Today's News & Commentary — April 14, 2015

Published April 14th, 2015 -  - 04.14.1511


In the wake of merger negotiations between Boston Medical Center and Tufts Medical Center, SEIU Local 1199 is working to unionize the “1,000 Tufts workers in service, clerical, and technical jobs, from housekeepers to surgical technicians,” The Boston Globe reports. The Local already represents workers in similar positions at BMC. The union is using the talks about the merger and the momentum of the national and local Fight For $15 to “launch” the conversation about unionization at BMC.

The CEO of Gravity Payments, a Seattle-based credit card processing company, announced the roll out of a new company wide minimum wage: $70,000. Dan Price, Gravity’s CEO and founder told the New York Times that the idea for a company-wide minimum wage bump began “percolating” after he read about a study about emotional wellbeing and happiness that showed that “for people who earn less than about $70,000 extra money makes a big difference in their lives.” Gravity employs about 70 people, and under the new wage plan 30 of those workers’ salaries will double. To pay for the increases, Gravity is not jacking the price of services to make up the difference. Price plans to pay for the wage increases “by cutting his own salary from nearly $1 million to $70,000 and using 75 to 80 percent of the company’s anticipated $2.2 million in profit this year.” This at a time when chief executives in this country make 300 times what the average worker makes, and debate over disclosure of CEO salaries, and basic minimum wage reform continues to be heated. “Everyone is talking about this $15 minimum wage in Seattle and it’s nice to work someplace where someone is actually doing something about it and not just talking about it,” said Hayley Vogt, a 24-year-old Gravity employee who currently earns $45,000.

As we reported yesterday, a new study out of the Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education demonstrates that most of the families on public assistance in America work. The Washington Post breaks down how much each state spends on aid to poor workers. There is variation among the states, which the article indicates “may exist for any number of reasons, including more- or less-stringent eligibility requirements for assistance, or variable number of low-wage jobs.”

OSHA is seeking public information and comment regarding “worker safety hazards in communication tower construction and maintenance activities.” According to a posting by the Department of Labor, increases in the demand for cell towers have led to dramatic increases in work related injuries and fatalities for workers erecting and maintaining these towers. Workers in this line of work regularly climb 100 to 2000 feet, and “face the risk of falls from great heights, structural collapses, electrical hazards, and hazards associated with inclement weather.”

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