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The folks at Pew Research released new poll results today confirming that Americans are increasingly sick and tired of the nation’s growing economic inequality and want government to do something about it. Even sizable percentages of Republicans favor strong action.

“There is broad public agreement that economic inequality has grown over the past decade. But as President Obama prepares for Tuesday’s State of the Union, where he is expected to unveil proposals for dealing with inequality and poverty, there are wide partisan differences over how much the government should – and can – do to address these issues.

The new national survey by the Pew Research Center and USA TODAY, conducted Jan. 15-19 among 1,504 adults, finds that 65% believe the gap between the rich and everyone else has increased in the last 10 years. This view is shared by majorities across nearly all groups in the public, including 68% of Democrats and 61% of Republicans.”

And while there is a significant partisan divide, overall majorities were large for some common sense solutions and assessments of the source of the problem: Read More

Living wageThe fallout from the destructive 2013 session of the North Carolina General Assembly continues to settle out across the state policy landscape.

As you will recall, during the waning days of the session, lawmakers enacted (and Governor McCrory approved) a new restriction on the ability of cities and counties to enter into contracts on their own terms. Last night, in response to the new law, Durham County Commissioners retracted part of the county’s forward-looking living wage ordinance.

The County Commissioners expressed regret about their action, which was in response to HB 74, signed into law by Gov. McCrory on August 23. The so-called “regulatory reform” law, among many other things,  Read More

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

A new release from the NC Justice Center:

A boom in low-wage jobs is the leading factor contributing to the drop in unemployment across most of the state’s metros, according to today’s jobs report from the N.C. Division of Employment Security.

Although unemployment has dropped in all 14 of North Carolina’s metro areas over the last year, most of these job growth has occurred in the lowest wage sector—Leisure & Hospitality. Unfortunately, this industry pays $8.30 an hour, more than $12 below the statewide average—suggesting that most metros are seeing the biggest growth opportunities in ultra-low wage jobs.

Over the last year, Leisure & Hospitality was either the fastest or second fastest growing industry in 10 metro areas. These metros include:

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.