How Low Can Part-Timers’ Hours Go?

by Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

Say you’re an employer with an employee who works 30 hours a week. If you have 50 employees or more come next year, you’ll be required either to provide her with health-care coverage, which the Affordable Care Act will by then mandate for all employees who work at least 30 hours a week, or you’ll have to pay a $2,000 penalty for failing to cover her.

Or, you could just cut her weekly hours to 29. That way, you won’t have to pay a dime, in either insurance costs or penalties.

This thought, not surprisingly, has crossed the minds of quite a number of employers. Right now, the average number of hours an employee in a retail establishment works each week is 31.4. And a whole lot of Americans work in retail—just slightly over 15 million, according to the latest employment report, out Friday, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Not all of them work hours that hover just over 30, of course, but the UC Berkeley Labor Center has calculated that 10.6 percent of workers in retail establishments that employ 100 or more individuals put in between 30 and 36 hours each week. As retail establishments that employ between 50 and 100 workers may well employ a higher percentage of part-timers than their larger counterparts, that figure of 10.6 percent is likely to rise when those additional employees are factored in.

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My Chicagoland Black Friday in words and pictures

 by Bob Simpson

As I was writing this blog post on Sunday morning, news came from the Associated Press about the real human cost of our Black Fridays:

“DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — At least 112 people were killed in a fire that raced through a multi-story garment factory just outside of Bangladesh’s capital, an official said Sunday. Bangladesh has some 4,000 garment factories, many without proper safety measures. The country annually earns about $20 billion from exports of garment products, mainly to the United States and Europe. Bangladesh’s garment factories make clothes for brands including Wal-Mart, JC Penney, H&M, Marks & Spencer, Carrefour and Tesco.”

Walmart stocks up on products manufactured under deadly sweatshop conditions. It organizes Black Friday sales knowing they can touch off riots in their stores. Then Walmart sends security guards and police after peaceful demonstrators who only seek justice in the global workplace. Who said irony is dead?

I didn’t hear of any Black Friday shopper nastiness in Chicagoland, but there were a number of peaceful demonstrations against Walmart and other retailers who exploit and abuse their own employees and supply chain workers around the world.

My Black Friday began at around 4:30 am with a drive from my home in Oak Park to Bedford Park, a suburb south of Midway Airport. The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) had rented a hotel meeting room there as a staging area for Walmart protestors, plus buses to carry them to several Chicagoland Walmart stores and eventually to downtown to support food and retail workers there.

It was dark and deserted within the complex of hotels, but when I found the yellow school buses, I knew I was in the right place. Once in the lobby, a UFCW staffer saw me  and guided me to their meeting room where staff people were already giving away lime-green Our Walmart tee shirts, buttons and signs. About 30 people were there drinking coffee and munching on donuts.