Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Immigration and Ann Arbor–The Restaurant Workplace Project

19. May 2006 • Chuck Warpehoski
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As the national immigration debate rages, it can be useful to learn what’s happening with immigrants locally. The Restaurant Workplace Project surveyed local immigrant restaurant workers. You can read their Brochure (PDF, requires Adobe Acrobat Viewer).

Among their findings :

  • The majority earn between $6.50 and $8.50 an hour, although a few workers reported that they earn less than minimum wage.
  • Nearly half of the workers are on the job more than 40 hours per week, and one in five works more than 50 hours per week.
  • Only 37 percent said they consistently receive overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours in a week, as required by law.

I guess not all “immigration policy” is set in Washington.



  1. Not to nitpick, but it is spelled restaurant


       —tom    May. 19 '06 - 03:22PM    #
  2. Kind of embarassing for my first post, isn’t it? I’ve always known I needed an editor. Thank you. (p.s. I’ve corrected my spelling in the post)


       —Chuck Warpehoski    May. 19 '06 - 03:28PM    #
  3. To err is human; to correct your errors in a timely fashion is divine. :)


       —Matthew    May. 19 '06 - 03:35PM    #
  4. Whether human or divine, I guess using a spell checker is just common sense.

    Back to the campaign, the organizers are talking about putting together a petition, sort of a diners pledge, for people to say they will only go to restraunts that treat their workers well.

    I still haven’t heard all the plans for how to enforce and review this, but I think it shows promise.


       —Chuck Warpehoski    May. 19 '06 - 03:45PM    #
  5. Great idea to divest from restaurants that treat their employees poorly.

    Why has your group, ICPJ, thrown out its own Middle East Task Force?

    Is it because they ask that we divest from the Israeli military, which treats Occupied Palestine VERY poorly?

    In fact, Occupied Palestine is treated at least 1,000% worse than restaurant workers in Ann Arbor.

    Many, many thousands of Palestinians are shot by Israel.

    No restaurant workers are shot in this country.

    So will they believe you’re sincere about them, when you kick out your own Palestine human rights advocates?


       —Blaine    May. 19 '06 - 04:06PM    #
  6. Chuck,

    Is there a list somewhere of restaurants which treat their employees well?

    (btw, I didn’t mean to jump all over you on first post:)


       —tom    May. 19 '06 - 04:10PM    #
  7. Thanks for posting here, Chuck.

    Back on ICPJ itself, the link to the PDF does not work, ironically enough. Just thought you should know.
       —David Boyle    May. 19 '06 - 04:56PM    #
  8. “Great idea to divest from restaurants that treat their employees poorly.”

    Is it ‘poorly’ we are talking about or ‘illegally’? The original post and the brochure just says immigrants, so I am assuming these are legal immigrants who may not be being paid minimum wage or time and a half when required. Divesting is a fine but how about going after the restaurant owners or managers? Are we not talking about a crime?

    This post is a great way to bring a national issue to a local conversation. This way no one needs a lot of background in Washington politics to participate, but as always a deep understanding of the struggles in Palestine is required.

    “To err is human; to correct your errors in a timely fashion is divine. :) —Matthew May 19, 10:35 AM”

    I did not know that there were smiley faces in the bible. Jesus was really ahead of his time.


       —abc    May. 19 '06 - 06:12PM    #
  9. Does the data make it obvious that there are specific restaurants that do/don’t tend to treat their workers well? I would guess that it isn’t possible to ascertain this with 81 workers (although I’m sure they worked quite hard to get that many responses). Chuck, do you know how many different sites they looked at, and what type?

    I would love to do a city-wide pledge program to have residents pledge to support businesses that do a variety of good things in the community – being a Waste Knot partner, buying locally, treating workers fairly (especially immigrant workers). That’s way beyond the scope of what this group is talking about, but in some ways might be easier because it’s more comprehensive.

    A few Buy Local Food campaigns across the country have had residents pass out business cards to the businesses they patronize saying that they would like to eat more locally-produced food and asking the restaurant to buy more. However, it’s fairly easy to find out if a restaurant is trying to buy local food, but more difficult to find out if they have immigrant workers and treat them fairly.


       —Lisa    May. 19 '06 - 07:09PM    #
  10. What is the definition of “local immigrant restaurant workers”? Are they persons who have broken the law to get into our country and are now complaining that others also break the law? Or are all workers who are not Native American Indians considered immigrants? Is there a list somewhere of restaurants which comply with the law and hire only legal residents?


       —Karen Luck    May. 19 '06 - 07:10PM    #
  11. I’m also curious about the legal status of their respondents, just as a data question – seems like a significant thing to include. (I’d be impressed, though, if restaurant owners hired undocumented immigrants and then went ahead and paid them more than minimum wage.)

    Unlike Karen, though, I will not suggest that undocumented immigrants have no rights, or that crimes against undocumented immigrants are acceptable or not crimes.


       —TPM    May. 19 '06 - 07:30PM    #
  12. I suggested nothing of the kind.


       —Karen Luck    May. 19 '06 - 07:36PM    #
  13. Perhaps I was snidely over-reaching. As I read it, you expressed a total lack of sympathy for (or at least ironic amusement towards) any complaint that comes from an undocumented immigrant. I expanded from there to imagine that you weren’t particularly concerned by crimes upon undocumented immigrants.


       —TPM    May. 19 '06 - 07:48PM    #
  14. Lisa and Karen, I too would like more information about how the surveys were collected and who the respondants are. Perhaps the folks at the project can give you that data. Their email is aarwp@umich.edu

    I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing that they did not ask about the legal status of workers. Even asking that question would have made it harder to get responses, would significantly increase the risk to the workers, and would raise a whole new set of privacy and data security concerns.

    The Restraunt Workplace Project is working closely with the efforts to start up a workers’ center (more about workers’ centers from Labor Notes).

    As I understand it, the workers’ center would help educate workers about their rights, create processes for reporting and addressing grievances (such as the unpaid overtime and workplace safety violations), and build a forum for workers to organize.

    Many workers centers focus on immigrant labor, but from what I hear the local effort will work to include a broader spectrum of low-wage workers.


       —Chuck Warpehoski    May. 19 '06 - 08:10PM    #
  15. ICPJ link to PDF seems repaired, thanks Chuck, Dominus vobiscum.


       —David Boyle    May. 19 '06 - 08:23PM    #
  16. And with your spirit , David, but as a Quaker I’m not good with liturgy.

    Lisa’s idea of a comprehensive pledge program is interesting. I’ve heard of some communities putting together green maps of socially responsible businesses, so consumers would know what businesses are locally-owned, are union shops, waste-knot participants, etc. (“Detroit”: http://www.detroitgreenmap.org/ has one.)

    Lisa’s idea goes one step farther, though, beyond just recognizizing organizations that are already engaging is socially responsible practices to actively recruiting groups to become more sustainable.

    My hunch is that it would work best to do a targetted campaign. When the Coalition of Immokolee workers won wage increases, they did it by picking one business at a time (Taco Bell) rather than taking on the whole fast food industry.


       —Chuck Warpehoski    May. 19 '06 - 08:50PM    #
  17. Not paying minimum wage or overtime is against Michigan and federal law. If that is commonplace, we don’t need a voluntary pledge campaign, we need law enforcement.

    And I think we need to beware of putting people out of work by focusing attention on them. That is, if one of the things that restaurants have to do to get a ‘good housekeeping’ seal of approval is to verify that they employ only documented workers, then the end result could be ‘helping’ a lot of these workers by making them unemployed.


       —mw    May. 22 '06 - 03:33PM    #
  18. What I’ve heard from the campaign is a focus on the working conditions that employers provide, not the immigration status of the people employed. (We’ll leave that campaign to the Minutemen)

    For the same reason, I think the workers center & community support approach is sound since it provides ways to intervene short of bringing in the Law. The Law is important, but the risks that mw speaks of apply to law inforceent approaches as much as they do “good housekeeping” approaches.

    Also, some of the complaints are a bit more cloudy. Minimimum wage violations are clear-cut, but what about the concern that immigrants may be under-paid compared to U.S.-born employees? It can be a hard claim to prove in the courts.

    Worker organizing and community solidarity are additional tools to improve the conditions of workers.


       —Chuck Warpehoski    May. 22 '06 - 04:59PM    #
  19. Back in April, the Michigan Daily published an article about the Restaurant Workplace Project. The spokesman for the group claimed their main purpose was to enforce the laws. This would include verifying that the persons who are employed are legal residents who are entitled to be employed legally. Otherwise they have no standing in any court.

    I think businesses who employ illegal aliens should be fined and the money raised in the county could help subsidize the sheriff patrols, homeless shelters, and other deserving social services for law abiding citizens. I believe we should employ citizens and legal immigrants only. If businesses have a hard time finding laborers, they should try paying a fair wage. Those who help illegal immigrants get jobs that pay extremely low wages with unsafe working conditions are responsible for exploiting the poor. Not only do you not improve the conditions of immigrant workers, but you drive down the wages paid to Americans as well.


       —Karen Luck    May. 22 '06 - 07:04PM    #
  20. Karen Luck Those who help illegal immigrants get jobs that pay extremely low wages with unsafe working conditions are responsible for exploiting the poor. Not only do you not improve the conditions of immigrant workers, but you drive down the wages paid to Americans as well.

    Interesting—so the stated intent is to prevent undocumented workers from being exploited by preventing them from being employed at all. Somehow, I suspect they may not appreciate that particular form of assistance (not least becuase it is virtually certain that the pay and working conditions of those ‘exploitation’ level jobs are a whole lot better than the ones they left behind).

    Chuck Warpehoski: Minimimum wage violations are clear-cut, but what about the concern that immigrants may be under-paid compared to U.S.-born employees? It can be a hard claim to prove in the courts.

    To require that immigrants (let’s assume legal ones) with minimal English skills are always paid as much as U.S.-born employees with native English skills is another way of producing unemployment for the immigrants. Suppose you have to pay $8.50/hr to attract native born dishwashers and suppose you can hire immigrants with poor English skills (and therefore few other options) for, say, $7/hr. If a restaurant has to pay $8.50/hr to earn it’s ‘good housekeeping seal’, it may as well hire all native born English speakers because why mess with the hassles of a language barrier if it’s not going to save any money?


       —mw    May. 22 '06 - 08:08PM    #
  21. Roughly 10 percent of Mexico’s population of about 107 million is now living in the United States, estimates show. About 15 percent of Mexico’s labor force is working in the United States. One in every 7 Mexican workers migrates to the United States. We are not helping our neighbors by taking their best workers and exploiting them by paying substandard wages. How do you think we would fare if the top 15% of our wage earners left the country and stopped paying their taxes and contributing to our economy? If they stayed in their native country and worked to improve their government and rid it of corruption, there would be no incentive to cross the border. We are not lifting their boats so much as we are destroying their economy and they are lowering our wages and decreasing our standard of living.

    mw – Good language skills aren’t a necessity for dishwashers any more than advanced calculus or thermodynamics. The pay should be based on the task performed, not the language spoken by the employee. Anything else is racism.


       —Karen Luck    May. 22 '06 - 08:58PM    #
  22. Karen writes, ” The spokesman for the group claimed their main purpose was to enforce the laws. This would include verifying that the persons who are employed are legal residents who are entitled to be employed legally.

    This raises a question about who enforces what laws. As I understand it, local law enforcement generally isn’t responsible to enforce immigration law, that’s a federal issue.

    I think this is a good thing. I feel safer if anyone can report crimes to the police without fear that they will be hassled for their immigration status. For example, I want survivors of domestic violence to be able to turn to the criminal justice system without fear that they will be deported if they seek a restraining order against an abusive partner.

    So I’d rather not have local law enforcement “verifying that the persons who are employed are legal residents.”

    (I realize I may be creating a straw man here. Karen just said she wanted labor laws observed, which is a fair position. I’m the one who brought in the local police angle.)

    One more point, Karen, I don’t think it’s accurate to imply that Mexican workers in the U.S. are not contributing to the Mexican economy. In El Salvador, the only way the economy holds together is by Salvadorans in the U.S. wiring money home. They do contribute to their home economies. I agree that brain drain and talent drain is a challenge with all immigration to the U.S., whether documented or undocumented. (In fact, I suspect it’s a bigger problem with legal immigration where we seek out the best and the brightest minds from the two-thirds world).

    mw, you make a good point that we need to be careful about ensuring that the policies protect workers and their jobs. That’s part of why worker organizing is so important—it gives workers a chance to speak for themselves about what their concerns are and how they want to address them. That accountability is important to ensure that community allies don’t create the problems you identify.


       —Chuck Warpehoski    May. 22 '06 - 09:30PM    #
  23. I’m guessing that a lot of local ethnic restaurants are staffed informally by the immigrant owner’s extended family. Questions of wages and working conditions may be hard to get at in the absence of a formal employment relationship.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    May. 22 '06 - 09:33PM    #
  24. We are not helping our neighbors by taking their best workers and exploiting them by paying substandard wages. How do you think we would fare if the top 15% of our wage earners left the country and stopped paying their taxes and contributing to our economy?

    Mexico’s top wage earners are not coming here—the better off Mexicans earn considerably more than Ann Arbor dishwashers. And as Chuck says, Mexicans working here send a lot of money back home which helps both their families and the Mexican economy. Which is why the Mexican government (the Mexican public) are in favor of a guest-worker program that would allow more Mexicans to come to the U.S. and work.

    Good language skills aren’t a necessity for dishwashers any more than advanced calculus or thermodynamics. The pay should be based on the task performed, not the language spoken by the employee. Anything else is racism.

    So you never have to have any kind of verbal communication with dishwashers? You never give them any kind of direction? Never have to talk to them about workplace policy, health department regulations, relations with co-workers, or about taking a day off? Now obviously, dishwashing is one of those jobs that can be done even with a language barrier, but for any job, it’s easier without a language barrier, and saying so isn’t ‘racism’.


       —mw    May. 22 '06 - 10:14PM    #
  25. Thank you all for your comments and questions regarding our work. I wanted to let you know that this project which focuses on restaurants is the first campaign of the Washtenaw County Worker Center (WCWC), which is seeking to organize low wage workers in Washtenaw County.

    The project works with, not for, restaurant workers. The project leaders include individuals who are themselves restaurant workers, including immigrant workers. The project does not do anything that the interested and affected workers do not themselves support.

    Restaurants will be invited to pledge to observe safe and fair employment conditions for all of their workers, including immigrants; those conditions are statutes and rules already on the books, including minimum wage, overtime pay, OSHA regulations, etc. These statutes and rules already apply to ALL workers.

    A sticker or other identifier will be provided to participating restaurants to display;

    The WCWC will educate the public about the project;

    If/when grievances or disputes occur, WCWC will make an effort, within its capacity, to resolve them; but for the most part, the project will be self-enforcing, as it is in the interest of restaurants to maintain good public relations and to attract and retain workers by offering working conditions that are competitive with those of WCWC participating restaurants.

    The objective is 100 percent participation. Would you want to eat in a restaurant that is unwilling to affirm that it provides safe and fair employment conditions to the people who prepare and serve your food?


       —Bri Fritz    May. 24 '06 - 02:17AM    #
  26. “I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing that they did not ask about the legal status of workers.” —Chuck Warpehoski

    “Somehow, I suspect they [illegal immigrants] may not appreciate that particular form of assistance (not least because it is virtually certain that the pay and working conditions of those ‘exploitation’ level jobs are a whole lot better than the ones they left behind).” -mw

    Just a thought about wages with respect to illegal immigrants… I could easily see an employer justifying paying the illegal immigrant less by thinking that since this person will not be paying taxes, they can simply be paid what would be equal to the take home pay of the native born worker. The employer could interpret paying them the same as overpaying the immigrant due to the bonus pay from the tax issue. The employer can feel like they are doing a good thing, hiring an otherwise unemployable person (due to status, not ability) and effectively putting as much money in their pocket as the other legal worker. “What’s so bad about that?“ they might think. Assuming the unequal pay is less than the tax burden, then it is the government that is being cheated.

    Clearly this is no justification for the treatment of legal immigrants and clearly Ann Arbor has both legal and illegal immigrants working here. I don’t see how this works without knowing the legal status of the workers.


       —abc    May. 24 '06 - 11:04AM    #
  27. Let’s use terms that are clear to all: legal immigrants and illegal immigrants. If RWP continues in its use of the term “immigrant workers” then we should all realize that they are trying to disguise their efforts to help others break the law. If I see a sticker on a restaurant I will not frequent that establishment unless RWP clearly works to secure and protect employment opportunities for lawful employees only. Paying illegal immigrants under the table cheats two countries of their tax revenue. When persons get sick or injured in an accident, when their children are educated in our schools, and when they use our roads and parks, visit museums, and under a number of other circumstances, the services rendered are paid for with tax dollars. It’s not fair to anyone.


       —Karen Luck    May. 24 '06 - 12:04PM    #
  28. Did I miss something? You are arguing FOR capturing more tax revenue?


       —Dale    May. 24 '06 - 12:58PM    #
  29. Karen’s point is weakened by the fact that gasoline taxes, sales taxes, phone taxes, user fees, etc. are unavoidable, as well as by the fact that the wealthiest in this country pay far less than their “fair” share in income taxes (if they pay any at all.) Also, if illegal immigrants are making less than $20,000 per year, would they even owe anything to either the state or fed under current income tax laws? Illegal workers (whether aliens or citizens) are also not eligible for various tax credits (e.g., home heating.)


       —Steve Bean    May. 24 '06 - 02:43PM    #
  30. Karen, are you saing that you would boycott restraunts that have a RWP sticker on them because RWP does not do immigration enforcement? Is there any reason to believe that businesses with the sticker are any more likely than businesess without stickers to hire undocumented workers?

    Also, as Bri points out, the goal is to ensure that restraunts “observe safe and fair employment conditions for all of their workers, including immigrants.” So in many ways, it is a restraunt workers project more than an immigrant workers project. Immigrant workers were the “miner’s canary,” the most vulnerable group that alerts to us to dangers that can affect a broader sector of workers.


       —Chuck Warpehoski    May. 24 '06 - 05:07PM    #
  31. Why do you assume that all illegal immigrants are making less than $20,000 per year. They are employed in a number of occupations other than dishwasher, housekeeper, and landscaping laborer. They are also working as accountants, nurses, computer programmers, etc. Yeah we can’t avoid paying sales tax, gas tax, phone tax etc., but the predominate tax is income tax. The top 5% of the wage earners in this country pay more than 70% of the income tax, far more than their fair share in my opinion. If my point is weakened, it’s only slightly.


       —Karen Luck    May. 24 '06 - 05:12PM    #
  32. So that you know where I’m coming from here, Elie Wiesel has deeply affected my thoughts on this issue:

    “You shall know that no one is illegal. It is a contradiction in itself. People can be beautiful or even more beautiful. They may be just or unjust. But illegal? How can someone be illegal?”


       —Chuck Warpehoski    May. 24 '06 - 05:13PM    #
  33. If they were concerned about all restaurant workers, they would have polled all workers. As your last post shows you are not unbiased on this issue. You can make word plays, but people are not illegal. The adjective describes the process of immigration. And these beautiful people who illegally immigrated are not like “mine canaries”.

    “Boycott” is when you organize others to abstain from doing business as well. I am merely stating my preference to avoid establishments that are favorable to your slant on illegal immigration. I prefer to spend my money in establishments that support our laws and seek to comply with them.


       —Karen Luck    May. 24 '06 - 05:24PM    #
  34. Question for Bri Fritz:

    Where does you funding come from? Is there a cost associated with the program, ie. a fee for restaurants to certify that they are in ‘compliance’?

    thanks


       —todd    May. 24 '06 - 06:48PM    #
  35. Karen,

    I respect your decision to, “spend [your] money in establishments that support our laws and seek to comply with them.”

    And that’s where I’m confused.

    The Restraunt Workplace Project asks businesses to plege to treat their workers fairly, it doesn’t ask businesses to proclaim “we hire undocumented workers and treat them well.”

    I hear your concern about respecting our nation’s laws. I just don’t see you learn anything about an employers compliance with immigration law by the fact that they pledge to observe “minimum wage, overtime pay, OSHA regulations, etc” for all their workers.


       —Chuck Warpehoski    May. 24 '06 - 08:44PM    #
  36. I actually sort of agree with Karen Luck, or maybe I’m just confused; why does this campaign focus on immigrant workers if it has nothing to do with illegal (or undocumented, if you prefer) immigration? Don’t non-immigrant restaurant workers face similar conditions?


       —ann arbor is overrated    May. 24 '06 - 09:01PM    #
  37. (Unwinding a few comments for a side beef…)

    Chuck – While I’m sympathetic to the condition of immigrants, whether here legally or not, I personally find the “people can’t be illegal” bit to be worse than un-useful. Black Box Radio had a bit yesterday which involved an immigrant advocate raving for a few minutes about “illegal personhood” and the horror of labeling people “illegal”. I admit I only heard part of the interview, but I didn’t really hear this person say anything else.

    As far as I can tell, the issue isn’t about whether or not certain people are legal persons (or are legally persons?), but about whether or not certain people have entered the United States legally. If I broke into a house in the middle of the night, that wouldn’t make me an illegal person, but I would have committed an illegal act.

    In as much as I see objections to current policy on the grounds of “illegal personhood” as getting in the way of discussing the merits or failings of the actual policy, I’d be happy to never see the term again. (Really, this is why I try to use the phrase “undocumented immigrants” to refer to people who are in the US as a result of “illegal immigration” – it’s an attempt to separate the person from the act.)


       —TPM    May. 24 '06 - 09:40PM    #
  38. ‘“Boycott” is when you organize others to abstain from doing business as well.’

    please, karen, get a dictionary.


       —peter honeyman    May. 25 '06 - 02:22AM    #
  39. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the top 1% of taxpayers pay 30% of taxes and earn 15% of total income. The highest 20% in terms of income made 53% of the total income and paid 64% of all income taxes in 1995.

    “U.S. Social Security Administration has estimated that three quarters of undocumented immigrants pay payroll taxes, and that they contribute $6-7 billion in Social Security funds that they will be unable to claim”
    Porter, Eduardo. 2005. “Illegal Immigrants Are Bolstering Social Security with Billions.” New York Times, April 5.

    About 2/3 of illegal immigrants earn less than double minimum wage, compared to 1/3 of all workers.
    http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/1000587_undoc_immigrants_facts.pdf

    Based on the info above, I think Karen’s numbers in post #31 are both incorrect and misleading. High income earners’ tax liability is relatively close to their earnings (at least as a group), especially considering that income tax is designed as a progressive tax. The info from the Times article suggests that high income earners are hardly alone in paying taxes for the benefit of others. And the urban.org figures point out that most illegal immigrants make less than $20k/year.
    Estimated maximum for 2/3 of illegal immigrants:
    ($5/hr * 2) * 40hr/wk * 52 wk/yr = $20,800

    I know that this info is tangential, at best, to the topic. But I didn’t want the figures to stand uncontested.

    That said, I agree with AAIO that, insofar as the Restaurant Workplace Project confuses illegal immigration issues with workers rights issues, the WCWC program will give a muddled message (ala organic vs Organic). A sticker pledge to observe safe and fair employment suggests to me that the employer also follows hiring laws regarding illegal immigration. Even stranger would be a situation in which the sticker is used to identify employers who ignore hiring laws regarding illegal immigration, but promise to treat workers fairly.

    I guess I’m not convinced that the sticker campaign is a good way to address either illegal workers or workers rights in restaurants. If a restaurant is already breaking the law regarding worker safety and pay, what is preventing them to take the pledge as well? It doesn’t seem like ethics would be an obstacle.


       —Scott TenBrink    May. 25 '06 - 06:31AM    #
  40. Immigration status is not an interesting question for me and only hinders the answers I am trying to discover when talking about working conditions.

    A question that is a bit aside, but I do find it interesting – “What generation immigrant are you?”


       —Mark    May. 25 '06 - 09:35AM    #
  41. 2nd generation. My grandfather came here as an adult – the legal way. I am an American – no hyphens.


       —Karen Luck    May. 25 '06 - 11:17AM    #
  42. Scott,
    I apologize for my misleading statements about the percentage of taxes paid by the top 5% of wage earners. I should have taken the time to verify the numbers before I posted. I should have stated the top 20% pay more than 70%. My bad. So after your post, I did go to the CBO to see the actual numbers. They are quite different from your correction of my original post. Here’s the link where I found the correct information as of 2004.

    www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/57xx/doc5746/08-13-EffectiveFedTaxRates.pdf

    It lists the following info for 2006 –
    Top 1%/ 31% of total taxes paid
    Top 5%/ 52%
    Top 10%/ 65%
    Top 20%/ 80%
    Bottom 40%/ 0% (actually a net gain)

    Your information is over 10 years old and I don’t think it accurately reflects the rates today. I strongly agree with your last paragraph and feel it makes the point perfectly.


       —Karen Luck    May. 25 '06 - 12:13PM    #
  43. This “top x% paid y%” statistic is really bizarre—for example, it says nothing about how progressive or regressive income tax is, because it doesn’t take into account income distribution. I wonder if anyone’s actually studied it, and whether it’s really useful for anything.


       —Bruce Fields    May. 25 '06 - 01:56PM    #
  44. Looking at your source, Karen, it looks like you’re only considering the Federal Income Tax? The “Share of Total Federal Tax Liabilities” for 2006 (estimated) is given as,

    Income % / share of total fed. tax / avg. income in 2001 (incl. capital gains) / share of total income

    Top 1% / 21.7% / $1,242,300 / 16.8%
    Top 5% / 37.2% / $426,500 / 29.8%
    Top 10% / 48.5% / $283,100 / 39.6%
    Top 20% / 63.8% / $195,300 / 53.9%
    Bottom 40% / 6.7% / $24,360 / 12.9%

    As Karen will note, the top percentiles pay a greater share of taxes than their share of income, at the Federal level (this doesn’t consider State sales taxes, gas taxes, etc that tend to be regressive; nor does it consider share of wealth – anybody know of sources for those?), but we all know that the federal income tax was progressive, and intentionally so, so this is no surprise. Interesting to note, though, in that report’s projections, that the Share of Federal Tax Liability has gotten less progressive since 2000, and that’s cexpected to continue through the tables’ end at 2014. Top 1% goes from 22.2% in ‘01 to 20.7% in ‘14.

    I’m just offering it since Bruce asked.


       —TPM    May. 25 '06 - 03:55PM    #
  45. “we all know that the federal income tax was progressive, and intentionally so, so this is no surprise.”

    Yeah, but note that these numbers don’t really cast much light on, say, how progressive it is (or whether it’s progressive at all, for that matter).

    The implied argument behind the statistics seems to be that the most “fair” taxation would be one that collected exactly x% from the top x% of tax payers. That would be equivalent to tax that was not merely regressive, but that was actually constant. (What would that be, ten-thousand-something per person?)


       —Bruce Fields    May. 25 '06 - 04:03PM    #
  46. Um, sorry, I didn’t see this: “the top percentiles pay a greater share of taxes than their share of income.” Right, so that’s equivalent to the tax being progressive.


       —Bruce Fields    May. 25 '06 - 07:31PM    #
  47. “When persons get sick or injured in an accident, when their children are educated in our schools, and when they use our roads and parks, visit museums, and under a number of other circumstances, the services rendered are paid for with tax dollars.”

    I can’t even count the number of times that those swarthy immigrants have crowded me out of museums. There I was, trying to enjoy some Lichtenstein, they were all up in there being like “¿Esta pop o minimal?” I was like, “Go back to your Diego Rivera muralism, beaners!”


       —js    May. 25 '06 - 10:16PM    #
  48. “To err is human; to correct your errors in a timely fashion is divine. :) —Matthew May 19, 10:35 AM”

    I did not know that there were smiley faces in the bible. Jesus was really ahead of his time. —abc May 19, 01:12 PM

    It’s not in the Bible. This saying is from “An Essay on Criticism,” by Alexander Pope.


       —Karen Luck    May. 26 '06 - 01:46PM    #
  49. Wow, thanks Karen. Like I’ve been poring over my Concordance for a week now looking for ‘timely fashion’ and just couldn’t find it. Boy you really cleared that up for me.


       —abc    May. 26 '06 - 02:00PM    #
  50. To start, I applaud Bri and the other activists of the WCWC for the important work they are doing.

    It appears the WCWC is focused on HUMAN RIGHTS and uses established labor law as one measure of how a restaurant treats it’s workers, regardless of their immigration status. In choosing places to do business, my first concern is that it’s workers are treated fairly, with respect and decency. My over-arching concern is that disempowered so called “illegal” immigrants are grossly exploited in the workplace. Until that problem is attacked, I have far less concern for what they do or don’t contribute in taxes.

    I find it compelling that in many labor disputes, employers make the argument that low wage retail workers are paid by the “law of supply and demand”—in other words, as long as there are workers willing to do the work for poverty wages the wages follow some rule of sound economics and make incontestable sense.
    And yet, when confronted with the exploitation of undocumented laborers, these same voices whine about not being able to find documented workers willing to do certain jobs for the pitance they are prepared to pay them.

    If this country (or this local economy) suffers for a lack of workers “willing” to do back-breaking labor for pennies, then perhaps it’s time to raise the wages of these jobs to the point where workers are drawn to compete for them. And perhaps it’s time the rest of us opened our wallets to pay our fair share of the cost of goods and services generated by workers who are paid a living wage.

    Perhaps a quart of strawberries should cost five bucks and be seen again as a true luxury, given the backbreaking labor it takes to pick them—and the fair cost of a meal in Ann Arbor should be in large part determined, not by the length of the line to get a table, but the true cost of ethical business practices.


       —Nancy Jowske    Jun. 1 '06 - 10:35AM    #
  51. Can Bri or Chuck answer my question?

    Who pays for this program? Participating restaurants? The State? The Feds?


       —todd    Jun. 1 '06 - 12:15PM    #
  52. I share Nancy’s concerns that “illegal immigrants are grossly exploited in the workplace.” So… enforce the laws, fine the businesses who hire illegally, and give the work to law abiding citizens at prevailing wages. High school/college students can wash dishes part-time and don’t need a wage level sufficient to sustain a family of four including health benefits.

    In the late 60’s, a college student could easily find work with a landscaping firm and make sufficient money over the summer to provide for tuition, room and board, and spending money for the entire academic year. But with the huge increase of illegal immigrants in our workforce, paying your way through college and graduating with no outstanding loans is no longer a possibility.

    The money saved by paying illegal immigrants substandard wages is not keeping costs low for the consumer, it’s lining the pockets of the disreputable business owners.


       —Karen Luck    Jun. 1 '06 - 02:49PM    #
  53. One must consider the dramatic increase in relative tuition costs due to the expansion of the research university and the multitude of services and technology provided to university students now before blaming illegal immigration for student loans.

    Even making the current equivalent of those 1960s landscaping wages would leave students in serious debt.

    As an undergrad at Western Michigan University, I attended Board of Trustees meetings and at one meeting was appalled when a trustee calculated that a student working 40 hours a week at $8.00/hour could not pay for tuition, room and board at WMU, a US News “best buy” institution—and then congratulated the university president for keeping costs reasonable.


       —Dale    Jun. 1 '06 - 03:36PM    #
  54. Todd, I don’t have the answer to that (I’m not directly involved with the project), but I do have an email in to Bri to find out.


       —Chuck Warpehoski    Jun. 1 '06 - 10:24PM    #
  55. “The money saved by paying illegal immigrants substandard wages is not keeping costs low for the consumer, it’s lining the pockets of the disreputable business owners.”

    Evidence of this might go a long way toward supporting the argument for enforcing the hiring/wage laws. I suspect that it’s not true—that costs for consumers are lower than they would be otherwise, and the blindness to the illegalities are acceptable to the community as a whole who want money coming into/staying in the local economy.

    That goal is appropriate and commendable. The means are questionable if not objectionable. If legal hiring and pay practices create a non-competitive economic situation, what’s the solution? Elimination of minimum-wage laws? Zero tolerance/full deportation of “undocumented immigrants” (to use TPM’s term)? A bigger immigration bureaucracy and more rapid granting of citizenship and higher numbers of them? When would an equilibrium be reached when the inflow would stop, and would the situation then be better or worse?

    Or is the problem really rooted more deeply in our economic system?

    Any thoughts, Karen?


       —Steve Bean    Jun. 1 '06 - 10:44PM    #
  56. sorry, Karen, but your solution is simplistic at best. due to demographics, there simply aren’t enough willing high school and college students to meet the exponential growth of the service sector. Not at $6.50 an hour anyway.
    Open your eyes and look around, Karen. Have you noticed whose serving your burgers, checking out your order at Wal-Mart (certainly you shop at Wal-mart, right?), delivering your morning newspaper, caring for your elderly loved one? It’s probably not an undocumented worker or a college student—it’s probably a single mother of three or a displaced skilled white collar worker whose job went to India or a retiree trying to earn the deductables on their prescriptions.

    Now, yes, one rung below those cherry jobs on the ecomonic ladder—that’s where you’ll find your “illegals” as you like to call them—scraping some drunk kids puke off a motel bathroom wall, sweating his arse off over a dishwasher without a break in ten hours, mowing your neighbor’s lawn in the 95 degree heat, or maybe slogging pails of drywall for your new McMansion in a corn field with his OLDER 14 year old brother.
    Or maybe that’s your illegal up there on a ladder without a respirator spray painting the cathedral ceiling of your McMansion—or more likely that vaguely Mexican looking guy up there isn’t the “illegal”— his parents were when they took him accross the border when he was three years old so he wouldn’t starve to death.

    I don’t know what else to say but—sheesh. Please don’t ever again make the mistake of thinking we agree with each other—ah, on anything.


       —Nancy Jowske    Jun. 2 '06 - 03:38AM    #
  57. Steve,
    Contrary to popular belief, everybody doesn’t cheat. Many employers don’t hire illegally. Blindness to illegality is not acceptable in my circle of contacts . I disagree with your premise – legal hiring and pay practices DO NOT create a non-competitive economic situation. Were it so, all honest businesses would have ceased operation long ago. An appropriate equilibrium is 100% legal hiring practices which would immediately stop the inflow. I agree with Nancy’s post – (at least the part where she says the persons working the lower paying jobs in our communities are most likely people like single mothers, retirees and displaced skilled white collar workers).

    Nancy,
    I hire college students to perform menial, undesireable tasks. The pay starts at $7.00 per hour and I have 25 applicants for every open position. Most are dependent on these crummy jobs in order to continue their education. Maybe you would only consider “cherry jobs”, but that’s not the situation for a majority of Americans. By the way, I washed dishes and bussed tables when I was in school. Yes it is hard work for low pay in steamy kitchens and a rushed atmosphere, but I was grateful for the opportunity and I benefitted a great deal as a result. Those who think there are jobs in our country that Americans won’t take should take a good look around and see the economic suffering of their fellow citizens.


       —Karen Luck    Jun. 2 '06 - 12:21PM    #
  58. “I disagree with your premise – legal hiring and pay practices DO NOT create a non-competitive economic situation. Were it so, all honest businesses would have ceased operation long ago.”

    That’s logical as far as it goes, but I think it only goes so far. Some business sectors don’t have positions that can be performed by ‘unskilled’ workers (who don’t speak English, etc.), so “all” is an overstatement.

    Why do you think that more enforcement to achieve “100% legal hiring practices” isn’t happening, Karen?

    Bri, I’ll pose the same question to you. Why didn’t you choose the route of enforcement, rather than education of the public? Or is enforcement another goal?


       —Steve Bean    Jun. 2 '06 - 01:23PM    #
  59. Steve,
    It’s a long explanation that is tangential to this topic. Short story: U.S. is an oligarchy. Those in the power elite have plans for a European Union type of government with all of North and Central America. NAFTA/CAFTA are preliminary ventures to make this happen. Erasing the borders and forcing interdependence of economies is the next step. The moral and economic corruption of our neighboring countries will spread to our own. Unless we restore the Constitution and the rule of law in this country, our form of government will cease to exist.


       —Karen Luck    Jun. 2 '06 - 02:29PM    #
  60. That explains the black helicopters!


       —John Q.    Jun. 2 '06 - 03:34PM    #
  61. The moral and economic corruption of our neighboring countries will spread to our own.

    Damn Canadians.


       —Juliew    Jun. 2 '06 - 04:01PM    #
  62. Is Karen Luck a real person? Or someone’s sock puppet designed to caricature conversatives?


       —tom    Jun. 2 '06 - 04:48PM    #
  63. Karen,
    It’s not a matter of jobs Americans won’t take. It’s a matter of jobs American’s can’t afford to keep. Sure, if you offer 7 bucks an hour to do a few hours or even a few weeks worth of labor for you there will be people willing to do it. something like that is called “side cash” not a “job”.
    It’s one thing to do your undesireable tasks for a few hours or a few days, and another to do back breaking labor indefinitely with no hope of feeding your family on what you make. And I’m hard pressed to believe anyone is paying their tuition or anything more than their Sprint bill at 7 bucks an hour.

    And you may not wish to get me started on my firsthand level of aweness of the poverty endured by my fellow Americans. i suspect that’s a contest you will surely lose.

    But go ahead, try me. Make my day.


       —Nancy Jowske    Jun. 3 '06 - 12:10AM    #
  64. This post seems a dead letter—near a month with no comments—but to address a little of Karen Luck’s positions (or whistling into the wind)—100% enforcement, not to mention 100% compliance, is wildly unrealistic. There are no programs that achieve 100% anything. Aggressive enforcement does not guarantee compliance, and sometimes can have the perverse outcomes of raising the stakes, and profit, involved in the enterprise, having a lateral effect on it at best (think war on drugs). Not to mention, enforcement of the type that would compel near-100% compliance would be immensely expensive. Pretty much all businesses, especially large multi-nationals, want to and WILL hire the cheapest labor they can find. Given the number of companies, workplaces, bosses, “illegal” immigrants, etc., enforcement would likely be at least as difficult as, say, enforcing OSHA standards or other workplace safety problems, which are rampant in various parts of the US, exactly the issue we began with.

    I don’t claim to speak for you, but it’s odd the largely Conservative (and I include many Dems here) rhetoric on immigration. They want open movement of capital across borders; all of the convenient economic theory they cite for this stipulates that it’s only efficient if labor is free to move as well. While much of capitalistic theory is explicitly based on maintaining a poor class to be exploited (read Ricardo, for example), and I don’t hold with much of it as absolute laws, it is true that labor will in general follow capital. One cannot advocate free trade (or even fair trade) while advocating limiting or halting immigration—not logically, at least. The premise of one depends on the existence of the other. No one mentions this inconvenience, or if they do, they wish away the requirement of free movement of labor as antiquated. So’s the entire basis of global capitalism, ignoring the classist works of some of its progenitors (Malthus and Ricardo) as well as the humanitarian correctives proposed by others (Keynes and Adam Smith).

    One can say one wants international investment and trade and closed (or limited) borders and efficient economies. I want everyone to be paid what they deserve and live a decent community life sustainably. Only one of these hopes is utterly theoretically impossible.


       —J    Jul. 1 '06 - 04:17AM    #
  65. Your comment about the need for labor to me free to move across borders in order for capital movement to result in economic efficiency is a new one to me. Can you say why this is the case?


       —AK    Jul. 1 '06 - 05:29AM    #
  66. AK – generally speaking, it’s pretty simple / intuitive. The conservative viewpoint considers it obvious that maximum economic efficiency can be achieved when capital and materials (and finished products) are free to move about, unhindered by national borders and “unnatural” checks such as tariffs. Why should this be true for some of the factors of production but not for others, such as labor? If “efficiency” is a matter of putting together the right pieces of the puzzle, why would we freeze one of those pieces (labor) while celebrating the mobility of the others?


       —Murph.    Jul. 1 '06 - 01:08PM    #
  67. Murph – what’s intuitive to you actually wasn’t to me. I guess I’m not used to thinking of immigration in terms of factors of production. That’s not all it is about, but I do see your point.

    I wonder if the term “conservative” obscures some of what’s going on in this debate? Corporate leaders seem to want wide open immigration, at least for the employees they most value. But many who would identify with the label of social conservative oppose high levels of immigration.

    This latter conservative group may not have a strong commitment to what you label as the conservative perspective on economic efficiency. Their form of economic conservativism may focus on keeping taxes low and regulation minimal. But not on the classical version of economic efficiency you mention.


       —AK    Jul. 4 '06 - 09:21PM    #
  68. Are you guys still alive and around and have you updated since May?


       —Paul E Massaron    Dec. 4 '06 - 04:07PM    #