The benefits of America’s – and Louisiana’s – growing economy are flowing disproportionately to CEOs and stockholders and leaving average workers behind. Pro-worker policies can change that, but gridlock in Congress has stymied progress on workers’ issues at the federal level, leaving it up to the states to enact policies that ensure a liveable wage, worker protections and the right to organize. Unfortunately, Louisiana has gone in the opposite direction in many respects, which is illustrated in a new report by Oxfam America that ranks each state on its policies affecting workers. They explain further on the Louisiana’s state scorecard:
Louisiana ranks #42 overall, #46 for wage policies, #17 for worker protection policies; and #43 for right to organize. In Louisiana, the minimum wage is $7.25. Louisiana, Tennessee, and South Carolina rank closely in the labor index. These states are on a similar level in ensuring better compensation and conditions in the workplace – policies related to higher state incomes and a variety of other desirable indicators. Limited new legislation improving the treatment of workers can help Louisiana differentiate itself as a regional leader in worker rights and protections. West Virginia leads the Southeast region through greater worker protections and livable wages. It has a minimum wage of $8.75 per hour, 37.5 percent of what it takes to live in the state for a family of four. In Louisiana, this ratio is 29.3 percent, with similar costs of living. West Virginia provides rights in several areas where Louisiana is lacking, particularly worker protections.
Americans can’t meet their basic needs
Lawmakers at the state and federal level are debating the need to implement punitive work requirements and other changes to safety net programs that serve low-income and vulnerable families. A new report by the Urban Institute illustrates that many working families are already struggling to make ends meet, many of whom get help from health care and food assistance programs. The controversial changes proposed for those programs by state and federal lawmakers would only worsen the plight of already struggling households, according to the researchers. Aimee Picchi of CBS News has more:
Four in 10 Americans are struggling to pay for their basic needs such as groceries or housing, a problem even middle-class households confront, according to a new study from the Urban Institute. Despite the U.S. economy being near full employment, 39.4 percent of adults between 18 and 64 years old said they experienced at least one type of material hardship in 2017, according to the study, which surveyed more than 7,500 adults about whether they had trouble paying for housing, utilities, food or health care. The findings surprised researchers at the Urban Institute, who had expected to find high levels of hardship among poor Americans but hadn’t predicted so many middle-class families would also struggle to meet their basic needs. That may illustrate that a middle-class income “is no guarantee” of protection from hardship, said Michael Karpman, research associate at the Urban Institute’s health Policy Center and a co-author of the report.
Want to take a stand for struggling families? Click here to send a letter to your members of Congress asking them to protect and strengthen SNAP in the ongoing farm bill negotiations.
Working while in college is a struggle
Obtaining a college degree is an important and often necessary step toward climbing the socioeconomic ladder. But fewer students are able to take time to solely focus on getting their degree, as the rising cost of college has forced many to work full-time while they attend school. A report by Georgetown University found that 1 in 4 full-time college students is also a full-time worker. This combination of working and learning creates serious challenges for low-income students who have to work to afford college and cover the costs of living. Rainesford Stauffer, a full-time graduate student and worker, explains the hardships in her opinion piece in the New York Times :
Over the past 20 years, tuition at public and private universities has jumped by over 150 percent, while the federal minimum wage has remained at $7.25 for almost a decade. It’s fair to claim that a college education is an investment in yourself, but that doesn’t negate the fact that it’s an outrageously expensive investment, and eventually someone has to pay for it. I often heard, “Take out loans!” and “Go to a school that gives you a scholarship!” I did both, but those are only partial solutions to the nuanced problem of college accessibility. Some loans and most scholarships apply only to tuition, so even if you get a full ride, you’re still on the hook for necessities like food, housing and textbooks. So I found myself in a Catch-22 when advisers urged me to take fewer hours of course work to balance my schedule: Take less than the number of hours required to be a full-time student, lose my scholarship. Collegiate life became an impossible riddle. Which should I quit, the thing that would advance my personhood and career prospects or the thing that enabled me to pay for it?
Trump tariffs hurting ports
President Donald Trump has been considering increasing his import tariffs on Chinese goods, which would have an even greater negative impact on the U.S. ports that handle the goods that fall under the tariffs. That could mean a greater reduction in ship traffic and loss of jobs at ports across the country. The Port of New Orleans has been particularly affected by the steel tariffs Trump put in place in March. David Koenig of the AP has more:
Trump said in a recent tweet, “Tariffs are working big time.” He has argued that the tariffs will help protect American workers and force U.S. trading partners to change rules that the president insists are unfair to the United States. In New Orleans, port officials say a tariff-related drop in shipments is real, not merely a forecast. Steel imports there have declined more than 25 percent from a year ago, according to the port’s chief commercial officer, Robert Landry. The port is scouting for other commodities it can import. But expectations appear to be low. “In our business, steel is the ideal commodity,” Landry said. “It’s big, it’s heavy, we charge by the ton so it pays well. You never find anything that pays as well as steel does.”
Number of the day
42 – Louisiana’s state ranking on the Best States to Work Index. (Source: Oxfam America)