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In Face of May Day Protests, Here’s Where Senators Stand on Labor

See where senators stand on immigration reform, minimum wage and right-to-work

Immigration rights activists rally in Dupont Circle in Washington before their May Day march to the White House to oppose President Donald Trump’s immigration policies on May 1, 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Immigration rights activists rally in Dupont Circle in Washington before their May Day march to the White House to oppose President Donald Trump’s immigration policies on May 1, 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Protesters took to the streets this week for May Day demonstrations calling  for better working conditions, higher pay and more compensation.May Day protests usually take place in progressive cities and states and focus on low income workers, immigrants and minimum wage jobs. The politicians representing those places and people don’t always share activist views on labor. Here are what senators from a few states with major protests think about activists’ demands:

Sen. Chuck Schumer

Raising the minimum wage:“You can bet Democrats in Congress are going to fight to make $15 minimum wage a reality in this nation, from one end of the country to the other,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a speech on the steps of the Capitol last week, according to Vox.Immigrant workers:“I support further securing our borders; prohibiting hiring of undocumented immigrants by requiring job applicants to present a secure Social Security card,” the New York Democrat told the League of Women Voters in 2010. He also supports “requiring undocumented immigrants to register with the government, pay taxes, and earn legal [status or face deportation.]”

Right-to-work laws:“We’re offering the middle class and those struggling to get there a better deal by taking on companies that undermine unions and underpay their workers, and beginning to unwind a rigged system that undermines every worker’s freedom to negotiate with their employer,” Schumer told the Washington Post on fighting Right-to-Work laws.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

Raising the minimum wage:“Currently, a single parent in New York working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year at the minimum wage, earns just $290 a week. That’s $15,000 a year – without any time off. That salary is $3,000 below the poverty line for a family of three. This is unacceptable,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s website states. Immigrant workers:“Immigrants participate in all sectors of the American labor force, helping to spur innovation and working in jobs that grow our economy,” her website says.However, the New York Democrat faced criticism in the past because of her previous more conservative views on immigration.“The guest worker program all but guaranteed illegal immigration,” she told the New York Times in 2009.Right-to-work laws:“More and more states are passing harsh laws that make it harder for workers to negotiate for better wages and better treatment. Over the last few decades, this has done enormous damage to our country’s middle class and the communities where they live,” Gillibrand said. “State ‘right-to-work’ laws … have been used to systematically attack and weaken workers’ hard-earned right to have a voice in the workplace and negotiate as a group with their employers.”

Sen. Richard Burr

Raising the minimum wage:Sen. Richard Burr, doesn’t believe the minimum wage is a federal issue, according to Politico. “It’s easy on the outside to sit and say: ‘Well, if you did this, it wouldn’t be a campaign issue.’”Immigrant workers:“[The Senate immigration reform bill] allows current illegal immigrants to receive the full array of federal benefits, but fails to reform our current immigration policy for those who want to come to America legally,” the North Carolina Republican said. Right-to-work laws:Burr cosponsored the National Right-to-Work Act last year.

Sen. Thom Tillis

Raising the minimum wage:“I have serious concerns with the discussion around minimum wage because it drives up costs and it could harm jobs,” Sen. Thom Tillis said, according to the Charlotte Observer.Immigrant workers:The North Carolina Republican wants to allow DACA beneficiaries a pathway to citizenship, according to the News & Observer. He introduced the SUCCEED Act last year — billed as a conservative alternative to the DREAM Act — and insisted it be paired with a border security bill.Right-to-work laws:Tillis wants to keep North Carolina “the least unionized state in the United States,” and supports Right-to-work laws, he said in 2013.

Sen. Bill Nelson

Raising the minimum wage:“It needs to be at least $11 or $12. What is happening is that people on the bottom of the economic latter are the ones that are hurting,” the Florida Democrat told WTSP.Immigrant workers:“By cutting the number of visas available each year and requiring those visas be given to the highest-wage earners first, this bill directly targets outsourcing companies that rely on lower-wage foreign workers to replace equally qualified U.S. workers,” Nelson told the Miami Herald.Right-to-work laws:Nelson has not sponsored or voted in favor of any federal right-to-work legislation. He’s received large donations from unions, including more than $137,000 from the national union AFL-CIO and $60,000 from government employee union AFSCME.

Sen. Marco Rubio

Raising the minimum wage:“I have the full confidence that the American private sector, made up of the most innovative and productive people on this planet, won’t just create millions of jobs. They will create millions of jobs that pay more. Because even the jobs that are being created now don’t pay enough. You can’t live on $10 an hour. You can’t live on $11 an hour,” the Florida Republican told MSNBC. However, he does not support increasing the minimum wage.Immigrant workers:During a CNN presidential debate Rubio said he wants to “modernize our legal immigration system so you come to America on the basis of what you can contribute economically, not whether or not simply you have a relative living here. If you’re a criminal, obviously, you will not be able to stay.”Right-to-work laws:Rubio cosponsored federal right-to-work legislation, and sponsored legislation  allowing companies to bypass collective bargaining.

Sen. Patty Murray

Raising the minimum wage:“I believe we need a $15 federal minimum wage to bring that progress to communities nationwide. It’s the right thing to do for working parents, for the nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers who are women, and as I’ve heard from business owners in Seattle, it’s the right thing to do for our local economies,” Sen. Patty Murray said about introducing a federal $15-an-hour minimum wage bill.Immigrant workers:The Washington Democrat supported legislation to create a guest worker program in the United States as well as letting undocumented immigrants participate in Social Security.Right-to-work laws:“Workers in Washington state and across the country deserve the opportunity to join a union, to bargain collectively, and to negotiate fair wages if they choose to do so—opening the door to a better economic life for their families,” Murray said on her website. She also supported action to “penalize bad actors who attempt to block employees from exercising their rights.”

Sen. Maria Cantwell

Raising the minimum wage:“It’s time for Congress to raise the national minimum wage and put workers before corporations,” Sen. Maria Cantwell said on her website.Immigrant workers:“We have long needed a comprehensive immigration plan that strengthens security and addresses the undocumented aliens living in the U.S. in an honest, realistic way,” the Washington Democrat said. “By setting-up a guest worker program, which this bill will do, we can make sure agriculture and other industries have access to the labor they need legally.”Right-to-work laws:Nelson has not sponsored or voted in favor any federal right-to-work legislation. However, she has supported bettering workplace standards for contractors and union negotiations in the past.“I am proud that Washington state is home to a thriving organized labor movement,” she said.

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