State minimum wage increases helped 4.3 million workers, but federal inaction has left many more behind

News from the Economic Policy Institute shows how many workers are receiving a raise with the new year.

On January 1, 19 states increased their minimum wage, lifting the pay of over 4.3 million workers. This is the largest number of states ever to increase their minimum wages without an increase in the federal minimum wage. In seven of these states (Alaska, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, and South Dakota), the increases …

Source: State minimum wage increases helped 4.3 million workers, but federal inaction has left many more behind

The new overtime rule will benefit working people in every state

The Department of Labor’s new overtime rule significantly increases the number of people who qualify for time-and-a-half pay for any hours they work beyond 40 in a week.

Here is how the new rule will affect workers in Louisiana:

Share of salaried workforce directly benefiting: 24.5%

Number of people directly benefiting:174,000

Share of total salaried workforce covered under new threshold:40.8%

via The new overtime rule will benefit working people in every state.

John Bel Edwards is Louisiana’s new governor. He promises “no business-as-usual.” Good news for LA’s workers.

This morning, John Bel Edwards was sworn in as Louisiana’s 56th governor. While not minimizing the state’s significant fiscal challenges, Gov. Edwards understands that the state’s economy and prosperity cannot improve without improving the lives of its working families.

“In Louisiana, 1 in 4 school-aged children live in poverty. That’s unacceptable and it MUST change.

It’s unacceptable when a parent’s hard work isn’t enough to pay the bills or go to a doctor. I’ve traveled from Algiers to Zwolle and met countless single mothers working for minimum wage behind a cash register at a gas station. Often, it’s one of several jobs they have, and they still battle to make ends meet. The faces are different, but their struggles are the same.

On top of not paying our workers a living wage, women in Louisiana make an average 66 cents on the dollar compared to men. We are the worst state in the union for pay equity. That is unacceptable. Not just for my daughters, but for all women.”

Pledging that “[w]e must make it possible for all Louisiana citizens to be healthy and prosperous,” Gov. Edwards will seek to expand Medicaid to enable many of the state’s working families access to healthcare under the Affordable Care Act. He also called for an increase in wages and for wage equity in the state.

The full text of Gov. Edwards’ speech may be read here.

Mayor Landrieu Signs Living Wage Ordinance for New Orleans City Contract Workers

On August 18, Mayor Mitch Landrieu signed into law a new living wage ordinance for New Orleans’ city contractors and financial assistance recipients.

“If you’re working full-time, you should not be living below the poverty line,” Landrieu said.

The ordinance was sponsored by Councilmember Jared Brossett. It will apply to city contractors with contracts worth at least $25,000 and to companies or organizations that receive more than $100,000 in financial assistance from the city, including subsidies and tax breaks, over a 12-month period. Covered businesses must also provide workers with seven days of paid sick leave annually.

Read more here: http://www.theneworleansadvocate.com/news/13205062-123/landrieu-signs-living-wage-ordinance

The U.S. Once Had Universal Child Care, But Rebuilding It Won’t Be Easy

As reported by NPR, “in urging greatly expanded subsidies during his Tuesday [State of the Union] address, the president referenced a national child care program that was in place during World War II, when his grandmother and other American women were needed in the nation’s factories. The program is not widely known today, but if it seems hard to believe, you can see evidence for yourself on YouTube.”

These days, affordable, quality childcare in the U.S. is hard to find, and yet crucial to the participation of so many parents in the workforce. “This grainy newsreel from Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, Calif., shows smiling toddlers doing puzzles, painting and listening to a woman play music. All this plus lunch and snacks, for 50 cents a day, or about $7.25 adjusted for inflation… The Works Project Administration first ran the day cares. The idea was to employ teachers and to also watch kids so that their unemployed parents could look for jobs. When women replaced deployed soldiers in the domestic workforce during World War II, the government funded a major expansion.” Read more or listen to the original story from NPR here.

Federal Court Strikes Down Rule on Pay for Home-Health Workers

Late Wednesday afternoon, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., struck down a proposed change to the Fair Labor Standards Act that would have required private and state-managed home health care agencies to pay their employees overtime and minimum wage.

Home health attendants and aides, disproportionately African American, female wage earners—neither nurse nor maid, but a combination of both—have historically been singled out for denial of basic labor rights. The DOL issued a new rule in September of 2013, which would have finally included home-care workers under FLSA coverage. The overall rule was set to take effect on Jan. 1 of this year, but the portion struck down Wednesday was put on hold until Jan. 15 pending the court’s decision.

Maria Fernandez, Bernardo Vega

Home health aide Maria Fernandez, right, helps Bernardo Vega, 88, left, make the bed as she performs household chores for Vega and his wife. Fernandez works for United Home Care Services which provides health care and home care services for elderly and disabled adults. Photograph by Lynne Sladky — AP

 

“The affected workers—often known as personal-care aides, home-health aides or certified nursing assistants—typically bathe, dress and feed elderly or disabled patients. A large percentage of them are hired directly by people with disabilities or their families. Others are employed by private companies that provide services. Workers typically are paid with Medicaid funds administered by states.

“Many home-health workers already are paid more than the federal minimum wage—currently $7.25 an hour—but don’t get paid time-and-a-half when they work more than 40 hours a week. Many also have no health-care coverage themselves.”

Read more from Time, Fortune and the Wall Street Journal

Pay Stubs for All

The goal: Paystubs for All Workers.

“Although most workers receive paystubs, as many as 20 million U.S. workers do not receive paystubs that outline how their pay is calculated or what deductions were taken from their wages. 

“There is no federal requirement that employers give workers paystubs. Often, workers who don’t receive paystubs are victims of wage theft, cheated of the pay they legally earned. A Paystubs for All regulation would require employers to provide workers with the information that they are already required to keep and would help deter wage theft. Without paystubs for documentation, workers have difficulty proving wage theft.
 
“Interfaith Worker Justice and many worker advocates around the country are encouraging the U.S. Department of Labor to issue a simple regulation that all workers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act must receive paystubs.” Read more here about what you can do.  

Why struggles for criminal justice and living wage are uniting

“Black Lives Matter” doesn’t just refer to cops killing unarmed teens. Here’s why it’s expanding to mean much more. Black poverty is state violence, too. 

“For the second time in a week, the swelling protests against police brutality and an unequal criminal justice system coincided with planned labor strikes at low-wage employers yesterday, and for the second time, protesters joined forces, combining the struggle for a living wage with the struggle for the right to live free of police violence.

Members of Show Me $15 in North St. Louis (Credit: David Nehrt-Flores)

Members of Show Me $15 in North St. Louis (Credit: David Nehrt-Flores)

“Convenience store workers, airport workers, and home care workers joined the actions calling for $15 an hour and a union, broadening the movement still more, but what really gave Thursday its kick was the connection to the emotions (and tactics) of Ferguson activists and their nationwide supporters. Robinson and his fellow workers staged a “die-in” as part of their day of actions, in a North St. Louis convenience store, their bodies stretched between metal racks of chips and candy, clogging the space in an echo both of historic sit-down strikes (that Walmart workers also evoked two weeks back) and a reminder of the way Brown’s body lay in the street for four and a half hours after he was shot.

“Labor struggles have a long, checkered history with struggles for racial justice and particularly against violence. Black workers’ unions were central to the Civil Rights movement… Their struggle—remember the “I Am a Man” signs carried by the workers in Memphis—was always about more than just wages. It was and is about being seen as humans worthy of respect, respect they would demand if it was not freely given.”

Read more from Salon here

 

 

 

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.