Let's start with a cartoon:
You may have all heard that half a million low wage workers are getting a raise. That's right. Wal-mart, the largest private employer in the United States, is giving people a minimum of $9 per hour in the near future and moving to $10 per hour next year. Some critics, such as the New York Times editorial board, say it is not enough:
Still, raising pay at Walmart to even $10 an hour is only a small improvement. At Walmart, the boost will be greatest for the 6,000 workers — out of a work force of 1.3 million — who currently make the federal minimum wage, $7.25 an hour. For many other workers, the increase will be much less than a dollar an hour.
A hugely profitable corporation like Walmart can readily afford to do better than those measly increases. But it is very unlikely to do that voluntarily, without governmental action.
There is no doubt, for example, that many more workers at Walmart (and elsewhere) would be making the federal minimum wage but for the fact that 29 states and the District of Columbia, as well as some cities, now have minimums above the federal level.
As the New York Time also reports the Wal-mart move also could spur other large employers to follow suit:
Walmart’s move could force other major retailers like Target and Home Depot to follow suit. Kroger pays its cashiers $7.26 to $11.99 an hour, according to PayScale, a company that collects data on salaries. Target pays its cashiers $7.42 to $10.09, and Home Depot pays its sales associates $7.90 to $11.16, according to PayScale. “Wage increases could be imminent for other companies,” said Oliver Chen, retail analyst at Cowen & Company in New York.
Speaking of pay days, five Indian guest workers have been awarded $14 million after alleged mistreatment while working for a firm following Hurricane Katrina:
The "historic verdict" and award came after a four-week trial involving laborers recruited from India to work at the Signal International shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., said Alan Howard, lead attorney for the plaintiffs.
The workers paid fees of more than $10,000 to Signal recruiters who coordinated the hiring of some 500 welders and pipefitters in 2005, as the company faced a shortage of skilled labor and a glut of work in the months after Hurricane Katrina. Workers arrived in the United States to find that recruiters' promise of green cards -- and permanent U.S. residency -- were false, and that they would have to live in the cramped quarters of "man camps" adjacent to the shipyard. Under laws governing guest workers, the men could not take other jobs in the U.S. and faced massive debt if they returned home.
"Signal understood the trap these men were in, and Signal took advantage of that," Howard said. "That was the theme of our case, and the jury understood it."
Apparently low income ladies do not find men marriageable without better incomes and some are blaming the death of unions, such as Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig over at the New Republic:
The Great Recession certainly appears to have disproportionately affected low-income male workers, but why? While the economic disparity can be partially explained by differences in industry participation between men and women in low paying work, there is yet another culprit, this one engineered by conservative politics: the decline of labor unions...
In other words, the decline of labor unions not only reduced workers’ control of their economic destinies by decoupling them from the fates of their fellow workers, but also allowed for rapid wage decreases that put lower-income laborers at a financial distance from more privileged employees within highly unionized industries and outside them. For working class men who belong to unions and those who don’t, the study concludes, the decline of labor unions has nonetheless changed the labor landscape—creating an underclass of precariously employed, low-wage workers, many of them men.
[A] lockout of the dockworkers, who are mired in a contract battle with the owners of the 29 ports from San Diego to Bellingham, Wash. Retailers have gnashed their teeth over the delay, which some analysts say could add up to $7 billion in extra costs this year, leading to spoiled goods and understocked shelves.
What’s the fight about? The contract expired last July, and the Pacific Maritime Association — which bargains for the shippers — has accused the International Longshore and Warehouse Union of slowing down work to gain leverage. One last sticking point over arbitration procedures resulted in a fruitless meeting on Friday, and the ports decided to shut down rather than pay overtime on the holiday weekend.
But labor isn’t the only problem America’s ports face. A rapidly increasing amount of cargo arriving in ever larger ships has scrambled normal operations in west coast ports, requiring costly and time-consuming infrastructure upgrades and leaving the dockworkers union trying to maintain as much control over the process as it can.
You also my be interested in knowing that nurses have trouble getting work-man's comp, at least in North Carolina reports NPR:
Nursing employees have very likely been getting hurt moving and lifting patients for as long as there have been nurses and patients. But studies by the U.S. government and university researchers in the 1990s began showing that hospitals can prevent many of those injuries, if hospital administrators invest enough time and money. They have to buy special equipment to move patients, such as powered ceiling hoists, and they have to conduct intensive training for the staff.
Some hospitals have purchased a limited amount of equipment and conducted some staff training, researchers say, but most have not taken aggressive steps to protect their nursing staff — partly because they are preoccupied with other problems.
Also in the NYT, Patricia Cohen reports on how federal poverty subsidies have fallen short for the neediest:
Assistance to needy Americans has grown at a gallop since the mid-1980s, giving a hand up to the disabled, the working poor and married couples with children. At the same time, though, government aid directed at the nation’s poorest individuals has shrunk.
“Most observers would think that the government should support those who have the lowest incomes the most, and provide less help to those with higher incomes,” Robert A. Moffitt, an economist at Johns Hopkins University, writes in a forthcoming article in the journal Demography. “But that is not the case.”
Mr. Moffitt found that government assistance for families whose incomes flutter just above the poverty line nearly doubled from 1983 to 2004 after taking inflation into account. The numbers look very different for those scraping along at the bottom, generally unemployed single mothers with children. Their benefits declined in real terms by about one-third.
You also might be interested in this Fusion piece about the weirdness of counting San Francisco's homeless. Meanwhile CBS reports the middle class has a dismal view of the economy when it comes to economic mobility:
More good news for those worried about inequality, the NYT's David Leonardt says it hasn't risen since the financial crisis and...um, maybe DC has something to do with it:
The income of the top 1 percent – both the level and the share of overall income – still hasn’t returned to its 2007 peak. Their average income is about 20 percent below that peak. Yet we have all become so accustomed to rising inequality that we seem to have lost the ability to consider the alternative. Maybe it’s because many liberals are tempted to believe inequality is always getting worse, while many conservatives are tempted to believe that the Obama economy is always getting worse.
The numbers, however, make clear that inequality isn’t destined to rise. Not only can economic forces, like a recession, reduce it, but government policy can, too. And Washington’s recent efforts to fight inequality – as imperfect and restrained as they’ve been – have made a bigger difference than many people realize.
The existing safety net of jobless benefits, food stamps and the like cushioned the blow of the so-called Great Recession.
Guess what readers, teeth are important and your editor never understood why such health issues have been given short shrift, but at least one health provider Alabama--- has a clue and is providing decent care, reports Slate:
One dental practice in Alabama is showing that there is a solution to these supposedly intractable problems. Jeffrey Parker is the CEO of nonprofit Sarrell Dental, where nearly 90 percent of the patients are children whose insurance is provided by Medicaid or CHIP. He is determined to challenge some universally accepted beliefs about public-funded
One of these myths is that multisite clinics such as Sarrell are second-rate operations no one would go to if they had any other choice. His practice has racked up more than 600,000 patient visits in the past 10 years, and as Parker is fond of pointing out, not a single complaint has been filed to the Alabama dental board about Sarrell, nor have any errors been found in Medicaid audits. Sarrell provides the poorest children in the poorest counties of a poor state with top-quality dental care.
Meanwhile, National School Reform's Joan McRobbie argues inequality is the elephant in the school reform debate:
What's been pointedly ignored is the role that poverty plays in school failure. Few connections are more obvious or better documented. Yet over the last decade or so, anyone who dares suggest that poverty has anything to do with chronically school underperformance has been hammered with cries of "excuse making!" The mantra is that struggling schools merely lack good teaching and high expectations. Fix those things and the problem will be solved.
But with rising inequality, reality is making a comeback. Many voices are re-asserting that it's not an excuse but a necessity to acknowledge that out-of-school factors associated with poverty affect school performance. Observers are pointing out that with the resurgence of concentrated poverty in the U.S., the portion of our schools where nearly all the kids live in poverty has risen from 12 percent to 20 percent over the last 15 years.
No one questions that what educators do or don't do is key in school success or failure. But poverty also matters. And concentrated poverty matters a lot. If we do nothing to alleviate family poverty, especially in our hardest hit communities, our quest to fix persistently failing schools will continue to fall flat.
Philanthropy is changing... at least according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, which reports tech entrepreneurs are changing the landscape of philanthropy in this country:
America’s 50 most generous donors increased their giving by 27.5 percent last year... The increase is striking compared with 2012, when giving by the Philanthropy 50 rose just 4 percent...
The giving by tech donors is outsize compared with that of people in other industries: It represents 47 percent of the $9.8-billion in donations made... in 2014.
From another recent article in The Chronicle:
What I do think is a uniquely Silicon Valley dynamic is that they want to be intricately involved in understanding the business of the nonprofit," Mr. Carson said. "They want to understand the how, the why. That is a new and higher level of involvement than a lot of nonprofits are used to from donors who traditionally write a check and say, ‘See me in a year and tell me how you did.’
More and more what we are hearing is folks are expecting their wealth advisers to be well versed in impact investing as a new innovation approach to social change," said Jen Ratay, executive director of the Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund. "[They are] thinking about, where does money sleep at night? Does it align with one’s core values?
What's more, this more involved and immediate form of social change investing brings more rewards. From The Guardian:
[G]rowing evidence suggests that philanthropists who take more risks could bring about greater innovation and impact in the not-for-profit sector. Think northern California’s project to raise food stamp enrolment rates with the support of technology – an unprecedented approach that aims to improve food poverty for thousands of residents.
These movements in philanthropy are representative of a larger trend in giving and among high net worth individuals. Four out of five wealthy donors have socially-conscious investments, according to a recent CAF report.