Race and Beyond: Why Black Women’s Equal Pay Day Matters

By Gabrielle Bozarth and Naomi Kellogg/Monday, August 22, 2016

black women

A Georgia Department of Labor services specialist helps a woman with a job search at an unemployment office in Atlanta on March 3, 2016.

In honor of Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, regular Race and Beyond columnist Sam Fulwood III invited interns Gabrielle Bozarth and Naomi Kellogg to reflect on the intersecting barriers of gender, race, and age in the U.S. workforce.

Tomorrow marks Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, which observes the amount of time it takes the average black woman to earn the same pay that the average white man earns in one calendar year. Because black women earn 60 percent of what their white male counterparts do—a rate much lower than the 79 percent national pay gap for all women—it takes approximately eight additional months for them to reach pay parity with white men. Years of advocacy and progress have resulted in black women working across all fields and reaching high levels of academic achievement, with more than half of all black women between the ages of 18 and 24 enrolled in college. While black women have made notable professional contributions and become the most educated group in the nation, these advancements have not shown a considerable effect on wage disparities.

Black women’s pay disparity is especially concerning for Millennials—the nation’s most diverse generation ever—who now make up the majority of workers. In May 2015, Millennials surpassed Generation Xers as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force, and in April 2016, Millennials surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest living generation. As the youngest Millennials get older, graduate college, and begin looking for jobs, many are faced with two specific barriers: their race and gender. As young black women of the Millennial generation, we shoulder both the struggles and the hopes of our mothers and grandmothers: to be more, build more, and catapult our families to new heights—and new tax brackets. In this legacy, wage equality is our principle concern.

In the current U.S. economy, securing a first job out of college can be difficult, especially for black Americans. Regardless of educational achievement, black American unemployment rates are similar to or higher than those of less-educated white Americans. For example, the unemployment rate for black Americans with bachelor’s degrees or higher is nearly double that of their white counterparts: 4.1 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively.

Even if we ace the interview and land the job, as black women, we are likely to be underpaid. This is a frightening prospect as we wrap up our undergraduate college careers and look to build a life and a future of financial success. Men make more than women in all but five occupations, and even in those occupations, women of color are paid the lowest on average.

Black women in the workplace face a number of struggles: from stereotypes about women’s roles and harsh critiques of women’s leadership to lack of informational and mentoring networks in many fields. Black women experience unique obstacles that are a result of our compounded identities. Income inequality presents many barriers, as black women may also have to work multiple jobs or longer hours and do not have the time to network and develop the relationships with their coworkers and superiors that are key to career advancement.

Black women who are pregnant face even greater barriers to success in the workplace. While many pregnant women are able to work through pregnancy without difficulty, some women need temporary job modifications in order to continue working safely. A 2008 report noted that women of color and immigrant women are disproportionately likely to work in physically demanding and low-wage jobs and thus are highly likely to need accommodations during pregnancy—similar to those defined in, but not enforced by, the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employers often refuse to make these adjustments for pregnant women, forcing young black women, like us, to make an impossible choice between keeping our jobs and advancing our careers or protecting our health. Our struggle as young black Millennial women is multifaceted, and making 60 cents to the dollar of our white male counterparts further exacerbates these issues.

The unfortunate reality of the wage gap is that black women are set up to fail; the 40 cents we miss out on accumulates and limits us from fully participating in the U.S. economy. This money could help us pay off student loan debt, buy our first home, or purchase a car. It could help us pay for quality care for our children or put healthy food on the table. On average, black women earn $19,399 less than white men every year, and in 2013 dollars, this would be enough to pay for: feeding a household of four for two years with more than $4,000 to spare, the median cost of rent and utilities for one year, full-time child care for a four-year-old for two years, student loan payments for four years, or more than 300 tanks of gas with $1,000 to spare.

But earning less does not just affect our present, it affects our future. Being underpaid for equal work contributes to an increasing wealth gap and inheritance gap, infringing on prospects of upward mobility for future generations. Black women head 68 percent of black households, and black families have 13 times less wealth than white families, holding only $11,000 in comparison to the $141,900 in wealth white families possess. A lack of wealth and savings also means black families have less to pass down to their children, widening the inheritance gap.

Lack of inheritance coupled with lower earnings for equal work inherently limit the upward social mobility of black women and their children. Half of black children who are born poor remain poor, and 70 percent of black children born in middle-class families end up worse off than their parents.

Under current public policy, total wage equality for all women will not be reached in the United States until 2059; this means that in some states, our grandchildren may be the first to earn an equitable wage at the start of their careers. This inequality is not only of concern for us and our families but also for the nation’s future. Given the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court ruling and globalization of markets, money has become inextricably tied to power.

As we end our undergraduate careers and begin to enter the workforce, it is troubling to note that our starting salaries may be too low, our upward mobility too slow, our purchasing power too weak, and our investments too small to become this nation’s leaders. Economic repression of black women is a strategy for maintaining the status quo—and so far, it is working.

Gabrielle Bozarth is a rising senior at Dartmouth College, studying government and women, gender, and sexuality studies. Naomi Kellogg is a rising junior at Indiana University, studying nonprofit management and education policy. Both served as Progress 2050 interns at the Center for American Progress during the summer of 2016.

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Together, we can build a stronger Oregon Coast economy


If opportunity were edible, the Oregon Coast would be capable of feeding many mouths. Up and down the coast from Brookings to Astoria, and particularly in Senate District 5 — the area I represent, stretching from Tillamook to Coos Bay — no one can dispute the stunning natural beauty and healthy living opportunities available to those who choose to make their homes here.

Still, for many reasons, we have struggled to attract many new working aged individuals or — sometimes most painfully — to retain and re-attract our own children to our communities. Lack of economic opportunity, whether real or perceived, is the primary motivating factor in these losses. Instead of pointing fingers, the only way to continue building on coastal economic successes is to continue finding common ground and working together.

When government, private business, the non-profit sector and community leaders are on the same page with the common goal, we can achieve a prosperous future for our children and grandchildren in our region.

I was encouraged by the large turnout at the fifth-annual Oregon Coast Economic Summit recently at The Mill Casino in North Bend. With more than 500 registered participants, it was the best attended so far. It also seems to have sparked several meaningful conversations that could potentially take shape into economic opportunities for the Oregon Coast. It will take a diverse approach with many different players to carve out that bright future we all seek, and we hope that these conversations will spur some of those opportunities.

Natural resources will continue to be a big part of the mix, with Oregon’s world-class timber products, seafood, cranberries, dairy products, tulips and other traditional mainstays. Additionally, new industries are emerging. Craft breweries up and down the coast are thriving and some are gaining international attention for the quality of their products. Capitalizing on the natural beauty of the area, we can garner greater market share in eco-tourism and recreation. We already boast renowned golfing opportunities, but there are other recreational possibilities just waiting to be tapped that can translate into new and thriving local businesses.

Visitors are a key component of our economic growth, not just for the money they spend here, but more for the seed that we can plant with them. When people visit a place and fall in love with it — as most of us who live on the Oregon Coast already have done — they will want to bring their new or existing businesses here to stay. This creates long-term employment for our residents. And when a retiring worker leaves the workforce, they have the freedom and flexibility to choose where they want to live. When they move to our coastal and rural areas for the exceptional quality of life, retirees purchase goods and services in our communities, creating jobs. They have houses built, and they volunteer in the community. We can’t forget those valuable contributions to our economy and our communities.

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As the population continues to grow on the coast, particularly in the retirement segment, new opportunities are developing in the health care industry — often for jobs that are difficult to fill in rural communities around the state. These are great opportunities to make a good living and help people in our communities. We need to continue providing necessary incentives to attract top level health care talent to coastal and rural communities. This takes partnership, as well. Working together, we can address this need. To that end, I will be participating in several Health Care Rural Listening Tour meetings in Coos Bay, Florence and Lincoln City.

How do we retain and re-attract our young rural Oregonians? They are perhaps one of our greatest exports right now. It’s natural for those graduating from high school to want to leave and experience other parts of the state, nation or world. But when we create an enduring fondness through a positive childhood in our coastal communities, eventually many of them will want to come back home to raise their own families. They also will start and grow businesses, create opportunities and bring back an innate sense of passion for their community.

To accomplish these goals we need involvement from all sectors — public, private and non-profit — and have all hands on deck. We can continue rebuilding our coastal economy together through diverse, creative and meaningful partnerships. We can break down barriers to economic success by creating smoother interactions between government and private business, as well as non-profits, so that it is easier to find solutions and opportunities while preserving our outstanding quality of life. By doing this, we can become a shining example.

It’s like the good Sen. Ron Wyden said during the Economic Summit, “America’s rural agenda begins right here on the Oregon Coast.”

It can, and it should. Now let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Sen. Arnie Roblan represents District 5, which includes Coos Bay, Florence, Newport and Tillamook. He is chair of the Senate Committee on Education


Aargh! Just Aargh

By Lee Lynch  January 26, 2016

In our town we have a small, out of the way thrift store, dark and not heavily patronized except by people who are very down and out. The owner— and who knows her story—sells what she can, but is always willing to help out the homeless with clothing or outdoor equipment that they need to survive in this wet environment where there are beaches for sleeping and woods for encampments, soup kitchens for food, tourists for panhandling, the library for web access.
It’s not just the homeless. Garage sales and thrift stores that once were a lark for drag queens and bull dykes are such a way of life now. If the 1% or the 20% are able to buy everything they want, the rest of us, in the current economy, are grateful to be able to buy their cast offs. The underground economy—helping the destitute, bartering goods and services, garage sales, web lists—by necessity isn’t so underground any more.
Dollar stores are crazy busy since the so-called Great Recession, and not due to recreational shopping. Their food products are often good buys if you’re in the habit of reading labels carefully and their books can be great finds for $1.00, though the authors get nothing for their years of work. I find it bewildering that dollar store corporations are gobbling one another up and making someone, somewhere, obscenely rich.
Goodwill does great work, but they’re huge now and their prices are getting out of range. I, along with many of my neighbors, regularly buy from the local, less expensive Humane Society thrift shop. For household items, we matronize the ReStore, thank you Jimmy Carter. Our local cobbler can’t keep up with all the shoe repairs he gets. If we can’t fix something ourselves, we employ handymen or women, rather than licensed, bonded, insured workers, to repair our roofs, our driveways, our plumbing.
We’re all what used to be called middle class people. Just try being middle class when the Social Security checks start arriving. There was no 2016 cost of living (COLA) increase in these payments, earned through lifetimes of hard work. Something does not compute. The inflation rate didn’t trigger a COLA, but I’m paying $50.00, $70.00 or much more for generic prescription drugs that last year had no or minimal co-pays. To use a phrase from Dorothy Allison, I also call it criminal capitalism when older Americans can’t afford good health.
I count my lucky stars that my financial issues are at a level where I’m concerned about the cost of medications, not their total inaccessibility.
Of course the pharmaceutical companies are blaming the Affordable Care Act. Once again, a tool created for the people is being used to increase profits. Drugs are not manufactured to relieve pain or cure cancer or to prolong lives, they’re manufactured to make money. The balance has gone out of any equation that included keeping people alive and come down heavily on the side of making a financial killing. Aargh! Just aargh.
Online there’s Craigslist, the middleman of bartering. There’s Freecycle where people give away what they can’t sell or don’t need. I’m seeing a lot fewer listings on Freecycle than I did pre-recession. One of our friends, an underpaid care worker, shops garage sales as much as we do. For birthdays and winter holidays we exchange boxes of garage sale goodies, mailing our lightweight packages if we can’t meet. Has anyone else noticed how you can prepare a meal for a family of four on what it costs to mail a package now?
Even petsitting, a perennial cash service, is getting all big business on us. There are pet care companies with actual employees and franchises. What ever happened to the neighbors? Word of mouth? Signs on the vet’s bulletin board? We’re monetizing every little bit of America. And the world. Uber and Lyft were great ideas until they started raking in the bucks and grew and grew, taking jobs away from regulated cab drivers.
Politicians want to squeeze cash from our national monuments. Oil companies can’t wait to guzzle up natural resources from wildlife refuges. Prisons are privatized, hospitals connive to get more money from Medicare. All of this drives up costs and takes what was once affordable out of reach.
The bigger the corporations, the lower the wages, the fewer the jobs. And the corporations swell each time they subsume another business and dump another thousand employees. I am astounded by the monopolizing going on in the U.S.. We have laws to prevent such boundless greed. Apparently we need more than brakes on businesses, we need an enormous emergency brake.
A phenomenon that seems to be more common is the return, after their divorces and downsized jobs, of very adult children in their fifties and sixties, moving in with aged mom or dad in senior housing communities and elsewhere. These sons and daughters have little or nothing left; the parent is beginning to need help around his small manufactured home. These now older workers don’t go out and find jobs, mom becomes the job. The kids inherit the property and have shelter as long as they can pay the taxes. The next step may be homelessness—and a visit to the kind thrift store owner.

Copyright 2016 Lee Lynch

Republished with permission from the author.  Originally published:  https://boldstrokesbooksauthors.wordpress.com/author/kathiatbsb/


Questions for Those Who Oppose Raising the Minimum Wage

November 2015

by Chuck Sheketoff

Tomorrow’s Friday Forum at the City Club of Portland should be a great one, revolving around the club’s recently released report Portland Needs a Higher Minimum Wage (PDF).

The report, the product of a six-month investigation by the club’s research committee, rightly concludes that Portland needs a higher minimum wage and that the legislature ought to remove the law that preempts the city from lifting the wage floor above the statewide minimum. The study also found that a “report by the Oregon Center for Public Policy effectively refutes the” canard that minimum wage increases will be mostly offset by loss of public benefits.

I won’t be surprised if at tomorrow’s Forum opponents issue the familiar “the-sky-will-fall for small businesses” type objections to raising the minimum wage, either locally or statewide. When they do, I hope panelists and City Club members asking questions will challenge the naysayers and educate the audience.

The last time that the legislature raised the minimum wage was in 1989. The increase enacted then upped the minimum wage by 42 percent over less than a two-year period.

That increase was in the same ballpark as what’s being discussed now. For instance, raising the minimum wage to $13.50 (by January 2018 or 2019 according to filed proposals) would amount to a 46 percent increase. In other words, what’s being discussed now is not new. We did it before, and the Oregon economy kept cruising along.

I want to know from the naysayers, ”How do you explain that Oregon’s economy has in the past absorbed a minimum wage increase of a magnitude similar to what is being discussed right now?”

I want to know from small business naysayers, ”How did your small business weather the 1989 increase? Tell us what worked.”

Following the 42 percent minimum wage increase fully phased in in 1991, small businesses experienced nearly a decade of uninterrupted growth. The small business sector found a way to adjust to that increase and others with no apparent impact.

I want to know from the naysayers, “How do you explain that past minimum wage increases have not dented small business growth in our state?”

We can and should learn from history. Our economy in general and small businesses in particular have not only weathered similar increases, they have flourished. I hope we learn how that happened at tomorrow’s Friday Forum to allay the concerns of opponents.

This post was originally published on www.blueoregon.com on November 5, 2015. The original post can be found at http://www.blueoregon.com/2015/11/questions-those-who-oppose-raising-minimum-wage/.

– See more at: http://www.ocpp.org/2015/11/05/blog20151105-questions-minimum-wage-oregon/#sthash.sZ1ZIp4C.dpuf

See more at: http://www.ocpp.org/2015/11/05/blog20151105-questions-minimum-wage-oregon/#sthash.sZ1ZIp4C.dpuf

Oregon economy is fine; many working families are not

Chuck Sheketoff 4:57 p.m. PDT April 15, 2015

Oregon’s economy outshines that of most states in the nation – not by one, but by several measures. That’s why it was disappointing to read Oregon Congressman Kurt Schrader’s recent comments disparaging Oregon’s friendliness toward business and seemingly rejecting proposals to raise the minimum wage.

Rather than worry about a non-issue like Oregon’s friendliness toward business, Rep. Schrader would do better to focus on Oregon’s most serious economic problems: economic insecurity and income inequality.

One way of measuring the health of Oregon’s economy is to consider economic growth. How does Oregon do in that regard? Over the last 13 years, Oregon’s economy has grown nearly three times faster than the national economy.

Next, how many states in the nation have had faster economic growth than Oregon over the least 13 years? Only one: North Dakota.

And in how many states have workers increased their productivity at a faster rate than workers in Oregon? Again, over the least 13 years, only workers in one other state.

Consider also the State Entrepreneurship Index, compiled by researchers at the University of Nebraska. The index tracks measures such as growth in employer establishments, business formation rate, patents per thousand persons and average proprietor income. Oregon ranked ninth in 2013, the most recent ranking, up from the year before. That’s a friendly reminder that Oregon is friendly to business.

Of course, some people (wrongly, it must be stressed) consider taxes to be an important measure of a state’s attitude toward business. Even if one believes taxes matter, the fact is that even corporate-funded studies conclude that Oregon has low business taxes. For example, the Council on State Taxation, a lobbying arm of large corporations, finds that Oregon has the nation’s lowest “total effective business tax rate.”

Oregon’s overall economy is doing fine, but too many working families are not.

The gains from Oregon’s stellar economic growth are flowing to a relative few at the top. Income inequality stands at historic highs. While Oregon’s wealthiest 1 percent have seen their income soar over the past few decades, the typical (median) Oregonian is earning less today than in 1980, when you adjust for inflation.

Seven out of 10 Oregon families with children living in poverty have at least one parent who works. For a number of these families, even full-time work is not enough to pull them above the woefully low threshold that is the federal definition of poverty. That’s why increasing the minimum wage is so critical.

Economic insecurity is by no means an affliction of the poor. Many of today’s middle class families live paycheck-to-paycheck, barely able to keep up with housing, childcare and other basic family expenses.

Increasing economic security and reducing income inequality are Oregon’s great challenges. And in that respect, a more robust minimum wage – contrary to Rep. Schrader’s view – is an important step in the right direction.

Oregon’s economy is doing well according to a number of key indicators. It is the economic struggles of working families that ought to command the fullest attention of our elected leaders.

Chuck Sheketoff of Silverton is executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy. He can be reached at csheketoff@ocpp.org.

What It Means To #ReclaimMLK

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, www.PopularResistance.org
January 16th, 2015


This week, in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, people around the country are organizing actions to #ReclaimMLK as the true person he was; one that recognized the roots of the crises being experienced and who made connections between many issues. Dr. King was a critic of capitalism, racism and imperialism. He said:

“When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

(Photo: Kelly Hayes)

Dr. King called for a “revolution of values,” meaning a shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. A new generation of young activists is embracing the radical Dr. King and rejecting the watered-down version presented in major media. A strong example isthis group of grade school students who organized a powerful celebration of Dr. King’s birthday on Jan. 15 with a march from their school to the juvenile detention center.

While those “giant triplets” continue to ravage our communities, the “revolution of values” is back on track with focused work by activists in the US, sometimes in collaboration with activists around the world, to expose and end systemic racism, to end imperialism and to create a new solidarity economy.

Ending Racist Policing

The #BlackLivesMatter movement continues bold actions to both gain attention for systemic racism and to push for necessary reforms that reign in violence and put communities back in control. Events in New York City have been particularly volatile as police first went on a slowdown, arresting “only those who needed it,” and have now increased arrests for questionable and minimal violations of law.

1richmondThe police union in New York has refused to recognize that it has a problem. In other areas of the country where police chiefs have respected the rights of protestors and have even joined them, police unions and residents have complained. Following numerous peaceful protests in Grand Central Station, transit police banned die-ins, but demonstrators defied the ban.

Coast to coast, communities are organizing for change. In Los Angeles, Black Lives Matter activists camped outside the police department for days asking for a meeting with the police chief over the killing of Ezell Ford.  Two leaders were arrested for entering the station to deliver a letter, but they finally met with the chief.

In Cleveland where young Tamir Rice was killed, more than 40 churches are working together to develop a plan for police reform. And President Obama has convened a task force on “21st Century Policing.” DCFerguson organizer Kymone Freeman attended the task force’s first town hall and felt he was in an alternative universe where police were applauded for reduced crime without much focus on police violence. Will this effort be used to deter real reform? Watch his strong testimony before the task force here.

1ferrg2guanConnecting Militarism at Home and Abroad

Perhaps the greatest speech of Dr. Kingwas the speech he gave a year before his death, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time To Break the Silence” which described the United States as “the greatest purveyor of violence” in the world and urged an end to the Vietnam War. Sadly, the United State continues to be a purveyor of violence, with increasing militarism around the world.

In the new Congress this year, we can expect more war. After meeting recently with the President, leadership stated that they may move to pass a broad authorization of war against ISIS and others. And with more war, comes more military spending and more cuts to public programs. As Allegra Kirkland points out, “This year, we’re on track to spend over $1 trillion on national security, after factoring in nuclear weapons funding, military pensions and ‘overseas contingency funds,’ in addition to the Pentagon’s $580 billion operating budget.”

Dr. King said it best: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”

Mother of Emanuel leads procession at US Department of Justice with representatives of Witness Against Torture and Hands Up Coalition DC. Source Witness Against Torture.

We saw that spiritual doom at the weekly Justice Mondays outside the Department of Justice in Washington, DC organized by the HandsUpCoalitionDC. This past Monday, the coalition connected with Witness Against Torture and also remembered Muslims who are targets because of the never-ending war on terror. After a protest at the DOJ, three coffins were carried to the front doors of the DC Police Station and activists held a rally inside and outside the police station for 28 minutes to mark the death of people of color every 28 hours.

Witness Against Torture concluded a week of actions around the 13th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantanamo Bay. They held a “Torturer’sTour” over the weekend where they visited the homes of Dick Cheney and John Brennan and the CIA. And earlier on Monday, WAT activists were arrested for actions inside the Senate Gallery and the Capitol visitor’s center where they held a banner saying “Ferguson to Guantanamo: White Silence = State Violence.”

Lifting our Communities up With a New Economy

When Dr. King was killed he was organizing the Poor People’s Campaign which would highlight poverty and the unfair economy.  He was killed in Memphis working with sanitation workers who were on strike. The same issues of poverty, low wages and an unfair economy plague the United States today.

It is no secret that in addition to the general gaping wealth divide in the US, there is a huge wealth disparity between black and white communities. To make things worse, a new reportdemonstrates that our state tax systems are fundamentally unfair with the poor paying up to seven times more taxes as a percent of income than the wealthy in the worse states, known as the ‘Terrible Ten.’

Sharing EconomyThe good news is that there is greater awareness that the economy is fundamental when it comes down towhose interests are being representedand shifting political power. Communities are creating new economic institutions that are more cooperative and build wealth instead of allowing it to go to a few at the top.

In New York, faith leaders made it clear on inauguration day that the people need jobs with living wages, fair taxation, investment in public education and a stronger social safety net. In Vermont, advocates pushed the state legislature hard for a public bank and wound up with a commitment from the government to invest in local projects.

People in cities across the country, like Reading, PA, are working at the municipal level to put components of the solidarity economy in place such as cooperatives, loans for local small businesses, urban gardening, public banks, re-municipalization of public services, etc.CommonomicsUSA is a new organization that will work with communities to put components of the solidarity economy into place.

1kickThe idea of the new solidarity economy is growing deep roots in the US. Economics students are rejecting the outdated and false paradigm of neo-classical economics and insisting that they learn about economic systems that are more just and sustainable. And more people are rejecting the two corporate political parties and are building independent political power as well. Dr. King was a strong proponent of independent politics.

An Important Battle for Our Future

As we have written before, we are facing a critical challenge early this year that is a game changer for all of us who care about a livable future. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, known as “NAFTA on steroids,” is an agreement that goes beyond trade to impact everything we care about from our ability to protect our health and safety to our ability to build local economies, stem the tide of privatization, stop extreme energy extraction and protect workers and the environment.

1TPPExpress1We now have the general timetable for the TPP and the Fast Track legislation that Obama is seeking from Congress so that he can conclude negotiations and sign the agreement. We must act quickly. We expect that the President will praise the TPP in his State of the Union Speech on January 20. We’ll need you to flood Congress with calls on January 21 to show that you are not fooled. Go toStopFastTrack.com to call Congress and tell others to do the same. Hearings on fast track and another round of negotiations are expected in late January and the bill will be introduced after that.

We can’t emphasize enough how important stopping Fast Track and the TPP are. They really are a game changer that will set our work back for decades if we lose and given the information coming out almost daily telling us how fragile our future is, we don’t have that much time. We urge you to get involved in stopping fast track. This affects everyone and everybody can do something!


Out With 2014, In With 2015, and Up With People

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich’s Blog

01 January 15

Economist, professor, author and political commentator Robert Reich. (photo: Richard Morgenstein) go to original article

Economist, professor, author and political commentator Robert Reich. (photo: Richard Morgenstein) go to original article

e’ve made progress this year — raising the minimum wage in dozens of states and cities, providing equal marriage rights in a majority of states, limiting carbon emissions. But there’s far more to do.

The economy looks like it’s improving but most Americans are still stuck in recession, and almost all the economic gains are still going to the top. The only way we can have an economy that works for the many, not the few, is to get big money out of politics — so the rules of the economic game aren’t biased in favor of big corporations, Wall Street, and the rich. And to get more people fighting for equal opportunity and shared prosperity.

But many Americans have become so cynical about politics they no longer even bother to vote. Turnout in the 2014 midterm elections was the lowest in decades. This is exactly what the moneyed interests want. If we give up on politics we give up on democracy, and they can take over all of it.

Never underestimate what we can, and will, accomplish together. Organizing. Mobilizing. Energizing. Making a ruckus.

Here’s to your and yours for a great 2015.


Where’s the Outrage? Congress Changes Savings Accounts and Retirement Funds, and America Sleeps

(photo: TPM Muckraker)

By Tess Vigeland, Guardian UK

17 December 14

Nothing is permanent in this wicked world except banks getting whatever they want, whenever they want, regardless of the risk to their own customers. Two major provisions in the US budget bill spell doom for US savers and retirees

o you remember where you were six years ago? Probably not. It was a long, long time ago. December 2008 is not one of those dates that gets burned on your brain, like the moon landing, or D-Day, or the end of Seinfeld.

But I remember where I was. I was at my post as the host of a personal finance show on national radio, and I was taking calls from people all over the country who were a) furious that their tax dollars were siphoned off to pay for a massive bank bailout that crashed the world economy, and b) outraged that the stock market was responding by wiping out their already-meager retirement and college education savings funds.

In December 2008, the number of jobs shrank by 533,000, the worst monthly loss in more than 30 years. Construction permits fell by more than 12% as people stopped buying houses. And retailers got a giant lump of coal from consumers, who decided that buying a bunch of worthless junk to put under a tree was probably not the best idea when their bank accounts – not the mention the country’s – were circling the drain.

“This shall not stand!” we cried, then. “We can never allow our own savings to be put at risk like this!”

And yet. Here we are again.

Congress has passed, and President Obama has said he would sign, a budget bill that allows banks to use your savings when they make giant financial bets called derivatives. Again.

And because those savings are insured by the federal government, you, the taxpayer, would be on the hook if those bets go south. Again.

This isn’t arcane financial stuff we can ignore. These are the exact financial mechanisms that led to the global crisis just six (short!) years ago. The Dodd-Frank reform law that was passed in the wake of that crisis forbade this from ever happening.

Charlie Chaplin said that nothing is permanent in this wicked world, not even our troubles. I’d add that nothing is permanent in this wicked world except banks getting whatever they want, whenever they want, regardless of the risk to their own customers. Regardless of the risk to the rest of us.

In addition to all that, this so-called compromise also contains a provision that would wreak havoc on the pensions of more than 10 million American workers, who likely have no idea this is coming.

Pension plans were promises to employees that they could count on a certain income in retirement. Unlike the 401k that most of us are familiar with, where we have to rely on our own savings and our own strategies for investing that money, pensions were a guaranteed payout.

That’s why pensions don’t really exist anymore: because they’re expensive, and if a company doesn’t plan correctly, it’s easy to run out of money. The Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, or PBGC, has to take over the plans from employers who go bankrupt or bust or simply can’t make the payments.

That has happened over and over again, and workers with those pensions have found their benefits cut in half or even more.

Now there’s a real pension crisis. The PBGC itself is now in something of a hole, and warned recently that it doesn’t have the reserves to pay even the reduced amount of the income that was promised to millions of workers.

And a proposal in this same budget bill would allow some pension plans to cut current benefits to employees who are retired – if those plans can show that they’ll otherwise run out of money in the next 10-20 years. The proposal applies to multi-employer pension plans, which cover a diverse cross-section of blue-collar workers such as truck drivers and people in construction.

This isn’t supposed to be legal.

From their beginnings, if you were already retired, your benefits were supposed to be untouchable.

Change the payout on workers who are still working, sure (because it’s OK to break promises and alter people’s lives as long as you give a few years’ notice), but don’t touch the folks who’ve already started the golden years.

But now, they’re fair game, too.

Supporters say this is simply part of the necessary give-and-take of the political process. Nonsense. They can make other choices that don’t subject Americans to financial ruin.

As someone who spent six years taking calls on-air from people who will never fully recover from the devastating losses they experienced during and after the 2008 crisis, and from pensioners who watched their benefits get cut and wondered how all the financial planning they did around that number they were promised was somehow rendered useless, I wish I could go back in a time machine and warn everyone that George Santayana was right: those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it, or worse, allow it to be repeated by others.

People in the personal finance field love to talk about how if we could just get more Americans to save, if we could just get more Americans to learn the basics of the stock market, if we could just convince Americans to forego that latte at Starbucks, if we could just put Americans on a budget, then things would be OK.

But how is any of that supposed to work when banks can use people’s savings to play the roulette wheel that is the stock market – and then when they lose, they just order another cup of coffee and use the federal budget to make sure that the losses fall not on them but on the people who just tried to save a little money in the first place?

This one is only on workers if they say nothing and fail to educate themselves on what is being plundered from their futures. The powers that be are counting on you not to pay attention, or to feel so impotent that you just give up and say “Well, really, what can I do?”

How about instead of calling a personal finance show, you call your senator or representative and tell them your story, and ask them how they would solve your financial predicament? They should hear your stories. When I heard them, I got angry, I felt for you and I tried to help.

Maybe if you tell those stories, someone else will listen, and try to help. Or at least try not to make things worse.


Working, But Still Poor – Oregon Center for Public Policy

Working, But Still Poor – Oregon Center for Public Policy.

Working, But Still Poor

by Tyler Mac Innis

A View of the State of Working Oregon

Work is not a sure path out of poverty. The official poverty line, based on a formula developed in the early 1960s, underestimates what it takes to make ends meet today. But even with the bar set too low by an outdated calculation, some employers pay too little to lift many working Oregon families above the poverty line.

Lawmakers can enact policies that will lift low-wage workers out of poverty and help them get ahead. Lawmakers should increase Oregon’s minimum wage and enact rules that better protect workers from dishonest employers who steal wages. They should also better fund services that help low-paid working families succeed, such as child care subsidies and job training for workers with dependent children.

Families living in poverty often confront barriers to employment, such as physical or mental health problems, children’s health issues, domestic violence and lack of affordable child care.[1]

Nonetheless, most families with children living in poverty in Oregon are working families. In other words, a poor child in Oregon likely has a working parent.

In 2013, among Oregon’s poor families, more than seven out of 10 (72 percent) had at least one parent who worked.[2]

In total numbers, there were nearly 72,000 Oregonians living in poverty despite belonging to a household with at least one full-time worker in 2013.

To put that in perspective, that is close to the entire the population of Medford (76,000), Oregon’s eighth largest city.

Having a full-time working parent does not prevent children from growing up in poverty.

In 2013, among Oregon children living in poverty, two out of seven (28.8 percent) lived in a home in which at least one parent worked full time.

Rates of poverty among working families are particularly high among Asian and Latino families.

In 2013, nearly nine out of 10 Asian families (86.8 percent) and Latino families (86.4 percent) living in poverty had at least one parent working at some point during the previous year. By comparison, the figure was about seven out of 10 (70.4 percent) for non-Hispanic white families.

The rates of poverty among working families for other communities of color were not statistically different from the rate for non-Hispanic whites.

Single working mothers are more likely to live in poverty than single working fathers in Oregon.

In 2013, 31.9 percent of single working mothers lived below the poverty line, compared to 18.1 percent of single working fathers. For those working full time, 13.1 percent of single mothers and 3.3 percent of single fathers lived in poverty.
Women tend to earn less than their male counterparts and are more likely to work in low-wage jobs.[3]

Lawmakers Must Help Ensure that Work Pays for Poor Families

To reduce poverty in Oregon, lawmakers must help make work pay for poor working families — which are the majority of the state’s poor families.

First and foremost, lawmakers should ensure employers pay a decent wage. In part, this means increasing the state’s minimum wage. Oregon’s minimum wage is not high enough to lift a full-time worker raising two children out of poverty. Workers deserve a substantial increase in the minimum wage, one that lifts families out of poverty.

Lawmakers also ought to enact strong protections against wage theft. A minimum wage counts for little when dishonest employers cheat workers out of the wages they have earned. Too often employers commit wage theft by forcing workers to work off the clock, stealing tips or not paying their workers at all. Lawmakers need to put in place new rules making it harder for dishonest employers to engage in wage theft and easier for the state and workers to enforce wage laws.[4]
Lawmakers should increase funding for services that help poor working families succeed on the job. For example, the Employment Related Day Care (ERDC) program, which subsidizes child care for low-income working families, is so poorly funded that eligible parents are often put on a waiting list and are unable to secure child care. Employment training programs such as the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) program, a program for very poor families with dependent children, currently serves a fraction of those who could benefit because of funding constraints.

Oregon lawmakers can act to make work pay and ensure working families are not poor despite their work efforts.

[1] For a discussion of barriers to employment see Heidi Goldberg, Improving TANF Program Outcomes for Families With Barriers to Employment,Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, January 22, 2002.

[2] This analysis uses 2013 American Community Survey (ACS) Public Use Micro Sample (PUMS) microdata. The analysis focused on Oregon households living in poverty with a related child. The ACS categorizes work experience as “full time in the past 12 months,” “less than full time work in the past 12 months,” and “did not work in the past 12 months.” Less than full time includes short-term and seasonal work. For example, a person who worked 40 hours per week for 10 weeks during the winter holiday season in a retail position would be considered to have worked less than full time by the ACS. This analysis looks at the share of households in poverty with children where at least the head of household or the head’s spouse had some work experience in the 12 months prior to the survey response. While a person who worked “less than full time” could also be considered long-term unemployed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which defines long-term unemployment as joblessness for 27 weeks or more and actively looking for work during that time, that person is still correctly counted by the ACS as having worked less than full time during the past year. Similarly, a person who “did not work in the past 12 months” under the ACS survey might not be considered “long term unemployed” under the BLS survey if the person was not actively seeking work. One is a survey of who has been working and one is a survey of who has been unemployed; they are not meant to be mutually exclusive. Unless otherwise noted, all data in this fact sheet comes from OCPP analysis of American Community Survey data.

[3] For more on the gender pay gap, see Jane Farrell and Sarah Jane Glynn, What Causes the Gender Wage Gap? Center for American Progress, April 19, 2013, and Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn, The Gender Pay Gap: Have Women Gone as Far as They Can?, Academy of Management Perspectives, February 2007, pp. 7-23.

[4] For more on wage theft, see: Oregon’s Wage Theft Problem Persists, Oregon Center for Public Policy, January 14, 2013.

Posted in Minimum Wage, Poverty, Role of Government, TANF, Wages.
More about: erdc, race and ethnicity, wage theft, working poor
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