Undo the Republican extortion over minimum wage

The minimum wage protects the poorest of the poor working people. Last year, the Republicans in the House took the state budget hostage in order to create alternative categories to undermine a minimum wage increase. Any elected Democrat who chooses to deliberately ignore the plight of those who are struggling to make ends meet under the false pretense that the Republicans are again threatening to hold up legislation such as the Bond or Grant-in-Aid bills should consider changing their registration or resigning from office. Any elected leader of the Democratic Party who would succumb to such a threat without challenging those minority leaders in the media and on the floor should reconsider their commitment and ability to lead. Challenges should be made publicly in full view of the voting public.

If the Republican Party or its leadership threatens to withhold the vote and support for a carefully crafted and very necessary economic driver such as the Bond bill, then I would suggest that they remove themselves or be removed by House leadership from their roles as members of the Bond committee. The nearly billion dollars in capital investments and Grant-in-Aid money is one of the most important economic drivers in the State. This petulant attitude by Republicans and any willingness of Democratic leadership to allow such a substantial threat to the economic vibrancy of Delaware is akin to the harm inflicted by the recent federal shutdown and is intolerable.

I hope all of the voting public will make themselves aware of the potential disaster threatened here and contact their legislators to demand action. All elected officials who refuse to support Delaware working families should see the necessary result at the polls.

Below you can read my recent letter published in the News Journal as well as similar letters by Delaware Democratic Party Chair Erik Raser-Schramm and Delaware State AFL-CIO President Jim Maravelias. HB 47 is sponsored by 23 of the 26 Democrats in the House and 11 of the 12 Democrats in Senate.

John Kowalko
State Representative
25th District

Last week, Rep. Kim Williams and I introduced a bill (House Bill 47) that would repeal the training and youth wages. These exemptions were created last year as part of a scheme that would hold hostage the passage of the Capital Bond bill.

That scheme was initiated because the Republicans claimed to be upset that the General Assembly was going to pass a minimum wage increase on the last day of the session, even though the original minimum wage bill (Senate Bill 170) had been introduced on March 28. The Republican minority decided to hold the Capital Bond bill and Grant-in-Aid bill hostage since a three-quarter vote was required for passage.

Despite speculation expressed, there was no bargain/compromise struck. Rep. Mike Ramone, with the support of his Republican colleagues, crafted an extortion plan that forced this horrible bill to a vote. I could not and would not vote for such an unnecessarily cruel blow to lower income workers and families and advised my colleagues that we should be willing to return after June 30th into September and beyond (if necessary) to pass the Bond Bill without despoiling the minimum wage bill.

Some view the concession vote for Ramone’s bill as leadership’s failure to prepare for this last minute obstructionism or simply a lack of backbone by leadership, charges I would be hard pressed to dispute.

I am sick and tired of the gnashing of teeth and the plaintive wailing of the corporate community ideologues and their political water carriers that some non-existent agreement has been breached. No such compromise was ever made.

So spare me the soul-searching repentance served up by the Republicans. Spare me the half-hearted apologies of those who voted for self-convenience over concern for the hardworking needy and bring HB 47 to the floor for a vote.

— Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark

February 1, 2019

Dear General Assembly member:

No one who works full-time should have to struggle to provide for their family.

That’s why Delaware Democrats support our state’s working families and strongly believe in working toward a $15 minimum wage. That’s not just my opinion as State Party Chair, it’s straight out of our Party platform.

So like many Democrats, I was dismayed to learn about the eleventh hour deal to create a “training wage” carve out to last year’s minimum wage increase. We have worked hard in recent years to raise wages for those at the bottom of our economic ladder, and to put it plainly, this felt like a significant setback in that fight. That’s because the training wage is a deeply flawed policy based on whole slate of assumptions that belie a misunderstanding of the reality faced by Delaware’s working poor.

This isn’t about the teenage lifeguard working for Rep. Ramone who will take home a little less money this summer, it’s about the household that relies on the oldest teenager’s income to put food on the table for the rest of the siblings.

It’s about being a Party that actually means equal pay for equal work when we say it at press conferences.

It’s about not undercutting the job market for adults who need work because young people are cheaper to hire.

I worked in Legislative Hall. I understand that making deals is part of the legislative process and it’s more than valid when it leads to meaningful progress for Delawareans. But this was a hostage taking exercise by a Republican minority, which was willing to jeopardize the core functions of government because they couldn’t block a popular policy initiative ahead of the election.

And if they’re allowed to dictate our policy priorities, will they have new demands this June? Or will they have learned from President Trump’s failed government shutdown and come to realize that grinding the government to a halt when you can’t get your way is no way to govern?

This is a new General Assembly, with 11 newly elected Democrats, all who have their own promises to keep to the voters that overwhelmingly sent them to Dover. We know through our own internal polling that raising the minimum wage is wildly popular across Party lines, despite what special interest groups might lead you to believe. Sixty percent of all voters want a $15 minimum wage, while more than 70 percent support a $10 minimum wage.

House Bill 47, sponsored by more than 30 Democrats, gives us a chance to affirm our shared support for working families and undo a shortsighted piece of legislation that passed under a cloud of bad faith. The Delaware Democratic Party stands with our progressive allies and friends in organized labor who are calling for its passage.


Erik Raser-Schramm
Chairman, Delaware Democratic Party

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Dear Friends,

I take this opportunity to urge you to support House Bill No. 47, an act to amend Title 19 of the Delaware State Code relating to Minimum Wage. This bill removes the training minimum wage and youth minimum wage, which takes effect January 1, 2020.

The Delaware AFL-CIO along with the Delaware Building & Construction Trades consider House Bill No. 47 a priority piece of legislation for our 27,000 members and we stand proudly behind this legislation for several primary reasons. The labor movement in the United States grew out of the need to protect the common interest of workers. For those in the industrial sector, organized labor unions fought for better wages, reasonable hours and safer working conditions. The labor movement led efforts to stop the abuses of child labor, give health benefits and provide aid to workers who were injured or retired.

I seek your commitment to the working men and women of Delaware and especially our developing youth. Please consider that most youth are employed to support the larger family income and many students work additional hours to supplement their tuition or other financial obligations.

As the minimum wage increases nationwide, we must be conscious of the fact that we are teaching our youth to be aspiring, competitive and innovative. In the age of a global economy, what better image to develop in our youth other than the satisfaction of a hard day’s work and a decent wage.

During this Legislative Session, please consider this meager request on behalf of our future leaders as well as Organized Labor.

In Solidarity,

James Maravelias


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