Paid Family Leave – Washington

Paid family and medical leave fast tracked through Legislature, By Jim Camden, July 3, 2017, Spokesman-Review: “Late Friday night, with great emotion but relatively little fanfare, the Legislature moved Washington into the forefront among states that provide financial help to parents after childbirth or when a family member is seriously ill or dying. In strong bipartisan votes, the House and Senate moved quickly to approve a state-regulated program for paid family and medical leave…”

Paid Family Leave – California

Brown signs California law boosting paid family-leave benefits, By Patrick McGreevy, April 11, 2016, Los Angeles Times: “Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed a bill expanding California’s pioneering family-leave law to help more low-income workers and provide better benefits. ‘It’s a real pleasure to be able to sign another bill that helps ordinary Californians, working men and women,’ Brown said.  The action comes 15 years after California became the first state in the nation to guarantee workers paid time off to care for a new child or ailing family member…”

Health Insurance and Low-Income Employees

Many low-income workers say ‘no’ to health insurance, By Stacy Cowley, October 19, 2015, New York Times: “When Billy Sewell began offering health insurance this year to 600 service workers at the Golden Corral restaurants that he owns, he wondered nervously how many would buy it. Adding hundreds of employees to his plan would cost him more than $1 million — a hit he wasn’t sure his low-margin business could afford. His actual costs, though, turned out to be far smaller than he had feared. So far, only two people have signed up. ‘We offered, and they didn’t take it,’ he said.  Evidence is growing that his experience is not unusual…”

Paid Leave

New momentum on paid leave, in business and politics, By Claire Cain Miller, June 22, 2015, New York Times: “Oregon this month became the fourth state to pass a bill requiring that companies give workers paid sick days to care for themselves or family members. Chipotle said this month that it would begin offering hourly workers paid sick days and vacation days, joining McDonald’s, Microsoft and other companies that have recently given paid leave to more workers. And in a speech meant to preview her presidential campaign, Hillary Rodham Clinton put paid leave at the center of her platform. No one, she said, should have ‘to choose between keeping a paycheck and caring for a new baby or a sick relative.’  Long a pet Democratic cause that seemed hopelessly far-fetched, paid leave suddenly seems less so…”

Minimum Wage – Maryland

Maryland businesses among many grappling with a higher minimum wage, By J.D. Harrison, January 5, 2015, Washington Post: “Maryland’s minimum wage was one of many that increased at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, in the first of a series of raises that will eventually push the state’s pay floor above $10 an hour. Under legislation approved last summer, Maryland’s minimum hourly rate increased from $7.25 to $8.00 on the first of the year, and it will increase again to $8.25 in July. The minimum will tick up several more times over the next three years, reaching $10.10 in 2018…”

Low-Wage Work

  • Low wages keep restaurant workers in cycle of poverty, By Mackensey Lunsford, November 22, 2014, Asheville Citizen-Times: “Here’s what goes into a rough shift for Andrea Bourgeois, waitress at a Mills River restaurant. Scrub the bathroom floors. Deal with a finicky patron, or two — or more. Stay at it for $2.13 an hour. Leave with $20 in bills and some change. It’s not an uncommon scene for restaurant workers, who have seen hours cut and wages stay the same while some chains have enjoyed bottom-line growth. But as servers and kitchen workers battle a paycheck-to-paycheck life, smaller independent restaurants face challenges of their own, a problem highlighted in Asheville because of the size of its food industry…”
  • Boosting minimum wage could be a net loss for some, By Anna Staver, November 23, 2014, Salem Statesman Journal: “Gov. John Kitzhaber wants to raise the minimum wage. The easy part would be passing legislation. Which means the hard part isn’t convincing Republicans or business advocacy groups to go along with the idea, it’s explaining to minimum wage advocates how raising wages for low-income Oregonians without adjusting the social safety net could do more harm than good…”
  • Nebraska’s ‘real’ minimum wage will be nation’s highest, By Zach Pluhacek, November 26, 2014, Lincoln Journal Star: “Nebraska’s minimum wage is on track to top the charts. The $9 hourly rate that goes into effect in 2016 will equal about $10 an hour when adjusted for cost of living, which should make it the highest effective statewide minimum wage in the nation. The effective minimum wage is based on an analysis of state minimums and federal cost-of-living data from 2012, the most recent year for which data are available…”

Involuntary Part-Time Employment

Part-time jobs put millions in poverty or close to it, By Patrick Gillespie, November 20, 2014, CNNMoney: “Seven million Americans are stuck in part-time jobs. They are unable to get full-time work and the benefits and stability that come with it. It’s a constant struggle for these families and a worrying sign for America’s recovery. Overall U.S. unemployment has fallen steeply in the past year (from 7.2% in October 2013 to 5.8% in October 2014), but too many people can only find part-time positions. The number of people working part-time involuntarily is more than 50% higher than when the recession began…”

State Minimum Wages

Small business in Illinois, four other states, divided over minimum wage votes, By Joyce M. Rosenberg (AP), October 29, 2014, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Workers in five states, including Illinois, could get a raise after Election Day. Some small business owners say raising the minimum wage will pressure their companies, forcing them to cut employees’ hours or jobs. Others say it’s the right thing to do for workers and the economy. In addition to Illinois, minimum wage referendums are on Tuesday’s ballots in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota, where minimums range from $6.25 to $8.25 an hour. Some small business owners say raising the minimum wage will force them to cut employees’ hours or jobs. Higher minimums were already approved this year in 10 states, the District of Columbia and Seattle…”

Wage Theft – California

California cracks down on wage theft by employers, By Marc Lifsher, October 23, 2014, Los Angeles Times: “State regulators are wielding a new tool to combat the intractable problem of employer wage theft, which costs workers an estimated $390 million a year. The California controller, working with the state labor commissioner, is demanding restitution from suspected violators — and filing lawsuits, if necessary — under California’s Unclaimed Property Law…”

Paid Family Leave

Paid family leave hits a snag in states, By Jake Grovum, April 17, 2014, Stateline: “California became the first state to embrace government-backed paid family and medical leave more than a decade ago. Since then, few other states have followed California’s path, and supporters are now considering a different approach. After lobbying state by state for years, some supporters of paid family leave say it’s time for a federal solution. A proposal in Congress from Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York would export the models used in California, New Jersey and Rhode Island nationwide. Those are the only three states with their own paid leave laws…”

State Minimum Wages

  • Maryland’s minimum wage increase would affect workers, business owners, By Jean Marbella, January 11, 2014, Baltimore Sun: “At one end of the minimum wage battle, you’ll find Marissa Greene in Randallstown, for whom an increase would mean not having to eat nearly every meal at the fast-food place where she works, because groceries are a luxury. And at the other end, you’ll find Bob Garner, co-owner of a regional chain of full-service restaurants, who says an increase could cost him as much as $187,000 a year at just one of his 20 locations. Whether Maryland should raise its minimum wage above the current federal floor of $7.25 an hour is an issue that promises to dominate the legislative session that began last week in Annapolis — and have major implications for employers and employees alike…”
  • Minimum wage loses ground since its banner year in 1968, By Scott Horsley, January 10, 2014, National Public Radio: “This week, we’ve been looking back at the legacy of the ‘War on Poverty,’ launched by Lyndon Johnson 50 years ago. The arsenal included government programs such as Head Start, food stamps and a push to increase the nation’s minimum wage. ‘We must extend the coverage of our minimum wage laws to more than 2 million workers now lacking this basic protection of purchasing power,’ Johnson said. Low-wage workers actually saw their purchasing power peak while Johnson was in office. Adjusting for inflation, minimum wage workers earn less today than they did in the late 1960s…”
  • Minimum wage battles are shifting to the states, By Kimberly Railey, January 13, 2014, Boston Globe: “President Obama pledged in his 2013 State of the Union message to pursue a minimum wage increase nationwide, an issue all but forgotten since his first White House run. Declaring that ‘no one who works full time should have to live in poverty,’ Obama called for boosting the hourly minimum to $9. Nearly a year later, that goal remains unfulfilled, derailed by a slowly recovering economy and opposition from Republicans in Congress. So with the federal rate stuck at $7.25 and few prospects for change, the real focal point for wage battles in 2014 is moving to individual states…”

Federal and State Minimum Wages

  • Raise minimum wage? One answer to income disparity, advocates say, By Brad Knickerbocker, November 9, 2013, Christian Science Monitor: “Washington is girding for another debate over raising the federal minimum wage, which has stood at $7.25 an hour since 2009. Many Democrats in Congress – led by Rep. George Miller of California in the House and Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa in the Senate – want to raise that $7.25 amount (actually, $4.87 in 1996 dollars) to $10.10 an hour…”
  • States moving beyond U.S. minimum wage as Congress stalls, By William Selway and Jim Efstathiou Jr., November 11, 2013, Bloomberg: “President Barack Obama is pushing to raise the U.S. minimum wage higher than $7.25 an hour — the rate it’s been for four years. Half of the U.S. population won’t have to wait: They live in places where the bottom rate is already higher than that. Twenty-one states and Washington, D.C., have raised the lowest legal hourly wage above the rate set by Congress, with New Jersey voters joining the list last week and campaigns under way to do the same in at least five other states…”
  • $10 minimum wage proposal has growing support from White House, By Catherine Rampell and Steven Greenhouse, November 7, 2013, New York Times: “The White House has thrown its weight behind a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to at least $10 an hour. ‘The president has long supported raising the minimum wage so hard-working Americans can have a decent wage for a day’s work to support their families and make ends meet,’ a White House official said. President Obama, the official continued, supports the Harkin-Miller bill, also known as the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, from its current $7.25…”
  • Gallup Poll says 3 out of 4 Americans favor raising the minimum wage, By Olivera Perkins, November 12, 2013, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “More than three-quarters of Americans support raising the federal minimum hourly wage to $9 an hour, according to a Gallup Poll. While 76 percent support the wage hike, a slightly smaller percentage favor a raise that would include automatic increases, says the poll released Monday. Sixty-nine percent are in favor of a $9 minimum wage that would increase with inflation. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. (Ohio’s minimum is $7.85.)…”
  • State to raise minimum wage in 2014, By Jonathan Shorman, November 12, 2013, News-Leader: “For the second consecutive year, Missouri’s minimum wage will increase in 2014, rising to $7.50 an hour from $7.35. The increase is automatically triggered by a cost-of-living formula. The increase, supported by groups such as Missouri Jobs with Justice, is opposed by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce. Since 2006, Missouri’s minimum wage has been tied to a cost-of-living formula, after voters approved a constitutional amendment requiring an annual adjustment. Though the wage can fall under the formula, it has never done so. Between 2009 and 2012, the wage held steady at $7.25 an hour…”

Payroll Card Programs

Paid via card, workers feel sting of fees, By Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Stephanie Clifford, June 30, 2013, New York Times: “A growing number of American workers are confronting a frustrating predicament on payday: to get their wages, they must first pay a fee. For these largely hourly workers, paper paychecks and even direct deposit have been replaced by prepaid cards issued by their employers. Employees can use these cards, which work like debit cards, at an A.T.M. to withdraw their pay. But in the overwhelming majority of cases, using the card involves a fee. And those fees can quickly add up: one provider, for example, charges $1.75 to make a withdrawal from most A.T.M.’s, $2.95 for a paper statement and $6 to replace a card. Some users even have to pay $7 inactivity fees for not using their cards. These fees can take such a big bite out of paychecks that some employees end up making less than the minimum wage once the charges are taken into account, according to interviews with consumer lawyers, employees, and state and federal regulators…”

Education and the Working Poor – California

  • Lack of learning among low-income families could hamper California’s economic recovery, report says, By Josh Dulaney, May 8, 2013, Long Beach Press-Telegram: “A new report released Wednesday cautions that the lack of higher education among California’s low-income families could further hurt the state’s economy over the next decade. According to the Los Angeles-based Campaign for College Opportunity, which worked on the report with the Women’s Foundation of California, the state faces a shortage of 2.3 million college graduates and those with vocational certificates by 2025, even as the demand for highly educated workers continues to grow…”
  • State working poor lack education opportunities, report says, By Carla Rivera, May 8, 2013, Los Angeles Times: “California has the highest number of working poor families in the nation, but the state does an ineffective job of providing educational opportunities to boost them out of poverty, according to a new report released Wednesday. The report, Working Hard, Left Behind, found that the state has the largest number of adults without a high school diploma or equivalent and ranks last among states in the percentage of low-income working families in which neither parent has a college education…”