Erika Eichelberger

Erika Eichelberger

Reporter

Erika Eichelberger is a reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. She has also written for The NationThe Brooklyn Rail, and TomDispatch. Email her at eeichelberger [at] motherjones [dot] com. 

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Fast Food Workers Will Protest Again Today. Here's What They're Up Against.

| Thu Apr. 3, 2014 11:44 AM EDT

On Thursday, New York McDonald's workers will stage a protest for better pay. It's the latest effort in what has become a national movement aimed at increasing fast food wages—which average $8.69 an hour—to $15 an hour. The odds are steep, because the restaurant industry is dead set against it. A new report released Thursday details just how much power the restaurant lobby wields in Washington.

The National Restaurant Association (the other NRA), which lobbies on behalf of the $600 billion industry, has been fighting minimum wage hikes, paid sick leave, and food safety rules for decades. But over the course of the slow economic recovery, which has been characterized by a disproportionate increase in low-wage service sector jobs, the NRA sharpened its knives, more than doubling its lobbying force on the Hill. Between 2008 and 2013, the number of NRA lobbyists pushing the industry's interests in Washington jumped from 15 to 37, according to the report, which was put together by the Alliance for a Just Society (AJS), a network of social justice organizations, and Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROCUnited), an organization that pushes for better conditions for food workers.

"The NRA has super-sized its investment in insider influence since 2008," the report notes.

In addition to the lobbyists working on behalf of the NRA, nine of the association's biggest members—including McDonald’s, Marriott, Walt Disney, and YUM! Brands—were represented in Washington by another 127 registered lobbyists in 2013, according to the report. That's up from 56 in 1998.

The NRA, which represents 52,000 member companies, including KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut, has spent $2.2 million on lobbying since November 2012, and over $400,000 in campaign contributions, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The industry group has lavished much of its money on Republicans, who are digging their heels in against President Barack Obama's calls for a federal minimum wage hike from $7.25 to $10.10. So far, in 2014, 73 percent of the NRA's campaign donations have gone to Republicans. Since 1990, the NRA has given $10.5 million to GOP candidates, and $2.1 million to Dems.

Today, fast food workers in New York will attempt to counter that money with protest signs. And congressional Dems, including Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), will hold a "Give America a Raise" rally on the Hill.

Obama: "The Affordable Care Act Is Here to Stay"

| Tue Apr. 1, 2014 8:39 PM EDT

On Tuesday afternoon, President Barack Obama announced in a speech at the White House that more Americans than predicted had signed up for health coverage through the insurance exchanges during the first six months of enrollment. "7.1 million Americans have now signed up for private insurance plans through these marketplaces," the president said. "Seven point one. Yep." And Obama slammed Republicans who haven't let up trying to gut the law. "This law is doing what it's supposed to do," he said. "It's helping people from coast to coast, all of which makes the lengths to which critics have gone to scare people or undermine the law or try to repeal the law without offering any plausible alternative so hard to understand.... The debate over repealing this law is over," Obama added. "The Affordable Care Act is here to stay." Watch:

GOP Sens. Cruz and Kirk Solicit Americans' Obamacare Horror Stories, Get Success Stories Instead

| Tue Apr. 1, 2014 10:42 AM EDT

Last week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), a huge Obamacare foe, took to Facebook to ask Americans how the president's healthcare law is treating them. But the responses he received didn't line up with his own claim that "millions of people... are hurting because of Obamacare." When Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) made a similar call for Obamacare fail stories, he had bad luck too. Perhaps they shouldn't have been surprised. This week, support for the Affordable Care Act hit a new high of 49 percent. And on Tuesday, following the deadline for Americans to enroll in health insurance on the exchanges during the first six month window, the administration announced it is on track to achieve its original goal of providing coverage to 7 million Americans.

Here is Cruz's call for Obamacare tales:

Here are some of the responses. (There are 47,904, so I couldn't read them all, but of the first few dozen, only one response was negative.)

Here's what Kirk tweeted over the weekend:

Here are some of the responses:

Fri Jul. 18, 2014 12:32 PM EDT
Thu Jul. 3, 2014 11:18 AM EDT
Thu May. 15, 2014 10:58 AM EDT
Fri May. 9, 2014 12:59 PM EDT
Fri Apr. 4, 2014 12:04 PM EDT
Fri Feb. 7, 2014 1:05 PM EST
Thu Feb. 6, 2014 7:00 AM EST
Thu Jan. 9, 2014 9:05 AM EST
Thu Dec. 19, 2013 10:31 AM EST