By Kate Gatto
In the modern American economy, service providers are people who help us get things done. It may be things we don’t want to do, such as taking our trash to the landfill. Or it could be things we simply can’t accomplish on our own, such as sending a letter from New York City to Santa Fe. No matter what service the people in this large sector of our economy are providing, they deserve to be paid a living wage for their efforts.
What exactly does making a living wage mean? It means that workers at a company should be able to support their families, and pay their bills on their salaries. Why is that important? Because it allows people of all levels of the economic ladder and to be able to support themselves and their families with the fruits of their labors. And that is something anyone who works full-time should be able to do.
You may think that workers who make minimum wage are in fact able to do this. You would be wrong. According to research that is available from the Poverty Research Center at the University of California, the federal minimum wage is only designed to keep a single person out of poverty level living.
But if one were to try and support a family of four on that pay rate they would find themselves living at 60% of the poverty level, more than enough to qualify for a bevy of social services. And the idea that anyone would need to get extra help, when they are working full time, is one that is not a livable proposition for the economy on the whole.
Telling Good Employers From Bad Employers
When it comes to service providers, there is a large gap between different types of workers and how their companies treat them. So how can you tell a company that treats its workers right from a company that treats them like a line item on the budget? One of the best ways is to simply look for a company that allows workers to unionize.
Unionization allows the workers of a company the ability to make demands collectively, such as quality health insurance and cost-of-living wage increases. While unions do vary in their effectiveness from organization to organization, and even situation to situation, they are still the most reliable measure of fairness that the average consumer will have access to when they are making a decision about a given purchase.
Who Uses Union Workers?
You might think that finding out which companies allow their workers to unionize and which ones do not would be hard? Lucky for you it is not hard at all. There are a fair number of sites that are willing to give you a simple listing of who uses union workers, and who does not. One such reliable list can be found at Labor 411, they provide a list of union companies along with a description of the organization’s union affiliation. The current list is as follows:
Of course, service providers encompass a very large range of businesses, from companies that consult on the mergers of international corporations, to companies that bring in workers to clean those offices. Not every service provider who allows workers to unionize could possibly be on the list above. More research may be needed.
If you would like more information about a company on the list, and the labor union(s) they use, then you can simply click on the link on the companies name to get the information. More detailed information about the current relationship can no doubt be found on the union’s web site.
If you want to know if a company not on the list is union, simply put the company’s name and the word union into your favorite search engine. If they are unionized you should see results on the first page. You will also see if the company has resisted previous attempts to unionize, or caused problems for workers who have attempted to bring a union to the company.
Companies Not On The List
If the name of any given company is not found on this list, does not automatically mean they do not pay their workers a living wage? No, it does not. The company may in fact choose to pay its workers a living wage even if they do not unionize.
One way to tell if this is the case is simply Google name of the company with the words “living wages” or “salaries”. This will help you to determine how the company compensates employees. Then you can decide for yourself whether or not you think that wage is a sustainable one for your local area.
If you cannot find information online, another alternative is to simply call the customer service number for the corporation. You can find the contact numbers for many corporations via sites like Jigsaw, which lists the contact information for most large and midsize corporations in the United States.
Once you get someone on the line what kind of questions should you ask? If you want to identify a labor friendly employer question such as the following would be helpful in making your evaluation:
1. What are workers paid per hour in your local area? Is that wage realistic to live on in your area?
2. Are the workers offered health insurance? Is that insurance affordable? Is it offered to part-time employees as well?
3. How many of the companies workers are full time? How many paid vacation and sick days are they offered each year?
By doing your due diligence, you can ensure that the businesses you choose to do business with pay their workers a fair rate; and ensure that they can support their families with their full-time employment. Remember, it is only with your dollars that you can tell companies enough is enough.