Archive for January, 2015

Ben Cline: where do you stand on a minimum wage?

The Lexington News-Gazette has published the following letter in the January 7 edition:

Urge Area Legislators To Support Higher Minimum Wage
Jan. 5, 2015

Editor, The News-Gazette:

Several weeks ago I wrote to our Democratic state Sen. Creigh Deeds and our Republican Del. Ben Cline urging them to support a bill in the Virginia General Assembly (SB 681) to raise the minimum wage in Virginia from $7.25 (the federal minimum) to $10.10 an hour by 2017.

Deeds replied promptly, promising to support an increase and noting that it is impossible for workers to support families on the current minimum wage. I have yet to hear from Cline, although based on his recent affiliation with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), I am not optimistic.

Cline is one of dozens of Virginia lawmakers who has been affiliated with that ALEC – an organization financially backed by large corporations that seek to influence public policy on the state and local levels through “model legislation.” It is no surprise, therefore, that ALEC not only opposes increases in the minimum wage; it actually supports model legislation to weaken or repeal wage protection for low-income workers.

The National Employment Law Project reported in 2013:

“ALEC’s ‘model legislation’ includes multiple proposals to weaken or repeal wage standards that protect the earnings of low-paid workers. These proposals include measures to repeal state minimum wage laws, reduce minimum wage rates for youth and tipped workers, weaken overtime compensation policies and block local governments from establishing living wage ordinances.

“Since January 2011, legislators from 31 states have introduced 105 bills that aim to repeal or weaken core wage standards at the state or local level. Of these 105 bills, a total of 67 were directly sponsored or co-sponsored by ALEC-affiliated legislators from 25 states.”

Meanwhile, as Republicans in Congress block an increase to the federal minimum wage, voters in four heavily Republican states – Alaska, Arkansas, South Dakota and Nebraska – approved minimum wage increases in 2014. If Republicans like Cline refuse to act in the General Assembly, it would be nice if Virginia voters at least had the chance to decide the matter for themselves.

And despite the myth that minimum wage increases are job-killers, the Labor Department reported that the 13 states which raised their minimum wages at the beginning of 2014 added jobs at a faster pace than those that did not.

The Labor Department reports that 112,000 working Virginians – including thousands in Cline’s district – earn at or below the inadequate federal minimum wage.

Del. Cline: Nobody who works full-time should have to struggle to support a family on poverty-level wages.

GENE ZITVER, chair,
Lexington Democratic Committee