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


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

Employers Eye Moving Sickest Workers To Insurance Exchanges

Employers have found yet another way to cut costs by shifting operating expenses onto the government and tax payers.

Moving even a few high-risk patients to exchange coverage could add millions of dollars in costs to those plans. The costs would be passed on to customers in the form of higher premiums and to taxpayers in the form of higher subsidy expense. By shrinking the hospital and doctor network to make the company plan unattractive to those with chronic illness or raising co-payments for drugs needed by the chronically ill, companies could make the plan unattractive, effectively pushing high-cost workers to look at other options.

Would he be happier with a health plan bought on the exchange? His boss probably would be. iStockphoto

Would he be happier with a health plan bought on the exchange? His boss probably would be. (iStockphoto)

“Shifting high-risk workers out of employer plans is prohibited for other kinds of taxpayer-supported insurance. For example, it’s illegal to induce somebody who is working and over 65 to drop company coverage and rely entirely on the government Medicare program for seniors, said Amy Gordon, a benefits lawyer with McDermott Will & Emery. Similarly, employers who dumped high-cost patients into temporary high-risk pools established by the health law are required to repay those workers’ claims to the pools. “You would think there would be a similar type of provision under the Affordable Care Act” for plans sold through the marketplace portals, Gordon said. “But there currently is not.””

Read the full NPR story here

Lawmakers unveil bill to hold employers responsible for supervisors’ sexual harassment

“A coalition of congressional Democrats, backed by much of organized labor, introduced legislation on Mar. 14 to hold employers responsible for their lower-level supervisors’ sexual harassment of workers on the job.

“The Fair Employment Protection Act would overturn a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that limits employer responsibility for sexual harassment. The court said that if supervisors who direct employees’ daily work, but do not have the power to hire, fire or discipline workers, harass the workers, then the employer is not legally responsible for the supervisors’ actions.

“The new measure would make the employer responsible for those low-level supervisors’ harassment, in suits under civil rights laws. It would not change who is a “supervisor” under federal labor law.”

Read the full article here.