June 3, 2015 archive

Class Is A Civil Rights Issue

Black America is getting screwed: Shocking new study highlights the depths of economic disparities

by David Dayen, Salon

Tuesday, Jun 2, 2015 05:59 AM EST

Before being assassinated, Martin Luther King envisioned a Poor People’s Campaign descending on Washington to demand better education, jobs and social insurance. He saw it as an extension of his work on civil rights, equal in importance and scope. In “a nation gorged on money while millions of its citizens are denied a good education, adequate health services, meaningful employment, and even respect,” King wrote in announcing the Poor People’s Campaign, “all of us can almost feel the presence of a kind of social insanity which could lead to national ruin.”

The report, released today by the think tank Demos and the NAACP, focuses on African-American and Latino workers in the retail industry. While we’re supposed to believe that e-commerce and Amazon’s dominance has destroyed retail, the industry is actually the fastest growing in America, representing one out of every six new jobs in the economy last year. And while low wages and occupational hazards define retail work generally, that experience is even worse for people of color.

According to the Demos/NAACP study, black retail workers are nearly twice as likely to be living below the poverty line as the overall workforce. African-Americans and Latinos have fewer supervisory roles in retail relative to white counterparts, and more low-paid cashier positions. Among retail workers of color, there are more involuntary part-time employees, who want more hours but cannot receive them. And Black and Latino workers make less than their similarly situated colleagues – 75 percent of the average wage of a retail salesperson, and 90 percent of the average wage of a cashier, for example.

This isn’t all that different from the broader labor force, and it suggests a racial gap that resembles the gender gap on wages and opportunity – and is far worse when it comes to unemployment. Men and women are unemployed at the same rate, but African-Americans are twice as likely to be unemployed. It’s happening despite statutes like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, intended to make racial discrimination on the job illegal. Yet despite recent high-profile racial discrimination settlements with major retailers like Walgreen, Walmart and Wet Seal, economic results for people of color remain weak. Median black family income is actually less than it was relative to white families 50 years ago, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

The report’s authors chalk this up partially to issues with the retail industry overall, which does not deliver its workers the financial benefits of their productivity. But black and Latino workers find themselves even more squeezed. They are occupationally segregated into the lowest-wage positions in retail: cashiers and salespersons. These jobs are often not full-time (the average retail employee works only 31 hours a week), and involve unpredictable “just-in-time scheduling,” where a worker can be sent home from their shift if business lags, or told not to come in on a moment’s notice. Erratic week-to-week work schedules make it nearly impossible to manage a personal budget or secure childcare.

In addition, the high degree of unemployment in communities of color gives them less power to bargain for better wages. As a result, Black and Latino retail workers are paid less for the same work, translating to $1,850 a year in lost earnings for a full-time cashier, or $7,500 for a full-time salesperson. Seventy percent of retail workers of color make under $15 an hour, the threshold that the Fight for 15 movement considers a living wage.

Workers also need reliable hours and the ability to collectively bargain, and should be able to receive full-time work if they want it, the report adds. These changes would almost entirely close the retail wage gap between white workers and workers of color, bringing millions of families out of poverty.

The racial wage, employment and opportunity gap erodes the basic respect for black and Latino families. It’s as much a problem on the job as it is in the streets, even if it’s carried out in a less violent manner. The nation doesn’t talk about this enough; there’s no “Equal Pay Day” for African-Americans and Latinos. But there’s a civil rights movement that can insist that earning enough money to support a family represents a basic fight for justice. The more that’s denied, the more it will be delayed.


The Breakfast Club (Respect)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Ed White is the first American to walk in space; Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini and Pope John XXIII die; Britain’s Duke of Windsor weds Wallis Simpson; Poet Allen Ginsberg and entertainer Josephine Baker born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.

Jackie Robinson

On This Day In History June 3

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on image to enlarge

June 3 is the 154th day of the year (155th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 211 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1916, United States President Woodrow Wilson signs into law the National Defense Act, which expanded the size and scope of the National Guard, the network of states’ militias that had been developing steadily since colonial times, and guaranteed its status as the nation’s permanent reserve force.

The National Defense Act of 1916 provided for an expanded army during peace and wartime, fourfold expansion of the National Guard, the creation of an Officers’ and an Enlisted Reserve Corps, plus the creation of a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in colleges and universities. The President was also given authority, in case of war or national emergency, to mobilize the National Guard for the duration of the emergency.

The act was passed amidst the “preparedness controversy”, a brief frenzy of great public concern over the state of preparation of the United States armed forces, and shortly after Pancho Villa’s cross-border raid on Columbus, New Mexico. Its chief proponent was James Hay of Virginia, the chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs.

Sponsored by Rep. Julius Kahn (R) of California and drafted by the House Chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs Rep. James Hay (D) of Virginia, it authorized an army of 175,000 men, a National Guard of 450,000 men. It created the modern Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and empowered the President to place obligatory orders with manufacturers capable of producing war materials.

Langley Field in Virginia was built as part of the act. Now U.S. Air Force Command HQ as Langley Air Force Base, this “aerodrome” was named after air pioneer Samuel Pierpont Langley (died 1904). The President also requested the National Academy of Sciences to establish the National Research Council to conduct research into the potential of mathematical, biological, and physical science applications for defense. It allocated over $17 million to the Army to build 375 new aeroplanes.

Perhaps most important, it established the right of the President to “Federalize” the National Guard in times of emergency, with individual States’ militias reverting to their control upon the end of the declared emergency. With the Defense Act, Congress was also concerned with ensuring the supply of nitrates (used to make munitions), and it authorized the construction of two nitrate-manufacturing plants and a dam for hydropower as a national defense measure. President Wilson chose Muscle Shoals, Alabama as the site of the dam. The dam was later named for him, and the two Nitrate plants built in Muscle Shoals were later rolled into the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1933.

Developments after September 11, 2001

Prior to the attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, the National Guard’s general policy regarding mobilization was that Guardsmen would be required to serve no more than one year cumulative on active duty (with no more than six months overseas) for each five years of regular drill. Due to strains placed on active duty units following the attacks, the possible mobilization time was increased to 18 months (with no more than one year overseas). Additional strains placed on military units as a result of the invasion of Iraq further increased the amount of time a Guardsman could be mobilized to 24 months. Current Department of Defense policy is that no Guardsman will be involuntarily activated for more than 24 months (cumulative) in one six year enlistment period.

Traditionally, most National Guard personnel serve “One weekend a month, two weeks a year”, although personnel in highly operational or high demand units serve far more frequently. Typical examples are pilots, navigators and aircrewmen in active flying assignments, primarily in the Air National Guard and to a lesser extent in the Army National Guard. A significant number also serve in a full-time capacity in roles such as Active Guard and Reserve (AGR) or Air Reserve Technician or Army Reserve Technician (ART).

The “One weekend a month, two weeks a year” slogan has lost most of its relevance since the Iraq War, when nearly 28% of total US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan at the end of 2007 consisted of mobilized personnel of the National Guard and other Reserve components.

The Daily/Nightly Show (Citoyens, vouliez-vous une révolution sans révolution?)

The aim of constitutional government is to preserve the Republic; that of revolutionary government is to lay its foundation.

Buh-bye Sepp.  So long Denny.

Slavery Day

You stop being racist and I’ll stop talking about it.

Just in case you don’t get it, slavery is bad.

So Is Child Molesting

Tonightly our panelists are Marc LaMont Hill, Jamilah Lemieux, and Godfrey.  I have no idea what we’ll be talking about, but I’m guessing it’s not Sepp Blatter’s resignation or the prospects of Team USA in Group D (of Death) in the Women’s World Cup.


Spring Cleaning

This week’s guests-

Bill de Blasio tonight.  Mayor and all.  I feel that in some respects he’s been a profound disappointment, TMC is willing to give him a chance and since she lives there and is usually much more radical than I (I still believe in quaint things like rule of Senate procedure and the utility of the Electoral College if you can make it work for you) I’m willing to reserve judgement for now.  Should be a patty cake interview, he’s exactly the kind of moderate liberal Jon loves.

La terreur n’est autre chose que la justice prompte, sévère, inflexible; elle est donc une émanation de la vertu; elle est moins un principe particulier, qu’une conséquence du principe général de la démocratie, appliqué aux plus pressants besoins de la patrie.

McChrystal off not a moment too soon, no extended at all, lying bastard.  The real news below.