Kalena Thomhave

Kalena Thomhave is a writing fellow at the Prospect.

Recent Articles

A Failed Fight for $8.50 Energizes the Fight for $15 in Louisiana

When a bill to raise the Louisiana minimum wage by just $1.25 failed, advocates didn’t reduce their demands—in fact, they did the opposite.

On Tuesday, the Louisiana Senate voted against a bill that would have raised Louisiana’s minimum wage to $8.50 an hour by 2020. “Not advancing this legislation is a step backwards for our families and our children who live in poverty but want to work,” said Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards.

But just two days later, supporters of a $15-an-hour bill introduced by State Representative Joe Bouie testified in a hearing before the House Labor and Industrial Committee—a bold statement given the clear leanings of the legislature. The committee unsurprisingly rejected the bill, but the hearing was an opportunity for advocates to make their case in front of committee members.

“Can any of you live on $290 a week?” said Ben Zucker, co-director of advocacy organization Step Up Louisiana. “Too many of these low-wage workers working for multinational corporations ... making record corporate profits come into our state and pay our workers so low they can’t afford to eat,” Zucker said, as reported by New Orleans’s Gambit. Louisiana is one of five states without a state minimum wage, so the federal minimum of $7.25 is in effect.

State Senator Troy Carter of New Orleans, who sponsored the $8.50 bill, has sponsored minimum-wage legislation for the past three years, but each attempt has failed. He has also sponsored a bill that would allow voters to determine whether to pass a constitutional amendment raising the minimum wage. (As of 2016, 76 percent of Louisianans support raising the wage.) Bouie’s bill was the first $15 minimum-wage legislation introduced in the Louisiana legislature.

One in five people in Louisiana lives in poverty, and the state has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, as do Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, and Mississippi, which also don’t have state minimum wages. Sixteen other states have wage floors that match the federal minimum of $7.25.

Food Stamps Aren’t a Substitute for Work. They’re How Low-Wage Workers Avoid Hunger.

Most adults on SNAP are workers, but they turn to the program when they’re between jobs or making too little.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke Jennifer Donald whose family receives money from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program also know as food stamps, eats dinner with her sons David and Donovan, and daughter Jayla, in Philadelphia. S arah Ormbrek’s life used to be a lot more uncertain. She didn’t always have a job. She didn’t always have transportation. And she didn’t always have a home for herself and her son. But thanks to the largest anti-hunger program in the country, she could generally rely on having food. During the time of her life when money wasn’t always a constant, “SNAP,” she says, “I could always depend on.” The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps, works that way by design, with the intention that low-income people should be able to count on the program whenever they need it. Unlike other social service programs with long waiting lists, SNAP is available to anyone who is eligible. As such, it helps reduce hunger for over 40 million Americans by...

Tipped Workers Claim Victory Against “Tip-Stealing” Rule

Outraged workers protested the Department of Labor’s proposed rule—and lawmakers responded in the omnibus spending bill.

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh) Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta speaks at the White House on June 12, 2017. A fter a number of decidedly anti-labor appointments to top positions in the Trump administration’s Department of Labor, it was clear that big business would be a major player in the department’s activities. Indeed, last December, with support from the National Restaurant Association, the department proposed a “tip pooling” rule that would allow employers to control workers’ tips, including taking them for themselves. But tipped workers yesterday gained a victory against what critics have more aptly termed the “tip stealing” rule: a provision forbidding employers, including managers and supervisors, from stealing tips was included in the omnibus budget bill , with bipartisan support, including from Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta. The provision would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to prohibit employers from pocketing employees’ tips. Tipped workers often earn less than minimum wage...

Is It Race or Class? To the Trump Administration, It Doesn’t Matter

A new study on upward mobility points to racial disparities across generations—but efforts that could work to reduce these disparities are not a priority of the GOP administration.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke Jennifer Donald, whose family receives money from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, eats dinner with her sons David and Donovan, and daughter Jayla, in Philadelphia. trickle-downers_35.jpg T he income inequality between black and white Americans affects not only the ability of poor black men to earn more money than their parents, but also the chances of black men who were raised in the wealthiest households to remain wealthy. And the income disparities between black and white adults exist even if they grew up in families with similar incomes, education, and family structure—even if they lived in the same neighborhood. That’s the conclusion of an expansive new study by Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren, two economists with the Equality of Opportunity Project, and Maggie R. Jones and Sonya R. Porter of the Census Bureau. Their results point to specific poverty interventions—namely, reducing systemic racism and discrimination—that policymakers may want to...

West Virginia Teachers Win—Will the Legislature Try to Undercut Their Victory?

West Virginia’s teachers won a 5 percent pay raise for all state employees. But it was the legislature’s corporate tax cuts that underfunded the teachers in the first place—and it may slash public services to pay for the raise.

(Craig Hudson/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)
(Craig Hudson/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP) West Virginia teachers, from right, Kara Brown, Katherine Dudley, Nina Tunstalle, and Lois Casto react to news that Governor Jim Justice and Senate Republicans had reached a deal to end the strike on March 6, 2018, in Charleston, West Virginia. T he West Virginia teachers’ strike, which had become the longest in the state’s history at nine days, ended Tuesday with a deal to increase the pay of teachers as well as all state employees by 5 percent. (Previously, union leaders had struck a deal for a 5 percent pay raise of teachers with only a 3 percent raise for state employees. With the Republican state Senate initially balking at the deal, rank-and-file teachers were rightfully skeptical that the legislature would agree to the raise, and continued striking.) The increasing costs of the teachers’ health insurance was another driver of the strike; Republican Governor Jim Justice has promised to set up a task force to look at the state’s...

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