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Bernie Sanders Backs Historic $18 Minimum Wage Ballot Measure in Portland, Maine
“Our greatest weapon in this fight is solidarity,” said the senator from Vermont. “The people of Portland, Maine have an incredible opportunity this Tuesday to continue our movement’s collective struggle by voting ‘Yes’ on Question D.”
Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has endorsed what he calls an “important” citizen-initiated referendum in nearby Portland, Maine, telling supporters in an email Thursday that the city “has the potential to pass the most progressive, inclusive minimum wage initiative in the history of the United States.”
“A ‘Yes’ on Question D would raise the minimum wage for all workers to a living wage of $18 an hour—including tipped workers, workers with disabilities, youth, gig workers, and incarcerated workers,” Sanders wrote. “As you might expect, opposition from the billionaire class and the ultra-wealthy to Question D has been fierce.”
“Lobbyists like the National Restaurant Association, large corporations like Uber and Doordash, and real estate developers have collectively poured more than $600,000 into Portland on mailers, advertising, and misinformation campaigns,” Sanders continued, “all so they can continue to pay restaurant workers and gig workers subminimum wages.”
“As a result of their efforts, polling shows a very tight race,” he added. “And with only a few days to go until the vote is decided, it’s up to our progressive movement in Maine to stand together and fight to pass Question D.”
The Portland Press Herald reported that the proposal “was put on the ballot by the Maine chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America’s Livable Portland campaign, which has said it’s expected to raise wages for about 22,000 workers across the city.”
“Sanders is the latest in a flurry of last-minute endorsements secured by One Fair Wage, a national group focused on eliminating subminimum wages that allow certain workers, such as restaurant servers, to earn less than the standard minimum wage,” the newspaper noted. “Saru Jayaraman, president of One Fair Wage, said the senator has been working with that organization for years on minimum wage issues.”
Sanders urged voters to sign a petition in support of the ballot measure. Those who do so are redirected to the Maine voter information lookup service, where they can confirm their polling location.
The federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour has remained stagnant since 2009 and provides only a fraction of what a full-time worker needs to afford a modest one-bedroom rental home in the United States. The federal subminimum wage of $2.13 per hour for tipped workers has not been raised since 1991.
According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, a full-time worker would need to make $17.74 per hour to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Maine, meaning the statewide minimum of $12.75 ($6.38 for tipped workers) and Portland’s current minimum of $13 ($6.50 for tipped workers) are inadequate. If Portland voters approve Question D during the November 8 midterms, the city would have an $18 hourly wage floor.
“At a time when half of American workers are living paycheck to paycheck, and millions of people earn starvation wages and struggle to put food on the table, the wealthy and powerful have never had it so good,” wrote Sanders.
The Vermont progressive expanded on that point Friday in a Fox News op-ed modeling the kind of anti-corporate profiteering and pro-working class messaging he would like to see prioritized by the Democratic Party, with which he caucuses.
Biden Accuses GOP of ‘Rooting for Recession’ After Jobs Report
The president slammed Republicans for working to “increase prescription drug costs, health insurance costs, and energy costs while giving more tax breaks to big corporations and the very wealthy.”
President Joe Biden on Friday accused the Republican leadership of “rooting for a recession” after new Labor Department figures showed the U.S. economy added 261,000 jobs in October, more than analysts expected but down slightly from the previous month.
“Today’s jobs report—adding 261,000 jobs with the unemployment rate still at a historically low 3.7%—shows that our jobs recovery remains strong,” Biden said in a statement.
Progressive economists largely echoed that sentiment, with the caveats that hiring is cooling and wage growth is decelerating significantly, a sign that the Federal Reserve’s aggressive interest rate hikes are taking their toll on the economy and workers. Biden has declined to criticize Fed Chair Jerome Powell for actively trying to weaken the labor market, even as a growing number of Democratic lawmakers warn he is about to throw millions out of work.
In his statement Friday, the president said that “inflation is our top economic challenge” and acknowledged that “American families are feeling squeezed.”
With the midterms just days away, the president sought to draw a sharp contrast between his policy agenda and that of the GOP, which he said wants to “increase prescription drug costs, health insurance costs, and energy costs, while giving more tax breaks to big corporations and the very wealthy.”
“I’ve got a plan to bring costs down, especially for healthcare, energy, and other everyday expenses,” Biden declared. “Here’s the deal: cutting corporate taxes and allowing Big Pharma to raise prices again is the Republican inflation plan and it’s a disaster.”
The notion that the GOP is hoping for and cheering on bad economic news with the goal of capitalizing politically was echoed by other Democrats as Republican lawmakers bashed the new jobs report as “the worst of the Biden presidency” and evidence of a “Biden-induced recession.”
“MAGA Republicans’ extreme agenda would make inflation much worse: plotting to repeal lower prescription drug costs, give tax breaks to the ultra-rich, and slash Social Security and Medicare,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), chair of the congressional Joint Economic Committee, added in a statement that “stronger-than-expected GDP growth in the third quarter, which made up for all the losses incurred by the declines in the first and second quarters, reflects confidence in the resilience of the U.S. economy.”
“Republicans want to choke it all off,” Beyer added, pointing to GOP threats to use the debt ceiling as leverage to cut Social Security and Medicare if they retake control of Congress.
“They are threatening debt default and economic catastrophe to gut Social Security and Medicare, which could eliminate nearly six million jobs and cost the U.S. billions of dollars in lost economic activity,” said Beyer. “Republicans are threatening to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act, which would raise prescription drug costs and health insurance premiums. And they are planning giveaways to big corporations and the wealthy at the expense of everyday workers and families, which would stoke higher inflation and leave most U.S. households worse off.”
Republicans have made the economy, and inflation in particular, central to their midterm attacks on Democrats. But the right-wing party’s leadership and candidates have done little to spell out an alternative agenda that would bring prices down from a four-decade high—and some of their proposals, such as making former President Donald Trump’s tax cuts for the rich permanent, would exacerbate the problem.
Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik noted earlier this week that “a look at the GOP’s election manifesto, the ‘Commitment to America‘ recently issued by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), reveals no specifics. Nor have Republican candidates done so during the multitude of appearances they’ve made on cable talk shows, despite specific and pointed questions by the hosts.”
“Undoubtedly, more can be done [to combat inflation],” Hiltzik continued. “President Biden is jawboning oil companies about their huge run-up in profits, but that’s just one industry. Corporate profits have soared since mid-2020 while average worker earnings have remained muted—a little-noticed spur to inflation.”
“Has the GOP embraced those ideas? Of course not—corporate managements and the big oil companies are its patrons,” he added.
‘Fulfill Your Promises,’ Biden Told Four Years After Parkland Massacre
“I’m disappointed,” said survivor and activist David Hogg, “and frankly, if I could say one thing to the president, it’s that we need you to go out and act right now before the next Parkland happens.”
Four years after a gunman murdered 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, survivors of the mass shooting, other activists, and progressive lawmakers on Monday demanded urgent action from President Joe Biden and Congress.
In interviews and actions marking the fourth anniversary of the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history, advocates argued the president hasn’t gone far enough. As March for Our Lives co-founder David Hogg put it: “Biden has been a friend, but not a leader.”
“He’s made small steps but it’s not enough. The president hasn’t been receptive to our demands,” Hogg, a survivor of the 2018 shooting, told CNN. “We expected this from [former President Donald] Trump, but we’re shocked that it’s coming from Biden.”
“The buck stops with you,” Hogg tweeted at Biden. “Fulfill your promises.”
A Landmark Bill Would Outlaw Bosses Cutting off Healthcare to Striking Workers
Employers regularly eliminate healthcare benefits as a strike-breaking tactic. A bill just introduced in Congress seeks to finally end this practice.
(PHOTO BY TY O’NEIL/SOPA IMAGES/LIGHTROCKET VIA GETTY IMAGES)
On Wednesday, House Democrats introduced a landmark bill that would make it illegal for employers to cut off healthcare benefits to striking workers. The Striking Workers Healthcare Protection Act would subject employers to a fine of up to $50,000, which could be doubled by the National Labor Relations Board for employers who have been in violation of the policy within the past five years.
Rep. Cindy Axne (D‑Iowa) says she was inspired to introduce the legislation after John Deere threatened to take away healthcare policies from workers who were on strike in her district last fall. Several of the bill’s co-sponsors represent districts where cutting healthcare has been used by companies as a strike-breaking tactic, including Rep. Steven Cohen (D‑Tenn.) whose constituents were among the 1,400 striking workers at Kelloggs’ cereal plants in four states. Other co-sponsors include Reps. Brian Higgins (D‑N.Y.), Andy Levin (D‑Mich.), Jim McGovern (D‑Mass.), Bill Pascrell (D‑N.J.), Linda Sánchez (D‑Calif.) and Nikema Williams (D‑Ga.).
If passed, the legislation could better position workers to negotiate with their employers for better wages, benefits and working conditions.
“The threat itself is used to break strikes and force workers to accept contracts that don’t meet their needs. That’s why I wrote the bill,” Rep. Axne tells In These Times. “I heard about children who need their parents’ health insurance because they have asthma or needed glasses, or workers who need access to medication. I was appalled, and soon after I learned from other colleagues in D.C. that this had also been happening to their workers in recent years.”
In October 2021, 10,000 members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) went on strike at John Deere for the first time in 35 years, demanding better salaries and overtime pay while opposing proposed increased healthcare premiums and a two-tiered wage system. The company responded by threatening to eliminate healthcare benefits for workers and their families over the duration of the strike, before ultimately reversing course.
“Unfortunately, employers use this threat to discourage workers from going on strike or to push workers to end a strike before an adequate contract agreement has been reached,” says Laurel Lucia, the Health Care Program Director at the University of California Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education. “With this threat looming, workers aren’t fully able to exercise their rights to a fight for a strong collective bargaining agreement.”
Congress Has Set the Record for Longest Stretch Without a Minimum Wage Increase
It’s costing low-paid workers thousands of dollars a year.
Congress set a record this month: It’s now been more than 10 years since lawmakers have raised the federal minimum wage, the longest period in history that it’s stayed stagnant.
The current $7.25 minimum hourly rate was set in 2009, right in the middle of the Great Recession. Since then, America’s lowest-paid workers have lost about $3,000 a year when you consider the rising cost of living, according to calculations from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute.
In 2018, about 1.7 million people were working jobs at or below the federal minimum wage. The vast majority of them are adults, not teenagers.
This chart sums up the direct impact of congressional inaction on minimum wage earners’ paychecks:
As the economy recovered from the economic downturn in the late aughts, the richest Americans have only gotten wealthier, while nearly everyone else has gotten poorer. And under the Trump administration, income inequality has gotten even worse. Compensation for CEOs has skyrocketed, while minimum wage workers in many states now need to work at least two full-time jobs to make a living.
So it’s not a surprise that McDonald’s workers have been protesting, striking, and even going to jail to get lawmakers’ attention for the past five years. In fact, fast-food workers have been instrumental in pressuring states to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. So far, seven states have.
But what they really want is for Congress to raise minimum pay in every state to $15 an hour. A McDonald’s employee from Illinois recently testified at a congressional hearing, urging lawmakers to pass a bill that would double the federal wage floor. The fact that more than 10 years have now passed since the last time lawmakers increased the rate puts renewed pressure on Congress to take action, and many say a $15 minimum wage is the most obvious solution to lift millions of families out of poverty.
Lauren Boebert is the One with Terrorist Ties, not Ilhan Omar
By JUAN COLE
Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) was caught on camera boasting of taunting Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) that she is a terrorist.
The taunt was ironic given that Hunter Walker at Rolling Stone reported that Boebert was one of a handful of representatives on the Hill who repeatedly met with conspirators planning the January 6, 2021, Capitol Insurrection in which angry armed mobs invaded the halls of Congress chanting “hang Mike Pence” and seeking to harm legislators.
Walker said of his two two top sources within the insurrectionists, “Rolling Stone has separately obtained documentary evidence that both sources were in contact with [Arizona Rep. Paul] Gosar and Boebert on Jan. 6.”
On Jan. 6! That is, while the insurrection was taking place!
That is, Boebert is the one with terrorist ties.
Rep. Omar is a refugee from the violence of warlords and terrorists in Somalia who came to the U.S. as a girl and rose to become a congresswoman because of her devotion to her new country and the trust she gained among her constituents that she would carefully steward their interests. Hers is a quintessential American story. Seven of the thirty-nine signers of the U.S. Constitution were foreign-born, one in the West Indies. For Rep. Omar to be tagged unjustly with the very violence that drove her from her homeland as a child must be deeply upsetting.
Boebert, addressing a small group of constituents in a living room, told a story (which Rep. Omar contests) that she was getting into an elevator in the Capitol when a policeman came running toward her with alarm on his face. Puzzled, she looked around and saw that Rep. Omar was in it with her. She alleged that she reassured the policeman that Omar did not have a backpack and so it was probably safe. She said that she then used the phrase “jihad squad.”
Taxing Billionaires Is Long Overdue, But There’s a Better Way to Do It
If only Congress weren’t so beholden to the rich.
Elon Musk, currently America’s richest man. Kiichiro Sato/AP
Word on the street, or in the press, anyway, is that the billionaires tax Democrats are eyeing to help pay for their ambitious social policy and climate package is in trouble. Hell, I just published a book about American super-wealth and its consequences, and I don’t get it.
I mean, I get the sentiment. In their 2019 book, University of California, Berkeley, economists Gabriel Zucman and Emmanuel Saez noted that the 400 highest-earning Americans pay a smaller percentage of their income in combined federal, state, and local taxes than any other economic group. That should piss everybody off. A lot of those same people, meanwhile, avoid income, and therefore income tax, almost entirely by taking out low-interest loans against their investment holdings in lieu of a salary.
When those holdings—stocks, private equity, real estate, paintings, jewelry, antique cars, and so on—increase in value, the “unrealized” profits remain untaxed until the assets are sold, triggering a capital gains “event.” But even then they are taxed at a far lower maximum rate (23.8 percent) than the current maximum rate the IRS levies on regular work income (37 percent).
Expel Jan. 6th Coup Conspirators from Congress and Prosecute Them
BY C.J. ATKINS
Some of the Republican Congressional conspirators implicated. Left column: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, and Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas. Right column: Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, and Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina. | All photos via AP
It comes as no surprise, of course, that several Republican members of Congress and White House staff were “intimately involved” in planning and executing the Jan. 6th Trump coup attempt. The detailed revelations published by Rolling Stone magazine this weekend, however, provide the opportunity to repeat something this publication has been saying ever since the day of the failed fascist insurrection: Expel the coup plotters from Congress, prosecute them, and jail them.
With the Jan. 6th House Select Committee’s inquiry into the coup heating up and the possibility of criminal consequences looming, some of Trump’s lower-level foot soldiers are running scared and turning state’s evidence. Two people involved with organizing and planning the Jan. 6th rallies that resulted in the storming of the Capitol are now spilling their guts to the press and will soon divulge what they know to House investigators. Turns out there’s no loyalty among (election) thieves.
The two anonymous figures remain Republican loyalists but, feeling abandoned by Trump, they are eager to point fingers at those they claim led them down the road of sedition. “They made us all look like shit,” one said. The other lamented, “I’m pretty pissed about it, and I’m pissed at him (Trump).”
It has long been known that GOP representatives and senators played a role in the Jan. 6th coup attempt—many of them gave advance Capitol tours to the terrorists, spoke at rallies and events, or defended rioters afterward. The information provided by these two organizers, however, directly implicates Republican politicians in ways that will be tough to deny. It proves that GOP leaders not only knew what might happen when the Electoral College results were being certified but also that they aided and encouraged the forces seeking to violently reverse Trump’s loss.
Progressives Just Won a High-Stakes Game of Chicken in Congress
House progressives stared down their own leaders and proved they have the votes to block a bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Call it a conscious recoupling.
House progressives called moderate Democrats’ bluff on Thursday night, blocking a major bipartisan infrastructure bill as they insisted they won’t pass it without an accompanying reconciliation package.
That means that after weeks of wrangling, House progressives stood firm and made clear they won’t give moderates a win on infrastructure unless they get some major concessions in return—like a child tax credit, allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prescription-drug prices, and universal free community college that are key portions of President Biden’s policy agenda. That maintains their leverage in ongoing negotiations and increases the pressure on moderates to land on an agreement.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had said she’d put the bill on the floor on Thursday, after she promised moderates she would. But after a drama-filled day, House Democratic leadership announced Thursday night that the bill would be delayed because they didn’t have enough votes to pass it.
The result proved that moderate House Democrats had badly misplayed their hand—and misjudged their own power. Moderate Democratic New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer, who led the fight to decouple the two bills and pass infrastructure immediately, said as late as midday Thursday that he was “1,000 percent” sure that the House would vote that day and pass the bill.
How Congress Can Give Teeth to the Federal Law on Police Accountability
By updating federal criminal civil rights law, Congress can make criminal consequences more likely for police misconduct and brutality.
When I teach civil rights law, I always start the semester with a misleadingly straightforward hypothetical scenario. Imagine a police officer pulls over an unarmed driver for a broken taillight and eventually shoots and kills the driver. Did the officer break any criminal or civil rights laws? This exercise never fails to set off a fiery debate: “Did the driver obey the officer?” “Why couldn’t the cop have used a taser?” “Don’t people have a right to not to be killed over a minor traffic infraction?” And sooner or later, one student typically reminds the class of a fundamental point about America: “But he’s a police officer.”
Think about that. “But he’s a police officer.”
When cops, unlike average civilians, deploy brute force under certain circumstances, we excuse the violence as law and order. But when law enforcement officers abuse their authority, violating our rights, we have federal criminal civil rights law to hold them accountable.
Except we pretty much don’t.