EQUAL WORK? Nestled within the immigration reform proposal unveiled by eight senators on January 28 was a detail highlighted by Seth Freed Wessler at Colorlines: special treatment for farm workers, who “have been performing very important and difficult work to maintain America’s food supply while earning subsistence wages.” Given their important role “ensuring that Americans have safe and secure agricultural products to sell and consume,” the authors wrote, “these individuals will earn a path to citizenship through a different process under our new agricultural worker program.”
This same description could apply to another group that is also often undocumented: domestic workers. In a recent report, the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) found that 46 percent are foreign-born and 35 percent are noncitizens. Of more than 2,000 nannies, caregivers and housecleaners interviewed for the report, 36 percent were undocumented immigrants.
Don’t domestic workers also perform “very important and difficult work,” as the immigration proposal writes of agricultural workers? Domestic workers enabled a generation of women to enter the workplace. The US economy would be 25 percent smaller if those women hadn’t sought jobs outside the home.
Yet just as with agricultural workers, domestic work pays poorly. Even worse, the NDWA found a significant wage penalty for being undocumented. Overall, domestic workers who are citizens have a median wage of $12 per hour, but undocumented immigrants are paid $10—a 17 percent difference.
Why were they excluded from the immigration fast track? Part of it is likely because this work takes place behind the walls of private homes. The fact that this workforce is 95 percent female may also have something to do with it. Whatever the reason, domestic workers also deserve national recognition of how vital their work is and to have access to an easier path to citizenship. BRYCE COVERT
A WIN FOR FAIR TRADE: The Nation recently reported on a growing schism in the world of fair trade [“The Brawl Over Fair Trade Coffee,” September 10]. On one side is the Bonn-based Fair Trade International, which governs the fair trade system and upholds a model of democratically run, farmer-owned cooperatives. On the other is a dynamic nonprofit in Oakland, Fair Trade USA, which, under the leadership of Paul Rice, has broken away from the Bonn regime to pursue a model of corporate-friendly practices on behalf of Whole Foods, Green Mountain Coffee and similar companies. It’s a contest that has divided activists, shed light on the fragility and complexity of the fair trade system, and provided an occasion to debate the first principles of the movement. The critics of so-called corporate fair trade now have something to cheer: in January, Ben & Jerry’s announced that it was switching its allegiance from Rice’s organization to FTI in Bonn, which will now handle the ice-cream maker’s fair trade certifications. In an interview, Ben & Jerry’s spokesman Sean Greenwood made it clear that the company is keen to stay on the progressive side of this controversy.
“This is big news,” says Rodney North of Equal Exchange, the country’s oldest fair trade coffee company, which has spearheaded the fight against Rice and corporate fair trade. “Ben & Jerry’s was one of the largest customers for Fair Trade USA’s certification services, so this represents a significant loss of revenue and exposure.” SCOTT SHERMAN
THE NATION IS UPWORTHY: Last October, The Nation.com released a short documentary that contained one of the few known audio recordings of the New York Police Department’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy in action. The video generated a firestorm of controversy, and to date it has been viewed over 800,000 times on YouTube.
How did it reach such a wide audience in such a short time? Much of the credit goes to a less-than-year-old social media sharing company called Upworthy, which posted the video to its site and on Facebook and Twitter under the provocative title “Meet the 17-Year-Old Who Blew the Lid Off Racial Profiling With His iPod.” And when I spoke with the staff of Upworthy recently, they made it clear that the benefits from the video’s increased exposure were mutual. “The stop-and-frisk video we featured is, for many of us, the one we’re most proud to have played a role in making a viral success,” said Maegan Carberry, a senior adviser for the company. “We couldn’t possibly have encountered a more ‘upworthy’ moment. This is exactly what the site is meant to do.” FRANCIS REYNOLDS
TO MAGAZINES! The conventional wisdom is that the magazine industry is in decline. From the demise of Newsweek’s print edition to the layoffs at Rolling Stone, there is plenty of depressing news to go around. When The American Prospect was hit by a nearly fatal half-million-dollar deficit, The Nation urged people to help. The Prospect survived, but journalism almost lost another informed voice as well as a training ground for progressive journalists.
So we should raise a glass to the redesign (in print) and relaunch (online) of The New Republic, The Nation’s fellow liberal journal of opinion for nearly 100 years. New publisher Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, bought the magazine and could have done what he wanted with it: stripped it bare, sold it for parts or made it online only. Instead, he doubled down on long-form investigative journalism and political opinion. The Nation has invested in a similar type of journalism: cutting-edge writing and reporting is embedded in our historical DNA. In 2014, The New Republic will turn 100. A year later, The Nation will turn 150.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, many magazines are surviving—even thriving. The Nation is now available weekly on more than a dozen digital platforms with more than 1.1 million readers. We have more print subscribers today than we did a decade ago. At Mother Jones, print subscriptions jumped dramatically after it broke the Mitt Romney “47 percent” story.
I was intrigued to read recently that The American Prospect, still struggling, had decided to sublet part of its office to The American Conservative, founded by Pat Buchanan. Cynics might scoff at these strange bedfellows huddling together for warmth in an economic chill. But I see something different: a shared commitment to the vital role of the independent journal of opinion in our American democracy. KATRINA vanden HEUVEL