SHORT-TERM JOB RATE IS UP
In March, payrolls grew vigorously after nearly three years of net job losses and seven months of only lackluster growth, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
The 308,000 payroll jobs added in March, with upward adjustments for January and February, brings to 759,000 the total jobs added since last August. That gain leaves payroll employment 323,000 below the jobs level at the start of the recovery in November 2001, and two million below the level at the start of the recession in March 2001.
Despite this strong March showing, signs persist of continuing slack in the job market. Notably, unemployment rose slightly, long-term unemployment reached its highest level since 1983 (when overall unemployment was much higher than today), and underemployment rose.
SHAVING TIME OFF WORKERS’ PAY
The illegal doctoring of hourly employees’ time records is far more prevalent than most Americans believe.
In a New York Times story on April 3, Steven Greenhouse writes that the practice of reducing workers’ wages is commonly called “shaving time.” It’s easily done, hard to detect — a simple matter of computer keystrokes — and has spurred a growing number of lawsuits and settlements against a wide range of businesses.
Workers have sued Family Dollar and Pep Boys, the auto parts and repair chain, accusing managers of deleting hours. A jury found that Taco Bell managers in Oregon had routinely erased workers’ time. More than a dozen former Wal-Mart employees said in interviews and depositions that managers had altered time records to shortchange employees. The Department of Labor recently reached two back-pay settlements with Kinko’s photocopy centers, totaling $56,600, after finding that managers in Ithaca, N.Y., and Hyannis, Mass., had erased time for 13 employees.
CALL TO INCREASE WORKERS COMP
The New York State AFL-CIO has introduced legislation (S. 6135/A. 97736) to increase weekly workers’ comp benefits for injured workers. The proposed legislation would enact a gradual increase in workers’ compensation benefits up to $625 per week by Sept. 1, 2006 and would then include an indexed benefit at two-thirds of the state average weekly wage.
In addition, this bill proposes a number of modifications designed to produce a savings for the rate payers and some consumer control over the quality of coverage offered by the licensed carriers and the State Insurance Fund. These savings should offset most employers’ cost increases.
It has been 12 years since the last increase in workers’ comp benefits. In 1992, the maximum benefit of $400 was 66 percent of New York’s average weekly wage. Today, that same $400 maximum benefit, which only 3 percent of injured workers collect, is only 44 percent of the average weekly wage.
The labor movement argues that the amount is not enough for injured workers to adequately support themselves or their families.
RAISE THE MINIMUM WAGE
The New York State AFL-CIO, the Central Labor Council and the Working Families Party are strongly supporting proposed legislation (A. 9710/S. 3291B) to increase the state’s minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $7.10 per hour. The legislation has passed the State Assembly and is now waiting passage from the State Senate.
The present minimum wage has not been increased since March 2000. The legislation will raise wages to a level consistent with neighboring states such as Connecticut.