Unsettling Statistics

Wages, overtime and health insurance among issues identified in workplace survey
Cornell University: Worker Institute: News: Unsettling Statistics
Monday, February 11, 2013

The Worker Institute at Cornell is participating in a survey of wage and working conditions in Western New York.

Preliminary results from the survey show that 72 percent of the 212 participants who are hourly workers reported earning an hourly wage of $12 or less. About half of the hourly employees working more than 40 hours a week were not receiving time and a half for overtime pay.

To date, 310 surveys have been collected and analyzed. Workers whose pay is calculated in annual salary rather than hourly wage did not answer questions aimed at hourly workers.

In addition to findings about poor wages, researchers found that most of the employees surveyed did not receive health insurance from their employers.

“Fifty-nine percent reported that they do not have access to health insurance benefits through their employer,” said Liz Smith of the Western New York Worker Center. The Worker Center of Western New York provides assistance to low-wage and immigrant workers and is administering the survey.

The survey unveiled other workplace-related issues including discrimination, lack of union representation, no paid time off and poor transportation options for workers. Participants also reported lack of access to quality education, insufficient food, unsafe working conditions and lack of training.

“The preliminary findings included some unsettling statistics about the economic and workplace issues facing the target populations,” said Art Wheaton of The Worker Institute at Cornell.

Nellie Brown of The Worker Institute said “The data being gathered by this survey indicate how important working conditions are and what specific issues are seen as crucial.”

Brown says that many of the respondents are reporting multiple employment related stressors. Brown provides training to many of the groups that are currently served by the Western New York Worker Center.

Survey results were shared this month at the Worker Institute’s Buffalo office at a meeting co-sponsored by Open Buffalo and the Western New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health. Leaders from Coalition for Economic Justice and Communication Workers of America Local 1133 were among the attendees.

Wheaton said, “The Worker Center’s survey is an important project to identify the needs of workers and the at-risk population in Western New York. We wanted to host the launch of the survey data to bring attention to this worthy project.”