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6 years after fast food workers walked off the job, House passes $15 federal minimum wage

Friday, July 19th, 2019

The federal minimum wage would rise to $15 an hour under historic legislation passed Thursday by the House of Representatives.

Three Republicans jumped the aisle to support the Democratic-led measure. Six Democrats defected to vote no. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and President Donald Trump can now give tens of millions of working people a raise any time they want.

The bill would double the national pay floor in a plan that would roll out gradually, ticking up from the current $7.25 over a six-year period. The measure also permanently pegs the minimum wage to inflation, automating future increases to break a vicious political and economic cycle that’s become the norm over the past half-century.

Congress has not raised the wage floor in a decade. That hike, too, followed a decade of stagnation. So did its predecessor legislation in the 1990s. The government has slipped into a pattern of ignoring wage policy for long stretches as costs of living rise and erode the earning power of the lowest-paid workers in the country.

That cycle has helped fuel the massive economic inequality that’s ravaged the country for decades, through recessions and economic expansions alike. Today’s $7.25 is worth less than the minimum wage of the 1970s in inflation-adjusted terms.

The $15 wage floor wouldn’t just catch workers up for all that lost time and buying power the way past wage hikes have, though: It seeks to establish a higher standard of living for low-wage workers than the previous record high, set in the 1960s. Nearly 20 million workers would see their pay increased by the measure, and an estimated 1.3 million people would be lifted out of poverty.

The sheer magnitude of the hike — more than doubling the pay floor nationwide — has dismayed even some economists who are typically supportive of minimum wage raises in general. Supporters shrug off those worries, noting that the current wage system is heavily subsidized by taxpayers, who are left to make up the difference between corporate poverty wages and what it costs to keep a family alive in the 21st century.

“There’s always been this attempt for some to hold onto this gross inequality and these scare tactics,” Rev. William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign told reporters on a call before the vote. “We have had an economy that goes up on Wall Street but it’s fueled by low-wage jobs on back streets and back roads and city streets. That is what we have to end. We cannot really be a full-fledged democracy when you have 140 million people poor and low-wealth, and 62 million people working… for less than a minimum wage.”

If conservatives are distressed here, they have only themselves to blame: Republicans had a chance to cut a reasonable deal almost a decade ago, years before the fast-food walkouts were even underway. Progressives had only wanted a $10.10 federal floor as recently as 2012, arguing that would bring minimum-wage buying power back to its 1970s levels.

The Fight for $15 movement is also an indirect byproduct of longer-running policy failures. After Wall Street wrecked the real economy at the close of the Bush presidency, the wealthy bounced back almost immediately. Taxpayers bailed out bankers first, the government declined to extract ownership stakes in their firms, and the modern American economy returned relatively quickly to business as usual: Income inequality grew steadily.

The anger that set of policy choices instilled in the U.S. electorate and working class has helped foster the political conditions that followed. If the idea of a $15 minimum wage scares anyone who watched the House’s vote Thursday, odds are they should direct their anger towards the people who opted to hang working-class people out to dry for the past decade.

This article was originally published at Think Progress on July 19, 2019. Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author: Alan Pyke  covers poverty and the social safety net. Alan is also a film and music critic for fun. Send him tips at: apyke@thinkprogress.org or

House to vote on $15 minimum wage, but Republicans are determined to slip in a poison pill

Thursday, July 18th, 2019

With the federal minimum wage stuck at $7.25 for the longest time it’s gone without an increase since 1938, the Democratic House is preparing to vote on the Raise the Wage Act on Thursday. The bill would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024—not exactly blazing speed, but a major improvement over more years of $7.25.

Donald Trump has pledged to veto the bill, which was a recreational promise anyway, since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republicans won’t let it through. Because Republicans hate working people and think the minimum wage should be a poverty wage, if they even think a minimum wage should exist at all. Republicans have been emboldened in their opposition by a Congressional Budget Office analysis that treats outdated studies the same as the best research on the issue, using those outdated and often garbage studies to weigh against the reams of research showing that raising the minimum wage does not cost jobs. Other research shows widespread and often unexpected benefits from increasing the minimum wage, including lower suicide rates and lower recidivism among people released from prison.

Nonetheless, despite the best research—which draws on many, many cases where the minimum wage has gone up, allowing for real-world studies of what happens—Republicans will not only oppose the raise but will try to lay traps for squishy Democrats, using a motion to recommit to undermine the entire bill. Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-chairs Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Mark Pocan have warned that if wobbly Democrats fall into the motion to recommit trap, the CPC will vote against the bill itself, saying in a statement, “We have no doubt that Congressional Republicans will try to divide the Democratic Caucus with a disingenuous Motion to Recommit. It’s up to all of us to stand unified and reject their bad faith effort to undermine this bill,” and, “After consulting with our Members this week, we are confident that any bill that includes a poison pill Republican Motion to Recommit will lack the votes to pass on the House Floor.”

It’s time for this bill to pass, without poison pills. A vote for a $15 minimum wage is a vote for gender and racial equity, since it would disproportionately benefit women and people of color. A vote for a $15 minimum wage is a vote to give 1.3 million veterans a raise. And it’s a vote for the general proposition that work should pay a wage that someone, somewhere in this country can actually live on.

This blog was originally published at Daily Kos on July 17, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos.

 

Dem leaders float new tweak to soften minimum wage bill

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

Sarah Ferris

Top House Democrats are eyeing a major tweak to the caucus’ signature minimum wage proposal, part of a last-minute bid to bolster support among moderates just days before a floor vote.

Democratic leaders are floating a more gradual path to a federal minimum wage of $15 per hour, which would mark a concession to some centrists who had been hesitant to back the bill for fear of aggravating small businesses, according to multiple sources familiar with the ongoing discussions.

Under the proposal, employers would have six years to phase in the wage hike rather than five.

The House plans to vote on the bill next week. And while top Democrats like Majority Leader Steny Hoyer have said they’re confident it will have enough votes to pass, they have worked behind the scenes to shore up more support and avert any drama on the floor.

Democrats also say that moderating the proposal further could ramp up pressure on Senate Republicans and the White House to drop their opposition to a minimum wage increase.

“I think there’s a recognition in every camp that the more gradual and reasonable we can make this, the more pressure there is on the Senate,” one senior aide said.

The proposed change to the bill, which has not been finalized, is also part of a strategy to avoid a last-minute failure on the floor at the hands of House Republicans.

Democrats have long worried that a GOP procedural maneuver on the floor — in which Republicans use a “motion to recommit” to put forward their own changes — could ultimately tank the entire effort.

If Republicans win support from about two dozen Democrats, they could force changes to the bill all within a few minutes. That could result in others in the caucus, including progressives, choosing to revolt and vote it down.

Heather Caygle contributed to this report.

This article was originally published by the Politico on July 12, 2019. Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author: Sarah Ferris covers budget and appropriations for POLITICO Pro. She was previously the lead healthcare and budget reporter for The Hill newspaper.

A graduate of the George Washington University, Ferris spent most of her time writing for The GW Hatchet. Her bylines have also appeared at The Washington Post, the Houston Chronicle and the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Raised on a dairy farm in Newtown, Conn., Ferris boasts a strong affinity for homemade ice cream, Dunkin Donuts coffee and the Boston Red Sox.

House Republicans spin CBO report to claim $15 minimum wage is socialism

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report, released Monday, found that a national $15 hourly minimum wage would likely increase pay for more than 15 million people and could cost between zero and 3.7 million jobs.

Within hours, several House Republicans had tweeted out the report’s worst-case scenario and suggested that gradually moving toward paying working Americans a livable wage was “socialism.”

The CBO is a non-partisan arm of Congress that works to make economic estimates and predictions about the economic and fiscal impact of legislation. It is currently run by Phillip Swagel, an economist who worked in President George W. Bush’s administration.

At the request of Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) — the ranking minority party member on the House Budget Committee — CBO economists produced a report called “The Effects on Employment and Family Income of Increasing the Federal Minimum Wage.”

The report found that by raising the $7.25 per hour current minimum wage for most workers to $15 by 2025, the nation likely “would boost the wages of 17 million workers who would otherwise earn less than $15 per hour” and could also boost the wages for another 10 million workers who earn slightly above that amount.

The report’s median estimate was that “1.3 million other workers would become jobless,” and found a “two-thirds chance that the change in employment would be between about zero and a decrease of 3.7 million workers,” while 1.3 another million people would be lifted out of poverty.

It also noted, “Findings in the research literature about how changes in the federal minimum wage affect employment vary widely. Many studies have found little or no effect of minimum wages on employment, but many others have found substantial reductions in employment.”

Rather than acknowledging the nuance in a candid way, Womack and other House Republicans quickly moved to demagogue by highlighting only the worst-case scenario.

“This report confirms what we already knew about House Democrats’ Raise the Wage Act: American workers and families will lose their jobs if this bill is enacted,” Womack claimed in a statement. “CBO shows that imposing a 107% increase on the minimum wage could result in up to 3.7 million lost jobs – jobs hardworking Americans rely on to feed their families and pay their bills, jobs communities need to fuel their local economies, and jobs essential to strengthening our nation’s financial future.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) tweeted that the “Democrats’ minimum wage plan would erase up to 3.7 MILLION American jobs.”

In the next sentence, however, he dropped his caveat that this was the worst case scenario.

“To put the impact into perspective, the job loss of this minimum wage increase is nearly equivalent to eliminating all jobs added to the economy since November 2017,” McCarthy wrote in his tweeted statement, attacking the minimum wage increase proposal as “the new Democrat-socialists’ [sic] plan.”

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) also tweeted a similar attack, accusing Democrats of again putting “their socialist agenda above workers.”

Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-MI) tweeted that the report “shows that raising the minimum wage to $15 does more harm than good and could cost as many as 3.7 million jobs in the United States.”

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) tweeted that “forcing” a “damaging $15/hr minimum wage mandate” on local businesses would mean “up to 3.7 million jobs” lost and hurt families.

Rep. Doug LaMafla (R-CA) was even more blunt, falsely claiming the CBO had reported “raising the minimum wage would eliminate 1.3-3.7 million jobs,” ignoring the fact that the word “median” means there is an equal chance that such an increase would cost somewhere between no jobs and 1.3 million.

But many studies have found that gradual increases to the minimum wage do not actually cost jobs. A January 2019 report published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, for example, examined 138 “prominent state-level minimum wage changes between 1979 and 2016” and found that “the overall number of low-wage jobs remained essentially unchanged over five years following the increase.”

A 2018 study by the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California at Berkeley similarly detected “no significant negative employment effects” in several cities that had recently raised their minimum wages to more than $10 per hour.

As of Tuesday, 204 U.S. representatives (plus the non-voting delegates from the District of Columbia and the Northern Mariana Islands), all Democrats, have signed onto the Raise the Wage Act. The Senate companion version has 32 supporters, all members of the Senate Democratic caucus.

Despite inflation and the growing cost of living, the federal minimum wage has not been increased since July 2009.

Though he has since flip-flopped, even President Donald Trump — a fierce opponent of “socialism” — promised in his 2016 campaign that he would raise the federal minimum wage to “at least $10.”

This article was originally published at Think Progress on July 9, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Josh Israel has been senior investigative reporter for ThinkProgress since 2012. Previously, he was a reporter and oversaw money-in-politics reporting at the Center for Public Integrity, was chief researcher for Nick Kotz’s acclaimed 2005 book Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Laws that Changed America, and was president of the Virginia Partisans Gay & Lesbian Democratic Club. A New England native, Josh received a B.A. in politics from Brandeis University and graduated from the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia, in 2004. He has appeared on cable news and many radio shows across the country. Twitter:  Facebook: 

Raising the minimum wage doesn't hurt jobs—it improves people's lives in ways you might not expect

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

Raising the minimum wage doesn’t hurt job growth. We know this because economist after economist has produced research backing up that statement, often drawing on parts of the U.S. that have increased the minimum wage. That’s why, after the Congressional Budget Office on Monday blew off its responsibility to use the best available information and offered Republicans fuel to claim that a minimum wage increase would cost jobs, economists who study minimum wage increases are lining up to explain why the CBO is just plain wrong.

“While they are acknowledging some of the research,” the Economic Policy Institute’s Ben Zipperer told The Washington Post, “I think they are drawing on older research that the new research has pointed out is problematic.” Berkeley economist Michael Reich and UMass-Amherst economist Arindrajit Dube made similar points, with Reich saying that the CBO’s equal reliance on high- and low-quality studies “reveals an unwillingness to recognize the major differences in scientific quality among studies.”

A recent study by Dube and Zipperer, along with Dorok Cengiz and Attila Lindner, “evaluated the local effect of more than 130 minimum-wage increases since 1979 and showed the fall in jobs paying less than the new minimum wage had been fully offset by the jump in new jobs paying just over it.” One hundred and thirty over 40 years. That’s a lot of data. It’s especially a lot of data for the CBO to be more or less ignoring.

But! That’s not all! Economists have other data showing important effects of raising the minimum wage. When the minimum wage rises, suicides fall. So does recidivism for recently released prisoners. Workers are more productive and less likely to change jobs. Consumer spending rises and poverty falls. In short, the working people’s economy gets better and people get happier and more hopeful. Republicans, of course, remain bitterly opposed to this.

This blog was originally published at Daily Kos on July 9, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos.

The cost of a $15 federal minimum wage

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

Rebecca Rainey

Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 would increase the pay of at least 17 million people, but also put 1.3 million Americans out of work, according to a study by the Congressional Budget Office released on Monday.

The increased federal minimum could also raise the wages of another 10 million workers and lift 1.3 million Americans out of poverty, according to the nonpartisan CBO. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 and last increased a decade ago.

The budget watchdog’s report comes ahead of next week’s vote in the House of Representatives on a bill to gradually raise the federal minimum to $15 an hour by 2024.

The CBO predicted much bigger job losses than House Democrats, who have pushed for the $15 minimum wage, expected. The study cited “considerable uncertainty” about the impact, because it’s hard to know exactly how employers would respond and to predict future wage growth.

The CBO wrote that in an average week in 2025, 1.3 million otherwise-employed workers would be jobless if the federal minimum wage went up to $15. That’s a median estimate. Overall, CBO economists wrote that resulting job losses would likely range between “about zero and 3.7 million.”

At the same time, the study says the $15 minimum wage would boost pay for 17 million people would otherwise be earning less than $15 an hour, and possibly for another 10 million Americans who would otherwise be earning slightly more than $15 per hour.

Considering a smaller increase to $12 an hour by 2025, the CBO estimated a boost for 5 million workers and a loss of 300,000 jobs. An increase to $10 an hour would give a raise to 1.5 million workers and would have “little effect on employment.”

The House, controlled by the Democrats, is expected next week to pass the Raise the Wage Act, which would lift the federal minimum wage to $15 gradually by 2024. Its author, Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., on Monday argued that the benefits in CBO’s forecasts far outweighed the costs.

The measure faces a high hurdle in the Republican-controlled Senate. Even so, raising the federal minimum has been picking up steam over the years.

Already, 29 states, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands and Guam have set wage standards higher than the federal minimum. Seven states and the District of Columbia are on track to increase their wage minimums to $15 in coming years.

Many economists have agreed that modest increases to wage minimums don’t cause huge job losses. That theory was shown in a high-profile paper by David Card and Alan Krueger. The CBO wrote: “Many studies have found little or no effect of minimum wages on employment, but many others have found substantial reductions in employment.”

This article was first published at NPR.

This article was originally published at Politico on July 9, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Rebecca Rainey is an employment and immigration reporter with POLITICO Pro and the author of the Morning Shift newsletter.

Prior to joining POLITICO in August 2018, Rainey covered the Occupational Safety and Health administration and regulatory reform on Capitol Hill. Her work has been published by The Washington Post and the Associated Press, among other outlets.

Rainey holds a bachelor’s degree from the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland.

She was born and raised on the eastern shore of Maryland and grew up 30 minutes from the beach. She loves to camp, hike and be by the water whenever she can.

House Dems on brink of minimum wage victory

Thursday, June 20th, 2019

Sarah FerrisHouse Democratic leaders are on the cusp of a long-awaited victory on the party’s signature $15-an-hour minimum wage bill, overcoming months of sharp resistance from many of the caucus’ moderates.

Top Democrats are saying privately they’re confident that they are close enough to the 218 votes needed to pass it to bring the bill to the floor within weeks, according to multiple sources. It would mark a major political victory at the six-month mark of the Democrats’ majority.

Several one-time holdouts — including Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), who has championed a competing approach that would create a “regional” minimum wage — now say they will vote for the bill on the floor, though they are still looking for additional assistance for small businesses that may be hurt by the minimum wage.

The vote, which is expected shortly after the House returns from its Fourth of July recess, will put an end to a frenzied lobbying blitz by top Democrats to win over the caucus’s remaining skeptics, which had become a glaring example of the tensions between moderates and progressives.

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) said in a closed-door leadership meeting Tuesday night that he secured roughly 213 votes, according to aides. Democrats believe the pressure of the roll call vote will be enough to squeeze the few remaining holdouts.

“I don’t have any doubt that we’re going to have the votes,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters Wednesday, though he stopped short of committing to a timeframe. “There are some folks who would like to see us do something to make sure the small business fears are allayed.”

The one lingering concern, according to people familiar with the discussions, is how to deflect potentially disastrous GOP attacks on the bill when it comes up for a vote.

Republicans are expected to use their procedural powers on the floor to force Democrats to vote on tricky issues related to the minimum wage — like protections for small businesses — that could further expose the caucus’s ideological divide.

It could also tank the entire bill. If Republicans successfully force any changes into the bill, scores of Democrats would likely flee, because progressive leaders have refused to support anything less than their hallmark $15-an-hour proposal.

The lead author of the bill, House Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.), had struggled for months to rally enough moderate Democrats behind the bill, with some members privately complaining of a “tone-deaf” approach.

But momentum began to shift in recent weeks, with leaders of the Blue Dog Coalition, Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.) and Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), helped to deliver votes from red-state Democrats in exchange for their own provision in the bill.

That compromise amendment, from O’Halleran, Murphy and TJ Cox (D-Calif.), will be included in the final bill, according to multiple aides. It would require the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on the policy’s economic effects after roughly two years — which moderates see as a potential way to revisit the issue if economic conditions deteriorate.

Scott and his team also helped win over individual members with district-by-district data that showed the number of people who would get a raise, offering a counterpoint to the objections from some local businesses.

Top Democrats, including Hoyer, have vowed to hold a vote on the minimum wage bill before the August recess, under intense pressure from outside groups to deliver on a key plank of the progressive platform.

Scott and other Education and Labor members have argued behind the scenes for weeks that they have enough votes to bring the bill to the floor. They’ve said that some holdouts would only come out in favor of the bill if they were facing a roll call — a process that one Democratic aide described as a “game of chicken.”

Heather Caygle contributed to this story.

This article was originally published by the Politico on June 20, 2019. Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author: Sarah Ferris covers budget and appropriations for POLITICO Pro. She was previously the lead healthcare and budget reporter for The Hill newspaper.

A graduate of the George Washington University, Ferris spent most of her time writing for The GW Hatchet. Her bylines have also appeared at The Washington Post, the Houston Chronicle and the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Raised on a dairy farm in Newtown, Conn., Ferris boasts a strong affinity for homemade ice cream, Dunkin Donuts coffee and the Boston Red Sox.

Congress makes minimum wage history, going the longest without an increase since 1938

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

The federal minimum wage has been $7.25 an hour since July 24, 2009. That’s coming up on a decade, but it’s already hit an infuriating milestone: June 16 marked the longest the minimum wage had gone without an increase since 1938, when the U.S. passed its first minimum wage. Because Republicans are happy to have the minimum wage be a poverty wage—and it is a wage so low that a full-time job is not enough to pull a family of two above the poverty threshold.

The Economic Policy Institute’s David Cooper lays out what workers have lost in the near-decade since the last increase: $7.25 in July 2009 was equivalent to $8.70 now. That means a minimum wage worker has seen their purchasing power drop by 17%, or the equivalent of more than $3,000 a year. And still Republicans stand in the way of a raise.

The good news is that many states—31 of them, plus the District of Columbia—have raised their minimum wages above the federal level, and in some cases well above it. Already in 2019 alone, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, and Connecticut have passed laws gradually raising the wage to $15 an hour, while Nevada and New Mexico are on their way to $12. But that doesn’t excuse congressional inaction, let alone congressional inaction on a historic, record-shattering level. Democrats have proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, but it won’t happen as long as Republicans are in a position to block it.

This blog was originally published at Daily Kos on June 17, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos.

Bernie Sanders brings the fight for a $15 minimum wage to Walmart’s shareholders meeting

Thursday, June 6th, 2019

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) brought his battle for a $15 minimum wage and workers’ rights to Walmart’s annual shareholders meeting in Arkansas on Wednesday.

The Walton family controls just over 50% of the company’s stock. They are the richest family in the United States. Sanders has called out the Walton’s refusal to raise wages for its workers, asserting that it is “outrageous that the Walton family makes more in one minute than a Walmart worker earns in a year.”

At the invitation of Cat Davis, a longtime Walmart employee, Sanders went to the meeting to issue his demands in person: raise hourly wages from $11 to $15, put an employee representative on the company board, grant part-time workers the opportunity to work full-time, and stop obstructing workers’ efforts to unionize.

He addressed an enthusiastic crowd following the meeting. His audience booed when Sanders announced the current starting wages at Walmart and at the astonishing wealth of the Walton family.

“You have a company here that is owned by the Walton family … worth about $175 billion,” Sanders said. “One might think that a family worth $175 billion would be able to pay its employees a living wage. And yet, as you all know, the starting wage at Walmart now is $11 an hour. And people cannot make it on $11 an hour. You can’t pay rent. You can’t get health care. You can’t feed your kids or put gas in the car on $11 an hour. What we are also saying: It is a little bit absurd that many, many Walmart employees are forced to go on government programs like Medicaid or food stamps or public housing subsidized by the taxpayers of this country.”

In an interview with CNN, Sanders explained why he believes it is so crucial that workers be represented on the company’s board. “At the end of the day, working people have got to have some control over how they spend at least eight hours a day,” Sanders said. “They cannot simply be cogs in a machine. To be a human being means that you have some ability to control your life. And that includes your work life.”

If Walmart raises its starting wage to $15, it would be joining the likes of Amazon and Disneyland, both of which faced criticism from Sanders for paying workers poorly and, last year, started paying their workers $15 an hour. (Disneyworld employees will see that raise in 2021.)

Last November, Sanders and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) introduced the Stop Walmart Act, “a campaign to raise wages at Walmart and other large, profitable corporations that pay poverty-level wages.” Under their legislation, large employers would be forbidden from buying back stock unless they paid all employees, including part-time workers and contractors, at least $15 an hour; allowed workers to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave; and made sure that the compensation of the highest-paid employee — probably, though not always, the CEO — was no more than 150 times the median pay of all employees.

This article was originally published at ThinkProgress on June 5, 2019. Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author: Jessica M. Goldstein is a reporter for ThinkProgress covering culture and politics.

Power Connection: Connecticut AFL-CIO Empowers Fight for $15

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

In a monumental leap of economic justice last week, the Connecticut Legislature passed a law that increases the state minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2023. The increase brings Connecticut into parity with its neighboring states of New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey, which have passed similar increases. The victory comes as a result of unprecedented coordination among labor unions and allied advocates in the state that have been fighting for an increase for years.

“After years of grassroots organizing, Connecticut will finally catch up to our neighbors,” said Connecticut AFL-CIO President Sal Luciano. “We applaud the legislature for doing the right thing and raising wages for over 330,000 workers in our state.”

The victory was aided by a number of union members who have been elected to the state’s General Assembly. Of critical importance to the bill’s passage were the co-chairs of the assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee, state Sen. Julie Kushner, former director of UAW Region 9A, and state Rep. Robyn Porter, who was once a single mother who worked three jobs to make ends meet.

The state legislature also has a paid family and medical leave bill that is tentatively scheduled for a vote the week of May 20. “All these combined are going to make a huge difference in people’s lives,” Kushner said.

The significance of the measure is not lost on those who will immediately benefit from the increase. “When fast-food workers walked off the job nearly seven years ago demanding $15 and a union, nobody thought we had a chance,” said Joseph Franklin, a leader in the Fight for $15 coalition and a McDonald’s worker in Hartford. “Our movement is gaining momentum.”

The Connecticut AFL-CIO has been diligently working to elect union members and allies to office, and this victory shows that the path to power flows directly through the labor movement.

This blog was originally published at AFL-CIO on May 21, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Michael Gillis is a writer at AFL-CIO.
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