In this Dispatch, we emphasize that any stimulus spending has to be tied to increased
accountability and transparency in spending decisions, especially by
government contractors who often operate like a shadow government with
little oversight. One key reality is that those most in need often don't receive help from
government spending without transparency and accountability measures
built into the rules. While the recent federal recovery plan made real
strides in expanding such accountability, additional measures are still
needed if the recovery plan is going to deliver real equity in our
Iowa State Senator and PSN board member Joe Bolkcom shares his experience pushing for progressive initiatives on wage standards, election reform, anti-war resolutions, and integrative immigration policy, as well as a the promise of state legislators using their growing ranks to form a national coalition for change.
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson recently signed a wage enforcement bill (H 489)
to allow underpaid workers to collect their back wages plus twice that
amount in damages. The bill was backed by community groups and labor
unions as well as the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions.
New Mexico now becomes the eighth state that allows workers to collect
treble damages against employers violating the minimum wage — a key
deterrent to employers to ensure compliance with the minimum wage.
Given the central role of private contractors in delivering public services, this Dispatch continues our series of Privatization Updates (see November's edition). Today we focus on current privatization debates in the education, prison and mental health sectors -- and what states are doing to increase accountability for contractors.
AMERICANS are hardly in the mood to
welcome new immigrants. The last thing we need, the reasoning goes, is
more competition for increasingly scarce jobs. But the need for
immigration reform is more urgent than ever.
Recently conservatives in Montana sought to roll back the annual cost-of-living wage increases for minimum wage workers that voters overwhelmingly approved in 2006 by 73-27%. Montana is one of twenty-seven states (plus the District of Columbia)
that has a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum wage, and one
of eleven states that index the minimum wage to the consumer price
index. Montana progressives successfully fought a conservative push by
the restaurant industry to keep wages stagnant.
Washington State minimum wage workers got a raise January 1st to $8.55
per hour -- now the highest minimum wage in the country. Like nine
other states, Washington automatically increases its minimum wage each
year at the rate of inflation to make sure families don't face a de facto pay
cut as rising costs eat into family budgets. Because the federal
minimum wage is not indexed to inflation in this way, we have seen a
decline in its value from $9.34 in inflation-adjusted dollars down to
just $6.55 per hour this past year. This trend highlights why state
efforts to index the minimum wage to keep up with inflation are so