Ikea’s Voluntary Pay Raise Experiment Deemed a Success

This photo taken Wednesday, June 3, 2015, shows an IKEA store in Miami. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
This photo taken Wednesday, June 3, 2015, shows an IKEA store in Miami. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

June  25, 2015– In March of 2015 this forum reported that regardless of the contentious minimum wage battles that have been plaguing the City, State, and Federal governments this year that some major corporate employers were voluntarily implementing pay increases for their hourly workers. (http://newyorkovertimelaw.com/blog/10-companies-that-have-vowed-to-raise-their-minimum-wage/)  Ikea, the furniture giant,  was one of the employers on that list.  The preliminary results of their voluntary wage experiment have been examined and what they reveal is dramatic and enlightening.

Ikea’s Chief Financial Officer, Rob Olson, has announced that as a result of the positive consequences of their voluntary wage increases that they intend to implement a second round of such wage hikes.   Ikea’s pay increase structure was based upon the relative cost of living in the various jurisdictions where it maintained stores.  Stores where the cost of living was the highest implemented more aggressive increases, creating greater financial parity among its U.S. Employees.

Olson made the announcement after summarizing what Ikea saw as the noticeable benefits to their company following the  implementation of the increase.   The first was a dramatic decrease in employee turnover from prior to the increase.  This factor alone reduced the company’s spending on the recruitment and training of new employees, whereby, balancing the cost increases of higher salaries.  Perhaps less tangible but, maybe, more significant was what Olson cited as the ability to recruit more qualified candidates for open positions.   The increase resulted in a noticeable increase in the hiring of more qualified applicants, which resulted in better employees, according to Olson.

So, while others debate the positive and negative consequences of wage increases and their impact on corporate employers Ikea seems to have settled the question as to whether major employers can sustain the impact of wage increases for their lowest earners.  They, clearly, can.

To view the entire article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/24/ikea-minimum-wage_n_7648804.html

The Minimum Wage Battle Heats Up In NY

Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

June 18, 2015– The Minimum wage battle heated up this week in New York as Fast Food workers filled an auditorium on New York University’s campus to testify before a panel appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo to examine the wage issue.  This hearing comes on the heals of last week’s historic increase in Los Angeles to $15 per hour for their minimum wage. ( See http://newyorkovertimelaw.com/blog/los-angeles-becomes-largest-city-to-enact-15-wage-law/)

At the hearing more than 30 Fast Food and other workers testified about their inability to survive, live, and afford housing on the wages they earn under the current economic scheme.   They, boldly, are seeking an increase from $8.75 per hour to $15 per hour in order to offset the economic disparity between their wages and their cost of living.

NYC’s Mayor, Bill De Blasio, and Governor Andrew Cuomo have been vocal advocates of this historic increase for the 180,000 Fast Food workers residing and working in New York State.  Despite the opposition of major employers over the alleged adverse economic impact of these significant wage changes it is expected that increases will be announced shortly.  The Los Angeles increase seems to have been the momentum shift these East Coast workers were looking for.

To read the entire NY Times Article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/16/nyregion/board-hears-support-for-raising-food-workers-minimum-wage.html?_r=1

Los Angeles Becomes Largest City to Enact $15 Wage Law

“Los Angeles - Feb 9, 2014: View Of Hollywood Boulevard In Sunset” by David Castillo Dominici
“Los Angeles – Feb 9, 2014: View Of Hollywood Boulevard In Sunset” by David Castillo Dominici

June 11, 2015-While the nation debates the issue and large companies promise some movement on their minimum wage floor, the City of Los Angeles has acted, and acted swiftly.   Wednesday night, by an overwhelming majority, the City Council voted to increase the City minimum wage to $15 per hour.  While the measure still needs to be signed into law by Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti, he has already indicated that he will do so without hesitation.

This increase makes the minimum wage in Los Angeles double the Federal Standard and on parity with only a few jurisdictions.   The size and visibility of the city make the increase historic.  Mayor Garcetti and Mayor De Blasio of New York City have have both been vocal advocates of this change, yet, New York City’s leader has not managed to garner enough support to accomplish this goal.   It remains to be seen if this change on the West Coast will prompt a similar response in the East.

While labor advocates have applauded the action, many large employers have renounced it as crippling to their profitability during a time when the economy is still fragile.  Overtures are already being made to engage in massive lay-offs or corporate relocations.  The impact on these employers may not be as significant as these companies would have the public believe as the increase phases in over the course of several years, with provisions to extend the commencement time for smaller employers.

While the impact of the increase is being debated labor advocates and businesses will be keenly focused on signs of the impact on the Los Angeles economy and how it relates to the rest of the national employment picture.

To read the entire story:

http://americasmarkets.usatoday.com/2015/06/10/10-an-hour-minimum-wage-passed-in-la/?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=usatodaycommoney-topstories

New York State Nail Salons Come Under Fire For Worker Abuses

Courtesy of Freedigitalimages.net
Courtesy of Freedigitalimages.net

May 21, 2015– On a daily basis, women, and often men, across the City of New York patronize one of 2,000 nail salons in order to treat themselves to grooming at the hands of professional manicurists. The customers, often financially middle and upper class individuals, shell out significant fees for these periodic treatments in luxurious salons by industrious workers skilled at the art of beautifying their clients’ nails through the art of manicure and pedicure. Despite the, sometimes, exorbitant fees paid New York City residents for this service, a recent study has revealed that many of the workers performing the pricey services have been subject to extreme wage and hour abuses at the hands of their employers.

According to a NY Times survey of 150 nail salons in NYC, “a vast majority of workers are paid below minimum wage; sometimes they are not even paid. Workers endure all manner of humiliation, including having their tips docked as punishment for minor transgressions, constant video monitoring by owners, even physical abuse.”

In addition to wage related employment abuses recent studies have revealed that salon workers are exposed to various, toxic chemicals associated with the trade without the benefit of proper training, proper safety equipment, sufficient ventilation, or a proper understanding of the hazards they are exposed to.

New York State, and New York City in particular, has the highest per capita of the, over, 17,000 nail salons found throughout the United States. With the high cost of living in New York, the $1.50 per hour that is estimated to be the prevailing wage, including tips, for these workers is far below any established poverty line anywhere in the country.

These abuses seem to disproportionately impact the immigrant population in New York City because it is immigrants that fill the majority of these positions. The two largest groups impacted are Asian and Hispanic immigrants. Many of these workers, despite being the subject of gross employment abuses fear recrimination or unemployment as retribution for hiring employment law firms to present their grievances.

So what does the future hold for these oppressed salon workers?  Is there a roadmap to relief from the onslaught of abuses they sustain daily?  The Salon industry does not seem poised to make meaningful changes on its own.  State Salon Licensing Boards and Government Agencies are currently overwhelmed with large caseloads offering no relief for these hard working employees.  The one thing that is certain is that until someone does more than just study the conditions for this large group of workers their lives will not improve.

How Raising the Minimum Wage Can Impact Workers

April 23, 2015-2015 has been marked by political and media debate over the relative benefits and pitfalls of significant raises in the current minimum wage law.  While politicians on the Federal and state level propose and debate legislation on this important topic many major corporate employers have begun to undertake voluntary increases, ranging from negligible to substantial.  As 2015 proceeds the outcome of this legislation, these voluntary increases, and their economic impact will continue to be an issue of national discussion and analysis on both sides of the argument.

Dave Jamieson, of the Huffington Post, wrote a thoughtful article entitled “How Raising The Minimum Wage To $15 Changed These Workers’ Lives” which considers one position on the impact of raising the minimum wage for workers:

SEATAC, Wash. — In late 2013, voters in this airport town outside Seattle narrowly approved a groundbreaking measure setting a minimum wage of $15 per hour for certain workers. When the new law went into effect last year, Sammi Babakrkhil got a whopping 57 percent raise.

A valet attendant and shuttle driver at a parking company called MasterPark, Babakrkhil saw his base wage jump from $9.55 per hour, before tips, up to $15. Having scraped by in America since immigrating from Afghanistan 11 years ago, he suddenly faced the pleasant predicament as his co-workers: What to do with the windfall?

To read the remainder of the article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/22/life-on-a-15-minimum-wage_n_7107792.html?utm_source=Alert-blogger&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Email%2BNotifications

Mixed News For Employees As 2nd Fiscal Quarter Begins

Photo by David Castillo Dominici.  Image ID: 100157605
Photo by David Castillo Dominici.
Image ID: 100157605

April 9, 2015-U.S. workers, as they attempt to understand what is happening in the American job market, are being confused by mixed economic signals which, simultaneously, forecast an economic expansion and economic slow down.  For many workers these mixed economic signals have made financial planning for their family’s future a nightmare.

Last week’s economic indicators foretold of some instability in the employment sector.   For the first time this year unemployment claims increased over the prior month’s filings, indicating, potentially, that an increased number of Americans were out of work.  Similarly, the hiring numbers for new employees also indicated a contraction over the, more robust, prior six months. These two factors, in isolation, could be the signs of a real economic slowdown and trouble for working families that have not yet recovered from the depths of the Great Recession. However, it may be too early to judge the state of the economy based on these factors because the relative increases, and contractions, were not significant enough to demand panic, yet.  There could be a number of fluctuating components, from the weather, to increased eligibility for unemployment filing, that may have contributed to these alarming figures.   The real test of whether this is a trend, or an anomaly, will be the results of April’s figures in these areas.

Meanwhile, there appears to be some hopeful signs for American workers as some of the country’s largest employers have begun to raise their minimum wage, voluntarily, above the Federal and state standards.   Employers such as Walmart, McDonalds, and AETNA have all begun implementing these increases, with other companies, likely, to follow suit.  While the raises they have instituted are not close to the wages some labor groups and government officials have been calling for, they are a positive economic trend for employees.

For employees looking to improve their standard of living by seeking higher wages, within, or outside of their current positions it may be a difficult time to forecast what the remainder of 2015 will bring.  For many, perhaps, fear of a second wave of economic downturn will inhibit their willingness to leave the security of their current position for a new, higher paying job.   It may also impede their confidence in seeking an increase in wages in their current employment, if they are employed. The net result may be a kind of economic stagnation and paralysis that is the result of the insecurity caused by years of economic fear and struggle for American workers.

 

 

 

 

Pregnant Workers Win Supreme Court Victory

Young Woman Pregnant Sitting On Arm Chairs In Home Living Room W Stock Photo Photo by khunaspix.  Image ID: 100253535
Young Woman Pregnant Sitting On Arm Chairs In Home Living Room
Photo by khunaspix.
Image ID: 100253535

March 26, 2015– WASHINGTON — In a victory for pregnant women in the workplace, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in favor of a worker who sued shipping giant UPS for pregnancy discrimination, sending her lawsuit back to a lower court where she had previously lost.

The case, Young v. United Parcel Service, hinged on whether or not UPS was justified in putting Peggy Young on unpaid leave after she became pregnant, even though other workers were commonly offered “light duty” for on-the-job injuries or to satisfy requirements under the American with Disabilities Act. The justices ruled 6-3 in favor of keeping Young’s lawsuit alive, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito joining the traditionally liberal members of the court….

(Reposted from The Huffington Post 3/25/2015)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/25/supreme-court-ups-pregancy_n_6940752.html?1427304988

New York Food Workers Guaranteed Increased Wages

Photo by stockimages.  Stock Photo - Image ID: 100105597
Photo by stockimages.
Stock Photo – Image ID: 100105597

February 26, 2014- On February 24, 2015 the Acting Commissioner of New York State’s Department of Labor, Mario J. Musolino, announced the passage of certain dramatic wage changes which were, previously, proposed, studied, and debated for four months by the 2014 Hospitality Wage Board regarding the wages of tipped workers in the food and hospitality industries.  The direct impact of these changes is to increase the mandated, guaranteed wages for tipped food and hospitality workers.

Classically, workers in New York State that have relied, primarily, on tips for their compensation have been relegated to sub-minimum wages. Food and hospitality industry workers have relied on the benefit of the generosity of customer’s tips to offset the shortfall between their wage and the New York State Minimum guaranteed wage for all other workers.

Effective December 15, 2015 the NYS guaranteed cash wage for tipped workers in food and hospitality will be $7.50 per hour. This is the first such increase since 2011 when the standard for these workers became $5.65 per hour.

For New York City tipped food and hospitality workers the change allows for a $1 differential, or $8.50 per hour. This differential runs parallel to Governor Cuomo’s initiative to allow for a similar differential in the base minimum wage for all other New York City workers as compared the rest of New York State.

The Commissioner also committed to commence a study which examines the impact of the complete elimination of cash wages and tip credits in the food and hospitality industry in New York State.  The result of that study are expected later this year.

While the obvious impact of the measures are to increase the wages of tipped workers in New York State and New York City the ultimate true impact is not yet known. Currently, some food and hospitality spokespeople have indicated that the industry, in response to the Commissioner’s initiative, is examining a voluntary elimination of tipping for workers and the imposition of a service fee on all checks to consumers while transitioning workers to the State guaranteed minimum wage for all other workers.

First Analysis of Minimum Wage Increases Show Economic Promise

February 19, 2015–  Much of the debate surrounding an increase in the Minimum Wage is whether, or not, it will positively impact the U.S. economy. The initial analysis of the impact of the increases in over 20 states, which was written about in this column last month*, appears to indicate it has had a positive impact on the overall economic picture, albeit small.

Economists reported an, overall, increase in Labor force wages by .045%, in January, partially due to the substantial commitment of a number of states to these hourly wage increases. Morgan Stanley reported that 1.5% of the workforce was impacted by the increases in 21 states.  While this percentage is, actually, substantial it did not have a greater positive result on the economy because the increases in wages, themselves, were not substantial enough to have an impact when spread out over the entire wage pool.

Further commentary by leading economists seems to indicate that the economy was also helped by a continued increase in the number of laborers in the workforce. The Department of Labor reported the biggest three (3) month increase in 17 years, possibly, ending a trend towards months of alternating progress and set backs. There were no indications, whatsoever, that in the markets where wages were increased that the increases in hourly wage lead to layoffs, contractions, decreased profitability, or corporate re-locations as compared to jurisdictions with lower hourly wages.

There does seem to be a building forward momentum in the economy and the job sector. This increase in opportunities will continue to thin the unemployment ranks and should have a natural inclination to raise wages in the marketplace as competition heats up. The lurking danger is that as new higher paying Managerial opportunities are created they will have the tendency to demonstrate net increases in the wage pool figures and these increases may be used by opponents of mandated minimum wage increases as justification that such legislation is not needed.

What is needed as the economy continues to evolve and emerge from the Great Recession is an isolated, detailed analysis of workers and wages at the minimum wage level. By applying this analysis the most needy sectors of the workforce will not suffer from having their stagnation masked by members of the workforce on the more affluent segment of the labor force.

Yet to see an increase in your pay rate after the minimum wage increase? If you are making less than the state minimum wage in New York, contact the wage attorneys at Neil H. Greenberg and Associates for a consultation at 866-546-4752.

*To view the article written in this column last month, click here.

Pres. Obama and Gov. Cuomo Fight to Raise Wages

January 22, 2015– In Tuesday Night’s State of the Union address, President Obama made increasing the Federal Minimum Wage a central theme of his economic platform. While this proposal is not new to the President’s agenda, he used a recovering economy and the signs of an increasing Presidential public approval rating to bolster his opportunity to be more vocal on the issue.

While individual states always have the ability to deviate more favorably to employees from the Federal government’s wage standard, the President highlighted the moral responsibility of the Federal Government in setting a heightened National baseline on wages.  He was unequivocal in the expression of his belief that wage increases are essential to improving the fabric of the American workplace and the life of the American worker.

To a Republican controlled Congress, the President challenged “To everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full time and support a family on less that $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest working people in America a raise.” While this dramatic challenge may have resonated with the American people, it may be more rhetoric than policy as the, now Republican majority in the Congress, has vehemently refused to take up any measure increasing the Minimum Wage above the 2009 rate of $7.25 per hour.

The President also focused on other workplace related issues, which he was looking for Congress to take a leadership role in establishing national policy on, including paid sick leave, paternity leave, and universal day care. Once again, under the current make-up of Congress, passage of such legislation is also unlikely.

Meanwhile, in New York State, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a significant increase in the state’s current $8.75 per hour minimum wage to $10.50 per hour by 2016, outside of NYC. In a surprising change of position from his stance of late last year, the Governor also proposed a NYC differential of $1.00 per hour in NYC’s minimum wage, or $11.50 per hour by 2016. These increases would make NYC and NYS among the highest minimum wage jurisdictions in the country. Earlier this month, 21 other states implemented minimum wages hikes.

(see http://newyorkovertimelaw.com/blog/21-states-raise-minimum-wage-federal/)

In making his proposal the Governor focused less on the obligation of NYS citizens to support each other, or on the moral obligations of the NYS legislature, but more on New York keeping pace with the healthier state of the economy, “The world has changed. The market is strong and I believe the market, this market, at this rate of strength, can deal with this.” While the proposed wage promulgated by the Governor is far below his original proposal of $13 per hour, it is also unlikely to see clear passage with a New York State Senate in equal opposition as the US. Congress to such a measure.

While a substantial increases in the Federal and New York State minimum wage seem unlikely under the current political climate, the issue is of significant and consequential concern to a financially devastated American workforce. What it will take to transform this powerful political rhetoric into actual implemented legislation is unclear; however, it seems unlikely that these Executive standard bearers are, summarily, willing to concede the issue to their Republican opposition.