October, 2014

Macy’s Joins Other Retailers By Opening Earlier on Thanksgiving Day

via CNBC

via CNBC

Macy’s recently announced that for the second time most of its 800 department stores will be open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, two hours earlier than last year.

The decision by Macy’s and other retailers to open earlier on Thanksgiving is not without controversy, and many critics are saying that opening stores on a celebrated American holiday is cutting into family time and keeping retail workers away from their families. While many retail workers have voiced their concerns about erratic scheduling and being forced to work on holidays, there’s only one way to ensure that workers have a say in whether or not they work—a union contract.

Thousands of Macy’s workers across the country are members of the UFCW and have a union contract that protects them on the job. Thanks to this contract, union workers at Macy’s have a say in their own scheduling and can decide whether they’d rather stay home on Thanksgiving with their families or work extra hours and earn the holiday or premium pay they negotiated in their contracts.

With shoppers expecting the same availability from brick and mortar retailers like Macy’s as they do from Amazon, a union contract makes all the difference in the quality of jobs in the retail industry.

New Study Highlights Income Inequality and America’s Shrinking Middle Class

The middle class share of wealth has declined to unsustainable levels over the last three decades, according to a new report by economists Emmanuel Saez of the University of California Berkeley, and Gabriel Zucman of the London School of Economics.

The report, titled, Wealth Inequality in the United States since 1913: Evidence from Capitalized Income Tax Data, shows that while America’s middle class is struggling, those at the top 1 percent—which includes about 160,000 families with net assets over $20 million in 2012—now hold 22 percent of our country’s wealth. In contrast, the wealth of the middle class fell from 35 percent in the mid-1980s to about 23 percent in 2012. According to the report, the current share of national wealth by the wealthy few and the declining share of middle class wealth is as unsustainable today as it was before the economic crashes of 2008 and 1929.

Income inequality has become part of the national conversation, and Saez and Sucman join the growing chorus of academics, economists and even some politicians who have warned that the widening gap between the wealthy few and the rest of us is having a detrimental effect not only on the economy, but our society as a whole.

Retail Justice Alliance Stands with OUR Walmart Members in Fight for Better Wages and Consistent, Full-Time Hours

final for 15This week, current and former Walmart workers who are members of OUR Walmart delivered a petition to the Walton family—heirs to the Walmart empire—in New York City and Phoenix and to the Walton Family Foundation in Washington, D.C. The petition, which was signed by workers from 1,710 of Walmart stores in all 50 states, calls on the retail giant to publicly commit to pay its workers $15 per hour and provide workers with access to consistent, full-time hours.

Walmart can afford to pay its workers more.  The Walton family is the richest family in the U.S.—with the wealth of 43% of American families combined. While many Walmart workers are unable to feed and clothe their families on their pay of less than $25,000 a year, the Walton family takes in $8.6 million a day in Walmart dividends alone to build on its $150 billion in wealth. Walmart brings in $16 billion in annual profits.

“We are tired of seeing the Waltons enjoy every luxury this world can offer while the workers that build their wealth are unable to pay their bills,” said Interfaith Worker Justice Executive Director Kim Bobo, who is also a member of the Retail Justice Alliance. “Income inequality will only be addressed when the Waltons and Walmart provide fair pay and regular hours to their workers. I’m here today taking a stand for Walmart workers, and I’ll be back on Black Friday with thousands of others who have had enough of Walmart’s destruction of the American Dream.”

Too many Walmart workers are struggling to cover the basic necessities like food and shelter and are forced to rely on taxpayer funded supports like food stamps to survive.  Leading up to Black Friday and beyond, the Retail Justice Alliance will continue to stand with members of OUR Walmart as they fight for better workplace conditions and respect on the job.

 

OUR Walmart Members Hold Retail Giant Accountable for Income Inequality

wm workersAs the gap between the rich and poor continues to grow, Walmart workers who are members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) are calling on the company to take responsibility for its role in creating an economy that benefits the wealthy few while more and more Americans fall out of the middle class.

Next week, OUR Walmart members will deliver petitions to members of the Walton family—heirs to the Walmart empire and the richest family in America—in New York City and Phoenix and to the Walton family foundation in Washington, D.C., and call on the retail giant to publicly commit to pay its workers $15 per hour and provide workers with access to consistent, full-time hours.  The petitions are part of OUR Walmart’s “Low-Wage Economy Exposed Tour” to highlight Walmart and the Walton family’s role in driving the income inequality problem in our country.

There is no company more responsible for creating and exacerbating income inequality through its low-wage, part-time business practices than Walmart—our country’s largest private employer.  At the company’s own admission, the majority of Walmart’s 1.4 million workers are paid less than $25,000 a year. That means that too many Walmart workers are struggling to cover the basic necessities like food and shelter and are forced to rely on taxpayer funded supports like food stamps to survive.

Walmart can afford to pay its workers more.  The company makes between $16 and $17 billion a year in profits, and just six members of the Walton family have a combined family fortune that is estimated to be more than $150 billion. Their net worth is greater than the wealth held by 43 percent of American families combined!

Walmart and the Waltons can and should change their business practices so that Walmart workers can support their families.  Until that happens, the Retail Justice Alliance will continue to stand with members of OUR Walmart as they fight for better workplace conditions leading up to Black Friday and beyond.  To sign the petition, visit http://action.changewalmart.org/For15.

Plight of Low-Wage, Part-Time Workers Needs to be Addressed

The death of Maria Fernandes, who juggled three jobs at three Dunkin’ Donuts stores in New Jersey to make ends meet, has cast a light on the plight of low-wage, part-time workers.  Ms. Fernandes was only 32 when she died of carbon monoxide and gas fumes from an overturned gas can while trying to take a nap in her car between shifts, and her tragic death is being held up as a symbol of our country’s low wage, part-time economy and the growing gap between the rich and poor.

Too many workers like Ms. Fernandes are struggling to survive in low-wage wage, part-time jobs with erratic schedules.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  Increasing the minimum wage and providing workers with fair, flexible, and reliable scheduling is a simple way to ensure that workers have the hours and wages needed to make ends meet.

Unfortunately, too many Congressional Republicans have turned their backs on American workers by failing to advance legislation to raise the current federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and index it to inflation.  And while the states and localities that have raised the minimum wage to levels higher than the current federal rate of $7.25 per hour should be lauded, providing all Americans with a living wage is an issue that must be addressed at the federal level.

Congressional Republicans have also failed to consider the Schedules That Work Act, which would provide workers with modest safeguards and begin to curb the most abusive scheduling practices. This legislation includes a presumption that workers who need a schedule change due to child care, school, a second job, or medical needs will receive that change unless there is a bona fide business reason not to. The legislation also provides workers advance notice of their schedules and guarantees minimum pay when they are sent home from work before completing their entire shift.

This is an election year and the Retail Justice Alliance urges our lawmakers to consider the millions of low-wage, part-time voters across the country who are struggling to make ends meet, much like Ms. Fernandes was, and address these two important issues.

Maria Fernandez and her family, via the New York Times

Maria Fernandez and her family, via the New York Times