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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.

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Entries tagged "Labor Rights"

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Why Your Waiter Hasn't Gotten a Raise in 22 Years

September 13, 2013 ·

Note: McClatchy-Tribune News Service distributed this op-ed.

Most people assume restaurant tips are a reward for good service that helps servers get ahead. In reality, your tip fills a gap created by a loophole. Federal minimum wage law allows restaurant owners to pay their tipped employees just $2.13 an hour.

This sub-minimum wage hasn’t increased for 22 years and amounts to less than a third of the federal minimum wage. It helps large restaurant corporations and their CEOs pad their bottom lines while trapping millions of American workers in economic insecurity.

penguincakes/flickrThe average server earned $20,710 last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Because these workers start in such a hole, they are three times more likely to live in poverty and twice as likely to be eligible for food stamps as employees in other industries. A quarter of all servers are over 40, and many of them have families to support.

From 1966, when the tipped minimum wage was first introduced, until 1996, it was pegged at 50 percent of the prevailing minimum wage. But aggressive lobbying by the National Restaurant Association, which is dominated by large restaurant chains, removed the linkage and froze the minimum wage for tipped workers at its 1991 level of $2.13 an hour. Since then, about half the states have either raised the tipped minimum wage or have no minimum wage at all for tipped workers. For the rest, $2.13 an hour remains the standard.

 Scott Klinger is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C.

Waiting for Wendy's

August 6, 2013 ·

Don't eat at Wendy's this week.

Across the country, people are picketing restaurants, calling corporate offices, and signing petitions against the fast food chain through August 11.

What's this Week of Action against Wendy's about? For years, the company has bucked industry trends and refused to cooperate with the Coalition of Immokalee Fair Food Program.

Despite the restaurant chain's family-friendly branding, Wendy's is the last large fast food company refusing to participate. McDonald's, Burger King, Yum! Foods, and Subway all joined before 2009.

Grocery stores like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods have signed up already too.

StockMonkey.com/FlickrWendy's complaint about the Fair Food Program is the proposed wage hike for farm workers — a whopping one cent per pound increase — that participating buyers would pay.

By refusing the pay bump, Wendy's rejects a code of conduct that would dramatically improve labor conditions for Florida farmworkers. This code would prevent the neo-slavery conditions — forced labor without breaks, and without pay, in the hot sun — that dominate farms in the Sunshine State. The company's management is also rejecting the complaint registry system, where workers could call out supervisors for breaking that code.

Perhaps most importantly, by snubbing the Fair Food Program, Wendy's says no to the worker-to-worker education program. This program, which Wendy's apparently believes to be non-essential, would inform workers of their right to water on the job, to a lunch break in the shade, and to report the all too frequent cases of sexual assault at their workplace.

The Fair Food Program is absolutely necessary to prevent the abuse of farm workers in Florida, a real danger highlighted by the discovery earlier this summer of 275 men, women, and teenagers held as forced laborers in horrifying conditions at a tomato processing factory in Mexico.

The United States government formally abolished slavery in 1865. Wendy's should do its part to really end this terrible practice in our country.

Kathleen Robin Joyce is a student at Georgetown University and an OtherWords intern at the Institute for Policy Studies. OtherWords.org

Behind the Kitchen Door: A Must-Read for Anyone Who Eats at Restaurants

February 27, 2013 ·

Cross-posted from the Yes! Magazine blog.

You are celebrating your birthday at your favorite restaurant and you’ve just ordered a tasty, locally grown organic meal. You savor the food, while feeling good that you are contributing to a better world.  What could be better?

Well, for starters: the conditions of the people serving and busing your table.

Behind the Kitchen Door, by Saru JayaramanMost don’t make a living wage.  Indeed, most of your servers work for the same minimum wage they’ve gotten for 22 years: $2.13 an hour. That’s right: no increase for a generation. Therefore, most workers have no choice but to work if they’re sick because nine out of ten don’t receive paid sick leave. Yes, if you are reading this now because you’re sick at home, you may well have caught your disease from a sick restaurant employee who had no choice but to work.

There is a new chilling-yet-ultimately-hopeful book that tells the story of the millions who toil to serve us in restaurants: Behind the Kitchen Door. It is hopeful because its dynamo author, Saru Jayaraman, and dozens of courageous restaurant workers created a group that is fighting for their rights: the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC).

Read the rest of this book review on Yes! Magazine's website.

Labor Day Special: Week of August 27-September 2, 2012

August 27, 2012 ·

This OtherWords Labor Day Special features a wide range of commentaries addressing worker rights. Deborah Burger calls for better nurse-staffing ratios at the nation's hospitals, Amy Dean makes the case for accountability when companies getting tax breaks for being "job creators" don't create jobs, and Virginia Sole-Smith casts light on how Mary Kay exploits its own sales force.

As always, I encourage you to subscribe to our weekly newsletter and visit our blog. If you haven't signed up yet, please do.

  1. The Lipstick Profiteers / Virginia Sole-Smith
    Mary Kay's biggest revenue source may be the dreams of its own pink-clad sales force.
  2. How to Safely Scale Down the Fiscal Cliff / Salvatore Babones
    A slow descent wouldn't be disastrous.
  3. Rooting out Fake Job Creators / Amy Dean
    Without serious accountability, the rallying cry for more "job creation" is likely to amount to nothing more than empty rhetoric.
  4. Healing our Health Care System / Deborah Burger
    Unsafe nurse-to-patient staffing levels are a key cause of 98,000 preventable deaths each year.
  5. A Bold New Call for a 'Maximum Wage' / Sam Pizzigati
    A national labor leader aims to expand the economic fairness debate.
  6. Percolate-Up Economics / Jim Hightower
    Every dime of a minimum-wage hike is spent by its recipients -- circulating upward in our local economies as they increase their purchases of such basics as food, kids' clothing, and health care.
  7. The Race to the Bottom / William A. Collins
    The American middle class isn't the envy of the world anymore.
  8. Hellish Working Conditions / Khalil Bendib (Cartoon)

Hellish Working Conditions, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

Another Wealthy Executive Seeks To Dodge Prison

February 29, 2012 ·

Another collapse in Manhattan. Photo by NY Daily News.We’re all still feeling, four years later, the 2008 Wall Street crash that tanked the financial industry — and our economy. But an even deadlier 2008 crash in Manhattan has largely faded into obscurity. Last week, in a New York courtroom, memories of that forgotten tragedy edged back onto the public stage.

This particular stage would be the manslaughter trial of multi-millionaire James Lomma, the owner of New York’s largest construction crane company. In May 2008, one of Lomma’s giant cranes crashed down on New York’s Upper East Side, killing two construction workers.

These two men died, an assistant D.A. told a packed courtroom Tuesday, “because a wealthy man” cared about “the bottom line and nothing else.” The crashed crane, the D.A. noted, had suffered damage the year before. Lomma, the prosecutor charged, had refused to wait for a qualified repair firm. He cut corners instead to rush the damaged crane back into service.

Lomma may beat this rap. Cases against big cheeses remain devilishly difficult to bring to trial, let alone win, one reason why no high-finance chief exec has yet gone to jail for the frauds behind Wall Street’s epic 2008 crash. But you don’t have to be a Wall Streeter in America today to dodge accountability. We have more, on that score, in this week’s Too Much.

Each and every week, Too Much explores excess and inequality, in the United States and throughout the world. Subscriptions  are free and you can sign up here.

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