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Philadelphia’s Reforestation Hub Isn’t Just Diverting Tree Waste

Each year, U.S. cities lose an estimated 36 million trees to development, disease and old age, many of which ultimately end up in landfills. Losing these urban trees – known to help cool their neighborhoods, lower carbon emissions and improve mental health, among other benefits – costs an estimated $96 million annually. In Philadelphia, a partnership is giving the City of Brotherly Love’s fallen trees new life. Philadelphia Parks & Rec joined forces with Cambium Carbon, a Washington, D.C.-based startup that repurposes waste wood, and PowerCorpsPHL, a local nonprofit that creates job opportunities for unemployed and under-employed 18- to 30-year-olds, to launch the Reforestation Hub in late May.

Applause For The FTC’s Ban On Noncompete Agreements

Today, the Federal Trade Commission voted to issue a rule declaring that most noncompete clauses in employment contracts are unfair methods of competition. This is an important step toward fostering fair competition and empowering U.S. workers. Noncompete agreements are employment provisions that ban workers at one company from working for, or starting, a competing business within a certain period of time after leaving a job. These agreements are ubiquitous. EPI research finds that more than one out of every four private-sector workers—including low-wage workers—are required to enter noncompete agreements as a condition of employment.

How US Government Statistics Are Like The Bible

This week on February 2nd, the US Labor Department released its monthly jobs report for January. One of the Department's two surveys showed +353,000 jobs created in January. But a second report shows a drop in total employment in January of -1,070,000 full time and part-time jobs (and an additional -400,000 jobs if one includes unincorporated independent contractors jobs. So, like the Bible, one can find whatever one wants in the government job stats. So why the discrepancies between the two surveys in the monthly jobs report? One reason is that the two surveys have big differences in their methodologies (and underlying assumptions).

VA, AFGE Reach ‘Historic’ Settlement To Reinstate Wrongfully Fired Workers

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.

More Older Workers Are Trapped In Crummy Jobs, Unable To Retire

Over the past two decades, older workers have become an increasingly significant share of the labor force. In the economic recovery after the Great Recession of 2008–2009, four in 10 Americans ages 55 or older were in the labor force—the highest participation rate in half a century. As of 2020, these older workers made up 23.6% of the total U.S. workforce, the highest portion on record. Why are so many older Americans unable to retire and so many working into old age to survive? For many, the answer isn’t “because they want to.” Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 50% of low-income older households ages 55–64 were financially fragile—up dramatically from the 35% at risk in 1992.

Students Protest Fossil Fuel Involvement In Campus Career Center

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.

I’m A Scientist Who Spoke Up About Climate Change

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.)

Sealing Criminal Records Benefits Us All

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.

‘Labor Shortage’ Is Being Used As A Pretext To Harm Workers

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.

Support Veterans By Defending, Not Defunding, Public Sector Jobs

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.”

Starbucks Worker Militancy Forces Legal Victories

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.

Repurposing Prisons Can Revitalize Rural America

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.

Inside Lockheed Martin’s Sweeping Recruitment On College Campuses

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.

Ominous Economic Distress In India: No Buying Power, No Jobs, Rising Prices

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.

The Year In Inequality

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.
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