Issues / Legislation

Week Ending May 24, 2019

Raise the Wage Support Needed

The federal minimum wage is only $7.25 and has been for 10 years. Food, housing, transportation—everything has increased over 10 years, except the minimum wage. It’s well past time for an increase. The “Raise the Wage Act” (H.R. 582) would increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour for all working people over five years. The House Education and Labor Committee passed the bill, and it is moving toward a vote by the full House of Representatives.

What You Can Do: Call your member of Congress and encourage them to co-sponsor the “Raise the Wage Act” (H.R. 582).

Call 855-712-8430

Tell your member of the U.S. House of Representatives:
It’s time to increase the federal minimum wage. 
Please co-sponsor H.R. 582.

Infrastructure Talks Implode, What’s Next?

The second round of bipartisan discussions about fixing infrastructure ended before it got started.

President Demands End to Oversight Investigations – House, Senate, and White House officials gathered Wednesday, but President Donald Trump abruptly ended the meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–California). He left for a pre-planned Rose Garden press conference to demand an end to all investigations of him and his administration. President Trump began to send signals of a desire to change the terms of his original agreement with Democrats well in advance of the meeting. On Tuesday, he forwarded a demand that Congress pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal before it takes up infrastructure.

What You Need to Know: Whether it is the physical rebuilding of crumbling roads, bridges, schools and waterways, improvements in childcare and early learning, or increased access and quality of health care, AFSCME urges immediate, large-scale action to bring our country to its full potential.

Send an email to tell Congress to fight for a real infrastructure plan that grows our economy, invests $2 trillion in new funds for public services, rejects costly privatization schemes, pays fair wages, provides good benefits and enables workers the freedom to negotiate and have a strong voice on the job. 

Administration Targets Low-Income Programs with Deep, Structural Cuts

The Trump administration has implemented harsh restrictions on programs that provide low-income Americans with basic needs, including health care, housing and nutrition, resulting in deep cuts. This week, the administration took a broad swipe at these essential programs en bloc, moving from a program by program strategy to one that would arbitrarily reduce benefits by proposing to replace the formula that calculates how the federal government measures poverty to one that would be less accurate and grow more slowly. The results could be devastating.

What You Need to Know: The federal poverty line is already very restrictive and arguably too low. For 2019, the poverty guideline is set at $25,750 for a family of four, capturing 12.8 million children, 4.7 million seniors and 3.8 million individuals with a disability. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) is organizing a Senate letter strongly urging the administration to reject this approach. AFSCME opposes this change and any efforts to reduce access to basic needs’ programs for vulnerable Americans.

House Appropriations Committee Continues Work

On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee advanced the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) spending bill. This bill provides funding supporting the AFSCME members who work in justice programs, including law enforcement, corrections, juvenile justice, drug courts and drug treatment programs, and other important programs. AFSCME supports the legislation, which provides significant increases for critical programs.

What You Need to Know: There are still several steps remaining before this legislation is enacted into law. The bill still needs to be considered and voted on by the full House of Representatives, which could occur in June. The same process needs to occur in the Senate, where the Appropriations Committee has not yet considered any of the 2020 spending bills. Any differences between the House and (eventual) Senate versions of the spending bills will need to be ironed out before legislation can be sent to the president and enacted into law. Congress must also reach a deal to increase spending limits (often referred to as “budget caps”) established by previously passed legislation. Throughout this process, AFSCME will be working to support an agreement to increase spending limits and to ensure that the critical programs supporting the work of AFSCME members are adequately funded.

Disaster Aid Bill

The House of Representatives voted on May 10 to approve a $17.2 billion disaster aid package, including relief for Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories that were harmed by hurricanes, as well as states across the country that have been harmed by floods, wildfires, hurricanes and other natural disasters. The Senate finally acted as well agreeing to a $19.1 billion relief package.

What You Need to Know: As a result of the delay in passing the legislation, nutrition benefits for nearly 700,000 Puerto Rico residents have been slashed by an average of 25 percent. The number of Puerto Ricans relying on nutrition assistance has increased significantly since Hurricane Maria struck the island in 2017, killing about 3,000 people and devastating the island’s economy.

House Judiciary Committee Green Lights DREAMer Legislation

The Democratic–led House Judiciary Committee passed, along party lines, legislation to protect DREAMers and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders.

What You Need to Know: The “American Dream and Promise Act” of 2019 (H.R. 6), which combines the Dream and TPS bills, currently has 232 co-sponsors and is expected to pass in the House of Representatives sometime in June. Whether the GOP-led Senate decides to debate the legislation will likely depend on President Trump’s instruction, who has previously derailed good-faith bipartisan talks on the matter. AFSCME continues to support a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and TPS holders.