Workers in the United States Deserve a Raise

By Yuqi Wang, Policy Analyst, Economic Policy Project, NCLR

Millions of workers and their families are living in poverty despite being employed and working back-breaking hours. This is largely because the federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 for the last six years, while the cost of living, food, education, and health care have continued to soar.

Worse, the minimum wage for tipped workers has been frozen at $2.13 for more than a quarter of a century. It’s clearly time to raise the minimum wage—workers deserve a better standard of living that doesn’t force them to struggle to cover standard necessities.

The “Raise the Wage Act” introduced yesterday by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Representatives Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) would go a long way toward strengthening middle-class families by raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2024, and gradually increasing the tipped minimum wage each year. This legislation would help lift full-time workers out of poverty, reduce their need for public benefits, and increase their ability to afford basic living costs such as food, visits to the doctor, and home repairs.

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Congress Could Jeopardize Retirement Security for Millions

By Marisabel Torres, Senior Policy Analyst, Wealth-Building Policy Project, NCLR

Photo: http://401kcalculator.org

An upcoming vote in the Senate will determine whether states can help their residents prepare for a time that all workers should have the right to enjoy: retirement. While that seems like a goal Congress should support, the House and Senate already voted to block the Department of Labor (DOL)’s rule allowing cities to establish their own retirement plans. Now, they’re looking to put state plans in jeopardy with a vote on S.J. Res 32.

Many workers recognize that pensions, which used to be a common employee benefit in supporting a robust retirement, are not a guarantee in today’s labor market. And increasingly, neither are employer-sponsored retirement plans like a 401k. Currently, more than 45 percent of working-age households in the United States do not have access to a retirement savings plan through their employer. For Latinos, 60 percent do not have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan. The city and state plans proposed would provide auto-enrollment Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) for private sector workers who tend to be lower-income, and don’t have access to such benefits through their employers. This would also benefit employees of small businesses, where 50 percent of employers don’t offer retirement plans. Workers who participate are automatically opted in to a retirement savings account that takes out a predetermined amount from their monthly paychecks and saves it in an IRA. Workers also have the option to opt out at any time.

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The Financial Choice Act of 2017 Is the Wrong Choice for American Families

By Renato Rocha, Policy Analyst, Wealth-Building Project, NCLR

The reckless behavior of financial institutions including banks, credit card companies, and mortgage lenders caused the 2008 financial crisis that cost Americans millions of jobs, billions in taxpayer-funded bailouts, and trillions of lost retirement savings. A lack of consumer protections and oversight of the financial marketplace allowed unscrupulous lenders to target communities of color with unfair and abusive financial products. The Latino community was disproportionately impacted by the economic crisis and is still struggling to recover.

The devastating and widespread effects of the crisis led to the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which we view to be the crown jewel of Wall Street reform. In less than six years, the CFPB has already curbed several deceptive practices in the financial marketplace: bringing transparency to the remittance industry, prohibiting credit companies from adding on products that consumers never agreed to, and requiring mortgage lenders to ensure that applicants can afford the home loans they’re seeking. The CFPB is also working on putting protections in place that would rein in predatory payday loans and debt collection practices. Each one of these actions have helped put all Americans on a path to greater financial security.

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Congress: Don’t Turn Your Back on Workers Struggling to Save for Retirement

By Yuqi Wang, Policy Analyst, Economic Policy Project, NCLR

Social Security is widely recognized as playing an important role in workers’ retirement security. In 2015 alone, Social Security benefits kept 22 million retirees out of poverty, and more than 60% of elderly beneficiaries relied on Social Security for most of their retirement cash income.

To celebrate National Social Security Month this April, the Social Security Administration created an online guide that workers can use to learn more about the program and its benefits.

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Making Quality Housing Affordable Again for Latinos in Los Angeles

By Agatha So, Policy Analyst, Economic Policy Project, NCLR

ELACC and partners with tenants’ rights fighters and allies from all over the state of California. Photos: ELACC

Homeownership continues to be essential to the creation of Latino family wealth, yet many Latino families are still trying to recover from the loss of their home to foreclosure during the financial crisis, as well as job loss during the recession that hit Latino communities hard.

For families who live in expensive cities like Los Angeles, homeownership can seem even further out of reach. In L.A., more than half of a family’s earnings goes to rent, and at 38%, Latinos have a lower rate of homeownership compared to other groups in the city. Even as families overall might pay less for a mortgage than on rent, Latino renters have difficulty saving for a down payment, let alone for a mortgage that would require nearly three times their median household earnings. Faced with this problem, community-based affordable housing organizations are finding creative ways of engaging community residents to make housing affordable for all.

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