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Middle-class families, pillar of the American dream, are no longer in the majority, study finds

Los Angeles Times

By: Don Lee

Jae C. Hong / Associated Press

Jae C. Hong / Associated Press

The nation’s middle class, long a pillar of the U.S. economy and foundation of the American dream, has shrunk to the point where it no longer constitutes the majority of the adult population, according to a new major study.

The Pew Research Center report released Wednesday put in sharp relief the nation’s increasing income divide, which is certain to be a central issue in the 2016 presidential race. It also highlights how various economic and demographic forces have eroded long-held ideals about maintaining a strong, majority middle class.

Many analysts and policymakers regard the shift as worrisome for economic and social stability. Middle-income households have been the bedrock of consumer spending, and many liberals in particular view the declining middle as part of a troubling trend of skewed income gains among the nation’s richest families.

Median-income voters, particularly non-college-educated men, are also at the core of billionaire Donald Trump’s surprising surge in the Republican presidential campaign. His supporters’ sense that their once-secure middle-class standing is in danger of slipping appears to be fueling much of the anger against the government and immigrant groups. Read more

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American Dream a casualty of Friedrichs lawsuit

As the teacher of third graders and a father of a 3-year-old in the Bay Area, it amazes me how easily such young minds can grasp the notions of basic fairness, while in the adult world fairness drops by the wayside when corporate special interests seek an advantage. Nowhere is this more clear than with those who have brought us the Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The American economy is out of balance. In San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities in the country, growing inequality is threatening the stability of our communities and our schools. With parents working two and three jobs and under extreme pressure just to make ends meet, our schools become even more important in the lives of their children. But this growing inequality also impacts our educators, many of whom are being forced to choose between the students we serve and our very own children, leading to high turnover that further destabilizes our schools. Read more

Stronger Unions Are the Way to Rebalance Our Economy

U.S. federal contract workers hold a strike rally, asking for a $15 per hour minimum wage, in front of the Capitol in Washington November 13, 2014

GARY CAMERON/REUTERS

Newsweek

Thousands of Americans who work in fast-food restaurants walked off their jobs for a day again earlier this month, once more disrupting breakfast, lunch, and dinner hours in neighborhoods around the country.

Their strikes have provoked a broad debate over minimum wage levels at local and national levels, which is long overdue.

But that’s just part of what this movement is about. From the beginning, the fast-food cashiers and cooks who launched the “Fight for $15” declared that they have a vision for how they can turn their jobs into work that sustains their families and frees them from depending on public assistance: a union. Read more

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School district-teachers union collaboration works for kids

By Mark D. Benigni, Ed.D.

One might wonder why a school superintendent is concerned about Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a U.S. Supreme Court case that would hurt the ability of working people to negotiate together for better wages, benefits and working conditions. Shouldn’t labor and management have competing goals? The answer for me, and many of my fellow superintendents, is an emphatic “No.” When labor and management bargain and work together, we can help our kids succeed.

For years, I have worked closely with our local teachers union. I doubt the Meriden (Conn.) Public Schools would have some of the most innovative teacher-quality and student-learning programs without the Meriden Federation of Teachers as the school district’s loyal partner. Read more

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Supreme Court Case Pits Working People Against Wealthy Elite

The Supreme Court will hear arguments soon in a case that could undermine the rights of working people to negotiate collectively for better wages, benefits and working conditions.

Every working person should care about this case, even if it doesn’t personally affect you. This legal battle is just the latest in a series of attempts by wealthy conservative groups to dismantle every program, service, or law that benefits working people. A win for the Koch Brothers here will make it that much harder to fight the next battle.

The case at issue is called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. It’s an attempt by anti-worker groups to overturn a nearly 40-year-old Supreme Court decision that affirmed the constitutional right of public sector unions to collect fees from employees who choose not to join the union but nonetheless benefit from all of the protections that the union negotiates. Read more

Not all employers hate unions. These ones are trying to save them.

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By Lydia DePillis

Public sector unions, in trouble at the Supreme Court, gets a little help from governments.

Unions are supposed to be a pain for employers. Especially strong, well­funded ones that are able to thwart their plans for change. Bosses should root for anything that might undermine the unions’ ability to collect dues, which they use to negotiate over wages and benefits … right?

Some teachers -- and their employers -- say strong unions make for better education.

Ty Beaver/The Tri-City Herald via AP

Well, not according to a host of government entities that have come to the defense of public sector unions at a moment when they could be wounded by a Supreme Court ruling on whether they’re allowed to collect dues from nonmembers. Twenty ­two states (including Maryland and Virginia) and the District of Columbia, along with 14 school districts, 27 cities and counties, 48 Republican state legislators, New York City, and the federal government all filed briefs before the deadline today on behalf of the union being sued by teachers who say they shouldn’t be forced to pay dues at all.

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Friend of the Court Briefs Show Wide-Ranging Support for Working People

SupremeCourtOn November 13, two dozen amicus, or friend of the court, briefs in support of the rights of working people were filed with the U.S. Supreme Court. These briefs were filed by a diverse array of individuals, organizations, academic experts, labor unions, and governments or government officials from across the country, including 48 Republican state legislators. The arguments made in these briefs underscore the importance of allowing working people to band together in a strong union in order to speak up for one another, negotiate for wages and benefits they can sustain their families on, and fight for improvements to our schools and communities that benefit everyone.

To read these briefs, visit out documents page.

To read a summary of these briefs, click here.

 

Guest Blog: Friedrichs Is Missing Its Warning Label

Lily’s Blackboard (NEA)
By Tina Adams

I know if my kids are hungry, they aren’t learning. I also know who is eating his vegetables, and which kids needs to watch their sugar because of diabetes or other dietary restrictions. From the time the bell rings in the morning to when school lets out in the afternoon, I’m the mom. I care for these kids like my own—and all I want is for them to be happy, healthy and ready to learn. My name is Tina Adams, and I am a school lunch lady in Mansfield, Ohio. Every school day for the past 30 years, I have cooked healthy meals and nutritious treats to feed hundreds of hungry kids. For many of my students, my food is the only food they eat all day. I keep my students’ bellies full so teachers can feed their minds.

After more than three decades, my salary is little more than $20,000 a year. At times, I have had to work two, even three jobs, just to make ends meet.

In fact, I earn so little money that my family falls under the federal poverty level and, ironically, we qualify for food stamps.

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GUEST COLUMN: Unions provide pathway for Latinos

Unions provide pathway for Latinos

The Gazette, October 30, 2015

By: Josette Jaramillo and Betty Jo Aragon

Growing up in Pueblo in two Latino households, we both learned the value of hard work at an early age. Our parents and grandparents worked in the fields and toiled in the steel mill, while trying to make ends meet for their large families. They worked hard, played by the rules, and though we lived humbly, we managed to get by.

But even with a booming economy, hard work alone wasn’t enough to secure our little slice of the American dream. Only when working people spoke up together did they gain fair wages, protections if they got hurt on the job, and a pension so that if they put in the work, they could retire with dignity. Through their unions, one generation of our family members were able to sustain their families and give us an opportunity to not only get by, but get ahead.

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Who’s Behind Friedrichs?

A version of this article originally ran in the October 2015 edition of Clarion.

As the current term of the U.S. Supreme Court opens this autumn, looming on the docket is Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case designed to decimate public-sector unions. While it may not come to that—even the most knowledgeable Court-watchers are unsure how the justices will rule—the stakes are high. A decision is expected before the term ends in June.

(Photo: Tim Sackton/Flickr)

Photo: Tim Sackton/Flickr

The case was, in effect, invited by Justice Samuel Alito, who penned the majority opinion in Harris v. Quinn, a 2014 case in which the court ruled against the union representing home-care workers in Illinois. In Harris, as Harold Meyerson wrote here, Alito devoted half of his opinion to considering the constitutionality of public-sector unions’ right to collect “fair share” fees from those who have opted out of union membership. These fees cover the worker’s share of the resources the union spent on negotiating a contract, representing workers in grievance procedures, and other services that benefit the entire workforce. They are lower than the dues assessed the union’s members, whose payments also cover the cost of their union’s political activities. Read more