Gina Rinehart, an Australian billionaire, last week advised the world’s “jealous” poor to stop whining and drinking so much, is back with more advice. The world’s richest woman, who amassed her family fortune via iron-ore mining, thinks Australia’s struggling mining industry should look to Africa for inspiration. There, miners “are willing to work for less than $2 per day.”
In a video recorded for the Sydney Mining Club, she explains that “Africans want to work. Such statistics make me worry for this country’s future. Indeed, if we competed at the Olympic Games as sluggishly as we compete economically, there would be an outcry.” PM Julia Gillard responded today, saying, “It’s not the Australian way to toss people … a $2 gold coin and then ask them to work for a day.” Amusingly, the BBC notes that Rinehart is believed to make about $611 a second.
The food industry is a pretty terrible one to work in, a new study from the Food Chain Workers Alliance argues, with nearly nine out of every 10 workers earning less than a “livable wage.”
The report looked at people across the food industry, surveying employees at such disparate places as farms, slaughterhouses, grocery stores, and restaurants. Together, such workers comprise a fifth of America’s private sector workforce, the LA Timesreports.
The common denominator for all of those jobs: They kinda suck. Among the report’s findings:
- The median wage is $9.65 an hour.
- Some 13.8% depend on food stamps.
- The vast majority—83%—don’t get health insurance through their employers, and 79% either don’t get sick days or don’t know if they do.
- Most (81%) have never received a promotion, and that’s especially true of minorities and immigrants, who typically languish in low-level jobs.
- A majority (57%) have gotten hurt or sick on the job.
In 2010, one in five American adults worked for poverty-level wages, 4.4 million of whom earned wages at or below the federal minimum.
The infographic above, from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, makes painfully clear just how hard it is to make ends meet on these wages.
Want a modest two-bedroom apartment in New York state for the standard 30 percent of your income? You’re going to have to toil at a minimum-wage job for 136 hours a week. In California? One hundred thirty hours. How about in Texas, where one in 10 hourly workers make the minimum or less? Eighty-eight hours. Don’t forget, there are only 168 hours in a week. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for sleeping and eating.
Few states are considering a change to minimum wage; Massachusetts, for example, is currently in talks to raise its state minimum to $10 an hour (which would be the highest rate in the country).
The People’s Republic of San Francisco San Franciscans passed a proposition in 2003 that requires the city to increase the minimum wage each year, using a formula tied to inflation and the cost of living.
Karl Kramer of the San Francisco Living Wage Coalition said a decent wage for a single adult without children in the city would be $15, and that doubles when you have at least one child or more. But like other advocates of better wages, he’s still pleased that San Francisco will be the first in the nation to top $10.
“It helps workers’ morale in a time of economic crisis; they feel that they’re able to tread water and get some relief from the recession,” said Kramer.
While the city is at the forefront of attempting to provide a decent living wage, most employees say it’s still not a wage to live on, that the 32-cent hike seems like peanuts. And some employers say it could lead to layoffs by small businesses already forced to pay federal, state and city payroll taxes as well as a slew of other city-mandated taxes.
What the average San Franciscan may not know, he said, is that business owners also must pay another $1.23 to $1.85 an hour per employee for health-care coverage if they don’t offer health insurance. San Francisco is also the only city in the state that charges a payroll tax of 1.5 percent; it also mandates nine paid sick days annually per employee.
He said that by the time you add up all the mandates and taxes that city employers must pay for their minimum-wage workers, the payroll burden is at least 25 to 40 percent higher than other Bay Area cities.