|Health care for part-time employees? Apparently not so easy.|
The stock market continues to trade at record levels, corporate profits are up and the cash balances on the books of most large companies are pretty healthy.
Unlike the bulk of the middle class, America's top earners have long since recovered the losses they sustained in the crash of 2008.
The Federal deficit is down, the housing market has seen steady gains and US worker productivity is at an all-time high; so why is it that five years later the average American worker still seems to be stuck in a perpetual rut of suppressed wage growth and lingering high unemployment?
The other morning I received a troubling e-mail from Change.org with a petition from a woman calling herself “Sue” (for obvious reasons she wishes to remain anonymous) who’s been a productive part-time employee at Staples for over nine years.
Apparently just before Christmas, Staples announced that all part-time employees would be limited to no more than 25 hours per week to ensure what they called “Schedule Flexibility”.
Which, as we all know, is simply fancy corporate gobbledygook for Staples dodging the requirements of the new Affordable Care Act requiring companies to offer health care coverage to all employees who work longer than 30 hours per week.
If you're shaking your head at that like I was when I read it, you might consider adding your voice to “Sue’s” online petition to Staples CEO Ron Sargent and Carrie McElwee, Staples media contact. Take a look at the online petition here.
She already had 139,414 signatures at the time I was writing this, so you could make a difference and send a message that reflects a demand for a more progressive approach to employment in this country.
As "Sue" pointed out in her e-mail, petitions DO make a difference, as in the case of Darden Restaurants; owners of Olive Garden and Red Lobster. After similar petitions, Darden reversed a similar mandatory cut in hours for part-time workers so they could be eligible to receive health care benefits.
So even though our current do-nothing Republican Congress steadfastly refuses to go to the mat for American workers and the middle class (they'd rather spend their time on legislation designed to suppress American votes) the collective voices of citizens can still be heard and still make a difference thanks to the Internet.
There’s just something distinctly un-American about keeping wage growth for average workers down by not accounting for cost of living increases AND limiting hours to increase profit margins by not having to provide some kind of reasonable access to health care for employees.
It’s like hitting workers with a one-two punch and it's just a part of the titanic shift in the relationship between employers and workers that’s taken place in this country since 2008; kind of like Republicans blaming teachers, government employees and unions for the Great Recession.
Or like McDonald's whose low wages are essentially underwritten by the American taxpayer on a massive scale because such a huge percentage of their work force must depend on welfare or SNAP programs to supplement their low incomes.
As reported on ThinkProgress.org, Micky-D’s recently even had the temerity to suggest to their own workers that eating fast food was not a healthy choice; I can't speak for all McDonald's employees but I'm sure they'd rather have a minimum wage increase than dietary advice from a corporate behemoth that makes money off selling junk food.
For many companies these days, workers are no longer seen as integral parts of the whole whose contributions are vital to the success of an organization; in this economy they are essentially treated as interchangeable parts of a balance sheet – simple "costs" that are secondary to the needs of share- holders, rather than human beings whose labor is fairly compensated and whose needs are not ignored.
"Sue" has been a productive Staples employee for nine years and she's about to have a baby; you can dress it up any way you want to but cutting her back to 25 hours a week so the company doesn't have to absorb the cost of paying for some decent health care is a pretty crappy thing to do.
As a nation we have to do better by our citizens; especially those who are still waiting for the recovery to "trickle down" to them.