What the NLRB Announcement on McDonald’s Means

mcd

In case you missed it, National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel Richard F. Griffin made a pretty significant announcement about McDonald’s and its role as an employer to workers in franchise locations all over the country.

Historically McDonald’s has claimed it has no authority over wages or complaints of workers’ rights violations at its franchise locations because that is up to the individual owners, but the NLRB general counsel determined McDonald’s could be liable as a joint employer in these kinds of situations.

There’s been a lot of head scratching over what this announcement means and its implications for other large companies and workers at these kind of fast food franchises, so here is some basic information to break it all down for you.

How Did This All Come About?

You’ve probably noticed that fast food workers all over the country are fed up. In recent years these workers have been speaking out against low pay and working conditions in the fast food industry, culminating in several strikes and days of action that have captured the hearts and minds of people who care about workers’ rights. Some workers who spoke out said that their employers retaliated against them, even though such concerted activity is protected by federal labor law. Those workers filed charges of unfair labor practices with the NLRB and presented evidence that McDonald’s does indeed have significant control over wages and labor relations at its franchisees. Which brings us to the NLRB McDonald’s news.

What Did the NLRB Say?

General Counsel Griffin investigated charges alleging McDonald’s franchisees and their franchisor, McDonald’s, violated the rights of workers as a result of activities surrounding the fast food strikes and protests. He found some of these charges to have merit and, significantly, determined that McDonald’s should be considered a joint employer with its franchisees. Basically, McDonald’s wouldn’t be able to hide behind the franchisee, but also may be held responsible for the policies in place that deal with terms and conditions of employment, and labor practices.

What Happens Next?

If the workers and the employers cannot come to a settlement, the NLRB general counsel will issue complaints and try the cases before administrative law judges. Those judges then make rulings and the losing parties can appeal to the full NLRB board in Washington, D.C. NLRB decisions could be appealed to a federal appeals court, and then possibly to the Supreme Court.

Will All Franchisors Be Considered Joint Employers Now?

Not necessarily. This case is specific to McDonald’s. That being said, this could have implications for other employers on a case-by-case basis if more unfair labor practice charges come up.

What’s the Big Picture?

Even though this story has a long way to go, this is “pretty significant,” says AFL-CIO Legal Counsel Sarah Fox. What makes this case so interesting is that the joint employer doctrine can be applied not only to fast food franchises and franchise arrangements in other industries, but also to other practices companies use to avoid directly employing their workers, such as subcontracting, outsourcing and using temporary employment agencies. “Companies are increasingly using these kinds of arrangement to distance themselves from their workers and shield themselves from liability as employers,” says Fox. “These are the devices they use so that they can get the benefit of the work the employees do, but say ‘I’m not responsible’ for unfair labor practices, health and safety violations, paying proper employment taxes or complying with other legal responsibilities of an employer.”

The notion of the joint employer doctrine is an important concept for holding employers responsible, even if there’s a third party involved, when they are effectively exerting control over wages and working conditions.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW.

Photo courtesy of Mike Mozart via Flickr.

Tags: , , , , ,

Why Is This Woman Smoking At Her Desk? Doesn’t She Know What Year It Is?

blog_hendricks_screenshot

With Mad Men wrapping up this season, we will no longer be getting a weekly dose of what the workplace was like during the 1960′s.

Well, in a way, we will.

Mad Men actress Christina Hendricks appeared in a video on the site Funny Or Die this week in which she points out that when it comes to wages for women and the gender pay gap, we’re very much stuck in the 1960′s.

Hendricks appears as her Mad Men character Joan Holloway, recently hired at a modern office. She is hopelessly out of place: she can’t use the modern phones, mixes a martini instead of using the water cooler, and even tries to erase text on her computer with the back of a pencil.

When questioned about her odd behavior, she brings up a few key statistics: women make 23 percent less than their male counterparts, nearly 70 percent of minimum wage workers are women, and only 15 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are female.

“So I figure if we’re going to run our businesses like it’s the 1960′s,” she says, “I’m going to act like it.”

“Or I could’ve had a stroke…I smoke a lot.”

Here’s what Hendricks doesn’t mention: that lawmakers across the country are working to to make these grim statistics a thing of the past, and that there are forces fighting equally as hard to keep the status quo.

A bill sponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) would have made it harder for companies to pay women less than men and easier for women to take legal action against employers who deliberately pay them less. On April 9, 43 Republican Senators and 1 Independent joined to filibuster the bill, requiring a 60 vote threshold and denying us a public debate.

As for low wages, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced a bill to raise the minimum wage to $10.10, but it never reached an up-or-down vote. On April 30, 41 Republicans lead by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell filibustered the bill. All this while at least 69 percent of Americans support raising the wage.

(More on the ridiculousness of these filibuster votes and how the media reports them.)

Luckily, there’s been action in the states. In June, Massachusetts became the tenth state this year to raise the minimum wage, a list that includes Republican-dominated Michigan. And Gov. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) signed into law a statewide version of Sen Mikulski’s pay gap bill in the Granite State.

Like its viral video hit “Minimum Wage Mary Poppins” last month, Funny Or Die is writing the book on how to use parody videos to shed light on economic issues. But often, when you include the part of the story about the individuals and forces working hard to keep things the way they are–or make them worse–everyone stops laughing.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

6 Ways to Reconnect Hard Work with Decent Pay

Photo by Annette Bernhardt/Wikimedia Commons

It’s pretty frustrating seeing all the headlines that claim the economy is alive and kicking. Sure, there is economic growth and a steady increase in jobs, but what kind of jobs are we talking about exactly?

Well, they aren’t the kind of jobs we think of first when it comes to steady, middle-class jobs. No big surprise here, low-wage service sector jobs like those in the fast-food industry are seeing the biggest gains.

Bryce Covert at The New Republic has a nice summary of what America’s workers are up against when it comes to wages.

Covert emphasizes the need for “ways to reconnect hard work and decent pay” that “hand employees more power so they can ask for more.” What does she have in mind?

  • Making it easier for workers to unionize and demand better pay;
  • Aiming for full employment, so all people who want a job can have one for as many hours as they need;
  • Urging the Federal Reserve to be more concerned about unemployment than inflation;
  • Following the German model of putting workers on corporate boards, so firms are not used as piggy banks to pump money out to shareholders;
  • Providing a path to citizenship for undocumented workers; and
  • Raising the minimum wage.

Covert discusses more than just minimum wage workers and the fast-food industry, she points out other issues, including wage theft, the uphill battle for workers trying to form unions, NFL cheerleaders getting paid what sometimes amounts to $2 an hour, unscrupulous employers exploiting immigrant workers and more.

Make sure you read the rest of Covert’s article on decent wages: The NFL Cheerleaders Should Be Your Fair-Pay Heroes.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , ,

Tipped Workers Deserve New Wage Gains, Which Some Would Like To Roll Back

This piece originally appeared on MinnPost.com

With millions of working families struggling just to keep their heads above water, income inequality is a hot topic of debate nationwide. From fast-food and retail workers to economic experts to Wall Street, Americans are increasingly worried that too many of us are being left behind – and that an economic recovery built on such a shaky foundation isn’t much of a recovery at all.

In the past year alone, we’ve seen an unprecedented wave of strikes by low-wage workers demanding living wages and a voice on the job. Meanwhile, economists and policymakers are sounding the alarm that unless we make changes – and fast – our economy could yet again be brought to the brink. From coast to coast, there’s growing consensus that income inequality is the defining challenge of our time.

The good news? If anyone is up to that challenge, it’s Minnesotans. We’ve already made major progress. This spring, our state Legislature passed a bill to raise Minnesota’s minimum wage to $9.50/hour by 2016 – a victory for working families, their communities, and the businesses where they shop. The measure goes into effect today.

We can’t let down our guard

We have every reason to celebrate this step toward a brighter economic future for our state. Raising the minimum wage will help workers afford the basics like food, rent, and clothing for their kids, and relieve some of the burden that falls on taxpayers when big corporations don’t pay their employees enough to make ends meet.

But we can’t let down our guard just yet. Before our new minimum wage law even went into effect, it was already under attack from big restaurant chains that want to roll back the progress we’ve made by excluding tipped workers from the minimum wage increase. And the threat to Minnesota working families is real: Just last month, the restaurant industry succeeded in amending a minimum wage bill passed in Santa Fe County, New Mexico, so that tipped workers will receive a much lower minimum wage.

The truth of the matter is that tipped workers like waiters and waitresses deserve and need a wage floor just as much as workers in other industries. Contrary to the misperception that servers are already extremely well-paid, the median wage for servers in our state is $9.36/hour – including tips, which is below the new minimum wage. And recent census data indicates that servers are much more likely to live in poverty than other workers.

Skill-level aside, the principle couldn’t be simpler: Everyone who works hard should be able to provide the basics for their family, without relying on government assistance to pay the rent and keep food on the table. Minnesota has a chance to show the rest of the country that we all benefit when tipped workers are fairly compensated for their hard work – and that it’s time to take action at the federal level to increase the tipped minimum wage.

No evidence to support negaive-impact fears

There’s no evidence that raising the wage floor for tipped workers will have a negative impact on other workers, consumers, or businesses. In nearby states where waiters and waitresses are subjected to a tip penalty, cooks and kitchen staff actually make less than they do in Minnesota where no such penalty currently exists.

As for employers, because the minimum wage increase affects all restaurants, they will all face the same cost increase, which will then likely be passed to consumers. According to research from previous minimum wage increases, we can expect restaurant prices to rise by less than 1 percent. Meanwhile, the benefits of raising pay for tipped workers will set the stage for a stronger economy across-the-board. Job growth in the food-service industry, specifically restaurants and bars, is outpacing almost every other sector of the economy. If we don’t act now to make these good jobs, millions of would-be consumers won’t have enough in their pockets to cover basic needs, let alone create enough demand to sustain a strong economy.

I have no doubt that Minnesotans will see right through this latest attempt to chip away at progress for working families and for our state. We’re tired of the same old excuses from big corporations trying to pad profits while the rest of us pick up the slack. We’ve made our decision about the need to raise the floor for workers across industries so that everyone who puts in a fair day’s work gets a fair day’s pay, and we’re ready to move forward – not backward.

There’s simply no excuse for shortchanging tipped workers and undermining our economy in the process. We have a chance to do things differently, starting here in Minnesota and ending in Washington, D.C.

Brianna Halverson is the Minnesota state director of Working America

Tags: , , ,

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

Tags: , , , , , , ,

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

blog_poppins

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.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

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

raisethewage_twittercard

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

Tags: , , , ,

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

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Under Pressure, Chicago Task Force Recommends $13 Minimum Wage

blog_valemosmas

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

Tags: , , , ,

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

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

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.

Tags: , , ,