Monday, February 7, 2011

State legislators prepare slew of anti-worker bills

Legislative session also presents opportunity for progress on
living wage for University workers

    The Tennessee Legislature begins its real work today, February 7th. Usually they wrap up their legislative session by mid-May. That means that the winter and spring are key times for you to advocate for workers' rights.

    University workers in Memphis and across the state have endured pay freezes for the past three years. As workloads have mounted and health insurance costs skyrocketed, low-wage workers have struggled to pay their bills.

   The budget passed by legislators could determine whether University workers move a significant step closer to a living wage. But the only way the state budget will include raises for low-wage University workers is if legislators hear from people like you.

  Your action will also be urgently needed to stop a number of anti-worker bills that have been introduced or are planned (legislators have just two weeks from today to introduce all bills for the session.)

   In the last legislative session (2009), a bill was narrowly defeated that would have repealed the local living wage ordinances you worked so hard to establish in Memphis and Shelby County. It is very likely this bill be introduced again this year.

   A number of proposed bills this year attack the rights of public employees, especially teachers, to have a union. One bill takes away teachers' unions ability to negotiate the terms of teachers' employment with boards of education. WIN members like you know that when workers have a voice in workplace decisions through their union, it creates a more stable, productive workplace.

   Worker rights and immigrant rights' advocates are also very concerned about promises by state Sen. Bill Ketron to introduce a state immigration bill similar to Arizon's controversial SB 1070. Such a law would allow local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law. It would likely lead to racial profiling of Latinos and anyone who police decide seems foreign-born. It could also give employers an incentive to call the police on workers who complain about wage theft or other abuses.

Take Action
1) If you don't get WIN's email action alerts already, sign up now. Once the legislature starts to move, bills can progress very quickly. I'll send you alerts when your urgent action is needed.

2) Tomorrow I'll be posting about how you can participate in the Lobby Day for Living Wages and Good Jobs on March 15th in Nashville.

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