine station and a prison.
While the Chinese government has drawn praise for mobilizing its considerable resources, building multiple hospitals in a matter of days to house the infected, and effectively quarantining entire municipalities, the American response has been less impressive. President Trump, who attempted to cut the CDC’s budget in February, proposed a tax cut in response to the virus. The majority of American cases are located in the Pacific Northwest, with Washington state governor Jay Inslee, himself a former Democratic presidential candidate, declaring a state of emergency on Saturday.
In the United States, prisoners are leased out across the country to large corporations, who use their artificially cheap labor to reap huge profits. Everything from McDonald’s uniforms to expensive lingerie to car parts to Starbucks cups are manufactured by prisoners, who have little option but to give their labor for as little as $0.12 per hour. Meanwhile, many firefighters who tackled the California wildfires were actually incarcerated inmates making $1 per hour risking their lives. And while governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton used prison slave labor in and around his mansion to “keep costs down.”
Similar to how Ebola was racialized as a distinctly African illness, news of the coronavirus has led to an outbreak of anti-Chinese racism.
The coronavirus started in December in Wuhan, China and has spread to 58 countries, with over 89,000 people infected now confirmed. As the virus has spread, so has anti-Chinese xenophobia. In crisis, however, there is opportunity, with the prices of basic medical masks rising by 10,000 percent in Italy as speculators take advantage over public fears. Yet experts agree that wearing masks is ineffective, instead urging people simply to wash their hands regularly with soap and water and refrain from touching their faces.
Governor Cuomo stressed that “there is no reason for undue anxiety.” “The general risk remains low in New York. We are diligently managing this situation and will continue to provide information as it becomes available,” he said. However, if things get out of hand, the dark side of American society will be on display, as the exploitative prison industrial complex will be recruited to fight the virus.
Feature photo | In this May 23, 2018 photo, each white marker denotes a mass grave of about 150 people on Hart Island in New York. Seth Wenig | AP