Everyone Benefits When Workers Earn Living Wages

The South Korea government is taking an interesting approach to stagnating wages. The South Korean Ministry of Strategy and Finance is pushing a policy to offer tax credits to those firms that increase worker pay.

This legislation — which, if approved by the South Korean parliament, would go into effect in January — creates a policy incentive for firms to increase wages. As in America, wage growth in South Korea is “not keeping pace with corporate profits in South Korea, where household debt is rising while companies hoard cash,” according to this Bloomberg story.

Reversing the Trend: A Longitudinal Study of Living Wage and Minimum Wage

Screen shot 2014-05-28 at 11.03.10 AMA new report, “Reversing the Trend” by the Alliance for a Just Society, finds that Mayor Ed Murray’s minimum wage proposal reverses a minimum wage trend that is increasingly unable to meet the basic living needs of workers. Seattle’s proposed $15 minimum wage would be the highest in the country.

Analyzing more than a decade of data, this chart shows that while the path to a $15 an hour minimum wage is a step in the right direction toward addressing income inequality – living wage still exceeds projected minimum wage levels offered in the mayor’s model.

In addition, the study shows that a $15 minimum wage would not have been enough to support a single parent and child even back in 2003, and it would not have been enough to make ends meet for a single person as far back as 2010. Continue reading “Reversing the Trend: A Longitudinal Study of Living Wage and Minimum Wage”

Seattle’s $15 Wage Plan to Boost Families and Businesses

Alliance for a Just Society Photo by Jason Collette
Alliance for a Just Society Photo by Jason Collette

The day after Republicans in the U.S. Senate blocked a modest minimum wage increase to $10.10, Seattle small business owners with the Main Street Alliance proclaimed their support for a city level $15 minimum wage.

“It is smart and responsible to raise the minimum wage, boost our local economy, and support small business success at the same time,” said Joe Fugere, owner of Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria, who served on the Mayor’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee.

“Main Street Alliance brought a strong small business voice to the process that sought common ground because we know our economy is built from the bottom up, not the top down,” said Fugere. “We recognize that our local economy is stronger when low- and middle-class families have greater economic security and more money to spend. Continue reading “Seattle’s $15 Wage Plan to Boost Families and Businesses”

Entrenched Lobbyists Stirring Raise-the-Wage Opposition

Spring is in the air. That means cherry blossom season in Washington. It also means fly-in time, when the nation’s biggest trade associations hold their annual lobby days. Case in point: the National Restaurant Association (NRA) is hitting town at the end of April.

Topping the Restaurant Association’s agenda? Stick a fork in the proposed minimum wage increase. The NRA has an impressive track record on this issue: Congress hasn’t voted to increase the minimum wage since 2007, and the tipped minimum wage that applies to many restaurant workers remains frozen at $2.13 an hour… where it’s been stuck since 1991.

Whose interests does the NRA represent? Its membership includes a kitchen sink list of corporate chains, including Darden Restaurants (parent company of Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and Capital Grille), YUM! Brands (parent of Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut), Walt Disney, McDonald’s, Marriott, Sodexo, Aramark, Starbucks, and Coca-Cola – all members of the Fortune 500 orGlobal 500.

But on its lobby day, the Restaurant Association will likely showcase “mom and pop” restaurants instead of corporate chains. If you’re going to lobby against a publicly popular issue like a minimum wage increase, it’s better optics to say you’re speaking for the corner bakery than corporate chains like Taco Bell and Olive Garden.

So, on its fly-in day, the NRA will cultivate a Main Street image. But the other 364 days of the NRA’s year feature a different main ingredient: Washington insider influence-peddling that stacks the deck against low-wage workers.

The Restaurant Association’s roster of registered lobbyists has grown substantially, even as more lobbying moves underground in Washington. From 2008 to 2013, the NRA more than doubled its count of registered lobbyists from 15 to 37, according to OpenSecrets.org. The member companies listed above added another 127 registered lobbyists last year.

The NRA’s choice of lobbyists reflects a commitment to using the best ingredients, netting four mentions on The Hill’s Top Lobbyists list for 2013. Or, you might say, the best-connected ingredients. The “secret sauce” behind the NRA’s lobbying success? A heaping helping of revolving door influence.

Nothing symbolizes influence-peddling in Washington like the revolving door between Congress and K Street – it’s like Washington’s version of insider trading. Despite reforms passed in 2007, the revolving door spins faster than ever: according to the Sunlight Foundation, the share of active contract lobbyists who are revolvers increased from 18 percent in 1998 to 44 percent in 2012.

And, when it comes to using the revolving door to cook up insider influence, nobody does it like the National Restaurant Association.

Indeed, when the NRA doubled its lobbyist count, it didn’t just pluck any old suits off the D.C. streets. It made a concerted investment: all the growth came from a four-fold increase in “insider trading” (ie, revolving door) lobbyists, from 6 in 2008 to 27 in 2013.

The NRA’s 2013 insiders included nine “rapid revolvers” (who jumped from government jobs to lobbying jobs the same or the following year), six former congressional chiefs of staff, six former legislative directors, and various senior advisors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

For perspective, compare the Restaurant Association’s revolver profile to that of the other NRA powerhouse in Washington – the National Rifle Association. While the two had virtually identical lobbyist counts last year (37 for restaurants33 for rifles), the Restaurant Association had nearly twice as many revolvers as the gun lobby (27 to 15).

The Restaurant Association’s members have invested heavily in insiders, too: the companies listed above tripled their combined revolver count from 28 to 91 over 1998-2013 (their non-revolvers only increased from 28 to 36). Talk about super-sizing your insider influence.

So the Restaurant Association and its biggest members together have more than a hundred “insider trading” lobbyists pushing their agenda in Congress. How many do minimum wage workers have, again?

If it seems surprisingly hard to raise the minimum wage, despite overwhelming public support, we’ll know why. The restaurant industry’s legions of revolving door lobbyists are trading on their insider influence to keep any wage increase right where the NRA wants it: in the deep freezer.

LeeAnn Hall is the executive director of the Alliance for a Just Society, a national organizing and policy network that works with state-based organizations to build campaigns for economic and racial equity. Saru Jayaraman is the Director of the Food Labor Research Center at UC Berkeley, the author of national best-seller Behind the Kitchen Door, and co-founder & co-director of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United).

This opinion piece first appeared in The Hill.

Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/labor/202621-revolving-door-slams-on-minimum-wage-hike#ixzz2y7zvw2Tw 

Anti-Minimum Wage Restaurant Association Serving Up Powerful Lobbyists

revolving door picThe National Restaurant Association is a lobbying powerhouse in Washington, D.C. and a leading opponent of efforts to raise the minimum wage. A new analysis by the Alliance for a Just Society and Restaurant Opportunities Centers United uncovers the “secret sauce” behind the NRA’s success: a heaping helping of insider influence.

In The Hill this week,  LeeAnn Hall, executive director of the Alliance, and Saru Jayaraman, author of “Behind the Kitchen Door,” discuss how lobbyists are spinning an anti-minimum wage campaign.  Our research shows that the National Restaurant Association and its biggest corporate members have super-sized their investment in revolving door lobbyists – Washington’s version of insider trading.

Click here for the full analysis.
Continue reading “Anti-Minimum Wage Restaurant Association Serving Up Powerful Lobbyists”

Tipping Subminimum Wage in Favor of Workers

When you go out to dinner at a restaurant you might ask for salad dressing on the side, whether the carrots are organic, or if the chicken is free range, but do you ever ask the restaurant owner if her employees make a living wage?

Waitresses and waiters are the largest group of tipped workers in the United States; they also struggle with a significantly higher rate of poverty than the rest of the workforce. Tipped workers are also more likely to be women and people of color, contributing to the broader race and gender wage gaps.Tips

While the federal minimum wage is $7.25 cents per hour, the tipped minimum wage has been frozen at just $2.13 per hour for the last 23 years. Seven states don’t have a separate tipped minimum wage, and some have higher tipped wages than the federal figure, however, tipped workers in most states rely on tips from customers to round out the rest of their salary.

When the economy is slow or when weather keeps customers at home, tipped workers see their hours cut and tips shrink, causing many to turn to public support just to stay afloat. Food servers collect food stamps at twice the rate of the U.S. workforce as a whole, and are three times more likely to live below the poverty line. Continue reading “Tipping Subminimum Wage in Favor of Workers”

State of the Union Has the Right Themes, Action Must Follow

sotu photo
President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 28. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union address Tuesday night: low-key compared to other addresses, determined and occasionally defiant.

He touched on many of the priorities being worked on by the Alliance for a Just Society this year, including mentioning that nine million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage. He didn’t mention that 23 states have not accepted Medicaid expansion for their most vulnerable residents.

The President called for immigration reform to be passed, a solution for college graduates trapped by student loan debt, he pushed for a federal minimum wage increase to $10.10 an hour.

“Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty,” he said.
Private businesses shouldn’t wait for a government mandate, but instead follow the lead of giant Costco and much smaller Punch Pizza and give employees a raise. Continue reading “State of the Union Has the Right Themes, Action Must Follow”

Alliance On Stage With Pelosi and Raise the Wage

Alliance for a Just Society Lobbyist Bill Daley (far right) attended a Washington D.C. press conference in support of raising the minimum wage. Pictured in the front row are Democratic Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer, Congressman George Miller, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Secretary of Labor Tom Perez.
Alliance for a Just Society Lobbyist Bill Daley (far right) attended a Washington D.C. press conference in support of raising the minimum wage. Pictured in the front row are Democratic Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer, Congressman George Miller, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Secretary of Labor Tom Perez.

The work of Alliance for a Just Society was very much in evidence earlier this month when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Labor Secretary Tom Perez held a press conference calling for passage of legislation to raise the federal minimum wage.

The legislation, endorsed by the Alliance, would bring the hourly minimum wage up to $10.10 per hour over three years, then index future wage increases to inflation.  Federal minimum wage is now $7.25 per house.

Bill Daley, the Washington D.C. lobbyist for Alliance for a Just Society and Main Street Alliance, advocated for the increase, sharing the Alliances latest job and wage gap study: America’s Changing Economy which notes that minimum wage is a “barely surviving” wage and an actual living wage in many parts of country is closer to $16 an hour.

 

2013 Job Gap Report Released Nationwide

Fast food workers are taking to the picket line throughout the country. SEIU and other unions are helping these efforts, but many strikes are happening in places without any union presence. Low-wage work is simply not enough for families and individuals to thrive, to plan for their future, and most times, simply not enough to live.

Spike in Percentage of Low-Wage Jobs

Underemployment, ‘overemployment’ (working more than1 job) and the threats to public benefits in D.C. and in many states is adding more weight atop many populations tracked into low-wage employment. The trend is troubling.

“America’s Changing Economy: Searching for Work that Pays in the New Low-Wage Job Market, is the 15th installment of the Alliance’s Job Gap Report.  It has grown from a Northwest regional perspective and this year marks our first national report. True to the Alliance’s mission and focus, we released the report in 9 affiliated states and in NYC. You can find ways to get involved, graphics to share and all the reports at:

www.thejobgap.org

And download the national report here: http://thejobgap.org/national-report/

Continue reading “2013 Job Gap Report Released Nationwide”

Profiles of Poverty: Who Benefits from Fair Wages?

living.wage.featureSingles Moms, Children, the Elderly and Students Have Much at Stake in the Living Wage Debate

Opponents of raising the minimum wage frequently argue that low-wage jobs are transitional, for teenagers seeking experience before life in the “real world.” Granted, many teenagers work to contribute money desperately needed for their family, or are raising families themselves. And many teens are trying to save up for college.

But, like young people, these facts apparently don’t seem to matter to profit-at-all-costs corporations. Nor do actual statistics of minimum wage workers and people in poverty. Continue reading “Profiles of Poverty: Who Benefits from Fair Wages?”