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.
I received a petition request from MoveOn that should be considered for its content, even if you decide not to support. Workers in the service industry really work in harsh conditions. They survive by tips. And they are often go unpaid when restaurants fail. Here is the letter - judge for yourself.
Dear MoveOn member,
You probably know that when you order a meal in restaurant, the person who brings you the food is generally paid less than minimum wage. Tips are supposed to make up the difference.
Here's the problem: Minimum wage for tipped employees is an appalling $2.13 an hour. And for millions of people who work in the restaurant industry, tips don't come close to providing a living wage.
This is not a small problem. Almost one-third of food workers don't have enough money to buy enough safe and nutritious food to meet their needs. The people who make and serve your food literally may be going hungry.
Next week, we'll be at a press conference in Washington, D.C. with key members of Congress, launching a big push to raise the minimum wage for food workers and restaurant employees.
To win this campaign, it's critical that we be able to walk on stage with momentum—that means tens of thousands of folks like you standing with us.
We can do this, but not without grassroots support. That's why I created a petition on SignOn.org to Congress, which says:
Raising the minimum wage for the benefit of 29 million low-wage workers would increase food costs at most by 10 cents a day for consumers.
As a consumer, I am willing to pay an extra dime a day for my food so that close to eight million food system workers and 21 million additional low-wage workers can receive a much-deserved raise to help them meet their basic needs.
I ask that you support the Miller-Harkin Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.80/hour over the next 3 years and the tipped minimum wage from $2.13 to 70% of the regular minimum wage.