Proud and Powerful

From the AFL-CIO

As 50,000 Culinary Workers members in Las Vegas fight for fair pay and good benefits and as the first group of workers at Boeing Co. in South Carolina choose to join the Machinists (IAM), America’s working people celebrate worker activism and the start of Pride Month. June is an opportunity for all of us to consider the close bonds between the labor movement and the LGBTQ community.

Working families in all our diversity are ready to stand united for dignity, fair pay, good benefits and strong communities.

America’s labor movement and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community cannot be separated, and we are particularly united today because the attacks on both LGBTQ equality and worker freedoms come from the same dark web of corporate interests.

LGBTQ workers have relied on union contracts to secure protections not yet provided by law, and many of the advances of LGBTQ rights have been explicitly related to workplace equality.

Some of the first instances of codified benefits for same-sex couples were won by working people with union contracts. In 1983, workers in Ohio won health care benefits for same-sex couples. The next year, public workers in Berkeley, California, won the same benefit.

Today, labor groups like Pride At Work are championing the freedoms of LGBTQ workers by fighting against discrimination and educating the public about using union contracts to protect all workers.

The AFL‑CIO supports all working people as we continue to grow a powerful movement to write new economic rules so all workers can win fair pay and good benefits, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

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Posted In: Union Matters

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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A Friendly Reminder

A Friendly Reminder