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


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


The federal minimum wage was last increased on July 24, 2009, and since then, a lot has changed (don’t forget tipped workers haven’t seen a raise since 1991). There have been so many attacks on working families since that time that it would be difficult to catalog them all. But workers and their allies haven’t taken the attacks sitting down, and many are finding new ways to organize and stand up for their rights. Here are five things that have changed since the last time the federal minimum wage was increased:

1. Republicans Took Control of the House and Promptly Did…Nothing: In the 2010 midterm elections, Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., and then proceeded to engage in historical levels of obstructionism, and this 113th Congress is on pace to go down as one of the least productive Congresses in history. Congressional Democrats have tried to raise the minimum wage, butRepublicans blocked the legislation. Not to mention Republicans also shut down the government in 2013.

2. Working Families Turned to State and Local Governments: Not content to wait for Republicans in Congress to act, working family advocates turned their attention to state and local governments. On June 1, 2014, Delaware became the 22nd state (as well as the District of Columbia) to raise its minimum wage above the 2009 level. Four more states are set to increase on Jan. 1, 2015, while at least four more will consider ballot measures to increase their minimum wage in November 2014. At least a dozen cities or counties also have passed minimum wage increases in the past five years as well. Much of the state and local action has been in the last year or so, showing a growing momentum across the country for raising the wage despite Republican opposition.

3. Worker Productivity Has Risen, While Wages Have Stagnated: One place you can’t lay the blame for the economic crisis, stagnant wages and other economic problems is on workers. Between 1973 and 2013, worker productivity had risen nearly 65%. Meanwhile, wages for those same workers had only increased 8.2%.

4. CEOs, on the Other Hand, Have Gotten Much Richer: While workers are much more productive and not being fairly compensated for it, CEOs are making out like bandits. The average S&P 500 company CEO received $11.7 million in 2013, or 774 times a full-time worker earning the federal minimum wage. The ratio of CEO pay to production and non-supervisory worker pay has gone from 46–1 in 1983 to 331–1 in 2013.

5. The Value of the Minimum Wage Keeps Getting Eaten Away by Inflation: Stagnant wages are a real problem for working families and they are barely keeping up with inflation. A few examples make this problem clear. In January 2009, the average price of gas was $1.84 a gallon, now it’s $3.59 a gallon. The price of beef has risen 74% since 2009 to a record level. In 2009, a gallon of milk could easily be purchased for under $3, now the price is more than $4 in many places. Overall, food prices have risen 9% since 2009, with many individual staples rising much faster.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Pentagon Contract Workers Strike for Living Wage

A group of Pentagon workers employed by federal contractors at low wages to operate concessions and clean federal buildings are the latest federal contract workers to walk off the job and urge President Barack Obama to use his executive authority to establish a living wage requirement for contractors that do business with the government.

Salon’s Josh Eidelson reports that low-wage contracted workers at several other federal buildings joined today’s demonstrations. Read Eidelson’s full report.

About 2 million workers are employed at low wages by federal contractors across the nation.

Like low-wage fast-food and retail workers across the country, the federal workers have staged one-day strikes to spotlight their demands for a living wage and the right to join a union without retaliation by employers.

In September, a group of federal contract workers marched to the White House and delivered petitions with more than 250,000 signatures, urging Obama to issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay a living wage. While Obama has called on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage, the White House has not indicated if Obama will issue the living wage executive order for federal contractors.

More than 200 workers at six Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., won union representation with UNITE HERE late last year and are bargaining for better wages and working conditions.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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

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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

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


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

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Victory in Montgomery County, Md., for Minimum Wage Workers, Prince George’s County Follows Suit

In an 8–1 vote, the Montgomery County, Md., Council passed a new ordinance that would raise the minimum wage in the county from $7.25 to $11.50 an hour by 2017. The new wage will be phased in, rising to $8.40 in October 2014, $9.55 in 2015, $10.75 in 2016 and $11.50 in 2017. After the full phase-in is complete, the annual minimum wage for a 40-hour-a-week worker in the county will be $23,600. Prince George’s County also voted 7–0, with two members absent, to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $11.50 over the next four years.

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett confirmed he will sign the bill into law. Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III has expressed concerns about raising the minimum wage and has said he wants the issue to be decided by Maryland General Assembly and Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) for statewide action.

Montgomery County Council member Marc Elrich (D-At Large), the bill’s primary sponsor, said he was satisfied with the outcome: “I’m very happy. It’s substantively what I wanted. You can make a big difference to people.”

The District of Columbia, which holds a preliminary vote on Dec. 3—is also expected to raise their minimum wage in the near future.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Government Shutdown: The Mixtape!

Washington, D.C., DJ Kid Cannibal, whose father Chris Garlock works for theMetropolitan Washington Council, created a hip-hop mixtape to have a little fun with the House Republican shutdown of the federal government. While the shutdown is serious business that hurts real people, take a few minutes out to have a laugh (and maybe dance a little), then tell House Speaker John Boehner to stop being irresponsible and end the shutdown. Kid Cannibal DJs at various night clubs, including the Rock & Roll Hotel, Recess, Bar 7 and Federal Lounge, and notes that none of them are currently shut down.

Here’s the track listing, with the DJ’s commentary:

  • 1.  Jay-Z – Open Letter (To Congress)
  • 2.  Notorious B.I.G. – Unbelievable (That you can’t pass funding)
  • 3.  Busta Rhymes – (Representatives) Get Out
  • 4.  DMX – Ruff Ryders’ Anthem (Shut ‘Em Down)
  • 5.  Nas, featuring Lauryn Hill – If I Ruled the World (I’d do better than this)
  • 6.  Total – (You’ll Be) Sitting Home
  • 7.  Drake – Hold On (You’re Going Home Early)
  • 8.  TLC – Ain’t too Proud to Beg (To just pass the damn bill already)
  • 9.  Gwen Guthrie – Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ on but the Rent (Please don’t furlough me)
  • 10. Eric B. & Rakim – Follow the Leader (Just do it already)
  • 11. Kid ‘N Play – Do This My Way (Or not, I guess)
  • 12. Michael Jackson – (They’re all just) Smooth Criminal(s)
  • 13. Daft Punk – (Let’s all vote) One More Time

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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D.C. Living Wage Bill Unable to Get Votes to Override Mayor’s Veto, but Fight for a Higher Minimum Wage Has Just Begun

Although the Washington, D.C., Council did not override Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s veto of the Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRAA), which would have required the district’s big-box retailers to pay workers a living wage of $12.50 an hour, the conversation about raising the minimum wage in D.C. is gaining momentum.

Metropolitan Washington Council President Jos Williams said:

We made sure the issue of a living wage was front and center across the country. We exposed Walmart’s hypocrisy and just how far they will go to deny workers fair pay. And we backed Council members into a corner; forcing them to have a real conversation about raising wages for all working people. The fight for fair wages for all District workers isn’t over. We thank those who stood with workers and for the Council members who sided with Walmart, there will be consequences.

Walmart, which is slated to open five stores in Washington, D.C., had previously threatened to pull out of the district if they were required to pay their workers a living wage.

“We’re disappointed that Mayor Gray and certain city council members didn’t listen to D.C. residents and pass this commonsense bill,” said Sarita Gupta, executive director of Jobs with Justice and American Rights at Work—two organizations involved in the coalition to pass the LRAA. “We all do better when we all do better—and Washington, D.C., deserves better than employers who don’t respect the community. We hope this vote sends a message to legislators in cities and towns across the country that residents will continue to speak out and demand fair wages for workers in their city. This fight in D.C. is just the beginning.”

D.C. Council member Tommy Wells gathered support for a new bill yesterday, when the LRAA veto override failed, that would create an across-the-board minimum wage hike indexed to inflation. The Washington Post reports, ”The bill gained nine co-introducers, indicating significant momentum for an across-the-board wage increase.”

Also, Gray floated a minimum wage increase in his veto letter Thursday, and Council member David A. Catania introduced a bill Tuesday proposing an increase.

According to a Hart Research Associates poll, 71% of D.C. residents supported the LRAA.

Walmart workers all over the United States will continue to challenge Walmart  now and throughout the holiday season leading up to Black Friday to address low wages, lack of respect and what they say are poor working conditions.

Forbes announced two days ago the Walton family, which owns Walmart, saw their net worth increase 25% in the past six months to $144.7 billion.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Veto Override Battle Next Step in D.C. Living Wage Campaign


Following Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray’s veto Thursday of a living wage bill for workers in big-box stores such as Walmart, backers of Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRAA) are mounting a campaign to override the veto.

The bill, which sets a $12.50 wage for workers, passed the D.C. City Council in June by an 8–5 vote, and an override requires nine votes. TheMetropolitan Washington Council’s Union City reports that LRAA backers are focusing on D.C. Council member Tommy Wells for the ninth vote.

Metropolitan Washington Council President Jos Williams called on the City Council to “stand up for D.C. workers and override this veto.”

District resident Kimberly Mitchell said Gray “had the opportunity to stand up for the residents of this city, but instead he allowed large, out of town companies, like Walmart, to threaten him and ultimately dictate the policies of our city.”

Shortly before the Council passed the bill, Walmart threatened to scrap plans to build three stores planned for the district and possibly halt construction on three others that are under way.

The Rev. Graylan Hagler, of Plymouth United Congregational Church of Christ and Faith Strategies, said:

If we cannot demand higher wages and good jobs from the nation’s and world’s largest corporations, D.C. will not be able to remain a diverse and vibrant city. We strongly urge the City Council to override this misguided veto.

If you’re in D.C., contact Wells at 888-264-6154 asking him to support the LRAA and override the veto.

Read more from Respect DC.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Walmart: Portrait of a Job Killer

Whenever communities, lawmakers or activists question or criticize Walmart for the way it treats workers—the low-pay, the stores’ impact on the communities—the retail giant pulls out a well-worn script with a simple message, “Walmart creates jobs and if there’s one thing this economy needs, it’s more jobs.”

Setting aside the quality of the jobs for another day, is Walmart telling the truth? Sure doesn’t look like it, according to Salon’s Kathleen Geier, who matches Walmart’s claims against in-depth research from universities, economists, government studies and other sources. Here’s what she finds:

Contrary to Walmart’s self-glorifying mythology, the retailer is anything but a job creator—in fact, it is a huge job killer. Not only that, destroying jobs is an essential component of Walmart’s anti-worker business model.

She cites a study led by Economist David Neumark—who, by the way, has written against raising the minimum wage in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

Using data from more than 3,000 counties, [the] results show that when a Walmart store opens, it kills an average 150 retail jobs at the county level, with each Walmart worker replacing about 1.4 retail workers. These results are robust under a variety of models and tests.

2009 study by Loyola University found that the opening of a Chicago Walmart store was “a wash,” destroying as many jobs as it created. According to the report, “There is no evidence that Wal-Mart sparked any significant net growth in economic activity or employment in the area.” Says Geier:

In short, when Walmart comes to town, it doesn’t “create” anything. All it does is put mom-and-pop stores out of business.

Walmart’s job-killing spree doesn’t stop at the city limits. The remains of once good jobs are scattered throughout Walmart’s entire supply chain. Its cut-throat drive for lower prices, writes Geier, squeezes suppliers to deliver goods at the lowest possible prices and that means cutting labor costs—aka jobs.

Read the full article.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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