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ALEC-inspired wage suppression efforts hit U.S., Washington

alec-exposed(Mar. 7, 2013) — A new report from the National Employment Law Project shows that the American Legislative Exchange Council is engaged in a widespread campaign to suppress the wages of already low-wage workers, including here in Washington state. ALEC has created model legislation that is designed to weaken or repeal state minimum wage laws, reduce minimum wages for young workers and tipped workers, weaken overtime compensation rules and stop local governments from passing living wage ordinances.

The report found that since 2011, 31 state legislatures have introduced 105 bills that attack wage standards at the state or local level. More than half of those bills were directly sponsored or co-sponsored by legislators with ties to ALEC.

This study, based on 2011-12 legislation, includes failed bills sponsored by Washington state Rep. Matt Shea (R-Spokane Valley) to establish a sub-minimum wage for new employees and former Sen. Val Stevens (R-Arlington) to end voter-approved indexing of the state minimum wage. Both are ALEC members.

In 2013, Sen. Janéa Holmquist Newbry (R-Moses Lake), also an ALEC member, is sponsoring a new version of Shea’s bill allowing sub-minimum wages for new employees. SB 5275 would allow businesses with fewer than 50 workers to pay new employees 75% of the state minimum wage or the federal minimum wage during their first 680 hours at a new job. Although dubbed a “training wage,” this new sub-minimum wage could apply to any new employee, experienced or not. (Democrats have countered with a bill to apply such a 25% pay cut to new state legislators.)

Because Republicans were handed control of the State Senate by two dissident Democrats, Holmquist Newbry’s bill (SB 5275) may soon get a floor vote.

Here’s how the NELP report describes ALEC’s agenda:

The American Legislative Exchange Council — a “forum for state legislators and private sector leaders to discuss and exchange practical, state-level public policy issues” — has been the subject of substantial criticism over the past year for its promotion of controversial voter ID legislation, “Stand Your Ground” laws and measures to roll back environmental protections. In recent years, however, ALEC-affiliated state legislators from across the country have also conducted a parallel effort to weaken wage and workplace standards designed to protect the earnings and economic security of the country’s lowest-paid workers.

Meanwhile, a new Gallup poll released today finds that 71% of Americans back President Obama’s proposal to raise the minimum wage to $9 per hour, while 27% oppose it. Thanks to a voter-approved initiative, Washington’s minimum wage is now $9.19 an hour.

AFL-CIO Now contributed to this report.

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