Report of the Month
The Other Jackson
Other Reports in Review
Making Green Jobs Good Jobs
By Philip Mattera, et. al. Good Jobs First, Washington, D.C., February 3, 2009. (PDF)
Washington is abuzz with ideas to jumpstart the economy, while investing in “green jobs” that might lessen the damage we do to our environment. President Obama’s stimulus bill included funding for green jobs. But green jobs are not always well-paying jobs, according to this report, so any investment – for instance, in manufacturing components for wind and solar energy, modernizing the energy grid, green construction and weather proofing buildings, mass transit, and recycling – should be tied to good wages and not directed toward union-busting firms currently operating in the sector.
State and local governments have promoted good jobs by requiring green businesses receiving development subsidies to follow labor standards. The federal government uses “prevailing wage” rules, which can be effective in well-paying (though not low-wage) sectors. These practices should become standard, but should also be enforced. The study found that cities dilute labor standards under pressure while continuing to offer subsidies. In one example, “wind blade maker TPI Composites recently took over a former Maytag appliance factory in Newton, Iowa where workers had been paid about $19 an hour. In 2007, TPI was given $2 million by the state with a requirement that it pay its workers only $13.47 an hour. The company sought additional public funds in 2008 from the Iowa Economic Development Board, which agreed to waive pay requirements that would have raised wages closer to Maytag rates.”
Localities also give money to union busting firms like Clipper Windpower, which won more than $3 million in subsidies for its turbine plant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The company hired anti-union consultants after workers contacted the Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in January 2008 and more than 70 percent signed cards calling for a union. In the end, the workers voted against the union.
Since much of the “green” economic sector relies on government funding, the government can have a huge impact by making labor standards comprehensive, and giving them teeth by “clawing back” funding from companies that fail to follow the rules.
Racial Profiling at the Border
Muslim Advocates, April 20, 2009, San Francisco, Calif. (PDF)
This report is not the first time Muslim Advocates has challenged the interrogation, searches, and seizures of information on cell phones and laptops from Muslim Americans traveling back into the country. The New York Times wrote an editorial decrying the practice in July 2008, after the group’s director Ferhana Khera shared cases in testimony to the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution and civil rights, where she once served as counsel.
The impact of this report, documenting racial profiling and privacy intrusions targeting Muslim Americans coming home, was even more dramatic. Within weeks of its release, Khera’s former “boss” on the subcommittee, Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, won a commitment from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to review how border and customs police screen people they perceive to be Muslim American, and look into cases where Muslim citizens said they were harassed while traveling.
Border agents have the power to search any laptop or phone even without cause for suspicion. They, along with national security agents, are the only police allowed freely to use racial profiling under U.S. Department of Justice guidelines dating to 2003.
Racial and ethnic profiling leads to the equivalent of unwarranted searches and seizures, violations of citizens’ Constitutional right to reenter the country unimpeded, and a waste of government resources and time from false leads. This racial profiling generates streams of data that, in the controversial intelligence framework of “mosaic theory” embraced by investigators, is fed into databases so that agents can “connect the dots” and identify national security threats. As Khera asks in the report's preface, “What is the U.S. government doing with the information being seized and amassed? … Where is the oversight and accountability to protect innocent Americans?” Napolitano committed to undertaking the investigation within 45 days and report back to Congress.
LGB Poverty Revealed
By Randy Albelda, M.V. Lee Badgett, Alyssa Schneebaum and Gary J. Gates, The Williams Institute of UCLA, March 2009. (PDF)
While the media and pop culture love to paint the image of the well-off, well dressed, well educated, well-spoken gay man, this study, the first of poverty among lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) Americans, finds the stereotype to be downright false. Looking at three sets of data – the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), the 2003 & 2005 California Health Interview Surveys (CHIS), and the 2000 Census – they discovered that LGB adults and LGB same-sex couples are just as likely, if not more so, to live in poverty as other adults living in the United States.
The various data sets suggest different findings. Using the National Survey of Family Growth, the researchers found that 24 percent of lesbians and bisexual women from 18 to 44 years old are poor, compared with only 19 percent of heterosexual women. At 15 percent, gay men and bisexual men have poverty rates equal to those of heterosexual men (13 percent) in the NSFG. The researchers encountered familiar data: African-American LGB couples are statistically poorer than White couples, as are LGB couples living in rural areas. But children of same-sex parents are twice as likely to be impoverished as children of different-sex parents.
The researchers link these higher poverty rates to discrimination both in the workplace and in access to affordable health insurance, and government health and retirement benefits that require couples to be married. LGB people shunned by their families are also left without an important safety net.
Texas Sex Ed
Dr. David Wiley and Dr. Kelly Wilson with Ryan Valentine, Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, Austin, Texas, February 2009. (PDF)
Texas is the flagship state for abstinence education in high schools; a decade ago the state required school sex ed classes to promote abstinence over other options. But Texas students are more sexually active, and less likely to use a condom, than American students as a whole. This report takes a closer look at sex ed classes in 96 percent of Texas middle and high schools in 990 districts, discovering that more than 94 percent don’t offer any information beyond abstinence. Only 4 percent teach how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, modes of contraception, and “responsible pregnancy.”
They found that courses used wrong information – for instance, on the failure rate of condoms – and descriptions of sex as dirty and shameful to discourage sexual activity. They also found teachers using negative gender stereotypes and anti-gay statements, and drawing on religious instruction and Bible study.
They also found that more than 80 percent of the School Health Advisory Councils (SHACs), which supposedly offer a forum for community input on sexuality education, ignored the issue.
End Notes Here
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