As President Trump begins his third month in office, Americans may be paying closer attention to the D.C. political circus than ever—and with good reason.
But while the nation watches Washington with bated breath, another series of key battles are quietly playing out in statehouses from Iowa to Maryland—out of the spotlight but with tremendous repercussions for America's workers and working families.
As public support for raising pay for low-wage workers reaches a fever pitch, and as the momentum of worker movements like the Fight for $15 becomes harder and harder to stop, corporate lobbyists have begun resorting to increasingly underhanded maneuvers to keep wages down.
Their go-to move in recent years: pushing bills through state legislatures that "preempt"—essentially prohibit—city and county governments from passing minimum wage laws higher than the state levels—which in many states remain low due to political gridlock.
These preemption bills are a direct response to a massive wave of minimum wage raises, occurring across the country. Many of these increases were won at the local level, where workers and communities have been coming together to demand higher wages. Thanks in large part to the Fight for $15 movement, minimum wage laws passed in recent years mean that 19 million workers are on their way to more than $61 billion in raises.
This rapid success represents democracy at its finest. But with the rising tally of states with preemption bills on the books—21 and counting—the accomplishments of this powerful movement are in serious jeopardy.
Just this week, Iowa's statehouse held a hearing on one such bill, HSB 92, that would lower wages for thousands of Iowa workers by eliminating existing and scheduled minimum wage increases in four of the state's counties. The legislation in Iowa also eliminates long-established local control of a host of other important issues—including the expansion of civil rights protections in the vein of the infamous "transgender bathroom bill" passed in North Carolina last year.