The Supreme Court’s Quiet Assault on Civil Rights

Source: Lynn Adelman, Dissent, Fall 2017
(subscription required)

It is a little-known and disturbing fact that the Supreme Court is in the process of gutting what may be the most important civil rights statute Congress has ever passed. It is particularly distressing that the harm is being done by a largely unanimous court—and that, other than a few legal scholars, no one seems to be paying any attention.

The statute in question is Section 1983 of the United States Code, which was enacted in 1871 as part of Reconstruction. Section 1983 enables people to bring suits in federal court to enforce the rights created by the Fourteenth Amendment—which, among other things, prohibits state officials from depriving persons of due process and equal protection of the law. The law was designed to provide a federal remedy against officials who violated the rights of the newly freed slaves or who stood by while others, like the Ku Klux Klan, did so. Specifically, it authorizes individuals to sue in federal court “any person who under color of law” violates their constitutional rights. The purposes of the law are to compensate persons whose constitutional rights have been violated and to deter future violations. Actions brought under Section 1983 are known as constitutional tort suits.

After Congress enacted Section 1983, the law lay largely dormant for some ninety years. In 1961, however, in Monroe v. Pape, the Warren Court breathed life into the statute. The plaintiff in Monroe alleged that thirteen Chicago police officers broke into his home in the early morning without a warrant, made his family stand naked, and interrogated him under physical threat. The Supreme Court upheld the plaintiff’s claim for damages under Section 1983 and interpreted the “under color of law” requirement to include actions by government officials taken under the badge of their authority even if the actions exceeded what they were permitted to do under state law. A police officer who used excessive force—as in the Monroe case—would be a prime example.

As the result of Monroe, Section 1983 became the primary vehicle for enforcing constitutional rights in the United States, and that remains true to this day. As Professor Lynda Dodd of the City University of New York (CUNY) has shown, although the statute has never received as much attention as some of the 1960s-era statutes such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 1983 has served as a central pillar of civil rights work for more than half a century. It is the means by which plaintiffs challenge the use of excessive force by police officers, race-based patterns of stop and frisk, unconstitutional conditions of confinement, wrongful convictions, and other kinds of official misconduct…..

Can Labor Still Use the Wagner Act?

Source: Joseph A. McCartin, Dissent, Fall 2017

…. Eighty years after the Wagner Act’s validation, the triumph of collective bargaining in mass production industries seems as ancient as Exodus, and Cox’s optimism as quaint as greeting card poetry. Whereas the industrial Midwest once throbbed with demands for industrial democracy, today its depleted cities continue to bleed jobs and its hinterlands struggle with rampant opioid addiction. Flint, once home to a mobilized working class capable of taming General Motors, is today a desperately impoverished city lacking in decent jobs, whose residents continue to suffer from the aftermath of lead poisoning. Whereas sit-down strikers were protected by Governor Frank Murphy in 1937, today’s Michigan is a “right-to-work” state presided over by Governor Rick Snyder, a venture capitalist whose efforts to wrest local control away from distressed communities led directly to Flint’s poisoning. Little remains of the industrial union movement born in 1937, as private-sector union membership rates today dip toward 6 percent.

Nor is there reason to suppose the Supreme Court will help matters as it did eighty years ago. Today’s Court instead seems bent on interring the last legal vestiges of the New Deal labor order. In the case of Janus v. AFSCME, which the Court will decide in the coming term, the right of public-sector unions to collect “agency fees” from the workers they represent is being challenged. Opponents argue that government workers’ unions are merely political vehicles, and therefore granting them the right to collect agency fees infringes on the rights of workers who might not share the politics of the union that represents them. The case threatens to overturn a forty-year-old precedent, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977), which recognized the unions’ rights to collect such fees in the interest of orderly workplace governance wherever state law allowed the practice…..

Changes in U.S. Family Finances from 2013 to 2016: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances

Source: Jesse Bricker, Lisa J. Dettling, Alice Henriques, Joanne W. Hsu, Lindsay Jacobs, Kevin B. Moore, Sarah Pack, John Sabelhaus, Jeffrey Thompson, and Richard A. Windle, Federal Reserve Bulletin, Vol. 103, No. 3, September 2017

The Federal Reserve Board’s triennial Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) collects information about family incomes, net worth, balance sheet components, credit use, and other financial outcomes. The 2016 SCF reveals broad-based gains in income and net worth since the previous time the survey was conducted, in 2013.

During the three years between the beginning of the 2013 and 2016 surveys, real gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 2.2 percent, the civilian unemployment rate fell from 7.5 percent to 5 percent, and the annual rate of change in the consumer price index averaged 0.8 percent. These changes in aggregate economic performance led to broadbased income gains across many different types of families. Several observations from the SCF about family incomes stand out:
• Between 2013 and 2016, median family income grew 10 percent, and mean family income grew 14 percent (figure 1).
• Families throughout the income distribution experienced gains in average real incomes between 2013 and 2016, reversing the trend from 2010 to 2013, when real incomes fell or remained stagnant for all but the top of the income distribution.
• Families at the top of the income distribution saw larger gains in income between 2013 and 2016 than other families, consistent with widening income inequality.
• Families without a high school diploma and nonwhite and Hispanic families experienced larger proportional gains in incomes than other families between 2013 and 2016, although more-educated families and white non-Hispanic families continue to have higher incomes than other families

Related:
U.S. Growth Starts to Help More People, But Wealthiest Win Most
Source: Craig Torres and Jordan Yadoo, Bloomberg, September 27, 2017

A Preliminary Analysis of the Unified Framework

Source: Tax Policy Center, Research report, September 29, 2017

From the abstract:
The Tax Policy Center has produced preliminary estimates of the potential impact proposals included in the “Unified Framework for Fixing our Broken Tax Code.” We find they would reduce federal revenue by $2.4 trillion over ten years and $3.2 trillion over the second decade (not including any dynamic feedback). In 2018, all income groups would see their average taxes fall, but some taxpayers in each group would face tax increases. Those with the very highest incomes would receive the biggest tax cuts. The tax cuts are smaller as a percentage of income in 2027, and taxpayers in the 80th to 95th income percentiles would, on average, experience a tax increase.

Related:
Indiana’s Tax Cuts Under Mike Pence Are Not a Model for the Nation
Source: Carl Davis, Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), Just Taxes blog, September 29, 2017
Trump Hands 80 Percent of Proposed Tax Cut to Top 1 Percent
Source: Noah Lanard, Mother Jones, September 29, 2017

New study shows the super-rich will end up getting $1 million per year.

Online ‘slacktivism’ can drive real-world political action

Source: Jared Wadley, Futurity, September 29, 2017

Young people sharing videos about political or social causes online via social media may be more likely to engage in real-world activity to further that cause, new research suggests. The new research challenges the notion of “slacktivism,” which is a frequent way to describe young people’s political activity on social media.

Related:
Sharing beyond Slacktivism: the effect of socially observable prosocial media sharing on subsequent offline helping behavior
Source: Daniel S. Lane & Sonya Dal Cin, Information, Communication & Society, Latest Articles, July 3, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
New forms of youth social and political participation have been termed ‘Slacktivism’ – low-cost online forms of social engagement that decrease subsequent offline participation. Previous experimental work has provided support for a ‘Slacktivism effect,’ but it is unclear if this theoretical model applies to youth media sharing on social networking sites. This study uses a novel sharing simulation paradigm to test the effect of publicly vs. anonymously sharing a social cause video on subsequent willingness to engage in offline helping behavior. Results show that publicly (as compared to anonymously) sharing a selected video on one’s own Facebook wall led to a greater willingness to volunteer for an issue-related cause. Participants’ existing use of social media for engagement in social issues/causes moderated the effect, such that only participants low in use of social media for social engagement were susceptible to the sharing manipulation. Implications for reconceptualizing media sharing as a unique form of online participation beyond ‘Slacktivism’ are discussed.

Coverage on Janus Cert. Grant

Source: Maddy Joseph, On Labor blog, September 29, 2017

The Supreme Court decided yesterday to hear Janus v. AFSCME. The Court seems poised to hold that agency-fee agreements for public sector workers are unconstitutional. Since the order, reports and commentaries have analyzed Janus‘s threat to public sector workers, and its stakes for U.S. organized labor.

The Chicago Tribune explains that the case began when Illinois’ Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, a former private equity executive, attempted to stop the state from dispensing agency fees to unions, clashing with the state’s Attorney General. The Governor eventually filed the suit that would become Janus, asking a federal court to rule that his actions were valid and that fair-share agreements are unconstitutional. When Gov. Rauner was dropped from the case, Mark Janus and other state employees took over as plaintiffs. The Tribune also has an editorial that supports the union’s argument only on the “narrow” point that “[s]omeone who benefits from a union’s contract negotiations should pay for collective bargaining activities, if not for the union’s political activities.” It notes that an AFSCME loss in Janus would lead to a decline in union membership, like the decline seen “in Wisconsin, with Gov. Scott Walker leading the charge.” ….

Related:

Janus and the Private Sector
Source: Benjamin Sachs, On Labor blog, September 29, 2017

Maddy’s excellent wrap-up of yesterday’s Janus news includes a clip from Slate’s piece “Solidarity’s End.” There, Mark Joseph Stern provides a very useful synopsis of agency fees law, but he also suggests that a Janus decision finding agency fees unconstitutional could easily be exported to the private sector. Here’s how he puts it:

One last point: Janus involves only public-sector unions, or unions composed of state employees. But there is no obvious reason why its logic should not apply to private-sector unions as well.

But of course there is a very obvious reason why the logic of a public-sector holding would not apply to private-sector unions: that logic is the state action doctrine, which limits constitutional restrictions to state actors….

A Primer on the Supreme Court Case That Teachers’ Unions Have Been Fearing
Source: Liana Loewus, Ed Week blog, September 28, 2017

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court officially agreed to review a case on public-employee union fees that could potentially deliver a harsh blow to the nation’s teachers’ unions. You may find yourself asking: Wait, haven’t we been through this? Wasn’t someone named Friedrichs involved? And why is this coming up again? All good questions. Let’s take a look at what’s at stake, and how we got here. ….

Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31
Source: SCOTUSblog, 2017

Issue: Whether Abood v. Detroit Board of Education should be overruled and public-sector “agency shop” arrangements invalidated under the First Amendment…..

Judgment Day for Public Unions
Source: Matt Ford, The Atlantic, September 28, 2017

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that could deal a serious blow to American organized labor.

Neil Gorsuch Has Web of Ties to Secretive Billionaire
Source: Charlie Savage, Julie Turkewitz, New York Times, March 14, 2017

….With the Senate Judiciary Committee set to take up Judge Gorsuch’s nomination next week, Democrats have based much of their criticism of him on the argument that his judicial and economic philosophy unduly favors corporations and the wealthy. But his relationship with Mr. Anschutz, 77, whose fortune is estimated by Forbes to be $12.6 billion, has received scant attention. The Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, which developed the list of potential Supreme Court nominees from which Mr. Trump selected Judge Gorsuch, receive funding from Mr. Anschutz. ….

Bradley Foundation Bankrolls Attacks on Unions
Source: Mary Bottari, Center for Media and Democracy, May 8, 2017

Documents examined by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) expose a national effort by the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation to defund and dismantle unions, the most significant force for higher wages and better working conditions in America. Publicly, the Bradley Foundation spins this agenda as “employee rights.” Behind the scenes, newly disclosed Bradley documents detail an aggressive political agenda….

Gorsuch speech at Trump hotel attracts protests
Source: Josh Gerstein, Politico, September 28, 2017

….Gorsuch spoke as part of a 50th anniversary celebration for the Fund for American Studies, a charitable group that sponsors scholarships and study programs. The organization’s goal, according to its website, is “to win over each new generation to the ideas of liberty, limited government and free markets.” The fund is supported by a wide array of foundations, most of them with a conservative or libertarian bent, including the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the Charles Koch Foundation…..

The Supreme Court’s Anti-Democratic Feedback Loop
Source: Scott Lemieux, The Atlantic, September 29, 2017

The GOP installs Supreme Court justices over the will of voters. The Supreme Court helps the GOP remain in power. Rinse, repeat.

For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America

Source: University of Maryland Libraries, 2017

Labor unions were created by workers to protect their rights. Less recognized is labor’s role in advancing civil liberties, social justice, and economic equality for all Americans.

The labor movement has always supported the quest for economic justice, including demands for an eight-hour workday and a living wage. From the beginning of the 20th century, organized labor has championed religious freedom and the evolving demands of the environmental movement. By the end of the century, the labor movement consistently promoted international human rights.

In contrast, people of color, women, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community faced exclusion, segregation, and discrimination by unions. These groups created their own organizations, fought for inclusion, and pushed the labor movement to broaden its central principles of liberty, justice, and equality. In the 21st century, organized labor has become an advocate for the rights of all these communities, including anti-discrimination and civil rights legislation, marriage equality, and protections for undocumented workers.

This exhibit explores the American labor movement’s contributions to social progress using documents, images, videos, and artifacts from the Labor History Collections within the Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Maryland Libraries.

The Short-Lived Benefits Of Abusive Supervisory Behavior For Actors: An Investigation Of Recovery And Work Engagement

Source: Xin Qin, Mingpeng Huang, Russell Johnson, Qiongjing Hu and Dong Ju, Academy of Management Journal, Published online before print September 11, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Although empirical evidence has accumulated showing that abusive supervision has devastating effects on subordinates’ work attitudes and outcomes, knowledge about how such behavior impacts supervisors who exhibit it is limited. Drawing upon conservation of resources theory, we develop and test a model that specifies how and when engaging in abusive supervisory behavior has immediate benefits for supervisors. Via two experiments and a multi-wave diary study across 10 consecutive workdays, we found that engaging in abusive supervisory behavior was associated with improved recovery level. Moreover, abusive supervisory behavior had a positive indirect effect on work engagement through recovery level. Interestingly, supplemental analyses suggested that these beneficial effects were short-lived because, over longer periods of time (i.e., one week and beyond), abusive supervisory behavior were negatively related to supervisors’ recovery level and engagement. The strength of these short-lived beneficial effects was also bound by personal and contextual factors. Empathic concern–a personal factor–and job demands–a contextual factor–moderated the observed effects. Specifically, supervisors with high empathic concern or low job demands experienced fewer benefits after engaging in abusive supervisory behavior. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of these findings, and propose future research directions.

Related:
Being a jerk at work doesn’t pay off for long
Source: Andy Henion, Futurity, September 28th, 2017

Giving or Getting: New York’s Balance of Payments with the Federal Government

Source: Donald J. Boyd, Lucy Dadayan, and Jim DeWan, Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, September 2017

From the press release:
Today, the Rockefeller Institute of Government released a new report, Giving or Getting: New York’s Balance of Payments with the Federal Government, to examine what states gave in tax dollars versus what states got from the federal government.
Modeled off of the “Fisc” reports issued by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the former United States senator from New York, the Rockefeller Institute of Government report found that:
• Thirteen states had a “negative” balance of payment with the federal government. From worst to least they are: New York, New Jersey, Illinois, California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Minnesota, Texas, North Dakota, Colorado, New Hampshire, Nebraska, and Wyoming. New York’s residents and economy contributed approximately $48 billion more in taxes to the federal government than New York received in federal spending —- the largest of any state.
• New York’s negative balance of payments roughly equals the combined shortfalls of 2nd ranked New Jersey and 3rd ranked Illinois. California and Massachusetts rounded out the list of top five states.
• On a per-capita basis, New York had the third-worst balance of payments, after New Jersey and Connecticut. New York’s people and economy paid the federal government $2,425 more per person than they received. By contrast, the average state experienced a positive balance of payments of about $1,305 per capita.
• New York’s negative balance of payments is driven primarily by federal taxes, rather than spending. Payments from New York to the federal government were $12,820 per capita, or approximately $3,401 higher than the national average.
• Federal spending in New York was $329 lower than the U.S. average, adding to the revenue disparity, but the revenue difference is much larger than the spending difference. ….

Quarterly Survey of Public Pensions: Second Quarter 2017

Source: Melinda Caskey, Deron Pope, and Gritiya Tanner U.S. Census Bureau, Report Number: G17-QSPP2, September 2017

From the tip sheet:
This survey provides national summary data on the revenues, expenditures and composition of assets of the largest defined benefit public employee pension systems for state and local governments. The report produces three tables: Tables 1 and 3 include data on cash and security holdings, and Table 2 provides data on earnings on investments, contributions and payments.