Retail Wages, Scheduling Will Drive 1.4 Million Women Into Poverty By 2022

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A new study by Amy Traub finds that if the unfair wage and scheduling practices continue in the retail industry women workers will slide into poverty and our economy could suffer greatly.

Traub’s study, “Retail’s Choice: How Raising Wages and Improving Schedules for Women in the Retail Industry Would Benefit America” offers a close look at the future of our economy, both if retailers raise the wage and fix scheduling issues, and if they don’t.

“Women bear the brunt of the low-wage trend. In retail—as in other five sectors—a substantial wage gap persists between male and female workers doing the same job,” Traub notes.

Still, women make up half of the workforce so the low wages they receive affects nearly every aspect of the economy.

Currently, the average hourly pay for retail workers is $10.58, a figure that keeps a family of three teetering on the edge of poverty.

Even grimmer is the eight year outlook.

If the present trends continue Traub notes that nearly 1.4 million women working in retail and the nearly 2.5 million family members they help to support will be living in or near poverty in 2022.”

What’s more, if unstable just-in-time scheduling continues, “poverty and public costs will continue to grow.”

However, the benefits of raising the wage and consistent scheduling for women mean a robust economy in the form of less poverty and greater spending.

According to the study, if the largest retailers in the nation raised wages to 25,000 a year, roughly $12.25 an hour, the “GDP would grow an estimated $6.9 to $8.9 billion solely from women’s portion of the raise, or $12.1 to $15.7 billion from both women and men, leading to the creation of 105,000 to 136,000 new jobs.”

The study also reports that by giving female retail workers a raise and implementing fair, stable scheduling 437,000 working women would be lifted out of poverty.

Giving women workers a consistent schedule allows for better budgeting in the home, as well as better opportunities to pull oneself out of poverty, Traub notes.

Currently, 33% of women who work part-time desire full-time work, and additionally only 17% of New York workers had a fixed schedule. Unstable scheduling, Traub notes, means that women workers, a third of whom have a child at home, have trouble bringing in a steady income for their families, finding a second job to fill in the gaps of the first, finding proper childcare or pursuing an education.

“In effect, unstable and unpredictable schedules deprive women in retail of both income and opportunities to rise up,” she notes.

Taking a page out of the McDonald’s protests, on June 6th Walmart Moms head to Wal-Mart headquarters to protest the low wages they’re paid during the company’s shareholders meeting.

The group is asking for $25,000 a year.

Chart courtesy of the study, “Retail’s Choice: How Raising Wages and Improving Schedules for Women in the Retail Industry Would Benefit America

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America’s Top Role Model

As a 14-year-old, Sara Ziff faced situations most adults find difficult to manage. But as a model barely out of middle school, sexual harassment and fighting for wages owed to her were all too common. She found out she wasn’t alone. Other models faced the same challenges, and many were pressured to drop out of high school to make the most of a short-lived career.

They banded together to address these concerns collectively, to establish fair and ethical standards in the workplace. In 2012, Ziff formed the Model Alliance to bring dramatic and lasting change in the fashion industry. We spoke with Ziff this month about the fashion industry and the initiatives at The Model Alliance. 

AL: You started modeling as a 14-year-old. Do most models start at a young age?

SZ: Most models start their careers before the age of 16. I think what most people probably don’t appreciate is that it is often children—models under 18—[who] are modeling clothing that is marketed to adults, specifically women. A lot of the models who appear on the runway are actually 14-, 15-, 16-year-old kids. Some are as young as 12 and dressed up as women and [they] have to deal with all of the adult pressures of the industry. For example, nudity is common.

AL: What are some of the Model Alliance’s achievements?

SZ: When we looked at the laws on the books, we found that models were not actually covered under labor law in New York, the hub of the modeling and fashion industry. So we championed a bill that basically includes child models—models under 18—and child performance regulations so that children working as fashion models would have a set number of working hours, provisions for rest and meal breaks, provisions for chaperones. In November of last year, Governor Cuomo signed our bill into law. So that was a real coup for us. And we have already seen significant changes as a result of the law. For example, this past fashion week in February, we found that the vast majority of models on the runway were 18 and older. I think designers didn’t want to go through all the paperwork in hiring a 14-year-old instead of an 18-year-old.

A common criticism of the fashion industry is that it promotes an unhealthy ideal and the models are too skinny. Another thing that people do not realize is that it is really a symptom of designers and editors casting girls whose bodies are not fully developed rather than women. So when you cast a 14-year-old to represent the ideal of female beauty, of course she is going to have a very different body type than a woman who is in her twenties and thirties. So in short, the lack of labor protections in the modeling industry has a far-reaching effect on the images that are presented to women.

AL: Are there different labor laws globally for models or are there any laws at all?

SZ: Most states have labor protections for models, but it varies from state to state. For example, Alabama has stronger labor laws for models than New York. This is an international business and it’s pretty common for a model to be working in New York one day and a few days later working in Paris. In Paris, models are actually considered employees. So it is a whole different world depending on where you go in regard to labor laws. Generally, people in our industry say that models are independent contractors and so obviously that limits our ability to unionize and that’s why we chose this nontraditional organizing structure.

AL: Does the Model Alliance plan on bringing any other people in similar industries into the fold who may not have similar protections because they are considered independent contractors?

SZ: Pretty much everyone in our business is treated as an independent contractor—makeup artists, hairdressers, photographers—and since we formed the Model Alliance, a lot of other industry stakeholders have said, “Hey, we have trouble getting paid, too.” We have all of these concerns as individuals that are difficult to address and these are systemic problems. We have people on our advisory board that are makeup artists and photographers. We have tried to be inclusive and not adversarial. I would love one day to see the Model Alliance expand its efforts to help other workers in fields in this industry.

AL: We often have this stereotypical image of models and the fashion industry. Are there any stereotypes you want to challenge or something you want to demystify from a model’s perspective?

SZ: The modeling industry seems like a glamorous industry, because it is a superficial business where your job is to project beauty and glamour. The reality can often fall short of the image. I can say for the most part it is a fun, creative and wonderful business, but at the same time the vast majority of working models do not command large sums. Many of them are working in debt to their agencies. Models, like anyone else who is in a union, are trying to assert and establish their rights in a hostile labor environment. What makes this issue more compelling is that models begin their career when they are minors, so it is that much harder to stand up for yourself as a kid.

AL: Where do you see the Model Alliance five years from now?

SZ: Well, I’m certainly committed to these issues and developing the Model Alliance and expanding our efforts. It might seem idealistic or perhaps impossible, but I’m very interested in helping workers across the fashion supply chain. I just got back from Bangladesh, where I met with Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, and survivors of the Rana Plaza building collapse. I really feel that as faces of these companies and the fashion industry, models are in a unique and powerful position to not only improve working conditions for themselves, but for other workers, particularly women. I don’t want to be the face of a brand that exploits their workers. While I think that we have a ways to go to develop that work, which at this point is a personal project of mine, I think that would be a really worthwhile direction for us to go. So that is my wild dream.

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Equal Pay Day: Bridging the Pay Gap Takes 3 Extra Months of Work

Women have to work more than three extra months to earn what men earn in a year because, on average, they make 77 cents on the dollar compared to men’s earnings. Today, Equal Pay Day, marks the day women workers close the 2013 pay gap.

That 23 cents on the dollar pay gap adds up over time—$11,607 a year for women working full-time is more than $440,000 over a lifetime. Bridging the annual difference would make a huge impact on the lives and families of working women.

A new study by the National Partnership for Women and Families finds that if the gap were eliminated, women who work in California could buy 59 more weeks of food. Ohio’s working women could afford nine more months of mortgage and utilities payments. Working women in Georgia could afford 10 more months of rent. And women employed in Florida could afford 1,900-plus more gallons of gas.

National Partnership for Women and Families President Debra L. Ness says the analysis shows:

When women and their families lose thousands of dollars in critical income each year, they have significantly less money to spend on food, gas, rent and other basic necessities, and the consequences for their families and our state and national economies can be devastating.

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Shuler said, “The best pay equalizer is union membership, but most workers don’t have that advantage.” That’s why, she said, legislation such as the Paycheck Fairness Act is needed to help close the pay gap.

That bill, which the Senate could vote on today or Wednesday, would close loopholes and strengthen current equal pay laws, including strengthening penalties that courts may impose for equal pay violations and prohibit retaliation against workers who inquire about or disclose information about employers’ wage practices. The bill also would require employers to show pay disparity is truly related to job performance—not gender.

Most Republican members of Congress are opposed to the Paycheck Fairness Act. In 2012, they blocked a vote in the Senate on the legislation. However, in a 2014 nationwide survey, 62% of likely voters said they supported the Paycheck Fairness Act—83% of Democrats, 58% of independents and 44% of Republicans. And the majority of GOP women (51%) support the bill.

Today, President Barack Obama will issue an executive order that will apply some provisions of the Paycheck Fairness Act to federal contractors. Read more here.

Click here for the National Partnership for Women and Families study that breaks down the wage gap by state and examines the even bigger wage gap in 20 states African American women and Latina workers face. Nationally, African American and Latina women are paid just 64 cents and just 54 cents, respectively, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.

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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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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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.

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The Thing the Pope, Beyonce and Everyone Is Talking About

In her debut blog post at, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Shuler discusses “something everyone seems to be talking about, from the pope to Beyoncé: economic inequality.”

“It’s a rare day when you have the pope and Beyoncé preaching the same message,” she says. “Clearly, this widespread focus on the need for equal opportunity provides us a powerful moment for action.”

Read the rest of Plenty Superpower here.

MomsRising is an online and on-the-ground multicultural organization of more than 1 million members and more than 100 organizations working to increase family economic security, to end discrimination against women and mothers and to build a nation where both businesses and families can thrive.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW 

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Moral Mondays Expanded in North Carolina with Feb. 8 ‘Moral March on Raleigh’

On Feb. 8, the Moral Monday movement, which showed massive momentum in 2013, will return with its biggest event yet, the Moral March on Raleigh. While the state of North Carolina has been moving in a more Democratic direction in recent years in presidential elections, with Barack Obama winning the state in 2008 and coming just two percentage points of winning it again in 2012, extremist Republicans have taken control of the governor’s mansion and the state Assembly.

The Moral March on Raleigh will call out North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) and state Senate Leader Phil Berger (R) and their extreme policies, which have included attacks on voting rights, education, the environment, health care and women’s rights. Organizers expect tens of thousands of North Carolinians to stand up for their rights and fight back against these extreme policies on Feb. 8.

The Moral Monday movement was organized by the Rev. William Barber II, head of the North Carolina NAACP, which staged protests in Raleigh and throughout the state last year. The events were launched in conjunction with another organization headed by Barber, the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) People’s Assembly Coalition, and have been supported by more than 150 other organizations. The 13 Moral Monday events in Raleigh in 2013 led to nearly 1,000 arrests for civil disobedience, while events in dozens of other cities around the state helped raise awareness about the strange games afoot in the state capital.

For more details about the March, visit the HKonJ website.

The Moral Monday movement has put forth the People’s Moral Agenda, which includes the following principles and policy goals:

  • Economic sustainability, alleviating poverty and expanding labor rights.
  • Fully funded constitutional education.
  • Health care for all—protecting Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, women’s health and the Affordable Health Care Act.
  • Addressing disparities in the criminal justice system.
  • Protecting/expanding voting rights and civil rights.
  • Environmental justice.
  • Fair and just immigration reform.
  • Equal protection under the law regardless of race, income, gender or sexual orientation.

The Moral Monday movement also has a goal of raising awareness about Art Pope, the extreme financier behind much of the pro-corporate, anti-working family policies that have passed recently in North Carolina. Pope is often referred to as the state’s version of the Koch brothers.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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9 Key Facts About Women Workers Today

Liz Shuler is secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO.

Today, we earn more college degrees and have infinitely more choices, but what has it meant? Take a look:

  • Progress toward gender equality has stalled. Women’s annual earnings are just 77% of men’s.
  • Most (60%) of women’s job gains during the economic recovery have been in low-wage jobs.
  • The unemployment rate for young (ages 16 to 24) women workers is 14.5%.
  • 43% of women working in the private sector are not able to take a single paid sick day when they are ill, and more than half of working mothers (54%) do not have even a few paid sick days they can use to care for their sick children.
  • Women in unions, on average, make 12.9% more than their nonunion counterparts, are 36.8% more likely to have employer-provided health insurance and are 53.4% more likely to have participated in an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

How can we get progress on gender equality moving again? We could start by raising the minimum wage, enacting family-friendly policies like the FAMILY Act, investing in good jobs and restoring collective bargaining rights so all workers can stand together.

Photo by National Nurses United on Facebook

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Despite Gains, Millennial Women See Career Roadblocks Ahead

A new poll from the Pew Research Center shows that millennial women, who are between 18 and 32 years old, recognize that while women have made gains in the workforce in recent decades, many of the roadblocks that have limited the careers of previous generations of women will cause them problems, too. Women who have entered the workforce in the past decade start off more equal to men in terms of pay than any previous generation and they are more educated than both earlier generations of women and men of the same age group. But they believe that, like earlier generations, they will fall further behind men in terms of pay equity once they have children.

Young female workers (those between 25 and 34) earn 93% of what men earn, compared with the overall workforce in which women earn only 84% of what men make (when wages are controlled for hours worked). Millennial women were more likely than millennial men to have a college degree (38% compared with 31%), so the difference in pay isn’t based on education. Pew Research cites experts who suggest that gender stereotypes, discrimination, professional networks that are more robust for men than for women and hesitancy on the part of women to aggressively negotiate for raises and promotions account for 20% to 40% of the wage gap.

The wage gap between men and women has decreased in recent decades—in 1980, women made only 64% of what men made. Part of the shrinking disparity is an increase in women’s wages, which have risen 25% in the past 30 years. But more recently part of it is because of decreasing wages for men, who have seen their pay decline 4% since 1980.

Other findings of the survey:

  • 75% say the country needs to make changes to achieve gender equality in the workplace (compared with 57% of men).
  • 63% say having children will make it harder for them to advance in their career.
  • 15% say they’ve been discriminated against because of their gender.
  • 34% say they are not interested in becoming a manager (24% of men).
  • 51% say society favors men over women; only 6% say society favors women over men.
  • 42% say they have asked for a raise in their working life (48% of men).

Read the full report.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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