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.
Huffington Post reports that 9 Senate Democrats are proposing to expand the guidelines for what workers will receive overtime for working more than 40 hours in a week. A bill proposed by retiring Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa would raise the very low threshold used to make employees exempt (not eligible for overtime). The current limit is $455 per week (about $22,000 annual). The Democrats would phase in increases that would raise the limit to $1,090 per week (about $54,000 annual).
This is a great proposal because it would be an immediate improvement for those making more than the minimum wage, and it would eventually even help the middle class. Critics will say that employers will just cut hours and make more positions part-time. The problem with that claim is that many companies who have tried to do this are getting what they pay for: bad work from employees who will leave the first chance they get. Given the current political climate, this bill – like the minimum wage – has almost no chance of passing. What it does do is change the conversation. Democrats are trying to find ways to help the middle class. Hopefully, some Republicans will join with them and do the right thing for hard working Americans.