Category Archives: Workers rights

As Obama Presidency Nears Finish, White House Continues to Work for Pay Equity, Announcing New Commitments to Equal Pay Pledge

Lily Ledbetter, for whom the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which made inroads to addressing the inequity of women’s pay, is named. Equal Pay has been an Administration priority since President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay into law as his first piece of legislation upon becoming president © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Lilly Ledbetter, for whom the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which made inroads to addressing the inequity of women’s pay, is named. Equal Pay has been an Administration priority since President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay into law as his first piece of legislation upon becoming president © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

With the end of his presidency in sight, President Obama is working to accomplish as much progress as he could before the Donald Trump Administration comes in promising to undo it all. 

The White House offered this Fact Sheet Announcing New Commitments to the Equal Pay Pledge, a who’s who of the best places for women to work:

The White House launched the Equal Pay Pledge in June at the first-ever United State of Women Summit, encouraging companies from across the American economy to take action to advance equal pay. Today we are announcing new signatories to the White House Equal Pay Pledge and highlighting the critical role that businesses can play in reducing the national gender pay gap.

These 44 newly-committed employers bring the total number to more than one hundred companies and organizations that collectively employ millions of Americans. The new commitments are from a diverse range of employers, including AT&T, eBay, The Estée Lauder Companies, InterContinental Hotels Group, Mastercard, Yahoo, Square and Zillow Group.

Equal Pay has been an Administration priority since President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law as his first piece of legislation. Policies that ensure fair pay for all Americans and that help businesses to attract the strongest talent can not only narrow the pay gap, but also boost productivity and benefit our economy.

Today, women make up nearly half of the U.S. labor force and more women than ever are the breadwinners in their families. More women are also working in positions and fields that have been traditionally occupied by men. Yet in 2015, the typical woman working full-time all year in the United States earned only 80 percent of what the typical man earned working full-time all year. The pay gap is even greater for African American and Latina women, with African American women earning 63 cents and Latina women earning 54 cents for every dollar earned by a white non-Hispanic man. The gender wage gap continues to be a very real and persistent problem that continues to shortchange American women and their families.

EMPLOYERS FOR PAY EQUITY BUSINESS CONSORTIUM

This year on Women’s Equality Day, a group of White House Equal Pay Pledge employers formed an independent business consortium, Employers for Pay Equity—to help private industry players share best practices and develop better hiring, promotion, and pay policies. Today, Employers for Pay Equity is announcing a partnership with Simmons College to carry the consortium’s work forward. Simmons College will play a leading role in hosting the consortium to establish pay equity as a best business practice and a means to grow a more equitable workforce for all Americans.

These private sector companies and organizations share a commitment to equal pay and their pledges build on the Administration’s record of empowering women and girls.

By signing the Equal Pay Pledge, these employers are:

  • Acknowledging the critical role businesses must play in reducing the national pay gap.
  • Committing to conducting an annual company-wide gender pay analysis across occupations.
  • Reviewing hiring and promotion processes and procedures to reduce unconscious bias and structural barriers.
  • Embedding equal pay efforts into broader enterprise-wide equity initiatives.
  • Pledging to take these steps as well as identify and promote other best practices that will close the national wage gap to ensure fundamental fairness for all workers.

We thank all who have joined in this pledge and encourage the business community to continue to implement and uphold pay equity policies. 

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WHITE HOUSE EQUAL PAY PLEDGE 

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first piece of legislation President Obama signed into law. Policies that ensure fair pay for all Americans and that help businesses attract the strongest talent can not only narrow the gender pay gap, but also boost productivity and benefit our economy. Yet, the typical woman working full-time all year in the United States only earns 80 percent of what a typical man working full-time all year earns. While the gap has narrowed slightly over the past few years, there is much more work to be done to ensure fair pay for all. 

Building on the Administration’s numerous actions to close the national pay gap, the White House challenged businesses to take the Equal Pay Pledge. Several U.S. private sector companies have come together in support of advancing equal pay. 

*** 

We received a very positive response to the pledge and welcome our new signatories, including the employers below. 

These signatories put forth their pledges as follows: 

Equal Pay Pledge 

  • Adobe is proud to join the list of companies committed to equal pay.  Paychecks are important, not only because they cover the needs of employees and their families, but also because they are an important indicator of fair treatment. Gender should have no part in driving pay decisions.

We have already reported our U.S. pay data relative to gender and race, and we will continue to report our pay data annually.  This equal pay commitment is part of a larger diversity and inclusion strategy with three key areas of focus:  building a diverse talent pipeline; broadening our recruiting efforts to ensure a diverse candidate pool; and helping all employees grow once they are part of Adobe.

Investing to bring out the best in everyone, regardless of gender or background, contributes to the success of the business and the most important asset – our people.

  • Amalgamated Bank is proud to take the White House Equal Pay pledge to keep compensation fair, to practice our own values of fairness, diversity and inclusion, and to never stop looking for ways to do better.  We believe that pay equality isn’t an accomplishment, it’s standard operating procedure.  For nearly 100 years, Amalgamated Bank has been the progressive bank for the progressive community.  We strive to lead by example among financial institutions and ensure equal access to financial services for all people, which also means that our own employees receive equal pay for equal work.  By helping those both inside and outside the bank who do good do better, we believe everyone benefits.
  • AT&T’s commitment to diversity and inclusion has been visible and steadfast for nearly half a century. It dates back to the establishment of our Supplier Diversity Program in 1968, and our first Employee Resource Group in 1969.  Today, more than 120,000 employees have active memberships in our Employee Resource Groups and Employee Networks.

Diversity and inclusion is essential to our culture and our success. It fosters big ideas, fresh perspectives and opportunities, and bold leadership.  It plays an essential role in innovation, and it helps us play a more vital role in our communities.  Engaging in practices that support diversity, inclusion, and equality is a basic part of how we do business.

Signing on to the White House Equal Pay Pledge reinforces and validates what we already deliver to our employees:  equal pay for comparable work, experience and performance, regardless of gender, race, religion, or age. We’re proud to continue the practices that have created our fair and equitable workplace.

  • Autodesk today announces that we are signing the White House Equal Pay Pledge. Autodesk looks at inclusion comprehensively—how we attract, retain and develop top talent; how we include the widest range of entrepreneurs and developers using our software in our ecosystem; and how we expand opportunity globally to underrepresented segments of society. Equal pay is at the foundation of inclusion—this means we consider all of our employees, with all of the dimensions of diversity that they bring, whole contributing members of our organization deserving of equal compensation.

We currently conduct an annual review our compensation packages based on gender and ethnicity, but we recognize there is still much more to do and that signing this pledge is a commitment to ongoing self-reflection and analysis as an organization, which is why we do not take this lightly. In addition to a commitment to equal pay, our signature is also a commitment to creating and maintaining an inclusive environment where people can contribute fully and achieve personal and professional success.

  • Colgate-US has long been highly committed to the principles of fairness and equity the White House Equal Pay Pledge serves to support and is proud to add its name to the number of organizations taking this pledge.
  • eBay – For more than 20 years, eBay has sought to build a company that supports Connected Commerce – commerce that is enabled by people, supported by technology, and open to everyone.  In accordance with our vision, we believe deeply that we must have a diverse workforce and an inclusive workplace to ensure we reflect the perspectives of the tens of millions of customers that we serve globally.  That’s why eBay is proud to join with the White House in pledging to close the gender wage gap.We at eBay are committed to ensuring that we pay our people fairly based on their role, contribution and impact – not on factors unrelated to the work they do.  We have supported strategic initiatives, like our Women’s Initiative Network (WIN) and eBay Women in Technology (eWIT), that aim to support gender diversity in our workplace and the ability of women to build lasting, successful careers at our company.  Additionally, in early 2016, we undertook an extensive, global study of gender pay equity that considered the main components of compensation.  We are pleased to report that our study found pay parity between male and female employees.

    Going forward, we are committed to conducting on-going reviews of our compensation practices and, when necessary, we will take appropriate action to make sure that our employees continue to be paid fairly and equitably.  Ongoing commitment to equal pay principles is essential to ensuring we deliver on this pledge, and we will continue to review our practices globally to make sure we are creating the best possible workplace for all of our employees.

  • Edison International, we understand that diversity of thought is fueled by diversity of people engaged in an inclusive and fair work environment. We are committed to ensuring that gender pay equity is a part of the fairness experienced by all of our employees. Therefore, we are pleased to sign the White House Equal Pay Pledge.

We are a diverse company that succeeds when our employees are able to bring their best selves to the workplace. The ability to attract, retain, and develop a diverse workforce allows us to leverage our unique experiences, better reflect the communities we serve, and ensure equity and inclusion that benefits both our company and our customers.

As part of our pledge, we commit to continue our annual review of compensation, which is used to understand any potential gaps in pay and to take action when appropriate. In addition, Edison International aims to further increase equal employment opportunities and to break down employment barriers by continually seeking diverse representation in our hiring and promotional opportunities. We continue to analyze and evolve our pay practices and market demands for talent and to foster an inclusive work environment where our employees can fully contribute, find opportunities for advancement, and feel valued.

  • The Estée Lauder Companies is honored to partner with the White House in its effort to promote gender equality in the workplace.

As a Company founded by a pioneering entrepreneur, Mrs. Estée Lauder, we are proud to continue her legacy of empowering women, supporting families, and promoting equality.

Founded on strong family values 70 years ago, we have always believed that our people are our greatest asset. We take pride in maintaining a unique, creative and diverse workforce where everyone’s contributions are fairly rewarded.  We are proud that women constitute 85% of our employees worldwide, with 50% of our senior vice president positions and above in the U.S. held by women.

We understand that equal pay not only affects women but also their families, their communities, and our shared economy. By signing the Equal Pay Pledge, we are underscoring our commitment to ensure that all women and men are compensated fairly in terms of capabilities and experience.

We remain committed to providing a dynamic and supportive workplace for all our employees to foster their growth, success and well-being.

  • Exelon is pleased to sign the White House Equal Pay Pledge and we are committed to doing all we can to help close the national gender pay gap. Research shows that the typical American working woman makes 79% of what the typical working man makes – this translates to a loss of $500,000 over her lifetime. For Latino and African American women this cumulative loss nearly doubles. Diversity and inclusion is critical to Exelon’s success and our workforce programs must include transparency and fairness. As a result, we are joining other leading companies and conducting an annual audit of compensation, hiring and promotion practices. Through these efforts, Exelon is stating unequivocally that we value every worker, male and female. Advancing pay equity is not simply good business practice, but the right thing to do.
  • The Honest Company is honored to sign the White House Equal Pay Pledge and join the other companies who have taken on this economic and social imperative.  Our mission – to empower people to live a happy & healthy life – is at the heart of our business, and our company culture embodies our name: Honesty, Transparency, Openness. This applies both to how we treat our consumers as well as our employees. Diversity and gender equity are strategic pillars for our organization, and we are committed to ensuring all employees benefit from a workplace that is inclusive and fair. We are proud to stand with the White House and other companies who share these values.
  • InterContinental Hotels Group: Our ambition is to be number one for guests, owners and colleagues. A critical part of this ambition is our commitment to upholding equitable compensation practices regardless of race, gender or ethnicity. That’s why we are pleased to sign the White House pledge.
  • Mastercard: We believe that diversity and inclusion are essential to creating an inclusive environment for our colleagues, helping them to better serve our customers worldwide. At the same time, to ensure that our employees reflect the customers we serve and today, we source talent from numerous industries and backgrounds.

We are committed to this important pledge and will continue to review and enhance our policies and practices to ensure they reflect our values and connecting our employees to “Priceless Possibilities.” Our “Whole You” program is based on the premise of providing benefits to employees at different stages of life both at work and outside of work.

  • MWWPR was founded 30 years ago on progressive ideals that continue to fuel our vision, inspire our progress, and motivate our employees today. Our agency’s ethos of “Matter More” serves as our guiding principle – we strive to not only help our clients matter more to the people who matter most, but to ensure that all our employees feel valued for the contributions they make.

Engaging and retaining our incredible staff is our agency’s highest priority, and demonstrating fairness and inclusion is fundamental to our talent strategy. Our management committee is comprised of a majority of women, many of whom actively mentor junior female colleagues, and we regularly review our hiring and promotion processes to ensure we are evaluating and rewarding all employees equally.

For MWWPR, signing the Equal Pay Pledge is an important next step in demonstrating our commitment to our people, and we are honored to be the first public relations firm to take the pledge. We hope to inspire our colleagues in the industry to make a similar commitment, and are proud to stand with other leaders in the business community as we continue prioritizing equality and transparency across our agency.

  • Nestlé in the US: At Nestlé, we value our employees’ health and wellness, which includes the opportunity to work in an environment where one feels empowered, appreciated and respected.  Enhancing gender balance in our workforce is one of our company’s core societal commitments, globally and in the U.S., which is why each of our operating companies in the US is pleased to reaffirm our commitments by signing the White House Equal Pay Pledge.2016 marks Nestlé’s 150th year in business and we know that in order to be in business for the next 150, we must promote inclusive opportunities that respect the contribution of all of our employees.  Nestlé believes that striving towards equal pay, fair hiring, retention and promotion practices, and investing in leadership and professional development opportunities for women is good for our people, our consumers and our business.  We remain dedicated to enhancing gender balance in our workforce. To that end, we will continue to invest in programs including providing support for dual-career spouses as part of our International Dual Career Network, hosting networking events in conjunction with the Network of Executive Women Leadership Summit, continuing to find opportunities to publicly celebrate the accomplishments of our women executives throughout our businesses and encouraging eligible employees to take advantage of our Parent Support Policy, which offers up to 14 weeks of paid leave for primary caregivers with the option of extending unpaid leave up to six months.

    Each Nestlé business in the US will continue to review its hiring practices, assessments, and promotion decisions at the business level on an annual basis and work towards improving our ability to achieve gender balance and foster an equitable environment for all of our employees.

  • New Belgium Brewing is proud to sign on to the White House Equal Pay Pledge. As a 100% employee owned company, we know that when we take care of one another our workplace and our business are healthier. We’re proud to have women and men in every part of our company working side by side, earning wages that reflect our commitment to equal pay, advancement based on merit, and a spirit of community.
  • SoulCycle: Led by a female CEO and founded by two women, SoulCycle’s commitment to supporting and advancing women has always been part of the company’s DNA. The support and respect that we extend to each rider who walks through our 67 studio doors extends to our company-wide culture.  We’re committed to nurturing the health and happiness of all of our team members, and that includes our hiring practices and compensation.  As a company, we understand the importance of supporting and advancing women throughout their careers, and we know that our team thrives when they’re compensated fairly for their contributions.  We’re proud that women make up 86% of our studio leadership.

We applaud the White House for its efforts to eliminate the gender wage gap and promote equal pay.  We pledge to continue taking action individually and collectively as a team to pay equality.

  • Square is proud to sign the Equal Pay Pledge as a natural extension of our existing commitment to pay equity.  Square was built on the principle of inclusion which is reflected not only in the products and services that we provide to our sellers, but also in our internal policies and work environment.  We strive to recruit, retain, promote, and compensate our employees on the basis of their qualifications, performance, and potential.  We also work with our managers and employees in efforts to prevent gender-based bias from entering the workplace.  Most of all, we are committed to continually reviewing our policies and practices to identify and act upon further opportunities for improvement—we will always strive for inclusion, fairness, and equality.
  • Workday – Since day one, we’ve embraced diversity – including different experiences, perspectives, insights, backgrounds, and skills – because it fuels innovation, and creates a broader connection to the world. We believe that all employees deserve equal pay, and an equal chance to succeed. That’s why we’re proud to join the White House in signing the Equal Pay Pledge, as it supports our ongoing commitment to close the gender wage gap.As part of this commitment, we’ve developed reporting capabilities within our product that can uncover and potentially address the gender wage gap. We and many of our customers use these reporting capabilities to evaluate our pay practices to ensure our employees are compensated fairly. Knowledge is power, and we believe that technology can provide the information organizations need to create a more equal and inclusive workplace.
  • Yahoo, with more than one billion unique users across the world each month, has a distinct opportunity to leverage the power of our platforms to advance inclusion and diversity at the company, and across the tech industry. We recognize that building an inclusive and diverse workplace is more than a theoretical goal. It is a mission-critical business imperative that we must address with the same level of urgency and commitment that we apply to other strategic initiatives. And pay equity is a critical and inextricable component of this mission.

We are proud to have been recognized in 2015-2016 for our strides in paving the way for gender equality (Watermark Index Award winner), for being a best place to work for LGBT employees (scoring 100% on Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index for the tenth year in a row), for being a best place to work for parents (named by Elle Magazine and Fatherly.com), and by being named as an employer whose work significantly impacts communication access for people with hearing loss (receiving the National Access Award by the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA)).

  • Zillow Group is honored to sign the White House Equal Pay Pledge and join other companies who are committed to this effort. Zillow Group evaluates pay equity twice a year, is building out training to be aware of our unconscious biases, and reviews hiring and promotion processes. We are constantly striving to ensure that our compensation and benefits package matches our values of inclusion and equity. In addition to our generous maternity and parental leave policies, Zillow Group offices have designated nursing rooms, fully equipped with hospital grade pumps and fridges. Since 2010, we have offered free overnight breast milk shipping for nursing mothers on business trips. As a company, we invest in our people since they are investing in us. We believe the private sector plays a critical role in reducing the national pay gap and are proud of our internal efforts to provide gold-star benefits and gender pay equity for all our employees.

WE ARE ALSO JOINED BY THE FOLLOWING BUSINESSES:

  • Association of Equipment Manufacturers
  • AttainIT
  • Avanade Inc.
  • Avila Retail
  • Branding Brand
  • Cava Grill
  • DCode42
  • GBD Architects Incorporated
  • Global Experience Specialists
  • Harris Miller Miller & Hanson Inc
  • Hired, Inc.
  • Margaux’s Bookkeeping, Inc.
  • Omada Health
  • Periscope Data
  • RizePoint
  • Robinson & Kardonsky, P.C.
  • Spottswoode Winery
  • Stanton Chase International
  • Teslights LLC.
  • Thrive Global
  • Venesco LLC
  • Vmware
  • Vonage
  • WP Engine

BUILDING ON A RECORD OF SUPPORTING WORKING FAMILIES

Since taking office, President Obama and his Administration have taken a number of actions to support working families and combat the pay gap, including:

  • Publishing a final regulation by the Department of Health and Human Services to implement the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014. The program provides subsidies to working families and last year provided services for roughly 1.4 million children aged 0-13, most of whom are younger than 5. The rule, which has not been comprehensively revised since 1998, will provide a roadmap to states on how to implement the new law and clarify ambiguities around provisions that deal with eligibility for services; health and safety requirements; and how best to support the needs of parents and providers as they transition to the new law.  It also clarifies that worker organizations can provide professional development to child care workers and contribute to discussions around the rates states set for subsidies.
  • Signing his first piece of legislation as President, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pair Act, in January 2009 making it easier for employees to challenge unfair pay practices.
  • Creating the National Equal Pay Task Force in January 2010 to implement his pledge to crack down on violations of equal pay laws, which included representatives from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor, and the Office of Personnel Management. The Task Force has issued reports on its progress, including Fighting for Equal Pay in the WorkforceKeeping America’s Women Moving Forward, andFifty Years After the Equal Pay Act.  In addition, since the creation of the Equal Pay Task Force in 2010, the EEOC has received over 18,000 charges of sex-based pay discrimination, and through its independent enforcement efforts, the EEOC has obtained over $140 million in monetary relief for victims of pay discrimination on the basis of sex.
  • Calling on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, commonsense legislation that would strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by closing loopholes in the defenses for equal pay violations, providing stronger remedies, and expanding protections against discrimination for employees who share or inquire about information about their compensation at work.
  • Signing a Presidential Memorandum in May 2013 directing the Office of Personnel Management to develop a government-wide strategy to address the gender pay gap in the federal workforce, leading to a report in April 2014 and new guidance in July 2015—which cautioned against reliance on a candidate’s existing salary to set pay, as it can potentially adversely affect women who may have taken time off from their careers or propagate gaps due to discriminatory pay practices by previous employers.
  • Issuing an Executive Order in April 2014 and publishing a Department of Labor rule in September 2015 prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against employees who discuss or inquire about their compensation.
  • Announcing a White House Equal Pay Pledge, with more than 50 leading businesses signing on to take action to advance equal pay.  By signing the pledge, these companies are committing to conduct an annual company-wide gender pay analysis, review hiring and promotion processes, embed equal pay efforts in broader equity initiatives, and identify and promote best practices that will close the wage gap.
  • Hosting a White House Summit on Working Families in June 2014, highlighting the issues that women and families face, setting the agenda for a 21st century workplace, and announcing of a number of steps to help working families thrive.
  • Hosting the United State of Women Summit in June 2016, highlighting the progress that has been made over the course of this Administration and discussing public and private sector solutions to the challenges that still lie ahead.
  • Signing a Presidential Memorandum in January 2015 directing federal agencies to advance six weeks of paid sick leave to federal employees with new children, calling on Congress to grant another six weeks of paid leave for federal employees, and calling on Congress to pass legislation that gives all American families access to paid family and medical leave.
  • Publishing a final Department of Labor rule in May updating outdated overtime regulations, expanding overtime pay protections to 4.2 million additional Americans, boosting wages for workers by $12 billion over the next 10 years, and allowing workers to better balance their work and family obligations.
  • Issuing an Executive Order in February 2014 requiring federal contractors to raise their minimum wage initially to $10.10 an hour, indexing it, and lifting the tipped minimum wage (which disproportionately impacts women)—and urging Congress, states, cities, and businesses to do the same.
  • Directing the Office of Personnel Management and federal agencies to enhanceworkplace flexibility for federal employees to the maximum extent practicable, including enshrining a right to request flexible work arrangements.
  • Signing into law the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, which requires agencies to support and establish policies for telework by eligible employees.
  • Calling on Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would require employers to make reasonable accommodations to workers who have limitations from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions (unless it would impose an undue hardship on the employer). The legislation would also prohibit employers from forcing pregnant employees to take paid or unpaid leave if a reasonable accommodation would allow them to work.
  • Finalizing a Department of Labor rule updating its sex discrimination guidelinesfor federal contractors for the first time since 1978, to align with current law and address barriers to equal opportunity and pay, such as pay discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environments, a lack of workplace accommodations for pregnant women, and gender identity and family caregiving discrimination.
  • Collecting summary employee pay data from certain employers to improve investigations of possible pay discrimination, which remains a contributing factor to persistent wage gaps. Starting March 2018, The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will add the summary pay data to the annual Employer Information Report or EEO-1 report that is coordinated by the EEOC and the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.
  • Announcing the Department of Labor’s award of $54 million in “Strengthening Working Families” grants to help low- to middle-skilled parents access the affordable, quality child care they need to earn an education, participate in training programs, and compete for better-paying jobs in emergency industries.
  • Expanding access for women to higher-paying jobs through a proposed rule updating equal employment opportunity requirements in registered apprenticeships and through a Mega-Construction Projects (MCP) Initiative at the Department of Labor.

Obama Administration Announces New Steps to Spur Competition in Labor Market and Accelerate Wage Growth

 

South San Francisco Industrial City: New actions by Obama address wage collusion, unnecessary non-compete agreements, and other anticompetitive practices in order to spur competition for consumers and workers © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
South San Francisco Industrial City: New actions by Obama address wage collusion, unnecessary non-compete agreements, and other anticompetitive practices in order to spur competition for consumers and workers © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

New actions to address wage collusion, unnecessary non-compete agreements, and other anti-competitive practices respond to the President’s Executive Order issued on April 15, directing agencies to increase competition for consumers and workers.

“Today, we’re in the midst of the longest streak of job growth in U.S. history. The U.S. Census Bureau recently reported that in 2015, the typical household saw its income grow by 5.2 percent (about $2,800), the largest one-year increase on record,” the White House stated.

“At the same time, the President has made clear that there is still more work to do to reverse longer-run patterns of stagnant wage growth and rising income inequality. Over the past several decades, only the highest earners have seen steady wage gains; for most workers, wage growth has been sluggish and has failed to keep pace with gains in productivity. Over the same period, the share of national income going to labor has also fallen, and labor income itself has become divided increasingly unevenly.”

To ensure that workers share more fully in the gains they help create, the White House is announcing new steps in response to the President’s April 2016 Executive Order calling for actions that enhance competition to benefit consumers, workers, and entrepreneurs.

  • Issue Brief on How Monopsony Power Impacts Wages and Employment. The Council of Economic Advisers is releasing anew issue brief that reviews evidence that firms may have wage-setting power in a broad range of areas, explains how anticompetitive forces can lead to a redistribution of revenues from workers to companies, and reviews the policy implications of this analysis. 
  • Non-Compete Agreements: Call-to-Action to States, Largest-Ever Data Collection, and State-by-State Policy Report. Non-compete agreements narrow the employment options for an estimated one in five workers in the United States. As the White House andTreasury reported earlier this year, there is substantial evidence of overuse and misuse of these clauses. Today, the Administration put out a call to action and set of best practices for state policymakers to enact reforms to reduce the prevalence of non-compete agreements that are hurting workers and regional economies. To contextualize these best practices, the White House is releasing a state-by-state report on key dimensions of current state non-compete policy. Finally, we are announcing commitments to undertake the largest data collection of its kind to better measure non-compete usage by firms and individuals, alike.
  • Antitrust Guidance and Reporting Hotline for Human Resource Professionals. On Thursday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released guidance for HR professionals for how to spot and report collusion among competing employers that may violate the antitrust laws.  In the guidance, DOJ announced that going forward it will criminally investigate allegations that employers have agreed amongst themselves on employee compensation or not to solicit or hire one another’s employees.

These new actions complement the many other steps the Administration has advanced and supported to level the playing field for workers in the job market, including raising the minimum wage, advancing paid leave, supporting collective bargaining, and pushing to reform occupational licensing and land use restrictions.

THE CASE FOR ACTION 

Increasingly, researchers are reporting signs of declining U.S. labor market competition. Economists have begun exploring how these trends connect to rising income inequality. While recent discussions on television set-top boxes and airline tickets have focused on the ability of a small number of firms to set high prices, reduced competition in the labor market results in lower wages and greater earnings inequality, and can also result in lower employment.

There are many forces that can limit competition between firms and give employers some power to set wages below the market rate. In some cases, wage-setting power can result from employer actions—like collusion or the use of non-compete agreements—that artificially restrict competition. More generally, any factor that limits workers’ choices, restricts their mobility, or creates barriers to changing jobs can weaken workers’ bargaining position—which may force them to accept lower compensation or inferior working conditions. The data show that workers today are in many ways less mobile and less likely to switch jobs than they were 20 or 30 years ago.

One factor that contributes to trends in labor mobility is the amount of market power that employers can exercise in the labor market. When a small number of employers—or even one employer—wields a large share of market power, they can exercise so-called “monopsony power.”

Monoposonies are the other side of the coin to monopolies. Both reflect a company’s ability to affect markets in ways that would be impossible in competitive markets. Monopolies occur when companies have outsized market power, so they can set the price of a good or service at a level higher than if there was fair competition. Monopsonies occur when companies with power in labor markets can set the wages they pay at lower levels and hire fewer workers than if there was strong competition. These lower wages have real consequences for families and the economy more broadly.

Greater labor market competition can help promote efficiency and employment and ensure that the benefits of economic growth are shared by all. In particular, increased labor market competition means:

  • Higher wages and more hiring. When businesses must compete for workers, they recruit workers and offer higher wages as long as the value of output they produce can support the going wage. Competition thus encourages employers to seek out all productive and efficient hiring opportunities and establishes a close link between wages and productivity. When there is strong competition, firms have no incentive to set wages below the market rate, because if they do, they will lose their workers to competing firms.
  • Greater economic opportunity and fairness for workers.  In a competitive labor market, wages are determined by the market, and are not subject to companies’ abuse of outsized bargaining power. But when firms have wage-setting power, they have an incentive to pay the lowest wage that workers are willing to accept. As a result, market power not only shifts revenues away from labor, toward managers and inflated profits; it also means that individuals who start out facing greater obstacles and fewer opportunities often end up being paid the least. Competition can help equalize wages across workers with similar skills and ensure a level playing field for all workers. 

Addressing Gross Overuse of Non-Compete Agreements

Earlier this year, the White House and Department of Treasury’s Office of Economic Policy released reports highlighting the negative impacts of unnecessary non-compete agreements and the actions states are taking to address them.

According to survey data, one in five U.S. workers is bound by a non-compete agreement, including 14 percent of workers making less than $40,000 per year. A considerable proportion of non-compete agreements signed by both low- and high-wage workers come at the expense of wage growth, entrepreneurship, and broader economic growth. Researchers have found that states that strictly enforce non-compete agreements have 10 percent lower average wages for middle-aged workers than states that do not.

The White House is announcing several new steps to reduce the misuse of non-compete agreements.

In addition to encouraging states to take action, the Administration also calls on Congress to pass federal legislation to eliminate non-competes for workers under a certain salary threshold, as in the Mobility and Opportunity for Vulnerable Employees Act (MOVE Act), originally sponsored by Senators Al Franken and Chris Murphy, and in the Limiting the Ability to Demand Detrimental Employment Restrictions Act (LADDER Act). We call on Congress to consider this critical issue and the potential economic consequences of inaction.

  • Best Practices and Call to Action for States on Non-Compete Agreements. Elected officials in Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, New York, and Utah have signed on to support a call-to-action for state non-compete reform, below:

White House Best Practices for State Non-Compete Reform

In order to reduce the misuse of non-compete agreements in states that choose to enforce them, the White House is calling on state policymakers to join in pursuing best-practice policy objectives, including one or more of the following:

  1. Ban non-compete clauses for categories of workers, such as workers under a certain wage threshold; workers in certain occupations that promote public health and safety; workers who are unlikely to possess trade secrets; or those who may suffer undue adverse impacts from non-competes, such as workers laid-off or terminated without cause.
  2. Improve transparency and fairness of non-compete agreements by, for example, disallowing non-competes unless they are proposed before a job offer or significant promotion has been accepted (because an applicant who has accepted an offer and declined other positions may have less bargaining power); providing consideration over and above continued employment for workers who sign non-compete agreements; or encouraging employers to better inform workers about the law in their state and the existence of non-competes in contracts and how they work.
  3. Incentivize employers to write enforceable contracts, and encourage the elimination of unenforceable provisions by, for example, promoting the use of the “red pencil doctrine,” which renders contracts with unenforceable provisions void in their entirety.
  • State-by-State Explainer of Non-Compete Laws. To educate workers, employers, policymakers and advocates, the White House is issuing a report about existing state laws and some of the key issues related to non-compete agreement reform.
  • Employer Support to Eliminate Non-Competes for Most or All Employees. Across the country, businesses are eliminating non-compete agreements in favor of more targeted options. They are supporting a shift in non-compete policy because they recognize that fewer, more targeted non-compete agreements will likely increase their pool of available talent and improve innovation.
  • New Surveys to Examine Prevalence and Impact of Non-Competes, including:
  • Largest data collection effort ever undertaken on non-compete agreements. PayScale, a company that provides compensation data and software to employers and employees, has committed to collect new data to support the effort to better measure and understand the use of non-compete agreements. This commitment will include anonymously surveying thousands of firms on non-compete practices and asking millions of employees about their non-compete status.
  • In-depth survey on non-compete use. This upcoming year, researchers Evan Starr, Natarajan Balasubramanian, and Martin Ganco, with the support of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, plan to field an in-depth survey about non-compete usage and its impact on firm growth, employee mobility, and entrepreneurship. 

Curbing Collusion among Firms to Suppress Wages and Limit Worker Mobility

Increased market concentration of firms can also facilitate collusive agreements that allow a small number of employers, who compete over the same workforce, to artificially suppress wages below market rates or agree not to hire one another’s employees. Like price fixing in product markets, collusion among employers to reduce wages is illegal in the U.S. and subject to anti-trust laws.

These types of agreements eliminate competition in the same irredeemable way as agreements to fix the prices of goods or allocate customers, which have traditionally been criminally investigated and prosecuted as cartel conduct. As FTC Chairwoman, Edith Ramirez puts it, “Competition is essential to well-functioning markets, and job markets are no exception.”

In 2014, eight Silicon Valley employers settled a civil class action suit for $415 million for allegedly colluding to suppress the wages of programmers and engineers.  Specifically, the suit pointed to evidence of “no-poaching” arrangements in which the firms agreed not to engage in competitive recruiting of each other’s workforces.  Other suits, filed in five metropolitan areas across the country, have alleged collusive behavior among hospitals to suppress the wages of nurses. For example, in Detroit, eight hospitals reached settlements that amounted to roughly $90 million in total for alleged collusion to lower wages below market rates.

This past week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced new guidance aimed at combatting collusive behavior in the employment arena. Additionally, in a recentspeech, Acting Assistant Attorney General Renata Hesse highlighted existing DOJ policy that “a merger that gives a company the power to depress wages or salaries to reduce the prices it pays for inputs is illegal whether or not it also gives that company the power to increase prices downstream.” 

Antitrust Guidance and Hotline for Human Resources Professionals to Identify and Report Wage Collusion.

  • Human Resources (HR) professionals are often in the best position to ensure that their companies’ hiring practices comply with the law. Last week, the DOJ and the FTC released guidance for HR professionals for how to spot and report collusion among competing employers that may violate the antitrust laws.
  • In the guidance, DOJ announced that going forward it will criminally investigate allegations that employers have agreed among themselves on employee compensation or not to solicit or hire one another’s employees. In the press release announcing the guidance, Acting Assistant Attorney General Renata Hesse stated: “HR professionals need to understand that these violations can lead to severe consequences, including criminal prosecution. The newly released joint guidance provides HR professionals with information to prevent violations and report potentially unlawful activity, furthering the Justice Department’s commitment to protect workers from harmful conduct that stifles competition.”

Building on Progress

 

Today’s actions build on a series of steps the Administration has taken to reduce barriers to fair wages and labor practices, including:

  • Raising the minimum wage. It has been nearly a decade since Congress last took action to raise the minimum wage, which remains at $7.25 per hour. Since the President started calling for a higher minimum wage in 2013, 18 states and DC have taken action to raise wages, which CEA estimates will benefit over 7 million people by 2017. Over 60 cities and counties have also taken action on their own. These increases help push back against downward pressure on wages.
  • Expanding paid sick leave. Policies that support minimum benefits are an important complement to minimum wage laws, especially when employers have enhanced power in the labor market. That is why President Obama expanded paid sick leave to federal employees with new children and to federal contract workers to care for themselves, a family member, or another loved one. He continues to call on Congress to pass legislation that guarantees most Americans the chance to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave each year—and urges states, cities and businesses to act where Congress has not.
  • Supporting worker voice. When workers have a say in their wages and working conditions, they can help ensure that they see a fair share of the economic returns to their labor. In October 2015, the Administration underscored the importance of worker voice by bringing together workers, employers, unions, worker advocates, and others to the White House Summit on Worker Voice. 
  • Reforming occupational licensing requirements and improve portability across states. In 2015, the White House, Treasury Office of Economic Policy, and Department of Labor issued a report on evidence that occupational licensing requirements raise the price of goods and services, restrict employment opportunities, and make it more difficult for workers to take their skills across state lines.  Following this report, the Administration has worked with Congress, state legislators, and experts to draft and present a series of best practices to help state and local governments better tailor their occupational licensing laws. To date, legislators in at least 11 states have proposed no fewer than 15 reforms in line with these recommendations, and four state bills have passed so far.
  • Reforming land use regulations. Over-burdensome land use regulations have made it hard for housing markets to respond to growing demand, jeopardizing housing affordability for working families and limiting GDP growth by stifling labor mobility to the most productive regions. Earlier this year, the White House released a Housing Development Toolkit that highlights the steps communities have taken to modernize their housing strategies and expand options and opportunities for hardworking families.

 

 

White House Highlights Actions to Expand Paid Sick Leave, Gather Data to Fight for Equal Pay

Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez discussed two new actions to support working Americans.   First, the Department of Labor is finalizing a rule to require employees of businesses doing work on federal contracts to earn up to seven paid sick days a year.  Second, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is collecting data to improve enforcement of our nation’s equal pay laws © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez discussed two new actions to support working Americans. First, the Department of Labor is finalizing a rule to require employees of businesses doing work on federal contracts to earn up to seven paid sick days a year. Second, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is collecting data to improve enforcement of our nation’s equal pay laws © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“A woman deserves equal pay for equal work.  She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job.  A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too.”— President Barack Obama, 2014 State of the Union Address 

Today the White House is highlighting two new actions to further support working Americans.   First, the Department of Labor is finalizing a rule to require employees of businesses doing work on federal contracts to earn up to seven paid sick days a year.  Second, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is publishing its final and approved collection of summary pay data by gender, race, and ethnicity from businesses with 100 or more employees to improve enforcement of our nation’s equal pay laws.

In a White House conference call with reporters, Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania applauded the Administration’s actions, noting that he has been in public office for less than two years, but prior, “I was a business owner, employed up to 600-700 employees. We did all these things – paid sick leave, personal time off, holidays, long vacation time. These were not a cost to the business, they made business sense with lower turnover, better morale, healthier employees, better productivity.

“One of the things we must acknowledge: it’s not just a fair thing, a matter of public health, public good, but something that is good for business. “

More than one million workers will not have to depend on the kindness of employers because of these new rules. “Workers shouldn’t have to win the boss lottery or geographic lottery to win access to paid sick leave,” commented Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Chair Jenny Yang.

Contrary to the “sky is falling” reaction of many private employers, Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez noted, in places where earned sick leave has been implemented – including San Francisco, Tacoma Washington, New York City and Connecticut – employers are by a wide margin satisfied.  “When the law into effect [in these places] they had trepidation, but what they saw was that were able to adjust and in fact thrive.” Indeed, customers may be miffed if a waiter sneezes on their plate; other employees can be taken ill because of a worker with a flu could not afford to stay home.

“The beauty of incubators of innovation like Philadelphia, Connecticut, San Francisco, and Tacoma is that we have track record to build on and tremendous confidence that building on this part of the social contract is both good for workers, public health, families and not an undue burden on business.

“Bringing fairness and balance to workplace is really not something that should be seen as expense.”

FACT SHEET: Helping Working Americans Get Ahead by Expanding Paid Sick Leave and Fighting for Equal Pay

Since taking office, President Obama has promoted policies to grow and strengthen the middle class by supporting working families.  Despite tremendous changes that have transformed America and its families over the past 50 years, our workplaces have not kept pace.  In most families today, both parents work and share in the responsibilities of caring for children or other family members. Recently released data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that these efforts have resulted in strong progress for America’s working families.  Today, a record share of private sector workers now have access to paid sick leave, increasing from 61 to 64 percent over the past year.  Furthermore, this increase was driven almost entirely by increased access in low-wage jobs: in just one year, the share of workers in the lowest-paid quarter of occupations that had access to paid sick leave jumped from 31 to 39 percent.  Since the President took office, the number of private sector workers with paid sick leave has grown by 10.6 million.

Despite this progress, millions of Americans still do not have access to even a single day of paid sick leave, so when workers get sick they may have to choose between caring for themselves or paying their bills.  Too many parents must make the painful choice between staying home to take care of a sick child—and losing out on a day’s pay—or sending their child to school sick.  For that reason, President Obama has repeatedly called on Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act—which would guarantee most Americans the chance to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave each year—and urging states, cities, and businesses to act where Congress has not.

Similarly, despite a woman’s pay being just as critical for a family to make ends meet, women make less than their male peers.  The President has fought to close that gap, and the first legislation he signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, an important step in ensuring that Americans can effectively challenge unequal pay in the courts.  Since then, he has taken numerous other steps to advance equal pay, including issuing a 2014 Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against employees who discuss their pay, and announcing a White House Equal Pay Pledge that has now been signed by more than 50 of America’s leading businesses.

Similar to the expansion of paid sick leave, progress has been made on the gender pay gap.  In 2008, a typical woman working full-time earned only 77 cents for every dollar earned by a typical man; today, that has risen to 80 cents.  That means that for a woman working full-time, the pay gap has shrunk by more than 10 percent, or about $1200, since the President took office.

Yet much work remains.  Too many women and workers of color are still not paid equally for equal work, with African-American women earning 63 cents and Latina women earning 54 cents for every dollar earned by a white non-Hispanic man.  And 41 million private sector workers do not have access to even a single day of paid sick leave.   Today’s actions mark critical progress to support the needs of working Americans and their families.

EXPANDING SICK LEAVE

Last September, President Obama signed an Executive Order requiring federal contractors (and subcontractors) to allow their employees working on federal contracts to earn up to seven paid sick days each year.  Today, the Department of Labor is finalizing its rule implementing the order.  It takes into account extensive public comments from employers, business associations, small businesses, workers, unions, and worker advocates.  The final rule, which goes into effect for new solicitations issued on or after January 1, 2017, will:

  • Give additional paid sick leave to 1.15 million people working on federal contracts, including nearly 600,000 employees who do not currently have even a single day of paid sick leave.  Workers will earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked on (or in connection with) a covered federal contract, up to 56 hours in a year or at any point in time.
  • Allow workers to use paid sick leave for their own illnesses, preventive care, or other health care needs; to care for a family member or loved one who is ill, seeking preventive care, or otherwise in need of care; and for absences resulting from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.  Employers may not retaliate against employees for using paid sick leave or require them to find replacements in order to take it.
  • Improve the health and performance of employees of federal contractors and bring benefits packages offered by federal contractors in line with leading firms, ensuring they remain competitive in the search for dedicated and talented employees.
  • Protect public health by reducing the transmission of illnesses in the workplace from sick employees to coworkers or their customers.
  • Respond to employers’ concerns by ensuring coordination with existing “paid time off” policies that give workers a flexible bank of leave; existing collective bargaining agreements; and multi-employer plans. 

This action reflects leading practices by major employers, states, and localities throughout the country.  Since the President’s call to action in 2014, four states and more than 25 cities and counties have taken action to expand paid sick leave in their community, and many businesses small and large have adopted similar policies.  For example:

  • Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota passed ordinances in May and September, respectively, requiring businesses to offer their workers an hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked.  Both ordinances go into effect on July 1, 2017 with phased implementation periods.  The Twin Cities have a joint population of nearly 700,000 residents, though the ordinances cover anyone who does work within the respective city limits.
  • Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC), a nonprofit clean energy consulting company and federal contractor in Vermont, testified in support of Vermont’s new paid sick leave law, passed earlier this year.  VEIC’s founder pointed to the monetary, physical, and cultural value of paid sick leave to employers.
  • Cava Grill, a fast-casual national restaurant brand headquartered in Washington, DC, announced in July that it began offering paid sick and parental leave to its hourly workers, for whom it also raised its starting wage to $13 an hour.  Employees will now receive up to six days a year of paid sick leave, up to four days of paid parental leave, and one day for community service.
  • Microsoft, a federal contractor, took a similar step last year by announcing it would require suppliers with at least 50 employees doing business with the company to provide employees who handle its work with 15 days of paid leave annually (including 5 paid sick days).  In announcing this change, Microsoft pointed to research showing that paid leave contributes to the health and well-being of workers and their families, strengthens family ties, increases productivity, improves retention, lowers health-care costs, and contributes to the health of colleagues.

ADVANCING EQUAL PAY

Today, the EEOC, in cooperation with the Department of Labor, is publishing its finalized revisions to its EEO-1 form, which for the first time will collect summary pay data, broken down by gender, race, and ethnicity, from all businesses with 100 or more employees.  This data collection, which stems from a recommendation by the President’s Equal Pay Task Force and a Presidential Memorandum issued in 2014, is expected to cover roughly 63 million employees and 60,000 employers.

Today’s action will promote improved voluntary compliance by employers with existing equal pay laws.  It will also help EEOC and the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) better focus investigations on employers who are illegally shortchanging workers’ pay based on their gender, race, or ethnicity.

The data will be a tool not only for the federal government, but for employers as well.  It will help employers evaluate their own pay practices to prevent pay discrimination in their workplaces.  The EEOC will also compile and publish aggregate data that will help employers in assessing their pay practices relative to others in the same industry and geographic area.

Businesses have long used the EEO-1 form to report demographic information on their workforces.  With the revised EEO-1, businesses also will report summary data on the range of compensation paid to employees of each demographic group.  Businesses will not be required to disclose individual employees’ salaries.

Employers will first be required to submit pay data for 2017 by March 31, 2018, giving them 18 months to prepare for the change.  This revision does not impact the 2016 EEO-1 report, which is due on September 30, 2016 and is unchanged.  EEOC will be offering webinars and technical assistance to employers, payroll and human resource information system providers, and other stakeholders in preparation for the new submission requirements.

Today’s publication of the revised form comes after the EEOC approved this action by a vote of the Commission, and follows final approval by the Office of Management and Budget pursuant to the Paperwork Reduction Act.  The EEOC is an independent government agency that enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, and genetic information.

BUILDING ON A RECORD OF SUPPORTING WORKING FAMILIES

Since taking office, President Obama and his Administration have taken a number of actions to support working families and combat the pay gap, including:

  • Publishing a final regulation by the Department of Health and Human Services to implement the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014. The program provides subsidies to working families and last year provided services for roughly 1.4 million children aged 0-13, most of whom are younger than 5. The rule, which has not been comprehensively revised since 1998, will provide a roadmap to states on how to implement the new law and clarify ambiguities around provisions that deal with eligibility for services; health and safety requirements; and how best to support the needs of parents and providers as they transition to the new law.  It also clarifies that worker organizations can provide professional development to child care workers and contribute to discussions around the rates states set for subsidies.
  • Signing his first piece of legislation as President, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pair Act, in January 2009 making it easier for employees to challenge unfair pay practices.
  • Creating the National Equal Pay Task Force in January 2010 to implement his pledge to crack down on violations of equal pay laws, which included representatives from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor, and the Office of Personnel Management. The Task Force has issued reports on its progress, including Fighting for Equal Pay in the Workforce, Keeping America’s Women Moving Forward, and Fifty Years After the Equal Pay Act.  In addition, since the creation of the Equal Pay Task Force in 2010, the EEOC has received over 18,000 charges of sex-based pay discrimination, and through its independent enforcement efforts, the EEOC has obtained over $140 million in monetary relief for victims of pay discrimination on the basis of sex.
  • Calling on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, commonsense legislation that would strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by closing loopholes in the defenses for equal pay violations, providing stronger remedies, and expanding protections against discrimination for employees who share or inquire about information about their compensation at work.
  • Signing a Presidential Memorandum in May 2013 directing the Office of Personnel Management to develop a government-wide strategy to address the gender pay gap in the federal workforce, leading to a report in April 2014 and new guidance in July 2015—which cautioned against reliance on a candidate’s existing salary to set pay, as it can potentially adversely affect women who may have taken time off from their careers or propagate gaps due to discriminatory pay practices by previous employers.
  • Issuing an Executive Order in April 2014 and publishing a Department of Labor rule in September 2015 prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against employees who discuss or inquire about their compensation.
  • Announcing a White House Equal Pay Pledge, with more than 50 leading businesses signing on to take action to advance equal pay.  By signing the pledge, these companies are committing to conduct an annual company-wide gender pay analysis, review hiring and promotion processes, embed equal pay efforts in broader equity initiatives, and identify and promote best practices that will close the wage gap.
  • Hosting a White House Summit on Working Families in June 2014, highlighting the issues that women and families face, setting the agenda for a 21st century workplace, and announcing of a number of steps to help working families thrive.
  • Hosting the United State of Women Summit in June 2016, highlighting the progress that has been made over the course of this Administration and discussing public and private sector solutions to the challenges that still lie ahead.
  • Signing a Presidential Memorandum in January 2015 directing federal agencies to advance six weeks of paid sick leave to federal employees with new children, calling on Congress to grant another six weeks of paid leave for federal employees, and calling on Congress to pass legislation that gives all American families access to paid family and medical leave.
  • Publishing a final Department of Labor rule in May updating outdated overtime regulations, expanding overtime pay protections to 4.2 million additional Americans, boosting wages for workers by $12 billion over the next 10 years, and allowing workers to better balance their work and family obligations.
  • Issuing an Executive Order in February 2014 requiring federal contractors to raise their minimum wage initially to $10.10 an hour, indexing it, and lifting the tipped minimum wage (which disproportionately impacts women)—and urging Congress, states, cities, and businesses to do the same.
  • Directing the Office of Personnel Management and federal agencies to enhance workplace flexibility for federal employees to the maximum extent practicable, including enshrining a right to request flexible work arrangements.
  • Signing into law the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, which requires agencies to support and establish policies for telework by eligible employees.
  • Calling on Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would require employers to make reasonable accommodations to workers who have limitations from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions (unless it would impose an undue hardship on the employer). The legislation would also prohibit employers from forcing pregnant employees to take paid or unpaid leave if a reasonable accommodation would allow them to work.
  • Finalizing a Department of Labor rule updating its sex discrimination guidelines for federal contractors for the first time since 1978, to align with current law and address barriers to equal opportunity and pay, such as pay discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environments, a lack of workplace accommodations for pregnant women, and gender identity and family caregiving discrimination.
  • Announcing the Department of Labor’s award of $54 million in “Strengthening Working Families” grants to help low- to middle-skilled parents access the affordable, quality child care they need to earn an education, participate in training programs, and compete for better-paying jobs in emergency industries.
  • Expanding access for women to higher-paying jobs through a proposed rule updating equal employment opportunity requirements in registered apprenticeships and through a Mega-Construction Projects (MCP) Initiative at the Department of Labor.

Governor Cuomo Rallies in Long Island for $15 Minimum Wage, Parental Leave

Governor Andrew Cuomo comes to Westbury, Long Island, to rally for raising the minimum wage to $15 and for paid parental leave© 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Governor Andrew Cuomo comes to Westbury, Long Island, to rally for raising the minimum wage to $15 and for paid parental leave© 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

by Karen Rubin, news-photos-features.com

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has been crisscrossing the state, rallying support to make New York the first state in the nation to enact a  $15 minimum wage for all workers. He is also pushing a  plan enabling 12 weeks of parental leave – the most of any state. These are  cornerstones of his “Fight for Economic Justice” campaign which he dedicated to his father, the former Governor Mario Cuomo.

On a single day, following rallies in Manhattan and the Bronx, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo traveled by bus to Westbury, Long Island’s “Yes We Can” community center on his “Drive for $15” tour to make his pitch.

The Governor has already secured a phased in hike of the minimum wage to $15 for fast food workers, and in January, announced that the State University of New York will raise the minimum wage for more than 28,000 employees, mirroring the phased-in schedule for fast food workers secured last year, as well as 10,000 State Workers announced in October.

“If you work full time, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty – which is why it’s time for New York to lead the way and pass a $15 minimum wage,” said Governor Cuomo, who secured an increase in the state’s minimum wage for all workers to $9 in 2013. “Raising the minimum wage will provide new opportunity and restore economic justice to millions of New Yorkers. Our proposal will lift families out of poverty and create a stronger economy for all, and I urge lawmakers to help us fight for fair pay for working families this year.”

The “Yes We Can” community center in Westbury was crammed with union workers – particularly health care workers who now average $10 an hour.

The renewed push comes on the heels of Governor Cuomo’s recently released minimum wage report which found that raising the minimum wage to $15 would benefit more than 2.3 million workers and boost direct spending power by more than $15.7 billion in New York State. The Governor is urging the State Legislature to pass his phased-in minimum wage proposal this session.

“This is about fundamental fairness,” Governor Cuomo said. “That’s what this is about – being fair to people, being decent to people, understanding that we are all one community and that we are connected to each other, and as goes one goes all. That’s what this is about: fairness. Fairness. Something happened in this country. Something happened in the economy. It changed on us. It changed about thirty years ago and it’s been getting worse. The economy is running. We’ve worked very hard to create jobs. I’m very proud to be able to say we’ve created more jobs in the state of New York than have ever existed in the history of the state of New York and that’s a beautiful thing.

“That is a beautiful thing, but those jobs are different than the economy used to be. If you have the right skillset, or the right access, and you get one of the jobs up at the top end of the spectrum… millionaires, billionaires are making more than ever before. The top earners are making more money at a faster rate. But that’s a very small slice of the jobs and for the middle class and the working family jobs, the pay is actually going down and the respect and the dignity that goes with those jobs is being devalued by this country in this economy. And that is wrong.”

He said this has been a pattern that has been going on for decades, and not just in New York but around the country: it used to be that workers’ incomes would rise with productivity – which is fair. But that ended in the mid-1970s: since 1973, while productivity has grown by 90 percent, workers’ pay only went up 9%.

“The work – the concept of work – is being disrespected,” he said, invoking the words of a health care worker who depends on government assistance, despite putting in a full week’s work, caring for people who cannot care for themselves.”

The Federal minimum wage is $7. New York raised the minimum wage to $9. but at $9, “the numbers don’t work. $9 is about $18,000 a year. You cannot support a family in the state of New York on $18,000 a year. You cannot do it. You certainly can’t do it and have any decent lifestyle. You can’t do it and pay rent and pay food and pay for clothes. It just doesn’t work.”

People can’t support a family on minimum wage and they certainly cannot get ahead as earlier generations could aspire. That was the American Dream.

“People don’t have that same hope anymore. People don’t believe that anymore. They’re worried about their own retirement. They’re worried about children. They’re worried about their children’s education. If you take that aspiration away from people, then America’s not America and New York’s isn’t New York.”

The solution, he said, is to “restore the dignity, the pride and the aspiration and we pay people a decent wage to provide a decent lifestyle and that is $15 an hour.”

He said that opposition – from big business, big corporations – is already lining up, claiming that $15 is too high.

But, if you take the minimum wage in 1970, and increase it by the rate of inflation, it comes to $15 – so at $15, workers are having the same purchasing power as in 1970.

He said the opposition then claims that setting a minimum wage “is government meddling in the private market place. Government shouldn’t interfere with the private market place”. But, he countered, government is already in the “private market place” because $18,000 – the annual wage at $9 – is still below the poverty line, so government is forced to step in and subsidize McDonalds and Burger King workers with welfare and food stamps. The subsidy winds up averaging $7,000 per employee, totaling $700 million a year for New York taxpayers.

“So you say to our conservative friends when they say, “Well you shouldn’t be in the market place” you say, “Yea we want to get out of the market place, let the corporations pay a decent wage so we don’t have to put the food on the table of people who are getting shafted by the system.”

A report by the State Department of Labor (available here) details the impact of a $15 minimum wage for New York workers and their families. In total, 2.3 million New Yorkers will earn higher wages and as a result, increase spending power by more than $15.7 billion across New York State. The Governor is urging the State Legislature to pass his phased-in minimum wage proposal this session. Key findings:

  • Millions of New Yorkers will earn higher pay. 2.3 million New Yorkers – about a quarter of the total workforce – will experience higher pay, increasing spending power by more than $15.7 billion.1
  • The vast majority of minimum wage earners are adults. Half of minimum wage earners in New York State are 35 or older and outside of New York City, more than 70 percent are over the age of 25. More than 40 percent are married, parents or both and many provide the main source of their family’s income.2
  • The current minimum wage is not a decent living wage.Today, a full time job at New York’s minimum wage pays only $18,720 per year. For a single mother with two children, that’s below the official poverty line.
  • The Governor’s proposal corrects 40 years of economic injustice. A $15 minimum wage by 2021 is about where New York’s minimum wage in 1970 would be, if adjusted for inflation and cost of living differences.3
  • It’s important for New York’s economic growth. New York increased its minimum wage eight times from 1991 through 2015 and six of those times, the data shows an employment uptick following an increase in the state’s minimum wage.4

On Long Island, 382,236 workers would earn higher wages by raising the minimum wage to $15, increasing spending power by $2.5 billion. For a statewide breakdown, view page four of the minimum wage report.

“The economic benefits of increasing the minimum wage outweigh the costs. But to provide businesses with the opportunity to plan, and in order to be sensitive to the relative abilities of different regional economies to absorb the change, the proposal phases-in the increase in New York’s minimum wage in New York City (in four steps by the end of 2018) and more gradually in the rest of the state (over seven steps by July 2021).

Proposes 12 Week Paid Family Leave

The Governor is also proposing that New York enact a 12 week paid family leave policy – which would be the longest benefits period in the nation for such a policy – to help working families care for a new child or seriously ill relative. The program would be funded by employees – employers would pay nothing – who would pay about 70 cents a week into a fund.

“Along with the disrespect that goes to the worker in this current economy – there is a lack of power that the employee has,” he said. “The employee is treated more like a commodity.”

“The worker doesn’t have that same power and relationship with the employer that they used to have. So if something happens and you need to do something in your life – because there is more than work – there’s something called life. You have to balance the two, you shouldn’t have to choose between going broke, losing your job, or doing the right thing at home. That should not be a choice.”

The United States is one of only three nations on the globe that does not have paid family leave and the other two are Suriname and Papua New Guinea.

Cuomo’s proposal though is not for employers to pay – the cost to employers would be zero – but to have employees pay into a fund about 70 cents a week, so they could get up to $700 a week in benefits for up to 12 weeks.

“The opposition is going to say, ‘The cost is very expensive for business.’ You know what it costs business? Zero. Nada, scatta, niente, nulo, whatever language you want. It costs them nothing. It is all paid by the employees. They say they may need to hire someone in the meantime if the person takes off. Fine, but they’re not paying first person, so they wind up neutral. It has no effect economically on businesses and it makes a world of difference in respect and livability for an employee. That we also have to pass this year. If we do $15 minimum wage, and we do paid family leave, we will have done something. We will have changed people’s lives and that is what this is all about.”

“This is fairness for all. This is opportunity for all. This is mobility for all. This is decency for all. This is New York State, we’re not going to treat each other with nothing less than total respect. We don’t care if the big corporations are against us, we have the people with us. We are going to pass it in the state of New York, we’re going to pass it this year, and we’re going to say to the rest of the nation, ‘It doesn’t have to be this way, you can have an economy that works for everyone where everyone is stronger and the greatest feast has the most people at the table.’ That is what we believe in New York and we are going to make it real here and it will be a wave that goes from one end of this country to the other.”

“There are times in life when family comes first – like when a child is born, a loved one is sick, or a parent is dying – and I believe everyone deserves the right to be there in those times,” Governor Cuomo told the Long Island rally. “The lack of paid family leave is a rampant economic injustice that runs against the grain of the American promise. It’s unacceptable that people are still forced to choose between caring for their families and keeping their jobs, and we’re going to change that in New York. We’re going to pass 12 weeks of paid family leave and stand up for what’s really important in life – and I urge all New Yorkers to join us in this fight.”

Governor Cuomo’s proposal would ensure 12 weeks of job-protected, employee-funded leave to be used for caring for a new child or a sick relative. It would also guarantee employees the right to return to their current job upon their return from leave and bring discrimination actions to the extent that their rights are violated.

The Need for Paid Family Leave

Paid family leave is currently offered by every developed nation on the planet – except for the United States. Within the U.S., only California, New Jersey and Rhode Island have such a program, and none offer benefits for longer than six weeks. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Labor has reported that a mere 12 percent of private sector workers are offered paid family leave by their employers.

While the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 offers 12 weeks of unpaid leave, because of various exemptions, 40 percent of American workers are left out. Even for those who are covered by the FMLA, taking time off to care for a new child or sick relative often means workers are forced to forego wages, use up savings or vacation time, or even risk losing their jobs in order to care for new children or sick relatives.

“This injustice is particularly acute for low-income workers. In New York, nearly 50 percent of low-income working mothers have $500 or less in savings, and more than 33 percent have no savings. Without paid family leave, low-income workers are also more likely to utilize public assistance after the birth of a child or serious illness in the family.”

In addition to parents with new children, paid family leave is a crucial benefit to families caring for an ailing loved one – especially elderly relatives. More than 90 percent of elderly people receiving care in the community rely on the support and care of their loved ones, either independently or along with paid help – and two-thirds of older Americans receive care solely from their family members. Seventy-eight percent of people who care for elderly relatives are employed, and 62 percent report working full time. Furthermore, with growing life expectancies nationally and an aging population, the need for elder care is expected to increase in the coming years.

Proven Benefits and Support

Governor Cuomo’s proposal for 12 weeks of paid family leave offers a number of broad and important benefits to working families, businesses, and the state’s economy. This includes economic security and better health outcomes for families, greater workforce longevity and productivity for businesses, and a stronger economy for all.

Paid family leave supports families: Steady income and employment are crucial for families caring for new children or sick loved ones – and especially so for low-income families. Paid family leave offers crucial economic security that enables working families to respond to unique medical needs and costs, keep up with general living expenses and avoid poverty or the need for public assistance. Additionally, paid family leave is proven to help women remain in the workforce after having a child and increase their wages over time. Paid family leave is also a factor in boosting positive health outcomes for young families – with benefits such as increased birth weight, decreased frequencies of premature birth, and a substantial decrease in infant mortality. In cases of ill relatives, paid family leave also helps patients stick to prescribed treatment plans and check-ups, avoid complications, and ultimately return to good health.

Paid family leave supports businesses: Providing paid family leave also has numerous benefits for employers. Research from the U.S. Department of Labor shows that paid family leave helps businesses retain workers and avoid turnover – which ultimately helps reduce recruitment and training costs. Having access to paid family leave can also boost productivity, engagement, and loyalty among a business’ employees.

Paid family leave supports the economy: Increasing access to paid family leave will result in a stronger economy and workforce. When working parents or caregivers are able to remain in the workforce while tending to children or sick loved ones, they are also more likely to continue progressing in their careers and increasing their wages over time. This in turn yields greater support for their families, greater economy activity in their communities, and a more vibrant workforce overall. Additionally, paid family leave helps address the gaps in opportunity faced by low-income, minority and less educated workers.

Paid family leave has widespread public support: In a recent poll conducted by the Roosevelt Institute, the vast majority – 83 percent – of respondents supported paid family leave. That support crossed party lines, with 96 percent of Democrats, 85 percent of Independents and 67 percent of Republicans voicing support. Additionally, in a business survey after California’s paid family leave policy had been in effect for five years, 91 percent of employers reported the effect of the policy was either not noticeable or positive.

The Governor has launched a new website,  www.ny.gov/paidfamilyleave, for New Yorkers to learn more about the need for paid family leave and the benefits of his proposal.

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