Retail jobs are here to stay, and workers in this industry are taking a stand for better wages and benefits. As our nation’s economy relies more and more on part-time, low-wage work, policies are needed to address the widening gap of those working without a safety net for retirement, healthcare, and family leave. Here are two key pieces of legislation that will protect the health and well-being of millions of part-time workers in retail and other service industries.
Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights
While much attention has been paid to the floundering Affordable Care Act (ACA) website, it is the design of the law’s employer penalties that are the real concern. The ACA includes a fine for failing to cover full-time workers but includes no such penalty for part-timers (defined as working less than 30 hours a week). As a result, some employers are reducing workers’ hours below 30 to save money. The Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights (H.R. 675) would penalize employers for failing to provide health care to part-timers and thereby end the incentive for cutting hours. Some Democrats and Republicans are pushing to change the definition of full-time in the ACA from 30 hours per week to 40. This is the wrong way to go, and would allow companies to get off scot-free for failing to cover those who work between 30 and 39 hours and lead to more hours being cut. The Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights is the best vehicle for fixing a major loophole in the ACA.
While CEO pay has risen 725 percent over the last 30 years, workers making the minimum wage have seen their pay remain stagnant. The real value of the current federal minimum wage is lower than it was in the 1960s even as corporate profits are soaring at astronomical rates. States from California to New Jersey have recently raised the minimum wage, but this problem calls for a federal solution. The Retail Justice Alliance supports H.R. 1010 which would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and tie it to inflation. Raising the minimum wage would not only help workers provide for their families, but also boost our economy by giving them more purchasing power. Congress should pass this bill immediately.