Unleash Baton Rouge campaign launching tomorrow

Baton Rouge families, businesses and municipal leaders Saturday are launching an Unleash Baton Rouge campaign that’s billed as part of a larger effort to return control over minimum wage and earned leave policies to local authorities.

It’s the latest chapter forming from a statewide campaign called Unleash Local, which is pushing for the Louisiana Legislature to allow local governments to control worker policies. Baton Rouge is now among seven local chapters, with offshoots also popping up in Alexandria, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Monroe, New Orleans and Shreveport.

Currently, Louisiana has no paid family leave law and is one of five states with no state minimum wage. A 1999 state law made Louisiana the first state to ban cities and parishes from establishing their own minimum wages, resulting in a default to the $7.25 an hour federal rate. A law banning local authorities from dictating earned leave policies was passed in 2012.

In coordination with the coalition, State Rep. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, has introduced House Bill 422 to repeal the prohibitions. The bill is currently pending in the House Labor and Industrial Relations committee.

While supporting organizations do want to raise the minimum wage, campaign spokesperson Angelle Bradford says the campaign’s messaging instead focuses on “unleashing” that power back to local authorities, which might have differing ideas on what the best standards are for their workforce.

“A lot of feedback we get is, this certain amount won’t work for New Orleans (or) this certain amount won’t work for Baton Rouge,” Bradford says. “We’re just allowing people to be empowered to do what’s best for their area.”

Lining up behind the Baton Rouge campaign, says Bradford, are a handful of politicians, including Mayor Sharon Weston Broome, Democratic legislators Ted James and Pat Smith, and Metro Council member Ericka Green; some organizations, such as Step Up Louisiana and the Power Coalition; and several businesses, including Capital City Collision and Griffin Cafe.

Unleash Baton Rouge members will call on state legislators to support Duplessis’ bill at a launch event at A.Z. Young Park downtown on Saturday at 4 p.m.

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