State legislators from 46 states are sending a clear a message to Congress: if the federal budget sequester is allowed to take effect as scheduled later this week, the results would be devastating for state economies.
With the across-the-board cuts in the federal budget sequester set to go into effect starting Friday, the White House is releasing a series of fact sheets outlining exactly how hard the cuts would hit state economies.
With the debate in D.C. currently centered around exactly how much more federal budget austerity to enact, and with the budget sequester threatening 750,000 jobs nationwide looking more and more likely to go into effect March 1st, the jobless also continue to be under attack in the states. This week, one state signed devastating cuts to their unemployment insurance system into law, another advanced a restructuring of their system that would endanger their federal funding, and efforts to ban employer discrimination against the jobless ran into the veto pen of a billionaire big-city mayor:
Out sick this week? You weren't alone. In the midst of one of the worst flu seasons in years, states and municipalities across the nation are seeing an increasing focus on workers' lack of access to paid sick time. Unfortunately, in some places, that has also meant conservatives focused on pre-empting and reversing existing protections, including taking away the rights of local municipalities to determine what's best for their communities:
On Tuesday night, President Obama laid out his second term agenda in a State of the Union address that detailed specific policy proposals across a range of issue areas. But even as national conversations around the minimum wage, immigration, gun violence prevention, and early education began to get louder in the wake of the President's speech this week, states were already getting a jump start on many of these issues. As Iowa State Senator Joe Bolkcom, Chair of the Board of PSN, said in a response to the State of the Union this week, "state legislators across the nation know they do not need to wait for Washington to act."
From Missouri to Pennsylvania to D.C., anti-union "right-to-work" laws are still being proposed and debated. Michigan workers continue to fight their law in the courts weeks before it is set to take effect, while workers in nearby states remain prepared for similar legislation to emerge. Meanwhile, an "anti-right-to-work" bill moved forward in Vermont — legislation that would require all workers who receive benefits thanks to a union to pay their fair share.
Many states are already considering action on the minimum wage in new sessions — by legislation or by ballot initiative. Polls and studies released this week continued to show both the broad and deep popularity and the positive economic effects of raising the wage:
A 2012 report from the Progressive States Network noted that the ratio of federal Department of Labor enforcement agents to U.S. workers has fallen from one for every 11,000 in 1941, to one for every 141,000 today. When state labor agents are factored in, the authors found "less than 15 percent of the total enforcement coverage workers enjoyed decades ago."
Yesterday, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed into law controversial so-called “right-to-work” legislation intended to weaken unions and which studies have shown depresses wages and lowers quality of life for all. The signing followed the rapid passage of the bill in a lame duck legislative session, and came on the same day that massive protests took place in Michigan's state Capitol. Across the nation, state lawmakers and others spoke out against the legislation, proclaiming their solidarity with workers in Michigan and promising to continue to fight against similar efforts in their states.