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Working people are so screwed: Rents spike and minimum wage hits its lowest value since 1956

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Laura Clawson

The average wage needed for someone to afford a market-rate one-bedroom apartment rental in this country is $21.25 per hour. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. It’s not hard to see the problem here.

Both sides of the equation are responsible: The rent is too damn high and the pay is too damn low.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual report on housing costs, the market rate for a modest two-bedroom home requires an hourly wage of $25.82 for affordability, defined as 30% of income on housing costs. Across the entire country, “In approximately 9% of counties or county equivalents (including Puerto Rico), the renter wage is below the federal, state, or local minimum wage.” In the continental U.S., Arkansas is the winner, requiring just 1.4 full-time minimum wage jobs to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

On the rent-is-too-damn-high front, “Across the country, rents rose 18% between the first quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022. These rent increases have been widespread: out of 345 metropolitan counties, all but two have seen a rise in rental prices since 2021.” Those increases have hammered people who were barely making it month to month, already paying well over the 30% of income considered affordable for housing. Some interviewed in the NLIHC report are now paying 80% of their household income to remain housed.

Nationally, more than 40% of people are not paid enough to afford a one-bedroom apartment, and nearly 60% are not paid enough to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

The burden of high housing costs falls disproportionately on Black and Latino renters, the report notes: “White workers at the bottom of the white income distribution earn over one dollar more per hour than Black and Latino workers at the bottom of their respective income distributions. Among Black workers, a Black person at the 20th percentile of wages earns $2.30 less per hour than a white worker at the same percentile. A Latino worker at the 20th percentile of wages earns $2.05 less than a white worker at the same percentile.” 

On the pay-is-too-damn-low front, the minimum wage, which has not increased since 2009, is now worth less than at any time since 1956. The Economic Policy Institute’s Dave Kamper put that in context:

The United States must invest in affordable housing and rental assistance. It must increase the minimum wage—even in the states where it’s currently the highest. And that means Republicans cannot be allowed to keep standing in the way. 

This blog is printed with permission.

About the Author: Author’s name is Laura Clawson. Laura is assistant managing editor for Daily Kos.


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“We Will Win”: For the First Time in 50 Years, Minneapolis Teachers Are Out on Strike

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In an interview, one striking teacher explains how community support is providing energy and optimism on the picket line

On March 8, around 3,500 Minneapolis teachers and educational support professionals went out on strike, effectively shutting down a system of 35,000 students. The action, led by Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) Local 59, is the first walkout the city has seen in over 50 years. 

Educators are demanding caps to class sizes, higher wages and more mental health support for students. While the school district is claiming a budget shortfall, union advocates have pointed to the state’s record $9.3 billion surplus as a potential untapped resource. 

We sat down with Beth Dill, a 5th grade teacher at Whittier International Elementary School and an active union member, to talk about the strike, which is entering its second week.

What do you see as the key issues in this strike?

It’s about what kind of future thousands of kids will have. Specifically, we are fighting for smaller class size, more mental health support for children, recruitment and retention of teachers of color and increasing the pay for our lowest paid members?—?the educational support staff. They start at $24,000 per year. The educators make it work. Short staffing has been a huge problem over the years, but the pandemic has brought us to the breaking point and it’s unacceptable.

How are educators holding up so far?

I know we are only a few days into the strike but so far it has been amazing. On the picket line at Whittier Elementary it’s been like a raucous party with music, dancing and food. Every morning several schools in the area join for picketing. All over the city, the same thing is happening: Large boisterous picket lines.

The support from parents, students and community members has been unbelievable. We have parents, kids and their dogs walking the picket line with us, bringing us food. It keeps our spirits up to see Somali, Black, Latinx and white parents out here. We have 65% kids of color here and many English language learners. Children of color make up well over half of the school population.

Our union members went door knocking in neighborhoods across the city last Saturday and again today [Friday, March 11]. There were a thousand union members talking to neighbors. I just heard that we had positive feedback from 94% of those we talked to. I’m so glad we’re using this tactic. It helps keep us in touch with the community and gives a sense of confidence that we are supported. I haven’t heard of too many strikes that do canvassing.

We’ve also had great support from political leaders. The Minneapolis City Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting our fight on Thursday. Our three socialist city council members (Robin Wonsley Worlobah, Jason Chavez and Aisha Chughtai) have spoken at our rallies, walked the strike line and been a megaphone for us. Unions in the area have also come through for us, from the Teamsters to the Laborers. It helps a lot.

How do you account for the community support?

The public knows what we’re fighting for: smaller class size, mental health supports, educators of color and higher pay for everyone but especially the lowest paid. MFT has also been very involved in some important social struggles. Our union was part of the fight to try to remake public safety in the city after the police murder of George Floyd. We’ve been very involved in the struggle around rent control. 

The fight to protect our kids isn’t just in the classroom. Their ability to learn and thrive is impacted by public safety, housing and environmental concerns.

How does the ?“education reform movement” fit into the political picture and the strike?

They are definitely trying to turn the community against us, especially the Black community. And we must be honest. The union has historically not always been seen as an ally to the Black community. Astroturf groups like the Minnesota Parents Union (MPU) are finding some sympathy for their point of view because of that. Of course, MPU does not represent the vast majority of Minneapolis parents. We see that clearly on the picket lines. So the Minnesota Parents Union is losing the battle.

The funding for the education reform movement comes from neoliberal operations like The Minneapolis Foundation. Under the guise of racial equity they attack public education and the union. They are aiming to privatize education because there is a lot of money to be made there and charter schools are largely non-union. We know the foundations and rich people behind charter schools don’t care about educating children because the products they promote?—?charter schools?—?don’t produce better outcomes for kids.

How long do you think this strike will last?

I’m not making any predictions. I think Ed Graff, the superintendent of Minneapolis schools, has underestimated us. He didn’t think we would get a 97% vote of the membership to strike. He thought educators wouldn’t stick together, that parents and the community would turn against us. Right before the strike he sent an email encouraging us to cross the picket line. All that did was make people madder.

Negotiations have begun again. That’s a step in the right direction. We will turn up the heat. We will hold the line. We will win.

This blog post was printed at In These Times on March 14, 2022.

About the Author: Kip Hedges is a school bus driver in St. Paul and longtime union activist.


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Sanitation Workers Win Raise After Going on Strike—With Community Support

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CHULA VISTA, CALIF.—“Who are we?” Teamsters! ?“What do we want?” Contract! ?“When do we want it?” Now!

The sanitation workers of Teamsters Local 542 were still in good voice three weeks into their strike, which began Dec. 17, 2021, even as Republic Services started bringing in nonunion out-of-staters as garbage piled up. Republic had refused the Teamsters’ demands for so long that the city of Chula Vista declared a public health emergency because of the amount of uncollected refuse.

Close to 300 workers, many of them Latino or Black, were on strike across three different San Diego County locations. ?“We want to go back to work,” said Chula Vista picketer Ladere Hampton, ?“so that we can clean up the city.”

Workers were demanding wage increases and new trucks (barring improved maintenance on the existing vehicles), saying their equipment was poorly maintained and could create a health hazard?—?especially to the children who often greet them on their routes.

“You don’t want to be driving down the street and you’ve got trash juices flying off your wheels, especially if you pull up to a customer’s house,” Hampton said. ?“And that’s happening.”

Workers also cited long hours as a point of contention. Many drivers work 11-hour days and six-day weeks, servicing more than 1,000 homes per route.

The picket line held back the ?“Blue Crew”?—?Republic’s term for the replacement workers, flown in from around the country?—?for a few minutes before letting them through to the facility’s driveway. As the Republic trucks sat waiting, Hampton pointed out how filthy they were?—?they’re normally cleaned weekly. He also held up a picture of a truck that arrived with a bin hanging off the side, a clear safety hazard.

“[Republic is] paying all this money to bring in a crew to try to do our job,” Hampton said. ?“And they’re not doing such a good job.”

The Republic media relations office told In These Times: ?“Safety is our number one priority at Republic Services. … Our Blue Crew relief team is made up of elite Republic Services drivers, technicians, and supervisors from around the country, and we’re grateful for their support in taking care of our customers in the San Diego area.”

The San Diego strike followed a similar dispute between Teamsters and Republic in December 2021 in Orange County, Calif., which concluded after seven days. It may not be the last. Republic is the second-largest trash collection company in the United States, with facilities in more than 40 states; the Teamsters represent more than 7,000 Republic workers, with contracts all over the nation up for renegotiation this year. And despite dragging its feet on wage increases for workers, Republic paid its CEO more than $12 million in 2020.

Even with nationwide support, the strike wasn’t easy on the workers, especially during the holiday season. Next to the picket line was a tent with a small box for donations. ?“If there’s anybody that needs some help, we’re willing to give them the box with the money, and hopefully that helps them so that they can stay out here,” Hampton explained.

He said the strikers had also experienced an outpouring of solidarity from the community. A couple of nights prior, two trucks had come through with ?“bags of groceries… for each [striking] driver,” he said.

As we talked, someone shouts ?“cliente” and the picket line splits to allow customers to enter the facility and drop off their own trash. The driver honks and waves.

Hampton pulls out his phone to find a picture. ?“You know, we’ve had a lady come out here and bring her kids out here because they knew?—?the kids knew?—?what was going on and they wanted to come out here and support us,” he says. In the photo, dozens of yellow-vested Teamsters smile and crouch down to share the frame with a small child holding a picket sign.

The Teamsters accepted an offer from Republic on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 17. The new contract includes wage increases and some healthcare benefits, but falls short of what the striking workers wanted.

“The new pay rates I believe are $26.90 [hourly], and before the strike, we were at $25 flat,” according to worker Dohney Castillo. Workers will also receive wage increases in 2023, 2024 and 2025, Castillo says.

“This was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make,” Rafael Mejia, a worker at Republic, says in a statement published on the Teamsters’ website.

“We are fighting for dignity and respect on the job, but we also know that the strike has been affecting our communities and our neighbors and our own families. This contract isn’t everything we believe we deserve, but it’s enough to go back to work and go back to taking care of our communities.”

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on February 17, 2022

About the Author: James Stout is a freelance writer, published with numerous media outlets.


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Service + Solidarity Spotlight: MEBA Fights for Better Pay and Working Conditions for Staten Island Ferry Mariners

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Working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities during these trying times. In our regular Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we’ll showcase one of these stories every day. Here’s today’s story.

The Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (MEBA) is raising the alarm about New York City’s ability to attract and retain skilled mariners to work on the Staten Island Ferry. At the union’s urging, U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis of Staten Island sent a letter to Mayor Eric Adams, asking him to repair a broken wage structure that is compromising consistent ferry sailings, mariner retention and passenger safety.

MEBA, which represents captains, assistant captains, engineers and mates on the ferries, has pointed out that officers in the fleet work for much less than industry wages, with inadequate benefits, and have not received a pay increase in almost 11 years. “Nobody sticks around, they leave,” said MEBA Secretary-Treasurer Roland “Rex” Rexha, a former shop steward at the ferry system. “Why would they stay at the Staten Island Ferry when it’s not even close to industry wages?

This blog originally appeared at AFL-CIO on January, 20, 2022.

About the Authors: Kenneth Quinell is a Senior Writer at the AFL-CIO.

Aaron Gallant is the Internal Communications Specialist at AFL-CIO


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How the Potency of Social Wages Can Beat Back Neoliberalism

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Jack Metzgar – LAWCHA

At the core of President Biden’s American Families Plan is an understanding that workers are paid too little in market wages and that government has a responsibility to change that.

If President Biden’s American Families Plan becomes law as he proposed it, my grand-niece Harri will finally have a ?“modest yet adequate” standard of living based on a new commitment from the federal government to provide social wages.

Harri is a 30-year-old single mother of two, one 3?year-old and one in school. As an assistant manager at Walmart, she makes about $47,000 a year, but about $8,000 of that goes for day care for her preschooler. She recently started getting $550 a month in a Child Tax Credit (CTC), but that’s just a temporary boost for the next year that was part of the Democrats’ March stimulus package. If the Families Plan?—?part of what Biden describes as ?“human infrastructure”?—?becomes law, she’ll get that CTC money for another five years and her preschooler will get free pre?K public education, freeing Harri from paying for day care.

Add it all up, and Harri’s income will be topped up by $6,600 and she’ll be saving $8,000 a year on day-care costs. She’ll go from having $47,000 a year in reported income to having $53,600, but with the absence of day-care costs, her real spending income will be enhanced by $14,600, a 37% increase. Where she lives, in central Pennsylvania, the Economic Policy Institute figures that with no child care costs, she would need about $49,000 to have a modest yet adequate standard of living. Harri will have a little more than that. Bringing in $53,600 will not provide her with a life of luxury, but the magnitude of that change should be transformative for Harri and her children. Harri will get more than parents with fewer kids or fewer pre-schoolers, but she’ll get less than parents with more kids or more than one preschooler. 

The point is that the combination of the CTC and public pre?K (plus an additional program where parents of one- and two-year-olds will pay no more than 7% of their income for day care) will make a dramatic difference in most parents’ and children’s lives. It is often said that the CTC by itself will cut child poverty in half. But the whole combination will do much more than that for many more families, including those who are not poor but struggle to get by.

Beyond its variety of impacts on different American families, Biden’s Families Plan is a breakthrough commitment to the concept of social wages, a concept that has even wider application. Along with other Biden initiatives, there appears to be a firm Democratic recognition that most workers are paid too little in market wages to get by and that the government has a responsibility to change that.

Social wages are different from the commonly (and loosely) used phrase ?“social safety net.” Safety-net programs, like unemployment compensation and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, are for people who have fallen on hard times for one reason or another. Like a net, they keep people from falling farther by providing temporary income until they can get back on their feet. 

Social wages, on the other hand, are more permanent, less means-tested, and available for much larger groups of people. They either subsidize essential workers by increasing their pay or reduce costs of common goods and services. Among Biden’s various plans, for example, are wage subsidies for home care and day care workers who now average $23,000 and $22,000 a year respectively. Obamacare subsidies and the Earned Income Tax Credit do this for a broader group of low-wage workers. Many cities with strong labor movements, like New York, have long had reduced transit fares and rent control to keep costs affordable for low- and moderate-wage workers, though better-paid workers benefit as well. In the postwar years, the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union established cooperative housing and even a non-profit bank to reduce their members’ and other workers’ cost of living.

Increased income or reduced costs increase human freedom by providing a higher standard of living that gives people the chance to choose how to spend money, not just struggle to pay the bills. Harri should have nearly $4,000 in discretionary income if the Families Plan becomes law, something she has never had before. Disposable income is your income after taxes, and almost everybody has some. Discretionary income is the income you have left after all your ordinary expenses are met, the money you can actually choose how to spend. It’s anything over that modest yet adequate amount that the Economic Policy Institute has estimated for your family in the place you live.

Biden’s Families plan will affect my niece’s family and its prospects much more than it will for many other families. A family with one school-age child, for example, will get only $250 a month with the CTC and no savings for child care. Or, a single mother with two children, like Harri, will get the same amount in CTC and in child-care savings, but because she earns only $20,000, she’ll end up with a mere $26,600 and free day care?—?no longer in official poverty but still a long way from a modest but adequate income.

But the concept of social wages is just as important as the specific result of any particular program. It means that the federal government accepts its responsibility to make sure that ?“nobody who works full time should live in poverty.” It also represents the transfer of money from our super-wealthy to workers who make less than a modest but adequate living. Biden proposes to pay for his plans with increased taxes on corporations and on individuals who earn more than $400,000 a year?—?though it would be even fairer if the Walton family had to pay Elizabeth Warren’s proposed wealth tax on their $247 billion in wealth since Harri and her co-workers helped produce some of that.

I’m as surprised as anyone at how sweepingly progressive Biden’s initiatives are, but none of them came full-blown from the head of Biden. They are all programs that have been developed and advocated for by progressive activists and academics in opposition to a seemingly impregnable public commitment to neoliberalism?—?all that movement and electoral politics of the past several decades, all those Fight for $15 actions and the doors Berniecrats knocked on.

As an academic, I am especially inspired by the intellectual work that contributed to this process. Efforts to establish ?“modest but adequate” levels of family income, for example, had begun in the postwar period by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics?—?at a time when unions represented one of every three workers and that Henry Wallace aspirationally dubbed ?“the century of the common man.” That statistical series was ended in the early years of the Reagan administration, signifying that the federal government no longer gave a shit about what was adequate for common people. A decade or so later, a more sophisticated effort to establish adequate income levels was undertaken first by Wider Opportunities for Women and then by the Economic Policy Institute. The Reagan administration didn’t want us to be able to measure how inadequate most family incomes would become. But now we know, and we have one of our political parties at least rhetorically aspiring to adequacy.

The fate of Harri and her kids and millions like them will be determined in the next few weeks as the Democrats cajole, negotiate with, and debate each other about what will be in the final budget reconciliation bill. Let’s hope they do enough to decisively turn the page on four decades of neoliberal indifference to the people who do essential work we all depend upon.

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on July 14, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the author: Jack Metzgar is a professor emeritus of Humanities at Roosevelt University in Chicago. A former president of the Working-Class Studies Association, he is the author of a forthcoming book from Cornell University Press, Bridging the Divide: Working-Class Culture in a Middle-Class Society.


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Agricultural Workers Lose Millions of Dollars Each Year to Employer Wage Theft

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It’s against U.S. labor laws, but that hasn’t stopped employers from withholding more than $65 million in worker wages over the last two decades.

Tens of thou­sands of agri­cul­tur­al work­ers have been denied wages by their employ­ers—a vio­la­tion of labor laws—over the past two decades, accord­ing to Depart­ment of Labor data. The data shows that the employ­ers didn’t pay a total of $65 mil­lion in wages to their 150,000 employ­ees between 2001and 2019.

Back wages increased from $4.2 mil­lion to $6 mil­lion in 2019 than in 2018, a 44 per­cent increase, accord­ing to the data.

Agri­cul­ture is one of fif­teen indus­tries the DOL con­sid­ers “low wage, high vio­la­tion industries.”

Many in agri­cul­ture are white, but, in gen­er­al, His­pan­ics and immi­grants of col­or work tougher agri­cul­tur­al jobs, such as har­vest­ing fields and slaugh­ter­ing ani­mals. About 27% of the indus­try is His­pan­ic, accord­ing to the Bureau of Labor Sta­tis­tics. Employ­ers who will­ful­ly or repeat­ed­ly vio­late the Fair Labor Stan­dards Act, which cov­ers deny­ing back wages, can be fined up to $1,000 for each violation.

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on August 14, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Pramod Acharya is an investigative journalist, data reporter, and multimedia content producer for the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.


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How to Save the Restaurant Workforce From Being Casualties of The Covid-19 Crisis

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As the Covid-19 pandemic has swept through cities across the country, restaurants have been forced to shut down indefinitely—or slashed their workforces and reduced their operations to threadbare delivery and take-out only services. 

Saru Jayaraman, President of One Fair Wage, an advocacy group for restaurant workers and other tipped service employees (including Uber and Doordash drivers, manicurists and car wash workers) hopes the economic turmoil might lead to a much-needed reset for the industry. 

One Fair Wage, which grew out of the national labor advocacy group Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, envisions a sustainable post-pandemic business model. It starts with dismantling the subminimum wage system, which allows employers to calculate the minimum wage for tipped workers at just a fraction of the normal minimum, as little as $2.13 per hour, leading to rampant wage theft. And with millions of households grappling with food insecurity, One Fair Wage is also piloting the “High Road Kitchens” project—a combination of mutual aid and community-based entrepreneurship, which offers a living wage to all workers and currently works with restaurants in California to feed low-wage workers in their local communities.

In These Times talked to Jayaraman about how the pandemic could change restaurant work over the long term.

MC: How does the pandemic underscore the issues that One Fair Wage has been advocating around for years?

The pandemic put our work on speed because it literally just made our point for us: it showed America why no one should ever have been making less than a minimum wage to begin with. After all, remember that the minimum wage in the United States emerged from the last Great Depression, and at that time tipped workers were excluded [from unemployment benefits and federal safety net programs meant for industrial workers]. Incarcerated workers, gig workers, people with disabilities were excluded. That was supposed to be the moment when people [decided] going forward, no one is going to get less than this minimum. But it wasn’t true for these workers. So with the pandemic, more than 10 million service sector workers have lost their jobs and are having real problems accessing unemployment insurance or are getting unemployment insurance [based] on a total miscalculation of their income, because of the messiness of living off of tips. We’re hearing this from a lot of women who are single mothers. They’re going to apply for unemployment and the state unemployment insurance [office] is telling them [their tipped income] is too low to meet the minimum state threshold to qualify for unemployment insurance.

So tipped workers in America are up against two systems that come from the Great Depression and were built against them. One is the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers, which never worked and has been laid bare [by the pandemic] as a completely untenable situation. And two is unemployment. Now that states are reopening and restaurant workers are being forced to go back to work, not only are tipped workers facing the difficult choice between their livelihood and their life. On top of that, we’re facing a world in which tips have gone way down. People tip delivery and takeout [workers] maybe 10% of what they tip typically in a sit-down restaurant. So, all of that has made workers very angry, and we are organizing them and building up towards some really big direct action that’s coming up.

And it’s made employers, at least many independent restaurant owners, open their eyes. We’ve worked with Gov. Newsom to launch a program called High Road Kitchen in California that would provide cash grants to restaurants that commit to higher wage and greater equity going forward. And they take the money now and rehire workers and provide free meals to the community, and paid meals to anyone who can afford to pay for it. You would think all restaurant owners would be saying “don’t raise wages right now, we’re struggling.” But on the contrary, many restaurant owners, at least independent restaurant owners—the chains are not going to move on this—are saying “you know, this is precisely the time to raise wages. This is precisely the time to make changes because we’re all reinventing what restaurants are going to look. We’re having to redo our business models from scratch, we may as well incorporate something that is sustainable for our people, because it’s been made very clear that this sub-minimum wage never worked.”

My point is that all of those workers should get a full minimum wage from their employer in addition to safety protocols, because the tips are going to be so much less reliable going forward. They were never reliable to begin with. But they’re going to be even more insecure and unreliable. 

MC: Overall what do you think the restaurant industry is going to look like, given that there are places that just aren’t going to be able to reopen. Do you think there might be more consolidation in the industry?

This is why we’re really pushing for solutions like High Road Kitchens, which is both about saving small businesses and bringing the industry in the right direction and hiring workers and feeding people all at the same time. 

What I’m thinking about is a program that gets small businesses cash and commits them to higher wages—and helps them change their business models, and then also allows them to do feeding programs and rehire workers. And so it’s a multi-win, and it’s based on the philosophy and idea that if we’re going to be providing relief, let’s shape relief in a way that shapes the future. That’s what we should be doing as a country. If we know that the pandemic has laid bare inequities, then rather than providing blanket relief, especially to these big chains, that relief needs to be contingent on commitments to change.

We have two choices: Either we can go toward a much more horrific future where we force people to go back to work at two dollars an hour and there’s no tips, so they continue at basically Great Depression-era levels of poverty and starvation, plus they’re already in debt due to the last couple of months of not having income. That’s the horrific future. And then I think that the real future we need to fight for is one where we don’t go back until we get One Fair Wage and PPE and safety protocols. I don’t think there’s an in-between. 

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on June 1, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Michelle Chen is a historian based in New York City, a contributing writer at In These Times and The Nation, a contributing editor at Dissent and a co-producer of the Belabored podcast.


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It sure is great to be in the top 1%, this week in the war on workers

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If you’ve been in the workforce since 1979, how much have your wages gone up? If you’re a little younger, how much have the wages for a job like yours gone up in those years? I bet it’s not 157.8%—unless, of course, you’re in the top 1%.

By contrast, wages for the bottom 90% grew by 23.9% between 1979 and 2018, according to an Economic Policy Institute analysis. The top 1% still lags one group, though, and that’s the top 0.1%, which saw its wages rise by 340.7% in those years.

This is economic inequality in action, and it’s reshaped the economy. “The bottom 90% earned 69.8% of all earnings in 1979 but only 61.0% in 2018. In contrast the top 1.0% increased its share of earnings from 7.3% in 1979 to 13.3% in 2018, a near-doubling,” EPI’s Lawrence Mishel and Melat Kassa write. “The growth of wages for the top 0.1% is the major dynamic driving the top 1.0% earnings as the top 0.1% more than tripled its earnings share from 1.6% in 1979 to 5.1% in 2018.”

This article was originally published at Daily Kos on December 21, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is a Daily Kos contributor at Daily Kos editor since December 2006. Full-time staff since 2011, currently assistant managing editor.

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Priorities USA launches Latino persuasion program in Florida

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Laura Barron-LopezPriorities USA is focusing on Latinos early.

The Democratic super PAC is launching a sustained digital effort to woo Latinos in the run up to the 2020 presidential election, according to details of the plan provided to POLITICO. Priorities USA is starting in Florida first and will expand the slate of digital ads to other battleground states across the country as the cycle progresses.

It’s a new piece of the super PAC’s $100 million commitment to the primaries. The group didn’t spend on Latino-focused ads in 2015.

This time they are starting before 2020 and in a state that is at the heart of President Donald Trump’s re-election efforts. The digital ads which will run on Facebook and YouTube, cover pocketbook issues that Florida Latinos care about, according to the super PAC. The group didn’t specify the amount of money being spent on the Latino outreach program.

The digital program includes digital banners, audio and pre-roll ads. The program also includes promoting news articles across Facebook focused on the impact of Trump’s policies on Latinos in Florida.

Priorities USA said the ads will be about rising health care costs, wages, and Trump’s racist rhetoric and immigration policies.

“Latino communities are feeling the negative economic impacts of President Trump’s reckless policies,” said Daniela Martins, Hispanic Media Director for Priorities USA. “We are launching this program in order to establish a continuous dialogue with Latinos on the everyday pocketbook issues they care about, like stagnant wages under a rising cost of living, the rising costs of healthcare, and the increasing lack of opportunity in an unstable economy.”

“We want them to know that their experience is not isolated, that they are not alone,” Martins said. “That they have a voice for the White House to hear, and the right to push back.”

Priorities USA is taking steps to understand Florida’s different Latino communities, which include Cubans and Puerto Ricans. And is using research it conducted earlier this year surveying Latinos in Florida, Nevada and Arizona to better understand how to reach and mobilize the voting bloc.

Latinos are on pace to be the largest non-white eligible voting bloc in 2020. Miami-Dade County, Florida is home to the third-largest Latino population, 1.9 million, according to Pew research. And hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans, who are U.S. citizens, are estimated to have migrated to Florida after devastating hurricanes hit the island in 2017.

This article was originally published by the Politico on November 13, 2019. Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author: Laura Barrón-López is a national political reporter for POLITICO, covering House campaigns and the 2020 presidential race.

Barrón-López previously led 2018 coverage of Democrats for the Washington Examiner. At the Examiner, Barrón-López covered the DNC’s efforts to reform the power of superdelegates and traveled to competitive districts that propelled Democrats into the House majority. Before that, Barrón-López covered Congress for HuffPost for two and half years, focusing on fights over fast-track authorization, criminal justice reform, and coal miner pensions, among other policy topics in the Senate.

Early in her career, she covered energy and environment policy for The Hill. Her work has been published in the Oregonian, OC Register, E&E Publishing, and Roll Call. She earned a bachelor’s in political science from California State University, Fullerton.


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Breanna Stewart’s injury adds another layer of urgency to WNBA collective bargaining negotiations

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The 23rd season of the WNBA tips off in a little over a month, and it looks to be a momentous one for the leagues’s athletes. On court, the 12 teams and 144 players will be looking to capitalize on last year’s blockbuster season, which saw a healthy increase in ratings, a new franchise in Las Vegas get off to a promising start, and a level of league-wide talent and parity that produced an indelible array of can’t-miss match-ups on a night in, night out basis.

This year, there will be no small amount of drama off the court as well, as the players will be fighting to secure themselves a bigger piece of this expanding pie. Last October, they opted out of their current collective bargaining agreement, which will now expire at the end of the 2019 season. So they’re not just fighting for wins and titles; they’re literally fighting for better pay, better travel conditions, better marketing, and a better future for the league they love.

Unfortunately, they’re going to have to do all of this without their reigning Most Valuable Player (MVP), Breanna Stewart.

Last week, while playing in the EuroLeague Final Four championship game in Hungary with her team, the Russia-based Dynamo Kursk, Stewart ruptured her right Achilles tendon. It’s a terrible blow to a player whose last 11 months have been among the most accomplished in basketball history. During that time Stewart was recognized as the WNBA’s MVP, the WNBA Finals MVP, the FIBA World Cup MVP, and the FIBA EuroLeague Women regular season MVP. She took home a WNBA championship with the Seattle Storm and a FIBA World Cup championship with Team USA for good measure. Now, her injury will force her to sit out the entire 2019 WNBA season.

When Stewart collapsed to the ground in pain during the EuroLeague championship, her WNBA colleagues around the world stopped in their tracks. Imani McGee-Stafford, a center for the Atlanta Dream, gasped. McGee-Stafford’s Dream teammate, Elizabeth Williams, was watching the game live from Turkey when she saw Stewart fall. At the sight of Stewart’s injury, she screamed, “Nooo!” Elena Delle Donne, a forward for the Washington Mystics and good friend of Stewart’s, was simply heartbroken.

And for all of the WNBA’s players, coaches, and fans, Stewart’s devastating injury highlighted how absurd it is that the biggest stars in the WNBA still have to go overseas to play basketball during the WNBA offseason in order to earn their living, instead of spending the offseason recharging and recuperating. Stewart’s base salary this WNBA season is $64,538; overseas, elite players can sometimes earn $1 million or more per season. The current WNBA maximum salary for veterans is $117,500.

“This is harmful to our league. It effects the product on the floor. And we’ve got to find a solution to this,” said Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve.

The players are certainly trying. The executive committee of the WNBA Player’s Association (WNBPA) — which includes Delle Donne and Williams, along with Nneka Ogwumike, Layshia Clarendon, Chiney Ogwumike, Sue Bird, and Carolyn Swords — has been talking with WNBPA leadership regularly during the offseason to engineer a new path forward.

“Playing overseas should always be a choice, but not a necessity,” Delle Donne said. “There are so many reasons it makes sense for the NBA and WNBA to invest in us as players. Injury prevention is obviously a top reason.”

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A couple of weeks ago, the executive committee members who weren’t currently playing in overseas competition had their first official meeting with WNBA brass — including NBA commissioner Adam Silver, NBA deputy commissioner and interim WNBA president Mark Tatum, and several WNBA owners. The meeting was essentially a listening session, where the WNBPA laid out its priorities heading into negotiations: Salary and compensation, player experience, health and safety, and establishing a lasting business model for the league.

And while fostering the health and safety of players by limiting the need to seek employment opportunities overseas was already on the agenda, there’s little doubt that Stewart’s injury will add weight to to the conversation.

“This brings it more to the forefront and brings some urgency to the cause,” Williams said.

Injury prevention isn’t the only reason why its important to ensure that players have more opportunities to stay in the United States during the WNBA offseason. Going overseas for long stretches of time and playing competitive basketball without some sort of meaningful break contributes to mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion.

“We virtually put our lives on hold when we play overseas,” McGee-Stafford said. “We miss holidays, events, time with loved ones. But furthermore, we miss marketing moments and accessibility from our fans.”

Take Williams, for example. She has only had approximately three weeks of downtime since the Dream lost in the semifinals of last year’s WNBA playoffs in September. She’s currently in Turkey, competing in the first round of their playoffs. If her team makes it to the finals, she could be coming back more than a week into Dream training camp next month. And then the cycle would start again.

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Similarly, it’s an incredible frustration for WNBA coaches, who spend training camps unable to work with their full roster due to so many absences because of overseas play; then, when players finally return, they’re nowhere near refreshed or ready to go.

“When our players come back, we are constantly making concessions,” Reeve said. “We have to change how much time we can spend on the court with them, so you just lose the ability to have this individual improvement when there’s no offseason.”

Of course, the only way to solve this problem is money. And that’s where the conversation usually hits a roadblock. Silver has been outspoken about the fact that the WNBA is still a fledgling league, subsidized by the NBA. Partially because of those comments, there has been an erosion of trust between the WNBA players and WNBA leadership — a fact that isn’t helped by the fact that the WNBA still has not named its next president, six months after Lisa Borders resigned.

Silver has insisted that he’s committed to rebuilding that trust, but the only way to truly do it is by making a significant investment in the players during this collective bargaining session.

“I just think we have a unique opportunity, the NBA does, in that they’re seen as a progressive league, and they’re an iconic brand,” Reeve said. “The idea of being a leader in society, that would mean you’re the one putting your foot forward and saying, ‘Do this with us, treat women this way with us.’ You sort-of create a chain reaction by you stepping forward and saying, ‘You will do this, because it’s important.’ And I think when you see that opportunity, minds will change.”

Delle Donne agrees. It’s time for the chicken vs. egg fight with investment vs. success to stop. The WNBA is growing. The fans are watching. The players are getting better by leaps and bounds every generation. But the only way to continue this growth is if the best players in the world play in the WNBA. And they can’t do that if they’re getting injured playing for teams on other continents that pay them significantly more money.

“It’s in everyone’s best interest, especially the league’s and the owners’, to invest in us as players – our safety, our physical and mental well-being – to grow the game,” she said.

“Everything else, and especially the future growth of the game, hinges on the WNBA being the best and most elite place to play basketball.”

This article was originally published at ThinkProgress on April 21, 2019. Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author: Lindsay Gibbs covers sports for ThinkProgress.


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