Globe Highlights Low Restaurant Worker Pay

The following appeared on
Headline: Fast food workers deserve a livable wage – The Boston Globe
Date:     Feb 18, 2014.  When challenged on their low wages and lack of benefits, fast-food chains like to depict their workers as teenagers saving for college, who value the hourly receipts as a step toward a better life. All those smiling kids presumably wear their brightly colored smocks and golf visers with the same pride as Marines donning their colors, and are just as happy to serve. But those workers, if they exist, are a distinct minority. They should meet Hope Shaw, the 38-year-old single mother of three who is assistant manager at Dunkin’ Donuts on Boston Street. She, too, likes to serve. But her life is one of unrequited toil. She lives paycheck to paycheck. Her heating gas was shut off last winter for failure to pay; the electric bill for her Dorchester apartment is consistently three months overdue.
The following appeared on Tipping system exacerbates unfairness of restaurant pay – The Boston Globe, Date:     Feb 18, 2014.  Tipping is said to have started in the Roman Empire as a means to reward servants and slaves. Americans, though, adopted the custom only after the Civil War, but and it stuck; diners doled out some $40 billion in gratuities in 2012, according to industry experts. Yet the entrenchment of tipping has given restaurant owners a pretext to Yet, as today’s restaurant owners use tipping as a way to avoid paying their workers a proper wage. The tip system should be uprooted , it may be time to end it — or at least returned it to its roots as a purely voluntary reward for excellent service. Other than restaurants, few other industries are set up to let bosses rely almost entirely on customers’ generosity to set wages. Owners, of course, are happy to save on labor costs, and back when tips were still came mainly in cash, this arrangement probably made sense to workers, too.

 The following appeared on Headline: Service not included: Restaurant industry serves up injustice to workers – The Boston Globe, Date:     Feb 18, 2014. The restaurant industry in the United States is exploding, just as the income gap is widening. The trends are related: While expansion of other industries often leads to higher wages and greater opportunities, growth in the restaurant business does not. Shielded by a powerful lobby and a franchise system that makes union organizing difficult and impractical, it provides the scraps at the bottom of the income ladder. The food service industry is the province of kitchen workers who must enlist government investigators to collect the bare minimum they are required by law; wait staff who earn a punishingly low $2.13 per hour nationally in exchange for tips whose distribution is often controlled by management; and fast-food dispensers whose brand-name outlets openly advise them to apply for food stamps and other government aid to supplement their unlivable wages.

The following appeared on Headline: Fast-food workers need organizers, advocates – The Boston Globe, Date: Feb 20, 2014.   According to the US Department of Labor, less than 2 percent of food service workers are unionized, and it shows. Fast-food employees like King and Guiterrez are put in particular are at a serious disadvantage when demanding better pay and working conditions. Average wages in the sector have remained stagnant at just above the federal minimum wage, $7.25 an hour, for two decades. About 13 percent of fast-food workers have employer-sponsored health benefits, compared to 59 percent of the workforce as a whole. Whether through traditional unions or something else, one of the quickest ways to improving the lot of most restaurant employees would be more organized labor. Larger unions often have trouble making inroads into restaurants because of the small-scale nature of the business, with its mom-and-pop eateries and franchised fast-food outlets. Fortunately, less conventional advocates for workers have stepped in to fill the gap.


Minimum Wage Bill Comparisons

House Vote of April 2 – Next Step Conference Committee.  What happened with the House vote on the Minimum Wage bill yesterday? They passed a bill to increase wages to $10.50 over 3 years, but did not pass Indexing to Inflation, and raised tipped worker wages only from 33% to 36% of the minimum wage. No cuts were made to unemployment benefits or eligibility.   Analysis: 1).   We could not have won a vote over the House Speaker’s opposition on the two amendments we supported on tipped wages and indexing. BUT the Senate bill has indexing and tipped wage at 50% of minimum wage plus tips so those two provisions are very much alive to be negotiated between the House and Senate AND us since we control the chance to move this to the ballot. 2).   By the Raise UP MA coalition together getting 41 legislators to co-sponsor the amendment to raise tipped worker wages, we moved forward the chances of that happening in the final bill. 3).   When the prospect of possible cuts to unemployment benefits and eligibility seemed like they might be linked to the minimum wage bill in the House, Raise Up Massachusetts took on that issue too and we were successful in preventing any cuts from being made.   We do want a bill with more progress in tipped worker wages and indexing, BUT at $10.50 an hour, it would be the highest minimum wage level for states in our country so we are on the way to winning.   Our Raise UP Massachusetts coalition of community, labor, and faith based groups has gotten us so far already and we can finish the job in the next 7 months. What’s Next for the 500,000 people now earning $8 to $10.50 an hour and the almost 1 million without earned sick days?

1. We need to collect the second set of signatures required to qualify for the ballot for Minimum Wage and Earned Sick Days between May 10 and June 15. Doing this keeps the pressure on the Legislature to pass a better bill on tipped worker wage increase and on indexing to inflation.  Both House Speaker DeLeo and Senate President Murray have publicly acknowledged that the ballot proposal was instrumental to them moving legislation on this. 2. We will keep up the pressure on the Legislature to pass a strong Minimum Wage bill during this period from now to July 2 when they can do this. 3. If by July 2, the Legislature has not passed a Minimum Wage bill OR does not pass one our coalition feels is strong enough, then we can file the signatures to put it on the fall ballot. 4. So far the Legislature has shown no interest in passing an Earned Sick Days bill, so collecting the second set of signatures will qualify that for the ballot to give the 1 million people without sick days, 5 days to care for themselves, or their children, or their elderly relatives.         Comparison of Ballot Proposal, Senate Bill, House Bill on Minimum Wage
 1.    Ballot Proposal: Raises wages from $8 to $10.50 over two years. Indexes it to inflation.  Raised tipped workers from 33% of Minimum Wage +  tips to 60% + tips. 
2.    Senate Passed Bill.  Raised wages to $11 an hour over 3 years.  Indexes it to inflation.  Raises tipped wages to 50% of Minimum Wage plus tips.   
3.    House Bill.  Raises wages to $10.50 over 3 years.  NOT indexed to inflation.  Only raises tipped workers wage from 33% to 36% of Minimum Wage + tips.  The House bill included the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and several positive amendments related to unemployment insurance rights and rights of workers related wage payment violations. The Senate addressed unemployment insurance issues in separate bill that did not have these provisions.
 Lew Finfer, Harris Gruman, Deb Fastino, Carl Nilsson on behalf of Raise UP Massachusetts.
Sheila Decter, JALSA

Signature Campaign: Earned Sick Time and Minimum Wage

Signatures were delivered to the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth. Next will be verification of the signatures and approval by the MA Attorney General. Would expect to be on the ballot on Nov. 6, 2014.

Earned Sick Time has been a core pursuit of JALSA for over 6 years and we are now going to “the people to get this passed.”  Likewise, a raise in the Minimum Wage has been an important goal of  JALSA. The vast majority of persons receiving the minimum wage are family providers.  You cannot feed, cloth, and shelter a family on the current minimum wage.  This year, the earned sick time campaign has joined forces with another campaign working to improve conditions for low-income workers: the minimum wage campaign. $8.00 an hour is not enough to support a family, especially with the high living costs in Massachusetts. read more

Garment Working Conditions

For developments see May 19, 2013 NY Times article ” H&M Led Labor Breakthrough …”

The recent event in Bangladesh is an unfortunate reminder of the importance of government regulations for working conditions in factories. The collapse of the factory is the latest in a long line of disasters at Bangladeshi factories. Last year, more than 100 people died in a fire at Tazreen Fashions in the Bangladeshi town of Ashulia.  M.T. Anderson, earlier this week in an excellent article in the NYTimes, reminded us of the similar tragedies in American garment factories until regulations were enforced.

The collapse of the garment factory in Bangladesh was not given the attention it deserved in the media due the coverage of the domestic Boston Marathon bombings and West, Texas factory explosion. But, it is important to reflect on the calamity that took place in the town of Savar in central Bangladesh where the death toll has now exceeded 500 according to Reuters. Much of the clothing we buy comes from places like Savar, and the conditions for the workers who make that clothing are dangerous and inhumane. We must educate ourselves and show as consumers that we are conscious of the treatment of those who make the products we buy.

Action Needed   The Gap and other American stores that buy from Bangladeshi garment factories should be pressured to join the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement to make immediate safety improvements in supplier factories.

Writing to the CEOs of these companies is an effective means for pressuring them into changing their policies on what working conditions they expect from the factories that they buy from.  Loblaw (Joe Fresh clothing) and Primark have said they will compensate the victims’ families, (Boston Globe, May 1, 2013) but they, Benetton, Children’s Place, and Mango need to improve worker conditions.  Gap products were involved in the earlier fire.

Corporate addresses for these companies:

Primark Stores   Limited  Primark House 41 West Street Reading Berkshire RG1 1TZ

Childrens Place Corporate Office Headquarters 500 Plaza Drive, Secaucus, NJ 07094 USA

Loblaw Companies Limited, 1 President’s Choice Circle; Brampton, Ontario, Canada L6Y 5S5

Mango Mercaders 9-11 Poligono Industrial Riera de Caldes Apdo de correos 280 Palau Solità i  Plegamans Barcelona 08184 Spain

Gap 2 Folsom Street; San Francisco, CA 94105;

Villa Minelli (Benetton); Via Villa Minelli, 131050 Ponzano Veneto; Treviso, Italy



Sheila Decter,  Jewish Alliance for Law & Social Action