A group of Pentagon workers employed by federal contractors at low wages to operate concessions and clean federal buildings are the latest federal contract workers to walk off the job and urge President Barack Obama to use his executive authority to establish a living wage requirement for contractors that do business with the government.
Salon’s Josh Eidelson reports that low-wage contracted workers at several other federal buildings joined today’s demonstrations. Read Eidelson’s full report.
About 2 million workers are employed at low wages by federal contractors across the nation.
Like low-wage fast-food and retail workers across the country, the federal workers have staged one-day strikes to spotlight their demands for a living wage and the right to join a union without retaliation by employers.
In September, a group of federal contract workers marched to the White House and delivered petitions with more than 250,000 signatures, urging Obama to issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay a living wage. While Obama has called on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage, the White House has not indicated if Obama will issue the living wage executive order for federal contractors.
More than 200 workers at six Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., won union representation with UNITE HERE late last year and are bargaining for better wages and working conditions.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Corporate Accountability, DC, minimum wage, organizing, Pentagon, poverty, unite here, washington dc
Like so many New Mexico workers, we were disheartened when Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed a reasonable increase in the minimum wage last year.
We were even more disheartened when she scrubbed her website of any mention of the veto, and when many workers calling her office to ask about the veto couldn’t get through.
But if Gov. Martinez won’t act to improve the lives of New Mexico workers we will.
After the veto, we pressured Bernalillo County Commissioners to expand the Albuquerque minimum wage increase to the entire county. By a 3-2 vote, 10,000 workers throughout New Mexico’s largest county got a raise.
Now, we’re moving to Santa Fe County. The city of Santa Fe itself has one of the highest minimum wages in the country, a living wage of $10.51 an hour, but workers outside the city limits are barely above the federal minimum at $7.50.
Over the past six months, we’ve gathered over 6,000 signatures in support of a Santa Fe County Living Wage Ordinance that would expand the city’s living wage to the whole county. Most of those signatures were gathered by volunteers.
On Tuesday, Santa Fe County Commissioners Liz Stefanics and Miguez Chavez will introduce a bill similar to the Santa Fe County Living Wage Ordinance. We’ll be at the Commission Chambers on Grant Avenue to show our support.
On Wednesday, we’re gathering at the Center for Progress and Justice to to talk about the next steps of this campaign. Please join us.
In both Bernalillo County and Santa Fe, we’re showing Gov. Martinez and her allies that if she won’t do her job and help alleviate poverty in our state, we’re more than happy to take up the charge.
If you are able to join in on this effort, or want to be a part of our future advocacy on behalf of New Mexico’s working families, please contact me at 505-247-0371 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tags: Albuquerque, bernalillo county, minimum wage, New Mexico, poverty, Santa Fe, Santa Fe County, Susana Martinez
Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty and worked with Congress to pass legislation designed to lower poverty levels and mitigate the effects of poverty on America’s families. Not long after the war on poverty initiatives went into effect, and startedshowing significant results, conservatives went on the attack, attempting to weaken, defund or eliminate many of the policies that were working quite well. But the program was so effective that it still helped, and helps, keep tens of millions of Americans out of poverty. Now Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) isweighing in on the war on poverty by claiming that it has failed, a smoke screen that he and others are using to continue their agenda to weaken or eliminate the war on poverty.
Two claims are central to conservative arguments that the war on poverty is a failure. The first is tortured logic that goes something like this: “We’ve been fighting the war on poverty for 50 years and poverty still exists, therefore it’s a failure.” Beyond the fact that this level of oversimplification doesn’t belong in a serious conversation about poverty (we rarely “eliminate” problems, we improve the situation as the real world goal), it completely ignores the conservative responsibility for the programs not being as effective as they could be. From budget cuts to added red tape that makes it harder for citizens to participate in lifelines they are eligible for, conservatives have fought for decades to make the war on poverty less successful. To now claim that these lifelines are inherently flawed, as opposed to being sabotaged, is laughable at best.
The second claim relies on a dumbing-down of statistics that would make George W. Bush proud. By the official government poverty measure, the poverty rate in 1964 was 19%. In the latest version of that official number, the rate is 15%. The argument goes that 50 years is a long time and a lot of money to decrease poverty such a small amount. Ignoring the fact that 4% of the population is still millions of people, the official number is flawed. It only includes cash income. Over the years, more and more anti-poverty programs were moved away from direct cash payments to non-cash benefits and tax credits. So this official measure ignores many of the programs designed to keep Americans out of poverty. A more accurate measure is the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), which accounts for non-cash income. The SPM shows a decline in the poverty rate more than twice that of the official number, from 26% in 1967 to 16% now.
It’s clear that by any valid measurement, the war on poverty has been highly successful, particularly when you look at specific policies and what aspects of poverty they target. Here are a few key numbers that show the success of the war on poverty:
- Antipoverty programs kept 41 million Americans out of poverty in 2012, including 9 million children.
- Unemployment Insurance kept 2.5 million Americans out of poverty in 2012.
- The Supplemental Nutrition assistance Program (food stamps) kept 4.9 million Americans out of poverty, including 2.2. million children.
- The Earned Income and Child Tax Credits kept 10.1 million Americans out of poverty.
- Social Security kept 26.6 million people out of poverty in 2012, including 17 million seniors and more than 1 million children.
- Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and health care subsidies help 150 million Americans get health insurance.
- The programs have long-term effects, too. Research shows that children who received food stamps in the 1960s and 1970s grew up healthier and were more likely to finish school. At age 19, they were 6% less likely to have stunted growth, 5% less likely to have heart disease, 16% less likely to be obese and 18% more likely to have completed high school.
This isn’t to say that the war on poverty is an unqualified success or that more doesn’t need to be done. But it is to say that conservative arguments about the war on poverty are highly inaccurate and the policy proposals put for by Rubio and his allies would do the exact opposite of what they claim and would undermine the progress that has been made in the last 50 years. More appropriate solutions to the problems of poverty would roll back right-wing assaults on antipoverty programs and would stimulate job creation and higher wages for working families. But don’t hold your breath thinking that the Marco Rubios of the world will do the right thing.
Photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: Health Care, hunger, Jobs, Marco Rubio, Medicaid, Medicare, poverty, snap, social security
Across the country, it’s been a tough road out of recession, but North Carolina has had a tougher time than most: its unemployment rate is still nearly 9%, the fifth-highest in the country. Now the state is about to cripple its own economy further.
A new set of changes to unemployment benefits in North Carolina have just taken effect. With these deep cuts, the state legislature has also disqualified North Carolinians from extended federal benefits. So people who are facing long-term unemployment in North Carolina have just lost their entire income, without any corresponding increase in the number of jobs available. Indeed, cutting off benefits for so many people so abruptly is likely to slow down the state’s economy even more, as people will find it harder to buy the things they need, stay in their homes and support North Carolina businesses.
North Carolina’s state legislative majority was swept into the office in 2010 and 2012, thanks in part to clever redistricting and the investment of millions by Republican megadonor Art Pope. Now, Pope has been appointed to a key state economic office and the legislators he helped empower are going on a tear through public education, health care, voting rights and tax rates. These legislators’ attack on unemployment benefits is perhaps the clearest expression of a national agenda aimed at dismantling the safety net.
The silver lining is that people in North Carolina aren’t letting these attacks go unanswered. Weekly “Moral Monday” protests are drawing crowds of hundreds to the state capitol in Raleigh. Last week, 1,500 people came out to make their voices heard.
The changes to unemployment insurance, however, are taking place now, and that means families facing unemployment are losing hundreds of dollars every month—at a cost of millions to the state economy. It’s morally repugnant, but it’s also just stupid economics.
Tags: economy, Jobs, moral monday, North Carolina, poverty, UI, unemployment
Two new studies succinctly lay out the need for and the broad economic benefits of raising the federal minimum wage.
The Kids Count Data Book finds that the number of children living in poverty jumped by 3 million from 2005 to 2011—years marked by stagnant wages—and now 23% of the nation’s children live in poverty.
According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation report on child poverty, 26% of kids younger than 3 are poor and the rate for African American children is 39%. Yet two-thirds of children living in poverty have at least one parent with a full-time, year-round job and many of those are minimum wage jobs. Read the full report here.
Meanwhile, a new report from the Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United shows that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, as legislation in Congress would do, would boost more than half of the working poorin the United States out of poverty.
The ROC United report shows that some 6 million of the more than 10 million U.S. workers living below the federal poverty level would be raised out of that category by such an increase.
The working poor are defined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as those who had jobs or were looking for a job for at least half of the year and still fell below the poverty line. The current national minimum wage is $7.25, but President Obama called for an increase and bills were introduced in both houses to increase the wage to $10 or more. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) also proposed legislation to tie the minimum wage to prices in the economy.
Also of note are these graphics that show the inaccuracy of stereotypes about minimum wage workers: More than 70% of minimum wage earners have a high school diploma or higher and 75% of minimum wage earners are adults.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Education, Jobs, minimum wage, poverty, wages
Last year, voters in the city of Albuquerque voted overwhelmingly – 66 percent – to raise the minimum wage by a dollar from $7.50 to $8.50.
This year, a majority of the New Mexico House and Senate voted to expand that policy to the entire state, a much needed boost to an economy with high poverty and the highest percentage of low-income families in the country.
Then, on Good Friday, while many New Mexicans were making plans for the long weekend or were otherwise occupied, Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed the minimum wage increase, effectively blocking a raise for over 84,000 New Mexico workers. She then scrubbed all mention of the veto of her website, and has hardly brought it up since.
Unfortunately for Gov. Martinez, New Mexico workers aren’t taking no for a final answer.
Bernalillo County, where Albuquerque is located, is by far the most populous county in the state (the second biggest, Dona Ana County, has a third of Bernalillo’s population). While Gov. Martinez was busy blocking our raise and hiding the evidence, New Mexico workers were already lobbying the County Commissioners to expand the Albuquerque policy to the rest of the county.
Tomorrow, the five commissioners will vote on the minimum wage increase. A victory here won’t only show that New Mexico workers want fair wages, it will also show that Gov. Martinez alone can’t stop the march of progress in the Land of Enchantment.
Send a message now: Tell the Bernalillo County Commisioners to raise the minimum wage.
Want to do more? Call the commissioners themselves using the numbers listed above.
Tags: Jobs, minimum wage, New Mexico, poverty, Susana Martinez
A look at how state budget cuts will affect California’s Central Valley. From the LA Times:
The vast fruit fields, picturesque farmhouses and rolling foothills of Tulare County mask an ugly reality: Nearly a quarter of the population in this Central Valley agricultural hub lives in poverty, and one in three residents receives state aid — the largest proportion in California.
With the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown slashing billions of dollars in government services to help balance the state budget, few places will feel the effects more deeply. Local officials fear that when roughly $8 billion in budget cuts take effect, some as early as July 1, the poorest residents will tumble into homelessness.
The federal budget cuts impact the states, creating more budget cuts – and those whose lives are most precarious will have the safety net kicked out from under them. Expect a return of the tent cities we saw in 2009.
Local leaders say they are already struggling to meet the demand for social services, public safety and higher education after years of cutbacks in rural communities plagued with chronic unemployment. Much of the work here — harvesting oranges, packing boxes — is seasonal and low-wage. Among the largest private employers is Wal-Mart.
Chronic unemployment. Have you noticed that we never hear about jobs any more? Jobs, jobs, jobs were all we heard about during the elections last year. Now there’s no more talk of jobs – just deficits and spending cuts.
For those who live in poverty, education is the way out – but the local college is being forced to make cuts:
To offset $400 million in reductions to the state’s community college system, the campus has cut 10% of its classes and is giving admission preference to those who are closest to finishing degrees. That keeps out new high school graduates and the unemployed seeking job training.
It’s hard to view this as the “shared pain” we keep hearing about. Just as the US has an unequal distribution of wealth, we also have an unequal distribution of pain. The pain is reserved for the least wealthy among us.
Tags: poverty, unemployment
Last week, Tea Party Nation chairman Judson Phillips expressed his thoughts on who should be able to vote. From ThinkProgress:
PHILLIPS: The Founding Fathers originally said, they put certain restrictions on who gets the right to vote. It wasn’t you were just a citizen and you got to vote. Some of the restrictions, you know, you obviously would not think about today. But one of those was you had to be a property owner. And that makes a lot of sense, because if you’re a property owner you actually have a vested stake in the community. If you’re not a property owner, you know, I’m sorry but property owners have a little bit more of a vested interest in the community than non-property owners.
This must be a popular topic in conservative circles right now, because Rush Limbaugh made a similar point, only less diplomatically:
On a day when the US unemployment rate rose to 9.8%, Rush Limbaugh used his radio show to argue that poor people should not be allowed to vote. While commenting about a piece in the Atlanta Journal Constitution about people lining up for housing assistance, Limbaugh asked, “ If people can’t even feed and clothe themselves should they be allowed to vote? Should they be voting?”
In the face of millions losing unemployment benefits (just before Christmas) Glenn Beck dismissed poverty on his radio show. From Politicususa:
Then Beck attacked the poor, “We’re often told about the plight of the poor in America, and there is poverty in America, but let’s put it into perspective here. The poor in America 97% of them have television sets, 25% of those television sets are big screens. That’s poverty? 89% have a microwave. 80% have an air conditioning unit. 73% of the poor in America have a car. 64% have a washer. 57% of have a dryer. We have been sold a lie that that’s not enough. How much is enough? What is economic justice? Do I need to remind Americans what poor really looks like? I got news for you in other countries they’re not washing their clothes and sitting in air conditioning watching their big screen TV’s. They’re dying. That is poor.”
Does any of this sound familiar? It should:
Notice how Beck didn’t present any actual statistics about hunger and poverty? In the 1980s and 1990s the myth used to demonize the poor was that of welfare recipients driving Cadillacs. In 2010, the big screen TV has replaced the Caddy in the attack on the poor. The reality for the poor is something that Glenn Beck and Republicans don’t want to discuss. The poor in this country face a daily struggle for food and shelter. If they are lucky enough to have a job, it is probably at somewhere like Wal-Mart where pay is low, overtime is often not compensated, and benefits are non-existent.
So, only property owners should have the right to vote, poor people should not only be disenfranchised, they should be dying.
That’s the view from the right. Merry Christmas!
Tags: poverty, unemployment
The increasing numbers of children living in poverty and the corresponding rise in the number of homeless families with children in our country is one of the dirty secrets left undiscussed in this ugly election season.
Homeless in Utah:
The lingering recession has taken a toll on Utah’s youngest residents, leading to a 48 percent increase in the number of homeless school-age children since 2008, according to state data released Wednesday.
That’s pretty dramatic. The number of school aged homeless children has nearly doubled in 2 years. It’s not a campaign issue. No one is talking about it. There’s more outrage being expressed about Juan Williams getting fired by NPR.
The number of homeless students in Nebraska public schools increased 26 percent in the past school year as the limping economy forced more parents into shelters or other temporary living arrangements.
Schools reported 2,210 homeless students last school year, or 458 more than the year before, according to the Nebraska Department of Education.
The Omaha Public Schools reported 661 homeless students last year, an increase of more than 20 percent.
School District 51 identified 500 homeless children last year, and already 275 students have been identified the first quarter — “substantially higher than it’s ever been at this time of year,” said prevention services coordinator Cathy Haller.
“We estimate (based on national statistics) at any given time there’s another 20 percent (100 kids) not enrolled who should be,” Haller said.
Worst of all is this report on homeless children from the group First Focus (PDF):
Analysis of recently released federal data shows that the number of homeless children and youth identified in public schools has increased for the second year in a row, and by 41% over the past two school years.
You’d think this would make headlines.
You’d be wrong.
Seven states saw a decrease in the number of homeless school-aged children. The remaining 43 states saw increases. In some cases the increases were huge. Iowa saw a 136 % increase.
Finally, there’s this PBS story about homeless children. It will make you weep.
It’s shameful that this isn’t even a topic in our upcoming elections. It’s shameful that we aren’t ashamed.
Tags: children, homelessness, poverty
Two reports published by NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reveal a rising trend of patently unconstitutional practices in cash-strapped states, where a growing number of impoverished people are jailed for being unable to pay their legal fees – including charges for use of public defenders, a guaranteed right in the United States. The resurgence of these draconian “debtors’ prisons” has been documented in at least 13 of the 15 states with the largest prison populations in the country, including California, Arizona, Michigan and Alabama.
“Incarcerating people simply because they cannot afford to pay their legal debts is not only unconstitutional but also has a devastating impact upon men and women whose only crime is that they are poor,” said ACLU senior staff attorney Eric Balaban.
Increasingly, being poor is treated as a crime:
Kawana Young, a 25-year-old single mother in Michigan, was told after the fact that her community service hours would not satisfy her debts because she had volunteered with a nonprofit organization. Young has since been jailed five times for being unable to pay her fees.
How does that help pay the fines? Am I missing something here?
Nope, I guess not:
Judge Calvin Johnson, who served for 17 years in the Criminal District Court or Orleans Parish, said that regularly sentencing defendants in a “fine or time” method could have cost the city more than it collected. “30 days or $100 – that was something I heard every day,” said Johnson in the ACLU report. “Now, how can you describe a system where the city pays $23 a day to the Sheriff to house someone in jail for 30 days to collect $100 as anything other than crazy?”
These are undoubtedly some of the same states that are hurting for revenue. As I’ve said before – I did fail remedial math in high school – but as bad as I am at math, even I can see that increasing the number of people in prison is not a way to save on the state budget.