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.
On June 1, the New York Senate put the state in position to be first in the nation to enact a Domestic Workers' Rights law (S2311) by a vote of 33-28. The New York Assembly led the way in June 2009 when it passed its own version of the bill (A1470). This groundbreaking legislation will extend core labor rights, from fair labor standards to paid sick days, to creating a framework for collective bargaining, to domestic workers. This will include those employed to work in a private home to perform housekeeping and/or to care for children, the infirm, or the elderly.
Refuting right-wing attacks on state workers, a new report
by the National Institute for Retirement Security (NIRS) and the
Council on State and Local Government Excellence (CSGE), Out
of Balance? Comparing Public and Private Sector Compensation Over 20
Years, demonstrates that state and local employees earn an average
of 11 and 12 percent less, respectively, than comparable private sector