PAY FOR WORKERS IN THE FAST-FOOD INDUSTRY (A follow-up to my 9/2/13 post)

As the portion of the jobs in our economy that are in the retail sector grows, it is important to the well-being of individuals and families, as well as the health of the economy, that these jobs provide better pay. But could the fast-food industry, for example, afford to pay higher wages?

Franchisees in the fast-food industry, in other words your local outlets, have profit margins of only 4% to 6% – 4 to 6 cents on every dollar they take in. Their parent companies, the 5 big, publicly-traded fast-food companies, have profit margins of 16% – 16 cents on every dollar they take in. That is 73% higher than the average big US company’s profit margin. In other words, they are VERY profitable. Last year, McDonald’s reported a profit of $5.5 billion on sales of $27.6 billion – a 20% profit margin. And its CEO got $13.8 million. McDonald’s, and the others, could cut the fees they charge their franchisees so the franchisees could increase pay for their workers. (Choi, C., & Fahey, J., 9/2/13, “Fast-food workers face a big problem: Who’ll fund raises?” The Boston Globe (from the Associated Press))


PESTICIDES AND BEES (A follow-up to my 8/10/13 post)

The good news is that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released new rules and requirements for labels for pesticides containing neonicotinoids, which are linked to mass killing of bees. These labels feature a special warning and prohibit use of these products where bees are present. (Boyd, V., 8/21/13, “EPA issues new label rules for neonicotinoids to protect bees,” The Grower) (Aren’t bees present everywhere?)

However, there are three pieces of bad news. First, a recent study found that some home garden plants sold at Home Depot, Lowe’s and other garden centers have been pre-treated with the neonicotinoids. (Friends of the Earth, 8/14/13) Second, one of Florida’s biggest citrus growers, Ben Hill Griffin, Inc., has been fined only $1,500 after illegally spraying pesticides multiple times that killed millions of bees. (Salisbury, S., 8/28/13, “Ben Hill Griffin Inc. accused of killing honeybees, faces fine,” Palm Beach Post) Third, the chemical corporations Syngenta and Bayer have submitted legal challenges to the European Union’s 2 year suspension of the use of several neonicotinoid pesticides, which is scheduled to begin in December. (Boyd, V., 8/28/13, “Syngenta, Bayer challenge EU’s ban on neonicotinoids,” The Grower)


MORE ON DETROIT’S BANKRUPTCY (A follow-up to my 9/1/13 post)

The factors contributing to Detroit’s bankruptcy include suburban sprawl, the lack of regional planning or coordination, Michigan’s declining economy, and the state’s reneging on revenue sharing (to the tune of $700 million). In addition, people have moved out of the city – since 2000 the city’s population has declined by about 200,000 to 687,000 – eroding the tax base. Residents in blighted neighborhoods have sold homes for $5,000 that were once worth $100,000; others have simply abandoned their houses.

Since 2007, Detroit’s median income has fallen from $30,000 to $25,000; less than half of the national figure. 40% of those remaining in Detroit are in poverty. Almost 20% of Detroit households have no access to a car.

As public services have been cut over many years, living conditions have declined, including increased crime in part due to a police force reduced by roughly 35% (4,000 officers to 2,600). The murder rate is the 2nd highest of any city in the country (Flint, MI is 1st).

The 9,700 city employees are taking unpaid furloughs and wage cuts, some as much as 20%. And the 21,000 retirees know their pensions are at risk. Meanwhile, Detroit’s bankruptcy process is expected to cost the city $100 million in legal fees and costs.

While the downtown is thriving with business activity and gentrification (and a new sports arena on its way), the neighborhoods, as little as a half mile away, are eviscerated. The neighborhoods are 80% black and the homes of thousands of current and retired city employees.

The city’s receiver proposes privatizing trash, electricity, and water and sewer services. Although that will save the city money, it is unclear how many of the residents would be able to afford the fees private providers would charge, and lower quality services are likely, one way or the other. The state has taken over running 15 low performing schools, but the initial results have not been promising. (Felton, R., 9/2013, “Is there Detroit after bankruptcy?” In These Times)


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