New Article: Francine J. Lipman & Alan Smith, The Social Security Benefits Formula and the Windfall Elimination Provision: An Equitable Approach to Addressing ‘Windfall’ Benefits, 39 J. Legis. 181 (2013). Abstract below:
Certain federal, state, and local government employees do not pay into the Social Security system, but rather pay into alternative government pension plans. For purposes of the Social Security Act, where a worker pays into an alternative government pension plan, the worker’s employment constitutes noncovered employment. Even if a worker’s employment record reflects significant periods of noncovered employment, the worker may still qualify for Social Security coverage because she satisfies the minimum requirement of 10 years (40 quarters) of earnings in Social Security covered employment. However, an employment record which reflects both covered and noncovered employment presents a challenge to equitable application of the Social Security Act. To determine the benefits to which a worker is entitled, the Social Security Act first employs an averaging provision that considers 35 years of covered employment. Where an individual’s employment record does not reflect 35 years of covered employment, the averaging provision compresses the worker’s average earnings. Effectively, a life-time high-income worker who held both covered and noncovered employment appears to be a life-time low-income worker by operation of the averaging provision. The second step in determining a worker’s Social Security benefits entails application of a progressive benefits formula to the workers average earnings. By operation of the averaging provision and the progressive benefit formula, a high-income worker who held both covered and non covered employment received a higher than statutorily intended replacement rate (the ratio of benefits to average earnings) prior to 1983. In an effort to downward-adjust Social Security benefits for worker who held both covered and noncovered employment, Congress enacted the Windfall Elimination Provision in 1983. This article presents and examines the Windfall Elimination Provision highlighting inherent problems in its design, which include structural and administrative issues that disproportionately impact low-income workers. The article also describes and examines public misperception and resentment of the Windfall Elimination Provision, and deficiencies in the Social Security Administration’s communication efforts. The article also describes considerable legislative efforts since its enactment to modify, replace, or repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision, providing an explanation and analysis of each bill. Finally, the article presents an alternative approach to eliminating the ‘windfall’ benefits that accrue to noncovered workers. The alternative approach balances the fundamental tenants of the Social Security system – a progressive benefits structure and the earned right nature of benefits. As such, the proposed legislative amendment (included in the appendix of the article) ensures equitable benefits to noncovered workers.
Boston University Law Review published an issue on the topic “The End of Men” and quite a few of the articles relate to poverty law. For example:
The End of Men or the Rebirth of Class?
June Carbone & Naomi Cahn
Daniel L. Hatcher
TANF and the End (Maybe?) of Poor Men
Khiara M. Bridges
(and others, all at the first link)
New Article: Charlotte Garden & Nancy Leong, “So Closely Intertwined”: Labor and Racial Solidarity, 81 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 1135 (2013). Abstract below:
Conventional wisdom tells us that labor unions and people of color are adversaries. Commentators, academics, politicians, and employers across a broad range of ideologies view the two groups’ interests as fundamentally opposed and their relationship as predictably fraught with tension. For example, commentators assert that unions capture a wage premium that mostly benefits white workers while making it harder for workers of color to find work; that unions deprive workers of color of an effective voice in the workplace; and that unions are interested in workers of color only to the extent that they can showcase them to manufacture the appearance of racial diversity.
Like much conventional wisdom, the narrative of rivalry between unions and people of color is flawed. In reality, labor unions and civil rights groups work together to advance a wide array of mutual interests. This work ranges from lobbying all levels of government to protesting working conditions across the country. Moreover, unions can improve the lives of workers of color—whether or not they are union members—through activities that range from bargaining for better wages and working conditions to providing services like job training and continuing education to under-resourced communities.
We aim to replace the conventional wisdom with a narrative that more accurately describes the occasionally complicated but ultimately hopeful relationship between labor and race. In developing this narrative, we anchor our conclusions in an interdisciplinary literature that includes insights from legal, economic, psychological, and sociological scholarly research. This extensive body of scholarship indicates that union membership has significant benefits for workers of color in the form of higher wages and improved benefits, more racially congenial workplaces, and deeper cross-racial understanding. We complement this robust scholarly literature with real-world examples of union success at improving the well-being of workers and communities of color. In contrast to many other commentators, then, our account is largely optimistic, though we emphasize that there is still work for the labor movement to do.
The University of Maryland L.J. of Race, Religion, Gender & Class published a symposium issue from SALT’s Teaching Social Justice, Expanding Access to Justice: The Role of Legal Education and the Legal Profession conference. Below are the articles from the journal’s website:
New Article: Elizabeth Keyes, Defining American: The DREAM Act, Immigration Reform and Citizenship, forthcoming Nevada L.J. Abstract below:
The grassroots movement propelling the DREAM Act and immigration reform forward reveals how the definition of citizenship is undergoing a dramatic transformation, in ways both inspiring and troubling. The DREAM movement depends upon the compelling but exceptional stories of passionate, high-achieving, law-abiding youth who already define themselves as being American, and worthy of legal status. Situating this narrative in the rich literature of citizenship, the article shows how the DREAM movement effectively exposes the disjuncture between the DREAMers’ identity as Americans and their lack of legal immigration status. The article celebrates how this narrative succeeds as a contrast to the prevailing political discourse and how the movement, led by youth from all corners of the globe, radically upends America’s history of deeming people of color unworthy of (and ineligible for) citizenship. The article also presents some unintended consequences of the movement, however, suggesting that the worthiness-based narrative strategy adopted by the DREAMers is both produced by and contributing to ever-narrowing standards for who is deemed worthy of inclusion. These narrowing standards may have negative consequences for the expansiveness of immigration reform more broadly, and even for citizenship beyond the field of immigration. This article explores how the worthiness narrative, which implicitly acknowledges a concept of unworthiness, inadvertently connects to attempts to restrict notions of citizenship, specifically by limiting the principle of jus soli citizenship, extending felon disenfranchisement and instituting voter identification laws.
New Article: Brishen Rogers, Justice at Work: Minimum Wage Laws and Social Equality, forthcoming Tex. L. Rev. Abstract below:
This article develops a new normative defense of minimum wage laws. Existing legal academic debate asks how effectively such laws deliver resources to the working poor compared to transfer programs such as wage subsidies and negative income taxes. Such transfers have clear advantages in terms of redistribution, for they target the poor rather than all workers, and they do not cause unemployment. Legal scholars have therefore criticized minimum wage laws both on utilitarian grounds of aggregate wealth maximization and on liberal egalitarian grounds of fairness toward society’s worst-off.
Accepting for the sake of argument that minimum wage laws cause inefficiency and unemployment, this article nevertheless defends them. It draws upon philosophical arguments that a just state will not simply redistribute resources, but will also enable citizens to relate to one another as equals. Minimum wage laws advance this ideal of “social equality” in two ways: they symbolize the society’s commitment to low-wage workers, and they help reduce work-based class and status distinctions. Comparable tax-and-transfer programs are less effective on both fronts. Indeed, the fact that minimum wage laws increase unemployment can be a good thing, as the jobs lost will not always be worth saving. The article thus stands to enrich current increasingly urgent debates over whether to increase the minimum wage. It also recasts some longstanding questions of minimum wage doctrine, including exclusions from coverage and ambiguities regarding which parties are liable for violations.
New Article: Thomas W. Mitchell, Growing Inequality and Racial Economic Gaps, 56 How. L.J. 849 (2013). Available here (you have to scroll through the issue to get to this article).