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Labor Report

PA's Shrinking Minimum Wage

Pennsylvania continues to require employers to pay their frontline workers $7.25 an hour, but that hourly stipend is shrinking the more other states and cities take matters into their own hands and increase the minimum wage.

CheckPortland, Ore., is increasing its fight to up its minimum to at least $13.50.

“Inside the building, the noise will probably be about minimum wage,” said Salem Democratic Rep. Brian Clem in today’s Oregonian. “I see it as rural versus urban — can we have one statewide minimum wage policy?”

In Maine, “Portlanders for a Living Wage” is now officially fighting for a $15 minimum wage.

“Question 1 on the Portland city ballot Nov. 3 will ask voters whether they support ‘An Ordinance Toward a Living Wage,’ which would raise the minimum wage for all workers, including tipped workers,” the Portland Press Herald wrote today. “The ordinance would be phased in, with businesses that have 500 employees or more having to pay their employees $15 an hour starting in 2017 and everyone else reaching that rate by 2019. Starting in 2020, annual raises in the minimum would be tied to inflation.”

Pennsylvania, meanwhile, has been too quiet on raising the minimum wage, but I am working this week to change that. It’s too early to share what this will be, but it will be a bicameral effort, I promise.

WAGE Act Support Grows

A federal proposal to make organizing labor groups a civil right is picking up steam now that both Democratic candidates for U.S. president have endorsed the idea.

RallyThe Workplace Action for a Growing Economy, or WAGE, Act would, according to the International Business Times, “allow workers who get fired for union organizing or speaking out about workplace issues to seek damages in federal courts -- much like employees who suffer racial or sex discrimination can right now. It would also boost civil penalties for companies who break labor laws and make it easier for workers who are illegally fired to be reinstated.”

Let’s face it: too many public officials and corporate execs like to talk about being all for whistle-blowers but their closed-door actions often contradict their words. The penalties for employers, too, aren’t steep enough to correct bad behavior.

If approved, the Huffington Post’s Dave Jamieson reports the WAGE Act “would increase the use of federal injunctions to get illegally fired workers back on the job quickly. And it would establish civil penalties against companies that violate the law, and allow for officers and directors of the company to be penalized individually as well.”

As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka rightly asserts in, the WAGE Act “does not address all the hurdles working men and women face when joining together on the job.” However, in what has been a non-stop avalanche of anti-union proposals and new laws, this is a good, solid step in the right direction – the path back to solidarity.

Farmers' Rights

The Golden Anniversary for farmers’ rights in America arrived this weekend in California.Farm

In 1965, grape pickers walked off the job – and stayed off for the next five years – to protest poor pay and job conditions. Cesar Chavez gained fame and notoriety during this time, and the United Farm Workers Union was formed.

“What the grape strikers achieved went far beyond themselves,” said current UFW President Arturo Rodriguez in the Fresno Bee. “They inspired succeeding generations of Americans to social and political activism. And they created a revolution in empowerment and self-determination among Latinos that is felt in every corner of America today.”

Happy 50th UFW! Your story was an inspiration – and it still can be in an age of corporate guerilla warfare and anti-union legislating, in Pennsylvania and throughout America.