What if you worked long, hard days in others' homes, cleaning, cooking, or caring for others' children or disabled family members; or if your workplace were in the fields of crop that feed American families, under the unforgiving heat of the sun and charge of a demanding employer — honorable work, to be sure — and yet, you weren't even covered by the most basic of federal labor protections?
In addition to a general lack of basic worker rights, exclusion from safety net programs, like social security, intensifies these workers' struggle for economic stability.
But, momentum is building to ensure rights for this invisible workforce. In summer 2010, New York state opened the doors for broader reform by passing a Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights. A major organizing force behind this victory was Domestic Workers United (DWU), a NY-based group that is "organizing for power, respect, fair labor standards and to help build a movement to end exploitation and oppression for all."
A recent report (pdf) by DWU, National Domestic Workers Alliance and Urban Justice Center discusses the bill's good points, the work that remains to be done, and the way forward in an age of new rights in New York. As support builds for fair labor laws, and for a more broadly inclusive economy, victories like this will pay political dividends to workers in other industries like agriculture.
DWU member, Christine Lewis, went toe-to-toe with Stephen Colbert to raise public awareness of the challenges faced by domestic workers, to discuss the importance of their work, and to show that when people unite for a just cause, history can be made.
If during last night's State of the Union address, you were more moved by Obama's words than by Michele Bachmann's PowerPoint charts, you're not alone. Sure—data has it's place. But when it comes to inspiring people and garnering the support necessary to create change, it's all about the stories we tell.
In last night’s State of the Union address, President Obama used a story that evoked our shared memory, history, and pride.
“Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik, we had no idea how we would beat them to the moon. The science wasn't even there yet. NASA didn't exist. But after investing in better research and education, we didn't just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs. This is our generation's Sputnik moment.”
Using that Sputnik narrative as his starting point, he then made the case for meeting the challenges of our generation with large-scale investments in clean energy, information technology, and biomedical research. Regardless of what one may think of the overall message Obama delivered, the method is right on.
He could have stood up there and cited statistics from Mark Zandi of Moody’s about how each federal dollar we spend in infrastructure investments generates $1.59 in economic stimulus, but that would have fallen flat. Worse, it would have been met with skeptics who have adverse knee-jerk reactions to “government spending” of any kind. Instead, he used a powerful story that evoked a sense of pride, and in doing so re-framed the debate based on our shared history and understanding of the world. That’s how we are going to win hearts and minds.
It is through stories like these that we are able to process new information and facts. Jeff Chang and Brian Komar expanded upon this concept in an article entitled, “Vision: Bringing our Culture into Progressive Politics is a Winner,” posted on Alternet today.
“Culture is the space in our national consciousness filled by music, books, sports, movies, theater, visual arts, and media. It is the realm of ideas, images, and stories -- the narrative in which we are immersed every day. It is where people make sense of the world, where ideas are introduced, values are inculcated, and emotions are attached to concrete change…”
That is, culture – in the form of stories, shared experiences, metaphors, and the like – is the way in which people make sense of the world. It’s the way in which facts are processed. This understanding has greatly informed the work of United for a Fair Economy (UFE). It’s part of the reason we have put the stories and culture of change at the forefront of our work.
- Stories: When discussing her support for a progressive tax system and strong estate tax at a UFE press conference, Abigail Disney made a compelling case about how her family’s wealth (she is the granddaughter of Roy Disney, Walt’s brother and business partner) would not be possible if it were not for the highways that brought Americans to Disneyland and the courts that protected the copyright of Mickey Mouse.
- History: In our most recent State of the Dream report, we retell the story of how the broadly-shared prosperity of the 1950s and 1960s was created through massive public investments in infrastructure and people – the interstate highways system, aerospace industry (Obama’s Sputnik story), and the GI Bill – interwoven with the story of race in America.
- Art and Theater: To explore inequality in our workshops, we use a popular UFE exercise involving 10 chairs and 10 volunteers. Each chair represents 10% of the wealth and each person represents 10 percent of the population. By the end of the workshop, one person representing the top 10 percent is laying across seven chairs while the remaining nine are crammed onto the last three chairs. These exercises create a powerful set of shared experiences for participants that are far more memorable than watching a Powerpoint presentation.
Clearly, much work remains to be done, but the road ahead is clear and it’s lined with the stories, history, art, and shared experiences that define our culture.
As we close in on Black History Month, the soothsaying jesters at The Daily Show have—in brilliantly hilarious fashion—taken heed of the ways racism continues to rear its ugly head in modern day.
UFE's 2011 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day report, citing the groundbreaking book, The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, acknowledges some of the societally damaging effects of economic policies that fail to account for the factors of race and inequality.
In the video below, The Daily Show's Wyatt Cenac builds on that, revealing how nasty things can get when society attacks, history is ignored, people are devalued, and the most marginalized communities—like Turkey Creek, MS—are nearly wiped from existence.
If you support a progressive tax system, does that make you a "socialist?"
A progressive tax is one where the tax rate increases as the taxable base amount increases. In plainer terms, it's one that levies a fairer share from those who have reaped the greatest financial benefits from our many taxpayer-funded economic structures.
Chances are, if you vocally support a progressive tax system, you’ve dealt with such accusations at one point or another.
Perhaps, like me, your knee-jerk reaction is to get angry. Or to accept the name-calling, figuring it just comes with the territory of being "on the left," so to speak. But Steve Schnapp, a popular educator with United for a Fair Economy, offers a more constructive approach.
Steve was recently interviewed for a forthcoming documentary by Will 2 Power Productions. In the interview, he explained how he responds to progressive activist concerns of being labeled with the 's' word.
“You can call it socialism, you can call it whatever you want,” he said. “Here’s what I stand for: equity, fairness, helping each other out. Some folks like to call that socialism, and they think if they just paint us with that brush, it will end the conversation…But I believe that these are values we all share.”
Steve’s point is a good one (and well-articulated, as you’ll see below). Whether it’s in the halls of Congress or at our kitchen tables, it’s important for each of us to remember the values that unite us rather than the partisanship that seems to divide us. After all, writing each other off with labels squashes any potential for dialogue.
With an open mind, we're more likely to find that we have much more in common with our political “adversaries” than we think.
Proposed 10% Cut to Federal Workforce Will Deepen the Racial Divide in the U.S.
Late last week, the Washington Post ran a story about a bill introduced by Representative Kevin Brady (R-TX) to cut the federal work force by 10 percent in the next decade. Three days later, UFE released our new State of the Dream report which documents, among other things, the disproportionate impact that federal employee cutbacks will have of Black families.
It’s important to remember that public sector workers perform very important functions in our society that benefit Americans of all races. Public sector workers are the ones who inspect our food supply, police our streets, and educate our children. As a result, attacks on the public sector and its workers hurts all Americans regardless of race by eroding the ability of our nation to meet the needs of its citizens.
At the same time, the proposed cuts to the federal work force will disproportionately hit Black workers who are more likely to be employed in public sector jobs. In fact, Blacks are 30 percent more likely to work a public sector job than the general work force, and 70 percent more likely to work for the federal government in particular.
For Blacks, the attack on the public sector workforce is a one-two punch. In addition to the eroding ability of our nation to meet the needs of its citizens, Black workers will shoulder the brunt of the layoffs at a time that the Black unemployment rate is 15.8 percent.
Just in time for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we released our 8th annual report on racial economic inequality in the United States.
This year's report, State of the Dream 2011: Austerity for Whom?, surveys the impact of a belt-tightening, deficit-reducing, tax-cutting and, ultimately, government-shrinking economic agenda on communities of color.
Our research explains that if such an austerity agenda advances, Dr. King's dream of racial equality in the U.S. will be pushed further out of reach.
- Read a summary of the report.
- Watch a video of co-authors, Brian Miller and Mazher Ali, discussing key points of the report.
With this report, we are calling on Americans of all races to stand up for a more racially just and inclusive economy – one that brings people together, rather than tears us apart. We hope you'll help us spread the word.
Here are ways you can help:
- Share this email and the report as broadly as you're able. Use social media to get this information into your online networks.
- Read the report and write op-eds, letters to your local editors and/or blog about what it means to you.
- Have conversations with your family, friends, colleagues and other community members, and ask them to do the same.
- Stay informed on the issues outlined in State of the Dream 2011, and other issues of racial inequality, and take every opportunity to share your positions with your elected officials.
Also, on MLK Day this Monday, January 17th, consider participating in a day of service as a way to honor Dr. King's legacy.
"Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood."
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "I Have a Dream" speech, Washington, DC, August 28, 1963
Happy MLK Day.
Select Coverage of State of the Dream 2011: Austerity for Whom?
State of the Dream 2011: Austerity for Whom? surveys the impacts of a tax-cutting, government-shrinking economic agenda – as prescribed by Republican leadership with Tea Party allies – on communities of color.
We find that if such an agenda advances, the dream of a racially equal society, as described by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. over four decades ago, will be pushed even further out of reach.
If you are a media representative or blogger on social and economic issues and are interested in covering this report, please contact Maz Ali at 617-423-2148 x101 and/or firstname.lastname@example.org. Scroll down for select media coverage of this report.
February 27, 2011
The nearly 400-year history of black people in America has always been a race to catch up. Recent data shows that history has not changed.
United for a Fair Economy last month released its “State of the Dream Report” showing that African Americans have only 10 cents in net wealth compared with 12 cents for Latinos and a dollar for whites. [...]
Joblessness is a major problem, too, among people of color. This is a “who you know” job market, which embraces white privilege. [...]
The...report also found that...whites are three times as likely as blacks and 4.6 times as likely as Latinos to benefit from the tax breaks for those earning more than $250,000. The report also shows that the benefits of the reduced tax rate for capital gains and dividends flowed “overwhelmingly to whites.”
That and the weakening of the estate tax will continue to widen the wealth gap. Again, this is the disadvantaged history of blacks in America, beginning as people who were property by law.
Read the full column by Lewis Diuguid on KansasCity.com.
February 24, 2011
Look a little closer at who really stands to lose if Scott Walker gets his way: Women and minorities
Amid all the rightful outrage over Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to do away with collective bargaining rights for public sector unions in Wisconsin, one important point has been neglected: The demise of public sector unions would be most detrimental to women and African-Americans, who make up a disproportionate share of the public sector workforce. [...]
According to a report by the nonprofit United for a Fair Economy, blacks are 30 percent more likely than the overall workforce to hold public sector jobs.
Read the full post by Alyssa Battistoni on Salon.com
February 23, 2011
Racism is the salvation of late-stage American capitalism. For hundreds of years, real facts of human existence have been routinely turned on their heads, and non-facts accepted as ultimate truths, all to justify white supremacy. A society so afflicted can believe literally anything. Thus, the Republicans achieve wondrous success by planting the words "We're broke" in the mouths of men and women who are transparently rich, and who in turn serve the interests of the super-rich. [...]
This governmental brokenness coexists with December's Obama-GOP two-year, $850 billion tax giveaway, 40 percent of which goes to the top five percent of income earners, while 25 percent will go to the top one percent, according to the United for a Fair Economy.
Read the full column on OpEdNews.com.
February 19, 2010
When asked recently how they feel about their future, 85 percent of blacks said they are optimistic, with 65 percent indicating they specifically feel secure about their financial situation... [...]
Fifty-six percent of blacks, compared with 44 percent of whites, said the current economic situation is not causing stress in their lives.
The confidence level of blacks in the race and recession survey is in stark contrast to the depressing economic data showing that the economic crisis is still plaguing the African American community. [...]
Read the full column by Michelle Singletary on WashingtonPost.com.
February 10, 2011
Black and Latino families are continuing to disproportionally experience economic hardship, points out another report from the Boston-based research organization United for a Fair Economy. The reason is that they entered the recession with a meager cushion. In 2007, blacks had only a dime and Latinos 12 cents of assets compared to every dollar whites had.
“Very clearly, they don’t have the wealth to withstand and to endure economic hardships in the same way white families are able,” says Mazher Ali, a co-author of the report.
Read the full column by Eva Sanchis on Progressive.org
January 28, 2011
So how is it that this Democratic president has the temerity to deliver a State of the Union address that completely neglects any explicit mention of the calamitous conditions now afflicting his staunchest supporters: the poor? [...]
And things could get even worse for the poor if the president feels the need to cut too many deals with the new Republican-led House in order to appear more centrist.
According to Brian Miller, the executive director of the nonpartisan and Boston-based group United for a Fair Economy and co-author of the group’s report entitled “State of the Dream 2011: Austerity for Whom?” released earlier this month, “austerity measures based on the conservative tenets of less government and lower taxes will ratchet down the standard of living for all Americans, while simultaneously widening our nation’s racial and economic divide.” [...]
Read the full column by Charles Blow on NYTimes.com
January 24, 2011
The world has changed since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared his dream on the National Mall in 1963. But this year, during Black History Month, we should remember that King's messages remain as powerful--and necessary--today.
Nearly 43 years after King's assassination, the racial economic divide in our country endures. And if the austerity agenda advocated by deficit hawks in Congress succeeds, the state of King's dream is sure to decline.
MLK once said, "I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word." The unarmed truth--or data, in this case--is startling.
Read the full post by Wanjiku Mwangi of United for a Fair Economy.
January 20, 2011
"Them that's got shall get. Them that's not shall lose," as the Billie Holiday song goes. "Yes, the strong gets more while the weak ones fade. Empty pockets don't ever make the grade."
It is a tale of two cities in early twenty-first century America. Wall Street is enjoying hefty bonuses and corporate America is awash in cash. Yet, all you can hear, whether inside the Beltway or around state houses is talk of austerity, the new buzzword that's all the rage. Conservative politicians in Congress and in statehosues around the country rode a wave of Tea Party pseudo populism, funded by Republican philanthropy, corporate lobbyists and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Read the full post by David A. Love.
January 19, 2011
Countries around the globe have gone from implementing stimulus packages to austerity measures as a model for economic recovery. The new Republican-led House of Representatives here in the United States is now mounting up a campaign of its own.
Eliminating social service programs, tax cuts for the rich, and rolling back public sector employees are all on the GOP agenda. But a new report argues that these policies will further widen economic inequalities for U.S. minorities and the public at-large.
The Boston-based nonprofit United For a Fair Economy published the findings last Friday to highlight Dr. Martin Luther’s King vision for economic justice. The analysis is not only a rebuke to the House majority’s policies, but also stands in stark contrast to a recent International Monetary Fund report that suggests countries should continue promoting fiscal austerity.
Read the full column by Akito Yoshikane on InTheseTimes.com
January 17, 2011
Nearly a half century after King's I Have a Dream words the black poor are still just as tightly trapped in the grip of poverty and discrimination that King warned about. On the eve of the King national holiday and Obama's second year in office, the Boston based research and economic justice advocacy group, United for a Fair Economy, released its eighth annual King Day report. It found that the gaping disparities in income, wealth, employment, quality and availability of housing, decent schools, and health care between blacks, minorities and whites has grown even wider.
Read the full column by Earl Ofari Hutchinson on HuffingtonPost.com.
January 17, 2011
Making King Bland: Every year on MLK Day, a bland liberal version of Martin Luther King is celebrated, and leftists take time to point out how radical King was, toward the end of his life, at any rate. Two contributions of note. [...]
Read the full post by Chris Sturr on DollarsandSense.org.
January 17, 2011
January 17, 2011
When judging the state of King's dream for economic justice, the verdict is clear: Black America faces a nightmare.
African-Americans bore the brunt of the Great Recession's job losses and economic slow-down. And it only promises to get worse: The slash-and-burn agenda proposed by the new Congressional House leadership, as well as many state legislatures, will have a uniquely devastating impact in low-income and black and Latino communities.
Just how bad? A new report by United for a Fair Economy offers a valuable survey of the damage that's already happened, and how it will likely get much worse.
Read the full post by Chris Kromm on SouthernStudies.org.
January 17, 2011
Whenever governments cut spending, the pain is uneven.
But African Americans are especially vulnerable, as a disproportionately high number rely on government dollars for crucial services, a new study has found. As black people are more dependant than white people on public safety nets, and are more likely to be on public payrolls, governmental austerity could wound the black community especially severely.
Read the full column by William Alden on HuffingtonPost.com.
January 16, 2011
"[B]ecause we exist in a society that has an infrastructure and legacy of racism, the effect of these policies is the same as explicitly racist ones. For example, if you work at the DMV in your state and you're a minority, it probably will seem very much like racism to have your job eliminated while simultaneously the wealthy White guy at your counter is registering his new Bentley as a result of his brand new tax cut. Especially if half your co-workers are of color and most of the new luxury vehicle registrations are from people who are White."
Read the full post on DailyKos.com.
January 15, 2011
Just the other day, though, one of my more socially liberal friends forwarded a story about how the top 1% has seen massive wealth increases in the last 30 years while the lowest 40% have seen not only a drop, but have fallen into the negative wealth zone (owing more money with very little assets).
Could this finally be a tipping point? [...]
Just in time for that tipping point, my friends at United for A Fair Economy have released their 2011 State of the Dream Report. With the Republican majority in the House demanding “austerity,” and Democracts likely to join them on some of their agenda items, this report shows who will get hurt the worst by “centrist” economic policies.
Read the full post by Craig Wiesner.
January 14, 2011
As we prepare to observe MLK Day Monday, we take a look at the "state of the dream"
The group United for a Fair Economy released a report today that sheds some light on how far we've come in realizing Dr. King's dream.
It shows that current public policies worsens the racial economic gap...hitting African Americans and Latinos hardest.
Read the full post by Nordia Epps on WDEF.com.
January 14, 2011
In advance of Martin Luther King Day next Monday, United for a Fair Economy has released its 8th annual "State of the Dream" report, surveying the economic challenges facing workers of color. The 2011 edition focuses on the impact of economic austerity on African American and Latino workers.
The report documents several ways in which the austerity agenda sweeping Washington hurts the African American and Latino middle- and working-class.
Read the full post by John Schmitt.
The sellout of a tax deal has been signed into law. Despite all our best efforts, all the efforts of thousands of groups, hundreds of thousands of individuals, and a few stand-up politicians, we appear helpless to resist the onslaught of the “starve the beast” strategy (except for war, policing & corporate giveaways).
The utter failure of the Obama Administration to stand up to the rightwing assault on lower and middle-income workers, families, and communities has left many angry and feeling powerless.
It is truly dispiriting.
I believe, however, that there is a silver lining. For the first time in a long time, there appears to be a groundswell of recognition that what has happened is in large part due to the lack of a progressive social movement to counterbalance the power of the oligarchy and its Tea Party ground troops. Union leaders, community-based organizing coalitions, progressive beltway think tanks, and many others who have traditionally put most of their strategic eggs in the basket of support for the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, are calling for strategies that will build an independent movement.
And many voices have been raising the need for a unifying, values-based narrative to counter the ultra-conservative blame the victim, blame big government, blame unions, blame Muslims, blame immigrants story amplified by Fox News and mainstream media echo chamber.
More and more progressives are recognizing the importance of organizing, not just mobilizing, and perhaps most important of all, the need for unity across issues and constituencies. As George Lakoff explained:
“Those of us outside of government have to organize that unified movement, and not be limited by specific issue areas. The movement is about progressivism, not just about environmentalism, or social justice, or labor, or education, or health, or peace. The general principles govern them all.”
There is an opportunity here to put aside our notions of turf and any “we’ve got the key facts or the correct analysis or the pipeline to people in power” mentalities. We may need to let go of our egos and keep our eyes on the prize and get some agreement about those general principles.
To my colleagues:
I am proud to be part of the extraordinary work you do day in and day out, and am amazed at how, even with our resource constraints, you still manage to ramp up the intensity when needed. We are suffering defeats but our efforts are not for naught.
Seeds may stay dormant for years before springing to life. I am grateful for the work you do in the garden.
Sanders Filibuster Halted By Senate
Tax Deal Fight Now Focuses on House Challenge to Estate-Tax Exemption
By John Nichols
Posted on TheNation.com, December 14, 2010
In a display of how Washington insiders practice bipartisanship, most Senate Democrats voted with most Senate Republicans to deliver for the wealthiest Americans.
Senators from both parties, self-identified liberals and conservatives, united to end a filibuster by Vermont independent Bernie Sanders , who has led the fight to block an Obama administration deal with Congressional Republicans that extends tax breaks for billionaires and establishes estate-tax exemptions for millionaires.
Sanders conducted an eight-and-a-half-hour filibuster Friday, in which he outlined arguments against the agreement to trade a two-year extension of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, along with sweeping estate-tax exemptions, for a one-year extension of benefits for unemployed workers.
On Monday, Senate majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, serving as floor manager for the deal cobbled together by the Obama administration and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, sought a cloture vote to end the filibuster and open debate on the plan.
Sixty votes were needed to end the filibuster. Reid secured an overwhelming eighty-three.
Most of the fifteen votes to support Sanders's filibuster came from Democrats. Senators Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Pat Leahy of Vermont, Carl Levin of Michigan and Mark Udall of Colorado voted with Sanders.
They were joined by five Republicans: Oklahoma's Tom Coburn, South Carolina's Jim DeMint, Alabama's Jeff Sessions, Nevada's John Ensign and Ohio's George Voinovich.
The lopsided vote provided an indication that the Senate is likely to approve the agreement.
Sanders remained defiant, however, signaling that approval will not come easily—or quietly. "It makes no sense to me to provide huge tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires while we drive up the national debt that our children and grandchildren will have to pay," the Vermonter said. "I further object strenuously to the lowering of rates on the estate tax, which only benefits the top 0.3 percent, the very, very wealthiest people in this country. I also am concerned about a significant precedent which diverts $112 billion in payroll taxes away from the Social Security trust fund. Our goal now must be to strengthen Social Security, not weaken it. Of course we must extend unemployment benefits and the tax breaks that the middle class desperately needs, but in my view we could have and should have negotiated a much stronger agreement."
The Senate vote may not come until Wednesday, and significant debate is expected before it comes.
While Sanders will be expressing broad opposition, there will also be attempts to amend the legislation. As of now, it is unclear whether amendments will be allowed. The White House is opposed at this point. However, Democratic and Republican senators have proposed amendments, with the most significant being a proposal by a group of Democratic senators to limit the extension of Bush-era tax breaks only to Americans earning less than $1 million a year.
One the Senate votes, action will move to the House, where the number-two Democrat, majority leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, says "significant" amendments might yet be made.
"There certainly seems to me to be some room for a change which may or may not be perceived by some to be significant," said Hoyer.
Hoyer suggested Monday that House Democrats may push to limit exemptions for estates. As the agreement now stands, there's a a 35 percent estate tax with exemptions for the first $5 million for individual estates and the first $10 million for couples.
House Democrats have been advocating for a 45 percent tax exempting only the first $3.5 million of inherited estates.
United for a Fair Economy , which has noisily objected to the estate-tax deal, held out hope for the House to do the right thing.
"The Senate’s decision to approve the ill-conceived tax package negotiated between Obama and GOP leaders is shameful," said UFE executive director Brian Miller. "Fortunately, the buck does not stop in the Senate. We are calling on the House to fight back and win a better deal for the sake of middle- and working-class Americans—those who will be saddled with massive new debt to pay for wasteful tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires." (emphasis added)
If the two chambers pass different versions of the legislation, they will have to be reconciled in a House-Senate Conference Committee. Such a session would provide a last opportunity to alter the agreement between Obama and the Republicans.