Wage Fight Coming to Congress Finally

Newark   Local 100 members sent their petitions into their Congressional delegations in Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana at the end of last week.  The Raise the Wages Act is finally coming to debate in the House of Representatives this week.

The bill would raise the federal minimum to $15 per hour over a period of years.  Increases thereafter would be indexed.  The tip credit would finally rise.  There are other bells and whistles, but this is the heart of it.

The Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan research arm of Congress, put out some numbers which were a mixed blessing for both opponents and advocates.  Potentially, this increase would take as many as twenty-seven million out of poverty over a series of years.  This would be a huge step forward in the fight for greater equity.  That’s the good news.  It also might speed the elimination of 1.2 to 3 million lower-waged jobs.  That’s a political powder keg requiring that politicians be careful lighting matches.

Not that they really care so much about that problem, and not that lower-skilled and lower paid jobs are not in jeopardy already, even at the current level of abysmal wages.  Amazon announced a $700 million retraining program for its staff from warehouse robot-helper to middle-level.  McDonalds is moving to robots and has already installed kiosks in many locations to replace counter help.  Walmart is long on the road to that place as well.  The list goes on and on.

We have 3.7% statistical unemployment, the lowest in 50 years, which in classic economics would seem to demand increases in wages.  We also have a mid-60% labor participation rate, the lowest since 1977, which is an important figure indicating the number of potential workers who have left the workforce and stopped looking, who might also be drawn back in if the money was worth their while.

The Chamber of Commerce understands it cannot prevent an increase forever and floated out its potential compromise which was just to the left of indentured servitude.  They were open to a double-digit minimum wage and realize that it has to increase sometime, but they wanted to keep sub-minimums, continue to try and freeze the tipped credit, and, heck no, to an automatic index.

The Senate is seen as the stumbling block since they can hide behind the CBO report, but people like New Orleans’ own Steve Scalise, Republican House whip, have also dug in their heels in opposition.  Luckily, we can still root for Speaker Nancy Pelosi to try and find a compromise here and thread the needle, even against opposition, left and right, to see if we might get a raise.  Our members need a raise, so we’re pushing, but this might just be the undercard to the real fight in 2022 with a new president replacing Trump who has made this a signature issue.

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Thank Goodness for a Tropical Storm Barry “Nothing Burger”

New Orleans   It was so quiet that it felt like living in the country.  If there had been more stars and fewer houses, I might have thought I was stepping out of my trailer in Wyoming, rather than standing on my porch at 3AM to check on the Tropical Storm Barry.  There was hardly a drizzle.  Hours later walking Lucha at 630 AM, the drops hitting my face weren’t rain, but water that still needed to be brushed off the leaves by the wind.

Mi companera keeps up with Twitter.  She read me a tweet from a New Orleanian calling the storm a “nothing burger.”  If that’s the case, nothing tastes better!

We’re still packed in by the clouds. No one is back.  Nothing is open.  That’s OK, too.  We are still worried about the reports of potentially heavy flooding around Baton Rouge and eastern Louisiana on into western Mississippi, where smaller rivers are still swollen with water. The reports on the giant Mississippi River are all good.  The Bonnet Carre Spillway has been open 108 days already between the city limits and LaPlace, twenty miles upriver, and has diverted 1.2 trillion cubic feet of water into Lake Ponchartrain and Lake Maurpas, hitting the oyster beds badly with so much muddy fresh water, but doing its job of saving the city.  The Coast Guard closed the River to vessel traffic for more than 100 miles.

We ventured out to a food dive called Melba’s at the corner of Elysian Fields and Claiborne which is one of those places that stays open 24-hours a day and doesn’t know the meaning of calorie counts or recycling with everything served “to go” and three entrances, through the back parking lot, through the front door, or through their laundry mat.  The biggest crowd was a gaggle of women who were members of the Delta Sigma Theta who had obviously stayed over despite their convention wrapping up Friday in the wake of the storm.  Almost all of them lined up for the free refill before walking out with their leftovers.  Delta Sigma Theta sorority is a predominantly black organization founded by 22 women in 1913 at Howard University.  The Washington Post reported that they donated their convention’s 17,000 uneaten meals to those affected by the tropical storm Barry in Louisiana.  Second Harvest sent a 50-foot refrigerated truck to hold the meals so that they can be warmed up for flood and storm victims later in the week.  Thanks, sisters!

The Rolling Stones rescheduled their concert for Monday night.  Our son had been marooned at his sister’s place in Brooklyn after having the last leg of his flight home from Turkey and Bulgaria cancelled in New York.  We rebooked our flights to Europe for meetings with ACORN organizers for Monday as well.  Flight trackers are now showing more flights departing from New Orleans than cancellations.  The mayor is taking heat for not passing out sandbags because they clog the draining system, but she made the right move.

We’ll reopen our coffeehouses tomorrow, and things will gradually get back to normal.  Newspapers will be delivered perhaps.  Our offices and others will be open.

Maybe we’ll learn something, maybe we won’t.  Too many will confuse the fact that we were lucky with whether we were good.

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