An observation of the impact of criminal records on pursuing employment opportunities, its effect on national poverty, and the steps that have, can and should be taken to address this injustice.
by Scott E. Whitman
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One in three U.S. adults has been arrested by age twenty-three. In real numbers, between 70 and 100 million Americans possess some type of criminal record. Even a minor criminal record—such as a misdemeanor or simply an arrest without a conviction—can create an array of lifelong barriers that stand in the way of professional and financial success. This systemic issue has drastic implications for individuals’ and families’ economic stability, as well as for our national economy as a fleeting encounter with the criminal justice system may close every employment door to those who may need it most. For some, this essentially leaves business ownership as the only meaningful option to provide for their families and to rehabilitate their image. However, given the restrictions often preventing former felons from owning businesses, criminal records have come to serve as a major driver of poverty in the United States.
by Mike Lam
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According to the American Community Survey, the U.S. immigrant population stood at more than 43.3 million, or 13.5 percent, of the total U.S. population in 2015. Over forty percent of immigrants in the U.S. live in or are near living in poverty. In addition to facing an amalgam of legal, social, and economic barriers, immigrant entrepreneurs must also resolve the complex racial, wealth and income inequalities prevalent across the nation.
During my 1L summer at a law firm in Minneapolis, I learned how the cooperative legal form empowered capable, hard-working, and entrepreneurial immigrants to create jobs within the community. A cooperative is a type of corporation formed under state statutes. Cooperatives are distinct legal entities from their owners. Cooperatives can be difficult to distinguish from other types of corporations because many features, such as fiduciary duties, limited liability, and boards of directors, exist in cooperatives as well. The key distinguishing feature, however, is that members and users of the cooperatives services own and control the business. The Mercado Central market, a thriving marketplace of thirty-five businesses that aims to foster business development for Latinos, used the cooperative structure as a tool to create businesses, jobs, and a sustainable marketplace for the benefit of the community and its members.
To learn more about food security among people living in poverty in rural countries, check out Poverty, Food Security, and the Right to Health, by Robert S. Lawrence, Iris Chan, and Emily Goodman, available on Westlaw and LexisNexis.
by Zachary Karlan
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Nestlé is by far the largest food and beverage company in the world. In September of 2017, the New York Times published “How Big Business Got Brazil Hooked on Junk Food,” in which it explains how Nestlé employs Brazilian citizens to deliver its products right to the front door of approximately 250,000 households. Nestlé and other companies have aggressively adopted a presence in developing countries like Brazil to combat declining sales in more economically developed nations. This door-to-door delivery model makes it simple for the poorest Brazilians to access food, especially those who do not live near a supermarket. Although not currently in service, Nestlé used to have a floating barge that would deliver food to villages in the Amazon. According to the company, Nestlé serves 700,000 “lower income consumers” who benefit from “products enriched with vitamin A, iron and zinc—the three major nutritional deficiencies in Brazil.” On its face, Nestlé and other multinational companies who employ a similar model for global expansion appear to provide an objectively good service: Providing poor individuals with food that might not otherwise be accessible and at a price they can afford. However, studies show that Brazil is facing a serious obesity problem due to the abundance of processed foods from companies like Nestlé. This should force us to question whether this program is truly helping the poor.
Four-year colleges and universities are not the only path to prosperity; community colleges and technical schools offer cost-effective pipelines to the workforce, writes Staff Writer Richard P. Hand. For more on the role community colleges can play in promoting social mobility, check out Mary Deweese’s Failed: The Myths And Realities Of Community Colleges, and How to Fulfill the American Dream Through Community College Reform. Available on WestLaw and Lexis.
by Richard P. Hand
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Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump often spoke about the nation’s loss of unskilled manufacturing jobs. For many of his followers, “Make America Great Again” was the rallying cry for bringing back American manufacturing jobs.
One can see the logical appeal to his simple message. Factories that hired employees for unskilled manufacturing jobs were in America. Factories that hired employees for unskilled manufacturing jobs are now in other countries. Therefore, if we bring back said factories to America, then there will be more unskilled manufacturing jobs.
The harsh reality, however, is that the factories that once hired a multitude of unskilled workers now hire a few unskilled workers and use a multitude of automated machines. While bringing back unskilled manufacturing jobs may sound appealing, at best it could provide a short-term fix for a few unemployed Americans, and at worst it could create trade wars that drive up prices on everyday goods.
In this blog post, Staff Editor Keith Taubenblatt reflects on the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule and its recent repeal.
By Keith Taubenblatt
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Republicans in Congress and President Trump have done away with an important Obama era worker protection measure. On July 31, 2014, President Obama signed Executive Order 13673, requiring companies seeking or holding federal contracts in excess of $500,000 to disclose their prior labor law violations to the government. EO 13673 was the Obama administration’s response to decades of evidence showing labor law violations by federal contractors, and it was an attempt to protect workers employed by those companies from hazardous working conditions and wage theft. A significant number of the workers employed by federal contractors are low-wage earners most at risk for abuse by employers. Nonetheless, Congressional Republicans and the President have deemed EO 13673 unnecessary to the protection of these vulnerable workers. The evidence suggests that their judgment is flawed.
By Rachel Deitch
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In 2016, eight state attorneys general, including the attorney general for the District of Columbia, launched an inquiry into several retailers’ “on-call” scheduling practices. When retail workers are assigned to on-call shifts, they must call their employer an hour or two before a potential shift to learn if they should appear for work. The attorneys general sent letters to the companies, and requested information and documents. Several news outlets covered the investigation, highlighting the negative effects on-call scheduling has on employees. In response, six companies, including Disney and Aeropostale, agreed to stop using on-call scheduling.
On-call scheduling can have a negative impact on employees despite its popularity among employers. Retailers use on-call scheduling because they can adjust their staffing based on the amount of store traffic,  and address unexpected staff absences. However, the attorneys general argue that on-call scheduling has a negative financial impact on employees because it creates unpredictable work schedules. If employees are not assigned to work, they receive no compensation and may have already paid for unnecessary childcare. Employees who keep their days open are also unlikely to obtain other work to make up for the shortfall.
by Beatrice Igne-Bianchi
Friedrichs v. California Teachers’ Association, a public labor union case, is pending before the Supreme Court this term, with oral arguments scheduled for January 11. Many are apprehensive it will harm — and potentially dissolve — the strong tradition of public employee unions in the United States. Named plaintiff Rebecca Friedrichs is a teacher in Orange County and she, along with the Christian Educators Association and nine fellow public school teachers, filed a lawsuit arguing against paying agency, or fair share, fees to the Association of which she is not a member.