As cities all over the state have raised their minimum wages in recent years, labor advocates in the Bay Area are turning to what they see as another piece of the puzzle for improving workers’...
As cities all over the state have raised their minimum wages in recent years, labor advocates in the Bay Area are turning to what they see as another piece of the puzzle for improving workers’ lives: scheduling.
From ensuring workers get the full-time hours they desire, to preventing retaliation against them for turning down last-minute schedule changes, several initiatives are aimed at making employees’ schedules more stable and reducing underemployment.
“Now, it’s about getting fair wages and fair hours,” said Jennifer Lin, deputy director of the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE).
Business interests have railed against the idea of regulating scheduling across diverse sectors, and warn of unintended consequences that could actually hurt workers looking for additional hours and flexibility in their schedules.
Angie Manetti, director of government affairs for the California Retailers Association, said that has already happened in San Francisco since that city’s Retail Workers Bill of Rights was passed last year. Managers now choose to leave shifts unfilled to avoid penalty pay from scheduling workers on short notice, leaving heavier workloads on the employees who are working, she said.
San Jose’s Opportunity to Work initiative, an ordinance on the ballot Nov. 8, would require businesses there to offer extra hours to part-time employees before hiring more workers.
The initiative would apply to businesses with 35 or more employees but exclude government jobs and allow companies to apply for a “hardship” exemption.
Dilsa Gonzalez, a San Jose resident who has held a variety of positions in the fast food sector there, hopes the measure will support people like her. Gonzalez works 16 hours per week, but she would like to work 40. When she asks supervisors for additional hours, they tell her there is no work available.
“But then they hire other people,” Gonzalez said through a translator. She tries other means of making money, including recycling or helping her husband, a mechanic, work. But in San Jose, it’s “hard to survive with just a few hours of work,” she said.
“There is a crisis of underemployment in Silicon Valley,” said Ben Field, executive officer of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council, which gathered the required signatures to place the measure on the ballot. “It’s symptomatic of a problem across the country in which more and more wage earners are dependent on part-time work as a main source of income.”
Matthew Mahood, CEO of the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce, counters that the San Jose ordinance would “pit workers against each other” for full-time hours rather than creating more jobs and that the ordinance is too far-reaching.
Meanwhile, in the East Bay city of Emeryville, the City Council passed its “Fair Work Week Initiative” last week.
The initiative requires retail and fast food establishments that have more than 56 employees globally to:
• provide employee schedules two weeks in advance of their shifts;
• allow employees to decline schedule changes that happen within seven days of the changed shift;
• offer extra hours to part-time employees before bringing on new ones;
• provide employees with extra pay for taking on shifts on short notice, known as “predictability pay.”
The initiative also would require employers to allow employees to deny back-to-back closing and opening shifts and to request alternate work schedules without retaliation.
Emeryville has often been a trendsetter when it comes to passing worker protection legislation, EBASE’s Lin said. That includes the $14.44-per-hour minimum wage it established last year that at the time was the highest in the nation. She hopes to push the effort throughout the East Bay in the near future.
Moriah Larkins, an Oakland resident who has worked in retail in Emeryville for five years, is among those who say the unpredictability of retail scheduling has made life difficult. As a single mother, Larkins said, taking on last-minute shifts was difficult because child care is not easy to schedule, but she also often did not get scheduled as many hours as she wanted to pay her bills.
She now works at Home Depot, where her schedule is more secure, allowing her to plan better for her family and financially, she said. Home Depot store manager Lionel Stevens said at the City Council meeting that it issues schedules three weeks in advance, and has an open-door policy for employees who need flexibility.
A study commissioned by Emeryville indicates that relatively few workers believe work scheduling has a negative effect on their life. According to the study, 87 percent of employees said they have influence in creating their schedules, and 76 percent said their schedule has never changed with less than 24 hours of notice.
A separate study led by the backers of the Fair Work Week initiative, EBASE, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment and the Center for Public Democracy found different results: that more workers — roughly two-thirds — get their schedule less than a week in advance and want to work more hours.
Many workers believe an ordinance is needed to close any loopholes for businesses who are not scheduling fairly.
Kelby Peeler, a Union City resident who worked at Barnes and Noble for seven years, said he would often be scheduled 30 hours one week and 10 the next, making it impossible to plan financially, and he often lost sleep with late-night closing shifts paired with opening shifts the next day.
“There are definitely good actors — it’s not like every store is having these problems,” Peeler said. “But you can’t have your schedule based on the whim of a manager.”
By ANNIE SCIACCA
EMERYVILLE, Calif. – On Oct. 18, this city became the third in the nation to pass a Fair Workweek policy. The City Council passed the ordinance unanimously at its first reading, following...
EMERYVILLE, Calif. – On Oct. 18, this city became the third in the nation to pass a Fair Workweek policy. The City Council passed the ordinance unanimously at its first reading, following testimony at a pre-meeting press conference and during the meeting itself, by those most affected.
Under the new policy, employers will have to give workers their schedules two weeks in advance, compensating them for last-minute changes. When more hours become available, current workers will have priority so they can get closer to fulltime work.
The council must confirm its action with a second vote, scheduled for Nov. 1. The new law, which will affect some 4,000 fast food and retail workers, is to become effective in July 2017.
Almost two years ago, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors passed the first such measure, the Retail Workers Bill of Rights, and just last month, Seattle followed suit http://www.peoplesworld.org/article/tale-of-two-cities-yes-vs-no-on-fair....
New York City may be next: Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council members are pressing legislation to require employers to give some 65,000 hourly fast food workers a two week notice of changes in their shift assignments. However, the bill doesn’t extend such requirements to retail stores or full-service restaurants.
Emeryville, a small city across the Bay from San Francisco with a large concentration of retail stores, already has the country’s highest minimum wage, with large employers required to pay their workers at least $14.82 per hour. Smaller businesses must pay at least $13 per hour.
At the state level, earlier this year California passed a new minimum wage law with a path to a $15 hourly minimum.
At the press conference, low wage workers, local residents, community and labor organizations, faith leaders and academic researchers told of the many challenges faced by retail workers who must deal with constantly shifting and unpredictable schedules and variable numbers of work hours.
Moriah Larkins, an Emeryville retail worker and activist with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) who MC’d the press conference, told of her own experience working six days a week for a “bad apple” employer. “And on my days off they would call me in, and I have my son, who was two years old at the time.”
At first, Larkins said, she used to scramble and pay extra for last minute child care. But as she realized her extra hours, and less time for her son, were making him unhappy, she started refusing the extra shifts. After that, her hours, which had been 32 to 40 per week, were cut in half.
“Now,” she said, “I work for a ‘good apple.’ I work 28 hours per week, I can pay all my bills, I can spend time with my son and finish my nursing degree.”
In a conversation after the press conference, Larkins said she hoped the ordinance would pass “without exceptions.” She and others are warning that before the final vote Nov. 1, the California Retail Association is trying hard to weaken the measure.
Other retail and fast food workers described their experiences, including a past employer who paid subminimum wages and another who fired a worker after “forgetting” he had accepted her timely request for a day off.
The new ordinance has been in the making for a while. In May, Emeryville Mayor Dianne Martinez and Councilmember Ruth Atkin wrote an op-ed published by the San Francisco Chronicle, in which they said a regional fair workweek was needed to assure workers “stable schedules so they can pay the bills, live healthier lives, “and contribute more to our communities.
A recent study, Wages and Hours: Why workers in Emeryville’s service sector need a fair workweek, conducted by ACCE, the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), and the Center for Popular Democracy found that in a sample of more than 100 frontline Emeryville retail workers, some 68 percent had part-time schedules, 82 percent were people of color, eight out of 10 had variable schedules and nearly two-thirds only got their schedules a week or less in advance. Over two-thirds said they wanted to work more hours, while over half said they were scheduled for “clopening” shifts, or back-to-back closings and openings with less than 11 hours off.
The study concluded that employers need to commit to predictable, flexible and responsive schedules that allow for adequate rest.
At the Oct. 18 press conference, EBASE Deputy Director Jennifer Lin said, “Providing a fair work week is not only good for workers, it’s good for business, too.” With many retailers already scheduling in advance, she said, the new ordinance will help level the playing field, and stable schedules and more adequate hours also reduce turnover and absenteeism.
In an article earlier this month in The Nation magazine, author Michelle Chen noted that the Fight for $15 and Fair Workweek struggles are “converging on sectors that used to be known as bastions of dead-end jobs.” The next step, she said, is “to organize, and unionize, to give workers real collective bargaining leverage over their wages and working conditions. Work-life balance comes by shifting the power balance on the job, so that workers have the final say over when they’re on call.”
By Marilyn Bechtel
Last year’s behind-the-scenes selection of three men with ties to Goldman Sachs to serve atop the Federal Reserve did not go over well with outspoken civic groups and many Democrats, including...
Last year’s behind-the-scenes selection of three men with ties to Goldman Sachs to serve atop the Federal Reserve did not go over well with outspoken civic groups and many Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, who have all called for a more transparent and inclusive central bank. In response to the critics, the Fed has rolled out a series of announcements, online forums and face-to-face meetings with Americans to portray a more open process of selecting its 12 district presidents that is also more sensitive to racial and gender diversity.
The Minneapolis Fed, like its counterparts in Philadelphia and Dallas last year, named a president in Neel Kashkari with a past at Goldman, the Wall Street bank. But it also broke ranks from others when it released video testimonials from directors shedding light on the year-long search process, and even published a “summary of attributes” sought in the candidate. The Atlanta Fed said last month it seeks a “diverse set of candidates” to replace outgoing chief Dennis Lockhart, and this month its board chair hosted a pubic webcast to explain the historically shrouded search process, raising hopes it would name the first black or Latino Fed president in the central bank’s 103-year history.
“In the Federal Reserve system we are taking this very seriously, but it’s not just because we want to go and say we’re diverse,” Loretta Mester, the Cleveland Fed President, told a gathering of low-wage workers and progressive economists organized by Fed Up, a labor-affiliated coalition of civic groups pushing for reforms. “It really is about … getting different view points that are very helpful to us in setting policy and thinking about the economy and understanding the trends,” she said at the Cleveland Fed on Friday. Mester met the group a day after her bank launched an online application form for the public to recommend people “diverse in backgrounds and perspectives” for board positions and advisory roles across her Midwest district. Asked to what extent outside pressure prompted the move, a spokeswoman said it was “just the latest in our ongoing efforts to broaden our outreach.”
The 12 Fed presidents have five rotating votes on U.S. interest rate policy. Unlike the five current governors at the Fed Board in Washington, who are selected by the White House and approved by the Senate, the presidents are chosen by their district directors, half of whom are themselves picked by private local banks that technically own the Fed banks. The dizzying structure is meant to ensure views from across the country are heard. But critics say it leaves the Fed beholden to bankers who are not representative of the public, and they point out that 11 of 12 district presidents are white while 10 of them are men. Among employees at the Fed Board in Washington, including service workers, 43 percent were non-white and 43 percent female last year. However at the executive level it was 18 percent and 37 percent, respectively, according to the central bank.
Clinton, the presidential candidate, has come out in favor of dropping bankers from district boards and making the Fed “more representative of America as a whole,” according to her party’s platform. That followed a May letter from 127 lawmakers to Fed Chair Janet Yellen urging more diversity.
After years of resisting more overt political efforts to curb its independence, the Fed under Yellen appears willing to take small steps in the name of transparency and inclusively. In an unusual entry in minutes of their meeting last month, Fed officials discussed a staff analysis of “differential patterns of unemployment across racial and ethnic groups.” U.S. unemployment among blacks is twice that of whites.
“While we applaud this progress, these very basic steps were available to them for the last hundred years and have only been rolled out very recently,” Shawn Sebastian, a Fed Up field director, said of the series of efforts by Fed banks.
In its latest critique, Fed Up called it “disappointing” that Nicole Taylor, a black woman and dean of community engagement and diversity at Stanford University whose term as director at the San Francisco Fed is soon to expire, would be succeeded on that district’s board by Sanford Michelman, a white man who is co-founder of law firm Michelman & Robinson LLP. John Williams, president of the San Francisco Fed, told reporters on Wednesday that while he has no control over the selection of directors, this board revamp “just redoubles my efforts and my team’s efforts to make sure that we are getting the voices and experiences from across the spectrum.” He added: “It’s definitely a step back in terms of what I’d like to see on our board. We’re working actively to build representation of women and minorities.”
By Jonathan Spicer
The Federal Reserve has rolled out a series of announcements, online forums and meetings with Americans this year in response to outspoken civic groups and many Democrats, including Hillary...
The Federal Reserve has rolled out a series of announcements, online forums and meetings with Americans this year in response to outspoken civic groups and many Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, calling for a more transparent and inclusive U.S. central bank.
The latest critique came this week when Fed Up, a labor-affiliated coalition pushing for reforms, said it was "disappointing" that Nicole Taylor, a black woman and dean of community engagement and diversity at Stanford University whose term as director at the San Francisco Fed soon expires, would be succeeded on the board by Sanford Michelman, a white man who is co-founder of law firm Michelman & Robinson LLP.
"It's definitely a step back in terms of what I'd like to see on our board. We're working actively to build representation of women and minorities," John Williams, president of the San Francisco Fed, said on Wednesday in response to reporters' questions, noting the decision was made by private banks in his district.
After years of resisting more overt political efforts to curb its independence, the Fed this year has appeared willing to shine a light on its historically opaque process of choosing district Fed presidents, and also to show it is more sensitive to racial and gender diversity.
After the Philadelphia, Dallas and Minneapolis Fed banks last year all chose as presidents men with past ties to Goldman Sachs, the Atlanta Fed hosted a public webcast this month and said it seeks a "diverse set of candidates" for its new chief, raising hopes it would name the first black or Latino Fed president in the central bank's 103-year history.
"It's not just because we want to go and say we're diverse," Loretta Mester, Cleveland Fed president, said at a meeting with workers a day after her bank launched online applications for the public to recommend directors and advisers. "It's about getting different view points that are very helpful to us in ... thinking about the economy and understanding the trends."
The regional Fed presidents have rotating votes on policy, except for the head of the New York Fed who has a permanent voting role. Unlike Fed governors who are selected by the White House and approved by the Senate, the presidents are chosen by their district directors, half of whom are themselves picked by private local banks that technically own the Fed banks.
Critics say the dizzying structure leaves the Fed beholden to bankers who do not represent the public, and they point out that 11 of 12 district presidents are white while 10 are men.
By Jonathan Spicer and Dion Rabouin
The Federal Reserve has received a lot of criticism recently for its lack of diversity. The leaders of the central banking system are almost all white men.
But now that the president of one...
The Federal Reserve has received a lot of criticism recently for its lack of diversity. The leaders of the central banking system are almost all white men.
But now that the president of one of the Fed’s 12 regional banks in Atlanta is stepping down, some see an opportunity for change.
Several congressional lawmakers and the activist group Fed Up are calling on the agency to appoint the system’s first black president at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
“The fed is the nerve center of our entire economic system, and nobody is suffering from an economic depression as the African-American community,” Congressman David Scott said.
The Georgia Democrat co-wrote a letter, along with Reps. John Lewis, Maxine Waters and John Conyers, to Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on the issue.
Black workers still struggle, Scott said, even as the overall economy has recovered. The jobless rate for African Americans, for example, is more than double their white neighbors.
Outside an unemployment office on the west side of Atlanta, Formosa Williams is at her wit’s end.
“At this point, I don’t know what to do,” Williams said.
For years, Williams said she has struggled to find stable work.
“The only jobs that really seem to be hiring are like fast food,” Williams said. “And it’s no way I’m going to go back to that.”
Scott and the activists hope stories of minority workers, like Williams, will take a more prominent place in the central banking system’s discussions once it has a black regional president.
“Unless you have a voice at that table that has gone through the experience of being an African American, you’re missing so much,” said Scott.
The congressman and activists argue the appointment also makes sense, given the region the bank covers -- the South -- and that region’s history with civil rights.
But while many economists might agree that diversity is good, they aren’t all sure how it translates into policy.
“I think you have to start out with the recognition that our Federal Reserve officials have really one tool, and that’s interest rates,” said Tim Duy, an economics professor at the University of Oregon. “That tool is a very blunt instrument.”
That tool affects the broader economy at a macro-level, said Duy, who also authors a blog called Fed Watch. Meanwhile, he said, many of the problems facing African-American workers are at the micro-economic level.
“The Federal Reserve is not going to be a silver bullet to these issues,” Duy said.
The search for the next Atlanta Fed president is being led by a committee of business leaders from around the South.
The chair, Thomas Fanning, who is president of Southern Company, said they’re looking for the best person most of all.
And if he or she happens to make history, as the first African American?
“That would be a great thing,” Fanning said.
By STEPHANNIE STOKES
The week of October 14 was a busy one for economic reports. It was also a busy week for the talking heads inside the Federal Reserve. Note that the most recent speeches this past week, even after...
The week of October 14 was a busy one for economic reports. It was also a busy week for the talking heads inside the Federal Reserve. Note that the most recent speeches this past week, even after having only three of 10 votes in September for a hike, still show a bias for the Fed to raise rates.
With the November Federal Open Market Committee meeting scheduled just days ahead of the election, the odds makers (the federal funds futures) are now focusing on a December rate hikes — but not quite 100% of a chance, at least ahead of Friday’s Janet Yellen speech.
Fed Chair Yellen gave the luncheon keynote address at the Boston Fed’s 60th Economic Conference. This was titled “The Elusive Recovery,” which may not sound hawkish at all. Still, she did not directly address interest rate hikes in her speech. But Yellen did say that the Federal Reserve may need to run a “high-pressure economy” to reverse damage from the 2008 to 2009 crisis that depressed output. In short, Yellen fears that our economic potential is slipping, and it may require aggressive steps to rebuild economic growth.
Eric Rosengren, president of the Boston Federal Reserve, said on Friday that the odds of a rate hike were very high in December. His view is that unemployment has fallen faster than expected and he is not worried about inflationary dangers.
Also on Friday, Loretta Mester, president of the Cleveland Fed, participated in a round table discussion with the Common Good Ohio (in Cleveland), which is affiliated with the Center for Popular Democracy’s Fed Up Campaign. Mester has been on the record in recent weeks as saying that the jobs market and inflation are enough to justify a rate hike.
Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia President Patrick Harker said on Thursday that the uncertainty stemming from the U.S. presidential election might be an argument for delaying a rate increase, at least until after the November ballot. Hint: December.
Neel Kashkari, president of the Minneapolis Fed, has tried to remain on the sidelines for vocalizing rate hike talk outside of what Yellen says. Still, on Thursday he talked about more sluggish growth and maintained that the Fed and other agencies need a remedy for the “too big to fail” banks.
William Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve of New York, sounded a tad more dovish. His take is that the Fed can be gentle with gradual rate hikes. He also pointed out that the Fed is not political when making interest rate decisions.
Esther George, head of the Kansas City Fed, did not address the economy nor rate hike views when speaking on Wednesday. Still, she did talk about the need for better bank cybersecurity and security of payments. George is considered one of the more hawkish Fed presidents.
Chicago Fed President Charles Evans was deemed as being noncommittal on Monday when he spoke. Still, he was signaling a December hike: “December could be an appropriate time to do it, but I don’t see any urgency either.” That was in a CNBC interview.
Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer spoke on October 9 and spoke about gross domestic product somehow recovering to 2.75% for the second half of 2016, a higher view than average. Fischer has been more hawkish of late and said that September’s decision was a close call. He said that he expects inflation to rise and that gradual rate hikes would be sufficient to get to Fed back to a neutral stance.
By Jon C. Ogg
Georgia voters are being asked to approve a new and controversial way to improve public education. The proposal would empower the state to take over chronically failing schools or convert them to...
Georgia voters are being asked to approve a new and controversial way to improve public education. The proposal would empower the state to take over chronically failing schools or convert them to charters or even close them.
It’s called Amendment 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot, and it’s called the Opportunity School District in the legislation that authorized it. The Georgia General Assembly passed Senate Bill 133 during this year’s session with the required two-thirds majority in both chambers. The referendum now needs a simple majority from voters to become law.
Then it asks voters this question:
“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?”
Gov. Nathan Deal’s OSD proposal, based on similar initiatives in Louisiana and Tennessee, would allow Georgia’s governor to appoint an OSD superintendent, separate from the Georgia Department of Education superintendent, who is elected by voters. The OSD superintendent could take over as many as 20 eligible schools each year and control no more than 100 such schools at any time. The OSD superintendent could waive Georgia Board of Education rules, reorganize or fire staff and change school budgets and curriculum. The state also could convert OSD schools to nonprofit or for-profit charter schools or close them if they don’t have full enrollment.
The state would use the College and Career Ready Performance Index to determine which schools are eligible for takeover. Schools that score below 60 on the 100-point CCRPI for three straight years could be included in the OSD. Those schools would stay in the OSD for no less than five years (or, if they are an OSD charter school, for the length of the initial charter’s term) and no more than 10 years before returning to local control. Opportunity Schools could be removed from the OSD whenever they are graded above an F in the state’s accountability system for three straight years.
Muscogee County had 10 of the 141 schools on the state’s original list of chronically failing schools released last year. Georgetown and Rigdon Road elementary schools, however, improved enough with other schools in the state on the 2015 CCRPI to move off the list. That leaves 127 schools in Georgia and these eight in Muscogee on the current list: Baker Middle School and Davis, Dawson, Forrest Road, Fox, Lonnie Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr. and South Columbus elementary schools.
The case for Yes
OSD proponents cite the number of chronically failing schools as the most obvious reason to try something drastically new. They also note the reduction in the number of chronically failing schools since the threat of state takeover became possible after Senate Bill 133 passed.
Deal says on his proposal’s website, “While Georgia boasts many schools that achieve academic excellence every year, we still have too many schools where students have little hope of attaining the skills they need to succeed in the workforce or in higher education. We have a moral duty to do everything we can to help these children. Failing schools keep the cycle of poverty spinning from one generation to the next. Education provides the only chance for breaking that cycle. When we talk about helping failing schools, we’re talking about rescuing children. I stand firm on the principle that every child can learn, and I stand equally firm in the belief that the status quo isn’t working.”
Alyssa Botts, spokewoman for the pro-Amendment 1 campaign committee Opportunity for All Georgia Students noted, “The graduation rate for students attending failing schools is an abysmal 55.7 percent,” compared to the most recent statewide figure of 78.8 percent in the class of 2015.
“A school that fails to properly educate its students perpetuates cycles of poverty and increases the likelihood of incarceration,” Botts said in an email to the Ledger-Enquirer. “For many students, educational opportunities provide the best chance to break out of these cycles. … Voting ‘yes’ for the Opportunity School District amendment is a vote to ensure that future generations of Georgians will have the best opportunities available. No child in Georgia should be forced by law to attend a failing school.”
The governor-appointed Georgia Board of Education and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce have endorsed the OSD referendum.
Michael O’Sullivan, executive director of the Georgia Campaign for Achievement Now, part of the 50-state CAN nonprofit organization advocating “a high-quality education for all kids, regardless of their address,” has successfully fought a similar political battle, helping to convince voters to approve the 2012 Georgia charter school amendment. And the OSD is the next logical step, he figures.
“What this has done is create a sense of urgency for districts to act,” O’Sullivan said in an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer. “Voters should be asking what’s being done now? What plans are in place to improve our schools? That’s the ultimate goal. How can we ensure that every student in the state has access to quality education? Right now, 68,000 students attend a school that has failed at least three years or more.”
The opposition is based on being “afraid of loss of control,” O’Sullivan said. “… It’s my hope that opponents would be putting as much effort into fixing their schools so they aren’t eligible for the OSD. I can tell you which option will be best for schools.”
O’Sullivan emphasized that state takeover is only one option for intervention in the OSD.
“There is the ability for the state to assist schools that are failing for one year or two years, and then, after three years, there is a multiple intervention model,” he said. “One is a joint governance structure, with the OSD and the local school district working together to turn around the school.”
Addressing concerns that OSD schools would receive less funding, O’Sullivan said, “Whatever amount that would have been dedicated to that school remains in that school.”
Louisiana enacted the Recovery School District in 2003. The RSD comprises 62 autonomous charter schools in Orleans, East Baton Rouge and Caddo parishes with a total enrollment of more than 32,000 students, according to the RSD’s 2015 annual report. The percentage of RSD schools considered to be failing has been reduced from 44 percent in 2011 to 19 percent in 2015, the report says.
According to the RSD’s 2014 annual report, the percentage of students performing at the basic level or above increased 29 percentage points from 2008 to 2014, while the state average increased 9 percentage points.
In New Orleans, 63 percent of the public school students are in the RSD. According to a June 2015 study by Patrick Sims and Vincent Rossmeier of the Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives at Tulane University, “the percentage of (New Orleans) students at the basic level or above has increased 15 percentage points over the past six years. That growth has largely come from the RSD, which has improved by 20 percentage points.”
In Tennessee, as of the 2015-16 school, there were 29 schools in the Achievement School District, enacted in 2010 with the goal of moving the state’s bottom 5 percent of school into the top 25 percent of student achievement. The ASD has made progress, according to its July 2015 report.
“Over a three-year period, ASD students have earned double-digit gains in math and science proficiency and have grown faster than their state peers,” the report says.
The ASD reading scores, however, declined along with the state average.
“We know from national research and our own experience that reading growth tends to lag behind other subjects in a school turnaround setting,” Malika Anderson, then the ASD deputy superintendent and now its superintendent, says in the report.
The case for No
Georgia Federation of Teachers president Verdaillia Turner, a retired Atlanta educator, has seen the statistics that indicate state takeovers improved student achievement, but her organization touts evidence that argues otherwise.
The federation says in its campaign literature that the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit against the state-created school district in New Orleans on behalf of 4,500 students for denying appropriate services. A July 2015 SPLC fact sheet notes that, while an average of 19.4 percent of students with disabilities graduated high school in Louisiana, only 6.8 percent of them graduated in the Recovery School District.
A February 2016 report titled “State Takeovers of Low-Performing Schools: A Record of Academic Failure, Financial Mismanagement and Student Harm” from the Center for Popular Democracy, a liberal-leaning nonprofit advocacy group, found that state takeovers of schools in Louisiana, Michigan and Tennessee produced:
▪ “Negligible improvement — or even dramatic setbacks — in their educational performance.”
▪ “A breeding ground for fraud and mismanagement at the public’s expense.”
▪ “High turnover and instability” among staff, “creating a disrupted learning environment for children.”
▪ “Harsh disciplinary measures and discriminatory practices” for students of color and those with special needs.
Turner fears too much of the motivation for the OSD proposal is about creating profit opportunities in public schools for private charter school companies.
“The bottom line here is that this is a new business at the public’s expense,” Turner said in an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer. “The only thing public about these schools is our tax dollars.”
The federation notes the OSD may retain 3 percent of state funds for administrative operations, reducing the amount of money available for instruction.
“I love my state, and I respect the office of the governor and all of government,” Turner said. “However, this is still a democracy, and we believe that educators and the public need not be misled by what’s about to happen.”
That includes the OSD superintendent’s authority to “get rid of people at will” at any OSD school, Turner said. “The law says, the last line in Senate Bill 133 says, all laws in conflict with this act are repealed.”
Turner noted the state’s standardized testing system has changed the past five consecutive years. “Therefore, we know it’s not reliable,” she said.
In many chronically failing schools, Turner said, “children end up going to jail. But in many of these same schools, children go to Yale. So we need to have a real conversation about what makes schools work.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported that a political group called the Committee to Keep Georgia Schools Local has a TV ad campaign opposing the OSD referendum. The group includes the Georgia Association of Educators, Georgia AFL-CIO, the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, Georgia Stand-Up, the Coalition for the People’s Agenda, Public Education Matters, Southern Education Foundation, Working America, Pro Georgia, Better Georgia, Georgia Federation of Teachers and Concerned Black Clergy of Metro Atlanta, according to the AJC.
The Georgia School Boards Association’s board of directors voted to oppose the amendment. School boards representing the counties of Bibb, Chatham, Cherokee, Clayton, Fayette, Henry, Richmond and Troup have expressed opposition.
The Muscogee County School Board was scheduled to join them last month, but the proposed resolution was deleted from the agenda between the Sept. 12 work session and the Sept. 20 meeting. Neither superintendent David Lewis nor board chairman Rob Varner has responded to the Ledger-Enquirer’s requests for an explanation.
Responding on their behalf, MCSD communications director Valerie Fuller also didn’t explain the sudden change in thinking, who proposed the resolution, who rescinded it and why. Here is her statement in an email to the Ledger-Enquirer:
“The Muscogee County School District is a public school system, which is supported by taxpayer money. All of our stakeholders (taxpayers, students, parents, teachers administrators and staff) have different opinions on this proposal. Although we believe, and the results indicate, that we are making progress with our challenged schools, to take a side could anger supporters, who might say the BOE is opposed to helping ‘failing’ schools.
“We don’t think it would be wise for a publicly elected body to pass a resolution in opposition of this amendment that might result in controversy, causing unnecessary distractions from the work being done on behalf of these schools. Because this could result in a change to Georgia’s Constitution, we do believe it is important for voters to read and be fully informed about the amendment and its implications.”
In a letter Tuesday to school district superintendents and Regional Education Service Agency directors, Georgia Department of Education deputy superintendent for external affairs and policy Garry McGiboney reminded public school officials that the Georgia Office of the Attorney General advised the GaDOE in 2012, “Local school boards do not have the legal authority to expend funds or other resources to advocate or oppose the ratification of a constitutional amendment by the voters.”
Regardless of whether the proposed OSD is good for Georgia, the referendum’s wording doesn’t accurately explain it, some folks insist. The Georgia PTA called it “deceptive.”
“If the governor and state legislators believe the best way to fix struggling schools is to put them under state control and either close them or turn them over to charter schools, then let the language on the ballot reflect this initiative,” Georgia PTA president Lisa-Marie Haygood said in a news release. “As it stands, the preamble, and indeed, the entire amendment question, is intentionally misleading and disguises the true intentions of the OSD legislation.”
To that end, a class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 27 against the governor, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp. The three lead plaintiffs, all from metro Atlanta — parent Kimberly Brooks, First Iconium Baptist Church senior pastor Timothy McDonald III and Coweta County teacher Melissa Ladd — allege in the complaint that the wording is “so misleading and deceptive that it violates the due process and voting rights of all Georgia voters.”
Gerry Weber, an Atlanta lawyer representing the three lead plaintiffs, told the Ledger-Enquirer in an interview the Georgia Supreme Court ruled about 10 years ago that a challenge to the wording of ballot measures must be decided after the vote because the lawsuit would be moot if the proposal fails.
The Ledger-Enquirer asked Deal spokeswoman Jen Talaber Ryan for the governor’s response to the allegation about the referendum’s wording. Ryan replied in an email, “The opposition didn’t attend the publicly announced constitutional amendment meeting where the language was discussed and approved. Why don’t you ask them why? And the preamble and question say exactly what the OSD will do — provide a lifeline for children forced by law to attend a failing school. The only thing misleading here is the fact that national, outside special interest groups are spending money instead of local groups. After all, their go to line is about ‘local control.’ Hypocritical, don’t you think?”
Keep Georgia Schools Local campaign manager Louis Elrod told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email from media relations manager Michelle Davis, “It’s unbelievable that pro-school takeover advocates would make this charge. They are grasping at straws because they’re desperate and losing this fight.
“They know full well that many members of our bipartisan coalition of parents, teachers and public school advocates actively petitioned for changes to both the amendment and the ballot question at multiple hearings. The even more deceptive preamble language was drafted at a separate meeting in Deal’s office. Janet Kishbaugh of Public Education Matters Georgia says she and other opponents called and searched online daily to find an announcement of this meeting. It was later revealed that the preamble was written in Deal’s office in a meeting attended only by the three men who drafted the words.
“The pro-takeover campaign’s political maneuvering just confirms what we know about their intentions — this amendment is designed to silence parents and strip away local control.”
Do your homework and vote
The Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education has taken a neutral position on the OSD referendum, but the partnership’s president, Steve Dolinger, is advocating this:
“The important thing is Georgia voters do their own homework on this issue and make their decision based on solid research and fact-finding, not emotion,” Dolinger, who was superintendent of Fulton County Schools (1995-2002), said in an email to the Ledger-Enquirer from Bill Maddox, the partnership’s communications director. “Both sides make compelling arguments, but it should always come down to what the voter feels is right for the children of our state.”
BY MARK RICE
Although she was hired on as a full-time employee at Domino’s Pizza, Crystal Thompson had a schedule that became erratic and unreliable shortly after she began working there in 2009. One day she’d...
Although she was hired on as a full-time employee at Domino’s Pizza, Crystal Thompson had a schedule that became erratic and unreliable shortly after she began working there in 2009. One day she’d start at 9 a.m. and work until 9 p.m.; and then she’d get a call asking her to work the morning shift the next day.
“It’s so hard trying to plan your life.”
The single mother of three relied on the job to pay over $1,200 a month in rent, utilities, food, and child care, but during the most volatile weeks, she was lucky if she got even 20 hours in shifts. Moreover, it was difficult to find a babysitter or make doctor’s appointments when she sometimes received her schedule only a day in advance. At a loss, Thompson moved one of her children into the living room and found a roommate to shoulder the part of the rent that she couldn’t afford.
“It’s crazy,” Thompson says about her schedule. “It’s so hard trying to plan your life.”
But thanks to an ordinance passed in Seattle last month, Thompson and other workers in the service and retail industries will finally have the freedom to think more than one day ahead. The new law, known as “secure scheduling,” will take effect in July 2017 and will impact large retail, service, and drinking establishments with a minimum of 500 workers globally, as well as full-service restaurants with more than 500 workers and 40 or more locations.
The measure requires that employers post work schedules at least two weeks in advance, offer additional hours to existing workers before hiring new employees, and provide at least a 10-hour break between closing and opening shifts. Thompson says that anything less than that doesn’t leave enough time to rest, shower, care for her children, and be alert enough to work another shift.
The Seattle measure comes on the heels of similar legislation passed in San Francisco in 2014, which labor activists call a game changer for the labor movement. It provides that hourly workers have the ability to better budget their expenses, take on second jobs, and plan for education and family time.
Workers in the service and retail industries will finally have the freedom to think more than one day ahead.
Working Washington, a Seattle-based labor advocacy organization that led the efforts, attests that, much like legislation for a $15 minimum wage that passed in Seattle in 2014, predictable schedules will likely spread to other cities and states too. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced that he and other city officials plan on drafting legislation to ensure secure scheduling for fast-food workers.
Thompson’s plight is common for workers in the service and retail industry nationally, as shown in a report co-authored by associate professor Susan Lambert at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration. About 3 out of 4 early-career adults in hourly jobs report fluctuations in the number of hours they’ve worked in a month, and nearly half of part-time workers said that their employers gave them a week’s notice or less when their schedules changed.
Photo courtesy of Working Washington.
The problem is especially severe among African Americans and Latinos in Seattle. Another study, this one commissioned by the city itself in July, revealed that the two groups were the most likely to receive their schedules with less than a week’s notice, be required to be on-call, or to be sent home during slow shifts. They also reported higher rates of having difficulty attending classes and working second jobs because of their schedules.
Sejal Parikh, executive director of Working Washington, says that erratic scheduling has proliferated in the past two decades with the advent of scheduling software programs. After her group pushed for a $15 minimum wage and won, a campaign for secure scheduling seemed like a natural next step, she says. “The $15 minimum wage is about money, and the secure scheduling campaign is really about power.”
A stable schedule allows workers to spend time with their families, have hobbies, and further their careers.
But the measure is not immune to opposition. The advocacy group Washington Retail Association issued a press release in August stating that the measure undermines the fluctuating nature of business and would lead to layoffs. But Parikh counters that companies are already staffing leanly and that there’s usually not an excess of workers during one shift. A secure schedule simply allows a barista who lives an hour away from work to get eight hours of sleep at home instead of sleeping inside of the coffee shop, she contends.
It’s important that the more than 75 million people who work hourly jobs nationally have some say in their own schedule, says Carrie Gleason, director of the Fair Workweek initiative at the Center for Popular Democracy. A stable schedule allows workers to spend time with their families, have hobbies, and further their careers. Gleason adds that the legislation “ensures that Seattle workers can have a voice” in determining how many hours they work, which is something she hopes catches on in other cities.
In Seattle, Thompson is already planning out the time she’ll enjoy once she has a more predictable schedule. She is now working part time because she’s caring for her 9-month-old baby, but Thompson says she plans on going back to school to get a degree in Spanish and to become an interpreter. The new ordinance will also allow her to figure out child care and to budget for the rent in her new Section 8 housing, which takes 30 percent of her income.
More than anything, Thompson says she’s looking forward “to more peace of mind.”
By Melissa Hellmann
In the middle of meetings of the world’s central banking elite in Wyoming’s Jackson Lake Lodge in August 2015, Lael Brainard sat down with activists who were denouncing calls for tighter monetary...
In the middle of meetings of the world’s central banking elite in Wyoming’s Jackson Lake Lodge in August 2015, Lael Brainard sat down with activists who were denouncing calls for tighter monetary policy amid America’s sluggish wage growth.
As the Federal Reserve Board member listened intently over the course of about an hour, protesters from New York ranging from fast-food employees to a worker on film sets talked about the difficulties of making ends meet on rock-bottom wages in a high-cost metropolis, recalls Shawn Sebastian, field director of the Fed Up coalition that arranged the meeting.
Ms Brainard’s decision to drop by carried a message. A fairly new member of the Board of Governors who had said relatively little about monetary policy, Ms Brainard was about to set out her stall as a vocal advocate of low interest rates at the Fed — based in part on the absence of wage growth.
Her steadfast calls for continued economic stimulus have burnished her credentials among pro-worker groups including Fed Up, which met a broader range of Fed officials at this year’s Jackson Hole gathering. They come amid speculation that she could be in line for a cabinet role if the Democrats hold the White House in November.
“When it comes to monetary policy, Lael Brainard is one of the strongest and loudest voices advocating for policies that working families across the US need,” says Mr Sebastian.
In Washington, Ms Brainard is being spoken of as one of the candidates for Treasury secretary in a Hillary Clinton administration — a move that would make her the first woman to head the department. At the same time she has become the target of Republican attacks because of her public support for the Clinton campaign and fury within the party over easy-money policies.
Early this year Ms Brainard donated $2,700 to the Clinton campaign, a decision described by former officials as a blunder for a sitting Fed governor during an election year — even if it is permissible under Fed rules. It increased the Fed’s political vulnerability at a time when it is a prime target for vituperative assaults on its independence by Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate.
The donation was the subject of sharp exchanges in Congress last month as Fed chair Janet Yellen was forced to reject claims by Republican representative Scott Garrett that the central bank is excessively cosy with the Democrats.
There are people who blather on and she is not one of them
Jared Bernstein, a former economic adviser to Joe Biden
Ted Truman, a former Fed official who is a non-resident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, says Ms Brainard’s donation was a personal mistake that “didn’t help the Fed at all”. He also argues that the issue pales in comparison with politically charged episodes in the past, such as the Nixon years when the Fed was leaned on heavily to keep rates low.
Ms Brainard’s forceful drive for easy monetary policy began two months after the 2015 Jackson Hole meetings, when she delivered a blunt speech that left some with the impression that she was at loggerheads with Ms Yellen. Ms Brainard warned against prematurely lifting rates amid slack in the labour market and subdued inflation — even as the chair was steering markets to expect a move by the end of the year.
Ms Brainard did not go on to formally dissent when Ms Yellen presided over a rate increase that December. Since then the two policymakers have appeared more closely aligned, with both recently arguing that the US recovery has further room to run before the central bank needs to increase rates again.
Ms Brainard has urged caution in part because of the risk that overseas shocks ricochet back to the US via highly integrated financial markets. This global focus builds on her work as the US’s top financial diplomat under former Treasury secretary Tim Geithner between 2010 and 2013, where in the gruelling post of undersecretary for international affairs she was a key US figure in discussions over the euro area debt crisis, as well as the broader global fallout from the financial crash.
Fed should not rush to raise rates, says Brainard
Already low expectations of a September increase fall further after policymaker’s cautious comments
One official who spoke with her regularly was George Papaconstantinou, Greece’s finance minister from 2009 to 2011. He recalls hearing from Ms Brainard two or three times a week during the febrile days of early 2010, as Europe dragged its feet over how to handle the Greek crisis and the US pushed for action. The calls were partly “therapy” for him and partly information-gathering by Ms Brainard so she had “a better sense of how close we were to the edge”. He says: “She clearly knew her stuff.”
Ms Brainard, who declined to comment for this article, developed her interest for global affairs in part on the back of her upbringing as a diplomat’s daughter, spending some of her childhood behind the iron curtain in Poland and East Germany. A former MIT economics professor, she has three children and is married to Kurt Campbell, a former top state department official.
A reserved individual, Ms Brainard left the Treasury with a mixed reputation among officials, some of whom found her unsupportive and distant. Others, including Jared Bernstein, a former economic adviser to vice-president Joe Biden, praise her straight-talking manner and clarity of thought. “There are people who blather on and she is not one of them,” he says.
When Washington observers size up potential Treasury secretaries, Ms Brainard’s name comes up alongside Gary Gensler, the former head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook.
What gives Ms Brainard’s claim potency is not only her international and domestic economic experience, but also the helpful absence of a stint on Wall Street in her curriculum vitae. For many Democrats, her very public campaign for low rates has only strengthened her qualifications for the post.
By Lael Brainard
This article is the second part of a series of conversations with contributors to the demands of the Movement for Black Lives. Part One was on reparations.
In July 2015, more than 2,000...
This article is the second part of a series of conversations with contributors to the demands of the Movement for Black Lives. Part One was on reparations.
In July 2015, more than 2,000 members of The Movement for Black Lives—a group composed of more than 50 racial justice organizations—convened in Cleveland to recognize the violence committed against Black people in this country and around the world. At the assembly, participants decided the Movement needed to form a coalition that articulated concrete ways to build a more equitable society. Six legislative platforms emerged that covered issues like economic justice, reparations, political empowerment, and divestment from policing and incarceration. In their Invest-Divest platform, the authors called instead for investment in programming, like restorative justice initiatives, that would decrease incarceration and strengthen communities.
We’ve come to accept policing and incarceration as catch-all solutions.
According to the Brookings Institution, White Americans are equally likely to use and more likely to deal drugs, while African Americans are more likely to be arrested, convicted, and sentenced harshly. For U.S. residents born in 2001, the Bureau of Justice Statistics predicts that 1 in 111 White women will go to prison in her lifetime, while 1 in 18 Black women will. For White men, the likelihood is 1 in 17; for Black men, 1 in 3.
“At the heart of the Invest-Divest demand is the recognition that our city, state, and federal budgets reflect the dehumanization, and the degradation of Black life through lack of investment in anything besides Black incarceration or surveillance,” says Marbre Stahly-Butts, co-author of demands from the Invest-Divest platform that call for reallocating government funds from law enforcement to long-term safety, and decriminalizing drug and prostitution crimes.
Stahly-Butts, a facilitator of the Cleveland convening and deputy director of racial justice at the Center for Popular Democracy, explains that our current criminal justice system is based on a premise of comfort, rather than of safety: Instead of addressing the roots of uncomfortable issues such as drug addiction, mental illness, and poverty, we’ve come to accept policing and incarceration as catch-all solutions. This disproportionally affects African Americans.
Here she discusses why divestment from the prison and military industries is as critical to a just future as investment in public institutions.
The following interview has been lightly edited.
Liza Bayless: How does the Invest-Divest platform play into the Movement for Black Lives?
Marbre Stahly-Butts: The call for Invest-Divest has been at the center of organizing and activism work for at least the last decade, if not more. Since slavery, but especially in the age of mass incarceration in the last 30 or so years, [there has been an] incredible increase in the amount of spending that goes to police departments—to cages, prisons and jails, corrections offices, military equipment, and surveillance equipment. At the same time, [there has been] divestment from the social safety net, from social services and education to affordable housing.
What makes our communities safe is not more guns, more police, or more cages.
What makes our communities safe is not more guns, more police, or more cages, but employment opportunities, safe housing, jobs, education, restorative justice. To live in the world we’re envisioning requires a real investment—both by private parties, but also by public dollars.
Bayless: In August, the Department of Justice announced it would end use of private prisons. How significant is this step?
Stahly-Butts: It’s an important step and in many ways a symbolic step, but I think it’s essential that states follow suit. The caging of our people actually happens on a local level, and so the same week that the Department of Justice made that announcement, I believe in Florida they decided to continue contracts with local prisons and, in fact, expand them.
Most of our people are kept in public facilities, so there’s a real need to decarcerate and not just de-profitize. It would matter a lot if U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement did it, because that’s, in fact, where most of the [prison] beds are.
A month [after the announcement], the Department of Justice released guidelines around its increased funding of police officers and officers in schools. So it’s important to realize that the criminalization—and the incarceration—of our people really is something that the government has not divested from, and in some ways has actively continued.
There’s a lot of work to be done, but I was pleased about implications of ending those contracts.
Bayless: Usually we hear from organizations about investment more than divestment. What makes the concept of divestment so important to this platform?
Stahly-Butts: I think that we see a general narrative on the left around the need to increase infrastructure and investment. Obama, Clinton, and other progressives constantly affirm their commitment to investment strategies, whether it’s health care, job programs, or educational funding. But the divestment piece is essential to a conversation around the livelihood, wealth, health, and survival of Black, brown, and poor communities.
There has to be a conversation about real solutions to incarceration.
If we continue to lock up and put one of every three Black men under police control; if we continue to incarcerate Black women at the highest-growing rates; and continue surveillance and denying people [driver’s] licenses and housing opportunities when they are out of incarceration, [then] we’re undermining our investments if we’re not also divesting from these systems that have led to this mass criminalization of folks for behaviors that often have nothing to do with public safety.
Bayless: The topic of mass incarceration has been at the forefront of the country’s conversations about racial injustice. Is there something missing from that discussion?
Stahly-Butts: It’s essential that we talk about the entire purview of things that don’t belong under the criminal code, from the way poverty is criminalized to the ways homelessness is criminalized. Even in Florida, wearing saggy pants [has been criminalized].
There has to be a conversation about real solutions to incarceration, and not just changing the practices of putting people in cages, but also changing the entire orientation for communities that criminalize them en masse, that have police in schools, that believe that the only answer to mental health and other issues is cages and handcuffs. There’s a real need for cultural change and a social conversation about the roots of the system, and other ways to deal with these issues that is not state violence.
Bayless: By focusing on decriminalization of certain crimes—in this case, nonviolent ones such as drug and prostitution crimes—as fundamentally different from “violent” crimes, is there a risk people convicted of the latter could end up with harsher sentences?
Stahly-Butts: There’s a false dichotomy between violent and nonviolent crimes. We often talk about it as if there’s some fine line, but in fact every state, every city defines that differently. Whether we’re talking about crimes that hurt people or impact property, or crimes that are about mental health or drug addiction, the idea of investment is key to all of them.
Folks are working locally to realize what it means to build alternative structures to criminal justice.
If we use the money that we’re currently using to cage people, and take the literally trillions of dollars to invest in the well-being of our people—in jobs, education, trauma-informed services, restorative justice—we would see a real addressing of all sorts of social issues, including the ones that make people less safe.
Bayless: Anything else you’d like to add about this platform?
Stahly-Butts: Folks are working locally to realize what it means to build alternative structures to criminal justice, to divest from policing and invest in communities. Despite the past two years—where we’ve seen literally dozens of Black folks be killed on video, and uprisings in communities from Baltimore to Ferguson—we’ve seen incredible movement and energy.
By Liza Bayless