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Living Wage for Hotel Workers / MI Telecom Bill Opposed

Thursday, November 29, 2006

Paid Sick Days Conference Call

We are starting a new series of conference calls on key policies progressives are promoting in the states. The first call will detail efforts in states around the country to guarantee all workers Paid Sick Days, a basic job benefit denied to half of all employees. We have more information on Paid Sick Days as part of our agenda for Building a Family-Friendly America.

Joining us on this call will be ACORN, MomsRising, the National Partnership for Women & Families, and State Legislative Leaders.

Details:
Wednesday, December 6
4pm EST/1pm PST
1-800-391-1709 (Conference ID# 709424)
Please RSVP at http://action.progressivestates.org/event/index.jsp?event_KEY=19400.

Rewarding Work

CA: A Living Wage for Airport Hotel Workers

This week, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa approved a new city law requiring hotels near the LAX airport to pay the same living wage as those companies receiving government contracts: $9.39 an hour if the hotels provide health insurance or $10.64 an hour without benefits.

Minimum wage laws were raised across the country this last year, but the reality remains that the minimum wage is just that-- a minimum. There's no reason many industries cannot afford to pay a living wage higher than that minimum -- and Los Angeles city council members pointed out that hotels benefiting from being near a public airport should share those benefits with the workers who clean their rooms and cook their guests' meals.

The Los Angeles hotel measure extending the city living wage law to selected private sector industries is part of a growing trend we've highlighted:

  • Berkeley now requires companies in its Marina tourist zone to pay $9.75 per hour plus benefits.
  • Santa Fe requires all businesses of twenty-five or more employees to pay $10.50 per hour by 2008.
  • Emeryville, CA earlier approved a ballot measure similar to LA's requiring large hotels to pay $9 per hour plus benefits.

Most prominently, the Chicago City Council approved a measure requiring large retailers like Wal-Mart to pay $10 per hour plus $3 per hour in benefits. While that measure was vetoed by the City's mayor, it called national attention to the emerging strategy of setting industry-specific wage standards higher than the minimum wage.

Los Angeles' law comes in the wake of years of organizing by LAX hotel workers demanding a union and better work conditions. The law gives any hotel the option to negotiate alternative wage standards to the city rules if they recognize a union and sign a collective bargaining agreement with their workers.

The LA business community has tried to make the argument that it is illegal to set higher wages for a particular industry sector, but a recent court ruling refusing an injunction against the Emeryville hotel wage law and an early court ruling upholding the Berkeley Marina wage ordinance emphasize that governments are free to set higher wage rates for selected industries as public policy deems reasonable.

More Resources

Strengthening Communities

MI: Opposition to Video Franchise Bill that Fails Michigan's Communities

Like many other states, Michigan is struggling with how to build a technology infrastructure that can grow the state's economy and educate its children. Unfortunately, meeting in a lame-duck session, the Michigan's State Senate is considering an industry-backed bill, HB 6456, to create statewide franchises for video services by cable and telephone companies that will just increase company profits at the expense of consumers, low-income families, and technological innovation. Opponents of the bill range from the Michigan Municipal League protesting the destruction of community control to groups, led by Free Press, demanding Net Neutrality in access to Internet services.

The Progressive States Network outlined its full concerns about the bill in a letter sent to Michigan legislators, but the summary of problems with the bill -- like so many of these statewide "video franchising bills," includes:

  • No real commitment to universal build-out of services: In exchange for abolishing existing local franchise agreements for video services, the bill requires that no more than 50% of households get service from these new statewide franchises. This will just institutionalize the digital divide where companies cherry-pick the most profitable areas within the state without having to serve all consumers, a recipe for continuing monopolies in many regions.
  • Ignoring how broadband Internet is reshaping the video environment and key issues like Net Neutrality: Given the emergence of YouTube and other Internet-based video services, the bill is oddly fixated on past regulatory issues involving telephone versus cable companies, but does not specify build-out requirements for high-speed broadband Internet access to deliver these emerging video options. And while the bill creates "must-carry" provisions for broadcast television, there is no parallel discussion about assuring Net Neutrality and non-discrimination in access to Internet-based video sources for those using high-speed Internet services.
  • Undermining municipal innovation in providing Internet services: The Michigan Municipal League has estimated that local governments may lose between $25 million and $35 million in in-kind services as part of franchise agreements (plus additional cash franchise fees), a loss that could undermine a range of local experiments underway in Michigan to promote universal broadband Internet access.
  • Lacking an adequate regulatory structure: The bill eliminates the ability of local communities to negotiate fair treatment of consumers through local franchise agreements, yet fails to give the Michigan Public Service Commission adequate powers or funding to protect consumers and the public interest. And by exempting cost studies, customer usage data and other vital data from state Freedom of Information Act disclosure requirements, the public will be denied crucial information for public oversight of the industry.

Hopefully, the State Senate will vote down the current bill and take the time to craft a new bill in the 2007 legislative session that builds towards universal access to the telecommunications infrastructure needed for a 21st century economy in Michigan.

More Resources

Research Roundup

Health Care Research, Minimum Wage and Employment, Low-Income Spending, and Voting Glitches

Before you take "expert advice" on health care reform that mysteriously seems to enrich companies like the pharmaceutical industry, check out a new study to be published in the New England Journal of Medicine which finds that one-third of review-board members who monitor patient studies in US hospitals take money from the companies whose products are being tested.

This kind of industry bias of business advice on health care reform is worth keeping in mind as industry groups push for the privatization of Medicaid management in many states. But a new Commonwealth Fund study finds that private Medicare HMO plans cost $922 more per year than traditional fee-for-service plans run by the government-- or a total of $5.2 billion more for the 5.6 million Medicare enrollees in managed care, a pretty strong warning sign to states considering following Medicare's moves towards privatization.

With 17 states increasing their minimum wage by the end of 2005, we've now had time to see the effect on low-wage workers. And the result has been not only higher wages but even increases in employment for workers in many low-wage industries, an Economic Policy Institute report finds.

While stagnant family income data has gotten more media attention, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has looked at data on what families are actually spending -- and found that while high-income households saw big gains in spending between 2000 and 2005, low-income families saw a significant decline in spending, thereby increasing the economic divide in our economy.

While much of the media dismissed election day problems with voting machines and voter intimidation as no more than a "glitch" on voting day, a new Electionline.org Briefing surveyed state election problems across the nation and found that "voters in a large majority of states encountered difficulties at the polls due to equipment delays, long lines, ballot shortages or other problems."

CA: A Living Wage for Airport Hotel Workers

LAANE, LAX Community Benefits Campaign

Progressive States Network, Regulating Wage Standards for Selected Employers

Brennan Center, Job Standards and Accountability for Large Retailers

MI: Opposition to Video Franchise Bill that Fails Michigan's Communities

Progressive States Network, Letter to Michigan State Senate on HB 6456

Free Press, Defend Local Access in Michigan

Free Press, Local control under attack in the states

Upcoming Events

December 8-10, 2006 | Washington, DC | 10th Annual Summit on the States -- This Center for Policy Alternatives annual affair features over a dozen policy workshops and a number of other events for state legislators. Details.

December 11, 2006 | NYC | Making Prescription Drugs More Affordable -- This Drum Major Institute event features former Maine state senator Sharon Treat. After leaving Maine's senate, Treat became executive director of the National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices, a nonpartisan organization of state legislators working to reduce prescription drug prices and expand access. Details.

Jobs & Internships

Check out current opportunities with Progressive States on the Jobs & Internships Page.

Masthead

The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Policy Director
Mijin Cha, Policy Specialist
Adam Thompson, Policy Specialist
Matt Singer, Communications Director

Suggestions

Please shoot me an email at msinger@progressivestates.org if you have feedback, tips, suggestions, criticisms, or nominations for any of our sidebar features.

Matt Singer
Editor, Stateside Dispatch

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