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Constitutional Chaos: The Shadow Campaigns Aiming to Unravel Our Freedom

April 21, 2022

This report is an update to the 2016 Common Cause report The Dangerous Path: Big Money's Plan to Shred the Constitution, examining the dangerous efforts by secretive, well-funded special interest groups to push state legislatures around the nation to call for a constitutional convention through a little-known provision in Article V of the U.S. Constitution.A federal constitutional convention was last held in 1787 when the Constitution itself was drafted. Since then, the U.S. Constitution has been amended 27 times through the first of two processes described in Article V: Congress by two-thirds majorities of both the House and Senate passes the amendment, which must then be approved (i.e., ratified) by three fourths of the state legislatures. The second, never used path to amend the Constitution laid out in Article V is for two-thirds of the state legislatures (34) to pass resolutions applying for a new constitutional convention to propose amendments and then send those amendments to the states for ratification (i.e., an Article V convention).Common Cause co-leads the national Defend Our Constitution coalition, which seeks to stop an Article V convention from being called in order to protect all Americans' constitutional rights and civil liberties that would be threatened by such a convention. Holding such a convention runs the very high risk of being taken over by highly polarized politicians and wealthy special interests seeking to cripple federal powers and roll back our rights. At a time when disinformation is running rampant and deliberately being disseminated through various channels, a constitutional convention could be absolutely devastating to our rights and liberties.This report aims to examine the pro-convention campaigns and who is behind them, and to shed light on the immense dangers of what would happen should these efforts succeed. It will also make the case that a convention could easily exceed any narrow mandate—e.g., a balanced budget amendment (BBA)—and instead undertake a wholesale and highly divisive rewrite of our nation's charter. 

Taken for a Ride: Migrant Workers in the U.S. Fair and Carnival Industry

February 1, 2013

Many H-2B workers in the fair and carnival industry often face appalling work conditions. These workers are vulnerable to unfair employment and labor practices in part because their visas only authorize them to work for the employer who sponsored them, and also because they often arrive in the U.S. with a debilitating pre-employment debt. Recent attempts to enhance H-2B worker protections, while a step in the right direction, are currently stalled due to employer-driven litigation. As a result of inadequate government oversight and enforcement of existing laws, coupled with workers' limited access to exercise their rights by filing complaints regarding employment and health and safety violations, employers continue to bring workers to the U.S. and place them in deplorable work and living conditions with almost absolute impunity. Based on interviews with H-2B workers in Maryland, Virginia, and Mexico, this report sheds light on the abuses that fair and carnival workers face. Such abuses include deceptive recruitment practices and high pre-employment fees and costs; wage theft; lack of access to legal and medical assistance; substandard housing; and unsafe work conditions. The fair and carnival industry epitomizes what is currently most problematic with the H-2B temporary worker program, as employers are often able to mistreat their workers and claim exemption from basic worker protection laws with very little scrutiny. This report provides recommendations that would rectify H-2B worker mistreatment through means such as comprehensive immigration reform, agency rulemaking, and enforcement of existing laws. Fixing the H-2B program would not only help foreign temporary workers: all workers in the U.S. benefit when the rights of a specific group of workers are enhanced and enforced.

Picked Apart: The Hidden Struggles of Migrant Worker Women in the Maryland Crab Industry

July 15, 2010

Every year, hundreds of Mexican women travel thousands of miles from their impoverished, rural home communities to work on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in the state's historic crab industry. Maryland crab companies have increasingly come to rely on these women, who enter the U.S. on temporary guestworker visas known as H-2B visas. This report describes these women's experiences as H-2B migrant workers, and is the result of over 40 formal interviews conducted in both the U.S. and Mexico since 2008. By obtaining first-hand accounts from the workers, the report documents the forces and conditions that give rise to this specific population's decision to migrate; the processes and challenges involved in the recruitment process, and in obtaining documentation to travel to the U.S.; and the experience of living in Maryland and working in the crab industry. The research underlying this report reveals numerous challenges that migrant worker women face throughout the migration experience. Many of these challenges are linked to fundamental flaws with the H-2B program.

Foundations for the Common Good

March 31, 2010

Based on interviews, suggests how foundations can play a more effective role in creating a better world through improved strategies, including focusing on diversity and equal opportunity and connecting analyses, programs, organizations, and people.