Trib to employers: Stand firm against equitable pay

September 12, 2005

Bemoaning the low Florida unemployment rate, the proudly conservative Tampa Tribune offers some unsolicited advice to those poor business owners who just can’t seem to find anyone to fill their underpaid, overworked, benefit-free positions. Not surprisingly, neither fair wages nor finding someplace other than the newspaper’s classified section in which to advertise are mentioned as possible strategies.

It’s been four weeks since Mark Williams, manager of Dan’s Fan City on North Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa, taped up a sign in his window and started advertising in the newspaper for an assistant manager.

He can count the number of applicants he’s seen on one hand. And none of them was qualified for the job.

“It used to be that you knew when the newspaper ad hit — you’d get a flood,” Williams said. “You become more aware that it’s an employee’s market right now, not an employer’s market.”

Gary Bingham, manager of Allen Sports Center in Tampa, taped up a help wanted sign last week. He said he had seen few applicants — and the folks applying for jobs seem to have unrealistic expectations about pay and hours.

“I don’t understand it,” he said. “I’ve worked here 18 years.”

Yeah, it’s suddenly like people around here expect to be able to pay rent and other living expenses with only one full time job. How unrealistic. Don’t these silly applicants know that higher wages hurt us all? Why do these job seekers hate America?

Bob Rohrlack, senior vice president for business development at Enterprise Florida, said a protracted tight labor market could cause problems for the entire state, especially if small businesses have a difficult time finding workers.

Collectively, small businesses are major employers, account for three-fourths of all new jobs and diversify the state’s business environment, he said.

“It can hurt the entire economy,” Rohrlack said. “It’s important that we’re focused on what’s happening here.”

Scott Brown, chief economist for St. Petersburg-based Raymond James & Associates, said he’s not worried about the tight labor market — at least not yet.

Brown said a tight labor market might force employers to raise wages, which can contribute to higher prices and inflation for consumers.

That isn’t happening yet, he said.

“I don’t think we’re seeing labor costs pressure as being too excessive,” he said.

No, labor costs aren’t too excessive, but those stupid employees keep hurting themselves and dying on the job and no one seems willing to replace them.

Florida is among the nation’s leaders in job growth, according to state officials. Statewide unemployment dipped to 3.8 percent in July, well below the national jobless rate of 5 percent.

Indeed, many economists say the state’s job market is at or near full employment, the point where everyone who wants a job has one. Although there’s a long-standing debate whether full employment occurs when the jobless rate hits 3 percent or 4 percent, the consensus is that jobs are as plentiful as they’ve ever been here.

Still, critics say, Florida’s sheer quantity of jobs can’t disguise the lack of quality positions. Pay and benefits remain below national norms, and the Sunshine State continues to be one of the nation’s most dangerous places for workers.

In his “State of Working Florida” report released today, Bruce Nissen, director of research at Florida International University’s Center for Labor Research and Studies, points to some unflattering statistics: Wages are below the national average. Florida ranks 47th among all states in percentage of residents with health coverage and 49th in private-sector pension coverage.

And last month, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics said Florida trailed only California in the total number of workers who died on the job in 2004.

“It’s easy to find a job, and that’s good,” Nissen said. “But we’ve got a structure in our state that skews us toward low-paying jobs.”

The structure is called right-to-work.

It’s really a ‘right to work for less’

It’s no coincidence that some employer groups, Big Business and ultraconservative lawmakers back “right to work”laws because such laws weaken unions and in turn depress wages. Studies show that workers in “right to Work” states earn significantly less, while workers in non-”right to work” states earn significantly more. A primary reason is that workers with a union contract earn higher pay”weakening unions lowers average pay. Workers of color and women workers who are union members make significantly higher wages.

The average worker in a “right to work” state earns about $5,333 less a year than workers in other states. (source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2001)

Hispanic union members earn 45 percent ($180) more a week than nonunion Hispanic workers. (source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jan. 2002 )

African Americans earn 30 percent ($140) more a week if they are union members. (source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jan. 2002)

Union women earn 30 percent more ($149) a week than nonunion women. (source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jan. 2002)

“Right to work” laws reach far beyond wages. Quality-of-life issues such as health care, education, worker safety and poverty suffer greatly in “right to work” states.

In “right to work” states 21 percent more people are without health insurance compared with those in free-bargaining states. (source: State Rankings 2000, A Statistical View of the 50 United States, Morgan Quinto Press)

“Right to work” states spend $1,699 less per elementary and secondary pupil than other states. (source: Education Vital Signs, 2000″2001 school year)

The infant mortality rate in “right to work” states is 17 percent higher than in other states, and the poverty rate is 12.5 percent compared with 10.2 percent in other states. (source: State Rankings 2000, A Statistical View of the 50 United States, Morgan Quinto Press; U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, March 2002)

The rate of workplace death is 51 percent higher in “right to work” states. (source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2001; AFL-CIO, “Death on the Job,” April 2002)

But I digress. Here’s the Tribune’s helpful advice to businesses who are unwilling to bow to the rules of supply and demand: cheat with part timers and college students.

• Be creative and flexible with job openings: It might be suitable to hire two part-time workers to fill a full-time opening

• Consider college students for part-time positions.

See, college students are young and naive enough to accept low pay. And part time positions traditionally have even fewer benefits than low paying full time jobs, so follow the Wal-Mart philosophy and make more and more positions “part time”.



Ralph Nader on Taft-Hartley

Pamphlets in the Fight Against Taft-Hartley 1947-1948

Federal Labor Laws

US Labor Unions

How to Organize a Union in Your Workplace

ZNet Labor Watch

‘Right to Work’ States Are Really Restricted Rights States (AFL-CIO)

Right to Work States

One Response to Trib to employers: Stand firm against equitable pay

  1. k on September 12, 2005 at 6:27 am

    Remember Publix worked hard to suppress the state’s minimum wage amendment last election and Jeb was against it just like his backers.
    If we get a hurricane Jeb’s brother can suspend Davis-Bacon like he did on the Gulf Coast.(see AFL-CIO site).



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