Gleanings: June 29, 2016

Profiting from poverty.  The slave history of Jack Daniels whiskey.  Blacks and whites view race and inequality very differently, according to a Pew survey.   SCOTUS decision keeps 5 million immigrant workers in the shadows.  A retrial of the challenge to public union “fair share” fees was denied.

Profiting from poverty

“Poverty is not just a product of joblessness and low wages. It is also a product of exploitation,” writes Matthew Desmond, Harvard sociologist and author of the much-acclaimed book, “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.”

“Throughout our history, wage gains…were quickly absorbed by rising rents,” he writes in a New York Times opinion piece entitled “The Eviction Economy.” “When incomes rise, the housing market takes its cut…If rents rise alongside incomes, what progress is made?”

“Landlords don’t make money in ghettos and trailer parks in spite of their poverty,” he writes, “but because of it.”

eviction noticeHousing assistance would enable eligible families to dedicate 30 percent of their income to rent, but nearly half of all renters pay more. Some pay as high as 70 percent, writes Desmond.

According to Desmond, the problem is: three in four people who qualify for housing assistance do not get it. On the other hand, all who qualify for the mortgage interest deduction can get it.

“A universal housing voucher would fundamentally change the face of poverty in the United States,” claims Desmond. He estimates that the cost of a universal housing voucher would be about one-third the cost of the mortgage interest deduction.

Exploitation of the poor is not confined to the housing sector, he notes, but it also thrives in other essential sectors like food and access to credit.

The slave history of Jack Daniels whiskey

After 150 years, the oldest registered distillery in the United States may be slowly coming clean with its slave history, reports the New York Times.

Jack-Daniels-LabelJack Daniel did not learn how to distill whiskey from a white preacher, grocer, and distiller named Dan Call, as corporate legend would have you believe, but rather from one of Call’s slaves: Nearis Green.

There is a strong, but generally unacknowledged, link between enslaved Africans and the distilling of alcohol in the United States, but the contributions of most individual slaves may be lost to time.

George Washington relied on six slaves (and two Scottish foremen) to run his rye whiskey distillery at Mount Vernon. “In an 1805 advertisement, Andrew Jackson offered a bounty for a runaway slave named George, whom he identified as ‘a good distiller.’”

Pew finds black and white Americans are worlds apart on views of race and inequality

A new Pew Research Center survey focuses on the divide between blacks and whites and on the treatment of black people in the U.S. today.

The survey finds “profound differences between black and white adults in their views on racial discrimination, barriers to black progress and the prospects for change. Blacks, far more than whites, say black people are treated unfairly across different realms of life, from dealing with the police to applying for a loan or mortgage. And, for many blacks, racial equality remains an elusive goal.”

As indicated in the chart below, half of white Americans agree that blacks receive unequal treatment in interactions with police. A majority of black Americans believe that they are treated unfairly compared with whites during interactions with police, in the court system, when applying for loans and mortgages, and in the workplace.

Blacks are more likely to perceive less fair treatment than whites in every category, and the difference in perceptions is substantial, according to the survey.


SCOTUS decision keeps 5 million immigrant workers in the shadows

The U.S. Supreme court decision announced June 23 blocked Obama’s 2014 order regarding DACA+ and and DAPA. For now, DACA remains in effect and unchanged.

Advocates gather on May Day 2016 in Milwaukee to support implementation of DACA+ and DAPA. Photo by Joe Brusky use under a creative commons license, attribution-noncommerical.
Advocates gather on May Day 2016 in Milwaukee to support implementation of DACA+ and DAPA. Photo by Joe Brusky use under a creative commons license, attribution-noncommerical.

DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was created by a 2012 executive order that allows undocumented immigrants who entered the country before their 16th birthday and before June 2007 to receive a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation. This initial 2012 DACA order was not at issue in the case.

DACA+ and DAPA, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, were created by a 2014 executive order that was never implemented due to the lawsuit.

DACA+ would have expanded the population eligible for DACA to people of any current age who entered the United States before the age of 16 and lived in the United States continuously since January 1, 2010. It also would have extended the work authorization from two years to three years.

DAPA would have allowed parents of children legally entitled to remain in the country to stay in the U.S. for a period of time, “deferring” their deportation. They would not gain U.S. citizenship, but they would have the right to seek employment authorization and benefits provided by states, such as driver’s licenses.

The American Prospect reported that the DACA+ and DAPA programs could have brought up to 5 million people into the mainstream workforce. Instead, they remain in the shadows and vulnerable to exploitation and dangerous working conditions, which lowers the standards for all working people.

However, the fate of the more than 800,000 original DACA population who were granted work permits is potentially in peril. There’s nothing stopping a federal judge from issuing injunctions against the original program using the reasoning in this recent decision.

SCOTUS denies rehearing of union win on fees

Public sector unions secured a major victory several months ago when SCOTUS reached a 4-4 tie allowing a lower court’s decision–that “fair share” agreements were valid under the First Amendment–to stand.

Under fair share agreements, unions collect fees to cover their costs from non-members who share the employment benefits of collective bargaining.

The plaintiffs sought a rehearing of the case, but SCOTUS denied the request.