A Minority Publication
Black unemployment is at least twice as high as white unemployment at the national level and in 14 states and the District of Columbia
News from EPII
In the fourth quarter of 2018, African American workers had the highest unemployment rate nationally, at 6.5 percent, followed by Hispanic (4.5 percent), Asian (3.2 percent) and white workers (3.1 percent).
This report provides a state-by-state breakdown of unemployment rates by race and ethnicity, and racial/ethnic unemployment rate gaps for the fourth quarter of 2018. While there have been state-by-state improvements in prospects for black and Hispanic workers, their unemployment rates remain high relative to those of white workers. Following are some key highlights of the report:
While the African American unemployment rate is at or below its pre-recession level in 18 states (of the 21 states and the District of Columbia for which these data are available), in 14 states and in the District of Columbia, African American unemployment rates exceed white unemployment rates by a ratio of 2.0-to-1 or higher.
The District of Columbia has a black–white unemployment rate ratio of 5.7-to-1, while Alabama and Mississippi have the highest ratios among states (3.0-to-1 and 2.8-to-1, respectively).
The highest African American unemployment rate is in the District of Columbia (11.8 percent), followed by Pennsylvania (8.9 percent), Illinois (8.8 percent), Louisiana (8.0 percent), and Mississippi (7.7 percent). The highest Hispanic state unemployment rate is in Washington (7.5 percent), followed by Pennsylvania (7.1 percent), Arizona (6.3 percent), Connecticut (5.8 percent), and Oregon (5.8 percent). Meanwhile, the highest white state unemployment rate is 4.6 percent, in West Virginia.
The Hispanic unemployment rate is at or below its pre-recession level in 11 states (of the 16 states for which these data are available). There are three states in which the Hispanic unemployment rate is equal to or lower than the white rate (Georgia, 0.8-to-1, Oklahoma, 0.9-to-1 and New Jersey, 1-to1).
The largest gaps between Hispanic and white unemployment rates are in Nebraska (2.4-to-1), Virginia (2.3-to-1), Connecticut and Pennsylvania (2.1-to1 each).
Workers will lose out on $1.2 billion under Trump administration
In 2016, the Obama Labor Department issued a rule that would have raised the threshold under which almost all workers are entitled to overtime to $47,476 a year. But just before the rule was set to go into effect, a district court judge in Texas blocked the rule nationwide. In March of this year, the Trump administration released a proposal to set the threshold at $679 per week, or $35,308 for a full-year worker, in 2020. The adoption of this proposal would leave behind millions of workers who would have gotten new or strengthened overtime protections under regulations finalized in 2016.
In an updated analysis, EPI Policy Director Heidi Shierholz shows that workers will earn $1.2 billion dollars less a year under the Trump administration’s proposal than they would have earned under the 2016 rule. These annual earnings losses will grow to $1.6 billion (in inflation-adjusted terms) over the first 10 years of implementation due to the fact that the Trump administration proposal does not include automatic indexing.
“The 2016 rule’s threshold was painstakingly researched and economically justified,” said Shierholz, who served as chief economist at the Department of Labor during the 2016 rulemaking process. “Given how much in earnings workers will lose out on, and how many workers will be left behind under this proposal, we encourage the department to drop this rule-making and instead defend the 2016 threshold. The department’s new proposed rule—which is based on the notion that someone struggling on $35,000 a year is a highly paid executive who doesn’t need or deserve overtime protections—flies in the face of the principles embodied in the Fair Labor Standards Act and should be abandoned.”
Shierholz’s calculation includes both wages lost by workers who would have gotten new protections under the 2016 rule but would not get new protections under the Trump proposal, and wages lost by workers who would get new protections under either the Trump proposal or the 2016 rule but who would have gotten a larger raise under the 2016 threshold than under the 2019 proposal. The calculation does not include earnings losses by those who would have gotten strengthened protections under the 2016 rule but would not get them under the Trump proposal.
NAACP Challenge to Prison Gerrymandering Moves Forward, First Statewide Challenge in the Nation
Federal judge refuses to dismiss suit over discriminatory counting of incarcerated persons
Feb. 19, 2019
New Haven, CT — The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), together with the NAACP Connecticut State Conference and individual NAACP members, won a key ruling today that allows their federal lawsuit challenging the State of Connecticut’s discriminatory practice known as “prison gerrymandering” to proceed. The lawsuit is the first in the nation to take on a statewide practice of counting incarcerated people as residents of the legislative districts where they are held, rather than in their home districts.
Connecticut’s Redistricting Plan may “compromise . . . fair and effective representation,” Judge Warren W. Eginton wrote in an opinion, issued today, denying the state’s motion to dismiss. His decision allows the plaintiffs an opportunity to prove that “Connecticut’s 2011 Redistricting Plan reflects neither electoral nor representational equality.” The case will now proceed to discovery and potentially to trial.
The suit, NAACP et al. v. Merrill, No. 3:18-cv-01094-WWE, was filed last June in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. The complaint alleges that prison gerrymandering violates Connecticut residents’ constitutional rights to one person, one vote by inflating the power of predominantly white rural districts, where many prisons are located, to the detriment of urban districts, where many incarcerated persons maintain a permanent residence. The plaintiffs seek to compel Connecticut to adopt a new redistricting map that counts incarcerated individuals in their home state legislative districts rather than in the districts where they are incarcerated.
“The Equal Protection Clause guarantees that each person’s vote must be equal to that of their fellow citizens,” said NAACP General Counsel Bradford M. Berry. “Today’s ruling is a step towards securing that constitutional right for the people of Connecticut—in a case that will matter for all states that continue to engage in this unconstitutional practice.”
In his opinion, Judge Eginton emphasized that Connecticut’s districting plan might unconstitutionally compromise residents’ representation because of its “reliance upon total population census data when, by state law, incarcerated individuals are not even considered residents of their prison location.”
“Prison gerrymandering is a double punch—it takes away the political power of people of color and gives it to rural districts,” said Scot X. Esdaile, President of the NAACP Connecticut State Conference. “Not only are our communities devastated by mass incarceration, but this practice piles on by taking political equality away as well.”
“With the 2020 elections coming up, I’m hopeful that we’re closer to the day my vote counts equally to those of people who happen to live in prison districts,” said Garry Monk, a resident of Connecticut State House District 92 and a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. “This lawsuit is about allowing everyone to have an equal voice and an equal vote.”
“It is particularly appropriate that this decision comes in Connecticut, which strives to be a model for the nation of fair and open voting practices,” said Alex Taubes, of David Rosen & Associates, co-counsel for the plaintiffs.
“A basic constitutional principle of our government is that the weight of someone’s vote should not be determined by where he or she lives,” explained Ayoub Ouederni, a law student intern with the Yale Law School Rule of Law Clinic, counsel for the NAACP and other plaintiffs. “But that’s exactly what prison gerrymandering does. The state shouldn’t be allowed to count the bodies of incarcerated persons in a place they have not chosen to live, to the political benefit of the people who live near prisons.”
The plaintiffs are represented by the NAACP Office of the General Counsel, Rosen & Associates, P.C. and the Yale Law School Rule of Law Clinic.
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