Thursday, June 26, 2014

Massachusetts, IKEA raise minimum wage

Federal contract employees walked off the job dressed as Rosie the Riveter.
Massachusetts and IKEA raised their minimum wages today, showing workers can win concessions when they stand together and fight.

The wage increases for the lowest paid workers follow a concerted series of walkouts and job actions over the past two years by workers at Walmart, warehouses, fast food restaurants, retail stores, ports, food processing companies and federal contractors. The Teamsters Union has strongly supported those actions, as locals directly support warehouse workers, port truck drivers and workers at Taylor Farms.

President Obama recently ordered the minimum wage for government-contract workers to $10.10. That isn't enough, they say. More than 100 hourly employees walked off the job even as Obama was speaking at a summit on working families on Monday:  The Washington Post reported,
“Nobody who cooks our troops’ meals or washes their dishes should have to live in poverty,” he said of workers in federal buildings, speaking Monday at the White House Summit on Working Families in D.C.. “That’s a disgrace.” 
But less than half a mile away, about 150 of those same hourly employees took a different stance. They had walked off their jobs in federal buildings earlier that morning, gathering outside the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in a protest aimed directly at the president... 
“The struggle is that we do not make enough money to be able to survive,” said Joanne Kenon, a greeter at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. “To live in D.C., it costs a lot.”
Raising the minimum wage isn't enough, though, if workers can't organize and negotiate with employers. And commercial activity will continue to stagnate so long as so much of the American workforce earns poverty wages.

In Massachusetts, according to Reuters,
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick on Thursday signed into law a measure raising the minimum wage to the highest of any U.S. state, $11 per hour, by 2017... 
"Raising the minimum wage brings a little relief to the working poor, many of whom do jobs we could not live without and who recycle money right back into the economy," Patrick said in a statement announcing the signing.  
The law will raise the state's minimum wage in stages from its current level of $8 per hour and follows similar moves by neighboring Connecticut and Vermont. 
Here's a report on IKEA's action, according to USA Today:
IKEA, the iconic home furnishings chain, plans to announce Thursday that it will raise its minimum wage by 17%, joining a growing national movement to boost the pay of low-wage workers. 
The Gap, whose stores include Gap and Old Navy, also has announced plans to increase its pay floor this year. 
​The privately held Ikea plans to raise its average minimum wage from $9.17 an hour to $10.76 starting January 1. The increase will affect about half of the 11,000 employees at its 38 U.S. stores. 
"It's driven from our vision of wanting to create a better everyday life for our coworkers," acting IKEA President Rob Olson said in an interview.
IKEA still has much to answer for. The company has locked out 300 Teamsters in Richmond, Canada, for more than a year.