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In anticipation of Big Business Day, er uh,  Labor Day, the good people at the National Employment Law Project are out with a new report that shines some welcome light on a much undereported subject in modern America: the huge and growing profits of low wage employers.

This is from the release that acccompanied the report:

“America’s low-wage economy is marked by two extremes.  On the one hand, workers earning at or near the minimum wage are seeing the real value of their paychecks diminish steadily over time, as the cost of living increases while their wages remain stagnant.  After nearly half a century of neglect, today’s federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is decades out of date.  In terms of purchasing power, its value is 30 percent lower today than it was in 1968.

On the other hand, many corporations are posting record-breaking profits. Read More

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If we updated FDR’s statement at left it might go like this:

“Do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $40,000 a day,…tell you…that a wage of $392 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry.”

And a new study released today by the Economic Policy Institute provides lots of hard numbers that demonstrate just how beneficial a hike in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.80 would be (both to average families and the economy as a whole).

Key findings include:

-Increasing the federal minimum wage to $9.80 by July 1, 2014, would raise the wages of about 28 million workers, who would receive nearly $40 billion in additional wages over the phase-in period. Read More

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Today, on the three-year anniversary of the last increase in the federal minimum wage, a broad coalition of groups and activists across the country will call for a realistic raise for the lowest-income earners.

Currently, the federal minimum wage stands at a low $7.25, and North Carolina tracks this federal standard. The minimum wage used to be a much more realistic wage standard – after its creation in 1938, the value rose steadily until reaching a high point in 1968. Since that time, however, the minimum wage’s value has steadily eroded as Congress has failed to correct for inflation over time. If properly adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage would be $10.55 today.

While the minimum wage hasn’t increased in the last three years, the prices of basic goods certainly have. As NELP’s chart below illustrates, the price of tuition, food, gas and utilities have steadily climbed while the value of the minimum wage has not. $7.25 translates to roughly $15,000 per year for a full-time worker while a conservative measure of actual family costs for one adult and one child in North Carolina requires an income of more than twice this amount.

Read More

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The North Carolina Justice Center, North Carolina Council of Churches, the NC AFL-CIO, and NC MomsRising held a press conference this morning in support of restaurant workers across the country who are being undervalued and underpaid for their work. The chosen date – 2/13 – intends to draw attention to the low $2.13 sub-minimum wage for restaurant workers.

The groups noted that the restaurant industry is growing in North Carolina, with food service occupations projected to have one of the highest growth rates in the state over the next decade. Yet occupations associated with food service are among the lowest paid in the state, and offer few employment benefits including health insurance and paid sick days.

The current federal and North Carolina tipped minimum wage is just $2.13. Employers can pay workers the lowest, sub-minimum wage as long as the $2.13 wage plus tips is equal to $7.25 – the binding state and federal minimum wage – over the course of the workweek. Over time, the gap between the sub-minimum wage and minimum wage has increased, with workers currently expected to make up more than two-thirds of their hourly pay through tips.

You can read more sobering details on the oft-ignored issue by checking out this new brief from the NC Justice Center entitled “Tipping the scales toward fair wages:  The $2.13 Sub-minimum Wage Reduces the Value of Hard Workin the Food Service Industry.”

Watch video highlights of the event below: