ALEC and the Minimum Wage

The American Legislative Exchange Council is against raising the minimum hourly wage. We turn to Missouri’s statehouse. Lawmakers there passed bills barring every past and future law to hike the minimum wage recently.

“By enacting legislation today to prohibit all past and future local minimum wage laws in Missouri, the Missouri state legislature dealt a blow to democracy and workers in the state,” said Christine Owens, executive director at the National Employment Law Project. “Legislators have stripped Missouri communities of their long-standing rights and taken away all hope for cities like St. Louis of addressing low wages that deny people the opportunity to support themselves through work.”

Missouri’s anti-minimum wage legislation mirrors a bill that Iowa state lawmakers passed. In Iowa, that bill reverses local minimum wage hikes that counties approved, while prohibiting cities and counties from changing the standards for wages and benefits.

What is going on, and why? According to the NELP, state legislatures are responding to popular sentiments to increase minimum wage rates. Over 40 cities and counties have enacted increased minimum wages. However, 24 states have approved laws to roll back these minimum wage increases.

The University of California at Berkeley Labor Center maintains an inventory of US city and county minimum wage ordinances. There are wage levels, scheduled increases and other law details, as well as links to the ordinances.

Back to ALEC. It argues that raising the minimum wage harms those who earn low pay. This stance echoes businesses that oppose low-wage workers earning higher hourly rates.

However, public support for raising the minimum wage is strong. The same US public opposes misnamed “free-trade” pacts that help capitalists pay workers abroad less than Americans earning the minimum wage.

“The only wages ALEC seems to like are the $1 an hour wages paid in countries like Vietnam,” said Mary Bottari, deputy director of the Center for Media and Democracy. “ALEC was a huge backer of the Trans Pacific Partnership and every trade agreement that has shipped US jobs overseas.”

The CMD has been investigating the involvement of the Kochs, billionaire GOP funders of ALEC. Let us not, though, focus solely on Republicans and their wealthy donors such as the Kochs in pushing a corporate agenda that runs roughshod over working families.

Recall the role of Democratic presidents, for instance, in promoting corporate investment in low-wage foreign labor. Former President Obama also backed the TPP. On that note, Hillary Clinton’s failed White House run in part claimed to continue Obama’s legacy on investment and trade.

GOP President Donald J. Trump made opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement, enacted under Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1994 [with Republican support], central to his successful 2016 campaign for the White House. During that recent campaign, Secretary Clinton had little in the way of a solid response to candidate Trump’s NAFTA critique, which resonated in Rust Belt states where NAFTA has wrecked communities, devastating working families.

To be clear, ALEC has its eyes on the ball, and is moving it down the court. The daily drama in the nation’s capital can distract us from ALEC’s politics.

“Taking away local control over wages (and a range of other pro-worker, pro-environment, and pro-civil rights policies) has become a major priority of ALEC, a corporate-backed group with extensive lobbying resources and influence in our state legislatures,” according to an NELP statement. “ALEC drafts “model” minimum wage preemption bills for conservative legislatures to simply copy and paste.”

This is not rocket science. Rather, ALEC’s agenda, less sexy than the Kardashians on social media, is class warfare of the 1 percent against the 99 percent.

Seth Sandronsky is a Sacramento journalist and member of the freelancers unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. Email sethsandronsky@gmail.com

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