Monthly Archives: December 2013

Minimum Wage or Living Wage: What’s the Difference?

 

Wages Photo courtesy of www.all-free-download.com, used with permission.

Wages
Photo courtesy of www.all-free-download.com, used with permission.

If you follow the national news, you know about the debate between the employees  of large retail stores and fast-food restaurants and the companies about the minimum wage and the living wage.  Many of these businesses pay the minimum wage per hour set by federal or state laws. Workers are asking for an hourly pay rate closer to the living wage. This article does not take sides in the debate. Its purpose is to inform you, my gentle readers, about the issues, allowing you to make up your own mind about the issue.

Simply stated, the minimum wage is the lowest pay rate mandated by federal, state or local law, while the living wage is a social justice concept that provides a rate of pay tied to the local cost of living or the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Both types of wages are an effort to insure that workers receive a base pay rate. This is a concept that is as old as the Bible.  In Deuteronomy 24:14, we are told, “do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy” and Timothy tells us “do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy” (1 Timothy 24:14). Both the minimum wage and living wage are designed to help workers with limited education, job skills or work experience support themselves.

Minimum Wage Law
The minimum wage law was implemented in 1938 as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The initial minimum pay rate was $0.25 per hour, and it reached $0.40 per hour in 1945. The minimum wage has been raised by Congress 29 times since 1938. Many states have laws that set a high minimum wage. For example, as of January 1, 2013, the minimum wage in Alaska was $7.75, Florida – $7.79,Michigan – $7.40, Ohio – $7.85 and Oregon – $8.95 per hour. Cities and counties may also have their own minimum wage laws. In San Francisco City and County, the minimum wage was $10.55 in 2013 while the state minimum wage was $8.00 per hour.

So how do workers know which wage applies based on where they live? The law that provides the most benefit to the worker is the one that applies. Therefore, minimum-wage workers in Alaska would be paid the state minimum wage of $7.75 rather than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour while workers in San Francisco would be paid $10.55 per hour rather than the California minimum wage of $8.00 an hour. In states where there is no minimum wage law or the minimum wage is lower than the federal minimum wage; the federal rate is the mandatory base pay.

In some states, people who work for wages plus tips, such as restaurant workers and bar tenders have a lower minimum wage than the state or federally mandated wage. For example, bar tenders in Michigan earn a minimum wage of $2.65 per hour plus tips.

Read More About It: If you want to know what you state minimum wage rate is, please visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division web site. It shows rates as of January, 2013.

Living Wage
The living wage concept was introduced by Pope Leo XIII, in an encyclical (a public letter) published in 1891. He declared that the living wage was a protection against poverty. Since that time, the living wage has been supported by labor, religious and social service organizations.  The concept is that those who work full time should not have to live in poverty. A worker earning a living wage has the income necessary to pay for basic needs, such as housing, food, clothing, and transportation and would not need government assistance such as Medicaid or Food Stamps. The living wage is also designed to reward hard work and reduce the number of working poor.

Since 1994, the concept of a living wage has been incorporated in state and local laws in 140 locations throughout the United States, including the state of Maryland and the cities of Boston, St. Louis and Los Angeles. When it is a law, it is usually higher than both the federal and state minimum wages. In Boston, the 2013 living wage rate was $13.76, while the Massachusetts state minimum wage was $8.00 per hour.

In many areas, companies that work with city or county government agencies must pay the local living wage. In some areas, ordinances may even mandate a stipend to cover health care costs. In Los Angeles County, companies doing business with government agencies must pay their full-time workers the local living wage of $9.64 per hour plus $2.20 per hour for health care.

Read More About It: Thanks the Massachusetts Institute of technology (MIT), you can look up the living wage for the area in which you live using the MIT Living Wage Calculator .

Consumer Price Index
The living wage is tied to the Consumer Price Index. The CPI is a “measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services” maintained by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The CPI tracks price changes in food, transportation, housing, education, health care, recreation and other goods and services.

Read More About It: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics offers information about the CPI on its website – Consumer Price Index Frequently Asked Questions.

Five Simple Steps to Improve Productivity and Creativity

 

Mess? What mess? Photo courtesy of Microsoft Office, used with permission

Mess? What mess?
Photo courtesy of Microsoft Office, used with permission

“It’s not a mess, it’s a forest of free association.”
– Walter Matthau, First Monday in October, 1981

It doesn’t matter if you are a manager, team leader, employee or if you are self-employed and work at home. If your work area looks like this photo, you are neither productive nor creative.

Forget the clever signs that declare “genius thrives on clutter!” It just ain’t so. We are more productive, more creative, and more relaxed when we work in a clutter free, well-organized space. Here are five basic steps to help you get organized.

Take Care of the Basics First

There are certain basic tasks that must be done to make a business successful. If there are fundamental problems in the daily operations of your business, changes in other areas may not lead to improvements. Concepts like orderliness, cleanliness, discipline, and managing costs and prices are examples of fundamentals in any organization.

Also, when our basic work needs are not being met, we cannot expect to make meaningful improvements in other areas. Taking care of the basics can lead to improved productivity, safety, and satisfaction.

Adopting the 5S philosophy of Kaizen (Japanese taken from the words kai, which means change, and zen, which means good) is one way to take care of the basics. This is a frequently used tool from the LEAN Six Sigma tool box.

Here are the five (5) simple steps that you can take to improve the productivity of you business:

  • Sort: Clear out unused or rarely used items from the work areas
  • Straighten: Create a place for everything and everything in its place
  • Shine: Keep things clean, no dirt or trash in the work place. Regularly look for and remove things that could interfere with quality, timely work.
  • Standardize: Develop systems and procedures to maintain productivity and quality work.
  • Sustain: Use regularly management audits to maintain a stabilized workplace.
I'm Busy. Come back later. Photo courtesy of otakuchick's photostream at Flickr.com. Used with permission

I’m Busy. Come back later.
Photo courtesy of otakuchick’s photostream at Flickr.com. Used with permission

Example:

The number of claims rejected by third party administrators because of errors was a serious problem for one hospital. Incorrect claims led to additional work for claims staff and delays in reimbursements for the hospital.

A process improvement team was established to address the issue. They interviewed claims processors and others in the business office. They found that noise levels and constant interruptions made it difficult for claims processors to complete an entire claim transaction without disruption. Disruptions led to missed steps in the claims process.

Simple changes were made to correct the problem.

  • Employees who liked to listen to music while they worked were asked to use headphones.
  • Each claims processor was given a block of “protected time” each week. During this protected time, they could forward their telephone calls to a co-worker and were not available for meetings.

With these simple changes, the volume of returned claims decreased by 40%.

Kaizen 5S is a good starting point for process improvement that is quick and easy and will result in measurable and sustainable productivity improvement and creativity.

I Care About Homeless Veterans

Homeless in America Photo by C.G.P. Gray, Used with Permission

Homeless in America
Photo by C.G.P. Gray, Used with Permission

John L. is a Viet Nam era vet. After living on the streets for several years, he was able to find solutions to his problems and found a home of his own. Now, John is dedicated to helping homeless veterans who are working on finding their own solutions and need a home of their own. John founded Homeless Veteran Service, (HVS) a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, dedicated to providing clean, safe, affordable & dignified living spaces for homeless veterans. This is a service for veterans by veterans. Please help HVS help those who risked their lives to defend our freedom.

Please visit Homeless Veteran Service to make a Donation or Shop to Support Veterans.

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