News from the Daily Kos Labor
- Tipped workers face added sexual harassment during the pandemic, this week in the war on workers
March, 6 2021
In the fight for a $15 minimum wage, don’t forget about tipped workers. While the federal minimum wage has been $7.25 an hour since 2009—and Congress hasn’t passed an increase since 2007—the tipped worker minimum wage has been at $2.13 an hour since 1991. The theory is that workers get at least minimum wage thanks to tips, or else employers make up the difference. The reality can be very different: “the federal Department of Labor’s wage and hour division has estimated that 84% of restaurants violate labor standards including tip violations. In other words, far too often, workers don’t get the tips they’re due,” Saru Jayaraman of One Fair Wage writes.
And working for tips opens workers up to racism, sexism, and sexual harassment. Research shows that Black waiters get lower tips, and waiters viewed as attractive get higher tips. Now, there’s a new twist, Jayaraman reports. “Male customers are making lewd and sexualized comments about servers’ masks and saying things to women servers like, ‘Take off your mask so I can see how much to tip you.’ In other words, while tips and, thus, wages for restaurant workers are plummeting, sexual harassment is rising.”
This is gross and awful, and while it would be great to see immediate justice in the form of drinks in faces and food dumped on laps, it would be still better if workers didn’t have to put up with that kind of harassment to make a living wage.
- COVID-19 has the child care industry in dire crisis, but there are two big reasons for hope
March, 4 2021
The child care industry and the workers in it—overwhelmingly women, many of them women of color—have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Really hard. But now there are two big reasons for hope, thanks to child care funding in the COVID-19 relief bill passed by the House and to a rush of states opening up vaccinations to child care workers.
After losing 400,000 jobs early in the pandemic, the industry hasn’t fully rebounded. In December 2020, there were still nearly 175,000 fewer child care jobs than there were in December 2019. In an industry that operates on extremely tight profit margins, enrollments remain down due to both reduced class sizes for social distancing purposes and parents keeping their kids home rather than risking group settings, while expenses for personal protective equipment and cleaning are up.
- Biden makes ‘almost unprecedented’ show of support for union organizing in tweeted video
March, 1 2021
President Joe Biden made a historic statement in favor of workers’ right to organize and against employer intimidation of workers in a video released Sunday evening. “I made it clear when I was running, that my administration’s policy would be to support unions organizing and the right to collectively bargain,” he said. “I’m keeping that promise. You should all remember the National Labor Relations Act didn’t just say that unions are allowed to exist, it said that we should encourage unions.
“So let me be really clear: It’s not up to me to decide whether anyone should join a union,” Biden continued. “But let me be even more clear: it’s not up to an employer to decide that either. The choice to join a union is up to the workers—full stop. Full stop.” (Scroll down for full text of Biden’s remarks.)
- One of the most pro-worker moves Biden could make might surprise you
February, 27 2021
One incredibly important move to help workers that the Biden administration has signaled didn’t necessarily look like a pro-worker move. Even before President Biden was inaugurated, his incoming White House counsel started asking for suggestions for judicial nominees who would be diverse not just on race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion, but on professional background. Specifically, more candidates who have been public defenders or civil rights attorneys (a group that also happens to be more diverse in other ways).
How’s that a pro-worker move? According to a new study by Emory University law professor Joanna Shepherd, judges appointed by former President Obama who had corporate backgrounds with Obama-appointed judges were 36% less likely to rule for workers over bosses in workplace disputes. Obama-appointed judges with backgrounds as prosecutors were 50% less likely to take the side of workers than were non-prosecutors.
Advocacy groups like Demand Justice, which helped fund Shepherd’s study, are working to keep the pressure on the Biden administration to follow through on this and make the federal judiciary more diverse in this key way.
- Democrats come up with Plan B for raising the minimum wage. Republicans keep lying about it
February, 26 2021
Since the Senate parliamentarian advised that a minimum wage increase cannot be part of a budget reconciliation bill, Democrats are looking for Plan B, a way to fulfill the promise and the desperate necessity to raise millions of people above the current poverty-level federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
They have to do that because of the parliamentarian’s ruling that came despite several Republican policies with less effect on the budget having previously been allowed in reconciliation bills. They have to do that because Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin have made clear that it will be hard to get their votes on any reasonable minimum wage proposal and it will be impossible to get their votes over the parliamentarian’s objections. But Democrats—led by Sens. Ron Wyden and Bernie Sanders—are working to find a way to do the thing that is both good policy and good politics.
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