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Low-Wage Work in Buffalo-Niagara

Sam Magavern, John Sullivan Baker — Nov 20, 2018

This policy brief presents data on Buffalo-Niagara workers with a median wage of less than $15 per hour. It includes a list of all the occupations that fall into that low-wage category, along with the number of workers in each occupation and the hourly wage. Setting the data in the context of de-unionization and the shift from manufacturing to service jobs, it analyzes the loss in job quality and offers recommendations for reversing it. The brief was researched by Cornell University High Road …

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Workers on the Brink: Low-Wage Employment in Buffalo and Erie County

Nicole Hallett Apr 12, 2018

In 2017, Professor Hallett, winner of a public research fellowship from Open Buffalo and PPG, conducted a survey of 213 workers in Buffalo to learn more about the challenges they are facing. 

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A Raise for Fast Food Workers Will Help Western New York

Sam Magavern — Jun 3, 2015

The most pressing problems in Western New York in many areas of life, including education, healthcare, and criminal justice, can be traced to a single root: poverty.  Families living in poverty suffer from lower graduation rates, more chronic diseases, and more criminal violence than families earning living wages.  In our region, as around the nation, roughly 45% of workers are employed in low-wage service sector jobs.  Those jobs are not going away; in fact, they are the fastest …

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Temp Work and Poverty in Buffalo

J.A. Dewald Jan 1, 2015

There are many kinds of temp work, but this report focuses on the most common type, in which a worker is employed by a temporary service agency and placed at one or more work sites.  The temp agency typically charges its client business roughly twice the worker’s hourly wages.  Temp agencies create a triangular relationship in which the worker works at the host business but for the temp agency.  In other words, it is the temp agency that typically recruits, screens, hires, …

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Employment Data for Buffalo

Allison Considine — Sep 1, 2014

The types of jobs available in Buffalo have changed post-recession, with midlevel skilled jobs disappearing and high and low skill jobs growing.  The loss of jobs in fields such as teaching, office administration, factory work and construction work during the recession is exacerbated by the fact that many midlevel jobs, such as manufacturing, are being automated or sent to cheaper markets.  Growth has occurred on the high and low skill ends of the spectrum, however, with increases in …

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Working for 'Extras,' Working for 'Nothing'

Erin Hatton — Mar 1, 2014

The workshop offers everyone concerned with Buffalo's poverty the chance to hear about new and ongoing research, promising strategies, and opportunities for collaboration. 

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Unemployment and Poverty in Western New York

Owen Field — Apr 29, 2010

It is a common understanding that a high unemployment rate means that more people are out of work and therefore more people have fallen into poverty.  But the relationship between unemployment and poverty is complex, and the two may not always relate very directly.  It is necessary to examine states, counties, and even cities separately to determine the extent of this relationship and the possibilities of other influential factors.

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Drug Testing by Potential Employers

Neil Diegelman — Apr 28, 2010

New York State should pass laws that regulate pre-employment drug testing in order to maximize fairness, accuracy, and efficiency while recognizing employers’ needs to maintain a drug-free workplace.  Drug testing, when done properly, is quite accurate and has standardized procedures to ensure fairness.  A pre-employment drug test can be an effective way for an employer to check on factors influencing whether an applicant will be productive or continuously tardy or have attitude …

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Transportation and Low Wage Work

Michael Raleigh — Apr 28, 2010

Living on a low wage can be extremely difficult, yet the number of low wage jobs in metro Buffalo grew by 17% from 2004 to 2008.  This means that many more people are struggling to figure out how to survive with less money.  It also means that it is becoming increasingly difficult for many people to afford transportation.  As the location of employment has dispersed throughout the region, transportation has become a basic need similar to food, clothing, and shelter.  A …

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The Problem of Worker Misclassification

Ryan Parisi — Apr 27, 2010

Employee misclassification is a significant problem that continues to plague the labor market. Unscrupulous and unknowing employers alike are costing individual workers and society tremendously. Not only are workers missing out on legal protections, but society is losing contributions from employers that should be paid into different employment systems (payroll taxes, unemployment benefits, workers compensation benefits, etc.).

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Criminal Convictions and Employment Rights in New York State

Robert Strassel — Apr 26, 2010

New York has a strong policy toward preventing discrimination based on prior criminal convictions and its progressive policy outlook should encouraged.  In 2007 a report concluded that New York employees were largely unfamiliar with State laws regulating an employer’s use of prior criminal convictions for employment-related decisions, and in response, the legislature amended Section 296 of New York Executive Law to require employers to post and disseminate information regarding a job …

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Education Levels and Low-Wage Work

Dannine Consoli — Apr 26, 2010

Is education the key to getting low-wage workers out of poverty and into higher paying, middle class jobs? In the United States, roughly one in three jobs pays a low wage.  The Center for Economic and Policy Research defines “low wage” as less than 66 percent of the median wage for male workers (the median weekly pay rate for men in the fourth quarter of 2009 was $825).  Employees with higher levels of education do have a significantly lower probability of working a …

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Overtime Violations

Lisa Diaz-Ordaz — Apr 26, 2010

Overtime violations are especially prevalent in low wage jobs.  Some of the industries with notably high instances of violations include the restaurant and hotel industries, retail, drug and grocery stores, private households and home health care.  Within these industries, occupations with the most overtime violations include childcare workers, home health care workers, waiters and bartenders, cooks and food preparers, retail salespeople, cashiers and stock clerks.  A quick …

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Paid Sick Leave: Should Investing in the Workforce be Mandatory?

Stuart Frame — Apr 22, 2010

Paid sick leave is a benefit supplied to employees: it means that they are allotted a certain amount of days every year when they can call in sick and the employer still pays them for a full day of work. Roughly 86% of U.S. workers currently receive at least some paid sick leave as a benefit from their employers.  While workers at larger businesses have more paid leave than workers at smaller firms, in every sector of the economy the vast majority of workers get paid sick leave.  Most …

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Unionization of Low Wage Workers

Brian Hartmann — Apr 22, 2010

The unionization of workers, particularly those engaged in occupations which pay low wages, has often been criticized by business leaders as stifling economic development.  This brief explores unionization of low wage work in both national and local terms and discusses its effects on economic development and on the lives of workers.  It asserts that in spite of the recent decline in union participation, the organizing of low wage labor significantly increases workers’ quality of …

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An Educational Gift: Teacher Aides in New York State

Alexa Rissoff — Apr 20, 2010

Teacher Aides, also referred to as teacher assistants, instructional aides, paraprofessionals or paraeducators, generally provide non-instructional and clerical support for classroom teachers.  While this fact sheet focuses on teacher aides, it is important to briefly note the major differences between teacher aides and teaching assistants in New York.

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Dishwashers: Workers in a Low-Wage Occupation

Robert Strassel — Apr 20, 2010

There are no educational or licensing requirements to become a dishwasher.  Typically, dishwashers are trained on the job by experienced co-workers.  Some employers require employees to complete educational materials addressing issues including safety guidelines, equipment maintenance, and cleansing procedures.

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Landscapers and Grounds Keepers

Ryan Parisi — Apr 20, 2010

The tasks of a landscaper or groundskeeper in the Buffalo region vary by the time of year and even the day.  The jobs include mowing lawns, “edging” driveways and sidewalks, trimming bushes, trees and other vegetation, planting vegetation, removing old or dead vegetation, fall and spring “clean ups” which involve cleaning a property and preparing it for the next season, watering vegetation, maintaining overall appearance of property, mulching, weeding, and pruning …

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The Job of a UB Janitor

Michael Raleigh — Apr 20, 2010

It varies.  You can do carpet shampoo, floor work, taking care of trash, recycling, clean up spills of blood or chemicals, snow removal.  It depends on the building.  I work in some of the medical buildings where there are different labs and experiments.  Other people who work in residence halls do not deal with these different conditions.  Yeah, you bet it can be dangerous.  Some of the areas where people work have nuclear materials.  There is a nuclear …

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Working as an EMT

Robert Mietlicki — Apr 20, 2010

The work of Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) is often the difference between life and death for a patient.  EMTs respond to various medical emergencies including car accidents, heart attacks, slips and falls of the elderly, childbirth, and gunshot wounds.  In responding to emergencies, EMTs assess a patient’s condition, determine pre-existing medical conditions, and provide emergency care while transporting patients to an emergency room.  EMTs often work with police …

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Exploring Low Wage Work in the Farming Industry

Stuart Frame — Apr 19, 2010

Farm work encompasses a variety of different jobs.  When I worked for a farmer and farm market owner in Rochester, my tasks ranged from picking corn and berries to sell in the market, hoeing weeds in the pumpkin patch, and irrigating and helping plow the fields and maintaining the orchards.  I very much enjoyed, as did my interview contact, certain aspects of farm work.  It is very fulfilling to spend the day working outside with one’s hands.  The variety of tasks that …

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Food Service Workers in Buffalo Public Schools

Rachel Jones — Apr 19, 2010

Generally, employees are expected to assist the cook in the preparation and serving of the food. These workers are also required to clean all areas, as well as dishes and cooking utensils.  They must maintain clean spaces in the kitchen and in the rest rooms.  The food service worker could also be required to serve as a cashier or checker.  There are other possible employment conditions.

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Food Service Workers in Restaurants: Short Order Cooks, First-Line Supervisors, and Managers

Lisa Diaz-Ordaz — Apr 19, 2010

Short order cooks are restaurant workers who prepare food as it is ordered by customers.  First-line supervisors also have to prepare food, but at the same time they must supervise the other workers who are cooking and preparing food.  In contrast, food service managers are responsible for the daily operations of a restaurant including all administrative and human resource functions of the restaurant.  In Erie County in 2008, the average weekly wage for a cook at a limited …

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Home Health Aides

Chenoa Maye — Apr 19, 2010

Home health aides typically work for certified home health or hospice agencies that receive government funding and therefore must comply with extensive regulations.  This means that home health aides must work under the direct supervision of a medical professional, usually a nurse.  The aides keep records of services performed and of clients' condition and progress.  They report changes in the client's condition to the supervisor or case manager.  Aides also work with …

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Retail Sales: Selling to make a Living

Neil Diegelman — Apr 19, 2010

Interview with retail salesperson conducted March 16, 2010.  James Silver is a 28-year old white male working at Sears.  His work week consists of between 35 and 40 hours, and he has been employed with Sears for over five years.  James has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University at Buffalo.

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Sanitation Workers in the City of Buffalo

Dannine Consoli — Apr 19, 2010

Sanitation workers, also referred to as refuse collectors, collect trash from homes and businesses.  They either lift the garbage cans themselves or use a hydraulic lift for dumpsters.  The work is physically demanding and repetitive.  Sometimes they have to lift large heavy objects, such as furniture or large kitchen appliances.  They normally work an 8 hour shift that often begins between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. They usually work regardless of the weather.

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School Bus Monitors in Western New York

Brian Hartmann — Apr 19, 2010

The New York State Department of Education defines a “bus monitor” (also commonly referred to as a “bus aide”) as any person employed for the purpose of assisting children to safely embark and disembark from a school bus which is owned, leased or contracted for by a public school district or board of cooperative educational services, and for the purpose of assisting the school bus driver with maintaining proper student behavior on such school bus.

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Working as a Security Guard in Western New York

Owen Field — Apr 19, 2010

Being a security guard is something to be proud of.  A security guard protects people, and the job can be challenging and even dangerous.  Guards have to be licensed, and there are certain safety measures and skills that they have to learn.  Security guards can save lives, stop terrorism, and make entire neighborhoods feel more comfortable.  Under the right circumstances, security can make a good career. There can be opportunities for increased rankings and advancements, and …

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Working as a Receptionist

Kasia McDonald — Mar 25, 2010

According to the New York Department of Labor, the job prospects for receptionists from 2006-2016 are very favorable.  Currently, the median wage for receptionists in western New York is $24,500, with, on an annual basis, 170 new openings and a projected 6% annual job growth.  In 2006, there were 5,670 employed as a receptionist in this region; in 2016, there are expected to be 6,010.  Nationally, receptionist held 1.1 million jobs in 2008, with the largest numbers working in …

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Playing an Insecure Hand

Kasia McDonald Feb 1, 2010

For a growing number of families and workers in Western New York, low-wage work is the only—or the last—employment option.  In 2009, one out of four jobs in the region were in occupations where the median annual wage fell below the poverty line for a family of four.  This rising reliance on low-wage work is a discouraging change from the post-war economic boom when incomes and standards of living soared—a period that continues to shape our employment and lifestyle …

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Childcare Workers

Leah Hardy — Apr 19, 2009

Childcare workers monitor infants and children to ensure their well-being and safety.  They provide primary care for infants (change diapers, prepare bottles, put them down for naps, etc.) and provide activities to keep older children occupied and help them to “develop self-esteem, curiosity, imagination, physical skills, and speech.”

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Poverty Level Work in Western New York

Sam Magavern — Nov 16, 2008

A large percentage of the jobs in western New York do not pay enough to keep a family safely out of poverty.  Roughly 125,000 workers are in occupations for which the median wage is less than $20,000 per year – including salespeople, cashiers, security guards, and child care workers.  Another 40,000 workers are in jobs where the median wage falls between $20,000 and $23,000 – including janitors, home health aides, pre-school teachers, and teachers assistants.

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