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By documenting the similarities in how analogous bills have been advanced in multiple states, the report establishes the extent to which legislation emanates not from state officials responding to local economic conditions, but from an economic and policy agenda fueled by national corporate lobbies that aim to lower wages and labor standards across the country.In 20, state legislatures undertook numerous efforts to undermine wages and labor standards: These efforts provide important context for the much-better-publicized moves to undermine public employee unions.
In the case of Maine, the state legislature passed laws restricting the collective bargaining rights of certain private-sector employees who are covered under state labor law (see endnotes 3 and 4 for more detail).
Thus, the only means for seeking enforcement under current law is for employees to turn to the Legal Aid Society, which relies entirely on volunteer attorneys.179 In 2010, Miami-Dade County responded to this crisis by instituting the nation’s first broad municipal wage theft law.
Enforcement is carried out by the Department of Small Business Administration through a streamlined process similar to small claims courts; employers pay the costs of county hearings—thus enforcement is costless to taxpayers—and employees are entitled to recover up to double damages.
As depicted in Figure A, in 20, 15 state legislatures passed laws restricting public employees’ collective bargaining rights or ability to collect “fair share” dues through payroll deductions (or, in one state, restricting the collective bargaining rights of private-sector employees who are nonetheless covered under state labor law).3 Beyond Wisconsin, for instance, collective bargaining rights were eliminated for Tennessee schoolteachers, Oklahoma municipal employees, graduate student research assistants in Michigan, and farm workers and child care providers in Maine.4 Michigan and Pennsylvania both created “emergency financial managers” authorized to void union contracts.
New Jersey’s and Minnesota’s legislatures both voted to limit public employees’ ability to bargain over health care.5 Ohio legislators adopted a law—later overturned by citizen referendum—largely imitating Wisconsin’s, prohibiting employees from bargaining over anything but wages, outlawing strikes, and doing away with the practice of binding arbitration (the only impartial means of settling a contract dispute without a right to strike) in favor of the state agencies’ right to set contract terms unilaterally.