New Zealand city parts ways with its official wizard – National & International News – WED 20Oct2021

After nearly two decades, Ian Brackenbury Channell is losing his post as Official CIty Wizard of Christchurch, NZ. Read more in International News.

New Zealand city parts ways with its official wizard. Striketober: 10,000 John Deere workers on strike; CT Dollar General workers push to unionize.  


10,000 John Deere workers on strike

Labor activists have declared this month Striketober as thousands of workers in various sectors are striking or threatening to strike for better pay, conditions and benefits. More than 10,000 workers John Deere workers are striking for the first time in 35 years.

The United Auto Workers union, which represents Deere & Co. employees, had reached a tentative 6-year deal in contract negotiations with management. The terms of the deal were overall favorable. But 90% of the rank-and-file members rejected the deal and called a strike.

John Deere’s revenue so far this year amounts to $32.7 billion, up 11% from this time in 2019. Workers contend that now that the company is raking in huge profits with its farming and construction equipment in high demand, workers deserve a bigger boost in pay to make up for leaner contracts in past years.

Labor shortages across nearly all U.S. employment sectors have made this an opportune time for workers to strike. Mass layoffs or calling in “scabs” are simply not viable options in the current market.

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Dollar General workers push to unionize

Dollar General has also been doing robust business in the last few years. In fact, Dollar General accounts for 1 in 3 new retail stores opening this year. In 2020, Dollar General’s profits increased 55% over 2019 to $2.6 billion. Nearly all the profit ($2.5 billion) went towards stock buybacks. Dollar General’s chief executive, Todd Vasos, received a 37% increase in total compensation to over $16 million.

Dollar General is growing faster than Wal-Mart, and pays its workers even less on average. The average Dollar General worker earns $10.04 an hour, depending on the minimum wage laws in the states where they operate. Meanwhile, workers have to contend with the company’s dysfunctional infrastructure and poor and often hostile management.

Union busting

One of the pillars of Dollar General’s growth is union busting. In 2017, a Missouri store voted to unionize, the first to do so. When attempts to overturn the vote failed, Dollar General promptly announced plans to close the store.

But in a few days, a Dollar General store in Connecticut will vote on whether to join the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). The vote will come down to just 5 workers at the location, after a 6th pro-union worker was recently abruptly dismissed. The fired worker says, “People are fed up with working for the company. They’re worth nearly $50 billion and our infrastructure is terrible, our corporate management is terrible. Our store teams become more of a family than anything because we’re really all we have. So that’s why we felt like we needed to take these steps to get a union”.

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New Zealand city parts ways with its wizard

After nearly two decades, the city of Christchurch in New Zealand is abolishing the title of official “City Wizard”. Since 1998, Ian Brackenbury Channell has earned the equivalent of about $11,000 per year to “provide acts of wizardry and other wizard-like-services – as part of promotional work for the city of Christchurch”. Even Channell’s official documentation, including his passport, proclaims his title as The Wizard of New Zealand.

The city council’s decision may be in part due to some off-color comments made by Channell in an April interview. But Channell says it’s because the city council are “a bunch of bureaucrats who have no imagination”. Nevertheless, Channell says he will continue his wizardry in a less official capacity as a fixture of Christchurch’s arts communithy.

Channell had served as Christchurch’s wizard in a less formal capacity since 1982. In 1990, then-Prime Minister Mike Moore appointed Channell the Wizard of New Zealand. A letter from Moore states “as Prime Minister I am concerned that your wizardry is not officially at the disposal of the entire nation”. Moore asked for Channell’s services “in the area of spells, blessings, curses and other supernatural matters that are beyond the competence of mere Prime Minister.”

Before embarking on a life of wizardry, Channell was a Royal Air Force Navigator and widely traveled academic. His career in official wizardry began in 1962 when he was appointed “Wizard of the University of New South Wales”.

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