Need Good News? We Have Some From Maine and Arizona – TOM PHILPOTT NOV. 9, 2016 7:31 PM

Tipped workers in Maine and Flagstaff, Arizona, will no longer be forced to work for poverty wages.

If you’re looking for something to savor after Tuesday’s bitter tidings, try this: Voters in Maine and Flagstaff, Arizona opted to eliminate the lower wage for tipped workers.

As Maddie Oatman explained in an excellent piece a few months back:

The federal minimum wage is a paltry $7.25 an hour, but in 18 states servers, bussers, and hosts are paid just $2.13—less than the price of a Big Mac. This is known as the federal “tipped minimum wage” because, in theory, these food workers will make up the difference in tips. Twenty-five states and DC have their own slightly higher tipped minimums. The remaining seven, including California, guarantee the full state minimum wage to all workers.

Oatman shows how the practice of forcing workers to rely on tips in lieu of wages is rooted in post-Civil War racism, and continues today to condemn millions of workers, the great bulk of them women, to sub-living wages. Here’s the tipped-minimum wage map Maddie came up with for her piece. Note that both before Tuesday, Maine and Arizona fell in the category of states that pay tipped workers more than the $2.13 hourly minimum but less than the minimum for regular workers, $7.25.

*Some of the wages shown in the above map are only for large employers. 

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Voucher programs for panhandlers aim for ‘real change, not spare change’ – by Tom Marcinko October 24, 2014 5:00AM ET

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FLAGSTAFF, Arizona — “Willing to accept verbal abuse and disgusted looks in exchange for money,” reads the hand-lettered cardboard sign on a downtown sidewalk.

Yet the sign’s owner, who gives only the name Dave, cheerfully accepts another option: a booklet of five $1 coupons redeemable for food at a handful of local stores and one restaurant.

The weeks-old voucher program is this mountain town’s latest attempt to deal with a frequent and unwelcome sight: panhandlers. The Better Bucks program, launched by the Flagstaff Police Department and a local nonprofit, the Shadows Foundation, is intended to give residents, tourists and university students an alternative to handing out cash to people in need.

Flagstaff made national headlines last year after police arrested a woman for begging. A lawsuit filed against the city by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona led a U.S. district court to declare Arizona’s anti-panhandling law unconstitutional. Police in this city of 65,870 made about 140 arrests under that law from April 2012 to April 2013, according to police chief Kevin Treadway.

Some Flagstaff merchants, like used-book store owner Evan Midling, note a rise in panhandling since that ruling — “Yes, even in a bookstore,” he said. Panhandlers with signs asking for help are a common sight near highway ramps and busy intersections.

Shadows Foundation director Vicki Burton, whose organization provides financial assistance for families with medical problems and other needy people, including the homeless, said the police approached her about seven months ago for a better way to discourage panhandling. With Treadway’s blessing and the tacit support of the City Council, Better Bucks is the result.

The vouchers forbid the purchase of “anything containing alcohol” — including mouthwash, cough syrup and hair spray — alleviating concerns that some panhandlers spend cash handouts to support drug or alcohol habits, Burton said, adding that the vouchers make possible “giving without enabling.” To discourage hoarding or reselling, only one booklet’s worth of coupons can be used for each visit to participating merchants.

Burton said that, just as important, each booklet includes a pass to Flagstaff’s Mountain Line bus system, plus the addresses and phone numbers of about a dozen local charities.

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