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Monday, August 24, 2015

Labor secretary to join fight for $15 an hour minimum wage

(credit: The Huffington Post)
WASHINGTON -- Fast-food workers who are hoping to raise the minimum wage will find an ally in the Obama White House this week, with Labor Secretary Tom Perez traveling to Detroit on Tuesday (8.25) to show his solidarity with the so-called Fight for $15.

"I'm proud to stand with the Fight for 15 movement," Perez told The Huffington Post Monday. "And it really is a movement. It's for shared prosperity."

The union-backed Fight for $15 and its allies have roiled the service sector with intermittent strikes over the past three years, demanding a $15 wage floor and union recognition. The sight of large-scale protests has helped spur vast increases in the minimum wage in cities and states around the country, most recently in New York, where the state's wage board moved to set a $15 minimum for fast-food workers.
Some Michigan workers have a vested interest in the outcome. For example, the hourly pay of caregivers of those with disabilities or mental illness in Michigan is only $9.06 an hour. And, as funding from Michigan's general fund and Oakland County Community Mental Health is diminished, the chances of higher wages becomes more improbable, Jerry Wolffe, an advocate at large for those with disabilities added.

Perez' support of the workers shouldn't be read as an endorsement of a federal $15 wage floor -- the White House and Labor Department instead back a $12 proposal recently put forth by Congressional Democrats -- but the labor secretary said he views the Fight for $15 as a model for how workers can boost wages by banding together.

"People are increasingly understanding that they're taking it on the chin at work," Perez said. "If you battle your boss alone, it's a heck of a lot harder to succeed. But when you work in concert with fellow workers not just in your workplace but across sectors, that's how you succeed."

Perez plans to meet with Detroit workers from various fast-food chains as well as officials from the local branch of the AFL-CIO labor federation on Tuesday. Labor unions, and in particular the Service Employees International Union, have been instrumental in the fast-food strikes and local wage campaigns, pumping money and organizational support into them.

President Barack Obama has occasionally made a point of acknowledging the recent successes of fast-food workers in his economic speeches, but Perez' trip to Detroit may be the White House's clearest endorsement yet of the Fight for $15 campaign. The labor secretary's trip dovetails with a summit the White House will host in October around the concept of "worker voice," where officials plan to highlight the value of collective action in the workplace, including including ways that don't formally include labor unions and contracts.

That would presumably include the Fight for $15. Although backed by unions, the campaign so far has not unionized any fast-food restaurants. Instead, its success has come most explicitly through legislatures and the ballot box. While a $15 minimum wage seemed practically inconceivable not long ago, it is fast becoming the law in liberal cities such as Seattle and Los Angeles. Many states have rushed to pass more modest but still significant raises, with a majority of states now having a higher minimum wage than the federal level of $7.25. Michigan's minimum wage is $8.15 an hour, except for those who receives tips on their jobs.

With a federal minimum wage hike blocked by Republicans, the White House has been trying to encourage cities and states to raise the wage floor on their own in lieu of congressional action. Perez said he believes the $15 measures in large cities have been "very appropriate," though he added that local jurisdictions should know what's proper for their own economies.

"I believe the folks in those areas are in the best position to know what's best for their communities," he said. "I think we need a federal floor that gets people above the poverty line, but we also need actions elsewhere."

He added that the doomsday predictions about higher minimum wages haven't come to pass, pointing to Seattle, which he visited as the city enacted its $15 measure. By most accounts, the service industry is learning to live with the city's rising wage floor.

"I didn't see restaurants closing down," Perez said. "If the critics are correct, I should have brought a bag lunch."

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Voices of Disabilities: Futures Foundation Gala set for Oct. 9 in Troy

@Voices of Disabilities: Futures Foundation Gala set for Oct. 9 in Troy: The Futures Foundation's 17 th Annual Giving Back to the Futures Gala will be held on on   Friday, Oct. 9 at the San Marino Club i...

Futures Foundation Gala set for Oct. 9 in Troy

The Futures Foundation's 17th Annual Giving Back to the Futures Gala will be held on on  Friday, Oct. 9, at the San Marino Club in Troy. 

The foundation is the fundraising arm of the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center, the second largest nonprofit in Michigan which provides services so some 5,000 people with disabilities and mental illness can live in the community.

The RJ Spangler Jazz Quartet will perform during the cocktail hour and The Pulse Band will fill the evening hours with music.

This year’s Gala will feature a silent auction. In the past, many MORC staff and/or departments contributed to the auction by submitting baskets representing a diverse array of items.

If you plan to submit an item, please let the Futures Foundation's Interim Executive Director Lindsay Calcatera or Director of Development Janaea Smith know as soon as possible so they can better plan for the event.  Also, if you know of any friends, businesses, or contacts who may be willing to submit an item for the silent auction, please let us know those as well.

Tickets for the event are $100 apiece. Call Smith at (586) 464 2610 to order tickets or any other information about the gala.

Jerry Wolffe, the writer-in-residence and advocate-at-large at MORC can be reached at (586) 263-8950.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Former President Carter says U.S. no longer a democracy

Former President Jimmy Carter (1976-80) says the Supreme Court case, Citizens United "violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it's just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congress members.

"So now we've just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election's over," Carter continued, according to The Intercept. "The incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody's who's already in Congress has a lot more to sell to an avid contributor than somebody who's just a challenger."
(posted by Jerry Wolffe)