Say anything

BossFeed Briefing for February 19, 2018. Last Tuesday, a top federal budget official proposed turning food stamps into a "Blue Apron-type program.” Last Thursday, staff of Seattle’s KUOW radio station formed a union, as did some campaign workers earlier in the week. Today is a holiday for many people who work in offices and/or in the public sector, in honor of a wooden toothed man who chopped down a cherry tree and a bearded fellow with a top hat. Today is also the 76th anniversary of President Roosevelt ordering the internment of Japanese-Americans. And tomorrow is the 53rd anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X.

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Three things to know this week:


The US House of Representatives voted to roll back antidiscrimination protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act, advancing a bill which would require that businesses be provided 60 days notice of accessibility violations and then be given 60 days to remedy the situation before a lawsuit can be filed. No other civil rights laws require similar waiting periods until they can be enforced in court.  

The chief counsel of federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Seattle pled guilty to charges that he used department databases to steal the identities of immigrants, obtained almost two hundred thousand dollars through fraud, and even claimed three of his identify theft victims as dependents on his taxes. A colleague in the Seattle ICE office had previously been found guilty of forging evidence in deportation cases.

Because they’re not classified as employees, Uber drivers and others in the “gig economy” aren’t covered by most laws against employment discrimination, including the fundamental protections in the 1964 Civil Rights Act. One member of Congress has introduced a bill to expand civil rights protections to cover independent contractors, but has zero co-sponsors.


Two things to ask:


Why? During an investigation of a major chemical company for illegally exposing workers to a harmful pesticide, the company was caught doing it again. They were facing a fine of nearly $5 million for their violations, but under new leadership at the EPA, the penalties have now been reduced to $150,000.

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Does that add up? IHOP and Applebee’s, which are owned by the same corporation, have been sued for sexual harassment more often than any other restaurant chains. DineEquity, the corporate owner, claims that it has no control over employment conditions at its franchised locations, though somehow it is able to place national advertisements about menus, food quality, pricing, decor, and customer service.


And one thing that's worth a closer look:


In a new piece in The Baffler, Liza Featherstone writes about the rise of focus groups and the consultant class, suggesting that the practice of careful “listening” by the powerful amounts to a kind of political con. When focus groups were first developed, they were thought to be a way to bring democracy to the economy by letting people have a say about the practices of giant corporations. But as focus groups became more political, and corporate ideology evolved, they developed a new purpose: instead of finding out what people wanted, they became all about finding ways to get people to accept things they didn’t want at all. Featherstone goes further, arguing persuasively that the practice of professional listening became has become increasingly common because the power gap between political elites and the rest of us has grown so vast that no other mode of deeper accountability remains.


Read this far?


Consider yourself briefed, boss.

Let us know what you think about this week's look at the world of work, wages, and inequality!

Let us know what you think about this week's look at the world of work, wages, and inequality!