New Orleans E-mail notices over night were more interesting than usual. Staff in India welcomed newcomers on a different time zone. In St. Louis we finally were getting some “pushback” traction in the Post-Dispatch on the voter suppression campaign being run against us.
Stewart Acuff, AFL-CIO Organizing Director, sent me the final copy of the piece he and Maude Hurd, ACORN’s President, wrote for the Huffington Post on the minimum wage fights.
Doing the job Congress Wouldn’t
By Stewart Acuff, organizing director of the AFL-CIO, and Maude Hurd,
National President of the Association of Community Organizations for
Reform Now (ACORN).
When members of Congress rushed home a month ago to begin frantically
campaigning for re-election, they left undone a job that could have
helped them peel off the do-nothing label they’re now stuck with:
raising the minimum wage for the first time since 1996.
Ten years ago in October, low-wage workers got the first installment in
what was to be the last minimum wage increase Congress would deliver in
a decade. Abandoned at $5.15 an hour, the minimum wage has since lost 20
percent of its purchasing power while working families struggled to keep
up with the rising costs of housing, health care, gas and other
necessities. Factoring in increases in the cost of living, the minimum
wage is now at its lowest value in 51 years.
Fortunately, average Americans aren’t as willing as Congress to ignore
fellow Americans who are working hard but falling further behind. Most
polls agree that on November 7th, voters in six states will
overwhelmingly approve referenda raising their state minimum wage levels
and indexing them to make sure they keep up with the cost of living.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, 1.3 million workers and
their families will benefit. Seventy-two percent of the affected workers
will be adults age 20 or over, and nearly one quarter will be parents
who badly need more money in their pockets to help pay for food,
shelter, clothing and medical care.
Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have already passed
minimum wage rates above the federal minimum, 18 of them and the
District since the 2004 federal election. Fifty-eight percent of the
national population now lives in states that have minimum wages higher
than the federal level – and unlikely states like North Carolina and
Arkansas enacted higher minimum wage standards for the first time.
This revolution in the states confirms that Americans understand no one
can live on anything close to $5.15 an hour. In a recent survey by the
Pew Foundation, 88 percent of voters nationwide say they support raising
the minimum wage — leading us to ask Republican members of Congress who
blocked the raise and are desperately seeking more votes on November
7th, “What were you thinking?”
Some of those members no doubt bought the notion that raising the
minimum wage eliminates jobs and hurts the economy. That tired and
tattered old argument was discredited for the umpteenth time last week
when 650 leading economists — among them five Nobel laureates and six
former American Economics Association presidents — endorsed a statement
saying that modest raises in the minimum wage “can significantly improve
the lives of low-income workers and their families, without the adverse
effects critics have claimed.”
Other members of our do-nothing Congress may have been unaware of the
direct economic benefits of increasing the minimum wage. It pushes up
the buying power of low-wage workers, allowing them to contribute more
to the economy, to their communities and to state, local and federal tax
coffers. Conversely, freezing the minimum wage fuels a vicious cycle as
low-wage workers fall further and further behind, increasing the chasm
between them and other workers and making them more dependent on
taxpayer subsidized services.
Every day in our country, low-wage workers such as security guards,
nursing home and daycare employees, teaching assistants, clerical
assistants and food service workers make our lives safer, ease. Yet we
fail to pay them enough to support their families. That isn’t the way
America is supposed to work. And that’s why so many voters have grown
tired of waiting for our federal government to act and are supporting
the state minimum wage initiatives our organizations and our allies are
fighting for at the grassroots.
By refusing to move on the minimum wage, our federal legislators missed
a great opportunity to boost their own approval ratings, which,
according to Gallup, are collectively at 29 percent and dangling.
Meanwhile, citizens in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nevada and
Ohio are taking matters into their own hands and doing a big part of the
job Congress refused to do.
Maude Hurd is National President of the Association of Community
Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), the country’s largest membership
organization of low and moderate-income families. Stewart Acuff is
organizing director of the AFL-CIO, a federation of unions representing
over 10 million workers.
The other report was from George Perez in Tucson. George worked for our former television station in the Salinas-San Jose area years ago (don’t ask!), and thanks to the miracle of the internet had reconnected. His report from the border is startling.
Reporting from Tucson, AZ…
I heard a news report on KNST AM radio here in Tucson on Monday morning 10-30-06 that “unused Katrina Relief funds” are being used to pay for National Guard troops to patrol the Mexican border here in AZ.
Were you aware of this? In the first place, I’m sure there is still plenty of relief, recovery, and rebuilding necessary in Louisiana and Mississippi, so why would these federal funds allocated for that purpose be diverted to a totally unrelated (not to mention oppressive) endeavor?
Perhaps you are already aware of this and ACORN is already looking into this. If not, it might be something to look into. To me this seems incredible and unjust, and it seems to be going through without any publicity or scrutiny. I wonder if there would be a public outcry against this diversion of Katrina funds, if people only knew about it.
I wonder, too? I would think if this were true we would have people everywhere kicking the doors down!
November 1, 2006