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As Support for Raising the Minimum Wage Grows, Call on Congress to Get On Board

A protester at a rally to support raising the minimum wage in Maryland

Darlene Handy of Baltimore holds up a sign during a rally to support raising the minimum wage in Maryland. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)  

In the week since President Obama announced that he would raise the minimum wage for federal contractors, there has been growing momentum to do the same for low-wage workers across the country. The governor of Connecticut called on his state legislature to raise its state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and lawmakers in states from West Virginia to Minnesota to Washington are debating changing their own laws. Meanwhile, activists with organizations such as Fast Food Forward and Good Jobs Nation continue to mobilize low-wage workers across the country.

The latest PEW poll on the issue revealed that 73 percent of Americans support raising the minimum wage. While it’s difficult to get any bill through an intransigent Congress, it’s clear that support for this much-needed change is increasing.

TO DO

Join The Nation and Campaign for America’s Future in calling on Congress to pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 by 2015.

TO READ

Earlier this year, Bryce Covert at Think Progress reported on a study that showed that raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour could lift nearly 5 million people out of poverty.

TO WATCH

Last week, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow pointed out that the popularity of raising the minimum wage could be a real winning issue for Democrats as the 2014 midterms approach.

Tell President Obama to Give Federal Contract Workers a Raise

Federal contract workers strike

Federal contract workers strike in July of 2013. Courtesy of GoodJobsNation.org

As his 2014 State of the Union address nears, President Obama has said that he’s willing to use executive actions to circumvent a gridlocked Congress and to take real steps to fight inequality. He could start by giving a raise to millions of federal contract workers.

According to the National Employment Law Center (NELP), three out of four workers in service-industry federal contract jobs make less than $10 per hour and only eleven percent have employer-provided health insurance. Of the workers that NELP interviewed, fifty-six percent admitted to having trouble paying their monthly bills.

TO DO

The president has indicated that he’s considering an executive action and activists are hoping that he’ll make an announcement during his State of the Union address. To help keep up the pressure on the president, sign our petition urging him to give federal contract workers a raise.

TO READ

Last week, employees working under federal contracts—including around fifty food service and janitorial workers at the Pentagon—walked off the job. At Salon, Josh Eidelson covered the strike and the growing movement to improve the pay and working conditions of federal contract workers.

TO WATCH

This video created by Good Jobs Nation, the coalition behind last week’s strike and previous actions, looks at the organizing that got the movement to where it is today.

Don’t Let Congress Sabotage Diplomacy With Iran

Senate majority leader Harry Reid

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh.)

The Obama administration is in the midst of negotiating a peaceful solution to Iran’s nuclear program but a bill introduced by Senator Robert Menendez could destroy this historic opportunity.

The Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act would force new sanctions, which could lead to Iran abandoning diplomatic talks. It would also set up unrealistic parameters for a deal and express the sense of Congress that the United States would “stand with Israel” should the country take “military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”

Fifty-nine senators—including sixteen Democrats—have signed on to the bill as co-sponsors. While some supporters have indicated they may wait to give diplomacy a chance, it’s still possible that this potentially disastrous piece of legislation could pass.

TO DO

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has so far refused to bring the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act up for a vote. Join The Nation, Daily Kos, Code Pink, USAction and Win Without War in calling on Reid to continue to stand strong against pro-war senators.

TO READ

The Nation’s Bob Dreyfuss breaks down the catastrophic effect this bill would have on the possibility of peace with Iran.

TO WATCH

This week on All In, Chris Hayes took to task the sixteen Democratic senators who co-sponsored the bill, comparing their support to Democrats’ support for the Iraq War in 2003 and imploring them not to drag the country into another conflict.

Tell Congress: It’s Time to Raise the Minimum Wage

Minimum wage protester

Darlene Handy of Baltimore holds up a sign during a rally to support raising the minimum wage in Maryland. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)  

Had it kept up with inflation, the current federal minimum wage would be $10.74. Instead, it’s $7.25. For a full-time worker, that amounts to an annual income of $15,080, a total wholly inadequate for addressing the needs of working families.

TO DO

It is far past time that we make this change. Contact your senators and representative today and demand that they support an increase in the minimum wage.

TO READ

Support for a raise is growing in many quarters. Earlier this week, Steven Hsieh reported on a letter recently signed by seventy-five leading economists calling on the president and Congress to raise the federal minimum wage.

TO WATCH

Last December, The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart made clear the nonsensical basis of many of the arguments put forward by opponents of a minimum wage increase.

Demand that Congress Renew Long-Term Unemployment Benefits

A woman at a job fair

Sonja Jackson, of Detroit, holds an Employment Guide standing in line while attending a job fair in Livonia, Michigan. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Because Congress failed to act, 1.3 million Americans lost a key source of income just three days after Christmas. The now-expired Emergency Unemployment Compensation program provided unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless after state benefits ran out, usually around twenty-six weeks. The EUC is still sorely needed; even as the economy slowly improves, long-term unemployment remains at its highest level since World War II.

TO DO

While Democrats in the Senate have vowed to make the EUC a top priority in 2014, it’s still unclear whether even a modest three-month extension can pass without considerable public pressure. Join thousands of Nation readers in calling on Congress to extend this crucial lifeline.

TO READ

Congress’s refusal to act affects more than just the unemployed. As The Nation’s George Zornick reports, state economies lost more than $400 million in the past week alone thanks to the lapse in benefits.

TO WATCH

At Democracy Now!, Colorlines contributor Imara Jones debunked dangerous myths regarding unemployment benefits and the unemployed.

Tell the FCC: We Can’t Let Prison Phone Companies Exploit Inmates

Hand in prison

(Reuters/Joshua Lott)

This fall, in the first installment of our Prison Profiteers video series with the ACLU and Beyond Bars, Nation readers were introduced to Kenny, a 9-year-old boy and one of 2.7 million children across the country with a parent behind bars. In the video, Kenny’s mother explains the difficulty of keeping in touch with her son’s father; his prison is a four-hour drive away and phone calls are expensive. Global Tel* Link, the phone company the family must work with if they want to keep in touch, charges up to $1.13 cents per minute—that’s $17 for a fifteen minute phone call.

In response to the video, Nation readers joined us to demand action. The Federal Communications Commission had already capped the amount of money prison phone companies could charge for state-to-state calls in August but, since most prisoners serve time in their home state, the decision left many behind. Along with our partners on Prison Profiteers, we created a petition to demand that the FCC finish the job and end this predatory practice for all prison phone calls. Over 28,000 people have joined the campaign so far. We hope to reach at least 30,000 by this Thursday, when we deliver our petition to the FCC.

There’s a real chance we could win this fight. When the FCC capped rates for state-to-state phone calls, they asked specifically for comments on whether they should do the same for in-state calls. Plus, we’re not the only people passionate about reining in this abuse. The delivery this Thursday follows a similar petition by the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice, a coalition of groups dedicated to fighting the profitable prison phone industry.

If you haven’t already, take a minute to watch the video and join our campaign. Together we can put an end to this unjust and exploitative practice.

Tell Congress: We Must Extend Emergency Unemployment Benefits

Men wait in line to a apply for jobs

In this Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012, photo, job seekers wait in line at a construction job fair in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Thanks to Congress, it’s shaping up to be a bleak holiday season for at least one group of Americans. Because the House of Representatives failed to extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program before they left for vacation, 1.3 million long-term unemployed Americans stand to lose their unemployment benefits just three days after Christmas.

Advocates for the unemployed are calling on Congress to extend the EUC when they return from holiday break, and to make the extension retroactive. In the meantime, states have told recipients to continue to file claims after benefits are cut off on December 28, in case Congress does pass the extension.

TO DO

Join The Nation and Daily Kos in calling on Congress to salvage the benefits of those who need them the most. Contact your representative now and tell them to extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program.

TO READ

The House Ways and Means Committee published an interactive map that breaks down the number of unemployed Americans affected in each state.

TO WATCH

At MSNBC, Craig Melvin spoke with LaShean Daniels-Palmer, a mother of four who relies on unemployment benefits.

Keep the Pressure on Congress to Extend Emergency Unemployment Benefits

Job fair

A line of job applicants snakes through a ropeline to attend a job fair (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

For at least one group of Americans, there’s nothing to celebrate when it comes to the budget deal announced by Representative Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray on December 10. The deal does not include an extension of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, meaning that the long-term unemployed stand to lose the benefits that could be their only bulwark against extreme poverty if Congress doesn’t act before leaving for its holiday break.

TO DO

Democrats could still pass the EUC extension in a stand-alone bill or add-on to the budget. Join The Nation and Daily Kos in calling on Congress to salvage the benefits of those who need them the most. Contact your representative now and tell them to extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. To amplify your voice, call the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121.

TO READ

John Nichols explains why we shouldn’t be excited by Congress’s “cruel, irresponsible and dysfunctional budget deal.”

TO WATCH

Earlier this week, Chris Hayes talked to Heather Boushey of the Center for Equitable Growth and Representative Jerry Nadler about the importance of unemployment benefits and the likelihood of Congress doing the right thing.

Tell Congress: Don’t Leave the Unemployed Out in the Cold

A woman at a job fair

Sonja Jackson, of Detroit, holds an Employment Guide standing in line while attending a job fair in Livonia, Michigan. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

While the overall unemployment rate is falling, it has remained stubbornly high for the long-term jobless, those out of work for twenty-six weeks or longer. If Congress doesn't act to extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, 1.3 million of these Americans will lose their unemployment benefits before the end of the year. Another 850,000 will be cut off by March, 2014.

TO DO

Join The Nation and Daily Kos in calling on Congress not to leave the long-term unemployed out in the cold. Contact your representative now and tell them to make sure an extension of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program is included in any budget deal.

TO READ

At Think Progress, Bryce Covert details the struggles of families whose lives will be upended if Congress fails to act.

TO WATCH

In this CNN Money Report, long-term unemployed Americans talk about the difficulties they face while they struggle to find work.

Support the Fast-Food Strikes

Fast food workers strike

Demonstrators rally for better wages outside a McDonald's restaurant in New York, as part of a national protest, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

One year after 200 workers walked off the job in New York City, the movement for justice for fast-food workers has grown significantly. Today, in their largest demonstration yet, workers in more than 100 cities across the country are expected to walk off the job. The actions are part of the movement for a $15 an hour standard rate—a significant and much-needed raise from the current median of $8.81—and the right to join a union.

TO DO

Add you name to the call to the incredibly profitable fast food companies to pay their workers $15 an hour. Then, if you have some time today, find a rally near you and put your body on the line for fair wages.

TO READ

The Nation’s Allison Kilkenny talked to some of the striking workers about the challenges of living off low wages.

TO WATCH

Many people assume that fast-food workers are teenagers earning beer money. In a video promoting today’s historic strike, economist and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich debunks the many false assumptions people hold about fast-food workers and outlines the benefits we’ll all see if they’re finally given the raises they deserve.

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