August, 2013

Study Shows A Decade of Stagnant Wages Despite Growth

1238152_10151805141154655_314714131_nSince the economy collapsed in 2008, everyone from politicians, to activists, to bankers has talked about how to get America back on track. Finally, most are beginning to see that the way to rebuild America’s economy, is to rebuild America’s middle class–not tax cuts for the rich or trickle down policies.

However, although more policymakers are agreeing that its time to focus on the economic challenges of the middle class, we are failing to fix the key problem that is hurting so many working-class Americans. Despite steadily increasing productivity, wages have remained stagnant or have even deflated for the majority of blue and white-collar Americans throughout the past decade.  Right now, overall growth is actually benefiting the richest households in the country, and companies that make billions of dollars annually, like Walmart and McDonalds, continue to make their executives unfathomably rich, while the workers who make such businesses flourish, earn starvation wages.

This data was recently presented in the newest report by the Economic Policy Institute.

Growing income inequality in America must be reversed. The economy cannot recover if the rich continue to become richer, and the poor only poorer. That’s why a raise in the minimum wage is essential. In the case of large retailers, whose CEO’s rake in staggering amounts in earnings and bonuses each year, there is no excuse to not pay their employees enough to live on, or to provide basic benefits.

 

Walmart Workers Arrested in Peaceful Protest

dc wmThis week, ten current or recently fired Walmart workers and members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) were arrested in Washington, D.C. for peaceful civil disobedience near Walmart’s downtown office. This action comes after the company fired or disciplined more than 70 workers for participating in a legally protected unfair labor practice strike in Bentonville, Arkansas, earlier this summer.

In June, members of the OUR Walmart sent civil rights movement–style caravans of workers from around the country to Walmart’s annual shareholders’ meeting in Bentonville to protest the retail giant’s  practice of retaliating against workers who speak out for change.  Citing Walmart’s $16 billion in profits every year, OUR Walmart members called on the company to publicly commit to raising wages and increasing access to full-time hours so that no worker at Walmart makes less than $25,000 per year.

Please sign a petition asking Walmart to respect workers’ rights and pay a living wage by visiting http://action.changewalmart.org/page/s/ARealWage.  For more information about OUR Walmart, visit http://makingchangeatwalmart.org/.

Don Cash, UFCW’s Minority Coalition President, on the March on Washington

Don Cash

Don Cash, president of the UFCW’s Minority Coalition a supporter of the Retail Justice Alliance, reflects on his experience at the 1963 March on Washington:

(The following is from religionnews.com)

Don Cash had graduated from high school in June 1963 and decided on the spur of the moment to join the March on Washington when he finished his work shift at a nearby warehouse. The Baptist layman is the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union’s Minority Coalition and a board member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the NAACP. He lives in Columbia, Md.
What is your most lasting memory of your participating in the march?

I was just overwhelmed. I saw old women — at the time they appeared to me to be old; they had to be in their 40s and 50s — sitting on the curb wiping their faces, with straw hats. It was very, very hot.

It was just people everywhere. I had never seen that many folks where it was mixed, where it was black and white people, a very diverse crowd. Nobody was laughing dancing or joking. You could tell that it was very, very serious.

I had never experienced all of these people marching and walking in unison and orderly, quietly, people hugging. I saw no incident. None.

Dr. King spoke of his dream for America. Where do you think we are as a society in fulfilling that dream?

I think we got a long ways to go but I do think that there’s been a lot of changes. I don’t think you’ll ever see what Martin Luther King dreamed in reality, in total. I think we’ll always have to strive for perfection.

The dream that he had is a perfect world and I think that in order to be perfect, you have to continue to work at it.

 

For additional information about various events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, please visit http://www.thekingcenter.org/

The March on Washington: 50 years Later, the Fight for Social and Economic Equality Continues

LewisDr-KingThis weekend, members and supporters of the Retail Justice Alliance will be joining our brothers and sisters from across the country to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  The 1963 March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his inspirational “I Have a Dream” speech, was organized largely by civil rights and labor leader A. Philip Randolph and other black labor leaders to promote freedom, economic equality and jobs, and paved the way for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In spite of the advances we have made over the last 50 years—including the election of our first African American president—the fight for social and economic justice continues.  In the retail sector alone, too many workers are struggling to survive in low-wage jobs with little to no benefits and our economy’s increasing reliance on low-wage, part-time work has widened the gap between the rich and poor. The assault on workers’ rights continues to persist, and in many cases, retail workers who want to stick together to bargain for better wages and benefits are threatened, intimidated and sometimes fired by their employers.

The need to mobilize for freedom, jobs and equality has never been stronger, and the Retail Justice Alliance is honored to carry on the work of the 1963 activists by fighting for social and economic justice in the retail industry and in our communities.

Retail Workers and the Summer of Discontent

DSC_6674For retail workers across the country, this has been the summer of discontent.  Although the retail sector is the largest industry by employment in the United States and has added over 350,000 jobs to the economy over the past 12 months, many of these jobs are low-wage and part-time positions.  This summer, retail workers have spoken out about their struggle to survive in low-wage jobs with inconsistent hours and are calling on their employers for decent wages and benefits.

In June, members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) sent civil rights movement–style caravans of workers from around the country to Walmart’s annual shareholders’ meeting in Bentonville, Ark., to protest the retail giant’s  practice of retaliating against workers who speak out for change.  Citing Walmart’s $16 billion in profits every year, OUR Walmart members called on the company to publicly commit to raising wages and increasing access to full time hours so that no worker at Walmart makes less than $25,000 per year.

In the past few weeks, OUR Walmart members and community allies throughout the country have continued to call on Walmart to stop violating employees’ labor rights and freedom of speech and reinstate the Walmart employees who were illegally fired for participating in a legally protected unfair labor practice strike in Bentonville. Retail food workers are also standing together for better wages and benefits, and the recent strikes in New York, Chicago, Detroit, Washington, D.C. and other cities have given a voice to workers who can’t make ends meet on $9 or $10 per hour, let alone the current federal minimum wage of $7.25.

Retail jobs are here to stay, and more and more workers in this industry are taking a stand for better wages and benefits.  It’s time for leaders in the retail sector to listen to their workers and lead the way in making sure that retail jobs are good jobs with benefits so that workers in this growing industry have a pathway to the middle class.

For more information about OUR Walmart, visit http://makingchangeatwalmart.org/.

Retail Sector Adds Jobs in July, But Most are Low-wage or Part-time

NYmembers-21According to the Department of Labor, the retail sector continues to play a major role in adding jobs to the economy, but most of these jobs are low-wage or part-time positions. U.S. employers added 162,000 in July, and 47,000 of those jobs were in the retail sector.

Although the retail sector has added 352,000 jobs to the economy over the past 12 months, many retail workers are struggling to survive in low-wage jobs with inconsistent hours and few benefits. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers in the retail industry typically make about $25,000 per year—a far cry from the nation’s average annual pay of $45,790.

Academic studies, including last year’s report by Demos, provide quantitative evidence that retailers, workers and the U.S. economy can benefit if retail companies invest in their workforce.  The current shift toward low-wage, part-time jobs is not the answer to our country’s economic problems, and it’s time for leaders in the retail sector to make sure that retail jobs are decent jobs that can support a family.