Houston minimum wage

Working Poor Left Behind In Houston’s Booming Economy

If you listen to conversations across the US, there seems to be one city at the forefront of the news lately… everyone is talking about Houston.  With massive construction projects sprouting up in every direction and a flood of “Newstonians”– yes we had to come up with a term for them– moving to the area daily, it’s easy to see why the Bayou City is getting increased national attention.

But the good times aren’t being had by all in Houston.  As Lomi Kriel of the Houston Chronicle points out, the city’s working poor are seeing a very different side to the economic prosperity…

As a full-time cleaner at the George R. Brown convention center for the past six years, Ana Franco has no benefits, sick pay or vacation, and has seen her salary grow only 18 cents to $8.85 an hour.

“The money isn’t enough,” the 40-year-old mother of three said. “Everything is very expensive. Food, clothes, and the rent rises almost every month.”

Despite the region’s booming economy and lowest unemployment in years, many Houstonians are, like Franco, essentially earning the same as they were a year after the Great Recession ended, what experts say is part of a nationwide trend of growing income disparity, according to new U.S. Census data released Thursday.

[...]

Experts say the data shows the unevenness of the nation’s recovery from the recession. Since it ended more than five years ago, many of the gains in employment, income and wealth haven’t spread throughout the economy. A report last month by Sentier Research, a company led by former Census officials, found the median U.S. household income in June was actually $1,698 less than when the expansion began in June 2009.

“The recovery has certainly been very poorly balanced. We’ve known this now for a couple of years,” said Barton Smith, professor emeritus of economics at the University of Houston. “The upper-income levels has gained mostly at the sacrifice of little or no gains, or even losses, in lower and middle incomes.”

Those disparities between upper and lower-income earners are being felt quite severely in Houston.  As Ms. Franco points out, renters have seen dramatic increases in just a few short years thanks to exploding property taxes.  But if your income is not going up to meet the rising rent, it means that you have less money to live on at the end of the month.

The other issue that has a direct affect on wages in Texas?  The prevalence of low or no-benefits jobs.  Even if a low-wage worker can make enough to pay the bills from month to month, what are supposed to do when they get sick??  Don’t forget that half of all working Texans were uninsured as of 2013, and considering that the state has refused to Expand Medicaid, those numbers have not improved nearly as much as they could when compared to other states.

But thankfully in 2014, the working poor of Greater Houston have a real choice in the upcoming state elections.  In the races for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, both Democratic candidates Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte support raising the minimum wage for the state of Texas, while their Republican opponents Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick remain staunchly opposed. Houstonians have the power to vote for higher wages this November.  If enough people show up at the polls, Houston and Texas won’t have to settle for being left behind anymore.

 

(photo credit:  SEIU Texas

Texas Governor's Debate

Where To Watch The First Texas Gubernatorial Debate

Not seen since 2006 in Texas!!  

Tomorrow night, September 19th at 6pm, State Senator Wendy Davis will face off against Attorney General Greg Abbott in the state’s first General Election debate in 8 years.  This is one to watch if you can.  Courtesy of the Davis campaign, here’s a list of channels across the state where you can catch the debate…

 

  • Websites with live streaming

    • WendyDavisTexas.com/debate
    • TheMonitor.com
    • TexasTribune.org
    • Telemundo40.com
    • TelemundoSanAntonio.com
    • TelemundoDallas.com
    • TelemundoHouston.com
    • ValleyCentral.com
  • Abilene

    • KRBC – NBC Channel 9
  • Amarillo

    • KVII – ABC Channel 7
  • Austin

    • KEYE – CBS Channel 42
  • Beaumont

    • KFDM – CBS Channel 6
    • KBTX – CBS Channel 3
  • Bryan-College Station

    • KRHD – ABC Channel 40
  • Corpus Christi

    • CW – Channel 23
    • Telemundo (KAJA) – Channel 68
  • Dallas/Fort Worth

    • COZI – Channel 188
    • KERA – PBS Channel 13
    • Telemundo
  • El Paso

    • KFOX – FOX Channel 14
  • Harlingen

    • KGB – CBS Action 4
  • Houston

    • KTRK – ABC Channel 13
    • KPRC – Channel 2
    • Telemundo – Channel 47
  • Laredo

    • KXOF – FOX Channel 39
  • Lubbock

    • FOX 34 – FOX Channel 34
  • Midland

    • KMID – ABC Channel 2
  • Rio Grande Valley

    • Telemundo (KTLM) – Channel 40
    • KURV Radio – AM 710
  • San Angelo

    • KSAN – NBC Channel 3
    • KLST – CBS Channel 8
  • San Antonio

    • WOAI – NBC News Channel 4
    • KABB – FOX Channel 29
    • Telemundo (KVDA) – Channel 60
    • KTSA radio – AM 550
    • ESPN radio – AM 1250
    • JACK radio – 102.7 FM
    • KTFM – 94.1 FM
  • Tyler

    • KLTV – ABC Channel 7
  • Victoria

    • KAVU – Channel 25
  • Waco

    • KXXV – ABC Channel 25
  • Wichita Falls

    • KJTL – FOX Channel 18

    • KFDX – Channel 3

 

Viewers nationwide can also catch the action on C-SPAN and NPR radio (with a 1 hour delay).  Win or lose this November, the fact that this debate is even happening is a testament to the growing power of Democrats in Texas.

If available, the full debate will also be posted on Texas Leftist in a future post.  Hope you can catch it tomorrow!!

Medicaid Expansion TX

The One Issue Texas Democrats Must Raise This Fall… Now

Regardless of one’s political ideology, all campaigns start to look much the same this time of year as they become obsessed with one thing and one thing only…

TIME.

Everything boils down to time. Can the front-runners run out the clock? Can the under dogs meet and persuade as many voters as it takes to win?? Each hour that slips by is one hour closer to E-Day. No matter how much cash a particular candidate can rack up, the one thing they cannot do is buy more time.

For a certain political party in the the lowest-voting state in the country, there for sure are not enough hours in the day. Not only are Texas Democrats saddled with the immense burden of voter turnout, they also need to stage an historic re-education campaign of Texas voters, who have long been disengaged by vigorous suppressive tactics from the TEApublican oligarchy. For even the best and brightest, this work is a mighty tall order.

But it is still very possible. Some of the ingredients needed to pull off such an upset are already in place… Bright Democratic stars like Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte, a GOTV apparatus larger than any ever before in Texas, and a dedicated, enthusiastic base of support. The well-informed and party faithful will be at the polls in full force this November.

The last ingredient Democrats are still missing? Low turnout, low information voters. Most of the time, these voters are politically disengaged and lower-income. They are people that, by necessity, do not have the “luxury” of engaging in the day-to-day political squabbles.  When you are living paycheck to paycheck, who said what in someone else’s business deal is not gonna impact your life.

The big secret here folks? There is one issue that can reach the Silent Majority better than any other… Medicaid Expansion. Those same low-income, low-information voters are also the people that know the agony of being unable to see a doctor when they are sick or battling a serious ailment. After putting off a bevy of issues, they then know the fear of being forced to go to the Emergency Room from something that could’ve been prevented. They know loved ones and friends who may be around today had they had insurance. If enough of Texans know that a vote for Democrats this fall could be what gives them life-saving health insurance, there’s no question how they will vote.

Stating the position on a couple of websites, though apreciated, is not enough. It’s time to put ads on the air that are crystal clear about where Democrats stand on Medicaid Expansion. Do press conferences on that single issue… Talk to families whose lives could be vastly improved with access to healthcare. Make it a major issue against the Texas GOP the same way Davis and Van de Putte have done with Education.

The chorus of those who favor Expansion is growing, and growing fast.  Take this recent editorial from the Beaumont Enterprise

 

Republicans don’t like Obamacare. We get that – and the law is not perfect. But it has been upheld by the Supreme Court and is in effect. In fact, it will be unless or until Republicans retake Congress and the presidency – which is a tall order. So every year that Republicans refuse to accept expanded Medicaid in Texas under Obamacare is another year they leave money on the table – lots of it, as in $100 billion in federal funds from 2014 to 2023.

It’s time for a rational compromise. When the Legislature convenes in January, Republican members and top elected statewide officials should accept Medicaid expansion at least on a temporary basis. If Obamacare is repealed at the national level after the 2016 elections, the issue becomes moot. But as long as Obamacare remains in effect – and again, that might be a long time – Texas would be eligible for those many billions of dollars to help provide health care to low-income residents who don’t have it.

This is hardly a radical idea. Republican governors in other states like New Jersey, Arizona, Ohio and Florida have done the same math and decided that the rational thing to do would be to accept Medicaid expansion whether they like Obamacare or not (and they don’t).

 

The same can be said of the Texas Organizing Project, who have made Medicaid Expansion a central focus of their efforts during the Fall election cycle.  Here’s more on that from Alexa Ura of the Texas Tribune

 

The conversation was familiar for Ornelas, who goes door to door to talk to residents as part of efforts by the Texas Organizing Project to increase voter participation among minorities. The group’s field organizing team often meets minority voters who list health care as a top concern, and it is looking to leverage that issue to get more Hispanic voters to the polls in November.

Since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2009, Republican leaders in Texas have opposed expanding Medicaid to cover poor, uninsured adults, saying the system is broken and should be overhauled before it is expanded. The issue of Medicaid expansion resonates strongly with Hispanics, who make up a large portion of the state’s uninsured population.

In Harris, Dallas and Bexar counties — three of the state’s most populous counties — The Texas Organizing Project is working to use Hispanic support of affordable health care to spur a movement that could change the state’s electoral tide.

The group’s leaders said they believe their efforts, which include 200 canvassers and phone bankers, will be successful because the individuals they are working with are receptive to candidates who support the federal health law regardless of political affiliation.

“These aren’t people who are worried about turning Texas blue,” said Ginny Goldman, executive director of the Texas Organizing Project, which has endorsed Democratic candidates who are supportive of the health care law. “Not only will we support Republicans who are on our side of the issues, but we’ll take on Democrats who are not.”

As TOP knows, time is of the essence. The last day to register to vote is October 6th. Knowing where political leaders stand on Medicaid Expansion may be just the issue to take many people off of the fence, and over to the ballot box.

While it’s important to recognize the lone Republican voices out there like Harris County Judge Ed Emmett who supports Medicaid Expansion, this is still an issue being led by Democrats, at least for the foreseeable future.  The vast majority of Texas Republicans, despite mounting evidence showing that the state is running out of options, remain staunchly opposed to helping Texas families.  In 2014, their only hope to have healthcare options lies with Wendy Davis, Leticia Van de Putte and their supporters.  The ticking louder by the hour to E-Day.  Let’s hope Texas Democrats go big on healthcare before it’s too late.

houston-as-we-build

Texoblogosphere: Week of September 15th

The Texas Progressive Alliance doesn’t need Congressional approval to bring you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff looked at the Wendy Davis internal poll and the thought process behind it.

Harold Cook demonstrates the dangers of posting in ignorance to official Facebook pages.

Libby Shaw now writing at Daily Kos hopes the smart sector of Texas wins over the willfully stupid. The battle over text books rages on. An Educated, Diverse and Tolerant TX vs. the Far Right and the Willfully Stupid.

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson — born and raised in Palestine, Texas and now living in The Woodlands — found himself outside his community’s standards for child discipline (as determined by a Montgomery County grand jury). It was another black eye — bad pun intended — for the NFL. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs sarcastically wondered why fans of a violent game played by men with violent tendencies in a country that worships violence would have a problem with a four-year-old boy getting whooped with a switch.

Republican racism has its price. Too bad that the Rio Grande Valley is having to pay it. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants you to know that Perry’s deployment of the Texas National Guard is not just a racist stunt to boast Perry’s batshit crazy bonafides.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. If we aren’t getting the government we want, we still must vote. As Bad As Things Might Seem, Not Voting Only Makes It Worse.

Neil at Blog About Our Failing Money Owned American Political System posted about the strong race run by Zephyr Teachout against corrupt business-as-usual Governor Andrew Cuomo in the New York State Democratic Primary. BAOFMOAPS is one of a number of worthy pages to view at NeilAquino.com.

=================

And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

The Texas Election Law Blog expresses its outrage at the “Greg Abbott crushes Houston Votes” story.

Grits for Breakfast explores the criminal justice implications of driverless cars.

Hair Balls observes that the demographics of Houston’s suburbs and the police departments of Houston’s suburbs are not alike.

Unfair Park thinks it may have found the greatest Rick Perry photo of all time.

The TSTA blog has a beef with Todd Staples over Meatless Mondays.

Keep Austin Wonky sees little parallel between the rail proposition on Austin’s ballot and Houston’s existing light rail lines.

Texas Clean Air Matters explains Elon Musk’s love-hate relationship with our state.

Nancy Sims is talking about domestic violence and what we need to do about it.

Nonsequiteuse has three ways to help Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte even if you don’t live in Texas.

The Lunch Tray has a problem with how “bake sales” are used to undermine efforts to improve the nutrition of food offered in schools.

Whitmire

TLCQ 2014: John Whitmire

In the Fifth installment of the 2014 Texas Leftist Candidate Questionnaire, we hear from Senator John Whitmire, incumbent of the Texas State Senate, District 15.  He is a Democrat, running for reelection.

 

TL:  What is your name, as it will appear on the ballot? 

JW:  John Whitmire

TL:  Are you a current or former elected official? If so what office(s)? 

JW:  State Representative 1973-1983; State Senator 1983-present

TL:  As a political candidate, you clearly care about what happens in certain levels of government. In your own words, why is government important? 

JW:  What happens at every level of government is important, just as governing is important at every level. Government exists to provide crucial services and protections including education, public safety, public health, transportation, etc.

TL:  If elected, name your top 3 priorities you hope to accomplish for 2015 legislative session.  Describe how you plan to accomplish them. 

JW:  Education – continue to fight for increased funding and equity in our public schools. Healthcare – promote increased funding for the elderly, disabled, and fragile and support efforts to expand Medicaid in Texas. Criminal Justice reform – continue to lead the fight to expand rehabilitation, treatment and alternatives to prison.

TL:  A 2013 survey found that 54 percent of Texas voters support Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act.  Expansion is also supported by the Texas Hospital Association.  Without Medicaid Expansion or an alternate solution, Texas Hospitals are having to provide over $5 billion dollars annually in uncompensated care to patients who lack insurance.  This leaves Texas taxpayers paying not only for the uncompensated care of our residents, but also paying for expanded healthcare benefits in other states. If elected, would you support Medicaid Expansion or an alternate solution for the state of Texas, so we can bring our tax dollars back where they belong?  If not, please explain why.  If so, please explain how you would work to pass such a measure.  

JW:  Strongly supported Medicaid expansion last session and will continue to be vocal on the issue and why it is crucial to so many uninsured and underinsured Texans.

 

TL:  In the coming years, the state of Texas is projected to have a population boom of historic proportions.  But with more people and more opportunities comes an ever-increasing strain on Texas roads and infrastructure.  Describe your thoughts on what needs to be done to improve Texas infrastructure now so we can plan for a bright future for the state.  

JW:  We must adopt a stable funding source for infrastructure maintenance and improvement.

TL:  What makes you the best candidate for this office? 

JW:  Experience counts

TL:  When not on the campaign trail, how do you like to spend your free time?

JW:  Representing the citizens of SD 15, working to advance sound public policy, spending time with my grandson.

 

Thanks to Senator Whitmire for his participation.

Leticia Cara a Cara2

Van de Putte Answers Voters In Live Spanish Language Forum

If Texans had any question about which candidate is willing to listen to them in the Lieutenant Governors’ race, Democrat Leticia Van de Putte put those questions to rest last night. Here’s more from Alexa Ura of the Texas Tribune

During a Spanish-language town hall on Friday, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, advocated for a higher minimum wage in Texas.

“We know that people who live off of minimum wage live a poverty-ridden life,” Van de Putte said. “Raising the minimum wage is good for the economy.”

Van de Putte’s remarks come a week after Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis called for pushing the minimum wage in Texas to $10 per hour. In her remarks, Van de Putte said she was unsure whether increasing the minimum wage to $10 an hour from the current requirement of $7.25 per hour was the necessary hike, but she indicated that the Texas Legislature should raise the rate.

Her campaign had hoped the town hall event would be a debate with her Republican opponent, state Sen. Dan Patrick. But Patrick “respectfully declined” to participate in the event, according to event organizers. During the hour, she answered questions from three panelists, from a studio audience, and some asked via social media. <\blockquote>

The forum marks the first time in Texas history that a candidate for statewide office has participated in a televised Spanish language forum during General Election season. Previously, there was a 2002 Primary contest between Democrats Dan Morales and Tony Sanchez also done entirely in Spanish.

Van de Putte’s Republican opponent Dan Patrick was once again absent from the session with Texas voters.  Of course given his previous history of extremely disrespectful comments toward the Hispanic community, it should be no surprise that he didn’t want to answer their questions or hear their concerns. Democrats were quick to attack Patrick for not only refusing the debate, but also several cancellations of recent public appearances.

Besides the minimum wage, Van de Putte discussed a broad range of topics, including Medicaid expansion, LGBT rights and Veterans issues.  Portions of the town hall are already posted on Univsion 41’s website, and the broadcast is set to air on Univision stations in Houston, Austin and Dallas/ Ft. Worth at a future date.  Who knows what the impact will be in November, but one thing is for certain… Leticia Van de Putte showed great poise, knowledge and genuine compassion during the event, proving beyond a doubt that she has what it takes to be Lieutenant Governor.

 

Rita Lucido

TLCQ 2014: Rita Lucido

In the Fourth installment of the 2014 Texas Leftist Candidate Questionnaire, we hear from Rita Lucido, candidate for the Texas State Senate, District 17.  She is a Democrat.

Please note: Responses have been received directly from the candidate, and have been posted ver batim from the email received. This is done out of fairness to all candidates. Publishing these responses does not constitute an endorsement, but will be considered during the endorsement process.

 

TL:  What is your name, as it will appear on the ballot?

RL:  Rita Lucido

 

TL:  Are you a current or former elected official? If so what office(s)?

RL:  No

 

TL:  As a political candidate, you clearly care about what happens in certain levels of government. In your own words, why is government important?

RL:  I have witnessed how deeply the actions of the Texas legislature can impact the life of every-day Texans.  Funding for programs for at-risk high school students get cut and a family suffers when their 15 year old can’t make it any more.  Restrictions are put on certain health care providers, and a woman loses her family doctor and affordable birth control.  These are just a couple of examples how the Texas legislature is really where “the rubber meets the road” for all of us.

 

TL:  If elected, name your top 3 priorities you hope to accomplish for 2015 legislative session. Describe how you plan to accomplish them.

RL:  Strategic transportation planning and funding, accessing funds to expand health coverage for the huge number of uninsured Texans, improving the quality of our public schools.  By working with smart, responsible legislators from both parties, I think I can accomplish a great deal on all of these goals.  We will have more resources in the State treasury next session and our Texas Legislature must set priorities and do the hard work our communities sent us to Austin to do.

 

TL:  A 2013 survey found that 54 percent of Texas voters support Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Expansion is also supported by the Texas Hospital Association. Without Medicaid Expansion or an alternate solution, Texas Hospitals are having to provide over $5 billion dollars annually in uncompensated care to patients who lack insurance.  This leaves Texas taxpayers paying not only for the uncompensated care of our residents, but also paying for expanded healthcare benefits in other states. If elected, would you support Medicaid Expansion or an alternate solution for the state of Texas, so we can bring our tax dollars back where they belong?  If not, please explain why.  If so, please explain how you would work to pass such a measure.  

RL:  Yes.

 

TL:  In the coming years, the state of Texas is projected to have a population boom of historic proportions. But with more people and more opportunities comes an ever-increasing strain on Texas roads and infrastructure. Describe your thoughts on what needs to be done to improve Texas infrastructure now so we can plan for a bright future for the state. 

We need to look strategically at our transportation system and how we fund transportation and infrastructure.  Currently TxDOT pays $1.3B per year in debt service on over $15B in bonds that have been issued since 2006.  This is unsustainable for a state as prosperous as ours.  I’m committed to working on transportation issues and bringing solutions from all sectors to the table for consideration.

 

TL:  What makes you the best candidate for this office?

RL:  I am a person who experienced what the power of people of good will coming together can have when they decide to fix a problem or make change for the better.  My experience in leadership for several non-profit boards in the Houston area has given me a good understanding of the importance of appropriate and strategic policy.  My experience as a family lawyer for 31 years has honed my ability to work with people in the most polarizing situations.  Additionally, I believe that my intellectual curiosity to find the best answer and best practices when faced with a problem suit me well for the Texas Senate.

I have run my own business for 31 years, met payroll and prospered in the Houston area.  My opponent is a life-long government employee who doesn’t seem to appreciate the benefits the government can provide for others.

 

TL:  When not on the campaign trail, how do you like to spend your free time?

RL:  When not at my desk at my law-firm I like to travel, cook, sew and read.

 

Thanks to Ms. Lucido for her participation.

 

A Voice for the Rest of Texas