Across the South, majority-White state legislatures have preempted – or prevented – local communities from enacting labor laws that seek to balance the power between workers and business. From wages to scheduling to paid leave, the lack of worker protections – and the inability of local officials to provide protections – disproportionately impact Black and Brown families. A new report by Hunter Blair, David Cooper, Julia Wolfe and Jaimie Worker of the Economic Policy Institute takes a state-by-state look at the problem, including a case study of how Louisiana’s prevailing wage preemption hurt Black and Brown construction workers in New Orleans:
Louisiana’s legislature is 76.4% white. The state population overall is 58.4% white. By restricting the ability of localities to set prevailing wage standards, the majority-white state legislature is denying the local government of New Orleans – a city that is 69.6% people of color – from establishing a policy that would raise wages for all local construction workers, the majority of whom (58.9%) are workers of color. For a Black construction worker in New Orleans, a pay raise equivalent to the 13% prevailing-wage premium identified by Eisenbrey and Kroeger would mean a $5,000 increase in annual wages. For Latinx construction workers, it would be a $3,300 raise.
Paid leave is preempted in Louisiana, making a state or national solution the only viable option. Join Stacey Roussel, LBP policy director, on a panel discussion today at noon about the importance of paid leave in improving health and well being of children and families hosted by Agenda for Children and featuring their recent report, Paid Leave is the Foundation of a Stronger Louisiana. Register here.
Localities lead on ITEP
Local leaders are taking an increasingly active role in deciding whether to grant lucrative property-tax breaks for manufacturing corporations through the Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP). The St. James Parish School Board recently declined to grant a 10-year, $24 million property tax exemption for a hydrogen plant – marking the Board’s first rejection since Gov. John Bel Edwards granted local leaders a role in the decision process in 2016. The unanimous decision allows the school system to collect about $10.2 million over 10 years from the project. David Mitchell of The Advocate reports on several school board members’ rationale behind their votes:
“When I was elected to this, my passion is our students … children. That’s my priority. I’m not against industry, but we need to survive. We need to survive with taxes,” said Diana “Granny” Cantillo, a four-term member from Gramercy. (…) School Board member Sue Beier added residents are also opposing new industrial complexes when they come before the Planning Commission, to which she is a school system adviser. “When you look at the amount of money we’re leaving behind, it’s not fair,” Beier said.
In East Baton Rouge Parish, meanwhile, Charles Lussier reports that administrative incompetence led to the local school board forgoing $9.2 million in property tax revenue next year when it missed a statutory deadline to roll forward a property tax millage.
The presidential debate this week was preceded by a New York Times investigative report on President Trump’s failure to pay federal income taxes in 10 of the 15 years before he won the White House. Taxes are what fund the programs that educate our children, keeps our water safe to drink and air safe to breathe. While Trump’s tax avoidance is likely legal, it also speaks to the many ways our current structure is broken. Philip Hackney, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law (and a former LBP Board member), writes for NBC News, elaborates:
Taxes pay for all that we do together. We need them. They matter. When our president pays little to nothing toward that collective effort and acts in ways that call into question the very nature of our collective civic duty, a failure to have a real accounting could erode our common sense of duty. (…) Resolving one man’s tax situation wouldn’t typically seem worth America’s time, but in this case, it’s a matter of national importance. Though there is no way any IRS audit of Trump could conclude before the next election, it’s critical that our system work to hold him to account for his actions.
Census deadline approaches
Defying a federal judge’s ruling that the U.S. Census must continue through October, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has set Monday, Oct. 5 as a “target date” to conclude self-response and field work. That means Louisiana won’t have the full benefit of October’s cooler weather for field workers conducting door-to-door outreach, but the slight extension would be welcomed by advocates working to make sure that as many Louisianans as possible are counted in the final tally. Jarvis DeBerry of the Louisiana Illuminator explains why a complete count is so important to our state:
“Given that Louisiana is near the bottom of the country in Census response rate, the extension of the Census deadline is particularly good news for our state,” (Ashley) Shelton (Executive Director of the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice) said in a statement Tuesday. “But it doesn’t mean anything if we don’t act. Right now, our hardest to count communities – lower income communities, both urban and rural, and especially communities of color – are being left behind. (…) “ Without a complete count, those same communities will miss out on the resources they need to recover from the pandemic and other natural disasters, as well as the political representation they’ll need to make progress over the next decade.”
Number of the Day
12 million – The number of Americans who would lose the health care coverage they currently receive through Medicaid expansion if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. This includes over 460,000 Louisianans. (Source: Kaiser Family Foundation)