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Angela Gunn Tech_Space, USA Today.
Rep. Paul Gillmor (R-Ohio).
The state House voted 51-46 Tuesday to raise Washington’s minimum wage to $12 an hour over a four-year period. The bill now goes to the Senate. Washington has the highest minimum wage in the nation at $9.47. The House-passed bill would raise the minimum wage over a four-year period in a series of 50-cent hikes. Democrats are sponsoring the legislation to help low-income workers. Business owners say it would cut profits and lead to higher prices. Under Washington’s current law, the minimum wage goes up every January with inflation. The Employment Security Department said this year’s minimum wage hike affected more than 67,000 workers. Later Tuesday, the state House passed a bill requiring many of the state’s employers to offer employees paid sick leave. The bill passed the Democratic-controlled chamber in a 51-46 party-line vote Tuesday after a short debate. It would require all businesses in the state with more than four full-time employees to give workers at least five days a year of sick and safe leave.I still think that minimum wage hikes are, in the long run, ineffective and a bad idea for pushing for societal justice, but until we find a better solution, they are all we have. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
First, there will be spillovers: Walmart is so big that its action will probably lead to raises for millions of workers employed by other companies. Second, and arguably far more important, is what Walmart’s move tells us---namely, that low wages are a political choice, and we can and should choose differently.While in the short run, the first is more important for the millions of minimum wage workers who now will have a marginally better lifestyle, the second is the greater reason because Walmart has laid bare the argument for low wages. You should read Krugman's analysis in detail. He concludes by comparing the current economic realities to those in the years following World War II, a time, Krugman writes, that the economists Claudia Goldin and Robert Margo labeled the Great Compression.
Which brings me back to Walmart. The retailer’s wage hike seems to reflect the same forces that led to the Great Compression, albeit in a much weaker form. Walmart is under political pressure over wages so low that a substantial number of employees are on food stamps and Medicaid. Meanwhile, workers are gaining clout thanks to an improving labor market, reflected in increasing willingness to quit bad jobs. What’s interesting, however, is that these pressures don’t seem all that severe, at least so far — yet Walmart is ready to raise wages anyway. And its justification for the move echoes what critics of its low-wage policy have been saying for years: Paying workers better will lead to reduced turnover, better morale and higher productivity. What this means, in turn, is that engineering a significant pay raise for tens of millions of Americans would almost surely be much easier than conventional wisdom suggests. Raise minimum wages by a substantial amount; make it easier for workers to organize, increasing their bargaining power; direct monetary and fiscal policy toward full employment, as opposed to keeping the economy depressed out of fear that we’ll suddenly turn into Weimar Germany. It’s not a hard list to implement — and if we did these things we could make major strides back toward the kind of society most of us want to live in. The point is that extreme inequality and the falling fortunes of America’s workers are a choice, not a destiny imposed by the gods of the market. And we can change that choice if we want to.Here I am less optimistic than Krugman. I don't believe that good economic sense can triumph here. As one of my heroes once wrote: Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must be driven into practice with courageous impatience. The world needs more courageous impatience. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
There have been many executive changes at Wal-Mart Stores in recent months, including a new management team at the retailer’s mammoth U.S. division. And while some say all has seemed quiet on the retailer’s push to return manufacturing jobs to the U.S. since the departure of former Walmart U.S. CEO Bill Simon, Wal-Mart disagrees. “Our new CEO Greg Foran is equally committed to the U.S. Manufacturing initiative because it is a good business decision. Of course there are business advantages that come with a shorter supply chain particularly in responding to seasonal trends. But it’s also at the core of Everyday Low Price and is a cost-cutting strategy that is a crucial part of our business. It’s smart and we are quite pleased with the progress made in two years’ time,” said Cindi Marsiglio, vice president of U.S Manufacturing at Wal-Mart. Marsiglio told The City Wire that there are more projects in the pipeline today than ever before, from concept to commitment and everything in between. While she would not provide an estimated number of projects today, in October 2014 she said there were 150 projects in various stages. In 2013, Wal-Mart announced it would buy an additional $50 billion in American products over the next decade. Wal-Mart estimates cumulatively over the next decade the investment will total $250 billion. The Boston Consulting Group predicts that this $250 billion investment will create one million jobs, including the jobs in manufacturing and related services. Simon was seen as the champion within Wal-Mart for the manufacturing push. With respect to Wal-Mart’s 10-year commitment to purchase goods made in the U.S., Marsiglio said the spending is on par with the two-year target with the estimated prorated portion. The funds are being allocated based on three areas: new items sourced from current U.S. suppliers; new suppliers bringing new or improved items; and those suppliers looking to bring some of their manufacturing onshore, which is by far the toughest piece of the puzzle and the most time-consuming. “We don’t have a specific target spending among these three areas. We are seeing a lot more production in the U.S. for items added to the our inventory as we are buying more from those we already do business with. Some existing manufacturers are expanding their plants as they take on new customers and more business and others are adding shifts. We are still seeing stable interest among those who want to onshore production and plan to build new facilities which is exciting and most difficult to complete,” Marsiglio said. Two-thirds of products Wal-Mart already sells are made in the United States, but Marsgilio said many of those are food items given the retailer’s huge grocery presence.This last is critical distinction and one a walflack would be likely to gloss over. So, what is the non-food number? I don't know, but I recall the number 80 percent being bated about at one point. I do still remember how good I felt actually buying a piece of American made plastic (which I still use nearly every day) from Walmart back in 2010. *Cheap plastic crap from China. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
That proposal [to disclose wage information by gender as well as the average hours worked by its male and female employees in an effort "ensure pay equity" at the company.] was submitted by Cynthia Murray, a 15-year employee of a Walmart store in Laurel, Maryland, who owns almost 70 shares of the company’s common stock and belongs to Our Walmart, a worker organization that has been lobbying for higher wage and better schedules at the company. “Murray’s resolution would require Walmart to disclose, for each pay grade and salary range: the proportion of men and women in each grade and range, the average hours worked by men and women and the average hourly wage rates of men and women,” according to the press release. Shareholders are currently scheduled to vote on the resolution at the company’s annual meeting in June. That is, if it is included in the 2015 proxy materials at all. On 30 January, Walmart filed a no-action letter with the US Securities and Exchange Commission in response to Murray’s proposal, asking for a permission to exclude the letter from its 2015 proxy materials “because the proposal relates to the company’s litigation strategy”. Could more diversity help end the tech talent shortage? Read more “[T]he company believes that disclosure of the information requested by the proposal would adversely affect the company’s litigation strategy in a number of pending lawsuits and claims alleging gender-based discrimination in pay,” according to the 11-page letter filed with the SEC. The letter goes on to say that, so far, Walmart has hadWe have a fetish in America for protecting how much money we make. That needs to end. I do think there is plenty of room for income differences, but only when those differences are tied directly to measurable and clear performance criteria in a rubric available to all affected. Make all salaries transparent. Full stop. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.“no adverse judgment against the company in any of these matters” and is determined to keep it that way. Every company’s management has a responsibility to defend the company’s interest against unwarranted litigation. A shareholder proposal that interferes with this obligation is inappropriate, particularly when the company is involved in pending litigation on the very issues that form the basis for the proposal.”Simply put, Walmart believes that publicly disclosing information about its pay, broken down by gender, could threaten its standing in a number of pending gender discrimination lawsuits.
Walmart has given the Boys & Girls Club’s South Lake Unit $10,000 toward a new bus so the organization can serve more children. Michelle Beck, the community relations representative with Walmart of Clermont, heard that even though the unit wants to get more kids into its after-school program, it is unable to do so because there is no way of transporting them and no money for more buses. She appealed to Walmart’s corporate offices for a special grant.Yes, Walmart spends an infinitesimal portion of the billions the company pays out in profits to shareholders each year on what might be considered good works. The motive behind the largesse however has little to do with doing good, expect for the company's tax fillings and, most importantly, for the Bentonvile Behemoth's community image. Now, if I didn't see several news releases each week about all the money Walmart donates to worthy causes, I might be more swayed, but with the exposure, I doubt a penny would be given away. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
Earlier this week, Wal-Mart issued a directive raising base pay at the company’s stores to $9 per hour for new hires and $10 per hour for current employees. If the complaints of the “Organization United for Respect At Walmart” were really about the company’s pay being too low, you might expect at least a grudging acknowledgment that employees’ situations would be helped some by this private action. But OUR Walmart isn’t a grassroots effort to raise pay: It’s a well-connected union-organized campaign that will never be satisfied until Wal-Mart has agreed to “neutrality” (unions’ P.R.-tested name for public card check) and employees are dues-paying members of the United Food and Commercial Workers. (To wit: The UFCW wouldn’t put $240,614 into a media blitz for its campaign unless it expected to get a return.) And when potentially millions in dues money is on the line, no compromise is good enough. In fact, the goal posts must move. The New York Times reports on where they’re going now:Me thinks the flacks are feeling the pressure. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.With some progress on the hourly wage front, labor activists are highlighting another longstanding demand: more hours — and more consistent hours — for hourly-wage workers like Mr. Rodriguez, something they say will make as much a difference to workers’ pocketbooks as an increase in wages.(Funny—we can remember a time when unions restricted workers’ hours so that more people were employed to cover all shifts. Of course, that was for an already-unionized business, so more people employed meant more people paying dues.) Because Wal-Mart has independently acted to alleviate one UFCW front group complaint, another comes to the fore. It’s a clever strategy that unfortunately might snooker media outlets that already breathlessly (and incorrectly) reported that OUR Walmart’s protests were “strikes”—when, in reality, a meaningless number of employees were walking off the job.
The municipality of Oxkutzcab, the State’s biggest citrus producer, usually sells to the highest bidder. Given the fluctuation in the price of citrus products, Wal-Mart could stop buying limes from local farmers in the State of Yucatan. Walmart had committed to buy premium lemons at $55 pesos [$3.68]* a box, but foreign buyers were offering up to $80 pesos [$5.35] a box. Nevertheless, during the first week of February growers agreed to sell Wal-Mart of Mexico part of their produce. Santos Norberto Baas Tec, who was appointed to coordinate operations with the multinational company, confirmed that there was an agreement to deliver 18 tons of premium grade lemons to Walmart. “But these transactions will no longer be possible due to the variation of prices of citrus in the Yucatán market. The price of limes fell last week to $30 pesos [$2.01] per box; Walmart proposed to pay $45 pesos [$3.01], when they had earlier agreed to pay $55 pesos per box. The producers said that the agreements were not respected and therefore the deal broke.*All exchange rates current as of 28 February. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
More than four years after acquiring the site of the former Four Seasons mall in Plymouth, Wal-Mart has decided not to build a store on the property. At the Plymouth Business Council’s meeting Jan. 14, Plymouth Community Development Director Steve Juetten told those in attendance that the site is being put up for sale. “They’ve contracted with a broker to go out and see what interest there is, but at this point, we have not heard from anybody that may have interest,” he said. Wal-Mart purchased the property at the corner of Highway 169 and Rockford Road in 2010 for $10.6 million, intending to demolish the building and construct a Supercenter in its place. However, numerous Plymouth residents expressed opposition to the plan. The City Council also put a yearlong moratorium on development at the site while a study was conducted to analyze potential uses and issues for the property. City officials then waited years for the company to submit an application to build a store, but the request never came. In a statement provided to the Sun Sailor, Wal-Mart Communications Director Delia Garcia confirmed the company’s decision. “As we evaluate opportunities to better serve our Minnesota customers, we’ve made a business decision to not pursue development of the Four Seasons Mall and will be marketing the property for sale,” she wrote.Given the very slow way large corporations make decision, this change was probably in the pipe before Doug McMillon became CEO. Still, given events of recent days, I do have to wonder. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
Walmart’s decision on Feb. 19 to raise its base wage to $9 an hour, $1.75 higher than the federal minimum, has been heralded as a major victory for American labor. Wall Street punished the world’s largest retailer for the pay hike–which will cost the firm $1 billion this fiscal year–by driving down its shares. But labor economists and liberals lauded the raise as a new wave of “Fordism,” referring to Henry Ford’s historic 1914 decision to double wages in his factories, [and a meme here at TWOTW, JH] which not only boosted productivity and reduced turnover but also created more customers for his company’s products. Walmart’s move is seen by some as a sea change for the retail sector. “Walmart sets the standard, and the fact that they’ve kept wages so low has made it hard for others to raise them,” explains Isabel Sawhill, co-director of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution. Now it’s likely that pay for other low-income workers will rise, not just in retail but also in other sectors like home health care, child care and fast food, all of which compete for the same workers as Walmart. The question is, how much will it matter?In the long run---say two to five years---not at all. All this may matter more, however, if dashed aspirations result in the birth of a true retail/service employee union able to negotiate in good faith for honest wages. We'll see. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
Two days before he made the announcement, McMillon, 48, spoke with The Associated Press exclusively about the pay and training increases, the fallout from the Bangladesh disaster and other issues that are affecting Wal-Mart. What follows are edited excerpts from a 40-minute interview at Wal-Mart's headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas: AP: What is behind the decision to raise wages? MCMILLON: What's driving us is we want to create a great store experience for customers and do that by investing in our own people. AP: How would you address critics who say Wal-Mart should go beyond the wage increase it announced? MCMILLON: I think we are playing our role. Creating opportunities for so many people, and clarity on how they can grow in a company into a lot of great jobs. I have a great amount of pride in the role we play. AP: As the nation's largest private employer, Wal-Mart has outsized influence in the national debate over raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. Why has Wal-Mart remained neutral in the debate? MCMILLON: It's clear to us what we need to do to run a good business, and we are taking action on that. As it relates to a federal minimum wage, there are other people responsible for figuring that out. I am not an economist. Someone else can sort out what the best decision is there. AP: Is it hard to break the perception that Wal-Mart has low-end jobs? MCMILLON: What we can worry about is the reality. If the reality is good enough, eventually I think most people know perception corrects itself. Our job is to create great store experiences for customers and online and in every way we can service them. And over time, that matters the most. AP: Do you think Wal-Mart is unfairly targeted for its labor practices? MCMILLON: Nobody ever promised that this will be fair. So I am not under the illusion that it will be. AP: What have you learned from your critics? MCMILLON: I have learned from (former Wal-Mart CEOs) Mike Duke and Lee Scott the value of listening to critics. We have ears and we care. Sometimes, you can learn more from criticism than you can from flattery. So we listen to all of it, but at the end of the day, we are doing what we need to do for our business.There we have the nut: at the end of the day, we are doing what we need to do for our business. I would expect no less from any CEO of a for-profit corporation. Your desire, no matter how strong and well intentioned, to do what it right for your people is always overshadowed by your fealty to your shareholders. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.
A 21-year-old cashier at the Wal-Mart store in Alexandria, Virginia, I was standing in line at the DMV excited to get my first driver’s license when I first heard that Wal-Mart announced a raise for half a million workers. On the plus side, the calls for change have finally gotten to Wal-Mart. Under pressure from workers, shoppers and tens of thousands of supporters, and after years of OUR Walmart members calling on the company to improve pay and scheduling, Wal-Mart announced that it was raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour this April and then to $10 an hour in 2016. I was so proud that our strikes, our protests and our petitions had made a difference for hundreds of thousands of workers. But on the other hand, $10 an hour? Does Wal-Mart really think this is enough to live on? When I came to the United States, I was excited to start over in a place where women had the freedom to achieve their dreams and live the kind of life they wanted. I fled Saudi Arabia in fear when I became pregnant and came to the U.S. hoping to make a life for my new family. I was grateful to find a job at Wal-Mart. In Saudi Arabia, I didn’t have the opportunity to go to high school, so I looked forward to working, raising my children and pursuing my education. I was on my way to the American dream. But when I started at a Wal-Mart in Northern Virginia, I didn’t realize that my low wages, along with few and erratic hours, wouldn’t be enough to pay my bills. Even two raises later, I’m still making just $8.80 an hour as a cashier. I love working with customers, but my hours change so much that I’m forced to turn to the government to help me cover my rent and childcare for my two young children.The American dream is, and always has been, just that, a dream. We need to make the system work for the 99 percent and not just the 1 percent. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.Walmart,Wal-Mart
The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank has received a $125,000 grant through the Wal-Mart Foundation’s State Giving Program to purchase a refrigerated truck that will enable the organization to expand food pickup and delivery services in the rural counties of the state’s northern tier. “Food distribution from the Williamsport warehouse to the northern counties served by the Food Bank continues to grow rapidly,” said Central Pennsylvania Food Bank Regional Director, Northern Tier, Eric Orndorff. “Adding this truck to our fleet will enable the Food Bank to meet the ever-growing need. We are incredibly grateful to the Walmart Foundation for making this extremely generous donation, which will have an enormous positive impact in the communities we serve.”The phrase that sends a chill down my spine is Orndorff's: ...enable the Food Bank to meet the ever-growing need. Can we fix that? Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.