Congress is sitting on an easy solution to speed job growth without causing inflation

pelosi schumer
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speak after a press conference on Capitol Hill on December 20, 2020 in Washington, DC.

  • Congress should suspend employer payroll taxes for businesses that expand their current payrolls with new hires from the long-term unemployed.
  • This kind of targeted tax cut was already done before in 2010, proved to be bipartisan, and doesn’t cause inflation.
  • A CBO study ranks this tool in the top tier for being cost effective in reducing unemployment.
  • Joseph S. Fichera has served since 2000 as chief executive officer of Saber Partners, LLC, a boutique financial consulting firm for regulators and corporations.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

June’s jobs report shows the economy is recovering, but the nation is still down 7.5 million jobs from over a year ago when the unemployment rate was less than 4%. Today, we are not near that number, and more than 42% of those unemployed have been that way for more than six months. A year ago, that number was 7.1%. Small- and- medium-sized employers are moving cautiously, unable to raise wages without higher consumer prices, which could trigger inflation as well as hurt their business. And the unemployed face higher costs, like childcare, if they ever even get a job offer.

Congress can help create jobs faster across all industries without fueling inflation in a way that is cost-effective and should be bipartisan: Simply suspend the federal employer payroll tax – currently at 7.5% – only for employers who increase their payrolls by hiring people who have been out of work for six months or more.

Suspending the federal payroll tax for hiring the long-term unemployed would be a boon for reducing unemployment

This simple move, which was done before in 2010, would give employers a clear, certain, and targeted financial incentive to focus on hiring the long-term unemployed. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a payroll tax suspension targeted and tied to expanded payrolls is one of the most cost-effective ways to increase employment. Something similar – a payroll tax-credit for keeping current employees – was included in the most recent stimulus bill, but nothing was done for creating jobs or hiring the long-term unemployed.

The payroll tax suspension would be for a limited time. Tying it to employers who hire the long-term unemployed helps by making it easier for these employers to grow by increasing their payrolls without increasing prices. It could even lower some prices because labor costs would be less. Or, employers could use their tax savings to raise wages as they get back in the hiring game with an extra 7.5% in their pocket. It’s not a guarantee that wages will rise, but it does make it more likely. With a minimum wage increase off the table for the time being, Congress needs more tools to address the employment situation.

Washington’s plate is full of “big and bold” initiatives that are important for the long term. Most rely on direct government spending and are potentially controversial. A targeted tax cut is a form of government spending but it can be accomplished faster and with less bureaucracy, leading to tangible results well before the midterm elections.

We can be confident of getting results because the Obama-Biden administration and a bipartisan group of lawmakers did this before. In 2010, Congress passed the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act which suspended most of the employer payroll tax for one year in the wake of the financial crisis. The bill got 70 Senate votes – 11 from Republicans. While negotiations continue on the Biden administration’s American Jobs Plan, Senators Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell and Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy could “rehire” the HIRE Act; the bill just needs a few updates. Employers understand it and the cash benefits for employers can begin quickly.

Tried and tested

This approach is not a shot in the dark. A January 2010 CBO study concluded that suspending payroll taxes targeted to employers who expand their payrolls was the second-most cost-effective way to stimulate job growth – following direct payments to the unemployed. It gets a “bigger bang for the taxpayer buck” than other Washington efforts to increase employment.

Why not repeat in 2021 what was successful in 2010? It could be the elusive “common ground” both sides say they seek.

In 2010, the employer payroll tax suspension was for one year even though CBO estimated a much bigger effect on creating jobs over five years. Today, we should re-employ the HIRE Act with a guarantee through at least 2023.

The counter argument is that rapid post-pandemic job growth will put the long-term unemployed back on the payroll without needing more financial incentives. Then the Biden jobs and infrastructure plans will kick in, and we are home free. But Biden’s plans are moving slowly and the percent of long-term unemployed has not decreased much despite historically strong job numbers. The current jobs hole is very deep.

Some employers have raised wages to get new employees, others are worried that current rates of economic growth have inflation just around the corner, despite the Fed’s considerable efforts to prevent that.

Using the tax code now, across all industries, for payroll expansion focused on reducing the long-term unemployed helps ensure this growth happens without overheating. A payroll tax suspension reduces a core cost for a limited time. It encourages the business to expand, grow, and be more productive. Moreover, the approach is transparent and easily audited to prevent waste and fraud that often follows government direct-spending programs.

To be sure, some employers could pocket the savings from a payroll tax suspension as profit, and firms already expanding payrolls would get a windfall. A payroll tax suspension also leaves out tax-exempt organizations, and state and local governments, which do not pay federal payroll taxes. Sadly, few economic tools get perfect efficiency scores. Though legitimate concerns, these are minor problems given the serious lag we have seen in reducing long-term unemployment. Besides, the priority is growth in the private sector, not the government.

An employer payroll tax suspension has been tested. It is targeted at hiring the long-term unemployed, and it’s a quick, bipartisan tool. Congress and the president should remember their bipartisan history and update the HIRE Act now.

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The revelation of Canada’s cultural genocide against native people should shake the world into a historical reckoning that extends beyond empty apologies

A memorial for one of the 215 children found in a mass grave in Canada.
A memorial for one of the 215 children found in a mass grave in Canada.

  • 751 unmarked graves of indigenous Canadians were uncovered weeks after another mass grave was found.
  • The shocking news should jolt not just Canada, but the entire global community into reckoning with their own histories of cultural genocide.
  • From Australia to China and a number of nations in between, policy and not apologies are what marginalized communities need to heal.
  • Parisa Hashempour is a freelance journalist and International Studies lecturer living in the Netherlands.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.

Weeks after a mass grave of 215 children was uncovered at the site of a residential school in British Columbia, 751 unmarked graves were found beside another residential school in Saskatchewan, home to the indigenous Cowessess First Nation.

The schools, which forcibly removed more than 150,000 indigenous children from their families in all but three Canadian territories over the course of 100 years, are responsible for the deaths of more than 3000 children and the abuse of many more. Residential schools were a horrific act of cultural genocide – the systematic destruction of the culture of a national, ethnic, or religious group – on the part of the church and the Canadian governments.

In the wake of the news, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the graves as “a shameful reminder of the systemic racism, discrimination, and injustice that Indigenous peoples have faced.” His words, which have been described by indigenous activists as all talk and little action, should prompt not just Canada but a whole host of modern nation-states across the globe to reckon with their unaddressed histories of cultural genocide.

From Australia to China and a whole number of nations in between, the recent reports should signal for many in the global community that it is time to look inwards and properly reckon with both their own histories and present violations of cultural genocide.

Residential schools in Canada and the US

Cultural genocide has historically been used to eradicate the identity of marginalized groups in order to eliminate their space in a place’s history. Beginning in the 1870s, authorities in Canada took away young indigenous children and placed them in residential schools, with an aim to educate and assimilate children into Euro-Canadian society. Schools forbade children from speaking their native languages, even in letters home to their parents. They were separated from siblings, prevented from practicing traditional faiths, stripped of their traditional clothes, long hair was cut off and in many cases children were given new, Christian names.

In 2015, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission declared, “These measures were part of a coherent policy to eliminate Aboriginal people as distinct peoples and to assimilate them into the Canadian mainstream against their will.” One Kamloops school survivor, Julianna Alexander, told the commission “To recover, it took me 14 years after I left. I became an addict and an alcoholic.” The emotional, physical, and sexual abuse many suffered had devastating personal consequences, and the denigration and outright attack on cultural practices had a pernicious, long-lasting effect on the survival of those customs too.

However, these schools were not unique to Canada. “Kill the Indian in him, and save the man,” is a quote made famous by Captain Richard H. Pratt, the founder of the predecessor to the residential schools both north and south of the Canadian border: the US Training and Industrial school in Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. The federal government sent thousands of Native Americans to study at boarding schools throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, and subjected children to much the same treatment as was experienced further north.

Cultural genocide on a global scale

The image evoked by the residential school graves sent shockwaves around the world and was particularly triggering for indigenous communities still reeling from their own experiences of marginalization and oppression. Aboriginal Australian Arrernte Elder, William Pengarte Tilmouth, wrote for The Guardian: “The experiences in Canada are echoed here in Australia. Until there is truth-telling in Australia about the colonisation process across the whole of the continent, the process of reconciliation remains superficial.”

As in North America, the lasting cultural implications of colonization are still being felt there today. Of more than 250 known indigenous Australian languages, only around 140 of those are still spoken, with 110 of that number critically endangered. This is credited to the theft of the ‘Lost Generation’ of Australians, children who were stolen from their aboriginal families and integrated into white Australian homes up until the 1970s. In New Zealand too, indigenous people have suffered land alienation, mass settler immigration, and cultural marginalization. However, it is not just former English colonies that have histories of cultural genocide to reckon with.

In Sweden, the indigenous Sami people are lobbying their government for a truth and reconciliation process to expose human rights violations, all while logging practices could be set to see 30% of their community destroyed. On the international stage, China hits daily headlines on accusations of genocide amidst the ongoing persecution of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

Claiming Uighurs are a terror threat, more than one million Uighurs are estimated to have been detained in camps since 2016 in a situation that is said to be characterized by forced labor, sexual and physical abuse, ‘re-education’, and intensive surveillance. Internal documents from the Kunes county justice system from 2017 and 2018, provided to the BBC, described the camp’s intentions as “washing brains, cleansing hearts, strengthening righteousness and eliminating evil” – it’s clear that the world has far from learned its lesson.

Action over words

In 2008 and 2009, Australia, Canada, and the US all delivered formal apologies. However, with Australian native languages on the way to extinction, Canada’s Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls Report as relevant today as it was when it was written two years ago, and more than one in three Native American children recorded as living in poverty, words don’t go far enough. Where apologies have been made, they have often felt anticlimactic. Take Barack Obama’s 2009 statement, silently signed and pushed through with little fanfare, it declares, “Nothing in this section … authorizes or supports any claim against the United States; or serves as a settlement of any claim against the United States.”

This is quite different from the approach taken in Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasizes the importance of keeping alive the memory of the Holocaust. Restitutions were paid and commemoration continues through monuments, art, and culture. The recent rise of the far-right in the country has sounded alarm bells for many, but despite this, a 2020 report by the DW found that more than half of all those surveyed agree with the amount of attention paid to the crimes of Germany’s past. This approach may not fit for all countries, but the key is to choose policies over performance.

In New Zealand in 1982, the Māori language was at risk of dying out, to combat this, grandparents offered to look after children in daycare centers for language immersion. By 1998 there were more than 600 of these daycare schools, showing there are tangible ways that governments can assist marginalized communities in rebuilding as they heal from the wounds of colonization. Indigenous children are overrepresented in Canada’s social care system, but changes to welfare and public health can help work to fix this.

The settler electorate in post-colonial nations should join their indigenous neighbors in demanding accountability and action from governments, the international community must place pressure on one another to address the issue of cultural genocide within their countries and implement policies that work to protect all marginalized communities, cultures, and languages.

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The anti-vax movement is killing people, and the right-wing media is egging it on

fox news channel phone
A Fox News logo is seen displayed on a smartphone.

  • Every person who died of COVID in Maryland this June was unvaccinated – a testament to the dangers of not getting inoculated against the disease.
  • Right-wing commentators and lawmakers are egging on anti-vax fears for political gain despite the human cost.
  • Vaccine conspiracy theories aren’t based in science, but that hasn’t stopped conservatives from indulging them.
  • Eoin Higgins is a journalist in New England.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Over 100 people in Maryland died of COVID in June – and they were all unvaccinated.

It’s the latest example of the deadly effect of the modern anti-vax movement.

Vaccine resistance has grown since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.

At the time, former President Donald Trump downplayed the danger of the virus for political reasons, fearing – rightly – that the economic shock from the lockdowns would be politically damaging. Meanwhile, media figures on Fox News and other right-wing outlets dove headfirst into spreading doubts about the efficacy of vaccinations.

Since then, Republican lawmakers and their allies in the media have driven the movement’s growth. Anti-mask and anti-lockdown protests have combined with the existing anti-vax movement over the past 15 months, creating a Frankenstein’s monster of well-intentioned skepticism of the pharmaceutical industry, various pseudo-sciences, and the far right.

The future consequences of the movement’s rise in popularity were always clear. Maryland is the first state to show so starkly the deadly effect of the lies of the anti-vax movement, but it won’t be the last.

Conservative media is enabling fringe conspiracies

Anti-vax hysteria has largely taken over conservative media. Reviews of segments on Fox News’ Laura Ingraham Show show the host and her guests promoting all manner of unsubstantiated theories about the effects of the vaccination, from brain bleeds to suggesting the push to get people vaccinated is part of a shadowy plot to control people’s health choices.

Ingraham’s Fox cohort Tucker Carlson, the extremist host of the most watched cable news primetime program, has told his audience that the vaccine is the first step on the path to eugenics. He’s welcomed guests like Charlie Kirk who call vaccines “apartheid” and notorious conspiracy theorist Naomi Wolf, who was banned from Twitter for spreading dangerous misinformation about COVID and the vaccine.

I reported on Wolf’s anti-vax activism last month: she was the keynote speaker at a tone-deaf “Juneteenth” event in upstate New York, and people involved in the event referred to vaccination efforts as the first step on the way to the Holocaust, likening their fight to that of Black people in chattel slavery. They weren’t even sure if COVID itself was real: “I’m not 100% convinced that the germ theory, as typically described, is true,” Leland Lehrman, an anti-vax advocate in the area, told me.

But while people like Wolf once were on the extreme fringe edge, they’re becoming more and more likely to be platformed by more moderate right-wing media figures. That’s led in turn to the Republican rank and file being mistrustful of vaccines and resisting using them.

As FiveThirtyEight reported in an analysis of vaccine hesitancy trends on July 8, 29% of GOP voters who watch Fox are unlikely to get vaccinated. The number jumps to 37% when applied to those who watch OANN and fellow far right outlet Newsmax. As bad as Fox is, it’s not even the worst thing conservatives could be watching with respect to their vaccine hesitancy.

Vaccine conspiracies are dangerous – and illogical

Far right figures, New Age grifters, and the modern GOP all coming together around vaccine resistance shows the strange bedfellows that the conspiracy theory has created. But at a closer look, they’re not so dissimilar.

Conspiracy theories rely on simplistic explanations for complex systems and events. Whether it’s the fear of a cabal of elites controlling your every move whose actions determine the course of history, or the belief that vaccine developers aim to rewrite your DNA, these fear-based approaches to explaining the world have their appeal.

Simple logic dispels conspiratorial fears around vaccines. Mass producing medicine that hurts consumers, when consumers are the vast majority of the population, is just not a viable approach to treating people for the pharmaceutical industry. And if the claims around vaccine danger, from causing autism to dangerous mercury levels to implanting tracking chips into your body, were remotely true, they would be easily provable and would result in swift justice, either meted out by the state or the people.

But the fact that the claims about vaccines are logically unbelievable hasn’t stopped figures on the far right and, increasingly, in mainstream conservatism from amping up those fears at the expense of the health of their audience and the public at large. At its root, vaccine resistance is a fundamentally selfish and uncaring act which places individual choice over the good of the community – so it already has a home in the right’s guiding ideological principles. Combined with the American conservative movement’s penchant for conspiracy, it’s a good match.

Deadly effect

The push is having real world effects, and not just in Maryland. Tennessee lawmakers have pressured the state’s Department of Health to stop aiming vaccine efforts at adolescents after a right-wing pressure campaign – only 37% of the state’s eligible residents are fully inoculated.

In Pennsylvania and Arizona, GOP lawmakers are fighting against schools requiring proof of vaccination – despite the fact that such mandates do not at present exist – citing over-regulation and the security of medical records as the reason for pre-emptive legislation against it.

“We’re all being used as guinea pigs,” Arizona state Senator Sonny Borelli said in May.

In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis has already signed a ban on such mandates into law, reversing a move by Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale to require students to get the vaccine.

And a suggestion by President Joe Biden that government officials “need to go to community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood, and oftentimes, door to door – literally knocking on doors – to get help to the remaining people protected from the virus” was met with resistance from Republicans, with Reps. Marjorie Taylor-Greene and Lauren Boebert describing the proposal as a strategy only Nazis would use.

These moves send a message to the public that vaccines are a danger in more ways than one and that they’re to be resisted – turning public health into another culture war battle. The Republican Party and its media apparatchiks tend to fall back on emotional issues when faced with Democratic control of the government, using its base’s passion and conspiratorial thinking to its advantage in the following election.

The trend has led to a more radically right-wing party base which in turn has demanded far more extreme positions from their leaders. By turning against vaccines and public health, they’re endangering all of us.

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Hearing aids cost an average of $5000. Biden’s plan to make them affordable doesn’t go far enough.

child being fitted for a hearing aid
Hearing aids are customized to respond to your specific hearing experience, while PSAPs are one-size-fits-all.

  • President Biden’s recent executive order aims to address, among other things, the exorbitant costs of hearing aids.
  • Hearing aids cost an average of $5,000 and are rarely covered by insurance.
  • Only 14% of the 48 million Americans with hearing loss can afford hearing aids.
  • Over-the-counter hearing aids are not meant for children or those with severe or profound hearing loss.
  • Erin Marsh is a writer and yoga teacher from the Midwest.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.

President Biden issued an executive order last week to promote competition in the American economy. The order aims to address, among other things, the exorbitant costs of hearing aids.

My family knows the sky-high prices of hearing devices all too well. Our 5-year-old daughter, Camille, and I are both hard of hearing with a rare reverse-slope hearing loss, or low-frequency loss. We paid over $3,000 for Camille’s hearing aids, none of which was covered by insurance as hearing aids are considered cosmetic and elective.

We were able to secure a grant for her FM receiver, which allows her to participate in sports and better understand teachers, and that was another $3,000. Her hearing tests – which are required annually by the audiologist to adjust her hearing aids – cost just under $800, with only a portion covered by our insurance. My own hearing aids would have been nearly $5,000 through an audiologist, but I opted for the cheaper route: Costco hearing aids for roughly $2,000. Our hearing aids must be replaced approximately every 5 years for the duration of our lives.

The Fact Sheet issued by the White House asserts the executive order will “save Americans with hearing loss thousands of dollars by allowing hearing aids to be sold over the counter at drug stores.”

However, the Obama administration attempted to make hearing aids more affordable and as easy to purchase as reading glasses. Then the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 promised to effectively lower costs, yet prices remained steady. The White House explains this was because “the Trump Administration Food and Drug Administration failed to issue the necessary rules that would actually allow hearing aids to be sold over the counter, leaving millions of Americans without low-cost options.” The hope is the Biden administration can learn from past errors to enact lasting change this time around.

I have been hard of hearing likely since birth, yet I am only on my second pair of hearing aids due to cost, and we are a middle class family. I am not alone: Only 14% of approximately 48 million Americans with hearing loss can afford the hefty price tag. On average, hearing aids cost $5,000 a pair and are seldom covered by insurance.

My hearing loss went undetected most of my life despite the fact that it is significant. Low-frequency losses go undiagnosed largely for two reasons: speech is rarely affected, and basic hearing tests check for high-frequency loss as it is the most common. Eventually I failed a school hearing test in elementary school, but my results fell through the cracks, and my mother wasn’t alerted of the results until I reached junior high. In the 90s, I was not offered accommodations or placed on an Individualized Education Program (IEP), and my single mother couldn’t afford thousands of dollars on hearing aids. I spent my educational years adapting the best I could.

My first professional job after graduating college was teaching high school English in NYC, and I certainly couldn’t afford hearing aids living in one of the most expensive cities in the world on a teacher’s salary. It wasn’t until I settled down in Ohio and heard about financial help through the Ohio Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation that I received my first pair in my late 20s. However, I was explicitly told that the program was “one and done.” I needed to pay for future hearing aids on my own.

By the time that pair stopped working, I had become a mother and transitioned to a career in writing. I couldn’t justify spending thousands of dollars (that we didn’t have) on hearing aids as a writer. I reasoned that I’d spent most of my life without hearing aids and was used to it, so I could continue to make do.

But then my daughter was born. She passed the newborn hearing test and her preschool auditory exam, but again, they only test for high-frequency loss. Despite the passing results, I noticed the tell-tale signs of hearing loss – inability to understand unless facing someone, continuous glances at our mouths for clarification, blank stares when strangers asked questions – and I took her to an audiologist for a comprehensive audiogram (hearing test) where they discovered my identical moderately severe reverse-slope loss.

As is common, insurance didn’t cover a dime of her hearing aids. We applied for assistance through a state hearing program but were denied. We opted for the cheapest pair available for children through our audiologist – $3,200 – and are still paying them off almost two years later.

While President Biden’s plan could potentially help millions of Americans, it omits many. Over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids are not meant for children, nor should they be. It takes a pediatric audiologist to appropriately fit and adjust hearing aids for a child. Furthermore, OTC aids would be available to those with mild-to-moderate hearing loss – not those with severe or profound loss. Whether or not they could work for rare hearing losses, such as cookie bite or reverse slope, is unclear.

The issue with providing hearing aids over-the-counter is that each hearing loss is unique; it truly requires a professional to appropriately fit hearing aids. In my experience, audiologists won’t/can’t adjust hearing aids bought elsewhere, leaving OTC hearing aid adjustments up to the individual. It would be like buying reader glasses at the pharmacy. Some may benefit, but most who need prescription glasses do not.

If the Biden administration could mandate that insurance companies cover a majority of hearing aid expenses – after all, glasses and braces are covered – then all hearing losses for all ages would be included. Some insurance companies do cover a portion of the expense, but it’s usually minimal, such as $600 of the $5,000. If the Biden administration could effectively lower the cost of hearing aids by increasing competition and also demand insurance coverage, then all might benefit. In other wealthy nations, hearing aids are covered – why not here? Right now the Biden plan is a first step toward improving access for the deaf/hard of hearing community but is not a comprehensive solution.

Yet any movement to help with the cost of hearing aids is appreciated, and perhaps the most promising part of this executive order is the challenge to monopolies. The four largest hearing aid companies control 84% of the market, which means they can set whatever astronomical prices they wish. Deregulation could jeopardize their profits, and Starkey Hearing Technologies responded by increasing their political contributions, spending more than big-name medtech firms.

In a world where a $300 watch contains the technological advances of a phone, how could hearing aids possibly cost an average of $5,000? Or what about an audiogram, which is a series of beeps and recordings dictated and transcribed by a computer, for which hospitals unapologetically charge $800? In contrast, an identical hearing test at Costco is free.

President Biden’s executive order is a first step in making the world more accessible and inclusive for all of us who are deaf and hard of hearing. With increased competition and wider availability, hearing aid prices will hopefully plummet. Perhaps one day, hearing aids will be as commonplace and affordable as a pair of glasses. In the meantime, we will need to continue to advocate for basic access to sounds that most people take for granted.

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I’m a millionaire businessman who was arrested for protesting with restaurant workers. We demand better wages for the employees running our economy.

wage protest
  • What our economy is experiencing is not a worker shortage, it’s a wage shortage.
  • Our economic recovery is stalling because wages have been frozen for a decade.
  • It’s time we give America’s tipped workers the pay increase they deserve. Our countries financial future relies on it.
  • Brian is a member of the Patriotic Millionaires and the co-founder of The Delta Fund.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As the US transitions into the recovery phase of the pandemic, tipped workers across the country are leveraging their strength in numbers and sending a clear message to the restaurant industry that they should be paid what they deserve.

The sub-minimum wage for tipped workers is a direct legacy of slavery that has long contributed to some of the highest rates of sexual harassment across any industry. It’s time policymakers take action to ensure one fair wage nationwide.

On May 25, I joined restaurant workers in downtown San Francisco as part of a nationwide wage strike to demand an end to the sub-minimum wage and a full, fair living wage nationwide. We engaged in civil disobedience to call attention to the ongoing injustice that tipped minimum wage workers are forced to endure every day, and were arrested by SFPD as a result.

As a wealthy white man, my experience being arrested was likely more comfortable than the conditions many of our nation’s tipped workers face every day. 70% of women working as servers, bartenders, or other roles in the food services industry say they’ve dealt with sexual harassment from their employers, coworkers or customers. COVID-19 has only exacerbated these issues and made working conditions worse for vulnerable employees.

Now, with our country facing an unprecedented hiring shortage, especially in the restaurant industry, it is slowing our economic recovery. Hard working Americans simply don’t want to risk their lives for poverty wages any longer. It’s important that allies in California, which is already a One Fair Wage state – a state that requires all employers to pay the full minimum wage with fair, non-discriminatory tips on top – with a stronger restaurant industry to prove it, join this fight.

I am a successful business leader, a former executive, and now an investor in old and new businesses across the United States, so I know what a good investment looks like. I’ve done the research and seen for myself how ending the sub-minimum wage and enacting a full, fair minimum wage with tips on top is not only good for restaurant workers, but for owners and customers as well. Pre-pandemic, the seven existing One Fair Wage states have higher restaurant industry growth and even higher rates of tipping. Even now, though all restaurants have struggled mightily in the face of COVID-19 shutdowns, restaurants in One Fair Wage states have on average seen less decline in their number of open businesses in the hospitality industry.

But don’t take it from me. Take it from the heads of the corporate restaurant chains that have long been fighting against raising wages. On call after call, these CEOs have not only said that a higher minimum wage for all workers doesn’t hurt their business, they’ve also admitted that it’s actually better for business.

The CFO of Denny’s, for instance, said on an investor call that California raising its minimum wage has helped the chain outperform there versus the rest of the country. Understandably, that’s led to a shareholder revolt against the company’s continued lobbying against a $15 minimum wage. If companies like Denny’s admit that One Fair Wage is good for their bottom line, they’re violating their fiduciary duty by spending millions of dollars lobbying against fair wage laws.

That’s why our protest in San Francisco started outside Denny’s downtown. We need to hold them accountable for their hypocrisy and the low-wages they’re still paying our brothers and sisters across the country.

The bottom line is that the federal government has already bailed out restaurant owners to the tune of over $28 billion over the last year and a half. It’s time for the federal government to give restaurant workers the same attention, and mandate that they must be paid what they deserve.

The House has acted. Now, we need the Senate to pass the full Raise the Wage Act, which would end subminimum wages for tipped workers and make a $15 minimum wage the law of the land.

As a business executive and investor, I know that what’s good for people is good for business. We’re a consumer-driven economy, and putting more money in the hands of workers is essential to driving demand. On the flip side, smart business leaders know that inequality is bad for the economy and bad for business. With the pandemic driving more profits and government bailouts into the hands of the ownership class while impoverishing and bankrupting workers, we’re all going to end up worse off unless a drastic change is made.

Restaurants don’t have a worker shortage, they have a wage shortage. That’s why I stood in solidarity with restaurant workers and was arrested alongside them in their nationwide wage strike. It’s time we demand better for everyone. Call your representatives and let our leaders know that we demand a just and thriving economy, and therefore we demand giving all workers a living wage.

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The fight to protect voting rights at the federal level is dead. But there’s still a glimmer of hope.

voting rights protestor with sign
Activists from various grassroots organizations rally outside City Hall in Los Angeles, California on July 7, 2021, calling on Congress and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to remove the filibuster and pass the “For the People Act” to expand voting rights.

  • The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Arizona’s law that makes it harder to vote.
  • Congress has stalled out on advancing legislation to protect voting rights.
  • But while the fight for voting rights may have died on the federal level, there is still hope to drive out people and protect voting at the state level.
  • Michael Gordon is a longtime Democratic strategist, a former spokesman for the Justice Department, and the principal for the strategic-communications firm Group Gordon.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court signed the death certificate for voting rights. In a 6-3 decision along ideological lines, the Court decided that Arizona could implement restrictions that hamper the ability of Black and brown voters to cast their ballot.

In essence, more than 50 years after the Voting Rights Act became law, the federal protections against racially discriminatory voting policies have been stripped away. The conservative majority on the Supreme Court has given new energy to right wing states that want to keep minority voters away from the polls.

Democrats have the Supreme Court and red states against them. So their only choice left is to go local – and out-organize anyone standing in their way.

The big lie on steroids

While Republican-controlled states have passed onerous voting laws for years, the recent spate of voter suppression tactics all stem from former President Donald Trump’s “Big Lie.” The fact that President Joe Biden won the reliably Republican states of Georgia and Arizona sent a shockwave through the GOP. We all know, and perhaps expected, Trump to falsely claim that there was voter “fraud” after his 2020 loss. But now Republicans are falling all over themselves to please the former President by enacting laws to prevent these nonexistent “irregularities” from happening again.

Arizona, where the Supreme Court case originated, prevents friends and neighbors from helping someone turn in absentee ballots. It also allows the state to disqualify voters who accidentally vote in the wrong precinct. Republicans claim they are trying to prevent fraud, but the actual intention is clear when you recognize that local GOP officials routinely shift voting locations in minority neighborhoods – making it easier for these voters to accidentally run afoul of the new law.

Georgia’s new laws, the cause of much outcry earlier this year, not only tighten voter ID requirements – a dog whistle for preventing Black folks from voting – but also make it a crime to pass out water to voters in line. Considering there are generally longer lines where Black voters vote, the water bottle law is designed to force Black voters out of line before making it to the front.

These laws aren’t just in swing states, either. States like Arkansas, Alabama, and Oklahoma have all passed laws making it harder to vote by mail, on top of many other voting restrictions. This is an epidemic, and Democrats must use every means at their disposal to fight back before it’s too late.

Filibustering the filibuster

The conventional wisdom is that the Democrats’ most effective response to voter suppression is to pass a new federal voter protection law. Indeed, some of the very first bills put forth in the US House and Senate this year were to protect voting rights, like the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. The bills have not seen much success because of Republican intransigence.

The most common solution to move past the GOP is changing the filibuster, which prevents any bill from moving forward in the Senate unless it has 60 supporters. Given the 50-50 split in the chamber, this effectively gives the Republican minority veto power over almost every bill brought to the Senate floor.

After the Supreme Court decision, Democrats are calling again for an end to the filibuster so that the voting rights law can pass. But that ship has sailed. The Democrats in the ideological center of the Senate, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, have not moved on changing the filibuster. And with their stubbornness on the filibuster goes any chance of a new federal voting law.

Democrats across the country need to stop hoping that Congress or the courts will fix this problem. They won’t. Democrats need to take charge themselves.

Voter suppression boomerang

While efforts may be stymied at the federal level, Democrats do have a chance to harness the energy and outrage around voter suppression to increase voter turnout at the state and local level.

To start, they need to let Black, brown, and younger voters know that Republicans are trying to prevent them from voting, and inform them of how to stay on top of their right to vote. Major Democratic Super PACs are already investing in this kind of work, but more funds and more people will be necessary to make a real difference.

In Arizona, where casting a ballot in the wrong place can lead to disqualification, voter education campaigns are essential. The GOP technique only works to suppress the vote when voters don’t know their polling location. With solid organizing, Democrats can ensure every single voter knows where to cast their ballot.

In Georgia, ground zero for many false claims of election fraud, Democrats have already shown what it takes to fight back. Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight has been on the front lines of combating voter suppression. As a result, Georgia Democrats helped flip the White House and Senate in 2020. If Democrats are serious about combating voter suppression, they should set up a Fair Fight in every single state.

Perhaps the single largest step that Democrats can take to fight suppression and increase turnout is to invest in year-round organizing. In too many places, young Democratic staffers parachute in for one campaign cycle and then leave, forgoing the ability to forge the deep connections it takes to win over and help voters.

The chair of the Wisconsin Democrats credits year-round organizing for the slim wins in both Wisconsin and Georgia, and the Democratic state party in Texas is already investing in this. It gets results. Texas Democrats managed to defeat an earlier attempt to pass draconian voter suppression laws, although the governor is still trying.

For the time being, Democrats can’t do anything about the Supreme Court. But the right to vote is precious, and we can use the threat of these new laws to inspire people to hold onto what’s theirs and fight back against Republican attempts to subvert democracy.

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We are lawmakers from 5 states that finally put an end to child marriage. It’s past time for the other 45 US states to follow our lead.

A woman in a white dress is shown from the neck down with a red stop sign-shaped sign reading "Stop child marriage in the US!" She is holding flowers and has a chain wrapped around her wrist.
A demonstrator wearing a bridal gown takes part in a protest urging legislators to end Massachusetts child marriage at the Massachusetts State House in Boston on March 27, 2019.

  • Bipartisan legislators who ended child marriage in five states call on their colleagues in the other US states to follow their lead.
  • Child marriage creates a legal trap for minors, who often cannot file for divorce.
  • Don’t cave to loopholes or compromises; there is no reason for marriage before age 18.
  • State Representative Kim Williams has served in the Delaware General Assembly since 2012.
  • Senator Sandy Pappas has served in the Minnesota Senate since 1990.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the authors.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

We ended a human rights abuse in our five states. And now we, a bipartisan group of state legislators, call on lawmakers in the remaining 45 states to do the same. End child marriage – an archaic, sexist practice that destroys girls’ lives – even if you get the pushback we got at first.

Unless you live in Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, or Rhode Island, child marriage is legal in your state. In our states, we partnered with the nonprofit organization Unchained At Last to close the dangerous legal loopholes that allowed it.

Child marriage is a nightmare of a legal trap

Nearly 300,000 children were married legally in the United States between 2000 and 2018, Unchained found. Most were girls wed to adult men with an average age difference of four years. Nearly all were age 16 or 17, though a few were as young as 10.

Even for the most mature 17-year-olds, marriage creates a nightmarish legal trap. They can be entered into marriage by a parent and/or a judge, with little or no input from them, before they even have the basic legal rights to navigate a contract as serious as marriage.

Minors typically cannot leave home to escape from parents planning an unwanted wedding or leave an abusive spouse until they are 18. They also usually cannot enter a domestic violence shelter, since these shelters usually turn away unaccompanied minors.

Children cannot easily retain an attorney, since contracts with children, including retainer agreements, typically are voidable. They usually cannot even file for divorce independently. Minors typically are not allowed to bring a legal action in their own name.

Even when it is not forced, marriage before 18 is a human rights abuse, according to the US State Department. It destroys nearly every aspect of American girls’ lives, from their education and economic opportunities to their health. It also triples a girl’s risk of experiencing domestic violence.

Child marriage also undermines statutory rape laws. Some 60,000 marriages since 2000 occurred at an age or with a spousal age difference that should have been considered a sex crime, according to Unchained.

Don’t cave to compromise. End child marriage.

You probably will get opposition when you introduce the simple, commonsense legislation we introduced in our states, which eliminated the dangerous loopholes that allowed marriage before age 18.

Do not compromise. Do not replace one loophole with another; insist on a marriage age of 18 – or higher if the age of adulthood is higher in your state – without exceptions. There is no room for negotiation when you are ending a human rights abuse.

You will hear, as we did, from legislators and others whose grandmothers married at 14. Remind them that the world has changed since grandma was a kid.

You will hear arguments about young love. Respond by asking what harm comes to a young couple if they wait a matter of months to marry. Minors must wait until 18 to enter almost any other contract, regardless of how passionately they feel about it.

But what if a girl is pregnant, some will ask you. If the girl is too young to consent to sex, we should investigate a rape, not plan a wedding. Either way, we would be harming, not helping, if we married off pregnant girls. Studies show teen mothers in the US who marry are more likely to suffer economic deprivation and instability than teen mothers who stay single.

A teen mother who wants to co-parent with the father of the baby can easily do so outside of marriage. He can simply establish paternity, and his insurance and other benefits would cover the baby. We no longer have illegitimacy laws that punish babies born “out of wedlock.”

Do not be swayed by the religious argument. We do not know of any religion that requires child marriage; actually, several major religions have supported legislation to end child marriage. Besides, the US Supreme Court has upheld laws that incidentally forbid an act required by religion, if the laws do not target religious practice.

Ending child marriage does not impact reproductive rights. The US Supreme Court has established that states should treat minors’ abortions differently from minors’ marriage, because the former is time sensitive while the latter is not.

Do not agree to a loophole that allows emancipated minors to be subjected to a human rights abuse. Emancipation is for teens who cannot be reunited with their parents; it gives them some rights of adulthood so they can fend for themselves. Teens do not need marriage to fend for themselves.

Teens do not need marriage, period. If they are in an abusive home or cannot get health insurance from their parents, they deserve resources that do not require them to enter a contractual sexual relationship.

Under United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5.3, the US joined 192 other countries in promising to end child marriage by 2030. We have achieved that goal in five states so far, despite initial resistance from our colleagues.

Now we urge our fellow lawmakers in the 45 other states: Please join us. Every child in the US is relying on us to keep our promise to the world and end all marriage before 18. No exceptions. No compromises.

Delaware Rep. Kim Williams

Delaware Former Sen. Anthony Delcollo

New Jersey Sen. Nellie Pou

New Jersey Asm. Nancy Munoz

Pennsylvania Rep. Perry Warren

Pennsylvania Rep. Jesse Topper

Pennsylvania Sen. John Sabatina

Minnesota Sen. Sandra Pappas

Minnesota Rep. Kaohly Her

Rhode Island Rep. Julie Casimiro

Rhode Island Sen. John Burke

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China’s ‘wolf warrior diplomacy’ has come to Wall Street

Xi jinping at CCP 100th anniversary
Chinese President and Chairman of the Communist Party Xi Jinping appears on a large screen as performers dance during a mass gala marking the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party on June 28, 2021 at the Olympic Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing, China.

  • China’s assertive, nationalistic behavior – known as “wolf warrior diplomacy” – has come to the financial markets.
  • This week Beijing punished a Chinese tech company that listed on the New York Stock exchange, and announced rules to govern all Chinese companies listed abroad.
  • Consider this part of the Chinese Communist Party tightening its grip on power at home, and closing its doors power from abroad.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

It was only a matter of time before Beijing’s heightened nationalism came to Wall Street.

This week, Chinese authorities punished Didi, a ride sharing company, for its June 30 public debut on the New York Stock Exchange. Shortly after the Didi crackdown, Beijing announced new measures that could restrict Chinese companies going public abroad.

What all this is telling us is that Beijing is no longer going to tolerate its tech stars making foreigners rich on foreign exchanges. And it is further evidence that China is closing its society and economy to the West.

Bring it all back home

In order to more freely list on foreign stock exchanges, Chinese companies create something called a “variable interest entity.” In such an arrangement, a Chinese company creates another company in a tax haven like the Cayman Islands where foreigners can invest. The Chinese company then signs an agreement that gives control and profits to the Cayman entity, from which money is distributed to shareholders and the company back in China. For years, Beijing generally looked the other way when it came to VIEs.

Now, according to Bloomberg, Beijing’s new regulations are designed to limit the ability of Chinese companies to set up these entities. The proposed rules would govern what data can and can’t be shared abroad, target “illegal securities activities,” and set up extra-national laws Chinese companies would have to follow regardless of where they are listed.

Didi shares are down around 20% since it’s IPO, in part because Beijing announced these measures, and in part because it has become a target for authorities at home. On July 2, the Cyberspace Administration of China announced it was investigating Didi. Two days later China’s app stores were ordered to stop allowing users to download Didi. The CAC claims that Didi was illegally collecting user data.

And perhaps that’s true. But it’s also likely that this is a signal that “wolf warrior” aggression – a kind of Chinese diplomacy named after a hyper-nationalistic film- has come to financial markets. Two other Chinese tech companies listed in the US – Kanzhun and Full Truck Alliance – also had their downloads halted by Chinese regulators. The almost 250 Chinese companies worth $2 trillion in market cap listed on major US exchanges should all be watching their backs.

China is closing

There are two main reasons for this seemingly sudden crackdown – one is China’s increasing antagonism with the West, and the other is the Chinese Communist Party’s own desire for power and self-preservation. Together they amount to the reality that China is once again closing its doors to the world, reversing the opening that began in the 1970s.

As part of a larger crackdown on civil society, the Chinese Communist Party has been tightening its control over any sources of power that might challenge it at home. That includes tech billionaires like Alibaba founder Jack Ma, who has recently been publicly brought to heel by Beijing. And it includes tech companies, like Tencent and Pinduoduo, another e-commerce giant.

Targeting tech companies that list abroad also puts pressure on Chinese companies to consider an IPO to list in Shanghai or Hong Kong instead. It is no secret that China’s encroachment into Hong Kong prompted an exodus of financial firms from the city. Making it the new landing place for Chinese tech companies to go public could help it maintain its status as a global financial center.

It is also no secret that the US and China are at risk of what some call “decoupling”– essentially breaking ties and creating a world with separate US or China-centric technologies and financial centers. In some ways, because the two powers have become so antagonistic, this is already happening. Domestically, Beijing has been investing in technological advancements with the hopes making the country a techno-superpower by 2025. Now it’s calling its companies home.

What’s doubly important is that none of the above is primarily about making China rich. It’s all about hoarding power for the CCP. Under President Xi Jiinping that has become Beijing’s motivation above all else, and we should all expect it to act accordingly – even when it means hurting its own domestic companies.

A chilling effect

Last year Congress passed the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, which requires foreign companies listed on US stock exchanges to be audited by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board’s. If they refuse for three years in a row they can be delisted. Last month, the Senate passed a law that would shorten the time frame to two years in a row.

The problem with this is that so far, Chinese regulators will have absolutely none of it.

This is a stare down. If Chinese companies listed here in the US do not comply they will be delisted. If they do comply Beijing could come down hard on these companies at home. In the meantime recriminations are flying. GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida called the Didi IPO “reckless and irresponsible” weeks before Beijing clamped down on the company, arguing that Didi is a black box.

Rubio and Democratic Sen. Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania introduced a bill in May that would prohibit companies from going public on US exchanges if they do not comply with US regulators and submit to an audit from the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board.

All of this pressure from Beijing and Washington will, without a doubt, have a chilling effect on Chinese companies listing here in the United States. So yes, this is another form of decoupling – and it’s coming from both sides of the Pacific.

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Biden’s big jobs plan will actually hurt low-income and minority Americans’ chances of owning a home

compromises buying home
The Biden administration’s proposed American Jobs Plan would create new hurdles for minority and low-income first-time homebuyers.

  • The American Jobs Plan would make home ownership less accessible for low-income and minority home buyers.
  • If you can’t put 20% down when you buy a house, you have to pay mortgage insurance.
  • Biden’s plan would make private mortgage insurance more expensive.
  • Jerry Theodorou is the director of the Finance, Insurance and Trade Policy Program at the R Street Institute.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the authors.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Homeownership is a pillar of the American dream. Last year, the pandemic made many Americans realize they wanted that dream sooner rather than later. Many turned to Redfin and Zillow, swiping through home after home as travel was restricted. News reports quickly followed of surging housing prices and increasing demand as renters turned into buyers and people looked for more living space.

On the surface, this news sounds like a boon to the American economy. Owning a home builds equity and intergenerational wealth, and it can be a cushion against financial setbacks. Yes, there are risks, as shown from the 2008 financial crisis, but American homeownership is still on the rise.

It baffles the mind, then, that as the economy continues to recover, the Biden administration’s proposed American Jobs Plan would create new hurdles for minority and low-income first-time homebuyers. In an effort to pay for the plan, the government would raise the cost of private mortgage insurance, potentially squashing the dreams of millions of Americans.

Inequity in homeownership

Minority and low-income families would be hit hardest by the new legislation because 40% of loans with private mortgage insurance are for families with annual incomes below $75,000, and 60% go to first-time homebuyers. The disparity between homeownership by Black families and white families is already significant – 42.3% of Black families own homes compared with 72.2% of white families. The Biden plan would only widen this gap.

Home buyers can pay as little as 3% of a home purchase price as a down payment. But for those who supply less than 20%, mortgage insurance must be purchased to protect lenders against a borrower defaulting. But private mortgage insurers must have sufficient financial strength to withstand the inevitable peaks and valleys in the cyclical housing market. Since the 2008 financial crisis, new regulations have required insurers to maintain sufficient capital levels to survive another downturn.

Insurers have strengthened their capital base by purchasing reinsurance – insurance for insurance companies. Think of it like a financial shock absorber that spreads risk globally and acts as a bulwark against crippling losses from catastrophic events. Reinsurance is so important for mortgage insurers that in 2020, US insurers shared more than 30% of their mortgage insurance risk with non-US sources. Bermuda reinsurers alone, for example, accounted for just over 50% of such cessions.

The failure of the Jobs Plan

This is where the American Jobs Plan enters the picture. First, it would increase the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%. Second, it would impose a global minimum tax rate that dilutes the benefits of Bermuda reinsurance. For mortgage insurers, this will inevitably lead to higher prices. Currently, Bermuda reinsurers do not impose taxes on corporate income, allowing mortgage insurers to benefit from the availability of low-cost mortgage insurance.

These actions seem far upstream from the average home buyer, but the effects will trickle down quickly. A higher corporate tax rate for mortgage insurers will eat into their profits. To recoup these lost dollars, they will raise required mortgage insurance rates for all home buyers who put down less than 20%. Simple financial modeling suggests that rates could rise by approximately 10% overall, a significant increase for borrowers, pushing homeownership further away for those of lesser means.

The math is fairly straightforward. Mortgage buyers with excellent credit scores – more than 740 – who put 3% down on a $200,000 home pay approximately $9,500 for the mortgage insurance over eight and half years until the loan-to-value ratio drops below 80%. Borrowers with credit scores between 680 and 699, slightly below the national average, with the same down payment on the same home pay approximately $19,800 in mortgage insurance. Under Biden’s plan, those costs could increase by as much as 10%.

If the American Jobs Plan becomes law, the cost of insurance will rise, potential homebuyers will be affected directly, and, thus, the economy overall.

The Biden administration should stop building barriers to homeownership and instead support policies that will help first-time homebuyers, particularly the low-and-moderate- income families, especially in today’s low interest rate environment. One way to begin is to reconsider the proposed anti-free trade, anti-fair trade, globally-mandated minimum tax policies. The American dream depends on it.

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If you want to see just how badly workers in the US get screwed over, just look at how baseball players are treated

A baseball flying through in the air with red dollar signs threading at its seams on a purple background
Minor League Baseball conditions are causing players to speak out.

  • Earlier this month, minor league baseball players nearly had to sleep in their cars because of low pay and no housing.
  • That’s part and parcel for how minor leaguers are treated around the industry.
  • The way baseball treats workers is symptomatic of the way American labor is treated across industries.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

On June 15, player advocacy group Advocates for Minor Leaguers called out the Baltimore Orioles for their treatment of Double-A affiliate the Bowie Baysox.

Baysox players, Advocates for Minor Leaguers tweeted, were “considering sleeping in their cars” because the team wouldn’t pay for housing and the cost of a hotel would come to 80% of their two week paycheck after taxes.

Hours later, players were informed that the price was now actually half of what they had been initially told to expect. Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias denied to the press that the players had ever been in danger of sleeping in their cars, telling reporters that was just “not accurate.”

It’s hard to take that denial seriously, however. Minor League players have been subjected to mistreatment and poor pay for decades. Congress codified that maltreatment in 2018, including a provision in the $1.3 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act that exempts teams from having to pay minor leaguers overtime or for spring training. The deck is stacked against minor league players, who are fighting for an elusive chance to make it to the majors and a real paycheck.

This is the American way. Around the country, workers are subjected to poor conditions, worse pay, and sold unrealistic promises of better futures. Rich owners of baseball teams deny their employees in the minors adequate pay and shelter despite the relatively low cost of doing so – just like billionaires like Jeff Bezos overwork and underpay their employees in other industries.

Food and Shelter

Minor League players face difficult working conditions, Advocates for Minor Leaguers executive director Harrison Marino told me. Most players make about $15,000 a year – seasonal pay that comes with a contractual obligation to perform services all year. Many, if not most, minor leaguers have to find other jobs in the offseason just to make ends meet while they continue to train.

Housing is extremely difficult given the rung-by-rung movement of most minor leaguers towards the majors and for the pittance they are paid. While teams pay for player accommodations on the road, players are expected to provide for themselves and find housing as needed when playing at home. This presents myriad issues, not least that a player can bounce around from city to city as they advance in their career because a team’s affiliates will not be all in one region.

For instance, a player in the San Francisco Giants organization would in theory have to travel from its Low-A affiliate team – the first rung on the minor league ladder – in San Jose to its High-A team in Eugene, Oregon (562 miles away) to its Double-A team in Richmond, Virginia (a 2,873 mile trip), and finally to the Triple-A team in Sacramento (a 2,783 mile trip). All while finding new housing every time they move up (or down) levels.

The food situation is often hardly better. On June 1, Advocates for Minor Leaguers posted photos from Oakland Athletics minor leaguers showing their post-game meals: a cheese sandwich from May worthy of the infamous Fyre Festival and, more recently, what appeared to be an attempt at a taco. The A’s claimed they had ended the relationship with the vendor, “several weeks ago.”

There’s not much players can do.

“Because players are tied to their MLB club for seven seasons, they can’t seek a better deal with a different club,” Marino told me. “When it comes to MLB teams’ treatment of Minor League players, it really is a race to the bottom.”

America’s Game

Because of its monopolistic position over the sport of baseball, Major League Baseball is the only viable buyer for baseball player labor. That gives the league outsized power and control over its labor pool to an extent most other companies can only dream of. In practice, this means a relationship between worker and boss that is tilted overwhelmingly toward the powerful.

Minor leaguers have faced an extreme version of that relationship for decades. Steve Hamilton, a major leaguer, told Studs Terkel in 1974’s “Working” that the unbalanced relationship between players and owners was even harder on the players in the minors – who didn’t, and don’t, have a union, unlike major league players.

“They insist on knowing you as a thing,” said Hamilton. “It’s easy for them to manipulate.”

Reflecting Pool

Poor treatment and low pay are endemic in nearly every US industry, and the tension between how workers are treated and business owners are compensated has become more and more apparent in recent years. Conversations around income inequality that exploded into the mainstream more than a decade ago have matured and begun to target the systemic underpinnings of the American economic system.

Baseball isn’t even the worst offender. The gig economy, particularly driver services like Uber and Lyft, has led to a less stabilized and less secure workforce even as the people at the top of those companies rake in profits. Hourly pay for a driver at Uber – like Minnesota Twins pitcher Randy Dobnakout did before getting signed – comes to a little under $10 an hour after taxes, according to an EPI study; the company further depresses wages by refusing, unless forced, to provide benefits for workers.

Companies around the country dangle the opportunity of promotions and power in front of workers in order to entice them into dead-end jobs because, technically, the possibility exists that they can advance – though only around 10% will. But for the majority of working people in the US, the American dream seems barely worth imagining.

No wonder, then, that there’s a labor shortage. The service industry is facing severe difficulty in getting people to return to work, and the response from many restaurateurs and caterers is to call for an end to COVID-related unemployment benefits. The song remains the same: for bosses and owners, the workers are disposable, whether they’re short order cooks, drivers for Uber, or minor league baseball players,

“Baseball occupies a unique position in our cultural landscape,” Marino said. “For the past 150 years, labor relations in baseball have both reflected and shaped labor relations in the United States more broadly.”

Today, conditions are better than they were in the past – the plight of the Minor League players notwithstanding. But the deck is still stacked against workers, just as it is across almost every industry in America.

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