Nearly 200 Wal-Mart workers spontaneously walked off the job
in Florida this week in response to new rules that even two department
managers leading the walkout deemed "inhuman." Not only were hours cut
for all full-time workers -- from 40 hours a week down to 32 hours, but
employees were required to be available for any shift around the clock.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.