Economy

Our Corporate Saviors

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File) In this March 31, 2015 file photo, people participate in rally in front of a McDonald's restaurant in New York. A pay bump for workers at some McDonald's restaurants, announced Wednesday, April 1, 2015, isn't likely to ease the pressures the chain is facing over labor issues. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . W hat are we to make of the fact that some big corporations are turning out to be the relative good guys, on issues as varied as same-sex marriage, the environment and even (to a limited extent) workers' wages? Last week, the governors of Indiana and Arkansas were forced to back down and dilute bogus "religious freedom" laws intended to shelter discrimination against gays and lesbians, in large part because their corporate bigwigs told them to stop embarrassing the state and scaring off business. In Indiana, these included the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, the Indiana Pacers, and even the Indy 500. In Arkansas, the pressure...

Raising Wages From the Bottom Up

(Photo courtesy of USW Local 675)
(Screenshot of video from International Brotherhood of Teamsters) A picket line of truckers in Long Beach, California, in 2014. This article appears in the Spring 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . I n 1999, while he was working at a local immigrant service center in Los Angeles, Victor Narro began encountering a particularly aggrieved group of workers. They were the men who worked at carwashes, and their complaint was that they were paid solely in tips—the carwashes themselves paid them nothing at all. At first, the workers came by in a trickle, but soon enough, in a flood. Narro, whose soft voice and shy manner belie a keen strategic sensibility, consulted with legal services attorneys and discovered that while every now and then a carwash was penalized for cheating its workers, such instances were few and far between. “There were no regulations overseeing the industry,” Narro says. The state’s labor department conducted no sweeps of the carwashes to...

Why the Feds Can't Seem to Rein in For-Profit Colleges -- Or Stop Giving Them Money

For-profit colleges have mastered predatory lending while still relying heavily on federal dollars. 

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) Makenzie Vasquez, from left, Pamala Hunt, Latonya Suggs, Ann Bowers, Nathan Hornes, Ashlee Schmidt, Natasha Hornes, Tasha Courtright, Michael Adorno and Sarah Dieffenbacher, pose for a picture in Washington, Monday, March 30, 2015. Former and current college students calling themselves the “Corinthian 100” say they are on a debt strike and refuse to pay back their student loans. The name comes from Corinthian Colleges Inc., which operated the for-profit Everest College, Heald College and WyoTech schools before agreeing last summer to sell or close its 100-plus campuses. This article was originally published by Demos . L ast week, after some dogged journalistic legwork by Inside Higher Ed ’s Michael Stratford, the Department of Education released a list of 560 colleges that have been placed under a level of extra scrutiny—known as “Heightened Cash Monitoring”—due to concerns about a college’s finances or administrative capacity, or as the result of an...

The Crisis of Black Unemployment: Still Higher Than Pre-Recession Levels

Despite increasing hires of black workers, the employment gap between African Americans and whites remains high.

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
This report was produced by the Economic Policy Institute as part of the Full Employment Project of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. B y the end of 2014, the U.S. economy had experienced 58 consecutive months of job growth, and the unemployment rate had fallen to 5.6 percent from a high of 10 percent in October 2009. In fact, 2014 was by far the strongest year of the recovery, with job growth averaging over 246,000 per month, the highest monthly rate since before the recession. Economic growth also picked up, with gross domestic product rising at annual rates of 4.6 percent and 5 percent during the second and third quarters, respectively, following a first-quarter decline of 2.1 percent. Last year’s solid job growth proved to be especially beneficial to communities of color, whose unemployment rates rose well above 10 percent during the worst years of the recession. In particular, after reaching a high of 16.8 percent in March 2010, the African American unemployment rate...

5 Radical Ideas Hillary Should Support

The economic populism Clinton may need to win. 

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) Then-Senator Hillary Clinton addresses the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in April 2008. At right is Pennsylvania AFSCME President Gerald W. McEntee. I 've argued that Hillary Clinton is at risk of being a weak presidential nominee—on several counts. She seems like yesterday's news rather than tomorrow's. The excitement of a having a breakthrough woman president is blunted by the fact that her husband got there first. She will raise a ton of money from Wall Street, just like the Republican nominee, blurring differences and depressing turnout. Despite the absence of a formidable primary challenger (assuming Elizabeth Warren doesn't run), Clinton is still likely to underperform in the primaries. Still, Clinton is likely to be the Democratic nominee. So what might she do that could improve her own chances—and our chances of getting a president elected in 2016 who is first of all a Democrat, and maybe is some kind of real...

Did JPMorgan Try to Bribe Dem Power-Brokers? (Depends What Your Definition of 'Bribe' Is)

They've got a problem with Elizabeth Warren. And they want party leaders to do something about it.

iStockPhoto/© jgroup
D id one of the largest banks in the United States accidentally acknowledge an attempt to bribe members of Congress? A widely published Reuters story reported that four major U.S. banks have threatened to withhold expected campaign contributions from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee unless “Democrats, including [Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth] Warren and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown ... soften their party's tone toward Wall Street.” But the article specifically notes: “JPMorgan representatives have met Democratic Party officials to emphasize the connection between its annual contribution and the need for a friendlier attitude toward the banks, a source familiar with JPMorgan's donations said. In past years, the bank has given its donation in one lump sum but this year has so far donated only a third of the amount, the source said.” A person familiar with JPMorgan's donations—who may or may not be a JPMorgan representative—told a Reuters reporter that JPM told party...

The Feds Are Finally Moving to Regulate Payday Lending

The new rules are good, but could be better. 

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin Payday loan businesses, some of them open 24-hours a day, advertise their services in Phoenix, Arizona. This article originally appeared at Demos.org . T oday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a blueprint for new regulations pertaining to payday loans and car title loans. The regulations will not include an interest rate cap, the holy grail for advocates, because industry allies watered-down the provisions (I discuss the fight over payday lending in my recent Atlantic article). These regulations are still important. The proposed regulations include two major options and payday lenders would choose which to follow. Both are aimed at preventing borrowers from falling into “debt traps,” where they constantly roll over their loan. • The first are “prevention requirements.” In these, lenders would determine before lending the ability of an individual to repay the loan without re-borrowing or defaulting (and verify would a third party). Borrowers...

Legions of Women Workers in U.S. Still Lack Minimum Wage and Labor Protections

The legacy of slavery and prescribed gender roles continues to rob millions of their fair share.

(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Billy Smith II In this Dec. 2014 photo, Eileen Merize, left, helps 93-year-old U.S. Air Force veteran Harold Utsler look through some of his paper work at her home in Katy, Texas near Houston. The Houston Chronicle reports Utsler is one of three veterans who live in Merize's home through the Medical Foster Program, which helps disabled elderly veterans live with "foster families" rather than in large nursing homes. I t’s Women’s History Month—what a nice idea to recognize that women actually make history and aren’t just along to make dinner for the history-makers! In 1980, President Jimmy Carter declared seven days in March to be National Women's History Week, and President Ronald Reagan followed suit. In 1987, Congress expanded the commemoration on the calendar, giving women a whole month. We have come so far. Putting sarcasm aside, it is true that the 20th century included concrete advances for women in America. Starting with the New Deal, women workers...

Chart: The Way We Pay Tipped Workers Disproportionately Harms Women

They're the majority of the people who work primarily for tips, and they make even less than their male counterparts.

(Photo: iStockPhoto/ © powerofforever)
This article was originally published on the website of the Economic Policy Institute . U nder federal law, employers of tipped workers are only required to pay their tipped staff a base wage of $2.13 per hour—an amount that has not been raised since 1991—provided that the sum of an employee’s weekly tips plus their base wage equates to an hourly rate of at least the minimum wage. Consequently, tipped work is overwhelmingly low-paying, even after accounting for tips. In 2013, the median hourly wage for tipped workers, including their income from tips, was $10.22 per hour, compared with a median hourly wage of $16.48 for workers overall. Low-paying tipped work disproportionately harms women: as the figure below shows, 67 percent of tipped workers are women, yet they still make less than their male counterparts—$10.07 for women at the median versus $10.63 for men. (These data include tips.) Economic Policy Institute CLICK HERE TO VIEW LARGER IMAGE. This loophole for tipped employers is...

Students Declare Nationwide Boycott of Wendy's Over Farmworker Concerns

Taco Bell, Burger King, McDonalds, and Walmart are already party to the worker-protection contract the targeted fast-food chain refuses to sign.

© Coalition of Immokalee Workers
© Coalition of Immokalee Workers On March 22, students and activists from across the U.S. came together in St. Petersburg, Florida, for the Concert for Fair Food. There the group, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), announced a nationwide student boycott of the Wendy's fast-food chain for its refusal to join in an agreement designed to protect the farmworkers who harvest the produce used by the chain. This article originally appeared at Facing South , the website published by the Institute for Southern Studies. S tudents from colleges and high schools across the U.S. declared a nationwide boycott of the Wendy's fast-food chain over its refusal to join the Fair Food Program created to help eliminate farmworker poverty and abuse. The announcement came at the Parade and Concert for Fair Food held on Saturday, March 21, in St. Petersburg, Florida, by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a Florida-based group that promotes human rights for farmworkers. The boycott is part of a...

5 Ways to Bring Fairness Into College Basketball

Icon Sportswire via AP Images
Icon Sportswire via AP Images Wisconsin Badgers forward Frank Kaminsky (44) puts up a shot during the Div I Men's Championship - Third Round - Wisconsin Badgers v Oregon Ducks at the Centurylink Center in Omaha, Nebraska. Wisconsin defeated Oregon 72-65 (Icon Sportswire via AP Images) This article originally appeared at Yes! magazine . D id you fill out your office bracket for this year’s NCAA basketball tournament? I did. Although, for a couple reasons, I don’t feel great about it. For one, I don’t know who’s going to win just about any game, so my chances of winning the pool are basically zero. And two, the event has lost most of its luster as the economic inequities of college sports have become exposed. March Madness is now a bigger cash cow than the Super Bowl, but it’s also college league, which means the only people not getting a piece of the billion-dollar pie are the players. There’s a word for that: exploitation. The entire economic foundation of college sports is built on...

7 Reasons Why the 99 Percent Keeps Losing

iStockPhoto/© porcorex
iStockPhoto/© porcorex This article originally appeared in The Huffington Post . O ur current political situation is unprecedented. The vast majority of Americans keep falling behind economically because of changes in society's ground rules, while the rich get even richer—yet this situation doesn't translate into a winning politics. If anything, the right keeps gaining and the wealthy keep pulling away. How can this possibly be? Let me suggest seven reasons: 1. The Discrediting of Politics Itself The Republican Party has devised a strategy of hamstringing government and making any remediation impossible. Instead of the voters punishing Republicans, the result is cynicism and passivity, so the Republican strategy is vindicated and rewarded. The media plays into this pattern by adopting a misleading narrative that makes the gridlock in Washington roughly the equal fault of both parties—with lazy phrases such as "Washington is broken," or "politics is broken," or "partisan bickering." (...

Reckoning With the New Auto Recall Bill

(AP Photo/LM Otero, File)
(AP Photo/LM Otero, File) In this May 13, 2014 file photo, an auto worker inspects finished SUVs coming off the assembly line at the General Motors auto plant in Arlington, Texas. As General Motors tackles a safety crisis, a look at its numbers from June show just how intent the company is on keeping new-car sales on the rise during a record spate of safety recalls. S ome 46 million vehicles nationwide—nearly one in five on the road today—have a recalled, but unrepaired, safety issue. That’s because drivers, along with auto dealers and rental companies, have no legal obligation to fix safety recalls—a gaping regulatory loophole that puts millions at risk. For years lawmakers have more or less ignored the issue, until earlier this month, when Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal and Edward Markey introduced the Repairing Every Car to Avoid Lost Lives (RECALL) Act . The bill would require car owners to comply with all pending safety recalls in order to reregister their vehicles with...

Why the Real Story of the Irish Exodus to America Isn't Taught in Schools

The famine that brought vast numbers of Irish to the U.S. wasn't caused by nature; it was caused by ruthless capitalists.

(Photo: Lawrence Collection, National Library of Ireland)
(Photo: Lawrence Collection, National Library of Ireland) During the potato blight of the 1840s, tenant farmers were not allowed to partake of the grain, poultry and other edibles they raised, and were often evicted, as shown above, by ruthless landlords when they could not meet the rent under the duress of starvation. This article was produced by the Zinn Education Project , and is part of the project's If We Knew Our History series. “ Wear green on St. Patrick’s Day or get pinched.” That pretty much sums up the Irish-American “curriculum” that I learned when I was in school. Yes, I recall a nod to the so-called Potato Famine, but it was mentioned only in passing. Sadly, today’s high school textbooks continue to largely ignore the famine, despite the fact that it was responsible for unimaginable suffering and the deaths of more than a million Irish peasants, and that it triggered the greatest wave of Irish immigration in U.S. history. Nor do textbooks make any attempt to help...

The Dance of Liberals and Radicals

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo) U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, right, talks with civil rights leaders in his White House office in Washington, D.C., January 18, 1964. The movement leaders, from left, are, Roy Wilkins, executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); James Farmer, national director of the Committee on Racial Equality; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; and Whitney Young, executive director of the Urban League. This essay originally appeared at The Huffington Post . M arch 15 was the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson's best speech, his "We Shall Overcome" address applying the final round of pressure on Congress to enact the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Much of the speech invoked the bravery, dignity and historical rightness of Martin Luther King, Jr., and his fellow movement activists. All of which puts me in mind of the complex relationship between liberals and radicals. History shows that liberals...

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