Tag Archives: wages

TVA giving bonuses averaging $10K per employee

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Valley Authority is rewarding employees for helping boost the utility’s income above $1 billion last year.

TVA directors voted Friday to allow the agency’s 10,900 employees to share in some of those record earnings, the Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/1HewbVr) reported. The directors approved payments of $113 million, or an average year-end bonus of $10,367 per employee.

The total amount of those payments to employees was down by 14 percent from a year ago, but most of that reflected a drop in TVA employment. TVA has offered early retirements and not filled vacant positions to cut most of the more than 2,000 jobs eliminated over the past couple of years.

Meanwhile, the board was even more generous to its top five executives.

TVA CEO Bill Johnson was paid a compensation package in fiscal 2015 worth more than $6.4 million.

Four other top TVA executives were each paid more than $2 million in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30.
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Councilmen propose defying state law to raise minimum wage

Chattanooga City Councilman Moses Freeman and at least two colleagues plan to propose an increased minimum wage within the city despite a 2013 state law that declares municipalities cannot do so, reports the Times-Free Press.

“I think it’s time that we look into it. We are not getting any leadership at the state or federal levels,” Freeman said. “I think workers here who are at the federal minimum — that’s $7.25 an hour — that is not enough in today’s world to keep workers out of poverty.”

…(C)ouncil members Chris Anderson and Jerry Mitchell, who said at a nonvoting meeting they would sponsor the bill once it’s drafted, said they would challenge the 2013 law.

“I’m aware that the legislature passed a law that makes them think that they can restrict us from passing a minimum wage,” Anderson said. “Councilman Freeman has asked our attorney to find a way to do it, and I support him.”

Mitchell had similar sentiments.

“Some people in Nashville, some of whom we elected, feel municipalities shouldn’t have this power. But I’m willing to debate that with them publicly,” Mitchell said.

Not everyone on the council is a fan, however.

Councilman Larry Grohn said the market should determine wages in Chattanooga, not the government. An increase in the local minimum wage will ultimately mean fewer minimum-wage jobs for people who aren’t equipped to find higher-paying work, he said.

…The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t have city-by-city wage statistics, but in 2014, the bureau reported Tennessee had the highest share of workers of any state paid at or below the minimum wage.

A total of 110,000 of the state’s 1.6 million workers, or 5.2 percent, were paid the minimum wage or less. Nationwide, 3.9 percent of all workers were paid the minimum wage or less in 2014, according to the bureau.

University of Memphis eyes raising minimum wage for workers to $10.10 per hour

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The University of Memphis is considering paying a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour and stepping into a national debate over how much workers should make for their efforts.

University President M. David Rudd told employees in an email last week that he’s asked the state Board of Regents to raise base pay for the school’s workers up from $8.75 an hour.

For more than three years, unions and social activists have called for sharply higher minimum pay at U of M and other employers throughout the city. But wages have only slowly climbed.

U of M went ahead with a request for higher pay after paring spending in its tight budget.

Memphis labor leader Tom Smith told The Commercial Appeal (http://bit.ly/1t8MH0N ) the 15.4-percent increase would apply to about 125 employees at the city’s largest university.

“This is an extremely welcome move,” said Smith, lead organizer in Memphis for United Campus Workers-Communication Workers of America Local 3865.

Rudd’s email singled out efficiencies in the university for opening way for the raises. Higher wages could cost U of M about $350,000 next year, according to one estimate.

“For the past several months, we have been evaluating employee salaries and looking for ways to create an affordable living wage for our lowest paid employees,” Rudd’s email says. “While we can all agree that we have experienced challenging times, thanks to your hard work and dedication we have made great progress in creating efficiencies and positioning the University for continued growth.”

In 2011, Local 3865 and the Memphis religious group Workers Interfaith Network began urging then-U of M president Shirley Raines to increase the college’s minimum wage. Raines retired in 2013. By then the university was embroiled in budget issues Rudd inherited when he took over this year. A steep drop in enrollment had created a $20 million gap in U of M’s $478 million annual budget

In February, Rudd announced plans to trim costs in academic affairs by $10.6 million. Another $4.5 million in planned cuts are due this budget year.

In raising their minimum wage, public schools like U of M have no official guidelines. In 2013, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis raised its base wage to $10 per hour.

While many employers rely on the federal $7.25 standard, Tennessee has no state-mandated minimum wage.

Rudd’s email came on the heels of Memphis City Councilman Myron Lowery’s call in September to raise the minimum wage in the city of Memphis. He has not specified an amount.

The U.S. Congress enacted the minimum wage in 1938 after decades of debate and opposition from business groups. President Barack Obama backed a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016, but Congress hasn’t approved the measure. Obama has raised minimum hourly wages for federal contract workers to $10.10.

Shelby County moves to repeal local minimum wage ordinances to conform with state law

Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland is pushing for a vote on repeal of local ordinances that establish a “living wage” and a “prevailing wage” rules within the county since they conflict with a state law prohibiting such things, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Last year the Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation that prohibited cities and counties from passing or enforcing local laws that required businesses with which they contract to pay wages that exceed federal or state minimum wages.

Prevailing wage and living wage laws are measures that aim to boost pay for workers beyond minimum wage standards.

In 2009, the county approved a prevailing wage law that requires companies handling big construction projects to pay workers according to a scale based on a state survey of contractors.

And in 2007, the county passed a living wage ordinance that said companies that provide services to the county must pay workers at least $10 per hour with benefits or $12 without, a calculation based on what is required to meet a family’s basic needs.

But after state legislation passed in 2013, there were not enough votes from the previous County Commission to remove the ordinances from the code, Roland said.

“We still have the language that you have to go by living wage. Well the state killed that and we acknowledged that, but we never took it out of the policy,” he said. “We’re in violation of state law by the fact that that’s on our applications and the state has mandated that we take it off.”

He said it could lead to a suit against the county.

Businesses coming to TN for low wages as well as incentives?

The low wage levels in Memphis are a big draw for new industry, reports the Commercial Appeal – citing some interesting statistics.

When Electrolux won more than $180 million in government incentives two years ago to create an oven factory and 1,200 jobs in Memphis, the wages that workers would earn were a back-burner issue.

In fact, the Swedish appliance maker officially told Memphis and Shelby County officials approving a property tax break only that jobs at the plant would pay an average of $14.65 an hour, not including benefits.

However, employees say that inexperienced new hires start at less than $12 an hour.
While those aren’t the solid middle-class wages that lifted factory workers a generation ago, lower labor costs turn out to be a big asset for Memphis as manufacturers look to return jobs to American shores.

Cost cutting, and not creating jobs with middle-class wages for low-skilled workers, is key as manufacturers seek to be competitive with their counterparts in China and elsewhere, said John Boyd, principal of The Boyd Co., corporate site selection consulting firm in Princeton, N.J.

“It’s a horrible reality that I think we’re all coming to grips with, but this notion of middle-class manufacturing jobs, I’d love to get back to that place again,” Boyd said.
“You look around and we live in a different world today and corporations, sadly, are very ruthless and cost cutting is paramount to survive in this global economy.”

At $14.65 an hour, a 40-hour week at Electrolux would pay $586. That’s far below the $1,559 average for the manufacturing industry in Shelby County for 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But averages can be deceiving, especially with Memphis’ a wide variety of skills and industries in the mix. Nearly 850 plants have about 44,100 jobs filled.

In fact, for production workers in the Memphis area, the average entry level wage in 2013 was $9.10, according to state occupational wage statistics. For experienced workers, that rose to $18.55.

It’s the prospect of tapping a lower-wage workforce that helps make Memphis one of the most attractive areas in the United States and Canada for manufacturers seeking plant sites, said a consultant with broad experience helping companies make those decisions.

UT raises staff minimum wage to $9 an hour, effective Jan. 1

More than 200 University of Tennessee employees across the state will begin seeing a slight bump in their paychecks beginning Wednesday when the school implements the first of two planned minimum wage increases, reports the News Sentinel.

The minimum wage will rise 50 cents to $9 an hour at the start of the new year. It is scheduled to increase another 50 cents an hour in June.

The last minimum wage increase was in 2011, when UT raised its starting pay rate from $7.50 per hour to the current $8.50 an hour.

The raise will affect about 223 full- and part-time employees statewide, including 170 at the Knoxville campus, said Linda Hendricks, UT vice president of human resources, earlier this month. These employees are mostly custodial, food services and housekeeping personnel.

This is part of an ongoing effort to improve pay at UT, Hendricks said. Each UT campus has developed a compensation plan to compete with peer institutions in attracting and retaining top talent, she said.

Note: The UT news release on the minimum wage increase is HERE.

Fed rule change brings TN home health care under minimum wage, overtime law

Tennessee’s home health care providers are sorting out the potential effects of a new federal rule that will mandate at least minimum wage and overtime pay protection for workers, reports The Tennessean.

For nearly 40 years, direct-care workers, who provide home care for people with disabilities or elderly patients, have been exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act, which outlines standards for minimum wage and overtime pay. Until now, these workers were placed in the same category as babysitters.

Tennessee is not one of the states that currently provides minimum wage and overtime protections to its home care workers, so the new federal rule from the U.S. Department of Labor means that Tennessee home care workers will be entitled to these wage protections for the first time, federal officials said. The new rules will go into effect in January 2015.

Most direct-care workers already receive minimum wage, according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy association. The group claims, however, that the overtime pay requirement will make companionship care unaffordable for some of the population.

“By ending the companionship exemption, DOL has effectively mandated home care providers work in shorter shifts with reduced hours,” said Susan Eckerly, NFIB’s senior vice president of federal public policy, in a statement.

The theory is that under this new rule, businesses trying to cut costs will keep workers from overtime hours even if clients need more than 40 hours worth of care per week.

“At the same time, those who rely on these services can expect less personal care coupled with significantly rising prices,” Eckerly said.

Court Says Tips Can’t Be Taken in Garnishment

Here’s a tip, as written up by the Chattanooga TFP: if you owe money in Tennessee, get a job waiting tables.
Workers worried about garnished wages because of an unpaid bill may have gained a unique escape clause, thanks to a Tennessee Appeals Court judgment against Erlanger Health System.
The ruling could allow a worker to virtually escape wage garnishment if the majority of his pay consists of tips, attorneys say. Ex-wives, hospitals and any other business that depends in part on wage garnishment to collect debts may have to re-think their strategy.
“Ultimately, the appeals court said if you are the employer, you do not count tip income for what is a garnishable wage,” said Chris Merkal, an attorney for Shoney’s. “This is new law.”
Erlanger wouldn’t comment on the case because of patient privacy laws, but spokeswoman Pat Charles said that in order for the hospital to serve as a safety net for the region, it must be able to collect unpaid bills.
“We discount fees based on income levels and work out payment plans with our patients on a regular basis,” Charles said. “When patients do not qualify for free care and do not make payments within a reasonable time, we refer accounts to reputable firms for collection.”