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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tags: Mark Dayton, minimum wage, Minnesota
The health insurance industry is reacting badly to President Obama’s announced health care “fix” — which would allow customers to keep health plans that may not meet minimum standards.
“This decision continues different rules for different policies and threatens to undermine the new market, and may lead to higher premiums and market disruptions in 2014 and beyond,” said Jim Donelon, president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
That response lead cartoonist Mark Fiore to ask: when doesn’t the health insurance industry react to an event by raising premiums?
Remember during the health insurance Wild West before health care reform, when premiums were skyrocketing, not to mention loads of people getting dropped from their plans? Remember leading up to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, when premiums rose? That suddenly seems like so long ago. Remember the insurance companies complaining about rising premiums before? Me neither.
Mark Fiore’s cartoon above, “A message from the Health Insurers of America,” is a good reminder that private insurance companies are responsible for high premiums, and that they will take the opportunity to pad their profits more often than not.
Since I am a self-employed cartoonist, I’ve been living in the health insurance wilderness for quite a while. My family’s plan was canceled, like all those other people you’ve heard about lately.
Fiore’s solution? Kicking his old insurance company to the curb and getting a better deal from his state’s new health exchange, California Covered — even more affordable with subsidies.
Since I’m not holding my breath that my insurance provider will “un-cancel” me, let alone offer my previous plan at the same price, off to California Covered I go! Once I’m there, thanks to generous subsidies, my premium will be lower than before. Ah, America!
Do insurance companies deserve all the blame? No sir. You can also lay the burden at the feet of Republican governors and legislators who have refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, leaving more than 5 million Americans without access to affordable coverage. That means more people using the emergency room, which means higher overall health care costs, which means — you guessed it — higher premiums for everyone.
If you don’t believe the effect that stubborn governors can have on health care costs, just compare average premiums in Minnesota (Medicaid expanded) and Wisconsin (Gov. Scott Walker refuses Medicaid expansion). Due to the difference in Medicaid eligibility and a better review of rates in Minnesota, the average Wisconsinite is paying $1,800 more than the average Minnesotan.
Tags: Affordable Care Act, Health Care, Medicaid, Minnesota, obamacare, Scott Walker, Wisconsin
Minnesota winters get awfully cold, and with the cost of heating, food, rent and other bills, the state’s effective minimum wage of $7.25 an hour just isn’t enough for hardworking residents to survive. Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport workers, both those in unions and those who aren’t, are stepping up to fight for a fair living wage that pays them enough to survive the harshest months of the year. Watch the video above to learn more about their efforts.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: Jobs, minimum wage, Minnesota
Sure, working families have been under attack for years, but people across the country are rolling up their sleeves and fighting back to protect workers’ rights and raise living standards for everyone. Here are 10 ways they’re doing it:
1. Increasing the Minimum Wage
Four states (California, Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island) have increased their state minimum wage in 2013, and on Nov. 5, New Jersey voters will vote on a ballot measure to increase their minimum wage.
2. Passing “Buy America” Laws
Three states (Colorado, Maryland and Texas) passed laws in 2013 to ensure that the goods procured with public funding are made in the United States.
3. Ensuring Paid Sick Days
Portland, Ore., Jersey City, N.J., and New York City became the latest three cities to adopt standards for paid sick days in 2013.
4. Protecting Immigrant Workers
In 2013, six states (California, Colorado, Indiana, Maryland, Oregon and Vermont) have enacted protections for immigrant workers, including access to driver’s licenses and education.
5. Cracking Down on Businesses That Cheat Workers
Texas passed legislation in 2013 to crack down on businesses that cheat employees by treating them as “independent contractors” who lack worker protections (such as minimum wage and overtime protection, and eligibility for unemployment benefits and workers’ compensation).
6. Giving Workers the Right to a Voice on the Job
In 2013, some 15,000 home care workers in Minnesota won collective bargaining rights through state legislation, as did 10,000 in Illinois and 7,000 in Vermont. Thousands of other workers around the country have enjoyed organizing wins, too: 7,000 electrical workers, more than 5,000 Texas public school teachers, taxi drivers in New York and other cities, telecom workers, college and university faculty, EMS drivers, hotel and casino workers and domestic workers, to name a few.
7. Protecting Your Privacy on Social Media
Nine states (Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington) have passed legislation in 2013 to prohibit employers from requiring access to your social media passwords or information as a condition of employment.
8. Fighting for LGBTQ Equality
Five states (Colorado, Delaware, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Vermont) have passed legislation banning workplace discrimination or recognizing marriage equality.
9. Protecting the Rights of Domestic Workers
Two states (California and Hawaii) have passed legislation in 2013 to protect the rights of domestic workers. California’s Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights will benefit about 200,000 domestic workers, and Hawaii’s will benefit some 20,000 domestic workers.
10. Protecting Voting Rights
Twelve states (California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia and West Virginia) have passed legislation protecting voting rights in 2013, while voting rights legislation was vetoed by the governors of Nevada and New Jersey.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Arizona, California, Colorado, connecticut, Delaware, domestic workers, Education, Florida, Illinois, marriage equality, maryland, minimum wage, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York City, Oregon, organizing, Paid Sick Days, privacy, Rhode Island, Rights At Work, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, voting rights, washington, West Virginia
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s rejection of federal Medicaid money and his “hands-off approach to rate regulation” has lead to higher than average health insurance premiums in the Badger State.
How high? Up to 99 percent higher than in its neighbor (and longtime rival in all things) Minnesota.
Robert Kraig, the executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, said a report he co-authored shows that “rates are much higher in Wisconsin than in Minnesota, despite having similar geographies and similar underlying medical costs.”
Kraig said Wisconsin insurance exchange premiums for a single person are an average of 79 percent to 99 percent higher than premiums in Minnesota, before tax credits are applied. He said the average Wisconsinite will pay $1,800 more annually for health care.
Wisconsin is one of the more than two dozen states whose governors or legislators have blocked federally funded Medicaid expansion.
As part of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government is assisting states with expanding Medicaid coverage to 133 percent of the federal poverty line, closing the gap between those who qualify for traditional Medicaid coverage and those who can buy health insurance on the state exchanges. Many states, including Minnesota, have accepted the expansion as a no-brainer.
But as part of the Supreme Court’s decision last June, states cannot be required to accept these federal funds, leading many governors like Texas Gov. Perry, Virginia’s Bob McDonnell, and Wisconsin’s Walker to “stand up to Obamacare” by saying no to these funds.
So in states like Wisconsin, the coverage gap persists, pushing about 92,000 low-income Wisconsinites onto the health exchanges. Low-income people, on average, have more medical needs, so adding thousands of them to the exchange pool leads to higher premiums — for everyone.
In Milwaukee, average cost of health insurance is 112 percent higher than Minnesota’s average; in La Crosse, WI, it’s 136 percent higher. Yikes.
It’s not just the Medicaid expansion. Under Gov. Walker, Wisconsin’s Office of the Commissioner of Insurance has been very laissez-faire about challenging insurance rates, while Minnesota has “exercised a rigorous rate of review,” according to the Cap Times. Kraig’s study found that such reviews have lowered Minnesota’s rates by up to 37 percent. “We have taken in Wisconsin a clearinghouse approach,” Kraig said, “The insurance company says, ‘Here’s our rate in the exchange’ and the state of Wisconsin says ,’OK.’”
Back to Scott Walker. Not only is Walker up for reelection next year, he’s also laying groundwork for a presidential campaign. Accepting Medicaid expansion through Obamacare would be an anathema to Walker’s Tea Party base and his corporate backers; he can’t say that out loud, which is why his explanation for rejecting the funds has been vague and elusive.
By rejecting Medicaid for ideological and political reasons, Walker is continuing the pattern he’s held since taking office: it doesn’t matter if it makes life worse for Wisconsinites, it only matters that he holds onto power.
Tell Gov. Walker to end the games: accept federal funds for Medicaid now.
Tags: Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, Minnesota, obamacare, Scott Walker, Wisconsin
In 2013, the Minnesota Senate failed to raise the Minnesota minimum wage. In 2014, things will be different, and we’re getting a head start.
U.S. Congressmen Keith Ellison and Rick Nolan will join a community roundtable this Monday morning, October 14 at 11:00am in Minneapolis to hear workers’ stories and call to raise the minimum wage to at least $9.50 by 2015. The discussion will be moderated by Peggy Flanagan, Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund and chair of the Minnesota Raise the Wage! Coalition.
Learn more about the roundtable in Minneapolis and RSVP.
Later that day at 4:15pm CDT, Minnesotans will rally and march in Duluth with Mayor Don Ness, State Representatives Jason Metsa and Mike Sundin, and North East Area Labor Council President Alan Netland. The march will start at Bayfront Park and end at a rally on the Public Lawn in front of the Maritime Museum.
Learn more about the march and rally in Duluth and RSVP.
Minnesota families need a minimum wage increase now more than ever. Minnesota is one of a few states whose state minimum wage is actually below the federal level of $7.25. An increase could give raises to more than 463,000 Minnesotans and boost spending power by over $600 million statewide.
Earlier this year, State Rep. Jason Metsa took the Working America Minimum Wage Challenge, living on a minimum wage budget for a week. For Metsa, this was an informative and humbling experience. “It would be even more challenging if I had to do this for a month – or had a family,” Metsa told us in April, “If I had a family I might have to make hard choice, like giving up my car that requires insurance so I could have a larger food budget for my kids.”
The Minnesota House then voted to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2015, indexed to inflation and no penalty for tipped workers. Unfortunately, under pressure from business lobbyists, the Senate passed a barebones raise to $7.75 and were unable to reconcile with the other bill before the end of the session.
Along with labor and community allies, Working America is gearing up to push for an increase that helps all Minnesota workers in the 2014 legislative session that starts in January.
If you’d like to attend one or both of these events, or if you’d like more information, contact Chase Brandau at email@example.com or 612-300-2096.
Photo of Rep. Keith Ellison via KeithEllison on Flickr
Tags: jason metsa, keith ellison, minimum wage, minimum wage challenge, Minnesota, rick nolan
Yesterday at the Minnesota State Fair, Working America was highlighted at the AFL-CIO Labor Pavilion. Working America members worked the booth and informed fairgoers about the importance of raising the minimum wage in Minnesota and launched our new Fair Scheduling Campaign that focuses on retail workers and service employees.
“Fair and predictable scheduling is important for so many reasons,” said Avita Samuels, a Working America member who is a retail worker at the Mall of America. “It really ties into this whole ‘Raise the Wage’ Campaign, as it really applies to somebody’s ability to make decent living for themselves.”
Working America members collected petition signatures from those who believe that all workers deserve a job with a schedule that guarantees they are able to work enough hours to provide for their families. All signatures will be taken to the Minnesota Department of Labor to commission a study, which could then lead to legislation that supports predictable scheduling, particularly in the retail and service industries.
“If workers don’t have fair scheduling, they are not able to really plan ahead for the future, they are not able to get a second job if necessary,” Avita continued. “They are unable to do things like care for their kids because they can’t find babysitters as things are constantly changing. And it’s also just really important to know how to budget these days.”
A workplace troubleshooter was also at the Working America booth talking to visitors who expressed concerns with particular aspects on the job and highlighted the new FixMyJob.com web tool.
“This is why FixMyJob.com and the Dear David column are so necessary,” said member Leann Bosques. “People have real concerns out there and don’t know how deal with them. These tools give suggestions and solutions in areas and even some laws that pertain to workers, so it’s all very helpful.”
Ultimately with Working America Day, members sought to pass on a bigger message about using collective action to make changes. “Working America is so important and I think the labor movement is something that everyone should be involved in,” Leann said, “There’s strength in numbers and we have to make sure that the economy is improved but we can only do that if we do it together.”
To join our campaign for fair scheduling in Minnesota, email Chase at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tags: fair scheduling, minimum wage, Minnesota, retail, Rights At Work
It’s one of my favorite times of year here in Minnesota – time for the annual State Fair! This year, along with all the great food and sights, Working America will be there. We’re looking forward to meeting you-and we’re excited to help you make your job better!
Thursday is Working America Day at the State Fair, so don’t miss out.
Our focus at the fair will be on helping improve your day at work:
- We’ll have information and activities to help you identify the biggest challenges on the job-and learn how to fix them.
- We’ll introduce you to FixMyJob.com, our innovative new website that will give you the tools to solve tough issues and make the most of your work.
- We’ll be campaigning in support of a higher minimum wage and fair scheduling for retail workers.
- From 12 to 4 p.m. on Thursday, we’ll have a workplace troubleshooter to help answer your questions about how to fix problems on the job.
You can find us at the Minnesota AFL-CIO Labor Pavilion, at the corner of Cooper Street and Dan Patch Avenue in St. Paul.
Hope to see you soon!
Tags: Jobs, minimum wage, Minnesota, Rights At Work, state fair
Organizers and members of Working America will highlight tools and strategies to help workers fix their jobs and share information about efforts to raise Minnesota’s minimum wage from August 22–Sept. 1 at the Labor Pavilion at the Minnesota State Fair.
“Our fight to raise the minimum wage continues this year,” said Minnesota State Director Brianna Halverson. “We also plan on highlighting Fixmyjob.com, designed to find solutions to common workplace problems, including low pay, bad bosses, insufficient hours, exploitive conditions—things so many Minnesotans face.”
The organization, which has 250,000 members in Minnesota and 3.2 million nationwide, will raise awareness about minimum-wage-raising efforts, and share information about Fixmyjob.com, a first-of-its-kind web tool to help make positive changes on the job.
Press are encouraged to attend on the following featured days:
Minimum Wage Press Conference – August 27
Working America will be joining with the Minnesota AFL-CIO and the Minimum Wage Coalition to discuss our latest efforts to raise the wage. Workers and members will share their experiences living on the minimum wage and how an increase will benefit thousands of working Minnesotans.
Lose Your Marbles Game/Fix My Job – August 27–29 and September 1–2
At the Working America kiosk, don’t miss a chance to “Lose Your Marbles” – an interactive game where visitors can share their biggest challenges at work and learn how to fix them with our new interactive tool Fixmyjob.com.
The game is available throughout the fair, but will be highlighted August 27–29 andSept. 1–2.
Working America Day – August 29
On Working America Day at the State Fair, a workplace troubleshooter will be available from 12–4pm to listen to Minnesotans’ issues on the job and offer solutions, as we highlight the work of people without a union who support and build the labor movement. Working America will also announce the launch of a Fair Scheduling Campaign for retail workers to start the conversation about workers being able to find employment with enough hours to make a living. We’ll have a petition at the State Fair that we’ll be using throughout the fall to talk with Minnesotans about their work life.
Contact: Brianna Halverson, 612-803-3458 email@example.com
Ianthe Metzger, 202-538-2026 firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by @cdfmn on Twitter
Tags: Jobs, minimum wage, Minnesota, Rights At Work, state fair
We already knew that the general concept of a minimum wage increase was popular with Minnesota, with 70 percent saying they support an increase without mentioning a number. But new polling shows that a substantive increase – one that would give Minnesota one of the country’s highest minimum wages – also has a majority behind it.
Public Policy Polling, which independent studies have shown to be one of the most accurate pollsters in the country, asked Minnesotans about minimum wage along with a battery of other issues. The question “Would you support or oppose raising the minimum wage to $9.50 per hour?” received 54 percent supporting, 37 percent opposing, and 10 percent undecided.
To put that in perspective, that large minimum wage increase was more popular with those surveyed than Gov. Dayton (49 percent approval), DFL legislators (36 percent), Republican legislators (23 percent), and using money from the cigarette tax to pay for the new Vikings stadium (35 percent).
In fact, the only question that unified Minnesotans more than raising the minimum wage was allowing liquor sales on Sunday (62 percent).
The increase also receives support from:
- 58 percent of self-identified moderates.
- 24 percent of those identifying as “very conservative.”
- 59 percent of women.
- 45 percent of independents.
- 29 percent of Republicans.
- 61 percent of 18 to 29 year-olds and 51 percent of those older than 65.
The Minnesota House passed a bill earlier this month raising the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2015 and indexing it to inflation, but the bill did not receive a full vote in the Senate before the end of session. The Senate passed its own version, which raised the wage to a meager $7.75 and ignored the question of inflation.
These numbers show what many Working America members already know: that fighting to put more money in the pockets of workers has support across the ideological and partisan spectrum, and that pursuing policies that raise wages can only help, not hurt, an elected official’s standing with the public.
The issue of raising the minimum wage can next be brought up in Minnesota in February 2014.
Tags: Jobs, minimum wage, Minnesota