Labor

How Democrats Can Win Back the White Working Class and Increase Turnout Among Blacks and Latinos

(Photo: Fibonacci Blue via Flickr/Creative Commons License)
(Photo: CNV Sioux Falls, SD Action via Flickr) Demonstrators in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, urge fellow citizens to vote for the November 4 ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage. The demonstration took place on Saturday, September 27. T he voting turnout in this year's congressional and gubernatorial elections was the lowest since 1942. Much of the story was in young people, poor people, black and Hispanic citizens, who tend to support Democrats, voting in far lower numbers than in 2008 or 2012. The Democrats just weren't offering them very much. But the other part of the Election Day story was older voters and the white working class, especially men, deserting the Democrats in droves—again, because Democrats didn't seem to be offering much. Republicans, at least, were promising lower taxes. Turnout on average dropped from 2012 by a staggering 42 percent. But as Sam Wang reported in a post-election piece for The American Prospect , the drop-off was evidently worse for Democrats...

Progressive Midterm Victories You Didn't Hear About -- And Some That Could Still Happen

Across the nation, voters passed measures against fracking and abortion restrictions, and for the minimum wage, paid sick leave, public safety and gun reform. 

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Topher Jones, from left, of Denton, Texas, Edward Hartmann, of Dallas and Angie Holliday of Denton, Texas, hold a campaign sign supporting a ban outside city hall, Tuesday, July 15, 2014, in Denton, Texas. A North Texas city became the first in the state to ban hydraulic fracturing when voters passed a ballot measure on November 4, 2014. T uesday’s Republican wave of election victories did not reflect public opinion or the public mood. Instead it was the result of the GOP’s triumph in changing the rules of democracy to favor big business and conservative interest groups, including the triumphs of corporate money and voter suppression. But while Democrat candidates were going down to defeat, liberals and progressive won some impressive but little-publicized victories on important issues—including minimum wage hikes—especially in red and purple states, suggesting that voters are not as conservative as the pundits are pontificating. One of the most significant...

Minimum Wage Measures Pass Easily in Four Red States

In the 2014 midterms, the Democrats' economic agenda fared better than Democrats.

(AP Photo/Carson Walker)
(AP Photo/Carson Walker) South Dakotans decided on November 4, 2014 whether to raise the minimum wage in the state from $7.25 an hour to $8.50. Mark Anderson, president of the South Dakota AFL-CIO, led union members in gathering enough petitions to force a public vote on a minimum wage ballot measure. A s devastating as Tuesday night’s election was for Democrats—Republicans took control of the Senate and won a number of key governor races — it was actually an encouraging night for the progressive economic agenda. In four red states—Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota—minimum wage ballot initiatives all passed easily . In San Francisco, voters overwhelmingly passed a $15 minimum wage— with notably little opposition from the business community . And in Illinois, voters sent a clear message through a non-binding advisory initiative that they want lawmakers to raise the minimum wage, and fast. Increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 has been a major economic...

The Democrats' Catastrophe and the Need For a New Agenda

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, joined by his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, celebrates with his supporters at an election night party in Louisville,Tuesday, November 4, 2014. McConnell won a sixth term in Washington, with his eyes on the larger prize of GOP control of the Senate. The Kentucky Senate race, with McConnell, a 30-year incumbent, fighting off a spirited challenge from Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, has been among the most combative and closely watched contests that could determine the balance of power in Congress. D emocrats had ample reason to fear that this year’s midterm elections would not go well for them, but bad doesn’t begin to describe what happened to them—and the nation—yesterday. Catastrophic is more like it. Democrats didn’t just lose the Senate; they lost statehouse after statehouse. They didn’t just lose the red states; they lost the purple and the blue. They lost the governorships of Maryland...

Can Green Party Candidate Howie Hawkins Make Cuomo Oppose Fracking?

He's certainly made it an issue. But progressives are divided on whether his gubernatorial bid could harm the Working Families Party.

(AP Photo/The Buffalo News, Dererk Gee)
(AP Photo/The Buffalo News, Dererk Gee) New York gubernatorial candidates, from left, Rob Astorino, Govornor Andrew Cuomo and Howie Hawkins participate in a debate sponsored by The Buffalo News and WNED-WBFO at WNED Studios in Buffalo, New York, Wednesday, October 22, 2014. A s voters in New York head to the polls today, there is little doubt who the state’s next governor will be. With a 20-point lead over Republican challenger Rob Astorino, incumbent Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, will slide comfortably into another term. Given the circumstances, it’d be easy to overlook Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins. But the 61-year-old UPS truck unloader and member of the Teamsters union is polling unusually high for a third-party candidate. According to the latest polls, he stands to garner nearly 10 percent of today’s vote; the last time Hawkins ran for governor in 2010, he pulled in about 1 percent. Hawkins’s performance is partly due to the significant number of progressives casting protest...

GOP's Neo-Confederate Theocrat Wins Council Seat in One of Richest U.S. Counties

Voters were looking for something new when they elected Michael Peroutka to run as a Republican for a seat on Maryland's Anne Arundel County Council. What they got was something very old—like ante bellum kind of old.

(AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli)
(AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli) Michael A. Peroutka, the one-time presidential candidate of the theocratic Constitution Party, in a debate between third-party presidential hopefuls at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, Wednesday, October 6, 2004. UPDATE, November 5, 2014 --The subject of this article, Michael Anthony Peroutka, running as a Republican, won a seat on the Anne Arundel County Council in the November 4 election, beating his opponent, by nearly 1,900 votes, according to the Baltimore Sun . The Baltimore Sun O n November 4, 2011, standing on a small stage with Bible verses splashed on the background behind him, Michael Peroutka told a small audience attending his lecture that “when you see and hear folks describe the earth as millions of years old, you know that they are either willfully anti-American, or they are ignorant of their own heritage and history. What I am saying is that the promotion of evolution is an act of disloyalty to America.” Three years later, on November 4...

Red State, Blue State: Polarization and the American Situation

The country is stuck but it is not stationary. Some things are changing—just not at the federal level.

(Map: Angr/Wikimedia Commons; Flag: AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
(AP Photo/David J. Phillip) A racing fan waves an American flag as they wait for the Formula One U.S. Grand Prix auto race at the Circuit of the Americas, Sunday, November 2, 2014, in Austin, Texas. This article appears under the title "The American Situation" in the Fall 2014 issue of The American Prospect magazine. A merica, it seems, is stuck—unable to make significant progress on critical issues such as climate change, rising economic inequality, and immigration. To explain that inaction, people often point to political polarization. Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, are now so sharply opposed to each other that they are unable to find common ground. But while the country is stuck, it is not stationary. Some things are changing; it’s just not at the federal level that the changes are emerging. Polarization leads to stalemate only under certain circumstances—when the two sides in a conflict are closely balanced, and political institutions and procedures (such...

Wisconsin Referendums Designed to Rebuke Walker Will Appear on Election Day Ballots

While these ballot measures—calling for an increase in the minimum wage and for the state to accept federal funding to expand its Medicaid program—are non-binding, organizers hope that the results will reveal a clear preference of the electorate for both.

(AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski, File)
(AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski, File) Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker addresses the Republican National Committee summer meetings in Chicago on August 8, 2014. S ince his election to the Wisconsin governor’s mansion, Scott Walker, together with the Republican-led state legislature, has set out to undo some of the state’s progressive hallmarks, especially its hallowed place in labor history as a trailblazer in collective bargaining for public workers. Having pushed through a loudly contested bill in 2011 that all but ended that practice, Walker and the legislature have gone on to oppose raising the minimum wage and to reject the expansion of Medicaid available to the states, almost wholly with federal funding, under the Affordable Care Act. But this election day, as Walker's name appears on the ballot for a second term, county leaders and activists are using referendums to pressure the state to do both, in the hope of amplifying dissenting voices. While these referendums—calling for an...

Can Robots Offer Amazon Moral Redemption?

An Amazon fulfillment center in Scotland. (Flickr/Chris Watt/Scottish Government)
If you're like many liberals, you probably feel conflicted about Amazon. On one hand, they seem to carry every mass-produced product in universe, and they usually have the lowest price, or nearly so. Shopping with them is incredibly convenient. On the other hand, the " fulfilment centers " at which people toil to pick and pack all the products people buy are basically the 21st century sweatshops, where workers endure horribly demanding work and demeaning treatment for low pay (Amazon isn't the only company that uses them, but they're the biggest). A few years ago, we learned that in the summer at some fulfilment centers they would park ambulances outside to cart off the workers who got heat stroke, because it was cheaper than installing air conditioning (which they eventually did in the face of a bunch of bad publicity). And the Supreme Court just heard a case involving Amazon workers who want to be paid for the time they are required to stand in line waiting to be searched like...

More Trade Agreements Won't Fix the Mess Made by Austerity

Even T-TIP's supporters know it will have little more than a trivial effect on growth.

(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) A demonstrator holds a banner in Parliament Square in London, Saturday, October 11, 2014. The demonstration was one of many across Europe against the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post. T he U.S. economy is growing slowly and Europe's hardly at all. The stock market lurch last week is a belated acknowledgement that our two economies share a common affliction, and Europe suffers more seriously. The affliction is austerity. And yet the main remedy being promoted by the U.S. government and its European allies is a trade and investment deal known as T-TIP, which stands for the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. According to the deal's sponsors, T-TIP would help stimulate recovery by removing barriers to trade and promoting regulatory convergence and hence investment. The proposed deal is not popular in the U.S. Congress, which has to approve negotiating authority...

Unpredictable Schedules Inflicted on Workers are Wrecking People's Lives

This nationwide trend goes virtually undetected when we take the economy’s temperature each month.

(iStockPhoto/4774344sean)
(iStockPhoto/4774344sean) Nurses are among the many workers who suffer from unpredictable schedules that often lead to working double shifts. T he unemployment drop in the September jobs report, to 5.9 percent, was welcome news. But as many have noted, wages remain flat and 7.1 million Americans worked part-time but wanted to work full-time. Furthermore, the monthly snapshot, which focuses on limited questions and simplified distinctions, altogether misses a key indicator of the job market’s health. Our recent book, Unequal Time , suggests that for the millions of Americans fortunate enough to be working, scheduling has become chronically unpredictable. Most discussions of employment fail to capture the widespread variability in work hours, or what some employers now like to call “flexibility.” While recent media reports have focused on the unwieldy lives of young people working at Starbucks and clothing stores—working with a day’s notice or splitting shifts—the issue is far more...

It’s Not a Skills Gap That’s Holding Wages Down: It's the Weak Economy, Among Other Things

Workers’ ability to handle technological advances doesn’t explain what’s happened to American wages.

(Photo by: Hendrik Schmidt/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)
(Photo by: Hendrik Schmidt/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images) A robotic welding system for Volkswagon car body shells is featured at the Industrial Museum in Chemnitz, Germany. T he inadequate quantity and quality of American jobs is one of the most fundamental economic challenges we face. It’s not the only challenge: Poverty, inequality, and stagnant mobility loom large, as well. But in a nation like ours, where wages and salaries are key to the living standards of working-age households, all these challenges flow from the labor market problem. OK, but this is a supposed to be an article about technology. What’s the linkage between technology and this fundamental problem? As a D.C.-based economist who’s been working on the issue of jobs and earnings for almost 25 years, trust me when I tell you that most policy makers believe the following: “Yes, there’s a problem of job quantity and quality, but it’s largely a skills problem. Because of recent technological advances, most notably...

Tragedy, Privation and Hope: Joy Boothe's Inspiring Journey to Moral Monday

Horrifically orphaned and raised with prejudice, she built a house and a new life with her own hands. Now hers are among many building a movement for justice.

©Jenny Warburg
©Jenny Warburg Joy Boothe (in black pants) at a sit-in outside the office North Carolina Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger in June 2014, protesting Republican education cuts. W hen Joy Boothe showed up at last week’s Moral Monday rally in her hometown of Burnsville, North Carolina, she was fighting both sleep- and sun-deprivation. Boothe had just driven in from Asheville, 35 miles away, where her husband was recovering from a double knee replacement. “Despite my fears of leaving my husband’s hospital room for the first time in four days,” she told the small crowd gathered in the town square, “I’ve come to stand with you today. It’s that important. It’s that important. ” Boothe, a vice president of the local NAACP branch, was referring to the ongoing political upheaval in Raleigh, the state capital, four hours east of this small mountain town. There, an emboldened Republican legislative majority had cut unemployment benefits, turned away federal Medicaid funds, slashed education...

In Political System Disconnected From Society's Ills, Remedies Pushed to Fringes of Public Debate

(Kike Calvo via AP Images)
(Kike Calvo via AP Images) More than 100,000 people march through midtown Manhattan on Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014 as part of the People's Climate March, a worldwide mobilization calling on world leaders meeting at the UN to commit to urgent action on climate change. F or half a century beginning with Franklin Roosevelt, there was a direct connection between the problems that afflicted American society and the remedies on offer from our democratic system. High unemployment? The New Deal, the World War II mobilization, and the postwar boom took care of that. Stagnant wages? With unions, growing productivity, minimum wage laws, and other regulation of labor standards, American real wages tripled. Education? The G.I. bill, massive investment in public universities, community colleges, and later in public elementary and secondary education produced a better educated and more productive population. And until the 1980s, public higher education was practically free. The exclusion of blacks from...

The Politics of Pre-K: How A Program Known to Help Poor Mothers Could Doom Your Candidacy

When the emphasis is kept on how it's good for business, early-childhood education is popular. Just don't call it childcare. 

(AP Photo/The Monitor, Gabe Hernandez)
(AP Photo/The Monitor, Gabe Hernandez) I n Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race, education has emerged as one of the most heated issues. A Quinnipiac University poll released this month found education ranked as the most important issue for voters, after jobs and the economy. Despite contentious politics surrounding reform of public education from kindergarten through twelfth grade, Republican incumbent Tom Corbett and Democratic challenger Tom Wolf have discovered that plugging expansion of pre-kindergarten programs wins them political points without treading into treacherous waters. That is, as long as they don't mention the mothers who will inevitably benefit, too. The governor’s record is haunted by his 2011 budget, from which he cut nearly $900 million in public education funds—a decrease of more than 10 percent. The severe cuts have garnered national attention , particularly for Philadelphia—the state’s largest school district—which wrestled with a $304 million cut this past school...

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