Democratic Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak will sign legislation today to extend collective bargaining rights to 20,000 state employees, part of a broader strategy by unions to organize more public workplaces in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus v. AFSCME ruling.
The bill, “empowers state workers to collectively bargain for the first time in Nevada history,” Sisolak’s office said in a statement. AFSCME hailed it as “the largest expansion of collective bargaining rights for state workers in 16 years.”
AFSCME and other unions have been urging blue-state governors to pass pro-union laws since Janus, which barred public-sector unions from collecting mandatory fees from union nonmembers to cover their share of collective bargaining costs. In April, Democratic Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill preempting conservative groups’ efforts to force the return of fair-share fees, and Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill banning local governments from adopting right-to-work laws.
Before the Supreme Court even ruled in Janus, New York Gov. Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation saying unions need not provide full benefits to workers who aren’t members.
Sisolak will also sign legislation today to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2024, require employers to offer paid family leave, and boost equal pay protections.
The House will vote on the first federal minimum wage increase in over a decade this summer, according to a senior Democratic aide.
The legislation to be considered is the Raise the Wage Act backed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC). It would more than double the $7.25 minimum wage to $15 by 2024. The current minimum wage has been in place since July of 2009.
Congress actually passed that wage hike in 2007.
The aide said the increase is “expected” to come to the floor this summer.
The Democratic caucus has been divided on whether to advance a $15 minimum wage bill or one that would provide for regional differences to create a tiered minimum wage.
As a result, the bill could divide some Democrats when it comes to the floor.
The legislation would boost wages in three steps, starting with an increase to $8.55 this year. It would also take steps to link the minimum wage after 2024 to typical worker’s wages, an attempt to ensure that the minimum doesn’t remain stagnant over long periods.
In addition, the bill would also phase out the $2.13 minimum wage for tipped workers, meaning employers would eventually have to pay employees such as waiters the full minimum wage, though they could still collect tips.
Currently, employers are supposed to pay out the difference if a tipped employee makes less than minimum wage, but critics say that doesn’t always happen.
Democrats opposed to the plan say it would hit small businesses hard in parts of the country that have a lower cost of living.
“The cost of living in Selma, Ala., is very different than New York City,” said Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), who has sponsored the PHASE in $15 Wage Act, which allows for regional cost of living differences to the minimum wage.
Pushing the wage too high too quickly, she argued, would force businesses to lay off workers.
Supporters of the bill say they are confident it will pass the House.
“Now we believe we have the votes to get it done. It’s time to bring it to the floor, and we are asking leadership to make sure to schedule the vote on this before the July 4 recess,” said CPC co-chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal(D-Wash.).
A study by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute said the act would result in a pay increase for 38.1 percent of African American workers and 23.2 percent of white workers.
The legislation would likely have a difficult time passing through a Senate controlled by Republicans, but could also become a campaign issue in 2020.
Getting the bill to the floor will be a victory for the left wing of the Democratic Party and the CPC.
In 2016, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) made a $15 minimum wage a central part of his campaign, pushing his primary rival Hillary Clinton to the left on the issue. Sanders sponsored the Senate version of the bill, which has 31 co-sponsors.
MORE CANDIDATES JOIN MCDONALD’S PICKET LINE
Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, and Beto O’Rourke are the latest 2020 contenders preparing to picket McDonald’s. The candidates will join workers in protests organized by Fight for $15 in Nevada and South Carolina over pay, sexual harassment, and union rights. Harris will march Friday in Las Vegas, and Buttigieg and O’Rourke will march Saturday in Charleston. According to Fight for $15, McDonald’s workers are targeting “key early primary states to demand union rights as a solution to systemic issues on the job.” Adds Mary Kay Henry, president of the SEIU, which backs Fight for $15: “Anyone who wants to represent working people as an elected leader should be standing with us, shoulder-to-shoulder.”
Democratic candidates have taken note
Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Julián Castro and Jay Inslee all joined striking McDonald’s workers last month to picket for a $15 minimum wage and the right to join a union. Sanders showed up last week, uninvited, to a Walmart shareholders meeting to blast the retail giant’s “starvation wages” and call for workers’ participation on corporate boards. Harris has proposed eliminating the gender wage gap by fining corporations that don’t address pay disparities.