Kalena Thomhave

Kalena Thomhave is a writing fellow at the Prospect.

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Recent Articles

Work Requirements Seep into Policy, the Evidence Be Damned

And Trump counts on this failed set of policies to cut vital public assistance.

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise on September 13, 2018 trickle-downers.jpg O n Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell revealed what many had already predicted: Republicans would place blame for the deficit, which was ballooned by the $1.5 trillion Republican tax cut of 2017, on public assistance programs. McConnell told Bloomberg News that the deficit is “very disturbing, and it’s driven by the three entitlement programs that are very popular—Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid.” Indeed, conservatives are already putting forth policies to trim social programs, even as they are expanding work requirements to keep millions of low-income Americans from receiving assistance, and appointing people to administer such programs who have histories of mutilating them. In their zeal to impose work requirements, they are serenely undaunted by the vast body of research that shows such...

Fighting for $15—and a Union

The Fight for $15 has compelled states, cities, and businesses to set a $15 minimum wage. But its workers also want—and have yet to win—a union.

(AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File)
(AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File) Protesters rally outside a McDonald's in Times Square on April 15, 2015. A wave of fast-food worker protests and strikes, led by the Fight for $15, unfolded across the country two weeks ago. But more than just fighting for a raise, the movement has an additional goal, though their name doesn’t suggest it: winning unions. Specifically, getting unions at low-wage employers; the recent protests targeted fast-food giants like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King. At the beginning of the month, the Fight for $15 hosted a week of actions in the Midwest explicitly focused on demanding union rights, which led to about 100 arrests of workers as well as allied elected officials. Workers went on strike in Detroit and Flint, Michigan, on Tuesday, October 2, and workers in Milwaukee shut down a McDonald’s during the lunch hour on October 3 and then marched to the interstate, closing lanes. On Thursday, October 4, more than 1,000 workers descended upon McDonald’s...

Pressuring Bosses Is Good. Policy Change Is Better.

Amazon raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour, but shouldn’t get a pat on the back just for doing what the government should have done long ago.

AP Photo/David Zalubowski A worker moves an item from a cart to the line for boxing at the Amazon fulfillment center in Aurora, Colorado. trickle-downers_54.jpg A fter years of bad press about Amazon’s treatment of its workers, the company announced Tuesday that it is raising its employees’ wages to $15 an hour, effective next month. The new wage will cover all employees, including temporary and seasonal workers. It’s clear that the company succumbed to public pressure from worker movements as well as criticism from progressive politicians, particularly Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The announcement comes amid growing agitation for higher wages and better working conditions. This week, the Fight for $15 is coordinating protests and strikes among fast food workers seeking better pay and union representation. Just last week, airport workers at the three New York-area airports won a $19 minimum wage—which will be the highest targeted minimum wage in the country—after years of union...

Some Good News: New York–Area Airport Workers Just Won Country’s Highest Minimum Wage

Good news has been a little thin this week, but here’s something decidedly positive: Today, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey approved a raise for approximately 40,000 airport workers at Newark, JFK, and LaGuardia airports. By 2023, airport workers, who include workers like cabin cleaners, baggage handlers, and wheelchair attendants, will receive a minimum wage of $19 per hour. That will be the highest targeted minimum wage in the country.

“I’m feeling good—real good,” says Yasmeen Holmes, who works in queue management at Newark. “We won, finally.” 

Just seven years ago, workers were making the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, says Rob Hill, vice president of 32BJ Service Employees International Union, which represents 10,000 workers at the three airports. “We had to do the hard work of organizing a union,” says Hill. “Rallies and leaflets and marches. [Workers] got arrested for blocking bridges and roads. We had, I think, 25 strikes.”

The union has been pressuring the Port Authority to raise the wage for years. A system of subcontracting kept wages low as companies bid against one another, aiming to offer the lowest price for work. In recent years, the union pushed the Port Authority to raise wages from the federal level up to $10.45 an hour at Newark and at least $13 an hour at JFK and LaGuardia. Over the next five years, these wages will rise to a $19 minimum.

reported on Wednesday how airport workers around the world plan to protest during a global day of action on Tuesday, October 2. Airport workers are frequently forced to work for low wages and few or no benefits, even as airline profits skyrocket (this year, worldwide profits are expected to reach $38.4 billion). The high turnover of these jobs not only threatens workers’ economic security; it threatens airport safety and security. The New York and New Jersey Port Authority’s announcement is sure to be a rallying point for airport workers next week during the worldwide demonstrations.

“I feel like I can breathe,” says Donna Hampton, a security officer at JFK. Hampton, who described having to stagger her rent payments, says she is looking forward to being able to pay her rent in full. The fight for a living wage “was long and hard fought—but we never gave up.

“Honestly, I can sleep better,” she says. “It’s like a rebirth.”

Airport Workers to Launch Worldwide Protests for Higher Pay, Improved Working Conditions

Airlines everywhere report record profits, but airport contract workers haven’t seen healthy wage or benefit gains. Next week, those workers are joining together in North and South America, Europe, and Asia to bring attention to their plight. 

AP Photo/Robert E. Klein Jet Blue Airlines baggage handlers offload baggage from an Airbus 320 at gate C19 at Logan International Airport in Boston. W ith the unmistakable cacophony of airport noise in the background, Tim Maddox, a wheelchair attendant, takes a break from talking with workers at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to speak with me. Maddox is organizing for next week’s global day of action for airport workers. “There’s been a real assault on unions, labor, and workers,” says Maddox who is an executive board member of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), United Service Workers West , which represents thousands of service workers across California . “So, we’re standing up for better jobs at the airport—to be able to have a voice on the job, and have respect on the job.” Next Tuesday, October 2, airport workers around the world will protest for better worker protections and for union rights. According to SEIU, workers in at least 43 airports in 13 countries—...

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