300,000 More People Just Got Paid Sick Days

Photo courtesy Allan Ferguson on Flickr

Yesterday, the United States became a little bit better place to be a sick worker, as two more cities joined the growing wave of localities that have passed paid sick days laws. The city councils in San Diego and Eugene, Ore., each voted to require employers to make sure that workers don’t have to choose between working sick and losing pay. Nine cities and the state of Connecticut now have paid sick leave laws.

The San Diego City Council passed their measure 6–3 and it heads to Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who has said he would veto it. The council has the votes to override the veto, however. The law would provide full-time workers up to five earned sick days annually, with part-time workers getting a portion of that. In Eugene, the vote was 5–3. The bill would provide one hour of paid sick leave for 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours a year.

Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work, said the day was historic:

Campaigns for paid sick days in Eugene and San Diego involved months of organizing by local workers, small business owners and many partner organizations. Yesterday, their work paid off: No longer will workers in Eugene and San Diego be forced to choose between the job they need and the family who needs them.

Biviana Lagunas, a San Diego State University student and part-time low-wage worker in San Diego, said the new law will be a life-changer:

The passing of this measure means my mother will no longer have to choose between a day’s wages and caring for my little brother when he’s sick. Right now, I work to pay for school and make sure my family can keep up with the rent. Now, my sister and I can use more of our time to study instead of stressing about how our family will get by.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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We Love How This ‘Frozen’ Star Sang About the Minimum Wage. But There Are 3 Problems With It.

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Kristen Bell, the voice of Princess Anna in the blockbuster Disney hit ‘Frozen’ and dozens of other films, put on a different costume this week to talk about something you wouldn’t expect.

Fans of the humor website Funny or Die were surprised to find a new video of Bell portraying Mary Poppins, the famous fictional British governess. In the video, she is telling her two young wards that she has to quit. Why? She makes minimum wage, and it’s not enough to live on.

“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.

Real value of the federal minimum wage, 1968–2013 and 2013–2016 under proposed increase to $10.10 by 2016, compared with its value had it grown at the rate of productivity or average worker wages (2013 dollars)

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

Second of all, and perhaps less obvious, is that the majority of low-wage workers aren’t getting scheduled for close to 40 hours a week. Not in their dreams.

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.

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5 Things that Have Changed Since the Federal Minimum Wage Was Last Increased

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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.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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When Workers Come Together, We Win: Working Families Victory Roundup

Letter Carrier Michael Shea from Georgia. Photos via Letter Carriers, NALC.

Working people scored major victories over the past several months, organizing new workplaces and winning fights to raise wages.

Here are some highlights of recent working families victories:

ORGANIZING VICTORIES

Texas Machinists Win Back-to-Back Organizing Drives: Union growth continues in Texas as members from the Machinists (IAM) successfully organized their second consecutive workplace in Texas this month, adding nearly 1,000 new members.

Point Park University Faculty Organize Hundreds to Gain Benefits: More than 300 part-time faculty members at Point Park University in Pittsburgh are on the road to a union voice after voting to certify with Adjunct Faculty Association-United Steelworkers (AFA-USW).

Missouri EMS Workers Win Organizing Fight: An overwhelming majority of Emergency Medical Service (EMS) professionals in Independence, Missouri, voted to join EMS Workers United-AFSCME, strengthening the local union and providing essential protections for Missouri workers.

RAISING WAGES VICTORIES

Massachusetts Workers Help Push Minimum Wage Hike: Working people in Massachusetts scored a big win as Gov. Deval Patrick signed legislation that will increase the state’s minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2017.

Newark, N.J., Paid Sick-Leave Ordinance Goes Into Effect: A new paid sick-leave law in Newark, N.J., will allow full and part-time employees to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick-leave per year. Similar paid sick-leave laws have passed in cities such as San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC.

Momentum Builds for Minimum Wage Hike in Nebraska: Workers in Nebraska put a measure on the 2014 ballot to raise the minimum wage to $9 and hour by 2016.

California Workers Benefit from Minimum Wage Increase: An increase in California’s minimum wage to $9 an hour has taken effect, with the wage set to increase again in 2016 to $10 an hour. Meanwhile, efforts continue in Los Angeles to increase the minimum wage in the city to $15 an hour.

COMMUNITY VICTORIES

Philadelphia Building Trades Go to Work with New Housing Deal: A deal between Philadelphia building-trades unions and the Philadelphia Housing Authority will put people to work in union jobs while creating new affordable housing for Pennsylvanians.

Letter Carriers Complete Successful Food Drive: Members of the Letter Carriers (NALC) completed their annual food drive, collecting more than 72 million pounds of food for families in need.

Union Volunteers Help Aspiring Americans Earn Citizenship: On June 28, at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C., volunteers helped nearly 100 people through the U.S. citizenship process, enabling them to file paperwork with the help of legal and immigration experts.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Under Pressure, Chicago Task Force Recommends $13 Minimum Wage

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The task force assembled by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to study raising the city’s minimum wage reached a final recommendation Monday: $13 an hour by 2018. Chicago’s minimum wage is currently $8.25.

The group also recommended raising raising the tipped minimum wage to $5.95 over two years, and pegging both wages to inflation. More importantly, they suggested the Chicago City Council not take any action before November, when Illinois voters will consider an advisory referendum raising the wage statewide to $10.

The Minimum Wage Working Group passed the plan 13-3, with representatives from the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Chicago Retail Merchants Association, and the Illinois Restaurant Association dissenting.

The broad Fight for 15 coalition has been pushing Chicago elected officials to establish a $15 an hour living wage and right to organize without retaliation. “[Mayor Emanuel says] America is due for a pay raise” they tweeted, “absolutely. We need $15 now, not $13 in 2018.”

Photo by Fightfor15 on Instagram

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These Two Studies Turn Wall Street’s Economic Argument On Its Head

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Two studies released in the past few weeks are busting long-held myths about what makes our economy grow.

The first came in June from three professors: Michael J. Cooper of the University of Utah, Huseyin Gulen of Purdue, and P. Raghavendra Rau of the University of Cambridge. They looked at the long-term performance of 1,500 businesses and found that higher CEO pay has a negative effect on a company’s performance.

Using data from 1994 to 2013, the professors saw that companies in the top 10 percent of CEO pay produced “negative abnormal returns” (lower shareholder returns than other firms in their industry) or around -8 percent over three years. The higher the pay got, the more pronounced the effect: the top 5 percent of highest paid CEOs steered their companies to a 15 percent worse performance.

Why were these companies doing worse?

In a word, overconfidenceCEOs who get paid huge amounts tend to think less critically about their decisions. “They ignore dis-confirming information and just think that they’re right,” says Cooper. That tends to result in over-investing—investing too much and investing in bad projects that don’t yield positive returns for investors.”

The second came this week from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which compared employment growth between states and found that those states that raised their minimum wage levels experienced higher growth than those that didn’t.

Of the 13 states where the minimum wage went up on January 1, 2014 (either because of legislative action, referendum, or cost-of-living adjustments), all but one had positive employment growth, and nine of them had growth higher than the median. “The average change in employment for the 13 states that increased their minimum wage is +0.99% while the remaining states have an average employment change of +0.68%,” wrote CEPR.

“While this kind of simple exercise can’t establish causality, it does provide evidence against theoretical negative employment effects of minimum-wage increases,” writes Ben Wolcott of CEPR.

In other words, it doesn’t prove raising the minimum wage always creates a certain number of jobs within 6 months, but it does add to the pile of evidence showing that raising the minimum wage doesn’t negatively affect employment.

And CEPR isn’t the only group that reached these conclusions. An analysis by banking giant Goldman Sachs (!) also found the states that raised their minimum wages doing better than those that didn’t.

Taken together, these studies back up what working people already know:  higher wages add to a virtuous cycle that benefits both workers and businesses, and that exorbitant CEO pay does nothing for the broader economy other than line the pockets of an increasingly small and powerful group of uber-wealthy individuals.

Text RAISE to 30644 to join Working America’s fight for fair wages.

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Scott Walker Strongly Opposes Raising The Minimum Wage, So He Can’t Be Pleased About This

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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, infamous across the country for his anti-union policies, is also an opponent of raising the minimum wage.

Unfortunately for him, he will share the November ballot with a minimum wage referendum in four of Wisconsin’s largest counties: Dane (home of Madison), Eau Claire, Kenosha, and Milwaukee (where Walker was once County Executive).

Due to a 2005 law, individual municipal units like cities and counties in Wisconsin can’t enact their own wage laws. (Thanks to one of Walker’s first acts as governor, the same applies to paid sick days laws). But counties can still put non-binding “advisory” wage-related referenda on the ballot. Dane, Milwaukee, Kenosha, and Eau Claire counties will all ask voters if they recommend raising the minimum wage to $10.10.

Despite staunch opposition from Gov. Walker and his legislative allies, an incredible 76 percent of Wisconsinites support raising the minimum wage above the current $7.25. To survive a tough race against businesswoman Mary Burke, who supports raising the wage, Walker might have to shift his position. “We do think that ultimately Gov. Walker’s position is going to need to evolve or he’s going to be negatively impacted by his position because it’s out of step with the majority of voters,” said Jennifer Epps-Addison of Wisconsin Jobs Now.

Wisconsin activists aren’t done, though. They also submitted signatures to get minimum wage increases on the ballot in Neenah and Menasha.

Photo by @WisconsinJobsNow on Twitter

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Massachusetts Will Raise Its Minimum Wage, But Here Are 2 Reasons Why The Fight Isn’t Over

On Thursday, Governor Deval Patrick (D-MA) signed into law a bill that wouldraise the Massachusetts minimum wage from $8 to $11 by 2017. That would make it the highest minimum wage of any state.

The bill also raises the tipped minimum wage from $2.63 to $3.75 over the same 3 year period.

This is a huge victory benefiting close to 800,000 workers in Massachusetts,57 percent of whom are women and 85 percent of whom are older than 20 (600,000 low wage workers and 200,000 tipped workers). Labor, faith, and community groups like Raise up Massachusetts pushed hard against business groups like the Retailers Association of Massachusettes to get wary Democratic state legislators to accept the relatively high wage.

But here are two big reasons why the work in Massachusetts, like across the country, is far from over:

The minimum wage won’t be indexed to inflation. Massachusetts bill doesn’t peg future minimum wage increases to inflation. Unless something changes, the wage will rise to $11 in three years and stop, while the cost of living keeps increasing.

The proposed ballot initiative from Raise Up Massachusetts, now withdrawn, had included indexing. Gov. Patrick and others pushed for indexing in the legislature, but it was a sticking point for many legislators under pressure from business groups.

This is a pattern we’ve seen in other states. The Maryland legislature passed a minimum wage increase to $10.10, but failed to attach indexing. In Minnesota, the entire minimum wage bill stalled for weeks while the DFL caucus negotiated indexing, which was ultimately included in the final bill.

Earned sick time needs to win the vote in November. Originally, organizers collected a combined 285,000 signatures to put both a minimum wage increase and a statewide earned paid sick days law on the November 2014 ballot.

Raise Up Massachusetts now turns its attention towards ensuring that Massachusetts workers have access to #earnedsicktime #mapoli

— Raise Up MA (@RaiseUpMA) June 26, 2014

The sick time initiative calls for all employers with 11 or more employees to allow workers to earn paid sick days, a maximum of 40 hours each year, and only after 90 days of employment. Workers who take sick time or time off to care for a sick child or relative are protected from being fired.

Now that the minimum wage increase is law, Raise Up Massachusetts has withdrawn the wage ballot question. Minimum wage and sick time are decoupled, with only the sick time initiative going to voters.

Will it make a difference in November?

“The earned sick time ballot question is a lot more difficult for people to understand, and it doesn’t incite the same amount of passion as raising the minimum wage,” political strategist Tony Cignoli told MassLive.com. “The proponents have really got to make it clear what’s in it for the average regular voter out there.”

Raise Up Massachusetts spokesman Steve Crawford disagrees. “We find that support for earned sick time is even stronger than support for increasing the minimum wage,” he said. “Folks can understand it on a personal level. We’ve all been sick. We’ve all had to stay home from work. All of us have not worked a minimum wage job.”

We’ve seen an incredible victory in the Bay State: the highest minimum wage in the country and raises for nearly a million people. Working America will be informing our members in Massachusetts about the crucial issues on the November ballot.

Text RAISE to 30644 to join the fight for fair wages no matter where you live.

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Ikea Raises Employee Wages!

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Great news for employees at Ikea! The German-based furniture company announced that it will raise employee wages to $10.76 an hour, giving workers a 17% pay increase. Hopefully other companies will follow suit.

Working America is fighting to raise the wage on a national level. If successful, more than 4 million workers could get a well-deserved pay bump.

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The CEO of Goldman Sachs Just Admitted Inequality Is A Problem. Here Are Three Ways He Can Help.

Lloyd Blankfein is CEO of Goldman Sachs, one of the most largest and most notorious investment banks, with $915 billion in assets.

During his appearance on CBS “This Morning,” Blankfein argued that massive income inequality is “a very destabilizing thing.”

Not only does income inequality slow growth, Blankfein said, it also contributes to political divisiveness:

Income inequality is a very destabilizing thing in the country, a very polarizing thing in the country. In other words, it’s responsible for the divisions in the country. Those divisions could get wider. If you can’t legislate, you can’t deal with problems. If you can’t deal with problems, you can’t drive growth, and you can’t drive the success of the country.

But he also said something else. When the show’s host pointed out that many people are speaking out against income inequality but fewer are taking action, the bank CEO agreed. “Yes, full stop. If there was a lever to pull and a button to push, we would pull it and push it.”

Technically he is correct. There is not a lever or a button. But there are very clear policy solutions that would go a long way toward alleviating the destabilizing force of income inequality:

The financial transaction tax. Also called the “Robin Hood tax,” the FTT is a small fee on stock and bond trades, derivative contracts, and swaps of other complex Wall Street instruments. It would amount to about $0.0003 per dollar, or $18 a year for the median 401(k) holder, but would produce an estimated $352 billion in revenue over 10 years. That extra revenue could be used to pay for things Congress claims we can’t afford: renewing unemployment insurance, restoring cuts to SNAP, investments in infrastructure, and assistance to state and local governments who have been forced to layoff thousands. To folks like Blankfein, who has a $2 million salary and tens of millions more in bonuses, the FTT would feel like a blip.

Raise the minimum wage. This is one you’re familiar with. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10, as proposed in the Harkin-Miller bill filibustered by Senate Republicans, would raise the wages of 27.8 million workers, grow GDP by about $22 billion, and create roughly 85,000 net new jobs. As one of the world’s most powerful bankers, Blankfein support for raising the minimum wage–and his refusal to support politicians who oppose it–would have a huge impact.

Stop attacking the CFPB. The banking lobby, of which Goldman Sachs is a large part, viciously opposed the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2010 (as detailed by author and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren in her bestselling book). But since its creation, the CFPB has recouped millions of dollars for consumers from mortgage, credit card, and banking companies that were skirting or outright breaking the law. Oftentimes, the offending companies are directly scams at the most vulnerable Americans: debtors, students, veterans, low-income families and families of color. Forget outright support–if Blankfein called off his lobbying team from attacking and attempting to weaken the CFPB, the Bureau’s future and its ability to recoup losses for consumers would be more secure.

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