Wage theft is a serious crime, so serious, in fact, that a court has ordered several New York-based franchise owners of Papa John’s to pay $500,000 to 250 workers. According to Laura Clawson of Daily Kos, owners have paid workers less than the minimum wage and work off the clock. One owner, Abdul Jamil Khokhar, was arrested and will spend 60 days in jail as part of a plea agreement. This story underscores the need for all American workers to understand wage theft and support their fellow workers when they are victims of such exploitation. Wage theft usually hurts low wage workers, people who have the most to lose. If we want low wage workers to be responsible, we need to ask their employers to do the same.
Laura Clawson of Daily Kos reports that the National Labor Relations Board is holding large fast food companies responsible as “joint employers” with franchise owners. This news is major. Employees will have more power to unionize and bring claims against global corporations who have denied responsibility for working conditions. Hopefully this is one more step toward giving more rights to hard working people who are paid too little.
Laura Clawson of Daily Kos looks at the dilemma faced by labor unions in the upcoming Democratic primary. Most experts still think that Hilary Clinton will win the nomination. That view is opposed by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which supports Bernie Sanders. Unions will have to walk a tightrope in making endorsements. Many see Sanders as more pro-union. That said, Clinton has supported unions as well and has called for an increase in the minimum wage.
I’m a big fan of Bernie Sanders. However, if Hilary Clinton is the nominee, I would happily support her. Given our current political climate, the Democrats are the only real alternative to a party that is anti-union and opposes raising the minimum wage.
One of the biggest problem facing low wage workers is their schedule. Many companies have turned to work models such as “on call” scheduling that gives employees little control over their time or their lives. Laura Clawson of Daily Kos reports that a group of Democratic senators and representatives have proposed “The Schedules That Work Act.” This bill would give workers at companies with 15 or more employees the right to request changes in their schedule, especially in cases related to health concerns or child/elder care. It would also give employers incentives not to use on call schedules or split shifts. Clawson is a realist. She notes that this bill means nothing as long as Republicans control the Senate and House.
This is a problem since many experts think the House will stay in Republican control into the next decade. What can workers do? First, they should consider schedule to be as important as salary. Next, if they have to take a low wage job or one with a bad schedule, they need to keep looking for a better job. Over the last 25 years, we’ve seen that employers have no loyalty to employees. Layoffs are part of doing business. Workers have to take the same attitude. If you’re in a bad job, keep looking for something better. When you find it, layoff your employer.
During his last State of the Union Address, President Obama declared that “America needs a raise.” Yesterday, he acted on those words. The president announced that salaried employees (5 million Americans) making as much as $50,400 would be eligible for overtime. As Laura Clawson of Daily Kos puts it, employers will no longer be able to use exempt status (salaried employees) to keep from paying overtime. This move by the Obama Administration (if it’s not overturned by a court challenge) will either give employees more money or more time off. The 40 hour week will again become meaningful to millions of Americans. It’s a good day for working people.
P.S. President Obama is featured in The Huffington Post on his overtime reform. The president express great confidence that he is doing the right thing for American workers: "That's how America should do business. In this country, a hard day's work deserves a fair day's pay. That's at the heart of what it means to be middle class in America." I agree, but would add that what the president is doing will also help the working class and the working poor, who are often victims of wage theft. We all deserve a fair day's pay.
Where is the money going? Corporate profits are up. Productivity keeps going higher and higher. Despite this “good news,” most Americans feel insecure in their jobs and income. So, where is the money?
Laura Clawson of Daily Kos shows one area where the money has gone: CEO pay. While I recommend that your read Clawson’s article, the whole story is told in a graph that accompanies the article. Before the mid-1990s, CEOs’ average pay was less than 100:1 the pay of average workers. By the end of the 1990s, the ratio had moved to 300:1. Since that time, the average has gone up and down. Still, it has ranged between 200:1 to 400:1.
This trend is only part of the story. If CEOs pay has moved this way, it’s logical to assume that other senior leaders have received healthy raises. I’m not arguing that these salary increases can’t be justified – because anything can be justified. The reality is that if pay disparity rewards the top of the pyramid, those at the bottom and middle will lose. The fight over the minimum wage is a good thing, but we also need to thing about who is being reward for economic growth and enhanced productivity. Do we want a society where a few have security and most people are running scared?
Laura Clawson of the Daily Kos reports on a big change in labor law that might impact millions of Americans. The Department of Labor is considering an increase to the threshold for overtime pay from $23,360 to $52,000, which means any worker, including salaried employees, making less than that amount would be legally entitled to overtime pay. Clawson notes that this is a change President Obama could make without legislative approval. She also says that the move would probably be opposed in the legislature and courts. Even so, changing the threshold would be a good way to help low wage workers, and it would be a fit punishment for employers who pay employees salary so they do not have to pay overtime. I hope President Obama and the DOL put working people first – raise the threshold.
In today’s Daily Kos, the great labor reporter Laura Clawson examines the wealth of an average worker compared to Sam Walton’s offspring. According to research by the AFL-CIO, the six Walton heirs total wealth is the same as that of 52.5 million American families (42.9%). The study points out that some families have negative wealth. Adjusted for that, the number of families needed to equal the Walton wealth drops to 1.7 million. However, that adjustment also indicates that many American families have issues with “negative wealth.” Clawson also notes that a Walmart worker being paid $9 per hour would have to work 1,036 hours to make what the company’s CEO Doug McMillon makes in one hour.
Do the Walton heirs deserve to be very rich? I believe they do. Their father created an innovative business model. The bigger question is how much wealth should anyone – rich heir or CEO -- have. What is the cost to society of an economy where a few are very rich and secure and many working class and middle class families are falling behind and less secure?
Companies like McDonalds and Walmart have raised their workers’ minimum wages. While it is a step forward, Laura Clawson of the Daily Kos has documented that these raises still mean that workers need to rely on government support for child care, housing, medical insurance, breakfast/lunch programs for children, and heating assistance. Clawson then shows that none of these subsidies would be needed if employees were paid $15 an hour. As I noted in my last post, a small increase in price will have great benefits for all. As President Obama said, “America needs a raise.”
Anyone who cares about working people needs to read Laura Clawson of the Huffington Post. Today she examines the state of Workers Compensation, which has been cut in 33 states. There is also great disparity between states and how they pay for injuries. Clawson points out that if a worker in Alabama loses an eye, she will be awarded $27,280. The same injury in Pennsylvania will be compensated at $261,525. Companies are paying less and less in damages every year and finding new ways to restrict workers' benefits. This story is outrageous, but it’s no more outrageous than stories of workers losing pensions or wage theft or union busting. Until American workers – white and blue collar – realize their common interests, employers will continue to find new ways to make them suffer. It’s easy to blame the super rich. They are acting in a way that makes sense for their interests and security. What is our problem?
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