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Welcome back

For U.S. readers who had a long weekend, welcome back to the grind. For everyone else — those who don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, those who don’t get holidays off — welcome back as well. To start your Monday, here’s a piece on raising the minimum wage, which we absolutely need to do.

International comparisons also show how out of line our current policy is: the United States has the third lowest minimum wage relative to the median of all Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries. This erosion of the minimum wage has been an important contributor to wage inequality, especially for women. While there is some disagreement about exact magnitudes, the evidence suggests that around half of the increase in inequality in the bottom half of the wage distribution since 1979 was a result of falling real minimum wages. And unlike inequality that stems from factors like technological change, this growth in inequality was clearly avoidable. All we had to do to prevent it was index the minimum wage to the cost of living.

Full piece here.

And don’t forget the fast food workers’ strike this Thursday. Support their efforts and skip the drive-thru that day.

3 thoughts on Welcome back

  1. Raising the minimum wage would be a great thing to do, and I support it wholeheartedly. But I realize there’s a downside. The more expensive you make a cashier to the McDonalds corporation, the faster we get to this. And this. Even this.

    Not raising minimum wage won’t stop this transition. Machines only get cheaper with time, people stay expensive. But raising minimum wage will make the transition come faster. I hope we, as a society, are ready.

  2. The increase skips those who work for businesses grossing under $350,000 annually. These employees are exempted from minimum wage laws. Many are non-tipped restaurant workers, and I’ve heard some horror stories from them (and accompanied a couple to the courthouse to translate for small-claims lawsuits). Tipped workers are still exempt, and many Southern small-town folks can’t even spell tip, and the change they can believe in is small. Very small.
    I’d love to be able to vote on a Constitutional amendment changing Congressional pay to $2.16/hr, no OT, and requiring them to live on that AND be audited, just like entitlement recipients, until tipped employees receive wage parity, whereupon Congress would get to live on full minimum and see how “America’s native criminal class” likes that.
    No, I’m not joking.

  3. Angie unduplicated December 3, 2013 at 8:49 am | Permalink | Reply

    The increase skips those who work for businesses grossing under $350,000 annually. These employees are exempted from minimum wage laws.

    No–there’s much more coverage than that.

    With respect to “enterprise” coverage the limit is actually $500,000, not $350,000; see

    But there are many businesses who are covered under the confusing “interstate commerce” rule, which sucks in all sorts of businesses to the minimum wage which wouldn’t appear to normal folks as being “interstate.” For example, if you do janitorial work in a building where some folks are producing goods that they then ship to other states, you’re covered.

    Also, there are plenty of employees (such as nannies, housecleaners, etc.) who are covered even though the business is neither in excess of $500,000 or involved in interstate commerce.

    And finally, many states have minimum wage laws of their own. Even if you’re not covered federally you may be covered under a state law–don’t assume that your employer is exempt until you’ve done some more research.

    Remember that if there is BOTH a federal and a state minimum wage law, the HIGHER one (“better for the employee”) will be the controlling wage. That also carries across other laws: the “use the particular law which is better for the employee” rule applies to hiring, firing, discrimination, etc.

    In fact, the “use the law which is better for the employee” is even better than it sounds, since it is evaluated on an “issue” basis and not an “employment relationship” basis. For example, it would be perfectly normal to rely on federal law with respect to minimum wage; state law with respect to discrimination; and federal law with respect to benefits… all in the same case.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: Employees who believe that they have been mistreated (whether a minimum wage violation or otherwise) should generally contact an employment attorney. The federal wage laws and most state minimum wage laws contain “fee shifting” provisions which means that the EMPLOYER pays the attorney if you win the case. As a result, these cases are almost always taken on a contingency basis, and the employee does not have to pay anything up front. Similar laws apply to many (not all) discrimination cases.

    The states (and the feds) will help if they can. But they tend to be a bit overloaded. Feel free to call them if you want but as a general rule most small cases will get faster and better results if you hire an employee specialist.

    That’s not always true, of course. If you say “me and 50 of my buddies are being paid $5/hour” then the feds will jump on it. But if you say “I’ve been working 45 hours/week at $10.00/hour for two years and I haven’t been getting paid the mandatory time and a half, so they owe me $25/week back pay for two years” the feds are not going to do much for you.

    A good site is either NELA (national employment lawyer’s association, which is a group of people that only/primarily represent employees against employers) or your state branch of NELA (Google your state and NELA, e.g. “New York NELA” and you’ll find the local branches.)

    I’m not stumping for work! but I do a lot of employee stuff and I have seen that smaller cases tend to languish a bit. Most employees don’t know about the fee shifting and as a result they (incorrectly) assume that they can’t afford to get help.

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