New Jersey: Labor Makes History with Signing of Equal Pay Bill

Lee Sandberg AFL-CIO

Last month, a historic milestone was reached in the fight for women’s equality and universal workplace justice as Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) signed the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act into law. This legislative effort, which was spearheaded by organized labor in New Jersey, represents years of hard work, testimony, meetings, campaigning, outreach and coordination with stakeholders all around the state.

The New Jersey State AFL-CIO was proud to work hand in hand with the prime sponsors of this bill, state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D) and Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D), and recognizes their tireless work that enabled this historic victory. We further thank state Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D) for making this issue a top priority and ensuring a prompt vote on this pressing matter that has been allowed to persist for far too long.

“No organization has been on the frontlines longer or done more to address the gender wage gap than organized labor,” said New Jersey State AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Laurel Brennan. “A union contract has long guaranteed equal pay for equal work to women and all demographic groups. It is thanks to this model, along with labor’s commitment to pay equity as a universal right, that we celebrate this historic moment for all New Jersey working families today.”

“With the strongest equal pay law in the nation, our labor movement and our state can stand proud in recognition of the progress we have achieved,” said New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech. “This is a fight for which organized labor will continue to bear the torch until all working people around the country are ensured equal pay for equal work.”

Once again, the New Jersey State AFL-CIO recognizes the enormous efforts of our affiliates, community allies and elected officials, along with Gov. Murphy and his administration, for the extraordinary teamwork that made this victory possible. We know that the benefits of this law to women, families, businesses and working people across all demographic groups signal a new direction for our state and a future that represents our shared values of progress, economic fairness and workplace justice.

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Reposted from the AFL-CIO

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Federal Minimum Wage Reaches Disappointing Milestone

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

A disgraceful milestone occurred last Sunday, June 16.

That date officially marked the longest period that the United States has gone without increasing federal the minimum wage.

That means Congress has denied raises for a decade to 1.8 million American workers, that is, those workers who earn $7.25 an hour or less. These 1.8 million Americans have watched in frustration as Congress not only denied them wages increases, but used their tax dollars to raise Congressional pay. They continued to watch in disappointment as the Trump administration failed to keep its promise that the 2017 tax cut law would increase every worker’s pay by $4,000 per year.

More than 12 years ago, in May 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It took effect two years later. Congress has failed to act since then, so it has, in effect, now imposed a decade-long wage freeze on the nation’s lowest income workers.

To combat this unjust situation, minimum wage workers could rally and call their lawmakers to demand action, but they’re typically working more than one job just to get by, so few have the energy or patience.

The Economic Policy Institute points out in a recent report on the federal minimum wage that as the cost of living rose over the past 10 years, Congress’ inaction cut the take-home pay of working families.  

At the current dismal rate, full-time workers receiving minimum wage earn $15,080 a year. It was virtually impossible to scrape by on $15,080 a decade ago, let alone support a family. But with the cost of living having risen 18% over that time, the situation now is far worse for the working poor. The current federal minimum wage is not a living wage. And no full-time worker should live in poverty.

While ignoring the needs of low-income workers, members of Congress, who taxpayers pay at least $174,000 a year, are scheduled to receive an automatic $4,500 cost-of-living raise this year. Congress increased its own pay from $169,300 to $174,000 in 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession when low income people across the country were out of work and losing their homes. While Congress has frozen its own pay since then, that’s little consolation to minimum wage workers who take home less than a tenth of Congressional salaries.

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