This report, released by more than 20 of America’s leading organizations on work and the economy, describes common sense policies towards making today’s jobs better and tomorrow’s jobs good. The core value guiding this road map is that work lies at the center of a robust and sustainable economy; that all work has dignity; and that through work, all of us should be able to support our families, educate our children and enjoy our retirements.
This fall, voters in some states and cities will have the chance to do more than just push back. Initiatives are on the ballot that would directly confront the destruction that austerity economics has wrought on communities, while building national momentum behind policies to revitalize our economy and protect our democracy. All kinds of issues are at stake, from workers’ rights to corporate influence in politics, to whether corporations and the luckiest few will pay their fair share in taxes. While voters will be electing a president, governors, Congress, and thousands of state legislators this November 6, here are a few places where a progressive vision will also be on the ballot:
Stealing hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of dollars is, generally speaking, a risky proposition. Take it from a wallet, or a private house, or a bank — and get caught — and chances are good that criminal prosecution awaits. There’s an exception to this rule though, a loophole that’s especially gaping in Philadelphia: Steal from your employees, do it openly and flagrantly, and your worst-case scenario is generally just a civil lawsuit. Best-case — and most likely — scenario: You get away scot-free.
An historic wave of attacks on workers that defined 2011 state legislative sessions largely continued this year. But just as significantly, widespread efforts to advance basic labor standards — especially the minimum wage — gained momentum this year by harnessing the country’s concerns about economic security and inequality. 2012 opened with another weeks-long standoff in the Midwest, which threatened to steal the limelight as the Super Bowl took place just a mile away from the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis, and ended in a major loss for workers in the state. Significant rollbacks occurred in several more states, as did high-profile attacks that are expected to return in 2013. The recall election victory of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was also a major disappointment for labor, though a labor-backed candidate did win another state Senate recall, flipping control of that chamber in the Wisconsin legislature. However, compared to Indiana, other major efforts to roll back labor standards in the states saw more successful resistance, and the ferocity with which conservatives pressed them was turned down a bit after the battle in the Hoosier state. In addition, as Congress and many statehouses proved increasingly difficult venues for addressing workplace abuses, 2012 saw more and more advocates turning to local governments to advance policies like paid sick leave and wage theft prevention. This has in turn opened up another front for statehouse attacks, with some states seeing bills introduced that would strip municipal governments of their power to protect workers. State legislatures seem likely to remain the critical arenas for advancing and protecting workers’ rights in the near future, with state policy fights set to both influence national trends and control the pace of change workers can achieve at the local level for years to come.
In this week’s Research Roundup: Recent reports from the Food Chain Workers Alliance on workers in the food production and food services industries, the Center for American Progress on the facts on minimum wage hikes and how austerity is hammering state economies, National Employment Law Project on Walmart’s domestic outsourcing, the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute on working parents’ lack of access to paid sick leave, Make the Road New York on small business support for a paid sick leave standard, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities on some basic facts around state and local government workers, Immigration Policy Center on the Obama Administration’s new “deferred action” deportation policy, and a report from researchers at Occidental College and the University of Northern Iowa on the lack of support for most “job killer” allegations in the media.
A ranking by the Progressive States Network found that “Florida has exactly zero laws on the books that would incentivize employers to stay honest.” And when it comes to holding employees accountable to their employees with such measures as notice of wages and paydays and pay stubs with each pay period, “Florida held the shameful honor of scoring 0, a score that only Alabama and Mississippi — two states that have never had wage and hour laws — can also share.”
On the heels of a report stating that Florida is the 15th worst state in the nation for workers trying to recover stolen wages, the Broward County Commission directed the county attorney to draft a wage theft ordinance, following the examples of Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties. The report issued by the Progressive States Network graded states based on how well they protect workers ability to receive their earned wages. According to the report, if this were school, Florida would have flunked out by now.