When DREAMs Become REAL

When DREAMs Become REAL

The Washington State House passed the Senate version of the DREAM Act last Tuesday*, and it is heading to Governor Inslee’s desk for a final signature today at 2pm before it becomes law. The DREAM Act is a much needed piece of legislation that will help countless undocumented students, by providing them fair access to state need-grant money.

Nearly 12% of Washington State is Hispanic and over 250,000 people of that 12% were born outside of the country. Many of them were brought over as babies and toddlers by parents seeking to make a better life for them. And many would have graduated from Washington high schools every year with no real shot at a college education regardless of how hard they worked and how well they did in school. The financial barriers of rising tuition and textbook costs, not to mention living expenses, contradicted the widely held belief in our country that hard work and perseverance would get you ahead in life. The passage of the DREAM Act is a major step to remedying that. I hope that this news demonstrates to other states and national leaders that there is not only a need for reform and progress, but that it is also something people support.

While this an incredible step forward for Washington and the young people of the state looking to continue their education past high school, there is still so much more left to do! A first step should be to send a quick thank you email to the legislature (with the help from our friends at OneAmerica) for putting aside politics and sending the DREAM Act to the Governor’s desk. But the fight doesn’t stop there! The bus and other awesome organizations are still working on making Washington a better place by pushing for motor voter registration for 16 and 17 year olds, extending voter registration deadlines (it could boost voter turnout by 85,000+ votes every year!), and pulling out all the stops in support of the Washington State Voting Rights Act.

Washington is going in the right direction and I hope that it keeps up the pace!

*The WA State House of Representatives made history by passing their own version of the DREAM Act on 1/13/14, the first day of session. The version passed last Tuesday by the House was the State Senate’s version of the bill, called the “REAL Hope Act.”

This blog post is written by 2013 Bus Fellow and UW Alumnus (c/o ’13) Michael Padilla.

Percolate Up Economics

Percolate Up Economics

President Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union speech last night, once again pleading with congress to you, know, legislate or something.

More newsworthy was Obama’s decision to take action on his own, circumventing congress’s political gridlock to work on addressing our country’s growing problem with income inequality.

While Obama asked congress to pass a bipartisan bill raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, he also decided to issue an executive order mandating all federal contractors start paying $10.10 an hour immediately. “If you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes,” said Obama. “You should not have to live in poverty.”

Personally I’d say if you are working a full time job (or two) you shouldn’t have to live in poverty either, but I guess that’s outside of Obama’s hands.

Using an executive order to push for progressive employment policies is nothing new. Franklin D. Roosevelt passed an executive order back in 1941 prohibiting racial discrimination in the national defense industry. Closer to home, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray signed an executive order raising all City employees wages to $15 an hour.

And perhaps following in the lead of successful movements such as SeaTac’s Good Jobs initiative, Obama spoke directly to local leaders:

“To every mayor, governor, state legislator in America, I say, you don’t have to wait for Congress to act; Americans will support you if you take this on.”

Currently in Washington State Governor Inslee has suggested raising the current minimum wage of $9.32 an hour an extra $1.50 to $2.50, and Representative Jessyn Farrell introduced a bill raising the state minimum wage to $12. The bill currently has 32 sponsors in the Democratically controlled house.

And Seattle itself is working to extend the $15 an hour minimum to all workers, not just city employees.  The City Council and the Mayor’s Office are deliberating on how best to implement the wage increase, with added urgency from Councilmember Sawant’s threat to send an initiative directly to Seattle voters.

Realistically Congress isn’t going to pass a minimum wage increase in the next two years. But the issue clearly has popular support. Legislators who don’t realize that may find themselves out of a pretty high paying job. Perhaps then and only then will they appreciate how hard it is to get by on the current minimum wage.

This blog post was written by Devin Glaser, longtime friend and volunteer of the Bus.