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AFL-CIO Releases Youth Economic Platform, Leading Up to State of the Union Address

AFL-CIO_Headquarters_by_Matthew_Bisanz2

Platform to serve as foundation for upcoming nationwide actions

Today, the AFL-CIO Young Worker Advisory Council released its economic platform as part of an effort to build a nationwide youth economic movement for raising wages. The platform, which is being announced on the eve of President Obama’s State of the Union address, is an agenda for action for the labor federation’s nearly 50 Young Worker Groups across the country—including in Iowa and New Hampshire.

“Despite the economy slowly rebounding, young people continue to lag behind. The President’s community college proposal is a wonderful idea but it has to be part of a bigger plan to revive the American Dream,” said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler. “This document and its principles should serve as the outline of what the President embraces in the State of the Union when he talks about young people next week.”

The platform includes a number of proposals that would help young people overcome many significant economic challenges. Among them: free high-quality public higher education, increased public investment to create jobs, stronger union rights, a heavier emphasis on combatting discrimination in the workforce, and policies that raise wages for all not just the wealthy.

“Unless there’s an election coming up, politicians far too often relegate the interests of young people to the backburner. To make sure that changes, young workers have told us they will fight for this agenda in the coming months,” said AFL-CIO Young Worker Coordinator Tahir Duckett.

The report can be viewed here: http://go.aflcio.org/nextup-future-economy

After Gov. Hassan’s Inaugural Speech The NH GOP Spread False Talking Points About The Minimum Wage

from http://standupfl.org/event/national-raise-the-wage-day/

New Hampshire Republicans Double Down on Opposition to Strengthening Wages for Hard-Working Granite Staters

Republicans Use Debunked Claims About Effect of Minimum Wage on Job Creation;

Data Shows 2014 Job Creation Grew Faster in States that Raised the Minimum Wage

Concord, NH – Following Governor Hassan’s impassioned call for legislators to come together to finally restore and increase New Hampshire’s minimum wage, Republican leaders doubled down on their opposition to strengthening wages for tens of thousands of hard-working Granite Staters.

A WMUR Granite State Poll found that 76% of Granite Staters support raising New Hampshire’s minimum wage – including majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents.

“As Governor Hassan argued passionately in her Inaugural Address, it is long past time for members of both parties to come together to finally restore and increase our state’s minimum wage,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley. “Instead of recycling debunked talking points, Republican leaders need to listen to the voices of the people of New Hampshire and finally join with Governor Hassan to strengthen wages and move our economy forward.”

In her Inaugural Address, Governor Hassan stressed the importance of expanding opportunity and strengthening wages for New Hampshire families. But just moments after the Governor’s address concluded, Senator Jeb Bradley was already recycling the same old debunked Republican talking points, calling the minimum wage “a job-killer.”

The problem with such claims is that they’ve repeatedly been shown to be untrue. The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) found that job creation in 2014 was faster in the 13 states that had increased their minimum wage on January 1, 2014 compared with those that had not. Another study from the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment found “strong earnings effects and no employment effects of minimum wage increases.”

Even more mind-boggling was the argument from Deputy Speaker Gene Chandler, who told NHPR that New Hampshire should not increase the minimum wage because doing so “also raises the wage levels of everyone else up the line because if the minimum wage is raised, then other people are going to expect to get more money.”

“It’s ludicrous and just another sign of how completely backwards today’s New Hampshire Republican Party is that party leaders could argue that raising the minimum wage is a bad idea because it would help too many people,” added Buckley.

AFL-CIO Announces Raising Wages Summits in Presidential Primary States

Senator Elizabeth liz Warren

 Expanded Campaign in Seven Cities

The first National Summit on Raising Wages definitively set the tone for political and economic action in the New Year. It generated an in-depth, diverse conversation and developed concrete steps for an expanded campaign to raise wages for working people. But above all, the summit proved America is beginning to rise up, come together and reject the idea that nothing can be done about falling wages.

The AFL-CIO’s national summit is just the beginning of the 2015 Raising Wages campaign. From today’s success, the campaign expands with two initial projects:

1)      State federations of labor will hold Raising Wages summits in the first four presidential primary states—Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina—beginning in Iowa this spring. These summits will bring together diverse voices to lay out the entire Raising Wages platform and establish state-based standards of accountability.

2)      The AFL-CIO will take the Raising Wages campaign to seven cities around the country: Atlanta, Columbus, DC (Metro), St. Louis, Philadelphia, Minneapolis and San Diego. In each city, the labor movement will stand together with those already at work and bring important energy, ideas and resources to critical battles. These cities will be the starting points of a long-term effort to concentrate work where it can have the most impact.

In major speeches highlighting the summit, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Secretary of Labor Tom Perez outlined the defining economic fact of the past generation: productivity has gone way up and wages have stayed flat. Concluding the summit, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka highlighted the enormous progress, remaining challenges and real steps the labor movement plans to undertake in order to create an economy based on raising wages.

The AFL-CIO also released a series of policy prescriptions that take on many of the challenges discussed. These bold policies provide a comprehensive road map to grow our nation’s economy in a way that works for everyone.

The core of the summit’s success was built on a panel discussion of workers, academics, business owners and progressive and political leaders. Through this conversation, panelists detailed how the raising wages agenda made great strides and confronted great challenges in 2014, including major organizing wins at American Airlines, multiple state legislative victories on the minimum wage and innovative campaigns conducted by carwash workers. The panelists also recognized, however, that right-wing billionaires’ extremist politics, a rapacious Wall Street and insufficient advocacy from political leaders thwarted further progress.

The AFL-CIO National Summit on Raising Wages was attended by more than 300 progressive activists and union leaders, and was seen by thousands more through online live-stream video.

This summit is how the work begins. At its end, the challenges—but more importantly, the opportunities—are clear. Allies united behind the idea of a Raising Wages Agenda have come together in a collective voice, and are ready to go to work.

Progressive NH State Rep To Propose Minimum Wage Increase To $14.25 And Eliminating The “Tipped Minimum Wage”

Minimum Wage 101

Minimum Wage 101

Representative Jackie Cilley to introduce far-reaching minimum wage legislation

Fmr. State Senator and Gubernatorial candidate returns to Concord to pursue middle-class agenda

JackiePortrait(Barrington, NH) After a four-year absence from the New Hampshire General Court, newly-returned Barrington representative Jackie Cilley announced that her first piece of legislation – and her chief priority in the coming session – is to give New Hampshire’s struggling workers a raise with an increased minimum wage paired with the elimination of the so-called “tipped minimum wage.” This legislation would mark a return to a state-based minimum wage and move tipped workers into the economic mainstream with a raise from the current rate of $2.90.

Cilley, whose legislation would raise the minimum wage to $14.25 per hour over a three year-period and eventually tie the tipped minimum wage to the same figure, argues the move from both a matter of fairness and economic common sense.

“Most of use want to get paid what we are worth, what we contribute to the companies and organizations for whom we work,” notes Cilley.  “If the minimum wage had actually kept pace with worker productivity, it would be $21.72 today.  Instead, workers’ wages peaked decades ago because of partisan divide.”

“Conservatives and progressives should both want to see the creation of livable wages.  Set aside for a moment the argument of fairness to workers and just consider what each of us is paying to help an employer keep a worker at sub-livable wages.  These workers can’t actually live on those wages. They often need such support services as food stamps, fuel assistance, housing assistance and so on.   If the minimum wage were raised to just $10.10 per hour that would mean 1.7 million people across this country would no longer need public assistance, saving us $7.6 billion.  I don’t yet have the exact figures for this for New Hampshire, but simply pro-rating it per capita suggests a savings of more than $30 million.”

“This is long overdue: They were one vote away from making a substantial start in the last session and I want to keep that momentum moving, regardless of the partisan makeup of the new legislature,” Cilley said. “This doesn’t have to be a partisan issue – Mitt Romney supports an increased minimum wage, for example – but we have to make the case on economic, not just fairness grounds.”

“Bill O’Brien’s decision to put what New Hampshire businesses pay their workers in the hands of bureaucrats in Washington, DC was terrible choice. We need to have a minimum wage that reflects the economy and values of New Hampshire, not DC – This legislation puts the decision back where it belongs, in New Hampshire.”

Legislation pushed by then-Speaker Bill O’Brien repealed the state’s minimum wage law in 2011 and handed jurisdiction to the federal government. Gov. Lynch vetoed the legislation, but O’Brien’s allies in the House overrode the veto. The National Employment Law Project’s Christine Owens said at the time that “given the fact that minimum wage workers spend every penny they earn in their local businesses, a strong wage floor is also vital to stimulating the consumer spending necessary for real and lasting economic recovery.”

These economic facts of life haven’t changed. A study released in March of 2014 by the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute echoes Owens words.

“Most notably, raising the minimum wage will increase demand for the goods and services sold by businesses operating in the Granite State. Low-wage workers, out of necessity, typically spend every dollar that they earn. As a result, the increased wages they will earn from a higher minimum wage will almost certainly be spent – and most likely be spent quickly – in the communities in which they live and work.”

About Jackie Cilley: Born in Berlin, New Hampshire, Jackie Cilley was raised with four siblings in a third-floor walk-up tenement before graduating from Berlin High School. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UNH and has served as an adjunct professor at the Whittemore School of Business and Economics since matriculating from there in 1985. In 2004 she ran for a seat in the New Hampshire House of Representatives and won, serving one term in the House before being elected twice to the  New Hampshire Senate, representing the 6th District from 2006 – 2010. In 2012, she ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic nomination for Governor, losing to Gov. Hassan. She was re-elected to the New Hampshire House in 2014 where she serves on the Committee on Executive Departments and Administration. Rep. Cilley was recently named by veteran NH political reporter John DiStaso as one of the “‘Most wanted’ NH Democrats for the 2016 presidential campaign.”

My Question To The Walton Family: How Much Is Enough?

Walmart Black Friday

 

How much money is enough? Do you stop being a greedy capitalist when you no longer care what anything costs? Do you stop when you become one of the named people on the “Richest People In America” lists?  Do you stop when your company make $8.5 million dollars a day in dividends alone? Some people would say, “Never! I will never stop until I own everything!”

This is exactly the case of the Walton Family.  Sam Walton built an empire in Walmart by keeping costs down and providing people with everything they needed in one store.  Somewhere along the way, Sam’s Walmart became WALMART (dun-dun-dah), the monstrous corporation with over one million employees that drives the entire retail industry.  They force other retail shops to compete with their unscrupulous tactics like forcing employees to work on Thanksgiving, paying workers the absolute minimum, and making the majority of employees part-time to avoid having to offer any type of health benefits (forget about retirement – good luck funding that 401k on $7.25 an hour).

The Walton’s still own Walmart and they could be doing so much more for their workers, their communities and their country.  They could pay every worker $15 an hour without having raise any prices or lose out on any profits.  Yet they refuse to pay workers a living wage. In fact the Walmart corporation is one of the biggest opponents to raising the minimum wage.

Lets not forget that we as American taxpayers are subsidizing these low wages with our tax dollars.  Research from the Economic Policy Institute shows that the government spends more than $13 billion dollars a year subsidizing the retail industry’s low wages.  With a poverty rate of low-wage workers pushing over 10%, it is no wonder Walmart does food drives for their own employees.

So again I will ask how much money is enough? 

_________________________

The UFCW and Robert Reich teamed up to make this great video (http://youtu.be/_-SMetMkcVI) explaining how Walmart could give millions of Americans a raise right now, if they chose to.

Please watch this video and support a Black Friday Protest near you, visit BlackFridayProtest.org

What would YOU do with $707 billion?

WWYD_707_billion

WWYD_707_billionGoldman Sachs just weighed in with their predictions for next year’s economy. They expect “only a modest growth in business investment”… but a whopping increase in the amount of money corporations will spend buying back their own stock.

(Corporations buy back their own stock to increase per-share prices.  Many CEOs get paid more, if the price of their company’s stock rises.  And most CEOs receive at least some of their compensation as stock or stock options.  Either way, increasing the stock price increases how much $$$ the CEO takes home.)

Next year, Goldman Sachs analysts expect corporations to spend a total of $707 billion buying back their own stock.

What else could Corporate America do with that money?

  • Companies could create about nine million $50,000 jobs – with benefits!  (Wait… isn’t “nine million” the number of people who are unemployed in America, right now?)
  • Companies could “afford” to increase the wages of the 3.3 million minimum-wage workers in America. (Most minimum wage employees work 34 hours or less at their primary job… calculating that as 5.8 billion minimum-wage work-hours a year… would mean that all those workers could get a $122/hour increase!  Yeah, that was “one hundred twenty-two dollars an hour”… do the math yourself.)
  • It could pay for the Food Stamp program — for almost an entire decade. (Which only seems fair, since nearly three-quarters of families receiving public assistance are working families who don’t get paid enough to make ends meet. And it doesn’t matter how profitable the industry is: almost one-third of all bank tellers are on public assistance; more than half of all fast-food workers; thousands upon thousands of workers in other industries.)

But apparently Corporate America isn’t going to be doing anything like that, with that $707 billion. Not creating jobs. Not increasing wages. Not giving up the taxpayer subsidies for their low-wage jobs.

No, Goldman Sachs expects Corporate America to spend that money just… buying back shares of stock.

Which doesn’t really create value. It’s not a new factory, or a new product, or even a new market. All stock buybacks do is concentrate corporate ownership. Like ultra-concentrated dish soap: it’s the same stuff, just in a smaller bottle.

And yes, this does have advantages if you’re looking at things from the CEO’s perspective.

All too often stock buybacks are deceptive things, which create a sugar high in the share price, a nice little windfall for management, and pretty much nothing in the way of actual value creation.

But looking at that $707 billion from the perspective of the 99%…?

  • In a stack of $100 bills… that same money would be about 480 miles high.
  • You could buy enough ultra-concentrated dish soap to fill about 75,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

… and from the perspective of the 99%, either of those options would probably be just as good as spending all that $$$ on stock buybacks.

Have a better idea about how to spend $707 billion? Use our comments section to share it.

Read “Nightmare on Wall Street? Are Stock Buybacks Creating Another ‘Financial Bubble?’” here.

Read “Why the Economy Doesn’t Work for the 99%: Massive Payouts to Corporate Stockholders” here.

 

Nationwide, ballot questions showed: voters care about working families

I Voted

I Voted

A quick look at ballot questions, nationwide:

  • Minimum wage hikes won, big-time in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. Voters in those “red” states approved binding ballot questions raising their states’ minimum wages, as did voters in Oakland and San Francisco, California. Voters in Illinois and in several Wisconsin counties approved non-binding ballot questions calling for a hike in their minimum wages.
  • Guaranteed paid sick time won. In Massachusetts, voters approved paid sick time for most employees. Voters in Trenton, New Jersey, Montclair, New Jersey and Oakland, California approved local ballot questions requiring private employers to provide paid sick time.
  • Medicaid expansion won. In Wisconsin, voters who re-elected Governor Scott Walker also told him they wanted the state to join the Affordable Care Act. County after county approved non-binding questions to expand the state’s Medicaid program, “BadgerCare.”
  • Collective bargaining rights won. In Missouri, voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have eliminated teacher tenure and restricted bargaining rights. And in Anchorage, Alaska, voters repealed a law limiting public employees’ collective bargaining rights.

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.

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