One of the biggest success stories from the alt-labor perspective has been elevating the discussion around raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Efforts to do so are seeing various levels of support at the federal, state and municipal level, as illustrated by the two stories from POLITICO I’ve shared below.
The House Education and Labor Committee will vote Wednesday on raising the federal minimum wage to $15, advancing a central piece of Democrats’ economic agenda.
The Raise the Wage Act, H.R. 582 (116), would phase in a $15 hourly minimum over five years and index future increases to inflation. The bill would eliminate lower minimum wages permitted now for tipped workers, workers with disabilities and workers younger than 20.
The bill is expected to pass the House but faces a tough road in the Senate, with Republicans unlikely to accept $15 and Democrats unlikely to compromise ahead of a presidential election in which several senators are running.
The committee also announced a Thursday hearing on the multiemployer pension crisis, continuing the work of a defunct super committee charged with finding a solution.
A Minnesota appeals court today upheld Minneapolis’ $15 minimum wage law, handing a victory to liberal activists.
In siding with the city, the court rejected an argument from Minneapolis-based manufacturer Graco, which argued that the local ordinance conflicts with state law giving businesses authority to pay workers a minimum of $9.86 an hour. The ordinance, approved in 2017, raises the minimum wage for businesses with more than 100 employees to $15 an hour by 2022, and for businesses with fewer than 100 employees by 2024.
“Corporate interests have tried to derail the Fight for $15’s momentum in the Twin Cities by taking Minneapolis to court over its $15 minimum wage law, but today’s decision secures another major win for workers,” Christine Owens, director of the left-leaning National Employment Law Project, said in a statement.
Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME has left local and state teachers’ unions mobilizing to make sure they are complying with the law.
Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota, said the union has sent memos to the school districts that employ agency-fee-paying teachers, letting them know to stop deducting the money from teacher paychecks. Such fees were struck down in the high court decision.
“If there are any members who have their fair-share fees deducted from their paychecks, that needs to stop right now,” Specht said. “We sent [employers] communication today so that they were aware of it.”
With the ruling on Janus v. AFSCME, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority said that requiring public employees to pay into a union violates their First Amendment rights because it essentially forces them to subsidize unions’ political speech.
Education Minnesota is affiliated with both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, which have both sent compliance guidance to local unions on how to “operate in good faith based upon this decision,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a call with reporters.
Teachers unions are anticipating that agency-fee payers will disappear from their rolls and budgets. NEA, which represents 3 million workers, said Wednesday that fee payers represent 3 percent of its operating budget; AFT said 60,000 to 80,000 of its 1.75 million members are fee payers.
Education Minnesota represents 95,000 workers, 5,000 of whom are agency fee payers.
“There will no longer be fair-share fees. Those people are essentially gone; they’re done,” Specht said.
In light of the ruling, unions will have to ask workers if they consent to paying dues before any money is deducted.
AFT Pennsylvania President Ted Kirsch said that roughly a third of members there have signed legally binding cards saying, “I’m sticking with the union.”
“It’s hard to predict, but my feeling is that our members are smart. They know this an attack on their pension, their salaries, their working conditions,” he said.
Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery told POLITICO the union he leads has commitment cards from more than 90 percent of its workers.
“It’s a dark day for the history of unions and working people in America. But I feel very confident. We were ready for today,” he said.
Unions will now grapple with the possibility of losing full-fledged members to the appeal of representation without paying a dime.
“It’s like showing up for the potluck and not having a dish to share. They can load up for free,” Specht said.
“That’s a burden on unions, but we’ll figure it out,” Montgomery said.
A Minnesota county district court ruled in favor of a Minneapolis city ordinance raising the minimum wage in a decision posted Tuesday.
The ordinance, passed in June, raised the hourly minimum in Minneapolis to $10 starting in January. Wages will then increase each July until they reach $15, with large businesses given until 2022 and small businesses until 2024 to meet the mark.
“The Minnesota Fair Labor Standard Act, the state minimum wage law, sets a floor for minimum wages, leaving room for municipalities to pass minimum wage ordinances to meet the needs of their communities,” Hennepin County Court wrote in its decision. “For these reasons, the court finds that the Minneapolis Minimum Wage Ordinance is not in conflict with or preempted by state law.”
Workers’ advocate groups praised the ruling.
“This is a big win for Minneapolis’ working families,” said Laura Huizar, a staff attorney with the National Employment Law Project. “It means the city remains on track to raise wages for one in five Minneapolis workers.”