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Posts Tagged ‘living wage’

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Photo: Desiree Rios for the New York Times
A community college employee shops at the campus food pantry. When folks get paid a living wage, they don’t need food pantries.

As much as I admire smart philanthropy, I recognize that helping individuals get by or even helping communities make lasting change can only go so far. Most of us know that when people can be self-sufficient, they feel happier — and the societal benefits last longer.

Opinion columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin writes about this at the New York Times.

“Real charity doesn’t come with a tax deduction. That’s what I told a gathering of generous Wall Street and business luminaries this month about the increasing paradox of even some of the most well-intentioned philanthropy.

“All too often, charitable gifts are used not only to help those who can’t help themselves but to make up for the failure of companies to pay people a living wage and treat their workers with dignity. …

“Countless C.E.O.s donate to worthy causes that, for example, help fund food banks and homeless shelters across the country. They should be applauded for their charity.

“But the real opportunity for generosity is more likely inside the workplace.

“Do you know who goes to the food banks that so many support? It is not just the homeless and unemployed. It is, many times, the people we all work with: The janitors and support staff who help offices run smoothly and keep them clean. The Uber drivers and people who work at the checkout counter and deliver groceries. The nannies and caregivers.

“According to Feeding America, 43 percent of people who visit a food bank have at least one family member who is working full time but still doesn’t earn enough to cover bills. A researcher for the Urban Institute estimated that a quarter of adults in homeless shelters work.

If business leaders genuinely care about eradicating poverty, paying people a living wage matters. …

“So here’s a challenge for chief executives and employees alike: When you go back to work after the holidays, ask your human resources department what the lowest pay is for any employee at the company. And, just as important, what is the lowest pay for any outside contractor that your company uses? What kind of benefits do they get? Do the outside firms your company contracts with provide benefits?

“Once you have answers to those questions, the real charity is to do something about it — whether you’re a decision maker or you can use your voice to influence the decision makers.

‘When I walk to work, I’m looking into the eyes of the homeless people. I can’t forget about them,’ Marc Benioff, the founder of Salesforce, told me. ‘I mean, that’s the whole point — that’s why we’re here.’ …

“ ‘This is why I like being in business, because I can create change — that business must be the greatest platform for change. And if it isn’t, then what is?’ he said. …

“This past year, Brian Moynihan, the chief executive at Bank of America, raised the firm’s minimum wage to $20 an hour. Walmart’s chief executive, Doug McMillon, who lifted his company’s starting wage, has called on Congress to raise the federal minimum. Mark Bertolini, a former chief executive of Aetna, raised the minimum wage at his company to $16 an hour — in 2015. All three companies have benefited — and their stock went up. …

“At the gathering of business leaders that I spoke to — organized by the UJA Federation of New York, which supports the poor and elderly in New York and in Israel — I shared what I had learned about the idea of charity. I grew up thinking that the Hebrew word tzedakah means charity, which is its modern definition. But I later learned its original meaning was much more profound: It meant ‘justice’ and ‘fairness.’

“So when it comes to giving, the goal shouldn’t be to simply donate more money, as laudable as that is. The aim should be to create a society where we don’t need places like food banks in the first place. To put it in Wall Street terms, we should be trying to put the food banks out of business.”

More here.

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Photograph: Ginnette Riquelme for The New York Times
Artist Amor Muñoz pays workers at her mobile factory about $7.50 an hour. “I’m interested in sharing the experience of art,” Ms. Muñoz says.

An artist in Mexico City hires people off the street at $7.50 an hour to help create “electronic textiles.”

Amor Muñoz uses a megaphone to shout, “One hundred pesos an hour!”

Damien Cave at the NY Times continues the story. “The rush was on. By the time Ms. Muñoz parked in her usual spot outside a hospital in one of Mexico City’s peripheral neighborhoods, a line had already formed. Women of all ages squeezed together — one held a baby, another was nearly too old to walk — as Ms. Muñoz opened up a white wooden box revealing thread, needles, cloth, timecards and employment contracts. The work involved creating interactive art pieces that combine the old craft of sewing with 20th-century electronics and 21st-century tags allowing smartphone users to look up who worked on a given piece. …

“Her maquiladora, or factory, she said, is a ‘fantasy’ meant to condemn the harsh reality of a global economy that uses and discards poor workers, especially women, to keep prices low. …

“She described Mexican wages as an insult to human dignity, and every time her mobile factory appears, the power of work for reasonable pay goes on display. The crowds that gather are typically large. Sometimes people push and shove for two hours of work and $15, though once the day’s employees are selected (first come first hired), a calm tends to follow. …

“Many of the women seemed to appreciate a chance to be involved in an art project. María González, 75, smiled widely when handed a needle and adjusted her purple scarf, excited to be creating something rather than worrying about her husband in the hospital. ‘This,’ she said, sewing without looking down, ‘is a wonderful distraction.’ ”

Read more about how happy the women are to work at that wage on art, even if it’s only for two hours.

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