Building Better Public Schools through Restorative Justice

(Source) Fremont High School in Oakland, California used to have the highest rate of suspension in its district, 1 in 3 students dropped out, and only 1 in 4 students qualified to attend public college in California.  But since the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) made a $2.5 million investment to expand its restorative justice program throughout the district in 2017, incidents leading to suspension have dropped dramatically and the number of students who qualify for college admission has “nearly tripled.”  OUSD is one of several school districts throughout the country to adopt restorative justice practices as an alternative to retributive justice over the past two decades.  David Ryan Castro-Harris of Amplify RJ defines restorative justice as “a philosophy and set of practices, rooted in Indigenous teachings, that emphasize our interconnection by repairing relationships when harm occurs while proactively building and maintaining relationships to prevent future harm.”  Restorative justice conferences bring together people who have caused harm, those who have been harmed, and stakeholders from the surrounding community.  All involved parties have the opportunity to share their experience and how the harm affected them before collaborating to find an appropriate solution.  Quantitative research suggests that these practices have a positive [read more]

The Farmworkers’ Health Crisis

(Source) To date, there are approximately three million farmworkers employed throughout the United States. They feed the world through their labor, bringing fruits, vegetables, and other crops to homes across the nation. But despite how critical their work is to our well-being, farmworkers often labor under substandard conditions, earn poverty wages, and face a myriad of health and other issues due to their living and employment conditions. These issues have come to prominence following the Half Moon Bay shootings, in which seven farmworkers were killed and an eighth was critically injured at California Terra Garden and Concord Farms. In the wake of this incident, two California state agencies investigating the Half Moon Bay farms—the Division of Occupational Safety and Health and the Labor Commissioner’s Office—have unmasked that workers and their families “lived in trailers on the property, cooked outdoors in makeshift kitchens, used portable toilets, and had their rent deducted from their paychecks.” A San Mateo County supervisor has described the living conditions as “deplorable [and] heartbreaking.” Unfortunately, according to Director of Operations for Líderes Campesinas Irene de Barraicua, these living conditions are not an isolated incident, but rather “very typical images . . . for California.” To learn more [read more]

Burlington Vermont: An Example of Police Defunding Gone Wrong

                                                                                                           (Source) Burlington, Vermont used to be known as a bustling college town on the edge of Lake Champlain, with minimal safety issues, a beautiful environment, and progressive social efforts. There was crime, like in any city, but most of it was property-related so violence was minimal. Citizens could walk around at night feeling safe, the streets were clean, the homeless population was well taken care of, and it was known as a great place to live. However, this all changed in June 2020 when the city followed nationwide trends to defund its police force. The intention behind the defunding was good. Though Burlington’s police force was considered more progressive than many places, having already implemented mandates requiring body cameras and removing its ties to a federal program that gives military equipment to police departments; Burlington, like most places, had some trouble with its police force being unjustly prejudiced against people of color and mistreating people with mental illness. So, following the nationwide trend, citizens [read more]

LMAO: Labor Movement Already Online, while the National Labor Relations Act is stuck in analog

                                                                                                                (Source) In 2018, two Apple repair technicians launched a server on Discord so that they could privately discuss Apple tech issues with their colleagues. Named “AppleConnect”, the Discord server hosted 600 workers by Oct. 2021 who used anonymous identities to discuss frustrations with work. They then organized a union. The recent union win at Apple exemplifies a small portion of the success that workers have had in organizing unions by using digital tools like email and social media. Workers from Amazon to Starbucks and Mcdonald’s have leveraged digital organizing strategies to disseminate information about the benefits of forming a union and to coordinate in-person meetings, events, and actions. Union organizers use many tools in executing a digital organizing strategy. For example, Mapbox employees used a combination of private Slack for private communication, Facebook Groups for crowdsourcing information, and Signal for confidential discussions to organize [read more]

The Live Event Ticketing Industry Is Playing Monopoly

                                                                                                           (Source) January 25, 2010 marked the day when Live Nation, the largest producer of live concerts in the world, and Ticketmaster Entertainment, the world’s leading live entertainment ticketing and marketing company, completed their Department of Justice-brokered merger. At the time, officials touted the fact that the merger would encourage competition and drive ticket prices down. However, since then, Ticketmaster’s prices more than tripled over the past two decades. Today, various estimates show that Ticketmaster controls ticketing at 70-80% of major concert venues in the United States. The reality was that in 2010, two giant entertainment companies joined together to create a behemoth, dubbed Live Nation Entertainment. Rather than encourage competition, Live Nation stifled it, and its sway on the market allowed new subsidiary Ticketmaster to continuously increase ticket prices. A monopolist is a firm with significant and durable market power, but merely possessing monopoly power is not [read more]

The Epidemic of Incel Violence

                                                                                                           (Source) The Incel Problem “All I ever wanted was to love women, and in turn to be loved by them back. Their behavior towards me has only earned my hatred, and rightfully so! I am the true victim in all this. I am the good guy.” These words concluded 22-year-old Elliot Rodger’s 137-page manifesto. Rodger published the document one day before killing six people and himself at a sorority of the University of California Santa Barbara. In the manifesto, Rodger wrote about his inability to enter a romantic relationship and his resulting rage towards all women. He then laid out his plan for revenge: mass murder. The 2014 attack was the first to be linked to the “involuntary celibacy” or incel subculture. Designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, incels expressly advocate for the subjugation of women. The incel ideology is rooted in the [read more]

The Case for Making Election Day a Federal Holiday

                                                                                                            (Source) Although voting is the centerpiece of our democratic process, it is not a right that all Americans exercise. According to a Pew Research Center study of fifty countries, the United States ranks around the middle in turnout in national elections among people of voting age. There are many proposed legislative solutions to increasing voter turnout, but among the most bold is making Election Day a federal holiday. The history of Election Day is actually one of convivence. The first Tuesday after the first Monday in November was chosen as the date for federal elections back in the nineteenth century in order to facilitate voting. November occurred after the harvest but before the worst of the winter storms, and Tuesday meant that people did not have to vote on Sundays or Wednesdays, reserved for church and market day respectively. However, as modern life has evolved, the [read more]

The FABRIC Act: Mending Workplace Protections in American Garment Manufacturing

                                                                                                               (Source) The global fashion industry produces more than 100 to 150 billion items of clothing per year. 400% more clothes are produced compared to 20 years ago. Today, fashion accounts for up to 10% of global carbon dioxide output and a fifth of the 300 million tons of plastic produced globally each year. In the United States alone, landfills receive 11.3 million tons of textiles and the nation throws away the equivalent of around 70 pairs of pants per person in clothing and footwear waste each year. If current practices continue, the United Nations Environment Programme believes that the fashion industry will use up a quarter of the world’s carbon budget by 2050. Some fashion brands and retailers are releasing sustainability reports and setting goals to use more recycled or organic materials. Zara, for example, made a commitment that 50% of items sold in 2022 [read more]

A Cohesive Regulatory Future for Crypto

                                                                                                             (Source) Emerging technologies have revolutionized all facets of society. Cryptocurrencies, a form of digital currency that is “secured by cryptography” through a network distributed across a large number of computers, pose the potential to change the world of finance. Regulatory schemes that lead to the mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies may help increase accessibility and efficiency in international transactions. While the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) current actions are effective in helping specific consumers, giving the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) a larger mandate will increase transparency and thus, accessibility, to cryptocurrency markets. A new political climate, influenced by factors such as 2008 financial crisis, the London Interbank Offer Rate (LIBOR) scandal, characterized by high-risk lending led magnified the flaws of a centralized banking system.  This growing distrust is part of an underlying anti-government movement driven by the State’s weak performances and failures.  Inherent to this [read more]

Partisan Gerrymandering: All or None         

                                                                                                      (Source) Each election in the 21st century has enormous political consequences.  But because of America’s increased polarization, partisan gerrymandering—the drawing of political boundaries to favor one party over the other—proliferates elections now more than ever.  Given the current political climate, the solution to achieve fairness in congressional redistricting is either for both parties to lean into gerrymandering or for Congress to introduce new legislation to curb the practice entirely. Partisan gerrymandering takes several forms, most notably cracking and packing.  Cracking a district means splitting up a solid group of voters for the opposing party and distributing those voters across several adjacent districts, so the formerly solid district becomes competitive.  On the other hand, packing is used to cram as many voters as possible from the opposing party into one district.  While the other party will likely win one seat, their power will be weakened in other districts.  The controlling [read more]
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