First, the Good News

1) National: Shar Habibi, In the Public Interest’s research and policy director, sat down with staff members from Jobs to Move America to discuss how a change in the OMB’s grants guidance can bring real change to communities. “The $2 trillion in infrastructure funding that will flow to communities from the federal government over the next decade will build and repair more than the nation’s roads and bridges, thanks to new guidelines announced by the Biden administration on April 4, 2024. The language in the Office of Management and Budget’s new ‘uniform grants guidance’ ensures ‘that a variety of pro-community, pro-equity, and pro-worker policy tools are not prohibited by the guidance.’ (…) For example, prior to these recent updates, the Uniform Guidance prohibited federal grant recipients from incorporating local hire and local sourcing policies into their projects.”

2) National: Here’s a quick explainer on the Biden administration’s groundbreaking new rule on the salary threshold required under the Fair Labor Standards Act, by Lisa Remillard. [Video, about four minutes]. The NEA says the new rule on overtime will boost pay for thousands of school support staff.

3) National: Christina Rosales, Housing and Land Justice Director of PowerSwitch Action, reports on a learning trip to Vienna and Berlin of 30 housing organizers and elected leaders from across the U.S. that PowerSwitch Action brought together. The three big lessons learned:

  • Put land in public hands
  • Have people govern it
  • Make it high quality and beautiful

4) National: The Senate Subcommittee on Criminal Justice and Counterterrorism held a hearing last week on prison labor in America. Witnesses included Terrance Winn, a prison reform advocate from Shreveport, Louisiana; Jennifer Turner, Principal Human Rights Researcher of the ACLU; and Loyola University Law Professor Andrea Armstrong. [Video, around 2 hours].

From Terrance Winn’s testimony: “The field is back breaking work. Every day, we would walk for miles in excessively hot weather and work sometimes bent over, on our knees, without breaks for hours. We would go back in to eat then out again until the work day was finished. Working in the fields I was forced to goose pick (that’s picking grass with your hands), I was forced to dig ditches, I was forced to cut the levy with a hoe, while officers on horses looked over us holding rifles. There were a few occasions when the field warden decided to bring the line in early from work. Those rare occasions happened when one of the horses would fall due to the oppressive heat. If a man fell over, we kept working.”

5) National: The U.S. Department of Labor says “12 months ago @potus released the National Plan to End Gender-Based Violence, which @WB_DOL helped draft. Now, read about the steps we’ve taken to implement the plan and get resources on #GBV.”

Here are four key actions the Women’s Bureau has taken to implement the Plan:

6) Alaska: State lawmakers have passed child care legislation to help a sector in crisis. “It is in these tenuous conditions that Alaska lawmakers passed the child care legislation. The proposed law expands eligibility for families to get financial assistance for child care, offers tax incentives for companies to invest in child care options and gives the state the option to consider the actual cost of care, rather than the market rate, when setting its rates. Lawmakers separately included $7.5 million in the state’s budget for grants to support child care centers.”

7) California: Terri Gerstein, a workers’ rights lawyer, says the San Diego Office of Labor Standards “is piloting a new restitution fund to help workers who’ve experienced wage theft. This and other innovations in San Diego show the vital role local government can play in standing up for workers’ rights.” See this KQED article by Farida Jhabvala Romero. See also Gerstein and LiJia Gong’s EPI report, “The Role of Local Government In Protecting Workers’ Rights: A Comprehensive Overview of the Ways that Cities, Counties, and Other Localities Are Taking Action on Behalf of Working People.”  And here is the link to Gerstein and Gong’s 50-page law review article on “How Local Government Can Protect Workers’ Rights Even When States Do Not Want Them To: Opportunities for Local Creativity and Persistence despite Double Preemption.”

8) California: The battle over the state education budget is heating up, the Sacramento Bee reports. “Gov. Gavin Newsom is facing backlash from different public interest groups following the unveiling of his revised 2024-2025 budget, which addresses a $45 billion deficit by making big cuts to state operations and programs. Chief among his critics is the California Teachers Association, which claims that Newsom’s cuts to K12 education are unconstitutional and will ‘wreak havoc for years to come.’ The teachers union and the California School Boards Association are both asserting that the governor’s maneuver to avoid $8.8 billion in immediate cuts to schools is not lawful under Proposition 98 (which sets aside a minimum amount of funding for schools in the state budget), sets a dangerous precedent for the future of public school funding and could devastate school district budgets for several years.”

9) Massachusetts: Revenue from the so-called millionaires tax is exceeding state projections. “With this money from the ultra-rich, we can do even more to improve our public schools and colleges, invest in roads, bridges, and public transit, and start building an economy that works for everyone,’ said [Andrew Farnitano, a spokesperson for Raise Up Massachusetts]. Voters approved the measure in 2022 to levy an additional 4 percent tax on annual earnings over $1 million. At the time, the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, a left-leaning think tank, projected it could generate at least $2 billion a year.”

10) Minnesota: Look what passed the Minnesota legislature this year.

  • Uber and Lyft drivers will earn more
  • Employers will face higher penalties for misclassification
  • Minimum wage carve-outs will be eliminated
  • Employers must post salary ranges
  • University of Minnesota workers will have an easier path to unionize
  • Prevailing wage will be required on affordable housing projects
  • ‘Shadow noncompetes’ will be banned
  • Child influencers will be entitled to compensation
  • Court interpreters will get raises
  • Workforce development hub will get funding

11) Idaho: Thanks to the voters, the Salmon School District will finally get a new school, the Idaho Statesman reports. “After decades of voters rejecting every bond the district ran, the community on Tuesday approved a $20 million bond to build a new pre-K-8 school with a resounding 72% support. The election comes after the Idaho Statesman and ProPublica reported last year on how children across the state were learning in schools with freezing classrooms, leaking roofs and discolored water. Salmon was one of the most poignant examples, having run around a dozen failed bonds over the past two decades to replace its crumbling schools.”

12) South Dakota: The South Dakota Aeronautics Commission has approved grants for more than $3 million worth of airport improvement projects.

13) International/National: To fight the housing crisis, upzone and build public housing, says Alex Hemingway. “Tackling the housing crisis requires an all-of-the-above approach, including taxing land wealth, strengthening tenants’ rights, and building renter power through organizing. But massive increases in nonmarket housing and the supply of homes overall are linchpins to a policy agenda capable of bringing the crisis to heel. [British Columbia] has become a housing policy leader, but it’s time to take the next steps. Bold action is needed now to ensure people’s right to access safe, affordable homes for years to come.”


14) National: A quarter of U.S. teachers say AI tools do more harm than good in K-12 education, according to a Pew Research Center survey. “High school teachers are more likely than elementary and middle school teachers to hold negative views about AI tools in education. About a third of high school teachers (35%) say these tools do more harm than good. Roughly a quarter of middle school teachers (24%) and 19% of elementary school teachers say the same. Fewer than one-in-ten teachers at all levels say these tools do more good than harm.” There are commercial incentives in the picture, however, as AI marketing to schools is expanding (Merlyn Mind is “filled deep-tech innovators from the likes of IBM Watson, Google Brain, Allen Institute for AI, Amazon, Meta, and Broadcom.”)

15) National: Nikole Hannah-Jones, author of the 1619 Project, pushes back against the school privatizers. “Can you show me the data that shows that private school teachers are better qualified? See, here’s the thing, you all think your voucher will pay for the Daltons of the world. It won’t. And Dalton won’t take your kids anyway. Your kids will be at some low budget private school that doesn’t have to adhere to any academic standards and the rich parents who were already sending their kids to the Daltons of the world will just get a big fat rebate they don’t need on the taxpayers dime. Y’all are delusional.”

16) National: In The New Republic’s current series of articles on “What American Fascism Would Look Like,” a lot of the focus is on education and the schools. Jason Stanley writes, for example, “Education in a liberal democracy introduces students to the diverse perspectives through a nation’s history, in order for people to foster a kind of empathy and understanding for one another; what my father in his work called civic compassion. Democracy is a system where we let ourselves be affected by our fellow citizens’ perspectives. Cutting students off from exposure to the perspectives of their neighbors therefore preempts democracy. Such erasures are more conducive to an education for authoritarianism, where an autocratic leader can more easily set groups against one another, relying on mutual estrangement and mutual misunderstanding. “Parents’ rights” is an expression used to cover for an illiberal public culture. Using the language of rights and freedoms to erase oppressed groups’ perspectives is a familiar vocabulary trick from America’s past (‘states’ rights’).”

17) Michigan: Crain’s Detroit Business reports that more transparency may be coming to the state’s charter schools. “The Democratic-controlled Michigan House voted Wednesday to require charter schools to put the name of their authorizer and educational management organization on newly created or altered signs and ads. The mandate would apply to signs erected, repaired or installed on or after the effective date of House Bills 5231-5234. It also would cover promotional materials—defined as billboards and internet, TV and radio ads—created, modified or distributed on or after the effective date along with charters’ websites and enrollment applications. The House also passed HB 5269. It would require charters to post on their website the average salary for new and veteran teachers along with support staff. ‘These bills are all about increased transparency,’ said Rep. Matt Koleszar, D-Plymouth, who is sponsoring the salary measure. (…) The bills were approved on party lines, 56-47, and sent to the Democratic-led Senate for consideration.”

18) National/California: Carl J. Petersen, Education Chair for the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, compares the quality of financial auditing of California’s charter schools to Trump’s media company—of which “a review of audits performed in 2021 and 2022 by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) found ‘a 100% deficiency rate.” The laws regulating’ charter schools in California “require these publicly financed private schools to have their financials audited yearly. However, a lack of oversight leaves taxpayers unprotected from the theft and misuse of public funds. The auditors are supposed to be independent, but ‘they are hired and fired at will by the schools they are auditing’ allowing the schools to shop for the firm that will do the most shallow dig into their financial practices. The accountants performing the audits require no special training or vetting by the state.”

19) Indiana: Wealthy families are sucking up huge amounts of money from the state’s school voucher program, Chalkbeat Indiana reports. “In a statement Friday on the voucher report, the Indiana State Teachers Association said the expansion funnels public funds ‘to those who can already afford private schools.’ ‘Public schools, which serve 90% of Hoosiers’ children, are open and nondiscriminatory, providing essential services and a common foundation for our diverse communities,’ the ISTA said. ‘Vouchers undermine this public good by siphoning limited funds to private schools that lack accountability and do not serve all students equitably.’”

20) Missouri: After a tough year of bargaining with the KIPP charter schools chain to get a first contract, staff at the St. Louis KIPP High School have narrowly voted to decertify their union (19-17). “‘Although we are disappointed that the anti-union drive conducted by the Right to Work Foundation was successful, one silver lining for KIPP St. Louis Charter School educators is the 10 percent raises that can be credited to AFT St. Louis’ efforts,’ said Byron Clemens, spokesman for the American Federation of Teachers Local 420, in a statement. The high school’s teachers and support staff voted to unionize in November 2022, but negotiations stalled over the union’s demands for third-party arbitration for grievances and just cause for termination. KIPP offered the teachers 10 percent raises, but under federal law they could not be awarded while a contract was being negotiated.”

21) Pennsylvania: The Palisades School District in Bucks County has rejected all bids to run its food services. “The board voted unanimously to ‘reject all food service management bids,’ opting instead to pursue ‘a phased-in approach with current staff.’ The outsourcing initiative was now noted as ‘still in flux,’ with a frequently-asked-questions (FAQ) document on the matter to be coming soon from the district, in response to numerous questions it had received from its community on the matter. In addition to consideration of the fate of current food service staff, it appeared that nutritional standards might also be part of the conversation, with one board member appearing to posit a relationship between insufficient food sales and reduced sugar and salt content.”

22) Texas: Rafael C. Castillo, a member of the National Book Critics Circle, PEN America and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, says the further erosion of public education starts with vouchers. “Republicans now want us to return to those antediluvian days of segregated schools. School vouchers and dismantling public education came into focus when then-President Donald Trump appointed Betsy DeVos as secretary of education.  DeVos, a Michigan billionaire, successfully delayed and dismantled Obama-era rules across all levels of education. Vouchers will continue this trend, making it difficult for people with limited income to secure a quality education as public schools, maintained by property tax and federal funding, become obsolete.” 

23) International/United Kingdom: Britain’s “academization” policy continues to let private schools gobble up public schools. “School workers at Byron Court primary school in Brent, north London, are fighting privatisation plans that would see the community school join the notorious Harris Federation academy chain. NEU union members struck on Tuesday and Wednesday—and are set to strike from 4 to 6 June. Academization began after Ofsted inspectors downgraded the school from ‘outstanding’ to ‘inadequate’ last November. NEU national executive member Jenny Cooper says the union will ‘not accept privatization of our schools through a politicized process.’”


24) National: Steven Schwarzman, the private equity billionaire whose Blackstone recently privatized one of the largest publicly traded real estate companies in Canada, is backing Trump for President. “In 2017, the Blackstone chief chaired an advisory board to then-president Trump and travelled with him to Saudi Arabia. Riyadh then pledged to match up to $20bn in contributions from other investors to a Blackstone infrastructure fund. ” The privatization of Tricon, Blackstone proudly states, includes a “$1 billion pipeline of new single-family homes in the U.S. and [a] $2.5 billion pipeline of new apartments in Canada.”

25) National/Massachusetts: A rare but good examination of the problems with smaller private roads comes our way via Peter DeMarco in the Boston Globe (we usually cover stores about the enormous multinational road privatization industry). “I chuckle as I write this, for Hammondswood Road is in a very nice section of Newton. According to the assessors’ office, the average Hammondswood home is worth $1.2 million. Don’t see much danger in that. Nonetheless, I’m always a bit wary when traveling down the street. For one thing, the pavement is in absolutely horrible shape, with more ruts and potholes than you can count. But what really bothers me is that while Hammondswood Road looks like any other street, it’s legally a private way, and I’m not entirely sure what that means. Am I trespassing if I drive down it? Does a different speeding limit apply? Should I turn my car around and find another route? This week, we look at a true driving oddity, the private way.”

26) National: As the rollout of EV technology on national and global infrastructures continues apace, Hertz is to sell off one-third of its EVs and replace them with gas cars. “Hertz planned to purchase 175,000 EVs from General Motors. Scherr was “committed” to the plan, but the company didn’t mention how it would go about it with the ongoing sale of the EV fleet, in which some vehicles are selling as low as $14,000. ‘Our focus and our work with Tesla is to look at the performance of the car so as to lower the risk of incidents of damage,’ Scherr told CNBC in 2023. ‘And we’re in very direct engagement with them on parts procurement and labor and the like.’”

27) National: For a green transition, decommodify electricity, says Matt Huber. A mere four years ago, “it seemed obvious that public sector investment would have to drive a green transition. Yet here we are in 2024, and it seems many have forgotten this basic premise of the Green New Deal. Upon taking office, the Biden administration claimed it wanted to take a ‘whole-of-government’ approach to the climate crisis. But under the leadership of BlackRock alumnus Brian Deese, the approach has centered the private sector rather than the public sector in the investment challenge. This approach culminated with the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). For all the bloviating by administration officials and liberal pundits about industrial policy, the IRA largely rests on the premise that the private sector, with lavish tax credits, can be trusted to provide investment on the world-historical scale needed for the green transition.”

28) National: Well at least one elected leader isn’t forgetting the antitrust case against the practice of using algorithms to drive up rents. “U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) sent a letter to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Lina Khan urging the agency to include commercial real estate acquisitions in antitrust reporting requirements intended to protect consumers. Recently corporate landlords, including private equity firms, have acquired large swaths of housing and raised rates on consumers without antitrust enforcers having the notice or tools to stop them. Under the current rules, when a company of a sufficient size makes a large acquisition, parties are required to report the sale to government antitrust enforcers. However, purchases of residential properties, even in large quantities, are exempted from these rules. This means there is a significant lack of oversight over major transactions that are costing consumers. (…) In November 2022, Klobuchar, along with Senators Durbin and Booker, urged the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate potential anticompetitive conduct affecting apartment rent rates, voicing their concern that RealPage’s pricing algorithms could artificially inflate rental rates and facilitate collusion.” For more of the details, check out the original ProPublica story,

The effects are widespread and dramatic. For example, United for a New Economy Colorado says, “That’s right, 50% of Colorado renters are cost-burdened, meaning they pay over 30% of income in rent. When paying rent is one of our biggest concerns, we can’t save, we can’t create stability, and we can’t thrive.”

29) California: On California’s Central Coast, battery storage is on the ballot. Morro Bay is ground zero. “The swath of coastal land houses a power plant that shuttered a decade ago and its still standing smokestacks. Vistra Corp.’s proposal for a 600-megawatt battery storage project on a portion of the site includes remediating the entire area and removing the plant and stacks, readying the land for future development. And the site’s history as a power plant means it’s well-positioned to connect to existing transmission lines.” But, “some locals in the small city on California’s Central Coast disagree, and placed a measure on the ballot this fall that could impact the project’s future. Project opponents say they’re concerned about its impacts on tourism and the potential for fires at the facility, with one resident calling the proposal a ‘toxic bomb’ during the meeting.”

30) Florida: Writing in the Florida Phoenix, Craig Pittman tells the story of how some “dunderhead” politician is trying to privatize some of the Sunshine State’s preserve land. “Now it’s state Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson, who as far as I know is no relation to famed cartoon doofus Homer Simpson—although lately I am wondering. I heard he’d brought up this sell-the-parks scheme a couple of times recently, but nobody had any transcripts or video. Then someone sent me a video from seven months ago of him speaking at a conference sponsored by the Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation. If you want to fast forward to the important part, he talks about selling off public land from 24:10 to 26:06.

In the clip, Simpson goes on about declaring some precious state land to be surplus—i.e., no longer needed for preservation purposes.”

31) New Mexico: Capital & Main’s Jerry Redfern reports that like it or not, New Mexico is going to get a massive dose of the hydrogen industry. “Over the past month, in public meetings stretching from the Navajo Nation to Albuquerque, public officials and company representatives unveiled a picture of a new hydrogen energy industry being built in the northwest corner of New Mexico. The presentations reveal hydrogen production, transportation, power generation and carbon sequestration projects arcing across the Navajo Nation to Farmington and down to the I-40 corridor between Gallup and Albuquerque. Most of the projects are underway, and it’s clear they’ll rely on fossil fuels. (…) ‘Hydrogen is huge!’ Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham proclaimed while speaking at an event in Farmington in April. What came next is what many in the region fear. ‘Hydrogen uses the natural gas resources here we don’t know what to do with,” she said. Actually, plenty of people know what to do with natural gas. The issue is that fewer and fewer people want to use it, even as more and more of it is being produced.”

Public Services

32) National: One-third of Amazon warehouse workers are on food stamps, Medicaid or other government assistance, according to a new survey by the Center for Urban Economic Development. “This research indicates just how far the goalposts have shifted. It used to be the case that big, leading firms in the economy provided a path to the middle class and relative economic security,” said Dr. Sanjay Pinto, senior fellow at CUED and co-author of the report. “Our data indicate that roughly half of Amazon’s frontline warehouse workers are struggling with food and housing insecurity and being able to pay their bills. That’s not what economic security looks like.” Bloomberg says the report “echoes a 2020 analysis by the US Government Accountability Office, which found Amazon was among the biggest employers of people receiving food assistance in nine states that reported the data.” [Download the full report].

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, owner of the Washington Post, “made over $7.9 million an hour every hour in 2023—in under 13 minutes, he brought in the equivalent of what the typical person earns in a lifetime.” According to Forbes, “from 2006-2018, Jeff Bezos saw a wealth increase of $127 billion,” but “only reported a total income of $6.5 billion.”

33) National: The Prison Journalism Project reports that both prisons and the public rely on incarcerated writers. Patrick Irving writes, “The new rules would have severely limited incarcerated artists and writers from publicly presenting their work and from being paid for it. As the news reached my Idaho prison, I worried that my state’s corrections department would be one of many to follow suit, inhibiting me and others from sharing our experiences inside with the public. Critics, including educational and cultural organizations that work with incarcerated artists and writers, said the policy would have done more to increase risk to the public than reduce it. ‘If they have the aim of rehabilitation, it seems antithetical to limit creative arts,’ Moira Marquis, senior manager of PEN America’s FreeWrite Project, told The Nation. (Disclosure: I am a member of PEN America’s forthcoming Incarcerated Writers Bureau.) In response to public outcry, opposition, the state corrections department agency quickly canceled the order.”

34) National: Route Fifty looks into the crisis of filling open positions in state and local government. “It’s estimated that for the 850,000 open positions in state and local government in November 2023, only 330,000 people were hired. For many agencies, vacant positions stymie workflow and weaken customer service as short-staffed teams try to address the issues that outnumber them. With unemployment so low, government has trouble competing for workers, so agencies are starting to fill empty jobs by innovating the hiring process. Recruiters are focusing on candidates’ experience and skills rather than relying on higher-ed degrees to screen job applicants. As of February, at least 19 states have moved to reconsider degree requirements or remove them from job postings entirely. But progress has been slow as officials figure out how to make skills-based hiring work, unsure of how to define skills and how to assess them to inform the hiring process. That’s where the Skilled Through Alternative Routes, or STARs, Public Sector Hub comes in.”

35) National/Washington: Building Bridges, the labor podcast, covers local resistance at the GEO Group’s Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. “In this episode, Anita and Maya discuss the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, a privately owned immigration prison that contracts with ICE and has been scrutinized for substandard conditions. We also talk with Esmeralda Ibarra, a Building a Movement intern with La Resistencia, a local grassroots organization that centers their work around the Northwest Detention Center. Trigger warnings: mention of suicide, inhumane prison conditions.” [Audo, about 20 minutes]

36) National: The GEO Group says the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has announced it plans to issue a task order for the GEO-owned 1,940-bed Adelanto ICE Processing Center in California, which provides for continued funding through September 30, 2024.

37) National: Robert Scheer did a great interview on his podcast on navigating the deadly maze of the prison industrial complex. “Nunn’s story is an indictment not only of what goes on inside prison but what happens afterward in explaining ‘the box.’ That refers to the empty square on a form to be checked on employment, healthcare and childcare documents that ask if you ever committed a felony. Nunn explains the extent to which that box affects someone’s life and resources: ‘The box is an economic question and we started getting into the fight to ban the box because with employment came healthcare, it became the ability to take care of our kids.’ It is a fight that among others has led to some of the most significant reforms of the carceral state.” [Audio, about 75 minutes]

38) National: GAO is seeking assistance in identifying qualified and committed candidates to serve as non-federal members on the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board, which makes many crucial decisions on, e.g., government contracting and ‘public-private partnerships.’

39) California: A survey has found that Huntington Beach voters oppose library privatization. “Results of a survey of around 400 Huntington Beach voters released Wednesday found that 67% of them opposed a move to privatize the city’s public library system, with only 17% of those surveyed supporting the move. At a council meeting earlier in May, council members debated whether the issue should be on November’s ballot so residents could decide on it—with the majority voting against putting it on the ballot.

The survey was paid for by labor unions, whose members could be affected by the move. This includes the Orange County Employees Association, which represents municipal workers in Orange County. Just over 40% of those surveyed visit the library a few times a year, with 87% of respondents rating the library positively.”

40) Iowa: Going to a restaurant soon? Thank the public food inspectors.  “Inspectors have cited Iowa restaurants and stores for hundreds of food-safety violations in recent weeks, including mouse droppings, turkey breast spotted with mold and an ice machine that had ‘green, slimy material’ growing in it. (…) The findings are reported by the Iowa Department of Inspections, Appeals and Licensing, which handles food-establishment inspections at the state level. Listed below are some of the more serious findings that stem from inspections at Iowa restaurants, cafeterias and stores over the past four weeks.”

All the Rest

41) National: What happened to Red Lobster? “The bankrupt casual restaurant chain didn’t fail because of Endless Shrimp. Its problems date back to monopolist seafood conglomerates and a private equity play.”

42) Think Tanks: Interested in labor history? Then spend some of your summertime following the unfolding 20-part history of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) produced by Haymarket Books. Transcripts for each episode are available through the Apple Podcasts app.

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