Daily Digest - November 14: Strikes on Capitol Hill, the Post Office, and Walmart

Nov 13, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Take 5: CTU's Fight Against Risky Financial Deals, Ed Policy Under Rauner (Catalyst Chicago)

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Take 5: CTU's Fight Against Risky Financial Deals, Ed Policy Under Rauner (Catalyst Chicago)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Saqib Bhatti criticizes the Chicago Public Schools for diving deeper into overly risky financial deals, which he says were misrepresented by the banks.

Capitol Workers Ask Obama for Pay 'More Like Costco and Less Like Walmart' (The Guardian)

Workers who serve meals in the Capitol's dining facilities went on strike Wednesday to protest their poverty-level wages, writes Jana Kasperkevic. This is the first strike of federally contracted workers to include Capitol workers.

Postal Workers to Address Service Cuts at National Rallies (AJAM)

Ned Resnikoff reports on the demonstrations planned for Friday by the American Postal Workers Union, which is protesting cuts that would eliminate jobs and lead to slower delivery.

Walmart Workers Stage Sit-In At California Store Ahead Of Black Friday (Buzzfeed)

Yesterday's first-of-it's-kind protest involved about 25 Walmart workers in Southern California, reports Claudia Koemer, who draws parallels to retail strikes of the 1930s.

The Number of Unemployed Exceeds the Number of Available Jobs Across All Sectors (Working Economics)

Elise Gould says that since unemployed workers outnumber job openings across all sectors, the problem in the labor market must be a broad lack of demand, not a skills gap.

Great News: Lots of Americans Just Quit Their Jobs (Vox)

Danielle Kurtzleben says the sharp increase in the quits rate in September is a sign of economic health, since people don't leave jobs without expecting to find another.

Why Women Should Get the Rest of the Year Off (The Nation)

Bryce Covert quips that since women make only 78 percent of what men make, it's time for women to take a vacation – not just from their jobs, but from the second shift at home as well.

New on Next New Deal

The UNC Coup and the Second Limit of Economic Liberalism

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal says the University of North Carolina's financial aid rules demonstrate how current liberal policy pits the middle class against the poor for access to goods and services.

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Daily Digest - November 13: When Government Intervention is the Best Remedy for a Health Crisis?

Nov 12, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Ebola and Inequality (Liberian Observer)

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Ebola and Inequality (Liberian Observer)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz says the Ebola crisis reveals the absolute need for a government role in health care. Drug companies aren't creating cures for diseases that primarily impact the poor.

Don't Forget the Kinda Unemployed (U.S. News & World Report)

Mike Cassidy points out the workers who are missed by the traditional unemployment rate: involuntary part-timers and marginally attached workers. While unemployment has improved, underemployment is still elevated.

Is Wage Stagnation Killing the Democratic Party? (Vox)

While Ezra Klein agrees that wage stagnation is a major issue today, he doesn't think it impacted the midterms as much as the difference between midterm and presidential year electorates.

VW to Allow Labor Groups to Represent Workers at Chattanooga Plant (NYT)

Steven Greenhouse reports on Volkswagen's new policy, which will create formal structures for groups representing at least 15 percent of plant workers to meet with company officials.

If Democrats Want to be the Party of the People, They Need to Go Full Populist (The Week)

It's time to reject neoliberal commitment to markets and convince the American people of the power of economic populism and income transfer programs, writes Ryan Cooper.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch points out that the populist narrative was key in Democratic midterm wins.

Did Obama Shoot Himself in the Foot on Net Neutrality? (MoJo)

Erika Eichelberger suggests that the president may have lost the fight on net neutrality back in 2013, by appointing a Federal Communication Commission chairman who is so friendly to the industry.

Study: Social Welfare Programs Help Fight Poverty in America (The Guardian)

Jana Kasperkevic looks at a new study showing just how important social safety net programs are in reducing poverty; without food stamps, another 8 million Americans would be in poverty.

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Daily Digest - November 5: Can a Minimum Wage Hike Still Happen in a Republican Congress?

Nov 5, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Will the GOP Make a Move on Minimum Wage? (MSNBC)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren suggests that the business wing of the Republican Party could push for a higher minimum wage because of stagnant demand.

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Will the GOP Make a Move on Minimum Wage? (MSNBC)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren suggests that the business wing of the Republican Party could push for a higher minimum wage because of stagnant demand.

GOP: From Shutdown Villains to Kings of Congress? (AJAM)

Alvaro Guzman Bastida looks at how the GOP swung back from its lowest approval ratings in history. Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal says that while the shutdown is no longer hurting the economy, austerity is.

Obama Just Lost the Battle for the Senate. It's Time He Waged War for Real. (TNR)

The only real play the President and the Democrats have now is to push hard for progressive policies that energize Obama voters in preparation for 2016, writes Brian Beutler.

The Wealth Gap Preoccupies Wall Street (Newsweek)

Lynnley Browning says that even big financial institutions, from Credit Suisse to the World Bank, are worried about the impact of extreme economic inequality on the economy as a whole.

Higher Minimum Wages Prove Popular; Marijuana Is Less So in Florida (NYT)

Shaila Dewan reports on winning minimum wage measures in solidly Republican states, among other ballot measures. Support for a higher minimum wage significantly cut across party lines.

New on Next New Deal

Finance 101 Problems in National Affairs' Case For Fair-Value Accounting

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal digs into a new conservative defense of fair-value accounting for student loans, and finds that its authors are fundamentally mistaken about what FVA is and does.

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Control of the Senate Could Lie With Kansas

Nov 3, 2014Andrea FlynnShulie Eisen

The Kansas Senate race could determine control of Congress - but there isn't a Democrat involved. Read the other state-by-state analyses in this series here.

The Kansas Senate race could determine control of Congress - but there isn't a Democrat involved. Read the other state-by-state analyses in this series here.

Kansas is in the midst of not one, but two, close-call midterm races: the Senate race between Senator Pat Roberts (R) and Greg Orman (Independent), and the Governor’s race between Governor Sam Brownback (R) and State Representative Paul Davis (D). The Senate race has been closely watched since the Democratic candidate, Chad Taylor, dropped out in September, launching Orman, running for Senate as an Independent, into the hot seat and giving the political landscape in Kansas an extra dose of unpredictability. Orman bills himself as “fiscally responsible and socially tolerant,” and it is unclear which party he would more closely align himself with if elected. What is clear is that Kansas voters are still undecided, with almost every poll predicting a different election outcome. The race for this Senate seat in Kansas may very well decide which party controls Congress, and women voters in Kansas could determine which way the tide turns.

Where do women in Kansas stand?

  • As in most states, women in Kansas face higher poverty rates than men, and women of color experience rates almost twice that of white women.
  • Over 40 percent of female-headed households live in poverty.
  • Kansas is the only state in the country that saw its uninsured rate significantly increase in the last year. Fourteen percent of women (18 percent of African Americans and 28 percent of Latina women) in Kansas (age 19-64) are uninsured.
  • Kansas is not participating in Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, leaving approximately 78,000 currently uninsured adults, half of whom are women, who would have otherwise qualified, without coverage.
  • Sixty percent of minimum wage earners are women.
  • According to the National Women’s Law Center, the unemployment rate for women in Kansas in 2011 was 6.2 percent, a 2.1 percentage point increase since the recession began in December 2007. 41.7 percent of jobless women workers in Kansas had been looking for work for 27 weeks or more.
  • Women also face a persistent gender wage gap – while women overall make only $0.76 for every dollar a white man makes, African American women make $0.66 to the dollar and Hispanic women only make $0.50 to every dollar.
  • The state has no paid sick leave or family leave policies.
  • Kansas passed a law in 2011 that blocked any clinic or provider that provides abortions from receiving Title X federal family planning funds (federal law already prevents Title X funds from being used for abortion but does allow providers to use other funding sources to pay for such services).

Where do the candidates stand?

Affordable Care Act

Senator Pat Roberts has consistently opposed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and is a vocal critic who advocates for complete repeal of the law. He was the first to call for the resignation of Kathleen Sebelius, the then-Secretary of Health and Human Services, and supported the federal government shutdown during the debate to defund the ACA. In the past, Roberts has supported federal health care spending, voting for the 2003 Medicare prescription drug benefit and supporting efforts at the federal level to expand access to health care service delivery options in rural areas.

Greg Orman has criticized the ACA as an expansion of a “broken system” and says he would have voted against it if he had been in the Senate, but has said he does not support repealing the entire ACA. He has also said that Governor Brownback made a mistake in not accepting federal money to expand Medicaid in Kansas.

Family Planning

Roberts supported the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, saying “Every American has a right to the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment to our Constitution.” Roberts voted no on adopting an amendment to the Senate’s 2006 budget that allocated $100 million to increase funding and access to family planning services (including creating and expanding teen pregnancy prevention and education programs).

Orman disagreed with the Hobby Lobby ruling, saying on his website that the case “is a dangerous precedent to set and opens the door to many more court challenges from private employers.” He also says that, “As a man, I’ll never face some of the decisions women have to make. I know the women of Kansas are smart, and I trust them to make their own decisions about their reproductive health.”

Abortion

Kansas has passed a number of restrictions on abortion, including, among other restrictions, a 24-hour waiting period, state-directed counseling, the requirement that an optional rider must be purchased at additional cost for abortion coverage in private insurance, the prohibition of telemedicine for medication abortions, parental consent for a minor, and an ultrasound requirement. Many of these requirements were passed in an omnibus bill in April 2013 and are currently being challenged in two different lawsuits.

Roberts is a staunch abortion rights opponent and has voted a number of times in support of federal restrictions on abortion access, including an amendment prohibiting minors from going across state lines for abortion services, a bill that would make harming a fetus during a violent crime a criminal offense, the 2003 “partial-birth” abortion ban, and the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. In a recent debate with Orman, Roberts blasted him for suggesting that a debate on abortion was detracting from other important issues. "Get past the rights of the unborn? Get past the guarantee of life for those at the end of life? ... I think that's unconscionable," Roberts said.

Orman has said he supports access to abortion services and that he believes “it’s time for our government to move past this issue and start focusing on other important issues.”

Violence Against Women

Roberts was one of 22 Senators to vote against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 2013. It was his second time voting against the bill. Many who opposed VAWA considered it an overreach of the federal government to include specific new protections for immigrants, gays, and Native Americans.

Orman's campaign materials and website do not mention violence against women.

Minimum wage and the social safety net

Roberts does not support raising the minimum wage. Roberts also added an amendment, which ultimately did not pass, to the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 (the Farm Bill) to cut $12 billion in addition to the $4 billion already in the bill that did pass from the SNAP program (also known as food stamps).

Orman supports tying a federal rise in the minimum wage to inflation, and believes that areas with higher costs of living should have a higher minimum wage. He has not said anything publically on food stamps or other social safety net programs.

Read the rest of this series here.

Andrea Flynn is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. Follow her on Twitter @dreaflynn.

Shulie Eisen is an independent reproductive health care consultant. Follow her on Twitter @shulieeisen.

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Daily Digest - October 30: The Economic Impact of Cities' Sister Act

Oct 30, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Sister City Relationships Boost Business in Chicago, Phoenix and S.F. (Next City)

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Sister City Relationships Boost Business in Chicago, Phoenix and S.F. (Next City)

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Defense and Diplomacy Nehemiah Rolle examines how these relationships allow cities to be power players in the global economy.

Why Millennials Can Fix Healthcare (Huffington Post)

Campus Network Senior Fellow for Health Care Emily Cerciello argues that Millennials' focus on how businesses can improve society could dramatically change the health industry.

Why Dems Are Winning on Minimum Wage (Politico)

Timothy Noah points at numerous races in which raising the minimum wage is proving the perfect wedge issue, and could help to boost Democratic turnout at the polls.

What Happens When People—Rather Than Politicians—Are Given the Chance to Vote for a Higher Minimum Wage? (The Nation)

Michelle Chen says economic justice advocates see these ballot initiatives as a far more straightforward way to improve people's lives than dealing with politicians.

Watchdog Slams Mortgage, Student Loan Servicers (The Hill)

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says it has found a broad array of illegal practices, reports Benjamin Goad, but it won't be announcing which servicers are breaking the law.

New on Next New Deal

Election 2014: Women's Rights in the Balance

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Andrea Flynn introduces her series examining the ways that close-call races across the country could impact health care, economic issues, and more. The state-by-state analyses, published throughout today and tomorrow, can be found here.

We Need Pretrial Detention Reform in Massachusetts

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Equal Justice Jessica Morris says alternatives to bail would create a more just legal system in her state.

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Daily Digest - October 28: The Fed's Top Priority Should Be Wages, Not Inflation

Oct 28, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Fed Can Influence Banks to Spread Opportunity (NYT)

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Fed Can Influence Banks to Spread Opportunity (NYT)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz writes that the Federal Reserve should hold back on interest rate increases until wage growth has made up for workers' recession losses.

How 'Flexible' Schedules Have Become a Trap for Working Parents (Vox)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Andrea Flynn and Elizabeth Weingarten explain how erratic scheduling practices prevent the financial stability working parents need.

What's a 'Living Wage' in Wisconsin? (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Because Wisconsin's minimum wage law says it should also be a living wage, a group of low-wage workers are suing to have it raised, reports Josh Eidelson.

The Other Side of the Growing Disconnect Between Where You Live and Work (Pacific Standard)

Jim Russell looks at an example of a company bringing in lower-paid workers from other countries to explain how global wages hurt people's ability to pay rent in expensive cities.

Efforts to Regulate CEO Pay Gain Traction (Boston Globe)

Katie Johnston looks at some state-level efforts, including a Massachusetts initiative to fine hospitals that pay executives more than 100 times their lowest-paid employees.

How a Divided Senate Could Threaten Social Security (The Nation)

John Nichols says that if the independents running for Senate were to emphasize ending gridlock above all else, their compromises could cause unacceptable harm.

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Daily Digest - October 22: Taking Organized Labor Beyond Collective Bargaining

Oct 22, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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The Seeds of a New Labor Movement (TAP)

Harold Meyerson profiles David Rolf of SEIU and his work to push labor organizations beyond collective bargaining to incorporate minimum wage fights and other organizing work.

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The Seeds of a New Labor Movement (TAP)

Harold Meyerson profiles David Rolf of SEIU and his work to push labor organizations beyond collective bargaining to incorporate minimum wage fights and other organizing work.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch's report lays out policy ideas for reinvigorating the labor movement.

Holiday Shopping Season Kicks Off With Temp Workers Who Have No Rights (The Guardian)

Siri Srinivas says Amazon's annual hiring of thousands of temp workers to staff its warehouses during the busy holiday season highlights the lack of protections for U.S. workers.

States Ease Laws That Protected Poor Borrowers (NYT)

Michael Corkery reports on recent efforts by the consumer loan lobby to permit higher interest rates on riskier loans. These changes are opposed by many, including military leaders.

America’s Ugly Economic Truth: Why Austerity is Generating Another Slowdown (Salon)

David Dayen says that our economic October surprise, which includes stock market slumps and interest rate drops, is indicative of a larger global problem caused by austerity politics.

Ebola Galvanizes Workers Battling to Join Unions, Improve Safety (Reuters)

For workers exposed to bodily fluids, like those who clean airplane bathrooms, lack of clarity around Ebola safety has kicked union organizers into overdrive, writes Mica Rosenberg.

Republicans Trying to Woo, or at Least Suppress, Minority Vote (NY Mag)

Jonathan Chait looks at the Republican Party's split strategy, which simultaneously attempts to convince minority voters to vote for them while pushing laws that make it more difficult to vote.

Federal Reserve Officials Scold Bankers, Again (Buzzfeed)

Matthew Zeitlin reports on statements by the New York Federal Reserve president at a conference on Monday, where he questioned whether large banks can be managed effectively.

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Daily Digest - October 16: Can a Nobel Change the FCC's Tactics?

Oct 16, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Nobel-Winning Message for the FCC (Bloomberg View)

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Nobel-Winning Message for the FCC (Bloomberg View)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford asks whether Jean Tirole's new Nobel Prize might convince the Federal Communications Commission to reconsider his work on regulating communications utilities.

Retail Group's Report Aims to Counter Wage 'Misperceptions' (Chicago Tribune)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Annette Bernhardt tells Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz that the National Retail Federation's report is "an astonishing exercise in tautology" that ignores the industry's bad jobs.

Nurses Union: ‘We’ve Been Lied To’ About Ebola Preparedness (MSNBC)

National Nurses United is accusing the Centers for Disease Control of insufficiently training nurses for the front-line work needed to fight this potential epidemic, reports Ned Resnikoff.

Wall Street Might Know Something the Rest of Us Don’t (NYT)

Neil Irwin suggests that current drops in the stock market need not be seen as a sign of another crisis brewing: more likely, the market is falling back in line with the rest of the economy.

When the Workday Never Really Ends (The Nation)

Michelle Chen looks at new research on how so-called flexible scheduling disrupts the lives of low-income workers with "normal unpredictability" in already-precarious industries.

What’s the Punishment for Ripping Off Consumers? (Medium)

The typical regulatory response to large financial institutions lying to customers is a fine, and Felix Salmon says these fines aren't high enough to be an actual punishment or force change.

Gar Alperovitz on Why the New Economy Movement Needs to Think Big (Yes Magazine)

Scott Gast reviews Alperovitz's new book, What Then Must We Do?, in which he lays out the possibility of a new economic system built up from worker cooperatives.

New on Next New Deal

Threat of Ebola Highlights Problems in the U.S. Public Health System

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Health Care Emily Cerciello says the two cases of Ebola transmitted in the U.S. prove the need for improved public health infrastructure and guidelines.

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Daily Digest - October 15: "Fifteen and a Union" Goes Beyond Fast Food

Oct 15, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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America’s Fastest-Growing Profession is Joining a Very Public Fight for Higher Wages (WaPo)

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America’s Fastest-Growing Profession is Joining a Very Public Fight for Higher Wages (WaPo)

Lydia DePillis looks at the differences in home health aides' fight for "15 and a union" when compared to fast food workers. For one, most home health aides are paid by Medicaid.

Gov. Scott Walker on the Minimum Wage: "I Don't Think It Serves a Purpose" (MoJo)

Andy Kroll places the Wisconsin governor's comments in context with his other remarks opposing the minimum wage, and his state's strong support for an increase.

Can Rehabilitating Prisoners Repair Wall Street’s Broken Reputation? (Buzzfeed)

Matthew Zeitlin questions whether financial products that fund social services are more than just a charm offensive meant to make Wall Street look nicer to the public.

Americans Face Post-Foreclosure Hell as Wages Garnished, Assets Seized (Reuters)

An uptick in "deficiency judgements," in which banks go after debt that wasn't covered by a foreclosure sale, is preventing people from moving forward after the Recession, writes Michelle Conlin.

When the Guy Making Your Sandwich Has a Noncompete Clause (NYT)

Neil Irwin says the noncompete clauses for "sandwich artists" at Jimmy John's typify the trend toward practices and procedures that leave low-wage workers even worse off.

Walmart’s Cuts to Worker Compensation Are Self-Defeating (AJAM)

By raising workers' share of insurance premiums, David Cay Johnston says that Walmart and other companies are only ensuring their own customers have less to spend.

The Real World of Reality TV: Worker Exploitation (In These Times)

David Dayen explains the difficult working conditions of the writers and editors who create "unscripted" reality television in light of one staff's recent push for unionization.

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Obama Administration Defends Amazon’s Low Pay – Again

Oct 9, 2014Richard Kirsch

It's hard for workers to trust the President's support for policies that help them when the administration sides with Amazon at the Supreme Court.

Amazon’s business model is based on quick easy buying and low prices. One way it does that is to force its warehouse workers to wait a long time to leave work, without getting paid. And that’s just fine with the Obama administration, which continues to have a blind spot when it comes to decent pay and working conditions at Amazon.

It's hard for workers to trust the President's support for policies that help them when the administration sides with Amazon at the Supreme Court.

Amazon’s business model is based on quick easy buying and low prices. One way it does that is to force its warehouse workers to wait a long time to leave work, without getting paid. And that’s just fine with the Obama administration, which continues to have a blind spot when it comes to decent pay and working conditions at Amazon.

Yesterday the Supreme Court heard a case (Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk) in which workers are suing the temp firm that staff’s Amazon warehouses. The workers are in court because they don’t get paid for the time they are forced to stand on line for a security check when they leave work to be sure they haven’t stolen anything. The security screening itself reveals the poor working conditions and lack of respect that Amazon has for its workers. Workers who are well paid and have job security will not take the risk of stealing. The lack of pay adds costly insult to their injury.

The legal issues revolve around whether the security screenings, which can take 20 minutes or more, are “integral and indispensable” to the job, which would trigger pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Amazon certainly thinks so; the screenings aren’t optional. Still the firm, which pays warehouse workers around $11 or $12 an hour, cheaps out by denying the workers pay when they are waiting on line to leave.

As Jesse Busk, the lead plaintiff in the case, told The Huffington Post, "You're just standing there, and everyone wants to get home. It was not comfortable. There could be hundreds of people waiting at the end of the shift."

While President Obama has made numerous passionate speeches about giving Americans a raise, his administration is taking Amazon’s side at the Supreme Court, filing an amicus brief, alongside the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business lobbies.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing new about this from the administration. Last August, as I wrote at the time, “President Obama gave a great speech on why good jobs are the foundation for his middle-out economic strategy... from a huge Amazon warehouse where the workers do not have good jobs.”

The President told the Amazon warehouse workers who were in the audience, “we should be doing everything we can as a country to create more good jobs that pay good wages.”

Everything, it turns out, except being sure they get paid for all the time they are required to be at work.

The Obama administration may wonder why the President does not get more credit for the economic progress the nation has made coming out of the Great Recession or more recognition for his calls for raising the minimum wage. The core reason is that for too many Americans too low wages, too few hours at work, and job insecurity or no job at all remain their reality.

The President’s defense of Amazon reveals another reason. Americans see that he is unwilling to take on the powerful forces that are driving down the living standards and hopes of American workers. They see his embrace of Amazon and Wal-Mart, where he gave a speech on energy earlier this year. And too many come to the conclusion that it is only campaign contributors that matter, despairing of finding leaders who understand what really is going on in their lives – and who are willing to take their side against the powerful.

Richard Kirsch is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, a Senior Adviser to USAction, and the author of Fighting for Our Health. He was National Campaign Manager of Health Care for America Now during the legislative battle to pass reform.

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