TIME Labor

These 5 Charts Show How Hard it is for Americans to Take a Vacation

Americans have seen nearly a full week of vacation disappear from their lives

Memorial Day weekend is upon. It’s time to hit the road as vacation season officially kicks off–that is unless you’re like the majority of Americans who’ve cut back on their beach time. In the 1980s, employed Americans took up to 21 days of paid vacation each year. By 2013, that number had shrunk to 16, according to research performed by Oxford Economics for Project Time Off.

To read more about America’s vacation problem, see this week’s TIME magazine.

It’s important to note many employees do have access to vacation. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that access to paid time off (PTO) remains above 90 percent among private industry employees, shrinking only 2 percentage points since 1989.

Access to paid vacation 1989-2014


The chart above includes all full-time employees in private industries–the primary employers in the U.S.–including small and large businesses. “Larger companies traditionally offer relatively good access to benefits, like paid time off”, says Elizabeth Ashack, an economist with BLS. But the availability of paid vacation varies greatly among occupations within the private industry.

Access to paid vacation by sector in 2014


Only 55 percent of service jobs offer paid time off (compare that to management and financial positions which come in at 96 percent, the highest level among the above occupations). Without a federal mandate for paid time off or paid sick leave, private industries are left to their own discretion, often resulting in unequal access across occupations.

Ashack says that employers may offer better benefits to keep workers from jumping ship in good times, but in bad times those benefits worsen, evidenced by cuts during the economic downturn of 2008 to 2009.

Likewise, the amount someone makes is a good indicator of the quality of paid time off they receive.

Access to paid vacation by income groups 2014


Those making the lowest wages are the least likely to have paid leave, with a steady increase in access as wages rise.

For those with access, the use of paid time off has declined sharply in the past decade to an average of 16 days taken each year–an all time low within the past four decades.

Annual vacation days used among employed adults 1978 – 2013


The U.S. Travel Association, a trade group which encourages Americans to travel, funded Project Time Off to measure the economic impact of the decline in vacation time. They found that among employees with access to paid time off, nearly five days went unused in 2013, and 1.6 of those days did not carry over to the next year. That totals to 169 million days of lost vacation time for Americans.

By surveying the hours worked by employees, BLS measures the percent of the American workforce on partial (less than 35 hour work week) or full vacations on any given week. Analysts noticed a decrease in full-week vacations, and a corresponding increase in partial week vacations, yet another measure indicating that Americans need a break.

Percentage of employed adults on full or partial-week vacations 1978 – 2013



TIME India

Greenpeace India Employees to Work for Free Following Delhi’s NGO Crackdown

Samit Aich, executive director of Greenpeace India, gestures as he addresses the media during a news conference in New Delhi, India, May 21, 2015
Adnan Abidi—Reuters Samit Aich, executive director of Greenpeace India, gestures as he addresses the media during a news conference in New Delhi, India, May 21, 2015

"The government has made it impossible for us to operate, but our employees are willing to work without pay"

Weeks after Greenpeace India said that it might have to shut down owing to regulatory action to block its bank accounts, the environmental group’s employees have pledged to work for free to keep the organization going.

“The government has made it impossible for us to operate, but our employees are willing to work without pay for one month because they see that the larger commitment has always been to fight against injustice,” Greenpeace India head Samit Aich said on Thursday.

In a letter to Aich, more than 200 Greenpeace India employees said they would support the organization by continuing to “work for at least a month, without pay, starting June 1.”

Citing irregularities in the accounting of foreign aid, India’s Home Ministry took the action against the local arm of the international environmental group as part of a wider crackdown on nongovernmental organizations, Reuters reports.

Separate from the action against Greenpeace India, Indian officials have also placed the Ford Foundation on a security watch list, thus increasing scrutiny of its activities in the South Asian nation.

Among those who have spoken out against the Indian government’s moves targeting nongovernmental groups is the U.S. ambassador to India, Richard Verma, who in a speech in New Delhi earlier this month expressed concern about the regulatory steps against such organizations.

“I read with some concern the recent press reports on challenges faced by NGOs operating in India,” he said.

“Because a vibrant civil society is so important to both of our democratic traditions, I do worry about the potentially chilling effects of these regulatory steps focused on NGOs.”

TIME Qatar

Workers’ Group to FIFA Sponsors: Qatar a Blot on Your Brand

Workers walk back to the Al-Wakra Stadium worksite being built for the 2022 World Cup, in Doha, Qatar, May 4, 2015
Maya Alleruzzo—AP Workers walk back to the al-Wakra Stadium work site being built for the 2022 World Cup in Doha, Qatar, on May 4, 2015

FIFA will host the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where "slave-like" conditions for workers are reportedly rampant, according to workers' groups

(LONDON) — Advocates for workers’ rights are urging FIFA sponsors to take more responsibility for the treatment of World Cup workers in Qatar, calling the “horrific” working conditions there a blot on any company’s brand.

At a press conference Monday, they singled out FIFA sponsors such as McDonalds, Visa, Coca-Cola, Adidas, Budweiser, Gazprom, KIA and Hyundai, saying they have the power to pressure both FIFA and Qatar into improving the treatment of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers.

Qatar, which FIFA chose to host the 2022 World Cup, has limited sports facilities and is in the middle of a major construction boom.

Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, said 1.4 million migrant workers are laboring in Qatar and that number will soon swell to 2.4 million as Qatar builds a deep water port.

Burrow said migrants are packed “8-10-12″ to a room, work in 50 degree Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) temperatures and are unable to leave abusive employers.

“Sponsors know that Qatar is a slave state,” she said. “This is the richest country in the world and they don’t have to work this way … fans don’t want the game to be shamed this way.”

She said the International Olympic Committee had established criteria for human rights standards “(but) FIFA refuses to talk about the issue.”

She urged sponsors and FIFA to press Qatar to establish a minimum wage, allow the migrants freedom of association and stop discrimination in which Nepali workers are paid less.

Stephen Russell, coordinator of the advocacy group Playfair Qatar, likened this campaign to those that pressured clothing companies and electronic retailers to clear up the abuses of workers’ rights in their international supply chains.

“No FIFA president is going to say football is about slavery, discrimination and abuse … but this is what is happening,” he told reporters. “Sponsoring the World Cup with conditions like they are in Qatar makes as much sense as sponsoring an oil slick.”

UK lawmaker Damian Collins said “FIFA continues to draw a blind eye to the horrific conditions in Qatar.”

The BBC on Monday said a reporting crew spent two nights in a Qatari prison after being arrested while trying to meet migrant workers. BBC journalist Mark Lobel was detained with three colleagues ahead of a Qatar-organized tour of official accommodation for low-paid workers. Lobel said they were interrogated and then released without being “accused of anything directly.”

The Qatari government said the BBC crew was trespassing on private property and, in a statement, insisted that conditions for workers in the country had improved.

“We deeply regret that he (Lobel) was unable to report the real story, which is that the government and the private sector are making significant progress in efforts to improve the lives and the labor conditions of guest workers in Qatar,” the statement said. FIFA said it was concerned by any “apparent restriction of press freedom” but said media must gain the necessary permissions to film in World Cup host nations.

Rob Harris in London contributed.

TIME Workplace & Careers

Millennials Now Largest Generation in the U.S. Workforce

They surpassed Generation X earlier this year

Millennials have now surpassed Generation X to become the largest generation in the American workforce, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

Adults between the ages of 18-34 now make up one in three American workers, Pew reports. They outnumbered working adults in Generation X, who were 18-33 in the year 1998, in early 2015 after overtaking Baby Boomers last year.

The estimated 53.5 million millennials in the work force are only expected to grow as millennials currently enrolled in college graduate and begin working. The generation is also growing thanks to recent immigration, as more than half of new immigrant workers have been millennials.

The millennial generation as a whole, not just those in the labor force, is also expected to surpass the Baby Boom generation as the largest living generation in the U.S.


TIME Workplace & Careers

New York Governor Acts to Protect Exploited Nail Salon Workers

A customer receives a manicure at Castle nail salon in New York City on Jan. 8, 2015.
Bebeto Matthew—AP A customer receives a manicure at Castle nail salon in New York City on Jan. 8, 2015.

Andrew Cuomo's emergency measures include a multiagency taskforce conducting immediate salon-by-salon investigations

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled emergency measures on Sunday to protect thousands of workers in his state’s nail salon industry from wage theft and health hazards.

A new multiagency task force will immediately conduct salon-by-salon investigations, protect manicurists from chemicals in nail products, and educate workers on their rights, Cuomo said in a statement.

The measures come days after the New York Times published online an indepth investigation into the exploitation of nail manicurists, many of whom are severely underpaid and regularly exposed to potentially dangerous chemicals.

“We will not stand idly by as workers are deprived of their hard-earned wages and robbed of their most basic rights,” Cuomo said in a statement, according to the New York Times.

Nail salons that do not comply with orders to pay workers back wages will be shut down, according to the new rules.


TIME Labor

The Bloody Story of How May Day Became a Holiday for Workers

Women workers in the May Day Parade in Union Square demand a
New York Daily News Archive / Getty Images Women workers in the May Day Parade in New York City in 1936

The story goes back to 1886

Celebrations on May 1 have long had two, seemingly contradictory meanings. On one hand, May Day is known for maypoles, flowers and welcoming the spring. On the other hand, it’s a day of worker solidarity and protest; though the U.S. observes its official Labor Day in September, many countries will celebrate Labor Day on Friday.

How did that happen?

Like so many historical twists, by complete accident. As TIME explained in 1929, “To old-fashioned people, May Day means flowers, grass, picnics, children, clean frocks. To up-and-doing Socialists and Communists it means speechmaking, parading, bombs, brickbats, conscientious violence. This connotation dates back to May Day, 1886, when some 200,000 U. S. workmen engineered a nationwide strike for an eight-hour day.”

The May 1, 1886, labor action wasn’t just any strike—it was part of what became known as the Haymarket affair. On May 1 of that year, Chicago (along with other cities) was the site of a major union demonstration in support of the eight-hour workday. The Chicago protests were meant to be part of several days of action. On May 3, a strike at the McCormick Reaper plant in the city turned violent; the next day, a peaceful meeting at Haymarket Square became even more so. Here’s how TIME summed it up in 1938:

A few minutes after ten o’clock on the night of May 4, 1886, a storm began to blow up in Chicago. As the first drops of rain fell, a crowd in Haymarket Square, in the packing house district, began to break up. At eight o’clock there had been 3,000 persons on hand, listening to anarchists denounce the brutality of the police and demand the eight-hour day, but by ten there were only a few hundred. The mayor, who had waited around in expectation of trouble, went home, and went to bed. The last speaker was finishing his talk when a delegation of 180 policemen marched from the station a block away to break up what remained of the meeting. They stopped a short distance from the speaker’s wagon. As a captain ordered the meeting to disperse, and the speaker cried out that it was a peaceable gathering, a bomb exploded in the police ranks. It wounded 67 policemen, of whom seven died. The police opened fire, killing several men and wounding 200, and the Haymarket Tragedy became a part of U. S. history.

In 1889, the International Socialist Conference declared that, in commemoration of the Haymarket affair, May 1 would be an international holiday for labor, now known in many places as International Workers’ Day.

In the U.S., that holiday came in for particular contempt during the anti-communist fervor of the early Cold War. In July of 1958, President Eisenhower signed a resolution named May 1 “Loyalty Day” in an attempt to avoid any hint of solidarity with the “workers of the world” on May Day. The resolution declared that it would be “a special day for the reaffirmation of loyalty to the United States of America and for the recognition of the heritage of American freedom.”

TIME Economy

Low Wage Workers Are Storming the Barricades

Activists Hold Protest In Favor Of Raising Minimum Wage
Alex Wong—Getty Images Activists hold protest In favor of raising minimum wage on April 29, 2014 in Washington, DC.

A few weeks back, when Walmart announced plans to raise its starting pay to $9 per hour, I wrote a column saying this was just the beginning of what would be a growing movement around raising wages in America. Today marks a new high point in this struggle, with tens of thousands of workers set to join walkouts and protests in dozens of cities including New York, Chicago, LA, Oakland, Raleigh, Atlanta, Tampa and Boston, as part of the “Fight for $15” movement to raise the federal minimum wage.

This is big shakes in a country where people don’t take to the streets easily, even when they are toiling full-time for pay so low it forces them to take government subsidies to make ends meet, as is the case with many of the employees from fast food retail outlets like McDonalds and Walmart, as well as the home care aids, child caregivers, launderers, car washers and others who’ll be joining the protests.

It’s always been amazing to me that in a country where 42% of the population makes roughly $15 per hour, that more people weren’t already holding bullhorns, and I don’t mean just low-income workers. There’s something fundamentally off about the fact that corporate profits are at record highs in large part because labor’s share is so low, yet when low-income workers have to then apply for federal benefits, the true cost of those profits gets pushed back not to companies, but onto taxpayers, at a time when state debt levels are at record highs. Talk about an imbalanced economic model.

A higher federal minimum wage is inevitable, given that numerous states have already raised theirs and most economists and even many Right Wing politicos are increasingly in agreement that potential job destruction from a moderate increase in minimum wages is negligible. (See a good New York Times summary of that here.) Indeed, the pressure is now on presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton to come out in favor of a higher wage, given her pronouncement that she wants to be a “champion” for the average Joe.

But how will all this influence the inequality debate that will be front and center in the 2016 elections? And what will any of it really do for overall economic growth?

As much as wage hikes are needed to help people avoid working in poverty, the truth is that they won’t do much to move the needle on inequality, since most of the wealth divide has happened at the top end of the labor spectrum. There’s been a $9 trillion increase in household stock market wealth since 2008, most of which has accrued to the top quarter or so of the population that owns the majority of stocks. C-suite America in particular has benefitted, since executives take home the majority of their pay in stock (and thus have reason to do whatever it takes to manipulate stock price.)

Higher federal minimum wages are a good start, but it’s only one piece of the inequality puzzle. Boosting wages in a bigger way will also requiring changing the corporate model to reflect the fact that companies don’t exist only to enrich shareholders, but also workers and society at large, which is the way capitalism works in many other countries. German style worker councils would help balance things, as would a sliding capital gains tax for long versus short-term stock holdings, limits on corporate share buybacks and fiscal stimulus that boosted demand, and hopefully, wages. (For a fascinating back and forth on that topic between Larry Summers and Ben Bernanke, see Brookings’ website.)

Politicians are going to have to grapple with this in the election cycle, because as the latest round of wage protests makes clear, the issue isn’t going away anytime soon.

Read next: Target, Gap and Other Major Retailers Face Staffing Probe

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Labor

Fast Food Workers Protest for Higher Wages in Hundreds of Cities

Protesters gather at a McDonald's restaurant on tax day asking for higher wages in Miami Gardens, Fla., on April 15, 2015.
Joe Raedle—Getty Images Protesters gather at a McDonald's restaurant on tax day asking for higher wages in Miami Gardens, Fla., on April 15, 2015.

The Tax Day protest will take place in cities across the globe

Fast food workers are protesting across the world on Wednesday, their biggest action yet in a campaign for better wages that began more than two years ago. Protestors in the U.S. are pushing ahead with their demands of a $15 hourly wage and the right to unionize. The campaign has also gone global, with organizers saying strikes and protests will be taking place in 200 cities across 30 countries.

The fast food workers’ campaign in the U.S. launched in November 2012 in New York, and since then it has attracted support from other groups including students, health care workers and activists from the Black Lives Matter movement, who are also set to join in Wednesday’s rallies, Reuters reports.

Workers at airports and retail stores are also participating, protesting the increase of so-called “zero hour contracts,” in which an employer is not required to provide workers with a minimum number of hours per week.

Organizers said they chose Tax Day for the protests to highlight that they are paid so little that they are forced to rely on public aid to survive. Retailers such as Target and Walmart have recently announced increases to their hourly wage, but not to the level that workers are demanding.

TIME Labor

Why McDonald’s Wage Hike Won’t Help Most Of Its Employees (Yet)

A sign stands outside of a McDonald's restaurant in San Francisco on Feb. 9, 2009.
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images A sign stands outside of a McDonald's restaurant in San Francisco on Feb. 9, 2009.

Just 12% of McDonald's employees could see a bigger paycheck

Facing declining sales and a growing protest movement against its labor practices, McDonald’s announced Wednesday it’s boosting hourly wages for hundreds of thousands of workers. But the change won’t actually affect most of the men and women who wear a McDonald’s uniform.

McDonald’s employees affected by the pay raise will see their hourly earnings rise to at least $1 above the local minimum wage, a rate that will work out to an average pay of at least $10 per hour by the end of 2016. However, the raise only applies to U.S. locations that are owned and operated by McDonald’s itself.

Most of the world’s Big Macs are made at franchised restaurants, properties that McDonald’s owns or leases but hands over to independent businesspeople to operate in exchange for rent and a 4% cut of the restaurant’s sales. Franchised restaurants make independent hiring choices and set their own wages. Because of this business model, just 12% of the 750,000 workers at U.S. McDonald’s locations will qualify for the wage boosts — or the paid vacation time the fast food chain is also implementing.

The announcement, which new McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook called an “initial step,” drew the immediate ire of Fast Food Forward, a union-backed group that’s been organizing a series of one-day fast food worker strikes that started in 2012. The group is planning fresh protests for Thursday, decrying McDonald’s pay increase as a “PR stunt.”

“McDonald’s needs to step up to the plate,” Fast Food Forward director Kendall Fells said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday, noting that the vast majority of workers weren’t receiving raises. “We’re going to show McDonald’s that this movement won’t stop until we get what we deserve.”

That McDonald’s chose to make a public statement about its new wage policy illustrates how quickly discussions about low-paying jobs have shifted recently, says Dave Sherwyn, a law professor at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. That change in the public conversation has been largely driven by those pro-union groups, who, as much as they accuse McDonald’s pay raise of being little more than a savvy public relations move, have themselves done more to raise publicity than actually threaten the daily operations of the country’s fast food chains.

“This is a pretty unique situation,” says Sherwyn. “I can’t imagine if McDonald’s, Burger King or anyone had done this five years ago, they would have made a big announcement about it. It just wasn’t in the public conversation.”

MORE Fast-Food Strike Progress Measured in Pennies, Not Dollars

The spotlight will now be thrown on the franchise owners, who will be watched closely to see if they follow the lead of McDonald’s corporate office. That’s partially because the strikes have helped more consumers learn how McDonald’s franchise structure works, something that might not have been clear to your everyday customer just looking for a Big Mac with fries.

“The franchise arrangement, not obvious to everyone, will now be more obvious,” says Jefferson Cowie, a professor of labor history at Cornell University. “Pressure will boil up from below, putting pressure on the franchises to follow suit with the corporate policy on wages.”

McDonald’s wage increase comes just as the company’s legal obligations to its franchisees are coming under intense scrutiny. The National Labor Relations Board began hearings this week to determine whether McDonald’s should be considered a “joint employer” along with franchise owners. Such a designation could make McDonald’s responsible for hiring practices, wage levels and labor violations at individual restaurants, fundamentally upsetting its lucrative franchise-based business model — a model shared by many of its rivals, too. About 60% of all U.S. fast food restaurants are franchise establishments, according to a 2007 study the U.S. Census Bureau. If the labor board rules McDonald’s is a joint employer, it could spell the end of the franchise system as we know it.


TIME Labor

A Surprising Historical Parallel for Seattle’s Minimum Wage Fight

Seattle Mayor Signs Bill Raising City's Minimum Wage To 15 Dollars An Hour
David Ryder—Getty Images Seattle Mayor Ed Murray (C) celebrates with supporters aafter signing a bill that raises the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour on June 3, 2014, in Seattle

How peddlers can help us understand franchise owners’ struggle with the city

Starting Wednesday, many of Seattle’s workers will enjoy a higher minimum wage – but some businesses have tried (unsuccessfully, thus far) to keep their employees out of that group. Claiming that Seattle’s wage law unfairly defines franchise owners as large employers, a lawsuit – led by the International Franchise Association (IFA) and franchisees from the hospitality, healthcare and marketing sectors – sought to stop, or at least slow, the change.

The plaintiffs’ objection: by being defined as large employers, franchises will be required to raise employees’ wages more quickly than if they had been categorized as small businesses. The latter designation, they say, is more appropriate, given the scant numbers employed by most individual franchises, as opposed to the far larger numbers employed by their parent corporations. Though a district judge ruled against the plaintiffs in March, the IFA has vowed to continue its fight.

A number of media outlets were quick to tar this lawsuit as mere money-grubbing by ‘Big Fast Food.’ And so it might be. The IFA, for instance, has been accused of defending franchisors’ interests at the expense of its franchisee members.

An unlikely comparison from American history, however, suggests a more sympathetic reading of the franchisees’ predicament – if not their representatives’ recent lawsuit. The subject of this comparison? Nineteenth-century America’s army of traveling peddlers: men (and occasionally women) who sat at the vanguard of America’s consumer-goods revolution. One part entrepreneur, one part working-poor, peddlers mediated between urban merchants and rural consumers at a time when the former were typically too risk averse to develop their own marketing and sales operations.

Comparing franchise owners and peddlers may, at first, seem an unlikely analogy (journalist Timothy Noah, writing for Pacific Standard, has suggested sharecroppers as a closer equivalent). But, on closer inspection, the two turn out to have much in common.

First, both groups mainly exist to insulate higher-ups from risk. For example, should an individual franchise location fail, corporate HQ may lose its cut of the franchise’s revenues, but it doesn’t have to answer for the cost of the franchise itself. That’s on the owner and her creditors. The same was true for peddlers, who paid for their wares before they left for the countryside. If demand proved weak, it was the peddlers’ problem, not their suppliers’.

Second, both franchise owners and peddlers were often lured into their trades with outsized promises of wealth. Franchising corporations – in fast food and beyond – are notoriously cagey about the profits franchisees can expect to reap. While sales literature is quick to publicize million-dollar revenues, it’s far more circumspect about owners’ average income. The statistics suggest why. Even at top-grossing franchises, many owners default on their loans. And even those who stay afloat take home an average income of only $50,000. This, of course, is nothing to sneeze at – especially in comparison with fast-food workers’ salaries. But it hardly puts owners in the top 1% of wealth holders.

Peddlers’ prospects were equally disappointing. While a handful went on to commercial fortunes, the majority languished just beyond the grasp of poverty. A rain-soaked and wind-beaten existence, peddling was a young man’s game – far richer in reputation than in reality. Many entered the profession in search of a promised career as a merchant, but instead found sore backs and tired limbs.

Third and finally, franchise owners and peddlers have served as lightning rods for economic anxieties not of their own making. Consider how the Seattle franchise owners’ suit has been seen as a machination by McDonald’s corporate HQ. Never mind that franchise owners typically have minimal control over wage levels, let alone marketing strategy or product design. This still hasn’t spared them from blame for the sins of their bosses.

Peddlers faced similar problems. Though merely pawns in the larger economic transformation sweeping nineteenth-century America, peddlers were often blamed for its most disruptive effects. Stuck with a broken clock or a wooden nutmeg (carved knock-offs that peddlers were reputed to sell in place of the genuine article), poor consumers were quick to vilify salesmen rather than their unscrupulous suppliers. As such, peddlers earned a reputation as tricksters and cheats, while the suppliers responsible for these frauds continued to masquerade in the garb of respectability.

In 1837, for instance, Ohio peddler John Bartholomew wrote to tell his supplier that the clocks he had received contained “very rusty” wires and parts “Swelled So that they will no [sic] run until I whittle & Smooth the wheels.” And yet, it was peddlers themselves who were cursed, in the words of one customer, as “dam profiteers” and even threatened with violence (the same irate customer pronounced that peddlers, according to New England peddler James Guild, “ought to have a good whipping by every one that sees you”).

This is not to suggest that peddlers were the worst victims in these transactions. That distinction goes to hardscrabble farmers who sold their tiny surplus for a few small luxuries – only to discover these products were not what they seemed. So, too, in Seattle’s minimum wage fight, franchisees face brighter prospects than uninsured fry cooks who daily risk third-degree oil burns for less than a living wage.

But that doesn’t mean that franchise owners’ claims warrant no consideration. By being included under the Seattle labor law’s definition of a large employer, franchisees are on the hook for an $11 minimum wage starting April 1, as opposed to the $10 they would owe if counted as small businesses. This may not sound like much of a difference, but for franchises with 20 half-time workers, it means around $20,000 in increased annual labor costs. That’s hardly a deal-breaker for a major corporation or even for the handful of owners with dozens of locations in their portfolio – but it’s a serious pinch for small franchisees averaging $50,000 in take-home income and more than a half-million dollars in debt.

A real solution to America’s wage problem therefore needs to take account of franchisees’ grievances. Just as consumers’ complaints against peddlers were inseparable from peddlers’ exploitation by their suppliers, justice for franchise staff demands justice for franchise owners. This, of course, is no easy task – but should minimum wage increases proceed without reference to franchisees’ concerns, they’ll merely succeed in gutting the middle, rather than redressing America’s larger edifice of inequality.

The Long ViewHistorians explain how the past informs the present

Sean Trainor is a Ph.D. Candidate in History & Women’s Studies at Penn State University. He blogs at seantrainor.org.

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