This week marks our nation’s annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. day. As we honor a truly great American icon we keep in mind two parallel and pertinent events that are occurring in America. One is the increasing awareness of the epidemic of police killings of black men (and black women too, though not as frequently). “The Root” enumerates 20 unarmed African Americans and the stories surrounding their killings by police.
This week, I participated in a town meeting held at a local Methodist church on Damen Street, in the heart of Chicago’s Hispanic community. I was invited by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) to discuss frauds and pyramid schemes that prey on members of minority communities.
en, corporations are able to settle lawsuits brought against them in secret, paying off litigants and hushing up the hazards that lurk in their products. Consumers deserve more transparency and accountability from these corporations. USA Today editorialized last week on this very problem, focusing on a product I’d never heard discussed in this debate, ironically a rifle.
As we wind down another year advocating for consumers and workers, it is inspiring to reflect on the two major victories we saw in 2014 for consumers and workers. NCL is America’s only advocacy group with a dual mission to protect both consumers and workers, and we are proud of our work advocating for these changes.
Sometimes I really hate what lawyers do to parse the plain language of the law. Last week was a case in point. I attended Supreme Court argument in the case of Peggy Young vs. UPS. Young challenged her treatment as a UPS worker expecting a baby and needing to go on light duty but the company refused to reassign her. The statute in question is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA).
It’s not surprising – but it is worrisome – that young Americans aren’t saving. The generation under 35, known as millennials, have a savings rate of under 2%. They are burning through their assets and going into debt. The ramifications of this are myriad:No money to move out of parents’ house, no cushion if they want to switch jobs, no money for homeownership, not to mention no money for saving for a 401k or other retirement benefits.
Consumer advocates often lament the number of consumers who are “unbanked.” It’s true that having a bank account is a sign of stability and that having your money attached to a checking account and ATM card can help build credit and promote long term saving. But it appears that banking fees have driven millions of low income customers away; 25 million Americans are unbanked. Another 63 million are under-banked, which means they may have bank accounts but rely on some alternative financial services. These include check cashers, payday lenders, prepaid cards, and lending and saving circles instead of banks.
Early in my career, I worked as a staffer in the House of Representatives. During my time there, the Supreme Court ruled in Gilbert vs. General Electric and handed down a decision that was so absurd and insulting to women that Congress swiftly passed a bill to overturn the decision. The Court said in Gilbert that pregnant women didn’t have the right to be treated similarly to people with disabilities i.e., not forcing them to lift heavy objects or stand for hours. They rules that this was not sex discrimination but discrimination against pregnant people, and that’s not sex discrimination. Uh huh. Right.
In Hillary Clinton’s fascinating new memoir “Hard Choices” about her work as Secretary of State under President Obama, she devotes a section to the issue of what she calls a “more open trading system,” arguing that it has lifted “more people out of poverty in the last thirty five years than any comparable time in history.” She quickly adds, knowing that the labor movement has looked with dismay at so called “free trade agreements” that have shipped jobs overseas to places where the pay is a fraction of ours, that she is “determined to do everything [she can] do to help American businesses and workers seize more of the legitimate opportunities already available.”
Its an odd thing to cheer when an institution collapses, but in the recent case of the for-profit Corinthian College – one of the country’s largest for-profit colleges – applauding what appears to be its downfall, is the right thing to do. NCL has applauded actions by the Department of Education and other federal entities to insist on transparent and accurate results reporting for these schools.