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The Insider Aug. 18

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Lifting wages A broad coalition will put finishing touches this week on the formation of an organization to push a 2006 ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage in Arkansas, now $5.15 an hour. No fixed proposal is set yet, but the increase would likely be a dollar an hour and cover all workers, not just the sliver of the workforce now covered by the state minimum wage law. We learned of the effort from Steve Copley, a North Little Rock Methodist minister and a long-time activist in social justice campaigns. He said the AFL-CIO, the Arkansas Association of Community Action Agencies, the Arkansas Hunger Coalition, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, the NAACP and religious groups, including Methodist, Episcopal, Catholic and Jewish, have been participating in the talks. The minimum wage hasn’t changed in Arkansas or nationally since 1997. A bill to lift it to $5.75 died in committee in the last legislative session and the business lobby can be expected to oppose an increase. Florida voters approved a minimum wage increase last year and Gov. Jeb Bush was unsuccessful in efforts to roll it back. Copley said the coalition hopes to raise $100,000 to get the signatures needed, around 75,000, to put the initiated act on the November 2006 ballot. Why a campaign? The minimum wage is a simple issue, Copley says. “Folks can’t live on the minimum wage now. It’s $10,700 a year. If you buy just $100 worth of groceries a week, that’s $5,200 and even if both folks in a couple are working, that’s a quarter of your income. Figure rent at a mimimum of $300 or $400 a month and that’s just about all your income right there, never mind transportation, insurance, health care, clothing or anything else you might need.” Well connected A long Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article Sunday, Aug. 14, about a dispute between the University of Arkansas and private companies over allegedly improper installation of artificial turf on a football practice field mentioned that one of the companies accused the University’s subcontractor, John David Lindsey, of performing the improper installation. The University, however, is not mad at Lindsey and said he only followed procedures that were given him by the other companies. The article did not mention that Lindsey’s connection with the UA is closer than that of the average subcontractor. His father, James E. Lindsey, is a member of the University’s Board of Trustees. World president This month’s Atlantic has a squib mentioning a three-day meeting Bill Clinton has set in New York beginning Sept. 15 for a variety of world and national leaders, from Tony Blair to Arnold Schwarzenegger. The event is described as part of a campaign to eventually see Clinton installed as secretary-general of the U.N. Heart-to-heart The New England Journal of Medicine reported recently on a Harvard School of Public Health ranking of 40 metropolitan areas on the quality of care provided in three key areas: heart attacks, congestive heart failure and pneumonia. The Little Rock region didn’t do so hot — 36th out of 40 on heart attack treatment and 39th on congestive heart failure.

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