Republicans using preemption laws to stop local governments from improving the working conditions of their residents

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NO HELP FOR YOU: Republican majority state legislatures across the country are using preemption laws to strike down local government efforts to improve the working conditions of their residents. The most glaring example of this is in Missouri where the state legislature passed preemption legislation rolling back St. Louis’ minimum wage increase of $10/hour back to the state’s minimum wage of $7.70. The legislation also blocked a voter-approved increase from taking effect in Kansas City. – Labor Tribune photo

By TIM ROWDEN

Editor

A recent wave of anti-worker preemption laws have swept across the country in the last decade striking down local government efforts to improve the working conditions of their residents.

Since 2010, Republican-controlled state legislatures have used preemption laws to push labor standards down by superseding city or county laws, or preventing local governments from legislating in certain areas—including minimum wage, paid leave, fair work schedules, Prevailing Wage and Project Labor Agreements.

“With inaction at the federal and state level, working people have increasingly relied on local government to raise labor standards,” said Marni von Wilpert, associate labor counsel for the Economic Policy Institute. “Now, those protections are being stripped away, by mostly conservative state legislators, through the widespread use of preemption laws.

“America’s workers need better jobs and stronger labor standards,” said von Wilpert. “Local governments are raising the bar on labor standards to include higher wages and the ability to earn paid leave to recover from illness or care for family members. Once communities organize for these improvements, they should not be stripped away by state legislators, most of whom are far removed from the communities these preemption laws affect.”

WHO’S BEHIND IT? ALEC

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been instrumental in pushing preemption legislation that weakens labor laws for working people and benefits wealthy corporations. They argue that preemption laws are needed to standardize states’ labor laws.

But ALEC has simultaneously pushed for cities and counties to enact “right-to-work” ordinances at the local level, which would weaken collective bargaining power in those localities.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has promoted local “right-to-work” zones as part of his “reform” agenda.

“If state legislators want to standardize labor laws, they should raise the statewide standards to help working people get a fair return on their work,” said von Wilpert. “It’s important to note who wins from these legislative efforts and who loses.”

SEE WHAT’S HAPPENING

EPI has developed an interactive map that tracks the rise of these anti-worker laws including when the laws were implemented and what they entail.

You can view the map at epi.org/preemption-map.

Some recent examples of preemption legislation in Missouri, Illinois and surrounding states include:

MISSOURI

• Minimum wage – On August 28, 2017, Missouri’s Republican majority state legislature enacted a preemption law that actually lowered the minimum wage in St. Louis, from the city’s minimum wage of $10 to back down to the statewide minimum wage of $7.70 an hour — undercutting the raises of approximately 31,000 workers who had benefited from the city’s minimum wage increase. Republican Governor Eric Greitens didn’t sign the law but allowed it to take effect. A minimum wage increase in Kansas City—passed by local referendum in 2017—was also prevented from going into effect.

• Project Labor Agreements – Also this year, the state legislature and Greitens prohibited cities and counties from requiring city/county contractors to abide by Project Labor Agreements used in the construction industry to set basic conditions for safety, pay, and benefits on municipal projects like roads, bridges, and power grids.

• Paid leave – Since 2015, Missouri has prohibited its cities and counties from requiring employers to provide employees paid sick days or paid family leave, requiring workers to either go without pay or go to work sick or delay medical treatment for themselves or family members.

ILLINOIS

For all its budget problems and the anti-worker leanings of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, Illinois’s Democratic majority state legislature has managed to prevent any preemption legislation from becoming law.

INDIANA (RTW state)

Indiana’s Republican majority state legislature and Republican governors –Mitch Daniels (2011) and Mike Pence (2013, 2014 and 2016) – have a long tradition of using preemption laws to keep wages down and rob workers of their rights including:

• Minimum wage – Prohibited its cities and counties from raising their local minimum wages above the state minimum wage. (2011)

• Paid leave – Prohibited its cities and counties from requiring employers to provide employees paid sick days or paid family leave. (2013)

• Prevailing Wage – Prohibited its cities and counties from requiring city/county contractors to pay workers a prevailing wage. (2015)

• Fair scheduling – Prohibited its cities and counties from establishing any laws governing work schedules. (2016)

Indiana’s current Republican governor is Eric Holcomb.

IOWA (RTW state)

It was a busy year for Iowa’s Republican majority state legislature and Republican Gov. Terry Branstad who passed and signed into law preemption laws governing:

• Minimum wage – Prohibited cities and counties from raising their local minimum wages above Iowa’s state minimum wage. Existing local minimum wage increases in Johnson, Linn, Polk, and Wapello counties were nullified.

• Paid leave – Prohibited cities and counties from requiring employers to provide employees paid sick days or paid family leave.

• Fair scheduling – Prohibited cities and counties from establishing any laws governing work schedules—such as laws requiring employers to give advance notice of work schedules or pay a premium for requiring workers to be “on call” for shifts.

• Project Labor Agreements – Prohibited cities and counties from requiring city/county contractors to abide by project labor agreements on construction projects.

KANSAS (RTW state)

Another RTW state, Kansas’ Republican majority legislature and Republican Governor Sam Brownback have been chipping away at workers’ rights and local laws that benefit workers for several years.

• Fair scheduling – Prohibited its cities and counties from establishing any laws governing work schedules. (2016)

• Minimum wage – Prohibited its cities and counties from raising their local minimum wages above Kansas’s state minimum wage. (2013)

• Prevailing Wage – Prohibited its cities and counties from requiring city/county contractors to pay workers a prevailing wage. (2013)

• Paid leave – Prohibited its cities and counties from requiring employers to provide employees paid sick days or paid family leave.

ARKANSAS (RTW state)

In 2017, Arkansas’ Republican majority legislature and Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson passed preemption laws addressing:

• Minimum wage – Prohibits its cities and counties from raising their local minimum wages above Arkansas’s state minimum wage.

• Fair scheduling – Prohibits cities and counties from establishing any laws governing work schedules.

• Paid leave – Prohibited its cities and counties from requiring employers to provide employees paid sick days or paid family leave.

TENNESSEE (RTW state)

• Fair scheduling – Tennessee’s Republican majority state legislature and Republican Governor Bill Haslam this year passed and enacted a law prohibiting cities and counties from establishing any laws governing work schedules

• Minimum wage – In 2013, Tennessee prohibited its cities and counties from establishing local minimum wages.

• Prevailing wage – Since 2013, Tennessee has prohibited its cities and counties from requiring city/county contractors to pay workers a prevailing wage.

• Paid leave – Since 2013, Tennessee has also prohibited its cities and counties from requiring employers to provide employees paid sick days or paid family leave.

FOLLOW THE DAMAGE

To see the full list of states that have passed preemption laws, including updates when new laws take effect, visit EPI’s interactive map at epi.org/preemption-map.

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Make the change: Register to vote

If you’re tired of politicians who only represent their donors and corporate interests, you can make a change by registering to vote and voting in the next election.

MISSOURI

In Missouri, you can register to vote by mail or in person.

Just submit a completed Missouri Voter Registration Application to your local election authority (also called county clerk or board of elections)

You can obtain a voter registration form the Secretary of State’s office by visiting sos.mo.gov/elections/goVoteMissouri/register.

Or you can obtain a voter registration form and register to vote through the Missouri Department of Revenue (DOR) when you apply for a driver’s license.

ILLINOIS

In Illinois, you can register to vote online through the state Board of Elections by visiting ova.elections.il.gov/.

You can also register at driver’s license offices at with your local election authority, county clerk or board of elections.

You can make the change. Get registered and vote.

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