The opportunity to report about something positive in the kind of blog I write is rare. For example, while reports abound of corporate theft and paltry remuneration for the workers that make big profits possible, less common is a story about a business doing the right thing. Well, here is one such story.
All through the night, the workers at Nebraskaland Inc., a meat distributor in the Bronx, roam the alleys of a cavernous warehouse, piling boxes of beef and chicken onto pallets in subzero temperatures. Until last year, many were paid $10 (U.S.) an hour, a little above the minimum mandated by New York State.One can rightly ask if we are witnessing a growing momentum in the movement toward raising minimum wages, a movement that captured not only Romanoff's but also national attention a few years ago when marches and strikes began in the fast-food industry to raise wages to $15 per hour. And it seems to be getting results:
Then Richard Romanoff, the company’s owner, saw a news segment about a movement started by fast-food workers to push the minimum wage to $15 an hour. “I’m going to speak straight with you, my managers wanted to get people as cheap as they could,” Mr. Romanoff said. But something about the idea “really clicked,” he said. Last summer, Nebraskaland began gradually increasing the lowest hourly wage at the company, which will hit $15 at the end of this year.
In the past week, two of the most populous states in the country – California and New York – enacted legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 within six years. Major cities, such as Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco, have pledged to increase their minimum wage to $15 in steps. In Portland, Ore., the minimum hourly pay will rise to $14.75.It would seem that some employers are starting to get the message, and they are putting the issue into propoer perspective:
At Nebraskaland in the Bronx, Mr. Romanoff said roughly half of his 250 workers are benefiting from the wage increases, at a yearly cost to his company of about $350,000. “You pretend it’s an increase in rent, or electricity – you deal with it, one way or another,” he said.Enlightened business leadership is a term I usually use ironically. I am happy that at least for today, I can speak of it literally.
Meanwhile, the number of applicants for job openings has quadrupled as news of the pay hikes spread.
Mr. Romanoff acknowledged that for some industries – including some of his customers, like supermarkets – such increases would be a challenge. “I just know for me, why wouldn’t I do it if I can afford it?”