Report Says Future Of Low Paid Workers Is Bleak

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) –Despite the recent success in raising Minnesota’s minimum wage, a new report paints a bleak outlook for the state’s lowest paid workers. The worker rights groups, Working America and Take Action Minnesota, say a lot more is still needed to lift 622,000 Minnesotans out of poverty.

Their report titled, “The Future of Work in Minnesota,” cites unpaid sick time, erratic scheduling and out-sourcing as three of the major hurdles employees face in getting ahead.

But the groups are also celebrating a recent breakthrough for some of the workers they represent.

That breakthrough involves Target Corporation’s Responsible Contractor Policy.

The policy, which was announced in June, aims to encourage subcontracted vendors hired to clean Target’s retail stores to increase wages and benefits for their employees.

Outrage and unrest by its subcontracted cleaners caught Target in the middle of a growing movement. Cleaners and janitors rallied outside Target’s downtown Minneapolis headquarters in 2013 to draw attention to their demands for better wages and basic benefits.

“Because what we need is something better for our families,” Bree Halverson, state director of Working America, said.

On Thursday, Halverson and dozens of workers surrounding her held a news conference in St. Paul to celebrate a recent victory. Kellermeyer Bergeson’s Services (KBS) became the first cleaning services contractor to honor the worker’s right to unionize.

But according to the report released by the coalition, the outlook for many of Minnesota’s low wage workers is bleak.

That’s largely due to the fact that well paid factory jobs never fully recovered from the recession.  And the fastest growing sector of the workforce is in the area of service related jobs. Those tend to be near minimum wage, part-time and with few, if any, benefits.

“They’re also struggling to find full-time work. Which makes it difficult to have a predictable paycheck each week, each month,” Halverson said.

Anne Lott works as a personal care assistant for three home health agencies caring for people with disabilities and other life altering conditions.

“My clients rely on me.” Lott said.

But like many health aides, retail clerks and store cleaners, she has little choice when she or her children come down with an illness.

She either goes to work sick or goes without a paycheck.

“I think about the people I’m so called to be helping. And I feel you know, it’s a bad feeling because I’m hurting them. But I have to make the decision because I can’t afford to stay home,” Lott said.

The worker groups praised Target for being the first retailer to pressure cleaning contractors for better pay and benefits for their employees.

It’s expected the coalition will go to the 2015 legislature, just as they did with the minimum wage bill, and push for a measure to force employers to extend basic paid sick time to all employees.

More from Bill Hudson
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