Posts Tagged ‘legislation’

The Lack of Sick Leave One Consequence of the Demise of Unions

March 15, 2020 Comments off

Today’s NYTimes includes an editorial titled “The Companies Putting Profits Ahead of Public Health”. Disgustingly and disgracefully fast food companies are the biggest culprits when it comes to insisting that its employees come to work even if their ill, a phenomenon that led to this finding:

Most American restaurants do not offer paid sick leave. Workers who fall sick face a simple choice: Work and get paid or stay home and get stiffed. Not surprisingly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2014 that fully 20 percent of food service workers had come to work at least once in the previous year “while sick with vomiting or diarrhea.”

…Companies have long sought to obscure the details of their sick leave policies, but The Times has obtained new data from The Shift Project, a nationwide survey of tens of thousands of retail workers conducted by the sociologists Daniel Schneider of the University of California, Berkeley; and Kristen Harknett of the University of California, San Francisco. While the federal government reports aggregate data on benefits, the Shift Project data — from its most recent surveys in 2018 and 2019 — provides a look at the benefits offered by individual corporations, published here for the first time. This makes it possible to name names.

The vast majority of workers at large restaurant chains report they do not get paid sick leave, except in the minority of states and cities where it is required by law. The list of malefactors includes the giants of fast food, like McDonald’s, Subway and Chick-fil-A, as well as sit-down restaurants like Cracker Barrel, Outback Steakhouse and the Cheesecake Factory.

And it’s not just restaurants. The data also shows most workers at the supermarket chains Wegmans, Kroger, Meijer and Giant Eagle reported that they did not get paid sick leave.

The lack of sick leave is not only a strain on the workers who need to show up when they are not feeling well, it exacerbates the spread of epidemics.

…Companies that do not pay sick workers to stay home are endangering their workers, their customers and the health of the broader public. Studies show that paying for sick employees to stay home significantly reduces the spread of the seasonal flu. There’s every reason to think it would help to check the new coronavirus, too.

How did it get this way? The NYTimes editorial doesn’t mention it explicitly, but I know from personal experience as a part-time worker and a former school Superintendent that the lack of unions representing employees plays a major role in this change-for-the worse.

Back in the late 1960s I worked as a part-time cashier at Dale’s Supermarket in Philadelphia. At the time I initially bemoaned the union dues deducted from my paycheck but came to understand that the contract provided sick leave, insurance (if I opted for it), and assurances that scheduling would be done a week in advance using a seniority-based algorithm. Dales eventually went out of business, in part because competitors paid lower wages to non-union at-will employees who got none of those benefits. The government has made it increasingly difficult for employees to organize and has done nothing to guarantee voters a living wage, health insurance, sick leave, or predictable work schedules. The result is a boatload of folks who are one paycheck away from disaster and a small number of plutocrats who wrote the rulebooks to put them there. Those who fall off the precipice when their part-time hours are cut will be wanting a safety net. Here’s hoping the libertarian legislators who wrote the rules since the Reagan administration repair the ones they took away in the name of the magic of the free market.

As a public school administrator for 35 years, 32 of which I headed or participated in negotiations with labor unions, I witnessed the erosion of the influence of unions– especially in the non-certified staff areas. While teachers unions maintained their foothold in collective bargaining, school districts increasingly outsourced things like food services, custodial services, and transportation to the private sector. This lowered the operating budgets of school districts, making the “shareholder-taxpayers” happy, but diminished the wages and eroded the working conditions of those who formerly worked for the school district. With every successive recession that occurred from 1980, when I began my career as a Superintendent, through 2011 when I retired, more and more services were “outsourced” which meant fewer and fewer “public” employees were governed by the union contracts.

This shedding of union employees in the public sector mirrored what was taking place in the economy at large: it benefitted those who could afford homes and pay property taxes and hurt those who earned the least and were most likely to live in rental properties or in “affordable” homes.

MAYBE one positive effect of the Covid-19 outbreak will be a collective dawning that our system as it is set up now benefits fewer and fewer individuals and those who are benefitting do so at the expense of everyone else. My fear is that the survival-of-the-fittest mentality that undergirds our current system will prevail and the current stratified arrangement we have in place today will become even more baked into our economic system than ever.

Science Doesn’t Take Sides… But Politicians DO… and the GOP is Taking the Side Against Science

March 11, 2020 Comments off

I read a recent summary of a CBS Report suggesting that legislators across the country have declared a “War on Science”. As the term “War” suggests, the legislators are viewing science as something that requires one can take sides on, the same way it is possible to take sides on, say, welfare policy. Here are the paragraphs that outline the issue CBS news is tackling:

According to the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), in 2019 over a dozen bills were introduced in 10 states. One proposed bill in Connecticut, introduced by Republican John Piscopo, has the specific goal of eliminating climate change teaching entirely from the science standards the state adopted in 2015. Most of the other bills cast a wider net, aiming to require teaching “both sides” of an argument with equal weight, even if one does not have the support of the scientific community behind it.

“The bills vary, but they generally have something to the effect of teachers should be encouraged to teach both sides of controversial areas of science, or teachers should be encouraged to teach critical thinking around controversial areas of science,” said Ann Reid, executive director of NCSE. “Lately, the most recent iteration of this kind of bill, is teachers should have academic freedom to teach topics as they see fit.

“So, these bills very rarely pass. But I do think the fact that they’re introduced at all, that they end up in the newspapers, that that people get interviewed about them, and then it’s presented as a ‘both sides’ kind of issue,that can be hard for teachers. That can make it more challenging for them to teach these topics.”

We’ve witnessed this issue before in an area of science that is very clear cut and settled: evolution. But the widespread politicization of science has run rampant thanks in large measure to lobbyists who stand to lose billions if scientific finds are applied to their corporations. The easiest example is the tobacco industry, who for decades tried to promote the idea that smoking was not a health hazard. In a more subtle and insidious fashion the petroleum industry has promoted the idea that scientific conclusions regarding global warming are open to question. The difference between global warming and tobacco, though, is huge. Tobacco use only impacts those who choose to buy tobacco products. Global warming, as the name indicates, will have a universal, global impact.

Ms. Reid is accurate in her assessment of the impact of the media’s coverage, which reinforces the notion that climate science is UN-settled. And who writes these bills that are proposed in various State legislatures? Two guesses— and the first one doesn’t count.


Trump Seeks to Cut Bi-Partisan ESSA, Mental Health, Community Based Schools

February 27, 2020 Comments off

Linda Darling-Hammond describes the proposed cuts to the federal Education budget, cuts that would decimate ESSA, one of the few pieces of bipartisan legislation that has passed in the past decade. The program has many elements I’ve questioned in this blog… but it also featured more funding for arts, PE, and mental health and a far too small amount for community based programs that provide safety nets… programs that are proven to be effective for children raised in poverty. Inevitably the cuts to ESSA will be restored but the other funds will have to be restored by the next administration… and the next generation will pay the price.

instagram-Worthy School Lunches Will Soon Disappear

February 10, 2020 Comments off

An op ed article in today’s NYTimes made me sad. Written by Jennifer Gaddis, an expert on school lunch policy, it featured four beautiful school lunches from this year with the caption reading: “Lunch options for students at Guerrero Thompson Elementary School in Austin, Texas. As i began reading the article, which was a plea for parents to buy school lunch for their children in the name of nutrition, I was astonished to think that an expert on school lunch policy missed the news of a few weeks ago regarding the change in Federal nutrition standards. But near the end of the article, my faith in Ms. Gaddis’ expertise was restored:

The Trump administration isn’t much help (in encouraging parents to buy lunches for nutritional purposes). According to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, providing schools with the flexibility to plan menus that appeal to students’ taste preferences is a way to attract more paying customers to the federal program and reduce food waste. Mr. Purdue has pursued this strategy for making school lunch “great again.”

In practice, this has meant enacting policies that loosen restrictions on the amount of sodium, flavored milk and refined grains that can be served in school meals. The department’s own data shows that participation in the national lunch program is higher in cafeterias that serve healthier meals, yet the administration’s latest proposal, released last month, would allow schools to serve more french fries and fewer green vegetables.

And why is this rollback happening if lunch participation figures are on the increase? Because the GOP believes the marketplace should determine what foods should be available to children, not “the government”. Left to their own devices, children will naturally choose fatty, sweet, and salty foods over ones that are nutritious— and presumably the ledgers on the revenue side of the school lunch budgets will increase. Those instagram-worthy school lunches pictured in the article? They will vanish in September 2020 to be replaced by the burgers and fries. MAGA in this case means Make America Greasy Again….

Pennsylvania’s Horrible Charter Law May Finally Be Repealed

February 9, 2020 Comments off

This Forbes article describes the absolutely horrific charter school law that enriched fly-by-night on-line businesses while stealing millions from local public schools. On the books for 20 years thanks to GOP leadership in the Statehouse and/or legislature it now appears that the Democratic Governor has the votes needed to eliminate the law. Good riddance!

Redistricting to Address Resegregation an Uphill Battle in Maryland and Virginia— and EVERYWHERE

February 4, 2020 Comments off

AP reporters Regina Garcia Cano and Sarah Rankin dug deeply into the redistricting recommendations advanced by the Superintendents of two school districts south of the Mason Dixon line and found that the situation in those districts is no different than the situation anywhere in the United States: most affluent homeowners want no part of any plan to redraw school boundaries to increase racial or economic diversity. As Mss. Cano and Rankin write:

From New York City to Richmond, Virginia, sweeping proposals to ease inequities have been scaled back or canceled after encountering a backlash. The debates have been charged with emotion and racist rhetoric reminiscent of the aftermath of Brown vs. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that threw out state laws establishing segregated schools.

While the federal government has largely stepped back from the aggressive role it played decades ago in school desegregation, some local districts have acted in recognition of increasingly apparent racial divides and the long-established educational benefits of integration.

Mss. Cano and Rankin did not examine the larger picture of funding differentials between affluent districts and/or schools and those districts and/or schools serving low income and minority schools… but if they had they would see that the latent racism they witnessed in Howard County MD and Richmond VA is also intertwined with an unwillingness on the part of the affluent to mingle with those who are less well off. And since the level of education and the level of income are highly correlated, it means that those raised in affluence seldom if ever come in contact with those raised in poverty. The children of college graduates are seldom sitting beside the children of high school graduates or– especially— high school drop outs. As a result, we find ourselves with a widening gap in communication between the children of well educated parents and the children of those without degrees. As a result, we find ourselves in a nation of what Thomas Geoghegan describes as “Educated Fools“. And those who never had a chance to get the same opportunity as children raised in affluence feel rejected by society and look to leaders who can save the day for them.

If we want to live in a harmonious democracy we need to make certain that everyone has an equal chance from the outset and no individual or group is permanently marginalized. That will, at the very least, require those who are well off to open the doors of their community’s schools to children who live outside of their geographical area, or allow housing for low income families to be built in their community, or pay higher taxes so that the children of those shunned from their community are afforded the same opportunities as their own children.

Diane Ravitch Accurately Eviscerated Test-Based “Reformers”

February 1, 2020 Comments off

Nearly 20 years after NCLB, RTT, and now Betsy DeVos there’s been no progress made in the improvement of public schools as measured by test results… and this is the case even though the schools directed all their time and energy and instruction toward the tests! This comes as no surprise since the correlation between poverty and test scores has been well established for over 50 years and the low spending on those schools has persisted.

Will anything change in the future? Doubtful given our obsession with spreadsheets and low taxes.