May 18, 2016

Why $12 an hour, or $15 an hour, isn't enough for workers

Whether or not you agree with me that a $15/hour minimum wage, whether in the "flyover" heartland or in small towns in even "rich" coastal states, might be too much, I hope we all agree the minimum wage needs to be increased.

But, that's just one small thing.

When the Democrats in Congress got a minimum wage increase back in 2007, I said it needed a COLA provision as part of it. No, it wouldn't be $12 an hour now, with that, but it might at least be around $9 an hour instead of $7.25. It's still needed, no matter what the next minimum wage hike is. It provides assurance to employees and stability to business owners and managers alike for this.

But, minimum wage increases, even with COLAs, are just a drop in the bucket.

Bernie Sanders has raised a bit of one or two other employee issues in his Democratic campaign, but he's taken a pass on most of these.

Let's look at what else is needed.

1. Paid time off for family emergencies. We're talking more than the five sick days — if that — that your employer gives you. We're talking about taking the 1992 Family and Medical Leave Act's unpaid time and making it paid.

The US is one of just three nations in the world that offers zero paid leave. The others? Oman and Papua New Guinea. Nice company, eh?

Now, the Bern has talked a bit about this.

The following issues? Not at all.

2. Guaranteed vacation. Now, we're in a slightly larger pool than just three, but still. The US is the ONLY nation in the G-20 group not to have guaranteed vacation time every year. Nearly one-quarter of private sector employees in the US get no paid vacation time. Even those of us who do start with two weeks, and have to stay with the same company to extend that; the average for US employees is behind 19 other countries.

And, in most the advanced world, just as true national health care makes health insurance portable, not only do you get more paid vacation days than in the US, you don't go back to square one when you change jobs.

Sanders hasn't really talked about this. Probably not on his radar screen.

But, that's still not the biggie. That would be ...

3. Guaranteed annual income. This starts us thinking more and more outside the capitalism box, though a few libertarians past and present have favored the idea, too. Bernie's probably too good a Democrat to bring up a really socialist idea like this, though.

But this trio, combined with Western lifestyle offerings in general, is probably why many Western Europeans, not just Scandinavians, are happier than in the US, despite weather that, especially in those Scandinavian areas, often is abysmal.

That said, part of this, per Pogo? The enemy is us.

The "get no paid vacation time" link reports, accurately, I'm sure, that US employees have been so hypnotized by hypercapitalism as to value money over time off, even when they've got enough money for at least a bit of income security.

Having taught adjunct college classes to UAW workers in Michigan, I can anecdotally attest to the truth of this.

I'm no rich Democratic "liberal" elitist looking down at workers; I'm a left-liberal, nowhere near rich myself, shaking my head at many Americans.

No comments: