Labor

Photo Essay: Moral Mondays' Potent Symbols and Creative Actions

So far in the 2014 North Carolina legislative session, lawmakers have witnessed weekly actions: a silent protest, a sit-in in the Speaker's office, and prayerful bread-breaking by the activists of the Moral Monday movement, chronicled here in a photo essay.

©Jenny Warburg
N orth Carolina’s 2014 legislative session, which began May 14, is now in full swing. So is the Moral Monday movement, the NAACP-led, faith-based opposition to the state’s recent dismantling of voting rights, civil liberties, and the social safety net. The movement, now in its second year, has built a solid foundation of support from a wide array of churches and issue-based organizations, including labor, immigrant, and women’s groups. This spring, as legislators have tried to limit protests and sometimes even avoid the building on Mondays, organizers have grown adept at surprising lawmakers with unannounced, targeted, and sometimes colorful actions. These photographs by Jenny Warburg chronicle the action in and around the state legislative building. --Barry Yeoman Click here to read Barry Yeoman's full account of this year's Moral Monday protests. Yeoman also built the slideshow of Warburg's photographs and wrote the captions. North Carolina's Moral Monday Movement Holding Ground in...

Meet the Billionaire Brothers You Never Heard of Who Fund the Religious Right

The Wilks brothers, whose fortune comes from fracking, give tens of millions to right-wing groups and anti-choice "pregnancy centers," anti-LGBT groups, and organizations affiliated with ALEC.

Cisco Chamber of Commerce
Cisco Chamber of Commerce Farris and Dan Wilks, principals in Frac Tech and listed among the world's richest people by Forbes, flank their father, Voy Wilks, at the 2007 awards banquet of the Cisco Chamber of Commerce. This article was produced by and originally published by Right Wing Watch , the blog of People for the American Way. L ast June, presidential hopefuls Rand Paul and Ted Cruz traveled to Iowa for an event convened by David Lane, a political operative who uses pastors to mobilize conservative Christian voters. Lane is a Christian-nation extremist who believes the Bible should be a primary textbook in America’s public schools, and that any politician who disagrees should be voted out. Lane’s events are usually closed to the media, but he has given special access to the Christian Broadcasting Network’s sympathetic David Brody. Brody’s coverage of the Iowa event included short video clips of comments by brothers Farris and Dan Wilks, who were identified only as members of...

Four Fundamental Econ Facts Missed By Economist Cantor-Slayer David Brat

AP Photo, P. Kevin Morley/Richmond Times-Dispatch
AP Photo, P. Kevin Morley/Richmond Times-Dispatch Dave Brat speaks to hundreds of supporters after beating Republican Congressman Eric Cantor in Tuesday's Republican primary for the 7th Congressional District in Virginia, June 10, 2014. O n MSNBC Wednesday morning, Chuck Todd asked David Brat, the Eric-Cantor-slayer, Ayn Rand acolyte, and chairman of the economics department at Randolph-Macon College, about his viewpoint on the minimum wage. Here’s their exchange: TODD: S hould there be a minimum wage in your opinion? BRAT: I don't have a well-crafted response on that one. All I know is if you take the long-run graph over 200 years of the wage rate, it cannot differ from your nation's productivity. Right? So you can't make up wage rates. Right? I would love for everyone in sub-Saharan Africa, for example— children of God—to make $100 an hour. I would love to just assert that that would be the case. But you can't assert that unless you raise their productivity, and then the wage...

Beth Schwartzapfel Wins Sidney Award for Prospect's Prison Labor Exposé

The Sidney Hillman Foundation, which "honors excellence in journalism in service of the common good," bestowed its monthly Sidney Award for June on Beth Schwartzapfel, author of The American Prospect magazine's longform investigation of prison labor, " The Great American Chain Gang ," in our May/June issue. "[E]xcluding prisoners from employment statistics skews our picture of unemployment," Schwartzapfel tells Lindsay Beyerstein of the Hillman Foundation, in an interview at the foundation's website. "If you include prisoners, and count them as unemployed, the already-dismal employment rate of young black men without a college education plummets fifteen percentage points, from 65 percent to 50 percent. I was—and still am—stunned by this information. But then I thought, wait a minute: Inmates aren't really jobless. It's just that no one is counting their jobs. " Schwartzapfel's exposé was assigned and edited by executive editor Bob Moser. "Beth is one of the finest criminal-justice...

The Brothers Koch: Family Drama and Disdain for Democracy

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes
AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes N ot long ago, a pal of mine asked whether I’d heard the latest scoop about Charles and David Koch, the right-wing billionaires currently overseeing capitalism’s final solution to the democracy problem. Did I know—did I know!?—their grandmother had been none other than Ilse Koch, the human-lampshade-loving wife of Buchenwald’s commandant? Cazart, as Hunter S. Thompson used to say. Overseeing final solutions just runs in the family. My friend looked distinctly chagrined when I told her it wasn’t so. Like many liberal Americans, she hates the Kochs so much that no calumny strikes her as too far-fetched. But as it happened, I was midway through Daniel Schulman’s first-rate Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty , and I felt reasonably sure that Schulman wasn’t saving Ilse and her apocryphal lampshades for a Harry Potter gotcha toward the end. Considering that Charles and David are worth more than $80 billion...

Sorry, Right-Wing Media, Unionization Is Good for Liberal Publications

Credit Meg McLain/Matt Ortega
Meg McLain I can't tell if it's intellectual dishonesty or intellectual incompetence, but a number of conservative outlets have wildly misconstrued comments from The Nation 's Richard Kim in my recent piece on diversity at liberal publications. Here's what Kim said about diversity at the country's oldest liberal magazine: “The staff here is unionized, which means there is little job turnover,” says Richard Kim, executive editor at The Nation , who is Asian American and gay. “We only get to make a hire every four or five years.” And here is what the staff at the Washington Free Beacon took away : A top editor at one of the nation’s oldest liberal magazine says unionization has destroyed diversity in the newsroom. … Richard Kim, executive editor at the Nation , told the American Prospect that union restrictions on hiring and firing have made it impossible to bring more minorities on board. If this were written by a first-year college student, I'd ask, "Does your evidence support the...

Every Great American City Deserves a Shot—Including Detroit

AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio A major American city teeters on the brink of financial ruin. Garbage goes uncollected. Crime is rampant. Municipal officials are so desperate for cash to pay creditors that they have to beg the local teachers union for financial assistance. If this sounds like Detroit, think again. The city was New York. The year was 1975. Thanks to sensible assistance from federal and state government and a focus on economic growth rather than just reckless cuts, the Big Apple emerged from insolvency in the mid-1970s to become the most prosperous urban center in the modern world. As Motown navigates its current fiscal crisis, policymakers should remember the core lesson from New York's experience: The key to recovery is investment. There is no doubt that Detroit’s current situation is difficult. The fragile municipal tax base was decimated in the Great Recession, and the city now has thousands of abandoned properties, unacceptably slow emergency response rates, and painful...

Fast Food, Slow Movement

Flickr/The All-Nite Images
Not long ago, I was interviewing Hahrie Han, a political scientist at Wellesley who studies social movements, for an article in an upcoming print edition of the Prospect , and we started talking about the Occupy movement and some of the problems it faced. She pointed out that liberals are great at exploiting new technologies, but sometimes that can actually pose a problem for movement-building. One of the great benefits social media offer is their ability to organize quickly—have people activate their networks, and within hours you can get hundreds or even thousands of people out to an event or a protest. But that quick ramp-up can mean that your effort becomes very big while its demands are still in the process of formation, which may have had something to do with the trouble Occupy had sustaining itself. For all of social media's efficiency, "they don't have a lot of the side benefits that the kind of organization that used to be required to get lots of people to come to a public...

Moral Monday Movement Gears Up for Round Two

2013 ©Jenny Warburg
©Jenny Warburg Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina conference of the NAACP, leads a Moral Monday protest in Raleigh, N.C., in 2013. This article has been corrected. O n Wednesday afternoon, the North Carolina legislature will open its 2014 session. It will be hard for the Republican majority to top last year’s performance, which shattered the final vestiges of the state’s 50-year reputation for moderate governance. With the help of newly elected GOP Gov. Pat McCrory, lawmakers in 2013 slashed both public education and unemployment benefits. They rejected an expansion of Medicaid, paid for almost entirely by the federal government, that would have covered at least 300,000 low-income North Carolinians. They cut corporate taxes and eliminated the earned-income credit for low-wage workers. And they rewrote the state’s election laws in a way that will make registration and voting harder, particularly for African-American, blue-collar, and younger voters. They might have...

Seattle's $15 Minimum Wage Agreement: Collective Bargaining Reborn?

15 Now/Seattle
15 Now/Seattle Activists at an April demonstration demanding a $15-per-hour minimum wage in Seattle. W e have seen the future of collective bargaining, and it just may work. It should work brilliantly in Seattle if the city council doesn’t screw it up. Last Thursday—May Day, for the nostalgic among you—Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced that a business-labor task force he appointed had agreed on a plan to raise the minimum wage in the city to $15 per hour, over four years (with annual incremental increases) for businesses with more than 500 employees, and up to seven years for smaller businesses. By the end of the process, tipped employees would have an assured hourly income of $15, not counting whatever tips they received on top of that, and the wage would thereafter be indexed to the rise with the cost of living. Business, labor and the mayor having agreed, the plan now goes before the city council, whose members, like Mayor Murray, have backed the $15 hourly rate, but who may yet...

Who's Got the Political Will to Save the Middle Class?

Demonstrator blocks traffic at December fast-food workers' protest in Washington, DC. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak I t’s not easy being president during an epoch of downward mobility for the American people. The shrinking of the middle class--a phenomenon to which Americans are historically unaccustomed, most particularly during recoveries-- depresses the president’s popularity, drags down that of his party, and generally plays hell with incumbents’ election prospects. That the American people are downwardly mobile was underscored this weekend by a report from the National Employment Law Project demonstrating that while lower-wage jobs accounted for just 22 percent of the jobs lost during the recession, they account for 44 percent of the jobs created since the recession ended in 2010. Middle-wage jobs, by contrast, accounted for 37 percent of the jobs lost during the recession, but just 26 percent of the jobs created since. Median annual household income is still roughly $4,000 beneath its level before the recession started. Indeed, the most alarming polling for the...

Daily Meme: Embrace the Discomfort

Try to relax; today's meme is all about discomfort. And there's no one feeling more of it than Republicans, who were hit yesterday with the rhetorical stylings of their erstwhile hero Cliven Bundy—Nevada rancher, defier of laws, and racial philosopher. The Republican Party's chief spokesperson, for instance, can't figure out why anyone would associate Bundy with the GOP . "The issue with Cliven Bundy has absolutely nothing to do with his party, zero," he said. After all, it's not like the GOP's chief organ in the media had been giving the guy blanket coverage all the while Republican politicians were praising his crusade. I mean, c'mon. Republicans are also being made uncomfortable by their own candidates, who haven't all gotten the message on the "outreach" the party is supposed to be doing. Here's one who has proposed an effort to round up and deport every undocumented immigrant in the country , which he calls, no kidding, "Operation Wetback." Here's one who said it was an "...

Yes, Being a Woman Makes You Poorer

AP Images/Susan Walsh
S enate Republicans blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act yesterday, a bill that would make it illegal for employers to punish workers for discussing wages and would require them to share pay information with the Employment Opportunity Commission. President Barack Obama has already signed an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from punishing employees who talk about their pay. These two actions were pegged to the somewhat made up holiday called “Equal Pay Day” celebrated Tuesday, and were discussed by many in Washington in merely political terms : evidence of attempts by Democrats to woo women voters and a continuing sign of Republicans' “difficulties” with them. Elsewhere, pundits and writers wanted to discuss whether the pay gap really existed. A few years ago, some conservatives and a few liberals began to attack the much-talked-about fact that women make 77 cents to every man’s dollar as untrue, based largely on the idea that the gap itself was mostly accounted for by...

Workers on the Edge

AP Images/Amy Sancetta
O ne of the most significant contributing causes of the widening inequality and insecurity in the American workforce is the accelerating shift to what economists call contingent employment. That means any form of employment that is not a standard payroll job with a regular paycheck. It can take the form of temps, contract workers, part time jobs, or jobs with irregular hours. A study by the GAO found that fully one-third of the U.S. workforce, or 42.6 million workers, was contingent, meaning in a work arrangement that is “not long-term, year-round, full-time employment with a single employer. “ It is a common myth that the shift to precarious, irregular employment reflects either the structure of the new, digital economy or the preferences of workers themselves. But in reality, most contingent work is the result of efforts by employers to undermine wages, job protections and worker bargaining power. Work that could be (and once was) standard payroll employment is turned into...

The Death of an Employer Scam

One of the most pervasive scams that employers use to lower their workers’ wages is misclassification—that is, turning their workers into independent contractors or temps when they are actually employees. Misclassification shouldn’t be mistaken for the whim of an errant employer. On the contrary, it’s a strategy that has been used to transform entire industries. From an employer’s perspective, the benefits of misclassification are clear. Turning a worker into a temp or a free agent obviates any need to provide him with benefits. It shields the employer from legal liability for health and safety violations, for industrial accidents, or from wage and hour violations. It invariably lowers such workers wages as well. It makes it impossible for workers to form unions. Over the past decade, misclassified workers have turned up in more and more industries. The Nissan employees who assemble cars at the company’s plants in Mississippi and Tennessee work alongside temps who do the same work as...

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