Need Good News? We Have Some From Maine and Arizona – TOM PHILPOTT NOV. 9, 2016 7:31 PM

Tipped workers in Maine and Flagstaff, Arizona, will no longer be forced to work for poverty wages.

If you’re looking for something to savor after Tuesday’s bitter tidings, try this: Voters in Maine and Flagstaff, Arizona opted to eliminate the lower wage for tipped workers.

As Maddie Oatman explained in an excellent piece a few months back:

The federal minimum wage is a paltry $7.25 an hour, but in 18 states servers, bussers, and hosts are paid just $2.13—less than the price of a Big Mac. This is known as the federal “tipped minimum wage” because, in theory, these food workers will make up the difference in tips. Twenty-five states and DC have their own slightly higher tipped minimums. The remaining seven, including California, guarantee the full state minimum wage to all workers.

Oatman shows how the practice of forcing workers to rely on tips in lieu of wages is rooted in post-Civil War racism, and continues today to condemn millions of workers, the great bulk of them women, to sub-living wages. Here’s the tipped-minimum wage map Maddie came up with for her piece. Note that both before Tuesday, Maine and Arizona fell in the category of states that pay tipped workers more than the $2.13 hourly minimum but less than the minimum for regular workers, $7.25.

*Some of the wages shown in the above map are only for large employers. 

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Meet One Of The First Home Care Workers In The Country To Win A $15 Minimum Wage – BY BRYCE COVERT POSTED ON JUNE 29, 2015 AT 4:03 PM



Kindalay Cummings-Akers has been working as a personal care attendant, caring for the elderly and disabled in their homes, for nearly a decade. But she will soon be making $15 an hour for the first time ever after she and her union, 1199SEIU, reached an agreement with Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) at the end of last week.

“I’m so excited, I am,” she told ThinkProgress with joy filling her voice. “I’m happy that we have opened the door. It’s a big thing.”

Home care workers have long been poorly paid, thanks in part to the fact that they are excluded from federal minimum wage and overtime requirements. They make just $9.61 on average, while a quarter live in poverty and three in five rely on public benefits.

Cummings-Akers’s wages and those of her fellow attendants had stayed stuck at $10.84 an hour for years before a contract last year brought them up to $13.38. But after she and other home care workers joined up with the Fight for $15 movement, those in her union have become the first home care workers in the country to win such a wage level.

Despite the low pay, home care aides do tough work. For her client and his wife, who has dementia, Cummings-Akers gives them showers, lifts them and their wheelchairs, gives them medication, makes them meals, takes them to doctor’s appointments and talks with the doctors, does the grocery shopping, cleans their clothes, and even helps care for their cat. “It’s a lot of work, it truly is a lot of work,” she said. “When you do work like this, you have to be a very strong person.”


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Report: Fast food industry could survive $15 minimum wage – by Ned Resnikoff- January 23, 2015 12:39PM ET

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Congress could more than double the federal minimum wage without doing serious harm to the fast food industry, according to a report from economists at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. In a hypothetical scenario where the minimum wage gradually rose from $7.25 per hour to $15, the authors of the report found that fast food companies would be able to “fully absorb” the increase without limiting its profit margin.

The industry could absorb increased labor costs, the report contends, by reducing turnover and slightly increasing prices. Reducing turnover would theoretically increase the productivity of the employees, therefore reducing the increase in labor costs.

“In terms of policy implications, our results offer a straightforward conclusion,” the report says. “Achieving a $15 federal minimum wage within the U.S., phased in over four years, should be seen as a realistic prospect.”

The $15 figure was not selected at random: It is the wage floor that protesting fast food workers have been demanding for more than two years, as part of a nationwide campaign backed by the labor union SEIU. Thanks, in part, to labor movement pressure, Seattle and San Francisco have both approved $15 minimum wage increases in the past year. Various other cities and states have also raised their wage floors by lesser amounts.

Industry groups such as the International Franchise Association (IFA) have denounced the demands for a $15 wage floor as irresponsible.

“Mandating wages would lead to higher prices for consumers, lower foot traffic and sales for franchise owners, and ultimately, lost jobs and opportunities for employees to become managers or franchise owners,” said IFA President and CEO Steve Caldeira in August. “The franchise industry is a proven job creator and career builder, yet efforts to double the minimum wage to $15 would clearly jeopardize opportunities for existing and prospective employees.”

In some other parts of the world, the fast food industry pays its lowest-wage employees considerably more. Burger King and McDonald’s employees in Denmark, for example, tend to earn at least $20 per hour. In Australia, the standard minimum wage is AU $16.87, or $13.39 in U.S. currency.

Shifting Stance, Some GOP Candidates Back State Minimum Wage Hikes – by MARA LIASSON September 24, 2014 5:01 PM ET


Here’s another entry in the strange bedfellows political show, 2014 edition: As Election Day gets closer, some Republicans in battleground races seem to be moving to the center on a number of issues. Their latest sea change is the minimum wage.

Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner says under certain conditions, he would support a higher minimum wage in his state.

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Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner says under certain conditions, he would support a higher minimum wage in his state.

Seth Perlman/AP

Here’s another entry in the strange bedfellows political show, 2014 edition: As Election Day gets closer, some Republicans in battleground races seem to be moving to the center on a number of issues. Their latest sea change is the minimum wage.

Alongside pay equity, infrastructure investment and college affordability, raising the minimum wage is at the center of the Democrats’ election year economic agenda. President Obama has given numerous speeches on the minimum wage, excoriating Republicans in Congress for blocking a federal minimum wage hike. “Either you’re in favor of raising wages for hardworking Americans, or you’re not,” he said in April.

He makes it sound so simple — but this is politics.

As free-market conservatives, Republicans are philosophically opposed to raising the minimum wage. But a handful of Republican candidates in tight races have come out in favor of raising the minimum wage on the state level.

Bruce Rauner, running for governor of Illinois, has said in the past that he believed the minimum wage could be lowered, or even eliminated. But now, Rauner says, if Illinois passed tort reform and tax reform, he would support raising the state wage. He’s also come out in favor of raising the federal minimum wage.

Why the change? Illinois is one of five states this year that has a minimum wage hike on the state ballot. These propositions are hugely popular and usually pass with 60 or even 70 percent of the vote.

In Arkansas and Alaska, where there are also minimum wage referendums on the ballot, Republican Senate candidates Tom Cotton and Dan Sullivan say they’ll vote for them. In Sullivan’s case, he was previously opposed to the ballot proposition, but then, his spokesman said, “he had a chance to read the initiative.”

Democrats are crying foul. They were hoping to use the referendums to get more of their supporters to the polls. If there’s no difference between the Republican and Democratic candidates on this issue, that might be harder.

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Who Are America’s Minimum Wage Workers? – By Katherine Peralta Sept. 8, 2014 | 5:46 p.m. EDT US News

Pew research shows they’re most likely to be white, young and Southern.

Fast-food and home care workers demonstrated in 150 U.S. cities last week, calling for a union and $15-an-hour pay. Los Angeles recently joined the ranks of cities like Seattle and San Francisco in proposing incremental increases to its minimum wage – to $13.25 by 2017, well above the current federal level of $7.25, which it’s been since 2009.

Currently 23 states and the District of Columbia have minimum wages higher than the federal rate, and President Barack Obama and Democrats continue to push for a raise to $10.10 an hour, arguing it would increase the earnings for millions, and boost the profits of businesses nationwide. With all of the attention on boosting the minimum wage, the Pew Research Center Monday put out updated data to better understand who and where minimum wage workers are.

Despite the job market’s gloomy reputation, those working at or below the federal minimum wage make up a smaller share of the workforce now than they did in the past. In 2013, they comprised 4.3 percent of the country’s hourly-paid workers, while in 1979 they made up 13.4 percent. But back then they had more purchasing power when wages are adjusted for inflation. Since the wage was last raised in 2009, it has lost about 5.8 percent of its purchasing power, a December Pew report showed.

[READ: At 142,000, August Payrolls Miss Expectations]

Those working at or below the federal minimum wage are mostly young – 50.4 percent are between the ages of 16 to 24 – nearly half are women and 77 percent are white. Sixty-four percent of those working at $7.25 or below are part-time workers.

Those making the federal minimum or less are also far more likely to live in the South. In two of U.S. census designated regions, which include Southern states Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas, 6.3 percent of hourly workers make the federal minimum wage – the highest rate of all nine such regions..

More than half – 55 percent – work in leisure and hospitality, 14 percent work in retail, 8 percent in education and health services, and the rest are scattered among other industries, Pew data showed. The chart below shows the top occupations for minimum wage workers in 2013. The vast majority work in food preparation and serving-related occupations.

“When the minimum wage is as low as it is in the United States, there’s actually hardly any cost to raising it, but people don’t want to believe it,” Paul Krugmen, an economist and professor at Princeton University said in an interview with Business Insider Monday. “If we had a government that wanted to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, you’d be amazed. The adverse consequences would do much less than people imagined.”

7 Companies That Aren’t Waiting For Congress To Raise The Minimum Wage – Posted: 06/26/2014 10:42 am EDT Updated: 06/26/2014 2:59 pm EDT

Ikea workers scored a big victory Thursday when the purveyor of inexpensive Scandinavian furniture announced it’s raising its minimum wage at all U.S. stores starting next year. The average base pay for an Ikea employee will increase to $10.76 an hour, the company said.

The announcement comes at a time when businesses large and small are rethinking what they pay their workers. President Barack Obama has proposedraising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, but Republicans in Congress are stalling the measure, arguing that businesses can’t afford the added cost.

So some businesses, like Ikea, are taking matters into their own hands and raising wages without a federal mandate telling them to do so. The move doesn’t just reflect a concern for workers’ quality of life — it’s also a shrewd business tactic that helps retailers attract top talent, an economic analyst told The Huffington Post earlier this week.

Although Ikea’s move appears to be a powerful endorsement of a higher federal minimum wage, Rob Olson, chief financial officer and acting president of Ikea U.S., was quick to distance himself from party politics. “We’re not advocating for a federal or state movement,” Olson told HuffPost. “We’re more focused on our co-workers and doing the right thing for them.”

Here are seven major companies taking that philosophy to heart:

1. Ikea

ikea hacks

Ikea will peg its minimum wage in different stores to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, which estimates the minimum living wage a worker needs to make depending on where he or she lives. IKEA said none of its wages will fall below $9 an hour. The new rates are expected to take effect Jan. 1, 2015.

2. Gap Inc.

california dark money

In February, Gap Inc. announced that it would raise minimum hourly pay for workers across all of its brands to $9 in June 2014, and to $10 an hour in June 2015. The company hit its first milestone this week when the $9 minimum wage took effect.

“With more than 65,000 workers getting an increase in their hourly pay rate [by 2015], we are making a positive impact for our employees,” Gap spokeswoman Paula Conhain said in a statement. “And, it is good for business; it is helping us to attract and retain the best talent in retail, which is a real competitive advantage for us.”

Since the announcement, the company has seen a surge in job applications.

3. Costco


Costco’s starting pay is $11.50 an hour, and the average employee there earns $21 an hour, not including overtime. About 88 percent of Costco workers also benefit from company-sponsored health insurance, David Sherwood, Costco’s director of financial planning and investor relations, told HuffPost last year.

4. In-N-Out Burger


The West Coast burger chain starts its employees off at $10.50 an hour and provides workers paid vacations and 401(k) plans, according to its website.

“We strive to create a working environment that is upbeat, enthusiastic and customer-focused,” a company spokesman said in a statement. “A higher pay structure is helpful in making that happen.”

5. Shake Shack

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This East Coast eatery has a starting salary of $10 an hour in New York and $9.50 an hour elsewhere. The chain also offers health care benefits for full-time employees and a 401(k) matching program.

6. Ben & Jerry’s

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Need another reason to love the makers of Chunky Monkey and Half Baked? An entry-level Ben & Jerry’s worker makes $16.29 an hour, according to company spokesman Sean Greenwood — more than double the current federal minimum wage. “As we as a business prosper, those around us should prosper as well,” Greenwood said in an email.

Ben & Jerry’s even treat their cows better than other companies.

7. Whole Foods

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At Whole Foods, workers earn a minimum starting salary of $10 an hour. The average hourly wage is $18.89, while the average annual salary is $39, 289. A company spokeswoman told HuffPost in an email that the chain’s wages have contributed to a low employee turnover rate of less than 10 percent.

State-level minimum wage increases leave domestic workers behind – by Sheila Bapat June 4, 2014 5:00AM ET

Critics say culture and race are factors in 18 states where home care workers are excluded from wage laws

Valerie Redmond, 65, started her career in Pennsylvania, working in private homes to care for children, seniors and people with disabilities. But she noticed a difference in working conditions and wage protections when she moved to Georgia, one of the 18 states whose minimum-wage laws exclude home care workers, revealing state-by-state cultural and policy variances in the domestic work sector.

“It was a shock to me when I moved from Pennsylvania to Georgia. Every state is different,” she said. “There’s often no recourse for people who do domestic work in Georgia who may be denied their wages or abused.”

While Redmond’s arrangement with her employer — 10 hours of work per week in exchange for a fully paid apartment and utilities — works well for her, she said many other domestic workers’ conditions are pretty bad.

recent report by the National Employment Law Project (NELP) notes that in those 18 states, home care workers are entitled only to the lower federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, while workers in other sectors are entitled to the higher state minimum wage.

As support for minimum-wage hikes at the state and federal levels swells throughout the country, home care workers continue to be excluded from some states’ increases. Delaware, Rhode Island and West Virginia recently raised their minimum wage, but home care workers in those states won’t see any change.

The trend reveals that a federal minimum wage increase, which would trump lower state minimums and raise wages for workers across the board, continues to be important for domestic workers.

“The persistence of state-level exclusion for home care workers means that advocates and policymakers have much more work ahead to not only raise the floor but to bring workers up the floor — and, of course, to safeguard the rights we have won,” said Sarah Leberstein, a staff attorney with the NELP. She added that a federal minimum wage increase could help raise wages for all domestic workers, regardless of where they live, and improve their economic conditions.

In April the U.S. Senate failed to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10. A Democratic wage hike proposal would have phased in the higher wage over two years and would have raised the tipped minimum wage (now $2.13 per hour for servers and other tipped workers).

There is no indication that a federal minimum wage increase will be enacted this year. Activists seeking a federal minimum wage increase say it should be $10.86 in order to keep pace with inflation.

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President Obama Speaks at University of Michigan About Minimum Wage Increase



Obama’s trip to Michigan served as a chance to promote a plan to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10. The President seemed to be in a feisty mood, repeatedly attacking Republicans during his speech at the University of Michigan.

He drew the comparison to the GOP budget as a way to provide a contrast between the Republican and Democratic plans for the economy in an election year. Ryan said his budget would cut $5.1 trillion in government spending over the next 10 years and he claims his plan would balance the U.S. books over that period.

Obama said House Republicans’ new budget proposal and coming attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act “should be familiar because it was their economic plan in the 2012 campaign. It was their economic plan in 2010.”

“It’s like that movie ‘Groundhog Day,'” Obama added, referencing the Bill Murray classic. “Except it’s not funny.”

Obama’s trip to Michigan came one day after the White House announced 7.1 million people had enrolled in insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act. He celebrated that fact, noting it was enough to fill up the “Big House” — the university’s football stadium — 65 times.

He chided Republicans on their opposition to Obamacare, too. He quipped that repealing Obamacare is “their one original idea — because they haven’t tried that 50 times already.”



Gap to Raise Minimum Hourly Pay – By STEVEN GREENHOUSE FEB. 19, 2014

A Gap store in Manhattan. Gap set $9 as the hourly rate for its United States workers this year. Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

In a surprising move, Gap Inc. informed its employees on Wednesday that it would set $9 as the minimum hourly rate for its United States work force this year and then establish a minimum of $10 next year.

Gap said this move would ultimately raise pay for 65,000 of its 90,000 American employees, including those at Banana Republic, Old Navy and other stores.

Gap is making this move as many states consider raising their minimum wage, and as Republicans and Democrats debate a bill that includes a proposed increase in the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2016.

President Obama has endorsed the increase, and has campaigned for it at stops around the country.

Both sides in the debate received ammunition on Tuesday when the Congressional Budget Office released a report estimating that an increase to $10.10 an hour would reduce total employment by about 0.3 percent, or 500,000 workers — although the analysis said the losses could range from zero to one million over all.

While Republicans seized on the possible job losses, supporters of the increase pointed to the report’s assessment that such an increase would lift the incomes of more than 16 million people.

A Gap store in Chicago. The retailer said it would raise pay for 65,000 of its 90,000 workers in the United States. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Glenn K. Murphy, Gap’s chief executive, said in a letter to the company’s employees, “To us, this is not a political issue. Our decision to invest in front-line employees will directly support our business, and is one that we expect to deliver a return many times over.”

In a statement released on Wednesday evening, President Obama applauded Gap’s decision, and implored Congress to “make a difference nationwide. Right now, there is a bill in front of both the House and the Senate that would boost America’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, and lift wages for more than 16 million workers — all without requiring a single dollar in new taxes or spending. It’s time to pass that bill and give America a raise.”

Gap did not disclose how it intended to pay for the increases.

In an interview, Mr. Murphy said a “reserve-in-store” program instituted about 18 months ago required a skilled, motivated and loyal sales force to help customers who visited the stores to pick up items reserved online and perhaps persuade them to buy matching apparel or shoes.

He said that after the company invested heavily in technology to create this program, “We’re going to need to assure that we have the best talent in our store.”

“We have very good people today but to attract and retain the best talent we have to make sure we invest in them,” he added.

Gap is based in San Francisco, which has a $10.74 citywide minimum wage. California has enacted a law that establishes a minimum wage of $10 an hour by 2016. With its announcement, Gap will help avoid a checkerboard of different wages in different states in which workers with several years’ experience might be earning $8.50 or $9 an hour and wondering why they earn less than new hires in California who will be earning a minimum of $10 an hour.

In explaining the wage increases, Mr. Murphy told employees: “We work for a company with a strong set of values, which can be directly linked to our founders, Doris and Don Fisher. They invented specialty apparel retail, but Don also challenged us to live up to our promise to ‘do more than sell clothes.’ ”

Gap officials said they were not taking an official position on the proposals to raise the federal minimum wage.

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Charts: Why Fast-Food Workers Are Going on Strike – While top incomes have sizzled, minimum wage has fizzled. No wonder burger flippers want a raise. —By Dave Gilson, Jaeah Lee, Ben Breedlove, and Mikela Clemmons | Wed Dec. 4, 2013 3:00 AM GMT

This Thursday, fast-food workers in more than 100 cities are planning a one-day strike to demand a “livable” wage of $15 an hour. They have a point: The lowest-paid Americans are struggling to keep up with the cost of living—and they have seen none of the gains experienced by the country’s top earners. While average incomes of the top 1 percent grew more than 270 percent since 1960, those of the bottom 90 percent grew 22 percent. And the real value of the minimum wage barely budged, increasing a total of 7 percent over those decades.

More of the numbers behind the strike and the renewed calls to raise the minimum wage:

Median hourly wage for fast-food workers nationwide:

Increase in real median wages for food service workers since 1999:

Last time the federal minimum wage exceeded $8.94/hour (in 2012 dollars):

Change in the real value of the minimum wage since 1968:


Median age of fast-food workers:

Median age of female fast-food workers:

Percentage of fast-food workers who are women:

Percentage of fast-food workers older than 20 who have kids:

Income of someone earning $8.94/hour:

Federal poverty line for a family of three:

Income of someone earning $15/hour:

Income needed for a “secure yet modest” living for a family with two adults and one child…
In the New York City area: $77,378/year
In rural Mississippi: $47,154/year

Growth in average real income of the top 1 percent since 1960:

What the current minimum wage would be if it had grown at the same rate as top incomes:
More than $25


How would you and your family fare on a typical fast-food paycheck? How much does it really take to make ends meet in your city or state? Use this calculator to get a better sense of what fast-food workers are up against.

Sources: The National Employment Law ProjectBureau of Labor Statistics, and Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator. The annual costs of living for adults without children use state-wide averages from MIT’s Living Wage Calculator.