Something happened this week in Minnesota that hasn’t happened in many other states lately.
Minnesota budget officials announced that the state will have a surplus of about $1.1 billion. By law, the state must pay back $246 million to the public school system and $15 million to the state airports fund, leaving the state with a surplus of roughly $825 million.
This is great news, and it’s vindication of the progressive path taken by Gov. Mark Dayton and DFL lawmakers, who took control of both the House and Senate in 2012 after a disastrous, short-lived shutdown-ridden Republican reign.
But something Gov. Dayton and the legislature failed to do this year was raise the minimum wage — Minnesota’s minimum wage is $6.25, one of the few states where the wage is lower than the federal level.
With the budget announcement, Minnesota AFL-CIO Preisdent Shar Knutson made this announcement:
“Under the leadership of Governor Mark Dayton and the DFL Legislature, Minnesota is now investing in schools and job creation, making taxes fair, and growing the economy. Today’s news shows how honest budgeting, progressive taxes, and targeted investments lead to prosperity.
“Now, it’s time to keep the momentum going. All Minnesotans should be included in our state’s growing economy. There are still hundreds of thousands of working people making poverty wages. Nobody who works full time should have to live in poverty, especially when Minnesota’s economy is growing.
“When lawmakers return to the Capitol in February, they should continue their work and raise Minnesota’s minimum wage to $9.50 per hour, tie future increases to inflation, and preserve the prohibition on the tip penalty.
“Union members, along with our faith, non-profit, and community partners, will continue to have conversations with Minnesotans and lawmakers about raising the minimum wage.”
To get involved with Working America in Minnesota, contact Chase Brandau at email@example.com.
Tags: Mark Dayton, minimum wage, Minnesota
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
In a preliminary vote expected to mirror the final vote early next year, the D.C. Councilvoted unanimously to support a plan to raise the minimum wage in the District of Columbia to $11.50. A final vote must still take place, but no member has expressed any intention to vote differently and Mayor Vincent Gray (D) has suggested he is willing to sign the bill, in contrast to his recent veto of a measure to require big-box retailers like Walmart to pay a living wage. The D.C. Council appears to have the votes to override an unlikely veto, something they fell one vote short of on the big-box store bill.
The vote comes on the heels of two Maryland suburbs minimum wage increase votes, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County, that also voted to raise their minimum wages to $11.50. Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett has indicated he will sign the bill into law. Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III has expressed opposition to a minimum wage increase and it is unclear he will sign the bill into law. The D.C. wage increase would be phased in a year earlier than the counties, taking full effect by 2016. Not only would the legislation increase the wage from its current rate of $8.25, which is a dollar higher than the national minimum wage, it would index the wage to inflation. Washington, D.C., is set to become one of the cities with the highest minimum wages in the country.
The council also voted unanimously to require employers to provide five paid sick days to tipped workers, who had been exempt from paid sick days rules. The change will protect both workers and customers, who will be less likely to be exposed to illnesses.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, DC, maryland, minimum wage, Paid Sick Days, washington dc
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
In an 8–1 vote, the Montgomery County, Md., Council passed a new ordinance that would raise the minimum wage in the county from $7.25 to $11.50 an hour by 2017. The new wage will be phased in, rising to $8.40 in October 2014, $9.55 in 2015, $10.75 in 2016 and $11.50 in 2017. After the full phase-in is complete, the annual minimum wage for a 40-hour-a-week worker in the county will be $23,600. Prince George’s County also voted 7–0, with two members absent, to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $11.50 over the next four years.
Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett confirmed he will sign the bill into law. Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III has expressed concerns about raising the minimum wage and has said he wants the issue to be decided by Maryland General Assembly and Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) for statewide action.
Montgomery County Council member Marc Elrich (D-At Large), the bill’s primary sponsor, said he was satisfied with the outcome: “I’m very happy. It’s substantively what I wanted. You can make a big difference to people.”
The District of Columbia, which holds a preliminary vote on Dec. 3—is also expected to raise their minimum wage in the near future.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: DC, Martin O'Malley, maryland, MD, minimum wage, Vincent Gray, washington dc
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
Walmart workers around the country are tired of low wages, insufficient hours and on-the-job intimidation when they stand up for their rights. More and more of them are risking their jobs and their livelihood to demand that Walmart pay them a minimum of $25,000 a year, an amount the company with $17 billion in profits last year can easily afford. Show your support for their Black Friday protests with just a few clicks by participating in a Thunderclap.
A Thunderclap is like an online flash mob via Twitter, Facebook and/or Tumblr. When you go to the Thunderclap page, just click on the button of the social network you want to donate a tweet or post to for the campaign. When the Thunderclap launches on Friday at noon, everyone who has signed up will post automatically on whatever social network they decided to share it on.
Click here to support the Walmart workers who are asking for a living wage of $25,000 a year.
You can also text BLACK to 235246 to find out more ways you can support the Walmart associates. Standard data and message rates may apply.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: black friday, minimum wage, 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