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Initial reporting on the president-elect’s selection of fast-food CEO Andy Puzder to replace Tom Perez as the next secretary of labor depicted Puzder as a “vocal” critic of Obama administration policies while failing to note the conservative media-fueled inaccuracies that inform the incoming secretary’s anti-worker views.
On December 8, The Wall Street Journal was first to report that President-elect Donald Trump planned to name Puzder -- the CEO of CKE Restaurants, which owns the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s burger chains -- as the incoming labor secretary in his administration. The Journal’s report, and subsequent reporting from The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today, focused mostly on Puzder’s opposition to specific economic initiatives from the Obama administration -- raising the minimum wage, expanding overtime protections, and extending the scope of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- while failing to mention that Puzder’s arguments against each have been widely discredited:
Despite amplifying Puzder’s criticism of progressive economic policies, none of the outlets saw fit to mention that his arguments are wrong.
First, Obama-era regulations have not “stifled growth in the restaurant industry” or created a “restaurant recession.” According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in the restaurant industry is up more than 20 percent since Obama took office in January 2009:
Second, while it is true that Puzder is an ardent opponent of increased minimum wages -- he once argued that modest wage increases actually encourage low-wage workers to game the system so they can stay in poverty -- it is important to note that his arguments are unfounded. Puzder and other right-wing media personalities have waged a campaign of misinformation against raising the minimum wage, claiming that it hurts businesses and kills jobs. In reality, reliable professional studies of the minimum wage consistently find a negligible relationship between the minimum wage and employment activity.
As is the case with Puzder’s opposition to living wages, the incoming labor secretary’s antagonism toward the ACA is also not based in facts. Right-wing media outlets and allied politicians have spent years claiming that President Obama’s signature health care reform law is hurting the economy and stymieing the job market despite all evidence to the contrary. In reality, Obamacare has reduced the uninsured rate to historic lows, has reduced medical debt and benefited public health outcomes while strengthening the economic security of low-income families.
Finally, Puzder’s opposition to expanded overtime protections amounts to little more than retooled talking points generated by right-wing media. Conservative media outlets opposed President Obama’s proposed overtime expansion before they even knew the details, claiming it threatened to undermine American work ethic and turn the country into Greece. Puzder’s claim that a “regulatory maze,” which includes overtime expansion, has “reduced opportunities, bonuses, benefits, perks and promotions” ignores the obvious economic benefits of paying millions of American workers for the hours they actually work and that the overtime threshold “has the advantage of simplicity” that makes it efficient for employers to implement.
Media Matters outlined the many ways media should approach his troubled relationship with the truth. If coverage today is any indication, major outlets still have a lot to learn.
Trump Reportedly Leaning Toward Prolific Right-Wing Op-Ed Writer And Fast Food CEO To Head Department Of Labor
**UPDATE: Several news outlets reported on December 8 that the president-elect is expected to choose Puzder to serve as the country’s 27th secretary of labor. The New York Times noted that Puzder “will arguably have less experience in government than any labor secretary since the early 1980s.”
Media outlets have reported that President-elect Donald Trump is considering Andy Puzder, a right-wing commentator and fast food CEO, for secretary of labor. Puzder is known for writing op-eds denouncing worker rights and the minimum wage, and his company is infamous for its “supermodel-centric marketing strategy” designed to offend viewers and stoke sales.
According to a November 15 article in Politico, Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants, which operates burger chains Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, was on the short list to replace Tom Perez as the secretary of labor in the incoming Trump administration. The same day, The Atlantic also reported on Trump’s possible choice of Puzder, noting the CEO’s history of fundraising for Trump and his staunch opposition to Obamacare and raising the minimum wage.
In his op-eds and media appearances, Puzder frequently peddles right-wing misinformation advocating policies that hurt American workers. Puzder has praised the job destruction that comes with workplace automation, boasting in a March 16 interview with Business Insider that he wanted to automate more of his restaurants to avoid paying worker salaries and benefits. Puzder claimed that replacing people with machines would be preferable because machines “never take a vacation” or complain when discriminated against. From Business Insider:
"They're always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there's never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case," says Puzder of swapping employees for machines.
Puzder opposes new overtime rules proposed by the Department of Labor that would extend guaranteed overtime pay to qualified salaried workers making less than $47,476 a year. Puzder defended his position by claiming that having a salaried position -- and thus no overtime pay -- is an “opportunity” that confers “prestige” and “an increased sense of ownership” to overworked and underpaid managers. Puzder has also frequently attacked the push to raise the minimum wage and Obamacare’s health insurance expansion, misleadingly claiming that stronger wages and benefits actually hurt workers.
Puzder even attacked working-class Americans during an appearance on Fox & Friends, claiming that low-income workers might be wary of higher paying jobs if the salary increase results in a loss of government benefits. Puzder wrote in an op-ed in The Hill of a so-called "Welfare Cliff," where employees turn down promotions that could lead to $80,000 salaries because they "don't want to lose the free stuff from the government." Yet, by Puzder's own admission, the company he runs does not pay anywhere near the $80,000 annual salary that his employees were supposedly passing up so as to qualify for anti-poverty assistance.
In addition to being an outspoken media advocate of poverty wages in the fast food industry and an opponent of policies aimed at helping American workers, Puzder also runs a company that boosts its sales via a “supermodel-centric marketing strategy” catered to exploiting his customers’ base impulses. Puzder told Entrepreneur magazine that complaints that his ads are sexist “aren't necessarily bad” for the company and that he thinks his company’s “sales go up” amid public outcry over ads that degrade women. The fast food chain has been running these ads for years, and Jezebel compiled “a history of disgusting Carl's Jr. ads” from 2005 to 2013. Puzder’s stance on objectifying women for commercial gain is eerily reminiscent of Donald Trump’s own history of degrading remarks about women.
As the president-elect begins the transfer of power, media need to inform Americans of Trump’s potential cabinet picks, the potential policies these cabinet members may support, and how those policies will affect American workers. Experts have already started to express fear that Trump’s proposals for the economy -- budget-busting tax cuts for the rich and unfunded deficit spending -- may create a short-term “sugar high” followed by an economic crash. The next labor secretary could exacerbate those economic worries if he or she promotes policies that undermine the livelihoods of millions of Americans.
The Wall Street Journal falsely claimed so-called “right-to-work” laws assist in job creation because they serve as “an attraction for many businesses” in an editorial attacking a South Dakota ballot measure that could roll back that state’s anti-union laws. In fact, “right-to-work” laws have continually proved to be ineffective tools at boosting local economies, and they may hurt economic mobility for working Americans.
The Journal’s editorial board slammed a ballot initiative in South Dakota that “would effectively repeal the state’s right-to-work law” by falsely claiming that such anti-union laws are one “secret to high employment.” The Journal’s assault on South Dakota’s Measure 23 echoes years of right-wing media myths on “right-to-work” laws and ignores the reality that “workers at any workplace always have the option as to whether or not to join a union.” The Journal cherry-picked two states with both low unemployment rates and “right-to-work” laws to make its farfetched assertion that cracking down on unions is good for the economy:
Right to work simply gives workers the right not to join a union, and South Dakota has had such a law since 1947, as do 25 other states. South Dakota’s 2.9% unemployment rate is tied with New Hampshire’s for the lowest in the country. Right-to-work laws aren’t the only secret to high employment, but they are an attraction for many businesses considering states for investment.
The measure is being pushed by the International Union of Operating Engineers. Last fall IOUE Local Chapter 49 Director of Special Projects Jason George told the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls that “unions are the only organizations in the country that are required to provide a service, but can’t charge a fee. We don’t think that’s fair.”
South Dakota’s Measure 23 was previously targeted by the conservative National Review, which suggested on November 3 that the state’s Republican-led legislature change the legal language that the initiative is already modifying in order to nullify its effects. Right-wing media have consistently attacked labor unions, but the facts have repeatedly showed that unions boost wages and economic mobility. An in-depth May 8, 2015, profile in The American Prospect compared two states with similar economies but radically different public policy initiatives -- Wisconsin, which pursued anti-labor policies, and Minnesota, which did not, -- and found “Minnesota’s economy has outpaced Wisconsin’s.”
Researchers have consistently found that “right-to-work” laws do not actually benefit workers. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) analyzed employment growth in states with and without "right-to-work" laws and found that "the evidence is overwhelming" that "right-to-work laws have not succeeded in boosting employment growth in the states that have adopted them." While EPI did not find that “right-to-work” laws boost employment, additional research from the think tank found wages in “right-to-work” states are 3.2 percent lower than states that do not have such anti-union laws. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) got similar results in a January 2014 report, finding that workers in “right-to-work” states made more than $7,000 less in an average year than their counterparts in “union security states.”
In addition, research suggests that children enjoy more economic mobility and nonunion workers receive stronger compensation in local economies with high rates of union membership. The Center for American Progress (CAP) found children from union families were better off than children in nonunion families in areas with lower rates of unionization. Unions also have a positive impact on the wages of nearby nonunion workers, and the decline of union rates has had a negative impact on wages “for union members and nonunionized workers alike."
Private corporations, lobbyists, and a national group connected to major dark-money, anti-teachers-union donors are major contributors to a campaign supporting a state education proposal that is fiercely opposed by teachers and parents, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
A proposed amendment to the Georgia state constitution -- Amendment 1 -- would allow the state to take over schools that are deemed “failing” and create an “Opportunity School District,” a move proposed by Gov. Nathan Deal and opposed by public educators and parents. As the Journal-Constitution explained, the amendment would “enable an appointee of the governor to seize ‘chronically failing’ schools and the local tax dollars that support them. Those schools would either be shuttered, run directly by a new statewide district or converted to charter schools under independent management.”
Amendment 1, which will be on state ballots in November, has attracted millions in funding from groups in support and in opposition of the proposal, including substantial funding from national teachers unions for an advertising campaign opposing the measure.
Teachers groups and the state PTA have spoken out against Amendment 1, explaining that its passage could eliminate local control by school boards and community members -- particularly in black and Latino communities -- and could shift tax dollars to private charter management companies or other groups that are subject to less oversight. As the Journal-Constitution reported, the National Education Association has spent heavily on a campaign opposing the amendment representing 35,000 Georgia teachers who are among its ranks.
But the identities of donors bankrolling the advertisements in support of the proposed amendment -- as part of an organization called Opportunity For All Georgia Students -- were purposely concealed using a group set up by supporters of Gov. Nathan Deal. The group, Georgia Leads, is categorized as a “social welfare” group with a 501(c)(4) tax status, and as such is not required to disclose its donors. Of the four donors contributing a total of $1.22 million to the campaign in support of Amendment 1, Georgia Leads contributed the most substantial amount -- $810,000.
On Friday, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published an investigative report revealing some of Georgia Leads’ donors -- and the biggest names were private corporations and lobbying firms (emphasis added):
The biggest donor to the pro-OSD amendment this year — as of Sept. 30 — was Georgia Leads Inc., a fund set up to push Deal’s agenda. Georgia Leads had put $850,000 into Opportunity for All Georgia Students as of the end of September.
While Georgia Leads doesn’t disclose donors, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found more than $250,000 in contributions to the group by reviewing expenditure listings by companies and political action committees who file reports with the state ethics commission. All the donors have big stakes in legislation at the state Capitol, including AT&T, the retail store lobby, McGuireWoods (one of the best-connected lobbying firms at the Statehouse), Hospital Corporation of America, beer distributors and bank lobbyists.
The investigation also identified the national group 50CAN as another major donor to the pro-Amendment 1 campaign, second only to Georgia Leads. 50CAN is affiliated with a dark-money-fueled echo chamber pushing conservative, anti-union policies under the guise of “education reform,” and has supported past Georgia initiatives to open up schools to private competition, as well as similar Opportunity School District-type initiatives in other states. It is affiliated with a number of other national groups that received dark-money funding from anti-teachers-union private donors.
Graphic created by Sarah Wasko.
Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) will face off on October 4 in a debate at Longwood University in Farmville, VA. As media outlets prepare for the only vice presidential debate of the 2016 election, they should have all facts about how Indiana really fared during Pence’s governorship.
The Chicago Tribune’s editorial board -- which has a long history of launching absurd, misinformed attacks on the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and its leadership -- targeted its latest editorial against the union’s vote to reauthorize a potential strike should current contract negotiations break down. The board accused union leaders of “intimidat[ing]” members into voting in favor of a strike, comparing the vote by petition to rigged elections of dictators Saddam Hussein and Kim Jung Un.
The September 21 editorial, headlined “The Chicago Teachers Union’s vote charade,” attacked CTU leadership for conducting a strike reauthorization vote among its members by petition, claiming that the voting approach “falls into the See?-Everyone-Voted-For-Me school of electioneering.”
The petition vote is actually a reauthorization measure that was designed, the union president explained, to “reinforce the democratic sentiment [the] union made last December when members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike.” The December vote, which was conducted by secret ballot under stalled contract negotiation circumstances that have since changed little, showed that 88 percent of union members approved of striking. The current petition vote is mostly meant to re-energize members and fend off potential legal action from city or state officials by reinforcing the results of the initial vote, the union explained. The petition approach, which is significantly less costly than a secret ballot measure, was originally proposed by a rules committee of rank-and-file members and is in line with past union voting methods.
These facts did not factor into the editorial board’s extreme criticism, which included citing “some famous examples” of what it called CTU’s “Big-Brother approach” to voting:
- In 1995, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein swept to victory with 99.96 percent of votes cast. (We shudder to think of what happened to the recalcitrant .04 percent.)
- In 2014, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un reportedly notched an even more convincing victory — 100 percent — to confirm his leadership in the Supreme People's Assembly. No other name appeared on the ballot. Voters who (bravely or foolishly) sought to reject Kim would have had to do so in an open booth so everyone could see.
- Even more convincing was the 1927 Liberian presidential triumph of Charles D.B. King with about 240,000 votes. The impressive part: Liberia only had about 15,000 registered voters.
Suggesting that authorizing a teachers strike in Chicago would be akin to electing dictators and war criminals in rigged elections is irresponsible, illogical, and offensive. It is also just the latest in a years-long editorial smear campaign by the Tribune against CTU.
The Tribune has repeatedly attacked the union’s members for organizing actions to push for a fair contract in what is now a nearly 18-month-long negotiation process centered around fair pay and adequate funding and resources for Chicago public schools. Since CTU’s long-expired contract was originally negotiated in 2012, the Chicago Tribune has frequently mocked union officials and bizarrely accused educators of undervaluing classroom time and throwing selfish “tantrums” that hurt children.
Image at top via Flickr user Spencer Tweedy using a Creative Commons License.
Major education news outlet Education Week reported that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign has appointed two new staffers to his “presidential transition team for education”: the Hoover Institution’s Williamson Evers and the American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) Gerard Robinson. Both Evers and Robinson are well-connected in the pro-privatization education policy sphere and affiliated with several groups devoted to weakening public schools.
In a September 19 article, Education Week reported that multiple sources confirmed the addition of Evers and Robinson to Trump’s education transition team. Both Evers and Robinson have previously served in Republican administrations and are connected to prominent corporate- and dark-money-fueled groups in the education policy landscape. As Education Week explained:
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has picked Williamson M. Evers, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and Gerard Robinson, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, to be on his presidential transition team for education, according to multiple sources.
Evers served as an assistant secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Education from 2007 to 2009, and also was an adviser to former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings in 2007 under President George W. Bush. Robinson served as Florida's education commissioner from 2011 to 2012, and has also served as Virginia's education secretary and as the president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options.
The policies backed by Trump, Evers, and Robinson -- often cloaked in the language of so-called “school choice” -- have earned the support of corporate and private billionaire funders eager to profit off students, an interest Trump himself has pursued through his now-defunct and allegedly fraudulent Trump University business. Among education groups funded largely by right-wing dark money to drum up support for education privatization are three directly connected to Evers and Robinson.
Evers is a research fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University, which publishes the education policy journal Education Next and has received thousands in funding from the anti-union, right-wing Bradley Foundation to support a K-12 education “taskforce.” Evers’ work at the Hoover Institution has largely focused on his opposition to the Common Core State Standards and his conservative interpretation of the federal government’s limited role in shaping education policies. Trump has both egregiously misrepresented the standards and confused the parameters of federal education policy on the campaign trail, namely by repeatedly and incorrectly asserting that he would abolish the Common Core as president.
Robinson is a resident fellow at the conservative right-wing think tank AEI, which has received millions in funding from conservative donors such as dark-money conduit DonorsTrust, the Charles Koch Foundation, and the Sarah Scaife Foundation, to support general operations and education-related research. AEI, “one of the country’s main bastions of neoconservatism,” frequently publishes education research defending voucher programs that drain money from public schools (similar to Trump’s recent education policy proposals) and online education programs that allow private companies to profit off students with little oversight. Robinson’s tenure at AEI has included Bradley Foundation-funded work on the “future of American society and the role education plays in it” and efforts to push a conservative view on racial justice in education across mainstream and right-wing media outlets.
Robinson also previously led the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), a group that receives substantial funding from conservative donors to make the case for privatized educational policies as a means for racial equity. Both AEI and BAEO work closely with a number of other pro-privatization nonprofits and think tanks such as the anti-union American Federation for Children and the Koch-affiliated State Policy Network of right-wing think tanks.
Evers’ and Robinson’s research and affiliations reveal a commitment to pro-education privatization policies that should come as no surprise -- they perfectly align with Trump’s support for expanding opportunities to open up the public school system to market competition and private, for-profit actors with little regulation. These recent appointments reveal the Trump campaign’s active desire to operate solidly within the “education reform” echo chamber built, funded, and fueled by dark-money conservative activists.
Fox News marked the start of the school year with a predictable mix of attacks on public education, racial justice activism, and progressive policies, often launched by extreme-right commentators and campaign surrogates for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Fox News hosts engaged in education discussions using the network’s typical approach: bashing teachers unions and attempting to drive a nonexistent wedge between educators’ priorities and the best interests of students.
On Your World With Neil Cavuto, guest host Stuart Varney dismissed guest Tamara Holder’s attempts to substantively discuss a recent story about a state teachers union. The union decided to boycott a back-to-school promotion to draw attention to public school funding disparities. Before Holder, a Fox contributor, could speak about the boycott, Varney combatively accused Holder of wanting to “squash school choice.” Varney repeatedly interrupted Holder during the three-minute segment -- even after she implored, “Why are you so mad at [teachers unions] when they’re not doing anything other than fighting for more resources?” He concluded the segment by saying, “I’m really shocked that you won’t support school choice, that you support the Stalinist bureaucracy of the teachers union.”
Meanwhile, FoxNews.com ran an opinion piece titled “If your child’s school is failing, thank a union” authored by Richard Berman -- a corporate lobbyist and the executive director of the Center for Union Facts, a dark-money-fueled organization that routinely smears labor unions. Berman rehashed the same tired, inaccurate attacks on both organized labor writ large and teachers unions specifically that have long clogged the airwaves at Fox. The piece equated the political spending of the two major national teachers unions -- the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, which together represent almost 5 million individuals -- with the spending of dark-money PACs funded by a small number of wealthy private donors. Berman’s organization does not publicly disclose its funders, though tax disclosures show the group has received substantial funding from anti-union “dark-money ATM” groups DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund, as well as the right-wing Bradley Foundation.
A second opinion piece on FoxNews.com, written by Fox News “Medical A-Team” member Keith Ablow -- a longtime anti-LGBT “pop psychologist” who has recently attacked transgender teens -- was titled “Are your kids back in school? Time to apologize to them.” Ablow’s op-ed argued -- with zero evidence -- that “antiquated systems of tenure” and resistance to voucher programs have led to subpar schools. Ablow encouraged readers to “follow my lead and apologize to their kids for what passes as primary and secondary education in America.” Meanwhile, the majority of Americans believe their local public schools are performing well.
On Hannity, frequent Fox guest and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke -- a right-wing extremist who has previously called members of the Black Lives Matter movement “garbage” and Hillary Clinton a “cop hater” -- argued that progressive policies such as opposition to increasingly unpopular school voucher programs “have herded black people… onto that plantation called the American ghetto.”
On The Five, co-hosts Kimberly Guilfoyle, Juan Williams, and Dana Perino, and guest co-host Jesse Watters, concluded that viable solutions to “social pathologies” in Milwaukee’s communities of color include African-Americans “step[ping] up to the plate” rather than playing “victims of Democratic policies,” and pushing efforts to “hold teachers accountable.” Perino mentioned that the NAACP opposed privately managed charter schools, prompting Williams to declare the position “unbelievable,” and Guilfoyle to conclude, “I don’t get that.”
Days later, the co-hosts pivoted a discussion about Trump’s tweet about the Chicago shooting death of basketball star Dwyane Wade’s cousin to push right-wing myths. They used it to claim that even "school choice" cannot address challenges facing the black community, including the right-wing canard of “black-on-black crime.” They also dismissed the NAACP’s recent resolution calling for a halt in the expansion of privately managed charter schools.
On The Record With Greta Van Susteren interviewed Trump surrogate and frequent Fox guest Rudy Giuliani about Trump’s attempted outreach to the African-American community, allowing Giuliani to spend nearly five minutes attacking the education stances of teachers unions and progressives and touting his own record on pushing privatization measures in New York City schools as mayor.
Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle guest-hosted On The Record and interviewed a student leader at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee about students’ efforts to highlight offensive terms. After student Mike Fortello explained why using terms like “lame” or “gay” as negative descriptors can be hurtful to others, Guilfoyle bizarrely questioned whether Fortello’s logic would somehow mean a hypothetical horse with broken legs “should get a lawyer, because the horse is offended” by being called “lame.” Guilfoyle and her other guest, Ben Shapiro, ended the segment by talking over the student repeatedly, laughing, and insulting the university. In another On The Record guest host stint the following day, Guilfoyle gleefully reported on the University of Chicago’s rejection of trigger warning and safe space use, beginning a segment on the story by jokingly asking a network correspondent if he was “in a safe space to report this.”
Later that week, campus sexual assault denier George Will joined Bret Baier in a panel discussion on Special Report to celebrate the University of Chicago’s decision not to “appease” students “we now call snowflakes, these fragile little creatures who melt at the first sign of the heat of controversy.” Panel members laughed at Will’s example of “committing cultural appropriation by wearing a sombrero or something of the sort.” Will was disinvited from a college campus speaking engagement and protested at several other campuses in 2014 following his comments that those who experience sexual assault enjoy “a coveted status” in society. He identified himself in the segment as “someone who’s been disinvited from a college campus, I’m delighted to say.”
None of these segments acknowledged the serious reasons students -- particularly increasing numbers of students of color, women students, and first-generation college students -- may be seeking out safe spaces or conversations within campus learning environments.
As Labor Day approaches, Media Matters looks back at how media have attacked organized labor over the past year. In the midst of several important battles for labor unions in 2016, media have often pushed misleading information about union membership and fees, attempted to delegitimize the votes of union members, uncritically cited and elevated voices from anti-union dark-money groups without proper disclosure, and claimed that teachers unions’ activism shows that educators do not care about what’s best for their students.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board’s response to a California court decision that declined to review a challenge to state teacher tenure laws framed support for educators’ labor rights as a move to “deny upward mobility to poor black and Hispanic children.” The editorial ignores ample evidence that strong unions benefit low-income students of color and their neighborhood schools by boosting teacher quality and contributing to more equitable school funding, and that teachers unions routinely support efforts to combat racial and class inequality beyond the classroom.
Unions Benefit All Workers With Better Pay And Stable Shifts, Collective Bargaining Reduces The Gender Pay Gap
A New York Times contributor shared her experience working as a cocktail server in Las Vegas, where she saw how unions helped workers -- especially women and immigrants -- receive better pay, benefits, and job security.
Brittany Bronson, a Times contributor and an instructor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) highlighted the importance of unions in an August 17 op-ed, discussing how unions provide many benefits that specifically help women in the workplace. Bronson reported from her own experience that “unions are strong in Las Vegas,” providing workers in the casino and hospitality industry “benefits that cocktail servers and hotel workers in other states can only dream of.” These benefits and protections -- including good wages, health care packages, and stable scheduling -- are why Bronson saw “so many lifers in [the] industry.” The op-ed also discussed how union seniority helped women maintain their rights at work -- something that “runs counter to most American workplaces, where women tend to lose power as they age” and the gender pay gap widens for women as they get older.
The role unions can play in tackling pay disparities and overall economic inequality is frequently dismissed by right-wing media, which deny the existence of a gender pay gap and misleadingly blame unions for contributing to economic deterioration. Working women in the United States earned “just 79 percent of what men were paid” in 2014, according to a Spring 2016 report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW). Pay disparities follow women throughout their careers, depressing their earnings potential and contributing to elevated rates of poverty in retirement. Union seniority rights and collective bargaining opportunities could be an important part of ending the gender pay gap by preventing pay discrimination against women -- as the op-ed pointed out, the Pew Charitable Trust found that the gender pay gap narrows in union shops, where women are paid roughly 88 percent as much as their male counterparts. From the August 17 edition of The New York Times:
Unions are strong in Las Vegas, and they bring benefits that cocktail servers and hotel workers in other states can only dream of: Beyond better wages and health care packages, union members are ensured set schedules and their first choice of coveted shifts, based on seniority. It’s why there are so many lifers in my industry: At the top of our cocktailing matriarchy was a woman who had joined the union in 1973.
The Las Vegas casino scene runs counter to most American workplaces, where women tend to lose power as they age. According to research by the recruiting site Glassdoor, the pay gap, even after it’s adjusted for things like occupation, increases with age — from 2.2 percent for women ages 18 to 24 to 10.5 percent for women between 55 and 64. Family obligations and gender discrimination take women out of the American work force, meaning fewer promotions, fewer women in management and ultimately fewer raises.
The benefits ripple outward, in the form of family wealth building and educational opportunities. According to a March 2015 New York Times report, a girl in a poor family who grows up in Las Vegas will make 7 percent more than she would elsewhere by age 26. Income mobility for women is better in Clark County, where Las Vegas is, than it is in 71 percent of counties nationwide.
The Wall Street Journal continued its streak of defending for-profit schools with track records of questionable practices and “abysmal results,” this time shifting its focus away from fraudulent for-profit colleges to attempt to sugarcoat the failing online charter company K12 Inc.
The virtual charter school company K12 Inc. recently reached a $168.5 million settlement with the state of California following an investigation into the company’s marketing and management practices. At the same time, the state’s Education Department has announced an audit of a California virtual charter network managed by K12. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board was, once again, ready to dismiss facts and defend the for-profit education company against what the board views as a politically motivated attack, baselessly claiming that recently substantiated allegations against K12 are “trumped up.”
The California state investigation into K12, launched by state Attorney General Kamala Harris, alleged that the company had engaged in a number of misleading advertising practices about the quality of its online schools, pushed unfair contracts on public charter partners, and inflated student attendance numbers in order to receive more state funding. It was spurred, at least in part, by a whistleblower report and complaints from educators formerly employed by a California charter network managed by K12. Educators at the K12-managed network moved to unionize in 2014, citing excessive workloads and inability to “effectively advocate for students without the threat of retaliation or job loss.”
An investigative series at the San Jose Mercury News earlier this year concluded that K12’s network of schools “is failing key tests used to measure educational success,” that K12-affiliated “teachers have been asked to inflate attendance and enrollment records used to determine taxpayer funding,” and that the company “exploits charter [and] charity laws for money.” An online education expert explained to The Mercury News that K12 “has shown an inordinate level of failure, yet it’s continually given lifelines by policymakers who have irresponsibly ignored what’s going on.”
Yet the Journal contended that another audit of K12’s management practices “looks trumped up” in a July 17 editorial. Complaining about K12’s settlement with the state of California, the editorial board characterized the investigation of K12 as part of a larger “coordinated assault” on for-profit colleges and education companies and claimed that “Democrats are ambushing” the virtual charter school company. According to the editorial board, the further audit of K12 means “Thuggish government marches on.”
The disastrous results of K12’s schooling model have also been well-documented in media investigations and in research from left-leaning and right-leaning organizations. A New York Times investigation raised red flags about K12’s practices as early as 2011, concluding about the company:
A look at the company’s operations, based on interviews and a review of school finances and performance records, raises serious questions about whether K12 schools — and full-time online schools in general — benefit children or taxpayers, particularly as state education budgets are being slashed.
Instead, a portrait emerges of a company that tries to squeeze profits from public school dollars by raising enrollment, increasing teacher workload and lowering standards.
A 2011 Washington Post report singled out K12’s early lobbying efforts and political contributions, pointing to limited data on the effectiveness of virtual charter schools even as the company successfully opened up state markets for its products through political involvement. In 2012, PolitiFact concluded that a Tennessee politician’s assertion that K12’s results were “the bottom of the bottom” was true.
The most recent reports from Mathematica Policy Research, Stanford University’s Center for Research in Education Outcomes, and the Center on Reinventing Public Education concluded that “students of online charter schools had significantly weaker academic performance in math and reading, compared with their counterparts in conventional schools.” BuzzFeed News’ coverage of the reports concluded that “Both Sides Of The Education Debate Are United In Scorn” for online charters like K12 due to “abysmal results” for students.
But K12 has the corporate and conservative credentials to warrant a healthy defense from The Wall Street Journal.
K12 Inc., until recently, called itself a “proud” member of the corporate-driven bill mill American Legislative Education Council (ALEC), which has pushed virtual schools legislation that would create greater demand for products like those produced by K12. K12 has also contributed financially to the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a pro-privatization think tank founded by Jeb Bush that also frequently touts digital learning tools in its policy recommendations. The majority of K12’s executives hail from the corporate world or from other for-profit education companies, and the head of K12’s “curriculum and products organization” previously spearheaded product development at Pearson Publishing.
The Journal has a long history of defending the sometimes indefensible when it comes to for-profit educational companies, often relying on violent analogies to make its point.
The paper stood by shuttered for-profit college chain Corinthian Colleges, even as the company faced multiple state and federal investigations related to its allegedly fraudulent marketing practices and its efforts to facilitate predatory private lending. In fact, the Journal’s editorial board characterized the numerous investigations, launched because of consumer complaints, as “political revenge” by “California job killer” Kamala Harris and a “drive-by shooting” and “contract hit” by the Obama administration. In April 2015, as the company closed its last remaining campuses, The Wall Street Journal wrote a “last rites” editorial lamenting that “the feds and Kamala Harris put 16,000 students on the street.” The now-defunct company has been held legally responsible for its practices, with several investigations and legal actions concluding that Corinthian had, indeed, misled its students about job placement rates and private loan terms, and that former students were owed debt relief.
The Journal has also repeatedly characterized efforts to address these types of fraudulent practices at other for-profit institutions as “regulatory assault,” a “ploy to win over millennials,” a “contract hit” (again), and a political “stealth attack” akin to “drone strikes,” dismissing evidence that these types of schools have taken advantage of veterans and servicemembers, as well as other innocent students, on the taxpayers’ dime.
The Economic Policy Institute Wants Nothing To Do With Trump's "Scam"
According to The Washington Post, the progressive economic think tank Donald Trump repeatedly cited during a recent speech on his trade policy agenda is slamming the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for distorting the facts and ignoring other initiatives that would boost the economy -- all in an attempt to “scam” hard-working Americans.
During a June 28 speech at a metal recycling facility in Monessen, PA, Trump outlined a trade and manufacturing policy agenda that draws heavily from research performed by the progressive Economic Policy Institute (EPI). Washington Post reporter Greg Sargent was first to report that EPI president Lawrence Mishel rebuked Trump’s agenda for misleading the public on globalization and wage stagnation -- by blaming our trade policies for flat wages and fewer jobs -- while ignoring progressive initiatives like lifting the minimum wage, expanding overtime protections, and increasing union membership (emphasis added):
So it’s worth noting that the EPI — in a lengthy statement sent my way — now says that Trump’s account of what has happened to American workers in recent decades is simplistic in the extreme; that Trump is actually a lot more friendly to GOP economic orthodoxy than most observers have noted; and that Trump’s actual prescriptions fall laughably short of what needs to be done to help those workers.
Trump boasted in his speech that “under a Trump presidency, the American worker will finally have a president who will protect them and fight for them,” and repeatedly accused Clinton and other politicians supported by financial elites of “betraying” American workers by prioritizing globalization over their interests.
But Lawrence Mishel, the president of the EPI, sent me a critique of the speech. Mishel noted that Trump’s account suggests that only government officials — particularly the Clinton administration and Democrats who supported trade deals such as NAFTA — are to blame for flat wages. He argued that Trump conspicuously left out the role of Republicans in this whole tale, as well as the business community’s use of its power to keep wages down and erode countervailing power on the part of labor.
As Sargent and Mishel note, Trump has appropriated a populist tone on international free trade agreements, but his other stated positions on tax and economic policy decidedly favor the corporatist right wing. The incongruity of Trump’s positions led Mishel to conclude his response by labeling Trump’s speech for what it was: “a scam.”
For months, Media Matters has documented how media have tended to gloss over Trump’s extremist positions with a misleading “populist” veneer. According to reports, his top economic policy advisers are discredited right-wing pundits Stephen Moore and Larry Kudlow -- known for their strict adherence to trickle-down economics, their willingness to distort reality for political gain, and their rank professional incompetence. Last September, right-wing media falsely labeled Trump’s tax reform plans a “populist” agenda when it was actually a budget-busting giveaway to the rich that wilted upon closer inspection. In April, experts slammed Trump’s proposal to eliminate the national debt in just eight years as “impossible” and “psychotic.” In May, Trump was criticized for his “insane” plan to default on U.S. federal debt, and then for his “disastrous” suggestion that the U.S. could solve its long-term debt problems by printing money.
Even in the case of free trade, Trump’s rhetoric may be populist, but experts and media critics argue that his positions are untenable. As CNN’s Ali Velshi pointed on during the June 29 edition of New Day, Trump’s attempt to solely blame the Clinton administration for jobs lost to globalization was “highly dishonest.” On the May 6 edition of New Day, CNN analyst Rana Foroohar slammed Trump’s nascent trade agenda as being “either a bad idea, or impossible.” (Furthermore, Trump’s penchant for comparing trade deals to the horrifying violence of “rape” leaves him far outside the rational mainstream of political discourse.)
As Sargent noted, Trump’s June 28 policy speech seemed to be an attempt “to stake out positions on trade and wages that are … perhaps even to the left of Hillary Clinton and Democrats.” MSNBC political reporter Benjy Sarlin and Fortune politics writer Ben Geier both argued in June 29 articles that the speech was an overt attempt by the GOP front-runner to court supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the runner-up in the Democratic presidential primary. Trump even quoted a common refrain from Sanders’ own stump speeches during a series of attacks on Clinton, saying she “voted for virtually every trade agreement that has cost the workers of this country millions, millions of jobs” -- a claim that PolitiFact labels as “half true” at best.
Given his previous extremist economic positions, Trump’s statements on trade -- which were chided by both the right-leaning U.S. Chamber of Commerce and left-leaning labor unions including the AFL-CIO -- seem to be born not of conviction, but rather of expedience.
Since 2009, self-described “guerilla journalist” James O’Keefe has repeatedly embarrassed himself while attempting to launch undercover stings targeting government agencies, media outlets, and liberal organizations and institutions.