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Fast food workersRaleigh’s News & Observer published an outstanding think piece by Kevin Rogers of Action NC today udner the headline ”The high cost of fast-food’s low wages.” Rogers’ headline was simpler: “McWelfare.” 

As you can see below, either one works.

I recently met Willietta Dukes, a mother of two and fast-food employee in Durham, North Carolina. Willietta makes $7.85 at Burger King, despite 16 years of experience in the fast-food industry. In August, tired of struggling to get by, she walked off her job, just a month after losing her home because she could no longer afford rent payments. Despite working hard for as many hours as she gets from Burger King, Willietta is forced to rely on food stamps just to make ends meet.

Willietta is not alone. Research released this week finds that more than half – 52% – of fast-food workers nationwide are paid so little that the public needs to provide assistance to make sure workers can afford basic, everyday needs. In other words, fast-food employees are twice as likely as other workers to be forced to rely on programs like the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (food stamps) or Medicaid. Read More

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division announced a final rule today extending the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage and overtime protections to most of the nation’s direct care workers who provide essential home care assistance to elderly people and people with illnesses, injuries, or disabilities. This change, effective January 1, 2015, ensures that nearly two million workers – such as home health aides, personal care aides, and certified nursing assistants – will have the same basic protections already provided to most U.S. workers. It will help ensure that individuals and families who rely on the assistance of direct care workers have access to consistent and high quality care from a stable and increasingly professional workforce.

To help families, other employers, and workers understand the new requirements, the Department will be hosting five public webinars during the month of October and has created a new, dedicated web portal at dol.gov/whd/homecare with fact sheets, FAQs, interactive web tools, and other materials.

As we approach Labor Day weekend, new data from the state Division of Employment Security  shows unemployment rates fell in 97 of North Carolina’s 100 counties last month. However, most of the job growth this past year has occurred in Leisure & Hospitality, the lowest-wage sector.

This industry pays roughly $12 below the statewide average, according to analysis by the NC Budget & Tax Center.

MaryBe McMillan with the NC State AFL-CIO says it’s troubling that the employment opportunities that have replaced the manufacturing jobs lost during the recession fail to provide families a living wage:

“Folks cannot get by on $7.25 an hour, and it’s long overdue we raise the minimum wage, make it a living wage, index it to inflation so we are not going another decade or so without a wage increase,” explained McMillan in an interview with NC Policy Watch.

Minimum wage workers and their supporters will gather today (Thursday) in cities across the nation, including Raleigh, asking to be paid $15 an hour.

For a preview of McMillan’s radio interview with Chris Fitzsimon, click below:

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The following post was submitted to NC Policy Watch by Vicki Meath, Executive Director of the group Just Economics in Asheville.

Another attack on workers and local governments
By Vicki Meath

Among the harmful and destructive bills passed during the waning hours of 2013 legislative session was HB 74 (“The Regulatory Reform Act of 2013”). The bill now awaits the Governor’s review.  

In this bill affecting rules in a variety of areas (including significant rollbacks of environmental protections) lawmakers included an anti-living wage, anti-local government, anti-worker provision. Section 5 eliminates the rights of cities and counties to enact living wage policy or paid sick day requirements for contract workers.   Read More

As we reported in this space last week, the General Assembly is advancing a last-minute ”regulatory reform” bill in the session’s waning days that is chock-full of dozens of special favors to industry lobbyists, including several new provisions to further restrict environmental protection.

Today, however, advocates discovered yet another hidden gem in the bill – a provision that will prevent forward-thinking local governments (like Asheville and Durham) from requiring contractors to treat workers decently. Read More