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:
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.
A spate of destructive broadband bills has been sweeping across the country, spurred on by the corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Unbelievably, just as broadband Internet becomes an essential tool for millions of Americans, these states, following the pattern of the model ALEC bill, are making moves toward depriving states of any power to ensure reliable, competitive, and affordable service that serves all state residents — from small businesses to those on the other side of the digital divide. The companies behind these bills want the ability to choose to serve only the locations and the individuals that yield the greatest profits. It is simply not smart governance to leave state authorities without the power to ensure everyone can use such a critical asset.
Florida last week marked two victories that will help protect the integrity of the state’s elections, becoming the latest state where conservative efforts to suppress voter participation have stalled. As Progressive States Network has noted previously, conservatives emboldened by recent successful efforts to make it harder for people to vote should not count their chickens before they hatch in 2012.
Wage theft, the practice of stiffing workers out of money they are owed, has emerged as a major economic justice issue in the U.S. over the last decade, to the point where over 60 percent “of low-wage workers experience wage theft each week,” according to a report released Wednesday.
A new report released by Progressive States Network names New York state a national leader in preventing wage theft -- or the nonpayment or underpayment by employers of wages legally owed to employees. The report also spotlights approaches taken by other states -- including Illinois, New Mexico, Massachusetts, and Florida -- to a nationwide problem it argues is causing economic strain to workers and state taxpayers alike.
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.