Friday, September 27, 2019

If Amazon Can Afford $15 Per Hour, Why Not the Public Sector?

For about a year, Amazon has been paying all of its US employees (FT,PT and seasonal) at least $15 per hour. Target expects to follow suit by next year. In July, the US. House voted 231 – 199 to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2025, though it's unlikely the Senate will agree. Northampton County requires contractors on county projects to pay a prevailing wage. It enacted a responsible contractor ordinance under which workers receive a living wage. But it has ignored its own employees.

The chart below shows that Northampton County's rank-and-file custodians receive an average of $13.04 per hour to clean our messes. Seventeen of 21 are paid less than $15 per hour. One of them earns just $10.74.

The County claims the actual wage is higher because it pays $9.62 per hour for health insurance for each employee. It adds the union contract approving these wages was overwhelmingly approved. "The issue of these folks being underpaid did not come up at the bargaining table," notes Deputy Administrator Becky Bartlett.

It should have.

Last year, Senator Bernie Sanders proposed legislation that would give employers a choice: "pay workers a living wage or pay for the
public assistance programs low-wage workers are forced to rely upon."

I would include public employers in that category.

Executive Lamont McClure is balancing his fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayer against his sincere desire to pay employees what they are worth. Unfortunately, it is usually the employee who loses.

But so does the taxpayer.

The pittances paid might help balance a county budget and prevent a tax hike. but nationwide, these low wages actually cost taxpayers $152.8 billion per year, according to a 2015 study from the University of California, Berkeley Labor Center.

If people were paid more fairly, there would be less turnover and a happier workforce.

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

Come on now. Let's get the whole story. Now we find out they are getting health care benefits. This story has nothing to do with the debate over the $15.00 minimum wage if they are getting health care benefits.

Anonymous said...

Most employers provide health benefits. The issue is the county's wages have been stagnant for about 10 years. Why because those elected want to stay in office. Only those at the top are being paid exorbitantly. And who is at the top? Those who are appointed by the executive. There is a pay scale that looks decent on paper, but because no one wants to raise taxes NO ONE MOVES UP IT!

Anonymous said...

More money doesn't yield better results in the public sector. There are strong arguments that exactly the opposite is true. PA's education and transportation spending are prime examples. Turnover at lower wages is expected. I made $1.90 + tips at one time. It got me started earning money, but I didn't remain at that job for long. Nobody expected anyone to. Wages don't tell the full story of total compensation, either. I'd like to see comparisons of sick, personal, vacation, holidays, retirement, and health benefits. Business people know that wages are just a portion of the story.

Anonymous said...

You can't eat benefits. Folks live on dollars.

Anonymous said...

Here we go again!!! Why doesn't the County do a pay survey of the Lehigh Valley and compare wages? They also have a State Association that keeps track of the wages paid County by County for every job in every County. Some lazy Council people should get off their dead asses and do their job. They control the wage scales not McClure. Doesn't the Home Rule Charter or the Administrative Code mandate they do this every so many years? I don't have access to those documents at present but I believe they do mandate such actions. Check it out Bernie. You have a tiger by the tail. Voice of the little guy.

Anonymous said...

"You can't eat benefits. Folks live on dollars."

Spoken as if benefits didn't cost dollars. They don't grow freely on trees in the forest.

Anonymous said...

"Folks live on dollars."

Taxpayers are folks too.

Anonymous said...

$10-$13 looks like the going rate in the Lehigh Valley as per indeed.

Anonymous said...

When ever we Americans call one of our multi billion dollar service providers we can't even understand the person on the other end of the line. Take for instance the morning call, I didn't get my paper this morning? After an hour of trying to understand the people that say there not of the mainland I will be receiving my paper around noon today.
We pay for it in inferior services that are the only constant.

Anonymous said...

I believe it is less of a matter of "affording" the $15 than needing to pay that much in most current marketplaces to get workers who are at least moderately capable and reliable. The private sector can also usually raise its prices incrementally to accommodate the wage increases without causing a large public out cry. The public sector will soon have to also adjust to this now market driven practical minimum wage but will have to endure the rage of every self centered voter who chooses to loudly complain about the slightest increase in taxes. No one really wants an increase in taxes but tax increases seem to disturb many people far more than the ongoing price increases for goods and services in the private sector.

Anonymous said...

Anon 841am is right, for general custodial work the going rate in the LV is $10-$13/hr. Most of these are part time jobs, typically 2nd or 3rd shift, and that don't carry any benefits or pension.

Bernie based on what you posted, it appears the employees are being paid a market hourly rate, with benefits added. So if your plan is followed, County custodial employees would be paid significantly higher than private sector employees. It's a small $ amount in the overall scheme of things for the County, true. But as you note McClure has a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayer, and if you start paying some County employees above market, where does that end and at what aggregate cost?

To me it seems like McClure has struck the right balance in that the employees are fairly compensated for the work they do, and he meets his responsibility to the taxpayer.

Anonymous said...

9:49 AM

"The private sector can also usually raise its prices incrementally to accommodate the wage increases without causing a large public out cry."

Let me guess, you're not in the private sector, are you?

The private sector is not all Starbucks and boutique eateries and tap rooms catering to millennials.

People shop for "value." Those who can do that with municipal taxes do just that. Compare township taxes with Allentown taxes for example---the only reason they're anywhere close is because property values for comparable homes are so much higher in the townships. People obviously think those higher values are worth paying for. Higher taxes? Not so much.

Those who can't move are the deplorables you refer to as "self-centered voters."

Anonymous said...

Target and Amazon are right down the road from the courthouse. So why is it that all the county workers making less than $15 are not leaving in droves for these 2 massive corporate conglomerates around the corner? The online employee reviews are remarkable about how "happy" the $15/ hr employee is, when 3 jobs were crammed into one, people are set up to fail, and tossed to the curb every 2 weeks for not being at 100% of rate, while they hire 30-40 people weekly to keep up with the revolving corporate door. No corporation will ever play by the rules of job security and affordable benefits, a retirement, paid time off, holiday pay, etc... That went out the window 40 years ago, along with ethics and common sense , in exchange for millionaires becoming billionaires, and the middle class vanishing. The smoke and mirrors of $15/ hr results in fewer people hired, temporary employment, combined jobs, no benefits, poor morale, injuries , mediocre quality and all other similarities with the sweat shops in China that we want to come back to USA.

The corporate fat cats will have their boats, 3rd homes, planes, gas guzzlers, mistresses, penthouses, mazeratis, $100K wardrobes and $500.00 lunches....wether they pay their staff $7.25 or $15. For the right price, our Washington DC elites can make anything possible.

Anonymous said...

How much does the Bethlem Press Pay ?. Sam Murray is not Irish =Lebanese Fraud !

Anonymous said...

The tax increase is due to democratic run cities. Them cities always get above there fair share from the fed to waste and steal. The homelessness issue is a big dollar head count that these thief's fill there pockets with too. The working poor even at the 15 dollar minimum wage gets food stamps to help feed there starving families.
This is the democrates designs to keep the public in there place for the elitists that give them campaign contributions.

Anonymous said...

9:42 AM

You still subscribe to the MC? How quaintly old-fashioned. People smarter than the rest of us people pay for an on-line subscription to the NYT or listen to NPR, which the rest of us pay for. You see, that way they only get News they agree with. We dinosaurs pay the MC so we can read articles telling us how stupid we are. I guess since we still expect a newspaper to be delivered too, they may be right.

I'm sure the MC has few articles in the works by their socially aware journalists about how more and more companies don't provide a reasonable level of service. Don't expect them to mention themselves though.

Interesting reading here:

https://www.bbb.org/us/pa/allentown/profile/newspaper/the-morning-call-0241-50006048/complaints

Anonymous said...

When folks at the food pantry show up with a car, cell phone and a pack of smokes, you wonder if they are making poor decisions in life.

Anonymous said...

If higher pay delivers higher quality, I'm willing to pay more for the positions - but not for the current people who are accepting less money - and by your argument, not as high quality. Why would we pay more for the same level of quality? Nobody does that. If you think paying more money to the current gang is going to magically improve their quality and production, you should spend some time around the real world and see how things work.

Anonymous said...

Just another reason why it takes five undocumented to replace one made in America. Than with those five the quality is so poor it last only the one year workmanship warranties worth. As that one made in America far exceeds even the manufacturers warranty.
Go try to buy that at that $15 price lol?

Anonymous said...

If you give poor people money they will go to the store and spend it.

If more people show up at the store to buy the same amount of production the cost of that production will go up in order to reach an equilibrium.

More money means more demand not more stuff.

The real conservationist are the rich, their greed provides them with the ability to lock up the available resources and this is the mechanism that keeps the poor from ravaging the planet.

Some might think that's terrible, but if the rich wanted to, they could just hire half the poor, call it an army, and send them to kill the other half, which most poor would willingly do with vigor.

Anonymous said...

the market should determine what workers are worth. If the pay is too low in public sector, go to amazon, I guess you were advertising for amazon. If your profession pays too little , better train for one that pays more. Remember, in the private sector a worker is supposed to be making his employer money or profit, In the public sector they are just a cost to taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

12.42 you have it backwards, high quality or more production delivers higher pay.

Anonymous said...

Lets talk about the teachers wages, benefits and outrageous pension plans. Mostly by using children as hostages.

Anonymous said...

1:59PM
You would not last 1 hour in an inner city public school.

You sound like a perfect recruit for the "Rich Army" and they didn't even have to hire you.

Anonymous said...

"12.42 you have it backwards, high quality or more production delivers higher pay."

No. In gubmint, just hanging around and walking halls delivers higher pay. Tying pay to performance is abhorred by gubmint workers. It's racist, sexist, homophobic, and smacks of white privlege and its "old fashioned work ethic" scam that creates slaves. PennDOT and our education system show clearly that more money delivers terrible performance. Worst roads in the country and 41st in SATs. Those educated here, as in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi, are too dumb to know this.

Anonymous said...

"If you give poor people money they will go to the store and spend it.

If more people show up at the store to buy the same amount of production the cost of that production will go up in order to reach an equilibrium.

More money means more demand not more stuff."

A "trickle-down" convert! There IS hope!

Anonymous said...

Between open borders and sanctuary cities, we're going to have a lot of low-skill labor available. Supply and demand. Why pay more? Same people complaining are cool with inviting lots of newcomers to crash the wage scale. Just look at framing anywhere in the US. Those used to be family-supporting jobs. Now, it's Mexican pick-up at Home Depot at 6:00 AM. Our new country is great, ain't it?

The Huntress said...

2:59 And who is hiring those workers? Folks wouldnt come if no one was hiring.

Anonymous said...

Businesses are hiring them because they're cheap. Liberals want needy voters who respond to promises of free stuff. The US Chamber of Commerce wants cheaper labor than the market price for American citizens. Open borders is a policy upon which both sides largely agree - albeit for completely different reasons. We've been committing economic suicide in slow motion since the mid 60s. But hey, go team.

Bernie O'Hare said...

If liberals want needy voters who respond to promises of free stuff, the smartest thing you could do is start paying $15 an hour and cutting out the fee stuff, and then you could be the hero.

Anonymous said...

"...and cutting out the fee stuff"

Like that'll ever happen.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I am enabling moderation bc of the usual weekend trolls.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, already at 8:40 pm on a Friday night? I have redd the comments and except both sides of the argument. They are both opinions, left or right!
With this one if it ran the weekend you could have topped the snake oil salesmen that ruffed you up while forcing that bottle you had thought was an energy drink.

Anonymous said...

They make a fair wage, Add in all the benefits and they are probably getting more than any janitors in the Valley.

Anonymous said...

"... paying $15 an hour and cutting out the f(r)ee stuff ..."

Free stuff is stronger than the strongest addiction. It's never going away.

Anonymous said...

have you seen how much rent is 13 ain't cutting it

Anonymous said...

Amazon paid no 2018 US federal income tax

Anonymous said...

today rent is a average of 1200 people cant survive on 15.00 hr

Anonymous said...

It’s all fun and games until you have to poop 💩 in a dirty bathroom. They should be paid at least $16.00 an hour and tipped by the big wigs during Holidays.

Anonymous said...

I remember when BOH was red-faced and pulling with anger over the dreaded "public sector unions" and how public employees were fleeting the poor taxpayers.

Bernie O'Hare said...

It's true. At one time I thought public sector unions were unnecessary bc it is impossible to fire a public employee without due process. My thinking changed 180 when I saw Bethlehem railroad one of its officers, and then saw the same thing happen to several county workers.

Anonymous said...

I would favor a $15/hr minimum for the public sector if the public sector would have a comparable employee contribution toward healthcare costs as the private sector.