State legislatures have seen an onslaught of anti-worker legislation in the past two years, with conservative legislators exploiting economic fears to dismantle collective bargaining rights and impede progress on labor standards. Yet, in statehouses across America this year, progressive leaders remained dedicated to fighting for workers’ rights and continued to advocate for legislation that will ensure greater economic security for all citizens. Here is a look at some of the inspiring victories and continuing challenges faced by state lawmakers who sought to advance policies to ensure economic security for working families in sessions this year:
On the fourth anniversary of the last federal increase in the minimum wage, a leading national group of state legislators joined other elected officials across the nation in calling for an increase in the minimum wage at both the state and federal levels, stressing the positive impact that raising the wage would have across the entire economy.
Today, state legislators across the country are joining other elected officials, workers, and advocates in a day of action to highlight the need to raise the minimum wage to improve the economy for all.
This week, Seattle became the latest city to see strikes by fast-food workers calling for higher wages, following similar actions in New York, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Detroit this year. Echoing the calls of workers in other cities, Seattle workers were demanding the right to organize without employer retaliation as well as higher wages. Washington state currently has the nation's highest minimum wage, at $9.19 an hour.
In contrast to the conservative policies we've seen move in the states over the past two years, 2013 has so far seen at least a handful of states where progressive policies are being introduced and enacted across a range of issue areas. With legislative sessions about midway through, here's a roundup of the policies moving in a couple of those states -- Minnesota and Colorado:
Last year, the corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) came under fire for their support of voter suppression and "shoot first" laws. In response, ALEC claimed they would "redouble their efforts on the economic front" this year. But, in fact, ALEC has long focused on policies that weaken wage standards and otherwise endanger working families — and a new report released this week by the National Employment Law Project (with research support from PSN) shows just how. At the same time, efforts to combat the ALEC economic agenda advanced in states including Maryland and Washington as polls and research continue to show that policies like raising the minimum wage, paid family leave, and paid sick days are popular and good for the economy:
On Tuesday night, President Obama laid out his second term agenda in a State of the Union address that detailed specific policy proposals across a range of issue areas. But even as national conversations around the minimum wage, immigration, gun violence prevention, and early education began to get louder in the wake of the President's speech this week, states were already getting a jump start on many of these issues. As Iowa State Senator Joe Bolkcom, Chair of the Board of PSN, said in a response to the State of the Union this week, "state legislators across the nation know they do not need to wait for Washington to act."
Many states are already considering action on the minimum wage in new sessions — by legislation or by ballot initiative. Polls and studies released this week continued to show both the broad and deep popularity and the positive economic effects of raising the wage:
With Census Bureau statistics released this week showing inequality rising and median household income declining to the lowest level in 16 years, Progressive States Network joined more than 20 of America’s leading organizations on work and the economy today in releasing a plan outlining 10 specific ways to rebuild America’s middle class. The new report recommends concrete proposals to strengthen the economy for the long-term by creating good jobs and addressing the economic insecurity that has spread to millions of U.S. families.