Minnesota has made a name for itself as a major hub of the retail industry – look no further than Target and Best Buy, both headquartered in the state. Yet, even as big retail stores reap billions in profits from eager shoppers, retail workers haven’t shared in those gains.
Now, that’s changing. By joining Working America, retail workers are gaining a stronger voice on the job and demanding corporate accountability. In 2014, workers took action to raise the state’s minimum wage, a low $6.15 an hour, and won. The new $9.50 base hourly wage takes the state from having one of the lowest minimum wages in the country to one of the highest when it fully kicks in by 2016, giving more than 325,000 Minnesotans a much-needed raise.
Retail workers from Working America are also joining together to work directly with their co-workers to change their specific workplaces and solve problems on the job.
Last fall, workers from a Twin Cities mall started talking about how they could win changes at their job. Associates faced low wages, and those working part time lacked health care. Workers faced racial discrimination, no paid sick days and safety challenges. One worker was assaulted by a customer and sustained a concussion while at work. Despite all this, managers had done little to address workers’ concerns, and morale on the job was low.
The workers wanted to do something about it.
The associates met regularly to set priorities and strategize about how to make things better. They circulated a petition calling for paid sick days and distributed surveys to see what co-workers wanted in a better workplace. After building support throughout the store, the members brought their concerns directly to management. They talked with supervisors and directors about the problems they and their co-workers faced and how they were coming together to address these challenges.
By standing united, they saw results.
Management announced shortly after the meeting that workers would be receiving wage increases, paid sick days and that benefits would be added for part-time workers.
Workers at this mall in Minnesota made it happen. They won needed improvements and gained a newfound confidence by talking with one another and uniting for a collective voice. We still have much to do. Workers at the mall continue to face low wages, safety concerns and other problems, but the group showed that by coming together, workers can create a better workplace.
The fight continues to give all retail workers the kinds of initial gains made at one Twin Cities mall. Retail workers are talking with state lawmakers about the need for paid sick days, and they’re leading the call for fair scheduling policies at the state and local level, testifying at a recent hearing.
To get involved in the fight for a better Minnesota for retail workers, contact Working America Minnesota.
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Image via mo1229 on Flickr
Tags: minimum wage, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Paid Sick Days, retail, retail working america, scheduling, twin cities
Today, tens of thousands of Walmart workers, fast-food, retail and other low-wage workers are engaged in a massive, nationwide strike in their fight for $15 an hour, consistent full-time hours and the right to join a union.
Lisa Pietro, a two-year Walmart employee from Winter Haven, Fla., who made just $8.95 an hour before Walmart’s recent increase to a minimum of $9 an hour, said:
I’m proud to be part of a growing movement of moms and dads, brothers and sisters like me, who are standing up for better jobs. A company like Walmart, which brings in $16 billion in annual profits, can afford to provide the pay and hours that our families need. The raise we just won at Walmart shows what working people can accomplish when we stand together.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:
The voices of Walmart and fast-food workers have shown the power of collective action in standing up to corporate greed and a system that for far too long has only benefited those at the very top.
Since the Black Friday Walmart strikes and the fast-food workers strikes began more than two years ago, the movement for $15 an hour, full-time work and consistent scheduling has grown to include retail workers, home care providers, airport workers, adjunct professors and more and gained support around the globe.
The growing voice of the workers and support from their communities and many lawmakers has pressured employers like Walmart, McDonald’s and others to raise wages some but not nearly close to $15. Said Trumka:
While some wages have been raised, there is much work to be done, and workers will continue to speak out until wages are fair, conditions are improved and every voice is heard in the workplace.
For more, see #Fightfor15.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, fast food, fight for $15, international, labor, minimum wage, Richard Trumka, union, Walmart
While Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) was vacationing in Europe last week, a top state official resigned in protest over Pence’s efforts to cut middle-class wages. In his letter of resignation, Port Commissioner David Fagan wrote:
Indiana is ranked 38th in per capita income, and the governor’s solution is to cut wages on good middle-class jobs. What sense does that make?
Pence supports legislation to repeal Indiana’s prevailing wage law, known as the Common Construction Wage. Said Fagan in his letter:
By repealing Common Construction Wage, you will slash wages for Indiana workers, cripple Indiana contractors, starve small businesses and reduce our state’s tax revenue. In addition, you will undermine private-sector training for Indiana’s youth, which directly contrasts your statements in support of additional worker training.
Fagan, a Republican, also points out that the repeal of Indiana’s Common Construction Wage “undermines the free-market wages negotiated in the private sector” and that:
Supporters of the repeal have publicly stated their support for utilizing foreign guest workers in our construction industry. I cannot understand why Indiana’s Republicans have sided with out-of-state and foreign workers. That this is even being considered is a tragedy for our party and our state.
Read more from NWI.com.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Indiana, Jobs, labor, Mike Pence, minimum wage, union
A new study finds that Walmart’s promised raise for its lowest-paid employees to $9 per hour in 2015 and $10 per hour in 2016, will still require large taxpayer subsidies to compensate for the lowness of Walmart’s wages. Meanwhile a new report from the AFL-CIO finds Walmart is seeking to cut its costs for higher-paid, U.S. high-tech workers by recruiting temporary foreign tech workers at lower wages.
Meanwhile a new study from Americans for Tax Fairness finds that Walmart’s promised raise for its lowest-paid employees to $9 per hour in 2015 and $10 per hour in 2016, will still require large taxpayer subsidies to compensate for the lowness of Walmart’s wages.
The AFL-CIO report finds that Walmart has been increasingly submitting applications for H-1B visas. These visas let U.S. companies employ foreign workers. The report criticizes the reasons the company is using the visas: “Walmart is driving down standards in the tech industry in the U.S. by using H-1B visas and contractors excessively. This keeps costs low and allows for IT guest workers to be paid less.” Over the past eight years, Walmart has filed 1,800 petitions for the visas, including a high of 513 in 2014. Numerous other companies also have filed similar petitions for work in Bentonville, Ark., the home of Walmart’s corporate headquarters. Said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:
At a time when we face unprecedented levels of inequality and decades of wage stagnation, it is irresponsible to expand access to employment-based temporary work programs that will continue to hold down wages, increase worker vulnerability and reduce social mobility for deserving workers.
The report also reveals how Walmart has quietly backed corporate lobbying groups pushing to expand the program and increase the number of H-1B visas that are available. In the meantime, the number of H-1B applications for IT workers in Bentonville continues to grow—suggesting that local Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) recent graduates lose out on IT jobs.
The study, from Americans for Tax Fairness finds that the $9 per hour standard would still mean that most of those low-wage workers, even working at Walmart’s full-time standard of 34 hours a week, would bring home less than $16,000 a year. Such a low rate would qualify a single worker for at least three government assistance programs. If the worker has one or more children, they would qualify for eight programs.
The 2016 standard of $10 per hour would raise employees’ annual take home pay by less than $2,000, and if the worker with that salary had one or more children, they would still qualify for all eight government assistance programs. Raising wages to a minimum of $15 per hour with a 40-hour workweek, the report finds, would raise the annual take-home pay for the lowest-paid employees to $31,200 a year, which would lift most workers out of the eligibility bracket for government assistance. Based on the last year of profits made by the Walton family, such a raise would still leave the company’s owners with $10 billion in profit (not to mention their massive existing fortunes).
Read the full Americans for Tax Fairness report. Read the full AFL-CIO report.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Jobs, labor, minimum wage, Richard Trumka, union, Walmart
While Walmart recently announced that it would raise its minimum wage for many workers, the working families behind the OUR Walmart and Making Change at Walmart campaigns say that victory, while a start, isn’t enough and that they will continue to call on Walmart to raise wages to a minimum of $15 an hour and offer workers consistent full-time hours. Toward that end, the organizations are standing with fast-food and other low-wage workers across the country on April 15, and they want you to join them in strikes and protests in more than 200 cities in the Fight for $15.
America can’t build a strong future with poverty wages. When large, profitable companies like Walmart, McDonalds and others hold down wages, benefits and access to hours, it hurts all of us. Ordinary people who work hard are being paid so little that too many can’t afford basics like groceries, rent or transportation. When families are trapped in poverty, the American economy suffers and we, as taxpayers, end up footing the bill. It’s wrong that the 1% of companies like Walmart are rigging the system for their benefit at the expense of workers, our communities, the environment and our economy.
If you would like to participate in one of the events or organize your own event, learn more.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Corporate Accountability, labor, minimum wage, union, Walmart
This post originally appeared in the U.S. News & World Report.
In 2015, nearly 5 million American workers might get a pay raise. By joining together to ask for one. Through a union.
Minimum wage hikes, overtime expansion, paid sick leave and other policy improvements are important to raise wages in America. But the best way for workers to get a raise is by asking for one with a collective voice. That’s what workers do—bargain together in unions to improve our lives.
And this is an exceptional moment for raising wages through collective bargaining. More new contracts will be bargained by unions and employers in 2015 than at any other point in modern American labor history.
Autoworkers in Michigan, public workers in Illinois and New Jersey, communication workers at AT&T and Verizon, clerks at Kroger and Foodtown, postal workers, employees of Disneyland and others will negotiate wages and benefits. Government will not dictate the outcome. Workers expressing their collective voice will sit down with management and decide on a fair allocation of the rising profits resulting from the recovery.
Five million workers asking for a raise? Yeah, and it’s about time. All U.S. workers should ask for more. Wages have been stagnant for over a decade. In fact, between 1997 and 2012, the income of those in the bottom 90 percent fell by $2,868, even as workers’ productivity rose. Current data tell the same story. The last two months point to economic recovery and robust job growth, but with virtually no upward effect on wages.
What we are seeing is wage theft on a grand, macroeconomic scale. Workers feel deep frustration in the face of the relentless disparity between productivity and wages. I know, because that’s what they tell me. In every industry, in every state, at every hourly wage level. But workers don’t need any more economic analysis; we want solutions.
That’s why collective bargaining is so important in 2015 and long term. First, income inequality is not just a low-wage worker problem; falling wages are a fact for workers at every pay level up to the top 10 percent. Second, collective bargaining is the primary way to address wage stagnation across the whole economy. Income inequality is not a mysterious phenomenon; it results from the economic rules we have created. It can be solved by changing those rules.
And that solution must recognize the precarious position of workers acting alone. Again, today’s data support this assertion. A January story in The Wall Street Journal reported on a survey of U.S. workers that found while only 8 percent were satisfied with their pay, fewer than half had asked for a raise. The Journal concluded, “When it comes to pay, people are afraid to ask for more.”
Workers should not be afraid to demand what we have earned. Unions and collective bargaining are critical to righting this imbalance. Historically, when unions are strong, wages rise in proportion to profit. And it is not only union members who benefit; there is a spillover effect lifting the pay of all workers. From 1935, when the National Labor Relation Act was passed, to 1980, almost 70 percent of income growth benefited the bottom 90 percent and only 7.1 percent went to the top 1 percent.
Collective bargaining is ground zero in the debate about raising wages in America. It should be front and center as Congress considers policy and as presidential candidates announce agendas. Moreover, the results will illuminate the larger issue underpinning chronic wage stagnation: that vibrant worker organizations are key to restoring the balance of economic power in our country.
Even workers who are not yet represented by a union should be encouraged to speak up, especially with a collective voice. No worker should be afraid to ask for a raise, and federal law protects that right. Everyone who works should ask for a raise in 2015. We deserve it, and the health of our economy depends on it.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, labor, minimum wage, Richard Trumka, Rights At Work, union
During a stop in South Carolina this week, former Florida Gov. (and potential Republican presidential candidate) Jeb Bush came out in opposition to the federal minimum wage. Although his spokespeople later dialed back the rhetoric, Bush initially said:
We need to leave it to the private sector. I think state minimum wages are fine. The federal government shouldn’t be doing this. This is one of those poll-driven deals. It polls well, I’m sure–I haven’t looked at the polling, but I’m sure on the surface, without any conversation, without any digging into it people say, ‘Yea, everybody’s wages should be up.’ And in the case of Walmart they have raised wages because of supply and demand, and that’s good.
But the federal government doing this will make it harder and harder for the first rung of the ladder to be reached, particularly for young people, particularly for people that have less education.
Bush is far from the only potential GOP presidential nominee to come out against raising the minimum wage, and several of the leading contenders have expressed opposition to the federal minimum wage’s very existence. It’s almost as if being opposed to making sure workers earn enough to support their families is a litmus test in the lead-up to the Republican primaries. Even those not expressing outright opposition have been spoutinglong-disproven myths about the minimum wage. Here’s what the gang of anti-worker extremists who want to run the country have been saying:
Ben Carson (Maryland): Wrote and op-ed titled: “Obama is wrong that raising minimum wage will fix income inequality.”
Chris Christie (New Jersey): “I gotta tell you the truth, I’m tired of hearing about the minimum wage, I really am.”
Lindsey Graham (South Carolina): “This is an emotional issue. From an economic point of view, if you want to increase the minimum wage, you’re going to displace probably a million people from the economy at a time when we should be hiring people.”
Mike Huckabee (Arkansas): “Raising the minimum wage to $15, or more in some cases, is an issue that you don’t have to declare yourself a socialist to back. It’s becoming more popular, because it sounds so generous and so easy. Being generous with other people’s money is always easy. It’s true that a lot of people on the lower end of the pay scale are having a tough time these days. But in many cases, small business owners who pay the minimum wage for entry level workers are putting in so many hours and taking so little out that they’re lucky to make minimum wage themselves. If they have to double what they’re paying their employees, they’ll have no choice to fire half of them. And that doesn’t really help the workers.”
Bobby Jindal (Louisiana): “I’m not ideologically opposed to ever raising the minimum wage. I just don’t think now is the right moment.”
Sarah Palin (Alaska): “I don’t know, why are you even worried about fast food wages? Well, we believe — an America where minimum wage jobs, they’re not lifetime gigs, they’re stepping stones to sustainable wages. It teaches work ethic.”
Rand Paul (Kentucky): “When you set the minimum wage, it may cause unemployment. The least skilled people in our society have more trouble getting work the higher you make the minimum wage.”
Rick Perry (Texas): Said it’s not “the government’s business” to be setting the minimum wage and that raising the minimum wage would cost jobs.
Marco Rubio (Florida): “I don’t think a minimum wage law works….I want people to make a lot more than $9 — $9 is not enough. The problem is you can’t do that by mandating it in the minimum wage laws. Minimum wage laws have never worked in terms of having the middle class attain more prosperity.”
Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania): Said he supports some kind of increase, but opposed the $10.10 minimum wage proposed by Democrats.
Scott Walker (Wisconsin): Said he doesn’t think the minimum wage “serves a purpose.”
These comments come, of course, after more than one of these candidates voted for or supported minimum wage increases in the past.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, labor, minimum wage, union
In 2013, Working New Mexico members fought for a minimum wage increase in Bernalillo County—and won. Bernalillo is the most populous county in the state and includes the city of Albuquerque.
The increase included a cost of living adjustment, but on January 1, 2015 workers were disappointed that the cost of living adjustment had not been implemented. When a reporter spoke with Commissioner Wayne Johnson about the cost of living adjustment not being enforced, he stated it was an oversight by the commission and they were trying to resolve the issue but a resolution might come as late as 2016.
The minimum wage workers would be losing $0.15 per hour. For a full-time worker, that would equal $312 a year, or a week’s worth of pay. When Commissioner Johnson stated that it was an oversight on part of the Board of Commissioners, Working America members were upset because this meant that they would not have $312 extra this year to help support themselves and their families.
Commissioner Wayne Johnson also said about the delayed increase that the “damage was minimal if any.” This remark was out of step with the realities faced by minimum wage workers in this country.
On January 13, ten of our members attended the County Commissioners meeting and two of our members testified against the delay. They confronted Commissioner Wayne Johnson about his comments. One of our members explained how this increase would affect him as a minimum wage student worker. Jaen Ugalde said, “$312 could help us pay for a month of rent, or for a portion of our books.” Lorenzo Pino urged the commissioners to vote on the measure that night to bring relief to Bernalillo County’s low-income families.
Thanks to our members’ presence and heartfelt testimony, the commissioners took action that night, voting 3 to 2 in favor of a minimum wage cost of living adjustment. It will take effect on January 26, 2015. Commissioners Maggie Stebbins, Debbie O’Malley and Art De La Cruz voted in favor. Unfortunately Wayne Johnson and Lonnie Talbert were the two votes against resolving the delayed cost of living adjustment.
By standing together as Working New Mexico, our members shed light on the plight of low wage workers and their families – and won. Without our members’ work, Bernalillo County officials could have easily gotten away with delaying a much needed cost-of-living adjustment. Working New Mexico, a project of Working America, is committed to standing up for our communities and putting the issues of everyday working people front and center—and when possible, forcing our leaders to take immediate action.
Tags: bernalillo county, Corporate Accountability, minimum wage, New Mexico
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said, “President Obama eloquently and forcefully advocated for working families throughout his State of the Union Address,” last night. He also said:
The president’s focus on raising wages through collective bargaining, better paying jobs, a fairer tax code, fair overtime rules, and expanded access to education and earned leave sent the right message at the right time.
Read the rest of the statement below:
So did his embrace of union apprentices and immigrants who want to achieve the American Dream. The president has again demonstrated his strong commitment to creating an economy that truly works for all working people.
Fighting income inequality is one of the biggest challenges of our time. As Oxfam recently reminded us, the world’s wealth continues to be increasingly concentrated in the hands of a very few. If we are serious about solving this monumental challenge, the size of the solutions must meet the scale of the problem. We must have a similarly vigorous response to the barriers to raising wages: our opposition to fast-tracked trade deals that are giant giveaways to big corporations must be resolute. We can’t face the competitive challenge of China with a trade deal that fails to adequately address currency manipulation, climate change or that gives corporations rights that people don’t have.
Now is the time for politicians to champion a Raising Wages agenda that ties all the pieces of economic and social justice together. America has now heard what the president thinks about this agenda. We thank the president for his passion and his advocacy. We are ready to see what he and Congress will do about it. That is the ultimate standard of accountability.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Barack Obama, china, collective bargaining, labor, minimum wage, Richard Trumka, Rights At Work, state of the union, union
A series of recent reports from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) make clear the case for why wages have stagnated in the United States.
Before digging into the details, it’s important to note a few things. First off, wage stagnation is not a small problem, it’s something that affects 90% of all workers. As one of the authors of these reports, Lawrence Mishel, says: “Since the late 1970s, wages for the bottom 70 percent of earners have been essentially stagnant, and between 2009 and 2013, real wages fell for the entire bottom 90 percent of the wage distribution.” Second, while the Great Recession made things worse, the problem goes back 35 years. And third, and most importantly, wage stagnation is a matter of choice, not necessity.
Here are five real reasons why wages have stagnated in the United States.
1. The abandonment of full employment: For a variety of reasons, policy makers largely have focused on keeping inflation rates low, even if that meant high unemployment. A large pool of unemployed workers means companies are under less pressure to offer good wages or benefits in order to attract workers. Since the Great Recession, austerity measures at all levels of government have made this problem worse. EPI says excessive unemployment “has been a key cause of wage inequality, since research shows that high rates of unemployment dampen wage growth more for workers at the bottom of the wage ladder than at the middle, and more at the middle than at the top.”
2. Declining union density: As extreme pro-business interests have pushed policies that lower union membership, the wages of low- and middle-wage workers have stagnated. Higher unionization leads to higher wages, and the decrease in unionization has led to the opposite effect. The decline in the density of workers covered by collective bargaining agreements not only has weakened the ability of unionized workers to fight for their own wages and benefits, but also their ability to set higher standards for nonunion workers. EPI notes: “The decline of unions can explain about a third of the entire growth of wage inequality among men and around a fifth of the growth among women from 1973 to 2007.” Read much more about the connection between the decline of collective bargaining and wage stagnation.
3. Changes in labor market policies and business practices: EPI argues: “A range of changes in what we call labor market policies and business practices have weakened wage growth in recent decades.” Among the numerous changes they describe include: the lowering of the inflation-adjusted value of the federal minimum wage, the decrease in overtime eligibility for workers, increasing wage theft (particularly affecting immigrant workers), misclassification of workers as independent contractors, and declining budgets and staff for government agencies that enforce labor standards.
4. Deregulation of the finance industry and the unleashing of CEOs: The deregulation of finance has contributed to lower wages in several ways, including the shifting of compensation toward the upper end of the spectrum, the use of the financial sector’s political power to favor low inflation over low unemployment as a policy goal, and the deregulation of international capital flows, which has kept policy makers from addressing imbalances, such as the U.S. trade deficit. EPI adds: “Falling top tax rates, preferential tax treatment of stock options and bonuses, failures in corporate governance, and the deregulation of finance all combined to increase the incentive and the ability of well-placed economic actors to claim larger incomes over the past generation.”
5. Globalization policies: Decades spent in pursuit of policies that prioritized corporate interests over worker interests led to lowering of wages for middle- and lower-income workers in the United States. EPI concludes: “International trade has been a clear factor suppressing wages in the middle of the wage structure while providing a mild boost to the top, particularly since 1995.”
EPI has also provided nine charts that lay out the picture of U.S. wage stagnation very clearly.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, globalization, labor, minimum wage, organizing, Rights At Work, union, wages