Saturday, January 27, 2007

Sen. Kennedy shows outrage on minimum wage

It's been 10 years since the federal minimum wage was raised to $5.15 per hour. The House Democrats made raising the federal minimum wage one of their top priorities during the recent "first hundred hours" push. It passed.

As the measure moved over to the Senate, Sen. Edward Kennedy, the longtime Massachusetts Democrat, pushed hard for its passage. Yet, the bill has faced numerous amendments and offers of tax breaks for small businesses, making the passage difficult. The situation has frustrated Democrats, to say the least. And to say Kennedy was upset is an understatement. He went to the Senate floor Thursday evening and raged about the situation -- raged. He gave a red-faced and fiery speech that should be electrifying to everyone.

Kennedy's outrage should be echoed by every decent person in a position to help America's wage workers. Despite the fact that many states have minimum wages higher than the federal minimum, that we allow employers to pay someone $5.15 for an hour's work is shameful. Washington state's minimum is now $7.93, the nation's highest, and there has been little evidence of the higher wage slowing the state's economy.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Inspirational day in Olympia

It was a chilly morning in Olympia, Wash., today when dozens of journalists, school teachers, interest parties and students attended an 8 a.m. hearing of the state House Judiciary Committee regarding HB 1307, the free student press bill. Staff had to open the overflow area of the hearing room to accommodate the crowd, which included teachers and students from several Washington state schools. I estimated about 40 high school students in addition to several dozen educators, college and university students, professional journalists and others. This hearing preceded one for the proposed reporter shield law.

The bill info is available here. An audio file of the hearing is available from the TV Washington Web site.

I was among the first four citizens to speak in favor of the bill, and I sat next to Ken Bunting, associate publisher of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, who was an articulate and reasoned voice on behalf of the student press. In Friday morning's P-I, Bunting laid out the case expertly.

My testimony is about 15 minutes into the audio, in case you just wanted to listen to me. Others were more compelling, but I had been designated because supporters knew I would be present and could have something reasonably helpful to contribute.

Three other Washington advisers testified. Students from at least five schools testified, sharing their experiences and passion for journalism. The hearing continued for almost 90 minutes, far longer than we expected. The chair was very accommodating and so enthusiastic about the students present. In fact, the hearing itself was an affirmation for student empowerment. One adult speaker even deferred his time because he said he found the student voices so compelling.

It is January, a time in Washington state usually known for thick clouds and gray days. But as we left the state capital today, the sun was shining. It was an inspirational day, one where the best of scholastic journalism shone bright, too.

I'll keep posting on the progress of this important legislation.

One highlight for me personally was the fact that my suit fits me again. I was a bit nervous when I tried it on a few days ago and it was, well, snug around the waist. Thankfully I think that was just the effects of a huge dinner, and I had no problems at all for Friday's suit-wearing. I looked darn good if I say so myself.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Let's give this another go

I had a chance this weekend while driving on a trip to Western Washington, to think a little, and I decided I would give the blog another look. I had gotten to the point where I was writing the posts less for me as an outlet than I was trying to post things I thought would interest others or attract traffic. I have not posted for a while because I have simply not been motivated to do so. I sure have had plenty of things to write about and thoughts rolling around inside my head.

So I will try to make at least a post weekly and see how it goes. I have a couple things to share today, and more things coming in the next few days.

-- Wenatchee, Washh.