Kalena Thomhave

Kalena Thomhave is a writing fellow at The American Prospect.

Recent Articles

Who Cares for the Care Workers?

Care workers in the South—disproportionately black women—face limited worker protections and difficult working conditions. But they’re organizing to challenge that legacy.

The care worker’s lot is not an easy one. A typical care worker, says Priscilla Smith, a certified nursing assistant in Durham, North Carolina, must “hop from company to company just to make ends meet,” which generally includes caring for a handful of clients. “If you [care for] someone with a general disability, you may get an hour or two hours of work [a day] at the most, so then you have to find someone else,” she says. “And nine times out of 10 that person is not located in the same part of town [as the other], so it’s hard to make 40 hours [a week].” The absence of adequate worker protections means that care workers may also have to “deal with the disrespect of the family [or] disrespect of the patient,” Smith relates. She has scrubbed baseboards and cleaned ovens because families of patients tell her to, though it’s not in her job duties. If she refuses, however, “they’ll tell you, ‘we can...

Failing to Restrict Food Stamps in the Farm Bill, Trump Takes Another Route

“If at first you don’t succeed, try a less democratic option.”

Two years into this administration, of this we can be certain: When the president doesn’t get what he wants—legislative wins in, say, immigration or health care —he will turn toward other means to ram his agenda through. Consider the case of food stamps. When the farm bill finally passed both the House and Senate last week, the final bill left out House Republicans’ work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly called food stamps), which would have endangered food assistance for millions of people. Not surprisingly, this was a favored provision for President Trump. When the House and Senate meet on the very important Farm Bill – we love our farmers - hopefully they will be able to leave the WORK REQUIREMENTS FOR FOOD STAMPS PROVISION that the House approved. Senate should go to 51 votes! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 2, 2018 The farm bill, instead of, as Trump tweeted, “leav[ing] the WORK...

Work Requirements in Farm Bill Are Off the Table

This week, the House and Senate finally came to an agreement on the farm bill, the legislation that authorizes farm subsidies as well as nutrition programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps. While the previous bill had expired in September, lawmakers came to an impasse over whether to sharply limit food stamp eligibility. In a victory for low-income Americans, the final version contained no such provision. Passing the farm bill, generally a bipartisan endeavor, had hit roadblocks as House Republicans attempted to attach stringent work requirements to SNAP that would have threatened benefits for more than two million low-income people. The Senate version contained no such requirements. The conference committee charged with resolving the two versions released the compromise bill on Monday—and work requirements were not included, in part thanks to the “blue wave” that stripped House Republicans of their bargaining...

Who Gets to Tell Stories About Poverty?

The Economic Hardship Reporting Project is redefining how we cover inequality.

This article appears in the Fall 2018 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . It should not be all that difficult to report on economic inequality. It’s a fixture, after all, of modern American life. And yet, the journalism industry, charged with analyzing and conveying news of wage stagnation, persistent poverty, and downward mobility, has itself crumbled alongside much of the middle class. Over the past several decades, more and more journalists have been laid off, while the rates paid freelancers have fallen, too. As the chasm of inequality has only continued to grow, the very journalists who cover it have not always been able to escape it. In 2012, when the country was still reeling from the economic recession and when reporting about inequality was needed perhaps more than ever, author Barbara Ehrenreich started the Economic Hardship Reporting Project (EHRP). The idea was to change the media landscape, and support reporters—by then, many low-income...

Wisconsin Voters Show Scott Walker the Door

Walker's anti-worker policies finally caught up to him.

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Good riddance, Scott Walker: Democrat Tony Evers bested the incumbent Republican in yesterday’s race for the Wisconsin governorship. Though Walker has refused to concede, Evers’s 31,000-vote margin is just large enough to make the race ineligible for a recount under state law. The Fight for $15, the SEIU-backed activist campaign, may have helped contribute to that margin. As I reported this week , the organization coordinated a massive canvass across Milwaukee to encourage turnout in low-income communities, mostly of color, where turnout fell in 2016 compared with earlier years. They knocked on 273,659 doors and spoke with 37,173 registered voters, focusing on encouraging voters to go to the ballot box with the salient, worker-friendly issues in mind that the Fight for $15 has become known for—higher wages, union rights, affordable health care—and that Walker outright attacked. Walker actively made low-income people’s lives worse in Wisconsin through a...

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