Week Ending November 8, 2013
Historic Civil Rights Bill to Protect LGBT Workers Passes Senate
The U.S. Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) (S. 815) by a strong bipartisan vote of 64 to 32. ENDA is landmark civil rights legislation that would make it illegal to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) individuals in the workplace. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has stated he will not bring the bill to the House floor. AFSCME President Lee Saunders declared: “It is time to once and for all outlaw workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.” AFSCME applauds the 64 senators who voted for ENDA because employment decisions should be based solely on a person’s qualifications.
AFSCME will continue our efforts to see that ENDA becomes law by urging the House of Representatives to allow a vote on this much needed legislation.
Obama Backs $10.10 an Hour Minimum Wage
The White House announced this week that President Obama supports a bill sponsored by two leading congressional Democrats to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) have each introduced legislation in their respective houses of Congress that would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour in three increments of 95 cents. Thereafter, the minimum wage would be indexed to inflation and tipped employees’ minimum wage would raised from $2.13 to 70% of the minimum wage.
The legislation, which could be voted on in the Senate as early as next week, would affect 24.9 million, or nearly one in five workers. Effective January 1, New York and New Jersey will join 19 other states and the District of Columbia in raising their minimum wage above the federal level, which has not been increased since 2009. A growing number of other states are considering similar proposals.
A national poll conducted in July 2013 by Hart Research Associates found that 80% of Americans support raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.
White House, Labor and Others Turning Up the Heat on House to Pass Immigration Reform
On Tuesday, President Obama and Vice President Biden met with a group of CEOs and urged them to put pressure on the House GOP leadership to hold a vote on immigration reform before the end of the year. The President said: “It’s my estimation that we actually have the votes to get comprehensive immigration reform done in the House right now.” President Obama emphasized that commonsense immigration reform would bolster U.S. economic growth and create new jobs.
Also this week, the AFL-CIO joined other advocates of comprehensive immigration reform to announce the launch of the “Cost of Inaction” campaign. It targets nine GOP House members with large Latino populations, reminding them of the electoral consequences of failing to take strong and decisive action to pressure House Speaker Boehner to hold a vote on immigration reform. The nine House members are Reps. Mike Coffman (CO), Jeff Denham (CA), Joe Heck (NV), Buck McKeon (CA), Gary Miller (CA), Steve Pearce (NM), Scott Tipton (CO), David Valadao (CA), and Daniel Webster (FL). The AFL-CIO will be releasing bilingual TV ads, which will be accompanied by in-district mobilizations, including rallies and press events. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued a statement Wednesday, saying: “The time for acting on immigration reform is now, and the labor movement has decided to throw down in a big way to make that happen. We won’t stop until the deportation crisis ends and aspiring Americans have the roadmap to citizenship they deserve.”
Senate Panel Approves Older Americans Act
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved legislation to reauthorize the Older Americans Act (OAA) (S. 1562) through fiscal year 2018. Since it was signed into law in 1965, the OAA has helped maintain the dignity and well-being of older individuals in our nation. The reauthorization bill improves protections for vulnerable elders and expands support for family caregivers.
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