7 Key Findings in EPI’s New Report on Race and Unemployment

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) released a new report this week that takes a deeper look at unemployment, particularly when it comes to racial disparities in the recovery from the Great Recession. The report, written by Valerie Wilson, argues that the projected decline in unemployment for 2015 won’t lift African Americans out of the employment crater caused by the recession.

Wilson concludes:

Five years into recovery from the Great Recession, unemployment rates are finally nearing their 2007 levels, but the pace of recovery varies by state for different racial and ethnic groups. In the fourth quarter of 2014, the national white and Hispanic unemployment rates were each within 1 percentage point of prerecession levels while the black unemployment rate was 2.4 percentage points higher than it was at the end of 2007. Although long-term unemployment was down significantly for all groups in 2014, it remained above historic norms, revealing weaknesses in the labor market (Josh Bivens and Heidi Shierholz, 2014).

Here are seven key findings of the report:

  1. In the last quarter of 2014, the unemployment rates by race were: 4.4% for Asians, 4.5% for whites, 6.7% for Hispanics and 11.0% for African Americans.
  2. The national unemployment rate for African Americans, 11%, is higher than the overall unemployment rate at the peak of the recession (9.9%).
  3. Unemployment rates are projected to decline modestly through the end of 2015 for all races.
  4. After the Great Recession, unemployment rates are finally nearing 2007 levels, but the recovery varies by state and by racial and ethnic group. White and Hispanic unemployment rates are within 1% of their 2007 level, while the rate for African Americans was 2.4% higher than the prerecession level.
  5. The unemployment rate for African Americans is expected to fall to 10.4% by the fourth quarter of 2015, significantly higher than the prerecession level of 8.6%. Significantly decreases in the unemployment rate for African Americans are expected in only two states (California and Illinois). Only one state is expected to have a significant drop in the Hispanic unemployment rate (Rhode Island). No states are expected to see a significant drop in the white unemployment rate.
  6. The white unemployment rate has significantly declined in 33 states since 2013, while the white employment-to-population (EPOP) ratio increased in six states. For Hispanics, the unemployment rate dropped in 14 states, while the EPOP increased in nine states. For African Americans, the rate dropped in 15 states and the EPOP increased in six states.
  7. The share of workers who were unemployed long term declined for all races after 2013. Hispanics saw a decline in 4.8%, Asians 4.3%, whites 4.1% and African Americans 3.8%.

Read the full report.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Black Equality Doesn’t End in February

This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

Black History Month is more than just acknowledgement in a newspaper or a special program at your children’s school. It’s an opportunity to reflect on how far black people in the United States have come in their struggle for justice and equal rights, while not forgetting the scores of women and men whose lives have been destroyed by our biased judicial system. The mass criminalization of millions of men and women, mostly people of color who are imprisoned for small infractions, creates a group of second-class citizens who are unable to rebuild a life for themselves even after serving their time.

In 2013, the labor movement passed a resolution recognizing that mass incarceration has become a big business whose product is low wages and ruined lives, and we decided that it’s time for labor to join forces with our allies in the criminal justice community and fight back. Together we are working toward achieving a reformed criminal justice system that offers formerly imprisoned people an economic path forward and restores voting rights—and we are already winning battles. Last year, California passed Prop. 47, a ballot measure that reduced the classification of some low-level nonviolent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. The crimes covered by the proposal include things like minor drug possession and petty theft, minor offenses that should not define or destroy an individual’s life.

Mass incarceration is not only a civil rights issue, it’s an economics issue. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka traveled to Los Angeles before Prop. 47 passed to shed some light on the situation. He noted that one-third of African American men will serve time in federal prison during their lifetime. That’s an incarceration rate five times greater than that for white men, even though studies have shown that white men and black men commit crimes at roughly the same rates. Once those men and women get out of prison, they have a harder time finding employment and housing due to their arrest records.

The labor movement is a movement of second chances and firmly believes our criminal justice system needs to offer people another chance to contribute to our society. The AFL-CIO staunchly opposes harmful policies like mandatory sentences for nonviolent crimes and we support programs that help people reintegrate into their communities, such as job training, education, probation and parole. If we are going to raise wages for all workers, we have to ensure that everyone has a fair shot at earning a wage.

Black History Month might be coming to an end, but the struggle to ensure that African Americans have a fair shot lasts until there is equity in our criminal justice system. Let’s focus on ensuring that every member of our communities has a shot at charting his or her own path forward. It’s time for us to wake up, come together and strive to create a criminal justice system that works.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Black History Month Labor Profiles: Rachel Bryan

During Black History Month, we will be profiling past and present leaders in the intersecting movements to protect and expand the rights of African Americans and working families. We’ll highlight both important leaders of the past and those who are continuing the legacy of those strong leaders who laid the foundation for the present.

Rachel Bryan is currently the governmental relations and community liaison at Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 595 in Stockton, Calif. She became involved in the labor movement as a member of the local’s apprenticeship program.

She showed her activist’s instincts and passion on her first campaign, 2012’s “NO on 32.” Workers and their allies mounted a major grassroots mobilization to defeat the paycheck deception ballot measure that was driven and financed by corporations and wealthy out-of-state extremist donors.

Because of Bryan’s hard work and unmeasurable contribution to the success of the campaign, she was asked to join the IBEW staff. Since then, she has recruited more than a dozen workers to become IBEW members. Not only that, but she works tirelessly with community groups, her local labor council, the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus and the AFL-CIO to promote racial equality and economic development for African Americans, other minorities and women in the workforce.

Bryan believes there is still much to be done to achieve full inclusion and, without a doubt, young workers will be vital in changing the landscape and the conversation. She serves as inspiration to many in her fight for access to high-value jobs, the end of stereotypes, progressive policy and showing that black lives matter.

This is our last installment of Black History Month labor profiles. But don’t forget that you can win one of 100 Black History Month posters by texting the code “BLACK” (for Black History Month) to 235246.

See our other profiles:

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Black History Month Labor Profiles: A. Philip Randolph

Black History Month Labor Profiles: A. Philip Randolph

During Black History Month, we will be profiling past and present leaders in the intersecting movements to protect and expand the rights of African Americans and working families. We’ll highlight both important leaders of the past and those who are continuing the legacy of those strong leaders who laid the foundation for the present. Today, we take a look at A. Philip Randolph.

A. Philip Randolph was one of the greatest black labor leaders in America’s history and a key founder of the modern American civil rights movement. Randolph was born April 15, 1889, in Crescent City, Fla., and he grew up on the east side of Jacksonville.

He organized and led the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP), the first predominantly African American labor union, and served as the organization’s first president. For the next 10 years, Randolph led an arduous campaign to organize the Pullman porters, which resulted in the certification of the BSCP as the exclusive collective bargaining agent of the Pullman porters in 1935.

Randolph called it the “first victory of Negro workers over a great industrial corporation.”

Click here to learn more about the battle to organize the sleeping car porters.

In the 1940s, Randolph was instrumental in leading the fight to end discrimination in defense plant jobs in World War II and the desegregation of the armed forces after the war.

Over the years his nonviolent protests and mass action efforts inspired the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

Randolph was a key figure in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The march, most widely known for King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, propelled the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. It was a combined effort by the civil rights and labor movements.

Moved by this success, Randolph and Bayard Rustin founded the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) in 1965 to continue the struggle for social, political and economic justice for all working Americans. APRI is an organization of black trade unionists that continues fighting today for racial equality and economic justice.

Read Randolph’s full biography from APRI here.

We will continue with Black History Month labor profiles throughout the month. Don’t forget that you can win one of 100 Black History Month posters by texting the code “BLACK” (for Black History Month) to 235246.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Black History Month Labor Profiles: Augusta Thomas

During Black History Month, we will be profiling past and present leaders in the intersecting movements to protect and expand the rights of African Americans and working families. We’ll highlight both important leaders of the past and those who are continuing the legacy of those strong leaders who laid the foundation for the present. Today, we take a look at Augusta Thomas.

Augusta currently is AFGE’s national vice president for women and fair practices. She is a lifelong civil rights activist, honored labor leader and a loving mother and great-great-grandmother.

A native of Kentucky, she moved when she was 13-years-old to Atlanta, where she was a classmate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., known then as “Little Martin.” Moving back to Louisville, she graduated from Central Colored High School in Louisville and then attended Clark University in Atlanta and Homer G. Phillips School of Nursing in St. Louis.

Thomas joined AFGE in 1966, when she began her career as a nursing assistant at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Louisville. There, she continued her fight for equal rights and was active in the civil rights movement.

As leader in her local union, Thomas served as treasurer, secretary, chief steward, executive vice-president and president. In recognition of her work to promote racial equality and economic development, the commonwealth of Kentucky has declared April 4 as Augusta Thomas Day. AFGE’s 6th District also has developed the Augusta Thomas Humanitarian Award in her honor.

With great energy, dedication and hard work, Thomas keeps advocating for the rights of women, people of color, the LGBTQ community and working families. She serves as an inspiration to many of us in these movements.

We will continue with Black History Month labor profiles throughout the month. Don’t forget that you can win one of 100 Black History Month posters by texting the code “BLACK” (for Black History Month) to 235246.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW. Co-authored by Kevin Banatte

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Black History Month Labor Profiles: Ella Josephine Baker

During Black History Month, we will be profiling past and present leaders in the intersecting movements to protect and expand the rights of African Americans and working families. We’ll highlight both important leaders of the past and those who are continuing the legacy of those strong leaders who laid the foundation for the present. Today, we take a look at Ella Josephine Baker.

Baker, a granddaughter of slaves, was born in Norfolk, Va., in 1903 and moved with her family to North Carolina as a young girl. She studied at Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C., where she passionately challenged and organized around unfair school policies. In 1927, she graduated as class valedictorian then moved to New York to engage in social activism.

There, she joined the Young Negroes Cooperative League, a group dedicated to developing black economic power through collective planning. In 1940, Baker began working with the NAACP as a field secretary and served as director of branches from 1943 through 1946. She also worked with several women’s organizations.

In 1957, Baker moved to Atlanta to help organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), a new organization created by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Baker left the SCLC in 1960 to help organize with a group of college students and activists in Greensboro, N.C. The students sparked a series of peaceful protests at a F.W. Woolworth store lunch counter that would gain national attention and also spark resistance across the South.

With her passion and expertise, Baker helped the students create the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which played a major role in the 1960′s civil rights movement.

Ella Josephine Baker was committed to economic justice for all people and once said:

People cannot be free until there is enough work in this land to give everybody a job.

We will continue with Black History Month labor profiles throughout the month. Don’t forget that you can win one of 100 Black History Month posters by texting the code “BLACK” (for Black History Month) to 235246.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Black History Month Labor Profiles: Bayard Rustin

Black History Month Labor Profiles: Bayard Rustin

During Black History Month, we will be profiling past and present leaders in the intersecting movements to protect and expand the rights of African Americans and working families. We’ll highlight both important leaders of the past and those who are continuing the legacy of those strong leaders who laid the foundation for the present. First up, we take a look at Bayard Rustin.

Rustin served the trade union and civil rights movements as a brilliant theorist, tactician and organizer. In the face of his accomplishments, Rustin was silenced, threatened, arrested, beaten and fired from leadership positions because he was an openly gay man in a severely homophobic era. He conceived the coalition of liberal, labor and religious leaders who supported passage of the civil rights and anti-poverty legislation of the 1960s and, as the first executive director of the AFL-CIO’s A. Philip Randolph Institute, he worked closely with the labor movement to ensure African American workers’ rightful place in the House of Labor.

One of Rustin’s most notable moments came when he was tapped to organize the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, an event for which he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Organized during a two-month period, Rustin helped create what would be the largest protest in America’s history at that point. Rustin has been referred to as the “most important civil rights leader you’ve never heard of” and a key mentor of Martin Luther King Jr.

The manual that was handed out by Rustin and other leaders of the march made it clear that economic and workers’ rights were an integral part of the fight for civil rights for African Americans. The list of demands central to the march included a massive job training and placement program with a living wage, a national minimum wage that gave all Americans a decent standard of living an expanded Fair Labor Standards Act and a federal Fair Employment Practices Act that would prohibit discrimination not only by the government, but by employers and unions, too.

“We are all one. And if we don’t know it, we will learn it the hard way.” —Bayard Rustin

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Jay-Z Asks California Audience to Support Prison Reform Ballot Measure

Photo by NRK P3 via Flickr creative commons

Megastar rapper Jay-Z doesn’t throw his clout behind political causes too often, but when he does, it has the potential to influence his huge audience. In a performance at the Rose Bowl last week, he asked members of the California audience to support Prop. 47 in November. Before performing his hit “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem),” Jay-Z said:

Prop. 47, California: Build more schools, less prisons. More schools, less prisons, California. They’ll never be able to stop us.

The proposed law would help alleviate prison overcrowding among numerous other benefits. As Think Progress noted:

If approved by state voters in November, Proposition 47 would reduce most nonviolent crimes—including petty theft and drug possession—from felonies to misdemeanors. Nearly 10,000 prisoners could also see reductions in their sentences. The savings accrued by the state, projected to reach at least $150 million, would go into a Create a Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund.

The AFL-CIO has endorsed Prop. 47, as have the California Labor Federation, AFSCME California, the California Federation of Teachers-AFT and UFCW California. At the national AFL-CIO Convention last year, delegates voted in support of a resolution that calls for policy changes, similar to those in Prop. 47, that would seek alternate solutions to the mass incarceration policies that have grown across the country in recent decades.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Central American Children Deserve Due Process

When President Barack Obama first announced his candidacy for president, he said: “I am running in this race because of what Dr. Martin Luther King called ‘the fierce urgency of now.’ Because I believe that there’s such a thing as being too late. And that hour is almost upon us.” Like Dr. King, our president was calling on America to make real the promises of our democracy.

That fierce urgency of now is here for thousands of refugee children from Central America. I know many of these kids’ stories because it is my story too.

In 1982, after too many friends and family had been jailed, tortured or killed by a brutal military government, my family knew my best chance of surviving into adulthood was to flee my home in Ethiopia. I did not want to leave. My parents did not want me to leave. We knew I would be risking my life to journey to Sudan to seek asylum. We also all knew I was likely to lose my life if I remained at home.

I was barely 13 years old when I, along with four of my childhood friends, set out on a brutal journey across the desert to Sudan. We used money we had earned doing odd jobs, sold any valuables we had and collected donations from family and friends to hire a peasant to help us reach Sudan. We were quickly robbed and abandoned by the peasant we hired. We then roamed hundreds of miles, lost. We grew ill and hungry, and we were exploited by farmers who offered us work along the way.

When we finally arrived at Sudan’s border, I weighed only 67 pounds — at 5 feet 10 inches. Although I would eventually recover, I never grew any taller than I was when I arrived in Sudan.

Upon arriving in Sudan, I was sick and starving and still had to adapt to a different language and culture. I got help from the Sudanese government and international nongovernmental organizations.

I had to go through many screenings and tests to prove my life was in danger and to get refugee status. Though I was relieved to be safe and I did get to the United States, all I really wanted was my family and my home. After I left Ethiopia, I never saw my father again. I never got to go through our house and collect photos or attend his funeral and honor his life. I could only imagine what he would tell me as I strove to become the kind of man I think he would have wanted me to be.

When my older brother, whom I admired and adored, was killed, I didn’t find out about it or know where he was buried for many years. I didn’t get to be with my nephew when he was born, and I didn’t know the whereabouts of my mother for nearly a decade.

But because I received asylum, I now get to live my version of the American dream. Because my friends and I received due process, we got a chance to escape the violence, political upheaval, environmental crisis and famine.

Like many new immigrants, I worked hard in high school, college and graduate school to better myself. I was the first person of color to head the California Young Democrats. One of my happiest moments was being accepted as a working-class American, when I landed my first union job as a Teamster at UPS. And now, as the first African-American man elected as an officer of the national AFL-CIO, I work for more than 12 million working Americans.

As a former child refugee, I cannot comprehend our government turning away children from any country arriving at our border without giving them basic due process.

As Americans, we must respond with speed and flexibility to address the individual problems presented by Central American children. There must be clear guidelines for screening arrivals and processing resettlement claims for at-risk refugees.

Every day when I look in the mirror, I see the faces of my childhood friends who didn’t live to adulthood. And I see the faces of Central American children pressed against bus windows as they are greeted with tomatoes, rocks and profanity.

If, in 1982, instead of being taken to a refugee camp where I was given due process by Sudan and the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, I had been turned around at the border and sent back to Ethiopia, I would not be alive to write this today.

Many Central American refugees arriving at our border need urgent resettlement action, just as I did when I left my home country. Their cases need to be addressed. They must not be casually turned back or left in detention centers to languish. I know because I’ve been in their shoes.

Tefere Gebre is executive vice president of the AFL-CIO.

Reposted from the Las Vegas Review Journal.

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Here’s a Jaw-Dropping Statistic on the Retirement Security of Black and Latino Workers

We’ve heard of the looming retirement security crisis, but this statistic is extremely sobering: The majority of black and Latino workers (62% and 69%, respectively) do not own assets in a retirement account. This is from a new report by the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) released this week.

To make things worse, three out of four black households and four out of five Latino households ages 25 to 64 have less than $10,000 in retirement savings, compared to one out of two white households.

“Those are startling findings,” says Diane Oakley, executive director of NIRS. “The typical household of color has nothing saved in a retirement account.”

Oakley raises the point that tax incentives meant to bolster retirement savings more often than not fail to help black and Latino workers, who on average have less money available to save for retirement.

“One of the big issues here is a gap in access,” Oakley tells The Washington Post. “We have what is essentially a voluntary retirement system and what we know is when we look at minority households, their access to retirement plans on the job is much less than that for whites.”

In another study examining how the current retirement system is failing America’s workers, Economic Policy Institute’s Monique Morrissey and Natalie Sabadish argue these gaps in retirement security make the case all the more strongly to bolster Social Security benefits, not cut them:

The trends exhibited in these figures paint a picture of increasingly inadequate savings and retirement income for successive cohorts and growing disparities by income, race, ethnicity, education and marital status. Even women, who by some measures appear to be narrowing gaps with men (in large part because men are faring worse than they did before) are ill-served by an inefficient retirement system that shifts risk onto workers, including the risk of outliving one’s retirement savings. The existence of a retirement system that does not work for most workers underscores the importance of preserving and strengthening Social Security, defending defined-benefit pensions for workers who have them and seeking solutions for those who do not.

The AFL-CIO is calling on Congress to strengthen Social Security benefits and reject any proposed cuts, whether it’s the misguided “chained” CPI, means-testing or raising the retirement age. Read more on retirement security on the AFL-CIO website.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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