Posts Tagged ‘Minimum Wage’
Friday, December 6th, 2013
After coming within one vote of a veto-proof majority for a bill that would have required big box stores to pay a $12.50 living wage, the Washington, DC, city council unanimously supportedraising the city’s minimum wage to $11.50 by 2016 and tying it to inflation, in a preliminary vote Tuesday.
Despite the fact that many states and cities have raised the minimum wage without seeing jobs flee across nearby borders to places with the low federal minimum wage of $7.25, proponents of poverty wages always claim that’s what’s going to happen. That may be particularly true in Washington, DC, as a small urban zone sandwiched between two states, and one with such a high density of industry lobbyists—but in this case, there’s a twist involving two neighboring counties in Maryland:
By coordinating with lawmakers in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, which approved similar measures late last month, the council put the three localities on the cusp of creating a contiguous region with 2.5 million residents and a minimum wage higher than any of the 50 states.
The Washington measure is expected to pass a final vote easily and, if Mayor Vincent Gray vetoes it, the votes should be there for a veto override. So after all its hissy fits about the possibility of having to pay DC workers $12.50, Walmart will likely have to pay $11.50.
This article was originally printed on Daily Kos on December 3, 2013. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson is the labor editor at Daily Kos.
Friday, November 1st, 2013
A minimum wage increase is badly needed, but since it’s going nowhere in a Republican-controlled House, low-wage workers have to turn to the state and local level. Next up, New Jersey, where voters will have a chance next week to put a minimum wage hike in their state constitution.
A measure on the ballot would raise the state minimum wage to $8.25 (the federal level is currently $7.25) and tie it to inflation so that workers didn’t have to wait years until the politics lined up for the state legislature to pass an increase and the governor to sign it. The fact that this is going to a vote actually comes out of just such a failure:
The measure has a huge margin of support, according to two late-September polls. Some 65 percent of registered voters said they will vote for the measure with just 12 percent planning to vote against it, according to a Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll of nearly 700 registered voters. A Rutgers poll released at the same time found even broader support, albeit by a similar margin. Voters in that poll of 925 adult New Jerseyans supported the measure 76 percent to 22 percent.The ballot question is the result of a fight between the state’s all-Democratic legislature and Republican Gov. Chris Christie. Earlier this year, Christie vetoed a bill to raise the minimum wage to $8.50, with automatic adjustments tied to inflation increases. That bill, he said, was bad for the economy. Instead, Christie offered to raise in the minimum wage to $8.25 over three years and increase the earned income tax credit. Democrats said no thanks and instead voted to pose the question to voters.
It’s really too bad the proposed increase is only to $8.25, which is still a low, low wage, especially in an expensive state like New Jersey. Nonetheless, it’s an improvement, and should translate to a raise not just for people currently making $7.25 an hour but also for people making slightly more, who are likely to get raises as the minimum wage goes up.
This article was originally printed on Daily Kos Labor on October 31, 2013. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson is the labor editor at Daily Kos.
Friday, October 18th, 2013
You don’t have to remember much about the minimum wage debate. Except for this.
Tattoo this: If even the federal minimum wage had increased with productivity and inflation since 1968 – as it had done in prior decades — it would be $17 per hour today instead of a meager $7.25.
This happens to be a sentence from an article by my pal Mark Weisbrot. But, it’s not new.
Back in 2009, I wrote that the minimum wage was a national scandal, one the current president was perpetuating with a meek proposal to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour.
So, just remember that one sentence when some idiot says the minimum wage is just fine, or that the country is doing some favor to people by hiking it to $9 an hour. That just reflects one thing: a four decade robbery, using the hard work of people to make a profit and refusing to pay they a fair share.
This article was originally printed on Working Life on October 5, 2013. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Jonathan Tasini is a strategist, organizer, activist, commentator and writer, primarily focusing his energies on the topics of work, labor and the economy. On June 11, 2009, he announced that he would challenge New York U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in the Democratic primary for the 2010 U.S. Senate special election in New York. However, Tasini later decided to run instead for a seat in the House of Representatives in 2010.
Wednesday, September 18th, 2013
Workers at Dylan’s Candy Bar in Manhattan, the flagship location of a small chain of boutique candy stores opened by Dylan Lauren (daughter of fashion designer Ralph Lauren), are going public with their efforts to challenge low pay and erratic, part-time work schedules. Their claim: A store that serves as a “required stop” for celebrities and entertainers such as “Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Katie Holmes, Janet Jackson, and Madonna,” with annual revenues around $25 million, isn’t all that interested in meeting with its workers to discuss their concerns.
After rebuff, a public petition
The workers have posted a public petition to build awareness and support:
Most of us started at less than $10/hour, with some of us even making as low as $8.50. We’re supposed to get annual reviews for raises, but they often forget to give us those.
On top of the low wages, our schedules and hours change week to week. Nearly the entire sales staff is part time, yet they expect us to have open availability, making it nearly impossible for us to juggle other obligations such as second jobs, school, and family. They refuse to give us any guarantee of the amount of hours we will work each week, and yet they get angry with us when we look for a second job.
. . . Unfortunately, when we got together to deliver our own petition to management, they shrugged it off. Ignoring our concerns, they simply told us that any issues regarding compensation could only be addressed in one-on-one meetings with managers and not together as a group.
The company’s willingness to meet only in one-to-one meetings is telling: It speaks of a divide-and-conquer (or perhaps divide-and-intimidate) approach, one that also makes it harder for workers to claim the protections of federal labor laws. These laws extend to employees engaged in “concerted activities for mutual aid and protection” but do not apply to employees acting solely as individuals.
The workers have reached out to the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). This is the latest evidence of an emerging movement coming from members of America’s low-paid retail workforce, and it couldn’t come at a more important time.
Maybe Dylan’s unpaid HR intern can lend insights
It appears that Dylan’s employee relations philosophies apply to its interns as well. Earlier this year, Dylan’s posted a long announcement seeking an unpaid intern for its human resources department:
We are looking for a Human Resources Intern to join our team. The right candidate will be exposed to a dynamic and exciting opportunity for learning and growing in all disciplines in the Human Resources body of knowledge.
. . . Compensation: This is an unpaid internship, MetroCard will be provided
Among the minimum requirements was this ironic nugget: “Knowledge of the US labor regulatory environment and reporting requirements related to Human Resources.” Of course, an intern with such knowledge might rightly comprehend that the unpaid internship, with its long list of anticipated duties, probably violates minimum wage laws, as this U.S. Department of Labor fact sheet suggests. (A New York federal district court’s June decision on a lawsuit against Fox Searchlight Pictures provides further illumination on that point.)
Hmm, even with the huge, generous perk of a MetroCard, if I was the intern, I’d be giving serious consideration to joining the rest of the workers in circulating the petition.
This article was originally printed on Minding the Workplace on September 16, 2013. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: David Yamada is a tenured Professor of Law and Director of the New Workplace Institute at Suffolk University Law School in Boston. He is an internationally recognized authority on the legal aspects of workplace bullying, and he is author of model anti-bullying legislation — dubbed the Healthy Workplace Bill — that has become the template for law reform efforts across the country. In addition to teaching at Suffolk, he holds numerous leadership positions in non-profit and policy advocacy organizations.
Friday, September 13th, 2013
Following Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray’s veto Thursday of a living wage bill for workers in big-box stores such as Walmart, backers of Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRAA) are mounting a campaign to override the veto.
The bill, which sets a $12.50 wage for workers, passed the D.C. City Council in June by an 8–5 vote, and an override requires nine votes. TheMetropolitan Washington Council’s Union City reports that LRAA backers are focusing on D.C. Council member Tommy Wells for the ninth vote.
Metropolitan Washington Council President Jos Williams called on the City Council to “stand up for D.C. workers and override this veto.”
District resident Kimberly Mitchell said Gray “had the opportunity to stand up for the residents of this city, but instead he allowed large, out of town companies, like Walmart, to threaten him and ultimately dictate the policies of our city.”
Shortly before the Council passed the bill, Walmart threatened to scrap plans to build three stores planned for the district and possibly halt construction on three others that are under way.
The Rev. Graylan Hagler, of Plymouth United Congregational Church of Christ and Faith Strategies, said:
If we cannot demand higher wages and good jobs from the nation’s and world’s largest corporations, D.C. will not be able to remain a diverse and vibrant city. We strongly urge the City Council to override this misguided veto.
If you’re in D.C., contact Wells at 888-264-6154 asking him to support the LRAA and override the veto.
This article was originally printed in AFL-CIO on September 13, 2013. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journaland managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and has written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety.
Friday, September 6th, 2013
Would a higher minimum wage be good for business at Walmart? Many experts say so—after all, a higher minimum wage would give many Walmart customers a little more disposable incometo spend at the store:
David Cooper, an economic analyst with the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, agrees with Demos’s Ruetschlin that the sluggish economic recovery means a boost in the minimum wage could push low-income workers to spend more, and in many cases they’d spend that money at low-priced outlets like Walmart.“If suddenly all these low-wage workers have more income, they are likely to spend that money right away,” Cooper said. “If these retailers want strong, stable sustainable growth in the U.S. economy, then they should also want strong, stable increases in wages to their employees.” [...]
The data linking an increase in wages to a rise in consumer spending — particularly at a specific retail outlet — is a bit thin, but there’s “very strong anecdotal evidence in support of that claim,” said Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and a former economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden.
Walmart definitely knows that when its customers don’t have money, business suffers; the company’s chief financial officer recently said, to explain a drop in U.S. sales, that “The consumer doesn’t quite have the discretionary income, or they’re hesitant to spend what they do have.” And in fact, in the past, when the minimum wage has gotten too far below the poverty line, a Walmart CEO has explicitly said that was a problem: “The U.S. minimum wage of $5.15 an hour has not been raised in nearly a decade, and we believe it is out of date with the times … Our customers simply don’t have the money to buy basic necessities between paychecks.”
A yacht store is unlikely to see much of a boost from an increase in the minimum wage, in other words, but Walmart, where people go for cheap, basic necessities, will do better. Walmart’s opposition to paying an actual living wage, one that doesn’t force workers to rely on food stamps and Medicaid, is well known. But if Congress doesn’t act and raise the minimum wage, we might get back to a point where Walmart admits it would benefit from an increase. Which would, more than anything, be a sign of how embarrassingly bad Congress is—can you imagine lagging behind Walmart on wage issues?
Join Making Change at Walmart and Daily Kos in telling Walmart and the Waltons to respect their employees and pay a real wage.
This article originally appeared on Daily Kos Labor on September 4, 2013. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson is the labor editor at Daily Kos
Friday, August 30th, 2013
New technology is keeping more and more workers stuck in low-wage jobs, and it’s society’s responsibility to make sure those jobs still have dignity and fair wages.
With robots taking over factories and warehouses, toll collectors and cashiers increasingly being replaced by automation and even legal researchers being replaced by computers, the age-old question of whether technology is a threat to jobs is back with us big time. Technological change has been seen as a threat to jobs for centuries, but the history tells that while technology has destroyed some jobs, the overall impact has been to create new jobs, often in new industries. Will that be true after the information revolution as it was in the industrial revolution?
In an article in The New York Times, David Autor and David Dorn, who have just published research on this question, argue that the basic history remains the same: while many jobs are being disrupted, new jobs are being created and many jobs will not be replaceable by computers. While there is good news in their analysis for some in the middle-class, their findings reinforce the need to organize workers in lower-skilled jobs to demand decent wages.
The authors’ research found that while routine jobs are being replaced by computers, the number of both “abstract” and “manually intensive” jobs increased. In their article in the Times, the authors describe the new jobs:
At one end are so-called abstract tasks that require problem-solving, intuition, persuasion and creativity. These tasks are characteristic of professional, managerial, technical and creative occupations, like law, medicine, science, engineering, advertising and design. People in these jobs typically have high levels of education and analytical capability, and they benefit from computers that facilitate the transmission, organization and processing of information.
On the other end are so-called manual tasks, which require situational adaptability, visual and language recognition and in-person interaction. Preparing a meal, driving a truck through city traffic or cleaning a hotel room present mind-bogglingly complex challenges for computers. But they are straightforward for humans, requiring primarily innate abilities like dexterity, sightedness and language recognition, as well as modest training. These workers can’t be replaced by robots, but their skills are not scarce, so they usually make low wages.
As the authors conclude, “This bifurcation of job opportunities has contributed to the historic rise in income inequality.”
When it comes to addressing this attack on the middle class, the authors offer some hope, but not for those low-wage workers. They argue that a large number of skilled jobs, requiring specialized training—although not necessarily a college education—will not be replaceable by computers. These include people who care for our health like medical paraprofessionals, people who care for our buildings like plumbers, people who help us use technology (I was chatting online just yesterday to get tech support) and many others. Because these jobs do require higher levels of skills, they should be able to demand middle-class wages.
But what about those housekeepers, delivery truck drivers and fast-food workers, like those who are taking actions around the country today against fast-food chains to demand better pay. The authors do not offer a path to the middle class for them.
If history is an example here as well, we should remember that lower-skilled work does not have to come with low pay. The workers who stood on assembly lines in the 1930s did not have a college education or years of specialized training; they fought for the right to organize unions and demanded high enough wages to support their families.
This Labor Day, as more and more workers are stuck in the growing number of low-wage jobs, causing enormous stress for their families while keeping the economy sluggish, we need to look to the examples of new ways of organizing workers who can not be replaced by technology. There’s the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, who organized drivers to successfully win living wages and a health and disability fund. Or the successful boycott of Hyatt Hotels, leading to an agreement with UNITE HERE to not fight organizing campaigns in their hotels.
We need to support organizing by modernizing our labor laws to account for the large number of workers not currently or adequately protected, the new ways that work is organized and the global economy.
The lesson from the Autor–Dorn research is that technology doesn’t have to destroy the middle class. What will destroy the middle class is our failure as a society to provide dignity to all workers. That’s what fast-food workers and their community-labor supporters are fighting for across the country.
This article originally appeared in The Next New Deal Blog on August 29, 2013, and was cross-posed on AFL-CIO Now on August 30, 2013. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Richard Kirsch is a senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, a senior adviser to USAction and the author of Fighting for Our Health. He was national campaign manager of Health Care for America Now during the legislative battle to pass reform.
Friday, August 9th, 2013
What started out last fall as a one-day walkout at fast-food restaurants to protest poverty-level wages and stand up for basic human dignity has transformed into a movement that has captured the public interest.
I’ve been privileged, especially in recent weeks, to talk to institutional partners, policymakers and media about why low-wage workers across the country are risking their jobs and forgoing a much-needed day’s pay to work toward a better future for themselves and their families. We will be better off when hardworking people have enough money in their pockets to put back into their communities and generate more jobs, and SEIU members are proud to back these workers in their pursuit of economic justice and better lives for their families.
I traveled to New York City on Wednesday, to talk to Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert about the fast-food strikes. How in the world did this happen? I told Kendall Fells, an organizer from Fast Food Forward, it is because of the courage of the strikers, such as Shay Kerr and Shakira Campbell.
Shay has worked at McDonald’s in East Flatbush, N.Y., for six months. She earns minimum wage and, because sometimes her hours are cut for no reason, she can’t rely on a set pay every week. Since she cannot make ends meet on her wages, she has been bouncing around shelters. She’s fighting for a union so she can make a better life for herself and her 6-year-old son. Shakira is leading an action tomorrow at her store to be put back on the schedule. Their stories echo stories I’ve heard from workers all around the country.
Shakira, Shay, and many others who I have had the privilege of meeting in recent months are helping the public understand that, contrary to what some believe, these positions aren’t being filled by teenagers. Anyone who thinks they are is nostalgic for a time that no longer exists.
More than 4 million people work in the food service industry. Their average age is 28. Many of these workers have children and are trying to support a family. The median wage (including managerial staff) of $9.08 an hour still falls far below the federal poverty line for a worker lucky enough to get 40 hours a week and never have to take a sick day. According to the National Employment Law Project, low-wage jobs comprised 21 percent of recession losses, but 58 percent of recovery growth in the last few years.
This means middle-class jobs are disappearing while low-wage jobs are growing. If we simply accept this as fact, then the divide between the haves and the have-nots will only grow worse. And that is just wrong.
We cannot build a strong, equitable economy on low-paying jobs. Corporate profits are at an all-time high. McDonalds earned $5.5 billion just last year; other fast-food restaurants and retail chains are similarly profitable. They can afford to raise wages.
Americans have a long history of sticking together to fight for something better. SEIU can be proud of how we are fighting on so many fronts, from winning commonsense immigration reform, to delivering on the promise of the Affordable Care Act, to telling our elected officials to invest in vital public services, and to organizing in various sectors to make sure workers have a voice in the workplace. All of our members are involved in these campaigns to help workers strengthen and grow our union. As we do it, we know we have to reach out to the growing service sector of low-wage jobs in retail and fast food.
We are united to make a path to power for all workers; winning a just society; and leaving the world a better and more equal place for next generations to come.
This article originally appeared on SEIU blog on August 8, 2013. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Mary Kay Henry is the International President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
Thursday, August 8th, 2013
While the average McDonalds employee in the United States makes just above the $7.25 minimum wage, that story is different in other countries. As Jordan Weissmann reports at The Atlantic, the minimum wage for full-time adult workers in Australia is $14.50 and McDonalds employees just negotiated a 15 percent raise by 2016. Yet the company has about 900 locations in the country.
Meanwhile, its profit margins at company-owned restaurants are higher in Europe than in the U.S. despite many countries there having a higher minimum wage. France’s minimum is about $12 an hour, and yet there are more than 1,200 locations there.
Residents of other countries pay more for their Big Macs, in part at least to make up for those extra costs, but the increase in prices is not drastic. Australians paid an average of $4.62 in U.S. dollars for a Big Mac in July and it cost $4.66 in the eurozone, while Americans paid $4.56. That’s a difference of about 6 to 10 extra cents, which would mean raising Big Mac prices a little over 2 percent in the U.S. to come equal with those in Europe.
Higher prices are related to the fact that the company does spend more on the cost of labor in other countries. In the U.S., it spends about 25 percent of its expenses on workers at the locations it owns, and franchises usually assume labor costs will take up about 30 to 35 percent. Worldwide, those costs have been found to come to closer to 45 percent of expenses. But the company reported nearly $5.5 billion in net income overall last year, up from about $2.4 billion in 2007, with more revenues coming from Europe than the U.S.
Australian locations have other ways to keep labor costs low, like exploiting a loophole that only requires an $8 wage for teenagers. Weissmann also reports that the company likely gives its higher paid European employees more responsibility and so ekes out more productivity from those workers. While productivity has risen in the U.S., wages haven’t.
But it’s clear, even to the company itself, that its American wages are not enough to get by on. It released a sample budget for employees that suggested paying nothing for heat, getting a second job, and spending just $20 a month on health care. While it claims to be an above minimum wage employer in the U.S., its average wages are mere cents more.
The inability to get by on its low wages has sparked pushback from workers across the country, with fast food workers striking in nine different cities. They are calling for a $15 minimum wage, the same as Australia’s, which is higher than President Obama’s $9 an hour proposal and Congressional Democrats’ of $10.10 an hour.
This article originally appeared on ThinkProgress on August 6, 2013. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Bryce Covert is the Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress. She was previously editor of the Roosevelt Institute’s Next New Deal blog and a senior communications officer. She is also a contributor for The Nation and was previously a contributor for ForbesWoman.
Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
Whenever communities, lawmakers or activists question or criticize Walmart for the way it treats workers—the low-pay, the stores’ impact on the communities—the retail giant pulls out a well-worn script with a simple message, “Walmart creates jobs and if there’s one thing this economy needs, it’s more jobs.”
Setting aside the quality of the jobs for another day, is Walmart telling the truth? Sure doesn’t look like it, according to Salon’s Kathleen Geier, who matches Walmart’s claims against in-depth research from universities, economists, government studies and other sources. Here’s what she finds:
Contrary to Walmart’s self-glorifying mythology, the retailer is anything but a job creator—in fact, it is a huge job killer. Not only that, destroying jobs is an essential component of Walmart’s anti-worker business model.
She cites a study led by Economist David Neumark—who, by the way, has written against raising the minimum wage in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.
Using data from more than 3,000 counties, [the] results show that when a Walmart store opens, it kills an average 150 retail jobs at the county level, with each Walmart worker replacing about 1.4 retail workers. These results are robust under a variety of models and tests.
A 2009 study by Loyola University found that the opening of a Chicago Walmart store was “a wash,” destroying as many jobs as it created. According to the report, “There is no evidence that Wal-Mart sparked any significant net growth in economic activity or employment in the area.” Says Geier:
In short, when Walmart comes to town, it doesn’t “create” anything. All it does is put mom-and-pop stores out of business.
Walmart’s job-killing spree doesn’t stop at the city limits. The remains of once good jobs are scattered throughout Walmart’s entire supply chain. Its cut-throat drive for lower prices, writes Geier, squeezes suppliers to deliver goods at the lowest possible prices and that means cutting labor costs—aka jobs.
Read the full article.
Walmart’s using that specious jobs argument in its fight to block a living wage law in Washington,D.C. Find out more here.
Article originally appeared on AFL-CIO NOW on August 6, 2013. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journaland managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and has written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety