• Advertisement

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on October 10th $10.10 Minimum Wage Push

Minimum Wage 101

Raising wages will be a driving force at the polls in the approaching midterm elections. Working people will turn out for candidates who support solutions that will make a difference in the real world – from raising the minimum wage to ensuring that all workers can bargain collectively and make a livable wage. The labor movement stands in strong support of the broad campaign to bring attention to raising wages leading up to and following October 10, and it’s our responsibility to keep it going.

Labor is perfectly positioned to unite a massive movement, to raise wages and to lift up our communities. We have an opportunity to show every elected leader, from the White House on down, that those who stand proudly with working families will win in November. It’s that simple.

  • As of October 2, 2014, 22 states and the District of Columbia have minimum wages above the federal minimum wage.
  • Ten states have passed legislation to increase wages since January 2014.
  • Four more states — Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland and West Virginia — will increase their minimum wage on January 1, 2015.
  • Alaska, Arkansas, South Dakota, Illinois and Nebraska have ballot measures to raise or set wage minimums that will go to voters in November 2014.
  • Fifteen municipalities have increased the minimum wage over the last five years.

Jeanne Shaheen, A Senator New Hampshire Women Can Trust

Jeanne Shaheen 4

On “A Senator New Hampshire Women Can Trust” Tour, Jeanne Shaheen Discusses Women’s Economic Issues at New England Porch Rockers in Laconia

Shaheen Endorsed by National Association of Women Business Owners This Week

Laconia, NH – Today, Senator Jeanne Shaheen visited New England Porch Rockers, a woman-owned manufacturer of rocking chairs and furniture in Laconia, to discuss her work to expand economic opportunities for women and the issues at stake for women in the November election. Senator Shaheen was joined by Jeanne Compton of New England Porch Rockers and Donna Gaudet-Hosmer, a registered Republican and local small business owner.  Her visit to Laconia comes a day after she was endorsed by the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO).

“For decades, I’ve fought to level the playing field for women in New Hampshire by protecting women’s access to affordable healthcare, combating pay discrimination and fighting to increase the minimum wage, and my record provides a clear contrast for New Hampshire voters,” said Senator Shaheen. “Scott Brown supported the Blunt Amendment and the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, he voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act, and he opposes raising the minimum wage for thousands of New Hampshire women. Brown’s positions are simply wrong for New Hampshire.”

“Jeanne Shaheen knows that more and more families are now relying on women as the primary breadwinner,” said Jeanne Compton, owner of New England Porch Rockers. “That’s why she’s worked to expand access to affordable childcare, combat pay discrimination and promote women’s small business ownership. Jeanne has fought for women and small business owners like me, and now, I’m fighting for her.”

“Women in New Hampshire simply can’t trust someone like Scott Brown whose record shows he won’t stand up to his party to fight for women’s rights,” said Donna Gaudet-Hosmer, a registered Republican and a small business owner. “From the Hobby Lobby Decision to the Blunt Amendment, Scott Brown has been wrong on women’s health issues, and from the minimum wage to the Paycheck Fairness Act, he’s been wrong on women’s economic issues. New Hampshire women aren’t going to forget that in November.”

“Senator Shaheen has been a tireless advocate for women business owners on the U.S. Senate  Small Business Committee and has shown that she understands the integral role entrepreneurs play in our economy,” said Darla Beggs, NAWBO National Board Chair. “We are proud to lend our endorsement to Senator Shaheen and look forward to seeing her continue her efforts on behalf of small business owners.”

For more than two decades, Jeanne Shaheen has worked to make a difference for women in New Hampshire, particularly on important economic issues. As a Senator, she cosponsored the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act, and as Governor, Shaheen signed into law legislation that strengthened New Hampshire’s equal pay protections.  She has also introduced legislation to expand the childcare tax credit to help working families cope with the rising cost of child care.

Shaheen has also been a leader on women’s reproductive rights. As Governor, she signed into law bipartisan legislation guaranteeing insurance coverage for contraception; that legislation was backed by 120 Republicans and 121 Democrats in the New Hampshire State House. In the Senate, she helped introduce legislation to reverse the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision in order to protect women’s access to birth control and contraception. She has also led the fight against the Republican plan known as the Blunt Amendment which would allow an employer to deny contraception coverage for their female employees.

While representing Massachusetts in the Senate, Scott Brown co-sponsored and voted for the Blunt Amendment, and this year, he spoke out in support of the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.

Granite State Rumblings: 10 Ways To Cut Poverty And Grow The Middle Class

Happy Family ( FLIKR CC David Amsler)
Happy Family ( FLIKR CC David Amsler)

Happy Family ( FLIKR CC David Amsler)

I spend a lot of time writing and working on poverty related issues and to some it may seem that I have little interest in talking about or protecting the middle class. This is not case. Issues that affect those living in poverty and policies that help move individuals out of poverty all relate to and have a direct impact on the middle class. A large and stable middle class has been central to America’s wealth and stability for decades. To help make the case, I am sharing a recent brief from Rebecca Vallas, Associate Director of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress and Melissa Boteach, Vice President of Half in Ten and the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center.

The Top Ten Solutions to Cut Poverty and Grow the Middle Class

The Census Bureau released its annual income, poverty, and health insurance report yesterday, revealing that four years into the economic recovery, there has been some progress in the poverty rate as it fell from 15 percent in 2012 to 14.5 percent in 2013, but there was no statistically significant improvement in the number of Americans living in poverty.
Furthermore, low- and middle-income workers have seen little to no income growth over the past decade, as the gains from economic growth have gone largely to the wealthiest Americans.

With flat incomes and inequality stuck at historically high levels, one might assume that chronic economic insecurity and an off-kilter economy are the new normal and that nothing can be done to fix it. But there is nothing normal or inevitable about elevated poverty levels and stagnant incomes. They are the direct result of policy choices that put wealth and income into the hands of a few at the expense of growing a strong middle class.

The good news is that different policy choices can bring different outcomes. When the government invests in jobs and policies to increase workers’ wages and families’ economic security, children and families see improved outcomes in both the short and long term.

Here are 10 steps Congress can take to cut poverty, boost economic security, and expand the middle class.

1. Create jobs

The best pathway out of poverty is a well-paying job. To get back to prerecession employment levels, we must create 5.6 million new jobs. At the current pace, however, we will not get there until July 2018. To kick-start job growth, the federal government should invest in job-creation strategies such as rebuilding our infrastructure; developing renewable energy sources; renovating abandoned housing; and making other common-sense investments that create jobs, revitalize neighborhoods, and boost our national economy. We should also build on proven models of subsidized employment to help the long-term unemployed and other disadvantaged workers re-enter the labor force.

In addition, the extension of federal unemployment insurance would have created 200,000 new jobs in 2014, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Indeed, every $1 in benefits that flows to jobless workers yields more than $1.50 in economic activity. Unfortunately, Congress failed to extend federal unemployment insurance at the end of 2013, leaving 1.3 million Americans and their families without this vital economic lifeline.

2. Raise the minimum wage

In the late 1960s, a full-time worker earning the minimum wage could lift a family of three out of poverty. Had the minimum wage back then been indexed to inflation, it would be $10.86 per hour today, compared to the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and indexing it to inflation—as President Barack Obama and several members of Congress have called for—would lift more than 4 million Americans out of poverty. Nearly one in five children would see their parent get a raise. Recent action taken by cities and states—such as Seattle, Washington; California; Connecticut; and New Jersey—shows that boosting the minimum wage reduces poverty and increases wages.

3. Increase the Earned Income Tax Credit for childless workers

One of our nation’s most effective anti-poverty tools, the Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC, helped more than 6.5 million Americans—including 3.3 million children—avoid poverty in 2012. It’s also an investment that pays long-term dividends. Children who receive the EITC are more likely to graduate high school and to have higher earnings in adulthood. Yet childless workers largely miss out on the benefit, as the maximum EITC for these workers is less than one-tenth that awarded to workers with two children.
President Obama and policymakers across the political spectrum have called for boosting the EITC in order to right this wrong. Importantly, this policy change should be combined with a hike in the minimum wage; one is not a substitute for the other.

4. Support pay equity

With female full-time workers earning just 78 cents for every $1 earned by men, action must be taken to ensure equal pay for equal work. Closing the gender wage gap would cut poverty in half for working women and their families and add nearly half a trillion dollars to the nation’s gross domestic product. Passing the Paycheck Fairness Act to hold employers accountable for discriminatory salary practices would be a key first step.

5. Provide paid leave and paid sick days

The United States is the only developed country in the world without paid family and medical leave and paid sick days, making it very difficult for millions of American families to balance work and family without having to sacrifice needed income. Paid leave is an important anti-poverty policy, as having a child is one of the leading causes of economic hardship. Additionally, nearly 4 in 10 private-sector workers—and 7 in 10 low-wage workers—do not have a single paid sick day, putting them in the impossible position of having to forgo needed income, or even their job, in order to care for a sick child. The Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, or FAMILY Act, would provide paid leave protection to workers who need to take time off due to their own illness, the illness of a family member, or the birth of a child. And the Healthy Families Act would enable workers to earn up to seven job-protected sick days per year.

6. Establish work schedules that work

Low-wage and hourly jobs increasingly come with unpredictable and constantly shifting work schedules, which means workers struggle even more to balance erratic work hours with caring for their families. Ever-changing work schedules make accessing child care even more difficult than it already is and leave workers uncertain about their monthly income. Furthermore, things many of us take for granted—such as scheduling a doctor’s appointment or a parent-teacher conference at school—become herculean tasks. The Schedules That Work Act would require two weeks’ advance notice of worker schedules, which would allow employees to request needed schedule changes. It would also protect them from retaliation for making such requests—and provide guaranteed pay for cancelled or shortened shifts. These are all important first steps to make balancing work and family possible.

7. Invest in affordable, high-quality child care and early education

The lack of affordable, high-quality child care serves as a major barrier to reaching the middle class. In fact, one year of child care for an infant costs more than one year of tuition at most states’ four-year public colleges. On average, poor families who pay out of pocket for child care spend one-third of their incomes just to be able to work. Furthermore, federal child care assistance reaches only one in six eligible children.

Boosting investments in Head Start and the Child Care and Development Block Grant, as well as passing the Strong Start for America’s Children Act—which would invest in preschool, high-quality child care for infants and toddlers, and home-visiting services for pregnant women and mothers with infants—will help more struggling families obtain the child care they need in order to work and improve the future economic mobility of America’s children.

8. Expand Medicaid

Since it was signed into law in 2010, the Affordable Care Act has expanded access to high-quality, affordable health coverage for millions of Americans. However, 23 states continue to refuse to expand their Medicaid programs to cover adults up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level—making the lives of many families on the brink much harder. Expanding Medicaid would mean more than just access to health care—it would free up limited household income for other basic needs such as paying rent and putting food on the table. Having health coverage is also an important buffer against the economic consequences of illness and injury; unpaid medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy. Studies link Medicaid coverage not only to improved health, improved access to health care services, and lower mortality rates, but also to reduced financial strain.

9. Reform the criminal justice system and enact policies that support successful re-entry

The United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country in the world. Today, more than 1.5 million Americans are behind bars in state and federal prisons, a figure that has increased fivefold since 1980. The impact on communities of color is particularly staggering: One in four African American children who grew up during this era of mass incarceration have had a parent incarcerated.

Mass incarceration is a key driver of poverty. When a parent is incarcerated, his or her family must find a way to make ends meet without a necessary source of income. Additionally, even a minor criminal record comes with significant collateral consequences that can serve as lifelong barriers to climbing out of poverty. For example, people with criminal records face substantial barriers to employment, housing, education, public assistance, and building good credit. More than 90 percent of employers now use background checks in hiring, and even an arrest without a conviction can prevent an individual from getting a job. The “one strike and you’re out” policy used by public housing authorities makes it difficult if not impossible for individuals with even decades-old criminal records to obtain housing, which can stand in the way of family reunification. Furthermore, a lifetime ban—for individuals with felony drug convictions—on receiving certain types of public assistance persists in more than half of U.S. states, making subsistence even more difficult for individuals seeking to regain their footing, and their families.

In addition to common-sense sentencing reform to ensure that we no longer fill our nation’s prisons with nonviolent, low-level offenders, policymakers should explore alternatives to incarceration, such as diversion programs for individuals with mental health and substance abuse challenges. We must also remove barriers to employment, housing, education, and public assistance. A decades-old criminal record should not consign an individual to a life of poverty.

10. Do no harm

The across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration—which took effect in 2013—slashed funding for programs and services that provide vital support to low-income families. Sequestration cost the U.S. economy as many as 1.6 million jobs between mid-2013 and 2014. Some relief was provided this January, when Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, but many important tools to help low-income individuals and families pave a path to the middle class—such as adult and youth education and training programs, child welfare, and community development programs—were on a downward funding trend even before sequestration took effect.

As Congress considers a continuing resolution to fund the federal government past October 1 and avoid another government shutdown, it should reject further cuts to programs and services such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC, which provides vital nutrition assistance to pregnant women and mothers with new babies. Thereafter, Congress should make permanent the important improvements made to the EITC and the Child Tax Credit as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which are set to expire in 2017. And it should avoid additional cuts to vital programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, which suffered two rounds of deep cuts in 2013 and 2014.

Conclusion

It is possible for America to dramatically cut poverty. Between 1959 and 1973, a strong economy, investments in family economic security, and new civil rights protections helped cut the U.S. poverty rate in half. Investments in nutrition assistance have improved educational attainment, earnings, and income among the young girls who were some of the food stamp program’s first recipients. Expansions of public health insurance have lowered infant mortality rates and reduced the incidence of low birth rates. In more recent history, states that raised the minimum wage have illustrated the important role that policy plays in combating wage stagnation.

There is nothing inevitable about poverty. We just need to build the political will to enact the policies that will increase economic security, expand opportunities, and grow the middle class.

GROWING UP GRANITE

The NH Center for Public Policy Studies recently released their report, “What is New Hampshire?” 2014 Edition. Here is just a small piece of the report and here is where to go find and read the rest of it!

New Hampshire is navigating a series of shifting economic, demographic, social and political forces. Among the new trends shaping the state into the 21st Century: an aging population; increasing racial and ethnic diversity; a shift away from the high-growth economic model of the past; and continued demand on the state budget for public services. While the implications of these and other challenges are still unclear, they do raise critical policy questions explored in this report.

Throughout its history, New Hampshire has worn many identities: agricultural outpost on the edge of New England; bustling engine of the Industrial Revolution; oasis for nature-seeking tourists; haven for tax-fleeing transplants. In the early years of the 21st Century, New Hampshire is still evolving amid shifting economic, demographic, social and political forces.

Among the new trends shaping the “new” New Hampshire: an aging population; increasing racial and ethnic diversity; a shift away from the high-growth economic model of the past; and continued demand on the state budget for public services

While the implications of these and other challenges are still unclear, they do raise critical policy questions, including:

  • Economy: New Hampshire suffered the effects of the Great Recession less severely than many other states, but slow job growth continues to gnaw at the state’s economy. As of the summer of 2014, New Hampshire lagged behind the nation and the rest of New England in recovering jobs lost during the recession. What is the state’s economic development plan, especially in relation to demographic trends that show New Hampshire’s population growth slowing in coming years? What specific industries or regions of New Hampshire will help shape the state’s economy in coming years? What regional approaches to economic development will find greatest success?
  • Demographic change: While New Hampshire is consistently rated one of the best places in the country to raise children, our population as a whole continues to age. Meanwhile, our school enrollment continues on a decade-long decline, and several measures of youth well-being in the state show worrisome trends, including rising levels of childhood poverty. What are the implications of these developments on education policy, housing, public services and transportation?
  • Health care: New Hampshire’s health policy landscape faces great uncertainty amid recent reforms at the national level, as well as continued rises in cost and the continued aging of the state’s population. What impact will the shifting health marketplace have on New Hampshire’s economy and the well-being of its residents?
  • Long-term planning: State policymakers face a long list of critical issues in coming years: public infrastructure investment, education finance, corrections spending, health care, and energy policy, among others. Many of these require a long-term perspective and an understanding of multi-year trends. How will the state – which has a two-year budget cycle and a two-year term for all major state offices – manage to plan decades into the future?

This report is our annual survey of the major policy issues and critical questions shaping our future. The data explain where New Hampshire has been, forecast where it is heading, and explore how current trends and policy choices facing the state will affect the well-being of its citizens.

Millennials Play A Key Part In Our Elections. Why Is Fosters Trying To Scare Them?

Money ('PT Money' ptmoney-com)
Money ('PT Money' ptmoney-com)

Image via ‘PT Money’ at ptmoney.com

Republicans and Democrats are actively trying to court “millennials” to vote for them. Of course the Republicans are at a big disadvantage in this fight because they are stigmatized by the fact that many feel the GOP is nothing but a party of old rich white guys.

It does not help when you see editorials like this one (Another day older and deeper in debt) from the ultra-conservative editors at Fosters Daily Democrat. They are trying to push millennials into voting against Senator Shaheen because she wants to help reduce their student loan debt, and they say that could raise taxes on, “your parents”. Say what?

“Democrats such as U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen would like to offer you lower interest rates, at the expense of raising taxes on, perhaps, your parents.”

This is complete garbage. Senator Shaheen is pushing for a bill authored by Senator Elizabeth Warren, which would allow students to refinance their student loans from interest rates of 6-8% to less than 1%.

Fosters does get a few things right:

  • The average college graduate in New Hampshire leaves school with $33,000 in student loan debt.
  • The federal government is making money off of your student loans.

These are absolute true, and I think it is appalling. The federal government made upwards of $66 billion dollars in profit off of student loans between 2007 and 2012. Senator Elizabeth Warren essentially said that if banks can borrow from the government at .75% then our students should be given the same deal as the big banks.

So what would happen to the federal budget if they cut out the $66 billion dollars in profits from student loans? Fosters wants you to believe that this will result in a tax increase on your parents. This is completely untrue. None of these changes would increase taxes on the middle class families of New Hampshire.

The tax increase that Senator Warren suggested has been dubbed “the Buffet rule” after billionaire Warren Buffet. The tax increase would only effect the ultra-wealthy 1% of America. Warren Buffet has said in many different ways that it is absolutely wrong that he pays a lower effective tax rate than his own secretary. He suggested that the ultra-wealthy 1% could, and should, be paying a higher tax rate.

I agree with Fosters that the national debt is a problem. We must find a way to reduce our national debt that helps to build a stronger economy and a better community. The editors at Fosters and I disagree on the ways we need to address this problem. They want to follow the GOP rhetoric that we must reduce the size of government and force draconian cuts to all federal programs (except for anything surrounding the DOD). I disagree with this. If you look back at history, it was government investment through work programs (building roads and bridges), increasing the minimum wage, a strong manufacturing base and strong unions that pulled us out of the Great Depression. At the same time we created “Social Security” to help our seniors retire with dignity.

Next we need to raise our gross domestic product. We need to increase manufacturing here at home and start reducing our debt by changing our trade deficit to a trade surplus. The more we make right here at home, the more people have jobs. The more jobs we have, the more money is spent in our local communities. It starts by looking for the “made in the USA” label!

Next to reduce government spending and reduce our national debt, we must start by increasing the minimum wage. Too many Americans are working one, two or even three jobs and can barely afford to pay their rent and feed their children. By increasing the minimum wage, to a real living wage, full time workers would be making enough to take care of their family without any assistance from the government.

Of course there are other solutions that none of the “Tea Party” conservatives want to talk about. One is placing a .5% tax on Wall Street. The tax would take a fraction of a penny on every transaction. This “Robin Hood Tax” would generate upwards of $350 billion dollars a year. $350 billion would cover the loss in revenue from the student loan interest, restore some of the cuts made to social programs, and still have plenty more to begin to repay our national debt. This would also have the added benefit of slowing down Wall Street and encouraging corporations to invest more of their profits in workers and the longevity of their company, not inflating their stock prices.

Ultimately it is about ensuring that corporations and the millionaires and billionaires are paying their fair share in taxes.

 __________________________________________

One last thing, Fosters tossed in this line about Social Security which is another attempt to scare millennials into believing that Social Security will be extinct by the time they reach retirement.

“According to Pew Research, 90 percent believe Social Security benefits will be reduced (39%) by the time you become eligible or won’t exist at all (51%).” (Emphasis added)

This statement is nothing more than proof that the majority of Americans do not understand what is really happening to Social Security. These numbers are the results of a poll where people believe that Social Security will completely fall apart.

As the AFL-CIO laid it out, “Social Security is not going broke. It will always be able to collect payroll tax revenue to fund benefits. According to the Trustees, Social Security can pay 100% of promised benefits until 2033. Without any changes at all, Social Security can pay three-fourths of promised benefits indefinitely after that.

The Social Security Trust Fund collects money from payroll taxes. By increasing the minimum wage, it would automatically increase the revenues collected through the payroll tax therefor strengthening Social Security, and adding to its fully funded longevity.

Many elected leaders like Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders think that minor adjustment to the Payroll Tax would strengthen Social Security and would allow for higher benefits for retirees. They just want to remove the Social Security cap forcing the ultra-wealthy to pay into Social Security Trust Fund like all the rest of us. Problem completely solved!

 

NH AFL-CIO Scholarship Essay Series: It Is Time To Raise The Minimum Wage

Rishi Patel

Today’s essay comes from Rishi Patel.  Some of you may remember Rishi from last years essay contest where Rishi won for his essay on immigration reform.  Rishi’s mother Naina,is an IBEW member from local #1505.  Rishi is attending Bentley University this fall. 

It Is Time To Raise The Minimum Wage

By Rishi Patel (titled by NHLN editor) 

Rishi PatelIn early January, Mark MacKenzie, the President of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO, said that by increasing the minimum wage, New Hampshire will be “sending a strong message that we are not going to allow people to live below the poverty line.” MacKenzie is able to point out that regardless of how many people are affected, even if it is few, the state must make sure that people are able to bring food on the table and keep a roof above their head. The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 only earns $15,080 yearly, which is “$4,000 less than the poverty-level income for a family of three.” People earning the minimum wage are not the only ones that will be benefitting from the reform. If the minimum wage is raised up to $8.25 and eventually $9.00, everyone will in turn benefit from it. The state will enhance its economy as there will be more money flowing through it. There are many people who challenge this view by stating that only teens will be affected, or small business will not be able to handle the increases in the salary expenses. Yet these statements are either false or assume that the minimum wage is not going to impact the market at all. Since these statements are flawed and increasing the minimum wage can strengthen the position of the state, the minimum wage should be increased.

A major way in which increasing the minimum wage will strengthen the position of the state is by raising the standard of living in the state. Standard of living is the “degree of wealth and material comfort available to a person or community.” In other words, it is the measure of how well people are able to live. If the people who earn the least amount of money are able to earn more, the standard of living for New Hampshire will go up. This is beneficial because everyone will be able to pay “$19,157 per year” towards personal expenses. That figure is the amount of money needed for a person in Concord to afford “basic necessities such as food, housing, or medical care.” In other words, people will be able to pay for the basic needs and have more economic security. Economically, state aid programs such as Medicaid would be relieved. Even though only “4.2%” of the people in New Hampshire are earning minimum wage or lower, it does not mean that state cannot improve and strengthen its position. New Hampshire does not experience exacerbated poverty when compared to other states, but the end goal for the state government is not to be in a better position than other states, but to be the best possible position for its people. Thus, even though a small number of people will be relieved from being under the poverty line, it does not change the fact that people of the state will be more likely to live a comfortable and fulfilling life.

Additionally, increasing the minimum wage will strengthen the position of the state because there will be a consequent increase the “demand for the goods and services sold by businesses operating in the Granite State.” According to “researchers from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago[who were] looking back over a 23 year period concluded that, for every dollar minimum wages had climbed in the past, consumer spending among affected low-wage households grew by $700 in the quarters immediately following the increase.” This means that the “4.2%” of people who would be under the poverty line would end up spending $700 dollars more per quarter. This is not just 4.2% of people but also all the “low wage” households. All of this additional money will strengthen the economy, and more importantly strengthen the position and economic health of the state.

It is clear that by creating more economic security and increasing the amount of money that will flow through the state, increasing the minimum wage will strengthen the position of the state. Still, people tend to think that increasing the minimum wage will not strengthen the position of the state. People with these thoughts tend to oppose with the same arguments. They claim that the increase in wages will only affect teens, or that small business will not be able to handle the pressure of paying more to employees. Yet these statements tend to be flawed.

Most people who say that it will only affect teens fail to realize the fact that raising the minimum wage will increase the economic security for everyone. They also do not realize that it will increase the amount of money that flows through the state. According to the United States Department of Labor, “88 percent of those who would benefit from a federal minimum wage increase are age 20 or older, and 55 percent are women.” Not only are most people who are paid minimum wage not teens, but they are also women and people of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Another argument that is normally made against raising the minimum wage is that small business owners will find it difficult to pay their way while possessing a healthy the bottom line. Yet, these people need to know that small business owners are not against the idea. In actuality, more seem to support it. According to the United State Department of Labor, “Small business owners believe that a higher minimum wage would benefit business in important ways: 58% say raising the minimum wage would increase consumer purchasing power. 56% say raising the minimum wage would help the economy. In addition, 53% agree that with a higher minimum wage, businesses would benefit from lower employee turnover, increased productivity and customer satisfaction.” Increasing the purchasing power will strengthen the position of people and the state itself. More importantly, a lower employee turnover ratio means that people will start performing better as they feel more valued.

Raising the minimum wage will leave the employees feeling more valuable, while it leaves customers feeling more satisfied with services and products; it will greatly affect all of the people in the state, and will harness a stronger economy within the state. Since it has the ability to influence the life of NH constituents in such a positive manner and since it is the state is responsible for the wellbeing of its constituents and betterment of the state economy, minimum wage ought to be raised. There is no doubting this vital decision.

 

 

 

 

References

http://www.dol.gov/minwage/mythbuster.htm

http://www.concordmonitor.com/home/4071768-95/wage-minimum-hampshire-workers

http://www.bls.gov/ro1/nhminwage.pdf

NH AFL-CIO Scholarship Essay Series: Stuck in the Crossfire

Ariana Smith

Today’s essay comes from Adriana Smith. The following essay took 3rd place in the annual scholarship contest.  Adriana’s mother Deb is a member of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) local 230.  Adriana is attending Weaton College this fall.  

Stuck in the Crossfire

by Adriana Smith

 

Ariana SmithGrowing up, my dad had always bounced around from job to job. When I was ten, he was working at a small bar down in Massachusetts, so my younger brother and I rarely got to see him. However, when an opportunity presented itself to start working at an Italian chain restaurant located near my brother and I, he jumped at the job, and the chance to see his kids more often. The pay was $3.10 an hour plus tips. For some, that pay scale may seem like an opportunity to make unlimited tips, and bring in bundles of cash at the end of every shift. However, my father was a middle aged man, put on almost every lunch shift. For those that have never worked in the food industry, lunch shifts are more difficult to receive living tips on, because the meals are significantly less expensive. A smaller bill means a smaller tip, which means a leaner pay check. My dad was lucky, if by the end of the week he broke even with minimum wage. Although my dad did his best to keep his head above water from week to week, my brother and I could feel the financial strain while living with him.

My dad found an apartment nearby, with a high cost of rent, with no utilities included. Desperate to be able to stay near his kids and with next to no options, he signed the lease. While my brother and I were both grateful to see our father more, there were sacrifices. You can imagine, that living the life of a waiter’s daughter is not glamorous. However, the conditions which we lived in some weeks, went beyond the limits of just being dowdy or drab. Mid-winter there would be no heat because he couldn’t afford to fill the oil tank. Every night as the cold crept in, I would curl under my heated blanket, tucking my knees under my chin. In the mornings, I would rush to take a shower as quickly as possible to get out of the frigid water, my hair freezing every day on the way to school. Meals were not enticing, we ate “Toastie O’s” (brand name Cheerios were too expensive) for breakfast every day, and some nights even for dinner. However, there was always food on the table. It wasn’t until recently that he confessed to me he would go days without eating, if my brother and I weren’t around, simply because he couldn’t afford to keep himself fed. We had fallen well below the poverty line, despite my dad working forty hours or more a week. However, that sombering fact had never truly hit me as a young child. It never occurred to me that my dad worked a full time job, and was barely able to feed his family. But now, as a socially aware student heading off to college, I see the atrocity in this fact.

Minimum wage has always been a source of debate, from raising it, to lowering it, to cutting it all together. It is one of the issues that currently divides our country, and is passionately spoken about by both sides. In 2013 part of Obama’s platform was to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by the end of 2016, which is almost a forty percent pay increase. But what would this pay increase actually do to our country? The conservatives say the job market would collapse and inflation would soar, the liberals say it would stimulate the economy and pull countless families out of poverty. The truth lies somewhere in between. So let’s focus on the negative first, jobs would be lost. Increased wages means some companies would have to let employees go because they cannot afford them. NPR reports that the predicted job loss is 500,000 people, or about .3 percent of the work force. However, that number is uncertain because our economy as a whole is unpredictable. The actual number of potential jobs lost ranges anywhere from zero to a million, as studies showed outcomes falling within that range. Another worry about wage increase is not only that jobs would be lost, but jobs that will not be created. Considering that the average business owner in New Hampshire would now have to pay their employees almost forty percent more, this could keep them from opening new positions in the company out of cost effectiveness. Thus, not only are jobs cut, jobs are not being made.

However, not every effect on the economy would be negative. A person working forty hours a week, every week, getting paid minimum wage, makes $15,080 a year before taxes. A person working the same schedule, at the same job, with the wage increase, makes $21,008 before taxes. When you only make $15,000 a year, an extra $6,000 is life changing. Low income families will finally have spending power. They will no longer have to choose between food and heat in the winter, or worry about where their next meal will come from. The pay increase would be enough to pull 900,000 people above the poverty line. By being pulled above the poverty line, the families would no longer have a need for government subsidies, meaning it will save the average tax payer money. And with the increased demand in the market, jobs would be created for production. Not only that, but the increased wages could help companies become more efficient as well. Instead of cutting employees or positions, CEO’s and bosses could instead ask for increased effort in their labor, instead of going through the costly and morale breaking process of firing people.

However, what is lost in this debate is human compassion. When the argument becomes so black and white, we lose sight of who is truly being affected by this decision – struggling families. Struggling families, with children who don’t know why they went to bed cold, or why they are having cereal for the eighth night in a row. So another child never has to question why it’s happening to them, I fully support a minimum wage increase in the state of New Hampshire.

 

NH AFL-CIO Scholarship Essay Series: To Raise, Or Not To Raise {The Minimum Wage}: That Is The Question

Tyler Tambouris

Today’s NH AFL-CIO Scholarship essay winner is Tyler Tambouris.  Tyler’s father Michael is a Sheet Metal Worker (local 17).   Tyler is attending River University this year.  This essay won Tyler second place in the scholarship essay contest. 

To Raise, or Not to Raise: That is the Question

Tyler TambourisBy:  Tyler Tambouris

Should New Hampshire enact a State minimum wage, which would be higher than the Federal limit? To this question, I would absolutely answer yes!   I have read several articles and spoken to many people regarding raising the minimum wage.  I have heard both sides of the argument and seen facts that go for and against both sides.  I am convinced that raising the State minimum wage would do more good than harm.

In all the articles I have read, this topic seems to be a Republican versus Democrat debate.  It sounds as if the majority of the Republicans think that raising the minimum wage would hurt our economy by causing many people to lose their job.  They think that if the pay goes up, companies will no longer be able to afford all the workers so they will have to let many go.  This in turn will cause people to rely on the system more and spend less.  However, I also read the data that showed what happened to the states that did raise the minimum wage, and the facts overwhelmingly prove those Republicans wrong.  It showed that although there was some job loss in the beginning, it was substantially lower than stated and only lasted for a short time.  Overall, because people were making more money, they were also spending more in local businesses, which eventually lead to hiring more people.  It was a win, win situation.

When I read that minimum wage has been $7.25 an hour since September 1, 2008 it really hit home how wrong it is to not pass the Bill to raise it.  Think of gas alone and how much the price of it has gone up in just the past 2 years.  Minimum wage has stayed the same for almost 6 years, however, every expense has gone up, one just cannot survive on less than $300.00 a week.  The minimum wage just hasn’t kept up with the cost of living.

Until four years ago, my best friend’s father was a financial worker making almost 6 figures.  They lived very comfortably in Merrimack, NH.  In 2008, he was laid off from his company.  They provided him a severance package that ran out after 6 months.  During that time, he searched and searched for any comparable job, but there was nothing.  He had to get on unemployment and his wife, who was an educational assistant, had to get a second job.  This still wasn’t enough; there were threats of their house being taken away.  Grandparents had to step in and use their retirement money to help them make the bills every month.  After a year of searching for a job and collecting unemployment, my friend’s father entered a depression because he realized there just were not any jobs available for an older financial man.   He finally got a call from a retail store, however, he would start at minimum wage.  This family has had to rent out rooms in their house, and rely on the grandparents to help them.  They now live week to week, every penny accounted for.  My best friend tells me about how they can’t even afford good food. He usually comes to my house to get a nice home cooked meal, because healthy food is much more expensive than junk food or the dollar menu from McDonalds.

One article I read was from a politician that challenged himself to survive on minimum wage for one week, one week!!!  He stated that he had $74.00 for food, gas, and just any incidental we need day to day.  This money had run out by Thursday.  He was forced to walk 2 miles to work and meetings, and eat junk food because it was so inexpensive.  Never mind if he got sick, there was no money for the doctor or medicine.

After thinking about all the articles I have read, and all the people I have spoken with, it just seems like the only thing that will help the people of New Hampshire and New Hampshire’s economy, is to raise the State Minimum Wage.  New Hampshire’s minimum wage is the lowest in New England, why is it that our politicians don’t see the benefits?  Yes, there was evidence of some employees losing their job immediately after raising the minimum wage, however, the long-term effects show improvement in the state’s economy.

Not only would it be beneficial to the people that are working in these jobs, data shows that low wage workers, out of necessity, usually spend every dollar they can in local grocery stores, gas stations, and businesses.  Raising their wages would also raise the money they would be spending.

Another benefit would be for the businesses paying higher than minimum wage.  Data has shown that the workers will spend more time with a company if they are making enough to live.  This will save the company money in having to frequently train workers.  Their employees will also be happier working for them, which will improve their work production.

In conclusion, raising minimum wage would be a boost of the economy in New Hampshire. No matter what the scenario, there will be downsides to either choice. But, I strongly feel that the upsides of raising minimum wage definitely outweigh the downsides of it. Not only will it boost the economy, but it will help people to live a better lifestyle!

 

NH AFL-CIO Scholarship Essay Series: Raising the NH Minimum Wage Would Strengthen The NH Advantage

Minimum Wage 101

Today’s essay comes from Robert Dudgeon who is attending Northern Essex Comm. College perusing a degree in political science. Robert’s mother, Tracy, is a member of the Professional Firefighters of NH Local #4104.  Robert took First Place in the NH AFL-CIO Scholarship contest.

 

Raising the NH Minimum Wage Would Strengthen The NH Advantage

By Robert Dudgeon (titled by NHLN editor)

Why is the minimum wage important, one may ask? It’s only a starter wage, a law that doesn’t affect many workers, right? Think again. 20% of working teenagers, 19% of food-service workers, and 4.3% of all workers in the US (3.3 million people) earn the minimum wage, which is currently $7.25/ hour [1]. The minimum wage is a big deal. It is the lowest rate that a worker can sell their labor for, the law that shows people at the bottom of the economic ladder how much their labor is worth and saves them from working for pennies while they try to climb the ladder. Many critics of the minimum wage don’t understand how impossible it is to live on it. When told that it’s impossible to live on the minimum wage, those critics will start explaining how people are supposed to get more education to move up out of minimum wage jobs, while ignoring the fact that you can’t afford an education while earning the minimum wage. Finally, they will argue that raising the minimum wage will destroy all of the minimum wage jobs, while ignoring the fact that minimum wage jobs continue to exist after numerous minimum wage hikes since the original 25 cents/ hour in 1938. Since the current minimum wage is not a living wage, since working for the current minimum wage will not pay for your education, and since minimum wage hikes do not destroy jobs, I support enacting a NH State minimum wage that goes up in 3 steps ($8.20 in 2014, $9.15 in 2015, $10.10 in 2016) to $10.10/ hour by 2016 and is indexed to inflation to allow for future cost-of-living increases. My proposal is in line with a national campaign to raise the minimum wage, which is supported by President Obama and 600+ economists [2].

Considering the past minimum wage of $7.25/ hour, $10.10 sounds too high, but when compared to New Hampshire’s high cost of living, it’s just right. When one uses the MIT Living Calculator, a free online finance tool, to find the living cost in NH, the living wage needed to match the cost of living in NH is $9.68 for the whole state, with pricey areas such as Hillsborough County and Rockingham County costing $10.07 and $10.15 to live in [3]. The $9/ hour wage proposed by some moderates will just not make the cut, but $10.10 will allow low-income workers the chance to pay all of their bills on time.

Creating a state minimum wage will immediately make a huge difference for Granite State families on the brink of poverty. 77,000 workers making under $10.10/ hour and 36,000 workers who earn more than $10.10 would all see raises as a result of the new state minimum wage [4]. Those who make minimum wage working full-time will see an extra $114 dollars in their paycheck every week [my calculations], which would immediately be spent on gas, food, or other expenses that would otherwise be limited. 12% of New Hampshire children live in families with at least one parent who would earn more from the new state minimum wage [4], which means 1 out of 8 children will have better medical care, eat healthier food, and have a more stable family. 59% of the workers who would see raises are women, and 21% of all working women in New Hampshire would earn more money, which would make the state minimum wage a massive gain for womens’ equal pay [4]. 12% of all workers aged 55+ would get a pay raise, which makes the proposed state minimum wage an excellent way to contribute to comfortable retirements for our senior citizens [4]. 47% of the workers getting raises would be from families making less than $60,000/ year (low-income families), and 42% of all workers from families making less than $20,000/ year would get raises, making the new minimum wage a targeted method of eliminating extreme poverty [4]. The facts show that a $10.10 state minimum wage would improve the financial and personal well-being of traditionally insecure New Hampshire residents, including children in low-income families, the elderly, and women.

Everyone can agree that education is the key to a better job, more pay, and a happier life. Nearly every one of my fellow students was pushed to go to college after we graduated from Pinkerton Academy (Derry, NH), and since most of our parents couldn’t pay our tuition bills, we all found summer jobs and hoped that we could save up enough money to pay for college tuition like our parents and grandparents said they did. However, once the summer ended, most of friends (and myself) had to take on heavy student loans to pay for school when we found out that minimum wage paid nowhere near enough to finance a college education. If you’re a college student lucky enough to have a job at minimum wage for 40 hours/ week during the summer and 20 hours/ week during the school year, you earn ~ $9,500/ year [my calculations], which allows you to attend community college for your first 2 years, but not to attend UNH, which runs ~$16,500/ year for in-state tuition [5]. A couple of my friends couldn’t get parents to co-sign on loans, and they’re working menial jobs until they can afford college. The proposed state minimum wage law would make this situation more workable by increasing the pay for the aforementioned job to ~$13,300/ year, and by boosting pay for low-income families, could allow more low-income students to go straight to college while working to pay most of their bills. Parents could assist with extra funds for the last piece in the affordability puzzle. A whopping 84% of working teenagers would benefit directly or indirectly from the new wage, and the larger economy would benefit from more young people getting a college education without crushing student loan debt.

Finally, there is the question of how many jobs will be available after the proposed minimum wage hike is passed. Many opponents of minimum wage hikes like to predict that massive layoffs will commence once the pen hits the paper and that small businesses will become non-existent, just as they also predicted when child labor was banned, and when the 40-hour workweek was created, when  the EPA was created, and several other times. They simply ignore two large factors that will soften the blow of increased labor costs to businesses. First, increased consumer demand will result from the workers spending their new raises, which will increase business and give businesses enough extra money to retain their workers. The Economic Policy Institute, the only think tank that has done major research into the wage hike, predicts that New Hampshire will gain 400 full-time jobs from the increase demand created by the new state minimum wage. This is a very modest gain due to the fact that New Hampshire already has lower unemployment (4.4% in June 2014) than the rest of the country (6.2% in June 2014)[6]. Also, businesses will pay less in taxes to finance the government assistance programs that low-wage workers rely on when they pay them living wages.

That is the case for raising the minimum wage to $10.10. Nobody knows the exact reason that the federal minimum wage has stagnated. It could have been declining union membership rates that caused labor to lose political power. It could have been strong opponents crying wolf about proposed increases. Regardless of what the federal government will do, New Hampshire must act in its own self-interest and enact a state minimum wage to create a living wage for at-risk groups and families, to allow students the chance to work hard and improve their skills through college, and to create a better climate for business in the Granite State.

 

Works Cited:

1. “Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers, 2013.” BLS Reports (n.d.): n. pag. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mar. 2014. Web. 7 Aug. 2014.

2. “College Costs: Find out How Much College Costs.” CNNMoney. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 08 Aug. 2014. .

3. Cooper, David. “Raising the Federal Minimum Wage to $10.10 Would Lift Wages for Millions and Provide a Modest Economic Boost.” Economic Policy Institute. Economic Policy Institute, 19 Dec. 2013. Web. 07 Aug. 2014. <http://www.epi.org/publication/raising-federal-minimum-wage-to-1010/>.

4. Glasmeier, Amy K. Counties and Places in New Hampshire. Living Wage Calculator. MIT, n.d. Web. 08 Aug. 2014. .

5. “Local Area Unemployment Statistics Home Page.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, n.d. Web. 07 Aug. 2014. <http://www.bls.gov/lau/>.

6. “Over 600 Economists Sign Letter In Support of $10.10 Minimum Wage: Economist Statement on the Federal Minimum Wage.” Economic Policy Institute. Economic Policy Institute, Jan. 2014. Web. 08 Aug. 2014.

What happened in the US Senate yesterday? (Hint: They’re not trying to overturn Citizens United anymore.)

Money Corrputs by Light Brigading via Flikr
Money Corrputs by Light Brigading via Flikr

photo by Light Brigading via flikr

Yesterday, the Senate GOP voted to block any further consideration of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

That means the amendment won’t go over to the House of Representatives for a vote.

And it won’t go out to the 50 states for a ratification vote.

The proposed amendment would have explicitly authorized Congress and state legislatures to set campaign finance limits. (Read more about Citizens United and the resulting “unprecedented amounts of outside spending” in the 2010 and 2012 elections here.)

So… those 16 states that have already voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United? Sorry, folks.

All those other states – including New Hampshire – whose state Legislatures have shown interest in a constitutional amendment? Sorry, folks.

Those 80% of ordinary Americans – including 72% of ordinary Republicans – who oppose Citizens United? Sorry, folks.

The Senate GOP knows better than you do.

So you don’t get a vote on this.

Who to thank, for taking the states’ vote away? The 42 GOP Senators who voted to block the amendment yesterday.

citizens_united_switched_votesOr, more bizarrely, the 25 Senators who on Monday night voted to let the amendment proceed – but by Thursday afternoon, had changed their votes to block it. (And yes, that would include New Hampshire’s own Senator Kelly Ayotte.)

If those 25 Senators had voted the same way on Thursday as they voted on Monday, the constitutional amendment would be going to the House. And then, maybe, out to the 50 states for ratification votes.

So… what happened during those 68 hours, to make those 25 Senators change their votes?

Can’t tell for sure, from out here in the hinterlands. The news is full of the Oscar Pistorius case… 9/11 remembrances… the Ray Rice case… ISIS and the spectre of terrorism. But there’s relatively little press coverage of this attempt to amend our Constitution.  The 80% of Americans who oppose Citizens United probably don’t even know that the Senate took a vote yesterday.

Here’s my best guess: I think Mitch McConnell happened. I’m guessing that the Senate GOP Leader told them how to vote… and the 25 Senators did. (Even Arizona Sen. John McCain, one of the sponsors of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, more commonly known as the McCain-Feingold Act.)

That’s just a gut-instinct guess, but there are two things behind it.  First, during Committee consideration of the amendment, the GOP members marched in lockstep to oppose the amendment. Every recorded Subcommittee and Committee vote was strictly along party lines.

Second reason: GOP Leader McConnell has opposed campaign finance limits since… well, it seems like forever.

Take some time and listen to the GOP Leader’s speech at a June “retreat” for billionaires organized by the Koch Brothers.

In his remarks, GOP Leader McConnell tracks the history of campaign finance reform efforts “back to the beginning of the 20th century” … and how they “petered out” during “the great prosperity” of the 1920s. (Do you think he remembers how the 1920s ended?)

He reminisces about his own efforts to block passage of campaign finance reform:

We had filibuster after filibuster, which in my first term in the Senate I was leading. And then it came back again in the first two years of Clinton. The bill would pass the House, the bill would pass the Senate, and then it would go to conference. And I was so determined, I came up with a new filibuster. That’s all I’d ever done before was filibuster and go in, go into conference. We had to do it all night long. Under (inaudible) procedure every senator had an hour, and if you didn’t show up right on time, you were out of luck.

Everybody rallied together. This was about two months before the great fall election of 1994. Everybody rallied together. We went around the clock. Everybody showed up on time. And I thought, well, maybe we’re finally through with this nonsense.

He says “The worst day of my political life was when President George W. Bush signed McCain-Feingold into law.”

He talks about his own lawsuit to overturn McCain-Feingold. (You can read the Supreme Court decision here.)

He talks about what has happened since his lawsuit.

So what really then changed the Court was President Bush’s appointment of John Roberts. The most important was Sam Alito because we lost the McCain-Feingold case five to four because of Sandra Day O’Connor. The majority was all liberal. Then she retired, and Sam Alito replaced her, and we now have the best Supreme Court in anybody’s memory… Now, that’s where we are today. I’m really proud of this Supreme Court and the way they’ve been dealing with the issue of First Amendment political speech. It’s only five to four, and I pray for the health of the five.

And then he talks about some other things of interest to his audience of billionaires: like minimum wage… environmental regulation… regulation of the financial services industry. And he promises to use federal spending bills to “go after” those issues.

And I assure you that in the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what’s called placing riders in the bill. No money can be spent to do this or to do that. We’re going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board (inaudible).

And – in response to a mostly-inaudible question from David Koch about “free speech” and amending the Constitution – GOP Leader McConnell says:

Having, having struck out at the Supreme Court, David, they now want to amend the Constitution. … These people need to be stopped, and believe me, something that I thought to do (inaudible) what is spent (inaudible) independent coordination?
(Laughter.)
(Applause.)

Yeah, read that again: “These people need to be stopped.”

THAT’s why I’m guessing “Mitch McConnell happened” to those 25 Senators who switched their votes between Monday and Thursday.

What can we do about it, now? What can we – the 80% of Americans who oppose Citizens United – do, now that the Senate GOP has blocked the amendment?

We can make it a campaign issue.

Scott Brown in 2010 Image by Wiki Commons

Scott Brown in 2010
Image by Wiki Commons

Starting here in New Hampshire, with Scott Brown… who, as Massachusetts Senator, helped block the DISCLOSE Act back in 2010. Here in New Hampshire, 69% of us want a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Even among Granite State Republicans, six out of 10 want a constitutional amendment. (Sen. Ayotte: who were you listening to, when you voted yesterday?) How do you think Scott Brown will vote on this, if he is elected in November?

We need to make Citizens United an issue in the 2014 campaigns.

There’s not all that much else we can do, at this point.

—–

If you want to wander through Leader McConnell’s campaign finance disclosure records – including $14.8 million in “large individual contributions” – click here. Remember: that’s just contributions to his official campaign.

“Outside spending” is much harder to track. So far, during this election season, McConnell has also “been boosted by $2.2 million in positive ads, mainly by the [U.S.] Chamber. Outside Republican PACs have already spent $7 million on ads attacking his Democratic challenger, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.”

A running tally of money that “non-profits” have spent on electioneering so far in the 2014 campaign is available here.

—–

More information about grassroots efforts to support the “Democracy for All” amendment is available here.

Tuesday’s NHLN story about the amendment is here.

Can We Overturn Citizens United? US Senate will vote again later this week.

Cash Bribe Politician Money
(FLICKR LIght Brigading

(FLICKR LIght Brigading)

Last night, the proposed constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United moved one tiny step forward. By a 79-18 vote, the US Senate invoked cloture to end a GOP filibuster of the measure.

That means the Senate will actually be able to vote on the amendment, probably later this week. But will it pass? One Hill reporter says, “The amendment is almost certain to fail.”

That’s because constitutional amendments require a two-thirds vote in the Senate – and until last night, the Senate GOP had been working in lockstep to defeat (or undermine) the measure. Every recorded Subcommittee and Committee vote was strictly along party lines: with the Democrats in favor of moving the proposal forward; and the Republicans trying to keep it from seeing the light of day.

So even though some GOP Senators (including NH Sen. Kelly Ayotte) voted to end the filibuster last night, it’s quite possible they will be pressured into voting against the amendment when it comes up for a vote.

If the Senate approves the amendment, it will still need to be approved by the House and ratified by two-thirds of the states. (Read more about the process here.)

Cash Bribe Politician MoneyWhat’s at stake: The Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission helped unleash unprecedented amounts of outside spending in the 2010 and 2012 election cycles. (Read more here.)

It has led to billionaires like Sheldon Adelson wielding incredible personal influence.

It led to Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell making a pilgrimage to a “secret strategy conference of conservative millionaire and billionaire donors hosted by the Koch brothers” where he promised to block debate on “all these gosh darn proposals” like increasing the minimum wage, extending unemployment benefits, and allowing students to refinance their college loans.

Now, Mitch McConnell may believe – as he told those prospective donors – that “all Citizens United did was to level the playing field for corporate speech…. We now have, I think, the most free and open system we’ve had in modern times. The Supreme Court allowed all of you to participate in the process in a variety of different ways.”

But America is seeing through that spin.  

Sixteen states have already endorsed the idea of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

More than 500 local governments have already supported such a change. (Here in the Granite State, the list includes: Alstead; Amherst; Andover; Atkinson; Barnstead; Barrington; Bradford; Bridgewater; Chesterfield; Conway; Deerfield; Eaton; Exeter; Francestown; Henniker; Hampstead; Hudson; Kingston; Lee; Lyme; New Boston; Northwood; Rindge; Tilton; Wakefield; Webster; and Windham)

And the public? America is united on this issue. There is more agreement on overturning Citizens United than on just about anything else. 80% of Americans – and 72% of Republicans – oppose Citizens United. Here in New Hampshire, 69% of Granite Staters support a constitutional amendment like the one the Senate will finally be voting on. (Amendment supporters include six out of every 10 NH Republicans, and almost three-quarters of NH independents.  Senator Kelly Ayotte, are you listening?)

So this past weekend, the GOP tried out some new spins, trying to rationalize why they will be voting against something that eight out of 10 Americans support.

New Spin #1: It’s the Democrats! “‘Senate Democrats have long been funded by a group of billionaires bent on maintaining their power, yet they pretend to be outraged’ by the spending of the Koch brothers and their allies. …In advance of Monday’s floor debate, Senate Republican staffers circulated a chart showing the reach of Democracy Alliance…”

(No, this spin does not explain why Republicans want to maintain the Citizens United status quo. If the Republicans and the Koch Brothers are truly outraged by Democratic big-dollar contributors – why don’t they vote to approve the constitutional amendment?)

New Spin #2: Guns! (Yes, really.)

Here’s how the National Rifle Association described Citizens United: “The court declared unconstitutional the parts of the law that had been enacted for the explicit purpose of silencing the NRA and its members. Of course, the gun-banners in the White House and Congress opposed the decision because it thwarted their plans.”

Here’s how the NRA described the amendment to overturn Citizens United: “As the title of the proposed constitutional amendment suggests, S.J.R. 19 is intended to allow anti-gunners in Congress to silence their critics and to control the gun ‘debate.’”

(The actual title: “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections.” And: while the NRA may be #5 on the list of non-profits that spend money on electioneering… the proposed amendment isn’t actually about guns. It’s about allowing Congress and the states to “regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.” It’s about “protect[ing] the integrity of government and the electoral process.”)

Does the GOP really think either of these spins is going to stick any better than the “Citizens United leveled the playing field” spin?

Why is this such an important issue for those of us in the Labor movement?

Reason 1: “Whatever slice [of political contributions] you look at, business interests dominate, with an overall advantage over organized labor of about 15-to-1. Even among PACs – the favored means of delivering funds by labor unions – business has a more than 3-to-1 fundraising advantage. In soft money, the ratio is nearly 17-to-1.”

Reason 2: Mitch McConnell, shilling for those billionaire donors: “In late April, Senate Republicans, led by McConnell, successfully filibustered a bill to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, a widely popular measure that would increase wages for at least 16.5 million Americans. Earlier in the year, McConnell also led a filibuster of a three-month extension of unemployment insurance to some 1.7 million Americans.”

Is our government really for sale to the highest bidder?

The 2014 campaigns are breaking fundraising records set in the 2012 and 2010 elections.

Isn’t it time to send this constitutional amendment to the states for a ratification vote?

  • Advertisement

  • Advertisement