New White House Reports Shows Women Benefit The Most From A Minimum Wage Increase

Women and the Minimum Wage

The growing income inequality has become a major issue in the United States in recent years.  Much of this debate has surrounded by the failure of the minimum wage to keep up with the ever-growing cost of living.

There have been many studies done by numerous think tanks that show if we raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour it will lift millions of low-wage workers out of poverty.  While the opponents of a minimum wage increase like to say that many of the low-wage workers are just teenagers earning extra spending money, the truth could not be farther from the truth.

“Most people who would get a raise if we raise the minimum wage are not teenagers on their first job – their average age is 35.  A majority of lower-wage jobs are held by women.  These Americans are working full-time, often supporting families, and if the minimum wage had kept pace with our economy’s productivity, they’d already be earning well over $10 an hour today.  Instead, it’s stuck at $7.25.  Every time Congress refuses to raise it, it loses value because the cost of living goes higher, minimum wage stays the same.”

- President Obama, Remarks at Central Connecticut State University, March 5, 2014

The wage gap between men and women has also come to the forefront of the low-wage discussion with recent political pushes for legislation like paycheck fairness and the Lily Ledbetter Act.

The fact is that women are the majority of low-wage workers, over 55%, of the people who would be effected by a minimum wage increase.  This is even more evident when we talk about the tipped minimum wage.  Women make up 75% of workers in tipped occupations.

Women and the Minimum Wage

Many states have a reduced minimum wage for tipped workers. For example the tipped minimum wage in New Hampshire is $3.27 an hour.  This means the employer, the restaurant, only has to pay employees $3.27 an hour provided the employee makes enough in tips to ensure that they are paid the state minimum wage ($7.25).   19 states have a tipped minimum wage of $2.13 an hour, while six states do not have any reduced minimum for tipped workers.

Tipped Minimum Wage by State

The truth is that workers in predominantly tipped occupations are twice as likely as other workers to experience poverty, and servers are almost three times as likely to be in poverty.  It is glaringly obvious that workers who rely on tips are not making enough to support themselves or their families.

Just like the minimum wage, the power of the tipped wage has eroded over the last 20 years since it was last increased.  Since 1991, the tipped minimum wage has declined by 40 percent in real terms.  Today, the tipped minimum wage equals just 29 percent of the full minimum wage, the lowest share since the tipped minimum wage was established in 1966.

 

Tipped wages lost value

Another major issue with the tipped minimum wage is that not all employees are making enough in tips to reach the minimum wage. When surveyed, more than 1 in 10 workers in predominantly tipped occupations report hourly wages below the full national minimum wage, including tips.

Raising the full minimum wage and the tipped minimum wage will help reduce poverty among women and their families, as well as make progress toward closing the gender pay gap.

  • About one-quarter (26 percent) of all workers who would benefit from increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 have dependent children, and 31 percent of female workers who would benefit have children.
  • 2.8 million working single parents would benefit from the President’s proposed increase in the full minimum wage, more than 80 percent of whom are women.
  • Research shows that raising the minimum wage reduces child poverty among female-headed households.
  • Increasing the minimum wage can also help women work their way out of poverty and into the middle class.
  • For every dollar that men earn, women earn just 77 cents. Estimates from the President’s Council of Economic Advisers suggest that increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and indexing it to inflation could close about 5 percent of the gender wage gap.

Chances are that you know someone who works hard in a low-wage job who will benefit from an increase in the minimum wage.  Raising the minimum wage will help workers lift themselves out of poverty and reduce the amount of money they receive from government assistance programs.   Raising the minimum wage is common sense. America needs a long overdue raise, and the time is now.

 

Read the full White House report: THE IMPACT OF RAISING THE MINIMUM WAGE ON WOMEN – March 2014

 

Granite State Rumblings: The Earned Income Tax Credit Is A Boost To Working Families

Taxes

TaxesWell we are coming up on tax season again. If you are like me, you are thinking about how nice a refund check would be this year!

More than 1 in 5 children (22%) nationwide live in families with incomes below $22,000/year, and 1 in 10 children live in families with incomes of $11,000 a year or less. Did you know that for many low and moderate income families there are several tax credits that many do not take advantage of when filing their taxes? The Child Tax Credit is one.

The Child Tax Credit (CTC) is a partially-refundable tax credit designed to help those families with the cost of raising those children, helping reduce the hardship and expand opportunities for those children. Like the Earned Income Tax Credit, the CTC is also designed to incentivize work.

The CTC is the largest tax code provision benefiting families with children.  By reducing the income tax liability of low-income families with children, and offering a refund of up to $1,000/child to some families, this credit helps offset the cost of raising children. It is estimated that a $1,000 increase in family income helps increase child math scores by 2 percent and reading scores by 3.5 percent. We also know this credit goes right towards bettering the lives of children. Data shows that low-income families spend a larger share of their pre-tax income directly on their children than those with higher incomes (25 percent v.16 percent for middle class families and 12 percent for wealthy families).

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is another. Here is information from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities about the EITC.

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a federal tax credit for low- and moderate-income working people. It is designed to encourage and reward work as well as offset federal payroll and income taxes. The EITC is “refundable,” which means that if it exceeds a low-wage worker’s income tax liability, the IRS will refund the balance.

Single or married people who worked full-time or part-time at some point in 2013 can qualify for the EIC, depending on their income.

  • Workers who were raising one child in their home and had income of less than $37, 870 (or $43, 210 for married workers) in 2013 can get an EIC of up to $3,250.
  • Workers who were raising two children in their home and had income of less than $43, 038 (or $48,378 for married workers) in 2013 can get an EIC of up to $5,372.
  • Workers who were raising three or more children in their home and had income of less than $46, 227 (or $51,567 for married workers) in 2013 can get an EIC of up to $6,044.

The EITC is designed to encourage and reward work. Beginning with the first dollar, a worker’s EITC grows with each additional dollar of earnings until the credit reaches the maximum value. This creates an incentive for people to leave welfare for work and for low-wage workers to increase their work hours.

This incentive feature has made the EITC highly successful. Studies have shown, for example, that the EITC — especially in the presence of a strong labor market — has encouraged large numbers of single parents to leave welfare for work. The Committee for Economic Development, an organization of 250 corporate executives and university presidents, concluded in 2000 that “The EITC has become a powerful force in dramatically raising the employment of low-income women in recent years.”

Next to Social Security, the EITC combined with the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit constitutes the nation’s most powerful anti-poverty program.  These two credits lifted 10.1 million people out of poverty in 2012, including 5.3 million children

The EITC reduces poverty by supplementing the earnings of workers with low wages and low earnings. There has been broad bipartisan agreement that a two-parent family with two children with a full-time, minimum-wage worker should not have to raise its children in poverty. At the federal minimum wage’s current level, such a family can move above the poverty line for an average family of four only if it receives the EITC as well as SNAP (food stamp) benefits.

For young children, moving out of poverty is particularly important. Research has found that lifting income in early childhood not only tends to improve a child’s immediate educational outcomes, but also is associated with more schooling, more hours worked, and higher earnings in adulthood. One such study showed a link between an increase in the EITC for families with more than two children and an increase in achievement in middle childhood for children in these families.

 Growing Up Granite

This year many New Hampshire workers will qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for the first time because their income declined or they became unemployed; tax refunds through the EITC and Child Tax Credit can help low- and moderate-income families cover day-to-day expenses such as utilities, rent, and child care.

EITC and the Child Tax Credit are not considered as income in
determining your eligibility for benefits like TANF, food stamps, and Medicaid.

The number of New Hampshire families that claimed the EITC in 2013, (for tax year 2012), were 78,000. The average EITC dollar amount was $1,882.

The total EITC dollar amount that NH families received was $147 million. The IRS estimates, however, that one in five of eligible people could miss out on the EITC because they don’t know about it, don’t know that they qualify, or don’t know where to find free tax filing assistance.

Yes you read that correctly. Free tax filing assistance is available for some families and individuals in New Hampshire. Below you will find several ways to get help filing your tax return:

Visit a local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site, The Vita Program offers free tax help to low- to moderate-income ($51,000 and below) people who cannot prepare their own tax returns.

Visit a local American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) tax preparation site. The IRS certifies volunteers to provide free tax help through the Tax-Aide Program.

The majority of the VITA and TCE sites are open annually from late January/early February to April 15. During this time, you can locate a site near you using the above locator tools.

To have your tax return(s) prepared at a VITA or TCE site you need to bring the following information with you:

  • Proof of identification – Picture ID
  • Social Security Cards for you, your spouse and dependents or a Social Security Number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration or
  • Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) assignment letter for you, your spouse and dependents
  • Proof of foreign status, if applying for an ITIN
  • Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents on the tax return
  • Wage and earning statement(s) Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, 1099-Misc from all employers
  • Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099)
  • A copy of last year’s federal and state returns if available
  • Proof of bank account routing numbers and account numbers for Direct Deposit, such as a blank check
  • Total paid for daycare provider and the daycare provider’s tax identifying number (the provider’s Social Security Number or the provider’s business Employer Identification Number) if appropriate
  • To file taxes electronically on a married-filing-joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms.

You could do your taxes yourself, by going online to The Internal Revenue Service web site www.irs.gov.

NH House Shows Strong Support For Working Families With Today’s Votes

NH House

NH House Shows Strong Support for Working Families on Votes to Pass Paycheck Fairness, Paycheck Protections & Raise the Wage

GRANITE STATE PROGRESS PRAISES HOUSE, COMMITTEE VOTES ON HB 1188, HB 1404, AND HB 1403

CONCORD, NH – The New Hampshire House voted today to pass a paycheck fairness bill and strengthen worker payroll protections; in addition the House Labor Committee voted to support a bill to raise the minimum wage in New Hampshire. Statements from Granite State Progress:

Paycheck Fairness (HB 1188)

The NH House of Representatives voted 183-125 in bi-partisan support of HB 1188 today, which provides stronger protection for employers by clarifying the conditions when wage disparities between men and women performing the same work are allowable. The legislation also strengthens the protections of current equal pay laws by prohibiting employers from adopting workplace policies that bar employees from voluntarily disclosing earnings information, and by prohibiting retaliation against employees who opt to share information about their wages, salaries, and benefits.

Statement from Granite State Progress Political and Research Director Caitlin Rollo:

“This is an important piece of legislation that provides employees with the legal tools they need to challenge the wage gap in New Hampshire. According to the most recent data from the US Census Bureau, full-time female workers in New Hampshire make 77 cents for every dollar their male counterparts, which mirrors the national pay gap average. Today, 40% of women are the sole providers for their family and another 20% are co-providers. The existence of such disparities in pay equity reduces the wages of working families who rely on the wages of all the workers in the family to make ends meet. There are current barriers in the workplace that make it hard for women and other workers to determine whether they are being paid in an equitable fashion, and HB 1188 remedies that situation. We applaud the legislature for their work on the important issue of paycheck fairness.”

(Also read the statement from NH House Leadership on the passage of HB 1188)

Payroll Cards (HB 1404)

The NH House of Representatives also voted 201-104 in bi-partisan support of HB 1404 today, which provides more consumer protections for payroll cards. Payroll cards act as a form of debit cards, often carrying a brand such as Visa or Mastercard, and are used as such – right down to the fees for withdrawals, payments and balance checks. At American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meetings in 2010 and 2011, Visa introduced model bills and resolutions on payroll cards to encourage their use. In response, HB 1404 updates New Hampshire consumer protections for payroll cards to eliminate a number of “gotcha” or surprise fees, provide better access to card balances, and mandate disclosure of all payment options in clear, plain language.

Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins:

“Corporations like Visa have been eager to transition workers from paychecks to payroll cards to collect more fees from the transactions, including transaction fees charged at local businesses who accept the cards for payment. HB 1404 is a smart piece of legislation that will update New Hampshire’s consumer protections and eliminate the additional fees and expenses for workers to collect and use their paycheck. It also requires that all payment options be shared with workers upfront, in clear, plain language. Granite State Progress is proud of the House members who stood strong to protect workers and small businesses in our state.”

Raise the Wage (HB 1403)

The NH House Labor committee voted 10-8 in support of HB 1403 today, raising the minimum wage in New Hampshire.  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.

Statement from Granite State Progress Political and Research Director Caitlin Rollo:

“Our organization absolutely believes that working people should be able to pay their own bills rather than rely on taxpayer assistance, and because of that we support having a strong minimum wage that reflects the real needs and economic climate in our state. Raising the wage will benefit thousands of workers and families across our state with a modest increase set in two stages then indexed to the cost of living. These are primarily adults who work at least half or full time, who have real responsibilities and families. We applaud the House Labor Committee for its support to raise the wage and encourage the full House to move forward with this bill.”

Note: Three-quarters of Granite Staters – including majorities of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats – support increasing the minimum wage to $9 per hour, according to the Granite State Poll.

Guest Column Denis Drew: The Only Way To Effect Real Change In Poverty Is To Raise The Wage To $15

NHLN Guest Editorial

NHLN Guest EditorialBy Denis Drew, from Chicago, IL

Progressive economists should readily admit — shout, scream — that a “moderate” federal minimum wage increase, typically 10% cited in conservative studies, should indeed have little or no effect on poverty rates. Why would an extra 1/4 of one percent of GDP added to low wage pay checks be expected to clear a broad swath through poverty? That is what a $1 an hour increase in the federal minimum wage equates to — about $40 billion out of a $16 trillion economy. (E.I.T.C. shifts $55 billion.)

A $15 an hour minimum wage OTH would send about 3.5% of GDP the way of 45% of American workers — about $560 billion (much of it to bottom 20 percentile incomes who today take only 2%* of overall income).

Could raising the wages of 45% of the workforce actually raise demand for the goods and services they produce? Sounds sensible at some level; raising wages so much ought to add demand somewhere – but, is it all smoke and mirrors? Before the 45% — who would get a wage hike to $15 an hour — can raise demand anywhere, they would need to get the extra cash from somewhere else – meaning the 55%. (Bottom 45 percentile incomes – not wages – currently take 10% of overall income – so, at no time are we talking giant chunks of the economy here.)

The 45% can get higher pay even as “numerical” (to coin a phrase?) demand for their output declines due to higher prices — as long as labor gets an bigger enough slice of the new price tags. This can be compared to a leveraged buyout or buying stocks on margin.

Products produced by low-wage labor tend to be staples whose demand tends to be inelastic. Demand for food is inelastic – maybe even fast food. If the price of your Saturday family jaunt to McDonald’s rises from $24 to $30, are you really going to eat at home (the kiddies haven’t forgotten the fundamental theorem of economics: money grows on trees :-])? And fast food should be the most worrisome example: lowest wages to start with; even so, highest labor costs, 25%.

Wal-Mart is the lowest price raising example (surprise) with 7% labor costs. Jump Wal-Mart pay 50% and its prices go up all of 3.5%.

If low wage labor costs average 15% across the board and go up 50%, overall prices increase only 7.5% — and that is for low wage made products only; nobody’s car note, mortgage payment or health premium is affected. If demand drops just enough for price increases to maintain the same gross receipts (conservative, even without inelasticity), low wage income should improve appreciably.

Allow me to cite: from a 1/ll/14, NYT article “The Vicious Circle of Income Inequality” by Professor Robert H. Frank of Cornell:
“… higher incomes of top earners have been shifting consumer demand in favor of goods whose value stems from the talents of other top earners. … as the rich get richer, the talented people they patronize get richer, too. Their spending, in turn, increases the incomes of other elite practitioners, and so on.”

The same species of wheels-within-wheels multiplier ought to work the at both ends of the income spectrum — and likely in the middle. A minimum wage raise to $15 an hour is not going to send most low-wage earners in pursuit of upper end autos, extra bedrooms or gold seal medical plans. Wal-Mart and Mickey D’s should do just fine, OTH – which in turn should keep Wal-Mart and Mickey D’s doing even better.
* * * * * *
Did I forget to mention … ? The poverty line that a “moderate” minimum wage could not help anybody cross — $20,000 for a family of three – is only about half as high a hurdle as a realistically worked out minimum needs line should be. .

A practical line would be more like $40,000 a year. Today’s official federal formula is an early 1960s creation: multiplying the price of an emergency diet by three (dried beans only, please; no expensive canned) – no current basket of goods. For a reasonable basket of goods consult page, 44, of the, 2001 (2008), MS Foundation book “Raise the Floor.”

So, a so-called “moderate” increase in the minimum wage will not even clear a half-height hurdle.

Final thought: Why does everyone obsess so over the “hazards” of raising one price in our economy — low wage labor’s. Nobody shudders when the Teamster Union raises its price. It is not like the price of low wage labor has been habitually tested against market willingness to pay and been barely holding its own. It is more — it is exactly — like the price of low wage labor has sunk further and further below market willingness — precisely for lack of testing — as the ability to pay has grown and grown — for almost half a century now. To see, click my everything-adjusted-for-everything minimum wage history chart.

Founder of New American Africans to Receive 2014 MLK Award

Photo credit Becky Field
Photo credit Becky Field

Photo credit Becky Field

MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE — Honore Murenzi, founder and director of New American Africans, will receive the 2014 Martin Luther King Award on January 20 at the 32nd annual Martin Luther King Day Community Celebration in Manchester.

The Martin Luther King Day Community Celebration will take place at the Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral Community Center, 650 Hanover Street in Manchester, on Monday, January 20, 2014.  The event begins with a potluck meal and social hour starting at 2 pm, with the program running from 3 to 5 pm.

Murenzi came to New Hampshire as an immigrant from Africa in 2001, speaking little English.  While working as a French teacher, he became aware of the many problems faced by the growing population of immigrants and refugees, especially those who had fled from extreme violence in Africa.   Murenzi began to devote more and more of his time to providing emergency support, food, interpretation, help navigating the complicated system of public and charitable assistance, and in 2004, he founded New American Africans.

Photo credit Becky Field

Photo credit Becky Field

The Martin Luther King Award is given each year to a New Hampshire resident whose work carries on the spirit of Dr. King, according to the Martin Luther King Coalition, the group that sponsors the annual celebration.

The Martin Luther King Day Community Celebration will also include awards for the winners of the Martin Luther King Arts and Writing Contest.  In addition, the Coalition will present a Lifetime Achievement Award to Bill Davis, Sr., an Auburn resident long active in local projects promoting civil rights and respect for cultural diversity.

Shujaa Graham of Witness to Innocence will be the guest speaker.

Honore Murenzi founded New American Africans with the vision that Africans in New Hampshire have much to offer each other in their efforts to find security and welcome, and also that newcomers and local people need each other as well.  ”Together we will be stronger” has been the group’s motto since its first days, and is the vision that continues to guide Murenzi’s work.

Based in Concord, New American Africans now helps refugees and immigrants get access to serves such as education, housing, employment, and health care, for example by offering translation in Kinyarwanda, Kirundi, French, Swahili, and other African languages.    The organization also has a youth program, which offers after-school tutoring and activities of middle school and high school students in Manchester and Concord.

Murenzi was among the first people to respond to Concord families whose homes were defiled by racist graffiti in 2011 and led the development of the “Love Your Neighbor” project.

“Murenzi deserves the Martin Luther King award because of his steadfast love and compassion for newcomers in New Hampshire, and for all who are poor and isolated,” said Sister May Cronin, a spokesperson for the Martin Luther King Coalition.  “He works every day to create the beloved community in New Hampshire, calling all of us to acknowledge that we need each other and that our lives will be happier and more abundant when we take care of each other.”

For further information, see http://www.mlknh.org/

Jobs With Justice Relaunches With New Website, Brand and Expanded Agenda

jobs-with-justice-logo

jobs-with-justice-logoWashington, D.C.—Today, Jobs With Justice is proud to unveil its new website and brand to complete the organization’s relaunch as a result of the 2012 merger between Jobs with Justice and American Rights at Work. The new website can be viewed at www.jwj.org.

“As the new Jobs With Justice, we are leading the fight for workers’ rights and an economy that benefits everyone. By bringing together labor, community, student and faith voices at the national and local levels, we are creating innovative solutions to the problems workers face today,” said Executive Director Sarita Gupta.

Already this year, the organization has helped immigrant workers earn precedent-setting U visas to protect them against employer retaliation, secured a meeting for students with Sallie Mae’s CEO to address the company’s role in the student debt crisis, pushed for the implementation of the Department of Labor’s new rule extending overtime and minimum wage protections to two million home care workers, and stood with retail and fast food workers who walked off the job to demand better wages and working conditions. So far this year, the Jobs With Justice network engaged in campaigns impacting more than 500,000 workers. The organization also issued dozens of original research reports and policy materials.

“As our country faces stagnating wages and economic growth, Jobs With Justice is an essential voice in the fight against economic inequality,” said Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America and Jobs With Justice board member.

Added David Bonior, former majority whip, founding chair of American Rights at Work, and current Jobs With Justice board member, “The ability of Jobs With Justice to work nationally and locally, on-the ground and online, to win real change for workers is exactly what this movement needs.”

By combining strategic campaigns, innovative communications, and solid research and policy advocacy with robust grassroots action and mobilization, the organization will continue to build on the combined 35-year history of Jobs with Justice and American Rights at Work.

For more information and to access earlier publications and resources from American Rights at Work, please visit www.jwj.org.

AFL-CIO Statement on The Proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership

StopTPP

StopTPPOn the eve of the Dec. 7 meeting of trade ministers of the twelve countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade and investment negotiations, Cathy Feingold, International Department Director of the AFL-CIO, released the following statement:

(Washington, DC) After nearly four years of negotiations, the trade ministers are on the brink of finalizing the TPP.  Government trade negotiators often speak of the importance of “momentum” in such agreements, in order to provide “urgency” to make “needed compromises.”  What they rarely speak of is the urgent need to make trade policy choices that will have immediate, positive impacts on the lives of people they are supposed to be representing.

Critical issues remain outstanding in the TPP, including provisions affecting the free exercise of labor rights, the conservation of natural resources, the affordability of life-saving medicines, and the extraordinary legal privileges that allow global corporations to use private courts to challenge laws and regulations they don’t like.

What American working people—and their counterparts in TPP countries—want to know is whether the TPP will create good, family-supporting jobs.  They want to know if it will help reverse the race to the bottom that has led to wage stagnation and made it easier to suppress worker efforts to achieve fair contracts and a voice in the workplace.  They want to know if the TPP will include strong, enforceable labor and environmental protections. They want to know if the TPP will lock-in austerity policies or if it will actually promote shared prosperity and help address economic injustice.

Unfortunately, America’s workers have seen no evidence that their trade negotiators have focused on these urgent quality of life issues.  Unless the trade ministers can re-focus this agreement on the things that really matter to American families, they are likely to create more failed trade policy in their rush to completion, costing both jobs for workers and business opportunities for U.S. manufacturers.

Workers To Protest For A Living Wage In Manchester On Dec 5th

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Living in New Hampshire is not for the faint of heart.  We like to say that New Hampshire has two seasons, winter and road construction.  For those who do not like the cold, the harsh New England winters seem to last forever.

The long cold winters add pressure on working families in New Hampshire due to the high cost of home heating oil.  Right now the average price for home heating oil is $3.84 a gallon.  This year the average family will pay $2,494 to heat their homes this year. This is an increase of about $450 dollars from last year.

For people who are working in low-wage jobs this $450 increase is going to put a significant hit in their wallets.  A full time minimum wage worker will only earn $15,080 this year.  Take away the $2500 for home heating oil and that leaves less than $1,000 per month for food, rent, water, and other expenses.

In a recent editorial from the Concord Monitor (a definite must read) the author wrote: 

“One minimum-wage income is below the poverty line for two people, a mother and child, for example. In fact, it would take 2.8 full-time minimum wage jobs to pay the rent on the average two-bedroom apartment in New Hampshire.”

There is not one state in the entire United States where a minimum wage worker can afford a two-bedroom apartment.

The minimum wage is not high enough to pay the bills. Every year the bills keep getting higher, and yet workers wages have stayed stagnant.

This is why millions of Americans are pushing to make the minimum wage a real livable wage.  Wages have not kept up with rising costs, and people are forced to work two or three jobs just to survive.

In 2013 the NH AFL-CIO pushed to raise the minimum wage in the NH Legislature.  The bill died but that does not mean the fight is over.  The NH AFL-CIO is working with legislators to introduce another minimum wage increase again in 2014.

To bring attention to the plight of the low-wage workers, community leaders and union activists will be rallying in front of McDonalds on South Willow Street in Manchester, NH on Dec 5th.  During the busy lunch rush activists will be passing out information about how McDonalds is one of the biggest abusers of the minimum wage.

McDonalds wages are so low that many workers are forced to rely on social welfare programs just to survive.  McDonald’s alone cost the taxpayers $1.2 billion dollars in government assistance programs.

I hope you will join me in calling for a living wage for low-wage workers at McDonalds on South Willow Street on December 5th, from 11:30-1:00. 

Bring your own signs, rain or shine.

 

 

Working Families Can’t Afford Another Shutdown Style Crisis (by Richard Trumka & Mark Mackenzie)

NH AFL-CIO Logo

By Mark MacKenzie and Richard Trumka

NH AFL-CIO LogoLast month, we saw Washington at its worst. Driven by the Tea Party, Republican leaders, including Senator Ayotte, recklessly shut down our government and brought our nation to the brink of default. Ignoring voices of reason from working families across New Hampshire, some of our leaders in Congress listened to shouts of “shut it down” and inflicted unnecessary damage to our economy.

The shutdown cost 120,000 jobs in the first two weeks of October and will reduce economic growth by at least .25% in the fourth quarter. Here in New Hampshire it directly impacted 4,069 federal workers and countless residents who rely on federal services.

Thankfully, reason prevailed, Republican leaders relented and Congress appointed negotiators to work on a new budget agreement.

Now it’s on to the next fight in Washington.  But before we get caught up in another news cycle where extremists convince us we shouldn’t invest in our future, it is worth noting that a congressional budget is a vision. It is a blueprint that outlines our priorities as a nation. A good budget invests in America. It doesn’t rob our government of the resources it needs to succeed. A good budget properly funds its obligations and promotes the creation of well-paying jobs. It doesn’t bargain away protections for our seniors and it isn’t balanced on the backs of working families.

As Democrats and Republicans spend this month negotiating how to avoid another government shutdown, it is important to remind Washington politicians about what working families need.

The recovery is still being dragged down by the repeated budget crises manufactured by Republicans in Congress.  Budget austerity in the Tea Party Congress has already slowed annual economic growth by 0.7%, cost 1.2 million jobs, and increased the unemployment rate by 0.8%, according to Macroeconomic Advisers.

First, Congress should repeal the sequester it created, not replace it. The sequester’s dumb across-the-board cuts have hurt everything from education to child care to medical research. Here in New Hampshire, much attention has been given to the hardworking workers at our Shipyard and National Guard members who have faced furloughs as a result of defense cuts. But sequestration is also forcing layoffs and cutbacks to other critical programs that provide job training, education, and other services.

Repealing the sequester would generate 800,000 jobs by this time next year, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).  The next budget should undo this painful damage— and not replace it with other harmful cuts.

Most importantly, policymakers in Washington must reject proposals to cut Social Security, Medicaid, or Medicare benefits.  They should avoid deficit hysteria promoted by billionaires and the 1%. Instead of terrifying our parents and grandparents with threats to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits they’ve earned, politicians should protect these vital programs that have shielded the elderly and vulnerable from poverty for generations. Our nation’s safety net should be strengthened, not weakened, because working people need more economic security, not less.

Instead, Congress should look to raise new revenue by repealing the tax subsidies that encourage corporations to send jobs overseas and ending special tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.  When the average CEO’s salary for the first morning on the job is the same amount the average worker makes in a year, it’s clear that the wealthiest Americans and corporations making record profits can pay their fair share.

Ending these undeserved and wasteful tax breaks would allow us to invest in our workforce and create the well-paying jobs millions so desperately need. By rebuilding our infrastructure, education, and manufacturing base, we can create good jobs with good benefits and provide relief to our struggling working and middle class. This is America, after all.  No job should trap anyone in a vicious cycle of poverty.

By focusing on helping working families instead of how to score political points, Congress can produce a budget that supports an economy that works for all. It is time for Senator Ayotte to realize that instead of shutting down progress, she needs to listen to the needs of the hardworking voters who sent her to Washington.

Richard Trumka is President of the AFL-CIO. Mark MacKenzie is President of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO.

The Courts could destroy even MORE of our rights while we wait for Congress to fix Taft-Hartly

1947 CIO rally at Madison Square Garden
1947 CIO rally at Madison Square Garden

1947 Rally at Madison Square Garden

As I promised in yesterday’s post, here are a few examples of how things are getting worse, the longer we wait for Congress to fix (or repeal) the Taft-Hartley Act.

More states have passed so-called “Right to Work” laws. Nevermind what they’re called, RTW laws restrict employers’ rights: they prohibit employers from voluntarily agreeing to “agency fee” clauses in their union contracts. Last year, Indiana and Michigan joined the list of states that restrict employers’ rights; and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is clearly still trying to spread their “model legislation” nationwide.

The Supreme Court will soon decide two cases that could further limit employers’ rights in their dealings with employee unions. Read the New York Times article here.

  • The first case will decide whether employers have the right to agree to remain neutral during a union organizing drive. (Shouldn’t employers be able to allow their employees to make their own decisions about union representation? In many worksites, unions and employers work cooperatively because they share the same goals. Why should federal law require the employer-union relationship to be adversarial, rather than cooperative?)
  • The second case attempts to impose “Right to Work” on the whole country through a court decision — rather than leaving it up to each state to decide for itself whether to limit employers’ rights.  (What happened to that old Tenth Amendment/states’ rights principle?)
  • The second case also challenges whether a state government has the right to allow union representation of home-care workers who are paid by Medicaid.  (Again: are we about to see the federal court system restrict a state government’s exercise of reserved powers?)

Taft-HartleyAnd then there’s Boeing. Just my personal opinion, but… it sure seems to me like Boeing is setting up another chance to litigate all those legal theories it came up with in 2011, back before the Machinists asked the NLRB to drop its complaint about Dreamliner production. The basic question at issue: whether a company has the right to relocate jobs in retaliation for (legally protected) union activity. That 2011 complaint was part of “a very long line of cases that the NLRB has been pressing since the 1940s, when employers began moving work from unionized workplaces in the industrial Northeast to non-unionized workplaces in the Southeast and later the Southwest.” Just think what the impact on unions could be, if Boeing persuades the courts to agree with its legal theories. (Read more NHLN coverage of Boeing here.)

Why am I so concerned about these Court cases (and potential court cases) ?  Well… because the Supreme Court is now headed up by Bush appointee John Roberts.  Back in 2005, he was described as one of the “three possible nominees that big business would cheer” — in part because they thought Roberts might “influence the court to decide more cases deemed critical to business.”  Quoting one observer of that nomination process: “Roberts has spent his career as a mind-for-hire on behalf of the rightwing Republican agenda.”  Quoting another: “if Roberts feels free to overturn precedent… Of particular concern is a return to the Lochner era, a time when free-market capitalists read their ideology into the Constitution by striking down statutes aimed at protecting workers’ health and safety.”

I guess we’re about to find out whether those observers were as accurate in their predictions as President Harry Truman was, in his.

(If you didn’t read yesterday’s post, to read Truman’s prognostications from 1947, click here.)

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Sen. Edward M.KennedyAnd, in a sad epitaph for Sen. Ted Kennedy… as far as I can tell, no-one has re-filed the Employee Free Choice Act since he died.

(Read yesterday’s post to learn more about the economic and social problems caused by Taft-Hartley, and one possible reason why Sen. Kennedy filed EFCA to fix them.)