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Walmart Buys Back $20 Billion In Company Stock Instead Of Raising Wages

Walmart announced a $20 Billion stock buyback yesterday.

From Business Insider: Walmart is using the oldest trick in the book to boost its stock price

$20 Billion is a whole lot of money.

  • It’s equal to almost $8,700 per full-time Walmart employee.[i]
  • It’s more than three times what taxpayers spend each year on health care, food stamps and other forms of public assistance for Walmart employees.[ii]
  • It’s 50% more than Walmart’s total profits last year.[iii]
  • It’s equal to about half of the company’s total long-term debt.[iv]

And Walmart directors have decided to spend all that money buying back shares of their own corporation’s stock.  Which doesn’t really do anything other than condense corporate ownership.

2005 photo of the Rev. Billy Talen leading the “Stop Shopping Choir”
by J.L. Sousa/Times-Herald Creative Commons license via Flickr

So rather than paying better wages to employees, or allowing more employees access to the company’s health insurance, or hiring more employees, or even just paying off corporate debt… Walmart directors want to spend $20 billion on reducing the number of shares of stock.

It’s all a question of priorities.  And condensing corporate ownership has been one of Walmart’s priorities for at least a decade.  Walmart has “repurchased” almost 30% of its shares since 2005.[v]

While taxpayers have been paying billions of dollars each year in public assistance to Walmart employees.

While Walmart employees have had to ask for public assistance, just to make ends meet for their families.

As the “Fight for Fifteen” movement[vi] continues, it’s worth asking:

If Walmart can afford $20 billion for more stock buybacks, why isn’t it already paying better wages to employees?

————

[i] https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/WMT/profile?p=WMT
[ii] https://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2014/04/15/report-walmart-workers-cost-taxpayers-6-2-billion-in-public-assistance/
[iii] “net income” https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/WMT/financials?p=WMT
[iv] https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/WMT/balance-sheet?p=WMT
[v] http://www.macrotrends.net/stocks/charts/WMT/shares-outstanding/wal-mart-stores-shares-outstanding-history
[vi] http://fortune.com/2016/06/11/walmart-minimum-wage-study/

Trump Nominates Fast Food CEO As Sec of Labor And House Labor Committe Chair Implies Unions Are Obsolete

Image by Chris Potter ccpixs.com

Image by Chris Potter ccpixs.com

As if this incoming train-wreck we call President-Elect Trump is not bad enough two more horrible things happened last night.

First, Trump is considering the head of a fast food chain as his new Secretary of Labor.

Second, Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), the newly elected chair of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce said we don’t need unions anymore.

The Hill is reporting that President-Elect Trump is considering Andrew Puzder as Secretary of Labor.

Puzder is a CEO of CKE Restaurants (Carls Jr / Hardees) and is an outspoken opponent of President Obama’s changes to the overtime rule, “claiming it will force employers to offset costs by making cuts elsewhere.”

“In an op-ed that ran in Forbes in May, Puzder said the rule adds to the ‘extensive regulatory maze the Obama Administration has imposed on employers.’”

As the head of a multi-national fast food chain with over 20,000 employees Puzder has also used his position to advocate against raising the minimum wage. He has threatened to fire workers and replace them with automated kiosks if the government increases the minimum wage. A threat that many fast food corporations have been using to counter the Fight for $15 movement.

Puzder will say anything to protect CKE’s profits that rose by 30% last year and his $4.4 million dollar compensation package.

According to PayScale.com the average fast food worker makes between $7.24 and $9.92 per hour. This means that Andrew Puzder makes more in one day ($17.250) that the average Carls Jr. worker make in a year.

Coincidentally, 52% of full-time workers who make between $7.42 and $9.91 must rely on some type of government assistance to survive. People like Savino, who works 72 hours a week, at a Brooklyn grocery store and still doesn’t make enough to get by.

“Sometimes things are so bad that I have to decide—should I pay rent this month, or should I eat?” said Savino.

“When employers pay wages so low that working people have to turn to public assistance to make ends meet, they’re effectively receiving a subsidy from taxpayers,” said EPI economic analyst David Cooper. “Policies that raise wages would free up resources that could then be used to strengthen anti-poverty programs or make investments in any number of other policy priorities. The simplest way we can do this is by raising the federal minimum wage.”

Within the next few months we could have a new Secretary of Labor who opposes raising the minimum wage and we could have a Labor Committee chair that says unions are obsolete.

Representative Virginia Foxx told Reuters “Organized labor has ‘sort of lost its reason for being’ and one of her committee’s top priorities will be to roll back a slew of Obama administration labor initiatives.”

“At the top of her agenda is the U.S. Labor Department rule that would extend mandatory overtime pay to more than 4 million workers” wrote Robert Iafolla for Reuters.

What a strange coincidence, that is exactly what the potential Sec. of Labor wants to do as well.

Foxx is also targeting the NLRB decision on “joint employment.” This is the rule that “could make it easier for unions and regulators to hold companies accountable for the employment practices of staffing agencies, contractors and franchisees with which they partner. That issue has been most prominently in play in a case involving McDonald’s Corp over whether it, as well as its franchisees, can be held liable in complaints about the violation of employee rights,” Iafolla explained.

The change to the “joint employment” rule is to stem the growing trend of hiring workers as “independent contractors” to avoid having to pay any benefits or be held responsible for any labor or safety violations. This would also hold corporations accountable for the actions of their franchisees.

Together, Puzder and Foxx will put a massive target on the backs of working people. They want to undo all of the progress we have made in the fights to raise the minimum wage and expand workers rights.

Now, more than ever, we need to come together to push back against this anti-worker agenda. We must fight back against the oligarchs that President-Elect Trump is filling his Cabinet with. We cannot sit idly by while the super-wealthy reap all the rewards from our hard work. We need to keep organizing and redouble our efforts in the Fight for $15.

We are all in this together.

We still are the 99% and we must make our voices heard.

Kelly Ayotte’s Fast Food Photo Ops Don’t Change Her Opposition To Raising The Minimum Wage

Concord, N.H. — Kelly Ayotte’s photo ops at fast food restaurants don’t change the fact that she has consistently sided with her special interest backers like the Koch Brothers in opposing an increase to the minimum wage. Kelly Ayotte earns $83.65 per hour, a rate that is over 11 times New Hampshire’s $7.25 minimum wage, yet in Washington she has repeatedly voted against helping working families earn a livable wage.

Raising the minimum wage to $12 per hour would give an estimated 141,000 hard working Granite State employees a raise and send positive ripple effects through New Hampshire’s economy. But when the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity urged Senators to vote against a measure to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 in 2014, Kelly Ayotte turned her back on her constituents and obliged.

New Hampshire is tied for the lowest minimum wage in the country, and its voters strongly support an increase to this wage. A poll earlier this year found that 70% of Granite State voters support raising the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour, but Kelly Ayotte put the Koch Brothers before the people she represents and voted against such a measure.

“Kelly Ayotte opposes a common-sense measure to ensure fast food workers earn a livable wage, so her posing for photos at a drive through window is tone deaf and offensive,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley. “Working families in New Hampshire know that Kelly Ayotte puts the Koch Brothers before the people of our state, and they won’t be fooled by her campaign season photo ops.”

Sen. Kelly Ayotte Needs To Explain To Voters Her Opposition To Raising The Minimum Wage

Guest Editorial By Jeff Kramer

Senator Kelly Ayotte and her challenger Maggie Hassan are scheduled to go toe-to-toe on November 2nd, their last debate before Election Day.  As someone who has spent much of my adult life working in a low-wage jobs, I urge the moderators ask the candidates to answer one of the most important questions for working households like mine: whether they will vote to raise the minimum wage.

Working people in New Hampshire deserve to know why, during her time in the U.S. Senate, Kelly Ayotte has voted against every effort to raise the minimum wage. Her opposition to raising the federal minimum wage has kept it frozen at a poverty-level of $7.25 an hour since 2009. The low federal minimum wage is even more significant in New Hampshire because it is the only New England state that ties its state minimum wage to the federal level. Sen. Ayotte’s role in keeping the federal minimum wage low is therefore doubly hurting New Hampshire’s working families, keeping pay low in this increasingly expensive state.

Without action to raise the minimum wage, the adjusted median wage in New Hampshire has declined by almost 7 percent since the recession, a sharper decline than virtually all other states in the nation.  As a result, over 35 percent of working New Hampshirites (225,300 workers) today earn less than $15 per hour, and 155,000 are paid less than $12. The vast majority of these low-wage workers are adults 25 and older, including over 15 percent who are 55 years or older. Most of these workers are women, many raising children – New Hampshire’s future – on low wages. The low federal minimum wage forces hundreds of thousands of working families to seek food stamps and other forms of public assistance each year, costing New Hampshire taxpayers $104 million annually.

As an adult working low wage jobs, I have been struggling to get by. When I went back to college full time to finish my degree, I worked at a fast food restaurant up to 40 hours a week during closing shift, and over 30 hours a week at a retail store to support myself. Even while working both of these jobs, I could not fully support myself. I couldn’t afford an apartment and was still living with my parents at the age of 29. I couldn’t afford health insurance and it was not offered to me through either job. Last year I became injured and I was working at a retail store where I was only offered 5-8 hours a week of work. I was paid $7.25 even though I had a college degree, management experience, and a beautiful resume. I had to rely on government assistance and food pantries to get by until I found new work. I now work for an organization that pays me $15.00. I have an apartment, a car, and am able to independently financially support myself for the first time in my life. Raising the minimum wage to $15.00 would do so much for struggling families. I know earning a livable wage has been life changing for me.  

Contrary to the claims we hear from opponents, raising the minimum wage increases the income of low-wage workers without hurting jobs . The most recent and most rigorous studies to date have shown that any employment effects from an increase in the wage floor are very small. As Goldman Sachs analysts summarized recently, “the economic literature has typically found no effect on employment” from U.S. minimum wage increases.

New Hampshire workers of all ages deserve fair pay and a shot at a decent life. They are frustrated by Sen. Ayotte and the Republican Congress’s blocking any action to raise the minimum wage. Gov. Maggie Hassan, by contrast, has called for giving working families in New Hampshire the long overdue  minimum wage increase they need.  Recent polling shows that nearly three-quarters of New Hampshire voters want a minimum wage increase, and that when voters learn of Sen. Ayotte’s track record on the minimum wage, Gov. Hassan’s lead widens.

With voters demanding action on the minimum wage, other Republican incumbents are reassessing their opposition to raising wages.  Last week, Senators Rob Portman (Ohio) and Ron Johnson (Wisconsin) backtracked on their previous opposition to raising the minimum wage, and Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen backed a $15 minimum wage for Florida.  As she seeks another term in the U.S. Senate, Kelly Ayotte’s should do the same.

Jeff Kramer lives in Manchester and is now a field organizer with Rights & Democracy, a grassroots member organization which is part of the Raise Up New Hampshire Coalition.  

Business Economist And Industry Shill Now Chair Of Health Economics At UNH

unh-peter-paul-schoolThe University of New Hampshire’s Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics just hired one of the business industry’s biggest shills in the fight against raising the minimum wage.

Dr Joseph Sabia

Professor Joseph Sabia

Professor Joseph J. Sabia has been well quoted in newspapers for his work opposing the minimum wage. Lobbyists for the National Restaurant Association, the Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity, and the National Federation of Independent Business also use Sabia’s work to convince lawmakers to oppose any wage increases by saying it will kill jobs and hurt low-income workers.

The New Hampshire Union Leader just printed one of Sabia’s hit pieces in the editorial section of Friday’s paper. The editorial, “Another View — Joseph J. Sabia: The $15 minimum wage is an empty promise to the poor,” attempts to prove that raising the minimum wage will hurt New Hampshire families. He says that poor people are just lazy and there is not connection between the minimum wage and poverty.

A $15 minimum wage has been championed as an anti-poverty measure. But the majority of poor people do not work and will not benefit from a higher minimum wage. According to 2014 Census data, less than 40 percent of poor individuals actually work.”

This 40% lie has been busted by a variety of economic institutions. The Economic Policy Institute published a report in 2015 addressing this claim specifically and found that over 63% of those living in poverty do work.

Despite what some policymakers and pundits might have us believe, a significant share of the poor work. This means that policies that boost employment and wages are important and underappreciated tools for reducing poverty. To boost wage-growth and reduce poverty rates, a policy agenda must include provisions to raise the minimum wage, raise the overtime threshold, eliminate wage theft, and strengthen workers’ collective bargaining rights,” wrote Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute.

rick-berman

Richard Berman, Lawyer and Lobbyist

Professor Sabia and his work also have direct ties to Rick Berman’s public relations firm. Berman’s firm is widely known for their work pushing Right to Work, creating misleading -borderline untruthful- information about the minimum wage, and helps corporations like Wal-Mart block unionizing efforts.

In 1991, Berman founded the Employment Policies Institute that began lobbying against raising the minimum wage. “Berman also founded the Center for Consumer Freedom, which lobbies for meat, drink and tobacco industries, and the Center for Union Facts, which lobbies against unions,” wrote Ben Schiller at Fast Company online.

Sabia has been doing anti-minimum wage research for years at different colleges and universities across the country. Most recently he was at San Diego State University where he pumped out reports with grant money from Berman’s public relations firm.

Eric Lipton of the New York Times wrote about this in 2014:

Joseph J. Sabia, an associate professor of economics at San Diego State University, who has collected at least $180,000 in grant money from Mr. Berman’s group over the last eight years to deliver seven separate reports, each one concluding that increasing the minimum wage has caused more harm than good — or at least no significant benefit for the poor.

As noted above, in 1991, Berman created the Employment Policies Institute or EPI as they like to call themselves. If the acronym EPI rings a bell, that is what Berman wants. They did it intentionally to confuse people the Economic Policy Institute that has been publishing detailed economic reports for over 30 years and “whose staffers are very unhappy with the alphabetical confusion.”

The Employment Policies Institute is a wholly disingenuous group funded by companies that stand to lose from minimum wage increases,” wrote Ben Schiller at Fast Company online.

Why do Sabia and Berman’s Employment Policies Institute create these reports? To get them directly into the hands of the lobbyists who work for the corporations that fund Berman’s public relations firm.

What is clear is that the reports by the Employment Policies Institute are a critical element in the lobbying campaign against the increase in the minimum wage, as restaurant industry groups, in their own statements and news releases, often cite the institute’s reports, creating the Washington echo chamber effect that is so coveted by industry lobbyists,” continued Lipton of the New York Times.

You see the Employment Policies Institute is just another one of Berman’s nonprofit businesses in name only, as they do not have any employees. Berman’s public relations firm completes all of the work that is sent out by the Employment Policies Institute. Berman then bills “EPI” for his services and boom, corporate money laundering complete.

This arrangement effectively means that the nonprofit is a moneymaking venture for Mr. Berman, whose advertising firm was paid $1.1 million by the institute in 2012, according to its tax returns, or 44 percent of its total budget, with most of the rest of the money used to buy advertisements.

Berman has even created a new app for IPhone and Android to help employers fight against minimum wage increases.

If companies are worried that they might be forced to actually pay their workers enough to live, they have a willing ally in the Employment Policies Institute… Wage Engage allows business owners to track minimum wage legislation in states relevant to them, and to offer their opinion about the impact of such increases,” added Schiller(Read more about “Wage Engage”)  

Peter T Paul (UNH Photo Services)

Peter T Paul (UNH Photo Services)

Sabia was hired as Professor of Economics & Forrest D. McKerley Chair of Health Economics at the Peter T Paul College of Business and Economics. The school was recently renamed after UNH Alum and wealthy California businessman Peter T Paul after a very sizable donation to the school. In addition to having the school named after him, Paul also is a member of the school’s Board of Directors.

Many people do not know much about the man the school is named after. Paul founded Headlands Mortgage known for creating and selling “Alt-A” mortgages that many attributed to the financial collapse in 2007.

Headlands Mortgage, which he founded in 1986, called them Alt-A loans: Alternative “high-quality” loans. The California-based company examined the worth of the home and the down payment, the amount of cash in the bank, and the credit history, but was looser on income verification,” wrote Bob Sanders of the NH Business Review.

Paul sold his lucrative mortgage company to GreenPoint for “$473 million” reported Sanders.After selling GreenPoint, Paul started Paul Financial, which flourished and later failed, resulting in large losses for himself and his borrowers. And it became the target of a class-action truth-in-lending suit that was settled last November for $1.75 million.”

Then Paul decided he wanted to get more involved in New Hampshire politics. Paul created a Super PAC to support his friend and former UNH Business School Dean, Dan Innis in his run for Congress in 2014.

Mother Jones reported, “Paul created a super-PAC, New Hampshire Priorities PAC, and financed it with $562,000.

In 2014, Innis lost his primary bid for Congress to the corrupt Congressman Frank Guinta. This year, Innis chose to run for New Hampshire State Senate and guess whom he is bringing with him? 

“I am excited for the opportunity to refocus NH Priorities PAC on state races during the 2016 election cycle. In particular, the PAC will be focusing on recruiting and supporting candidates for the Executive Council, State Senate, and House of Representatives who are committed to offering fiscally responsible solutions to the issues impacting our great state,” wrote Peter T Paul on the NH Priorities PAC website.

So why do I find this newly hired economist to the University of New Hampshire so dubious? Because the minimum wage is one of the biggest issues driving this election cycle.

We have a Presidential election between Hillary Clinton, who supports a minimum wage increase and Donald Trump who says workers are already paid too much.

We have a US Senate race between Senator Kelly Ayotte who opposed minimum wage legislation in the Senate and Governor Maggie Hassan who has pushed for an increase in the minimum wage since her time in the NH State Senate.

We also have a Gubernatorial race between Executive Councilor Chris Sununu who opposes increasing the minimum wage in New Hampshire and Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern who advocates for a higher minimum wage and suggested a baseline of $12 an hour. Van Ostern also says he will sign any increase to the minimum wage that passes the Legislature.

For the first time in many, many, many years we are really close to getting the Legislature to raise the minimum wage and that is scaring some of the greedy CEO’s who fund groups like Berman’s Employment Policies Institute.

They are pulling out all the stops in an attempt to cover up the truth about the benefits of raising the minimum wage. By convincing people that raising the minimum wage is wrong they are trying to convince voters to reject candidates who support the increase.

I refuse to let Berman, a D.C. front man for the restaurant and business industry, Peter T Paul, a wealthy Wall Street gambler from California, and Sabia, an economist for hire funded by grants from a fake “institute” tell me what is best for the people of New Hampshire.

None of these men have the best interests of working Granite Staters’ in mind when they are pushing their agenda. These men are only interested in maximizing their personal profits and taking from the hard working people struggling every day to get by.


Related Reading:

Fight Over Minimum Wage Illustrates Web of Industry Ties

Rick Berman and the Libertarian Shell Game

Control of US Senate Could Hinge on Candidates’ Positions on Minimum Wage

Voters in 7 states Overwhelmingly support raising minimum wage – and incumbents who oppose it pay a big penalty

Washington, DC – New polling shows voters in key swing states overwhelmingly support increasing the federal minimum wage and that candidates’ positions on raising pay could play a pivotal role in this year’s fight for control of the U.S. Senate. The results show incumbent Republican U.S. senators locked in close races could lose critical support – and even their seats – over opposition to raising wages for working people.

The polls were conducted August 25-29 by Public Policy Polling in seven states with competitive Senate races – Arizona, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.  In each of the seven states, voters are less likely to support their incumbent Republican senators when informed of their votes against raising the federal minimum wage above $7.25 per hour.

In Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and New Hampshire, Democratic challengers strengthen their lead when voters were made aware of the Republican senator’s voting record on the minimum wage. And in Arizona, Missouri and North Carolina Democratic challengers actually pull ahead, flipping the contests on their heads.

“The findings of the polls are clear: swing state voters in this election are looking for candidates who will stand with them in supporting a strong minimum wage increase.  Elected officials who oppose raising the minimum wage do so at their political peril,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project Action Fund.

In each state, at least 67% of voters support raising the federal minimum wage above its current level of $7.25 per hour, including 74% of voters in Pennsylvania and 72% of voters in North Carolina. At least 57% of voters back an increase to $15 per hour, including 63% in both Wisconsin and New Hampshire.

“Voters are fed up with lack of action in Washington on raising wages for working people, and what we’re seeing is that just letting voters know where the candidates stand on these issues can have a significant impact,” said Dan Cantor, executive director of Working Families.

During a recent WMUR question and answer session, New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte simultaneously admitted that the minimum wage is not livable and doubled down on her opposition to raising it.

When asked by a participant whether she will “stand with New Hampshire workers to raise the minimum wage,” Ayotte responded “if we focus on the minimum wage, we’re, we’re losing sight of what we should be focusing on, which is better paying jobs because you can’t live on minimum wage.”

“My mom and I both work at Wendy’s, making $7.25 an hour and no matter how hard or long we work, we still don’t make enough to cover the basics like rent or a trip to the doctors,” said Manchester resident Kimberly Harrell. “But this election season, voters like me are changing that. We know that in our state every vote counts and we’re going to use our power to elect candidates who stand up for raising pay. Our message is simple: support a wage increase, and we’ll support you.”

The poll was commissioned by the NELP Action Fund, which that conducts research and advocates on issues that affect low-wage and unemployed workers. NELP Action, which is a project of The Advocacy Fund, is partnering with the Center for Popular Democracy Action Fund, Working Families and dozens of grassroots groups in the seven states on a campaign to mobilize voters around the minimum wage in the 2016 election. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the coalition plans to engage in canvassing, hold candidate forums, and wage debate protests, among other actions, to energize voters around candidates’ positions on the raising the minimum wage.

Over the past three and a half years, more than 50 states, cities and counties have passed minimum wage increases via legislation or ballot initiative. Nearly 20 million workers have seen wage increases, and 10 million of those workers are on the path to a $15 wage. But the federal minimum wage remains at just $7.25 due to gridlock and obstructionism in Washington. More than 10 million workers across the seven states polled are paid less than $15 per hour, including more than 7 million who are paid less than $12 per hour. Low wages force taxpayers in these states to pick up $25 billion per year in public assistance to working families, according to the UC Berkley Center for Labor Research and Education.

“Voters deserve elected leaders who share their values and will stand with them on bedrock issues like good jobs and fair wages,” said JoEllen Chernow, Director of Economic Justice at the Center for Popular Democracy Action Fund. “Over the next two months we’ll be letting voters know where the candidates are on giving America the raise it needs.”

The PPP poll is the latest in a body of research that shows growing support for raising wages in America. In January 2015, Hart Research Associates found that 75% of Americans support increasing the federal minimum wage to $12.50, while 63% of Americans support raising the wage to $15. A poll of underpaid workers by Harris Interactive and Yougov last year showed among registered voters paid less than $15, 65% are more likely to vote in the upcoming election if a candidate supports $15 and a union for all workers.

Fat Profits, But Lean Wages: Workers To Protest At McDonalds Shareholder Meeting

  • Fight for $15 Vows Biggest-Ever Protest at McDonald’s Shareholder Meeting
Mcdonalds fight for 15 strike

Fight for 15 strike in 2015

As Fast-Food Giant’s Profits Grow, 10,000 Workers to Flood Company HQ, Demand Higher Pay So They Don’t Have to Rely on Food Stamps

Strike for $15, Union Rights by Chicago-Area Fast-Food Workers to Kick Off Two Days of Protest

Oak Brook, Ill. – McDonald’s cooks and cashiers announced Thursday that thousands of underpaid workers fighting for $15/hour and union rights nationwide will converge in the Chicago area next week to wage the largest-ever protests to hit the fast-food giant’s annual shareholder meeting.

Fast-food workers across Chicago and its suburbs will kick off two days of protests by walking off their jobs Wednesday morning, followed in the afternoon by a massive march of a record 10,000 fast-food, home care, child care, and other underpaid workers on the company’s Oak Brook, Ill. headquarters. The protesters will argue it is wrong for a company whose stock just hit an all-time high to pay wages so low that its workers are compelled to rely on public assistance to scrape by.

McDonald’s profits in the first quarter rose 35%, propelled largely by the company’s move to serve breakfast all day, prompting the New York Times to argue in an editorial, “Fat Profits, but Lean Wages,” that it’s time for the company to share its good fortune with its workers.

“McDonald’s sales are going through the roof, but my children have to live with their grandparents because I can’t afford to keep a roof over our heads as long as my paycheck is stuck at minimum wage,” said George McCray, a McDonald’s worker from Chicago, Ill., who is paid $8.25/hour. “We’ve been working hard to make new changes like the All-Day Breakfast a success and have helped make the company billions, but our wages haven’t budged. How much longer will McDonald’s workers have to wait before the company’s success benefits us too?”

On Thursday morning, thousands of workers will take their demand for $15/hour and union rights directly to the company’s shareholder meeting. Underpaid workers from across the service sector – joined by McDonald’s workers from five countries spanning three continents – will demand that McDonald’s use its global economic footprint to lift up working families across the economy rather than hold them down. They’ll argue that McDonald’s is driving a race to the bottom that is hurting workers across the service economy.

Rob Mercier, a low wage worker from New Hampshire, will be one of those speaking out at the McDonalds shareholder meeting next week.

“I worked for McDonald’s for more than two years, struggling to pay bills and unable to afford to buy basic items like diapers and bottles for my newborn son at the time, said Rob Mercier, a member of the Fight for $15 in New Hampshire and a line cook at 5 Guys earning $9.00 an hour. “I worked long hours, picked up shifts, and worked overnight because my pay was too low, and when raises came around I was rewarded with a measly ten cents. That was a slap in the face. McDonald’s is the largest fast-food restaurant in the world and it’s time they do more than lead the fast-food industry by profits and start to lead by lifting up struggling families like mine.”

McDonalds low wages are not only hurting fast food workers they are driving down wages for workers all across the country in their race to the bottom.

“This isn’t just about fast-food workers or McDonald’s workers – McWages are holding us all back,” said Vicki Treadwell, a Milwaukee home care worker who is paid just $10.75/hour after 25 years on the job. “As long as McDonald’s fails to pay fair wages and rips off taxpayers, moms like me will have to turn to food pantries to feed our families. With its record profits, McDonald’s can choose to lift up all workers and the economy.”

While McDonald’s sales have soared in recent months, exceeding analysts’ expectations, and the fast-food giant’s stock hit a record high in May, the company’s low wages cost taxpayers an average of $1.2 billion every year in public assistance. This low-wage model drains revenue that could be used to support the country’s home care, child care and public education systems.

“Even though I educate and care for a classroom of three- and four-year-old children, I am paid just $8.40/hour, which means I have to choose which bills to put off so that I have enough cash for food,” said Shannon Mettie, a child care worker in Detroit, MI. “McDonald’s sets pay and standards at employers large and small. But as long as the fast-food giant keeps skimping on pay and dodging taxes, communities like mine won’t have the money we need for quality child care and strong schools.”

As McDonald’s faces louder calls from workers across the U.S. demanding higher pay and the right to a union, the company is also coming under fire from regulators and elected officials worldwide over a range of harmful business practices, including tax avoidance, labor violations, and anti-competitive practices.

In April, the French government sent a letter to McDonald’s demanding the company pay back €300 million ($340 million) in unpaid taxes and fines as a result of a scheme that funneled royalties through Luxembourg. Late last year the European Commission opened an investigation into McDonald’s over allegations the company avoided more than €1 billion in taxes via the same Luxembourg machinations.

Earlier this year, Spanish tax authorities opened a criminal investigation into McDonald’s tax avoidance, and leading consumer rights advocates and NGOs petitioned Italy’s top tax authorities late last year to investigate McDonald’s over allegations that the fast-food giant has dodged at least €74 million ($84 million) in taxes owed to Italy since 2009.

In January, Italian consumer groups filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission, alleging exorbitant rents and onerous contracts thrust upon franchisees give the company an unfair advantage. Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom – the home of turf of CEO Steve Easterbrook – McDonald’s is facing more scrutiny than ever before. In April, Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn announced his party’s support for a global campaign to hold McDonald’s accountable, saying, “We will extend that campaign all across this continent.” Also last month, Labour Party leaders barred McDonald’s from sponsoring its party’s convention because of the company’s unfair treatment of workers. Worker protests in the UK forced McDonald’s to abandon its controversial zero-hours scheduling policy in which workers are required to be available to work all the time, but receive no set hours.

In March, Brazilian prosecutors launched an investigation of alleged “fiscal and economic crimes” committed by McDonald’s, including suspected tax avoidance and violations of Brazil’s franchise and competition laws. As McDonald’s looks to sell or refranchise thousands of company-owned stores worldwide, the Change to Win Investment group sent a letter to McDonald’s Board of Directors earlier this month expressing concern over flagging sales and poor corporate governance by the company’s master franchisor in Latin America, Arcos Dorados.

“In France, like elsewhere, McJobs leave us without enough to feed our families or live with dignity,” said Lynda Zarif, a McDonald’s worker from Paris, France, who will join the protest in Oak Brook next week. “At the same time, McDonald’s and its shareholders are enriching themselves and benefiting from billions in profits. McDonald’s workers are the ones in the kitchen making the Big Macs that the company sells every day, and we deserve to benefit from the company’s success.”

Arnie Alpert: The Fight For $15 Comes To Concord

Fight For 15 NH

By Arnie Alpert on the InZane Times

The movement of fast-food workers demanding wages of at least $15 an hour made a spirited visit to Concord, New Hampshire this afternoon.

About 35 workers and allies chanted and marched down Loudon Road from HazenP5050187 Drive to East Side Drive and back again on the other side.  The route took us past Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds, KFC, Burger King, Wendy’s, and other establishments that currently depend on low-wage workers. 

The Granite State actually abolished its minimum wage in 2011, which means that the base pay for most workers is $7.25 an hour, the federal minimum.  The base pay for tipped workers is even less.  Attempts every year since then to restore the minimum wage and raise it have been unsuccessful, largely due to effective lobbying by trade associations of businesses that pay low wages.

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“You can’t survive on $7.25.  Live free or die!” was one of the chants.

Others included “Hey McDonalds, you can’t hide, we can see your greedy side.”  P5050127(The names of other businesses can be substituted.) 

The marchers went inside at KFC, where they chanted for several minutes before leaving voluntarily.  At McDonalds we were locked out.  Several members of the Concord Police Department met up with us at Burger King, where they explained the rules regarding trespass and disorderly conduct to labor organizers who no doubt were already familiar with the law.   

P5050142 (2)Today’s demonstration was organized by SEIU Local 1984, the Granite State Organizing Project, and the United Valley Interfaith Project.

GSOP and UVIP have been holding monthly “Fight for $15” protests in Concord, Manchester, Nashua,P5050098 and West Lebanon, but typically with smaller groups and a less confrontational approach.  The monthly actions generally take place on the 15th of the month.   

For more information, contact

GSOP at 603-668-8250 orhttp://granitestateorganizing.org/

UVIP at 603-443-3682 or http://www.unitedvalleyinterfaithproject.org

More photos: 

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ICYMI: The NH Union Leader Profiles A Low Wage, Fast Food Worker’s Struggles

Here at the NH Labor News we have spoken at great length about the need to raise the minimum wage, in New Hampshire and throughout the United States.  For millions of Americans living in poverty while working 40-50-60 hours a week is their harsh reality.  No matter what they do they cannot seem to get ahead.

This weekend, Mark Hayward, a long time reporter for the NH Union Leader did a feature on Amber Carlow. Carlow is 24 and works full time at Wendy’s in Nashua.

Whether you support a $12 an hour minimum wage or a $15 an hour minimum wage, this article shows exactly how real people are suffering from our government failing to raise the minimum wage.

Below are a few selected quotes from the article and I encourage you to read it all.

“It’s horrible. I work 10-hour shifts. I walk to and from work. I have to worry about paying rent. I’m constantly stressed out. I can’t sleep at night,” [Carlow] said. 

According to the most recent Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages put out by state employment officials, more Granite State workers — 50,600 — find themselves in the “food and drinking places” job category than any other.

It is nearly the lowest paid in the state, fetching an average weekly wage of $365. Gas station workers make about $25 more a week.

…She attended a Job Corps program in Vermont, where she earned her driver’s license and GED. She took auto mechanics, but she became pregnant, left Job Corps and started working in fast food. 

Her son’s father is out of the picture but makes sporadic payments, Carlow said.

Her son lives with Carlow’s mother in Londonderry; Carlow said she can’t afford child care and her apartment is too small for a child. She devotes what free time she can to visits, either in Londonderry or Nashua. 

This winter, her boyfriend lost his job as a framer. His car was repossessed. The $400 Carlow had saved up went toward her $820 monthly rent, and they turned to Nashua city welfare for help.

They kept the apartment around 60 degrees and pawned their flat-screen TV. She’s applied for food stamps, but hasn’t received them. The only other government help she gets is state Medicaid.

Most days, her meals entail boxed macaroni and cheese, Hot Pockets frozen food and Wendy’s meals, which she can buy for half price. 

Not one teenager works at the East Hollis Street Wendy’s, and at least 10 of the employees are parents, she said. 

Carlow would love to go to school and train for a better paying job….“Between what I need to do to survive, I don’t have time to get this training,” she said.

Read the full article from the Union Leader here.

Low Wage Workers Walk Out In A Nationwide Strike For $15 An Hour

Emboldened by Victories in CA, NY, PA, Fast-Food Workers in New Hampshire Walk off Job, One of Record 320 Strikes Nationwide Demanding $15, Union Rights

Image by Rose Lincoln, 1199SEIU on 4-14-15

Image by Rose Lincoln, 1199SEIU on 4-14-15

More than Fast-Food: Home Care, Child Care, Airport, Workers Flood Manchester Protesting against Low Pay, Tax Avoidance by Corporations

Workers across Service Sector Zero In on McDonald’s
as Symbol of What’s Wrong with Economy

Manchester, NH – Emboldened by a historic string of victories for $15/hour from California to New York to Pennsylvania, fast-food, home care, child care, higher education, and other underpaid workers intensified their Fight for $15/hour and union rights in Manchester Thursday. Before sunrise, local fast-food cooks and cashiers walked off the job, part of a nationwide walkout in a record 320 cities.

Holding signs that read, “McJobs Cost Us All” and “McWages Hold Us All Back,” underpaid workers poured into Manchester streets Thursday, stressing – days ahead of Tax Day – that low wages and tax avoidance by companies like McDonald’s are holding back workers and communities across the country. 

Workers zeroed-in on McDonald’s because the world’s second-largest employer and the industry leader in the fast food and service economies is driving a race to the bottom that is undercutting wages across the economy and resulting in nearly 64 million workers being paid less than $15.   

“We need $15 too,” said Nashua worker Rob Mercier, who walked off the job and is paid just $9.25 after 4 years on the job. “Workers in New York and California and Pennsylvania showed that we can win $15 if we stick together, we will win in New Hampshire and every other part of the country too.” 

New Hampshire workers will join thousands of other underpaid workers in Boston for the moment of silence in remembrance of Jeffrey Pendleton, a Manchester, NH Burger King worker and Fight for $15 member who died in police custody in March after he was arrested for a minor offense and could not afford a $100 bail. Each protest will hold a moment of silence for Jeffrey. The Fight for $15 is dedicating the April 14 strike to Pendleton, a vocal proponent for higher pay and union rights, who participated in the first-ever fast-food strike in New Hampshire last month. 

Fast-food, home care, child care, university, airport, retail, building service, and other workers are demanding that McDonald’s change its business model and use its massive economic power to lift up working families across the globe instead of dragging them down.

Nationwide, the Fight for $15 strikes spread beyond the fast-food industry, as hospital workers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and nursing home workers across Florida walked off their jobs. A strike by 40,000 Verizon workers entered its second day Thursday, and walkouts also spilled overseas, as cooks and cashiers at Europe’s second largest McDonald’s, at Disneyland Paris, shut down the store early Thursday morning to demand higher pay and a union. Protests are taking place Thursday in 40 countries spanning six continents. 

Across New York, California and at UPMC, workers who have already won life-changing raises to $15/hour walked off the job Thursday to stress their demand that companies respect their right to join a union without retaliation, and to show support for other underpaid workers across the country who are still fighting for $15/hour. In New York, striking workers prepared for an evening march from the Times Square McDonald’s—where the Fight for $15 began in 2012—across town to a $1,000-a-plate GOP gala featuring Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, all of whom oppose raising wages. In Cleveland, fast-food, home care, and other underpaid workers announced a November ballot initiative to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15/hour.

A ‘Hot Political Issue’

The strike comes as workers have made $15 and union rights a “hot political issue” in the race for the White House, according to the Associated Press.

Everywhere candidates go this primary season, workers in the Fight for $15 have followed closely behind, forcing White House hopefuls to address the demands of the nearly 64 million Americans paid less than $15/hour. Ahead of debates in cities like Milwaukee, Detroit, Flint, Miami, Houston, and Charleston, fast-food workers went on strike for $15 and union rights and marched on the debates, calling on candidates to “come get our vote.” On four occasions in the debates, candidates were pressed by moderators to respond to workers in the Fight for $15, including in November, when the first question directed at GOP candidates asked them to respond to the demands of fast-food workers outside the Milwaukee Theatre demanding $15/hour and union rights. 

The Democratic Party adopted a $15/hour platform, the Democratic candidates for president have lined up in support of the workers in the Fight for $15, and elected leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Kristen Gillibrand back a $15/hour federal minimum wage. It’s a far cry from the situation when the campaign started—when discourse on the economy was limited to talk of debt and deficits and two lone Democrats in Congress (former Sen. Tom Harkin and former U.S. Rep. George Miller) were the only ones brave enough to even call for $10.10/hour. 

$15/Hour: A New Benchmark

The Fight for $15 has built a growing awareness that $15/hour is the minimum wage level American workers in every part of the country need to survive and pay for the necessities to support their families. In addition to statewide increases to $15/hour in New York and California, cities including Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have raised their minimum wage to $15/hour. And home care workers in Massachusetts and Oregon won $15/hour statewide minimum wages. Companies including Facebook, Aetna, Amalgamated Bank, and Nationwide Insurance have raised pay to $15/hour or higher; workers in nursing homes, public schools and hospitals have won $15/hour via collective bargaining; and fast-food workers have ratcheted up pressure on companies like McDonald’s to raise pay to $15/hour. 

Slate, among others, has credited the Fight for $15 with completely rewiring “how the public and politicians think about wages.” MSNBC said the Fight for $15, “entirely changed the politics of the country, and Fortune said the Fight for $15 “transformed labor organizing from a process often centered on nickel-and-dime negotiations with a single employer into a social justice movement that transcends industry and geographic boundaries.”

McDonald’s Under Fire on Both Sides of the Atlantic

The movement is also gaining momentum overseas, as workers across the globe are increasingly joining together to hold McDonald’s accountable. On Thursday, workers in 40 countries on six continents protested at McDonald’s restaurants, with marches in cities ranging from Sao Paolo to Seoul and London to Lagos. 

The global protests come as McDonald’s is facing scrutiny by federal regulators from South America to Europe. Late last year, the European Commission opened an investigation into McDonald’s following allegations by trade unions and NGOs that the company has dodged more than one billion euros in taxes since 2009. In January, Italian consumer groups filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission, alleging exorbitant rents and onerous contracts thrust upon franchisees give the company an unfair advantage.

In March, Brazilian prosecutors said they were investigating alleged “fiscal and economic crimes” committed by McDonald’s, including suspected tax avoidance and violations of Brazil’s franchise and competition laws. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the federal government continues to prosecute its case against the company for violating federal labor laws, charging both McDonald’s and its franchisees with illegally threatening, intimidating, firing and otherwise retaliating against workers who had joined together in the Fight for $15.

Fast-food workers went on strike Thursday in over 300 cities across the country.

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