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 -
America is the land of opportunity, just for some more than others.
That's because, in large part, inequality starts in the crib. Rich parents can afford to spend more time and money on their kids, and that gap has only grown the past few decades. Indeed, economists Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane calculate that, between 1972 and 2006, high-income parents increased their spending on "enrichment activities" for their children by 151 percent in inflation-adjusted terms, compared to 57 percent for low-income parents.
But, of course, it's not just a matter of dollars and...
Matt O'Brien | The Washington Post 20 Oct 2014 Hits:581 ESJ Articles
Three True Stories
Renee Delisle was one of over 3500 homeless people in Santa Cruz when she found out she was pregnant. The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported she was turned away from a shelter because they did not have space for her. While other homeless people slept in cars or under culverts, Renee ended up living in an abandoned elevator shaft until her water broke.
Jerome Murdough, 56, a homeless former Marine, was arrested for trespass in New York because he was found sleeping in a public housing stairwell on a cold...
Bill Quigley | Common Dreams 20 Oct 2014 Hits:313 ESJ Articles
Imagine a system of college education supported by high and growing government spending on elite private universities that mainly educate children of the wealthy and upper-middle class, and low and declining government spending on public universities that educate large numbers of children from the working class and the poor.
You can stop imagining. That's the American system right now.
Government subsidies to elite private universities take the form of tax deductions for people who make charitable contributions to them. In economic terms a tax deduction is the same as government spending. It...
Robert Reich | Huffington Post 20 Oct 2014 Hits:87 ESJ Articles
It was an ordinary Friday. Courtney Brown, 24, of Kalamazoo, Mich., was busy looking for a job. "I've applied all kinds of places," she says. "Wal-Mart, Target, Verizon Wireless."
Then she got a strange letter in the mail. " 'We are writing you with good news,' " she reads to me over the phone. " 'We got rid of some of your Everest College debt. ... No one should be forced to mortgage their future for an education.' "
The letter went on to say that her private student loan from a...
Anya Kamenetz | NPR 05 Oct 2014 Hits:353 ESJ Articles
For-profit education company Corinthian Colleges Inc. misled students into taking out unaffordable loans by falsely advertising job prospects, then used illegal debt collection tactics to force distressed students to pay up, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Corinthian owns Everest Institute, Everest College, WyoTech and Heald colleges, which collectively have more than 70,000 students and annually receive $1.4 billion in federal financial aid. The company is winding down all its operations in an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education.
The CFPB alleges that Corinthian...
Shahien Nasiripour | Huffington Post 21 Sep 2014 Hits:221 ESJ Articles
Some workers at oil and gas sites where fracking occurs are routinely exposed to high levels of benzene, a colorless gas that can cause cancer, according to a study by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety.
The agency, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommends that people limit their benzene exposure to an average of 0.1 of a part per million during their shift. But when NIOSH researchers measured the amount of airborne benzene that oil and gas workers were exposed to when they...
12 Sep 2014 Hits:438 ESJ Articles
When we look back on what happened in Ferguson, Mo., during the summer of 2014, it will be easy to think of it as yet one more episode of black rage ignited by yet another police killing of an unarmed African American male. But that has it precisely backward. What we’ve actually seen is the latest outbreak of white rage. Sure, it is cloaked in the niceties of law and order, but it is rage nonetheless.
Protests and looting naturally capture attention. But the real rage smolders in meetings where officials...
Carol Anderson | The Washington Post 01 Sep 2014 Hits:577 ESJ Articles
Last week, after days of violent police rampages in Ferguson, Missouri, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Michigan) said the Senate will "review" the Defense Department program that gives military weapons and equipment to civilian police departments for free.
It took five apocalyptic nights in Ferguson for Levin to make that statement, but the national dialogue on the militarization of police has begun.
Only it didn’t just take Ferguson. It took years of violent arrests. Exposés that revealed small towns being patrolled by tanks and big cities controlled by force. Rampant...
Nadia Prupis | Common Dreams 28 Aug 2014 Hits:538 ESJ Articles
We met Carolina while visiting a “welcome center” for recently-processed immigrants at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, Texas. She emerged from a sweltering relief tent that sheltered a handful of other fatigued travelers, most of whom, like her, had been released by Border Patrol just hours prior. She stood what couldn’t have been more than five feet tall, but her weary eyes hinted at her age. She looked tired, but then, she should: she reportedly had just finished a journey of more than a thousand miles, and still had...
Jack Jenkins and Esther Yu-Hsi Lee | Think Progress 03 Aug 2014 Hits:594 ESJ Articles
When a coup removed the democratically-elected leftist president of Honduras in June 2009, receiving tacit support from the U.S. State Department, the American people barely took notice. Then when the United States increased military funding in its little protectorate to reinforce the new right-wing regime installed there, the American public still remained largely unaware and unconcerned. Even after it was reported that Honduras had become “the most dangerous country in the world” a year after the coup (it still is), and that a campaign against drug cartels in Mexico had made...
Hector Luis Alamo, Jr | Latino Rebels 03 Aug 2014 Hits:1776 ESJ Articles
The just-released results of a six-month initiative by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) suggest that the dark cloud cast over public sector unionism by a recent Supreme Court decision may not be so threatening after all.
Many analysts saw the court’s ruling last month in Harris v. Quinn as a profound blow to public sector unions such as AFSCME. In a case involving workers who receive state funds to provide home care for people with disabilities, the court found that the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) could not...
David Moberg | In These Times 20 Jul 2014 Hits:363 ESJ Articles
The New York Times reported that one national employer relied on the labor of more than 60,000 immigrant workers last year to cook, clean, and do laundry while living behind locked doors and barbed wire. The employer paid them only $1 per day – or in some cases, compensated them with nothing more than soda and candy bars. In one facility, people who organized a work stoppage and hunger strike were thrown into solitary confinement.
Yet when asked to comment, federal authorities claimed that this is all completely legal and none...
Carl Takei | ACLU Blog of Rights 29 Jun 2014 Hits:383 ESJ Articles
Forget Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his fellow union-bashing governors. Forget the partisan Republican attacks on organized labor. The gravest threat today to public-employee unions—which represent cops, firefighters, prison guards, teachers, nurses, and other city and state workers—is a Supreme Court case named Harris v. Quinn, which could be decided as early as this Tuesday. And, strangely enough, it is the court's most sharp-tongued conservative, Justice Antonin Scalia, who could ride to organized labor's rescue.
The case pits several of the nation's mightiest labor unions, such as the Service Employees International...
Andy Kroll | Mother Jones 03 Jun 2014 Hits:673 ESJ Articles
SSA Bargaining Unit Employees:
SSA is now seeking your ideas for a Vision 2025 plan. What SSA is not telling you is that they already have a draft plan that is a product of the Academy with the framework of that plan given to the Academy by SSA leadership.
The draft plan has certain principles that we cannot agree with. First it states that the basis for a Vision for 2025 must be that online services are the primary means for delivering customer service. This is a change from SSA's long time...
Witold Skwierczynski | National Council of Social Security Administration Field Operations 31 May 2014 Hits:441 ESJ Articles
The unseen hand of antigovernment ideology can be found everywhere nowadays – even in your mailbox. The proof is in what you won’t find there, like your annual statement of earned Social Security benefits.
The government stopped mailing those out in 2011.
It’s also getting a lot harder to find Social Security field offices, or to find someone to pick up the phone, as the Social Security Administration enters into yet more rounds of steep budget cuts.
Social Security customer service: Now you see it, now you don’t.
The Most Efficient Benefit Program in...
Richard Eskow | Campaign for America's Future 31 May 2014 Hits:832 ESJ Articles
The Charlotte economy is improving, but a number of residents pleaded with the Charlotte City Council on Monday, asking that the city not forget those without jobs and low-wage city workers.
As part of the public hearing on the city’s proposed fiscal year 2015 budget, a group called Coalition for Jobs asked council members for $10 million in seed money for a jobs subsidy program.
The group hopes to find jobs for 1,000 long-term unemployed residents. The jobs would pay $10 an hour, and would be subsidized at different amounts for six...
Steve Harrison | Charlotte Observer 14 May 2014 Hits:484 ESJ Articles
Student loan debt in the U.S. currently totals more than $1 trillion, with some predicting it will only get worse as tuition increases continue to outpace inflation. Recently launched federal student loan forgiveness programs were intended to provide relief to some of these borrowers, but the plans’ unexpected popularity has created a new set of concerns.
With tuition costs rising by an average of 6% each year over the last decade and students graduating with an average of $29,000 in student loan debt, which can prevent consumers from making big purchases...
Ashlee Kieler | Consumerist 03 May 2014 Hits:758 ESJ Articles
Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.
Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.
The findings come as President Barack Obama tries to renew his administration's emphasis on the economy, saying in recent speeches that his highest priority is to "rebuild...
CBS News 30 Mar 2014 Hits:690 ESJ Articles
According to the stock market, the U.K. economy is in a boom. Not just any old boom, but a historic one. On 28 October 2013, the FTSE 100 index hit 6,734, breaching the level achieved at the height of the economic boom before the 2008 global financial crisis (that was 6,730, recorded in October 2007).
Since then, it has had ups and downs, but on Feb. 21, 2014 the FTSE 100 climbed to a new height of 6,838. At this rate, it may soon surpass the highest ever level reached since the index...
Ha-Joon Chang | The Guardian 01 Mar 2014 Hits:844 ESJ Articles
Last year, America placed next to last in a ranking of child well-being in 35 developed countries, barely beating out Romania. A recent report by the Children's Defense Fund helps explain how the US earned that distinction. According to the report, 1-in-5 American children live in relative poverty. Close to half of poverty-stricken kids live in extreme poverty, which means their families earn less than half the poverty level of $11, 746 per year for a family of four.
Since the Great Recession began in 2009, there's been a 73 percent jump in...
Tana Ganeva | AlterNet 20 Feb 2014 Hits:2906 ESJ Articles
All eyes are on Chattanooga, Tenn. as 1,500 Volkswagen workers file into voting booths this week to determine whether they will be represented by the United Auto Workers.
Unlike most U.S.-based employers, Volkswagen has remained neutral on the question of unionization, in part hoping that its workers could then legally form a works council like other VW workers around the world. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) and U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) are trying to convince the workers to vote no, and some local elected officials are now threatening to yank...
Lane Windham | Facing South 14 Feb 2014 Hits:567 ESJ Articles
In Manhattan, the upscale clothing retailer Barneys will replace the bankrupt discounter Loehmann’s, whose Chelsea store closes in a few weeks. Across the country, Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants…
You'd think debate on the merits of raising the minimum wage would have been settled long ago. After all, it's been around for 75 years in the United States, and…
Where have all the Democrats gone?
It’s hard to imagine a better gift falling into their laps: Republicans have just thrown 1.3 million unemployed Americans out into the cold and are prepared…
In yet another constitutional rejection of mandatory drug testing, a federal judge this week struck down Florida’s program to require drug testing of all applicants for public assistance through the…
For many years the American Right -- and many of the most powerful elements of corporate and Wall Street elite -- have conducted a war on public employees.
Their campaign has…
Barbie Izquierdo, a low-income mother of two small children, is a member of Witnesses to Hunger, a Philadelphia group of moms dedicated to ending hunger and poverty for their children…
Authors of new report warn food donations not enough as six million threatened with worsened hunger
'Tis the season to give, the saying goes.
Yet all of the charitable food donations in…
A key dispute in the TPP negotiations is the patents on pharmaceutical drugs and medical procedures. Long patents inflate the profits of the pharmaceutical industry by not allowing less expensive…
This piece is a follow-up to Linda's first post, "This Is Why Poor People's Bad Decisions Make Perfect Sense":
At this point, enough people are asking that I will tell you…
Contact us at:email@example.com
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.
Listen to this month's joint call with the Stop Global Warming team as Randy Shannon leads an open discussion on green jobs and energy.
Listen to this month’s call with regional organizer, Mackenzie Baris from Jobs with Justice, a union sponsored grass roots movement builder for jobs and pay equity. Near the end of the call Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) joins us for...
Listen to this month's call with special guest, Andrea Miller, the new co-Executive Director of PDA. Andrea will guide us through the endorsement of Rep. Hank Johnson's bill on the demilitarization of our police forces, talk about the re-introduction...
Listen in this month to guest David Schwartzman, who discusses the job creating potential of confronting climate change and the issue of how the transition to a solar power system can be achieved without economic disruption.
Listen to this month's call to hear about plans to decimate Social Security, what the American Federation of Government Employees is doing about it, and what PDA can do to help save Social Security.
Listen in as we speak with Student Debt Crisis' Director and Co-Founder, Natalia Abrams. Find out what Student Debt Crisis is doing at the forefront of this issue, and about the legislation they endorse (HR 1330: The Student Loan Fairness Act,...