Heartbreaking Target Employee Testimonials Highlight Why We Need to Raise the National Minimum Wage

It's time to target Target for their poor employment practices.

It’s time to target Target for their poor employment practices.

For the last year or so, Gawker has run a series of occasional posts detailing the experience of working at Target, in Target employees’ own words. The most recent post in the series, published today, is full of heartbreaking testimonials from Target workers.

These are low-wage jobs in an organization that treats employees as disposable. Target seems to be solely interested in exhausting the potential of their employees and tossing them aside after they’ve used them up. One of today’s testimonials ends with a lament that “in two months I may be out of a job for having a learning disability.” It’s just brutal stuff.

The most telling passage, though, refers to Wal-Mart’s voluntary decision to raise their minimum pay:

We are now treated like second class citizens by employers and customer alike. That’s why most of us last a year at most after hiring… Working for target is depressing and we don’t understand why we can’t make more money if people like Walmart charge less for their product and pay their employees more. We charge more but get less. We get mannequins and satellite tv but our manager won’t put the ac or heating on when the weather is sucky. I just wish target would look at us and not the customer as valued.

The wording in that last sentence is a little sticky, but it highlights a very important point: companies should consider their employees as investments, not as drains on resources. Now that Wal-Mart has raised their minimum wage, it puts the pressure on dishonorable employers like Target to do the same. This is a perfect example of why it’s good for the government to set the minimum wage at a reasonable level: it takes the pressure off employers who support and encourage their employees and puts pressure on low-wage employment sinkholes like Target. Some employers will never raise the minimum wage on their own, because they see employees as net negatives; standards of decency and humanity have to be set on those employers who see business as a race to the bottom.

If you haven’t already read it, I’d like to draw your attention to Nick Hanauer’s essay for US News & World Report, which explains why Wal-Mart should agitate for an increased federal minimum wage. This is not just about one company; it’s about creating a sustainable growth that benefits all of us.

Here’s why the US government is really bad at helping American families

Like any political philosophy, liberalism has its blind-spots—specifically with regards to how it treats individuals and, by proxy, families. “Liberalism, particularly in its American incarnations, has largely conceived of citizens as able, autonomous adults,” says Professor Maxine Eichner in her book, The Supportive State. Liberalism’s fixation on the individual ignores how humans are, in fact, highly dependent on other individuals throughout their lives. As Eichner states, “no adult is an island.”

However, this basic human reality has been discarded by American politics, largely because it does not fit within the liberal prism. The idea that individuals are dependent on one another (or the government) seems at first to be antithetical to liberalism and our nation’s founding values. As Rick Santorum once said, “My view is the less the government can do and the more freedom and opportunity you give people, that trusting people and free people and free enterprise – that America has built the greatest country in the history of the world.”

It is easy to see liberalism’s parameters at work here. By drawing such a stark line between the people and the government, conservatives like Santorum have failed to see “the ways in which families function are always deeply and inextricably intertwined with government policy.” They can only imagine individuals as autonomous agents, who are conceived of singularly, without connection to their families, and believe the individual and the state are both better off if they keep away from one another.

As a result, America is having a really tough time dealing with family issues. Much more so than other democratic nations which were founded upon similar liberal ideals. In fact, right now America is “one of only three countries to not provide paid sick days for a worker missing 5 days of work to the flu.” What about vacation time? Or paid parental leave? Ha. Good one.

I haven’t even mentioned yet how “the United States has implemented very few policies to help families ameliorate the conflicts between work and family.” Because our wages have become so stagnant, nearly half of American families now must have two working parents. The result? “On average, US families work significantly more hours than they have in the past, and far longer hours than parents work in other industrialized countries,” says Eichner. “Meanwhile, younger children are placed in day care settings that are largely unregulated and generally not developmentally enriching. Many older children, in turn, come home to empty, unsupervised homes.” And paying for college once these children grow up? That’s a whole other issue which drastically impacts American families.

Look, there’s little denying it: our government is really bad at implementing pro-family policies. And that is because many of us still do not believe the government has a responsibility to aid human development.

In this worldview, the government’s main responsibility is to steer clear of its citizens. Yet this is a gross misinterpretation of what our government is for. From the beginning of our nation, the government has played a valuable role in assisting the development of citizens. James Madison made as much clear in Federalist No. 45 when he said “the public good, the real welfare of the great body of the people, is the supreme object to be pursued; and that no form of government whatever has any other value than as it may be fitted for the attainment of this object.” That’s why in the preamble of the Constitution our founding fathers made sure to note our government’s duty to “promote the general welfare.”

Gripped by liberalism’s idea of autonomous agents, America has forgotten about this side of governmental responsibility. Thankfully, Democratic candidates are trying to restore this promise to the American people, even as conservative groups and candidates do all they can to limit “government overreach” into the American family. Hillary Clinton is actively campaigning on early childhood education and paid leave. So too is Bernie Sanders.

They have a tall task ahead of them. To win this ideological battle, the Democrats must remind Americans that no human is an island and that our government has a duty to help American families flourish. Because America succeeds when families succeed.

Daily Clips: November 30th, 2015

You are more than 7 times as likely to be killed by a right-wing extremist than by Muslim terrorists: Our Supreme Troublemaker, Nick Hanauer, shared this fascinating article on Twitter and I thought it deserved a place in today’s clips. While we are still not sure of the motivations behind the Colorado Springs shooting, the shooter’s “actions…appear to be an act of politically motivated terrorism directed against an institution widely reviled by conservatives.”

60% of Ted Cruz’s tax cuts go to the 1%: How to solve income inequality? Create more of it! Of course!

Speaking of Ted Cruz, could his bromance with Donald Trump be coming to a close? The tweet below suggests as much:

Up until now, Cruz has been extremely congenial towards Trump and his easily offended supporters. However, it looks like the gloves may be coming off. With the Iowa caucuses approaching rapidly, Cruz must start snatching some of Trump’s base if he hopes to win. And winning Iowa (or coming a close second) is a must for the Cruz campaign.

Why the economic fates of America’s cities diverged: “Despite all the attention focused these days on the fortunes of the ‘1 percent,’ debates over inequality still tend to ignore one of its most politically destabilizing and economically destructive forms. This is the growing, and historically unprecedented, economic divide that has emerged in recent decades among the different regions of the United States.” Here’s a fascinating read on the geographical convergence (and divergence) of wages in America.

Fear wins, Obama loses: Paul Waldman notes, “manipulating the public’s emotions has never been Obama’s strong suit.” He’s not wrong. Yet, we know that “Campaign Obama” was quite effective at creating a powerful sense of hope in the public’s emotions. So why doesn’t he carry on that sort of rhetoric as president – especially when it comes to foreign policy? Waldman concludes, “the trouble is that it’s hard to get the public’s blood pumping by telling them the things you don’t want to do—and by telling them that the fears the other side is stirring up are ungrounded. Even if you’re right.”

Daily Clips: November 25th, 2015

Only 7 percent of Maryland Democrats support Martin O’Malley for president: Poor Martin O’Malley. The former Governor of Maryland hasn’t been able to gain any traction in this race – even in his own state. Time to pack it up, methinks.

US consumer spending slowing, but business investment poised to rise: According to Reuters, “consumer spending edged up 0.1 percent after a similar increase in September. That suggests consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, has slowed from the third quarter’s brisk 3.0 percent annual pace.”

Nearly 140 lawmakers ask Obama to shut loophole that allows gun sales without background checks: They wrote the president, saying, “Under current law, only licensed gun dealers are required to perform background checks for all gun sales, and only those individuals deemed to be ‘engaged in the business’ of dealing in guns are required to obtain a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF),” the House letter states. “However, the regulatory definition of ‘engaged in the business, is exceptionally vague. As a result, individuals are able to sell guns at a high volume at gun shows, over the internet, or elsewhere without ever having becoming licensed and, in turn, without being compelled to conduct a simple background check before completing a sale. Your administration could take an immediate step that would have an important impact on limiting gun violence,” the letter also said. “Despite tragedy after tragedy, the Republican Congress has not been willing to pass any meaningful legislation to strengthen laws to help keep guns out of the hands of individuals who pose an increased risk to public safety.”

Daily Clips: November 24th, 2015

51% say government should ensure health care: It looks like our nation is a bunch of socialists again. For the first time since 2008, the majority of the nation believes that the government is responsible for providing health care to its people. In 2014, that number was at 45%. This change in public attitude most certainly helps the Democratic party and should remind all serious candidates (locally and federally) that they should not run away from Obamacare. Rather, they should defend its advancement of health care, but point out there is still much that can be improved.

Rubio is the dark money candidate: Marco Rubio is the scariest candidate I’ve seen from the Republican party in over eight years. He’s young, he’s passionate, and he has a quintessential “American Dream” upbringing. (Check out Rubio’s ad which highlights his father’s working-class credentials.)

Anyways, I digress. A recent piece at Vox highlights that, “Rubio has benefited from anonymous, undisclosed cash to a degree that’s unprecedented for a modern presidential primary contender. Indeed, the vast majority of ads aired to promote Rubio so far this year have been funded by a single group — one that won’t reveal its funders.”

In short, he’s a bought candidate. Will that juxtapose well against Donald Trump? Time will tell. One thing we can know for certain: Rubio is the dark money candidate of this election cycle. (Sorry David Brooks, it looks like he’s not “uncorrupted” after all.)

5 Black Lives Matter protestors shot in Minneapolis: Three white men are considered suspects for this horrific shooting. Thankfully, none of the protestors suffered life-threatening injuries. America has some serious race issues.

Quiet desperation and American fascism: 

Alec MacGillis of ProPublica, writing in The New York Times Sunday Review, observes that for the most part, the poor aren’t defecting to Republicans—they are not voting at all. His exhibit A is eastern Kentucky, one of America’s poorest and most government-dependent regions. But the poor are so marginalized and disaffected that they are disconnected from civic life entirely. Looking more broadly, MacGillis reports that non-voters are far more likely than voters to have incomes under $30,000, not to have health insurance, not to have bank accounts, to have received government aid such as food stamps, and to have borrowed money from relatives.

Republicans Have Become The Anti-Diversity Party

I can still remember the first time I read the Republican National Committee’s incredible autopsy on the 2012 loss. Mere months after Barack Obama secured a second term, here was a document, penned by our rivals, which was impressive in its self-awareness and criticism. It seemed as if GOP strategists had learned all the right lessons from Mitt Romney’s defeat.

“Our message was weak; our ground game was insufficient; we weren’t inclusive,” Priebus noted quite accurately. Within the first few pages of the 100-page report, the RNC made clear:

We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too. We must recruit more candidates who come from minority communities.

The report continued: “Asked to describe Republicans, [focus groups] said that the Party is ‘scary,’ ‘narrow minded,’ and ‘out of touch’ and that we were a Party of ‘stuffy old men.’ This is consistent with the findings of other post-election surveys.”

Back in 2013, I read this and thought, “Oh, no. They’re not going to make the same mistakes again.”

In 2015, I can only look back at that thought and laugh. Instead of developing a more welcoming and “compassionate conservatism,” the Republican party has chosen to become the anti-diversity and anti-inclusion party. They have decided to double down on “the perception that the GOP does not care about people.” They have (cravenly) determined to double down on xenophobic comments towards Hispanics, even though the report warned them “if Hispanics think we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies.” Throughout this primary process, they have made a concerted effort to double down on just about every fault they displayed in the 2012 contest.

I suppose that’s good news for Democrats, but my god, is it bad news for our national politics.

It’s Too Soon to Tell if a Higher Minimum Wage is Eliminating Restaurant Jobs

Allow me to save you a click: The answer to the Atlantic’s recent question, “Are Higher Minimum Wages Eliminating Restaurant Jobs?” is “it’s too soon to tell.”

That’s the gist of the article and that’s the answer to the question. It’s also the truth, because it is, in fact, too soon to tell.

Atlantic writer Russell Berman, too, could have saved you a click by simply titling the article truthfully—”It’s Too Soon to Tell if Higher Minimum Wage is Eliminating Restaurant Jobs” would be accurate, as would “It’s Too Soon to Tell if Higher Minimum Wage is Boosting Restaurant Jobs”—but then, of course, the Berman and the Atlantic wouldn’t be able to stir up the frothy sea of ire that floods Facebook feeds and drowns out Twitter discussions when otherwise-respectable reporters opt to trot out dubious studies and play to the fears of those who believe the old adages of trickle-down economics.

Let’s evaluate this piece by piece.

The article is, from the beginning, set up to confirm every expectation of a person who wants to hear that raising the minimum wage has cost restaurant jobs, without ever actually succeeding in doing so. Even focusing on the restaurant industry as a yardstick of the efficacy of raising the minimum wage (the industry is the largest employer of those making under $10.10, but only 18% of near-minimum wage workers are employed by restaurants) is something of a red herring, but that’s a separate issue.

Under a hero image of a woman in a McDonald’s uniform—doubling down on the idea of “burger-flipper”—within the first few lines, Berman goes ahead and answers his own question.

“One early report suggests hiring has slowed in the cities that changed their policies this year, but it’s probably too early to tell, economists say,” reads the subheader.

So the answer to Berman’s lead (and leading) question is: it’s too soon to tell. But of course, he keeps going.

Explaining that “the race is on to assess” the impact of higher minimum wages, the article begins by describing the higher minimum wage as controversial, opting not to note numerous studies showing that public support (including among small businesses) is growing rapidly.

Then, again, Berman answers his own question:

While many Republicans and business groups have opposed raising the wage floor on the grounds that employers will slow hiring or lay people off, major economic studies have found little negative impact on jobs.

Oh. Case closed, then, right?

No! Of course not. Because in spite of both research and anecdotal evidence—some of it coming from Seattle and Seattle restauranteurs themselves—Berman is determined to show both sides, or at least, the thin veil of “both sides.”

Several economists said it’s too soon to get good data to evaluate the changes that went into effect earlier this year, but one conservative group is putting out a report on Friday that takes an early look at trends in the restaurant industry over the last several months.

Once more for the cheap seats in the back: “It’s too soon to tell.” That hasn’t deterred conservative think tanks from, as Berman describes, racing to declare the minimum wage a disaster.

The paper by researchers at the American Action Forum found that growth in restaurant employment in cities that raised their minimum wage in 2015 was slower than in their respective states as a whole. Restaurant jobs since the spring in Seattle’s metropolitan area, for example, have grown just 0.6 percent since , while they have grown by 6 percent across Washington state.

What Berman leaves out: AAF’s study uses the same faulty data as a factually-problematic, widely debunked report by conservative economist Mark J. Perry of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

The report, Media Matters pointed out at the time of its release, is based on faulty data, and even admits that—what’s that? Just that “it’s too soon to tell for sure.”

Even conservatives in the Seattle area who don’t support a $15 minimum wage were quick to fact-check the aforementioned report, finding one very sticky element that discredits the figures: The “Seattle metropolitan area” didn’t raise the minimum wage, the City of Seattle did, and the City of Seattle makes up just one-fifth of the population of the “Seattle metropolitan area,” and occupies one-seventieth of the space.

That essentially rules out the data, entirely—which doesn’t stop Berman from treating both the AAF study and Perry’s work as viable.

Berman then quotes AAF’s director of labor policy, Ben Gitis, who stated that “the verdict is still out on how these policies will impact local employment.”

In the parlance of the kids today: TooSoonToTell.

Finally, though, Berman shifts away from the porous data of the AEI and the AAF, turning toward left-facing economists. Their verdict?

“Everything that they’re documenting could be statistical noise,” says Economic Policy Institute’s David Cooper.

“It is simply not possible to reliably assess employment trends following minimum wage increases in cities like Seattle and San Francisco yet…Given data availability and reliability, I would essentially ignore any reports claiming to estimate employment effects from these policies,” added University of Massachusetts at Amherst economist Arindrajit Dube.

Essentially ignore, you say? Done and done, Mr. Dube.

Despite the extremely misleading title of this article, the point is this: It is just too early to determine whether raising the minimum wage has an impact on the sheer volume of jobs in the restaurant sector.

It’s too early to say if it’s eliminating jobs, and it’s too early to say if it’s creating more. It’s too early to mourn the death of the Washington restaurant, and it’s too early to celebrate huge wins of economic growth. We simply do not have the data yet to draw these conclusions.

What we can determine is that Seattle-area workers are currently ending the workweek with more money in their pocket, that Seattle is on track to post high numbers of new restaurant openings, and that restaurant owners are actually extremely optimistic about the increases.

Tom Douglas, owner of dozens of Seattle-area restaurants, initially predicted that the city would see “maybe a quarter of the restaurants in town” shutter; he has since opened several new eateries, and told the Puget Sound Business Journal that he “has now changed his mind about the law.”

Are higher wages eliminating restaurant jobs? To quote Russell Berman’s own reporting, “it’s too soon” to tell.

Daily Clips: November 23rd, 2015

Cartoon of the day: It appears that another war in the Middle East is on the horizon. Let’s face it, folks, we are a people that love operating in a world of black and white. Every ten years or so, we identify an “evil” (be that terrorism or communism) and then begin to whip up raw, fearful emotions in our people.

After the Iraq War debacle, perhaps America feels an overwhelmingly sense of contrition and wants to right this terrible wrong. If that is the case, John Adams presciently noted our national psyche: “Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war.”

Hillary’s pledge to not raise middle-class taxes is bad news for progressive politics: This lurch to the right has come as no surprise to many progressives. Yglesias points out that disavowing middle-class tax increases has become like “a formal Grover Norquist–style pledge” in the Democratic party. He warns that this pledge is “destructive of the long-term possibilities of progressive governance.”

I couldn’t agree more. Clearly, the wealthy have to pay the most taxes – both by relative and absolute terms. However, in order to fund bold programs, every single American must share some of the burden. To say otherwise is to live in a political fantasy world. It’s disingenuous and it comes across as pandering.

Furthermore, Clinton and Obama’s refusal to increase the taxes of the middle class “speaks to a profound problem in the larger liberal project.” Pledging “that the 1 percent will pay for everything reflects a fairly shallow solution.” More than that, it represents a misdiagnosis of how to deal with income inequality.

It’s beginning to feel like 2002 all over again: So says Paul Waldman, who laments the parallels between the Paris attacks and 9/11.

To be clear, I’m not arguing that heightened fears of ISIS will sweep the Republicans into the White House next year; there’s lots of time between now and then, and other issues will grab the electorate’s attention. The American public and its political elite may not have taken leave of their senses to quite the degree they did in the months and years after September 11, when no restriction on individual liberty went far enough, no expansion of government power was too much, and invading a country that had nothing to do with the attacks on us seemed like the perfect way to handle our fear and anger. But the increasingly ugly atmosphere is beginning to feel awfully familiar.

Americans fear gun violence over terrorism by large margin. Voters nearly two times more concerned about being a victim of gun violence than terrorism. Interesting.