Gap, Inc. has taken a stand in the debate about the effect of raising the minimum wage (See NYT, “Gap to Raise Minimum Hourly Wage”) to $9 this year, and $10 by next year (New York State’s minimum hourly wage is $8 as of December 31, 2013). Their belief is that raising the minimum wage for 60,000 of their 95,000 American-based workers is a step toward reducing turnover, and recognizes the value of front-line service staff. In his State of the Union address, President Obama spoke about raising the minimum wage across the nation, sparking discussions throughout the media about its effect on poverty rates, employment, the price of food and other goods, etc. While some members of Congress point to studies that indicate an increased minimum wage will lead to job losses (projections the White House contests), it is hard to argue with a major retailer’s willingness to push forward absent legislation (or an executive order). It will be interesting to see if other major retailers, foodservice operations, and other companies that depend on large numbers of minimum wage workers, will join Gap, Inc. and raise their minimum wage. For the millions who depend on these wages, this is a welcome shift. For policy makers, it will be an interesting case study, an invitation to watch and see whether there are accompanying reductions in jobs, rising revenues, or ???
This post, in response to the New York Times’ article about food co-ops may strike as a bit off-topic, but it speaks to a few themes that intersect with the work we do at CEWD. First, food co-ops are an innovative form of increasing food access and creatively structuring entrepreneurship, outcomes supported by the training we provide, and driven by our students’ ambitions. Second, this article discusses the importance of building relationships with, and working with, community partners. Third, the article cites the history of food co-ops as a remedy used by African-American communities (among others) to counter mainstream grocery chain’s discriminatory location and pricing practices. The article reminds us, among its various lessons, there is often no need to reinvent the wheel. Many of the challenges we face today are not so different from challenges faced in times past. On a less soap-boxy note, I love the fact that high school students were sufficiently intrigued by the explanation provided by the Bushwick Food Co-op’s general manager, Amanda Pitt, about how a fair-trade candy bar differed from a Twix or KitKat, that they bought one to share…and contemplate?
A short piece in today’s New York Times speaks to the vulnerability of many workers today, and the price of sticking up for one’s rights. Our primary focus at CEWD is delivering skills-based training. We are also aware that many jobs, especially entry-level positions – in healthcare, in food service, in retail – are physically demanding. Talking to our students about, and creating an environment that acknowledges the context of work and the policies that shape it, is critical to our mission.
Tom Hiliard, Center for an Urban Future (CUF), released a commentary urging Mayor DeBlasio to strengthen NYC’s community colleges. Serving more than 91,000 students, the city’s community colleges serve an important economic role by boosting average earnings for graduates. Community college students are often recent immigrants, and nearly 50% live in households with annual incomes below $20,000. Kingsborough is among CUNY’s six community colleges and takes it role as an economic – and equity – engine very seriously. The new Mayor has placed pre-K at the center of his agenda. We hope he prioritizes community colleges, too. Stengthening NYC’s Community Colleges