Granite Status: Progressives keep pressure on Hassan, Shaheen to support minimum wage increase

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Jul. 8—A BILL TO RAISE the federal minimum wage is expected to come up in Congress this fall, and national progressive groups are already beginning to agitate for support from New Hampshire's two moderate Democratic senators.

On Thursday, service worker advocacy group One Fair Wage is holding a forum at Saint Anselm College's Institute of Politics to discuss the impact of low wages on women, along with women's advocacy groups like MomsRising, and members of the Patriotic Millionaires group, a collection of wealthy people that has opposed tax cuts for the rich.

Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen were among the eight Democratic senators who voted against an effort by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to include a $15 minimum wage in the stimulus bill, over objections from the Senate parliamentarian.

The event is intended to put pressure on Shaheen and especially on Hassan, to get behind a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, such as the Raise the Wage Act.

New Hampshire is the focus for the national groups for a few reasons.

Of the eight Democratic senators who voted against including the minimum wage provision in the American Rescue Plan, Hassan is the only one up for reelection in 2022, noted Saru Jayaraman, president of One Fair Wage.

Jayaraman also noted that New Hampshire is the only New England state that does not set its own minimum wage, and noted the state's hiring crisis.

Women have borne the brunt of a low minimum wage, Jayaraman said, echoing a New Hampshire Employment Security report released last month that showed women dominate low-paid and part-time service and retail jobs.

Those working-class women will be more enthusiastic about supporting Hassan's reelection if she backs the effort to raise the minimum wage, Jayaraman argued.

In an email, a spokeswoman for Hassan said the senator has long supported raising the federal minimum wage to $12 per hour and is open to $15 per hour, but wants to find a way to do it without hurting small businesses.

State Rep. Maria Perez (D-Milford), who will speak at the forum, said she wants to see the congressional delegation focus as much on restaurant workers as restaurant owners.

"For me, this is personal," she said. "As an immigrant, I worked jobs that paid less than $9 an hour for so long."

Perez thinks businesses can afford higher pay — as evidenced by the many businesses that have begun to raise pay to attract workers.

One Fair Wage is also connecting low wages to the difficulty of hiring in the service industry. The group's surveys say low wages and tips are pushing people to leave restaurant jobs (and to not take them in the first place).

Perez added that parents, especially mothers, are staying away from lower-paying jobs because the wages do not cover the cost of child care.

High rent is also pushing people to leave restaurant work, Perez said, and seek better-paying work.

Environmental group's $1 million ad buy

The League of Conservation Voters, an environmental advocacy group, is preparing to spend almost $1 million on television ads in New Hampshire's first congressional district, with ads promoting infrastructure spending.

The ads are set to run on cable and broadcast channels until Labor Day, and the group is also planning full-page newspaper ad buys.

The advertising in New Hampshire is part of a $10 million blitz targeting 23 congressional districts in 16 states, a list that also includes Maine's second district.

The league is an environmental group, but climate change plays second fiddle in the job-focused ads. The ads hew closely to President Joe Biden's infrastructure-boosting messaging linking well-paid blue-collar jobs to infrastructure investments to combatting climate change.

"The effort really is to make sure people know the good work of our congressional delegation around climate and clean energy," said Rob Werner, state director of the League of Conservation Voters.

Werner said he hoped the ads would also nudge Rep. Chris Pappas, Hassan and Shaheen to support the infrastructure bill that is being crafted to pass through the "reconciliation" process, which could pass without any Republican support — — but only if all 50 Democratic senators vote together.

The reconciliation bill is expected to be more expansive and costly than the bipartisan "compromise" infrastructure bill Shaheen helped to craft with a small bipartisan group of moderate senators.

Another Hassan bill across the finish line

A bill to increase the pool of reward money available to whistleblowers who report fraud and abuse to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which oversees certain financial markets, was signed into law this week.

Hassan sponsored the bill to increase the reward pool, saying in a statement the fund had been a victim of its own success. Whistleblowers get a slice of any fines companies have to pay if the commission finds wrongdoing, but the pool was capped at $100 million per year. Hassan's bill temporarily increases the pot to $150 million.

This is the second Hassan-sponsored bill signed into law this year.

The other was a bill that requires the Food and Drug Administration to provide doctors with information about "biosimilars," which are like generic drugs for people who take biological medications.

A bill sponsored by Pappas, related to the scheduling of narcotics, has also been signed into law this year.