Amy Traub

We Are Watching a Working-Class Revolt in West Virginia

Sometimes, working people push back.

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What Economic Recovery? A Good Job is Still Hard to Find

Encouraging though it may be, the latest nationwide strong jobs report doesn’t change the big picture: the economic recovery, officially underway since June 2009, is still leaving millions of working Americans behind.

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New York State Board Finally Delivers Higher Minimum Wage for Fast Food Workers

Setting a new milestone in the fight for fair pay, the New York fast food wage board today recommended a wage increase in a series of steps to $15 an hour by 2018 in New York City and by 2021 in the rest of the state. The new wage will apply to fast food businesses with 30 or more locations.

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Food Stamps Don't Keep Walmart's Prices Low, They Keep Its Profits High

"The same company that brings in the most food stamp dollars in revenue -- an estimated $13 billion last year -- also likely has the most employees using food stamps."

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Running Scared? Anti-Union Retailers Stepping Up Fight Against Organized Labor

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis is reportedly cracking down on businesses that cut corners on workplace safety or cheat employees out of their pay. Alarmed by the prospect that employees' legal right to organize a union will also be enforced more effectively, some of the nation's largest retailers are now stepping up their anti-union indoctrination efforts. Advocates of workers' rights should be cheered by their alarm. As the U.S. Chamber of Commerce frets, "even if we defeat the card-check bill, it's entirely possible that other changes to the National Labor Relations Act will come up, and some of those will likely make it easier to organize the workplace."

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Majority of Middle Class Supports Progressive Policy

Today the Drum Major Institute released its first annual Survey on the Middle Class and Public Policy. The nationwide poll, conducted by Global Strategy Group, aimed to learn how those Americans who see themselves as middle class (the vast majority of us, it turns out) think about the direction of the country, public policy ideas that could improve the nation, and their relationship with their own elected representatives. What we found were middle-class households filled with “fearful families”: Americans worried about the present, pessimistic about the future, but not nearly so divided on issues of public policy as the typical media reports of country divided by red and blue might lead us to believe. In fact, there’s broad bipartisan support for a range of progressive policies.

First, as DMI has often said, the American people aren’t stupid. We know a country headed in the wrong direction when we see it. 77% of middle-class households think things are off on the wrong track in America now. With stagnant wages and unemployment on the upswing, jobs and the economy were the top concern. And with skyrocketing costs to fill up at the pump, high gas prices ranked #2 overall. Nor do people think gas prices are coming back down anytime soon. Despite regular reports of Hollywood break-ups, middle-class respondents say it’s far more likely that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie will last long enough to celebrate their 25th anniversary (56%) than gas prices reach $3 a gallon again (19%). (18% say neither one is going to happen).

Congress Catches the Bus on Public Transportation

Just about every politician out there would like to find the quick fix for the soaring gasoline prices that are straining the budgets of America's current and aspiring middle class. We know a gas tax "holiday" a la John McCain won't have any real impact on consumers. We know a miscellany of proposed new locations to drill for oil won't help for years -- if ever. And while those stimulus checks may have been somewhat useful in offsetting the prices at the pump, Americans facing hard times also need the cash to pay for the rising price of everything else under the sun.

So the question remains: how are we going to get to work today - and tomorrow -- without the cost of the commute eating a huge chunk out of the paycheck?

For a growing number of Americans, the answer is to hop the train. "Even regions that have traditionally resisted giving up cars and have limited access to mass transit are reporting a surge in public transportation use," according to CNN. And it's little wonder. Even before the price of gas reached its current peak, American households that relied on public transportation saved an average of $6,251 a year compared to a two-car household without transit access. (pdf)

These days the commuter train makes more sense than ever.

Immigration Policy that Benefits the American Middle Class

This post, written by Amy Traub, originally appeared on DMI Blog

Immigration policy is among the most divisive issues facing the U.S. today, and progressives often don't know how to talk or think about it. On the one hand, we are faced with racist demagogues who appeal to Americans' very real economic anxiety to promote harsh and unworkable policies that will benefit no one. On the other hand, immigration advocates make a vital point about the human rights of immigrants, but so far have not successfully addressed mainstream concerns. As progressives, we know that scapegoating undocumented immigrants is wrong, but that doesn't provide a positive agenda or a way to distinguish which immigration policy proposals will truly move us forward as a nation.

Any debate over immigration policy must be connected to the larger conversation about America's squeezed middle class and the working people striving to attain a middle-class standard of living. Thorough review of the economic, sociological, and demographic evidence leads us to the following conclusion:

An immigration policy that serves the fundamental interests of middle-class Americans must take two realities into account: immigrants' economic contributions make them indispensable to our nation's middle class, and, at the same time, a lack of effective rights in the workplace for undocumented immigrants undermines the ability of all working people in America to secure and maintain jobs that provide a middle-class standard of living.

The Drum Major Institute for Public Policy has turned this insight in to a two-part middle-class test.

1) Immigration policy should bolster--not undermine--the critical contribution that immigrants make to our economy as workers, entrepreneurs, taxpayers and consumers, because: