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raise the wageIn the giant banana republic of haves and have nots that the U.S. economy has increasingly come to resemble, any bump in the pay dosed out to front line workers by a company as huge and generally predatory as Wal-Mart — however modest — is a good thing. When a half-million people are able to take home a few more bucks a week, that’s good for them and good for the companies with whom they shop…like Wal-Mart. So hooray for the news.

Lest anyone get too moist in the eyes, however, and/or start cranking out humanitarian award nominations for the Walton family gozillionaires, it should be noted that the raises (1.1 percent for the average full-time wage over the next year, to $13 an hour and 5.2 percent for part-timers to an average $10 an hour, by February 2016) still leave those workers bringing home incomes much too low to live on. As the Associated Press reports about the new wage rates:

“Both fall below the $15 an hour ‘living wage’ many union-backed Wal-Mart employees have been pushing for. Driven by rising income inequality and a decades-long decline in middle-class jobs, workers are also campaigning for steep wage hikes at other major non-unionized employers, including McDonalds and other fast food chains….

In Fayetteville, Arkansas — near the company headquarters — a single parent of one child would need to earn $16.85 an hour, almost $4 an hour more than Wal-Mart’s pay raise for full-time workers, according to a living wage calculator created Amy Glasmeier, a professor of economic geography at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The calculator examines the costs of food, housing, transportation and medical care around the country.

In pricier parts of the country, the living wage is far higher: In Philadelphia, it rises to $19.68 an hour. In San Leandro, California, one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s more affordable suburbs, a single parent’s living wage is $23.22.”

The living income standard for a worker with one child in North Carolina averages $16.21 per hour.

Of course, the real solution to the problem of poverty level wages for workers across America would be a sizable bump in the federal minimum wage. President Obama has proposed raising it from $7.25 per hour to $10.10, but obviously, a genuine living wage would be significantly higher.

As the Los Angeles Times editorialized this morning, Wal-Mart’s actions should send a signal to Congress that it’s well past time for such action. Let’s hope fervently that such a message gets through ASAP.

But don’t hold your breath.

Commentary

More than three-million Americans will get a raise tomorrow thanks to common sense new laws in 20 states. Not surprisingly, North Carolinians will not be on the list. This is from a post this morning at Think Progress:

On January 1, 20 states will raise their minimum wages, while one — New York — will increase its wage on Wednesday.

That means that all told, 3.1 million American workers will ring in the New Year with a pay raise.

Eleven states and Washington, DC are increasing their minimum wages thanks to changes in the law either by legislation passed by lawmakers or referenda passed by voters. Nine others will see an automatic increase because their wages are indexed to rise with inflation. Currently, 15 states have automatic increases built into their minimum wages, unlike the federal law.

The January 1 raises range from a 12-cent boost in Florida, whose minimum wage will increase to $8.05, to a $1.25 increase in South Dakota, bringing its wage to $8.50.

The increases in the New Year will mean that in 2015, the majority of states — 29 and Washington, DC — will have minimum wages set above the federal level of $7.25 an hour. They will also mean that 60 percent of all American workers will live in a state with a higher minimum wage.

Another half million workers will get a raise later in 2015, when legislation passed in Delaware and Minnesota to raise their wages goes into effect.

Meanwhile, of course, the minimum wage here in Pope-land remains stuck at a miserly $7.25 with essentially zero prospects of rising anytime soon and the inhabitants of the right-wing think tanks calling for its abolition.

Happy New Year!

minwage-2015

News

There’s an interesting article today from North Carolina Health News about fast-food workers who make too much to qualify for Medicaid in North Carolina but make too little to afford health care on their own.

North Carolina is one of several states that declined to expand coverage of Medicaid in the state, after the state legislature passed a law in early 2013 preventing  expansion that Gov. Pat McCrory signed.  The situation has left hundreds of thousands of low-income workers unable to afford health care on their own and without access to the federal subsidies that would make health care more affordable.

Among those people are a 35-year-old Durham man whose worked for a decade making pizzas at Dominos.

From the article, by Hyun Namkoong:

The Feb. 15 deadline to sign up for health insurance coverage on the federal Healthcare.gov website is quickly approaching, and low-wage workers like DeAngelo Morales and Isaac McQueen are stuck between a rock and hard place.

McQueen, 35, a father of two, has worked at Domino’s Pizza for 10 years as a pizza maker. He says he doesn’t qualify for subsidies offered under the Affordable Care Act. He also doesn’t qualify for Medicaid after North Carolina declined to expand the program to adults who make more than 49 percent of the federal poverty level, which works out to $9,697 a year for a family of three.

“I [make] too much money,” he said with an ironic laugh.

McQueen said there was a plan on the federal health insurance exchange that cost $80 a month, but he couldn’t afford it.

Instead, his health insurance plan is based on hope and faith.

“[I’m just] hoping and praying to God I don’t get sick, because I can’t afford any substantial medical bills,” he said.

 

You can read the entire piece here.

 

News

Raise upFast food workers and their allies will be gathering in several locations tomorrow to demand higher wage and union rights.

This is from the good people at Raise Up for 15:

Fast Food workers across North Carolina are joining a nationwide strike with fast food workers all over the country. Let’s build the Fight for $15 Movement in the South! We believe that we will win!

Join us Thursday, Dec 4th in a city near you:

6:00 AM Charlotte: 4435 The Plaza
6:00 AM Durham 3558 Hillsborough Rd
6:00 AM Greensboro 2003 High Point Rd
6:00 AM Greenville 3602 Charles Blvd

*11:30 AM: Greensboro Striking workers from across NC will converge at the Four Seasons Station Parking Lot (2700 Vanstory St)

For more information, visit the Raise Up for 15 webpage by clicking here.

NC Budget and Tax Center

Last week voters in four states–Arkansas, Alaska, Nebraska and South Dakota–approved minimum wage increases that will address in part the eroding value of their state’s minimum wage for workers earning at the lowest end of the wage distribution.  As of January 1st, at least 25 states will have minimum wages higher than the federal level of $7.25.

It turns out voters and state policymakers recognize that the wage floor must have some connection to what workers need to make ends meet and what wage conditions are in the labor market overall.

At Prosperity Watch this week, the Budget & Tax Center looked at the minimum wage to median wage ratio in North Carolina over time.  This ratio signals the strength of a minimum wage relative to local labor market conditions.  The lower the ratio, the fewer goods and services a worker can purchase for every additional hour worked. North Carolina’s minimum wage to median wage ratio fell from 64.4 percent in 1979 to 41.2 percent in 2013.  Find out more at Prosperity Watch here.