Peter Dreier

Peter Dreier teaches politics and chairs the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His latest book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books, 2012).

Recent Articles

Marvin Miller's Lasting Legacy

The first leader of the MLB players union helped dramatically transform labor relations not just in baseball—but in all of America's professional sports. 

(AP Photo)
While he was alive, the baseball establishment five times rejected Marvin Miller, who freed players from indentured servitude, from its Hall of Fame. The Major League Baseball Players Association, which Miller headed from 1966 to 1983, sat on its hands, failing to raise a stink about this outrageous miscarriage of justice. Miller, who died on Tuesday at 95, was never bitter about his exclusion from the Cooperstown shrine. As a staunch unionist, he knew which side he was on and understood that the baseball owners and executives who control the Hall of Fame would rig the rules to keep him out. The baseball moguls have always viewed their teams as personal fiefdoms and are among the most ferociously anti-union crowd around. But what’s appalling is the timidity of the Players Association to mount a campaign on Miller’s behalf. Over the years, many Hall of Fame players—including Tom Seaver, Joe Morgan, Brooks Robinson, Bert Blyleven, Hank Aaron, Nolan Ryan, and Reggie Jackson—have...

The Path to a High-Wage Society

The explosion of low-wage jobs is due, for the most part, to the declining bargaining power of America's employees.

American workers today face declining job security and dwindling earnings as companies downsize, move overseas, and shift more jobs to part-time workers. Last year, a survey by the Economic Policy Institute found that 44 percent of American families had experienced either the job loss of one or more members, a reduction in hours, or a cut in pay over the previous year. For the vast majority of workers, the costs of basic necessities are rising faster than incomes. As this special report of The American Prospect has demonstrated, government has ample powers to change these trends for the better. Back in the days of Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, Republican critics liked to say that the best anti-poverty program is a job. The federal government has the capacity -- and responsibility -- to promote full employment, where everyone who wants to work has a job. But the kind of job -- the pay, benefits, security, and prospects for advancement -- are as important as the job itself. A good...

Lessons from the Health-Care Wars

Activism on the ground creates pressure for bolder reform and gives liberal elected officials more room to maneuver.

Health-care reform supporters urging State Attorney General Rob McKenna to stop his constitutional challenge of Congress' reform legislation. (AP Photo/The Olympian, Tony Overman)
On March 9, at least 5,000 protesters picketed outside the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Washington, D.C., where America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the powerful industry trade association, was holding its annual lobbying conference. About 50 public figures -- including writer Barbara Ehrenreich, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger, AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka, the Center for Community Change's Deepak Bhargava, and former Congressman Bob Edgar -- participated in civil disobedience. The following day, 24 insurance--industry victims -- people who lost family members, are suffering because they were denied care, or went bankrupt due to premium costs -- confronted reform opponents on Capitol Hill, including House Minority Whip Eric Cantor. One of the protesters was Marcus Grimes, a 38-year-old former teacher who worked at a D.C. charter school that didn't offer health insurance, and lacked the $3,000 down payment for doctor-recommended surgeries that...

The ACORN Conspiracy, Continued

Right-wingers remain convinced that ACORN is part of a nefarious plot to destroy America, and they'll use any means they can to prove it.

Sociologist Frances Fox Piven often gets requests from students who want to interview her about her political theories and activism. So when Kyle Olson phoned her in January and told her he was a college student in Michigan who wanted to videotape an interview with her about her recent book Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America , Piven agreed. Temporarily housebound and recovering from a car accident, the 77-year-old Piven invited Olson to her New York apartment. On Feb. 1, Olson and a friend arrived from Michigan with a video camera. She offered them something to drink. Then, for about an hour, Piven and Olson sat around her dining room table and talked about everything from the Founding Fathers to Fox News while the friend taped them. Two weeks later, Piven, a professor at the City University of New York and former president of the American Sociological Association, learned that about eight minutes of the taped interview had appeared in three segments on Big...

Good Jobs, Healthy Cities

Eight steps city governments can take to promote good jobs.

(Flickr)
Traditionally, most city officials concerned with fostering development have focused on economic growth, allowing private investors and developers to dictate the terms. Even those sympathetic to social justice have worried that efforts to raise wages or regulate business practices would only scare away private capital, increase unemployment, and undermine a city's tax base. Developers have relentlessly exploited those fears -- which turn out to be misplaced. Lately, more and more city governments, prodded by local activists, have been using their gatekeeper powers to successfully promote growth with equity, starting with wages. The movement began in the early 1990s in Baltimore, where a community-labor coalition called BUILD mobilized a successful grass-roots campaign to pass the nation's first "living wage" law in 1994, requiring companies with municipal contracts and subsidies to pay employees decently. Since then, more than 100 cities have followed suit. The living-wage movement's...

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