Today’s News & Commentary — February 12, 2019
Yesterday, teachers in Denver Public Schools walked off the job in the latest iteration of the teachers strikes that have swept the country. The strike, the city’s first in 25 years, follows over 14 months of negotiations between the teachers union and the school district that have focused on how to calculate base pay. Many teachers have taken on second and third jobs to make ends meet in Colorado’s biggest city, where rising rent has increased the cost of living, especially impacting young teachers still paying off student debt loads.
Erica Smiley and Sarita Gupta, the co-directors of Jobs with Justice, issued a call for a National Stayaway Day for federal workers and their allies this Saturday, February 16, if the current stopgap spending measure expires without an agreement to avoid another government shutdown. Another shutdown would be “catastrophic” for the over 800,000 federal workers who are still recovering from the financial hit caused by the longest shutdown in U.S. history. “We urge every reader of this appeal who believes that it was wrong to inflict suffering on federal workers and contractors to commit to standing with them on Day 1 of a renewed shutdown,” they wrote. Some activists, including Cher, are calling for a general strike on the same day.
Border Patrol‘s struggle to recruit and retain agents presents an obstacle to the Trump administration endeavors to further militarize the U.S.-Mexico border, reports Politico. President Trump has repeatedly called for hiring thousands more Border Patrol agents, but the agency seems to be unable to hire enough staff to keep pace with the president’s demands. One reason may be that Border Patrol agents often face dangerous situations in isolated conditions. Earlier this month, a Border Patrol agent died after being hit by a vehicle during a traffic stop, and a recent study found that at least 33 agents had been killed on duty since 2003. In addition, the Trump administration’s increasingly cruel policies toward migrants may be having a widespread effect on the agency’s reputation and morale. Border Patrol agents helped enforce and executive Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, which continues to separate thousands of families and provoke public outrage.
The National Bureau of Economic Research released a study showing that the welfare reform of the 1990s had negative intergenerational effects on the adolescent children of welfare recipients. The study evaluated adolescent behaviors important to health and socioeconomic well-being and found that welfare reform had no favorable effects for youth. Instead, it led to increased antisocial behaviors including fighting for boys, and increased smoking and drug use for both boys and girls, with larger effects for boys. The authors wrote, “Overall, the intergenerational effects of welfare reform on adolescent behaviors were unfavorable, particularly for boys, and do not support longstanding arguments that limiting cash assistance leads to responsible behavior in the next generation. As such, the favorable effects of welfare reform for women may have come at a cost to the next generation, particularly to boys who have been falling behind girls in high school completion for decades.”
The Financial Times reports that the decline in the prime-age women’s labor participation rate in the United States has diverged from other advanced economies, where it has generally continued to rise. For example, while the participation rate for prime-age Japanese women has risen about 10 points since 2000, in the U.S. it is down 2 points. As a result, the U.S. has fallen further behind other major advanced economies, including France, Germany, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Many of these countries have policies related to child care, part-time work, and parental leave that are particularly effective in keeping women in the workforce. “The U.S. has been less ambitious than almost all other countries in the adoption of such policies,” writes Gavyn Davies, “and evidence suggests it could raise female participation by as much as 8-9 percentage points by adopting similar measures.”
Workers’ rights took center stage at the Grammys earlier this week when the awards show featured a performance of the iconic song “9 to 5” during a tribute to Dolly Parton. Parton originally wrote and performed the song when she starred in the 1980 comedy film of the same name, in which three women coworkers become so fed up with their boss’s workplace sexism and harassment that they devise a plan to kidnap him. (Spoiler alert! The movie ends when the women transform their office into a progressive workplace with flexible hours and on-site child care.) The movie helped bring the issue of workplace sexual harassment into the national conversation a quarter-century before the #MeToo movement. Meanwhile, the musical version of 9 to 5 will soon open in London, and a movie sequel is in development.