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Albuquerque, New Mexico, voters will have the chance to vote to raise the city's minimum wage on Tuesday, taking it from $7.50 to $8.50 in 2013, tying the minimum wage to inflation, and giving tipped workers a raise to 45 percent of the regular minimum wage in 2013 and 60 percent in 2014. It should go without saying that all the usual discredited arguments are being hauled out again trying to convince voters that this would be terrible, terrible, terrible.

City Council President Trudy Jones, for instance, throws several arguments up against the wall to see what sticks: raising the minimum wage would hurt small business! And the city budget, because it would cost more to hire lifeguards! (Wait, Albuquerque only pays its lifeguards minimum wage? Doesn't it seem like you'd want the person tasked with pulling you out of the water if you start to drown to be making a little more?) Also, she says, it would hurt teenagers, who are "the very group that the minimum wage was designed to help."

Oh, the teenager argument. Proponents of poverty wages love that one so much. It's supposed to make us think that people earning minimum wage are just doing it so they can buy pizza and movie tickets and designers jeans, luxuries that their parents won't cover. But in reality, a solid majority of minimum-wage workers are adults, just as a majority of minimum-wage workers and the people making just above minimum wage who would likely get a raise as an indirect effect of a minimum wage increase work full-time. These people need that extra dollar an hour to pay for rent and food, and in Albuquerque, they haven't seen a raise since 2009:

A gallon of milk that cost $2.69 in 2009 is now $3.50. According to a recent study by New Mexico Voices for Children, 40,000 workers—fully one-seventh of the city’s workforce—would benefit from the increase. Nearly one-sixth of Albuquerque’s population lives in poverty.
But what about small business? What about jobs? Wouldn't jobs be lost if the lowest-paid workers got a dollar raise? Well, no. Take this study of New England, where each state has a different minimum wage, and where states with higher minimum wages actually did better at keeping jobs during the recession and regaining them after it. That's just one of a number of studies showing that raising the minimum wage doesn't cause job loss, in fact. Instead, the extra money in the paychecks of the workers who are most likely to spend it, because they need it just to get by, provides economic stimulus. Small businesses get their share of that when their customers have more to spend.

Proponents of rock-bottom wages are always coming up with the same arguments that say that a minimum wage you can live on is something to fear. It's no different in Albuquerque, and it's as wrong there as it always is.

(Continue reading below the fold.)

Hurricane Recovery

  • Something to remember: Recovering from a disaster affects workers in so many ways. There are the public and utility workers struggling to get things back to normal. These workers, especially the public employees, are so often demonized as overpaid or not deserving the small pensions they've earned. Yet they'll be working unimaginable hours in difficult conditions, while many have flooded homes or don't have power themselves. Other people, too, are being called in to work despite the damage done to their homes and their lives.
  • The company that owns Madison Square Garden has an awfully generous offer to its workers in the aftermath of the storm: If they can't get to work, it comes out of their vacation days. Wait, that's not generous at all when we're talking about a city where commutes have doubled or quadrupled with huge chunks of the subway system not working, and where many neighborhoods are still without power or water.
  • The Teamsters and IBEW report on some of their members' hurricane response efforts, and the AFL-CIO rounds up more stories of how union workers are helping the recovery, with an excellent slideshow.

A fair day's wage

  • With black lung making a comeback, the Mine Safety and Health Administration is targeting coal dust in inspections. Inspections are good, but tougher limits on coal dust are needed. There's no such thing as a fair day's wage for a fair day's work if workers are being exposed to needless hazards.
  • Six out of 10 parents say their kid got sick and couldn't go to their usual child care or school in the past year, half of parents with kids in child care said it's difficult to find alternative care, and a third said they might lose pay or even their jobs if they take time off to take care of a sick kid. Yet another reason workers need, and deserve, paid sick days.
  • American Airlines pilots picketed at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport their quest for a fair contract.
  • But we're told that strengthening safety regulations for teen workers would be just terrible:
    Silos teeming with corn, wheat or soybeans become death traps when grain cascades out of control, asphyxiating or crushing their victims. Since 2007, 80 farmworkers have died in silo accidents; 14 of them were teenage boys.

    The deaths are horrific and virtually all preventable.

  • National Labor Relations Board Chair Mark Pearce: New Penalties Needed for Union-Busting of Undocumented Workers.
  • Commentators, most of whom are upper middle class, tend to think part-time work and "flexible" scheduling are good for workers. The reality is that they're part of the big squeeze:
    The widening use of part-timers has been a bane to many workers, pushing many into poverty and forcing some onto food stamps and Medicaid. And with work schedules that change week to week, workers can find it hard to arrange child care, attend college or hold a second job, according to interviews with more than 40 part-time workers.

The War on Education

State and local legislation

Miscellaneous

  • I know that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is famously persistent, but I'm not sure that a guy who was recently trying to basically break his city's teachers union is who I'd send out to ask unions for money if I was in charge of Priorities USA, the Obama Super PAC.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sat Nov 03, 2012 at 10:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Daily Kos.

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