New Haven, Connecticut, firefighter Ben Vargas testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 16, 2009. U.S. Commission on Civil Rights member Peter Kirsanow is at right. Vargas and other firefighters in New Haven were plaintiffs in Ricci vs. DeStefano, the reverse discrimination lawsuit that was overturned by the Supreme Court in their favor.
For all intents and purposes, affirmative action is dead. One could argue, as television pundit Juan Williams has, that affirmative action died three years ago with the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Ricci v. DeStefano, a ruling that affirmed white firefighters’ claims that they were victims of reverse discrimination in the city of New Haven, Connecticut. After these firefighters passed a promotions test, city officials invalidated the test results because no black applicants passed, allowing the white applicants legal standing to claim they were mistreated. With that ruling, the conservative Court, under Chief Justice John Roberts, signed affirmative action’s death certificate.
Of course, some believe there’s life still in the corpse. Later this year, the Supreme Court will take up Fisher v. University of Texas, a case that challenges whether applicants’ race can be used as a factor in granting admission in an effort to diversify the student body. But it’s entirely possible the Court will rule against Texas, effectively sealing the coffin shut.
Even if that happens, however, affirmative action could live on as colleges and employers find ways to continue promoting diversity. In fact, that’s exactly what’s beginning to happen, and it’s absolutely necessary given our nation’s demographic changes.
Why we needed affirmative action in the first place
Affirmative action has been so misconstrued over the years that it helps to look back and see why it was necessary. Though widely misunderstood as a quota system or grossly mischaracterized as reverse discrimination against white Americans, affirmative action was originally an acknowledgment that American society was changing. In a post-civil-rights era, as black Americans and white women increasingly challenged educated white males to enter their exclusive citadels of higher education and job sites, an accommodation to the new realities of American society had to be made. Those adjustments were affirmative action programs that sought to bring fully qualified blacks and women into places that they were historically excluded from.
For about a generation and a half—roughly the period spanning the mid-1960s to the turn of the century—affirmative action programs divided America. An expanding black American middle class owed its growth and political strength to the first-time opportunities afforded by federally backed affirmative action programs. Meanwhile, a conservative backlash seethed at the idea of tax dollars going to what many perceived as underserving minorities and, worse, at white America’s expense.
From its inception by President Lyndon Johnson, to the 1978 decision in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke outlawing quotas, to the 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger that affirmed affirmative action policies at the University of Michigan, the practical implementation of affirmative action has been a patchwork of legal impressions about how best to make amends for the nation’s past practices of legal racial inequality.
Evolution in the face of Court decisions and backlash
Regardless of the Court’s upcoming decision, affirmative action opponents have successfully tarnished its name to the point that few are willing to speak it. There’s hardly a college admissions officer or hiring executive willing to boast of an affirmative action plan, even when they openly promote diversity as a key feature of their campus life or workplace.
What this means is that affirmative action—the effort by colleges and employers to foster racial and ethnic diversity in places where it hasn’t traditionally thrived—will surely continue. But it will live by another name, because our demographically diverse society demands it. Sheer demographic changes dictate that our nation find ways to incorporate a growing group of racial and ethnic minorities among the educated and employed. Thus, affirmative action, as most of us understood (or more accurately, misunderstood), will surely rise in a reinvented form.
As Richard Pérez-Peña wrote recently in The New York Times, the nation’s colleges and universities are sure to make diversity a vital ingredient in building a student body. “But no matter how the court acts, recent history shows that when courts or new laws restrict affirmative action, colleges try to find other ways to increase minority admissions,” he wrote.
What those other ways will look like and how they will affect America’s schools, workplaces, and communities is unknown, and most likely will be subject to fresh debate and court challenges. But now is the time for progressive thinkers and policymakers to consider what laws are necessary to replace the demise of overt and legally sanctioned diversity programs.
If colleges and employers are intent on finding workaround strategies, this is the moment for reasonable policy suggestions that can proactively structure diversity efforts in the most progressive fashion possible, instead of reacting to what surely will be conservative deconstruction.
Fortunately, some work is already in progress. Writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, draws attention to a post-affirmative-action experiment at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The Colorado study discovered “that using a sizable socio-economic boost [in making admissions decisions], economic diversity increased compared with a system of race-based affirmative action,” Kahlenberg writes. “But, surprisingly, racial diversity also increased, though the sample size was too small to yield a statistically significant result.”
During a conversation about alternatives to race-based affirmative action programs, Kahlenberg explained that by shifting the focus of diversity efforts away from race to social and economic disadvantages, diversity efforts don’t have to suffer. He also told me that the Supreme Court—even the current conservative justices—seems to favor class-based approaches to creating diversity. “If structured very carefully,” he said, “it seems that’s a possible way to increase racial diversity on college campuses without overly relying on race.”
But getting there is the challenge, largely because race-based formulations are so politically potent. For progressives, the death of affirmative action is a surefire rallying cry, sending supporters to the polls in support of leaders who share their faith in race-specific programs. And conservatives, of course, love to attack affirmative action to rouse its base. Lost in the hubris on both sides, however, is the ultimate goal of achieving equality for those who have been shut out of opportunities.
If that remains the goal, then now in the wake of affirmative action’s demise, it makes sense to think about and plan for the best and most promising progressive ideas to achieve the ultimate objective: a fairer America for all.
Link to article from Center for American Progress
Economic and Social Justice -
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is the latest plan of conglomerates to strengthen their grip over the planet.
A corporate world order is emerging, and like any parasite, it is slowly killing off its host. Unfortunately, the "host" happens to be the planet, and all life upon and within it. So, while the extinction of the species will be the end result of passively accepting a corporate-driven world, on the other hand, it’s very profitable for those corporations and their shareholders.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is the latest...
Andrew Gavin Marshall | AlterNet 12 May 2013 Hits:136 ESJ Articles
The US-EU free trade pact and the Trans-Pacific Partnership are about securing regulatory gains for major corporate interests.
In polite circles in the United States, support for free trade is a bit like proper bathing habits: It is taken for granted. Only the hopelessly crude and unwashed would not support free trade.
There is some ground for this attitude. Certainly, the US has benefited enormously by being able to buy a wide range of items at lower cost from other countries. However, this does not mean that most people in the country...
Dean Baker 02 May 2013 Hits:145 ESJ Articles
Wage theft is fast becoming a top trend of the 21st-century labor market.
Imagine you’ve just landed a job with a big-time retailer. Your task is to load and unload boxes from trucks and containers. It’s back-breaking work. You toil 12 to 16 hours a day, often without a lunch break. Sweat drenches your clothes in the 90-degree heat, but you keep going: your kids need their dinner. One day, your supervisor tells you that instead of being paid an hourly wage, you will now get paid for the number of...
Lynn Stuart Parramore | AlterNet 28 Apr 2013 Hits:784 ESJ Articles
Hundreds of New York City's lowest-paid workers walked off the job Thursday at over 60 of the city's fast food restaurants to say, "We deserve better."
In what people are calling the largest ever protest of its kind, over 400 workers from the country's biggest corporate "food" chains—including McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Pizza Hut, and KFC among others—took part in the action.
“We deserve better," said Glenda Soto, a McDonald's worker. "I work very hard. I’m a single mom, I have 3 kids, and on $7.25 an hour I can’t support them, and I...
Lauren McCauley | Common Dreams 04 Apr 2013 Hits:279 ESJ Articles
The proposed cuts now on the table could be seriously bad news for young people planning to enter the workforce in coming years.
For most teens and twentysomethings, the raging debate in Washington over Social Security reform probably seems as relevant and engaging as PBS’s Friday night lineup of Antiques Roadshow and Jerry Lewis: Live from Las Vegas.
But the proposals on the table could be seriously bad news for young people planning to enter the workforce in coming years.
President Obama has offered to break the sequester gridlock by recalculating inflation in a way...
Scott Klinger | AlterNet 24 Mar 2013 Hits:441 ESJ Articles
Millennials have accumulated less wealth since entering the workforce than their parents did at the same age, even as the economy has grown and the average wealth of Americans has doubled.
When Vernardo and Claire Simmons-Valenzuela married, they imagined all the trappings of a middle-class life. Soon enough, they had kids. Claire finished a master's degree. They held jobs as an Army medic and a physician's assistant. They dreamed of next steps: owning a home, taking their first vacation in years. Vernardo would return to school for a bachelor’s in nursing....
Zach Duffy | Campus Progress 23 Mar 2013 Hits:482 ESJ Articles
Ramon Suero fell behind on his mortgage payments after he got fired for organizing a union.
Suero, a hotel worker and UNITE HERE Local 26 member in Boston, got his job back after a year. But then his wife had to quit hers and travel to the Dominican Republic to care for her sick mother—and they fell further behind.
They applied to modify their home loan, but federally sponsored mortgage company Freddie Mac said no, foreclosed, and demanded the family get out by February 1.
The Sueros aren’t...
Alexandra Bradbury | Labor Notes 18 Mar 2013 Hits:302 ESJ Articles
Leaving her husband became the only option for "Stacy" after he became violent with the children. She returned to her hometown, Las Cruces, NM, with her 5 little boys in tow. Other than lacking an emergency family shelter, this is a pleasant mid-sized city. The family stayed for a while at the domestic violence shelter. Her time there ended without her finding housing, and she scrambled for a desperate, stopgap solution: her mother’s old, tiny camper.
For $300 a month, including utilities, the family could park their leaky camper in a park in her town. She...
Diane Nilan | AlterNet 18 Mar 2013 Hits:511 ESJ Articles
Debates over the fairness of the tax code are as old as the federal income tax itself. A cornerstone of the tax — established a century ago, by the 16th Amendment — has been the principle that those who make more should pay more, while lower tax rates help the poor to support their families and depend less on government benefits.
That social compact shifted into high gear during the Nixon administration, which tried to incentivize work by rewarding low-income households with a tax break that became the nation’s most successful...
KATHERINE S. NEWMAN | The New York Times 13 Mar 2013 Hits:391 ESJ Articles
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a large increase in jobs in February as compared to January. At the same time the January jobs data was revised lower, which gave a boost to the February number. Let’s look at what happened to the people behind the numbers.
This graph shows two sets of data: the Employment to Population ratio and the Labor Force Participation rate. These are updated with February data.
They show that the percent of the population employed has not changed in February....
Randy Shannon | PDA Pennsylvania 10 Mar 2013 Hits:199 ESJ Articles
AFT President: "This is not about how to fix public schools, but to close them."
Philadelphia is going to shutter 23 public schools following a vote Thursday night by the School Reform Commission, despite an emotional protest and numerous arrests, exemplifying the city's continued embrace of privatized school reform at the mercy of the public school system.
Critics of the closures point to the disproportionate number of minority children impacted, arguing that the move would further discourage students from enrolling in public schools, fueling a growing push towards...
Lauren McCauley | Common Dreams 08 Mar 2013 Hits:557 ESJ Articles
In 1996, I signed the Defense of Marriage Act. Although that was only 17 years ago, it was a very different time. In no state in the union was same-sex marriage recognized, much less available as a legal right, but some were moving in that direction. Washington, as a result, was swirling with all manner of possible responses, some quite draconian. As a bipartisan group of former senators stated in their March 1 amicus brief to the Supreme Court, many supporters of the bill known as DOMA believed that its...
Bill Clinton | The Washington Post 08 Mar 2013 Hits:382 ESJ Articles
Today the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose above 14,270 – completely erasing its 54 percent loss between 2007 and 2009.
The stock market is basically back to where it was in 2000, while corporate earnings have doubled since then.
Yet the real median wage is now 8 percent below what it was in 2000, and unemployment remains sky-high.
Why is the stock market doing so well, while most Americans are doing so poorly? Four reasons:
First, productivity gains. Corporations have been investing in technology rather than their workers. They get tax credits and deductions...
ROBERT B. REICH | ROBERT REICH 06 Mar 2013 Hits:380 ESJ Articles
When the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law almost 23 years ago, the idea of inclusion for people with disabilities was legally born. Ramps were built, infrastructure was redesigned and, for the first time, the law backed people with disabilities who demanded their right not to be blocked from physical access to facilities.
But more than two decades the ADA became law, the ideal of inclusion has yet to be fully realized. Because enforcement of the statute is largely complaint-based, many public businesses are still inaccessible for people in...
Reid Davenport | Open Secrets Blog 06 Mar 2013 Hits:339 ESJ Articles
California Teamsters are paying to lose their jobs because of a scheme called the California Twilight Enterprise Zone Program.The program allows businesses to receive tax breaks of $37,500 for each new employee they hire in one of California's 40 Enterprise Zones. The program encouraged two Teamster employers to dump their union workers, move to an Enterprise Zone, hire cheaper workers and get tax breaks in the bargain.One employer, Atlanta-based Blue Linx, is a building products distributor. And get this: it lists "safety, respect and learning" as its values for "People." VWR is...
Teamster Nation Blog 06 Mar 2013 Hits:389 ESJ Articles
Thank you for being among the over 400 organizations, representing more than 15 million Americans, that co-signed the letter to Congress expressing deep concerns about the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and opposition to the outdated "Fast Track" trade negotiating and approval process.
Your joint letter was submitted to Congress today, and it couldn't have been more timely. The letter comes just one business day after the President included Fast Track in his 2013 Trade Policy Agenda, and the same day as negotiators from 11...
Arthur Stamoulis | Citizens Trade 04 Mar 2013 Hits:400 ESJ Articles
During the Great Recession, the wealth gap between whites and African-Americans nearly doubled, leaving white with nearly 22 times as much in household wealth. According to a new study from Brandeis University’s Institute on Assets and Social Policy, this merely exacerbated a much longer trend during which the wealth of whites exploded while that of African-Americans stagnated:
In 2009, a representative survey of American households revealed that the median wealth of white families was $113,149 compared with $6,325 for Latino families and $5,677 for black families.
Looking at the same set of families over a...
Pat Garofalo | Think Progress 03 Mar 2013 Hits:432 ESJ Articles
One spring afternoon, O. Perry Walker High School Principal Mary Laurie made her way to the school's courtyard, where a lone student sat at a picnic table with a large stack of papers in front of him and a frustrated look on his face. Laurie recognized the student as a shy senior with one of the highest GPAs in his class.
The documents, it turned out, were all from Tuskegee University. Tuskegee had accepted the 18-year-old, offering him a full scholarship. But they required a $500 deposit within the next few...
SARAH CARR | The Atlantic 02 Mar 2013 Hits:380 ESJ Articles
On Wednesday, the US Supreme Court will hear a case that has the potential to give big corporations free rein to write contracts that prevent consumers from ever holding them accountable for fraud, antitrust violations, or any other abuses of consumer and worker protection laws now on the books. It's a case that hasn't gotten much attention, but should.
The case, Italian Color v. American Express,was brought by a California Italian restaurant and a group of other small businesses that tried to sue the credit card behemoth for antitrust violations. They allege...
Stephanie Mencimer | Mother Jones 02 Mar 2013 Hits:617 ESJ Articles
For the social compact of the United States, most of the Congressional Progressive Caucus has gone missing.
While still on the caucus roster, three-quarters of the 70-member caucus seem lost in political smog. Those 54 members of the Progressive Caucus haven’t signed the current letter that makes a vital commitment: “we will vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits -- including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need.”
More than 10 days ago, Congressmen Alan Grayson...
Norman Solomon | Common Dreams 02 Mar 2013 Hits:508 ESJ Articles
Rebecca Williams has waited tables, on and off, for 30 years. A lot has changed since her first stint in the business ended in the early 1990s. Restaurants now tout their commitment to local and organic fare. Diners eagerly pass and poke at tapas-style small plates. Chefs at brick-and-mortar restaurants now compete with a growing legion of food trucks. But one thing that's remained consistent in all that time is Williams' paycheck.
Williams, 50, has worked mostly at upscale bistros in Atlanta, Ga., earning $2.13 an hour before tips. It's the...
Dave Jamieson | Huffington Post 02 Mar 2013 Hits:494 ESJ Articles
Kathleen VonEitzen heads into work at 10 p.m. with a long night ahead of her. A trained baker, VonEitzen spends the evening and early morning hours cutting and shaping trays…
You may have seen charts like the one to the right from theEconomic Policy Institute, showing how working people’s wages stopped going up along with productivity gains.
This means the gains…
Changes in tax law that reduced the federal tax rate on capital gains income is “by far the largest contributor” to rising income inequality in the United States, according to…
CHICAGO - "Their story of enslavement and their escape started in the slums of Manila. Sleazy 'recruiters' scoured the streets and lured the workers here with assurances of plenty of…
Last October, Anthony M. Van Buren drove 135 miles south from his home in Charlottesville, Va., to the small town of Moneta in search of his former boss, Robert Brown,…
The human body, with its need for rest, nutrition and hydration, is such an inefficient tool for capitalist production. But while machines are unlikely to replacehuman workers anytime soon, new technologies…
How could Barack Obama say, in his State of the Union speech, “let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on earth no one who works full-time should have to live…
WASHINGTON — Incomes rose more than 11 percent for the top 1 percent of earners during the economic recovery, but not at all for everybody else, according to new data.
I firmly believe that at some point during his second administration President Obama is going to address the issue of mass incarceration in America. What I fear is…
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PDA is organized around several core issues. These issues include:
Each team hosts a monthly conference call. Calls feature legislators, staffers and other policy experts. On these calls we determine PDA legislation to support as well as actions and future events.
Our special guest this month is Marc Armstrong, the Executive Director of the Public Banking Institute in California. Marc will be discussing the problems with our banking system and the possibility of public state-owned banks as a potential...
Monthly call with special guest, Cathy L. Hurwit, Chief of Staff for US Representative Jan Schakowsky (IL-09). Cathy will be discussing Rep. Schakowsky's Emergency Jobs Act, the CPC 'Back to Work Budget,' and other jobs legislation.
Special guest Arthur Stamoulis, the Executive Director of the Citizens Trade Campaign will discuss the urgent proximate issue in Congress of Fast Track legislation. He will review highlights of the Trans Pacific Partnership and how Fast Track...
CALL AGENDA: Lori Wallach provided background on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)--who's involved with it, who's opposing it--with special focus on Trade Unions. She'll also identify the key issues and timeline, and finally discuss next steps...
Logan Martinez, member of the National Jobs for All Coalition Executive Committee
Mike Hersh, PDA Staff Member
We will discuss:
how the fight for jobs is connected to the fight for equality,
the connection between...
Featured Guest - Mel Rothenberg from the Chicago Political Economy Group
Since the 2010 election PDA has worked to build a movement for economic and social justice around key legislation introduced by members of the Congressional Progressive...