The 3rd Reconstruction

Each time there has been a demographic shift in America that threatens the existing balance of power, new election laws have appeared to try to insulate the electorate from the emerging population. 

Rev. Dr. William Barber: The 3rd Reconstruction

Why struggles for criminal justice and living wage are uniting

“Black Lives Matter” doesn’t just refer to cops killing unarmed teens. Here’s why it’s expanding to mean much more. Black poverty is state violence, too. 

“For the second time in a week, the swelling protests against police brutality and an unequal criminal justice system coincided with planned labor strikes at low-wage employers yesterday, and for the second time, protesters joined forces, combining the struggle for a living wage with the struggle for the right to live free of police violence.

Members of Show Me $15 in North St. Louis (Credit: David Nehrt-Flores)

Members of Show Me $15 in North St. Louis (Credit: David Nehrt-Flores)

“Convenience store workers, airport workers, and home care workers joined the actions calling for $15 an hour and a union, broadening the movement still more, but what really gave Thursday its kick was the connection to the emotions (and tactics) of Ferguson activists and their nationwide supporters. Robinson and his fellow workers staged a “die-in” as part of their day of actions, in a North St. Louis convenience store, their bodies stretched between metal racks of chips and candy, clogging the space in an echo both of historic sit-down strikes (that Walmart workers also evoked two weeks back) and a reminder of the way Brown’s body lay in the street for four and a half hours after he was shot.

“Labor struggles have a long, checkered history with struggles for racial justice and particularly against violence. Black workers’ unions were central to the Civil Rights movement… Their struggle—remember the “I Am a Man” signs carried by the workers in Memphis—was always about more than just wages. It was and is about being seen as humans worthy of respect, respect they would demand if it was not freely given.”

Read more from Salon here




Tipped subminimum wage leads to more sexual harassment

“Workers who rely on tips to make a living experience twice as much sexual harassment as those earning minimum wage. Laws that allow employers to pay tipped workers below the minimum wage lead to increased sexual harassment in the workplace, according to a new report, which shows that female restaurant workers who virtually live off tips are in a ‘uniquely vulnerable position.’

Help Wanted: Sexual Harassment and the Restaurant Industry

Help Wanted: Sexual Harassment and the Restaurant Industry 

Glass floor, a term coined by ROC (Restaurant Opportunities Commission), refers to a system that exacerbates the already poor job security of low-wage workers by layering on a sexualized atmosphere. If workers feel expendable at their workplace, they are more likely to ignore sexual harassment, the report said. Researchers found that tipped workers in states where subminimum wage is permissible are three times as likely to be told to wear sexier or more revealing clothing than those where such payment practices are barred. The United States is the only industrialized democracy that has a two-tiered minimum wage.” Read more here.  

Making workers’ rights a civil right

The Hill reports that “leading civil rights figures in Congress are taking steps to outlaw a relatively new form of discrimination: against workers of all races who try to form a union… Discriminating against those trying to organize can be an extremely effective employer tactic, as the union ringleaders are jettisoned from the workplace and most other employees get the message and become paralyzed with fear.”

Getty Images, Union Protest

Getty Images, Union Protest

“Harvard labor economist Richard Freeman completed a large study in 2007 that found if workers were provided the union representation they desired, the overall unionization rate would have been 58 percent, whereas the actual rate was 12 percent. Another study that same year found almost 1 in 5 union activists could expect to be fired as a result of their organizing activity. Many have linked employers’ ability to discriminate against union activity to the significant gap between employee desire for unionization and declining rates of union density. This type of discrimination has increased significantly in the decades since passage of the Civil Rights Act, even as outright discrimination based on race and national origin has declined.”

Read more here


Executive Order Grants Equal Rights to LGBT Workers

On July 21, 2014, President Barack Obama signed an order banning federal government contractors from discriminating against gay and transgender workers.  The President issued the order after legislation to protect all employees, not just those who work under federal contracts, failed to pass. 

“Eighteen states have already banned workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as have more than 200 cities and other local governments.”

Read more here:

President Obama also called on Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which passed the Democratic-controlled Senate last year but has since languished in the Republican-led House of Representatives.

Workplace Discrimination Based On Names

Shakespeare once wrote: “What’s in a name?”  Apparently, if you’re a minority in America’s workplaces, a name can mean the difference between the opportunity for success and rejection.

“A study from The University of Chicago Graduate School of Business in the early 2000’s studied the effects of names as a proxy for race or ethnicity on the propensity for individuals to be called in for job interviews. The study— titled “Are Emily and Brendan More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?”—involved individuals responding to 1,300 ads for sales, customer service, and administrative type positions in the 2001-2002 time frame. The individuals who responded had not just similar, but identical, resumes—except for the name attributed to the resume. Their findings? Resumes with white names resulted in roughly 50% more callbacks than those with African-American names.

“What’s even more intriguing is that higher quality resumes labeled with white names elicited roughly 30% more callbacks than the average resume labeled with a white name, yet high quality resumes labeled with African American names saw no similar increase in callback rate—suggesting that something deeper, and perhaps more sinister, than candidate credentials was at play.”

Read more by Derek Mong here

How often are unauthorized immigrant workers trafficked and abused?

A recent study finds that more than 30% of undocumented migrant laborers are victims of labor trafficking and 55% are victims of other labor abuses.

“One shouldn’t be surprised by the findings from the study. While we are all striving for a better life, we as a society should become more conscientious about improving the working conditions of those whom we have come to depend on for our living standard,” commented the study authors.

The researchers also found that illegal status is likely the most significant factor contributing to vulnerability to trafficking violations and abuse.

“Labor trafficking and other forms of gross exploitation are happening in the U.S. and always to those who have the least,” the researchers concluded. “The challenge is to figure out what to do about them.”

Read more about this study here

Treating pregnant workers right

“Thanks to the work of sponsor Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago), the Illinois House approved House Bill 8, the “Pregnant Workers Fairness Act,” which ensures that pregnant workers are not forced out of their jobs or denied reasonable job modifications to allow them to continue working. The legislation — which promotes the health and economic security of pregnant women, their babies and their families — is championed by Gov. Pat Quinn and now goes to the Illinois Senate.

“The number of pregnancy discrimination cases filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has increased by 71 percent since 1992, and 40 percent of full-time low-wage workers may not decide when to take breaks… Some employers accommodate employees who are hurt on the job or have physical disabilities, yet won’t make minor modifications in job descriptions or workplace conditions for a pregnant worker.”

Read more here at the Chicago Sun Times. 

Equal pay: 5 things you need to know

“Women are more likely to work part-time than men. They’re also more likely to work in low-wage service jobs, and have less work experience over time (often because they take time off to care for family). That said, the pay gap itself isn’t a myth. Even after you correct for all these differences, it still exists.”

Secretary is still the most common job for women in the U.S. Photo: Shutterstock

Secretary is still the most common job for women in the U.S. Photo: Shutterstock

As the White House leads another push on equal pay, read more here about the five points on the pay gap that you really need to know.