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It's about time America had a real discussion about how to address the massive income inequality spurred by low, stagnant wages. Jared Bernstein, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, looks at the issue from an overtime angle, given the President's new proposal to boost overtime pay:
Since the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, it has been established that if you’re an hourly paid worker and you work more than 40 hours per week, you should get overtime pay equal to time and a half, meaning 1.5 times your base wage.  For three-quarters of a century, that standard has both rewarded people with a wage premium for working overtime, and provided an important incentive for employers to hire extra workers if they want to avoid paying the overtime premium to their existing work force.

But the law did not stop there.  It recognized that certain salaried and white-collar workers should also benefit from overtime pay, as neither their relatively low salaries nor their duties at work should exempt them.  So the law created a salary threshold below which salaried workers must get overtime and a set of “duties test” to establish whether salaried workers earning above the threshold were truly engaged in exempt duties for most of their time at work, including supervisory, managerial and executive tasks.

Unfortunately, these parts of the overtime rules have eroded, meaning that millions of workers who should be eligible for overtime are not.  Fortunately, President Obama has proposed to update these rules, and double-fortunately, he does not need congressional approval to make this type of regulatory change.

The New York Times:
McDonald’s and several franchise owners were hit this week with seven lawsuits brought by workers in California, Michigan and New York. The details differ, but all the cases charge “wage theft” — the violation of federal labor laws, including failure to pay the minimum wage and time-and-a-half for overtime, denial of meal periods and rest breaks, and mandatory unpaid work.

The cases, filed in state and federal courts, are a bold escalation in the battle by fast-food workers for better pay and the right to unionize without retaliation, which has involved widespread strikes and protests. The lawsuits argue that both the corporate parent and the independently owned franchises where many of the plaintiffs work are jointly responsible for illegal pay practices carried out by the franchises. That strikes at the heart of the low-wage fast-food business model. [...]

McDonald’s, an industry leader, says it is reviewing the allegations. If it is found liable, change could come to a notoriously low-paying field. Still, legal action is only one of the ways to try to effect change. The proliferation of low-wage work in America demands policies to lift wages, including a higher minimum wage. In the meantime, let the courts decide.

More on the day's top stories below the fold.

Meanwhile, Paul Krugman looks at the elite panic over movements to increase wages:

Four years ago, some of us watched with a mixture of incredulity and horror as elite discussion of economic policy went completely off the rails. Over the course of just a few months, influential people all over the Western world convinced themselves and each other that budget deficits were an existential threat, trumping any and all concern about mass unemployment. The result was a turn to fiscal austerity that deepened and prolonged the economic crisis, inflicting immense suffering.

And now it’s happening again. Suddenly, it seems as if all the serious people are telling each other that despite high unemployment there’s hardly any “slack” in labor markets — as evidenced by a supposed surge in wages — and that the Federal Reserve needs to start raising interest rates very soon to head off the danger of inflation. [...]

Is wage growth actually taking off? That’s far from clear. But if it is, we should see rising wages as a development to cheer and promote, not a threat to be squashed with tight money.

Timothy Noah at MSNBC:
If we were to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, as Iowa Democrat Sen. Tom Harkin and California Democrat Rep. George Miller have proposed and President Obama supports, you wouldn’t just be boosting income for the 17 million workers currently making between $7.25 an hour (or a bit more in some states that have their own minimum wage) and $10.10 an hour. Indirectly, you’d also be boosting, to a fairly predictable extent, income for another 11 million workers making slightly more than $10.10, for a total cohort of 28 million. And the average worker in this larger group provides fully half of his or her family income.

Let me say that again. The average worker who’d be affected by President Obama’s proposed increase in the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour is currently responsible for half of his or her family’s income. By definition, that’s not “pin money,” and it isn’t money being saved up to purchase a pre-owned Dodge Caliber. It’s money the family is counting on to pay the mortgage and put food on the table.

Who are these low-wage earners? Well, not quite one-third are unmarried with no kids, which in most cases will mean they live alone and provide 100% of their “family” income. Do all these single people skew the data? Sure, a little (though it’s important to remember that childless singles have to eat, too). But almost as many – 27% – are married, which presumably means two incomes. The remaining 29% are single parents, which means their low wages must provide 100% of a family income that supports an actual family. [...] What this means is that it’s simply wrong to dismiss the beneficiaries of a minimum-wage hike to $10.10 as frivolous folk on whom families don’t rely economically. Quite the contrary. These low-wage family members bring home the bacon – what little there is to be had. Time to give them a little more.

The Associated Press:
For years, many Americans followed a simple career path: Land an entry-level job. Accept a modest wage. Gain skills. Leave eventually for a better-paying job.

The workers benefited, and so did lower-wage retailers such as Wal-Mart: When its staffers left for better-paying jobs, they could spend more at its stores. And the U.S. economy gained, too, because more consumer spending fueled growth.

Not so much anymore. Since the Great Recession began in 2007, that path has narrowed because many of the next-tier jobs no longer exist. That means more lower-wage workers have to stay put. The resulting bottleneck is helping widen a gap between the richest Americans and everyone else.

And what will happen if there is a jump in the minimum wage? Lynn Thompson at The Seattle Times sums up one study:
Ten years ago, San Francisco raised its minimum wage from $6.75 to $8.50 an hour, a 26 percent increase. Since then, it has gone up at regular intervals to its current $10.74 an hour, the highest big-city starting wage in the country.

The city has slapped other mandates on businesses, including paid sick leave and a requirement to provide health-care coverage or pay into a pool for uninsured residents.

What have the effects been on employment?

Almost none, according to economists at the University of California, Berkeley, who have studied San Francisco, eight other cities that raised their minimum wages in the past decade, and 21 states with higher base pay than the federal minimum. Businesses absorbed the costs through lower turnover, small price increases at restaurants, which have a high concentration of low-wage workers, and higher worker productivity, the researchers found.

Finally, Andrea Purse at CNN argues the Republican Party needs to support a minimum wage hike:
Minimum wage is poised to be a driving issue this year. Given how it polls among women, Republicans should seize the chance to enact good policy and good politics with a group of voters they've been alienating. [...] The GOP's policies don't just harken back to the "Mad Men" era; Fred Flintstone could be their architect. They don't really consider women as the powerful economic agents they are. [...]  Failing to raise the minimum wage might be a boondoggle for the current set of Republican lawmakers, in that almost two-thirds of minimum wage earners are women, and women care about this issue deeply.
A good point, but the Republican Party doesn't really have a good track record of listening to voters, does it?

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Comment Preferences

  •  $10.10 is insufficient! (27+ / 0-)

    The minimum wage should be immediately jumped to $12.50 an hour and it should also be indexed against the Consumer Price Index.

    If we can give retired people a cost of living increase every year, we can do the same for people who are still working!

  •  Taking bets (5+ / 0-)

    the Supreme Court will rule 5-4 that if employees don't like it they can go get a better job so therefore they aren't hurt, dismissed.

  •  Thanks for the roundup, Georgia, much (14+ / 0-)

    appreciated!

    Sounds as if raising the minimum wage could be a winning issue for Dems in the fall. I'd like to see it raised to $15 an hour, though.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Fri Mar 14, 2014 at 05:00:06 AM PDT

    •  But are the Dems smart enough to run on it? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TofG, Diana in NoVa

      Or are they going lose trying to find a weak corporate compromise?

      Maybe I'm still flogging frustrations with the Democratic Party from the '80s when they seemed to be too happily Stockholmed into being the professional loser party.

      "If this Studebaker had anymore Atomic Space-Age Style, you'd have to be an astronaut with a geiger counter!"

      by Stude Dude on Fri Mar 14, 2014 at 05:08:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  "Dems are dumb" and the CFPB doesn't exist. (9+ / 0-)

        Mother Jones has a good short article with a top Ten on what Consumer Financial Protection Bureau does for us.

        1. Mortgage lender conflict of interest. They can no longer push you into a high-priced loan. In early 2013, the CFPB issued a rule that effectively ends this conflict of interest, forcing sale of the best rate under qualification.

        2. "No doc" mortgages eliminated. May, 2013, the bureau clamped down on this type of irresponsible lending, forcing mortgage lenders to verify borrowers' ability to repay.

        3. Foreclosure reform. If you are are delinquent on your mortgage payments, loan servicers cannot simultaneously offer a delinquent borrower options to avoid foreclosure while moving to complete that foreclosure. Loan servicers now face civil penalties if they don't provide appropriate customer service and record keeping.

        4. Millions of Americans get a low-cost home loan counselor. In Jan 2013, the CFPB required the vast majority of mortgage lenders to provide applicants with a list of free or low-cost housing counselors who can inform borrowers if they're being ripped off.

        5. Mortgage quality control. Lenders who sell mortgages with high interest rates are now required to have an outside appraiser determine the worth of the house for the borrower. Fraudulent "friendly appraisals" are now felonies.

        6. Debt collectors, payday lenders, and other under-regulated financial institutions are covered with new regulations. That's the "blizzard of regulations" that Republican are whining about.

        7. Folks scammed by credit card companies get refunds. Three American Express subsidiaries paid out $85 billion for illegal practices. JPMorgan Chase refunded $309 million to more than 2.1 million Americans for charging them for identity theft and fraud monitoring services they didn't ask for. Expect more.

        8. Student loan servicing at big banks now ensures compliance with fair lending laws. In December, the agency announced that it will also start supervising non-bank student loan servicers, which are companies that manage borrowers' accounts.

        9. Military service members get extra protection. In June, 2013, the CFPB ordered US Bank and its non-bank partner Dealers' Financial Services to refund $6.5 million to service members for failing to disclose fees associated with a military auto loan program. Cash America pays up to $14 million.

        10. Consumers get a help center. Don't understand whzt's happening to you, call CFPB.

        And I'm sure some hole will show up claiming that Obama and Senator Warren are secret Illuminati, serving the 1% in all things. Nothing for the Middle Class.

        American Express getting hit for $85-billion with-a-"b" is what it is. No wonder the crooks/GOPers don't like CFPB.

        "Stealing kids' lunch money makes them strong and independent." -- Rand Paul Ryan

        by waterstreet2013 on Fri Mar 14, 2014 at 06:03:28 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Mark Pryor is certainly championing... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        thomask, Stude Dude

        ...the "weak corporate compromise" by asserting that $10.10/hr is "too much, too fast."

        But he seems to be the only endangered Senate incumbent taking this position.

        Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. --Martin Luther King Jr.

        by Egalitare on Fri Mar 14, 2014 at 06:36:48 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I don't understand your claim, Stude Dude, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Stude Dude

        that Democrats played the professional loser party in the '80s.  True, the Republicans controlled the majority in the senate from 1981 to 1988, but never by a veto-proof majority, and Democrats controlled the House the entire decade of the '80s and beyond, up until 1994.

        "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." - H. L. Mencken

        by SueDe on Fri Mar 14, 2014 at 06:55:37 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  doesn't matter to me if (5+ / 0-)

    they get a raise...I still won't eat at McDucks or any of those franchise eateries.

    But all workers deserve a raise, and especially those enslaved in franchise hell.

    don't always believe what you think

    by claude on Fri Mar 14, 2014 at 05:00:45 AM PDT

  •  Radio wingnut says that if California would drill (9+ / 0-)

    for oil off the coast...2.5 million jobs would be created and all of those McDonalds workers could make $75k per year.....minimum.

  •  And I'm sick of subsidies to cheapskate employers (14+ / 0-)

    who won't pay workers a living wage.   They expect government handouts to their workers:  food stamps.   Medicare.  Earned Income Credit.    Government money to subsidize the low wages these ripoff artists use to suck at the Federal Tit.   Money their employees have rightfully earned... but the "Job Creators" won't give them....

    •  In a sane and just tax structure the tax structure (8+ / 0-)

      would take care of this. Employers' profits would be reduced proportionally by taxation for such burden shifting. Essentially what we see here is equivalent to well off parents with children in poverty programs.

      What would the scandal be if some $200,000 income family had its kids on free lunch and MEDICAID? Why not the same for these employers that are quite profitable yet shift the burden of employee support to the taxpayer.

      The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

      by pelagicray on Fri Mar 14, 2014 at 05:20:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Reflection from across the pond raises some of (6+ / 0-)

    the issues of trade agreements we also have. In this month's on line Le Monde diplomatique is "A trade agreement nobody should want" with:

    there is a danger that the rapid advance of free trade and Atlanticism may force Europeans to import meat containing hormones, genetically modified corn and chickens dipped in chlorine. And it may prevent Americans from favouring their own producers (the “Buy American Act”) when they use public funds to combat unemployment.
    And we worry that the Pacific agreement will have similar effects. In principle I have no problem with trade agreements and personally have enjoyed the idea and many of the effects of the EU. There is one qualification, one almost never met by the special interests that actually negotiate these things—such agreements must have provisions and teeth to prevent "trade protection" for anti worker, anti environment and anti health practices that drive us all to the bottom of the various standards barrels.

    There is also an interesting map of European rightist voting. Only Switzerland and Austria seem to break 20%.

    The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

    by pelagicray on Fri Mar 14, 2014 at 05:14:39 AM PDT

  •  Latest proof of GOP chutzpah in using the"Big Lie" (5+ / 0-)

    concept in attacking the ACA is in today's Philadelphia Inquirer:

    in their zeal to capitalize politically, some Republicans made accusations that were unprovable or even untrue.

    Among them was a claim by Boehner that Obamacare had resulted in fewer people having health coverage than before the law was passed. "I believe that to be the case," he said, citing estimates that 6 million Americans have had their insurance canceled in recent months as opposed to administration claims that 4.2 million have signed up for coverage.

    Republican hatred of Obama (and probably fear of HRC succeeding him) leads to further divorce from reality. They seem to have hypnotized themselves into beleieving their own propaganda.
  •  Reading AJP Taylor's 'Struggle For The Mastery Of (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greenbird, gffish

    Europe'.....in the chapter on the Crimean War (1853-56) he says that the primary outcome was the demonstration of how weak Russia was...that they didn't play a major role in European politics again until 1945.......careful Vlad.

  •  "Wage Theft" (9+ / 0-)

    The best coinage of a term that progressives have come up with. Not only is it accurate, but catchy. After listening to the right coin "death tax", "the 47 percent" and Frank Lutz inspired BS, it's about time.

    Tip of the hat to whomever came up with it and a wag of the finger at McDonald's and other wage thieves.

    What stronger breast-plate than a heart untainted! Thrice is he arm'd, that hath his quarrel just; And he but naked, though lock'd up in steel, Whose conscience with injustice is corrupted. Henry VI Part II Act 3 Scene 2

    by TerryDarc on Fri Mar 14, 2014 at 05:50:29 AM PDT

  •  Once again we find hope lies in the prols,service (0+ / 0-)

    workers and other important but oppressed workers. Another group that could make a big difference in the debasement of work and workers in this country are adjunct teachers at colleges. They are typically paid from 2 to 3 thousand to teach a course of 40 students who are paying a total of say 60 thousand in tuition.  If unionized (and there is work being done in this area) they could shut down many if not most of the private and in many cases public colleges and universities in this country over night and probably get their pay doubled fast as well as make the creation of full time position more attractive....I vote Democratic but my real hope lies with the unions sad state that we might find them in at present.

    •  Another group that could be ripe for unionizing (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TofG, singe

      is office workers.  These mostly female, married or single mothers are exploited and many don't even realize it.  I spent a few years doing that kind of work, and the abuses are many.

      Here is the scheme banks, insurance companies, etc. use to cheat these workers out of overtime.  They reclassify jobs (this may change with the new rules) and assign work that must be finished that day late in the day, but then tell the employees, you should have managed your time better if they have to work late and shame them into not listing the overtime.  If you insist on listing it, you will be retaliated against, or told that you are making the department (read supervisor) look bad and hurting your coworkers.  

      This is the sneakiest ploy:  An employee has to work 40 hours for extra time to be paid as overtime.  They choose a week with a legal holiday, declare mandatory work on Saturday, but since the employee didn't work 8 hours on the holiday, they only pay straight time for the work.  

      These women need to be cultivated - once enough of them realize that they are being exploited they should be ripe for organizing.  Most of them are afraid of losing their job, so companies will have to be closely watched for illegal retaliation.

  •  an updated flight-path map for MH370: (0+ / 0-)

    TRAILHEAD of accountability for Bush-2 Crimes? -- Addington's Perpwalk.

    by greenbird on Fri Mar 14, 2014 at 06:00:57 AM PDT

  •  It's not that middle wage jobs (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skywriter, RadGal70

    don't exist, it's that their wages are being depressed. My one friend has a Master's degree and ten years experience in their field, and she's interviewing at other places, and they want to start her out at 32k, 33k per year. That's one and half times poverty wages for her and her family.

    I'm living in America, and in America you're on your own. America's not a country. It's just a business.

    by CFAmick on Fri Mar 14, 2014 at 09:38:50 AM PDT

    •  And the rules that say you can't talk (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CFAmick

      about your salary contribute to this.  A couple of times, the requirements of my job put me in a position where I discovered that I was being paid less than another for doing the same work (in one case I had several years on the job and the other person was a new hire.)  I brought it to my supervisor's attention, and in both cases got the raise, but I always had to argue for it.  I left a job (many issues - horrible bosses, the overtime cheats, discrimination) when I was required to do another's job along with my own for the same compensation.  I asked her what she made, because I intended to ask for more money for doing two jobs; we discovered that she was being paid a whole lot less than I was.  She then went to management and called them on their discrimination (she was black) and they went after me for disclosing my salary.  As if it was my fault they chose to discriminate.  I left the following Monday after giving my 2 weeks notice (they paid me for the 2 weeks but sent a guard to watch me clean out my desk that day.)

      This kind of crap goes on all the time and is rarely challenged either because folks don't know, or are afraid to make waves because they need the job.  They hated me at that company because I was always calling them out on their illegal practices.  

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