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Low-Income Workers and Families

Workers Are Making Their Voices Heard in Support of The Schedules That Work Act!

Yesterday, Representatives Miller and DeLauro and Senators Harkin and Warren introduced the Schedules That Work Act. This groundbreaking legislation would give all Americans a say in when they work and curb the most abusive scheduling practices in certain low-wage jobs. At a congressional briefing, workers from the restaurant, retail and fast food industries explained to a standing room only crowd what it’s like to have no clue what your schedule will be from one day to the next, and why we need the Schedules That Work Act.

Schedules That Work

Schedules That Work Act Press Conference –7.22.14. From Left to Right: Sandy Kossangba (ROC), Representative Rosa DeLauro, Melody Pabon (RAP), Sherry Hamilton-Elder (RWDSU), Tiffany Beroid (OW), Liz Watson (NWLC), Representative George Miller, and Mary Coleman (Wisconsin Jobs NOW).

Here’s what they said: Read more »

10 Comments That Make It Clear: Workers Need Schedules That Work

Imagine getting to work for your scheduled shift after taking an hour-long bus commute only to be told to go home without clocking in because there were enough employees there already. Seems ridiculous, right? But that was Mary Coleman’s reality when she arrived at work at a Popeye’s in Milwaukee.

Her story was published last Wednesday in a New York Times article on the unpredictable workplace hours and short notice scheduling that are a reality for many workers. Readers had a lot to say about the issue – it garnered more than 440 responses in the comment section.

Many readers were shocked and angry about the unfair treatment that Mary and other workers faced, and others had personal stories about unpredictable scheduling in their own workplaces.

Here are 10 of our favorite comments from the NYT article from readers who agree that fair hours and predictable scheduling are rights that should be given to all workers. Read more »

Empowerment in the Workplace is Crucial for Workers and Their Families

As witness Heidi Shierholz, economist at the Economic Policy Institute, testified at a U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee hearing this week on “Empowerment in the Workplace,” “An empowered workforce is one that shares fairly in the fruits of its labor.” Unfortunately, government policies have led to trends of inequality over the past decades. 

This is in part because policy has failed to respond to changing realities of the workforce, as Congressman John Delaney stressed in an opening statement. While workplaces are often structured around an outdated model of a two parent household with one breadwinner and one parent home to take care of family responsibilities, this model no longer works for families in the United States. Today, women comprise nearly fifty percent [PDF] of the workforce, and compared with 30 years ago, mothers of young children are almost twice as likely [PDF] to be employed. Additionally, men today report spending more time with their children. More than ever before, workers must balance work duties with meeting the basic needs of their families. Read more »

Parents in Low-Wage Jobs Share Their Struggles Finding Child Care and Making Ends Meet

Women make up 76 percent of workers in the 10 largest low-wage occupations and they shoulder the lion’s share of caregiving responsibilities for children. Yet working parents in low-wage jobs – most of whom are women – face significant obstacles to securing child care that is stable, high-quality, and affordable. The Ms. Foundation is supporting an effort by six worker justice organizations – Adhikaar for Human Rights and Social Justice, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the Garment Worker Center, the Retail Action Project and Center for Frontline Retail, and Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United – and the National Women’s Law Center to examine the working conditions in low-wage jobs that make it so difficult to arrange child care.

Together, we’re releasing a preliminary report with survey and focus group findings from participatory research conducted by the worker justice organizations that illuminate these challenges – along with preliminary ideas about where we go from here. Read the report here. Read more »

Debunking the Myth: Minimum Wage Workers May Not Be Who You Think

I am here to make a confession: I’ve been leading you astray. I didn’t mean to, it was totally unintentional, and we (probably) haven’t even met. Still, my bad.

If you think of the average low-wage worker, you probably think of me. Young, working part-time to help pay for school and gas, plans to change jobs soon. Many people think low-wage jobs are held by teens and young adults who hope to earn a bit of extra pocket money on nights and weekends. And since the age of 15, that has been me. I have worked part-time for that very pocket money in order to subsidize my incredible coffee addiction, buy the newest pair of shoes, and pay for movies and entertainment.

However, the reality of the situation is that minimum wage jobs in America are disproportionally held by adults. Most work full-time. And many have children and families to support. Read more »

Early Learning: A Key Issue for Working Families

Parents, teachers, and experts agree—high-quality early childhood education is a must for giving our young children the strong start they need to succeed in school, in work, and in life. And by helping children succeed, we help the country prosper. Early education should be a top priority at the upcoming White House Summit on Working Families not only because it benefits today’s workforce and working families, but because it will benefit our nation’s future workforce and working families.

Numerous studies have revealed that low-income children who attend high-quality preschool have significantly better educational outcomes through high school and college and are more likely to get a job and earn more income later in life than their peers who did not receive the same education early in life. At-risk children who do not attend preschool are more likely to be placed in special education, become a teen parent, drop out of high school, and become involved in crime. The benefits of preschool far exceed the initial costs. Clearly, it is to everyone’s advantage that all children—particularly children from low-income and vulnerable families—have access to high-quality early learning. Read more »

Returning a $1,000 Tip is Awful, But Regularly Making $2.13 an Hour? That's Outrageous

Let’s say your employer pays you just $2.13 an hour (the cash wage for many tipped workers around the country). Then you get an incredibly generous tip of $1,000 – that an anonymous customer wanted you to have (as only the luckiest servers in the country might get). And your employer won’t let you keep it.

I think that’s a pretty clear case of adding insult to injury. The math might look a little like this:

Insult ($2.13/hour) + Injury (taking away your once-in-a-lifetime $1,000 tip) = YOUR CASH WAGE IS STILL $2.13 AN HOUR.*

*Here’s the deal: Your employer is allowed to pay you a minimum cash wage of just $2.13 an hour. You’re still entitled to the full minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, counting your tips, but lots of tipped workers fall short because of wage theft and other illegal practices. Read more »

Five Facts about Working Mothers for Mother's Equal Pay Day

Hallmark doesn’t make a card to give mothers on June 12th – but they should. June 12th is Mother’s Equal Pay Day—the day that marks how far mothers have to work into this year (in addition to working all of last year) to earn as much as fathers did last year alone. Read more »

A Bigger Bite: Despite Increased Productivity, Workers' Wages Fall Behind

The Little Red Hen knew what was up: You help bake the pie. You help eat the pie.

Okay, so the hen was actually working with bread, but the principle was the same: When you contribute your work to a project, you’re entitled to some of the rewards. Right?

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) launched a new initiative yesterday, Raising America’s Pay, designed to highlight the critical need for wage growth in the United States. As EPI puts it, wage growth is the central economic challenge in our country today – contributing to social inequality, high poverty rates, and a lack of opportunities for social mobility. At EPI’s kick-off event this morning, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez put it simply: More than ever before, workers are receiving a smaller size of the pie that they helped bake. And if that just doesn’t feel fair, it’s because it isn’t.

In the last 30+ years, wages have stagnated or declined for the majority of American workers – and weak wage growth doesn’t only affect workers with limited education. College-educated workers have seen poor wage increases, as well. Read more »

Senator Warren Calls for Innovation to Address Unfair Scheduling Practices

At Tuesday’s HELP Committee hearing on women’s economic security Senator Warren called attention to the extreme challenges  workers in low-wage jobs with unstable and unpredictable schedules often face – including the challenge of getting their schedules at the last minute, having hours that vary dramatically from week to week or month to month, having little ability to alter the timing of their work hours without facing a penalty, and working too few hours to make ends meet.

Senator Warren said: “[the lack of predictable work schedules and hours] makes juggling a family, a home and work for many people almost impossible” (you can watch her here starting at 1:46). Amanda Legros, a worker from New York, put the problem in stark relief when she described her own struggle [PDF] to try to get enough hours at work to make ends meet while parenting a young child. Read more »