Paying for Low-Wage Pollution

Whether it’s half a dozen of one or 6 of another, we continually find ourselves contributing to the socialization labor costs as corporations incorporate poverty wages into their wage compensation schemes.  The article below may look at how Cook County, IL is looking for ways to combat those practices, but I thought it was apropos as food for thought, as you vet those candidates you choose to support with your coveted vote at the ballot box this fall.


Economic justice activists are championing laws that shift the costs of toxic poverty wages from communities to corporations.
— by Liz Ryan Murray

liz-ryan-murrayImagine if a corporation set up shop in your community and immediately dumped toxic sludge in your local waterways and buried radioactive waste next to your biggest playground. You and your neighbors, I bet, would demand full compensation from that corporation to pay for the clean-up and public health costs.

You’d have a strong case.

What about corporations that pollute communities not with chemicals, but with poverty wages? The impact can be every bit as toxic, and yet companies that pay low wages get off scot-free. In fact, their CEOs usually get bonuses.

Economic justice activists across the country are fighting back against this outrage. They’re demanding that corporate polluters pay a price for low wages.

In the Chicago area, for instance, Cook County commissioners are considering a bill that would slap fees on corporations employing more than 750 workers at less than the local living wage — currently $14.57 per hour, or $11.66 with health benefits.

Walmart_fair_wages_minimum_wage_labor_workers
Courtesy of National People’s Action

Under this proposed Responsible Business Act, companies would pay the local government $750 per employee each year for every dollar their wages fall below the living wage. The bill would generate an estimated $580 million in the first four years.

Community stakeholders would get a voice in deciding how to spend this revenue to help low-income residents. For example, some of that money might boost health care options, pre-trial services, and housing assistance.

Why not just raise the minimum wage? In an ideal world, it would be the best solution. That’s why “Fight for $15″ campaigns are catching on. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans still live in places where wages won’t lift working families out of poverty anytime soon.

Low-wage employer fees provide a good alternative by targeting the large corporations that can afford to pay their workers more, but are choosing to drive low-wage pollution instead. This approach encourages these companies to raise wages while leveling the playing field for the businesses that are already taking the high road.

As long as poverty wages persist, we’ll all pay the price.

Poverty wages leave workers with too little buying power. Local businesses suffer when local people can’t afford to buy their products and services.

And young people suffer, too. Researchers have linked high poverty rates to lower educational achievement and poor health. And poverty wages make high poverty rates inevitable.

Low-income people, especially in communities of color, also face a far greater risk of being arrested and jailed for minor offenses, leaving them with even higher barriers to future economic opportunities.

Who subsidizes these poisonous poverty wages? Taxpayers.

To keep their families healthy and safe, low-wage workers have little choice but to turn to public assistance programs. Reforms like Cook County’s Responsible Business Act could help us recoup some of these costs.

Large corporations are “socializing labor costs,” sums up Will Tanzman of IIRON, the Illinois-based economic and social justice organization that’s part of a growing movement for the Responsible Business Act. One local poll, he points out, shows county residents favoring the bill by a 2-1 margin.

Connecticut activists pushed a similar bill last year. A new law in that state mandates the creation of an advisory board where workers will join employers, public assistance recipients, elected officials, and other stakeholders to develop recommendations for how the governor and state legislators can address the public cost of low-wage work.

Activists and elected officials elsewhere, including Colorado and New York, are also exploring the possibility of applying low-wage employer fees.

These campaigns aren’t about demonizing public assistance. In the richest country in the world, we should have a safety net strong enough to ensure that all our most vulnerable people live in dignity. That ought to be a matter of national pride.

But a system that lets overpaid CEOs underpay workers and then get taxpayers to foot the bill for the damage that results? None of us can take any pride in that.


Liz Ryan Murray is the National People’s Action policy director. Distributed by OtherWords.org and cross-posted at Inequality.org

Hair Force of One

The Mis-Education Of The Republican Party
— by CAP Action War Room

The GOP presidential field needs an education, but for the moment their only teacher is Donald TDebaterump. With President Ronald Reagan’s Air Force One casting a shadow over them, eleven GOP candidates spent three hours debating largely about Donald Trump and failing to address the many key issues facing working families. On education, raising wages, and health care, the GOP candidates said close to nothing, instead doubling down on attacks on immigrants, women’s health, working families, and the Iran nuclear deal. Over three grueling hours of television, the Republican candidates mentioned “middle class” just three times, “health care” twice, and “students” just once.

What the GOP Candidates Failed to Mention:

Ensuring Access to an Affordable, Quality Education. Families are finding it harder and harder to access an affordable, quality education. Between 2000 and 2011, the cost of higher education grew three times faster than overall inflation and students are being saddled with debt. However, the Republican candidates were silent on whether they would support measures such as allowing Americans to refinance their student loans and restoring public investment in education. Not only did Republicans ignore the plight of students seeking a higher education, they also ignored the needs of our youngest learners. High-quality public preschool programs range from $6,500 to $11,000 across the country—putting them out of reach for many families. But on solutions like providing universal pre-school, the Republicans were mum.
Raising Wages for Working Families. Higher wages are what working families need most. Instead of seeing their incomes improve, middle class households saw their incomes fall 2 percent between 2000 and 2011. However, the Republican presidential contenders overwhelmingly failed to offer, or support, real solutions that would improve incomes for families, such as raising the minimum wage or reforming overtime rules.

A Plan to Improve Access to Health Care. On a day when new data became available showing that the number of Americans lacking health insurance dropped by more than eight million people in 2014, Republicans once again attacked the Affordable Care Act (ACA) but offered no alternatives. Before the implementation of the ACA, health care costs were skyrocketing. From 2002 to 2012, health care costs paid by a family of four with an average employer-sponsored PPO plan rose by 85 percent. The ACA, however, has helped control rising health care costs. At the same time, the ACA has improved access to health care. Overall, 15.8 million people have gained coverage since the ACA’s marketplaces opened. Republicans, however, have offered no ideas on how to keep improving upon the successes of the ACA, instead continuing to call for repealing the ACA.

What the GOP Candidates Did Say:

Follow Trump’s Lead on Immigration. Trump’s extreme rhetoric on immigration is often credited with putting immigration right at the center of the GOP presidential primary. But at the debate on Wednesday night, several Republican candidates went out of their way to show that they stand with Trump on his extreme positions.

  • Trump doubled down on his claim that birthright citizenship isn’t settled in the Constitution, saying, “Well, first of all, the — the 14th Amendment says very, very clearly to a lot of great legal scholars — not television scholars, but legal scholars — that it is wrong.” Trump wasn’t alone–Rand Paul, the author of a constitutional amendment to repeal birthright citizenship, restated his support for ending it.
  • Trump again raised his plan to build a wall between the United States and Mexico to deter illegal immigration, even though the border is more secure than ever. The other GOP candidates, however, raced to outdo Trump: Chris Christie jumped at the opportunity to say that he would push to establish “more than just a wall,” pledging “electronics” and “drones,” while Ben Carson said he would turn off the “spigot that dispenses all the goodies so we don’t have people coming in here.”

Defund Planned Parenthood. During the debate, the GOP candidates spent much of their air time attacking women’s health. In rushing to declare that they support defunding Planned Parenthood, they ignored the fact that Planned Parenthood provides critical health care services for millions of women.

  • Jeb Bush believes “that Planned Parenthood should[n’t] get a penny from the federal government.” This is not a surprising statement from a man who previously said he was “not sure we need a half billion for women’s health issues.” However, Planned Parenthood helps millions of women—in 2013 alone it served more than 2.7 million patients and provided 10.6 million services, including the treatment of chronic diseases and authorization for hospital care.
  • Ted Cruz called Planned Parenthood a “criminal enterprise” and says he’s “proud to stand for life.” But 90 percent of Planned Parenthood’s activity is preventive care. Defunding Planned Parenthood would limit women’s access to lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, and more.

Give Tax Breaks to the Wealthy Few. Several GOP candidates talked about their tax plans and records on taxes at the debate, but their rhetoric was the same rehash of tired Republican talking points: cut taxes on the wealthy to boost the economy. That didn’t work before, and it won’t work again.

  • Bush promoted the $19 billion in tax cuts he pushed as Governor of Florida, but analysis of his time in Florida show that he catered his tax cuts to the wealthy. What’s more, Bush’s tax plan, just released last week, would be a massive giveaway to the wealthiest Americans, would blow a hole in the deficit, and give Bush a personal tax savings of $774,000.
  • Walker claimed that under his watch, Wisconsin passed $4.7 billion in tax cuts “to help working families, family farmers, small business owners and senior citizens,” but the richest 20 percent reaped a full half of the benefits of his income tax package — all while Wisconsin ranked 44th in the country in middle class income growth under Walker.
  • John Kasich boasted about having the “largest amount tax cuts of any sitting governor,” but he neglected to mention that his so-called “tax cuts” benefited wealthy Ohioans. Under Kasich’s tax proposals, the average tax bill went up for the bottom 60 percent of taxpayers, while the top one percent of taxpayers saw an average tax cut of nearly $12k.

Tear Up the Iran Deal. Last night, many of the GOP candidates offered much of the same, similar-sounding bluster we have heard on the campaign trail: tear up the Iran deal on “day one.” Their empty rhetoric presented no real leadership, just more partisan attacks on a tough-minded deal.

  • Cruz claimed that the Iran deal “will only accelerate Iran’s acquiring nuclear weapons.” He continued to say that if elected, he would “rip to shreds this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal.” Far from being a bad deal, the agreement cuts off all pathways to an Iranian nuclear weapon and is verifiable through rigorous international inspections of Iran’s nuclear supply chain and facilities. This accord proves that American diplomacy — and not war — can bring meaningful change to make our homeland and the world safer and more secure.
  • Walker casually remarked, “I’d love to play cards with this guy because Barack Obama folds on everything with Iran.” That is simply not true. The Iran deal is the result of years of tough-minded American diplomacy and a comprehensive strategy. The deal is backed by our partners and allies across the world, but conservative GOP candidates are putting politics over patriotism.

BOTTOM LINE: The eleven GOP candidates had an opportunity last night to offer real solutions to the key issues they face. But on education, working families, and health care, the GOP candidates came up empty. Instead, they spent their stage time fighting with each other and catering to the most extreme wing of the Republican Party. What we need are real leaders ready to tackle the problems facing working families, not panderers who are alienating entire communities of Americans.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.


Related Posts:

Bernie Sanders: Agenda for America—12 Steps Forward

Bernie Sanders, a challenger to Hillary Clinton, for President of the United States has put forth his “Agenda for America”

  1. Rebuilding Our Crumbling Infrastructure
    We need a major investment to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure: roads, bridges, water systems, waste water plants, airports, railroads and schools. It has been estimated that the cost of the Bush-Cheney Iraq War, a war we should never have waged, will total $3 trillion by the time the last veteran receives needed care. A $1 trillion investment in infrastructure could create 13 million decent paying jobs and make this country more efficient and productive. We need to invest in infrastructure, not more war.
  2. Reversing Climate Change
    The United States must lead the world in reversing climate change and make certain that this planet is habitable for our children and grandchildren. We must transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energies. Millions of homes and buildings need to be weatherized, our transportation system needs to be energy efficient and we need to greatly accelerate the progress we are already seeing in wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and other forms of sustainable energy. Transforming our energy system will not only protect the environment, it will create good paying jobs.
  3. Creating Worker Co-ops
    We need to develop new economic models to increase job creation and productivity. Instead of giving huge tax breaks to corporations which ship our jobs to China and other low-wage countries, we need to provide assistance to workers who want to purchase their own businesses by establishing worker-owned cooperatives. Study after study shows that when workers have an ownership stake in the businesses they work for, productivity goes up, absenteeism goes down and employees are much more satisfied with their jobs.
  4. Growing the Trade Union Movement
    Union workers who are able to collectively bargain for higher wages and benefits earn substantially more than non-union workers. Today, corporate opposition to union organizing makes it extremely difficult for workers to join a union. We need legislation which makes it clear that when a majority of workers sign cards in support of a union, they can form a union.
  5. Raising the Minimum Wage
    The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a starvation wage. We need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. No one in this country who works 40 hours a week should live in poverty.
  6. Pay Equity for Women Workers
    Women workers today earn 78 percent of what their male counterparts make. We need pay equity in our country — equal pay for equal work.
  7. Trade Policies that Benefit American Workers
    Since 2001 we have lost more than 60,000 factories in this country, and more than 4.9 million decent-paying manufacturing jobs. We must end our disastrous trade policies (NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China, etc.) which enable corporate America to shut down plants in this country and move to China and other low-wage countries. We need to end the race to the bottom and develop trade policies which demand that American corporations create jobs here, and not abroad.
    [Sign the petition to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership — another trade deal disaster]
  8. Making College Affordable for All
    In today’s highly competitive global economy, millions of Americans are unable to afford the higher education they need in order to get good-paying jobs. Further, with both parents now often at work, most working-class families can’t locate the high-quality and affordable child care they need for their kids. Quality education in America, from child care to higher education, must be affordable for all. Without a high-quality and affordable educational system, we will be unable to compete globally and our standard of living will continue to decline.
  9. Taking on Wall Street
    The function of banking is to facilitate the flow of capital into productive and job-creating activities. Financial institutions cannot be an island unto themselves, standing as huge profit centers outside of the real economy. Today, six huge Wall Street financial institutions have assets equivalent to 61 percent of our gross domestic product – over $9.8 trillion. These institutions underwrite more than half the mortgages in this country and more than two-thirds of the credit cards. The greed, recklessness and illegal behavior of major Wall Street firms plunged this country into the worst financial crisis since the 1930s. They are too powerful to be reformed. They must be broken up.
  10. Health Care as a Right for All
    The United States must join the rest of the industrialized world and recognize that health care is a right of all, and not a privilege. Despite the fact that more than 40 million Americans have no health insurance, we spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as any other nation. We need to establish a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system.
  11. Protecting the Most Vulnerable Americans
    Millions of seniors live in poverty and we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country. We must strengthen the social safety net, not weaken it. Instead of cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and nutrition programs, we should be expanding these programs.
  12. Real Tax Reform
    At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, we need a progressive tax system in this country which is based on ability to pay. It is not acceptable that major profitable corporations have paid nothing in federal income taxes, and that corporate CEOs in this country often enjoy an effective tax rate which is lower than their secretaries. It is absurd that we lose over $100 billion a year in revenue because corporations and the wealthy stash their cash in offshore tax havens around the world. The time is long overdue for real tax reform.

Twelve by 2020

Apr 30, 2015 | by CAP Action War Room

RaiseTheWage-3Sen. Murray and Rep. Scott Introduce The Raise The Wage Act To Raise The Minimum Wage To $12

Today, Senator Patty Murray and Congressman Bobby Scott released the Raise the Wage Act, which would raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020, get rid of the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers, and tie future increases to the median wage. This legislation would not only be a huge step forward for low-wage workers, but also for the recognition that growing our economy requires investing the workers that make it run, from the middle out, not the top down.

For decades, the value of the federal minimum wage has continued to fall, forcing low-wage workers to fall further and further behind. Raising the minimum wage is a key step in building an economy that works for everyone and investing in the everyday working Americans who strengthen our economy. Here are just a few of the many necessary things the Raise the Wage Act does:

  • Give 38 million workers a raise. Raising the minimum wage to $12 will help nearly 38 million workers, 90 percent of whom are adults, and more than 25 percent of whom are parents.
  • Help working women get ahead. More than half of all workers who would earn a raise from the Raise the Wage Act are women. The vast majority of women who would receive a raise are over the age of 25 and one-third of the women who would be affected are mothers.
  • Give workers $100 billion in increased earnings. According to the Economic Policy Institute, workers would see earnings increase by more than $100 billion over the next five years, money they would likely spend in their communities, helping to boost local economies.
  • Help families make ends meet. According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, increasing the minimum wage to $12 an hour would reduce taxpayer spending on food stamps by $5.3 billion annually, by helping to lift families out of poverty, allowing many who currently turn to nutrition assistance to make ends meet.

America’s current minimum wage is a poverty wage: Many full-time workers who receive minimum-wage salaries live at or near the federal poverty level. This means that many must turn to public assistance such as food assistance and Medicaid in order to make ends meet. In a recent study, the Center for American Progress analyzed the impact of past minimum-wage changes on spending in one particular program—the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps. The study found that minimum-wage increases lead to statistically significant reductions in SNAP enrollment and spending. When workers’ incomes are increased, some end up relying less on SNAP benefits while others see their earnings boosted above the threshold for SNAP eligibility. The result is a win-win situation for both low-wage workers and taxpayers.

RaiseTheWage

BOTTOM LINE: Americans who work hard and play by the rules should never have to live in poverty. Investing in workers honors the hard work of millions of Americans and puts money back in the pocket of families. What’s good for workers and families is good for the economy.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

An Overdue Fix to Overtime

Businesses are blurring the distinction between hourly and salaried employees in order to bolster their bottom-line profits.
— by

Richard_KirschThere are a lot of ways that businesses are squeezing worker pay. Here’s a big one.

On the one hand, millions of Americans are stuck in low-paying part-time jobs that don’t offer them enough hours.

On the other, millions more are now routinely forced to work over 40 hours a week without getting a dime for their overtime labor. In many cases, that’s because employers are paying hourly wage workers as if they were salaried professionals.

There used to be a big distinction between hourly and salaried employees. That wasn’t by accident.

In 1938, Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act, which forced bosses to pay workers a minimum wage and time-and-a-half for any hours worked over 40 a week. That law was key to building America’s middle class.

Only a small percentage of employees — executives, administrators, and travelling salespeople, among others — were exempt from overtime.

Working Overtime
vasilennka/Flickr

 

Yet since figuring out who was eligible for overtime proved complicated, regulators settled on one rule that trumps them all: weekly salary. By having a clear rule on salary level, it’s much harder for employers to avoid paying overtime.

In 1975, for example, employers were required to pay overtime to anyone on a salary of less than $155 a week. That covered 7 out of 10 workers.

But that salary limit hasn’t kept up with inflation or changes in the workforce. As a result, many businesses have been putting anyone with even minor “management” responsibilities on salary.

For example, a federal court found that a clerk at a Dollar General store — who worked 50 hours or more a week stocking shelves and mopping floors — could be considered a salaried “manager,” since she was responsible for minding the store.

Today, if your salary is more than $455 a week — that’s just $23,660 a year — you can be forced to work long hours without any extra pay, let alone time-and-a-half. As a result, instead of 7 of 10 workers being eligible for overtime, now it’s only 1 in 10.

Last March, President Barack Obama told the Department of Labor to modernize the regulation covering who gets overtime. “Because these regulations are outdated,” he acknowledged, “millions of Americans lack the protections of overtime and even the right to the minimum wage.”

To restore this pillar of middle-class income, regulators should once again ensure that 7 out of 10 workers are covered. That’s the best way to close the loopholes that businesses will use to cheat workers out of overtime.

To do that, the Department of Labor should set the new cap to at least $1,327 a week, or $69,000 a year. That level would do what the law was intended to do — namely, to distinguish between workers and bosses.

As a result, 10 million workers would get more money in their wallets to spend boosting the economy in their communities.

In addition to increasing the weekly salary amount, the Labor Department should modernize the rules so that the so-called “managers” at fast food restaurants, clothing outlets, and discount stores — who may be responsible for supervising their co-workers but don’t have any real executive authority — get overtime as well.

Closing the overtime loophole could also increase the earnings of millions of part-time workers. Rather than paying time-and-a-half to employees they’re currently forcing to work unpaid overtime, many businesses are likely to increase the hours worked by part-time employees who are eager to work more.

Overtime pay is key to restarting the middle-class engine of our economy. It’s past time for the Department of Labor to act.

As long as it delays, millions of workers will continue to be cheated by big businesses out of a fair share of the wealth their labor helps to create.


Richard Kirsch is a senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and the author of Fighting for Our Health: The Epic Battle to Make Health Care a Right in the United States. He’s also a senior adviser to USAction. USAction.org.  Distributed via OtherWords.org.

Please Note: Democratic Candidates May Have Lost, But Progressive Issues Won

— by David Morris (reposted from CommonDreams)

Ballot initiatives more accurately take the ideological pulse of the people because debates over issues are not disrupted by the personality politics and subterfuge that dominate candidate races. (Photo: Susy Morris/flickr/cc)

On November 4th Democrats lost big when they ran a candidate but won big when they ran an issue.

In 42 states about 150 initiatives were on the ballot. The vast majority did not address issues dividing the two parties (e.g. raising the mandatory retirement age for judges, salary increases for state legislators, bond issues supporting a range of projects).  But scores of initiatives did involve hot button issues.  And on these American voters proved astonishingly liberal.

Quote01.fw_.pngVoters approved every initiative to legalize or significantly reduce the penalties for marijuana possession (Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington, Washington, D.C.)  It is true that a Florida measure to legalize medical marijuana lost but 57 percent voted in favor (60 percent was required).

Voters approved every initiative to raise the minimum wage (Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, South Dakota). Voters in San Francisco and Oakland approved initiatives to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2018.  The good citizens of Oakland and Massachusetts overwhelmingly approved more generous paid sick leave.

Both Colorado and North Dakota voters rejected measures that would have given the fertilized egg personhood under their criminal codes.

Washington state voters approved background checks for all gun sales and transfers, including private transactions.

By a wide margin Missourians rejected a constitutional amendment to require teachers to be evaluated based on test results and fired or demoted virtually at will.

By a 59-41 margin North Dakotans voted to keep their unique statute outlawing absentee owned pharmacies despite Walmart outspending independent pharmacist supporters at least ten to one.

The vote in Colorado offers a good example of the disparity between how Americans vote on candidates and how we vote on issues.  A few years ago the Colorado legislature stripped cities and counties of the right to build their own telecommunications networks but it allowed them to reclaim that authority if they put it to a vote of their citizens.  On Tuesday 8 cities and counties did just that. Residents in every community voted by a very wide margin to permit government owned networks even while they were voting by an equally wide margin for Republican candidates who vigorously oppose government ownership of anything.

Republicans did gain a number of important victories. Most of these dealt with taxes. For example, Georgia voters by a wide margin supported a constitutional amendment prohibiting the state legislature from raising the maximum state income tax rate. Massachusetts’ voters narrowly voted to overturn a law indexing the state gasoline tax to the consumer price increase.

What did Tuesday tell us?  When given the choice between a Republican and a Democrat candidate the majority of voters chose the Republican.  When given a choice between a Republican and a Democrat position on an issue they chose the Democrat.  I’ll leave it up to others to debate the reasons behind this apparent contradiction.  My own opinion is that ballot initiatives more accurately take the ideological pulse of the people because debates over issues must focus on issues, not personality, temperament or looks.  Those on both sides of the issue can exaggerate, distort and just plain lie but they must do so in reference to the question on the ballot.  No ballot initiative ever lost because one of its main backers attended a strip club 16 years earlier.

I am buoyed by the empirical evidence: Americans even in deeply red regions are liberal on many key issues. And I am saddened that these same voters have voted to enhance the power of a party at odds with the values these voters have expressed.  The challenge, and in an age where billions of dollars in negative sound-bites define a candidate it is a daunting one, is how to make the next election on issues, not personalities.

  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

David Morris is Vice President and director of the New Rules Project at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which is based in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. focusing on local economic and social development.

Your Server Isn’t on the Menu

For women who make their living off tips, sexual harassment is a constant workplace peril.

By Marjorie E. Wood

Marjorie_Elizabeth_Wood

At a popular sit-down restaurant in Independence, Missouri, Allison waits tables for $3.60 an hour — the going rate for servers at her restaurant.

Advocates of raising the federal hourly tipped minimum wage of $2.13 up to the standard minimum wage — currently pegged at $7.25 — understand that living on tips is difficult. As Allison put it, “There are times when guests have left me one dollar or 50 cents just because they got angry at something.”

Sexual Harrassment and Tipped Workers
No Crop Photo/Flickr

In other words, tipped workers are financially insecure. According to the Economic Policy Institute, tipped workers are more than twice as likely to fall into poverty and nearly twice as likely to be on food stamps as the general population.

But there is another, less obvious, reason to abolish this sub-minimum wage, according to a new report from the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC).

Not only are servers like Allison more likely to be poor — they are also highly likely to experience sexual harassment on the job. The new report found that a staggering 90 percent of tipped workers in the restaurant industry are sexually harassed.

Surveying nearly 700 current and former restaurant workers, ROC — in partnership with Forward Together — found that customers, co-workers, and management regularly impose “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature” on industry employees.

Women reported experiencing sexual harassment more often than men, with a majority of respondents encountering it on at least a weekly basis. Women were also more likely to say that sexual harassment was “an uncomfortable aspect of the work environment.”

Living on tips means that women — who make up two-thirds of all tipped restaurant servers — are forced to rely on customers for their income rather than on their employer.

This creates an environment, the report says, in which women must “please and curry favor with customers” for their livelihood. Often, that means tolerating unwanted sexual advances. So it’s no surprise that while the restaurant industry employs only 7 percent of American women, it generates more than a third of all federal sexual harassment claims.

Yet the phenomenon varies widely from state to state. Interestingly, the report found that in states that pay the same minimum wage to all workers — tipped and non-tipped alike — women were less likely to experience sexual harassment.

In so-called “$2.13 states,” however, tipped women workers were three times more likely to be told by management to “alter their appearance and to wear ‘sexier,’ more revealing clothing” than they were in states that had eliminated the tipped wage. And they were twice as likely to experience sexual harassment as women in states that have one minimum wage for all workers.

Men and non-tipped workers were also more likely to report being sexually harassed in $2.13 states.

What does all this add up to?

Eliminating the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers would do more than just improve women’s financial security. It would also create a safer, more equitable workplace where servers like Allison won’t have to tolerate inappropriate advances to make a living.

ROC is continuing to collect stories from tipped restaurant workers on its website at rocunited.org. If you’ve ever experienced sexual harassment in the restaurant industry, share your story with ROC.

It’s time to send a message to the industry and to policymakers that servers aren’t on the menu.

OtherWords columnist Marjorie E. Wood is a senior economic policy associate at the Institute for Policy Studies and the managing editor of Inequality.org. IPS-dc.org
Distributed via OtherWords.org

#WEMatter

What We All Can Do To Give Women And Families A Fair Shot At Getting Ahead

— by CAP Action War Room

Fifty years ago, most families were able to pay their bills, save for their children’s education and plan for their own retirement—all on one income. Now most women work outside the home and are either the sole breadwinner or share the role equally with their partner. Times have changed, yet many of our policies remain outdated and disconnected from the challenges women face.

CAP Action, along with American Women, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and the Service Employees International Union have announced the launch of Fair Shot Action, a new resource that will focus on ensuring that policymakers and candidates for elected office are responsive to the increasingly pivotal role women are playing in the economic stability and overall well-being of families by advocating for concrete solutions that can improve women’s lives.

The pillars of the Fair Shot Action campaign consist of 21st century policies that are essential to the overall economic stability and well-being of families. They include:

  1. Work-Life Challenges and Workplace Flexibility, such as paid sicks days, workplace flexibility laws, and paid family and medical leave which recognize the dual demands faced by today’s workers.
  2. Fair Treatment in the Workplace, including ensuring equal pay for equal work, raising the minimum wage, and strengthening existing laws against pregnancy discrimination to help women and their families get ahead.
  3. Healthy Families & Nondiscrimination, by closing the Medicaid coverage gap and getting all states to expand Medicaid, while at the same time working to make sure that women have access to preventative healthcare including contraception without co-payments.

FairShotClick here to become a fair shot voter today.

Fair Shot Action will continue to engage women and men across diverse constituencies, to ensure that voters are equipped with tools to push legislators and candidates to take actions in support of women’s economic security and women’s health, and to coordinate activity between other national and state organizations.

New resources include Fair Shot Voter, an online tool where voters can pledge support and commit to act on policies that affect women and their families. As part of the campaign, the website will also allow voters to share their story about why these issues matter to them, tactics that constituents can use to engage with legislators, and resources that help voters find information on state and local records on these issues.

BOTTOM LINE: It’s time for our workplace policies and public polices to keep up with our changing workplaces and families. We need women and their families to be at the center of our policy debates–and for politicians who forget to be held accountable. It’s time for all of us to become fair shot voters.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

With $10.10

On 10/10, 10 Facts About A $10.10 Minimum Wage

—by CAP Action War Room

RaiseTheMinimumWageAFriday, October 10th, was National Minimum Wage Day in honor of the efforts by progressives to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. At $7.25 an hour, today’s minimum wage is worth 30 percent less than the $1.60 minimum wage of 1968. It has been five years since the last increase in the federal minimum wage and nearly three-quarters of Americans support an increase, yet we have seen no progress. Just this morning four former Republican US Representatives announced their support for an increase in the federal minimum wage. The article begins, “When the cost of living goes up, so should wages. It’s common sense.”

Despite the fact that 22 previous increases in the minimum wage have passed through Congress with bipartisan support, Republicans in Congress have tied the issue up in partisan politics, ignoring the needs of their hard working constituents.

To continue with the theme, we’ve put together 10 key facts you should know about raising the minimum wage.

  1. Raising the minimum wage would allow 28 million American workers to see their wages increase by a total of $35 billion.
  2.  A $10.10 minimum wage would lift approximately 4.6 million workers out of poverty.
  3. The country’s GDP would increase by $22 billion over the phase-in period of the increased wage.
  4. Over that same period approximately 85,000 jobs would be created.
  5. Six million working mothers would see their wages increase and 14 million American children would see an increase in their family’s income.
  6. Since the last increase in the minimum wage, prices have skyrocketed: groceries are 20 percent more expensive, a gallon of gas is 25 percent more expensive and tuition at a community college is 44 percent more expensive than it was in 2009 at the time of the last increase.
  7. Federal spending on poverty programs, specifically spending on SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) would decrease by $4.6 billion a year.
  8. Sixty percent of business owners agree that the federal minimum wage should be increased, and 82 percent of business owners already pay their workers above the minimum wage.
  9. More than 600 economists, including seven Nobel Prize winners support raising the minimum wage and argue that it has little to no effect on business.
  10. Seventy three percent of Americans support raising the minimum wage to $10.10.

BOTTOM LINE: Raising the minimum wage isn’t just good for workers who earn the minimum wage, it’s good for the American economy. What minimum wage workers need—what the American economy needs—is for lawmakers to put aside partisan politics and get behind creating an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few. The answer is simple: give hard working Americans a wage they can live on. Raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

In Their Honor

May 23, 2014 | By CAP Action War Room

Progressive Policies For Veterans This Memorial Day
Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.    CREDIT: Shawn Davis

Memorial Day is a time for relaxation, but also for reflection and remembrance. The day is first and foremost about honoring American service members who are no longer with us. But there are also steps we can take to help improve the lives of the 10 million current vets and the many military families. So before you take off for the long weekend, take a few minutes to read our list of some progressive policies to help veterans:

  1. Support Vets Looking For Work. Veterans have suffered from Congressional Republicans’ refusal to extend emergency unemployment benefits. There are roughly 163,000 unemployed post-9/11 vets and more than 600,000 unemployed veterans overall. Those who volunteered to protect our nation oversees but can’t find a job back at home deserve more support from our elected officials.
  2. Give 1 Million Veterans A Raise. Of the roughly 10 million veterans in the United States today, one in ten — that’s 1 million vets — would get a boost in wages if we raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10. Almost two-thirds of these veterans are over the age of 40. Nobody should be paid wages so low that working full-time can still leave them in poverty, and that includes many former members of our Armed Forces.
  3. Help Keep Veterans Out Of Poverty. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is a powerful anti-hunger and anti-poverty tool. But it’s been the subject of persistent attacks from some Republicans in Congress, who voted last year to cut $40 billion and push 4 to 6 million people from the program. SNAP has never been more needed for service members: there are 900,000 veterans who rely on the benefits in any given month, and military families’ reliance on the program hit a record high last year.
  4. Expand Health Care To Low-Income Residents. There are over a quarter million uninsured veterans in states that are currently refusing to accept federal funding to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. That’s just wrong. (While many people assume that all veterans have health benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs, as of 2013 only two-thirds were eligible and just one-third were enrolled).
  5. Implement The Common Core. The average military family moves to six different states, and each state offers a separate set of academic standards for military children to follow. When relocating to one state, a child may be way ahead of her grade level; in another, she might be far behind. Having a high-quality, unified set of standards like the Common Core State Standards provide will help military families with transitions and ensure our nation’s economy and military remain strong.
  6. Expand Background Checks For Gun Buyers. Veterans are some of our nation’s foremost experts on guns, what they can do in the hands of trained, responsible people, and how they can be used in the hands of those who want to do us harm. The massive loopholes in our gun background check system allow criminals, domestic abusers, and other dangerous people to easily access guns. Expanding background checks to all gun sales goes hand in hand with strengthening our second amendment by helping keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
  7. Pass The Employment Non-Discrimination Act. There are over one million LGBT veterans and almost 50,000 more currently serving. Since the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, members of the military can serve with honesty and integrity and without the fear of discrimination based on sexual orientation. Unfortunately, the same fair treatment does not exist in the civilian sector. ENDA would go a long way to solve that problem and could also also significantly curtail high rates of veteran unemployment.

BOTTOM LINE: As a nation, we should pride ourselves on doing everything we can to make sure that citizens who sacrifice to protect our security and freedom are able to live healthy and secure lives back home. These are just a few of the many steps that we should take to get to that point for veterans, and create a more prosperous country for everyone.

PS: The allegations of long wait times and secret waiting lists at the Phoenix VA hospital is a serious concern and must be addressed immediately. But we must also not lose sight of the VA system’s successes, as well as its steady improvement in recent years. Here are key facts to know.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.