West Virginia Victory Inspires Teachers Nationally

Teresa Danks, a third grade teacher in Tulsa, spends $2,000 to $3,000 of her own money every year to buy supplies for her students. Last summer, she stood on a street corner with a sign, which read, “Teacher needs school supplies. Anything helps.” Now, she’s joined 50,000 Oklahoma educators—who haven’t had a raise in 10 years—and their supporters in a Facebook group calling for a statewide walkout unless the legislature meets their needs.

Encouraged by West Virginia teachers’ successful strike, educators across the country are demanding raises and resources for their students, especially in states that shortchange their schools.

Winning in West Virginia. After the nine-day strike by teachers in all 55 counties, educators and public employees won a five percent raise. Now, they’re urging the legislature not to cut Medicaid to fund the agreement.

Mobilizing Nationally. Tulsa teachers are working only the seven hours and 50 minutes required by their contract. The Oklahoma Education Association has warned that teachers will strike by April 1 if the legislature doesn’t fund a teacher pay raise and classroom needs.

  • In Arizona, teachers wore red to demand the state devote a $170 million revenue windfall to 5 percent raises for educators whose salaries are 7th-lowest in the nation.
  • The Kentucky Education Association rallied teachers at the State Capitol to demand full funding for public pensions.

Fighting for Full & Fair Funding. Most states slashed school funding during the Great Recession and still haven’t fully restored these cuts. Additionally, teachers in many states are fighting corporate tax cuts, which caused a $425 million deficit in West Virginia.

Working with Communities. Students bring problems to school, including family poverty, opioid addiction, and gun violence. That’s one more reason why teachers deserve higher pay, and also why educators are working with communities, exemplified by the American Federation of Teachers’ partnership to tackle poverty in McDowell County, West Virginia, called “Reconnecting McDowell.”

Women Learning More, Earning Less than Male Co-workers

Working women need one more academic degree than their male colleagues just to earn the same pay for the same work. In fact, over the course of their careers, women with bachelor’s degrees earn an eye-popping $1 million less than men with comparable credentials.

These are among the alarming conclusions of a new report from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce on the wage gap, appropriately titled, “Women Can’t Win”:

Learning More, Earning Less. Despite outpacing men in educational achievement and increasingly pursing higher-paying majors in business and STEM (science, engineering, technology and mathematics), women still earn only 81 cents for every dollar earned by men. That’s up from 57 cents on the dollar four decades ago, but pay discrimination persists, even for women with advanced degrees:

  • Women account for 61 percent of associates’ degrees, 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 60 percent of master’s degrees.
  • However, women are only paid as much as men who one rung lower on the academic ladder—and much less than men with the same degrees. Women with associates’ degrees earn average salaries of $43,000, which is less than male high school graduates, who get $47,000.
  • Women with bachelor’s degrees average $61,000, compared to $87,000 for men with the same degrees, thus exemplifying the million-dollar lifetime pay gap. For women with graduate degrees, the gap widens to $1.6 million.

Getting Ahead in a Rigged Economy. Recognizing the need for “major social and legal changes,” the report suggests a number of strategies for women to get ahead.

  • Not pursuing a B.A.? Try to get an industry-based certification.
  • Pick majors that pay well.
  • Get one degree or more in order to have the same earnings as a man.
  • Liberal arts major? Get a graduate degree.
  • Drive a hard bargain for your first paycheck because it influences your career earnings.

Union Advantage. As the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reports, women with union representation earn 30 percent more than their non-union sisters.

Disney Workers Tired of Mickey Mouse Wages

One of the world’s oldest and largest theme parks—Disneyland in Anaheim, California—invites tourists to “Get More Happy.” But the resort’s 20,000 regular employees and 3,000 contract workers just want to get more money in their paychecks so they can support themselves and their families.

Not Living the Disneyland Dream. Seventy-three percent of the theme park’s workers don’t earn enough to pay for basic necessities such as rent, food, and gasoline for their cars, according to a study by researchers from Occidental College and the Economic Roundtable (appropriately titled, “Working for the Mouse”).

  • Two-thirds of these workers don’t have enough food to eat three meals, and 11 percent have also been homeless.
  • Tara Quint, who cleans the park at night, said, “I am on food stamps. I have a lot of health problems, and I can’t even afford the medical insurance that they have us do weekly out of our checks.”
  • Rebecca Petersen, a licensed cosmetologist who works as a makeup artist at the theme park, said she has to live out of her car.

Poverty Amidst Plenty. While its workers are having a hard time making ends meet in an expensive region, profits at Disney’s parks increased by 21 percent to an eye-popping $1.35 billion in the final quarter of 2017.

A Living Wage. That’s why Disneyland unions, including SEIU, UNITE HERE, and IATSE are supporting a ballot initiative that would require any large hotel or resort subsidized by the city of Anaheim to pay its workers at least $15/hour by next year, with wages rising by $1 every year through 2022.

Minimum Wage Workers Work 41 Days for Nothing

Remember a couple of weeks ago when House Speaker Paul Ryan proudly tweeted about a Pennsylvania school secretary who got a $1.50 weekly raise, thanks to the Republican tax cut?

As he later admitted, that’s not a whole lot of money. Full-time minimum wage workers—folks putting in 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year—can buy $2,370 less with their paychecks than in 2009. That was the last year when the federal minimum wage went up – to $7.25-an-hour.

Working an Extra 41 Days for Nothing. For these hard-working, low-paid Americans, March 1 marked an unhappy occasion – 41 weekdays into the New Year. That’s how many extra days they would have had to work last year just to make up for spending power they’ve lost since the last minimum wage increase. (Hat tip to the Center for American Progress for computing this)

Living Wages. Fortunately, as of early 2018, 29 states and the District of Columbia, as well as at least 41 localities, had adopted minimum wages above $7.25. That’s a big reason for the pay increases that President Trump tries to take credit for.

Working Hard for a Living. Working for the minimum wage – or a little more – is a hard life. In Detroit, Cecil Euseary works at Burger King for Michigan’s minimum wage of $8.15 per hour and can only get about 25 hours of work per week. As he explained: “It’s hard. If it weren’t for my godmom—this is her house; I get a room upstairs—if it weren’t for her, I don’t know what… I’d probably be out on the street, in a shelter.”

Things Aren’t Going Better for Workers at Coke

President Trump drinks 12 cans of Diet Coke a day.

But, when he thinks about the soft drink giant taking the fizz out of his promises, maybe he’ll have a Coke…and a frown.

Hiking Dividends, Not Paychecks. Together, with many major corporations, Coca-Cola may have given Trump the caffeine jitters last fall. After he promised that his tax cuts would raise wages and create jobs, Coca-Cola joined Cisco, Pfizer, and other companies in announcing it would boost shareholders’ dividends, not workers’ paychecks. And Coke kept its word, rewarding its investors, not its employees.

More Layoffs. After wiping out 1,200 jobs in 2017, Coke is continuing its layoffs this year. The company is pink-slipping 350 employees in its home base of Atlanta, while closing its manufacturing plant in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, and cutting back its bottling facility in Oklahoma City, costing a total of 246 jobs. All these layoffs will save Coke $800 million this year.

Pocketing Tax Breaks. Coke finished last year with solid growth, and, thanks to Trump’s tax law, its tax rate will fall from 26 to 21 percent. Moreover, it’s bringing foreign earnings home at reduced rates.

Yes, Coke is still a “classic” money-maker. But, in spite of its corporate tax cuts, the company that broadcasts TV spots with picnics and parties isn’t inviting its employees to the festivities.

Shareholders Get a Windfall. Workers? Not So Much.

President Trump promised $4,000 raises and millions of new jobs. The real results: stock bonanzas for top executives, and layoffs for frontline workers.

Buybacks, Not Bonuses. Over the past two months, corporations announced plans to buy back $178 billion of their stock. That’s more than 30 times the $5.6 billion in bonuses and pay increases that were announced with great fanfare.

CEOs Win, Workers Lose. Since buybacks boost share values, the winners are the wealthiest one percent (including corporate CEOs) who own 40 percent of all stocks. But buybacks come at a cost: plant closings, layoffs and cutbacks in research and development. For instance, the drug-maker Pfizer is buying back $10 billion of its own stock, while halting research on treatments for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and laying off 300 employees.

Productive Workers Betrayed. The conglomerate Kimberly-Clark racked up $3.3 billion in profits last year. Now, it’s laying off 5,500 workers.

  • At K-C’s plant in Fox Crossing, Wisconsin, machine operator Jessica Schiessl recalled, “Three weeks before, we had a meeting, and they said we’d beaten and exceeded all the goals. Three weeks later they called us back in the same room and said we were shutting down. It was shocking. It made you want to vomit.”
  • With 25 years’ service, Paul Luebke said, “We took nothing and built it into a billion-dollar business. This is our reward.”

Overworked Americans Need a Real Raise – and a Nice Nap

Are you working longer hours—or even two jobs—just to make ends meet? Are you missing your kids’ soccer games to meet demands at work? Or, worse yet, are you having trouble finding enough work to provide for yourself and your family?

All of these problems may have the same root cause: Wages (adjusted for inflation) just aren’t going up. According to a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), even with the so-called economic recovery, most Americans have gone way too long without getting a real raise.

  • Working Hard for the Money. If you think you’re making more money than years ago, you should be proud of yourself for working longer and harder. With inflation-adjusted wages practically stagnant, almost all the increase in annual earnings since 1979 (!) has been because Americans are working longer hours. On average, working-age adults put in 7.8 percent more hours per year in 2016 than in 1979.
  • Low Wages, Long Hours. Adults from their 20s through their 50s who earn the least have increased their work hours the most. That’s because they need to work many more hours to afford basic necessities.
  • Many Workers Still Losing Out. The share of young and middle-aged men who have not found jobs has nearly doubled since 1979, while the share of women in these groups who did not work for wages has declined.