Quilas Meets Save the Lower East Side

“You look a lot like… oh, never mind.”

N7E and Labor (Again): A Recapitulation

When discussions take place across separate blogs, and in the Comments sections of even different blogs, the focus begins to blur. Early on, I maintained that, as opposed to a bodega, a 7‑Eleven moving into the vacant space at Avenue A and 11th Street would raise the income of the neighborhood, against the assertion that 7‑Eleven would: 1) reduce the number of jobs; and 2) lower income in the neighborhood via the requirement that part of the profits be sent to the corporate headquarters. I believe I defended this position adequately at The Local Economy?.

Since that time, the conversation has shifted. This is a recent post from the leader of N7E (click on the image if you want to read the entire screed):

rob-on-wages

There appear to be two assertions here — only one of them is direct:
“…replacing a 7‑Eleven with a restaurant in NYC would improve the wage prospects of immigrant workers, documented as well as undocumented.” But the inclusion of wage statistics just before that indicates that they’re making the argument that wages in a restaurant would be higher (for the cook, in any case) than for clerks in a 7‑Eleven, and that a restaurant is, therefore, preferable.

There really isn’t anything to say about “improve the wage prospects of” except that it does not follow from “Mean average for a cooks wage…” just before it. You find this all through their literature. And it’s ambiguous. “[I]mprove the job prospects of” makes more sense. They may be right that it lowers the “wage prospects” of undocumented workers, but they’re going to have to tell us exactly how many people they’re talking about. Are they ready to claim that X number of jobs at less than minimum wage, with employer threats of deportation, are preferable to a similar number of jobs at ≥ minimum wage, with the increased opportunity to organize a union? (I’m going to deal with the topic of organizing in a future post. For now, let this suffice as an example of what 7-Eleven workers can do. I’ve also maintained that, as a large company, 7-Eleven is susceptible to pressure from outside its workforce.)

Now, to the money question. To begin with, why would they cite the mean, average wage for cooks across the country after reading what I posted in Restaurants, which examines the pay of restaurant workers in New York City? Hmmm? Maybe they just skimmed it, and thought “Look, numbers. We should get some numbers too.”

quilas-restaurants-min-wage1

The problem with the BLS figures they cite2 is that they’re not accurate hourly rates. Many are extrapolated from flat rates divided into hours scheduled per week. Others are determined by taking the mean, average annual income (e.g., $23,300), dividing it by 52 weeks, then dividing that by 40 hours, as if cooks worked eight hours a day, five days per week. As already established:

quilas-restaurants-typical-hours1

$23,300 ÷ 52 weeks ÷ 6 days ÷ 12 hours = $6.22/hour.
÷ 10 hours = $7.47/hour.
÷ 8 hours = $9.33/hour.

As we narrow the discussion to increasingly-specific details, like the hourly rate of a cook in a hypothetical restaurant, it becomes more difficult to generalize. A 7‑Eleven at that location that hires ten people instead of seven, or a restaurant that employs a chef instead of a regular cook, limits the inferences we can make. But there are a couple of observations that can be made with certainty: there is no evidence that a restaurant would be significantly better than a 7‑Eleven for either total number of people hired or total wage receipts; and everyone who works at the 7‑Eleven will be paid at least minimum wage, while many of those who work at the restaurant will not be. It’s nothing to write home about, but this discussion has never been about why 7‑Eleven is good, just about why it’s less bad.

***

Finally, almost as an aside, I will address this last claim:

    “The majority (66 percent) of low-wage workers are not employed by small businesses, but rather by large corporations.”3

I have no doubt that this is true, but it’s completely irrelevant to the discussion! (You find this all through their literature.)

It’s funny they should refer to this report. If they had bothered to turn to page 2, they’d have seen the following:

nelp-table-1

Oh well. This isn’t their forte, after all.

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1Unregulated Work in the Restaurant Industry in New York City
2Occupational Employment and Wages News Release
3Big Business, Corporate Profits, and the Minimum Wage

Follow the Money — Addendum

When I wrote my most recent piece, Follow the Money, I cobbled together so much information that it became too long, with too many extended quotes. I knew when I hit the Publish button that it needed more work, but I had become impatient — I’d worked on it for two days already. Anyway, I revised it again yesterday and now it’s done.

There was one part I cut though, that I think is important, regarding public health initiatives and personal responsibility:

    In the food arena, a great example of this would be in New York City, where the health department has banned trans fats in restaurants. So if you go to New York now, you can’t get trans fats in the restaurants. Now you could try to solve that problem of people eating trans fats, and having heart disease as a consequence of it, by personal responsibility. You could say, “Okay, well, let’s educate people about trans fats.” But it’s a pretty hard concept to understand. Restaurants would have to label them. People would have to have options within restaurants, trans fat versus no trans fat. And you see you’d have this complex, burdensome system that would never work. And so, that would be an example where personal responsibility wouldn’t get the job done but government intervention would. And so, in New York City, they’ve decided that we can’t default to personal responsibility there, we need to take action. And that would be an example of a real success story from a public health point of view.