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Forum Post: Seattle Suburb Passes Highest Minimum Wage in Country

Posted 8 months ago on Nov. 8, 2013, 3:12 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5854)
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Seattle Suburb Passes Highest Minimum Wage in Country

Friday, 08 November 2013 12:02 By Jessica Desvarieux, The Real News Network | Video Interview

http://truth-out.org/news/item/19923-seattle-suburb-passes-highest-minimum-wage-in-country

TRANSCRIPT:

JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

On November 5, voters from the Seattle suburb of SeaTac passed Proposition 1, which calls for a $15 an hour minimum wage for airport, hotel, and restaurant workers. That is the highest minimum wage in the US.

Joining us now is David Rolf. David is the SEIU international vice president and organized support for the passage of Proposition 1. Thanks for joining us, David.

DAVID ROLF, PRESIDENT, SEIU HEALTHCARE 775NW: Thanks for having me.

DESVARIEUX: So, David, can you just give us sort of the back story? How did this come to be? How were you guys able to organize getting such a high minimum wage in SeaTac?

ROLF: Well, let's talk about the SeaTac economy for a second. These airport jobs, like baggage handlers, ramp workers, jet fuelers, concessionaires, these are jobs that paid $16, $18 an hour back in the 1970s and the 1980s. They used to be living-wage jobs. Even our local congressman Adam Smith recalls growing up in the home--his father was a baggage handler and was able to support a family and buy a home on a baggage handler's salary.

That's all changed. The major airlines outsourced those jobs and turned them into minimum-wage jobs, which impoverished a whole community. So SeaTac saw its grocery store become a Goodwill and its video store become a pawnshop because the impoverishment of those jobs hurt the whole community.

So when voters had a chance to qualify a ballot initiative and raise wages back up a little closer to where they were 20 or 30 years ago. Ultimately they said yes, and they gathered enough signatures to qualify Proposition 1 for the ballot. And then in the early returns they seemed to be passing Proposition 1 by about an eight-point margin. It was really their opportunity to say to CEOs and to Congress that they're impatient with waiting for them to do the right thing for American workers and it's time we took matters into our own hands.

DESVARIEUX: Now, let's get a sense of the impact of this vote. How many workers will actually be affected?

ROLF: There are about 6,000 workers, a little more than 6,000 workers who work at the airport and airport-related businesses like rental car companies, parking lots, and at the hospitality zone adjacent to the airport with the major hotels, but about 6,000 who work for about 70 different businesses.

DESVARIEUX: And do you think this vote in SeaTac will sort of increase the momentum elsewhere?

ROLF: Well, for sure it will. Ultimately what votes like this are about is whether the entire economy thrives and prospers or only the richest 1 percent. When you look at what's happened over the last 30 years, CEO pay has gone up 725 percent in this country. Eighty percent of all the economic gains have gone to the top 1 percent of income earners. And the bottom 90 percent has seen wages stagnate and real spending power decline vis-à-vis inflation. So kind of mass impoverishment of wage work that we've seen all around the country, it I think is going to create many more situations that are ripe for this kind of campaign, where voters are going to lose patience with CEOs, bankers, Wall Street, and politicians and say it's time that we do this ourselves. I would expect that this may have been the first nationally significant campaign like this, but I really doubt it's going to be the last.

DESVARIEUX: Well, David, congratulations on your victory and thank you for joining us.

ROLF: Alright.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

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[-] 4 points by beautifulworld (19202) 8 months ago

It will be good for the economy of Seattle, as well, because these 6000 people will now have some money to spend. This is a very nice story that will, hopefully, initiate some more of the same around the country.

How we value labor in this country must be changed drastically. Labor must be valued with the mindset that the employee is a human being who must live a decent life, not just as a way of extracting profit for the owners of capital or employers.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5854) 8 months ago

"voters are going to lose patience with CEOs, bankers, Wall Street, and politicians and say it's time that we do this ourselves"

I think that statement is most significant if it could be true. Much could be accomplished if voters were organized nationally into a political party that centered upon ballot initiatives. Then, campaigns could be run nationwide at the municipal level to get nationwide results. Direct action for political change that bypasses the corporate politicians.

[-] 3 points by beautifulworld (19202) 8 months ago

Exactly. We don't have to play into their hands. We can turn this thing around if we can get people to wake up to the fact that they DO have power.

"Direct action for political change that bypasses the corporate politicians." Yes.

[-] 2 points by HCHC4 (-28) 8 months ago

""voters are going to lose patience with CEOs, bankers, Wall Street, and politicians and say it's time that we do this ourselves""

Very true. The amendment process has become so fucked up, its a tough call to action. Perhaps the first project would be changing amendment processes?

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5854) 8 months ago

Something's Happening Here: The Minimum-Wage Wave

Wednesday, 13 November 2013 12:56 By Richard Eskow, Truthout | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/20016-somethings-happening-here-the-minimum-wage-wave

“There’s something happening here/what it is ain’t exactly clear …” When Steve Stills wrote the dystopian anthem “For What It’s Worth” in 1966, it resonated with listeners who understood that great if half-hidden transformations were underway. There’s been a turn toward the dystopian in recent economic and social trends as well: Wall Street greed and criminality. The growing power of wealth over the political process. The rise of the Tea Party. The collapsing middle class. Growing inequalities of wealth. Lost social mobility.

But there were encouraging signs in 1966, as well as troubling ones, and that’s equally true today. Take the movement for a minimum wage. Voters in the state of New Jersey and the city of Tacoma, Washington voted to increase the minimum wage in last week’s election. These victories follow a series of polls which confirm that the general public holds strongly progressive views on issues which range from taxation to Medicare and Social Security.

Something is happening here.

Landslide

Consider this: News outlets across the country declared Gov. Chris Christie the “landslide” winner in his re-election campaign. Christie was immediately touted as “the new face of the Republican Party” and a leading 2016 presidential contender. Journalists and commentators took his victory as a sign that “moderate” (i.e., pro-corporate) policies are popular (even though Christie’s actual policy positions are neither moderate nor popular, according to the polls). Yet in the same election, New Jersey voters approved a measure to raise New Jersey’s minimum wage. Christie won with 60% of the vote to his opponent’s 39%. The minimum wage measure passed by a virtually identical margin of 60% to 40%. So why was one victory called a game-changing “landslide” and the other treated as merely a footnote in the election coverage?

That’s a rhetorical question, needless to say. Christie’s victory was touted because it seemed to reinforce the dominant (and false) narrative of a “centrist” country whose voters are friendly to corporate-leaning policies from both parties.

But the minimum wage votes strongly suggest that this narrative is a hoax. Tacoma residents voted to raise their minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour, a figure which is the subject of a growing workers’ campaign which originated in the fast food industry.

The Minimum-Wage Wave

Voters have been subjected to decades of right-wing propaganda – propaganda which told them that economic growth is built on the backs of entrepreneurial “job creators” who function best with a minimum of regulation, restriction, and oversight. These erroneous ideas now completely dominate the Republican Party (it wasn’t always so), and to a large extent the Democratic Party as well. And yet, even without high-visibility advocates or political parties speaking for it, voters intuitively understand the importance of a decent minimum wage. A Gallup poll released only yesterday showed that more than three-quarters of American voters would vote for raising the minimum wage to nine dollars an hour, seventy-five cents more than the new New Jersey rate.

They understand that a healthy economy needs a robust middle-class which is capable of earning a decent income. They intuitively grasp the “facts on the ground” in the wage crisis we’re currently experiencing – that the real minimum wage has fallen drastically, and that this in turn has led to weakened wages and fewer job opportunities for all middle-class workers.

Democrats who want to capture the votes of working people would be better off riding this wave than fielding candidates who drop their “g’s” and try to talk in a homespun way while at the same time pushing pro-corporate policies.

According to the pollin’ folks, middle-class voters would go for that a whole lot more.

Organize This

Imagine what might happen if the Democratic Party, which institutionally has offered only tepid support for an increase in the minimum wage, became a full throated advocate for stronger wages throughout the middle class?

A forward-thinking Democratic Party would have thrown considerably more resources and effort into the electoral campaign of Christie’s challenger, Barbara Buono, linking both their party and her campaign with the enormously popular minimum wage initiative. She still would’ve lost, in all probability, but both the party and the cause would have emerged stronger.

That’s Organizing 101: Take an issue which a large percentage of the population supports, keep pressing it until unify the community around it, and then use that newly-created cohesion to build a broader agenda for change.

Now, as the voters of New Jersey will eventually learn, $8.25 isn’t enough of an increase in the minimum wage. That’s already the minimum wage in Illinois, where fast-food workers are costing Illinois taxpayers $368 million in public assistance per year.

Fast food corporations are increasing their profits by refusing to pay their workers a living wage. And taxpayers are subsidizing their profits, along with the misery of their workers, to the tune of billions of dollars a year nationwide.

Voters understand this. Where is the political party which is organizing around this issue? And if none can be found, isn’t it time to support the workers’ movement which is organizing around it?

Step by Step

Progress sometimes begins with a single step. Illinois is learning its lesson, as can be seen by the governor’s campaign to raise the minimum wage further, to ten dollars an hour. Fifteen dollars is a more economically just minimum wage. (The minimum wage was higher in 1963than it is today. See here for more.) The successful experience of local municipalities like Tacoma can help demonstrate the fact that higher minimum wages improves local economies. And success breeds success. Once voters understand that they can defeat corporate interests, as they did last week in New Jersey, optimism breeds further action. And slowly but surely, things begin to get better.

Acting and Thinking, Globally and Locally

There are also lessons in this for political activists who devote their attention primarily or exclusively to national elections. I don’t think the Democratic nomination should be given by acclamation to any candidate who hasn’t articulated a clear statements on populist progressive issues, and I know many other people agree with me. But the Presidential campaign isn’t the only race out there, as the Tacoma and New Jersey results remind us.

Think of this as a reminder for activists and observers, myself included, who tend to overlook local opportunities while focusing on political and economic trends: something’s happeningout there. State and local activities are promising arenas for action and essential fields of action for the creation of a broader and more successful progressive/populist movement. They can also become the source for a strangely unfamiliar sensation: optimism.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5854) 8 months ago

The Time Has Come for $15 Minimum Wage

Tuesday, 12 November 2013 09:03 By Mark Vorpahl, Occupy.com | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/19975-the-time-has-come-for-15-minimum-wage

In one of comedian Chris Rock's routines, he observes: "You know what that means when someone pays you a minimum wage? You know what your boss is trying to say? 'Hey, if I could pay you less, I would, but it’s against the law.'"

The humor works because, like the boy who cried "the king has no clothes,” Rock is stating something obvious which mostly goes unspoken: that if it wasn't for such laws as the minimum wage, established to appease the militant mass workers' struggles in the 1930s, bosses would reduce workers' wages and benefits to near zero.

This is because workers' wages come, naturally, at the expense of their bosses' profits. Since bosses are in business to make as much profit as possible, they are compelled to cheat their workers out of every dime their labor creates, within the limits of the law. Reforms such as the minimum wage benefit workers by forcing businesses to pay them more, but the political system behind such laws is not a neutral arbitrator in worker/boss conflicts. Its purpose is to secure and enhance the power of big business, even if that means occasionally curbing business owners' greed in order to maintain stable, profitable commercial relations.

The Shrinking Minimum Wage

In the absence of a mass workers' movement that can challenge corporate dominance, power gets measured in dollars -- an nowhere is this clearer than our political system. Pulling the strings behind the puppet show of two-party politics are the 1%, who have amassed such a concentration of wealth that they have squeezed out any effective opposition -- not to mention consideration for the interests of the vast majority of voters.

It was inevitable that once the minimum wage was established, and the social movement that forced its creation eased up, corporate-backed politicians would allow the minimum wage to erode in time. Today's current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is not even enough to lift a family of two beyond the official poverty threshold of $15,130 -- an absurdly low bar considering what it costs to actually get by.

Today's current minimum wage has also fallen far behind in compensating workers for the wealth their labor creates. Had the minimum wage kept up with workers' climbing productivity since 1960, it would be around $22 per hour today. What the corporate captains have not been able to cheat out of their employees by paying them less, they have more than made up for by increasing their workload and stress.

All this has resulted in greater inequality. If the minimum wage had kept up with the increase of wealth for the 1%, it would be up to $33 per hour today.

Pushback

There are limits, however, to the corporate elite's ability to continue to increase profits at the expense of workers' living conditions -- and nerves. The threshold to those limits is determined when workers break from their daily acceptance of conditions and take collective action to push back against unacceptable greed.

In the last year, thousands of fast food employees have participated in one-day strikes and rallies demanding a minimum wage of $15 per hour. With the support of unions such as the Service Employees International Union, these striking workers are beginning to realize their own power: by acting in solidarity and putting forward a demand that will not only improve the lives of about 15 million minimum wage workers, but the majority of other workers as well.

Should a $15 minimum wage be established, all workers will be in a better position to demand better wages, benefits and working conditions. It is a message that is resonating and growing in tenor with each passing month, as inequality widens and working people's buying power steadily erodes.

A $15 minimum wage will also improve the economy. Demand for goods will increase since workers will have more income to spend. While corporate bosses like to refer to themselves as "job creators,” they have no incentive to invest in the creation of production and services if there's weak demand and too few consumers are able to afford them.

Consequently, a living, minimum wage will do more to create jobs than throwing good money after bad in the form of corporate welfare and tax breaks for the wealthy -- as has been done ad nauseum by Republicans and Democrats alike.

In the Seattle suburb of Sea Tac, a ballot measure to raise the minimum wage to $15 was voted on November 5, and will likely pass once all the ballots are in. It needed 7,000 votes to succeed; since there are 5,000 minimum wage workers at the Sea Tac's airport alone, the measure had a good chance of winning from the start. In a small but significant way, this victory could help break down the barriers erected by big business: by forcing them to pay their employees a living wage nationally.

Moving Forward

To make this a reality, nothing short of a national mass movement will do. A good illustration of this was the recent Washington, DC City Council vote to raise the minimum wage in the capital to $12.50 per hour. In retaliation, Walmart threatened to halt building on three stores, providing the city's Mayor Vincent Gray an excuse to veto the measure. A national campaign is the only way to assure that employers such as Walmart have no place to run.

Where are we in relation to achieving this goal? In the 1930s, the union movement was expanding so quickly and militantly that it not only threatened the way big business exploited its workers, but it had the potential to put their power in peril. Frequently, the number of workers then involved in strike activity surpassed 100,000 each month.

To contain that momentum, President Franklin Roosevelt was finally compelled to sign the Fair Labor Standards Act into law in 1938, which introduced the minimum wage.

Today we appear far from this intensity of struggle, but a potential eruption is possible at any time. It was, in part, this fear, as well as the calculation to provide his backers in organized labor a justification to support his campaign, that President Obama called on Congress to raise the minimum wage to $9 per hour in his State of the Union Address. But remember: this would only raise a minimum wage workers' annual income to $11,828, well below the poverty rate for a family of two.

What's worse, when it comes to such statements, Obama not only promises too little but he meanwhile abets a corporate agenda of cuts to the social safety net and attacks on teachers' unions, while masking corporate-crafted healthcare and immigration "reforms" as measures meant to address workers' needs.

For a workers movement to win a living minimum wage will require getting corporate-backed politicians unelected from office. Such a movement will grow only if workers rely on, and build from, their own strength and solidarity while reaching out as broadly as possible through alliances that count.

The struggles of fast food workers and others demanding a $15 minimum wage demonstrate that we are in the beginning stages of this promising possibility. Now, building that strength means mass mobilizations, workplace actions -- and sticking to core labor demands instead of ceding to a corporate political agenda whose legitimacy is plainly gone.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5854) 8 months ago

Wage Gap for Women of Color Persists, Fuels Poverty, New Study Finds

Thursday, 21 November 2013 10:52 By Yana Kunichoff, Truthout | News

http://truth-out.org/news/item/20157-wage-gap-for-women-of-color-persists-fuels-poverty-new-study-finds

The United States may be closer than ever to a woman in charge of the White House, with Bill Clinton subtly proclaiming on Monday, “I hope we have a woman president in my lifetime.” But for women on the ground, giant disparities persist - and they have a color line.

A new study by the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) - a Washington, DC-based advocacy organization - shows that in the same full-time jobs as their male counterparts, women earn only 77 cents to the dollar earned by a man.

And it’s not a gendered phenomenon only - women of color earn less than men of the same race and white women, with African-American women earning 64 cents to a white man's dollar, and Hispanic woman earning even less - only 54 cents.

Census numbers back up the study and demonstrate that women of color consistently earn less than men of color: Both African-American and Hispanic women make 88 cents for every dollar paid to an African-American or Hispanic man, respectively.

"This report is really highlighting the double burden that women of color face," said Katherine Gallagher Robbins, a senior policy analyst at the National Women's Law Center. "What we really wanted to highlight was just how important it is to look at the intersection of race and gender and ethnicity to drill down to how all of these levels of inequality are hurting women's economic security."

Those intersections can be complex and unexpected. For example, Gallagher Robbins said, the gender wage gap overall in Washington, DC, is the smallest in the nation. But in wage gaps for women of color, DC is among the ten worst in the country.

In particular, she said, the report zeroed in on "discrimination for women in occupations that already are accompanied by fewer benefits, less security, less flexible worker hours," such as fast food, home health aides, housekeepers and servers. Because few of these jobs offer health care or paid time off, the loss in pay through the wage gap makes a real impact on the living conditions of women in these occupations, Gallagher Robbins said.

One of the realities of the wage gap experienced by workers all along the pay scale, Gallagher Robbins said, is "it becomes really difficult to run a secure life for yourself and your family."

The importance of a higher - and fairer - wage to help bring low-income families out of poverty has been the cornerstone argument of a growing low-wage workers movement, which seeks to take up issues of health insurance, minimum wage and overtime pay. Organizing campaigns like the Fight for 15, a mostly SEIU-backed initiative to raise the minimum wage for fast food workers to $15 an hour has mobilized a heavily female and low-income work force to stage strikes and walkouts to fight for higher wages and an end to discrimination based on gender.

In Chicago, the group has taken up the case of Shakita Moore, a former Jason’s Deli employee who says she experienced racial and gender harassment from managers and co-workers, including inappropriate touching and verbal harassment. Some local organizing offshoots, including the one in Chicago, also created women's caucuses, where women can strategize about how to fight against sexual harassment and husbands who discourage them from being involved in the union.

"There are wage gaps in a whole host of occupations," Gallagher Robbins said. "What is particularly troubling is not just the wage gap but the distribution of people in those occupations. Two-thirds of minimum-wage workers are women."

Real world results

The National Women's Law Center study lays out several real-world results of the wage gap. One is a rise in poverty rates because of unequal wages faced by women of color and their families.

In fact, even full-time work at a low wage would not be enough to lift a family out of poverty, the report found:

In 2012, the Federal Poverty Level for a family of four was $23,283.17. In 2012, a Hispanic woman working full time, year round who was a relatively low-wage earner (at the 25th percentile) for her ethnic group and sex did not earn enough to bring a family of four above the Federal Poverty Level. The same was true for an African-American woman working full time, year round who was a relatively low-wage earner for her ethnic group and sex.

The wage gap puts an "undue burden" on families with one female earner only, the study notes. In many communities, African-American and Hispanic women are likely to support families on their own, meaning that a lower annual wage translates to more woman-headed families in poverty.

One woman's story

Elizabeth Grant, a 26-year-old litigation support analyst at a prestigious law firm in Los Angeles, says she gets paid an estimated $30,000 less than her male coworker with the same job title. Grant, who has been at her job six months longer than her better-paid co-worker, asked that the name of her law firm not be mentioned for fear of losing her job.

When asked why her male co-worker should be getting paid more, Grant, who is African-American, said it may be because he has more experience. But she also notes that, were she being paid more, she could use the additional money to take classes to improve her skills. "I do wish the gap were smaller," Grant said of the difference in pay between herself and her co-worker. "I'm not given the opportunity to prove myself."

The lack of upward mobility offered to women of color in all industries also was noted by the NWLC report. "Median annual earnings of minority women are also increasing more slowly than those of women overall," the report found.

Post-recession blues

It's been more than five years since 2008, commonly known as the marker of the most recent recession. It’s not surprising that an economic downturn would hit low-income families the hardest, but, Gallagher Robbins said, the recession has not changed income gaps for low-income families as much as people commonly assume. "What the recession has done is continue a long trend of earnings stagnating and exacerbated the way that income is structured in America," she said. "The wage gap for Hispanic women has closed by just over 5 cents in the last four decades. These are dire circumstances."

A recently released analysis by The Washington Post found that while the country has seen notable recovery from the recession, most of the growth has occurred on the wealthy end of the spectrum. "The middle class has been shrinking while households have been added in the lowest and highest income brackets. In many states and nationally, the highest income brackets saw more growth than the lowest, but households in the middle brackets continued to decline," the Nov. 18 article said.

Looking ahead

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, which codifies that women must be paid equal wages for the same work. Despite this, and a bevy of other equal-wage legislation enacted since, women continue to earn on average only 77 cents to a man's dollar.

Gallagher Robbins says that while paying two individuals differently for the same work is clearly illegal, there are countless ways employers can justify continuing to pay female workers less. For example, she said, workers doing similar jobs often are classified as different types of workers, or not all workers are paid tips.

The most recently passed fair-pay legislation - the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 - went some way toward addressing the wage gap by allowing woman to challenge past pay disparities in the workplace, Gallagher Robbins said.

But a Bloomberg Businessweek analysis of gender-based wage discrimination cases after the signing of the Ledbetter Act found that the number of lawsuits actually had gone down - and that the wage gap was wider in 2010 than it was in 2007.

Gallagher Robbins ties this failure to the fact that for women to use the protections enshrined in the Ledbetter Act, they would have to know they were being underpaid. In most workplaces, discussion of salaries is heavily discouraged. "If people don't know they are being paid less, they can't do anything about it," she said.

A few proposals for narrowing the gap are being floated, but so far, they haven’t gained traction. Gallagher Robbins mentions that the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would cover women who sue for being paid less than their male coworkers, has been voted down several times.

NWLC public policy fellow Lauren Frohlich proposed another idea: Simply raise the national minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. "Women are currently a majority of minimum wage workers," she said. "A raise would go a long way."

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5854) 8 months ago

Buoyed by Protests, Obama Embraces $10 Minimum Wage

Tuesday, 12 November 2013 11:34 By Peter Dreier, Truthout | News

http://truth-out.org/news/item/19988-buoyed-by-protests-obama-embraces-10-minimum-wage

What prompted President Obama to up the ante on the minimum wage? In January 2013, in his State of the Union address, he proposed raising the minimum wage from the current $7.25 to $9 an hour. Then last week he announced that he supports hiking it to $10.10 an hour.

It is unlikely that his change of heart was the result of key economic advisers persuading him that a bigger wage boost was needed to reduce poverty and stimulate the economy. Both of those things are true, and surely entered into his thinking, but the major impetus was political. He was responding to the growing protest movement, public opinion polls and election outcomes that reflect widespread sentiment that people who work full time shouldn't be mired in poverty. It is a heartening reminder that democracy - the messy mix of forces that typically pits organized people versus organized money - still can work.

Growing activism by low-wage workers around the country has put a public face and sense of urgency over the plight of America's working poor. During the past year, workers across the country at fast-food chains such as McDonalds, Taco Bell and Burger King have gone on strike and demanded a base wage of at least $15 per hour. Walmart workers have engaged in one-day work stoppages and civil disobedience as part of an escalating grass-roots campaign to demand that the nation's largest private employer pay its workers at least $25,000 a year, thousands more than a full-time worker making $10.10 per hour would earn.

These protests triggered increasing media coverage, including brilliant put-downs on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report" of the conservative arguments against the minimum wage.

In recent years, Americans have shown increasing support for boosting the minimum wage and for the idea that people who work full-time should not earn poverty-level wages. The most recent poll, conducted in July by Hart Research Associates, showed 80 percent of Americans back hiking the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and adjusting it for the cost of living in future years. Not surprisingly, 92 percent of Democrats voice support for this proposal, but so do 80 percent of independents, 62 percent of Republicans, 75 percent of Southern whites and 79 percent of people with incomes over $100,000.

Americans also have expressed their growing frustration with widening inequality, stagnant wages and persistent poverty at the ballot box.

Last week, even as New Jersey voters were giving conservative Republican Gov. Chris Christie a second term, they also overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to raise the state's minimum wage by a dollar to $8.25 an hour. The new law includes an automatic cost-of-living increase each year. Last year, Christie vetoed a bill to raise the state's minimum wage to $8.50 an hour, so the Democrats in the state Legislature pushed back by putting the question to the voters. Last week, the wage hike passed with 60 percent of the vote despite opposition from business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, and Christie, who said that raising the wage is "just an irresponsible thing to do."

On the same day, voters in the Seattle suburb of Seatac embraced the Good Jobs Initiative' to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and at airport-related businesses, including hotels, car-rental agencies and parking lots. It won by a ratio of 54 percent to 46 percent. The new law, sponsored by labor unions and other progressives, applies to more than 6,000 workers. Even though Washington's current minimum wage is $9.19, the highest in the nation, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and challenger Ed Murray (who beat McGinn on Tuesday) both supported the Seatac initiative and raised the possibility of doing the same thing in Washington's largest city.

In New York City, voters gave progressive Democrat Bill de Blasio a landslide victory over Republican Joe Lhota. One of de Blasio's key policy plants was enacting a living wage of $11.75 per hour for workers employed by companies that get tax breaks and other subsidies from the city. Lhota and outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as well as the city's business and real estate industry lobbies, opposed the plan, but the City Council is likely to endorse de Blasio's idea.

A year ago, 66 percent of the voters in Albuquerque voted in favor of establishing an $8.50 citywide hourly wage that would automatically adjust in future years to keep up with the rising cost of living. That same day, 59 percent of voters in San Jose, California, approved a citywide $10 hourly wage that also would increase with the cost of living. They join San Francisco ($10.55) and Santa Fe, N.M. ($10.51), which also have citywide minimum-wage laws.

Last year, voters in Long Beach, California, passed a ballot measure that raised the minimum wage for hotel workers in that tourist city to $13 per hour and guarantees hotel workers five paid sick days per year. It is one of more than 150 cities that have adopted living- wage laws for employees of firms with municipal contracts and subsidies. At Los Angeles International Airport, for example, workers are guaranteed an hourly minimum of $10.91, or $15.67 without health benefits.

Nineteen states now have minimum wages over $7.25 an hour, 10 of which automatically increase their minimum wages with inflation. Washington's will increase from $9.19 an hour to $9.32 in January. That wage soon will be eclipsed in California. In September, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation raising the state's minimum wage from $8 to $10 an hour - a bill he had vetoed a year earlier. Activists in Idaho, South Dakota and Alaska are gathering signatures to put minimum-wage hikes on the ballot next year. Their counterparts in Maryland, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Hawaii are pushing state legislators to raise the minimum wages in their states, too. These local and state initiatives reflect voters' increasing frustration with Congress' intransigence. The last time Congress raised the federal minimum wage was in 2007, when President George W. Bush reluctantly signed the bill passed by the Democratic Congress to raise the federal minimum wage from $5.15 an hour (where it had stood for ten years) to $7.25 an hour (phased in over several years). It has remained at $7.25 since 2009.

In his 2013 State of the Union address in January, Obama proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour. "Even with the tax relief we've put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That's wrong," Obama said. "Tonight, let's declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty." A full-time worker who earns the current minimum wage makes only $15,080 a year. According to "Out of Reach," a report sponsored by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, in no state can an individual working full time at the minimum wage afford an apartment for his or her family.

In recent years, the nation's job growth has been concentrated in low-wage sectors, led by Walmart, the nation's largest private employer, whose pay levels are so low that many employees are eligible for food stamps. More than one-quarter of all jobs pay poverty-level wages. According to a National Employment Law Project study, the majority of new jobs created since 2010 pays just $13.83 an hour or less. This has contributed to the nation's widening economic inequality. Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz said, "Increasing inequality means a weaker economy" for everyone. As almost everyone from mainstream economists to Occupy Wall Street realize, America's workers have not been sharing in the nation's economic growth, the benefits of which have been concentrated among the country's wealthiest 1%.

In fact, the minimum wage has fallen in value because Congress hasn't raised it to keep up with inflation. At its peak in 1968, the minimum wage was equal to about $10.50 an hour in today's dollars. That's a 25 percent decline in buying power. And if the minimum wage kept pace with increases in worker productivity, it would now stand at $21.72 per hour.

Increasing the minimum to $10.10 would give the lowest-paid Americans $21,000 before taxes, if they work full time. The federal poverty threshold is $19,530 for a family of three and $23,550 for a family of four.

Obama is now embracing the bill filed by Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa, and Rep. George Miller, a California Democrat: the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would hike the wage in three steps of 95 cents each over two years, reaching $10.10 in 2015, then raise it annually based on changes in the cost of living. The Harkin-Miller plan would raise the base wage for tipped employees to 70 percent of the wage for workers who don't receive tips. Currently, the federally mandated base minimum wage for tipped workers is only $2.13, provided that they make at least $7.25 per hour when tips are factored in.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5854) 8 months ago

In March 2013, House Republicans unanimously voted down the Harkin-Miller bill. Six Democrats joined 227 Republicans in voting it down; 184 Democrats voted yes.

But now Democrats, unions and other progressives view the growing momentum for a minimum-wage hike as a way to pressure Congressional Republicans facing tough re-election campaigns next year, hoping to persuade them to support an increase. The Hart Research Associates poll, conducted in July, found that when asked whether they would be more or less likely to support a candidate for Congress who favored the proposal raising the minimum wage to $10.10, roughly half (51 percent) of registered voters said they would be more likely, compared with just 15 percent who said less likely - an impressive net gain of 36 percentage points. The net advantage among independent voters is 32 percentage points (46 percent more likely to support, 13 percent less likely). And among non-college whites, the gain is 31 percentage points (44 percent more, 13 percent less). All demographic groups - including self-identified Republicans - have a higher percentage of respondents who say that position would increase the likelihood of their support rather than decrease it.

Business lobby groups and business-funded think tanks - including local chambers of commerce, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Employment Policies Institute (an advocacy group funded by the restaurant industry) and other industry trade associations - dust off studies funded by business groups warning that firms employing low‑wage workers will be forced to close, hurting the very people the measure was designed to help. Of course, business groups and their political allies have been "crying wolf" about the minimum wage ever since President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed it during the Depression to help stimulate the economy. Critics warned that enacting a minimum wage would destroy employees' drive to work hard and would force many firms out of business. The minimum-wage law, warned the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) in 1937, "constitutes a step in the direction of communism, bolshevism, fascism, and Nazism." Congressman Edward Cox, a Georgia Democrat, said that the law "will destroy small industry." These ideas, Cox claimed, "are the product of those whose thinking is rooted in an alien philosophy and who are bent upon the destruction of our whole constitutional system and the setting up of a Red Labor communistic despotism upon the ruins of our Christian civilization." Roosevelt and most members of Congress ignored these warnings and adopted the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, establishing the federal minimum wage of 25 cents an hour.

Since then, each time Congress has considered raising the minimum wage, business groups and conservatives have repackaged the same tired and misleading arguments. In 1945, NAM claimed that, "The proposed jump from an hourly minimum of 40 to 65 cents at once, and 70 and 75 cents in the following years, is a reckless jolt to the economic system. Living standards, instead of being improved, would fall - probably to record lows." Instead, the next three decades saw the biggest increase in living standards in the nation's history.

In 1975, economist Milton Friedman, a conservative guru, said: "The consequences of minimum wage laws have been almost wholly bad, to increase unemployment and to increase poverty. In my opinion there is absolutely no positive objective achieved by minimum wages." While campaigning for president, Ronald Reagan said, "The minimum wage has caused more misery and unemployment than anything since the Great Depression." In 2004, David Brandon, the CEO of Domino's Pizza, declared: "From our perspective, raising the minimum wage is a job killer." In 2013, Jason Riley, a Wall Street Journal editorial writer, called the minimum wage a "proven job killer" on the newspaper's cable talk show.

Following Obama's State of the Union address in January 2013, business representatives and conservative media pundits echoed the same talking points. Michael Saltsman, research director at the business-backed Employment Policies Institute, told Fox Business News that "minimum wage hikes lead to job losses."

But such dire predictions have never materialized. That's because they're bogus. In fact, many economic studies show that raising the minimum wage is good for business and the overall economy. Why? Because when low-wage workers have more money to spend, they spend it, almost entirely in the local community, on basic necessities like housing, food, clothing and transportation. When consumer demand grows, businesses thrive, earn more profits, and create more jobs. Economists call this the "multiplier effect."

Moreover, because most minimum-wage jobs are in "sticky" (immobile) industries - such as restaurants, hotels, hospitals and nursing homes and retail stores - that can't flee overseas, raising the level doesn't lead to job flight. Not surprisingly, the National Restaurant Association is, along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of the fiercest opponents of a minimum-wage hike. These economic realities don't stop corporate lobbyists from repeating the same misguided warnings, hoping to dampen support for raising wages. "Mandatory wage hikes price the lowest skilled workers out of jobs," wrote U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue, who made $4.9 million in 2011. "A starting-wage increase will reduce hiring, weaken business growth and reduce opportunities for job seekers," said Dawn Sweeney, CEO of the National Restaurant Association, who makes more than $1.5 million. In addition to their lies and outworn arguments, the corporate lobbyists have a large treasure chest of campaign cash at their disposal. But as the grass-roots protests escalate, public opinion embraces a significant wage hike and Americans continue to voice their frustrations at the ballot box, members of Congress and candidates will have to answer voters' basic question about raising the minimum wage: Which side are you on?

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