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PA: Wal-Mart Workers Win Battle in State Court

Two former Wal-Mart employees won a major victory on behalf of 187,000 Wal-Mart workers in Pennsylvania state court today, with a jury finding that Wal-Mart violated state labor laws.
Lawyers for the ex-employees, Dolores Hummel and Michelle Braun, claimed Wal-Mart made workers skip more than 33 million rest breaks from 1998 to 2001 to boost productivity and curb labor costs. More than 70 similar wage-and-hour suits have been filed in the U.S.

Progress on the Minimum Wage

After years of stagnating wages for working Americans and inaction by Congress, legislators and activists across the country are taking the lead in securing higher minimum wages on a state by state basis. They are achieving some outstanding results. Here's where the minimum wage fight stands in a number of states:

Good News on the Minimum Wage

Working Americans get some good news today out of three states -- Montana, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania -- where progress is being made on the minimum wage. In Pennsylvania, Governor Ed Rendell signed a staggered, two-dollar increase into law. In Montana, signature gatherers succeeded in qualifying for the ballot an initiative to increase the minimum wage and tie the minimum to inflation.

The Taxpayers' Bill of Goods

With the 2006 elections quickly approaching, a small group of highly energized right-wing activists are working hard to export a failed policy from Colorado to other states around the nation. The idea is known variously as the Taxpayers' Bill of Rights (TABOR), the Stop OverSpending Amendment (SOS), or as Tax and Spending Control (TASC). Fundamentally, though, all of the amendments boil down to a single policy idea: arbitrarily capping increases in state spending based on only two factors -- population growth and the consumer price index.

The Success of State Venture Funds

Hawaii is the latest state moving in that direction with a proposed Hawaii Innovations Fund which could grow to $200 million in government funds over four years to invest in Hawaii's renewable energy, life science and technology companies.

FL: Leaving the Injured without Justice

The corporate lobby scored a big victory in Florida last week, as the Sun Sentinel detailed:

The Florida Senate gave final approval Thursday to a measure toppling a centuries-old principle of civil law that will make it harder for people to collect damages when they're injured in an accident.

 

Playing Games With Workers' Wages

An old rule of politics is to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. A new corrolary may be: Be wary of letting the good become the enemy of the perfect. In both Michigan and Pennsylvania, conservatives reading the polls are looking to defuse a ticking political time-bomb: the minimum wage.

Feds Propose Gutting State Protections Against Predatory Lending

North Carolina was the first state to pass a law reining in shady predatory lending practices, such as steep prepayment penalties, balloon payments and the sale of high-cost loans to borrowers who could qualify for lower rates. Soon a number of other states followed with similar laws and the result, according to a new study, is that homeowners now save $9.1 billion per year.

IDing the Real Problem and Preventing Voter Intimidation

The right wing has a magnificent tendency to solve problems that don't exist in a way that tilts the playing field for their own side. For the latest example, we need look no further than Pennsylvania, where Governor Ed Rendell is poised to veto legislation that serves little real purpose other than helping conservatives build power. As Tom Ferrick, Jr., aptly described, HB1318 would have made it less likely that low-income citizens were voting by instituting rigorous ID requirements and shutting down polling places. The regulations are a joke as fraud is extremely rare, but the provisions being advanced are widely acknowledged to undermine turnout among low-income and urban residents.