January, 2015

Income Inequality Dominates the National Conversation

This week, Oxfam released a new report that estimates that the combined wealth of the richest one percent will exceed that of the 99 percent next year unless actions are taken to curb inequality.
The report, titled Wealth: Having It All and Wanting More, shows that the wealthy few increased their global wealth from 44 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2014. Based on this trend, the combined wealth of the richest one percent is expected to be more than 50 percent in 2016. The report also notes that just 80 of the wealthiest people in the world possess a combined wealth of $1.9 trillion, which is nearly the same amount shared by 3.5 billion people, or the poorest 50 percent of the global population. The list of the 80 wealthiest people in the world includes members of the Walton family, heirs to the Walmart empire.
Also this week, President Obama delivered his sixth State of the Union address, which focused on income inequality and the need to rebuild America’s shrinking middle class. President Obama unveiled a number of proposals aimed at strengthening working and middle class Americans. The proposals include strengthening unions and building more worker protections, such as maternity leave and seven days of sick leave for all; two free years of community college; tax breaks to working and middle class families; and affordable, high quality childcare for working parents.
Income inequality is the biggest crisis facing our country, and the Retail Justice Alliance urges the 114th Congress to act now and narrow the wealth gap by supporting the president’s proposals.

Workers Continue the Fight to Improve the Quality of Jobs in the Retail Industry

image via driverlayer.com

image via driverlayer.com

As we start the new year, the retail sector continues to be an important employer of minorities and women.  However, too many workers in this industry are struggling to survive in low-wage, part-time jobs with inconsistent hours that hamper their ability to juggle life’s demands and prevent them from climbing the economic ladder.

As income inequality continues to grow, worker-led campaigns such as OUR Walmart and the Fight for $15, have made these issues part of the national conversation and elected officials have taken notice.  Last year, Representatives George Miller (D-Calif.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced the Schedules That Work Act (H.R. 5159) that included a presumption that retail 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 would also provide retail workers advance notice of their schedules and guaranteed minimum pay when they are sent home from work before completing their entire shift.

Fair, flexible, and reliable scheduling is a simple way to ensure that retail workers are treated with dignity and respect. The Retail Justice Alliance urges Congress to swiftly pass the Schedules That Work Act to improve scheduling in the retail sector and provide retail workers with a pathway to the middle class.

The New Year Gives Workers a Much Needed Raise

Image: Low wage workers take part in a protest organized by the Coalition for a Real Minimum Wage outside the offices of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo,The new year brought a much needed raise to millions of American workers in 21 states and the District of Columbia due to increases in state minimum wage levels. This means that a total of 29 states and the nation’s capital now have a minimum wage above the federal level of $7.25 per hour.

While the states and localities that have taken action to raise the minimum wage should be lauded, all American workers deserve a minimum wage and this requires a federal solution.  But despite widespread public support, Congressional Republicans and their corporate backers continue to block efforts to raise the minimum wage.  They have stuck to the same old, tired argument that raising the minimum wage will be bad for businesses, despite findings from a study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research which found that states that raised the minimum wage experienced faster employment growth than the states that didn’t.

Millions of retail workers are barely making ends meet in minimum wage jobs across the country, and the Retail Justice Alliance urges the 114th Congress to start the new year by acknowledging the many Americans who are struggling to get by and raise the minimum wage.