What We’re Saying: Will Louisiana Ever Put People Above Profits?

Last week, the Louisiana Senate couldn’t bring itself to approve a meager $1.25 hike to the federal minimum wage to bring the state standard to $8.50 over the next two years.

Look, we knew that the $15 an hour that it would really take to allow the working men and women of the state to earn living wages was a long shot. But $8.50? A buck and a quarter more? Come on!

Are our leaders that beholden to big business interests that they couldn’t see their through the haze of the lobbyists and the cronies and campaign contributors to give working poor Louisianans what would amount to $50 more for a 40 hour week?

Nearly 30 other states have a minimum wage higher than the federal rate of $7.25. And our gut tells us that Louisiana is behind these other states in every way that matters because we can’t seem to put families before factories or people before profits.

Let’s not forget that just a few weeks ago U.S. News and World Report released a study that declared Louisiana at the bottom of the barrel when compared with the rest of the nation in areas like education, health care, crime—you know, quality of life. And this refusal to ensure that the people who make a living in this state can actually afford to live here is one of the biggest reasons why.

The bill was introduced by state Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, who was joined by other state senators from the metro area in support of the bill, including Wesley Bishop, Karen Carter Peterson and J.P. Morrell, all of New Orleans, along with Gary Smith of Norco and Daniel Martiny of Metairie.

Here’s the other list—the names of state senators from the Greater New Orleans area, where the economy is way to reliant on the mostly low-wage earning hospitality industry, that voted against setting the state’s minimum wage at $8.50: John Alario, R-Westwego; Conrad Appel, R-Metairie; “Norby” Chabert, R-Houma, Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville; Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell and Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton.

They were joined by 15 of the colleagues from across the state to shoot the bill down 21 to 17. Of course, serving in the state senate is just a side hustle for most of these folk. But in a state where the minimum wage is stuck on stupid, we know all too well about side hustles—second and even third jobs taken on to help make ends meet. Hopefully, the people represented by Alario, Appel, Chabert, Donahue, Hewitt and Mizell, will soon relieve these characters of their side jobs as state senators.

If the state legislature refuses to raise the state’s minimum wage above $7.25 an hour, the least it can do is repeal state statute 23:642, which makes it illegal for municipalities across the state to set their own minimum wages. Perhaps there are some parish and city leaders across Louisiana with more intestinal fortitude than the bunch we keep sending to Baton Rouge.

But our best guess is that we will be waiting a long, long time for that as well.

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