On the picket line

Low-wage workers in six states get raises

While the federal minimum wage is stuck at $7.25 an hour, some low-paid workers in six states will get raises this year. The state of Washington’s minimum wage, highest at $9 an hour, rose to $9.32 in 2014, since it is tied to inflation. Other states are catching up. As of Dec. 31, the minimum wage in New York state rose to $8, with an increase to $8.75 at the end of the year and $9 by the end of 2015; the lower minimum wage for workers who receive tips also increased. In Rhode Island, the minimum wage went from $7.75 to $8 on Jan. 1. Also on that day, Connecticut’s minimum wage rose from $8.25 to $8.70, with a raise to $9 set for Jan. 1 of next year. California’s minimum wage will go from $8 to $9 in mid-2014 and then to $10 by 2016. After Gov. Chris Christie’s veto, New Jersey voters passed a minimum wage increase to $8.25, which is tied to inflation.

Washington, D.C., and two adjoining Maryland counties are raising the minimum wage there to $11.50 an hour. That means that this area, with a significant population larger than that of 15 states, will have a minimum wage higher than any state. It’s predicted that D.C. organizations will put a referendum on the 2014 ballot to raise the minimum to $12.50. Ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage in Alaska, Idaho and South Dakota are pending, with legislatures in Delaware, Massachusetts and Minnesota considering raises. (dailykos.com, Dec. 29) Meanwhile, a judge ruled on Dec. 27 that an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour in SeaTac, Wash., would not apply to low-wage workers at Sea-Tac Airport. To aid the workers’ appeal of the ruling, sign their petition at airportworkersunited.org. Stay tuned.

Report reveals bank tellers
are low-wage workers

Here’s another way that banks are raking in millions: They’re paying their tellers and customer service representatives, who are predominantly women, wages so low that these workers have to depend on public assistance to survive. According to a report by the Labor Research and Education Center at the University of California, Berkeley, $899 million in tax dollars provides yearly public-aid benefits, with $534 million for Medicaid and medical insurance for children, $250 million in tax credits and more than $100 million for food stamps. Essentially, these tax funds are subsidizing the banks, who are paying less in wages than is needed for workers to survive. In the nation’s financial center, New York state, the Committee for Better Banks reports that about 40 percent of tellers collect some form of public aid, to the tune of $112 million annually.

Pay inequality is glaring in the wealthiest, most powerful industry in the world. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual income for a bank teller is $24,100, or $11.59 an hour, while the median salary of a chief executive officer is $552,000. In fact, Wells Fargo’s John Stumpf was the highest paid banking CEO at $22.9 million in 2012, with the bank reporting $12.4 billion in profits. Meanwhile, the average Wells Fargo bank teller made less than $11 an hour, or approximately $22,600 a year. So it’s not just fast-food, retail and airport workers who are terribly exploited in low-wage jobs. They’re joined by workers on banks’ bottom rung. (thestreet.com, Jan. 8)

Women win in union jobs

We knew it all along, but the study entitled “Working Women and Unions” issued December 2013 by the Center for Economic and Policy Research confirms that women need union jobs. “Even after controlling for factors such as age, race, industry, educational attainment and state of residence, the data show a substantial boost in pay and benefits for female workers in unions relative to their nonunion counterparts. The effect is particularly strong for women with lower levels of formal education.” Statistics show that women in unions on average earn 12.9 percent more than their nonunion sisters, and are 36.8 percent more likely to have employer-provided health insurance and 53.4 percent more likely to be covered by employer-provided retirement plans. That means it’s time for women workers to revive an old slogan: If you don’t have a union, fight to get one; if you have one, fight to make it fight.

USPS workers first in holiday deliveries

Even though Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and other right-wingers are trying to privatize the U.S. Postal Service, they can’t refute facts. During the 2013 holiday shipping season, which had 19 percent higher package volume than last year, only USPS postal carriers and mail handlers made sure packages were delivered on time. Meanwhile, UPS and FedEx management failed to arrange on-time deliveries. So much for privatization. Don’t mess with the 238-year-old USPS! (dclabor.org, Jan. 8)