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It’s time for a raise to $10.50 now! + Getting Congress to End Wage Slavery by Ralph Nader

Dandelion Salad

by Ralph Nader
The Nader Page
March 5, 2013

July 24:

Image by WisconsinJobsNowb via Flickr

The Harkin/Miller bill to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016 (in three years) still does not catch up with the federal minimum wage in 1968, adjusted for inflation, which should be at least $10.50 per hour in 2013.

Since 1968, worker productivity has doubled and all workers have received for this effort is a shrinking minimum wage. In other words, one Walmart worker today does the work that two Walmart workers did in 1968 and receives less pay, inflation adjusted, than either of those workers 45 years ago.

The working poor in America have taken the brunt of the Wall Street crash of 2008-2009. They are the most unemployed or underemployed, the lowest paid, the most ill-housed and underinsured, the most exploited in the marketplace and the most unrepresented by unions. There are 30 million working poor in our country who make less than 1968’s wages, inflation-adjusted, while the bosses of Walmart, McDonalds, and other big box stores and companies average over $10 million a year plus perks and benefits. These companies employ two-thirds of the low-wage workers in the United States.

An inflation-adjusted minimum wage is supported by at least 70 percent of the American people, including Rick Santorum and, until last year, Mitt Romney. Raising wages to the 1968 level is not only the morally right thing to do, but it would also be a significant economic stimulus. The working poor will quickly spend this overdue, earned money on their necessities, which will in turn increase sales and jobs.

Thirty million working poor, with millions of children whom they are desperately trying to support, cannot wait any longer for the food, housing, transportation, fuel and health care they need. They have been shortchanged by inflation and an indifferent federal government for too long. They need parity with 1968 now – hardly a radical demand.

The Harkin/Miller bill properly disregards the absurdly low proposal of President Obama in his State of the Union speech last month which was $9 per hour by 2015. In contrast, during his 2008 campaign, candidate Obama pledged $9.50 an hour by 2011. It is encouraging that Senator Harkin and Representative Miller are embarking on an independent path. We look forward to their public hearings – official in the Senate and unofficial in the Republican-dominated House – to hear the voices of the working poor and others who can bring to light the wretched conditions that an oligarchic corporate economy has imposed on workers in the most avaricious, unpatriotic repressions.

If Costco can start its workers at $11.50 per hour with benefits, if Australia can pay its workers over $15 per hour in minimum wages, and if Walmart can make profits in Ontario and pay that Canadian province’s $10.25 per hour minimum wage, why can’t Congress, (known to adjust its salaries to inflation until recently) bring 30 million working poor Americans, who grow our food, serve us, clean up after us, and take care of our children and elderly, to the level of pay in 1968?

It’s time for a raise to $10.50 now! See: http://www.timeforaraise.org.

For More Information, Contact Ralph Nader or Joan Claybrook 202-387-8030.

***

Getting Congress to End Wage Slavery – Easier than you think by Ralph Nader

by Ralph Nader
The Nader Page
March 7, 2013

Day after day exposés pour forth about corporate and governmental wrongdoing and abuses of power from official reports, the media, lawsuits and citizen groups. Far more often than not, little or nothing happens. The organized culprits continue with their harmful and greedy ways.

The golden age of muckraking in films, books, and magazine articles – assuming they are seen or read – can discourage people because the forces of law and order don’t follow through.

The banality of exposés can be displaced by the activity of reform; if only the people will express their will in ways no one in officialdom or corporatedom can stop.

Let’s take the matter of raising the federal minimum wage (now $7.25 an hour) for 30 million working poor to the level that workers received at the minimum wage level in 1968, adjusted for inflation. That would be a $10.50 minimum wage today.

At least 70 percent of the American public supports this modest goal, which would stimulate the economy and make the major employers of low-income workers, such as Walmart or McDonald’s, stop capitalizing on a depreciating minimum wage. Other profitable businesses, like Costco, are already joining the fight and calling to raise the minimum wage above $10 per hour.

In a few weeks, members of Congress, the people in charge of raising the minimum wage to 1968 levels, will be on a two-weeklong recess. Many of these senators and representatives will hold a town meeting or two in their districts or state. Many of them need to have a couple of hundred Americans, especially the working poor, show up to demand a $10.50 minimum wage.

Two hundred citizens showing up at a local congressional office or town meeting is a tiny number in a congressional district averaging 650,000 Americans. But just that small number of people informed, determined and saying they’re not going to go away in the following weeks, will really jolt the lawmakers. Because, usually, very few people show up at such meetings, and when Tea Party partisans did during the August 2009 Congressional recess, the thunder clapped all the way to Washington, D.C.

Now we all know that no one can stop citizens from showing up at these meetings in the first two weeks of April (call your legislator’s local office for times and places of scheduled meetings). Or even demand a meeting in your area with your legislators if one is not scheduled nearby.

If one percent of the people turned out in April, that would be about 6,000 people in each congressional district. I can assure you the likelihood of reaching a $10.50 minimum wage would be very high. Remember, turning out includes telling your senator and representative that you are staying with this needed and just reform until enactment. Law makers respect and fear civic stamina.

If citizens take on this challenge, when Congress resumes in mid-April, the atmosphere on Capitol Hill will decidedly not be “business as usual.” The various poverty groups, civic organizations and labor unions that lobby Congress can point to a powerful constituency back in the districts where your town meeting presence has been reported in the local media. Many national groups are happy to keep you informed of the drive for a $10.50 minimum wage and what catching up with 1968 means for creating more jobs and better livelihoods.

Our website is Time For a Raise where you’ll see how civic organizations, prominent writers, economists and enlightened business leaders have come to the side of the 30 million Americans who have been shortchanged for many years by big companies reporting record profits and record CEO pay. For instance, the head of Walmart makes $11,000 an hour!

Other Congressional recesses are in May, around the Fourth of July, and almost the entire month of August. So you’ll have plenty of opportunities to plan for a great and determined turnout with your fellow citizens.

Remember, you “the people” number in the millions. Congress is made up of 535 representatives and senators. There is no way you can’t make them enact this modest measure of economic justice. The big corporations who want to continue with serf labor have money, but no votes. In the final analyses, members of Congress will have to value informed votes above sleazy campaign cash.

April is springtime when nature renews itself. It can also be the time for citizens to renew their civic commitments and flex their democratic muscle to end this 21st century wage slavery.

Riding herd on your members of Congress is fun. This is especially true when you vastly outnumber them on a very understandable reform for the 30 million American laborers who harvest our food, serve us daily, clean up after us, and take care of our children and ailing elderly. The working poor can’t pay for their most basic needs and those of their children.

We want to touch base and help organizers for these recess town meetings in your community.  Please visit timeforaraise.org or send an email to info@timeforaraise.org, and see that what needs to be done is easier than you think.

***

Updated: Mar. 12, 2013

Ralph Nader: Raise the Minimum Wage!

semajnotae·Mar 10, 2013

Ralph Nader leads rallies in Torrington, Waterbury and Avon, CT to kick-start the campaign to pressure Congress and Walmart to support the $10.50 per hour Federal minimum wage, which would bring it up to the 1968 minimum wage adjusted for inflation, “Catching up to 1968″.

***

Updated: Mar. 15, 2013

Walmart Bosses: Time for a Decision

by Ralph Nader
The Nader Page
March 14, 2013

Last weekend on a bright, sunny day a dozen of us demonstrated at shopping malls where Walmart has three of its giant stores, supplied heavily by products from China and other serf-wage countries. But outsourcing the jobs of its American suppliers to China was not the focus last Saturday. We were drawing attention to the plight of one million Walmart workers who are making far less than what Walmart workers made in 1968 when the minimum wage was the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $10.50 an hour today.

In 1968 Walmart was run by its founder, the legendary Sam Walton, who started with one store in Bentonville, Arkansas. Sam had to pay his workers wages that were worth much more than wages today because the law required him to do so.

The clenched-jawed CEO opposition to catching the minimum wage up with 1968 for their workers continues to manifest itself today. CEOs seem to have little concern for the budget-squeezed daily lives of their employees.

These days, however, Walmart is feeling some heat with the rising demand for increasing the stagnant federal minimum wage finally coming from Washington, backed by over 70 percent of the people in polls. A Walmart rival, the successful Costco, has a CEO who already endorsed a federal minimum wage over $10.00 an hour. Costco starts its entry-level workers at $11.50 per hour plus benefits that Walmart workers do not receive. As blogger Alan DiCara said, “Walmart’s benefits department is the U.S. taxpayer.”

I think Walmart will follow businesses like Costco, the Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and the booming Busboys and Poets restaurants in supporting a higher minimum wage. Remember Walmart executives are all about the numbers and how they can manipulate them to their own benefit. February’s retail sales, writes Rich Karlgaard, publisher of Forbes “was a rotten month for the Bentonville Giants.” Internal emails leaked from Walmart expressed concern about the spending level of the low to middle-income shoppers who are the dollar source for the company.

“Where are all the customers? And where’s their money?” bewailed Cameron Geiger, Walmart senior vice-president. Calmer colleagues attributed the sales slump to the restoration of the social security payroll tax, delayed tax refunds and higher gasoline prices.

What Walmart’s bosses are coming to realize, however, is that a minimum wage above $10 per hour would lift the income of about 30 million workers, including Walmart employees, who would spend some of that extra cash at Walmart stores.

For the overall economy, a $10.50 per hour minimum wage would be a certain stimulus for sales, which would increase jobs and contribute more money to social security and Medicare funds.

The decision facing Walmart is how much of a higher minimum wage will they publically support? The predecessor of today’s Walmart CEO, Mike Duke, took the plunge in 2005. H. Lee Scott, Jr. told company executives that “the U.S. minimum wage of $5.15 an hour has not been raised in nearly a decade, and we believe it is out of date with the times….Our customers simply don’t have the money to buy basic necessities between paychecks.” He then supported a phased-in-increase to $7.25.

What’s holding Mr. Duke back, he who makes $11,000 an hour? In Canada, he pays his workers there the required minimum wage of more than $10 an hour in that country.

A few years ago, feeling the heat from environmentalists, three high-level Walmart managers visited the late Ray Anderson, the pioneering CEO of Interface corporation in Atlanta, the largest carpet tile manufacturer in the country. Mr. Anderson was the corporate leader in taking recycling and reduction in pollution to unsurpassed levels, while regularly cutting costs. Doing well by doing good!

The cutting costs part attracted their attention. These managers are now among the executives running Walmart, and the changes they have made – reducing excessive packaging materials, saving on water and energy and increasing recycling – have brought Walmart lower costs and public praise.

Yet, when it comes to their workers – euphemistically called “associates” – Walmart bosses can’t seem to absorb the evidence that paying all their workers more than $10 an hour reduces its notoriously high worker turnover and improves productivity and morale. The bosses will feel better about it when they overcome their bizarre intransigence bred of a thoroughly regimented company hierarchy.

At the store level all over the U.S., Walmarts are full of surveillance cameras, not just monitoring customers but also their tight-lipped workers, especially when customers start small talk about their low wages. Big Brother is watching them. Walmart security guards are stiffer than Army MPs. They are programmed to be the private police in so-called private shopping malls built with tax preferences and tax abatements.

My advice to Mike Duke is to come out sooner rather than later to support a $10.50 an hour federal minimum wage. Believe it or not, more members of Congress are waiting upon your move. Polls show heavy majorities of liberals and many conservatives support a higher, inflation-adjusted minimum wage.

(Interested readers may visit www.timeforaraise.org for information on how to join the movement behind America Deserves a Raise.”)

see

Unlivable Wages by Ralph Nader

Chris Hedges: NDAA: All These Laws Are Being Put Through By Design

Breaking the Chains of Debt Peonage by Chris Hedges

Open Letter to Mike Duke, CEO of Walmart by Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader: Demand a Raise in the Minimum Wage

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8 Responses

  1. […] It’s time for a raise to $10.50 now! + Getting Congress to End Wage Slavery by Ralph Nader […]

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  6. [...] It’s time for a raise to $10.50 now! + Getting Congress to End Wage Slavery by Ralph Nader [...]

  7. I think you’re far too moderate about this. We need to provide a living wage all over the country. $10.50 may be a living wage in rural Kansas or in the UP of Michigan, but it is not a living wage in New York City. We need local CPI adjustments so that top miniwage rates are $24.00 per hour, and the lowest are at your $10.50. The average across the country would be more like $16.00 close to the Australian level. This is what we need to really make a dent in economic inequality and to begin to pass the productivity gains of the past 40 years on to working people.

    The objection to this, of course, is that it would make businesses unprofitable and increase unemployment by putting them out of business. To this I say two things. First, businesses that can’t pay a living wage shouldn’t be allowed to exist. The only reason why they exist now is that the Federal Reserve and the Government have followed policies that keep the supply of labor artificially high, so that we have nearly always, over the past 40 years, had a surfeit of labor in the marketplace. So, now we have to fix that situation, which brings me to my second point.

    We need a job guarantee program with the Federal Government providing a guaranteed full time job offer at the rates mentioned above, along with a full fringe benefit package including Medicare for any one wanting to work full time.

    If such a program existed, then private sector businesses would have to pay higher wages and offer better fringe benefits than the Government JG standard. The market would produce businesses willing and able to do that; but many of the businesses we see today would have to disappear or to reorganize themselves so that management salaries and profits were both much lower relative to labor’s share of the economic pie.

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