Friday, July 24, 2009

Federal Minimum Wage increases to $7.25/hour

The federal minimum wage will increase today, raising wages of the lowest paid workers from $6.55/hour to $7.25/hour and providing a real boost to working families and the economy. Workers who benefit from the increase will spend it in their local communities on much needed items like milk, diapers and clothes for their children.

Marilynn Winn is a temp worker in Atlanta earning $6.75/hour at an auto auction. “Increasing the minimum wage will help me and everyone in my community,” she says. “I help my 77 year old mother and 18 year old grandson when I can. Sometimes my mother calls asking for help to buy food and I have to say, 'I can’t this week.'”

Such basic needs might not sound like the elements of an economic recovery package. But according to the Economic Policy Institute, this $24 per week increase for full-time minimum wage workers will generate $5.5 billion in consumer spending over the next year - providing a helping hand to the sagging economy. Though Congress could not foresee our current economic troubles when a series of three wage increases were enacted in 2007, this minimum wage increase could not come at a better time – for low-wage, working families and for the country as a whole.

When President Franklin Roosevelt first proposed the first federal minimum wage law in 1937, he noted that "The increase in national purchasing power (is) an underlying necessity of the day.”

Thirty-one states will be affected by the minimum wage increase, including Georgia and Wisconsin where 9to5 has worked in coalition with business, labor, faith, nonprofit and civil rights organizations to ensure that working families receive what Roosevelt called a “fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.” Other states where 9to5 has launched campaigns, including Colorado and California, have a minimum wage above $7.25.

Recent economic studies document that states where the minimum wage was raised had better employment and small business growth than states that did not. A letter signed by 650 leading economists, in support of raising the minimum wage, noted “most of the beneficiaries are adults, most are female and the vast majority (come from) low-income working families.” Disputing claims that these increases threaten job growth, they state, “The increase… would not have the adverse effects that critics have claimed.”

While the federal minimum wage increase will go into effect at a time when working families are struggling mightily to make ends meet, the American worker, particularly low-wage workers, need and deserve more: guaranteed paid sick days, more affordable child care for working parents and time off to be involved in their children’s school activities.

As we celebrate this minimum wage increase and all that it promises, let’s continue to move toward family-friendly workplace legislation so that the workplace works for all of us.

- Statement of Cindia Cameron
Organizing Director, 9to5 National Association of Working Women
Co-Chair, Georgia Minimum Wage Coalition

ALSO: Check out Michael Kanell's article about the minimum wage hike in today's AJC... two 9to5 members were quoted!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Don't know much about Sotomayor?

According to a CBS poll conducted over the weekend, 62% of Americans have yet to form an opinion of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, many because they just don't know that much about her. Are you part of that 62%??

Today, Sotomayor's confirmation hearings began in the Senate -- and your senator needs to hear from you! If you feel like you don't know enough about the nominee to form an opinion, start reading, or watch the evening news, or start talking to your friends about her. Your senators have been elected to represent you, so speak up!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Work/Family Support Committee meeting!

Sunday, July 12
4-5:30 pm

Tah Cha Tea House
3352C Chamblee-Tucker Road
Here's a map!

Come join this 9to5 member committee as we discuss current legislative campaign in support of the Healthy Families Act and brainstorm strategies to build awareness about workplace oppression and the need to build a national movement to gain equitable work standards for all working adults.

See you there!

PS: Here's a link to Tah Cha's website.

Also, shout-out to Moms Rising: Read this blog post about the Healthy Families Act before the meeting!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What a working woman needs....?

Soon, in late October (which will be here before I can blink), I'll have been a parent for 13 years! The trials and tribulations of parenthood have shaped me and the lessons learned in the aftermath of many dangers averted and survived have secured my seat at the "Council of Sages" once my body catches up with the fatigue of my battle ridden professional identity. I learned two things very early as a working woman the 1st was that opportunities for advancement were limited and the competition was fierce 2nd the workplace is hostile towards working parents. I love being a woman, I feel honored to be a mom, but parenthood sucks!

For almost thirteen years I have struggled to provide a quality life for my children and myself. I have been working since I was 9 years old. I started out emptying trash cans in a neighborhood in home childcare,and have worked a collage of part and full time jobs to support myself throughout college well into my parenthood experience. The jobs ( cashier, waitress, inn keeper, front desk agent, customer service rep, program assistant,and bank teller) required long hours in multiple shifts in order to meet the minimum financial obligations connected to my household. And no matter how many hours I seemed to work, the hourly pay rate inhibited my ability meet 100% of my obligations 100% of the time.

I exchanged a living wage for flexible schedule that allowed me the time to balance my family responsibilities. I was able to work odd shifts that allowed me to be available to my children daughter most days after school and in the early evenings. I did have to sacrifice weekend time with my family as I often worked 3 out of 4 weekends a month. If I could get a weekend off it was usually a single day [Friday,Saturday or Sunday] but rarely two weekend days in a row. Working weekend shifts meant that quality time with my family was a prized event so I looked forward to our full Saturday or Sunday together once a month. Though I appreciated being able to pick my children up from school, helping with homework, and preparing meals; I felt constant anxiety about my income and our expenses. I often worked when sick as I could never afford to take a sick day for myself and often sent my children to child care and school in poor health because I was unable to take time off from work to care for them.

I have, since becoming an adult, been employed. My part time jobs offered me the flexibility I needed, but the pay was very scarce. Full time positions often presented other challenges such as a rigid schedule or exempted positions that again required long hours that were compensated in an accrual of comp-time that I could never find the time to take off. The benefit packages such as health, life and dental that covered me and my children offered some cushion to my anxiety when the often compromised net pay was deposited into my often negative bank account. But still I felt like I could never get ahead and was doomed to be stuck in a cycle of poverty that kept me living just below a descent standard of living.

I began to find myself waking in the middle of the evening in sweats concerned about the future of my family and my professional options. I had no college degree, two children and a non traditional career path. Was I ever going to be able to find work that not only payed me a "fair" wage but also satisfied my thirst for professional development. I needed employment that helped me to build a pathway to economic self sufficiency, not a job that leached my talents and potential with dead end prospects. I was often overlooked for promotions and scrutinized for every off day I may have taken, though as I stated I days off were rare and only taken when absolutely required by a doctor.

I have experienced many accomplishments in my professional and personal life. But the lows have been completely derailing. I have survived 3 (independent) company lay-offs, been forced to live on unemployment insurance and food stamps while trying to reenter the workplace, evicted from 2 apartments, been homeless with my children and had 1 car repossessed while trying to keep my life with children in tow afloat. when I was not able to work a traditional job, I created wealth for myself my accepting a string non-traditional service jobs such as nanny, house keeper or day laborer. I have, as many adults will empathize, always had to work to support myself. My children required me to stretch a $28k salary to cover the needs of 3 people this included covering the exorbitant cost of quality childcare/ aftercare, housing and transportation expenses. I list those three expenses as the primaries because we survived with a roof over our heads but often went without utilities and ate meager rations. Childcare and after care were a support that must be afforded if I was t o be able to work at all. Without transportation (including MARTA tokens) movement was compromised and travel to and from work or schools was impossible.

Maybe some of you would list other expenses, but my children and I have always lived on a scarce budget, and this working mom often finds herself asking "What do I need to survive?" or "What do we need to make it out of this mess?" Well my work in the area of workplace advocacy has helped me to define with more clarity and confidence what this working mom needs. I need health benefits that cover my family and myself with a low co-pay and options in coverage. I need pay that supports a quality life. I don't want to go from a 2004 Malibu classic to a 2009 Bentley, I'm not trying to buy more house than I can afford to care for, I want to be able to take my children to the Georgia Aquarium just once without having to compromise the utility bill or blowing the food budget for the month. I need to work for an employer that has compassion for the family unit and accepts that whether physically present or not, support of the family is why most adults maintain employment. We all want to retire with a good work history, financial security and life insurance benefits that will provide for our loved ones after our transition; as a single working mom I want to believe that I too can strive for these American ideals. But I often feel stuck and uncertain in this southern "Right to Work" state whose electorate seems to be committed to continuing this disenchanting waltz that perpetuates my and many others downward spiral into abject poverty. I need my elected officials to hear my well articulated appeal to pass laws that provide paid sick time, life supporting wages and advancement opportunities for all employees in all fields of work. All work in unique and necessary on some level; men/ women, young/ old, college educated or not, regardless of ethnicity or sexual identity need to know with security and confidence a quality life is obtainable and that the American workplace is a vehicle to deliver on promise of internationally popularized American ideals.

As a working woman, I need an intentional effort made to level the playing field in the workplace, so that it can become a viable means to lift mine and many families like mine out of poverty and push us further from its clutches.

posted by Shyria Coleman.... please offer your comments, feed back, concerns or rebuttals on this discussion board. I want to know... What do other working women need?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

This 4th of July, Support the Healthy Families Act!

For most Americans, the Fourth of July is a day for fireworks, concerts, parades and all manner of patriotic displays. It’s as American as barbeque ribs and apple pie, reminding us of freedom, justice, community, hard work and family values; the shared ideals that define us as a nation.

We don’t need a holiday or special celebration to honor working families. But we all occasionally need time off from work to share the responsibility for our family’s health. Still, the Fourth of July is a perfect time to contact our leaders in Congress and ask that they celebrate our national values of family and work by supporting the Healthy Families Act (HFA).

On May 18, Rep Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the Healthy Families Act to the 111th Congress. HFA is designed to allow Americans to earn paid sick time so that they can take care of their own and their family’s health needs. Care-giving responsibilities can be one of the biggest hurdles working families face in their quest to realize the American dream of economic self-sufficiency. But nearly 60 million American workers lack a single paid sick day in which to care for themselves when occasional illness strikes. Nearly 100 million lack a paid sick day to care for an ill child.

For these Americans, the lack of this basic labor standard presents unconscionable choices: whether to go to stay home and get better or go to work to keep from losing a job. On this Fourth of July holiday – and beyond -- there is lots of work to do to make work, well, work. Click here to learn more about the Healthy Families Act. Share the information with your family, friends, co-workers, community members. Urge them to take action today by contacting their members of Congress to insure that they support the Healthy Families Act.

While we’re waving our flag this July 4th, let’s really honor all Americans by moving toward passage of the Healthy Families Act.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

REPORT: Race and the Recession

The Applied Research Center recently released a report titled "Race and the Recession: How Inequity Rigged the Economy and how to Change the Rules." This report details the stories of people of color who are disproportionately affected by the recession. It uncovers root causes of long-term racial inequities that fed into the economic crisis. It proposes structural solutions to change a system that threatens future generations.

You can look at a synopsis of the report and watch a video of personal stories here.

The report finds that: "People of color have been relegated to precarious, low-wage work - or no work - at disproportionate rates. Black, Latino, Asian and American Indian communities face barriers in employment, including discrimination in hiring and promotions, unfair criminal background checks and the lack of protections for immigrant workers. As a result, communities of color on the whole, relative to whites, face higher rates of poverty, are less likely to have healthcare and consistently face recessionary levels of unemployment and underemployment."

Be sure to check out the Action Steps listed on the ARC's website and make sure your voice is heard!