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

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

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

“Just a three dollar increase can make a living wage,” she sings to the children. She goes onto use all of Mary Poppins’ tricks and tools–little birds, penguins, and so on–to explain how low wages hurt families, businesses, and consumers alike.

Don’t get us wrong: We love this video, and anything that brings this issue to a broader audience helps in our campaign for fair wages.

But unfortunately, Minimum Wage Mary Poppins is not quite accurate when she says an increase to $10.10, as proposed by Democrats and blocked by Republicans in the Senate earlier this year, would constitute a living wage for most Americans:

$10.10 doesn’t keep up with cost of goods. According to the Economic Policy Institute, increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 would lift millions out of poverty, but it would still not reach the level it would be if the minimum wage had kept up with inflation since 1968, and would not come close what the minimum wage would be if it had increased with worker productivity.

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

For most Americans, $10.10 doesn’t keep up with the cost of living. While the cost of living varies depending on where you live, $10.10 an hour doesn’t constitute a “living wage” in most areas, particularly if you have one or more dependents.

For example, according to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, a single adult can survive in Arkansas on $7.86 an hour, which is still higher than the current minimum wage in Arkansas, $7.25. However, add a kid into the mix, and that shoots up to $16.37.

In a more expensive area like the District of Columbia, a single adult needs a living wage of $13.65, which nearly doubles with the addition of one child.

All this assumes a 40 hour work week. Think those numbers from MIT look bleak? Well, they are actually extremely optimistic, because they assume the adults in question are working 2,080 hours a year, or 40 hours a week for 52 weeks.

First off, no one should have to work 8 hours a day every single day of the year with no days off. Not only is that inhumane, it ignores events like sickness, family emergencies, and any other of the infinite problems that might keep someone from their 8-hour work day

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

We talk to hundreds of people every night, many of them retail and service workers, and a consistent theme we hear is that schedules are erratic, unpredictable, and insufficient.

Sometimes it’s because managers don’t want workers to exceed the number of hours that would require them to provide health care. Sometimes it’s an issue of favoritism or retaliation, where a manager will assign a better or worse schedule based on how they feel about an employee. And if you take a second part-time job, you have no assurance that the two schedules will line up, or that you’d be able to juggle the demands of two jobs as they constantly change.

Lastly, thank you Kristen Bell. Despite these few omissions, your collaboration with Funny or Die is hilarious, clever, and shines a bright spotlight on an issue that’s too often overlooked.

For the first time in forever, we have a Disney song that helps the economic facts go down.

To join Working America’s fight for fair wages, text RAISE to 30644.

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11 Ways the ‘Schedules that Work’ Act Would Make the Lives of Working Families Better

11 Ways the 'Schedules that Work' Act Would Make the Lives of Working Families Better

On Tuesday, Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced the “Schedules that Work” Act to provide federal guidelines for making sure that employers offer fair, flexible and reliable schedules for working families who are often left in difficult situations because of erratic employer scheduling. Miller said the act is about “dignity” and ensuring workers can earn a decent living and meet family responsibilities.

Scheduling problems are particularly glaring in some of the fastest-growing and lowest-paying industries in the United States, including retail, food service and janitorial work. The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) President Joe Hansen explained the problem in more detail:

If you ask a worker in the retail industry what improvements can be made to their job, the response is likely to include scheduling. Fair, flexible and reliable scheduling is a simple way to ensure workers are treated with dignity and respect. In a perfect world, employers would view workers as human beings with competing life demands rather than numbers on a balance sheet. But in reality, scheduling is more erratic than ever.

Here are 11 ways the act would improve the lives of working families. It would:

1. Give employees the right to ask for schedules that better meet their professional and family needs: Workers would have the right to request more flexible or more predictable schedules, request more or fewer work hours and ask for minimal fluctuations in scheduling. Employers would be required to consider and respond to schedule requests.

2. Give employees with specific needs more protections: Scheduling requests for priority reasons would have to be granted by employers, if possible.  Priority reasons include health conditions, child care, elder care, a second job, education or job training.

3. Protect workers from retaliation: Employers would be prohibited from punishing workers for their work requests.

4. Require reporting pay: Often workers are called in to work, only to be sent home or put on call without pay or guarantee of work. The law would require employers to provide at least four hours of wages for employees who report to work when scheduled for shifts of four hours or longer and are sent home before four hours of work.

5. Require call-in pay: For employees that are required to call in less than 24 hours before a shift and are not allowed to work for at least four hours, employers would be required to pay them at least one hour’s wages.

6. Require split-shift pay: Workers who are required to work nonconsecutive hours would be paid an additional hour’s wages for time spent between shifts waiting to work.

7. Require employers to provide employees with clear expectations about hours and scheduling: As part of working a job, employees would be provided with a general idea of the schedules and number of hours they will be working and employers would be required to tell workers about changes in advance. Short-notice changes would require additional pay.

8. Help women have more ability to meet work and family responsibilities: Women workers make up the majority of low-wage jobs that would be affected by the bill, and improving their scheduling would make it easier for them to meet both work and family responsibilities.

9. Provide students with increased flexibility in pursuing higher education: According to CLASP, unpredictable scheduling limits class choice, the number of classes taken, class schedules and access to campus facilities, all of which slow down student progress toward graduation.

10. Benefit the economy: Unreliable and unpredictable scheduling is a drain on workforce productivity and increases turnover. Making schedules more reliable would help reduce both of these problems, which would increase business profits and help create more jobs.

11. Benefit businesses, too: More reliable schedules also would contribute to higher job satisfaction, higher organizational loyalty, higher worker performance and productivity, lower absenteeism and lower turnover.

Hansen said UFCW supports the act:

This legislation would ensure all workers have the rights fought for and won by UFCW members for decades. Our contracts have long guaranteed predictable and adequate scheduling. The law of the land should do the same. I urge Congress to pass the Schedules that Work Act as soon as possible.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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

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

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

Here are some highlights of recent working families victories:

ORGANIZING VICTORIES

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

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

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

RAISING WAGES VICTORIES

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

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

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

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

COMMUNITY VICTORIES

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

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

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

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Pittsburgh Adjunct Faculty Votes to Join USW

Pittsburgh Adjunct Faculty Votes to Join USW

Part-time professors at Pittsburgh’s Point Park University have voted to join the Adjunct Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers (AFA-USW). The votes were counted this morning by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The educators filed a petition with the NLRB in April and a mail ballot election was held for the 314 eligible instructors. The Point Park faculty are the second group of adjuncts to vote to join AFA-USW, after Duquesne University faculty voted for the union in the spring of 2012. The Point Park instructors cited similar issues as the Duquesne faculty, including stagnating wages, lack of benefits, little job security and inadequate office space and other tools to provide students with quality education.

USW President Leo W. Gerard called upon the college to engage the adjuncts fairly:

The adjunct instructors have spoken very clearly with this vote. Now it’s time for the Point Park administration to work with them to craft a fair collective bargaining agreement that provides the faculty with the benefits and basic protections that all workers deserve.

Sharon Brady, who has taught theater arts at Point Park for more than a decade, echoed Gerard:

I am looking forward to working with the administration, with the support of the USW, to enhance both the adjuncts’ experience and their effectiveness for the students they serve.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Unions Celebrate LGBTQ Progress; Look Toward Continuing Challenges

In celebration of LGBTQ Heritage Month, the AFL-CIO and Pride At Work hosted a panel discussion Monday that surveyed efforts by various unions in advancing LGBTQ rights and discussed ongoing challenges that unions face in advancing the rights of LGBTQ workers. In particular, panel participants talked about the need of unions to become more inclusive, to increase efforts to protect transgender workers and to fight for state laws that prevent employers from firing workers for their sexual orientation or gender expression.

The panel was introduced by Carmen Berkley, AFL-CIO’s director of civil, human and women’s rights; moderated by Peggy Shorey, AFL-CIO’s director of state government relations and deputy director of government affairs; and included Shane Larson, legislative director for the Communications Workers of America (CWA); Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; Tim Schlittner, assistant communications director for politics for the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW); and Caniesha Washington, a program specialist in the women’s and fair practices department for AFGE.

Nipper said that while “the rate of progress now is extraordinary,” many activists have been working on these issues for 40 years, so while it’s good to see some of the recent changes, “we still have a lot more progress to make.” She noted that getting married is such a fundamental part of our culture that everyone should be able to marry.

She also noted that very few protections are in place for transgender Americans, even things as fundamental as obtaining simple documents such as birth certificates. Nipper, who is an ordained interfaith minister, said one of the biggest barriers we still face is the use of religious beliefs to discriminate even though there is nothing in religious teachings that call for the kinds of discrimination conservatives are attempting to impose.

Larson made the key point that it is still legal in many states to be fired for who you love, even in states where marriage equality exists. He noted that in most states, the strongest protection an LGBT worker can have against such discrimination is a union contract.

It is the responsibility of union leaders and activists to educate union members about LGBTQ issues, Washington said.

Schlittner said that it’s heartwarming to see how far we’ve come, noting the entire city block of labor unions marching in the World Pride Parade in Toronto last week, but that we must combine labor issues and LGBT issues as part of the broader movement and that while we stand on the shoulders of giants who did much work before us, we have a responsibility to finish that work. Change will start, he said, organically at the local level, but as the groundswell grows, leadership will hear the voices of the people and progress will follow.

Here are some tweets from the event:

Other labor organizations in attendance at the event included: Electrical Workers (IBEW), AFTWorking America, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), Freedom to Marry and AFSCME.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Students Call on The North Face and REI to Protect the Workers It Profits From

Members of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and interns from Union Summer took action at a Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) store in Rockville, Md., last weekend to protest the retailer’s association with The North Face, a company that uses sweatshop labor in Bangladesh to produce its products. Nearly 2,000 workers in the factories in Bangladesh that North Face and other companies use have died in recent years because of unsafe workplace conditions. Watch the video to see the students in action.

Of particular note is an exchange in the middle of the video between one of the students and an REI employee who asks what the protests are about. She responds eloquently: “When you do business with people that disenfranchise people worldwide, then what does that say about your brand?”

UnionSummer2014InternsREIAction

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Union, Yes: Machinists Win Back-to-Back Organizing Drives in Texas

Exciting things are happening in Texas. The Machinists (IAM) today announced a second important organizing victory, this time for 475 office and clerical personnel employed by L3 at the Corpus Christi Army Depot (CCAD) in Corpus Christi. This follows an April organizing win for 450 helicopter mechanics and technicians at the same facility.

The workers will join IAM Local 2916, which already has more than 500 members under six contracts at the adjoining Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, as well as the new members from April’s election.

“Our organizers were able to overcome the anti-union bias that is promoted in some southern states by providing concrete examples of what IAM contracts have already been secured for similar workers throughout the South,” said IAM Southern Territory Vice President Mark Blondin. “The IAM also has a history in the South that goes back 126 years, with well-established bargaining relationships in shipbuilding, defense and aerospace.”

Blondin credited the union’s months-long education campaign that preceded the vote for ensuring workers at L3 knew their legal rights and understood the benefits of working under a collective bargaining agreement.

“The office workers mirrored the mechanics in needing better wages and benefits,” said IAM Southern Territory Grand Lodge Representative Ramon Garcia, who helped coordinate the organizing effort with assistance from District Lodge 776 and district organizers Chub McCrory and Sylvia Zavala.

“This was a big team effort, with staff and volunteers involved from across our territory. It’s exciting to see workers’ views change about the need for a union,” said Blondin. “Across the South, we’re hearing from workers about the need for the voice on the job and better wages. We expect these latest wins to lead to increased organizing opportunities for the IAM.”

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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The State of America’s Deadly Jobs, in 9 Charts

The State of America's Deadly Jobs, in 9 Charts

At The Huffington Post, Alissa Scheller has an article that includes nine charts that show very clearly the key takeaways from the AFL-CIO’s recent Death on the Job report.  These charts explore the issue of who the 4,600 who die on the job each year are and what is contributing to their deaths.

OccupationalFatalities1_1

OccupationalFatalities2

OccupationalFatalities4_1

OccupationalFatalities5

OccupationalFatalities6

OccupationalFatalities7

OccupationalFatalities8

OccupationalFatalities9

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Denver SuperShuttle Drivers Oppose 30% Pay Cut

Denver SuperShuttle drivers.

Airport drivers who work for SuperShuttle in Denver are fighting back against the threat of reduced wages and lost jobs. The long battle began 5 years ago when drivers attempted to organize for a voice on the job with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) after the company hired new drivers and reduced pay for existing employees. The situation recently heated up as the drivers say the company stopped bargaining with them and imposed a new contract that cuts wages by 30% and forces them to reapply for their jobs.

SuperShuttle is owned by a French multinational corporation, Transdev, and the company has reportedly hired a lawyer with expertise in “union avoidance.” This is just the latest broadside in a drawn-out battle. In 2011, after a long process before a vote could even be held, 95% of the drivers voted to join CWA. Workers reported that SuperShuttle retaliated against pro-union employees in 2012 as negotiations began. A “final offer” from SuperShuttle was rejected by 93% of the drivers, and the company imposed a contract that is being challenged before the National Labor Relations Board as a violation of federal law. SuperShuttle’s most recent response is imposing the new contract with the 30% wage cuts.

AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre said:

I recently had the opportunity to meet with these drivers in Denver. They are proud, hardworking fellow immigrants. We will not let this injustice go. The AFL-CIO is going to stand with and fight with these workers for justice.

The drivers are speaking out against the new contract.  Noureddine Berezqi, who has been with SuperShuttle for 16 years, said: “I worry about my fellow drivers who now qualify for food stamps. Under this new contract, I couldn’t even support myself, let alone my wife if she was still in school.”  Abdel Hmami, with 9 years with the company, added:  “Before [the new contract] we had peace of mind. Now I have to hustle at two jobs to earn what I did before.”  Mohamed Hllouz, a 5-year employee, also is considering more work:  “I’ve seen my income cut by 50% under this contract, especially this time of year because it’s busier. I’m thinking about getting a second job now.”

Supporters of the shuttle drivers can sign a CWA-sponsored petition on their behalf.  You can also follow the ongoing campaign on Facebook.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Arena Football Players Join AFL-CIO

The Arena Football League Players Union will join the AFL-CIO after its Board of Player Representatives voted unanimously to affiliate with the 56 unions and 12.5 million members of the labor federation. The AFLPU, which began operations in 1987, now has 14 teams and is looking to expand into China. The union represents some 350 players, more than 90% of the league’s players.

Ivan F. Soto, executive director of the players’ union, explained the move:

It was just a natural fit for us. With the rapid growth of the league we’re starting to see, we felt it was good to align ourselves with an organization that can help us domestically and internationally….We’re happy to have the backbone of the AFL-CIO behind us. That’s what solidarity is about—trying to grow the pie for everybody, especially the players, the labor.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka welcomed the players:

The labor movement is stronger when all workers—from nurses in California to teachers in New York or arena football players across the country—speak with a collective voice. We are excited to welcome the AFLPU into America’s labor movement and look forward to working together to improve the lives of all working people.

Soto added that arena football is a dangerous sport and that the players “don’t earn the kind of compensation that NFL players do.” Joining the AFL-CIO, he said, was a way to make sure that games are played with properly trained union players with sufficient protections. “You can’t just throw 20 guys out there in an arena that don’t have a lot of experience. Someone could get killed.”

He noted that the resources of the AFL-CIO would be valuable to the players:

This partnership will help grow the AFLPU and level the playing field for players as our league continues to grow. The AFL-CIO’s resources will provide our athletes with training, education and many other benefits that will help us achieve our goal: a workplace that treats athletes fairly and puts player safety first.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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