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Wage Watch: Two holdout states consider minimum wage increases

Indiana and Kansas consider upping minimum pay

Democratic state senators in Indiana on Wednesday proposed raising the state’s minimum wage by almost $3 from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. State Senator Karen Tallian, the bill’s sponsor, said the proposal would ensure that people who worked 40 hours per week did not fall below the federal poverty level.

Also this week, a state representative in Kansas proposed a similar raise to that state’s minimum wage. Democrat Jim Ward wants to raise the $7.25 rate by $3 over the next three years, bringing it to $10.25 by 2017.

Both bills will likely face opposition from Republicans, who control both state legislatures.

Indiana and Kansas are among a shrinking number of states whose minimum wages are at or below the federal rate of $7.25. There were 28 last year, but that figure now stands at 21, as South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Hawaii, West Virginia, Maryland, and Arkansas increased their minimum wages last year.

New Mexico governor backs right-to-work legislation

Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico on Thursday committed to pushing for so-called right-to-work legislation during the upcoming legislative session, stating that the change to the state’s labor law was “common sense.”

Right-to-work laws prohibit union membership from being a condition of employment. Instituting a “right to work” law allows workers to benefit from union membership without having to pay for it. This free rider problem is considered a major threat to unions nationwide.

New Mexico’s Democratic party-controlled legislature had shut down recent debates over right-to-work legislation, but the issue has gotten new legs ever since Republicans took control of the state House of Representatives in November. Democrats still control the Senate.

There are currently 24 right-to-work states in the U.S., according to the National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation, which advocates for such policies.

Union and environmentalists battle over floating natural gas pump in the Atlantic

At a public hearing near John F. Kennedy Airport in New York this week, the Port Ambrose Deepwater Port Project—a proposed floating plant in the Atlantic Ocean near New York Harbor that would let tankers offload liquefied natural gas—sparked debate between union members and New York residents.

Donovan Richard, chair of the New York City Council’s environmental protection committee, expressed worries about the safety risks of liquefied natural gas. “LNG vapor is enough to melt at a distance of 1,200 feet,” he said.

Scott Winter, vice president of the Maritime Trades Department at the AFL-CIO, said he supported the project because of the 800 jobs it is projected to create.

The proposed facility will float in the ocean 30 nautical miles from New York Harbor and would have the capacity to move 400 million cubic feet of gas everyday from ships’ hauls to Long Island through buried pipelines.

After the public comment period ends later this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will have the option to veto the project.