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'The world has changed': The scrambled new politics of the minimum wage – NBC News

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WASHINGTON — Bernie Sanders, Josh Hawley and Amazon don’t often find themselves on the same side of an issue.

But years of stagnant wages that have failed to keep up with living costs and the political realignment spurred by Donald Trump are bringing together more than just Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont; Hawley, the Republican senator from Missouri; and Amazon, one of America’s biggest businesses.

The politics of the minimum wage have been scrambled, dividing the business community and making strange bedfellows out of populists on the right and the left.

Progressives were outraged after the White House acquiesced to a Senate parliamentarian’s ruling that a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour could not be included in the Covid-19 relief bill working through Congress. President Joe Biden has promised to try again.

For the first time in years, Democrats may find a receptive audience from major business interests and some Republicans for raising the minimum wage — although not all the way to $15. Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the titan of Washington business lobbying, says the current $7.25 federal minimum is “outdated.”

March 5, 202106:17

Holly Sklar, who runs a coalition of hundreds of companies that support a $15 minimum wage called Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, said: “This is 2021. So whatever people thought of $15 in 2012, 2013, 2014 or 2015, a lot of time has gone by. It should look different. The world has changed.”

‘What business do they have?’

Corporate America is in the middle of a reset, not just because of the Democratic takeover of Washington, but also because of sweeping changes that businesses say respond to public outcries about race and justice.

What the left sees as a realignment has prompted some conservative backlash.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference, which was once bastion of pro-businesses libertarianism, a panel last month decried the “The Awokening of Corporate America.” But at the same conference, Trump campaign veteran Steve Cortes argued that a $15 minimum wage should be a key pillar of a future Republican platform, along with “border sovereignty” and “toughness in trade.”

Amazon, which raised its starting wage to $15 an hour, is trying to lead the charge, and it is actively lobbying Congress, having taken out full-page ads in The New York Times supporting the Raise the Wage Act. Target and Best Buy have also set their lowest wages at $15 an hour, while Walmart set its minimum at $11 and Costco’s just jumped to $16.

“We’ve seen the positive impact this has had on our employees, their families, and their communities,” Amazon said in a blog post.

Bipartisan backing is growing, although not necessarily for $15.

At least six Republican senators have come out in favor of raising the wage to $10 an hour or more; Hawley proposed a $15-an-hour wage for companies with revenues of more than $1 billion.

“For decades, the wages of everyday, working Americans have remained stagnant while monopoly corporations have consolidated industry after industry, securing record profits for CEOs and investment bankers,” Hawley, a potential presidential candidate who faced heat after he cheered on Trump supporters outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, said in a statement.

Others on the right see Amazon’s move as self-serving. Critics who point to other parts of Washington that are putting pressure on Amazon, some of it over antitrust concerns and the company’s working conditions, argue that the company could use some goodwill points.

And they say that Amazon doesn’t speak for business but rather that is trying to put its competitors out of business by forcing a cost increase that small businesses couldn’t absorb.

“Is it to ingratiate themselves with the new Biden administration? I have to say yes,” said Alfred Ortiz, the CEO of the Job Creators Network, a conservative small-business network founded by Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus. “What business do they have dictating to these small businesses that they should be paying $15 an hour?”

The group recently put up a billboard in Times Square in New York asking: “How does Amazon bulldoze its Main Street competitors without getting dirty?” The answer: “They get Congress to pass a $15 minimum wage.”

Amazon’s move to $15 came only after Sanders introduced a bill in 2018 dubbed the “Stop BEZOS Act,” which would have forced companies like Amazon, founded by Jeff Bezos, to foot the bill for government safety net programs used by employees, like food stamps.

“We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do and decided we want to lead,” Bezos said at the time.

Opponents of raising the minimum wage increasingly point to Amazon to portray their fight as one that pits large businesses against small ones, especially as Amazon’s profits soared while small restaurants and mom-and-pop shops were hammered by the pandemic-induced recession.

“If you’re already paying more than $15, then it’s in your best interest to have your competitors pay more than $15, too,” said Jerry Parrish, the chief economist at the Florida Chamber Foundation, which fought a referendum to raise the state’s minimum wage last year.

‘Strike a deal’

Traditionally, the minimum wage has broken along a simple divide in Washington — business and its Republican allies on one side and labor and its Democratic allies on the other.

But the minimum wage fight is now divided into three camps, none of which neatly conform to expected ideological or business groupings: There are those who support a full $15 minimum wage, those opposed to raising the wage at all and a large group in the middle open to raising the minimum to, say, $10 an hour but not all the way to $15.

The third camp includes centrists in Congress, like Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and the mainstream business lobbies, like the Business Roundtable, which represents some of the world’s most powerful CEOs, and the Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber, with its imposing Beaux Arts headquarters across Lafayette Square from the White House, almost exclusively supported Republicans in congressional elections until a shake-up last year as the C-suite grew weary of Trump’s trade wars and unpredictable governance.

Last year, the chamber backed 23 freshman Democrats — including 18 who voted for a $15 minimum wage — and 29 freshman Republicans, compared to just seven Democrats and 191 Republicans in the previous election cycle.

“We’re open to discussion about raising the minimum wage,” said Glenn Spencer, the chamber’s senior vice president of employment policy. “The question is are there enough Democrats who are willing to strike a deal that will result in a minimum wage increase? Or are progressives going to stick with their politically motivated $15 and wind up with zero?”

March 7, 202105:08

Polls consistently show that a majority of Americans support raising the minimum wage, including a strong contingent of Republicans. A growing number of major cities and states have set their own wage floors at $15.

Florida voters last year overwhelmingly approved the referendum, voting 61 percent to 39 percent to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15, even as they voted for Trump. And Arkansas, a relatively low-income and deeply conservative state, has set its minimum at $11.

Some business groups and Republicans see the writing on the wall and have rushed to get ahead of the issue.

The National Federation of Independent Business has taken a harder rhetorical line against minimum wage increases than the Chamber of Commerce or the Business Roundtable, for instance, although all have emphasized the need to insulate small businesses.

“Small businesses are far less likely than larger businesses to have cash reserves or profit margins to absorb the increase in labor costs,” National Federation of Independent Business Vice President Kevin Kuhlman wrote in a letter to lawmakers last month.

Democrats have been sensitive to that issue, too. When their minimum wage measure was removed from the Covid-19 relief bill, Sanders floated an idea to impose tax penalties on large companies that pay less than $15 an hour and to offer tax incentives for small businesses that pay more.

The plan was abandoned, and a standalone amendment to raise the wage to $15 failed in the Senate on Friday, with eight Democrats voting against.

With Manchin opposed to $15, Democrats may have to try to find a compromise, much to the chagrin of those on the left.

“I think for Democrats to settle for anything less than $15 is political suicide, given the moment,” said Joseph Geevarghese, who used to run the Fight for $15 campaign and is now the executive director of Our Revolution, a progressive activist group aligned with Sanders.

The negotiations could be the first real test of whether business interests are really interested in turning over a new leaf with the new administration. They might need to exert some pressure on Republican senators to get to the necessary 60 votes.

In the meantime, worker activists like Sara Fearrington, a server at a Waffle House in Durham, North Carolina, say they will keep fighting for a higher wage.

“We’re going to keep striking, we’re going to keep organizing, and we’re going to keep coming to the table until we get it,” she said.

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Prince Philip took a keen interest in Canada, but stayed above politics, former GGs and PM say

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When former Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien met the late Prince Philip for the first time, he told him that for an Englishman, his French was very good.

“He said ‘I’m not English and I’ve spoken French since before you were born,’” Chrétien told the Star Friday, commenting on his many encounters over 50 years with the Duke of Edinburgh.

“He was not dull, let me put it that way,” Chrétien said. “He had some strong views. Sometimes he had to show discipline to not speak up more than he would have wished.”

Philip, born in Greece in 1921 and husband to Queen Elizabeth II for over 73 years, died at the age of 99 on Friday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said he first met Philip when he was a little boy, described him as “a man of great purpose and conviction, who was motivated by a sense of duty to others.”

Former prime ministers and governors general spoke of a man who understood his role and knew not to get involved in politics, but who was very knowledgeable about Canada and took a keen interest in the country’s success.

“I was always impressed by their knowledge,” Chrétien said of Philip and the Queen, Canada’s head of state.

He said he can recall Philip asking about the prospect of Quebec separating from the rest of the country. “Not in a very political fashion, just in terms of interest. Of course he was interested to not see Canada break up. He would certainly say that to me.”

 

Statements from former prime ministers Paul Martin and Stephen Harper highlighted Philip’s devotion to the Canadian armed forces and charitable organizations, as well as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, an international self-development program for young people.

Former governors general David Johnston and Michaëlle Jean, through their role as the Queen’s representative in Canada, were also able to get to know Philip more intimately, particularly at the Queen’s Balmoral Castle estate in Scotland.

Jean recalls being “overwhelmed” by all the protocol recommendations ahead of a Balmoral visit with her husband and six-year-old daughter prior to taking office in 2005, only to find Philip and the Queen greeting them at the door, with Philip paying special attention to her daughter.

“The memory I keep of Prince Philip is that of an affable, caring, elegant and warm man,” Jean told the Star, adding he was a man who was very attentive to detail.

She recalled attending a barbecue on the Balmoral estate, just the four of them, and Philip telling her, “Don’t forget to congratulate Her Majesty for her salad dressing, because she made it herself.”

What Jean also saw was a man sometimes hampered by the limitations of his role, like when he talked about one of his favourite topics, the environment.

“He said ‘I do a lot about it, I raise awareness, I take actions…I feel that whatever I do, no one cares,’” Jean recounted. “What I got from that is how lonely he felt…There was a sense of not feeling appreciated in proportion to his contributions, a feeling of being misunderstood.”

Johnston, who succeeded Jean, said Canada’s constitutional monarchy — where the head of state is politically neutral and separate from elected office — is an “important and precious” form of government, and Philip was key to making it work.

Philip showed leadership as a servant, Johnston said, “not taking centre stage, but by ensuring that the Queen and the monarchy were front row and centre.

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“He played such an important structural role, and did that with great diligence and commitment. He was selfless in that respect,” Johnston said in an interview.

For Matthew Rowe, who works on the Royal Family’s charitable endeavours in Canada, the Duke of Edinburgh’s political value to Canada was precisely that he was not political — that he, along with the rest of the monarchy, provided a stabilizing force outside of the partisan fray.

He was dynamic, irascible, exasperating, intriguing. And he was always three steps behind his wife, Queen Elizabeth, who utterly adored him throughout their 73-year marriage, flaws, faux pas and all.

“His presence, and the role of Her Majesty and other members of the Royal Family, has been to be able to represent the nation, to represent Canadian interests, and commemorate Canadian achievements without being tied to a particular political ideology or regional faction,” Rowe, who met Philip at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in 2010, said in an interview.

 

Philip’s role meant he could speak more frankly than the Queen in public, and spoke “quite thoughtfully” about the constitutional monarchy in Canada, said University of Toronto history instructor Carolyn Harris.

At a press conference in Ottawa in 1969, Philip famously said that the monarchy doesn’t exist “in the interests of the monarch…It exists solely in the interest of the people. We don’t come here for our health. We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves.”

Philip had a good, joking relationship with Johnston’s wife, Sharon. He recounted how the two joined the Queen and Prince Philip at Balmoral in August 2010, prior to Johnston’s swearing-in later that year.

One evening, they were returning to the castle from a barbecue at a renovated shepherd’s hut on the estate — just the four of them, the Queen driving with Johnston in one land rover, and Philip driving with Sharon in the other ahead of them on narrow, highland roads.

“We were coming home at about 10 p.m., as black as could be, he and Sharon were ahead, kind of weaving, and we could hear these gales of laughter coming out. They were cracking jokes at one another,” Johnston said.

“I had a vision of him going over the edge and down half a mile into the valley, and my first thought is: Do the Queen and I rustle down to rescue them?”

Chrétien said “it must be terrible” for the Queen to now find herself alone after a marriage that lasted for more than 70 years. He noted it’s been almost seven months to the day since he lost his wife, Aline.

 

“It’s a big change in life but she’s an extremely courageous person and she will face the situation with the strength that she has been able to show to the world for the almost 70 years she’s been queen,” Chrétien said.

With files from Alex Boutilier and Kieran Leavitt

 

 

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After warning, McConnell softens posture on corporations’ taking political stances

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., softened his stance on corporations’ getting involved in politics Wednesday, a day after he warned companies not to weigh in on hot button issues.

“I didn’t say that very artfully yesterday. They’re certainly entitled to be involved in politics. They are,” McConnell told reporters. “My principal complaint is they didn’t read the darn bill.

“They got intimidated into adopting an interpretation … given by the Georgia Democrats in order to help get their way,” he said.

McConnell was referring to a controversial voting law recently passed in Georgia, which came about in the aftermath of former President Donald Trump’s campaign of falsehoods about the election result in the state last fall.

The law led the CEOs of Delta and Coca-Cola — which are based in Atlanta — to condemn the measure. And last week, Major League Baseball pulled this year’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest. The game will, instead, be played in Colorado.

In recent weeks, McConnell has excoriated corporate America for boycotting states over various GOP-led bills. He said Tuesday that it is “stupid” for corporations to take positions on divisive political issues but noted that his criticism did not extend to their donations.

“So my warning, if you will, to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” McConnell said in Louisville, Kentucky. “It’s not what you’re designed for. And don’t be intimidated by the left into taking up causes that put you right in the middle of one of America’s greatest political debates.”

Major League Baseball’s decision drew the most outrage from Republicans, as Trump called for a boycott of baseball and other companies that spoke out against the Georgia law. McConnell said Tuesday that the latest moves are “irritating one hell of a lot of Republican fans.”

McConnell, long a champion of big money in politics, however, noted Tuesday that corporations “have a right to participate in a political process” but said they should do so without alienating “an awful lot of people.”

“I’m not talking about political contributions,” he said. “I’m talking about taking a position on a highly incendiary issue like this and punishing a community or a state because you don’t like a particular law that passed. I just think it’s stupid.”

Source:- NBC News

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Facebook Removes 1,000 Fake Accounts Seeking to Sway Global Politics

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(Bloomberg) — Facebook Inc. said it removed 14 networks representing more than 1,000 accounts seeking to sway politics around the world, including in Iran and El Salvador, while misleading the public about their identity.

Most of the removed networks were in the early stages of building their audiences, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Tuesday. Facebook’s announcement on Tuesday, part of its monthly reporting on efforts to rid its platforms of fake accounts, represents one of the larger crack downs by the company in recent months.

“We have been growing this program for several years,” said David Agranovich, Facebook’s global threat disruption lead. “I would expect to see this drum beat of take downs to continue.”

In one example, the company removed a network of more than 300 accounts, pages and groups on Facebook and the photo-sharing app Instagram that appear to be run by a years-old troll farm located in Albania and operated by the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq opposition group. The group appeared to target Iran, but also other audiences with content about Iran, according to a report released by Facebook.

The group was most active in 2017, but increased its activity again in the latter half of 2020. It was one of a handful of the influence campaigns that likely used machine learning technologies capable of creating realistic profile photos to the naked eye, Facebook said in the report.

The company also removed 118 accounts, eight pages and 10 Instagram accounts based in Spain and El Salvador for violating the company’s foreign interference policy. The group amplified criticism of Henry Flores, a mayoral candidate in Santa Tecla, El Savador and supportive commentary of his rivals, the company said.

The social media giant also took down a network of 29 Facebook accounts, two pages, one group and 10 Instagram accounts based in Iran that was targeting Israel. The people behind the network posed as locals and posted criticism about Isreali prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Facebook. The company also took down networks based in Argentina, Mexico, Egypt and other nations.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, said the company has improved its ability to identify inauthentic accounts, but said bad actors continue to change their strategies to avoid Facebook’s detection.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Source:- BNN

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