Resources and Reports: Minimum Wage; Low-Wage Workers; The Cost of Voter ID; Ballot Reform; For-Profit Schools

Compiled by Rachel Barr

National Employment Law Projects’ new report, “Big Business, Corporate Profits, and the Minimum Wage,” finds that, in most cases, the lowest-paid workers in the United States are employed by large companies instead of small businesses. It also reveals that the corporations that employ the largest number of low-wage earners are in good financial positions and are profitable despite the recent recession. The report concludes that large corporations would be able to afford paying their workers higher wages and therefore the minimum wage could be raised without fear of businesses laying off workers to afford the wage increase.

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The Brennan Center for Justice recently released a report, “The Challenge of Obtaining Voter Identification,” which assesses the restrictive voter ID laws that have been implemented in 10 different states around the country. The report concludes that free state-issued IDs will not be free as citizens may have to purchase birth certificates, marriage licenses, and transportation to and from an ID-issuing office. As a result, the new voter ID laws will make it difficult for low-income people to vote. The report also emphasizes that the 10 states with voter ID laws provide 127 electoral votes, which means these new laws could have significant influence in the November 2012 election.

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“The future of work: Trends and challenges for low-wage workers” report was released by the Economic Policy Institute. Among its findings, the report shows that women and minorities make up the majority of low-wage workers and that the food service industry has the greatest percentage of low-wage workers. The report emphasizes that in order to improve employment and work for low-wage workers in the future, it is important to focus more on policies that influence job quality such as minimum wage and benefits rather than focusing on the changing skill set needed for the adapting labor market.

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The report “For Profit Higher Education: The Failure to Safeguard the Federal Investment and Ensure Student Success” was released by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee in July. It highlights problems faced in the for-profit higher education industry including skyrocketing tuition, unfair recruitment processes, and scarily high dropout rates. The committee recommends more transparency and information about students’ performance at for-profit colleges, increasing oversight of federal financial aid, and ensuring that students receive the protections necessary in college to make sure that student success and well-being – rather than just profitability – is a focus of the institution.

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The Brennan Center recently released its new report entitled, “Better Design, Better Elections.” The report looks at the design flaws in elections that lead to voters making mistakes when filling out election ballots. These mistakes can lead to miscounted or rejected ballots and can ultimately impact the outcome of crucial elections. Studies show that low-income, minority, and older voters are disproportionately impacted by flawed ballot designs. The report suggests states design their election ballots with usability in mind, and also make sure that voters are educated about how to properly fill out ballot forms in order to ensure that every vote is counted.

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