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.
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.
Progressive States Network Executive Director Ann Pratt issued a statement following the release of the jobs report showing the economy adding 233,000 private sector jobs and losing 6,000 public sector jobs in the month of February.
January has seen the minimum wage emerge as a major issue in 2012 policy debates, with a virtual consensus for raising the wage emerging among all but the extreme conservative fringe. Prominent conservatives from former Massachusetts Governor Willard “Mitt” Romney to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have come forward urging just that the minimum wage be raised automatically every year. State legislators championing minimum wage increases are also playing a pivotal role in driving the salience of inequality and economic security issues on the national stage.
In the year since conservatives took control of the U.S. House of Representatives and legislative bodies in states across the nation, we’ve seen them move their agenda with alarming disregard for both democracy and the economic security of the nation. From the irresponsibly provoked debt ceiling “crisis” to the wholesale obstruction of job creation efforts, conservatives on the national stage took an approach of reckless political brinksmanship over the past year that put the entire economy at risk. And from Wisconsin to Alabama and beyond, 2011 saw conservatives in the states—buoyed by support from their corporate allies in the 1%—launch attack after attack on workers, women, voters, and immigrants. But the new year brings new hope for progressives looking to turn the tide—hope that, for the time being, largely resides not in the halls of Congress but in the 50 states.
States do not have to wait for the federal government to jump start their local economies. They can be proactive, in spite of their revenue and budget problems, by instituting a proven economic stimulant at a low cost: a minimum wage increase.
The Arizona Interfaith Alliance for Worker Justice,
a worker center in Phoenix, has seen a “huge spike” in wage theft --
violations of minimum wage laws -- since the passage of SB 1070,
Arizona’s anti-immigrant law. "Employers are even more brazen in their
mistreatment of workers," said Executive Director Trina Zelle in an interview with In These Times.
"Increasingly, 'Go ahead, try and make me pay you' is the response
workers hear when they confront their employers over unpaid wages."