Union Booster Mary Kay Henry talks about raising wages and expanding collective bargaining power in the U.S.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-10-20/union-booster-mary-kay-henryHow does the Service Employees International Union measure the broader impact of raising the minimum wage to $15 in the cities and states that have done it?

More money in workers’ pockets in Seattle has catalysed small-business job growth, because those workers are spending those dollars in the community. They’re not putting it in the bank. They’re not creating an IRA. They’re not sending it offshore to the Cayman Islands. Every dollar of wage increase in Seattle has been spent in the community. We now have 10 million workers on a path to $15 in New York and California. It will be fascinating how transformative those dollars are to economic growth in those communities.

Have you seen any signs of the higher wages discouraging hiring at the bottom of the labor market? 

I’ve heard that mythology. And no, we have not seen that.

Do you anticipate continued employment gains next year? 

Yes, and we think those employment gains, together with the collective action of working people, are going to make a breakthrough in the “$15 and a Union” movement.

On the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics chart for jobs with the most growth from 2014 to 2024, No. 1 is personal-care aides, and No. 3 is home-health aides. What are your priorities for those workers?

We’d like to address the care crisis for these workers. Even though they are the fastest-growing job, one home-care provider exists for every nine seniors in the U.S., and that gap is going to keep growing as the population ages. So a priority is creating a 21st century union for home-care providers [who have more responsibilities] and creating a way for a personal-care assistant to become a home-care provider through job ladders and training.


from Bloomberg Businessweek by Ira Boudway

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