The Minimum Wage Worker Strikes Back
Sarah Kendzior | Medium.com
At 24, Patrick is a fast food veteran. Over the past eight years, he has worked at seven different franchises. He started out at America’s Incredible Pizza Company at the NASCAR Speedpark in St. Louis, Missouri, the city where he grew up and still lives. He thought a fast food job would keep him on his feet while he figured out his life. He did not know it would become his life. Now he is captive to the hustle, always moving and going nowhere.
“You pick up something easy to get stable,” he says. “And on your quest to get stable, you end up getting stuck. You either fall or you stay where you are. Or you fall staying where you are.”
How One Protest Turned Into a Fast-Food-Worker Movement
Kristina Bravo | TakePart | 4 April 2014
“So we started talking to workers at fast-food places and asking them if they wanted to organize for higher pay,” New York Communities for Change’s Jonathan Westin said in an emailed statement. “There was not a worker we talked to who wouldn’t sign onto the campaign.”
The movement became known as Fast Food Forward. It held its first citywide protest in 2012, and the movement has since spread across the country. The federal minimum wage still stagnates at $7.25 per hour, a rate that hasn’t budged since 2009. But a lot of progress has been made on the state level. As of Jan. 1, 2014, twenty-one states exceed the federal minimum wage; others are expected to follow suit. Here’s a look back at the American fast-food workers’ fight for livable pay.
Fast-Food CEOs Make 1,200 Times As Much As One of Their Workers—and They Want to Keep It That Way
Zoë Carpenter | The Nation | 24 April 2014
David Novak is the chief executive of Yum! Brands, the parent company that runs Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC. Last year, while Yum! Brands and other restaurant companies lobbied against raising the minimum wage, Novak made at least $22 million—more than 1,000 times what the average fast-food worker makes in a year. In return for paying him so much, Yum! got a tax break.
The National Restaurant Association, which represents Yum! and other restaurant companies, is expected to launch a lobbying blitz in Washington next week against a minimum wage increase. For years the restaurant industry has fought to keep the wage floor low, all while rewarding its CEOs with increasingly large pay packages. As a result, the food industry is now the most unequal sector in the American economy. Thanks to a tax loophole that encourages companies to raise “performance pay” for executives, taxpayers are effectively subsidizing the imbalance.
While inequality between low-level workers and CEOs manifests in all areas of the economy, a new report from Demos concludes that the gap within the food industry is exceptional. Between 2009 and 2012 the CEO-to-worker pay ratio in food services and accommodation was about twice as large as most other sectors. In 2012, fast-food CEOs earned 1,200 times as much as the average employee.
Maybe you’ve even read about the wage theft lawsuits that have been filed against McDonald’s and Taco Bell, or the recent settlements in New York State against McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Domino’s Pizza that have led to payments to employees of more than $2 million.
But, much in the way that Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century lays out the hard data backing up everything we’ve believed about the reality of vast income inequality in America, a trio of new reports confirms with solid statistics what we’ve suspected about the fast-food industry — that those in charge are gobbling up the profits voraciously while their workers are forced into public assistance. What’s more, our tax dollars are subsidizing both the fast-food poor who need the help and the fast-food rich who don’t.
First, a recent data brief from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) notes, “Lower-wage industries accounted for 22 percent of job losses during the recession, but 44 percent of employment growth over the past four years. Today, lower-wage industries employ 1.85 million more workers than at the start of the recession.” In other words, as The New York Times more succinctly put it, “The poor economy has replaced good jobs with bad ones.”
Subway leads fast food industry in underpaying workers
Annalyn Kurtz | CNN Money | 1 May 2014
McDonald’s gets a lot of bad press for its low pay. But there’s an even bigger offender when it comes to fast food companies underpaying their employees: Subway.
Individual Subway franchisees have been found in violation of pay and hour rules in more than 1,100 investigations spanning from 2000 to 2013, according to a CNNMoney analysis of data collected by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.
Hamburgled: Nine Out Of Ten Fast Food Workers Have Experienced Wage Theft
Alan Pyke | Think Progress | 2 April 2014
A new poll finds that 89 percent of fast food workers nationwide say they experience wage theft. That means that nine out of every ten fast food workers doesn’t get the pay they earned, according Hart Research Associates’ findings. The most common violation, workers report, is off-the-clock work. About a quarter of those surveyed had worked over 40 hours in a week on some occasions, and half of that group said they didn’t get overtime pay for those hours.
The poll coincides with testimonials from two former McDonald’s managers who say these sorts of illegal labor practices were routine in their stores for years.
1. ALIENATION AND ORANGE JUICE: THE INVISIBILITY OF LABOR
Eric Stewart | Pacific Standard
Compared to some European countries, the United States has a weak tradition of labor-based activism. All too often, this leads to the invisibility of labor issues. Take for example, this commercial for Simply Orange brand orange juice. In an attempt to present their product as a natural alternative to other brands, Simply Orange juxtaposes images of natural orange growth with common phrases relating to the structure of a manufacturing organization. The tree is their “plant” (a marvelous pun), the orange blossoms are the “workers” that produce the fruit, and the sun itself becomes “upper management.”
Even though this commercial is humorously centered on the process of producing orange juice, there is not a single human being present in any of the images. It is a story about making a product in which nobody actually makes anything! This message cleverly sells the product, but it also obscures the real labor that went into growing, picking, and juicing the oranges and downplays the contributions to the process made by real people. All that productive effort is condensed into the image of an orange blossom, as if it can be assumed that such production will just naturally occur like an annual blooming.
2. THIS ISN’T YOUR GRANNY SMITH’S HARVESTING TECHNOLOGY
Lindsey Smith | The Salt | NPR
In West Michigan, it’s apple harvest time. That may conjure up images of picturesque orchards and old-fashioned fun: growers harvesting apples and then selecting them by hand.
Robotic arms, computer vision and high-resolution photography are helping Michigan growers wash, sort and package apples at top speeds in the business — think 2,000 apples per minute.
ARKANSAS AIMS TO MAKE EDAMAME AS AMERICAN AS APPLE PIE
Jacqueline Froelich | The Salt | NPR
China produces most of the world’s edamame, handpicking and processing it there. Now lots of locally-grown edamame are being packed in the town of Mulberry, Ark. Fresh-picked pods jiggle across a massive high-speed conveyor for automated sorting, washing, blanching and flash freezing.
A Texas-based Asian foods importer to build its company, called American Vegetable Soybean and Edamame Inc., here. Raymond Chung, the chief financial officer, says one reason is because plenty of local farmers are willing to grow the non-genetically modified vegetable soybeans.
Genetically modified to be enriched with beta-carotene, golden rice grains (left) are a deep yellow. At right, white rice grains.
“The bulk of soybeans in the U.S. are [genetically-modified] and grown for industrial purposes, but edamame is a special variety,” he says.
Arkansas ranks tenth nationally for conventional soybeans and is the first to develop an edamame variety licensed for commercial production.
4.DEBUNKING GOLDEN RICE MYTHS: A GENETICISTS PERSPECTIVE
Michael Purugganan | IRRI
It all started in 1984 in Los Baños, Laguna, in the Philippines. Scientists had begun to develop an exciting new approach to breeding crops—genetic engineering—and everyone wondered how it could be used to help the world.
In a house in this college town sat several breeders who were dreaming of what traits they could come up with using this exciting new technology. Increase yields? Develop crops to survive droughts? Protect rice against pests?
One breeder, who developed many of the Green Revolution crops that had saved hundreds of millions from famine, gave a startling answer: yellow rice. Why? Because, he said, vitamin A deficiency afflicts millions of people around the world.
1. FOOD (STAMPS) FOR THOUGHT
Henry Olsen | National Review
The conservative war on food stamps is the most baffling political move of the year. Conservatives have suffered for years from the stereotype that they are heartless Scrooge McDucks more concerned with our money than other people’s lives. Yet in this case, conservatives make the taking of food from the mouths of the genuinely hungry a top priority. What gives? And why are conservatives overlooking a far more egregious abuse of taxpayer dollars in the farm bill?
2. UTICA GREENS
With roasted potatoes and spicy peppers, this specialty of Utica, New York, makes for a full-flavored side dish.
3. FOUR IN TEN CONSUMERS HAVE LOST TRUST IN THE FOOD SYSTEM
Andy Vance | Feedstuffs
Gallup’s findings line up somewhat with the most recent edition of Oklahoma State’s Food Demand Survey (FooDS), conducted monthly by agricultural economist Jayson Lusk. The September survey asked 1,000 respondents if the could “think of a time when you felt that you lost trust in the food system.”
Forty percent said yes.
Lusk followed up with an open-ended question, asking for the specific circumstances that led to a loss of trust, and then analyzed 413 typed responses. The researchers highlighted specific keywords, and divided responses into eight different categories to determine relevant trends in the data.
Among the top keywords mentioned were “GMOs,” with 24 specific mentions. “Biotechnology seems to be a big contributor to a loss of trust in the food system,” Lusk said. “That said, most of the statements people typed had something to do with food safety issues.”
Indeed, Lusk found 113 responses had something to do with food safety issues including e.coli, avian influenza or bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Another 34 responses were categorized as a “personal experience” issue, most of which Lusk said related stories of food poisoning.
Taken together then, more than 35% of responses could be viewed as food-safety related. By comparison, only 74 responses were categorized as “technology related issues,” with specific topics including GMOs, antibiotic use and lean, finely textured beef.
4. MR. PAPAYA HEAD MAKES HIS DEBUT
Last Wednesday we sat through another day of hearings here on the Island of Hawaii and found it hard not to laugh at the hypocrisy, the fallacies and outright lies spread about Hawaii’s farmers, Papayas and agriculture in general. I won’t perpetuate them by writing them here; although admittedly I did react when a female anti gmo activists was verbally accosting a agriculture supporter, he found it funny but refused to answer her questions which only fed her resolve that he must be with a seed company, as if that was a bad thing. It was none of her business and frankly her racial profiling upset me. Racial profiling and undertones were thick in this hearing even from a few Council members. Most of the anti’s are haole
( Hawaiian term for white or fair skin) new comers and a few old timers; while most of the growers are minority farmers and 99% clearly local to Hawaii Island.
Mr. Papaya Head makes his debut at Hawaii County Council hearing to ban gmo’s in Hawaii County
The Chair and Bill 109′s author and proposer; Brenda Ford slaughtered almost every farmers name and even simple names were mispronounced; yet she manged quite well with the anti’s, activists and supporters of her bill..hmmm co-inky dink, me thinks not. By far the most patronizing terms come from Margaret Willie, condescending patronization telling our farmers to just find another crop as if she is smarter than everyone else. As is all the scientists and experts we provided are lying; she acts as if she is god and it’s her way or no way…but because we have contaminated Hawaii Island she will go ahead and allow papaya growers to be exempted. The exemption taints the Hawaii Papaya Industry’s good name and is causing marketing issues, one council member proposed establishing a marketing fund to restore its name, yes that is a start!
[Editor’s note: I normally would not highlight an anonymous blog. I am typically pretty conservative about where I get my news and more conservative about what I pass on. But this entry seems to give a hard to come by glimpse into the on the ground politics and fault lines of the current fight in Hawaii. It doesn’t really clear my normal hurdles for credibility, but it certainly fulfils the criteria of important and interesting that I am looking to deliver in the Daily Essentials segment of this blog.]
5. THE DATING GAME
The Natural Resources Defense Council
Here’s a superbly-kept secret: All those dates on food products — sell by, use by, best before — almost none of those dates indicate the safety of food, and generally speaking, they’re not regulated in the way many people believe. The current system of expiration dates misleads consumers to believe they must discard food in order to protect their own safety. In fact, the dates are only suggestions by the manufacturer for when the food is at its peak quality, not when it is unsafe to eat.
U.S. consumers and businesses needlessly trash billions of pounds of food every year as a result of America’s dizzying array of food expiration date labeling practices, which need to be standardized and clarified. Forty percent of the food we produce in this country never gets eaten. That’s nearly half our food, wasted — not just on our plates, but in our refrigerators and pantries, in our grocery stores and on our farms. Much of it perfectly good, edible food — worth $165 billion annually — gets tossed in the trash instead feeding someone who’s hungry. Misinterpretation of date labels is one of the key factors contributing to this waste.
6. USDA WILL NOT TAKE ACTION IN CASE OF GMO ALFALFA CONTAMINATION
Cary Gillam | Reuters
Crop experts have warned that the confirmation of contamination threatens U.S. sales of alfalfa feedstock to many Asia nations who reject GMOs, and some are encouraging farmers to test every bag of seed they buy before they plant.
But USDA said the detection of Monsanto Co’s patented Roundup Ready herbicide-tolerant trait in the Washington farmer’s non-GMO alfalfa crop should be addressed by the marketplace and not the government.
“The agriculture industry has approaches to minimize their occurrence and manage them when they occur,” the statement said.
Alfalfa, a livestock feed crop, routinely ranks among the top five crops in the nation in terms of farmgate value and total acreage planted. It is the first perennial biotech crop to be approved, and its perennial nature makes it even more of a contamination risk, critics have charged.
Washington agriculture officials notified APHIS late Friday that they had confirmed a “low-level” presence of a genetically engineered trait in what the farmer thought was a non-GMO crop.
State agriculture officials did not identify the level of contamination, but in a letter to APHIS said it was “within ranges acceptable to much of the marketplace.”
7. LOCAL DOESN’T ALWAYS MEAN FAIR: WASHINGTON BERRY PICKERS URGE BOYCOTT
Matthew Canfield | Civil Eats
On July 10, Frederico Lopez couldn’t take it anymore. The berry picker says he was constantly barraged with verbal abuse by his supervisor, while earning only 30 cents per pound of berries. “It’s unjust to yell at us like we are animals, simply for asking for a fair wage” he told his supervisors that day.
It is no surprise that Lopez spoke up. At such a low rate, he and his fellow workers have to pick at an impossible speed just to earn Washington State’s $9.19 minimum wage.
On the hot summer day Lopez complained, he was given an eviction and a pink slip – a practice that would is routine in the fields. But on this day, Lopez’s co-workers took notice and decided not to return to work the next day. What has ensued has been an all-out labor dispute in a region widely known for its local food movement. As the farm workers press on to raise their working conditions, they are raising important questions about the priorities and social values of the burgeoning food movement.
8. NEW ACCELERATOR PROGRAM LAUNCHES FOR FOOD, HEALTH AND WELLNESS STARTUPS
Nina Meijers | Food Tech Connect
FTC: How do you differentiate yourself from others startup accelerator programs?
SC: Our program is very different. Sure we offer money and space to work but that is where the similarities end. Instead of having a long list of familiar faces as mentors we have a small group of people you may not know but who are some of the best designers/developers/UX/UI/sales/strategy/marketing in the city. And instead of them just dropping in a few times, they are on the payroll, work in the space and are available to our applicants as needed. Beyond that, we have an internationally recognized Strategic Foresight team on staff with far reaching research resources at their fingertips waiting to work with our applicants. But the biggest differentiator is our amazing partnership with Matthew Corrin and his company Freshii. Freshii opens up a vertical expertise that these companies can’t find anywhere as well as access to customers and other opportunities through their distribution and procurement channels if thats appropriate and important to the startup.
FTC: Why do you think your model (and the partnership of Kinetic Cafe and Freshii) is best suited to bolster wellness, food and health startups?
SC: By taking a laser focus and only working with health, food and fitness startups we can focus all our research, startups and education towards the same goal. When a co-hort has people from hardware to app discovery to social platforms the goals can’t be similar and the learnings and mentor talks can’t be anything more than high level. With everyone working in the same space the lessons are similar and even allow for co-marketing.