On Thursday, Governor Deval Patrick (D-MA) signed into law a bill that wouldraise the Massachusetts minimum wage from $8 to $11 by 2017. That would make it the highest minimum wage of any state.
The bill also raises the tipped minimum wage from $2.63 to $3.75 over the same 3 year period.
This is a huge victory benefiting close to 800,000 workers in Massachusetts,57 percent of whom are women and 85 percent of whom are older than 20 (600,000 low wage workers and 200,000 tipped workers). Labor, faith, and community groups like Raise up Massachusetts pushed hard against business groups like the Retailers Association of Massachusettes to get wary Democratic state legislators to accept the relatively high wage.
But here are two big reasons why the work in Massachusetts, like across the country, is far from over:
The minimum wage won’t be indexed to inflation. Massachusetts bill doesn’t peg future minimum wage increases to inflation. Unless something changes, the wage will rise to $11 in three years and stop, while the cost of living keeps increasing.
The proposed ballot initiative from Raise Up Massachusetts, now withdrawn, had included indexing. Gov. Patrick and others pushed for indexing in the legislature, but it was a sticking point for many legislators under pressure from business groups.
This is a pattern we’ve seen in other states. The Maryland legislature passed a minimum wage increase to $10.10, but failed to attach indexing. In Minnesota, the entire minimum wage bill stalled for weeks while the DFL caucus negotiated indexing, which was ultimately included in the final bill.
Earned sick time needs to win the vote in November. Originally, organizers collected a combined 285,000 signatures to put both a minimum wage increase and a statewide earned paid sick days law on the November 2014 ballot.
The sick time initiative calls for all employers with 11 or more employees to allow workers to earn paid sick days, a maximum of 40 hours each year, and only after 90 days of employment. Workers who take sick time or time off to care for a sick child or relative are protected from being fired.
Now that the minimum wage increase is law, Raise Up Massachusetts has withdrawn the wage ballot question. Minimum wage and sick time are decoupled, with only the sick time initiative going to voters.
Will it make a difference in November?
“The earned sick time ballot question is a lot more difficult for people to understand, and it doesn’t incite the same amount of passion as raising the minimum wage,” political strategist Tony Cignoli told MassLive.com. “The proponents have really got to make it clear what’s in it for the average regular voter out there.”
Raise Up Massachusetts spokesman Steve Crawford disagrees. “We find that support for earned sick time is even stronger than support for increasing the minimum wage,” he said. “Folks can understand it on a personal level. We’ve all been sick. We’ve all had to stay home from work. All of us have not worked a minimum wage job.”
We’ve seen an incredible victory in the Bay State: the highest minimum wage in the country and raises for nearly a million people. Working America will be informing our members in Massachusetts about the crucial issues on the November ballot.
Text RAISE to 30644 to join the fight for fair wages no matter where you live.
Tags: Deval Patrick, Massachusetts, minimum wage, Paid Sick Days, tipped workers
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Remember Obamacare? Also known as the Affordable Care Act? With news of conflict and tragedy dominating the airwaves, recent news about the sweeping new health care law has been getting swept under the rug.
That’s too bad, because here’s the basic headline: the Affordable Care Act is working, and consumers have a lot to look forward to when the next open enrollment period starts in November.
Here’s the rundown:
1.) More insurance companies are joining the exchanges. The health exchanges set up under the ACA work best when more insurance companies participate. More companies means more competition for your business, which ultimately means lower prices for consumers.
For instance, last year in New Hampshire there was only one company on the state exchange–not a recipe for healthy competition. Even so, signups exceeded expectations, and other companies are diving in to swoop up consumer dollars. For 2015 open enrollment (which begins on November 15, 2014), there will be not one more but four more companies on the New Hampshire exchange.
That’s happening across the country. In Michigan, there will be 18 companies for 2015 open enrollment versus 13 in 2014. In Indiana, consumers will have double the options to choose from. Major carriers like United, Aetna, and Cigna are wading into California’s exchange, which they previously sat out. Again, more competition means more options and lower prices for consumers.
2.) The ACA is massively cutting the rate of uninsured. Between the creation of state exchanges, the expansion of Medicaid in half the country, and the end of disgusting insurance practices (like denying insurance to those with pre-existing conditions), the Affordable Care Act is succeeding at its main goal: reducing the number of uninsured Americans.
Look at where we stand. The rate of uninsured in New Jersey is down 38 percent. In Minnesota, it’s down a whopping 40 percent. And in Kentucky, where Senator Mitch McConnell advocated full repeal of the ACA, the rate of uninsured has been cut in half.
What of predictions that all those consumers signing up wouldn’t pay their premiums? Charles Gaba, who runs ACASignups.net, has crunched the statewide data and estimates 90 percent of those who signed up on the exchanges have paid the first premiums.
3.) A majority of Americans want to keep the ACA. The Koch Brothers, the Republican Party, and the health insurance lobby itself have all spent massive amounts of money on a barrage of misinformation to convince the country that Obamacare is a government takeover, a socialist conspiracy, a massive waste of money, or the “worst thing since slavery,” depending on who you ask.
But as more and more people gain the peace of mind that health coverage brings, the misinformation loses its effectiveness.
A Bloomberg poll released on June 11 shows that 56 percent of Americansthink Obamacare “may need small modifications, but we should see how it works,” vs. 32 percent for repeal and 10 percent for leaving it be. The poll also finds 11 percent oppose the law because it didn’t go far enough.
And as we’ve seen since 2010, support for the actual components of the ACA is much higher: 55 percent support eliminating lifetime caps, 65 percent support changing rules on preexisting conditions, and 75 percent (!) support allowing children to remain on parents’ plans until 26.
As MSNBC’s Simon Maloy put it: “We’re only six days into June, and opponents of the ACA have already had a terrible month.” Which makes it a great month for consumers like you and me.
Visit WorkingAmericaHealthCare.org to find out more information on getting affordable coverage that works for you.
Photo by Obamacare on Facebook
Tags: ACA, Affordable Care Act, California, Health Care, Kentucky, Koch Brothers, Minnesota, Mitch McConnell, New Hampshire, New Jersey, obamacare
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Lloyd Blankfein is CEO of Goldman Sachs, one of the most largest and most notorious investment banks, with $915 billion in assets.
During his appearance on CBS “This Morning,” Blankfein argued that massive income inequality is “a very destabilizing thing.”
Not only does income inequality slow growth, Blankfein said, it also contributes to political divisiveness:
Income inequality is a very destabilizing thing in the country, a very polarizing thing in the country. In other words, it’s responsible for the divisions in the country. Those divisions could get wider. If you can’t legislate, you can’t deal with problems. If you can’t deal with problems, you can’t drive growth, and you can’t drive the success of the country.
But he also said something else. When the show’s host pointed out that many people are speaking out against income inequality but fewer are taking action, the bank CEO agreed. “Yes, full stop. If there was a lever to pull and a button to push, we would pull it and push it.”
Technically he is correct. There is not a lever or a button. But there are very clear policy solutions that would go a long way toward alleviating the destabilizing force of income inequality:
The financial transaction tax. Also called the “Robin Hood tax,” the FTT is a small fee on stock and bond trades, derivative contracts, and swaps of other complex Wall Street instruments. It would amount to about $0.0003 per dollar, or $18 a year for the median 401(k) holder, but would produce an estimated $352 billion in revenue over 10 years. That extra revenue could be used to pay for things Congress claims we can’t afford: renewing unemployment insurance, restoring cuts to SNAP, investments in infrastructure, and assistance to state and local governments who have been forced to layoff thousands. To folks like Blankfein, who has a $2 million salary and tens of millions more in bonuses, the FTT would feel like a blip.
Raise the minimum wage. This is one you’re familiar with. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10, as proposed in the Harkin-Miller bill filibustered by Senate Republicans, would raise the wages of 27.8 million workers, grow GDP by about $22 billion, and create roughly 85,000 net new jobs. As one of the world’s most powerful bankers, Blankfein support for raising the minimum wage–and his refusal to support politicians who oppose it–would have a huge impact.
Stop attacking the CFPB. The banking lobby, of which Goldman Sachs is a large part, viciously opposed the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2010 (as detailed by author and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren in her bestselling book). But since its creation, the CFPB has recouped millions of dollars for consumers from mortgage, credit card, and banking companies that were skirting or outright breaking the law. Oftentimes, the offending companies are directly scams at the most vulnerable Americans: debtors, students, veterans, low-income families and families of color. Forget outright support–if Blankfein called off his lobbying team from attacking and attempting to weaken the CFPB, the Bureau’s future and its ability to recoup losses for consumers would be more secure.
Tags: CFPB, Corporate Accountability, Elizabeth Warren, financial transaction tax, goldman sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, minimum wage
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In one of the biggest upsets in political history, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) was defeated in his Republican primary by an under-funded, largely unknown economics professor.
But despite his economics training, Brat was at a loss when asked this morning about whether or not there should be a minimum wage:
The question wasn’t about a specific proposal on raising the minimum wage, like the Harkin-Miller bill raising the minimum wage to $10.10 that Senate Republicans filibustered and that Eric Cantor’s House colleagues refuse to vote on. Brat, who is a professor of economics at Randolph-Macon College and served as president of the of the Virginia Association of Economics, won’t say whether or not he thinks minimum wage should exist.
The odd thing is that Brat won largely by attacking Rep. Cantor on issues he saw as economic: Cantor’s soft support for a watered-down version of the DREAM Act and raising the debt ceiling. Stagnant wages are the most pressing economic issue in most people’s lives, and poll after poll show a majority of Americans think the minimum wage should be higher; 69 percent of Americans, including 45 percent of Republicans, specifically support Harkin-Miller bill.
Brat’s response could mean he is disconnected to the concern over wages that dominate the economic opinions of a majority of Americans. It also could mean that while he is vehemently opposed to immigration reform and government spending, he’s actually closer to the majority opinion on the minimum wage but isn’t willing to say it.
Tags: David Brat, DREAM Act, Eric Cantor, immigration, minimum wage, Virginia