A Labor Secretary Who Cares About Labor

Under both Democratic and Republican administrations, American workers have suffered a steady erosion of rights guaranteed to “employees” under federal labor laws.

But Secretary of Labor Martin J. Walsh took a step this week to reverse the trend.

Walsh said he wants to make it easier to classify gig workers as employees so they are entitled to a “safety net” of basic protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. In other words, he wants to stop employers from classifying workers as independent contractors simply to avoid paying minimum wage, holiday and overtime pay, etc.

Walsh said he will not enforce a rule adopted by the Trump administration that would have made it harder for employees who are wrongly classified as independent contractors to demand their right to be treated like employees.

1 in 6

Gig workers represent a rapidly growing segment of the American workforce due to the explosive rise of app-based services like Uber, Airbnb, Fiverr and Task Rabbit.

The ADP Research Institute estimates that one in six “enterprise” workers are gig workers.

Continue reading “A Labor Secretary Who Cares About Labor”

Pay Gap Not Just For 9-to-5’ers

So, The New York Times allegedly paid Jill Abramson, its ousted executive editor, less than her male counterparts over the course of her career.

Abramson, 60, is hardly representative of the average working woman but it would not be surprising if she has experienced a pay gap.

Women have made tremendous gains since the 1950s but still earn just 77 cents for every dollar men make. (Source: Department of Labor, Office of the Chief Economist, analysis of BLS’ Current Population Survey).  Even when controlling for factors such as experience, education, industry, and hours, among others, the gap persists. The DOL estimates the male/female pay gap costs women who work full-time almost $400,000 by the time they reach the age of  65.

Moreover, women  are disproportionately represented in the ranks of low wage workers. The DOL says women comprise more than half of the 28 million workers across the country who earn the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.  Of the 2.8 million working single parents who earn minimum wage, more than 80 percent are women.  And women  pay more for health care. In the aggregate, the DOL says, women spend an estimated $1 billion more than men for equivalent health coverage.

President Obama has called on Congress to raise the national minimum wage to $10.10 an hour which, according to the DOL, would help a single mother pay for a year’s worth of groceries, or even 6 months of rent.

The Huffington Post reports that as executive editor Abramson’s starting salary in 2011 was $475,000, compared to the $559,000 salary of Bill Keller, her predecessor. Her salary was raised to $503,000, and—after she protested—was raised again to $525,000. Her salary as managing editor, $398,000, was allegedly less than that of the male managing editor for news operations, John Geddes, and her salary as Washington bureau chief was a hundred thousand dollars less than that of her successor in that position, Phil Taubman. The New York Times contends Abramson’s entire pay package was higher than Keller’s.

Owners of The Times claim Abramson was fired because she had poor management skills but she had been a manager at the paper for years.  A journalist with a healthy degree of skepticism would find it hard to believe that it was entirely coincidental that Abramson was terminated a couple of weeks after she hired a lawyer to look into why her paycheck was allegedly shortchanged over the years by America’s most prestigious news operations.

The first female executive editor of the Times,  Abramson achieved success in her profession that probably exceeded her wildest dreams when she graduated from college. The Times settled a sex discrimination lawsuit in the 1970s alleging that it refused to hire women as reporters except in the newspaper’s lifestyle section.  But many women in America  are still struggling, particularly single mothers who work full-time and yet are living in poverty with their children.


The Minimum Wage & Women

Women 60 % of minimum wage earners

I was waiting at the supermarket for a short, overweight woman wearing tight blue pedal-pushers to self-bag a mountain of groceries.  

The cashier, a woman in her mid-30s with pulled back hair and dark eye makeup, could not ring up my groceries until there was room on the counter.

 “Why is it so busy?” I asked.

“It’s the first of the month. Food stamps,” said the cashier..

I noticed her eye makeup had migrated  below her eyes forming a shadow. She was tired.

 “Have you been going at this fevered pace all day?” I asked.

“Yeah and this is my second job,” she said. “I’ll put in sixteen hours today.”

Suddenly she brightened. “But I am looking forward to taking a week’s vacation in ten days –  from one job, anyway.  It’s the first vacation I’ve had in years. I’ll find out what it feels like to do nothing again.”


Since when is having only one job a vacation? 

 Minimum Wage

The U.S. Department of Labor is engaged in a “myth busting” informational campaign regarding increasing the federal minimum wage – which is now  $7.25 an hour.

Most people think that it is mostly teenagers who earn the mininim wage. That’s wrong.

 A cashier who works 16 hours a day and considers having just one job a “vacation” is more representative of the minimum wage worker than a high school student earning pocket change.

According to DOL, 60 percent of those earning the minimum wage are women – fewer than 20 percent  are teenagers. And minimum wage workers brought home 46 percent of their household’s wage and salary income in 2011.

The minimum wage has not increased since 2009 and it has declined by 7.3 percent in buying power.

Hardworking Americans earning the minimum wage cannot afford to buy basic necessities and support a family –  never mind  health benefits and a pension.  Many Americans are working multiple jobs just to keep out of poverty.

There is a lot of ignorance about the impact of raising the minimum wage. The DOL and the Economic Policy Institute say that raising the minimum wage does not hurt small business or economic growth. Check out the following DOL graphic:



CEO “earned” $732.73 per minute

The highest paid executive in the nation, David Simon, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Simon Property Group based in Indianapolis, IN, was paid $137 million last year, which comes out to  $732.75 per minute.

According to an analysis by The Associated Press using data from Equilar, an executive pay research firm, the head of a typical public company made $9.6 million in 2011, That’s an increase of more than 6 percent from the previous year.

The AP estimates that a minimum wage worker earning $7.25 per hour –like many workers at Simon shopping malls  – would have to work almost 9,096 years to make what Simon made last year.  A person earning the national median salary, $39,312 would have to work 3,489 years.

Simon Property Group is the largest real estate company in the United States and operates shopping malls across the country. Simon’s $137 million was mainly in stock options.

According to the Indianapolis Star, Simon shareholders, in a nonbinding “say on pay” vote last week, rejected Simon’s executive compensation package by a nearly 3-1 ratio.

The company responded:

 “SPG’s (shareholder) returns during David Simon’s tenure have led our industry and been among the best in corporate America, and our board firmly believes it was and is critical to retain Mr. Simon as the company’s CEO through a long-term, equity-based retention agreement that further aligns his interests with our stockholders.”

 Translation:  Go fly a kite.

Non-binding say-on-pay votes are new for public companies and are required under the federal Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.