Today, state legislators across the country are joining other elected officials, workers, and advocates in a day of action to highlight the need to raise the minimum wage to improve the economy for all.
Echoing the protests that took place in state capitals in Wisconsin, Ohio, and elsewhere in 2011, the last few weeks have seen a drumbeat of resistance to the actions of a conservative legislature in a different region of the nation. North Carolina's General Assembly this spring has been the site of growing weekly rallies against the extreme agenda advanced by conservatives this session.
This week, Seattle became the latest city to see strikes by fast-food workers calling for higher wages, following similar actions in New York, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Detroit this year. Echoing the calls of workers in other cities, Seattle workers were demanding the right to organize without employer retaliation as well as higher wages. Washington state currently has the nation's highest minimum wage, at $9.19 an hour.
From tax policies to public education funding to sick leave, health care, and housing, state policies can play a huge role in ensuring the economic security of families. Yet right now, none of the fifty states are making the grade. That's the conclusion of a new national scorecard from Wider Opportunities for Women, which looked at 85 different policies across all 50 states and sees much room for improvement on economic security policies.
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.
Minnesota joined Oregon and Hawaii as states that have advanced legislation this session to protect the rights of domestic workers, a sign of progress for efforts to protect workers who often earn less than the minimum wage and face exploitation and abuse:
The plain hypocrisy of "small-government" conservatives backing state efforts to preempt local communities from passing their own wage and benefits standards continues to gain attention, even as more local efforts to pass paid sick days and living wage laws advance. But, as reports this week showed, corporate-backed state legislative intrusions into local communities have not been limited to attacking wage and benefits standards -- they have also extended to blocking local environmental regulations and redrawing district lines for local offices:
In 2010, New York passed a statewide anti–wage theft law that the Progressive States Network described as the strongest in the country. In January, the Chicago City Council unanimously passed an ordinance that threatens offending companies with the loss of their business licenses.
In recent months, unprecedented strikes by fast-food workers have taken place in both New York City and Chicago. This week, the action spread even further through the heart of the country, as workers in St. Louis and Detroit staged one-day work stoppages to demand higher wages and the right to organize. At the same time that such strikes are spreading, anti-worker legislative attacks that have already spread through many neighboring states in recent years are being met with strong opposition throughout the region as well. Workers in Missouri and states across the Midwest continued this week to stand up both in the streets and at statehouses to demand fair wages and respect on the job:
Takumi decided to work on a Hawaii domestic workers’ bill of rights four years ago, after hearing National Domestic Workers’ Alliance director Ai-jen Poo speak at a Progressive States Network conference about how domestic workers have historically been excluded from all major labor protections, leaving them vulnerable to wage theft and exploitation.