Fox News host Bill O'Reilly allowed GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump to push a phony conspiracy theory that unemployment rate is really 25 percent. On February 5, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its monthly "Employment Situation" summary for January 2016. BLS reported that the economy created 151,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate fell to 4.9 percent -- its lowest point since February 2008. Bill O'Reilly invited Trump on the February edition of his show to respond to the report asking whether we should "give the president credit" for the low unemployment rate? Trump claimed that "the [unemployment] number is 25 percent, and probably higher than that." O'Reilly failed to push back on Trump's allegation simply stating, "Okay, so you're not going to give President Obama any credit for the 4.9."
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Fox News attempted to negatively spin a January jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) by complaining about a lack of manufacturing jobs being created. Unfortunately for Fox, the report actually revealed robust job creation in manufacturing, which put total employment in that industry at a seven-year high.
On February 5, the BLS released its monthly "Employment Situation" summary for January 2016. The data showed that the economy created 151,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate fell marginally to 4.9 percent -- its lowest point since February 2008. Economists and experts generally agreed that the report was "very encouraging."
On the February 5 edition of Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto and Fox Business host Gerri Willis complained that the report did not show enough evidence of job creation in well-paid industries like manufacturing (emphasis added):
GERRI WILLIS: A jobless rate of 4.9 percent, that is an eight-year low, looks so good. Lucious, right? Maybe not ... The number of jobs created in the month, you're showing it right now: 151,000. A disappointment compared to what we expected: 200,000.
Now, good news on the wages front, up over the last 12 months 2.5 percent. You can see that there, $25.39 an hour. So that seems to be good news. Dig further though, Neil, what do we see? Here's what we see, the jobs created are disappointing. 58,000 retail jobs, we're talking about clerks, cashiers, people who walk through the Walmart, those are the kinds of jobs created. And also, restaurant and bars, so waitresses, waiters, bartenders, 47,000 jobs created.
We know from experience that these aren't the kind of jobs that can really fuel family growth, fuel family wealth. This isn't what the middle class needs right now, and that's what's so disappointing about this jobs report, today. We're not seeing the kinds of big-time manufacturing jobs being created in this economy, and that's what Americans really need.
Unfortunately for Fox News, the jobs report Cavuto and Willis discussed actually showed robust job creation in manufacturing (+29,000). MarketWatch columnist Rex Nutting noted that those 29,000 new workers pushed total manufacturing employment to 12.4 million, a seven-year high (emphasis added):
Apparently, no one told American manufacturers that their business is collapsing, because they kept on hiring more workers in January.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that manufacturing companies added 29,000 workers in January to reach a seven-year high of 12.4 million. After a soft patch in the middle of last year, it was the fourth month in a row that manufacturing payrolls had increased.
Not only were factories hiring, they were working their employees longer shifts. Average weekly hours rose a tick to 40.7 hours in January, which is significant because the manufacturing workweek is considered to be one of the best leading indicators for the health of the economy as a whole. Despite the strong dollar, the drop in export orders and the decrease in capital spending, average hours in manufacturing have been roughly unchanged since April.
A Washington Examiner column attempted to negatively spin the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) jobs report for January 2016 by misleadingly claiming that the American economy shed 665,000 jobs last month. The column failed to account for seasonal adjustments in the data series.
On February 5, the BLS released its monthly "Employment Situation" summary for January 2016. The data showed that the economy created 151,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate fell to 4.9 percent -- its lowest level since February 2008. According to a Bloomberg survey of economists, the monthly job creation total came in below expectations but economist Kathy Bostjancic still called the report "very encouraging."
This generally positive sentiment was lost on Washington Examiner columnist Paul Bedard, whose search for negative spin on the jobs report resulted in him pushing the misleading claim that BLS data actually shows "there were 665,000 jobs lost in January":
New Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that there were 665,000 jobs lost in January, a blunt finding that confuses the heralded report that 151,000 jobs were created in January in non-farm payrolls.
New York Times correspondent Josh Barro blasted Bedard's faulty conclusion on Twitter, noting that the Examiner columnist made the amateur mistake of looking at seasonally unadjusted payroll figures, which fail to account for temporary holiday jobs that disappear between December and January every year:
Here's the dumbest thing you will read on the jobs report all day: https://t.co/35qX2syALc-- Josh Barro (@jbarro) February 5, 2016
This dude looked at the seasonally *unadjusted* numbers. Of course they were lower; employment is always lower in January than December.-- Josh Barro (@jbarro) February 5, 2016
Retailers hire people for the holiday season and then lay them off, every year. That's a main reason we do seasonal adjustment.-- Josh Barro (@jbarro) February 5, 2016
With baseline economic indicators consistently improving throughout the Obama administration, right-wing media outlets are becoming increasingly desperate in their attempts to cast the monthly jobs report in a negative light. Fox News and Fox Business misleadingly complained for three consecutive months about job creation figures that far exceeded economists' expectations.
Officials from the Koch brothers' funding arm have announced a new "venture philanthropy" project called Stand Together, with aims of "strengthening the fabric of American society," and focusing on "poverty" and "educational quality," according to USA Today. Media should know that: previous Koch-backed poverty and education efforts have been coupled with ideological proselytizing, Stand Together's executive director is a Koch veteran and former Republican congressional candidate who repeatedly fearmongered about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the group's top collaborator is associated with U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan's sham "anti-poverty" efforts.
The Washington Post highlighted research demonstrating "only a weak relationship" between increased economic growth and increased economic security in the United States. The findings undermine a core tenet of conservative economic philosophy, often parroted by Republican presidential hopefuls and conservative media outlets, which claims that so-called "pro-growth" strategies like tax cuts are the best policy for alleviating insecurities faced by millions of Americans.
In a February 2 post for The Washington Post's Wonkblog, reporter Emily Badger outlined how recent research from the Brookings Institution reveals a "weak relationship" between economic growth rates and improved economic inclusion in the country's 100 largest metropolitan areas. According to the Brookings report, from 2009 through 2014 the "growth/inclusion relationship was relatively weak" and consistent economic growth "hasn't revealed much about whether we are resolving larger challenges around providing improved economic opportunities for all."
The Post concluded by highlighting how the Brookings data seemingly debunks economic policy talking points promoted by Republicans including Jeb Bush and Paul Ryan, which fixate on economic growth as one of the major solutions to poverty. From The Washington Post (emphasis added):
Look across all 100 of these metros, and there's only a weak relationship between economic growth and inclusion. Areas with rapid growth haven't necessarily swept up the poor and working class. In many places where relative poverty has declined (like Jackson, Miss.), the economy isn't growing much:
This non-pattern is notable precisely because the rising-tide theory remains so alluring, particularly among Republicans. Grow the economy, they argue, and that will improve job prospects and living standards for everyone -- the poor, the working class, minorities and other groups that have been left behind. Economic growth, they add, will achieve far more than any targeted program or government spending.
"The best anti-poverty program is economic growth," Paul Ryan declared in the Wall Street Journal two years ago, as he was beginning to roll out his own poverty agenda.
"Economic growth is the key to everything," offered Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Here's Jeb Bush's take, in arguing that 4 percent growth will create jobs enough for everyone: "So many challenges could be overcome if we just get this economy growing at full strength."
Rand Paul insists that this logic will specifically lift up African Americans, who should reconsider "the Republican promise" for policies that boost economic growth.
The data that we have, though, shows that inclusion doesn't work on autopilot. Sometimes -- often -- economic growth happens without broad benefits. And that means we have to actually be intentional in bringing everyone along, in connecting poor communities to transportation, or unemployed men to job training, or minority children to better education.
The Brookings research seems to support a hypothesis endorsed by economists Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute, who argue that economic growth alone is not enough to reduce economic insecurity in the face of persistent inequality.
Despite this evidence, conservative media have claimed for years that growing the economy is the best and only solution to alleviating economic insecurity and that crafting policies to reduce inequality as a means of reducing poverty would be counterproductive. Making matters worse, the tax cuts frequently endorsed by conservative media as a means of spurring economic growth have failed to generate the promised economic returns, though research suggests cutting taxes can worsen economic inequality.
According to Media Matters' analysis of evening and prime-time economic news coverage in 2015, segments about policies focused on creating jobs and growing the economy were frequently featured on major cable and broadcast programs, outnumbering discussions of economic inequality.**
During the course of a 12-month survey, Media Matters recorded 382 segments on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC focused on economic growth -- most of which came from Fox News. The same 12-month period produced 301 segments focused on economic inequality -- two-thirds of which came from MSNBC alone.
The Washington Post gave voice to a pair of discredited researchers who falsely blamed Washington, D.C.'s incremental minimum wage increase as the core reason Walmart went back on its deal to build stores in low-income neighborhoods, a claim belied by The Post's own reporting on the retailer's decision to scale back operations at stores across the country and around the globe.
On January 15, The Washington Post reported that Walmart plans to close 269 stores this year, including 115 overseas and 154 in the United States, as it shifts its focus toward online shopping and profitable, established supercenters and grocery stores. As part of this companywide contraction, Walmart will abandon numerous planned stores, including two in low-income neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. According to a separate January 15 Washington Post report, "behind closed doors" Walmart officials are placing some blame for the company's decision to abandon expansion plans on the city's increased minimum wage, but the heart of the problem is high construction costs and a general lack of profitability at "large urban Walmarts." The Post reported that Walmart executive vice president Mike Moore is already concerned about underperformance at the company's three stores in Washington, D.C., and company officials are worried that future stores would fail to generate enough sales.
Despite the complexity of the issue, on January 27, The Washington Post published an op-ed in its local opinion section by right-wing researchers Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and Michael Saltsman of the Employment Policies Institute on Walmart's decision to drop two of the five stores it had planned to build in the nation's capital. The writers blamed Walmart's actions almost entirely on the city's decision to enforce an $11.50 per hour minimum wage effective July 1. The authors claimed that it would be "irresponsible" to increase municipal wages to $11.50 per hour and "downright foolish" to consider raising wages to $15 per hour in the future, concluding that "the District should ensure that it leads the region in opportunities created, not opportunities destroyed."
The misleading op-ed came after years of research by economists debunking the claim that raising the minimum wage kills jobs, and The Post gave a platform to biased researchers who had been discredited on this specific issue. Perry has attacked minimum wage increases in Seattle by cherry-picking data to falsely suggest that Seattle lost jobs after it raised its minimum wage. Meanwhile, Saltsman and the Employment Policies Institute are tied to low-wage industries that actively lobby against raising the minimum wage.
The assertion that Walmart is abandoning expansion plans in the nation's capital as a result of minimum wage increases falls apart once you consider that the company has already committed to raising nationwide wages for most of its associates to at least $10 per hour in 2016, and once you account for the fact that it is closing stores in cities and states around the country that have lower minimum wages and costs of living than the District does. According to The Washington Post's own reporting on January 31, Walmart is closing stores as part of a national consolidation plan and D.C.'s deputy mayor of economic development told The Post that Walmart's cancellation of planned stores in the city is not "a cost issue" but instead reflects the company's decision to begin "paring down urban markets" where stores are less profitable.
In addition to Walmart's global store contraction, and its concerns about slagging sales at existing D.C. supercenters, there is also some question as to whether the company was ever truly committed to bringing the low-income neighborhood stores online.
Initially, Walmart had approached city officials about building stores in the District, and the city agreed to let Walmart build three stores almost anywhere it wanted as long as the retailer also built two stores east of the Anacostia River, in one of the poorest areas of the city where job opportunities and affordable retail products are in short supply. After Walmart built the stores it wanted in gentrifying neighborhoods, the retailer announced it would not build the two stores the city government wanted in low-income communities. On January 19, Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy wrote that the "bait-and-switch that Walmart just pulled off in the District has to rank among the sleaziest ever played," and noted that it is poor residents of color who got "burned."
Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers pushed back on Bill O'Reilly's criticism of an Associated Press fact-check that found Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) had falsely claimed that Obamacare was "the biggest job-killer in the country." O'Reilly argued "Senator Cruz might be correct about Obamacare but to be fair, his opinion is subjective." Powers responded, noting "multiple studies have shown that's not true," and that the American Enterprise Institute found that "there was no correlation between the Affordable Care Act and a decrease in employment." From the January 29 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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With the presidential primary season in full swing, prime-time cable and broadcast evening news coverage of the economy focused on the candidates' policy priorities in the second half of 2015. News coverage of economic inequality fell considerably after hitting an all-time high in the first half of the year.
Economists from the University of California, Davis published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal debunking the popular right-wing media myth that an influx of low-skilled refugees would necessarily result in decreased wages and job opportunities for American workers.
On January 18, University of California, Davis economist Giovanni Peri and doctoral candidate Vasil Yasenov published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal discussing their recent study on the wage and employment disruption created when a large influx of Cuban refugees arrived in South Florida in 1980. Their work, published in December 2015 by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), updated prior research on the migration and confirmed that the sudden arrival of 125,000 Cuban refugees did not correlate with decreased wages or employment activity for American workers in the local community.
Right-wing media have created many myths about immigration, but perhaps the most pervasive is the misleading claim that new immigrants take jobs away from American workers. Economists have debunked the claim many times, but it remains a prevalent talking point in many conservative outlets.
Peri and Yasenov argued that an influx of new immigrants "stimulates productivity and growth in the economy" and pointed to the experience of Cuban refugees in the 1980s as a model for what to expect from Syrian refugee arrivals today. From The Wall Street Journal (emphasis added):
A well-known episode took place after April 20, 1980, when Fidel Castro opened the port of Mariel, enabling anyone to freely leave the island. More than 125,000 Cubans fled to the U.S. until the Mariel boatlift, as it was called, ended in September. More than half of these refugees settled in Miami. Most were low-skill--which meant that the supply of workers without a high-school diploma in the city increased between 12% and 15%.
Economist David Card analyzed how the wages and employment rate of native workers in Miami changed from 1979 (before the inflow) to 1981-82 (after the inflow). His influential study, published in 1990, compared Miami with Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles and Tampa-St. Petersburg, a control group of cities with similar demographic and labor-market characteristics during the 1970s.
The results were striking: The 1979-1981 wage and employment changes in Miami were not much different than in the other cities. The evidence, he concluded, was that a sudden increase in the supply of low-skill workers had no significant negative effect on native laborers with similar schooling levels.
Our results--released as National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 21801 on Dec. 15--confirm Mr. Card's original study. There is no evidence that Miami's low-skill workers experienced wage or employment decline relative to those in our control group of cities in 1980, 1981 or 1982. We also analyzed different subgroups--males, females, Hispanics and non-Hispanics--and did not find any significant wage effect in Miami after 1979.
This result suggests that the common belief that more immigrant workers depress native workers' wages or employment is not a good representation of what happens. Earlier research by one of us has shown that native workers do not suffer the negative impact of arriving immigrants because they take different jobs. Moreover, their arrival stimulates productivity and growth in the economy.
Miami's experience after the Mariel boatlift suggests that an influx of refugees from Syria to the U.S. would have no significant economic impact on American workers.
From the January 13 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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All of the major broadcast and cable networks in the U.S. suspended their programming on January 12 to air President Obama's last State of the Union address. All except Univisión and Telemundo, which instead aired their regularly scheduled telenovelas.
Univisión and Telemundo, respectively the largest and second largest Spanish-language networks in the United States, are among the most trusted sources of information for the growing Hispanic community.
Instead of giving the presidential address primetime coverage, Univisión aired the telenovela Pasión y poder, and Telemundo aired Bajo el mismo cielo, opting to live-stream the address online. NBC Universo -- an NBC Universal-owned Spanish-language Telemundo affiliate -- did broadcast the speech, but the channel is only accessible to cable-TV viewers.
According to recent census data, Hispanics are now the largest minority in the United States: Latinos constitute a little over 17 percent of the United States population. In 2016, over 26 million Latinos will be eligible to vote for the next president. Though the Latino voting bloc is becoming increasingly important, engaging them politically remains a challenge, as they repeatedly lag behind other demographics in voter turnout.
Univisión and Telemundo did a disservice to the community they serve by not broadcasting the president's State of the Union speech, which largely focused on issues that Latinos prioritize. Contrary to common media misconceptions, Latinos are not single-issue voters. In fact, evidence consistently shows that Latino voters are most concerned about jobs and the economy, healthcare, education and immigration, all of which received significant mentions during President Obama's address.
Telemundo and Univisión's lack of coverage did not go unnoticed. The Daily Show tweeted "If you're not into #SOTU, here are some other programming choices" with a graphic reading "Bored? Other things that are on TV right now." The graphic showed that, unlike ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and Fox News, Univisión wasn't broadcasting the State of the Union. Instead, Pasión y poder is listed.
California State Senator Ricardo Lara (D-33), who has championed immigrant rights in the California legislature, also criticized the lack of coverage in a statement to Media Matters:
It is very disappointing that neither Telemundo nor Univision aired the President's State of the Union address on live TV. Are Novelas, which perpetuate sexism, racism, homophobia and classism, more important than the civic engagement and education of our community? This is a blatant missed opportunity and disservice to Latinos during such a crucial presidential election year. This is simply unacceptable and I call on the executives at all major Spanish-language broadcast outlets to do the community a service and carry this important address in years to come!
A new study from researchers at Cornell University found that, over the past 20 years, raising the regular and tipped minimum wage for workers in the restaurant and hospitality industries "have not had large or reliable effects" on the number of people working in the industry. The research stands as yet another piece of evidence debunking restaurant industry claims -- frequently promoted by right-wing media -- that local, state, and federal wage increases harm businesses and weaken the job market.
On January 12, the food and nightlife news site Eater highlighted a December 2015 study from Cornell University's Center for Hospitality Research, which investigated the effect raising the minimum wage has had on business and employment activity in the restaurant industry. The study's authors -- social scientist Michael Lynn, and economist Christopher Boone -- looked at 20 years of data and "confirm[ed] previous findings" that "the relatively modest mandated increases in employees' regular and tipped minimum wages in the past twenty years have not had" large, negative effects on restaurants or jobs in the industry. Eater explained:
The duo's hard data suggests, not shockingly, that when restaurant owners pass expenditures, reasonably, on to customers, the sun tends to rise the next day. To put it less glibly, the sheer number of restaurants and restaurant employees did not fall over time in parts of the country that legislated minimum wage increases.
Numerous studies on raising the minimum wage have found that legislated increases have a negligible effect on employment numbers. In spite of continued academic work showing little to no effect on employment, right-wing media have repeatedly pushed the myth that raising the minimum wage hurts businesses and destroys jobs. These media outlets often parrot the anti-minimum wage talking points of restaurant industry lobbyists without disclosing their conflicts of interest. Media Matters has debunked the myth that the minimum wage kills jobs many times, and specifically highlighted media's misguided fixation on the alleged negative effects of Seattle's decision to institute a $15 minimum wage.
The Cornell study, published in the December 2015 edition of Cornell Hospitality Reports, is in line with previous findings that modest minimum wage increases have had little negative effect on employment in the restaurant industry. According the Cornell study, and prior research, businesses pass costs on to consumers by modestly raising prices, which does not appear to result in a decrease in demand. The Cornell study also concluded "[t]here is strong evidence that increases in the minimum wage reduce turnover" and that "the restaurant industry should support rather than oppose reasonable increases in the minimum wage":
The U.S. restaurant industry has consistently opposed increases in the regular and tipped minimum wages on the grounds that such increases would require restaurants to reduce staffing, raise prices to offset reduced revenue, or both. Either reaction is thought to reduce customer satisfaction and demand, along with restaurant profitability and even survival. To the contrary, however, the results of this study confirm previous findings, namely, that the relatively modest mandated increases in employees ' regular and tipped minimum wages in the past twenty years have not had large or reliable effects on the number of restaurant establishments or restaurant industry employment levels, although those increases have raised restaurant industry wages overall. Even when restaurants have raised prices in response to wage increases, those price increases do not appear to have decreased demand or profitability enough to sizably or reliably decrease either the number of restaurant establishments or the number of their employees. Although minimum wage increases almost certainly necessitate changes in restaurant prices or operations, those changes do not appear to dramatically affect overall demand or industry size. Furthermore, there is strong evidence that increases in the minimum wage reduce turnover, and good reason to believe that it may increase employee productivity as well. While prospective large increases in minimum wage mandates may have more noticeable effects, the evidence suggests that the restaurant industry should accept reasonable, modest increases in the minimum wage.
There is strong evidence that increases in the minimum wage reduce turnover, as mentioned previously. While no study has tested our belief that increasing the minimum wage will increase employee happiness and productivity as well, our reasoning is theoretically sound and consistent with more general research on compensation effects. Moreover, the research reviewed and reported here suggests that the industry has little to lose by acting on this belief. Thus, we contend that the restaurant industry should support rather than oppose reasonable increases in the minimum wage.
While discussing a Supreme Court case focused on union fees, Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade falsely claimed that public employees were "forced to join unions" and to pay fees that went directly "to political causes." Not only can public employees opt out of joining a union, but the reduced fees that non-members pay, known as agency fees, are used by the union to collectively bargain on behalf of all the employees of a workplace -- including non-members -- and are distinctly not permitted for use toward a union's outside political activity.
The Wall Street Journal's editorial board predictably lined up behind the conservative establishment's interests by arguing in favor of a Supreme Court decision that would deal a blow to unions representing teachers, social workers, EMTs, firefighters, and other public employees.
On January 11, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case calling into question a California state teachers union's right to charge an "agency fee" or "fair share fee" to non-members who benefit from the union's collective bargaining efforts despite not paying full membership dues. Media have noted that if the case results in the court overturning a previous decision, it would weaken all public-sector unions -- and a "who's who" of conservative anti-union backers have been instrumental in bringing it before the Supreme Court as quickly as possible.
The "agency fee" principle was established in a 1977 Supreme Court case, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, and was designed to prevent non-union employees from freely enjoying the substantial benefits negotiated by unions on behalf of their members. This so-called "free rider" problem would otherwise force unions to operate on smaller budgets but continue to bargain and organize on behalf of the same number of people. As The Atlantic reports:
Under federal law, if a majority of employees decide to form a union, the union must represent all employees for bargaining purposes. But if some people decide not to join (whether because of genuine political disagreement or merely to save money on the fees), the union has less leverage because it represents fewer members. It also has less money to pay for the things that keep it strong, like bargaining and organizing. But it still has an obligation to do things such as bargaining and organizing since, in many states, public employers are required to bargain with unions.
The Supreme Court's most recent decision on agency fees in the 2014 case Harris v. Quinn, which the Wall Street Journal also advocated for and celebrated, signaled the conservative majority's desire to revisit and potentially overturn Abood, and thus decades of labor law that are "vital to the very concept of public employee unionism" -- an opportunity Friedrichs now provides.
Of course, the Wall Street Journal predictably jumped at the chance to fall in line with conservative interest groups pushing for a case like Friedrichs that could give the court -- in particular, Justice Samuel Alito, who seemingly asked for such a case in his Harris opinion -- the chance to overturn Abood. On January 10, the Journal's editorial board celebrated Friedrichs as "a rare and splendid opportunity to repair damage to the First Amendment done by the Court itself" -- at best, minimizing the implications for public-sector unions and public employees and, at worst, enjoying the prospect that institutions of organized labor could be dealt a serious blow with the decision. The editorial pushed several incorrect claims related to the case before concluding that Abood ought to be sent "to the mistake file" with the Friedrichs decision:
But as the teachers point out, collective bargaining in government is impossible to separate from matters of ideological speech. For public teachers, collective bargaining involves wages and benefits that inevitably implicate fiscal policy and the tax burden. It also includes such controversial political matters as teacher evaluations and tenure. Individual teachers who object to the union's positions on these issues must nonetheless subsidize them.
In her dissent in Harris, Justice Elena Kagan justified this state coercion for unions on grounds that the government has an interest in labor peace. But no great harm to the state or the public is caused by letting teachers exercise their free-speech right. The union won't vanish, or even lose its monopoly bargaining power. It will merely have less money to spend to influence politicians.
The board claimed that "no great harm to the state or the public" would result from a decision overturning Abood, and that the California teachers' union "won't vanish, or even lose its monopoly bargaining power," but would "merely have less money to spend to influence politicians."
The Journal's anti-union argument managed to be wrong on just about all counts: research shows that unions are severely weakened when they are no longer allowed to charge agency fees for collective bargaining activities, and the economy suffers as a result. In so-called "right-to-work" states, where unions cannot charge agency fees, unions have notably decreased in size and potential leverage, and public employees are earning less and enjoying fewer benefits. And as economist Larry Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, points out, "a decline in unionization on the national level has caused wage stagnation, growing inequality, and the overall slippage of the American middle class."
The Journal also mischaracterized the premise of agency fees, arguing that paying such fees requires public employees who do not agree with a union's political stances to "nonetheless subsidize them." The Abood decision establishing agency fees prevents exactly that, drawing a distinction that limits agency fee revenue to subsidize only collective bargaining activities, not political advocacy. The Journal's claim ignores that distinction to back the plaintiff's flawed argument that all union activity constitutes free speech -- even bargaining and organizing that directly benefit employees and prevent costly, escalated labor disputes.
The Wall Street Journal's factually challenged opinion on the Friedrichs case should come as no surprise; the Journal has a long history of advocating for measures that would weaken organized labor, and members of its board are tied to the "web of dark money" responsible for pushing Friedrichs to the Supreme Court.
The plaintiffs in Friedrichs, ten California public school teachers, are represented by conservative legal group the Center for Individual Rights (CIR), a pro-bono legal organization known for its work on cases dismantling affirmative action and civil rights protections, with donors connected to "the web of dark money" associated with anti-labor billionaires Charles and David Koch. CIR attorneys declined to argue the case in lower courts, instead pushing for the courts to issue decisions that would allow the case to move exceptionally quickly to the Supreme Court level. The CIR's funders constitute "a who's who of the right's opposition to organized labor." As The American Prospect reported:
Koch-linked groups known to have made grants to CIR, according to the Center for Media and Democracy, include DonorsTrust, the Donors Capital Fund, and the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation. Other CIR funders belong to the Koch donor network. Among them are the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, as well as the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, which was instrumental in the legislative attack on labor in Wisconsin...
Think tanks and groups that receive either direct funding from Koch entities or are linked to the Koch brothers' funding network also filed amicus briefs in favor of the Friedrichs plaintiffs. They include the Cato Institute, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund, and the Mackinac Center, a major force behind the 2012 anti-union legislation enacted in Michigan.
According to journalist Laura Flanders, earlier in its history CIR also enjoyed the support of the Pioneer Fund, a white supremacist organization devoted to the promotion of eugenics.
It's clear the "phony grass-roots support" behind Friedrichs is well-funded by the anti-labor conservative establishment, and propped up by research written by institutions and individuals receiving that funding. The Wall Street Journal editorial board's flimsy argument to overturn Abood may be no exception -- several members of the board have received large grants from the Bradley Foundation, one of the foundations involved in Wisconsin's "right-to-work" push in 2014 and a funder of the CIR. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, two of the foundation's annual $250,000 "Bradley Prizes" for journalism were awarded to Wall Street Journal columnists in 2014 -- one of whom sits on the paper's editorial board. In 2010, Paul A. Gigot, the editorial pages editor at the Journal, also received the Bradley prize.
Media figures have credited House Speaker Paul Ryan with thrusting the supposedly "forgotten" issue of poverty into the 2016 Republican presidential race following his participation in the January 9 presidential forum on poverty, but failed to mention that despite his new rhetoric, Ryan has a long history of promoting harmful policies that would "exacerbate poverty, inequality, and wage stagnation."