Minimum Wage Roundup

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As fast-food and other service workers waged strikes and protests in favor of a $15 hourly wage on Tuesday, November 10, the minimum wage push for employees in all business sectors showed no signs of slowing down any time soon. Across the nation, labor groups and some legislators are working to increase the minimum wage.

The American Booksellers Association is encouraging its members to reach out to town, county, or state officials to ensure they have a voice in any minimum wage discussions that take place in their communities.

“If you think there aren’t any discussions to increase the minimum wage in your town, chances are it’s because they have not yet been publicized or they’re in the very early stages,” said ABA Senior Public Policy Analyst David Grogan. “Activities in support of raising the minimum wage are beginning in an increasing number of cities and states. The best time to become engaged in this issue is as early in the process as possible. That said, whether discussions are in the early or the final stages, booksellers need to get involved.”

Booksellers with questions about how to get involved should contact Grogan at dave@bookweb.org or via phone at (800) 637-0037, ext. 7562.

Here’s a look at some of the minimum wage issues occurring across the country:

Nationwide: SEIU Launches Massive Minimum Wage Campaign

The group Fight for $15 organized strikes and wage protests by fast-food workers throughout the country on November 10. The group, which is backed in part by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), is urging low-wage workers to petition local, state, and/or federal governments to mandate a minimum wage of $15 per year, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. The cornerstone of Tuesday’s protests was a planned walk-out by fast-food workers in approximately 270 cities across the country.

Organizers are characterizing the latest actions by Fight for $15 as the group’s largest mass demonstration yet, as reported by the Huffington Post. While some protests were small, the HuffPo article noted that protests in New York, San Francisco, and Pittsburgh had “huge turnouts.”

More importantly, the campaign has highlighted increasing the minimum wage as a key issue in the political debate leading up to the 2016 presidential election. Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has come out in favor of a $15 minimum wage. On Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) spoke to striking workers in Washington, D.C. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio joined workers at a Brooklyn demonstration, the Post article reported. And New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced that all state employees would be making $15 by the end of 2018.

SEIU also organized 23 rallies in Ohio, as reported by the Business Journal. “We’re trying to fight for social and economic justice for everybody,” Pam Stewart, administrative organizer with SEIU Ohio Union District 1199, told the Journal. “We believe that increasing the minimum wage will help everybody all around.”

Pro-minimum wage rallies were also held in Atlanta, Boston, and Reno, Nevada, as well as many other cities.

California: Groups Hold Minimum Wage Rally in Fresno

On Saturday, November 7, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) organized a workshop to gather signatures and teach others how to gather signatures in support of a state-wide minimum wage increase to be placed on the ballot, as reported by YourCentralValley.com. SEIU is asking that the minimum wage be raised by a dollar per year until it reaches $15 per hour, the article noted. SEIU hopes to get the minimum wage hike on the state ballot in November 2016.

SEIU community organizer Greg Maron told YourCentralValley.com, “We need to collect 619,000 signatures by January in order for us to qualify. So what we’re working on is those signatures.”

California: Sacramento Wage Increase Proves Costly for Small Businesses

Sacramento’s recently approved minimum wage of $12.50, to be phased in over the next four years, has small business owners in the town concerned that it will also increase their cost of doing business, the Daily Signal reported last week.

Jim Relles, owner of Relles Florist in Sacramento, told the Signal that the increase will result in more challenges — for both small businesses and for businesses in general, as Sacramento competes with businesses outside of the city that are not bound by the same minimum wage. “Right now the city of Sacramento is going to be a little island surrounded by other municipalities with a lower starting wage,” Relles said. He noted, too, that while large businesses can look to automate some functions, small businesses don’t have the capital to do that.

Overhead costs will also go up with the wage increase, said Relles. “It’s not just the wage itself, because it’s also our workers’ comp premium and our unemployment insurance [which are] based on wages,” he told the Signal. “So, it will increase that part of our business.”

Iowa: Iowa City’s Incoming Council Members Support Minimum Wage Ordinance

Recent election results likely mean Johnson County, Iowa’s controversial minimum wage ordinance will not be overturned in Iowa City, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported. The ordinance increased the minimum wage to $8.20 on November 1 and will increase it in stages to $10.10 by 2017. Iowa City’s new council members, voted into office on November 3, have all stated that they are in favor of the wage ordinance.

Since the ordinance was passed by the Johnson County Board in September, Johnson County, Iowa, which includes Iowa City, has been embroiled in a debate over the minimum wage increase. Only six of the cities in the county said they would enact the ordinance. Four cities opted out due to economic or legal concerns.

Kentucky: Minimum Wage Increase Proposal Clears First Hurdle

In Fayette County, an ordinance that would increase the minimum wage to $10.10 from $7.25 passed after its first reading before the Urban County Council on Thursday, November 5, as reported by the Lexington Herald-Leader. An attempt to amend the ordinance to exempt small businesses was defeated during Thursday’s meeting, while an amendment to exempt agricultural workers was successful, the Herald-Leader noted.

A final vote on the ordinance is scheduled to be held on November 19.

If the ordinance is approved, Lexington would become the second city in Kentucky to increase the minimum wage. Louisville approved an increase in its minimum wage to $9 an hour over the next three years; however, the increase has been challenged by a group of businesses. The case is pending before the Kentucky Supreme Court, the article noted.

New York: Economists Contend $15 Minimum Wage Would Result in Significant Job Losses

According to a report from the Empire Center and American Action Forum, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to increase the minimum wage to $15 would cost New York State at least 200,000 jobs. The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, nonprofit think tank based in Albany, New York. The American Action Forum is a self-described “center-right” policy institute providing actionable research and analysis to “solve America’s most pressing policy challenges.”

The report Higher Pay, Fewer Jobs, authored by economists Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Ben Gitis of the American Action Forum, stressed that a minimum wage of $15 could lead to 432,200 and 588,000 fewer jobs under their “medium impact” and “high impact” scenarios, respectively. The authors noted that job losses would be smaller if the state was to set the minimum at $12 an hour.

The report argues that an increase to $15 per hour is likely to hurt the people that minimum wage proponents are trying to help. The authors note: “The Fight for $15 is rooted in well-founded and understandable concern about the challenges faced by low-income households, especially those struggling to get by in hyper-expensive New York City. But a $15 minimum wage is only likely to make those challenges worse. As … strongly suggested by other research on the general issue, enacting the biggest increase ever in New York’s minimum wage would benefit some low-income workers at the expense of others. The losers would be stuck with the ultimate minimum wage: zero.”

Polls show that most New Yorkers support a $15 per hour minimum wage, as reported by the Poughkeepsie Journal. The governor’s office noted that state and federal reports showed six out of seven times the state increased the minimum wage since 1991, employment increased afterward, the Journal noted.

Ohio: Ohio Ballot Board Approves Language on Amendment to Increase Minimum Wage

In early November, the Ohio Ballot Board, a committee charged with writing the official language for ballot proposals, unanimously approved language for an initiative dubbed the “Fair Wage Amendment,” as reported by WCPO Cincinnati. The amendment would increase the wage to $10 per hour beginning in 2017, and then increase it by 50 cents per year until it reaches $12 in 2021. Ohio’s minimum wage is currently $8.10 per hour.

To get the issue on the ballot, the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, which submitted the initiative, will need to garner more than 300,000 signatures.

Oregon: Eugene Looking into $15 Minimum Wage

The Eugene City Council will discuss whether the city should set a minimum wage of $15 per hour for its employees and require companies that do business with the city to do likewise, as reported by the Register-Guard. The wage would be $5.75 an hour above the current state minimum of $9.25.

Councilor Claire Syrett, who is a labor relations representative with the Oregon Nurses Association Union, told the Register-Guard: “Since I came on the council, I have been talking about the need to raise the average wage for folks in the city, and, by extension, the county. We have had depressed wages here for a long time. And as we struggle with issues like affordable housing, it’s clear to me that one of the strategies to help folks is to raise wages.”

Meanwhile, Raise the Wage Oregon, a coalition of labor and community groups, is looking to push for a state-wide $13.50 minimum wage during the 2016 legislative session. On its website, the group said, “Raising the wage will put more money in Oregonians’ pockets, increasing sales for local businesses.”