Stories written by Peter Costantini

In the Wake of the Millennium Migration

A century ago, Italian immigrants told a joke: “Before I came to America, I thought the streets were paved with gold. When I got here, I learned three things: one, the streets were not paved with gold; two, the streets were not paved at all; and three, they expected me to pave them.”

OPINION: This Is Going to Hurt Me More Than It Hurts You

“Enhanced interrogation”: the George W. Bush administration bureaucrats who coined the term had perfect pitch. The apparatchiks of Kafka’s Castle would have admired the grayness of the euphemism. But while it sounds like some new kind of focus group, it turns out it was just anodyne branding for good old-fashioned torture.

Q&A: “The Economy Needs to Serve Us and Not the Other Way Around”

Since his college days, John Schmitt says, he’s been “very interested in questions of economic justice, economic inequality.”

Minimum Wage, Minimum Cost

In 1958, when New York State was considering raising its minimum wage, merchants complained that their profit margins were so small that they would have to cut their work forces or go out of business.  In 2014 in Seattle at hearings on a proposed minimum wage increase, some businesses voiced the same fears.

Low-Wage Workers Butt Heads with 21st Century Capital

“Supersize my salary now!”  The refrain rose over a busy street outside a McDonald’s in downtown Seattle.

OP-ED: If You Build It, They Will Go Around It

Puzzled by the immigration debate in the United States? Remember the Maginot Line.

OP-ED: Learning from Haiti’s Goudou Goudou

On a hillside overlooking Port-au-Prince, a muscular Haitian man in a green tank top raises a heavy steel pry bar over his head and brings it down into a hole, shattering a bit of Haiti’s limestone skeleton.

FAO agronomist Frisnel Désir. Credit: Peter Costantini/IPS

HAITI: Hurricanes and the River Flowing

In the evening the lowering clouds burst. Through the night they loosed their torrents on the southeastern coast of Haiti.

Haitian small farmers demonstrate against Monsanto. Credit: Courtesy of La Via Campesina

Haitian Farmers Leery of Monsanto’s Largesse

Haitian farmers are worried that giant transnational corporations like Monsanto are attempting to gain a larger foothold in the local economy under the guise of earthquake relief and rebuilding.

Mangoes grow prolifically all over Haiti. Credit: PeterCostantini/IPS

Q&A: “Agrarian Reform Is Indispensible for Haiti”

In the wake of unimaginable death and destruction, Haitian farmers continue to work hard to wring food for their country out of a depleted land. But now they have company.

ENERSA workers making photovoltaic cells Credit: Courtesy of Richard J. Komp

ENERGY: The Sun Lights Up the Night in Haiti

There are shortages of lots of things in Haiti: clean water, arable land, trees, living-wage jobs, housing, schools, fuel, reliable sources of electricity and Internet access. But one thing Haiti has in abundance is sunny days.

ENERSA workers making photovoltaic cells. - Courtesy of Richard J. Komp

The Sun Lights Up the Night in Haiti

Photovoltaic panels are gradually appearing in Haiti, alongside streetlights, in a demonstration of what the Sun can do in a country with severe energy problems.

The investment bank Goldman Sachs, popularly dubbed "Goldman Calf", reportedly gave its employees some 13 billion dollars in bonuses for 2009. Credit: Peter Costantini/IPS

FINANCE: Fighting Off Looters in the Ruins

Reckless greed on Wall Street is a dog-bites-man story. Still, the renewed feeding frenzy of the alpha dogs of finance in the embers of the bonfire of their own vanities has inspired amazement and disgust across the political spectrum.


LABOUR: North America’s Long Winter of Discontent

In the wake of a blizzard of economic hardship across North America, native land of the financial crash of 2008 and ensuing Great Recession, the shapes of other possible worlds are emerging from the drifts. Some are frozen and dystopian, but others may harbour green shoots of hope.

TRADE: A Lost Decade for the WTO?

Ten years ago, the Seattle Ministerial of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) flashed over into a ‘Battle of Seattle' before the eyes of a startled world.

Janice Fine Credit: Courtesy of Rutgers Focus

Q&A: “The Truth Is We’re Not Going to Stop Immigration”

In Janice Fine's most recent project, eight workers centres have joined with the Centre for Community Change, where she is a senior fellow for organising and policy, to provide inexpensive financial services to low-wage immigrant workers. The services also provide an income stream and membership base for the centres.

Pablo Alvarado Credit:

Q&A: “Migrant Workers Bring Vibrancy to the Labour Movement”

Day labourers looking for casual work are familiar fixtures on corners outside home improvement and garden stores across the United States. Less visible are the workers centres that have grown up in many locales to serve and organise these mainly immigrant and undocumented workers.

Ana Avendaño Credit:

Q&A: “Helping the Most Vulnerable Benefits All Workers”

After decades at sea, organised labour has limped into port. Last fall, they helped to elect a sympathetic U.S. president and Congress. Now trade unions are gearing up to push for a major overhaul of labour law. They are also welding an alliance with immigrant and human rights groups to win comprehensive immigration reform.

Day labourers enter CASA Latina workers centre. Credit: Peter Costantini/IPS

MIGRATION-US: Grassroots Labourers Plough Common Ground

The hiring hall for Hod Carriers and General Labourers Local 242 is in the basement of the Seattle Labour Temple, a two-story tan-brick building of early-20th century vintage. You walk down a flight of well-worn red-tile stairs and through the double doors.