Neal Peirce discusses the challenges of poverty wage jobs at major chains – linking severe inequality with these jobs. Given the recent debate in DC over its living wage job and recent reporting on inequality, the article is apropos.
Peirce notes that Los Angeles hotel workers near Los Angeles International Airport (with support from service unions) got a living wage law passed and are now paid $12 an hour. Further efforts in LA are underway to expand the law.
Peirce also highlights the negative social and psychological effect on children of low wage workers who feel helpless, which may be one of the most lasting and damaging side effects of inequality.
There is hope – Bill de Blasio, now the frontrunner in the NYC Mayoral race, has taken low wage work up as a campaign platform. Peirce quotes de Blasio’s exasperation over a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. He has been surging in the polls – maybe the economic populism has something to do with it.
Vincent Gray has vetoed a living wage bill in Washington DC that would require stores with corporate sales over $1 billion dollars that operated large footprint stores (75,000 square feet or more) to pay a super-minimum wage of $12.50.
The bill was targeted largely at a set of new Wal-Marts that were planned to be built in the city. Proponents wanted to ensure that workers were paid a fair wage. Opponents worried that the law would limit grocery store access and jobs (even low wage jobs) for people who need them. Wal-Mart has threatened to cancel the locations if the bill passes. Some feel that the threat is hollow because the store wants to access the dense population in the city. The City Council can override Gray’s veto with a two-thirds majority vote in favor of the bill.
As former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich once questioned, are we limited to a future of high wages and high unemployment (as in Europe) or low wages and low unemployment? Hopefully we can create and plan a future with high wages and low unemployment.