Common Dreams reports that much of the good news about job growth hides more troubling economic news. The article cites research by the National Economic Law Project that shows most workers have lost ground on wages. It also quotes economist Robert Kuttner, who notes that more new hires face part-time work schedules, including on-call jobs that give no set hours. We want more jobs. But they need to be good jobs, not work schedules that let employers make more money by making workers more insecure. America needs a raise and better working conditions.
Last week The Chicago Tribune reported that several large companies are bringing their call centers back to the U.S. While more Americans will be employed because of this shift, the news isn't all good. Many call centers pay low wages and offer little in the way of benefits or career path. Call center workers need to be smart and articulate. They have to solve problems while an angry customer often lashes out at them. How much are they paid for this service. According to the Tribune article, the average pay is $22,000 to $45,000 per year ($11 to $22 per hour). America needs these jobs. It also needs a raise.
Common Dreams offers a great essay by Laura Flanders that explores the success of worker-owned cooperatives. Flanders links a successful coop for home healthcare workers with New York City’s recent investment in promoting such business models. Workers in coops share the profits and collaborate to decide how the business will run. How does this benefit workers? In one case, a worker was able to move from a $6.25 minimum wage job to making $25 an hour as part of a coop. There are only 300 coops currently operating in the U.S. Hopefully we will see many more in the future.
Malcolm Harris, writing in Aljazeera America, explores a new law that would force employers to make the status of their workers transparent. I urge you to read Harris’ editorial and consider the law he is discussing. It has no chance of passing in the current make up of Congress. However, it should be part of what workers demand. It’s not just a matter of increasing wages, which I support. We need to advocate for workers’ rights.
The business website Wall Street 24/7 offers a list of the best places to work. Such lists are always subjective, but they also show that some companies make an effort to treat their employees well. When you are looking for a new job, think about what employers are offering and how that will impact your satisfaction on the job. Make a list of what you are looking for: pay, benefits, vacation, and chance for advancement. Your job when you are interviewing and discussing an offer is to determine if this employer will be a good employer for you.
No university president, athletic director, or coach reacted positively when football players at Northwestern University attempt to join a union. Now we know that they got the message. Huffington Post reports that officials in the NCAA will consider loosening the rules on paying athletes. The proposal would not affect all schools, only the largest conferences. It would also only apply to high profile men’s sports, such as football and basketball. Compensation would not be direct pay, but increased cost of living stipends and insurance policies. No one knows if these measures will be accepted. I do know this: If the players at Northwestern had not been bold enough to consider forming a union, the NCAA and its member schools would have never have considered paying athletes. Workers in other industries need to take note.
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.
One of my clients just called with good news. He received a job offer two days ago and another one today. Better still, he interviewed for a third time with a potential employer who will probably make him an offer tomorrow. What should he do?
Take the time to make the best deal. He’s already gotten both of the companies that have made offers to wait until Friday to let him make a decision. He’s asked the company making a lower offer to raise it. And he’s informed the company that has not made an offer that he has two other potential employers waiting for him to make a decision.
This is the ideal situation, and it doesn’t happen often. Be sure that you are communicating clearly and honestly with your prospective employers. If you’re going to use multiple offers to ask for more money, know that there is a risk that an employer will retract its offer. However, if that employer really wants you, they will pay more or find some other way to compensate you.
When you’re in a position like this, be calm and strategic. Make the deal that works best for you.
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.
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.
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