“Just a three dollar increase can make a living wage,” she sings to the children. She goes onto use all of Mary Poppins’ tricks and tools–little birds, penguins, and so on–to explain how low wages hurt families, businesses, and consumers alike.
Don’t get us wrong: We love this video, and anything that brings this issue to a broader audience helps in our campaign for fair wages.
But unfortunately, Minimum Wage Mary Poppins is not quite accurate when she says an increase to $10.10, as proposed by Democrats and blocked by Republicans in the Senate earlier this year, would constitute a living wage for most Americans:
$10.10 doesn’t keep up with cost of goods.According to the Economic Policy Institute, increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 would lift millions out of poverty, but it would still not reach the level it would be if the minimum wage had kept up with inflation since 1968, and would not come close what the minimum wage would be if it had increased with worker productivity.
For most Americans, $10.10 doesn’t keep up with the cost of living. While the cost of living varies depending on where you live, $10.10 an hour doesn’t constitute a “living wage” in most areas, particularly if you have one or more dependents.
For example, according to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, a single adult can survive in Arkansas on $7.86 an hour, which is still higher than the current minimum wage in Arkansas, $7.25. However, add a kid into the mix, and that shoots up to $16.37.
In a more expensive area like the District of Columbia, a single adult needs a living wage of $13.65, which nearly doubles with the addition of one child.
All this assumes a 40 hour work week. Think those numbers from MIT look bleak? Well, they are actually extremely optimistic, because they assume the adults in question are working 2,080 hours a year, or 40 hours a week for 52 weeks.
First off, no one should have to work 8 hours a day every single day of the year with no days off. Not only is that inhumane, it ignores events like sickness, family emergencies, and any other of the infinite problems that might keep someone from their 8-hour work day
We talk to hundreds of people every night, many of them retail and service workers, and a consistent theme we hear is that schedules are erratic, unpredictable, and insufficient.
Sometimes it’s because managers don’t want workers to exceed the number of hours that would require them to provide health care. Sometimes it’s an issue of favoritism or retaliation, where a manager will assign a better or worse schedule based on how they feel about an employee. And if you take a second part-time job, you have no assurance that the two schedules will line up, or that you’d be able to juggle the demands of two jobs as they constantly change.
Lastly, thank you Kristen Bell. Despite these few omissions, your collaboration with Funny or Die is hilarious, clever, and shines a bright spotlight on an issue that’s too often overlooked.
For the first time in forever, we have a Disney song that helps the economic facts go down.
To join Working America’s fight for fair wages, text RAISE to 30644.
It’s no secret that more and more women are staking their claim in the work world. Although women make up a large portion of the workforce, a disproportionate number of them are low-wage workers and problems with fair working conditions persist.
Things like wage theft, the absence of a work/ life balance, unfair schedules and more plague women working in low-wage professions.
But increasingly, these female dominated industries are fighting back, organizing and creating change.
For the past 8 months, cheerleaders from three NFL teams have begun to speak out against unfair treatment both on and off the field. Grievances ranged from low wages, to wage theft to outright demeaning requests.
Despite the poor working conditions, there have been some glimmers of hope in the form of worker-led organization. Back in May a former dancer called for the unionization of the cheerleaders as a possible remedy to the low wages and unfair conditions that plague the work, and since then the Oakland Raiders have made the decision to finally pay dancers the minimum wage in addition to paying them for work-related events.
Back in 2013, a group of Albuquerque hotel workers approached the New Mexico arm of Working America because they felt that they weren’t being fairly compensated for cleaning rooms. At the time the workers claimed that they were being paid $3.25 per room, instead of the city-wide minimum wage of $8.50.
The DOL then launched a formal investigation and found that the hotel was indeed paying workers below both the city and Federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
Women represent 95% of domestic workers, which comprises child and homecare jobs, but across the nation 23% of these workers are paid less than the state minimum wage.
What’s more, it seems that many in-home child care workers aren’t given breaks and are forced to work long, strenuous hours.
But recent victories in California, Massachusetts and New York point to greater rights for this group of workers.
Most recently, a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights was passed in Massachusetts. The bill gives workers proper breaks, unpaid sick days, and clarifies working hours. Similar bills have been passed in California and New York.
On Tuesday, Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced the “Schedules that Work” Act to provide federal guidelines for making sure that employers offer fair, flexible and reliable schedules for working families who are often left in difficult situations because of erratic employer scheduling. Miller said the act is about “dignity” and ensuring workers can earn a decent living and meet family responsibilities.
Scheduling problems are particularly glaring in some of the fastest-growing and lowest-paying industries in the United States, including retail, food service and janitorial work. The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) President Joe Hansen explained the problem in more detail:
If you ask a worker in the retail industry what improvements can be made to their job, the response is likely to include scheduling. Fair, flexible and reliable scheduling is a simple way to ensure workers are treated with dignity and respect. In a perfect world, employers would view workers as human beings with competing life demands rather than numbers on a balance sheet. But in reality, scheduling is more erratic than ever.
Here are 11 ways the act would improve the lives of working families. It would:
1. Give employees the right to ask for schedules that better meet their professional and family needs: Workers would have the right to request more flexible or more predictable schedules, request more or fewer work hours and ask for minimal fluctuations in scheduling. Employers would be required to consider and respond to schedule requests.
2. Give employees with specific needs more protections: Scheduling requests for priority reasons would have to be granted by employers, if possible. Priority reasons include health conditions, child care, elder care, a second job, education or job training.
3. Protect workers from retaliation: Employers would be prohibited from punishing workers for their work requests.
4. Require reporting pay: Often workers are called in to work, only to be sent home or put on call without pay or guarantee of work. The law would require employers to provide at least four hours of wages for employees who report to work when scheduled for shifts of four hours or longer and are sent home before four hours of work.
5. Require call-in pay: For employees that are required to call in less than 24 hours before a shift and are not allowed to work for at least four hours, employers would be required to pay them at least one hour’s wages.
6. Require split-shift pay: Workers who are required to work nonconsecutive hours would be paid an additional hour’s wages for time spent between shifts waiting to work.
7. Require employers to provide employees with clear expectations about hours and scheduling: As part of working a job, employees would be provided with a general idea of the schedules and number of hours they will be working and employers would be required to tell workers about changes in advance. Short-notice changes would require additional pay.
8. Help women have more ability to meet work and family responsibilities: Women workers make up the majority of low-wage jobs that would be affected by the bill, and improving their scheduling would make it easier for them to meet both work and family responsibilities.
9. Provide students with increased flexibility in pursuing higher education: According to CLASP, unpredictable scheduling limits class choice, the number of classes taken, class schedules and access to campus facilities, all of which slow down student progress toward graduation.
10. Benefit the economy: Unreliable and unpredictable scheduling is a drain on workforce productivity and increases turnover. Making schedules more reliable would help reduce both of these problems, which would increase business profits and help create more jobs.
11. Benefit businesses, too: More reliable schedules also would contribute to higher job satisfaction, higher organizational loyalty, higher worker performance and productivity, lower absenteeism and lower turnover.
Hansen said UFCW supports the act:
This legislation would ensure all workers have the rights fought for and won by UFCW members for decades. Our contracts have long guaranteed predictable and adequate scheduling. The law of the land should do the same. I urge Congress to pass the Schedules that Work Act as soon as possible.
The federal minimum wage was last increased on July 24, 2009, and since then, a lot has changed (don’t forget tipped workers haven’t seen a raise since 1991). There have been so many attacks on working families since that time that it would be difficult to catalog them all. But workers and their allies haven’t taken the attacks sitting down, and many are finding new ways to organize and stand up for their rights. Here are five things that have changed since the last time the federal minimum wage was increased:
1. Republicans Took Control of the House and Promptly Did…Nothing: In the 2010 midterm elections, Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., and then proceeded to engage in historical levels of obstructionism, and this 113th Congress is on pace to go down as one of the least productive Congresses in history. Congressional Democrats have tried to raise the minimum wage, butRepublicans blocked the legislation. Not to mention Republicans also shut down the government in 2013.
2. Working Families Turned to State and Local Governments: Not content to wait for Republicans in Congress to act, working family advocates turned their attention to state and local governments. On June 1, 2014, Delaware became the 22nd state (as well as the District of Columbia) to raise its minimum wage above the 2009 level. Four more states are set to increase on Jan. 1, 2015, while at least four more will consider ballot measures to increase their minimum wage in November 2014. At least a dozen cities or counties also have passed minimum wage increases in the past five years as well. Much of the state and local action has been in the last year or so, showing a growing momentum across the country for raising the wage despite Republican opposition.
3. Worker Productivity Has Risen, While Wages Have Stagnated: One place you can’t lay the blame for the economic crisis, stagnant wages and other economic problems is on workers. Between 1973 and 2013, worker productivity had risen nearly 65%. Meanwhile, wages for those same workers had only increased 8.2%.
4. CEOs, on the Other Hand, Have Gotten Much Richer: While workers are much more productive and not being fairly compensated for it, CEOs are making out like bandits. The average S&P 500 company CEO received $11.7 million in 2013, or 774 times a full-time worker earning the federal minimum wage. The ratio of CEO pay to production and non-supervisory worker pay has gone from 46–1 in 1983 to 331–1 in 2013.
5. The Value of the Minimum Wage Keeps Getting Eaten Away by Inflation: Stagnant wages are a real problem for working families and they are barely keeping up with inflation. A few examples make this problem clear. In January 2009, the average price of gas was $1.84 a gallon, now it’s $3.59 a gallon. The price of beef has risen 74% since 2009 to a record level. In 2009, a gallon of milk could easily be purchased for under $3, now the price is more than $4 in many places. Overall, food prices have risen 9% since 2009, with many individual staples rising much faster.
Same-day voting registration laws help improve and equalize the democracy process, but did you know that it’s now illegal to register and vote on the same day in NC? The republican controlled legislature eliminated same day registration last year, a backwards step for our voting process. Under the new law, voter registration must occur at least 25 days prior to an election.
In 2007 the state general assembly passed a law that made same-day registration legal and voter participation increased immediately. More than 100,000 North Carolina residents registered and voted simultaneously in the 2008 and 2012 general elections. Demos, an organization dedicated to public policy, conducted research comparing same day vs. non same day registration states. The findings illustrated that same day registration states had higher voter participation than those without same a day policy.
This law is important to me. I don’t believe that my parents participated in the civil rights movement to have their offspring jump through voter suppression hoops similar to the ones that existed in the 1950’s and 60’s. Things should progress, not be repeated under less obtrusive schemes.
Remember, same day registration is now illegal. Get registered to vote today…the right you save may be your own!
Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, the director of films like Roger and Me and Bowling for Columbine, and his wife Kathleen Glynn are separating after 22 years. The proceedings have revealed to the public the extent of Michael Moore’s finances, including a large mansion in Michigan.
Let’s be absolutely clear: that question is ridiculous.
First of all, someone with a blue collar upbringing can most certainly attain great wealth over the course of their life and still maintain the composure, sensibility, and ideals they were raised with. That’s common sense. It’s called economic mobility, and it is something that Americans have felt great pride in throughout our history.
But let’s make something else abundantly clear: Michael Moore and other critics of our economic system do not oppose wealth.
Seriously. This has been a libel against all economic progressives, displayed prominently during the 2012 election when Mitt Romney and others accused President Obama of opposing the very idea of wealth and success (thus the obsession with taking “you didn’t build that” out of context). It’s the insult hurled at anyone who criticizes big money in politics: we are told that we are “jealous” of the Koch Brothers’ massive wealth, because why else would we say mean things about them?
And The Today Show bought completely into this frame, calling Moore’s politics “contradictory” with his big house and his full bank account.
But it’s not contradictory, because Michael Moore doesn’t oppose wealth. Senator Elizabeth Warren, another target of these claims, doesn’t oppose wealth. The millions of Working America members who take action to address income inequality don’t oppose wealth, pursuing wealth, or accruing wealth.
What we oppose, and will continue to fight against, is the following:
• The use of massive wealth to rig our democracy in your favor. We respect the right of Charles and David Koch to grow their business, to hire workers and put out a product. But in addition to running a business, they have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on lobbyists, think tanks, and a constellation of political organizations to insure their company’s success at the expense of others.
For instance, there’s nothing “free market” about the Kochs’ efforts to tax consumers of solar energy in an effort to keep them addicted to the petroleum they produce. If Apple lobbied for a law that would add extra taxes for Android users, there would be an enormous outcry. This isn’t different.
• The use of massive wealth to destroy the ladder of economic mobility that helped create that wealth in the first place. Anyone who runs a business has the right to manage their workforce as they see fit, within the bounds of the law. But businessmen like the Koch Brothers, Art Pope, Rex Sinquefield, and Dick DeVos don’t stop there. Through campaign donations, TV advertisements, lobbyists, and other tactics, they have tried (and often succeeded) in changing laws that protect workers’ rights, wages, and retirement. The DeVos family’s near single-handed funding of the “right to work” effort in Michigan is exhibit A.
Knocking rungs off of the ladder of economic mobility doesn’t create wealth, it destroys it.
Warren understood that when information was presented clearly to consumers–without tricks, traps, and hidden fees–they would be better able to select the products that worked for them. That understanding would allow Wall Street companies to compete on a level playing field, with the best plans and products winning. If that’s not capitalism, what is?
So can Michael Moore criticize inequality while enjoying economic success? Absolutely. Moore just happens to be one of those wealthy people who doesn’t feel the need to use his wealth to destroy others’ ability to become wealthy as well.
That’s not being contradictory, that’s being decent.
Text JOBS to 30644 to join Working America’s fight for fair wages and corporate accountability.
In its continuing mission to find new ways to serve union members and their families, Union Plus is sponsoring a contest to help three winners pay off a portion of their student loan debt. The Grand Prize winner will receive $10,000 toward their student loan obligations, while there also will be two $5,000 prizes for runners-up. The contest also will give way other prizes, including courses, consultations and books provided by the Princeton Review.
Eligible entrants can sign up online and enter simply by signing up for program e-mails and mobile alerts. To be eligible to win, entrants must register by Aug. 15, 2014.