February, 2013

Do More Than the Minimum on the Minimum Wage

Retail Justice Alliance member Jim Hightower recently published the following article on the importance of investing in America’s workers and paying a fair wage. Read the full article on Creators.com.

RJA Member Jim Hightower

“In the wealthiest nation on earth,” President Obama declared in his State of the Union speech, “no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty.”

Right! Way to go! Not only does his call to raise America’s minimum wage put some real pop in populism, but it could finally start putting some ethics back in our country’s much-celebrated (but rarely honored) “work ethic.” Kudos to Obama for putting good economics and good morals together — and for putting this long overdue increase on the front burner.

But then came the number: $9 an hour. Excuse me, Mr. President, but if you’re going to bother making the fight, why start out with a number so low that many minimum-wage employees would still “have to live in poverty”?

About 60 percent of America’s lowest-paid workers are women, including single moms struggling awfully hard to make ends meet. Yet, at your $9 an hour level, a single woman with two children, would, in fact, be paid a poverty wage. And, since you would slowly phase-in the increase, she wouldn’t even be paid that until nearly two years from now.

Yes, nine bucks is a buck-seventy-five better than the current low wage of high misery, but it doesn’t even elevate the buying power of our nation’s wage floor back to where it was in 1968. Nor, by the way, does it match the $9.50-level you pledged to push in 2008 when you were running for president.

This is not merely about extending a badly needed helping hand to people struggling to work their way out of poverty, but it’s also about enabling them to give a bottom-up jolt of new energy to our economy, which it desperately needs.

Ironically, while super-rich corporations are hoarding trillions of dollars in offshore accounts, refusing to invest in our nation, minimum-wage workers will invest every extra dollar they get in America — spending it right where they live on clothing, food, transportation, health care and other needs.

A 2011 Federal Reserve study found that a $1 hike in the minimum wage produces an additional $2,800 a year in spending by each of those households — so this is no time to shortchange these workers.

>>>You can read the full article on Creators.com.

Political and Social Justice Activists Unite to Fight for Living Wages and Decent Benefits for Retail Workers

Washington, D.C. – A coalition of political and social justice activists from around the country have united to launch the National Retail Justice Alliance to highlight the social and economic plight of retail workers across the country.  The new alliance was formed following the first-ever strikes by Walmart workers across the country last year, and is dedicated to raising the living and working standards of retail workers in the United States.

The retail sector is the largest industry by employment in the United States, and is projected to add almost 1.8 million jobs between 2010 and 2020—more than any other industry except construction. Although the retail sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in the country, many retail workers are struggling to survive in low-wage jobs with inconsistent hours and few benefits.

“The retail sector is an important employer of minorities and women, and too many of these workers are living below the poverty line,” said Bill Fletcher, chair of the National Retail Justice Alliance and director of field service and education at the American Federation of Government Employees. “It’s clear that leaders in the retail industry need to step up to the plate and ensure that all retail jobs have decent wages and benefits that can support a family, and Walmart—the world’s largest retailer—is a good place to start.  Unfortunately, the retail giant’s drive to put profits ahead of its workers has influenced other retailers to do the same, and that’s why this alliance was formed.”

In addition to Fletcher, the National Retail Justice Alliance Steering Committee includes Dr. Julianne Malveaux, Jim Hightower, and representatives from the Economic Policy Institute, Color of Change, Jobs with Justice, Demos and other progressive leaders and organizations.

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The National Retail Justice Alliance is dedicated to raising the living and working standards of retail workers in the United States.  By working in collaboration with a broad base of opinion leaders, organizations and communities, the National Retail Justice Alliance builds support for workers in the retail industry through advocacy, education and research to promote sustainable jobs, living wages, affordable health care and fair public policies.