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The Days Ahead Hold Dangers for Public Employees

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This year will be tough for public service workers at the state and local levels – people who make our communities safe, maintain our roads and bridges, care for the vulnerable, and do so much more.

Right-wing lawmakers gained power in the November elections at local, state and federal levels. State budget shortfalls are causing lawmakers to cut back public services.

Here’s what’s at stake for state and local government workers, according to Governing: Employee benefits, such as retiree health care, may face cuts. Even pensions could come under pressure from employers, pushing workers into riskier 401(k)-style accounts. And so-called right-to-work bills that threaten to weaken workers’ unions are on the table in Kentucky, Missouri and New Hampshire.

“We’re going to see a number of anti-labor bills,” Steven Kreisberg, director of research and collective bargaining for AFSCME, told Governing. That might include efforts to stop unions from negotiating health benefits, according to the article.

But there is some good news for state and local workers. At least 40 cities and states “will be raising the local wage floor” above the federal threshold, notes The Huffington Post. Among 19 states hiking rates, the biggest will be in Arizona, where the wage will jump from $8.05 to $10 an hour. Maine is raising its wage from $7.50 to $9 and Washington state from $9.47 to $11.

Congress still needs to increase the federal minimum wage, which has remained stuck since 2009 at $7.25 an hour. AFSCME is urging Congress to increase to more than $10 an hour. We also support raising the minimum wage locally and support the “Fight for $15” movement.