Legislators in Arizona conceded defeat this week in an attempt to gut the state’s minimum wage law. House Majority Leader Steve Court admitted that the law, enacted in a landslide 2006 ballot initiative with 65% of the vote, is still unassailable. Court’s decision wraps up a rough couple of months for legislators and lobbyists intent on rolling back minimum wage laws.
Progressive States Network Executive Director Ann Pratt issued a statement following the release of the jobs report showing the economy adding 233,000 private sector jobs and losing 6,000 public sector jobs in the month of February.
January has seen the minimum wage emerge as a major issue in 2012 policy debates, with a virtual consensus for raising the wage emerging among all but the extreme conservative fringe. Prominent conservatives from former Massachusetts Governor Willard “Mitt” Romney to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have come forward urging just that the minimum wage be raised automatically every year. State legislators championing minimum wage increases are also playing a pivotal role in driving the salience of inequality and economic security issues on the national stage.
In the year since conservatives took control of the U.S. House of Representatives and legislative bodies in states across the nation, we’ve seen them move their agenda with alarming disregard for both democracy and the economic security of the nation. From the irresponsibly provoked debt ceiling “crisis” to the wholesale obstruction of job creation efforts, conservatives on the national stage took an approach of reckless political brinksmanship over the past year that put the entire economy at risk. And from Wisconsin to Alabama and beyond, 2011 saw conservatives in the states—buoyed by support from their corporate allies in the 1%—launch attack after attack on workers, women, voters, and immigrants. But the new year brings new hope for progressives looking to turn the tide—hope that, for the time being, largely resides not in the halls of Congress but in the 50 states.
States do not have to wait for the federal government to jump start their local economies. They can be proactive, in spite of their revenue and budget problems, by instituting a proven economic stimulant at a low cost: a minimum wage increase.
The Arizona Interfaith Alliance for Worker Justice,
a worker center in Phoenix, has seen a “huge spike” in wage theft --
violations of minimum wage laws -- since the passage of SB 1070,
Arizona’s anti-immigrant law. "Employers are even more brazen in their
mistreatment of workers," said Executive Director Trina Zelle in an interview with In These Times.
"Increasingly, 'Go ahead, try and make me pay you' is the response
workers hear when they confront their employers over unpaid wages."
This policy guide presents a series of state strategies to advance
workers rights that have
strong public support and present good opportunities to reframe the
debates over workers’ rights and the economy as values issues,
including: Paid Sick Days, Wage Law Enforcement, and Restoring the
For the first time in the nation, Wal-Mart
has agreed to a higher wage standard at a new store to be built in
Chicago, Illinois. The retail giant’s commitment was part of an
agreement to assure City Council support for zoning approvals, on which the
Council voted Wednesday. The deal also concludes a six-year fight
over what will be only Wal-Mart’s second store in the Windy City. As we
reported previously, Wal-Mart reached a stalemate with labor unions in
2006, after the City
Council passed an industry-specific wage standard for big box
retailers, which was later vetoed
by Mayor Richard M. Daley.