Where To Shop To Support Workers This Black Friday

About one in four American workers will have to go to work this year on a holiday, be it Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Day. Given that no American worker gets the guarantee that they can take a paid holiday off, their options are limited. Employees at Kmart and Target even tell ThinkProgress that they aren’t allowed to ask for holidays off and face being fired if they don’t come in.

CREDIT: ADAM PECK/THINKPROGRESS

CREDIT: ADAM PECK/ THINKPROGRESS

But consumers have options about whether or not to support stores that open. While 12 brands have decided to open their doors on Thanksgiving Day, requiring millions of workers to miss out on time with friends and family, 18 others have decided to stay closed. Follow this link to read more from Think Progress.

What’s wrong with Louisiana? Still No Minimum Wage

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 3 out of 4 Americans support a higher minimum wage. Do none of those supporters live in Louisiana? Louisiana isn’t avoiding raising the minimum wage, Louisiana is refusing to set any minimum wage at all. 

After this year’s midterm elections, voters in four states, Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota, passed binding ballot measures that will raise their minimum wages… voters have soundly rejected the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour as insufficient for workers. Soon, 29 states and the District of Columbia will have minimum wages higher than the federal level.

Lagging far behind the rest of the country

Lagging far behind the rest of the country, U.S. DOL

Today a minimum wage earner has to work a day and a half just to pay for a full tank of gas. 

“Do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000 a day, who has been turning his employees over to the Government relief rolls in order to preserve his company’s undistributed reserves, tell you – using his stockholders’ money to pay the postage for his personal opinions — tell you that a wage of $11.00 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry.” (1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt)

The staff of the Workplace Justice Project ask again: How is it that Louisiana continues on so strongly against this tide without any minimum wage? 

An Ounce of Prevention – Anticipating Changes to Companionship Regulations

“Enforcement of a final rule that takes effect Jan. 1, 2015, to extend Fair Labor Standards Act minimum-wage and overtime protections to certain direct-care workers is to be delayed, but employers should not hesitate to ensure timely compliance with the rule’s minimum-wage, overtime and record-keeping requirements. Effective Jan. 1, home-care agencies and third-party employers must pay at least the federal minimum wage and overtime to jointly or solely employed direct-care workers, such as a certified nursing assistant, home-health aide, personal care aide, caregiver or companion.

JOE RAEDLE / GETTY IMAGES Home care aides often make substantially less than their peers in hospitals and nursing homes

JOE RAEDLE / GETTY IMAGES
Home care aides often make substantially less than their peers in hospitals and nursing homes

“The key change that is applicable to private employers and to states is going to be tracking worker hours and better record-keeping practices,” said Sarah Leberstein, a lawyer with the National Employment Law Project and co-author of its Aug. 2011 “Fair Pay for Home Care Workers: Reforming the U.S. Department of Labor’s Companionship Regulations Under the Fair Labor Standards Act,” report. “It shouldn’t be rocket science. But some employers haven’t had to track hours worked by [home-care] workers,” she said, noting that this is especially true of states that thought of home-care workers as independent providers.

Workers should also be instructed on marking time worked, and employers should consider innovative ways to keep time records, Leberstein said. Under the final rule, “if the employee spends more time working than was anticipated, the employee must be paid,” Joseph K. Mulherin, a shareholder in Vedder Price’s Chicago office who advises employers on employment-law issues, said in a June 13, interview with Katarina E. Wiegele for Bloomberg BNA’s FLSA Litigation Tracker. “If the employee’s sleep time, meal periods or other periods of free time are interrupted, the interruption must be counted as hours worked.”

“In home-care work arrangements, there will undoubtedly be situations where the employee is working without the employer’s knowledge, e.g., because the employer is sleeping,” Mulherin said. “Thus, it is critical that employers require their employees to accurately self-report all actual work hours.”

The Labor Department Home Care web portal has employer resources and a page for workers to download a work calendar or link to a Smartphone app to track hours. For more information on the changes, see the Department of Labor Website: Home Health Care and the Companionship Services Exemption Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)  or the Comparison of Current vs. Proposed Companionship Regulations. Or read more about innovative ideas for complying with the changes at Bloomberg BNA.

WORK IN THE SOUTH CONFERENCE

Save the Date: MARCH 6 – MARCH 7, 2015

“WORK IN THE SOUTH: Dixie Cotton, American Steel, and a Hurricane Named Katrina, the Reinvention of Bondage”

The Workplace Justice Project (WJP), in cooperation with the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center and the Loyola Journal of Public Interest Law (JPIL), is presenting a conference on Low-Wage Workers in the South, March 6-7, 2015 on the campus of Loyola College of Law in uptown New Orleans. Join us to address the challenges faced by low-wage workers in the South, and those who advocate and organize with them.

Keynote speaker Douglas Blackmon, author of Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to WWII, will set the historical context for the conference as to why workers in the South are more vulnerable than workers in other regions. Southern states have lower densities of unionized workers, provide lower (or no) minimum wage standards, and have resisted regulations on employers. It is not coincidental that the most vulnerable workers in the southern states are predominantly African-American or from immigrant communities, nor that, among those low-wage workers who are not people of color, there is less affinity and affiliation by class than by race, a situation exploited by the power structure.

Day one of the conference will look at mapping the current landscape: who are the workers and what factors make them vulnerable, followed by discussions as to solutions to the most significant challenges that keep these workers in low-wage, exploitative conditions. The second day will be a more hands-on look at how to make systemic changes in the region, beginning with a power analysis and looking at multiple strategies for solutions, including litigation, the usefulness of workers’ centers, and the need for policy changes.

REGISTRATION OPENS DECEMBER 1st, 2014

For RFP information go here.

$10.10 for Louisiana is Fair

“In his 2015 budget presentation to the New Orleans City Council this month, Mayor Mitch Landrieu introduced a minimum wage hike for city employees that would bring them to the $10.10 figure — which, if approved, will add $596,000 to the proposed $537 million budget. Last month Landrieu signed his name to a letter addressed to Congress supporting passage of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, which would set the federal minimum wage at $10.10 an hour. 

“But if it’s good enough for New Orleans city employees, why not the rest of us? Unfortunately, no Louisiana city can make that change because Louisiana law forbids municipal governments from setting their own minimum wage. The New Orleans City Council passed a resolution in January urging Gov. Bobby Jindal and state legislators to raise the minimum wage statewide, but it was largely a symbolic act. This year, then-State Rep. Jared Brossett’s bill to make the state minimum wage $10.10 an hour was rejected in committee, as was another proposal to let local governments set alternative minimum wages.

Poll-Results

“Any change in the state or local minimum wage, therefore, will have to come at the federal level. A $10.10 minimum wage would mean a pay raise for more than 500,000 workers in Louisiana. The Louisiana Budget Project (LBP) estimates a higher minimum wage would pump $689 million into the state’s sluggish economy by giving workers more spending power. Critics of a higher minimum wage say it would discourage employers and lower employment, while the LBP cites the example of Oregon, which lured eager Idaho workers with a minimum wage of nearly $2 per hour more. Both sides can point to statistics, but it’s worth noting that states with no minimum wage laws, like Louisiana, are some of the poorest in the nation — and the most dependent on federal aid.”

Read more in the Gambit here

Holiday shopping season kicks off with temp workers who have no rights

Amazon’s recruitment of 80,000 temporary workers is a symptom of America’s culture of the low-paid seasonal worker. As Americans prepare for holiday shopping, hundreds of thousands of temporary workers around the country are counting on two months of long hours and few rights in warehouses or checkout lines, in what has become the norm for seasonal workers in the country. 

Workers at Amazon have 10-12 hour shifts, which keep them on their feet and walking 5-10 miles a day with two timed 15-minute breaks besides a 30-minute lunch break. While staffing agency advertisements promise “up to $14 an hour”, Amazon pays its workers an average rate of $11 an hour. Workers also have to spend nearly 30 minutes every day queueing for the post-shift security check, in place to ensure no items from Amazon’s inventory have been stolen. Amazon does not pay employees for this time.

Jeff Bezos’ Amazon pays $9 to $14 an hour for services that are a little more strenuous than pictured here. Photograph: Rex Rystedt/Time & Life Pictures/Getty

Jeff Bezos’ Amazon pays $9 to $14 an hour for services that are a little more strenuous than pictured here. Photograph: Rex Rystedt/Time & Life Pictures/Getty

The US has developed an environment where workers can’t expect many protections, says labour economist Mark Price. He says the current situation has been 30 years in the making. The rights of workers are not high priority when the labor market freely offers surplus temps. Seasonal workers are considered dispensable and replaceable. But Price points that the problem may be larger. 

“It’s part of American culture,” concedes Price disappointedly, referring to generations of managers taught to disregard the needs of individual workers, temporary or full-time.

Read more from The Guardian here

Low-Wage Workers Demand $15 Wage in Several Protests

Last Thursday, protestors “took to the streets in New York, Washington and Phoenix to draw attention to their campaign to change labor practices in retailing and other low-wage industries like fast-food restaurants. By not paying their workers a living wage, the activists say, such businesses squeeze the very people they hope to sell to.

“I can’t afford anything,” said LaRanda Jackson, 20, who earns $8.75 an hour working on the sales floor at a Walmart in Cincinnati. “Sometimes I can’t afford soap, toothpaste, tissue. Sometimes I have to go without washing my clothes.”

Fourteen Walmart employees and 12 others were arrested and charged with civil disobedience Thursday. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Fourteen Walmart employees and 12 others were arrested and charged with civil disobedience Thursday. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

“Ms. Jackson was among 14 Walmart employees and 12 others who were arrested and charged with civil disobedience Thursday after staging a protest outside the Manhattan residence of Alice Walton, an heir to the Walmart fortune, demanding that Walmart set a base pay of $15 for all its workers — much like the demands of the fast-growing movement of fast-food workers.” Read more by Hiroko Tabuchi and Steven Greenhouse of the NY Times here.

Tipped subminimum wage leads to more sexual harassment

“Workers who rely on tips to make a living experience twice as much sexual harassment as those earning minimum wage. Laws that allow employers to pay tipped workers below the minimum wage lead to increased sexual harassment in the workplace, according to a new report, which shows that female restaurant workers who virtually live off tips are in a ‘uniquely vulnerable position.’

Help Wanted: Sexual Harassment and the Restaurant Industry

Help Wanted: Sexual Harassment and the Restaurant Industry 

Glass floor, a term coined by ROC (Restaurant Opportunities Commission), refers to a system that exacerbates the already poor job security of low-wage workers by layering on a sexualized atmosphere. If workers feel expendable at their workplace, they are more likely to ignore sexual harassment, the report said. Researchers found that tipped workers in states where subminimum wage is permissible are three times as likely to be told to wear sexier or more revealing clothing than those where such payment practices are barred. The United States is the only industrialized democracy that has a two-tiered minimum wage.” Read more here.  

Jimmy John’s asks low-wage workers to sign non-compete clauses

Jimmy John’s employment agreement includes a surprisingly strict “non-competition” clause that requires workers not to work at one of the sandwich chain’s competitors for a period of two years following employment at Jimmy John’s — But the company’s definition of a “competitor” encompasses any business that’s near a Jimmy John’s location and that derives a mere 10 percent of its revenue from sandwiches. 

If you're considering working at a Jimmy John's sandwich shop, you may want to read the fine print on your job application.

If you’re considering working at a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop, you may want to read the fine print on your job application.

The noncompete agreement is now part of a proposed class-action lawsuit filed this summer against Jimmy John’s by workers accusing the company of wage theft by forcing employees to work off the clock. Read more about the case here

Wage Theft Costing Low-Income Workers Billions

“Nearly $1 billion was recovered in 2012 by lawyers or regulatory agencies acting on behalf of workers who were paid below minimum wage, not paid for overtime or other wage and hour violations, according to a first-time analysis conducted by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. And the problem is growing, EPI analysts say.

$15

Even with these efforts by lawmakers and labor groups, “I think wage theft is increasing,” said Ross Eisenbrey, vice president at EPI and one of the authors of the new study. “There really is not much state local or federal enforcement going on, particularly in the low-wage industries where you’re not going to get attorneys to bring those cases.”

“The money recovered is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Tsedeye Gebreselassie, a senior staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project. The EPI report says if the 2009 study were extrapolated to the entire country’s low-wage labor market, wage theft could cost workers more than $50 billion every year.

Read more from NBC News here