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The proposed ballot initiative from Raise Up Massachusetts, now withdrawn, had included indexing.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Now that the minimum wage increase is law, Raise Up Massachusetts has withdrawn the wage ballot question.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.

Tags: , , , ,

Shocker! Workers Don’t Actually Abuse Paid Sick Days

Shocker! Workers Don't Actually Abuse Paid Sick Days

When you hear a conservative argument as to why we can’t pass a policy that helps working families, you are pretty safe in assuming that it won’t stand up to closer examination. In today’s example, the topic is paid sick days. Extremist pro-business groups that oppose requiring that paid sick days be offered to employees often make the cynical argument that if paid sick days are offered, workers will exploit and abuse them and that will hurt businesses. The real-world evidence, not surprisingly, says otherwise.

The largest real-world sample of data we have on paid sick days is the state of Connecticut, which required businesses to provide paid sick days in 2011. A recent examination of what has happened in the state since then shatters numerous right-wing myths about paid sick leave, particularly the claim that the policy will be abused by workers. The new policy in Connecticut made the number of available paid sick days for the average worker rise from 6.9 days to 7.7 days. Of those workers who have taken paid sick leave, the average worker has used only four of those days. And about one-third of workers used no paid sick days at all.

As Alan Barber of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) concludes:

[The evidence] stands in direct opposition to the idea that workers would abuse the policy and take as many days off as possible, even when not sick. This suggests that employees view paid sick days as a form of insurance, to be used only as needed. Even when additional days are available to them, employees, in reality, only take the time off from work that they require when they are ill or need to care for a family member.

Once again, real-world evidence rejects a conservative claim used to oppose a policy to help working families. This has happened so many times now, it’d be safe for us to assume these extremist arguments are faulty, at best, and just go ahead and help workers instead.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , ,

Paid Sick Days Sata Give Another Example of Gross Inequality

As the polar vortex rages on, showing no signs of letting up anytime soon, the occasional cold or flu is indeed expected.

But could you imagine being sick with the flu and not being able to take a paid sick day? It’s a luxury that many take for granted but according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), access to paid sick days is unequally distributed amongst Americans based on occupation, race and class.

“Less than a quarter (24 percent) of employees in Food Preparation and Serving Related occupations, and less than  a third (31 percent) of workers in Personal Care and Service occupations have access to sick days with pay.”

This is a sharp contrast to the 61% of private sector employees with the benefit. Additionally, only 47% of Hispanic workers got paid sick days, compared to 64% of white workers, IWPR notes.

As with most injustices in this country, it seems that paid sick days are another example of the rampant inequality that plagues the have-nots. While this is surely a monetary issue for many employers, all hardworking Americans deserve to rest their fatigued bodies without worrying about having enough money to go grocery shopping the following week, regardless of their place on the workplace totem pole.

Plus, despite Right-wing arguments, paid sick days provide employers a host of positive effects.

Photo courtesy of William Brawley.

Tags:

Minnesotans Understand That Raising the Minimum Wage Is A “Women’s Issue”

Last year, the Minnesota legislature came very close to raising their state minimum wage, which is one of the lowest in the country. The House passed a strong bill, H.F. 92, which would’ve raised the minimum wage to $9.50 and indexed it to inflation. Unfortunately, it stalled in the Senate.

Luckily, Minnesota’s two-year legislative cycle gives workers another chance at a raise. As soon as the session starts in February, the Senate could pass H.F. 92 and send it to Governor Mark Dayton for his signature.

But some DFL legislators are considering another route: combining the minimum wage increase with a package of other workplace reforms under the banner of the Women’s Economic Security Act of 2014.

“Minnesota’s economy is headed in the right direction, but not everyone is sharing in the gains. And when you dig underneath the first layer of economic challenges facing Minnesotans, we find that the people struggling to stay or step-in to the middle class are disproportionately women,” said Speaker of the House Paul Thissen (DFL-Minneapolis), “The Women’s Economic Security Act aims to break down barriers to economic progress so that women–and all Minnesotans–have a fair opportunity to succeed.”

The Act combines a number of other provisions aimed at helping working women:

Private companies contracted by the state would be required to report on pay equity among their workers. The state’s Parental Leave Act, which guarantees workers six unpaid weeks off for the arrival of a new child, would be expanded. It would encourage women to enter non-traditional, high-wage occupations and boost small businesses owned by women. And it would bolster existing protections for victims of domestic violence.

Legislators in Nebraska and New York are also taking the route of a comprehensive package rather than a standalone minimum wage increase.

Conventional wisdom has held that men care about “pocketbook” issues like wages and taxes, while women are primarily motivated by so-called “women’s issues” like reproductive health and schools. But given the wide gender gaps in wages, salary, and overall workplace treatment, even as the number of female breadwinners increases, that approach is fading.

64 percent of minimum wage workers are women, and American women overall earn 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. 40 percent of all private sector workers, particularly in the female-heavy service industry, can’t take a single paid sick day. Working women caring for children face unique challenges like the rising cost of private childcare, and the percentage of women who are primary or co-breadwinners in their household is at an all-time high.

In Minnesota, whatever tactic is used to increase wages, the current stumbling block appears to be Senate Majority Leader Thomas Bakk (DFL-Cook). Sen. Bakk lead Senators to pass a bill increasing the minimum wage to a meager $7.75 last year, and his statements indicate a hesitance around a higher increase.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Oops, So Much for the Right-Wing Arguments Against Paid Sick Leave

In 2011, Connecticut became the first state to require employers to provide paid sick days for workers, including part-time employees. At the time, extreme pro-business interests in the state ran through the common, yet tired, arguments about paid sick leave in efforts to stop the law from passing. After 18 months of the law being in effect, researchers Eileen Appelbaum, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), and Ruth Milkman, a professor at CUNY, surveyed more than 250 employers in the state to determine the effects of the law. The results of the study pretty soundly reject the conservative arguments against paid sick leave.

CEPR’s Teresa Kroeger said of the study:

The authors found that the law had minimal effects on businesses. A large majority of employers reported that the law did not affect business operations and that they had no or only small increases in costs. Businesses most frequently covered absent workers by assigning the work to other employees, a solution which has little effect on costs. Just 10% of employers reported that the law caused their costs to increase by 3% or more.

The key findings of the study include:

  • Employee turnover was reduced 3.3%.
  • Sick employees coming to work sick was reduced 18.8%.
  • Illness was spread 14.8% less often than before the law.
  • Productivity increased 14.9%.
  • Morale, motivation and loyalty increased among employees (according to their employers).
  • Payroll costs increased by 3% or more for only 10% of employers.
  • Only 10.6% of employers reported reducing employee hours because of the law.
  • Only 15.6% of employers reported increasing prices because of the law.
  • Only 3.4% of employers reported reducing operating hours because of the law.
  • Only 1.3% of employers reported reduced quality of service because of the law.
  • Only 1.0% of employers reported reducing wages because of the law.
  • A strong majority of employers were “very supportive” (39.5%) or “somewhat supportive” (37.0%) of the law a year-and-a-half after it went into effect.
  • The law covers about 400,000 workers
  • The law had minimal impact on employers that already offered paid sick days.
  • Little abuse of the system has been reported by employers.
  • Paid sick day coverage increased from 88.5% of employers to 93.7% that offer five or more paid sick days annually.
  • The number of paid sick days offered to all employees rose from an average of 6.9 days to 7.7 days.
  • About two-thirds of eligible workers used paid sick days, with an average of four days used per year.
  • Unionized employers were half as likely to report cost increases because of the law (compared to nonunion employers).

Photo via CT Working Families Party on Facebook

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , ,

How The “Right to Work” Movement Fell Flat On Its Face in 2013

 photo blog_rtw2013.png

A year ago, in one of the most shocking reversals in the state’s history, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a “right to work” bill into law behind closed doors as more than 12,000 protesters raged outside.

Right wing groups crowed, saying union restrictions in the home of the auto industry meant the labor movement was on its last legs. They talked about which states would go next.

And then, nothing.

Well, not nothing. But what anti-worker pundits said would be a domino effect was more like a cricket effect. In 2013, no state passed a “right to work” law.

Incorrectly-named “right to work” laws put restrictions on contracts union workers can make with employers. They ban fair share clauses which require that workers pay dues to have the protection of the union. Unions are left in the position of providing services without being able to fund those services, and they starve.

“Right to work” laws have nothing to do with freedom. They are simply a tactic to defund unions and weaken the ability of workers to advocate for themselves. And it shows: states with “right to work” laws have lower wages, higher poverty rates, and more workplace injuries and fatalities than free bargaining states.

In 2013, workers didn’t stand for it.

In Missouri, where Republicans controlled supermajorities in both the state House and Senate, some legislators pursued a “paycheck deception” bill, which restricts unions’ ability to make political contributions. Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones (R-Eureka) called it a step toward a “right to work law.” Based heavily on an ALEC model bill, paycheck deception moved swiftly through Republican-lead committees.

But workers, union and non-union (including hundreds of Working America members), made their voices heard. Emails, letters, and phone calls flooded legislative offices in Jefferson City. The bill passed the Senate after an 8-hour Democratic filibuster, but House legislators were getting skittish. Bill proponents were having a hard time answering simple questions about why additional restrictions on union dues were needed. Support for the bill dwindled with each test vote.

“Paycheck deception” passed the House by a narrower than expected margin, and Speaker Jones prepared to move on to “right to work.” But Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed paycheck deception, calling it unnecessary. By the September veto session, too many moderate Republicans had abandoned the effort, and the bill died outright.

Did Republicans get the message? Absolutely not. In December special session centered around tax incentives for Boeing, a small group tried and failed to insert “right to work” language. ALEC member Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Springfield) called it “a good opportunity to begin that fight” ahead of 2014.

In Ohio, the anti-union effort has centered around gathering petitions to get “right to work” on the 2014 ballot. As we know, you need to get a certain number of signatures to get an issue on the ballot. For Ohio, that number is 385,000, and you always want extra signatures in case some are validated.

The Tea Party group Ohioans for Workplace Freedom started circulating petitions in February 2012. After 20 months, they announced they have collected 100,000 signatures.

At this rate, as Ohio bloggers at Plunderbund noted, the anti-union group would need 40 m0re months to put “right to work” on the ballot. And since they’ve already burned through $118,000 in paid petition gatherers, chances are they’d run out of money first.

Let’s compare that with 2011, when Gov. John Kasich and Republicans in the legislative rammed through the union-busting Senate Bill 5. The bill passed on March 30. On June 29, after only 3 months, We Are Ohio delivered 1.3 million signatures to the Secretary of State to get a repeal of SB 5 on the ballot. In November, SB 5 was repealed by 60 percent of voters.

What’s going on here? What the Tea Party and the anti-union forces in Ohio don’t get is that once you get past a small group of billionaires and right-wing ideologues, there is no desire to restrict collective bargaining in Ohio. None. People are looking for good jobs, affordable health care, and decent schools to send their kids.

Meanwhile, the 2011 battle over Senate Bill 5, largely ignored by the national media, still reverberates throughout the Buckeye State. Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Republican supporter of SB 5, lost a Senate bid despite more than $19 million in outside aide. Mitt Romney haplessly flip-flopped on SB 5 and consistently delivered an anti-union message, lost in Ohio in part because of union members of all political stripes voting for his opponent. And in 2013, SB 5 supporter Toledo Mayor Mike Bell was ousted, while a Tea Party-backed pension-cutting amendment was rejected in Cincinnati by a 57-point margin.

In Oregon, the story is even shorter.  An Portland attorney named Jill Gibson Odell is sponsoring a “right to work” initiative in her state. Odell is excited about the “national money to be had” to assist her campaign, so she’s not even pretending “right to work” is something Oregonians themselves want. In 2013, little to no progress was made on getting the issue on the ballot, and popular Gov. John Kitzhaber said he will publicly oppose it. Meanwhile, workers in Portland got paid sick days, and a statewide sick leave ordinance is expected to pass in 2014.

What to expect in 2014? Well, as the AP reports, the main targets for “right to work” proponents are Missouri, Ohio, and Oregon, showing that these folks have learned nothing from the past year. While their efforts stall, Americans of all political persuasions are starting to support minimum wage increases, sick leave, wage theft protections, and progressive tax codes in increasing numbers.

Working America will be vigilant to mobilize against any “right to work” measure, wherever it crops up. But make no mistake: Michigan wasn’t the start of a domino effect. It was a wake up call. And outside the right-wing think tank bubble, American workers are fully awake.

Photo by detroitfreepress on Instagram

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

In Newark, You Can Be Fired for Taking A Sick Day. In 2014, That Will Change.

The paid sick days movement rolls on, right into 2014.

On January 8, Newark, NJ’s City Council will vote on a paid sick days proposal. The measure is expected to pass.

The bill would allow workers to earn an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 they worked, requiring employers to provide up to five paid sick days a year for their employees, who could use the time for their own illnesses or that of their family members.

Advocates estimate that 38,000 Newark workers don’t have access to a single paid sick day. That’s a lot of potential people who are, for instance, preparing or serving food while sick, simply because they had no other option.

Newark is following the lead of Jersey City, whose mayor Steve Fulop signed a paid sick time ordinance into law in October.

In the past year, New York City and Portland, Oregon have also enacted paid sick days laws. Massachusetts is likely to send a paid sick days measure to the 2014 ballot. Legislatures in Oregon and Vermont expect to take up the issue in earnest when they return early next year.

Of course, there are so-called “pro-business” groups who oppose these laws. But they voices of workers like Derick Swaby, a cabin cleaner at Newark Airport, cut through the noise:

“For me and for all the workers, we need paid sick days,” said Swaby, 55, of Newark. “You need days to recover when you’re sick without having to worry about losing money. Right now, I’m compelled to go to work when I’m sick, because if I don’t go, I don’t get no pay.”

A Newark victory early in 2014 would lend momentum to efforts in Massachusetts, Vermont, Oregon, and nationwide.

Photo by New Jersey Working Families on Facebook

Tags: , , , , , ,

D.C. City Council Passes Minimum Wage Increase, Paid Sick Days for Tipped Workers

 photo blog_dc.jpg

In Washington, D.C., there is great news for working families. The District of Columbia Council voted to raise the minimum wage to $11.50 and extend paid sick days to tipped workers.

The measures now go to Mayor Vincent Gray for consideration.

The minimum wage will increase in three steps to $11.50 by July 2016. Beginning in July 2017, the wage rate will be indexed to inflation, so that as the cost of living increases, so will the minimum wage rate. Prince George’s County (Md.) Executive Rushern Baker signed the Prince George’s County minimum wage bill today—the wage rate will rise to $11.50 by 2017. These wage increases in Washington, D.C., Prince George’s County and Montgomery County (Md.) are part of an innovative approach to raise wages in a region, with all three areas working together to pass these laws.

Read more on the D.C. minimum wage increase here and the victories in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Want to Eat at Restaurants That Treat Their Workers Well? There’s an App for That

There are 10 million restaurant workers in America, yet most of them make less than $9 an hour. According to Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United, 90 percent of restaurant workers don’t have paid sick leave so two-thirds of people who cook and prepare our food could come to work sick.

To support employers in the restaurant industry that do treat their workers well, check out the ROC Diners Guide so we can vote with our dollars on the kinds of establishments we want to see more of.

The ROC Diners Guide is available as a PDF or as a mobile app on the Android and iPhone.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , ,

D.C. Council Votes Unanimously to Support Minimum Wage Increase to $11.50

timeforalivingwage

In a preliminary vote expected to mirror the final vote early next year, the D.C. Councilvoted unanimously to support a plan to raise the minimum wage in the District of Columbia to $11.50. A final vote must still take place, but no member has expressed any intention to vote differently and Mayor Vincent Gray (D) has suggested he is willing to sign the bill, in contrast to his recent veto of a measure to require big-box retailers like Walmart to pay a living wage. The D.C. Council appears to have the votes to override an unlikely veto, something they fell one vote short of on the big-box store bill.

The vote comes on the heels of two Maryland suburbs minimum wage increase votes, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County, that also voted to raise their minimum wages to $11.50. Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett has indicated he will sign the bill into law. Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III has expressed opposition to a minimum wage increase and it is unclear he will sign the bill into law. The D.C. wage increase would be phased in a year earlier than the counties, taking full effect by 2016. Not only would the legislation increase the wage from its current rate of $8.25, which is a dollar higher than the national minimum wage, it would index the wage to inflation. Washington, D.C., is set to become one of the cities with the highest minimum wages in the country.

The council also voted unanimously to require employers to provide five paid sick days to tipped workers, who had been exempt from paid sick days rules. The change will protect both workers and customers, who will be less likely to be exposed to illnesses.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , ,