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Court Orders Dominican Republic to Recognize Citizenship

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

0ba2540[1]The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered the Dominican Republic to reform all national laws blocking the recognition of citizenship for children of undocumented parents born in the country.

The decision, dated Aug. 28, 2014, was made public on Oct. 22, 2014, according to a story today in El Dia, a national newspaper in the Dominican Republic. The sentence orders the country to adopt the necessary measures to ensure no laws or rules deny Dominican nationality to children born in the country to undocumented parents who migrated there.

The decision comes in a case in which 27 people were deported, five of them Haitian children residing in the Dominican Republic and 22 of whom were found to be Dominicans.

“The court found the existence, at least for a period of around one decade after 1990, a systematic pattern of expulsions, including through collective acts of Haitians and people of Haitian descent, which reflects a discriminatory conception,” according to El Dia, quoting the court statement. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights is part of the Organization of American States.

In September 2013, the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court issued a ruling that retroactively took away citizenship from individuals unable to prove their parents’ regular migration status.

The ruling would have barred such individuals from any activity that required official identification, including working in the formal sector, attending school, opening a bank account, paying into retirement or social security funds, accessing health services, getting married, traveling or voting, according to an AFL-CIO and Solidarity Center report.

Further, it disproportionately affected individuals of Haitian descent living and working in the Dominican Republic.

Hailing the court decision, Geoff Herzog, Solidarity Center Dominican Republic country program director, said, “the Solidarity Center joins with our union allies and with our allies in the migrant support community in defense of migrant worker rights.

“We support recognition of citizenship for Dominicans of Haitian descent who are blocked from citizenship and therefore, are denied their basic human and labor rights.”

This appeared in AFL-CIO.org on October 27, 2014, and is Originally from Solidarity Center Website. Reprinted with permission. http://www.solidaritycenter.org/content.asp?contentid=1955.

Victory for Missouri Home Care Workers!

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

seiuAfter almost a year of bargaining, Missouri home care workers have reached a historic agreement with the state’s Quality Home Care Council that will raise wages from an average of $8.58 per hour up to $10.15 per hour for many. Home care workers will also receive holiday pay for the first time.

This victory comes just a week after hundreds of home care workers met at the Home Care Workers Rising summit in St. Louis and rallied to demand Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon raise wages. More than a hundred home workers united in SEIU’s Home Care Fight for $15 – both union and nonunion – attended the summit.

The agreement allows consumers to determine the wages of their home care workers. Choosing from a “wage range” of $8.50 to $10.15, consumers will be directly involved with workers and the union. The Missouri Home Care Union bargaining team viewed this unique proposal as a way to strengthen the relationship between better jobs and quality care.

“Home care workers in Missouri have fought long and hard–more than six years now–to get the rights and dignity that come with this contract,” said Linda Carter, a home care attendant from St. Louis.

“Because of our fight, and through the help of the Quality Home Care Council and Gov. Jay Nixon’s administration in reaching this agreement, home care attendants and consumers will be better off here than they ever have been,” she said.

The agreement must now be ratified by the Missouri Quality Home Care Council and by the members of the Missouri Home Care Union. (More details here).

This blog originally appeared on SEIU.org on October 21, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://www.seiu.org/2014/10/victory-for-missouri-home-care-workers.php

President Obama’s Latest Manufacturing Push

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Dave JohnsonThe White House unveiled new executive actions on Monday
directing federal money toward new technologies, apprenticeship programs and competitions designed to assist small manufacturers. The idea is to make the U.S. a magnet for new jobs and investment.

 

The new executive action will:

  • Allow the Pentagon, NASA, and the Energy and Agriculture departments to spend $300 million to develop advanced materials and new technology for sensors and digital manufacturing.
  • Direct $100 million in Labor Department funds for apprenticeship programs aimed at advanced manufacturing.
  • Authorize the Commerce Department to spend $150 million over five years in 10 states to help manufacturers adopt and market new technologies.
  • Give manufacturers access to state-of-the-art facilities like those at national labs – to connect industry and universities on research and development and develop ‘technology testbeds’ where companies can design, prototype and test new products and processes.

President Obama began the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership in June 2011. The administration so far has launched four manufacturing innovation institutes – “hubs” – and there are four more on the way. They have also invested nearly $1 billion for community colleges to train workers for advanced manufacturing jobs.

There is expanded investment in applied research for emerging manufacturing technologies, and a new initiative to get returning veterans into jobs in advanced manufacturing.

This blog originally appeared in Ourfuture.org on October 27, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://ourfuture.org/20141027/president-obamas-latest-manufacturing-push

About the Author: Dave Johnson has more than 20 years of technology industry experience. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. He was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational applications of personal computers. More recently he helped co-found a company developing desktop systems to validate carbon trading in the US.

 

Flight Attendants Honored for Battle Against Workplace Sex Discrimination

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Image: Mike HallThe Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA) was honored for its “pioneering role” in fighting sex discrimination in the workplace at a ceremony this week marking the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Chicago event was part of a yearlong series of events by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) celebrating the landmark civil rights law.

Shari Worrell, who began her flight attendant’s career as “stewardess” for United Airlines in 1968, told Burt Constable of the Arlington (Ill.) Daily Herald she had to step on the scale to prove she weighed between 105 and 118 pounds, undergo an inspection to make sure the seams in her stockings were straight and submit to a girdle check.

But armed by Title VII of the act, the AFA-CWA began challenging discriminatory policies based on gender, race, age, weight, pregnancy and marital status. Over the next decade, AFA-CWA defeated airline rules requiring mandatory resignation at ages 30-35, prohibiting employment of married and pregnant flight attendants and demanding equal pay.

Professor Mary Rose Strubbe, assistant director of the Institute for Law and the Workplace at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, which hosted the event said, “The flight attendants played an astonishing role in the development of Title VII.” She told Constable that the changes pushed by flight attendants:

“forced employers to look at the idea that you can’t have rules that address what woman can and can’t do in the workplace if you don’t have rules for men.”

Former AFA-CWA President Patricia Friend, who began flying in 1966 with United, spoke about her career and the union’s battle for gender equality. Said AFA-CWA President Sara Nelson:

“AFA has a long and proud history of beating back discrimination. Through persistent efforts, AFA has worked to ensure that women receive equal pay, domestic partners receive equal benefits, weight restrictions were removed, men could serve as Flight Attendants and all Flight Attendants have the right to marry and have children. Our union fought for decades and overcame discriminatory policies one by one and we are honored that this dedicated work is being recognized.”

This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO on October 25, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Other-News/Flight-Attendants-Honored-for-Battle-Against-Workplace-Sex-Discrimination

About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and have written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety. When his collar was still blue, he carried union cards from the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, American Flint Glass Workers and Teamsters for jobs in a chemical plant, a mining equipment manufacturing plant and a warehouse. He also worked as roadie for a small-time country-rock band, sold my blood plasma and played an occasional game of poker to help pay the rent. You may have seen him at one of several hundred Grateful Dead shows. He was the one with longhair and the tie-dye. Still has the shirts, lost the hair.

Viewpoint from Honduras: CAFTA, Forced Immigration, Deportation Connections

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Larry CohenAt the deportation center in San Pedro Sula, planes land with more than 100 Hondurans a day, returned from our border prisons to their native land. They are mostly young men, with shackled hands and legs, who have harrowing tales of days in what they call the “ice box,” the U.S. detention centers on our borders that are so crowded they must stand up for hours, taking turns lying down to sleep. These were heartbreaking conversations, nearly hopeless tales through tears, of failed attempts to unify with families or find work.

At the same center, beautiful posters highlight jobs for English speakers in call centers to handle call center work for U.S. customers. Call center companies tout minimum wage call center jobs for deportees so they can pursue “the American dream” without leaving San Pedro Sula. One particular poster touted a call center company that received a big boost from T-Mobile two years ago after it laid off 3,000 in the U.S. and moved work to Honduras, the Philippines, and other locations. T-Mobile then denied that it had moved the services outside the U.S. and tried to prevent the fired employees from collecting trade adjustment assistance. Consistently, working families pay the cost of increased profits on every side of our disastrous trade policies.

We spoke to community, union, women’s and children’s groups, the Honduran government, and our embassy. Amazingly, all confirm a unified story—an economy in collapse, widespread violations of minimum wage and all social protection laws, small farmers forced from their land, subsistence farming replaced by African palm, and the jobs created in maquila zones dwarfed by the numbers forced to leave ancestral lands and travel to cities already jammed.

The subsistence farmers, or campesinos, describe how they are pushed from land where they grew beans or corn. Now it is corporate farms growing African palm for sale to the U.S. and other multinationals, while Honduras imports beans from the U.S. or even Ethiopia, and the campesinos line up for work at factories far from their homes. There are not enough jobs and 70 percent pay under the poverty level minimum wage while labor inspectors say they are outnumbered by the violations.

The unions confirmed constant violations of organizing rights in direct violation of CAFTA. These included everything from the murder of leaders to the collapse of bargaining rights where they once existed. But our AFL-CIO complaint has sat at the Labor Department for more than two years, just as the complaint of widespread abuse in Guatemala was held for six years before the U.S. Trade Representative finally raised it with the government there. Eighty-three human rights lawyers and 43 journalists have been murdered in recent years trying to enforce or report on the constant violations of everything decent.

So as we return, what can we do besides shout loudly, motivated by the pain of the Hondurans we met? First we need to look at the economic frame that has produced this 19th-century capitalism largely unregulated. Second, we need to look atour own immigration policy, concentrating enormous resources on deportation and nothing on resettlement. Third, we need to look at the trade deals, in this case, CAFTA, that accelerated the free market devastation. NAFTA, CAFTA, trade preferences for China, millions of lost jobs in the U.S., our wages depressed by global comparisons, and more than $10 trillion in total trade deficits have destroyed our industrial cities and created huge budget deficits nationally and in those same cities with cuts to social services.

We await the president’s action on immigration, not only on the potential easing of deportation for certain categories of immigrants, but also on a change in processing immigrants for deportation. We expect him to act boldly after deferring for months after waiting and waiting for House Republicans to act.

But just as importantly, we need to build the widest possible coalition against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Farming communities in Mexico and Central America already devastated by subsidized U.S. corporate farm imports will now see maquila factories close in droves as U.S. and other multinationals head for Vietnam,  which has 90 million people and a 27-cents-an-hour minimum wage. That minimum wage is about one-third of the minimum in Honduras. How long will Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, and other employers remain in Central America when competitors head to Vietnam with labor costs far lower and a government there that will agree to protect the profits from those lower wages?

Our president promised a different trade regime when he ran for election in 2008. The misery of 20 years of trade deals in the U.S. and the Americas needs to confront his Trade Ambassador. Multinationals and especially the financial sector have benefited tremendously. The rest of us, whether global north or south, are left only with some combination of hope and anger as motivation to fight for real change.

Let’s end Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) which allows multinationals to sue for lost future profits. This means that if Honduras passes new legislation to safeguard the environment from African palm or a higher minimum wage, multinationals that lose profits can sue the government for billions of dollars. Let’s kill TPP or any trade deal that benefits governments like Vietnam where human rights are an illusion. Let’s link together the campaigns for immigrant rights, environmental justice, and workers’ rights like never before. I met amazing freedom fighters in Honduras from labor and elected officials to women and community members who have not given up. We haven’t given up either. The voices from Honduras and our own communities will strengthen our determination to stand for justice.

This blog originally appeared in Huffington Post reposted on AFL-CIO Blog site. http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Global-Action/Viewpoint-from-Honduras-CAFTA-Forced-Immigration-Deportation-Connections. October 27, 2014.

About the Author: Communications Workers of America (CWA) President Larry Cohen was in Honduras Oct. 12-15 for meetings with Honduran workers and union leaders, community and women’s activists, elected officials, and others to focus awareness on the immigration crisis affecting Central American families and the connection with CAFTA and similar bad trade deals. He was joined by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the leading Democratic member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre, and other U.S. union leaders.

 

Show Your Support for Philadelphia Teachers

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Kenneth-Quinnell_smallThousands of members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT), other local labor union members, parents, students, community groups and elected leaders are taking to the streets today to fight back against actions taken by Gov. Tom Corbett’s cronies to further dismantle and defund the Philadelphia public school system. In a shocking example of what happens when anti-worker politicians get elected, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers lost their contract last week through a unilateral decision by Gov. Corbett’s appointees.

This move not only impacts 12,000 teachers and paraprofessional staff in the Philadelphia School District. It has serious repercussions for the city’s children and families and is a stark reminder of what’s at stake this Election Day.

In 2013, the School Reform Commission (SRC), a statewide committee whose members are appointed by Corbett, unilaterally laid off 3,800 employees, including teachers, counselors and other support staff. In the aftermath, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers offered additional concessions up to $100 million. The district refused and pushed for additional “work rule” changes.

PFT President Jerry Jordan objected to the new changes, arguing that “we can’t agree to that, because that’s not good for kids.” The contract protects children’s needs with limits on class sizes and staffing requirements, including that every school have a counselor, nurse and librarian.

“The school district needs the collective dedication, wisdom and input of all of its employees to solve the problems caused by Gov. Corbett and SRC,” said Pat Eiding, president of the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO, after the SRC announced its cancellation of the contract. “Yet instead of working with the PFT through the collective bargaining process, the SRC has simply said, ‘Take it or leave it’.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten, who flew in to Philadelphia to support the Philadelphia teachers during the SRC’s surprise meeting last week, told the teachers and other union members afterward that “the path forward is to elect a new governor who believes in education and is willing to take responsibility” for the district instead of “ideologically blaming” teachers for its fiscal troubles.

This is what happens when we don’t vote—when we don’t ask our parents, children and neighbors to vote or don’t knock doors for candidates who will stand up for our values. Whether you live in Kentucky, Alaska, New Hampshire, your commitment to the Labor 2014 program means that anti-worker politicians like Corbett won’t get a chance to tear down our schools and our communities in 2015.

Need more persuading? Watch this video on why none of us can afford to stay home this November.

The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools launched a “solidarity selfie” campaign asking supporters to stand with the city’s teachers after the state’s SRC launched a sneak attack last week. Supporters are asked to take a selfie photo while holding a sign that explains why you support Philadelphia teachers and include the hashtag #solidaritywithteachers when the solidarity selfie is published to the group’s Facebook page.

The rally is today at 4:15 p.m. outside the district school headquarters. The rally and related actions can be followed on Twitter using the #phled hashtag.

About the Author: Kenneth Quinnell is a long-time blogger, campaign staffer and political activist.  Before joining the AFL-CIO in 2012, he worked as labor reporter for the blog Crooks and Liars.  Previous experience includes Communications Director for the Darcy Burner for Congress Campaign and New Media Director for the Kendrick Meek for Senate Campaign, founding and serving as the primary author for the influential state blog Florida Progressive Coalition and more than 10 years as a college instructor teaching political science and American History.  His writings have also appeared on Daily Kos, Alternet, the Guardian Online, Media Matters for America, Think Progress, Campaign for America’s Future and elsewhere.

Three Winning Ways to Create Jobs

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

safe_image[1]With the election nearing, Americans still know what they want: job creation. Unemployment is still elevated near 6 percent, and underemployment – including people who have given up looking for work, or who are working part-time when they want to be full-time – was still above 13 percent at last count.

And America’s employment problems precede the recession. That’s important because it suggests that this problem isn’t going away on its own. Underemployment hasn’t dipped below 8 percent in the last 10 years. Consider the decades-long stagnation of middle-class wages and the fact that it often takes two incomes to make ends meet, the long-term decline of union membership, the decimation of manufacturing, and the fact that higher education is becoming more of an economic necessity while also being less affordable. The 21st century labor market leaves too many Americans out in the cold.

America needs jobs, and not just any jobs. We need living-wage jobs that provide stability and security through regular working hours, paid time off and career paths for those who want to climb higher. And the economy is not creating those jobs on its own.

The good news is that where there’s a will, there’s a way. Americans want jobs, and the federal government has the means to deliver. Over a trillion dollars in tax breaks each year and historically high Pentagon spending mean that America has the cash to pay for job creation – if we really want to.

Here are three winning ways we could invest our dollars in things that America actually needs, and create good jobs in the process:

? Get Real About Climate Change

Americans are warming up to the idea that climate change is real, and that it poses a threat. But that hasn’t translated to wanting to do something about it.

Of course, we must. From coastal damage from violent storms to disastrous effects on agriculture, climate change is already hurting us. Even the Pentagon is warning about potentially catastrophic consequences of climate change for national security.

Given our collective lack of economic security, perhaps it’s not a surprise that we only really pay attention to climate change when its devastating impacts are looping continuously on our TV screens. But what’s the nudge America needs to get real about climate change?

Maybe more awareness of the tremendous economic benefits that could result from serious action. A recent report from University of Massachusetts’ Political and Economic Research Institute (PERI) and the Center for American Progress (CAP) suggests that if America invested fully in battling climate change, we could achieve a 40 percent reduction in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions within 20 years, and create a net increase of 2.7 million jobs in the process.

The kind of investment that PERI and CAP propose – around $200 billion a year – could be truly transformational to the American economy. And while the proposed $200 billion a year is a big investment, it’s less than the government currently manages to shell out to defense contractors each year.

? Invest in Infrastructure

American ingenuity has taken many forms, and our infrastructure achievements have been some of the most spectacular in the world. From bringing the world the internet, to railroads and the interstate highway system, to hydropower dams like the Hoover Dam that both awe us and provide us with renewable energy, to feats of engineering and art like the Golden Gate and Brooklyn Bridges, our infrastructure has long made Americans proud.

But that infrastructure is crumbling. Major infrastructure investments in the 20th century have been left to a slow and steady decline. This year Congress came within hours of allowing the Highway Trust Fund, a major funding source for states’ road repairs, to dry up – along with 700,000 jobs.

Construction jobs are good jobs. They pay well, and they don’t require a lot of formal education, making them a critical stepping stone to the middle class for workers without a college degree.

Infrastructure is an investment that makes good economic sense for the times we’re in. As former National Economic Council Director Larry Summers has pointed out, infrastructure is a sensible investment for our times: it can’t be offshored, unemployment among construction workers remains high, and interest rates are at historical lows. As Summers asks, if not now, when?

? Believe the Children Are Our Future

Americans talk a good game about this one, but we don’t put our money where our mouth is. Only two percent of all federal spending is for education.

President Obama proposed a modest funding level of $750 million to invest in Preschool for All in two thirds of the states. Despite strong bipartisan support for public preschool among Americans, his proposal has seen no serious congressional consideration and is not likely to be included when Congress revisits fiscal year 2015 funding levels in December.

But it should be. Public preschool is about as winning a proposition as there is. Evidence shows that quality preschool contributes to better outcomes later in life, and not just in education and career outcomes. Preschool contributes to better health and lower criminal activity, and it makes a particularly big difference for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, making it a crucial tool in the battle against economic inequality.

It’s also worthwhile as a pure investment: for every dollar invested in preschool, society saves as much as $17 down the road. At that rate, the president’s requested $750 million, which is a tiny blip on the radar of federal spending, would save more than $12 billion in years to come.

From the job creation perspective, a strong publicly supported preschool system would require many teachers with a credential like an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, and middle-class wages to match.

Each of these proposals requires new uses for our tax dollars. We should remember that America’s greatest achievements didn’t come through austerity or tax cuts; they came through heroic levels of public investment. Making that investment will create jobs now and a strong legacy for the future. Now, that’s a win.

This blog originally appeared in Ourfuture.org. October 21, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://ourfuture.org/20141021/three-winning-ways-to-create-jobs

About the Author: Lindsay Koshgarian is research director for the National Priorities Project.

 

Remember the ‘Rosie the Riveter’ Image Pretty Much Everybody Knows? It's Not What You Might Think

Monday, October 20th, 2014

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There are icons of our culture that sometimes aren’t what they seem to be. Or maybe they evolve over time to become something else.

Rosie the Riveter was somebody who made it into a popular song, the cover of a Saturday Evening Post and the modern feminist movement. But like many things in our culture, her actual appearance was different from what the media portrayed. In researching this, I was rather amazed at the number of women who were supposedly the real Rosie.

Rosie the Riveter was not really just one person. She was a composite of all of the women who went to work, many for the first time, during World War II. These were the jobs that men used to do—factories, assembly lines, welding, taxicab drivers, business managers and much more. Some 6 million women became Rosies all over the country. From 1940 to 1945, the female workforce grew by 50%. The phenomenon even created a secondary need that wasn’t very much in demand before that: child care workers.

 

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By 1944, the movement increased the number of working American women to 20 million. Some were African American, Latina and other backgrounds who were previously underrepresented in the workforce.

Rosie the Riveter first came into our nation’s consciousness via a popular song. Our country already was experiencing women in the workforce, and the effort to recruit women was being spun up. In 1942, Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb penned a song, “Rosie the Riveter,” about these women who were going to work in massive numbers.

This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO.org on October 18, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Other-News/Remember-the-Rosie-the-Riveter-Image-Pretty-Much-Everybody-Knows-It-s-Not-What-You-Might-Think.

About the Author: Brandon Weber writes for AFL-CIO on labor and union history.

Wealth Inequality And Middle-Class Decline Is Worse That We Think

Monday, October 20th, 2014

Isaih J. PooleWe know how bad income inequality has gotten in the past few years in America, thanks largely to the work of economist Emmanuel Saez and his colleagues at University of California at Berkeley’s Center for Equitable Growth. But Saez’s latest paper finds that the share of the nation’s wealth going to the bottom 90 percent of Americans has declined to where it was in the 1940s, erasing decades of hard-won gains due to pro-worker, pro-middle-class economic policies.

Meanwhile, the top 0.1 percent of Americans – the 160,000 families with net assets in excess of $20 million in 2012 – now hold 22 percent of the nation’s wealth, up from 7 percent in 1978. That monopolization of a large share of national wealth by an elite few hasn’t been seen since the late 1920s.

The bottom 90 percent, by contrast, saw their wealth share fall from 35 percent in the mid-1980s to about 23 percent in 2012, the paper said. It was about 20 percent in the 1920s, it said.

The paper, “Wealth Inequality in the United States since 1913: Evidence from Capitalized Income Tax Data,” focuses not just on wages and income but on the accumulation of overall wealth, including the value of real estate, stocks and certain other assets. It explicitly refutes the view that while nearly all of the gains in national income since the 2008 recession have gone to the top 1 percent, that hasn’t translated into a substantial increase in the concentration of overall wealth at the top. To the contrary, the paper said, “we find that wealth inequality has considerably increased at the top over the last three decades.”

“Wealth concentration has increased particularly strongly during the Great Recession of 2008-2009 and in its aftermath,” the paper said. Largely because of the decline in housing prices, the share of wealth held by the bottom 90 percent fell more than 10 percent from the middle of 2007 to mid-2008. Afterward, real wealth continued declining at a rate of 0.6 percent a year on average through 2012, while it increased at a rate of almost 6 percent a year for the top 1 percent and almost 8 percent a year for the top 0.1 percent.

The bottom line: “Wealth is getting more concentrated in the United States,” and is in fact “ten times more concentrated than income today.”

How did this happen? “The share of wealth owned by the middle class has followed an inverted-U shape evolution,” the paper said. Middle-class households reached the apex of the upside-down “U” in the mid-1980s, driven by the accumulation of housing wealth and, more significantly, pensions. Since then, housing values for the bottom 90 percent as a share of total household wealth has fallen by as much as two-thirds, and most workers have IRAs or 401(k) defined contribution plans instead of pensions. And these households have significantly higher debt than they did in the 1980s.

What can we do about it? The paper points out that it was New Deal policies of the 1930s that began reversing the effects of Gilded Age inequality in the 1930s, particularly “very progressive income and estate taxation” that made it difficult for the wealthy to accumulate large fortunes and pass them to their heirs. “The historical experience of the United States and other rich countries suggests that progressive taxation can powerfully affect income and wealth concentration,” the paper said.

Other steps that can help include “access to quality and affordable education, health benefit cost controls, minimum wage policies, or, more generally, policies shifting bargaining power away from shareholders and management toward workers.” Finally, the paper suggests policies that “nudge” workers toward sound investment and savings vehicles and offer alternatives to short-term debt at high interest rates.

The fact that a group of people equal to the population of Salem, Oregon controls as much of the nation’s wealth as 90 percent of the rest of the country speaks to the fundamental unfairness of our economy. It is a level of imbalance that is as unsustainable today as it was before the crashes of 1929 and 2008. It also stands as a dire warning that we cannot afford to elect more politicians whose policies of giving more relief to the wealthy and more pain to the working class would only make wealth inequality and, and economic inequity, even worse.

This blog originally appeared in Ourfuture.org on October 20, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://ourfuture.org/20141020/wealth-inequality-and-middle-class-decline-is-worse-that-we-think.

About the Author: Isaiah J. Poole has been the editor of OurFuture.org since 2007. Previously he worked for 25 years in mainstream media, most recently at Congressional Quarterly, where he covered congressional leadership and tracked major bills through Congress. Most of his journalism experience has been in Washington as both a reporter and an editor on topics ranging from presidential politics to pop culture. His work has put him at the front lines of ideological battles between progressives and conservatives. He also served as a founding member of the Washington Association of Black Journalists and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.

Walmart Wouldn't Make a Dime Without Its Workers

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Jackie TortoraA group of Walmart associates marched today from the AFL-CIO to the Washington, D.C., Walton Family Foundation’s offices to deliver more than 15,000 signatures from workers asking Walmart to pay $15 an hour and provide full-time hours.

Shouts of “We’re fired up! Can’t take it no more!” rang out as the workers and hundreds of supporters and allies marched down I Street and made their way to the foundation offices. Before the workers attempted to deliver the petitions, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka reminded everyone that Walmart, which rakes in billions every year, wouldn’t make a dime without its workers, yet pays wages so low that many of its workers need to rely on public assistance and food stamps to get by.

One Walmart associate, Isaiah, shared heartbreaking stories of seeing co-workers cry in the Walmart break room when they found out their hours had been cut, making it impossible to provide for their families.

When the workers got inside the office, the building manager claimed no one from the Walton Family Foundation was working today (um, OK) and said they couldn’t call the office because they didn’t know the number. “We’ll be back,” shouted the determined workers, including Bene’t Holmes who was leading some of the chants. Holmes said they weren’t going to leave the petition with the front desk and promised this is not the last time they would attempt to hand deliver those signatures.

Following the demonstration outside the office, 15 Walmart strikers and supporters sat down in a cross section of the street in front of Walmart heir Alice Walton’s condo and took arrest. See some aerial views from the action below:

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The associates were accompanied by union members and allies from the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), AFSCME, AFT, Jobs with Justice, UNITE HERE, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), UAW, United Steelworkers (USW), the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and many others.

This article was originally printed on AFL-CIO on October 16, 2014.  Reprinted with permission.http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Organizing-Bargaining/Walmart-Wouldn-t-Make-a-Dime-Without-Its-Workers.

About the Author: Jackie Tortora is the blog editor and social media manager at the AFL-CIO.

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