“High expectations are everything.”
My most successful clients have been those who believe in themselves. These people are always looking to take the next step in their career. They are not afraid of failing. They don’t let unfair criticism from a boss or co-worker doubt their ability. The first step to being successful is believing in yourself.
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.”
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.
Walmart employees in 21 states have or will receive increases in pay because of changes in minimum wage laws. That sounds like good news. However according to a Reuters story reprinted in Huffington Post, other low wage workers will be moved into a single base rate. It appears that some will win while others will lose. We often focus on the minimum wage without considering those workers who make a few dollars more per hour, but still struggle to get by. We need to have a living wage as the base of a just society.
Imagine if a business could coerce a company to buy its products. Some retail outlets do require sales people to model clothes, but they are sold to employees at a discount. Laura Clawson of Daily Kos reports that Walmart has introduced a dress code and notifies employees what products they could buy from Walmart. They do not require that employees buy at Walmart. I imagine that in many communities Walmart offers the best price or only option. In these cases, the dress code is a good way to make employee captive customers. The company store lives.
Sarah Jaffe of In These Times reports on an effort in Minnesota to fine companies that pay wages so low that employees have to be on state aid. Take Action Minnesota is promoting what it call the “bad business fee,” a fine for each employee who is working while on some form of federal or state support. Jaffe cites a study that claims Walmart employees receive $6.2 billion per year in some form of assistance. That’s $6 billion the American taxpayer is paying to subsidize the nation’s largest private employer – corporate welfare. Jaffe gives several other compelling examples, and I urge you to read her article.
As progressive radio host Thom Hartmann is fond of saying, a business that can’t pay its employees a living wage shouldn’t be in business. People who work for a living shouldn’t have to rely on services that are meant for the poor or unemployed. If we want to promote the work ethic and the dignity of work, we should be as will to say that all workers deserve a living wage. America needs a raise.
The former Secretary of Labor takes on those who claim that a raise in the minimum wage would be a “job killer.” Instead, Reich, a trained economist, points out a simple fact: economies grow when people spend. People living on $7.25 an hour can only cover essentials, and often can only do so with the help of safety net programs, which are being cut. Reich points out that Walmart could have raised the wages of its $9 an hour employees to $15 by using the money spent buying back stock on salary.
If we want more jobs and higher wages, we need more spending (and less billionaire greed). Raising the minimum wage (and extending unemployment benefits) would give working class people discretionary income. As they spend more, companies will need more workers to make and sell things. Reich is outlining common sense. Opponents of the minimum wage have no good data to support their claims, so they rely on fear-based rhetoric like “job killer.” They used the same language to demonize the Affordable Care Act. I’m with Reich and President Obama: “America needs a raise.”
Three cheers to Common Dreams for giving thinkers like Reich a platform that is not found in the corporate media (which includes PBS).
Writing in Think Progress, Bryce Covert examines problems at Walmart. Some stores have lost sales because the shelves are empty. Why are they empty? Because there are no workers to fill them. As the retail giant cuts its full-time work force, the quality of work has gone done as well. Shelves are not being refilled, which also means that shoppers will find other places to buy. Covert points out that several research companies have downgraded Walmart because of this problem.
Sooner or later, employees will show that they have had enough. They will not work hard, do sloppy work, or jump from job to job to punish the employer who mistreats them. Shoppers will go where they get the best price and the product they want. Some shoppers may even be paying attention to how a company treats its workers.
Apparently, college football players do. Think Progress reports that the National College Players Association has filed a petition on behalf of football players from Northwestern University to be recognized as members of a union. This effort is being support by the United Steelworkers Union.
I’ve long believed that college athletes who generate millions of dollars for their universities deserve some kind of compensation, and I have no problem with their organizing. However, it says a lot about our country when this story gets so much attention while the ongoing effort of low wage workers at Walmart and similar companies is almost ignored. Public sectors unions are under fire at the Supreme Court, again, with little or no coverage.
Until working people recognize that we are all in this together, it will be easy for the super rich and their lackeys in politics and the media to play games of divide and conquer. I hope low wage workers stand with college athletes in their struggle for union right. And I hope college athletes do the same for the people who serve them at fast food restaurants and big box retail stores. On this day that has seen the passing of the great Peter Seeger, a man who loved working people, we need to all stand together and support unions.
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