Tag Archives: minimum wage

Avoiding Concessions Under Trump

In a recent In These Times article (When Raising the Minimum Wage is a Bad Thing), Murphy Prof. Stephanie Luce and Jen Kern warn of the perils of conceding ground on minimum wage in the name of short term gains:

First, we cannot accept short-term gains in the form of a higher wage if they mean concessions that undermine our ability to organize over the long haul. Such concessions could include the ability to form unions, engage in collective bargaining, strike and protest. For example, a minimum wage increase that comes alongside cuts to the Department of Labor’s inspection staff would be a major setback. A minimum wage increase that comes at the price of “right-to-work” provisions would be disastrous.

The minimum wage is a valuable tool for raising the incomes of millions of workers, but it loses much of its value if worker organizations and movements are too weak to enforce the law. It doesn’t help people without jobs and only minimally helps those with few hours of work. Most importantly, minimum wages have the greatest impact when workers have unions to protect their jobs and help them move up to higher paid positions.

Second, we must be wary of attempts to divide our movement. The first minimum wage, which was passed in 1938, excluded domestic workers and farmworkers—occupations that were dominated by African-American workers. Today, the federal law sets a much lower minimum wage for tipped workers—a practice that disproportionately hurts women and people of color. An increase to the minimum wage must benefit everyone, including farmworkers and people who work for tips.

It’s also quite possible that a higher minimum wage could be linked to concessions on policies that impact unemployed workers, through cuts to unemployment benefits and the safety net. If we accept an increase to the minimum wage on these terms, we will drive a further wedge between the so-called “deserving” and “non-deserving” poor. Indeed, our ability to win depends on whether this fight is an inclusive one. 

They remind us:

Our job isn’t to find common ground with Trump or to figure out ways to work with a hostile administration that will put forward terrible deals. Our job is to build organizations and make our movements more powerful.

For more on the role of unions, trade and infrastructure under Trump, read the full article at In These Times.

Photo by Stephen L via flickr (CC-BY-NC)

And a Union: Minimum-Wage Victories & the Fight for Worker Power

This article originally featured at Jacobin. Reprinted with permission.

By Stephanie Luce

The Fight for 15 movement claimed its biggest victories to date last week, with both New York and California passing major minimum-wage increases.

California’s rate, currently one of the highest in the country at $10 dollars per hour, will rise incrementally and reach $15 dollars by 2022. In New York, the wage floor will go up according to business size and location: larger New York City employers (ten or more employees) must pay at least $15 by the end of 2018, while smaller employers in the city (fewer than ten employees) will have until the end of 2019 to meet that mark.

Westchester County and suburban Long Island wages will hit $15 by 2022. And upstate New York employers will have to pay employees at least $12.50 by the end of 2020, after which the state will determine how to get to $15.

It’s disappointing that the $15 requirement won’t cover all of New York state for some time, and that upstate New York workers won’t see a $15 minimum for several years at least. Unlike California, New York also still allows tipped workers to be paid a lower wage. But considering the trajectory of the US minimum wage over the past four decades, these are enormous wins. Simply put, the US has never seen an increase this large. Continue reading And a Union: Minimum-Wage Victories & the Fight for Worker Power

$15/hr in NYC: A Historic Move

Yesterday, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio made a historic announcement: by 2018, he’ll raise the minimum wage for city workers to $15/hour. From WNYC:

[T]he mayor described the move as part of his larger OneNYC plan to move more New Yorkers out of poverty: “Our goal is, again, 800,000 people over the next 10 years and one of the central ways to do that is to raise wage levels.”

“We’re going to be able to do that now for 50,000 employees, which means thousands and thousands of family members will be affected as well,” said de Blasio.

The news of the wage boost comes just two weeks after the mayor told WNYC he would issue an executive order to guarantee all non-union city employees at least six weeks of fully-paid parental leave and up to 12 weeks when combined with accrued vacation time. Continue reading $15/hr in NYC: A Historic Move

Fight for $15 Picks Up Steam

It’s all happening. Last Wednesday, the New York state wage board appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo recommended a state-wide minimum wage of $15 for fast food workers in NYC and throughout the state. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has voted for a $15 minimum wage for those working in its unincorporated areas by 2020, which will complement the minimum wage hike for workers in the City passed in May.

Who else is making moves in the $15 direction? The UC system, Kansas City (well, $13), Washington, DC.

Justin Miller wrote up a nice roundup of these developments over at the American Prospect on Friday. As he writes, “All in all, it has been a highly successful week for minimum wage campaigns around the country.”


Photo by MTEA via flickr (CC-BY).

Los Angeles to Increase Minimum Wage to $15/hour

Following in the footsteps of Seattle, San Francisco and Oakland, the Los Angeles City Council voted today to increase its minimum wage to $15/hour by 2020. The NYTimes is calling this “perhaps the most significant victory so far in the national push to raise the minimum wage.”

“The effects here will be the biggest by far,” said Michael Reich, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, who was commissioned by city leaders here to conduct several studies on the potential effects of a minimum-wage increase. “The proposal will bring wages up in a way we haven’t seen since the 1960s. There’s a sense spreading that this is the new norm, especially in areas that have high costs of housing.”

Tuesday’s vote could set off a wave of minimum wage increases across Southern California, and the groups pressing for the increases say the new pay scales would change the way of life for the region’s vast low-wage work force.

Read more at the New York Times.


Photo by Denis Bocquet via flickr (CC-BY).

Prof. Stephanie Luce Explores the Higher Wages Movement

By Michael Murphy

On April 15, protesters in New York City and across the United States engaged in a coordinated demonstration to highlight the problem of low wages for workers in the fast-food industry. This issue has resonated with workers who have seen their pay diverge in real terms from the cost of living. The “Fight for $15 on 4/15” protests brought workers together with allies in the community and organized labor in what has become a dynamic social movement. Yet the origins of this stark decline in purchasing power for workers can be found several decades ago. Why has this social movement for change emerged in recent years to place higher wages on the local and national political agenda?

In the forthcoming Spring 2015 issue of New Labor Forum, Murphy Institute Professor of Labor Studies Stephanie Luce explores the origins and influence of this movement. Continue reading Prof. Stephanie Luce Explores the Higher Wages Movement