While lawmakers pass $12 wage bill, workers prepare to strike for $15

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Sen. Kamala Harris at an SEIU/CAP presidential candidate forum in Las Vegas in April. (Nevada Current file photo)
seiu cap thing
Sen. Kamala Harris at an SEIU/CAP presidential candidate forum in Las Vegas in April. (Nevada Current file photo)

While the Nevada Legislature recently approved raising the minimum wage to $12 by 2024, there is still a push to increase the wage to at least $15 an hour. Fast food workers and unions plan to strike across the country this Friday as part of ongoing efforts to earn a livable wage.

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, who along with most of Nevada’s congressional delegation and virtually every other Democrat running for president, supports federal legislation to raise the wage to $15 by 2024, and plans to join in the Las Vegas strike. Other presidential candidates are expected to attend other rallies across the country, including former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Mayor Pete Buttigieg in South Carolina.

Nevada’s minimum wage is $8.25 if the employer does not provide health benefits, and $7.25 if the employer does.

Despite local activists and unions lobbying for $15 per hour, Nevada lawmakers landed on $12 as a compromise for business owners, who said providing higher wages would hurt smaller companies. Assembly Bill 456, which incrementally increases the wage until 2024, is currently on Gov. Steve Sisolak’s desk waiting for his signature.

Lawmakers also passed Assembly Joint Resolution 10, which would go before voters in 2020 and seeks to amend the state constitution to eliminate the two-tiered wage so that the higher wage would apply to all minimum wage workers.

Low-wage workers, unions and economists fear $12 won’t be enough to help people struggling economically.

During visits to Las Vegas, both U.S. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand and former Vice President Joe Biden said $12 isn’t enough and called for $15 an hour to be the base wage.

SEIU, the union that has been at the front of the push for higher minimum wages, called Nevada’s bill a starting point that wouldn’t have happened without Fight for $15 strikes.

“When fast-food workers walked off the job nearly seven years ago demanding $15 and a union, nobody thought the workers had a chance,” said Grace Vergara-Mactal, executive director of SEIU Nevada Local 1107, in a statement about AB 456. “Now we see that our movement is gaining momentum, and raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour is a step in the right direction that will provide more Nevadans economic relief.”

In addition to fighting for a wage increase, Friday’s strike also is calling to end sexual harassment, strengthen unions and protect workers from violence in the workplace.

Nevada lawmakers also took steps during the session to address workplace violence, though protections specifically focused on nurses and other health care workers.

The legislature passed Assembly Bill 348, which requires certain medical facilities to implement a plan to prevent workplace violence.

Michael Lyle
Michael Lyle (MJ to some) has been a journalist in Las Vegas for eight years.  He started his career at View Neighborhood News, the community edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. During his seven years with the R-J, he won several first place awards from the Nevada Press Association and was named its 2011 Journalist of Merit. He left the paper in 2017 and spent a year as a freelance journalist accumulating bylines anywhere from The Washington Post to Desert Companion. While he covers a range of topics from homelessness to the criminal justice system, he gravitates toward stories about race relations and LGBTQ issues. Born and mostly raised in Las Vegas, Lyle graduated from UNLV with a degree in Journalism and Media Studies. He is currently working on his master's in Communications through an online program at Syracuse University. In his spare time, Lyle cooks through Ina Garten recipes in hopes of one day becoming the successor to the Barefoot Contessa throne. When he isn’t cooking (or eating), he also enjoys reading, running and re-watching episodes of “Parks and Recreation.” He is also in the process of learning kickboxing.

1 COMMENT

  1. What’s better than raising the minimum wage? Reducing rents! Why? Because:
    (1) Nobody says lower rents would force employers to cut staff!
    (2) Nobody says lower rents would feed into higher prices for the poor!
    (3) When you allow for income tax and withdrawal of welfare, a dollar *saved* is worth much more than a dollar *earned* (google “EMTR” and “cliff effect”).
    (4) By definition, the benefit of lower rents isn’t competed away in higher rents — as a rise in wages would be. Landlords might even try claw back the *gross* increase in wages, not allowing for the EMTR.
    (5) Lower rents mean lower barriers to JOB CREATION. Jobs can’t exist unless (a) the employers can afford business accommodation, and (b) the employees can afford housing within reach of their jobs, on wages that employers can pay.

    And how do we reduce rents? Impose rent control? NO!! That makes it less attractive to supply accommodation. But a tax on vacant lots and unoccupied buildings makes it less attractive NOT to! A vacant-property tax of $X/week makes it $X/week more expensive to fail to get a tenant, and thereby REDUCES, by $X/week, the minimum rent that will persuade the owner to accept a tenant. Better still, the economic activity driven by *avoidance* of that tax would broaden the bases of other taxes, allowing their rates to be reduced, so that the rest of us would pay LESS tax!

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