Minimum wage and trust issues

Updated: Thursday, June 5, 2014
Minimum wage and trust issues story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - There were congratulations all around last week when the Michigan Senate, in an astonishing display of speed and bi-partisanship, passed a new minimum wage law.

Under the law, the minimum wage in Michigan will rise from the $7.40 it is now to $9.25 over the next four years.

Tonight in Tom’s Corner, Tom Van Howe says--all the celebrating aside--as the old saying goes, there are two things you really don’t want to see being made: sausage and legislation.

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Excuse me for not joining the victory dance.

Its not so much that I don’t trust lawmakers--and I don’t.

It’s because I know this law is another example of how our lawmakers don’t trust you and me.

Most of you know what happened. But let me briefly explain anyway:

Our people in Washington were talking about a minimum wage hike--but with a million lobbyists saying it was better to keep people in poverty, that effort landed with a thud.

So, in Michigan, a grassroots petition drive began to amend the law to raise the minimum wage to $10.10.

There were some problems with it. Waiters and waitresses were included and that would have been a problem with our system of tipping for service.

But, nonetheless, it largely echoed what 70 percent of us thought anyway: it was time for a wage hike.

The petitions were signed by 320,000 people, and it seemed certain that the question would make it’s way to the November ballot where passage would be virtually assured.

But our Republican lawmakers were bothered by this. Not only would the law enrage some business owners and some wealthy backers, having an issue on the ballot that might rally Democratic voters just can’t be a good idea.

Its messy. Things might get out of hand.

So up jumps Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville--Republicans have a majority in both houses so it ought not be necessary to point out Richardville is a Republican--with an idea.

No sense in risking anything with another pesky voter-driven effort; let's repeal the minimum wage law and replace it with a new one that falls short of what the voters might approve of. That way the petition, which seeks to amend the wage law, would be irrelevant, null and void, as cold and tasteless as a week old cup of coffee. You can’t amend a law that has been repealed.

And you know how long it took to get all that done? And did I mention that Democrats joined in, to make the repeal and replacement a bipartisan effort?

It took one day. I mean, there had to have been some groundwork that took a few hours, but when push came to shove--one day!

Remarkable what can be accomplished when you don’t trust voters and have to move fast.

Now the petition people are upset and say they may take their case to court...and I hope they do.

We’ll have to wait and see.

Republicans, meantime, are claiming victory. So are Democrats. So is the Governor who signed it into law almost immediately.

And that’s all fine. The only people left out in the cold are the people who pushed the envelope with a petition drive in the first place.

They get part of what they wanted, but their victory is about as exciting as twin beds.

Politicians here, there, and everywhere urge us to trust them. And then spend millions, even billions of dollars to convince us to vote for them.

It can only mean they don’t trust us, left to our own devices, to do the right thing.

In this corner...I’m Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on August 22, 2014 17:58 GMT

YELLEN

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen says the Great Recession complicated the Fed's ability to assess the U.S. job market and made it harder to determine when to adjust interest rates.

Yellen's remarks to an annual Fed conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, offer no signal that she's altered her view that the economy still needs Fed support from ultra-low interest rates. The timing of a Fed rate increase remains unclear.

She notes that while the unemployment rate has steadily declined, other gauges of the job market are harder to assess and may reflect continued weakness. These include high levels of people who have been unemployed for more than six months, many people working part time who would like full-time jobs and weak pay growth.

OBAMA-CONTRACEPTION

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration will offer a new accommodation to religious nonprofits that object to covering birth control for their employees. The measure allows those groups to notify the government, rather than their insurance company, that birth control violates their religious beliefs.

The government is also extending an existing accommodation to some for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby that's currently available only to nonprofits. That accommodation requires groups to sign a form transferring responsibility for paying for birth control to their insurers or third-party administrators.

The dual decisions embrace suggestions included in recent Supreme Court rulings. But they're unlikely to go far enough to satisfy religious groups. That's because they would still make the groups complicit in a system that provides birth control through their organizations' health plans.

FITNESS DATA

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- The maker of a popular line of wearable fitness-tracking devices says it has never sold personal data to advertisers, contrary to concerns raised by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.

San Francisco-based Fitbit said Friday that it has clarified its privacy policy to make it clear the company doesn't share information about its users.

Schumer raised concerns about the company's privacy policy earlier this month and called for federal rules to allow consumers to protect their data.

But the company said Friday that it's never sold private data and updated its online privacy policy to make that clear.

Schumer said Friday he hopes other manufacturers of wearable devices adopt similarly transparent rules.

Many Americans wear fitness bracelets and monitors or use mobile apps to monitor their activity.

MCDONALD'S-PRESIDENT

NEW YORK (AP) -- McDonald's has named a new president for its flagship U.S. division, marking the second change in less than two years.

The world's biggest hamburger chain says former McDonald's executive Mike Andres will replace Jeff Stratton, who is retiring, effective Oct. 15.

Stratton, 58, took over in late 2012 and replaced Jan Fields. That shakeup was made after McDonald's Corp. reported its first monthly sales drop in nearly a decade. Sales in the U.S. have remained weak ever since, with the company facing intensifying competition and changing eating habits.

McDonald's has said it's working on fixing basics, such as the speed of service and order accuracy.

Andres, 56, will report directly to CEO Don Thompson. Andres was most recently CEO of Logan's Roadhouse Inc.

DEERE-LAYOFFS

MOLINE, Ill. (AP) -- Agricultural equipment maker Deere is laying off about 460 employees indefinitely from an Iowa tractor factory as it continues to adjust to market demand.

The Moline, Illinois, company said Friday the latest round of layoffs will be effective October 20. Deere said last week that it would lay off more than 600 employees at four Midwest factories that make harvesting and other agricultural equipment due to slumping demand.

Deere & Co. is the world's biggest farm equipment supplier and employs about 67,000 people globally.

It said earlier this month that it planned to reduce agricultural equipment production for the remainder of the year.

Company shares are down 63 cents to $85.58 in early trading.

KRAFT-KEURIG

NEW YORK (AP) -- Keurig Green Mountain says it struck a deal to make Kraft's branded coffees, such as Maxwell House and Gevalia, for its single-serve brewing systems in the U.S.

The companies did not disclose financial terms of the deal.

Keurig, based in Waterbury, Vermont, makes at-home brewing machines that let people make cups of coffee one serving at a time. The company is also working on a machine that would let people make cold, carbonated drinks at home, and has partnered with Coca-Cola to let people make various Coke drinks at home.

Kraft had also announced a deal to distribute packaged McDonald's coffee to supermarkets and other retailers. That deal will mean people will also be able to make McCafe drinks with Keurig machines.

Shares of Keurig rose 9 percent to $127.79.

DYNEGY-ACQUISITION

Dynegy to spend $6.25B on power plant acquisitions

Dynegy plans to spend more than $6 billion to buy several coal and gas power generation plants from Duke Energy and Energy Capital Partners.

The Houston company says the deal will boost its presence in the Midwest and New England. Dynegy produces power that it sells through wholesale markets.

The company plans to spend $2.8 billion for Duke's assets and $3.45 billion for those of Energy Capital Partners, or ECP. It says the deal will add about 12,500 megawatts of coal and gas generation. Dynegy also expects the acquisitions to complement its existing business and add fuel diversification.

Dynegy Inc. says both deals should close by the end of next year's first quarter.

Shares of Dynegy are climbing in premarket trading.

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