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Missing Pieces Of #RaiseTheWage

Working the Alley

Working the Alley

The loud but small-sized movement to raise the minimum wage is made up of good people. There are not enough of them to make a difference. Their voice is amplified in corporate news outlets, but neither the federal nor state governments have acted to raise the minimum wage in a long time.

Today the Johnson County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to discuss a county ordinance to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017. Iowa City native David Goodner feels this is not enough and called for raising it to $15. As we posted yesterday, Iowa labor commissioner Michael Mauro said the ordinance Johnson County is discussing is inconsistent with Iowa law and therefore unconstitutional. The county attorney has not reported to the board on the legality of a potential ordinance.

Goodner wrote in the print edition of today’s Iowa City Press Citizen, “According to the Iowa Policy Project, a livable wage for a single worker in Iowa is $13.04 an hour. A single mom with kids needs $28.07 an hour to make ends meet. Married workers with two kids need $16.89 an hour each.”

The numbers are a familiar construct and seem reasonable to progressive readers who follow the Iowa Policy Project. Peter Fisher and Lily French’s article, “The Cost of Living in Iowa – 2014 Edition” is well researched and often quoted. “The Johnson County Board of Supervisors know what the research says. So why not $15 an hour now?” wrote Goodner. “Why should workers have to wait to earn a livable wage?”

Where is the groundswell of support from the 3.3 million U.S. workers who are at or below minimum wage to raise it? The answer is complicated, but Pew Research Center gets us started in answering the question.

People at or below the federal minimum wage are disproportionately young (50.4% are ages 16 to 24; 24% are teenagers age 16 to 19); mostly (77%) white; nearly half being white women; and largely part-time workers (64% of the total), according to Pew. They work in food preparation and serving; sales; personal care and service; office and administrative support; building and grounds maintenance; and other low-skill occupations.

Work needs doing and competitive compensation is required of businesses to get it done. If minimum wage gets the job done, and for the most part it has, there is no natural incentive to raise it.

Some try to subsist on a single minimum wage job. It is hard to tell from the Pew numbers how many people that is. What is borne out by my experience is it is unreasonable to assume people work a single minimum wage job to make household ends meet. Actually, as Iowa Policy Project research shows, it’s impossible.

At the same time, the old sawhorse of taking the current federal minimum wage of $7.25, multiplying it by 40 hours per week for a result of $290 per week gross income is essentially meaningless. It is no justification for much of anything. Minimum wage jobs are worked in a complex cultural context that matters more than the rate of pay.

From talking to dozens of low wage workers, I’ve found — in every case — taking a minimum wage or lowly paid job has been a trade-off of priorities and a temporary measure for those earning an hourly wage. What matters more is a social support network that includes income from a second job, pension or other household members; shared housing; alternative food sources; shared or public transportation; and no-cost child care from family and friends. Health care is a significant expense in terms of time off work, deductibles and co-pays. Our health care system has a long way to go to be affordable for low wage workers.

If the Johnson County supervisors decide to raise the county minimum wage, it would in part reflect a dissatisfaction with state and federal government for failing to act. People can demand what they want, and low-wage workers will take it.

People who talk about raising the minimum wage don’t get that cancer, hip replacements, divorces, incarceration, poor diet, addictions, lawsuits, sore backs, weak knees, bullying, discrimination, firearms, transportation, lack of access to health care and everything else involved in living in our society enter into the picture.

If government is going to raise the minimum wage, be quick about it. Then get on to solving more pressing problems that impact low wage workers.


Rockin’ With Mother Jones

Miners' AngelRockin’ with Mother Jones
By Mike Matejka, Grand Prairie Union News

No one in American labor history has won the mythic status of Mary “Mother” Jones (1837-1930).

This Irish immigrant, who lost her family to disease and her business to the Great Chicago Fire, became the nation’s roving rabble-rouser in the final third of her life.

Traveling from picket line to coal mine to jail cells, this spirited figure rallied many a strike. Today she rests in the Union Miners’ Cemetery in Mt. Olive, Ill., surrounded by the coal miners for whom she fought.

A unique two CD musical compilation brings together songs about her, coal mining and a working class fighting spirit.

The CD benefits the Mother Jones Monument over her grave, recently restored with the fund-raising efforts of the Illinois AFL-CIO.

Most of the 35 songs here are in a country or folk vein, some very traditional, others more contemporary in their sound. There are a few “name” musicians one might recognize here, like Steve Earle with Del McCoury and Billy Bragg. The majority are musicians inspired by a colorful woman, who knew well how music could lift the spirits and how her own appearance, dressed in Victorian garb, was theatrical itself.

A special treat is the original recording from 1930s-40s “singing cowboy” Gene Autry, who had his first hit in 1931, “The Death of Mother Jones.”

Liner notes from Dr. Rosemary Feurer tells the impact this woman’s life had, both the reality of her spirited interventions and the inspiration she was to others.

The CD is available for $24, including shipping, from

Iowa Farmers Offer Cover Crop Webinar

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Practical Farmers of Iowa, Cover Crop Solutions and the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Present Webinar on the Basics of Cover Crops
Thursday, July 30, at 1 p.m.

Mark your calendar for a webinar to be held on July 30 that will offer great tips from experts for those new to planting cover crops. Explore what works, what doesn’t and understand the benefits of cover crops. “Fall planting of cover crops has really taken off in Iowa. during recent years as more farmers are seeking information and are beginning to understand the benefits,” said Rick Robinson, IFBF environmental policy adviser.

Sarah Carlson from Practical Farmers of Iowa and Tracy Blackmer from Cover Crops Solutions will be the speakers. Join the webinar by keeping this email and accessing the webinar page shortly before 1 p.m. this Thursday, July 30, by clicking here.

Audio will be through your computer speakers. At any time before the webcast, please click here for information or to to test your computer’s ability to participate.

Overnight Dispatches

Idyllic farm scene from IowaEven if we remove references to the mogul from the feed, Monday was a very busy news day.

Word came last night of Herald Smith’s passing. Smith was founder of CRST, Inc., the trucking company he famously started in a refurbished chicken coop in 1955. When I joined the company in 1984 they generated $60 million in annual revenues. According to the Cedar Rapids Gazette current annual revenues are $1.5 billion. Being part of the growth of a local company during deregulation was a wild, hard ride. I spent more than 25 years in transportation and thanks to Smith and his children I learned more about modern business than I thought possible. My career in transportation informs my outlook on labor, the law, business development, politics and more. I didn’t know Smith well, but I did know him and cherish my interactions with him.

Photo Credit Associated Press

Photo Credit Associated Press

Robin McDowell, Martha Mendoza and Margie Mason posted their latest installment in the Associated Press story about the use of slavery to supply U.S. and other markets with inexpensive seafood. After AP broke the story of slaves in Indonesia, the slavers changed registry and moved to Papua, New Guinea. AP used satellites to locate the fishing vessels. The New York Times is now covering the story. Still buying Fancy Feast, Iams and Meow Mix?

The agreement between the P5+1 nations and and Iran seems unlikely to be blocked by the Congress. “The response has been positive across the board,” Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said to the Washington Post of Senate Democrats, adding, he doesn’t think the tens of millions of dollars opponents plan to spend on ads slamming the accord will ultimately have a real impact.

The Des Moines Register broke a story about three Iowa landowners suing the Iowa Utilities Board over property rights yesterday. The debate over the Bakken Crude Oil Pipeline will be more about eminent domain and property rights than about environmental issues. This action is evidence the legal challenges have begun, and can be expected to continue.

Former Iowa Secretary of State, and current Iowa labor commissioner Michael Mauro weighed in on the Johnson County discussion about raising the county minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2017. The ordinance would be inconsistent with state law, and therefore unconstitutional, according to Mauro. Proponents of the ordinance disagree. The board of supervisors is waiting for the counsel of county attorney Janet Lyness and have a working session to discuss the ordinance scheduled on Wednesday.

I got trolled on Twitter last night after posting this tweet:

Rule #1: don’t feed the trolls.

“You’re just part of this thing and I want to see how far it will go,” said Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones to Rolling Stone in a July 27 post. Richards is producing his first solo album in two decades and a video of “Trouble” is at the link.

Ed Fallon On The Road To Paris

Ed Fallon, "People need to be thinking of what changes they can make in their own life."

Ed Fallon

D-Day March & Pilgrimage for Climate Action
LA to DC walkers continue trek to Paris for UN Climate Summit

DES MOINES — On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, two men who last year walked across America for action on climate change will set-out from the coast of Normandy, France, walking nearly 200 miles (320 kilometers) to arrive in Paris on Nov. 28 — just before the start of the United Nations Climate Summit, an event seen as pivotal if the nations of the world are to take affective, timely action on climate change.

Last year, Ed Fallon of Iowa and Steve Martin of Kentucky walked over 3,100 miles (5,000 kilometers) across America with the Great March for Climate Action. The March was conceived by Fallon, a former Iowa state lawmaker, as a dramatic way to build public awareness about the urgency of the climate crisis. A core group of 35-50 marchers walked 15-20 miles (24-32 kilometers) six days a week for eight months, engaging thousands of Americans in one-on-one conversations about climate change. Fallon and Martin were two of five marchers who walked every step of the way.

Having reached the east coast of the United States last fall, and with the all-important UN Climate Summit in Paris looming, Fallon and Martin felt called to continue their trek. Beginning the D-Day March & Pilgrimage for Climate Action on the coast of Normandy, where Allied troops launched the successful liberation of Europe in 1944, holds great significance for Fallon as he tells the story he shared with people he met during last year’s Climate March.

“My Dad would tell me about World War II and the home-front mobilization,” Fallon mused. “He was a kid at the time, the son of Irish immigrants growing up in the South Bronx. Military advisers warned of mounting atrocities in Europe and the South Pacific, and my Dad could not understand why America wasn’t responding.

“Finally, America woke-up and it was all hands on deck,” Fallon said. “My Dad would go down to the railroad tracks and collect tinfoil from cigarette boxes for the scrap metal drives that were crucial to the war effort. And the nation as a whole got involved, retooling an entire economy in a matter of months to fight and win the defining crisis of the 20th century.

“Last year, I shared my Dad’s story with hundreds of people as I walked across America, coast-to-coast” concluded Fallon. “It’s time again for America to listen to the experts, in this case the scientists, who warn us of the urgent threat of climate change. It’s time for America to wake-up like we did in response to World War II and help lead a global response to the crisis that threatens our very survival.”

For his part, Martin was deeply moved earlier this year by Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change. Martin continues what he calls a pilgrim’s walk, “a walk that began long before my memory can be trusted,” he said. “No one is the enemy in the struggle for climate action. All of us are participants, and we all have the power to reaffirm life, if we choose.

“Making footsteps is a practice that links our common spirit to the change we hope to see,” said Martin. “In the end, I believe the human heart will triumph.”

With the comparison to America’s mobilization in response to World War II, Martin sees a very important connection to the climate struggle: “Democracy represents the will of the people only when we become collectively engaged in a common cause, just as another generation did at Normandy.”

Martin is from western Kentucky, a region possessing the highest CO2 emissions rate per kilowatt hour anywhere in the country. It is an area of the country where coal is king. Yet last year, Martin found himself on a pilgrimage to walk every step across America with the Great March for Climate Action. He began in Los Angeles with the main group of marchers. In eastern Colorado he diverted from the March to connect his footsteps with the People’s Climate March in New York City. At the Sept. 21 event that drew 400,000 people, Martin was the only participant to have walked across the entire country to attend.

Martin anxiously awaits these new footsteps to Paris, and hopes that they contribute in a small way to a successful UN summit and decisive action to address climate change.

Fallon and Martin intend to walk about 20-25 kilometers (12-16 miles) five to six days a week. In both the U.S. and France, they hope to network with organizations addressing climate change, environmental concerns, churches, other communities of faith, and veterans organizations. In the tradition of pilgrims throughout history, they will travel simply and with faith in the goodness of humanity.

40 Red, White And Blue Shoestrings

2012 Drought Conference

2012 Drought Conference

There is no clearer evidence Republicans seek to unravel United States leadership in the world than their failure to understand the countries extending from China to Sub-Saharan Africa

Two things stood out last week: Republican knee-jerk reaction to the United Nations approved nuclear agreement between the P5+1 nations and Iran, and the connection between the rise of Islamic extremism and global warming.

There is plenty of public analysis of these two topics, so this post is not to bring something new to the table. The Economist laid out why the Iran deal is good, calling it “the most intrusive nuclear-inspection arrangements ever designed.” I’ve recently posted about Iran here and here. If you want to follow the topic, join Twitter and follow @DarylGKimball, @Cirincione and the hashtag #IranDeal.

With regard to the connection between the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and global warming, it’s not just me and Martin O’Malley connecting these dots. The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The World Bank, and many others have done so. There have been severe droughts in the Middle East, Asia and Africa which put pressure on crop production. Food prices escalated in the wake of related food shortages, precipitating food riots which in turn contributed to what has been described as the “Arab Spring.”

Republicans are not about resolving these issues, or demonstrating leadership in the world community. Call it austerity, income inequality, or whatever, they have a bill of goods they want to sell us that is not in our best interests. Not only do they want to sell us, they have already sold large segments of the population. It has become routine, in fact, someone recently overheard this conversation in the Senate cloakroom:

Well Mack the Finger said to Louie the King
I got forty red, white and blue shoestrings
And a thousand telephones that don’t ring
Do you know where I can get rid of these things
And Louie the King said let me think for a minute son
And he said yes I think it can be easily done
Just take everything down to Highway 61.

This Week’s Fallon Forum Lineup

Listen live Mondays at 11 am

Listen live Mondays at 11 am

Today’s Fallon Forum features five topics and four great guests: 1. “Treating Customers Like They’re Stupid” with Maisie Ganzler, of Bon Appétit Management Company; 2. “Greece: Democracy in Action or Chaos?” with Ayman Amer, Economics Professor at Mt. Mercy College; 3. “Building Republican Support for Action on Climate” with Mark Reynolds of Citizens Climate Lobby; 4. “Is Hillary Democrats’ Weakest Option?” – Pat Betrouche joins Ed for this week’s “Caucus Buzz”; and 5. “State spends $115,000 on cannabis cards – for 50 people!”

Join us live every Monday from 11 a.m. to noon on KDLF 1260 AM (Des Moines) and online. Call 515-528-8122 to add your voice to the conversation. The program re-broadcasts Wednesday on KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames) at 4 p.m. and Wednesday on KPVL 89.1 FM (Postville) at 7 p.m. Podcasts available, too.

Give Planned Parenthood A Hand

planned parentood attack

Planned Parenthood has been one of the top six targets of the right in this country for a long time. Depending on the talking points of the day it shares the bullseye with Social Security, Medicare, the ACA, immigrants and unions. This is a list I just made up on the spot, so you can certainly take issue with this assessment. The point is that the premiere women’s health care provider in this country has had a vendetta against for a long long time.

Unless you live under a rock you have heard that Planned Parenthood has once more made it to the top of the right’s hit list. The driver behind this ascent is a very flawed “documentary” that purports to show a clinic selling fetal tissue. If you want to see it you can look it up yourselves. Of course this is pure hokum, but with a corporate owned media that leans very right this has become a story that has been given legs.

So this is a good time to show Planned Parenthood some support. Please sign this petition and let them know that we have their back. Someone you know and love may be using their services someday.

Thank You!

Sunday Funday – Sober Thought Edition

Mike Luckovich, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Mike Luckovich, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Just as I went to write this I had a very sobering thought. Following Citizens United, billionaires shopped around looking for a puppet to install in the White House to do their bidding. After trying out a Newt Gingrich and a Rick Santorum, they seemed to settle on someone who was much like them in Mitt Romney.

This year they are shopping again with bushel baskets of money at the ready. But they are not finding quite the quality they had in 2012 (quit snickering I am trying to make a point here). Certain of the .0001% have just realized if they want someone like themselves, then why not themselves? It is sort of the ultimate outcome of Citizens United. Ladies and gentlemen, Donald Trump!

Next cycle keep an eye out for someone named Walton looking to open a store in the DC area. You heard it here first!

Were you paying attention?

1) Thursday night a gunman in Lafayette, Louisiana murdered 3 and nearly murdered 9 more during what movie?

2) One of the longest running mysteries in America began on July 30th, 1975 when who was last seen outside a restaurant in Detroit, Michigan?

3) The last bike riders should have dipped their tires in the Mississippi. What general direction does RAGBRAI always take across Iowa?

4) As the bike riders swarm Davenport that city is also celebrating native musician Bix Beiderbecke. What instrument is Beiderbecke most associated with?

5) Physicist Stephen Hawking this week announced a $100 million effort to find what?

6) Another week, another Republican runs for president. Who was it this week?

7) Whose cell phone number did Donald Trump announce on national TV?

8) The world temperatures for June are in. How does the first six months of 2015 stack up as far as heat goes?

9) Engineers have been warning about infrastructure problems in this country for decades. A bridge on I10 between what two major cities collapsed in the rain last week?

10) The Annie E. Casey Foundation said that what percentage of American children currently live in poverty?

11) A remote hack on what brand of automobiles was demonstrated last week when hackers took over control of what from 10 miles away?

12) Hackers threatened to expose customers of what web site that arranges “discreet encounters for married men?”

13) In one of the oddest stories of the week, the winner of the French Scrabble world championship was unique in that he what?

14) In Colorado an ABC television almost broadcast the first US commercial for what product until the parent company stepped in to stop it?

15) A new embassy opened for what country in Washington, DC last week?

16) And so the media flexes its muscle. Rupert Murdoch has reportedly told his Fox News executives to back off covering what politician?

17) And in California, protestors did what to try to stop the removal of trees in the Claremont Canyon in Oakland and the U of Cal campus?

18) It was a wild ride up for the stock of what online retailer Friday?

19) In a shake up at MSNBC what voice of the working man was shown the door Thursday?

20) Reaching waaaay back for a comparison, Arkansas’ goofy senator Tom Cotton compared SoS John Kerry to what biblical character?

Whoa, dude, next Saturday is August 1st. Only 6 months to the caucus. Have you chosen your candidate yet?


1) Amy Schumer’s “Trainwreck”

2) Jimmy Hoffa

3) west to east ending with the traditional tire dip in the Mississippi

4) cornet, but piano is also acceptable

5) intelligent life in our galaxy

6) John Kasich of Ohio

7) Lyndsey Graham’s

8) the hottest first half of a year ever

9) Los Angeles and Phoenix

10) 22% including 39% of AA, 37% of Native Americans and 33% of Hispanic

11) Chrysler. The hack was on one of their Jeep Cherokees

12) Ashley Madison

13) he can’t speak French

14) marijuana

15) Cuba

16) Donald Trump

17) stripped naked and hugged the trees – you don’t want to see the pictures

18) Amazon which ended up nearly $50 after being up nearly $90/share

19) Ed Schultz – he’s there for a while but the show was cancelled

20) Pontius Pilate – not sure what the similarity is

See you next week!

Fighting Back With Facts

let them know you are mad!

let them know you are mad!

Letters, we send letters. BTW, this is a good time to start sending those letters in.

Muscatine County chair Don Paulson counters the flawed arguments of Rep. Tom Sands LTTE in the Muscatine Journal. Sands argues from a trickle down perspective. In case you’re not keeping score, trickle down started under Reagan in 1981. Over the years both national and state governments have cut corporate taxes a lot, yet as of yet none has trickled down yet. Instead the savings have rushed up to the pockets of the top 1%:

That Tom Sands- what a joker! Republican State Representative Tom Sands, in his 7/18/15 letter in the Journal predicts doom and gloom if the U.S. Congress doesn’t reduce the corporate tax rate. What nonsense!
Way back in an 8/5/13 article in the Huffington Post (‘The Three Biggest Lies About Why Corporate Taxes Should Be Lowered”)
Robert Reich pointed out that:

1) After deductions and tax credits the average corporate tax rate in the U.S. is lower. According to the Congressional Research Service the United States has an effective corporate tax rate of 27.1 percent.

2) Corporations don’t need lower taxes to create jobs- they are sitting on almost $2 trillion in cash.

3) Corporations don’t need a tax break to be globally competitive- the “competitiveness” of American corporations is becoming a meaningless term because most big U.S. corporations are no longer American companies at all. The biggest have been creating way more jobs abroad than in the U.S.

We all remember Warren Buffet’s quote that his company pays a lower tax rate than his Secretary. And we have all heard of the untold billions (trillions?) that corporations are hoarding in tax havens like the Cayman Islands.

If corporations are people, my friend, then they need to step up and start paying their fair share in taxes and raise wages for their workers. The American economy is driven by consumer spending. It can’t move forward when American worker’s incomes are stagnant or declining while 99% of the wealth being generated goes to the !% of the wealthiest among us.

Thank you for fighting the myths with the facts, Don