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A Thanksgiving Appeal to CEOs: Raise Wages, Improve Conditions for Poultry Workers


San Diego, CA – As Americans from coast-to-coast prepare for Thanksgiving, worker advocates are calling on CEOs of America’s largest poultry companies to raise wages, improve safety conditions and guarantee fair treatment for workers who help feed millions of American families.

Three advocacy organizations – Interfaith Worker Justice, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) and the Western North Carolina Workers Center – today released copies of letters to: 

·      Jim Perdue, CEO of Perdue Farms, Salisbury, MD

·      Joe F. Sanderson, CEO of Sanderson Farms, Laurel, MS

·      Bill Lovette, President and CEO of Pilgrim’s Pride, Greeley, CO

Advocates cite low wages with scant benefits; high rates of injury among poultry workers; and a climate of fear and intimidation inside poultry plants as conditions that require immediate attention.

“We are the workers who make the holidays happen,” said Omar Hassan, a former employee at a turkey processing plant in Minnesota. A Somali immigrant, Hassan was discharged after suffering an on-the-job injury.  “We are treated as if we are disposable; all of us should be valued for our work.”

Extensive research into the poultry industry by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2013 and Oxfam America in October of this year shows that:

Poultry workers earn low wages, with real value declining by almost 40 percent since the 1980s.

Poultry workers suffer extremely high rates of injury, especially repetitive strain injuries.  The rate of carpal tunnel syndrome for poultry workers is seven times higher than the national average.

Many poultry workers are afraid to speak up and advocate for better conditions. The industry has a history of hiring immigrant workers and others from vulnerable populations, using intimidation tactics to interfere with workplace rights. “Employees believe at any moment they can and will be fired,” says an attorney familiar with industry conditions. 

Just prior to the release of Oxfam’s October 2015 report, Lives on the Line, Tyson Foods, a major poultry processor, announced an initiative to raise wages. In addition, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced a new regional emphasis to investigate unsafe working conditions in the poultry processing industry. 

“Tyson has made a first start, but this process is by no means finished.  The company must do much more to meet the needs of its workers and live up to its core values,” said Rudy Lopez, executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice. “The other major firms in the industry – Perdue, Sanderson and Pilgrim’s – haven’t budged an inch. We hope consumers take note of that.” 

“OSHA’s regional emphasis on poultry, with more comprehensive inspections in the workplaces where so many injuries take place, is a step in the right direction,” said Jessica Martinez, acting executive director of National COSH. “But it only covers 10 southern states, even though there are poultry plants all over the country. We need to focus on health and safety for all workers, no matter where they live and work.” 

“Consumers have already had a big impact on the poultry industry, by expressing a preference for less antibiotics and more free range birds,” said Hunter Ogletree of the Western North Carolina Workers’ Center. “When we gather with our families next week, let’s give thanks to the people who bring food to our tables – and raise our voices to raise industry standards.” 

Letters to Jim Perdue, Joe F. Sanderson and Bill Lovette can be found on the National COSH website, along with a PowerPoint presentation highlighting concerns about the poultry industry.

Consumers can sign an online petition calling for higher wages, improved safety and fair treatment in the poultry industry at the upper right “Take Action” tab on Oxfam America’s website here.

National COSH, based in San Diego, links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace. More information at coshnetwork.org. 

Interfaith Worker Justice, based in Chicago, has been organizing, educating and advocating at the intersection of work and faith since 1996. There are 70 affiliated organizations in the United States. For more information, visit IWJ.org 

The mission of the Western North Carolina Workers’ Center is to develop leadership among workers through organizing and education to resolve issues of labor rights and promote fair working conditions in Western North Carolina. More information at wncworkerscenter.org

American Family Voices Campaign To Unite Progressives On Economic Agenda

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Sherrod Brown,
Rep. Raul Grijalva, progressive movement advocates, and business leaders
make the argument for a progressive economic agenda.


Washington, D.C. — Today, American Family Voices is launching a new campaign uniting progressive politicians, movement advocates, and socially conscious business leaders to make the argument for a progressive economic agenda, with the video release of “Fairness AND Growth: the Progressive Economic Alternative.” On Friday, October 2nd, AFV, in collaboration with State Innovation Exchange, will convene the “Forging an Alliance Between Progressive Leaders and Socially Conscious Businesses” conference to advance this agenda.

What does such an agenda look like? To make an expanding and prosperous middle class the engine of our economy again, we support ending corporate welfare and closing tax loopholes; increasing wages and strengthening working families; protecting the dignity of retirement by strengthening Social Security and Medicare; investing in infrastructure, education, and green energy to create more jobs; and taming the power of Wall Street.

Our video features exclusive interviews with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Sherrod Brown, Rep. Raul Grijalva, Dr. Gabriela Lemus of Progressive Congress, Damon Silvers of the AFL-CIO, Deepak Bhargava of Center for Community Change, Khalid Pitts of USAction, small business owner MaryAnne Howland, New Resource Bank President Vince Siciliano, and economist Mike Konczal of the Roosevelt Institute, and quotes from Pope Francis, Richard Trumka, and Robert Reich.

The president of American Family Voices, Mike Lux, said, “Together, these voices tell the story of how a movement is rising once again to create an economy that raises working families up instead of enriching wealthy elites — an economy based on a prosperous and expanding middle class, not a trickle-down fantasy.”

Since the beginning of 2015, a variety of organizations and individuals have promoted a progressive economic agenda:


Alliance for a Just Society

American Family Voices

Campaign for America’s Future

Center for Community Change

Center for Popular Democracy

Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights


National People’s Action

Progressive Change Campaign Committee

Progressive Congress

Roosevelt Institute

The Progressive Agenda Coalition


Working Families Party

“The emperor has no clothes: Reaganomics simply doesn’t work for the majority of Americans,” said AFV Executive Director Lauren Windsor. “This country was not built to be a serfdom. We need a progressive economic agenda to ensure we don’t become one.”

Democrats In Washington Push For $12 Minimum Wage By 2020 and Receive Praise From Labor

12 by 2020 (Patty Murray)

Bill introduction by Sen. Patty Murray. Image from Sen Patty Murray on Twitter.

(WASHINGTON, DC) –  “We are introducing this bill because we believe hard work should pay off,” said Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) as she introduced a bold new plan to raise the federal minimum wage to $12 per hour by the year 2020. “Let’s help more families make ends meet, expand economic opportunity, and grow our economy from the middle out.”  A matching House bill was introduced by Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.).

According to Economic Policy Institute analysis, “37.7 million workers would benefit from this increase, including 21.1 million women. 37 percent of African American workers and 40 percent of Hispanic workers would receive wage increases. 90 percent of workers who would be affected by the Raise the Wage Act are 20 years old or older, 27.6 percent have children, and half have total family incomes of less than $40,000 a year. 47 percent of workers who would be affected by the Raise the Wage Act have at least some college experience. Over the last 40 years, the federal minimum wage has lost more than 30 percent of its buying power; if it had kept pace with the increased cost of living, the minimum wage would currently be $10.80 per hour.”

After the bill was introduced, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released the following statement:

“Today’s introduction of new minimum wage legislation represents significant progress in the powerful, collective movement to raise wages. It’s inspiring to see the momentum generated by working people across the country influence some of the largest corporations and the most powerful political forces.

Raising wages for working people is the defining issue of our time and workers are capturing and expanding it. While we strongly encourage Congress to support this effort, we must remember that a minimum wage increase alone will not remedy decades of failed policies that have only benefitted those at the very top. The true measure of progress must include opposing Fast Track and bad trade deals and a dedication to expanding the rights of workers to collectively bargain.”

In response to the new legislation, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, released the following statement:

“The Raise the Wage Act would boost our economy and strengthen our families. This bill would raise wages for more than 37 million people: 1 in 4 workers, 1 in 3 wage-earning women and more than 1 in 3 working people of color. Higher wages will help ensure that no one who works full time lives in poverty, and help working people provide a better life for their children and their families.

“This bill shows that working men and women, standing up and speaking out, are being heard. They’re taking their case to the streets and to the ballot box for an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few.

“Low wages are the crisis of our time. To solve this crisis, our country needs a minimum wage that families can live on, and workers must be free to join together in a union and fight for the higher pay they deserve. I applaud Senator Murray  and Congressman Scott  for their leadership.”

Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)  is an original cosponsor of the Raise the Wage Act, would increase wages for nearly thirty eight million Americans. The legislation would be particularly beneficial to New Hampshire, which does not have a state minimum wage law and instead relies on the current federal minimum wage.

“No one who is working full time should live in poverty,” Shaheen said. “Hard working people and families in New Hampshire and across the country are long overdue for a raise. Nationally, nearly two-thirds of minimum wage earners are women, and in New Hampshire seventy percent of minimum wage earners are women. I hope my colleagues in the Senate will join me in supporting the Raise the Wage Act so that we can help lift families out of poverty and improve our economy.”

Of course NH’s other Senator, Kelly Ayotte has opposed an increase in the minimum wage in the past.

“Kelly Ayotte has consistently voted against a minimum wage increase that would help working families make ends meet,” said Sadie Weiner, DSCC National Press Secretary (see references at the bottom)

. “Men and women who are willing to work hard for a living deserve a livable wage that doesn’t leave them and their families struggling, and Kelly Ayotte is going to have a hard time defending her callous votes against a minimum wage increase.”

Raising the federal minimum wage to $12.00 would result in an average annual raise of $2,800 for more than 147,000 Granite Staters. The Raise the Wage Act would put more than $411 million into New Hampshire worker’s pockets, improving financial security for families and boosting the economy.

The Raise the Wage Act would also index the minimum wage to the national median wage starting in 2021. It would also eliminate the tipped minimum wage by gradually raising the cash wage over ten years from the current $2.13 per hour to match to the new regular minimum wage of $12 per hour.

Almost everyone agrees that something needs to be done and that we must raise the minimum wage. The question is, is $12 by 2020 enough of a raise?

“We are encouraged to see that our elected leaders are beginning to hear our calls for change and discussing wages and inequality in our country,” said Sacramento Walmart worker Shannon Henderson. “While $12 by 2020 would be a good first step, it still falls short of what working Americans need to raise our families. At just $10 an hour with no guarantee of full-time hours, I’m struggling today to care for my two young children. I simply can’t wait until 2020 for a decent wage. That’s why we’ll keep standing up for $15 an hour and access to full-time consistent schedules at Walmart.”

2014: Ayotte Voted Against Bill To Increase The Federal Minimum Wage To $10.10. [Vote 117, 4/30/14]

  • Increasing The Federal Minimum Wage To $10.10 Would Have Meant A Raise For More Than 100k Workers In New Hampshire. Increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 would mean a raise for 113,000 New Hampshire workers. [Economic Policy Institute, 12/19/13]

2015: Ayotte Voted Against An Increase In The Minimum Wage. [Vote 93, 3/26/15]

Over 5,000 Rally In Boston In The #FightFor15, Kicking Worldwide Day Of Action On Wages And Inequality

Massachusetts Kicked Off the Largest Ever
Global Mobilization of Underpaid Workers Protest on Six Continents;
Adjunct Professors, Home Care, Child Care, Transportation, Fast Food, Janitorial, and Walmart Workers to Rally Coast to Coast.

Thousands of underpaid workers frustrated by low wages rallied, walked out in strike, and marched throughout the city of Boston yesterday to call for higher wages and to kick off a global wave of protests against wage inequality. Two-and-a-half years ago Boston was one of the first cities in the Fight for $15 calling for higher wages for fast food workers.  The growing movement has spread across the country, and around the world, and now includes low wage workers from various occupations like home healthcare workers and adjunct professors. Boston became the launching point for the largest ever global mobilization of the underpaid when workers, students, and their supporters took to the streets on Tuesday.

(Time Lapse Video of March by @SEIU)


The two-and-half-year-old Fight for $15 has continued to grow on local college campuses as well.  Students from Boston University, Northeastern University, UMass-Boston, UMass-Amherst, Roxbury Community College, Harvard University, Emerson College, Tufts University, Clark University, Lesley University, Boston College, and Brandeis University joined with low wage workers to rally for higher wages.


College students are not the only ones who are feeling the pain of low wage jobs, many of the adjunct faculty at these colleges are paid just above minimum wage and are forced to live in poverty. In May of 2014 the Boston Globe reported:

“Nearly 15,000 contingent and adjunct faculty teach in greater Boston. Many work at multiple schools, trying to make enough to support themselves and their families on low pay with no benefits. All have advanced degrees, and many live at or below the poverty level.”

This is why adjunct professors from across the city joined the march and spoke out for higher wages. “We are supposed to be the college professors raising up the next generation,” said one adjunct professor in the video posted by Faculty Forward.


A recent Brookings Institution study shows that Boston is the third most inequitable city in the nation, with the top 5 percent of households earning 15 times what the bottom twenty make. Massive income disparity is badly hurting this country and on April 14, low wage workers and their allies will take action to address the growing wage inequality crisis.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts is leading the nation with three groundbreaking pieces of legislation intended to lift up low wage workers.

Home care workers bill

  • Provides $15 an hour to nearly 20,000 workers who provide home care to seniors and people with disabilities through “agency” home care employers.
  • Requires annual cost reporting from home care agencies, including detailed financial disclosures of executive compensation and overhead costs.

Fast food and big box retail workers bill

  • Requires big box retail and fast food corporations to pay their employees at least $15 an hour by 2018.
  • Applies to hourly wage workers at corporate fast food chains and Big Box stores over 25,000 square feet and with 200 or more employees in Massachusetts.

Tipped wage bill

  • Gradually eliminates the subminimum wage for tipped workers.
  • Mandates that after 2022, tipped employees would have the same hourly minimum wage as workers in all other industries in Massachusetts.

Following the global kick off event in Boston on April 14, protests will stretch around the globe the next day, with demonstrations expected in more than 200 U.S. cities, 100 international cities, in 40 countries, and on six continents, from Sao Paolo to Tokyo.  Follow the worldwide events on twitter at the #FightFor15 hashtag

Below are images from yesterday’s rally in Boston, provided by SEIU 1199 Massachusetts. All images were taken by Rose Lincoln, 1199SEIU.  More images and tweets of support for Massachusetts workers can be found on the #WageAction hashtag and on Youtube.

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Worker Wins Update: Increased Wages and Organizing Successes Highlight Banner Month

WASHINGTON, DC – From increases in the minimum wage to successful organizing efforts at some of America’s largest companies, workers have led notable wins over the recent months.

The following are a sample of victories won by workers:

Organizing Victories

AFSCME Sets Organizing Goal, Almost Doubles It: AFSCME President Lee Saunders announced that the union has organized more than 90,000 workers this year, nearly doubling its 2014 goal of 50,000.

Tennessee Auto Workers to Create New Local Union at VW PlantAuto workers at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee announced the formation of UAW Local 42, a new local that will give workers an increased voice in the operation of the German car maker’s US facility. UAW organizers continue gain momentum, as the union has the support of nearly half of the plant’s 1,500 workers, which would make the union the facility’s exclusive collective bargaining agent.

California Casino Workers Organize: Workers at the new Graton Resort & Casino voted to join Unite HERE Local 2850 of Oakland, providing job security for 600 gambling, maintenance, and food and beverage workers.

Virgin America Flight Attendants Vote to Join TWU: Flight attendants at Virgin America voted to join the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU), citing the success of TWU in bargaining fair contracts for Southwest Airlines flight attendants.

Maryland Cab Drivers Join National Taxi Workers Alliance: Cab drivers in Montgomery County, Maryland announced their affiliation with the National Taxi Workers Alliance, citing low wages and unethical behavior by employers as their reason to affiliate with the national union.

Retail and Restaurant Workers Win Big, Organize Small: Small groups of workers made big strides as over a dozen employees at a Subway restaurant in Bloomsbury, NJ voted to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Meanwhile, Cosmetics and Fragrance workers at a Macy’s store in Massachusetts won an NLRB ruling that will allow them to vote on forming a union.

Minnesota Home Care Workers Take Key Step to Organize: Home health care workers in Minnesota presented a petition to state officials that would allow a vote on whether they will form a union for more than 26,000 eligible workers.

New York Television Writers-Producers Join Writers Guild: Writers and producers from Original Media, a New York City-based production company, voted to join the Writers Guild of America, citing low wages, long work schedules, and no health care.

Raising Wages Victories

Fast Food Workers Win in New NLRB Ruling: The National Labor Relations Board ruled that McDonald’s could be held jointly responsible with its franchises for labor violations and wage disputes. The NLRB ruling makes it easier for workers to organize individual McDonald’s locations, and could result in better pay and conditions for workers.

Workers Increasingly Have Access to Paid Sick Leave: Cities such as San Diego, CA and Eugene, OR have passed measures mandating paid sick leave, providing workers with needed flexibility and making workplaces safer for all.

Student Athletes See Success, Improved Conditions: College athletic programs are strengthening financial security measuresfor student athletes in the wake of organizing efforts by Northwestern University football players. In addition, the future is bright as the majority of incoming college football players support forming a union.

San Diego Approves Minimum Wage Hike, Portland, ME Starts Process: Even as Congress has failed to raise the minimum wage, localities throughout the country have delivered action. San Diego will raise the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour by 2017, and the Portland, MEMinimum Wage Advisory Committee will consider an increase to their minimum wage which would take effect in 2015.

SEIU’s Henry: Seattle Workers Show the Way by Winning $15/Hour Wage Floor

Image by Wonderland Flickr

Image by Wonderland Flickr

WASHINGTON, DC – After the Seattle City Council voted to lift the minimum wage in Seattle to $15 per hour, Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), issued the following statement:

“Like working Americans across the country, the 2.1 million members of SEIU are tremendously inspired by today’s breakthrough vote by the Seattle City Council to lift the wage floor there to $15 per hour. Congratulations to everyone in the coalition who fought to make this victory possible.

“We are all better off when working-class families have enough money in their pockets to pay for their basic needs and put money back into their neighborhoods to strengthen their community.

“This landmark victory happened because fast food workers stood with janitors, nurses, hospital workers, child care workers and home care aides to fight for wages that boost the economy. They stuck together, went on strike, and made their voices heard. They spoke out to say that it’s wrong that ordinary people work hard but live paycheck to paycheck so that irresponsible corporations can set new records for profits.

“This victory in the Seattle shows the way for workers in other cities who are fighting to lift their local minimum wage rates. The courage of fast food workers is inspiring for other people working in service jobs who are fighting to boost pay standards across an industry.

“It is a huge step forward as workers across the country build a movement to make sure that fast-growing service jobs pay people enough to become the foundation of the next American middle class. Together we will fight to build an economy that works for everyone, with broadly-shared prosperity for all of us.”

SEIU’s President Henry And 100 Workers Arrested at McDonald’s Shareholders’ Meeting


Image from @SEIU on Twitter

WASHINGTON, DC – Following her arrest at the McDonald’s shareholders’ meeting outside of Chicago, Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), issued the following statement:

“Earlier today, I was arrested outside of McDonald’s world headquarters alongside more than 100 McDonald’s workers from across the country because we engaged in a peaceful, nonviolent act of civil disobedience.

“I was arrested because I want McDonald’s workers to know that 2.1 million members of SEIU — home care workers, child care workers, adjunct professors, security officers, hospital workers and many others — proudly stand with them.

“We came to McDonald’s world headquarters because this is where the real decisions are made. It’s time for the McDonald’s corporation to stop hiding behind its franchisees and to stop pretending that it can’t boost pay for the people who make and serve their food. It’s time for this company to stop systematically stealing its employees’ wages. McDonald’s is the world’s second largest private sector employer. It is extraordinarily profitable. It has an obligation to pay the people who run its stores enough to afford their basic needs.

“Members from across our union tell me over and over that they fully support fast food workers’ call for a $15 wage floor and their right to form a union without retaliation. When these workers win, they will boost their families’ purchasing power and that will strengthen the economy for all of us. They will show that workers can stick together and fight to make sure they are paid a fair share of the profits they create.”

Utterly Disgusting! The NH GOP In The NH Senate Kill A Minimum Wage Increase

Utterly disgusting, despicable, shameful, disgraceful, and appalling are all words I would use to describe the actions taken by the Republican Senators in the NH Senate today as they voted to kill the minimum wage increase.

Straight down party lines the Senate voted 13-11 to kill the minimum wage bill that would have helped lift 76,000 Granite Staters out of poverty.

“Later this evening, a sales clerk in Derry or a waitress in Hampton will return home from a hard day’s work and will have to decide whether to pay the bills on her kitchen table or to go to the grocery store – because she doesn’t have enough to do both,” said Jeff McLynch, executive director of the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute. “The Senate had an opportunity today to ease their struggles and the difficulties faced by thousands of New Hampshire residents like them. Yet, rather than pass a modest, gradual, and sustained increase in New Hampshire’s minimum wage, the Senate simply walked away.”

“Senate Republicans have again voted against the best interests of Granite State families,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley.

“I am disappointed that Senate Republicans voted today against a bill to restore and increase New Hampshire’s minimum wage, a measure that an overwhelming majority of Granite Staters support because it would strengthen our economy and help improve the economic security of working families,” stated Governor Hassan.

“Increasing New Hampshire’s minimum wage will lead to more economic growth by rewarding hard work and improving workers’ productivity,” stated Senate Minority Leader Sylvia Larsen. “Senate Democrats believe we must raise the minimum wage, because increasing the minimum wage leads to greater income opportunity, so everyone will have a chance to succeed and get ahead.”

“Senate Republicans had the chance to put partisan politics aside and do the right thing for the 76,000 residents of New Hampshire who would benefit from this bill, but they failed them with this vote today,” concluded Larsen.

The minimum wage increase would have helped 76,000 low-income workers including.  The facts do not lie, 72% of the New Hampshire’s minimum wage workers, who would directly or indirectly benefit from this bill are age 20 and older with nearly 40% being 30 and older. 59% are women and 14% are parents.  Increasing the minimum wage would have benefited over 21,000 children are living NH.

Due to inflation and legislative inaction, New Hampshire’s minimum wage has lost 23 percent of its purchasing power since 1979. Failure to adopt a new increase means that the real value of the minimum wage could fall to just $6.50 per hour within the next several years.

“New England can be an expensive place to live,” McLynch added. “Policymakers in every other state in the region have acknowledged this reality and set their minimum wages above the federal level. Only New Hampshire expects people to continue to stretch $7.25 per hour to meet that high cost of living.”

“A Senate Republican making $185,000 a year called the minimum wage bill ‘feel good legislation’ but refused to spend even one day living in the shoes of his constituents who makes less than ten percent of his salary, even when they are working full-time,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress, in reference to Senator Peter Bragdon’s opening remarks. “Senator Bradley chose to use industry talking points instead of rely on economic data, and Senator Sanborn voted against the bill without disclosing the conflict of interest that he pays some of his workers minimum wage.”

“In contrast, several Senate Democrats took the Minimum Wage Challenge to live on minimum wage before voting on this bill. That experience illustrated for them the lack of affordable housing options, the slim budgets, and the constant anxiety that a minimum wage earner lives with every day. Questions about how to put gas in your tank and food on the table become very real when you don’t have a $185,000 golden salary to live on. Minimum wage earners work hard and play by the rules, but Senate Republicans sent a message loud and clear that they don’t care,” Rice Hawkins said. (Read full statement from GSP here)

“Senate Republicans have again voted against the best interests of Granite State families,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley. “No one who works full time in New Hampshire should have to live in abject poverty, but that’s the world we live in because of GOP obstructionism. Raising the minimum wage would not only help lift thousands of families out of poverty, but it would also stimulate our local economy and alleviate pressure on our public assistance programs. The Republican Senate caucus, not to mention gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein and Senate candidate Scott Brown, should be ashamed of themselves. By opposing this commonsense measure, they are effectively damning the families that most need our help.”

“People working full-time in New Hampshire should be paid enough to support their families and I will continue fighting to restore and improve our state minimum wage in order to boost our economy and strengthen the economic security of thousands of Granite Staters,” concluded Hassan.

Granite State Rumblings: We Must Increase The Minimum Wage And Details Of Sen. Watters Min Wage Challenge

The state minimum wage bill (HB1403) comes before the full Senate this Thursday, May 8th. HB 1403 would increase the state’s minimum wage in two steps, $8.25 per hour in 2015 and then to $9.00 per hour in 2016, and then ensure that it keeps pace with the cost of living moving forward.

minimum wageThis is an important piece of legislation for Granite State workers as they struggle to make ends meet each and every day. Raising the minimum wage to $9.00 per hour by 2016 would increase the wages, either directly or indirectly, of nearly 76,000 New Hampshire workers, resulting in an additional $64 million in wages, in the aggregate, being put into the state’s economy over the next two years. (source; NHFPI)

NH District 04 Senator, David Watters, saw how difficult it is to live on a minimum wage job when he took part in the Minimum Wage Challenge this past weekend in Dover with ECM-NH’s Field Director, MacKenzie Flessas. (See photos and read about it in Growing Up Granite below).

Over the past several months, five states – Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota, and West Virginia – have enacted legislation to increase their minimum wages, according to an article posted by the NH Fiscal Policy Institute.

The report continues by informing us that Delaware’s wage standard will soon begin climbing towards $8.25 an hour, West Virginia’s will grow to $8.75 per hour, and, for some Minnesota employers, the wage floor will be set at $9.50 per hour. In Connecticut and Maryland, the minimum wage will eventually reach $10.10 per hour. As a result, by 2016, half of the states and the District of Columbia will have minimum wages above the current federal standard of $7.25 per hour.

It is important to note that those states that have – or will have – a minimum wage in excess of the federal level tend to have something in common: a relatively high cost of living, as does New Hampshire.

The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center’s (MERIC) research indicates that the cost of living in New Hampshire was close to 21 percent above the national average in 2013, driven principally by housing, utility, and health costs. The NHFPI article quotes The National Low-Income Housing Coalition’s recent Out of Reach report confirming how difficult it can be to meet some of these costs in the Granite State. It finds that New Hampshire was the 11th most expensive state in the country for renters in 2014.

As NHFPI Executive Director, Jeff McLynch pointed out in is testimony before the House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee in February, “ in considering an increase in New Hampshire’s minimum wage, two claims are commonly made in opposition.  Neither have merit.”

“First, some maintain that the primary beneficiaries of any minimum wage increase would be teenagers.  ….an analysis of Current Population Survey data by the Economic Policy Institute reveals that 72 percent of the workers who would see a wage increase from a $9.00 per hour minimum wage are adults.  For many low-wage workers, their job is not a “starter” position or a “foot in the door.”  For many of them, their personal economic circumstances demand that they take whatever job they can find, simply to put a roof over their head, a jacket on their back, and food on the table – either just for themselves or for their family.”

“Second, others have argued, in keeping with traditional criticisms, that raising New Hampshire’s minimum wage will reduce employment.  Needless to say, this question has been explored for decades, but the most recent, high quality studies on the relationship between state minimum wages and employment levels find little evidence to suggest that raising New Hampshire’s minimum wage will produce large-scale job losses.  For instance, a 2010 study conducted by researchers from the University of Massachusetts, the University of North Carolina, and the University of California examined state minimum wage increases during the period from 1990 to 2006 using data from nearly 300 bordering counties that had differentials in their minimum wages.  It concludes that: ‘[Our] estimates suggest no detectable employment losses from the kind of minimum wage increases we have seen in the United States…’”
See more at: http://www.nhfpi.org/research/nhfpi-testifies-support-increase-nh-minimum-wage.html#sthash.e2pklkci.dpuf

Every Child Matters in New Hampshire agrees with the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute, our partner organizations in the Raise the Wage coalition and 76% of Granite State residents that it is time to raise the minimum wage in New Hampshire. Doing so will help families make ends meet, boost sales at businesses across the State, and put New Hampshire on a path towards an economy that works for everyone.

If you agree, please call your Senator today and let him/her know to support HB1403 on Thursday.

The Minimum Wage Challenge


ECM – NH Field Director MacKenzie Flessas and State Senator David Watters

This past weekend, Senator David Watters (District 4-Dover) and I sat down to talk about the challenges that families who are living on minimum wage face everyday in our state. The weekly wage for a minimum wage worker who works full-time is $290 before taxes.

Senator Watters was given a worksheet to divide his weekly expenses given his new minimum wage income. For the purpose of this exercise, it was assumed that Sen. Watters was currently receiving Food Stamps as a single person. The maximum amount of this assistance is $5.45 per day.

So we went into the grocery store with a budget of $38.10 (a week’s worth of Food Stamps benefits)

We began in the Produce section. While looking at the fresh vegetables, Sen. Watters said “I know I need vegetables, but I’m not sure if I can afford it yet.” I followed him around the store as he tried to make a meal plan for the week, settling for meals like eggs, bread and peanut butter, and pasta and sauce. At one point he was given the choice of feeding his cat or buying fresh vegetables. A compromise had to be made. One day a week of no food for his beloved cat would enable him to purchase broccoli. “Fresh food is too expensive for me.”

We checked out and came up with a total of $36.91. (84 cents under budget)  Senator Watters commented, “At times I just felt desperate. I no longer cared about brands, I only needed to look at prices.” He also recognized that he did not buy some essential items that he would need to purchase eventually, such as sugar, cooking oil, flour and dish soap.

And by the way, several of his purchases today are not allowable under the food stamps benefit: cat food, toothpaste, and shampoo, so they had to be paid for from his minimum wage earnings.

“I don’t know what I would do week after week, it would grind me down. It makes me understand what this is all about.”

As I reflect upon this challenge with Senator Watters, I think, what would families in our state do without these essential assistance programs? Even with the small amount of help that Sen. Watters was receiving during his Minimum Wage Challenge (housing assistance, heating assistance, food stamps, and Medicaid,) he was still not able to have a positive balance of money at the end of the month.

With more than 42,000 children in our state living in poverty, and for whom many of their families are making minimum wage or just above, I know that investing in an increase in minimum wage will give families the basic necessities that they need to grow healthy, productive children, which is an investment in New Hampshire’s future.


The full Senate will vote on the increase in Minimum Wage on Thursday May 8th. I urge our Senators to stand up for the most vulnerable people in our state, the 15.6% of children living in poverty, and vote Ought to Pass on the Minimum Wage increase, HB1403.

Thank you Senator Watters for having the courage to take the challenge.


To see what Senator Watters thought about the Minimum Wage Challenge view this YouTube Video.

Here is what Senator Watters bought with his weekly food allowance of $38.10:

Item Price  Balance
10lb bag potatoes $4.99 $32.76
3lb onions $2.89 $29.87
Carrots $1.50 $28.37
1/2 Gallon milk $2.59 $25.78
Eggs $1.89 $23.89
Bread $1.79 $22.10
2lbs Chicken $1.26 $20.84
1/2 lb Cheese $2.78 $18.06
Linguine $1.39 $16.67
Rotini $1.39 $15.28
Canned tomatoes $1.99 $13.29
Cat food $4.50 $8.79
Shampoo $1.49 $7.30
Toothpaste $1.49 $5.81
Peanut butter $2.89 $2.92
Broccoli $2.89 $0.03
$36.91 ended up being the total, so something might have been on sale. $.84 left over from Food Budget






New Hampshire Raise the Wage Coalition Calls on State Senators to Live on Minimum Wage for a Week

State Senators asked to walk a mile in shoes of constituents before casting vote on minimum wage bill

NH Senate Committee Hearing  (Image from Arnie Alpert -- NH AFSC)

NH Senate Committee Hearing
(Image from Arnie Alpert — NH AFSC)

CONCORD, NH – Several members of the New Hampshire Raise the Wage Coalition are calling for State Senators to live on minimum wage for one week before voting on whether to raise the state’s minimum wage. The request was made during the Senate Finance committee public hearing on HB 1403 today, and echoed in an email sent to all State Senators shortly after the public hearing ended.

HB 1403 would raise New Hampshire’s minimum wage in two stages and provide for annual cost of living increases in the future.  It would increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 per hour on January 1, 2015 and to $9.00 per hour on January 1, 2016.  Beginning January 1, 2017, it would automatically increase New Hampshire’s minimum wage to account for inflation, based on the Consumer Price Index. Raising the wage would directly impact 48,000 workers and another 28,000 would experience an indirect increase, ultimately benefiting 76,000 New Hampshire workers and the overall economy in the state.

Organizations calling on the State Senate to live a week on minimum wage include Granite State Progress, NEA-New Hampshire, NH Citizens Alliance, Every Child Matters, and the New Hampshire Conference of the United Church of Christ – Economic Justice Ministry Team. All of the groups are members of the New Hampshire Raise the Wage coalition.

“The average minimum wage earner in New Hampshire is an adult earning less than $300 a week,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress. “These are people with real breadwinner responsibilities trying to put food on the table and keep a roof over their head. We are calling on our State Senators to better understand the plight of these Granite State families by spending a week living in their shoes. They will find out what it’s really like to plan a budget, buy groceries, find a place to live and manage transportation in New Hampshire on under $300 a week.”

“There are lots of facts and figures tossed around when politicians debate an issue. The Minimum Wage Challenge will make sure this discussion is grounded in the real-life choices confronted by tens of thousands of Granite State workers who are trying to get by on just $7.25 an hour,” Rice Hawkins said.

Organizations issuing the call have offered State Senators who participate an opportunity to meet with local advocates to review housing options and visit the grocery store together, among other things. Press interested in these activities can contact Granite State Progress.

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