New York Backs $15 Minimum Wage for Fast Food Workers: What Will That Mean in the Long Run?

New York Backs $15 Minimum Wage for Fast Food Workers: What Will That Mean in the Long Run?

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New York is now one step closer to implementing a $15 minimum wage for fast food workers. Andrew Cuomo, officially recommended a $6.25 increase for thousands of fast food workers across the state. If New York State’s labor commissioner approves the proposal, then the minimum wage will reach $15 per hour for New York City fast food workers by the end of 2018 (and by 2021 for the rest of the state). The law would mimic similar minimum wage bills that were recently passed in Seattle and Los Angeles.

Raising the wages of fast food workers by $6.25 over the next three years is a significant change, and economic experts predict that it will have a massive impact on the state’s economy. Restaurant owners are already speculating that they will have to raise prices and cut back staff to survive the shift.

"Are people underpaid? Probably,” New York-area Dunkin Donuts franchise owner Tom Burke told Biz Journals.But is the hotel maid any less deserving of $15 an hour?"

Economic analysts predict that other non-fast food minimum wage employers, like clothing stores, convenience stores, and upscale restaurants, will feel the pressure to raise wages just to compete.

“It would be very attractive for somebody working at the Gap, making around $9 an hour, to look across the street and see Chipotle paying $2 or $3 or $4 more and decide that they would rather work at Chipotle,” Irene Tung, a policy researcher for the National Employment Law Project, told The New York Times.

Seattle has been feeling the effects of the $15 minimum wage since the city passed the law in June 2014. Although the long-term impacts of the new minimum wage are unclear, since the law just went into effect this spring, the unemployment rate has been on a downward trend since the $15 minimum wage was passed. Since January, the unemployment rate has fallen from 4.9 percent to 3.8 percent in June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, echoing the larger nationwide overall employment rate, according to Forbes. However, the weeks leading up to April 1, 2015, the beginning of the implementation period in Seattle, there was a string of restaurant closures, which many attribute to the radical change in employee paychecks. According to NPR, restaurants are cutting back on hours and trimming costs however they can to take on the new expense.

"With the labor pressures that are coming from this $15 eventual minimum-wage increase, we are juggling with razor-sharp daggers," Jeremy Hardy, who owns Seattle’s Coastal Kitchen, told NPR. "And if you don't get it right, it's really going to hurt."

Are we seeing West Coast premonitions of what might happen in New York? It’s too soon to tell. But according to New York City comptroller Scott Stringer, city paychecks overall would increase by $1.3 billion.

A $15 Minimum Wage Would Stop 1.2 Million Households From Going Hungry

September 9, 2016

Supporters of a $15 minimum wage rally in front of a McDonald's in Albany, New York. (AP Photo / Mike Groll)

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For such a wealthy nation, hunger is shockingly widespread in the United States. Food insecurity has risen about a third since the recession, to 14 percent of households nationwide. So why is it so hard for the world’s richest economy to provide poor people with enough money to feed themselves? Now we have some numbers to help explain to lawmakers what to the rest of us has become painfully obvious.

It starts with a number we’ve been hearing a lot lately: $15. The movement for $15 an hour and union rights has transformed the conversation on inequality this election season. And it forms the basis of a new analysis that reveals one answer to the crisis of food insecurity.

According to The Century Foundation, bringing the nationwide hourly base wage to $15 by 2023 would free 1.2 million households from hunger. The households who would achieve food security—the ability to consistently meet basic nutritional needs—mirror the demographics of the low-wage workforce as a whole: about 44 percent, or half a million, would be black and Latino households. Nearly 350,000 would be single-parent households, who suffer disproportionately from hunger.

The wage hike—a measure already enacted in several states and cities—would yield long-term benefits that can’t be directly calculated. Food insecurity and low wages often go together, trapping families in unstable low-paying jobs with little opportunity for advancement, while also dealing with the chaos of navigating the public benefits system or food pantries to secure basic food supplies. The compounding effects of low wages and social deficits, plus other financial burdens like housing and utilities that often get sacrificed when food is scarce, force families into a state of constant distress, making it even harder to hold down a steady job.

A meaningful base wage relieves some of the exhaustion of coping with poverty. A $15 hourly minimum wage would primarily benefit working parents, the study notes, since they “are more likely to make sacrifices to their food intake and dietary choices in order to provide for their children.”

The analysis presents one straightforward way to improve people’s economic well being in the absence of major changes to social safety-net programs. According to William Rodgers III, author of the report, “modest increases in the minimum wage…will lead to parents being healthier, and hence more productive in the workplace.” And when the rest of the family has adequate nutrition, a single mom maybe has some extra juice left over at the end of the day to, say, read to her kids, or plan finances for college. In the long run, Rodgers adds, “healthier kids today means they can learn and study better, and achieve higher levels in school, and thus when they proceed to the workplace, they’ll even be more productive.” So the raise could become an investment in a more productive workforce, which is crucial in an era of heightened economic volatility.

The findings show more than just a linear equation of higher wages-equals-more food raising wages is a direct intervention against what Rodgers projects is an impending “third surge in income inequality.” The coming crisis is fueled by slumping productivity and systemic social disinvestment in “human priorities,” such as nutrition and housing, over the past several years.

One key finding is that the wage hike’s greatest projected impact is in lifting up the slightly better-off side of the food-insecure populace: More than half of the affected families are not the ultra-destitute but generally lower-income, earning over 185 percent of the poverty line (about $37,000 for a typical three-person household). So $15 per hour for a working-poor single mom, for example, would mean the difference between having to go to a pantry for some meals to being finally able to afford groceries month-to-month.

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While basic supports like food stamps can more directly assist the poorest households, Rodgers observes, a labor-market based intervention through raising wages “would be a more efficient way of helping those families that are just falling short of being food secure.”

Higher wages also foster long-term self-sufficiency by offsetting dependence on social supports. Food-stamp eligibility rules are often so rigid, a worker’s benefits might be cut in response to even a modest increase in income, and poor workers end up staying hungry even if they are working more. A really significant rise, say from the current $7.25 federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, would ensure that paid work becomes a more rational option for making ends meet.

The data counters the common argument against raising the minimum wage: that it would harm more than help the poor by disrupting business and “killing jobs.” But the long-term projections show the minimum-wage increase would improve families’ material well-being while promoting broader social benefits. And the impact is widely distributed, with major gains in food security in both higher and lower-income regions (including several Southern and Midwestern states with low state minimum wages that are traditional strongholds of fiscal conservatives).

Better-paying jobs could also affect food consumption in more holistic ways. One of the ironies of the current hunger-afflicted population is that many starving people work in the food industries, including restaurant staffers and farm workers. Some preliminary data analysis, Rodgers says, shows that a higher minimum wage correlates with lower fast-food expenditures. So maybe lifting wages could gradually turn working-class neighborhoods away from Big Macs as a source of either food or jobs, and lead to local food systems with more green grocers and home-cooked meals.

Still, raising the minimum wage won’t fix an irrational welfare infrastructure. Whatever the minimum wage, many will still suffer from long-term joblessness and require sustained social supports. And even at $15 an hour, workers won’t be able to afford decent housing or lift themselves out of near-poverty in many cities with a high cost of living, like New York.

An economy structured on institutionalized inequality afflicts workers at every income level, and a lack of living-wage jobs and fair working conditions leaves all of us starved for equity. Reducing hunger for the most marginalized families is the least that policymakers can do.

The common-sense notion of simply paying people more, so that they don’t go hungry, is “not rocket science,” Rodgers acknowledges. But at least now we have concrete evidence to show what working families intuitively know about the real value of a $15 wage: Every hour’s worth of decent work literally enables a family to survive from one day to the next.

Michelle Chen Twitter Michelle Chen is a contributing writer for The Nation.

New York Backs $15 Minimum Wage for Fast Food Workers: What Will That Mean in the Long Run? - Recipes

As most of you probably know, I operate a chain of fast-casual restaurants in New York City called Kobeyaki, which feature Japanese "rolls, bowls, burgers & buns." We employ 45 people in three locations and more than 80 percent of them are hourly--which puts me right smack in the middle of the current debate over the minimum wage.

That debate is raging in New York, where the governor has publicly committed to raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour as soon as he can. (It's currently $9 per hour in New York the federal minimum is $7.25.) I understand the emotional appeal of such a move, and, like most entrepreneurs, I have no problem paying employees as much as the business can afford. My partners feel the same way. But if $15 per hour becomes our entry-level wage, there will be consequences. We will have to make significant changes to our operations to stay in business. Jobs will be lost.

The reason is simple math. Our restaurants will no longer be viable if labor costs rise above 35 percent of revenue. And no, we can't just jack up prices and pass the additional cost along to customers. There are real limits to what people will pay. We can charge only so much for a shrimp tempura roll or a Kobe beef burger before our customers will start looking at other dining options.

Right now, labor costs in each of our restaurants average about 26 percent of revenue. We're paying the minimum wage for entry-level jobs, such as busboy and dishwasher. Other hourly people get more than that, but none as much as $15 per hour. If the minimum rises, not only will we have to pay more to entry-level people, but everyone above them will have to get a raise as well. You can't pay someone who does food preparation what you pay someone who buses the tables and sweeps the floors.

Don't get me wrong. I would like to be able to pay entry-level people $15 per hour and raise everyone else's wages as well. It's just not feasible. Before the government forces us to do it--as seems likely--we have to take steps to protect both the business and as many jobs as possible.

The first options are to automate and outsource, and we're preparing to do both. Much of the ordering is already automated. We have employees taking and inputting orders right now because human contact is important to building customer relationships. But we'll have to cut back on the number of people doing that job. Customers will have to input their own orders either online or at a console in the restaurant. Nor will we be able to have as many people preparing the food. We prefer to do that ourselves, but we can outsource the work. That will eliminate more jobs and allow us to reduce our labor costs.

I realize that these types of changes will have some negative consequences, both for businesses like mine and for society as a whole. Entry-level, minimum-wage jobs are the first rung on the ladder you have to climb to have a career. In all the businesses I've run, we've recruited people for better-paying, higher-level positions from the entry-level pool. A $15-per-hour wage will put some people on more solid economic ground but at the same time make it harder for thousands of others to find work and get started on a career.

Kobeyaki is not an isolated example. Every business with minimum-wage employees faces the same pressures that we do and will be forced to respond. Those who say raising the minimum wage will have no effect on employment are dreaming.

Andrew Cuomo to Push for $15 Hourly Minimum Wage in New York

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has moved to boost wages for fast-food workers, such as these in New York City.

Josh Dawsey

Erica Orden

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday will propose a $15 hourly minimum wage for all workers, according to people familiar with the matter, which would give the state the highest pay floor of any in the nation.

The push by Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, comes after he moved earlier this year to boost the minimum wage for fast-food workers in the state. The state’s minimum hourly wage across all industries is now $8.75 and is set to increase to $9 at year’s end.

Several U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, have passed measures to raise their minimum wages to $15 an hour, though they won’t reach that level for years. Lawmakers in Oregon and California also are contemplating setting their statewide hourly level as high as $15. The highest current statewide hourly wage is $9.47, in Washington state.

In announcing his effort, Mr. Cuomo will get a high-profile backer: Vice President Joe Biden, who is considering a presidential run and who is set to appear with the governor at the Thursday news conference. The White House has come out in favor of a $12 minimum wage but has said little about $15 an hour.

The Truth About a $15 Federal Minimum Wage

A top-down, one-size-fits-all minimum wage will produce unintended consequences—lost jobs, fewer work hours, and higher consumer costs.

Minimum wage increases, while well-intentioned, won’t reduce poverty.

Removing government barriers to a strong economy allows for real wage growth and job creation.

Talking Points

  1. A $15 federal minimum wage is a misguided attempt to increase incomes. In reality, it would eliminate jobs for workers with the fewest skills and the least amount of experience.
  2. Raising the federal minimum wage ignores regional cost-of-living differences and disproportionately affects states with lower living costs.
  3. Minimum wage increases create winners and losers. The limited number of winners get a higher wage, while the losers end up with fewer hours of work or no job at all.
  4. The first workers to lose their jobs will be individuals with disabilities, workers who lack English proficiency, those with a criminal record, and young individuals with no experience.

A $15 Minimum Wage Will

  • Help:
    • Large corporations like Amazon, who have achieved a $15 minimum wage by automating lower-wage positions and thus would benefit from competitors who cannot afford $15 per hour being driven out of the market.
    • Experienced workers in wealthier neighborhoods where companies can afford to raise prices to cover pay raises.
    • Small businesses, Mom-and-Pop shops, and fast-food restaurants who hire more low-income workers and support local economies.
    • Low-skilled, inexperienced, and marginalized workers (a majority of whom are female) who will be the first to get laid off and will suffer the most from firm closure and losses in new jobs.

    A $15 Minimum Wage Kills Jobs

    • A recent CBO study predicts that if Congress were to raise starting wages to $15, at least 1.3 million and possibly 3.7 million or more jobs could be lost by 2025.
    • A recent UBC study found that an increase of the minimum wage by $1 results in a corresponding 1% decrease in employment over a 10-year interval.
    • The Employment Policies Institute projects that California will lose 400,000 jobs as a result of its recent increase to $15 an hour, with the biggest losses coming in the retail and food industries.

    A $15 Minimum Wage Has Been Tried—and Already Failed

    • Artificially driving up the minimum wage to $15 eliminates jobs that do not create $38,000 worth of value or more per year (the cost of wages, required taxes, and the Obamacare penalty).
      • A $15 minimum wage has exacerbated homelessness in San Francisco, where employers cannot afford to hire homeless people who simply do not provide $15 worth of work.
      • Los Angeles: 3% reduction in overall employment
      • Seattle: 2% reduction in overall employment
      • San Francisco: 1% reduction in overall employment

      A $15 Minimum Wage Disproportionately Hurts Low-Income, Low-Skill Workers and Families

      • Experienced workers benefit from wage increases at the expense of new, unskilled workers, who face higher barriers to entry, limited career advancement, and fewer employment opportunities.
      • After raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, Seattle has faced a sharp decline in rates of entry for new, low-skilled workers and fewer hours for those whose wages increased.
      • By cutting off the opportunities to gain experience, economists have found that the minimum wage reduces individuals’ long-run hours and earnings, with the most adverse effects suffered by black workers.


      A $15 minimum wage would lead to significant job losses and create a “survival-of-the-fittest” labor market, where only more skilled workers come out on top.

      A strong economy with record-low unemployment is the best way to boost incomes and opportunities: Over the past year, the wages of the bottom 10% of workers increased at twice the rate of the top 10% of workers—6.6% vs. 3.3%.

      Moreover, the Earned Income Tax Credit already raises the $7.25 minimum wage to between $10 and $11 per hour and doesn’t push others into poverty through unemployment.

      Cash Cabs

      Still in favor of Savino’s bill is the Independent Drivers Guild, an affiliate of the International Association of Machinists funded by Uber that represents 80,000 New York City ride-hailing drivers.

      In a statement, driver-organizer Tina Raveneau said that members “cannot afford to wait another month, another year, or another legislative session to begin exercising the right to collective bargaining.”

      She added: “While the legislation itself will not immediately gift us all of the changes and improvements we need, the power we will gain from having the right to bargain will give us the opportunity to negotiate for those changes and to win a better life for ourselves and our families.”

      Last week, the head of the group said the vast majority of their drivers want union representation.

      Representatives for Uber and Lyft did not respond to requests for comment.

      Under the draft proposal, the unions that would represent gig workers stand to gain handsomely.

      They would add thousands of new members to their ranks while collecting 10 cents from consumers for every ride and delivery in New York as a “representation fee,” according to the draft proposal reviewed by THE CITY. Those fees would be separate from any membership dues that workers would agree upon.

      The surcharge could mean a windfall for a gig-worker union. With hundreds of thousands of e-hail rides daily in the five boroughs, it’s worth potentially tens of thousands of dollars in income per day from ride-hail drivers in New York City alone.

      Desai said that the surcharge “turns unions into a customer-funded liberal charity instead of a means to build worker power.”

      She added: “This bill needs to be shredded.”

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      You’re Lucky Workers Are Only Asking for $15 an Hour

      I was 16 when I got my first job at a McDonald’s in upstate New York. It was the fall of 2014 I was paid $8 an hour. It was around this time that I started thinking of my purchases in terms of time. A gallon of milk was around $3, slightly less than half an hour of labor. The cost of the average meal at McDonald’s was around $7, meaning that when a customer ordered a large Big Mac meal, they were spending what would take me just under an hour to earn. It would cost about $35 to fill up my car with gas — around four and a half hours of labor.

      In January of 2015, New York state raised the minimum wage from $8 to $8.75, and our general manager responded by cutting every crew member’s hours significantly. The mid-tier managers would say stuff like, “I’m sorry, but because they increased the minimum wage, we can’t afford to give everyone the same hours.”

      For the next week or so, everyone was working so few hours that they were actually making less at the $8.75 hourly rate than they would’ve been making under their full schedule at $8. The lesson from management was clear: Raising the minimum wage was actually bad because businesses would be forced to cut hours.

      So much of what we learn about a minimum wage increase is bullshit.

      After about two weeks or so, however, everyone’s hours went back to normal. The timing of the minimum wage increase just so happened to coincide with a decline in business. As I would later learn, the week or two after the winter holidays was always the slowest part of the year at our store. Busy holiday shoppers were no longer stopping off at McDonald’s to get quick food, and for the beginning of January, people were still attempting to stick by their New Year’s resolutions of eating healthy. Turns out, the cutting of our hours was due to a natural, predictable dip in business.

      Fast forward a year. I was 17, still working at McDonald’s, and the minimum wage has just lifted again from $8.75 to $9. It is, in hindsight, a remarkably tiny improvement, but once again, the general manager responded by cutting hours. The same explanation was given: “Sorry, these new wage increases are really forcing our hand.” And, of course: “It’s basic economics: This is just what happens.” Like last time, everyone’s hours returned to normal after the first two weeks of January. Up until 2019, I came back to this McDonald’s during my summer and winter breaks in college, and every January, the exact same thing happened.

      W hen discussing the possibility of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, it’s important to remember that so much of what we learn about a minimum wage increase is bullshit. When it comes to even the slightest of wage increases, companies will make a big show of how much this is hurting them, and we all just kind of accept it unthinkingly.

      Back in 2018, the Tim Hortons franchise in Canada responded to a mandatory $2 wage increase by reducing employee benefits. Based on the news coverage of the event, you would think they simply had no choice. It was accepted, at face value, that company executives were honest in their claims that the government forced their hands despite the reality that their profit margins were pretty fucking good. They were still turning a profit and were in no actual danger of going bankrupt they just needed people to associate higher wages with a loss of benefits and the threat of losing their jobs altogether.

      This argument against raising the minimum wage is so firmly ingrained in our culture that people don’t even realize it’s a claim that needs to be proven. They think it’s a basic truth. As a result, advocates who have spent years researching the effects of raising the minimum wage will be met with quips like, “Don’t you understand basic math?”

      The assumption is that math is on their side here. The assumption is so firmly ingrained in their minds that they don’t feel like they have to defend it. It just is. Despite the fact that there isn’t actually much evidence to suggest that raising the minimum wage will lead to job loss, this assertion is a basic reality to a lot of conservatives, moderates, and even liberals. When leftists argue in favor of $15 an hour, they are arguing against basic laws of nature. They are arguing for something that would obviously collapse the economy don’t they know that? It’s basic math.

      American society is uniquely designed to enforce the mindset that helping the lower class in any significant way is impossible.

      The reality is that a major minimum wage increase would very likely provide a massive boost to the economy. A major increase in spending money for millions of Americans would lead to a boost in customer spending, which would more than make up for the initial sting of having to pay employees more. It’s been proven, after all, that money given to low-income people and the middle class is distributed back into the economy at a much higher percentage than money given to the rich. With fast-food employees making $15 an hour, that would also give other underpaid professions — like teachers and paramedics — significantly more leverage to advocate for wage increases themselves. The very idea of what constitutes a good wage would shift significantly in workers’ favor.

      W hen opponents of the $15 an hour debate with advocates, there is a frustrating lack of effort put into their talking points. Some may point out that a fast-food worker would then make about as much as a paramedic, as if the obvious takeaway isn’t that we should be paying paramedics more as well. Others may argue that an increased minimum wage will lead to massive inflation, as if the evidence for that isn’t incredibly shaky at best. They will argue that if someone wants to be paid a living wage, that person should just learn a skill and find a real job, ignoring the obvious counterpoint that someone is always going to have to hold those low-paying jobs in order for society to function.

      People expect teenagers to take these low-wage jobs, claiming a high school student doesn’t need a living wage while they’re still financially dependent on parents or extended family. But this logic is inherently flawed. Not only is it absurd to expect teens to fill these service jobs at all hours of the day, but their argument is also based on loaded assumptions that young people don’t need to provide for loved ones or themselves.

      Even if they come from loving families, high school students should be able to meaningfully save up for college or adult life in general. That’s not possible today. I worked for around two years at McDonald’s before going to college, and the money I managed to save up was gone by the end of the first semester.

      I spent a long time blaming myself for being bad with money, but the truth is I was never really a big spender. I was an antisocial person with inexpensive habits. I wasn’t going out to bars every weekend I was staying home and reading books and watching TV. Still, by my second semester, I had to find a part-time job just to get by. It was only in my third year, when I started working as a freelance editor earning around $25 an hour, that I was able to start saving up money in a meaningful way. I had safety nets — if worse came to worst, I could always ask my parents for money — but so many people don’t.

      This is how bad things have gotten: In the 1950s, the minimum wage was supposed to be enough for a person to support their family today the minimum wage is enough for a college student to make it until their next paycheck, not much more. Unfortunately, a lot of people in this country think this is how it should be.

      A merican society is uniquely designed to enforce and accept the mindset that helping the lower class in any significant way is impossible, that even if we tried to help them, it would just backfire and hurt them even more. Everything about this country is designed to stifle class consciousness.

      For instance, we’re one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t include sales taxes in the price of an item. A lot of Americans don’t realize this, but it’s pretty rare in most other countries for customers to have to pay more for an item than what it says on the tag. Usually, the sales tax is taken into account when setting the price so the customer doesn’t need to do the math just to make sure they can afford it. Intentionally or not, this conditions you to hate the idea of taxes even more than you already do. This policy is designed to make you feel the pain of paying taxes in a way you simply wouldn’t if they just gave you the actual price upfront. It’s one of the many things that provokes that instinctual repulsion against an increase of any kind of taxes, even if it’s just relegated to the upper-income bracket.

      We have a media that conditions us to think of billionaires and CEOs as geniuses who have our best interests at heart. Mainstream outlets often assume that a person who is good at running a business also knows what’s best for the economy as a whole. If the CEO of McDonald’s says a minimum wage increase will be bad for the economy, there’s very little question of whether there’s a conflict of interest there. We assume that what’s good for shareholders and what’s good for the economy are the same thing.

      We have a society that’s been taught to hate minimum-wage employees, even while we rely on them for so many of the services that run our lives. Think of the contempt in people’s voices when they call a fast-food employee a burger flipper, the weird mocking tone in which they say the word janitor in the context of the $15 an hour debate.

      We have a culture that encourages people to take pride in working unnaturally long hours. One of the most conservative people I’ve ever met was a manager at my McDonald’s who worked two jobs to support his family, totaling around 80 hours a week. He saw this as a sign of strength. He bragged about how little sleep he got and how many more hours he was working than the rest of us, never appearing to acknowledge the fact that it was insane and inhumane for him to have to do all this just to keep his family fed. In America, people take their systemic exploitation and spin it into a narrative about their personal endurance.

      We also have a government that does not raise the minimum wage gradually alongside inflation. The federal minimum wage has stayed at $7.25 for over 11 years now. The best move for the economy would’ve been to increase this number gradually over the years, as many states like New York and Washington are already doing as well as countless other nations. If Congress moved it up just 50 cents a year, (which they essentially did from 2007 to 2009), we’d be at $12.50 right now without any major shocks to the system. $15 wouldn’t seem so extreme.

      Instead, the federal government handles this issue in the most inefficient manner possible: by waiting until public pressure grows insurmountable. The minimum wage isn’t set to automatically rise along with inflation, let alone with the cost of living. This is by design. The goal is to make a minimum wage increase as noticeable and difficult as possible. It makes every boost feel like a major deal even though the minimum wage is still far, far below what it would be if it had kept up with the cost of living since the ’60s.

      The reality is that if the minimum wage had stayed consistent with productivity and inflation since 1968, America’s lowest earners would be making around $24 an hour by now, an analysis by Jacobin found last year. Fifteen dollars is not asking for a lot. In fact, it’s asking for less than the bare minimum of what we should be providing our workers.

      Because it’s been so long since there’s been a federal minimum wage increase, we’re at the point where raising it gradually is too little too late. It would help slightly, of course, but not enough to meaningfully improve the lives of the millions of workers. For too many minimum wage workers, $15 is necessary now. They can’t afford to wait another 10 years for it to slowly reach that point.

      This has put activists in a tough position because, although the effects will be an overall positive, the act of doubling the minimum wage in such a short period would undoubtedly be a major change to our economy. There undoubtedly will be some unexpected side effects — good and bad — that would be easier to account for if the minimum wage had gone up gradually.

      When the economy doesn’t collapse, when companies start to see the returns come in from the increased consumer spending, when millions of people are unburdened from the constant stress of working for as little as $7.25 an hour, people are going to realize that their understanding of the economy was based on lies the entire time.

      They’ll see the reality that when CEOs say that something will cause them to lose money, what they mean is that it’ll cause them to maybe not make as much. They’ll see the reality that so much of our understanding of what’s good for the economy is really based around what’s good for shareholders, not what’s good for the working class. When this is made clear, it will be easier for advocates to continue pushing for minimum wage increases going forward. Because let’s face it: In reality, $15 an hour isn’t nearly enough.

      19 Major Pros and Cons of Raising Minimum Wage to $15

      The federal minimum wage in the United States is only $7.25 per hour. It hasn’t seen a meaningful boost in this required amount for more than a decade. Although it is still a comparatively high salary minimum when compared to what a majority of the world’s population receives in compensation for their work, it is worth far less today than it was when it was first raised to that level.

      Because of the lack in value of the minimum wage as it currently stands, there is a political and socioeconomic push from both sides of the aisle to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. The highest value for this wage in the U.S. when adjusted for inflation came in 1968 when workers earned $8.68 per hour. Since then, the actual value of these earnings has lost over 10% of its purchasing power.

      Even the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development stated in 2015 through a report in The Economist that the economy of the U.S. should support a minimum wage around $12 per hour. Washington State currently requires that amount to be paid to all workers, while California offers that figure to workers in a company with 26 or more employees. Oregon, New York, Colorado, and Massachusetts all have a minimum wage above $11 per hour as well.

      Washington, D.C. has the highest minimum wage for all territories, states, and districts in the United States, reaching $14 per hour starting on July 1, 2019.

      The pros and cons of raising the minimum wage to $15 take a look at what the impact would be on society in general.

      List of the Pros of Raising the Minimum Wage to $15

      1. A higher minimum wage would put more spending power into the economy.
      Raising the minimum wage accommodates an increase in revenues for each community impacted by the change in legislation. When households spend their money at local businesses, then these dollars have almost double the direct and indirect economic value as they would with money spent at companies operating outside of the area.

      That means the people who need the cash get the chance to meet their basic needs more effectively. As the money is spent, more vendors down the chain of purchasing get to experience these benefits as well.

      2. Workers get to have a wage that maintains its overall value.
      When the federal minimum wage rose to $7.25 per hour in 2009, it was the first time it had risen in total value by over 40% within a decade for more than four decades. Even with the hike in the minimum wage, the actual value of wages earned in that first year of the higher amount was 7.8% lower than what the minimum wage in 1967 was near its peak.

      In 2011, the minimum wage reflected just 37% of what the average worker earned in the United States. Raising the minimum wage to $15 provides every household with an opportunity to keep their finances rising at the pace of inflation at a minimum, which maintains their overall spending power.

      3. Job opportunities improve when the minimum wage goes higher.
      Washington State has led the country in the total minimum wage it offers for most of a decade. The trends that occur with unemployment in the state have followed a similar path as the rest of the country. In June 2018, the rate of unemployment was 4.7%, which was 0.5% higher than California and 0.7% higher than Oregon for comparison. Washington, D.C. with its nation-leading minimum wage had an unemployment rate of 5.6% that same month.

      The jobless rate for the United States at the same time was 4%. That means it is possible to pay someone a significantly higher wage without it significantly impacting jobs. Residents in the state of Washington earned $4.25 per hour more in 2018 than the federal minimum.

      4. Raising the minimum wage can lead to lower employee turnover rates.
      As workers increase their experience, employers find that there is a need to compensate them better. If that does not happen, then the experienced employees look for new employment opportunities are possible with a higher wage. That action forces employers into a costly cycle of turnover and training from which they might never escape.

      With a higher minimum wage that extends to all worker opportunities, there is a real chance to keep experienced workers happy. This outcome can reduce hiring costs and reduce the adverse effects that high employee turnover rates can cause. There would be less movement between jobs because everyone would be earning at a similar rate.

      5. Raising the minimum wage to $15 could improve local tax revenues.
      Assuming that someone is working full-time at $7.25 per hour, then they would receive a total annual salary of just over $15,000. That means they would still need to file a tax return (the minimum threshold for a return was $12,000 in 2018), but their responsibility would be minimal at best. Most people who earn at the minimum wage receive a complete refund of their taxes because of their low income.

      If you were a head of household earning the minimum wage, then you wouldn’t have needed to file a tax return in 2018. By raising the minimum wage to $15, there would be more money available in the economy. People could contribute more to their basic needs, and it would allow them to contribute more to local tax needs as well.

      6. It might reduce the number of people on social assistance programs.
      Many of the employees who earn a minimum wage often depend on social assistance programs to meet their basic needs. These households might also visit their local food bank and other community service opportunities that receive funding through local tax dollars and grants offered by the federal government.

      By raising the minimum wage to $15, the dependence on safety-net programs such as these can see a significant reduction in participation rates. Although the prices of goods and services may rise modestly in conjunction with the increase in wages, the benefits to an individual’s financial well being tend to be better with the improvement than without it.

      7. Fewer families might be living in poverty with an increase to $15 per hour.
      Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 could move almost 1 million families out of poverty in the United States immediately. Although there would likely be individuals who lose their employment in the immediate aftereffect of raising the minimum wage to this level, the “working poor” would no longer be a socioeconomic category.

      We would see an immediate economic benefit with the added wages to local economies, especially in states where $7.25 per hour is still the least amount an employer can pay. Most workers would see real wage increases after an increase in the minimum wage as well. Decreases in real income don’t start for households in a $15 per hour economy until they earn an income which is six times higher than the poverty rate in the United States.

      8. Raising the minimum wage to $15 could reduce the gender wage gap.
      The wage gap between women and men grew by 0.1% in 2017 even though there was an emphasis placed on creating balance in worker wages. A significant problem in gender-based salary has been in place for more than 30 years, but this issue begins to disappear as skills and specialties rise.

      The wage gap between men and women decreased by just 2% from 2008 to 2017. For Hispanic women, the difference in earnings with a white man makes in the same position is even more significant at .54 to the dollar. Instead of creating legislation that mandates the closure of this problem, raising the minimum wage to $15 could boost wage growth more naturally.

      9. A $15 minimum wage would help to re-establish the U.S. middle class.
      The maximum gains for income and wages have been within the top 1% of wage earners in the U.S. economy since 2009. Wage growth for the entire economy rose faster in 2017 than it has in the last decade, but at the same time, the substantive power of those earnings has depreciated since 1980 for households within the middle class.

      By increasing the minimum wage, a fairer distribution of the economy’s wealth would direct toward the most impoverished families first, then move to the middle class, before reaching the wealthy to generate a stronger value proposition.

      10. It would immediately boost consumer spending at all levels.
      The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago reports that a $1 increase to the minimum wage will boost consumer spending in households at that income level by over $2,000. If the data goes to a minimum wage of $15 per hour, then the Economic Policy Institute estimates that a $5,100 increase in annual wage income would occur, providing families with extra resources that could help them to stop living from paycheck to paycheck. That could represent 50% of the annual rent or mortgage expense, 18 months’ worth of groceries, or 40% of the family’s housing expenditures.

      This advantage would strength African-American communities the most, where workers average about $700 weekly in median earnings. Increasing the minimum wage could encourage more business earnings across the country through a diverse set of different ownership efforts.

      List of the Cons of Raising the Minimum Wage to $15

      1. This legislation would not impact a significant majority of the United States.
      Although the federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour, most workers are covered by a higher minimum that is set by their state or local laws. Organized labor groups want to see a nationwide $15 per hour minimum because that would help to set a consistent standard across the country, but it receives little momentum despite the fact that Pew Research found that 52% of Americans support the idea.

      If Congress passed the minimum wage at $15 per hour as a federal minimum, then the impact would be felt across every state as the economies would need to shift to the new expectations – which could be double wages for some states still paying $7.25. That’s why a likely compromise of $12 per hour would be reached, so the impact would be minimal since most states already pay at or near that rate.

      2. Small businesses would bear the brunt of the adverse impacts.
      The cost of labor is one of the most significant expenses small businesses face every day. By raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour at the federal level, each owner would be forced to offer the mandated income and their resources may not support this considerable amount.

      That means some workers will make more because of the mandated pay raise, but others will find themselves out of work because their employer can only support a certain amount for worker earnings in their budget. This disadvantage results in having more employees obtaining unemployment benefits potentially, which places another layer of stress on the local economy.

      3. It would not change the problems with under-employment in the U.S. economy.
      When there is an American family living below the poverty line, only 7% of these households have one person that is working full-time. There are some who cannot find work because of their personal choices, but the issue for many families is one of under-employment.

      When an individual is under-employed, then they are either not working full-time hours in their preferred career or they are in a position for which they are exceptionally over-qualified, like someone with a Ph.D. working as a cashier at Walmart. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated in August 2018 that there were 6.2 million people in positions that were not taking advantage of their full potential. Raising the minimum wage to $15 won’t improve this issue, and it could even make things worse.

      4. There could be adverse changes to the employment market.
      The Congressional Budget Office estimates that roughly 500,000 jobs would be lost when raising the minimum wage to only $10.10 per hour. Increasing the amount to $15 per hour could spark a jobs recession in the United States. This disadvantage would happen because companies might restrict the quantity of new jobs they create when a higher minimum wage is mandated.

      In just 90 days after raising the minimum wage in New York City, over 4,000 full-time restaurant positions were cut from the economy. Other industries might follow suit by creating application screening tools which require all prospects to meet specific educational or vocational requirements before employment instead of after.

      This issue can restrict the number of openings which are available for workers who only have a GED or high school diploma, along with recent college graduates and workers who join the labor force again after an extended absence.

      5. Raising the minimum wage to $15 would raise prices at every economic level.
      Although raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour would generate more personal income, it also promotes higher costs for products or services offered at the local level. This disadvantage causes a scalability problem which can neutralize the influence of the higher salaries. That’s why it may be more useful to place pressure on companies to raise their wages instead of dictating it across society.

      Raising the minimum wage could even increase the overall cost of living for everyone because of this issue, creating a downward economic spiral where an even higher earnings level would be needed to help each household make their ends meet. If Walmart, Costco, or Target voluntarily raise earnings instead, the impact of this issue would still be present, but not to such a significant degree.

      6. Outsourcing and offshoring could become significant job killers.
      Even though a higher minimum wage may be beneficial to the workers who receive it, that standard does not apply to every corner of our planet. Employers can decide to outsource their labor to countries where the costs are much lower. They could also decide to use independent contractors or freelancers to fulfill specific projects instead of hiring full-time employees with benefits.

      Elaine Pofeldt, author of The Million-Dollar, One Person Business, suggests that half of the American workforce could be freelancing by 2027. “The number of U.S. freelancers hit 57.3 million this year [2017], from 53 million in 2014 – an 8.1% increase. That means 36% of the U.S. workforce has freelanced this year,” she notes for Forbes. “Meanwhile, the U.S. workforce grew from 156 million to 160 million in the same timeframe, reflecting just 2.6% growth.”

      7. It could increase the potential problems that come with illegal immigration.
      There are already numerous people traveling to the United States because the availability of better wages creates the potential for a better life. Some go through the legal asylum or immigration application process to achieve this outcome, but many more do not. There were 10.7 million unauthorized immigrants in the country in 2016. Raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour could further increase this issue, potentially taking jobs away from people who need them.

      It could also create a deeper underground economy where worker exploitation occurs as a way to keep goods cheap.

      8. Raising the minimum wage to this extent disregards the experiences of other workers.
      If the minimum wage rises to $15 per hour, then it could create disputes within the workplace. Veteran employees would see entry-level workers suddenly earning as much as they are for the same work. Some managers might even find themselves making the same amount as their direct reports in states where the $7.25 minimum wage is currently in play.

      Organizations discover that they must provide structured raises to each worker above the $15 per hour mark to maintain productivity levels. Someone earning $12 per hour with 10 years’ experience might see a salary of $16 per hour instead. This hidden cost is one of the reasons why businesses start to look at automation for their low-wage positions.

      9. A higher minimum wage might encourage more students to drop out of school.
      If the minimum wage were to increase to $15 per hour, then some students might choose to drop out of school to begin working a job instead. The individuals who would be most at-risk for this choice are those who are either unable to qualify for college or want to work in a post that doesn’t require a post-graduate degree. This disadvantage could flatten the economy’s value over time as those without a GED or high school diploma make up to 40% less in total earnings.

      Verdict on the Pros and Cons of Raising the Minimum Wage to $15

      The most significant concern that critics have of the idea of raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour is that it could cost people jobs. When Alan Kruger and David Card analyzed a 1992 increase to the minimum wage in New Jersey for fast-food workers, comparing the results to neighboring Pennsylvania who didn’t take such an action, the results were surprising. The higher wages created a 13% growth rate in employment opportunities.

      Economist David Neumark co-authored a study in 2017 that examined data from 1980-2015 to show that jurisdictions that raised their minimum wage also saw a rise in job loss due to the influences of automation.

      With decades of research findings to support the idea, the pros and cons of raising the minimum wage to $15 suggest that there would be minimal adverse effects on the local economy. When we compare figures at the state level, the unemployment changes due to the higher earnings are negligible as well. That means if we can plan for the potential disadvantages before implementing the legislation, it might be possible to bring value back to the salaries of the middle class.

      Author Biography
      Keith Miller has over 25 years experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entreprenuer, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.

      Support for Gig Worker Union Bill in New York Collapsing After Scrutiny

      Yves here. Take your hats off to my former Communist home. New York’s citizens beat Amazon’s effort to locate in Queens, which would quickly have rendered a remaining relatively low-rent, close proximity borough much less affordable. And now they are opposing a corporate Trojan horse masquerading as a pro-union measure. Guess its backers thought no one would read the small print. Or that deliveristas might be a force to be reckoned with, and win the support of the building workers union.. Oops.

      By Josefa Velasquez and Claudia Irizarry Aponte. Originally published at THE CITY on May 25, 2021

      A delivery worker takes a break in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, May 24, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

      The fate of a state proposal that would allow some app-based gig workers to join a union is in doubt after key players, including a collective of food delivery workers, came out against the measure Tuesday.

      Los Deliveristas Unidos — a group of mainly immigrant food delivery couriers — and service workers union 32BJ SEIU announced they oppose the effort, which would grant workers some bargaining power but shop short of reclassifying them as employees entitled to full labor rights.

      The delivery group declared itself “opposed to any legislative proposal that is pre-negotiated without delivery workers’ input, and that directly impacts our industry, work conditions, and the well-being of our families,” in a statement released late Tuesday morning.

      Also coming out against the measure: the Transport Workers Union, after initially voicing its support.

      A bill has been drafted and was expected to be introduced later this week by state Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island/Brooklyn).

      Because federal labor law does not allow workers who are not company employees to bargain a traditional union contract, the measure would create an alternative path under which a state labor panel would set rules covering gig workers.

      As part of that arrangement, workers wouldn’t be allowed to publicly protest or walk off the job.

      ‘Erodes Worker Power’

      But the draft bill language shows that the workers would concede certain rights from the get-go. Notably, unions would be forbidden to strike or demonstrate against an employer, under what’s known as a labor peace agreement.

      Another provision would bar local governments from creating a minimum wage for workers or the app industry, as well as forbidding any local taxes, fees or surcharges.

      “This bill isn’t worth it for us, it erodes worker power,” Sergio Ajche, a delivery worker and Los Deliveristas Unidos member, told THE CITY in Spanish.

      “I think it’s silly that these companies would try and sneak this behind our backs when we’re already organized at the grassroots,” he added. “We’re very aware that our organizing — our protests, our marches, our movement — poses a threat to tech companies.”

      Sergio Ajche addresses the crowd of delivery workers at Foley Square on April 21.
      Sergio Ajche addresses the crowd of delivery workers at Foley Square on April 21. Claudia Irizarry Aponte/THE CITY
      The food workers, who call themselves deliveristas, are supported in their organizing by the Workers Justice Project.

      “What a lot of these companies don’t understand is that they may have capital and economic power, but we have people power,” Ajche said.

      Savino told THE CITY via a spokesperson that the proposal represents a “foundational plan for gig workers in the ride sharing and delivery economy,” including the right to organize and bargain, worker’s compensation, and unemployment insurance.

      “No state allows localities to regulate those areas, and New York will not do that now,” Savino said in a statement. “The draft legislation is under discussion, and will continue to evolve with further input from affected individuals and entities until all parties are satisfied. Failing to pass anything means we leave here and leave 200,000 plus workers with nothing. No union, no workers compensation, no unemployment. Nothing. That is not an option.”

      Rolling Back Support

      High-profile support from the Transport Workers Union also melted once the bill’s details emerged, after months of conversations between tech companies and the New York State AFL-CIO.

      TWU President John Samuelsen said Tuesday that his union, an AFL-CIO member, would “stand with the workers” who oppose the measure. Samuelsen had been involved in discussions over the bill in recent weeks, but said he would defer to groups like Los Deliveristas Unidos.

      “If they don’t want this particular bill, we will support them and work with them to craft a bill [that] satisfies the workers,” Samuelsen told THE CITY.

      After learning details of the draft bill late Friday, leadership of Los Deliveristas Unidos huddled over the weekend and again on Monday.

      According to people familiar with the discussions, the workers were particularly concerned that the bill could restrict their ability to protest or walk out of their jobs, which they have already done at least three times in the last year, first last October and most recently in April.

      During an interview with THE CITY on Monday, Samuelsen said that he could not support the draft legislation if workers aren’t able to demonstrate against the companies.

      “If it comes down to it and there’s a stalemate at the bargaining table, workers have to be able to engage in — at least the threat of — collection action in order to move issues,” Samuelsen said.

      His latest remarks represent a shift from the union’s initial support of the concept, which he described to THE CITY last week as an “extremely advanced piece of legislation.”

      The New York State AFL-CIO stopped short of withdrawing its support of the bill. “Our goal has always been to get gig workers rights and protections that they do not currently have,” the organization’s president, Mario Cilento, told THE CITY in a statement.

      “We will continue to work with our affiliates and the app-based workers to try to get this done. If there are other ideas, we are open to them,” he said. “No one ever said this would be easy, but this is all part of the normal legislative process.”

      Representatives from San Francisco-based tech company DoorDash, the dominant food app platform nationally, did not respond to requests for comment.

      In a report to investors earlier this month, the company stated that any requirement to reclassify workers as employees would have an “adverse impact on our business, financial conductions and results of operations.”

      Opponents of the bill argue it would undermine a proposal at the federal level called the PRO — or Protect the Right to Organize — Act, a sweeping reform of national labor law which seeks, among other things, to grant full employment rights to independent contractors nationwide.

      Gaining Power

      The bill took another blow as 32BJ came out in opposition Monday evening.

      “We believe that legislation that addresses gig economy and other misclassified workers should at minimum maintain gains made by workers at the local level, retain existing state protections, and allow localities the power to establish improved standards,” said president Kyle Bragg in a statement. “It should also afford workers a real voice and the ability to truly expand and strengthen their labor rights, benefits, and protections.”

      The building workers’ union — which was instrumental in winning city fast food workers an unprecedented $15 minimum wage six years ago and secured a $19 minimum for workers at Port Authority-run airports by 2023 three years ago — has been aiding the Deliveristas. The union is providing legal and legislative support to the delivery workers as they seek reforms in the City Council and in Albany.

      Last month, City Council members introduced bills after months-long conversations with Los Deliveristas. Among the bills: measures to boost wages, ensure tips get to workers and to fine restaurants and bars that refuse to allow a delivery worker to use the restroom — charging $50 for the first offense and $100 for every subsequent violation.

      In New York City, drivers for Uber, Lyft and other for-hire vehicle platforms secured a guaranteed minimum wage in 2018 and were also granted unemployment benefits, something usually afforded to employees but not independent contractors.

      “The proposal we have examined does not provide for those conditions and jeopardizes critical wins that workers have fought for over the years. What we have seen so far is not good for these workers in particular, or any working New Yorker,” Bragg added.

      Los Deliveristas Unidos protest in Times Square on April 21. Claudia Irizarry Aponte/THE CITY

      The Taxi Workers Alliance, a collective representing taxi and app-based drivers, came out against the bill last week following an initial report in Bloomberg News that talks were in the works.

      After seeing details, alliance executive director Bhairavi Desai reiterated the group’s opposition.

      “The bill reads like Uber’s fantasy novel — they get everything they want: ultimate deregulation, a phony union to give them cover, and workers at their mercy with no labor law or right to strike to build their power,” Desai said in a statement.

      Still in favor of Savino’s bill is the Independent Drivers Guild, an affiliate of the International Association of Machinists funded by Uber that represents 80,000 New York City ride-hailing drivers.

      The surcharge could mean a windfall for a gig-worker union. With hundreds of thousands of e-hail rides daily in the five boroughs, it’s worth potentially tens of thousands of dollars in income per day from ride-hail drivers in New York City alone.

      In a statement, driver-organizer Tina Raveneau said that members “cannot afford to wait another month, another year, or another legislative session to begin exercising the right to collective bargaining.”

      She added: “While the legislation itself will not immediately gift us all of the changes and improvements we need, the power we will gain from having the right to bargain will give us the opportunity to negotiate for those changes and to win a better life for ourselves and our families.”

      Last week, the head of the group said the vast majority of their drivers want union representation.

      Representatives for Uber and Lyft did not respond to requests for comment.

      Under the draft proposal, the unions that would represent gig workers stand to gain handsomely.

      They would add thousands of new members to their ranks while collecting 10 cents from consumers for every ride and delivery in New York as a “representation fee,” according to the draft proposal reviewed by THE CITY. Those fees would be separate from any membership dues that workers would agree upon.

      The surcharge could mean a windfall for a gig-worker union. With hundreds of thousands of e-hail rides daily in the five boroughs, it’s worth potentially tens of thousands of dollars in income per day from ride-hail drivers in New York City alone.

      Desai said that the surcharge “turns unions into a customer-funded liberal charity instead of a means to build worker power.”

      She added: “This bill needs to be shredded.”

      This story was originally published by THE CITY, an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.

      A rare bit of good news, but at the same time it’s kinda sad that I now think of “bad thing being thwarted” as good news.

      A union that can’t strike or even protest and can’t argue for a minimum wage is not really a union now, is it? I kept reading to find out what benefits this supposed union would provide and all I could see in the article was this –

      The surcharge could mean a windfall for a gig-worker union. With hundreds of thousands of e-hail rides daily in the five boroughs, it’s worth potentially tens of thousands of dollars in income per day from ride-hail drivers in New York City alone.

      Except there are tens of thousands of ride-hail drivers in these large metropolitan areas, so that’s dollars per day individually. Enjoy that extra slice of pizza, and get back to work, slaves!

      This needs to be killed with fire.

      “As part of that arrangement, workers wouldn’t be allowed to publicly protest or walk off the job.”

      Um, wot? Seems like a free speech restriction and would void the contract or get challenged as unconstitutional.

      In theory that’s a restriction, but if it’s written into a contract and goes to litigation, who do you think the majesty of the law will side with?

      This has long been settled in labor law. Most union contracts forbid job actions as long as the contract is in force. When you read about wildcat actions in unionized companies, the issue is often that the union is preventing its members from taking job actions forbidden by the contract.

      Another take on this bill at the Daily Poster, emphasizing the behind-the-scenes role of Uber and Lyft in astroturfing support. Lots of names named, especially former Cuomo staffers.

      “…workers wouldn’t be allowed to publicly protest or walk off the job.”

      Say what you will about the end of neo-liberalism, but it’s clear that a probable path to future devolves into neo-feudalism. Here we have a serious effort by the political class to codify a modern form of indentured servitude. This “foundational plan” as Savino calls it, appears to consign gig-workers to a permanent basement of serfs. And who would argue that the “representation fee” would not create a slush-fund for politicians to ensure that the serfs remained there. Even in our anything goes day-and-age, this is breathtakingly cynical.

      “workers wouldn’t be allowed to publicly protest or walk off the job”

      So they cannot quit, either?

      Look what happened in California. A disaster imho. As soon as they assured gig workers they’d have some benefits and protections, they stopped hiring Union shop workers. As I understood it. (Can’t find the article.) To be expected. They want the slave labor (plus AI for deliveries). Here’s some info.

      This is a hugely complicated issue that the labor movement usually addresses with simplistic trivial measures. I’m a long-time union supporter and activist, and a long-time independent contractor, as well. The two could be entirely compatible if labor hadn’t bought into the Wagner Act so thoroughly as to generally deny that we, too, work for a living.

      Los Deliveristas Unidos hit on one core aspect: labor and its legislative supporters are not asking independent contractors what we want. They’re spinning off solutions to problems few of us have. The sponsor of this bill, Sen. Diane Savino, said it addresses the problems of 200,000 workers. That’s a considerable number, sort of, but it’s only 2 percent of the state’s workforce, whereas the complete independent contractor workforce is about 30 percent (10 full-time, at least 20 percent part-time) what’s more, that 30 percent hires roughly 20 percent of the entire workforce.

      Any labor approach to us has to be long-term and comprehensive in outlook if not in immediate on-the-ground effect. Management is doing this with enormous success but not labor.

      CUNY’s Adjunct Faculty Should Have the Same Job Protections as New York’s Fast-Food Workers

      There’s an unwarranted assumption that workers with college degrees are at the top of the heap in terms of not only earnings but also rights and dignity. Despite the obvious benefits of desk work, especially work that can be done remotely during a pandemic, the fact is that many highly-educated workers in New York City are plagued by the same low wages and lack of job security that fast-food workers have been fighting for years. Such is the plight of 15,000 Adjunct Faculty who teach hundreds of thousands of students at City University of New York (CUNY).

      Most workers in this country are what is known as “at will” employees. That means they can be fired any day for any reason, no matter how long they have been on the job, no matter how good their work is. “At will” employees can lose their livelihood if the boss doesn’t like red shoes, they need three days off to care for a sick family member, or the employer simply finds someone else who will do the work at a cheaper wage. And if the employer needs to cut the workforce for any reason, they have the complete discretion to choose whom to layoff, and how. The worker who has labored for ten years, or, for thirty, has no “right” to their job.

      At one time, many more workers in this country were in unions, and traditionally among the first areas those unions addressed in contracts with management were ways to institutionalize job security rights. But as employers have discovered wrinkles in national labor laws that enable them to resist unionization, the number of unionized workers has decreased and job precarity has grown. Especially for low-wage workers of large employers – McDonalds, Walmart – no one seriously thinks those workers will be able to form unions anytime soon.

      And so, some unions, among them the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), have trail-blazed fighting for legislative rights for workers if contractual ones cannot be secured. SEIU notably pioneered the “Fight for 15,” the struggle to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Now, its work has resulted in two remarkable new pieces of New York City legislation protecting workers at any fast-food restaurant with more than 30 outlets nationwide.

      One bill just recently passed by the New York City Council directs that when layoffs or reduction of hours occur for economic reasons, they must take place in order of seniority, so that longevity in a job provides protection and security from reduction of income. The other recently-passed bill requires that, after a probationary period, workers can only be fired through “due process” and for “just cause”— meaning that the employer must be able to show an arbitrator – a neutral third party – that the worker violated some “policy, rule or practice,” and that the employer impartially applied a disciplinary process leading to discharge. Again, these protections apply only to workers at fast-food restaurants that are part of chains with more than 30 outlets nationwide.

      Along with New York State’s earlier doubling of the minimum wage, we see a consistent pattern: New York’s state and city governments are now establishing by law the types of work protections that used to be secured by workers mostly when they were able to organize themselves into unions. The extension of these basic job protection rights to those not in labor unions is both heartening and amazing.

      But if these protections are vital for fast-food workers, why stop there? For decades, the proportion of college faculty who are “contingent” or “at-will” has been growing. There’s even a term for them: the “academic precariat.” At New York City’s massive public university system, CUNY, the majority of the faculty are now job-insecure.

      Both of us have been teaching for several years at Lehman College, part of the CUNY system. One of us has a PhD and the other is just finishing a doctoral dissertation. But because we were hired as “adjunct faculty,” we have learned that, as the saying goes, those degrees and $2.75 will get us on the subway. While we belong to a union, it has been able to make just a little headway on job security. The protection that fast-food workers just won is far more comprehensive.

      After CUNY laid off over 2,000 adjunct faculty this fall – about 15% of our numbers – only one of us is working and the future is uncertain. How that process unfolded, how decisions were made as to who would retain employment, is a complete mystery.

      While many department chairs strive to keep long-serving adjunct faculty on payroll and protect those who gain health insurance through this job, there is no contractual obligation. In fact, at some campuses it seems the most senior adjunct faculty were specifically targeted for layoff, perhaps because they make a few dollars more. (And we do mean “a few”: most of us make less than $5,500 for every course we teach.) If seniority can be applied to fast-food workers, why not us?

      Even in more normal times, our employers make unilateral decisions about who retains their job and how many courses we teach. Our employer answers to no one, explains to no one, and certainly does not need to prove just cause when deciding to simply not call us back for the next semester. It is wrong for any worker to be treated this way.

      CUNY is small potatoes next to multi-billion-dollar corporations like McDonalds and KFC, and our City Council has now compelled those corporations to treat their workers with dignity and respect. Can the Council extend the same basic work protections to the faculty whose mission is to help the youth of New York gain a college education? Like fast-food workers, we deserve due process after a probationary period and the same right to a written explanation and legal recourse if we are dismissed. Like them, we want our employer to be compelled to prove economic necessity before laying off teachers and reducing the number of classes for students. Like them, the first hired should be the last to be laid off and the first to be rehired.

      Whenever adjunct faculty complain about low wages or lack of job security and a career track, we are told that no one can stop the “adjunctification” of the university. But many things seem impossible until someone does them. In this city, people have come to recognize fast-food employees as “essential workers,” and that surely helped the Council to muster the courage to make this move. Imagine this for CUNY adjunct faculty. As John Lennon said, it's easy if you try.

      Ruth Wangerin is an adjunct assistant professor scheduled to teach courses on gender and on culture, with a focus on the agroecology movement, in the Lehman College Anthropology Department. Marc Kagan is currently teaching about racial inclusion and exclusion in the Lehman College History Department and is finishing his Ph.D. on New York’s transit workers.

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