WHAT IS THE BEST
ALTERNATIVE FOR LOWER WAGE WORKERS?
Recently in the city of
Minneapolis there has been much attention given to lower wage workers
and the conditions of employment under which they work. Mayor Hodges,
the City Council, and a coalition of community organizations had good
intentions with the goals they tried to achieve, but were met with
much resistance. The Star Tribune reported that large and small
businesses were vehemently against the proposal calling it unworkable
and overreaching. It also reported that many workers in the
Hospitality Industry, particularly servers, did not support parts of
the proposal regarding “fair scheduling”.
There are real, tangible
and problematic issues that exist in the hospitality, retail,
grocery, building services industries, and others. So what is the
best answer to address the issues of terms and conditions of
employment? Collective Bargaining, as recognized in the city’s
initial proposal to have a “Union Opt Out” provision. When
workers get together and organize they can effectively address the
specific issues at their workplace and thereby force an entire
industry to raise its standards. The one size fits all approach,
although honorable in its desire, was just plain old wrongheaded.
and the state of Minnesota definitely need to address things that
they can do to improve conditions for lower wage workers—better
transit, enforcement of OSHA and other safety laws and a substantial
increase of inspectors at Wage and Hour to handle issues like wage
theft claims. Presently there are as few as FIVE inspectors for the
entire state of Minnesota. City and state officials could also
address racial economic disparities in employment by looking to truly
understand what all of the complex reasons are that cause these
disparities to exist. Only then can we realistically work to make
meaningful, well thought out approaches to try and correct those
The best answer for
changing the employment conditions of lower wage workers is to
organize a Union. Workers, when organized, do not need broad sweeping
legislative actions to cover their conditions of employment. A Union
Contract not only negotiates fair wages and better benefits such as
Paid Time Off (PTO), but addresses many issues at a workplace
including scheduling, staffing, and respect on the job. A Collective
Bargaining Agreement codifies them in a legally binding contractual
Agreement that has enforcement mechanisms enshrined in that Agreement
as well as a grievance and resolution process. The elected leaders in
our city and state could better put their progressive chops into
supporting conditions in which workers organize a union. Minneapolis,
for example, could update its “Living Wage Ordinance.” It could
also broaden its “Labor Peace Ordinance” to include industries
mentioned above. Changes to both of these ordinances could not only
be done quickly and easily, but without all of the controversy and
objections faced by the recent attempt at helping low wage earners.
workers nationally get 1/3 more in wages and benefits than their
nonunion counterparts. In Minneapolis, we believe that the ratio is a
higher figure than that. The membership of our union, UNITE HERE
Local 17, is a majority of women, African Americans, other people of
color, and recent immigrants. Women who are union members get the
same rate of pay as their male counterparts. Union workers are 75%
more likely to have affordable or even Employer paid health
insurance, as many of the members of our union enjoy. Union members
are part of a democratic organization in which they have a voice,
while also having a voice in their workplace. Organizing workers to
stand up for themselves and making their specific workplaces a
better, safer and fairer place to work should be the goal.
The hospitality industry
in Minneapolis is booming. There are many available jobs, and the
industry needs workers. The issues presented by the City for
legislative action can largely be addressed by greater Unionization
of the workforce. Give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. Teach a
man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.
President, UNITE HERE
UNITE HERE Minnesota State
The Union representing
More Work with Less Workers Means Increased Injury Rates
It is no secret that the hospitality industry is coming back after several difficult years, but what does that mean for the workers in this industry?
With higher workloads and fewer workers, not everyone is benefiting fully. Profits that are coming in to the hotels are coming on the backs of workers.
Minnesota House concurred with the Minnesota Senate and raised the state Minimum Wage from 6.15 an hour, one of the lowest in the nation, to 9.50 by August of 2016 making it the the fifth highest in country.
The legislation does NOT include any hospitality industry "tip penalty" or "Super Wage". UNITE HERE with it's community and faith based partners pushed back the Industry to assure that all of Minnesota's nearly 50,000 servers will continue earn a full minimum wage in the work place. Minnesota remains one of 7 states that does not pay a sub-minimum wage.
Nearly 360,000 workers (23%) of the Minnesota workforce will see their wages rise starting in August of this year!