Sometimes you might think that no one who makes decisions in the Obama administration ever worked a day in their lives.
- With considerable fanfare, the Prez announced in 2011 that home care workers would finally be included under the country's minimum wage laws, becoming entitled to higher pay and overtime. For forty years, these people (mostly women; often immigrants and/or of color) who take care of the sick and elderly in their homes had been treated as not-quite-genuine workers, so not deserving of elementary protections. The Department of Labor even wrote regulations. But in this election season, the bureaucracy announced it won't be enforcing the new rules in 2015. What good is that to people who work for so little return that they and their families end up on food stamps and Medicaid?
- Even more outrageously, the administration has weighed in against workers who are seeking to be paid for time they spend waiting around to be searched before leaving their employers' premises. Amazon workers claim this daily process can take up to 25 minutes. The legal arguments are labyrinthine, but the situation is simple and ought to obvious: if keeping your job means you must give the job your time, you should get paid for that time. The Supreme Court seems unfriendly to this obvious reality and the administration is no better.
True, I think. But insofar as the emerging majority becomes normalized, they will assert just demands for a fair share of the country's wealth. The one percent have been getting almost all the economic gains of the past 40 years. Can the Democrats represent their constituents in this struggle? It is not at all clear that the answer is "yes."