Category Archives: Minimum Wage

Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers: Violations of Employment and Labor Laws in America’s Cities

Source: Annette Bernhardt, Ruth Milkman, Nik Theodore, Douglas Heckathorn, Mirabai Auer, James DeFilippis, Ana Luz González, Victor Narro, Jason Perelshteyn, Diana Polson, Michael Spiller, National Employment Law Project, UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, and UIC Center for Urban Economic Development, 2009

This report exposes a world of work in which the core protections that many Americans take for granted–the right to be paid at least the minimum wage, the right to be paid for overtime hours, the right to take meal breaks, access to workers’ compensation when injured, and the right to advocate for better working conditions–are failing significant numbers of workers. The sheer breadth of the problem, spanning key industries in the economy, as well as its profound impact on workers, entailing significant economic hardship, demands urgent attention.

In 2008, we conducted a landmark survey of 4,387 workers in low-wage industries in the three largest U.S. cities–Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City. We used an innovative, rigorous methodology that allowed us to reach vulnerable workers who are often missed in standard surveys, such as unauthorized immigrants and those paid in cash. Our goal was to obtain accurate and statistically representative estimates of the prevalence of workplace violations. All findings are adjusted to be representative of front-line workers (i.e. excluding managers, professional or technical workers) in low-wage industries in the three cities–a population of about 1.64 million workers, or 15 percent of the combined workforce of Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.
See also:
Low-Wage Workers Are Often Cheated, Study Says
Source: Steven Greenhouse, New York Times, September 2, 2009

Confronting the Gloves-Of Economy: Labor Standards at the Bottom of America’s Labor Market

Source: edited by Annette Bernhardt, Heather Boushey, Laura Dresser, and Chris Tilly, Labor and Employment Relations Association, July 2009

From the summary:
Across the United States, growing numbers of employers are breaking, bending, or evading long-established laws and standards designed to protect workers, from the minimum wage to job safety rules to the right to organize. This “gloves-off economy,” no longer confined to a marginal set of sweatshops and fly-by-night small businesses, is sending shock waves into every corner of the low-wage – and sometimes not so low-wage – labor market. What can be done to reverse this dangerous trend?

This report, based on the book The Gloves-Off Economy: Labor Standards at the Bottom of America’s Labor Market (a Labor and Employment Relations Association volume published by Cornell University Press), provides a comprehensive yet compact summary of gloves-off practices, the workers who are affected by them, and strategies for enforcing workplace standards. The editors, four prominent labor scholars, have brought together economists, sociologists, labor attorneys, union strategists, and other experts to offer varying perspectives on both the problem and the creative, practical solutions currently being developed in a wide range of communities and industries. Bernhardt, Boushey, Dresser, and Tilly and the volume’s 18 other authors combine rigorous analysis with a stirring call to renew worker protections.

Minimum Wage Issue Guide

Source: Kai Filion, Economic Policy Institute, July 21, 2009

EPI’s Issue Guide on the Minimum Wage provides an accessible overview for those who are interested in the effects this important labor market policy has on the economy and its workers. This Issue Guide is comprised of a series of fact sheets, important data and charts, and a bibliography of the key research conducted by both EPI and others in this area.

This Minimum Wage Issue Guide specifically includes data on how many people are affected state-by-state, along with information about trends on the minimum wage’s value over time, and other clear, research-based answers to the key questions and issues in the current national debate over minimum wage policy.

Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index

Source: American Legislative Exchange Council, 2009

From the press release:
In the midst of economic turmoil, federal bailouts, and budget deficits in more than 40 states, a new report from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) offers a roadmap to recovery based on economic performance trends from states over the last 10 years. The second edition of Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index shows how the federal bailout of the states may simply encourage out-of-control spending by states, which is up 124 percent over the last 10 years, without requiring them to make the tough decisions needed to bring about financial stability.

Increases in Minimum Wage Boost Consumer Spending

Source: Kai Filion, Economic Policy Institute, Economic Snapshot, May 27, 2009

The recently enacted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included policies to help struggling families and create jobs. But an extremely effective and simple policy that achieves both of these goals is often overlooked: increases in the minimum wage. Each increase provides financial relief directly to minimum wage workers and their families and helps stimulate the economy. By increasing families’ take-home pay, workers gain both financial security and an increased ability to purchase goods and services, thus creating jobs for other Americans.

Institutional Features of Wage Bargaining in 23 European Countries, the US and Japan

Source: Philip Du Caju, Erwan Gautier, Daphne Momferatou,Melanie Ward-Warmedinger, IZA Discussion Paper, No. 3867, December 2008

This paper presents information on wage bargaining institutions, collected using a standardized questionnaire. Our data provide information from 1995 and 2006, for four sectors of activity and the aggregate economy, considering 23 European countries, plus the US and Japan. Main findings include a high degree of regulation in wage setting in most countries. Although union membership is low in many countries, union coverage is high and almost all countries also have some form of national minimum wage. Most countries negotiate wages on several levels, the sectoral level still being the most dominant, with an increasingly important role for bargaining at the firm level. The average length of collective bargaining agreements is found to lie between one and three years. Most agreements are strongly driven by developments in prices and eleven countries have some form of indexation mechanism which affects wages. Cluster analysis identifies three country groupings of wagesetting institutions.

How Living Wage Legislation Affects U.S. Poverty Rates

Source: Suzanne Heller Clain, Journal of Labor Research, Vol. 29 no. 3, Summer 2008
(subscription required)

I investigate how living wage legislation affects poverty. I find evidence that living wage ordinances modestly reduce poverty rates where such ordinances are enacted. However, there is no evidence that state minimum wage laws do so. The difference in the impacts of the two types of legislation conceivably stems from a difference in the party responsible for bearing the burden of the cost.

New Minimum Wage Information is at

Source:, 2008

On July 24, 2008, the federal minimum wage rose to $6.55 an hour, from $5.85. This also triggered an increase in some states which have minimum wages different than the federal law. Workplace Fairness recently added 50 new pages to our website which contain comprehensive information about the wage and hour laws in every state, including information about overtime laws, meal and rest breaks, and the state agencies which process wage claims.

Federal government trails 23 states on minimum wage

Source: Mary Gable, Economic Policy Institute, Economic Snapshot, July 23, 2008

The second part of a multi-stage hike in the federal minimum wage takes effect July 24, raising the wage from $5.85 to $6.55 per hour. But many states and the District of Columbia are a step ahead of the federal government when it comes to guaranteeing a fair wage. This week’s Economic Snapshot illustrates which states have a higher-than-federal minimum wage.

New Estimates of the Effects of Minimum Wages in the U.S. Retail Trade Sector

Source: John T. Addison, McKinley L. Blackburn, Chad D. Cotti, IZA Discussion Paper No. 3597, July 2008

This paper examines the impact of minimum wages on earnings and employment in selected branches of the retail-trade sector, 1990-2005, using county-level data on employment and a panel regression framework that allows for county-specific trends in sectoral outcomes. We focus on particular subsectors within retail trade that are identified as particularly low-wage. We find little evidence of disemployment effects once we allow for geographic-specific trends. Rather, in many sectors the evidence suggests modest (but robust) positive employment effects. One explanation we consider for these ‘perverse’ effects is that minimum wages may have significant influences on product demand shifts.