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Labor Report

Overtime Overhaul

WorkingAFSCME launched an e-marketing campaign this week to get people to tell the federal government they support a proposed rule change involving overtime.

Specifically, the U.S. Department of Labor is proposing to raise the cap on base pay to give another 11 million Americans the chance to earn time-and-a-half for working more than full-time.

As AFSCME put it in this week’s email:

“Overtime pay used to benefit many working people. In 1975, more than 60 percent of salaried American workers could earn overtime pay. Today, only 11 percent of salaried workers are eligible.

“Overtime laws have not been updated for decades to adjust for inflation. Today, you are only automatically eligible for overtime if you make less than $23,660 after working 40 hours a week.

“By increasing the salary cap for inflation to an expected $50,440, approximately 11 million more workers would qualify for overtime pay next year.”

Please support AFSCME’s effort and tell the federal government this new rule needs to happen by following this link.

Minimum Wage/Maximum Thinking

CheckIt’s no secret that I have proposed a bill to increase Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by Jan. 1. It’s also no secret that I have proposed another bill to make the tipped minimum wage equal 70 percent of the regular minimum wage.

And, despite the Neanderthal-like opposition that goes something like: “If we raise the minimum wage by $2.85, restaurants will close and prices will skyrocket,” I present another more reasoned argument as to why higher pay – and benefits – will probably SAVE money for employers.

Introducing Bill Lester, an assistant professor of economic development at the University of North Carolina.

Lester has compared the two places in America that have largely decided to move in opposite directions when it comes to tipped wages. Those locales are San Francisco and his backyard – the so-called Research Triangle: Raleigh, Durham and the major universities of UNC, Duke and NC State.

According to a story this week by PhillyVoice, Lester has found that San Francisco restaurants are enjoying better staff retention because they are paying higher minimum wages than most of the country, eliminating tips AND they are paying benefits, including leave. The Research Triangle is not having any of those good results.

“Lester argues that there is an increased sense that, as in European countries, food service can be a professional job. And, like European countries, that also means tipping can become a nicety, not something workers depend on for their livelihood (There are no tip-free restaurants in the Research Triangle),” PhillyVoice reported.

“The two no-tips-required restaurants in Philadelphia report similar results. Girard Brasserie includes the costs of labor in its prices and provides paid sick days, paid vacation, and wages at $13 an hour. Customers can leave an additional tip if they want, but it is not expected.”

ServerThis jives with testimony delivered this past May by the owner of Pittsburgh’s Bar Marco restaurant, Robert Fry, who said he has been paying starting salaries of $35,000.

“There are significant cost offsets that come with better paid staff, including lower turnover, reduced waste and increased efficiency, and better employee performance and loyalty,” Fry said. “All of this saves my business money in the short run as well as the long run.”

It really is time to take off the blinders and realize that marginally better minimum wage rates will help way more than it will hurt.

Oh, and, the trend to a higher minimum wage counted another city this week as Washington D.C. moved its base hourly rate from $9.50 (Pennsylvania workers wish we had that) to $10.50.

Right-to-Work Pandemic

UnionPennsylvania isn’t the only state to be fighting a case of right-to-work malaise. According to, a whopping 15 other states are also up to their necks in fighting off anti-union – and Republican – proposals. In a handful of other states, legislation didn’t move because of key Democratic opposition.

“Right-to-work supporters, including business groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, say it’s unfair to workers who don’t want to be part of a union to force them to subsidize it through fees and dues,” Stateline’s Jenni Bergal reported.

“Right-to-work boosters, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a free-market think tank that drafts model legislation, argue that states that have such laws attract more businesses — improving wages and boosting the economy.”

This really does tie in with Pennsylvania Republican opposition to raising the minimum wage. The drum beat of continued downward pressure on employee pay and benefits is what is at play across the board. You weaken unions, you weaken the fight for fair wages and benefits and the one percent grows increasingly rich as workforces become more, shall we say, enslaved.

“The attitude is, let’s kick them while they’re down and let’s not let them bounce back now that they’ve fallen so much on their own,” said Industrial Relations Professor Gary Chaison of Clark University in Worcester, Mass.