Why workers are striking

Why workers are striking

Public school teachers in Chicago and General Motors employees in Detroit and elsewhere are going on strike to win higher wages and benefits after years of austerity. Across the nation last year, strike activity reached its highest level since the mid-1980s. The New York Times’ Noam Scheiber explains why this is happening at a time when the economy is strong: 

(A)ccording to those on strike, the strong growth is precisely the point. Autoworkers, teachers and other workers accepted austerity when the economy was in a free fall, expecting to share in the gains once the recovery took hold. In recent years, however, many of those workers have come to believe that they fell for a sucker’s bet, as they watched their employers grow flush while their own incomes barely budged. 

 

The ‘hidden tax’ from bad roads
Louisiana’s chronic failure to seriously address its massive backlog of infrastructure repairs is costing residents $7 billion a year, according to a new report. That’s the cost of lost time sitting in traffic jams, along with the cost of vehicle repairs caused by poor roads. The Advocate’s editorial board writes that the backlog has a familiar culprit. 

In every city and parish, the overarching problem is the gasoline tax, a state revenue source that is vital to transportation across the board. And politicians at the State Capitol have refused to listen to the evidence, or even acknowledge their own experiences with substandard roads, by raising fuel taxes.

 

The shortage of black men in the classroom
Only 5% of the teachers in Louisiana’s public schools are black men, even though nearly half the students who attend those schools are black. That’s a problem: Research shows students of color fare better in school when they’re taught by someone who looks like them. The Advocate’s Will Sentell writes that poor pay, burnout and other factors help explain the shortage: 

(LSU Human Sciences and Education Interim Dean Roland) Mitchell said teacher burnout — an issue that crosses races and genders — is especially troublesome for black men. “The teachers that are most likely to leave the field prematurely are teachers that teach in under-resourced, highly structured environments — the very environments that are disproportionately staffed by African-American male teachers,” he said.

 

A homelessness success story in New Orleans
The number of homeless residents of New Orleans plunged by 80% from 2011 to 2018 – and has dropped by 90% since a post-Katrina peak in 2007. It’s a rarely-told success story that sprung from a concerted effort by local officials and strategic investments of federal funds. Teresa Wiltz of Stateline.org explains how the city’s “housing first” policy can be a model for others:  

They expanded a health care clinic for the homeless and started conducting weekly check-ins to connect more people to counseling and other services. They designated 200 housing vouchers for veterans and set aside 55 units for them in a converted convent. They successfully lobbied Congress for 3,000 extra housing vouchers in 2008. And last year, the city opened a 100-bed, “low-barrier” shelter where people don’t have to be sober to be admitted.

But there are signs that homelessness may be rising again, and state voters rejected a constitutional amendment that would have let the city provide property-tax breaks for developers of affordable housing. 

 

Number of the Day
$534.8 million – The difference (surplus) between Louisiana’s state revenues and expenses in the 2018-19 fiscal year. The surplus was driven by higher-than-expected income-tax collections spurred by the 2017 federal tax cut. (Source: Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget and Associated Press)