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New Federal Minimum Wage Bill to be Introduced This Week

raise the min wageLater this week Senator Patty Murray will introduce a new federal minimum wage bill calling for an increase from the current level of $7.25 to $12 by 2020. This legislation has strong support among Democrats in Congress as well as the general public. Polling shows that even among Republicans, over half favor increasing the minimum wage.

A new report shows that 42% of workers in the US earn less than $15/hour and women and people of color are overrepresented in the low-wage group. The new federal bill is an ambitious attempt to get closer to the $15/hour that labor advocates and food workers have been calling for in recent years. The increase will give a boost to some of the most vulnerable working families in the US. The bill will also address tipped workers, correcting the disparity between the tipped and regular minimum wage, protecting workers who rely on tips from extreme volatility of wages.

Help build momentum for the new bill early on. This Thursday (April 30th) at 1 p.m. eastern join the Twitter storm to help generate a buzz. Join the conversation by using #raisethewage. Let your friends and followers know why you support the minimum wage or just join in to learn more.

For more background, see our previous blogs on supporting working families and the fight for $15/hour and our new minimum wage fact sheet.

Posted on April 28th 2015

Finding Hope in Agriculture

We talk a lot about how our food system is broken. A look around the globe reveals signs of hope and healing as well.

In our own recent blog post we report on the efforts in El Salvador to elevate the needs of local small-scale farmers and food sovereignty above the dictates of global trade policy.

A recent New York Times article details the efforts of smallholders in India, primarily women cultivating less than two hectare each, to rejuvenate their farms and finances using agro-ecology practices, breaking their reliance on local dealers for seed, chemicals, financing, and advice, all of which has only led to debt, toxic fields, and low yields in the past.

As we approach World Fair Trade Day (May 9th), we are also telling stories of hope.

We have partnered with nine brands committed to fair trade principles and practices. All of them will be featured in over 1,000 retail stores over the next two weeks with demos, samples, and discounts. Beyond that, we are also telling the stories of the impact they and their partner farmers are having on the ground.

The theme for our World Fair Trade Day is Small-Scale Farmers Cool the Planet and this is presented in the context of the UN International Year of the Soils. Through composting, planting trees, and investing back in their farms, fair trade farmers from Palestine to Sri Lanka to Central and South America are improving the quality of soil, sequestering carbon, and creating economic opportunities.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to learn more.

El Salvador Puts People and Environment First, Challenging Trade Rules

The citizens and government of El Salvador have inspired many by demonstrating the possibility of resistance against large corporations and the unfavorable trade regulations they have created by protecting the interests of the country’s own farmers, food, and environment.

Last summer news broke that the US was threatening to pull aid from El Salvador if the Central American country would not accept stipulations that would have required them to buy GMO seeds from companies such as Monsanto.

This spring, the Ministry of Agriculture released a new round of contracts to supply seeds to farmers through its Family Agriculture Program. This year almost half of all seeds will be produced by cooperatives within the country. This, despite protests in recent years by the US Trade Representative and large multinational seed companies that claim El Salvador is violating CAFTA—the Central American Free Trade Agreement—by favoring local farmers and denying business opportunities to large corporations.

Now El Salvador is under threat again. This time the country is being sued for $301 million by an Australian mining company that was denied a permit to mine gold in the country. The case has been brought to the International Center for Investment Disputes where the mining company is claiming that its right to mine gold has been violated. El Salvador denied the permit in an attempt to protect the surrounding environment and in particular safeguard the country’s limited sources of safe water.

So far El Salvador has been successful in protecting its local seed economy and farmers. No decision has yet been made in the mining case.

photo credit Luis Parada

Posted on April 20th 2015