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Posts Tagged ‘$15 minimum wage’

What are the best and worst states for workers? This week in the war on workers

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019

Some states have raised their minimum wages, passed paid sick leave, and upheld their workers’ right to organize. Others, not so much. So how do the states stack up? Oxfam has produced a best to worst states index, focusing on wage policies, worker protection policies, and right to organize policies.

Best and worst states to work in, 2019
Click through for the interactive version.

Wage policies mean not just the minimum wage but how the minimum wage compares to a living wage and whether cities and towns are allowed to pass their own laws. Worker protection policies mean equal pay laws, paid family leave and paid sick leave, fair scheduling laws, sexual harassment protections, and accommodations for pregnant and breastfeeding workers. Right to organize encompasses providing collective bargaining and wage negotiation to teachers, police, and firefighters; legalizing project labor agreements; and not having so-called right to work laws in place.

The number one state is actually the District of Columbia, followed by California, Washington state, Massachusetts, and Maine. The bottom five states are Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina.

This blog was originally published at Daily Kos on August 31, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos.

6 years after fast food workers walked off the job, House passes $15 federal minimum wage

Friday, July 19th, 2019

The federal minimum wage would rise to $15 an hour under historic legislation passed Thursday by the House of Representatives.

Three Republicans jumped the aisle to support the Democratic-led measure. Six Democrats defected to vote no. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and President Donald Trump can now give tens of millions of working people a raise any time they want.

The bill would double the national pay floor in a plan that would roll out gradually, ticking up from the current $7.25 over a six-year period. The measure also permanently pegs the minimum wage to inflation, automating future increases to break a vicious political and economic cycle that’s become the norm over the past half-century.

Congress has not raised the wage floor in a decade. That hike, too, followed a decade of stagnation. So did its predecessor legislation in the 1990s. The government has slipped into a pattern of ignoring wage policy for long stretches as costs of living rise and erode the earning power of the lowest-paid workers in the country.

That cycle has helped fuel the massive economic inequality that’s ravaged the country for decades, through recessions and economic expansions alike. Today’s $7.25 is worth less than the minimum wage of the 1970s in inflation-adjusted terms.

The $15 wage floor wouldn’t just catch workers up for all that lost time and buying power the way past wage hikes have, though: It seeks to establish a higher standard of living for low-wage workers than the previous record high, set in the 1960s. Nearly 20 million workers would see their pay increased by the measure, and an estimated 1.3 million people would be lifted out of poverty.

The sheer magnitude of the hike — more than doubling the pay floor nationwide — has dismayed even some economists who are typically supportive of minimum wage raises in general. Supporters shrug off those worries, noting that the current wage system is heavily subsidized by taxpayers, who are left to make up the difference between corporate poverty wages and what it costs to keep a family alive in the 21st century.

“There’s always been this attempt for some to hold onto this gross inequality and these scare tactics,” Rev. William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign told reporters on a call before the vote. “We have had an economy that goes up on Wall Street but it’s fueled by low-wage jobs on back streets and back roads and city streets. That is what we have to end. We cannot really be a full-fledged democracy when you have 140 million people poor and low-wealth, and 62 million people working… for less than a minimum wage.”

If conservatives are distressed here, they have only themselves to blame: Republicans had a chance to cut a reasonable deal almost a decade ago, years before the fast-food walkouts were even underway. Progressives had only wanted a $10.10 federal floor as recently as 2012, arguing that would bring minimum-wage buying power back to its 1970s levels.

The Fight for $15 movement is also an indirect byproduct of longer-running policy failures. After Wall Street wrecked the real economy at the close of the Bush presidency, the wealthy bounced back almost immediately. Taxpayers bailed out bankers first, the government declined to extract ownership stakes in their firms, and the modern American economy returned relatively quickly to business as usual: Income inequality grew steadily.

The anger that set of policy choices instilled in the U.S. electorate and working class has helped foster the political conditions that followed. If the idea of a $15 minimum wage scares anyone who watched the House’s vote Thursday, odds are they should direct their anger towards the people who opted to hang working-class people out to dry for the past decade.

This article was originally published at Think Progress on July 19, 2019. Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author: Alan Pyke  covers poverty and the social safety net. Alan is also a film and music critic for fun. Send him tips at: apyke@thinkprogress.org or

House to vote on $15 minimum wage, but Republicans are determined to slip in a poison pill

Thursday, July 18th, 2019

With the federal minimum wage stuck at $7.25 for the longest time it’s gone without an increase since 1938, the Democratic House is preparing to vote on the Raise the Wage Act on Thursday. The bill would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024—not exactly blazing speed, but a major improvement over more years of $7.25.

Donald Trump has pledged to veto the bill, which was a recreational promise anyway, since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republicans won’t let it through. Because Republicans hate working people and think the minimum wage should be a poverty wage, if they even think a minimum wage should exist at all. Republicans have been emboldened in their opposition by a Congressional Budget Office analysis that treats outdated studies the same as the best research on the issue, using those outdated and often garbage studies to weigh against the reams of research showing that raising the minimum wage does not cost jobs. Other research shows widespread and often unexpected benefits from increasing the minimum wage, including lower suicide rates and lower recidivism among people released from prison.

Nonetheless, despite the best research—which draws on many, many cases where the minimum wage has gone up, allowing for real-world studies of what happens—Republicans will not only oppose the raise but will try to lay traps for squishy Democrats, using a motion to recommit to undermine the entire bill. Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-chairs Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Mark Pocan have warned that if wobbly Democrats fall into the motion to recommit trap, the CPC will vote against the bill itself, saying in a statement, “We have no doubt that Congressional Republicans will try to divide the Democratic Caucus with a disingenuous Motion to Recommit. It’s up to all of us to stand unified and reject their bad faith effort to undermine this bill,” and, “After consulting with our Members this week, we are confident that any bill that includes a poison pill Republican Motion to Recommit will lack the votes to pass on the House Floor.”

It’s time for this bill to pass, without poison pills. A vote for a $15 minimum wage is a vote for gender and racial equity, since it would disproportionately benefit women and people of color. A vote for a $15 minimum wage is a vote to give 1.3 million veterans a raise. And it’s a vote for the general proposition that work should pay a wage that someone, somewhere in this country can actually live on.

This blog was originally published at Daily Kos on July 17, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos.

 

Dem leaders float new tweak to soften minimum wage bill

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

Sarah Ferris

Top House Democrats are eyeing a major tweak to the caucus’ signature minimum wage proposal, part of a last-minute bid to bolster support among moderates just days before a floor vote.

Democratic leaders are floating a more gradual path to a federal minimum wage of $15 per hour, which would mark a concession to some centrists who had been hesitant to back the bill for fear of aggravating small businesses, according to multiple sources familiar with the ongoing discussions.

Under the proposal, employers would have six years to phase in the wage hike rather than five.

The House plans to vote on the bill next week. And while top Democrats like Majority Leader Steny Hoyer have said they’re confident it will have enough votes to pass, they have worked behind the scenes to shore up more support and avert any drama on the floor.

Democrats also say that moderating the proposal further could ramp up pressure on Senate Republicans and the White House to drop their opposition to a minimum wage increase.

“I think there’s a recognition in every camp that the more gradual and reasonable we can make this, the more pressure there is on the Senate,” one senior aide said.

The proposed change to the bill, which has not been finalized, is also part of a strategy to avoid a last-minute failure on the floor at the hands of House Republicans.

Democrats have long worried that a GOP procedural maneuver on the floor — in which Republicans use a “motion to recommit” to put forward their own changes — could ultimately tank the entire effort.

If Republicans win support from about two dozen Democrats, they could force changes to the bill all within a few minutes. That could result in others in the caucus, including progressives, choosing to revolt and vote it down.

Heather Caygle contributed to this report.

This article was originally published by the Politico on July 12, 2019. Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author: Sarah Ferris covers budget and appropriations for POLITICO Pro. She was previously the lead healthcare and budget reporter for The Hill newspaper.

A graduate of the George Washington University, Ferris spent most of her time writing for The GW Hatchet. Her bylines have also appeared at The Washington Post, the Houston Chronicle and the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Raised on a dairy farm in Newtown, Conn., Ferris boasts a strong affinity for homemade ice cream, Dunkin Donuts coffee and the Boston Red Sox.

House Republicans spin CBO report to claim $15 minimum wage is socialism

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report, released Monday, found that a national $15 hourly minimum wage would likely increase pay for more than 15 million people and could cost between zero and 3.7 million jobs.

Within hours, several House Republicans had tweeted out the report’s worst-case scenario and suggested that gradually moving toward paying working Americans a livable wage was “socialism.”

The CBO is a non-partisan arm of Congress that works to make economic estimates and predictions about the economic and fiscal impact of legislation. It is currently run by Phillip Swagel, an economist who worked in President George W. Bush’s administration.

At the request of Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) — the ranking minority party member on the House Budget Committee — CBO economists produced a report called “The Effects on Employment and Family Income of Increasing the Federal Minimum Wage.”

The report found that by raising the $7.25 per hour current minimum wage for most workers to $15 by 2025, the nation likely “would boost the wages of 17 million workers who would otherwise earn less than $15 per hour” and could also boost the wages for another 10 million workers who earn slightly above that amount.

The report’s median estimate was that “1.3 million other workers would become jobless,” and found a “two-thirds chance that the change in employment would be between about zero and a decrease of 3.7 million workers,” while 1.3 another million people would be lifted out of poverty.

It also noted, “Findings in the research literature about how changes in the federal minimum wage affect employment vary widely. Many studies have found little or no effect of minimum wages on employment, but many others have found substantial reductions in employment.”

Rather than acknowledging the nuance in a candid way, Womack and other House Republicans quickly moved to demagogue by highlighting only the worst-case scenario.

“This report confirms what we already knew about House Democrats’ Raise the Wage Act: American workers and families will lose their jobs if this bill is enacted,” Womack claimed in a statement. “CBO shows that imposing a 107% increase on the minimum wage could result in up to 3.7 million lost jobs – jobs hardworking Americans rely on to feed their families and pay their bills, jobs communities need to fuel their local economies, and jobs essential to strengthening our nation’s financial future.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) tweeted that the “Democrats’ minimum wage plan would erase up to 3.7 MILLION American jobs.”

In the next sentence, however, he dropped his caveat that this was the worst case scenario.

“To put the impact into perspective, the job loss of this minimum wage increase is nearly equivalent to eliminating all jobs added to the economy since November 2017,” McCarthy wrote in his tweeted statement, attacking the minimum wage increase proposal as “the new Democrat-socialists’ [sic] plan.”

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) also tweeted a similar attack, accusing Democrats of again putting “their socialist agenda above workers.”

Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-MI) tweeted that the report “shows that raising the minimum wage to $15 does more harm than good and could cost as many as 3.7 million jobs in the United States.”

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) tweeted that “forcing” a “damaging $15/hr minimum wage mandate” on local businesses would mean “up to 3.7 million jobs” lost and hurt families.

Rep. Doug LaMafla (R-CA) was even more blunt, falsely claiming the CBO had reported “raising the minimum wage would eliminate 1.3-3.7 million jobs,” ignoring the fact that the word “median” means there is an equal chance that such an increase would cost somewhere between no jobs and 1.3 million.

But many studies have found that gradual increases to the minimum wage do not actually cost jobs. A January 2019 report published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, for example, examined 138 “prominent state-level minimum wage changes between 1979 and 2016” and found that “the overall number of low-wage jobs remained essentially unchanged over five years following the increase.”

A 2018 study by the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California at Berkeley similarly detected “no significant negative employment effects” in several cities that had recently raised their minimum wages to more than $10 per hour.

As of Tuesday, 204 U.S. representatives (plus the non-voting delegates from the District of Columbia and the Northern Mariana Islands), all Democrats, have signed onto the Raise the Wage Act. The Senate companion version has 32 supporters, all members of the Senate Democratic caucus.

Despite inflation and the growing cost of living, the federal minimum wage has not been increased since July 2009.

Though he has since flip-flopped, even President Donald Trump — a fierce opponent of “socialism” — promised in his 2016 campaign that he would raise the federal minimum wage to “at least $10.”

This article was originally published at Think Progress on July 9, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Josh Israel has been senior investigative reporter for ThinkProgress since 2012. Previously, he was a reporter and oversaw money-in-politics reporting at the Center for Public Integrity, was chief researcher for Nick Kotz’s acclaimed 2005 book Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Laws that Changed America, and was president of the Virginia Partisans Gay & Lesbian Democratic Club. A New England native, Josh received a B.A. in politics from Brandeis University and graduated from the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia, in 2004. He has appeared on cable news and many radio shows across the country. Twitter:  Facebook: 

Raising the minimum wage doesn't hurt jobs—it improves people's lives in ways you might not expect

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

Raising the minimum wage doesn’t hurt job growth. We know this because economist after economist has produced research backing up that statement, often drawing on parts of the U.S. that have increased the minimum wage. That’s why, after the Congressional Budget Office on Monday blew off its responsibility to use the best available information and offered Republicans fuel to claim that a minimum wage increase would cost jobs, economists who study minimum wage increases are lining up to explain why the CBO is just plain wrong.

“While they are acknowledging some of the research,” the Economic Policy Institute’s Ben Zipperer told The Washington Post, “I think they are drawing on older research that the new research has pointed out is problematic.” Berkeley economist Michael Reich and UMass-Amherst economist Arindrajit Dube made similar points, with Reich saying that the CBO’s equal reliance on high- and low-quality studies “reveals an unwillingness to recognize the major differences in scientific quality among studies.”

A recent study by Dube and Zipperer, along with Dorok Cengiz and Attila Lindner, “evaluated the local effect of more than 130 minimum-wage increases since 1979 and showed the fall in jobs paying less than the new minimum wage had been fully offset by the jump in new jobs paying just over it.” One hundred and thirty over 40 years. That’s a lot of data. It’s especially a lot of data for the CBO to be more or less ignoring.

But! That’s not all! Economists have other data showing important effects of raising the minimum wage. When the minimum wage rises, suicides fall. So does recidivism for recently released prisoners. Workers are more productive and less likely to change jobs. Consumer spending rises and poverty falls. In short, the working people’s economy gets better and people get happier and more hopeful. Republicans, of course, remain bitterly opposed to this.

This blog was originally published at Daily Kos on July 9, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos.

The cost of a $15 federal minimum wage

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

Rebecca Rainey

Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 would increase the pay of at least 17 million people, but also put 1.3 million Americans out of work, according to a study by the Congressional Budget Office released on Monday.

The increased federal minimum could also raise the wages of another 10 million workers and lift 1.3 million Americans out of poverty, according to the nonpartisan CBO. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 and last increased a decade ago.

The budget watchdog’s report comes ahead of next week’s vote in the House of Representatives on a bill to gradually raise the federal minimum to $15 an hour by 2024.

The CBO predicted much bigger job losses than House Democrats, who have pushed for the $15 minimum wage, expected. The study cited “considerable uncertainty” about the impact, because it’s hard to know exactly how employers would respond and to predict future wage growth.

The CBO wrote that in an average week in 2025, 1.3 million otherwise-employed workers would be jobless if the federal minimum wage went up to $15. That’s a median estimate. Overall, CBO economists wrote that resulting job losses would likely range between “about zero and 3.7 million.”

At the same time, the study says the $15 minimum wage would boost pay for 17 million people would otherwise be earning less than $15 an hour, and possibly for another 10 million Americans who would otherwise be earning slightly more than $15 per hour.

Considering a smaller increase to $12 an hour by 2025, the CBO estimated a boost for 5 million workers and a loss of 300,000 jobs. An increase to $10 an hour would give a raise to 1.5 million workers and would have “little effect on employment.”

The House, controlled by the Democrats, is expected next week to pass the Raise the Wage Act, which would lift the federal minimum wage to $15 gradually by 2024. Its author, Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., on Monday argued that the benefits in CBO’s forecasts far outweighed the costs.

The measure faces a high hurdle in the Republican-controlled Senate. Even so, raising the federal minimum has been picking up steam over the years.

Already, 29 states, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands and Guam have set wage standards higher than the federal minimum. Seven states and the District of Columbia are on track to increase their wage minimums to $15 in coming years.

Many economists have agreed that modest increases to wage minimums don’t cause huge job losses. That theory was shown in a high-profile paper by David Card and Alan Krueger. The CBO wrote: “Many studies have found little or no effect of minimum wages on employment, but many others have found substantial reductions in employment.”

This article was first published at NPR.

This article was originally published at Politico on July 9, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Rebecca Rainey is an employment and immigration reporter with POLITICO Pro and the author of the Morning Shift newsletter.

Prior to joining POLITICO in August 2018, Rainey covered the Occupational Safety and Health administration and regulatory reform on Capitol Hill. Her work has been published by The Washington Post and the Associated Press, among other outlets.

Rainey holds a bachelor’s degree from the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland.

She was born and raised on the eastern shore of Maryland and grew up 30 minutes from the beach. She loves to camp, hike and be by the water whenever she can.

A Nation Where Only The Rich Have Homes?

Monday, June 10th, 2019

In our daily lives, as anyone who keeps a household budget can attest, the unexpected happens all the time. A refrigerator motor fails. Some part on your car you never realized existed breaks down. A loved one passes away and you have to — you want to — be at the funeral a thousand miles away.

“Unexpected” expenses like these will, sooner or later, hit all of us. But all of us, says new research out of the Federal Reserve, can’t afford them.

In fact, just under 40 percent of Americans, says the Fed’s sixth annual household economics survey, “would have difficulty handling an emergency expense as small as $400.”

A fifth of American adults, the new Fed study adds, had major unexpected medical bills last year. An even larger share of Americans — one quarter — “skipped necessary medical care in 2018 because they were unable to afford the cost.”

Meanwhile, 17 percent of American adults can’t afford to pay all their monthly bills, even if they don’t experience an unexpected expense.

The new Fed report offers no anecdotal color, just waves of carefully collected statistical data. For a sense of what these stats mean in human terms, we need only look around where we live, particularly if we live in one of the many metro areas where inequality is squeezing millions of Americans who once considered themselves solidly “middle class.” Places like the Bay Area in California.

San Francisco, recent research shows, now has more billionaires per capita than any other city in the world. By one reckoning, San Francisco also has the highest cost of living in the world, as all those billionaires — and the rest of the city’s ultra rich — bid up prices on the most desirable local real estate.

But the Bay Area squeeze goes beyond the confines of San Francisco. Nearby Oakland and Berkeley are facing enormous affordable housing shortages as well. The Bay Area as a whole now has more than 30,000 homeless.

Two-thirds of these homeless Californians haven’t been able to find temporary sheltering services. They live and sleep outdoors, many in lines of RVs parked along public right-of-ways like the waterfront in Berkeley. And that has infuriated nearby residents who’ve paid big bucks for their residences.

Berkeley city council member Kate Harrison has felt the fury first-hand — from constituents who wanted the RVs of homeless people banned from the waterfront.

“I paid a million dollars for my place,” one constituent told her, “and they have a better view.”

Local officials in Bay Area cities don’t know quite what to do. On one side, they have people without shelter who have real and unmet human needs. On the other, they have angry affluents with shelter who see their neighborhoods under siege from homeless hordes.

The more people spend on housing, Berkeley councilperson Harrison has come to understand, the more “aggrieved” they feel.

“Only the one?percent here,” she adds, “feel economically secure.”

In other words, inequality has local officials coming and going. The ranks of the homeless are growing because almost all the gains from America’s growing economy, as the Economic Policy Institute’s Elise Gould testified to Congress this past March, are “going to households at the top.”

Empathy for the plight of the homeless, meanwhile, is withering away, particularly among society’s most fortunate, as the social distance between that top and the rest of society widens. The rich have climbed so far up the income ladder that they can’t see the humanity on the faces of people stuck on the lower rungs.

One telling sign of our unequal times: In wealthy Bay Area neighborhoods, the Washington Post reports, GoFundMe campaigns have emerged “to finance lawsuits against affordable housing proposals.”

What happens when empathy all but totally disappears? You get the life that the 33-year-old Ashana Cunningham lives in southwest Connecticut, the home to some of America’s grandest hedge-fund fortunes — as well as more separate and unequal housing, a devastating just-published analysis notes, “than nearly everywhere else in the country.”

Cunningham, the mother of three, lives in a homeless shelter amid abandoned factories and rundown houses. She takes a long bus commute every day to a high-priced day care center in one of Connecticut’s poshest areas. Cunningham couldn’t afford to live in that area even if she made triple her $12.50 per hour salary because, as joint reporting by Pro Publica and the Connecticut Mirror details, Connecticut’s wealthiest communities have been blocking construction of any modestly priced housing “within their borders for the last two decades, often through exclusionary zoning requirements.”

Towns like Westport — median home value: $1.15 million — have surrounded themselves “with invisible walls to block affordable housing and, by extension, the people who need it.”

One local developer five years ago proposed a project for Westport that would accommodate up to 12 families via a mix of single- and multifamily housing units on a 2.2-acre property he had purchased. The density, the developer explain, would allow the units to sell “for less than the typical Westport home.”

The Westport Planning and Zoning Commission denied his plan.

“To me,” declared one commissioner who voted against the plan, “this is ghettoizing Westport.”

In reality, the wealthy in localities like Westport have effectively “ghettoized” their corner of Connecticut, locking in place an extreme inequality that’s doing deep damage to the young people who grow up within it. So suggests a study that appeared last month in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics.

The researchers involved in the study examined data from nearly 30,000 schools and found “the first evidence of an association between early-life inequality and adolescent bullying.”

“Put another way,” explains an analysis of the study from Harvard’s Shorenstein Center, “there is a link between early life inequality and being bullied at school later in life.”

The new study’s lead author, Frank Elgar of Montreal’s McGill University, emphasizes that the link his team’s researchers found rests between inequality and bullying, not poverty and bullying. The “effect of growing up in an unequal setting,” Elgar points out, may well be significantly — and negatively — altering the course of children’s development.

Just how does inequality have this impact? The researchers say we need more research. How about they start that probing in southwest Connecticut.

This blog was originally published at OurFuture.org on June 10, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: A veteran labor journalist, Sam Pizzigati has written widely on economic inequality, in articles, books, and online, for both popular and scholarly readers.

Bernie Sanders brings the fight for a $15 minimum wage to Walmart’s shareholders meeting

Thursday, June 6th, 2019

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) brought his battle for a $15 minimum wage and workers’ rights to Walmart’s annual shareholders meeting in Arkansas on Wednesday.

The Walton family controls just over 50% of the company’s stock. They are the richest family in the United States. Sanders has called out the Walton’s refusal to raise wages for its workers, asserting that it is “outrageous that the Walton family makes more in one minute than a Walmart worker earns in a year.”

At the invitation of Cat Davis, a longtime Walmart employee, Sanders went to the meeting to issue his demands in person: raise hourly wages from $11 to $15, put an employee representative on the company board, grant part-time workers the opportunity to work full-time, and stop obstructing workers’ efforts to unionize.

He addressed an enthusiastic crowd following the meeting. His audience booed when Sanders announced the current starting wages at Walmart and at the astonishing wealth of the Walton family.

“You have a company here that is owned by the Walton family … worth about $175 billion,” Sanders said. “One might think that a family worth $175 billion would be able to pay its employees a living wage. And yet, as you all know, the starting wage at Walmart now is $11 an hour. And people cannot make it on $11 an hour. You can’t pay rent. You can’t get health care. You can’t feed your kids or put gas in the car on $11 an hour. What we are also saying: It is a little bit absurd that many, many Walmart employees are forced to go on government programs like Medicaid or food stamps or public housing subsidized by the taxpayers of this country.”

In an interview with CNN, Sanders explained why he believes it is so crucial that workers be represented on the company’s board. “At the end of the day, working people have got to have some control over how they spend at least eight hours a day,” Sanders said. “They cannot simply be cogs in a machine. To be a human being means that you have some ability to control your life. And that includes your work life.”

If Walmart raises its starting wage to $15, it would be joining the likes of Amazon and Disneyland, both of which faced criticism from Sanders for paying workers poorly and, last year, started paying their workers $15 an hour. (Disneyworld employees will see that raise in 2021.)

Last November, Sanders and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) introduced the Stop Walmart Act, “a campaign to raise wages at Walmart and other large, profitable corporations that pay poverty-level wages.” Under their legislation, large employers would be forbidden from buying back stock unless they paid all employees, including part-time workers and contractors, at least $15 an hour; allowed workers to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave; and made sure that the compensation of the highest-paid employee — probably, though not always, the CEO — was no more than 150 times the median pay of all employees.

This article was originally published at ThinkProgress on June 5, 2019. Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author: Jessica M. Goldstein is a reporter for ThinkProgress covering culture and politics.

2020 hopefuls are joining striking fast food workers Thursday — but who’s helping whom?

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

McDonald’s workers are striking Thursday in a dozen cities across the country.

The latest walkouts in the nearly six-year-old campaign for union rights and sustainable wages, timed to overlap with the fast food giant’s annual shareholder meeting in Dallas, will also feature a number of 2020 White House hopefuls.

Former congressman and Housing and Urban Development head Julián Castro (D-TX) will join striking workers in Durham, North Carolina, alongside Moral Mondays leader Rev. William Barber II. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will video conference in to the Dallas worker rally and take questions from the crowd.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) will attend walkouts in Chicago and Des Moines, Iowa, respectively. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) had previously planned to attend the Des Moines rally but had to switch things up after a Senate vote on federal disaster relief was scheduled for Thursday at the last minute.

The presidential contenders will likely create an additional media draw in those four cities. But the workers themselves will be their own headliner in nine others, including Miami, Orlando, and Tampa, as well as Milwaukee.

These White House hopefuls are arguably more in need of being seen with these workers than the low-wage toilers require these politicos’ imprimatur. Since 2013, when the first impromptu walkout in New York broke open an organizing terrain that traditional labor organizers had long regarded as impossible, the Fight for $15 has been a persistent and mounting force in U.S. politics.

And as those strikes spread nationwide, to dozens and eventually hundreds of cities and towns across the United States, the energy present among the fast food and retail workers also broke through longstanding roadblocks on minimum wage laws.

Prior to Fight For $15 bringing new electricity to the scene, statutory pay floors had stagnated and fallen far behind inflation for decades around the country. In the spring of 2014, minimum wage advocates in Seattle, aided by the combined pressure of workers in the streets working from the outside and newly elected socialist firebrand Kshama Sawant making the case from her city council perch, finally reached a breakthrough. Seattle became the first municipality to set its pay floor at $15 an hour in the United States.

Numerous cities and states have followed suit since. And the $15 minimum wage question haunted the 2016 presidential election. During that season’s Democratic primary, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s initial insistence that $12-per-hour was better policy eventually gave way to her embrace of the $15 demand.

If anyone still wanted to dispute the worker-led movement’s political gravity after that dramatic moment in the 2016 primary season, a little-noticed development this spring should have put such skepticism to bed for good. McDonald’s itself dropped its opposition to the campaign’s demands and withdrew its support for the National Restaurant Association’s long-running lobbying campaign against wage hikes and workers’ rights for the fast food industry.

The acquiescence of the industry’s leading burger chain has by no means ended the firm’s manifold conflicts with workers. McDonald’s workers have continued to file sexual harassment suits against the corporation, aided in recent months by the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union — as well as by 2020 hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who blasted out a profile of their efforts to her massive social media following Tuesday.

The chain’s workers have also brought attention to the violence employees routinely face from customers along with, they contend, the dismissive, not-my-problem response they frequently get from management when they attempt to raise their concerns internally.

It is telling that White House hopefuls from all tiers of the primary — heavy hitters and long shots alike — are looking to associate themselves directly with the workers who are bearing the risks and costs of a union drive their employers oppose. The continued success of this largely grassroots movement will likely continue to command influence over the Democratic primary long after Thursday’s rallies and walkouts.

Labor energy has traditionally fueled the retail politicking of Democrats, of course. When former Vice President Joe Biden (D) joined a Stop & Shop workers’ rally during their recent and ultimately successful 11-day strike, the political media barely batted an eye. This is just what’s expected of those who would bear the party’s banner.

But there are signs that the relationship between elected Democrats and rank-and-file labor is shifting. Sanders’ campaign recently harnessed its digital subscriber list in the service of encouraging supporters to show up for workers at picket lines and rallies. As ThinkProgress previously detailed, his presidential campaign will be the first run by a unionized staff.

Lower-profile unionization drives in other industries have drawn mass attention from the energetic online left and, in turn, from Democratic politicians working to figure out how to wed that vocal cohort to the party’s traditionally moderate wing. And the AFL-CIO, long one of the most significant power brokers outside the party’s official infrastructure, is embroiled in internal disputes about how it apportions resources between organizing workers and influencing elections. It remains to be seen how that turmoil will affect the party’s own ability to rely on the AFL to turn out members at campaign events and on polling days, and broker connections between office-seekers and working stiffs.

The Fight for $15 folks, meanwhile, have remained a mainstay in the broad panoply of labor activists since their first-ever national convention in Richmond, Virginia, three years ago. The emotion and excitement that has long attended the campaign’s activism — coupled with the moral and rhetorical leadership of Rev. Barber and his fellow clergymen — make the movement an attractive force with which to form an allegiance. With several Democratic primary hopefuls beating an early path to their picket lines, it seems likely many more will show up in the months to come.

This article was originally published at Think Progress on May 15, 2019. Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author: Alan Pyke  covers poverty and the social safety net. Alan is also a film and music critic for fun. Send him tips at: apyke@thinkprogress.org or

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