Kalena Thomhave

Kalena Thomhave is a writing fellow at the Prospect.

Follow @kalenasthom

Recent Articles

Not Everyone Can Evacuate as Hurricane Florence Approaches

Many in the path of the storm, including poor residents and hundreds of prisoners, are forced to stay put.

(Steve Earley /The Virginian-Pilot via AP)
(Steve Earley /The Virginian-Pilot via AP) Ocean water rushes down the street in Frisco, North Carolina, on Hatteras Island on September 13, 2018. A s Hurricane Florence bears down on North and South Carolina, officials have ordered more than one million residents to evacuate across more than 300 miles of coastline. But as the storm rapidly approaches, and as preparations are under way to protect buildings and land, thousands of people will be unable to leave. In low-lying rural areas likely to be most impacted by the storm, many low-income residents don’t have the money to flee. Still others, like hundreds of prisoners in South Carolina, are simply not given the option. It is perhaps in times of disaster that inequality best manifests itself, because the richest and most-privileged have the resources to ensure their own safety. The story repeats itself whenever we see another “storm of the century”—which seems to happen more and more frequently. For residents of the Gulf and Atlantic...

Stop Saying Minimum-Wage Hikes Kill Jobs

A new study on the effects of an increased minimum wage on employment shows that increased wages in six cities had no discernible effect on employment. But while this is great news, the prospect of employment losses should not be how we evaluate the worthiness of raising the minimum wage.

But first, the positive news: Researchers from the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics at the University of California, Berkeley, analyzed policies in six cities that had raised their minimum wages—Chicago, Washington, D.C., Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle. At the end of 2016 (the end of the study period), minimum wages in these cities ranged from $10 to $13 per hour.

The Berkeley researchers focused on the restaurant industry, and looked at earnings across the industry in these cities and compared them to similar metropolitan areas. They found that a 10 percent rise in the minimum wage increased earnings between 1.3 and 2.5 percent—about an extra $16 to $32 each week. And there was no significant effect on employment.

According to Carl Nadler, one of the study’s co-authors, these policies “are working just as intended.”

Indeed, recent research has generally indicated that effects on employment would be small.

However, one study last year gained significant news coverage because it claimed higher minimum wages were decreasing job opportunities in Seattle. Conservatives took this evidence and used it to claim that living wages are unsustainable and would actually harm low-wage workers.

But let’s say that Seattle study, which suffered from methodological issues according to the Economic Policy Institute, was correct. Even if some people did lose their jobs, which would be terrible, isn’t it also terrible for millions of workers to be forced to live—and in many cases, raise a family—on $7.25 an hour?

“Focusing only on job loss ignores one of the main effects of minimum-wage increases: rising hourly and annual earnings for potentially tens of millions of low-wage workers—many more of whom will gain than lose,” economists David Cooper, Lawrence Mishel, and Ben Zipperer of EPI wrote in an April report.

Here’s an idea: Raise the wage, and if major job losses come (and they likely won’t), ensure there are strong unemployment insurance and job creation programs to help those few workers who would be affected.

Incarcerated Workers Demand Better Conditions in Nationwide Strike

After three weeks, prisoners will have ended their work and hunger strikes, but their demands are no less powerful.

(Sipa USA via AP)
(Alex Milan Tracy/Sipa via AP Images) Protesters demonstrate against prison slavery on September 9, 2016, in Portland, Oregon. trickle-downers.jpg T his past Labor Day gave us ample opportunity to consider workers’ rights and what policies can be implemented to bridge the inequality between workers and their bosses and make working life better. Yet, there’s a group of workers who are generally left out of this conversation: prisoners across the country, and they’ve been on strike the past three weeks to make their demands heard. Prisoners in more than a dozen states have participated in the strike, which began August 21 and is set to end September 9. The most obvious way of striking—a work stoppage—has not always been possible for prisoners, so some have gone on hunger strikes , raised banners in solidarity, or boycotted the prison store. The strike has been organized by workers both inside and outside of prisons—the coordinating organizations are Jailhouse Lawyers Speak (JLS), a...

My (Zero) Time on the Manafort Jury

A couple of months ago, I was summoned for jury duty for the federal district court in D.C. for a “special” four-week trial, the “pre-selection” process for which was set to begin today, the Tuesday after Labor Day. 

A quick search on the district court’s website said that “special” trials were “mainly high-profile.” “Maybe it’s Manafort!” I joked to my friends. 

I was 99 percent certain I would not be chosen to serve on any jury, much less a high-profile one, but I blocked off the month just in case. I took my coffee creamer out of the office refrigerator, finished up stories I was working on, and even set up an out-of-office reply. I mean, I could be gone for four weeks!

On Monday night, I followed the instructions on my jury summons form and called the juror phone line to see what time I needed to report to court.

“Your jury service is over,” the automated voice said. “We appreciate your serving as a juror in the United States District Court.” 

Was there a mistake? Did I really not have to go? I called back. Same message. 

I considered that members of the press will be barred from being in the courtroom during jury selection in the Manafort trial. I considered this piece, where I referred to the Trump administration’s white nationalism. And this one, in which I called Trump himself racist.

It was probably the Manafort trial.

And then this morning, about 120 potential jurors with purple jury summonses identical to mine made their way to the court and were told the trial was Manafort’s. They’ll fill out a written questionnaire that’s meant to weed out those too familiar with the case, and official jury selection, when jurors are questioned individually, begins on September 17.

Manafort was recently convicted of eight charges of tax and bank fraud in an Alexandria, Virginia, federal court. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that the jury selection process will probably take longer and be more difficult than that of the trial in Virginia because people in D.C. are more likely to follow politics.

Unfortunately, all you will get from this potential juror is this blog post—and I won’t get the book deal I was hoping for.

The Coming Progressive Agenda for Workers’ Rights

Fixing the National Labor Relations Act is a must—but only a start.

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky Marleine Bastien marches in support of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour in Miami trickle-downers_35.jpg W ith Democrats looking primed to retake the House, there could be a new—and rare—opportunity to rethink labor laws in the next session of Congress. Numerous policy proposals are already making the rounds, but as progressive Democrats shop around for new labor reforms, where will they turn? Last week, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) released a 15-point policy agenda to reverse the decades-long erosion of workers’ rights in the U.S. Celine McNicholas, director of labor law and policy at EPI and one of the coauthors of the agenda, says that instead of the “magic bullet” reform that lawmakers might be searching for, there is no quick-fix solution. Getting decent wages back into the pockets of workers and giving workers more power at the bargaining table will take a comprehensive reform package, she says. Workers, she explains, suffer from a “systemic...

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