Thousands of former Department of Veterans Affairs employees will soon have the option to return to work, after the VA reached a settlement agreement with the American Federation of Government Employees. The agreement will let former VA employees who were terminated for minor offenses under the 2017 VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act choose between either getting reinstated at VA or receiving compensation. Hundreds of other former employees whom VA and AFGE agree had engaged in grievous misconduct will have their terminations upheld.
Washington - UW students are protesting on campus to demand that the UW Career and Internship Center amend their employer user policy to prohibit companies in the Fossil Fuel industry from recruiting on campus or using the center’s services in any capacity to engage with students. The requested change would deny members of the Fossil Fuel industry a space to recruit students through university networking platforms and career fair events, and also leverage the UW’s agenda-setting power by encouraging similar institutions to follow suit. After several meetings and an attempt to work with the executive director of the UW Career and Internship Center, Briana Randall, student members of the group Institution Climate Action (ICA) were met with strong refusal and told there was “absolutely no way” the career center would adopt such a policy.
Shortly after the New Year, I was fired from Oak Ridge National Laboratory after urging fellow scientists to take action on climate change. At the American Geophysical Union meeting in December, just before speakers took the stage for a plenary session, my fellow climate scientist Peter Kalmus and I unfurled a banner that read, “Out of the lab & into the streets.” In the few seconds before the banner was ripped from our hands, we implored our colleagues to use their leverage as scientists to wake the public up to the dying planet. Soon after this brief action, the A.G.U., an organization with 60,000 members in the earth and space sciences, expelled us from the conference and withdrew the research that we presented that week from the program. Eventually it began a professional misconduct inquiry. (It’s ongoing.)
About 70 million people — 1 in 3 adults — have some kind of criminal record; background checks often turn up arrests, for example, even if no charges were ever filed. Nine in 10 employers weigh that past in their hiring decisions. And the collateral consequences go far beyond employment. Criminal records can disqualify people from housing, professional licensing and public benefits. In short, a record can sentence an individual — and their family — to lifelong economic hardship. Most states have laws allowing people to clear their records, but bureaucratic barriers and fees mean that many people never manage to do it. In Michigan, for example, a $50 application fee is just the first in a series of hurdles; fewer than 7% of eligible Michiganders succeed, according to a 2020 study.
A so-called “labor shortage” in the United States has quickly become a catch-all justification for policies that prevent workers from gaining too much power on the job, or collectively organizing by forming unions. Not enough applicants for low-paid jobs packing meat, or working the cash register at Dairy Queen? Better crank up the Federal Reserve’s interest rates (a policy explicitly aimed at spurring a recession and putting people out of work), so that we have a larger reserve of the desperate unemployed. Pandemic-era social programs ever-so-slightly redistributing wealth downward? Better shut them down, lest we eliminate the supposed precarity needed to incentivize work.
Our nation’s year-round celebration of former military service by 19 million Americans reaches its apex every Nov. 11 (aka Veterans Day). On that occasion, there is no louder “thank you for your service” heard throughout the land than the expression of gratitude which emanate from businesses, large and small. Men and women who enlisted in the military—or were draftees before conscription was suspended after the Vietnam War—suddenly become eligible for all kinds of special consumer discounts. As retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich, a military historian, observes, “corporate virtue signaling” on Nov. 11 takes the form of “an abundance of good deals: free coffee, free doughnuts, free pizza, free car washes, and as much as 30 percent off on assorted retail purchases.”
Recently, Starbucks workers achieved some significant wins in the form of National Labor Relations Board complaints and judgments against the company. Workers are waiting to see if these will materialize into meaningful changes in what is now a year-long, union-busting campaign waged by the company. The NLRB filed a complaint Aug. 24 over Starbucks’ illegal withholding of pay raises and other benefits from workers who were unionized or in the process of organizing. Since the beginning of the union drive, Starbucks has been announcing a number of perks for workers who decide not to unionize, including a pay raise which took effect Aug. 1.
The economic fortunes of rural communities across the United States are often deeply intertwined with the prison industrial complex. This poses a real challenge to the project of ending mass incarceration. How can organizers build political opposition to prisons in areas where prisons are the lifeblood of a community? And what should be done with former prisons once they are closed? The question of repurposing prisons in particular is too often neglected by state governments. A new report from the Sentencing Project finds that while 21 states have closed prisons since 2000, many of these sites have simply become other types of correctional facilities in the absence of clear transition plans. Nicole Porter from the Sentencing Project joins Rattling the Bars to discuss this new report.
To a casual observer, the Black Hawk and Sikorsky S-76 helicopters may have seemed incongruous landing next to the student union on the University of Connecticut’s pastoral green campus, but this particular Thursday in September 2018 was Lockheed Martin Day, and the aircraft were the main attraction. A small group of students stood nearby, signs in hand, protesting Lockheed’s presence and informing others about a recent massacre. Weeks earlier, 40 children had been killed when a Saudi-led coalition air strike dropped a 500-pound bomb on a school bus in northern Yemen. A CNN investigation found that Lockheed — the world’s largest weapons manufacturer — had sold the precision-guided munition to Saudi Arabia a year prior in a $110 billion arms deal brokered under former President Donald Trump.
Recently released estimates of India’s economic output show that people are not spending enough. The only reason this can be is because they do not have sufficient income, and their buying power is limited. On the other hand, prices of all essential commodities are increasing at a disturbingly high rate. This will further restrict spending. Industrial production has grown at snail’s pace, and with people not having enough to spend, demand will continue to be low and industrial output too will languish. Bank credit for large industries is growing very slowly. So, prospects of any check on raging unemployment continue to be bleak because there is unlikely to be a fresh investment that would create jobs.
A year ago we had such high hopes. We expected the Covid vaccine rollout to bring a swift end to the pandemic, opening a window for pushing bold solutions to the long-standing economic, racial, and gender divides that had grown even wider under Covid. Where are we as 2021 comes to a close? These 10 charts highlight major inequality developments of the year, covering some steps back and some important steps forward. The combined wealth of the 745 U.S. billionaires surpassed $5 trillion in 2021, up 70 percent since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Institute for Policy Studies and Americans for Tax Fairness analysis of Forbes data.
For months, business owners and corporate media pundits in the US have complained about a “labor shortage,” claiming that businesses are struggling to find new employees because “no one wants to work.” Rather than enticing applicants with more competitive wages and stronger benefits and protections, though, many businesses are opting to exploit prison slave labor.
Partisan politics, Congress' legislative language, and interest group lobbying are about to turn America's 160 million workers into guinea pigs. We're all about to be part of a huge study on whether unemployment insurance keeps people out of the labor market. The biggest variable in this 50-state experiment is the new unemployment benefits created during the pandemic. Republican governors in nearly two dozen states are rolling back key benefits that helped people through the downturn: expansions in unemployment insurance to workers not previously covered, increased length of coverage for unemployed workers, and topped-up weekly payments are some of the initiatives.
In the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, the editorial board of the Financial Times (4/20/20), perhaps the most important newspaper of capital in the English-speaking world, fretted about how the pandemic could upend labor relations. After the Black Death of the 1300s, the paper noted, the population decline meant surviving peasants had the leverage to demand higher pay. The editors assured their readers that nothing so radical was coming due to Covid-19: “A thankfully much lower mortality rate means such a transformation is unlikely,” the editors said. A year later, things aren’t going as planned. News outlets trumpeted what they often called “disappointing” job growth numbers in the United States (Yahoo! Finance, 5/7/21; CNN, 5/7/21; Reuters, 5/7/21; BBC, 5/7/21; Time, 5/8/21). The New York Post (5/7/21) ran...