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Why not decent retail wages?

Via a Demos report, Retail's Hidden Potential:

This study assumes a new wage floor for the lowest-paid retail workers equivalent to $25,000 per year for a full-time, year-round retail worker at the nation’s largest retail companies—those employing at least 1,000 workers. For the typical worker earning less than this threshold, the new floor would mean a 27 percent pay raise. Including both the direct effects of the wage raise and spillover effects, the new floor will impact more than 5 million retail workers and their families.

This study examines the impact of the new wage floor on economic growth and job creation, on consumers in terms of prices, on companies in terms of profit and sales, and for retail workers in terms of their purchasing power and poverty status. We model these effects based on the 2012 March Supplement to the Current Population Survey, using retail consumer data from the Neilson Company and macroeconomic multipliers derived by Moody’s Analytics. For a full description of the study methodology see the appendix

More than 700,000 Americans would be lifted out of poverty, and more than 1.5 million retail workers and their families would move up from in or near poverty. Retail jobs are a crucial source of income for the families of workers in the sector, yet currently more than 1 million retail workers and their family members live in or near poverty.3 More than 95 percent of year-round employees at large retail firms are ages 20 and above. More than half (54.2 percent) of workers in this group contribute at least 50 percent of their family’s total income. A large number of them – almost 1 in 5 – are the sole earner for their family. Our study finds:

  • A wage standard equivalent to $25,000 for a full-time, year-round employee would lift 734,075 people currently in poverty – including retail workers and the families they support – above the federal poverty line.
  • An additional 769,191 people hovering just above poverty would see their incomes rise to above 150 percent of the poverty line. 

The economy would grow and 100,000 or more new jobs would be created.

Now, it would be a good thing if Walmart workers didn't have to go on welfare and sleep in the woods between shifts, no question. And perhaps I'm a little jaded because I spent Thanksgiving inside the cocoon-like epistemic closure of (much as I like them; they were once my people) good middle class NPR-listening Obama-lovin' liberals. All that said--

1. 100,000 new jobs isn't much set beside 5 million long-term unemployed (and those are the official, jiggered statistics).

2. 700,000 + 1.5 million lifted out of poverty isn't much set beside the 47 million Americans -- 1 in 5 adults -- on food stamps.

So I don't think the solution is commensurate to the problem. For a reasonably centrist solution, why not a Jobs Guarantee? Or why not start crowd sourcing corporate decisions across the entire workforce, fire multiple layers of management, and give the workers their salaries, bonuses, and stock options? Heck, why not turn Walmart into a cooperative like Fedco or Mondragon? Or for a multi-generational solution, how about the total confiscation of inherited wealth about a reasonable minimum, say a few million? Unless we want an aristocracy of inherited wealth, of course.

Interestingly, Thailand is raising its daily minimum wage about 40%, and even that increase, which US workers would scream with joy at, could reflect a weak bargaining position by Thai workers. Granted, the total would buy a cafe latté and a bun at the Starbucks in Siam Paragon -- but at least in their own terms, the Thais aren't playing small ball.

NOTE Hat tip LL.

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Submitted by LucyLulu on

So would helicopters raining money. Both have equal political will. 'What's interesting was how trivial it was to raise Wally's workers out of poverty. It seems it wouldn't be a stretch to extend to other sectors, too, e.g. fast food workers come to mind, for one.

A journey of thousand miles begins with a single step. A guaranteed jobs plan is a million miles away. We're heading down Austerity Lane for some of that much touted 'shared sacrifice'. We still haven't had an end-of-the-year blowout sale on our public resources. Point well taken though.