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Educators make case for minimum wage increase on Capitol Hill

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By Amanda Litvinov

Edith Kimball works full-time in the cafeteria at Lee Elementary, where her children attend school, and her mother works as the cafeteria manager. It’s the very school she attended as a child.

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It might sound like the stuff of a Norman Rockwell painting, but Kimball drew a fuller and much more somber portrait of life in her rural hometown of Lee, Florida, for members of the Senate Budget Committee, who invited her to testify in Washington, D.C., today.

“Our county is one of the poorest in the state. And jobs have been tough to come by,” she said in her testimony. Kimball was frank about her family’s struggle to make ends meet, and emphasized that the immense financial stress on families like hers would be alleviated if Congress were to raise the minimum wage.

 

Kimball testimony Sen Budget Hearing 2014_small

Johnson looks on as Kimball, left, testifies.

“For me, in my job, that would mean an increase of $200 more a month for my family. It could help me open a college savings plan for my children for their future.”

Kimball was one of two educators invited to testify before the committee, which is seeking to better understand the economic struggles facing working families. She was joined by Courtney Johnson, an Ohio English teacher, wife and mom who said her family is losing its footing in the middle class.


“I worry that I will be laid off in the coming weeks as my district has to find a way to trim $50 million more from our already bare bones budget,” said Johnson, whose husband was recently laid off from his job.

“We cannot even fathom saving for college for our son, as we are still paying for our three degrees between the two of us. We only had one child because the cost of quality child-care was too much.”

Murray_Sen Budget Hearing 2014_small

Sen. Patty Murray chairs the Senate Budget Committee.

“[W]hen folks don’t have good jobs, everything else in our society unravels,” Johnson said.

“If I have to work three low-wage jobs, I don’t have time to help my kids learn to read or do their homework. I can’t send my kid to college. I don’t have time to be an informed voter. I don’t have time to care about anything but paying my bills and making sure my family is fed.”

In the wake of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, one in five children still lives in poverty, which presents immense obstacles to their learning. The average American household made less in 2012 than it did in 1989. That’s why Kimball and Johnson urged the Senators to do what they can to pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act to incrementally raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.

The increase would lift would lift 4.6 million people out of poverty, according to research from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

To Kimball and Johnson, it’s a first step in the right direction that would offer hope for so many working Americans.

“It is my prayer that you will think about towns like mine and families like mine when you make major decisions here, said Kimball, in her final statement to the committee. “We should not be forgotten and left by the wayside.”

 

Reader Comments

  1. Kerry Hyman

    Decent paying jobs in our first-rate, world class industrial/manufacturing sector http://www.businessinsider.com/deindustrialization-factory-closing-2010-9?op=1 that employed millions of our unskilled workers, have been moved offshore so our corporatists can exploit cheap foreign labor (China avg. wage- $1.36/hr. some work for 30 cents/hr. Vietnam avg. wage- 75 cents/hr.), thanks to Free Trade Agreements (NAFTA, GATT, WTO, The S. Korea, Columbia, and Panama FTA, and the upcoming, fast tracked Trans-Pacific Partnership, some have called NAFTA on steroids). This has created what some tout as the “global economy” that is benefitting the corporatists who’ve evolved to the realm of “multinationals.”

    Those jobs paid enough to raise a family on, cleared retail shelves, put our children through college, AND filled the coffers of local, State, and Federal treasuries.

    Legislators (profit-protectors) that have been bought and paid for by corporate BIG MONEY, (Citizens United vs. The Federal Election Commission) are writing policy that furthers the special interests of the corporatists, which is proving to be good for Wall Street, but bad for the USA’s nation interests as a whole. Our working class, the majority of whom cannot afford to invest on the Stock Market, is being pitted against sweatshops in the “global economy” for jobs by our corporatists. Thus the Union busting and the “Right to Work” (for less) legislation popping up in Red States across the nation.

    The downward pressure on USA wages to compete with foreign labor markets is being called by some, “a race to the bottom,” I call it, “being entered in a pissing match with a pole cat.” Corporatists and the Financial sector are claiming more and more ground, while the USA middle class is disappearing. This is the battle of our time, but who is sounding the alarm? The only entity that can stand up against this massive attack upon the USA middle class is our legislators (aka: US Government) and they’ve been labeled by the Right Wing propaganda machine (ALEC, American Heritage, Americans for Prosperity, Heritage Foundation, GOP.gov, etc.) as the ENEMY! BRILLIANT!

    We should probably be asking ourselves, “What will a post-USA world look like?”

    Reply
  2. fred

    We know raising minimum wage drives jobs overseas. Why is the nea taking m money to lobby for a leftists issue that is economically proven to be incorrect?

    Reply
    • Kerry Hyman

      Fred,
      Not if our legislators passed policies that create BALANCE instead of those that favor the multinational corporatists in the industrial and financial sectors and defund our government. Bear with me…
      For 30 years now, money for influence in our legislature has been responsible for policies that move jobs offshore. Our tax structure (itemized deductions, write-offs, subsidies and other loopholes) incentivizes it! See S3816 (2010), “Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act.” Take special note of the voting records and especially what organizations supported it what organizations opposed it. Here was a bill that would have granted generous tax breaks for corporations that stayed home and hired USA citizens, even more generous exemptions for hiring our War Veterans), BUT it would have closed loopholes for offshoring corporations. If you guessed it was one of the shamefully high number, 430 plus and counting, of bills that was filibustered by the Senate minority, you’re right!
      Consider Germany, one of the only nations in the EU that is holding its own in this “global economy.” They impose stiff tariffs on imports from nations that have vastly different wage scales than their highly Unionized workforce. The premise is: by keeping wages in Germany high, there will be MORE disposable income in circulation throughout the German economy to boost sales and drive up production. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBx2Y5HhplI
      We’ve been in violation of the economics 101 principle of scarcity vs. shortage where shortage is the bonanza that results from consumer demand exceeding the supply for products; it drives up price and keeps production churning. We’ve allowed ourselves to be hoodwinked by our overlords in the business and financial sector, and thereby espouse the theory of “supply side” economics; the belief that when favor and advantage go to the job creators (how disingenuous that sound bite is), jobs will be forthcoming.
      The USA legislature has given unprecedented sway to BIG $$$ interest for 30 years now, which has served to fill the coffers of the corporatists but empty that of the US Government.
      Those who are benefitting from, or in collusion with the corporatists will point to the USA corporate marginal effective tax rate set at 35-39%, among the world’s highest. But without exception will avoid mention that because of the myriad of deductions, credits, write-offs, subsidies and other loopholes in our corporate tax code, the after tax effective rate is between 8-13%. Some corporations that earn $$$multi-BILLION per quarter (mostly garnered from the USA consumer market), pay zero in taxes and some get a $3 BILLION rebate check from the USA tax payer (Google 26 Major Corporations pay no tax, or GE files 57,000 pages of tax exemptions…, or Large companies find ways to pay zero tax…). Then park their $$$10s of Billions in clear profit in offshore tax havens, while America the Beautiful, the most sophisticated, expensive nation in the world, goes broke trying to accommodate them. http://www.businessinsider.com/26-major-corporations-paid-no-corporate-income-tax-for-the-last-four-years-2012-4
      http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/ge-filed-57000-page-tax-return-paid-no-taxes-14-billion-profits_609137.html
      http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/10/23/big-companies-pay-no-taxes/2480281/
      Free trade with Europe? Yes! Free Trade with Canada? Yes! Free trade with any nation that observes similar wage scales, human/workers’ rights, environmental protection polices, and regulations? Absolutely! But free trade with Communist China and other nations that Empire build on the backs of their exploited labor force, and scorched earth policies? NO DEAL!!!

      Reply
  3. GLENN MARSH

    Raising the minimum wage puts people out of work. Employers, which I have been but am not now, will cut hours benefits. Who loses? the employee. Look at the market place and stop sounding a GREAT IDEA that DOES NOT WORK!

    Reply
    • Kerry Hyman

      Why is the USA broke(n)? For the answer you’d have to go all the way back to the (roaring) 1920’s.
      The Great Depression was arguably caused by wealth consolidation at the top, while declining income for the workforce resulted in reduced demand for production and the ensuing snowball effect of unemployment, further demand reduction, and the domino effect of curtailed capital investments, the withdrawal of capital when stock prices fell, and finally the bank runs, and the crash of ’29.
      Coming out of the Great Depression, with its lessons fresh on the minds of our nation and its elected officials, policies were enacted to bolster the middle class. To kick start a recovery, Roosevelt enacted New Deal work programs for the displaced workers like the CCC, CWA, and PWA. Then policies like The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, The Wagner Act, otherwise known as The National Labor Relations Act, and later, the Employment Act of 1946, were measures enacted to fortify the middle class. The Glass-Steagall Act separated the investment banks from commercial banks, and marginal tax rates were set at 90%. These measures, it was agreed, were necessary to fortify the middle class (create and sustain a dynamic consumer market), stabilize the financial sector, and practically assure the investment of capital back into the USA.
      These measures were met with bitter opposition and cries of protest from the business sector and their friends and profit protectors in Congress who claimed they were “unconstitutional,” an “infringement on freedoms,” “socialism,” etc. … Sound familiar?
      But look at the results! For the remainder of most of the 20th century, the USA cultivated the world’s premier, most prosperous consumer economy. The cumulative effect of employing millions of high wage workers resulted not only in the clearing of retail shelves (demand), and the uptick in production, but in the filling of local, state, and federal treasuries. To get a tax break, our wealthy INVESTED their vast wealth in the USA.
      Together, we were able to achieve the largest expansion in US history, create a “social safety net” (Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and unemployment compensation), develop the world’s most powerful military, rebuild post WWII Europe and Japan (The Marshall Plan), win the Race to the Moon, AND win the Cold War against the competing Communist system.
      During those years of unparalleled Historic USA expansion and investment, we even had a few years when there were budget surpluses (1951, 56, and 57). We also had steady trade surpluses up until around 1975; by then the offshoring of manufacturing jobs (shoe, garment, textile, toys, and electronics) to 3rd world countries to by-pass the high wage US worker began to take its toll. Then, by the end of the millennium, GATT and NAFTA, but in 2001, when China (Avg. wage- $1.36/hr., some work for 30 cents/hr) joined the WTO (with MFN status), even our jobs in Mexico left for China, and it’s been a steep downhill plunge ever since. (Incidentally, our burgeoning trade deficits exceeded over Half a Trillion $$$/yr. by 2004 and have not diminished!)
      In my view, our middle class got fat and happy and left the fight for their slice of the American Pie to “someone else,” but in the business sector, their eye never wanders from the bottom line. They continued to probe the fences for weaknesses so they could reclaim their “losses” to US labor.
      FTAs Incentivized the jobs exodus to offshore sweatshops and introduced the “global economy” where “multinationals” and “transnationals” continue to monopolize world commerce. The Gramm, Leach, Bliley Act, initiated the deregulation fever that created the lucrative bonus systems on Wall Street and witnessed the “smartest men in the room” behaving badly, then Citizens United, Super PACs, in our “pay-to-play” legislature we have today. Marginal taxes on our top earners were continuously reduced since the 50s and 60s until today where marginal rates are around 35% (they were dropped to 28% throughout the 80s) and capital gains (where most of the earnings of the wealthy reside, have been reduced to somewhere around 15% about half the rate the middle class pays… All of these bills advanced the interests of BIG $$$, and the by-pass of the spoiled, fat and complacent US middle class (aka: we the people). And now, after 30 years of favor for our “job creators” (how disingenuous), and the decimation of the middle class, the USA has her tit in a ringer!
      Ironically, no sooner had the USA won the Cold War, proving to the world that capitalism, combined with a prosperous middle class was a system that really worked, than capitalists went about proving Karl Marx right about how unchecked capitalism works.
      And now, in just 30 years of legislative favor, we’re back to pre-Great Depression conditions where corporatists have managed to garner all of the gains to themselves that they were once required to share. Our Utopian (sophisticated and expensive) society is going broke, and guesses who is making record gains again?
      We’ve forgotten the lessons of the past.

      Reply
    • Kerry Hyman

      Glenn & Mike, I would argue that 30 years of “supply side” economics, combined with Free Trade Agreements that have seen our industrial sector jobs flung to the four winds in exchange for ever increasing profit margins for the “globalists, while kicking the USA worker to the curb is responsible for the “destruction” of the United States of America.
      This kind of economic treason needs cover in the form of divisive, disingenuous, and downright deceptive rhetoric. For a look into the propaganda manifesto see “The Integration of Theory and Practice” by Weyrich & Heubeck http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Integration_of_Theory_and_Practice

      Reply
  4. Mike

    I would like to thank you for sending me this article. It will be very useful for me to use to show the owners of businesses how biased the nea truly is. You say you support the middle class and working families of this great nation but you continuously support a socialist government. If this association ( and I use that term weakly because it is only a group of individuals who want to push their own philosophy and continue to Indoctrine future thinkers) would actually support individual thinking perhaps the United States of America would once again become the best nation in the world.

    P.S. If you don’t like this Country and it’s heritage you have an open invitation to move to another country. Please quit trying to destroy the United States of America!

    Reply

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