New Interactive Map Tracks Labor Law Preemption Nationwide

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New Interactive Map Tracks Labor Law Preemption Nationwide

WASHINGTON - Since 2010, Republican-controlled state legislatures have increasingly used preemption laws to strike down local government efforts to improve the working conditions of their residents. EPI’s new interactive map tracks the rise of preemption in five key areas of labor and employment: minimum wage, paid leave, fair work schedules, prevailing wages, and project labor agreements. The map, which will be updated as laws change, features information about each state’s labor and employment preemption laws, including when the laws were implemented and what they entail, and paints a picture of the rise of anti-worker preemption laws across the country.

“With inaction at the federal and state level, working people have increasingly relied on local government to raise labor standards. Now, those protections are being stripped away, by mostly conservative state legislators, through the widespread use of preemption laws,” said EPI Associate Labor Counsel Marni von Wilpert. “This map will be a powerful tool for working people to find out how state legislators are pushing labor standards down, so that they can hold them accountable for their actions.”

EPI recently released a paper explaining the rise of preemption laws across the country. Recent examples include:

  • In 2011, the Wisconsin legislature passed a preemption law to nullify Milwaukee’s paid sick leave ordinance—even though Milwaukee voters had approved the ordinance in a 2008 ballot initiative with 69 percent support.
  • In 2015, the Birmingham City Council raised the city’s minimum wage to $8.50 effective July 2016 and to $10.10 effective July 2017. But the Alabama state legislature quickly passed a minimum wage preemption law, reversing Birmingham’s ordinance and ensuring the city’s minimum wage would remain stuck at $7.25.
  • On August 28, 2017, the Missouri state legislature enacted a preemption law that actually lowered the minimum wage in St. Louis, from the city’s minimum wage of $10 to back down to the statewide minimum wage of $7.70 an hour—undercutting the raises of the approximately 31,000 workers who benefited from the city’s minimum wage increase to $10 per hour.

“America’s workers need better jobs and stronger labor standards,” said von Wilpert. “Local governments are raising the bar on labor standards to include higher wages and the ability to earn paid leave to recover from illness or care for family members. Once communities organize for these improvements, they should not be stripped away by state legislators, most of whom are far removed from the communities these preemption laws affect.”

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The Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit Washington D.C. think tank, was created in 1986 to broaden the discussion about economic policy to include the interests of low- and middle-income workers. Today, with global competition expanding, wage inequality rising, and the methods and nature of work changing in fundamental ways, it is as crucial as ever that people who work for a living have a voice in the economic discourse.

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