Kalena Thomhave

Kalena Thomhave is a writing fellow at The American Prospect. Her email is kthomhave@prospect.org.

Recent Articles

Building Worker Solidarity Across Borders

An American company is busting a call center workers’ union in the Philippines, so the U.S. union of call center workers is helping them out.

If you make a call to a customer service agency, say, because you’re having problems with your service provider—Comcast, perhaps, or AT&T—there’s a good chance you’ll be connected to a call center worker in the Philippines. You might not realize the worker is in the Philippines, and you likely don’t know that the Philippines has the largest number of call centers in the world, having taken the mantle from India in 2011. There are actually more than one million call center workers in the Philippines, whose jobs exist because of a complicated web of global outsourcing and offshoring which benefits the bottom lines of multinational corporations. And if you are indeed talking with a Filipino worker, there is also a chance that, on the other end of the line, beyond the headset and the cubicle, workers are organizing to challenge some of the symptoms—low pay, union busting, bad working conditions—of this system of global capitalism. AFTER...

February Food Stamps Are Here Early—That’s Good News and Bad News

It’s not clear that anything is coming any time soon after that. 

The effects of the government shutdown are spreading to affect people beyond the federal workers and contractors who have not been paid for nearly a month. Recently, there was serious concern that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly known as food stamps) benefits wouldn’t be issued for the month of February if the shutdown continued. Some governmental tinkering with appropriation funds has seemed to solve this problem, and most people who receive SNAP across the country received their February benefits early—around January 20. A sigh of relief. “Our motto here at USDA has been to ‘Do Right and Feed Everyone.’ With this solution, we’ve got the ‘Feed Everyone’ part handled,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement . Yet, though people will be able to access their February benefits, there is another shutdown-related domino that could easily topple, and that’s that these benefits are meant to...

Why Scott Walker’s Welfare Legacy Will Outlast Him

Although Walker was ousted from the governorship by progressive Tony Evers, the state legislature has ensured that Wisconsin will remain a model for abusing the poor.

Democrat Tony Evers was sworn in as the new governor of Wisconsin last week, after he bested Republican incumbent Scott Walker in November’s election. But thanks to an extraordinary session of Wisconsin’s lame-duck Republican legislature last month, Evers will likely have his hands tied if he’d like to pull back some of Walker’s most pernicious reforms, those targeting low-income people and their benefits, such as food assistance and health coverage. Preserving Walker’s welfare legacy was a priority when the state legislature met in early December. As the media widely reported, legislators quickly voted to limit the power of the newly Democratic executive branch, but the details of these post-election laws signed by Walker foretell a difficult future for public assistance programs in the state. In consequence, Wisconsin, even under Evers, will continue to be a “model” for welfare reform, as the state has been for decades. Under Republican...

Reproductive Rights at Risk With or Without Roe

In much of the country, access to abortion has already been blocked by state governments, especially for women in poverty. And if Roe goes, access will be scarcer still. 

This article appears in the Winter 2019 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . Recent discussions of abortion rights have been understandably chock-full of apocalyptic imagery and language. Some protesters at the U.S. Capitol in the Trump era have dressed as handmaids à la The Handmaid’s Tale , Margaret Atwood’s story of an ultra-conservative totalitarian government that compels women to have the children of the wealthy and powerful. After Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court, many—on both the left and right—assumed that Roe v. Wade was soon to fall. “ Roe v. Wade is doomed,”CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin pronounced last June to much media fanfare. But is the apocalypse that will befall us if Roe is overturned the only thing we should be focusing on? Or are we already there in many parts of the country, where access to abortion has been heavily curtailed? The dark forecasts may certainly be borne out. The future...

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...

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