Increasing the wages of retail workers to $25,000 per year would lift roughly 730,000 workers and their families out of poverty, according to the Demos study. It would also increase the purchasing power of retail workers by $4 to $5 billion, boosting overall GDP by between $11.8 and $15.2 billion. And in doing so, it would generate between 100,000 and 132,000 new jobs as a result of this “stimulus” and its multiplier effects, while having only a small effect on prices, the report finds.
Paying retail workers better also offers substantial benefits to the companies that employ them. While this may seem counterintuitive, detailed academic research backs it up. Zeynep Ton of MIT’s Sloan School of Management argues that seeing keeping wages low as the way to achieve low prices and high profits is badly mistaken: “The problem with this very common view is that it assumes that an employee working at a low-cost retailer can’t be any more productive than he or she currently is. It’s mindless work so it doesn’t matter who does it. If that were true, then it really wouldn’t make any sense to pay retail workers any more than the least you can get away with.”Like the leading high-tech and manufacturing companies, the best, most high-performing retail companies benefit from having better paid, more skilled and more engaged workers. In a study published in the Harvard Business Review, Ton finds that the retail companies that invest the most in their lowest paid workers “also have the lowest prices in their industries, solid financial performance, and better customer service than their competitors.”
Thirty-four years ago this week, Congress enacted the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) to remedy a long history of discrimination against pregnant workers and promote equal opportunity. The PDA opened workplace doors, making clear that employers could not fire, fail to hire or otherwise penalize pregnant women just for being pregnant. The law also requires employers to treat pregnant workers as well as other employees “similar in their ability or inability to work.”
Unfortunately, the PDA’s protections have proven limited. All too often, pregnant workers, especially women in low-wage and physically demanding jobs, are pushed out of their jobs and denied minor modifications to workplace duties, rules, or policies that would enable them to continue working and providing for their families. For example, a retail worker in Salina, Kansas was fired because she needed to drink water on the job to stay hydrated and prevent bladder infections. An activity director at a nursing home in Valparaiso, Indiana was terminated because she required help with a few physically strenuous aspects of her job to prevent having another miscarriage. In Landover, Maryland, a delivery truck driver with a lifting restriction was forced out onto unpaid leave after being denied light duty, even though such positions were available for other non-pregnant workers—her case is currently being heard in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Is this legal? In those instances, courts found that it was. Courts have interpreted existing legal protections narrowly, ruling that employers are not obligated to accommodate pregnant workers unless they can point to a similarly situated non-pregnant employee who was treated more favorably. Unfortunately, most pregnant workers have limited knowledge of their employer’s business practices, especially in other offices and locations, and cannot meet this burden.
In addition, because pregnancy is not a “per se” disability pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), courts have found that pregnant workers are not entitled to accommodations that are readily available to workers with disabilities. Although the 2008 Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) now obligates employers to accommodate a broader range of temporary disabilities, pregnant workers still must prove they have a pregnancy-related disability to qualify for coverage; healthy pregnancies are left out.
Work Connects Us All (:30) (by AFLCIONow)
Amid all the handwringing about what technology companies can do to recruit and retain women in their ranks, we don’t hear a lot of solutions. But here’s an obvious thing that tech companies can do: increase the length of maternity leave and pay a full salary for its duration.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
There are too many good grafs in the post linked above to pull just one. I hope that if you think the Occupy Wall Street movement is a joke, or just the rumblings of a lazy band of social misfits, you will take a few minutes to read Taibbi’s piece. I don’t always agree with him, but here I think he’s spot-on, and he focuses on specific acts of corporate misfeasance that have not gotten proper attention in the news.
So, since you didn’t ask, here is my contribution as a member of the 99%:
I believe in capitalism, in the benefits of hard work and the benefits and uncertainties of taking big risks. But capitalism where the capitalists keep their hand on the scale; where capitalists risk big, get bailed out, and continue to preside over the decimation of the middle class isn’t capitalism: it’s corporate socialism.
My husband and I work a combined 100+ hours per week most weeks. We have taken 2 brief vacations in the seven years we’ve been married. I have paid off my undergrad student loans, and I didn’t get a dime in federal loans for law school. In spite of my significant private loan debt burden, I work as a lawyer in the public interest, in which capacity I don’t make as much as my private counterparts but I feel a great sense of personal satisfaction; and in which capacity I encounter the crippling effects of educational and social inequities every day. We live in a house that is worth 2/3 the face value of the mortgage (though we’ve made payments equal to 1/2 the face value of that mortgage over the life of the loan), thanks to the devastating effects of real estate speculation and unsound mortgage practices at every big bank in America over the last 10 or so years. We have watched our small retirement accounts be decimated since 2007, even as we continue to contribute because we don’t know what else to do. We have never missed a mortgage payment, and we don’t intend to, despite the fact that in today’s dollars we make less than we did four years ago. In spite of these challenges, we still manage to be active participants in our community, donating our time to arts organizations and to public school children. Because that’s how we were raised.
I support the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Not because I want the government to subsidize my wealth the way it does the banks’. Not because I begrudge wealthy people the enjoyment of the fruits of hard work. Not because I am a utopian naïf who believes we can live in a world full of only winners with no losers. I support it because I believe that if you enjoy the rights of corporate personhood, you owe the responsibilities attendant to that personhood. As I grew up understanding it, the central premise of capitalism is that corporations (or partnerships or individuals, really any market participants) are amoral actors, driven by market forces to achieve success through efficiency and innovation. Well, that’s fine, until you say, “Corporations are people, too, my friend.” You can’t have it both ways. You can have soulless pursuit of profit or you can have personal accountability, just like I do. Meaning, if you don’t pay your bills, you lose your stuff, just like I would. If you cheat or steal from people, you go to jail, just like I would. One set of rules for every PERSON. If, on the other hand, you want to go about your business as an amoral actor, that’s fine, but you can’t expect the same free speech and other rights I enjoy as an accountable, real person; you can’t expect to enjoy the benefits of American citizenship while being organized under the laws of some Carribean tax haven.
Now, look. There plenty of middle class folks who don’t support OWS because they don’t believe (or at least they think they don’t) in wealth redistribution. Well, I do. I accept that the redistribution of wealth means that sometimes those who receive the benefits of my hard work may fritter away or misuse those benefits. God knows, I came of age in the 1980s when every time you turned around there was another politician squawking about welfare mothers or some such shibboleth of allegedly endemic socialist graft. And that squawking had the ring of truth because it was rooted in anecdotal, if not systemic evidence. But you know what? I’m willing to risk a little individual misuse of my tax dollars by people who have less than me, because the benefits to the many outweigh the misdeeds of the small few. Where I live, poverty and racial and educational inequality are still alive and well. If a few of the hours I work every week go to programs designed to attack those problems, I’m happy to put in those hours. (And I’ll still be happy to volunteer my non-work time, too, as I do on a regular basis.) Does that mean I will mindlessly support any program with a name that conjures social action? No. But I am happy to support those that innovate to improve the lives of individual people, one person, one community at a time. Whether that’s in the form of government subsidies to non-profits or government programs that replicate the successes of non-profits; whether that’s in the form of government subsidies to schools that serve the public interest (and education, pure education, is the essence of the public interest) or subsidies to individual students who demonstrate need and/or ability; whether that’s in the form of aid to artists and arts groups or in the form of subsidized public art; whether that is in the form of aid to small businesses willing to hire local workers or in civilian corps-style programs; I am happy to work a few hours a week to make government and communities work better for everyone.
But what I am not happy to do is work extra hours every week to support failed businesses whose only successes seem to lie in preying on individual failure and political power to “make” money. I don’t accept that my tax dollars should be redistributed to entities who don’t need my money and yet still manage to waste (ahem, I think they prefer the term “invest”) it on risky investments, shadowy off-book frauds, and political influence. What I don’t accept is that I should work extra hours in every week to pay for bankers and equity companies and hedge fund managers to make wagers that would make a horse-betting junkie blush. What I don’t accept is that my voice should be drowned out in the political process by their dollars (which is to say, my tax dollars) arguing for policies and perks that benefit fewer than 1% of the population. Sure, if their innovations and efficiencies were helping America back on its feet, I might reconsider, but everyone knows that isn’t what is happening. We all know that the large financial institutions are sucking the American treasury dry and doing nothing to aid the people—the tax base—that makes their greedy feeding possible. Even if you don’t support OWS, you have to recognize that this is an untenable arrangement that has to be re-aligned. There simply is not enough money or energy being reinvested in actual goods and services in this country to sustain such supports.
We subsidize every significant activity of multinational corporate finance in this country. Aren’t we owed at least a modicum of accountability in exchange? Aren’t we at least owed the same amplification of our concerns? This is what OWS asks. This is what I’m asking.
In today’s ever-increasingly cutthroat work environment, a common notion among employees and bosses alike tends to be, “he who works latest works best.” And while it seems that the 40-hour work week has been largely dispensed with in our hardworking culture, new studies show that working more very seldom produces better results. Employees work many more hours now than they have in the past, but it’s coming at the expense of health, happiness, and even productivity. While it looks good to be the first to arrive and the last to leave work each day, it turns out that putting in 60 hours of work each week may do more harm than good in achieving end results. This infographic examines some of the lesser-known statistics regarding overtime work and its effects, and through it one thing becomes extremely clear: To boost productivity and foster excellent employees, the best thing businesses can do is to bring back the 40-hour work week.
Frankly, I think we should be pushing for 32 hour work weeks. Let more folks be employed and everyone enjoy a bit more time actually living.
There’s no wrong way to celebrate American exceptionalism, but this might not be the best candidate for cheering this July 4th Week: The United States is practically the only developed country in the world that doesn’t require companies to give their workers time off. In Germany, workers are guaranteed a month. In the UK, they’re guaranteed more than five weeks of paid vacation. In the U.S., unique in its class, there is no such guarantee.
Read more. [Image: Rebecca Ray, John Schmitt/ETUI]
SOLITUDE is out of fashion. Our companies, our schools and our culture are in thrall to an idea I call the New Groupthink, which holds that creativity and achievement come from an oddly gregarious place. Most of us now work in teams, in offices without walls, for managers who prize people skills above all. Lone geniuses are out. Collaboration is in.
But there’s a problem with this view. Research strongly suggests that people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption. And the most spectacularly creative people in many fields are often introverted, according to studies by the psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist. They’re extroverted enough to exchange and advance ideas, but see themselves as independent and individualistic. They’re not joiners by nature.
Afghanistan 90 days Algeria 14 weeks Angola 90 days Argentina 90 days Australia 0 weeks Austria 16 weeks Bahamas, The 8 weeks Bahrain 45 days Bangladesh 12 weeks Barbados 12 weeks Belarus 126 days Belgium 15 weeks Belize 12 weeks Benin 14 weeks Bolivia 60 days Botswana 12 weeks Brazil 120 days Bulgaria 120-180 days Burkina Faso 14 weeks Burma 12 weeks Burundi 12 weeks Cambodia 90 days Cameroon 14 weeks Canada 55% up to $413/week for 50 weeks (15 weeks maternity + 35 weeks parental leave shared with father) Central African Republic 14 weeks Chad 14 weeks Chile 18 weeks China 90 days Colombia 12 weeks Comoros 14 weeks Congo, Democratic Republic of the 14 weeks Costa Rica 4 months Cuba 18 weeks Cyprus 16 weeks Côte d’Ivoire 14 weeks Denmark 18 weeks Djibouti 14 weeks Dominica 12 weeks Dominican Republic 12 weeks Ecuador 12 weeks Egypt 50 days El Salvador 12 weeks Equatorial Guinea 12 weeks Estonia 455 calendar days (100%) Ethiopia 90 days Fiji 84 days Finland 105 days France 16 weeks (100%) rising to 26 weeks (100%) for third child Gabon 14 weeks Gambia, The 12 weeks Germany 14 weeks (100%) 6 before birth Ghana 12 weeks Greece 16 weeks Grenada 3 months Guatemala 12 weeks Guinea 14 weeks Guinea-Bissau 60 days Guyana 13 weeks Haiti 12 weeks Honduras 10 weeks Hungary 24 weeks Iceland 90 days 80% up to a ceiling of Íkr480,000 (€5,300, $6,700) monthly (minimum monthly payment Íkr 91,200 (€1000, $1,275) + 90 days to be shared between the parents India 135 days (Central Government) 90 days or 12 weeks in State Governments Indonesia 3 months Iran 90 days Iraq 62 days Ireland 22 weeks (26 weeks from March 2007) Israel 12 weeks Italy 22 weeks (5 months) (80%) 2 before birth Jamaica 12 weeks Japan 14 weeks Jordan 10 weeks Kenya 2 months Korea, South 60 days Kuwait 70 days Laos 90 days Lebanon 40 days Libya 50 days Liechtenstein 8 weeks Luxembourg 16 weeks Madagascar 14 weeks Malaysia 60 days Mali 14 weeks Malta 13 weeks Mauritania 14 weeks Mauritius 12 weeks Mexico 12 weeks Mongolia 101 days Morocco 12 weeks Mozambique 60 days Namibia 12 weeks Nepal 52 days Netherlands 16 weeks New Zealand 14 weeks Nicaragua 12 weeks Niger 14 weeks Nigeria 12 weeks Norway 54 weeks (12.5 months) (80%) or 44 weeks (10 months) (100%) - mother must take at least 3 weeks immediately before birth and 6 weeks immediately after birth, father must take at least 6 weeks - the rest can be shared between mother and father. Pakistan 12 weeks Panama 14 weeks Paraguay 12 weeks Peru 90 days Philippines 60 days Poland 16-18 weeks Portugal 120 days Qatar 40-60 days Romania 112 days Russia 140 days Rwanda 12 weeks Saint Lucia 13 weeks Saudi Arabia 10 weeks Senegal 14 weeks Seychelles 14 weeks Singapore 12 weeks Solomon Islands 12 weeks Somalia 14 weeks South Africa 12 weeks Spain 16 weeks Sri Lanka 12 weeks Sudan 8 weeks Sweden 480 days (16 months) (80% up to a ceiling the first 390 days, 90 days at flat rate) - shared with father (minimum 60 days) Switzerland 16 weeks (100%), 8 weeks mandatory Syria 75 days Tanzania 12 weeks Thailand 90 days Togo 14 weeks Tunisia 30 days Turkey 12 weeks Uganda 4 weeks Ukraine 126 days United Arab Emirates 45 days United Kingdom 6 weeks (90%) 20 weeks at a fixed amount (as of March 2006 = £108.85) United States 0 weeks Uruguay 12 weeks Venezuela 18 weeks Vietnam 4-6 months Yemen 60 days Zambia 12 weeks Zimbabwe 90 days
The US and Australia with the outstanding 0 days or weeks of mandated paid maternity leave.
The United States is a low-wage country. (Here a chorus of Republicans pipes up: Yes, but it’s the greatest low-wage country in the world, and don’t you forget it!) In fact, in 2009 the United States led developed nations, with 24.8 percent of workers earning less than two-thirds of the median income. By comparison, the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland and Germany all came in at between 20 and 21 percent of workers earning less than two-thirds of their respective median incomes. (Republicans: We’re number one!!!)
John Schmitt of the Center for Economic and Policy Research offers a set of policy conclusions stemming from this observation. A key problem is that the United States has set its minimum wage too low, so that the minimum wage doesn’t exert upward pressure on low wages defined in relation to the median: “In France in the mid-2000s, for example, the minimum wage was set near the country’s low-wage threshold and that country had among the lowest levels of low-wage work in the OECD.” In the United States, though, that’s not the case even in states with minimum wages set well above the federal level.
The growing prevalence of low-wage work in the United States contributes to income inequality from the bottom, just as the increasing wealth of the top 1 percent, and especially the top 0.1 percent, adds to inequality from the top. The middle is a shrinking place, and you can bet that, without a major shift of economic and political direction, its future is not only to shrink but to be squeezed downward.source
Just this week, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed into law the first bill in the nation prohibiting employers from requiring or requesting employees or job applicants to disclose their user names or passwords or any other means of accessing personal internet sites as a condition of employment.