Maine Gov. Paul LePage Afraid to Debate Steelworker Mike Michaud

Apparently Maine Gov. Paul LePage (you know, the guy who previously removed the labor mural from the Maine Department of Labor and said the state’s child labor laws were too burdensome for business) has indicated he will not debate his challenger in this election, United Steelworkers member Mike Michaud.

The Maine AFL-CIO reacted to LePage’s duck:

“Paul LePage has spent four years advocating for policies that harm working people, and now he won’t even face them in person,” said Matt Schlobohm, executive director of the Maine AFL-CIO. “No matter how many debates LePage ducks, there will be no hiding from his failed, divisive record of putting special interests and billionaire funders before working-class Mainers.”

Check out “6 Reasons Union Member Mike Michaud Is a Candidate Who Cares About Working Families.”

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Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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6 Reasons Union Member Mike Michaud is a Candidate Who Cares About Working Families

6 Reasons Union Member Mike Michaud is a Candidate Who Cares About Working Families

It’s an election year, and we are quickly approaching the time when working families will have the opportunity to go to the polls and vote for candidates who support policies that protect or expand our rights, raise wages and work for an economy that benefits everyone, not just the wealthy few. We’re going to focus our spotlight on some of the key candidates who care about working families, and one of those candidates is Mike Michaud, who is running for governor in Maine. Here are six reasons why Michaud would be good for working people:

1. Michaud has never forgotten what it means to be a worker having to put in long shifts and struggling to pay the bills. Born and raised in Maine, he started working in high school, pumping gas at night and washing dishes at a truck stop off Interstate 95. After high school, Michaud went right to work at the Great Northern Paper Co., the same mill where his father and grandfather worked, and joined the United Steelworkers (USW). He kept working at the mill even while serving in the Legislature and remains a card-carrying member of USW today. [Congressional website, accessed 5/16/14; Portland Press Herald, 7/6/14]

2. As a state legislator and a member of Congress, Michaud has a lifetime AFL‐CIO voting record of 96% and has a long history of supporting American workers. He opposed the radical Ryan budget that would end Medicare as we know it, and he led the fight against unfair trade agreements that would outsource good American jobs. [AFLCIO Scorecard]

3. In Congress, Michaud sponsored “Buy American” legislation promoting the use of American goods in federal projects. He also led the charge to require the U.S. military to purchase American-made shoes, including those made by Maine-based New Balance. [Bangor Daily News, 6/27/13; 4/25/14]

4. He wants to rebuild the state’s infrastructure and restore Maine’s manufacturing advantage. One way he plans to do this is by creating a comprehensive workforce training and retraining program.

5. Michaud favors a fairer tax system that helps middle-class families get ahead and requires corporations and the wealthy to pay their fair share.

6. He wants to invest in pre-kindergarten and vocational education, and make college affordable for any Maine child who wants to attend.

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Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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7 Reasons Why Paul LePage Is One of the Worst Candidates for Working Families in the 2014 Elections

It’s an election year and we are quickly approaching the time when working families will have the opportunity to go to the polls and vote against a whole host of extreme candidates who support policies that limit rights, make it even harder to afford a middle-class life and pad the pockets of their corporate buddies. One of the “Worst Candidates for Working Families in the 2014 Elections” is Maine Gov. Paul LePage.

1. In 2013, Maine was ranked the second worst state for job growth by Business Journal. [Morning Sentinel, 1/6/11; Business Journal, 6/27/13]

2. Rather than working on the business of the people of Maine, LePage has instead focused on petty things like removing a pro-labor mural from the Department of Labor office and ordering the names of conference rooms changed because they weren’t “pro-business enough.” He’s been so extreme that Politico called him “America’s Craziest Governor” and the Daily Beast called him a “Madman Governor.” [Politico, 1/8/14; The Daily Beast, 4/16/11; The Washington Post, 4/14/11]

3. LePage is so out of touch with working families that he claimed 47% of able-bodied Mainers don’t work and said they should “get off the couch and get yourself a job.” [Kennebec Journal, 10/23/13; Bangor Daily News, 5/6/12]

4. While working families are seeing their incomes fall behind the cost of living, LePage vetoed a bill that would’ve raised the state’s minimum wage to $9 per hour. [Bangor Daily News, 7/8/13]

5. LePage also vetoed a bill that would have required Maine to purchase American-made goods and services whenever possible. [Bangor Daily News, 7/8/13]

6. While most Mainers believe that all children deserve access to good education, LePage disagrees. He said: “If you want a good education, go to private schools. If you can’t afford it, tough luck. You can go to the public school.” [Bangor Daily News, 3/30/13]

7. During tough economic times, working families have found access to affordable health care harder to come by and LePage vetoed legislation to help them get access to health care and he also vetoed a bill to expand Medicaid coverage to 70,000 low-income Mainers. [Bangor Daily News, 4/9/14]

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Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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12 Recent Victories for Workers in Raising Wages and Collective Bargaining

While it certainly seems that far-right extremists are waging an all-out war on working families and their rights, workers aren’t just defending themselves; they are fighting to expand their rights and achieving some significant gains. Here are 12 recent victories we should celebrate while continuing to push for even more wins.

1. AFSCME Sets Organizing Goal, Almost Doubles It: AFSCME President Lee Saunders announced that the union has organized more than 90,000 workers this year, nearly doubling its 2014 goal of 50,000.

2. Tennessee Auto Workers to Create New Local Union at VW PlantAuto workers at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., announced the formation of UAW Local 42, a new local that will give workers an increased voice in the operation of the German carmaker’s U.S. facility. UAW organizers continue to gain momentum, as the union has the support of nearly half of the plant’s 1,500 workers, which would make the union the facility’s exclusive collective bargaining agent.

3. California Casino Workers Organize: Workers at the new Graton Resort & Casino voted to join UNITE HERE Local 2850 of Oakland, providing job security for 600 gambling, maintenance, and food and beverage workers.

4. Virgin America Flight Attendants Vote to Join TWU: Flight attendants at Virgin America voted to join the Transport Workers, citing the success of TWU in bargaining fair contracts for Southwest Airlines flight attendants.

5. Maryland Cab Drivers Join National Taxi Workers Alliance: Cab drivers in Montgomery County, Md., announced their affiliation with the National Taxi Workers Alliance, citing low wages and unethical behavior by employers among their reasons to affiliate with the national union.

6. Retail and Restaurant Workers Win Big, Organize Small: Small groups of workers made big strides as over a dozen employees at a Subway restaurant in Bloomsbury, N.J., voted to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Meanwhile, cosmetics and fragrance workers at a Macy’s store in Massachusetts won an NLRB ruling that will allow them to vote on forming a union.

7. Minnesota Home Care Workers Take Key Step to Organize: Home health care workers in Minnesota presented a petition to state officials that would allow a vote on forming a union for more than 26,000 eligible workers.

8. New York Television Writers-Producers Join Writers Guild: Writers and producers from Original Media, a New York City-based production company, voted to join the Writers Guild of America, East, citing low wages, long work schedules and no health care.

9.  Fast-Food Workers Win in New NLRB Ruling: The National Labor Relations Board ruled that McDonald’s could be held jointly responsible with its franchisees for labor violations and wage disputes. The NLRB ruling makes it easier for workers to organize individual McDonald’s locations, and could result in better pay and conditions for workers.

10. Workers Increasingly Have Access to Paid Sick Leave: Cities such as San Diego and Eugene, Ore., have passed measures mandating paid sick leave, providing workers with needed flexibility and making workplaces safer for all.

11. Student-Athletes See Success, Improved Conditions: College athletic programs are strengtheningfinancial security measures for student-athletes in the wake of organizing efforts by Northwestern University football players. In addition, the future is bright as the majority of incoming college football players support forming a union.

12. San Diego Approves Minimum Wage Hike; Portland, Maine, Starts Process: Even as Congress has failed to raise the minimum wage, municipalities across the country have taken action. San Diego will raise the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour by 2017, and the Portland, Maine, Minimum Wage Advisory Committee will consider an increase that would take effect in 2015.

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New Hampshire Ends Cruel Denial of Medicaid Expansion, Maine May Follow

New Hampshire officially expanded its Medicaid program this week, enabling about 50,000 more people in the Granite State to afford health coverage.

Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan signed the bill into law on Thursday, enacting a bipartisan compromise plan that would use federal Medicaid funds to buy private coverage for adults making less than 138 percent of the federal poverty limit, rather than providing state-funded health insurance.

When the Supreme Court declared the Affordable Care Act constitutional in July 2012, they left the option open for states to reject the federal funds that would be used to expand their Medicaid programs. As of now, 25 states and the District of Columbia have accepted the expansion in full. 21 states, all with Republican governors or Republican-controlled legislatures, have formally rejected Medicaid expansion.

New Hampshire was one of six states where the final call had not yet been made on Medicaid expansion.

On the same day, legislators in Maine granted final passage to a bill that would expand Medicaid to about 70,000 low-income Mainers. The bill now goes to Republican Governor Paul LePage for his signature or veto.

LePage has expressed opposition to Medicaid in the past, calling it “sinful” just a few weeks ago. But many of his fellow Republicans don’t share this view:

Despite the references to different numbers and analyses, many lawmakers have conceded that support or opposition of the bill is as ideological as it is pragmatic.

The bill approved by the Legislature was crafted by moderate Republican Sens. Roger Katz of Augusta and Tom Saviello of Wilton as a compromise, designed to bring more Republicans on board.

Assistant State Majority Leader Anne Haskell (D-Portland) also pointed out that 10 other Republican governors, including Govs. John Kasich (R-OH) and Jan Brewer (R-AZ) have accepted expansion.

The last time a Medicaid expansion bill hit Gov. LePage’s desk in July 2013, he vetoed. Now, with more Republicans on board, we hope he makes a different choice.

Send a message: Tell Gov. LePage to accept federal Medicaid funds.

Photo by Governor Maggie Hassan on Facebook

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Don’t Look Now, But Seems Like 5 Million Americans Are Getting Mad At The Politicians Blocking Their Health Care.

Our country is split down the middle when it comes to Medicaid. Literally.

25 states and the District of Columbia have elected to expand Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act. That includes states with both Democrats and Republicans in control.

Unfortunately, politicians in 25 states have actively refused to expand Medicaid, even though the federal government would pay for 100 percent of costs through 2016, and never less than 90 percent after that.

The stubbornness of these politicians is leaving 5 million Americans without access to affordable health insurance.

Luckily, the White House and wide variety of activist groups are pursuing the issue in 2014. In Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Maine, there are signs that next year’s legislative sessions could offer a path to expanding the program in those states.

In addition, enough voters are waking up to the needless cruelty of blocking Medicaid expansion to make it a viable campaign issue. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, was elected governor  in purple Virginia in part by promising to make expansion a priority. 200,000 Virginians would be helped by such an action.

Rep. Mike Michaud, the leading Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Maine, has made an issue out of Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s outright refusal to expand Medicaid. “It’s not just good economics; it’s the morally right thing to do,” Michaud writes on his campaign website.

However, the big win would be in Texas, which has the most uninsured of any state in the country. Nearly 2 million Texans would benefit from expansion, but Gov. Rick Perry refuses to take any action on the issue.

More than 16,000 Texans have signed our petition to Gov. Perry to expand Medicaid. Join them.

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12 Ways the State Policy Network Could Assault the Rights of Working Families in 2014

new article from the Guardian reveals that the State Policy Network (SPN) is planning a significant assault on the rights of working families in 2014 state legislative sessions. Through the Searle Freedom Trust, a foundation it created in 2011, SPN plans to offer sizable grants to supposedly independent, non-partisan think tanks in the states. SPN collected 40 grant proposalsfrom these think tanks and will grant funding through Searle to 20 of them. The proposals are for numerous extreme right-wing policy options, very similar to those proposed by groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, and the think tanks already receive funding from the typical extremist anti-working family funders like the Koch brothers.

While SPN claims tax-exempt status that limits their lobbying efforts and the group says that it and the groups it funds don’t engage in lobbying, those claims don’t quite pass a commonsense examination. As the Guardian notes:

Most of the “think tanks” involved in the proposals gathered by the State Policy Network are constituted as 501(c)(3) charities that are exempt from tax by the Internal Revenue Service. Though the groups are not involved in election campaigns, they are subject to strict restrictions on the amount of lobbying they are allowed to perform. Several of the grant bids contained in the Guardian documents propose the launch of “media campaigns” aimed at changing state laws and policies, or refer to “advancing model legislation” and “candidate briefings,” in ways that arguably cross the line into lobbying.

Depending on which 20 proposals it chooses to fund, here are 12 ways that SPN could assault the rights of working families in 2014:

1. Alabama Policy Institute: Requested $25,725 to fund the “spark plug” for eliminating the state income tax. Such a plan would lead to the cutting of services for working families. (Also requested for tax cuts or elimination: Advance Arkansas Institute, $35,000; Georgia Public Policy Foundation, $40,000; Nebraska’s Platte Institute for Economic Research, $25,000; New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, $30,000; Ohio’s Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, $40,000; and Opportunity Ohio, $35,000).

2. Delaware’s Caesar Rodney Institute: Requested $36,000 to fund strategies to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law, which would lower wages for working families.

3. Florida’s James Madison Institute: Requested $40,000 to fund efforts to promote vouchers (which they call Education Savings Accounts), which would reduce funding for public schools. Lower public education funding would lead to worsening student performance and teacher layoffs. (Also requested on this topic: Oregon’s Cascade Policy Institute, $40,000.)

4. Georgia Center for Opportunity: Requested $65,000 to fund opposition to Medicaid expansion, which would mean fewer residents have health care. (Also requested on this same topic: North Carolina’s J.W. Pope Civitas Institute, $46,500; Texas Public Policy Foundation, $40,000; Utah’s Sutherland Institute, $50,000.)

5. Illinois Policy Institute: Requested $40,000 to fight to change Chicago’s public employee pension system to a defined-contribution plan, which would mean less retirement security for working families. (Also requested on cutting public employee pensions: Arizona’s Goldwater Institute for Public Policy, $40,000; Minnesota’s Center of the American Experiment, $40,000; Missouri’s Show-Me Institute, $25,000; Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Foundation, $35,500.)

6. Maryland Public Policy Institute: Requested $40,000 to push for cuts in corporate tax rates, which would lead to the cutting of services for working families.

7. Maine Heritage Policy Center: Requested $35,000 to fund a campaign to eliminate state and local income taxes and institute “right to work” for less in one county as a model for future endeavors. If the campaign succeeds, working families will face service cuts and lower wages.

8. Mississippi Center for Public Policy: Requested $30,000 to oppose gas tax increases and privatize the state Department of Transportation, which would lead to weakened services for state residents and lower accountability on transportation issues. (Also requested on privatization: Massachusetts’ Pioneer Institute, $40,000).

9. Common Sense Institute of New Jersey: Requested $50,000 for a campaign to eliminate the compensation of public employees for unused sick leave, which would lower the overall compensation package for employees and encourage public employee absenteeism.

10. Nevada Policy Research Institute: Requested $35,000 to fund a campaign to get union members to leave their unions, which would weaken the collective bargaining rights of working families.

11. Empire Center for New York State Policy: Requested $36,500 to fund efforts to eliminate the estate tax, which would lead to service cuts for working families and shift the tax burden in the state from the wealthy toward working families.

12. Washington Policy Center: Requested $35,000 to launch a campaign to require local governments to have a super-majority to raise taxes, which would cripple local governments and lead to cuts in services for working families.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Yelp: Why Joining ALEC Matters

The following is a post from Maine Rep. Diane Russell

The most memorable moment I have in my political life, by far, is leaving the Maine House in tears, stunned that the majority party had repealed four decades of Election Day Registration – all so they could win elections. It was the moment when I truly questioned whether our democracy would survive, or whether people were even listening.

We had been blindsided by the sudden and unexpected onslaught of anti-voter rhetoric. OpEds and FAQ sheets circulated faster than we could imagine. Those of us fighting the bill in the Legislature were outmaneuvered even when we exposed the hypocrisy and even lies that were being put before us. For every legislative aid in Maine, there are about ten to twelve lawmakers – so how was such a coordinated push even possible? We couldn’t catch up, let alone respond.

Thankfully, the people were listening. In fact, it was the people of Maine who restored my faith in our future. One by one, they picked up petitions and in under a month had collected enough signatures to put the question to the ballot. On Election Day, 60 percent of Mainers resoundingly voted to protect the voting rights for themselves, their neighbors and even students.

But where did this even come from? This was four decades of sacred ground, upended overnight with a well-coordinated legislative and public relations offensive.

The source, it turns out, was the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). While our registration laws were under attack in Maine, a chorus of cries began to erupt from across the country as newly red states pushed restrictive voter ID bills effectively disenfranchising voters. At one point, the Brennan Center estimated 5 million people would be left behind under the new laws. It was only when Ari Berman outlined what was happening in his Rolling Stone article, “The GOP War on Voting,” did the tide finally begin to change – and the truth finally get told.

We now know, of course, that it’s not just voter rights that ALEC had set its sights on. They were pushing the castle doctrine and Stand Your Ground laws; rollbacks to environmental protections; opposition to women’s rights; anti-worker legislation and the list goes on. They worked with the GOP to effectively gut Maine’s model public campaign financing laws – enacted by the people through referendum – that open doors for good people to run for office, devoid of the potential for quid-pro-quo donations. Citizens are again picking up pens to put Clean Elections back on the ballot and to restore it.

In the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, people and companies began piecing together the connection between castle doctrines and voter suppression – and the blatant racial bias inherent in both. Under unprecedented pressure from the public, companies began canceling their ALEC memberships. ALEC, itself, even dismembered its notorious task force that tied public safety with voter laws, formerly chaired by the NRA. (Yes, the NRA actually chaired the committee that approved the vigilante and voter registration model bills.)

Flash forward a bit, and it turns out tech companies such as Yelp are now partnering with ALEC. Let’s set aside the intelligence of climbing on board the Titanic after even the rats have left, and analyze their rationale for a moment.

Yelp, a highly popular online consumer review company, has stated that its support is related specifically to so-called SLAPP legislation which uses lawsuits to effectively undermine free speech. If consumers write negative reviews about a company and then are “slapped” with a frivolous lawsuit, they might become less inclined to write said reviews. In legal terms, this is known as “chilling speech.” On the point of protecting Free Speech in this one legal area, Yelp and ALEC agree. Working with the other side is just part of politics, right?

While this generally is true, the problem in this case is that it ignores all the other rights that are being stripped from people because of this organization. It ignores the fact that a young kid was gunned down because he was armed with a hoodie, some skittles and an iced tea. It ignores the fact that they are the architects of laws that suppress voting rights for minorities. It ignores their work to write and pass (with the Corrections Corporation of America) legislation like Arizona’s SB1070 that used racial profiling to target undocumented workers.

On a simply pragmatic note, it ignores the fact that countless other companies – who had previously aligned with ALEC to work on their own “very specific” issue areas – canceled their memberships as soon as they realized the host of other laws with which their name was now being associated. For a company like Yelp who has built its brand entirely on the consumer reviews of other brands, this concept should be rather self-evident.

It was pretty self-evident to Yelp’s members who, in just one day, posted more than 2,500 reviews (nearly all negative) about ALEC and Yelp’s new relationship – on the company’s own web platform. Further, @Yelp was peppered all day with outraged tweets from across the country.

If Yelp – and other tech companies – are serious about protecting First Amendment rights then I’m all in and will commit to working with them to do just that. However, there are better, more ethical means to accomplish this goal than joining an organization who helped lay a foundation for the “he was armed with Skittles” defense.

The reviews are in; it’s time for Yelp to end its relationship with ALEC. Send a message now.

Reposted from DailyKos

Photo by Protect Maine Voting Rights on Facebook

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Progress on Medicaid Means Real Coverage for Real Families—Roadblocks Remain

In Arizona, 300,000 people will get the health care coverage they need, thanks to Gov. Jan Brewer’s change of heart on a key program of the Affordable Care Act. Brewer signed a bill into law accepting federal funds to cover low-income families under Medicaid—a bill that she had to fight against members of her own party in the state legislature to get passed in a special session she called.

It was a hard fight, but one we’re glad to see turned out the right way. The Medicaid provision was one of the key components of the ACA, but it was put at risk by a Supreme Court decision that left it up to the states to accept or decline the funds. Many states have—but others, like Texas, are refusing, leaving millions without coverage.

In other states, the process is still unfolding:

  • About half a million people are waiting on the Michigan state Senate, who should vote this week on a state House-passed proposal to accept expanded Medicaid funds. Gov. Rick Snyder has promised to sign the bill into law.
  • As the state legislature in Ohio debates accepting expanded funds, a new poll shows 63 percent of Ohioans want the expansion, which would cover an estimated 275,000 people.
  • In Virginia, a commission to study accepting expanded Medicaid funds had its first meeting this week. The next meeting will take place in August.
  • In New Hampshire, the state House—which supports accepting expanded funds—is working to craft a measure that will be able to get through the Republican-controlled Senate. This may mean a commission will be created to review the issue.
  • Unfortunately, in Maine, Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a measure to accept expanded funds. The bill, which would cover 60,000 people, passed by strong but not quite veto-proof margins, so the fate of Medicaid in Maine remains unclear.

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Boosting the Minimum Wage in the States Is a No-Brainer

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

With the federal minimum wage stuck at $7.25 an hour and an increase facing stiff opposition from congressional Republicans, coalitions of union, community, faith and other groups are mobilizing to win increases in state and local minimum wage levels. Here’s a look at some recent wins and campaigns where AFL-CIO state federations and central labor councils are playing big roles.

In late March, the New York state legislature approved a measure increasing the state minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 an hour over three years. New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento says:

Raising the minimum wage will make a real difference in the lives of workers, many of whom are adults working full-time, and many of whom have families to support.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, raising New York’s minimum wage to $9.00 per hour will benefit more than 1.5 million New York workers—more than one in five workers in New York. The Fiscal Policy Institute estimates that increasing New York’s minimum wage to $9.00 per hour will generate more than $1.1 billion in new economic activity, supporting the creation of 10,200 new full-time jobs as businesses expand to meet increased consumer demand.

San Jose, Calif., recently increased its minimum wage to $10 an hour after a campaign that united the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council and San Jose Downtown Association in winning a ballot measure to boost the city’s minimum wage.

Meanwhile in Hawaii, the state House passed legislation to raise the Aloha State’s minimum wage to $9 an hour by 2017 in four steps. The state Senate is expected to vote on the bill next month.

In Maine last week, the state House also voted to boost the state’s minimum wage, from the current $7.50 an hour to $9 an hour by 2016 in in three steps. The bill also protects the wage from losing its value inflation by indexing it to inflation. The bill awaits state Senate action.

A bill to increase the Minnesota minimum wage to $10.55 an hour over three years is making it way through the House. It already has been approved by three committees and further action is expected later in the spring. It also is indexed against inflation. The bill is a key part of the Minnesota AFL-CIO’s Agenda for Dignity and Middle Class Fairness.

Looking down the road, New Jersey voters will decide this fall on a ballot measure to raise the Garden State’s minimum wage to $8.25 an hour and index it against inflation. The New Jersey State AFL-CIO plans a major effort around the measure. In January, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a minimum wage bill.

There are also campaigns or legislation under way to increase the minimum wage in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Mexico and Rhode Island.

On the federal level, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) earlier this year introduced legislation to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour; and a new report reveals the American Legislative Exchange Council is engaged in a widespread campaign to weaken or repeal state minimum wage laws and other low-wage worker protections.

You can find out more about the minimum wage from the National Employment Law Project and from the group’s Raise the Minimum Wage website.

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