Pryor Supports a Modest, but Much Needed Wage Hike for Arkansas

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Despite State Representative and U.S. Senate hopeful Tom Cotton’s resistance to any minimum wage hike, Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor continues to endorse raising the state minimum wage to $8.50 an hour.

In a recent op-ed, the senator expressed his hesitation to raise the national minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, noting that the figure “might make sense for more affluent places like California or New York.”

Instead, Pryor expressed support for a ballot initiative that would modestly raise Arkansas’s minimum wage to $8.50 an hour:

“Too many Arkansans today are working harder than ever, but with so many in low-wage jobs — some working two or even three — they’re falling further behind. Raising the minimum wage can begin to reverse this trend while protecting and strengthening Arkansas’s economic core: our working families.”

Arkansas currently pays a minimum wage of $6.25 an hour, one of the lowest in the entire country, and a gradual raise could prove to be a reasonable way to give nearly 170,000 residents a raise while stimulating the economy, Pryor wrote.

“Raising the wage isn’t a government handout, and it doesn’t add a dime to our debt or deficits. Rather, it’s a market-based solution that helps hardworking families struggling to get by,” Pryor wrote.

Advocates of raising the state wage are currently pushing to get signatures to place the measure on the ballot in November.

Photo courtesy of Bread for the World via Flickr.

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PayWatch: CEO Pay Hits ‘Insane Level’

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It’s good to be a CEO, at least paywise. According to the 2014 AFL-CIO Executive PayWatch, released today, it’s 331 times better to be a CEO than an average worker. PayWatch finds that the average CEO of an S&P 500 company pocketed $11.7 million in 2013, while the average worker earned $35,293. The gap between CEOs and minimum wage workers is more than twice as wide—774 times.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said that PayWatch:

“Calls attention to the insane level of compensation for CEOs, while the workers who create those corporate profits struggle for enough money to take care of the basics.”

While CEO pay has hit stratospheric levels, workers and their families have been left in an economic quagmire of stagnant wagesexpiration of unemployment insurance for long-term jobless workers, an abysmally low minimum wage and unequal pay between men and women.

Many of the CEOs highlighted in PayWatch head companies, such as Walmart, that are notorious for paying low wages. This year PayWatch highlights five low-wage companies through stories from workers at Walmart, Kellogg’s, Reynolds American , Darden Restaurants and T-Mobile.

For example, in fiscal 2013, Walmart CEO Michael T. Duke received $20,693,545 in total compensation. PayWatch points out that a minimum wage worker at Walmart would have had to work 1,372 hours just to earn what Duke made in an hour. Tiffany, a Walmart worker and mother of two in Maryland, said:

“I earned about $12,000 last year as a full-time employee. These poverty wages force my family to receive public assistance. Currently, we are enrolled in the public health care program for low-income families, and the Women, Infants and Children program for my infant daughter.”

And while many of these companies argue that they can’t afford to raise wages, the nation’s largest companies are earning higher profits per employee than they did five years ago. In 2013, S&P 500 companies earned $41,249 in profits per employee, a 38% increase. Said Trumka:

“These companies are run by shortsighted business leaders, because people who earn minimum wage, for instance, can’t afford cellphones from T-Mobile or dinner at Red Lobster or the Olive Garden, both of which are owned by Darden Restaurants. America’s CEOs—as exemplified by the individuals of these companies—are cannibalizing their own consumer base. It’s wrong. It’s unfair, and it’s bad economics.”

PayWatch is the most comprehensive searchable online database tracking the excessive pay of CEOs of the nation’s largest companies. The website offers visitors the ability to compare their own pay to the pay of top executives, highlights the 100 top-paid CEOs, and breaks out CEO pay data by state and by industry.

The site also tracks and grades votes cast by 78 of the largest mutual-fund families on executive compensation at the public companies they invest in. Mutual funds own more than one-fifth of all shares in U.S. public companies, giving them a great deal of influence in determining executive pay at these companies.

PayWatch also gives you a chance to help the nation’s lowest-paid workers by signing a petition urging Congress to pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013. It would provide a much-needed increase to $10.10 an hour, raise the tipped minimum wage for the first time in more than 20 years and help lift more than half of the nation’s working poor out of poverty.

Sign the petition to raise the minimum wage. 

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Working America Members Help Hotel Workers Get Fair Pay

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An Albuquerque-based hotel has been found in violation of wage theft of at least one employee, due in part to the valiant organizing of Working America members.

Back in August, a group of Working America members approached member coordinators regarding their pay. At the time, hotel employees were tasked with cleaning rooms and were being paid $3.25 per room.

After careful research, Working America took charge and partnered with the Center for Law and Poverty (CLP) to contact the Department of Labor (DOL) and arrange a meeting with the afflicted workers.

During interviews with the DOL, workers indicated that they were forced to clock out early and they weren’t being paid the city’s minimum wage of $8.50 an hour.

From there the DOL launched a formal investigation, and on March 18th it was found that an employee in the hotel’s housekeeping department was making less than the Federal minimum wage of $7.25.

Although the organization wasn’t able to address the workers’ municipal minimum wage issues, it seems that the DOL investigation has prompted the hotel to take a more ethical approach to its wage policies.

“’I have seen a lot of changes since the investigation,” says one Working America member. “I would work so many hours and I would see a very small paycheck but now it’s a higher amount, and it seems fair,” she said.

For information on how you can help fight unfair labor practices like this one, visit: www.workingnewmexico.org

Photo courtesy of Center on Policy Initiatives via Flickr.

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Your First Half Million Guesses as to How Many College Graduates Are Working for the Minimum Wage Don’t Count

The common conservative claim about the minimum wage is that there’s no real need to raise it because most of the people who get it are teenagers who are just taking the jobs to build their résumé or for extra spending money, and people don’t live off the wage. Once again, evidence comes forward to help shatter that stereotype: Nearly half a million people who have graduated college currently work in jobs that pay the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest annual report on minimum wage workers, 260,000 of America’s workers with bachelor’s degrees earn the minimum wage or less. Another 200,000 of America’s workers with associate’s degrees are working for the minimum wage. The report underestimates the number of workers at the minimum wage because numerous states have minimum wages higher than the federal minimum, meaning even more degree holders are getting paid the lowest legal wage.

Research is clear that the minimum wage isn’t enough to pay the rent in any state, and that the idea that the typical minimum wage worker is a teenager just starting out in the workforce is wrongThink Progress notes the importance of raising the wage for many families:

“The vast majority of workers who would benefit from a minimum wage hike are adults who work to pay rent, cover hospital bills and feed familiesOne in five American children has a parent in that group. Fast-food workers—one of the largest subsets of minimum wage workers—are disproportionately black and female compared to the overall population.”

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW.

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11 Things Everyone Should Know About Working Women and the Minimum Wage

11 Things Everyone Should Know About Working Women and the Minimum Wage

Women workers are breadwinners. Women workers support their families. Check out 11 facts that show why women would benefit from raising the minimum wage.

1. Nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women. Nearly four in 10 female minimum wage workers are women of color.

2. If the minimum wage were raised to $10.10, 25 million to 28 million workers would get a raise. About 55% of the workers who would benefit, more than 15 million people, are women.

3. Some 24.3% of women workers would benefit from raising the wage.

4. More than three-quarters of women earning the minimum wage are age 20 or older. The image of teenagers making minimum wage while flipping burgers at the neighborhood restaurant is outdated.

5. More than 2.2 million single moms would benefit from raising the minimum wage. One out of four of the workers who would benefit—and 31% of the women workers who would benefit—are parents with children.

6. Some 14 million children, or 18.7% of all kids in America, would benefit from raising the wage.

7. The minimum wage for tipped workers ($2.13 an hour) has not been raised since 1991. About 72% of tipped workers, such as restaurant servers, bartenders and hairstylists, are women.

8. Workers in tipped industries are paid 40% less than other workers on average. They are twice as likely to be poor than other workers, and servers are nearly three times as likely to be poor.

9. About half of all tipped workers would get a raise if the minimum wage bill, introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), was enacted. This includes increasing the tipped minimum wage to 70% of the minimum wage.

10. For every dollar that men earn, women earn just 77 cents. Increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and indexing it to inflation could close about 5% of the gender wage gap.

11. The wage gap is even larger for women of color: African American women make only 64% and Latina women make only 54% of their white male counterparts.

Sources: National Women’s Law CenterWhite HouseEconomic Policy Institute

If you think America’s working families need a raise, sign the petition

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Raising the Wage: Arkansas Is Up Next

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As the president continues his push to raise the national minimum wage to $10.10, there’s one state that could become the blueprint for the raise the wage benefits Obama is touting, NPR reports.

Although raising the wage would positively affect about 28 million Americans, Arkansas has a lot to gain from a wage increase.

The state minimum wage is $6.25, making it the third lowest wage in the country, and one out of every 10 children in Arkansas has a parent who makes minimum wage.

Additionally, raising the wage could provide a much needed boost to Senator Mark Pryor, who is running in the red state again in November.

“Putting a minimum wage increase on the ballot alongside Pryor could give Democrats more of a reason to show up on Election Day,” political scientist Jay Barth of Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas says.

Proponents of raising the wage have begun canvassing across the state to get support from residents, with some success. For now, the main goal is to get the question on the ballot in November.

“This is the hope for Arkansas. We worry about Arkansas so much. We need to be paying ourselves, besides the people who are up there in the 1 percent. The rest of us need to be part of that,” Elizabeth Danley said as she signed a petition in favor of raising the wage.

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Connecticut Jumps Ahead of the Pack, Will Raise Minimum Wage to $10.10 by 2017

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More than 227,000 Connecticut workers will see raises in the next 3 years, thanks to a bill signed into law by Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy on Thursday.

Connecticut legislators passed a bill by wide margins raising the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017. In many respects, the bill mirrors federal legislation introduced by Senator Tom Harkin (I-IA) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 over a similar period and indexing it to inflation.

President Obama, who supports the Harkin-Miller proposal, praised the Nutmeg State:

“I hope members of Congress, governors, state legislators and business leaders across our country will follow Connecticut’s lead,” Mr. Obama said in a statement on Wednesday, “to help ensure that no American who works full time has to raise a family in poverty, and that every American who works hard has the chance to get ahead.”

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that if implemented nationally, Harkin-Miller would lift 5 million Americans out of poverty and reduce spending on public assistance programs by tens of billions of dollars.

This year, 29 states are considering either legislation or a ballot measure aimed at raising the minimum wage.

Image by Raise the Minimum Wage on Facebook

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Trumka Calls Minimum Wage a Good “First Step”

'Give America a Raise' Bus Tour Rolls into Pennsylvania

In a recent opinion piece that ran in USA Today, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka tackled the issue of minimum wage, calling it the first step towards combating the larger issue of falling wages.

In his piece Trumka asserts that the great inequality, a hot topic for many world leaders, in this country is not a cause, but in fact it’s an effect of the “disassociation between wages and productivity.”

Falling wages is no longer a class issue; instead it’s an epidemic that, due to the aforementioned disassociation, affects the majority of working Americans, he says.

“We have broken the virtuous cycle in which rising wages drive increased demand, which induces business investment and funds public investment, which leads to increased productivity, which in turn supports rising wages.”

To combat this, it will be up to organized workers to restore balance in a “new, global economy,” similar to what organized workers have done for countless decades past.

Still, Trumka notes that progression is gradual and the debate on minimum wage will forge a pathway for the debate on other, deeper issue that affect working Americans.

Photo courtesy of AFL-CIO NOW.

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7 Ways Raising the Minimum Wage Will Help Working Women

7 Ways Raising the Minimum Wage Will Help Working Women

Raising the minimum wage would help working women and their families, according to a new White House report. The report also takes a look at how raising the minimum wage for tipped workers, 72% of whom are women, is important in helping working families.

When discussing the issue earlier this month, President Barack Obama said:

Most people who would get a raise if we raise the minimum wage are not teenagers on their first job—their average age is 35. A majority of lower-wage jobs are held by women. These Americans are working full-time, often supporting families, and if the minimum wage had kept pace with our economy’s productivity, they’d already be earning well over $10 an hour today. Instead, it’s stuck at $7.25. Every time Congress refuses to raise it, it loses value because the cost of living goes higher, minimum wage stays the same.

Here are seven ways that raising the minimum wage, including the tipped wage, would help working women:

1. Of the workers who would benefit from raising the minimum wage to $10.10, 55% are women.

2. Workers in tipped occupations, such as restaurant servers, bartenders and hairstylists, are 72% women.

3. One-fourth of all workers who would benefit from increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 have dependent children, including 31% of the female workers who would be affected.

4. Nearly 3 million working single parents would benefit from the increased minimum wage, 80% of whom are women.

5. Research shows that raising the minimum wage reduces child poverty among female-headed households.

6. Research shows that raising the minimum wages helps women work their way out of poverty and into the middle class.

7. The Council of Economic Advisers estimates that raising the wage to $10.10, and indexing it to inflation, would reduce the gender wage gap by 5%.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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25 Facts About the Minimum Wage Told Through Images

The latest collaboration between AFL-CIO and Upworthy as part of the Workonomics section takes a look at the reality of the minimum wage through 25 graphics, including some with cool animations. The images take a deeper look at who gets the minimum wage, dispel criticisms of raising the wage and explore the reality of the economic impacts of raising the wage.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW.

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