AFL-CIO and Working Families Lead Efforts Across the Country to Raise the Minimum Wage

Photo via All-Nite Images/Flickr

While Republicans in Washington, D.C., are doing their best to stop a federal increase to the minimum wage, working families and their allies across the country are fighting to increase the minimum wage at the state and local level. America’s working families consistently support a minimum wage increase, supporting the idea that jobs should lift workers out of poverty, conservatives continue to rely upon disproven criticisms of increasing the wage. But Americans aren’t buying the conservative lies and are demanding that Congress and the president raise the wage for millions of workers, including tipped workers. And many of them aren’t waiting for Washington to get the job done, they’re taking action across the country. The federal minimum wage has remained $7.25 an hour since 2009 and wages for tipped workers have been frozen at $2.13 an hour since 1991. Here’s the latest news on the push for a higher minimum wage across the nation:

Alaska: More than 43,000 signatures were collected in favor of an August ballot initiative that would raise the wage to $9.75 over two years, with an annual increase for inflation.

Arkansas: Labor and community groups are pushing for a ballot measure that would raise the the state minimum wage to $8.50 over the next three years.

Connecticut: Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (D) proposed increasing the wage to $10.10 an hour. The legislature is now considering the bill.

Idaho: Labor and community groups are working on legislation that would increase the wage in the state that has the highest percentage of minimum wage employees in the nation.

Iowa: With the rallying cry “We can’t survive on $7.25!” working families in Iowa are pushing for a bill that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10.

Los Angeles: The Raise L.A. campaign is working on raising the minimum salaries of hotel workers to $15 an hour while the L.A. County Federation invited Pope Francis to visit the city to help champion economic equality for low-wage workers.

Maryland: Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has joined with Raise Maryland in calling for the state’s wage to be raised to $10.10 an hour. They also are calling for tipped workers to earn at least 70% of the minimum wage.

Massachusetts: The Raise-Up Massachusetts campaign is collecting signatures to put a minimum wage increase on the ballot and is organizing a low-wage worker listening tour.

Minnesota: Working families and their allies are pushing to raise the state minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2015, with future increases tied to inflation.

Missouri: Low-wage and tipped workers organized and testified at a critical committee hearing for a bill to increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour. The bill is active in the state Senate.

Nebraska: The legislature is considering a package of bills backed by local labor groups that would raise the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour and require employers to provide paid sick days.

New Hampshire: The state’s labor movement and community allies have made raising the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour one of their top priorities for 2014.

Pennsylvania: A community coalition launched a campaign to raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

Seattle: Working families in Seattle are trying to recreate the success of allies in SeaTac in an effort to raise the local minimum wage to $15 an hour.

South Dakota: The South Dakota AFL-CIO and allies successfully placed a minimum wage increase on the ballot that will be voted on in November, raising the state’s wage to $8.50 with an annual cost-of-living increase.

West Virginia: The legislature passed a bill championed by the West Virginia AFL-CIO that would raise the minimum wage to $8.75 and would increase the minimum wage for tipped workers.

Do you think America needs a raise? Sign the petition

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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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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Put a Stop to This: Bad Credit? No Job for You!

Today’s jobless workers face new discriminatory barriers to finding work in a broken economy. Some employers won’t consider out-of-work applicants for job openings. And more and more employers run credit checks, leaving long-term jobless workers, who have likely fallen far behind in their bills and seen their credit scores tank, on the streets.

Today Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced a bill to stop employers from requiring prospective employees to disclose their credit history or disqualifying applicants based on a poor credit rating. Says Warren:

Families have not fully recovered from the 2008 financial crisis, and too many Americans are still searching for jobs. This is about basic fairness—let people compete on the merits, not on whether they already have enough money to pay all their bills.

Even as the economy is slowly turning around, the recession and financial crisis continue to take a toll on working families. Many of whom are hardworking, bill-paying people who have seen the credit ratings damaged when they or a family member lost a job or a small business and saw the value of their homes plummet. Savings evaporate and payments get missed. Says Warren:

Most people recognize that bad credit means they will have trouble borrowing money or they will pay more to borrow. But many don’t realize that a damaged credit rating also can block access to a job.

While at one time it was common belief that a credit history could provide insight into a perspective employee’s character, Warren says that recent research has shown that an individual’s credit rating has little or no correlation with his ability to succeed at work. A bad credit rating is far more often the result of unexpected personal crisis or economic downturn than a reflection of someone’s abilities.

She also says, “This is one more way the game is rigged against the middle class.”

A rich person who loses a job or gets divorced or faces a family illness is unlikely to suffer from a drop in his or her credit rating. But for millions of hardworking families, hard personal blow translates into a hard financial blow that will show up for years in a credit report.

People shouldn’t be denied the chance to compete for jobs because of credit reports that bear no relationship to job performance and that, according to recent reports, are often riddled with inaccuracies. Click here to become a citizen co-sponsor of The Equal Employment for All Act.

The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) introduced the bill in the House late last year.

Photo via U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren on Facebook

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Just Two Weeks After New Jersey and SeaTac Minimum Wage Elections, Big Milestone Reached in Massachusetts

Just two weeks after voters in New Jersey and SeaTac, Washington voted to raise the minimum wage, a Massachusetts coalition to enact a similar ballot measure announced a major milestone.

Raise Up Massachusetts announced Monday that over 10 weeks, they have collected approximately 269,059 signatures to get a statewide minimum wage increase and an earned sick time on the 2014 ballot.

Only 68,911 verified signatures are required.

“The numbers show just how many Massachuetts voters stand with families who need a higher minimum wage and earned sick time,” said SEIU Local 509 President Susan Sousignant.

Kim Rivera, an activist from Springfield, has collected 853 signatures toward the goal. “When I explain that the minimum wage is only $8 an hour and almost one million workers in Massachusetts can’t earn a single day of sick time, people were eager to sign.”

If passed, the measures would do three things: a.) increase the minimum wage to $10.50 an hour over two years; b.) index future increases to inflation; and c.) allow all workers to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours a year.

Similar efforts are underway in Idaho, Alaska, and South Dakota.

Raising the minimum wage isn’t just good policy, it could also be good politics. The Ballot Initiative Strategy Center found that overall voter turnout is 7 to 9 percent higher in midterm elections when wage initiatives are on the ballot.

These initiatives also often cross party lines. In New Jersey two weeks ago, voters voted overwhelmingly to raise the minimum wage even while many also voted to reelect Gov. Chris Christie, who himself vetoed a minimum wage increase earlier this year.

In SeaTac, Washington, a proposition to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour is leading by only 46 votes.

Photo by Raise Up Massachusetts on Facebook

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Working Families See Big Wins in Tuesday’s Elections

Yesterday, working families saw major wins in the elections held in New York, Virginia, Boston, Ohio and New Jersey.

The impact of grassroots power was especially evident in the groundbreaking minimum wage increase in New Jersey.

In Boston, voters elected union member Marty Walsh (D) for mayor. In Virginia, a bellwether state, Terry McAuliffe (D) won the governorship. In Ohio, Cincinnati voters overwhelmingly–78% to 2%–defeated a city charter amendment that would have eliminated the defined benefit pension plan for newly hired city employees. And in New York City, voters elected Bill de Blasio, the first Democratic mayor in more than two decades.

Union City’s Chris Garlock spoke with Northern Virginia Area Labor Federation President Daniel Duncan who talked about the importance of working families turning out to vote, “We did our part in Northern Virginia and I’m just so proud of everyone who showed up and helped out.”

Garlock writes:

Union members, staff and leaders had crisscrossed the state yesterday in a final effort to turn out the labor vote for union-endorsed candidates. “No vote can be taken for granted,” said Roxie Mejia, director of Political Affairs for Painters and Allied Trades District Council 51. “Electing labor-friendly folks makes all the difference,” District Council 51 Business Agent Lynn Taylor said.

New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech reflects on the raise the wage campaign working families waged in New Jersey:

The New Jersey State AFL-CIO was proud to fight on the front lines of an epic battle to raise the state minimum wage, and did so as a founding partner of the statewide grassroots coalition Working Families United for New Jersey Inc., which united the efforts of 256 labor, community, religious, civil rights, student, progressive, women and retirees groups as part of the “Raise the Wage” campaign….Raising the minimum wage was an unequivocal victory for the labor movement that will give hardworking men and women a financial boost and raise the standard of living for all working families.

Read more from the New Jersey State AFL-CIO.

New York City Central Labor Council President Vincent Alvarez says:

Today, New York City’s labor movement took a stand against 12 years of austerity politics that have taken precedence over the needs of everyday New Yorkers. Together with our affiliates, we took to the streets to make our voices heard, and together, we voted against policies and deals designed to favor the wealthy, while ignoring the needs of our cities working families….Throughout the five boroughs, residents cast their votes for Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio, a man who understands the severity of our city’s income equality problem, and who is ready to tackle that problem head-on.

In Washington State, another groundbreaking minimum wage increase ballot measure affecting more than 6,000 low-wage airport workers is currently leading, but votes are still being counted. The measure would increase the minimum wage for SeaTac workers to $15.00 an hour and would provide sick days and other benefits.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Statement on Election of Martin J. Walsh as Mayor of Boston

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Today, working families across Boston celebrate the historic election of Marty Walsh to be the next mayor of Boston, succeeding outgoing Mayor Thomas Menino.

Voters cast their ballots for Walsh, who has dedicated his career to improving our public schools, creating good jobs, expanding options for affordable housing and fighting unfair foreclosures, and creating a Boston that embraces all its communities.

Across the city, people mobilized in vast numbers, reaching out to their neighbors and friends about the importance of electing a candidate to represent working-families.

“In all my conversations with people, one thing was clear: They want to see better jobs, better schools and a better Boston,” said Working America organizer Michael Conway. “I’m excited about what this means for my hometown.”

Conway and other Working America Boston organizers had more than 45,000 face-to-face conversations with people across the city, from Roslindale to Roxbury, from Jamaica Plain to Mattapan. In the preliminary election, four out of five voters Working America spoke with voted on Election Day.

We congratulate mayor-elect Marty Walsh and the people of Boston on this historic victory—a victory for all working people.

Working America is the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO for people without the benefit of a union on the job. It has 11,000 members in Massachusetts.

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For A Boston Where All Families Can Thrive, Vote Marty Walsh for Mayor

Since current Mayor Thomas Menino was elected in 1993, the city of Boston has seen incredible change. From West Roxbury to East Boston, entire industries have sprung up, fueled by innovation from the city’s world-renowned universities. Immigrants from across the globe have made their home in Boston, creating one of the nation’s most diverse communities.

Unfortunately, there has been another change: Boston has become much more unequal. The last 30 years have seen wealth in the city increasingly concentrated, and now the Boston area has greater inequality than 85 percent of U.S. metropolitan areas.

The central challenge for the next mayor is to ensure that Boston is a city where families in all communities can thrive; a place where the American Dream is reality, not just a part of proud history. That’s why Working America is proud to endorse State Representative Martin J. Walsh to be the next mayor of Boston.

Few elected officials are more attuned to the needs of Bostonians than Marty Walsh. As the son of Irish immigrants, Walsh understands the challenges of making a life in a new country. As a survivor of Burkett’s lymphoma, a form of childhood cancer that struck him at age seven, he knows personally the struggle to access affordable health care, and the value of Boston’s world-class medical treatment and research facilities.

As a union construction worker since the age of 18, Marty Walsh recognizes better than most elected officials the inherent dignity of a full day’s work at a good job with fair wages. At a time when the majority of jobs created are in notoriously low-wage sectors like service and retail – jobs that only recognize the dignity of corporate shareholders – a mayor with Walsh’s experience is needed now more than ever.

Walsh’s vision for the city is bold. He will expand access to affordable housing in the city, redouble the fight against unfair foreclosures, and even provide incentives for childcare facilities that are open during second and third shifts. From his time in legislature working on transportation issues, he is well-positioned to improve the MBTA public transit system, including pushing back the T’s infamous early closing hours. Not only does that give a boost to the city’s nightlife, it also helps Bostonians who work those later shifts make it home without breaking the bank.

Walsh has been an aggressive advocate for public education throughout his career. He plans to invest in early childhood education by doubling the number of K-1 seats and increase overall funding for public education. “My ultimate goal is to make Boston Public Schools so good there there is no need for alternatives,” he told the Boston Globe, “In the city where public education was invented, we should be as renowned for our public schools as we are for our institutions of higher learning.”

Making bold investments with a view toward the future is a Marty Walsh staple. It was key to the successful creation of Building Pathways, a pre-apprenticeship program focused on training women and people of color for careers in the building trades. At first, the program faced skepticism, even from within the union. “They kept talking about the past,” Walsh told Building Pathways’ April 2013 graduating class, “and I said this program’s going to be different.” By its fourth year, the program had such a strong reputation that 85 percent of participants had been placed at jobs prior to graduation.

Walsh’s ambitious pro-worker agenda has been met with resistance. The formerly Rupert Murdoch-owned Boston Herald, (which endorsed anti-worker candidates George W. Bush and Mitt Romney for president), offered a “rare non-endorsement” to Walsh, using divisive language straight out of the Scott Walker playbook. Similarly, various opponents in the crowded field have sought to use Walsh’s labor experience against him.

They should remember that from the laborers who built the skyline to the city’s heroic first responders, the men and women of the labor movement are an indelible part Boston; and that Boston workers, whether or not they have a union, benefit from higher wages and better benefits caused by labor’s influence. “I’m proud of my record with labor,” Walsh said at a debate, “I wear it as a badge of honor. I love supporting working class people and I’m proud of it.”

Sitting back and taking shots is easy. The politicians who take that route during the campaign are more likely to be passive in office as well, even as inequality in Boston becomes a chasm and affordable housing and good jobs are increasingly scarce.

With his working class background and firsthand experience as laborer, Marty Walsh knows that passivity is not acceptable. For a Boston where inequality is tackled head on, and for a city where all families can thrive, vote for Marty Walsh on Tuesday, November 5th.

Paid for by Working America. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. Photo by martywalshformayor on Flickr, via Creative Commons.

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Marty Walsh Finishes First In Crowded Field in Boston, But the Real Work is Just Beginning

Great news for Boston! Marty Walsh took first place out of twelve candidates in last night’s preliminary election for Boston mayor.

Walsh will face City Councilor John Connolly in the general election on November 5.

This isn’t just a victory for a candidate. It’s a victory for working people all across Boston, who are one step closer to having a mayor who will put their needs first. In every neighborhood in Boston, you’ll hear the same thing: voters want a mayor who will put job creation, affordable housing and great public schools first. Last night’s result shows that Marty Walsh has the record and the values we can trust on those issues.

We have all too many examples of what happens when mayor cities elect the wrong mayor. Michael Nutter in Philadelphia vetoed a paid sick days bill and made deep cuts to schools and city services, and Rahm Emanuel in Chicago has become the poster boy for school closings and corporate-backed education privatization. After 30 years of Mayor Thomas Menino, Boston is at an historic crossroads, and November will determine what path the city takes.

Marty Walsh is committed to tackling Boston’s number one problem: growing inequality. If you have friends or family in Boston, please share with them why Marty is the best choice for Boston’s working families.

Paid for by Working America, 815 16th Street NW, Washington DC. www.workingamerica.org.

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12 Elizabeth Warren Quotes to Prepare You for Her Appearance at the AFL-CIO National Convention

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) will be one of the keynote speakers at the AFL-CIO 2013 National Convention in Los Angeles from Sept. 8–11. Here are 12 key quotes from her that show why she is a champion of the 99%.

1. “There is nobody in this country who got rich on their own. Nobody. You built a factory out there—good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory….Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea—God bless! Keep a hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”—September 2011.

2. “People feel like the system is rigged against them, and here is the painful part, they’re right. The system is rigged.”—September 2012.

3. “Hardworking men and women who are busting their tails in full-time jobs shouldn’t be left in poverty.”—August 2013.

4. “Look around. Oil companies guzzle down the billions in profits. Billionaires pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries, and Wall Street CEOs, the same ones that direct our economy and destroyed millions of jobs still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them. Does anyone here have a problem with that?”—September, 2012.

5. “It is critical that the American people, and not just their financial institutions, be represented at the negotiating table.”—Summer 2009.

6. “Americans are fighters. We’re tough, resourceful and creative, and if we have the chance to fight on a level playing field, where everyone pays a fair share and everyone has a real shot, then no one—no one can stop us.”—September 2012.

7. “And that’s how we build the economy of the future. An economy with more jobs and less debt, we root it in fairness. We grow it with opportunity. And we build it together.”—September 2012.

8. “I understand the frustration, I share their frustration with what’s going on, that right now Washington is wired to work well for those on Wall Street who can hire lobbyists and lawyers and it doesn’t work very well for the rest of us.”—October 2011.

9. “If you’re caught with an ounce of cocaine, the chances are good you’re going to jail….Evidently, if you launder nearly a billion dollars for drug cartels and violate our international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your own bed at night.”—March 2013.

10. “Corporations are not people. People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they cry, they dance. They live, they love and they die. And that matters. That matters because we don’t run this country for corporations, we run it for people.”—September 2012.

11. “If there had been a Financial Product Safety Commission in place 10 years ago, the current financial crisis would have been averted.”—Summer 2009.

12. “Nobody’s safe. Health insurance? That didn’t protect 1 million Americans who were financially ruined by illness or medical bills last year.”—February 2005.

Visit the convention website to learn more details to follow the action at convention online.

Photo by mdfriendofhillary on Flickr

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Endorsement: Ed Markey for U.S. Senate

Our country needs workhorses, not showhorses. We need depth of knowledge, not empty slogans. Most importantly, we need leaders who will fight for working families all of the time, not some of the time.

Let’s get specific. We need leaders who will protect the earned benefits of Medicare and Social Security. We need to stand firm against the relentless attacks on the essential functions of government: the unprecedented filibuster abuse, the man-made paralysis of the National Labor Relations Board, and the dismantling of our hard-fought protections against the Wall Street crimes that plunged American workers into deep recession.

This isn’t abstract. American workers can’t afford anything less. And that’s why we strongly urge Massachusetts voters to support Ed Markey for U.S. Senate on June 25.

Ed Markey has represented Massachusetts in Congress for many years. He’s been in the majority and the minority. He’s served with Democrats and Republicans in the White House. Through it all, he has consistently striven to make our country cleaner, more equal, more technologically savvy, and more transparent.

The camera at the bottom of the ocean that showed the oil leaking out of the BP Deepwater Horizon rig in 2010? That was Ed Markey. The creation of an entire Congressional committee devoted to developing clean energy jobs? That was Ed, too. New requirements for airline cargo screening to keep us safe? Markey.

But the choice is even clearer when you compare Markey to his Republican opponent, private equity investor Gabriel Gomez. Gomez is selling himself as a “new kind of Republican,” but on the things that matter to working families, it’s hard to see what’s new. He supports chained CPI cuts to Social Security benefits, which he calls an “entitlement.” He wants to lower the corporate tax rate, which has only lead to more off-shoring, not less. He thinks Wall Street reform is “too tough.” Like Scott Brown before him, the majority of his donations have come from the financial services sector.

Here’s the question: Do we want more Elizabeth Warren’s in DC? Or more Mitt Romney’s?

Let’s support someone who will work for working families. Vote Ed Markey for U.S. Senate on Tuesday, June 25.

Polls are open 7am to 8pm. Find where to vote here.

Paid for by Working America, 815 16th St., NW, Washington, DC 20006 and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. Image via Ed Markey on Facebook.

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