We Love How This ‘Frozen’ Star Sang About the Minimum Wage. But There Are 3 Problems With It.


Kristen Bell, the voice of Princess Anna in the blockbuster Disney hit ‘Frozen’ and dozens of other films, put on a different costume this week to talk about something you wouldn’t expect.

Fans of the humor website Funny or Die were surprised to find a new video of Bell portraying Mary Poppins, the famous fictional British governess. In the video, she is telling her two young wards that she has to quit. Why? She makes minimum wage, and it’s not enough to live on.

“Just a three dollar increase can make a living wage,” she sings to the children. She goes onto use all of Mary Poppins’ tricks and tools–little birds, penguins, and so on–to explain how low wages hurt families, businesses, and consumers alike.

Don’t get us wrong: We love this video, and anything that brings this issue to a broader audience helps in our campaign for fair wages.

But unfortunately, Minimum Wage Mary Poppins is not quite accurate when she says an increase to $10.10, as proposed by Democrats and blocked by Republicans in the Senate earlier this year, would constitute a living wage for most Americans:

$10.10 doesn’t keep up with cost of goods. According to the Economic Policy Institute, increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 would lift millions out of poverty, but it would still not reach the level it would be if the minimum wage had kept up with inflation since 1968, and would not come close what the minimum wage would be if it had increased with worker productivity.

Real value of the federal minimum wage, 1968–2013 and 2013–2016 under proposed increase to $10.10 by 2016, compared with its value had it grown at the rate of productivity or average worker wages (2013 dollars)

For most Americans, $10.10 doesn’t keep up with the cost of living. While the cost of living varies depending on where you live, $10.10 an hour doesn’t constitute a “living wage” in most areas, particularly if you have one or more dependents.

For example, according to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, a single adult can survive in Arkansas on $7.86 an hour, which is still higher than the current minimum wage in Arkansas, $7.25. However, add a kid into the mix, and that shoots up to $16.37.

In a more expensive area like the District of Columbia, a single adult needs a living wage of $13.65, which nearly doubles with the addition of one child.

All this assumes a 40 hour work week. Think those numbers from MIT look bleak? Well, they are actually extremely optimistic, because they assume the adults in question are working 2,080 hours a year, or 40 hours a week for 52 weeks.

First off, no one should have to work 8 hours a day every single day of the year with no days off. Not only is that inhumane, it ignores events like sickness, family emergencies, and any other of the infinite problems that might keep someone from their 8-hour work day

Second of all, and perhaps less obvious, is that the majority of low-wage workers aren’t getting scheduled for close to 40 hours a week. Not in their dreams.

We talk to hundreds of people every night, many of them retail and service workers, and a consistent theme we hear is that schedules are erratic, unpredictable, and insufficient.

Sometimes it’s because managers don’t want workers to exceed the number of hours that would require them to provide health care. Sometimes it’s an issue of favoritism or retaliation, where a manager will assign a better or worse schedule based on how they feel about an employee. And if you take a second part-time job, you have no assurance that the two schedules will line up, or that you’d be able to juggle the demands of two jobs as they constantly change.

Lastly, thank you Kristen Bell. Despite these few omissions, your collaboration with Funny or Die is hilarious, clever, and shines a bright spotlight on an issue that’s too often overlooked.

For the first time in forever, we have a Disney song that helps the economic facts go down.

To join Working America’s fight for fair wages, text RAISE to 30644.

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State Minimum Wage Could Be Democrats Key to Senate Control


The local fight to raise the minimum wage in Arkansas could have national implications for which party will control the Senate in 2015.

Arkansas Democrats are pushing to put a minimum wage increase on the ballot this fall and if successful it could give Senator Mark Pryor the votes he needs to keep GOP Rep.Tom Cotton from usurping him in the upcoming Senate race.

According to the Washington Post:

“A minimum wage ballot initiative could give Pryor a turnout boost among core voter groups who tend to drop off in midterms, and any single race could sway the battle for the Senate.”

So far, over 70,000 signatures have been gathered in favor of an Arkansas minimum wage ballot initiative, with more expected. At minimum, 62,000 signatures are needed to put the issue on the ballot.

But getting minimum wage on the ballot isn’t a done deal just yet; the signatures still need to be certified.

For his part, Pryor has publicly supported a minimum wage increase while his opponent, Tom Cotton, has yet to take a position noting that it’s best to let voters decide.

Political affiliation aside, Working America is fighting to raise the wage on a national level.  If successful, more than 4 million workers could get a well-deserved pay bump.

Photo courtesy of Bread for the World via Flickr.

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Two Of Nation’s Most Restrictive ALEC-Backed Voting Laws Blocked On The Same Day


On April 29, 2014, restrictive voting laws in both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania were dealt major blows.

In Wisconsin, the voter ID law passed in 2011 and backed by Gov. Scott Walker was struck down by a federal judge. U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman wrote that the law placed unfair burdens on poor and minority voters, as well as the nearly 300,000 Wisconsinites who currently lack ID. The law has not been enforced since a state judge ruled it unconstitutional in March 2012.

While attending the Time 100 gala in New York City, Gov. Walker told reporters: “We ultimately think that just like many other issues in the last several years that it will ultimately be upheld.” Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen Plans to appeal.

Over in Pennsylvania, Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard L. McGinley denied the request of Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration to reconsider his ruling that overturned that state’s voter ID law. McGinley struck down the law in January, finding that it put an unreasonable burden on the nearly 750,000 Pennsylvanians who lack photo identification.

The judge “also entered a permanent injunction,” said Pennsylvania ACLU legal director Vic Walczak, “which means the voter ID law cannot be enforced unless and until the [state] Supreme Court takes some kind of action.” The Corbett administration has not yet said whether they plan to appeal.

Those decisions come on the heels of a similar situation in Arkansas, where a judge declared that state’s voter ID law “void and unenforceable.”

These laws were part of a nationwide push for restrictive voting laws after the 2010 elections, backed by the power of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The Pennsylvania and Wisconsin voter ID laws were both based on ALEC model legislation and pushed by ALEC-affiliated legislators. According to NBC News, lawmakers proposed 62 photo ID bills in 37 states in the 2011 and 2012 sessions alone, and that “more than half of the 62 bills were sponsored by members or conference attendees” of ALEC.

The Pennsylvania law was championed by prominent ALEC member Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, who used taxpayer money to attend ALEC conferences.

So what’s next? Egregious voting restrictions are still on the books across the country, particularly in North Carolina. Working America members in NC have made it their primary focus to educate their communities about the law.

But as the New York Times editorial board put it, Wisconsin’s Judge Adelman has “paved the path” for similar laws across the country to be confronted by the court system.

Photo by vox_efx on Flickr

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Pryor Supports a Modest, but Much Needed Wage Hike for Arkansas


Despite State Representative and U.S. Senate hopeful Tom Cotton’s resistance to any minimum wage hike, Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor continues to endorse raising the state minimum wage to $8.50 an hour.

In a recent op-ed, the senator expressed his hesitation to raise the national minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, noting that the figure “might make sense for more affluent places like California or New York.”

Instead, Pryor expressed support for a ballot initiative that would modestly raise Arkansas’s minimum wage to $8.50 an hour:

“Too many Arkansans today are working harder than ever, but with so many in low-wage jobs — some working two or even three — they’re falling further behind. Raising the minimum wage can begin to reverse this trend while protecting and strengthening Arkansas’s economic core: our working families.”

Arkansas currently pays a minimum wage of $6.25 an hour, one of the lowest in the entire country, and a gradual raise could prove to be a reasonable way to give nearly 170,000 residents a raise while stimulating the economy, Pryor wrote.

“Raising the wage isn’t a government handout, and it doesn’t add a dime to our debt or deficits. Rather, it’s a market-based solution that helps hardworking families struggling to get by,” Pryor wrote.

Advocates of raising the state wage are currently pushing to get signatures to place the measure on the ballot in November.

Photo courtesy of Bread for the World via Flickr.

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Raising the Wage: Arkansas Is Up Next


As the president continues his push to raise the national minimum wage to $10.10, there’s one state that could become the blueprint for the raise the wage benefits Obama is touting, NPR reports.

Although raising the wage would positively affect about 28 million Americans, Arkansas has a lot to gain from a wage increase.

The state minimum wage is $6.25, making it the third lowest wage in the country, and one out of every 10 children in Arkansas has a parent who makes minimum wage.

Additionally, raising the wage could provide a much needed boost to Senator Mark Pryor, who is running in the red state again in November.

“Putting a minimum wage increase on the ballot alongside Pryor could give Democrats more of a reason to show up on Election Day,” political scientist Jay Barth of Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas says.

Proponents of raising the wage have begun canvassing across the state to get support from residents, with some success. For now, the main goal is to get the question on the ballot in November.

“This is the hope for Arkansas. We worry about Arkansas so much. We need to be paying ourselves, besides the people who are up there in the 1 percent. The rest of us need to be part of that,” Elizabeth Danley said as she signed a petition in favor of raising the wage.

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The Five States With the Lowest Quality of Life Have This In Common.

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Politico Magazine released a comprehensive report comparing all 50 states using 14 different indicators of quality of life. In their ranking, the five bottom states (Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Alabama) are all so-called “right to work” states.

Four out of five of the states with the highest quality of living, according to the study, are free bargaining states: New Hampshire, Minnesota, Vermont, and Massachusetts.

The study confirmed something that more and more working Americans are learning every day: “right to work” laws are wrong for everyone.

Quick review: “Right to work” laws require unions to extend their services to all employees in a bargaining unit, whether or not they pay dues. By making dues optional, “right to work” laws force unions to spend more resources on collecting dues than on advocating for their members–both at the workplace and in the political arena. It’s a roundabout method of de-funding unions that has been instituted in 24 states.

The Politico Magazine study used rankings from the Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FBI, and data on math and reading scores, average income, life expectancy, crime, home ownership, infant mortality, and more.

As 2014 kicks off with legislators and big-money donors pushing “right to work” and other collective bargaining restrictions in–at the very least–Missouri, Oregon, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, it’s important to make it very clear what effects these laws actually have, versus what their proponents claim they have.

A few effects of “right to work” are not disputed by its proponents. The key sponsors of the collective bargaining restrictions Missouri, for instance, openly admit that wages would go down if the law is passed. Indeed, wages in “right to work” states are 3.2 percent lower that in free bargaining states. Essentially, it’s like the average worker is paying an annual $1,500 fee for living in a “right to work” state. (Other reports have found “right to work” states have higher poverty rates, fewer workers with employer-based health insurance, and higher rates of workplace injuries and fatalities.)

But when you combine income with a host of other factors, as the Politico Magazine ranking does, the picture doesn’t get better for “right to work” states. Overall, 15 “right to work”  states rank in the bottom 20.

The Politico Magazine ranking is not the definitive scientific report on quality of life. But it does confirm yet again that in places where workers’ right to organize is deceptively circumvented and wages decrease, other important life-quality factors decrease as well.

As legislators push these laws across the country, we should consistently require proof to back up their claims. The actual numbers don’t look too good for them.

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5 States Where People Have Most Trouble Feeding Their Families Are “Right to Work” States


The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a report detailing the top states for “food security,” a term for the availability of food and one’s access to it.

The five states at the bottom of the list are North Carolina, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi, all of which have so-called “right to work” laws on the books.

The correlation is not direct, but the effects of these laws on all workers, union and non-union alike, are well-documented. States with “right to work” laws, which make it more difficult for unions to operate and advocate on behalf of their members, have lower average wages, higher rates of poverty, spend less on education, and have more workplace injuries and fatalities than state without “right to work” laws.

In states where unions can operate without the law’s interference, workers are more able to advocate for their needs in the workplace without fear of retaliation: from their hourly pay to their safety on the job.

It’s not surprising that with the interference of “right to work” laws, workers in North Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Texas are less likely to make enough money to adequately feed themselves and their families, and less likely to be able to change their situation through organizing.

Even with all the data, reckless politicians and their well-monied allies continue to push “right to work” laws. Missouri’s Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder told supporters he will continue to fight for a “right to work” law in his state, even though a Republican supermajority could not bring the measure to the floor this past year. Corporate-backed think tanks are pushing similar initiatives in Oregon and Washington.

As We Party Patriots notes:

While not every food related problem can be fixed by higher wages, policies that intentionally lower wages must be taken to task. They are a troubling, culpable piece of America’s deteriorated health puzzle.

We support the right of workers to have a voice on their job, and to make at least enough money so they don’t have to wonder where their next meal — or their child’s next meal — is coming from. We don’t think that’s a lot to ask.

Note: Because of the government shutdown, the USDA site hosting the report is offline.

Photo by USDAgov on Flickr

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