TPM Cafe: Opinion

“This is our $%&#-ing city!” bellowed David Ortiz, as he offered Boston’s stirring, unifying rejoinder to last year's horrifying Marathon bombing. From that moment forth, the team took its place at the center of Boston's recovery. And when the season ended at the pinnacle, with the Red Sox as World Series champions for the third time in a decade, the team’s “Boston Strong” theme was only tangentially about baseball. Obviously.

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As progressives look with trepidation toward the midterm elections, there is naturally a renewed upsurge of complaints that the Obama administration — like the Clinton administration — has represented at best a series of pyrrhic victories for the left, and at worst a betrayal of the progressive cause. There’s been a tendency among left-leaning thinkers and writers to lump these arguments together and dismiss them as unrealistic or counterproductive. But in fairness, it is worth sorting them out, and also comparing them to similar grousing about the GOP on the right.

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Last month, the United Auto Workers (UAW) attempted to organize a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The union failed. Media reports of organized labor’s demise have followed, with the debate divided between one camp that views the labor movement as beyond-resuscitation dead, and another that views the patient on life-support with only a slim chance of survival.

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It seems that ‘90s fashion isn’t the only trend from that decade back in style. Previewing his upcoming legislative proposals to reform American poverty programs, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) recently expressed his support for the 1996 welfare overhaul and affirmed his commitment to actually increasing work requirements for welfare recipients.

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In Vance v. Ball State University last year, the Supreme Court undercut workplace protections from harassment. With 25 percent of women and 10 percent of men reporting that they have experienced harassment in the workplace, these watered down protections leave workers who suffer harassment at greater risk and with fewer tools to challenge harassment when it happens. The Fair Employment Protection Act, introduced last Thursday by Senators Tammy Baldwin and Tom Harkin, and Representatives George Miller and Rosa DeLauro is urgently needed to restore strong protections from harassment on the job. Here’s why:

When supervisors harass they are abusing the power given to them by their employers. It can be very hard to say, “Back off!” or to report harassment by a supervisor, because workers know that if they do, their supervisor can make life hard for them, forcing them to work last-minute overtime or in unsafe conditions, forego lunch and bathroom breaks, or even firing them.

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This is part of TPM Cafe Book Club for Jake Rosenfeld's What Unions No Longer Do.

It may well be true that public sector union members are more likely to be college-educated than their private sector counterparts, but educational attainment is not the only measure of privilege. As Rosenfeld himself notes in chapter two of What Unions No Longer Do, women are far more heavily represented in public sector unions than in the labor movement writ large. But while public sector labor gets high marks for relative gender parity, the same cannot be said for racial diversity: In both government and private enterprise, black workers make up slightly less than 11 percent of all union members.

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Earlier in the winter the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Harris v. Quinn case. If five justices decide in favor of a group of home care providers, public employees working under a union contract will not have to pay union dues. In other words, the entire public sector will be “right to work.” The case has public employees’ unions rightfully terrified. Many of these unions have already been on the defensive in recent years, fighting rearguard attacks against their ranks in such traditional union strongholds of Wisconsin, Michigan, and other jurisdictions.

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The Affordable Care Act (ACA) promises to provide affordable health care to millions of uninsured Hispanics, and the deadline to sign up, March 31, is fast approaching. Last week, President Obama hosted a town hall sponsored by Univision and Telemundo to encourage Hispanics to sign up and to impart information on the ACA.

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Picture this: You arrive at the airport, full of cheer ahead of a work trip to visit to a client. You wait in line to check in for your flight, but when you reach the counter, you’re told you won’t be able to board. Suddenly you’re surrounded by security guards and hauled off for questioning, with everyone gawking at you. You learn that you’re banned from flying – INDEFINITELY – to, from, or over the United States, even though you’ve never been charged with a crime.

You’re not told why. And there’s very little you can do about it.

That is the reality of the No Fly List, a secret government watch list being challenged by the ACLU and its affiliates in Oregon, California, and New Mexico. To help illustrate the unfairness and devastating human cost exacted by the No Fly List, we enlisted the talents of award-winning comic artist Jen Sorensen.

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The FX series Justified, loosely based on the late Elmore Leonard’s short story “Fire in the Hole,” stars Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens, a Deputy U.S. Marshal in eastern Kentucky. At first glance, Raylan brings to mind cowboys of lore: he wears a Stetson and has the fastest draw east of the Mississippi. But Raylan is a cowboy in corrupt, modern settings, who chooses to extract justice in ways that get him in trouble and leave his morals shaded grey. He has a weakness for women and children in need, and they seem equally drawn to him, especially women. Raylan doesn’t go long without companionship, and his girlfriends form a pattern: blonde women with just enough moral shadiness of their own to activate Raylan’s white knight syndrome.

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