Unleash Local

Unleash Local

Since 1999, state law has forbidden municipalities from setting their own minimum wage, leaving local governments without a key tool for improving the lives of their workers.

Number of the Day

193,000 - The number of workers in Louisiana who would see an income boost if the minimum wage were set to $8.50 in 2020. (Source: Louisiana Budget Project)

Unleash Local
Since 1999, state law has forbidden municipalities from setting their own minimum wage, leaving local governments without a key tool for improving the lives of their workers. Now, a new coalition called “Unleash Local” aims to give this power back to local authorities—a change that consistently receives strong public support in polling. Terry Jones of The Advocate has more on the coalition launch:

A coalition of grassroots groups and leaders have been lobbying state leaders for at least the past five years to lift families out of poverty through an across-the board wage increase. However, each previous attempt has failed. “What we’re doing differently this time is really bringing to bear the voices of people from around the state; to get people to engage with their legislators about how important this is,” said Ashley Shelton, executive director of the Power Coalition. … Pushback against upping the minimum wage has come from business and industry leaders who argue that local wages should be determined by market forces, not mandated by government.

Louisiana, with the nation’s second-highest poverty rate and highest child poverty rate, is one of five states without a state minimum wage law.  

 

Immigration and income data
The Great Recession of 2008 is behind us, with most U.S. workers seeing a raise in their wages after a recession-fueled dip. A quick glance at wage figures would suggest that Latinx workers have shared in this trend—overall, workers in this group have seen a 5 percent increase in median incomes between 2007 to 2017, indicating recovery from the large toll they took during the recession. But a deeper look at the data tells a slightly different story: while Latinx immigrants who have been in the U.S. for at least a decade are doing well, U.S. born Latinx workers continue to be worse off than before the recession. Rakesh Kochnar of the Pew Research Center breaks it down:

But the overall gain [in Latinx workers’ personal incomes] masks a sharp contrast in the experiences of U.S.-born Latinos – whose incomes in 2017 were 6% less than in 2007 – and of foreign-born Latinos, whose incomes were 14% higher than in 2007, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data. Demographic change, not the economic recovery, is the major driver of the gains for Latino immigrants. A slowdown in Latin American immigration led to a steep rise in the share who have lived in the United States for at least 10 years. Longer-tenured immigrants earn more than the typical immigrant, and their rising share gave a sizable boost to the average income of foreign-born Latinos. U.S.-born Latino workers – younger and less educated than U.S.-born workers overall – experienced greater losses in the recession and are left wanting in the economic recovery, despite recent gains.

 

The case of Cadarius Johnson
There may be no better example of Louisiana’s systemic failure to address the needs of people who are in poverty and disabled than the case of Cadarius Johnson. Diagnosed with a developmental disability, Johnson was arrested at 16 after calling 911 while home alone and running towards the responding officer with a knife. Since this incident, Cadarius has been caught between the justice and mental health systems in Louisiana, and the result has been heartbreaking. Katherine Sayre of NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune details the case:

After his arrest, Cadarius had been transferred from juvenile court to adult court in Claiborne Parish on a charge of attempted first-degree murder of a police officer. The charge effectively branded him a violent criminal as he wound his way through the criminal justice and mental health care process of psychiatric assessments and decisions on his potential release. People who were involved in his case acknowledge the felony charge was harsh – even “draconian” – given the circumstances: an uninjured officer, a 16-year-old defendant with a developmental disability. … That prosecutors would even consider moving a teen with a developmental disability out of juvenile court and into adult jail, ostensibly in an attempt to get him help, speaks volumes about Louisiana’s compromised web of government services – child protection, criminal justice, mental health. It also leaves unanswered, more than five years later, the question of whether they ultimately helped Cadarius, or merely hid him away.

Worth a few minutes of your time.

Rob Restuccia
Had Rob Restuccia gone to medical school — his original plan — he would have helped thousands of patients throughout his career. But Restuccia, who died last week at 69 of pancreatic cancer, instead chose advocacy, and helped millions of Americans gain access to more secure and dependable health care. As the founder of Health Care for All and Community Catalyst, two Massachusetts-based nonprofits, Restuccia helped pass state-level legislation that expanded health insurance coverage to children and later to low- and moderate-income adults. Those laws, in turn, became precursors to the national Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Affordable Care Act. He achieved these milestones by creating ways for consumers to have their voices heard in debates that are often dominated by health care providers. Priyanka Dayal McCluskey in the Boston Globe:

“There are millions of Americans who have unknowingly benefited from Rob’s work,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, an advocacy group. “Whether it is people who have Medicaid coverage, are no longer dealing with a surprise medical bill, are benefiting from a hospital charity program — those are people who may not have gotten that without Rob’s work.”

 

Restuccia wrote a farewell essay in the Boston Globe in the days before his death:

We have won tremendous victories for uninsured, underinsured, and marginalized individuals by the millions. But it is the way that we have won that I want to emphasize, and that must continue after I am gone. First, change happens when ordinary people become empowered advocates who can eloquently articulate their stories of hardships and then translate their experiences into compelling arguments for changing the system. Second, rather than view those in power as adversaries, it is far more effective to see them as partners with advocates and consumers. Time and again I have seen health care executives, policy makers, and government officials respond to powerful stories and take steps to make health care more just.

Number of the day

193,000 – The number of workers in Louisiana who would see an income boost if the minimum wage were set to $8.50 in 2020. (Source: Louisiana Budget Project)