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Winsotn-Salem teach-inThe demonstration against the North Carolina legislature’s voter suppression law, organized by the NAACP and Moral Monday movement last Monday in Winston-Salem, was a stirring reminder that, fifty years after the Voting Rights Act, civil rights cannot be taken for granted in this country. But the organizers of the day’s event also called attention to another disturbing trend, one that is closely connected to civil rights: the war on poor people, particularly those who find themselves in the most precarious jobs of our economy’s service sector.

A teach-in on economic justice, facilitated by the NAACP, was held on Monday afternoon at Goler Memorial AME Zion Church. Ben Wilkins of Raise Up for 15 launched the discussion by emphasizing that voter suppression laws are aimed not only at minorities, but at poor people.

To emphasize this point, Wilkins quoted Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech of March 25, 1965, in which Dr. King observed that “segregation of the races was really a political stratagem employed by the emerging Bourbon interests in the South to keep the southern masses divided and southern labor the cheapest in the land…[T]he southern aristocracy took the world and gave the poor white man Jim Crow. … And when his wrinkled stomach cried out for the food that his empty pockets could not provide, he ate Jim Crow, a psychological bird that told him that no matter how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than the black man.” Read More

Commentary

Notwithstanding the latest oblivious comments of Crown Prince Jeb, the drumbeat demanding a significant increase in the national minimum wage continues to grow louder and louder — both at the grassroots level and in the world of data and research.

Confirmation of the latter can be found in two news studies highlighted last week by the wonks at the Economic Policy Institute.

In study #1, researchers at the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics found that pay for average American workers is and has been stagnant. As EPI President Lawrence Mishel explained in a post last week:

“Their analysis confirms that there has been very broad-based stagnant pay whether one examines just wages or a more comprehensive compensation measure that also incorporates changes in health, pension, and other benefits. The bottom 80 percent of workers had stagnant or declining hourly compensation while the bottom 88 percent of workers had stagnant or declining wages.”

Study #2 comes from EPI’s David Cooper. Here are the key findings:

  • A $12 minimum wage in 2020 would undo the erosion in value of the minimum wage that took place largely in the 1980s. It would also reverse the growth in wage inequality between low-and middle-wage workers over the past generation.
  • Raising the minimum wage to $12 by 2020 would directly or indirectly lift wages for 35.1 million workers—more than one in four U.S. workers. Read More
Commentary

NC Policy Watch presents a Crucial Conversation luncheon —

Caring for Caregivers: The importance of quality wages for ensuring quality care

Click here to register

Like the rest of the nation, North Carolina is quickly aging. Within 35 years, the population over age 65 is projected to more than double. There is a rapidly growing need for direct care to allow community members to continue living with dignity.

Unfortunately, recruiting and retaining skilled people to do this work is increasingly difficult. Though it includes some of the state’s fastest growing occupations, direct-care work offers some of the lowest wages in the state. As a result, too many home-care workers don’t make enough to afford the basics like groceries, rent and transportation — leading to increased turnover of caregivers and disrupted care for seniors.

So what can be done? Are there public policy changes able to address these problems? And how can grassroots activists get involved?

NCPW-CC-2015-07-20-caregivers-rep-yvonne-holley-220x270

Join us as we pose these and other questions to a panel of experts that includes state Rep. Yvonne Holley (pictured left) and Allan Freyer, director of the Workers’ Rights Project of the North Carolina Justice Center, as well as directly impacted community members.

The luncheon will also feature a video of remarks President Obama will deliver at the July 13 White House Conference on Aging.

Don’t miss the opportunity to learn more about this important and timely subject.

When: Monday, July 20, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: The North Carolina Association of Educators Building, 700 Salisbury St., Raleigh, NC 27601

Space is limited – pre-registration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.Thanks to a generous donor, this luncheon is free of charge. Please select the $0.00 event fee on the registration page before checkout.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

Commentary

As Think Progress reports this morning, there’s good news today for average American workers in the new proposed rule from the Obama administration:

“On Tuesday morning, the Department of Labor released its proposed changes to the rules regarding who is eligible for overtime pay to expand the coverage to more workers.

The proposal would increase the salary threshold to $50,440 by 2016, meaning anyone who makes that much or less would have to be paid time-and-a-half for putting in more than 40 hours a week. It would also increase the total annual compensation a worker would need to make to be exempted as a highly compensated employee, raising it to $122,148 a year for full-time salaried workers. And it would automatically update both requirements to make sure only actual executives and administrative and professional workers get exempted.

On a call with the media, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez estimated that for the subset of workers who work more than 40 hours a week and will become newly eligible for overtime pay, they will collectively see $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion in extra compensation as a result of the change.”

This is precisely the kind of rule change we’ll need lots more of (e.g. a big boost in the minimum wage) if the nation is going to address its destructive and mushrooming gap between the haves and the have nots. Let’s hope the administration keeps ’em coming.

Commentary

Stan Kimer[Editor’s note: Stan C. Kimer is a retired IBM executive and former President of the North Carolina Council of Churches. He now runs a firm which offers consulting services around diversity management and training, and talent/career development. This is the second installment in a series of posts he is authoring for The Progressive Pulse].

Last month I announced that I would be writing a monthly series focused on the importance of engaging both the business community and the faith / religious community in promoting worker’s rights. I will continue this series alternating each month between the business community and faith community connection.

This month I would like to address a key value proposition for the business community to treat its employees properly and respectfully which includes providing key benefits critical to the employees’ well-being. Benefits such as paid sick days, extended family medical leave and child care assistance and family flex time are key items that low-income and single-parent families particularly need.

But how can business leaders be engaged in discussing providing these benefits? They may feel that it costs a significant amount of money and will drain profit from their own pockets. The investment return key is “employee engagement.”

What is engagement? Engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and it goals, often resulting in willingness to volunteer discretionary effort. When employees are compensated fairly including key benefits, they are indeed more engaged and committed to doing a great job for their employer.

Consulting firm EXTRAordinary! Inc. performed a study on employee engagement and the results showed:

  • Engaged employees average 27% less absenteeism than those who are disengaged.
  • Workgroups with lower engagement average 62% more accidents.
  • Higher levels of team engagement equate to 12% higher customer satisfaction score.
  • Engaged teams average 18% higher productivity and 12% higher profitability.

So before concluding that providing a living wage and offering additional benefits is spending money unnecessarily, I urge all business owners and leaders to consider these employee engagement statistics and benefits and do a realistic evaluation on the positive business results that treating employees well will bring.