News & Commentary

June 29, 2015

Workers have reason to celebrate this week.

Wellness benefits are becoming increasingly common at workplaces nationwide, reports the Washington Post.  The annual survey of the Society of Human Resource Management has found that employer-offered benefits are becoming more frequent and diverse.  Approximately 90 percent of the surveyed workplaces (mostly smaller companies) reported offering dental insurance and 401(k) plans, 11 percent indicated that they provided less-common benefits like on-site massage-therapy, and a small 1 percent offer prepared take-home meals.  The percentage of employers providing paid leave was also up from last year, with 42 percent of survey-takers saying they offering it, up from 33 percent last year.  But amidst this seemingly-good news, the Post notes that one-time rewards may also be a manifestation of employer unwillingness to raise wages for non-executive employees.

This Thursday the much-anticipated Retail Workers Bill of Rights will come into effect in San Francisco.  Last November Politico reported that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted the Retail Workers Bill Of Rights  —  the first ordinance in the nation to sanctify employee’s schedules.  The Retail Workers Bill of Rights requires all retailers with 20 or more locations worldwide and 20 or more workers within the city limits to give workers advance notice of scheduling changes.  If any employer fails to provide employees with two-weeks’ notice that their schedule will  —  or won’t  —  change, that employer will owe the employee “predictability pay.”  The ordinance also levels the playing field for the 18.5% of Americans who work part-time.  The law requires employers to pay part-time employees the same hourly wage as full-timers.  It also guarantees that part-time employees be entitled to the same time-off as those who work 40 hours per week and that they be equally eligible for promotion.

On the East Coast fast-food workers are likely to see their wages increase to $15 an hour.  A local news source reports that members of the state wage board agreed this morning that the minimum wage should be raised to at least $15.  Currently, New York’s minimum wage is $8.75 and come 2016 it will be $9.  In testimony before the New York State Department of Labor Wage Board, David Cooper, an economic analyst, indicated that wages in the fast-food industry, when adjusted for inflation, are lower than they were in 2000.  Moreover, Cooper noted, earning $8.75 an hour is “grossly inadequate to achieve any semblance of economic security even in the least expensive parts of New York State.”  In Buffalo-Niagra Falls, the least expensive part of the state, a modest family budget for a single, childless adult is $30,335.  In order to earn that amount a fast-food worker would have to earn $14.58.  Raising the minimum wage to $15 will give more New York state workers a much-needed living wage.  Stay tuned.

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