Thursday, July 17, 2014

New edition of The Nation's The Curve: The Supreme Court's economic war on women

For the latest edition of The Curve, Sarah Jaffe, Sheila Bapat, and I look at recent Supreme Court decisions in which the Court expanded its economic war on women: Hobby Lobby, McCullen, and Harris. In my piece, I write about the Harris v. Quinn decision, which invented out of wholecloth a separate-but-unequal class of worker known as the "partial public" employee, and then granted this type of worker far weaker union protections.

I focus on an aspect of the decision that has not attracted nearly the attention it warrants: its blatant sexism. I wrote, "With its decision in Harris v. Quinn, not only did the Court target this largely female workforce [of home care workers], but it also undermined broader feminist goals. In granting a second-class legal status to labor that is performed in the home, the Court reinforced patriarchal norms that devalue domestic work and care work. It also attacked the larger feminist project of advancing women’s economic equality by recognizing care as work and insisting that our society compensate female workers fairly."

The other major point I make in my piece is that the Court is hardly likely to stop here. Though they have shrewdly and carefully tailored this ruling to just one group of vulnerable workers (home care workers, who are overwhelmingly low-income women of color), the Roberts Court, as the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin has noted, often decides a case in a relatively narrow way, then uses that ruling as a precedent for far more sweeping decisions. Clever bunch, these boys are. Next time, they'll be coming after public sector unions more broadly -- make no mistake. And after that, who knows?

Friday, July 11, 2014

From "defining issue of our time" to flavor of the month: the Dems abandon economic inequality talk

As you may have heard, the Democrats have abandoned economic inequality as a campaign theme. Now the Dems' talk is all about "mobility" and "creating opportunity" and that holiest of holies, the "middle class," and oily Wall Street middle men like Chuck Schumer, as well as various Third Way wankers, are practically wetting themselves with excitement.

In my latest Baffler piece, I explain that, contrary to the claims of Schumer et al., polling data on inequality actually show a solid basis on which to build an anti-inequality politics. Did you know, for example, that 65 percent of Americans believe that economic inequality continues because it benefits the rich and powerful? That 69 percent say the government should act to reduce inequality? That given a choice, a whopping 92 percent of Americans would prefer to live in a society with a wealth distribution that resembled Sweden’s, as opposed to the one we have here? Oh, and for decades in public opinion polls, some 45 percent of Americans have consistently identified as working class -- about as many who identify as middle class.

Sadly, however, most Democrats have no real interest in doing anything about inequality. They'll support an increase in the minimum wage and some mild welfare capitalism, but that's it. And it's hardly enough.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

My new Daily Beast piece on Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis's possible mayoral run against Rahm Emanuel

Here's my piece on why Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, should go right ahead and do what she recently said she's "seriously thinking" about doing -- jump into the race against Mayor One Percent, aka Rahm Emanuel. Lewis said she's "a little sick of" Rahm -- aren't we all? As I argue, there are solid reasons why a Lewis run would be good for the city, even if she doesn't win.

This is my first piece for the Beast, and they definitely Beasted it up with the tabloid-style headline and teaser. Also, they gave me the tiniest byline I have yet received as a professional writer! But they pay better than most other places, and it's a high-traffic site, so I suppose I shouldn't complain.

Here's a paragraph that was cut for space, but I think it makes an important point. Read it, and then read the rest of the piece. And if Karen Lewis does indeed run for mayor and you live here in Chicago, please consider volunteering for her. She's pretty great.
Governing as an elected official is, of course, different from leading a big labor organization like CTU. It demands weighing the interests of all voters rather than advocating for the interests of just one group. But both roles require many of the same skills, such as negotiating and coalition building, and numerous labor leaders have gone on to successful political careers. Two of the most effective progressive political leaders of our time, Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Brazil's Lula, got their start as trade union leaders. Closer to home, the current mayor of Fayetteville, Arizona, Lioneld Jordan, had been president of his AFSCME local. Other labor leaders-turned-politicians include Coleman Young, former mayor of Detroit (who had been active in the UAW) and, um, Ronald Reagan (who served as president of the Screen Actors Guild).