Minimum Wage Hike Would be Big Step in Louisiana

Erika Zucker, policy advocate at the Workplace Justice Project, Loyola University Law School, said a higher minimum wage would have a bigger impact on Louisiana than in more well-to-do states.

“What a wage increase, particularly to the lowest-paid workers, does is it has an almost exponential effect on their standard of living,” she said.

Many minimum-wage workers have to hold down more than one job just to pay for their rent, bills, transportation and child care, Zucker said. A raise could allow those workers to spend more time with their families, and it would increase the amount of money spent in the community.

“If you give people at the bottom a little more disposable income, they’re going to be able to go out and spend it on things they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford,” Zucker said.

Not just for food and shelter, but going to movies, buying a pair of shoes. A raise of $2 or $3 an hour might not make that big a difference to most people, but it’s substantial for those living at or near poverty level.

Increasing the minimum wage has met so much resistance because it requires businesses, many of them very large, to give workers a raise, she said. It does cost businesses money.

“But we’re talking in many cases about some of the most profitable companies in this state,” she said, pointing to giant retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target.

Read the full article on the Advocate here.

La. to be part of national initiative to improve rural poverty conditions

“U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Friday that Louisiana and three other states are joining the federal StrikeForce Initiative to invest in improving areas with significant rural poverty levels.

The StrikeForce Initiative includes efforts to assist low-income people in rural areas with programs such as those helping farmers get microloans, increasing education access and even smaller things like allowing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, or food stamps, to be used for local fruits and vegetables and farmers markets.

Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia were also added on Friday. StrikeForce will operate in 20 states with the new additions.

Louisiana’s inclusion will focus on 11 parishes in northeastern Louisiana. They are Caldwell, Catahoula, Concordia, East Carroll, Franklin, Madison, Morehouse, Ouachita, Richland, Tensas and West Carroll parishes.”

Read the full article on the Advocate.

Increase in Louisiana minimum wage?

“Louisiana is one of five states that has no minimum wage but generally follows the national law, which currently puts the wage at $7.25 per hour. A $9 minimum, instead of $10.10 being sought on the federal level, would be easier to pass in Louisiana” State Rep. Herbert B. Dixon explains. 

Read the full article here on the Advocate.

The War on Poverty – NY Times

“When President Lyndon Johnson declared his war on poverty on Jan. 8, 1964, almost exactly 50 years ago, 19 percent of Americans were poor. The official poverty rate today is 15 percent. This is just 3 percentage points less than in 1967, the earliest year for which the data is available. It amounts to 50 million people.

“Why so many still? Did the United States wage a war on poverty, lose and move on?”

Read the full story NY Times story here.

Immigration Raids Causing Fear Among Many in N.O. Area

The New Orleans Advocate recently reported on immigration raids in the metro area that are sparking both fear and protest. “People in southern Louisiana should especially understand the need for immigration reform, said [Susan] Weishar [migration specialist of the Jesuit Social Research Institute], noting that a 2006 study found that more than half of the workforce rebuilding the region after Hurricane Katrina was Latino and that half of those workers were undocumented.”

“Erika Zucker, a policy advocate at Loyola’s Workplace Justice Project, which helps low-wage workers collect their wages, said the raids make undocumented workers less likely to assert their right to be paid for work they’ve done.” Find the full story here.

Helping Small Businesses Grow: Contractor Workshop

The Workplace Justice Project is working together with Puentes New Orleans and the Good Work Network to present an educational workshop for local contractors.  The workshop is free of charge and includes interpretation for Spanish speakers.

Contractor Workshop_Flyer_English Final-1

It will take place on Wednesday January 30th, from 5:30 pm -7:30 pm at The Chase Incubator, 2028 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., New Orleans, LA 70113

 If interested, please register by clicking here or by calling Miranda Stramel at 504-861 5571.

The WJP Brings the Fight for Workers’ Rights to the Louisiana Legislature

On May 24, 2012, the Louisiana House of Representatives adopted and enrolled HCR 76, a study resolution directing the Louisiana State Law Institute  “to study all options, specifically lien rights, and make specific recommendations for legislation to provide an effective remedy for unpaid wages that will be an efficient tool to obtain wrongfully withheld wages without requiring expensive litigation, and that such legislation clearly establish that violations of workplace laws are against the public policy of the state.” 

The resolution was introduced and sponsored by Rep. Patricia Haynes Smith and drafted by WJP, staff, with help from attorneys from the Louisiana Employment Lawyers Association.  The resolution was introduced in April and came before the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee on April 24, where the WJP’s Director Luz Molina and Policy Coordinator Erika Zucker appeared in support of the resolution, along with allies from the Interfaith Worker Justice Committee, the Conference of Catholic Bishops, SEIU Local 21LA, the Louisiana Budget Project, the Jesuit Social Research Institute, and Puentes New Orleans. The resolution passed out of the committee without objection. It was subsequently approved by both houses of the Legislature and adopted and enrolled on May 24, 2012. 

We hope to work with the Louisiana State Law Institute to prepare draft legislation for introduction in the 2014 legislative session. In the meantime, our efforts to build and maintain alliances and prepare supporting materials for our policy efforts continue. 

Click HERE to view the full text of the resolution.