Commentary

How far short does women’s pay still fall? This far.

Yesterday was Women’s Equal Pay Day, the day that women’s wages catch up to what their white, male counterparts earned last year.

Yes, that’s correct. It’s now April 2019, and it’s taken 15 months for women to earn what a white man earned by December of last year doing the same exact job. That’s because women earn just 85 cents for every dollar earned by white men with the same level of education and experience.

And it’s even worse for women of color. Black women earn 61 cents for every dollar earned by a white man, Native American women earn 58 cents on the dollar, Latinx women earn just 53 cents on the dollar, and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women it earn just 62 cents on the dollar.

Looking at a year’s paycheck, it takes Black women almost 20 months, Native American women 21 months, and Latina women 23 months to earn what white men earn in just 12.

And at the rate we’re going, it will take until another 40 years for all women to catch up to men’s paychecks. Shockingly, Latina women won’t achieve equal pay until 2248!

The women’s pay gap is not just unfair, it’s also hurting our economy. Despite making up less than half of North Carolina’s workforce, women are over-represented in minimum wage and low-wage work. Women in North Carolina are 47.8 percent of the workforce, but 67.9% of those making $11.50 or less per hour.  In fact, women in North Carolina are more than twice as likely to work in a low-wage job compared to a man.

When women earn more money, they have more to spend on themselves and their families—and that means more customers and more sales for businesses. A recent McKinsey Global Institute study found that eliminating this pay gap would boost the economy by as much as $28 trillion by 2025. And unlike trying to grow the economy cutting taxes for millionaires (which only helps the millionaires), pay equity grows the economy in a way that broadly shares the benefits of that growth, especially among the low- and middle-income women who would experience the biggest raises.

Although North Carolina can address pay equity through policies like tightening anti-discrimination laws and improving childcare subsidies, perhaps the biggest step the state can take involves raising the minimum wage. More than 830,000 women would see an average raise of about $4,411 every year from seeing the minimum wage rise to $15 an hour.

Achieving pay equity is critical—no one should have to wait 40 years to earn the same as a man for the same day’s work.

Commentary

New report: Raising the minimum is good for everyone in NC

Raising the minimum wage in North Carolina will provide families with bigger paychecks, create more good jobs, and build thriving communities, all without hurting employment, according to a new report from the NC Justice Center.

North Carolina’s current wage floor is identical to the nation’s at $7.25 an hour, but legislators have introduced a plan that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024. A new report from the NC Justice Center finds that this bold effort to improve wages will benefit working people, businesses, and communities. Specific findings include:

  • Raising the minimum wage is necessary because median wages in North Carolina have actually dropped by 10 cents an hour over the past ten years, from $1,681 an hour in 2008 to $1,781 in 2018.
  • This plan would boost paychecks for almost 1.6 million working people, giving each of them a raise of $4,422 per year, and a combined $7 billion for all workers across the state.
  • It doesn’t just affect teenagers—it helps adult workers and parents who rely on minimum wage jobs to support their families. More than 93% of people who will receive the raise are older than 20, and more than 765,000 children have parents who will benefit. Half of all single parents and a quarter of all married parents will see a raise.
  • Raising the minimum wage will create thousands of good jobs by transforming low-wage jobs into good-paying, family supporting jobs. For example, more than 260,000 retail workers would see their paychecks grow by $4,100 and 160,000 people working in the food services industry would receive almost $6,000 more every year.
  • Raising the minimum wage will not increase joblessness or unemployment. Looking just at the 18 states that raised their minimum wage to take effect January 1, 2018, those states had identical employment growth and unemployment over 2018 when compared to states that did not raise their wage floor. This finding is similar to rigorous academic studies by professional economists.
  • The plan creates an unparalleled opportunity for bringing historically marginalized communities into the mainstream economy. Almost half a million African American workers and a quarter million Latinx workers would benefit—largely because of the plan’s elimination of discriminatory provisions that exclude domestic workers, agricultural workers, and tipped employees from full minimum wage protections. Historically, these types of discriminatory barriers have held back overall economic performance, so including these marginalized working people will help boost economic growth.

Raising minimum creates good jobs, it doesn’t kill them. More than 30 states have raised their minimum wages in the last decade, yet mass job loss and unemployment have never occurred. Job growth and unemployment are the same in the states that raised their wages for 2018 compared to those that that didn’t. That’s one big why raising the minimum wage is good for the economy.

The full report can be found here.

Commentary, News

The fight for $15 arrives at the General Assembly

[Cross-posted from the website of the North Carolina AFL-CIO.]

North Carolina lawmakers joined Raising Wages NC — a growing coalition of labor groups, advocates, business, and faith leaders — at a legislative press conference today to announce the introduction of H.B. 366, inclusive legislation that raises the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour by 2024, indexes it to the cost of living, ends the subminimum wage for persons with disabilities, phases it out for tipped workers, and repeals exemptions for agricultural and domestic workers.

North Carolina’s minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour for a decade and does not cover everyone. At the event, legislators, workers, business owners, and faith leaders called attention to the moral and economic imperative of making sure that everyone who works full time can earn a living wage, afford the basic necessities, and has a fair opportunity to work hard and succeed — including people with disabilities, people who care for our homes and families, people who serve our food, and the people who grow it.

“This bill will undo decades of exclusions for workers like me,” said Priscilla Smith of Durham, a direct care worker and a member of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, which is part of the Raising Wages NC Coalition. “We are taking steps to finally include all workers and make sure no one gets left behind in the fight for living wages.”

According to a report released today by the nonpartisan NC Justice Center, gradually raising the minimum wage in North Carolina to $15 an hour by 2024 “would boost paychecks for almost 1.6 million working people, giving each of them a raise of $4,422 per year and a combined $7 billion for all workers across the state.” Moreover, the report’s authors reviewed empirical studies on job growth and employment rates and found no difference between states which have enacted minimum wage increases and those that have not. Even in cases where employers reduced hours to offset higher labor costs, the report finds that workers still came out ahead from higher hourly earnings and predicted that North Carolina “businesses will directly benefit” when 1.6 million new customers are able to spend those higher earnings on their goods and services.

“As I always say, the economy and community cannot be successful unless everyone has an opportunity to participate,” said Eric Henry, president of TS Designs in Burlington and chair of the N.C. Business Council. “Raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2024 is a good step toward achieving that goal.”

Reps. Susan Fisher, Jean Farmer-Butterfield, MaryAnn Black, and Pricey Harrison are primary sponsors of H.B. 366. In addition to lawmakers, speakers at the press conference included Rev. Jennifer Copeland, NC Council of Churches; Wendy’s worker Earl Bradley and Waffle House waitress Eshawney Gaston, Raise Up for $15 and a Union; direct care worker Priscilla Smith, National Domestic Workers Alliance We Dream in Black NC Chapter; TS Designs president Eric Henry, NC Business Council; and Ana Pardo, NC Justice Center Workers’ Rights Project.

For more information about the campaign, visit www.raisingwagesnc.org.

Commentary, Courts & the Law

N.C. Justice Center statement on U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME

Earlier today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling in Janus vs. AFSCME, striking down the right of public sector workers to negotiate collective bargaining agreements that require workers who benefit from union representation to pay their fair share of fees to support that representation.

The N.C. Justice Center issued the following statement on this unfortunate decision:

“The American people expect the U.S. Supreme Court to strengthen and preserve democracy. Yet today the nation’s highest court took another step along a troubling road of putting the voices of powerful corporations above the voices of regular workers. In a blatantly ideological 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court struck down 40 years of established workplace protections that allowed state and local government employees the right to sign collective bargaining agreements requiring workers who benefit from union representation to pay their fair share of fees to support that representation.

Most experts agree this will dramatically reduce the fees unions take in, weakening their ability to bargain on behalf of their members for better ages and safer workplaces at the negotiating table. Given that state and local government employees already make nearly $3,000 less than their private sector counterparts every year, the decision will almost certainly lead to higher turnover among public employees and weaken the services they provide to our nation’s residents.

Worst of all, this decision will undermine our democracy by taking away a critically important path for building the power of working people to participate in our democracy, leaving the power of big money and corporations to influence politics to their own benefit. When the voices of working people diminish, so does trust in our democratic institutions.”

Commentary

Here’s the skinny on the new state budget’s fat incentive programs

This year’s budget goes big on economic development incentives. Forsaking previous General Assemblies’ libertarian hostility to targeted business investments, the state’s proposed spending plan creates a fat new program to land “transformative projects” (like a rumored Apple headquarters) and expands existing programs to provide more benefits to companies. Critics often deride these programs as ineffective, so the budget also opens the door for the Department of Commerce to assess the true economic impact of these programs at the county level after incentives are granted—an undeniably positive development.

The Latest Attempt to create a “Transformative Project” incentive program

The biggest move in the portion of the budget funding the Department of Commerce is the creation of a new “Transformative Project” category within the existing Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) program. Rumored to come in response to a potential deal to land an Apple headquarters in the Triangle, this new JDIG program is broadly intended to support large-scale projects with thousands of jobs and significant private investment—the fourth such program in the last five years.

The problem is that this new program looks to be too generous in terms of what it gives to the company and too stingy in terms of how it benefits North Carolina:

  • Effectively eliminates the recipient’s corporate income tax liability for 30 years. The heart of the program allows companies to receive grants equal to 100 percent of their employees’ withholding taxes for 30 years, more than twice the normal JDIG grant period of 12 years.
  • Allows companies 10 years to ramp up, double the standard rate of 5 years. Recipients would now have an entire decade—rather than the current five years—before they have to show proof of job creation and investment to the Department of Commerce.
  • Makes it easier for companies to qualify as “transformative.” In the program’s current form, transformative projects would need to invest $4 billion and create 5,000 jobs to qualify. This year’s budget lowers these thresholds so that a company could qualify if it invests $1 billion and creates 3,000 jobs.

But the biggest problem with the “transformative project” program is that its definition of “transformation” isn’t terribly “transformative.” Read more