House Passes Minimum Wage Increase, Senate Expected to Vote Soon
Under the new leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the 110th Congress voted yesterday to raise the federal minimum wage from $5.15-an-hour to $7.25-an-hour by 2009. All House Democrats and 82 Republicans supported the legislation, which passed 315 to 116. Congresswoman Hilda L. Solis (D-CA) issued a statement on the new legislation, known as the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007, emphasizing the importance of the bill for women and working mothers. "Today, women and minority workers are overrepresented among minimum wage workers. Too many women struggle to make ends meet throughout their working life and retirement," Solis said. "The Fair Minimum Wage Act will give 1.4 million working mothers a pay raise."
Congresswoman Solis also noted the inclusion of workers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) in the legislation. A territory of the United States that has been exempt from US labor and immigration laws, CNMI has a garment industry that is highly dependent on the cheap labor of immigrant women. The Fair Minimum Wage Act will raise the CNMI minimum wage from $3.05-an-hour to the US federal minimum wage by $0.50 increments every six months. Ms. magazine brought the plight of low-wage women workers in CNMI to the attention of readers across the nation in an investigative report, "Paradise Lost."
The Senate must now vote on the legislation, and, if it is approved, it must be signed by President Bush.
Raising the minimum wage was one of Speaker Pelosi's objectives for the first 100 hours of Congress. The current federal minimum wage of $5.15 has not been raised since September 1, 1997, despite the fact that Congress has voted for its own raise seven times in the past nine years. This is the longest stagnant wage since the minimum wage was established in 1938, and, according to the Associated Press, "inflation has eroded the minimum wage�s buying power to the lowest level in about 50 years."
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .