BC Expert: Strike over Minimum Wage
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Associate Professor of the Practice
Graduate School of Social Work
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Tiziana Dearing is an associate professor whose current teaching focuses on social innovation and leadership. Additional research and teaching interests include poverty and inequity, especially in urban environments, and social justice in public policy. Dearing comes to the Graduate School of Social Work from the world of practice, where she led a number of anti-poverty organizations, including Boston Rising, a start-up anti-poverty fund, and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston, where she was the first woman president. Dearing also served as the executive director of the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University, and spent nearly a decade as a management consultant both to Fortune 500 companies and to mission-driven nonprofit organizations. In 2012, Dearing was appointed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to serve on Governor Patrick’s Commission on a Cashless EBT Payment System. She blogs regularly forThe Huffington Post and WBUR’s Cognoscenti and provides frequent media commentary to both local and national outlets on topics such as nonprofits, philanthropy, and social justice.
Civil disobedience may be a new menu item served up at America’s fast food restaurants Thursday as thousands of workers plan another round of protests in their push for a $15/hour wage. And this time, the Service Employees International Union is encouraging home health care workers to join the effort.
“The home health care workers will have an impact,” says Associate Professor Tiziana Dearing of the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work. “It’s one thing when people cannot get their McDonald’s. It’s another thing when nobody shows up for Grandma.
“When we find people striking who are in these vital roles, people really get upset. When home health care workers get involved, now we have real disruption of care. And that can be disruptive to people’s work days, that can be disruptive to business owners who have nothing to do with the minimum wage. They could over time be a game changer in this, especially in a place like Boston.”
Fast food workers are scheduled to strike at restaurants in more than 150 cities over the $15/hour wage and in more than a dozen cities, sit-ins are scheduled. Temporary strikes took place at fast food restaurants in May but Dearing thinks this time around, the racial tensions from a black young man being killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, MO may be on the minds of protestors.
“I don’t think you can discount what happened in Ferguson; it could make this different than last time,” says Dearing, who has led a number of anti-poverty organizations, including Boston Rising, a start-up anti-poverty fund. “We’ve had this other national crisis, we’ve had a huge convulsion on race and equality and there is a heavy overlap between our working poor and low wage workers and workers of color in the United States. There’s an overall sense of anxiety and worry about inequality and lack of fair treatment and it would be naive to think that none of that will bleed over from Ferguson into a set of issues like this.”
Jobs in the fast food industry are the lowest paying in the country with a cook making an average of $9/hour.
“For businesses that are currently paying $9 per hour, $15 isn’t double that but it’s fairly close,” says Dearing, who spent nearly a decade as a management consultant both to Fortune 500 companies and to mission-driven nonprofit organizations. “This is tough. A lot of business, especially those that are small, they don’t have a lot of surplus cash, they operate on small margins. And the idea that any business operating on small margins can immediately double its core costs, that’s hard to imagine. If you immediately double core costs, that’s probably a non-starter for them, a real actual non-starter for them. On the other hand, $9 to support yourself is a real non-starter for a mother raising a child.
“A lot of what we are struggling with is that the minimum wage job plays a different role in our economy than it used to,” continues Dearing, former president of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Boston. “It used to be a starter job. It really wasn’t the kind of job that you were expecting people would be working to support their families. We had manufacturing for that, we did have union jobs, that people could work in and that was where the sustainable long term living was.”
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