The following is a guest post from Working America member Israel Chavez from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
One in five Latinos is paid the minimum wage, and nationally 33 percent of Latinos live in poverty, the second highest racial/ethnic group. This means an increase in the federal minimum wage would directly affect the quality of life for Latinos families across the country and especially in poor states like New Mexico.
Raising the minimum wage to a level that would allow families to adequately provide would alleviate strains these families experience under the current wage.
What we need is a wage that allows people to live decently and is tied to the cost of living.
In Albuquerque, 66 percent of voters supported a raised minimum wage that is indexed to inflation, meaning it will automatically increase as the cost of living goes up. This is often interpreted as an automatic “raise” but that is just false. Indexing wages simply means that as the prices of necessary goods increases, like milk, gasoline, and clothing, minimum wage will be able to keep up.
All too frequently, those who oppose raising the minimum wage have never had support a family on it. It is a matter of dignity and fair pay for work that is performed. Wages are not a handout but hard earned money by deserving people. Policies that allow families to adequately support themselves impacts the whole community positively.
Today, those who would oppose increasing the minimum wage claim that it would devastate the economy, stating that it would increase prices of goods and hurt workers even more. However, studies show that as the value of minimum wage decreases, inflation continues to increase.
All the while, gross domestic product of the United States, with minor exception of the recession, has continued to rise. As the buying power of low wage workers decreases, year after year corporations lobby to keep the minimum wage low in order to continually grow profits on the backs of America’s lowest paid employees.
A lot of people claim it’s only young people that make the minimum wage. Only about 12 percent of minimum wage workers are younger than 20 years old. But claiming only young people make minimum wage just reinforces the argument that Latinos need this increase. In the U.S., Hispanics are younger than the rest of the population, with a median age of 27 years, significantly younger than the rest of the population which is 37 years. In truth, raising the minimum wage will provide a boost to all Latino workers, young and old alike.
The New Mexico House and Senate passed an increase in the minimum wage, but Gov. Susanna Martinez vetoed the bill. In Albuquerque, Mayor Richard Berry and members of the City Council have tried various maneuvers to slow or weaken implementation of the new minimum wage. But Working America is fighting to raise the minimum wage: it’s good for Latino workers, it’s good for small businesses, and above all, it’s the right thing to do.
Photo via @OleNewMexico on Twitter
Tags: Albuquerque, Jobs, Latino, minimum wage, New Mexico
On Nov. 5, the voters of SeaTac, a small suburban community near Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., voted to provide workers for the town’s larger airport-related businesses a minimum wage of $15 per hour, 63% higher than the state’s current minimum wage of $9.19. (Although the measure passed, there may be a recount.) Here are seven ways the new measure would change the lives of the workers detailed in the Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal:
1. Allow employees to live closer to where they work and cut down on commute times. “I wouldn’t have to take a two-hour commute,” said Eric Frank, a baggage handler who lives an hour away. With the pay increase, workers would be able to afford housing closer to the job.
2. Give employees with families more time with their loved ones. The raise would allow some workers, like Chris Smith, to take care of their families on one salary and not have to work two jobs, freeing up their schedules so they can spend more time with family.
3. Allow some employees who don’t get much time off to actually have weekends. “My weekend is like a sale at the Bon Marché—one day only,” Smith said.
4. Decrease working families’ reliance on community food banks to provide for their families. The Rev. Jan Bolerjack, pastor at Riverton Park United Methodist Church, said she regularly sees airport workers in uniform using her church’s food banks. “They get off of work and then have to come wait in the rain or cold or worse…just so they can put food on the table,” she said.
5. Give part-time workers the opportunity to get more hours. The law requires businesses to offer more hours to part-time workers before bringing in new part-time workers when more shifts become available.
6. Allow sick workers to stay home without fear of losing their jobs. The law requires the businesses to provide up to 6.5 days a year of paid sick leave to employees who work full-time.
7. Protect airport travelers from illnesses by allowing sick workers to stay home.
Profitable companies such as Alaska Airlines are supporting a lawsuit to overturn the law and the will of the people and are seeking a recount on the measure, which passed by 77 votes.
Photo by Yes! For SeaTac on Facebook
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Jobs, minimum wage, Rights At Work, seatac, washington
Today, workers from Walmart stores across the country joined with allies to call upon the company with $17 billion in annual profits to pay its full-time workers a minimum of $25,000 a year and for the company to stop punishing workers who stand up for their rights. Rallies were held at more than 1,500 Walmart locations. Working families in nine major cities planned civil disobedience as part of the protests, and arrests were made in numerous cities, including Alexandria, Va., Dallas, Tex., California, and Illinois. Learn more about the action and why its important to stand with Walmart workers at BlackFridayProtests.org.
Text BLACK to 235246 to support the Walmart associates speaking up for their rights. Standard data and message rates may apply.
Below are Twitter highlights from the actions. The Walmart actions can be followed on Twitter at #WalmartStrikers.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: black friday, Jobs, minimum wage, Rights At Work, Walmart
As we reflect on the actions all over the country by Walmart associates on Black Friday and consider the fact that people are working harder than ever and are still losing economic ground, we’re reminded that the federal minimum wage is not enough.
In a joint Op-Ed for CNN, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and National Employment Law Project Executive Director Christine Owens remind us that in the past 15 years, all wage increases have gone to the wealthiest 10%.
Trumka and Owens write:
If the minimum wage had just kept pace with inflation since 1968, it would be $10.77 an hour today instead of $7.25. For tipped workers, the rate’s been stuck at a scandalous $2.13 for 20 years.
Congress is considering a proposal, called the Fair Minimum Wage Act, from Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Rep. George Miller of California, supported by President Barack Obama. The act would raise the minimum wage over two years to $10.10 an hour and let it grow with inflation.
The Senate is expected to consider the proposal the week after Thanksgiving.
If the minimum wage had kept up with the growth of workers’ productivity, it would be $18.67. And if it had matched the wage growth of the wealthiest 1%, it would be more than $28.
Read the rest of $7.25 an Hour Is Not a Living Wage.
Click here to call your senators today, asking them to vote “Yes” on a motion to proceed on the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013.
In case you missed it last week, The New York Times’ Steven Greenhouse covered the low-wage retail and service economy and the devastating effects on America’s working families.
Read: On Register’s Other Side, Little to Spend.
Watch the video above of fast-food workers in Greensboro, N.C., holding a surprise revival service at a Church’s Chicken to support the workers and the fight for a fair wage.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: fast food, Jobs, minimum wage, North Carolina, restaurant
We have a lot to be thankful for this year, including (in no particular order):
- Union members who have volunteered their services to strengthen their communities (read more here).
- All the activists—including those in Congress—working for a road map to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans.
- Connecticut and the four localities (Portland, Ore.; New York City; Jersey City, N.J.; and SeaTac, Wash.) that now require paid sick days.
- The five states and two localities that have raised the minimum wage this year (California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Montgomery County, Md., [measure passed yesterday, county executive confirms he will sign into law], Prince George’s County, Md., [pending county executive signature] and SeaTac, Wash. [where there may be a recount]).
- The 10 states that have expanded access to the ballot (California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia and West Virginia).
- The domestic workers, home care providers, carwasheros and taxi workers who have defied the odds to come together to win rights and a voice on the job.
- Walmart, fast food and retail workers who are standing together for living wages.
- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for “going nuclear” on the filibuster.
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren…for being Sen. Elizabeth Warren (and, of course, for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau she pushed to create).
- The U.S. senators who passed ENDA and the Supreme Court justices who overturned the Defense of Marriage Act.
- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats for their Economic Agenda for Women and Families (now let’s pass it!).
- Social Security, for keeping more than 22 million people a year out of poverty.
- The organizations and media outlets that have exposed dark money and state legislative attacks on workers flowing from ALEC and the Koch brothers.
- Companies that have signed the Bangladesh Fire Safety Accord (missing from the list are the big U.S. retailers like Walmart).
- Companies like Costco that buck the trends, pay a living wage and support workers’ rights.
- Building trades unions’ apprenticeship programs for preparing workers for solid, middle-class careers (read more here).
- Nurses and teachers, who fight every day for patient safety and great schools for all our kids.
- Manufacturing workers, who are creating reasons to bring jobs back to America.
- Writers and dancers, who are bringing justice on the job to their professions.
- Young workers and students, who are demanding a break from crushing student debt and an economy that will work for their generation.
- Collective bargaining agreements and all the benefits of being a union member.
- All the working people, unemployed workers and their families who are the reason for and center of our movement for social and economic justice.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Elizabeth Warren, Harry Reid, Health Care, Jobs, minimum wage, organizing, Rights At Work, Walmart
“The Hunger Games” are real. If you’re familiar with the books and movies, or have at least heard of the “Hunger Games” phenomenon, you’re probably aware that the series tackles some pretty serious issues of poverty and economic inequality that hit way too close to home. If you’re not, here’s some background.
“The Hunger Games” takes place in the fictional world of Panem, which is a dystopian North America sometime in the far off future. All the wealth in the country is concentrated in the Capitol and people in the 12 districts are constantly in fear of starvation. Everything the people in the districts produce, whether it is coal, grain, machinery or clothing, is controlled by the Capitol. People are forbidden to hunt or grow their own food, thus relying on the Capitol’s meager grain and oil rations. To punish the people of Panem for District 13′s rebellion (the Capitol wiped out the region in a nuclear war), each year two teenage tributes from each of the 12 districts must sacrifice their lives in an arena where they fight to the death, with only one victor remaining.
While the story is fictional, it reminds us of a lot of the issues surrounding economic inequality we see today. Some sobering facts:
- Nearly all—95%—of the income gains from 2009–2012 have been captured by the wealthiest 1%.
- In recent years, the wealthiest 1% have gotten richer and richer, while the median household income is down 8% since 2000.
- Wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of national income since 1966, while corporate profits are now the largest share of national income since 1950.
- The federal minimum wage, $7.25, hasn’t risen since 2009. The tipped minimum wage, $2.13, hasn’t risen in two decades.
- One in 6 people in America are hungry and 1 in 5 children are.
Check out 8 Ways Economic Inequality in America Is Like the “Hunger Games.”
“The Hunger Games” bestseller books and blockbuster films represent a rare opportunity where these issues of social and economic justice are being widely discussed in pop culture and in homes across the United States.
Check out this video from the Harry Potter Alliance:
Disclaimer: Having a union doesn’t guarantee no workplace injuries on the job, but union mines have 68% fewer fatal injuries than nonunion mines.
Working families, union members and leaders are joining the online movement to lift up these issues of economic inequality and poverty using the “Hunger Games” as a jumping off point. Check out oddsinourfavor.org, where you can join the “resistance” and post a photo doing the “salute,” the symbol of solidarity of the working people.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: Corporate Accountability, hunger, hunger games, inequality, Jobs, mineworkers, minimum wage, Rights At Work
Thanksgiving is coming up! As I reflect on what I’m thankful for, one of the many things is the healthcare that my family and I had while I was growing up. My dad, a waiter, is in a union, and unionized workers at his restaurant collectively bargained for the healthcare that kept my family secure.
But not all workers and their families can give thanks for their healthcare this Thanksgiving, because some workers don’t have healthcare.
As of January 1st, 613,000 uninsured low-income Pennsylvanians—the majority of whom are working—could gain access to healthcare if Gov. Tom Corbett embraces the opportunity to expand Medicaid in Pennsylvania.
Thus far, Gov. Corbett has been playing politics instead of taking effective action. Instead of simply welcoming federal Medicaid expansion funds, Gov. Corbett is pushing a cumbersome and cost-inefficient plan that may take an alarmingly long time to implement.
It’s easy to be distraught, frustrated, or flat-out furious about Gov. Corbett’s current approach. But the process of getting involved and holding Gov. Corbett accountable can be genuinely uplifting, as Working America member Georgeanne Koehler’s experience shows.
Georgeanne personally knows the weight of Gov. Corbett’s decisions about Medicaid expansion, as her brother passed away at the age of 57 because he couldn’t access the healthcare he needed. Georgeanne has since fought to ensure that no one has to go through what her brother or her family went through.
On Halloween, Georgeanne participated in Working America and One Pittsburgh’s Medicaid expansion event in front of Gov. Corbett’s office. She highlighted what’s truly scary: being uninsured. After the event, Georgeanne wrote about her experience at the event:
On October 31st, 2013, I got up and headed to downtown Pittsburgh to attend a Working America rally to Expand Medicaid. Although I was early, soon I was joined by Working America members, One Pittsburgh members and a few PHAN members.
There were handshakes and hugs, “How are you?” and “What’s been going on with you?”, and smiles all around. I knew most of the folks that came to the rally. These are folks that struggle every day to get through their day, and when the sun sets on that day, they are able to pat themselves on the back because they found a way to made it through another day. Some grieve, just like me, for a family member who was lost because of our broken healthcare system. They know that nothing they do will bring their loved one back, but everything they do will be done to keep another American from knowing that grief.
The folks at the rally have one goal: to make America the best she can be. They know that to meet that goal they have to stand up for fairness and justice, and they do it so well. When the rally ended and the last “See you soon” was said, I found myself filled with overwhelming pride. On Oct. 31, 2013, for a few hours, which seemed like a minute, I stood with true-blue red, white and blue heroes. Oct. 31, 2013 I was the luckiest girl in the world!
You’re invited to join us as we continue to stand up together for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians and their loved ones. Contact me, Catherine Balsamo, at email@example.com or 412-456-2985 to get involved.
Tags: Affordable Care Act, Healthcare, Jobs, Medicaid, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, Tom Corbett
With the end of the legislative session looming, here’s a look at some of the key working family issues still on the congressional agenda.
The Republican shutdown of the government in October cost the economy 120,000 jobs and just under $24 billion. The agreement to end the shutdown funded the government through Jan. 15, but at the sequestration levels that have strangled job growth and slowed the economy, and included a debt ceiling increase through Feb. 7.
The deal also called for a House–Senate budget conference committee to try to reach a longer term budget agreement by Dec. 13. House Republicans are continuing their demands to cut Social security, Medicare and Medicaid, along with tax breaks for corporations.
The AFL-CIO is calling for the repeal of the sequester, which could create nearly 800,000 jobs, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Also lawmakers must oppose any cuts in Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits, including means-testing or reducing annual cost-of-living increases by moving to the so-called “chained CPI.” Social Security benefits should be improved, not cut; working people and retirees need more economic security, not less.
Instead of further austerity measures, Congress should invest in jobs and education by raising revenue from Wall Street and the wealthiest 1%. Repealing tax subsidies for sending jobs overseas, for example, would generate $583 billion over 10 years.
In June, the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill that included a path to citizenship. In October, a House bill (H.R. 15) modeled on the Senate measure was introduced with Republican co-sponsors. Congressional observers believe there are at least two dozen other Republican legislators who would support the bill if it came to a vote.
But this week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) broke his promise to hold a House vote on immigration reform legislation. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called Boehner’s action “unconscionable” and said:
The AFL-CIO will not give up this fight until comprehensive immigration reform is passed in the Congress. If Boehner’s House Republicans continue to block the way, we intend to make it clear that the Republican Party will pay a price at the ballot box for ignoring America’s growing immigrant community.
Earlier this month, the Senate overwhelmingly passed (64–32) the historic Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 (ENDA). The bill would make it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Currently, 29 states allow workers to be fired for being gay and 33 allow workers to be fired for being transgender.
But even though the Senate version passed with bipartisan support and the House ENDA bill includes Republican co-sponsors, Boehner again caved to the extremist tea party wing and said he would not allow a vote on the bill.
The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009. Shortly after the Thanksgiving holiday, the Senate is expected to take up a bill (S. 460) to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 over three years and index it to inflation. It also would raise the minimum wage for tipped workers, which is currently $2.13 per hour, to 70% of the regular minimum wage.
Among workers who would benefit from a minimum wage increase, 88% are adults older than 20; 55% percent are women; and their earnings account for half of their family’s entire income.
Even though 80% percent of the public, including 62% of Republican voters, support increasing the minimum wage, according to a recent poll conducted by Hart Research, Boehner likely will block any House vote.
If Congress doesn’t extend the current extended federal unemployment insurance (UI) program by the end of the year, 1.3 million jobless workers will be cut off from UI the week of Dec. 28. Nearly 1.9 million more would lose the extended UI during the first half of 2014 as their state benefits run out. The current program, last extended in January 2013, provides up to 47 weeks of federal benefits in states with the highest unemployment rates on top of the normal 26 weeks that most states provide.
With the economy still 2 million jobs in the hole after the Great Recession and with 37% of the unemployed out of work for more than six months, inaction would be disastrous.
Last month the House passed a bill (H.R. 2374) that would delay and could ultimately thwart the U.S. Department of Labor’s effort to protect workers’ retirement security. The Labor Department wants to close loopholes and update the rule that protects workers from deceptive or abusive practices when they seek investment advice about their retirement savings.
In a letter to House members, AFL-CIO Government Affairs Director William Samuel says, “The intent behind this bill is to delay the commission rule and thereby also block [the Labor Department] from carrying out its statutorily required responsibilities.” He adds:
This bill affects all workers who are trying to save for their retirement. The primary way most working people invest in the capital markets is with their retirement savings—frequently their biggest financial asset. They are counting on making the most of their money when they seek investment advice; they are counting on that advice being free from conflicts of interest. That is what is at stake here.
So far the bill has no Senate sponsor.
Earlier this year with Senate Democrats on the verge of changing Senate rules to block filibusters on executive branch nominees, Senate Republicans relented on their obstruction tactics that have blocked votes on several of President Barack Obama’s nominees.
But after eight Republicans crossed party lines to end a filibuster against Richard Griffin, the former National Labor Relations Board member nominated by Obama to serve as the NLRB’s general counsel, the nomination process once again ground to a halt.
On Oct. 31, Republicans blocked an up or down vote on Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.), the first African American to be nominated to chair the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Watt is also the first sitting member of Congress to be rejected by the Senate since 1843.
Republicans also have vowed to block all three of President Obama’s nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. On Oct. 31, Republicans prevented an up or down vote on the nomination of Patricia Millett, and on Nov. 12, they voted to continue the filibuster against the nomination of Nina Pillard. Republican leadership is also expected to block the nomination of the third Obama nominee, Robert Wilkins, who is currently sitting on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The District of Columbia Circuit is considered the most important court beneath the U.S. Supreme Court because most cases dealing with federal regulations and federal enforcement agencies can be appealed there, including decisions and regulations issued by the National Labor Relations Board, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Tags: enda, FHFA, Housing, immigration, immigration reform, Jobs, Mel Watt, minimum wage, NLRB, Retirement Security, Rights At Work, shutdown, unemployment insurance
Today, Nov. 12, at 3 p.m. EST, the AFL-CIO invites you to participate in a tweetchat on creating momentum around economic policy for women. Join AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Shuler, National Organization of Women’s (NOW’s) Terry O’Neill, Black Youth Project 100’s (BYP 100’s) Charlene Carruthers and Upworthy’s Laura Willard for a discussion on paid sick days, the minimum wage and other issues important to women in the workplace.
Follow the hashtag #1uwomen to join the conversation and see the list of the participants’ Twitter handles here.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: Health Care, Jobs, Liz Shuler, women
SeaTac, Washington. Have you heard of it? Unless you’re from the area, you probably only know the town from its most well-known business: the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, also known as Sea-Tac.
But on Tuesday, the working class suburb of SeaTac put its name on the map in a big way. By a narrow margin, they sent a proposition to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour on track to victory.
For the more than 6,500 full- and part-time employees at the Sea-Tac Airport, this is welcome news. From servers and cooks at airport restaurants to the baggage handlers and other airline employees, many Sea-Tac workers are forced by necessity to work two low-wage jobs, and very few can afford to take off work when they get sick.
And they aren’t earning low wages because they aren’t doing their jobs — quite the opposite. 33 million travelers spent a whopping $180 million at the airport last year. Alaska Airlines, headquartered at Sea-Tac, has posted record profits. The Anthony’s restaurant at Sea-Tac is the top-grossing airport restaurant in North America. They have more than earned a raise.
It’s worth noting too that minimum wage increases have not hampered business in other airport cities like Albuquerque, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, or Santa Fe.
Yet, this was a heated, expensive battle. In the town of 25,000 people, spending on both sides equaled approximately $300 per likely voter. The National Restaurant Association threw in $50,000 opposing the measure, on top of $60,000 spent by its Washington affiliate. Two of the biggest forces involved in the race will come as no surprise: ALEC and the Koch Brothers.
If you want a good indication of how much is truly riding on SeaTac’s $15 an hour minimum wage initiative, you need look no further than who is fighting it: The ultra-conservative billionaire Koch brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)…Two of our nation’s most powerful right-wing political forces are joining together to fight and kill the $15 an hour minimum wage movement in tiny SeaTac before it has an opportunity to take root.
The Kochs and their allies understand that when the town of SeaTac experiences an economic boom from this wage increase, which Puget Sound Sage estimates at $54 million, it will only invigorate efforts to raise the wage in other cities and towns, or even nationally.
The Chamber of Commerce, National Restaurant Association, right-wing think tanks, and the billionaires that make up the so-called business community that opposes wage increases, sick days ordinances, and improvements for workers at every turn, is running out of excuses to keep saying “No.” The SeaTac vote is another chink their well-funded armor.
Photo by Yes! For SeaTac on Facebook
Tags: Jobs, minimum wage, seatac, washington