These two posts by James Fallows, especially the second one, got me thinking about this again - not that I ever go all that long in between. But he raised one new issue in particular, one that I'd been sort of aware of, to full consciousness. I'll get to that.
First of all, I'm more than ready to jump on the bandwagon, such as it is, that the minimum wage ought to be raised to $10/hour in a series of steps over the next few years - and then indexed to inflation, so we don't have to keep on doing this every several years. The most straightforward way to help working people who are struggling to get by is to pay them more.
This would not only help workers earning between $7.15 (the current minimum) and $10 per hour, but those who are currently earning $10-$12 per hour (and as a result are currently getting a $3-$5 premium over minimum wage) would get a bit more too: you can't get someone to hold down a job that requires skills or experience if you're not going to pay them noticeably more than they can earn at MickeyD's.
And while I'm at it, let me return to some familiar hobbyhorses:
1) The law should mandate 10 paid days of vacation and 5 paid days of sick leave per year for full-time workers, to be accrued at least quarterly. (That would be 20 hours of vacation and 10 hours of sick leave per quarter.)
What's more, if someone's working part time, then the paid leave they earn would be pro-rated according to the number of hours they averaged over the most recent quarter: someone averaging 28 hours a week would get 28/40 times the number of hours in the parenthetical. With many Americans working part time not by choice, it's important that benefits for part-timers be pro-rated where feasible, and not just disappear.
2) Below some annual salary (say, $50,000/year) or its hourly equivalent, everyone, regardless of supervisory or professional status, should get time and a half over 40 hours and double time over 60 hours per week. The idea that a shift supervisor at MickeyD's earning maybe $11/hour is somehow exempt from this requirement because she's a supervisor is just bullshit.
And between that amount and 3x that amount, people should be compensated for overtime as if they were earning that amount. So if the amount is $50,000 per year, which translates into $24/hour, people earning up to $150,000/year would have to be paid $36/hour for time between 40 and 60 hours a week, and $48/hour beyond that. The base salary of someone earning $150,000/year would translate to $72/hour, so their time beyond 40 hours would be cheaper than their first 40 hours, but it wouldn't be free.
I feel very strongly that overtime shouldn't be a free resource; even at fairly high levels of basic compensation, employers should have to pay extra money when they're making you work extra time. The closer your overtime is to free, and the less power you have to do anything about it, the more likely they are to just gobble up all your 'free' time simply because they can.
And now, thanks to Fallows, the new hobbyhorse:
I'd been vaguely aware for awhile that many part-timers' schedules are becoming increasingly changeable and arbitrary, that such people never know more than a few days in advance when and how much they will work. Apparently employers are increasingly using software to manage part-time employees' time so they'll only be there when they're most needed, and that they won't go over the line to being full-time and be eligible for full-timers' benefits. So they might be working mornings on Monday and Thursday, evenings on Tuesday, afternoon on Saturday, and off on other days.
This borders on servitude. If you're a part-timer with unpredictable hours, you can't get a second part-time job to make ends meet. Getting day care for your kids is hard, because you never know whether your shift will be at a time when care is available, or whether it will end in time for you to pick the kids up. There ought to be a law.
And I've got an idea for one: a part-timer's hours should fit in a regular 8-hours-a-day, 5-days-a-week block of time. The part-timer's hours could bounce around without restriction within that block, but the employer would have to pay time-and-a-half for work outside the block, even if the employee was nowhere near 40 hours for the week.
The hours wouldn't have to be 9-5, and the days wouldn't have to be M-F, but they'd have to be the same 8 hours every day, and the same 5 days every week. The employer would have to spell out the hours and days in writing, and there would be a limit on the number of times per year (maybe 4-6 times a year) that the employer could change the block of time, otherwise the employer could just change the block of time every week.
That way, the employee would have predictable hours for booking day car, predictable free time that would be available for working a second job, the possibility of a predictable sleep schedule, and so forth.
It's bad enough when an employer eats up all of a full-time employee's spare time because they're exempt from the protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act. But it's absolutely, crazily unreasonable that an employer can all but monopolize the schedule of a part-time employee as well.Your thoughts? Open thread.