broadsideblog

Posts Tagged ‘Government’

Scrooge city! Employers hotly defend poverty-level wages

In business, life, Money, news, politics, urban life, US, work on December 17, 2013 at 3:22 pm

By Caitlin Kelly

‘Tis the season!

Check out the 300 comments — and climbing (including a long one from me) — at the Harvard Business Review blog where a Wharton professor, Peter Capelli, (gasp, competing B-school!) posted the following argument in favor of actually paying workers a living wage:

Jobs paying $15 per hour are not the concern, though. Those are routinely seen as good jobs now. The concern is those jobs paying at or around the minimum wage, $7.25 per hour or only $1160 per month for a
full-time job. About 1.6 million workers in the U.S. are paid at that level, and a surprising 2 million are actually paid less than that under various exemptions. If you are an employer paying the minimum wage or close to it, the Government has determined that your employees need help to pay for food, housing, and healthcare even if they have no family and no one to look after but themselves.  As we’ve been reminded this season, many of those workers also need help from families and coworkers to get by.

No doubt the reason low-wage companies continue to pay low wages is because there are plenty of workers willing to take jobs at those wages, and the need to pay more to avoid the risk of being unionized is
largely gone. But “can” and “ought” are not the same thing.  Nothing about the minimum wage implies that it is morally ok as long as you pay at least that much. It simply says that the government will prosecute you if try to pay less than that level.

A longstanding principle in all developed countries including the U.S. is that labor is not like a commodity where taking advantage of the market to squeeze down prices is a fact of life. Employees have human rights that do not disappear when they enter the workplace. Even in business law, principles like the “mechanic’s lien” say that employees should be paid before other creditors because they are more vulnerable than businesses and do not get profits to compensate them for risks.

We’re at an inflection point in the U.S., where some low-wage workers, unprecedented in decades, have actually begun to stage walk-outs, strikes and protests in recent weeks.

In Germany — where 9,000 workers are employed by Amazon — employees have just gone on strike.

Wage list

Wage list (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have — as we say here in sports-metaphor-obsessed-America — skin in this particular game.

I worked 2.5 years making $11/hour (the federal minimum is still $7.25/hour) selling costly outdoor clothing at an upscale mall, the subject of my book, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail.”

No matter how insanely productive we were — one of us sold $16,000 worth of merch one holiday Saturday — we never got more hours or  serious raise (mine was 30 cents/hour) or a boost into a low-management position with a (barely) liveable salary.

The endless argument in favor paying crap is that low-wage workers are all teens, seniors and/or have no skills.

False! A recent survey of 436 New York City retail workers found that two-thirds of them are supporting another family member on their wages. Their average age? 24.

I also pay my assistants $15/hour, albeit part-time, about 10 hours a month. This year I paid out $1,5000 in wages to one worker, a significant amount for a one-person shop — me — and a healthy sum to a person new to my line of work, in effect, someone essentially entry-level I was training and paying.

I am appalled, disgusted and fed up with corporate greed, corporate welfare and the right-wing outrage that all low-wage jobs are low-skilled. They’re not.

Every single job adds profit to an employer’s bottom line or — in union-free America — it’s swiftly cut, with no severance or warning.

Walmart and MacDonalds workers suck up my tax dollars in Medicaid and food stamps because their greedhead CEOs think this is moral, equitable and justifiable way to treat workers.

I disagree.

How about you?

One In Seven Americans Is Poor: The Frog And The Scorpion

In behavior, business, cities, Crime, History, Money, politics, work on September 18, 2010 at 4:06 pm
American Poverty
Image by Monroe’s Dragonfly via Flickr

Nice statistic that.

The Census Bureau reports that one in seven American is now living in poverty. Millions can’t find work,  are losing their homes, living in their cars, bunking — when they can — with relatives. Millions are reaching for the thin, weak strained social safety net of food stamps and homeless shelters.

The shocking part?

That this should surprise anyone.

Recall the old joke, the friendship between the frog and the scorpion; as the frog swims across a river with the scorpion on its back, stung and dying. betrayed, he asks why. “I’m a scorpion. That’s what I do.”

In a nation where CEOs now crow with glee that they earn 300 times that of their lowest-paid workers, why would anyone find the growing chasm between the happy haves and the terrified have-nots unexpected?

The U.S. is a nation of laissez-faire capitalism. It’s a system as brutal and impersonal as a combustion engine. If you can find a way to accommodate its needs, you’re set. If not, you’re toast.

What happens next is anyone’s guess. But no one, anywhere, should gasp in shock at the ruin so many people now face. They played “by the rules”.

There weren’t any.

Enhanced by Zemanta

New York — The Nation's New(est) Laughingstock

In politics on February 27, 2010 at 3:40 pm
New York State Governor David Paterson opening...

Good riddance! Image via Wikipedia

New York — for millions, for centuries — has marked the spot where the ambitious, talented, driven best show up to compete for whatever they think they can win.

My mother was born in New York City and married there before moving to Canada, where I was born. I first visited the city, to see her grandmother, as a young teen, then in my early 20s, twice. Since high school, I dreamed of coming to New York to compete in journalism, and chose to move to the state in 1989, just in time for the worst recession ever in journalism (only the first of three, since then, this one far worse).

The state has become so ugly and dysfunctional, so embarrassingly stupid and risible, it begs the imagination, even as we pay more and more and more taxes to the fools sitting in Albany.

The state, and our moronic, lying, directionless lame-duck governor, David Paterson, who decided he won’t (thank God) run for re-election after all, has become a joke. So has, even more so, Senator Charles Rangel for his ethical lapses.

From today’s Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Paterson’s troubles have been catnip for “Saturday Night Live,” but the state’s voters are laughing to keep from crying. New York’s budget deficit is an estimated $8.2 billion, due in no small part to state spending that has risen by nearly 70%, or $35 billion, over the past decade. The recent financial crisis has exposed the state’s overreliance on tax revenue from Wall Street.

Mr. Paterson has promised several times to stop this, only to give in to the legislature and tax and spend again. He’ll now be the lamest of lame ducks, and if he wanted to do the public at least one good turn he’d resign early and let the state be run through next year by his Lieutenant Governor, Richard Ravitch, who is at least competent.

This mess is all part of the culture of Albany, arguably the most corrupt legislature on Earth. Last June, the state government was paralyzed for more than a month when Democratic Senators Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate joined the Republican caucus, making it unclear which party was in control. Eventually, both men returned to the Democratic side of the aisle.

Mr. Espada would later be investigated for not living in his district and funneling state money to health clinics that he operates. Mr. Monserrate was later convicted of assaulting his girlfriend. Two weeks ago the Senate voted 53-8 to expel Mr. Monserrate over his conviction, which reminds us in reverse of Groucho Marx’s famous line about not wanting to belong to a club that would have him. You know you’re special when even the Albany legislature won’t have you, though Mr. Espada did vote to keep Mr. Monserrate around, perhaps to deflect investigator attention.

Meanwhile, this sense of entitlement also seems to extend to New York’s Congressional delegation. Democrat Charles Rangel of Manhattan was admonished yesterday by the House ethics committee for taking junkets to the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008 that his staff knew were financed by corporations. The committee said staff aides tried to tell him three times about the corporate sponsors.

As New Yorker writer E.B. White once said:

“On any person who desires such queer prizes, New York will bestow the gift of loneliness and the gift of privacy. It is this largess that accounts for the presence within the city’s walls of a considerable section of the population; for the residents of Manhattan are to a large extent strangers who have pulled up stakes somewhere and come to town, seeking sanctuary or fulfillment or some greater or lesser grail. The capacity to make such dubious gifts is a mysterious quality of New York. It can destroy an individual, or it can fulfill them, depending a good deal on luck. No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky.”

There isn’t enough luck in the world right now for many New Yorkers.

The luckiest thing many of us might now picture is a moving truck in our driveway. But heading to where?

Nancy Pelosi — Mama Bear, Parish Priest, Pick Your Metaphor

In politics, women on October 30, 2009 at 9:16 am
US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi makes rem...

Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

Interesting profile of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Politico:

“I’m not big on showing weakness. It’s not my thing…I don’t like to have predictable losses.”

As a control freak myself (does anyone like losses? Of any kind?), I love watching people struggle to define a tough woman who knows what she wants and fights hard to get it. Having interviewed a few female legislators, I know — as every journo does — that the behind-the-scenes story always has nuances that disappear into 15-second sound bites or tired cliches.


Census Work Finished in Record Time: Why You Should Hire the "Overqualified"

In business, politics on July 20, 2009 at 7:44 am
1900 census - John Lindstrom (small)

Image by Birdie Holsclaw via Flickr

I heard this last week from a friend of mine, whom Census rules strictly forbid from identifying further, as this person, like everyone in their position, had to sign confidentiality forms to get the temporary full-time job. According to the Census:  “Each worker will take a lifetime oath to keep census information confidential. By law, the Census Bureau cannot share respondents’ answers with any other government or law enforcement agency. Any violation of that oath is punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and five years in prison.”

This person is educated, and used to work in a demanding and highly competitive industry, now utterly ravaged by the recession, that relies heavily on intellectual ability. Walking alone around unfamiliar neighborhoods in sun and rain and humidity with a hand-held device checking addresses — the crucial initial work of the 2010 census that begins in earnest next spring — wasn’t a dream job. But, in the area where we live, it paid more than $18 an hour and that’s damn good money in this recession, especially for steady work that doesn’t demand lifting or carrying. What I was told stunned me, although it shouldn’t have: people with qualifications far more senior than this person showed up in droves, grateful and eager to grab the opportunity to work, if only for a month.

As a result, Raul Cisneros, a spokesman for the Census told me, the census workers hired nationwide did indeed finish their workverifying addresses way ahead of schedule. They hired 140,000 people across the country, paying them between $10 an hour and $34/hour for the most demanding supervisory jobs. Another Census spokesman confirmed: “We did not have the turnover we’d had in the past. People were sticking around to do the job and in some places they finished that job ahead of schedule. In some places, they did finish very quickly.”

People want to work. It’s deadening and depressing to sit alone at home week after week after week sending out resumes into deep space. It doesn’t have to be a dream job or the job for the rest of your life. Ideally, even if for a while, it needs to put you in touch with other smart people whose very presence reminds you you’re not dead. That’s one of the toughest parts of being out of work. Chatting up random strangers at Starbucks or the library isn’t enough.

People with enormous amounts of talent, skill, experience and savvy are going to waste and the wise are snapping them up whenever and wherever they can. Even the smallest temporary job is worth it: people crave colleagues, somewhere to go, something smart to do and knowing they’re making a contribution. And, yes, the chance to pay some bills. Any income is better than no income!

The Census won’t be hiring again until March 2010, when, they told me, they’ll recruit 3.8 million people to fill 1.4 million jobs.

At least someone has definite job openings.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 11,641 other followers