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Holiday season brings reminders of minimum wage realities

In our last post we discussed the issue of the federal and state minimum wages in Washington D.C., and Maryland. As we noted, local counties and the District of Columbia have supported efforts to raise the minimum wage to a higher level that labor advocates believe will make it much more livable for those who depend on it.

Minimum wage is an issue on the minds of many people as the holiday shopping season gets into full swing, sending a frenzy of eager shoppers out into stores where the workers often earn only a minimum wage or slightly above. The problem of an unlivable wage for retail workers has become so serious that even their own employers (those responsible for the low wage) have taken some action (aside from raising it) such as setting up food drives and providing advice on applying for public assistance.

This type of situation is exactly what has led to the push to increase minimum wage, since even those who early slightly above the federally mandated $7.25 per hour often cannot afford everything that they need. Officials at the White House have said that they are pursuing efforts to raise the federal minimum wage up to $10.10 over the course of two years. This increase would help those who do not live in state or cities that have already enacted an increased wage law.

Another issue that many retail and fast food workers face is reduced scheduling. Fluctuations in demand and staffing, along with cost considerations for benefits and overtime can lead companies to limit or reduce hours for employees, making it hard for them to earn a living at just one job.

Every worker has a right to fair treatment and fair pay at work. This means that supervisors must encourage them to record time accurately and that employees must be paid for the time that they are on the job.

Source: New York Times, “On Register’s Other Side, Little to Spend,” Steven Greenhouse, Nov. 28, 2013.  

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