Today’s News and Commentary — January 22, 2019
Some 30,000 Los Angeles teachers will strike for a sixth school day as talks between the nation’s second-largest school district and United Teachers Los Angeles continue. Union leaders made the announcement Monday as talks continued on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the fifth consecutive day of negotiations with LA Unified School District officials. Tens of thousands of teachers walked off the job for the first time in 30 years last week, demanding higher pay, smaller class sizes and increased hiring of support staff, including nurses and guidance counselors. A survey by researchers at Loyola Marymount University last week revealed that nearly 80 percent of Los Angeles County residents support LAUSD teachers going on strike to achieve their demands. Parents with children at home overwhelmingly supported the teachers, with just 18 percent opposed to the walkout.
As the partial government shutdown enters its second month, many of the most vulnerable Americans are feeling the burden as federal subsidies and grants dry up. Many non-profit groups that support low-income renters depend on payments from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which began being cut off on Jan. 1 as 95 percent of HUD’s workforce was furloughed. Low-income tenants are seeing rent hikes as landlords have begun pressuring poor, disabled and elderly tenants relying upon federal assistance to cover their full housing costs. HUD’s funding lapse has particularly impacted communities that depend on federal Homeless Assistance Grants to provide housing and services at the local level.
In Washington, D.C., Councilmember Anita Bonds introduced emergency legislation to protect unpaid federal workers and contractors from eviction and foreclosure during the shutdown. The D.C. Council will vote Tuesday on the Federal Worker Housing Relief Emergency Declaration Resolution of 2019, while Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) are pushing federal legislation to secure financial protections for furloughed workers. This legislation, Schumer says, would shield furloughed government workers from eviction or home foreclosure, repossession of their cars, and penalties for late payment of bills and student loans.
Meanwhile, the shutdown has slowed planning for hurricanes and other natural disasters and stalled long-term rebuilding efforts as researchers have been furloughed and training and certification courses for emergency workers have been canceled. In some cases, national certification for emergency workers, such as firefighters, is tied to particular federal funding for local agencies.
Global wealth inequality increased last year as billionaires’ fortunes grew $2.5 billion per day, while the 3.8 billion poorest people saw their wealth decline by 11 percent in 2018, anti-poverty campaigner Oxfam said in a new report. The report identified regressive tax systems and lax tax enforcement as key drivers of inequality that lead to the underfunding of critical public services, such as health care and education. According to the report, women are hardest hit by increasing inequality, filling gaps in public services with hours of unpaid labor.