Huffington Post reports that New York is making a big stride toward a state-wide minimum wage of $15 per hour for fast food workers. A panel set up by Governor Andrew Cuomo, a politician often criticized for not being liberal or progressive. It’s not clear if this measure would only apply to the fast food industry or if it would cover all industries. In any case, this is another example of politicians admitting that the current minimum wage is too low. America needs a raise, and hopefully leaders in New York will set a good example.
Writing in Huffington Post, Amy Traub, an Analyst at Demos, notes that the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that McDonald’s workers could organize as one union because of the corporation’s rules for franchisees. This ruling will be appealed. However, if it is maintained, fast food workers have won a great victory in their fight for a living wage. Traub also notes efforts in the U.S. Senate and House to introduce new legislation that would make it easier for workers to organize. Given the current structure of the Congress, it’s hard to imagine these measures becoming law. That’s the bad news. The good news is that strong progressive voices like Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Keith Ellison are speaking out and presenting alternatives to “right to work” [for less] schemes. As Traub states, this has been a good week for workers. May there be many more.
Laura Clawson of Daily Kos is not an economist. She is a great writer on labor issues who knows how to do good research. She has found a study that shows job have grown in states that have raised their minimum wages since the beginning of 2014. Critics of a minimum wage increase claim that it is common sense that increasing the wage will lead businesses to close and more people to lose their jobs. Clawson notes that the study’s writer insists that we cannot link causality between an increase in the minimum wage and job growth. But it does disprove the claim that raising the wage is a “job killer.” America needs a raise, and where it has gotten one, business seems to be doing all right.
Retailer IKEA has shown leadership in raising its minimum wage to $10.76 per hour. Better still, the company will adjust that wage in areas where the cost of living is higher. The company only has 38 stores in the U.S. But, hopefully, it is setting a model for its larger competitors in the retail world. America needs a raise, and IKEA is helping lead the way.
First Seattle – now the Big Apple. Huffington Post reports that the New York state legislature is debating a measure that would increase the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 and enable New York City to set its own minimum wage. According to the article, the income of a minimum wage worker would increase by $100 a week. Low wage workers would spend that money, which would help improve the economy.
Will some jobs be lost if the minimum wage is increased. Probably. But other jobs will be created because of that extra $100 a week in people’s pockets. An increased minimum wage will also spur employers to increase the pay of other hourly workers. President Obama put it best: “America needs a raise.”
Jobs! Jobs! Politicians and TV talking heads have been saying we need more jobs since the financial crisis of 2008-2009. Well, now we have some good news about jobs. The American economy has made up all the jobs lost during the crisis. This would seem to be a positive trend. However, all jobs are not equal, especially when it comes to wages.
In today’s Chicago Sun-Times, Maudlyne Ihejirka has written a detailed account of this situation. She tells the story of an experienced child care teacher with a salary of 35,000 who was laid off and could only find a new job playing $12.25 an hour (a little more than $25,000 per year). 41% of job losses were in higher wage industries. Only 30% of new jobs have been generated in those industries. Hiring patterns complicate the problem. As I noted in a recent post, more companies are relying on long term contract and temporary employees to fill open positions. A graph accompanying Ihejirka’s article notes that temporary jobs were the leading source of job growth in the U.S. over the last year.
The one problem I have with the article is that it suggests that most of these jobs are at the minimum wage of $7.25. Many low wage workers make $8-$12 an hour, which is still not enough to raise a family or even survive as an individual. Companies are also avoiding paying benefits by limiting hours or scheduling employees on an on-call basis with no guarantee of hours. Moving the minimum wage to $15 may sound extreme, but it is based on the reality of life in most American big cities.
Bill Clinton with help from Newt Gingrich and the GOP ended “welfare as we know it.” More people are working now than ever before. The problem is that there are more and more low wage workers who need help from government programs to pay for life’s necessities, such as rent and food. In essence, we have moved from a system that rewards individuals who don’t work to one that subsidizes large corporations and big investors by helping to house and feed their employees.
Rather than worrying about benefits given to poor people, we should focus on corporate welfare and tax breaks to the “job creators” who have been raking in record profits and increased income on their billions. The problem is not jobs. It’s pay, and who is getting paid.
According to Common Dreams, McDonald’s employees in California, Michigan, and New York are suing both corporate owned stores and franchisees for wage theft. The employees assert that their pay has been lost due to fraud that includes: doctoring time sheets, preventing employees from taking breaks, making them work off the clock and forcing them to pay for uniforms. The workers in these states are trying to come together in a class action suit that could cover over 30,000 employees. If large companies don’t want to pay their employees and don’t want to let them have union protection, the next step will be courts. What popular companies have to hope is that judgments in courts of law are not followed by a worse fate: conviction in the court of public opinion.
Small business owners. Laura Clawson of the Daily Kos reports a surprising result from a poll of small business owners. 57% favor increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. Even owners of small restaurants and retail shops favored the change. While the poll was conducted by a Democratic firm, most of those polled identified themselves as Republicans.
Who else should want an increased minimum wage? Conservatives who want to cut spending on food stamps. In a second article, Clawson cites a study from the Center for American Progress that claims an increase in the minimum wage would cut food stamp spending by 1.9%. That might not sound like a large number, but it would total $46 million over ten years. Republicans want to cut the program by $40 million over that time. Those Republicans should do the conservative thing and vote for an increase in the minimum wage since it would lead to an even bigger decrease in spending on food stamps. Increasing the minimum wage – an issue every conservative should love.
Aljazeera America reports that McDonald’s issued an SEC report claiming that its sales may suffer because of “campaigns by labor organizations and activists” to raise the minimum wage. This is the message the corporation sent to shareholders via the SEC report. Aljazeera quotes an industry spokesperson who says that a raise to the minimum wage would have little to no impact on McDonald’s stock price. It would have a big impact on workers’ lives. $15 per hour would have a bigger impact. We need a living wage, not a minimum wage.
Apparently, college football players do. Think Progress reports that the National College Players Association has filed a petition on behalf of football players from Northwestern University to be recognized as members of a union. This effort is being support by the United Steelworkers Union.
I’ve long believed that college athletes who generate millions of dollars for their universities deserve some kind of compensation, and I have no problem with their organizing. However, it says a lot about our country when this story gets so much attention while the ongoing effort of low wage workers at Walmart and similar companies is almost ignored. Public sectors unions are under fire at the Supreme Court, again, with little or no coverage.
Until working people recognize that we are all in this together, it will be easy for the super rich and their lackeys in politics and the media to play games of divide and conquer. I hope low wage workers stand with college athletes in their struggle for union right. And I hope college athletes do the same for the people who serve them at fast food restaurants and big box retail stores. On this day that has seen the passing of the great Peter Seeger, a man who loved working people, we need to all stand together and support unions.
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