After 10 years of inaction at the federal level, so much of the policy work being done to boost wages for low-wage workers is happening at the state and local level. Yet, it is important to recognize that even with state and local governments taking action in many places, there are still millions of workers being paid significantly lower wages than the “average” minimum wage as calculated in the Upshot piece. In fact, raising the federal minimum wage to $11.80 would directly lift wages for 18.6 million workers, or 12.8 percent of the wage-earning workforce. Moreover, calculating the average effective minimum wage is very sensitive to how one defines the workforce affected by the policy. One would arrive at a much lower average minimum wage if considering the broader low-wage workforce for whom minimum wage policy is relevant.
Only 10.7 percent of American workers belong to a union today, approximately half as many as in 1983. That’s a level not seen since the 1930s, just before passage of the labor law that was supposed to protect workers’ right to organize. Yet American workers have not given up on unions. When we conducted a nationally representative survey of the workforce with the National Opinion Research Corporation, we found interest in joining unions to be at a four-decade high. The results obtained from nearly 4,000 respondents show that 48 percent – nearly half of the nonunionized workers – would join a union if given the opportunity to do so.
By Marni von Wilpert for Economic Policy Institute. On August 28, 2017, low-wage workers in St. Louis, Missouri, became the latest victims of state preemption laws. “Preemption” in this context refers to a situation in which a state law is enacted to block a local ordinance from taking effect—or dismantle an existing ordinance. In this case, St. Louis had raised its minimum wage above the state minimum—but was then forced to lower it back down when the Missouri state legislature preempted the local ordinance. Ironically, state preemption of labor standards has historically been used for good: to ensure that minimum labor standards are applied statewide. It is only in recent years that it has been so frequently used to take earnings and protections away from workers. This report looks at the rising use of preemption by state legislatures to undercut local labor standards.
By Staff of National Employment Law Project. State legislatures around the country are attempting to bar cities and counties from passing their own minimum wage laws through “preemption” laws that take away a locality’s power to enact such measures. Local minimum wage laws play a key role in ensuring that a worker can afford the basics in cities or counties where the cost of living is higher than in other parts of the state. While proponents of preemption often claim that their main concern is to avoid a “patchwork” of wage levels within a state, in reality, these bills are motivated by a desire to block higher wages. Ultimately, preemption of local minimum wage laws is a priority for big business. Advocates, workers, and legislators who support an economy that works for all should oppose the preemption of local minimum wage laws. Many States Authorize Cities & Counties to Enact Local Minimum Wage Laws; Over 40 Cities & Counties Have Successfully Enacted Such Laws.
By Paul Street for Truthdig. Two things are clear going forward. First, progressives hoping to defeat Trump and Trumpism will need to drive a class wedge between the new administration’s big basket of deplorable, super-wealthy plutocrats and the president’s conservative WWC base. Second, Trump is going to provide a lot of ammunition for that wedge-building task with policies that mock his posture as some kind of great white working-class hero. It is distressing that candidate Trump got away with taking that populist pose in the first place. Born to significant real estate wealth, Trump owed his rise to hyper-opulence “to his relentless manipulation of the corporate-controlled media market … to increase the market value of his name, which he then licensed to be sold. … The result,” author Mike Lofgren notes, “was Trump resorts, Trump steaks, even Trump dietary supplements retailed through multilevel marketing, the polite biz school euphemism for a pyramid scheme. As for Trump University, the principal lesson it imparted … was how to avoid being victimized by such scams in the future. … Such is Donald Trump, friend of the working class.”
By Joy First for National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance. We have a madman in the White House. Yet, unlikely acts of resistance are popping up all over the country from the large “Resist” banner hanging from a construction crane near the White House, to the National Park Rangers in the Badlands creating an alternative Twitter account, to mother’s groups who are putting aside talk of their children while they write letters to Congress, to the 60 programmers and scientists who were gathered at the Department of Information Studies building at the University of California-Los Angeles, harvesting important government data before Trump has a chance to disappear it. There is so much going on and so many ways we can get involved. This is the time we have been waiting for to see real change in the world. What kind of world will we leave for our children and grandchildren? The only way we will bring change is to keep the hope and rise up, rise up together and resist. The time has come and we will prevail in our struggle for peace and justice for all.
By Jack Temple for Fight for 15. After California and New York officially made $15/hour the law of the land on Monday, pundits and observers around the country turned their attention to the workers who made these historic wage increases possible: Two Fight for $15 leaders from New York and California – Manhattan McDonald’s worker Jorel Ware and LA McDonald’s worker Anggie Godoy – wrote in the Huffington Post this week about how speaking out on the job created real change in their states: “Since the time when we each first joined the Fight for $15, we have learned that the way working people win justice is by joining together and taking a stand. Our wins this week from coast to coast show more than anything the power of workers organizing.” And in the LA Times on Monday, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry summarized how workers have flipped the politics of the country by going on strike and speaking out: “The fearlessness of the workers has made elected officials understand that there is huge wind at their back. We’re proud that it created a situation where both New York and California were dueling at the same time. […] It’s how the movement has created more than we even imagined possible before.”
By Jonathan Rosenblum for AlterNet. Millions of workers across the country have won wage hikes under the banner of $15, and this week many more in California stand poised to join the parade. But three and a half years after the first picket sign was hoisted demanding $15/hour and union recognition, very few minimum wage workers are actually getting paid that much. That’s because among those crafting wage legislation, it’s become an axiom that increases must be phased in over time for the sake of business and economic stability. California Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez reflects a prevailing establishment view that what’s needed is “a reasonable, measured approach that would prevent sticker shock for businesses.” Newly adopted $15 minimum wage laws have been unveiled with great fanfare and media coverage. But lost in the headlines is the reality that because of phase-in schedules, workers won’t actually see $15/hour in their pay for three, five or even seven years.
By Bruce Covert for Think Progress. If 2014 was the year where the majority of states got on board with a higher minimum wage than the federal level of $7.25 an hour, 2015 was the year the rallying cry for a $15 minimum wage gained serious legislative traction. This year, three California cities — Emeryville, Los Angeles, and Mountain View — all passedminimum wage increases that will eventually bring them up to $15 an hour. Meanwhile, New York State enacted an eventual $15 minimum wage for its fast food workforce, while Massachusetts enacted one for its home care workers. Those increases came on top of previous progress: SeaTac and Seattle in Washington and San Francisco in California passed $15 minimums in 2014.