Oct. 17: Evading NOLA’s “living wage” law

Oct. 17: Evading NOLA’s “living wage” law

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu won plaudits last year when he signed a “living wage” ordinance that requires workers hired on city contracts to be paid at least $10.55 per hour. Yet almost a year after the City Council approved the ordinance, the Landrieu administration is not stipulating the higher wage as it issues contracts for things like janitorial services. The Advocate’s Jeff Adelson reports:

Landrieu’s administration has touted the 2015 law as a means of reducing inequality and has incorporated it into the city’s “resilience strategy.” But the contract extensions mean some workers will continue to be paid as little as $7.25 an hour while the city figures out how to bring more than 1,300 contracts into compliance with the rules. The process has frustrated Councilman Jared Brossett, who sponsored the living wage ordinance that was passed unanimously in August 2015. “We shouldn’t have janitorial staff in this building, the building that represents city government, not making a living wage,” Brossett said.


Making it easier to raise tuition

After a nine-year stretch of budget cuts that have seen Louisiana colleges and universities lose more than half of their state support, it’s no surprise that university governing boards want the freedom to raise tuition without legislative interference. As The Advocate’s Rebekah Allen reports, the Legislature agreed to relinquish its tuition authority – but now it’s up to the voters.

Higher education officials say the ability to control their own tuition rates is critical, as the state-funded portion of their budgets has been dramatically slashed over the past nine years. Since 2008, higher education has lost 55 percent of its state funding, largely supplanting those lost dollars with higher tuition and fees for students. Opponents of the change say legislative oversight ensures that tuition, which already has doubled over the same period of time for many schools, doesn’t continue to skyrocket, pricing many students out of attending college. The measure will appear on ballots this Nov. 8 as Constitutional Amendment No. 2.


The future of work

Driverless trucks are coming, and when they do they’ll eventually put 3.5 million American truck drivers out of work. And that’s only one industry of many that will be profoundly affected by technological change in the coming years, which will lead to deteriorating job prospects for people who have the desire to work but may lack the skills needed to succeed in the new economy. Louisiana’s own Sean Illing speaks with former SEIU President Andy Stern about what lies ahead – and about his support for a “universal basic income” (UBI) to help workers maintain some market power.

So there’s a tsunami of change on its way, and the question is twofold. One is how does America go through a transition to what will be I think an economy with far fewer jobs — particularly middle-class jobs? What policies will guide us through this transition? And second, what do we want this to look like on the other end? I believe a UBI is a way to ease the transition, and it’s also a way to provide a floor for people — not necessarily a substitute for work, but a supplement to work that allows them to have a sense of economic security, have consumer buying power. We want to allow people to be entrepreneurs, to take risks and raise kids and do other things without turning the world into the Hunger Games.


Louisiana’s habitual-offender law

One of the reasons Louisiana manages to lock up more people, per capita, than any other political jurisdiction in the world is because we have “habitual offender” laws that sometimes send prisoners away for life for relatively minor felonies if they also have prior convictions. The Advocate’s editorial board notes that only three parishes – Orleans, Jefferson and St. Tammany – make frequent use of the law, and says it needs to be re-examined.

“The anecdotal stories I’m getting back are: You’ve got a guy with a long history of violent arrests, he’s just a bad guy, and he ends up as a third felony offender on a murder case you can’t get witnesses on, or you got him for drugs in the same incident,” (Louisiana District Attorneys Association President Pete) Adams said. “You don’t prosecute the murder case; you put him away on the (charge of) felony intent to distribute drugs, which is what you need” for a lengthy sentence, even though it is listed as a conviction for a nonviolent offense. This, of course, does not entirely explain away why such a tool is used disproportionately in a few jurisdictions. What does the system no good, though, is a reputation for repeated use of a shortcut to a prison sentence, when the evidence is not there to win a case involving a violent crime.


Good read: The white flight of Derek Black

Derek Black is the godson of white supremacist David Duke, his mother is Duke’s ex-wife and his father is the founder of a website that is popular with racists and anti-Semites. Raised in an atmosphere of intolerance, Black was seen by many as a future leader of the white nationalist movement. Then an Orthodox Jewish classmate at Florida’s New College invited him to dinner. The Washington Post’s Eli Saslow tells a gripping story of Black’s transformation, which points out the critical importance of dialogue – especially among people who disagree. The story is too long to excerpt. Just read the whole thing here.


Number of the Day

3.5 million – Number of professional truck drivers in America, many of whose jobs will be threatened as self-driving vehicles gain in popularity (Source: Vox.com)