Having lived in Baton Rouge for more than 30 years, I’ve seen how our community has fallen behind. The lack of control over the minimum wage and family leave policy is directly affecting the District 5 community in that local businesses are challenged with sustaining employment, and constituents are struggling to maintain cost of living expenses.
I’ve also seen how local businesses seem to have a harder time attracting and retaining workers. I’ve seen how some businesses have had to close because they can’t compete with giant national and multinational chains that pay poverty wages and then take their profits out of our community and out of our state.
One of the roots of this problem is that the Louisiana Legislature banned cities and parishes from setting a lot of their own local economic rules, including things like wage and family leave policies. That’s why I joined other concerned citizens to form Unleash Baton Rouge to fight for our right to build the economy that’s right for our community. We’re part of a statewide network demanding that the state return local control.
On May 8, we asked the Baton Rouge Metro Council to send a resolution of support for House Bill 422, which would return authority over wages and family leave policies to local leaders. Disappointingly, six of my fellow Councilmembers voted against the resolution.
We have a problem when our council members do not want the power to represent their constituents. The resolution would not have raised the minimum wage. The only thing it would have dictated would have been a conversation between the members of the Metro Council and their constituents about what the right economic policies are for Baton Rouge. We need elected officials that are not afraid to listen to their constituents and represent their interests.
In the meantime, we need the Legislature to pass House Bill 422. It would not require any action by the Metro Council, but it would mean that local leaders like me would have the tools to ensure that small business owners in our community who pay decent wages don’t get undercut by out-of-state corporations. It would mean we would have the tools to ensure that the jobs we bring into our community pay enough to support a family, and that parents don’t get fired for taking a few days off to spend with their newborn.
The ban on local minimum wage and paid leave policies is unnecessary government overreach that has gone on for too long, and it’s hurting our community. It’s time for our state legislators to unleash Baton Rouge so we can build a sustainable, thriving and equitable local economy.
Erika L. Green
member, East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council