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from Photographers' Blog:

Living on minimum wage

Delores Leonard is a 28 year-old single mother raising two daughters Erin, 6, and Emmarie, 8, on the South Side of Chicago. She’s been a fast food worker at a McDonald's restaurant for 7 years and makes $8.25 an hour. It’s her only source of work income and she’s never made more than minimum wage working at the drive-thru window.

Delores Leonard helps her daughter Erin with her homework at the breakfast table.  REUTERS/Jim Young

I have covered several organized protests by fast food workers over the last year in Chicago, but wanted to take a closer look at how people balance their lives and finances as a worker living on minimum wage. I arrive at her house before sunrise and she is already up getting breakfast for her two girls, helping daughter Erin with her homework and getting them dressed for school.

Delores Leonard helps her daughter Erin with her homework during breakfast.

Delores walks them to school before jumping on the first of two buses she takes to get to work, about an hour away at a McDonald's restaurant in the Hyde Park neighborhood; only about a mile from President Obama’s personal residence.

Delores Leonard (C) walks her daughters Emmarie (L) and Erin to school.

Delores Leonard rides a bus to her work.

Delores Leonard working at the drive-thru window.

Delores Leonard leans on a fence as she waits for her bus after working a shift.

After work, it’s back on the bus to swing by a grocery store to get some food for dinner. She gets some help with food stamps and says she see a lot of things on the shelves but limits her purchases for the day; she doesn't have a car so she has to carry everything home in bags.

from The Great Debate:

‘Living wage’ law is unconstitutional – if you ask lobbyists

Demonstrators rally to raise the hourly minimum wage to $15 for fast-food workers at City Hall in Seattle

Industry trade groups are now challenging Seattle’s new minimum wage law as unconstitutional. They claim the city’s $15 an hour rate violates the 14th Amendment. Passed just after the Civil War to ensure equal rights for the newly freed slaves, that amendment says no state may “deny to any person . . . the equal protection of the laws.”

According to the industry lawsuit, the minimum wage law violates this Equal Protection Clause because it phases in the higher wage at a different schedule for franchised companies than for small local businesses.

from The Great Debate:

Who really owns your friendly neighborhood McDonald’s?

Demonstrators take part in a protest to demand higher wages for fast-food workers outside McDonald's in Los Angeles

I work at a McDonald’s franchise, but the corporation is my boss.

McDonald’s may say it’s not -- and argue this point before the National Labor Relations Board. But the corporation sure acts like one. It sets the rules and controls just about every aspect of our franchise.

On Tuesday, the board’s general counsel determined that McDonald’s is a joint employer in its restaurants. McDonald’s has said it will fight this. But under the ruling, McDonald's can't say I work only for the franchise, and the corporation has to respond to my co-workers and I when we demand $15 an hour and the right to form a union directly.

from The Great Debate:

Today’s South is boldly moving backward

mahurin for bishop

We used to call it the “New South.” That was the era after Reconstruction and before the Civil Rights laws -- when the states of the old Confederacy seemed most determined to preserve a social and economic order that encouraged low-wage industrialization as they fought to maintain Jim Crow.

What was then distinctive about the South had almost as much to do with economic inequality as racial segregation. Between roughly 1877 and 1965, the region was marked by low-wages, little government, short lives and lousy health -- not just for African-Americans but for white workers and farmers.

from MacroScope:

Why EU elections can matter

Some interesting action over the weekend: in a foretaste of this week’s EU elections, Greece's leftist, anti-bailout Syriza party performed strongly in the first round of local elections on Sunday, capitalizing on voter anger at ongoing government austerity policies.

If it did even better in the EU polls it could threaten the ruling coalition and tip Greece back into turmoil just as there are signs that it has turned the corner.

from The Great Debate:

Four lessons from Seattle’s 60 percent minimum wage hike

protest555

Today, fast-food workers in 150 cities across America and 30 countries across the world are striking over what they say are low wages and unfair working conditions in order to achieve what Seattle is very close to implementing: a $15 per hour minimum wage.

The Seattle proposal is a giant experiment. Developed by a committee of business, labor and community representatives convened by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, the proposal could be implemented as early as October. The wage hike would be the largest of any city in the country: a $5.68 per hour increase over 2.5 years for Seattle’s largest businesses. An estimated 100,000 workers would be affected; by one estimate the proposal would put $2.9 billion into the wallets of low-wage workers over the next 10 years. Other cities have raised their minimum wage without lasting negative impacts on the economy, but no other increase was as big as this one.

from The Great Debate:

I’m making $21 an hour at McDonald’s. Why aren’t you?

mcdonalds -- topI work for McDonald’s and I make $21 an hour.

No, that isn’t a typo. It’s really my salary.

You see, I work for McDonald’s in Denmark, where an agreement between our union and the company guarantees that workers older than 18 are paid at least $21 an hour. Employees younger than 18 make at least $15 -- meaning teenagers working at McDonald’s in Denmark make more than two times what many adults in America earn working at the Golden Arches.

To anyone who says that fast-food jobs can’t be good jobs, I would answer that mine isn’t bad. In fact, parts of it are just fine. Under our union’s agreement with McDonald’s, for example, I receive paid sick leave that workers are still fighting for in many parts of the world. We also get overtime pay, guaranteed hours and at least two days off a week, unlike workers in most countries. At least 10 percent of the staff in any given restaurant must work at least 30 hours a week.

from The Great Debate:

The fight for a global minimum wage

Demonstrators gather during a nationwide strike and protest at fast food restaurants to raise the minimum hourly wage to $15 in New YorkOn Thursday, fast-food workers in more than 30 countries across six continents will take coordinated action on an unprecedented scale. In the United States, they will walk off their jobs in 150 cities -- the largest strike ever. Workers around the world will join these protests in 80 cities.

The protestors are set to take over a McDonald’s during lunchtime rush hour in Belgium; hold flash-mobs at McDonald’s restaurants across the Philippines, and conduct a teach-in at McDonald’s headquarters in New Zealand.

from The Great Debate:

Why not a war on child poverty?

President Barack Obama’s recent speeches at the LBJ Presidential Library and National Action Network marking the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty and the Civil Rights Act had a serious omission. While acknowledging “our work is unfinished,” Obama failed to mention this nation’s worst social trend: the stunning increase of children and youth living in poverty.

Since 1969, the proportion of children and youth in poverty rose by 56 percent, even as the economic fortunes of the elderly improved under programs like Medicare and Social Security. Today, 32 million American children and youth are confronting poverty -- including 7 million suffering utter destitution, another 9 million living in serious poverty and 16 million more in low-income households struggling just above poverty lines.

from The Great Debate:

Executive orders: Part of the framers’ grand plan

President Barack Obama has used his executive authority to stop deporting undocumented immigrants who had been brought to the United States as children. The administration has also announced that it will stop requesting mandatory minimum sentences for low-level, non-violent drug offenders.

Obama is now using executive orders and other unilateral exercises of executive power to advance his agenda rather than wait on Republicans in Congress.

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