Today we celebrate the birthday of one of America’s greatest leaders, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who would have been 87. What a different place America might have been had he lived. He was gunned down in 1968 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where he was rallying in support of the sanitation workers' strike after workers had been killed on the job due to unsafe conditions. MLK is revered by National Consumers League and labor leaders alike.
Why is it important to enforce workplace safety standards ? This weekend – ironically, when we were all celebrating Labor Day – a young immigrant from Ecuador named Fernando Vanegas was killed when the retaining wall designed to hold back soil on the base of a building collapsed on him. He was only 19 years old and had previously told his mother about many dangerous conditions at his workplace. “He would always tell me about how he had close calls,” she recounted.
With the celebration of Labor Day this weekend, it’s a good time to ask what role the minimum wage will play in the Presidential campaign. This is right up our alley; NCL’s great leader Florence Kelley originally wrote and helped to pass the first minimum wage laws in the states. And this remains an issue near and dear to NCL.
This post appeared on the Huffington Post on July 6, 2015
The Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, Jack Lew, recently announced that the newly re-designed $10 bill, slated for 2020, would feature the face of a woman to honor the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. The announcement set the Internet ablaze with suggestions for which historical U.S. woman would adorn the new bill.
For the past five or more years I’ve read with sadness and trepidation about the reduction in pollinating bee populations. This startling news seemed like the ultimate canary in the coal mine warning. Bees are dying out because of something awful we are doing to our environment, but what is it that we are doing?
What does Equal Pay Day mean in America? It’s a time for reflecting on why women still less than their male counterparts. In 1963, when President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, women earned 59 Cents for every dollar earned by men. That number in 2013 has inched up but still lingers at 78 cents. That’s too bad, because women are the sole bread earners in millions of families and the lack of parity in pay hurts them and their children.
The New York Times reported recently ("Breast Milk Becomes a Commodity, With Mothers Caught Up in Debate") that companies are buying breast milk from mothers, condensing it down and selling it to hospitals for treatment for extremely premature infants in intensive care. The milk is tested for viral infections, nicotine, drugs of abuse, dilution, and adulteration. The women supplying the milk must take blood tests for infectious disease, provide notes from the doctor saying they and their baby are healthy, and must furnish DNA samples, which helps to ensure that the milk is theirs. All of which is good public policy and makes sense.
Meningitus B (MenB) is a frightening illness. It can overtake and kill in 24 hours. College-age students who live in close quarters are the usual victims. If it doesn’t kill, it often causes grievous injury—especially to the extremities—including loss of fingers, toes, feet, or parts of the face. While vaccines against other strains of meningitis have long been available, those for MenB have only been approved in the U.S. for a few months. Thanks to Pfizer and Novartis, we now have two effective FDA approved vaccine choices to protect against this terrible MenB strain. Unfortunately, neither is required on the routine schedule of vaccinations.
Sometimes, even people you respect do stupid things. I’m talking about the Obama Administration’s proposal for taxing families that put money into 529 college savings plants. Right now, parents can set aside funds for their kids’ college education which gets invested in mutual funds and any growth in investment is tax free. In other words, when your son or daughter is ready for college, if you put $20,000 away and it’s now worth $30,000, that $10,000 gain goes untaxed.
Why have wages stagnated so badly in the US compared to Australia and Canada? The report notes that while US wages have stagnated and not gone up, since 2000, Canadian wages have risen 10 percent and wages in Australia by 30 percent. A group of eminent economists has taken on that question and developed a detailed analysis—to be issued imminently—of this vexing problem in a project underwritten by the Center for American Progress.