You are browsing the archive for corporations.

Why It’s So Hard to Sue Wal-Mart for Gender Discrimination

12:44 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Jessica Mason Pieklo for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Women protesting Walmart policies

Everyday low wages & sexism

It can take years for the effects of even the big Supreme Court decisions to really take hold. Consider the case of Wal-Mart v. Dukes two years ago, a decision that revoked class-action certification from what would have been one of the largest gender bias lawsuits of its kind. At the time, more than 1.5 million female Wal-Mart workers claimed the retailer unlawfully discriminated against them when it came to their pay and promotions, because of a corporate culture that enabled stereotyping of female workers. The Supreme Court rejected these claims, holding that the women didn’t have enough in common to justify hearing their claims against Wal-Mart together as one case.

Disappointed but undeterred, the women pressed on, determined to bring their claims even if they were narrower. But last week the plaintiffs suffered another setback as a federal judge in San Francisco dismissed a claim by 150,000 of the 1.5 million original plaintiffs on the grounds that while the new proposed class of plaintiffs is definitely smaller than the original class rejected by the Supreme Court, there still isn’t enough proof the women suffered similar treatment to justify hearing their claims all at once. Instead of seeking to press their claims on a nationwide class of workers at Wal-Mart’s 3,400 stores, as the original complaint against the retail giant did, the female workers had asserted that they represented about 150,000 employees in what is called the “California region” of the company—an area made up of three Wal-Mart geographic zones and 250 stores. This new class of plaintiffs sought to represent any female workers who had been on the company payroll between December 26, 1998, and December 31, 2002, and who were subject to pay scales based on hourly rates and on salary levels, and were eligible for promotion to management trainee or area manager.

But this smaller, regional approach was not enough to convince the federal courts to allow the claims to proceed. U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer, a Clinton appointee and brother of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, concluded:

[T]hough they have cut down the raw number of proposed class members significantly, Plaintiffs continue to challenge four different kinds of decisions across hundreds of decision makers, inviting failures of proof at multiple points in each region.

This new, smaller class “continues to suffer from the problems that foreclosed certification of the nationwide class.” Though the workers “insist that they have presented an entirely different case from the one the Supreme Court rejected, in fact it is essentially a scaled-down version of the same case with new labels on old arguments.”

Read the rest of this entry →

McDonald’s Sample Budget Is Not ‘Good for Us All’—Especially Not Women With Children

12:13 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

McDonalds Sign

McDonald’s budget for workers highlights their unlivable wages.

McDonald’s has taken some heat for its Practical Money Skills Budget Journal, a financial planning guide for its low-wage workers that suggests monthly spending on a variety of expenses. That’s pretty ironic since heat was one of the things McDonald’s failed to anticipate in the guide’s first iteration—it was later included in the sample budget in response to public pressure.

News coverage has noted the implausible monthly $600 rent (compared with the national average of $1,048). Many people have pointed out the impossibility of spending just $27 a day on gas and groceries, and the absence of a clothing budget. All of these criticisms are completely valid.

McDonald’s has defended the second income required to balance this budget, indicating that it could be representative of a two-person household, with both contributing. Let’s play along with this scenario.

Two-thirds of fast-food workers are women, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The majority are older than 32—in their prime years for raising children. In fact, almost a third of minimum-wage earners are raising children. Thus, there’s a good chance that our theoretical couple has children. But let’s back up.

Assuming that the full-time McDonald’s worker qualifies for the company’s $14 a week health-care plan and that costs already have been deducted from the gross pay in this budgeting scenario, the plan caps coverage at $10,000 a year—a measly amount, particularly for a female employee (or insured female partner of an employee) who gives birth to a child.

The joy of that child would surely be dampened by the realization that no money is left to dedicate to child-care costs—the average of which exceed average rent costs in half of all states for just one child. Using the financial planning guide’s insanely low projection of $600 for rent, this family would likely need at least $600 for child care, leaving merely $200 to feed and clothe a family of three each month.

And that’s being generous. That child-care figure is slightly lower than the results of a recent Restaurant Opportunities Center United study funded by the Ms. Foundation for Women, entitled The Third Shift, which found that working mothers in the restaurant industry (with similarly low-paying occupations as in the fast-food industry) spend an average of 35 percent of their wages on child care. In the sample budget, 35 percent of the net income would be $721.

While the McDonald’s budgeting tool may use “generic examples,” as the company claims, there are real women and families struggling. The Third Shift relays the story of Teresa (whose last name was not published, by request), who balances two jobs in the restaurant industry while raising two children on her own in Los Angeles. When her children were young, she relied on her sister for child care. When her sister wasn’t available, her neighbor cared for her children, but the cost was significant on her meager earnings. Teresa’s children are older now, but economic stability continues to elude her.

“Having a job is a blessing,” Teresa said. “But having a higher wage, for me, as a single mom, would allow me to be able to spend more time with my children. And mothers with younger ones would be able to pay for quality care.”

McDonald’s may have been sincere in its attempt to help employees budget. But the company is blind to the realities. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. If this budget assumes only one earner working two jobs, that equates to 74 hours a week at minimum wage. If that worker is a single mother, like Teresa, she may need child care for those 74 hours, the cost of which would be astronomical.

While these aren’t issues unique to McDonald’s employees, McDonald’s has a unique opportunity as a worldwide leader of the fast-food industry to raise the standards by which companies treat low-wage employees. The budgeting tool is a transparent acknowledgement that its employees are struggling. Let’s ask McDonald’s to go one step further in tangibly improving the lives of its employees.

On its website, McDonald’s claims, “From the start, we’ve been committed to doing the right thing. And we’ve got the policies, programs and practices in place that allow us to use our size and scope to help make a difference. Because what’s good for us is good for us all.”

The Ms. Foundation challenges the corporate giant to live up to its own rhetoric by using its size and scope to improve the lives of its hundreds of thousands of employees. That really would be good for us all!

Read the rest of this entry →

A New Direction for Restaurant Workers? Zingerman’s and the “Thriveable Wage”

1:39 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Sheila Bapat for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Waiter

An update on the ongoing wage crisis for restaurant workers in the United States.

The wage crisis among restaurant workers has gained attention in recent weeks, reminding the public that federal minimum wage for restaurant workers is currently $2.13 per hour even while the federal minimum wage for most other sectors is $7.25 per hour. According to Saru Jayaraman, Director of the Food and Labor Research Center, low wages for restaurant workers is the biggest legacy of former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, who served as head of the National Restaurant Association (NRA). The NRA, one of the most powerful lobbies in the United States, worked hard during Cain’s tenure to keep the cost of labor low in its sector. Jayaraman also points out that women constitute at least half of people in the restaurant sector.

In light of the industry’s powerful lobbying to keep wages low, it is rare to find restaurants — or corporations generally — driven by a desire to improve their employees’ overall living wage and wellness, rather than how the market can make them richer. Enter Zingerman’s Community of Businesses (Zingerman’s), made up of 18 partners and several different enterprises including a restaurant called Zingerman’s Roadhouse. Based in Michigan, Zingerman’s partners are known for having built their enterprises based on how they can “enhance the lives of as many people as [they] possibly can.”

In practice this means offering all their employees — part time and full time — health and dental benefits, and paid time off. After they work at Zingerman’s for a year, employees are eligible for 401(k)s.

Tabitha Mason, who built her career in the restaurant industry, is the manager of Zingerman’s Roadhouse. “Early in my career at a different restaurant, I probably made $20,000 per year. That was a more traditional restaurant, where servers were viewed as disposable,” Mason told RH Reality Check. “And previous restaurants I worked at would try hard to restrict who could receive benefits — like it was an exclusive club.”

While Zingerman’s Roadhouse pays its staff just a smidge over the federal restaurant workers’ minimum wage, their staff earn $21 per hour. Management monitors tips to ensure this, according to Mason.

And last year, Zingerman’s partners began cultivating a new dimension of their focus on employee-centered business:  the concept of a “thriveable wage.” We’ve heard of the minimum wage, described above, which offers a floor for what a worker can legally earn in a given sector. And we’ve heard of a “living wage,” which ensures a worker can earn what is necessary to survive.

Moving to a “thriveable wage” is part of Zingerman’s deeper commitment to their worker and an understanding that, as an employer, they’re part of a larger ecosystem of workers, their families, and their communities, not just partners and shareholders. At a retreat last year, Zingerman’s partners began toying with the concept of a thriveable wage, drafting a vision statement that includes the following:

Read the rest of this entry →