Trickle-Down Feminism

A call for feminists to not forget their labor roots:

“While we debate the travails of some of the world’s most privileged women, most women are up against the wall. According to the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, women make up just under half of the national workforce, but about 60 percent of the minimum-wage workforce and 73 percent of tipped workers. In the New York area, a full 95 percent of domestic workers are female. Female-dominated sectors such as retail sales, food service, and home health care are some of the fastest-growing fields in the new economy, and even in those fields, women earn less; women in the restaurant industry earn 83 cents to a man’s dollar.

“This is where most women spend their time, not atop the Googleplex. This is where feminists should be spending their time, too.”

Source: Dissent
Published: Jan 4, 2013
Length: 14 minutes (3,595 words)

The Slow Death of Public Higher Education

How California’s public university system went from “Master Plan” to “no plan,” and how it is now incentivized to favor out-of-state students over in-state students:

“When we talk about the decline of public higher education systems such as California’s, however, rising tuition is only part of the story, and maybe not the most important part. Along with pushing instructional costs onto students, for example, the state of California has made it easier for state universities to balance their budgets by accepting more out-of-state students (and thus, fewer and fewer Californian students). Out-of-state students pay much higher tuition rates, but under the Master Plan, state funding was contingent on enrolling a minimum number of in-state students. As the state has withdrawn its commitment to fully fund its universities, it has progressively detached what funding remains from these kinds of commitments. Governor Jerry Brown may have put the final nail in the coffin when, in June, he vetoed specific enrollment targets for the UC from the annual budget. Moreover, since 2007, the extra $20,000 in tuition money that out-of-state students pay has gone directly to the schools enrolling these students—rather than reverting to the UC as a whole—perversely incentivizing each campus to take on fewer California students.

“This gradual retreat from enrollment quotas only adds to a problem that has plagued the California system since its inception: too many applicants and too little space. Over the last three decades, the state has given up on increasing the total institutional capacity—the classrooms, dorms, and new campuses—that a continuously growing university-age population requires. This shortfall is not as immediately visible as red lines in planning documents, as politically explosive as enrollment targets, or as sharply felt by stretched family budgets. But the fact that the state has stopped keeping up with the demand for more higher education points to a slow but fundamental structural change underway in higher education as a whole.”

Source: Dissent
Published: Oct 22, 2012
Length: 17 minutes (4,436 words)

The ‘I’ in Union

The origins and the politics of the New York-based Freelancers Union—now 150,000 members strong:

“The shift toward short-term contracts was underway long before the 2008 financial crash. Charles Heckscher, director of the Center for Workplace Transformation at Rutgers University, sits on the board of the Freelancers Union, and likes to describe this shift in terms of ‘flexibility.’ As the economy shifted away from manufacturing jobs and toward knowledge- and tech-based ones, he argues, ‘companies have clearly and widely moved away from taking responsibility for long-term careers. These certainly include crude cost-cutting considerations, but they also reflect the deeper economic changes…with skills and demand metamorphosing so rapidly in so many domains, it is often more effective to look for those with needed skills on the open market rather than developing them internally. Once companies begin to do that, they tend to break the whole pattern of expectations and commitments which grounded the classic system.'”

Source: Dissent
Published: Jan 4, 2012
Length: 14 minutes (3,701 words)

How Billionaires Rule Our Schools

Hundreds of private philanthropies together spend almost $4 billion annually to support or transform K–12 education, most of it directed to schools that serve low-income children. But three funders—the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation—working in sync, command the field. Whatever nuances differentiate the motivations of the Big Three, their market-based goals for overhauling public education coincide: choice, competition, deregulation, accountability, and data-based decision-making.

Source: Dissent
Published: Jan 18, 2011
Length: 21 minutes (5,496 words)