Monday, August 15, 2005

Monday pay-hike chat

  • An opinion piece in today's Inquirer, written by a Pennsylvania legislator, complains that the coverage has overblown this issue and portrayed it unfairly. He makes several good points, including that the raise was part of a complicated budget negotiation in which many other good things were achieved, that much legislation is finalized in the wee hours of the day (and thus that this was hardly an attempt to sneak a pay-raise through in dark of night), and that the pay raise received plenty of discussion beforehand. He ends the piece thusly:
    Despite all the hard political lessons I've learned in my life, I'm still naïve enough to hope that someday the news media will become as obsessed with, say, people living in poverty or the flaws in our criminal justice system as they are with legislative salaries.
    Fair enough point -- I can hardly disagree.

  • Despite the above, the public continues to feel hard-done-by, as evidenced by the brief letter at the bottom here, which cites some old aphorisms in its condemnation of governmental greed.

  • Finally, John Baer chips in some more, this time appealing to the political self-preservation instincts of the Republican leadership to repeal the current-year portion of the raises in response to the rising consciousness of the outraged public.


Blogger Dumplingeater said...

Ok, I'm beating a dead horse; I heard last night, from someone who attended a minimum wage coalition meeting, that there are clear indications that the coalition is concerned about the linkage between the wage hikes and the minimum wage efforts. This is reflected in the fact that they are worried about having their rally in Harrisburg the same day as NN delivers petitions -- for fear that the minimum wage issue will get overshadowed by wage hike outrage.

While you have made good points about the benefits of linking the issues, isn't it concerning that an organization specifically focused on the minimum wage, (in addition to the two Philadelphia area legislators most active in initiatives to further that cause) feels the issues shouldn't be linked?

10:04 AM  
Blogger ACM said...

Gee, wouldn't it be great if you were part of the NN Steering Committee and having near-daily discussion of this issue, so that you could know how it was considered? Oh wait...

Tons of discussion, with Mark Cohen (a concerned minimum wage proponent) and internally, about this and other aspects of the strategy, as well as reality-checking with other legislators and people who have a sense of the positive and negative effects that this particular approach may have on its intended goals. And discussion of both those political consideration and of the principles at stake (short-term and long-term). Of course no conclusive answers, but very much attuned to the concern, and deciding to proceed anyway for a host of reasons. Apologies that I'm not willing to regurgitate it all again here.

We consider the minimum wage coalition key allies, and will probably deliver our petition on a separate day from their rally, both not to distract and also to get double coverage for the issue (and for us the linkage is only about atonement, not about repeal). But again, not going to try to keep you abreast of all the discussions and considerations here. Just have faith that the campaign is not being pursued blindly, and that we will attempt to keep our radar up during this and any future such undertakings, in hopes of being aware of both positive and negative fall-out. Noisy folks always ruffle feathers, but one hopes to keep the damage to a minimum among allies.


10:19 AM  
Blogger Dumplingeater said...

It's good to hear that a multi-faceted discussion is taking place. I could have assumed that (I can only imagine how many e-mails your getting), but didn't have any way of knowing for sure. I've mostly only been getting my information via the press and periodic contact with my Ward Coordinator, and I missed the petition e-mail that I assume laid out arguments on both sides of the issue.

And along those lines, if at some point it becomes logistically feasible, it would be nice if there could be some kind of summary of SC discussions/decisions e-mailed, posted on the website, or made available by other means. Obviously, your blog isn't the appropriate vehicle for NN to disseminate information, but isn't important that members have a window into the workings of the SC?

Probably many ward coordinators are informing members of the discussions afoot, and feeling-out the larger membership to gain a measure of general opinion, but that could be a hit-or-miss process for a lot of people for a variety of reasons (packed meeting agendas, people missing meetings, etc.).

Secondly, it seems to me that such a facility could link to insuring that NN functions in a bottom-up fashion. I know that "computer-systems" is a big topic under discussion, but is there any vehicle in the meantime for expressing opinions on various issues under discussion, aside from the multi-step process of SC to Ward Leader to Division Leader to Member to Division Leader to Ward Leader to Steering Committee?

10:48 AM  
Blogger ACM said...

hmm, interesting.
well, there was once discussion about making SC meetings open, or I could certainly see posting some kind of abbreviated minutes, but a lot of discussion takes place via email as well, which could get tough to keep updated. those are often the time-pressed ones (which included strategic considerations); plus, they may involve consideration of specific players, strategic goals, or other things that wouldn't be appropriate to make public in an unfiltered way, so it would be a tricky consideration.

anyway, before I forget, there's a discussion board that was established quite early in NN's history, but that hasn't gotten much use in the last month, but which could serve as a way to be sure that discussions can be had, independent of individual WC activism, etc. -- it's at
otherwise, I think that the main conduit of information in both directions is the Ward Coordinator (who can be a resource for anybody in that area), or you can send a direct email on any urgent topic via the contact address on the website. so even though strategic planning is centralized, the "top" isn't closed to ongoing input...

geez, get back to work, man!

11:05 AM  
Blogger Rep. Mark B. Cohen said...

Thank you for coverage of the strategic implications of the linkage between the legislative pay raise and minimum wage issues.

As is noted above, it is my belief that the linkage is totally counterproductive to actually getting a minimum wage bill passed.
That is because we cannot afford to have any significant number of Democratic pay raise opponents yield to the fevered entreaties of corporate lobbyists and be "consistent" by opposing a minimum wage increase.

Nor can we afford to have Republican pay raise supporters--who tend to be the most likely Republicans to support a minimum wage increase--yield to corporate lobbyists and "payback" minimum wage supporters for intervening on the side of the Republican radical right, which is providing the vast majority of the troops and money in the anti-legislative pay raise fight, because of their strong opposition to a full-time legislature.

Often, the best politics is just to be who you really are. This is one of those times. Those who really favor a minimum wage increase should push that--and only that. Those who believe that unvouchered legislative expenses represent one of the great outrages of all time should push that--and only that.

Linking these two issues together links committed progessives with the radical right, which is a far greater threat, and far more personal threat, to individual Republican legislators than we are.

The minimum wage can stand on its own. Various amounts of increase have the support of from 65% to 86% of Pennsylvania voters. Legislators of both parties know that their constituents favor it.

Raising the minimum wage is much more about social justice than it is about politics. Reducing it to a political football to be piggy backed onto a right-wing movement (over the vociferous objection of the right wing anti-pay raise crowd)enormously increases the amount of potential legislative opposition without any corresponding gain in legislative votes.

And I really doubt that are vast number of Democratic primary votes for any contest in which it is a positive to be linked with Richard Mellon Scaife, the Libertarian Party, the American Spectator, the Young Conservatives of Pennsylvania, Human Events, the American Enterprise Institute, the Commonwealth Foundation, and other members of the vast right-wing army mobilizing against the idea of a full-time legislature.

6:37 AM  
Blogger Rep. Mark B. Cohen said...

One final thought on the linkage issue. Some say that people are more motivated to get signatures by the linkage, and therefore the linkage is required.

Let me be as clear as possible on this. Any signatures to raise the minimum wage--and taking no position on any other issue--HELPS the cause of raising the minimum wage. The more signatures are obtained, the greater the help given.

Any signatures to raise the minimum wage and oppose the legislative unvouchered expenses HURTS the cause raising the minimum wage. The more signatures obtained, the more the cause of raising the minimum wage is impeded.

It is never easy to fight concentrated corporate power, and I deeply wish people would not be setting up complex and totally unnecessary obstacles for us. I really see no legitimate reason for those who profess concern about the legislative unvouchered expenses to drag the minimum wage into their fight over the deeply held objections of those who are the most committed and the most knowledgeable on the minimum wage issue.

6:56 AM  
Blogger ACM said...

Mark, as ever, I value your insight and experience. However, you seem to be the only state legislator (of a sampling of a dozen) who actually thinks that any Democratic allies will be lost because of this tactic. Most seem sympathetic to the strategic realities, and no less in favor of the minimum wage hike because of the flak that they're taking state-wide. For that matter, it's clear from my experience with the petition that this isn't linkage that we're having to feed to ordinary people; they've already made it themselves.

As for the Republicans, most hard-core foes won't be moved by any approach. However, hearing Perzel say something like "of course I support a raise" when confronted on his doorstep, even if he only means a raise to $6.15 instead of $7.15, makes me think that all the pressure is having a nonzero positive effect.

I understand that you've been working on/for this bill for a long time, and that you worry about a group of upstarts coming along and making your job harder. However, I honestly think we're rowing in the same direction, even if we disagree on the tools and the speed. Only time will tell -- here's hoping!

10:24 AM  

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