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How the U.S. Constitution Has Changed and Expanded Since 1787

September 16, 2020 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

Through amendments and legal rulings, the Constitution has transformed in some critical ways.

The (1857).

The 15th Amendment ensured voting rights to Black men (although Southern states would soon find ways to restrict those rights). In 1920, after ratification of the 19th Amendment gave voting rights to all American women for the first time, suffrage leader Carrie Chapman Catt memorably declared that “To get the word ‘male’ in effect out of the Constitution cost the women of the country fifty-two years of pauseless campaign.”

The women’s suffrage movement was a decades-long fight to win the right to vote for women in the United States. It took activists and reformers nearly 100 years to win that right, and the campaign was not easy. Here, suffragettes march in Greenwich Village, New York City, ca. 1912.

View the 14 images of this gallery on the original article

PHOTOS: Women’s Suffrage

The Executive Branch’s Power Expanded

Throughout the 19th century and into the 20th, Congress was the dominant branch of government, as the framers of the Constitution intended. Though some earlier presidents—including Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson—claimed more powers for themselves, especially in wartime, the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt marked a turning point in the expansion of executive power. Despite passage of the 22nd Amendment, which limited future presidents to only two terms in office, the growing power of the presidency was a trend that showed no signs of slowing down.

Corporations Have Begun to Be Treated as Individuals

The Constitution doesn’t mention corporations or their rights, nor does the 14th Amendment. But beginning in the late 19th century, with its verdict in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company (1886), the Supreme Court began recognizing a corporation as a “person” with all the rights that entailed. Later Court rulings—including a 5-4 decision in the notable First Amendment case Citizens United vs. FEC (2010)—expanded this controversial application of the 14th Amendment to protecting corporations from certain types of government regulation. In his Citizens United dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens turned again to the nation’s founding document, arguing that “Corporations…are not themselves members of ‘We the People’ by whom and for whom our Constitution was established.”

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Anti-immigrant Proposition 187 is approved in California

September 16, 2020 in History

By Editors

On November 8, 1994, 59 percent of California voters approve Proposition 187, banning undocumented immigrants from using the state’s major public services. Despite its wide margin of victory, the ballot measure never takes effect.

In 1994, California, the home of Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, was not yet the Democratic stronghold many now consider it to be. A popular destination for immigrants from both Latin America and Asia, its demographics changed dramatically in the second half of the century, but neither Republicans nor Democrats won a decisive share of these newcomers’ votes. That would change after a group of Republican activists and state-level legislators, responding to the state’s economic slump and the presence of over a million undocumented immigrants, decided to launch the campaign for what became Prop 187. In the name of saving taxpayer money, the proposition prohibited the undocumented from accessing basic public services such as non-emergency health care and both primary and secondary education. It also required public servants like medical professionals and teachers to monitor and report on the immigration status of those under their charge.

Although public support was high from the start, the threat of barring over a million California residents from basic public services stirred up vocal opposition. As Republican Governor Pete Wilson’s campaign used the threat of immigration in an attempt to scare voters, 70,000 people marched against 187 in downtown Los Angeles, and 10,000 public school students walked out of class on November 2, just days before the vote. The measure’s passage on November 8 was an entirely symbolic and short-lived victory for conservatives.

Within a week, a legal challenge had prevented the new law from taking effect—it was held up in the appeals process until 1999, when a Democratic governor dropped the state’s appeal. Studies have since shown that Proposition 187 played a key role in galvanizing immigrants’ rights activists and pushing Latinx and Asian voters away from the California Republican Party. Over the next decade, 66 percent of newly-registered California voters were Latinx and another 23 percent were Asian. In the same period, Republicans went from holding roughly half of elected offices in the state to less than a quarter. California has since formally repealed Prop 187 and enacted some of the United States’ most sweeping protections for the undocumented.

READ MORE: US Immigration Timeline

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5 Latino-Led Labor Strikes That Championed Rights for American Workers

September 16, 2020 in History

By Lakshmi Gandhi

They had a profound effect on the massive world of American food production.

When it comes to the fight for workers’ rights in the United States, Latino Americans have been critical players since the early 1900s. Their organizing and agitating have led to improved working conditions and wages in industries across the U.S.

“Latinos have been part of the long history of the construction of this country and this labor force,” especially in the American West, says Gaspar Rivera-Salgado, project director at UCLA’s Center for Labor Research and Education. “They were part of the completion of the transcontinental railroad. They were part of the early Los Angeles building boom.” And of course they have had a profound impact on the massive world of American food production, where they have been heavily represented both in the fields and in processing plants.

Latino workers’ fight for protections and living wages has been an uphill one, weighted with layers of discrimination. “The great expansion of labor rights in the 1930s during the [Franklin D. Roosevelt] administration, which led to the creation of the National Labor Board, specifically excluded farmworkers and domestic workers from the right to create unions,” says Rivera-Salgado. It’s an outcome he attributes to a legacy of racial subjugation against African Americans who had long labored in America’s fields.

The result: Even after the agricultural labor force shifted to largely Latino workers, they still lacked basic protections well into the 1970s. “The conditions were horrendous,” says Rivera-Salgado. “That’s why they wanted a union—to secure basic wages and also basic conditions in the fields,” like injury protections on the job and access to restrooms.

Here are five strikes either led or co-led by Hispanic and Latino Americans that helped make U.S. workplaces safer.

PHOTOS: These Appalling Images Exposed Child Labor in America

The Oxnard Strike (1903)

Workers unloading beets from wagons at the American Beet Sugar Company in Oxnard, California, circa 1910.

One of the first agriculture strikes in the United States also represented an unprecedented moment in multi-racial coalition building, when Japanese and Mexican farm laborers banded together to defeat bosses who had long exploited their workers’ racial and cultural divisions.

The American sugar industry ground to a halt on February 11, 1903, when workers in the sugar boomtown of Oxnard, California joined to form the Japanese-Mexican Labor Association (JMLA) and organize a work stoppage at the height of sugar beet season. Their grievances? …read more