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Leo W Gerard: The High Cost Of Fighting For $15

2014 Fast Food Strike NYC (FLIKR Annette Bernhardt)

2014 Fast Food Strike NYC (FLIKR Annette Bernhardt)

This is no plea for pity for corporate kingpins like Walmart and McDonald’s inundated by workers’ demands for living wages.

Raises would, of course, cost these billion-dollar corporations something. More costly, though, is the price paid by minimum-wage workers who have not received a raise in six years.  Even more dear is what these workers have paid for their campaign to get raises. Managers have harassed, threatened and fired them.

Despite all that, low-wage workers will return to picket lines and demonstrations Wednesday in a National Day of Action in the fight for $15 an hour. The date is 4 – 15. These are workers who live paycheck to paycheck, barely able to pay their bills, and certainly unable to cope with an emergency. They know the risk they’re taking by participating in strikes for pay hikes. They’ve seen bosses punish co-workers for demonstrating for raises. To lose a job, even one that pays poverty wages, during a time of high unemployment is terrifying. Still, thousands will participate Wednesday. That is valor.

2015-04-12-1428857661-6865200-Fightfor15graphic.jpg

Kip Hedges exhibited that courage. He’s a 61-year-old with 26 years of service as a baggage handler for Delta at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. He wanted better wages for young workers and a union. He said so in a video, noting that “probably close to half make under $15 an hour.”

Delta fired him. The airline said he’d disparaged the company. Apparently Delta believes it has been disparaged if the flying public learns the truth about the way Delta treats workers.

Clearly, Delta planned to shut Hedges up and intimidate other workers. The message to his co-workers was clear: “You wanna talk about the paltry wages you get? Well, let’s talk about this pink slip.”

But when Delta messed with Hedges, it messed up big time. The firing failed to silence him. He continued to protest low wages. His co-workers rallied round him. The media covered his firing and his appeal. He looked like a low-wage worker hero. Delta looked like a vindictive heel.

Unlike Hedges, Shanna Tippen was no activist before she got fired from her minimum-wage job in Pine Bluff, Ark. She was just trying to get by, and falling short by about $200 a month. Her boss at the Days Inn where she worked as a night shift jack-of-all-trades asked her to talk to a Washington Post reporter who had dropped by the hotel to discuss the state’s newly instituted 25-cent increase to the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

Fast Food Strike 2014 (FLIKR Annette Bernhardt)

Fast Food Strike 2014 (FLIKR Annette Bernhardt)

Tippen told the reporter, Chico Harlan, that she hoped the little bit of extra money would help her pay for her grandson’s diapers.

After the Post published the story, the manager of the Days Inn, Herry Patel, telephoned Harlan to complain about being quoted in it. Then he fired Tippen. She recounted it to Harlan:

“He said I was stupid and dumb for talking to [The Post].”  Even though, of course, Patel had told Tippen to talk to the reporter. Tippen continued: “He cussed me and asked me why you wrote the article. I said, ‘Because he’s a reporter; that’s what he does.’”

Patel told Harlan that Arkansas voters, who approved the pay increase in a referendum by 66 percent, should not have done it. “Everybody wants free money in Pine Bluff,” Harlan quoted him as saying.

Patel apparently did not understand that Tippen performed work that kept the hotel running every night, which means she earned the money. The truth is that Patel, like so many other employers, believes that employees should work for free.

The Post and other papers wrote about Tippen’s firing, making her an icon for ill-treated, low-wage workers and Patel the personification of miserly bosses.

 

Worker-exploiting employers like McDonald’s, Chipotle and Walmart have shown themselves to be craven in the face of courageous workers’ wage protests as well.

Over the past few months, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has filed charges against McDonald’s and Walmart alleging they violated workers’ rights, including threatening retribution against those who participated in strikes.

In December, the NLRB in California ruled that Walmart illegally punished workers for striking and seeking to unionize. The judge determined that Walmart managers illegally intimidated workers by, for example, telling one, who had tied a rope around his waist to pull a heavy load, “If it was up to me, I would put that rope around your neck.”

In the Chipotle case, the NLRB ruled that a manager in St. Louis illegally fired worker Patrick Leeper for participating in Fight for $15 demonstrations and for talking about wages at work. After the decision, a company spokesperson told the news website Think Progress: “Generally speaking, it is always a top priority for us to remain compliant with all local and federal labor laws.”

“Generally,” Chipotle tries. Generally. Not in this particular case involving low-wage workers demonstrating for better pay. But, you know, generally Chipotle tries to obey the law.

In the original Washington Post story about the tiny increase in the minimum wage in Arkansas, Dominic Flis, whose company owns 18 Burger Kings in central Arkansas, said raising the minimum wage pushes up pay for other workers too. Here’s what he said:

“If somebody was already making $7.50, and minimum wage goes to $7.50, they’ll have some expectation of a raise as well,” Flis said. “And I have to maintain my workforce.”

The Brookings Institute calls this the ripple effect. The pay increase at the bottom ripples all the way up the pay scale.

Hedges, the fired Delta worker, put it another way: “a lot of the better paid workers also understand that the bottom has to be raised otherwise the top is going to fall as well.”

If for no other reason than self-interest, join the gutsy minimum-wage workers at a Fight for $15 event Wednesday.

You Will Not Believe What Wal-Mart is Doing

Image via WikiCommons

Image via WikiCommons

You have got to be kidding me.  

Wal-Mart is rewarding associates who donate money to the Wal-Mart PAC, which works to elect candidates like Speaker John Boehner and Senator Ted Cruz who vehemently oppose raising the minimum wage.

In this excellent article (Wal-Mart’s Unusual Rewards for Employees Who Give to Its PAC) by Josh Eidelson, he reports:

“Liberal groups and a union-backed Walmart worker group are asking the Federal Election Commission to investigate Wal-Mart Stores’ (WMT) policy of rewarding contributions to its political action committee with donations to charity. Under the policy, every $1 an employee donates to Wal-Mart’s PAC, which supports such probusiness candidates as Ohio Republican House Speaker John Boehner, Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, and Arkansas Democratic Senator Mark Pryor, triggers a $2 donation to a charity for Wal-Mart employees in need.”

Using charitable contributions to reward PAC donations has become a widespread practice among U.S. corporations, which are restricted by law from donating directly to their PACs. At least seven times over the past two decades, FEC commissioners have been divided over whether to restrict companies from matching the political donations with philanthropic cash.

While such companies as Coca-Cola (KO) and Boeing (BA) also match PAC dollars with charity dollars, Wal-Mart’s policy is unusual. Rather than just a 1-to-1 match, it offers 2 to 1. And instead of giving employees a choice of charities to support, it sends all the matching money to its Associates in Critical Need Trust, which benefit employees facing “extreme economic hardship due to situations outside of their control, including natural disasters.”

That’s right, for every one dollar that workers give to the Wal-Mart PAC, the corporation will donate two dollars to their own charity organization for workers who are suffering financial difficulties.

The Associates in Critical Need Trust is a 501 (c)(3) charity that provides “up to $1,500 to employees facing challenges such as homelessness or illness.

Here are three suggestions for Walmart. 1) Start by paying your workers a living wage so they aren’t forced into homelessness. 2) Provide workers with paid sick time so they can heal without the fear of losing their job for being sick. 3)  Provide workers with healthcare so they will not be forced into financial ruin when they become sick or injured. (Note: Wal-Mart just cut another 30,000 part time workers out of their employee healthcare, but thanks to the Affordable Care Act they can get coverage through their state exchange.)

I hope the FEC tears Wal-Mart apart for violating the Federal Election Campaign Act.

Jackie Cilley: It Is Time To Raise The Minimum Wage

Jackie Cilley (FACEBOOK)

State Rep Jackie Cilley, Image from Cilley For NH on Facebook

An idea is rapidly gaining force around the country, finding support across the political spectrum. Red states Arkansas, Alaska, South Dakota and Nebraska voted last November to join bright-blue cities like San Francisco and Oakland in its support. President Obama and Mitt Romney have both expressed support and Gov. Maggie Hassan added it to her agenda at her inaugural. Liberal icon Ralph Nader and the Pied Piper of the right, Grover Norquist, have even teamed up to advocate for this measure. All these forces aligning can mean only one of two things: the netherworld has indeed frozen over or a good idea transcends political ideology.

While our weather might suggest the former, it’s actually a good idea that’s shifting the political winds: The idea is that American workers deserve a raise, and that increasing their wage can achieve many of the shared concerns of both Republicans and Democrats.

After watching the Legislature during my four years away, I didn’t suffer any illusions about the challenges facing my most important piece of legislation this session, a House Bill to create a livable wage for our New Hampshire workers, including those who make tips. This bill will raise wages to $14.25 over a three-year period and set the tipped minimum wage to the same level over a four-year period. Every year thereafter, if this legislation passes, the wage rate would increase according to the Consumer Price Index. This will take thousands of workers out of poverty and save tens of millions of dollars in public services.

Although states have voted directly to raise the minimum wage from its paltry $7.25 ($2.13 for tipped workers) and support for an increase enjoys the support of over 70 percent of New Hampshire voters, there has been a deep political divide over this topic, stalling attempts at the federal level for more than six years while Speaker Bill O’Brien completely eliminated the New Hampshire minimum wage during the 2011-2012 session.

Consider for a moment why the creation of a livable wage can bridge the divide between the parties. Both sides want to create jobs. Both want to move folks out of poverty. Both want a robust economy with opportunities for all. In fact, many of the goals of Republicans and Democrats are the same. The divide is in how to get there.

This isn’t pandering. It is rational economic policy, well supported by numerous studies and concrete results from states that have raised their minimum wage. Every business owner worth his/her salt knows the simple formula to expanding business and to hiring new employees: more customers must have the ability and willingness to buy your product or service. Setting aside whether you have something to sell that folks want, the ability of a consumer to buy your product is in large part determined by his or her financial resources. This is why three out of five small-business owners support a livable wage.

Let’s face it: Nobody can actually live on the $7.25 federal minimum wage. Even worse is the $2.13 minimum wage that employers of workers who make $30 or more a month in tips are allowed to pay their employees. There are 27,000 tipped workers in New Hampshire who make up 10 percent of our workforce, working in six of the 10 lowest-paid occupations in our state. These workers are disproportionately women; one-third are single moms.

Tipped workers are twice as likely to fall below the poverty line. In fact, the median wage of combined tips and hourly wages for tipped workers in New Hampshire is $8 per hour. These workers are also three times more likely to require public services such as food stamps, housing assistance and fuel assistance, than workers who make a more livable wage.

The economic arguments of opponents of these measures have largely been debunked. Aren’t most people earning minimum wage teenagers doing their first job? Seventy-two percent are no longer in their teens and fully 36 percent are 30 or older. Fourteen percent of minimum wage earners are parents, and 59 percent are women. Twenty-one thousand children in New Hampshire have a parent who would get a raise if the minimum wage were increased.

There are no compelling economic reasons for failing to set a state floor of livable wages. It has not been academic studies, but facts on the ground in states that have raised their minimum wage that proves this. Most recently, economists at Goldman Sachs, hardly a liberal think tank, reviewed the data on 13 states whose minimum wage was increased in 2013.

What they found was that in states where the minimum wage increased, there was faster employment growth than in those whose minimum wage remained depressed. It makes simple economic sense – more people with more money in their pockets means more customers for more goods and services, most notably at the local level where we need it most.

For more information on how to help pass this important legislation, please contact your senator and representatives at gencourt.state.nh.us.

CEOs Paid 331 Times Average Worker, 774 Times Minimum Wage Worker

Executive Pay Watch

2014 Executive PayWatch exposes high paid CEOs in the low wage economy

www.PayWatch.org

While Congress has left for recess failing to fully address economic issues from the minimum wage to unemployment insurance and equal pay, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka unveiled the 2014 Executive PayWatch today. According to its data, U.S. CEOs – the highest paid in the world – pocketed, on average, $11.7 million in 2013 compared to the average worker who earned $35,293. That means CEOs were paid 331 times that of the average worker.

Many of the CEOs highlighted in PayWatch head companies, like Walmart, that are notorious for paying low wages. In 2013, CEOs made 774 times more than those who work for minimum wage. And while many of these companies argue that they can’t afford to raise wages, the nation’s largest companies are earning higher profits per employee than they did five years ago. In 2013, the S&P 500 Index companies earned $41,249 in profits per employee, a 38% increase.

This year, PayWatch highlights five low wage companies through worker testimonials at Walmart, Kellogg’s, Reynolds, Darden Restaurants and T-Mobile.

“These companies are run by short-sighted business leaders, because people who earn minimum wage, for instance, can’t afford cell phones from T-Mobile or dinner at Red Lobster or the Olive Garden, both of which are owned by Darden Restaurants,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “America’s CEOs—as exemplified by the individuals of these companies—are cannibalizing their own consumer base. It’s wrong. It’s unfair, and it’s bad economics.”

PayWatch is the most comprehensive searchable online database tracking the excessive pay of CEOs of the nation’s largest companies. It offers visitors to the website the unique ability to compare their own pay to the pay of top executives.

“CEO Executive PayWatch calls attention to the insane level of compensation for CEOs, while the workers who create those corporate profits struggle for enough money to take care of the basics,” said Trumka. “This database is relevant to every community in the country. And we’ll use this data to organize and mobilize to lift millions of workers out of poverty and to strengthen the middle class.”

What Does It Take To Live In Your State? (Interactive Graphic)

This is a great interactive way to see exactly what it takes to live on the minimum wage.

For New Hampshire a single man/women would need to work 46.9 hours to meet the living wage.  For a couple with two children the number jumps to 64.1 hours a week or a living wage of $20.15 per hour.

If you have trouble interacting with the image, detailed directions below.  Special thanks to Sophia Coppolla (Accountingschoolguide.com) for sending us this image.


Source: Accountingschoolguide.com

How To Interact With this Graphic

1. Adjust the slider at the bottom to match your wage.

2. On the left, select how many adults and children are in your household.

3. Select a state to see where you fall between a poverty wage and a living wage.
– States that are brighter mean that you would earn closer to a living wage in that state.
– States that are darker mean that you would earn closer to a poverty wage in that state.
– The light blue triangle above the wage slider shows the minimum wage for that state.
– The dark blue triangle below the wage slider shows the federal minimum wage.
– The box above your wage listing shows how many hours a week you would have to work just to earn a living wage.

4. To see the nation divided into counties, click on “County View”. To see the nation divided into states, click on “State View”.

5. To zoom in on a particular state, first select the state then click on the plus sign that appears in the corner.
– While zoomed in, you can click on individual counties to see their poverty/living wages.
– To return to the national view, click anywhere outside of the state.

Raising The Minimum Wage Would Improve The Lives Of 4 Million African-Americans

Image via Wiki-Commons

Image via Wiki-Commons

A new study conducted by the AFL-CIO confirms 4,123,000 African American workers would benefit if the federal minimum wage were increased to $10.10 per hour. The study, “Closing the Gap to the American Dream,” which uses information provided by the Economic Policy Institute, found that while African Americans make up 11% of the workforce, up to 14.8% of those workers would benefit from a raise in the minimum wage.

“Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would improve the lives of more than 4 million African Americans,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “This pay raise is vital if we want to get our economy back to pre-recession levels. This is why the AFL-CIO has launched a Raising Wages campaign, to hold Congress accountable to the American people and demand that they raise the minimum wage for the dignity of workers and the sake of our economy and country.”

The report details the state of economic insecurity for many African Americans, who are much more likely to be paid lower wages than others. African Americans often have trouble finding a job, and if they are working, struggle to save for retirement. Hiking the minimum wage to $10.10 would greatly help African American workers across the country.

AFL-CIO Civil, Human and Women’s Rights Director Carmen Berkley said, “Raising the minimum wage is critical to African American communities across this nation. With national unemployment for African Americans still lingering in the double digits, any help from President Obama and Congress to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for jobs that African Americans already hold would be welcomed and a boost to our economy.”

The EPI report also highlights that between 2000 and 2007, African American men saw a decrease in weekly earnings of 2.3% compared with white workers, while African American women saw a 3.2% increase in weekly earnings. From 2007 to 2012, the report found that African American women only saw a 1.5% increase in their weekly earnings, lower than white women, while African American men saw virtually no change in their weekly earnings.

Click here to view the report

For more information on the AFL-CIO’s Raising Wages campaign, visithttp://go.aflcio.org/ClosingTheGap

 

Feb. 11th Is Your Chance To Help Raise The Minimum Wage In NH

The fight over raising the minimum wage is heating up.  During President Obama’s State of the Union address he announced that he would use an executive order to mandate that all government contractors pay a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour.  This falls in line with the $10.10 per hour proposal that the President and Democrats have been pushing for months.

During the State of the Union called for more local legislation to push for a higher minimum wage since Congress in unable to pass the proposed increase.

Tonight, I ask more of America’s business leaders to follow John’s lead and do what you can to raise your employees’ wages. To every mayor, governor, and state legislator in America, I say, you don’t have to wait for Congress to act.”

Now is your chance to help pass a minimum wage increase right here in New Hampshire.

from http://standupfl.org/event/national-raise-the-wage-day/

On February 11th the NH House Labor Committee will hear testimony for and against raising the minimum wage.  This is where you can help.  We need people to show up and talk with legislators about why it is important to raise the minimum wage.

The specifics of HB 1403 are to raise the minimum wage to $8.25 in 2015 and then to  $9.00 per hour in 2016.  The bill will also tie the NH minimum wage to inflation, which insures that workers will continue to see an increase as their cost of living increases.

Even if you are not comfortable testifying to the committee about raising the minimum wage, we still need your help.  Just being there to show your support is important.

There are multiple events going on Feb 11th as part of this consolidated push to pass HB 1403.  The Voices of Faith for Humane Public Policy and the NH Faith-Labor Dialogue Project are hosting an ‘Interfaith Prayer Breakfast Calling for the Dignity of All Workers’ at
Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, (21 Centre Street, Concord) at 8am.
(Please RSVP if you are planning to attend:
economicjustice.nhcucc@gmail.com)

After the interfaith service the NH AFL-CIO is holding a Raise the Wage Press Conference.  Those who support raising the minimum wage are encouraged to attend the press conference, which begins at 9:30 am in the Lobby of the Legislative Office Building.

Then at 10:30 everyone is encouraged to attend and sign in supporting the passage of HB 1403 at the public hearing (Room 305-307 in the Legislative Office Building). If you are interested in offering testimony for this bill, contact Kurt Ehrenberg, kurtehrenberg@nhaflcio.org for information and tips on delivering testimony.

Thousands of minimum wage workers need your help and your support to ensure the passage of HB 1403 to raise the minimum wage here in New Hampshire.

Granite State Rumblings: Federal Contractors Get Raise, NH Pushes Bill To Increase Minimum Wage

Just hours before the President delivered his fifth State of the Union address, the White House revealed that President Obama will issue an executive order to increase the minimum wage for new federal contract workers.

The action will cover all workers employed under future government contracts, ensuring that none is paid less than $10.10 an hour. In a fact sheet announcing the action, the White House highlighted several occupations that will be helped by the move, including kitchen and laundry workers on military bases, as well as janitors at federal buildings and construction workers at government building sites.

Then, in his State of the Union address, President Obama called on business leaders across the country to raise minimum wages. “Give America a raise,” he said.

“After four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled,” President Obama said.

“The cold, hard fact is that, even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by — let alone get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.”

“Our job is to reverse these trends.  It won’t happen right away, and we won’t agree on everything.  But what I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class.”

The President also urged Congress to increase the federal minimum wage, stressing the benefit to women, who hold a majority of lower-wage jobs. Raising women’s pay is just one way to “do away with workplace policies that belong in a ‘Mad Men’ episode,” he said.

The White House believes the issue is one that may find bipartisan backing in an election year. Recent polls show most Americans favor raising the minimum wage — nearly three-quarters in a Pew Research poll conducted this month.

In fact, a group of leading economists signed a letter to President Obama and congressional leaders in support of raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour by 2016.

The letter, released by the Economic Policy Institute, endorses a Democratic proposal to raise the minimum wage by ninety-five cents a year over the next three years, and then to tie further increases to inflation. The plan, which is sponsored by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representative George Miller (D-CA), received the support of President Obama in November.

The letter’s signees, including seven Nobel laureates, say the Miller-Harkin plan would increase the wages of close to 17 million low-wage workers.

“The vast majority of employees who would benefit are adults in working families, disproportionately women, who work at least 20 hours a week and depend on these earnings to make ends meet,” the letter reads, “At a time when persistent high unemployment is putting enormous downward pressure on wages, such a minimum-wage increase would provide a much-needed boost to the earnings of low-wage workers.”

In his State of the Union address, the President made the following statement, “Americans understand that some people will earn more than others, and we don’t resent those who, by virtue of their efforts, achieve incredible success.  But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.”

We agree.

Growing Up Granite

We do not know if Congress will increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. We do know, however, that it would affect thousands of workers here in New Hampshire.

In Sunday’s Nashua Telegraph, David Brooks writes:

How much would it increase pay, and for how many? That depends on the raise, of course, but the rate that Obama suggested would affect tens of thousands of people in New Hampshire.

As of 2012, there were 64 labor categories in the state, roughly half the entire list of categories, in which the average entry-level wage was below $10.10 – often far below.

Surveys run by New Hampshire Employment Security, for example, say that people working in the category “cooks, fast food” had an average entry-level hourly wage in 2012 of $8.15; maids were at $8.16; actors at $8.27; parking lot attendants at $8.29; “farmworkers, farm and ranch hands” at $8.52; and veterinary assistants at $8.60.

These are average starting wages, or the mathematical mean; which means many workers in each category make less than this when they start.

A think tank called the Economic Policy Institute estimated in December that a $10.10 minimum wage would directly affect 12.8 percent of all workers in the country. In New Hampshire, it estimated that 77,000 people currently make less than that rate, although that figure is extrapolated from national data.

The EPI estimated that a $10.10 minimum wage would affect 9.7 percent of working men and 14.7 percent of working women, a reflection of the larger number of females in low-paying occupations such as cleaning.

Even if Congress does not act, there is legislation here in the Granite State to raise the minimum wage, HB 1403. The bill calls for an increase to the minimum wage in two steps ($8.25 an hour and $9.00 an hour) and then indexing it to the cost of living after that.

The increase to $8.25 would take place on January 1, 2015.

The increase to $9.00 would take place on January 1, 2016.

Every January 1 after that, a new minimum wage, reflecting an annual cost of living adjustment, would take effect.  For instance, on January 1, 2017, a minimum wage of say $9.15 (depending on the rate of inflation) will take effect.  On January 1, 2018, the minimum would go up to $9.35 (again depending on inflation, etc.) and so on…

New Hampshire’s minimum wage has not kept up with the cost of living. At $7.25 an hour – ($290.00 a week) – ($15,080.00 a year) – for a full-time employee, it leaves that worker with one child below the federal poverty level. And should s/he have more than 1 child, even deeper in poverty.

Poverty line Raising the minimum wage would help to lift hard working Granite State families out of poverty. It would help stimulate our economy, and it would help close the gender wage gap. Not only that – nearly ¾ of Americans support raising the minimum wage, according to a recent poll.

And in a January 2014 Public Policy Polling survey of New Hampshire voters when asked about raising the minimum wage, this is how they responded:

Q25 Would you support or oppose raising the
minimum wage to $10 an hour?

Support ……………… .60%
Oppose ……………… .29%
Not sure …………….. .11%

This bill has a hearing next Tuesday, February 11th at 10:15 am in the House Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee. Please take the time this week to send an e-mail or call the committee members and let them know that you support raising the minimum wage in New Hampshire.

What’s Happening In New Hampshire

Tuesday, February 4, 1:45am – 2:45pm, SB203 Hearing – relative to permissible uses of electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards *IMPORTANT*, SH 103 Finance

Click here to see more events in New Hampshire!

 

Raising The Minimum Wage Would Lift Families Out Of Poverty (By NH AFL-CIO Pres Mark MacKenzie)

NH AFL-CIO LogoWhen thinking about the minimum wage, it is easy to conjure up the outdated image of teenagers flipping burgers or making milkshakes at the neighborhood restaurant. Minimum wage jobs are seen as a rite of passage into adulthood, something to be left behind once young people graduate from school and settle into permanent jobs.

Yet for too many workers, these minimum wage jobs are permanent jobs. Every day, millions of Americans struggle to support families while earning the minimum wage. These workers are frequently forced to forgo basics — food, housing, clothing — or even rely on public assistance to make ends meet. As we approach the new year, legislation has been proposed on both the federal and state levels to increase the current $7.25 per hour minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and New Hampshire’s minimum to $9. The New Hampshire AFL-CIO supports these proposals as good economic policy and a much-needed boost to millions of families struggling to make ends meet.

As our economy struggles out of recession, many Americans have been forced to take jobs previously held only by teenagers or housewives looking to earn a little extra money. Today, less than a quarter of minimum-wage workers are teenagers. Most are breadwinners in their families, and 55 percent work full time. The median age of a low-wage worker is 34 years old. And 56 percent of all minimum-wage earners are women, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Even as the demographics of minimum-wage workers have shifted, their pay remains too low to support a family. The annual income for a full-time employee making the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is $15,080. Living below the poverty line, that is not enough to afford rent on a two-bedroom apartment in New Hampshire and all of the other 49 states, The New York Times has reported.

According to a study by researchers at the university of California-Berkeley, more than half (52 percent) of front-line fast-food workers must rely on at least one public assistance program to support their families. As a result, the fast-food-industry business model of low wages, non-existent benefits, and limited work hours costs taxpayers an average of nearly $7 billion every year, the National Employment Law Project reports. Jobs should lift workers out of poverty, not trap them in poverty.

If the federal minimum wage had kept up with inflation, today it would be about $10.75 an hour, instead of $7.25. If the minimum wage had kept up with productivity, it would be $18.75. If it had grown at the same rate as wages for the wealthiest 1 percent, it would be over $28 per hour.

Raising employee wages would increase purchasing power, create more jobs and lift the economy.

On the federal level, the benefits of the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would incrementally increase the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2015, are more than apparent. More than 30 million workers would be positively affected by this bill. It would boost consumer demand, generate $32 billion in new economic activity, and create 140,000 new full-time jobs, NELP has shown. The law would have a significant impact on the millions of children living in poverty in this country, as 23.3 percent of all children in the U.S. have a parent who would be helped by a raise in the minimum wage, according to Economic Policy Institute data.

More than four out of five economists say the benefits of increasing the minimum wage would outweigh the costs. Further, a study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would create jobs while causing no reduction in the availability of minimum wage jobs.

Raising the minimum wage is crucial to our future economic growth. Five of the six fastest-growing sectors of the American economy are in low-wage industries — home health aides; customer service representatives; food preparation and serving workers; personal and home care aides and retail salespersons, Bureau of Labor Statistics data show. To rebuild a strong middle class and create an economy of shared prosperity, our country must pay fair wages in these growing sectors.

More than 80 percent of the American public supports raising the wage to $10.10 an hour, and 74 percent say it should be a top priority for Congress. It is time for the actions of our elected representatives to reflect the wishes of their constituents. Only by ending this vicious cycle will we be able to help America achieve an economy that truly works for all Americans.

Mark S. MacKenzie is president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO.

NH Labor Supports Rally At McDonalds For Higher Wages

Image from Jennifer Kenney

Image from Jennifer Kenny

Taking part in a national day of action to support fast food workers, thousands of people nation-wide protested Mcdonalds, Wendy’s, Dunkin Donuts, Burger King, Subway, and many more restaurants across the country.  They are asking for a living wage and the right to form a union.

In Manchester labor supporters including the NH AFL-CIO, American Friends Service Committee, the Alliance for Retired Americans, and the Socialist Alternative rallied together for workers at the McDonalds on South Willow Street.

The Nashua Patch posted a great video with interviews of local advocates calling for a higher minimum wage in New Hampshire.  Carol Robiboux of the Nashua Patch also captured the supporters singing a modified version of the classic Christmas carol ‘Deck the Halls,’ entitled ‘Deck the Halls With Higher Wages’.  (You can read the lyrics to the song in Arnie Alpert’s post here on the NHLN.)

Below are a couple of quotes as reported by the Nashua Patch.

The franchisees are all rich, the executives are all rich, and they don’t want to share it with the people who do the real work,” said Steve Kloppenburg, a protestor affiliated with the NH Chapter of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations(AFL-CIO), NH-Alliance for Retired Americans, and Veterans for Peace.

There’s currently legislation filed that would raise the minimum wage incrementally to $9 over two years. New Hampshire doesn’t have a minimum wage – that was taken away by the Republican legislators two years ago.  We default to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour,” (Kurt) Ehrenberg (NH AFL-CIO) said.

We also support workers’ right to form a union and go to the negotiating table and ask for a raise. Organizing means they have a seat at the table, to determine what a fair wage should be. Right now, these workers have no voice. They also have no healthcare benefits, no retirement, and no way to save and send their children to college,” Ehrenberg said.

Lisa McComb the regional McDonalds spokesperson responded to the Nashua Patch by saying:

“McDonald’s and our owner-operators are committed to providing our employees with opportunities to succeed.  We offer employees advancement opportunities, competitive pay and benefits.”

Really, competitive pay and benefits?  Since when are poverty wages competitive?

Lets not forget that McDonalds even gave their employees help in creating a household budget that included getting a second job.  McDonalds does offer a healthcare option for workers at $14 a week, however the plan has a $10,000 cap and is deemed insufficient by many.

In a brief statement to the Nashua Patch, Greg Moore, State Director of the Americans For Prosperity, stated:

“The reality is that many 16 and 17-year olds – the folks who often take minimum wage jobs – simply can’t create over $10 per hour in value for an employer, and simply won’t get hired.”

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, however the fact remains that the overwhelming majority of low-wage workers are women and are older that 20. In fact in New Hampshire only 22% of minimum wage earners are teenagers.  On top of that, “more than a third (35.8 percent) are married, and over a quarter (28.0 percent) are parents“. We are not talking about teenagers, we are talking about families trying to survive.

On average McDonalds only spend 30%-35% on labor costs.  Obviously if McDonalds raised the wages for all of their employees that would mean either a loss in profits (not going let that happen), or an increase in prices.  When you take into account the vast number of products sold by McDonalds alone, that would mean the $1.00 menu would have to become the $1.17 menu.  $.17 cents more is all that is need to double the current wages to $15.00 for all McDonalds workers.

McDonalds is by far the worst abuser of low-wage workers.  After raking in billions in profits, they still refuse to pay workers a living wage.  The wages are so low that many of the workers are forced to rely on government assistance programs.

Americans are subsidizing the billions of dollars in profits McDonalds brought in last year.  In 2012, McDonalds even spent $6 billion in stock buyback programs and dividends.

Do you want to support the hard working Americans that are working everyday and barely getting by or do you want to support the Wall Street hedge fund managers who already some of the wealthiest people in the world?

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