Beaver County Blue

Progressive Democrats of America – PA 12th CD Chapter

Archive for September, 2015

The Average American Worker Earns Less Today Than 40 Years Ago

Posted by carldavidson on September 28, 2015

It’s not just unemployment that matters. Many full-time workers take home less money, after inflation, than in decades.

 

Because most everything we buy gets more expensive over time, we have to earn more money each year just to maintain our existing standard of living. When we’re not given raises that keep up with this rate of inflation, we’re effectively suffering a pay cut.. That’s why many American workers are actually poorer today than four decades ago. They may be earning more money. But, in real terms, they’re getting less for it. Measured in 2014 dollars, the median male full-time worker made $50,383 last year against $53,294 in 1973, according to new U.S. Census Bureau figures.

At $50,383, the figure is the lowest it’s been since 2006. It’s also $450 lower than in 2013. Women have seen bigger increases in real pay in the last few years, though from a lower (unequal) base. The median female worker earned $30,182 in 1973 (in 2014 dollars), but $39,621 last year.

As we explored in our income inequality series recently, technology, globalization, and reduced union bargaining power are all factors behind stagnating wages. The economy has been getting bigger, driven by continuing increases in productivity. But, for one reason or another, workers haven’t been sharing in those gains. But they’re not just disappearing: They’re making a small group of people very, very rich. What are we going to do about that?

[Top Photo: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images]

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Posted in Austerity, trade unions | 2 Comments »

Bernie Sanders Draws Blue-Collar Workers in Iowa

Posted by carldavidson on September 8, 2015

Bernie on the picket line in Iowa

By Vaughn Hillyard
Beaver County Blue via NBC News

DES MOINES, Iowa, Sept 7, 2015 — A picketing president? Bernie Sanders said it could be him.

"Yeah, I might. That’s right. Why not," Sanders said when asked about the possibility after addressing AFSCME union members on Saturday in Altoona, Iowa.

The day before, Sanders picketed outside a Cedar Rapids plant that produces specialized starches alongside union workers engaged in a battle with the plant’s parent company, Ingredion, over new contract negotiations.

And to a crowd of 400 on Thursday in Burlington, Iowa—an old, union town hit hard over the last three decades by shuttered factories—Sanders emphatically stated: "The bottom line is: For millions of American workers, wages in this country are just too damn low."

Since announcing his candidacy, Sanders has zeroed in on blue-collar voters, consistently addressing low wages, unemployment issues and the country’s trade policies in stump speeches—pushing back against the notion that the economic recovery is as strong as often touted.

"I assumed I would be a Hillary supporter—and rightly or wrongly, probably because I feel like in the last twenty years, the greatest time we had between financial stability was during Bill Clinton’s run," said Ron Lowe, 52, of Grinnell, Iowa.

But Lowe said he will caucus for Sanders in February. He drove 45 minutes with his mother-in-law last Thursday to see the Democratic candidate at a rally.

"I feel like he’s not a filthy rich millionaire," Lowe said. "He wants to take on the rich, powerful people that seem to make all these decisions without any regard to the people in the middle to lower class. And it’s so obvious that the rich keep getting richer."

Lowe, a father of four, is unemployed after losing his job three months ago. He worked in Grinnell’s Donaldson plant—since the age of 24—manufacturing mufflers for agricultural equipment. But over the years, the company moved jobs to Mexico and other states, where Lowe said non-union facilities gave the company a cheaper option. Its last employees are expected to be out of work by the end of the year.

At a time when Democrats tout the economic recovery, Sanders harps on the economic data point of real unemployment, a point often used by his Republican counterparts. Despite a decrease in nationwide unemployment to 5.1 percent, the unemployment rate does not account for individuals who are underemployed, have given up looking for work, and others who are working part time but would like to work full time. Including those individuals, the unemployment figure is 10.3 percent.

"It is absolutely imperative that we stop the hemorrhaging of decent paying jobs because of our disastrous trade policies," Sanders said. ‘You are looking at a Senator and former congressman who voted against [North American Free Trade Agreement], against [Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement], against permanent trade relations with China. And you’re looking at a senator who is going to do everything he can to help defeat this disastrous Trans-Pacific Partnership."

Sanders provides a contrast to Sec. Hillary Clinton on trade—without naming her directly. Though she hasn’t taken a stance on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Clinton helped kickstart the negotiations, and Bill Clinton signed NAFTA into law.

"To simply blame the Republicans for that would be unfair," Sanders said on Saturday. "Democratic presidents have been involved in that trade policy. It has been bipartisan. It has been wrong."

Matt Richards, 56, of Newtown lost his job in 2007 when the town’s Maytag plant closed, putting more than 2,500 employees out of work. Richards worked at the facility for 23 years as an oiler, doing jobs like greasing conveyer lines.

"It’s a whole different town now. There was a lot of money here when Maytag was here," Richards said. "The crazy part of it is these jobs—for a small town like we are—was awesome pay, good benefits, you had some vacation time…It makes it tough in this small town."

Richards—though not ready to fully commit to a candidate—says Sanders’ message resonates.

"A lot of people like Bernie. He has a lot of good ideas," Richards said. "And what he talks about, getting our wages up there, you got to let a guy make a living wage to take care of a family. You know, nine bucks an hour isn’t going to cut it or ten bucks an hour. You’ve got to let a guy get to where he can make some money."

Last month, Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, called Bernie Sanders "a warrior" at a labor forum hosted in Iowa.

"I want to say thank you for being a warrior for working people—not just lately but for your entire career," Trumka said to Sanders in front of 200 union workers. "All of us are living a little bit better because of that. And we want to say thank you for those efforts. You’ve earned them."

Trumka, however, made it clear on Meet the Press this Sunday that he will not personally endorse a candidate and likes both Clinton and Sanders.

Another former Maytag employee and United Auto Workers union member, Lonnie White, 66, a porcelain sprayer at the time, sat in the back row of Sanders’ event on the Meskwaki Settlement in central Iowa on Thursday.

"I think that he’s what the Democrats used to be," White said. "I think the Democratic Party used to be exactly what he represents. Taking care of each other. I think we’ve gotten away from that and gone to the middle."

Posted in 2016 Election, trade unions | Leave a Comment »

Minimum Wage Debate Heats Up in Pennsylvania

Posted by carldavidson on September 1, 2015

Meagan Gemperlein, 25, is a part-time tipped worker at Pittsburgh’s Wigle Whiskey. Wigle owners say they pay each of the workers at least twice the tipped minimum wage of $2.83.

By Molly Duerig
Beaver County Times

Sept 1, 2015 – PITTSBURGH — Cori Shetter is a college graduate and aspiring actress who’s worked minimum-wage jobs for 15 years.

“It’s like swinging from Tarzan vine to Tarzan vine. One vine’s about to end and break, so you just grab the next one, but you’re never really putting your feet on solid ground,” said the 31-year-old Pittsburgh resident.

Living in her Lawrenceville home is only possible because her parents own it, and Shetter pays them as much of the mortgage and other expenses as she can.

The one major thing she could do to further her career goals — auditioning — has fallen by the wayside as she invests most of her time in serving jobs for small, but reliable, paychecks. She supplements that by cutting hair for up to 10 clients a month at home.

Many servers, like Shetter, earn Pennsylvania’s tipped minimum wage of $2.83 per hour. The standard minimum wage, both state and federal, is $7.25.

Many believe the minimum wage hasn’t kept up with the times, and movements to raise it are being led by grassroots groups and governments in communities across the nation. In June, Los Angeles became the biggest city in the country to raise its minimum wage to $15 by 2020.

Nineteen U.S. cities and counties experienced mandated wage increases this year; 29 states and Washington, D.C., already require employers to pay workers more than $7.25.

Pennsylvania isn’t part of this group – yet.

There are five bills pending in the state Legislature proposing to raise the minimum wage, with different methods and standards ranging from $8.75 to $15. Some politicians and business owners said they worry that putting this mandate on employers could mean fewer job openings and other cutbacks in the business community.

“If minimum wage is hiked, many of these jobs will vanish, or work hours will be drastically cut,” state Rep. Stephen Bloom, R-Cumberland, wrote in an email. “Employers simply find less costly alternatives, either through automation, technology or other means.”

Even economists, who also have opinions, disagree about the impact. Although some studies indicate a minimum-wage increase would cause job losses, other studies show just the opposite, said Sean Flaherty, the economics chair at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster.

“There’s just no strong consensus evidence that this is a significant problem when you have a modest increase in the minimum wage, done in stepwise fashion,” Flaherty said.

The proposals

The federal wage hasn’t increased since 2009, when it rose from $6.55 to $7.25. In 2008, it rose from $5.85.

Several states, counties and cities are taking the matter into their own hands.

In Pennsylvania, the most ambitious proposed bill is from Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Delaware, Montgomery. His “One Fair Wage” bill would raise the wage to $15 an hour and tie it to inflation across the board, for regular and tipped employees.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Minimum Wage, Organizing | Leave a Comment »

 
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