During yesterday’s Republican Primary Debate, Donald Trump and other candidates stated that they would not raise the minimum wage. Trump took this level of thinking even lower, proclaiming “Our wages are too high.” He thinks the only way for America to be competitive is for “people to work really hard” to “enter that upper stratum.”
This kind of language is out of touch. Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich teamed up to “end welfare as we know it.” Most poor Americans work, but they don’t make enough money to get ahead. It’s easy for a billionaire who was born into a wealthy family to tell others to work hard. It’s also dishonest. Our economy does not produce enough jobs that pay enough for people to enter the middle class, much less Trump’s “upper stratum.” Complex problems need thoughtful solutions, not cliches.
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.
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.
Today the U.S. Senate voted to give the President “fast-track” authority to pass a new, comprehensive trade agreement with Asia-Pacific countries (better known as the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership/TTP). U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has fought this measure. He notes that similar trade deals have led to a decline of the middle class and wealth inequality in America. TTP could make these problems worse. Sanders notes that American workers will now have to compete with workers in Vietnam, where the minimum wage is 56 cents an hour. Who wins this game? Major corporations and the billionaires who invest in them. Who loses? Look in the mirror.
The TTP has not been approved by either the Senate or the House. What happened today means it will likely pass the Senate. One thing we can count on: Bernie Sanders will keep fighting for working people and the middle class.
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.”
Daily Kos reports that Ivar’s Fish Bar, a seafood restaurant chain in Seattle, will stop taking TIPs from customers and raise its employees’ minimum wage to $15 per hour. Of course, they will have to raise prices, which many critics of an increased minimum wage claim will kill small businesses. Not really. The price increase will be 4%, which is much less than most customers would leave as a tip. Rather than paint this as a situation where one or more parties lose, it’s a win-win for all concerned. Employee get a raise. Customers pay less. Finally, the business earns good will with its customers and employees. Ivar’s Fish Bar shows that American businesses can pay a living wage.
The New York Times reports that 1,500 McDonalds restaurants will raising employees' pay by $1 over local minimum wages. The company will also offer paid time off to employees who stay with the company more than a year. This move comes just a day after another round of major protests. The raise is not enough, but it shows that employers will listen when workers stand up. May many more workers stand up for their rights and to be paid a fair wage. There is still a very long way to go.
P.S. I should have noted yesterday that only McDonalds-owned franchises will raise their minimum wage. There are over 14,000 McDonalds restaurants that are owned by franchisees, who make their own decisions about salary. To their credit, the corporation has set a good example for them - as far as it goes.
Target has announced that it will pay its employees a minimum wage of $9 an hour. It’s easy to dismiss this move as being too little. Instead, I like to look at it as a small step that will have big consequences. Employer who pay less than $9 an hour now have to fear that they will lose employees to America’s two largest retailers. More importantly, wage increases at the bottom raise the bar for all workers. If the unemployment rate continues to drop, wages will have to go up. Hopefully, the decisions by Walmart and Target will be the first step that leads to higher pay across industries.
Walmart announced that it will raise its minimum hourly wage to $9 and increase that wage to $10 next year. It’s great that the company has made this move on its own. However, will this raise really change the lives of its workers? A person making $9 an hour will still be earning about $20,000 a year – if she is working full time. If the worker is a parent, she will certainly still need public aid for food and housing. In essence, working people and the middle class will continue to be underwriting Walmart’s work force. We need to establish a living wage and commit ourselves as citizens to paying a little extra so we can all live decent lives.
Ellyn Fortino of Progress Illinois reports on how many people would be impacted by a raise in the federal minimum wage. An increase to $10.10 an hour would raise the wages of 25 million people in the U.S. While many critics claim that most of the people receiving minimum wage are teens who live at home, the majority of low wage workers are their family’s main source of income. Fortino also cites a 2014 study by Goldman Sachs that debunks the claim that raising the minimum wage is a job killer. Hopefully 2015 will be the year when the federal and state both see an increase in the minimum wage.
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