Today’s News & Commentary—February 19, 2019
West Virginia teachers are set to go on another statewide strike on Tuesday, almost exactly a year after their first walkout ignited a labor movement among educators across the country. The West Virginia branch of the American Federation of Teachers called the strike on Monday to protest a State Senate bill that would allow charter schools to be established in West Virginia and funnel state funds into accounts that parents could use to pay for private school or homeschooling. The teachers say the lawmakers who proposed the bill did not consult educators on any of the major changes contained in the bill. As one teachers’ strike begins in West Virginia, another is set to end on Tuesday in Chicago. About 200 educators at four Chicago International Charter School campuses have reached a tentative deal that will reopen schools, following a two-week work stoppage that affected about 2,000 students. The proposed four-year contract includes pay raises, limits on class sizes, a week of paid parental leave, shorter work schedules, as well as pension contributions.
The New York City Commission on Human Rights has issued innovative legal guidance targeting discrimination in employment, education, and public spaces based on hair or hairstyle. The NYC Commission’s enforcement guidance makes clear that discrimination based on natural hair or hairstyles closely tied to racial, ethnic, or cultural identities runs afoul of the city’s antidiscrimination law. The guidelines, believed to be the first of their kind in the country, apply to people of all backgrounds but are specifically aimed at combating discrimination against black people, who face bans or restrictions on hair or hairstyles based on “white standards of appearance and … racist stereotypes that black hairstyles are unprofessional,” the Commission said. Employers may face liability under the New York City Human Rights Law for enacting grooming or appearance policies that ban or require the alteration of natural hair or hair styled into twists, braids, cornrows, Afros, Bantu knots, fades, and/or locs.
Amazon’s abrupt decision last week to nix its plans for a second headquarters in New York City may have ripple effects beyond the Big Apple, observers say. In an op-ed for The New York Times, David Leonhardt argues that activists in New York have provided some much-needed pushback against a flashy economic development policy that actually hurts taxpayers over the long haul. City and state politicians in New York had offered up nearly $3 billion in tax breaks to lure Amazon to build its second headquarters in Long Island City, Queens, a move that would have brought more than 25,000 jobs to the region. But the deal sparked a furor among some lawmakers, progressive activists, and union leaders, eventually prompting Amazon to pull out. According to Leonhardt, providing corporate-relocation subsidies may be popular in the short term, but they do little to grow the country’s economy. Such schemes typically redistribute wealth upward from taxpayers to corporate shareholders and exacerbate overall economic inequality, Leonhardt writes. For too long, companies have pitted local governments against each other to squeeze ever-greater subsidies from taxpayers. Now, a coalition of activists and politicians in New York have shown that “[r]efusing to play an unfair game is sometimes better than winning it.” Mene Ukueberuwa acknowledges the “meager results” of tax subsidies like the one offered to Amazon in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal and predicts that the backlash against such deals will continue to build, though he argues that the problem of tax incentives begins with high taxes. Meanwhile, Steven Greenhouse at The American Prospect analyzes sharp divisions that emerged among labor leaders on how to tackle Amazon’s “fiercely anti-union” reputation: supporting unionization of workers who are employed by contractors and developers who work with Amazon or pushing for the creation of a union inside Amazon itself.