This is the latest in a series of “Wage Week” posts that we are featuring on The Progressive Pulse to highlight efforts to raise the abysmally low and inadequate federal minimum wage. Follow the discussion on Twitter at #WageWeek

By Vicki Meath, Executive Director of Just Economics

As we approach the sixth anniversary of the last time the federal minimum wage was raised the is Friday, we recognize the need to continue to raise the wage floor. A higher wage floor means more low and middle income workers are participating in sustainable economic activity, keeping money circulating in the local economy. It also means that more full time workers can put a roof over their head and food on their table without outside support. When the wage floor rises to a level where more workers can meet their basic needs, we experience a variety of economic benefits, but also we demonstrate that as a community, we value workers and an economy that works for all.

We are taking time this week to celebrate Wage Week and the hard work of individuals, business leaders, unions, organizations, and elected leaders who contribute to a more just and sustainable economy. While the public narrative often identifies some of these entities as adversaries, we honor the variety of strategies used to stand together on the side of economic justice.

Across the nation we have seen so many recent victories in the effort to raise the wage floor. In Seattle, community advocates worked with elected leaders to pass a bold city wide minimum wage policy. Thanks to the hard work of SEIU, homecare workers in Massachusetts won the fight for a $15/hr wage floor. From brave workers involved in the Fight for 15 to a wealthy venture capitalist, the New York Labor Department’s Wage Board heard testimony last month in support of a higher wage floor for fast food workers and the Board unanimously backed a wage raise proposal.

Here in North Carolina, our state law presents challenges to raising the wage floor at a local level but we continue to find creative strategies to raise wages and build a more sustainable economy. Just Economics, a small nonprofit in Western North Carolina, has the largest Living Wage Certification program in the country and helped develop a replicable model. The Durham Living Wage Project launched a similar program this past spring, identifying businesses voluntarily paying a living wage. The Moral Monday movement initiated by HKonJ and the NC NAACP mobilizes individuals across the state to push for an agenda that includes living wages as major piece of a system that provides equal opportunity for all North Carolinians. Despite the challenges, individuals and organizations across the state are making a difference.

Sometimes the work of justice can seem overwhelming. This week, let us look around, remember the value in this work, recognize our allies, and push forward. We still have a lot of work to do, but we are still winning.


The fallout from our nation’s decades-long effort to slash taxes on wealthy individuals and profitable corporations (and the public structures those taxes once provided) continues to spread. The Washington Post reports that the growing gap between the super rich and everyone else is directly and negatively impacting state government budgets:

Income inequality is taking a toll on state governments.

The widening gap between the wealthiest Americans and everyone else has been matched by a slowdown in state tax revenue, according to a report being released Monday by Standard & Poor’s.

Even as income has accelerated for the affluent, it has barely kept pace with inflation for most other people. That trend can mean a double whammy for states: The wealthy often manage to shield much of their income from taxes. And they tend to spend less of it than others do, thereby limiting sales tax revenue….

Rising income inequality is not just a social issue,” said Gabriel Petek, the S&P credit analyst who wrote the report. “It presents a very significant set of challenges for the policymakers.”

Stagnant pay for most people has compounded the pressure on states to preserve funding for education, highways and social programs such as Medicaid. The investments in education and infrastructure also have fueled economic growth. Yet they’re at risk without a strong flow of tax revenue.

Meanwhile, this week’s most stunning visual of the nation’s mushrooming inequality comes from the U.S. Federal Reserve, courtesy of the good people at Too Much Online: Read More

News, The State of Working North Carolina
MaryBe McMillan

MaryBe McMillan of the N.C. AFL-CIO answers questions from some of the reporters in attendance prior to this morning’s rally in Raleigh.

About a hundred people gathered next to the Fallen Firefighters Memorial in downtown Raleigh this morning for a rally/press conference to help kick off a three-stop “#TalkUnion” tour that is being by state union and civil rights leaders. The tour will also feature a noon event in Greensboro at the Beloved Community Center at 417 Arlington Street and conclude with a 5:30 p.m. rally in Charlotte’s Marshall Park at 800 east 3rd Street. All are invited.

The event in Raleigh featured Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina NAACP and state AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer MaryBe McMillan as well as rank and file workers and leaders from the local faith community.  All spoke of the desperate need in North Carolina to raise wages for average workers and to halt and reverse the conservative policy agenda of the state’s current political leadership.

The claims of the various speakers were boosted this morning by the release of the latest “State of Working North Carolina” report by experts at the North Carolina Justice Center.

This is from a release that accompanied the new report:

  • Almost six out of every 10 new jobs created since the end of the recession are in industries that pay poverty-level wages, keeping workers trapped in poverty even when they are working full-time.
  • The growth in low-wage work is disproportionately impacting workers of color and women: 13.2 percent of women, 13.5 percent of African-Americans, and 23 percent of Latinos earn below the living income standard, compared to 9.7 percent of men and 9 percent of whites.
  • The persistence of higher unemployment rates for African-Americans is in part being driven by the greater labor force resiliency of African-American workers. Since the recession, African-Americans have not dropped out of the labor force at the same level as white workers.
  • There are approximately 260,000 North Carolina working families who live in poverty, with 12.8 percent of working families earning poverty wages.
  • 13 of 14 metro areas saw labor forces decline since June 2013. For eight metros, the decline in unemployment was driven by the unemployed moving out of the labor force rather into jobs.
  • Rural employment dropped 2.7 percent since the start of the recovery while the state’s large metropolitan areas have seen 6.5 percent job growth.

These data coincided neatly with Rev. Barber’s statement in announcing today’s tour in which he noted:

“While we honor our workers on Labor Day, we cannot ignore the policies and laws passed down from this North Carolina General Assembly that are attacking poor and working families. We believe North Carolinians who work 40 hours each week should be able to put food on their tables and buy school clothes for their children. The long fight for labor rights, for voting rights, for educational equality and for quality health care for all is not a fight between Republican and Democrat. It is a moral fight for the soul of the nation. That is why we are making this Labor Day a Moral Monday.”

Click here for more information on the #TalkUnion tour.”

Click here to read the entire “State of Working North Carolina” report.

Carolyn and Cy King

Carolyn and Cy King in a photo that accompanied a 2012 NC Council of Churches story about Carolyn’s passing

We lost Cy King this week. As Anne Blythe of Raleigh’s News & Observer reported in this excellent story yesterday, the veteran progressive activist passed away on Wednesday after a brief illness at age 91.

Would that we could all look back at the end of our days on a life so well and richly lived.

As just about anyone in the Triangle with any connection to the movements for peace and civil liberties or social, economic and political justice can attest, Cy was a ubiquitous force for good. Together with his late wife Carolyn, Cy simply made making the world a better place his life’s work.

But beyond his dedication to the cause, Cy was also one of those rare human beings who simply exuded love and decency in everything he did. As Rev. Nancy Petty of Pullen Church told Blythe: “It was always with this gentleness [that he spoke out]. But the gentleness, his compassion, did not water down the passion.”

You simply couldn’t be with Cy — even for a short time — and not feel better about yourself and life in general. This was especially true if you were employed in the progressive advocacy world. Just seeing the twinkle in his eye and receiving his encouragement was enough to inspire dozens of advocates down through the years to stay true to the fight for peace and justice. I know it was for me and many of my colleagues.

We mourn his loss but will do our best to carry on his gentle but powerful spirit. RIP.


Dean BakerWhat’s the real deal with the American economy? Where do things stand? What’s holding us back? What about the situation in North Carolina? Please join us Wednesday, March 26, as we tackle these topics and more with one of America’s leading economists, Dean Baker.

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is frequently cited in economics reporting in major media outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, CNBC and NPR. He writes a weekly column for, The Huffington Post, Truthout and his blog, Beat the Press,, which features commentary on economic reporting. His analyses have appeared in many major publications, including The Atlantic, The Washington Post, the Financial Times, and the Daily News (New York). He received his doctorate in economics from the University of Michigan.

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