A Profound Setback for Organized Labor, In Defense of Court-Packing, and Unrigging the Student Loan System

June 29, 2018

The Roosevelt Rundown is an email series featuring the Roosevelt Institute’s top 5 stories of the week.

1. Janus v. AFSCME

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued a monumental decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. A profound setback for organized labor, the ruling—which mandates that non-union members are no longer required to pay agency fees during negotiations—will deeply jeopardize workers’ rights and ability to collectively bargain. In a statement, Roosevelt President and CEO Felicia Wong elevated the vulnerability of the public workforce. “It now falls on those who truly support working people to reimagine new ways to rebuild and advance worker power,” she said.

2. In Defense of Court-Packing

This week revealed a Supreme Court that is unable, or unwilling, to challenge the policies and politics of the current administration. Following Wednesday’s SCOTUS ruling against public-sector unions, alongside Tuesday’s decision to uphold the Trump administration’s Muslim ban and the retirement announcement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, Roosevelt Fellow Todd N. Tucker wants a bold idea at the top of the political agenda: expand the bench of the Supreme Court“We shouldn’t let a handful of reactionary judges get in the way of progressive change,” he writes. “It’s time to pack the Supreme Court.” For HISTORY, Roosevelt Senior Fellow David B. Woolner reviews how FDR tried to do it.

3. Redefining Government

Governance systems in the U.S. today increasingly prioritize the needs of an elite few over society as a whole, including those who should be welcomed at our shores. We need to transform government into a bold force for the many,” writes Roosevelt Network Deputy Director Katie Kirchner on the Roosevelt Forward blog. Working to channel young people’s energy for resistance into policy change and long-term civic participation, Kirchner underscores why progressives can’t just fix the system—we must rebuild it: “By changing who writes the rules, we change the rules and we change the system, so that government can be reflective of and responsive to the actual needs of our country.”

4. Who Pays?

America’s student loan program works for lenders, servicers, and even colleges, but it doesn’t work for students. In “Who Pays? How Industry Insiders Rig the Student Loan System—And How to Stop It,” Roosevelt Fellow Julie Margetta Morgan argues that today’s student debt crisis is a product of the soft corruption within our government. She also explains how the norms that policymakers adhere to when writing rules for students and the public point to a key vulnerability for the policy and advocacy community: “We need to change the way that the student loan program operates, but it is critical that we change the way we think about it, too,” she writes.

5. Shareholders Are Overrated

In her latest op-ed for Quartz at Work, Roosevelt Fellow Susan R. Holmberg argues that shareholders are overrated and shows why knowing this fact is key to undoing their excessive power. “Only then can we move beyond an economy in which a small handful of powerful people increasingly siphon the value out of American businesses, while the rest of us are left behind,” she writes. For the blog, Roosevelt Editor Kendra Bozarth explains why knowing who shareholders are can help us address racial inequality: “Holmberg’s research shows us that in order to confront these troubling trends, we must first unmask who’s driving and reinforcing them.”

What We’re Reading

Big ideas like a federal job guarantee and Medicare for all come with big costs, big infrastructure plans, and big public support. For the Los Angeles Times, economist Stephanie Kelton explains why we can afford it all: “To make these policies work, all we have to do is produce enough hospitals, doctors, nurses, universities and teachers. Just imagine how high those poll numbers would climb if everyone understood how easy it would be for Congress to pony up.”

What We’re Following

We’ve had our eye on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—the 28-year-old native New Yorker who won her congressional primary against 10-term Democratic incumbent Joseph Crowley on Tuesday—and now we’re catching up on the wave of media hits about her bold campaign. Most notably, Ocasio-Cortez lifts up our hidden rules argument in The Nation“I can’t name a single issue with roots in race that doesn’t have economic implications, and I cannot think of a single economic issue that doesn’t have racial implications. The idea that we have to separate them out and choose one is a con.”