Justin Miller

 Justin Miller is a senior writing fellow for The American Prospect.

Recent Articles

The Guardian US Will Unionize. Can We Call This a Trend Now?

Staffers at the Guardian US unanimously voted yesterday to unionize with the News Media Guild, The Huffington Post reported. The vote is just the latest in a surge of recent union drives in the digital media world.

Guardian US management voluntarily recognized the union effort, therefore negating the need to go through the formal channels of the NLRB. “We are happy to voluntarily recognize the News Media Guild and look forward to working constructively, in best Guardian tradition, with the Guardian US editorial staff who have voted in favor of collective representation,” a Guardian US spokesperson said in a statement.

A similar agreement was struck between Gawker Media’s editorial staff and management a couple months ago, which was the first of a growing number of organizing drives in digital media in 2015. The progressive website Truthout was the first digital media outlet to unionize back in 2009.  

Earlier this month, Salon’s editorial staff unanimously voted to form a union and asked management to voluntarily recognize its vote—there is still with no word from management, and there’s growing discontent among Salon staffers and its union, Writers Guild of America, East (which also represents Gawker).

Guardian US staffers will join News Media Guild’s 2,000 other digital workers from The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Associated Press, and the Daily Beast.

Labor reporter Mike Elk, who’s been working to spark an organizing drive at his employer, Politico, has also reportedly been working with the News Media Guild. Politico has about 200 editorial staffers and is rapidly expanding its operations.

Yesterday at a union event in Washington, D.C., Elk asked Democratic presidential contender Senator Bernie Sanders if he thought that media owners, including Politico, should agree to card-check neutrality. Sanders answered affirmatively, saying, “I think all workers in whatever area—it’s not just the media—do have a right to form a union without harassment on the part of their employers.”

Other union-drive announcements are likely to crop up in the near future. The WGAE director, Lowell Peterson, has previously told me that a number of digital media outlets are in the organizing pipeline with the union. 

Dems Are Divided on Minimum Wage. But That's Not Bad News

Last week, Bernie Sanders and other leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus introduced legislation that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020. The bill is not only the most ambitious wage hike legislation to come from the left, but it’s also indicative of the growing influence that the national Fight for $15 movement exerts over Washington’s political discourse.

Not all Democrats support such a big increase to the nation’s minimum wage. The $15 proposal notably abandons the mainstream party line that was established a couple of months ago when Senator Patty Murray and Representative Robert Scott introduced a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour. Democratic Senate leaders Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer, along with a number of other prominent Democrats, came out in strong support of the hike.

As late as last week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi had also voiced support for the party line on minimum wage: “With this one act, we could give a raise to more than 25 million working people, lift up to 4.5 million Americans out of poverty and generate some $22 billion in increased economic activity.”

But just yesterday, The Hill reports, Pelosi announced that though it’s not politically possible now, she supports raising the minimum wage to $15. “Twelve dollars may be what can pass, but I’m for $15 per hour,” Pelosi told reporters. Her unexpected move signals the growing populist influence of both the progressive caucus in Congress and the rhetoric surrounding the Fight for $15.

According to The Hill, an economic adviser to Obama said that his current support for a $12 minimum wage is unaltered—though it’s worth noting that throughout his tenure, his minimum wage platform has ballooned from $9, to $10.10, and most recently to $12. As I wrote last week, progressive labor advocates are now pushing Obama to build on his 2014 executive order that raised the minimum wage to $10.10 for federal contract workers and sign a new order that pushes that up to $15.

Hillary Clinton has so far declined to endorse of a national $15 minimum wage, indicating that while she supports such a wage in cities with higher costs of living she doesn’t believe that it can work everywhere. “I support the local efforts that are going on that are making it possible for people working in certain localities to actually earn $15,” Clinton told Buzzfeed News a couple weeks ago.

As former White House economist Jared Bernstein told the New York Times, “There could be quite large shares of workers affected, and research doesn’t have a lot to say about that… [W]e have to be less certain about the outcome.”

Still, there’s a strong body of economic research that shows the economy can sustain modest wage increases—to $12 an hour for instance—spread out over multiple years would create little to no job loss. The thinking behind the $12 minimum wage proposal is that it fully restores the purchasing power of the wage floor back to its peak in the 1960s. The bill also indexes the wage, once raised, to cost-of-living increases, and it would phase out the minimum wage for tipped workers.

And many economists believe we could go further. Last week, a group of 200 economists came out in support of the $15 an hour minimum wage legislation, stating: “We recognize that raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour as of 2020 would entail an increase that is significantly above the typical pattern with federal minimum wage increases. Nevertheless, through a well-designed four-year phase-in process, businesses will be able to absorb the cost increases through modest increases in prices and productivity as well as enabling low-wage workers to receive a slightly larger share of businesses’ total revenues.”

Raising the minimum wage at least somewhat is a wildly popular idea for most Americans. According to a January 2014 Pew poll, 73 percent of Americans—including 53 percent of Republicans—supported raising the minimum wage from its current level of $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. 

While the political pathway for a $15 national minimum wage is blocked for now, the proposal gives the $12 minimum wage push greater momentum. “It’s certainly pushing the envelope but it also broadens the terrain of what’s possible. Pushing for $15 makes $12 easier to pass,” says Amy Traub, as senior policy analyst for Demos.

Zephyr Teachout on Getting Big Money Out of Politics

Zephyr Teachout talks Citizens United, public financing, and her new role heading Lawrence Lessig's Mayday PAC. 

AP Photo/Mike Groll
AP Photo/Mike Groll Activist Zephyr Teachout speaks during a news conference on Wednesday, December 3, 2014, in Albany, New York. I n 2014, the campaign finance reform activist and Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig launched Mayday PAC —the super PAC to end super PACs. The group raised about $11 million and targeted support for candidates who were committed to reforming the role of money in politics. While its efforts in the 2014 election were largely unsuccessful, Lessig did succeed in jumpstarting a conversation about how to combat the private campaign financing of our elected officials, and more recently, the scourge of unlimited outside spending a la Citizens United . On Monday, it was announced that law professor and progressive firebrand Zephyr Teachout will be taking over the reins as Mayday plots its strategy for a 2016 election that will likely unleash an unprecedented amount of money. Most recently, Teachout challenged Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo for the New York State...

Federal Contract Workers Are Demanding a Big Raise. But Will They Get It?

The Fight for $15 comes to Washington. 

Good Jobs Now
Good Jobs Nation J ust outside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, hundreds of workers wearing blue shirts that said "Strike!" rallied for more pay. Leaders led chants in English and Spanish, from "Hey, hey, ho, ho, $10.10 is way too low," to " ¿ Que queremos? Quince y un uni ó n ." These workers were striking for a day against companies contracted by the federal government to ring up powerful politicians’ lunch orders in the Senate, clean offices in the Pentagon, and cook food at the Smithsonian museums. As the Fight for $15 has gained traction across the United States, workers—supported by a coalition of unions, labor advocates, and politicians—are saying that it’s time for the federal government to become a model employer. A cadre of progressive politicians, including Senator Bernie Sanders, also used the event to introduce legislation that calls for a national $15 minimum wage. But with legislative success along those lines unlikely, advocates are calling on President Obama to take...

From L.A. to New York (and in Between), $15 Moves Forward

From the West Coast to the East Coast, this has been a good week for the burgeoning Fight for $15 campaign.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to raise its minimum wage to $15 by 2020 for those who work in the unincorporated areas of the county. This comes on the heels of the same wage hike for workers in the City of Los Angeles passed by the city council back in May.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, the move will likely spur a few of the 86 smaller cities in the county to pass their own minimum wage hikes as well as increase pressure to put municipal wage initiatives onto the 2016 ballot.

Also in California, the University of California system (headed by former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano) announced that it will increase the minimum wage to $15 over the next three years. The move will give a raise to 3,200 direct UC employees in addition to several thousand contracted workers.

On the opposite side of the country, a much-anticipated announcement came down on Wednesday in New York state. The wage board charged with recommending a wage policy for the state’s fast food workers sent their decision to Governor Andrew Cuomo: raise their wages to $15

"Today, hundreds of thousands of working men and women across New York State will celebrate as their call for 15 and a union has been heard," said SEIU 32BJ President Hector Figueroa.

There was another wage victory last week in Kansas City, which is considered a case study in whether or not such a substantial minimum wage increase is feasible in a smaller city. While not quite $15, the city council overwhelmingly voted to raise its minimum wage to $13 an hour (though there’s an exemption for teenage entry-level workers).

In the nation’s capital, council members gave the go-ahead for a 2016 ballot initiative on a $15 minimum wage.

In national news, legislation was introduced on Wednesday by Senator Bernie Sanders and a cadre of progressive House members that would raise the national minimum wage to $15 an hour. Though it’s incredibly infeasible politically, it’s noteworthy that the Fight For $15 campaign has officially crossed the threshold into the U.S. Capitol. It’s also an ambitious departure from more modest Democratic minimum wage proposals in the past.

All in all, it has been a highly successful week for minimum wage campaigns around the country. 

Pages